Wednesday, November 28, 2007

savoring the moments

At about this time every semester, I write on my blog about how much I love my classes and how I'm going to miss my students and how I'm feeling something like nostalgia in the present moment. I'm sitting in class, listening to students challenge one another to take more risks in their writing, to make themselves more vulnerable, to cut through all the bullshit and say something that really matters. And I wish I could bottle it. I'm beginning to realize that I don't really know what to do when I love something so much that I wish I could bottle it. I acknowledge how grateful I am to have the best job in the world. I tell my students how much I learn from them. I tell S. and my friends about these moments. And I write on my blog, knowing full well that many of my readers are probably going, come on, can it really be that good? I have been known to exaggerate.

But here's the thing. What makes it so great is how hard we've worked to push through the bullshit so many of us are so used to explaining our lives with. It ain't easy, let me tell you. Especially when you're 20 and 21 and 22 years old. So so so much easier to fall back on received wisdom to explain why you do the things you do.

I am so proud of my students this semester I could just burst. They make everything I do worth it.

Never thought I'd see the day when the problem I had with managing emotions was one of pride and happiness and respect. I'm not really equipped for times like these, but I'm having fun figuring it out.


Sunday, November 25, 2007


I've really been not hungry lately. This is a majorly new experience for me, as it has always been that I can eat. And that I have to stop myself from overeating. This morning S. and I made pancakes again. There were two medium-sized pancakes on my plate, and I finished maybe 1/2 of one and was completely full. Like the kind of full that makes you unable to walk. This has been going on for at least a week. I eat because I like the taste of the food, not because I'm hungry.

At the park this morning, I was telling my friend Neecy about this. Neecy's a nurse, so I figured she might have a reasonable explanation for what's happening to me.

Me: What's the opposite of having a tapeworm?

Neecy: Not having a tapeworm?


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

a Scrabble weakness

Okay, not really. Yesterday when I was at Barnes and Noble, I happened upon this here Scrabble-doku book of puzzles. And I figured that since it has to do with Scrabble and figuring out words, I'd be pretty good at it.

Let's back up 6 months or so and talk about the time when, visiting S.'s parents in North Carolina, I tried Sudoku for the first time. S.'s stepmom, Janet, patiently taught me how to do it, along with some of the tricks, and I tried it and got very frustrated. Decided it wasn't for me. I'm not a numbers person.

Last night I tried a few Scrabble-doku puzzles, the ones categorized as "beginner," which comes before those categorized as "very easy." I did okay on the first couple. But by the third one I had to cheat a little bit. And I said to S., "I got it but I had to cheat."

Puzzle 4: after a few choice words, I say to S., "I got it but I had to cheat."

And so on. As they get harder, I have to rely on the cheating even more. And I tell myself that the cheating is a way for me to figure out how to get better at the game. Uh, yeah.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

peppermint reigns

'tis the season for peppermint. It's so fresh and invigorating and, well, yummy. For some reason, I love candy canes this time of year, but the rest of the year I could take or leave peppermint starlight candies.

Other peppermint-themed items currently in my life:

1. peppermint swirl body wash from Bath & Body Works. I step out of the shower every day smelling like a candy cane. Not just like peppermint, people, but like a candy cane.

2. Edy's peppermint ice cream, the reduced fat version. LOVE it.

3. Brach's peppermint nougats. I could eat an entire bag in one sitting. But I don't. I try to remain human about the whole thing.

4. peppermint bark. I actually don't have any of this in my life, but would love some. Perhaps Santa reads my blog, I dunno.


Monday, November 19, 2007

the perfect November Sunday

Had a pancake breakfast with my honey, then it was off to the park with the girl. She did quite a bit of barking at the park, in large part because she really wanted Molly to chase her, but Molly was entirely focused on the ball. But when we went over to the non-fenced in disc-golf part of Maxwell park, Belly got her wish. Molly and Belly chased each other like they were puppies, hopping in and out of the creek, running through the brush, hiding from each other for a few seconds, and then beginning it all again. I can't remember the last time I was so happy watching my girl have so much damn fun.

Came home, did lots of reading (of the scholarly variety), then decided to quit that and finish reading Krakauer's Into the Wild. So I went from my office to the couch, coaxed Annabelle up on the couch with me, and there we stayed for most of the afternoon. She is rarely a snuggle bug like she was yesterday. S. was downstairs working out and watching football, but at one point I called him upstairs to take a picture because I had to capture her exhausted snuggling.

Took a walk with Neecy in the evening, came back and had a pizza and movie night with my honey. We watched Mr. Brooks. Entertaining. I screamed a couple times.

But here's the thing, people, about this perfect Sunday. While I did do some reading for my work, I did it happily and with no real stress about what I should have been doing instead. This is progress.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ode to the frother

One of my fantabulous birthday gifts--from S.'s cousins up in Chicago--was a milk frother for my coffee. I can't even begin to describe what a difference this thing makes for my mornings. It's like I'm drinking a fancy coffee at Starbucks, but I still have that $4 in my pocket. Did you know that when you froth milk, it naturally becomes sweeter? I didn't know this either, but that explains part of the fun.

Makes for a yummy coffee experience. And a superlicious chai tea experience. Yummers.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

epic? no thanks

A while back, I promised S. I'd give the Lord of the Rings movies a chance. I probably said something about promising to watch them over the summer, but well, it's almost Thanksgiving and it feels like summer. So last night I gave in. We watched about an hour and a half of the first one. I knew right away that this simply wasn't my thing, but I felt like I had to give it a chance because I knew how much S. wanted me to love it. Here's the thing. It's an epic, with big long drawn-out battle scenes and I don't like epics. They bore me to tears.

At first I felt like I should justify why I don't like epics. I don't like this whole good vs. evil thing. I really don't like the battle scenes. Really don't like them. Have I mentioned that I don't like the battle scenes? No? Cuz I don't.

For a long time S. had been saying that he can't imagine how anyone could possibly not like LOTR. And I said, I just don't. It's not right or wrong, I just don't like them.

And then he told me I'm just like his father. Heh. His dad hasn't seen Star Wars either.

In other news, I had a mighty disturbing dream last night. And I have to be vague about this in order to write about it, but I need to say that maybe it's a good thing to go your whole life not getting what you once thought you wanted. That way, you can't say that you tried it and it wasn't what you thought it'd be. That way, you can't have it only to lose it. And that way, your curiosity will never be sated because you can always wonder what if? And all of this allows you to be oh so much more dramatic than your satisfied little life in the heartland would otherwise allow.


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Friday, November 16, 2007

seems I'm always playing catch-up

and mustard.

I've become an intermittent blogger of late. I don't know if that's because I've been so dang busy or because I joined Facebook and am having so much fun playing Scrabulous or if I just have nothing much to say. Likely a combination of all three.

Two weeks ago I wrote an essay about teaching the personal essay. In large part my essay was a response to the very different responses my two sections of the personal essay course had to Cheryl Strayed's essay, "The Love of My Life." It began there, anyway. It ended up being an essay about reflecting on teaching, on what it means to teach writing (Must. Teach. Reading.), and on realizing that I'd stopped reflecting on my teaching in important ways. At the end of the spring 08 semester, I will have been teaching college for 10 years. I gave a copy of the essay to the students in both sections, and just as I'd finished copying it, I read a draft essay by one of my students that makes me want to go revise portions of it. Here's the thing that happens when you forget (or neglect) to reflect on your teaching: it becomes easier to forget the effects you're likely to have on students, effects you usually never get to hear about. Of course, it's also impossible to be in a constant state of self-awareness. Sometimes you have to just get through the day. But I'm glad I put myself through this process because it's teaching that ultimately makes me feel like I'm doing something good. Not writing. Not publishing. Though those things feel really good, it's the teaching that makes me feel all fuzzy inside.

Jonathan Kozol was here on Wednesday night as part of ISU's sesquicentennial speaker series. He was fantastic. He's currently on a hunger strike, living on a mostly liquid diet, to protest the re-signing of the No Child Left Behind Act. He talked a lot about the conditions of inner-city public schools, but he also talked about his most important teacher, Fred Rogers. And about his dog, Sweetie Pie, who had cancer in her precious nose. Mr. Rogers used to call Sweetie Pie every year on her birthday to sing to her. S. and I stood in line to get books signed by Kozol, and he took the time to talk to each and every person in line, shaking each person's hand, and genuinely thanking us for coming. S. asked him if his next book would be about Sweetie Pie, and he said, "How'd you guess?" I hope he wasn't kidding.

Today's a day off. What shall I do, what shall I do?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Into the Wild

S. and I had a date night on Friday. We were planning to go get some dinner before the movie, but since I knew I'd be having popcorn, we just had something light here at home. I'd really wanted to see Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, but it's not playing here yet, so we (I) decided to see Into the Wild. I knew about the book, of course, because many of my friends have taught it in various writing courses. I knew he died in the end because, well, it says so on the cover. I never got around to reading it, I guess, because I just figured he was some freak-o who thought he could survive indefinitely in the Alaskan wilderness.

I'm so glad I went to see the movie because I learned how wrong I was. As is to be expected with actors playing people like McCandless, I fell in love with Emile Hirsch. So what if he's 22? Anyway, despite the very gendered storyline, I found myself liking Chris McCandless despite my desire not to. I didn't want to like him because I didn't want to somehow validate his stupid ideas about man vs. nature. Blah blah blah. But I did like him. So much that we immediately went to Barnes & Noble to buy the book after the movie. What I hadn't realized about his story was that he essentially got trapped up there for much longer than he'd planned on staying. He wanted to come back. Though he fashioned himself as a modern-day Thoreau, he also loved the company of others. This somehow gave me permission to like him. Because if he hadn't wanted to come back and he died the way he did, well, it's his own fault. Jesus.

The final scene will haunt me for a while.

Plus, it's incredibly well done. I'm no movie critic, so I don't have the language to articulate what Sean Penn did, but whatever it was, it worked. It was phenomenal at times.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

teacher's pet

Conferences with students yesterday and all day today. I meet with them in their writing groups, 3 students at a time. Yesterday 2 of the three had shown up, and we were waiting on Chris. We chatted for a few minutes and I said to them, "I know Chris isn't lost because he's been here before."

My phone rang. "Maybe this is Chris now," I said.

It was S. "Hey," he said.


"I wasn't sure if you were still in your meetings."

"Yup, I'm in one now."

"Okay, well, I'll talk to you later."


"Love you."

"Love you, too."

I hang up the phone and say to the two students in my office, "That wasn't Chris."


Monday, November 05, 2007

weekend recap

Game night here was a lovely success. S. and I cleaned the house ALL DAY on Saturday, so by the time people came over at 7:00, everything was sparking clean. And yesterday we splurged and bought a dustbuster, which has made me immeasurably happy because now I don't have to lug out the huge vacuum everytime a dustbunny of dog hair threatens to drift away with my sanity.

We played the music version of Catchphrase, which I'm notoriously horrible at, but this time I was okay. Then we played couples Password, and S. and I kicked butt in the first round then fell apart for a while after that. For part of the night Bill and Cherlyn were there with their not-quite-one-year-old baby girl Brooklyn. She has got to be, hands down, the happiest baby on earth. She makes me want to go get pregnant. Her little rosy cheeks and her pants pulled up to her chest, Belly sniffing her butt, and Mulder licking her face--and all the while she's laughing laughing laughing. Delectable.

For the party I'd bought a package of little pumpkin and pecan tarts. I put out 12 of each for the guests, but of course there were many left. S. nearly had a breakdown when he saw me empty the platter into the trash. We're of two different mindsets. Mine (the correct one) is that if the bad food is in the house, we will eat it. We don't need to eat it. We need to cut down on the sugar. His is that it's a sin to throw away food. People are starving in other parts of the world. To which I respond: our eating them is not going to help any starving people anywhere. So, the next time your mom tells you to clean your plate because people in China are starving, a good response would be something like, yes, but people in America are obese. Heh. Not long after I threw the tarts away, I emptied the salsa dish into the trash so that neither of us would be tempted to go into the trash to rescue those cute little tarts.

Issues with food, anyone? Naaaaah.

I spent about 2 1/2 hours yesterday working on a talk for the departments Sigma Tau Delta initiation ceremony on Tuesday night. I'm the faculty speaker. For the STD initiation. Heh. Cuz that joke's never been made. Anyway, I'm pretty happy with what I ended up with, in part because of the two epigraphs I chose for it:

"The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness."
-- Annie Savoy in Bull Durham

"There are too many ideas and too many people. And too many directions to go. I was starting to believe that the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size."
--Susan Orlean’s character in Adaptation

I can give no more away.

I've got only 3 episodes left of Season 1 of Friday Night Lights, and I'm kinda sad about it. I'm getting all attached to these characters, and we didn't record the first 2 episodes from this season, though S. watched them. I've been recording Cold Case for weeks now and have yet to watch a single one. Ah well. No time.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007


S. and I were like old people last night. Sitting home in the dark, hoping nobody would ring our doorbell and make Belly start barking. One downside to having and loving this big black beast: we don't get to see the little ghosts and goblins in their costumes.

Got up early yesterday to write. And I got 4 pages of an essay written. Happy about that.

Two more weeks until we get a whole week off.

Game night here on Saturday night. Please don't let Scully fart. Please don't let Scully fart. Pleeeeease. She can clear a room in 5 seconds flat.