Monday, February 20, 2023

And February is flying out the door

 How'd that happen?

This is week 6 of the semester, and I've learned that I'll be employed by my school for another year. HUZZAH! I'm so glad, because I'm really enjoying teaching. Also, I have two classes that are astonishingly good writers, so that makes the work that much easier. One spends SO much more time grading when the papers are badly written. At least, I spend more time on those students, because it's my job to help nudge their writing in a stronger direction. I don't feel like my job is to "weed out" a weaker student. I feel like my job is to help them improve their skills so they can earn the degree they obviously wanted when they signed up to go to school. Honestly, I take a dim view of the weed out concept in general. It's insulting and snobbish. Life is too short to be so hateful and dismissive of others. 

The weather has been strange, and I had a rough headcold that was chased by lingering congestion and a hideous cough that is, frankly, frightening. It makes me feel like I could be on the verge of pneumonia, and I don't need any more of that stuff. Today was my first day back at the gym, and I coughed a little there, but no big coughing jags, so I guess I'm okay to work out. Looking forward to my breathing being back to normal.  

Sorry this is a silly post, but wanted to check in. Will try to post more and better, soon.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Let's get one more post throwed up before February, shall we?

Things have been intense, but good, at school. Moments of happiness have snuck up and startled me as I walk across campus to a lecture or have a great exchange wherein the students are engaged and seem to be learning as well as actually enjoying my classes. I feel so blessed, so fortunate that I had that right place/right time moment that allowed me to step into my dream teaching job at the last moment in Fall '22. Since I'm not tenure-track faculty, I don't have a guarantee of a job from year to year. I am hopeful that I will be offered a job for next year, but I'm also realistic about the space I occupy in the firmament, which is the last-hired. I'm just praying for another year (and possibly others) of riding this wave. If I'd had any idea I'd enjoy teaching at college level, I would have gotten it together decades ago.*

I am teaching some new classes this semester, so it's a bit of a scramble. I do far, far more reading and research, probably triple or quadruple the reading I assign to my students, but it must be done. And I am enjoying the heck out of it. I've spent about 8 hours last week doing research for a 50 minute lecture I'm to give on Monday and part of Wednesday. Worth it. I want to be clear and thorough, so I'm trying to front-load as much of that as possible. 

On the whole, it's been fun finding my way. I like this work, and even as I do this research and my own learning, I find that it's had a galvanizing effect on my own view of things-- I feel my opinions are on the most sound footing of my life. This is a good feeling. 

I will try to write again soon. It's nice to have this tiny little corner of the web to park my thoughts. It's nice to feel optimistic, and to feel that something into which I'm pouring my heart is having a positive impact on one or two students.  Onwards and upwards. 

*who am I kidding? I still would have been the cricket who played all summer. Anyway. Fun to play philosopher, in any case. 

Sunday, January 08, 2023

A bumpy start to the year...

    Four people I know or knew died in the last two weeks. Three were elderly, but one was younger than me, a wonderful person in great health, and died in his sleep. The elderly folks were the loveliest and best of people, and will be dearly missed by our church. It's a jarring start to the year, really.  I went down to the Dallas area late last week and had some precious time with Mom. We went to one of the funerals, but I will, sadly, not be able to attend the other three. 

    Meanwhile, Prince Harry is having a very public meltdown in which he has un-dealt-with issues lingering from many sad turns in his life. Many people who were young when they tragically lost a parent can relate to his grief over the loss of his mother. I'm sure that loss was compounded by the very public nature of her passing. But as Lottie says in Enchanted April, "it's important to get on with one's loving." Bad feelings happen in families and friendships, but it's crucial to face those situations, dismiss whatever is petty and may be ignored, and get on with agreeing to disagree, if necessary, and to love each other in spite of those differences. Life is simply too short.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 
Olde English Version
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne 

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Happy new year, folks!

 Hard to believe, but here is 2023. May it be a better year for good people than was 2022.

School begins two weeks from Tuesday. A fair bit of time during the break has been consumed by unpleasant but necessary obligations. I did get to spend some nice time with friends and family, and that made the holidays more cherished for me. 

This morning I heard from a good friend in Belgium. I asked how all their folks were doing, mentioning I'd heard concerns for a cold winter and scarcity of or phenomenal expense of heating fuel. He said that it's been mild lately. I hope that's not just the calm before the storm. Brutal cold is terrible, I know, but it seems especially hard on the old and the very young. Also, the riots in Paris are troubling, perhaps mostly because they are being called "protests" when they are clearly, you know, riots. Footage of motorists being pulled from their cars and those cars set ablaze is to be found on some outlets online, but not the mainstream ones in the USA, as far as I know. We can't have people distracted from the narrative currently being advanced related to social engineering and all that sort of stuff. The "interesting times" of the Chinese proverb seem at hand, sadly.

Anyway, I spent today cleaning and cleaning and organizing. I have much to do in these two weeks, including a quick trip to Virginia for a writer's convention. I need to hit all the marks every day to make sure I don't drop any of the balls I'm juggling. Mostly, I'm blessed and am making progress, but sometimes, it seems slow, plodding. Not complaining, except for the bullet-train effect of the passage of time, particularly when one has a break from routine. 

All in all, though, as I said in the beginning, I am hoping for the best for all of us. I'm not foolish enough to expect the best, but I feel one should not abandon hope. 

In the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us. But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us.”

I'm not driving blind into dark waters, exactly, but I am trying to learn from mistakes. I don't have control over the rest of the world, and how life will unfold for us as a civilization. I keep hoping that it will correct itself, that what appears mass psychosis in which we celebrate mental illness and vilify people who try to live by a strict and respectful code in life becomes something we're looking at in the waves behind us, disappearing in the rear-view mirror. But in the end, my own behavior is all I can control, and is the only thing for which I am accountable. I pray for self-governance, and to be a help and support to those I love. If I succeed on that score, I'll count myself doubly blessed for having been useful to those I most hold dear. I can't ask for greater than that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

 It's incredible that 2022 is nearly done, isn't it?

I am pleased that I posted more on my blog this year than I did on the previous few years combined. Despite the world's troubles, some things have been on the upswing for me, and I'm making my way.

This year was certainly colorful for me, and was a landmark year for closing old stories and beginning exciting new chapters. My emotions teeter between feeling delighted that I completed graduate school, and almost disbelief that the task is completed. Even more amazingly, I landed my dream job teaching at the school that I would most have preferred. I love the faculty and the campus, and not a single day passes in which I don't thank the Lord for blessing me with this job. I think nearly any job besides this one would have been rife with unhappy features for me. As it is, I have zero complaints about my job, and I'm so looking forward to the coming semester, as I'm building two new courses from the ground up. Fun! Particularly the Britlit survey course-- it's my dream subject, and is the course I've always longed to teach. My students seemed to enjoy it, they did well on tests and essays, and a handful are taking the second half of the course with me in the Spring. Wheee!

Another milestone for me was the publication of my first novella, which has been kindly received, generally, and sold well and steadily since September. I have two more novels and a short story cooking on this subject, but the semester and ebay sales kept me busier than a one-armed paper hanger all semester, so I did little writing. I'm hoping to complete the short story this week and get it throwed up on Amazon next week. Fingers crossed. 

I had some precious time with Mom and my siblings at Christmas. We lazed and grazed in the proper holiday fashion. Mom took a crack at making chicken and dressing casserole like Grandma Smith used to make, and it was delicious. I've been thinking about the wonderful, simple feasts that Grandma made. Heaven will be incomplete if it's not full of food cooked by all our grannies. Am I right or am I right? Grandma grew and canned her own green beans, and it is a marvel to me to remember how delicious they were. And my Grandma Bertie's buttermilk biscuits and gravy were toe-curling - I taste them in my dreams. Some day, up yonder...

Dad is part of every thing, and I know always in our hearts and minds as our family gathers. He's the heart and soul of our family, so he continues to bind us, even as we miss him so very dearly. Late Christmas Eve after Mom went to bed, I sat with my brother and sister in the living room watching Kingpin, which Amy had watched many times with Dad. It's a ridiculous movie, a lot of fun, and it was really special to sit there with her and have her say "Dad laughed his socks off at this part" or "he really thought that was funny." Vicariously enjoying how Dad loved the movie was the next best thing I could hope for. Also, I have no need of one, but I want a gold glitter bowling ball. Someday.

I hope you all were warmed and heartened by memories of dear ones, and that you had precious moments with your families. Make the most of every opportunity. 

I may post again before 2023, but odds are that I won't pop back into the blog, so in that case, I hope you have a happy new year, and that 2023 brings health and happiness to all who read this post. Until then, my best wishes to you and yours.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Clickbait garbage articles deriding oldsters.


I work to teach my writing students to not make sweeping statements. I'm baffled by the sheer dreck churned out here by one Erika Salen or Sallen-- it was written both ways on the hyperlink attached to the author's name (below). I'm not a baby-boomer, and I'm not her target for derision, but I also realize the only point of articles like this is to get people to hop on their site to scroll through (hopefully, for them!) hundreds of ads. Still, articles such as this aren't well written, are rife with logical fallacies, and their overall theme seems to be that Baby Boomers are stupid and have terrible taste in food. It's going to be fun for them when they're the oldsters. "NO!" they will insist, "we were the COOL ones, and we have great taste!"  Their condescending progeny will tell them how hackneyed and sad they are, because they will have learned how to respect older generations from their own parents, i.e., not at all. 

Impudent upstarts gotta impugn, I suppose. It's really sad what passes for professional writing, of late. I'm too busy now, but I may come back to pick this apart.  The sheer amount of things they get utterly wrong is staggering, perhaps most especially the idea that the 1970s alone were solely responsible for any kind of food suspended in jellies. Hello? Aspic? From times before electricity and modern refrigeration? If one is going to write about historical periods of food production, one should, ya know, do a little research. If only there were some readily available compendium on the history of everything that the author could have consulted for some facts, instead of this judgey screed.

Oh, never mind. What an absolutely ignorant load of twaddle!

Tragically Gross Foods Baby Boomers Wont Let Die – Herald Weekly

Okay, zoomer. "How dare I?"  

You should be in school.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Make a joyful noise.

 To be called the superlative version of anything is a mighty feat. I just have a problem with people saying crappy things about a bunch of kids who dare to get out there and try something despite not being the most polished presentation ever. 

Tonight I watched a few high school marching bands on YouTube and then I had my heart a little dashed by the sight of my old high school band circa Fall 2022. Back in the day, we were a strict military marching style band, and the sloppy masses were corps style, which is pretty much everyone these days. I can forgive the corps style. I can forgive many things, even the spats, but capes? I admit that the capes sort of broke me. 

Then in my feed came this video, which I'm sharing not to mock these kids, but to say good on you for putting it out there. The video has a terrible title, and it's interesting that the video is still on YouTube, but... 

Were these young people the first ones in their school to even have a marching band? Did they have million$ in band booster supports, with luxury transport to and from the game? I think it took a lot of heart for them to get out there. I'll bet they got better and better with each performance. Most likely this was a marching competition (based on the fact that this was during the daytime, and the opposite stands are populated by groups that look like other bands. Competitions are nerve-wracking for young performers, and no one hits it out of the park every time. I say good for McAdams High School Band, and I hope they kept trying.

I guess this rant is simply to say that people are told to "make a joyful noise" and I take that literally. We may prefer if the noise is tuneful, well-rehearsed, and delivered by someone at the top of their game, but most performers have to go through the baby steps of some awkward performances before they get to that polished state. It's great that we have the means to record everything in the world these days, but it's also important to remember that the awkward performances we'd perhaps prefer to forget are still crucial for our development from ugly ducklings to the big sassy swans we're all meant to be. 

I say good on this group of musicians. I hope they went on and got their moves down pat. I hope they showed everyone how to haul off and win, even if they didn't on this day.

Monday, October 03, 2022

Sing quietly along...


Fuel to Fire by the exquisite Agnes Obel

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Thank you, drive through!

I'm super-busy.

I've said that many times before, and it's always been true, but never to this degree. Each day is consumed with teaching full time, keeping my online selling business rolling, and working to get my next story completed to publish online. I'm also trying to be a decent human being, a task at which I feel I often fall short. But I try to be kind, and considerate, as much as I am able.  Even when I'm pulled in many directions and there aren't enough hours for all my obligations and so I have to cut out sleep and down-time for myself, I try to be kind and polite to friends. 

However, my wish to be pleasing and kind does not give anyone license to treat me as a doormat. 

People who want to see the worst in the world are guaranteed to find it. People who go around spoiling for a fight will, likewise, always find one or drum one up. I would never claim to be perfect, but I'm doing the best I can, here. Two people in recent times have come to my door spoiling for that fight. I didn't let them walk all over me, and yet I didn't engage in nasty personal attacks.

Indeed, I feel sad for their desolate states, that they should hold our friendship so cheap that they would try to turn their angst at others/the world/life's unfairness into a fracas with me. 

Not sorry, I simply don't have time for that. I wish you all the best. Thanks, but no thanks. Not interested. I will help you if ever I can, I hope to always be kind, but I'm disappointed. And with that, I have no more time to think about this. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

"God save the Queen. We mean it, man."


I don't mean to put words in Johnny Rotten's mouth, but I never believed that his classic punk anthem "God Save the Queen" was actually railing against her, personally, even when he said "she ain't a human being". Yes, he literally said that, but the song was about a government and society that was seemingly indifferent to the struggles and suffering of its citizens. It was a song about the loss of hope, a sense of utter futility. Much of the punk catalogue is of/by/for the recognition of that very bleak perspective. Here is a quote from the video interview I've linked at the bottom of the page:

"That is a song of question. It is not an assault on any human being."

England of the 1970s was bleak in many ways. The UK was still recovering from WWII, with the food rationing that went on well into the 50s. Elizabeth II was a handy countenance at which to lob the petard that calls out an indifferent government that purports to represent all her citizens. I get where he was coming from when he wrote that song, even if I disagree with that oversimplification of the situation. 

Then again, I wasn't there, so who am I to tell anyone there what they lived through? I respect his right to express this in a way that he saw fit. 

On his website, John Lydon posted the following statement regarding other former members of his band The Sex Pistols who are reissuing merchandise and music related to their anthem "God Save The Queen" in an attempt to cash in on the death of Queen Elizabeth II. 

John Lydon wishes to distance himself from any Sex Pistols activity which aims to cash in on Queen Elizabeth II’s death. The musicians in the band and their management have approved a number of requests against John’s wishes on the basis of the majority court-ruling agreement.

In John’s view, the timing for endorsing any Sex Pistols requests for commercial gain in connection with ‘God Save The Queen’ in particular is tasteless and disrespectful to the Queen and her family at this moment in time.

John wrote the lyrics to this historical song, and while he has never supported the monarchy, he feels that the family deserves some respect in this difficult time, as would be expected for any other person or family when someone close to them has died.

However I may disagree with him on this or that point, I think better of him for disavowing an attempt to make money at the moment when so many people are mourning the death of a beloved sovereign. 

There have been many times he defiantly called out people in the public sphere who were horrid and exploitative, such as when he accused British tv presenter Jimmy Savile of abusing the young fans who came to his pop music TV shows. Lydon was met with shocked silence and was shunned for many years afterwards. After Savile died in 2012, many people came forward to say they'd been abused by him. It's ironic that Lydon was the lone voice who dared to speak out against the popular personality. He is a man of strong character in a world of changeable folk who simply run with the tide. 

Here's a video from a decade ago in which he talks about his career.

As for exploiting the idea of the old Sex Pistols classic, I've seen him perform as P.i.L. (Public Image, Limited) many times, and I have never once heard him perform any of the tracks from the Sex Pistols. I think he's far more intelligent than most people recognize. He has a strong moral code, is plain-spoken and unapologetic. This looks like strong character to me.

I respected him before for his integrity. I'm not calling him a saint, but I think he'd be mortified at that accusation, too.  I'm not saying that I agree with everything he's ever done. What I'm saying is that in this moment, I admire him a little bit more. And he is so good-natured. "Anger is an energy," but it matters how we use that energy. John Lydon sets a great example.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Almost Blogiversary


I began this blog on September 16, 2002. I wanted a creative outlet, and this seemed a good way to go. Oddly enough, I'm thinking back to that time, and remembering that I was feeling depressed as we were one year out from 9/11/2001. It was a challenging time in a changing and less-certain world. 

Some years I've blogged more extensively than others, but it's good to have a place where I can park ideas, or mark important moments. It's interesting to cast forward and consider how the world will change in twenty more years. Or one. In any case, I hope to make the best of however many years or weeks or days are left to me. :)


Queen Elizabeth II died on Thursday, 8 September. She was a remarkable human being, and a unifying influence for the English people and people in Commonwealth nations around the world.  She was a jolly decent lady who always put her duty first. I pray her son will model his reign on hers. 


This year has been so brutally hot (yesterday was in the mid-90s) that it was startling to leave the house this morning in 66 F comfort. Also, my Prairie Sage-- which I call my harbinger of Autumn-- was blooming this morning. I noticed yesterday the spikes of buds looked too ready too soon, but there they were this morning, blossoming and full of sass. This is two weeks earlier than when they bloomed last year. Make of that what you will.


My job is going well, and I'm loving the work. My office is big with tons of bookshelves. I had to build a heavy course from scratch at the last minute, so I've been taking time to get settled in, but it is coming along. I'm doing a little more fluffing of the arrangement every week. It should be in order by mid-term, hopefully. It's amazing that three full weeks already have passed. I'm hopeful for the progress of my students. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

One down, fifteen to go.

 First week of the semester went well. Oddly enough, one of my students is child of an acquaintance from town, so that is kind of neat. It feels like it is going well, and I'm so thankful for the job in general, and in particular that I'm doing the very job and at the very school that I would have chosen for myself. Meanwhile, I still have my fiction writing and online auction stuff bubbling away on back burners. I'm insanely busy-- I keep referring to it as chainsaw juggling-- but I obviously like being TOO busy. I will take it. This is all moving in the right direction. I expect to take an actual day off on Saturday or Sunday next week, a novelty.

Since I was a relatively late hire, I have only even been in my office for 11 days, and it was a mad scramble to get my ducks in a row in time for class. Hopefully most of the administrative stuff is resolved. 

I WILL NOT have an insane beginning to the next semester, though. I plan to begin the template for Spring 2023 schedules this week so they are ready to go prior to the time. Everything I can do now to reduce chaos in the future is time well spent.

I will try to check in again here to give updates. I hope that I'm teaching there again this time next year. That will be a blessing, indeed. :)

Monday, August 22, 2022

Today was a good day. :)

 In August 1971, I was a 5 year old little cherub in an adorable blue and white jumper with a wide red cotton sash belt and an sweet matching red/white/blue satchel. It was to be my first day of school. My brother, one year older and a bit, had gone the previous year, and when I found out about school, I began to chatter obsessively at Mom (and probably anyone else who would listen) that I couldn't wait to go to school, and wouldn't it be the most grand thing ever? So, properly be-cutened, I walked to first grade with Mom and Rob. When Mom met us at the end of the day, I told her "I'm never going back there."

Anyway, today was another momentous first day of school, my first day as a full time teacher. I hadn't dared to hope that it would be wonderful and happy-making for me, but it turned out to be wonderful and happy-making. At the end of the second class, a student came up to me and said she'd tried to sign up for my class, but I wasn't on the course listing. (I was a late replacement for a teacher who took a job elsewhere). She said she was thrilled to find me teaching the class, because she wanted to thank me for being so kind when she took my course online previously* and had to drop for personal reasons. That was the icing on the cake. So many students smiled back at me, and I hope they are excited about the course. They seemed to be.
I love school. I love my school. I'm going back tomorrow. You can't stop me.
*I was teaching as a Graduate Teaching Assistant

Sunday, August 07, 2022

To work, to work.

 I have landed a job, looks like. I am quite pleased, and this is a welcome development. I begin next week. Don't tell anyone. It's a secret. I will not believe it until I sign the contract on the 15th.

Onwards and upwards.

I have many sewing projects in mind, but I'm super busy, what with my chainsaw-juggling habit. Hopefully things will feel slightly less dicey with the exciting new additive of positive cash flow. 

The pressure dome that has been over this region of Texas for weeks and weeks is predicted to bugger on off starting tomorrow, and we'll have temps on Monday-Friday in the mere high 90 degree range. Fetch me my parka, Jeeves! Nighttime temps in the 70s will feel like a glorious reprieve. 

For now, I'm prepping for new job, and hoping to start some new container gardening for cool-weather crops for the fall. I'm planning on turnips, radish, and some lettuce in pots. I'm sure I'll bore you with the details as they develop, but I'm at least a month out on that development. 

I also would love to do some Ruth Stout method gardening. Our climate is mild in the winter, with the occasional snowmageddon, but I think if I started in late September, I could squeeze in one cycle of crops. It would be good to grow more of my own stuff. As it is, I currently have one beautiful fruit on my Ichiban eggplant. I'll probably harvest it tonight or Wednesday to go in the pot. It set many other blossoms, but they all disappeared in the last 2 days. Also, the plant is on my front porch and it is straining towards the light. I had help moving it over into a more full-sun situation, and I put a tomato cage in the pot, so hopefully it will pick up and thrive. We shall see. As it is, I claim the victory of a successful harvest even if the one fruit is the entire yield. We all must start somewhere.

I wrote a short story last week that was funny and skewed in a surprising sort of direction, and on that basis, I will soon announce a call for submissions of short stories on that theme for an anthology. I hope it will be fun and well-received. In any case, it is good to be writing again. 

It also feels good to blog again, even if I'm the only one who ever sees this. :)

Me:          "I'm blogging again."

Also Me: "I noticed!"

Me:          "Isn't this nice?"

Also Me:  "Yes."

Have a lovely day.