Monday, April 23, 2018

Looking back, looking forward: an exercise in burying the lede

I've been wanting to write about how great All Scholars Day was last Friday, how we had a few last-minute glitches but we dealt with them and moved on, how wonderful it was to see the students spiffed up like professionals to present the results of all their hard work and research, how some of the sessions were so crowded we ran out of chairs and the new rolling display walls looked great and were easy to set up and how much I appreciated my helpful  student workers and how my husband showed up at exactly the right time to carry a heavy box back to my office and how much I relished pretty much every single moment of the day, but I can't. The whole event wore me out so much that every time I try to talk about it, I become a blithering idiot.

So I spent a lot of time not thinking about it over the weekend, which was fine because I had other things to think about (like my husband's big nerve-wracking job interview for a job he really really really wants), and then I came back to my office this morning and noticed that the work is not quite over: I have boxes of stuff that has to be taken to various people on campus, an invoice to submit and thumbtacks to stash in the supply closet and two big boxes of commemorative imprinted pub glasses I need to find an equitable way to distribute--and oh yes, I'd better hold on to the empty boxes afterward in case anyone near and dear to me might be moving this summer because HE GOT THE JOB HE GOT THE JOB HE GOT THE JOB!!

So yeah, a lot of things to think about. Great event, woo-hoo!, well done all, but now I get to think about packing up stuff and moving it to Jackson, Ohio, where my husband will  serve as pastor of a medium-sized church beginning July 1. He'll live in the (small but well maintained) parsonage and I'll stay at our current house but travel to Jackson on weekends and holidays, and so we will join the long list of academic couples pursuing their dreams at a distance from each other. It's only about a 90-minute drive on four-lane highways through gorgeous Appalachian landscape, so I'm not complaining. Still, it is a little daunting to think about maintaining two households. 

Step one: I'm getting myself a lawnmower--one that I can start without help. Steps two through two million will have to wait until I've recovered from a whirlwind week.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Still standing

I crunched across the frosty meadow this morning to see how early-spring wildflowers are adjusting to this week's snow, sleet, rain, frost, and occasional sunshine, and I was surprised to find many delicate blooms still standing. The trout lilies nestled amongst the ramps looked healthier than those more exposed to the elements, and I also saw a phoebe tending a nest and the first leaves of solomon's seal unfurling. 

So the wildflowers have survived despite everything--and so have I. All Scholars Day is over and it all went well, and the few glitches that arose were easily handled. I'll have more to say about that soon, but first I need to let my brain rest a little bit. Let's look at some lovely growing things that don't make any demands of me except to be left alone. 


trout lily

dutchman's breeches


nest nestled on the cliff face

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Deer, deer

On Tuesday I took a photo of a ding in my windshield and assumed I was done with misery for the week, but no: this morning I took a photo of deer fur caught in my smashed headlight, in case my insurance company needs confirmation of the nature of this morning's little interruption.

Could that deer possibly have picked a worse time to run straight into my car? I mean, the big campus event I've been planning all year happens tomorrow, so I started the day with a full schedule that did not include filing an insurance claim, getting my disabled car to the garage for an estimate, or figuring out how to squeeze in and out of my car when the driver's-side door wouldn't open all the way.

And then there were those little added annoyances caused by the fact that we live in Appalachia: I hit the deer on a country road with no safe place to pull off and no cell-phone service; I couldn't get a rental car (even though my insurance policy covers rentals) because apparently there isn't a single rental car available in the entire county until Monday; and the insurance claims adjuster I spoke to over the phone is located in a big city and so can not imagine that either of the two facts I've just mentioned could possibly be true.

But the good news is that I'm fine. Well, fine enough. I must have tensed up when that great big deer ran right straight into my car because now every muscle in my body hurts. And, hurrah for this, we have really good car insurance (although I predict a rate increase in my future). And my car is still drivable, since the guys at the garage twisted a few things around so the door opens and the tire no longer rubs on whatever it was rubbing on. And some time next week it will all be fixed.

But my car! That's the first car I ever bought entirely to please myself, and I have loved that car more than I've ever loved any other vehicle. But now it just looks sad, with a smashed headlight and dents in the hood and all down the driver's side, plus little tufts of deer fur stuck to twisted metal. My hero-blue Camry now looks like a wreck--but I'll bet it looks better than the deer that hit me.

Poor deer. Poor car. Poor sad suffering world. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Not quite down for the count

How many times does the universe have to punch you in the face before you decide to sit out a round? I'm working from home today to avoid yet another punch while trying to recover from a series of blows that may seem insignificant separately but succeeded in knocking me off my feet.

It started with a virus, some sort of stomach bug that's been going around campus, and I'm not going to share the details but it kept me up half the night and left me feeling woozy and slow. (I started feeling icky during the faculty meeting yesterday, so if I unintentionally passed this virus on to any of my colleagues, um, sorry!) 

I could have stayed home this morning since I don't teach on Tuesdays but I'd left a pile of work on my desk that really needed to be done, so I bundled up against the weather (snow and sleet and cold cold cold in the third week of April) and drove to town to collect my laptop, papers, and books. I hadn't gone five miles down the highway before a truck passing the other way tossed something against my windshield, making a BOOM so loud I involuntarily closed my eyes, which is not the optimal method for driving on slippery roads.

But I survived, and when I surveyed the situation I saw only a minor ding on my windshield. I've seen such dings develop over time into networks of cracks obstructing vision, so I took a photo in preparation for that inevitable moment when my insurance guy asks me exactly when and where the damage occurred. Yes, I've been down this road before.

I posted a note on my office door and came back home, so I was not there when a certain person stopped by my office to reveal that a major detail for All Scholars Day (Friday!) had suddenly gone all cattywampus through no fault of my own. I'm glad I got to deal with this problem via e-mail, which gave me time to compose myself before responding, but ouch--that smarts.

And now I'm sitting here bundled up on the sofa prepping classes and grading presentations and wondering why my hands are so cold, and the answer is: because the temperature in the house has been falling steadily all morning. Why? Because the pump that runs the hot water from the wood-burner to heat the house has stopped limping its sorry way through the winter and ceased functioning entirely.

And at this point I could just give up, but hey, I've survived worse than this. Toss a virus at my body, a rock at my windshield, a snafu into my best-laid plans, and a monkey-wrench into my heating system and somehow I'll roll with the punches and keep standing.

(Make that sitting. Under a pile of blankets. When I'm not running to the bathroom.) 

It's much more impressive if you hear the boom.


Monday, April 16, 2018

What we have here is a failure to commiserate

Since owning up to failure is an important part of adulthood, I am willing to admit that I failed badly when I reached into the sock drawer this morning. I did not realize that the elastic on these knee-highs was just too tired to function on a dreary gray Monday, and hence I've spent half the morning pulling up my socks. (Note to self: at the end of the day, these knee-highs go straight into the trash.)

And I am willing to accept responsibility for agreeing to pay a vendor a certain amount of money for services related to All Scholars Day without first going through the proper College channels, but I quickly admitted my error, asked for help, and fixed the problem--and now I'll know how to do it next time I end up in this kind of situation.

But at the moment, that's as far as I'm going. Complain about the weather all you want; I refuse to accept responsibility for it. Whine about why you should get a special exemption from a deadline, but remember that your failure to meet the deadline is not the deadline's fault. Gripe about bad academic advising from now until next Tuesday, and I'll just point out that an advisee's refusal to take her advisor's good advice is not so much "failure of advising" as "failure of studenting."

I'll carry my quota of failure with as much dignity as I can muster, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to carry yours. So let's buck up and carry our failures forward side by side. (Wait a minute while I pull up my socks.)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Our day in the sun

Funny, but this semester none of my students have been begging to have class outside. I blame the weather. Apparently we flunked January, so we've had to repeat it over and over until we got it right.

Today, though, conditions converged harmonically: Sunshine! Warmth! Pleasant breezes! Classes that didn't require the use of technology! Best of all, both of my morning classes were reading kind of gloomy material, and if we must read about death and despair, we may as well do it where the weather can counteract the gloom.

So out we went at 9:00, and out came a college photographer to snap pictures of my students sitting next to the library and talking about Sylvia Plath. I hadn't planned on having a photographer present, but he wasn't terribly distracting. And then out we went again at 11:00, and out came--well, everybody. We had class in the midst of students tossing Frisbees, petting dogs, eating hot dogs, playing music, and doing all kinds of joyfully distracting things. I have to hand it to my students for remaining attentive through all that, but I'm not sure it was the most productive use of our time.

On the other hand, it felt great. I'm sure I'm not the only one who emerged from our time in the sun feeling cheerful and energized. After 13 weeks of flunking January after January, we welcome Spring.  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Mud makes a grand entrance

As I trudged up the hill in the darkening evening, I envisioned bursting into the house and standing there dripping wet and muddy and loudly announcing, "Next time I say I'm perfectly capable of walking down that hill without assistance, lock me in the closet until I come to my senses." But my grand entrance was ruined: no one was there to hear my announcement, and I had to take my shoes off before I got in the door and then strip down out of my muddy pants and head straight toward the laundry room. I suppose it would be possible to make a dramatic announcement while standing barefoot in your underwear while carrying a bundle of wet, muddy clothes, but it wouldn't be terribly dignified.

On the plus side, all I suffered from my unexpected adventure was a little dampness, a little fear, a little bruise to my ego. On the minus side, the photos I was hunting for were pretty blurry (not that I was shaking or anything), and I don't know if I'll ever be able to wear those shoes again.

But here's the thing: I shouldn't have been wearing those shoes to begin with. If I'd planned to go to the hillside across the road, where the flood waters only recently receded, I would have put on boots or proper mudding shoes; however, I thought I'd just take a quick walk up the hill behind our house and see whether I could find any trilliums or bloodroot or trout lilies, and since the flood never got that high (and never will unless the entire state is under water), I wore ordinary walking shoes.

I found what I expected and more: bloodroot and hepatica and spring beauties in bloom, trilliums and trout lilies just emerging from the soil. But I also found a lot more mud than I'd expected, and eventually I found myself stranded halfway down a steep, muddy slope with no safe way to get back up the hill. I paused for a while to examine my options, wondering how long I would have to stand there clutching desperately to a dinky tree before someone sent a search party, and I finally realized that the only thing to do was to keep going down the hill.

So down I went, sometimes on my feet and sometimes not, until I reached the creek, where recent flooding left the banks muddy and crowded with debris. Even worse, the creek narrows and deepens to make a turn just downstream, swallowing up the bank entirely and leaving nothing but steep, muddy bluffs on my side.

So there was nothing to do but to find a shallow spot and wade across to the other side and then scramble up a low bank to the neighbor's hay-meadow and walk all the way around to our bridge. This long walk home gave me a chance to imagine a number of different scenarios, but a grand entrance requires an audience and mine was missing. So I just cleaned myself up and resolved never to attempt that particular slope without a helping hand--or, at the very least, a clear exit strategy.