Monday, April 30, 2018

Wheeling and dealing

I said goodbye to my sleek indigo beauty this morning, stripping away everything that made her mine; the title got signed over to my insurance company and everything else went into a box for safekeeping: ice-scraper, tissues, fuzzy blanket, umbrella, sunglasses, gloves, tire gauge, and close to twenty dollars' worth of quarters (for tolls and car washes). I nearly drove off without my blue-heron-adorned license plates, but I went back and got them just in time. The insurance company will tow away my indigo beauty and I'll keep driving a rental car until Sunday, when I have to return it regardless of whether I've found a suitable replacement.

The rental is okay--a silver Hyundai Sonata--but it's not my car and nothing will make it feel like my car. I can't adjust the seat just right and it took me three days to figure out how to set the cruise control. The worst part, though, is what happens every time I come out of a store and look for my car and realize, first, that the rental car looks like every other silver car in the parking lot, and second, that my car is gone and I'll never get it back.

Of course it's possible that I'll find another car that I love just as much as I loved my indigo Camry, but at the moment it's not looking likely. Over lunch I took a quick dash to a used-car lot to test-drive the only used Camry in the area that isn't either silver or black, and although I liked the color, the mileage, and the price, I did not at all care for the distinct rattle emanating from the rear or the pervasive odor of dirty sweat-socks. 

At least this time it's a little easier getting the attention of sales reps. Five years ago when I bought my Camry, I would drive my 20-year-old battered Volvo onto a car lot and watch the salesmen pretend I was invisible. Now they all come out and want to sell me a car, but it's always the wrong car, or the right car in the wrong color, or the right car in the right color with the wrong kind of rattle. 

What I really want is my sleek indigo beauty back--but lacking that, at least I retrieved my quarters.

Gone but not forgotten.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Keeping the sarcasm level low

A student wonders why we're not canceling class or offering automatic extensions on papers today to permit students to prepare for an end-of-semester party. Class is at 9 a.m.; the party starts at 5 p.m. and even a very slow walker could get there from my classroom in under five minutes. I gently pointed out that the student's inability to read a syllabus and plan ahead is no excuse for late work, but what I really wanted to ask was: If the party starts at 5, how early do you plan to start drinking? Surely you're not hoping to be too plastered to come to class at 9:00 in the morning?

Yes, we have reached the time of year when lame excuses show their ugly faces, and I have to keep biting my tongue to avoid spitting out sarcastic responses. And it's not just students, either; earlier this week I was sorely tempted to address this question to my insurance agent's secretary: You've told me all the things you can't do for me, but can you tell me whose job it is to care about my problem? Because I'd like to talk to that person.

They finally arranged for me to get a rental car, which is great because while I'm willing to drive a disabled car around town, I'm not terribly thrilled about taking it on a road trip to North Carolina next week. And do you want to know how much my insurance company is planning to pay for my disabled car? Let me know if you find out! Apparently it's a state secret, although the secretary did accidentally let slip that "it looks like they're considering your car totaled," but she's not authorized to talk to me about the final settlement so I'll have to wait until the claims agent calls. (This was yesterday. I'm still waiting.)

Meanwhile, I have one more class to teach and I'm working on arranging proctors for final exams next week since I'll be driving to North Carolina for my nephew's funeral. Kind people are coming out of the woodwork to offer to help, which is one reason I'm trying to keep the sarcasm level set to low. I know I'm not the only one whose best-laid plans have been disrupted by unexpected trauma, so I'm trying to be patient and supportive and kind.

But I draw the line at cancelling a 9:00 class to make way for a 5:00 party. We've still got some learning to do! Parties can wait.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

In search of an elusive smile

My nephew Sam had a beautiful smile, so why can't I find it in photos? 

I saw him last at my Dad's house in Florida the week after Christmas, but apparently I didn't take any photos that day. I look back through folder after folder and finally there he is, sitting on my brother's porch in North Carolina in the summer of 2015, his boyish face and gentle smile surrounded by people who loved him.

What happened to that gentle boy who wanted to be an artist and had the talent to back up his dreams? Adolescence happened and drugs happened and mental health problems happened and now he is dead at the tender age of 18.

Who can make sense of a loss like this? Words don't seem to be working right, so all I can do is sift through photos, searching for an elusive smile and trying to hold on to memories of a fleeting life that slipped away too soon.

My nephew Sam, 1999-2018

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Splendor, spliced

We started the semester in American Lit Survey by talking about gatekeepers--the publishers, editors, and cultural influences who try to determine what makes American literature American, whose voices speak for us all, which voices get excluded from the conversation. 

We ended our reading for the semester with "To the Hyphenated Poets" by Amit Majmudar, Ohio's first poet laureate, who extols the "hybrid vigor" of our polyglot culture, calling oneness "Pure chimera" because "Splendor is spliced" and our language itself is a "crossbred / mother mutt." Majmudar reminds us that the hyphen connecting two halves of a poet's dual identity is also a bridge "joining / nation to nation," a punctuation mark representing the power to renew, refresh, and recreate poetry, language, and culture.

This feels like a very satisfying place to stop, so let's breathe a deep sigh of relief and put down the textbooks. Nothing left now but final papers and exams!

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.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Just a little singed around the edges

Why does every major project lead inexorably to a Meltdown Moment? Or is it just me? Maybe everyone else manages to successfully plan massive events without ever reaching that day when everything goes to pieces all at once, and if so, I'd like to know their secret.

For me that day was yesterday. All day long I alternated between putting out fires in some parts of campus while lighting fires under others, just to meet all the important deadlines for planning next week's All Scholars Day. And in between all that firefighting, I was trying to put the finishing touches on the program so I could get it to the printer today, but the computer program I needed to use kept alternately crashing or messing up the formatting, and at one point it decided that every page should be numbered 11. 

I left here last night at the end of my rope, hoping to get some rest and come back ready to fix the problem, but then my overactive mind wouldn't let it go, gnawing incessantly on the same annoying computer glitches past 2:30 a.m. Then my brain woke me up at 4:30 with the solution to the problem and sent me off to campus around 6 so I could execute the cure, which was great but how am I supposed to teach three classes on two hours' sleep? (You do the math. I keep coming up with zeros.)

After I sent the file off to the print shop, I had to shut my office door, turn off the light, and lie down on the floor for a while, and then at lunch I went over to visit a colleague who always gives me a big dose of perspective and makes me laugh. I came back feeling refreshed, ready to tackle whatever arises, and what did I find in my inbox but a message stating that the print shop had a sample copy of the program for my approval--and it is just lovely.

It's kind of amazing that something so wonderful could come out of all those fires, like a phoenix rising from the ashes--and if I still feel a little scorched, I'm sure it'll pass. The good news is that I have now fulfilled my quota of Meltdown Moments for the semester so from this point on, I'm exempt.


Monday, April 09, 2018

The unexpected expert

I don't mind when my colleagues seek my assistance on some sticky aspect of grammar--I mean, I definitely struggled through all those years of grad school just so I could become an expert on the use of the semicolon--but once in a while it's nice to be consulted as an expert on a topic totally outside my field. Yesterday it happened twice, concerning very different topics on which I'm not really much of an expert, which suggests that all you have to do to be considered an expert is to know a little more than the person asking the questions.

It all started when I went across the Ohio River into West Virginia to visit a wetland where a great egret has been hanging out for the past week. It's a highly accessible wetland surrounded by a very nice boardwalk, so naturally lots of folks have been stopping to take a look, and sure enough there it was, and I even got a (blurry) photo of the egret with a fish in its mouth before it flew off across the road to the less accessible part of the wetland. But I didn't leave right away because, as an added bonus, I'd found a little flock of yellow-rumped warblers flitting about catching insects and perching on the cat-tails. My first warbler of the season! And they're just as cute as can be so I took a lot of photos.

Then while I was heading back to my car, I encountered a couple carrying very nice cameras. They asked me whether I'd been taking pictures of "that big white crane" in the lagoon, and I gently pointed out that it's a great egret and that it had already flown the coop, "but there's a very nice group of yellow-rumped warblers posing on the cat-tails." I didn't explain why I was so excited about this harbinger of the spring warbler migration because I didn't want to be an annoying know-it-all--and besides, they were clearly disappointed by the absence of the great egret. "It may come back eventually," I said and moved on.

Then I went to the college baseball game, where one of my Chinese students kept asking me to explain certain finer points of the game: "Wasn't that guy just catching? Why is he hitting now? What's a designated hitter? What's an error? Why was that called a strike when the batter didn't swing at it?"

Baseball is the only sport on which I can reliably provide answers to these kinds of questions, so I was happy to help, and when I occasionally dropped the ball, people sitting nearby were willing to pinch-hit. The student had a lot of trouble comprehending why a batter can keep hitting foul balls all day long without being called out (unless the ball gets caught), but by the end of the game she had a better idea of how baseball works, and I'd learned something too: how silly some of the rules of the game sound when explained to a neophyte.

Not so long ago I was the neophyte, learning about baseball from my husband and about birds from my birding-and-botanizing colleague, so being consulted as a sort of expert feels really good. No one ever asks me to explain Derrida or enjambment or even semicolons out in public, so it's nice to know that a certain portion of my hard-earned knowledge is not going to waste. 


Friday, April 06, 2018

A click-tastic kind of day

Things are clicking! Mostly my fingers all over the keyboard and mouse, copying and pasting a bit of text from here to there and clicking "send" and checking names off a master list, all in service of the big campus event I'm organizing--All Scholars Day, highlighting students' research and creative projects--which happens two weeks from today. Not that I'm counting.

So far everything is running really smoothly, which scares me a little because I worry that I'm overlooking some big essential task, but I definitely appreciate the lack of glitches in the system (so far). Lots of things have to happen in the next two weeks, including polishing up the program to send it to the printer, which will inspire a whole host of people to come out of the woodwork with information that absolutely must go into the program or else, at which point I get to decide whether to print an addendum--and then, what? Find some idle person to stuff the addendum into 500 printed programs?  Or point out the definition of the word "deadline" and just leave the info out? I haven't decided yet.

Yesterday's click-fest involved e-mailing each individual presenter to reveal where and when they would be presenting and confirm the title of the presentation. I started with a template, of course, and personalized it as needed, but that required a lot of copy-and-pasting and checking of names, times, and locations. Six hours it took me, six hours that left me with tired eyes and a sore neck and a strong desire to never click a mouse again.

So as soon as it was done I went straight home for a walk in the woods. Trilliums are popping up and bloodroot is blooming, but I'll never see them as long as my eyes are glued to the monitor and my fingers to the keyboard and mouse. Spring can't be copied and pasted or stored in a file folder for later perusal, so I think I'd better rest the clicking fingers for a little while and head outside, where the only things clicking are the chipmunks. 

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Always saying goodbye

The problem with academe is that people are always leaving: students graduate, colleagues find other jobs, people retire. The promise, though, is that sometimes they come back: students visit at Homecoming to update us on their progress, and some of them take jobs here and transform themselves into colleagues. And some people just never seem to go away.

I don't remember the first time I saw Margaret; she was always around, attending College talks and concerts, hanging out at faculty happy hour, attending Learning in Retirement classes. In fact she was so ubiquitous at first that I was surprised to discover that she'd retired several years before I started working here.

Margaret was the only retired faculty members to participate in our faculty writing group, the only member of the group who didn't need to worry about professional development or tenure clocks or annual reviews. She was curious about everything, asking great questions about topics far outside her field and offering encouragement to younger faculty members. Every time I saw her--which happened often but not often enough--she would ask about my classes, comment on something I'd written here, or offer a snippet of wisdom from her vast store. 

I suppose I came to take her presence for granted, like an antique table that sits in the corner, too fragile for everyday use but always present,  and so it came as a shock to discover that she'd died suddenly on Monday at age 91. I don't remember the first time I saw Margaret but I do remember the last time, just a few weeks ago at a College concert. I don't remember what we talked about but if I'd known it would be the last time I might have said something more significant, like "goodbye" and "thanks" and "you will be missed."

And she will be missed, at first. Right now it feels as if movers had come in by night and removed that antique table from the corner of the room: something used to sit there, something useful and beautiful and valuable, but one of these days no one will even notice that it's gone.

For now, though, she's hanging on, haunting the halls she loved so much, her ghostly presence always on the verge of asking another question. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

They're not kidding about that "flash" thing

I was just getting ready to go to a meeting when my phone starting shrieking in a way I'd never heard before. "Flash flood warning," it told me, but I dismissed the threat. Walking from one end of my building to another isn't going to expose me to any flash-flood danger, and I wasn't worried about my creek back home because it wasn't anywhere near flood stage when I left the house this morning. Sure, we've had rain on and off all morning, but it was a light rain and not the sort of Noachic deluge that generally leads to flooding.

Half an hour later I got back from my meeting to find that my son had sent photos of our driveway: in the course of just 30 minutes, the creek rose enough to cover our driveway on both sides of the bridge and to creep up into the meadow and cover the lower garden plot (which was just plowed last week). The bridge was still above water, but just barely.

My son was supposed to work today but he's not getting across that bridge any time soon even if the water goes down quickly, because generally when swift flood waters cover that part of the driveway, they wash out a lot of gravel on either side of the bridge, making it uneven or even impassible. And I'll face the same problem when I try to get home later on, unless we can get our new gravel guy to come out with a load for patching.

I didn't bring a change of clothes today since the flood gave me so little advance warning, so I may be sleeping in my gym clothes on someone's sofa tonight. Meanwhile, it's still raining.

Another beautiful day in the mid-Ohio valley!

Monday, April 02, 2018

Running on empty (and running and running)

It's a good thing I don't have a new grandbaby every weekend, because how would I keep track of all those birthdays? I had a fabulous time helping the grandkids brush their teeth, pitch a tent in the basement, hunt for colorful plastic eggs, tell stories about Daddy driving a big truck that goes honk, use the potty, race around the house like maniacs, and welcome their new sibling into the family, but if I had to do that every weekend, I'd never show up for my Monday morning classes.

I drove home exhausted yesterday and flopped right into bed but woke up at 3:00 this morning certain that I'd forgotten something important, like planning today's classes. I was dead wrong, but it's not easy to recover from that kind of early-morning panic, with the result that I was so tired this morning that I drove off without bothering to scrape the snow off my car's back windshield. (What, you thought spring had arrived? April fool!)

My students weren't much more alert than I was this morning, with the exception of the American Lit students, who seemed perky enough as they took their exam. (I'm not grading today. It would not be good for me or my students if I tried to grade exams on so little sleep.) I introduced my Florida Lit students to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas's River of Grass and then talked about characteristics of southern Gothic literature (in preparation for starting Swamplandia on Wednesday), and then I handed my Lit Theory students a pile of old cookbooks and challenged them to sort them into groups using their own criteria and then identify some underlying principles structuring the books and speculate about what they suggest about culture. This was an excellent activity because it allowed me to sit and eavesdrop and toss in an occasional guiding question, which was just my speed.

Now my speed is decelerating toward full stop. Time to refuel. Better head home before I fall asleep at my desk.