2/28: goodbye to a good month

February 2013 has been good to/for me, so today's post is a recap of some of the month's milestones.

Tilde the Kitten has taken her place as part of the family.

I have at least some clarity on my pain situation and some medicine to help.  I honestly couldn't remember that it was possible to feel this good.

Plans for my sabbatical have taken more definite shape.

I've had the chance to take many photographs, and I have the good fortune to live in such a lovely place.  Sunsets have been gracious, and here's a last one for the month:

2/27: faster than anticipated

Thursday is usually a day for catching up at school, but tomorrow I have a lot scheduled so I had to do my reading for tomorrow afternoon's class tonight.  It went more quickly than I thought, and it feels good going to bed knowing I won't have to rush it tomorrow.

2/26: draft done

I'm on a little ad hoc committee at work to suggest guidelines for various scheduling issues that have arisen as our school gets larger, everyone's time gets tighter, and shared expectations have gotten less clear (indeed, less shared).  The three of us on the committee had a meeting last week which went very well in that we agreed about pretty much everything we wanted to recommend.  (How often does that happen?)  This morning I had an unexpectedly free chunk of time so I decided to take a go at writing it all up for public consumption.  Bureaucratic discourse isn't my favorite thing to generate, but I got a full draft done and managed (I think) to be fairly compact, which can be a challenge with that kind of writing.  Though our recommendations may not be popular with some folks and may not even get adopted, I feel better for having tried to do something positive and helpful.

2/25: some funding, some sun

I got news today that my school is going to help pay some of my tuition this summer and next year.  With that grant plus another one in the works, about half of my costs will be covered.  I am grateful.

It turned rainy and grey today, but I got to enjoy a bit of nippy sunshine this morning as I stopped at the pier on my drive to work.

2/24: hildegard's cookies (kind of)

Hildegard von Bingen wrote a basic recipe for a spice cookie, and it's been adapted into a contemporary recipe by the Benedictine sisters at the Immaculate Conception Monastery.  We ordered some, and they are tasty.  I may even try making my own, using an online recipe.

Neither the sisters' cookies nor the various online recipes I've found are entirely faithful to Hildegard's recipe, which is much more spare.  But it's a nice reminder of an amazing woman nonetheless.

2/23: bluebird & beer

Seeing a bluebird on our redbud tree this morning with Chris.

Drinking beer with a neighbor at the dock.  He saw me heading down to watch the sunset, so he brought a beer for himself and for me.

2/22: half a dozen

1.  Chris and I had similar enough schedules today that we could drive to school together in the same car.

2.  I thought some new things about a Hesiod passage, particularly a bee simile.

3.  Discussion was particularly good in one of my classes, which was a nice thing especially because I was worried about how the class would go today.

4.  I registered for the first course for my graduate certificate.  I decided that The Art of the Picturebook would be a good way to begin.  The course starts in June.

5.  When he heard that I hadn't really had time for lunch (due to an advising situation), Chris went to a drive-through on the way home so I could get some warm food asap.  Veggie burger and fries.

6.  I got some very nice feedback from two friends today about my water close-ups.  Here's one from this evening's walk:

2/21: found poem

A poem I "found" and submitted got posted on Verbatim today.  They don't tell you if they're going to post a submission or when it might appear, so you just have to keep checking the website or follow them for updates on Facebook.  It was a happy thing to find the title, "Handling Queens," in my Facebook feed this morning.

2/20: old technique

I set up a format for class discussion today that I haven't used in a few years.  It worked well:  every single person talked at least once (if not more), it covered the ground smoothly, and it fit into the amount of time we had perfectly.  I'm glad I remembered it!

2/19: another ancient language

A few years ago I proposed that the faculty in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew do occasional presentations on campus, and happily my fellow teachers were game to give it a try; the goal is to talk about a passage from an ancient text in a way that explains how the original language is working but also in a way that is clear and interesting to someone who doesn't know that language.  We call it Ancient Languages Hour.  I did my presentation for this year last semester (on Sappho), and my colleague in Hebrew did his today.  He talked about the Book of Lamentations.  I got to learn (and think about) lots of great things, including the fact that 4 of the 5 chapters in Lamentations are composed as alphabetical poems!

2/18: at school, at home

School's good thing for the day:  A long conversation about the Demeter & Persephone myth during office hours.  It was one of those conversations in which the thought-work happens during/through discussion rather than the discussion being just a report on thought-work already done.

Home's good thing for the day:  Dinner of quiche and salad, and we were done with it in time to scoot down to the lake for sunset.  I had a different camera with me (the waterproof one just in case it decided to rain some more), and the camera caught the light on the water in yet new ways:

2/17: a sunday list of good things

1.  Chris gets up earlier than I do, and he always takes the cats and shuts the door of the bedroom so that they won't try to wake me up.

2.  Tilde the Kitten came running up to see me when I opened the bedroom door this morning.

3.  Less pain = more energy = better spirits.  And it's easier to write with better spirits on tap.  I wrote more notes this morning, making my pile of correspondence to answer now very small indeed.  There's still email in arrears, but even that seems manageable now.

4.  Blood oranges!

5.  I enjoyed reading a set of my students' short writing assignments.  

6.  Loads of laundry done.

7.  Chris came down to the lake with me at sunset this evening.  Here are some reflected-and-rippled tree trunks and branches:

8.  I'm getting more efficient at doing the site work for Heron Tree.  I'm in the groove now of making the PDFs, writing to the poets with their proofs, and posting on Sunday nights.  

9.  Time to do the sweeping and spend time with Miss Buncle on my iPod!  Now that I hurt less, sweeping can be fun again.  (Okay, if not outright fun, at least not something exhausting or demoralizing--and if I listen to my iPod at the same time it's enough of a treat to count as fun overall.  We have a lot of floorspace to sweep, so this is not a negligible thing.)

10.  I had left a blank space on the syllabus for one of my classes for tomorrow.  On Friday we didn't finish our discussion, so it's perfect:  less prep for me and the students tonight, and time to return unrushed to ideas tomorrow.  Tilde the Kitten got some of the benefit of less homework for me--an extra play session before I turn in for the night.

2/16: claverings & correspondence

I finished writing, editing, and posting the commentary for The Claverings today.  I also wrote some snail-mail and sent some e-messages to people I've been meaning to contact.  I'm realizing that many things are easier when I'm not in pain.  Sounds obvious, but over the past months I've been kind of beating myself up for not being more motivated--turns out, I'm plenty motivated, but the pain was making it hard to do things.  I just didn't notice the situation for what it was.

2/14: egg salad sandwich

An early lunch indulgence.

2/13: early night

The past two nights I've had work-related obligations keeping me at school well into the evening.  And then I couldn't really sleep either night.  I think I've had six hours of sleep over the past two days.  But here's the good thing:  I was able to come home today at regular time, and I did enough of the work that has to be done tonight so I can now turn in.  With luck, the sandman won't forget me again tonight.

2/12: flashback & looking forward

I would have thought that my student days were well in the past, but then I decided to go back to school for my sabbatical year.  I had to apply for admission.  I had to remember my GRE scores (from 2 decades ago)!  And today I got reminded of the pleasure of being accepted.  This time my future didn't ride as heavily on acceptance, but it was still nice to open an email from Penn State and see that the first word was "Congratulations!"  What was a hoped-for plan is now an actual path.

2/11: chris for company

I had to go to Little Rock today to pick up a visiting speaker, and Chris decided to come along (and do the actual driving)!  It meant we get to spend some time together today, and of course it was lovely to have help hosting.  He didn't need to do it at all, and I'm so grateful he did.

2/10: work day

It needed to be a work day, no doubt about it.  I managed not to get bitter about that and instead tried to focus on the various tasks, particularly preparing discussion questions for one of my classes tomorrow and getting the next chunk of Hesiod's Theogony ready for the students to translate.  Once immersed, I was content.

Unless I'm forgetting something, I think I'm now done for the evening, with enough time to do the Sunday sweeping and listen to some of The Two Mrs. Abbotts.  I don't like it as much as the first two Miss Buncle books (for one thing, Miss Buncle—who is now one of the Mrs. Abbotts—is not featured enough in it!), but it's diverting enough to count as a treat.

I managed to take some breaks to snap photos throughout the day, and that's always a good thing.  On the drive to the office this afternoon I stopped at the pier and got a new kind of writing-on-water image.

2/9: getting ready for the warden

Today I needed to write an introductory note to participants in a reading retreat at which I'll be talking about Trollope's Warden.  It is a novel I love, both emotionally and intellectually, and its hero, Septimus Harding, is one of my absolute favorite literary characters.  I thought I'd have a hard time writing my welcome letter, but it turned out to be easy.  I am glad that writing the note was less of a hurdle than I had imagined it would be (I had made it into a much larger task in my mind), and I am excited to have an excuse to re-read this book in the upcoming weeks.

Interestingly, in its own way it deals with the same dilemma as Tacitus' Agricola, the ethical difficulty of being a decent person amid problematic institutions.  Should I be comforted or dismayed that in the 2nd and 19th centuries people were as concerned with this issue as I am today?

2/7-2/8: a collection

My temporary prescription continues to work to decrease some of my body pain.

I completed the first stage of my application to Penn State's graduate certificate program in children's literature.  I hope to start this summer and continue through my sabbatical year.

Emma the Cat and Tilde the Kitten are getting along more and more.  They play together, groom one another, rest on the same chair at the same time, and even (almost) sleep together.  Late last night I turned on the light, and Emma was curled up in his cat-bed.  Tilde had draped herself half in the same cat-bed, half out, with one of her front legs stretched to touch Emma while they both slept.

Two students seem excited to be working with me on the Trollope project this semester; we had a preliminary meeting about it this afternoon.

Although I have read it twice before, this is the first time I'm teaching Eva Ibbotson's Dragonfly Pool.  I am enjoying getting further inside its workings.

A student whom I don't teach chatted with me today as she was waiting in our office suite.  She was very pleasant and upbeat.

An administrator at work invited me to make an appointment with him to discuss an issue I had raised in a meeting and via email.  I think that is a first in my thirteen years on the job.  (Every other time I've had an administrative meeting to follow up on an issue, I've had to initiate it myself--which isn't terrible, but it sure felt good for the overture to come from the other side for a change.)

2/6: relief

I had blood tests today which (with luck) will reveal something about my pain situation, but in the meanwhile the doctor gave me a prescription which will at least ease the symptoms if not address the ultimate cause.  I took my first dose this morning and I can already feel it working.  It's wonderful not to be wincing at every step and not to be planning how to get things accomplished with the least movement possible.  Walking might be able to be a pleasure again?  (I know that this is a "good thing" that's closely related to a not-so-good thing, but sometimes that's how it goes.)

Another relief:  today we had a book/discussion group meeting about Tacitus' Agricola.  It's not my usual choice of text for a book group, but we have a speaker coming to campus next week to talk about it, and I thought it would be nice for some people to have a chance to read and discuss it in advance.  I love the Agricola, but it's not an easy text, and it's not a novel.  I was worried that people wouldn't come, or wouldn't talk, or wouldn't enjoy it.  But it all went very well--good thoughts and good spirits both.  Chris and I even continued the conversation about the book during our dinner.

2/5: a handful of things

Leaving the house early enough this morning (on purpose) to leave time to take some pictures of the foggy lake.

A good visit with my doctor.  Not good that I had to go, but at least good in that she seems committed to helping figure out why I feel so much pain at times.  I'm grateful for a doctor who doesn't write everything off as stress.

While waiting mid-day at the grocery store for a prescription to be filled I ate some free cheese samples.  Goat milk gouda?  Lovely.

The Homeric Hymn to Hermes.  Unbelievable.  I feel like I understand it more and more (and love it more and more) each year I teach it.  In general I'm lucky with my Myth course:  I can pretty much fill the syllabus with my favorite texts.

Some hot-and-sweet canned jalapenos mixed into our salad at dinner.  They were a gift from a student, and they're very tasty--but simply the fact that she canned them herself is enough to make me smile.

2/4: poem & pie

Last week's poem at Heron Tree was "Onion Pie" by Joey Nicoletti.  Chris and I were inspired by it to try making an actual onion pie.  The process took longer than our usual quick-dinner-after-work fare, but the time was well spent.  Onion pie proved to be perfect warm-you-up-on-the-inside food on a damp and cold Monday.

2/3: salad & sunset

Chris and I fell out of our daily salad-with-dinner habit over the long semester break--which doesn't exactly make sense, since when we're not in school it's usually easier for us to eat more healthfully.  Today we got back on the salad wagon, and it felt good.

And tonight's sunset had clouds doing things I hadn't seen before.

2/2: chris' crocuses

A few years ago Chris went bulb-crazy and planted tulips and crocuses all over the place.  Most of the tulip bulbs were of the one-year-only variety (though we didn't know that at the time), but the crocuses keep coming back.  Today there were two sweet rows of yellow-orange crocuses blooming near our front door.

2/1: four

Two humans and two cats, resting on the bed together and ready to welcome the weekend.