Monday, August 29, 2011


The best thing about actually living with your partner is that you don’t have to spend all weekend in the airport thinking about all of the things you’d rather be doing. You don’t have to settle for slimy stir-fry from Panda Express because you can make pesto from the basil on the patio. You don’t have to debate the merits of wheelie bags or fight with TSA about shoving those wheelie bags into the overhead bin. You get to buy shampoo in bottles larger than 3 oz., and you get to stay on the ground.

You also get to wake up on a Saturday morning and decide that the dining room chairs that the former owner kindly left are just too gross to keep using. You can then jump in the car and spend $8.96 a pop for new high density foam. You can also gloat about the fact that you were inspired to buy exactly two yards of heavy weight japanese linen on your summer vacation, even though you never buy more than a yard and a half, and even though you had no idea where you’d use it.

You can then look at your watch and realize that you have all evening to reupholster the chairs, unconcerned about catching a flight or having to go to bed at 8 pm for the cheap 6 am one. You can perfect your process as you go, layering foam and thin batting and fabric, developing a heretofore unseen intimacy with the staple gun. You can even go to sleep with 3 chairs done and wake up on Sunday morning, drink a pot of decaf with the Sunday Times and then leisurely move to finish the last 3. You can finish it all by noon and then clear your desk and get down to schoolwork. Ah, weekends. Ah, short-distance relationships.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

first dayz

By now I’ve met them all. There are just 43 of them in three classes. All week I was nervous about the start of the semester and I felt the familiar panic as I walked into each classroom. I couldn’t help but worry. These would surely be, I told myself, very different students. There would be men, for one, and after two years at a women’s college, I wasn’t so sure that I’d know what to make of them. And in one important way, I was sure, they’d seem unfamiliar. After all, the college where I now teach exclusively accepts poor students and primarily those from Appalachia. They’d be coming from some of the worst high schools in the country and I was warned to check my expectations before I walked through the door. I read about “culturally responsible” pedagogy and promised myself that I wouldn’t assume anyone had heard of Walt Whitman or Harriet Beecher Stowe. A colleague warned me to “forget everything you learned at Bryn Mawr.”

After I met them, though, I realized that there was no need to forget. Because students are students, pulled into the classroom by desire, by curiosity, by command, by mistake. But no matter the reason, they’re there. Sitting and eager and ready to give me a chance. So our conversations might sound a little different; they surely were on the first day, but they were conversations nonetheless and I feel privileged to be having them.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The syllabi are coming together. Tonight is the opening faculty convocation. Homer gets a walk in the mornings and a run in the afternoons, just like Arlo, his predecessor (whom he resembles more and more each day) did. We grocery shop in the evenings. I buy vegetables on Tuesday and Fridays at the farmer's market. We started the final season of “Friday Night Lights” last night, curled up together in bed around the laptop, just like we did in graduate school. J met his advisees yesterday, all seventeen of them. We both wore regalia and marched into the students’ dedication ceremony yesterday afternoon. I was jealous of the chemistry teacher who sprung for the Carolina blue robes. J’s colleagues are becoming my colleagues. I’m still cooking through Super Natural Everyday. I finally finished my revision, with lots of smart editing from J. We both do the dishes.

Life is settling into a rhythm that still feels new and unfamiliar but each day also feels a little more ordinary. Each day we love this funny mutt more and more.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

end of summer

The weather has turned. At least temporarily. It's cool at night and you can almost smell autumn on the horizon. We're frantically writing assignments and plotting out syllabi. I'm finishing article revisions and day dreaming about hosta and fern plantings.

My Dad came for a visit last week. We barely kept up with him. In two long days, he managed to replace a broken window, fill lots of cracks, glaze the basement windows, hang pictures, fix half a dozen doors, install a range hood (we have light!), fix the electrical problem in the kitchen, give me a closet doorknob, fix the shutters, hang curtain rods, bandage my wounds, and probably several other, life-saving things that I'm somehow forgetting.

We also had a good hike, and even down a lung, he kept us moving. It seems so terribly hollow to say that I feel grateful for visits like this one. But I feel grateful for visits like this one. It's been eight months of worry and sorrow, and so visits like this one feel nothing less than blessed.

We bought summer treats at the farmer's market, like the exclusively grass-fed meat that he can't find in Michigan and lots of tomatoes. Last night I made tomato preserves with our leftovers. I'm sure that I overcooked it, but it was my first foray into canning (another Dad lesson), and now I know what not to do.
I'm thinking about buying a bushel of tomatoes on Friday and canning them whole...Ah summer, ah tomatoes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

sampling life

My calendar says August 14, but surely that’s a misprint. It must still be July. What happened to June? Where has the summer gone? How is it that I’ve found myself in the middle of August with not a single complete syllabus and classes beginning in just ten days?

I suppose that I could blame the puppy. Or I could curse the house that needed so much love. I could blame myself for driving off to Michigan and then back East for quick vacation with J. I could accept responsibility for planting lantana and clover instead of drafting assignment sequences for composition classes. I could reckon the time it took paint the house against the time I spent at my computer. But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll scramble this week and next. I’ll feel unprepared when the term opens and probably still unprepared when I turn in grades in December. Because that’s the way it always feels at a new place during a new year. New students, new problems, new questions, new curiosities. Such, such will be the joys!

Last night I finished up my single needling creation of the entire summer. As I corseted it to the frame, I wondered how it could be that I have not a single knitted gem to share. I guess that’s what happens when a former, hour-long commute turns into a five-minute walk to school, when evenings spent with phone buds in my ears and hands free to knit turns into an actual, live relationship. That might be why I’ve had sheepishly little to share here.

Except this, a late summer foray into crewel, the design by Alicia Paulson. I finished most of it during a long, long car ride East with J behind the wheel. The whole while I felt like I was channeling my 18th century sisters, working our first samplers to practice our stitches and prove our domestic prowess. I’m not sure where it will hang, somewhere, hopefully, where people will appreciate the A, B, Cs.

Monday, August 1, 2011


The previous owner of 408 (the seemingly appropriate name for our manse from here on out) had a thing for window coverings. These were the kind of curtains that a poor Maria von Trapp would have made into knickers. For a dozen children. They were so bad that J almost refused to buy the house because they made every room look like it was 1977 in Kentucky. Oh Kentucky. I, on the other hand, saw money signs in my head. Bad decor = lots of opportunity.

But home gyms from 1984 = kinky delights or just pure danger? We were undecided.

Anyway, this was the "master bedroom," an add-on in the 1960s and one that has been settling ever since. The floor is so sloped that you can drop a tennis ball at the doorway and watch it pick up speed all the way to the far wall. The room did have two gloriously large cedar closets (no fights over hogging hangers) though little else to impress.

But after getting a new ceiling and several coats of primer and paint (we're not sure how long we'll stick with the color. It might just be too passive), we ended up with this decidedly more airy bedroom. This was no quick fix and will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future.

It now needs some appropriate curtains. I'm thinking light and gauzy, hung high and extending a bit beyond the window casing to make those skimpy panes look a big bigger. It also needs a funky textile for above the bed, a good, clean rug, some bright art, an ottoman, bedside tables, ceiling lights, this and that.

But for now, it works. And so much better than before. And that glory in the middle? Well, that's our marriage saver, a Tempur-Pedic mattress, our best investment yet.