Thursday, April 28, 2011

Semester Transition

Ah, semester transitions can be so complicated! If you've ever been on a college campus during this time, you know the feeling: excitement, a bit of stress, and a general *sigh* of relief.

As I get ready for the Spring semester to start, the weather here in the Mitten is mirroring my mood. It is tempestuous, shifting. Sometimes sunny and cheerful, sometimes chilly and brooding. I'm preparing for my second-to-last semester of teaching writing at my current university; my feelings and thoughts are jumbled. But, in the midst of all the bittersweet-nervous-excited-kind-of-sad emotions, here is some fun teaching stuff I've been into lately:

Kicking off the Spring semester with some cool professional development

breaking out of "grading jail"

hilarious onion article about student evaluations

What about you? Do you have a mixed emotions about transitions (semester or otherwise)? What are your experiences with teachers and grading--either as a teacher yourself or as a student?

Datenight Walk = Swan Rescue

Ok. So, here in the Mitten, we have our fair share of wildlife encounters. Yes, even in the biggest of our cities, there are animals of all sorts, and meetings with them that sometimes surprise me. For instance, just last semester, on a drive into Detroit, I had to brake and yield to a dog who was trotting along in my lane.


Now, I grew up in "the country," in that we moved into an old farmhouse with lots of acreage when I was five. I know what it's like to chase groundhogs away from the mulberry tree and wait quietly to take that photo of the red fox who's made a den under the shed. Which is why I should've been more prepared, maybe, for what the hubs and encountered Tuesday evening.

On our first long-ish walk of the season, the spring air was warm, but windy. As we turned from the park boardwalk onto the sidewalk along the main road, we heard a loud *thump*. Jake suddenly yelled, "oh my God!" When I followed his gaze, I saw a large, dazed swan tottering in the road, and a red SUV driving away.

We stood there, stunned. The swan was stunned, too. He (or She) was just sitting there, head sort of wobbling, looking woozy. Jake ran to the fire department to see if he could get some help. I stood, like a crazy person, in the road, waving at cars and holding my hand up like I was a police officer:

Injured swan here!
Make way!"

A white van pulled off the road and a tiny woman jumped out and started clapping at the swan, trying to shoo it out of the road. "Don't worry!" she cried, "I work at a nature center!"

Not knowing what else to do, I followed her example, trying to move the swan toward the safety of the park, out of the road. He got up shakily, but definitely did NOT want to encounter us--clapping and waving our arms and yelling like the crazy people we probably were--he limped out of the road. Not without a couple of zags toward the street. I just shouted, "whoa! whoa!" and spread my arms out like some sort of insane, featherless bird.

The woman procured a towel from her van, which her dad happened to be driving. He pulled the van up and we held the swan still as she wrapped him in a towel. He was bleeding onto the ground.

"I'll take him to the nature center," the woman said, as she swaddled the giant bird in the towel and I tried to firmly, but gently, hold his "shoulders" steady. Her dad leapt out of the van to open the back, and all I can remember is a flash of black-and-yellow Batman pajama pants, and how soft the swan's feathers were between my fingers. "Thank you for helping!" the woman kept repeating to me. Of course, I said, we saw it happen...we couldn't just leave him.

The woman and her dad loaded the swan into the back of the van. She sat comfortingly beside the bird who was almost as big as she was. A flash of Batman pajama pants, a couple of door slams, and the white van pulled away.

I walked back toward the fire department, where Jake was still waiting to speak to someone. He was relieved that the swan would be ok. I just held my hands out in front of me; I needed to wash them. I could still feel the soft feathers and the vital, squirming beast they had touched.

A beast I have secretly chosen to call "Harold."

All week long, I've wondered how Harold has fared. Hopefully his injuries were superficial enough. Hopefully he has made it back to his family, who have probably been waiting for him to come home.

images sourced here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Hat

I believe I have stumbled upon a new (well, to me) Easter tradition: hats!

My 87 year-old grandmother was cleaning out her closet last week, and she asked me if I'd like to look through her hats. I jumped at the chance and left with a big, round box full of half a dozen of her vintage head-toppers, including this bright, spring-y number. I wore it to church, even though the church we attend is the opposite of dressy--you'd see mostly jeans and such. What fun! 

Despite all expectation, Easter in the Mitten this year was gloriously warm and sunny. (it hardly ever is!) We had our annual family feast at Grandma's, and she must've told everyone, twice, about how I wore her hat to church. (I think she was happy to see it in use once more...) The food was delicious, and the atmosphere was relaxed. It was great to catch up with my cousins and enjoy the easy flow of the humming house--conversations, delicious food, a game or two of ping-pong, a glass of wine...and the coming, at last, of spring. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

What a beautiful Saturday!

Days like this make me love the Mitten. It is breezy, sunny and in the 70s. Gorgeous!

Here's what my Saturday is shaping up to look like:

I've discovered a new weekend uniform: this classic striped tee, tucked into wide-legged jeans, and grey ballet flats. I feel so chic!

I walked up to the Cheese Market and bought some fromage to nibble on tonight during book club tonight, including a vintage gouda just like this. Isn't it pretty? 

Hope your weekend is shaping up nicely. Doing anything fun?

Summer Goals

It's that time of year again. Time for me to start setting my summer goals...if I could figure out a way to sing that to the tune of Liz Lemon's "Night Cheese," I would.

I relate to Liz Lemon. She wants to "have it all," and so do I. Hubristically, I fancy I'm a bit more organized and confident that our dear Liz. That may just make me less likeable. But, we do share a love of cheese, and a desire to have a beautifully balanced, happily organized life. In order to even pretend that can happen for me, I have to write lots of lists, make religious use of my planner, and set myself goals, which I write down in list form as well.

Here's the thing: every summer, I set myself some goals--personal, professional, enriching. That kind of crap. Every summer, I struggle with checking off even a couple of goals. When I do, I feel really really great. For instance, last summer, I set a goal to write 100 pages for my book, and to go running three times a week. When I hit September, I had 111 pages and felt awesome about my health and body.

Then, the fall semester started and both goals blew away with the crumbling leaves. This summer, I want to try something different. Something that I can sustain when the fall semester starts and things really kick into  high pedagogical gear.

So, I sat down with my notebook and wrote out my goals, which are various in scope and application. But, it all boils down to wanting to set aside time each day for writing, and for physical activity, as well as making time each week for:

  • yoga class
  • making one vegetarian dinner
  • having a date night with the hubs
  • making time to hang out with friends

I looked at the daily goals and the weekly goals. I looked at my planner, which I jokingly refer to as my "extra appendage." Something clicked.

There's color coding, there are check boxes...what more could a girl want? My hope is that the system is flexible enough to morph into whatever the semesters may throw at me, yet consistent enough so that I can incorporate these things regularly into my life. Is it a tad "over-organized?" Maybe. I'll keep you posted on how it works out. 

Meanwhile, what do you do to keep your life organized and balanced?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

time to celebrate!

Dear friends,

I can now share with you the event I have been waiting to celebrate: I got a new job!

I will be moving to a new university, leaving an amazing institution that has been a home to me for years. It is bittersweet, to be sure. But, I am excited. It will be a fine new challenge, a move ripe with opportunity to do the work I love, writing and teaching writing.

I did, at last, open that special blanc de blanc 2009 from 45 North:

Followed quickly by an impromptu cheese plate (inspired by Madame Fromage, Cup of Jo and The Senses Five):

But, one cannot just sit around and eat cheese all summer. (I wish!) There is much to be done: tutoring and teaching, training and writing, developing new syllabi and course plans. So much to do...but first, we celebrate!

What have you been celebrating lately?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Summer Fever

Forget "spring fever." I have full-on-ragin' Summer Fever. Let's frolic barefoot in the grass, people!

Granted, I still have an impressive stack of my students' portfolios to grade, but it is summer in my heart. And, in my heart's summer, I do not have ANY responsibilities beyond exploring the Mitten and enjoying my beautiful state! In real life, I do have teaching and tutoring consistently through the summer. A girl's gotta eat. But, hopefully there will be a few long weekends here and there where Jake and I can slip away. Since we're both teaching this summer, we've declared 2011 "The Summer of Michigan." Which is why I squealed a little bit when I saw this city guide on designsponge:

Especially check out the comments at the end. There were tons of new links that people posted (including one from yours truly, posted twice! hilariously, I typed in the name of my blog incorrectly the first time...oy.) Yay for all the Mitten love!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We Datenight Econo

Last night, the hubs and I both got home relatively early. What did we do? Mini-date night! We'd been saving our latest Netflix acquisition, We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, for just such an occasion.

Jake is constantly educating me in the ways of rock n' roll and punk/hardcore music. It's great for this Joni Mitchell-lovin' girl! I've gained incredible appreciation for many bands and artists I never would've known about, if not for my hubs. The Minutemen were just such a band. 

What I liked about the band, and what was communicated through this documentary, was the "realness." The emphasis for these three dudes was on music, on doin' their own thing, on being creative. I dug it. 

These guys were really smart and sweet-seeming. Totally outside the box. Whatever "the box" is! They were punk, but they weren't. They were an important band, but they named themselves "minutemen" to reference feeling "minute" (i.e. small) in the scene. They just were themselves. So cool.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

fancy a quick drive through Paris?

My Tuesday has been the kind of day that makes one dream of escape. Thankfully, Pret-A-Voyager posted this great video of "Paris at Warp Speed"--shot with a video camera attached to a Ferrari dashboard.

Watching it was a nice, and startlingly evocative, escape from my crazy day--I feel like all morning, I've only done things or not done things that I then need to apologize for doing or not doing. Sigh. Ever have one of those days? If so, check out this clip. I could almost feel the cool, Paris-morning air, and remembered vividly my own walks down those historic streets. Anne suggests watching it at "full screen," and I agree!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

Ah. It's good to be back in the mitten. Don't get me wrong, the conference was lovely~lots of interesting sessions and a couple reunions with grad school friends and faculty~the word "refreshing" comes to mind. Now, it is Monday. Time to get back to work! Thankfully, the hubs did the cleaning and I had time yesterday to slowly unpack and "organize my life," which other people may call "getting my sh*t together," or just prepping mentally for the coming week.

Part of organizing my life, for me, entails organizing my food. I love food. I use food metaphors when explaining writing principles to my students. I made special effort to attend a conference session on food writing, where I learned about this fabulous blog. Suffice it to say, I could not feel right about my world if my food was not rightly aligned.

Here is what I plan to cook and eat this week:

This delicious-looking flank steak drew me in at once, and will be a good way to use up the last pound of potatoes.

Since it is spring at last in the mitten, I've become mildly obsessed with seasonal produce, specifically artichokes and asparagus. I am itching to make this textural, springy salad

Speaking of an asparagus obsession, how scrumptious do these babies look? Oh man. 

I also need to purchase milk, yogurt, and fruit. We are out of fruit! *gasp* I didn't know what to do without my breakfast banana this morning. I seriously stood in front of the coffee maker, paralyzed. So, to the market I go! What about you? What are you planning on cooking/eating this week? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

judging a book by...

Hello from Hot-lanta! I am currently in the throes of an academic conference here; having fun, learning a lot, and pooped out. More on the conference particulars later...

For now, I just had to share this fascinating article I came across about the (scary? imagined? very real?) importance of book cover design. As a writer myself, I instinctively balk at the notion that anything other than my brilliant words would be the crucial factor in someone deciding to read my writing, or not. a visual learner, and someone who considers herself at least mildly aesthetic, I have to say that I see the cover as an important part of the rhetorical strategy. It is trying to persuade an audience for a specific purpose. And, as a reader, I have to admit that I'd rather read a book with a cool cover than one with an embarrassing cover. I can't pretend that my book purchases aren't based, at least partly, on the cover-factor.

Take, for instance, this book I just started:

The author, Geraldine Brooks, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. So, automatically she comes with "writer street cred." But, if I'm gonna be really honest, I never would've picked up this book if the cover hadn't "grabbed me." 

What do you think? Is judging a book by its cover inevitable? Avoidable? Just a part of the rhetorical exchange? 

Monday, April 4, 2011

"professional" packing

So, I have a confession: 
I am a packing-nerd. 
Not "packing" as in "...heat," but as in, "I'm going on a trip and I'm...for it."

Anywho. I'm weirdly efficient at it, a talent I discovered on a backpacking tour around Europe with my best friend after undergrad. Tonight, I'm starting to make my packing list for the professional/academic conference I'll be heading to, day after tomorrow. Here's the thing about academic conferences, though: they are very wibbly-wobbly when it comes to dress-code. I mean, these are scholars, we're talking about, people! Not exactly power suits or fashion plates. I'm always searching for just-the-right balance in my attire: not too casual, not too corporate. A bit creative, but not too hippie-cat-lady. I tried doing a bit of research to inspire my wardrobe choices, but unfortunately there is no catch-all gold mine of "chic-professional" lookbooks or idea blogs. Sigh. 

Well, here's my dream conference wardrobe; what I'd put in my suitcase if I could:

First, I'd grab this soft, durable porter to throw my laptop and notebook in. 

I'd pretty much need this whole, terrific outfit

I'd need tidy hair to compliment the proper professional look. How great is this "professional hair" sketch?

Or this braided bun?

These grey wedges are just to die for!

...and what working wardrobe would be complete without a couple of classic pieces from jcrew? 

As I was compiling this list, I noticed that I have a pretty tom-boyish style. Or at least, that's what I was in the mood for today! Lots of blues and minimal accessories. To show I mean "business"...ha! (sorry, couldn't resist.) :)

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