Monday, October 28, 2013

Even tinier letters.

Dear student consultations that lasted the whole of last week,

Man, you really took it out of me.

still tired,



Dear The Blacklist,

Even though as late as last week, I was still watching you, despite the fact that I really could see pretty much all of your flaws, when I read that Emily Nussbaum called you "torture porn," I now do kind of have to quit you.

sorry, but she's right,



Dear all the committees,

I am tired of your shenanigans.

now, which one of you shall I quit?



Dear fallen leaves,

When I saw you all over the back lawn, it was like the atmosphere was yellow.

you're really beautiful,



Dear harbinger of the storm,

I walked straight toward you, from meeting to meeting, and I closed my eyes and breathed you in.

I've been waiting for you,


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tiny little letters.

Dear Work Outfit,

I selected you on the basis of strict criteria:

  • cute
  • comfortable
  • in it for the duration.
And for meeting all those standards, you were good, you were very good. You did your job and more.

But how deeply moved I felt, when day was done, to take you off and resume my soft, stretchy, which is to say giving, home outfit.

I won't forget you, but still.



Dear Last Student Conference of the Day,

It wasn't even a long day, really, student conference-wise: just six. But you, Last Student Conference of the Day, were at 7 p.m., when I was already in my soft, stretchy, which is to say giving, home outfit. And I was hungry. 

It helped that the student was a good one. That she was genuinely interested in talking about her writing. That she told me she liked my class, and yes, I did believe her.

And yet, upon your conclusion, Last Student Conference of the Day, my energies did finally flag. And thus, Rubio's and The Big Bang Theory. Last week's episode and tonight's. And a big, deep sigh.




Dear Slightly-Better-Than-Fast-Food Taco,

Thank you for being there in my hour of need. You are not the best taco in the world. But you are not the worst, and you are ready and willing when my energies do flag. Also, no one will complain if I wear my soft, stretchy, which is to say giving, outfit to acquire and eat you.

srsly, thank you,



Dear End of the Week,

Even though I still have eight more student conferences tomorrow, and ten more assignments to read before that, and even though I must go into work to conduct said conferences, it is a fact that, when the week you come at the end of has been full of student conferences and other things, including appointments that I've forgotten and tasks piling up and not enough writing or reading and the mounting of deadlines:

Even so, End of the Week, OMG you taste so sweet.

So very sweet!


thanks to Ann for the

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dear some things to think about,

I try to keep a running list of you, some things to think about. But you are slippery, like thought itself. For instance, I was thinking about something as simple as it's time to put the clean sheets on the bed. It's simple because there are, in fact, no sheets on the bed at the moment. So the time is optimal for clean sheets, or any sheets, although where sheets are concerned, clean is preferable to any of the alternatives, as I see it.

Well, there the bed sits, naked and without sheets, but it so happens that several important and fat catalogs arrived in the mail today, which clearly needed perusing. It also so happens that an unmade bed is, if not optimal, just fine for perusing catalogs. So I did: I perused them, which led me inextricably to consider the fact of my nail polish, which was chipping. Nail polish remover, a new coat, and here I am with nails too fresh for making a bed, obviously. Obviously!

It's just like that, some things to think about. My office, for instance, is a den of madness. (My office at home--at work, my office is pristine, immaculate, worthy of worship, a shrine to what is good and right in the universe.) A den of thieves, I want to say, although that's Biblical. Actually, though, Biblical is the frame of mind that the den of chaos that is my office puts me in. Hellfire and Old Testament punishments.

If I could keep track of you, some things to think about, maybe I could make something happen in the Orderliness quadrant of Desirable Qualities to Have [DQH]. Yet here I am, blogging. When all else fails: blog. But blogging doesn't put the Order back into the DQH™. It just doesn't.

Some things to think about, I wish that the list of you would stop running. I wish it would stand still so I could take the measure of you. Stop moving and slipping, some things to think about! When will I ever [X] if you don't?

disorderly but with super shiny nails,


Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear the Internet,

A visualization of routing paths through a
portion of the Internet. (Wikipedia)
I tried so hard to find you.

In West Yellowstone, you were not to be found in coffee shops, nor bookstores, nor brewpubs, nor restaurants, nor in the streets.

In Yellowstone National Park, not that I'm complaining, you were nowhere.

In my hotel, the threshold to you--a tiny little wireless signal--diminished and disappeared as I walked down the hall to my room, in the door...and poof  you were gone.

The internet in this town was
scarce indeed.
Do not ask me, the Internet, why I cannot do without you. I did without you, so it isn't a matter of cannot. But at this point in time--in history--the Internet is like oxygen. It is like oxygen, bonded with hydrogen. It is like a molecule of water, joined with other molecules of water in a heedless flow of information, like a river. Like one of the many rivers we walked beside in Yellowstone, where, it goes without saying, you, the Internet, were nowhere to be found.

In the end, we went in the tiny, tidy little library of West Yellowstone. The librarian looked at me. He know without my even saying.

"Do you by chance have wireless?" I asked, weary and pathetic.

He held out a slip of paper with the network and password.

The Internet, thank God for libraries. And librarians.

next time, don't be such a stranger,


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Way to Grace.

Dear The Way to Grace,

Tonight, I saw you in Pocatello, Idaho, just past the parking lot of an Applebee's. It seems to me that I have crossed you before, although I never before saw the sign. Your sudden appearance raises a few questions for me.

Are you, The Way to Grace, only a Pocatello thing? Or are you in other Idaho towns? Is Applebee's on The Way to Grace? Or was that just coincidental?

Perhaps it was that enormous wedge salad I ate, or the small headache I had from driving? Although I don't think it was an hallucination.

Was it the hour, after dark? the season, late? the particular crossroads?

Will you appear to me again when I least expect it? I know I will think of you. If I want to find you, where shall I look?



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dear difficulty,

Ordinarily I would not begin by calling you "dear."

Of you, difficulty, there are various kinds. Of the first order, the trivial. To this category belongs mislaying one set of keys in yesterday's purse. Forgetting one's water bottle. The fact that the battery in the garage door opener is, apparently, kaput. These difficulties make the project of leaving the house in the morning a small ordeal. But small: an ordeal, but just a small one.

The order of the second kind of difficulty is the trial. To carry on with the courtroom metaphor, a trial of the small claims court variety, wherein one goes in to speak to the judge, to argue--suggest, really--that one's ill temper in the morning meeting* was occasioned by a series of small ordeals upon leaving the house that morning. At this sort of trial, not really a trial at all, the judge is inclined to let one off with a warning or perhaps a small fine. The thing that makes this trial a trial is that being cautioned or fined by a judge is in itself a trial, the kind that leaves one muttering about injustice for the rest of the day.

Dear difficulty, in the third order, there is the aching back that cannot be entirely eased, not even by stretches performed behind one's desk, accompanied by a small dose of anxiety that people can perhaps see the stretching through the not-quite-opaque glass. The aching back, added to the rest-of-the-day meetings, added to the sixteenth day of the government shutdown and the endless posturing by smug, bloviating bastards. The third order of you, dear difficulty, is a difficulty added upon, a difficulty by means of compounding: a difficulty that is, by virtue of its many parts, magnified and aggregated and addendum'd and be-densified until it seems very like a juggernaut: a whale of a difficulty, verily! an ogre and a golem of a difficulty.

But when the day is done, dear difficulty, one arrives at one's home, despite the aching back, to find that there is half a pizza. One enters to find a home which, despite its various slovenlinesses and disarrays, has a dog who finds one's arrival, and a husband who is prepared to watch Modern Family and the hot mess that is Nashville. One can dress down, and seize upon one's most comfortable clothes and one's slippers. One may read, upon refreshing Facebook and the New York Times website several (dozen) times, that the government shutdown has ended and the debt default is staved off.

And, dear difficulty, yet again one finds that without you, none of these comforts would be half so sweet.

But no more debt ceiling shenanigans--that was too far, times a million--

Exaggerating only a little,


*the "ill temper in the morning meeting" is a fiction enacted here to illustrate the second order of difficulty. There was no actual ill temper this morning. No indeed! The author arrived at the morning meeting in fine fettle and full of good humor. In fact, the author is creating this entire fiction because (a) she has taken the government shutdown and debt ceiling brinksmanship rather hard, perhaps even personally, and thus (b) she is srsly relieved that it is over. 

(--at least for now.)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dear Sunday,

Despite my intentions, I woke up early today. The dog was at the door. That sounds like a metaphor, but it's not: Bruiser sleeps elsewhere, i.e., not with us, because he's a big guy and likes to sleep sideways.

But at some point in the early hours, he always comes to the bedroom door and requests entrance. We should just say No, Bruiser, because if we do, he'll retreat for awhile, and we can sleep a little longer. But usually one of us lets him in. That person tries to make it back to the bed, flipping the covers back over with great haste, so that the B settles between us but does not upset the overall sleep ecology. But I think you can see: it's an iffy proposition. It's always possible that he'll beat you to the bed and you'll be making do with the short shrift this arrangement offers, covers-wise.

So I got up, went out to get the papers. Came in, made breakfast. Began to read the news, bad and good news in whatever today's proportions seemed to be. Seems like a lot of bad news lately, doesn't it, Sunday? But Sunday is the only day that I can linger over a newspaper, so I always do.

I caught up with the bit of sleep I might have added to the night's later this afternoon. I lay down with my current novel, read a few chapters and sank into some dream set in the same strange country as the novel. Woke up, relieved that I hadn't slept as long as my epic dream seemed to indicate. The light slanted in the window at an approximate afternoon hour. I got up.

That's how it's been today, Sunday. Desultory and not particularly productive. Sleepy. Rainy. After a decidedly action-packed Saturday, I was pretty glad that you and I came to this agreement.

still resting,


Friday, October 11, 2013

Dear rejected topics I thought about writing a letter to:

Dear smug, bloviating bastards,

Dear where shall I park downtown,

Dear I want to buy all the stuff,

Dear potato chips,

Dear Saturday with a work obligation,

Dear week with no respite in it,

Dear farmer's market in its penultimate week,

Dear national parks that are not open,

Dear smug, bloviating bastards (I feel the urge to write this letter every other minute!),

Dear mid-semester pile-on,

Dear all the topics above, and more,

Perhaps I will take you up another day. But right now I do not want to summon the wit, words, wizardry, and (it's not a "w" word, but it's the only one that will do) rage to write you. It is Friday night and I am tired. Maybe tomorrow and maybe never, is when I might take one or another of you up. Now, I am retiring.

I said good night,


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dear gray wet day,

First, I'm glad I moved into my new office, because I have now lay hands upon not one but two umbrellas that had retired to lonely corners of my old one.

Secondly, sweaters. They are good.

Thirdly, in a window, even gray light is light. This is my big revelation for October: light! It's good!

Fourth, Thursday makes a gray day a happy day. Because of its proximity to Friday and all.

Fifthly, it seems important to note that a brief respite in the rain made a perfect opportunity to dash over to the place where they sell the apple turnovers. And buy one. So I could, you know, eat it.

Sixthly, any work day that begins with breakfast with Ann, has conversations with loads of friends and associates, and ends with a meeting in my (gray) light-filled office is a pretty good day (especially with the unscheduled apple turnover just making an appearance with no warning).

Seventhly, a faux fur blanket, which anchors the heat-seeking strategy so essential to October television watching. (see also: the historian and Bruiser, also essential.)

Eighth, checking things off and getting things done.

Ninth, I sure do miss my absent children.

And tenth: the flowers look a little defeated and I turned the heat on in the car coming home, but I had leftover chili from last night and some sharp tasting arugula and bags of Asian pears from the Asian pear guy at the market. So you're all right, gray wet day. You're all right.

Chin up,


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Dear Linda Ronstadt,

Tonight I had to drive downtown to a meeting. All the way downtown. Past the downtown Target, that's how far downtown. North of downtown, which meant that I had some listening time in the offing.

That could have been NPR time, or PRI time, or Q time, but I have to tell you, Linda, that none of that was cutting it for me. It's October, well into autumn now, and for autumn, you need a soundtrack for melancholy. That's just how it is. Those bright days fading to an earlier night: this calls for the music of your youth. Which brings me to you.

I remember driving around town in my folks' station wagon. These were the days, the seventies, when AM radio had music programming. It was the South Bay, Los Angeles, it was the summer before my senior year. I had a serious crush on a boy and that crush was always and forever going to be mostly unrequited. That was the year of your hit "You're No Good," which I liked to sing at the top of my lungs while driving. I liked to pretend that song was me singing to the boy, even though the boy was good. It still made me feel better.

I had the LP and I had the sheet music. I could play and sing the songs on the piano. You didn't write any of them, but your big, generous voice made the songs yours even so.

A couple of years ago I had a hankering to hear the songs again, so I downloaded the album. And a few weeks ago, I read somewhere that you really can't sing anymore--you've lost your voice because of Parkinson's. I don't know how that makes you feel. But tonight, driving north and then home again, I remembered how I felt when your music spoke for me, made the soundtrack to my summer, my teenage heartbreak, and my memories of a gorgeous time when the ocean gleamed on the horizon, my life was ahead of me, and the car radio played songs like yours.

I won't forget you,



Monday, October 07, 2013

Open letter to my new office.

Dear my new office,

Oh how I have looked forward to you! And now you are here, and I am with you, and it is all far, far better than I could have imagined.

The light, for starters. Have I considered, truthfully, the cell-esque-ness of my previous office? I had not, not until today, when I walked in to you, my new office, to see all my boxed-up books and files stacked three deep, and the big, big window letting in the mid-morning sun.

I have culled and sorted and given and thrown away, all in preparation to meet you, my new office. Srsly: you cannot imagine the tonnage (maybe an exaggeration, but it's kind of justified) of paper I have recycled/shredded. And books relegated to the "Free Books!" table. I have done my very best to sleek out my worldly/office-ly possessions.

My books fit on the shelves. Narrowly. My knick knack-ery, mostly. Art, yes.

I only wish, if it's not too soon to ask, my new office, that you would manifest approximately four more drawers, two of them file-sized.

In every other way you are a dream come true,


Sunday, October 06, 2013

Short notes to my nemeses.

Dear Jacques Derrida,

So: we meet again. You, who have so affected the way I think about almost everything. You, whose critique of ideas like nature and transcendence and essence and meaning--everything that feels normative--constantly disrupts my thought. You, whose prose goes a little something like this:
For my part, although these two interpretations must acknowledge and accentuate their difference and define their irreducibility, I do not believe that today there is any question of choosing--in the first place because here we are in a region (let's say provisionally, a region of historicity) where the category of choice seems particularlry trivial; and in the second, because we must first try to conceive of the common ground, and the differance  of this irreducible difference. Here there is a sort of question, call it historical, of which we are only glimpsing today the conception, the formation, the gestation, the labor. 
Jacques, I owe you an intellectual debt. We all do. But dude. Your writing.

I'm sorry, but it's so hard,



Dear Monday,

Not to be all cliched about it, but Monday, you are making me feel a little bit anxious. I feel like I have three things to do that all have to be done by 8 a.m. And that makes me wonder how I'm going to do the other things that have to be done before the things that need to be done by 8 a.m.

What do you think I am, Monday? a morning person? by which I mean a super-powered-robot? Well I'm not. I'm just a human being that has to get up, eat something, wash her hair, get dressed in an acceptable outfit, get her new key for her new office, finish boxing up some dubious files and personal items &c &c &c before eight a.m.! Too much, Monday! Too much!

(breathing now, slowly breathing):


Saturday, October 05, 2013

Dear afternoon nap,

I remember earlier today, when I was thinking about how the day--a Saturday--might unfold. Definitely the farmer's market. And I thought I might go in to my office to finish packing stuff for the move to the new shiny office. After that--what? It could have been anything. An open afternoon with space in it for a walk, or writing, or baking, or pesto making, or all of that and more. Anything at all! it's the kind of day that gleams as the paradigm for Saturday, the kind of day that paradoxically happens only seldom.

So yes, the farmer's market, with a splendid haul. We unloaded and put food away, and in short order I had taken myself to Target for a roll of packing tape, then off to my office, where I found that my prox card wouldn't let me in. Evidently since my prox card is now programmed to let me into my new building, where I am not yet moved in, I am no longer allowed in after hours to my current building, where my stuff still is.

And yet, the day still glowed. The sky clear, the sun shining. Oh well, I thought. I'll just come in early on Monday. (Parenthetically, let me say that the I'll just come in/get up early on X gambit is almost always a ruse. That I perpetrate on myself, but never mind.) So I took my roll of tape and went home, made myself some lunch, then lay down to read. Which lead to you, afternoon nap.

Three hours later, when I roused myself, I was all, now what just happened here? But in point of fact,
it was probably a good thing. I've been sick, after all. And I've been traveling hither and yon. Maybe it's a little extra payment on the principle of my staying healthy mortgage.

The fact remains, though, afternoon nap, that you kind of snuck up on me. And that makes me feel a little sheepish.

hope I'm not up all night,


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Short notes to authors.

Dear Arnaldur Indridason,

I am enjoying reading Black Skies. In fact, when I couldn't sleep last night, I started it and read over half of it before finally going back to bed. It is haunting and grave, and I am pretty well impressed with how you manage to weave plots and points of view, all without fanfare or folderol. It's very good.

But where is Erlendur? I am worried about him.

No, really,



Dear Patrick Rothfuss,

I remember when I saw the ad for The Name of the Wind in the New York Times. I thought to myself I want to read that book. Literally, from the ad, not even the actual cover. The picture of the cover, in an ad, made me want to read it. When I finally put the title and my desire together with an actual book purchase, it was excellent. Maybe excellent for fantasy, but maybe just plain old excellent. I loved it.

I did what anyone does--I Googled you, and found out your story, which I loved--that you had written a great shaggy tome, and got a book deal, and the tome contained (of course it did) a trilogy-esque work--tripartite in scope. Oh yay! I thought. More book! More Chronicle!

But of course, you're still working on it. Look, I'm a writer too. I get it. But let me tell you this, Mr. Rothfuss: part two had about 25% too much land of faery. Maybe more than that--45% too much, even. So while you're revising part 3, a word to the wise: you might be overthinking it. One more word to the wise: don't overthink it.




Dear Fred Vargas,

Oh how I love and adore your Commissaire Adamsberg and his weird French-y world. I thought your most recent book was splendid, with its Northern European Gothic skeleton riders and what not. All full of woodsy woods and village secrets and Calvados. Well done!

Is there any reason we--and by we I mean you, obviously, although I like to think that I am entirely on your side--okay, is there any reason we couldn't be putting these books out at the rate of one a year? I know it would improve my life. They are, after all, procedurals. Shouldn't there just be a procedure for writing them un petit peu trop vite? S'il vous plait?

a bientot,


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Getting it done: a letter.

Dear the middle of the night:

--or more precisely, 2:30 a.m., which I know precisely because I checked. I checked my cell phone when I awoke because my head was hot and maybe I felt my cold having a small insurgency in the skirmishes of the night. I guess that's what they are. I know I felt I was fighting something.

So one more DayQuil, a swig of water, a settling of covers, a small storm of thoughts. I thought: at least I can spend the morning at home. I thought, I only have one class, I can get it together for that. I thought, If I'm actually sick, why not stay home? And that last was the thought that I tied around my finger to remember in the morning, when I awoke again at seven. It was not exactly a reprise of the dark hours, but it was a variation on a theme: one more DayQuil, a swig of water, a storm of thoughts--and I was up.

Middle of the night, it was precisely there, in your 2:30 a.m., that I came to my senses. If I'm sick, why not stay home? I clung to this sensible thought as if I were in a fever and the thought were the promise of water. So I sent an e-mail to the class and to my chair, and settled in.

And even though I had awoken in you, the middle of the night, the 2:30 a.m. locus of my ill epiphany, I had a day that looked like an exemplary page from a Covey planner:
  • graded a discussion.
  • conversed via e-mail with students.
  • brokered a tentative agreement in an e-mail with a colleague.
  • narrated and captioned four short instructional videos.
  • ate soup for lunch. (soup is always exemplary, in my opinion.)
Because of my sick, ergo stay home day, I believe I am on the mend, the middle of the night, though I may yet greet you a few hours hence. Even so, you shall not fell me.

be it so resolved,


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Open letter to the thing I am not going to whine about, not one more time.

Dear the thing I am not going to whine about, not one more time:

First of all, today was a lovely day. That's a fact. Evidence:
gonna need some of this.

  1. It was my Online Teaching Day (tm), which I have reserved for working at home. Ergo,
  2. I worked at home.
Secondly, there was sunshine in the sky which flooded all over the things of the earth.

drinking pots full of this.
It was windy, and that's a (third) counter-fact. However, (fourthly) in the wind's defense, it stayed outside. And I stayed in. And thus it was that the wind had no force upon me.

Fifth: I finished some things today. I worked and worked away. I finished responding to some drafts and grading them. I polished up some Prezis. I sent some e-mails. 

So let me be clear, the thing I am not going to whine about, not one more time: you did not defeat me. Not remotely and not even.
I should literally
buy stock in this.

However--and I am saying this in the most measured of tones, a neutral tone, even, calm and merely observational:

You did not make my day better. The thing I am not going to whine about, not one more time: you did, in fact, make my day worse.

Although I am categorically not whining, I am brandishing my ginger tea and DayQuil at you, and my depleted packet of Kleenex. 

a bushel of these would not go amiss.
I'll say no more, the thing I am not going to whine about, not one more time. There's really no talking with you or about you, not without complaining. And I won't. You can't make me.

I said good day,



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