Monday, May 19, 2014


1. Finish book review.
2. Write e-mails to x, y, z, and also a, b, and c
3. What should I read en route? Do I want an actual, you know, book?
4. Charge up all the devices. ALL THE DEVICES.
5. Every little thing that makes life in my own skin (and, let's face it, head) must come.
6. Back up SD card, because there will be pictures OH YES there will be pictures!
7. Fruit snacks, for a fruit snack deprived son.
8. Call all the people I love to tell them I love them.
9. Take care of this forgotten/neglected item of business.
10. What about this or that appointment when I come back?
11. Shoes, back up shoes, slightly cute but still comfortable shoes.
12. All the socks.
13. Twelve days = fourteen tee shirts WHY.
15. Crossword, back up crossword, back up back up crossword.
16. Magazines?
17. Gum for the air/ear pressure.
18. Pens. Notebooks.
19. All manner of wipes.
20. Everything ready? Check? Let's go.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dear post-semester mood,

You are flighty, aren't you? For days, you're gray and rainy, chilly, austere. And yet your light--the light lasting longer is a temperature of its own, tending toward gusty but sunny, or scattered sunny, or tiny hits of sunny in an ambiance of mercurial.

The tulips have spent their glory, all but a handful--a dark purple Queen of the Night, a streaky pale yellow and red. The flax and the centaurea are bluing up the joint. And columbine are making their first spiky statements. These are your flowers, are they not, Post-semester mood? I believe that, at one time or another, you planted them.

Post-semester mood, your obsessive checking for student retorts online has just about ended. But your letter of recommendation writing is still turned up to a million. That's on the "Things I Said I Would Do" meter. Which is still hitting the red zone regularly. The needle is twitchy.

Still, though I am in the throes of you, Post-semester mood, I am nonetheless hanging out in a quiet place. I am in a straightened and tidied room, whichever room I'm in. I'm wearing lighter colors and I'm holding a finger to the winds to see if it's time to have breakfast on the patio.

Post-semester mood, you are transient, changeable. You're a sudden directional shift. You're accommodating and, it must be said, a little languorous. You're my capricious--a bit--companion, and yet you're my steadfast. I wake up, there you are. I tire of a task, you're ready for a little reading, a small irresponsible excursion, a nap. I do the dishes and you are there, making it feel like a tiny stolen joy.

Post-semester mood, I hope you stick around. You're my unreliable, constant consort, perfect for this green, warming, restless, liminal state of being. Provisional, that's what you are, and I need you for now, until the new jurisdictional mood settles in, God only knows when.

fitfully yours,


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dinner: a discourse.

Who shops for dinner, and how is that shopping done? That is the question. I still have in my possession a small red clothbound book from two decades or more ago, in which I wrote my shopping lists on the left-hand page, and my menus on the right. I was a veritable wizard of using stuff up. I shopped once every two weeks, and that meant--as you have probably surmised--that by the end there was damned little out of which to conjure comestibles. As I am sure I have wheezed on about in the past, I was a scholar of my cookbooks, and knew what kind of cookie or cake I could make, if we needed cookies or cake, when I had but one egg, or when I had oil but no butter (often), and so forth. I knew how to substitute this for that. I could make homemade yogurt and I stretched fresh milk with powdered.

I knew that we were heading out of the woods once I started to work, when we could afford cold cereal on a regular basis. I am not defending cold cereal, but it made life easier by far when I did not have to arise from my slumber in the gray of the morning to cook a hot breakfast each and every day, as I did for quite some time. With the development of slightly more money clinking around in our pockets and coin purses, my shopping became less straitened. I still planned, I still listed, but I could go to the store if I needed another gallon of milk or a lemon or, you know, popsicles or a watermelon. It got better.

These days, when I consider dinner at my house and I draw from my vast stores of cooking experience a fresh and unspoiled blank, I make a list of things that I could cook, things that I almost always have the ingredients or. Risotto, I might write on the list. Plate of vegetables. One of the things I can almost always rustle up is a bowl of pasta, with something saucy to go on it or something vegetable-y. Or both. Pasta, in my book, makes a satisfying supper. You don't have to eat a lot of it--i.e., you don't have to go into a carbohydrate coma--but it is filling and warm and can be quite elegant. That's if you don't look in your refrigerator and think, ugh. Or what the hell. Which, to be honest, is how I feel sometimes when I look into the drawers and find some sad looking carrots and half a sheaf of now decidedly unfresh celery. When, exactly, were those depressing vegetables purchased? What is there to be done?

Luckily, the people, there is in these modern times a thing called The Internet, where people who write there occasionally surprise you with a recipe. And even luckier, sometimes the recipe kind of matches what you have in your refrigerator, in which case: WIN.

I ran across a pasta recipe today (it was an adaptation of this recipe from Mario Batali) that called for sundry vegetables and blistered tomatoes--charred in a hot pan so that the skin blistered. I read the list of ingredients: orecchiette, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, burrata (that fancy fresh mozz with cream in it, whoa). I thought: Me, me, me, me also... I'm really close on this one. As in: I had the right pasta. I had some gorgeous fat purple asparagus. I also had broccoli that I could cut into very skinny stems, and I had some cherry tomatoes that needed a purpose in life. Also: baby kale, which would stand in for spinach. And a ball of mozz. Not burrata, but close enough.

Thus inspired-stroke-guided, I did the following:

  1. I heated the oven to 400 degrees. I filmed a roasting pan with olive oil. 
  2. I used a peeler to peel the bottom half of those asparagus stems. Then I cut them in uneven diagonally angled pieces of about 3/4". 
  3. I peeled the stems of the broccoli and cut it into skinny long pieces.
  4. I cut half a purple onion into thin half moons.
  5. I took some coarse salt from Slovenia (thanks, Natasha!) and crushed, along with some crushed red pepper, with the flat of my big knife and strewed it all over the vegetables. 
  6. I tossed the pan around until things were a little bit oiled up and put it in the oven.
  7. I began to heat my heavy skillet. Concurrently, I began to heat a pan of water for the pasta.
  8. When the pan was hot, I put in a little oil and the baby kale. I let it wilt, then tossed it around till it was still green but very docile. I put that on a plate. 
  9. Into the still hot pan, I threw my slightly-the-worse-for-wear cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes, really. I let them hang out there and char. I tossed them around a little so they could char on other spots. Then I turned off the heat and just let them blister away.
  10. When the water boiled, I put my third of a pound, approximately, of pasta in and let 'er cook. Orecchiette is a hefty pasta, so it takes twelve minutes or more.
  11. While that was happening, I tore apart my mozzarella into shreds. Nothing too fine.
  12. As the pasta was getting close, I checked my roasting vegetables--they were perfect. I took them out. I checked the pasta every couple of minutes. 
  13. When it was done, I drained it, put it back in the pan, and threw in a couple of tablespoonsful of butter, then all the vegetables, and then the mozz. I tossed it and tossed it until the butter was melted and the cheese was melting and everything looked fantastic.
And then we ate it. And let me tell you: it was so good.

Ten things to do when you have finished the grading.

1. Lie down. You really should. You deserve it. Lie down and finish your novel, or if you are not reading a novel, start one.

2. Review your agenda. In my case, the agenda is entitled, The Get the House in Order Project, and it was wildly ambitious. Some of the stuff on that agenda--that stuff can be done later. Maybe in a few weeks. Resume your lie-down.

3. Okay, fine, get up. Think about dinner. Make soup and make blueberry scones because there are (a) blueberries in the refrigerator and (b) no reasons necessary to make scones if they are delicious and you want to. (check out the butter technique in that recipe--it is legit.)

4. Read some more. Take a short nap.

5. Watch tons and tons and tons of basketball. Revel in both the sloppy and the elegant play of the post-season, especially when you have no horse in the race, no dog in that fight, no team that you particularly care to root for. Learn other teams' players' names. Root for a team that is almost certain to lose to either (a) the Spurs or (b) Miami, depending on which part of the tournament you're prognosticating.

6. Read the nice comments students sent you. Remind yourself that you only had to wrangle with just one student, and even there, the wrangle was civil and is now resolved. Forget about the time when you woke up thinking about said student. Just let that go.

7. Sort through your winter clothes and put them away. Remind yourself how many freaking sweaters you have, not to mention skirts. Make vows about shopping, vows that will no doubt be fruitless but which feel salutary whilst putting the sweaters, not to mention skirts, away for the season.

8. Catch up on the last few episodes of The Mindy Project. This can be done concurrently with nearly any item above, but is worth enjoying on its own. However, eating a scone while watching television will never go amiss.

9. Think about China. China China China!

10. Put off decisions about meetings and commitments. They are out there, calling to you in faint, distant voices. But they can wait. They can wait while you open the windows (figuratively--it's still a little chilly) of your summer life and let the wind chimes make a beautiful, apt music, a music that is spring and the end of grading and the taking in of a deep, expansive breath. Breathe it. Just--breathe.

Friday, May 02, 2014

The new rhythm.

This morning I woke up at the same time as usual, 6:48 a.m., twelve minutes in advance of my alarm. I lay there and let all the indicators do their test runs, then I opened my eyes, put on my glasses, looked at my e-mail.

I needed to be at work by 8:30, and my day would be full. But it would be a different kind of day from now on.

Last night, the Publication Studies class debuted their chapbook, and the winning author read his work. This is the second year that I have not been the teacher of the class, and thus I've been an interested but sort of distant spectator of this process. This, and the publication of the the spring edition of Folio, are two of the big markers of the academic year, that the year has been, as it were, achieved.

It's a celebration and a valediction, wrapped in a small alienation, suffused in an infusion of joy and relief, with a tiny tincture of sadness. Just tiny, but still.

Next week, the work will come in, and I will read the writing of these students for the last time. I'll have things to say to them, again for the last time. Most of us, students and teacher, will have said what there is to say to one another, at least for now. A few of them, I may be having conversations with them for a long time, but mostly one-sided, mostly in my own mind. Because that's the nature of teaching, and semesters. And of being with students, and then not.

Well, I started this post this morning and now it's almost five. My poor husband has caught the sick I had last week, which is so unfair it's not even really comprehensible. So we'll be staying in. I'll be refreshing my course sites from time to time to make sure that no student concern goes unanswered, and getting used to letting go of all that, because hey: the semester is over. And it's time for something new to happen.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

You guys.

Okay, first of all: first of all, this is the last day of classes, the last day of classes of the semester that almost nigh unto killed me, as in I am almost dead, but I have survived, I have prevailed, I have a new header!

Today, I read the last of the poems and the last of the essays. Today, I met with my independent study students and advised them for the last time. Today, it is the last day. Did I respond to many an e-mail, many a panicky, pleading e-mail? and did I respond with a firm and gentle, not to say severe, not to say way harsh tone? and did I say unto the panicky student, "Panicky student, you must chill. YOU MUST CHILL."?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. Yes, I did. I wore black and I wore shiny shoes, and I was in charge of the last day of school, lo! the last day of school recognized me and surrendered.

Good lord.

Well, the final work doesn't come in till next week, so it's not like I'm done done, but I am done with the meeting with students, and that feels like, the people, a blessed, blessed relief.

Cheers to blessed, blessed relief.


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