Sunday, January 31, 2016


Friday night, we both came home from what had felt like a long week. We took at look at the movies:

Me: Ugh. Freaking Sundance.

So we decided we would go get Indian food and come back home to watch something great on Netflix.

At 8 p.m. I found myself in my chair, with my laptop open on my lap, having fallen asleep for a half hour or so. Sitting there. With my laptop open.

Saturday, I got up dang early because of the freaking assessment (previously thoroughly sworn at). I baked a butterkuchen. I brought sundry snacks and accoutrements. I drove on snowy roads to work. On a Saturday! We normed our sample portfolios. We read. We discussed. I ran out in the middle to pick up our Vietnamese food order. My credit card was declined...

Credit Card Security Department Guy: Yeah, that looked suspicious to us.

Me: (what the!?!?!? WHY?!?!?!)

Credit Card Security Department Guy: Very sorry for the inconvenience.

Me: Oh, not a problem. (JEEEEEEEEZ.)

...and then it was accepted, so I drove back on snowy roads to bring the Vietnamese food in to the hungry assessors.

Colleague: What are you going to see tonight?

Me: The Revenant.

...then movie talk ensued. Then we finished the assessment. At 3 p.m., I carted my assessment kit (not a real thing) out to my car and drove home.

Me: I really want to see The Revenant. 

The Historian: (waits for it:)

Me: ...but maybe not tonight.

So we went and had Mexican food at our favorite strip mall Mexican restaurant (Las Cazuelas! It is so choice!). And came home and hopped between two comedies on basic cable. And went to bed.

Today, I slept until I woke up. By slept until I woke up, I basically mean 'till eight.' I made oatmeal and read the entire New York Times. There was more snow on the ground. It's been a mostly quiet weekend, and that, apparently, is what I needed.

I find this, to be absolutely frank, more than a little alarming.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The chaos. And the glory, sure, but: the chaos.

I'm teaching the Publication Studies class for the first time in three years.

A brief historical overview:

Here is a post from when I first taught it--the very first time the course had been taught ever.

Here is a post (from the second year I taught the course, the very second time the course had ever been taught) when I thought things would be easier because I had already taught the course previously. Which: ha.

Before that, there was a massive delusion of grandeur borne of the 'how hard could that be?' credo of my kind.

Anyway: flash forward to now. In the intervening years, Dr. Write taught the course beautifully, and then The Charlotte taught the course twice. I feel that, collectively, we know a lot more. For instance, the course has, I think, been quite improved by several innovations the intervening instructors introduced, and by greater expertise in InDesign, which I am praying will pass on to me via, like, osmosis. PRAYING, I tell you.

Anyway: today, we undertook a grand design and printing project. In not very long at all, the very first reader in SLCC's very first reading series will be visiting.

Click to enlarge. I tell you,
these events are going to be HUGE.

In my by now signature style, I have grandly planned to do a beautiful broadside, using a photopolymer plate of an InDesign design, to be inked and printed on our honey of an etching press, of one of Tarfia's poems. None of which we have precisely 'done' before, if by done we mean 'ever tried it, even once.' Yep, that's exactly what we mean.

But dammit, what's a Publication Studies class for, if not to try things that we haven't done before but which various credible sounding pages on the internets promise are doable? Nothing, I say. Playing it safe is for suckers.

Today, we began designing this broadside. (Of course I thought we would have an almost finished design by the end of class. Which: ha.) It was one of those times when the time flew--flew!--by. Total absorption. It's the best feeling ever.

Soon we'll meet with the student author of the winning chapbook, and we'll start laying out and designing a book. It's the sixth chapbook in six years. We actually have a fairly tidy track record at this point. Before that, though, even now begins the process of eking out extra hours to finish the work that cannot be contained in mere class time, complicated by the fact that the work needs to be done with and by students. Because learning, you know.

It's a mess, it's magnificent, it's art. We are having, and are going to have, a blast.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The political economy of TV.

underrated. suave. watch it.
Since we are approximately the last American adults who (a) have cable, and (b) watch television, we are watching television. On cable. Basic cable, as it happens. On BBC America, for whatever reason, they are showing Inside Man, an underrated Spike Lee Joint featuring a terrific, smart performance by Denzel Washington, a terrific, smart performance by Clive Owen--the ineffable Clive, as I like to call him--and a silken, slightly terrifying (terrific and smart also) Jodie Foster as a fixer. ZOMG I love this movie. In fact, we both do.

I'm doing whatnot and nothing on the internets when the historian calls me from the other room:

The historian: They're showing Inside Man, with one of my all-time favorite Jodie Foster performances.

Me: (scurries)

[Jodie Foster is being silken and threatening and also patronizing. Denzel is having none of it.]

Denzel Washington: You got a card, in case I need to call you?

Jodie Foster: Please don't take this personally, but no. I don't think you can afford me.

Denzel Washington: Well, don't take this personally, Miss White. Kiss my black ass, okay?

Me: Jeez I love this movie.

The historian: 'Kiss my black ass, okay?' There's sure a lot of patronizing going on.

[A commercial comes on.]

The historian: [with a small yet decided amount of heat:] The only thing wrong with this is these cussing commercials every ten minutes!

Me: It's capitalism, that's all. Just capitalism. Capitalism is ruining our television experience!

The historian: That's not even the half of it. [pauses, so that we may reflect:] Not EVEN the HALF of it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Short notes.

Dear all the students I saw today,

Thank you for showing up to your appointments, all of you. It was an auspicious beginning to the one-on-ones--everyone who signed up for an appointment showed up, on time. I had the satisfaction of striking through each of your names, giving you the points, having the conversation. Win for everyone!

It's true that two of you didn't have your drafts ready. But I was in such a good mood that I gave you the show-up points on the promise that you would have your drafts posted, very soon. And I believed you! That's how good it is when everyone shows up!

It's possible that I may have been just a little giddy,


Dear one unspoken-for hour in the afternoon,

Today I pretty much kept you to myself. You were like finding a twenty in the pocket of a coat I hadn't worn in awhile: unplanned for, a very happy surprise. If, in fact, I used you for writing my travel proposal and finessing the Publication Center Workshop Schedule again and inputting the curriculum proposal on a GD new form, well, the fact that you, one unspoken-for hour, were my secret made even these activities a little bit sweet. That is a little bit sad, I realize. But there it is.

I hope you see that my gratitude is both deep and sincere,



Dear second workout of the day,

Despite the fact that today, you took place in a desperately narrow window of time, between the last meeting of the day (along with a small amount of lingering to talk to my colleague) and the first of the online evening consultations, you were so choice. I said to my colleagues in that last meeting of the day that you, second workout of the day, might be the only thing keeping me sane. They looked a little dubious, I think (I might be over-reading this), but I'm sticking to it. Second workout, you are my ace in the hole.

I can't quit you,



Dear my Kitchen Aid mixer,

Finally, finally you had your debut in my kitchen, and you did not disappoint. But let me begin again. Today, my friend Dr. Write said that television was like a buffet, one that made her want things she hadn't previously wanted, like cake. And when I saw her later, in the Student Writing Center, she said, So, do you have any cake? And I did not, but this interchange set in motion a chain of desire that I did not fully recognize until I reached the very last of my online evening appointments, when I thought, So where IS the cake up in this joint? and lo! there was no cake up in this joint.

It was 9 p.m., and all my cake recipes seemed decidedly of the 'should have started this way earlier' persuasion. So I moved down the metonymic chain of baked goods to cookies. Here's where you, my Kitchen Aid mixer, came in.

I put cold butter and rocky brown sugar--I tried to break it up by hitting it violently in its bag against the counter, but rocky it remained--along with organic cane sugar in the mixing bowl and started the machine up. And within a minute the sugar and butter were beautifully combined, nary a pebble of brown sugar to be found.

I'm sold, that's all. Solid performance. And well done me for finally seeing reason and acquiring you.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dog, you are walking the line; or a Litany of Gripes.

Do you see this dog?

resting like a righteous dog, and not like
an early morning sleep-disrupting troublemaker.
He's watching the Australian Open with us, kind of. As if he did not come to the door of our bedroom this morning at 6 o'freaking clock, with his tippy happy toenails, doing the 'let me in' samba.

'No, Bruiser,' I said. With firmness.

Away he slunk, only to come back two point five minutes later, tippytapping like a bastard.

'No, Bruiser,' the historian said. Firmly, if sleepily.

Away and back again. Tippy tappy. The dog is persistent.

By this time, of course, I was awake. My brain was starting to think of things to be mildly anxious about. List-making. I got up, cracked open the door. I said, 'Wait Bruiser,' which is my strategy for getting back in bed and adjusting the covers so that I'll still have some by the time he hops up. But then he hopped up and I was left to fume and cling to the remnants of my covers.

So I got up and wrapped myself in a robe and faux fur blankets and fell asleep on the couch. I woke up late, later than I wanted to. Which always makes me feel like I've started the whole day behind.

DIGRESSION. I really need to get a hold of my attitude.

BACK TO MY GRIPING: So I made some pancakes (and order was restored!) and got myself ready for this agenda:

  • purchase two items for historian's birthday
  • purchase sundry items at Target
  • write drafts of two poems
Believe it or not, I accomplished this agenda. Plus I updated my anxious list. Then we went out for Vietnamese food and Anomalisa, which was very good and also melancholy. 

Meanwhile, this is still going on at our house

I'm pretty sure it's coming down this week. -ish.

and also this:

were you aware of snow in the forecast? we weren't.

We need to take Bruiser out in the snow for a walk, I guess, and then a talking to about sleeping in his own bed until at least seven o'clock. But I admit, I don't have much faith in this strategy. In his whole life, Bruiser has never once been known to seriously heed a talking to.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Enough already.

Depending on how you count it, we are

(a) less than two weeks in, or
(b) less than three weeks in,

and I have already had it.

We're talking about

(a) the spring semester, or
(b) January.

Both of which seem pointless to me. I'm assuming my attitude will improve, eventually. Like, in April.

Me: Having just said, I will always do the whole job, it's not like I can now just say, Okay, I only want to write poetry now.

The historian: (sympathetic silence. We're walking the dog. Bruiser is nosing the snow like it's super interesting. But it's not, Bruiser. It's just snow. And it's stupid.) I remember when you started the semester, you said you were going to write every day...

Me: ...and I'm not writing every day. I know, I just have to be gentle with it. It will get better, right? We'll just do that f!*&ing assessment in two weeks because I planned the f!*&ing assessment. [bitter chuckle...] Etcetera. [pause for extra bitter sauce:] And, ugh, I'm not going to AWP in the year I published a book because I'm teaching a class on effing Fridays.

The historian: (sympathetic silence. Bruiser still sticking his snout into cold places.)

Well, I could probably go on like this until forever or the vernal equinox, when the toxic fog over my outlook will no doubt clear. Maybe sooner. Maybe we just need some vegetables in the house, and the time to go shop for them, and a quiet day, and a change in the schedule weather, wherein the outlook will be clear horizons, with no meetings in sight. I.e., spring break.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Which, don't do that.

We had a blast at the Abbey-Michael Baton Rouge wedding party:

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

--etoufee, jambalaya, beignets, egrets--the full Louisiana, that's all. I highly recommend a Louisiana open house, especially one with loads of dancing. So much fun!

And then on Monday we had to get on a plane at ridiculous o'clock to come back to our regular lives. I was beyond ecstatic, then, to find myself, after having fallen asleep on the plane--miracle!--as the instigator of a sneeze-fest, which indicated the onset of, yes, wait for it, the after-the-holidays-winter-cold, my beloved annual guest.

I can only imagine how thrilled the people sitting around me on the plane were. The guy with the aisle seat (I was at the window) said bless you! several times, but then, he stopped saying it. I'm assuming his inner monologue was more like PLAGUE! CONTAGION! OUT OUT DAMNED SNEEZLE! And who could blame him? I was more inclined to blame the virus than the vir-ee--that's a thing--aka ME--in this case, but still. DAMMIT.

My supercharged plan--it seems like there's really no other kind--was to get off the plane, go home and grab another bag and hightail it back to the Arthouse Convergence conference-stroke-SLFS Board meeting. Which I did, with a short Mucinex pause. You'll be glad to know that watching a panel discussion, and then a 60s era Taiwanese wuxia martial arts film whilst riding the Mucinex high, made it extra special. And also driving up to Midway, be-Mucinex'd, in the not-quite-snowing-but-kind-of-death-defyingly-foggy weather was rather thrilling.

I helped with the strategic planning today, but last night, even though I could have watched The Last Days In the Desert starring Ewan MacGregor as both Jesus and the Devil, and even though Ewan MacGregor himself was apparently there to introduce the film, I stayed in. I watched nothing in particular on television. The historian came all the way up to Midway to watch me as I lay there and let the cold medicine have its lurgy way with me.

The upside? I actually do feel quite a bit better today. I am sure you would like my analysis of the whys, the wherefores, the what have yous of my illness, my decline, and my eventual recovery. Here they are:

My Analysis of the Whys, the Wherefores, the What Have Yous of My Illness, My Decline, and My Eventual Recovery.

1. Early flights: they are terrible. Don't do that.
2. Supercharged plans, where you get off a plane and have to do something immediately: the worst. Don't do that.
3. 60s era wuxia films for no good reason? Fine. Go ahead.
4. Mucinex? As a friend of mine once said, in the winter you might as well take it as a prophylactic measure. Truth.
5. Driving on a snowy day through mountain passes? Dicey. Probably shouldn't do that, especially hopped up on cold medicine.
6. Ewan MacGregor? I love him. But when the weather is below freezing and the cold is battling your immune system for your very soul, better stay in.
7. Sleeping in a foreign bed in another county? After three nights in a foreign bed in another state? Who do you think you are, a superhero? Go home already! Sleep in your own bed!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Weeknight movie night.

Weeknight movie night is just asking for it. Asking for what, you say? I'll tell you: weeknight movie night is asking for

  • fat traffic all the way down the freeway spine of the valley, from south to north.
  • once you get downtown, no place to park WHY.
  • people waving their leisurely online ticket printouts at the ticket taker, all please scan this in a leisurely fashion while I am waiting with my fuming IRL ticket that I just bought with money at the booth LET ME IN, dammit!
Okay, weeknight movie night, maybe I was a tiny bit too stressed for your action packed lifestyle.

On the other hand, I did get to see Spotlight for the second time with one of my favorite work friends, and she did wear pink velvet shoes, which I totally coveted and simultaneously renounced in my mind because you can't really buy pink velvet shoes when your friend bought them first, it just wouldn't be right. AND the movie was just as brill as I remember it being, maybe even more so, AND I totally recognized the voice of an actor who only did voice work in the movie (he was talking to a reporter, in several scenes, on the phone), even though he was uncredited! 

When I got home, I had to collapse in front of my laptop and do the following:
  • respond to panicky student emails
  • send my manuscript to a competition
  • send a packet of poems to an illustrious journal that's just going to reject them anyway, and probably after a freaking leisurely period of time 
  • make several lists
  • etc.
"I shouldn't have gone to the movie," I said to the historian, as I was getting on my take-the-dog-for-a-walk-in-the-wintertime boots (they are so choice, but they are NOT pink velvet). "I actually knew I shouldn't go before I even went. But I went anyway, so."

"Well," he said, without drawing a conclusion, at least not explicitly. But, you know. I kind of got his gist. 

And then we went for a walk in the wintertime. And now I shall complete the remainder of my agenda, deferred because of weeknight movie going shenanigans, but hey, it was worth it! Probably! Draw your own conclusions!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Megastore recommends: The Blues edition.

America, it's January, and all that that implies. To wit: the syllabus hustle, the Canvas meltdown, the Too Cold Crisis, the stayabeds. Maybe it's just me, but maybe not. In these dark times, it seems important to have a few recommendations at hand, with which to rouse oneself from the abyss. I'm throwing you a rope, in other words, and with it you can lasso a tree branch and pull yourself up, like a Navy SEAL. That's right: with the following recommendations, you can be your own hero/rescuer. You'll have to supply your own white uniform and cap, however.'s       right      there....
1. Finish your orientations. Did you offer to orient every man, woman and child in the vicinity, and beyond, because it's an online class? Did you set up orientations all over the schedule, to accommodate the worker, the mother, the living in a foreign land-er, the slacker? The Lord knows you will feel relief when you've reached the end of that agenda--when you have explained for the last time that the student can find many an answer in the syllabus which is right      there      and then, when there are no questions--none!--they thank you and sign off. You will have the breathing room that comes with the item checked off a list. You will feel, psychically, baptized, arisen from the waters, blameless and pure. You did it! You got through the first week! Now sit right down and eat a plate of spaghetti, because the Lord also knows that you really need some carbs, and right now.

it's the very last syllabus. of the semester. there
may be other syllabi in my future, but not today.
2. Finish the last of your syllabi. The course that is taught but once a week, on a Friday, is lo! a great blessing, when you are experiencing the Onslaught of the Syllabi, that epic mythic battle. But when the storm has passed, and you're teaching your regular classes, that unfinished syllabus for the Friday-only class looms like a bastard, just glowering and leering, reminding you that, sure, you wrote down your suave assignment ideas in a tidy little list that is ... somewhere, maybe in your purse? Or in some grungy little document loitering around in an unmarked file on your hard drive? Ugh, you're going to have to come up with other ideas, stupider, more prosaic ideas, that will make the course huff along like a car in need of a tuneup. Not at all like the sleek machine you imagined back when you wrote those ideas down, where the hell are they?

But when you finish that syllabus, the angels will sing. Can you hear them? They are lauding your resilience, your persistence, your wherewithal, your je ne sais quoi. Come to think of it, I can't hear, exactly, what they're singing. Maybe it's more like the child's choir intro to You Can't Always Get What You Want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get the syllabus you need.

Now that you've finished that syllabus, go buy and then eat some candy. It's dark outside. Your mouth needs something sweet in it. Or salty, go buy some potato chips also.

I meet all my students on plazas,
in filtered sunlight.
3. Meet with humans. AKA students. It is amazing how talking to an actual person who will be in
the class you're teaching makes teaching feel viable again, as opposed to hypothetical, and hypothetically anathema. They might not tell you that in teaching school, but it's true.

sparkly like a BOSS.
4. New school outfit. Did you iron a white shirt recently? You are so freaking diligent, you deserve to buy a new skirt! Make it a sparkly one.

Did you say your blues are existential? I feel you. Mine too. So you can trust and believe that my having accomplished all of the above does not mean that I did not cry like a sap at the Modern Family episode tonight, where Phil Dunphy realizes that he has to let the ducks go because 'the internet says they were ready to fly a month ago.' Birds gotta fly? Ugh, where's the sparkly skirt to compensate for that, I ask you?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dear confluence,

Today was the first day of school.

Today was the day all the people in my world were mourning David Bowie.

Today was the day the radiologist reported that an MRI the historian had last week showed nothing to be alarmed about.

Today was my son Isaac's birthday.

Today my youngest son got in his new car, towing a U-Haul trailer with his earthly goods, and started to drive across America.

At certain points today, confluence, I wasn't sure which thing I was crying about.

I got up and made us all breakfast, and my son and his friend sat down with me and the historian to eat this meal. I could feel him stretching his muscles and his readiness. It's a good thing, which of course doesn't mean I have to like it.

I answered student email. I found some readings. I worked on a syllabus--the one for the class I don't teach till Friday. I made my schedules.

I went out, faxed something for my son. I mailed a package to my daughter. I mailed copies of my book to (almost) the last people on my list. I bought a pineapple and a loaf of bread and some fontina and some butter. I worked out.

At some point, I lay down and slept. I slept and I just wanted to keep sleeping.

Happiness, sadness, the work needing to be done.

We had the last of our squash soup and melted cheese on bread for dinner. I cleaned up the kitchen. I ironed six white shirts.

The sky is clear and cold. My son is in Kearney, Nebraska, about a third of the way there.

Happy birthday, Isaac. I will miss you, David Bowie.

Confluence, you are the secret manager of the order of all rivers, and therefore, of flow.

Keep moving,



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