Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Not So Much

Apparently, I'm not going to take over the universe.

Not this year, anyway.

Had a meeting yesterday in which I was able to

*** not get what I asked for;

*** make a complete and utter fool of myself; and

*** feel betrayed and used,

all in the space of an hour and a half.


On the other hand, I got a phone call from my younger brother (father of triplets; all boys; 2 1/2 years old)and my sister-in-law that left me smiling. Family can do that, can't they? I'm so looking forward to seeing the boys for Christmas, and having a huge family blow-out holiday. Should be just the antidote for the bitterness I'm currently experiencing.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Queen of Grading

In the last three days I have graded

30 multigenre essential question compositions
17 unit designs
numerous assorted articles of late work

and now I have only

4 (FOUR) unit designs


7 10-page papers

to go.

I am the undisputed queen. Soon I will rule the universe.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Commencing Today

Have I mentioned how much I love graduation ceremonies? I'm not sure if it's because I get to dress up in goofy looking, but oh-so-luxurious robes; or maybe it's seeing all of those parents' faces as their baby walks in the processional. Maybe it's the sappy speeches that seriously bring a tear to my eye (although, I have to confess, I often get teary-eyed at commercials, so that's not saying much). Is it the chance to see students -- both undergraduate and graduate -- who also look goofy in their robes and pizza box hats, by the way -- strutting their stuff across the stage? Sitting with my colleagues and standing up to applaud the parents, children, brothers and sisters, spouses who have been supportive of the graduates?

I can't say, but I love it. And today, there was only one person graduating who was in my class. Next May, when this year's English education majors graduate, I'll be a basket of quivering emotional jelly. This is one of the best reasons to be a teacher.

Sappy, I know.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

At 6:57 this morning, it was a chilly 17.5 degrees below zero. Brrr. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


In the middle of a meeting, my department secretary handed me a Fed Ex package, which I hugged, kissed, and then lovingly opened. That's right. My composition book has been returned to me, and I've already begun to write in it again.

Thanks, Concierge Rosello!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Missing Composition Book

While at the airport in Miami on Friday, I wanted to write down a very important thought and went rifling through my backpack for my composition book. Now, for the last year or so, I've carried a composition book with me to every meeting, conference, class, and coffee shop trip, so it's become quite an important part of my life.

Missing. Composition. Book.

It has notes in it for articles I want to write, revisions to classes I'll teach again next year, ideas for research projects, to-do lists for every day of every week, poetry I'm in the midst of, and wandering thoughts about my identity, status, tenure potential, etc. Very important.

Here's what happened:

I was in Miami for the National Reading Conference, which is a fantastic opportunity to get tons of information and ideas, but also my one chance to see friends from graduate school. One of those friends from graduate school and I went out to dinner (a Cuban place -- the food was supposed to be good, but ended up being mediocre) and I didn't want to go back up to my room to put away my composition book. So . . . you guessed it, I left it with the concierge, very carefully taping my room number on the front of the book.

When I came back, we sat in the bar and had drinks, it got late, I got sleepy, so I headed up to my room. The next morning, I had a flight at 7 AM, so I left the hotel at 5:15, again completely forgetting about my life in the composition book at the concierge table.

So, Eduardo, I've sent you an email and spoken to you on the phone. If all of the planets are aligned, and if you read this, please, please, please send me my composition book. I'll be eternally grateful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Conference Haiku #2

Message from home
Blood boils; heart pounds
Solace through blogging.

Conference Haiku

Class and race:
He doesn't make much,
But he's white.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Highlights of the National Council of Teachers of English

I just returned from Pittsburgh, where I attended the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention, one that I have been attending regularly for the last few years. As usual, I ate too much, got too little exercise and sleep, and generally had a marvelous time.


*** Dinner on Friday night with about 60 members of the Talkies, a listserv of English teachers who have been my online and in-person friends since I joined several years ago. We ate at Mallorca, a lovely restaurant near one of the rivers in Pittsburgh (don't ask me which one). The waiters were funny and good-looking, the conversation was stimulating, the food was delicious. Good times all around.

*** Attending a session by Leila Christenbury, Anne Gere, and Kelly Sassi on strategies to help students become skilled at on-demand writing (picture the state assessments here) WITHOUT making test prep part of our curriculum. My methods class has been concerned about this issue, and I now have some great ideas to share with them, as well as a book to suggest (Writing on Demand by Christenbury, Gere, and Sassi).

*** Several dinners with teachers from Johnson Junior High School in Cheyenne, who are dedicated and caring teachers of their students. They are AWESOME people, amazing dinner companions, and very funny to boot. If there's anything I can help with, you guys, let me know!

*** Getting to spend time with Beth, a former student teacher, who is now teaching English in Wyoming. When she said to me, "I love these kids -- and they need me," I couldn't help but get a shiver. Makes me feel like I'm having an impact, and I love that!

*** A serious brainstorm while sitting on the plane, on the way home. I took out a draft of an article and revised the crap out of it, with the end result that it is about ready to send out. Just one more session and it should be done. I think I needed that opportunity to get my mind OFF the list of things to do here, and it got seriously into writing mode.

*** More great materials and ideas for my methods class. In addition, I'm setting up a blog with a few other English ed folks to discuss how we handle the teaching of reading comprehension strategies and pop culture/media literacy in the methods class. I'm also about to start moderating a listserv for those who attended the CEE colloquium on Monday, which was also about pop culture in the English/methods classroom.

*** Several people attended the policy session that we presented, and we have lots of ideas about developing an action network, beginning with those who came. It feels great to be involved and helping people to connect!

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I'm exhausted, but it's a good tired.

Now, to get ready for Thanksgiving . . .

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Dialogue from a Stockyard Painting

This bit of a dialogue came about when I was sitting through a meeting that was insufferably boring. On the wall of the meeting room was a painting of 5 men, sitting around a table in a stockyard. It depicted a western scene, western men, with some topic under discussion. I decided that my time could be better spent imagining the characters of the men and creating a bit of dialogue. Here's what came out:

Dialogue from a Stockyard Painting.


Jedediah Montgomery: A rancher from Colorado, Jed spent his youth as a candidate for the priesthood. After an experience of the “dark night of the soul” brought on by heavy drinking and profligate sexual activity, Jed returned to his father’s ranch. He has now taken over the ranch and is a candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives.

Arthur Holland: Arthur is a circuit judge in Wyoming and Montana, well respected for his sagacity as well as his understanding of Western customs and values. Arthur was a Pony Express rider and is most at home on horseback.

Frank Marsden: The youngest son in a family of 14 children, Frank has bounced from one career to another, from one wife to another, and from one state to another. Currently homeless and unmarried, Frank is a closeted homosexual. The majority of his energy is spent hiding this fact from his older brother, William

William Marsden: The patriarchal oldest brother, William rules both his family and Golden County, Montana, with an iron fist. Feared by everyone who knows him, William has no friends and many enemies. He is the larges landowner in Golden County, president of the county school board, a county commissioner, leader of the city council of Jewel, Montana, and the father of 6 children. He is also a deacon in the Jewel First Baptist Church.

Flippo Harthead: The town drunk of Jewel, Montana, Flippo grew up in Boston and moved out west after the death of his sweetheart, Clara. Highly educated and sophisticated, though often intoxicated, Flippo rarely speaks.

Scene: All 5 have gathered for a conversation on the last evening of the Golden County Fair. The big event of the day was the Prison Rodeo, which was held in the very arena in which they are meeting.

William: (bangs fist on the table, rises, and bounces on his toes, looming over the others) (Shouts) Jed, this is complete BULLSHIT! Totally out of line, and I’m not going to stand for it.

Jedediah: (shrinks back in chair)

Arthur and Frank (together): Now William, let’s be sensible. William, please. . .

William: (thundering): Jed. What do you say?

(Long, uncomfortable pause, during which Jed looks down at the table and slowly straightens his spine)

Jedediah: (Quietly) I’m not changing it, Mr. Marsden. I can’t. And I won’t.

Arthur: Look, Will. It’s a public rodeo, a public event, for crying out loud. The winner has been announced, the prize was awarded. You saw the crowd, the way they clapped and cheered when Rodney was announced. He’s their golden boy, no matter what he’s done. We can’t reasonably do anything about it now.

William: I don’t care about reasonable – I could give a shit about reasonable. I want results.

Frank: Look, William, it’s all going to work out. Penelope knows how you feel about Rodney –

William: (snarling) I’m Penelope’s father, and I’m the one who will break that little rat’s neck if he comes anywhere near my daughter again.

(Long pause.)

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Here’s the idea – Jed is a judge at the Prison Rodeo. The conflict involves William’s daughter, Penelope, who is pregnant by a prisoner, Rodney, who competed in the rodeo and won. The prize for the winner: release from prison, unconditionally.
William attempts to force Jedediah to change his ruling – using blackmail and other forceful methods.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

On Today's Schedule

New refrigerator being delivered -- right now

African Students' Association Celebration -- 4:00 PM

UW/BYU Football Game (yes, I'm a season ticket holder) -- 4:00 PM

[Hmm. Bit of a conflict there.]

Housewarming Party at a Colleague's House -- 7:00

Interspersed among these things -- grading innumerable papers and stewing over my methods classes.

Should be a fun day!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


A meeting today left me with a familiar feeling. Familiar, that is, from the time when I was teaching high school. Things are falling apart, the world is almost ending, learning will soon cease to exist, and my place in this world is fading.

That feeling.

When I taught high school and had that feeling, it was often from hanging out too long in the teachers' lounge. Now it's from a meeting in which only the negative was addressed.

How did I handle that feeling back then? I went in my classroom, and worked hard to see that my students read and wrote and thought and spoke in deep, critical, and meaningful ways. I taught them how to comprehend what they read, to write in ways that communicated to an audience, and to ask questions. At least then, I could feel that I was making a difference, that I was doing my job well.

Once again, tomorrow, I will enter my classroom and work as hard as I can to give my students what they need. They trust me, and I will not put that trust in jeopardy.

Honestly, if we're not all about the students, what are we about? It's the only way that I have found to put the whirlwind to rest.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Polysemy -- having many meanings

Slogging through the days of
meetings, class, student conferences,
email, websites, research, writing,
I gather my equipment around me,
Take a short break to check my maps
and have a snack.

Through Massachusetts
in late July,
following the AT north for 200 miles
as it winds through swamps,
up and down hills,
through small towns,
I stop to wait,
breathing hard.
Leaning on my poles,
I watch while she
negotiates with a boulder field.
"Walk up the crack," I say.
"Follow that line."

To use the overhead projector, I must
pull down the screen.
Pull and tug as I may,
it will not stay down.
I pull up a chair,
tie a taut-line hitch,
and teach.

Collecting and purifying water,
Hanging a bear bag,
Setting up tents,
Cooking dinner,
Unpacking and packing gear.
The 'how-to' of daily life on the trail.

A colleague stops me in the hall between classes
To tell me that there is no true example
of polysemy.
"The experts argue," he says, grinning.
"And yes, I was looking over your shoulder."
No true example.

Monday, October 10, 2005

First Snow of the Season!

The snow began last night, while I was busily painting a window downtown for homecoming (long story -- we've got a wolf on a spit and a cowboy blowing fire). That was a bit cold, but it was followed by a nice steak dinner at home and a good bottle of red wine. Lovely.

This morning as I look out my office window, the snow is still sticking to the ground, but not to the roads. I'm ready to get my skis tuned up and hit the slopes.

I'm not feeling quite so stressed this week, though goodness knows I probably should be. Still lots to do, but I feel it's doable.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Arctic Softball

This morning, when I left home to head for work, it was 29 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm sitting in my office now, though the sun is shining outside, with a warm and fuzzy muffler wrapped around my neck. There's a draft through the window! I could turn the heat on, but then the violets in my office would die.

Last night, in order to prove my insanity, I agreed to fill in on an intramural softball team made up mostly profs and grad students. Naturally, we were playing folks 20 years younger than me, so we lost by a grand margin of 12 points.

The interesting thing, for me, was to be on a softball team again after probably 15 years of non-softball life. I was placed in right field (which was good! I used to play left field, but I'm a bit rusty at the moment). I came up to bat twice: I struck out once and hit a pop to the third baseman, which he caught.

I'm happy that I didn't completely disgrace myself.

It was cold, though, the Wyoming wind howling across the intramural fields. I did a lot of running, and that kept me warm. My wonderful husband showed his devotion by coming out to watch. Some cold entertainment, that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005



That sweet sensation of sinking into a soft bed.
Muscles melting
breath slowing.
Pillows and blankets; fleece sheets and the dark.
Eyes closed with relief --
the deepened, undertow tug of
slipping into a warm, cozy trance.

Or having waded through a monstrous pile
of senior research papers, 15 pages each
with outline, rough draft,
footnotes and
bibliography page.
The blessed finality of placing them
in my book bag for tomorrow,
and settling down for a few pages
of that novel before
my eyes begin to blur and close.

Or at the end of a 20 mile day
the pins and needles starting in my toes
and working past my ankles to
my calves.
No pack on now, but
the pressure on my shoulders and hips
reminds me of its weight.
Hips resting on hard board,
surrounded by snores and mice and that musty, funky smell
of hikers.
Somehow, drifting off to a place
where nothing hurts.

Isn't that an unknown country?

So Much to Do

It has come to my attention that I have been a BAD blogger of late. So, in place of posting a witty statement about my stress level, I'm going to substitute a list of things I need to get done this week:

Prepare research presentation for today's faculty meeting

Re-read materials for tomorrow's classes

Plan for tomorrow's classes

Grade a shitload of papers before tomorrow's classes

Meet with a couple of students individually who are struggling in said classes

Finalize paperwork for the TWO search committees I'm chairing

Write a review of a book I haven't finished reading

Finish my multigenre manuscript and send it out to a journal (with fingers crossed)

Read and respond to a grad student's thesis

Make plane reservations for Christmas trip

Prepare presentations for NCTE (late November) and NRC (early December)

I could go on, but I've got some things to do . . .

All of this is not to have anyone feel sorry for me, but just to say that blogging has to take a low priority for the moment. I do love my job! More posts later . . .

Friday, September 16, 2005

Haircut (just a trim)

I really dislike and abhor going to get haircuts. There is something nauseating about sitting in front of a mirror, staring at myself -- and what is it with that lighting? you know? the kind that makes you look like a corpse? -- while wrapped up to the chin in a black drape, and making forced conversation with someone who couldn't give two shits about me and about whom I couldn't give two shits either.

In spite of this horror, I did actually get a haircut today. I've been working up to it for several weeks, feeling the crispy ends of my hair and thinking "You really need to get a haircut. Soon."

It actually wasn't that bad. The hairdresser wasn't in the least bit creepy (unlike the guy I had last time, who seemed to get way too much enjoyment out of combing out my hair. Eeeew.) and as soon as she saw my turtle tattoo, we were off to the races chatting about turtles and frogs we had bought, known, loved, and lost.

Not to mention ex-husbands, but that is a story not worth getting into.

Anyway, I'm spending my time now feeling the ends of my hair with a satisfied smile. No longer crispy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Getting to "No"

My application for a small grant was frowned on by the grant-gods and trashed. That's the way it goes, I understand, and I'll get over it. (Voice in the back of my mind says "I'll Deal.") I haven't read the reviewers' comments yet, and I'm not sure if I want to. I'm planning on doing the research anyway; I'll be using my own money to do it.

I also had an idea for a sabbatical today -- one that involves lots of travel in order to build networks of English teachers in my state and to understand how teachers teach.

So, in other words, the best way to handle this letdown is to immerse myself in other work and to keep on doing the things I do well (one of which is apparently NOT grant writing!).

I have to admit, though, I'm feeling a bit used.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Maturity (or the lack of it)

I am beginning to think that it was easier to be patient with high school students (back when I taught high school) than it is to be patient with the college students that I currently teach. I have found myself -- this week -- coming close to losing my temper during class, when my college students speak/act in ways that either offend me or with which I disagree.

Is that just because I'm getting older?

I certainly expect my college students to exhibit a higher level of maturity than I did my high school students. Perhaps it is the lack of fulfillment of this expectation that is bothering me.

Or maybe I'm just overworked.

Either way, I have to deal with it. (This, by the way, is the newest saying that Red and I got from our backpacking trip. I.E. Question: "What if it rains?" Answer: "We'll deal with it."

"Dealing with it" in this case will involve two fronts
1. Handle my anger constructively (translation: work out like a demon)
2. Confront, privately, those students who are causing me grief.
3. Spend as much time as possible with my wonderful spouse, whose presence is soothing to me.

There! all done. Now for the real work.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hiking Done, and Now for School

Having successfully hiked a 230-mile section of the AT through Massachusetts and Vermont (and having lost 10 pounds in the process -- YEAH ME!) I am back at school and in the thick of teaching classes. I'm basically teaching two classes this semester -- both English methods classes. The morning class is focusing on teaching writing at the secondary school level and is HUGE (for me, I mean). 31 students. Plus I'm co-teaching with a grad student, which is a new experience for me. So far we've had one incredibly hectic day, in which we were only able to get through half of what we had planned, and one lovely day (today) in which I was totally impressed with my students' work ethic and depth of thought. I do really love my job.

In the afternoons, I teach another English methods classes which focuses on teaching literature. This one is smaller, populated by my seniors who will begin their student teaching in the spring, and my post-bacs who already have degrees and are working on certification and getting some graduate credit. These folks are great as well, and so far things are going smoothly with that class. I'm sure some personality issues will crop up (they always do!) but it hasn't happened yet and that makes me happy.

I still have to come up with an essential question for my writing class, and I'm wavering between two:
1. How can I do a better job of merging my hiking self and my teaching self?
2. How can I do a better job of working with mentor teachers in the schools?

Neither of those questions is phrased exactly as I want it to be, but I'll keep working on it. I have until Tuesday.

Plus, the UW Cowboys play Florida on Saturday (can you say odds are against us?) and I'm excited about football season opening.

I know, I know, I'm an English teacher; why am I interested in football? I can't help it.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hiking on the AT

I've spent the last 8 days hiking in New England -- we started in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and are now in Bennington, Vermont. (I'm writing this from the public library in Bennington, where the librarian is giving me the hairy eyeball even now).

The hiking is going well -- no blisters, just some sore feet. We've done 94 miles and have about 130 left to go. It's a great time, and I love it. But I have to say, I'm missing my oh-so-wonderful spouse in the worst way. I think we were born to be hiking partners.

Must go, as my computer terminal will self-destruct if I go over my one-hour allotment.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Gone Hiking

Dear Small Audience of Reader(s):

I'm leaving this evening with a great friend and now hiking partner (Red) to fly off to the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts and Vermont. I should be gone a month, barring any unfortunate occurrences, and we will be hiking about 230 miles on the AT, from South Egremont, Massachusetts, to Hanover, New Hampshire. Once this section is hiked, I'll have only a couple hundred more miles in southern Maine to finish up.

Of course, before I leave, I must run around town like a chicken with my head cut off, getting everything done that I should have done last week.

If you see my spouse, give him a hug for me. He so wishes he could go with me, but can't get the vacation time.

If you're one of my students, keep a stiff upper lip. You'll do fine without me . . . and I'll be back in late August.

In the meantime, happy trails to you -- enjoy the rest of your summer!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sneeze Attack

So, yesterday a friend and I drove out to the Platte River Wilderness for a day-long hike. We are getting ready for our trip out to the AT in Massachusetts and Vermont, so we both carried our packs, full of gear and a bit of food. Not the same weight as we'll be carrying there, but enough to get a sense of what it will be like. This "getting the sense" thing is important as the friend who is going with me (trailname: Red) has never been on a backpacking trip before. We'd done one other full-day hike (about 7 miles) and she experienced some pain in the balls of her feet, so we wanted to give the experience another chance to see if Advil and some different shoe inserts would help.

We arrived at about 9:30 and were hiking by 10. We kept with my new hiking plan of stopping every hour for a short break, and all went very well. Red was experiencing a bit of pain, but it was manageable; at the end of a 10-mile day, she said "With another break, I could have hiked some more."

This is very good news, as we're planning to hike about 10 miles a day in Massachusetts/Vermont.

The bad news was that as soon as we started hiking, I started to sneeze. The scenery was beautiful, it was VERY warm, and the wildflowers and grasses were out in abundance. Needless to say, hiking while sneezing and constantly blowing one's nose is not the most pleasant (or elegant) way to spend the day.

Made it through, however, and I'm feeling better today. Drugs help.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

We spent the weekend at Yellowstone National Park.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

How Does This Work Again?

As I understand this tagging thing, since I got tagged by Paul, I have to answer some very personal questions about myself. In public. Since this is the very thing I've struggled with since starting this blog, and since I try to operate my life from my mantra -- "You have to do the things you're most afraid to do" [that's a paraphrase of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, one that I can't be bothered to look up at the moment.]

Oh, ok, here's the actual quote:

'You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'

And that combined with this one:

'You must do the things you think you cannot do. '

equals my habit in life.

But enough about that, on to the questions!

1. What are three of the stupidest things you have done in your life?

A. Marrying my first husband, who turned out -- in spite of being the golden boy of his church -- to be a womanizer and a firm believer in the superiority of males and of my place as subservient to him. I doubt he would admit to either of those, but from my perspective, it is the truth.
B. Allowing the heat, lack of water, loneliness, and my anxiety over my research to sidestep me from the Appalachian Trail (although temporarily) in 2001. I still regret the fact that I decided not to hike those miles in New England, while I was there. Now I have to make a series of special trips to get those miles done, and I'm always questioning my status as a thru-hiker.
C. OK, now this one is complicated. I chose to do my dissertation research (in the field of reading education) on the literacy practices of the Appalachian Trail, using qualitative methods, at a time when the field of reading was becoming narrower and more focused on print text, when government funding was only available for quantitative analyses, and when my job choices depended on the respect garnered by my dissertation and subsequent work. As a result, I got only a few job interviews, but I did get a position at the University of Wyoming, where I'm very happy with both my academic work and my opportunities to be an outdoorsy girl. So -- maybe it was a stupid mistake, but it all turned out ok in the end.

2. At the current moment, who has the most influence in your life?

No question. My ever-loving, patient, and rational spouse, Footslogger. He is my sanity and my grounding when things get crazy in academia-world. Plus, he always comes up with fun things to do, like this.

3. If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to only pick up five people to dine with, who would you pick?

[Can I just make a comment about the atrocious wording of this question?]

Hmm. Eleanor Roosevelt. John F. Kennedy. Mahatma Gandhi. Buddha. And George W. Bush. Maybe they can teach him something.

4. If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?

A. That people in this country would start valuing and understanding the work that teachers do, in all its complexity.
B. That teachers who do not care about their students would quit teaching and giving the rest of us a bad name.
C. That my hair was curly.

5. Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.
'll go with Laramie, since my hometown is in Texas, and I'd rather not talk about that.

Two things I regret the city not having -- a variety of fantastic ethnic restaurants and affordable housing. Two things people should avoid -- mosquito bites (can you believe how thick they are right now?) and trying to have a quiet dinner at Altitude's on a Friday night (wow, they should get some acoustic material in there right away!).

6. Name one event that has changed your life.

No question about this. Hiking the AT in '01 and becoming a member of the thru-hiking community. In addition to giving me another persona (in addition to that of an educator, something I've been for my entire adult life), it has given me countless true friends all over the country, a new vocabulary, my dissertation research, and -- most importantly -- a sense of confidence that I can 'do the things I think I cannot do.' I'm proudest of that accomplishment.

7. Tag 5 people.

Now here's where it gets interesting. Are these people that I know read my blog? If so, I'm not sure there are any .. . .

Any of you dear readers who want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged. Donna, if you start a blog, you should start with this one!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Budget Cuts

OK, now this pisses me off. Apparently, we're all supposed to just let our education funding, health care funding, etc. go because the Bush administration has put us so deeply into the hole in order to fund a war based on misinformation.

I'm about to start phoning and emailing and writing letters to my representatives, I can promise you.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Seam-Sealing is Critical

Yesterday morning we spent several hours seam-sealing our new tents. We're not finished, as we've only done the fly and not the floor, but the process reminded me of hiking through the 100-Mile Wilderness in Maine, late September, 2001. My ever-patient spouse had joined me in Monson, Maine, and we hiked together to Katahdin to finish up my thru-hike. He brought with him a new 2-person tent (I was carrying my old and well-loved Sierra Designs Lightyear CD), so that we could split the weight and sleep in the same tent. Unfortunately, he had neglected to seam-seal it.

Thus, when it rained almost the entire 9 days of our hike, we got wet. The first night that it rained, we didn't even get out our sleeping bags; we just stacked up our bandanas under the drips and slept diagonally across the tent, holding on to each other to keep warm.

Needless to say, it was not a comfortable night. Neither were the nights that followed, as all of our clothing and gear was wet, wet, wet. We stopped early the following day -- when it was only mildly misting instead of raining -- and hung our clothes on branches in the vain hopes that they would dry. Of course, they didn't.

Of course, eventually we did get to Katahdin and eventually we and our stuff got dry. (You see, every story must have a happy ending.) I did get a cold, however.

So -- we're now serious about seam-sealing. We've learned a new technique that involves using a syringe to apply the goopy stuff, and we're getting better about not dripping Sil-Net everywhere.

Anybody else have camping stories to share?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Course Cancelled due to Lack of Interest

This summer, I was supposed to teach a graduate course for our reading endorsement series on research on reading and writing instruction at the secondary level. I was truly jazzed about teaching it, as it meant I would learn a lot, and I would get to meet lots of teachers from around the state. I worked hard to find quality texts and prepare a syllabus; I have half of the daily planning done for the course.

Last week, it was decided that my course didn't have enough folks enrolled to make. You see, in the summer, a course has to have at least 16 students in order to make enough money for my salary to be paid. The most I ever had enrolled in the course was 12; by last week, I was down to 9.

I'm seriously conflicted about my reaction to this news. On one hand, I could have used the money, and -- as I said -- I was excited about the material in this course. Plus, there may be students who signed up for the course who need it in order to get their reading endorsements.

One the other hand, I could seriously use the time to get some writing done. I'm finally making some headway with the multigenre manuscript, and I still need to write up that research on the writing project in Lander. Plus, it means that I'll get to be more involved with the Wyoming Writing Project invitational, which conflicted with the schedule of my course.

So -- if any of the readership of this blog had planned to take the course (doubtful, but possible), I apologize for the inconvenience. I'll be teaching it in the spring semester of 06, when we don't have so much of an enrollment requirement, if that helps.

Friday, June 10, 2005


I found out today -- as a result of a spine x-ray -- that I have an extra vertebra.

What does this mean?

Thursday, June 09, 2005


There was a time when I was in graduate school, just after I had successfully completed my comprehensive examinations, when I felt the need for some down time. I had worked hard on writing, doing library research, thinking, preparing for the exams, and I had this vision of my head exploding if I didn't allow myself a break. So I took about a month of what I called "decompression time." (Remember, Donna?) I didn't write, I didn't read -- at least I didn't write or read anything academic. At first I felt guilty about it, and didn't say anything to anyone about what I was NOT doing. But after a week or so, I felt the tension fall away from around my shoulders and neck, and I knew that it was the right decision.

Now I'm approaching that one-week mark again. Well, I have been in the office a bit, but mostly I've done yard work, read mystery novels (I've just discovered Elizabeth George, and I love her characters!), ridden my bike around town to do errands, and cooked. It feels good.

At the same time, there is this voice in the back of my head that is pressuring me to get back to work on a variety of projects that need doing. I may give in momentarily, but I'm trying to preserve what I can of the summer for much-needed decompression.

I also went to see a chiropractor yesterday, but that is another story for another day.

Now it's time for me to think about whether I should read a bit or plan tonight's dinner . . .

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Topo, Anyone?

Saturday and Sunday of this Memorial Day weekend, we drove about an hour outside of Laramie and did a two-day hike in the Platte River Wilderness. We had planned to make it a three-day hike, but when it started raining on Sunday, that plan changed. I mean, we don't have to be out there when it's raining, and it's not actually fun to be out there when it's raining, so why should we?

The Platte River Wilderness is a lovely section, with trails that are not too strenuous. The trails there are lacking one thing however: signage. The first 5 miles or so (on Saturday) were lovely. Hiking through forests and down along the sides of a creek. We only lost the trail a couple of times, once when it crossed a creek and we didn't -- instead, we hiked uphill for about 30 minutes, following what looked like a trail but turned out to be someone else's diversion. Just around the corner from that crossing (once we found the trail again) we found a fantastic little campsite, where someone had taken the time to dig out fairly flat spots for a couple of tents. Fairly flat, I say, because we slid downhill most of the night, in our sil-nylon tent. Will probably have to do something about that (the sliding part, I mean -- we can't do much about the campsite being set on a hill).

The next day, we decided to follow the Platte Ridge Trail to its intersection with the Douglas Creek Trail. Mind you, we had no topographical map, as the guy at the Forest Service office in Laramie had pooh-poohed the notion of needing a topo map in the Platte River Wilderness. At one point, where the Platte Ridge Trail was supposed to branch to the east and the west (I think), there was only a stump of a signpost left; no direction at all except for a few odd symbols cut into the trees. What exactly did that orange arrow mean? I'll never know.

Needless to say, we never found where the Platte Ridge Trail and the Douglas Creek Trail intersect. Instead, we hiked through a good bit of marshy swampy trail and then decided we'd had enough. As it was, we hiked about 13 miles on Sunday, enough to merit a big cheeseburger in Woods Landing. With homemade fries that were heaven itself, and not on my diet.

Monday we spent cleaning up and putting away our gear. And tonight we have company for dinner and to spend the night, so I must push away from the keyboard and get around to putting sheets on the bed in the guest room.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I just finished reading an advance copy of Walter Moseley's 47. Not impressed. I wanted to be, but sadly, I am not. The book is a mixture of slave narrative and science fiction; the slave narrative is beautiful and thoughtful, while the science fiction I can only call sad and strange. And I usually love science fiction!

Here are the elements of the science fiction that didn't sit well with me:
1. It wasn't consistent. When 47 (the main character) receives Tall John's (the alien) cha, he becomes more knowledgeable about the world, about philosophy, about life, about technology, etc., but nothing else about him, except for his physicality, changes.
2. The author described some elements of the story too simplisticly -- perhaps in an effort to appeal to a young adult audience. For example, Wall (evil creature out to destroy the universe) is after a "green powder" that can be found "buried in the earth." He has to use Tall John's spaceship to get the green powder . . .but how did Wall get there in the first place? Why call it "green powder" when other elements are given special names?

That's enough, I guess. On to the next one.

I'm sad that I didn't like it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Writing poetry, again.

In honor of the writing project retreat I attended this weekend, I am going to post here a revised copy of "Wings," and a couple of others that I did some serious changing to.
By the way, can I just say that any teacher alive would benefit from participating in writing project work? I've never actually done the workshop, but I helped to plan an invitational this weekend, and just being around those folks helped me to feel invigorated about my poetry again.

Thanks, all of you.

Plus, I found out some great information about the turtle as a symbol for planet Earth, the personification of goddess energy, representative of the continuing cycle of give and take, and possessing shields that protect us from harm. Cool.


One grand and coming day
I will sprout wings.
The swirling, lifting breeze will
chime out the hours
as the time grows near.

Small bumps will jump from my shoulder blades,
Itchy feathers one by one sweep my arms
Bits of down float sunlit through the air.

As I gain altitude,
an eagle's-eye perspective:
Roads float above green hills,
Horizon angles into the suspended blue sky.

Will my aerial view
Affect my earthly sight?

That Hat

That hat struts in,
feather waving
trench coat swirling.
It pauses
and surveys
with a tilted head and
a cynical, jaunty eye
the crowd of coffee-sippers,
blissfully unaware of its presence.

The crowd bobs
and sips
and sits

that hat maintains its integrity,
its pride,
its sense of place,
and wavers on
to an appointed seat
in glory.

First Snow

The first snow of the season
is a blessing, a baptism, an epiphany.
One that appears,
on Halloween.

Slipping softly over the jack o'lanterns
hissing out candles
Lightly anointing the foreheads
of the assembled pirates, ballerinas,
monsters, and ladybugs,
it drips and floats.

Here, they huddle around the front porch light,
offering up the emptiness of their bags,
praying for Snickers or Skittles
or peanut butter cups.

As they walk away, toward the
luminarias and fake spiders next door,
the snow fills their footprints,
erasing all evidence of their presence.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Here's the new tent I'm thinking of buying -- it's the Lunar Solo, by Six Moon Designs. Posted by Hello


Yesterday was a beautiful day in Laramie. Sunny, breezy, and cool -- the way I WISH summers had been growing up in Texas. So, I decided to let my cats hang out in the back yard, eat grass, roll around in the sun, etc. I propped the back door open with a stone and went to sit in my easy chair and read (can only do THAT in the summer!).

I wasn't really surprised to hear a commotion break out -- there are a couple of neighborhood cats that treat our yard as theirs -- but I WAS surprised when I went out back and saw Loner (see picture below) kicking the crap out of the big orange and white tom who loves to hang out in the yard.

This is quite unusual. It is most commonly Loner who gets his ass kicked, and then hides in the house for a few days as he heals. I love him, but he is usually a wuss.

Apparently he decided he'd had enough of that orange cat -- chased him all the way across the street.

Now, of course, he's hanging out in the house letting his wounds heal -- but he's certainly proud of himself!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Just one of my two handsome kitties.  Posted by Hello

Trail Days

We spent last week backpacking about 50 miles in Tennessee/Virginia, reconnecting with our thru-hiking community, hanging out at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, and then doing trail maintenance at Hard Core with our favorite hostel guy, Bob Peeples. It was a week full of memorable times, big hugs, and renewed awareness.
We got a room at a B&B in Damascus -- thanks, Bob and Dianne. That was a first for us, as usually we're camping out at the campground ("ghetto") outside of town, which invariably becomes a mud-filled poison-ivy ridden swamp, or we stay at a hotel in Abingdon. Having a room in town meant that we could walk back and forth among the vendors (I bought a new pack!), out to the campground, drink a lot of beer, and then walk home for a good night's sleep in a bed!

There were only a few folks from 2001 there -- Sheriff, Lucky, Phoenix, Rain Queen, Jim Beam, Ropeyarn, Tent-n Kent and Toccoa. But tons of hikers from 2003 were there (Footslogger's year), so we hung with Jersey, Rumbler, Hiker Biker Babe, T-Bird, and lots more.

As for awareness, hiking 50 miles helped me remember how hard and how wonderful hiking on the AT is. We only did about 10 miles a day, and that first day was a killer, but HOW GREAT it was to be back. To introduce ourselves (to a few people) and have them say "Oh, Bad Ass Turtle, I've heard of you!"

When can I do that again?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Mostly, I'm general

Here's a quiz I took this morning:

Your Linguistic Profile:

60% General American English

30% Dixie

5% Upper Midwestern

5% Yankee

0% Midwestern

I think I knew how it would turn out as soon as the question, "What do you call a carbonated beverage?" came across. It's COKE, of course!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Not a Wok

I've never cooked anything in a wok before, though I've certainly cooked Chinese food, or perhaps what passes for Chinese food in my part of the world, growing up. Today we purchased an actual wok and I spent a good deal of time seasoning it. Heating it, rubbing oil on its surface, etc. Could make a connection to sex here, but I'm going to bypass the opportunity . . .

So Mark says the stirfry was good, but I was not satisfied. I'll have to look into Chinese cooking if I want to get better at it.

I'll just add that to the list of things I would like to get better at -- Chinese cooking can join with speaking German, playing the piano, riding a horse, quilting, and writing this blog in terms of things I should probably spend more time doing in order to get better at, but probably won't.

Why won't I, you might ask? Because in addition to the work of teaching courses and supervising student teachers (I love that work, don't get me wrong!) I need to get to work on the 6 or so writing projects that I have going but haven't finished. So, the newest one, a survey of K-12 teachers on their use of comprehension strategies, can join the rest -- the multigenre writing manuscript, research on the writing project in Lander, the article on working with mentor teachers to develop materials for mentoring student teachers, the thirdspace article, multimodality article, the conference presentation on policy and politics in teacher education, etc. in the list of things I would like to get done but can't seem to get to.

If I don't find a way of coping with all of these things, they're going to turn out like tonight's dinner. OK to some; not satisfactory to me.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Once again, in the bathroom . . .

Most of this morning was spent preparing the bathroom for another round of plastering and sanding, which involved spreading plastic and clearing EVERYTHING moveable out of there. Once that was done we spent about an hour sanding and putting new coats of plaster on -- then about 2 hours cleaning up the mess we had made and getting the bathroom into useable shape again.

Which is important, as we're having company for dinner.

All that plastering and sanding, though, should make me philosophical about something. Not sure what. My life, I guess, but I prefer not to think about it.

Instead, I'm planning what to cook for dinner and enjoying that. As well as the thought of next week being finals week, and the week after -- let's just say, I won't be in the office!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Why a Bad Ass?

It occurs to me that some readers may not understand the title of this Blog: "Adventures of a Bad Ass." To avoid the impression that I actually believe I am a bad ass, I will tell the story of my trail name.

In 2001, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and collected data for my dissertation at the same time (and yes, I've only got one damn article published from it!). I had taken the trail name "Turtle" as a symbol of my desire to be persistent, to be connected to the earth, etc. Then, after about two months of hiking (400 some odd miles), I injured my piriformis -- a big muscle in my rear -- and had to leave the trail for a month and a half of physical therapy. Yes, on my rump. What made it so bad was that the piriformis muscle, because it was injured, banged away on my sciatic nerve, making it impossible for me to sit, stand, lie down, or simply BE without pain.

Just before my completely self-sacrificing, wonderful, and ever-lovin' spouse showed up in Damascus, Virginia, to collect my sad self and take me to a hospital where I could get good drugs and some rest, a couple of hiking friends (Chris and Triple Slim) stopped by the drug store, bought a little stuffed donkey, and brought it to me in a paper bag. They said, "Your trail name used to be Turtle. Now it's (drum roll, please) Bad Ass Turtle."

That donkey is now sitting on my desk, as a reminder for me to be who I truly am. Not just a bad ass, but Bad Ass Turtle.


One day
I will sprout wings.
Small bumps will jump from my shoulder blade,
Itchy feathers one by one sweep my arms,
Bits of down float through the air.
Will my view
-- from above --
Affect my sight?