Monday, January 30, 2012

Always saying yes

When I was a new parent, I read a lot of blogs and advice and books about how to limit your kids' exposure to bad things and keep them from rotting their brain on worthless activities.  How do you keep them from watching TV nonstop, or getting addicted to the internet?

Limits are important. Balance is important. But I also wanted to think about the importance of things where kids should be encouraged to go overboard. I promised myself that I wouldn't ever refuse to get my children any book they wanted, and that I wouldn't stop them from reading any time they wanted. I feel the same way about their time outside; slather sunscreen on 'em and let 'em stay out as long as they want.

I've always been a binger. When I want to do something, I want to do it hour upon hour, day upon day. As a kid, I binged on books. And I've always been extraordinarily grateful that my parents let me do it. They let me read in church and in the car and at the dinner table. These are things that not every parent would allow. But perhaps they thought that reading was a good enough habit overall that they shouldn't risk squelching it by defining a too-narrow range of times and places when it should be practiced.

If my kids want to write, build, draw, create, read, exercise, play, cook, invent, puzzle, knit, design, laugh,  figure, sing, dance, race, compete, imagine, color, cartoon, perform, film, photograph, decorate, or pretend -- I'm not going to be the one to tell them to quit.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Would you be my companion, is there even a chance

Today's post about another room with new drapes is at Toxophily.


In unrelated news, thanks to Cady Gray asking about a song she heard on her classic rock station, I now know that the lead singer of Head East was simultaneous in the Christian band Petra. Hence the post titles.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Noel is home from Sundance. Two weeks of faculty candidate visits, kid transport, lunch construction, orientations, book discussions, and early bedtimes have finally ended!   I'm always so grateful when our routine goes back to normal.  Here are some of the things that change when Noel's film festival trips are over.

  1. I only make breakfast once a week.  This is good because I really have only one breakfast plan: honey toast.
  2. I don't lose track of whether I had a shower that day or not.
  3. Somebody else makes the tough decisions of which show on the TiVo to watch first.
  4. The grocery shopping gets done in a much more thorough and orderly fashion.
  5. I feel a greater obligation to blog, because if I don't, Noel will ask me if I'm going to.
  6. I resume learning about new (and old) music.
  7. I'm not the only one telling the kids to pick up their books and games.
  8. Somebody gets my references to "don't have a car like that Google" and "it's a bleeping burrito."
  9. Packages get opened and boxes get recycled instead of piling up haphazardly on flat surfaces.
  10. I get uninterrupted crafting time while the kids are taken on errands or to playgrounds.
Life is so good when we're all together again. This weekend is going to be a celebration of all that goodness.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A tough lesson

Cady Gray loves playing on Tinkatolli, a great online world for kids that encourages offline creativity.  A few weeks ago, she decided to make a toy bed in response to a Tinkatolli challenge.  I helped her find materials and put some of the parts together (although she'd completed a lot of it before I got involved.  Then I took some pictures of it for her, and she uploaded it into her scrapbook and entered it in the Tinka Fair.

Yesterday she came to me with a plan to delete her project, use another photo, and resubmit it, because she thought that she had submitted too early to be a part of the Tinka Fair.  Then she returned excited and thrilled because she found that her project had been accepted and had garnered several votes already.  The conversation for the rest of the day was about her competition, the votes she'd gotten, and her chances of getting more.

Just a few minutes ago Cady Gray walked into the living room with the crumpled face of a seven-year-old about to burst into tears.  When I asked what was wrong, she said that she actually had deleted her project yesterday before she discovered the Tinka Fair acceptance, and that her bed and all its votes had disappeared from the Fair.  She was crushed.  The idea that site users she didn't know had looked at the picture and thought enough of it to give it a vote had been a huge revelation to her the day before.  She had been looking forward to finding out if her position had improved.  And now it was all gone, with no chance to get it back that she could see.

Anybody who's accidentally deleted work or lost something irreplaceable or missed a chance long hoped for will understand how she felt.  I haven't seen her this bereft in ages.  I told her I understood her disappointment and was sorry, but that there would be other chances.  And just now, about 10 minutes later, she came out with dry eyes to ask for a little more time on the computer, and told me she felt better.  Tinkatolli had a new challenge she'd just discovered, and she was focused on trying to accomplish it.

We've all had those days or weeks when one downer after another has us wondering if we'll ever start back up.  My kids -- and my whole family, really -- have so much going for them.  Most of our time is spent in a really happy place.  That makes me treat setbacks with anxiety and fear; is this negative incident the start of a avalanche?

The message to a kid weeping over a deleted file and a lost contest is that she has plenty of creativity left to make more things, and plenty of other contests to enter.  Archer responded to Cady Gray's distress in typical fashion -- by asking about the limits of the situation.  "Could there ever be a problem that has no solution?" he asked, after I reminded him that there's always another chance to do better.  "Yes," I said as honestly as I could, "but they're rare. Almost always we can try again and work to improve." The message to myself when things don't go my way is the same: Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sundance season

Noel has been in Park City, Utah since last Wednesday, attending the Sundance Film Festival. You can read his daily dispatches here at the A.V. Club.  By all accounts, he's had a good run in the screening rooms.  And clearly, he's worked very hard, as can be seen by how many films he's logged and how many thousands of words worth of capsules he's written in the wee hours of the morning.

Here at home, we have our own "Sundance Film Festival." It consists of trying to cobble together babysitters, grandparents, and my work schedule so that the kids are delivered to and from school on time, and receive regular meals.

That's been difficult in our 2012 outing.  A combination of regularly scheduled spring events -- a freshman book discussion, a sophomore orientation -- and two faculty candidate visits back to back, meant that this is the first weekday night since Noel left home that I have not had to head out in the evening darkness for some work-related event.

I couldn't have managed without my parents coming to handle kid transport and kitchen duties while I was otherwise occupied.  They left this morning for the grueling two-day drive back to their home on the Georgia coast.

Noel's last day at the festival is tomorrow; he flies home on Thursday, arriving around the time the kids are getting into their pajamas.  I have done a decent job keeping things together (knock on wood).  But I've done a poor job communicating with my absent spouse.  Normally I post status updates and blog entries regularly, supplementing the occasional phone conversation with public information about how we're getting along.  But the faculty candidate visits have thrown any concept of "regularly" out the window.  I've had neither the time nor the energy to write, even a hundred and forty characters.

When a big push like faculty hiring coincides with the stressful and difficult conditions of half parental strength, you put your head down and power through it.  But it always surprises me how much effort, mental and physical, that it takes.  Several nights in the past week, I've sat down in my recliner an hour or so away from bedtime, finally done with everything on my plate, and have felt the bone weariness seep through my shoulders.

Noel knows that feeling well, I'm aware. No one works harder, especially through the 20-hour days of film festival madness. My parents know it, as they bunk down in some motel midway through Alabama, still a day away from their home after driving all day.  We all look forward to getting back to the normal pile of deadlines and the usual routine of too much on our plates, rather than this crazy displaced double-time version of our lives.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The haze I'm wandering around in

Today's post about a sweater that was fated to be is at Toxophily.


Granny Lou and Papa are here, Noel is in Utah, and we're warm, well-fed, and strong. Further dispatches as events warrant.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spending energy

It can be daunting, as an administrator, to inaugurate a lot of new inventions, events, or processes at once. Any change takes a lot of energy.  Tonight we announced and described in public for the first time two huge new processes for students ending their second year with us and beginning their third.  They'll undergo a new planning cycle for volunteerism and civic service, which involves workshopping and an individual presentation.  And they will engage in research training as a portal into their junior year, as a cohort, getting help identifying their thesis topic and finding a mentor.

For the faculty, these changes require a big shift in thinking and planning and teaching.  It's hard to imagine the amount of energy we'll need to summon to make it happen -- it even seems impossible to begin, for some of us.  But for the students, it's different.  They aren't carrying around a decade-long legacy of doing it differently.  This is the only time they're going to do it.  So all they want to know is what we expect of them.  Give them their marching orders, and save the handwringing about how new it is and how hard it is to change.  The change is on our side, not theirs.

Faced with a big shift that will take a lot of new work and rethinking, the inclination is to put the change off.  We can't do it this year.  Let's take it up again next year.  I see two problems with that line of thinking.  First, it's going to be just as much work and thought next year.  The extra time in between is not likely to be used to spread out the task of preparation and implementation.  And second, there's an unappreciated cost to doing nothing -- to maintaining the status quo.  If the change is really needed, then it can be taxing to continue doing what doesn't work, what makes no sense anymore, or what isn't well thought through or structured.  That takes energy, too, energy that has to be spent on top of the energy to make the change that you've put off.

Frankly, we've kept on doing some things long beyond the time when we knew we needed to make changes, and the toll has gotten to me.  I'm not willing to continue with legacy processes that I don't believe work anymore, that I don't know the reason for, just because imagining what comes next is hazy and difficult.  That's energy I am done spending.  Change is hard, but stasis is just as hard -- once you've become convinced that it's possible to keep your promises and make your mission real.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Whose problem is it?

I encourage my students to knit in class ... or crochet, or play with Play-Doh, or sketch, or make rubber band balls, or whatever they want to do with their hands that doesn't involve language.  That means no surfing the net, no texting, no writing poetry.

The sight of someone knitting in class can be surprising to some people.  They may even be disturbed by it.  They may think that knitting means not paying attention.  From what students who knit in other classes tell me, most instructors have no problem with it; they're focused on performance, not appearances, and as long as the students demonstrate clearly that they are engaged and learning, they give their blessing.

But other students in their classes might feel differently. An outstanding student of mine told me about a classmate of hers in a major seminar who found her knitting difficult to take.  He made numerous references on Facebook to "the crazy girl who knits," exclaiming: "I fb and text in class but knitting?!"

I hope I don't even have to point out the craziness of that claim of crazy.  This guy believes that chatting on Facebook and carrying on text conversations on his phone is his God-given right as a red-blooded student.  Maybe he knows that the professor wouldn't exactly like it if it were waved in his face, but playing on your phone is as American as apple pie; you can't really expect someone not to do it.  Knitting, though?  That's just nuts.

Now, doing anything in class that is unexpected or unconventional draws attention.  People wonder if it's okay.  They worry that you're setting a bad example, and they suspect that you're getting away with something.  My question is whether that is your problem or theirs.  If your performance is not being affected -- maybe even is being improved -- is there a reason to be disturbed?  Maybe there's concern that others around the knitter are finding it disruptive.  My worry is that disruptiveness is a vague idea that has historically been used to keep all kinds of diversity of learning styles, teaching styles, and even student and faculty demographic segments from making an appearance in the classroom.

Knitting in class isn't just a practical act.  Taking such an activity out of the sphere to which it's been relegated -- the domestic, private sphere -- and into the larger world is a political act.  It's a statement about gender, about the material world, about the body, about value.  Is there any reason not to make the classroom safe for knitting?  I haven't yet seen the evidence against it, and I can muster several rooms full of outstanding students who will vouch for it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thank you Mr. Carnegie

On Saturday, I took my kids to the library.

It's a supremely ordinary weekend thing to do.  Millions upon millions of parents and kids do it every Saturday.  Yet it thrills me every time because of what libraries mean to me, and what they mean, period.

I spent countless Saturdays in Chattanooga's downtown library.  To this day, when I think of libraries, it is that modern-looking concrete edifice with its steel waterfall sculpture out front that I picture.  I came home from those trips with towering stacks of books, as many as I could carry, as thick as I could find.  I was blessed with parents who didn't obsess over what I might be reading, but facilitated my habit and left me alone to get on with it.

Sometimes I take my kids to the library just to return the piles of books we've managed to hoard and temporarily lose in various corners of our house.  But without exception, we leave with more.  Who can resist the treasures therein?  Don't we always want to leave with all of them -- or some subset so much larger than our ability to consume, it might as well be all of them?

As we were entering the library yesterday, I commented to the kids how glad I was that we had a library. Imagine if the only people who could read books were people with money, I said.  And I ask you to imagine it.  Imagine if we had to buy each individual book we wanted our kids to read, or that they wanted to read.  How could we feed their minds as full as we need to fill their stomachs?  I buy stacks of books for our kids; they come home on Scholastic delivery day with their backpacks bulging.  But it's not nearly enough for a hungry mind, for an expansive imagination, for a life stretching decades into the future with so much to learn and do.

Walter Dean Myers, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, has taken as his theme "Reading is not optional."  I heard him in a radio interview explaining that we tend to promote reading as a wonderful escape, something that can take you around the world and into the past and future.  But what so many young people need to escape is not boredom, and what they seek is not entertainment.  If the children in our communities are not to be limited by their circumstances, they need the flexible skills to do more than their parents or neighbors, to imagine more than what is in their immediate environment.

If reading is not optional, then libraries are not optional.  I'm grateful that I live in the age of libraries, and I hope to high heaven that I don't live to see their end.

Friday, January 13, 2012

First place

When we met Archer's GT teacher (who is also the Quiz Bowl coach) before this school year, we talked to her about his fourth grade experience with Quiz Bowl.  You'll remember that in his first tournament, his team earned the top seed then won their bracket.  Ms. Haynes let us know that very few fifth graders make her team, and that she tries to field the best teams possible rather than making sure everybody gets time at the buzzer.

So last fall when tryouts were held for the team, we were thrilled that he earned a spot. As they held practices before Christmas break, we hung on Archer's description of his performance, hoping that he'd perform well enough to get some playing time.

Today was the tournament, and while Noel attended the full day of games, I followed along via his tweets.  Long story short -- not only did Archer play in every game, becoming part of a three-person first string by the end of the day, but once again his team went to lunch as the top seed having won all the morning's games, and swept on to the championship in the afternoon.

Like any parent with a child in competition, the first thing I want is for Archer to have a chance to compete. Second, I want him to contribute to his team.  Third, I want his team to have some success -- to get a win or two. And finally, after all that, making it deep into the elimination rounds and maybe even taking home a trophy would be a cherry on top.  You want there to be something positive you can reinforce about the experience of competing -- something you can build on.

Two tournaments, two championships.  It's time for us to stop hoping for encouraging outcomes and start planning for a long-delayed lesson in losing gracefully.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


My classes are all seminars.  That means the students work as a team throughout the class.  They need each other to bring up ideas, develop them, and work through discussion topics toward learning and understanding.  They don't absorb and respond as separate individuals; they are responsible collectively for generating the material for the class, and they must contribute if they want to have anything to take and make their own.

So on the first day of my classes, we spend a lot of time getting to know each other.  I like to have the students fill out a brief questionnaire, and then share some of their answers with the class.  This semester I'm co-teaching with a colleague, and we have double the usual number of students.  So we built on my usual questionnaire in order to include items from other of our perspectives, while at the same time cutting down the number of questions in order to get through the intros expeditiously.

Today was the first day of our class, and we allotted 20 minutes to go around the room and have everyone speak. There were 27 students, so everybody had less than a minute apiece. And because of the room we were in, they were seated in a large circle with some people in a second row behind.

Yet despite these disadvantages, it was one of the most invigorating introductory sessions I've ever experienced. In the end, it wasn't due to our structure or prep.  It was one simple choice that student after student made when they stood to introduce themselves.  They turned to speak to their fellow students instead of talking to the instructors.

We didn't tell them to do that.  We didn't give any indication about why the introductions were happening at all.  But over and over again, it happened.  The students stood and told each other, not us, who they were and what movies they liked and where they'd like to live if they could live anywhere and what's unexpectedly changed about them in the last few years.  

I was moved, I confess.  No lectures about how they needed to work together were needed here.  They were already in seminar mode.  If that twenty minutes is any indication, it's going to be a great semester.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Tomorrow is the first day of the spring semester. Students have been trickling back to campus all day. Parking places have gotten harder to come by.  And the bookstore has long lines.

Faculty have spent the day printing, collating, notating, xeroxing.  I can't think of any I've left undone, but then, that was the case earlier this morning before I thought of fourteen things that hadn't been done yet.

I'm lucky to have a safety net this semester -- a co-teacher in one class, a shared syllabus and an assistant in the other.  The only problem with that is that it makes it possible for me not to think everything through ahead of time.  I relax a little bit, knowing that there's someone to pick up my slack.  Two minds are better than one, but not if both of them are hoping that the other one is paying more attention.

I start the day tomorrow manning a welcome booth on the north side of campus.  One would think there would be fewer newbie questions or people needing directions in the spring semester than the fall, but maybe I'm completely off base.  There's surely no better way to take the temperature of the campus than sitting behind a table and gauging the expressions of students with 9 am classes in early January.  I wonder what I'll find.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Continental divide

One reason that some people get drawn to administration -- the dark side, as many faculty call it -- is the chance to actually get some stuff done.  You can get stuff done in your classroom, but the reach is limited.    People who see a chance to make larger, more systemic impacts move up to the levels where those decisions are made.

It's the role of faculty to be skeptical about change, because those larger initiatives threaten the freedom of the sphere where they get their stuff done: the classroom.  The administrative team to which I belong has spent a lot of time and effort thinking about what changes need to be made to solve some persistent, nagging problems in our curriculum and to enact fully for the first time some of the longstanding promises and rhetoric of our program. The changes are big and complicated, with lots of simultaneously moving parts, and the time they need to get started is yesterday, unless we want to give up on them for yet another year and keep doing the same stuff.  The rationales and proposals are as daunting as they are sweeping. The challenge is how to meet faculty somewhere in the middle between "here's everything we need to do!" and "why do we need to do anything at all?"

As I move toward more rarefied positions, I'm watching carefully to see how change gets done.  It's a little like sausage-making, I must confess.  Do you work out a detailed proposal, and risk having your personnel feel like they didn't have enough input?  Do you leave much unresolved, and try to corral a larger group of people into the process of invention -- which is often like wordsmithing a document with a dozen people around the conference table, if you've ever experienced that?  Present the proposal close to the time it needs to be implemented, and you have a sense of urgency and a deadline that can help you get stuff done, but you also may convey the sense that it's all already decided.  Give people lots of lead time and request their involvement, and they wonder why you're pushing them to do extra work on top of what they've already got on their plate.

I'm not sure there's a Solomonic way of doing administrative leadership that cuts these babies in half.  I see lots of ways to go wrong, and sometimes the only way that seems to go right is just steeling yourself and bulling through.  But that just confirms the divide.  Is there any way to get these factions pulling together?  And what's the role of meetings, memos, agendas, emails, minutes, reports, and other kinds of communication tools in pulling people together?

Monday, January 9, 2012


I posted my Archies list on January 1.  There aren't too many traditions I try to keep up with, personally.  But this is one of them.

For the past six years I've chronicled some of the things that have been important to me, good, bad, and indifferent, in a list at the year.  No commentary, but a lot of links people can follow if they want.

The best part about writing every day is that you are alert throughout the day to possible topics.  You notice things.  Gosh, that makes me happy, you think.  Or: That's a weird phenomenon. Wonder if anyone else sees that.  Some of those observations make their way into posts.  Others wait until the end of the year and find their way onto the Archies list.

A few other people find this exercise useful.  Or maybe they like summing up something about their experience this way -- in a list, a list that's as individual as they are.  Doc Thelma, one of my most vintage friends, always contributes one.  Doniamarie, a Ravelry friend and fellow devotee of theological minutiae, joined in this year.

Will you play this year?  It could be the start of a tradition.  Or just a lark to start 2012.  If you decide to participate, leave me a comment or shoot me a message on Facebook or Twitter.  I'd love to see the shape of your last 365 days.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Progress report

On the night before our Craftin' for CASA sale, I spent a couple of hours with students in the class organizing, pricing, and tagging our items.  One of them showed up in quite a state.  She was nearing the end of a headband, but something had gone wrong several rows back and she didn't know how to identify or fix it.  "I've been crying about this for the past hour," she confessed.  "Can you help?"

I could -- by doing something that my novice knitter students often regard as a source of dread. I took the needles out of the stitches and ripped back to before the mistake, then showed her where she went wrong.  She resumed knitting, and in a few minutes, she was all done.  Not only was it a crisis averted, but her relief revealed something larger.  Going backwards, she now knew, was a way to go forward.


I spent most of the weekend working on yet another short-sleeve cardigan in beautiful Misti Alpaca Chunky, a yarn from my stash that has been tantalizing me for years.  Yesterday I chugged through so much of the second half that I woke up today in an uncharacteristic state of anticipation.  When I get close to the end of a sweater, I want to work on it every available second.  It's like leaning toward the finish line.

And then I counted my stitches after dividing for the neckline and realized I was missing one.  Much more counting ensued, along with looking back at the pattern.  Gradually the problem became undeniable: I had neglected to do one set of increases back about a quarter-cardigan ago.  I was not only one stitch short, I was two rows short.  The left front was not going to match the right front.  Two rows in a bulky weight is half an inch.  I had to rip out almost all the work done yesterday and today.

After unravelling almost two 100 gram balls of yarn -- about 200 yards -- I put the knitting aside.  The day's other project beckoned.  I needed to start my next set of drapes, and I knew that the first step would take awhile.  These were much longer pieces to cut squarely and accurately than the ones I used for the bedroom.  I worked for two and half hours measuring, pressing, folding, cutting carefully and with much hesitation, then spreading one of the drapes and a lining piece out on the biggest chunk of floor space I could find to pin and trim.  Two and a half hours on one curtain, and no sewing got done.

I'm not within sight of the end of either of these projects.  On one I lost ground; on the other, I barely got through the preliminaries.  You'd be hard pressed to call that progress.  But I made great strides toward the cardigan I want, rather than the one I was zooming through yesterday heedless of my error.  I have a pinned drape ready for the sewing machine next time I get a chance to sew (probably next weekend).

Projects like this don't spoil if they sit.  They wait with infinite patience for you to pick them up again.  Backwards or forwards, the work you do on them makes a difference.  The sense of momentum is not within them, pulling you along; it's all your perception.  That means that if you can change your point of view -- ripping out is a step toward the finished product, prep work is work and not just prep -- you can see progress in whatever you've done.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Woo pig sooie

A dozen years living a a place will change a person. I've been an SEC partisan since my childhood days listening to John Majors call Tennessee games on the radio while working outside on fall days with my dad. But I never thought I would become one of the crimson-clad masses in this state calling the Hogs.

At some point the pride and fervor become irresistible, I suppose. I would never consider failing to tune into the Cotton Bowl tonight, along with all my neighbors, to support the flagship institution and the old-school tradition of Arkansas football.  All season I've been making the same arguments as I read in the boosterish local sports section for the quality of this team, who lost only two games this year -- to the two teams who are contending for the national championship.

Twelve years ago, I would have looked at the person I am now with bemusement. Now I'm enjoying being caught up in the statewide hysteria.  Wooooooooo pig!  Sooie!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Comfort and unease

A few minutes ago I had the bizarre experience of losing my children.  Noel was going on his evening walk, and the kids dashed outside to play in the front yard.  "I'll go sit in the front yard and keep an eye on them," I told Noel.  I settled down on the couch and glanced out the window.  They must be on the other side of the garage; they'll come back into view in a moment.  I kept glancing for the next minute or two.  No sign of them.

Now, I admit that I'm a little paranoid about having my kids play in the front yard.  I want to visually or aurally verify that they're still there every couple of minutes.  People driving on our street don't always slow down enough for the residential setting, and they don't always obey the stop sign right by our house.  And with construction on the main road paralleling ours for the last several months, a lot more cars are coming by, in a lot bigger hurry, as they seek to bypass the construction zone or follow the posted detours when the road is closed.

I went outside and looked everywhere, front and back.  I yelled.  I went inside and checked everywhere in case they'd snuck back in somehow.  I yelled.  They were gone.

What had happened was that they tagged along with their dad on his walk.  Noel tried to wave at me as they walked off, but I didn't see him.  Ted minutes after I first started panicking, they walked up the street all together, safe and sound.

No, that's not quite right.  I didn't panic.  I called the police because, if they had been snatched somehow, I didn't want to waste a second.  But I couldn't quite believe that anything like that had happened.  I wasn't as upset as I felt like I needed to be, not knowing where my kids were.  I was certain, somewhere underneath the uncertainty, that it wasn't the emergency it seemed to be.  And I was right, but it wasn't intuition.  It was just the lack of ability to push myself mentally into the situation that, by all indications, I was in.  I've put myself in that role in my imagination many times; all parents have, surely.  How would we react?  Would we be able to function?  But when it seemed to be coming true, I stayed in what my kids would call "what the ...?" mode.  It was more befuddling than terrifying.

It's been an unseasonably warm winter here so far, as it has in most of the country.  This bothers me.  I stubbornly put on a coat even when I don't need one, and I resist turning the dials from heat to A/C, as if my unwillingness to acknowledge the weird weather will somehow fix it.  I'm comforted by routine, and disturbed when the world refuses to follow its own established habits.  Every day I scan the long-range forecast in the hopes that the cold will return to its rightful place.  Every night I walk by my kids' bedroom doors and briefly think about peeking in to be sure they're actually there.  It's not fear, exactly.  It's just the need for reassurance that the things that are supposed to make sense, continue to do so.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Day (Observed)

Noel noted today that the new year doesn't really begin unti the kids go back to school and the routine of work sets back in. That was today. Campus reopened, public school resumed, and at least in terms of our schedule, normalcy was restored.

Now, I can't say that I'm back to my usual routine, and I'm sure glad that's the case. As an administrator, I come back to work a few days before the rest of the faculty, and a little more than a week before classes resume. The office is quiet, there's plenty of time to work without interruption, and few meetings (and no classes) intervene with their repetitive urgency.

I'm happy to ease back into work. My colleague Phil and I are building an entirely new class, and we have a lot of work to do in the next few days to get that underway. But we've worked together closely before, we know each other well, and I have little anxiety about getting it done. There are several long-range projects underway that will be continuing this semester with committees and all that they entail; some of these have been muddling along in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back pattern, and though none of us are eager to get back into them, we'll all be glad to see them done.

And then there are big, intense, short-term efforts for the semester. We're conducting a faculty search, with three candidates visiting in the first three full weeks of classes.  Our admissions process will begin with application review after the priority deadline of January 15, and keep up at a steady pace through three full-day interviews and final selection in mid-March.  In the midst of all that, I have my usual regional religious studies conference, and I'm teaching a month-long Christian education course on Hell and a three-day short course on the Reformation.

Added all up like that, it seems like a very busy semester. Luckily I only have to live it one day at a time.  And even better, I have a few days yet to get up to speed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

You know karate now, from a show

Today's post about knitting for myself -- finally -- is at Toxophily.


Have you made your Archies list yet? It's a cherished annual tradition -- or will become one, if you start now!  Be sure to leave a comment with a link to your version so I can see what was important to you in 2011.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Archies: Sixth Annual Where-Do-We-Go-From-Here-Now-That-All-Of-The-Children-Are-Growing-Up Edition

The Archies, named after my son (or the pride of Riverdale High, take your pick), is a list of the Top ___ (your number here) Things in the World. Listed items must be things in the world, and must have played a significant role in your year. Significance, as will soon become clear, is to be defined solely by subjective criteria.

I refrain from mentioning the perennial Top Things in the World: Noel, Archer, and Cady Gray. To avoid tiresome repetition, immediate family members have been retired as members of the Archies Hall of Fame. Things done by said family members remain eligible for the annual list.

Previous editions: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010Remember: Much like Time Magazine's "Man Of The Year," these need not be your favorite things in the world, only the top things in the world. Play along at your own site or in the comments, anytime through the month of January.

The Archies: Top 60 Things In The World, 2011
  1. Magic Springs and Crystal Falls
  2. Janome Magnolia 7330
  3. Conway roundabouts
  4. La Huerta margaritas
  6. Runkeeper
  7. Panera shortbread
  8. Breaking Bad
  9. Knitwise
  10. Canon refurbished cameras
  11. Lego advent calendar
  12. Qrank
  13. A Very Special Episode
  14. The Complete Little Orphan Annie
  15. Dream in Color Smooshy
  16. Louet Euroflax Sport
  17. Green Bear Project
  18. Jewel Moore Nature Reserve
  19. Kirby's Epic Yarn
  20. Can-Am
  21. Tivo HD
  23. Cul-De-Sac
  24. How It's Made
  26. Dark chocolate M&Ms
  27. Hissho sushi
  28. Flickr Pro
  29. Google Docs
  30. Watson
  31. Reeder
  32. DODOcase
  33. Instapaper
  34. Evernote
  35. Ravelry
  36. Pinterest
  37. Sew Mama Sew!
  38. Traeger Junior Smoker
  39. Conway Locally Grown
  40. The No S Diet
  41. NewsRadio TV Club Classic
  42. Cheers TV Club Classic
  43. Clubhouse Confidential
  44. Goldeen
  45. Craftin' for CASA
  46. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
  47. 1951 Singer Featherweight
  48. Company
  49. Allen Meadors
  50. Lu Hardin
  51. Campbell Scott as Boris Kuester von Jurgens-Ratenicz
  52. LastPass
  53. The Ride
  54. Gwyneth Lewis
  55. IKEA
  56. Kindle
  57. Project Gutenberg
  59. Quiz Bowl
  60. Music: What Happened?