Sunday, September 2, 2007

Back to School

Yeah, so I'm back. I got home and was overwhelmed by returning to my normal existence. To be honest, at first, I was really bored. I had two weeks to burn before going on vacation with my family, so I got to relax. I don't do well with relaxing. I was home while everyone else was at work. I felt lazy. I know I spent the summer reading books, but that surprisingly required a lot of work. So I got home and didn't have any deadlines all of a sudden.

During those two weeks, I did help a pair of friends move back into the area, had a few lunches with loved ones and got to spend every day with my husband (a rare treat after six weeks of separation). So it wasn't all bad, but I was ready for some entertainment.

We spent a week at Holden Beach; there were 10.5 of us in all. I don't really count my nephew Phoenix as a full person yet because he's only 7 months old. :-) He can't even use the bathroom outside of his own pants yet, you know?
Front row (from left): Josh (brother-in-law), Jenny (sister) and Phoenix (nephew), and Ruth (grandma);
Second row (from left): Me, Bryan (husband), Patti (Mom's best friend), Gina (Mom), and Mike (Mom's beau);
Third Row (from left): John (cousin) and Kim (John's girlfriend).

We had a great time in a fantastic house. My only complaint that it was almost too relaxing. After a summer of reading, writing and sitting, I could have used some roller coaster rides or something. :-)

And then it was back to school the day after I got back from the beach. I have my own room! Laudate deos! I made it all Latin-rific; I'll try to remember to take pictures this week. Coupled with a bunch of meetings and general information overload, the week flew by and I was back to teaching again before I knew it.

And now, a week later, I am enjoying a Sunday evening with my man and anticipating one more day of relaxation before another school week begins. Frankly, it's been good. My students are focused, they've got Latin names (that I'm acutally remembering to use), and all my Latin I students seem to know what I'm talking about. So far. ;-)

Besides not having enough books for about two days, I'm feeling good about the program's direction. I'm also excited about Knightdale's direction too. Last year was such a period of transition--this year, I feel like we have overcome some major growing pains and are reaping the advantages of our "new height." Still very early, of course, but I'm loving my job, loving my family, and loving my home. Besides wishing there was more time in the day, sum laeta!

Friday, July 27, 2007

By the numbers...

No. of days in Roanoke, VA: 43
No. of classes attended at Hollins University: 24
No. of hours spent in class: 72 hours
No. of novels/textbooks read in their entirety: 29 (most were > 200 pages)
No. of articles/anthologies/textbooks consulted for papers: 26
No. of papers written: 3 (total no. of pages written: 34)
No. of presentations given: 2
No. of conferences attended: 1
No. of parties attended: 5
No. of speaker events attended: 6
No. of paragraphs in Latin translated: 3 (btw, I totally passed the foreign language exam.)
No. of visits with Bryan: 4 (no more than 24 hours each time)
No. of meals at Hollywood's (best food in Roanoke): 3
No. of letters from home: 1 (Thanks, Mayo!!)
No. of all-nighters: 0 (2AM was the latest I stayed up)
No. of gym visits: 18 (went three times a week without fail...good stress relief)
No. of miles biked: too many to count (only drove to class once; it was raining and I had to take food for a class breakfast)
No. of trails hiked: 1 (I have to work on this for next time.)
No. of laundry trips: 4 (I will never take my washer/dryer for granted again.)
No. of movies watched: 1 (theatre); 7 (home) and at least six episodes of Firefly and Veronica Mars

I had a great time, and I am so glad that I am in this program because it fulfills my personal AND academic interests. Despite the distance, the work load, etc., I am so glad I came here and I know that this is the best M.A. program out there for me. I feel very blessed to get to take part in the learning that goes on in our little mountain resort. My next entry will be my last about Hollins. I will be continuing this blog, but I will turn the focus to my normal life and my teaching experiences (the latter is often very entertaining).

I'm done!
So many books . . .

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Now what?

I know this is going to sound bizarre, but whatever.

I have nothing left to work on. Papers finished. Books read. Reflections written.

I go to class tomorrow and that's it.

I feel weird. I always have something to work on.

Oh, wait...dang it, I've got to go to the gym tomorrow before class. Bloody hel....

One Down

Made an A in sci-fi.

Heck yeah!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Still Breathing, Barely

The sci-fi paper got edited down to 16 pages...not much of an improvement but my professor said it was OK. The same day I turned that one in, I had to pretty much rewrite my other essay because I didn't like the organization. Today, I have to read my last novel and edit that same essay because I need to knock it down about 2.5-3 pages. The curse of being wordy.

Weather is super gloomy and has been for the past two days. I think it's reflecting my state-of-mind. I've been staring at a computer screen so much since HP VII that I got a headache walking into the grocery store yesterday because the lights were too bright. I cannot quite explain how glad I am that I will have three weeks of peace and relaxation before I go back to KHS. If I had to go straight into teacher workdays, I might lose my mind. I've done such things before and it always sucks and I am always exhausted and stay that way until I either make myself sick so I can catch up on my rest or I get a weekend in which I can stay in my pajamas the entire time and chill.

Tomorrow is my last sci-fi class and I might stay and watch Destination Moon (old movie) with my classmates, but that kind of depends on how far along I am with this paper by the time I go to bed tonight. Friday, we have our final farewell potluck, and then Saturday, I'm driving back to Raleigh.

I cannot believe I have been here for more than a month. I have gotten so used to my little twin bed, eating with my roommates, going to class every morning. I just can't imagine what it is going to be like to drive down Durant Rd. or go to our YMCA instead of Hollins' little gym. You get so acclimated to your surroundings when you stay some place for a while. However, I think it's going to take me about five seconds to get used to being back home. I'm coming, Muon and Quark!

Oh, and then there's that Bryan guy. I guess he wants me to come home too. :-)

Ironically, one of the first things I am going to want to do when I get home is go to the library. I'm on such a roll here that I can't imagine not reading a book a day, and, with all my future free time, I am going to have a lot of time to read. For pleasure. Ahhh... Although, I have to say that I have read every single book I was assigned. In undergrad, I definitely skipped a few, but I am in this program because I love this genre so much so I don't find it too surprising that I enjoyed 98% of the novels on my syllabi. This entry will be the last until I walk out of my last class on Friday. Then I will regale you with all the specifics of my time here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm So Dead

Sci-fi paper...17 pages.


Supposed to be 10-13 pages.

Due on Tuesday.

Stupid long topic!

At least I have a complete draft. Finally. Thank goodness.

Sooooo tired of writing.


Saturday, July 21, 2007


At 2:50PM, Saturday, July 21st, I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and, thusly, the Harry Potter series.

For some people, this sort of documentation may seem weird.

For others, it will be perfectly understandable.

Regardless, now, I must get back to work.

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's Time

It is 12:22AM, Saturday, July 21st.

I have the Potter.

I happen to be wearing my costume from our Death Day Party. I was a wizard dressed as a Muggle.

I have Pepsi. I have candy. I have mashed potatoes (don't ask). I am ready.

Commence reading!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


I just finished Walk Two Moons. It is one of those books that I have been familiar with for a long time but never actually read.

It made me cry.

The relationships seem so real and the sense of loss and honesty at the end was hard for me to deal with as I was finishing it. My only complaint is that in the course of the novel, one mother dies, one mother runs away, and one grandmother dies. Women get a raw deal in literature. In Coraline, the "other mother" was the evil one. In most fairy tales, the mother is either evil or dead or ignoring her children. In most of the Heinlein novels I have read, mothers are not important and it is the fathers who have all the knowledge and ability to help their children.

I'm not saying that we need to see a lot more dads functioning as evil characters, but some balance would be nice. I realize the evil stepmother is a popular motif in literature, but sometimes archetypes should be tweaked over time. Think about Hamlet for goodness sake! Because mothers are so important to their children, they make fantastic villains or catalysts for true grief. However, I think our culture as a whole needs to give Dads a little more credit anyway.

If I see one more commercial where some father is looking harried because his wife is out shopping and he has to look after the kids for five hours, well, I'm going to . . . . I'm not going to do anything, obviously, but I find such trends disappointing because many of the Dads I have known or know are very involved. My brother-in-law loves my nephew very much and spends a lot of time with him. He is certainly capable of watching him without my sister present. My own Dad, especially after my parents' divorce, took us on all the time without another parent present and did a great job.

So since they are capable at the job, maybe they can be evil too now, eh?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Vick Family Must be Stopped!

I love sports. College sports, that is.

When I was in middle school, I was addicted to Duke basketball. I would wear my Duke hat and sit with my huge Duke mug (filled with Country Time Pink Lemonade) and watch the tournament like my life depended on it.

I continued that fascination right up through my freshman year of college when I had to change my allegiances for NCSU for obvious reasons.

As for football, my interest fluctuated throughout high school. Frankly, I enjoyed it for social reasons in high school, but, at some point, Bryan taught me the rules and I got into it again when I was at State.

So for the past five or so years, I have been in the thick of ACC basketball and football.

Two years ago, a guy named Marcus Vick started playing for Virginia Tech's football team. He was their new star quarterback and his placement there was even more significant because he was Michael Vick's brother (who also played quarterback for VT and was now the QB for the Atlanta Falcons). NCSU played VT their first game (away) that year and all we heard on ESPN was Marcus this and Marcus that. The guy got all the hype. And how did he use his new found fame?
In 2004, he provided alcohol to teenage girls.
That same summer, he was arrested for reckless driving and drug possession (weed).
In 2005, he flicked off West Virginia fans after winning.
Later in 2005, he was arrested for speeding, reckless driving, and driving with a suspended/revoked license in VA.
In January of 2006, he stomped on the knee of an opposing player during the Gator Bowl.
A few days later, Virginia Tech dropped him from the program, but he still went into the NFL draft.
Just a few days after that, he was arrested for waving a gun at a teenager at McDonald's.

So what became of Marcus after all his misdeeds? He was picked up by the Miami Dolphins as a free agent (he did not get drafted), and he was released by them in May. So he is jobless for now. But what are the chances he will stay that way?

So imagine my SHOCK, SURPRISE, INDIGNATION, when I heard that Michael, his big brother, is just as bad.

I don't know if there are any more Vick brothers coming up the pipeline, but could we just head them off at the pass and not let them play football. Please?

I realize that some people would say that these two guys are why professional sports are a waste of time. I concur. I am not a fan of professional leagues. However there are a lot of great student athletes out there and I think NCSU has done a pretty fair job of bringing in kids who are pretty good at both. Yes, they get special privileges and a free ride, but I wouldn't want their schedule, so they are welcome to it. If you have ever been in a football stadium on a crisp Saturday afternoon where 50,000 people are all wearing the same color and cheering for the time thing, well, then you would see the appeal. And at least at the collegiate level, they still have some heart. And no evidence of steroids.

For now. :-)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Papers, papers, everywhere!

11 days.

That's all the time I have left here at Hollins.

I saw Bryan for the last time (before I go home) this past weekend. We met at the same hotel and same room in Martinsville. I think the people at Captain Tom's Seafood Restaurant think we live there now.

Bryan is making major headway on our guest bathroom renovation. Keep in mind, I did not put him up to doing home improvements while I was gone. However, our guest bath was kind of blah compared to the rest of the house, so he has painted it, put in new fixtures and tiled the floor. He's done all of this practically by himself except for about 12 hours of assistance from his brothers on the floor and shower fixtures (which are more complicated to replace than you would think).

I can't wait to see it. My mom used to do all kinds of artwork when my sister and I would go on vacation without her. We'd come back and she would have redecorated the living room. I always found it exciting to having something more than homecoming to anticipate. I haven't seen any of the changes yet, so I'll be making a mad dash upstairs the second I get home.

So what's on the docket for this week? Pulling my hair out. I have one paper to continue revising (due next Friday) and another to write from scratch (due next Tuesday). I also have just five novels left to read! Throw in some meetings, finishing my study abroad application, and, what was it, ummmm, oh yeah, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS coming out and I'll find a way to fill in the time. They're actually having a read-a-thon in one of the dorms, but I prefer to devour my J.K. in perfect quiet. Yesterday I tried to escape to the library to read in the hopes that I could avoid dozing if I read in an unfamiliar place. But one of my classmates was in the comfy couch nook so I ended up talking to her for an hour. We're a friendly and unfortunately talkative bunch here, so one really has to close oneself off to get anything done.

Which is why, in an effort to utilize my day off, I'm locking myself in my room after lunch to get a draft completed of my sci-fi paper. Wish me luck, people. I'm going in . . . .

Friday, July 13, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

So this is coming from me, Harry Potter-phile that I am.

The movie was awesome. Visually stunning. Well acted. Stayed true to the core of the series and the novel itself. And, frankly, the book was too long and the film was able to tidy up some especially drawn out parts from the text.

I do feel bad for those who see these movies without reading the books because some of this stuff must go WAY over your head, but, hey, go read the books then.

One shocking news flash during the previews--MY FAVORITE SERIES as a kid was The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. They have apparently made a movie of the second book. I had no idea that was happening. I'm not sure they have stayed faithful AT ALL to the series, but between that and Golden Compass' arrival this Christmas--it's almost too much movie magic to bear.

Also, not a good thing to see a movie where London figures prominently when you are desperate to go on a trip to London next year. Keep those toes crossed, people!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Worthy Literature

I read Holes by Louis Sachar today. After the first few chapters, I was concerned because it is obviously written for middle school kids and I wasn't sure if I would have a lot to say about it.

Books like The Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland were written for children too, but, upon rereading them, I see now how very different such books are from our modern children's literature.

Part of me wonders if we are dumbing down literature for young people because obviously 12-year-olds used to love Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie, but not many average kids pick up such books today. What's changed? Obviously, children's past times are a little different now and that certainly has an effect on what they are willing to read. I recently read an article that talked about how some schools are putting YA fiction on their summer reading lists so kids might actually read the books. Apparently, if the books aren't quick reads then they don't get read.

But after finishing Holes, I have a completely different perspective. Holes is about a curse and an outcast and someone loving himself for the first time, but it's also a masterpiece of storytelling. Because Sachar isn't just writing about someone digging holes in the desert. His narrative structure is constantly filling in the holes in the story. So Stanley survives the yellow -spotted lizards all over his body. A previous chapter has told us that he should be dead. But in the chapter after Stanley's brush with death, we find out that these lizards don't like people who have a high concentration of onion in his/her system. Well, Stanley has been eating only onions for the week he has spent in the desert with Zero. Lucky, sure. But it's amazing how Sachar weaves all these plots together into something that makes complete sense to the reader and even leaves you with a few things to think about when you're done.

So to those who say children's literature has gone to pot (I'm talking to you, Harold Bloom), I say take a second look.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In the Classroom

So this is a typical Hollins classroom:

It's basically a large conference room with as much AV equipment as you could ever desire. And this is me at 8:45AM today:
Note the seriously funky looking hair that usually results from my early morning bike ride in nice Virginia humidity.

I took my foreign language exam today, and I am very scared of failing a test in a subject that I now predominantly teach. Thus, if I fail, no one will ever know because my students need to believe that I know what I'm talking about. Heck, I need to believe that! :-)

I read Peter and Wendy for the first time yesterday; I'm really fond of Barrie's writing style--his balance of addressing his child and adult readers reminds me of Pixar's attempts to do the same in their films. He, like so many early children's writers, was a little eccentric, but it must have been hard to be a successful writer who didn't feel like a grown-up.

Today was the busiest day of my week, so I'm looking forward to things winding down. On Friday, some of us are going to see HP V in the theatre. Most of the student went last night at midnight but we just couldn't commit to being out till 3AM when we had a class in the morning, a foreign language exam in the afternoon and stacks of books to read. So it will be our end-of-week treat. As for when the final book comes out, I may have to go out at midnight to get that one. The Kroger down the street is actually having a midnight party, and it's the closest location so I'm thinking of hitting that place up for my copy. I just don't feel like dealing with hoards of little children at midnight (too many bad memories from my bookstore days). Plus some little goblin head is going to flip to the back of the book and start screaming who dies and I might lose my temper. To put it mildly.

This way I can go to the grocery store, buy my copy and some Pepsi at the same time and return home for the long haul. It's a weird choice, but, right now, it's the best I have got.

Now I have to get back to my ginormous stack of books that I have to read. Vale!
These are just SOME of the novels I've read while I've been here.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Another Monday

Today has been interesting. I'm a compulsive eater with certain items and mints are one of my weaknesses. I immediately bite into them so I finish each one in about two seconds. I was making my way through a bag of Lifesavers Wint-O-Green mints earlier when my stomach started to feel funny.

After about two hours of a very noisy midsection, I looked at the bag to see what was going on. Had I overdosed on mints? Apparently, yes, because these sugar free mints contain phenylalanine, which, if consumed excessively, can cause a laxative effect.

So, yeah . . . .

On a happier and less bathroom-focused event, I got to see Bryan again--except this time we explored Martinsville, VA! Martinsville is known for its Nascar race track and . . . .

That's about it.

This town is also somewhat close to Virginia's Fairy Stone State Park, so we thought we'd check in and head for the hills, as they say.

Bryan got there at 11 . . . I got there at 11:45 (took an early exit and GOT REALLY CONFUSED). Virginia may be a very nice state, but they don't have numbers on their frickin highway exits. What's up with that? I have yet to get someplace outside Hollins on time and I am counting the minutes till I can enter the North Carolina border and be rid of Highway 220 and its silliness.


So Bryan and I checked into the illustrious Days Inn of Martinsville, which, according to the management, has consistently received 5 sunbursts from the Days Inn Corporate Office.
Our room, which looks almost exactly like the room we had in Danville.

So we got settled and realized that neither of us felt like hiking for three hours in the Virginia mountains. So we raided the local Little Caesar's and hooked up my dorm room DVD player to the television pictured above and settled in for an afternoon of Veronica Mars. The CW Network is on my enemies list right now because they prematurely canceled this amazing show that is well written and depicts a smart female protagonist who is more than capable of taking care of herself. And what did they replace it with? Hmmm?
GOSSIP GIRL!!!!!???? @^$%@*%^@*!($^!
(edited for my younger and more impressionable readers ;-))

I am through with the CW Network. I could handle Gilmore Girls' demise, but Veronica too? They are now up there with FOX in the soulless television station list. Blah.

We had fun though watching season 2 and gorging ourselves on pizza, bread sticks and hot wings. It was awesome.
Awwww . . . .

Now, today, other than having way too many bowel movements, I have been making my way through The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Great, great book. It is a collection of stories that make up Earth's attempts to colonize Mars. Some powerful stuff (especially for the 40s and 50s) including a story where all the black people in the South go to Mars to experience real freedom, a story about a man, who, reacting to the burning of all good literature on Earth, builds a real House of Usher on Mars, and, my favorite, a story where the Martians think the Earthlings who suddenly appear on their planet are Martians who have gone insane.

It's funny and sad and so prophetic. I was always fond of Fahrenheit 451, but this book is even better because it combines some of the themes of that novel with so much more insight about the human race. Now I have to write an essay about it, and I have no idea how to focus my admiration into a few coherent paragraphs, so we'll see.

I've quoting one of my favorite paragraphs below. I wish I could write something this powerful:

"Every man, they said, must face reality. Must face the Here and Now! Everything that was not so must go. All the beautiful literary lies and flights of fancy must be shot in mid-air! So they lined them up against a library wall one Sunday morning thirty years ago, in 1975; they lined them up, St. Nicholas and the Headless Horseman and Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin and Mother Goose--oh, what a wailing!--and shot them down, and burned the paper castles and the fairy frogs and old kings and the people who lived happily ever after (for of course it was a fact that nobody lived happily ever after!), and Once Upon a Time became No More! And they spread the ashes of the Phantom Rickshaw with the rubble of the Land of Oz; they filleted the bones of Glinda the Good and Ozma and shattered Polychrome in a spectroscope and served Jack Pumpkinhead with meringue at the Biologists' Ball! The Beanstalk died in a bramble of red tape! Sleeping Beauty awoke at the kiss of a scientist and expired at the fatal puncture of his syringe. And they made Alice drink something from a bottle which reduced her to a size where she could no longer cry 'Curiouser and curiouser,' and they gave the Looking Glass one hammer blow to smash it and every Red King and Oyster away!"

The power of children's literature, folks. That's why I'm here.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

You May Have to Wipe Up My Drool

A sampling of events from the proposed London/Oxford Trip:

1) "The Magical World of Alice and Harry Potter"--a guided walking tour centered on Lewis Carroll and Harry Potter.

2) Tour of Literary Oxford to include Tolkien and CS Lewis sites.

3) Guided walking tour centered on Philip Pullman.

4) Visit the Bronte Parsonage at Haworth near York.

5) Beatrix Potter Day--take the local bus to Hawkshead and Bowness on Windermere. Visit Hill Top at Sawrey and also the Beatrix Potter Museum.

6) A J.M. Barrie Day with a trip to Kensington Gardens.

7) Train ride to the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery in Buckinghamshire.

Even if you barely know me or have only seen my classroom, you should know how much this trip would appeal to me. THANKFULLY it's within my budget. Now I just have to apply and get a spot. If you have ever so much as thrown a smile in my direction, please gather all your collective "happy thoughts" and send them my way (in your heads, of course), and maybe, just maybe, I'll get to go to Oxford and London.

In addition, if I am selected, I don't want any material gifts for the next year. If you want to give me a present, please contribute to the "Michele Goes to London" fund or get an Amazon gift certificate so I can buy my books. :-) I've never "told" people what to get me (I prefer hinting), but what I need is this trip. Not clothes. Or even household items. Bryan and I can swing the costs, but any "softening of the blow" would be received with much groveling at the feet and many, many handshakes and blown kisses. This is my only chance to study abroad and it is so geared to my literary interests that I cannot function right this moment.

Oh, and the classes (since this is, after all, school) . . .

One of them is a creative writing class on MYTH, LEGEND AND HISTORY.

Those words might as well be my middle name. I don't use Lisette for much anyway.

So this is Michele Myth Legend History DeCamp, getting offline so she can write the kickest-ass essay possible and score a seat on da plane.

Fingers crossed, people!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fourth of July

Looking back, I was surprised to see that I had not updated since Sunday. Things have been moving along at a fast clip so I guess I lost track of the day for a minute there. I think my lack of writing is partially a result of having to read two novels on Monday (Time Traders and A Wrinkle in Time) and then having my professor rework my sci-fi paper idea into something completely different that required a five-hour trip to the library for research on Tuesday.

Then on Tuesday night I got a call that definitely made me forget everything. You see, I woke up this morning with this in the parking lot:
That would be my husband's "box-like" car that I described in an earlier entry. We were talking last night about our upcoming trip to Martinsville this Saturday and got off the phone so he could go to bed. Then, about 10 minutes later, he calls me and tells me that he is coming in the morning to see me! We both had Wednesday off so he decided that he didn't want to sit around the house or see Transformers with friends when he could be visiting me. :-) Such a smart man.

We talked about what time he could get here in the A.M. when he decided that he was going to come THAT VERY NIGHT! He started rushing around getting clothes together and feeding the cats, and I got very giddy at the idea that I would see my husband again after a week and a half.

He pulled into the parking around 1:30AM; it's times like that when I am grateful that my roommates are mostly night owls who are still up that late and weren't disturbed by our sudden tramping up and down the stairs. Everything squeaks in this place. Doors. Floors. Cabinets.

We got up this morning and went for a two-hour hike on a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway and went downtown for lunch. Roanoke, despite its awful highway system and exceedingly slow drivers (my two major complaints with the town), has a thriving downtown area with a daily market and plenty of unique little shops. It was nice to share it with him and we even got matching "Bush's Last Day: 1-20-09" bumper stickers. The owner said they were very popular. Cough, cough. I can't imagine why.

He had to leave a little after 4PM so I went upstairs and talked to my lovely sister who is moving in ONE DAY to Pennsylvania. It's a bittersweet event for the family because they are moving on to very nice digs and lots of opportunities in PA but this is the first time someone in the immediate family has permanently left the state. So I'm excited for them, yay! But I'm bummed that my sister, her husband and my nephew will no longer be so close by. We take family for granted, you know? Here's my favorite picture of Phoenix, the cutie-patootie:

Phoenix, my darling nephew

Then I went to a 4th of July gathering at my apartment complex where I ate a variety of potato chips and cookies (I DO NOT do hot dogs) and played a game of Cranium with some classmates. My team won, partially because we knew that Joseph Smith followers are called Mormons and how to spell genuine backwards.

Now I'm settling in to finish Coraline by Neil Gaiman and anticipate another reunion with Bryan this weekend. I'm trying not to gush about him too much, but, man, he's such an awesome husband. Seriously. We have such a fun life together and I am overwhelmed sometimes by how much we love each other and how happy we are when we're together. I wouldn't say that we took each other for granted before this but we were very comfortable, and this experience has made us see how difficult life can be without your "favorite person" (Bryan's particular phrasing) around. Bryan is such a good man, and the fact that he would drive 3.5 hours in the middle of the night so he could sleep next to me is pretty special. End of gush. Sorry.

Tomorrow I will discuss the end of the world. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Happy Halloween!

So here are a few of my friends hanging out last night . . .
(from left: Carly (HP), Jamie (Scandinavian belle), Karen (bunny minus ears), Erin (Hermione), Me, Kate (Goddess Diana) and Valerie (Glinda the Good Witch))

When asked what I was supposed to be, someone supplied "the Baptist minister's wife on vacation." That works for me. Just call me Mrs. Falwell.

And now, for the first time, here is a close-up of my roommates:
Carly and Erin!

However, Carly's costume was really this:
She was one of the Harry Potter trading cards. It is actually an exact replica of the real card. Everyone was taking pictures of her. Second best costume was "fan-fic" Hermione who was dressed in Gryffindor attire complete with condoms hanging off her outfit because a lot of fan fiction writers include some explicit couplings between Harry and Hermione. Or Harry and Ron. Or Harry and Snape. It boggles the mind.

It was a fun night, and I got to hang out with my friends as well as my professors, including my science fiction teacher, the illustrious Chip Sullivan:
He was supposed to be Hawaiian Barbie (not a good idea to show up sans costume) but he wouldn't put on the grass skirt.

Tonight I have another party, although this one will be more low-key because it is a chance for us to meet the writer-in-residence here who will be speaking at the library tomorrow night. I have to bring something. I'm thinking rolls. :-) Or some type of cheese dip. Whatever I decide, it will not be something I have to cook. I'm too lazy for that. Plus I have to read Alice in Wonderland! I've got important things to do, people!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reading, Writing and no Arithmetic!

Today was the 13th annual Francelia Butler Conference at Hollins.

I actually helped out with a lot of different parts. I helped collect doodles from different professors, wrap said doodles, set-up the auction items and various decorations, and I even did a little skit in-between some of the readers. I had to sing. I know. You don't have to tell me.

It was a lot of fun and I'm on the "future planning committee" so I'll have an even bigger part to play next summer. That is if I don't . . .


Next week they will unveil next summer's trip to London and Oxford. OMG. It's so hard because one of my classmates who has been here for several years mentioned to me that I might be a good person to help co-run the conference next year. So there's that. But then there is a chance to study in the place where my particular field of study frickin began.

Unfortunately they only take 15 people, you have to pay a gazillion dollars on top of the normal tuition costs (keep in mind this is a private school), and I have to apply and probably write an essay to just kept a chance to go. However, unless they tell me it's going to cost more than Bryan and I agreed on, I will be trying. Maybe. Unless someone gives me a chance to do something really important for my career. So right now it's up in the air.

Back to the conference. Some of the highlights include hearing my classmates read; I especially loved the creative work and I was so thrilled that one of my pals won with her awesome story about a girl hitchhiking to a destination unknown. It was one of those great 60s stories with lots of good Southern dialect thrown in. Beautiful.

I also had fun trying to win things! We had a silent auction that raised buckets of money. I had my eye on a copy of Robert Heinlein's Grumbles from the Grave, two Chris Van Allsburg prints and a framed poster of a knight and lady. In the end, I only won the prints because I got into a bidding war with someone over the Heinlein book and when I found out who it was and we talked about it, she was willing to spend more money than me. We had to use kiddie lit. pseudonyms and I was Hermione from who know who. The prints are cool though and I imagine they will work well in some capacity some day--if anything, in my dorm room next year:
Both prints are of children sleeping. Sorry about the flash but it goes all blurry if I turn it off.

I also bought, from our in-residence craft lady extraordinaire, this frame:

It has a Peter Pan theme and it's simply perfect. I'm not sure what I'm going to use it for, but I'll think of something.

It was a fun day and I am really starting to mesh with some of my classmates and spend more time with them outside our classes. Today we are having our "Halloween in June" party and I really thought I would be checking out early on this one, but I bought some ridiculous gear and I'm going. One of my roommates is going to be a "Harry Potter Trading Card" and the other will be Hermione. Pictures will follow, but I'm not going to tell you my costume yet. You'll just have to wait.

Also, one of my favorite parts of today was meeting Michael Patrick Hearn. He wrote the Annotated Wizard of Oz and basically knows everything there is to know about L. Frank Baum. A few things he cleared up for us today:

1) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is not about early 20th century economics. The yellow brick road does not reflect the Gold Standard and Dorothy's silver shoes have nothing to do with silver values during Baum's life.
2) Dorothy was not dreaming when she went to Oz. It is a real place, at least in Baum's mind. The movie made it seem like she had been ill and that's why she dreamed it. Apparently that is not the case.
3) The man, W. W. Denslow, who illustrated the first book was partly the reason that L. Frank Baum became so popular with publishing companies, and yet he died a pauper and today very few people credit him with having anything to do with the franchise.

He's doing an annotated collection of Edgar Allan Poe's stories, which I will probably buy the second it comes out. And just in case some people don't know what I mean by "annotated," it means that he has gone back and researched EVERYTHING he can about the author, the work, its allusions, its vocabulary, etc. It's like a biography, history textbook, and novel in one.

Here's me with "da man":

Doesn't he look like the quintessential scholar?

Not to mention he's super personable. Not at all stuffy or high brow like so many scholars. You could actually have a meal with him and talk about sports or something. Very cool.

Even he seemed surprised I wanted a picture with him, but writers are my rock stars. Especially ones that can combine a knowledge of history with their own skills as a writer. Now if I could just meet Philip Pullman . . . I could die happy. For real.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Can I turn off my brain?

I'm not sure if it was a dream last night, but when I was trying to drift off to sleep I kept seeing flashes of light in front of me and hearing curse words in my head. (I know this sounds like something out of a Twilight Zone episode, but whatever.)

I turned over on my other side and the flashes went away. I drifted off shortly afterward.

While that event in itself is frightening, it's very reflective of my current state. I can't turn my brain off. I'm not going to go into all the things troubling my psyche right now, but I have way too much time to dwell on the most trivial of issues. A sampling would include:

What am I going to do with this degree?
Are my writing/thinking skills competitive enough to make a difference in this field?
What conferences, journals, call for papers, should I be hurriedly responding to?
How will I construct the two essays I've got to write?
When will I stop having to read a novel a day?

What is truly silly about these mostly rhetorical questions is that they won't matter the second I step foot on Raleigh soil again. As much as I love the mountains and the camaraderie and the discussions, we are almost too closed off here. I'm used to having day-to-day concerns, but here, other than eating, I'm left mostly to my own devices. Which, for someone apt to over thinking situations, is not a good thing. I'm going to be OK as soon as I move away from this computer and stop googling various young adult-related journals, but still . . . .

I had Tourette's for like five seconds last night. What's up with that?

And for a completely random conclusion--there's a bunny outside my window. Awwww.

Fairy Tales

I was a fairy tale junkie when I was a kid. I had my mom's old copies of Grimms and Hans Christian Anderson, which I would read over and over again. I lived for Disneyfied cartoon versions of these tales and I think I watched Aladdin about 50 times one very boring summer. Part of me just loved the cheesy romance and the other part of me loved the fantastical elements. Now I've grown up and become "the biggest feminist" that Chris Baskett (one of my students) knows. Whatever I may have believed about romance is now countered by six years of a happy but very real marriage. I still love fantasy but modern fantasy is easy to digest because many novels have strong female protagonists and there are even stories that don't feature a love interest. Thus I could give a future child any number of fantasy stories and feel that I was giving him/her good literature.

But let's review a canonical fairy tale, shall we?


This is the tale of a woman who allows her "evil" stepmother to force her into household service (wimp). She calls on birds to assist her with her chores (helpless). Then she decides that she must go to the big ball (materialistic) where she meets the man of her dreams who loves her based on her looks (shallow). Rather than show him who she really is she attempts to escape (the "real" story had her attend several balls, not just one) and the day of the last ball, she drops her shoe (dainty). After having no luck with getting the shoe on the big-footed step-sisters (thus signifying their lack of femininity which becomes their downfall), the shoe fits on the lovely Cinderella who has incredibly tiny feet (Chinese ideal). And she lives happily ever after. If I were to teach this story literally, here is what my students would (in theory) learn from it:
1) Whatever crappy things happen to you, you just have to take it because eventually it will get better.
2) That when facing any difficult task in life you will have help to overcome it (birds, fairy godmother).
3) That one must hide one's flaws (Cinderella hiding her poor attire).
4) That step-families are evil.
5) That a man will rescue you from your crappy life if you're attractive enough.

With the popularity of the Disney Princesses line, I think it's a good thing to at least look at what ideas we're introducing our children to. Admittedly, I read this tale and watched the Disney film many times as a child, and I still was able to see past the superficiality of the relationships within it. However, there are lots of little girls (and teenage girls) who believe some of these ideas about beauty and men, so not everyone hears the tale without being influenced by it.

The Cinderella "formula" has been around since the 7th century, so it does promote an ancient concept of love and a woman's place within society. In other words, it's dated. And there are several good novels out as well as the film Ever After that try to update it. But the Disney Cinderella is still out there (apparently you can buy a standee of her for $32.95 since that's where I got the picture above). Should we encourage young girls and boys to read fairy tales which often describe women as helpless until a man comes and rescues them from their various dilemmas? What's really awful is that the fairy tales that didn't follow this formula, like one called "Tattercloak," fell out of circulation in the Grimm and Anderson collections. So anything that might have offered a different perspective died out because they weren't as popular as the traditional tales.

I don't know what the answer is--there is a part of me that would want my daughter and/or son to read and watch films that do not make her/him feel like she/he has to be this caricature of womanhood/manhood. However, I grew up loving those films for their sentimentality and cute supporting actors (namely the mice or whatever creature was the hero/heroine's assistant). So why shouldn't children of the 21st century get to have their own say? I guess the compromise is to expose them to it but talk to them about what they think of Cinderella's decisions and how the story ended. I don't believe in censoring literature for language or unpopular ideas, but I also think that fairy tales can be dangerous because they don't specify a specific time or place, so in theory, they could be happening in a small European country somewhere. Whereas tales of women being mistreated in ancient Rome are historical and not timeless. We can look at them and say, "Aren't we glad it's not like that anymore!" With fairy tales, they are archetypes, so they live on forever in several chic lit. and romance books out there. Thus they stop being "once upon a time" and become very much a part of the modern world. As with all things, the discussion is necessary even if it does yield a definitive answer.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I've gotten into a very consistent routine here. I get up around 7:30AM. Do the shower thing and get ready. Eat breakfast. Ride my bike to class. Sit in class for three hours (which is easier than it sounds). Go to the gym (Mon., Wed. and Fri.). Ride back to the apartment for lunch. Read /write for two hours. Take a nap. Read/write some more. Eat dinner. Read/write some more. Go to bed.

I know. Boring, right?

The consistency can be a little unnerving at times. There is ALWAYS ANOTHER BOOK TO READ! I like reading; I would go as far as to say it's my favorite past time, but this is required reading to an extreme. Plus this weekend we've got the Butler Conference which is a student-run critical/creative paper extravaganza. We get to sit and listen to 14 folks read their papers (about 15-20 min. each) and then listen to a keynote speaker talk for who knows how long. Some of this will be very interesting. Some of it will be mind numbing. Afterwards they are having a Halloween in July party but most of the people I've talked to just laugh because most of us are probably going to go home and crash.

It's tough because I had such a good time with Bryan last weekend and as much as I will enjoy hanging out with my classmates, I will be sad that I won't be having a repeat experience of last week. :-(

In addition, I finished my first Hollins paper and I think it definitely exhibits some suckage, so I'm going to try to get my professor to give it the old once-over tomorrow and help me out because I've gotten to that place where I've read it too much and I just can't look at it anymore and be objective. As a teacher, I know how annoying it is to read long rough drafts (this one clocks in at 7 pages, which is 3 more than it needed to be), so I'll see what I can get out of her. The good news is that our class is the only thing she's working on right now so in theory she's got the free time. We'll see.

On rereading this entry, I sound maudlin and I don't mean to be--I think the fact that I have to go to the gym before class tomorrow (eek!) is weighing on me a little. Getting up at 6:30AM is too reminiscent of the school year for me. And even then I usually didn't get out of bed until 6:50. So it's going to be an early day. However they are having a screening of Serenity tomorrow night so if I get all my homework completed like a good girl then I can go. Fingers crossed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Paper Time

It's 1AM, and I'm about three pages into my first essay for Hollins. It's not due until Friday, so, no, I am not procrastinating.

Today I read my third "flying off to Mars" book for sci-fi. The only problem with this one was that it had really pathetic romance scenes in it that overwhelmed the science portions of the book. Yes, I am one of those people. The kind of people who lift up their noses to books with high-heeled shoes on them or people discussing what brand of purse THEY MUST HAVE within its pages. I hate "chic lit." as they call it. I hate romance novels. I feel that both are fluff and should be treated as such. So whenever a romance writer gets all high and mighty about how his/her work should be respected and treated with the same reverence as Joyce Carol Oates or Tom Wolfe, I want to remind them that their books feature "aching bosoms" and "shoe fetishes" and thus are not works that I would ever consider taking seriously for a split second. Sorry. It's not that we shouldn't have such books because obviously there is an audience for them, but they shouldn't be expecting to be featured in the New York Times, that's all I'm saying.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm Back!

Let's start off with the good news.
I got to see Bryan!!

The bad news is that it took me four hours to get to him. Even now I can't tell you what went wrong. On Saturday, I got in my car at 8:15AM and drove down the street to the McDonald's to get some breakfast. I turned around, got on what I thought was 220 South and happily zoned out as I thought about my upcoming reunion with "meus vir."

About 45 minutes into the drive, I noticed that none of the signs were counting down the miles to Danville or any other town in southern Virginia. In fact, they were talking about Richmond, which is in the eastern part of the state. Then I looked for a highway sign--and saw one for 64East and 81North. Huh?

I pulled over at an exit and checked out the 1990 U.S. Atlas that is in my car and I realized what was wrong. I WAS DRIVING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION! Yes, after an hour in the car, I figured out that I was going north instead of south. Somehow I had turned onto 220 North instead of south and that led me to the two interstates mentioned above. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to cry or scream because now I was going to be late AND Bryan wasn't going to know what was going on because, again, he doesn't have a cell phone.

Using my trusty atlas, I tried to figure out an alternate route so that I wouldn't have to back track all the way to Roanoke and then back down to Danville. I thought that I could take a smaller highway and cut across to an interstate that heads right into Danville, so I turned around and went south and took the appropriate exit.

However, I couldn't find the minuscule highway I needed to use to cut across, and, after pulling to the side of the road at least three times, I gave up and headed back to Roanoke.

My inner fury at that point is hard to describe now. I was so frustrated. I get to see my husband for maybe 26 hours and I just lost two of them to my own stupidity. For those of you with GPS crap in your cars, I don't want to hear it. I like my archaic way of traveling and even though some computer telling me how to get to Danville would have saved me all this grief, it would not have been as good a story. So blah.

To alert Bryan of my situation, I called 411 (sorry, Mom--you can send Bryan a bill) and called the motel we were staying at (and meeting at) to see if they could keep an eye out for him and give him the message that I was going to be about 2 hours late.

At noon, rather than at 10, I pulled into the Innkeeper's parking lot and encountered my husband coming out of a room with a smile on his face. He had gone into the office when he got there to get something to drink and they asked him if he drove a big red box-like car (my description of his Element) and gave him the message that I would be late. Apparently he was quite incredulous at first, "What do you mean she went the wrong way?" But they let him check in five hours early and watch some TV while he waited for his tardy wife to appear.

Thus, it was a very rested Bryan who greeted me. I was so happy to see him that I didn't even care we had lost two hours because we still had 24 to go. The Innkeeper actually turned out to be a decent hotel. It was the cheapest place we could find on, but it was clean and they had a decent breakfast buffet this morning. Here are some pics:
The sign I had been waiting for! For FOUR HOURS!

Our snazzy room. To be fair, it had a microwave, fridge and a king-size bed (quite an improvement from the twin I've been sleeping in for the past week).

Danville itself is not very interesting. The park I had investigated and printed out maps for was really intended for mountain bikers, and since we were sans bikes, we walked for about an hour and a half and left it at that. Danville also doesn't have a Target, which was unfortunate because I needed to buy a new bike helmet because mine is missing one of its clips. In addition, Danville has the most confusing highway system I've encountered in a while. They have a mixture of four highways with various bypass and business labels and it was not a system we could master in the 12 hours we were driving around it. We made a lot of u-turns. Thus, our feeling, at the end of our stay, was that Danville sucks and we'll be trying a different town for our next meet-up. However, they have very funny signs including this one that I snapped on the way out of town:

Needless to say, I did not see this sign stop flashing on the 40mph road it was on. I love U.S. speed limit laws.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Today one of my professors called me "incredibly intelligent." Ha. Coincidentally we dissected a children's book called Neenie Coming, Neenie Going where the protagonist is full of herself because she lives in the city now and is visiting her family on a small island off the coast of South Carolina. In one picture she looms over her grandmother and cousin because her "head is so big." So today I'm kind of like this:
Just be glad that you don't have to witness it for yourself. The whole reason it came up was because I volunteered to be on this Southern Humanities Council that one of her colleagues is operating and she has to fill out a recommendation form for me. Since she has only known me for a total of six hours of class time, I asked her if she wanted me to send her a resume or something to help her find some things to talk about. She said that she'd think about it and get back to me because she already had some sense of my abilities and that's when she gave me the ego boost that frankly I needed because I'm among a lot of very talented writers and it was nice to know someone sees some potential in me.

Now on to why I called this entry "generosity." I went to a reading tonight by Nancy Ruth Patterson who is one of the most engaging speakers I have ever encountered. Funny. Personal. Encouraging. She had "presence," as I like to say. She did say one thing that I will definitely take with me though and that is the idea that our writing should be seen as an act of generosity rather than as a means of earning an income or entertaining others. This idea goes along with her belief that writers should write their dedication page first because then their work truly is a gift to someone--the person he/she dedicated the book to. For some reason that makes my first novel easier to write because I know who I want to write the book for and I know why I want to "give" them that sort of novel. So a book that was about fun in my mind is now a testament to the way someone lived his/her life.

Tomorrow I get to see my husband, which is also why my head and smile are so big right now. I will not be updating until Sunday when I get back from the exciting town of Danville, VA, where we will be rendezvousing tomorrow in an effort to shorten a 3.5 hour drive for one person to 1.5 to 2 hour drives for both of us. I have no idea what we're going to do in Danville for 24 hours, but, you know what, I really don't care. After this visit, it will be two weeks before I see Bryan again so I am going to try really hard to enjoy every minute and leave my computer at Hollins along with whatever novel I should be reading this weekend.

I will leave you with some of Nancy Ruth Patterson's beautiful words:

"Because I do remember so many people from my own life fondly, I keep on writing, even though it is usually a struggle for me. I do not ever want the goodness I have found in life to be lost. I want the best I know of life—the strength of my mother and the optimism of my father, the goodness of my grandmother and the honesty of my grandfather, the spirit of my brother and the faith of my friends, my gratitude for my students and the encouragement from my editors—to live on through the characters in my books. I want the lives of those I love to live on through my words. That, quite simply, is why I am a writer."

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Yeah, so I played BINGO tonight. It's rough. I won twice; the first time during the oh-so-challenging "postage stamp" design game and the second during a wicked round of speed Bingo. I came away with a few fantastic prizes: 1) a $5 gift certificate to Bruester's (which is conveniently located across the street from our house in Raleigh), 2) a "girl" gift bag with assorted candies (mostly containing peanuts--obviously they've never had an allergy scare) and 3) some beautiful blue bath fizzies (their word, not mine). Oh, and my most prized prize:
Yes, that orange wrist band is all mine, ladies and gents. And notice the gender-specific bag in the background. I was not aware that only girls could utilize stickers and eat peanut M&Ms, but I won't look a gift horse in the mouth as they say.

So my science fiction paper is going to deal with the television show Firefly (which later became a feature film called Serenity). I love it when I can watch television for the sake of academia. Now, admittedly, I will have to use books too, but I'm much more excited about it now that I have some idea where I'm going.

Tonight I get to read alternative versions of Cinderella. Apparently almost half of the Cinderella-esque tales did not involve a wicked stepmother but a daddy with too much interest in his daughter, if you catch my drift. Let's say it together folks: "EEEEWWWWWWWWW." Should be exciting and slightly perverted stuff.

I have to say that Hollins is pretty awesome. The faculty members I have interacted with are really top notch and it is a very supportive environment. So supportive that I have decided to submit a critical essay and a short story to our 13th annual children's literature conference. I can honestly say, as a first year student, that my chances of being selected are REALLY SLIM, but I would feel stupid not trying. My short story may not even be eligible because it really toes the line between young adult and adult fiction. It's a black comedy that involves a young girl who likes to play "let me kill myself" for attention and because she thinks, if she ever succeeds, she might be reincarnated as a dog. Now I know some of you are staring at your computers and wondering why the heck I would ever write such a thing, but one of my classmates did a take on it while I was in undergrad and I never felt like she captured the humor she was aiming for. So I took my own crack at it a few years ago using a journal/letter/email format to add some suspense. Obviously it's a hit or miss type piece because people will either think it's hilarious or think I need to be hospitalized myself. So we'll see how that turns out. If my classmates start giving me concerned looks on Monday, I'll know what they thought. :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Tonight I went to a storytelling event at the library that was awesome. This kind of storytelling is basically where someone creates fables and presents them as monologues (with all the voices included). They do everything from memory which is quite a feat since they have to tell it like a "story" but do it all off-the-cuff. The funniest was this guy who told his own version of Hansel and Gretal where their mother was a pirate and their dad sounded like Apu from The Simpsons. Hansel and Gretal had southern accents and the old witch's house was made of monkeys with bananas for windows. Apparently, the storyteller, Ricky, is a 3rd grade teacher. I would pay serious money to have him teach my future children. For real. Every time I think of the mom saying "Aaargh," I crack up.

My second class did turn out to be as good as I thought. My professor is funny; she had us answer the following questions to introduce ourselves:
1) A movie I never want to see again...
2) A word that I hate is...
3) My least favorite food is...
4) A celebrity I would like to smack up the side of the head is...

I answered Anchorman for the first one because Will Ferrell is great in small doses, but that movie was too much of the same bad jokes over and over again. I hate the word "fine" because it's too nondescript and it simply means that you're not telling me how you really feel. I will NEVER eat veal because it's cruel that they chain calves at birth for our eating pleasure, and, as much as I hate to give her more publicity, I really think Lindsey Lohan needs to stop doing pretty much everything that she's doing. I really loved The Parent Trap remake and even mimicked her voice for fun whenever I had to sound British, so her fall from grace has been very bizarre for me as an early fan of her work. For those who comment regularly, what would your answers have been?

I have to say that I'm handling the pace pretty well although my sleep schedule is messed up. I have class from 9-12PM and then I usually go to the gym or various meetings and then I come home for lunch and settle in for whatever reading I may have to do. Inevitably I doze off for an hour or more while doing so because it's kind of cold in my room and I end up getting under a blanket on my bed and the sun is up and it's cozy and before I know it the books on the floor and I'm fast asleep. Thus I am not tired again till midnight or later so I get all this nervous energy, right about now in fact, and end up getting everything ready for the next day. I guess it's a very "college-like" schedule, but for someone who has been in the working world for two years, it feels indulgent. For those of you who can't take naps, I'm sorry. We need to become more like Spain because it really is the way to live. A little siesta and everything is right with the world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

So Behind

Today I realized that I do not know a lot about science fiction. Sure I know that Frankenstein is considered the first sci-fi novel by many and that the genre has gotten a pretty bad rap from high-brow critics, but I never realized just how knowledgeable some people are about the writers and critics within the genre itself.

Thus, I felt a little behind today as I listened to my classmates, some of whom have already been published in this field, discuss so and so's critique versus so and so's. The problem is that I'm not behind in regards to other first-year students, but some people at Hollins seem to never leave.

I've met one student who is hoping to take nine years to get her degree (this is a summer program so that's not as alarming as it would be if we were here all year). I've met another who already has an M.A. from Hollins and is now working on her M.F.A. (Masters in Fine Arts). There was one student in my class (the well versed one on sci-fi criticism) who actually is done with her thesis and has graduated. She just felt like showing up for the class today. I really thought I would take my coursework over three summers, do my thesis in the Fall following my last semester here and be done. I still plan on doing that (don't worry Bryan), but all of these very senior students make the gap between their experience and ours all the more apparent. If I weren't so anal retentive, such a gap would not bother me. I'd be happy to bask in their knowledge and learn from them. But I'm not naturally like that. The competitive side of me makes me want to try to outdo such people even when that is not possible nor beneficial. It took me two years to get over the idea that I could be the "best teacher." I didn't understand at first that having multiple good teachers is far better for the students and the community as a whole. Now I'm trying to get my brain around the idea that I'm new at something again (much like I was when I first matriculated into college) and that I just need to chill. Heaven help me if I make a B.

By the way, I'm not proud of my neurosis about grades and competitions. I consider it to be my biggest fault and I would love for someone to just knock me out some day and hypnotize me to feel differently because it's exhausting to always worry about "my rank." I am going to have to work very hard to not pass on this trait to any future children because we don't need a third person in the household behaving this way.

Tomorrow is the class that I am more comfortable with --the History of Children's Criticism. It is also a class with just first year students, so I will not be encountering more Van Wilders for which I am most grateful.

I forgot to mention yesterday the passing my first cat, Figaro. For the past six years he has been living with my in-laws because Bryan and I couldn't have pets in our first apartment. Once we could have pets, Figaro was around 15 years old and very comfortable with his new home so we got a new cat instead (Quark, who has been terrorizing us for two years now). Figaro was now 17 years old and had developed liver cancer so my mother-in-law had him put to sleep yesterday. It's hard because if he had remained my cat for the past six years this event would have devastated me because he was such a big part of my growing up. However, I had compartmentalized the situation to the point where I saw him more as the Millers' cat than mine these days. Thus, I am sad, and I wish I had a picture of him to look at now that I know he's gone, but I know that she made the right decision.

Figaro was my "alarm clock" when I was younger because around 6 or 7 in the morning, he would start howling for someone to wake up and feed him. Recently we stayed with the Millers and were dismayed at 7AM to find out that he had not lost the habit. Sure enough he started howling when the sun came up and then proceeded to use the litter box (which was in the room we were staying in) just to make his needs especially clear to us. So my last memory of him brought me full circle. I guess that's all the closure I'm going to get.

Monday, June 18, 2007


The good news is that Prasanna Thwar (who turned out to be a guy, go figure) did not donate my books to his favorite elementary school. Rather, he kept them and returned them to my husband this evening. Crisis averted.

As for my first day as a graduate student, it went well. I've gone green for starters. Yes, Michele is no longer using a vehicle to transport herself to class. I am using my bike. The apartments are close to the university and they have an underground path for walkers so I have found it very easy to get around. I haven't tried taking it to my local Kroger yet, but I need some yogurt so that may be happening soon. There is no way I could get around Raleigh on a bike so I'm living out a fantasy of mine where I don't have to depend on a car to live out my day-to-day life. I feel very European and I'm sure I'll be bemoaning my commute on I-540 when I return home. Everyone can look forward to my sanctimonious rants come August.

Today was the usual orientation cycle--welcome to the program, here's how to use a computer and here's the library and all the comfy spots to sleep while you pretend that you're studying. The computer orientation was redundant but most people from my generation and after find computer instruction from 40-year-olds rather humorous. "This is how you change your password." "This is how you check your e-mail." I played along like a good little student but I think most of us were checking our e-mail when she was teaching us how to turn our computers on.

I have met many of my classmates and they are a varied bunch. They're from all over--California, Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida, etc. Hollins is a big draw for my field, and I feel like I'm at Duke again where being somewhat local was actually out of the norm.

Tomorrow is my first day in an actual class--Gender in Science Fiction with Dr. Sullivan. I love breaking down some archetypal hero stories, so this should be fun. We're reading a lot of middle school-aged works, so I can't say I'm familiar with Space Station Rat, but I'm sure I will find some things to say about how it engenders its protagonist. I've already deconstructed Charlotte's Web and how it actually demonstrates the fickle natures of young people, so I'm on a roll. I promise I will just read the books to my children and not tell them all "my opinions" about them, but once they're 13 and up, it's on. Just wait, Phoenix (my nephew)!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

I did want to take a moment and reflect on the fact that today is Father's Day and last year at this time I had just finished scattering some of my dad's ashes in the Atlantic Ocean.

I know my dad was very firm on me going to graduate school and pursuing my writing career, and I'd to think that this experience fulfills some of his own dreams for me. I wish I had something profound to say about fatherhood and my dad; all I have is something I wrote right after he died:

Some little girls think their fathers are superheroes. They envision their fathers as the best of men—strong, consistent, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

My father was a superhero. His costume was a breathable hiking shirt, tear-away pants and a red bandana tied around his forehead. His weakness wasn’t kryptonite though; it was his heart, which was so full with his love of life that it could not sustain him more than 55 years. He lived strong and now we all must live strong for him and for ourselves.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

New Digs

Wow, so that was really hard. After roughly 24 hours of Roanoke fun, Bryan left to go do his own grocery shopping, make sure our cats don't die from starvation and to prepare to go to work again tomorrow. Now I'm sitting here at a wooden desk in front of a dirty window and wondering what the next six weeks are going to be like. But let's begin at the beginning....
Me leaving home.

The trip was relatively peaceful, but Roanoke is an interesting place to get to from Raleigh. We drove through the downtowns of several small communities including Hillsborough and Yanceyville. Both were thrilling, let me assure you. The scenery was mostly funeral homes and missionary Baptist churches along with a scattering of ramshackle farm houses and random elementary schools. We made a few missteps, which was fun because we only have one cell phone between the two of us so if the other one realized that something was amiss, we had to honk and gesture wildly or pull up alongside the other car and shout through closed windows. Our lack of cell phone comfort comes in handy in times like those for sure. However, and I wish I had a picture of it, the most interesting thing I spied along the drive, besides a defunct gas station with unleaded gas for $1.01, was a sign that read: "Thieving Bastards Burn in Hell." Someone obviously has an ax to grind. Poor fellow.

My first view of Hollins' campus.

The front of my apartment. Gulp.

Our "great room." I think those chairs have seen better days.

My chosen bedroom. I got there first and had the pick of three bedrooms. One of them had its own bathroom and two beds for some reason, but I went with a normal size one because I didn't want to be "the girl who took the biggest bedroom." When my first roommate got here, she said the same thing. So now Erin, who has yet to appear, will get the large bedroom by default. Such manners!

My room with my stuff in it.

My room fully decorated. Now this room is proof that I am both my mother and father's daughter. This is what my room looked like after about an hour of being at the apartment. That proves that I'm my mother's daughter because she nests like nobody's business when she comes to a new place. That end table with the printer on it proves that I came from my dad because it is actually one of the end tables out of the living room. Considering the living room's condition and the fact that no one was there yet, I figured they wouldn't miss it. And it makes such a nice table for my printer!

More room.

Last part of room.

Bryan was an amazing help. He helped me unpack all my stuff, got my computer online, got my new printer working, bought me a television so I could rot my brain a little while I was gone, and hooked it up to the cable line in the other room. He hung up all my posters and rearranged the furniture in my room. When I went to Duke, my mom moved me in and Bryan visited during orientation. Now he's my husband and he gets to do it all. He knew that it was important that I make my room home, especially since this apartment is more like Kensington Park (our first apartment in Raleigh) than our current home. He was awesome; no other way of describing it.

After a massive grocery trip and the unfortunate, but necessary, visit to Wal-Mart, we got around to celebrating our anniversary. We tried to recreate our first anniversary with a trip to Outback, not knowing Roanoke's dining options. However the wait was 80 minutes because we were young and stupid and had our wedding on the same weekend as Father's Day. So we ended up at a Mexican restaurant with outdoor seating. It was nice and chill, but it made me wish we were in some island paradise rather than in a surprisingly southern town in Virginia. I've heard stronger accents here than in New Bern.

Today we actually walked around Hollins' campus and figured out where my classrooms would be, the library, etc. Here are some highlights:
This picture shows one of the paths near a cluster of theatre buildings. It's very liberal artsy. Meaning nice trees, beautiful buildings and lots of flowers. Pretty much the anti-NCSU. :-)
Me, traveling the campus.

The view from the library. Gosh, what a drag to have to spend six weeks with views like these.

My home, 9-12PM, Tuesday-Friday. Yay school!

Now I'm left with a sizable stack of books to read and a lot Lean Cuisines in the freezer. This first week will be rough until I get some type of routine in place, but I'm excited that I'm finally getting to go the kind of school I should have gone in the first place. I love NCSU and I have no regrets on that point, but this experience is more than just a master's degree to me--it's a chance to have the college experience I didn't get to have at Duke (because they suck).

I'll leave you with some...LATIN!
It's the motto of Hollins University. Five bonus points to whoever can tell me what it means!