Thursday, May 06, 2021

You Can See the Light from Here

 I am almost done grading -- half of both Comp II classes remains to do. Also I have to go to commencement on Sunday. Once those are done, I am done. ALMOST THERE.

It's beautiful weather here today, especially given that it's May 6: cool and sunny, with a racket of birds.

May 6th is also the kid's birthday. Right now 23 years ago, I was in a hospital in Pocatello, ID, and the kid was not...quite...born. There was a thunderstorm booming outside the window, and my mother had just arrived from New Orleans to be with me during the birth. (Dr. Skull was there too, but I wanted my mother.)

It's funny how clearly I can remember that day. The kid was born at 6:20 p.m. and they left him with me for a couple of hours. Around ten p.m. they took him to put him in the nursery, except I could hear him crying -- already I knew his cry from all the other babies -- so I walked down there and made them give him back.

He was ten days early, and so little, but so alert. His cry was like a little mouse squeak. In fact, we called him "Mouse" for the first month.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

May in Arkansas

 Big storm last night -- a tornado hit Roland, OK, which is over near where I used to live. Here, we just got wind and rain and very impressive thunder. A big branch came down from one of the trees, and lots of little branches and leaves.

Plus the power was out from about ten p.m. to two a.m. We have two emergency lanterns, both battery powered. One of these worked, but not the other. Worse, the battery on Dr. Skull's CPAP failed. He tried sleeping sitting up in the big white chair for awhile, but that was impossible, and finally he went back to bed and slept (or tried to sleep) without the CPAP.

I was on the couch, trying to sleep without the AC. This was after the storm had passed through. While it was still going on, there was too much thunder and sturm to sleep.

Power is back now. A front is going through as we speak, and this evening is supposed to be in the 50s. That's May in Arkansas!

Monday, May 03, 2021

May in Arkansas

 It's nearly 90 here today and very humid. 

Plus the local water company has been doing SOMETHING all week on our street -- I don't know what. Not laying new pipe, I know what that looks like. Maybe cleaning out the old pipes?

Whatever it is, it's very noisy and requires immense trucks to block the street from about six a.m. to five p.m. The little dog wakes me up barking wildly every morning, because GUYS are in his YARD.

I've been grading all day today. My least favorite part of the job.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Academic Papers

 XKCD did a thing, and now Twitter is running with it.

Economics Papers:

Sociology Papers:

Archeology Papers:

More here: Types Paper

Even more here!

Friday, April 30, 2021

All over but the Grading

I taught my last classes yesterday; today I spent writing and grading portfolios submitted by various students. About 1/3 of my students stopped coming or doing any work sometime in March. (I haven't done an actual count.) This will give me less to grade, clearly, but I'm still bummed about it.

I reached out, repeatedly, to students who weren't coming to class or doing the work. Those who responded told me about their workloads, or illnesses in their family (sometimes Covid, sometimes other illnesses), or problems with lost jobs which made it difficult for them to drive to campus/keep their laptops and internets working. Several are also suffering from depression, which, no shock there.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I offered to work with them, showed them the work they needed to do to at least pass the class, and sent follow-ups. Only a few of them got back on track. 

We're going back to f2f in the fall. Here's hoping that will help.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


 I have suffered from insomnia all my life -- one of my earliest memories is wandering around my house at well past midnight, getting snacks from the refrigerator in the dark kitchen and playing with my toys in the light from the streetlight, as it shone through the living room window. 

I couldn't read yet, so I was probably four years old. One reason I'm a writer, I suspect, is because I got through those long nights by making up stories to tell to myself.

Anyway. For awhile I managed to control the insomnia with melatonin. But now it's ba-a-ck, but in a weird new form: I fall asleep, usually before one a.m., but then I just skim the surface of sleep, waking every ten or twenty minutes, never falling into deep sleep.

A benefit (I guess) of sleeping this way is I can remember all my dreams. How useful that would be if I were in therapy now!

My dreams are very bloody, but also very cheerful. Make of that what you will.

I plan to call my physician and see if she will give me some sleep drugs.

Monday, April 26, 2021

One More Week

 We're in the last week of classes now. 

It was a long semester. I can honestly say that I hate teaching online -- although one benefit was the discovery that doing "conferences" via Google Classroom was much more effective.

I used to hold one-on-one conferences with the students over every paper. This took about two weeks, and was exhausting, but was fairly effective in improving their papers. It also let me teach them how revision* works. 

This semester, since I couldn't meet with students one-on-one, I had them submit their papers to Google Classroom, and then I read them and sent feedback. Then they resubmitted. Then I sent feedback again. And so on.

This took much less time, and also seems to have been more effective at getting students to take direction. I suspect that some of them had trouble hearing what they were being told in person. Also, I can go into more detail on GC, because of its comment functions.

Anyway, that was useful information. 

I also taught Intro to Creative Writing for the first time in about a decade. It was more fun than I expected. I enjoyed teaching poetry writing, which -- as it turns out -- I know more about that I suspected.

Still, I am glad this semester is ending, and glad (if a little worried) to not have summer classes. I need a break.

*Some people will tell you they don't need to revise their writing, and some percentage of those people are actually correct. But those people I would excuse from conferences, and the rest were very much helped by having feedback and close-readings of their texts.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunny Sunday

 Cat on the porch:

It's been rainy and cold here all week, but today we have sunshine. The cats are pleased.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Tale of Two Bretts


Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect...

ETA AGAIN: And this:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Review of The Relentless Moon

 My review of The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal, is live at Strange Horizons.

Spoilers: I liked it, with some quibbles.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


 Now I have a swarm of bees in my yard (hanging in the tree-that-might-be-a-Japanese-Cherry-tree). 

That's plague, screeching owls, and now swarms of bees. Hail and cattle disease, coming right up.

I asked the internet, which gives me conflicting advice. Most say to leave the bees alone for a little while and see if they leave -- they're looking for a new home, and will probably go find one if I don't bother them.

Others say they will die if it freezes, which...the low tonight is supposed to be 30 degrees. (In April! In Arkansas!)

There's a hive in one of the other trees, and I suspect this swarm came from there. I'm going to call the county extension office if the swarm is still there when I get home today. (That's the advice most of the internet gave me.)

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Screeching Owl

 A barn owl is living in one of the trees in my yard -- or maybe two owls.

Their screams are pretty terrifying. The first time one screamed, I thought, holy shit, is that an alien being tortured?

Like that, only really fucking LOUD.

April in Arkansas

 It's winter here again -- a frost warning for tomorrow night. (I am worried about my tomato plants.)

Mind you, I am enjoying the unseasonably cool weather. Usually by this time we are hard into summer and I am spending $$$ on air conditioning. Yesterday I had to put on the heat.

We filed our taxes. Only owed the state $58 dollars, and might get something back from the Feds -- which is better than a few years ago, when we owed them money.

Meanwhile our Biden buck finally arrived. I am saving them up against this summer, when I have no classes and also the new system used by the university is apparently going to fuck up my pay. 

They "can't" do a 12-month pay schedule anymore. So either I'm not getting paid this summer at all, or I'm getting 3 paychecks in June and then nothing until a half-check in August. Then next year, it's a 9-month pay schedule, though apparently they're going to set up some scheme by which we can "opt" to save 25% of each paycheck, and then...get all of that in June?

Also they'll be taking our part of the health insurance costs out in 9 lumps into of in 12 lumps.

Theoretically, it will be the same amount of money, just distributed weirdly. I am waiting to see what happens de facto. And hoarding cash, just in case.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

My Father

 It's been nearly three months since my mother died, back at the end of January. 

In the weeks after her death, my brothers and SILs (who since I live six hundred miles away had to deal with everything) learned just how serious my father's memory problems had become. Apparently my mother had been covering for him for years.

Though in fairness, I think he has deteriorated a lot in the past year. It was during this past year that my mother began mentioning to me how much trouble he was having, and asking me -- after they visited -- if I noticed how different he was. (I did.)

In any case, my SIL and nephew took him to a neurologist, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. We've got him in an assisted living facility now, which luckily his combined pensions and Social Security will pay for. He's physically very healthy, but he can't remember things -- he still has trouble remembering that my mother is dead.

This is all very depressing, I have to say. My father was a brilliant man -- his intelligence, his mind, was his strength. Now he can't remember how to charge his phone.


Marie Howe


We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store   
and the gas station and the green market and   
Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,   
as she runs along two or three steps behind me   
her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.   

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?   
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?   

Today, when all the errands are finally done, I say to her,   
Honey I'm sorry I keep saying Hurry—   
you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.   

And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking    
back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,   
hurry, hurry, taking the house keys from my hands.


Cold Spring

 We're having an abnormally cool spring here this year, which I am all in favor of -- usually by this time, we're seeing temperatures in the 80s and 90s. And we did hit 80 here last week. But mostly we're having mid-sixties, and lows in the 40s and 50s at night.

It's very nice. More of this, please!

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Re the Hate Bill

 Conservative bigots are so concerned* about damage being done to children, except of course when it is damage they approve of. See this thread here, and this one here, but I'm sure all y'all can fill in your own blanks**. 

*Spoilers: They are not actually concerned about the lives of trans kids. They're deeply pleased at the harm they are doing to trans people, and trans kids in particular. Their faux pretense of concern hides giggling glee at being able to hurt trans people and especially trans kids. That's how bigots work. That's what they are.

**For example, forcing 12 year old rape victims to continue their pregnancies, despite the damage that will do to their bodies; allowing young girls to take such things as ballet, despite the risk of harm that does to their bodies; letting children of 17 and 18 enlist in the armed forces in order to pay for college -- I can go on.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

On the Other Hand

Duolingo is beta-testing Yiddish on its platform.

And my writing students are writing the best Bredlik poems.

And my kid does amazing art:

So, you know, not everything is terrible.

Bigots Surging

 As most of you probably already know, our state legislature overturned our governor's veto on the hate bill. This is all virtue signaling -- the ACLU is already planning to challenge this "law," and will certainly win handily, given that the bill clearly discriminates against one class of people. 

That is to say, for example, we can give puberty blockers to cis kids, and parents of cis kids can get them whatever therapy and plastic surgery they desire; it's only trans kids who can't, and parents of trans kids who are forbidden by the state from seeking medical and psychological help; and doctors are only forbidden by the state from providing needed medical care to trans kids.

The GOP and other bigots are showing their true colors here, of course. No government overreach, they howl -- unless that overreach allows them to hurt the people they hate. Then it's fine.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, their legislature is voting to make it a crime for a medical professional to do anything that allows a trans kid to "present themselves" as their actual gender. And it will force teachers to report any kid who seems "gender non-conforming." 

This is utterly sickening. The fact that these laws can't stand does not erase the fact that citizens of my country think such vile bigotry is just dandy.

Ten years from now, every single one of these hateful vipers will be claiming they "have no problem" with trans people, and that "of course" trans people should have equal rights, and that "of course" no one sane thinks otherwise. 

None of us are going to forget, though. I promise you that.

ETA: More here

Monday, April 05, 2021

Hutchinson Comes Through

Our governor vetoed the hate bill.

Arkansas’ governor has vetoed legislation that would have made his state the first to ban gender confirming treatments for transgender youth. 

So that's some good news!

Cover Reveal!

 Aw, look! It's the cover for my new book:

Coming in September, y'all!

More here.

Come the Fall

 We've just found out that our university is not just going totally f2f in the fall, but that we're no longer going to be doing the alt.hybrid thing.

(The alt.hybrid thing is when you teach the class half online and half f2f -- so like half the class comes on Tuesday, and half on Thursday, and most of the work is done online.)

I'm extremely pleased. True, the part where I get to do most of my work squirreled away in my house like the introvert I am was very nice. But on the other hand, teaching this way (mostly) does not work. Students are less engaged and less interested, and about half of mine have checked out entirely -- they don't come to class even on the days they're scheduled to, and they have quit doing any of the work.

Since much of the work is online, some of them seem to think they can just put off doing the work until the last few weeks of class, and then "catch up." But that's going to be impossible.

One good thing that may come out of this: maybe university administrators will stop claiming that online teaching is the future of the university. Because, bah.

Saturday, April 03, 2021


 My yard is filled with violets:

Also these flowers:

Also bees, though I didn't get a picture of those.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Being a Good Parent to Your Trans Kid

 This thread is pretty good:

Starts here: 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What I was Saying

 They don't care about women's rights, and they don't care about rape, and they could not care less about "protecting the children." They just want to be bigots.

See also this:


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Telling Lies to Further Bigotry

 I've had more than one person earnestly explain to me that this bill in Arkansas is good because parents were "chopping off" the sexual bits of their kids, or else forcing them to take "drugs" to change their sex.

(1) No

(2) Also no

One gleeful bigot puts it like this: Parents are "chopping the breasts off of teenage girls."*

And another tells me that parents are doing this because they aren't happy with the little boy or little girl that was born to them, so they force their kids to change to the other gender.

(3) No

(4) Good Lord, no

The thing is, giving kids puberty blockers is done for all sorts of reasons, as is hormonal treatment (including parental convenience. Note that this is the only actual case of a pre-adult child having her "breasts chopped off.")  The Arkansas law only prohibits giving these drugs to trans kids. This is obvious and blatant discrimination. And fortunately the ACLU is on it.

Most "transitioning" done before the age of 18 involves things like allowing the child to wear their hair the way they like, and dress the way they like; calling the child by their new name, and using the preferred pronouns.

Nothing in that is either appalling or radical. But the bigots can't run with that, since they know how silly they would look, so they make up hateful lies and repeat them endlessly.

Like Goebbels, they know if they tell a big enough lie and repeat it often enough, people will believe it. And that it helps if you can get the state to enforce that lie.

*I will not provide citations to any of these disgusting liars. Bigots don't get clicks. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Transparent Bigotry

 Watching conservatives pretend to care about free speech is adorable, since all of us can remember (and see in action) all the times they "cancelled" people for their speech. Right now, it's Lil Nas X. Twenty years ago, it was the Dixie Chicks.  Out in Idaho right now, the legislature is passing laws defunding the universities if they dare to teach anything which is not conservative propaganda. But sure, some adolescents being mean to people on Twitter, there's the real problem.

Watching conservatives pretend to care about women in sports is similarly adorable, given that most of us can remember how vicious they were (and still are) about Title IX and funding women in sports.

Watching conservatives pretend to care about rape, so long as it gives them an excuse to strip the rights from trans people -- same thing.

Right now, pretending to give a shit about child abuse, my legislature is passing a law which will make it illegal for parents to provide medical care for trans kids; and for trans people of any age to use insurance to get medical care; and will allow all medical providers to refuse to treat trans people at all. 

"It's to protect the children," they declaim piously, these same people who believe beating kids is just good parenting, and that twelve year olds should be compelled to carry their rapists' pregnancies to term. Because they care so much about children. 

They're not fooling anyone with their transparent bigotry. And frankly I don't even think they're trying to. They know exactly what they're doing. (Well, maybe not Rod Dreher. He's about as self-aware as a fucking rock.) They think co-opting the language of social justice ("Are you assuming my vaccination status?" one of them asked on FB this morning) is hilarious.

I find all of this extremely depressing. I used to have hope for this country, but being surrounded by hateful bigots is really taking a toll on me.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Summer, My Enemy

 Ugh, it's already summer here. 82 degrees and sunny.

Who ASKED for it?

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Why I love the Internet


In case you are not familiar with the Bredlik form, here is an explanation. And here is more.  Also, in case you've been living in a cave, the internets have lost their mind over the boat in the Suez Canal.

I am thinking of making my intro to creative writing students write one of these poems. We're in the poetry half of the semester, I'm focusing on form, and this is a new form which likely would not have happened without internet, so it seems perfect.

On the other hand, they get so upset whenever something isn't written in Standard English. Some of them literally can't read anything that plays with language this way -- at least, they say they can't ("I couldn't understand it! It took me an hour to read the first paragraph!") and I've begin to stop doubting it.

I gave them "The Semplica Girl Diaries" to read a few weeks ago (when we were still doing fiction) and they were destroyed. (Not because they liked it, or found it devastating: because they literally could not read it.)

Monday, March 22, 2021

Help Me Identify My Tree

UPDATE: My tree in the sunlight:


Here's what it looks like from afar:

Here's what the flowers look like close up:

I'll post more tomorrow if we get some sunlight!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Spring in Arkansas

Everything is starting to bloom. The pear trees are filled with blowing white blossoms, and tiny wildflowers carpet lawns. Redbuds are budding. Some sort of tree filled with what looks like purple tulips is everywhere. The violets and the spiderwort are not yet blooming, but the tree in my yard (which I have not yet been able to identify) put out its yellow-white flowers yesterday.

This time of year is lovely -- not too hot, with crisp air and sunlight -- but I always know it means summer is coming, and wow, do I hate summer in Arkansas.

I'll be here now, I guess.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

What I'm Reading

 I've been reading a lot, but failing to keep track of it. Low bandwidth. This is the worst time of the semester -- just before and after midterm -- which is why we put spring break here. Our school is still having spring break, thank God; but the kid's cancelled theirs. He's having a hard time.

Here are some things I've been reading:

Sarah Gailey, The Echo Wife

This is a novella-length novel, as was the last Gailey I read (Upright Women Wanted). This -- publishing novellas and pricing them like novels -- seems to be a new trend in the SF world. I got this one at the library, but nevertheless it's not a trend that makes me happy.

Still, this is a good novel(la). The main character is a scientist, who has developed a way to both create clones and install (some) of the memories of the host into the clone. These clones are then used as body-doubles for politicians, for instance; when the need for the double is over, the clones are "disposed of." The main character, Evelyn, had an acrimonious break up with her husband, Nathan, a scientist who is not quite the world-class scientist she is; one bone of contention between them was her refusal to have a child and "take a few years" off doing science to raise it. Early in the novel, she finds he has made a clone of her, and that the clone is pregnant.

The science here is kind of science-y, but good enough not to get in the way of the story. The real interest in the novel lies in Evelyn's character, and in her relationship with both Nathan and the clone, Martine. Evelyn, we soon learn, is something of a sociopath and very much an unreliable narrator. Then we learn why: both her father and Nathan emotionally abused her; her father physically abused her as well. She's become what she is as a kind of protective camouflage.

And then she has to deal with Martine. This changes her, and watching the slow, prickly growth that Evelyn experiences through the narrative is the best part of the story. Not that she is cured, or healed, or fixed, by having to come to terms with Martine. But she is changed.

Good writing here, and an excellent look at what happens to character under abuse.

Emily Tesh, Drowned Country

A sequel of sorts to Silver in the Woods. Equally charming. I like the mother in this one. This is fantasy, with magic creatures and magic monsters. Not usually my sort of thing, but the characters here, and Tesh's worldbuilding, make me like these.

Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire

This is a re-read for me, because the sequel has come out, and I wanted to remind myself of the intricate world Martine built before I plunged into it again. A slow start, as I had remembered, but then very compelling. If you like political novels that are also science fiction (this is my sweet spot), you'll like this one. Give it about 20 pages before you quit, though. When I say slow start, argh, it's glacial.

Waiting eagerly for my library to get the sequel, since we're too broke to buy books right now.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Car Diagnosis

 Not a leaky hose -- a broken cooling fan. 

Not too expensive, though: less than $400. Whew.

I'd been saving up money against the medical bills which we will owe (we're still negotiating with the hospitals), so we have $400. 

This is what it is like being lower middle class*. You manage to save, by scrimping and doing without, and then boom, some disaster strikes, and there goes that money.

I mean, I'm better off than if I hadn't saved the money (I would have had to put the repair on one of the credit cards I have been painstakingly paying off over the past two years). But it's discouraging.

 *And of course it's much worse for those who are actually poor, like many of my students. An unexpected $400 bill for most people is a disaster they might not recover from.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Biden Bucks!

 According to the IRS site, my Biden Bucks are coming on my birthday.

Best news ever!

A Year Ago

 This time last year, more or less, we were told by our university to warn students that all classes might move to remote delivery after Spring Break.

I remember talking to my classes and one of my students (who is immuno-compromised) going wide-eyed with panic. "I think I should leave," she said, and told me why. (I hadn't known until then.)

And I remember how we all thought it would be over by June. July at the latest.

I remember how a thousand deaths seemed like a lot.

Right now our university is determined to return to f2f in the fall. And as of yesterday, 530,693 people have died in the US.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Why Is This So Depressing?

 My car broke down today -- probably a split hose in the coolant system, the tow truck driver says. The gushing steam was very dramatic.

We have AAA, and if it is a hose, that probably won't be very expensive to fix. And yet I am mortally depressed.

Which always happens when my car breaks. Why is it so depressing? I have no idea.

I'm going to eat a bagel and see if that helps me feel better.

Thursday, March 11, 2021


It's not even spring yet (officially), and already the weather here has turned hot and humid.

I had to put the AC on last night so we could sleep. On March 10.


On the plus side, the daffodils have started blooming.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Checks Out


New Post up at Cooking with delagar

 This one goes out to the kid, who wants to make lasagna at home:

My Lasagna

Friday, March 05, 2021

Annual Evaluation Time

 It's that time of year, when we turn in our annual evaluations.

I hate this with such a passion. I don't mind the part where we list what we did during the year -- published this, sat on that committee -- but we also have to write little narratives, explaining how our teaching methods were improved and how we responded to student feedback and GOD I hate this part.

That's bad enough, but over the past two years our university has decided we should fill out spreadsheets -- each thing you could possible have done as a faculty member (in theory) is listed and assigned a numerical value. Then you go through the spreadsheet and check little boxes, for everything you have done. Then you get a score, and voila, you've been evaluated.

I suppose this makes someone happy somewhere. For me, the hardest part is figuring out how to save the fucking spreadsheet once it's filled out.


Thursday, March 04, 2021


 I put a new bowl of water out for the cats, because they will ONLY drink water if it is ABOLUTELY fresh. None of this 20 minute old water.

Anyway, Jasper galloped up to drink it, stuck her nose in too far, and sneezed. I laughed, and both cats gave me long stares of affront. "How dare you," those looks said. "Cats are not funny."

Monday, March 01, 2021

Vaccination Part II Achieved

 This morning at dawn (okay, eight o'clock) I received my second dose of vaccine. So far, despite the rumors, no side effects to speak of. (A little ache at the vaccine site.)

Mainly I'm concerned about whether this vaccine will protect us against the variants. I'm seeing mixed reports on that.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

On the Other Hand

 ...I did renew my acquaintance with this bit of dog Latin by reading Thirkell:

Caesar adsum iam forte

Brutus aderat

Caeser sic in omnibu

Brutus sic in at

(You've got to read it out loud with a Cockney accent to get the joke.)

I first learned this hilarious  verse, as most Latin students do, at some point early in my studies; but I'd forgotten it. I enjoyed finding it again.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Reading Angela Thirkell

 A comment over on one of Jo Walton's reading lists reminded me of Angela Thirkell, who I used to read in those ancient days before the kid was born, and before we could buy books online, when all I had was what was available in the local library. 

Though at that time I was living in Pocatello, Idaho, and had access to both the excellent small public library there and the library at the Idaho State University, this was still not very many books. I forget how I stumbled across Thirkell, but I do remember that the first book I read by her was The Brandons

Between the university library and the public library, there were only six or seven Thirkell novels. I read them all, and haunted used bookstores for more when we drove down to Salt Lake City or over to Boise for a day out. To no avail -- Thirkell was at that point long out of print.

Now it seems, however, that she is being re-issued, a volume at a time, by Virago Press; and I have used up my B&N gift cards buying some. (Also our public library has three of them -- I read those first.)

Thirkell, goddaughter to J.M. Barrie and cousin of Rudyard Kipling, wrote a series of novels between 1933 and 1961 set in Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire. These are the interconnected stories of upper-class, aristocratic families who live in this fictional county. 

These might be seen as romance novels -- the key engine in every novel is at least one man and one woman (often two or three sets) who bumble around but eventually realize they love each other. Marriage follows. But really the romance is a side issue. Thirkell's true interest is the soap-opera-ish lives of her upper-class characters.

They're satirical throughout, sometimes viciously so, and give, I think, a fine picture of the worldview of the English aristocracy of the period, which to understate things can be problematic.

For instance, Thirkell despises refugees. Many of these books were written during the run-up to and the period of World War II, when England was taking in refugees from the conflict in Europe. Thirkell peoples her novels with ill-behaved, ill-mannered minor characters from invented countries, and has her upper-class heroes make a number of comments about "those" refugees coming here to take jobs from good Englishmen, while those same Englishmen have been sent to fight the war these refugees escaped.  

(Jews? What Jews? Reading Thirkell you would assume that Jews do not exist. She never mentions them, and Hitler is a villain only in that he is killing upper-class English men.)

Women also, especially in the books written after the war, are villains for taking jobs that should belong to men. The decent women feel ashamed of this, of course, though I notice they take the jobs anyway. "Bad" women, which is to say uppity women not from the right families, just take these jobs as though they have a right to them.

This includes academics. Thirkell despises women who are academics. She has several male professors and tutors as main characters, and since she writes in third person omniscient (occasionally third person authorial), we are privy to the contempt these men have for their female students and colleagues. This contempt, we are meant to understand, is not only understandable, but perfectly correct.

In August Folly, we are given one of Thirkell's most scathing characterizations, a world-famous economist who also happens to be a woman. (That she is more famous and makes more money than her husband, who is a scholar as well, but of Norse folklore, is seen as a failing on her part.) This silly creature, Mrs. Tebben, thinks she can be as rational and logical as a man, but all her attempts lead to misery and discomfort for her family -- she can't manage her cook; she forces her poor husband to work in a tiny, icy room; and she is incapable of standing up to her extremely rude son. 

Furthermore, she doesn't know the tacit rules of behavior that allow one to belong to the "right" people. In Miss Bunting, for instance, which is set in the last years of the war, Mrs. Tebben very rudely brings her own food to a tea party (and it's disgusting food, of course, since her education and her pretense at being intelligent and rational have ruined her for her proper role, housekeeping).

Luckily, however, she has a daughter, Margaret. Margaret's father is briefly saddened that they could not afford to send Margaret to a university (they did send their son), but everyone, including Margaret, sees that as the natural order of things. Margaret, because she sublimates her ambitions in a proper womanly fashion (trying to help her brother), is the salvation of the family. She has spent her energies learning to cook and manage a household, the way a good woman should. She marries a rich man's son and, we are to presume, lives happily every after.

The women characters we're supposed to approve of and applaud are those who are intelligent but subservient -- those who are too busy being wives and daughters, helping to run estates and their husband's households, to bother with going to a university. 

Problematic also is Thirkell's concept of both the working class and of those people who became wealthy after the war through such vulgar means as manufacturing and trade. 

The working class who know their place Thirkell just mocks, and fairly gently. They are comic relief, having illegitimate children and talking in dialect. Those who step out of their place -- i.e. workers who dare to start a union, or working class children who attend an Oxbridge University -- are mocked bitterly. 

Sam Adams and his daughter Heather are examples of the latter. Sam Adams is a manufacturer, a foundry owner. He is from the working class, and becomes enormously wealthy. His wealth allows him, in post-WWII England, to encroach on the circle that should properly belong only to the upper-class: Thirkell's "county" people. Everyone despises him for daring to come to tea parties and jumble sales where he is not wanted, and for giving or trying to give expensive gifts to churches and for birthday presents. 

Thirkell despises him as well. He doesn't know his place, and he doesn't understand the rules of "correct" society. He dares, for instance, in Miss Bunting, to offer a local vicar help with the church accounts. In The Brandons, Miss Morris does this same thing for the local vicar in that book, and everyone is fine with it. But when Sam Adams makes this offer, it is a high social crime which sends our upper-class characters into paroxysms of horror and outrage. 

(Similarly, Thirkell, starting in Cheerfulness Breaks In, introduces a pair of impoverished women, in the form of Miss Hampton and Miss Brent, who don't follow the rules for "proper" women. These two are meant to be read as Lesbians, but as the novels progress it becomes clear that we are to approve of these women and find them admirable. Why? Because they're "county," as Thirkell puts it elsewhere: they are upper-class and from the "right" families, even if they do dress funny and are now impoverished. If the wrong people do it, it's gauche; if "our" people do it, it's charming.)

Equally, when Sam Adams offers donations to the local churches, as he does in almost every book, this is seen as a breach of propriety. What if he wants us to dedicate a window to his wife, one vicar thinks, in horror and disgust -- I guess because Adams' wife was working class? Or maybe Sam Adams will try to influence the sort of window, and pick something tacky? It's never really made clear why these acts are so appalling. I guess if I were "county" I would just know.

Thirkell is even more vicious when it comes to Heather Adams, Sam's adolescent and then adult daughter (she grows up through the books). There are endless comments about how "large" this girl is ("She must weight 12 stone," one character comments) and how sweaty and how ugly and how badly dressed and how ill-mannered and so on. She commits one faux pas after the next, bringing, for instance, an expensive gift to a well-born friend's party (something that is admirable when another character does it, two pages earlier, this one upper-class) and not knowing what to say to her "county" schoolmates.

Heather eventually redeems herself, though: she realizes her true place and steps back into it, marrying a guy from the working class as she should, albeit one who went to Cambridge, who works at her father's foundry. Heather herself is a prodigy in math, and goes to Cambridge too, but don't worry, she doesn't try to become an academic: she also goes to work for her father, though only until she has children, when she becomes a proper supportive wife.

And all the upper-class people in these novels, with true noblesse oblige, work endlessly and tirelessly to take care of the working class in their community. Not only are they job providers (unlike Sam Adams, I guess), they perform charitable works for the hapless louts on their estates, who cannot possibly survive on their own.

And what is the reaction of those ungrateful whiners? They vote in a Labour Government, nationalize the trains and power companies and health providers which had been returning a steady 5% for all the wealthy land owners, and tax everything to death. Also, they dare to object to capitalism! And form unions! And want their kids to have orange juice!

As in Faulkner, whose Snopes take over from the benevolent and superior landed gentry of his fictional county, Thirkell, in the later novels, has Sam Adams and his ilk "taking over" England. And as with Faulkner, this is seen as a tragedy. In Faulkner, miscegenation and black people as well as "white trash" getting out of their place cause this downfall; in Thirkell, it is the corruption of the government and the losses of WWII. 

Taxation, she believes, as well as the nationalization of industries, strip the power from the hands of those who wield it properly. The right sort of people can no longer afford to have eight or nine kids each, while the lower classes have huge families (all the children illegitimate) at the expense of the taxpayers. So the upper classes are no longer being created, and those children that are born have no siblings or only one sibling. What will happen when they are sent to boarding schools, with no experience of the communal life? Alors!

Further, the state schools (run by progressives) fail to install a proper attitude in working class children. They are taught math and science and modern literature instead of religion and Latin and Greek, and what is the result? (School certificates! Thirkell expostulates. Ten-year-old genuises at math who don't know what a creche is)!

They think Jack is as good as his master, that's what. And England as it ought to be is lost. 

These are fascinating books to read if you are interested in that England which, indeed, is dead now. The soap-opera plots are engaging, and the whiplash effect of reading about a likeable, engaging character who suddenly says something disgusting never really gets old. 

Also, there is something safe about these books. It may be England in the 1930s, or England in the Blitz, or England in the grim post-War years; but the worst that is going to happen is that someone will do badly in his exams, or be rude to someone else at tea.

And they're very readable, charming and funny in the places where they aren't appalling. Thirkell is especially good with children -- I'd read them for Tony Moreland alone.

But they do show us, clearly, how the world has changed; and indeed just what the world that conservatives want us to live in actually looked like. 

Ironically, of course, if most conservatives landed in Thirkell's world, they wouldn't be the characters Thirkell lauds. They'd be the ones she despises and mocks. They're the louts who took over the world she loves.

Which is its own kind of humor, I suppose.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

What I Like Least about the Pandemic

 Here's what I like least about the pandemic so far: teaching a classroom filled with students who are wearing masks.

I am partially face-blind as it is (I remember my mother saying, when I was maybe five, "How can you not recognize him? He's your brother!") so even without masks I often have trouble identifying which student* goes with which name and what work. When everyone is wearing a mask, it's nearly impossible. (How face blind are you?)

Also, I can't tell who is talking. Their voice are muffled, first, so I don't know where the sound is coming from; and I can't see mouths moving, so there's no visual cue.

All of this just to say, I'll be glad when this plague is over. 

*I mainly tell people apart based on their voice, their hair-styles/color**, their body shapes, and the way they move. When any of that changes -- like, when their voices are muffled by masks -- I'm totally lost.

** This is a problem at movies. If every actor has dark hair, for instance, I don't have a hope of telling characters apart, unless one of them has a British accent and the other doesn't. Or if one is tall and skinny and the other short with a beard.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Adventures with Wildlife in Arkansas

 So last night was exciting -- I was up late reading, and the cats suddenly began knocking things over and banging into doors in the hallway.

I went to see what was up and they had a mouse cornered. I said several bad words and went to get a bowl to put over it, except when I got back it had run behind a bookcase. They sat watching the exits (one cat on one end and one on the other) for about an hour, while I twitched nervously.

Eventually, exhausted, the mouse crept out and just sat there, tharn, while the cats sat studying it. (A motionless mouse apparently does not trigger their prey reflex.) I gingerly put the bowl over it, slid an empty file folder under the bowl, and carried it out to release it in the wild.

The wild was 14 degrees and snowy last night, which I assume is why the mouse came inside. So I'm not sure this was a kindness. 

Better than letting the cats bat it around for hours, though, I guess.

Friday, February 19, 2021

How it Works

 Stage One: "People like you can't do X. If people like you could do X, then where are all the people like you doing X?"

Stage Two: "Even if people like you can do X, they do it badly. That's why we don't study people like you doing X. Because even though you did it, you were terrible at it."

Stage Three: "Maybe people like you can do X, but people like us are just better at X, that's all. Probably something genetic. It's science!"

Stage Four: "People like you can only do X with special help. People like you have rigged the system to discriminate against people like us doing X. If the world were fair, people like us would be the only ones actually doing X."

Stage Five: "No one ever said people like you couldn't do X. Why are you so sensitive?"

Stage Six: "I don't know why you keep making a fuss about all this -- who even notices what sort of person is doing X?"


Stage Seven*: X is naturally meant for people like you. People like you don't need to be paid much for doing X, you should just be happy to do it because its so suited to you. People like us will be over here doing a better-paid thing that people like you can't do.

(I've watched this play out in the literary world in real-time, but yeah, it's everywhere.)

(This is on my mind right now, btw, because I've been reading Angela Thirkell novels, and the sheer contempt she has for women scholars as well as for anyone in the working class is just breathtaking.)

*Thanks to Nanai in comments

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Still Snowed In

 I took a short walk with the dog to see if the roads here are passable.

They are not.

Despite this, three separate vehicles chugged past me, one of which I watch skid almost into a ditch before he recovered.

We're out of milk, dog food, and tissues, but I think we'll wait until tomorrow to try for the grocery.

(We have hamburger to feed the little dog, he won't starve.)

I did enjoy all the squirrel, rabbit, and bird tracks on the snow. Little short stories, etched out in blue and white.


High of 27 Today

 The sun is out, and the snow is lovely:

That's the big icicle, there at the left, frozen down from a joint in our gutter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Cat on a Snowy Afternoon


Cold Wednesday

We got another three or four inches of snow overnight. It's currently five degrees.

We still have heat here, and so far no power losses in our house, though my students have been emailing me for the past two days about losing their internet and their power. 

We're almost out of dog food, milk, and cream. No way to get to the store on these roads. We do have frozen hamburger we can feed to dog, in a pinch, and I have a can of condensed milk and a box of coconut milk. (I have to have milk in my coffee; Dr. Skull likes cream, but he can make do with butter.)

The coffee cake was excellent, by the way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Cold Tuesday

 It's seven degrees here, with about five inches of snow on the ground, and more snow coming tonight.

"Rolling blackouts" are being used because our infrastructure was not designed for this sort of cold. Everyone is being asked to keep their heat at 65 or below and not to use any inessential items -- like dishwashers or washing machines. One request asked us to "skip the shower." Which, argh.

Dr. Skull is making me a coffee cake. This is probably a non-essential use of the oven.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Still Snowing

 Okay, this does look like four inches:

Also, ice is frozen on the inside of my windows. This house is not made for 5 degree weather (it's five degrees here). The local power company is begging everyone to conserve energy, since they can't keep up with the demand. Don't do laundry, don't run the dishwasher, keep your heat at 68. (I've got ours at 66.)

Plus, weather guy says more snow is coming late tomorrow and into Wednesday. We went to the store just before the snowpocalypse hit, fortunately.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


 Weather guy now says we'll have non-stop snow through Wednesday.

Here's what we have so far:

Our house is not made for 14 degree weather, I will tell you that. Tonight the low is eight degrees. May have to break out the sleeping bags.


 It is finally snowing here.

Weather guy says more snow all day!

Meanwhile, I found a picture of Jasper as a kitten, sitting on my lap while I wrote:

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Snow /no Snow

 Weather reports keep threatening us with a snowpocolypse -- six to nine inches! Impossible to travel! Killing cold!

So far no snow, though on-campus classes have already been canceled for Monday.

It is really cold out, though, I'll admit that -- 14 degrees this morning, 20 degrees now at 10:30. (That's cold for Arkansas.)

If it's going to be this cold, at least we should get some snow out of it.

Thursday, February 11, 2021


Because I was on sabbatical last semester, and am teaching f2f this semester, I taught my first zoom class today. (We had a snow day, which in the age of the pandemic means on-campus classes are cancelled, and we go to remote learning.)

Good points:

Almost all the students showed up.

Bad points:

They all kept their cameras and mics off (for which I do not blame them in the least, mind you -- I would do the same).

I could not get the screen sharing function to work. (I think I have this problem solved now, half an hour after the class ended.) This means all I could do was talk about how to use citation machine, instead of showing them how to use it. UGH.

My computer locked up two minutes into the class, and I had to shut it down and reboot. My students kindly did not leave during the five minutes this took.

No one asked any questions. Does this mean they didn't HAVE questions, or that they were afraid to ask, or...

Thanks, I hate it.

I have another class this evening. It should go better, since I think I have the bugs worked out. Famous last words.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Not That Hard to Be a Decent Human Being

I broke a tooth on Saturday -- it's one where I had a giant cavity as a kid, and it had cracked just before the pandemic got serious last March, so I knew it was coming. Saturday, despite how careful I have been with chewing, it just broke off.

So this morning at dawn, I went to see my dentist. This is the Christian conservative dentist we have been seeing since the kid was five. She's great with kids, and she always asks after the kid, and the entire family, really.

So today she asked whether the kid had graduated, using the kid's dead name and former pronouns. I told her the kid was trans, and...she asked about the kid's new pronouns and new name, and then restated the question: "Has [new name] graduated?"

I told her about his change in major, and how well he was doing, and she was so happy for him. "It's wonderful when kids find their passion," she exulted with me. "I'm so happy he's doing well."

I'm so used to weaponized, hateful Christianity that meeting up with an actual Christian is a shock. But a good one!

Monday, February 08, 2021


 It's so cold here, even with the fireplace lit and the heat on. 

I've moved my workstation in front of the fireplace, which helps a little.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Found on FB


(Image: a T-Rex in trans colors bearing a banner "Trans Rights or I Bites.")

Clearly the flag I need for the flag stand that came with this house.

Did I ever tell y'all about the Jesus Light that came with this house? It's just a regular light switch cover, but it has a painting of Jesus on it, with the switch coming out of a place where, frankly, I would not have put a switch on any picture, much less Jesus.

It turns on the exterior light, out back of the garage.

Life in Arkansas, I guess.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Vaccine Accomplished

 I've gotten my first dose of the vaccine.  Two weeks from now, which will incredibly be March 1, I'll get the second.

So far no superpowers.

It was no big deal. The local hospital is running a clinic at the local park. We got appointments through the university at 5 minute intervals (I was at 8:50, the guy behind me was 8:55), and they ran us through pretty rapidly. I arrived at 8:49 and was done by 9:05. 

The actual stick didn't hurt at all. "Was that it?" I asked the nurse.

"That's it," she said, and pointed me to the other room. (They make you stay fifteen minutes after the shot to make sure you're not going to swell up or pass out, I guess.)

This morning was all the university people, so lots of people I knew were there.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


 Y'all, this is so hard. I feel like I've been punched really hard in the chest -- it's that kind of sharp fierce ache.

Today I was at Wal-Mart. My mother was born in a town in the middle of Indiana that had less than 1000 people in it, and she loved going to Wal-Mart. I swear, she went every day, whether she was buying anything or not. I was looking for the toothpaste we needed and it just hit me, she'll never go to Wal-Mart again.

And my father can't remember she's dead. He keeps asking where she is, and my brother has to tell him, over and over, and each time it's like the first time he's heard it. It hurts him that much, every time.

My parents, 2019

Monday, January 25, 2021

Shelbylynn Jennings 1937-2021

My mother died last night, at just past 9:00 p.m.

Almost the first thought I had was how glad I am she lived to see Trump defeated. She hated him so much -- more even than I did.

My mother married young, and had three children before she was 24 years old. She had a fourth, my brother Ben, when she was 37, and in her second year of college. 

She went to work at an insurance company straight out of high school, living with four roommate in a two bedroom apartment. She used to tell me that right before payday, when they ran out of food, they would hunt through couch cushions and take back refundable soda bottles, anything to raise enough money that they could each have a hamburger from the drive-in across the street.

And they all went to parties together, in the big city of Fort Wayne. She was doing that when she met my father, who was three years younger than she was --19 to her 21 -- and in the last year of his two-year engineering degree.

They met at a party. This was a story my mother loved to tell. There was a woman she didn't know there, from the South, who kept asking where Bill Jennings was, because he was bringing the beer. My mother had started drinking cocktails before he arrived, and when he appeared, with a case of beer on his shoulder, she was a little drunk. She pointed her finger at him and said, in a terrible Southern accent, "I know yew -- Yore Bill Jennings!"

My dad was a snack at 19, and they started dating right away. They got married three months later, when he graduated and took a job with Boeing, working on developing metals for the space program. His family sold used cars and trailers, and they gave my parents a tiny pink trailer at cost, which Boeing shipped from Indiana to Renton, Washington, where the plant he worked at was located.

My parents drove there, crossing Illinois and Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana and a bit of Idaho. It was 1958, and all along the way as they drove through the high plains, they kept seeing signs for Little America, the fanciest hotel and restaurant and truck stop they could imagine. My father promised my mother they would stop there, but when they came to it, it was early in the day -- too early, he said, and wouldn't stop. She ragged him about this for the next 60 years.

Little America, Wyoming, 1960

The trailer park was filled with other people who worked at Boeing, and their young wives -- most of them pregnant. My parents joined bowling leagues; my mother pushed us (my older brother, me, my younger brother) in a stroller up to the grocery, and my father carpooled so she could have their one car once a week to go do laundry. My earliest of memories are of the nursery at the bowling alley, and how much I loved going to do laundry, since my mother always bought us candy from the machines there. I loved chocolate babies the best -- like jelly babies, but made of a chocolate nougat sort of thing.

I remember also my father left for work before dawn, at five a.m., and my mother would go back to sleep after he left, so my older brother, Scott, and I -- before my little brother was born -- were on our own. We knew how to turn on the TV, and Scott could cook. Well, he could make ketchup sandwiches on white bread. These were the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.

My mother took us to the library, and read to us. She let us roam the trailer park in the way parents did back then -- I had complete freedom to go find my friends to play with, or go to the playground at one end of the trailer park, even though I was only three years old.  I remember picking blackberries in the woods behind our trailer, and that night having a nightmare about a ghost chasing me through the woods. I remember falling down and skinning my hand, and how she swooped me up and crooned, patting my back until I stopped crying -- the safest I think I have ever felt.

When I was three, and my older brother five, and Michael the baby two, my father was transferred to the plant in Michoud (outside of New Orleans). Once again, Boeing moved the trailer. 

We lived in a trailer park under a bridge in Gentilly, near the Folgers Coffee plant. I would wake up smelling coffee being ground and roasted every morning. That was the Christmas it snowed in New Orleans. We had Christmas dinner with some friends my parents made -- my mother made friends wherever she went -- and I was dressed in a fancy dress and patent leather shoes (my mother loved dressing her only girl, and it was a big disappointment to her when I turned out to be so butch later on), so I *almost* didn't get to go out and play in the snow. But they found some boots for me, ones the two boys in that family had outgrown, and this began my lifelong love of snow.

The next year my parents bought a house in Metairie. (I surmise the transfer came with a raise.) I was four, and made friends with another four year old, two houses down. She had teenage brothers, and told me she knew the worst bad word.

We were riding her trike. She pedaled and I stood on the back and pushed along with my foot. "So what," I said, "so do I: shit."

  "No," she said, and stopped pedaling to whisper it in my ear. "It's fuck."

We'd just come up on my house again. This subdivision was so new the sidewalk were blinding white and all the trees were saplings. My mother was planting her front yard garden, and I yelled across the lawn at her: "Mommy! Fuck isn't a bad word, is it?"

She sat back on her heels and gave me that look. "It's the worst word in the world," she said, "and you should never say it again."

I was very impressed. The worst word in the world! I didn't say it again until I was about sixteen. Then I never stopped. In fact, I taught her to say it just as freely.

My parents made friends -- my mother made friends wherever she went -- and played bridge, had barbeques, joined the swim club, which was right next to our house, so that as we grew up we could go swimming whenever we wanted. We got a puppy, Oscar, when the neighbor's dog had puppies. We had cats, but they disappeared during Hurricane Betsy, which hit the year after we moved into the house.

I remember that hurricane -- my father watching the banana trees bend and batter in the storm winds, and my mother putting us to bed in the closet in the den, the only place with no windows.

The house was wonderful, by the way -- a willow tree out back, which I spent a lot of time climbing, and out behind it a vast tract of land which we called the "woods" and where we ran wild. Every kid needs a wild space, I think, there were so many kids then. We ran in packs, playing tag and climbing trees and making up dramatic stories about our Barbie dolls. 

My mother read us books, and took us to the library, and gave us crayons and clay and paintboxes. She took us swimming every day in the summer, and to the zoo and art museum in the city. (Metairie is about ten miles out of New Orleans proper.) She arranged for me to have art lessons. She taught us how to ride bikes. One of my early memories is standing on a chair beside her while she baked oatmeal cookies, "helping."

When I was seven and my older brother eight, he was diagnosed with Type-I diabetes. Since her father had just died of that disease the year before, she took it hard. But she rallied, and taught him to give himself shots, and monitor his blood sugar, and never stopped him from doing whatever he wanted to do: boy scouts, sports, it didn't matter. She encouraged it.

When I was eleven, she started college, planning to get an education degree. The three of us were latchkey kids then, staying by ourselves until she got home or my father did, usually well past six. I started cooking dinners, and I remember also climbing the tree in our front yard and watching down the street for her car, longing for her to come home. She made friends there -- of course she did, she made friends everywhere -- and once in a while, for a treat, she would take me to classes with her, and we would hang out with those friends.

In her junior year she became pregnant with my youngest brother, Ben, which delayed her progress. Then my father was transferred to Kansas, where we lived for about nine months, so her degree was delayed even more.

My father quit Boeing at that point and took a job at Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, in part so he could move us back to New Orleans. Both he and my mother missed the city and their friends. My mother graduated two years later, but before that, when I was fifteen, she took me to see The Man of La Mancha put on by the university's drama department. It was the first live play I'd ever seen, and (no exaggeration) changed my life.

She went to work for the New Orleans Public Schools, teaching in Desire Project school for $8000/year. Even in 1976, that wasn't much money, and in her second year on the job, the teacher's union went on strike. My mother walked the picket line. They were out for months, as I recall, but won the strike -- their salaries increased threefold, and they won other concessions.

I raised Ben while she worked, which honestly I loved. I've always liked kids, and he was a good one. Still is. I couldn't drive yet, but I mastered the bus system, and hauled him all over the city, to malls and the zoo and the local park.

As I grew older, we clashed. I guess most adolescents and their parents do. But she supported me in every choice I made -- when I transferred from my first school in Ruston to the University of New Orleans; when I went off to graduate school in Arkansas; when I got a job in Idaho. When she came to visit, she would buy me groceries, to make sure I had enough to eat. And after I had the kid, whenever I asked for help, she got on a plane. She babysat the kid when he was sick and I was in my first months at my tenure track position; she sent money when we needed it; she and my dad took the kid for trips and to stay every summer.

Every time I got sick -- when I had cancer, when I had my shoulders operated on, when I had kidney stones the first time -- she got on a plane and came to take care of me. This was when I was thirty and forty years old. (I had my own kid by then. I understood why.)

And when I needed advice, she was who I called. 

When my brother Michael died, at only 52, it broke her heart. She never stopped talking about him, or missing him.

Mike, age five

But through everything, she was the happiest woman I've known. I suffer from anxiety and depression, as does the kid; she was never depressed a day in her life. "I get sad," she told me when we were talking about this once, "but not sad."

Well into her eighties, her friends were still coming to play bridge, and calling her up to chat every day. Her best friend, Becky, lived across the Ponchartrain Bridge, and they would drive back and forth to have lunch with each other at least once a week. Becky was the last person she responded to -- almost waking up -- before she died.

I don't know what we'll do without her. "Who will I call up to for advice?" her sister told me, right before she died. Which, same.

But I'm not worried about her.  Wherever she is, I know she's happy. And I know she's making friends.

ETA: See also this, from my beloved nephew

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Bad News


My mother's condition has grown steadily worse over the past 24 hours. Her doctors don't think she'll live much longer.

There's no time for me to get down there, and Covid restrictions means I wouldn't be able to see her in person anyway. We're arranging a zoom call.

My poor father. They've been married 62 years. He's going to be lost without her, never mind the dementia. 

Friday, January 22, 2021


 Dr. Skull is getting his vaccine while we speak.

I still don't have mine. Our university is not making the process by which we get vaccinated at all clear. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Kid Does Art


This is at the riverside park where I walk the little dog -- I love how he captures the water and the trees.

Watercolor on paper.

If the Duck Fits, Pumpkin


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Listening to NPR

 I was driving home from the library with NPR on the car radio and the host said the phrase "former president Trump," and I just let out my breath.

We have waited so long, y'all.



Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Rotting of the American Mind

This thread outlines a problem I have seen happening to more than one person I know -- some of them my students.

It's very disheartening. 

In case you missed this



 My mother is much better. I talked to her on the phone yesterday, and my brothers who live nearby no longer think they'll have to put my parents into assisted living. Also, since they've started making sure my father eats three meals a day, he seems to be doing better too. This is such a relief, I can't even tell you.

The little dog is also doing better. I have to inject him with insulin twice a day and test his blood sugar frequently. It's still a little high, but not in the 500+ range, which was where it was before. (Now it's between 200-300.) And his energy level is better -- he runs around like he used to, and is back to chasing (never catching) the rabbits who live in the yard.

I have crocheted seven hats (one for the kid and each of his roommates, one for Dr. Skull, and three for me); one scarf; a failed sweater; and most of a blanket. I'm working on a new sweater now, which I hope will be more successful. Crocheting, I have found, is the perfect thing to do during interminable zoom meetings, of which my university is currently holding many.

How's everything where you are?