Hello again!

I thought I’d write another update to the blog, and I’m thinking about possibly getting back into regular blogging. (Maybe. We’ll see.) I’ve had it with Facebook and I never really got into Twitter, but I feel a little isolated without some social media interaction, especially as I’m on sabbatical again, and working on my own. I’ve also been inspired by Notorious Ph.D., who restarted her blog about a year ago. So I know it can be done!

Anyway, a couple of quick and largely happy updates. First, I wrote another thing inspired by my blog, this time an op-ed piece in the Chronicle on getting over a post-tenure funk. You can read it here. Btw, I did NOT choose that headline. (Writers rarely do.) But anyway, that’s *two* publications that came as a result of this blog (the other of which I mention in the post below), which I never expected. They’re non-scholarly, but I see them both as a kind of service to the profession, which was always how I thought of this blog, too (well, when I wasn’t writing about running or dogs or such).

Second, and related to an update in the post below this, I broke two hours in that half-marathon I ran last year — 1:59:24! Woo hoo! I trained again in the fall, but repeated minor injuries and a busy schedule kept me from doing a race. And then a really busy semester in the spring kept me from running entirely — d’oh! But I’m getting back into it now, and I’m planning on training again for a fall half-marathon, and depending on how that goes, maybe training for a *full* marathon in the spring, a thing I haven’t done in 10 years. A sabbatical year is the only time I’ll be able to fit it in, so it’s now or never.

Thing the third: a very happy doggy update. In the post below this, I reported the sad news of Pippi’s passing. Right after that post, we began fostering another Brittany named Benny, who a year ago found his forever family. And then we took a summer off from pets and fosters. I realized that as I worked at home every day while Bullock went off to the office (he’s chair — he has to be on campus) that the house was an empty and sad place without furry energy to fill it. It took some time to convince Bullock that we really needed another dog, and we may have moved a little fast for him, but on October 1, 2016, Æþelþryð Matilda Wigglesworth — or more simply, Audie — joined our pack.

Audie today

Æþelþryð Matilda Wigglesworth — Audie, for short. (You see, Audrey is the Anglo-Norman version of Æþelþryð, also spelled Etheldreda, and Audie is the diminutive of Audrey. She came to us named Molly, so I was looking for a name that sounded similar to that and landed on Audie.) That box on her collar is the invisible fence receiver. She’s a fence-climber if there’s a squirrel on the other side. (Photo by Bullock. Not to be shared or reproduced elsewhere without permission.)

No, she is not a Brittany. She’s an English Setter. It’s kind of long story how we ended up with a Setter instead of a Brittany, but the short version is that I fell in love. Anyway, since she’s English, I named her for an English saint and an English queen, and gave her a fake English last name (she *is* very wiggly). But I should have named her Wynnie, after the Old English “wynn” or joy, because she is SO full of joy — don’t let her serious look in this picture fool you. Just about everything makes her happy: walkies, treats, her Kong, the toy tied onto the end of a horse whip that we spin around for her in the back yard for her to chase, supper (she dances for it!), sleepy time, car rides, cuddling with her people, being with her people, her people coming home, people putting on shoes (because that could mean walkies!), the nice people who take care of her at boarding (though she’s even happier when her regular people come back to get her), nice doggies she meets, new people she meets, and so on. When you give her the “place” command to get on one of her beds, she *spins* in the air in a full circle as she leaps into the dog bed (because what comes next usually involves a treat).

The only thing she doesn’t like is her crate, because that means the people are leaving her alone and she can’t go anywhere — she’s much better left on her own in the family room with a Kong filled with treats, then she doesn’t mind being alone because she can look out the windows and lie on soft things that smell like her people, so she doesn’t feel so lonely. This is just one of the many ways that she’s different from Pippi, who loved her crate as a chance to be “off duty” and sleep. Pippi was territorial and barked at everyone who merely walked by the house. Woe to you if you were the UPS delivery person! Being in her crate was a vacation from her self-appointed job. Audie doesn’t have a territorial bone in her body, except where squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and cats are concerned. They’re the only creatures she barks at (well, and at us when she thinks it’s time for us to get out of bed). People coming to the door are potential new laps to sit in. (Oh yes, she’s a 35-pound lap dog. That’s also very different from Pippi.)

These differences from Pippi — including the different breed — are good things, I think. Because she’s so different, we’ve gotten to know her on her own terms. I think if we’d adopted a Brittany, we’d constantly see her or him as Not Pippi. Audie is just Audie. She’s her own fur-person. And the joy she brings is also restorative. Plus, I have a great office buddy — she loves to lie at my feet or in the upholstered chair in my office while I work. But right now she wants to go out, so I’ll wrap this up now. If I do get back to blogging, I promise more pictures of Audie — and I’ll make her her own page, too, just as Pippi has.

So what’s up with you since I last blogged?

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In other news…

I finally updated my header image here on the blog with pictures *I* took and that mean something to me, to replace the pre-set picture of pretty water god-only-knows-where. I’ve set it to randomly show one of the five pictures I’ve uploaded, so you’ll get something different each time you visit (or, well, until you’ve seen them all). Here’s a bit of information about each picture:

  • The fall trees and leaf-strewn path is from one of the area nature-preserve-like parks here in Rust Belt. These parks — and there are many of them! — are one of my favorite things about this city.
  • The winter scene was taken in the same park and shows our dearly departed Pippi doing that amazing thing that Brittanies do: standing fully erect on her hind legs. Bullock is in the picture, too, but his bipedalism is a little less amazing.
  • The flowers are from Regent’s Park in London, because I love English gardens and London.
  • The pastoral landscape with the pond is in Yorkshire, part of the grounds of stately home there, because I love the English countryside (even planned, artificially “picturesque” parts) and Yorkshire.
  • The “One Way –>” / “Fortune” street sign pair is from a Great Lakes region summer home settlement that I wrote about here. The place does mean something to me, but I like this particular picture because any good medievalist knows that Fortune goes *two* ways: up or down!  (Also, I find it funny that in a community where most of the streets are named after famous American Puritans, there’s a street called Fortune.)

What a semester!

I haven’t been blogging as much as I intended to this semester, largely because this has been an insanely busy semester — busier than most. (I do have a few posts brewing, including one on whether tenure robs you of the incentive to work hard.)  Some things you know about — buying a new house, getting married — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  So, in a nutshell — or in bullet-point lists, actually  — here is what my semester, which is actually still not over, has looked like:

Professional:

  • Having changed my English medieval lit class so that it alternates, on a three-year basis, between early medieval (Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic — ASNaC for short), late medieval (after the Norman conquest), and a topic across the period, I taught the ASNaC version for the first time.  This included teaching many texts — all of the Celtic and Norse stuff — for the very first time as well as *reading* much of them for the first time.  Here’s some advice based on my experience:  do not assign a 250-page Old Norse saga you’ve read only in excerpt, or at least don’t schedule it for the two weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • I also changed the assignment sequence in my Old English class — a class I still feel I do not know how to teach! argh! — so that I was doing a lot of fresh work in that course, too. It didn’t take much time for me to do said work, but it caused morale/attitude problems with the students.  That’s something else I want to blog about in more detail later.
  • To review: I had two mostly new preps this semester (my own damn fault). I am an idiot. On the bright side, the complicated assignment sequence I did in the medieval lit class seemed to have worked well.  More on that later, too.
  • In service-related news, I served on the personnel committee of another department because they’re too small to field a full committee from their own faculty.  Said DPC had to vote on a fifth year renewal, a promotion to full, and two tenure cases, one of which was hugely contentious (and ugly — really, really ugly) and involved meeting after meeting after meeting.  I counted up the hours of meetings:  twenty freakin’ four!
  • Oh, and I also got into an ugly fight with a colleague in my department — so ugly that it made me cry in a professional situation, something I haven’t done in about 20 years.
  • In more positive news, I’ve got two contracted professional publications in progress (one a companion-to article, the other an anthology of texts which I’m co-editing). Alas, though, I feel constantly behind on them, despite working diligently on them.  And I’m waaaaayyyyy behind on the review essay that I’m supposed to have written by the end of this month — I haven’t even finished the books. Ack!
  • Oh, I also had to deal with two minor academic dishonesty issues this semester. See Flavia’s post on the topic for a reflection of how I feel and think about these things. (Also, read the comments for SEK’s hilarious story.  I so want to be able to quote that ad infinitum.)
  • And this was all in my first semester back from sabbatical.  Hey, welcome back, Virago!

Personal:

  • At the very beginning of this semester, I had minor, out-patient surgery. Everything’s fine and my prognosis is excellent.  But still, it took up a lot of time, including a couple hours of pre-surgery testing and medical history recording a few days before and then all day for the surgery and a weekend to recover. It was also the first time I had real surgery or general anesthesia.  (And boy, anesthesia is *weird*!)
  • I crazily flew off to Amsterdam for 4 days over our long-weekend Fall Break for a girl’s weekend with an old friend.  Here’s proof:

    This should totally be a postcard that says "Welcome to Amsterdam."

  • Got married. As you know.
  • Bought a house. We closed on it yesterday and get possession on Monday. For some reason, in this state (or it may just be this county), a seller can stay in the house after closing, free of charge. The standard time is 30 freakin’ days, but we negotiated down to five. We really wanted  immediate possession, but we compromised. Anyway, now we own two houses — crazy! (Well, Bullock does. Technically I’m a renter in the current one.) The plan is to remain in this one while we do some remodeling in the new one, and to use the new one to declutter this one in order to make it look good when we list it.  We’ll likely move in February.

I am exhausted!  And next semester isn’t likely to be any less crazy.  We’ll be moving, the Pastry Pirate is coming to visit (if her car, which has been in storage while she’s been “on the ice” in Antarctica, manages to start), and I’ll be going back to a three-course load.  (I know, many of you do four, and that is definitely more work. I am privileged to have a 2/3 load.  But three is still an adjustment for me, since it’s been five years since I’ve done that.)  I’ve scheduled my classes for four days a week, which I’ve never done before, because I thought that might be less exhausting than three in one day.  We’ll see.  And, of course, I’m changing things in all three classes (although mostly just assignments, not readings).  Oh, and just two days ago, I agreed to do an advanced Old English independent study with one of the students who apparently actually *likes* Old English.  I was so happy that some good has come out of that class that I agreed. I did warn him, though, the emphasis may be on *independent*. At least I know he’s a student who can handle that — he’s smart and super-competent. Plus, he’s a really nice guy; I love working with nice people.  In professional news, I’m going to MLA, where I’m participating in a pre-conference digital humanities workshop (so excited about that!).  And also, in late March, I’ll be giving an invited talk (my first!) and a seminar at a flagship university in another state, and I’m crazy nervous about it. The work I’m presenting/workshopping in each case is so in-progress that I’m not even sure what titles to give it and I need to do that soon.

So, just to give you a heads up, if this blog goes totally silent in April, it may be because I’m dead from exhaustion.

Reader, I married him

I told the floral designer I was wearing a garnet red dress and let her surprise me. I was really pleased withh the result! (Note, that's my right hand, so that is not a wedding ring. We don't have rings yet.)

So Bullock and I finally tied the knot after eight years and two months of being together and five years and five months of living together. We’re slow. Plus, we had our misgivings about the necessity of the state recognizing our relationship.  But a few months ago we were sitting down to put our financials in better order — in particular, to finally make sure we were each other’s beneficiaries on a whole lot of things, since we *weren’t* married — and one of us said, “This would probably be easier if we were married.”  And the other said, “Yeah, probably. Do you want to get married?”  And the first one said (OK, *I* said), “I’m 100% sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I have my misgivings about marriage as a legal institution, especially since it’s only available to heterosexual couples in most states, but I guess I’m over 50% positive about it as an institution.*  So OK, yeah, let’s do it!”

*As one of my friends and colleagues put it later, her favorite part of marriage is that it allows you to legally choose who you want as family.  I like that part, too — now, if only everyone could get married.

Anyway, we decided at the time, vaguely, that we’d do a simple civil ceremony in the next few months — just the two of us — and throw a party (like a reception without the ceremony) later on down the road.  We roughly had October or November in mind as the time to get married, but as the semester wore on, time kept slipping away.  And then we made the offer on the new house and set the closing date for November 30 (just a few more days! squee!) and realized, oops, we better get married before that, because doing the title deed, and blah, blah, blah, will be much easier if we’re married.  And then the *only* weekday we both had free — because we have opposite teaching schedules and we each had various service and other commitments on all the Fridays in October and November — was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Luckily, the courthouses were open that day, so that’s when we did it — Wednesday, November 23, 2011.  Definitely something to be thankful for!

We celebrated later with dinner out at one of our favorite local restaurants after coming home to take some formal pictures with Bullock’s home studio set-up (the picture above comes from that set).  It was just us all day — we eloped, essentially — but we do want to celebrate with family and friends at some point.  Just not in the middle of a semester!  (I don’t know how Flavia did it!) Even the simple elopement took a lot out of us. We’ve been taking it easy this holiday weekend since. We spent Thanksgiving alone together, too:  Bullock made turkey breast sous-vide style with butter, salt, and pepper, along with cranberry chutney and more traditional mashed potatoes with turkey gravy (he used turkey parts baked in the oven for that — you can’t get gravy from the sous vide machine), and I contributed Brussel sprouts sauteed in butter and garlic with a splash of red wine vinegar. (In case you haven’t noticed before, Bullock is the real cook around here.) We drank one of our favorite wines and sat in front of the TV and watched the Star Trek: Next Generation marathon while we ate — we’re kind of low-key like that.  So no traditional honeymoon trip as of yet. There’s just no time!

So, if you’ve been wondering where I’ve gone to and why I haven’t posted lately, between the usual semester craziness, plus buying the new house, plus getting married…well, it’s been an eventful semester!  Obviously a *good* eventful semester, but a little crazy-making, too!

This Virago drives a nicer car than I do

Courtesy of the blogger of Stories That Are True, I now know that I have an evil twin (or maybe *I’m* the evil one) in New Zealand. She even drives a blue car, but a nicer one than my Honda Civic:

If I didn't want my students to know about the blog, I'd get this license plate, too.

>Wanna see the rest of my office?

>Long time readers of this blog may recall that I used to have a tiny (7’x’7′) but brightly colored office. I posted pictures of the colors here. It had huge windows that looked onto a leafy courtyard full of 19th century medievalism in the collegiate gothic style. In fact, here are some more pictures:


Note the gargoyle-like heads in at the top of the leaded glass windows in this one:


Now, alas, I have no view. But boy do I have space! I can have *multiple* students meet with me at once (there are two chairs supplied for them) and my books shelves and file cabinet have room to grow. And I can spread my work out on the l-shaped desk. Heck, I can *actually* *work* in my office, instead of just using it to meet with students (or rather, one student at a time in the old office). Check it out:


What you’re not even seeing is the space to the right of the door (from which the first picture was taken), which is *totally* *open* except for the five-drawer lateral file over against the wall. I have *open* space in my office. I’ve never had that before!

And how do you like my clever repurposing of one of my old curtains to get rid of the end- view of the institutional metal bookshelves, eh? (Btw, that’s the rug that brought my whole day together in the old post linked above.) For those of you who like toys and humor in office decor, if you look closely (or “enbiggen”), you’ll see: a toy Manx cat (she moves around); two Monty Python and the Holy Grail figures (in their boxes) surrounding, yes, a wooden grail (hand carved!), and a disco ball hanging under the cabinets above the computer desk. There’s also a picture from Medieval Times, a dragon with a bell around his neck, and a Nunzilla in there somewhere.

I still have to get a high enough step-ladder to hang my beaded chain-swag lamp up above the wicker chair (it’s on the top of the bookshelf now — you can barely see it), but otherwise I’m moved in and unpacked, and I have to say it’s a pretty good place to work. We’ll see what it’s like when the building is hopping, but my office, at least, is within the department main suite (since I’m grad director), so that may help.

>Welcome to our panopticon

>Things are quiet in our new building right now — classes won’t be in there until next semester — so I took the opportunity to take a few pictures.

The following are pictures of the “town square” (or some other dumb name for the center of the building) of our new digs at RBU, including a close up view of one of the classrooms with the lights on:


I’ve got a suggestion for a new name:


And here’s a picture of my office from outside its bars, er, window:


On the inside I’ve hung curtains on a tension rod, which I can close when I’m working and not having office hours, and open when I am having office hours:


Actually, I don’t entirely mind the window, since it means when it gets noisy around me and I need the door closed, but I’m still meeting with a student, the window still leaves things open to view.

But the classrooms, I imagine, are going to take some getting used to.

>Weeeeee!!!!

>
That’s Pippi running with a friend at “dog camp” while Bullock and I were in Paris last month. Our trainer/boarder took this picture and others, and gave them to us in an envelope on which was written, “What I did on my vacation…” Vacation is right! Doesn’t Pippi look like she’s having fun? Lisa, her trainer/boarder, has a 5-acre lot of land and the dog run is at least a full acre. I don’t know the other dog, but in all the pictures s/he was either with Pippi or on her way over to Pippi. Clearly they made fast friends! And I have to say — what a good idea to take pictures, especially for those of us who were boarding our furry family member for the first time!

Pippi’s not the only department dog who goes to Camp Lisa, as we call it. We learned about it from our friend Victoria, and the department secretary — whom I shall call Wonder Woman — has also trained and boarded her dog there. It’s a popular place — with good reason.

Anyway, I offer this in lieu of a substantive posting, which I hope will return soon!

>Feasting fatigue

>Bullock and I have spent today lounging around the house, because we last night we finally had the medieval feast we were planning to have to celebrate my getting tenure, and we’re exhausted. Bullock spent all day in the kitchen yesterday (while I straightened and cleaned the house and occasionally helped in the kitchen) and still we weren’t quite ready for the party start time. The scene for the first hour and half of the party was like something out of Dinner Impossible or some other stress-filled cooking show, as we desperately tried to get everything ready *and* entertain guests — including introducing a lot of folks who’d never met each other.

But it all ended up a success, I think. Aside from the food — which I’ll get to in a moment — the social elements all came together. Three Western Canadians bonded with each other; the five kids of four different couples formed their own little society and pretty much spent the evening entertaining themselves; Pippi slept in her crate without a fuss and behaved herself when she was let out (and was much admired when she was); people drove from literally hours away to come, my friend the Big Teutonic Queer coming from the farthest (2 1/2 hours by car); a possible job opportunity was made; the people whom we know *don’t* get along managed to be civil and avoid each other; and the aforementioned BTQ fell madly in platonic love with a certain well-coiffed medievalist from a similar institution in a neighboring state (but then who *doesn’t* love her??) and my chair ooh’ed and ah’ed over said medievalist’s cool jewelry. Everyone, in short, seemed to have a great time. As one person remarked, “You have some *very* cool friends.” Yes I do!

I have to say, though, I always feel a little like a latter-day Mrs. Dalloway at these moments, because whenever I throw a party (not counting the smaller affairs Bullock and I have thrown together or where the guest list has consisted of our usual suspects, all mutual friends), I invite all my friends that I know from various circumstances, and it becomes clear to me — and in fact has been pointed out to me at various times in my life — that I know a lot of people and seem to get along with a lot of different kinds of people. Now, in this case, it was mostly academics, but there were, at least, people from different fields and institutions, and, as I mentioned, many who had never met before. And I enjoy watching them come together and get to know each other. But whenever it’s my own party, I always feel a little like I’m *merely* watching, and I never get to talk to any one person for very long because I’m always flitting from one to the next. I suppose, though, that’s the nature of being the hostess. Thank god it’s not a role I relish taking on frequently.

Bullock’s situation was even more distant from the festivities. With the madness of still rushing around to get the food going as guests arrived, the cooking duties fell even heavier on his shoulders and I don’t think he got to leave the kitchen much at all. But for all his work — and his ingenuity in overriding or adapting some of the directions in the recipe books — we were rewarded with a slew of fabulous dishes, most of which we’d never made or tasted before (a bold risk for any party hosts!). Here’s a picture of the spread and a close up of one of the pies; following that is a list of the dishes and our sources:


In the top picture, front row to back left to right, you see:

– Boiled shrimp with a cold citrus and herb sauce (sauce recipe adapted from the blood orange and sorrel sauce in Pleyn Delit)

– Saracen Stew (a Middle Eastern style beef stew from Pleyn Delit) — this was the biggest hit of the night, even with the kids

– Two Salmon Pies which really tested people’s limits for the more exotic elements of medieval cooking, because they featured the medieval taste combination of sweet and savory — along with the salmon, they were filled with dates, figs, currants, raisins, and pine nuts (from Fabulous Feasts). People either loved or hated this one.

– Regular old loaf of bread (we cheated – we bought it and its mate). There were no trenchers involved in this feast, btw. We served everything buffet style (obviously) with paper plates and plastic utensils, including forks.

– Two Pies of Parys (beef and veal meat pies — very tasty as cold leftovers, btw) — from Pleyn Delit.

– Another loaf of bread next to an earthenware jug that later contained the “Creme Bastard” (a cream sauce) for the dessert that’s in the back row

– Two Tarts de Bry (brie) — the only dish I’d had before — available in both Pleyn Delit and Fabulous Feasts, I think.

– Salat (green salad of a very herbaceous sort — lots of mint, parsley, fennel, thyme, garlic scapes, green onions and the like, as well as leafy green) – from Pleyn Delit.

[Non food items — sunflower given to my by my department chair and castle pop-up book given to me by the BTQ, which made an excellent table decoration!]

– Cherry Bread Pudding (read that as ‘cherry pudding with bread in it’ — not really bread pudding in the modern sense — this dish was the only real disappointment for Bullock and me) — this was served with the “Creme Bastard” — both from Pleyn Delit.

[Non food item – gorgeous roses given to me by a colleague and friend]

Not pictured: “Ravioles,” aka cheese ravioli, which are not only medieval, but also something we knew the kids would eat. We didn’t make them ourselves — although a recipe is in Pleyn Delit — but purchased them from Costco. Shhhh. We also served them bagel dogs — *not* part of the medieval theme, clearly.

People brought an assortment of drinks (including a gift of Chaucer’s Mead from my chair!), but we started everyone off with Belgian Trappist ales, Monty Python’s Holy Grail ale, chilled mead, white and red wine, and, best of all, a Spicy Pomegranate and Gin Cocktail that we concocted by adapting the mulled pomegranate juice recipe in Pleyn Delit. Yummy!

Oh, and as a post script: my friends Victoria and Milton gave me Beowulf the Game for Play Station (yes, we now have a Play Station). Hey, it can’t be worse than the movie, right?