2015 Holiday Letter (by Matt Churchill)

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Grading with Love: an open letter to my first-year writers

I hate grading papers. This revulsion led me to innovate, so maybe misery is the real mother of invention. My thought process went like this: Papers: they hate writing them; we hate reading them. What’s wrong with this picture? So I tried to change the picture. I turned to WordPress, a platform whose beauty and flexibility I hoped would make students more excited about writing, so that I could be more excited about grading. It’s not a perfect fix, but […]

Home is So Sad

This summer we laid Mom to rest. A gentle euphemism—”laid to rest.” What I mean is that we buried her ashes. We did it twice, actually, because Mom wanted to be buried next to her beloved parents, Dad wants to have his ashes scattered at their beloved lake cottage, and they both wanted to be together forever. So we split the difference, and put half of Mom’s ashes in a cemetery in Malden, Massachussetts, and half in Highland Lake in […]

The Originality of Ideas and Other Scholarly Myths

I’ve been sitting with Andrew Rikard (Davidson class of 2017) in a classroom all morning. We’re attending ILiAds (Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship) at Hamilton College to work on our digital Mina Loy project. We’ve spent most of the week attending presentations, exchanging ideas with other teams, and tinkering with our website.  This morning, we sequestered ourselves in order to write. We wanted to reflect on the collaborative process and on the ways in which digital tools can transform […]

On MindFULLness

Experts argue that we don’t read online: we skim, scan, or surf. This is mostly true for me. I prefer a book to a webpage, especially if I want to get absorbed in what I’m reading. When I read online, I have a harder time staying focused. My sabbatical project is an attempt to design a digital environment that can sustain close and deep reading. I’ve found a few websites that give me hope that it’s possible. One of the […]

Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley Temple

Memory Is Something If You Give It Away

Recently, I was knocked flat for a day by a stomach virus. I couldn’t do anything but lie in bed, which gave me a lot of time to miss Mom. In my half-asleep state, I imagined a conversation with her—the one I wish I’d had, before it was too late. It began with me asking, “How does it feel to have Alzheimer’s? How does it feel in your head?” Her answers were clear, but just like with a vivid dream, […]

Into the Wild, Precious Life

When your mother has just died, people come up to you with empathetic eyes and soft voices and ask, “How are you?” So genuine is the concern that I feel like I should burst into tears and confess that each day is a trial, that I feel as if I’m plodding through mud, dragging my sinking heart behind me like a heavy stone. Instead, I admit, I’m doing surprisingly well—so much so that I wonder if my heart has become a cold stone. Ads for the just-released movie Wild deliver a […]

Momento Mori, or Motherless Me

  “All hope abandon, ye who enter here,” because you are proceeding through the gates of shameless, narcissistic navel gazing. My mommy has died, leaving me motherless, which seems like good justification for ruminating, even if there’s little reward in it for you, my hapless reader. I spent the long weekend in Connecticut for Mom’s Memorial Service, which was lovely. I wish she could have been there to enjoy it! Friends and family gathered from as near as the choir […]

In Memoriam: Valerie Jean Gates Wintsch

Valerie J. Wintsch, 75, died peacefully on January 2, 2015, at Arden Courts in Hamden, CT, from complications of Alzheimer’s. A vivacious, well read, and intellectually curious lady, Valerie loved good books, music, friendship, and laughter. Most of all, she loved her family. She was a devoted daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother. Born in Naugatuck, CT, in 1939, Valerie was the daughter of teacher Dorothy Moses and chemical engineer Charles Gates. She grew up in Elmira, Ontario, a tight-knit community […]

This Hour Her Vigil

The Christmas ornaments, decorations, and lights are packed away, a New Year’s Day ritual that is tedious but satisfying. This year, my sense of accomplishment is troubled by a nagging sense of something unfinished, something demanding my attention. But the task before me is not mine to complete: it is my mother’s. She is dying. We are merely keeping vigil. Her Alzheimer’s has run a rapid course since her diagnosis 3 years ago. Nevertheless, this last stretch has caught us […]

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