Peace in Our Time!

This morning’s newspaper headlines the N. C. General Assembly’s last minute power grab to limit the already restricted powers of Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper. The Republicans are defending their actions, saying the Democrats “did it first” 20 and 40 years ago. Colin Campbell reports: “House Bill 17, which legislators approved Friday, would limit the number of state employees the governor can hire and fire to 425. The current limit is 1,500 and was increased from 400 around the time Republican […]

Make America Think Again

I haven’t posted on this blog in months. Now that Mom’s gone and Dad’s remarried, I get an occasional urge to write, but lack the urgency. …until this week, when the triumph of Trump convulsed me from low-grade anxiety to a fever pitch of terror and sadness. On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, I went to bed at 9:50 pm, unable to watch what already appeared inevitable. I tossed and turned in bed, my feet cramping. I tried to reassure myself that more than 50% of […]

Computerized Textual Analysis

Apologies for this rough post, but I don’t have much time before I have to catch my shuttle to the airport. I’m in Victoria at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, taking a course with David Hoover (NYU) called “Out of the Box Text Analysis.” All week, I’ve been trying to work through my own skepticism about whether: computerized analysis of literary texts merely confirms/denies what we already know; the results are interesting and valuable enough to justify the tedious work […]

Poetry Makes Something Happen

This morning, as I struggled to drag my mind out of a mire of missing my mother and regretting my own misfires in the classroom, I watched two videos by Davidson college alums that snapped me out of my solipsism and reminded me what poetry can do to change our perspectives and broaden our minds. (Go English majors!) Clint Smith (’10) is a poet and teacher who uses poetry to change the narratives we tell about kids and poverty in […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Of Mere Being

I’ve just returned from a much anticipated, much dreaded three-day sojourn in Connecticut, where I saw Mom for the first time in her new living quarters, an extended care facility called Arden Courts. My family had given me a pretty clear picture of what to expect, but they couldn’t prepare me for the emotional wallop of seeing her, dozing in the common room, wheelchair-bound, listing to the side, head tilted back, arms stiff, legs atrophied, feet puffy in her unused shoes. […]

Break a Leg

As I said on Facebook, my folks can’t seem to get a break—well, they got one, but not the kind we wanted. A couple of weeks ago, Mom fell and broke her femur, near the hip joint. She may have had a second fall, but we don’t know the details. A caregiver found her, and my Dad spent another day in ER, while they took x-rays and CT-scans, eventually coming to the conclusion that she would need surgery. After surgery, she […]

Microaggressions and the Need to Know More

Microaggressions are in the news, nationally and locally. In a recent New York Times piece, “Students See Many Slights as Racial ‘Microaggressions,’” Tanzina Vega describes microaggressions as “the subtle ways that racial, ethnic, gender and other stereotypes can play out painfully in an increasingly diverse culture.” The concept isn’t new. It was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Chester M. Pierce, a professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard University, to describe the “subtle, cumulative miniassault that is the substance of today’s […]

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