Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teaching. Show all posts

Friday, December 08, 2023

"praying for peace/living with love"

The world is so beautiful and the world is so terrifying. Over 17,000 people have been killed by bombs and gunfire in the past eight weeks... It's so strange how I still go about as if everything is ok... Although my country vetoed a humanitarian ceasefire yet again. 

I think of the children holding a press conference in English--a language foreign to them--to beg the world not to bomb them. And yet, over 7000 Gazan children have been killed in just these two months; many thousands more are maimed and injured for life. I think in particular about the mother holding her lifeless baby saying she took 580 IVF injections to have him; the tender searchers in the rubble after every airstrike. I think of how many hospitals, schools, and homes have been bombed, the patients, medical staff, students, teachers, and families in them evanesced. No poem can contain my grief. Nothing can calm my disbelief that this is happening so publicly... so blatantly.

Sunny Singh, who has always been so kind to me and my students lost a friend today--he was a fellow teacher of English and a poet. His name was Refaat al-Aareer. In a better world I might have met him some day at a reading or a conference or in someone's home. And he is just one of thousands who is gone suddenly and too soon with their hopes and dreams still pending. This is a poem he wrote last week:

If I must die

you must live to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child,
somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven
in the eye awaiting his
dad who left in a blaze-
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh not even to himself-
sees the kite,
my kite you made,
flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale

Pic: Baker Woods with RS yesterday. She asked me if it would look bad if she celebrated Hanukkah with all that is going on. I told her we'd be lighting lamps with Nu (Big A's great grandparents were Jewish and there is a family menorah/hanukkiah). I'm glad we have celebrations. I want us to put away our bombs and celebrate life. (I saw the words I used for the title of this post on a church's marquee this morning on my way to work.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

another love poem

my class is united by laughter
until we look alike 
                            it digs a hole in the day where 
                            our anxiety disappears
as if sifting through our souls
for the answer
                            and finding only half words
                            and silly dreams
freed us forever/for a moment
(or so it seemed)
Pic: First-year-seminar poster exhibition. The moment I'm thinking of was in another class, but the picture I took there has too many recognizable faces, and I haven't asked for permission to post it. I'm glad the semester is almost over... but I will miss the camaraderie and intellectual tussle of the classroom. Sending extra love out into the universe for the young ones and the little ones today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023


And just like that, it's exam week: I wish I could tell my student people to take deep breaths. Lots of last-minute anxiety, so the days are long, but overall a sense of satisfaction and good endings.

It was the kind of day where I constantly pivoted like a dancer: from sharing the first years' sense of accomplishment in the morning (their first semester at college down, look at the posters they made!) to making notes as students presented on projects they've been working on for six weeks (and marveling at their insights and how skilled they are at encouraging each other!) to a discussion with the college's board of trustees in the early evening (just the department chair and me, we thought it went well). 

That last task reminded me that someone put me on a list of nominees for the MSU board of trustees. When I demurred, EM said (referring to the spate of Title IX missteps at MSU since Larry Nassar) I was totally worthy because at the very least I wouldn't sexually harass anyone. Well, in that case... 

Pic: Amaryllis are blooming in my tea garden. Time to go start the narcissi so they'll be in bloom by Christmas (I say, hopefully).

Monday, December 04, 2023

Five-year-old me

What would my childhood self think about grownup me? 

I've been thinking about it since Nance mentioned that she keeps her kindergarten picture on her dresser to remind her "of the little girl who wanted to be a teacher and a mom. I look at her often and think about how so many of her dreams came true and then some. It helps me stay grateful."

I'm five in this picture, and my favorite thing was to line up my sister, our ayah, and the dolls in my playroom to play school--with me as the teacher. So I think five-year-old me would be thrilled that I grew up to be a teacher and tickled to know I have kids and puppies of my own--I think they'd find that part really hilarious. Back then, the expectation to be "good" was intense--I wonder what five-year-old me would think of my daily quest to be a better person, to keep learning... When I was little, I was always afraid of being orphaned (I read too much even back then), so I wish I'd known my parents would know their grandkids...

Like Nance, I too am grateful that so many of my dreams have come true--even dreams I did not yet know to have for myself. I can see myself at ten or eleven lying on the terrace looking up at planes and wondering (not even wishing, really) *if* I would have a job, if I would fly on a plane (only my parents had flown at this point), and if anyone would fall in love with me. 

Pic: An old B&W portrait of my family (dad, sis, mom, me). I remember so clearly that my dress was a very pale pink and white with a soft collar and square white buttons with a pink inlay; my sister's dress was a hand-me-down from me, it had been a favorite until I grew out of it--I called it the "peacock frock" because it cascaded in overlapping "feathers" and had a deep blue embroidered motif on each. I'm pretty sure my mom's organza sari is orange with white polka dots. When the square belt buckle (buttons and buckle were all purely decorative) on my dress fell off, I used it as a tool at my art table to scrape excess crayon off the paper and even out the colors. I wore a school uniform to school, and "play" clothes at home; I had a very small collection of "fancy" clothes to wear to parties, the club, and so on and I remember most of them quite fondly. My sister was wearing a corrective leg brace at that point, which is why my parents are holding her hands on either side. No one is holding my hand... I wonder what I seem so pleased about... Wow. I did not expect to remember so much. And look at my HAIRY forehead!! lol

Friday, December 01, 2023

Last day of classes, first holiday party

Last day of classes, first holiday party. 

It's that time of the year when faculty colleagues, admin, staff, community members are celebrating in the same room. I wore my Christmas tree earrings.

Pic: "The Scots on the Rocks" are singing "We Three Kings" here. They prefaced the carol with the James Bond theme--cute. 

Later, they sang "Last Christmas" and a non rape-y version of "Baby it's Cold Outside" both of which Nicole had recently mentioned as being favorites!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

"it's that little souvenir of a terrible year/which makes my eyes feel sore"

I thought I was done collecting snow globes... 

But I was at the store getting personal hygiene products for my students' community service project and this snow globe called out to me. Scout loved Christmas... and I like how this one makes it as though Scout is getting a visit with Santa this year too.

It plays "We wish you a merry Christmas" and I never wind it up all the way, so it plays really slowly and sounds super sad. Like those songs which do double duty with an upbeat happy version and a slower sad version. "Que sera, sera" in The Man Who Knew Too Much is the only example I can think of right now... It's a really big thing in Bollywood films, something the kids love to parody with basically any song. 


It's the first Christmassy thing I've set out this year.

(Big A and I still tear up every day/every other day when we talk about Scout, who took so much of my heart with him. Does anyone have the timeline for when things will get better?)

Pic: Inside a snow globe with Scout and Santa. Wish I could be in there. #It'sMyBlogAndI'llBeMaudlinIfIWantTo
The title is from one of my favorite nostalgic songs from the 90s--The Sundays' "Here's Where the Story Ends." 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

snake sandwiches and puppy scuffles

I guess today continues the theme of elementary-school-level hijinks from yesterday. 

One of my fellow members (on the search committee to hire a biologist at the college) noticed that my eyes got wider and wider the longer the conversation about "arboreal garter snakes" went on. 

They kindly shared this information with the rest of the committee. 

Then the "jokes" started. What do those snakes eat? Well, they don't know about Maya yet. What are we ordering for dinner tomorrow? How about some snake sandwiches? And so on and so on. I'm glad I brought some levity to a work meeting that went on until past 7 pm. 

Snake sandwiches. Shudder.

Pic: (1) Max, (2) a previously-loved stuffie now being used as a chew/tug toy, (3) Huck, and (4) Big A on the floor by my feet as I graded. I can barely tell where Huck ends and the stuffie begins.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"I'm a weirdo"

I stopped at JG's before I headed home to drop off a care basket and a card that many of us, her old colleague-friends, had signed. Sadly, when I was getting the basket out of the back of the car, the vase of flowers I had balanced on the hood of the car [Q: why?!?!?!?; Ans: it had been a very long day!!] fell and shattered in her driveway.

I barged into her kitchen looking for a dustpan and brush to sweep up the mess and she kept insisting that they'd get it in the morning. Then her partner MB sneakily tried to rush past me with the dustpan. That triggered something atavistic in me and I sort of grabbed him and tickled him to make him give up the dustpan. And then we went out and cleared up the smashed vase together.

Later we were all talking about something serious and I just burst out with "OMG, I tickled MB." I mean we all laughed... but they're probably thinking I'm a weirdo, because that's exactly what I'm thinking. 

(And also now I'm thinking of how Radiohead says "weirdo" in a weird way and all the times my friends and I thought we'd spotted Thom Yorke at various cafes in Oxford. It was the early aughts and they were already quite famous, so I'm not sure anymore.)

Pic: Big A and I have weirdly elongated parking lot silhouettes!

“The Drifting”

I was so sad today to learn that Lynn Rather, a wonderful human and poet, has passed on to another plane. I met Lynn only once--we were billed together at a reading--but she made a strong impression of strength, sass, and cigarette smoke. AK and DD were good friends with her and with her at the end.

from “The Drifting” by Lynn Rather

on nights like this I think
I have not loved enough,
I have not given as much as I could.

snow blows and drifts across fields.
that is what it does.

the wind roars and then is gone.
that is what it does.

they give themselves utterly, and move on.
Pic: The pretty, pretty snow persisted today. I took this from an upstairs window--I'd just stepped out of my room, and my heart lifted on seeing Nu and Max playing outside.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023


Things I control: My inbox is at zero, I've graded and sent feedback on every student's project, I'm caught up with committee work... 

Things I do not control: A text informs me of an armed robbery a few blocks away, news of a shooting at a superstore close to where we used to live and where MIL still lives, L tells me she was friends with the MSU student who died in Gaza.

I'm going to take the next two days off to loaf and read and cook and eat and laze and hang out with my people. I shall loaf and invite my soul

Pic: Max and Hucky celebrating with an impromptu tussle at my feet.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

falling back

my mother says the sun 
is always a prized guest
silken beams trailing 
like roots, tickling,
                          lighting up treasures--
                          leaves fallen-golden 
                          who in their turn lay 
                           sunlight in my path 
I can barely believe
how these hinged wings, 
like words, are forgiving- 
fervid, budding in mud 
                          into a fullness of flood
                          this near sunset of leaves
                          blood-red, vital--and yet 
                          leaving--so close to a fall 
Pic: I got TWO walks in! One up to the Red Cedar by myself. And another with LB and TB to Baker Woods. I'll be stuck at meetings and appointments all day tomorrow, so I'm glad I got an extra one in today.

Friday, November 17, 2023


Oh, I'm so guilty of this meme. I've been trying to model calm and supportiveness to the people in my life, but  I'm (not so) secretly spiraling. 

I have a Pollyanna-ish streak, so I keep thinking things will get better; also--I have privilege guilt, so I think things could be so much worse. And I have friends across every spectrum and I keep a lot of things unsaid for fear of hurting their feelings.

Unfortunately the events of the past month are bubbling up to the surface... of my skin. I'm all stress-induced cystic acne and anxiety hives so bad, I'll think of uncomfortable conversations and then just spontaneously erupt. This morning I woke up with scratches on my throat--probably from clawing myself in my sleep. I'm a mess. I feel SO bad about myself. 

I'm glad I finally told my oldest friend SD that I disagreed with them and we went back and forth over text for a while and finally realized we'd never agree. And then they texted: "I love you no matter what." So thankfully, there's that. And yet, I could imagine my kids, who are more radical than I am, scoffing at SD's love and saying the love of someone with those kinds of beliefs shouldn't matter to me. 

But it does. But also, I'm a mess. Follow me for more tips.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023


I took myself out for a long walk before work this morning and it helped me figure things out. I remembered an agency I could approach for someone's emergency housing situation and the way to change the settings on a program that has been causing the first years some grief. 

It also solved the problem of what I'd be making for dinner: I made a white bean chili with rice.

Apparently that's what happens when you add leftover veggie pulao and rajma in a pot with fresh tomatoes and spinach and the jalapeno-elote appetizers you served over the weekend. After Nu and Big A had remarked on how tasty it was, I told them the alternate name for it was Diwali leftovers soup! Suckers! They didn't see that coming!

Pic: Geese and ducks on the Red Cedar. Shouldn't they already be headed somewhere else for the winter?

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

plaid power

A 12-hour day at work, but a nice set of classes, and I even found time to read between meetings, so it was nice all around. 

Just a few more weeks of teaching and then it'll be winter break... 

I'll really need to get back to writing at that point. Work on every project has been stalled for weeks--I easily write 1000s of words every day, but it's usually in service of someone else (rec. letters, references, reviews, etc.). I'm looking forward to prioritizing my work again soon.

Pic: Plaid is big on our campus because of our Scottish roots. Today in honor of an evening reception, I had on plaid blouse, plaid pants (OK, leggings--since the pandemic, I so rarely wear actual pants anymore), and plaid socks for the win.

Monday, November 13, 2023

"Talk Me To Sleep"

Certainly, my night-owling, insomnia, and going to bed in the early hours of the morning smacks of sleep procrastination: I stay up doing something I love because I didn't have time for it during my actual day. 

But sometimes it's because Big A is coming off a spate of night shifts and stays up late doing his notes and stuff and I just want to stay up with him. And if he's working nights, 3 am text banter makes me feel like I miss him less. (Although of course this is untenable since he can nap during the day to make up for lost sleep hours while I'm at work.) 

So we've come up with a practice we call "Talk Me To Sleep" where he talks to me (preferably about something bland like his work) until I fall asleep. There's a list of taboo topics--no bringing up Scout or world news or parents' health or finances--nothing disturbing. And there are topics so boring, I've been known to suggest that he saves it for a "Talk Me To Sleep." Yesterday he mentioned being in a "deep, cozy sleep" and I fell in love with that phrase as though it was a magic mantra that could immediately send me into a deep, cozy sleep. Deep, cozy sleep...

Pic: Wind turbines on my way to work. When Big A isn't around, I like to think of their giant arms whooshing through the air to put me to asleep. Perhaps I should start murmuring "deep, cozy sleep" too.

Friday, November 10, 2023

grateful for work friends

1) SD For making me laugh. They texted re. the Diwali party: "Any guidance on what to bring, appropriate attire (eg “no headlamps, please”), etc?" Upon which I informed them that headlights would be totally appropriate because it IS the festival of lights. And then they texted back: "But is it the Festival of Dorky? (Shit, now I’m committed to buying a headlamp 🤣.) Super excited!" 

2) KO for making me tear up. They left this note at my office door that says, ""Dear Maya, Everything is terrible & it's dark at 4 pm & winter is coming BUT you continue to be your kind, patient, empathetic & vulnerable self. You make a difference to so many including me! Thank you..." 

3) AK for our long chat, and taking the Inter-Library-Loan book I need to copy off my to-do list and also... really getting me. What did KO mean when they said I'm being my "vulnerable self," I asked. Did I make a fool of myself on some committee? And AK said--"Yeah, I would want to know what that was too!"

4) CN for a hallway update on all the shitty stuff students have been doing on campus. I'm going to have to have a talk with some RAs and coaches.

5) CW and KPB who are kind to me all the time, but especially grateful to them this week for being so welcoming and willing to give rides to international students to get them here on Sunday.

Pic: KO's "Yas Queen" note!

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

weekday blur

I didn't get to throw big parties for Big A's 50th or Nu's 16th or really celebrate puja or Halloween in October as I wanted to--so I decided on Sunday morning that we absolutely must have a big Diwali party this weekend. 

By Sunday night, invitations had gone out, favors had been ordered, and the menu was finalized. It helps that Diwali seems to have gone mainstream lately, so I was able to find cute things like Diwali-themed photo booth accessories and treat bags. I guess we're doing this :)!

Today was busier than most Wednesdays as the first-years were registering for next term and there were some emergency meetings and emails on top of my regular schedule. Thankfully, I did manage to snatch an hour for a walk, but at the end of the day, I was really frayed and tired. I did like finding out my "Gender and Popular Culture" course was oversubscribed and has a waiting list though.

Pic: Max's tail is a blur as is Big A's hand. I took this picture to document how Max sleeps on his back as though he's human; Huckie is wedged between my feet and the side of the couch in a slightly more normal way. Please excuse the strange blue cast to everything, the overhead lights are set on some setting called "under the sea" or something.

Friday, November 03, 2023

"bread and roses"

Between my morning meetings and the faculty meetings in the afternoon, I raced to the picket line at At's work, which was sponsored by the Teamsters. It has been well over a year since At and their team won their historic unionization, but they are yet to win their contract. 

It wasn't a very big crowd at the picket line--but it was lively. I reconnected with SN, an old student and friend, and the Teamsters regaled me with compliments about At. 

My favorite story though was the one about one of the Teamster's once eight-year-old who would race out to meet FedEx delivery people with her mom's business card to encourage them to organize so they too could enjoy pay raises like UPS workers (who are famously with the Teamsters). Adorbs!

I found myself humming "Bread and Roses"--one of my favorite versions is the one featured in Pride (2014), that quirky, plucky, cross-cultural solidarity movie.

Pic: Supporters on the picket line outside At's place of work.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023


No costumes, no party, no decorations, and no trick-or-treaters this year. Boo! But I love everyone else's decorations and costumes and look forward to next year. 

Sweet: So... I have tons of candy left (even after handing lots out in class). There are just two houses on our street with kids (one of them is ours) and both sets of kids are too cool for trick-or-treating. I predict my stress eating will be sweeeet for weeeeks to come.

Sweeter: Heaving a sign of relief for the tentative end of the UAW strike; optimistic that the needle of public opinion is shifting towards a ceasefire in the middle east; thankful for completed extraneous correspondence (difficult student note, colleague's review letter, and students' recommendation letters).

Sweetest: Anticipating Max's delight when he encounters snow for the first time tonight/tomorrow.

Pic: The Red Cedar through the trees. (From Sunday's walk.)

Sunday, October 29, 2023


Positive: Big A picked me up at the airport this morning and I am reunited with my people, puppies, and plants. I missed them! (The first day away was glorious though.) 

Negative: On Friday, I finally ID-ed why I was beginning to feel anxious in my hotel room--the last time I was at a conference (late March-early April), Scout had suddenly (or so it seemed) become very sick. The beige of hotel rooms will forever be a trigger to that horror.

Positive: I took a walk to say hello the river, and it looks like the new eastward bridge is open! I'm very excited for this. I'm saving this walk for when I can go with Big A or L.

Negative: Between being out of town on Big A's birthday weekend and this NWSA weekend, I've missed every Halloween gathering in our town--I should find a way to make class extra scary on Tuesday.

Pic: The bridge is open! The bridge is open!

skin, hair, fur

Every night before he leaves for work, Big A has taken to reminding me to let go my feelings of overhwhelm and weltschmerz and focus on the ...