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

Wednesday, May 22, 2024


for LVK

Of summer plans, my friend says 
"Maybe we can make it a point 
to get arrested for a good cause."
I demur for I fear brute hands on 
my body--but eff it--ok, I'd do it
it would be "good trouble"

my body is but a prayer; my hopes only loud songs
flowing to the river, its hairline starting summer
I know it would be to follow love
and not the law--to hold the hands 
of those beloved children again, 
to fold food and kindness 
and safety into them--
it would be good
Pic: Wild Phlox all the way to the river in LB's backyard. 
We walked along the river for a long while.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024


1) They now know me by name at Hammond Farms where I get rocks and pebbles for the pond. We've been getting comfortable: The first day I showed up in a dress, then it was pants, then sweats, then shorts...  on my most recent trip, I went in my ratty back brace. The people who work there--especially the women--are amazing.

 2) This poem got accepted for publication in an academic volume. The editor suggested changing "assignment" to "answer" in the penultimate line for clarity, and I agree. They liked how my persona's responses are reduced to the merely parenthetical in the poem. 

3) There's another happy ending too. After I wrote the poem, I set my hurt feelings aside to focus on continuing to do what I'm supposed to do--help the student learn. We had a few individual sessions, the student began to enjoy the readings, refined their ideas, improved their writing, and by the end of the semester, was repeatedly thanking me in class meetings. I learned too; I'm now inclined to think that their initial snipe came from awkwardness more than malice. 

4) Pic: I've been having better luck relaxing with my morning tea on this side of the tea garden, without getting distracted by tasks. The light started off gray and moody, but it soon turned into a brilliant and gloriously sunshiny day later. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Ope--not what it seems

I woke up before my alarm went off this morning, glanced through the cloudy bedroom windows, and saw Max standing still in the middle of the pond. I dashed to the window, and it took me a few seconds to recompute. It wasn't Max. It was the work gloves I'd perched on top of the barrow, which looked like my puppy looking right at me--at least as I was opening my eyes after two hours of sleep.

Also: I was called in for an important meeting at work today and Big A was convinced that I was going to be offered a promotion. Umm. No. I was called in so I could be informed that someone else was getting a promotion. It's all good. This way, I don't have to do budgets, so we all win. 

Pic: I can still see how I mistook my gloves for Max, and it takes me back to that moment of waking up in a panic and my self-deprecatory chuckles soon after. It was nice to be so thoroughly woken up and in a good mood so early in the day. 

Thursday, May 02, 2024

cheers to 25 years

It's At's birthday and she turns 25! TWENTY FIVE! I can't believe my baby is that old (nearly 30, my mom said rounding up in her characteristically comic way last month, and we've all been quoting it to At all the time since). And what's more, I can't believe I've been a parent for that long. Goodness! Where does time go?

At is out with friends today (I had a brief and raucous phone call), so we'll celebrate at home on Saturday. 

In the meantime, I celebrated JG's return from her 12-week trip to Costa Rica and Panama (she brought me gifts!), LB's birthday (I brought her gifts!), the Child Advocacy Art exhibition opening (where I met so many lovely people who care about advocating for children), and (after a quick dinner with Nu, Huck, Max, and Big A) ended the day at a wonderful guest performance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with EM at the Wharton. The Mozart was comfortingly sublime and the Piazolla version of Vivaldi--which I'd not heard before--was energetically otherworldly. 

Walking home through dark and empty streets after the concert with the music still in my head and the smell of lilacs in the air, I felt quite drunk with contentment.

Pic: Child Advocacy Art Exhibition with JG, MZ, RM, TV, NP, and more.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

standing in beauty

I saw the most amazing early morning skies over the Maple River as I headed to work today, and had a feeling it would be the harbinger of a glorious day.

Actually... nothing in the day itself topped that glimpse of sunbeams breaking through the clouds and glancing off the water. That moment of beauty (what the kids and I used to call taking a "deep breath of beauty" when we made that trip daily) was in itself what made the day special.

And in fact, there were two pieces of disturbing news today.

First: colleague Sami Schalk who describes themselves as "a Black, queer, disabled professor" was thrown to the ground, choked, and had their dress nearly ripped off by the police as they were supporting their students at U-W Madison. Horrifying but inspiring. I much prefer Sami's earlier moment of renown, also inspiring, which was twerking on stage with Lizzo! (Article about her pleasure and disability studies activism here.)

And then there was news that Paul Auster had died. I came close to meeting him a couple of times when we lived in NJ, but didn't. I did meet tons of English grad students in the early part of this century who wanted to live in Brooklyn because he did though. He was a veteran of the 1968 protests at Columbia University, so there is some resonance with the events of this week. I love when he said, "The novel is the only place where two strangers can meet on terms of absolute intimacy." That the two strangers he had in mind were the writer and the reader, is just so perfect.

Pic: Early morning skies over the Maple River. I'm not a fan of the term "crepuscular rays," but they are so beautiful! I'd find ways to stand in their beams when I was a kid and feel like I'd been touched by the sky's blessings.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Today I found...

1) Inside, I've been finding it really hot, so we had to bring up the electric fans from the basement early this year. 

2) In my email, I found a contract for an article accepted to an anthology--this has been years in the making!

3) In my closet, I found my favorite skirt from before we were married. It's faded now, but I wear it now and then because Big A once told me he liked it a lot. 

4) On my body, I've been finding bruises up and down my legs. Today I realized it's because I've been shoveling a lot of stuff in the garden this week, and I've been bracing the shovel's handle against my body as I use my body weight to budge things. I've got to stop doing this.

5) On the news, I found the NYPD's actions on the Columbia and CUNY campuses brutal and the footage terrifying. This is under the watch of a Dem mayor, governor, and president, so I'm not sure what new lows the November elections will bring.

6) Pic: In our front yard, I found some morels this morning in the woodsy patch. They usually pop up in May (I mean tomorrow is May, but still), so this is technically the earliest. I don't like being in the woods by myself, so although I could see our front door (literally), I kept looking around to reassure myself there were no surprise creatures hiding. I'm such a city mouse!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

a night different from others: four answers to questions unasked

1) The MSU Gaza solidarity encampment moved indoors a couple of times yesterday because of storms but was back outside today. Morale is high. Lots of arts and crafts and some teach-ins about in-state weapons manufacturers. The university authorities have (wisely? cynically?) allowed the encampment to go on until Monday in the hope that many students will go home after graduation weekend. 

2) On Engie's recommendation, I'm reading Elizabeth Moon's Remnant Population and it made me want to reread Amitav Ghosh's The Nutmeg's Curse because of all the references to terraforming, so I am. Both books really pack a punch individually and in tandem. 

3) I've made a couple of shifts with writing projects that have helped. Firstly, instead of thinking I "have to..." I'm framing things as "I get to..." It makes a big difference whether I think "I have to finish my context notes and they're yet another actionable item on my list..." versus "My poems got accepted, I get to finish these context notes, yay!" Secondly, I'm trying to remember editors exist. Instead of obsessing over every possible nuance, I'm just going to turn things in and let the editors let me know if they want me to make changes. (Haven't actually done this yet; famous last words.)

4) Pic: Passover seder at our friends' tonight; Nu was relieved not to be the youngest at the table responsible for asking "the four questions."

Thursday, April 25, 2024

MSU solidarity encampment

More than 60 campuses across the U.S. have now set up encampments to call attention to the ever-rising death toll of the Palestinian people and to demand that our government cease aiding the Israeli government.  These protests have been compared to student Vietnam protests; to my friend CMS who was at Columbia in the 1980s, they are reminiscent of the anti-apartheid protests against South Africa. 

McSweeney's has a laugh-cry post about student protests that is so on the nose"The University administration respects all student protests, just not this one. Students have fought for many important causes over the years, and their right to protest is sacrosanct. In this case, however, we must arrest and slander them. We will not look back and regret this decision. Although we were wrong about not admitting women, abolitioning racial quotas, US involvement in Vietnam, and divesting from apartheid South Africa, we are confident that this time is different."

This week, I've watched with horror as students have gotten tased, teargassed, and shot with rubber bullets, police show up in militarized outfits, and snipers have been stationed on the roof (at OU and IU). I am proud of the faculty who have shown up to support their students across various campuses, forming human chains, and trying to protect their students. 

This is the right thing to do. It's a glimpse of what the student-teacher relationship needs to be in times of crisis. If teaching means nurturing minds, it also extends to defending students from oppression. Faculty have since gotten violently arrested, and the video of the Emory professor being thrown to the ground with two burly police officers kneeling on her back is distressing in a way that is visceral. But it's still the right thing to do. 

I'm relieved that the local encampment at MSU that was set up today is relatively calmer. Police showed up to ask that the tents be removed, but left without incident. Morale seemed to be high and the protestors did not back down. It feels like so much has been lost, that we've lost our sense of fear too.

Pic: Encampment at MSU--about 20 tents and a few hundred people. For the safety of all, I'm sharing only a hazy photo pulled from the video the organizers shared.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

busy for a Saturday

Huck and Max were a bit lonely today. 

Nu was hosting six people for a sleepover and was way too busy for the littlest sibs. Amusingly brusque, as a matter of fact. It was a little glimpse of Nu as a host or perhaps a parent.

At was in Chicago for the Labor Notes panels. From the pic shared on family chat, I thought At was wearing a retro pantsuit--no, she was rocking a retro skirt-suit.

Big A was off to his 36-miler Barry Roubaix after a muffin-centric breakfast of champions.

And I was off to commencement--probably the happiest day in the academic calendar. I always clap for each of our ≈400 graduates, whether I know them or not. And then after the ceremony, we form a gauntlet for the graduates and it's just such a thrill and such a treat to see so many familiar faces from over the last four (or five) years and celebrate their big step up... and get goodbye hugs from some of them.   

Pic: In my robes for commencement. It always feels like I'm cosplaying as a medieval English cleric. Nicole had suggested angling up for full-length selfies. I guess this is an improvement from my previous selfie attempts as you can kind of see my plaid pants, but I need longer arms.

Friday, April 19, 2024

the kids are better than alright

I love how the the student protests on Columbia University's west lawn have grown despite the 100 arrests yesterday. I'm so moved by their celebrations of both Shabbat and Jumma this evening and exhilarated by the way the repression by school authorities is inspiring students on other campuses (UNC, Boston, CUNY, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, OU) to protest in solidarity.

Our own At is away in Chicago as an invited speaker at the Labor Notes conference. One panel is about "building a multigenerational movement for democratic unionism" and another is on "rebuilding the worker movement" by "salting" from the inside. At the Labor Notes conference, two anti-genocide protestors were arrested and then "de-arrested" after other protestors stood around the police vehicle and chanted for over two hours.

Pic: In the meantime, I attended (boo!) a fairly corporate event, but it was necessary and they were earnest and made me this personalized charcuterie board. (I don't eat salami (if that's what it is), but everything else was delicious.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

"bad idea, right?"

More meetings today, including two terribly fraught ones... including one in the boardroom where 99% of the portraits on the wall are of old, white men. But between prep meetings and debriefs and hallway chats and phone calls about these two meetings, the day went quickly. And all too soon it was academic social time where our very small group (at one point just our provost and me) made a good showing at trivia (although I will always want to kick myself for not coming up with "Echo" in relation to Narcissus). 

Pic: I've been taking more selfies than usual because I have to document wearing non-pants in academic settings for a challenge ("Skirtathon"). And I suck at taking them... how does one do a full-length selfie? I wanted to share the beautiful pattern on my (thrifted)  Rachel Roy dress here. 

Another bad idea is that inspired by all the beautiful ensembles people have put together for the challenge, I went on ThredUp and ordered a bunch of blazers. Blazers. When I already have too many. When the weather is warming up. When I won't have to wear formal work clothes until nearly September. Face-palm.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

promises, promises

time slopes
birdsong switches 
from call to answer
and just keeps climbing 

almost lost
in this range of joy
my heart unfurls itself 
and lifts up as an offering

Pic: I found this funny hybrid (red tail + black body) "fellow in the grass" between meetings and the department's farewell lunch for graduating seniors today. How bittersweet to say goodbye to these people... all these young people who have already done brilliant and difficult work, and are poised to do loving, amazing things in the world. 

Friday, April 12, 2024


3:30 am: Big A and I get to bed and wish we didn't have to go to work in the morning. Not because we're getting to bed late, but because he's working in Milwaukee for the next three days and I won't be around to say goodbye when he leaves.

5:30-ish am: I wake from a nightmare in which I'm in my modeling days and the make-up artist is someone who appears to be a 14-year-old child. They somehow manage to fix my hair so it looks both straight and frizzy and when I demur, they threaten to call their dad.

6:55 am: I'm finishing up breakfast chores and Nu asks me if I could drop them at the school bus stop because it's drizzling and they just blow-dried their hair. Umbrellas and raincoats are too cumbersome to carry around at school (their locker is too far away from their classrooms).

8:30-ish am: I'm crying in the car because today's Story Corps was terrifying and beautiful.

9:15 am onwards: all my favorite work people are gathered to clap for a colleague who has just taught the last class of their career as they walk out of their classroom. Does anyplace else do this? The consensus is "no." I think this is a lovely tradition. Bonus: I get to have little chats with all my favorite people.

10:00 am-ish: I walk AK back to her building and we take in the Gaza exhibit the YDSA has put up.


Noon-ish: Two colleagues pop by my office to strategize some advocacy work. We're drinking tea and spilling all kinds of tea.


5:00-ish: Mostly work although there is some surreptitious texting during the meeting where I say goodbye to Big A and check in on Nu and then JD and LK are texting about "feeling a breakdown coming on" and how their "soul has left the building."

5:30-ish: I leave the meeting with SD for a work dinner. It's lovely to see all the wonderful work people have been doing. One of my favorite people who now works at the University of Michigan is visiting and has a beautiful handwritten letter for me.

7:00-ish: I'm on my way home and chatting to my mom.

8:00-ish: I get home. Big A has left for Wisconsin, Nu is out with friends, Max and Huckie are so happy to see me. 

The day is almost over for me at this point. The puppies and I share a banana--our evening treat--and then snuggle up on the couch. I finish up the book I'm reading and listen to music while I wait for Nu to get home. Their deadline is midnight.

Pic: YDSA's informational Gaza exhibit. I assumed that the rain had done some damage, but it seems some of the uprooted flags were human mischief. 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

last day/first day

And that's a wrap on classes until August. There are exams and meetings next week and task forces that will meet through the summer and new course prep, and I hope I work diligently on my writing projects... but the teaching schedule will be on hiatus. First day of the non-teaching schedule!

Pic: None. It was grey and rainy all day and I realized to my dismay on my way home that I'd forgotten to take my customary last-day-of-class pictures with all three of my classes. I thought we did some solid learning, had some good times, and I loved all three classes--I would have loved to have the pictorial memento. It's also a moment of bonding and levity in a stressful week as students sometimes yell out fun stuff to make the group smile or pick goofy poses and I'm sorry not to have shared in that this year. 

Ah well, onward!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Eid Mubarak

Showed up for moral support at a student advocacy meeting with the powers that be early in the morning. (I found myself picking pants over a skirt as I got dressed because I feel I'm taken more seriously when I'm in pants. This is probably true, but I hate the internalized femmephobia of this.)

I was so proud of and so moved by the students who showed up, spoke up, held space for others, held their ground, and held us accountable. I may have cried a bit when it was over--they were so brave and amazing. And also, so young and so deserving of not having to spend their time and energy and wellbeing on meetings like these. How is it that we're still working so hard for basic freedoms decades into the 21st century?

I got so much support from the fam on this. From BD supporting my decision to prioritize conscience over diplomacy and career security, Nu's disdainful anger and outrage, and At's organizational chops and doc review. I'm a lucky duck.

Pic: The moon at sunset yesterday. So much celestial activity this week! Growing up in Chennai I remember the Eid date determined by whether the local imam sighted the new moon or not. So friends wouldn't know if they were ending their fasts that day or the next!  This year, I'm celebrating the end of a successful Ramzan with friends across the globe. May there be hope and joy and goodness and good works. 

Thursday, April 04, 2024

so very sari

I've been meaning to wear more saris to work, but it is almost always too cold during the teaching year in Michigan. But today was Honors Day, and I wanted to honor all the hard work by students by dressing up for their presentations + had to judge a set of awards + attend a child advocacy event + head to the fancy awards dinner later. (AND IT'S ALSO MY BOSS DAY!) 

So a sari it was.

Five yards of chiffon held together by some optimistic pleating-tucking into a petticoat, two safety pins, and prayers. It all held together great, but I did have to wake Big A up to button the back of my blouse for me. I have no idea how anyone could do that without help. 

Pic: My sweet colleague CP took a full-length pic of me in my office, crouching on the floor to "make me look taller." 💗 The sari and blouse came from my sweet aunt when we were in Bangalore last year. I may or may not have posted this on the secret Skirtathon page Sarah mentioned.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

a day to be proud...

1) of my WGS students who set up 25 wonderful interactive booths to discuss subjects as varied as the female gaze in films, non-binary erasure, abortion access in MI, and mental health for athletes. At this point, all I had to do was backstage manage with tape and pens and flyers and fruit snacks.

2) of Nu who went out with friends for the second day in a row after mentioning their renewed depression. Knowing they understand friends can make you feel better and that they have friends to draw on and the energy to make plans, feels like progress. 

Pic: Students making me SO proud. We were all buzzing with that energy that comes from a performance even as we took the displays down. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

"I'm a weirdo/doofus/nerd/naif" (Part MXVIII)

I realized during my meditation this morning that my energy for contacting so many people yesterday (the "emotional labor" that Steph referenced) must be because of the ceasefire in Gaza making me feel like I could take a personal pause.

Also, I took Max to the vet for his one-year check; he was a champ. I was not a champ. The receptionist brightly asked if I'd brought Scout, and I immediately welled up like a doofus. And then she was so apologetic, I felt bad for her and worse overall. 

But I handily completed a paper proposal titled "Extra, Extra, Extra!: Improving Critical Connectivity in Higher Education" and am particularly chuffed by this: "In Intersectionality as Critical Social Theory, Patricia Hill Collins describes critical theory as critical in a triple sense: as offering critique, as essential, and as expository. In this paper, we similarly draw upon the triple use of the term “extra” to unpack the ways critical feminist practices may be viewed within Higher Education--namely as exceptional, as supplementary, and (in recent slang) as excessive."

Also, Nu's sleepover guests just arrived, and I love the giggly and infectious energy they've brought with them.


Pic: The Red Cedar from the new walking bridge. (Photo's from my walk this weekend. It's another grey and cloudy day here today, so it probably looks the same. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

"smile/what's the use of crying"

It wasn't always cozy and fuzzy, but I felt connected in human ways today:

gave Big A a (long overdue) dressing down... and then later we took a walk and an ussie...

apologized for being/seeming rushed to two students + three friends...

made plans with my girlfriend group + one friend + two colleagues...

reached out to two people who've been uncharacteristically quiet...

pushed through the daily banter to check in for real on my India fam...

Nu was so quiet at dinner time, and while my first instinct was that they were being surly, I kept on with open-ended questions to hear that they've been depressed again. And in a flash of clarity: "it comes and goes, Mama." :/ I would happily take their pain...

Pic: A sweet, sweet note referring to last week's presentation I found at my office door this morning. There are students here whose kind words feel like a commendation. Also, I received an email about being nominated for a state-wide teaching award. I suspect the nomination came from another kind student... and in perfect consonance, at the end of the workday, someone was singing the praises of this student as a student-teacher. How much each of us hurts... how hard we try to be there for each other...  I'm so grateful for the people I know in this life.

Monday, March 25, 2024

a handful of hope

U.N. ceasefire in Gaza. (Just for two weeks with the U.S. abstaining). But... we have a ceasefire.  

Big A is much better.

Forsythia is coming up everywhere.

Snow seems to be gone, and warmer temperatures are incoming. 

Conference proposals are coming along nicely.

Students are making such lovely progress on their research projects.

Loved reading through the applications for MacCurdy, the feminist house I advise. 

Pic: A forsythia bush on my walk yesterday. I think I described Forsythia as the "hinge to Spring" once--I feel the weather starts looking up when they're in full bloom.

crossed lines

A long chat with my mom who is back home from staying with her newly bereaved sister for a week and everything is Just. So Sad.  My aunt wan...