Thursday, January 29, 2015

... vampires & academia, running sucks, AND plants on a snowy day...

The academic semester is concluding week 2 tomorrow and I AM EXHAUSTED! Bah! I must have become commuting-wimpy during sabbatical. Nevertheless, I am so glad to be back in the classroom. It has been a bit snowy in Washington, D.C. so the plants, especially the hyacinth that I brought into the office, really help.

I’m teaching the Vampires in Literature, Film and Pop Culture course through the General Studies program again this semester, and yesterday my students gave short pop culture presentations. During one of the presentations, I learned all about the Vampire 5K. The event is not considered a “race” and in the description it reads that this is a “one-of-a-kind event that pits Citizens versus Vampires in a race for survival” and “This is for everyone out there who says they only like running if they are being chased.” Ha ha ha, I used to always say that. I’ve actually run a few 10K races in the past… more liked jogged them. I’m not competitive and when it started to become work (read that as *not fun*), I stopped. I thoroughly enjoy walking (for or not for exercise) because I’m out in nature and can look around at my environment. Running is a bit different.

Anyhow, this looks really fun. There have been a few Zombie runs that I’ve been considering but I’m pretty sure I can convince some of my colleague to do this with me… even if it’s just for the shirts.

Many universities allow faculty to have research days where we don’t teach. Yet, instead of doing actual research today, I mostly did other work-related catch-up from being on sabbatical. Probably my biggest accomplishment was that I (successfully) maneuvered through our travel requirements for presentations and conferences… although it certainly did take me a while. Last night I learned that I will receive a faculty development grant that will cover perhaps the entire cost of the conference that I will be attending in April. That is HUGE and such a wonderful benefit.  Honestly, I’m a bit surprised. While the committee chair wrote that “[my] proposal was very creative, well-written and an outstanding example!” the topic was vampire-related and I do teach at a fairly conservative university. Just last week a colleague mentioned that I probably shouldn’t be teaching Dracula when the Board of Trustees observes my Intro. class of English majors. WWWWHHHAAATTT???? I’m pretty sure that my head spun like Regan in The Exorcist. Dracula isn’t some lowbrow trash novel… geez! I even require a Norton Critical Edition (because I nerd out on the footnotes!)

Wearing fangs out with my fella... you can almost see his elf ear :D
But other than a snide comment here and there, and still having older faculty mumble, “I see you’re wearing black again today” the job is a dream. And in a field where it is at times publish or perish, I’ve put in the work with a review published in the Washington Post in September, a chapter in a book published in December, and currently my very own manuscript being considered (with chapters sent out to outside readers just last week). If I want to spend a little energy on a 1970s vampire film because nobody else (who should be) is… so be it. (Steps down off soapbox… or perhaps a wooden box *wink*.)

... The Raven EVERMORE...

If poems had birthday parties, Edgar A. Poe’s “The Raven” would be blowing out 170 candles!

The poem had already been rejected by another publisher; and, Poe even used a pseudonym when it was finally published! While there are various sources arguing about what Poe was paid for the piece, we do know that he made little money from it especially since there strict copyright laws like today prohibiting the work from being reprinted without the author being paid.

Okay, it's not like this was marked on today's calendar. This was a little tidbit that I picked up in the blogosphere.  For more information from the Richmond Poe Museum, including information about Elizabeth Barrett Browning's reaction to the poem, visit the Museum News page

Sunday, January 25, 2015

... thoughts on a distressing song, the amazing Taylor Swift, and me as a teen...

Part of my commute requires me to listen out for interstate accidents and weather conditions so I kind of have to listen to local radio. And since local radio plays the same songs again and again, they get into my head. One day I’m going to do a post about Taylor Swift and how I think she’s just so darn cute… and apparently (since my friend performed during her Grammy show in 2013… he’s the clown on the tricycle by the way) she is a class act AND can actually sing! I just think she seems so darn nice! (Lots of ‘darns’ with ol’ Ms. Swift.) Plus, I remember the first time that I ever heard of her was during a 2008 MTV special where there was part of competition to escort her to a high school prom. Anyhow, THIS post isn’t about Taylor Swift. This is about Echosmith’s song “Cool Kids” (the link is for the lyrics) and why it makes me so sad.
The chorus goes a little like this (clears throat Me Me Me… ha, aren’t ya glad this is a blog!)

"I wish that I could be like the cool kids,
'Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.
I wish that I could be like the cool kids, like the cool kids."

Whenever I hear the lyrics, especially the chorus, I think about how I never ever wanted to be like any of the so-called cool kids in school. What may read as a bit of arrogance, although I think it’s simply a healthy bit of self-esteem, I actually always liked being myself. I wasn’t the prettiest, smartest, thinnest, hottest…. –est, etc. and I’m still not but I still preferred being me. There will always be someone better than you in some aspect; likewise, you’ll always be better than someone else. That’s just life *shrug*.

Back to the song… The first stanza:

“She sees them walking in a straight line, that's not really her style.
And they all got the same heartbeat, but hers is falling behind.
Nothing in this world could ever bring them down.
Yeah, they're invincible, and she's just in the background.”

Oy! Did we feel like this back in the 80s and 90s?!? Was it more cool to be counter back then or is it just me?  Is this a new trend or am I living in a bubble?  I was in a group of quirky and odd misfits when I was in high school and it was amazing! I wouldn’t have changed it for a minute. We didn’t walk in a straight line in any way. There just seems to be more and more songs on the radio now about feeling different in a way that needs a bit of encouragement like it’s okay to be different.

This post doesn’t really have a conclusion… it’s just my thoughts and knowing that tomorrow when I get back in my car to make the commute, I’ll be thinking about my friends, some of whom have passed, and how we used to forgo the cafeteria tables to sit on a bit of stairs that still remind me of Q-bert. Oh and Taylor Swift would tell us to "Shake it off"... this post is becoming more and more about her :p I'm not lying! I find her adorable!

I love this picture of me so much because I remember who was sitting in the cafeteria with me circa 1989. We used to cut out pictures back then and tape them in books... they scan funny *shrug*. Plus, it's probably the only shot I have of my 16 rings I used to wear. No idea what happened to them. And OMG that's my natural hair color because I wasn't allowed to dye it in high school.

Oh and back to the Taylor Swift video! :p 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

... chair paranormal investigation, and a Bunny Man without an Echo...

I joined Meet Up, a social media site that encourages people to actually (gasp) meet up and have various adventures. There is one group that I tried to join but my acceptance is pending. Hmph. It’s been almost a week and I honestly only wanted to join because this weekend there is a Mourning Ritual lecture which sounds awesome. They’re actually a paranormal investigation group and perhaps my answers to the Meet Up survey just didn’t pass. I mean, I *want to* believe but I don’t have the patience to hold some prongs or coat-hanger wires straight while being quiet for several hours waiting for a spirit to answer questions that I’ll have to play back on a computer. I’m not making fun! I just am not a sit-still/ patient kind of girl. Sigh. If I stayed in a haunted B&B, my fella would probably have to wake me up to tell me that a ghost came in. Actually a story for another day is that we did stay in a B&B with a haunted room that wasn’t shared with us until after my fella woke up screaming the name “Mary”. Talk about me giving him the stink eye in the morning… that was only until the B&B owner explained that the room was haunted by a woman named Mary. (Makes a fussy face… not buying it hmph).

There was also that time that my mom and I stayed in an old farm house that was converted into a dorm for students of a school for the Deaf in New England. We stayed there while I was looking for an apartment in the area. When I woke in the morning, my mom was sitting straight up in bed holding a broom. During the night she heard rattling keys and thought someone was trying to break in. When I asked why she didn’t wake me she explained that she knew I would open the door to confront the intruder (yeah, probably true… I’m snarky like that). Unfortunately, when we saw the school superintendent, he explained that it was probably Max, the resident ghost. The school mascot is actually the galloping ghosts so… I just somehow forgot to share this with my mom before she slept in a potentially haunted room. Oops. Sorry Mom!

But I love a good ghost story and an urban legend including the one that I stumbled into tonight. (Thank you interwebs!) The story is about the Virginia Bunny Man Ghost?!? What in the world! Apparently this is an urban legend in the northern part of the state, somewhere around Fairfax, VA. The story is about a man who dresses like a bunny and haunts residential neighborhoods usually only appearing in secluded locations. This has been going on for over 30 years. A figure decked out in a white bunny suit armed with an ax has been seen as far north as Maryland and as far south as Culpepper, Virginia. Yet, his main haunt has been the area surrounding a railroad overpass near Fairfax Station, Virginia known as "Bunny Man Bridge."

As the story goes,  the Bunny Man is said to be responsible for the deaths of two “disobedient” children in the Clifton area. There are rumors that other children have disappeared and that animals have been found horribly mutilated.

One written version of the tale entitled “The Clifton Bunny Man” by Timothy C. Forbes explains that in 1904 inmates from an insane asylum escaped while being transferred to a local prison. One of these escapees murdered a fellow escapee and eventually became the Bunny Man. Officials located the escapee and during their attempt to apprehend him at an overpass, he escaped right before being hit by an oncoming train. Part of the urban legend is that after the train passed police said that they heard laughter coming from the site. Apparently, the escapee was an inmate by the name of Grifon who had been institutionalized for killing his family and children on Easter Sunday.

For other interesting "monsters", I found the graphic below. Happy Researching! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

...letting go, holding on, and tug of war...

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”

~Ann Landers

When I was in elementary school, I was part of a tug of war event. Mom explained, “Whatever you do, don’t let go!” I wish she had added “to the rope” because in life I find that sometimes I still apply her advice to general activities OR when I do let go, I feel terribly guilty about it.

The idea of letting go came to mind this week. It’s the first week back to teaching and I’m *letting go* of my sabbatical. Described as a rest or a break from work, it comes from shmita or the Sabbath year that is described several places in the Bible. Typically, it’s taken in the 7th year but in life, I find that I do everything in 8’s so I, of course, took my sabbatical during my 8th year.

A traditional sabbatical includes research and travel. Because I *travel* aka commute so far to and from work, the thought of physical travel almost makes me want to cry at times. I really wanted to stay put. Before this job I was a job-jumper and a serial mover… moving 13 times in a 9 year period. But since I found my place, I have planted some strong roots that aren’t at all interested in uprooting.

Hanging in there hasn’t always served me well. In past relationships I waited too long to leave. We all know how it is to look back on the past… but now I’m letting go of the sabbatical schedule of walking and leisurely researching; I’m letting go of sleeping in until 6am; I’m letting go of working in my pajamas until noon. But… what I’m holding onto is so much greater.

This morning I met with a woman who attended one of my research presentations in 2010. She’s followed my research blog since then and because she was in the area, contacted me for a meeting. We talked mostly about life and a little bit about research. I forget sometimes how powerful my research has become and that I have those waiting for what I do next. During the sabbatical, I had several individuals reach out to me because they were thrilled that I was frequently returning to my research blog. I’m going to hold onto that.

My sabbatical also gave me an opportunity to try out new endeavors. Acquiring my secondary position as a cemetery tour guide was one which has actually enabled me to create a Halloween tour for the city. This is something that I’ll be writing over the next few months… a history of Halloween in the local area. Yeah, I’m going to hold onto that too. Becoming a tour guide was a dream that came to fruition.  I’ve joined Meet Up so I can learn more about activities in the local area. Now that I’m married to my fella, we’re able to continue on with our own interests since we aren’t shoving an entire relationship into weekends. It’s refreshing to be in the same house and actually explore separate interests and activities.

But, there are some things of which I plan to let go--- they can be lumped into negativity so I don’t want to waste my time and focus on them in a blog post. For now, I’m letting go of that rope. 

The picture is my view from my office. It was a snowy day that I tried to capture with my iPhone. Snow never shows up just right in photos. Now that I'm posting this picture, the view of the back of our campus has some serious 1970s architecture. The front of campus has the older Gothic buildings. Of well, I'm just happy to have a window.

Monday, January 19, 2015

... grocery store orchids...

It’s that time of the year when I miss the beautiful blooms of my garden. I have indoor terrariums and hyacinths bulbs but I want more! I actually ran to the grocery store today to pick up a hyacinth bulb for my office. I bought a bromeliad too because I find them terrible alien-like and amusing. They’re also quite beautiful. Beside them were grocery-store orchids. I’ve always liked orchids and have

even gone to the state orchid show a few times. They’re usually white or light purple. Some of the more unique ones even have speckles but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as stunning as the one I purchased today. Inside it’s a dark purple; in the sun, it’s more deep wine.  Phalaenopsis orchids, also known as moth orchids or what I call grocery-store orchids are one of the easiest types of orchid to grow, and are often referred to as the beginner’s orchid. Considering I’m a beginning, this works for me. I read up on them and it appears that their blooms only remain for a few months and then they fall off. These orchids only bloom once a year. This beauty is going to live in my bathroom where hopefully my fella’s Pouncey Paws, as I call her, won’t attempt to eat it.