2016 Recap

I admit to being a terrible blogger…when the semester hits the fan I am nowhere to be found, it would appear.  But looking back…it would also appear that when the summer hits the fan I am nowhere to be found, either!  I am going to forgive myself and simply inform any readers that my blog-absence is my way of demonstrating my human failing so that YOU can do the same in some other way and we can still love and respect one another.

My blog absence had NOTHING to do with BIG things happening in my life (which makes the fact that I did not document them even more absurd).  I traveled to Bali, Indonesia with my gamelan troop and performed at the Bali Arts Festival. I said goodbye to my “surrogate” mother who died on Mother’s Day (of all things!) and was memorialized in August in a beautiful service. We acquired new family members, Luke and Lorelai, the parakeets.  I got half a new knee (the surgery from which I am still recuperating).  I read 21 books (actually I listened to 21 books).  I knitted a bunch of lovely things.  Friends got hitched (shout out to Tom and Stuart, Shannon and Jonathan).  An election shit show was endured.  We (collectively) lost Carrie Fischer, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, Mohammed Ali, Richard Adams, and many other pivotal public figures.  And a bunch of my beloved undergraduate students got themselves graduated!



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On this the eve of 2017 I hope/intend/promise myself to do the following next year:

  • Listen to or read 25 books
  • Avoid purchasing any new yarn (there are a few exceptions to this resolution)
  • meditate 20 minutes four times per week
  • go to the gym four times per week
  • Work on my scholarship for at least half an hour four times per week
  • Post on this blog twice a month (at least)!

A Tale of Two Cults: Chapter 2

This time ’round the “cult” in focus is actually a “culture”.  I am headed to Bali to participate in a music arts festival.  No lie.

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In the first shot I believe we see the backs of both Alice and Logan, two members of my Gamelan orchestra.  The second shot is my gong. *My* gong.  Yep.

In about December of 2015 my dear friend Janelle invited me, for about the 10th time, to come to see her Gamelan group perform at Gettysburg College.  I happened to be free and I popped by…a nice way to spend some time knitting, I thought.  I. WAS. ENCHANTED.  Completely.  I even left my knitting bag on the floor of the auditorium and…LEFT IT THERE…I was so taken (I had to hunt it down days later at the Campus security office where they were somewhat amused by my stricken plea: I’ve lost my knitting and I hope you have it!  “Ma’am…we don’t get much knitting in the lost and found so you can be sure we still have it here.”

Anyway, that day in December (or November…whatever) I took off my shoes and made my way on to the stage after the concert and just gaped.  I HAD to play this music.  The professor in charge, Dr. Brent Talbot, said “sure” (actually, he screamed from across campus, “Kris!  Are you in?”  My kind of guy!).  I started playing with them every Friday starting in January and I cannot imagine a better way to end a week.

Now, everyone needs to understand I have NO MUSIC BACKGROUND except I like to listen to it.  Mostly alt rock and folk rock with a few musical theatre show tunes (who am I kidding: with A LOT of musical theatre show tunes).  I don’t know a note from a hole in the ground.  I can sing Do Re Me from the Sound of Music.  Except for the occasional church choir I never had a music class IN MY LIFE.  And I think everyone in the orchestra will admit I am the “weak link”…but they are all so good natured about my sincere attempts to learn it.  I am determined not to be an embarrassment.

When it was announced that the troupe would travel to Bali this summer to participate in a music arts festival I immediately jumped in.  Got a new passport (it had been THAT long since I’d had international travel), a few immunizations, a travel cpap machine…I am all set to go.  I’m not sure how easy it will be to document the trip while we are there…but I’ll try.

And guess what ELSE???  I’m totally going to document the religious and spiritual aspects of the culture and the music and create a lecture for my Psychology of Religion and Spirituality class.  I understand there are Hindu temples galore on the island and I hope, hope, hope I can take photographs!

Bon voyage!

A Tale of Two Cults: Chapter 1

Last time, dear reader, I reported I would be following up about the next set of plans in my life that promised to ring in more crazy.  Today’s episode: AP Psych crazy.  And by that I mean Advanced Placement Psychology Exam reading:

AP Psychology

My dear friend, Caitlin, is a reader for the Advanced Placement exam in psychology.  This is the exam for high school students who take an advanced class and hope to get college credit by scoring a particular score on a standardized test.  Caitlin shows up for a week every year and grades exams until she needs a new eyeglass prescription.  And this year she convinced me that this was EXACTLY what I needed to do to round out my academic year.  (She was only able to compell me because I was motivated by the money, needing to fund a certain excursion that will be detailed in the next installment.)

So last Thursday afternoon she and I boarded a plane and flew to Louisville, Kentucky…on the self-same day that the fine city buried its hometown hero (Mohammed Ali: it was an honor to witness the thousands who came to pay respects)

Mohammed Ali

We arrived too late to get tickets to the memorial service but the testimonials were broadcast on outdoor televisions all around our hotel and conference site.

It wasn’t too long until I realized that I was being inducted into a freakin’ CULT!  Seriously…all the cult indoctrination techniques were in evidence.  Taking a group of relative strangers to a place outside their normal environment; restricting their access to media by insisting we actually TURN OFF our phones during the eight hours we are cloistered into frigid rooms lit only with horrid florescents; surrounding us with hyper-enthusiastic leaders/cheerleaders whose job it is to keep us in line and ALL GRADING THE EXACT SAME WAY.  A cult!  Wait until I tell my students…

But along the way I met with some really cool high school AP teachers whose devotion to their profession/students is without compare.  I found an old friend from more than 20 years ago who is also a grader (“reader” — we’re actually called “readers”).  I played my first game of Cards Against Humanity (and I was pretty darned good at it!)  Several of my “young” friends tease me UNMERCIFULLY because I keep calling it Crimes Against Humanity.


We’re trying to take really good care of ourselves (hydration, sleep, protein) because, my people, this work is GRUELING.  The effort that goes in to eight hours of focus, consistency, alignment with the rubric, etc., does not permit staying up to close down the bar or subsisting on donuts and Snickers bars.

More evidence of my entry into a cult?  Secret handshakes in the form of honorary titles for various roles: *I* am an “acorn” (a first-year).  “Aliens” are people who can plow through piles of essays with superhuman speed and maintain excellent consistency scores (oh yes, we are being evaluated on our evaluations).

Will I do this again next year?  I haven’t decided.  Dinner last night with five really great people, most of whom were new to me, at a fabulous Southern Smokehouse, after a day putting in REAL work was pretty fabulous.  Let’s see how the next three days pan out…

The End (and the Beginning) of Crazy!

Had a bit of a blog lapse due to the end of the academic year craziness and currently experiencing a lapse due to beginning of summer craziness.  Will it not stop?!?  Let us itemize:

End of academic year: after the final push to get any papers out before tenure review I was reminded that, oh yeah, I have STUDENTS I’ve been ignoring!  Grade, grade, grade the work that piled up; prep, prep, prep them for their end of term projects/papers/presentationsCopies 05 27 2016 852Evaluate said work; turn in grades; celebrate:

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Crash from exhaustion (but still answer their emails inquiring about said grades).  And, naturally, graduate some of them:

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Finally, get that presentation ready for the conference and, oh, it might be nice to make flight and hotel reservations.

Next up: what ensued in the post graduation frenzy.  Hint: it involves this:

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Til next time, where upon all mysteries will be resolved!

Writing Papers is Messy Work

I have been writing the paper from hell for the last two months…almost non-stop.  If we ignore the ginormous pile of laundry on my bedroom floor, the gross dog-haired, dusty floorboards in every room, and  the back porch furniture overturned in the latest wind storm that has not been up-righted, writing papers is STILL messy work.  To wit:


What might not be quickly identifiable in that stack is my February bank statement (unresolved), my local tax bill (unpaid), and a knitting pattern or two (unfiled).  You CAN see my beloved iced coffee, a beverage I’ve been consuming like my life depends on it.

In the last two months I have had occasional breaks.  I have only had to miss Gamelan rehearsal once.  i went out for a glass of wine with friends two weeks ago.  I manage make it to the gym only slightly less frequently than I do when I am not under a major work-crush.  But if anybody decides to “pop by” my house they will be left standing on the porch because my house is so gross even I have to avert my gaze.  And will continue to do so until this monster-from-hell gets sent to the journal editor!

From What Life Were you Reincarnated?

A wise friend recently posed a question to a group that I belong to that has been sort of plaguing me: if, he asked, reincarnation is true and if, according to some tenets of the Buddhist faith, it is designed to offer us lessons not learned in past lifetimes, then what must our last lifetime have been like?


I imagine that the way people answer this question will be telling.  Some may adopt a binary response with either “I must have been terrible before to deserve this life” or “I’m closer to Nirvana than ever before!”  Others, such as the equally wise partner of the question’s originator, might re-frame the question to “what are the lessons I am supposed to be confronting with this particular life?”

Please know that I am not an advocate for literal reincarnation, but I like the opportunity to speculate about the lessons I might have been meant to learn along the present path:

  1.  People are kind and generous.  I know that there is evil in the world and that evil usually manifests itself in excessive self-focus.  But more generally I find people to be empathic, helpful, and downright lovely.  At least the people I run into boast these characteristics.
  2. There is a fundamental need for beauty.  I listened to a TED talk the other day (Denis Dutton: biologically hard-wired for beauty) and marveled at how, well, marvelous works of art, theater, literature, dance are and how crucial they are to positive existence.  I love living in the age of Instagram, where I can daily see the sunrise from my friend’s woodland home, witness the smile on a former student’s new baby, and see the first blooms of the season peek out from their wintery slumber.
  3. Skepticism beats gullibility any day.  Had to learn that one the hard way but it stuck good and hard.
  4. Disappointment is disappointing. But everyone confronts it, I imagine, and I have had my share.  I’ve done my best, I hope, to pick myself up and make the best of a disappointing situation.  I’m fairly sure there will be more of it along the way…
  5. Speaking truth to power is hard…and often has consequences.  If I was supposed to learn how to stop doing that I failed!

I know there are more, but these stand out to me as lessons I continue to confront.  What about you?  What lessons were you meant to learn from this turn around the wheel?


Blog Lull

This blog endeavor was supposed to be about my scholarship and teaching (“with occasional forays into knitting and audio books”) but this semester my teaching load does not lend itself to inspired posts.  I am teaching Research Methods and Statistics (twice) and I supervise Senior Project (16 of them this semester).  Although *I* find the two domains interesting I am not convinced that the students do, nor any readership I may have garnered.

And the place I am at with my scholarship/research is the tedious place endemic to all scientific endeavor…I am slowly, oh-so-slowly, plodding through data analysis on just about all my current projects.  Readers are unlikely to care that one must use Menchley’s Test of Sphericity in a within-subjects ANOVA to correct for any lack of homogeneity of variance across repeated measures conditions.   I can barely believe I just typed that and knew what it meant!

I’m knitting up a storm, but I’m always knitting up a storm…nothing exciting to share on that front.  And my current audio book is a non-fiction exploration of the latest nutrition science on the best ways to decrease obesity.  Unlike other “diet” books I have read I actually believe this author (a leading obesity researcher and endocrinologist, I believe) is relying on good science and I am likely to attempt some of his suggests: Always Hungry (an unfortunate title, in my opinion) by David Ludwig, M.D.

I guess all blog posts can’t be inspired or coherent.  Sorry…let’s just call this a blog “check in”!

Ten on Tuesday

I don’t have the time to do a “Ten on Tuesday” EVERY Tuesday, but today is a snow day so I’ll play along.  Today’s task is to identify Ten Interesting Things About My Community.  I had some generous assistance from several websites (thank you Wikipedia and Google Image)!

  1.  I have a “Gettysburg Address”!  Although I’ll include greater Adams County, PA, as part of my community, the county seat where I live is plenty famous.Lincoln
  2. As a person who doesn’t really like apples, I am friggin’ SURROUNDED by them (quite literally).   The 4th largest apple producer in the country, Adams County is home to more than 35 varieties of the fruit in 20,000 acres of orchard.  I actually know some Motts.
  3. We are home to the Majestic Theater, the “grandest small-town theater in America!” Under the direction of Jeffrey Gabel, it was fully renovated in 2005.  The earlier version gained notoriety when President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady, Mamie (who were residents of Gettysburg) would attend performances there, often with world leaders as their guests.
  4. Many places are tourist meccas.  Our tourists are the kind who like to dress up in wool clothing and parade around on the 4th of July (beat THAT, Martha’s Vineyard!)
Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg

5. Because of that “civil” war (I hardly call a war that took the lives of a million people civil, although it is also known by other names, depending upon which side one’s people were on) my town boasts a lot of ghosts.  It is quite the booming industry here, in fact.  My own son took visitors on ghost tours.  The company he worked for sent the tour guides out with stud finders, which, when turned on and pointed at a ghost, would make unusual optical disturbances.  (Stud finders also do that when pointed at yogurt shops and living basset hounds, but what do I know!)

6.  Adams county was named after President John Adams, whose cousin, Samuel Adams, inspired a line of beer.    People in Adams County love their beer.

7.  They also love their cult films.  Jean Stapleton (of All in the Family fame) and her husband William Putch lived in nearby Franklin County and ran a summer stock theater that still exists (Totem Pole Playhouse).  Their son,  John Putch , produced, wrote, and directed a trilogy of films centered on a stretch of the Lincoln highway in south central Pennsylvania: Route 30.

8.  The entire county only has five high schools, although there are three institutions of higher learning: Harrisburg Area Community College, Gettysburg College, and the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary.

9.  The closest Indian restaurant is 40 minutes north of here.  We cherish our little Thai restaurant and endeavor to keep it open by eating there as frequently as possible.  The grocery store sells sushi (but note that it is grocery store sushi!).

10.  We host lots and lots of small town, community events all year round: the Halloween parade, New Year’s Eve on the square, Salsa night on the Square, First Friday events in town, concerts at the college and seminary, classic movie night at the Majestic in the summer…  I poke a little fun at this town on occasion, but I really love living here.


“Out-ing” myself

Over the winter break I endeavored to work on a project that had been on my to-do list for more years than I care to count: cleaning out my home office.  Over dinner one night a few weeks earlier I was chatting with several friends who primarily work from home.  They were astounded to learn that I typically work from my local grocery store food court when I have an entire room in my home called an “office”!  “It isn’t functional,” I revealed.

Giant foodcourt Giant waterbottle

And that was quite true.  Never a fan of vertical filing and possessing just enough of the hoarding gene to be of danger to myself and others, I had moved all my “officey” things into the room when we moved into the house and promptly put blinders on and ignored the entire space.  I won’t tell you how long we’ve lived here…

Because the good news is I have finally started to tackle it.  Only an hour a day, usually 3 or 4 days a week, I have started to chip away at the dusty remnants of my Ph.D. program (who needs 17 drafts of her dissertation when she has one that passed) and appliance service manuals for items we have long ago hauled away!

As to the title of this post, I am not really “outing” myself as a reluctant hoarder…but rather as an activist for women’s causes, in general, and reproductive rights, in particular.  In one corner of the room I had stored over a dozen protest signs and posters that I figured could be useful in the future:

NOW and PP posters NOW and PP posters2

But I realized that these are vintage posters and I do not “collect” things like this.  For the next protest rally I participate in there are sure to be new logos, new slogans, new chants.  I can thank these posters for the joy they brought me and recycle them next week.  I put them here as a permanent reminder of my values and my new-found decision to get rid of what I do not really need.



I stumbled upon two online essays/articles today devoted to unraveling: a haunting and lovely essay by new author Stephanie Danler (for mature audiences only) and a Wall Street Journal article featuring folk who like to untangle crazy messes of yarn (I admit to being one of those folk).  I might have been attracted to the pieces because of:


As I’ve posted elsewhere I am starting the new year off by clearing the deck and starting on a stash-busting extravaganza of epic proportions!  Hyperbole be damned!  I vow not to purchase any new yarn this year (possible exceptions might be made for Brooks Farm at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and some Plucky that I might not be able to resist).  As I inch toward the starting line I decided I needed to make decisions about projects that had been unfinished for sometime and really needed to be unraveled.

One, the brownish/bluish underneath everything was yarn given to me by a person suffering grave, un-medicated mental illness.  Her dual diagnoses would make any trained person shudder and she has made many in my circle vulnerable at their places of employment because of her harrassment.  I realized that I really, really, REALLY dislike this yarn.  But someone else might love it so I’ve unraveled the pair of socks it was once going to become and will lovingly hand it over to another person with no experience of the kharma it carries.

The light green (a Brooks Farm exemplar) was once going to be a baby sweater for the baby I hope to one day have in my life (not from me…that ship has sailed).  I have a sweater phobia (seaming the sleeves seems to be the “issue”) and I thought that making a wee version would help me overcome this affliction.  It did not.  RRRRRRIP!

And the persimmon…such a lovely yarn from Anzula that I purchased on a trip to Fresno, CA last summer.  It simply did not look good when knitted into a banana leaf scarf.  Ghastly, actually.  There is another purpose for this delight.

As a child I loved to unknot necklace chains.  One had to be very Zen and focused to make it work.  Because I do not feel very “Zen and focused” in most of my life I find it a delight when I need to turn that on to untangle yarn.

And ready, set, go…as soon as I finish Shannon’s socks (we’re at the toe of both now) and complete the seaming of my log cabin afghan (I’m more than 50% done)!