And the Rains Came…

This morning a brief glimpse of fall arrived when I opened my eyes. It was dark and it was raining. Pouring rain that echoed off the roof and rushed out of our gutters. I’ve never minded rainy days. I find them relaxing and they bring a welcome excuse to stay inside and read or write or watch a favorite movie (my personal three favorite films for rainy days: Murder on the Orient Express, The Shawshank Redemption and Gosford Park). I also have no fear of thunderstorms. I love to watch them from my front porch and there is nothing more soothing than going to sleep to the sound of a summer storm.

All that being said, I like rain but this morning when I woke up, I heard the rain and I felt relief. It’s been a dry summer, as in Indiana is suffering from one of the worst droughts on record. The corn is lying dead in the fields, hay is absurdly expensive, farmers markets are missing melons and berries and tomatoes and lawns are all various shades of brown. In the last week or so residents of Indiana have seen some relief in scattered showers here and there but this morning came the first real, soaking rain that we’ve seen in months.

On my way to work, I had to turn on my windshield wipers and swerve around growing lakes of water from blocked storm drains. Indiana is flat, so when it rains, the water pools into mini lakes all around town. As a testament to how dry it has been this summer, in the past when we did get a little rain, there were no small lakes or even a puddle to speak of. The ground just sucked the water right up and looked for more.

It’s too late to salvage much of what the drought has taken from farmers and residents of Indiana this summer, but I hope for a wet, soggy fall that will lead to snowy winter to replenish the water table and bring green lawns and full gardens next spring.

Summer: Highs and Lows

All of a sudden it is August 9th and summer is coming to end. Labor Day is right around the corner, the fall semester starts August 20th and the kids have already gone back to school. This summer has been a strange one, so I give you a list of highs and lows (in no particular order):

Highs:

1. 2012 Summer Olympics. I love the Olympics. I love handball, water polo, weight lifting, beach volleyball and on and on and on. I especially love the equestrian events. Thanks to DVR, I recorded all the 3 Day eventing, Dressage and show jumping. It’s awesome and I am happy.

2. Indiana State Fair. There’s nothing like a giant lemon flavored milkshake and barns full of livestock to make a girl smile. It’s the year of the dairy cow at the fair this year, and that also makes me smile.

3.  Summer trips. We’ve been to Murray, KY, Louisville, KY, Erie, PA and Pittsburgh, PA this summer. We’ve attended weddings, family reunions, alumni panels and horse races. It’s been a good time.

4. Outdoor concerts. I love sitting outside in a fold out chair and listening to live music. It’s one of my favorite summer activities.

5. The pool. I really love our outdoor pool at the local Y. It’s killer.

Lows:

1. Heat. It has been a record high for temperatures this summer in Indiana. In June and July we had 100 degree temps several days in a row. When it’s hot like this, the only thing you can do is stay inside and hope it cools off.

2. Drought. My garden is crisp, my lawn looks like burnt toast and this is the first year on record that our CSA has skipped a week because they don’t have enough produce. Hay is $10 a bale and the corn crop is decimated. I’m over it.

3. Water ban. Because we’re are in a severe drought, we can’t water. This leads to my garden going from crispy to downright dead. Sigh.

  
4. Sleeping in the heat. Yes, we have central air. Yes, we have several fans. However, when it’s 101 degrees during the day, the low temps at night are about 90. That makes it really hot. Even if you do have AC, you’re going to sweat.

5. Burn ban. We have a new grill and a new fire pit. How many times have we used them this summer? Once and that was back in May.

Note: As I type this post, it is overcast and raining. I think it’s been raining all night. Keep your fingers crossed…

Summer, summer, summer time…

I took a bit of a hiatus last week from the blog world to dedicate all of my attention to the end of the semester. Today at 9:00 AM I submitted grades and put up my out of office email message. I’m on break until June 4th.

I’ve got several blog posts milling around in my head. Despite the pile of grading I found myself under at the end of April, I still managed to read three books, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Prodigal Summer and The Shining. I also discovered the joy of checking books out of the library via my new Kindle Fire (yes, I won it!).  These posts will be up and coming soon.

Today I’m cleaning my house, signing up for yoga classes for the summer, going grocery shopping, going for a long walk and maybe mowing the grass (that last one depends on how brave I feel).

Stay tuned.

Peonies from my garden.

Summer Schedule

The summer semester began this Monday. I was on campus Monday for most of the day; however, Monday will be the only day I’ll be on campus for the entire 8 week term. Am I teaching this summer? Yes. Am I teaching a full load (4 classes)? Yes. So how did I manage this schedule? Online classes.

I received my online certification two summers ago and from that point on, I’ve been teaching at least two online courses a semester. Online education, its pros and cons, could be an entire post on its own and I’m sure I’ll write that post later this summer. However, from a teaching point of view, I’d like to outline the basic reasons for why I chose this track for the summer semester.

Normally, I don’t like going totally online. This past spring I taught two face to face courses and two online courses and I felt like this was a good balance. However, summer term is a whole other ball game. For starters, it is only 8 weeks long. When I started as an adjunct at the same campus, summer term used to be 10 weeks long. I don’t like the 8 week term for a lot of reasons but most of my issues come from the way my institution has decided to organize this 8 week term. Most classes are in 3 hour blocks and meet twice a week. For example, last summer I taught two comp classes face to face and one met on M/W 8-11 and one met T/TH 8-11. This might not be such a problem if students were only taking one class but many times they are taking two or three or even four. This makes for a scheduling nightmare and it is exhausting. After teaching a 3 hour class, the last thing you want to do is turn around and teach another one and that is what many instructors are forced to do.

Also, it is not a particularly effective way to learn. Students feel pressured and if they get behind for some reason, there is virtually no room for them to move. The grading is completely insane, especially if students are writing papers all semester. It’s basically a marathon and it is dreaded by most faculty in my division.

Now, online classes are not easier by any means. They are not easier to teach or grade or set up and they are not easier to take (from the students perspective). However, you can work at home, which eliminates the dreaded three hour blocks. Also, I feel already, and we’re only three days in, that my feedback is much better because I’m not overtired from teaching six hours of class. I also feel like I use my time better. This morning I got up, ate breakfast, went to the gym and then came home and worked on my classes for about three and half hours. This is normal no matter if you’re teaching face to face or online but because I was home alone (well, Kwe and Nimbus were here but sleeping) and had minimum distraction, I was able to move through my work relatively quickly and thoughtfully.

Would I teach an entire load online for Fall or Spring semesters? Probably not. A 16 week term doesn’t give me nearly the headache and again, I like the face to face contact with students. However, I think that the flexibility of online classes also works well for our students during the summer. Students in all my online classes have to post an introduction on the discussion board and I’ve lost count of how many work 2nd shift, have children or grand children at home, have two jobs, don’t live in town, etc. This option allows them to complete a class without actually having to come to campus.
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Our CSA started this week. Aren’t they just beautiful? Kale, kholrabi, turnips & bok choy. We also got salad mix and pea shoots. I love summer.

Summer

It has been in the high 80’s for the past week or so. We finally relented and turned on our air conditioning. Our CSA is beginning this Tuesday and I go back to teach a week from Monday. Summer is here. I have a few projects planned for the summer, some writing related. I’ve written a few poems over the break, and I hope to keep going with that same momentum. I’ve started receiving rejection letters from the latest round of submissions, so it’s time for more to go out.

I’ve been cooking and eagerly awaiting for our CSA to start. Below are some pictures of what I made for dinner last night. It’s a variation on Spanakopita.


In gardening news, I out my tomato and pepper plants outside to toughen them up. I’ve also discovered that I have Day Lilies and Asian Lilies in my backyard. They’re beautiful, even though my dog, Kweli, has stomped over them a few times in his enthusiasm to chase squirrels. They’re also apparently very resilient.

Tuesday (Busy busy busy…) Musings

The fall semester started this Monday and I hit the ground at a dead sprint. My schedule for the first portion of the semester borders on insanity, but I spent a lot of time with my calendar and I think I’ve got it covered. What’s most important is I have set aside key days and times for writing and reading and all things related. This morning I came to school @ 7 am and spent an hour and half writing. I plan to do it again on Thursday and then Fridays I’ll have the whole morning, so I’ll be able to spend even more time on my own work. I know I’m going to be exhausted, but if I can stick to this schedule, I’ll feel better about how I spend my time. More importantly I won’t feel like such a poetic dud.
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A Book

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any courses like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without the oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Emily Dickinson
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I wrote a poem about a pig this morning. I think I was inspired by attending the Indiana State Fair last Friday.

House Hunting

This house is located in south Broad Ripple and it is brand new. Two bedrooms and one bathroom. There are brand new hardwoods throughout and a huge garage in the back.

This is a three bedroom and two bathroom in south Broad Ripple. Great backyard and one car garage.

Another bungalow in south Broad Ripple. Great details throughout the house like slate back splash and fireplace in the living room. Cute little deck leading out to a nice sized backyard. There is plenty of space to put a two car garage in the back.

This house is located in a historic area of Irvington and was one of our favorites. Fantastic backyard, three bedrooms, and one bathroom. Brand new kitchen and space to work with in the basement.

These next two videos are from the same house on Lowell street in Irvington. This was our favorite that we saw today. Great space, fabulous front and back porch, great backyard, and two car garage. Two bedroom and one and half baths.

A very cute bungalow in the Irvington area. Three bedrooms, one car garage w/ carport and good sized yard. This one also had a finished basement.