Fall Semester Update

I figure it's about time for another update! My last post left off on a bit of a cliffhanger. Hurricane Harvey sure did its number on my life, Beaumont, and pretty much the entire Texas gulf coast. However, life's returned to a new normal. I'm settled into my new little apartment. I have a nice routine going. I've gotten used to the Beaumont smell (sort of). I've made friends. I'm getting the hang of this whole assistant professor thing, more or less.

Here's a summary of my first few months on the job:

The first two weeks of instruction at Lamar University were canceled due to Harvey. I was stuck at my old home in Edinburg, thanks to some flooded roads. To make things even more complicated, I had a writing residency to complete! My original plan was to teach two weeks face-to-face at Lamar and then transition my students to an online enviornment for the duration of my residency. Um, the best laid plans, much? I was able to cut my residency a little short and I was able to continue holding classes online for an additional week. Bleh. I was already off on the wrong foot.

Image may contain: plant and outdoorAnyway, so I spent my first official week as an assistant professor on a writing residency in Granbury, staying at Heaven Hill Guesthouse. It was a surreal sort of feeling to say the least! It felt like I was in some kind of a limbo. Part of me cherished the peace and quiet, but another part of me was wracked with guilt for being away from my work. Chair said it was ok. Don't worry about it, get some writing done, it'll do you some good! And it did, truly. I spent my mornings on the back porch writing and my afternoons "teaching" online. This was my first ever writing residency. I'd do one again, but if I had my druthers, it would be during a time when life was less crazy. 

Anyway, I returned to Beaumont and Lamar in mid-September. My students, bless them, hadn't missed a beat, and though the semester was off to a rocky start, we quickly got into a rhythm. I am continually impressed by my students; they're intelligent, thoughtful, and willing to engage. My first week with them was uneventful, though stressful of course because of all the change and uncertainty. But I survived! 

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Me reading at HPF
The following week, I had the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers (TACWT) conference in San Antonio. Oh my goodness. Why did I do this to myself?! That thought kept running through my mind. Not only was I participating in the conference, but because I was Vice President of the organization, I also was one of the main organizers. Talk about stress. Anyway, it was one of those experiences where you have to roll with the punches, deal with issues as they come, and simply put on a face of grace and do the damn best you can. The conference went off, for the most part, without a hitch. And then, during the business meeting, I was nominated to take over as president of TACWT. I accepted. So now, you may call me Madam President!

Then came the Houston Poetry Fest just two weeks later. I was selected as a juried poet this year, and I couldn't have been more delighted to participate in this event. My favorite part about the fest was getting to meet Houston poets. It was so encouraging to see poetry alive and thriving in this part of the state. I learned that Houston is the #2 city for poetry in the entire nation; just about everyday there's some kind of a reading going on. Yes! Though Beaumont is over an hour away, I do not mind driving for that kind of fellowship (as long as traffic isn't too crazy, which, unfortunately, thanks to the world series, it has been!). 

Since HPF, I feel like I've finally caught my breath. My teaching is going remarkably well (did I mention how much I love my students???), I'm constantly learning new skills and how to manage a university press, and guess what else? I'm even writing. Yes. Thanks to a faculty writing group, I'm setting long term, semester-long goals for myself and weekly goals. Each week, we meet and talk about our progress. My long-term goal this semester is to finish revising Iliad of Bones and to write one book review. I'm happy to report that I'm halfway through with revising my manuscript, and that book review is already drafted. I hope to have both in submission mode come December. 

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Schnitzel, a few years ago
On a personal note, this semester has been challenging. The stress of moving, having so many events, and trying to navigate a new job has been overwhelming at times. And I've had a couple of bumps in the road; it hasn't been all roses and posies. My cat, Schnitzel, passed away last weekend, and dealing with his health issues leading up to this has been emotionally exhausting. I was incredibly attached to that little cat. We were attached to one another. He was my writing buddy, my couch companion, and my source of comfort in some of the darkest times in my life so far. We had an emotional connection unlike anything I'd ever experienced with an animal. He's left an enormous void in my life. I miss him dearly, though I try to take comfort knowing he is finally at peace. 

Now, one of my other cats, Molly, is sick, too. Her face is covered in tumors, tumors the vet says can't be removed. So I know, in a month or so, I'll be at this same place again. Does grief ever get easier? My dad assures me it does, little by little. He's had to put a lot of animals to sleep over the years, so if anyone knows, it's probably him.

B has been a constant source of support through all of this, too. I am profoundly grateful to have someone like him by my side in all of this. I've never felt alone; he's been my shoulder to cry on, my sounding board, and my source of emotional support. Goodness I'm lucky.

Next week, I will be running a half marathon. Ok, that's a stress I took on myself, but I'm actually glad I did. It's given me a tangible reason to establish a routine in this craziness. And beyond that, I turn 31. And beyond that, Thanksgiving with my crazy wonderful family. And beyond that? Christmas break. My goodness. It will be a welcomed break, indeed.