“Commenting vs. Grading”


During my years as an English professor, I read thousands of pages of student writing. I had several tasks as I did that. I needed to respond to the ideas in the writing. I needed to correct spelling, grammar and usage issues in the writing. I needed to assign a letter grade to the writing, an evaluation of how clearly the student had expressed herself in the writing. Some teachers gave separate grades for content and mechanics, but I saw the two as essentially intertwined. Good ideas are smothered under poor sentence construction and confusing grammar.

Responding to blog posts differs in an important way from grading papers. I am privileged to read writings from all over the globe, rarely written by professional writers. Because I have a firmly established habit of always responding to the writing before me, I nearly always comment on each post I read. But I am only reacting to the content of the post, not its mechanics, grammar or clarity. As long as I can connect with the post, I can respond truthfully and kindly. Bloggers aren’t asking for editing or grading, we want an audience for our posts. Few of us  go to the trouble of keeping a blog without hoping at least one person will read it.

As I wrote earlier this year, I am happy to help anyone with editing if they ask for it. I will do this without charge, simply passing on the benefits from years of teaching. But bloggers can be sure of encouragement and good wishes from me in the comment section. We all write with trepidation, hoping we will be understood. And I will consistently seek to understand and appreciate each person’s words. And again I thank everyone who leaves me a comment after they read what I have written.


“Muppet Reunion”


Last night my grandchildren enjoyed a sleepover with us while their mother traveled for work. We had decided in advance that we would all watch a movie together after dinner and then go to bed. My only request was that the two children decide together on a viewing choice. I have had too much experience with them endlessly wrangling about it and seeking my vote one way or the other.

My tech savvy granddaughter  promptly looked up “50 movies you should see before you are 13” and mentioned “The Muppet Movie.” Much to my amazement, her brother agreed that this seemed a good choice. The original one, they demanded. The original “Muppet Movie” came out in 1979 and I had taken their mother to the theater to see it. After that, she was attached to a Kermit the Frog toy for years.

Now 39 years later, we had the convenience of streaming the movie into our living room for $3.99 and had the ability to pause it when anyone needed a bathroom break. We settled in to watch. The last Muppet movie put my husband to sleep from start to finish. He awoke in the theater next to me with no idea he had missed the entire show. This time he stayed awake for half of the movie before going upstairs to bed.

The other three of us enjoyed it immensely. The kids howled at the silly parts. I reminisced about how many of the cameo appearances were by wonderful comedians and actors long dead. Only I got the jokes about hare krishna, but the kids loved the play on words, including turning at a fork in the road with a giant fork in the road. The movie aged well. If you have kids around–or even if you don’t–you might enjoy it.

“What’s In a Name”


I grew up above Riverwood Road. When the Willamette River flooded, the newest houses built on the lowest part of the road flooded. Now we live near Porterbrook Road. When Porter Brook overflows, it covers Porterbrook Road. The picture above is of River Road in Connecticut during a flood of the Connecticut River. I in no way wish to minimize the suffering of people who are enduring floods, but I have been thinking about the wisdom in place names. As I listened to the reports from North Carolina, I heard of flooding on Water Avenue and Town Creek Road. Earlier this year there was major flooding in Marshfield, Massachusetts.

Years ago in the United States there was no flood insurance. Prudent people noticed where the water rose each year, including years of unusual rain and snow. They didn’t build houses there, though they often ran a road along the river. Naturally they named the road appropriately. Now we have people with no local knowledge living in homes along such streets. And those streets are flooding.

We lose much when we lose local knowledge about weather and its effects. My mother had a small beach cottage built in 1930 set way back from the Pacific Ocean. One house lay next door and then the ground was undeveloped for about a block toward the sea. One year someone bought that vacant property and built a house on it, obstructing their neighbors’ view while gaining it for themselves. Two years later a winter storm sent logs crashing through the plate glass “picture” window. There was a reason people had not built on that land.

May we accept the reality of climate change, whatever the reason for it. May we recognize that earlier generations had knowledge about where to build that we ignore at our peril.


1948-50s 299

For most of my adult life, I taught English to college students. I never lectured, but always engaged in lively discussions around the readings I had assigned for the day. To prepare for each day’s classes, I reread the readings, sometimes for the twentieth time, and thought about what they stirred in me that day. That allowed me to be prepared to kick off the class. After that, my students carried the rest of the time, interacting with the texts and with each other. This meant that I spent a lot of time in between classes contemplating the texts, their points of view, the questions they raised, the connections I might make to life today, and how they might or might not connect with my students.

After I retired, I lost this opportunity to think through something and then present it to others. While I continued to have deep conversations with family and friends, something was missing. This morning I realized that for me writing a blog has served a very similar function for organizing my thoughts. Knowing that most days I will be writing a couple of paragraphs about whatever is happening or is on my mind mandates that I center my musings. Without this focused outlet of writing, my brain might easily go from one tangent to another without landing on any one.

I appreciate every one who reads me whether daily or now and then. You have given me a place for my thoughts to land and an opportunity to hear back from you in comments. It has restored me to the organized inner life formerly provided to me in academia. Thanks.

“Unwelcome Home”

yellow jacket

When I began to do the laundry accumulated on our vacation, I swatted something away from my arm. Then I felt an intense pain, as if I had received an injection. Confused, I went upstairs to try to figure out what had just bitten me. My husband went down to the laundry room and couldn’t find anything. Convinced(with nothing to support my conviction)that I had been bitten by a spider(even though I had never felt a spider like that) I returned to do the wash. Immediately I felt that same sharp stab on my bare foot. I looked down and saw a yellow jacket stuck between my toes, having a wonderful time injecting his poison nonstop into my foot.

At least we now knew what had bitten me! But despite constant ice packs my foot screamed in pain for the rest of the evening and interrupted my sleep. Then it began the kind of itching for which you are at first grateful(it must be healing!) and then being driven insane wishing for the pain to return.

We had never had any yellow jackets in the house, so my resident sleuth(aka my husband) went on a fact finding mission. He discovered a break in the vent pipe to the bathroom exhaust fan and sealed it up. Apparently the yellow jacket(and his pals I later discovered) had been happily flying in and out of our house while we were in Maine. We have evicted our squatters and I now wear shoes when I do the laundry–just in case.

“Watch the Waves”


At low tide you can walk out this spit to an small island in Bar Harbor’s harbor. It is a popular trail, with nice views looking back to the mainland. Our last evening in Maine we strolled out to enjoy the weather, the sand, the birds and the views. But I was amused by a new sign installed since our last visit. This one warned visitors that they needed to pay attention to the tides. Once stranded by the incoming tide, the sign warned, you would need to wait nine hours to be able to walk back.

Apparently a modern entrepreneur, aware that some people would ignore the sign and demand to be picked up, has come to the rescue. While the harbor patrol is content to let the unwary wait out the tide cycle, one company will come if you call. And since so many now have cell phones, a stranded walker could indeed call. The fee for this “rescue” is $150.00.

Growing up on the Oregon Coast, I was well aware of places that could only be reached at low tide and I paid close attention to the tide table each day I went exploring. I knew that if I were to be stranded I would need to wait for the next low tide to get back. The idea of waiting for hours to return was sufficient incentive to stay aware. Even getting stuck on Haystack Rock, a prominent landmark, meant waiting. Now the Coast Guard will actually fly in and help stranded hikers. Something has changed, I guess, in the idea of “natural consequences” and tides. I am not sure it is for the better.

“Soulful Sea Sounds”


Yesterday we went to a less visited part of the National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula north of Bar Harbor. Schoodic Point itself juts out into the open Atlantic rather than into the more protected Sound or Bay. There are no warning signs and one can walk out onto the huge granite outcroppings which abut the ocean.

I grew up near the Pacific Ocean, and being near the water always soothes me. The sounds of the sea provide me solace. Yesterday while my intrepid husband walked on rocks, I lay down on one large one. With my eyes closed I could feel the sun and listen to the sound of the waves breaking on the rocks.  Once again the sounds had touched my core and reminded me that, as Dame Julian of Norwich wrote, “all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”