We were pulled over by the US Coast Guard today on our way back from Big Rock. In the 10 years my father has owned Sleigh Bells, he’s never been stopped. I took lots of pictures which I’ll post later. Good times.
Archive for the ‘Bio’ Category
…as what people think you said.”
That’s an aphorism from my new favorite book, Vectors by James Richardson. I loved it when I read it, now I love it even more since it opened the door for me to finally get my 9 AM class to talk.
Today was the midterm. Only no one asked me about it on Wednesday so I felt pretty crummy expecting them to remember that it was today (I know I’m too nice, but it comes from a deep seated fear that I’m not fulfilling expectations). My 1 PM class did ask me about it, and requested that it be some sort of reflective paper asking the question:
Why do we love this class and Ms. Hel Bell
Well as lovely as that would be for my ego… I don’t think I could really justify it to my superiors. But I did think that a reflective paper would be a good idea. It’s a skill that you really need but most people resist. So I wrote a bunch of Richardson’s aphorisms on the board… gave a 10 minute rambling spiel about reflection and how it shouldn’t read like a schedule and told them this:
Your midterm is in two parts. For the next 35 minutes you and the class will discuss reflection, reflective writing, and strive to come up with a metaphor for writing. Tonight you will write a half page to a page analysis of the class discussion.
I also told them that I wasn’t going to talk–of course I broke that rule a bunch of times but I couldn’t help it. But they DID actually start discussing the topic. Took them a couple of minutes and me saying “Only 5 people have an A so far” to warm up… but it did turn into a somewhat successful exercise.
Which I desperately needed. I needed one class where I didn’t constantly think “They hate me they hate me they hate me. They’re judging me. They think I’m a moron who shouldn’t be teaching. They’re staring. Why are they staring??? They know I’m a fraud and I can’t teach and they hate me they hate me they hate me…”
Crazy you say? Well just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
I know I’ve used that title before (hence the either) but it is one of my favorites.
Anyway, he says I should post something. And when Oliver says jump… well I laugh and ignore him. But I do need to update.
So… what to say.
New Orleans is still broken. Pictures are here. I read a book today. In the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series. Oliver is now judging me.
But I also read a poetry collection this morning and wrote a review of it which you can find here.
And I also had to wake up early and meet with students… you can see me rejoicing
I got pulled over for speeding in Missouri the other night. Totally not my fault. I was following Mike (my uncle) and he was speeding so I was simply keeping up. And I was only going 9 mph over the speed limit. Totally reasonable, don’t you think? Anyway, the cop only gave me a warning but it was not a pleasant experience. You know when you’re nervous and people ask you normal questions like ‘Is this your current address?’ and you start spewing out random information like ‘I once stole a pencil in 3rd grade. My right eye is smaller than my left. I think babies are ugly.’
So that’s my life. And there was much rejoicing.
You know what I also hate? Something frustrating happens… so you get mad… and you have every right to be mad… so you call someone to chew them out… and that someone ends up being nice and helpful and then you can’t go and be mean because that would make you a bad person.
Anyway, to make a short story long, back in early December I ordered ‘The Final Key’ by Catherine Asaro. It’s the sequel to ‘Triad’ that I read (and loved, obviously) last year. So I go to Barnes & Noble, they don’t have it. That’s okay, I’ll just order it. So I do. They take my number. They say they’ll call me when it gets in.
Christmas comes. And goes. Ditto to January. So I stop by today to see if maybe it arrived and they forgot to call me. I ask. Nope. ‘Confirmed by not received’.
Maybe the publishing date was pushed back?
I get home. I check.
Release date: November.
So I call Barnes & Noble prepared to scream and yell and make the salesperson feel like dirt just like my Daddy can do.
And the stupid twit was nice. And she said that she ordered a book that still hasn’t come in after 3 weeks when it was supposed to be 3 days. Something about the warehouse and distributor or something. I’m just so… annoyed. I mean it’s been two months. They could’ve called Catherine herself and had her write a damn copy in longhead and walk it to my apartment by now.
Anyway, in other news.
‘Prince Charming’ was nominated for a Rhysling. There’s a spot for me to ride in Iris during Mardi Gras. I spent all day doing SFPA stuff which may sound dull but I’m a dork and really enjoy stuff like that. Yesterday I ordered 6 books of poetry. 4 contemporary. 1 speculative collection by SFPA Prez Mike Allen. And the first issue of Jabberwocky.
And speaking of Jabberwocky, Sean Wallace announced that Jabberwocky 2 is finally finished and I’m going to share a ToC with Jane Yolen.
I love my life.
Okay okay… so maybe I’ve been neglecting my blog. But it’s not like my life is that interesting. I mean take a look at my schedule:
7:00 AM: Alarm goes off
7:30 AM: Actually get out of bed
7:50 AM: Pull into parking lot while badly reciting a rosary (Hail Mary full of something… blessed art thou something something and blessed is the fruit of errr… yeah) just to get a parking place
8:00 AM: Sit in my office and wait for students to come by
8-8:50 AM: Curse my students who make me sit in my office all morning with nothing to do. Print out attendance sheets cross checking with previous sheets in order to calculate number of absences for each student (No I’m not kidding). Stare at wall.
9:00 AM: Teach English 102-10. They don’t talk. Ever.
9:45 AM: Let them out early because they won’t talk. Ever.
9:45-10:30 AM: More office wall staring.
10:30 AM: Walk to gym. Hope not to run into former or current students on the overpass and be forced to admit I don’t remember their names. Hope to not run into anyone attractive while I’m looking cold and fugly.
10:45 AM: Arrive at gym. It’s a long walk.
11 AM: Decide which part of my body I want to hurt and do appropriate exercise for it.
12 PM: Take a freezing cold shower, dry hair, get dressed, blah blah blah.
12:30 PM: Walk back to campus (My hair takes a while to dry)
12:45 PM: Arrive back in my office, grab books, forget half of my books, scour desk for attendance sheet, and vow to clean desk later.
1:00 PM: Teach Engl 102-59. They talk a little more. But not by much.
1:52 PM: Let them out late because I’m a bitch like that and the clock is behind me so I don’t know when to shut up.
2 PM: Go home deal with needy/clingy cat. Do nothing because I am lazy and tired
2 PM-3 PM: Office hours. More wall staring.
3 PM - 5: 15: Poetry workshop with Rodney Jones. Great class. Discuss aspects of poetry.
5:30-7ish: More poetry workshop at coffee shop down the street. Actually workshop poems. Over caffeine. Mmm… diet coke. Good stuff.
7ish PM: Arrive home. Deal with needy/clingy cat. Do nothing because I am lazy and tired.
2 PM - 4 PM: Independent literary publishing class thingamajiggy. Doesn’t meet every week.
4 PM: Go home. Deal with needy/clingy cat. Do nothing because I am lazy and tired.
And that is my life. Exciting huh? Don’t you wish you could trade places with me? Yeah I thought so.
So that’s why I don’t update. Leave me alone already.
So all semester I’ve had this looming appointment where an Instructional Assistant (an older grad student who’s been in the program a while and knows what he/she is doing) comes and observes one of my classes.
Well today it happened.
I have been nervous the entire time… but everyone kept saying ‘Oh it’s alright… they only stay for like… 20 minutes anyway.’ One girl even said her observer only stayed for 10 minutes. So I thought… okay. I can do this. I can manage myself perfectly for 20-30 minutes, then when the IA leaves… I can relax and go back to what I normally do, which is far more conversational and has its hit and miss days.
So I opened with a game of pictionary that linked back to the kind of thinking they’d have to do for the Unit 4 project. Brilliant right? Yeah I thought so. Then that led into a discussion of evaluative argument writing something or other. I knew that the game and first part of the Evaluative stuff would be about 20-30 minutes. I expected her to walk out any time.
Really, any one of those nice “Hel is so smart” minutes…
She stayed. For the entire friggin class. I totally freaked. I wasn’t prepared to ad lib for an entire 50 minutes. Maybe I could’ve if I had expected to do such… but I kept waiting for her to leave, and I also had no idea what time it was. So I didn’t know how much time I had left. So I didn’t know if I should be summing up or talking about something new.
Plus my students were so chatty. So. Incredibly. Chatty. On the one hand it was good. It meant the class was high energy. They were participating. On the other hand I kept getting scared that I wasn’t “controlling the classroom”. And some of them referred to me as ‘Hel Bell’. You know, instead of Ms. Bell. I don’t mind personally, but I don’t know what the IA thought of it.
I just can’t believe she stayed the whole time. I totally fell apart. I didn’t bring it all together. I was scattered.
If any of my students end up reading this, it’s been fun. Really. Yall are great. I’ll miss you when I get fired.
Before I forget the entire trip, there are some things I meant to post but haven’t. So I better start.
Part of me knows I am in Africa. The part that wakes up each morning before dawn and hears the lions roaring. The part that spills orange juice down a crimson tank top already splotched with coffee stains and tree sap. The part that has to jump out of the path of rampaging monkeys begging for a piece of fruit or two, and failing that, endeavor to steal it.
The part that doesnвЂ™t know is sleeping. ItвЂ™s waiting for the credits to roll or the alarm to ring so I can wake up. Get dressed. Walk to class. Go to work. Watch Out of Africa. Go to bed.
My brother arrived in January and isnвЂ™t quite used to the accommodations my parents and I procured. He went from tents and hostels to feather beds and private plunge pools. The baboons like the plunge pools. I tried it once but the water was too cold to get used to. But just for a moment I stand up to my chin in icy African water, breathe the African air, sip an African cider and watch the Kingfishers. The elephant fence below keeps the elephants out, but not much else. Leopards, monkeys, and anything else with an inclination can come right up and join me if they so desire.
They donвЂ™t. IвЂ™m almost disappointed.
Disappointed or not, I am in Africa. And the part of me that doesnвЂ™t know it will wake up when IвЂ™m on the plane and eating peanuts. It will sift through the memories before the rest of me falls asleep and forgets the coldness of water, the roar of lions, and the taste of mango juice at dawn.
Sometimes we broke the silence with laughter. The pill box that Uncle Ed bought had a funny voice that said “It’s time to take your pill. It’s time to take your pill.” We liked to imitate it. I can’t remember the names of the medications. They all looked the same. One put her to sleep, one was part of the chemotherapy, another we stopped because we thought she was allergic, some she took several times a day, some she only took on days we took her to the hospital.
“It’s time to take your pill. It’s time to take your pill.”
If you took your pill early, it didn’t know it. “Time to take your pill.” Sometimes the nurse would give her a pill and set aside the pill box. “Time to take your pill.” And we had to run around the kitchen trying to find it. “Time to–”
Time to go to the hospital. Time to log the days events in the little blue journal. 5 kids in and out each day. 2 nurses. Or was it three.
Time to switch shifts.
I started working at my Aunt’s dental office in October. Mema called and I scheduled her an appointment to get her teeth cleaned. Then she got sick. I asked Mindy if I should cancel the appointment.
“Just leave it for now, if she’s well enough she’ll want to have her teeth cleaned.”
Since Ed was the one who prescribed all the medications, we kept saying that we were going to write him out of the will. All he’d get was the annoying voice that said, “Time to take your pill, time to take your pill” which really only meant it was time for another day of sleep and nausea and recording what she ate and didn’t eat and if she took all her meds.
Not all of the pills went into the talking box. The ones she only took occasionally (need sleep? can’t eat? head hurt?) went into a ceramic dish on the kitchen table. Mindy spent her lunch break popping the tops out and later someone would pop them back in so she’d have more to play with the next day.
On one of the better afternoons, Mema sat at the table with us. She wanted to know where all the pills came from.
“Ed prescribed them,” we said.
“Ed…” she took a breath. They were ragged by then and some days she couldn’t wear both sets of implants in her mouth. It was hard to understand her. Harder still to watch her lips flop while she mumbled. “He’s my favorite doctor… when I’m not sick.”
“Time to take your pill. Time to take your pill.”
We added the dish full of pill bottles to Ed’s inheritance.
Before things got bad, when we just knew she had a tumor, we took her to the hospital for tests. They gave her a pepto bismal milkshake.
“It’s not even cold,” she said.
They made her drink two glasses of it.
“Why?” she said.
“It’s for your chest x-ray.”
My mother explained that Ed was convinced that the brain tumor was merely lung cancer that had metastisized in her brain. He was convinced that smoking was what was killing her. It wasn’t a brain tumor. It was lung cancer. It had to be.
“He’ll be so disappointed,” Mema said as she took another sip.
The x-ray came back clear.
We added ‘pink stuff’ to Ed’s inheritance.
Mema kept getting sicker. I took the dental appointment in her place. They gave me earphones so I wouldn’t have to listen to the scrape, scrape, scrape of instruments. As they plopped down against my earlobe the air rushed out taking with it the distant echoes.
“It’s time to take your pill, it’s time to take your pill, it’s time…”
I move in a week.
The apartment is quiet. Demos is staying at my parents’ house in New Bern because I’m trying to get rid of the fleas he brought here. I’ve flea bombed, attacked them with spray, but still they flock to my ankles like I’m some sort of fucking Noah’s ark.
There are glasses and plates to wrap, books to pack and label. Furniture to be moved, electricity to turn off, elecricity to turn on, phone lines to disconnect, cable companies to deal with. A trailer to haul up a mountain, down a mountain. Unpack. Organize. Decorate.
Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about Mema. A lot of things have happened that I would’ve told her about. She would’ve offered me coffee or tea. Ice cream. Chocolate if I wanted it. Sissy would’ve lain on the floor and periodically lifted her leg to feebly swat at a bug or itch. I would’ve sat in the chair I’m sitting in now, at the table on which my laptop is resting. She would’ve nodded and smiled, taken a drag off her cigarette and said “Now what do you know.”
The phone would ring. It’d be an aunt or uncle. The conversation would last no more than a few minutes; it doesn’t take long to chat when you call often.
I never did. I called when I had news, which was rare.
I called when I got in from a long car trip. Promised to come out and see her, spend the night to wake up to coffee and eggs and bacon and chocolate cake if I wanted it. The only times I ever ate breakfast were at her house.
During the long pauses while I fingered the wood grain on the table and she worked on the daily jumble, Sissy would shake her head and jingle the rabies tags. The water would boil. Coffee is ready. Or tea. Or chocolate cake if you want it.
Before I ever sold a poem, or got into grad school, my mother stood at my door and told me the MRI scan found something. Not Alzheimers, which we feared would suck away her memories of us one by one like a lazy ant eater.
A tumor with wide thin wings as if it could flit off the page and out the window. 6 months or less.
It was less.
Before I ever sold a poem to Strange Horizons or was offered a teaching assistantship at SIU I spent the night in her guest bedroom. I had a job interview the next day. Not something I wanted, just something I needed to pass the time. My father thought I should be doing something more constructive than taking anti-depressants. She wasn’t dying yet. Just sick and a little forgetful.
Mema always had the softest pillows. Thick and fluffy and squishable. The bed in her guest bedroom used to sit on the second floor in a room by the secret stair case. It wasn’t that much of a secret but the tiny door was enough to remind you of Alice in Wonderland if you were still child enough to think of such things. Back then Mema’s was a place between travels. A place to go when you weren’t quite ready to go home yet and felt like running into family, drinking coffee, and eating chocolate cake if you wanted it.
The pillows and bedding were moved to the new guest bedroom, new house. A place she bought when Daddydoc died and the memories scratching at her consciousness became too much.
Sissy’s rabies tags jingled as I checked the alarm clock again and again. Interview in the morning. For a job I did and didn’t want allatonce. News to tell Mema. A reason to call. A thing to talk about in the long pauses between phone calls and jingling tags.
Sissy’s claws scratched the door and she whined to be let in, let in, let in. I didn’t want to let her in. I wanted her to go back to Mema’s room and pretend that no one was sick, no one was dying or waking up in the middle of the night confused and wondering where the dog was. Sissy whined and whined but I was on the second floor dreaming about the secret stair case and counting the hours before I could get up, walk downstairs and find four tablespoons of Cafe Vienna sitting in a mug, waiting for the water to boil.