meet Willow


At 3 months.

What do you call a small, brown and black and cream furry creature with four legs and a winding tail, who’s sassy, curious, and brave, who loves to play and cuddle, and is a bit too clever for her own good?

You would call her a Willow.

I adopted Willow in July 2015, shortly after I moved into a flat that allowed tenants to have pets. In fact, that was the primary reason I chose to move, and the flat I moved into was chosen both for its proximity to a park and its pet policy.

That summer I volunteered at the local animal shelter, though I admit it was partly with the ulterior motive of wanting to get to know the cats in the shelter before choosing one to adopt. The little tortoiseshell kitten caught my attention for how she purred even when different  volunteers held her. When I played with her in the visitation room, she boldly explored the little room, periodically scampering back to me for attention. I also had my eye on a male fluffy black kitten who was especially cuddly.

Over the weekend I resolved to adopt one of them. I stopped by Target on my way to the shelter, picking up a scratching post, litter bin and litter, and a bag of the type of food used at the shelter; and arrived at the shelter just minutes after it opened on Monday morning. The black kitten had just been adopted. His kennel-mate was keening loudly, missing his friend, so I took him, the tortie, and the tortie’s kennel-mate into one of the kitten playrooms. The three of them got on immediately. I took the opportunity to play with the tortie kitten again and her curiosity, openness, and playfulness won me over.


Above: At 6 months; Below: At 22 months.

It took about a week to name her. Her two-toned face and mottled coat combined with her penchant for mischief made me think of wood sprites and pixies. I wrote about fairies in medieval English literature for my PhD, and am also widely read in British folklore about fairies, so I tried out a range of names from selkie, to seelie, to Melior, and more. But I kept coming back to the name will o’ the wisp. The willow tree is also said to have magical properties, according to folklore. So that is her name: Willow, after both a type of fairy that plays tricks on humans and a magical tree.

Willow has since grown into her bat ears, but she is still friendly, playful, curious, clever, and sassy. She definitely has what is called tortitude in the cat world. Some of the things I will blog about are ways I keep her healthy and happy in a small, one-bedroom flat.

getting to know you

I’ve been encouraged from various sources to get back into blogging again. Since this blog has had quite a hiatus, I thought that a good way to start is to participate in a Getting to Know You link-up that my friend Lola did on her own blog, Found in Phila.



My goals have been rather modest since graduating with my PhD, making an international move, and starting a new job in 2014. I was also very, very sick that year and am still recovering from it. Each year it has been my goal for the current year to be a bit better than the last.

In January 2016, however, I did begin a second master’s degree in library science, and by the end of the year I was half-way through with the coursework for the program. I had the opportunity to teach a few literature courses at the university where I am an adjunct; I also had a chapter accepted into a book of essays about the legendary character, Melusine.


I had hoped that I would be more physically active in 2017, particularly to get back into cycling and swimming regularly, but within the first week of the new year I was diagnosed with glandular fever! Again, my goals for this year are modest: keep recovering and improving my circumstances in what little ways I can.

One goal I have for 2017 is for it to be a year of finishing projects. I have several half-finished projects that have been set aside, mostly for health reasons, that I would like to complete as I regain strength and energy.

Though it’s not a project that can be “finished”, one of those projects is this blog. There isn’t going to be a theme or niche for it for a while, as I figure out what it is I want to write about. My interests are varied even if my attention is mostly focused on work and school.  I want to write about how I make being a teacher and student and living with rheumatoid arthritis and mental illness work. (And my cat. I am a crazy cat lady who is only a little bit obsessed with her cat. Don’t be surprised if you see posts about Willow!)


I set goals, write lots of to-do lists, use rewards (and anxiety) to motivate myself, and generally work in bursts of energy during which I overextend myself and then need to rest before doing it again. I do better when I have a concrete goal that I can see the progress I am making towards, even if it is a long time coming; ambiguous goals, that may not happen regardless of the work I put into them, are much, much more difficult.


In an ideal world, I will have finished my second master’s program and landed a job at a university or museum as a special collections manager, or possibly teaching literature full-time — but not as an adjunct. I hope to be stronger, physically. I will still have my cat Willow and everyone I know will be five years older!

So, 2015…

Apparently, my resolution for 2014 was to get a cat by the end of the year. Considering that my current lease does not allow pets, that did not happen. I did get to be reunited with Jewely-Cat, albeit with mixed results. I’ve created a monster by playing with her (she wants to play ALL THE TIME), but otherwise, she doesn’t seem to like me that much–or at least, only on her terms.

In 2014 I went to four continents, four U.S. states, six countries, made ten international flights (including my first trans-Pacific flight), went to the Southern Hemisphere, finished and graduated with my PhD, moved internationally, moved domestically, and started my first teaching job. My rheumatoid arthritis has been flaring up for most of the year and I spent the last month of 2014 fighting off a very persistent sinus infection (two rounds of antibiotics later and I think it might be on the way out). In terms of daily life, 2014 was about survival. So, now it’s 2015.

I doubt I’ll be as well-travelled this year, but I would like to see some things happen. Such as:

  • Getting a full-time job (or rather, getting paid for working full-time);
  • Having an article (or two?) accepted for publication;
  • Improving my French;
  • Getting a cat;
  • Being more physically active.

The latter is probably the easiest of the four, even if it is dependent upon my RA and spoon levels. And, I really, really want a cat.

Also, a big thank you to Megan, Sarah, Kelly, and Felicity, whose generosity resulted in a food processor and a slow-cooker. I hope that cooking, and generally feeding myself regularly, will be better this year, too.

Books & TV in 2014

Yes, I know, I stopped posting my monthly “Books read in ___” sometime back in August. It hasn’t been a great year for reading fiction–too much movement, other demands on my mind, etc. I read something like fifty books this year, the list you can see here: Books Read in 2014. I’m sure that if I hadn’t had to read at least 2,000 pages of student writing I would have read far more books this year than I did.

You might notice a few odd books on this list–The Encyclopedia of the CatBirds of the Carolinas–I’ve found that nature books are good reading for nights I can’t sleep because of anxiety.

But, for the most part, I’ve been getting my storytelling from television. It’s been a year in which all of my mental spoons have been going to work and day-to-day life; as a result, I haven’t had any mental spoons left to get my fiction from books. Let me know declare my shameless enjoyment of:

  • Fringe (5 seasons) — Fringe/weird science meets FBI procedural, plus alternate universes and time travel. Set in Boston and NYC. Strong female lead and great characters.
  • Doctor Who (8 seasons)– Adventures with a madman in a blue box. Classic “monster of the week” episodes, but very fun and sometimes very serious. Set in all of time and space. You can’t go wrong with the Doctor. (And I’m so glad Clara is staying with Twelve for another season!)
  • Torchwood (4 seasons) — spin-off, sort of, from Doctor Who. Strange science, similar to Fringe, but with aliens and British humour. Set in Cardiff. The third season/mini-series is a magnificent piece of science-fiction.
  • Continuum (3 seasons) — Time travel and conspiracies meet police procedural. Interesting storytelling because the characters you sympathise with might not be the good guys, but they are dynamic characters, too. Set in Vancouver and also has a strong female lead.

And here is my dilemma: I’m two episodes away from finishing season three of Continuum and the fourth season isn’t released yet. What show do I watch next? If you haven’t guessed, my “type” of show is a sci-fi (not supernatural) procedural with a female lead and good character development and dynamic. I’m not into the whole “discovering secret superpowers thing” either (yes, that was in Fringe, but it was at the end of season one). Netflix suggests Alphas and Warehouse 13, but I don’t know anyone who’s seen them to be sure.

Any recommendations for a show à la Fringe or Continuum? Or knows how or where I can catch up on Castle?

Pots on the stove

It’s nearing the end of the semester. I’m behind on grading because I’ve been applying for academic jobs and the fall semester is the main “season” for the American market. Fourteen applications down, with a few more to go, but now I have a bit of respite before the next round of deadlines.

So what I should be doing is working on my article so I can finally actually submit it somewhere, instead of only saying I’m going to do that, right? Actually, I have two articles I need to write or revise. No wait, three…

No, I have some ninety (90) essays to grade between now and Christmas, plus the backlog of homework assignments to grade. Fourteen need to be graded by Monday and I can do that, no big deal.

It’s November, and it’s the second year (third? good grief) I haven’t done NaNoWriMo. Even as I think of all of the academic work I need to do, the sundry of paperwork piling on my desks (at work and at home), the meals I need to cook so I have something to eat later, the household chores that need to be done… I just want to spend the day dreaming in my novels — outlining a bit of Orion here, making a revision plan for TFK here, reading up on screenwriting for “Masterpiece” there.

I’ve got four pots on the stove, and fiction has been on the back-burner for so long I think it’s gone cold or sticking to the bottom of the pot. At least academic research is keeping it company back there.

As always, what I want to do exceeds my capabilities and my responsibilities.

Not all roses

I am afraid that my last post about my (mostly positive) student conferences has cast too rosy a glow on my life at the moment. This is more of what an average day looks like:

  • Having to inform yet another student that they have failed the course due to too many absences.
  • Spending all weekend grading essays for one class, then realizing at 11PM on Sunday night that I haven’t done my lesson planning for the week.
  • Sitting in a parking lot at 9PM eating an overpriced sandwich for dinner–
  • –or coming home and having cereal for dinner, again.
  • When I’m not grading or lesson planning, I’m working on job applications–
  • –all the while realizing that I am one out of hundreds applying for the same twenty-two (22) medieval literature positions currently being advertised–
  • –and also aware of the fact that I’m not really a strong candidate until I manage to publish something, which I can’t do, because I don’t have time to revise my article, because of teaching and grading.
  • Wishing that being able to construct a grammatically correct sentence would be an entrance requirement for university.

Or, today’s combination of events: starting the week on too little sleep (because of staying up late to lesson plan and then having to sleep on the couch because of noisy upstairs neighbours) and after class having a student ask if I could excuse his absence from last week — without Student Life approval — because he had been in jail and didn’t want Student Life to know. I said no. (Thinking to myself: “You have to deal with the consequences of your life choices.”)

BUT, I try to find crumbs of good things, here and there. Like the comments I leave on some of my students essays:

  • “This is an essay, not a mystery novel. State your thesis at the beginning.”
  • “What are you responding to with this statement? Starting ‘in media res’ might work for fiction, but not in an essay.”

I am busy

Dear readers — that is, if I still have any. Hello? Is anyone there?

You’ve probably been wondering that about me. My excuse for not blogging is a good one: I have moved to a new city and started a new job that has me running around, half-forgetting my brain when I walk out the door.

So this is what a typical week looks like:

Wake up at 7.30 AM. Out of the house by 9.00 AM, if not before (preferably before). Arrive at campus 7 minutes later and find a parking space.* Teach from 9.30-10.50; Office hours, lunch, teach again from 1.00-2.20; Office hours again. Home shortly after 4.00 PM. Take a nap, eat leftovers (or something) for dinner. Bach Society Choir Rehearsal from 7.00-9.30 PM (though we sometimes get let out early). Home, then sleep.

Wake up at 8.30 AM. Housework/grading/class prep in the morning. Scrounge something together for lunch. Skype with Ros if I’m lucky. In the office typically by 3.00 PM. Teach from 4.30-5.50. Wrap up things in the office so that I’m prepared for Wednesday, then home and dinner. Evening usually consists of class prep, grading, or watching TV to let my brain decompress. Bed by 10.30 PM.

Repeat Monday, without the choir rehearsal. Depending on the week, I might drive an hour to one of the nearby towns for training at an SAT College Prep center, where I will eventually teach. If so, home by 9 PM, and bed.

Repeat Tuesday. No class prep in the evening though: Thursday night is my Friday night. PJs, something easy for dinner, and watching Doctor Who several days late.

Slow day. Which consists of meal planning, grocery shopping, job hunting, lesson planning, grading, and housework.

Wake up at 8.00 AM. Spend the morning training at one of the SAT College Prep centers, and maybe a bit in the afternoon, too. If possible, drive to McKinney and see Kelly. If not, drive home, where — you guessed it — lesson planning and grading awaits.

If my body allows me, church from 10.30-11.30. Then lunch, and then a feeble attempt to do work but usually I fall asleep instead. I might watch Doctor Who tonight instead. Review my lesson plans for Monday, and then bed by 10.30 PM.

Then repeat all over again! Oh, and add a bit of an RA flare-up (or rather more than a bit), because spoons? Who needs spoons?

With 60+ students who won’t do any work unless I grade them for it, I’ve ended up with a lot of grading. I’m also teaching two courses (Comp I and II) I’ve never taught before, which means a lot of class prep.

This week is even busier! Let’s add these to the mix:

  • Serve on a Fulbright interview committee that will interview a Fulbright applicant Tuesday morning;
  • Have all three of your classes hand in their first major assignment this week;
  • Have a faculty meeting on Friday morning;
  • Attend the Texas Medievalist Association annual conference from Friday-Saturday, during which you are also presenting a paper which you haven’t finished yet.

This is life at the moment. So, until next time…


* Now that it is finally getting cooler, I intend to start cycling to work soon — as energy allows.

Post by numbers

Numbers at random for the first half of 2014:

  • 73 days lived out of a suitcase;
  • additional 2 months feeling like living out of a suitcase;
  • 32 fiction books read or partially read;
  • 27 jobs applied for;
  • 12 series/seasons watched on Netflix (Castle, Fringe, Doctor Who);
  • 12 walls painted;
  • 6 countries visited;
  • 5 large bookcases filled;
  • 2 U.S. states visited;
  • 1 Ph.D. graduation;
  • 1 international move.

Expected numbers for the second half of 2014:

  • 17 more days lived out of a suitcase;
  • 4 more U.S. states visited;
  • 2 more series/seasons watched on Netflix (Doctor Who);
  • 2 weddings attended;
  • 1 job interview.

Naturally the second list is shorter than the first. It is easier to quantify what has been done than what hasn’t been done. The future is, of course, uncertain at the best of times, and is so especially now.


transitory, adj.

1. lasting only for a short time; not permanent
2. of brief duration

As I was in transit from Praha to Wien, I thought about how unsettled I have felt this year. I was just leaving a weekend in Prague with Lola, a long-time friend and fellow academic and ex-pat. I have just finished my doctoral degree, she is just starting. Many of our conversations dealt with the Academy, our roles within it, our critiques, what needs to be done to pursue our respective academic careers.

One of the things I had planned for myself for this year after my PhD, and that I have been chiding myself for not doing, was to resume my study of French. I need it for my career. But, sitting on the train, reviewing my travels this year and for next month, I realized that this summer I have only been home in Texas for two-week snatches. The longest I have been in one place in 2014 was the six weeks I was in St Andrews for the latter part of January and February. Six weeks during which I was sorting, packing, throwing my life in boxes and stripping my house bare of my presence in it. Hardly a stable time.

Not only am I in transition – from student to unemployed, from living in Europe to living in the U.S., from living on my own to living with my parents – I have also been transitory. It is no wonder that I have not sat down to incorporate French study into my routine. I have not had a routine.

Come mid-August I might, I hope, will be in one place for a while. No plans for international travel in the near future. And yet I am overdue a visit to South Carolina, to Oklahoma; I have promised to be in Massachusetts in October. 2014 may yet continue to be transitory.

May 2014

photo-8Today is my birthday. I am twenty-nine (29) now, a prime number. I prefer prime numbers and prime numbers tend to be years of transition for me. For instance,  when I was twenty-three, I moved across an ocean to start my postgraduate degrees. Six years later with a PhD in hand, I’ve moved back across that ocean, wondering ‘What now? What next?’

I saw out the end of my twenty-eighth year by travelling to Asia and the Southern Hemisphere and I have celebrated my birthday with my dear friends, the Williamses, who I am so thankful to have in my life. We went to two museums today to see the space shuttle Endeavour and dinosaurs (among other things). Isaac was an enthusiastic guide.

My travels over the last month featured lots of time spent in airports and on planes; naturally, I read quite a few books. It became soon apparent that the three big books I brought with me would barely carry me through our sojourn in Thailand, let alone the rest of our journey, so I had to buy a couple along the way. Since I was in an Australian airport and then in New Zealand when I did so, I bought books by Australian and New Zealand authors respectively.

Books read in May:

  1. Dragon Slippers. Jessica Day George.
  2. Kraken. China Miéville.
  3. Flight Behavior. Barbara Kingsolver.
  4. The Golem and the Jinni. Helene Wecker.
  5. The Light Between Oceans. M. L. Stedman.
  6. The Whale Rider. Witi Ihimaera.

I would be hard pressed to choose a favourite book out of the books read this month, as I enjoyed all of them. They were all new books to me, and all but two were new authors to me as well. Now I am reading The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, in a beautiful illustrated edition, which I must finish before I leave Los Angeles for San Antonio…