Thanking You

What with finals around the corner and the end of the semester only kind of in sight, it can be tough for us grads to really enjoy what’s supposed to be a day off to reflect about all the things that make our lives pretty great.

While I can’t promise that I’ll refrain from opening a book until Campus opens again on Monday (our break is Wednesday – Sunday), I can honestly say that I’m going to take at least a moment to honor the spirit of the holiday.

To make sure I do, the following is a partial list of some of the things I am thankful for this year:

  • My incredible advisor who is a super hero, rock star, and academic pit bull all in one. Seriously, this lady is unbelievable. The fact that she does all of the things she does (president of this professional organization, top of that research field, leading expert in all kinds of things, teacher, mentor, philosopher…) is a feat of its own, but on top of everything she makes herself so available to her students. She has done more for me this year than I think I can possibly relate in words, and I am thankful every day for her guidance and wisdom.
  • For that matter; all of my mentors (past, present, and future). They let me ask potentially embarrassing questions without judging me (or at least without telling me that they’re judging me, which is really what counts), they even give me valuable answers despite their own packed research and travel schedules. Every day in dealing with my own students, I only hope to be as awesome to them students as my mentors have been to me.
  • The well-stocked school library with ILL privileges that will get me anything I need from anywhere in the world in a reasonable enough time. With a slight bit of forethought, I can have any book that I might want to put my hands on delivered to me so that I can read and love it. Hooray.
  • A supportive partner who knows when he needs to leave me alone so that I can deal with some red pen problems, when he needs to ask me questions about my work so that I can talk my way out of a funk, and when he just needs to let me cry at him about Edwin Booth.
  • Good smart friends and colleagues with sympathetic ears, appetites for good beer, and heads full of giant brains. As a note: should this year be the year of the inevitable zombie apocalypse, this item of gratitude to the universe would be written no differently. Brains.
  • Lots of tea. And espresso. Oh my espresso machine. And really anything that makes liquid caffeine. As a note: the rest of the world should also be thankful for this and the effect that it has on me. Nobody wants to deal with an uncaffeinated Dani. Trust me.
  •  All of the wonderful theatre companies who continue to include me in their creative plans. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a great many incredible theatre-makers this year, and I look forward to continued opportunities to come.

Alright folks, that’s that. Go eat some turkey and be thankful that you’re not on line at the grocery store. Unless you are in which case you might want to consider how planning impacts your life, stress, and happiness.

Have a great holiday!


Hello from the finals front!

Things are really starting to get hairy here. I’ve pinned down my seminar paper topics, I’m beginning to push up on some deadlines, and the book fort is full to toppling (though I did manage to return 25 books to the library yesterday with the help of some very sturdy reusable shopping bags). In addition to my own deadlines, I have the students’ deadlines to worry about and, what with the hurricane having set all of us back, what I am certain were some very well-planned due dates have become a muddle of insanity and piles upon piles of things for me to do over the next couple weeks.

In light of this, it is difficult for me to see these next few days as holidays. Yes, campus was technically closed today; I was still in dropping off papers and picking up books. No, I

the pile of drop-off books from the other day riding securely in my passenger seat. Also, validation for when I say “Shakespeare is my co-pilot”.

don’t have to go to class tomorrow; but I have still been up since before the sun working steadily on my piles of to-dos.

Despite this, I would like to take a moment now (as I do every year) to think about the things I am well and truly thankful for.

Inter-library loan; making it so that I don’t have to drive all over the city state country to hunt down the research materials I need. Thank you, ILL and the Boston Library Consortium, for bringing books in a steady flow directly to my home library.

My family who puts up with random phone calls at odd times of the day with the usual “sorry I haven’t called in a while, been really busy, I’m working on this new project about Shakespeare as performed in the [eighteenth/nineteenth/seventeenth] century by [aristocratic hacks/black people/circus clowns]. I’m working really hard for that class I’m TAing and I have a TON of grading on my desk right now, but I have to go because I’m on my way to [class/the library/a meeting/rehearsal] so… love you! Call you later!”

My dear friends who make my life a happier place and remind me that despite my best efforts, I am not a research machine and do occasionally need to leave my desk in order to make eye contact with actual human beings. Special shout-outs go to my gay best friend who knows both how to hash a research problem with me and the fastest way to make me forget about whatever the day’s stress was, my roommate who knows not to make eye contact with me before 10AM and that the best way to appease the savage beast is to feed me, my girls’ weekend girls who are always there for me (if not in person then in well-timed letters and boxes of comfort-yarn), and my Partner in Crime without whom I would be well and truly lost (and much sadder for the wear).

The faith of my department (which, for those who are keeping track, hasn’t gotten rid of me yet so I must be doing something right).

Totally my fairy godfather; this was taken at my MA graduation.

The aforementioned Best Professor in the World; my academic fairy godfather who somehow knows from two to three states away precisely when I’m in my darkest hours of crisis. Without even having to send up a bat-signal, I always seem to receive an e-mail of some kind from him during my most hopeless moments.

The theatre, my man Will, and all those who are keeping him alive onstage. Live theatre makes life worth living, and the people who make live theatre are no less than great magicians of our time. This means you, Bob Colonna.

And you, dear reader, because without you I would be talking to an empty room. And, really, there’s nothing engaging about a crazy person ranting about her insane life to an empty room.

So have a good holiday, take some time off, and for the sake of all things Bardy walk away from your desk for at least a few hours. Personally, I’m going to go finish packing and then I have a date with a turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Which Our Hero Begins to Make Headway on the Deadly Homework Beast (and does so while looking fabulous)

Annnnnnnddddd we’re back.

I hit the ground running this week as I spent about half of the long weekend working on finals and the other half doing a bit of relaxing.  As a result, I feel refreshed, invigorated, and in a great place to start the final finals crunch.

It’s funny, but in past years Thanksgiving break has never meant being on top of things.  Historically, it’s been a time where (if anything) I feel even further behind the giant homework snowball than usual.  This may be for a variety of reasons…

1)    I’ve never not worked before.  Ever.  This year, my fellowship is generous enough that I didn’t have to face the first-year-hell on top of viable employment and, being nothing but an opportunist, I jumped at that opportunity.  As a result, I actually had five solid days of not needing to be anywhere (except for obligatory family stuff).  As a result, I had time both to get work done and to relax.

 2)    Tufts, bless their bureaucratic institutional soul, allows us to turn in our finals during actual allotted finals week as opposed to on our last class.  The last class is usually around the second week of December.  Allotted finals time bumps right up against Christmas (my last final is due on the 21st).  That is a significant portion of time in which you no longer have class reading, you no longer have to be physically present in class, and you can simply devote to writing your finals.  Rutgers was a “last class final paper” kind of institution which did mean that my semester ended earlier, but also inevitably meant that I was a) working through my birthday and b) panicking at the tail end of Thanksgiving.

 3)    The liberal consumption of pecan pie and martinis.  Not necessarily together.  In past years, the pecan pie has (of course) been a staple of the thanksgiving table, but the appreciation of a good dry dirty vodka martini has eluded me until this very year.  Now I’m not entirely certain how I lived without them.

 4)    Disney movies.  Enough said.

 Oh, yea, and I attended Mostly Waltz (Boston) yesterday.

Let me take a moment to expound upon the wonders of social dancing.  My experience is in ballroom which, while not entirely out of place at Mostly Waltz, is very different styling from the folk/country/general social dance that most of the dancers there were versed in.  What this meant was an afternoon of, while being comfortable and confident on the dance floor, learning something new and exciting.  Social dancing is the essence of communication.  Without words, two people come together and create something.  A lead needs to be clear in his signals and a follow needs to be able to listen to those signals.  Moving together, the dancers need to understand what to give and take from each other so as to not find themselves in a giant mess.

There were fascinating people at this event; experts (of all ages) in Scandinavian dance, English country, Scottish country, contra dance, folk waltz, blues, all kinds of swing… and they were all there just for the sheer love of dancing.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in a ballroom, but I’ve never felt more welcome or excited to be back.  People were gracious and generous with their time and knowledge, and I didn’t (even for a minute) feel judged about my lack of experience with their particular dance style.

Oh and music.  Did I mention live music?  LIVE MUSIC!  Incredible live music!

Waltzing is a bear necessity

I can’t go so far as to say that I’d recommend this event to dancers who have never danced before, but if you’re good at picking this sort of thing up (or brave, or have friends who would be willing to show you), you should definitely give it a whirl.  Unfortunately, they only dance once a month and the next won’t be until January… but it is totally worth the wait.

So my feet are aching like I forgot they would ache (it’s a different ache from general sore feet due to the parts of the foot which you use while dancing.  I’m just really glad that I have a pair of well-broken-in shoes so I’m not suffering dance blisters as well).  I seem to be winning the fight with the homework beast and, while it is not completely vanquished yet, I am definitely making headway in pushing it back into its cave to hibernate for the winter months.

And now for your viewing pleasure….

Happy Monday, folks!!

Turkey Trot

Ah Thanksgiving.  A time to relax, ponder those things in life which we are grateful for, eat some delicious food, take a nap after dinner, and spend time with the family.  It’s the little break before the last leg of the race.  Just a breather before we launch into the final stretch.

Almost there.

So close.

It’s dangling right over my head, I can see it, I just can’t quite reach it (even if I jump).

Panic?  … …. …. PANIC!!!!

At the end of the semester every semester (and sometimes at the beginning depending on

Desk avec whiteboard. It literally looms over me as I work.

how overwhelmed I’m feeling), I dig out my giant whiteboard.  I list all of the assignments standing between me and the semester’s end.  I list their due dates.  Then I make a big check-box for each of them.

The whiteboard’s been out for about a month now and, while I can see that I’m making headway on all of these things I have to do, the big three (namely: papers) are beginning to loom ever-more-menacing.

It’s funny because I kept telling myself that, since I didn’t have class this week, I could get SO MUCH DONE and be in the BEST SHAPE EVER for that final push.  Well…. It’s Thursday.  So far I have managed to chip away at things, but no great or drastic improvement yet.  I don’t feel armed for this fight, I’m still waiting for them to alter my chain mail to fit me since I’m not amazonianly proportioned and, oh wouldn’t you know it, they stopped making chain mail in “short and stumpy” so they’re going to have to custom it and can’t fighting that dragon just wait another week, because they’ve got all these backorders due to black Friday and nobody gets work done during the holidays so it’s either go out there unprotected or wait a bit longer to get suited up and darn doesn’t it look like whatever pivotal equipment they need is going to fail horribly just in time to make my life incredible inconvenient?

Anyway, enough about that.  Let me take a moment and bow to the wishes of today’s holiday spirit and put some positive juju out in the air in hopes that it will come back to me when I need it in these coming weeks.

Let’s start with a heart-warming Thanksgiving story.

I wasn’t going to go home for Thanksgiving.  Driving down to New York to have dinner with my family, while appealing, was simply going to take too long.  I couldn’t spend what would amount to three days away from my work at this critical time in the semester.  So I regretfully tapped out of family dinner and went to start making arrangements as to how I could find some turkey to eat at my desk with my man Will.

My family is pretty much the best, because they decided that this meant (since I couldn’t come to them) they would drive up to Boston to spend the holiday with me.  My mom’s bringing a full turkey dinner.  My dad’s bringing bags and bags of high quality whole-bean coffee that he can’t drink anymore due to health reasons.  My sister is bringing her lovely self.  I’m really excited to see them.

So, while I still got up early to bang some things out today, as soon as they get here I’m putting the books down for the evening and taking a mental vacation for twelve hours.  I don’t care how far back it’s going to set me.  I have a lot to be thankful for this year and that pumpkin pie isn’t going to eat itself.

Ah the turkey. Nature's ugliest animal. Eating them is like beautifying the world, one drumstick at a time.

If you, like me, are still sitting at your computer frantically trying to put your affairs in order, I hereby give you permission to set it by a while.  There’s nothing you can accomplish in this twelve-hour span that’s going to be more important, or more rejuvenating, than a good turkey dinner, some booze, and good company.  Think about how lucky you are to be in the program you’re in, thank the fellowship gods, and then forget about it.  Life’s too short to let finals stand in the way of enjoying dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I’ll catch you on the flip side with tales of the bloody battle to come; honor and glory; valorous victory; crushing defeats; injurious blows; and how to avoid death by library books.

Stay tuned.