Monthly Archives: October 2016

Monday Motivator: It’s Okay to Be Silly

Yesterday I caught the last thirty minutes of Shaun of the Dead, which is the funniest zombie movie ever made. Our heroes, hunkered down in a bar, are attacked by a zombie as the juke box starts playing Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” They hit the zombie with pool sticks in time with the music. It’s incredibly silly, but also irresistible.

Sometimes as adults, we forget that it is perfectly acceptable to be silly at times. It’s okay to put aside our business suits, our rules, our procedures, and our processes and instead put on costumes, make funny faces at each other, and tell stupid jokes that make people laugh because they are so stupid.

There will always be problems and tragedies that will and should take our attention. And we should do all we can to solve those problems.

But we didn’t give up our silly bone when we moved out of toddlerhood. So this week, I challenge you to be silly.

And I may or may not have on a witch costume as I type this.

How to Succeed in College (5 Tips at a Time): Part 8

Midterms are officially over. There is approximately one month left in the semester. The stress is rising as students face due dates for papers and projects as well as tests. But let’s all take a deep breath and focus on the finish line.

  • If you haven’t done so already, get out your calendar and write down the due dates for papers and projects, test days, and even holidays. (There won’t be tutoring on Thanksgiving, and the college computer labs will be closed.) Take a good look at what’s left to do and make out a schedule.
  • When I taught, I was surprised when students who had decent grades stopped attending class. Probably every student, at some point, has felt it would be easier to just drop out and do something, anything else. But don’t let the stress get to you. Talk to your instructor or a counselor. Finish up the semester. Even if you do decide that college is not for you right now, you’ll have a semester’s worth of credits waiting for you when you return.
  • Still haven’t started your research paper? Go the library and have a librarian help you find the best sources.
  • When I was a student and feeling especially stressed, I closed my eyes for a few minutes and said aloud, “In three weeks, this will be over.” Somehow it helped to know that the stressful period had an end date.
  •  As you realize that some of your stress has been caused by bad study habits earlier in the semester, jot down quick reminders to yourself of how to improve next term. (You think you’ll remember, but you probably won’t.)

Monday Motivator: Let’s Get Our Groove Back

Let’s face it: this has not been a good election season. I don’t have to go into detail. We all know it.

But it’s also not been the greatest period locally either. There have been some angry splits among us. Some faculty don’t trust administration. There have been decades-old friendships that have come asunder. And some staff members have felt totally left out of the discussion as if their contributions somehow don’t matter.

These sorts of things can make us all depressed, out of sorts, and unsure how to proceed to make things better.

I’m a big believer in starting where you are. And right now, as I type this, there is a sign at the circulation desk about a food drive that begins next Tuesday. I suggest we take the first step in coming back together by focusing on this one thing we can do. Let’s make a commitment that our college has never had such a successful food drive. Let’s make sure those boxes are filled to the brim each day.

Will this solve all our problems?  No.

Will we still have major issues to work through?  Yes.

But it will do two things:

  • It will remind us that we can work together despite our differences.
  • And it will take our focus off our anger and hurt and redirect it to those who need our help.

And I think it just may be the first step in getting our groove back.


Monday Motivator: Don’t Jump on the Horrible Train

It’s not hard, even if you don’t follow the news, to find examples of people behaving horribly this election season:

  • A political headquarters was firebombed.
  • A newspaper received threats after endorsing a candidate.
  • People were selling tshirts featuring a target over a certain quarterback’s face outside a stadium.
  • A person who had a candidate’s sign in her yard found a hate letter in her mailbox.
  • Some people’s yards signs have been stolen.

And that doesn’t include the vitriol that’s been plastered all over social media.

It makes good people despair. And it makes not-so-good people like me want to lob a few verbal assaults of our own. But then I remember that saying  from George Bernard Shaw that Southerners seem to have made their own: Don’t wrestle with a pig. You’ll only get dirty, and the pig likes it.

Just because the horrible train seems especially crowded this election season, we don’t have to jump on it. We can certainly debate the issues and remain civil.  (As I was walking to the library, I heard two students doing just that. I was proud of one who happened to remember that Congress had something to do with passing laws. And I was also proud that when the discussion was over, they walked together to class.)


We need to remember that just because the haters get the space and the publicity, they are not the only people out there. In fact, I think they are the minority, just a vocal one. So when the horrible train passes by, remember it’s not the only mode of transportation this election season.  Let it continue on its way without you.


The Jolly Librarian’s Literary Movie Review: “The Family Fang”

First things first. Some basic information about the Jolly Librarian’s reviews:

The Jolly Librarian almost never goes to movies in the theater. Too many people chatting, checking their phones, and invading her personal space. So the movies in this column will already be available for home viewing.

Second, there must be a book connection.

Third, the Jolly Librarian knows almost nothing about movies, so the review will be basically whether she liked the movie or not.

Now, down to business:

Literature-loving Tennesseans were thrilled when they learned that Nashville resident Nicole Kidman wanted to make a movie out of Sewanee professor Kevin Wilson’s novel, The Family Fang.  This novel about a married pair of performance artists who force their children, Annie and Buster,  into their subversive actions of art is both funny and heartbreaking.  (Enough said. If you haven’t read this book, stop reading this review and go buy it or check it out of a library: NOW!)

The Jolly Librarian, although happy whenever an author is respected and comes to good fortune, was a tiny bit wary of what Hollywood would do to a such a wonderful, layered novel. But after the first thirty minutes, she stopped comparing the movie to the book and simply let the movie be itself.

And once that happened, the Jolly Librarian enjoyed herself indeed. The movie is faithful enough to the book that there was no throwing popcorn at the screen, yelling, “Where did you get that? That wasn’t in the book. That makes no sense.”  (Another reason the Jolly Librarian doesn’t go to the theater.) Both Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman portrayed Annie and Buster with a poignancy that may or may have not brought tears. The movie stood on its own merits as well as serving as a reminder of what a wonderful novel it was based on.

The Jolly Librarian recommends that you watch the movie, read the book, and write yourself a reminder that Kevin Wilson’s new novel comes out in early 2017.


How to Succeed in College (5 Tips at a Time): Part 7

1.  Stay current.  Don’t let yourself get behind on the course reading or completing assignments.  Procrastination causes stress, gives you less time for doing quality work and doesn’t allow you to get the most out of class discussions.

2.  Participate.  Be an active participant in class discussions and actively think about the content of the reading.

3.  Actually learn the material.  Don’t just concern yourself with accumulating the necessary points for a course, but actually try to understand the material, content, bigger picture.  Ask yourself, “Could I pass the final exam if it were given to me 6 months from now?”  If you are truly learning the material and not just memorizing, the answer will be “yes.”

4. Review frequently.  Be sure to review the material in an ongoing manner, rather than cramming before an exam.

5.  Be open to confusion.  Learning new material isn’t easy (it’s not supposed to be). If you are being challenged, you should expect moments when you don’t “get it.”  Yet.  Don’t say “I can’t get this,” say “I don’t understand this, yet.”


How to Succeed in College (5 Tips at a Time): Part 6

  1. It is now midterm week. Evaluate what has worked so far. Give yourself a high five for your successes.
  2. Take a hard look at what’s not working. What do you need to do?
  3. If you haven’t already done so, visit your instructor during office hours.
  4. Plan out the rest of your semester. The last half usually has more assignments, and managing your time is essential.
  5. Use fall break to catch up, but schedule at least one restful/fun activity.

Monday Motivator: Appreciate Other People’s Journeys

I was chastised by a student last week. She had been told that I didn’t like for my colleagues to tell students I had a doctorate in English. “You should not be ashamed,” she said. “It’s an important thing.”

She then told us a bit of her story. Her grandfather was a medical doctor in Argentina who fled the country during the Dirty War to ensure his family’s safety. He accomplished that but was never able to practice medicine again. Like many students from immigrant families, she felt proud of her grandfather’s sacrifice and duty bound to make something of herself to prove worthy of it.

Of course, not all people’s stories are awe inspiring. Some folks don’t make it. Some become angry, bitter, resistant to instruction, or afraid to try. In our line of work, we see those people as well. But instead of judging them, let’s take a minute to think about the journey behind the person we see in front of us. When we know the story about the appearance, we still may not like the person, but we’re often a little more empathetic.

And for the record, I’m not ashamed of my doctorate. I was just making the point that a doctorate in English doesn’t necessarily mean I know every comma rule by heart 🙂