Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I'm on sabbatical, which means my daily day is not my usual daily day. Sure, I go to my actual office every 2-3 weeks, mostly to meet with my graduate students and post-docs, and to review research projects. Because none of those go away on sabbatical. But the rest of the stuff--the committee meetings, the lectures, the administrative duties--have (mostly) disappeared.

Most folks on sabbatical go exotic places--Thailand, Italy, India--or work at another institution. My life with kids precluded extended travel, but I have been on a few short trips:

1. BOSTON! Well, Cambridge. And beyond. My favorite place in the world. My graduate student and I went to attend a totally unique conference--geospatial analysis approaches to health problems. A fancy phrase for mapping. Very cool to look at the association of risk and protective factors in 3-D. And did I mention my brilliant student won the Conference's Communication award for her poster on national treatment admissions for prescription opioid abuse? We ate lobster fra diavalo in the North End to celebrate. I spent the rest of the week catching up with colleagues and dear friends and my wonderful Aunt, visits that took me to Waltham, North Reading, Leicester, and Newport.

2. JOHNS HOPKINS! My office away from work. I have a class on the Homewood Campus on Tuesdays, and it is bucolic in the afternoon. I grab a caramel latte and sit on a bench and write and think and wish I was a college student again. 

3. NEW YORK CITY! I'm here NOW. Kind of. I'm taking a non-fiction book proposal course with GOTHAM. Tell me, would you pick this up if you saw it in Barnes and Noble: Un-Balanced: The Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse and the Programs and Policies that Got Us There?

4. TAOS, NEW MEXICO! A gorgeous place, with snow-capped mountains and arid desert. I'm digging clay from the earth--here, it sparkles with mica--to make pots the way the Taos Pueblo Indians do. Rather, my character Sheila is in Taos, but through her I get to live vicariously.

5. REISTERSTOWN, MARYLAND! Home sweet home. I spend most of my day at my desk, working on manuscripts and research proposals and gearing up for a new NIH-funded grant on COPD and Depression in Older Adults. I read a lot, including David Sheff's new book CLEAN, which deals with the piss-poor way our society deals with addiction. Timely and important stuff. I see my kids get on and off the bus, and get to make smoothies for them, and help with homework, and eat lunch with my husband.

Nothing fancy, but the rest has done me good. I am bursting with ideas, and that's what a sabbatical is supposed to be all about. Peace...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Witching Hours

It's 6:30 in the morning, and black as pitch. The wind moans through the trees, rattles the siding. The flaming maple will be bare of leaves when day beaks. As usual, I am up before everyone else. It is a rare morning when I sleep past six.

Last night, our street was empty of trick-or-treaters. Only Henry and Will and I knocked on doors, gathered our goodies. For the past eight years, our neighborhood gathered at one end of the street to trick or treat together. The men attached hay-carts to mowers, the babies and toddlers pulled behind in wagons. After, we'd gather for pizza and drinks, and catch up until next year.

But now, the kids are older. They have other friends, other places to go. On our short street, the children in five families go to five different schools. Sometimes, it feels lonely...

Tomorrow we move the clocks back an hour. The morning will brighten, good news for the kids waiting for school buses. Bad news for after school and after work, when dark will descend with a vengeance.

Winter comes. And yes, if this post sounds melancholy, it is. Just a tad. Time to hibernate, time to turn inward. Peace...