Category Archives: Teaching @ UMd

Professor Duin

Well, we are now two weeks into teaching at the University of Maryland j-school, which is situated in an absolutely lovely, modern, glassed-in building with a decent coffee bar on the ground floor on one edge of the campus. The first week was a tad rocky as I had not done this sort of thing in 10 years but this past Wednesday flowed a bit better, I thought. There’s been all sorts of details re class books, assignments and even the balky AV equipment to work out. After the first class, I knew there was no way I could lecture for nearly three hours straight again so I contacted several religion reporter friends and asked them to show up as guest speakers just to give the students – and me – a break. The first one shows up next week as we discuss ways to cover Catholics. The staff are as nice as can be and I even have my own mail slot in the faculty lounge as well as a skeleton key of sorts to get into the rooms. I attended a pizza dinner for all the adjuncts just before the term began and there were quite a few from all manner of media outlets. The college could not run without us, that’s for sure.

Professor Duin at the ready

The downside is that I’m actually losing money by working there. When I get a check every other week, it knocks out the money I’d ordinarily get for unemployment. Yes, am still on the government dole as I am working various part-time gigs but nothing full-time. When you’re honest and actually report that you made a bit of money here and there, the system punishesyou by subtracting that from the little amount that you get each week from the feds. And yes, the unemployment check is sizeably more than what one gets as an adjunct. And so when I got handed a whopping bill from the vet this afternoon after taking my elderly tabby in for some teeth cleaning (her breath was really smelling bad in recent months and my other cat nearly died last year because I had delayed getting her teeth done), that alone took up two weeks worth of adjunct pay.

Love the cold weather!

It’s been amazingly warm here and we’ve only had a touch of snow once. The days are already getting longer. Veeka is taking pottery and swim classes. Even though French fries are a major diet staple, she is still a thin little thing so she shivers in the water during lessons. And so I found a kiddie wetsuit for my little mermaid which she tried on tonight and just loves. I am thrilled to see her getting the kicks down; now if she can only figure out what to do with her arms.

Today’s photos are courtesy of Joey Marguerite, a Seattle-area friend who swung by last fall and who hopefully is soon to release a wildly popular best-selling CD of her music.

Gotcha day anniversary

Five years ago, I went to the Rudny courthouse in the morning, was awarded custody of Veeka and by late that evening was back at my hotel in Kostenai with a bewildered looking 22-month-old in a blue snow suit and candy-striped socks looking at me. There were no elevators in the hotel so I staggered up several flights with a purse, bag of clothes and a 20-pound child, got into my room and dropped her onto a brown stuffed chair. Little did she realize I was now her mommy. She did pick up that something was very different that night and instead of sharing a room in a crib with a dozen other kids, she had a huge bed with just ME in there with her.

Veeka on Jan. 25, 2007

I have been observing 5-year anniversary dates with Veeka this month. Today – Jan. 25 – was ‘gotcha’ day – as they say in adoption parlance, which is usually when a court awards you custody. I still had 3 weeks to go in the country but she was MINE. The clock started ticking for the final 15 days when the birth parents could – at the last minute – come claim her, which thankfully they did not. On Feb. 10, the final papers were signed and on Feb. 17, we landed at Dulles and Veeka became an American citizen. So tonight we went out to celebrate. First we picked up 2 new pairs of glasses (Veeka lost one of her original pairs and the other is all scratched up) that have cool blue and pink frames. Then we went out to a Mexican food place – Chevys Fresh Mex – which we were told about by her uncle Rob. I was underwhelmed by the place although the service was fine. It made me homesick for the really good Mexican places in Houston, ie the legendary Ninfa’s.

Veeka at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on Dec. 31

Today was my first day of teaching at the University of Maryland. Haven’t taught a 3-hour class in 10 years and none of the books for the class were ready so….had to wing it! It should be lots of fun and I was able to set up a blog for all the students to share ‘religion encounters and experiences’ to get them used to engaging with various religions around them. Can’t report on something unless you’re aware it exists. Must say the journalism building at UMd is gorgeous and I teach in a lovely classroom with glass walls. The staff could not be nicer and it’s clear this is a pretty classy place. Had to duck into the student union to order some material printed and ran into reams of students there as many classes began today. It has been awhile since I’ve hung out on university campuses.

Sunny, cold days

Snowball maker

It is in the 30s these days, but at least – unlike poor Alaska – we’re not having snow. Being that I got into a fenderbender last weekend and my car is quasi-driveable, I am glad for the lack of white stuff. However, I got a $10 LLBean coupon in the mail so today Veeka and I went to the store to see what we could get for that amount of money. She latched onto – I kid you not – something that looked like a cross between a red plastic pair of tongs and an ice cream scoop. The clerk told us it was a snowball maker. OK….

Veeka and her oeuvre d'art

The photo here is of Veeka posing next to some artwork she did for a class last month. Her teacher thinks she is quite talented so I am trying to encourage her art. And a few other things: She is taking a swim class at the county pool on Saturdays but because she could not glide far enough, she was demoted from Level 2 to Level 1 to get her stroke down. She is so thin, she shivers in the pool so I am looking about for a thermal suit to buy her. Other news: My “Days of Fire and Glory” book finally made it into Kindle so you can download it here.

And some friends of mine who run a think tank known as the Edmund Burke Institute just ran one of my essays here. This week has been filled with preparations for teaching a religion writing course at the University of Maryland starting Jan. 25. I finally turned in my syllabus, which took more work than I thought. It’s tough to think 15 weeks in advance as to what you might be teaching as this is a new course and I have no idea how long certain things might take to cover. And my class is a nearly 3-hour marathon on Wednesday mornings which saves on parking fees but basically mandates a coffee break midway through. So now I’m getting all sorts of emails from the university and gradually getting to know the campus as I drop by to get my faculty/adjunct ID number and next, my parking passes as there are parking ghouls aplenty on that campus that literally sit and wait for you to be one minute late to your car. One was waiting for me in a white pick-up on Thursday; fortunately I had three minutes on my meter but I would have loved to have fired a dart into one of his tires.