It's been a minute and I have NEWS!!!

It's been a while since I last blogged. After my husband passed, I rather fell out of the habit. But life is offering me a new chapter and this one will put me back on the social media pony... I have taken on a new position! I am now the Director of Graduate Programs in Children's Literature, Writing, and Illustration at Hollins University. We're growing our program from the low-residency summer model to offering a year-round model as well, and I will be spear-heading the endeavor. (If you want to know more about it - please email me at dulembaeo at
     I moved to the gorgeous Roanoke, Virginia this past weekend and am settling into my new home - a ground floor apartment in an old Victorian in the historic district. I'm near all the fun things to do in the city and only a 15 minute commute to campus. The best thing is that Virginia has always felt like home to me. My earliest years were spent in Manasas, Virginia, and I used to visit my grandparents every summer in Lexington, just up the road from Roanoke. The first time I set foot on campus and saw all the bunnies and smelled the boxwoods, I had a deep sense of peace and it has never left me. I'm HOME! After working summer semesters in our low-residency MA/MFA/Certificate programs for ten years, I'm so excited to be on this beautiful campus full-time. I'll get to see the leaves change and maybe even some snow!
     To start off this adventure, yesterday was Convocation - the "welcome back" ceremony for faculty, staff, and students. But this was unlike any Convocation I've ever attended. I felt like Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile as I lined up with my fellow faculty and walked to the chapel.
Here I am with Andrea Martens, our Print Professor, and Amy Gerber-Stroh, our Film Professor.
Seniors have the wonderful tradition of wearing customized robes to Convocation, and they go all out. I wish I could show you more, they were so fun!

President Hinton gave a rousing speech about how living one's true self with JOY is in itself an act of defiance - it was truly fabulous and we gave her a standing ovation. I'm so looking forward to working alongside this Rock Star of a University President!
Students sang Hollins' songs that have been sung since 1842, the year of the University's inception, led by Choral Director, Shelbie Wahl-Fouts.
Finally, we all gathered in the Quad where I was warned to stand back, because the students shake up bottles of champaigne (or bubbly cider) and spray it everywhere! Talk about JOY!

What a way to kick off this new position! I have so much to do, so many meetings to have, and so many book festivals, fairs, and events to attend to help spread the word about our new offerings, it's going to be an exciting ride! I hope you'll stick around to share my adventures with me, because, I'm BACK!!! Here I am with my good friend and the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum Director, Jenine Culligan, looking mighty happy indeed!!!

For those who don't know

If you've wondered where I've been, or why I've been so quiet... my dear husband, Stan Dulemba, passed away on November 2nd. While he hadn't been well for a long time, the end was sudden and unexpected. One is never ready for such loss. One of the best analogies I've read is that losing a spouse is not like breaking a leg - one does not "heal" from such a loss. Rather, it is like having a leg amputated. One must adjust to a new type of life and living. Which is what I am learning to do.
     Grief has created a "before" and "after" in my world, a division that I recognize in the eyes of others. I am now part of a club I never asked to join, but it is one of deep understanding and empathy. Grief is not contagious, it is life. And if we are lucky enough to love, we will experience loss and the associated grief. The alternative is, of course, to either die young, or to never love at all - neither of which is an acceptable alternative to my mind.
     And so, I am learning how to live forward while honoring the wonderful life I had with Stan. We had FUN and so many adventures, many that I've shared with you, dear readers.
     So, here is what I did and am doing to honor my husband. I found a company that turns your loved one's ashes into "Parting Stones," much like river rocks. I plan to leave them in beautiful and significant places around the world. There are so many parting stones in this very heavy box, it will take me the rest of my life to disseminate them all. But they will remind me to live, or as we often said, to live out loud. Stan's adventures will continue with me.
     I took two of his stones to New York City for Christmas to Providence for New Years, and to Scotland in May, which I blogged about (click on the colored text).
     The very first stone throw wasn't planned, though. My friends MJ, Andy, and I followed a path that runs along the ocean called "Cliff Walk" in Newport, Rhode Island. Grief was hitting me pretty hard, so I told MJ and Andy to walk on without me. I found a bench and contemplated... everything.
When they got back to me, I was in tears and had decided this was the perfect spot to throw out Stan's first parting stone. One problem, I have a crap throwing arm; so I asked Andy to do it. Among hugs and tears, Andy chucked Stan's first parting stone WAY out into the sea. It was perfect. It felt right. It felt significant. Here's the spot...
Video link.
     Stan's second parting stone, however, didn't go quite as smoothly.
     I had planned how I wanted the second stone to go. I found a quote from Shakespeare's Two Men of Verona that I wanted to read. (Our wedding rings were engraved with a quote from the play.) MJ and I walked to the end of the beach near her home. There were large cement blocks reaching out like a jetty and I thought it would be lovely to throw Stan's stone from the end.
     As I started to climb out, MJ said, "I don't know, sweetie, that algae looks pretty slippery." I didn't even have time to repond.
     In I went to the ice-cold water. It was deep enough to go up and over and into my new Bogg Boots (waterproof on the outside). Somehow, I held onto my phone and it and the upper half of me stayed dry. But I was still so angry with myself. I felt stupid as I pulled off my boots, dumping out a gallon of water from each one (very I Love Lucy style), and wringing out my soaking wet socks. Once that was done, I attempted to salvage the moment. I read the quote and threw Stan's stone into the sea... but remember that crap throwing arm I mentioned? Yeah.
     It landed about three feet from me. Not what I had in mind. So, in my wet rubber boots, I went to get it and try again.
     At this point, it was obvious this had turned into a complete fiasco, maybe even a message from Stan to stop taking everything so seriously. MJ and I were in tears from laughing so hard as we walked back along the beach and came up with a more colorful quote to add to my "Widow's Toolbox" - a collection of helpful sayings to use to either respond to inapprorpriate comments from well-meaning folks or to just keep me sane.
     At any rate, it felt right in the end and I added the story to my diary where I'm keeping track of all his stones and the GPS coordinates of where I leave him. (The book of hand-made paper was a gift from one of my students - so lovely.)
     So, I am living forward, living OUT LOUD, and I will continue to have grand adventures. I can't think of a better way to honor my dear husband.

      Here is a link to his online tribute and here is a link to his Celebration of Life.

A Hollins Summer

I mostly hung out on Facebook this past summer, so will provide a blog wrap-up here. (I'm getting back into my blogging habit!)
     As usual, it was an awesome summer at Hollins University, filled with that Hollins magic I keep telling people about. I got to room with the amazing and fascinating Karen Coats, head of the Children's Literature programming at the University of Cambridge in the UK. We've roomed together before and get along famously well. And I just learn so much from her! Here we are with her daughter Blair, being silly on a downtown Roanoke Saturday.
And here is the card I made of her - she loves to KNIT!!!
It was so good to have friends back together - it's like a big slumber party... with a lot of fun work thrown in! Here are some of our returning faculty, Ashley Wolff (from Vermont, she teaches Media Studies), Karen Coats (from the UK, she teaches Critical Studies), me (now from Roanoke! I teach Picture Book Design), Lisa Fraustino (Arizona, Creative Writing and Critical Studies), and MJ Begin (Rhode Island, Illustration Portfolio).
We stayed in the new Village, a new set of dorms with big front porches. This was my view.
The best part of the village is the fire pit!
We spent a lot of time there once the afternoon heat left.
Studenst got lots of great work done - in my class, they did their book dummies. Here are Kelly and Teresa with their final projects.
We had some great speakers too. Olivia Stephens...
Ashley Belote...
(Ashley and I went downtown to play and got corraled in a local restaurant because there was a BEAR in a tree on the square! Poor thing had mistakenly wandered into town. We couldn't really see it well, but it didn't stop us from a great photo op!)
Ruth Sanderson gave a great workshop on scratchboard.
And I had the great pleasure to interview this year's Margaret Wise Brown Prize Winner, Chana Stiefel for The Tower of Life.
Here we were after the interview with our VP of Graduate Studies, Steve Laymon.
And with most of our students...
Of course, we had to soak up all the gorgeousness that Hollins has to offer. We went to Nancy Dahlstrom's for our annual cookout - our Author/artist in Residence, Rosemary Wells, joined us.
And we took LOTS of walks!
Deer were everywhere this summer!
We also had quite a few Green Herons hanging out at the pond this year (on the metal thing in the water).
And we enjoyed a celebrity visit from the Budweiser Clydesdales!
And we went to Floyd.
Of course, one of the best things, is knowing I get to live here full-time now! I carry forth the torch from our previous directors, Lisa Fraustino and Amanda Cockrell.
What an honor and a thrill to call this magical place home now!!!