If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Night Baking

I made these tonight. They're for tomorrow's work function but we tried a few out ourselves. b and I both liked them but Boy was not impressed (he's a fussy one).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Week As A Western Movie

The Good

I'm teaching a practicum class with both graduate and undergraduate students in my field. As a class we've been planning a large event in the community. Students had to secure space, funds, contributions, and volunteers as well as handle food and decorations. They also had to advertise and recruit participants. As a group we coordinated the entire event through class meetings and Blackboard.

The event occurred today and it went off like a charm. My students, 11 amazing young women, were awesome. The participants enjoyed themselves, learned a few things, met new people, felt pampered and appreciated, and were extremely appreciative of the all the hard work that went into the event. My students felt like they did a good job, worked well as a team, got professional experience, and made a really great day for some women who don't often get special treatment.

I felt proud.

The Bad

A few nights ago one of my colleagues, an avid bike rider and crusader for bike safety, was hit by a car while riding home from the office. The young woman who hit him was text messaging while driving. He is in the hospital with multiple broken bones, including 5 vertabrae. He is definitely improving but it will be a long recovery process. He lives alone and his family lives in another part of the country. On top of all this, it seems his elderly mother has been in and out of the hospital for most of the week, which means his sisters cannot come and take care of him.

[A small piece of good from this event is seeing how much the entire community (department, school, university) are rallying around him and helping him through this tough time. It's feels good to belong to such a supportive group.]

The Ugly

My mother was visiting this entire week. She is never an easy woman and has some serious emotional issues. I noticed when she arrived that she was in one of her "funks," not depression but rather not taking care of herself and drinking more than normal. Towards the end of her visit she manipulated b into a full-scale blow-out fight. She is known for this type of behavior, often with her sons-in-law, but b doesn't really fight with anyone and they certainly have never fought before.

The fight was, of course, over something stupid and if you followed it, which I had no choice but to do, it didn't make much sense. It escalated quickly and got really really bad. In the nine years that I've known him I have never seen b so angry. At one point I couldn't take it any longer and I just lost it. I yelled at them to stop and started crying. (I'm not someone who cries very easily or frequently.) b stopped immediately and came over to comfort me. Boy, who was also witness to this ugliness, acted like the man he has become and firmly but gently told his inebriated grandmother to stop (because she wouldn't) and then took her outside to walk around the block. Afterwards I learned he made idle conversation to divert her attention and when she wanted to continue talking about the fight he told her she could do that the next day, when she was sober.

Afterwards we all went to bed but the house was tense for the rest of her visit. She apologized in the morning but everything she said made it obvious that she just doesn't get what she did. I know she doesn't realize the damage that she has caused to her relationship with all three of us. I've seen her do things like this my entire life but it was the first time b and Boy have really experienced it up close and personal.

[The small bit of good in this was seeing how my sweet, caring, anxious little boy has grown into a mature, sensitive, and tactful man. I often wonder where he came from and how I got lucky enough to be his mom. His behavior with her and his gallantry towards me that night were really quite impressive.]

b just called from work and asked me out on a date to our favorite date restaurant. I'm happy to put this week to bed and that it is ending on such a happy note.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leave No Trace

b is a "Leave No Trace" master. In addition to the the impressive title, it means he gets to spend the next two days training people to become "Leave No Trace" trainers. To conduct the training he must, of course, go camping. So tonight he is out there sleeping in our new tent while I am here snuggled in our new bed. Pupzilla, who generally has mixed feelings about camping, was not allowed on this trip.

I'm not really sure what occurs at the training but I do know the seven principles of Leave No Trace are covered. They are:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

I think most of these work as well indoors as outdoors.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Camping

We like to camp on holidays. Thanksgiving is probably the best. b is an amazing dutch oven cook and can create an entire Thanksgiving spread in the woods. He spends the day cooking, while Boy, Pupzilla and I laze around the campsite. At some point we all go off for a nice hike. After dinner it's apple cobbler and cocoa around the campfire while b reads from A Christmas Carol.

This year our state had a burn ban and there was no Thanksgiving camping.

So with our new tent arriving last week and the ban being lifted, we were very psyched for an Easter camping trip. We keep things simple and go to a pretty campground not far from home. The complications this year was b's work schedule and my mother's visit. b was scheduled to work until 4 pm on Saturday and needed to be back to work very very early Monday morning. Mom's flight came in a 5:30 Saturday evening.

It took some hustling but we managed to get everything and body (except Boy who was working all weekend long) to the campsite before sunset. We had cocktails and talked and b cooked spinach lasagna. A beautiful spring day turned into a crisp and chilly night but we had a raging fire to keep us warm. The new tent is a dream. It's comfortable and roomy without being large and it has a very cool vestibule and lots of vents and windows. In the morning b made his famous egg bake and then it was time for a hike.

Normally we would have spent Sunday night but it made no sense with his schedule. So we packed up and came home. We were pleasantly surprised that Boy had a 3 hour break and could meet us for lunch. The day ended with a very late but yummy supper and some cobbler. We are all stuffed and sleepy and Pupzilla is passed out on her bed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Six Word Memoir

A fun little meme has been making it's way around the blogosphere and life-of-a-fool has been kind enough to tag me so I can play along.

Here are the instructions:

1. Write your own six word memoir

2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like

3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere

4. Tag five more blogs with links

5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

Here we go:

I wondered. I labored. I loved.

I tag:

jo(e), dr. bad ass, Amanda, dr. zombieswan, and Katie

Monday, March 17, 2008

How is it....

after only one week off I can be almost completely caught up in my home life but completely behind in my work life?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring Cleaning

Spring Break has meant Spring Cleaning--or really Spring Total Reorganization--in the House of Dirt and Rocks. You see we recently came to the realization that we don't want to move anytime soon. Our original plan was to live in this house for a year--or so--while we figured out what we really wanted. As it turns out we really enjoy living in the middle of the city, where I can walk and b can ride to work, with restaurants, stores, and sundries all around us. We've also grown fond of this little house. It fits us well and we've been (mostly) comfortable.

The uncomfortable part was how we set it up when we first moved in. I felt we were not getting maximum usage out of the available space. We have also managed to acquire a boatload of junk in just under 2 years. So I was feeling crowded and cramped and decided we need to move around three rooms, clean out the attic and the closets and that b needed to build us a new bed (aren't you glad you're aren't married to me). I'm happy to report that we managed pretty much all of it (and got our taxes done too) and things now actually fit in the closets. Even the attic is neat and organized.

The bed is probably the most amazing: a platform with built-in bookshelves. Space for books has been non-existent and my books have been living in boxes in a closet. Finding a book I needed/wanted was not an easy process and browsing was out of the question. They don't all fit in the bed-bookshelf but with the reorganization I can get most of them out. It was great fun sorting through them all today and coming up with a new categorizing scheme for shelf prominence. Now I need the semester to be over so I can start re-reading.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


They are four of us; I'm the youngest. When we were very young we distributed the identities of the Fantastic Four. I don't know their names but my oldest sister was the guy who could fly and turn into fire, the second oldest was the guy who turned into rocks (very Hulk-like), my third sister was the only girl - who could become invisible and had a force field, and I was the guy who could stretch like rubber.

Later we took on the identities of the sisters in Little Women. My oldest sister was Meg and the second oldest was Jo. These fit in both birth order and personality. However I ended up being Beth, the one too good for this world who dies young (I was not-so-affectionately nicknamed "Little Miss Goody-Two Shoes" and was the child who came down with every illness and/or injury). My third sister, who is only 16 months older than me, was Amy, the youngest. Amy is the girly one, the artistic/creative one, the emotional and spoiled one.

I spoke to my sister, Amy, last night. She is in a world of pain. We've been raised to hide/deny pain in my family, so Amy is very busy. We talked for over an hour. Amy and I have lived together a good deal of our lives. We grew up sharing a room; we went to camp together; we shared an apartment (along with Boy's dad - my first husband) for several years; and we spent every Christmas Eve and Christmas Day together until we were in our 30's. Amy is a martial artist, like me, and we were in the same dojo for 17 years.

At one point last night she reminded me that years ago I had told her I imagined the two of us living together and traveling when we were old and our husbands were gone. She's thinking about this now and although her children are her life and she loves her husband she's good with the idea of ending up with a sister.

I've invited her to come visit for a long weekend. She needs the mental break. She said her family is "stymied" right now. I think some space could help her get unstuck so she and her family can move on. She had a lot of reasons why she couldn't come visit--money, the kids' schedule, logistics, etc. I told her that I had already spoken to Meg and Jo and we had a plan for every difficulty. She said it would take a lot of coordination, she felt bad she couldn't manage it on her own, but if we could make it work she love to come more than anything.

I told her we'd make it work.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Earth Hour


Doodle by Lee. The code for this doodle and other doodles you can use on your blog can be found at Doodles.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pizza...Or How I Spend Spring Break

I love to bake (much more than I love to cook) and baking bread is probably my favorite. Since it's Spring Break this week I figured I had time for "Make Your Own Pizza" night. The name is a misnomer as I do most of the making. B assembles at the end and Boy prefers me to do everything.

The Ingredients

The Dough

My favorite part of baking bread (or any yeast product) is the kneading. I just don't get the point of bread machines. To be able to feel the dough come alive in your hand is the most exciting part of the process. Ok, maybe eating it--actually I don't know which I like more.

One-handed Kneading (b wasn't home so other hand was taking the picture)

Ready to Rise

As I wait for the dough to rise I make the sauce:

I also do some writing on the "Grant That Just Doesn't Want To Be Written."

It seems The Brute:

and Pupzilla:

had other pastimes in mind.

Dough Risen

At this point I separate the dough into 3 pieces for our individual pizzas, wrap them, and put them in the 'fridge and I'm off to the dojo.

Hours later I return to find b home with our brand-spanking new tent set-up in the backyard (sorry no pics yet). We are very excited.

Back inside for cocktails and the forming of the pizzas:

At the end b and I enjoy the fruits of my labor:

(photo courtesy of b)

Boy, who is out for his first day of work at his 2nd job, does not make it home in time for dinner. I make him a calzone (his usual preference):

which he eats when he gets home at 10:30.

b and I stay up to watch "Elizabeth: The Golden Age."

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I want to stretch my voice, my writer's voice that is. As a child/adolescent/young adult I wrote fiction but never kept a journal. I also wrote papers for school but never really worked too hard on them. As a graduate student and an emerging professional I learned (with great difficulty) to write in an academic voice. Once I became proficient at that voice I found it difficult to write fiction. Then in my early thirties I started writing poetry. However I found I couldn't freely go between creative writing and academic writing. If I was productive on my dissertation or with journal papers I wasn't free enough to create; if I was happily writing poetry (or one attempt at a novel) I couldn't fit my voice back into the narrow confines of academia. Eventually I stopped the creative writing to get "serious" about my career.

Changing jobs and moving down south seemed like a good time to try and bridge my voices. I started a journal that, for the first time, I've managed to keep going. At the same time my research started to change--to get more innovative, more creative itself--and I started to explore different academic writing styles that were less conventional, less lab report-like, than what I had done previously.

This winter I had an opportunity to write a scholarly chapter and came up with an idea for structuring it that really tested my writing limits. It has recently come back from the editor with major revisions. I've only glanced at the review as I need a few days to face them without emotion. Holding off on a review is something I haven't had to do for a long time. I believe this means I'm deeply invested in wanting this new style to succeed.

I started this blog, in part, to help with the process and so far I think it has been working. I haven't gotten back to fiction or poetry yet but I'm getting more comfortable switching between my traditional academic work and my new work. The journal entries have definitely slowed down but I'm happy to report it is still in existence.

So progress to be sure, but still a long way to go.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I'm sitting in an airport on the last leg of my journey home. I've spent the past 3 days at a conference in a big cold city on a lake. It had been several years since I attended this conference but I didn't find it much changed. This was the conference everyone in my graduate program used to attend and it doesn't quite fit who I've become.

I did have a nice time, mostly because I had plenty of opportunity to catch up with two old friends. Presentations went well and I even ventured out for a lovely tapas dinner. My friend and I have both moved South (she much further than I) and complained bitterly about the cold over champagne sangria.

So good times, good work, but I'm sick of traveling. I realized this was my 4th conference in less than a year. That much work-related travel no longer fits my life style (a good thing).

This year you'll find me at home.

Did You Ever Wonder...

why hotels will provide soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, and shower caps but not toothpaste? What is it about toothpaste that requires you to bring your own? Sure a lot of hotels will have "extra" toothpaste (and even a toothbrush) if you forgot yours but it is never a staple. Personally I'd like to see a little tube of Crest or Colgate waiting for me in my hotel bathroom.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Blast from the Not-So-Distant Past

Amanda has tagged me for an archive meme. This is a meme that helps you get to know your fellow bloggers a little better, something I'm always happy to do. The rules of the meme are to link to 5 of your favorite posts within the following categories:

Link 1 must be about family.
Link 2 must be about friends.
Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are... what you're all about.
Link 4 must be about something you love.
Link 5 can be anything you choose.

You are also supposed to tag 5 people, 2 of whom are new-ish acquaintances. You should read the linked posts and comment on them.

My blog is pretty new and I don't have a ton of archives, so it has been interesting figuring out how to meet the criteria.

1. Family. In searching my meager archives I took the opportunity to examine my labels and found I've written more about my puppy than any other family member. But I think the family post should be this one. A number of visitors from around the world (e.g., Malaysia, Vietnam) have found my blog by googling "conversational styles." I'm thinking this post wasn't quite what they had in mind.

2. Friends. Hmm. This is a hard one. I haven't really blogged about the friends I've left behind in Really Big City (and I obviously need to) and friends down here have been discussed mostly as colleagues. I'll have to choose this post which is about my sisters, so it should be family, but for most of my life my sisters were my best friends.

3. Yourself. Really it's all about me but my intro post probably has the most actual description.

4. Love. Again, sadly, there is little on those people I love the most - b and Boy. But this post is definitely about a different kind of love and this one about loving or not loving one's students.

5. Anything goes. The hardest category as I've used up most of my favorites in the above 4. I'll have to go with this one as it discusses two things I love to do.

The 5 people I tag are:

Dr. Bad Ass

Katie/post doc