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

Monday, June 30, 2008


I love the voice. I am totally musically challenged but if I could have a musical talent it would be the ability to sing. I'm partial to blues and jazz singers. I particularly love really big voices. I would rather go to an operatic concert than see a full opera.

I like to read poetry out loud (often to my cats, as b and Boy have no interest whatsoever) for the sheer joy of feeling the words as I speak them.

I remember discovering the term "writer's voice" as an adolescent. I've struggled with creative writing on and off (currently very off) since I was a girl, wishing my talent was greater and my voice more unique. Only just recently have I realized that I've developed a research voice -- a distinctive style to what and how I inquire. My research voice asks particular questions, can see specific patterns, and has its own interpretive slant. I've fallen in love with my research.

I hate my speaking voice. I have a very heavy accent that, to me, marks my blue collar background. I think it sounds unintelligent and very street. If I'm made aware of it in a professional situation I automatically feel like I don't belong--I'm not "right" for academia.

I'm a quiet person. In meetings and other social situations I prefer to listen; to listen with my whole attention; to read what is being said and not said and unsaid. I do, however, speak up in meetings but I do so only when I have something to say. By the time I speak people are usually ready to listen. They don't always agree but I capture their attention. I'm considered thoughtful. At this point in my life, I'm used to being listened to when I have something that I feel needs to be said. If I've made the effort to make myself heard and you dismiss me, you have probably lost me forever.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

College Books

My list of house projects includes organizing my books and shelving what I can on the shelves b was kind enough to set up for me several months ago. Right now my bedroom floor is covered with piles of books [Note: The organization process could - and might - take days if I'm not careful.]

It's interesting to see that my interests have barely changed over the years. I am amazingly consistent. In fact I'm finding many of the books I read in my early twenties could be helpful now for my research.

I don't have many books left from my college days (I went to the BEST college ever) but I did find 2 from the 1 anthropology course I took. I adored this course. We read Nisa: The Life and Work of a Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak. Opening it today I found the one passage in the entire book that I had underlined - a quote from Margaret Mead:

In every known society, the males' need for achievement can be recognized. Men may cook or weave or dress dolls or hunt hummingbirds, but if such activities are appropriate occupations for men, then the whole society, men and women alike, votes them important. When the same occupations are performed by women, they are regarded as less important.

The other book that survived from that class is Women of the Shadows: A Study of the Wives and Mothers of Southern Italy by Ann Cornelisen. I had underlined several passages but the one that stands out for me today is a quote from Teresa, a woman who worked a farm to small to be profitable while her husband went to Germany to work:

Nobody can ever say Paolino didn't get on because he had a lazy wife! Some days I wish I could add. I bet if you count what I've got off the land and the chickens and those years I've had a pig and all my hired work, why, I bet I've brought in more in the last ten years than Paolino has, that is, money we could spend or food we could eat. Good years he's earned it, but he had to spend it too.

If Boy has half the intellectual experience I had at college it will be worth every penny.

Friday, June 27, 2008


This meme was started over at a quatre pattes who tagged blue milk who sent out an open tag. I really liked both of their lists. Here are the instructions:

Write 5 memories from places you have called home. If you are uncomfortable about revealing the location just use House #1, House #2, etc. Tag 5 bloggers from around the world and send them a link letting them know they've been tagged.

Here's mine:

Grandma's House
  • Roses and tomatoes every summer in Grandma's garden
  • Watching Grandma scrub the floor on her knees
  • Riding my tricycle in the basement while my mother hung clothes
  • My father suffering from a "hang nail"
  • My grandfather's face through the bars of his hospital bed
Dingy Apt #1 - Big City
  • Starting a garden on the fire escape with avocado pits
  • Really big cockroaches in the kitchen
  • Picking through the abandoned lot for "buried treasure"
  • Sleeping in closets
  • Waiting for my turn to visit Grandma for the weekend
Aunt's House-Suburban Town
  • Hotdog dinners with my aunt, uncle, 6 cousins and 1 sister
  • Sleeping in the (mostly)finished basement with my sister
  • Riding my bike to school everyday
  • Hiking through the abandoned parkway with my oldest cousin
  • Joining 4H
Dingy Apt #2 - Big City
  • Missing my dog
  • A man pulling a knife on me in the lobby and forcing me into the elevator which went up instead of down because my sister and her boyfriend were waiting on the top floor.
  • My mother coming home to find my sister's boyfriend in her wedding dress as we hosted a mock wedding
  • My mother telling us my father had died and feeling like I wanted to laugh
  • The man who became my ex-husband moving in with us after he left his wife
Tiny Apt Across the River from Big City
  • Living on $3 a day
  • Teaching myself to cook in a huge old fashioned kitchen
  • Typing college papers with an old manual typewriter on a fold-away table
  • My sister moving in after my mother got evicted from Dingy Apt #2
  • Walking 11 blocks to the train station on crutches every day with a broken ankle
Not-So-Tiny Apt Back in Big City
  • Moving in and discovering Sensei lived across the street and had a wife and child
  • Singing songs to Boy while he was still on the inside
  • The neighborhood children shouting "Baldy" everytime I walked by with Boy in his stroller
  • Boy throwing back his arms and crowing with joy as we played in the park beneath the bridge.
  • Boy laughing after he played his first practical joke by making me get off the couch and then stealing my seat.
Beautiful Apt on the River in Big City
  • Sitting in the window with Boy and watching thunderstorms on summer nights
  • Boy running laps around the living room and the irate man who lived below ringing the doorbell
  • Long walks with Boy in the park and stopping by the cafe that looked like a castle to share some cheesecake
  • Studying for a statistics exam and forgetting I was supposed to pick Boy up from a birthday party
  • Sitting in the window while Etta James played on the stereo and Boy played in the other room wondering why it had to hurt so bad.
Big Apt In Yucky Neighborhood in Big City
  • Boy on the phone with his Dad crying on our first night and then his Dad telling me it was all my fault.
  • Me crying on my friend's shoulder the next day when I saw she had scrubbed the disgusting bathtub until it looked like new.
  • Finally having space to breathe
  • Talking to b on the phone and convincing him it was worthwhile to meet me
  • b hanging a heavy bag in the living room for me.
House on 3 Acres - 1 Hour North of Big City
  • Drinking champagne with b and Boy on the floor of the empty living room the night we closed
  • Growing roses and tomatoes
  • Getting married one afternoon in front of a judge with Boy standing besides us and then going out for lunch and bowling
  • Shoveling snow
  • Baking cinnamon buns for Christmas breakfast
Tiny House in Small City
  • Hanging out in the backyard with b and Boy in January and realizing we're all wearing t-shirts
  • Seeing The Brute stroll up to the door after being lost for 3 days
  • Walking to work
  • Going camping for Thanksgiving
  • Breathing
I'm not going to tag anyone in particular but invite you all to play along. But do drop a line and let me know.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Women Writers Identified: Part II

I'm back from some seriously overdue yard work and reviewing a really really bad paper. On with the list:

6. Nikki Giovanni. This is one of my favorite poets. Her poems have been with me since my college days and I also must thank my sister, Jo, for turning me onto her. Her work is accessible, something I enjoy in a poet. I particularly enjoy her Love Poems and Blues for All the Changes. She's had a remarkable life and career and I've been blessed to hear her read and speak twice in my life. She is a phenomenal speaker. Small of stature her spirit carries the room.

7. Anne Carson. Another favorite poet of mine, but very different. She is a harder read. I first stumbled across her (I have no recollection how) by reading Autobiography of Red. It is a novel in verse and is based on a Greek myth (I love myths and myth-making) but brought up-to-date and re-created. Not a great description I know, but trust me it's amazing. Another favorite, The Beauty of the Husband, both an essay and a story told in verse. She also writes brilliant but difficult essays.

8. Virginia Woolf. Still my favorite writer after all these years. I started reading her as an adolescent with Orlando (which was made into a fabulous movie), the story of a young gentleman, who appears to be immortal, travels the world and switches gender halfway through the novel. Of course Mrs. Dalloway followed and that was loved as well. I was even pleasantly surprised to enjoy Michael Cunningham's rendition, The Hours (once I started reading men, of course). But it is To The Lighthouse which remains my favorite. Most people today don't enjoy reading Woolf, but her prose is absolutely stunning and what she did with the novel was true genius. Of course she was also a prolific writer of essays, memoirs, letters and journals, all of which are a joy to read.

9. Grace Paley. I'm not a huge fan of short stories but Grace Paley is a major exception. A poet, a writer of stories and essays and an activist, she was a remarkable woman. Little Disturbances of Man is a wonderful read. I believe I discovered her in college as well (I went to an amazing college - no requirements, no majors, and nothing but funky seminar courses). She died, last year, at age 84 from breast cancer.

10. And the final spot goes to Doris Lessing, last year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. That, by the way, is something. Do you know how many women writers have won the Nobel Prize? Eleven. Yes, only 11 women have won in the 106 years that the award has been in existence. Like many of the other women listed here, Ms. Lessing is a prolific writer who's work covers traditional fiction, science fiction, short stories, autobiography and essays. She is probably best know for her novel, The Golden Notebook, which became a feminist classic. I first got to know her through the Children of Violence series, which chronicles the life of it's heroine, Martha Quest, as she grows up in South Africa, gets married twice, becomes a communist and political activist, a mother, a divorcee and moves to London.

So much for Wordless Wednesdays.

Women Writers Identified: Part I

Wednesday I posted 10 pictures of women writers. I've always been a voracious reader and for a significant number of years I only read women writers. Now I read more of a mixture, but women writers do it for me, particularly these writers.

1. Ursula K. Le Guin. I first read Ms. Le Guin when I was about 10 years old and had fallen in love with science fiction. At the time she had The Earthsea Trilogy (I believe there are now 5 books total) but I soon moved on to her adult novels. One of the things I love about sci fi is its ability to examine issues in our current world by creating fantasy worlds. As a feminist writer and a daughter of an anthropologist, issues of gender and culture are central to her work. Legend has it she wrote The Left Hand of Darkness (in which a genderless world exists) in order to write the sentence "The King was pregnant." In addition to sci fi she writes poetry, essays, children's literature, and short stories. She also wrote one of my favorite books on writing, Steering the Craft. At 79 years of age she has just released another novel, Lavinia, that I am anxiously awaiting.

2. Octavia Butler. Another amazing sci fi writer, I discovered Ms. Butler in my mid-twenties (thanks to my sister, Meg). Her novels include explorations of the meaning of race, sexuality and community. After reading Kindred, in which a young modern-day African American woman is transported back in time to the early 19th century in the South, I was hooked and quickly devoured everything she had written until that point and would wait--not so patiently--for each new novel to appear. At one point there was a particularly long gap and then Fledgling was published. This was her first foray into the undead (I've been a longtime fan of vampire literature) and it was superb (even Boy read it and loved it). I was sure this was going to be the first of a series but, alas, on February 24, 2006, she slipped on the ice outside her home, hitting her head on the concrete, and died. She was only 58.

3. Maxine Hong Kingston. My introduction to this author was her most famous work, The Woman Warrior. I believe the first time I read it was in college. It is a fascinating memoir of growing up as a Chinese American girl but unlike a traditional memoir it weaves her mothers' stories from China throughout the book. This allows her to exploring the intersection of gender, race, acculturation and mother-daughter relationships. Her most recent book, The Fifth Book of Peace, defies classification. She originally set out to write a novel (titled The Fourth Book of Peace) but as she was working on it she was called away to her father's deathbed. Driving home from the funeral she sees her house burning down along with her only copy of the novel. The book is, in part, a re-creation of the novel but is also a memoir and an exploration of loss, war, and her devotion to peace.

4. Toni Morrison. Really what can I say except I believe this woman to be America's greatest writer. Again I started reading her in my early twenties and await every new book. Most people know her for Beloved, which is harsh but amazing and I love it. Jazz, however, is probably my favorite (if I was forced to pick) as it is written exactly how a piece of jazz is played and who can really do that? Boy and I were lucky enough to hear her speak about a year ago and she is brilliant - like scary smart. She too has a new novel coming out, Mercy, which is currently on pre-order only and will not be available until November.

5. bell hooks. It is impossible to do bell hooks justice in a paragraph. She has described herself as a "Black woman intellectual, revolutionary activist." She is an important voice for this country. Her work examines how the intersection of race, gender and class creates and perpetuates a system of domination and oppression. She was one of the first (and still one of the few) to actually discuss the issue of class in this country and I highly recommend Where We Stand: Class Matters. But I am also enamored of her books on love. Few people can really write about love as an intellectual process--like motherhood, we usually get all sentimental with the topic--but All About Love: New Visions, does love justice. Drawing from Erich Fromm (The Art of Loving) and M. Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled), she provides a concrete and useful definition of love. For me, this definition helped explain what I hadn't received for the first half of my life (from my family and ex-husband) and allowed me to see what I deserve to get (and subsequently got and still get from b and Boy).

Ok so this was exhausting and I'm only halfway through. You'll have to stay tuned for the rest of the list.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I'm happy to say that NCLM is officially over. I know you have all been anxious for my stats, so here they are:

# Days Missed: 3
Average # comments per day: 6.59
# of new blogs visited and commented: 56
% of NCLM list completed: 27

All-in-all it was an amazing, yet grueling, experience and I'm glad I participated. In addition to indulging my obsessive tendencies I made many new friends and I believe I may have doubled the number of blogs on my reader. Tomorrow's task: update blogroll.

Wordless Wednesday: Women Writers











Monday, June 23, 2008

RBOC: Update

  • So not too much of interest has been happening here in the House of Dirt and Rocks. I'm afraid this state of affairs is likely to get worse with the coming weeks. Boy is visiting his dad and b will be leaving shortly for Alaska. That leaves yours truly home alone to obsess over her work.
  • So that's what I've been doing--working on several analyses and research ideas (oh and still reading too many blogs and trying to comment - but that will end shortly). I wish I could describe some of the research I'm working on because (a) they are on really interesting and relevant topics, (b) I've had some really cool and original ideas that I'm dying to talk about, and (c) it's pretty much all I'm thinking about these days so it's hard to blog about anything else.
  • Hence the RBOC post.
  • I'm not particularly good at the RBOC post since the items tend not to be random but rather connected.
  • I use it more as an inferior grammatical system.
  • One of my favoritest colleague/friend dropped by to see me this afternoon. We went for coffee, chatted about our kids and gossiped about our department.
  • Good news: my monitor and printer came in and they rock! (well I hooked up the monitor and it rocks, the printer is still sitting in the box but trust me it will rock)
  • Bad news: I'm not going to be able to keep my power office. I'm just awaiting the official notification and will probably spend some time next week moving.
  • It is too hot for Pupzilla and even TOC is staying inside the house today. Victoria, poor thing, is still out on the front stoop.
  • Yesterday was b's birthday and we had a lovely dinner out. Tonight we are planning to go see what should prove to be a really bad movie.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Writing: Highs and Lows

A lot of people claim they hate writing. I'm not one of them. I admit that there is a lot about writing that is frustrating but then there's a lot about life that's frustrating and I don't hate that. I enjoy writing--the actual process, not just having written--because I like to spend a lot of time in my own head.

My writing process goes something like this:
  1. I get an idea that seems interesting and plausible
  2. I do research and/or analysis, getting more excited about the idea
  3. I change the idea multiple times, each time getting more excited about the new idea
  4. I write lots of notes
  5. I start composing notes into thoughts
  6. I go back and do additional research and/or analysis
  7. I start turning my composed thoughts into a manuscript of some sort
  8. I realize I'm brilliant
  9. I push through to get a complete draft**
  10. I reread what I've written and realize it is dribble and that I can't write
  11. I let it sit for a to-be-determined amount of time
  12. I reread and slowly start editing in the hopes that I can salvage something
  13. I, once again, am in awe of my own brilliance
  14. I ask someone else to read a draft
  15. I reread the draft I just sent and realize that not only am I a moron but this person will now be aware of what a moron I am
  16. I read feedback lovingly sent by my friendly reviewer
  17. I allow a to-be-determined amount of time to pass before I can reread comments and the draft
  18. I edit, resigned to doing something with this dribble and get it out the door
  19. I realize I am not only sick of the topic but I'm sick of hearing myself think about the topic
  20. I send it out
  21. I wait for reviews
  22. I get the reviews and read them right away
  23. Similar steps to friendly reviewer above, but not so friendly***
  24. It gets accepted
  25. I proof the galleys and wonder who the hell wrote this, 'cause it ain't half bad.
  26. It gets published
  27. I never read it again.

Today I worked on:
  1. A new idea (I was excited)
  2. A analysis of an idea I've been working on for a while (I was brilliant)
  3. A analysis of a brand new idea that I've already changed 3 times (I was very excited)
  4. Proof-reading galleys (I wasn't half bad)

*This part is actually a loop that occurs ad nauseam
**If I can't get a complete draft I realize I'm an idiot who doesn't know what she's talking about and proceed to the next step.
***This section has several loops until the reviewers are convinced of my brilliance

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Weekly NCLM Confessional

So it's Day 25 and yesterday I blew my 20 day streak. Yes I came up short on my comments. But yesterday was a bad day and by the end of it b and I were engrossed in a TV real crime documentary. I'm a sucka for those things especially when it involves possible spousal murder (can't do the missing/murdered children ones however).

I had decided previously I wasn't going to "make-up" comments if I missed. However some days I do leave more than the mandatory comments and I may figure out my average score by the end of it all and report that here. 'Cause after all tracking's no fun with out some statistical tables and graphs.

On a (some-what) related note, b and I are trying a shopping/eating plan this week. I read--on some blog somewhere--that you should shop every week for the week's food but once a month you should not shop and just eat what's in the house. This is helpful for both the budget and the environment, since wasted food is evil. b loved this idea (he sees it as a culinary challenge) when I suggested it but Boy turned his nose up at it and refused to play along. So we're giving it a trial run along with our trial run of being a twosome instead of a threesome.

While b loves the idea in theory, all week he has been suggesting things we could get from the store. Now last night we did cave (another confessional coming on here) but I think running out of soap and toilet paper was never the intention in the first place. I also stipulated that milk and coffee were always allowable. As it turned out I couldn't live without Guinness either.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Letting Go

Boy is away visiting his father for 3 weeks. When he comes back we'll have 6 weeks before he goes away to college. So this trip away is kind of a "test run" for b and I. He's certainly been away for 3 weeks before. Last year he went to Vancouver for 3 weeks. He often goes to visit his father for 2 or 3 week at a time. But this feels different....because it's a test run.

Boy has been doing his best to get on my last nerve for the past 2 months. I know this is normal and healthy but it is amazingly annoying. We're doing our best to handle it with humor. I told him it was my job to make him want to leave home and it was his job to make me want him to leave. My job is done, his job is probably impossible.

But he's taken it to heart and is giving it his best shot. Boy has always liked long drawn out discussions. Usually we see eye-to-eye. Occasionally we disagree and get into debates that contain humor, teasing, and some deep thought. I love talking to Boy. He's got my family's conversation style down pat. Lately however, he's been needling me. He'll sucker me into one of these conversations and start being contrary--saying anything to get my goat. This is how his father argues. I divorced his father.

It is usually pretty difficult to get under my skin. I can stay annoyingly unruffled but Boy can get to me every time. And yet I miss him. I'd rather have him here--generating dirty dishes in the middle of the night; leaving puddles on the bathroom floor; attacking me on environmental stances he doesn't even hold--than anywhere else in the world.

Worse yet, he alternates needling with being needy. I know he's nervous because he requires a lot of hugs lately. He shows this by standing next to me and throwing his arms wide open until I come in for a hug. He comes in and lies on my bed when I'm reading to talk and snuggle. He's been bringing up random memories from when he was little.

A few months ago, before all this behavior started, he was working two jobs and we barely saw him. When we did see him he was tired but friendly. It was kind of like having a roommate you really like but rarely see. b and I began to get used to alone time and I, foolishly, thought this letting him go away to college wouldn't be so hard. But then he quit one job and the other job got quiet. He was around a lot and I'm around a lot (because it's summer and I don't have to go into the office). We started going to the gym together. He came back to the dojo with me. We took Pupzilla on long walks together (him needling me all the while).

I got used to him being around all over again. Now he's not here but I know he'll be back and then he won't be here. I know this will play out for the next few years, each time him needing me to be there less and less. "A mother has to be there to be left." I've heard it before and I know it's true but man does it suck being the mother.

Monday, June 16, 2008

ABC Meme

Just what today called for: a new meme! This one was spotted over at Seeking Solace.

Accent: Very heavy, very distinctive. People always know where I'm from.

Booze: Tequila, straight-up, no training wheels; Guinness, an occasional glass of white

Chore I Hate: Meal Planning

Dog or Cat: Love 'em both but I've never lived without a cat

Essential Electronics: (1) MacBook (2) Ipod

Favorite Cologne(s): Don't wear 'em

Gold or Silver: Don't care - only jewelery I wear is the necklace Boy gave me for my birthday, which is gold

Hometown: Biggest city in the world

Insomnia: Not me. I fall out the minute my head hits the pillow. Poor b on the other hand is up half the night listening to me snore

Job Title: Associate Professor

Kids: 1 amazing son who's about to start his independent life

Living arrangements: Rent small house in small city

Most admirable trait: I remain calm and have the ability to calm others

Number of sexual partners: 1 now and that's all that counts

Overnight hospital stays: Once as an adult (giving birth to Boy) and once as an infant when I had pneumonia

Phobias: As in true phobias? None. But really big bugs can wig me out sometimes

Quote: "I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for contradictions." Maxine Hong Kingston

Religion: Taoist

Siblings: Three older sisters

Time I wake up: Depends on the day but lately not before 9:00

Unusual talent or skill: I can see the big picture when everyone is haggling over the details.

Vegetable I refuse to eat: Beets

Worst habit: Being judgmental (I don't know if it's my worst but it's the one I hate the most because it is so like my mother)

X-rays: Left ankle, right wrist (twice)

Yummy foods I make: Bread, cupcakes, arroz con pollo, baked ziti - to name a few

Zodiac sign: Taurus

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

It's Father's Day. b will be spending most of it driving Boy to a far away airport so he can go visit his (biological) Dad up north. Seems wrong, don't it? b never gets a Father's Day with Boy and, since both of our fathers have passed, the day pretty much goes unnoticed in our household. So I decided today warranted a post on fathers in general and on b as a father in particular.

There have been some interesting posts and articles going around the web these days on mothers (and I think I'll be posting on this topic soon) but it can be harder to find a meaningful discussion of fatherhood. I think this stems from our confusion over what it means to be father and specifically, what it means to be a good father. I say confusion because, as a society, we've been in flux over our definition of fatherhood and how it differs from motherhood and how both differ from parenthood. I personally think men can (and do) mother but many father and this is an important role that is different from "parenting." I also think it goes beyond "being a good provider" or "delivering life lessons" or "playing sports and being active with the kids." These are the responses I get from students when we discuss fatherhood in my classes. Interestingly, most depictions/descriptions of fathers are with sons not daughters, but that's another story.

But let's get back to b. b is a natural father. From the day I met him I knew he was someone who should have children. He has heard that many times. I'm not sure what gives people that impression about him but I think is is due, in part, to his patience and his calm and gentle demeanor. b and I were very careful about deciding when in our dating life we should introduce him to Boy. Boy was 9 when we first started dating and well into 10 before b came into his life. b delayed this meeting longer than I wanted because he knew once he met Boy he wouldn't be able to stand losing him, should we break up.

My mother likes to say what an amazing stepfather b is, and this is true. Step-parenting is incredibly difficult, especially when the child is older and has both parents in the picture. b and Boy have a warm, rich, and genuine relationship. They love each other and are able to express that love to each other. b has walked that very thin line step-parents have to walk with grace and finesse.

But to me b represents what any father, step or otherwise, should be. Sure b did a lot of fatherly tasks, like teaching Boy how to shave and how to drive (including how to drive stick) but I thought I'd describe a few moments from our past that illustrate his fathering qualities.
  • On one of our first "threesome dates" we went kayaking in the sound. Boy was very big into fishing at that time and let him bring his rod and promised he would have a chance to use it. We had a long drive to the water and then a few hours of paddling and at the end of the long day we stopped at a pier to let Boy fish. It was hot and late and we were all tired. Boy has always been the type where nothing comes easy and within minutes his line was hopelessly tangled. We still had a long drive home and I knew b wanted to hit the road soon but he took the rod without a word, sat down on the dock and started slowly and methodically untying the knot. Boy hovered over and around him, anxious that he would somehow be blamed/shamed, b just handed him back the rod and told him to try again.
  • We moved into our first house together and Boy had to start a new school (after two years of dreadful school experiences) about 6 weeks into the start of the new semester. Boy and I toured the school the week before his start date and he knew where everything was. On his first day of school we drove him there but he felt it was important that he enter the school on his own. b and I sat in the car and watched his frail little figure, shoulders schlumped, trudge dutifully into the building. It was a sight to break your heart and I was close to tears. I felt a little silly being so overprotective and turned towards b, trying to put on a brave front, only to see tears streaming down his face.
  • The house we bought was right in the middle of Snow Valley and that first winter we got hit with several storms. We had a long steep (really cool) driveway that b and I would shovel every time the weather dumped on us. In February of that year, shortly before we got married (for us it was house and child first, marriage second) b came down with a really bad case of pneumonia. Of course we got hit with a snowstorm and Boy had to come out and help me with the drive. As we shoveled we talked about b and I reassured him that b would get better soon. At one point Boy turned to me, put down his shovel, and said "Mom, we're keeping him, right? I mean you're not going to change your mind about him, are you?" And I reassured him, that yes, b would be with us forever, and he was happy. And so am I.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sometimes It Actually Pays To Go Into the Office

I went in today for my Annual Review meeting with my Department Head. Before the meeting I overheard him speaking with the Department Secretary about the difficulty they were having spending money. One of the many nice things about my office location is that it is both out of the fray but also where the action is. I get to overhear some interesting tidbits now and again.

I, jokingly, offered to help them with this problem and now I'll be getting a new 23-inch monitor and a snazzy printer (I currently use the shared one out in the main office).

My review went very well. He didn't have much to say except "keep doing what you're doing" and then we discussed department politics. My DH is stepping down at the end of the month and he will be sorely missed in this role.

The day continued on a high note when I met a potential collaborator from a different department for coffee. I had contacted her because I thought our research interests might overlap in way that would be beneficial to both of us. Not only do they overlap quite nicely but I also really liked her and we ended up talking for several hours without even noticing the time.

I'm feeling very psyched about both my current and future research endeavors and totally enjoying the summer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Making Friends

Meet Victoria.

Victoria has the tiniest little cat feet you've ever seen. She's one of the many cats that belongs to my next-door-neighbor. My neighbor is gone for the week and it is very hot outside. Victoria is lonely. We put some water out for her and she spends her days (and nights) hanging out on our stoop or in the shade of a tree on our front lawn.

Victoria would like to come inside but we don't think that is a good idea. Mostly because our current pets tend towards jealousy but also because we don't think she would ever leave. Not that we aren't very fond of Victoria (and we worry about her a little) but 3 cats and a dog is going a little over the edge. Also Victoria threw up on our steps the other day and having two puking cats in one house is two too many.

Pupzilla and The Brute did say hello through the glass door.

On another note, it seems all the kittens that are going to be adopted have been adopted. Our neighbor told us she has plans to give away the two mother cats so she can keep two of the kittens. This seems cruel and heartless to me. I don't think I could ever give up any animal in my family because someone younger and cuter came along. Sometimes I don't get people.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Update on NCLM

We are halfway through NCLM. I'm happy to report that I've gotten into a groove and have not missed my quota for 11 days. In fact I even managed to go over a few times. However my chances of getting through the entire list in one month is slim to none.

I've been tracking new visits in my spreadsheet and I'm up to 38. Considering the list has 214 blogs (well 213, since I don't have to visit my own) that leaves 175 more that I would need to visit in the next 16 days. For the mathematically challenged that comes to 11 comments (I rounded up) a day. I haven't hit 11 once yet so I don't see it happening.

Here's the other problem. I'm finding too many blogs I really like. You guys are good and funny and thoughtful and interesting. I'm almost afraid to go forward. How many blogs can a bloglines hold?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

In The News

Here's a smattering of articles I've found in the past week that has caused me to pause a little and think:

This one I'm not 100% sure how I feel about. On the one hand I've been fascinated by Alzheimer's since high school. Around that time I discovered an amazing academic medical library just on the other side of the park from my house. I would take a nice walk through the park and then spend the afternoon researching journal articles. Alzheimer's was one passion; schizophrenia another. I loved the brain and its organic diseases. I'm also a big Oliver Sacks fan. Later, in college, I became enamored with hormones...but that's another story. So I find this article fascinating in terms of the brain and behavior and useful interventions. However my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer's and it was very painful to lose her slowly. I'm not sure how I would feel if I had found Granny waiting for a bus that never came.

This one bothers me. It reminds me of this. We seem to be increasing our hostile attitude towards adolescents and finding new ways to say "you're not wanted." When will we learn to give teens a meaningful role in society? When will we learn to appreciate their idealism; their desire for change; their criticisms?

I found this to be interesting. I have not been supporting Clinton and I used to enjoy Sex in The City (the show - I haven't seen the movie and will probably wait until it's released on iTunes) but I found much to agree with in the article. Better still was the link to this.

And this is just fun. How great would it be if even one of these articles was true?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Getting To Know You Meme

The lovely and very funny Deb was kind enough to tag me for this little meme that has been circulating the blogosphere.

Here are the rules:

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then go to their blogs and leave them a comment, letting them know they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

I was in the middle of breaking up with my first husband (Boy's dad). It was a long, difficult and painful process. I finally told him I wanted a divorce (after about 4 years of seriously thinking about it) in June 1998 and then spent the next 6 months getting him to accept it. I was also working at snooty medical school, trying to write my dissertation and helping Boy deal with his recently diagnosed learning disability. Not a fun year.

2. Five things on my to do list for today.

Dojo (check), Rock Climb, Food Shopping, Figure out Dinner, Research/Writing

3. Snacks I enjoy.

Does Guiness count as a snack?

I'm actually not a snack-y person. I like meals. Big hearty meals. Preferably with cheese. But I do like cashews, hummus, avocado (yes it's a snack), really sharp cheddar, crusty bread, and home-grown tomatoes. (Hmmm. Maybe that can be dinner)

4. Things I would do if I was a billionaire.

Put Boy through college with no worries. Trust funds for all the other kids in our family (9 between b and I). Buy a lot of land in the middle of nowhere and build a very small house on it. Travel with b around South America. Buy b something like this:

5. Places I have lived.

Born and raised in the City Like No Other. Lived for 4 years in suburban-rural town 1 hour north of City Like No Other. Now live here in Small City-Big Town, South-Lite

6. People I want to know more about.

I'll pick some of my new bloggy friends from NaComLeavMo:


Thanks for playing!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Claiming Space

Zuska put out a fascinating call for this month's Scientiae Carnival. Her topic, Added Weight:Taking Up Space, reminds us that women are not allowed to take up space in the world. She has asked us to respond to this by describing ways we, as women, allowed ourselves to take up space or add some weight this past year. I had written a bit about this when describing my New Year's theme for the year. As we are now halfway through the year it seems a perfect opportunity to revisit that theme.

I had a lot of trouble claiming my own space when I was young. I found small niches where I could store myself (up a tree, in a closet, a particular windowsill); where I could claim a space no one else wanted--or even noticed. Later, when I joined my first dojo, I heard the phrase "don't occupy occupied space." It was certainly not something I did but I began to notice that people often tried to occupy space I was in. They acted as if I wasn't there. Literally people would try to sit on me--not realizing I was already in a seat or someone would step into a space where I was standing and then apologize because they hadn't seen me there. I often felt invisible.

As I mentioned in my Themes post my goal this year is to Claim: claim my power, claim my experience, claim my expertise, claim my right to occupy the spaces I am in and to occupy additional space. There are some spaces I find easy to claim as mine--like the classroom. I own that space. And my ownership is recognized by my students and my colleagues. I've also made considerable progress increasing the space my research takes up in the world. I've started a new research agenda that is growing nicely and this past year myself and my student research team were visibly taking up university space and resources. Claiming that space in the larger environment of my field will take considerable effort and time but at least I can now see the path.

A year ago I changed offices and moved from a tiny office in no-man's-land to a large corner office next the to the Department Head. My office is large enough to hold a small conference table and I use it frequently for project meetings. I have students in and out of my office constantly and we often raise a ruckus when we're all there together. A new DH arrives next week along with additional faculty and space is, well, an issue.

My two favorite colleagues are moving downstairs to share a very small suite (more like a very large room). The suite has no windows, is near no one, and will eventually house 4 faculty members and several graduate students. They would like me to be one of the other faculty members and, as these are the two people I most see myself collaborating with, in many ways "rooming" with them would be ideal. But the space is not. In fact it is not even adequate. So I'm staying put. I'm claiming the space that I've been given. I use it well. It works for me. And quite frankly I deserve it.

There are consequences to location--opportunities arise when you are around to receive them. I found from my first year in no-man's-land that being away from the "hub" meant not having access to resources and not having a voice in the department. In the long run, whether my claim is successful or not, I feel it is important to not voluntarily give up a power position. While we might not like the concept, the space we occupy is symbolic--it sends a message. I think I'm sending a critical message to my department and to myself: I AM this.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Proof that I'm a Nerd #426

Yesterday I was excited to learn the interlibrary loan for a book on my grant topic had arrived and I was up past midnight reading the first chapter (that should be enough to classify me as a nerd but wait it gets better). While reading I got sidetracked by an excellent idea on how to teach theory in my intro class next Fall. This thought kept me awake even after lights were out and I was snuggled cosy next to b.

BTW, proof #s 424 and 425 are that I totally enjoy teaching theory and research methods.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

RBOC: Animal Edition

  • The Brute prefers life as an outdoor cat however he is prone to disappearing for days on end and last year he fell off the roof and broke his pelvis. Since then he's been a forced indoor cat.
  • He tries to escape frequently, cries at the door and scratches at the window.
  • I will not give in.
  • We did buy him a harness and a leash.
  • Now we tie him to a long leash on a post in the backyard but we need to stay with since he still tries (and has succeeded) to escape.
  • We can't leave the harness on him in between his outdoor adventures because he bites at it.
  • He struggles a little when we put it on him but then he runs to the back door.
  • He is well named.
  • We have another cat (let's just call her The Other Cat or TOC) that I never mention.
  • TOC is allowed outdoors because she doesn't leave the backyard.
  • The Brute HATES TOC.
  • He beats her up when she comes in the house.
  • She spends most of her time indoors on top of the fridge.
  • The Brute is not very good at jumping (or landing for that matter).
  • TOC is very small and petite.
  • She throws up frequently. We think she's bulimic.
  • She's affectionate but will bite you when you pet her.
  • Pupzilla and The Brute are close.
  • The Brute will often lick Pupzilla. Pupzilla wants to play with The Brute but often ends up stepping on him. As far as we can tell The Brute doesn't seem to mind.
  • They both get jealous when the other one gets any human affection.
  • Pupzilla has gained some weight and doesn't do well in the heat. Moving to the South has not been good for her.
  • Boy and I have been trying to take her on long works everyday. It seems to be working as far as her stamina is concerned but there has been no weight loss.
  • The same can be said of me.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Conversational Styles: Internet Version

The first week of NaComLeavMo has ended and I have to confess it's been harder than I anticipated. I think the following doodle best expresses my current feelings:


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

214 bloggers answered Stirrup Queens' call and signed on to submit 5 comments a day as well as return one comment a day during their regular blogging program. I, in all my nerdyness, created an excel document to track my progress. At the end of Week 1 I'm barely holding my own. If you miss a day you are allowed to "catch up" the next day by doubling your comments. I did miss a day last week because I was getting overwhelmed with reading and commenting. However if 6 comments can overwhelm me you can imagine what happened when I had to face 12 the next day.

Don't get me wrong I'm enjoying the event. I've found new blogger friends; read some fascinating (and heart breaking) posts, and have really and truly enjoyed the comments people have been kind enough to place here. I think my problem stems from my natural conversational style. As I mentioned here and here, I'm not good at small talk. I can do it, in a pinch, if I really have to, but I don't usually enjoy it and I can't shake the feeling that I'm a little off. Relatedly I'm not much of a flirt either.

There are some topics I can chit-chat about more than others. Motherhood being one of them, followed by work and martial arts. After that I'm pretty much left with the weather. Even with motherhood, however, I find it harder and harder to go back to the baby/young children small talk now that Boy is really a man.

Stirrup Queen started this event because, as she aptly put it

Comment leaving is an integral part of blogging. Without comments, blog posts are as flat as...Flat Stanley. Blogging is a conversation.

I agree whole-heartedly and I started blogging because I wanted to get into the conversation. However to meet my numbers I find myself struggling with "small talk" comments. I also feel rude if I don't return all the comments left here and I have not been able to keep up with that either.

FSP has a interesting post reflecting on her two years of blogging. She mentions that she doesn't and has never done memes, tags or other internet "reindeer games." I respect her decision and love her posts but it does seem to me that these games, as well as inter-blog links and all comments (from chit-chat to debate to supportive hugs) serve a purpose beyond just conversation--that of building community. And community is about sharing--good news, sad stories, and daily life.

So I'll continue to muddle through, trying for my 6-a-day, and I hope you'll excuse my sometimes awkward comments.