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

Thursday, July 31, 2008


As seen at Seeking Solace:

You Are a Question Mark

You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.

And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.

You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.

(But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

Seems fitting for a researcher.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Name That Boy

***update: Reasons and rationales for the current name choices:
Angel - Boy's suggestion and I have no idea.
Drama - A monikor boy has used previously
LOL - Something I came up with in the moment in an attempt to annoy/embarrass Boy
Mr. Mister - What we called Boy when he was a baby and his real name didn't fit yet.
Harvey - The invisible rabbit.
[Thanks K8]

Last week Boy was in my room as I was blogging about our beach trip. Now Boy has known about my blog from the start and does not mind me blogging about him or, as it turns out, including a photo or two. (BTW blue milk has an excellent post on blogging your children) However it seems that he does mind his monikor. Unbeknownst to him, I had been thinking "Boy" really wouldn't fit once he was in college.

We brainstormed a few alternatives but did not reach a consensus. So I've included a poll on the sidebar with some of the choices. I'll leave it up until his departure day (August 20th for those of you keeping track) and then announce the winner. Please vote your choice. I'm also open to suggestions if you have any.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Awards! Awards!

deb is swelling my head to enormous proportions. She has awarded me my 2nd award and this one is for brilliance--of all things. Here it is:

Like all things bloggy, there are rules. Here they are:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Add links to these blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

While nominating 7 bloggers may seem like a daunting task I am blessed with reading many many brilliant blogs (including the divine miss deb). But for today I am nominating:

blue milk
Wayfarer Scientista
Dr. Bad Ass

Go forth and continue your brilliant blogging.


This month's Scientiae Carnival is on transitions. I'm all about transitions. It is hard for me to find a solid chunk of my life where I wasn't transitioning in some way or another. I live transitions and I study transitions.

Transitions are times of vulnerability and stress but are also windows of opportunity for positive change. In the behavioral sciences we like to study people as they transition and, for those of us who are applied researchers, to intervene.

Many transitions occur at specific measurable points in a person's lifetime, puberty and menopause being prime examples. Some transitions we plan for--obtaining a doctorate--and others can catch us by surprise, such as divorce. Transitioning in sync with your cohort is a vastly different experience than a solo transition.

All are fascinating to me.

As my regular readers are aware, my family is in the middle of a transition. Boy leaves for college in less than a month and is actively trying on new identities before he goes. Once he is there he'll be with a large group of people who are all making the same transition together. For me and b, our role as parents will definitely undergo a transition. While we have friends and family members who have already faced this particular transition, there is no one in our lives who will be going through it with us.

Transitions affect the people around you and can cause a ripple effect. Although the three of us will have very different perspectives on this transition--which we will experience as individuals--we will end up transformed as a family.

Transitions affect other areas of your life. How I work now, as a mother of a semi-independent son, is vastly different than how I worked as a mother of a young child. I suspect more changes will occur in how I work (and possibly what I work on) once the nest is actually empty.

My research agenda has already gone through a tremendous transition in the past several years. My previous work was with large-scale behavioral experiments in real world settings. All my data were numerical. I proved things. Now, although I'm still in real world settings, I work on a much smaller scale. Experimentation is an element of my work but not the prime focus. My data is mostly textual but occasionally sprinkled with numbers. Now I strive to understand things.

I suppose what fascinates me most of all is that in spite of the numerous, complex, and often overlapping transitions we make throughout our lifetime, there is so much consistency in who we are. The more I change the more I become the person I was. Perhaps it is our passions that keep us grounded. I may transition in and out of roles, experiences and identities but my passion for my family, for my research, for living both a physical life and a life of the mind, centers me in the here and now.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Grandmothers Part II

As per Julie's request, here are two of my poems my grandmother (GR):

Grandma Had a Garden

Grandma had a garden;
and morning glories.

Grandma grew tomatoes;
bursts of joy.

But mostly,
Grandma grew

The sun would leave
it’s scent
on grandma’s dress
as I wrapped my arms
around her world.


When I heard the story
it was Granma
who bought the house.

A baby
was on the way and
Granma knew
babies need a home.

When I heard the story
I imagined Granma walking up the block
her arms wrapped around
two big brown bags
filled with groceries and
balancing on top
was our house.

When I see Granma I know
my arms can carry
a home.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I, like most women my age, catch myself channeling my mother with greater and greater frequency. This is distressing--as I'm sure it is for most women. However every once in a while I channel one of my grandmothers and this is usually not disturbing but actually rather comforting. I think this must be the beauty of the grandmother-grandchild relationship. Grandparents have that extra degree of distance that I believe is necessary for successful channeling.

My earliest years were spent living in the same house with my paternal grandparents. My grandmother (GR) was a short and stocky woman with a very large nose. She was no great beauty and she knew it. She was also not an intellectual giant. I don't mean she was stupid, she wasn't, but she didn't live a life of the mind and was good with that. She was strong and loyal and devoted to family and friends. In her youth she was a bit of a tom-boy and had plans to be a "career woman." Those plans ended when she met my grandfather. He was a little younger, very handsome and smart. She thought she won the lottery. She never stopped thinking that. She doted on that man until the day he died--way too young and only a year into his retirement.

Everyone on our block loved her and I would sometimes follow her as she made her rounds--to the butcher, to the elderly shut-in next door, to church to pray. GR was loud--she talked loud, she laughed loud, she yelled when she was angry. She was not a particularly good cook but an amazing baker. She would give me a little piece of dough to knead besides her as she made her famous bread. GR had a heavy hand. She literally didn't know her own strength and she made that dough suffer. GR loved her garden. She grew tomatoes and cucumbers and morning glories and marigolds. She loved her rose bushes with a passion. It is GR's hands I use when I bake. It is GR's hands I use when I grow flowers and vegetables. It is GR's hands I use when I hit something (or someone) really hard....and I smile.

My maternal grandmother (GK) was a very small woman. She didn't quite make it to five feet. GK was a lady. She was quiet and reserved and liked to have things a certain way. She loved art and taught herself how to paint in her 50s, although she never learned to drive. She created an art studio in the little sun room right off of the living room. She reproduced famous paintings and hung them all over her house. GK was an early morning person. She liked to be up before anyone else to have some time to herself. GK drank tea and had a small dog that followed her everywhere. GK hated raised voices. She always wanted things to be "nice." If GK got mad she got quiet.

GK loved the beach but she wouldn't go in the middle of the day. She was never in the sun and didn't wear a bathing suit. Instead she would walk the beach in the early morning and again at dusk--her little dog trailing behind her. She collected shells and pebbles and driftwood. GK had dolls and she made them clothes but you couldn't really play with them. Instead GK would sit down and have tea and talk with you. I channel GK when I'm alone in the house and loving my solitude. I channel GK when I wander off by myself on the beach. I channel GK when I take delight in organizing my glassware just so. I channel GK when I'm quiet. I plan to take-up pottery in my 50s.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Beach

Boy and I have taken many beach vacations together. We've done The Hamptons, Cape Cod, The Outer Banks, Puerto Rico, and Cape Town, South Africa, to name a few. We usually go for a week. This time we hit a new beach and condensed the entire itinerary into two days. I'll recap the highlights.

Driving Out

Boy is an amazing travel companion, in part because he is so incredibly laid-back and agreeable--not something I ever would have imagined having survived toddler hood with him. I woke him at the crack of dawn (well 6:30, which is pretty close to the crack of dawn to a teenager) and he was up, dressed and in the car in a flash. He loves stand-up comedy so we listened first to his current favorite and then one of our old stand-bys. We stopped only briefly to eat egg sandwiches.


We arrived at our destination just as the sky had opened up. It seemed we were in for a day of intermittent thunderstorms. Our room was large and comfy with a nice flat screen TV over what became Boy's bed.

Of course it was now time for lunch so we were off to "town," or the strip of street that served as a town, in search of food. We found it, in all it's fried glory. Lunch was quickly followed by a trip to the supermarket for all the extras Boy usually requires--in the form of Doritos, Chessman cookies, milk and beer (Guinness for Mom, of course).

Beaching I

Bathing suits and sunscreen on, beer in cooler, books, Ipods and hotel towels in hand, we finally made our way to the beach.

[Boy decided his tanning oil makes him glisten and strikes a pose.]

Luckily the hotel was right on the beach so it was a short walk.

Sun bathing--me reading and he listening to music--was interrupted by occasional sun showers but overall it was lovely and relaxing. When we finally made it into the water, it was perfect bath temperature and we played in the waves.

Fine Dining

We located the snootiest restaurant on the island and made a quick reservation. Boy was dressed in his newest look and I in my long flowing beach dress. The food was good (I made him taste some of the Gorgonzola cheese from my dressing just to see the look on his face) but not great; the ambiance comfortable but not casual; and the service impeccable. We decided to forgo dessert.

Miniature Golf

Yes we worked off our day of eating with a rousing game of miniature golf. I not only got TWO holes-in-one (one of which occurred in front of an entire family who was kind enough to let us play through) but for the first time EVER, won the game. (Ok, so only by 2 points and Boy was exhausted from only 2 hours sleep the night before, but still).


Although the sun was setting on the sound side,

we headed over to the ocean and walked the shore, sharing the day and remembering other beach stories.

Beaching II

The next day Boy slept in while I headed over to the ocean. It was no longer overcast and already getting quite warm. I brought my trusty book--a totally junky true-crime--my Ipod (I like to listen to opera on the beach) and a truly bad cup of hotel room decaf coffee (because that is how much of a junkie I really am-and I drank the whole thing) and spent two beautiful quiet hours by myself.


When my stomach could no longer stand it, I made my way back to the hotel room to rouse Boy. Luckily the Hotel had an amazing late check-out policy and we could stay until 4 pm. So the plan was breakfast and then back to the beach. After several failed attempts we finally located a breakfast joint and devoured pancakes, bacon and grits (him) and a country omelet and grits (me). Stuffed to the gills we waddled out and back to the beach.

Beaching III

By the time we got there it was HOT....burning soles of your feet hot...can't let your legs slide off the towel hot...on the beach. I quickly buried my nose back in my trashy book while Boy first tried to read then went back to the hotel room for his Ipod then finally said he was going down by the water. I grunted affirmation from between the pages. Several chapters later I was beyond hot and decided to go down to the water and find him. It was crowded and he was no where in sight.

Now he's 18...has traveled out of the country on his own...is bigger and stronger than I am...is responsible and knows how to swim, but me? I go through a silent panic like he's 3 years old and lost in an amusement park. For about 15 minutes I'm walking up and down and in and out of the water trying to scan every tall skinny young white male who even faintly resembles my son.

He, of course, had taken a long walk in the opposite direction. I guess that mother worry never leaves you. I (wisely) neglected to tell him of my panic. Instead I suggested a dip in the ocean, which was much rougher than the day before, and we played and swam until our eyes burned from the salt and sand was deposited in our suits. We said good bye to the beach and headed back for showers and packing up.


Boy and I love aquariums, which is odd because we both hate museums. When he was little I used to take him with me on trips to conferences. Visiting an aquarium, if there was one, was always our first choice. So on the drive towards the beach we had noticed there was one near-by and decided to make a quick stop before we headed home.

I'm a big fan of turtles and there were plenty.

We also saw sharks and jellyfish and alligators and other scary sea creatures.

Boy has watched a lot of late night Discovery shows on fish and the sea, so he was much better informed than I and was able to enlighten me on many fishy aspects. He also has picked up the habit of reading the signs (I'm much more likely to go up to the glass, stare at the fish and make things up). When not discussing the more scientific aspects of sea life we were comparing which ones we like to eat.

It was a small aquarium so we were quickly on our way.

Drive Back

The minute we hit the open road the skies open on us with a torrential downpour. Unfortunately I'm driving at this time (I hate driving in the rain). Also unfortunate for me, Boy had ordered Dominos back at the hotel and is not hungry but I have not eaten since our mammoth breakfast. We drive for an hour, with the rain abating, and when I can stand it no longer we head into a store to buy sandwiches. Of course the minute we pull into the parking lot the sky reopens and we get drenched running the few feet from car to store. We shop in the frigid air conditioning with our wet shirts plastered to us and our hair dripping down our faces. The sandwiches take forever to arrive and are barely edible.

Boy drives us the rest of the way home and plays me his favorite music. I recognize none of it but like it and consider myself lucky, once again, to have him as a son.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Road Trip!

Boy and I leave early tomorrow morning. We're both desperate to go to the beach but he only has 2 days off (b has no time off, what with Alaska and all). So its a short 4 hour road trip to our lovely coast and then back again the next day.

I even bought a new bathing suit:

Friday, July 18, 2008


I've been rather unproductive the last two weeks. It probably has something to do with my menfolk coming home and all but still it bothers me. Wednesday and today I went into the office and got tons of stuff done. Usually I'm pretty good at staying focused at home but these past few weeks, not so much.

Another thing that kept me from producing any of my work was a project I started (and completed - yay!) for my mother's 70th birthday (which is next Tuesday). One of my cousins has sent us all a CD of my grandparents slides and photos that he had scanned from the originals. There are LOTS of them. Most were in bad shape and/or bad photos (my grandfather had a thing about taking pictures from a moving car, don't ask me why - but boring doesn't begin to describe them). So I wanted to create a book of photos and poems for my mother. I decided to take the photos just of the womenfolk in the family: my grandmother (her mother) at different points in her life, my greatgrandmother (posed with my mom as a toddler), my mother at different stages (although nothing recent), her sister as a toddler and young mother (her sister passed away in her early 50s), my sisters and I as kids and then the last page includes fairly recent shots of all her grandchildren (she has 6 - 2 girls and 4 boys).

It took me quite a while to go through the photos and then I had to correct them via Photoshop. Now b is the photographer, web designer, graphic artist etc of the two of us, not me--seriously not me. I'm not crafty (in any way imaginable). But he wasn't home so I had to learn what I could on my own and do the best possible. I think they ended up looking pretty good but nowhere near what a professional would do. Then I found poems on motherhood, sisterhood, grandmothers, and daughters. I even included one of my own. I created the book using this. It is pretty cool and rather inexpensive. I recommend it if you ever have a need to create an entire book.

Boy gave me a hard time about the project all week long because--well because he gives me a hard time about anything these days. He told me not to expect him to do anything that involved for my 70th. Since he also forgot to bring me home a slice of some delicious wedding cake from his job that night, I told him I was not expecting much of anything.

Its being shipped directly to her (I had to rush order it since it took me so long to finish) so I haven't seen the final product. Hopefully she'll get it by Tuesday and love it. I'll let you know.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I have been blessed with having some pretty amazing BFFs over the years. I'm not the sort of person to have a large circle of friends instead I usually have one or two really really close ones in my life. I've kept in touch with most of them, although some much more sporadically than others. Today, for example, I have a conference call with my "girls" from Up North.

All of my friends have been incredibly strong, smart women with amazing talents. They tend to be outgoing and gregarious. I'm the quiet nerdy sidekick. When I was an adolescent my BFF was stunningly beautiful (you know, the one who gets all the guys), visually expressive and talented (we were in art class together), musically gifted (could pick up any instrument and make it sing), bilingual (we were in French class together), and outrageous. She was also a true friend and always there for me. I practically lived at her house for a few years. If I hadn't admired her so much myself I would have been crazy with jealousy.

We stay in touch, maybe once a year at best, and get together when we are in the same city (which isn't too often as she travels extensively and I now live in South Lite). Our career paths are about as opposite as one can imagine. While I've been struggling along the academic path while pursuing a feminist agenda, she has dedicated herself to a life in alternative music. She plays all sorts of instruments, most of which I've never of, but prefers the accordion. What she does with it is really quite brilliant. She is a singer and a songwriter and an amazing performer.

I miss her often. Recently I found she has played at TED (how cool is that?) and I thought I'd share a little of her with you here:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Awards Day

The fun and fabulous deb has bestowed upon me the prestigious and lovely Arte y Pico award. I have displayed it in the sidebar for all to admire. This award is for "the best art." She was obviously way off base in honoring me but I love her none-the-less.

As with most things in blogdom, this award comes with rules:

1. Pick 5 blogs that you would like to award this honor to.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that gave them the award.
4. Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

Having already complied with Rules #3 & 4, I will now commence with the awarding of the said award:

1. Ms Prufrock, who--although currently on vacation in the States--provides weekly musical interludes where I am introduced to new tastes and talents.

2. Julie, a true artist, who's website is filled with the most amazing poems and stories.

3. Calliope, who creates beautiful blog banners and is currently busy creating a little one (or two) inside of her.

4. Katie, who's posts are written as beautiful stories come complete with lovely photos. She too is creating a new life - her own.

5. Psycgirl, who writes brave and honest posts about difficult times and deserves the recognition.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

b is back


and that's really all I have to say.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On Love

I've been reading Insane Mama's and Tentcamper's story of how they met and fell in love. [BTW I'm a total story-whore and these two do stories right. They not only include cliffhangers but often each tell their version of the same story, something I love. Now if only one of their 6 children would start a blog, they could have a whole Rashoman thing going--but I digress). I've also been missing my love, b, and (as you well know) preparing to miss Boy, who I love too much to be good for either of us. So I've been thinking a lot about love.

Now let me get all academic on you and start off with a definition and some references. I started studying love at an early age. I think I was 12 or 13 when I first read The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. I enjoyed it and learned a bit but couldn't completely comprehend the topic at that point in my life. Later I read bell hook's All About Love. In search for an understanding of love, she felt it important to find a suitable definition and she found it in M. Scott Peck's book, A Road Less Traveled (which is similar to Erich Fromm's definition - proving we end up in the same place no matter where we start). According to Peck, love is "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." hooks goes on to discuss the importance of not confusing affection and/or cathexis (investment of feeling and emotion in another) with love. Instead she claims "to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients--care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication."

Now I grew up in a family that is probably far too normal in its dysfunction but I was not deprived of affection. I certainly felt that I loved my family. And as I grew, I felt I loved a few very close friends and then I thought I had fallen madly in love with my soul-mate, my ex-husband. (There was a ton of cathexis going on in that relationship.) But it was when Boy showed up that I learned how to love--as defined by Peck and hooks. Now I know all new mothers have their world's rocked by the birth of their child and their entry into the role of motherhood. However, for those of us who have never loved before it is both beautiful and upsetting. For me it was scary and overwhelming and I had no idea what to do with it. So I did what I always do, read and studied and researched the phenomenon while I was living it until I could name it and know it as true for me.

Unfortunately learning to truly love makes you look at your other relationships and realize--no not so much. And so began my long long long road to divorce. Post divorce I met b. Now learning to love through Boy did not teach me how to be loved. The child-parent relationship is inherently an imbalance of power and children need to love their parents. So I could accept his love but not learn from it. b taught me how to be loved, which is ironic since for the first year of our relationship he was beating himself up over his inability to love me. But, as hooks points out, love is actions and b's actions have always been loving.

I think I realized I was in love with him on our first vacation together. During a walk on a beach the beginnings of poem got stuck in my head. When we headed back to the car I asked for a few minutes to jot them down in my notebook and explained that I often thought of poems but never seemed to have the space in my life to actually write them. b just looked at me and said "we'll have to make that space." It was a moment I'm sure he doesn't remember but up until that point I had always felt it was my job to make space for others and find my space in what was leftover. It never occurred to me that someone else would help me make my own space.

So b will be home on Monday and next month Boy will be off to college. Together we'll give Boy the space he needs to leave and we'll re-create our own space as a couple. It is the cathexis that makes love both exquisite and painful but it is the "will to nurture one's own and another's spiritual growth" that makes it endure.

Who taught you how to love? to be loved?

Friday, July 11, 2008

All Clear

My migraine has finally lifted. On average I take migraine medication 3 times a month (of course I record it but not in an excel spreadsheet - yet). I've made a lot of sacrifices to get it down that low, including giving up caffeine, oral contraceptives, and severely restricting my alcohol intake (I can no longer drink tequila--my favorite--or red wine and I can't over do the white wine or Guinness. There are times where I can't drink at all).

Even with all these restrictions I had to take 7 pills this month. I don't like taking pills and often put it off, hoping its not really a migraine, which of course is one of the worst things you can do with migraines. I know many people who suffer far more than I (all women) and have far more restrictions but it still sucks. I also know that my biggest addiction I will never give up and that's work - which requires being in front of a computer screen or reading loads of text. Neither of those are good for migraines.

But really what amazes me most of all is the feeling when it is finally gone. I can be symptom-free, usually from medication, but still know it's there, lingering. Migraine is described as a headache but is so much more and if its around for too long I start to get used to it. I start thinking this is just how I am and then it lifts and I'm suddenly able to be myself again.

So once again, today I am all me.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

He's Back!

Boy that is. We still have a week to go before b is home from Alaska.

After going out for lunch in dowtown Big Southern City, we had a very long drive home from the airport. Luckily for me Boy was driving as we hit tremendous traffic and then a thunderstorm. Boy is a much better driver than I.

He showed me all the clothes and bedding (for his dorm room) that his Dad and Step Mom bought him. He needed an extra bag just to get it all home.

We went to the store together and I made a simple dinner. Then we watched Jesus Camp and discussed the role of religion in our society. Now he's sitting next to me reading In The Time of Butterflies. (I read it while he was away and it is excellent).

You all see where this is going don't you?


Friday, July 4, 2008

Random Learning

Yesterday I went to a seminar with a friend at a local organization. I thought the seminar was going to be about this, which looked very cool and interesting. However the three speakers addressed related but different topics. All of the speakers were from India (at least originally). Two of them discussed their work with Indian women (and sometimes girls). One of them was an artist who does art workshops with women and children as a means of empowerment. Her art, print work, is based on the ritual art of kolam.

She explained kolam as a ritual done in south India (where she is from) by the women of the household. Each morning, before dawn, women will rise and use this time as time for themselves--for meditation and reflection. A woman will go to the threshold of her home and, using ground rice powder, will paint these intricate geometric patterns--using one continuous line--on her doorstep. The design will stay there all day and when people walk on it and bring the rice powder in the house it is considered a blessing. Doing kolam also considered an act of charity since the birds will eat the ground rice powder.

I thought it was a great metaphor for women's work since it is created before the start of the day with a form of household sustenance, involves a lot of work, care and creativity and is then stepped upon until it disappears, only to have a woman recreate it again the next day. How often have the beautiful products of women's daily labor been walked over until it fades? How many generations of women have recreated their craft on a daily basis?

Unfortunately this ritualistic art form is dying out. Here are some examples:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On Living Without Men

What do I do when there are no men in the House of Dirt and Rocks? So far I have:
  • Spent an afternoon hanging out at the pool with girlfriends
  • Went out to dinner (2x) with girlfriends
  • Got a pedicure
  • Watched chick flicks late at night (I highly recommend this and this. This was not as good as I expected)
  • Read a lot of a really good book
  • Cleaned and organized the laundry room
  • Made very simple meals
  • Organized my books
It's been very peaceful.