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, September 28, 2008

RBOC: Weekend Edition

  • Pupzilla has a new bone and The Brute has a new toy that squeaks.
  • I'm playing with the new Genius playlist feature on I-tunes. I'm a playlistin' fool but have been sticking with a lazy shuffle as of late. This feels like a smart shuffle option.
  • I just made roasted red peppers in a balsamic vinaigrette.
  • Last nite b and I went to a cabaret version of Dracula. They did a great job with it but I think the story is just too big for the venue.
  • During Friday nite's class my sensei decided it was "let's mess with Brigindo's head" day. He has me doing mirror-images of my forms and threatening that doing them backwards comes next. Its amazing how wrong it feels to do automatic movements on the opposite side. Its like writing with your left-hand when you're right-handed only with your whole body. Funny thing is, if you close your eyes it becomes easier.
  • I believe I drank myself off my diet this weekend.
  • I'm in class prepping hell--spending way to much time and getting nowhere.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Obligatory Shoe Post

So it seems academics like shoes. Profgrrrl had her tenure boots a while back. Seeking Solace has sought advice from the bloggy world on shoe choices and Scientistmother
took umbrage with Dr. Isis' condemnation of square-toed shoes.

Therefore I feel it is only fitting that I put my two cents in. I love shoes, always have. However I have never been a fan of the high heel or the pointy toe. Sorry, all those so-called "cute" shoes look like pure torture to me and my size 9 wide feet. I have put my feet through a lot of stress--walking, running, and kicking--but they've been relatively free of shoe abuse.

As I get older I can only get kinder to my feet. My latest kindness and obsession has found a happy home in Keens.

I own this pair in blue

and just bought a pair similar to these

These boots are a current fantasy.

There you are, my bloggy friends, a true middle-aged academic shoe obsession.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Birthday Wishes

My sister, Meg, turned 50 today. Meg is the oldest of us four girls and I am the youngest. This means Meg gets to break trail for each new decade and I bring up the rear. From what I gather 50 can be a hard one.

I don't get to speak to my sisters as often as I'd like and I see them once a year at best. Today I got to talk with Meg for over an hour and a half. She is going through an exciting but stressful time in her life right now (turning 50 seems to be the least of it) and it was wonderful to catch up on it all. My niece is throwing her a big birthday bash this Saturday, which I unfortunately will not be able to attend. Hopefully I'll make it up North sometime soon and get a chance to spend some time with her.

In our talk today Meg suggested that Angel may be so reluctant to come home because he needs to be--if he admits to himself that he misses us it may be too hard to be away. I will say this thought had crossed my mind before but than I instantly thought it is too nice of a thought to have. A little too comforting--making it suspect. However it as nice to be able to talk to her about it, as she is the only one of us who has gone through the college years and come out on the other end.

Happy Birthday Meg.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mothering in the Academy

I went to a presentation at my university the other day. It seems we have resurrected a committee who's sole charge is to examine the non-insurance benefits to faculty and staff. This is a good thing. It came about because two women, one faculty and one staff, who are both mothers of young children, had horrendous experiences finding childcare. They created separate reports on the lack of family-friendly initiatives in our university, comparing our policies and benefits with other universities both inside and outside our system.

Both reports recommend that the committee examines the possibility of offering daycare and lactation rooms as well as tuition reimbursement benefits for children and spouses and to re-examine the family leave policy (for children and other family members). Now most of these benefits and policies have no bearing on my current life (except for tuition reimbursement), which I believe explains my total lack of knowledge of our policies before attending this presentation.

I have to be honest and admit I never gave the need for a lactation room a thought--either before being hired or since. However, having had it brought to my attention I do care greatly. I especially care when I heard that a few months ago our library had an "extra room" available (when is there ever unclaimed space in a university?) and was asking for suggestions on how to use it. Someone suggested a lactation room (a relatively easy room to create and maintain) but it was turned down. I do not know what the room became.

I also care when I hear that staff get a maximum of 2 months leave that is financed by using all of their sick and vacation time. This, of course, leaves them no allowed time to take when their children become ill and can't go to daycare. Faculty can also get 2 months paid leave (we don't get sick or vacation time) but only if they can negotiate a deal with their department. This deal usually depends upon coming up with solutions for covering your classes. Now I've read enough in academic blogs to know this is not unusual but that doesn't make it right. It is also really no different than my experiences with both maternity leave and childcare almost 19 years ago.

It also is not right that the last time this committee was in existence they decided not to pursue childcare options because a survey they conducted found only 200 people on campus responded that they would use the service. Now it seems pretty clear to me that this is not a simple fact of what benefits would our current staff/faculty want but rather how do we recruit and retain quality staff/faculty who have very real family-work balance needs? Also if you asked me if I would use a service such as this I would have to say no but if you ask me if I feel our university should have such a benefit I would say yes, even over other benefits that would benefit me personally. Answers change dramatically based on how you word them and just because I no longer need childcare doesn't mean I want other women to be forced into draconian choices.

But what bothered me most of all? That it took 2 women, with small children at home and already busy jobs at work, to conduct all the legwork needed to create these reports that led to the reinstatement of the committee and its charge. And on top of that one of the 2 women, the faculty member (untenured, I believe), is now chair of the committee.

So yes all kudos and respect to these remarkable women for leading the charge and to my university for listening to them and taking them seriously. And hopefully we will see a change. However why does the burden of work always have to fall on those who are already burdened? And why does that always turn out to be the women?

As a last note, one of the women, in telling her story of childcare woe, mentioned that for the first year or so at this job her husband was a stay-at-home dad. However he finally realized that it was too much work and went out and found himself a job. According to her story he called her on a Thursday afternoon with an offer that started on Monday. She then had only a few days to find childcare for her kids. Now I couldn't help but think why was that HER job? If a stay-at-home mom suddenly found a job, wouldn't she need to find the childcare? Or better yet, isn't that something they should be doing together?

And my students argue with me that there is no power differential by gender in our country any more.

Monday, September 22, 2008

One Day It Will Sink In

Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love. Need does NOT equal love.

Not now...not ever.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The State of the Blog

Thank you Lee....my sentiments exactly.


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

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


My research is very applied. That means I do research on specific issues in order to develop ways to intervene with those issues. I then develop an actual intervention and evaluate how well it works.

Two of my current research topics involves mothering. Yesterday was the first meeting of some intervention work I'm doing in the community with mothers. It is a slow process and will probably take many years before (if) it sees fruition. In the meantime, I really enjoy my mothers.

I was driving to the community site to set up for the group and heard my phone ring deep inside my bag on the back seat. I hate talking on the phone while I drive and couldn't reach it, so I figured it could wait until I got to my destination. Not five minutes later it rang again. Either someone really wanted me or two people wanted me--either one indicates something is up (I'm not a big phone person so I don't get a lot of calls).

I parked outside of the location and dug around for my phone. First call was from Angel; second from b. Only b left a message. It was "call me at work." When I called he started with "First, your son is ok..." So not a good start of a phone call but a good way to convey bad news.

And it really wasn't that bad. Angel fell while playing soccer and split his chin (6 stitches) and broke his wrist. He had been to Urgent Care but still needed to see an Orthopedist for a cast. I hung up with b and called Angel to get the full story and give some motherly attention. I guess it was the long distance/grown-up version of kissing the boo-boo.

Then I went inside and met with my mothers.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Packet

This is the year before I put my packet in. I came to my institution as an Associate Professor without tenure, which means I have a 5 year contract. I'm starting my 3rd year; need to put my packet in the beginning of my 4th year; it will take them a year to officially decide if I "pass" or not; I'll have a year to find another job if I don't.

To get this job I answered an ad that seemed like it was written specifically for me. Or at least the me I was in my old job--not the me I wanted to be. I applied as a back-up. At the end of the first interview I found out it was a targeted search. There already was another "me" that the ad was written for and they had every intention of hiring him. However they really liked me. They were also interested in the research agenda that the "new me" wanted to pursue. So our then Department Head, who is an amazing recruiter, talked the Dean into hiring both of us--him as him (or old me) and me as new me.

This made everybody happy.

Now Old Me and New Me both have to get their packets together this year. We decided to meet every other week and share the pain. Today was our first meeting and ex-Department Head sat in with us to help. He will meet with us periodically to mentor us through the process.

It's a great department and I love the people. I know everyone wants us both to succeed and--at the risk of sounding big-headed--we both rock. That is, we both have a ton of research experience and very healthy CVs and shouldn't have a lot of trouble getting through the whole process. But we're both perfectionists and ambitious and the type of people that need to do it 100% if we're going to do it at all.

Today I found out just how much work this is going to take. I need to write up and document every frickin' thing on my CV, which is A LOT (I know an embarrassment of riches but still). I've been publishing and writing grants since 1993 and now I have to narrate and document all of that. On top of that there are things I really really want to accomplish this year to move my new research agenda forward. So basically I have to document and defend my old research life so I'll be allowed to continue on my new research life. Actually it is more like I need to use my past research life to prove I'm capable of making the same progress in my new research life. It's all good...but the year was feeling busy enough before today's meeting.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Baby Shower

I went to a baby shower today. It was for one of my previous students. I'm very fond of her and was happy to go and celebrate her joy with her friends and family. My former graduate assistant (whom I adore and miss like she was my daughter) was there and I not only got to spend time with her but also with her mother and the mother of the mother-to-be (I hope you can follow all of the mothering).

So I was happy to be there but I have to confess I'm not a big fan of showers--baby or bridal that is, I'm a huge fan of taking a shower and do so at least daily--nor do I particularly enjoy weddings. In part because I don't do the "girly stuff" very well. I tend to feel awkward and out of place.

It's been many years since I've been to a baby shower. The last few friends to have baby showers had them Up North while I was here Down South and couldn't attend. I'm also reaching the age where most of my friends are finished with the baby-making, although one or two have gotten a very late start. So I was definitely out of my element today.

This baby shower had game-playing. I don't remember games at baby showers. Perhaps I'm blocking them out. I vaguely remember something about wearing a hat made of bows but I'm pretty sure that's a bridal shower, but I digress.

This baby shower had three word games (unscramble the word types of games that were all around the theme of baby-related items--quite frankly I couldn't remember half the paraphernalia a baby requires) that were timed and gifts were awarded to the person with the most correct answers. Now many people in my family are gifted at word games (my mother does the NYT crossword in pen every week) but I am not one of them. Honestly I'm not a games player in any sense of the word.

What struck me most, however, was the amount of STUFF a baby seems to need these days. I know this part makes me sound like an old fuddy-duddy and I'm ok with that, but really the level of consumerism attached to one little baby is a bit daunting. I'm not talking the cute little outfits (because it is true that you can never have too many onesies) or teddy bears. And of course you need someplace for the child to sleep and eat. I'm even 100% behind the whole baby carseat idea...but really all that other crap? Do you really need it?

The parents-to-be had baby registeries at two establishments and the gift opening took hours. It was a particularly hot and sticky day and my poor student looks big enough to pop any day--although she's still a good 2 months away--so I'm sure she was exhausted, but the whole affair seemed a little flat. I'm not sure what I'm really saying here, except I feel all of these events get bigger and bigger and the essentials keep getting inflated but the joy doesn't seem to inflate with it. But maybe it's me--as I said I'm really not good at the girly stuff.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creating Critics

The semester is still kicking my a$$ but my undergraduate class appears to be going well. They've been writing some great journal posts, talking up in class and today a colleague told me that one of them called me "terrific." So that felt pretty good.

Yesterday we were discussing the media and I was trying to explain what I thought media analysis should include. I told them that we need to question not just the content but who is behind the content and who is controlling the content...exactly what do we have access to and why? I made an analogy to the class itself. I told them that they should be questioning my right to teach them. How do they know I have any expertise or authority in this area? Why did I choose the topics I chose, the readings I chose, etc? What is my agenda (since we all have one)? And that I hoped, years from now when they remember whatever little tidbit they remember from this class, that they didn't just accept it as true because I said so.

I happened to catch the eye of one of my more radical students and she just raised one eyebrow. I made a joking comment that she wasn't buying what I was saying. She chuckled and said that she agreed but that it sounded funny, me saying it. I guess they don't hear that too often, but I think they should.

I never wondered about the design of a syllabus in college--or even for the first few years of graduate school--but I wished I did. At heart I'm a rule-follower and have to fight the tendency to believe people who position themselves as an authority. I really don't want that for my students--or my child--and I'm happy to take the criticism if that makes them good critics. [Note: I'm not happy with self-serving criticism--she's a bad teacher because she's hard or stuck to her attendance policy or any other nonsense like that.]

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


For those of you who are interested in just how the mothering role changes when your child has left home I will share with you my impressions. I have become this:

or this:

or perhaps even this:

Except instead of bland tasting candy, I dispense advice.

It seems Angel need only press a little lever (or IMs me, whichever is easiest) to make my head pop open and out shoots bite-sized pellets of advice on writing essays, teaching martial arts and joining fraternities (the last one is so incredibly comical since I never even attended a school with a sorority or fraternity, no less thought about joining one).

It seems there is no end to the topics on which I will pretend some type of expertise just to keep the conversation going.

Color me Pez.

Friday, September 5, 2008

RBOC: Updates

  • The fallout of office politics has started 2 weeks into the new semester. We have a new Department Head, who has brought 3 new hires with him. We are experiencing a major change in management style and people are getting nervous. I'm way too busy to be concerned.
  • I'm halfway through the next series in my Octavia Butler marathon. I've read Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind. Will start on Clay's Ark after this post.
  • Angel has joined a fraternity. He had to make a very difficult decision between joining a brand new chapter or a very established one. He really liked the idea of leadership in the new frat but has decided it will be too much work and needs to concentrate on his studies.
  • I have 1 paper this close (imagine two fingers held about an inch apart) to being ready to go out the door; 1 paper with the results and analysis written up; 2 papers still in the analysis phase; and more ideas for papers than I can count on 2 hands. I actually got to work on one of these papers today after a week of trying to find the time.
  • b has started going to the dojo with me on Friday nights (my favorite class). We do a vigorous and intense workout and then go across the street and kick back a beer or two.
  • Angel and I IM almost daily. Yesterday he told me he didn't miss home at all and today he invited his father down for Family Weekend (sigh). I know this is only fair as his father has never even been to see the University and we dropped him off but still...sigh.
  • I need to spend all weekend prepping for my classes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bad Blogger

So my posting has been pretty close to nil lately. I'm not sure why but this semester is kicking my butt, royally. I'm at the end of the second week and feel like I've gotten very little accomplished other than teaching my 2 classes. I know this isn't technically true but they have taken up way more time than I can allow.

Part of it is that I have a new prep, but than I've had a new prep each semester since I've been here. More importantly this new prep is for an undergraduate class and I've only taught graduate students before.

The class is going fine but I don't feel like I have a rhythm yet. My graduate classes meet once a week for 3 hours; the undergraduate class meets twice a week for an hour and 15 minutes. I feel like the minute I get started I'm done and then I have to prep all over again the next day.

I'm also realizing that undergraduates just don't know that much. I don't mean to belittle them--I suppose they know as much as any undergraduate class--and I shouldn't be surprised that graduate students know more, are more experienced, are more committed, whatever--but the reality of it is throwing me through a bit of a loop.

I'm sure there's an answer for this and I'm sure I'll find it. I just hope I figure it out before the semester is completely over.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On Why He Never Ceases to Amaze Me

Yesterday Angel told me he spent the afternoon in a study group with several feminist girls. He said it was fun. I was--mildly--surprised that he spent his day off studying and curious about the need to describe the young women as feminists. So I asked if it was a good thing or a bad thing that they were feminists. He said "A good thing. I like feminists....like you."

I guess I did something right.

Tonight he's rushing a fraternity. This is something I never expected.