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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Thanks all for the condolences on yesterday. I wish I could report things have gotten better but, in fact, today was more of the same. For some reason, however, I remain in a remarkably good mood. Perhaps it is the impending end of semester? Or perhaps I'm still glowing from the got-a-huge-grant-out high. Here's the latest:
  • Termites are not a huge problem, and since its a rental, its not my expense.
  • Termites come from a leaky roof that will now need to be fixed.
  • Leaky roof again is not my problem although living through the fixing may be annoying.
  • Mrs. Landlord got accepted to graduate school (Mr & Mrs Landlord are a lovely couple who are around our age; a blended family with 1 boy just a few years younger than Angel; he's a photographer and she's a poet; they live in our neighborhood and are extremely responsive yet unintrusive--in other words the world's perfect landlords--oh and they've never raised the rent) so they will be relocating and selling our little house.
  • Mr & Mrs Landlord will sell to investors and will put in the contract that our rent can't be raised for a year.
  • We're looking into our options - maybe we'll finally move out of the city and back into the woods.
  • Today I found a small farmhouse on 12 acres next to a lake where b likes to kayak for $200 less than what we currently pay.
  • Angel called to find out how things stood after last night. He didn't remember much of the conversation and thought he was belligerent.
  • Angel can be belligerent but wasn't last night and hardly ever is with me.
  • He did remember the weeping. It seems he called about 6 people last night and was probably weepy with all of them.
  • He had a designated driver.
  • He's in agreement with me re the job situation.
  • b had to go back to the dentist for a check-up after his last wisdom tooth removal. His mouth still hurts.
  • The car broke down on the way. The alternator is shot--again.
  • We only have one car. She is old. Very old. We love her but realize she will need to be replaced sometime in the near future.
  • If we move back to the woods we will need 2 cars. And there will be a lot more driving in our lives.
  • SouthLite is being hit with mandated furloughs. I'll be losing a small percentage of my pay for the next two months. No word on what will happen after that. Raises not happening, now hoping there aren't more pay cuts.
  • Taught my last class for the semester (still have 2 classes of presentations to sit through). My students ended as awesome, if not more so, than they started. I will miss this group.
Life: you take the good with the bad.

Monday, April 27, 2009

RBOC: On Not The Best Of Days

  • Woke up early this morning from a dream that involved the Ex (Angel's dad).
  • Had a "phone meeting" with two of my bestest friends in the world.
  • My doctoral student's program committee meeting went off without a hitch.
  • Finished a paper and sent it out to co-authors.
  • Never got that 3rd cup of coffee.
  • Still haven't made it back to the dojo.
  • Spoke to the Ex for the entire walk home from work.
  • The job the Ex has lined up for Angel this summer is (a) a bad fit; (b) only 6 weeks long; (c) doesn't start until the end of June, and (d) its dependent upon him paying half of Angel's salary.
  • By the end of said conversation I am flabbergasted and, somehow, defensive.
  • The Ex can still press my buttons.
  • Termite infestation has broken out in my rental home. Landlord hopes we don't need to "relocate."
  • b and I scrap our plans for a leftover dinner and head for a bar/restaurant.
  • I text Angel to call me...so we can discuss summer plans.
  • Angel calls me...worried he is in trouble for an overdraft on his bank account.
  • He's been drinking.
  • Conversation ends with him in tears because he "loves me."
  • Sigh.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Other Summer Reading List

Summer break isn't just about lying around reading fat novels by the pool and drinking tequilatinis. No summer break is also when I can catch up on the non-fiction reading that piles up during the academic year. Below is my other summer reading list organized by category:

  • Risky Lessons: Sex Education and Social Inequality - Jessica Fields
  • My Little Red Book - Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
  • Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality & Gendered Violence - Jody Miller
  • Hopeful Girls, Troubled Boys: Race and Gender Disparity in Urban Education - Nancy Lopez
  • Do Men Mother?: Fathering, Care and Domestic Responsibility - Andrea Doucet
  • The Maternal Is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change - Shari McDonald Strong & Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
  • Mothers and Illicit Drugs: Transcending the Myths - Susan C. Boyd
  • Drug Misuse and Motherhood - Hilary Klee, Marcia Jackson & Suzan Lewis
  • Consuming Motherhood - Janelle Taylor, Linda Layne & Danielle Wozniak
  • Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition - Barbara J. Riseman
Women's Health:
  • Literary Anatomies: Women's Bodies and Health in Literature - Delese Wear & Lois Lacivita Nixon
  • Into Our Own Hands: The Women's Health Movement in the United States, 1969-1990 - Sandra Morgan
  • Abortion & Life - Jennifer Baumgarden
  • Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care - Jennifer Block
  • Revisioning Women and Drug Use: Gender, Power and the Body - Elizabeth Ettorre
After putting the two lists together I got so excited that I had to start early. So summer break may be 3 weeks away but I'm currently reading one book from each list.

Monday, April 20, 2009

There Are Two Types...

...of people in the world: those that group people into categories and those that don't.

I'm a grouper, always have been. I group more than people of course. I've been known to categorize objects and issues and statements and food, to name a few. I enjoy figuring out what goes with what. Grouping is one of the things that I enjoy about qualitative data analysis--the ability to take snippets people have said, assign categories and then see what themes emerge when the statements are place together (or next to each other).

So my blogroll was getting out of hand and I realized I had still more blogs to add. I decided it had grown large enough that it was time for some grouping. The initial attempt can be seen on the right.

Of course grouping is both an entertaining and a frustrating endeavor and this was no exception. It brought up the question: how do you define a blog? Many blogs may have started out for a specific purpose but that purpose changes as the voice of the blogger grows and as his/her life changes. For instance there are several academic bloggers that I follow that have recently become mothers and now blog about both academia and mothering. In fact many academic blogs I follow touch upon both issues with regularity. In looking over my post labels, I found that I have blogged an equal number of times on "research" and "Angel" myself. So am I an academic blogger? a mother blogger? an academic mother blogger?

In short there is no perfect answer and the beauty of the blogosphere is that there is flexibility and that adaptation is the norm. Of course that doesn't stop my grouping tendencies, so I will continue to fuss over the blogroll and ponder the themes that emerge. However please let me know if you would like your category changed or if I inadvertently dropped you from the list.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Summer Reading List

While enjoying our brief fling in our fun mountain city, b and I spent over an hour at their famous independent bookstore. I don't think I need to say how I crave a good bookstore. I stopped myself at 2 books (and one was from the 50% off sale shelf) but decided to write a list of what I wanted to buy. Book browsing also reminded me of fabulous books I own and would like to reread. So below is the beginning (in not-too-particular of an order) of my summer reading list. Any suggested additions would be most appreciated. Those marked [R] will be re-reads.
  1. Mercy - Toni Morrison
  2. The Worst Thing I've Ever Done - Ursula Hegi
  3. Housekeeping - Marianne Robinson
  4. Gilead [R] - Marianne Robinson
  5. Home - Marianne Robinson
  6. Moo [R] - Jane Smiley
  7. Learning to Drive and Other Life Stories- Katha Pollitt
  8. Middlemarch [R] - George Eliot
  9. Silas Marner [R] - George Eliot
  10. Truth & Beauty: A Friendship - Ann Patchett
  11. Autobiography of A Face - Lucy Grealy
  12. Orlando [R] - Virginia Woolf
  13. Mrs. Dalloway [R] - Virginia Woolf
  14. To The Lighthouse [R] - Virginia Woolf
  15. The Waves [R] - Virginia Woolf
  16. Briar Rose - Jane Yolen
  17. Sister Light, Sister Dark - Jane Yolen
  18. White Jenna - Jane Yolen
  19. The One Armed Queen - Jane Yolen
  20. The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri S. Tepper
  21. Beauty - Sheri S. Tepper
  22. Native Tongue - Suzette Haden Elgin
  23. Tales from Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin
  24. Always Coming Home* - Ursula K. LeGuin
  25. The Little Disturbances of Man - Grace Paley
  26. Enormous Changes At The Last Minute [R] - Grace Paley
*What I actually bought. I also bought Grace Paley's last book of poems: Fidelity but I don't include poetry on the summer reading list. Poetry should be an all-time thing. It did make me want to reread Paley's short stories, however.

Let's see your summer reading lists.

Friday, April 17, 2009

RBOC: DONE! Edition

  • Today I finished my grant. Its not completely out the door mind you--still waiting for a letter and several levels of signatures and then the scary electronic submission process--but for my purposes I'm done.
  • Last night, due to miscalculations in formatting, I discovered I had 2 extra pages worth of space. This meant I had to fill it. However, since I was worried about being OVER the page limit the entire time I was writing, the end product was incredibly "tight." This meant I had to fill the space with equally tight and meaningful content.
  • I was tired and wanted to be done with writing. b did point out that filling 2 pages was a lot better than having to cut 2 pages. Gotta love that man.
  • I watched some TV and then stayed up writing until 1:30. Surprisingly it read rather well this morning.
  • I'm supposed to go to the dojo tonight. We haven't been all week but I really don't want to because I'm DONE (as in the stick-a-fork-in-me variety). All I really want to do is sit in the backyard in the sunshine drinking Guinness.
  • Tomorrow we're headed out to my state's fun city in the mountains. b has a brief event in the evening but we'll be walking funky streets and eating out in charming restaurants the rest of the time.
  • I have my heart/stomach set on lobster mac & cheese.
  • Its a 3 hour drive to fun city; I'll be grading papers in the passenger seat.
  • Today my son called me and asked me to give him a brief synopsis of tai chi. It seems his roommate's mother was on the other phone and had some questions (I'm assuming she is either taking classes or wants to take classes). Since Angel is the martial arts authority in his school, all questions go to him.
  • Its not easy giving a tai chi sound bite while making the final edits on a grant, but that's what mothers do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Text Message

From: Angel

Hey have you ever read Sylvia Plath. Morning song reminded me of Your poem.

Aug 13, 9:37 pm

How cool is that?

Friday, April 10, 2009

News Flash

I cleaned my house. Well not all of it but the really smelly parts. And I'm not talking the type of straightening up that used to go on here before I took up the NIH Challenge--no I'm talking about the moving-furniture-and-using-products-with-chemicals-that-make-you-a-little-woozy-if-you-lean-in-too-close-and-forget-to-open-the-windows kind of cleaning.

It all started last night when both b and I made it home at a reasonable hour. I believe he was thinking cocktails in the backyard before dinner but I started cleaning the bathroom instead. In only an hour and a half I managed to de-funkify the bathroom and straighten the office (aka Angel's room) and he got halfway through the kitchen (its a big room). We broke for dinner and our Thursday night TV line-up.

Today, after a morning of heavy grant work, I decided to finish the kitchen. Sure the rest of the house is a sty but the two most important rooms are currently grime-free. To quote my friend Eliza, aka MFA Mama: WHOO TITS!

An unrelated news item: I just found out my BIL has a blog. Check him out. His writing is not for the faint-of-heart but its excellent. I'll have to add him to my blogroll, which makes me realize I need to once again update my blogroll as I am (a) finding great new blogs to follow (yay!) and (b) still losing bloggy friends (sigh--I still blame facebook).

Related to the unrelated news: the twitter experiment is still ongoing. Its getting better but I'm not exactly twitter-saavy yet. However I found out I can follow Dr. Drew, and that right there my friends is worth the price of admission. Yes Celebrity Rehab--really all things Dr. Drew-- is a guilty pleasure.

Monday, April 6, 2009

April is...

...National Poetry Month. And what better way to celebrate than to tell you all a little poetry story? As you might have guessed, it involves Angel.

Angel is a natural poet. What I mean by that is that his learning disability makes word retrieval difficult for him. So he has grown up learning to describe the words that are temporarily out of his reach. Sometimes he'll insert a word with a completely different meaning but similar sound. The effect is rather poetic.

In high school Angel discovered creative writing. It was the first academic activity he ever enjoyed. While he was still wary of reading (the dsylexia doesn't help) he found that he enjoyed poetry--especially the classics. He wrote a few poems but mostly wrote short stories. He wanted to major in English at college. In fact it was a short story that he submitted with his application that got him accepted at his college.

Somewhere during his gap year he lost his interest in creative writing and he is now majoring in communication. He seems to like public speaking. As a freshman he has spent the majority of the year learning how to write essays. Then about a week ago he sent me a poem he wrote and asked for feedback because he wanted to make it perfect. It was good but rough and somehow there was a girl involved.

The girl, as it turns out, wasn't particularly impressed but Angel has rediscovered poetry. He sent me an email the other night asking for recommendations on who he should read and did I want to send him some of my poetry? I did--of course--and today got an unsolicited compliment.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Twitter Attempts

I want to be able to twitter. No, really I do. I started trying a few weeks ago and then quickly gave up as this grant has consumed everything in its path. But I've been thinking it should actually be easier to twitter than to blog when I'm busy. So I'm trying again. I think I'll post my twitter account on the sidebar if you want to try following along.

Let me explain why I want to like to twitter (or tweet....I'm still not sure about the grammar ramifications of all of this). I'm all about the details. My love of the mundane details of life is why I started this blog and it is why I named it dirt and rocks. I have always gotten lost in the details. I find I take them far more seriously than most people around me. I can't remember names and dates (historical, that is) but I can remember every grimy detail of my last committee meeting. I often become the "walking memory" of whatever group I'm in.

When I write fiction there is little-to-no big action--just the day-to-day stuff that slowly builds into characters and something that resembles a plot. Where other people's private journals are filled with emotional highs and lows mine are filled with straightforward accounts of how I spent my day. Worse yet, I actually enjoy going back and reading them. Reading the small details brings back the emotions and connects me to the sensory experience in a way that describing them doesn't. The memory feels more genuine than one that is evoked by interpretation.

Part of my research is focused on the moment-to-moment of individual lives (especially how individuals live their lives in relation to others). I'm a huge fan of ecological momentary assessments, which is a technique for collecting survey data in the moment. Similar to daily diaries, I have my participants walk around with PDAs that go off randomly. They then fille out a survey and tell me what they are doing at that moment. Sounds kind of like Twitter, don't you think?