Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Jags is incredibly smart, funny, and tough. We both like to sink our teeth into discussions. We also both like things to run smoothly and systematically and don't suffer fools kindly. I love working with Jags. I don't enjoy fighting but an intellectual debate is a lot of fun for me. Jags is one of the few people I know who can do this without ego and/or hurt feelings. Sometimes we scared the graduate students but we were always friends.
Last year a research group at my university submitted a proposal to host a big name conference on the subject I used to study. Since she's such a big name, they asked my advisor to come speak. She asked if them if I was involved with the conference--which I wasn't--and this seem to up my "cred" a bit across campus. My advisor agreed to come last year, when she was first asked, but much has happened since then and she ended up not being able to attend. She asked Jags to speak in her place and Jags asked if I wanted to help her pull it together. Being involved in a big name conference, especially since a publication may come out of it, is good for both of our careers.
The conference starts tomorrow and Jags flew in late this evening. Its been fun working with her on the presentation and I can't wait to see her tomorrow. The conference itself seems a bit of a bore to me, since I'm not really into this field anymore and the big names no longer enthrall me, but I'm excited to spend two days with my friend.
Unfortunately this is happening the same weekend b and I had planned on heading to our home city UpNorth. He and his friends have been sharing a Super Bowl party for years. This year they were supposed to come down to us but one just had a baby and another has had a string of bad luck that is preventing him from getting away. b and I were going to drive up on Friday, spend the weekend and drive back on Monday. Now b will be driving up by himself so I can present at the conference with Jags and then I'll fly up and meet him. I'm kind of tired just thinking about it.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I like first classes. I like the first several classes actually because to me they are mostly about forming a group. I'm teaching two classes this semester and one class covers a lot of controversial topics and challenges students' deep-seated beliefs and identities. I need them to reach a level of trust and comfort in me and in each other in order for the class to be successful. Luckily, as it is an elective, most students come really wanting to take the class. However it also draws students from all over the institution and from a diverse set of academic disciplines. This is both good and bad. Mostly good I think because it means they have a lot to teach each other.
My other class is very small with only 5 students. Both classes are graduate level and the first one has a mix of master and doctoral level students but the second class is all doctoral students and 4 of the 5 are in my program. They know each other well and already have a complex history. All of the students know me fairly well, with three of them having been in a class with me before and two are currently conducting research with me. This class is a required course and it is an area most people think of as a chore. This group particularly is not enamored with the subject matter. But I love teaching it because I am a nerd and it is a very nerdy topic. So for this class I don't need to build a group as much as turn them on to the subject. Share the love.
I've also been hearing that I'm considered a hard grader. One former student told me that she warned her friend not to take my class if she wasn't ready to write and do a lot of work. She said that I may smile a lot and be friendly but when it came to the work I was serious about it. I was rather pleased to hear that because I like to be friendly and smile and have fun with my students but the work means a lot to me. I work hard--at teaching and at scholarship--and I expect my students to do the same. I like working hard and I like challenges. I often have to tell my students that struggling is a good thing and if they're having a hard time in the class it means they're doing it right.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
This month I also had to do a final proof of a chapter I wrote about a year or so ago. Again this chapter was very different from what I am used to writing. It was part scholarly argument/part memoir and I was really unsure how to weave all of the pieces together that I felt was essential. The editor gave a very helpful review and I felt the second version was much improved. I was actually quite pleased to reread it now--several months later--and to find that I really enjoyed it. Its a good chapter--not perfect but good--and far different from anything I've written before.
After finishing these two tasks and preparing for my courses I took a little time to relax and found I had an idea for reshaping a novel I had started writing in 2005. (The idea actually came while on a long walk with Pupzilla--I love when things like that happen). I spent a little time re-reading the chapters and again was surprised that they were better than I remembered. The idea I had while walking wouldn't quite work--at least not without sacrificing something I didn't want to sacrifice--but a related idea would and I started reshaping. I'm not sure how much effort I can put towards it during the semester but since it doesn't have a deadline I figure it can just be something I reward myself with when I've done my other work.
Funny thing is that shortly after doing the reshaping I got an idea for another novel (while taking a shower--all my good ideas seem to come in the shower or on walks). I really liked the idea so I sketched it out (after the shower). Again who knows when or if I'll get to it, but it felt good writing it all down.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Angel was one of those teenagers that could not wait to get his license and his own car. He bought his first car with his own money while he still had a learner's permit. b took him car shopping then and showed him some of the basics. We drive old cars and b has been fabulous with finding great deals and keeping them alive. Angel's first car was perfect and when it was totaled he ended up getting $100 more than he paid for it 3 years later.
So Friday we drove down to Angel's school to pick him up and went to look at our first car Friday nite. It was the car Angel had been hoping would be "the one" but alas it was not. b told him it is never the first car. Saturday morning we got a somewhat late start but had lined up about 6 cars to go see. The first was at a dealer's and we could see the car but not drive it until Monday. It was a possibility but not a strong one. Most everyone else was either closed or unavailable until Monday so we had only two left to see that day.
I stay in the car for all the looking, test driving and discussing of car issues, so I was quite surprised when they got back in after the next test drive and Angel told me it was "the one," since this one was an automatic. We drive manual cars in our family and that was a sticking point for Angel. However it was limiting his choices, especially since he had a tight price range, so he had agreed to look at a few automatics. His explanation for picking this car was that it was the best one he could get for his money. He even negotiated the price down a little. Since it was the weekend, the actual business transaction could not be done--our state is picky about how these transactions are handled--but the owner said he would hold the car for us until Monday.
The rest of the weekend was spent with us feeding him, watching movies and hanging out. He went out with Pumpkin on Saturday night. In true Pumpkin fashion she has adopted him as her brother and likes to take him out with her friends when he's in town. On Sunday we went to the dojo and did a family work out. In general I found him to be much more relaxed--perhaps from his Costa Rica vacation, perhaps from feeling more secure about school these days--and much more like his old self, snuggles and all. It was a very nice weekend.
We drove him back to school today with a huge bag of food: guacamole, baked ziti, meatballs, and chocolate & peanut butter chip cookies. When we came back b met the owner of the car to take care of the title transfer. On his next day off he'll handle registration and inspection and then on Saturday we'll drive back down to Angel's school to deliver the car--because that's what parents do when called to duty.
Friday, January 16, 2009
- I sat through what had to be the most boring faculty meeting of my life today. Three hours. On top of that I woke up with a sty in my eye so it was puffy and blinky all day.
- Vegetarian lifestyle is going very well. I'm enjoying it far more than I thought and learning new things to cook. I worry about next week when classes start but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it
- We drove down to pick up Angel today. He's home for the long weekend car shopping.
- I finished my 3 encyclopedia chapters and have prepared both courses for the semester, although there is always more work to do on them.
- Pumpkin's internship has turned into a contracted job. She'll be employed and therefore will not even be considering moving away until December.
- I have many many appointments--of the nasty doctor variety--to schedule including a vet appointment for the Brute who has turned into Scabby McSabbington. So far I have only managed to make a hair appointment for next Thursday. That is no small feat however, since my last haircut was in July.
- Angel has reduced his course load for this semester. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
- I really really need my eyebrows waxed but haven't managed to get that done either. I don't have many so-called girlie habits but I really hate it when my eyebrows get bushy. Yet I also really hate going.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
"This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”
I'm not really sure why I am deserving of this award, although I am honored to receive it. I guess I've never seen myself as charming or excessively kind, but I do believe strongly in building relationships, so perhaps that comes through. But now it is my turn to name 8 bloggers that I feel uphold the virtue of Proximity and I am happy to do so:
Julie - Julie could easily have received the inspiration award, as her beautiful poems always inspire me. However Julie is also an exceptionally kind and generous blogger, responding to all comments, checking in on all the blogs she follows and leaving sweet and encouraging comments, and sharing with her readers any poetic tidbits and websites she comes across.
Life Of A Fool - LOF blogs frequently and is also quick to respond to comments. This is something I aspire to, but alas, can never seem to accomplish. LOF's blog always makes you feel welcome.
Soxy Deb - I really can't say enough about my Soxy Deb--wit, beauty, and grace all rolled into one amazing package. In a far shorter time than I've been blogging (which is a blink of the eye), Soxy Deb has built up quite a large and loyal following. You really can't help but love her.
A Soldier's Girl - Her blogging has decreased recently but Nit upholds all the values of the Proximity Award. She is kind, generous and patient.
Adventures of a Bad Ass - Dr. Bad Ass has recently succumbed to Facebook and I'm hoping this award revives her zest for blogging. The blogosphere would definitely suffer if she closed up shop.
Clashing Hats - Hilaire's luck is turning around this year--I can feel it. She has been maintaining close and personal bloggy relations while trying to make a home in Scary City. She is a fighter and very deserving of this award.
Giddings - Life over at Confessions of A Stay At Homo (SAHM) can be challenging but Giddings meets all challenges with grace and dignity. I especially appreciate her new Meditations On Mindful Parenting series.
Minor Revisions - How could I NOT give this award to the lovely Katie? She is taking a brief hiatus from blogging but I'm hopeful she'll be back soon. Her blog is always so warm and inviting. Reading it you truly feel like your sitting snuggled in one of her new large comfy chairs close to the fire with Chienne at your side while the snow builds up and the wind howls outside. Now if only I had a cup of cocoa.
Enjoy your awards folks. I've enjoyed giving them out.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I have not found many blogs that address this end of the mommy spectrum, perhaps because blogging brings in a younger crowd and most mothers who blog still have very small children at home. It seems there is no empty nest community. Sometimes I think I'm over-reacting; that I am somehow pathologizing this experience; maybe it is just me who is making this a major transition in my life. Its not a horrible one (well at times it is) but it feels pretty damned significant. Other times I think about all the other experiences and transitions women have lived through that were never discussed (think menopause, date rape, and breast cancer). Lack of community doesn't necessarily make an event less real or less universal. Yet the studies I have found in the scientific literature tell me that most women, contrary to folklore, experience few negative emotions and many look forward and enjoy this time. So maybe it is just me.
The entry into motherhood is well represented. You can find support (and it is needed) in a variety of places and you can find information--some of it good, loads of it poor--on various aspect of this important transitional stage. However everything that I've found on "the empty nest" syndrome sounds placating and insufficient. I'm supposed to feel "blue" and "have the weepies" for a few weeks and then I'll be magically over it. I've also noticed that women who are actively mothering are not comfortable discussing it. I believe it is painful to even consider how you will feel when your time comes. I know I hated to think about it previously.
I realize that I'm still square in the middle of this and that my thoughts will probably change over time, however I wanted to try and sort a few of them out here, while I'm still experiencing it all. If you are at the stage where it is too painful to consider life as an inactive mother or if your world is so overwhelmed with childcare issues that you can't imagine why anyone would see this as a problem to be addressed, you may want to skip this post. However, it may be those people who need to read it the most.
One thing I've realized is that mothers (and I use the term loosely, in that I mean individuals who take a primary role in the emotional and physical caring and nurturing of a child they claim as their own--an individual's sex has nothing to do with mothering, except for the fact that it is still primarily the female sex that takes on this role) spend their lives learning their children. It is a knowledge that goes so deep and becomes so entwined with who you are that you no longer see it as knowledge. We spend a considerable amount of our time figuring out why our child did or didn't do something; what our child may be thinking or feeling or believing and why. We learn what our child likes to eat and how he or she likes to eat it. We learn all the incredibly intimate details of our children's daily worlds.
Intimacy through knowledge does not only belong to the mother-child relationship, our relationships with our partners can also include an incredibly rich and detailed knowledge of the other, especially in long-term relationships. However there are several differences, a big one being that our partners can speak for themselves (well hopefully) and care for themselves while our children (at first) cannot. So we learn to listen to them in a way we do not listen to any other person in our lives. We strive to understand them because we want to help them and because they fascinate us. We look for ourselves and our loved ones within our children. We also constantly look for who our child will be--we see glimpses of our future child.
Growing up under this scrutiny, our children also study us but they don't see us. They study us for the reasons that all people in the underdog position of a power-imbalanced relationship study their superiors--that knowledge can save them from us. The result is an incredibly intimate relationship (the relationship can be healthy or unhealthy but it still remains at a level of intimacy we rarely experience elsewhere). When I say our children don't see us I mean they can see us only as mothers not as individuals, at least initially. Not being able to see us as individuals they are completely unaware of their true power to harm us. They are aware of a superficial level of that power--and many will try out that power by screaming "I hate you" at the top of their lungs one day--but they are oblivious to the harm they cause by becoming their own person and stepping out of that intimacy; by seeking that intimacy elsewhere.
So what happens when they do leave? There is a hole that is left that no other relationship seems capable of replacing. I suppose some people do start "mothering" their partners but that seems, to me, to be (a) a poor substitute and (b) both insulting and unfair to a partner who is a fully grown and functional adult. Other people mother their pets; some refuse to stop mothering their grown children (think helicopter parent here); and some push their children to have grandchildren. I'm sure there are myriad other approaches or strategies but I haven't found a satisfactory one yet.
But lets think about that hole a bit more. The knowledge that we accumulate about our children is no longer necessary and soon becomes obsolete. Your child's favorite snack is no longer a staple on your shopping list. And your child will most likely develop new tastes and favorites that he or she would never think it important to tell you about. Other people will know his or her intimate details and will understand the person your child is becoming in ways you will never again. Now that is not to say that people don't stay the same. There will be knowledge that will continue to be useful; there will be sides of your child that probably only you will know (of course for many years these will be embarrassing to your child so you won't be able to use them anyway). However I believe people change as much as they stay the same. As individuals we realign our personal narrative to allow for change; we create more continuity than I believe is really there.
But we still own the knowledge and have no place to put it. We also have spent years being concerned about our child's welfare. As mothers we worry. This worrying is an activity. It takes up a certain amount of our time and of our emotional energy. What do you do with this worry when it is no longer applicable? As it turns out, it doesn't go away on its own (at least it hasn't for me yet). I wrote in an earlier post about being on the beach last summer with Angel and losing track of him. I thought he was in the water and the ocean was crowded. I couldn't see him anywhere and fell into default mode of imagining him in danger, knowing full well this was irrational. Angel was just in Costa Rica when the recent earthquake hit. Again, rationally I knew he was fine and that I didn't NEED to worry about him but my entire mood changed once I knew he had landed back in the States. I have also come to the recent realization that soon I won't be the first person called when something goes wrong. He will (a) know how to handle things on his own and (b) have other people--more intimate relationships--to call and reassure first. But the reaction doesn't turn off. There's just no where to put it, at least no where that is considered appropriate.
If your partner was suddenly no longer in your life as your partner (which unfortunately happens frequently) you would feel many emotions, such as hurt and anger and despair. If you are the person left you would probably feel abandoned and lonely. With time those feelings would begin to lessen. Let's say you've even managed to stay friends with your partner and the two of you enjoy a very different but satisfying relationship. At some point you would realize that you might not miss the person but you might miss being in a partnered relationship. You miss the shared intimacy; the small everyday things you do together that make up your world. You would realize that you can find this with someone else and you would look for it. When your child leaves the relationship, even if you manage to readjust your relationship, even if you have a satisfactory level and quality of contact, you miss being in a mothering relationship; you miss that intimacy. However no one is telling you to go out and find another (although admittedly this is the approach I took with Pumpkin). Instead the message is to find yourself; enjoy the free time; enjoy your partner. But what if you had already found yourself? Have been enjoying your partner? Don't particularly need more free time? How many hobbies can one have, really?
We don't have the language for the relationship between mothers and their grown children. We use the phrase "my child" to mean both the person that you are raising--who happens to be a child--and the person that you raised. However the person that you raised is not a child. In a sense you are always a mother--even if your child should die, you are still a mother. And I find people like to remind you of that fact when you are no longer, what I phrase, "actively mothering." They say it to reassure you that your identity hasn't changed but in fact it has. My identity as an active mother is far different than my identity as an inactive one. Retirement is not the same as employment. When I retire I will still be a professor but it will not be the same. And my relationship with Angel as an adult is very different from my relationship with him when he was a child. There is no way around it and it is a good thing for him. My point here is that I have gone through (am going through) a transition of the same magnitude as the one I went through becoming a mother, however the line between not being a mother and being a mother was sharply defined then whereas now it is blurry.
In my professional life I've heard a lot of talk about the problems associated with not having "coming-of-age" rituals for adolescents and young adults. We, as a society (although some cultures still have strong and meaningful rituals), no longer clearly mark the distinction between childhood and adulthood. We also, due to economic conditions, have been prolonging the time people spend in this quasi-dependent state. It may be a problem for young people; I believe the way we view adolescence in general is highly problematic for young people. Perhaps it is also a problem for mothers. The lack of a distinct boundary and a recognized mechanism for crossing that boundary, might be leaving some mothers suffering in silence and creating solutions that may or may not be healthy for them in the long run.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Awards in the blogosphere come with rules and those rules mostly have to do with sharing. The rules as per Mel are:
- Please put the logo of the award (above) on your blog if you can make it work with your format.
- Link to the person from whom you received the award.
- Nominate 7 or more blogs.
- Put the links of those blogs on your blog.
- Leave a message on their blogs to tell them.
And without further ado, here are my award recipients:
Dr. Curmudgeon - some of the funniest posts--like laugh out loud when no one is around funny--that I've read have been on The Doctor Isn't. He inspires me to continually work on my cultivating my voice. Unfortunately humor is beyond my reach.
Seeking Solace - Seeking Solace has not only revamped her blog but has changed her name to reflect the new life she and her husband are pursuing. She has shown remarkable strength in leaving a position that seriously undervalued her and now after living in their current location for over 16 years, they are picking up and moving to southern climes --truly inspiring. I can only hope she ends up close to SouthLite, we would love to welcome her here.
PunkinDunk - Nessa, who has upped and moved herself, her partner, and their 4 children to a big cold city recently, inspires me when she posts so openly and sincerely about her children. Then she blows me away with her efforts to remain green in a large city and her bread baking.
Lee - Lee's doodle's always make me think and I'm inspired by anyone who can do that without using a lot of words.
K8 - K8's knowledge of YA literature is very inspiring and she has not only inspired me to read more of it but often inspires me to bake. I just wish the kitty love that goes on in her home would inspire the Brute to be nice to TOC.
Profgrrrrl - Profgrrrrl is inspiring enough as a strong women who knows what she wants and is smart enough to balance her life to get it (and I just love her "Dear Stu Dent" letters), but she has had an awe-inspiring year or so that has included tenure, travel to exotic lands, a wonderful new relationship, marriage and a baby on the way.
Dr. Isis - what is more inspiring than a domestic and laboratory goddess? A domestic and laboratory goddess who walks around in killer shoes.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I have a new "healthy lifestyle" plan that I'm putting into effect and have been trying to think of a good reward system. I'm currently considering allowing myself to buy books off of my very long wish list (which, while momentarily shortened by Christmas presents has suddenly increased again due to help I received from the fabulous K8 on Jane Yolen and now I not only want to read her books but also want to reread the major YA sci fi in my life). I was thinking I could buy a book off of the list for every two weeks of staying on the plan.
But here is the problem. I have other plans, both work and life related, that will clash with book-buying as a reward. For instance I have plans to write a certain number of papers and grants this year and obviously reading fiction is a counter-productive activity for those plans (if you think about it, increasing time spent pursing a healthy lifestyle is counter-productive for writing papers and grants--so really my goals are at odds with each other to begin with). I also have plans to reduce the number of items I own--obviously this will be hampered by book buying. Lastly b and I have been on a fairly strict financial diet, so again the purchasing of books--not such a great idea. Now many of you may recommend I substitute buying with borrowing but there are two problems there: (a) borrowing is time-limited and I then feel pressured to read, which further reduces my time writing and (b) I really like buying books, which is why it is a reward.
So I'm thinking I may have to step away from books as reward and go to blogging as reward. You see I truly enjoy blogging and reading blogs but this activity does get in the way of both work-related and health-related goals (luckily it has no effect on financial or minimalist goals). So I need to come up with a formula (every day I write for work I'm allowed to post? every day I stick to the health plan I'm allowed to read blogs?) that will puts my blogworld firmly in the reward category.
If you don't hear from me you will know I'm offtrack. Of course if you don't hear from me it may also mean I'm so on track I have not time to post.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
- Pro: being able to change where I work. My most likely spots are: in bed, at the kitchen table, in the office (a.k.a. Angel's room) with the big screen.
- Con: acting as doorwoman for the animals
- Pro: taking work breaks to cook or bake
- Con: discovering a file or book I desperately need is at the office
- Pro: taking work breaks to exercise or walk Pupzilla
- Con: feeling the need to take more breaks
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Yesterday's pros and cons:
- Pro...my office is clean. I forgot I cleaned it right before the break.
- Con...my day started with a 2 hour meeting and the person we scheduled the meeting around never showed up.
- Pro...students are sweet. I met with an advisee who's confused about her career plan and was given stern advice by a family member to switch her majors again.
- Con...students are exasperating. At 4:40 a graduate student "dropped by" to tell me s/he will be taking my class because s/he didn't pass last year (when someone else taught it). In the ensuing conversation s/he also informed me that hir new position would mean probably missing several classes. When I informed hir of the conflict this would cause with the attendance policy s/he asked if that was negotiable. Uhm...no.
- Pro...my final meeting never materialized so I was able to get some more work done on my syllabus.
- Con...It took me all day to get into a work groove and by then my head hurt.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I get a perverse joy out of taking down the tree and putting all the holiday fare back up in the attic. Suddenly my living room seems super large and it feels like there is more space to breathe.
I bought this book the other day. According to Bittman, I've been a flexitarian for many years now, eating only poultry and fish. I've also tried out various cleansing fasts over the years. When I diet I prefer to think of it as practicing new and healthier eating habits and I try to get at least one good habit to stick.
One of the big problems with omnivore diets--for me--is that the primary focus is on the protein source. This has pushed us into finding many many ways of eating chicken. I have always preferred meals that consist of small tastes--sort of a tapas approach to dining. I also really enjoy making a meal out of leftovers. So I'm going to try a complete vegetarian diet for a few weeks in an effort to learn how to cook and approach meals differently.
We happened to rent this movie today and it only increased my resolve to eat differently.
In the spirit of New Years and a new approach to eating I spent some time yesterday cleaning out the pantry. Below are some pictures of what was expired and needed to go. It is painful to admit but some of this moved down to SouthLite with us already expired. Reducing food waste will be another important habit to work on this year.