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, June 28, 2009

Greetings From....

....the Oregon Coast. I fell in love with Oregon when I first saw its coast about 12 years ago. The landscape speaks to me and I feel at home. Now b is in love too.

In a few days we'll be hanging in Oregon's major cities. I'm curious to see b's reaction to them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What It Takes To Go On Vacation

My life the past few days:
  • finished data collection (yay! - just 2 short of my original goal but passed the minimum required)
  • completed Annual Review Meeting
  • passed student at proposal defense (she did an amazing job - another yay!)
  • conference called w/ A-girl and Sparkle
  • shopped and cooked so Angel has food to eat while I'm away
  • filled prescription for migraine medicine--just in case
  • took Pupzilla and TOC to the vet (TOC has fungal infection and will need 40 days of meds; Pupzilla needed a "pre-geriatric screening")
  • wrote Angel a to do list on kitchen blackboard so life continues while I'm away
  • packed for 10 days of beach camping and city life
  • weighed bag to make sure it isn't over 50 lbs (2 bags under 50 lbs is cheaper than 1 bag over - don't you love flying these days?)
  • provided feedback to student's dissertation grant application
  • organized lit review articles for manuscript--so I can hopefully pick it back up when vacation is over
  • returned all emails
  • made yummy snack for 6 hour flight that will charge me for inedible food
Can't believe I got it all done but it seems I did and I'm leaving for the airport in a few minutes. Tonight I'll be snuggling my sweetie and tomorrow we'll hit the road and head on down the coast.

I'll be traveling with all electronics, so if internet is available I may pop in to say hi and give updates.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Birthday Post

I met b 3 months after I officially left my Ex. I wasn't looking for a real relationship but there was something about b that made me pursue one. I asked b out on our first 2 dates. The first date was for drinks on a Friday night. We didn't have much time. I had to pick Angel up from his dad and the next day I was leaving for a business trip to Seattle. The next afternoon I left early for the airport and got to my gate before my flight was posted. Normally I spend all my waiting time working but that day I sat around leisurely thinking about the previous night's date. In my daydreaming I lost track of time. At some point I realized I should be boarding but there was no one at my gate. I had completely missed all the gate change announcements and although I ran to the new gate (in another terminal) it was too late. They put me on another flight that left at 6am Sunday morning. I wasn't needed in Seattle until Monday morning, so this was not a huge problem. I quickly realized that I had a free Saturday night (Angel was spending the weekend with his Dad because of my travels) so I called b from the airport and asked him if he'd like to take me out to dinner.

That was the best date of my life.

Our early dating life was a bit rocky. I did just about everything you shouldn't do: I left my toothbrush the first time I stayed over; I was way too extravagant in my gift giving on his first birthday; I said "I love you" when I knew he couldn't reciprocate. I could blame it all on my general lack of dating experience (I had been with my Ex since I was sixteen) but I did know better. There was just something about b that felt right and now over 10 years later it is still right.

Today is b's birthday and he is in Seattle. I thought I would post a poem that I wrote about b, early in our relationship but after the bumpy dating years.

Breathing

You and I

do not make

for great love

poems.


With us

there is no pining;

no heartfelt stares;

no deep sighs;

no dreams left

unrealized.


Life without you

still has air;

it has birds

and flowers

and beauty

everywhere.

I just don’t

care.


With you

there are no

syrupy songs;

just sweet air

and the rhythm

of you and me--

breathing in,

breathing out.

Life

as it should

be.


Happy Birthday b...I'll see you in Seattle.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

RBOC: Home Alone Edition

  • I dropped b off at the airport yesterday. He's in Seattle for business purposes.
  • I dropped Angel off at the airport this morning. He's going to see his dad for Father's Day.
  • I am officially alone for a few days.
  • Angel comes back Tuesday night and Wed afternoon I leave to meet b in Seattle, to begin our Great Pacific Northwest Vacation [GPNV].
  • Last night, while Angel was working, I watched Little Miss Sunshine. I like to rent movies and TV shows when b is gone. For some reason he had no interest in ever seeing the movie but I rather enjoyed it. Angel came home early and watched the last 15 minutes with me.
  • After the movie, Angel and I had a 'sharing' about his relationship with his father. He has been conflicted about that relationship since he was about 13 and we have had these talks every time he gets ready for a visit. I feel bad that he has such difficultly reconciling his feelings and I'm not sure the talks help all that much (considering they've been going on for over 6 years) but they seem necessary for him.
  • I'm thinking of renting Crumb tonight. It looks delightfully icky. Or perhaps the original Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. I haven't seen the new one yet and haven't seen the old one since I was a kid living UpNorth. I find I really enjoy watching tv shows and movies that depict the city the way I remember it and not the way it is now.
  • Of course I'm currently behind on The Unusuals and I'm slowly working my way through the first season of Brothers and Sisters, so I have plenty of options.
  • Yesterday I went back to the used bookstore to use up some of my credit. I found Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country (on my summer list) but also picked up LeGuin's Orsinian Tales, Yolen's Dragon's Blood, and L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.
  • I don't have a lot of memories from my childhood (repression - it's a good thing) but can recreate most of it when perusing children's literature. I really wanted to find Nesbitt's Five Children and It but no such luck.
  • I also spent a great deal of yesterday researching alternate itineraries for our GPNV. We'll be doing a road trip down the coast with lots of camping and then some city/hotel life on the way back.
  • I enjoy the planning but don't like being trapped in a plan--thus the numerous alternative itineraries.
  • We may not use any of them.
  • Its warm here in SouthLite but without the menfolk I can turn the AC off and enjoy open windows.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Working Hard At Not Working

I took a 3-day weekend off from work. I can't remember the last time I did that without going camping. Technically I cheated a little when I typed up some ideas I had for one of my fall classes, but I didn't want to forget them.

In order to not work I:
  • Ran errands--with Pumpkin--for most of Friday. One of those errands was taking TOC to the vet. She had scratched up her face and neck horribly--from fleas we think--and they needed to put her under just to examine her. As she was coming out of anesthesia her heart stopped and they had to do kitty CPR. Luckily they got her back. Now the doctor has sent out blood work thinking something might be seriously wrong with her. b and I both believe they gave her too big of a dose (TOC is a very little cat). Since she's been home she's been living in Pupzilla's old crate in her own room. She is now very happy, comfortable and spry. However she refuses to leave the crate. In many ways she is a brand-new cat. We barely recognize her. b thinks she had a out-of-body experience.
  • I also brought a box full of books to our local used bookstore. It is hard for me to believe I've lived in SouthLite and have never visited this bookstore before. I also didn't realize they give store credit for old books. I got $26 worth of credit.
  • I used $6 for this book that was on my summer reading list. I've already finished it. It was just ok. I think I truly enjoyed one book by Hegi and have read most of her others hoping to like them as much. b claims I just like reading books by women named Ursula.
  • Friday nite was date nite. b and I tried out a new bar (we're always searching for bars that have Guinness on tap) and then had Mexican food.
  • Saturday I shopped for food, blogged, cooked and did a small workout.
  • Saturday nite b and I rented a really really bad movie. Wish we had read the review first.
  • Today I baked a cherry pie. It was my second pie attempt and turned out quite tasty but it won't be winning any beauty awards.
  • After all that baking I did a longer workout.

While it was hard at times not to work, it was mostly because work is my default. However I'm not completely immersed in any one project right now, so nothing was really calling to me. Tomorrow I'm back in the office with my summer students.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

On Raising Boys II

So last week I wrote about raising boys from the vantage point of letting them go. Today I read this post over at Mothers' For Women's Lib. In it msruthmoss, who is raising a 2 year old boy, questions how mothers do/can raise a boy to be a feminist. She, rightly in my book, recognizes that there is more at stake than raising a man who will do housework willingly and there is more to the process than encouraging "feminine" interests in your child. She questions exactly what influence does a mother have and how do we/should we wield that influence.

Having raised a boy, and one who considers himself a feminist, I thought it might be useful to talk about what I learned in the process. I did not consciously raise him to "be a feminist." Honestly that never occurred to me. I raised him in the values that I hold and those are feminist values. I also did not raise him to be "more like little girls," which is one suggestion msruthmoss has come across.

I did not disallow guns or games of war in my house while he was growing up. That would not have been possible in a household with two martial artists. Angel grew up with real swords and sticks and staffs in the house. Angel grew up in a dojo with people literally fighting over his head as he ran between their legs. Angel grew up with a physically and emotionally powerful man as his father; a man with the ultimate position of authority in a dojo. Angel grew up the son of a sensei. However, Angel also grew up seeing his mother and his aunt fighting and teaching men how to fight. But more importantly, Angel grew up learning what physical power does and doesn't mean and how it should be used--with great respect and humbleness. Angel grew up understanding the importance of NOT fighting and for men in our society I believe knowing how to fight and that you CAN fight goes along way in helping to deter pressure to fight and prove yourself. Angel, at 19, has yet to be in a fight outside of sparring in the dojo.

msruthmoss talks about male peer pressure and how this is a powerful influence on young boys. I agree with her that teaching your child to say no is essential and to do that properly you need to accept that you will be the main person they practice on. I believe in negotiating with children whenever possible. I think it teaches them to think of alternatives; to realize that power can be shared; and it gives them excellent verbal skills. However I don't see that as a gender issue. I think it is as critical for a girl as for a boy.

Peer pressure is not always overt. In fact, indirect peer pressure is far more insidious than direct. With indirect peer pressure there is no obvious point in which you say "no." In fact you need to make the moment and speak out against the unwritten, unspoken masculine influence. No one is going to ask you if you think date rape is ok--they're just going to make jokes or comments that create an atmosphere where it is acceptable. First you need to recognize, not just that date rape is rape and rape is wrong, but that the jokes and comments are wrong and harmful. You need to believe that by speaking up you can make a difference. Finally you need to be willing to speak up and risk ridicule, social isolation, or worse. That is a lot to expect from a young boy/man and, as a mother, I think we need to accept that they will fail at times. But they will come home with the stories.

As a mother I need to recognize that when Angel tells me a "story" it means he is conflicted about what happened and his part in it. And I need to help him process it. I also need to accept that he may reject what I believe is the "right" action--as a feminist--as a human.

After the age of 13, Angel no longer admitted to many of his emotions and he no longer cried. I had tried my best to allow him space for both of those actions as he was growing up but there came a point where outside influences on what it means to "be a man" in this society took over. Feminist boys need to learn how to live in a society that is not feminist. They need to feel they have a place and a role and currently we don't do a very good job of providing one for them. For Angel, recognizing that this safe space was taken from him; that society doesn't allow the emotions he admits he still has but keeps under wraps, has driven him to try to understand feminism as an adult.

Angel is a thin, young, white, heterosexual, biological male who identifies as a man. He is the exact description that Lesbian Dad describes as the mythical norm in this post. So when I speak of raising boys I need to acknowledge that I can only speak to raising a very specific type of boy and that many of these issues are probably vastly different for mothers raising boys of different races and sexual identities. Angel struggles to see his privilege. It is often a source of friction between the two of us. As I've written about before, we are both struggling with his need to separate from me and discussions of our individual interpretations of feminism and white privilege can get heated. It is hard for me to hear his view sometimes, but I believe I need to hear it; to argue it; but also to accept it as his view. I believe that is the only way we ever get change to occur.

I had many surprises in raising my son and I expect to have many more in the future. I was raised in an all-female household and knew very little about masculinity when I gave birth to him. One of my biggest surprises was the male capacity to nurture. I certainly saw this in Angel at a young age, but I was more surprised to see it in the teenage boys that would interact with him. Angel always sought the attention of older boys and men. Older men would interact with him in a very domineering way (i.e. taking his toy and then trying to get him to fight for it back) but the teen boys--even the roughest looking of them--were always gentle. Showing him what they were doing; teaching him things; empowering him and encouraging him. My sister hired a young man to babysit her boys when they were in elementary school and it was a wonderful experience for everyone involved. Now my younger nephew at 13 has a job babysitting a 6-year old boy. He is gentle and caring and takes his position very seriously. So for those who are raising boys I would advise enlisting the help of older boys in their care and then when your sons are old enough, allow them to care for younger boys. Let's give boys meaningful opportunities to experience and excel at the job of nurturing. Lets enlist the help of boys to raise boys.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

On Raising Boys

I've been thinking about this post for quite a while now but haven't been able to get myself to write it. Even now I'm not sure if this post will be THIS post by the time I'm through.

Lesbian Dad who writes beautiful posts to go with her beautiful photos of her children, wrote one the other day about her love for her son. Take a moment to read it and then come back for the rest of this post. It will make more sense that way.

I didn't raise a girl child along with my boy child so I have no frame of reference for the difference but Angel definitely hit me like a freight train carrying lions. It was painful. It still is.

The other post you'll need to read for a hope that any of this will make sense is this one by Annie King. Go on over and read the whole thing but don't get so confused by the similar wallpaper that you forget to come back.

As I mentioned to Annie in the comments--I miss that. Angel was never a whiz at math nor has he ever dreamed of building armor in leather and steel or of getting a doctorate in history, but I know that...or at least I knew that. I remember that time well and it really wasn't that long ago--yet its a lifetime.

Angel asked me the other day if I liked having him home for the summer. I answered as best and as honestly as I could but it was a half answer because I don't really know the answer. I said yes and no. I miss him when he's gone and I enjoy him when he's here. But, I told him, life is less complicated when he's at school. This part is very true but my explanation of the complication was only a partial answer. It is hard to say exactly what the complication is other than when he's at school I don't have a daily reminder of the Angels that are no longer here. When he's away I can just miss him. When he's here I miss all the hims. I miss chubby baby Angel. I miss toddler Angel. I miss 8 year old Angel who wore glasses for just that one year. I miss skinny 14 year old Angel who played on the football team in HS but never made it off the bench. I'd go on but I think you're getting my drift.

This Angel is an amazing young man. I am still pinned by the freight train but its DIFFERENT and I can't quite explain how. We have a great relationship and I know we always will but he is now an adult child and not a child child.

Over the years I've heard many mothers mourn the ending of each stage as their child grew to the next one. They missed their baby while loving their toddler; they missed their toddler while loving their kindergartner. I never looked back. At each new stage I found him so amazing that the freight train would hit again and I'd forget there ever was a different Angel. And its not that I don't find this stage amazing but somehow I'm mourning all the other stages at once.

I wrote previously about how difficult it was having Angel come home during the school year. He was distant in a way he's never been. He was itchy and made it clear he didn't feel this was his home anymore. I was nervous that the entire summer would be like that but its not. He's relaxed in a way he hasn't been all year. The year at school was a good one for him in many ways but he seems to need to be home and is getting some perspective on school and his friends that I think is very positive. He is more of his old self and not as distant. He is bored but not itchy. He's companionable and easy-going and we talk about poetry and politics. But there is a huge difference between a boy and his mother and a man and his mother.

I love the man but I miss the boy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Work On The Work

I finished writing my annual review yesterday. At SouthLite we are supposed to tally up all of our "products" (research, teaching and service) for the year via a web-based system with an incredibly awkward interface and then write a "reflective" piece on each area. I was tempted to include my tenure packet as a manuscript. Honestly the amount of time I have spent on writing about my writing (and research and teaching and service) for the tenure packet, the teaching award application, and this annual review could easily equal two--maybe three--papers.

My friend, A-Girl, and I often commiserate on the "work-before-the-work," which is what we call all of the bureaucratic form-filling, back-scratching, somersault-turning shenanigans one has to go through within an institution before you can even start your research. I now see that academia has this on two fronts--the "work-before-the-work" and then the "work-on-the-work."

When do I just get to work?

All whining aside, my other revelation is that the academic year is very similar to the first year of mothering: you feel busy all the time, torn in multiple directions, don't get enough sleep, don't take very good care of yourself, feel like you are accomplishing a great feat if you manage to shower on a daily basis and at the end of the day there are very few tangible products--yet you can't imagine doing anything else.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In The Interlude

Probably the most helpful lesson I've learned since coming to SouthLite is how to write in the interludes. As with many people, graduate school trained me to section off large blocks of time for writing. For me these times occurred mostly late at night when Angel was sleeping. My old job reinforced this habit. No one had any teaching responsibilities and when a grant deadline loomed we were able to stop all other activity just to write. It was also common for someone to squirrel themselves away a few days before other important deadlines--reports, resubmissions, special journals. Both experiences also lent themselves to procrastination. My ex-boss definitely believed he worked better when pressed for time and we all fell into that last minute, late-night habit.

After graduating I slowly started learning how to write on a daily basis and to start tasks way before they were due. However I still needed long blocks of time and I often had them. Here at SouthLite there is no such luxury (except in the summertime) so I've had to learn to write throughout the day and whenever I have a few moments. I found it wasn't simply a matter of scheduling but also of rethinking how I approach writing. I think the two most successful tactics I use are to (a) write myself notes and memos throughout the day so that I don't lose the ideas that arise while reading or thinking about a project; and (b) to think about projects in smaller units so that when I have 15 minutes I can use it to revise a paragraph that I know needs attention or to write out one point I know I want to make in the discussion section of a paper. Of course I still need longer periods of time to write but I find when I can arrange the time I am much more productive. For example I spent most of Sunday writing Grant #2. By the end of the day I had 3-4 missing chunks. Monday was filled with meetings and people dropping by my office. In between the meetings and conversations I searched for and read articles that I needed to fill the gaps. I wrote myself notes from the articles and from random thoughts that would pop into my head as the day progressed. Today when I sat down to finish off the draft, it came smoothly and I was done in 2 hours.

When I was young I worked out every day for several hours a day. As my life and career progressed this was no longer a viable option and I was very good at setting aside chunks of time to exercise. Now I'm finding that approach isn't working for me as well as it once did. Large chunks of time devoted to anything don't really work well in my new life--at least not on a consistent basis and, like writing, I want physical activity to be a constant in my life. So I'm wondering if I can incorporate activity into small chunks of my day and rethink how I approach being active as I have done with writing. There is some data to support short bursts of activity being more effective for increasing metabolism than longer bouts of exercise. Of course this is not the way to tone up or slim down but quite frankly that doesn't seem as important to me anymore. I want my body to work well and work for me. My days of being a competitive athlete are way behind me. I've begun to think long-term--what will make my body feel best now and in the years to come?

I already walk to work most days and home from work every other day. I also try to take walks across campus in the middle of the day. I'd like to incorporate brief workouts at home in the mornings and evenings. I like the idea of getting out of my chair periodically and doing 10-15 minutes of gentle exercises throughout the day. I realize it is not just a matter of scheduling but of rethinking how I live my life.