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, January 31, 2010

Playing In The Snow

I spent the morning playing with snow words and snow images.

Snow Day

What for others is crisp, clean,
even sparkly,
for me is barren and cold.

Waking up to an altered landscape,
your ice-laden purity,
fails to bring the allure of promise.

Instead I see a future with
streets dressed in black, brown and grey-hued
mounds of solidified exhaust

I'll build no snowmen;
I'll forgo an icy descent
belly-down on plastic,
face inches from the
slushy cold.

But you'll mock me nonetheless,
your pristine sameness interrupted
by a parade of turquoise and fuchsia wool.

I too once believed
long ago
your myths of home and hearth
of exploration and adventure
of endless beauty and wonder

But now I know you can only
the luscious pain and beauty
I've see every day.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Feeling Good

This is one of my favorite songs of Nina Simone....

...and it sums up my overall mood lately.

Why have I been blessed with such a joyous mood that even a 2-hr repeat faculty meeting can't unhinge me? It all has to do with the new gym. I've been going daily. I think there may have only been one day since I've started this little affair that I've missed our rendezvous.

I've always known that exercise changes me substantially and for large periods of my life I've profited from that knowledge. However the last two years I somehow managed to ignore this fact and, it seems, have suffered greatly. I was starting to feel old.

I've worked out a gym schedule for the semester. It goes something like this:
  • Mondays: 30 minutes cardio (machine)/45 minutes weights (machines)/15 minutes steam
  • Tuesdays: 60 minutes Tai Chi
  • Wednesdays: 30 minutes cardio (machine)/45 minutes weights (machines)/15 minutes steam (considering substituting a Pilates class every now and again)
  • Thursday: 60 minutes Yoga
  • Friday: 45 minutes weights (machines/20 minutes swim/15 minutes hot tub/10 minutes steam
  • Saturday: 60 minutes yoga & pilates type class/60 minutes Tai Chi
  • Sunday: 60 minutes Yoga/30 minutes cardio (machine)
I've been struggling with the martial arts community in SouthLite. It is small and not quite what I've wanted/needed. This tai chi class seems to have a dedicated following with varying levels of experience. More importantly the instructor knows what he is doing and I think I can learn something from him.

I've also always thought I'd dislike yoga classes. I've learned many of the postures from martial arts classes but never thought I'd enjoy taking an actual class. I'm happy to say that I was sadly mistaken and I leave every class feeling like the real me.

I'm being very very possessive of my time this semester. So far it is working and I'm still managing to get research done. Hopefully I can keep this going.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's A Man's World...

***Updated to appease Drax****

...at least at the movies. A while back I ran across this post about The Rule from an Alison Bechdel comic strip. The Rule is a guideline for what movies the main character will go to see. The requirements are:
  1. There has to be at least two women in it who
  2. talk to each other about
  3. something besides a man.
Seems pretty simple, eh? Well as it turns out we are hard pressed to find movies that actually fulfill these requirements.

I found this blog where readers can nominate movies and rate them on how many of the requirements they fulfill. It is pretty sad and quite frankly I disagree with many of the ratings. Personally I feel if the conversation the two women have involves having a baby that should also count as a rule violation, but hey, maybe I'm being too picky.

I found these posts around the end of the year so I couldn't resist making a list of the movies I I watched in 2009 (I only included movies released in 2009) and wanted to see how they fared. I'm sorry to say, not to well. Here they are:
  1. Star Trek
  2. 2012
  3. The Hangover
  4. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (It was on Netflix. We were bored and desperate.)
  5. Funny People
  6. The Taking of Pelham 123
  7. The Soloist
  8. Julie & Julia
  9. The Men Who Stare At Goats
  10. Sunshine Cleaning
  11. Good Hair
  12. Tyson
  13. Up In The Air
  14. Sherlock Holmes
By my best estimate, only 2 of the 14 (14%) possibly meet all three requirements (Julie & Julia & Sunshine Cleaning). Even sadder, very few even have 2 women in them, no less talking to each other about anything.

What movies have you seen that meet the requirements?

Friday, January 22, 2010

One of those Days

  • A colleague of b's dropped by the house half an hour early to ride into work with him. I was still in bed and asleep. Nice guy but NOT how I like to start my day.
  • b had another flat.
  • I was supposed to work at home but had to go in for a "appreciation luncheon" with my Dean, the Provost and the Chancellor. I had been nominated for a school-wide teaching award and they decided to have an event for all of us who did NOT win (aka "Loser's Lunch").*
  • The lunch was highly fattening and not very tasty.
  • After lunch I worked on my grant a bit and then headed home to work. When I got home I received an email informing me a paper I submitted over NINE months ago was rejected.**
  • One of our Netflix DVDs seems to be missing in action. It was supposed to arrive yesterday but nothing yet.
  • I was way too tired and cold and full to go to the gym so today is the first day I've skipped in 11 days.
  • b's still having problems with his bike so I'm off to pick him up from work.

*I never expected to win and am fine with that....just would have preferred to skip the lunch.
**The reviews themselves weren't bad and could be helpful but the 9 months is painful. Plus one of the reviewers feels there's a fatal flaw with the data...don't know if I agree or how I feel about that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Working At Home: A Photo Essay

Today I worked at home.

Pupzilla and The Brute kept me company as I slaved over the computer trying to revise my grant for a fast approaching due date.



The joy of working at home is that I get to slave over a hot stove/oven in between slaving over the computer. Today I baked another loaf of NoKnead Bread. It came out divine but I'm still burning the bottom a little.

Taken While the Bread was "Singing"

I also recreated my Boef Bourguignon (Well actually The Joy of Cooking's Boef Bourguignon). I used to make this for Thanksgiving back when I refused to eat turkey. It was b's first time trying it and he gave it rave reviews.

Taken Halfway Through Dinner After Remembering I needed a Photo

In between grant writing/cooking/baking I popped over to the gym for a yoga class (sorry no pictures). I'm totally enjoying yoga, which is something I never expected. I'm thinking I need to do it two or three times a week to keep this level of sanity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Living The Single Car Life

b and I have one (old) car between us. I would like to say this is completely because of environmental concerns but truthfully it is also helpful financially. On most days b rides his bike to work and I walk to the university. However there are a number of variables that can affect our transportation needs. While b rides in the rain and the cold, when its really icy (or really hot) or when its just been too many days of bad weather, he may want to drive to work. Likewise if I have too many books or boxes to fit in my backpack, I may need a vehicle to get me to my office. Working late is also a consideration for both of us, although more so for me, as I don't think it wise to walk home in the dark after an evening class. For me there is the added deterrent of parking on campus--both the expense and the difficulty--that keeps me from wanting to drive to work.

However the gym is a little too far for me to comfortably walk (and actually have time to do a workout), so this has added a bit of a wrench in our transportation plans. To successfully live with only one car we have to remain in constant communication about our daily plans, problem-solve, and compromise. I offer up this morning as a prime example.

b was set to ride into work and I was getting ready to drive to they gym. b discovered he had a flat and no repair kit, so we had to put his bike on the roof-rack and drive him to his job. After dropping him off I headed over to the gym, worked out and showered. After the gym I had to drive home, strap on my backpack and walk to work. He has already fixed his flat at work (where there are repair kits) and will ride home this evening. After making dinner, he will head over the university to pick me up when my class lets out at 9 pm.

It ain't pretty but we make it work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

RBOC: The Day Before

  • Tomorrow I teach my first class of the semester. It seems like every academic blogger I read has been teaching for the past week or two. Pumpkin and Angel have both been in school for a week. This past week has been a gift.
  • Today was my 9th day in a row of going to the gym. Unfortunately the women's steam room is now broken in both locations.
  • Yesterday b took a yoga class with me at the gym. The instructor commented publicly on his "open hips" and wished that she had his flexibility. That's right ladies, my man has enviable hips. I'm really not sure what to make of that.
  • Tomorrow I was going to start the day with a doctoral committee meeting and I was planning on getting up really early (for me) to make the gym. Today that meeting got cancelled. Score!
  • Today is really the last day I can take off for a while. There is a grant I'm supposed to be revising but b is off and playing with him is just too much fun.
  • Yesterday b and I went to the dojo to work out alone (I have a key). b has a new GoPro camera and put it on his head while we sparred. Its weird to watch yourself fighting. I told him next time I should wear it so he can see what he looks like.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A New Year/A New Gym

I bit the bullet and joined a new gym this year. When I first moved to SouthLite I signed myself and b up for the gym at my university. It is a fairly large and well-stocked gym and it's cheap. Year 1 we went fairly regularly but I was always annoyed that the gym was either closed or had limited hours the times of the year I had the most time. Year 2 we went more infrequently but we still went. However the more I taught the more I ran into students I knew while I was working out. Initially I didn't think this would bother me but eventually it did. b and I also felt a little less than comfortable working out in a gym that was predominately filled with scantily-clad people that were more than 20 years our junior. By Year 3 we had stopped going and I ended our membership.

I did most of last year without a gym. We did go to the dojo fairly frequently and I tried my best to keep running. Unfortunately the workouts at the dojo are far from enough for me and when its really really hot here (which is often) I just can't run outdoors. Needless to say my fitness level has been steadily dropping. On top of that, putting my tenure packet together last year really didn't help matters.

b is still going to the dojo but I just don't have the heart for it. Ultimately it is a kind place but just doesn't fill my workout or my martial arts needs. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the martial arts part of the equation (other than practice on my own) but I decided to pay the money and join a more expensive gym. I actually got a good deal so for the next 18 months it won't cost anymore than the local Y.

One of the things that is important to me in a gym (besides having people my own age who don't call me Dr. Brigindo) is a steam room. I haven't had a gym with a steam room in a very long time. This may sound like an odd requirement for a gym but I REALLY like to steam and will go and workout just to justify it. The gym I joined is our little city's luxury gym. There are two facilities (in different parts of town but both just over 2 miles from my house) that I can frequent and I can buy $5 passes for when b wants to come with me. There are many machines, a large selection of free weights, lots and lots of classes, and a really big pool in one of the sites (the other has a small pool in an inconvenient location). The locker rooms have more amenities that I have in my home. In short I'm quite taken with this gym and have been there everyday this week.

Yesterday I took a yoga class. I've done many yoga moves in my martial arts career and have taken one or two lame yoga classes but this was the real thing. It was wonderful. Can't wait for the next one.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Things I Never Thought Possible

  • Being married to someone that no matter how much time I spend with him I always miss him when we're apart.
  • Having a blog; thinking up blog posts while shopping; having people who want to read my blog.*
  • Being ok with Angel living on his own and sometimes even enjoying it.
  • Living in the South.
  • Having a daughter.
  • The South would be so friggin' cold!

*Thanks to all who have delurked and/or just wanted to say hi. Knowing you're out there makes it all worthwhile.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The State of Lurking

Last week in a fit of vacation-filled delirium I decided to revisit my "reader issues" with Google Reader. I used to follow my ever growing list of blogs via BlogLines but the site seemed inconsistent and troublesome. Since then I've been following off of my own bloglist, that now notifies me when there is a new post. However this too has been failing, so I'm trying out Google Reader. I like using readers but I'm less likely to comment. I'm not sure why, as its really not all that hard to click through and I do like seeing each blog, but once you're in the reader mindset its hard to get out.

Serendipitously, MFA Mama has informed me that it is National Delurking Week. I've never asked people to delurk here before, yet I do find myself curious about my lurking readers. I'm going to try and take advantage of delurking week and comment on sites where I both do and don't frequently comment. Hopefully this will get me comfortable commenting through GoogleReader. As for the rest of you, feel free to delurk and give us a chance to meet you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Traditions: New Year's Day

Before I realized I would be spending all of New Year's Eve and the beginning of New Year's Day in a maternity ward, I had planned to cook my grandmother's traditional New Year's Day dinner: Sauerbraten, potato dumplings and german red cabbage. I was also going to try some popovers from a recipe found in one of my under-the-tree presents.

Sauerbraten takes three days to marinade and 4 hours to cook, so when I arrived home at 9:30 am without having slept in over 24 hours, I didn't really have the option of changing dinner plans. Instead the meat went in the oven and I took a 2 1/2 hour power nap. Luckily b helped out and we managed to whip together the improvised potato dumplings and cabbage. Alas the popovers didn't make it. I had planned to serve 3 different homemade ice creams (thanks to another present b and I gave to ourselves): raspberry, coffee and cinnamon. Due to the amount of time it takes for the ice cream maker to refreeze, the cinnamon ice cream didn't make it either.

Nevertheless, dinner was quite the success. A very tired Pumpkin (who spent the day packing after her power nap) and BB came over to help us eat it all. Below are some photos of the process.

The Ingredients (recipe calls for juniper berries)

The Browning of the Meat

Marinating Meat Needs to be Turned Daily

Preparing the Potato Dumplings (Dumpling Flour Wrapped Around Croutons)

Cooked Sauerbraten Sans Ginger-Snap Sauce

First Birth

As alluded to in my previous post, I spent New Year's Eve helping a young woman give birth. I'm bound by confidentiality and can't give details on the birth itself but I can describe what the experience has done for me.

First I should say that it was the most awesome way to celebrate the new year. I find the whole New Year phenomenon to be a little self-indulgent. A lot of time spent thinking and talking about how the year has effected us and how we want our lives to be better in the next year. Previously my best times on New Year's Eve was when I used to do the Midnight Run with my sister. That felt very healthy and positive--like I was already starting the New Year doing something good for myself instead of one last night of debauchery before submitting to my resolutions.

This was a completely different experience because I felt I was doing something important. I really can't stress that enough. In general I feel I do many important things with my life and my research but very little has compared with staying in the moment for 18 hours of someone else's labor. This young woman, through a number of unfortunate circumstances, had no one else to be with her during her birth and she was scared. While she had nurses and doctors--who were mostly wonderful and helpful--they were in and out of the room. Pumpkin and I stayed with her, comforted her, massaged her, encouraged her and kept her focused. No matter how tired I got (and I got plenty tired) or how bad I felt about bailing on b on New Year's Eve (he rang in the new year with Pumpkin's boyfriend), I couldn't shake the feeling that it was critically important to be in that room and by her side.

The act of touching, physically touching, is incredibly important to me. This is not at all apparent when you first meet me. I tend to be physically stand-offish until I get to know you. With some people I never get affectionate. I'm not a "casual toucher." I don't give fake kisses or superficial pats on the arm. If I give you a hug, you know you've been hugged and I believe strongly in the art of holding hands. One of the most painful aspects of Angel moving out has been his reluctance to be touched or hugged. More important to the current story, when I see someone in pain it is really hard for me NOT to touch them. Some women don't like to be touched when they are in labor. I think that will be a very difficult birth for me. This woman was shy about asking for touches and massages but they ended up bringing her great comfort. However, as her labor progressed, holding our hands became a ritualistic necessity. It is amazing to think that holding someone's hand can be that important but it was.

I thought witnessing the actual birth would be the most life-altering part for me. It was an amazing moment and I'm glad I got the opportunity to see a baby emerge into the world. However I wasn't filled with joy and wonder. Instead I felt relief--relief that her pain had finally ended. I realized later this was exactly how I felt when Angel was born. His father was overjoyed and filled with love for this new person but all I could feel was merciful relief. It was much later in the day before I had that moment of awe while holding Angel. I also did not feel any desire to hold this baby. He was cute and sweet as could be but I've realized I'm really not doing this for the baby. My loyalty, concern, and admiration was all for the mother. Mothering is incredibly hard work--it starts with birthing but doesn't really get any easier. I keep seeing more and more organizations and movements that call upon mothers to create social change but there are so few organizations that truly support mothers and motherhood. Public concern for mothers is thinly disguised concern for babies and children. Being a doula is one way that I feel I can directly support mothers.

In addition to being my first birth, this experience was especially meaningful because I did it with Pumpkin. Our original plan was for the four of us to quietly ring in the new year and then have my family's traditional New Year's Day dinner before Pumpkin moved away to graduate school on Saturday. While that would have been a lovely way to say good-bye, the time we spent in that birthing room took our relationship to another level. No matter where life takes her, this is something we will always share.

Pumpkin did an incredible job. We had very different but complimentary styles and I was amazed at all of the facts and techniques that she remembered from the training. In some ways it was harder for her having never given birth but she was also much closer to this woman's age and I think could relate to her in ways that are no longer possible for me. All-in-all I think we were a great team and while I definitely can see ways I can improve for the future, we gave this woman a positive birth experience.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Decade Review

A few people have been reviewing the last decades with year-by-year highlights. I like that idea a lot (and I'm way too tired to do the substantial posts that are brewing) so I thought I'd try it.

Spent the year not-dating but secretly dating b and dating other men; was supposed to be working on my dissertation but didn't (I believe this year--along with 1999--was more about acting adolescent than adolescence actually was); TOC came into our lives.

b and I got serious; Pupzilla came into our lives and made us a family; I got serious about my dissertation

Defended my dissertation, graduated, got a faculty appointment, bought a house w/ b and moved outside of the city; b started his own business

Lost my brother-in-law very unexpectedly, married b; b started working for horrible photographer; Angel started having serious issues with his father

2004 - 2005
Started getting into deep financial debt w/ house I loved but couldn't afford; b unemployed and then retrained as EMT and eventually paramedic; hated my own job and went on job search; discovered my research agenda. The Brute came into our lives.

Found and landed current job; moved to SouthLite; spent entire year not selling house and falling deeper and deeper in debt; finally sold house at a loss in December; b took outdoor leadership course he always dreamed of and started yet another career

Watched Angel graduate high school; helped Angel get into college and decide to defer; started slow process of paying off debt; learned to juggle research and teaching; started blog

Met and emotionally adopted Pumpkin; sent Angel to college and dealt with the emotional fallout (mine); got obsessively serious about my research

Adjusted to life post-active mothering; submitted tenure dossier; started doula training

2010 (so far)
Assisted at my first birth (separate post to follow); said good-bye to Pumpkin as she moved away to graduate school; who knows what comes next?