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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thoughts At The End Of Week One

The first week of classes is officially over.  As first weeks go, it was pretty sweet.  The biggest downside is that, what with our new workout schedule, I have been completely exhausted by the end of each day.  The weather has finally turned nice here in SouthLite and I really really wanted to take a bike ride last night.  However it was all I could do to find myself something to eat and crawl into bed with my latest passion (soon to be a blog post on its own).

The other issue with this semester is that it is going to be crazy busy for me and a lot of that is going to be service (not my favorite).  As I may have mentioned, I am the new Doctoral Program Coordinator in my department (yay tenure).  Of all our programs, I am most committed to the doctoral program and its students so I feel this is really worthwhile service.  I think I have already made a difference in the lives of several students and I'm hoping to have a larger impact on the program.  It is a very new, fledgling program, and needs some TLC.

Morale was fairly low among the doctoral students last year, so I suggested a once a month shindig at one of my favorite local watering holes.  The students were interested (b thinks it is somehow wrong that I'm drinking with students, but they are all well over 21) and we had our first meeting tonight.  The weather (we sat outdoors) and venue were perfect and everyone had a great time. Of course this isn't the most significant change I need to make, but sometimes the little things can go a long way.

I'm teaching two courses this semester.  This is the third time I'm teaching both of them so the preps aren't too difficult.  One is an undergraduate course in Women's Health.  I enjoy teaching this class, as it is crosslisted with the Women & Gender Studies Program and has a strong feminist bent. I usually have the joy of seeing students get the "aha" moment about women's roles and feminism in this country. This semester I have changed things up a little bit and added a service learning component. I LOVE service learning.  I really like to get students out into the real world and see what it is all about.  I've done it before with small groups of students but never an entire class. Most of the students seem really psyched about it.  I have three community partners and they will all be coming in next week to describe their agencies.  The students will then pick first and second choices for the project they want to work on.  Each agency serves either women or girls in the community and the students will get a chance to directly apply what they are learning in class.

My other course is a doctoral class in qualitative methods.  I am one of those nerds that really enjoys teaching methods.  I read about methods and think about methods quite a bit, so I enjoy the opportunity to talk about it and get really deep into it with my students.  Doctoral classes are great because they are generally small and three hours long.  We can really take our time and get into some meaty stuff.  I also like teaching methods because, in between the heady philosophy stuff, I can make it very interactive and hands on.  This year I know everyone in the course very well so it should be loads of fun.

There is a lot of political drama going on in my department and in the university this year.  I haven't been able to stay completely out of it (and it probably isn't wise to do so) but the location of my new office has afforded me some protection, for which I am really grateful.  My new office is absolutely fabulous.  It is comfortable and organized and big enough that I can have students around without feeling cramped.  Also, since it is on the other side of campus it forces me to walk a lot more during the day.

My office is also a great spot to write and I've gotten a lot of writing done this week.  This has felt wonderful because I went about two weeks without writing a word.  When I can't write on a regular basis I get kind of itchy.  It is a feeling that is hard to describe but I know it whenever it comes.  So this week has been all about scratching that itch.  I even managed to resubmit a paper today.

It was also Angel's first week of school.  Due to some financial glitches last semester he ended up waitlisted on three courses that he needed.  He only got into one of them and needed to find a back-up course.  He called to tell me he had decided on an Introduction to Feminism course.  And if that is not cool enough, he also needs to find a person he can talk to about feminism for the class. He has picked yours truly.  His first assignment is to ask me my definition of feminism and to get me to draw a picture of what a feminist looks like.  I believe he is also supposed to draw a picture and then we compare them.  How much fun is that?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tenure Book

In my university promotion and tenure is celebrated by having faculty select a book for the library collection.   It is then bookplated to commemorate your accomplishment.  This book is usually one that has shaped your worldview and you are asked to write a brief statement about why you chose it.  There is also a photo of you holding the book and then a reception for all honorees for the current year.

The reception is next month and I am behind on my statement and photo.  After much consideration (asking me to pick one book that has shaped my worldview is cruel) I chose Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution.

Here is what I wrote:

I was not prepared for this book when I first read it in my early twenties. When I picked the book up I was not expecting to finish it.  I was not yet a mother and did not believe I would find much in it that was relevant to my life.  I was very wrong. I swallowed the book whole. While I had read a fair amount of critical feminist literature by that time, I had never encountered a text that so eloquently interspersed personal narrative with historical and literary analysis.  My eyes were opened to motherhood as an institution and, several years later when I became a mother, they were opened again to how that institution affected my experience of mothering and my position in the world.  However it took many more years for me to realize the ultimate influence of this book on my life and my work as a scholar.

Now I just need a picture of me holding it.  I wonder if I should use my worn and tattered copy? 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Being Healthy

b and I have started a new healthy lifestyle approach.  In shorthand we refer to it as a diet but in all honesty it is really a lifestyle change as I don't see us "going off" of it.  b is hypertensive and has been having unwelcomed side effects (are any side effects really welcomed?) from his medications.  We are hoping this change will allow him to safely go off of his meds.  I have been slowly gaining weight--from being over 40 and working towards tenure.

Our new approach involves going to the gym together 6 mornings a week (for 1 hour) in addition to any other exercise we normally do (him: paddling, karate, biking to work; me: yoga, tai chi, walking to work).  We are also following the DASH diet.  We are primarily focusing on portion control and balancing our eating to be heavier on fruits and vegetables, reducing dairy and/or using low-fat dairy, and reducing protein sources.  For me a large part of the shift has also been learning how to eat throughout the day.  By nature I am not a "grazer" but the over-40 metabolism does not work well with long periods between large meals.  I have spent years teaching my body to be highly efficient with calories and, for once, efficiency is NOT a good thing.

When I tell people about our new lifestyle approach many comment on the importance of doing it together and the support that it offers.  This is definitely true.  In fact, I think it is incredibly difficult to make true changes unless your immediate family (those you share your household and life with) are on board and, preferably, actively engaged with you.   Actually this is a large part of my current research agenda.  The grant that I have been trying to write (for what seems like forever) is focused on making small healthy changes in diet and exercise within families and relationships. While I believe support is a large part of what can make this approach successful, I am also (maybe more?) interested in how changes in daily routines both affect and are affected by relationships. You see I believe that it is not only our strong relationship that makes this approach possible but that by doing this together we will make our relationship stronger.

In my research I am not focused on spousal or partner relationships but instead on mother-adolescent daughter relationships.  These relationships have a very different set of issues, many of which are emotionally-loaded.  This is not to say that spousal/partner relationships around food, exercise and body image are not emotionally loaded, but rather that they are expressed differently.  I have been fascinated by mother-daughter relationships and daily life for a many years and see this as one avenue for exploring that association.

I am also intrigued by windows of opportunity.  I see the mother-daughter relationship in adolescence as a window of opportunity for change.  It is often portrayed as negative but I think it can be (and often is) positive.  I am also realizing that the empty nest period is a window of opportunity for positive change.  I think it is easier for b and I to attempt this approach now than it ever was before.  Previously we have dieted together and it has been successful (in terms of temporary weight loss) but we have never tried anything as ambitious as this (we are also changing our sleep schedule and will soon be adding a meditation schedule to help reduce stress). I could see exploring issues of 'emptynestdom' in future studies.

My grant application also involves some cutting-edge technology and I am using my experience with b as an opportunity to try out some of this technology.  Now this does not take the place of trying it with my population, as I am not studying 45 year old academic professors and their spouses/partners, but it is still helpful to see some of the bugs now before I (hopefully) subject my participants to them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RBOC: School Daze

  • The semester officially starts next week which means this is the week o'meetings.  Monday I had my first committee meeting.  Tuesday we had our full day faculty retreat.  Today was: the Chancellor addressing the faculty and staff (State of the University); an awards ceremony (where I officially received my Teaching Excellence Award); and then a school-wide faculty assembly.  Tomorrow I host my first orientation as the Doctoral Program Coordinator. Friday I have a lunch meeting with students.
  • In addition to meetings, one of our doctoral students is taking his comps and part of my new responsibilities is proctoring the exam.  It is not a lot of work but requires me running across campus several times a day.
  • I really appreciate getting the teaching award and everyone's heartfelt congratulations but standing on stage in front of the entire university while my merits were read was really painful and stressful for me.  
  • I also had to dress appropriately and now have blisters on my feet.
  • I ended the day with a pedicure and felt much better about it all.
  • I spent last week moving into my new office across campus.  I've moved in with two of my favorite colleagues.  We went "shopping" at the university surplus warehouse and picked up some cool furniture for our offices and the main reception area of our suite.
  • Except for hanging my prints, everything is unpacked and fixed up.  I haven't had much chance to actually WORK in my new office, but I'm enjoying it immensely. 
  • b and I are continuing to get up every morning and workout at the gym.  This, and the fact that I already have a reservation at the beach for Fall Break, may be the only things that keep me sane.
  • There is much drama going on at the university, school and department levels this year.  It is all about changes in leadership and structure and much of it is tied to an upcoming budget crisis.  
  • Most people really don't do change well and academics, in particular, make it a point to resist change on principle. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Us and Them

I've written before about the different communities in my Tai Chi and my favorite yoga class.  Both classes are taught in my gym.  In my opinion a class taught in a gym is less likely to feel like a community.  My experience with gyms is that people drop in and out of classes.  However both of these classes have a large following of regulars and, therefore, both have a strong sense of community.

I much prefer the sense of community in my tai chi class.

This is the first time I've ever studied yoga and my only previous experience with yogis was sharing studio space (my dojo and a yoga class both rented adjacent rooms in a dance studio and we shared a dressing room).  I wasn't left with the warm fuzzies for the yogis I met previously. The same is true for the majority of people in this yoga class.  They appear rather cliquish, and while not unfriendly, they aren't particularly welcoming.  I am definitely an 'outsider regular.'  [A lot of this has to do with my personality.  I'm not quick to get to know anyone and generally need to be drawn out in social situations.  Although b says I'm getting much more social lately.  I don't know if it is a function of aging or living in the South.]

Today I got to my yoga class a little early.  My neck was hurting quite a bit (from moving furniture incorrectly yesterday) and I wanted to try and stretch and relax a little before class started.  There were two other regulars already there.  The regulars generally have preferred spots.  If I'm not early I often lose my preferred spot but today I was able to claim it.  It is right next to an older gentleman who is right next to an older woman.  They often chat and were doing so today when I got there.

The woman is someone who has always rubbed me the wrong way.  She is a bit of a yoga cop--doesn't actually enforce the rules but complains when they are broken.  She is also one of the more cliquish of the regulars.  Last week I was surprised that she actually spoke to me.

Today, as I lay on my mat trying to relax, I couldn't help but overhear their conversation.  It covered a lot of territory including: the state of Arizona, illegal immigrants, shopping sprees, the Russian mafia in NYC, unicycles, people who foreclose on their mortgages, and people who walk across the yoga floor in shoes.  Several times I heard the word "they" used--as in "what they do" and what "enables them."  I breathed deep and tried to concentrate on relaxing my shoulders and my neck, which were really tight.  Our instructor starts class with a prayer that includes a wish that "no conflict should arise to cause disharmony between us."  I tried hard to put that disharmony aside but was only mildly successful.

Another regular, who had been missing for several weeks, came in and said hello to the pair.  She said she was glad to be back.  The woman acknowledged her and said something to the effect of "we are always glad to have our regulars back."  I couldn't help but wonder--am I an 'us' or a 'them'?

In my tai chi class we are also very happy to see regulars come back after an absence.  We welcome them back individually and as a class.  We also welcome new people--we learn their names and introduce them around.  We ask about each other's lives and share little stories.  We encourage each other in our practice.  

I don't know anyone's political leanings but I'm sure there are many with different views from my own.  There are side conversations that occur before and after class but they are fairly innocuous.  They are also very fluid; you can watch small groups merge and separate like a successful cocktail party.

During yoga class, I am an individual.  I spend an hour trying to live in my body and in the present moment.  I don't always achieve my goals but it is helpful to strive for them. In tai chi I am a member of a group.  I spend an hour trying to live in my body and in the present moment but I also spend an hour with people I've come to regard as friends.  In tai chi I've yet to meet (or feel like) a 'them.'

Monday, August 9, 2010

RBOC: End of Summer Break Edition

  • I've been trying to write a particular post for several days but it isn't coming out right.  Therefore I'm resorting to a RBOC post.
  • I hate giving up on a writing idea.
  • This is the last true week of summer break for me.  Next week is all meetings, including a full day retreat (who retreats at the beginning of an academic year????), and then classes start the following week. 
  • It feels like summer break ended once I got back from my trip UpNorth.   I believe I've worked more this summer than any other since I came to SouthLite, including the summer I was actually paid to work. 
  • In spite of all my work, my grant is still not done and no papers were submitted.  In fact I just received the third rejection in a row.  The first two rejects have been sitting untouched all summer.
  • I am getting very tired of journals that hold your paper hostage for seven months and then reject it without a true review.
  • With tenure comes responsibility.  I will now be coordinating our doctoral program.  I've spent the last two weeks getting my ducks in order before the new students arrive next week for orientation.
  • My syllabi and assignments are done and my Blackboard sites are built.  All I need to do now is prep my first few classes.
  • b and I have started a new healthy lifestyle regime.  It includes a structured schedule for going to sleep, getting up, and going to the gym.  We've been to the gym every day for the past week.  We also went to a nutritionist and have a new way of eating.  It hasn't been particularly hard and most of it is enjoyable. The trick for me is keeping it going once the semester truly starts.
  • I'm moving my office.  For once this is completely my idea.  I love my new space and my new officemates.  My old officemates are not at all happy and have been giving me grief over the move all summer.  
  • Sometimes academia feels a lot like junior high school.
  • We had a painting party in my new office space yesterday afternoon.  I choose peach for my office.  It is very pretty but reminds a little bit of a gynecologist's office.  
  • I've thrown out several file drawers worth of paper.  The waste amazes me and I think "I should buy and iPad so I don't have to print out so many articles."
  • I also want to buy a mini-fridge for the new office to help with my new eating habits. It seems moving brings out the rampant consumer in me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More Children's Poetry

Yesterday was Pumpkin's birthday.  I drove down to spend the day with her and BB.  They had just moved into a new house (which is quite charming) and were unpacking all day.  While this would not be most people's choice on how to spend their birthday, Pumpkin likes to be productive.  I baked her a cake and then, when everything was set right, we went out for a lovely tapas dinner.

While they were unpacking, Pumpkin showed me a book of children's verses given to her by her grandparents when she was two.  In it I found this poem and thought of the paddler nearest and dearest to my heart.

The Kayak

Over the briny wave I go,
In spite of the weather, in spite of the snow:
What cares the hardy Eskimo?
In my little skiff, with paddle and lance,
I glide where the foaming billows dance.

Round me the sea-birds slip and soar:
Like me, they love the ocean’s roar.
Sometimes a floating iceberg gleams
Above me with its melting streams;
Sometimes a rushing wave will fall
Down on my skill and cover it all.

But what care I for a wave’s attack?
With my paddle I right my little kayak.
And then its weight I speedily trim,
And over the water away I skim.


I also read her one of my all time favorite read out-loud poems:

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl?"
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood, a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon, 
They danced by the light of the moon.

  -Edward Lear

My mother chimed in on my last post with her favorite:

Daddy Fell into the Pond

Everyone grumbled.  The sky was gray.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And there seemed to be nothing beyond,
Daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced with sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed." Click!

Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft
And it sounds as if the old drake laughed.

Oh there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
Daddy fell into the pond!

  -Alfred Noyes

What I love about children's poetry is the sheer fun of saying them out loud.  All poetry should be read out loud but children's poetry screams for it.  It was a sad day when Angel no longer allowed me to read them to him.  Now I'm saving it all up for my grandchildren.

What are your favorite children's poems?