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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Best Thanksgiving Ever

I am not a fan of Thanksgiving.  In fact, for many years, I refused to eat the Thanksgiving feast. Sometimes I would cook something completely different for my little family (ex-husband and myself) and other times we would go to my sister's house where she would cook me something extra.  Eventually I fell in line but I rarely enjoyed the holiday.  When we moved down to SouthLite we started camping for Thanksgiving.  That was great until last year when it rained and Angel was with us for a total of 4 hours.

This year b and I decided we'd do a more traditional Thanksgiving at home.  Angel, who now has seniority at his job, did not have to work and came up Tuesday evening (and stayed until Sat afternoon! Longest visit from him in quite some time).  We got a chance to hang and talk and bond all day Wednesday.  We took Pupzilla on a long walk and talked the day away.

Angel & Pupzilla

Pumpkin and BB came up Wednesday evening.  b came home from work and made a fabulous spinach lasagna and garlic bread.  We all sat around the table eating and drinking and talking and laughing.  It was wonderful.  BB and Angel bonded over a geeky online video game and spent much of the evening with their heads bent over a laptop.

b spent all Thanksgiving Day cooking.  He started at 9 in the morning making us a wonderful frittata and then went right into the preparing the big meal.  It was his first real bird.  He usually cooks Thanksgiving dinner in dutch ovens, which won't fit a whole bird.  He followed Mr. Brown's advice and it turned out beautifully.  We set the table and spruced ourselves up and then sat down to a huge meal that was over way too soon.
b's bird

Dessert was apple cobbler and homemade ice cream.  We were too full to touch the pumpkin pie.

The next morning Pumpkin and BB had to go visit some of her relatives before they drove back home.  But we had new visitors.  My sister, C, and her fiance (my soon to be BIL that I had never met before) K, had spent the holidays at K's brother's house, which is just a few cities away from SouthLite.  So C & K showed up Friday morning and stayed until Saturday morning.  b had to go to work but Angel and I had a lovely time with them both.  We went out for brunch and then took Pupzilla for a long walk, but mostly we talked and talked and talked.  I so miss having my sisters around.  K was super sweet and smart and funny (with a very dry dry sense of humor that I admire).

This morning everyone had to get up and leave but Angel lazed about for a while.  We enjoyed one more breakfast together and then he was on the road.  This has been the best visit home from him since he went to school.  He seems so much more comfortable now and acted like the son I remember.  I'm sure it has to a lot to do with being securely on his own and settled in his new life. Intellectually I knew our relationship was still strong but this is the first time it actually felt good to be with him since he's left home.  It did me a world of good and now I'm so looking forward to Christmas.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Things That Are Bringing Me Joy

  • Seeing the light at the end-of-the-semester tunnel shine bigger and brighter each day.
  • Being able to write...really write...my own writing.  Because of the aforementioned light, I was able to send two revised manuscripts off to my co-authors in the past week.  On top of the pure productivity aspect, I really really like the "stories" these two manuscripts are now telling.
  • Planning two new research projects for the spring.  The possibilities always seem endless in the planning stage.
  • Having a student in my doctoral class say she was sorry there was only one class left after today...and really mean it.
  • Having students in my undergraduate service learning class cry during their presentation because of the bonds they forged with the participants in their community agencies.  Now normally I don't like to see my students cry but this was an exception.  One of them said they received more than they gave.  Their community agency mentors were there and it was evident the feelings were quite mutual.  Almost brought tears to my eyes.
  • Getting a call from Angel because he is excited about a paper he is writing (two days ahead of time) for a class and wanted to describe it to me.
  • Knowing that Angel, Pumpkin and BB, will all be here for Thanksgiving and that they can all stay for more than 24 hours this year.
  • Anticipating a visit from my sister!  One, where I will finally meet my future brother-in-law IRL.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Week In Links

b has been gone all week and in his absence I've managed to catch up on my blog reading.  Below are links to some particular gems

blue milk cracked me up.

Flux Capacitor never ceases to amaze me.

Drax always has something interesting; these were beautiful.

The Buffaloe Pen, where every post is a gem but there was something extra special about this one.

j(oe) made it hard not to cry.

Schmutzie is amazing and gets it so right here.

Annie taught me something about my own avatar.

smitten kitchen doesn't like soup but posted one I can't wait to try and, now that my oven is fixed, I can.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Safe Spaces

Today in my undergraduate class I planned to cover three separate activities.  The first was group work on their projects.  The second was a discussion of an article that I handed out.  The third was discussion of the readings I had previously assigned and which they had all written about in their journals.  The topic of the class was focused on issues of teen sexuality, pregnancy, and parenting.

The readings for this class are some of my favorite for the entire course.  Students usually love these readings and this group was no exception, so I was looking forward to a lively and engaged discussion. But at the last minute I had come across this article and thought it would be fun to lead into the readings discussion by getting their reactions to the article.  Needless to say, we never made it to the assigned readings.

This group has been "with me" all semester.  They are engaged with and turned-on to the class content.  Recently I have been noticing a deeper level of analysis in their journal writings and they are quick to point out connections to previous readings and topics.  For undergraduate students in my university, this is a rare event.

Today's discussion, which was supposed to last about 15 minutes, took 45 and we only ended because we ran out of time.  There was a lot of personal sharing but they managed to stay on track with analyzing the topic as a social issue.  There is a fine line with students, I believe, between encouraging discussion/writing/analysis through personal experience and story-telling, over-exposure and shock value.  Today felt like we walked the line but ended up on the analytic side.

My field is very applied and practical.  Most students coming into it are not used to analyzing social problems.  They are more inclined to judge them and the first time we touched on adolescent sexuality this semester that is a lot of what I heard.  It was very gratifying to hear them relate their personal experiences in a new context that has been informed by their reading, our previous discussions, and their experiences doing community service (this is a service-learning course).

In one of the assigned readings, the author (a nurse and a poet) discussed the general lack of knowledge she finds women have about their bodies and their sexuality.  She argues that this comes from a breakdown in communication: between mothers and daughters specifically but among women generally.  Her claim is we no longer learn from the women around us but instead learn from the internet or not at all.  This resonated with a lot of the students and part of our discussion today focused on the ways in which we do or do not talk about sex within families.

As more and more students revealed personal aspects of their lives, there was a feeling of delightful surprise, freedom and safety in the room.  To some extent, we created what the author had said was lacking.  On my way home I thought about what it takes to create that safe space, and to some extent, I believe you need to depart from what is normally taught as appropriate academics.

Earlier in the day one of the students from this class came to visit me during my office hours.  She is struggling this semester, both academically and personally, and said she needed to talk with someone about these struggles.  Now this student is actually doing fine in my class, so there was actually little reason for her to come and talk to me.  However, she said the openness with which we discuss topics in the class led her to think I was the right person for the job.  She has approached other professors and been left unsatisfied.  As we talked, I realized she really wasn't looking for advice (although I gave her some anyway) so much as to be heard.

I'm not really sure what point I'm trying to make with this post except to say that today, by not being very professorial, I think I was a good professor.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Five Things On A Crisp, Clear, Autumn Day

1. Taking a walk through the gardens with Pupzilla.

2. Listening to Etta James.

3. Making spicy sweet potato soup (and shrimp).

4. Sipping hot apple cider.

5. Turning back the clocks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

RBOC: Gesundheit Edition

  • Shortly after our arrival home from the camping trip, b realized he had a cold.  Three days later I was the next happy recipient.
  • What if the only way to get rid of a cold was to give it to someone else?
  • I'm on Day Two of what appears to be a 4-day malady.
  • As far as colds go, it's not a bad one.  b has gone as far as to label it wimpy.  This may be true but it is still pretty annoying.
  • Did you know gesundheit means "good health" in German?
  • Today b and I went to the gym for a light workout, some time in the hot tub and a nice steam. I thought it would do my cold some good but the steam room never got very hot.  On the other hand I may have now infected my entire gym.
  • b and I admitted to each other that we are extremely judgmental of other people in the gym. I don't think either of us are particularly judgmental people in any other area of life but there's something about seeing other people workout that brings out the worst in us.  My current theory is that the gym we are going to right now has an unusually high amount of people who don't know how to workout.  In that I mean, they don't use the machines properly (which drives me crazy...all I can do is think how they are probably doing serious damage to their joints) and rarely break a sweat.  
  • I've been enjoying the free weight room at the gym lately. 
  • Tomorrow b leaves for an 8-day training somewhere in the wilds of Wyoming.  
  • When b is away I usually drown myself in work.  Given that this semester has been nothing but drowning myself in work, I see no good coming from it.  
  • Once he comes back he will only be in town for 5 days and then he's off on a paddling trip.
  • It seems I'm going to have to get used to him traveling more now.  Years ago it was always me who traveled and he stayed home.  
  • When I traveled he used to cook himself meals I would never eat (or tolerate him eating), like steaks and cheeseburgers.  Now that I'm eating meat, there is little left that he can't or doesn't eat on a regular basis.  Since he's going away, I bought brussel sprouts and plan on making sweet potato soup.
  • It is going on three weeks now that I have not had an oven.  There has been much discussion with the landlord, a handyman (who has informed me he doesn't specialize in appliances) has been to the house twice and finally ordered a part that we are all hoping accounts for the problem.  b is convinced it will be fixed before he returns.  I am less confident.
  • I itch to bake some bread.  
  • Home-baked bread goes nicely with sweet potato soup, don't you think?