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 26, 2011

Moving Day

Moving Day is here!  Please follow me over at my new digs: www.dirtandrocks.net.  Much will be the same but there are a few new twists and turns.

I don't want to lose anyone in the move, so please hold hands and update your RSS feeders or bookmarks or whatever you use to get to the House of Dirt and Rocks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Being Thankful

While I am generally grateful of all the things I have in my life, I am not one who usually celebrates Thanksgiving by actually giving thanks.  I am not a big Thanksgiving fan (although I'm married to one). For me it is a day spent cooking and eating food I don't particularly enjoy.  I'm also not a fan of shopping, so the whole Black Friday thing kind of wigs me out.  But this year, for some reason that I can't really fathom, I came up with a gratitude list while I was cleaning my house.

I am thankful:

  • for Angel's laugh.  It lights up the house whenever he's home and I enjoy falling asleep to it at night.
  • for a house that I both enjoy living in and can afford.
  • for a husband who, while cooking a huge traditional thanksgiving dinner of turkey and stuffing, will cook me duck because I really don't like turkey.
  • for a husband who does all the cooking.
  • for a chance to spend time with my sister.  I don't see any of them regularly and being with a sister makes me feel grounded in a way that nothing else can. 
  • for a visit from Pumpkin, who has her own large family to see but always makes time for us.
  • for Pupzilla's arthritis medicine that has given me my dog back.
  • for a gym that hires amazing yoga teachers and stays open on Thanksgiving so I can get my yoga on before the big meal.
  • for students who send me emails saying they miss me and want to get together for lunch.
  • for all you who read and actually care about these minor details of my life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Great One Has Fallen

Anne McCaffrey, RIP

It was Anne McCaffrey and her Dragonriders of Pern series that first hooked me on dragons.  I was 11.  At 46, I still believe.

In the world of Pern, when a rider died her dragon would immediately go "between" never to return. When a dragon died (or went between) all the other dragons would instantly cry out as one to honor their fallen sister.  I can hear the dragons crying tonight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Holidays Have Begun

Even though I have to teach tomorrow, the holidays are officially here.

  • Angel is home for the week. 
  • I have baked cookies. 
  • The food shopping is done.  
  • My Christmas list is complete.

Life is good.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Development

With the semester winding down I can devote a little more time to yoga again. I've been attending classes regularly but I can't make all my favorite ones.  The classes are divided into levels, although most people at the gym seem to ignore this categorization.  I started at a Level 1-2 and was quite comfortable there for a while.  This summer I ventured into the Level 2 classes and really found my niche.  There I could get both a good workout and a lot of detailed instruction.  Some of my favorite teachers cover the Level 2 classes.  More recently I've started taking a Level 2-3 with my absolute favorite teacher.  It wipes me out every time but I love it.  This weekend I ventured into a couple of Level 3's and found, while difficult, they were not as hard as that one Level 2-3 class.  Suddenly the Level 1-2 classes aren't doing it for me anymore.

I love skill development. It is a wonderful thing to know that with time, patience and some concentrated effort, you will improve--no matter how bad you are at the beginning.  I'm much better at accepting my limitations in yoga than in other areas.  I totally buy into the idea that "this is where I am today" but it is nice when tomorrow brings me to a new place.  It amazes me that my body is starting to do things in class that were impossible for me a few months ago.

A few weeks ago a teacher described a particular posture as playful.  It was a posture that required considerable balance and I had been having some difficulty with it for a while.  Playful was not how I would have ever described it but I decided to take her word for it and find the play.  It's far from perfect but it is definitely better and lots of fun. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fun With Students

Today the students in my doctoral class looked burned out.  Several were busy on their computers as I entered the class and no one was talking.  This is unusual for the group as they are a friendly and chatty bunch.  As more students arrived, each one brought in their own dour looks.  The day was rainy and chilly and that wasn't helping anyone's mood.

It was the second-to-last class of the semester; the class before Thanksgiving, and the last class where we had to discuss some serious reading.  I knew it was not going to go well.  Instead of starting off with questions on the reading, as was my original intention, I asked them all about their Thanksgiving plans.  I let them go on a while and then encouraged us to go wildly off-topic. Somehow we got onto run-ins with small critters.  One student told a hilarious family story about fat squirrels.  Some of us laughed ourselves to tears.  I let it go a little longer after that and then started the class half an hour late.

We ended up having a good discussion and a great class.

For my undergraduate class I had prepared an activity, a group discussion, and a lecture. Sometimes the group discussions bomb and sometimes they are helpful but rarely do they extend past 15-20 minutes.  We were still on the topic of childbirth and the discussion ended up taking the entire period.  It was the liveliest and most interactive discussion we've had to date and I let it go a little astray.  This became obvious when I realized we were talking about eating placentas and someone started googling how to cook them.  It was the first class where they didn't all get up to leave as soon as the period was over.  In fact several stayed after class to talk with me further.

Some days I really enjoy teaching.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

House Hunting

I have always loved looking for a new place to live.  When you grow up in the City of Pizza and Bagels moving is what you do.  There is always a bigger space in a better neighborhood to be found.  Somewhere out there is that amazing deal.

I am more than happy to go house (or apartment) hunting with a friend.  I love to see the insides of empty homes.  I love to imagine what it would be like to live there and can often come up with an entire alternate life after just stepping through the door.

I have a sister who shares this passion with me.  When Angel was little and I could no longer take living in a one-bedroom with him and my ex, my sister took me apartment hunting in her neighborhood. We were very excited at the thought of living near each other, especially since we both had boys a year apart.  While it was stressful, we had a blast looking at all the possibilities.  And then one day I walked through a doorway and knew that I found it.  My dream apartment and it was within my price range.

I lost the apartment in the divorce and miss it to this day.

My sister continues to live in that neighborhood and has taken her love of empty apartments a step further.  She now helps other people find their dream home and she blogs about it at Uptown Girl.  I love having another family member in the blogosphere and I get to read about my old neighborhood.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Childbirth Education

We are discussing birth this week in my undergraduate class.  I show movies every once in a while to introduce a topic and today we watched The Business of Being Born.  I've shown this movie in several classes over the years, and although I can get bored with certain parts, watching the births never gets old.

My favorite part is listening to my class when the first birth occurs.  If you haven't seen the movie, it is a beautiful birth.  A woman is in a birthing pool in her living room.  Her midwife is by her side and her toddler is roaming around the room.  She is having an intense contraction but she is calm.  The room is quiet except for her slight moan and the voice of her son.  Then a baby appears.  It is so gentle and contrary to every image we have of birth that it takes you completely by surprise.

Every time I show this, the entire class let's out an "ohhh" of delight.

I have my students write down questions or topics they want to discuss from the movie for the next class.  As I was reviewing them this evening, I was struck by how many talked about the need for childbirth education. They wanted to know when and how women can learn about their options. The sad news is that most women learn childbirth when they are all ready well into their pregnancy and have already made some critical decisions (such as the doctor/midwife/practice).  I also feel, having sat through several childbirth classes for my doula training, that the options are not well presented in most cases.

While not everyone will give birth (or be with a partner giving birth) it still seems worthwhile to teach it to the masses. Why is it considered something you would only be interested in if you're pregnant? And who thinks pregnancy is the best time to learn about what your body can do?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Red Doors (Textured)


 kk phoebe (color burn 70%) & kk crackerjack (multiply 39%)

 kk phoebe (darken 71%)

 kk phoebe (color burn 80%) & kk inspired magic (soft light 39%)

 Instagram & kk phoebe (overlay 71%)

kk phoebe (soft light 59%) 

 kk phoebe (soft light 63%) & kk if only (multiply 50%)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

RBOC: Wild and Wooly Weekend Edition


  • Zippy lives!  b came home and said she just needed some fluid.  There's an ongoing condition that requires we keep her well hydrated.  I have not been doing this.
  • Cars are still a foreign land to me.
  • Pupzilla continues to do well on her arthritis medication.  We went on a walk and she refused to turn back.  I eventually had to trick her back home by making a big circle.
  • In the past two weeks I've thought both my dog and my car were goners and now they both have a new lease on life.
  • This morning I mapped out a bike route to get to my yoga class.  The bad news is I took a few wrong turns and ended up missing the class.  The good news is that I had a great bike ride and now feel more confident that I can bike in this neighborhood.
  • I only have one paper left that needs feedback!
  • b came home and made ribs.  We have a double stove and recently found out the bottom one works better than the top.  The ribs came out better than ever.
  • For the first time ever we have decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving.  We still don't have a tree but b hung lights outside today.
  • I purged my closet of clothes this afternoon.  I found clothes in there that are three sizes too small.  Yes I've been holding onto a lot of clothes with the idea that one day I'll fit them again.  It was sad to part with some of them but it was also very freeing.  I no longer have to sort through reminders of my former self just to find something to wear.
  • I celebrated my new self by ordering some clothes online.  
  • Have made serious progress with my blog revamping project.  It is still too soon to unveil but I'm feeling very positive about it. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Driving Zippy

Growing up in the City of Pizza and Bagels means growing up in a car-less life.  No one in my immediate family owned a car or knew how to drive.  Not many of my friends had cars and none of us learned to drive in high school.  In my late twenties I started to travel for business and not knowing how to drive was a huge inconvenience.  Outside of the city, not knowing how to drive made me feel like a child.

I started taking lessons when I was 29.  The City of Pizza and Bagels is not a fun place to learn how to drive.  I was terrified every time I had a lesson.  One of my sisters started taking lessons at around the same time.  When it was time to take our road tests, she passed and I failed.  I took some more lessons and waited a while for my next test and then I failed again.  After that I pretty much gave up.

Then I started dating b and cars came into my life.  Well one car did: his small Isuzu truck.  We used it to get out of the city to paddle and hike.  We eventually used it to find a small house about an hour north of the city.  We packed up our belongings, Angel, the cats and Pupzilla and moved someplace where the nearest store was 15 miles away.  Not driving was not really an option.  b taught me to drive in that little Isuzu truck and I used it to pass my third road test.

When b got a bigger truck, I got the little Isuzu.  I loved driving that truck but it was old and one day she broke down on the side of the road.  The cost to fix her far exceeded her worth.  We went shopping for a car and b found Zippy.  She was 10 years old but had a lot of get-up-and-go.  The only catch was her manual transmission.  b loved driving stick but I had never done it and she was to be my car.  Keep in mind I was still a new and very nervous driver.  We bought her anyway and somehow b managed to teach me to drive stick in a nearby parking lot.

That was almost seven years ago.  Eventually we moved down to SouthLite and b's truck died shortly after we got here.  I had to share Zippy as she became the family car.  Last year when b finally got a new car, Zippy reverted to me.  I love driving that car.  She's old, she's banged up (I managed to back her directly into b's truck twice shortly after we got her), and she is far from attractive but I love her.  We have replaced many of her parts over the years and I know we are reaching the point where it doesn't make sense to keep her going.

Today the clutch didn't want to engage, repeatedly.  With a little patience and a lot of dogged determination, I got her to and from the gym.  Once I made it home I didn't want to risk another trip out.  Her mechanic is closed for the weekend and b is away so I have no one to give me a real diagnosis but I am not hopeful.  A new clutch in a 17 year old car is probably not a wise decision to make and I'm worried that may be what I'm facing. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

RBOC: Marathon Work Weekend Edition


  • It is 8:30pm on a Friday night and, after leaving my office at 5pm, I just finished 3 hours of work on an administrative task.  (I also finished 2 glasses of red wine--a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do).  I am about to embark on some editing of a paper I'm writing with students.
  • There is a Grey's Anatomy and Homicide somewhere in my future this weekend.
  • b is away on a kayak camping trip, leaving me and Pupzilla to fend for ourselves.
  • The weather has changed and my wardrobe has not.  I MUST organize my clothes so I have something to wear.  I also need to do a good purge and was thinking this was the weekend for such a task.  I fear when the purge is done I will realize I still have nothing to wear.
  • I have 7 draft proposals from my doctoral students to provide feedback on this weekend.
  • I was hoping to actually write the revision of the paper that never ends this weekend.
  • I have 3 yoga classes I'd like to take (1 on Sat and 2 on Sun).
  • I have BIG changes planned for this little blog and was hoping to implement some of them this weekend.
  • b took my camera with him and left me his point and shoot.  Since Pupzilla has made a remarkable recovery with her arthritis meds, I was hoping to take her and the camera for a walk.
  • The house is a mess.  With the holidays coming (and we'll actually have company this Thanksgiving, yay!), I really should start cleaning it. 


Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Teaching Doctoral Students

Sometimes I really love teaching doctoral students.  Well most of the time I really love teaching doctoral students.  This semester my doctoral class is going particularly well and it is a very welcome relief because the undergraduate class is not thrilling me.  (I normally love teaching undergraduates but this is seriously altered when my class size is 40+.)

Of course part of the love comes from having students that are really engaged in the subject; students who want to learn and are at a point in their lives when they can devote most of their time to learning.  I consider this an extreme luxury in the world of teaching.  The flip side is that when a doctoral student is not particularly engaged it sucks far worse than a disengaged undergraduate or masters' student.  Perhaps it is the expectation but I suspect it is because the stakes are so much higher.

But what is really nice about teaching doctoral students is the benefit of having them around for several years.  I only teach one undergraduate course, so I don't get repeat undergrad students. I've had a few who have worked on my research and had the opportunity to watch them develop over the span of a year or two, but these students are few and far between.  When I was teaching in the masters' program I had more interactions with those students.  I would get to know the entire cohort and even if I didn't teach them again, they were generally around and involved in the department in a way that I could watch their progress.  But our masters' program is only two years long and in the last semester most of them are away doing an internship.

In the doctoral program I have time to really get to know all of the students.  I am the doctoral coordinator so I get to meet most of them as they are applying.  I run their orientation and help them get on their feet during their first semester.  I teach a core methodology course they all have to take in their first or second year and many attend my writing group.  For some I'll serve on their dissertation committee.  Our doctoral students hang around for 3-5 years, with most of them on the 5-year plan.  This is enough time to see them really come into their own; to develop their skills; to find their voice; to become colleagues instead of students.  It is a beautiful thing to watch.

I have one student who is getting ready to graduate this spring.  She was my graduate assistant for her first two years.  She's been a student in three of my classes.  I was the chair of her program committee and am serving on her dissertation committee.  We've published together and have plans to continue some collaborations once she graduates.  I've been advising her as she has started searching for full-time employment.  I've seen her through some tough personal crisises.  I can't quite believe she is the same young woman who first showed up on my doorstep full of unrealistic dreams and expectations.

I can't quite believe she'll be gone next year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bag Lady

The amount of stuff I need to cart around these days is astonishing.  Some mornings I find myself hauling 3-4 bags out to the car.  I literally don't go anywhere without my Timbuktu.  It is loaded down with: an iPad, a moleskin, an iPhone, keys, wallet, pens, sunglasses, and reading glasses at a minimum.*  You will also usually find me hoisting a large backpack onto my back that carries my laptop, a power cord and an assortment of folders containing articles, student papers, and other "work."  Let's not forget the water bottle that needs to be with me at all times.  If the gym is in the plan (which it is most days) than there is a gym bag that contains a full change of clothes, shoes, toiletries and a brush.  If I'm going to the gym for yoga, I add another bag for my mat and strap.

Obviously none of this is necessary and yet it is.

I haven't carted this much stuff around since Angel was a baby/toddler.  Of course back then I didn't have a car and would need to strap my multiple bags onto his stroller and then take it up and down the subway steps.  The car is an improvement.

I remember a time, before Angel, when I rode my bike to work everyday with nothing but my keys, a few dollars in my pocket and my work apron.  I never thought I'd want those times back again but some days it seems the wiser lifestyle.  I was talking with colleagues today about the latest apps for doing literature searches.  Sorry, but I'm not interested in searching PubMed or Ebsco while waiting for a pedicure (like I have time for a pedicure).

Most of my "stuff" is work-related and I carry it with me both literally and figuratively.  There isn't a time when I can put my work down and not think about it.  My work is never left at the office and now, with the increases in technology, home is never really left at home either.  Like a turtle, my life is on my back.

*b can leave the house with all he needs stuffed into his pockets.  Men's pockets must be quite large because an iPhone doesn't fit in any of my jeans.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And The Countdown Begins

The countdown to the end of the semester has started.  I have several methods for counting down. My undergraduate class meets twice a week so sometimes I count how many of those class sessions I have left (6 classes plus the mid-term).  My doctoral class meets once a week, so sometimes I count the number of teaching weeks I have left (4 including this week).  Some classes I don't have to prep for (showing a movie or class presentations) so sometimes I count the number of total preps I have left (across both classes = 6).  And when I really need a boost I count the number of weeks until I don't have classes, grading or meetings (5!).

Angel has started counting down too.  He is having a tough semester.  I think it is his hardest one ever.   He is counting down by the number of assignments he has to turn in.  This week took care of several but there are still plenty to come.  He is anxious to see this semester end but the end of the semester also means his capstone research project is due.  The thought of finishing that is scaring him a little these days.

b is counting down the days until Thanksgiving (his second favorite holiday), Black Friday (the day he is allowed to start playing Christmas music), and Christmas (his favorite day of the year).

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Blogging Process

For those of you who haven't noticed, I've been posting a little more frequently of late.  Actually I believe I posted 30 out of the 31 days of October.  I'm not doing NaBloPoMo nor have I started any personal blogging resolutions (who would start a resolution in October?).  No I have simply started a new blogging process and, so far, it seems to be working.

I used to think of posts and then write them.  Generally this would happen 2-3 times a week.  If I had a post in my mind and I didn't have time to write it I would start a draft (often no more than a title) to come back to another time.  I think in my entire blogging career I completed maybe two of those drafts.  More often, I would end up deleting them after several months.

This was not a great systems because when I am thinking of blog posts I tend to think of a lot of blog posts.  I flirted with writing multiple posts and then scheduling them for every other day but that didn't fulfill my blogging needs.  Once I'm done writing a post I want to publish it right away.  Two days later I might be in a very different mood and that post will seem old and out of sync with my present self.

In general I try to write something everyday.  This something can be a blog post, part of a paper, a review, notes to myself, even an extended email.  There is something critically important about forming written words on a daily basis.  Unfortunately by the middle of the semester this daily practice has been known to fall apart.

So now I've been setting some time aside each night to blog.  If a thought has been floating around in my mind all day than that is what comes out.  If there is nothing there, I open up a blank post and see what shows up.  Of course sometimes I have something rattling around so frantically that I can't wait until the evening to get it out.  Either way it is becoming an important part of my day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goals and Dreams

I haven't contributed to a Scientiae Carnival for a while and when I saw this month's topic I thought I would have to pass on it again.  I thought I had nothing much to say these days in terms of my goals and my dreams for my science and my career.  But then I started to process this reluctance and realized it was not only quite worthy of a post but an important piece of processing to do.

When I first moved to SouthLite it was easy to list my goals.  In fact several people asked me to do so and I rattled them off.  In five years I wanted to: get tenure, get an R01, get a teaching award, write a book.  Five and half years later I've achieved two out of the three: tenure & teaching award.  I no longer want an R01 and I have several book ideas that I'd love to start writing.

But if you asked me now to rattle off a plan for the next five years I would be hard-pressed for an answer.  Yes I'd like to write a book (or several books) but what else?  Do I want to be a full professor?  I used to be sure but now not so much.  Do I want external (preferably NIH) funding? (Note: I've yet to secure external funding since moving to SouthLite.)  Not really.  I should clarify: while I would like it, I'm no longer sure the effort it takes to even submit a grant is worthwhile and having one seems more of a burden than a bonus for my colleagues.  At least that is how it appears at my institution and in this economic climate.

The bigger questions are: do I want to stay in academia? Do I want to stay in SouthLite? If I want both then charging ahead for full professor and securing external grants is the way to go.  If I want to stay in academia but move someplace else than external funding is probably a must and writing a book would be seen as a colossal waste of time and energy.

The second question is the much easier of the two to answer.  I don't want to stay in SouthLite.  At least I don't want to stay here for the rest of my working career.  I figure that could easily be another 25-30 years.  b and I definitely want to live elsewhere.  SouthLite is comfortable for now and we are happy here but we are not made for the South even at its' lightest.  We are both Northeasterners by birth and Pacific Northwesterners in our souls.  If a job was available in Portland or Seattle or Vancouver, I'd be on it in a hot second.

Sometimes we dream of an even more dramatic move.  Selling the little we have and living as exPats in a country high on the life satisfaction scale.  Lately, for b, that has been Iceland.  I love the idea of making a dramatic change without a definitive plan (i.e. a job waiting for me) but I know deep in my heart I have never been that kind of risk-taker.  I am a planner, a doer and, occasionally, a dreamer but I only take very calculated risks.

Combining the academic job of your dreams with the location of your dreams takes you straight to Fantasyland.  And so I think of leaving academia.  But what would I be?  It is not just for location that I have started questioning my fit in the hallowed halls of higher education.  With tenure and the economy, I have seen both a present and a future in higher education that turns my stomach.  The parts of the career that attracted me are being replaced by the parts I like the least.  I don't see that turning around anytime soon (if ever).

But to be fair my science has also changed considerably.  I was never a great fit for my field but my current interests are driving me in a very different direction.  I have only a tenacious hold on post-positivist empirical research and am being drawn further and further into what I see more as scholarship than science.  I am interested more in thinking and writing about theory than using or testing theory.  I want to capture, honor and promote marginalized voices.  I want to advocate for change rather than predict change.

I want to write.  I write on a daily basis and I want to collaborate with people who write on a daily basis (which is really hard to find in my neck of the academic woods).  I want to write for other scholars and for nonscholars.  I want to go beyond writing.  I want to incorporate visuals, such as documentaries and portraits, into my scholarship.  I want to create interactive virtual science/scholarship events that merge science and art.  I want to find new ways to give both individuals and populations a seat at the table; a say in how we construct what it is we think we know.

I find myself at a point where I have many dreams, a few fuzzy goals, but no plan.  It is an exciting place to be. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

10 Ways In Which I Am A Rock Star


  1. I am flexible in body, mind, and spirit.
  2. I raised a sensitive soul into a responsible, intelligent, kind, loving, and funny young man.
  3. I am a scholar warrior.
  4. I found my voice and now help others find theirs.
  5. I am juicy; I am a ripe peach that you want to bite into and let the sweet nectar run down your chin.
  6. I am only getting juicier with age.
  7. I found a daughter when I couldn't have one and am now helping her fine-tune her awesomeness.
  8. I merge poetry and science to make people feel and think.
  9. I commit to people.
  10. I am present in my life.

How are you a rock star?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pupzilla and the Vet

Pupzilla on her couch

We moved houses last January.  The vet we have been using since arriving in SouthLite is now way over on the other side of town.  I began the process of finding a new vet after we moved but once I collected a few recommendations life got in the way.

Last spring Pupzilla had a run-in with a six-legged creature in the backyard that broke her out in lumpy hives.  It was a Sunday but luckily there is an animal emergency hospital just three blocks from our new home.  I took her there and they treated her wonderfully.  Again I thought that I should really find a new vet, especially since her annual visit occurs in June, but again life got in the way.

While I was yucking it up in our nation's capital this past weekend, b was home snuggling Pupzilla. He found a ping-pong sized lump on her neck.  It was not the usual kind of lumps and growths that she has been sprouting these last few years.  So I made an appointment with a vet that a good friend had recommended.

I came home from DC on Wednesday and the appointment was for Thursday morning.  I had not yet finished my grading and barely got my prepping done for my back-to-back classes on Thursday afternoon.  b had the day off and was going to take Pupzilla while I stayed home and worked.  At the last minute I decided to tag along so I could meet the new vet.  Really I was worried that this would be awful news and I didn't want b to hear it alone.

The lump turned out to be nothing more than a fatty benign tumor that does not need to be removed. The vet checked her various other lumps and moles and was not overly worried about any of them (although recommended we have one on her ankle removed--but no rush).  She was appalled by the state of Pupzilla's nails (our previous vet never offered to clip them and Pupzilla won't let us do it).  With two assistants holding Pupzilla down, our new vet managed a lovely mani/pedi.

The previous vet had mentioned Pupzilla has arthritis in her knees and we've been noticing her slowing down considerably.  The last time I took her for a walk it was a slow and difficult process. She sometimes stumbles going up and down the stairs to the yard and rarely gets off the couch anymore.  We assumed a lot of this was age.  The vet gave us a free sample of arthritis medicine and told us that we may see a difference.  According to her, many people assume age is the culprit when it is really pain.  It is very hard to see pain in a dog and Pupzilla is particularly stoic.

We gave her a pill as soon as we got home and then left for the afternoon.  When we got home last night she came to the door to greet us like in the old days.  She also wanted to play fetch with her bone and didn't stop after three throws (her usual pattern these days).  Today she is mostly on her couch but has been getting up and down with considerable more ease.  We are hopeful that things will continue to improve.

We love our new vet. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Post-Conference Exhaustion

After 3 days of nonstop talking, thinking, laughing and drinking, I am back from my conference.  I had a wonderful time but there was absolutely no down (alone) time.  For an extreme introvert like me, that can pose a bit of a problem.  The five hour solo drive home was a welcome respite.

I spent time with friends, colleagues, and students I see frequently as well as with friends I rarely see.  I presented a paper and a poster.  The methods in my paper were a hit and I was complimented on the topic of my poster.  I sat through very few presentations but the ones I saw sparked new ideas and great conversation.  I ate amazing food and drank sangria. I also saw art. My favorite was a street exhibit of Niki de Sainte Phalle's work.  I walked past it the first day and had to keep returning.  Unfortunately it was taken down yesterday.  Below are some images of The Three Graces.




Here we all are hanging out with the sculptures.


There was also this cool bike rental system.  The only problem is that is is BYOH (Bring Your Own Helmet).

And how can you not love the lions?



Monday, October 31, 2011

Conferencing in Capitol City


I am at the super-huge annual conference for my field. It is being held in our nation's capital this year. I drove up with one of my favorite students and I'm rooming with my bestie colleague. Last night an enormous group went out for real Chinese food and then a smaller pack had drinks to celebrate my roomie's birthday.

I have two presentations. The first was today and was a big success. I presented a paper where I used my poem analysis method. I had many questions on how I do it and what can be done with it. I think I need to write that methods paper.

The weather has been beautiful and I've been taking lots of photos that I'll be sharing in future posts. Now I am off to dinner with the gang. Tomorrow I get to see my friends from UpNorth.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Last Minute Crowd

Anastasia has an interesting post up that describes her frustration with colleagues that procrastinate on tasks that directly affect her job. I can sympathize. We probably all can as there is always someone who has a task that is high priority for you but low priority for them.  However Anastasia is talking about a real clash in work personalities and she finds herself in the minority.  While I don't think I can match her organizational abilities, I've lived my life getting tasks done ahead of time and have found the rest of the world doesn't.

Many people can get some work done on time.  It is interesting that for some it is the high priority tasks and for others it is the low priority tasks, but either way they aren't late with every deliverable. And I will admit that there are times when I procrastinate.  For example, there are times when I could get grading done in one week but choose to take two weeks.  I also tend to complete my reviews for journals the day they are due when I've had them for several weeks.  Sure I could have done them early but they are rather low priority for me.  I am rarely late with a deadline.  Instead I tend to feel that being on time is being late.  

I was the type of kid that did her homework at lunch or on the bus/train going home from school.  I was surrounded by people who did their homework on the bus/train going to school.  These are the "last minute crowders" [LMCrs].  They are everywhere and they drive us crazy.

I worked for one for many years.  He wrote a lot of grants.  Grants have very hard deadlines.  Those of us who worked under him used to beg and plead for him to at least start the process a month before they were due.  Often he would have me develop a budget for something he hadn't even conceived of yet.  It was busy work.  If we were lucky he would start a week before the due date.  I pulled a lot of all-nighters in the job.  This was back before there were electronic submissions and we would need to hire special (very expensive) couriers to make sure the multiple copies arrived in time because we had missed FedEx's last pick-up.

I gave birth to a LMCr.  Angel and I rarely fought when he was growing up but when we did it was almost always around getting his homework done.  It is very hard for me to understand why someone would wait on a task, particularly a task they don't want to do, instead of getting it done right away. I don't like the feeling of having a task hanging over my head but Angel seemed far more comfortable with this feeling.  He was often able to forget about the task completely or at least until the night before it was due.  And maybe that is where the difference lies. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hot Topics

Today we discussed abortion in my undergraduate class.  I've taught this subject at both the undergraduate and graduate levels for the past 5 years.  In previous years I've always managed to avoid the pro-choice/pro-life debate.

I don't find it a useful debate for the country and I certainly don't find it a useful debate for the classroom.

This year I showed a movie (I Had An Abortion) on Tuesday.  Whenever I show a movie in class I have the students hand in three questions or topics that they want to discuss in class from the movie.  I group the questions/topics into themes and then we discuss them as a group.

While I do have control over which topics/themes I choose, it was much harder to get away from pro-choice/pro-life this time.  It is the only framework people are really given on abortion in this country.  So we addressed it to an extent but worked on finding other frameworks or issues around the topic.

What concerns me is not my students' personal stance on abortion but their general lack of knowledge on the topic, especially on legal and policy issues.  A few were not aware (until the movie) that abortion had ever been illegal.  There is a general perception that abortion is uniformly available and easy to get.  We talked a bit about issues of access, particularly around insurance and healthcare reform, and about the personhood amendment and what is happening in Mississippi.  For almost all of them this was brand new knowledge.

How can we move forward if no one is even aware of the issues?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

That Time In The Semester*

It is that time in the semester.  The time that, at the beginning of the semester, I claimed would not come this time.  It is the time when no matter how hard I try, I can't catch up.  It is the time I start eating poorly and skipping workouts (sometimes just to get a little more sleep in the morning and other times to prep a class).

I was convinced that "that time" would only last 2 weeks this semester and be done by the end of fall break.  Unfortunately I somehow forgot that I was giving two presentations at a conference next week.  The presentations are based on papers already (or mostly) written but they still require preparing.  I will be at the conference from Sunday to Wednesday and will not be doing any of my regular work while I'm there.  This means that most of my work needs to be done before I go.

It will be a long weekend.

Today I organized a practice session for the doctoral students who will be presenting at the conference.  It went exceptionally well but ate up 3 hours.  It was great to see how far many of our students have come.  They have interesting research topics, well designed studies, and know how to tell a good story.  I was particularly happy that our newest cohort showed up to provide support and feedback and to see what their "older" peers can do.

**34 w's were used in this post. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Theory Project

I have been exploring a theory from a different discipline than mine for a paper that I am writing.  I am going to submit this paper to a journal that is in this other discipline and it will not be received well unless I ground the paper in a theory that is relevant to the field.  I was not sure this would be possible when I first started searching for a suitable theory.

But the theory that I found fits very well and is helping me think about both my paper and my analysis in very different ways.  Luckily the founder of the theory has not only written extensively on the theory but writes in a very accessible and pragmatic manner.  For someone outside of the discipline, this is incredibly useful.

There is another theory that I'm exploring for the paper.  This is a theory I was very familiar with many years ago, when I was studying in a third field.  I have not kept up with the theory but my prior understanding of it is instrumental to how I am interpreting the data.  I dug into the literature to find something more recent than my ancient notes and was surprised to find the theory had morphed considerably since I last explored it.  In fact it has even changed names twice.  The current version of the theory is actually a much better fit for this particular paper and for my work in general.

I've been reading about these two theories simultaneously and I'm interested in how they speak to each other across fields; where they converge and where they depart.  There is a third theory in yet another field that I've been applying to my work for the past couple of years.  It would be very interesting to see what all of these theories have to say to one another and then to incorporate that dialogue into my field.

Each theory, in its own way, relates to relationships within families.  This is a large part of my current work and my discipline does not do a good job of addressing families (theoretically or practically). So I'm thinking of a paper project where I analyze these theories in conjunction to each other and to my field and see what I come up with.  It is an intriguing thought and, if nothing else, would be useful to shaping the direction of my work.  But in thinking about it I realize it is a type of paper I have not really seen in any of the fields where I work and read.  Why don't we cross-analyze theories?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Adult Learners

This semester I am teaching both undergraduates and doctoral students.  After teaching for over 5 years in both programs I am finally beginning to understand the difference between the two types of students.

Of course there are the obvious differences.  A lot of faculty focus on the difference in motivation: graduate students (especially doctoral students) want to be in school and have a vested interest in the field while many undergraduates feel college is mandatory and do not have a fondness for academics generally or the field specifically.  I suppose this changes by institution, field and program but the majority of our undergraduates are just doing time.

But the difference I've really narrowed in on lately is the ability to be vulnerable.  Undergraduates (at least traditionally-aged undergraduates--undergraduates are a pretty diverse group these days and I know I am over-simplifying here) are used to not knowing material.  They have been effectively trained throughout their K-12 education that they don't know much and the teacher knows everything. This is unfortunate as many of us know a lot less than we think and some of us would welcome being challenged on what we do know.  An effective undergraduate teacher needs to provide them with opportunities to challenge not only what they know but what others (particularly those in authority) know and then be able to evaluate the difference.  They need to own their knowledge enough to be vulnerable when it is challenged.  There is less vulnerability because they have less to lose.  They need to learn how to push their knowledge and to push back when others, such as their teachers, make knowledge claims.  I haven't mastered this yet by any means but I am recognizing that this is what my students need.

Doctoral students are in a very different position.  Most of them are coming back to school and are accomplished adults.  To get into a doctoral program is not easy and ours requires you already have a masters' degree.  This means we are teaching individuals who have a level of expertise in our (or a related) field and most have been working professionals for some time.  They are talented, intelligent, motivated and used to excelling in their area.  In their very first semester of the doctoral program this confidence is being shaken.  They are recognizing all that they do not know; all that they have to learn; and are beginning to question if they really are all that they thought they were. Many have a very difficult time being vulnerable in the classroom or in their assignments.

Vulnerability is incredibly important for learning.  You can only learn if you are open and being open makes you vulnerable.  Most (young) undergraduates are used to being open and don't feel defensive about acquiring new knowledge (that is not to say they can't be resistant; there are many ways that people resist learning).  Being vulnerable is a risky business and adults who have gained a sense of competence and confidence are reluctant to put themselves in that position again.  I am learning how to recognize this reluctance and to help students work through it.  For many it is helpful to acknowledge their expertise and to allow them to be comfortable with the discomfit of being a novice again.

I gave feedback on papers to both my undergraduate and my doctoral students last week.  Most of it was negative.  The undergraduates were concerned with their grades.  If the grade was even marginally good they didn't feel the need to see the feedback.  If the grade was bad, their only concern was the ramifications for their final grade.  The doctoral students reacted very differently.  I had two in my office today to discuss their papers.  The underlying concern was that this meant they might not be who they thought they were.  I could see the dreaded imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head.  With each of them I discussed writing as an continuous learning process and I acknowledge what they could do.  I let my students know that I expect them to struggle and that I deliberately give them difficult assignments so that they will be forced to do so. I expect them to learn from their assignments and they do.

I feel confident in my ability to make the classroom safe spaces for my doctoral students; a space to admit what they don't know; to stretch themselves and, occasionally, to fall down.  Sometimes it takes private conversations like the ones I had today to help establish that trust. I feel less confident in my ability to push my undergraduates.  I don't really buy that they don't care.  I'm sure there are a few who truly don't; a few who don't know why they are in college in the first place; but I am convinced that no one wants to do poorly and that most people want to push their understanding of a topic as long as you can hook them on the topic in the first place.  Now I need to find that hook.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Maternal Desire

blue milk has re-posted one of her many fascinating posts.  In this one she discusses maternal desire and claims that it may be as hard to describe maternal desire to someone who hasn't experienced it as it is to describe sexual desire to someone with no libido. This statement brought me back to my very early twenties.

I remember being hit with the physical sensation of maternal desire at 22 or 23.  It was amazingly strong and oftentimes overwhelming.  At the time I likened it to both sexual desire and hunger pains only it was embodied in a different organ.  I felt desire in my uterus.  If you've never felt this than there is no explaining it but once it is there it is difficult to ignore.

I knew I would be a mother for as long as I can remember.  This was a fact I carried around with me the same way I embodied my gender.  I didn't play with dolls when I was young (although I had a large collection of stuffed animals) and I never was (and to this day am still not) much of a baby person.  I don't think all babies are cute or all children are precious.  I wasn't particularly interested in babysitting (except to raise some cash).  I never imagined my wedding or thought much about a husband.  But I knew I would be a mother someday in the future.

In my early twenties I was firmly established in a relationship and had just finished college.  The desire started slowly when I first became an aunt.  It was the first time I had a claim to a child.  I remember being fascinated by my niece (to be honest I remain fascinated by her today, she is extraordinary) in a way I had never been fascinated by a baby before.  In a year or two, the desire started to take hold and I noticed a physical sensation that could not be satisfied in any other way.

This desire propelled me to turn my established relationship into a marriage and, less than a year later, start an aggressive campaign to get pregnant (as is my way I couldn't just start trying, I had to make it a project).  Two months later I had achieved my goal.  Given the physicality of my desire, I assumed I would enjoy pregnancy.  I figured it would be similar to enjoying a good meal after you've fasted.  If I had thought that through I would have realized the error of my ways.  You barely notice food after a sustained hunger and you usually end up eating too much and feeling bloated and uncomfortable afterwards.  That was pretty much my experience with getting and being pregnant.

In an exceptionally blessed and privileged life, being Angel's mother has been the highlight.  Once he was born, I never felt that desire again.  I felt something vaguely similar when he left for college. Luckily I was able to recognize it for what it was: a physical desire to have HIM again, not any random baby.

These days I notice the urge for a grandchild is growing but those feelings are embodied in my arms.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Golden Hour Fail


SouthLite has a lot of lakes.  It also has a lot of trails and many of them are by the lakes.  b and I have been running on one of these lake trails in the mornings.  Whenever when we run I think about how I'd like to shoot the lake in the "golden hour" (or magic hour, whichever you prefer).


As wonderful as the golden hour is, I find it hard to get away from whatever it is I'm doing when it arrives.  Today I was determined to make it happen.  Since I was working at home and it was a beautiful day, it seemed like the odds were in my favor. I finished working early, cleaned the kitchen and prepped dinner, and then grabbed my camera and jumped into the car.


The lake is about 10 minutes away from my house but the road that leads to it is a busy one and the golden hour is right around rush hour these days. So after a bit of traffic I made it to the marina. The lake was quiet and beautiful.  I was very excited. I took out my camera and started shooting.


Alas, before I could even get into my groove, the camera died. It seems I made the classic mistake of not checking my equipment and the battery needed recharging. So I got back into the car, drove back through the same traffic, and tried to save the few shots I got with Photoshop.


Tomorrow is another day.