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

Monday, May 30, 2011

At The Hospital

It's 3:40am and I'm in labor & delivery waiting on a baby.

Yesterday I was at a wedding in the mountains.

The day before that I was eating in my favorite restaurant with b and Angel.

Crazy weekend.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ten Random Things I Love About My Son

  1. He loves to walk.  Even though he couldn't wait to get his license and loves to drive, he still really prefers to walk somewhere if he can.
  2. His beautiful blue eyes.
  3. He loves animals and treats them with respect and care.  My animals all flock to him (especially The Brute) when he comes for a visit.
  4. He loves to learn and years of bad school experiences hasn't beaten it out of him.
  5. He is exceptionally self-aware.  The masculine world requires him to hide his sensitive nature but he never loses touch with it. 
  6. He strives to be "an ethical man."
  7. He is only interested in dating women who are strong, intelligent, independent and "a good conversationalist."
  8. He is an amazing travel companion.
  9. I can talk with him for hours and never get bored.
  10. He calls me "mama bear."

Saturday, May 21, 2011


As you may recall, b and I have a plethora (N=4) of weddings to attend.  All of the weddings have a friend or family member officiating.  Since I am that family member for my sister C's wedding, I've been particularly interested in the ceremonies at these other weddings.

The first wedding is behind us and it was very simple.  A close friend officiated and spoke personally about the couple and their relationship.  There was a musical tribute to the bride's deceased father.  The vows were incredibly brief; a little too brief for my taste.  But the couple were so obviously happy, in love, and enjoying the moment that it was a lovely wedding.

I spoke to C recently about her ideas for the ceremony and vows.  She had none.  The wedding is still several months away and she and K are busy getting through the logistics.  She promised to think about it and discuss it with K and then the three of us will talk.

In the meantime our friends and favorite dinner guests are getting married next weekend.  Last week the groom called b and asked if we were free on Thursday.  It seems they were struggling with their vows and wanted some help.  They thought of us because we seem so much in love.  I can't think of a better compliment to a married couple.  So they came over, drank some wine, ate leftover spinach lasagna and we talked vows.  As I suspected, they didn't really need help so much as a sounding board.  By the end of the evening they had the ceremony completely mapped out and were happy with the vows they had chosen.

Throughout the evening b had to google unusual wedding vows and ceremonies and share them with us.  I thought this one from Dr. Seuss might work well for C & K:

Pastor: Will you love with all your heart?
Will you love till death you part?
Groom: Yes, I'll love with all my heart
From now until death do us part,
And I will love her when we're rich,
And when we're broke and in a ditch,
And when we're fit, and when we're sick,
(Oh, CAN'T we get this finished quick?)
And I will love through good and bad,
And I will love when glad or sad,
And I will have, and I will hold,
And if I might now be so bold,
I'll love her my entire life,
Yes, I WILL take her as my wife! 

And these Klingon wedding vows made us almost want to get married again just so we can say them:

Enemies to the left
Enemies to the right
they are everywhere

The warrior fights continuously.
He fights with honor.
He fights alone.
He can fight perfectly but he will certainly die.

Thus we join one another
One become two
Two becomes a household
Houses become armies
Armies build the empire

Doesn't it just bring a tear to your eye?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hot Yoga

I accidentally stumbled upon hot yoga when I was at a conference in Emerald City a few months back.  I was staying in a hotel with a teeny-tiny fitness room and I wanted another work-out option. I was also rooming with my friend, Real, who had been saying she needed to get into yoga for a quite a while but had done nothing about it.  I figured it was a perfect opportunity to try something new.

The closest yoga studio to the hotel was hot yoga.  I knew nothing about it but figured it was worth a shot.  I invited three other colleagues/friends and we made our way to the studio with no expectations.  The studio offered a number of different classes but somehow we ended up in the 90-minute power class.  I had never taken power yoga before and the combination of the two was amazing but a little overwhelming for those in our party who were brand-new to yoga.  The studio offered a one-week trial deal that was only $2 more expensive than 1 drop-in class.  We were sold. One of my friends and I went back the second day for a 60-minute power class and then three of us tried a restorative yoga class.  I loved all three classes and was anxious to try it back in SouthLite.

Real and I created "Detox Week" and the plan was to find a similar one-week trial deal at a hot yoga studio at home.  SouthLite boasts two hot yoga studios.  One has a second location in a neighboring city (CigaretteVille, where Real lives) so that was the one we chose.  The same foursome signed up last week and I did a total of 3 classes.

It seems not all hot yoga studios are alike.  This studio followed the Bikram method.  There are 26 postures and they are done EXACTLY the same for every class.  There is no power, there is no restorative, there is only hot.  Hot was even hotter this time at 105 degrees (as compared to 95 in Emerald City).  Worse yet the studio floor was carpeted!  Who would do that?  The studio is owned and run by an aging hippie couple that were very sweet.  He was the instructor for my first class and she was the instructor for my second.  Yesterday I had my third (and final) class with some other woman.

Yoga, in my limited experience so far, is relaxing.  Yes it can be strenuous and I've enjoyed the few power and/or flow classes that I've taken, but the emphasis is still on a calm state of mind. This instructor was harsh.  She barked instructions, was critical if you did something wrong or popped out of a posture too soon and tried to stop people from leaving the room.  Not what I'm looking for in a yoga class.

I've found another studio with a one-week deal that offers a variety of classes including hot yoga, "peaceful yoga" and "yin yoga."  I'll let you know how this one turns out. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Detox Week

Today is the official start of Detox Week.  It is the week after graduation and my colleagues and I are cleaning out our mental systems.  We have put the academic year behind us and are embracing summer break.

I spent most of the day cleaning my office.  I even destunkified my couch (yes I have a couch in my office) and sanitized my yoga ball (yes I have a yoga ball in my office...its a big office).

Tomorrow's agenda is hot yoga.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


One of the loveliest birthdays yet.
 Pumpkin and BB came for a visit.
 I baked cupcakes (and made ice cream).
 Pumpkin and BB's gift...the beginning of a garden.
 Tomatoes, herbs and strawberries.

 Birthday gift from b.
Results of a mother-daughter pedicure (another gift from Pumpkin)
Went to the used bookstore and came home with 7 books to add to my growing pile.

The only downside was missing Angel but he leaves for Greece tomorrow.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Graduation Daze

Today was graduation.  We have two on the same day: the university graduation in the morning and the departmental graduation in the afternoon.  I didn't make it to the morning one. I have not been a happy camper at work lately and just didn't have two graduations in me.

Instead I ran in the park (absolutely lovely) and then cleaned my house and set-up the spare bedroom (Pumpkin and BB are coming tonight).

Then I headed over to campus for the second graduation.  It is always heartwarming to see students graduate and hear their exuberant families in the stands.  However, two years ago we went from a school-wide graduation to each department hosting its own graduation.  This is supposed to make it more personal but I haven't found it to be true.  Instead it is a lot of extra work with fewer resources so the result feels rushed and formulaic to me.

Luckily the students seemed to enjoy it.

Afterwards we host a small reception in the gym and students bring their parents over to meet the faculty.  I'm not a sociable animal and don't shine at the meet and greet but I know it is an important part of the event.

This year one of my students had a traumatic experience and is not doing well.  I am worried about her and it was sad to see her affect so flat on graduation day.  She promised to visit me during the summer and I'm hoping she follows up on it.

Tonight I went to a party at another student's house.  Many of my students (both graduate and undergraduate) attended as did Pumpkin and BB.  I also got to spend a little time with the student's mother, sister and brother-in-law and it was much nicer to get to know them in a more informal setting. This student has been a research assistant for me for almost three years now. She is taking a year off before graduate school and wants to continue our work together in the meantime.

I will miss them all when they leave but I am realizing how they have formed a revolving community: as some make their way out, others are being welcomed in.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Never-Ending Practicum

All semester I've been teaching a practicum with my favorite group of doctoral students.  It is my first time teaching this course and I've been pretty much winging it as I go.  In our department we have a core course in qualitative methods (which I teach) but it is an overview course and we don't have a lot of time to go deeply into any one topic.  Several of our students have done qualitative dissertations and many more indicate that they would like to do so.  Our university has several qualitative methods courses in different departments but very few cover analysis with any depth. My idea for the course was to use available qualitative datasets (one of mine and one of my colleague's) and focus exclusively on coding, analysis and writing.  Analysis and writing would be done collaboratively and the final product would be papers for submission.

It has been a fun course to teach, partly because it consists of my favorite students and one of my favorite colleagues, but also because I am a bit of a methods geek and absolutely love reading and talking and thinking about methods.  As part of the course we read an interesting book that provides narratives on both the process of conducting qualitative dissertations as well as the student-mentor relationship.  Many excellent discussions came from these readings and we explored far more than just how to analyze qualitative data.

Perhaps the most important learning outcome to have occurred was the realization that this work is intensive and takes a long time.  Several of the students are rethinking a qualitative dissertation and the others are adjusting their timeline so they can do their dissertations justice.  We have two really interesting papers in the works but are still pretty far from having final drafts.  Classes ended two weeks ago but we added a few extra sessions to try and catch up.  Today was the last of these unofficial sessions but we will continue to meet informally throughout the summer to draft the papers.

Working with engaged students is a blessing.  I hope I never take it for granted.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Martial Arts Vs. Yoga

Many many years ago we shared our dojo with a yoga class.  This meant that we also shared our dressing room when the classes overlapped.  At that time I had a very dismissive attitudes towards yoga, fueled in part through my interactions with my dressing room companions.  I didn't understand why anyone would want to spend that much time on an "unproductive art."  Yoga (and yogis) seemed very self-indulgent and quite frankly they weren't very good at sharing space.

Over the years I maintained a negative outlook towards yoga.  I tried a class or two in contexts that were not conducive to really experiencing yoga (a student gym and a hotel gym) and these experiences just reinforced my snobbery.  Martial arts was purposeful and we shared many of the same stretches, so why would I be interested in yoga?  Much later I found out we shared the same stretches because my Sensei incorporated poses from a book on yoga into our warm-up routine. Of course we didn't do the poses the way they are done in a true yoga class so when I did start studying yoga it was both familiar and new at the same time.

There are actually a lot of similarities between martial arts (very broadly defined) and yoga but there are also significant differences.  Martial arts is purposeful in that every movement has a practical application (actually every movement has multiple practical applications) and you are always imagining an opponent while performing these movements.  Studying martial arts means you are always assessing negative situations that need to be prevented or protected.  It is a paranoid art.  I've also found that there is a fair amount of guilt involved in the teaching of martial arts.  No matter how much you practice, it is never enough.  No matter how prepared you are for something bad to happen you always need to be on your guard.  Martial arts is filled with sayings such as "expect nothing but always expect the unexpected."  It is a bit crazy-making to actually try and live by these codes.

Both practices require and train a deep awareness of your body and how it is aligned.  Both require repetitive practice and are mentally and physically challenging.  The combination of skill development, self-awareness, and meditation appeals to me.  Lately I've realized that the self-indulgence of yoga is a good thing.  Like anything, including the paranoia of martial arts, in the extreme it is destructive.  However pursuing something simply because it makes you feel good is really ok. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Summer Reading List

I've been running across a lot of books I'd like to read lately.  For a while I was in a bit of a reading drought but currently the list is long, the interest is high, and the summer is near.  Here's what's on my list:

  1. Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love by Xinran
  2. Children and Fire by Ursula Hegi
  3. The Wild Girls by Ursula K. LeGuin
  4. Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
  5. Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself, by Rachel Lloyd
  6. Father of the Rain by Lily King
  7. Private Life by Jane Smiley
  8. Just Kids by Patti Smith
  9. Nox by Anne Carson
  10. The Social Animal by David Brooks
  11. The Street by Ann Petry
  12. Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer
  13. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, Edited by Kate Bernheimer
This last one I've actually started and am loving it.  I'll check in over the summer and let you know how I'm doing.  I may even throw in a review or two.