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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Calling Card....Of Sorts

I Used To...

I used to tell stories.

Sleepy little boy bedtime stories.
Silly passing time on boring train ride stories.
Scary vampire monster bat stories.
Sexy pillow talk lover stories.

I used to tell stories.
I used to write poems.

every so often,
I capture a story
by clicking a button.

But mostly
I fumble
in the dark.

Texture Tuesdays: Golden Edition

The task this week was to use the "Golden" texture provided by Kim.  I tried it on beaches, butterflies, and city streets.

Textures used: Greyday Vintage, Golden, NotTooShabby

Textures used: Golden

Textures used: Golden

Textures used:Golden

Textures used: Golden, Mayzee


Friday, June 24, 2011

RBOC: Observations on "Me Time" Edition

  • It is really hot here in SouthLite.  Even when they say it's not going to be that hot, it is that hot.  "Me Time" would be a lot more fun if going outside didn't feel so bad.
  • I find myself making simpler meals and eating fewer times a day.  Pupzilla is not happy with the lack of  scraps. She barks at me to get cooking.  
  • Workouts always put me in a better mood and they give me a reason to leave the house. However it is really hard to convince myself of this fact when I wake up in the morning. Yoga classes help, as they have a specific schedule.
  • Much of the work that I have to do this month is in the very disheartening reading, researching and thinking phase.  It is a critical phase but always feels so unproductive when I'm in it.  The only other work is dreary administrative work.  
  • I'm taking the Essentials Photoshop Course over here.  It just started this week and was supposed to be  one of the more entertaining activities for the month (since I liked the SkinnyMini so much).  It is a helpful course but we are going pretty slow and the entertainment factor is low at the moment.
  • I'm watching a lot of Homicide: Life on the Streets.  How I love Andre Braugher
  • Angel is UpNorth visiting his dad; Pumpkin and BB are visiting distant countries where the sun never truly sets; and b has made it to The Last Frontier.
  • b has been texting me, whenever cell service is available, throughout his journey.  He puts into the water in 2 days and there will be no more correspondence (except for daily emails from the Spot Locator letting me know he's ok) until he is done.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Textured People

This week Texture Tuesday is all about the people.  Here's what I came up with:
Father and Son
Textures: kimklassenlove, silence, greyday vintage

Wall Street
Textures: kkmayzee, lifesgood, chamomile

Textures: februarymagic, lifesgood, kk_yesteryear

Grandma K
Textures: kkluminous, warmsun


Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Month of "Me Time"

A fair amount of my research involves talking to women who are actively mothering their children.  Regardless of their personal situation, they all desire more time to themselves.  They want "me time."  I remember this feeling very well.  It lasted the entire time Angel lived with me.  Granted I had a lot more "me time" once he reached his teens, but there was always an underlying sense that my time was not truly my own.

There were several years where I traveled a lot for my job.  While I missed Angel (and later b) when I was traveling, it was also a relief to have a hotel room all to myself for a few days.  Most of those days I was working and not actually in my hotel room, but knowing it was there waiting for me was a blessing.

Things are different now.  I have a lot of time to call my own.  At the beginning and endings of the semesters the various demands upon me can almost feel like those mothering years but not quite as relentless.

b left for his Alaska Adventure today.  He has 5 days of driving; a day and a half on a ferry; a day to wait for his friend, and then three weeks of paddling before I meet up with him.  This translates into four weeks of me at home alone.

I've never lived alone.  b has done these adventures before but this is the first one since Angel went off to college.  Me time is a lot less precious when you have it in abundance.

I have a lot of work to do in the next four weeks.  My goal is to be caught up and ready for the semester to begin before I leave for vacation.  When I get back I will only have two weeks before classes start and those weeks are notoriously busy with meetings.

So my "Month of Me Time" will consist of writing a grant and getting a backlog of papers out, running two ongoing projects, prepping my fall courses and getting ready for the new cohort of doctoral students.  In between I'll be attending a lot of yoga classes and taking an e-course or two.  Hopefully I'll be posting throughout it all. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Coffee Dreams

I have a photo up at Coffee Served Daily today.  Kim is posting 1000 pictures of coffee.  If you're a fellow coffee lover you definitely want to check it out. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

On Happiness and Parenting

In the past two days I have run across this article referenced in a number of blogs and tweets.  It took 2 or 3 mentions to get me to read it and another 2 or 3 to get me to comment on it.  You may have to read it yourself to follow the rest of this post.  So go ahead.  I'll wait.

Now I've read several reactions to this article that endorse "helicopter-free" or "boosting emotional immunity" parenting.  Others are worried that they might be engaging in the obsessively positive parenting described in the article.  And I get the appeal of this article and of renouncing helicopter parenting, I really do.  There are sections of the article that ring very true to me, however (and you knew there had to be a big however) the underlying assumptions of the article are seriously flawed.

One problematic assumption is clearly demonstrated in the title.  Then in the first paragraph, the author (a therapist and mother) admits to being trained to see the problems of adulthood as being the fault of parents.  When she could not find evidence of poor parenting among her patients she (and it would appear the field of clinical psychology) decided that positive parenting is to blame.  Sounds like a damned if you do/damned if you don't scenario to me.

And while it is not explicitly said in the article, we are in fact speaking primarily of mothers.  Mother-blaming has been around for a very long time.  Perhaps as long as mothers have been around but I don't have the research to back that statement.

She claims the research shows parental fault to be the cause of adult neuroses (she does excuse mothers from the blame of schizophrenia) but that is because the research focuses on parental influence.  Science is not perfect and tends to find what it looks for.  I'm not saying that parents don't have a huge influence on their children's mental health, they obviously do, but there are many other influences that are not discussed.  There are also so-called parental influences, such as poverty or economic hardship, that most parents are not able to control.

In my own life, if I can get past what my mother and father did or didn't do, I can easily name significant people and events that have shaped my attitudes, behaviors, and sanity in adulthood. Other children stand out pretty big in my childhood.  For much of my elementary and middle school years, other children had a far bigger influence on my understanding of and expectations for happiness than either of my parents.  Teachers and camp counselors had a smaller but still significant effect.  As for the media, I blame Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda for shaping my expectations on women's roles in society.

Enough with the mother-blaming.  Articles like this one are damaging because they refuse to acknowledge the larger context in which we all parent and helps further the never-ending "Mommy Wars."

The author has also bought into our societal messages on happiness and independence.  These are cultural constructs and not facts.  Not all cultures raise their children to be "productive, happy adults." Not all cultures expect to pursue happiness and certainly not all expect to obtain it 95% of the time. Some cultures accept emotions to be what they are: transient experiences.  Also not all cultures expect their children to leave the nest.  In some cultures children stay home or close to home and start their own families which then become extension of the original family.  Some cultures find it shocking that we expect our children to live away from the family in their early twenties.  Some of these cultures exist right here in America.

So who are the people portrayed in this article?  It is written to sound like this is happening all across America.  As if these behaviors can speak to all Americans.  In fact they do not.  Class and race are not considered in this article.  Too often our parenting advice is based on White, upper middle-class values and behaviors.  Class may be the biggest missing context in this article.  Protecting your children from unhappiness or misfortune looks a lot different among working-class families and different again among families living in poverty.

At the very end of the article the author admits that not all children are the same and implies that temperament may have something to do with how children respond to their upbringing.  In reviewing my own parenting behaviors (as this article practically forces you to do) I can see a lot of ways in which I protected Angel and weakened his emotional immune system.  However I also remember there were many opportunities to put his immune system to work.  He was a child capable of experiencing both great joy and great sorrow.  So far he has not required therapy as an adult.  He enjoys being happy but doesn't expect it to be a constant in his life.  Does that mean I was/am a good parent?  If he should require therapy in the future, would it mean I was a bad one?

Monday, June 13, 2011

On Doulas and Dissertations

Many before me have made the analogy between completing your dissertation and giving birth.  I think the analogy has a lot of merit but recently I've made the connection between being a doula and being a dissertation advisor.

  • Supporting someone in labor, whether it be a with a baby or a dissertation, is grueling and rewarding work.
  • Before true labor begins, neither the pregnant woman nor the doctoral candidate can really fathom what the process will be like.  As doula/advisor you try and describe it but you know that half your words are falling on deaf ears.
  • During labor both the pregnant woman and the doctoral candidate want it to be over.  It is your job to hold their hand while helping them forward.
  • Both declare they will never do this again.  The pregnant woman may swear off sex.  The doctoral candidate usually develops elaborate fantasies about the non-intellectual career (mine was living on a mountain top, stockpiling arms and teaching martial arts to the local children) they will start as soon as it is all over.  It is your job to take these declarations seriously and not laugh in their face.  
  • There is much effort but the glory is not yours.  Luckily neither is the pain.

There are, of course, significant differences. The most important one is:
  • The pregnant woman has the choice of using drugs or not.  As a doula it is your job to support a woman regardless of her choice.  As a doctoral advisor it is best to keep the student sober, at least until it is all over.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bloggy Makeover

It seemed like a good time to change the look around here.

I'm going to sit with this a few days and see how I feel.

Comments encouraged.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Reading List: Update Edition

Last month I laid out my summer reading list but shortly afterwards I ended up at my favorite used bookstore with a $40 credit.  Consequently my list has expanded considerably.  I also realized I had a few books leftover from Christmas that I had never read.  So here is the addendum to my original list:

  1. Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
  2. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  3. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
  4. Nerilka's Story by Anne McCaffrey
  5. The Mystery of Breathing by Perri Klass
  6. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
  7. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, by Gail Collins
  8. Primitive People by Francine Prose
  9. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

So we're up to a total of 22 books to finish before the semester starts.  How am I doing, you ask? From the original list I read most of My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales.  I'm not a big fan of short stories or rather I enjoy them but I have a hard time reading one after another.  So I was very surprised that I managed to get through most of this book before I had to pick up a novel.  For the fairy tale lovers out there, there are some amazing ones in this little collection.

I also found Jane Smiley's Private Lives at the used bookstore and have finished that.  It was an interesting read as it portrayed a woman's life from 1883 to 1942, a time period that you don't normally get in a modern novel.  However I am often disappointed with Jane Smiley and this was no different.  I think I'm always hoping for another A Thousand Acres and never get it.

For book club we read Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Saves Herself.  Since book club is meeting tomorrow and there is a lot to say about this book, I'll leave that for another post.

From the above list I've read The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  For the life of me I could not remember why I had placed this book on my Young Adult To Re-Read list.  Not that it wasn't enjoyable but rather that I had no specific recollection of reading it originally (although I must have) and it didn't seem like the kind of book I would have particularly enjoyed as a young adult. Some interesting historical fiction but too much silly romance.

I also read Francine Poser's Primitive People.  I discovered Francine Poser when I picked up the book of fairy tales in the book store.  Her fairy tale was the first I read in the collection and the reason I bought the book.  She has a very engaging style and I do love satire.  This may not have been her best novel but was fun none-the-less.  I'm looking forward to reading more.

I'm also pages away from finishing Fire in the Blood.  I adored Suite Francaise and while this is not as magnificent, it is a beautifully written little book.  I've pretty much devoured it in a day.

So that is 6 down and 16 to go.  For book club next month we are turning back to fiction and will read Father of the Rain.  In the meantime I think I'll visit with Carson McCullers.   I am a big fan of A Member of the Wedding and don't know how I've gotten this far without reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Life Lists

I've been thinking about life lists (or the more depressing version - bucket lists) lately.  I've never had an official one but I've always had things that I knew I would eventually experience or accomplish.  I've been thinking about what is left on that list lately.  I think a combination of (a) acquiring tenure, (b) being an empty-nester, and (c) passing that dividing line between early forties and late forties, has initiated a mini-mid-life crisis.

Also the opportunity has arisen for me to join b on his epic adventure this summer.  If you recall, b will be driving clear across country to The Last Frontier.  There he will meet up with a good friend (he's gone from 9 interested companions to one friend who was never part of the original group) and paddle the Inside Passage.  Because of the change in group membership, he will be able to leave earlier and paddle faster.  This means he will be off the water in enough time for me to meet him there and drive back home across the country together before my semester starts.

Yesterday I developed an itinerary for the homeward drive that has us going through parts of Canada I've always wanted to visit and seeing some of the major national parks.  This is a trip I've always wanted to do but never knew when or how it would happen.

I am very excited.

But it has also gotten me thinking about life lists.  This will be one I can cross off of my non-existent list.  Below are some of the other items I could cross off right now (in chronological order):

  • Getting my black belt
  • Becoming a mother
  • Getting published
  • Getting a grant
  • Finding my life partner
  • Getting my doctorate
  • Becoming a professor
  • Traveling abroad
  • Buying a house
  • Getting tenure
  • Watching a birth

There are a few things that are still on the list but the possibility of them occurring is out of my hands:

  • Dancing at Angel's wedding
  • Becoming a grandmother
  • Helping Pumpkin give birth

There are one or two things that are in my control that are definitely on the list:

  • Writing a book
  • Hooding my doctoral students
Other than these things, I have no clue what should be on the list.  Sure there are things I've thought of doing or places I would like to go, but none of them really seem important enough to make a life list.  Is this a good thing?  It is great to have accomplished/experienced so many things that are important to me but the thought of living without significant possibilities or goals ahead of me is a little depressing. I feel like I'm in a similar spot with Angel right now--we're both trying to figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fun with Photos

I took a free e-course (Kim Klassen's SkinnyMini) on Photoshop a few weeks ago.  The course was only 10 days and gave you a brief idea of what Photoshop can do.  Each day we would get either a video showing us a new technique or two or a homework assignment.  Kim is also all about textures, so we learned ways to incorporate texture into a photo.  I'm not sure how I feel about adding textures.  It is fun to try but probably not something I would do a lot of in the future.

Here are some shots I played with during the course.

And here are some before and after shots of the magnolias in my front yard

I'll be taking her full course, Photoshop: The Essentials, later this month.  I really enjoy the e-course format.