Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cough. Cough Cough. Cough Cough Cough.

Kid is sick, with the additional complication of the maybe-asthma but definitely wheezy lungs that ratchet up my
motherly concern. I don't want her to have asthma. I don't want her to be sick. I don't want to make a big deal
about her illness -- she's eager to have a special illness all her own, wants to talk constantly about the state of
her health ("Is this a really big cold, Mom? Is it the biggest cold ever?"). I, on the other hand, am torn. I want to
give her effective medical care, but I don't want to encourage her to think of herself as having a limiting illness.
I worry that my hangups about bodily illness (bust through it, avoid medical practitioners, illness is a fact of
life to be dealt with but not talked about) are ultimately going to leave her feeling confused and ashamed
of what might be a lifetime condition.

The diagnosis was so sketchy. The follow-up was so nonchalant. I wish I knew what the hell was up.
What's the prognosis? Should I worry? Will it get worse? Will it go away? Will it repeat? How can I prevent recurring attacks?
I asked all the right questions at the time, but it didn't seem like they had much specific to tell me.

Now she's sleeping well, eating well, but she does have really clogged breathing. She's only worried
that she'll be too sick to go out on Halloween night. I've promised that we'll find a way to 'ween, remembering well
every Halloween experience of my own. There's something wonderful about being out at night with a flashlight and
a hundred other excited children, getting candy from any grown-up that one asks. I told her she might wake up tomorrow feeling like a tiger. She rejoined that she was probably going to feel like a squashed raccoon.

But before she got sick, we enjoyed a long visit from Grandma -- ice skating show! Irish step-dancing show! Art museum! Planetarium! Baking pies! Playing dolls! Hiking! -- who really is wonderful company. And she can clean the hell out of
a dirty stove without giving her daughter (much) guff about the woeful lack of housewifery going on around here.

And before that, Detroit for the weekend for a meet-up with my husband. Kid and I drove through Canada, where
Tecumseh is a national's like a sane mirror-universe of my beloved Midwest. While I did not love
Detroit (not really a city person, highway system was torture, the husk of a once-prosperous place that
now is broken with poverty), I loved the chance to be with my husband and see many former grad school

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A misty day for apple-picking

At least once a week, Kid and I commit to driving out of the city to get somewhere to walk in the country, somewhere with
dirt paths or no paths, a hardwood canopy, the sound of running water that isn't channeled through a storm sewer pipe. Away from the broken glass and grafitti. Away from the honking horns and constant running of the bus up and down
our street. I hate living in the city and without these breaks, I'd be really unhappy and feel like I was doing a poor job of endowing her with an appreciation of the church not made with hands.

Today, we drove about 20 miles out to a orchard below a stunning nearby promentory. It's a wild outcrop of craggy
cliffs that makes you tighten your hold on the hand of your kid out of reflex. We often go up there to watch vultures fly into their nests (seeing them from a top view changes one's perspective) and to terrify ourselves by sitting atop a rock wall that demands no error in balance. On top, we eat sandwiches and look back at the pocket-sized city, with miles of fall foliage brightening between.

The orchard sits directly below what were, today, mist-muddled cliffs dominating land once claimed by the Mohawk. Before them, the Owasco, and so on back through the eras until reaching all the way back, there is Turtle, digging up mud and forming us all. The skies were dark grey, close, with a fine spray of rain that soaked us down to those turtle-made bones. Now there are apple trees, row upon row, planted on hills so that the cold air vents down and circulates. The only Indian is on
the logo on the half-bushel bags that we buy from the pick-ur-own guy in the red pickup truck. The trees were full of purple-red apples, ripe to hand, juicy with a hint of chalk in their crunch. Three laughing kids -- mine and two playmates from school -- filled bag after bag with Empire apples, ran up and down the rows chucking windfalls at each
other, smelled the vinegary smell of rotten apples under the trees, looked at a lichen that resembled a ruffled turkey fan, listened to the geese honking overhead, ate cider donuts, taught each other to whistle, had a chance to be kids. Before we left, we gathered bouquets of chicory, fleabane, butter and eggs, ticklegrass, and bladder campion. In my kitchen, the chicory is a startling blue.

I'll be peeling apples all weekend, but it will be worth it.

Bridgett needs...a Google found poem....

Bridgett needs to focus on her priorities…
Bridgett needs constant persuasion to work…
To take control of her situation…
To lose weight…
To get help retrieving lost objects…
To manage her finances…

Bridgett needs to realize that she already has…
Financial blessings…
Bridgett needs to remember…

To achieve clear understanding…
Bridgett needs to protect her own environment…
To let go of the past…
To come clean about her emotions…

Bridgett needs to honor herself…
To let go of the need to control others…
To apologize and accept responsibility for the harm she’s caused….
To love the world.
To find a way.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

another meme (modified from Jo(e)

Number of cats who live in my house: 1
Percentage of these cats who are female: 100
Number of pairs of snowshoes I own: 1
Time actually spent on snowshoes: less than 1 hour
Average number of times I eat every day: 5 (3 meals, 2 snacks)
Number of academic conferences I went to last year: 5
Number of conferences sessions attended at which I was not a presenter: 4
Number of students taken to conferences: 2
Number of students subsequently applying to grad school: 2
Number of years I've planned to canoe the Hudson: 3
Number of years I've actually canoed the Hudson: 0
The age of my youngest child: 6
Number of microfilm reels awaiting reshelving in my office: 4
Number of articles pending minor revision before submitting: 2
Number of months it will take me to do minor revision: 6 or more
Age of my oldest book: 228
How many Elvis Costello albums I own: at least 15
Number of pre-war 78s cluttering up the dining room: 2000 or so
Pieces of furniture actually purchased for my house: 4
Pieces of furniture donated by others: 40+
Number of maps in view as I write: 9
Number of calendars in view as I write: 3 (why????)
Number of clocks in the downstairs: 1
Number of candles lit in the living room: 14
Number of years I've been with my spouse: 14
Number of arguments lasting more than 2 hours in that time: 0
Number of words spoken per day by me, average: 10k or more
Number of words spoken per day by him, average: 1k or less
Number of words spoken per day by Kid, average: 40k or more, mostly in the interrogative
Number of cups of coffee per day consumed: 4-6
Number of people in my household who play the piano: 2
How far, in miles, I live from the nearest grocery store: .2
Pairs of shoes I own: maybe 10
Pairs of shoes I wear regularly: maybe 3
Minutes since I last ate chocolate: 35 (and I’m due for more)
Number of television shows I watch each week: usually 2
How many students in my high school class: 117, counting the three pregnant girls twice
Number of families who lived on my road as a child: 3
Number of aunts and uncles: 10 on one side, 12 on the other
Number of cousins and fictive kin at reunions: 1000s
Number of classes I teach per semester: 4
Average number of independent studies per semester: 3
Years I've lived in this house: 3
Years I've lived in this town: 3
Number of memes I've done in the past 48 hours: 2
Number of tests graded in the same time: 44

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A borrowed meme (from Did I Miss Something?)

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you.

Nostradamus. Aphra Behn. Spike Jones. Bill Buckner. (But to offset that last one, may I just point out that The Clash also released London Calling on my birthday?)

2. Where was your first kiss?

Euuuuw. In the back room of the Avon High School Library, while I was shelving Shakespeare. By a person who had read about French kissing in a book somewhere – thereby giving me my first concrete experience with the difference between theory and praxis. Memorable, but not in a good way.

3. Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else's property?

Probably. But I’ve also served as one-half of an impromptu hate-poster removal crew, getting rid of anti-Semitic crap that some skinheads had plastered up on walls in a neighborhood I liked to walk through.

4. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex?

Yes, but why dwell on long-distant unpleasantness?

5. Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people?

All the time. National Cathedral, St. Patrick’s in NY, etc. On TV. On the radio. I have more extensive experience in choral groups than in solo recital, but my favorite was Bach’s Magnificat that I toured around on one Advent season. I also used to make beer money singing as a soloist at weddings.

6. What's the first thing you notice about the preferred sex?

The intellect, as it manifests itself in the quickness of humor.

7. What really turns you on?

Strong arms, good smell, body warmth.

8. What do you order at Starbucks?

I only go to Starbucks when desperate for coffee after a long weak-end at my Mom’s. Then it’s cafĂ© mocha. But usually I make regular coffee at home, with organic milk. It’s cheaper and I can make it as strong as I like.

9. What is your biggest mistake?

Taking over a decade to complete my dissertation, which helped get me in debt, which in turn limited our household’s economic flexibility and led us to make some difficult choices.

10. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose?

Yes. But again, why dwell on long-past unpleasantness?

11. Say something totally random about yourself.

I like triple-thick cherry milkshakes.

12. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity?

Yes. Someone thought I looked like Billie Burke when I was in college.

13. Do you still watch kiddy movies or tv shows?

I have a kid. Ergo, I watch kid shows.

14. Did you have braces?

Yes, though I didn’t finish with them – my bottom teeth are still sort of crooked. (Family ran out of money, I ran out of patience.)

15. Are you comfortable with your height?

I’m average and that’s ok.

16. What is the most romantic thing someone of the opposite sex has done for you?

I don’t really require romantic gestures, though I’ve been lucky enough to be loved well by a number of different people.

17. When do you know it's love?


18. Do you speak any other languages?

French, un peu. Spanish, also not much. German -- if I'm reading it out of a book. I can sing like
a bird in any of those languages, but like to sing in Italian better (all those open vowels!).
I have what academics call reading competence in all of the languages above.

19. Have you ever been to a tanning salon?

No. I poke fun at people who do, though.

20. What magazines do you read?

New Yorker. Better Homes and Gardens. Esquire. Chronicle of Higher Ed. Smithsonian. A lot of professional journals.

21. Have you ever ridden in a limo?
Yes, several times. Most recently, got the rockstar treatment as a visiting scholar when a school with a ridiculous endowment sent a car to pick me up at the airport and squire me to campus, complete with sparkling water. Hilarious, considering my general lowly station in the world of academe.

22. Has anyone you were really close to passed away?

My dad. My grandmother. My husband’s grandfather and grandmother.

23. Do you watch MTV?
Not anymore. I used to watch “120 minutes” during the height of
Grunge. I also loved MTV in the mid-80s.

24. What's something that really annoys you?

Traffic honkers.

25. What's something you really like?

Candlelight and red wine.

26. What celebrity do you admire?
I don’t really follow celeb culture enough to say. Maybe Bono, for his pragmatic and committed approach to big problem-solving. But maybe also the rest of the band for putting up with him.

27. Can you dance?
Yes. Love to dance. Recently sold my tap shoes, though.

28. What's the latest you have ever stayed up?

Hmmm…a better question might be the longest period of prolonged sleep-deprivation. Kid didn’t sleep through the night until she was
15 months old and I was a full-contact breastfeeder, so those were some very fatiguing times. And the month right before turning in my dissertation, I survived on a couple hours of sleep a night.

29. Ever lied to your parents as an adult?

More misled than lied. We omitted to tell them that we were living together before we got married and for one reason or another, they never came to visit that year. They probably knew and just kept their silence.

30. Have you ever been rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room?

No, but I have driven a number of people to the emergency room at top speed, including someone who had put their arm through a plate glass window (and then took it back out, which was the bigger problem) and someone whose heartbeat was down to 20 bpm by the time I got him through the doors. I love ER staffers.

31. Do you actually read these when other people fill them out?

Of course. And I reciprocate!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Order of the Day

The problem is, see, that there's never just a single "order" to be followed. A day to clean the house and tackle the looming stack of dishes. Or a day to plant the bulbs and icicle pansies that need to get in the ground before the big rainstorm. Or a day to write that really good lecture (with visuals) that will invite my students into the past. Or a day to figure out how, where, and when to shop this behemoth of a manuscript around because it is doing me no good piled up here on the desk and it will be a long while before I have a sustained chance to revise it further. Or a day to take the Kid to see a friend's horses and wander her fields for a while to get out of the too-much-with-us of the city we live in. Nope. Today is an "all of the above" day. Plus taking back library books, arranging flowers (don't take time to smell them!), grocery shopping, and pickup/dropoff of drycleaning. It would be good if I could also get the downstairs floors mopped, but that always falls to the bottom of the list.

I'm hoping that the time in the barn sets me right. I have always loved barns and the work one does in barns. No clocks.
The cows know what to do without them, and the horses know when they are hungry without a dinnerbell. I like
a life lived by rhythm rather than by hour. (It's one of the lures of the college world; the semester has a rhythm
that pulses through it, leaving one mostly in the direction of one's time.) I also enjoy the chance to escape from the
silliness of my own concerns. As a guy I knew once said "you never see a farmer complaining about farmer's block.
He plants when it's time to plant and harvests at harvesttime." Yes. Exactly. What I'm missing in my life is fallow time.

I'm feeling better already. I'm going to go outside and plant things and let the indoor work wait until after dark.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fair enough...

To tell you exactly what I'm working on would be to blow my anonymity bigtime. But I'm writing about sex and people talking about sex in a historical setting and today I deviated from my usual research path (highly empirical) to
start thinking about what people in this place were reading and how that might have shaped how they thought
about what was shameful or dangerous or acceptable. I devised a clever strategy for figuring out what they
read, found out that they were indeed reading racy stuff (including some orientalist classics that I never dreamed
that they'd have access to) and so now I have not only the doggerel they are writing and the parties they
attended and the sham/clandestine/handfast marriages, and the slander accusations
and the legal documents, but I have a little of their imaginative world too. And now I know that at a very early point,
these sort of titillating books moved out of the tavern (where they could have been read by anyone, or read
to an audience) and moved into a subscription library (where they could only be gotten by the better sort, with
reading becoming a private and refined pleasure).

So it all went very well indeed and I am going to get up early so I can do some more. I love this phase of the project, when ideas are all whirling around, everything seems relevant and interesting, and there's a ton of new secondary material
to read by smart people.

I find it ironic -- yes, this really is irony and not in the Alanis Morrissette usage of describing inconvenience or coincidence
as irony -- that the less I get laid (due to partner's prolonged absence in Dixie), the more my professional life is wrapped up in booty.

My day to write...

The stars have aligned and my independent study students have, for a variety of reasons probably having to do
with watching late-night baseball and drinking beer on our glorious fall afternoons, cancelled out for being unprepared.
I'm left with six hours of my own to write.

I'll report on the other side of this unexpected welcome interlude.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Piratical disposition, arrrrrghhhhh....

Today has been a pirate-y day around the good ship Jane Explorer. (Jane Explorer is the name of our cat. No lie. She's named, quite sensibly, after a cardboard box spaceship that was also named Jane Explorer. Or maybe she's named for the procession of dolls named Jane. At one point, Kid was naming everything Jane, which made her parents' life much easier. No so many personal pronouns for all the little objects that a child holds dear...)

But I digress. Today was a pirate day. I woke up grouchy and stumped around the kitchen when Kid gave me an enormous hug. I squealed "I've been keelhauled! By coating me with girlish sweetness, you're spoilin' me piratical disposition....arrrrrrggghhh...." and a new game was born, complete with headscarves. I'm Cap'n Bluestone and Kid takes on the role of Nell, the lass determined to save me from a life of ill-temper. We played this for about five minutes too long, as these things usually go, and then we had to careen to school to get there on time.

I'm the class "book wrangler" and I had to drop off a load of harvest-related, pumpkin/apple/how do cultures around the world celebrate harvest time books. There is a real gap in the market on easy-reading books on bird migration, explanations of why leaves turn colors, and the life of ponds in the fall. I was satisfied to learn that the kid who hadn't been reading at all at least picked up one of the books and looked at the pictures. I've got a soft spot in my heart for him because he's socially out of place -- a recently adopted child who bears all the hallmarks of lack of love and care in his formative years, placed rather suddenly in a classroom full of affluent and advantaged kids who've been indulged their whole lives and aren't very tolerant of difference. Maybe he just needs someone to notice that he likes cameras and leave around a book about taking photos of autumn leaves. I bet he'll be reading by Christmas.

And yes, there was even a book about pirates. It had nothing to do with autumn or apples or harvests, but kids like pirate books. And so do I. Arrrrrgh.

A radical notion

The Togolese government has authorized state-run schools to send adolescent girls home to their parents to get their
heads shaved. The theory here is that girls continually play with their hair, resulting in sub-par academic performance.
Next week, they will be sending teenage boys home to be castrated on the same principle. (No, just kidding...sexist dimwits.)

Here's the link to the news story:

And in honor of Twisty, may I just say I blame the patriarchy?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Will I go to hell for showing my kid a John Waters movie?

Ok, so it was Hairspray -- pretty mild stuff. Kid never realized that Divine was a transvestite; she was far more puzzled by segregation than the drag elements, which is just as it should be. But I get ahead of myself.

Weekend mornings belong to dance. We start dancing at breakfast, kid takes a combo ballet technique/jazz/tap class
at a local studio, and then we come back home to dance to the radio while we're doing those leftover chores that
didn't get done other times. Then we went to her school for their autumn shindig -- the bright sunshine and
cloudless sky made it very pleasant. Kid got her face painted as a bright pink glittery cat face and set a new
school jump rope record. The vendor food was all organic vegetarian, so we ate well. I had a terrific
vegetable curry (roasted veg) over basmati rice and kid had squash soup with bread. We split a vegan pumpkin
pie with gingerbread crust for dessert. There was also some homegrown chocolate, but I managed to miss out. Now I'll
never know what a difference antibiotic-free butter makes. (Yes, it's a very foodie school.)

Now the good stuff. Even after four years in this location and at this school with these same
parents, I'm still pretty much socially adrift -- but maybe the good food buzz (and not having my partner
along to entertain me) made me more sociable. Making friends here has been a tremendous difficulty for
me, but I think I might be on the way with one of the other parents with whom I share both professional
and personal interests. She and her family had visited our house once and everyone had clicked, but then
we hadn't really followed up on that "I like these people" feeling. So when I got this second chance, I
took it. If I'm going to stay in this place, I can't just exist here while the rest of my friendships exist
somewhere else. And likewise, if I'm going to leave, it would be a shame to have no one that I'd
regret leaving behind.

Oh, and then kid and I attempted to watch a flamenco movie, but there weren't enough kids in
it for her taste. Thus, we moved on to John Waters. Tomorrow we'll probably watch Fred Astaire
in Second Chorus. (One of the only FA films I haven't seen.) I also have Alice Adams out from
the library, but I don't really want to spend so much time watching when there's a whole world
out there that I can be doing things in. If I don't get around to watching it this weekend, it
will still be in the library next weekend. Around here, it seems, no one likes the kinds of films I do,
so I can be assured of always getting my first choices.

Tomorrow it's on with the grading. Euuuw. Even good essays are brutal when you'd rather
be doing something else.