Tuesday, December 21, 2004

a post about cookies

In case I haven't alienated the few readers I have with that last one, it's time now to blog about Christmas cookies. I baked two batches this evening, with limited assistance from Nick. The first, Chocolate Revel bars, came from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, of which I unaccountably have two copies. The others, Brown Sugar Cranberry cookies, came from the Domino dark brown sugar bag.

I am a sucker for recipes from magazines, labels, bags, etc. This despite the fact that I must have some three dozen perfectly lovely cookbooks--really really good ones, like Donna Hay ones, not just Better Homes and Gardens ones, as well as funky ones like The I Hate to Cook Book. All kinds of cookbooks. Yet I cook and bake from labels and magazines at least as often--maybe more so--as from the cookbooks. This can cause problems. Some time recently I made a fabulous (in my memory, anyway) pork roast stuffed with prunes. I believe the recipe came from a magazine. Can I find it? Alas, no. I was thinking about making it again for Christmas, but it is not to be found. Yet.

Anyway. The Chocolate Revel Bars (a rich oatmeal bar with a fudgy topping) are really really sweet. Diabetic coma sweet. And tasty. And the cranberry brown sugar ones are tasty and soft, at least so far. (I ate one that was still hot.)

Tomorrow, spice cookies. But first I need more butter.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Diversity in the Academy

The Economist jumps on the bandwagon:Economist.com | Lexington: "Academia is simultaneously both the part of America that is most obsessed with diversity, and the least diverse part of the country. On the one hand, colleges bend over backwards to hire minority professors and recruit minority students, aided by an ever-burgeoning bureaucracy of “diversity officers”. Yet, when it comes to politics, they are not just indifferent to diversity, but downright allergic to it."

Well, maybe. There have been several articles like this lately; the Republican professor lamenting in The Chronicle that he's in a minority on his campus, and a more reasoned piece by Mark Bauerlein before that, "Liberal Groupthink is Anti-Intellectual."

While I agree with Bauerlein that groupthink--of any stripe--is anti-intellectual, I think all of these pieces overstate the case. The piece in The Economist, for example, claims that in college one can only learn that "abortion is good" and "the rise of the West" was bad. Hardly--at least on any college campus I've ever been on. (This piece seems to be drawing its data from Tom Wolfe's novel "I am Charlotte Simmons," by the way--hardly the most reliable source.)

Of course the subtleties of academic argument are often reduced to "abortion=good; West=bad" by students and reporters alike. That's much easier than actually listening to the debate in a classroom and getting a sense of what's really going on. I used to sympathize when students told me about horrible things happening in their classes, until once something was reported back to me that I had personal experience of. The difference between what I knew to have happened, and the report--several times removed--from the student was like the difference between a Big Mac and a filet mignon. Both came from the same source, but there the resemblance ended. So that's one problem with these arguments. They're necessarily reductive and reported by biased and sometimes sloppy thinkers. Not always, though, so let's move on.

Another is the irony that the right seems to be using the term "diversity" pretty loosely here. How can those who have protested and legislated against various protections for diversity now complain that they are the diverse who are being discriminated against? There seems to be a logical inconsistency here.

And, remember, colleges and universities are institutions of liberal learning. We study the liberal arts, we promote the values of a liberal education. It is hardly surprising, then, that we in the academy are predominantly liberals. We aren't surprised when social workers are predominantly liberal, or stockbrokers are predominantly conservative--we recognize that these professions, by and large, attract a certain temperament and with that a certain political persuasion. Why should the academy be any different?

Of course we don't want to intimidate or harass, but I've got to say I haven't seen that, and the anecdotes I hear have so far failed to convince me. It's easy for an 18-year-old to say "I was afraid to speak up" when a professor's question raises hard questions; it's harder to engage in the debate. And yet I think most genuine intellectuals (and, yes, I know not all faculty members can be--or would even want to be--numbered among that group!) welcome honest debate in their classes. A faculty member is likely to "win" such a debate by virtue of greater education, greater experience, etc., but it's certainly possible to set up a debate between students and allow it to run its course. Not only possible, but I think more frequent than these commentators suggest. And it's long been true that the College Republicans is one of the largest student groups on almost any American campus, including bastions of the left like Berkeley, and they certainly don't lack the requisite faculty sponsorship. (The College Republican National Committee claims it is "the oldest and largest grassroots political organization on America’s college campuses," with over 120,000 members. The College Democrats, by contrast, claim only "more than 50,000 members by the 1992 election.")

Among faculty members the issues are different. While we may be less likely to feel intimidated than our students, so debate theoretically could take place, there are (as I've indicated above) real reasons why liberals outnumber conservatives in the academy, and I would expect that to continue. If that makes conservative professors feel uncomfortable, that's pretty much their problem. Education happens when people are jolted out of their comfort zones, doesn't it?

I do agree with Bauerlein (who, by the way, preceded me in grad school by a few years, so I can put a face to the name) that "we can't open the university to conservative ideas and persons by outside command. That would poison the atmosphere and jeopardize the ideals of free inquiry." Exactly.

He goes on to claim that "Leftist bias evolved within the protocols of academic practice (though not without intimidation), and conservative challenges should evolve in the same way. There are no administrative or professional reasons to bring conservatism into academe, to be sure, but there are good intellectual and social reasons for doing so.

Those reasons are, in brief: One, a wider spectrum of opinion accords with the claims of diversity. Two, facing real antagonists strengthens one's own position. Three, to earn a public role in American society, professors must engage the full range of public opinion."

Again, I haven't seen the intimidation that he mentions, but let's grant it. Certainly there's been intimidation, throughout history, on the other side, so I wouldn't be terribly surprised. When I started graduate school teaching at UCLA I had to sign a loyalty oath--is that intimidation? On what side? Was I being indoctrinated into a certain political mindset? Not hardly. But anyway, even granting the intimidation, I can agree that "a wider spectrum of opinion accords with the claims of diversity"--though, again, I must note the irony of the call for diversity issued from the right. And I might remind Mr. Bauerlein and his colleagues that there is hardly a wide spectrum of opinion in the mainstream media, so perhaps our narrow band within the academy can be seen as one of many narrow bands, all of which together build the wide spectrum he desires. I'd rather see a wide spectrum in the mainstream media, but the fragmentation of American culture has been going on for some time, and it's not going to change first in the academy, I believe.

So we need to engage other opinions, but they need not come from within the academy. After all, if academics only talk to themselves, we all lose. This goes to his second point as well: we do engage real antagonists, even if they aren't on the same campus with us. The right in this country is hardly voiceless, and liberals on campus engage it routinely. Really, his third point is the same as his second: engaging the full range of public opinion doesn't mean representing it, or embodying it, and we can engage it wherever we find it, even if that's not in the academy.

Yes, I am one of those liberal professors. I can admit to it and even be proud of it. But I utterly reject the notion that I am squelching debate, and I'm certainly not apologizing for my position. Liberals have been marginalized in American public discourse for so long that we have become defensive, I'm afraid, and thus open to these attacks. We need not be.

Christmas, I mean Holiday Parties

Well, the pioneer party went fine. There were Christmas carols playing in the background but otherwise no mention of the holiday we were/weren't celebrating at all. The kids pulled taffy, ate cookies and beef jerky (mmm, authentic!), drank cider, and made little "jumping jack" toys out of cardboard and popsicle sticks. Pulling taffy took the longest, and most of the kids didn't like it--the flavor of the molasses was too pronounced. But they enjoyed getting their hands all sticky anyway.

I don't mind that they don't call it a Christmas party. Some people don't celebrate Christmas and it's not right to make them feel left out. But it's odd, when some public schools have Christmas trees (my daughter's, for example) and others (my son's) don't, when Christmas carols are OK some places and not others. Mariah's holiday concert was all Christmas music, and most of it sacred--pieces from "The Messiah," a gospel piece called "Jesus, What a Wonderful Child," "Lo How a Rose," etc. The only non-Christmas piece was "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," and the only secular Christmas piece was "The Carol of the Bells." I never heard that anyone complained, but you'd never get away with that at Nick's school.

We put our tree up yesterday. I even put lights outside the house--first time ever! The kids were stunned. I tend to be an anti-display type, but we had these lights (we intend, eventually, to put them up around the back porch for late summer evenings...) and they look really cool. So I put them up around the banister in front. The tree smells nice and we may even get it decorated one of these days--after Mark gets his grading done. (I turned my grades in Thursday but I'm trying not to gloat.)

Thursday, December 16, 2004


The cards are now beyond counting. (OK, maybe ten or a dozen--we're not THAT popular.) It's time to do something with them. Open them, read them, staple them to ribbons and decorate the fireplace? Something like that. So far I have opened and read them. It's a start.

I have, however, turned in my grades. So now the festivities can begin. I also found Christmas cards in my drawer where I keep ornaments and the like. They must have been on sale last year. So perhaps I will send some. Not until after New Year's, however. So if you're hoping for one from me, just sit tight.

I baked cookies with Nick's class today for their "pioneer party" tomorrow. I find this odd. It is, of course, a Christmas party, but they can't or won't call it that. Public school and all that. I'm fine with that, but the charade is weird. It's a pioneer party because they're studying the pioneers right now. So we baked--pioneer cookies? Not so much. We creamed butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, for starters. (Though the butter was soft enough that we maybe could have been more pioneer-ish about it.) The dough for the first batch came out sort of sandy--I had scanted the butter and carefully added only the yolk of an egg, as the recipe said, and we got sand. So I had the kids squeeze it in their hands into little balls and put the balls on the cookie sheet. They looked lame, but the kids got a kick out of getting all messy.

The second batch came out better. I had enough butter for that one, and we added the whole egg, so the whole thing was moister. The cookies came out perfectly round and browned around the edges.

Still, the kids who made the first batch seemed perfectly satisfied with their misfit cookies.

We get to eat them tomorrow at the "pioneer party." Will we be wearing gingham? Not me.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Writer's Almanac - DECEMBER 6 - 12, 2004

Grace Paley said it (about baking, not knitting) better than I could. Read the whole poem here: (scroll down to December 11)

The Writer's Almanac - DECEMBER 6 - 12, 2004
: "The Poet's Occasional Alternative"

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft a poem would have had some
distance to go days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

Thursday, December 09, 2004

it begins...

We've gotten three Christmas cards already. Four, if you count the one from a former student that came to me in the office today, but that one's not freaking me out so much. That one was newsy and fun. The others sit on my dining room table rebuking me for not writing a Christmas letter yet, not even thinking about holiday cards (maybe I have some left over from previous years in a drawer in the bottom of the chest in the living room?), not buying a tree, not having Christmas presents already bought and wrapped...

It's Advent. It's a season of waiting, of anticipation, of preparation. For me that preparation involves grading and planning next semester and taking a few days to bake cookies, in addition to (sometimes instead of?) some quiet meditation, some time spent contemplating the darkness of the season. It's too soon for lights. It's too soon for cards. My letter usually goes out in January, before Epiphany, still during the twelve days...

I haven't opened the cards on the dining table yet. They can wait another few days.

Monday, December 06, 2004


I was just checking out how people get to this site, and a couple have come from Yarn Harlot. Maybe if you're one of them you're surprised to find yourself here, since I don't have anything (much) to say about knitting. But I link to her site because it's so well-written, and because I laugh when I read it, and because I knit her poncho (though I didn't fringe it, because I used this really fuzzy yarn, and fringe seemed like overkill).

So, anyway, I thought I would write briefly about knitting. I am currently engaged in three projects: socks and two scarves. Yes, this is the level of my knitting expertise. In a past life (before I had children) I made a few things that actually required some shaping. They were intended to be sweaters for actual human beings, though all three of them came out shorter and wider than the actual human beings for whom they were intended. One of those human beings was me, and I still have my sweater in a closet. One was my mother, and hers came closest to fitting, and she wore it for a while. Maybe she even still does! The other was my (now) husband, who was then a boyfriend. He gallantly wore his blue cotton orangutan-sweater a few times and only recently asked if my feelings would be hurt if he got rid of it. What a sport!

But the lesson I took from this was to go back to knitting things in which the size didn't matter. So: ponchos, scarves, and the like. The socks are a stretch, really. (See below.) But I'm soldiering on, hoping that the one I finish next will be roughly the same size and shape as the one I already finished.

My point? I like the feel of knitting, of making something, of paying attention to directions and having them (mostly) turn out right. Much of what I do in my everyday life doesn't work that way--there are no directions, or the directions are inadequate or misleading, and my labor is either not recognized or has an effect that can't be measured or could always have been more. So I accept my imperfections in knitting because at least I have a product (I think it's like cooking for me in this way--near-instant gratification, a product that others appreciate, and a limited exercise of creativity).

One day I may learn to do cables. And maybe I'll even try to shape something again one of these days. But in the meantime I'm pretty satisfied with what I'm doing. But read Yarn Harlot if you actually want to find out something about knitting!

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Two weekends, two movies. This never happens! Last Sunday it was Finding Neverland, with Mariah, her friend and her friends' mom, who is also my friend. Mariah's friend liked it for Johnny Depp, and--while I'm not above that--I also liked it for the way it worked. I liked the mixture of realism and fantasy, the way the film moved from seemingly realistic depictions of a world outside JM Barrie's head, right into his imagination. I like films that actually use the way film can, say, depict one's imaginings as real--why not, after all? You can't do it in a novel--bring something to life like that--so why not use the ability when you have it? I also thought the film really got something fundamental about Peter Pan, which is how death-haunted it is. It is a creepy, sad little book, and it's somewhat astonishing to me that the character has become synonymous--at least for some people--with a kind of happy childhood. The way both Peter Pan and Alice (from Alice in Wonderland) have been detached from their contexts and turned into icons of childhood innocence reflects both a fundamental misreading and, I think, a sort of wish-fulfilment. We want childhood to be about happy innocence, these are stories about childhood, ergo they are icons of happy childhood innocence. Well, they may be about childhood innocence ( in fact, I think they are), but it's pretty destructive and aggressive. Which is an interesting take on things, and surprisingly honest from writers who a) didn't have children of their own and b) lived in a time when (so we now say) children were idealized. Not as much as now, I think.

Then today I got a call from another friend who wanted to see Sideways this afternoon with me. I had planned to spend the afternoon grading--and there's certainly plenty to do--but this seemed far more important. It's a pretty depressing film, one in which it's hard to find anyone to like, but well worth seeing. The scenery is fun--both my friend and I are familiar with the area, up around Solvang--and the characters are well acted. It's not that one would really want to spend time with any of them (maybe the women, who seemed far more appealing than the men), but they were interesting to watch. And the whole thinking/feeling dichotomy gets a new twist here, in some ways. The main characters, an actor and a writer, epitomize the split, but the film resists any easy choices: you can't really say one is better than the other.

There's still grading to do, however.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

TCS: Tech Central Station - Faculty Clubs and Church Pews

TCS: Tech Central Station - Faculty Clubs and Church Pews: " Most of my Christian friends have no clue what goes on in faculty clubs. And my colleagues in faculty offices cannot imagine what happens in those evangelical churches on Sunday morning.

In both cases, the truth is surprisingly attractive. And surprisingly similar: Churches and universities are the two twenty-first century American enterprises that care most about ideas, about language, and about understanding the world we live in, with all its beauty and ugliness. Nearly all older universities were founded as schools of theology: a telling fact. Another one is this: A large part of what goes on in those church buildings that dot the countryside is education -- people reading hard texts, and trying to sort out what they mean."

OK, there are important differences, too, and as a non-evangelical Christian I can't help but think the kind of education going on in those church buildings is pretty important...and sometimes, to me, threatening. But this is still a pretty interesting article.

Advent Calendar

This is a nice link if you observe Advent:Advent Calendar

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


The pumpkin swirl cheesecake is done (so are the spice cookies, most of which ended up as crust for the cheesecake), the crust for the apple pie is in the fridge, and I have finished knitting my first sock. Mariah says the heel is a little big but she loves it anyway, which is probably one of the reasons I love her so much. I took the advice I found on the Sock Page and cast on the second one right away. I've finished the cuff. So that's good.

Mariah and I went clothes shopping today (I'm not sure I can do it on Friday, but the day BEFORE Thanksgiving works ok) and we each bought two things at H&M. So that was fun.

And Nick and I finished reading The Sea of Trolls, which was pretty great.

Tomorrow I will make apple pie and this fabulous cranberry sauce--not the horseradish one, which is a pretty color but I won't eat, but the garlicky one, though I'm an overachiever and make my own whole-berry sauce first out of fresh berries. Why not? It's actually really easy and the chutney is amazing. Really.

And then we will go celebrate with many friends, all of whom are bringing other delicious things to eat. I'm a tiny bit sad that I'm not cooking the bird, as I love the leftovers, but I'm figuring I can get a turkey breast pretty cheap a the grocery store on Friday, so I'll survive. And there are a couple of fabulous sweet potato recipes I'll just do for us since someone else volunteered them (crossing my fingers that they don't involve marshmallows...).

Thursday, November 18, 2004

another new template

Sigh. It's Lizbeth's fault, really. Not that I'm in blogexplosion, but I took her point. But it's not just her fault. I loved the look I had last, but so did lots of other people. And when I learned that I was linking to at least two other blogs with the same format, I had to give it up. I used to read a blog with this template, too, but I think that one changed, so I can go with it. It's readable, I think, so I'm hoping I can stick with it for a while.

I'm just too cheap to pay for a site, right now, and I don't want to do any coding myself. So I'm going to stick with blogger templates, and I'm glad they keep coming up with new ones. But, yes, you'll probably see others out there in the blogosphere with the same template. Deal with it.

Friday, November 12, 2004


I think I have Post-Election Stress Disorder. Most of last week I tried to play Pollyanna, surfed the net and blogged a few interesting things I found. And then it all came crashiing down. Well, not all. I had a fabulous Monday. I got to meet Amy for the first time, and to hang out with Jen & Steph of Brain, Child as well. They all came and did a panel for my program, and my class, and they were fabulous. It was a lot of fun, too, hanging out with like-minded women. The dinner conversation was worth the whole thing.

But since then I've been...not so hot. I've had a headache since Wednesday, which is really a drag, especially since I supposedly don't get these multi-day headaches any more now that I'm so healthy and do acupuncture and chiropractic and yoga and take all my supplements. Feh. It comes and goes, but mostly it's hanging out right here over my left eyebrow and behind my left eye.

And it's raining. Luckily our roof no longer leaks (knock wood), but still. I don't like it. It's wet and cold and was gray outside all day. So blah.

On the other hand I bought little teeny circular needles today to try to learn how to knit socks. I'm following directions I found here, only because I'm too impatient to wait for this book, which, after all, i haven't even ordered yet. I have only done a few row so far, so it's too early to tell if I'll be able to handle this or not. But it's fun trying. It would be more fun, though, without a headache.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Unbearable Darkness of Being

All this ink spilt on the sell-out Democratic Party, the incompetent media, and the future of a divided nation and not a word about the emotional reality of loss. Do you think it's because they're mostly men? Natch.

All the blame-mongering in the world can't erase the pain or, more importantly, the fear. My mind can handle the body blow of defeat, but it's the slow, seeping chill of dread that is harder to fend off.

Read the rest here: Alternet

Thursday, November 04, 2004

No longer a Christian

Let me tell you about the Christ I know. He was conceived by an unmarried woman. He was not born into a family of privilege. He was a radical. He said, “It was said an eye for and eye and a tooth of a tooth, but now I say love your enemies and bless those who curse you.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (Mattew 5: 3-9) He said, “All those who are called by my name will enter the kingdom of heaven." He said, "People will know true believers if they have the fruit of the spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control.“

Check the rest out here: Common Dreams

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

what moral values?

I am outraged at the notion that "moral values" swung this election.  I
want a t-shirt that says "My moral values voted for Kerry" or something
like that.  How presumptuous!  How wrong!  What morality launches a
pre-emptive war, ravages the environment, awards sweetheart deals to
buddies, and bankrupts working people? What morality denies the power of love to transform?

I voted my moral values, and they lost.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

nail-biting time

Edited to reflect the truth about the yard-sign incident. Somehow I thought there was more than one in our garage, but the vandalism didn't go quite that far...

I'm glued to the TV now. I can't stand it. I can't stop watching, but there's nothing new really to report, other than that Virginia went for Bush. Again.

Saturday night our yard sign was stolen, along with several others on the block. Whoever took them all also broke our garage window and stuffed one (probably ours) in our garage--ripped up and broken, no use to anyone.

I've never put up a yard sign before. I've never felt strongly enough about a candidate, or an election. I've never been so worried about my kids, about everyone's kids, before. I've never given money to a candidate before, either. This time I did.

And then someone decided we didn't have the right to publicize our opinion, to try to encourage others to think about our position. Someone (someone identifed with the party that usually protects property rights and property owners?) decided to break our window, damage our property, and stuff yard signs where they couldn't be seen.

I can't bear to watch the results tonight, but I can't look away.

a gift

Nick had a great time trick-or-treating. He had a creative costume, courtesy of a book of costumes Mariah had years ago. He was a "headless wonder"--a spooky looking critter "carrying" his head in front of himself. The trick is to put a box on his shoulders, with a hole in it for his head to stick out, and then dress the box like the top of a person--shirt, long coat--and let the head stick out through the buttons of the shirt/coat. Something read sticking up out of the top helps, too. He was scary, believe me. And he brought home a lot of candy.

Mariah, on the other hand, didn't dress up and didn't get any candy. She went and hung out at a friend's house and handed out candy--and found that that wasn't quite as much fun as trick-or-treating. (Is 14 too old?)

Nick felt bad for Mariah that she didn't have any candy, and told her he'd share. That was sweet enough. But this morning he got up and went immediately downstairs. There, he dumped all the candy he'd gotten on the floor, and sorted it out into four piles: one for each of us. Then he labeled four bags and put a pile of candy in each one. He shared it all out evenly.

I was amazed. I mean, no one told him he had to. And it's not like this is Mr. Perfect Child--he and his sister fight over stupid (and sometimes not so stupid) stuff all the time. He can be a whiner, a wild man, a pain of all sorts.

But this? Was a gift. Free grace, unearned. And all the more welcome for it.

Sunday, October 31, 2004


We went apple-picking yesterday here. It was unseasonably warm--80 or so here--but it was breezy and pleasant on the mountain. Even with the pickings rather slim (that cliché suddenly made sense) we brought home 25 pounds of apples in about an hour's picking. And the cake I made last night only called for one! So we'll have to find more things to do with apples--though. really, just putting them in lunchboxes seems fine to me.

It was a glorious drive out. While we don't have the kind of fall color here that I remember from New England, the colors are pretty vibrant this year--did all the rain make a difference? And the afternoon sun through the leaves made them glow, as if they were lit up from within. I don't know if anyone else noticed: Mark was grading, Mariah was under her headphones, and Nick was drawing. It made for a quiet drive out. But everyone was happy, the apples were good, and the sun was shining.

They make these doughnuts at Carter Mountain that remind me of ones my grandmother used to make--deep fried and then dipped in cinnamon-sugar. They claim to put apple cider in but somehow I doubt that's the main ingredient. Anyway, they're worth going off South Beach for.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

new column

Though I'm still the midlife mama here, my column over at Literary Mama has changed. Now it's the Children's Lit Book Group, and the first one is up. Let me know what you think! And check out all the new columns--there's some great stuff over there.

the life I'm not leading

The other night Mark and I watched "Rivers and Tides," a documentary about sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. I hadn't heard of Goldsworthy before, but you can see some of his work here: Eyestorm. (Elsewhere, too, but you can google just as well as I can.)

Goldsworthy seems to me to live an admirable life, following his muse, working at his art both at home and in residencies all over the world. In the documentary there's no mention of grant-writing, and only brief mention of lecturing about his work, though I imagine he has to spend a lot of time doing those things. In the movie, though, he seems to be able to spend all his time doing his art. (Oh, and somehow he has four kids, too. His wife didn't look harried or anything, really.)

I'm sounding snide and I don't mean to. His work is lovely, and his life is admirable, and I guess I wish at some level that I had that, too. But how does one get that life of just working on art? That's what I want to know. How long does it take? How much (in terms of time, money, love, etc.) does it cost?

Can you tell I haven't been making time to write lately? That must be what this is about. See the film, though--it's a fascinating exploration of an artist's life and work. And it made me want to move to Scotland.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The Lambeth Commission On Communion - Home Page

The Lambeth Commission On Communion - Home Page

The Lambeth Commission was established in October 2003 by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Anglican Primates. The mandate spoke of the problems being experienced as a consequence of the above developments and the need to seek a way forward which would encourage communion within the Anglican Communion. It did not demand judgement by the Commission on sexuality issues. Rather, it requested consideration of ways in which communion and understanding could be enhanced where serious differences threatened the life of a diverse worldwide Church. In short, how does the Anglican Communion address relationships between its component parts in a true spirit of communion?

I haven't had time to read the report, but I can already tell that it will try my patience. My dad reminds me that the Episcopal church didn't split over the issue of slavery in the 1860s, as so many Protestant denominations did; he is hopeful that we will not split over the issue of human sexuality either. But sometimes I wonder if maybe we should have split over slavery. Did we make a deal with evil in order to stay united? Will we again?

I don't know. But I do know that this issue is causing great grief among people of faith. I am somewhat bewildered by it, myself, as the "issue" of gays and lesbians in the church is a non-issue for me: they're here, they're human, they're included. Fully. That's how it seems to me.

But it's late at night and I've watched too much baseball in the last two days to be coherent, so that's all I'm going to say about it for now.


MomBrain: "It scares me that the Republican Party has been hijacked by right-wing nutjobs and Pharisees.

It scares me that Bush and his followers think he's the mouthpiece of God.

It scares me that Republican politics is about nothing more than abortion and gay rights."

I'm scared, too, MomBrain, and rather than make up my own post I'm linking to yours to get more people thinking.

The New TV

We bought a new TV this weekend, Mariah and I. We went out to Target intending to return some things, look at some others, and maybe look at the TVs. We've been talking about a new TV for a while--the one we had was bought at Sears in 1989 (maybe early 1990), and had decided to provide its own letterboxing for almost everything. Only the letterbox simply cut off the top of the picture. It was great for watching people hit ground balls, not so good for anything else. The debates were amusing--no one had a head. Sometimes the head appeared but the neck was somehow folded so the head just sat on top of the foreshortened body. You get the idea. It was unreliable. Frustratingly, it would sometimes work for hours in a row, then inexplicably shrink the picture just as you were getting used to the idea that it might work. That finally got old. Especially when Mariah just began borrowing my computer to watch DVDs.

We didn't get the TV at Target. They have lots of cheap TVs, any one of which would probably have been just fine, but they are huge. To get a TV with a 20+ inch screen anymore it seems you have to be willing to have something, oh, three or four feet deep. We have a small living room. We wanted something not so huge. We wanted the TV not to take over the living room, not to be the focal point. These big hulking things would have demanded attention, would have dominated the room.

So, in an irony that is lost on none of us, we ended up buying a far pricier flat-panel TV at Circuit City. Yes, we spent more than twice as much money on a TV than we needed to, because we don't want TV to be too important. Um, right. Anyway it's really cute and you can see the whole picture and it's not too obtrusive. And it's a good thing Mark and I are both working, so we can pay for things like this. It's also a good thing, I think, that he was busy on Saturday when Mariah and I went out--we made the decision all by ourselves, and though it took trips to four stores, we were still relatively efficient and decisive. That might not have been the case if we'd all gone together.

We still need a new refrigerator (this one is over ten years old, but we're not quite sure how much more...because we can't remember, not because we didn't buy it ourselves). And a new stove, probably--we've been in this house ten years now, and the stove was surely nowhere near new when we moved in. But the stove is the least of our worries--it's merely ugly, while the fridge is dripping inside and will probably not keep things cold much longer. Blecch.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

more on the family and the academy

I enjoyed Laura's blog conference over at 11D last week. It got me thinking: how do we really balance work and family, my friends and I? My references are pretty much all in the academy. I have a lot of friends who are tenured women with kids, even though I hear that statistically we're a pretty small group. And even though I can easily name, oh, half a dozen such women, I've noticed that we all have one thing in common: our husbands have, willingly or not, become career-secondary. This seems to be true, I should add, for the tenured men with kids I know--their wives are also career-secondary. But it's less surprising, and more socially acceptable, for women to put their careers on hold for a while (or give them up altogether) as they raise their children. These men I'm thinking of have given up careers, or simply not sought them with the same kind of ambition as their wives. They have jobs (sometimes more than one); they may even have good jobs, or careers, but their work is somehow secondary--lower-paying, less desirable, more flexible--than their wives' tenured positions. And that, I believe, is what has made tenure+kids possible for these women.

In our case I think it works ok, but there are always negotiations. We're making things up as we go along because we don't have a template for what we're doing--we know others who are making it up too, but very few (if any) ahead of us who've done it. So it's interesting to see how things work out, day after day. Luckily we are on fall break right now (two school days off) so we get a little time to breathe, to take stock--and to catch up.

go away greenwood sports

the most annoying spammer of the week, with 7-10 e-mails a day. I DON'T WANT A TRIP TO FLORIDA!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Is the academy family-friendly? And other important questions...

Check out this discussion at the blog, 11D:

Several factors are conspiring to make academia a particularly hostile place for parents. 1) The level of competition for jobs means that universities have no need to accommodate individuals with family responsibilities. 2) Most women don’t finish their dissertations until their mid thirties and don’t secure tenure until their forties. Too late to start a family. 3) The profession is traditionally male, and women don’t feel comfortable asking for a special room to breastfeed or for paid maternity leave. 4) There are no adequate part-time options for parents. Adjuncting doesn't pay for the babysitter.

Your thoughts?

Monday, October 04, 2004


I went to a writers' conference this past weekend--the James River Writers' Festival. My first one ever. So, I hadn't quite realized that such things are mostly about--well--selling your writing. There was some about craft, of course--some interesting panels with writers who had, for example, written fascinating non-fiction books. I think somehow it's easier to talk about craft with non-fiction. You can talk about interview techniques, how to develop an article into a book, constructing a single narrative out of multiple threads, working with a variety of source materials, etc. These things are there in fiction as well, or things like them, but somehow it seemed as if the basic approach to fiction was, "I just think up a story and write it down." This may not be fair--I didn't go to the panel on setting in the novel, for example. But the one on writing for middle grade and YA readers was all about marketing, and so was the one on inspirational writing. So there.

Still, it was interesting. I even got five minutes with an agent--who said my idea had promise but needed work. Yeah, that's what they all say.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Masooda Jalal's Campaign for President of Afghanistan

Jalal is Afghanistan's female warlord of sorts, though her weapons are not the traditional kind. She is armed primarily with a strength of spirit that has helped sustain her through jail time and direct threats. The 41-year-old mother of three is one of eighteen candidates running for the top office in Afghanistan's first-ever Western-style elections, scheduled for Oct. 9.

Jalal has little money and no publicity machine, and women, her natural constituency, have been slow to register to vote. Nevertheless, she is making history in this conservative Islamic country where the vast majority of women still wear the burqua -- some stores even sell burquas for dolls -- and the legal system views women as the property of their men.

Read the rest, by my friend Masha Hamilton, here:Masooda Jalal's Campaign for President of Afghanistan

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

At home, politics is child's play | csmonitor.com

A great commentary by Mothershock's Andi Buchanan: At home, politics is child's play | csmonitor.com

The Common Review: Why We Look So Bad

The Common Review: Why We Look So Bad: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that an academic, even one given a clothing allowance, will dress like a schlemiel. Historically, academics have been the subject of both high and low humor. From the sixth century onward, how we look has prompted nearly automatic laughter from onlookers, even if the onlookers were dressed in twigs and had painted their faces blue. Why are we, as a group, so sartorially impoverished that we make other professionals, even those in the actuarial or previously owned vehicle sales forces, look good? (Just to make sure we're all clear about this one point: I include myself in this group. And I am including you, dear reader. Trust me on this one–the following observations are not about other people.)"

another paragraph, then you need to go read it yourself:

"In fact, students don't actually notice how we look. If we showed up in a hairnet and goggles, the undergraduates would still sit there and take notes without flinching. Or reacting. They have no other reference point; they pay attention to us because we are at the front of the room, not because we have made a snazzy impression. They look at us because they have to. Mostly they see taupe or gray or purple shapes gesturing in order to emphasize the occasional point. The only gender distinction is this: male professors can wear the same sports jacket or sweater every Tuesday for thirteen weeks and it will pass without comment, whereas if a female professor wears the same suit two times in a row, she will be considered slatternly."

Alas, too true!

Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / Is the right outbreeding the left?

Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / Is the right outbreeding the left?: " 'When secular-minded Americans decide to have few, if any, children, they unwittingly give a strong evolutionary advantage to the other side of the culture divide.' Imagine giving an evolutionary advantage to folks who don't believe in evolution."

Friday, September 17, 2004

midlife mama, interrupted

OK, obviously I'm on a once-a-week update schedule here. I wish I were writing more, but I'm not. I'm hoping I will start writing more again, maybe when my class takes off and manages itself, maybe when I figure out a way to put more hours in the day (and I mean useful hours, hours when I could, yes, write). Maybe when I learn to make use of the hours I have, like the hour after Mariah leaves before Nick wakes up. Lately I use that hour to, oh, I don't know, shower and dress and maybe eat breakfast. If I'm really living large I check e-mail. Doing all this before Nick wakes up allows me to pay more attention to him in the morning than I was...I used to try to do all that stuff while also feeding and dressing him (or overseeing same) and getting his lunch ready. And getting it ready again when he objected to what was in it. (I know, I'm putting a lock on the lunchbox or something...)

So anyway. I don't write much because I'm lazy and inefficient. But here I am typing in the dark, trying not to bother Mark who is sleeping and Nick who is not. Oh, and Mariah has been on the phone for over an hour. Did I mention that she's a teenager?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Fresh Air: Friday - September 10, 2004

Fresh Air: Friday - September 10, 2004
: "Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest, has worked to find jobs for former gang members in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. A book about Boyle's work, G-Dog and the Homeboys, is just out in paperback."

This was such an inspiring interview. Boyle doesn't really preach Christianity, he just does it.

surviving the first week

I just wrote this whole blog entry about Mariah's first week of school--and then deleted it. After all, it was HER first week. For me the issue is: I have a daughter in HIGH SCHOOL!

I'm not quite ready for that. But it's here anyway.

So far things seem to be going all right. She leaves the house at 6:45 am and gets home around 5, so it's a long day--but a part of that is the bus ride (school is 30 miles away). And because of my class schedule this semester I don't take her to the bus (which is fine with me) or pick her up. I'll probably do some of the pickups eventually--we've got a carpool with three other families for the end of the day. I'm feeling a little disconnected from the whole thing, though.

I've got a couple of essay ideas running through my head--one an assignment I've just accepted, another an idea for a column--and I'm finding I just don't have much to say. So this is a boring entry. Sorry. At least this will move the wonderful color of paleturquoise down the page.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Spacefem.com Color Quiz: the wonderful color of paleturquoise

I wouldn't have chosen this color, and I'm not sure the blurb here is all that flattering, but it seems reasonably accurate. So go ahead, take the quiz yourself.

Spacefem.com Color Quiz: the wonderful color of paleturquoise: "
you are paleturquoise

Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

Your saturation level is low - You stay out of stressful situations and advise others to do the same. You may not be the go-to person when something really needs done, but you know never to blow things out of proportion.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the spacefem.com html color quiz


Monday, August 30, 2004

Midlife Mama: Looking for Enjoli

My newest column went up today as well: "Late at night, when I've stopped worrying about the hole in the bathroom ceiling, the mess on Nick's bedroom floor, and the various appointments I have for the next day, I start in on the main event: death. I don't actually think about it a lot -- not the afterlife, or whether there is one, not about my own or my children's or husband's deaths in any great detail. No, I have a specific worry, one that my late nights have not yet come to terms with: I worry that I can't die, or the family will go broke."

Read the rest here: Midlife Mama: Looking for Enjoli

New Books: Masks, Chains, and Myths: Analyzing Motherhood

My new book review is up at Literary Mama:

"When I told my parents I was expecting their first grandchild, they leapt up from the table to congratulate me with a kind of unconditional affirmation one rarely receives after the spelling bee years. While I was delighted that they were happy for me, I was also a bit nonplussed; after all, getting pregnant was one of the easier things I'd done lately. I'd been married two years at the time, had finished my master's in English and was well on the way to my PhD. Surely those accomplishments had been just as important? Certainly, they were more difficult."

Read the rest here: New Books: Masks, Chains, and Myths: Analyzing Motherhood

why blog?

I've been thinking a lot about why I keep this blog. I'd like to have a really smart blog that directs you to all the fabulous internet sites I've reviewed for you. I'd like to have a lyrical blog that showcases my writing, one that makes other writers, other mothers, say "yes, that's just how it is." I'd like to have a blog that's up-to-date, so people who care can check in and find out what's going on.

Instead I have a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It's fun, but it also feels a little like a chore at times. I write something and then I wonder why anyone would want to read it. And that's important to think about. After all, when I teach writing I insist to my students that they keep their reaaders in mind, that they think about whom they're reaching.

I can't work this all out now. It's pouring rain--the remnants of tropical storm Gaston are hitting Richmond and doing so with great force. The power's out all over town (not here, yet); there's flooding beyond belief, including about two inches of standing water in our formerly dry basement; and I probably shouldn't be typing during a thunderstorm. It took me an hour and a quarter to drive the five miles home today--I kept coming to flooded out sections of road and having to find a different route. In the end I drove through a patch that was about two feet deep of roiling water--I saw a recycle bin floating across the street. I just gripped the wheel and prayed to make it through. There was a dead car in the intersection but the little bug made it. By then I was only a couple of blocks from home. I breathed deeply and crept along the next couple blocks, then turned right onto my block--and was met by a tree limb down across the road. So I breathed again, turned around, and went around the block, finally making it back home. Mark and Nick met me with umbrellas and all was--mostly--well.

Oh, Mark patched the roof over the weekend and it's mostly holding. The worst part is the professinally installed patch. Take that!

Monday, August 23, 2004

back to school

The kids still have two weeks of summer, but Mark and I went back to school today. These first two weeks always feel a bit split; we try to manage to act as if it's still vacation, but we're really working. It doesn't help that both Mark's birthday and our anniversary fall during these first two weeks.

That said, it was a good first day. I have a writing class and a seminar to teach this semester, and I met the writing students today. They laughed (enough) at my jokes, made some of their own, and wrote fluently and vividly for ten minutes--long enough to get out a few paragraphs they then weren't embarrassed to share. Teaching writing is rewarding for me: the students really want to learn, they are willing to work, and they see results. I love teaching literature, too, but the results are less apparent, to both me and the students--I think they sink in over a much longer term--so it's not as rewarding in the short run. I'd like to work it so I can do both more often, as I am this semester, but I'll have to write (and publish) more to make my credentials a little more compelling, first. In the meantime, I'm enjoying what I've got.

Oh! And the roofers came Friday and patched our big hole. And it rained Saturday and nothing came through, so things are looking up.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

days of the week: Parents are People

Posts here at "days of the week" are often lovely; there's a heart-breaking one about miscarriage here, for example. But read this too:

days of the week: Parents are People: "I've always suspected that in the minds of children, mothers are more props than people, and that even as children turn into adults, it is hard for most of us to concieve of mother as 'person' whose existence is complicated by ambuigity and desire. Perhaps this is why psychiatrists were in their heyday so keen on blaming mothers -- they were still seeing us through childish eyes, seeing us as need-meeting machines rather than regular folks.

What complicates this notion that mother is not a person, somehow, that for many of us, mother also serves as the first model of what it means to be human, how we should move through our days.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Ms. Magazine Summer 2003 Interview with Julia Child

Julia Child died today. I've never cooked anything, I think, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, even though I have it, but I loved to watch her on TV, to hear her talk, to read about her.

Here is an interview she gave last summer.

Ms. Magazine Summer 2003 Interview with Julia Child

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Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Chronicle: Career Network: 07/29/2004

The Chronicle: Career Network: 07/29/2004: "For some time now, I've been playing both sides of the Mommy Fence with the other mothers in the neighborhood. For whatever reason, I feel some pressure to present an image to those mothers and to others at my kids' school of a mom who is not a workaholic or even a full-time member of the work force."

Read the whole article. She talks about what happens in the summer when you are both mom and professor...not enough of either job! It's what I was just complaining about, put better.

missing Mariah

The house feels pretty empty without Mariah, who's now off on her third week away this summer (fourth if you count the one she spent with us). She's in CA now, visiting my sister and her family, and entertaining the world's best nephew/cousin, the fabulous Ben. She's having a great time, I'm sure. And we're doing fine here, really. If it weren't for that rain...

Actually this is the crazy time of year when everything has to be got ready for the fall semester. Every year it sneaks up on me. Every year I feel as if the summer has just disappeared. I know the rest of the world thinks we have a cushy job, we professors, only teaching a few days a week, summers off--and I can't deny it. It's pretty nice. But at this time of year I feel that I pay for it, really I do. Especially when I have to go back to school in late August and the kids still have two weeks of vacation. Whose idea was that schedule?

OK, enough complaining. Time to get back to work.

rain, rain, go away

I suppose I shouldn't complain, since we're not in the path of either of the tropical storms headed for Florida right now, but could it please stop raining? The roof isn't fixed yet and every time it rains I worry that another chunk of ceiling will fall. And the roof can't be fixed until--you guessed it--it stops raining. Sigh.

Saturday, August 07, 2004


vacation over, we're back at home. A week w/my folks is plenty--it was lovely, restful even, but it was enough. And now we're home. The hole in the bathroom ceiling is no bigger than when we left (despite much rain in our absence, so that's good) and yet nothing we left broken is miraculously fixed. I hate that. So now all the old stuff is still there to deal with. But I think I'll take a nap, and maybe do the laundry, first.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


Did you know that when it rains a lot, the rain that falls on your leaky roof goes in all sorts of other places? LIke the bathroom ceiling? Did you know that when it rains a lot, and drips are coming through the bathroom ceiling, that said ceiling is actually being eaten away by the rain? I did, but what could we do? It was raining--no one would come out to look at the roof in the rain. We knew it leaked, and we'd even been patching (that would be the royal, or at least marital, "we"--Mark does all the roof work here). So, anyway, yes, the ceiling caved in yesterday morning and a big chunk of it fell down while Mark was brushing his teeth. We (and this is a real we) got it cleaned up, and stared up into the hole with wonder for a while, and then called the roofer who was supposed to give us an estimate two weeks ago. "We haven't worked since Thursday," the voice on the other end of the line told me. "It's killing us." Me, too, I wanted to say. But didn't, because I want her to like me and to send her guy out to look at my roof. So anyway there's a hole in the roof. And bits of sodden drywall and plaster--enough to fill four or five grocery bags--are in the supercan now and ready to be hauled away. And I'm just hoping the ceiling in Nick's room doesn't fall down too--it's looking suspiciously sodden, and it could go any minute. Pray for sun.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Dissent Magazine - Spring 2004

This is an interesting review of Ehrenreich and Hochschild's new book, Global Woman : Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy. It's in Dissent Magazine - Spring 2004, and here's a tid-bit: "In the wake of women's departure for paid work, an insufficient number of volunteers have taken up the unpaid domestic tasks that require personal attention to either things (cleaning the house, doing the laundry, preparing meals) or people (looking after those who cannot look after themselves-children, the sick, the disabled, the elderly). In particular, fathers and husbands have not shouldered their share of the burden. The result is, in Hochschild's phrase, a gaping 'care deficit.' "

I like it much better than this piece by Caitlin Flanagan, the much-discussed "How Serfdom Saved the Women's Movement." For one thing, as you can see above, Bronstein (unlike Flanagan) recognizes that men have a role to play in the disempowerment of women. And in house-cleaning and other "care work." But I'm a little worried that Bronstein seems to think the way to solve the problem of the exploitation of third world women is simply for first world men to do more housework and other care-giving. Because if the problem is that first world men and women are both out in the workplace, in the cash economy, then work that was formerly done for free by someone who was not involved in the cash economy (usually wives) is not suddenly going to be done for free by people who are involved in the cash economy. Unless I'm missing something.

In my house, we both do whatever cooking, cleaning, and care-giving needs to be done. We've paid for child care both in and out of our home, but we've never hired a full-time in-house caregiver, nor have we hired housecleaners. And it shows. When only one of us was working full time, the other picked up most of the care-giving slack. Now that both kids are in school we can actually both work in the cash economy and get by without exploiting anyone else to do our cleaning for us. (Except, ok, our kids on occasion.) But we are extremely rare in that our participation in the cash economy is not tied to a 9-to-5 (or, more often, 8-to-5) office or other place of business, so we can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. I don't quite see how the average couples Bronstein is talking about are going to get all the care-giving done without paying for it, if both adults are working in the cash economy.

I don't think "serfdom saved the women's movement" because I don't think dual-income professionals are necessarily feminists. And I do think many men are not involved enough in the caregiving activities of their homes. I am aware that my situation is unusual, and that I've been extremely fortunate. (Well, I did choose him, after all.) I'm just afraid Bronstein's solution--involve the men--is just as limited as she says Hochschild and Ehrenreich's solution--treat third world women better--is. We need to do both, and more. What we really need is some kind of wholesale economic change, as advocated by Ann Crittenden among others, that can somehow account for and recognize caregiving as productive labor. Not, as Bronstein says, in order to "quantify" it and make it part of the cash economy, necessarily, but in order to change the way that economy does business.

Yeah, I know, pie in the sky. But we can always hope.

Clinton is funny!

I thought this was the funniest moment of the convention last night. Who knew Bill Clinton could be amusing?

Newsday.com - Special Section: "At home, the President and the Republican Congress have made equally fateful choices indeed. For the first time ever when America was on a war footing, there were two huge tax cuts, nearly half of which went to the top one percent. I'm in that group now for the first time in my life.

When I was in office, the Republicans were pretty mean to me. When I left and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them. At first I thought I should send them a thank you note -- until I realized they were sending you the bill."

Put Ann Coulter In A Cage?

I hate to give Ann Coulter any more publicity, but really, what is the point of this comment? Put The Speakers In A Cage: "As for the pretty girls, I can only guess that it's because liberal boys never try to make a move on you without the UN Security Council's approval.  Plus, it's no fun riding around in those dinky little hybrid cars. My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

What on earth is a "pie wagon"? And what on earth is it supposed to prove, to claim that Republican women are "pretty girls" as opposed to the above-referenced Democrats? (And, by the way, how does Hillary Clinton fit into this description?)

More on the convention coming up...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Believer - In the Penthouse of the Ivory Tower

The Believer - In the Penthouse of the Ivory Tower

Check out the whole piece. It's long, but it really seems to get at some important truths about the plight of the English professor today.

Here's a sampling:
"But what are English professors for? They teach, of course, but they don't help out with economic policy, they have little to say about natural disasters, and they can't build futuristic prostheses. And the better the applied sciences get at answering these lurking purpose-questions—'Hey, check out this new laser-equipped invisibility frock we just made in the lab'—the more their colleagues over in the English building seem like starry-eyed, impractical romantics, or, less charitably, anachronistic buffoons. Despite her clotted jargon and fustian grammar, Ghazoul is making a serious point: more and more people are wondering what the hell English professors are doing and why they should be allowed to keep doing it, and they need to reformulate their answers."

Saturday, July 24, 2004


And why they call it a "sleep"over, I'm not sure, as sleeping is really the last thing that happens. This was Nick's birthday party, and only three other kids, all of them boys, stayed overnight. One fell asleep by 9:30, in the midst of the chaos. The rest stayed up until midnight or so, and were up again this morning before 7. (Nick's alarm went off, awakening him, but the rest were all up already.)

I think they had fun...

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


OK, I've got the links back, and the reading and viewing lists are almost up-to-date, and I've got comments. So let me know what you think.

new template

Oh, well. I changed my template because, well, everyone seemed to be doing it. But of course I lost my links over on the right. I had just archived the viewing and reading lists in the commonplace book, so they are relatively up-to-date, but I'll need to reconstruct some other stuff. Please be patient with me! I think this is readable (let me know if you do, too), but I am a lamer who forgets stuff, so it will be a while before my links, etc., are all reconstructed. And, hmm, I haven't checked to see if I still have comments and all... Sigh.

Friday, July 16, 2004

you know you love these tests

My Bloginality is INFJ!!!

still great...

I went last night to hear them. My first (and only other) Earth, Wind & Fire concert was during college, almost 25 years ago. They've been making music for 30 years, so I've seen them at both ends of their career. Last night it was an outdoor concert, and it was fabulous. The weather was perfect--unusually for Richmond, the humidity was low and the temperature moderate. The sun went down early in the show, which gave their (fairly simple) light show a better chance to shine. (Maybe it was more elaborate than I could tell--I was standing off to one side and couldn't really see to the back of the stage at all...) There were three of the original members of the group there, with a great band--three (or was it four) drum sets, horns, guitar, keyboards, and assorted percussion. They played all their hits--Shining Star, Remember, Got To Get You Into My Life (vies for best cover ever with the Talking Heads version of Take Me To The River), After the Love is Gone, Boogie Wonderland, you name it. It was a really diverse crowd (also somewhat unusual for Richmond, though less so for these outdoor events), both racially and in terms of age: I saw grandmothers (a woman with a pacemaker was hoping it would be ok with all the bass reverberating in her chest), kids, middle-aged couples, teenagers. I went with a friend and we stood and danced all evening in the cool summer air. Philip Bailey, the soaring vocalist you remember, introduced the band at one point and it included his wife, who had just given birth to their son only 8 weeks ago. She looked fabulous.

When I saw EWF before it was a highly choreographed show, as I remember. I think they levitated someone at one point. They may not all have dressed the same but there was some uniformity to the look and definitely to the show. This felt like more of a jam session--old friends having fun with their music. It was a complete blast.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

missed it

I've been blogging for over a year now, but I just missed the anniversary entirely. Oh, well. In honor of it (once I realized it had passed) I read some of my earliest posts. Nick was just learning to swim, we had Clothilde visiting, and I was working out my first couple of columns. Now Nick is on swim team, Mariah's friend Emily has a French visitor, and I haven't worked out my last two columns here at all. I'm not sure if that's progress or not.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

summer thunder

Thunderstorms are a summer fact of life in Virginia. They tend to blow in at dusk, or a little before, late in the afternoon, usually over a brilliant blue sky. Just out of nowhere. There was one like that Tuesday night at Nick’s swim meet; my friend Yvonne had just remarked how this year the meets weren’t being delayed by thunderstorms, as they had been last year every week, and then one came through. First the distant thunder, which clears the pool. Then lightning, which clears the decks—everyone out of the pool area. At that point we left entirely, went to get dinner with Nick, figuring the meet was toast. We watched sheets of rain fall, wind blow, bolts of lightning light up the sky—and then, clear again. By the time dinner was over it was a lovely summer evening, if a bit damp. We went back and he swam his event, full of french toast and so slow...He cried when he didn’t win his heat, and we left early.

But now I’m talking about a day last week, a day I'd been rather weepy (hormonal, missing Mariah, I don't know...). I was in the office to meet with a student, trying to disguise the fact that I’d spent most of the morning crying. He didn’t seem to notice, and when he left I decided to leave as well, to drive up to the mall, return some things, get some lunch. I headed northwest from campus on a bright sunny day—and almost immediately saw the heavy grey cloud in my rearview mirror. It seemed to follow me as I drove up the highway, Parliament-Funkadelic blaring from the cd-player. “We’ve got the funk, give us the funk...” It didn’t quite suit my mood, but I wanted something lively, something to take me out of my head, and the voice of the lead singer suggestively intoning “Chocolate City,” as if it were a sex toy rather than a political statement, seemed to do it.

I stopped into Panera Breads for my lunch. They advertise on public radio and one of their featured salads sounded good. I ordered it, took it to my table, and sat down to read something for Literary Mama and eat. About halfway into the salad, the grey cloud arrived. With it a wind. The wind was astonishing—out of nowhere, it seemed, all this fury. The staff at the restaurant all ran outside to bring in the umbrellas that were on the outside tables. Before they came back in, the rain started; they came in laughing, soaked.

Then the power went out. A flicker, another flicker, then darkness. But no one seemed terribly concerned. The restaurant has big windows all around, and the woman next to me simply raised the shade so she could keep on reading as she ate. I did the same. Someone managerial—a stout woman in a red polo shirt and too-tight khakis, cell phone and beeper clipped to her bulging pockets—called out, “you’re all free to stay.” We laughed—why wouldn’t we be?

Minutes later she came out again. “Please move away from the windows” she called out. “Wakefield has put out a tornado warning. One touched down in Ashland.” Wakefield is the local weather station; Ashland only a few miles north of us. The reading woman next to me and I both picked up our salads, our drinks, our books, and moved to the interior of the restaurant. I sat next to a man who looked like Tim Conway, sitting with his daughter (maybe ten). They sat silently. I caught his eye, “do you think this is far enough away from the window?” He didn’t answer as I sat down. Minutes later we exchanged glances again. “This is pretty unusual,” he said. I agreed, and returned to my salad, my reading.

Several members of the staff were clustered near me. Rain was coming in under the door. One young woman—maybe 20—was nervous, wanted a cigarette. She got no sympathy from her coworkers. The manager asked one of the men to start clearing the racks out of the cooler and walk-in freezer in case we needed to take shelter there. I remembered that last year Mariah had been on a camping trip with her class, up in the mountains, and they had indeed taken shelter in a Burger King cooler when a tornado warning had closed the road they were on. I wondered how cold it would be. I wondered where Nick was—he had gone to camp in the morning, and was to have a playdate with a friend afterwards. Did they have power where they were? I hoped he wasn’t scared, but beyond that didn’t give it much thought. Kerry, the mom he was with, is way more safety-conscious and organized than I am, so I didn’t worry. I hoped Mark wasn’t up on the roof trying to fix our many leaks, but that too was only a passing thought—I knew he wasn’t. For a moment I wished I had a cell phone so I could check up, then I went back to simply enjoying the enforced quiet, the camaraderie I saw among restaurant patrons and staff, and, especially, the power of the storm. Jagged lightning bolts flashed here and there; the thunder wasn’t loud, though, so I didn’t feel threatened, only mildly curious. A bit drained.

It broke in about half an hour. I had finished eating but not reading, so I picked up my books and papers and left, thanking the manager for her hospitality. She didn’t seem to get it, but I was grateful for her officiousness, for her concern. As I left I noticed tents down in mangled heaps in front of a sporting goods store; the banners announcing their “tent sale” were still up, though.

The storm wasn’t really over. It was still raining. Power was still out—traffic lights weren’t working. The mall was open, but the stores, which had no power, were closed, so I couldn’t do my errand. I drove home, trying to catch some news, but the radio stations were all playing music, unconcerned.

I came home to find no power there, either, and sat on the floor and cried some more, no longer stressed but just tired. Honestly, some days I feel like I’m living in a bad novel—my back hurts and I think, yes, that’s it, the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Yesterday I thought of the storm of tears passing through me as the thunderstorm had passed through Richmond. If I wrote it in a novel the editor would strike it—too obvious. But there it was.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Ms. Musings

Why did it take me so long to find this blog?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

ob-gyn follies

I don't know if there's a statute of limitations on blog links. This one is from June, but it's just so funny you have to read it anyway. If you have ever had a pelvic exam, a mammogram, or any other humiliating procedure in a doctor's office, this will make you laugh out loud.

My own personal story of ob-gyn humiliation is nowhere near as funny, but here it is anyway.

When I was seven months pregnant with Mariah, I woke up one morning with excruciating stomach cramps. Pain like you would not believe. I was for some reason completely convinced that it wasn't the baby, but I didn't know what it was. Maybe food poisoning? Mark took me in to the clinic where I was getting my prenatal treatment. They put me in an examining room and I threw up. Maybe more than once. I lay on my side, groaning. Oh, yeah, and it had been really early in the morning when the pain started, and I had gone in with my glasses on, not my contacts, so the world seemed a bit--off, if you know what I mean. Nothing was quite in focus.

After a while a resident came to see me. Someone had taken my temperature and someone else (or maybe the same someone; I don't know; this was almost 15 years ago) took some blood The resident said he didn't quite know what was wrong, but his best guess was that my appendix was inflamed. The three signs of appendix problems, he told me, were a high fever (which I didn't have), a high white count (which I did), and a stiff abdomen (well, seven months pregnant, not so much). Oh, yeah, and the stomach pain.

So I was admitted to the hospital and taken up to a room somewhere. And then the ob-gyn residents started to visit. These guys, I am not kidding, they acted like they were responsible for the baby I was currently gestating. Their arrogance was breathtaking. I was an interesting case--something like 2 out of a 1000 pregnant women get appendicitis--so they kept coming in just to see me. (One of the drawbacks of the teaching hospital is that students get to look at you all the time.) One guy came in to do an internal exam. He walked in the room, gloved up, and said, "I'm here to do an internal exam." That was it--no introduction, no I'm Doctor So-and-So, nothing. I was writhing in pain even before he started, of course, but somehow not knowing his name made it even worse. Another one came in with a portable ultrasound machine. "Have you had an ultrasound yet in your pregnancy?" he asked. "No," I said. I forbore to explain that I was covered by Joe's Low Rent Grad Student Medical insurance and that Joe's didn't cover ultrasounds. That seemed like too much information. "Well, you're about to get a free one!" he exclaimed brightly. Oh, yeah, that's why I'm lying here on the bed writhing in pain--for the free ultrasound! "If I can figure it out, do you want to know the sex?" he asked. Mark and I hadn't even discussed this option--because of the Joe's insurance situation--but I said yes right away. I didn't want this clown knowing anything I didn't know.

He couldn't figure it out. Too blurry, or something. But he could tell me she (since I know her now, I can use the feminine pronoun) was probably big enough to deliver, if necessary.

So that was good news. I guess.

Then I got the epidural. I actually would recommend that all pregnant women get epidurals before giving birth, if I could, since it made the whole idea much more real when I got around to delivering, two months later. It also did tend to relieve the stomach pain--and everything else I was feeling. But I digress. Anyway, I got the epidural and got wheeled into the operating room. Splayed out on the table as for a crucifixion, arms out, I waited while people cut into me and took out my appendix. In a way this was the easiest part of the whole ordeal. Everyone was very nice and they let me know right away when they'd gotten it out, even though I really couldn't feel a thing. Oh, yeah, and they did tell me that it really was inflamed and it was a good thing they got it just then. It was another hour or so before anyone got out to tell Mark that things were ok. Poor guy--when we had to sign all the consent forms he got hung up on the various possible outcomes, which of course included premature birth, and death (mine or the baby's). He got a little worried. Well, more than a little.

Apparently abdominal surgery on pregnant women can bring on contractions, so I had to stay in the hospital with contraction-stopping medication coursing through me for a few more hours. They took me to labor & delivery to recover--because now I was just a pregnant woman, I guess, rather than an appendectomy. I heard babies crying and women screaming, but mostly I just remember that the medication for stopping contractions made it hard to breathe. They gave me oxygen for that.

After a while the contractions stopped and I got to go home and I had Mariah two months later with no complications. I did, however, get the epidural--and no ob-gyn residents were allowed anywhere near me.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

figuring it out

Nick had his first day at summer camp yesterday. It's a half day camp in a space that is, during the year, a progressive pre-school. He had a blast. I knew he would--one of his good friends goes there, and the friend's mom directs the camp. When I went to pick him up he stayed in the room with the other kids listening to the story, waiting for it to be finished before he would leave.

Last year he hated camp. He was in a school program that emphasized math. It met in a public school, and he spent much of the day in a classroom. It was a struggle leaving him almost every day, though by the end of every day he could report on fun things that he'd done, and the teacher told us he was doing well and participating. But the difference between that, last year, and this year's experience, is striking.

I asked him why he liked camp so much yesterday. He said, with joy lighting up his voice, 'There's an art room, Mom, where you can saw! And you can spend ALL DAY there if you want--except for snack, because we go outside for that." Later he mentioned "you can paint in the art room," and later still, 'you can play with clay in the art room." The director had told me, too, that he was allowed to spend as long as he wanted in the art room, doing what he liked. "Kids who aren't self-directed," she told me, "take a little time to get used to things here. But Nick jumped right in."

I've known for a while that art is likely to be Nick's "thing," as music is Mariah's. But suddenly it struck me how much it's his thing--it gives him pleasure, it feeds him, in the way that it does his dad. Well, no surprise there. But I know how to encourage a love of music (piano lessons, choir, access to tapes and cd's, buying a guitar...) much more than I know how to encourage a love of art. Nick asks to go to the museum, to go down to the basement to paint or draw or play with clay...we just need to keep making sure we hear those requests and respond.

It's so interesting watching kids develop, finding out who they are. And this seems to be Nick's summer for that.

Monday, July 05, 2004

baking in the summer

I've made the first peach pie of the season. It was basically this one, though it had two cups of blueberries in it because I only had four cups of peaches. And I used Earth Balance shortening instead of Crisco, because my sister told me it didn't have trans fats. And I don't know if it was the shortening, or the blueberries, or the fact that I used about a tablespoon more water in the pie crust than usual--but it was a seriously excellent pie, and the crust rolled out more easily than any one I've ever made.

There's something counter-intuitive (OK, stupid) about summer baking. It's bad to heat up the house, the kitchen becomes unbearable; I'm sure it's ecologically unsound. But now that we have central air I do it anyway, because I love pie. And bread, and brownies, and...you got the idea. And swim team requires baking, since one way they raise money is to have a bake sale at all the home meets. So there.

new column: Independence Day/2

I seem to have independence on the brain. Here's my latest column: Independence Day/2

And check out all the fabulous new columns here: "Literary Mama Columns"

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

obesity and overconsumption

I found this article really fascinating. I don't know if we're too fat, or how closely related fat and health are--some of this stuff just sounds like common sense, though. As in, it's better to exercise than not exercise. No, duh!

But this was what really caught my eye:

Overconsumption in America is closely equated with class: The higher up you go the more you consume. The only area in which consumption is inversely related to class is caloric overconsumption. So the American elite project anxiety about the fact that they're massively overconsuming economically and materially through a disgust for fat, lower-class people.

America is just too big. We throw our weight around, our cars are too big, our shopping malls are too big, our houses are too big. Our anxiety about fat is our anxiety about our own bigness. But it's a projection that is so inappropriate when our cars weigh 700 pounds more than they did 15 years ago -- which is politically and economically and environmentally far more troubling than the fact that our bodies on average weigh eight pounds more than they used to 15 years ago.

Now there's some provocative and interesting analysis. Americans are usually so afraid of talking about class. Thanks, Paul Campos, for raising the issue.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

another meet

Swim meets are better when it's sunny and pleasant out, as it was today. Things were a lot less chaotic than the first two meets and Nick actually won his heat! A first for him. He's still pretty slow, but he is improving steadily. It's fun for me to watch him get better. As a kid (and even as an adult) I rarely did things that I wasn't good at the first time. This meant I didn't ride a bike until I was 12, didn't really swim much at all, still don't enjoy water sports, dancing, horseback riding, playing piano... you name it. Piano I stuck with for several years--after all, once you learn the notes you can actually pick out a tune when you sit down. But the rest--I gave up early on things. I actually quit ballet twice, two successive years. (Then my mother caught on and I stopped signing up.) So I don't really know what it means to start from scratch and improve in the way I've seen Nick do it. It's fun to watch--and, in a small way, even inspiring.

Monday, June 28, 2004

two weeks in a row...

Mariah made dinner again tonight: parmesan chicken (her old standby), roasted green beans with almonds, and for dessert a cake that Nick & I had baked a few days ago, and espresso chip ice cream. I could get used to this...

Saturday, June 26, 2004

feminism and the movies

I've just recently seen both the original Stepford Wives and Mona Lisa Smile, and I've got to say, Hollywood feminism has lost a lot of ground. The Stepford Wives is over the top, yes, but it raises a serious issue in the so-called "gender wars" and doesn't let up. It doesn't have a happy ending; Katharine Ross ends up an animatronic wife just like everyone else. The movie knows that men are threatened by feminism, and suggests that some men might just as soon turn back the clock.

Well, Mona Lisa Smile does turn back the clock. It shows us a version of the 1950s in which a feminist "infiltrates" Wellesley college and gets her comeuppance. I mean, there are glimmers of something else, but in the end it makes the whole issue personal rather than institutional and therefore lets everyone off the hook. The Julia Stiles character gets to "choose" marriage (and presumably motherhood) over Yale Law School because "you always taught us to make our own choices, and this is mine." Well, yes and no. How much support would she, or any woman at the time, have for the opposite choice? Unfortunately the male characters are so shallow, so one-dimensional, that we can't really tell whether this is a good choice or not. The women who end up pursuing their own interests are 'damaged" in some way--the Kirsten Dunst character is divorced, and the Maggie Gyllenhall character has obvious father issues and is, moreover, both Jewish and a "slut." (While the movie doesn't imply that these are related, it's just a fact that she's the only Jewish character and the only really overtly sexual one...)

Yes, the Julia Roberts character seems to have real options--she's turned down at least one proposal, and freely chosen to leave another man, but again, there's no critique of any institutional realities. Nor do we know what she's going to do for money when she gets to Europe at the end of the movie.

I know, I know, it's just entertainment. And if there were lots of entertainment out there that took up women's history, and this were just one, I wouldn't be upset. In fact, I'm not really upset--just noting that this is the way Hollywood seems to work. Take a big institutional problem, personalize it, and then imply that the personal solution will do. Dickens did pretty much the same thing in his fiction over 150 years ago, so it's an honorable and time-tested tradition. But it's one-sided at best and dishonest at worst.

I tend to hate teacher movies, by the way. Especially English teacher movies. (Dead Poets Society comes to mind.) I hate how we romanticize teachers in movies and then don't pay them what they're worth, as if their love of their students was somehow supposed to make up for that. Julia Roberts, in this movie, seems only to teach one class, not to do research, and to have ample funds for all kinds of clothes that were probably not even available in Welleley, MA in 1954. But I digress.

For the sake of full disclosure I should also say that the movie had me tearing up a couple of times, including at the end when Kristen Dunst and Julia Roberts finally reached some understanding. But then I think I'm really weirdly hormonal right now--is this perimenopause? Honestly, I think there's some violin cue that goes directly to my tear ducts, bypassing my brain entirely. It happened at the end of Saved!, too, but that's for another time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

how cool is this?

So Mariah, age 14, has decided she wants to cook dinner for us once a week. She has a fairly limited repertoire so far, but is more than willing to expand. Until yesterday, her succesfully completed dishes included chicken parmesan, a spinach/bacon salad and lemon linguine that she got from watching Nigella on tapes my sister sent, and calzone from a kids' cookbook my mom gave her years ago. Last winter, I received Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer, and Mariah started browsing it yesterday for more recipes. She came up with lemony shrimp salad--sort of like a caesar salad with shrimp, only the dressing is (duh) lemony. And then I gave her No Knead to Need, because Suzanne Dunaway's rosemary filoncino is not only easy but to die for. And then she made a peach/raspberry crisp from a recipe my mom gave her, and we ate like royalty. She's now promised to make dinner every Monday. OK, so I have to take her shopping and be around in case of need (she still has trouble taking things out of the oven), but still--I'll take it. Especially because she likes to eat salad that she makes, and is otherwise close to allergic to vegetables.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

swim team

Nick joined the swim team this year. He's six, and doesn't swim too well, but all the parents told us that it was the perfect time to start. He'd learn to swim, have fun, yada yada. So far, though, practice has been a lot of standing in line waiting his turn. Somehow he doesn't seem to mind--maybe because all the kids get suckers at the end. Maybe because being in line with your buddies is not such a bad way to spend fifteen minutes here and there. I don't quite get it, but he seems to like it.

So last night was the first swim meet. Meets start at six, with warmups at five. We got to the pool (it was an away meet) at 4:45, just as a huge storm broke. Thunder and lightning crashed around us as rain fell in buckets. We were told that the meet would probably be held anyway; they wait half an hour after the last thunder is heard before letting anyone in the pool, so we should wait in our cars until then. Yeah, right. We decided to drive up to the university--Mark needed to check out a book. It would be about a half hour round trip. so we'd be fine even if the thunder stopped right away.

It didn't. As we drove through campus, we nearly hydroplaned a couple of times in the downpours. The road was flooding. Mark went up the long flight of stairs to the library, and we watched a waterfall pour down it. Mariah began complaining of a headache so we drove her home. Lightning jagged through the sky. When we got home I looked up the number for the pool; it was still thundering overhead. The guy who answered the phone said the thunder had stopped there and they'd be starting warmups soon, so we got back in the car and headed out again. It was now almost six.

Mariah stayed home to nurse her headache. By the time we got to the pool, the sun was shining and you'd never have known that a violent storm had just blown through, except we'd seen a bad car wreck and several tree limbs down on our way. Someone was even parked in the lot with their top down!

The scene at the pool was chaotic. Kids and parents all over the place. Most of the kids had "Go Granite" or "Dangerous When Wet" in sharpie marker on their backs. The little kids huddled together nervously. They hadn't started warming up yet, so Nick went and sat with the other "mini-mites" and waited.

Eventually, he swam. He was in the second heat of little kids doing the 25-yard freestyle. He jumped in (not off the blocks), and almost immediately veered to the right so he could grab the lane line. (They let the little kids do that.) He probably ended up on the lane line four or five times in the heat, but he eventually finished (last, but who's counting?). He looked wiped out as he came out of the pool--almost as if he couldn't see us.

So that was our first swim meet experience. Despite the late start (it was almost 7 before he was done, and no dinner beforehand) and the thunder and lightning, the crowds and the confusion, he swam his heat and finished, which was the only goal we'd set. Luckily he seems not to mind that he's not winning--in lots of things he's pretty competitive despite not having the skills, and then is devastated when he loses. Not this time, thankfully.

Swimming is its own little world. There are parents who do "strokes and turns," judging to make sure the kids are doing them right. There are timers and runners and announcers and starters and herders (well, that's what I call them--they get the kids from place to place). There are parents who walk in knowing what a 100-yard IM is. We don't live in this world, but we'll be visiting it this summer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

going away, coming back

Sometimes the worst part of going away is coming back. I had a quick trip to California last week, Wednesday-Sunday, and returned early Monday morning on the redeye. Nick's class party was Monday, so I went to it on very little sleep. I did manage a shower beforehand, which was a very good thing. He was delighted to see me, and I didn't even mind that I got hamburger grease all over my top. (OK, I minded a little, especially since there was coffee all over the clothes I'd worn on the plane. But that's another story.) I didn't last too long at the party, but long enough to have a great conversation with his fabulous teacher, the one who thinks he's a gifted artist. (Nothing better than a teacher who thinks your kid's special.)

But the rest of the week has been tougher. There's a leak in our roof, and another in our car (it's only two years old! What gives?), and it's been raining a lot so this matters. And the house is a wreck--well, it was when I left, so it's hardly news--and I have to get back to work, and the kids need me, and Mark's glad I'm home so I can pick up some of the slack (well, he's glad period, but you know...). So anyway it's been hard, harder than it might have been if I'd stayed home.

And yet I'm glad I went. I went to the Children's Literature Assn. conference, which is always a good place to be: lots of people who take children's literature seriously and talk about it with enthusiasm. I heard a fabulous talk by Pam Munoz Ryan, which got me to buy two of her books, and had lots of interesting conversations, great food, etc. And at either end of the conference a visit with my sister and her terrific family, including my amazing nephew Ben (who calls me Ya-Bee, how great is that?). I gave a talk at the conference on Charlotte's Web and feminist theology and it went well enough that I'm pretty sure I can keep at this project for a while. So all that was good.

But it's tiring getting over jet lag and going on with your life at the same time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Midlife Mama: On Not Learning to Clean

Here's my latest column, none of which (for once!) appeared here first. Midlife Mama: On Not Learning to Clean

Thursday, May 06, 2004


all the grades are done. Not submitted, yet, as I'm having a bit of anxiety over a few of them. But I've read all the papers, put grades on them all, and even done the math. So it's really, really close.

I went to the museum with Nick's class today. What a trip! They have an amazing teacher who pretty much lets them loose to sketch in whatever section of the museum they're "doing" at the time. Today it was ancient Greece. Lots of urns, vases, pots, etc. And they really did sketch: pots, details of pots, rams' horns, Medusa's head (very popular), Greek "key" designs, everything. The parents get paper and clipboards and pencils too and the idea is that everyone sketches. You get a little talking-to if you're not sketching what you're seeing--this is not the time for working out your latest Lego design plan, or the Yugi-oh guy you really want next. Some of the kids are really talented, others not so much, but they all drew what they saw and they were all happy to talk about it. The walk back from the museum was the toughest part: they were tired and hungry and tired of paying attention. Still, we all made it in one piece, and then got to see the dump trucks deliver new sand to the sandbox (extra bonus!) while we ate lunch outside. Not too shabby.