Saturday, December 31, 2005

I don't know how she does it...

That phrase came and went, I had thought...the novel really killed it so that, at least among women I know, we stopped saying anything like it to or about each other. Even if we didn't, quite, know how we were doing "it," we just shut up and did it rather than get into a long conversation about "it." And of course "it" changes all the time anyway, so however you were doing "it" ceases to work...

But I've been having that thought anyway when I read the frequently-updated blogs on my blogroll. How do they do it? How do they manage to blog when the kids are home from school, relatives are visiting, food needs to be cooked, new toys are being broken, and so on?

All of which is to say that I have in-laws visiting and lots to do. Time alone with a laptop is at a premium. So go check the updated blogs in the blogroll and enjoy.

PS--My mother-in-law, bless her, says "I don't know how you do it" to me at least twice a day. And currently, of course, the answer is, by skipping out on the blog. (I also don't do much house-cleaning, but we'll talk about that another time.)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Nick and Santa

Nick is eight. Do eight-year-olds believe in Santa any more? Nick does, or he wants to, anyway. He writes a letter to Santa every year and I hide it, forwarding the contents to folks in my family who might want to play Santa. And we manage to put gifts in stockings and wrap something from Santa every year. Nick puts out cookies and milk for Santa (and this year oats for the reindeer) and leaves notes, which he expects to be answered. (He does this to the Tooth Fairy, too...) This year he asked Santa to name the reindeer, which Santa did--in handwriting that Nick thought looked like Mark's (despite an attempt to disguise it). He didn't press the similarity for long, though.

Last night as he went to bed after a long happy day, Nick was unaccountably sad. "Unaccountably," to me anyway, because he pretty much raked it in yesterday. No clothes (OK, except a shirt from Grandma that he doesn't love and a punch-buggy t-shirt from Mark that he does), various cool things to do, and even the requested Star Wars lego set from Santa. Wrapped in paper that didn't match any other paper under the tree, except the gift for Mariah from Santa. (Mariah plays along beautifully, by the way.)

I asked him why he was sad and he said it was because last year he had three presents from Santa and this year there was only one. (Last year we had Christmas twice, once here and once at my folks, and Santa made his way to both trees...)

And why couldn't Santa bring more Star Wars lego sets anyway, when he has elves to make them? Why did Santa end up buying stuff? Did he just give money to the elves and send them out shopping?

These are unanswerable questions, and Nick was tired, so I just hugged him and read him a chapter of his book and put him to bed. And he didn't ask again.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

I like the anticipation of Christmas almost as much as the actual event. Yesterday Mark and I wrapped gifts while the kids were both out with friends, and we had a great time choosing wrapping, imagining them opening them, and anticipating the day. It will all be over, probably, by about this time tomorrow.

I still have a couple more things to get, and some baking to do, but today's mostly about cleaning. We bought a new vacuum cleaner yesterday (oh, the excitement of my life!) and I want to test it out. Oh, yeah, and it would be nice to have a clean house for Christmas.

Mariah and I will be singing at the midnight service tonight, but Nick is in the pageant at 5, so that means church twice. Worse things have happened.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

slowing down

I know I haven't been the most faithful of bloggers--some weeks I'm all here, others not so much. This is one of the not so much, and it's going to stay that way for a while. Unlike Dr. B., I'm not done grading yet--and our deadline was extended, setting up the dangerous possibility that I will not finish by Christmas. That would be very, very bad.

On the other hand the freedom that the extended deadline has given me has produced several batches of cookies (OK, Mariah made two, but I made one by myself and Nick helped with one), some spiced nuts, a draft of a column, a finished clapotis (my third, and favorite), and some nice social time with friends. So it's not all bad.

I know I wanted to say more about keeping Christ in Christmas, and ANWAR (yay!), and Ian McEwan's Atonement, which I just finished, but instead I'll just say welcome to Miriam's new baby, born last week. Her name is Amelia, and it sounds as if labor was really really rough, but Miriam and Amelia are both well. So there's some happy holiday news!

I'll try to drop in again before Christmas if the grades are done. (Now, there's some incentive!)

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I love Advent. In normal life I hate to wait. I mean, I really hate to wait: I got married at 10 in the morning so I wouldn't have to wait around all day. But a whole season, four weeks, devoted to waiting, I actually like. I think it's good for me to slow down, to wait, to prepare.

This year Advent has been...not so much. I bought candles and a wreath-form, but the candles didn't fit in it and I never did get it put together. I was busier than usual at work, in meetings almost all the time when I wasn't teaching, and I didn't feel as if I were preparing for anything except the next minute, for days on end. I had a couple of days where I left the house before sunrise and didn't get home until well after sunset, and I was worthless when I got home.

But today felt like Advent. Somehow I actually did manage to do a bunch of shopping over the last few weeks (bit by bit--I really hardly even felt it) and today we wrapped up gifts (Nick helped, and it shows) and put them in boxes and put them in the mail. Whew! And then we went out and bought a gorgeous tree, put it up, and the kids decorated it. There are decorations I've had since I was a kid (including one I made in 1974), decorations the kids have made, things people have brought us from various places (Russia, New Zealand, Japan, England...)--decorations that mean something, in other words. To us, anyway, though to anyone else I'm sure they just look random.

Then Nick and I baked cookies, and we all sat down to dinner together--something we hadn't done too often this week. I still don't have the Advent wreath together, and at this point I don't think I will, but it's a time of preparation, and waiting, nonetheless.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Public School

Thanks to Becca for this link to the National Council of Churches statement on No Child Left Behind. I live in a place where public schooling is a vexed issue. The city here had its boundaries fixed artificially many years ago to prevent it from annexing portions of the wealthier, whiter suburbs (a result themselves of white flight). Thus as the city had grown the tax base has not, and the schools find themselves in trouble.

My kids go to public school. My son attends the elementary school my daughter attended, one of two high achieving schools in the district, the only one that is truly racially integrated (or so anecdotal evidence suggests...I could be wrong). This year he's in a "testing" year. Virginia uses their aptly-acronymed SOL tests (it stands for Standards of Learning, really it does!) to measure progress on NCLB. This year it seems he's taking a test every week, maybe more. There are computerized tests known as Edu-Tests (the kids pronounce it "Edgy Test," which I love). There are reading tests, math tests, spelling tests, social studies tests, practice tests, and tests.

Nick is actually fine with this, though I bridle at each new test, each new announcement that some part of the curriculum will be skipped this week so the kids can take another test. And yet his school has far less anxiety over this--far less riding on it--than most local schools. His school is fully accredited and meets all standards.

But now they have the kindergartners taking "practice tests." There are SOLs for every grade, and they're starting to test them even in the "off" years.

We always said we'd stay in the public system until they drove us out. I fear, of course, that the purpose of NCLB and SOLs is precisely to drive parents with options out, abandon the schools to kids without options, and then declare them failing.

What I don't understand is why anyone thinks closing schools is a good idea. Even if your kids aren't in school, or aren't in public school, aren't you glad that other kids are? That we as a society take seriously the next generation, which--if we leave it under- or un-educated--might make bad decisions about how to govern us? Don't we, at the very least, want these kids safe and off the streets? I don't get it.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

It's a Boy...still

The last four babies to enter my world have been boys. Make that five or six. Most of the kids on our block are boys. My two nephews. The last three kids born into my choir. So even though Andi's blog book tour is over I thought I'd say a few more words about It's a Boy, which I just finished reading the other night.

The essays that really struck me have to do with boys growing older, perhaps because we're well out of the toddler years here, perhaps because I'm interested in watching the boys at Mariah's school grow up. Gayle Brandeis has a lovely one about her son and weaponry, for example. There are a couple about the strangeness of living with a teenage boy--something I'm not quite ready for. I thought about it the other day: Nick hugged me and I flashed forward onto his hairy teenage self and I realized how unready I am for that day, and that person. I've got some time, though.

Kate Staples has a lovely piece called "Reading to my Son" that I want to think about more. I have found myself, as I think I've written here, choosing different stories for Nick than for Mariah, and I'm never quite sure if I'm responding to or shaping him as I do so. Staples' piece takes up some of the same issues and resolves them gracefully.

And I was really taken with pieces by both Susan O'Doherty and Catherine Newman about their sons' love of "girlish" things. Again, it's something I've thought about with Nick. When he was in pre-school, he used to insist on spraying some of my perfume on himself and putting on some of my lipstick every morning before I left him at the pre-school. Not only did none of the kids there every tease him about it, several of them used to crowd around me and ask for their own lipstick as well--both boys and girls. It always seemed to me that Nick was trying to keep a piece of me with him when I left, and I never denied him (though I did draw the line at painting other kids' lips chocolate or berry-colored).

What I love about It's a Boy is the diversity of the stories--some of these boys remind me of my own, others not. All the mothers remind me of me, though, in their love for their sons and their ongoing reflections on what it means to raise them. It's a nice kind of reminder.

words fail me

Nick has read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at least twice. Once I may have read it to him, actually--the other time it was his school's "one book" reading project, where all the kids read the same book, and I'm pretty sure he read it to himself that time. He may have read it one other time, now that I think about it. He was working his way through the series not too long ago.

Which is why I was surprised when he came home from seeing the movie today (he went with a friend's birthday party group) and asked me this:

"Mom, in the book, does Aslan get killed?"

Friday, December 09, 2005

this is not why I haven't blogged, I promise!

Choosing to do one task while temporarily putting another on hold is simply setting priorities, which allows people to cross things off their to-do lists one at a time. Procrastination is when one keeps reorganizing that list so that little or nothing on it gets done.

Check out the whole piece on procrastination (which is, I repeat, not my problem!) here.

I'll try to have something more to say soon. But it may take me a few days to dig out from under my end-of-semester obligations, which are multiplying even as I type.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

snow day, take one

Yes, we're having a snow day with less than six inches of snow on the ground, and temps in the 40s predicted for later in the day. When I first moved here I, too, scoffed at the ineptitude of these southerners who couldn't handle snow. I don't scoff anymore; I just welcome the occasional break in routine that winter offers us. Yes, it snows here, and yes, we have snow days every year after relatively light snowfalls, certainly not enough to slow things down in New England or the Midwest. But, because we really don't get much snow, we can't really justify the expense of investing in the plows, personnel, and other equipment that would make it easy to remove the snow and keep going. I think we as a community have chosen, consciously or not, to accept the inconvenience of a few snow days over the expense of investments that would take a long time to pay off. If it's a choice between air-conditioning the schools and paying for snow removal (and I'm not sure it is), I choose air conditioning, which affect many more days out of the year.

So Nick is outside in snowgear, playing with the neighbor kids who are also at home, and Mariah is upstairs strumming her guitar. I stayed home from the office this morning because I don't teach today anyway, and I've been catching up on work from home. I've actually been more productive than I am many Tuesdays, perhaps because things are a little up in the air and my routine's been disrupted. I'll go in later today to keep some appointments and do some prep for tomorrow, but I'll also probably bake something (well, in addition to the muffins I made for breakfast) and try to get a pot of soup going. Tomorrow we'll all be back at work, rested from our unusual mid-week break.

I do recognize that my flexible schedule makes it possible for me to welcome these breaks with pleasure rather than annoyance or--worse--a fear for my job. I don't need the schools to provide child care for me, in other words, while many parents do. I don't know what those parents do on days like today--take a sick day, find a relative to stay with the kids, bring the kids to work? It all comes back to feminism for me, then: feminism needs to create a society in which men and women share these burdens equally, and in which children's and families' needs are central to the design of society. This would mean emergency childcare centers, paid emergency leaves, and, in general, the generous recognition that all lives matter.

These things seem possible when I look outside and see trees glittering in the sun, cars driving by more slowly, and children playing all along the block. Later today when the snow has turned to slush and the kids are tired and crabby, I'll no doubt return to my more cynical self.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Let it snow...

Big fluffy flakes are falling outside my window. I feel as if I'm looking into a snow globe. It's coming down pretty hard and fast now, actually--a snow globe just shaken by a toddler, perhaps? Anyway, this kind of weather makes me nostalgic for New England, where it would mean hot chocolate and cookies after a snowball fight. Or maybe not, maybe it would just mean a little inconvenience on the way home. Here in Virginia it means checking the school closing list every fifteen minutes; both kids went to school today but the district governing Mariah's school just announced it will close an hour early--what does this mean for her bus ride? And will Nick's school close early, too? Will his tae kwon do class meet?

Mind you, the prediction is for about an inch of snow. We're not talking blizzard conditions here. Just regular old snowfall, the kind that happens every year here and that we are, every year, unprepared for.

I love it.

edited to add:
as I pressed "publish" on this the power went out. Luckily my laptop went straight to battery and our campus internet connection didn't go down. But I think school may be letting out early for me today as well...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

one more, then I'm done

Here's a follow-up on Jen's great post about Hirshman. In a weird turn of events, Linda Hirshman commented on Jen's post, but mostly to attack Miriam Peskowitz. Read it all here:Literary Mama Blog: The "Elite" Talk Back: Linda Hirshman and Miriam Peskowitz Respond

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

but wait, there's more

I can hardly keep up with the various responses to the American Prospect piece I talked about below. Here are a few really worth your while; read the comments, too:

Mrs Coulter of Republic of Heaven collected one good bunch of links.

Mamazine picked up a couple more (yes, including me!).

And Jen has some more to say over at the Literary Mama blog, which you should be checking out regularly anyway.

Dr. B. gets her own link, even though she's linked in Mrs. Coulter's post, too, because she takes the by-now-contrarian position of mostly agreeing with Hirshman. Dr. B. doesn't mind dishing out advice or making rules, which is what some folks find particularly annoying about the piece. I might give different advice, and would certainly make different rules, but it is worth noting that agreeing with Hirshman doesn't necessarily mean you're antifeminist.

I actually think Beauvoir would agree with much of what Hirshman says. If, as Beauvoir and her existentialist colleagues believe, you are what you do, AND IF (here's the big if, for me) only public, money-making "doing" matters, then LH is right.

The problem is, public money-making "doing" isn't the only game in town. It is, however, a game that I'd actually like to see more women in if only because they might change it. I vote for women politicians, try to patronize women-owned businesses, even read novels by women BECAUSE they are engaged in a kind of public "doing" that is different from the mainstream while still, somehow, part of it. I like that women need to be reckoned with in these ways.

And, as I've said before (in comments on some of those posts linked above, I think), choices can be constrained. Many women "choose" to stay home not because they really and truly want to but because the other options (full-time child care, low wage labor, part-time work with no benefits, whatever) are less appealing. I never chose to stay home, so I will not be so arrogant as to claim that no one else "really" does, either--but I do know many women who would have chosen differently if they had real options.

This is, again, getting too long. And I'm feeling like maybe it's time for something really frivolous. Too bad Becca's not blogging about "All My Children," because I could really get behind that...

edited to add...
There's another data-rich post here and another bunch of links, some new, some old, here (both on Alas, A Blog).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

memory and story, part two

Nick told me the other day that he was re-reading the Harry Potter books because "when you read, the words are printed in your mind." He claims to forget movies more quickly than books for this reason, and since he wants to remember the stories, he's reading them again. I love this notion, though I'm not sure I believe it. (I have a terrible memory for what I read, actually, which means that I have read Jane Eyre at least two dozen times, preparing to teach it...but I digress.)

childhood memories

Early in November I read this great question on Raising WEG: "So here's the philosophical question: what is our childhood?� If you're prepared to accept, as I am, that memory plays a role in shaping our selves, that childhood is valuable not just for the subconcious effects it has on our inborn temperments but also for its storehouse of tales re-told in adulthood, what difference does it make that we forget most of our childhoods?� How much does it matter for us as parents, parents trying to create 'good childhoods' for our children, trying to lay down strong foundations, when what we remember of our childhood often diverges pretty radically from what our own parents remember.�"

At the time, I thought I had something profound to say about it, but no time to do so. Now that I have the time, I'm suddenly struck by how little I have to say about the question, after all.

But I'm not going to let that stop me. I want to talk about stories and memories, whether we remember them or not.

I've just ordered the books for my children's literature course next spring, and I am struck by how many of them are about storytelling. I don't think this is just selection bias on my account. Yes, I'm an English professor who specializes in fiction, in narrative, in storytelling, so I am drawn to those stories. But I think writers for kids are, too. So in Alice in Wonderland, Alice repeatedly tries to remember stories, tells some, fails to tell others, and thinks about what she will remember of her adventures when she is no longer having them. In Coraline, the title character recognizes the way her story is a story, is like other stories she's read. In The Neverending Story, Bastien learns that by telling a story he can create reality. Peter Pan brings Wendy to Neverland in order to hear stories, including the end of Cinderella. In Walter Dean Myers' Monster, the title character makes a movie of his experiences, controlling and shaping them with the camera and the storyboard. And so on.

What does this have to do with Jody's question? Much of what we remember in adulthood is story. In fact, we actually move experience from short to long term memory by telling it, turning it into narrative. (I have a friend who's a memory expert and confirms this for me.) So if your family tells stories about you, those silly/cute/annoying stories about what you did when you were too little to know better, for example, then those stories become your memories. The stories about stories seem to intuit this fact, and give us new ways to organize our memories, to think about our own lives in terms of other people's lives. I've never, for example, felt that I created a reality by imagining it, but Bastien's experience--which I first read about as a child or teenager myself--reminds me of the stories I did invent in childhood, and those I heard. While my memories of my childhood do, as Jody suggests, diverge pretty radically from my parents' memories, we come together on certain stories, both true and fictional, and those are a shared source of history and delight. Their stories of my childhood will necessarily differ from my own, but as we continue to tell them we create new memories, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

out from under

Thanksgiving began early for us this year with a surprise birthday party for my mother the weekend before. We had the best houseguests ever (again!) for a week, and others for shorter periods of time. (The best houseguests ever now include a new nephew who got his introduction to solid food during this trip--bonus!) Lots of cooking, lots of cleaning, the dishwasher and washing machine running non-stop. Thanksgiving itself was an amazing feast, with so much food I felt briefly guilty (then gave it up--and a good thing, too, as it's almost all gone already). I think I bought butter every single day for a week and we are out again. And no, I don't plan to step on the scale any time soon.

It was a lot of fun, but I'm glad significant birthdays only come about once every ten years. I'll need a while to recover.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More on the whole opt-out thing

Salon's cool new (ish) blog, Broadsheet, tipped me off to this one. It's an article in American Prospect Online that takes all those "opt out" articles seriously. The author, Linda R. Hirshman, a feminist professor, is working on a book about "marriage after feminism." She interviewed 30 some-odd women whose weddings were announced in the Sunday NY Times over three Sundays in 1996. Most of them, she says, were staying home with their kids 7 or 8 years later. (Actually, 50% were no longer working for pay, and a third were working part time.) : Conservatives contend that the dropouts prove that feminism "failed" because it was too radical, because women didn't want what feminism had to offer. In fact, if half or more of feminism's heirs (85 percent of the women in my Times sample), are not working seriously, it's because feminism wasn't radical enough: It changed the workplace but it didn't change men, and, more importantly, it didn't fundamentally change how women related to men.

I think she's right, that it's not just the workplace but male-female relationships (and, maybe, men themselves) that are at issue. This came up again and again in my class discussions on Beauvoir. With little apology, the young women in my class spoke of wanting mates who would "take care of" them. Or attributed such feelings to "most women." The men were fairly quiet in our discussions, but when they did speak, they acknowledged the heavy expectations on men: to earn, to provide, to "take care of" a partner, a family. It's hard to be equal when you're claiming a position of dependency. It's also hard to be the "superior," the bread-winner. But my students seemed to have a hard time imagining another future for themselves outside of that paradigm. So I think Hirshman's right that feminism has failed in that regard, at least for a lot of folks, both male and female.

I disagree with several of Hirshman's conclusions, though, most strikingly her fairly uncritical acceptance of capitalist standards of value. After arguing that it's relationships that need to change, she focuses primarily on workplace issues, and on women's need not to sell themselves short in the marketplace. This begins in college for Hirshman: The first pitfall is the liberal-arts curriculum, which women are good at, graduating in higher numbers than men. Although many really successful people start out studying liberal arts, the purpose of a liberal education is not, with the exception of a miniscule number of academic positions, job preparation.

I'd respectfully disagree with that claim on two counts. First, liberal arts degrees still do prepare folks for the workplace if they make them good researchers, clear writers, and/or experts at group work. Second, they may also, as my dad has always said, "teach you to despise the wealth they prevent you from acquiring." Or you might want to say "critique" or "re-value" instead of "despise." Is it possible that the women Hirshman interviewed who didn't care all that much about money (many turned down part-time or flexible work that their possibly enlightened employers offered) actually learned something, in college or elsewhere, about the dangers of making money their standard of value? At one time we used to say feminism would change the way we think about work, teaching us all to value care and cooperation over aggression and competition. That obviously hasn't happened yet, but is it worth throwing in the towel on it already?

Yet (sigh) I fear she's right that one way to change relationships is for women to increase their earning power. (She also suggests they could be changed if women would "marry down" in age or status, or if they married liberals. She reports this with--seemingly--no irony.) And her advice on what to do about the house does make me laugh:

The home-economics trap involves superior female knowledge and superior female sanitation. The solutions are ignorance and dust. Never figure out where the butter is. “Where’s the butter?” Nora Ephron’s legendary riff on marriage begins. In it, a man asks the question when looking directly at the butter container in the refrigerator. “Where’s the butter?” actually means butter my toast, buy the butter, remember when we’re out of butter. Next thing you know you’re quitting your job at the law firm because you’re so busy managing the butter. If women never start playing the household-manager role, the house will be dirty, but the realities of the physical world will trump the pull of gender ideology. Either the other adult in the family will take a hand or the children will grow up with robust immune systems.

Learned incompetence, it's called. It works for men, why not for women?

Again, there's more to say about all this. Read the article and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Spice Cookies

Those of you who came over from the Carnival of the Feminists may not be expecting a cookie recipe, but I think Pauline (from comments) can't be the only person who could use this. Honestly, they are the best spice cookies: easy, fun for kids to make, and oh-so-tasty. Oh, and quick.

They come from one of the funniest cookbooks ever, one I've mentioned here before: The I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken (illustrations by the fabulous Hilary Knight, of Eloise fame). As most of you know I don't hate to cook, but I love a cookbook that assumes one has better things to do. In fact, there's a little seventies feminism going on a decade early in Bracken--she assumes the women (yes, she does assume it's women) who buy her book may in fact be changing the world, and thus too busy to cook much. One of the original work-life balance writers, then. (OK, she also suggests they may be lying in bed eating bon-bons on occasion, but who doesn't fantasize about that, some days?)

Enough! Here's the recipe:

Mix together:
3/4 cup shortening (I use a stick of butter and a 1/4 cup of non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening)
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1/4 cup molasses

Then sift together and stir in
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon powdered cloves
3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

Now mix it all together and form it into walnut-sized balls. Put them two inches apart on a greased cooky sheet and bake at 375 for ten to twelve minutes.

It makes a lot; they'll puff up a bit and then settle and crinkle on the top, just like spice cookies should.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Does Motherhood Make You Crazy?

Here's my review of Inconsolable and Down Came the Rain. Mostly, reading these books made me glad I'm past the PPD stage entirely...

Sour Duck: The Carnival of Feminists, Issue 3

A big "thank you" today to Sour Duck for including my post on Beauvoir in this terrific round-up of feminist blogging: Sour Duck: The Carnival of Feminists, Issue 3

(Thanks, too, to the indispensable Dr. B. for alerting me to the carnival.)

I have barely scratched the surface of the fabulous links Sour Duck pulled together; I'm sure I'll have more to say when I spend a little more time. Welcome to anyone who clicks over here from there; stay a while and let me know what you think!

And a reminder: Issue 4 of The Carnival of Feminists will be published on December 7th at The Happy Feminist. Send submissions to veryhappyfeminist AT yahoo DOT com with feminist carnival in the subject line.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Second Wave Feminism, Beauvoir, and me

Simone de Beauvoir is often credited as the foremother of second wave feminism. The Second Sex, which came out in 1949 in French, and 1953 in English, long predates what we think of as second wave feminism, all that 1970's style agitation over equal pay for equal work, etc. But Beauvoir gets it, 20 years earlier.

I'm teaching it in a class for first year students right now, and as we were walking to class yesterday I heard one of my students (a young woman) say to another (also a young woman): "She really makes me hate being a woman. I never hated it before, but she really makes me see how it sucks."

I told Mark this last night and he wondered what planet she'd been on. But I've actually never really met an 18-year-old feminist. Not in this country. American girls may indeed face discrimination (indeed, I'd argue that they do) but they often don't see it. Especially the high-achieving ones I teach. They have, after all, succeeded at the thing that matters most in one's youth: school. They have faced little or no discrimination there, at least not overtly. They have been offered the same courses as the boys in their schools, the same (or, usually, at least equivalent) opportunities for athletic competition, the same extra-curricular activities. They have not been told that their brains are too small for them to study science, or that they're too emotional to understand math. They have not been told, in other words, that their biology is their destiny. All of this is, in fact, the result of seventies feminism, of Title IX and heightened awareness of gender discrimination in schools and consciousness-raising among teachers. So when Beauvoir hits them with this right up front, they are taken back to a place they thought was long gone, and they don't like it. And she spends a good bit of time on biology, and some of it is hard to take: "woman is the victim of the species," for example. That's an interesting way to think about your mom in the minivan, isn't it? And not a pleasant one.

So. Because they have been offered these equal opportunities, if they have failed to make use of them they take it personally. That is, if they have stopped being interested in math they have not blamed the teacher or the way math is taught; they have simply stopped being interested in math. (Like Barbie, maybe?) In America we prefer to think of ourselves as autonomous individuals, after all, which means we prefer not to engage in analysis of systems: when someone stays home raising children we frame it as a choice, not a result of systematic decisions and social constraints (see yesterday's post and comments for a little more on this). I, too, want to think in terms of autonomy (so does Beauvoir, ultimately), but a little systematic analysis allows for a more fruitful discussion of it. Only when we see how our choices are constrained can we finally analyze the ones we can and do make.

So I put the text of the equal rights amendment up on the board. Not one student recognized it. That, to me, is a failure of seventies feminism, and every feminism since then.

If we have time, I want to come back to it and discuss Phyllis Schlafly as well. As many others before me have pointed out, Schlafly took advantage of any number of "second wave" advances for women, to deny them to other women. She argued for keeping our "privileges" as women over advancing our rights. But those "privileges" cease to operate as privilege in a time of economic scarcity, as we all know. And so as long as those second-wave battles are not yet won, I don't really know how we can call ourselves any sort of a "third wave."

Monday, November 14, 2005

MMO Essays: Why can't men be more like women? By Nandini Pandya

MMO Essays: Why can't men be more like women? By Nandini Pandya. This is a terrific piece ruminating on the costs and benefits of care-giving, talking especially about the ways women are differentially paying the costs. She comes up with some suggestions for change, among them this one:

"Many women would gladly settle for 75 percent pay if they could work 75 percent of the 40 hour week. Creative flextime, and job sharing arrangements can make this a viable option. In fact, I know this can work, because I have been fortunate enough to work with managers (yes, most of them men) who have seen the benefit of having a committed, passionate, dedicated and oh-so-grateful employee even though she is available only 75 percent of the time."

As always there's great stuff at Mother's Movement Online. This essay by Nandini Pandya (which I found through a link from Miriam Peskowitz's blog) is smart and helpful.

And yet. Why does even smart, committed feminist Pandya assume that it's women who will want the flextime? Why not men working 75% time for 75% pay?

Right now I'm working 100% (or more) of 40 hours a week for 100% of the salary in our house. Mark would love part-time work, but if you think it's hard for women to negotiate that, try doing it as a man. And yet creative types like Mark are among the most likely to want part-time work in some ways: pay some bills, make some art, run some errands--it's the way his life really should be organized.

There's so much more over at MMO that I need to spend some time there myself now. I may be back with more about it later.

Friday, November 11, 2005

New(ish) YA Lit

I don't read as much YA (Young Adult) literature as I should, given that 1) my daughter is a young adult and 2) I teach children's (which includes YA) literature. So yesterday I went on a little rampage and read three books, and they are all remarkable.

They are also all what might be termed "edgy." In a book that got a lot of press about a year ago, Welcome to Lizard Motel, Barbara Feinberg complains that kids' books are too sad, too taken up with "problems." (She cites Bridge to Terabithia, a book I find sad but also uplifting, as an example...) Well, that may be. But then again, life is rather too taken up with "problems" for my taste, and problem novels have the advantage, usually, of being able to solve their problems.

But I digress. These are all, arguably, "problem novels." Weetzie Bat has a baby her partner isn't ready for, her gay friends deal with HIV/AIDS, and her father kills himself. Daisy, in How I Live Now, leaves the States to go live in England with some cousins because her father's new bride is a contender in the wicked stepmother sweepstakes, but she gets caught up in a war. And Michael, in Skellig, moves to a new house and has to face the possibility that his premature baby sister will die.

And yet. They are all fabulous books, lyrical and imaginative and thought-provoking. While I liked all three of them, it's Skellig that I keep thinking about today. I gave it to Mariah right away; it is the most brilliant example of magical realism outside of Latin America that I've ever encountered. At some level it takes up the Darwin vs. Intelligent Design debates, but not so you'd be put off by it from either position. And the writing is just spectacular in a quiet way.

I still don't have a book order list for next semester; I'm not quite sure what books I'll teach in what way. But somehow I've got to get Skellig on the list.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Nick and Niobe

Nick had to do a project on Greek mythology over the month of October. The kids were allowed to choose any myth, retell it, and illustrate it with a diorama. Now, I hate projects, but Nick is a crafty guy and he was happy about this. We started chatting about various myths--Perseus and the gorgon? Hercules? the birth of Athene? These were all pronounced "boring" because he knew about them already.

So we handed him Bulfinch's Mythology.

And he chose the story of Niobe.

Now, I don't know about you, but the story of a proud mother whose children are killed to teach her a lesson doesn't seem an obvious crowd-pleaser to me. But Nick was firm. He made a mountain of construction paper, placed a (construction paper) rock (Niobe) on top of it, and scattered (construction paper) dead daughters around the shoe box. He got to make arrows to stick into one or two sons who also littered the scene. He made a (construction paper) trickling stream of tears to flow from Niobe-the-rock.

I would prefer not to draw any conclusions about my son's character from this story.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Flexible Time

I have several friends who've left academe recently, some for secondary school teaching, some for other kinds of positions. People leave academe for all sorts of reasons, and though I'd note that all the people I know who are doing so seem to be women with children, I'm not sure it's because the academy is family-unfriendly in its essence. But I do know that the promise of flexibility which so many of us believe in often fails us. That is, we expect to be able to choose our schedules, to work at home in our pajamas on the days when we don't teach, to be available to our children for school drop-off and pick-up--and then, the department chair needs us to teach an 8:30 or a 4:15 class and there we are, just as tied to a schedule as anyone else.

But this is not, today, a lament. Because today my flexible schedule paid off. While I am inflexible in the afternoons, unable to pick Nick up from school more than once a week, if that, my mornings are often quite open. I teach late in the day but come in early, and thus get lots of unscheduled but necessary things done during normal people's actual working hours. This is a good thing.

The thing is, I don't have to be in at any particular time (well, until my office hours begin at ten, or my class at 12:30). So today, when for the first time Mariah and I missed her bus, I could take her in to school thirty miles away and not worry about missing my own class. We saw the bus driving away at 7:10, as we were still a block from her stop. (I won't go into my frustration about the bus driver's seemingly flexible schedule--some days he doesn't arrive until 7:15, other days he leaves at 7:05.) We went to the stop anyway, just in case it was another bus, but it wasn' we just got on the highway and I drove her in to school. Round trip: one hour, thirty minutes; $1.25 in tolls; and don't even think about the price of gas (less than it would have been last month, anyway).

Next semester I have an 8:15 class so all my flexibility will be at the end of the day, and if she misses the bus I don't quite know what we'll do. But this is the first time it's happened in a year and a half, so maybe we'll dodge that particular bullet for another long while.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ten Commandments a Terrorist Threat

Ten Commandments a Terrorist Threat: "Commandment 10 prohibiting covetousness violates interstate commerce regulations as well as the first amendment protecting the free speech of all commercial advertisers. The freedom to covet is vital to the economic and political interests of the United States. Covetousness has always been a strong indicator that freedom is on the march, both here and around the world. "

there's more if you click the link...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Blog Book Tour

My colleague over at Literary Mama, Andi Buchanan, has a new edited collection out, It's a Boy. So I'm joining in her blog-book tour this week.

Here's a taste of what's in store:

The Introduction to "It's a Boy"

An interview with Andi about "It's a Boy"

The writers contributing to the book are:
Stephany Aulenback, Karen Bender, Kathryn Black, Robin Bradford, Gayle Brandeis, Faulkner Fox, Katie Allison Granju, Ona Gritz, Gwendolen Gross, Melanie Lynn Hauser, Marrit Ingman, Susan Ito, Suzanne Kamata, Katie Kaput, Jennifer Lauck, Caroline Leavitt, Jody Mace, Jennifer Margulis, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Catherine Newman, Sue O'Doherty, Marjorie Osterhout, Jamie Pearson, Lisa Peet, Jodi Picoult, Maura Rhodes, Rochelle Shapiro, Kate Staples, and Marion Winik.

Some questions and answers:

From Rebecca Steinitz, contributor to the "It's a Girl" book:
Q: As you read through piles of manuscripts from mothers of boys, did you find any consistent threads? Anything surprising?
A: I was surprised by the sheer volume of pieces I got on wanting to have a daughter instead of a son. Of course, I had felt that way myself when I was pregnant and had been so attached to the idea of having two girls, but I hadn't encountered too many people in my real life who felt the same. So I surprised to get so many essays on being the reluctant mother of a son.

From Sandra of the blog Dance As If Nobody's Watching
Q: What seems to be the biggest thematic difference between boy-centric concerns and girl-centric concerns?
A: For both the Boy book and the Girl book, I received many essay submissions from writers who were conflicted about the sex of their baby, something I came to call "prenatal gender apprehension." But the concerns of writers in It's a Boy were about the otherness of the male gender: What the heck do you do with a boy? Some of the writers in It's a Girl ask a similar question about raising their daughters, but what prompts that question is not the fear of an unknown gender, but of knowing it all too well. Also, in Boy, writers talked about the act of separation -- letting go of teenagers and a mother's changing role as her child becomes an adult. This separation, though, was mainly about adolescents. But in It's a Girl, writers wrestled with letting go of daughters who were five, eight, nine, teenagers, grown women. Clearly – in these collections, at least -- identification and separation between mothers and daughters is a different terrain from that of mothers and sons.

From Shannon at Peter's Cross Station
Q: When I first heard about the project, it sounded like yet another opportunity to make stereotyped claims about gender in children. How have you been able to avoid falling into that old rut? How did you manage to do something new in this book (these books)?
A: Well, as I said in my original call for submissions, my whole idea with this book was to refute the gender stereotypes about boys and girls, and to explore whether or not those stereotypes really exist in actual boys and girls through essays by thoughtful writers. For the BOY book, I was specifically looking for pieces that questioned the cultural assumptions we have about boys -- whether the essayists ultimately embraced the stereotypes or rejected them was not as important to me as whether or not the writers wrestled with them in the first place. So the BOY book has pieces about a mother being surprised by a son's love, since what she experienced with her son ran counter to her expectations of what a boy would be like; about a transsexual mother grappling with how to raise her son in the face of everyone's attitude that her mere presence tips the scale in the direction of him being gay; about a woman nurturing her son's desire for soft, pretty things, even though a part of her wants to protect him from the harsh, messy world that will surely not be so kind; about boys who defy stereotypes, boys who fit them, and the way mothers adjust their expectations to fit the reality of who their sons are.

From Marjorie at MomBrain
A: You have a son and a daughter. How have these projects changed your feelings about mothering a son and mothering a daughter?
Q: I think the experience of having a boy and girl has probably changed my feelings more than working on these projects has. Pre-kid I was a big nurture versus nature proponent, but now having two kids and seeing how different they are, I am more prepared to believe that children pretty much come as they are – both of mine were born with their temperaments, and I feel like my work with them is to help them either cope with that temperament or embrace it. (And that's how I think of the differences between them, by the way, as differences due to temperament, not necessarily gender.) But working on the books did give me a wonderful chance to read so many people's stories about their lives as mothers of boys or mothers of girls, and I found these tales of varied experience quite absorbing. I did come away from these projects with the distinct impression that mothering a girl can be somewhat more . . . intense or personal than mothering a boy. There's something about raising a girl that makes a mother have to confront her own girlness, and brings up her relationship with her own mother. That kind of intergenerational fraughtness just doesn't seem to be there with mothers of boys – at least in the stories in my book.

I'm not all the way through my copy yet, but so far I keep finding myself here and there--like Andi says, I am surprised at how many of us were a little disappointed/surprised when we found out we were carrying sons. And relieved to find that we are all managing, one way and another, to learn from our sons how best to parent them.

So far the most poignant, lovely essay I've read is my friend Susan's on the son she lost, Samuelito. This essay will break your heart.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Time to clean house...

Dr. B..wants to know what's in your pockets/purse. I do have a cough drop in my pocket, but the purse...well, the purse.

1. My palm pilot/wallet: a leather case full of palm pilot, cash, credit cards, receipts, random slips of paper, business cards (mine), and a picture of Mariah (Nick's picture day was Wednesday; I'll get it in here soon.)

2. Monster key ring with 12 keys (some of which I can't identify), 1 mini credit card, 4 store discount cards, and a bottle opener.

3. Cell phone.

4. Various rumpled kleenex.

5. A small pack of kleenex.

6. Reading glasses.

7. Car keys for both cars.

8. A flyer from the bank, to remind me to check on a deposit.

9. Face powder.

10. Perfume oil in a little spray vial.

11. Mini-size marble composition book (blue).

12. Name tag. (Hey, I might forget!)

13. Two business cards picked up at a writing conference last fall.

14. Directions to doctor's office, with scribbled note about a song Mariah and I liked.

15. Ticket stub from Ethos Percussion Group (last year).

16. Ticket stub from Chesterfield Berry Farm (June).

17. Eye drops.

18. Sample size purell hand sanitizer.

19. Expired coupon from J. Jill.

20. Post-it with four book titles/call numbers. (I did actually check these books out, so I can probably get rid of this.)

21. Listerine breath-strip thingies.

22. Loose change: 77 cents.

23. Folded note from Mark asking me to get some books from the library (call numbers included; books already obtained).

24. Old grocery list.

25. Slips of paper with mildly inspirational sayings or ideas I wanted to remember (three).

26. Extra (black) button in small plastic bag.

27. Extra leather lacing for the sandals I wore all summer, also in a small plastic bag.

28. 1 lip balm, 1 lipstick, 3 lipglosses.

29. 4 coughdrops.

30. Expired Target film developing coupon.

31. 3 black pens, 4 blue pens.

32. 1 bobby pin.

OK, so now numbers 4, 13, 15, 16, 19, 20, 23, 24, and 30 have been thrown away. And I am actually proud to discover I have more pens than lipstick/lipgloss in my purse. That's not always the case. And don't even ask about my desk, or my computer/book-bag. Yes, they are just as bad, if not worse.

How about you?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I heart The Onion

'Scooter' Libby Wishes He'd Ditched Nickname Before Media Coverage | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Of course, I'm not crazy about Scooter's last name being all over the news, either, but I'm living with it.

NPR : 'Elements of Style' Goes Beyond Words

I heard this story on the radio this morning, about Maira Kalman's illustrations for The Elements of Style. I want it, I want it! The (verbal) illlustrations of principles of clear writing (and, often, unclear writing) are such a joy in this book; it's brilliant of Kalman to have thought of illustrating it visually as well.

Interestingly, recommends Joan Didion's latest, The Year of Magical Thinking to purchasers of the Kalman book. I want that, too, but I'm still trying to think of why customers who bought one bought the other.

(P.S. There's also an opera! We missed the concert performance, though...)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Random thoughts on Hallowe'en

Nick was not, after all, Darth Vader for Hallowe'en. Instead, he was a Cyborg Alien. I'm not quite sure why, but he has decided that one must be "evil" (not just "scary") for Hallowe'en. This lets out all the cute funny costumes of years past (most memorably, Mark once made him a swan costume so he could be Louis from The Trumpet of the Swan). He went out with four other boys from the neighborhood and the mom of two of the boys, and came back in an hour (maybe less) with a load of candy. Which, unprompted, he offered to share with Mariah (though he did put limits on what she could take). So despite his really ghoulish appearance, he remains a (mostly) sweet kid.

Hallowe'en was otherwise fairly unmemorable. We bought pumpkins on Sunday (after striking out Saturday when Nick couldn't choose one that fell within my price-and-size guidelines--he's not always sweet!). Nick carved his later that afternoon, with help from a neighbor and supervision from Mark. Mariah carved hers in the twenty minutes between dinner and the first onslaught of trick-or-treaters. She then sat on the couch trying to do homework as kids streamed up to the door. "I hate kids," I heard her say. So I took over handout duty.

Every year, it seems, there are more bought costumes, fewer homemade ones. This was the first year we ever bought a costume solely for Hallowe'en. (Mariah had two costumes that were purchased on sale after Hallowe'en that lived in her dressup box. One of them, a fabulous furry bear costume, did actually appear on her and, later, on Nick on the actual day.) But this year we were just like everyone else, it seemed. I saw a few little kid costumes that might have been homemade, but they were really rare. And the kids without costumes just make me sad. I always think the dressing up is the point, the candy the side-benefit, but apparently not everyone agrees.

It was warm this year but we didn't have a big crowd. We always get enough takers to clear out four or five bags of candy (this year it was four, supplemented by a couple of handfuls from our neighbor, who got home too late to hand out everything he'd bought). I recognized about a third of the kids/families; the rest were strangers, but that doesn't mean they don't live in the neighborhood. Still, I felt as if we really didn't get into things this year--as if it were just a chore. I'm not quite sure why.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

New Stuff

I have a review of Miriam Peskowitz's The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars and Judith Warner's Perfect Madness up here now.

And a new column, here.

Let me know what you think! And check out the rest of the great stuff at Literary Mama, too.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I am a wimp

Becca, in comments, says she's waiting until November to turn her heat on, even though it's colder in her house than mine. The Yarn Harlot is again engaged in the competition with her brother to see who can hold out the longest before turning on the heat--and they live in Canada. I, on the other hand, am basking in the warmth of clunky old radiators and a thermostat set at 68. From the warmth of my living room, I bow to their greatness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I love my son

I was battling with Nick before he was even out of bed yesterday. Legos strewn on the floor between the dresser and bed, the new Darth Vader costume wadded up on the floor (it's too big, Mommy! I can't wear it!), a pile of stuffed animals mounded up on top of him in set me off and we were at odds with each other until we left the house. In fact Mark offered to drive him (as he usually does) but by that time I wanted closure, maybe even a chance to make things better, so I hustled him in to the car myself.

In the car:

"Mommy, I don't want to say I don't like my backpack, because I do-- but I wish kids wouldn't tease me about it."

"About what?"

"Well, everyone says it's a girl color because it's purple.* But there's no such** as girl colors and boy colors! There are just colors!"

"You're right, Nick--and even if there were, purple used to be a color for kings, right?"

"I said that. But A still says it's a girl color and R said he'd tell on me for it!"

So kids are threatening to "tell" on each other for gender infractions. Third grade's tough.

Well, we talked about it for a while, and agreed with each other that, no, there's no such as boy colors and girl colors, but that it hurts when your friends tease you anyway. After school we talked some more about it, and remembered that he does have friends who don't tease, and tried to work out who teases and who doesn't, and why. We didn't really solve that, but it was good to talk about it anyway.

He doesn't really want me to buy him a new backpack in a boy color. He wants me to make the world right. Unfortunately, it'll be a whole lot easier to buy him a new backpack. In a boy color. Sigh.

*Not only is it purple, it's pale purple, maybe even lavender. With pale gray. And, to tell the truth, Mark bought it for Mariah, who decided she didn't want it. (She's not carrying a backpack at all this year, just an assortment of bags.) But it was such a deal, and such a great shape, size, etc., that we kept it anyway, and Nick asked to use it.

**Nick has always used this locution rather than "no such thing." I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


It is 62 degrees fahrenheit in my house this morning. Now, I'm ready for the cooler weather (the baking! the knitting!) but this is a little much for me. Nick's oatmeal was, he says, "room temperature" by the time I got it from the microwave to the dining room table. That's too cold.

So I guess I need to go remember how to light the pilot light on the heater. I have been waiting for November, out of some misplaced sense that if we don't light the pilot light until November we won't go broke heating the house. But if we freeze to death before that we'll save more money, but for what? (OK, I realize 62 is not even close to freezing to death--indulge me.) If I don't post for a few days, send out a search party. I may be lost in the wilds of junk that currently populate our basement.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

make this cake!

Becca posted a great cake recipe here: Not Quite Sure: Chocolate Banana Cake

I made it tonight (you'll notice she pretty much dared me to) and, yes, it's that good. Mark said it was one of the best cakes he'd ever had. And I make a lot of cakes. Everyone loved it. And the frosting is really easy and good, too.

Oh, and all that about "good quality chocolate"? It could be better, I suppose, but mine was Hershey's all the way (both for the cake--cocoa--and the frosting--semisweet) and it was fine.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

me and netflix

I get these movies, and then they sit and wait for me to watch them, and then, I don't, and after a while I send them back. Or watch them. Luckily the kids watch a lot of movies and so I try to keep the queue filled up with their stuff--in fact, Mariah has her own queue, so there's almost always something for her. And Nick has had the Star Wars saga going for a little while. But I finally got around to Pirates of the Caribbean last night. I'd been wanting to see it, and never had, so I put it on the list and it came. And then, it was playoff time, and if I was going to stay up late for something it was going to be baseball. But last night there was no baseball, and no one else was home, either. Mark and Nick are out camping and Mariah was with a friend. So I heated up leftovers, poured a glass of wine, and popped in the movie.

Which immediately popped back out again. "Disk unplayable," read the screen. And indeed, the disk that's been sitting next to my TV for two weeks unwatched, not even out of the sleeve, had a big crack across it.

Luckily Blockbuster is only two blocks away. I know it's evil, but --like I said-- two blocks away. And I had a coupon. I found the movie and somehow the coupon that I thought said $1 off made the movie free.

And my dinner was still hot (ok, warm) when I got home.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oh dear

I fear I've created a monster. Not all by myself, certainly. I had help. But I fear that Mariah is destined for the same nerdy future her parents inhabit. Of course, there are worse things: soul-crushing boredom comes to mind. But financial security may be out of the question for her.

Today she said to me, "most of my friends haven't really read Alice in Wonderland, or Through the Looking-Glass. And they mix up the characters in them, and the stories. E only knew three characters, the Mad Hatter, the Rabbit, and the Walrus. And the Walrus isn't even really a character, he's just in a poem that someone else says!"

Well, yes. They've all seen the Disney cartoon, whereas you, my dear one, are inhabiting the book. (Have I mentioned that she seems to be committing it to memory, reading it nightly as she falls asleep?) Those who inhabit books, however pleasurable that world is (and I have my doubts about Alice, though that's another story) are, I fear, doomed to inhabit academe as well.

I will look into why I fear that my daughter would follow in my footsteps another day. Many parents would, I know, rejoice in that knowledge. Hmm.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Into the woods - The Boston Globe

Here's an interesting take on the popularity of English fantasy fiction in America today. He doesn't mention Harry Potter or His Dark Materials--interesting and perhaps telling omissions--but it's an pretty good piece nonetheless. The idea that fantasy is somehow purely escapist is one of the most pervasive and wrong-headed myths I know about the genre.

Click the link to read the whole piece, or just check out the last paragraph here.

Into the woods - The Boston Globe: "Who can ignore the merry foreground, the delirium of distraction, that currently prevails in American life-in a country at war, under threat of terror, with an impending energy crisis and a scandalous political culture? One senses that unknown dangers are preparing to assert themselves, and the closer they get, the dreamier everyday life begins to feel. This sensation is the hallmark of the English fantasists: Evil encroaches on the Shire, hallucinated blood spreads across a field at the Sandleford warren. The consolations of fantasy exist only in relation to its special terrors, and if we choose to seek these consolations and terrors in the archetypal darkness of the movie theater, or in the ancient privacy of a book, might we not be closer there to the truth than in the land of make-believe that awaits us outside on the street, or when we put the book down?"

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

fall baseball

I am watching way too much baseball. Every year this happens. We don't have cable, so I can't really follow baseball during the season. Besides, it's just somehow wrong to watch a lot of TV in the summer. But then the playoffs roll around and I find myself sitting on the couch glued to games between teams I don't even care about. I ask you, the Angels? The White Sox? Houston?? (I have a soft spot for the Cards because Tony La Russa does a great radio interview, and a good friend is a die-hard fan. But otherwise...)

One good thing about baseball is that I get a lot of knitting done, though. I've finished this (admittedly, started before the playoffs began) and this (scroll down) in the past few days. My knitting rut continues--I've made the spiral scarf three times now, I think, and the wrap is similar to (though easier than) the clapotis that obsessed me in the spring. I am still afraid to knit anything where the shape or fit actually matters. Or, for that matter, anything that has to be made in pieces. Though I have this cool red and black yarn that I really think wants to be a maybe I should bite the bullet and try.

Monday, October 17, 2005

three pears left

The two boxes of pears are almost gone: there are only three left. The last big batch of them ended up in this, which is very tasty. The pastry is truly well-named, too. I have a little bit of a pastry fear, but this one really was easy. And tasty. I cheated and just used chocolate chips rather than chopping up chocolate, and I think chopped would have been better, but it was just fine as is.

Mark and Nick are going to pick apples on Friday, so there will be apple baking over the weekend. I can't wait.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


This began life as a comment (in my head...I never got over there to post it) on Becca's post on stories, but it kept growing and growing so I put it here.

So: why do ambivalent experiences make for better stories than happy ones?

(Can I just say, I love the intertextuality of blogs? I would never have gotten to this without the prompt from Becca...)

Well, there's Tolstoy's quip about happy and unhappy families. The unhappy families, experiences, whatever, give us the conflict we need to move a narrative along. Happiness is not really always static, but it is much harder to find the motive force, I think, in a happy story. (Not one with a happy ending--those are often pretty conflict-laden along the way.) Thus we spent a fabulous summer in England, but the story we most often tell is about the obnoxious neighbor who played the drums so badly and loudly. That's the story that has conflict. And, for that matter, resolution.

(Here's the short version of that story: early in our stay the woman next door came to tell us that her son and his mates practiced music on Saturdays and we said that would be fine. She said it would be loud and we said that was ok, we could probably go out. Then it started. It was really really loud. And really really bad: arhythmic drums, unmelodic, feedback-laden guitar and bass. Screaming. The whole bit. And then the practicing started happening on other days, other times. On rainy days Mark and the kids felt trapped in the house by the rain, assaulted by the noise. Finally he went over to remonstrate with them. No one came to the door. He went back later, when the mom was home from work. She brought her son and his mates over to the house, where they sat in the living room while Mark played the heavy. I believe the word "police" was mentioned. I believe "get a job" may also have been uttered. (Did I mention the son was 20-something?) The band returned to the previous practice schedule, the weather improved, and things got better. La-la.)

But that's not really ambivalent. So that brings me to my second thought, which is that, while we may tell the conflict-laden stories for entertainment, to amuse or delight or excite an audience, we may tell the ambivalent stories for ourselves. Ambivalence always has something to work out. And the more we tell those stories, the more we work through the issues about which we were ambivalent, the more we come to some kind of closure or resolution on them.


I"m not sure at all that this is what Becca really meant, actually, but it's where the thoughts led me. Which is why I need to read other people's words at least as much as I need to write, and indeed in order to write.

(Speaking of which: Gilead? Over there on the reading list? I can't remember the last time I finished a novel and wanted immediately to turn back to the beginning and start again. To buy copies for everyone I know. To keep it with me so I could quote lines from it at random times during the day. I know, I know, I'm late to the party, everyone already knows what a good book this is, but let me enjoy it anyway.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

fall cooking

In the fall of 2002 I opened a new word document that I ambitiously titled "A Year in Food." I detailed the meals I made, the baking I did, for about two months. So, not a year at all.

Looking over it late last night I was amazed at my productivity. No wonder I didn't publish much! (Though, actually, I think I got quite a bit out that year as well. Hmm.) There was bread almost every other day. There were soups, roasts, cookies, cakes. There were experiments that didn't work and many that did. There were, I believe, some additional pounds as well.

The weather has turned cooler and I've started fall cooking again. I have not yet pulled out the crock pot (indeed, I'd forgotten how much I liked using it, that fall). But I have baked three pear desserts in less than a week (pear brown betty from an old Food and Wine, walnut pear upside-down cake adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and pear tarte tatin, if you want to know). The pear bounty is courtesy of my mother-in-law, who sent us two boxes of pear perfection. Oh, I also made pear-rosemary bread! (Scroll down for the recipe...) I've also made dinner in the oven a couple of times--always a sign that winter is approaching and I am back in casserole-and-roast mode.

I don't think I'll keep track of every meal this fall, but it is helpful to know what works and what doesn't. Too often I save a recipe even though we didn't much like it, or lose one that we did. After I made the bread the other night I found the exact same recipe written down on a slip of paper and shoved into the breadbox. I know I'd never made it before, but it must have looked good. It was.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I'm a winner!

Early morning. I'm sitting on the edge of Nick's bed, rubbing/scratching his head--the only visible body part.

"Mom, why are you scratching my head like one of those things that you scratch off to win something?"

"I don't know, Nick, maybe I think I'll win something, too."

"But you already won me and Mariah! What more could you win?"

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I meant to post this morning, but days when I don't teach often get away from me, and this was one of those. So instead I give you a very old "he really said this." Nick was three. Mariah was ten. We were visiting friends who have three girls, who were (then) ages 10, maybe 6, and maybe 2? The two little ones were on either side of Nick, in any event.

Their house was awash with pink, Disney, princesses, telephones, Barbies, you name it. Girlie stuff. Stuff Mariah had played with, too, but with three girls there was more than three times as much, somehow.

Nick fit in right away. He had a great time playing. The two older girls knew each other from before and got along great, and the three little ones played and played. Nick turned one of the phones into a gun, I remember--our friends were a little appalled, never having seen such behavior, but it made sense to him (and, I guess, us). He just turned the thing sideways and pointed the antenna (it was an old, retired, cordless phone handset) as if it were the barrel of the gun. Great.

The grownups were outside on the patio, finishing up dinner, sipping on margaritas or some such. It was a warm, pleasant evening and the kids seemed to be taking care of themselves. Then Nick and one of the little girls rushed out. She was clearly upset, though he was having a great time. He slammed a baby doll down on the picnic table and shouted "She's dead! She's dead! The bad guys shooted her and she's dead!"

I know girls' play can get violent and aggressive, but those words had never been said in that house before. And perhaps not since, if they're lucky.

We have not been so lucky, though Nick (who is going to be Darth Vader for Hallowe'en, did I mention that?) is a sweet kid. Somehow this is in him, too, and it's got to come out.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Baci Ice Cream

I don't know why this recipe is showing up in a Cooking Light forum; it is absolutely not light. However, it is absolutely one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. I left out the hazelnut syrup (because I didn't have any) and the result was still amazing: almost like a frozen mousse, only even thicker and creamier. But small serving sizes are a must, I think. It's just way too rich to eat too much of.

Some of the forum participants thought it was too rich. Not us, though.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

banned books: Me too!

I read from two of these last week at our Banned Books Week commemoration (celebration just sounds wrong). And I've seen this on some other blogs, so I thought I'd play, too: which of the 100 most frequently banned and challenged books have I read? Answers in bold:

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Giver by Lois Lowry

It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Sex by Madonna
Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
The Witches by Roald Dahl

The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What? by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I did include a couple--The Summer of My German Soldier and Flowers for Algernon, specifically--that I am pretty sure I read as a kid (I can still picture the covers) but about which I could tell you, really, nothing. So you can subtract those two if you want. It still feels like a respectable number (36, and I didn't count at least two for which I've seen the movie but not read the book...)

In case you care, I read In the Night Kitchen and a brief selection from Bridge to Terabithia at our event last week.

are we there yet?

No, we haven't been on a driving vacation in a while, and the kids are not too terribly whiney about them when we do. But I've been feeling lately like I'm on some bizarre funhouse ride and I'm ready to get off and it's just not going to happen. But, really, I'm ready for a rest. Or something.

Last weekend I went to a conference. I heard brilliant academic papers, sat through long interesting talks (but don't ask me to recapitulate them for you), attended a master class, and caught up with old friends. Some I hadn't seen in twelve years, since we've been living here. I also had a long phone conversation with a friend I haven't seen in a while. And I ate a terrific meal, too.

This was all good.

In the meantime I was not, of course, at home for much of the weekend. But life did not stand still in my absence: Mariah went to a birthday party, Nick played with friends, Mark took Nick out to lunch, they even cleaned the house! Nonetheless I felt somehow that I'd missed something important. This always happens when I go away--I want everything at home to stop so I can pick up where I left off, and no one will have missed me.

Mariah's friends are driving. Can I just go to sleep for the next couple of years and wake up when she's learned how and I don't have to freak out every time I think of it?

Yes, I am aware that this desire to sleep through major changes in my daughter's life is in direct conflict with my desire that they freeze in place while I'm away. I cannot reconcile these incompatible desires.

Monday, October 03, 2005

comment spam

OK, count me among those now using "word verification" on comments to prevent spam. I've gotten some weird ones lately--including a link to a Narnia website?

Oh, and is everyone getting this little Vonage thing all over blogger lately? I'm sick of it, let me tell you.

Real post tomorrow, I promise.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thursday morning miscellany

The weather is turning, finally. It's not hot when I walk out the door at 7 a.m. A walk around the lake at 9 doesn't end in a sweaty demand for iced coffee. I put on a jacket this morning.

The turning weather seems to have brought out my inner hibernator. I'm sleepy all the time. So are my students. It's odd; I find the weather energizing, theoretically, but I'm just too tired to take advantage. I hope this changes soon.

Over dinner last night there was much hysteria over noble gases and golgi bodies. Mariah's science classes have so far surpassed me that all I can do is make infantile jokes. I did, actually, take biology in high school, but golgi bodies are foreign objects to me. And the periodic table sounds like a place where you eat dinner, sometimes.

Mark and I have failed to watch three movies in the last month or so. We turned off In Good Company after about half an hour, a few weeks back. We could pretty much predict every move, and it didn't seem worth it to work through it all, though I liked the cast. We returned The Upside of Anger without even putting it into the player. (I do regret this, but somehow every night we were free to watch it, it wasn't what we wanted to see.) And then last night, we started to watch Rat Race. We gave it twenty minutes, maybe longer, and we were just so bored we had to give up. Why is this? John Cleese! Whoopie Goldberg! Rowan Atkinson! Have we totally lost our sense of humor, or was it really a stinker?

We'll never know.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

lost you at the bakery

I am just listening to the obituary for Don Adams. I can hardly believe he was 82 years old. The music from "Get Smart" feels encoded in my deep brain structure, somehow. If you'd asked me to sing it a minute ago I probably couldn't have, but now it's on an endless loop.

My favorite repeating "bit" from "Get Smart" was how Max would drive the Chief crazy. Often it was direction: the Chief would go into detailed directions, Max nodding throughout. At the end, the Chief would say "OK?" and Max would say, "well, Chief, I lost you at the bakery"--or whatever the first thing in the directions had been. That used to break me up, every time.

Now that I'm the parent of one, I realize that Max was really a very bright eight-year-old (ok, with hormones). He was eager, and bright, and thrilled by gadgets, and totally convinced of his own cool, even when he was being an utter dork. And very distractable. They'll drive you nuts, those boys, but they generate infinite reserves of forgiveness, too. Luckily for all of us.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yes, he really said that #1

A friend asked Nick how school was. The first week had just ended.

"Oh, well," he said, "it's a little enslaving."

We just looked at each other in amazed disbelief.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back to School Night

There were letters to the parents on the desks in the third grade classroom. Here's the letter that was on Nick's desk.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Third grade is okay, but it does make me tired. I can't tell you much because I tell you what's going on after school. So I geuss all there is to say is nothing.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

yes, she really said that #1

As I just posted in comments, I've decided to write down one thing one of my kids says every couple of days. I want to see if I can develop an ear for dialogue.

So here's this morning's entry, a bonus entry!

Mariah has been babysitting a lot lately. We were listening to NPR this morning, to a report on shift work, and it reminded her of a babysitting job she'd done recently for a medical resident who's working crazy hours.

"I'm so glad I babysat for them." Pause, just long enough for me to remember that the baby cried for the entire two hours, and she spent the whole time walking him up and down their narrow, dark hallway. But before I could say "why?" she continued. "They really needed it."

Another pause. "I love to see smart people with babies," she went on. "I mean, you and Daddy... the PhDs just go out the window! And with K and her husband, too; it's all 'ba-ba-ba-ba' and [very high voice] 'hi, sweetie!' It's hilarious! I mean, do babies think grown ups are really dumb?"

Um, thanks, hon.

The Morning Routine

An alarm goes off. It's not right by my head; that one is set to go off in five minutes, but so far this fall I've never heard it. I hear the one buzzing insistently in Mariah's room, and almost before I'm aware I'm out of bed, padding down the hall to peer into the darkness. "Wake up, honey!"

"I'll be up in--" she fumbles with the clock and her glasses-- "six minutes."

It's six o'clock.

I leave, go into the bathroom, turn on the water for the shower. Sometimes while I'm under water I hear the buzzing again, and eventually Mariah appears.

I turn on the hall light so I can get a little visibility in the bedroom. I don't want to wake Mark. Nick will sleep through everything, including his own alarm an hour (two?) later. I paw through clothes, hoping that what I find is clean, and fits, and matches. Sometimes it works. I keep thinking I should plan outfits the night before, but so far I haven't managed. Only once did I have to stop at Target after dropping Mariah and rework things, though.

Coffee, breakfast, prepare a lunch. It's usually 6:40 before I see Mariah; I'm already starting to worry about getting out the door by 7. She forces down some food, some vitamins I've gotten out for her. More coffee goes into the travel cup. Teeth brushed, hair, makeup, and we're out the door by 7, just as the sun is starting to rise. It's quiet out, not much traffic.

We get to the bus stop and sit for a minute or two waiting for the bus. She tells me stories about the kids she sees waiting: "It makes me sad, Mom, those freshman girls and those guys hang out with them because only the new girls will look up to them. They're such losers." Or, "those kids are fine on their own, but get them in a group…" She notices that the kids walking into the public high school where her bus stops are all black; the kids waiting for her bus, to a selective public arts school, are mixed. Integration hasn't made it very far here.

Some mornings it's NPR but usually I let her choose the music for the few minutes while we wait. Then the bus arrives and she's out the door, shouldering her bag and joining her people. And I drive off to work where I am the first one in the office, working in the quiet of the early morning. At home, Nick isn't even awake yet; Mark will do what I did last year,: cajole him out of bed, put together a quick breakfast and an even quicker lunch, and hustle out the door hoping to make it to school, only a mile away, before the tardy bell at 9:05. By then I'll have had a walk around the lake and be settled into the day.

I always thought I hated mornings, really. But there are some advantages to the new routine.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

writing to assignment

I write best to assignment. I was always a good student in writing classes: give me a topic and I can give you a coherent, sometimes better than coherent, take on it. This worked for me in undergrad and even, to some extent, in grad school. Later in grad school, of course, I was supposed to come up with my own topics. When I did, I did fine. When I had trouble defining a topic, I got help. And even then I had deadlines and consequences and my writing, mostly, was good and on time.

Blogging is different. There are no set topics, no deadlines. And no pay, which is of course a profound (though rare) motivator.

This is, of course, why the best blogs are focused and frequent. Writing begets writing, for one thing, and a rich topic (kids works fine, so does politics, the academy, technology, etc.) generates sub-topics all the time.

I've had some set topics here and elsewhere, of course: motherhood, writing, kids, faith--but I have not yet found the edge, the focus that keeps things going. And it's been a rough couple of months for writing, too. Being away from home, then back but in flux, is not conducive to a regular posting schedule. So things have slipped. Not blogging is like not calling a friend--first you don't do it because you're busy, then because you didn't when you should have, then finally because you can't remember why you were going to anyway. But if you do (call, write) -- the words are there.

So I'm going to start setting some topics and some deadlines. Twice a week, at first, and daily (non-work) life topics. Simple ones. Ones I can handle. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Center for Environmental Health: Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes

As if we didn't have enough to worry about! Center for Environmental Health: Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes

Nick rotates among several lunch boxes. One is a hard plastic one that looks like a miniature cooler. It's too big to fit comfortably in his backpack but he likes it, and carries it some days. The other three are all soft vinyl, like the ones listed here, though only one (I think) is really intended for kids. Still, I assume adult vinyl lunch boxes (I'm thinking of one I got as a freebie the last time I joined our local NPR affiliate) are just as bad.

Sigh. Paper bags are looking better and better.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

first day of school

As usual the Yarn Harlot says it best: "it is a high holy day in the practice of parenting. It is, in the City of Toronto, in the province of Ontario, in this country we are proud to call Canada.....

The first day of school."

It's a high holy day here, too, though since I went back to school a week ago the sacredness seems somewhat diminished. Still, I think everyone's glad: the school supply runs are over, the back-to-school clothes are bought, and everyone has something to do in the morning. I had Mariah at her bus stop by 7 a.m. By the time I came home (after stopping at the grocery store for half-price stuff, a key benefit to being up early) Mark had already eaten the breakfast I hadn't had time to finish. But he'd made fresh coffee, so all was forgiven. Nick was all ready for school, though he didn't need to be there for an hour and a half.

And now I've got the school calendars for the year entered into my own calendar (no, the kids are not off school on the same teacher work days, thank you very much, nor is their spring break--ever--the same as mine. But we can still hope). And we've written the checks (school fees, soccer fees, PTSA fees) and signed the syllabi and filled out the emergency cards...when did school start to involve so much paperwork?

Tomorrow, we breathe. Deeply.

Monday, September 05, 2005

what's with blogroll?

I can't remember all the blogs I read or check in on periodically, so I use blogroll. Only for the last couple of days my blogroll only appears randomly on this page. And when I go to their site to check it I seem not to have any entries--except when, later, I do. So if I can't procrastinate by reading blogs, I guess I'm doing it by complaining about it instead. Back to work...

update: today they know about the problem. So that's a step forward.

Friday, September 02, 2005


...was, I figure, about $8/gallon in England this summer while we were there, unless my math is worse than I think. It was about 1GBP per litre, and a litre is about a quart, right? So, four litres (or so) to a gallon, means 4GBP, at $1.80 (or so) per GBP, means, well, about $7.20/gallon. Plenty. More than twice what it is in my neighborhood right now. Part of me doesn't mind at all--I think we should think twice about driving, after all, and if this is what pushes us to use public transportation (to make public transportation better!), to carpool, to ride our bikes, then that's a good thing. We spent all summer without a car in Oxford, and I was glad of it. But we don't live in Oxford now, our lives don't quite work the same way here.

And so I'm glad one of our cars runs on diesel ($2.87/gallon today), and that we might be able to convert it to run on grease soon. We even have a supplier lined up!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Not Quite Sure: about blogging

I'm with Becca on this. Not Quite Sure

And in addition to these larger concerns (Darfur, Katrina, Badger) I also have my own: a house that's not fully renovated, a friend in a coma, school starting, a church community in crisis, kids who need things...

When I make the list like that only the friend matters, of course, and the last I heard there were some good signs (I haven't been able to blog about her until I knew there were good signs, actually). But the thing that keeps striking me is how long I can go, forgetting about one or another of these things, just thinking about whatever next thing is on my to-do list. In England this summer, after the London bombings, I kept being shocked to find myself not thinking about them, for minutes and then hours and then days on end. I guess it's how we cope--except in the moment of immediate crisis we simply live our lives, mundanely preoccupied with whether there are enough copies of the handout or what color to paint the bedroom when the renovation is finished. It's of course fine to be thinking about those things--even, in its own way, necessary, from time to time--but to blog about them seems callous or self-centered or trivial. And it is, all of the above. So, like Becca, I meta-blog.