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.