Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Plans

Love. Health. Peace. Kindness. Joy. Laughter. Quiet. Connection. Satisfaction. Intimacy. Protection. Freedom. Success. Dreams. Strength. Warmth. Giving. Sweetness. Openness. Love.

I wish all this for all of us, the world over. And more.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post-Christmas warmth

I want to share (again) this link to Bad Mommy Moments' beautiful Christmas post. It's wonderfully written and incredibly moving. Maybe it will extend your Christmas warm fuzzies a little longer.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Wishes

Merry Christmas everyone. May the light, hope, and miraculous love of Christmas be present with you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Linkage--Raising a woman

I was planning a post in my head today about how, when I asked The Babydoll today what job she wanted to have when she grew up, she said, "A mommy." Even in her five-year-old eyes, being a mommy is work. Honorable, important work. And she made me think that I might be good at my job. Sometimes?

Then, I saw this post about raising daughters (I think it applies to daughters of every kind) and realized how much more work I have to do as she grows up. She needs a skill set that helps her to avoid being caught without a response to the crap of life. It really is important work.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Confusion

The Hubby asked The Babydoll and The Baby Boy if they knew the Chrismas story. He prepared to relay the whole narrative. But The Babydoll already had a preferred version. She said, "I know! The Home Alone story, right?"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Random Bits of Holiday Goodness

Just as I'm hearing the bars slam shut on the grading jail that locks me in every semester, I'm feeling pretty good about a couple of things. That's impressive, I think, because I've been on Googling binges for a while, looking up people I used to know to see just how much more fabulous their lives and careers are than mine. Then I think about how suck I am. And how those people would think I was suck, too. And then I think about what my children will tell their therapists about me (because that's the logical next thought--right?) It's a horrible game. Worse than golf.

But I've had a few moments that interrupt the pity parties:

The Babydoll wanted to bring her lunch to school, so I packed one up for her (it was a Lunchable, but it counts!) I added an orange, but she called me at work the next morning to say that she had changed her mind about the orange because she wouldn't be able to peel it at school. BUT, she has an awesome mother, so her orange was already sliced and peeled and in a cute little container in the lunch box. She was thrilled!

I received promising news on a publication project that I've wanted to materialize for about 1000 years. I'm really hoping that it goes somewhere, but either way, this is the most interest anyone has shown in the project in all this time.

My students were completing evaluations sheets and asked if they really had to write down their answers because they didn't have a single critical thing to say. More than one said that this class changed their perspectives about writing and about themselves as writers. In addition, for the first time--ever, I think--most of the students followed documentation guidelines and didn't give me crazy, made-up crap that drives me nuts.

I made two desserts for two holiday parties and received raves on both!

Things are looking up!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taking a Cue


I'm about to enter grading jail, so I want to take this cue from Belle at Scattered and Random while I can*:
December 1 One Word Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you're choosing that word. Now, imagine it's one year from today. What would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)
Better: Last year was filled with so much unexpected disappointment and angst and doubt that I felt like I was playing in traffic. This year has provided resolution (or at least positive movement) that I just feel like I can't complain. I do complain, but what I want for my life and the lives of those I love most isn't lost, even if we're still waiting. There is so much goodness, and I'm grateful for that.
Fulfillment: I am hoping--expecting--that 2011 will materialize vision and purpose and joy and that our hopes will be fulfilled.
*I should probably disclose that I don't actually intend to do this every day, as is the intention, I think. But perhaps some of you will actually participate fully? This is likely my only reflection, so enjoy it while you can. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Thursday--Creeping up on me again

Just when I start to feel dread because Christmas is coming. When I feel bogged down at the thought of all that shopping. When I get anxious thinking about all the work I need to stuff into the break from classes. When I feel dumbfounded because the entire year is almost over and I seemed to have accomplished so little. When I wonder if there can possibly be enough money to do all the things that come with the season. When cases of the "gimmes" begin to pop up with relentless energy.

Then.

I see Christmas lights on the house of someone who clearly isn't kidding around about decorating and who has the entire house and yard shining bright even as we are driving home from Thanksgiving dinner. And there is Christmas music on the radio, forcing its warm fuzziness all over me. And the games and conversation and food bring the family together and we are a whole, unbroken (rather large and loud) circle again. And the timeless story of divine love for humanity envelopes my children and me, too.

Just when I think I've outgrown the mystery and moved past the miracle . . . I am overwhelmed by the love, the hope, the God who literally goes to the ends of the Earth to find us and save us from ourselves. Just when I'm thinking of enumerating my list of complaints--

The only word that floods my mind is Thankful. Thankful. Thankful. Thankful. Thankful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I must be raising her right . . .

The Babydoll just saw a diamond ring commercial on TV and whispered to The Hubby to ask if they could buy one for me.

Isn't she awesome?! Glad to see that somebody has got my back!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Random This and that

I'm going to try to make this about more than TV shows, but I can't make promises . . . .

  • I'm watching "16 and Pregnant" and really, really having a problem sticking to our "We're done having babies" resolution.
  • Between crochet and computer use, it feels like I'm rubbing my fingerprints right off.
  • If one more person asks me if I've seen "For Colored Girls" I might launch into some rant about how I'm not excited about seeing it and how I really just wish everyone would see a stage production and the many issues many people have with this film--oh wait! I did that in class the other day with students. Oh well.
  • I wonder if people on reality shows feel bad about themselves when they see that their "English" needs subtitles.
  • I really don't like Christmas shopping.
  • The baby is crying on "16 and Pregnant". Now I remember why we're finished having babies.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Downsized . . . a bit

So, did anyone else watched "Downsized"? It seemed to me to be a show about a plucky family who rode the wave of financial wealth and then abruptly lost it. How unfortunate! The Hubby--mine, not the one on the show--nearly ruined any interest or enjoyment I thought I might draw from the show. After every segment he said, "I don't like this" or "What is this?" And he was really annoyed every time there was shot of the house; there's nothing poverty-level about that house, he repeated over and over. I wanted him to hush so I could zone out and watch TV. But eventually I had my own questions.
  • Is anyone wondering why these people have so many children? I understand the blended family dynamics, but weathering this financial storm would be less of a catastrophe with fewer children. Isn't this the question asked of many other families living at poverty level?
  • Why do they look so good? (Okay, this was another of The Hubby's questions) The haircuts looked fresh and fly. The clothes were not tattered. One of the children was gifted a new (to her) car; how would she pay for gas and other car expenses? Isn't this a question asked of other families living at poverty level?
  • After a frustrating trip to the grocery store wherein one of the daughters had to put back almost all of the food because there wasn't enough money on the food stamps card, the mother reminds her that their state of being was temporary. It was a moment, I think, meant to elicit compassion from the audience. And it did. The girl was embarrassed that people she knew saw her using welfare. But aren't there many people for whom this will be a constant state of being? Do we feel more sorry for this family? Shouldn't they just be grateful to have anything to eat at all? Shouldn't the daughter just suck it up and get over herself? Isn't this a question asked of other families living at poverty level?
  • The father states more than once that they got themselves into this and they'll get themselves out. That seems to sit nicely into the American ideology of work ethic and merit. But should the state (i.e. "us") be helping "them" dig their way out of a mess of their own making? Isn't this a question asked of other families living at poverty level?

My point is not to bash this family. I can understand how life can turn you upside down and shake the stuffing right out of you. I bet everyone can understand that these days. Do we understand it, though, when most of the country is living high on the hog, as this family was one short year ago? Do we understand how one (or two or three) miscalculation or poor decision can totally derail a family? Especially when that misstep is paired with some other glitches that are not of one's own doing? Do we understand how people make decisions about the sacrifices they need to make based on their own definitions of quality of life? that those decisions may or may not reflect what other people think are appropriate? that they may or may not be directly related to morality or character?

I'm just wondering about the narrative that frames this show. I think, to take a note from Christine O'Donnell, that this family is supposed to be "us." That we should ask how we see ourselves in them. But is this the question we ask about other families living at poverty level? Just wondering.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My life is again becoming a bit unbloggable. Though I'm sure that many people have already seen this, it was a bright spot in my day. Hey?! Maybe it's God forcing me into another Thankful Thursday . . . .

http://xtranormal.com/watch/7451115/

Friday, October 22, 2010

Getting some things off my chest

So, old people at the gym: Congratulations on still being able to get around and everything. But could you not annoy me with your annoying, narrow political rhetoric while I'm on the treadmill? It's already pretty unpleasant that I'm still gaining half a pound on the regular despite my time on said treadmill. Your self-involved and greedy ideology isn't helping. Move to the machine on the other side of the room, please. Or just shut up.

The Diva: If you need a wife, I guess I need a nanny. The Babydoll just wrote a note to me that read, "To Mommy. I don't like you. From The Babydoll." I told her that it hurt my feelings, so she sighed, then returned with a note that read, "I like you." I'm thinking this is going to show up in her Freshman Composition literacy narrative assignment.

Abusive parents and other jackholes: What the yuck is wrong with you???!! I watched Tyler Perry on Oprah and seriously wanted to cut off some folks' hands . . . and other parts. Human beings were not created for this kind of evil. Someone should have protected the little boy that Perry was. His stories are so raw (which makes me wonder why his writing isn't better). I keep wondering if there's some child who I see regularly who's wishing that I would be the one to protect him.

Students who either didn't read or just didn't come to class today: I realize that there is a big game tomorrow. Yes--Tomorrow. Today is class. And we covered Douglass today. Douglass! You should be ashamed.

DVR: I hear you calling me. I'm coming soon. I miss you, too. Smooches!

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Need a Wife



I am exhausted. And I don't have the time or energy to do it all. I have an extremely time-consuming project going on at work in addition to my three different class preps; midterm grades are due tomorrow and I haven't finished grading the midterm exams; I have a paper presentation in November for a paper I have yet to even begin researching; there is a pile of clothes on my bathroom floor that is screaming to be washed; additionally, there is a pile of clothes on my den floor screaming to be put up; there is paper strewn about my office; my fingernails bend and break when I pick up the tiniest thing (which wouldn't matter so much at this point except it hurts like heck); my daughter will not allow me to make a move without her right there, on my heels or in my arms; I need to select and purchase a new cell phone since my child broke mine; there are prescriptions I need to find time to call in and pick up; and I have to force myself not to scream out loud at least once a day.


Is this what being an adult woman is all about? Y'all can have it. I'm going back to my teen years. As soon as I find time to build a time machine. . . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pooped from the poster project

I'm tired. I've spent untold amounts of time during the last two nights working on The Babydoll's social studies project. The teacher was explicit in stating that the students should do the work and not the parents. Great. I tried to adhere to that. She chose the pictures she wanted to use. She glued the pictures. She decided where they should go on the poster. She wrote the sentences to caption the pictures (of course, I had to interject a bit here--what kind of English teacher doesn't correct the grammar?) So why is "supervising" so exhausting???

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"That's Gay"

Over the years I've had students who have willingly exposed their sexual difference in my classes. I've had students who I suspected were struggling with their sexuality. I've had students who were clear about their own sexuality and who were painfullly clear about other people's sexuality, too. I've even had a student, no joke, whose gender I was pretty unsure of during the entire term. I hope that I've been able to make my classroom a place where students don't have to be afraid of being intentially hurt, for any reason. I hope that I'm getting it right. I know that there have been times when I clearly did not. I'm working on it. But we've been looking at a text recently that forces our discussion of sexuality and I've been afraid that the students who are homosexual are uncomfortable, not because of mean or homophobic comments; just because there are all these words and thoughts flying through the air and they seem to land on them specifically. Still, I don't want to force us to be silent as a class. That's worse.

A post over at CocoMamas today makes it palpably and poignantly clear why we HAVE to get it right. I hope you'll take a look.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who's the Teacher?

I'm watching my recorded version of "Teach" with Tony Danza. I think it would have been awesome to have him as my English teacher! And most of the students in his class only have a vague idea of who he is. Of course, my students are a few years older than these students and they were thrown by the idea that Madonna was more original and artistic than Lady Gaga.

I wonder if other 50 or 60 year olds could teach a class like Danza is doing, especially since too many of them probably need money these days. Teaching ONE class can be kind of fun, unlike having a full load and all the annoying surrounding stuff. Maybe. Anyway, he was so incredibly nervous. And he made lots of mistakes. I'm sure I must have looked just like him--talking way too much and sweating and making lame jokes--in my first class. Bless his heart.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Indulgent Parenting Moment

The Babydoll told us, with her arms raised ominously in front of her, in a deep, slow, beyond-the-grave voice, "I'm a mummy! I'm a muuuuuummmmmyyy."

Not to be outdone The Baby Boy raised his arms, too and moaned, "I'm a daddy!"

Insert your own punchline here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The World I Want for My Children

Peaceful



Free



Safe



Equal



Healthy



True.



I want a world where my children are not wrong.*






“The world I want for my children” is an effort to support The Joyful Heart Foundation, which was founded by Law & Order: SVU actress Mariska Hargitay to help victims of sexual assault mend their minds, bodies and spirits and reclaim their lives. Today, the foundation is at the forefront of an effort to end a disheartening backlog of tens of thousands of rape kits in labs across the country, a backlog that contributes to a rapist’s 80 percent chance of getting away with his crime. The backlog and its detrimental effects will be the topic of an SVU episode on September 29th.





*See June Jordan's "Poem About My Rights"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Feeling Groovy

Dear Germ Czar,

I do NOT have time to be sick. Seriously. I have conference papers to write (which, by the way haven't really been researched yet. And only sort of have a thesis. And are due in, like, 5 minutes). And essays to grade. Billions of them. And more coming next week. And classes to teach. And a workshop to prepare for and present.

So, despite that student who I commanded to sit on the other side of the room and all the coughing and snotting I saw going on, I just can't get sick.

Okay? Please? Can we just ignore this icky feeling in my tummy and the weighted down sensation in the rest of my body? Let's say it's a sign that I should get some sleep and call it a truce. Okay?

Thanks.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Listen Up, White People (Pissed Off Edition)


Seriously, the next time you need to blame your own crazy, illegal, or evil behavior on some anonymous stranger, I'm going to need you be more creative. Can we PLEASE make this the last time you decide to make imaginary black people your obvious scapegoat? I mean, really--the criminal is imaginary. You can make them anything you want. Pick something else!

At least this nutso chick decided to use a woman instead of the standard issue black male . . . .

Cheese and crackers! (Okay, now I'm ready to return to my normal self and being friendly with some white folk. Thanks for indulging me.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wow, that didn't take long

The Babydoll just told me that I ruined her life.

I am awesome! Only took five years.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Few Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


What's wrong with people?

Why is this man in Florida so driven by hate that he insists on burning the Qu'ran even as it presents a threat to American lives? It is a symbolic gesture for which you're willing to risk people's actual lives. Really?!? Not only is it unpatriotic, it is not the love of Jesus.

Why are people going into their former workplaces and shooting up folks? I know you're angry, but everybody didn't fire you. Why must any and everyone die? I get that you are frustrated and mad, but some little kid (who don't even know you and certainly wouldn't hurt you) would like for their mom to come home and read them a bedtime story. When you shoot up your workplace, you take that away from them.

Why do people run and hide from facts like they're the boogieman? I heard on an NPR program this week that once people hear something that may be misinformation, even when you give them facts to correct the errors, they refuse to believe them and even reinforce their belief in the misinformation. For example, the belief that President Obama is a Muslim is a firm erroneous belief in many people's minds. Once, DH reminded a co-worker that he was a member of a Christian church for 20 years. This co-worker asked him if it was one of those Islamic Christian churches. What? Is that even a thing? As an academic, this refusal to accept credible evidence is especially odious to me.

This crazy is really working my nerves.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Few Things

  • In the spirit of lament, I just realized that I'm losing another dream. When I turned 30, I made a list of things I wanted to do in my life. One of them was appear on Oprah. Now that her last season is starting to air (and I assume that they have all been taped already) I seem to have missed the boat. This, despite the fact that I lived in Chicago for a year. I really suck for letting this pass me by.
  • I changed my narrative assignment for my classes, partly because I've found it difficult to receive heart-wrenching story after sad, difficult story. I made the assignment much more broad and a little less personal. Still, students want to write about their pain. Maybe the next batch will be a bunch of happy tales about how Pollyanna their lives have been. I won't count on that, though.
  • Had a productive day alone, researching and revising. I'm really trying to make publication a priority this year. Let's hope something pans out. Pretty please.
  • Autumn is finally rearing its head in the south. The oppressive heat of the summer is being overtaken by the crisp, cool air of the fall. Now we can actually go outside in our new yard. And I can stop sweating out my newly unrelaxed hair. :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

We've Come a Long Way, Baby, Just to Turn Back Around


I'm watching "My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip Hop" on BET. The topic comes up about the lack of female MC's today. In the 80's , there were only a few and then the number exploded in the 90's. So, it would seem that women had finally broken into the business and established themselves as serious artists. However, a decade later, there are far less women in the game than before. And what is the reason the MC's themselves give for this disappearance? Women require a lot of hair and make-up maintenance and they are emotional (miss home and have relationship issues).
Are. You. Kidding. Me?
If this is true, I'm mad that labels are willing to let such superficial reasons stop them from signing new artists. And if this is not true (which I suspect it isn't; I think the reasons are so much deeper than that) then I'm mad because these women thought of these superficial, sexist reasons for their discrimination and didn't seem upset about them. I thought hip hop was supposed to be about protesting the powers that be.
Wow.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tired . . . But I can still write this post

We had a HUGE birthday party today for both children and The Hubby. It also served as the housewarming for our new digs. So many people. So much food. So hot. So many toys (that they don't really need).

I had planned to post a picture of the cupcakes I made, but I think it probably looks disgusting. I have been harassed for weeks about making these flippin' cupcakes that Nickjr. keeps shoving down The Babydoll's throat, and she, in turn, shoving down mine. It took so much effort to try to make those crazy things that the lady in the clip said was so simple. Didn't seem that way to me, so I ended up just making it out of fondant using the template. But I couldn't make one for The Babydoll and not one for The Baby Boy. Of course, there was no template for Super Why, which is what he wanted. So I had to totally pull that one out of my non-drawing, unartistic neck. I was pretty pleased, but he had already eaten the face off before I could get a picture. I think Dora kind of looked like a drag queen with a wig and bright red lipstick. The more I looked at them, the more odd and disturbing they looked. Oh well. The Babydoll yelled, "Mommy, you saw them on TV?!" And, as I mentioned, The Baby Boy couldn't wait to ram it into his mouth. Guess they thought I did a good enough job.

I'm sooooo tired. Parties at the jumping place seems like a genius idea. So does not having a party and taking a trip to the zoo instead with exactly one friend. I will remember this next year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Introductions

So, I had my first day of class. It was a good day. I enjoyed my students in that"undefeated season, before the first big game" kind of way.

I tried a new introduction activity this time. In addition to their names, hometowns, and standard info, I asked them to say who would play them in the movie of their lives. This is something everyone's thought about, right? But some of them couldn't answer. They had no idea. So I gave them the option to name, instead, their theme songs. For a couple of them, this was too difficult, too. One student asked, "Who thinks about this kind of stuff?" Well, obviously I do! I thought that was odd. I've been trying to come up with a theme song since that episode of "Ally McBeal". And I've known for years who should play me . . . probably in a Lifetime movie. Plus, I told them, I have a friend who has a theme song, an actress in mind, and a personal emblem. (Isn't that right, The Diva?!)

Nevertheless, the day was good. I'm satisfied and feel like I'm back in the swing of things. On that notes, I'll go prepare for the next class.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And what's more, you'll be a man, my son

I'm so glad that the potty train is finally off and running. But I didn't expect that I'd have to witness it jumping the tracks so quickly.

On a road trip last weekend, The Baby Boy announced that he had to "use it!" while we were between distant exits on the interstate. What else could we do?

The Hubby pulled the car over, took the boy out of his car seat, and commenced that time-honored ritual of peeing in the grass. He loved it. "Mommy! I made a rainbow!" he bragged, as he squirted a perfect arc across the rays of the warm sunshine.

Awesome. I'm shaking my head. But mostly, I'm was so freaking glad that I didn't have to wash a wet pair of underwear or throw my money into the trash along with a soaking Pull-Up.

His feet stink, he doesn't want to comb his hair, and now he's peeing in the grass. He's officially a boy. Oy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Inappropriate

When I picked up The Baby Boy from pre-school today, the teacher told me that he had refused to sing the song the rest of the class was singing. It began, she said, with "10 Little Indians." My eyebrow raised. Then she went on to say that after the familiar verse, they sing this: "oooh waaa, ooooh waaa, shoot the arrow. No more Indian boys and girls." The other eyebrow went up.

Then she told me that The Baby Boy refused to sing. When she asked why, he said that I told him not to sing that. He was right. Both of my children came home from their previous school last year singing that horrible song. They loved it. They clapped their hands when they sang the "shoot" part. I told them this song was about hurting other children, and we didn't want to do that. And what's more, we don't like shooting (although I have to admit that I loved the archery unit in middle school gym!). They were not convinced on either count, but they agreed not to sing it anymore.

I told the teacher this story and she said that she could understand why I wouldn't want them to sing it. In fact, she said, it really wasn't a great song for children to sing. I told her that if they were singing it in class I would just go along with it and he could sing it. But, the teacher said, he was not going to sing it because he following my instructions, so it didn't matter if she told him it was okay. Besides, she said, he knows his numbers so he didn't need to practice.

Now, I also am not in love with the "10 Little Indians" part, either. This is especially true when I consider the version that replaces "Indians" with the N-word. Not cool. But here's the thing: I never know how big of a deal I should make of this kind of thing. A similar issue comes up at Thanksgiving when teachers have children dress like Pilgrims and Indians. I have a classmate who is a sociologist. Her son was in The Babydoll's class last year, and she's much more bold than I am. So she told the teacher that she didn't like the Thanksgiving dressing up because it was culturally insensitive and inaccurate. The teacher looked at her. I wonder how much people outside of academia (and other sitting around thinking about stuff professions) think that objections to this kind of thing is overreaching. Part of me feels like someone (obviously not me) should speak up and start shoving this stuff out of society, even if we've been doing it for years. But part of me also feels like the people who get angry because clerks aren't allowed to say Merry Christmas. I usually just punk out, but I'm trying to figure out where the line is for me.

On a totally unrelated note, on the way into the gym this morning, a guy told me that I was beautiful. He also asked if I was married, how long, and then said that I had been married longer than he. THEN he asked me for my number because he wanted to take me to lunch. As "friends"--okay. On the way out of the gym another guy told me that I had the "most prettiest feet" he's ever seen. Both were very odd compliments, but compliments nevertheless. I'll take it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Potty Praise

So, I guess all of you annoying people across the world who have stressed that when a child is ready to potty train, it just happens, are right. The Baby Boy is rolling along magnificently in his new school and he should be ready to move to the correct class very soon (he had to stay back in a younger class because he was still in Pull-Ups). He had only one accident the whole week, and he's mostly been dry at home, too, with a few accidents when he couldn't get his clothes off fast enough. We were out and about today and he stayed dry the entire time, telling us when he had to use the bathroom, sometimes without being prompted.

When this is finally done, I can't imagine that I would be any more proud at his graduation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Thanks for the warning, but . . .

Honestly, I'm exhausted by the barrage of information on chemicals that will kill and maim us. Has anyone read the article in Parents magazine? Now I see one on CNN.com that is just as scary. In short, the only escape seems to be not to sit on anything, or cook anything, or drink anything, breath anything, or touch anything. Anywhere. At any time. But I guess that's just as well, since we also should not drink milk or juice or eat meat or vegetables or fish. Or else we'll be deathly ill. In which case you cannot take medicine. That will destroy the liver. Or something.

All the might be related to and may be a contributing factor. It's all so overwhelming. Can someone do a study that isn't frivolous or totally alarming? And can you actually come to actual conclusions before you scare everyone? The world is, it seems, unavoidably toxic. Cheese and crackers . . . .

Friday, August 6, 2010

This post will self-destruct in 3-2-1 . . .

I'm having a bad mommy moment. So, it's a good thing that today is the last day of summer for my children. I had a total meltdown before I even got out of my pajamas. I had high hopes that The Baby Boy would regain his former glory from the beginning of the month and finally stay on the potty train before school started. The week did not go that way, and this morning he soaked his underwear immediately after breakfast. I was working hard to hold it together, knowing that I was very borderline yesterday, but clearly I failed. How do I know? Just before I went Mommy Dearest, The Hubby tells me to go run my errands for the day, that he would take the children for the day. It takes a lot for that to happen. The Babydoll is wearing her I-will-remember-this-in-therapy face. (She's taken to sitting in time-out with her brother and they often both beg for the other not to be punished.) The Baby Boy is whining softly while I "talk" to him about remembering to use the toilet. How do I know I failed to hold it together? Because Hubby relayed this conversation after I leave the house:

The Babydoll: Daddy, why do you and Mommy yell all the time?
The Hubby: We don't yell all the time.
The Babydoll: Yes you do. You always yell at us.
The Hubby: Well, sometimes you aren't listening and we raise our voices. Parents have to make sure their children are doing the right things.
The Babydoll: But if you love people, you shouldn't yell at them. Yelling hurts people's feelings. You shouldn't yell. We love you and Mommy so much!
The Hubby: Umm. We love you guys, too.

So, here's the tally for the summer: Scholarship--zero publications--fail; Gardening--only one tomato--mostly fail; Parenting--doesn't look good.

Let's keep this to ourselves, huh?

And now I'm eating chocolate cake until my guts hurt.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Is that true?

Remember that scene in "The Cosby Show" when Cliff is fussing at Theo about his grades? When Theo says that he just wants to be "a regular guy, drive a bus or something"? Cliff tells Theo that he needs to work hard to afford the lifestyle he wants when he's older. He says, "An apartment in Manhattan is going to cost you at least $400 a month."

Ummm. Really? Is that true? $400? a month? I thought that show was set in the 1980s, not the 1880s. Interesting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I'm not bitter, but . . .

if ONE more FLIPPIN' questionably literate reality show spectacle gets a book deal for a book that I'm sure someone else wrote, and ends up on the bestseller list, I cannot be responsible for my complete flip out . . . .

AND TODAY: another rejection for publication. sigh.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Over It

I'm entrenched in birthday party preparations. We have two parties coming up, for which we spent a ridiculous amount of time shopping for gifts. I can never remember what I got for the same children last year. And I try hard not to buy toys, since I don't know any children who just don't have enough toys. That leaves me with books and puzzles, with a game or video as additional possibilities. I'd much rather give those as gifts anyway. Of course, much of the store time was dedicated to my children pointing out items they wanted for their own birthdays--including a puzzle that The Baby Boy already owns. The prep for their joint party is also a significant amount of work. They've been saying what they want for months, and we've been replaying, "Maybe for your birthday!" Now that those things securely on the list, and we are searching for places to buy them, they've decided to ask for totally different stuff. What the what?! And do I really have to give goody bags? I'm over them, too.

This, plus all of the school prep is crouching over me, too. Even if I wanted to ignore it, every store from here to tarnation is shouting it from the rooftops and demanding that you buy it today. I have two weeks people! Leave me alone!

Summer is seriously coming to an end, and it's all about to break loose, isn't it?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Taking a Poll

My large extended family is vacationing. That means that we have great-grandparents in their 70s (shhhhh--not sure that's for public record), middle-aged parents, grandchildren from age 10 to 35, and great-grands up to age 4. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 people in total. We have a great time, aside from never--ever--following the schedule somebody sets. What we're thinking would work better next time, though, is finding a place where everything is in one place. If we could walk to attractions and restaurants, we could avoid the waiting for one to return from the bathroom, and one to change clothes, and one who wants to go somewhere else all together. The long line of vehicles we have to construct on the highways in order to go anywhere impedes the process and takes up time. But we want interesting things to do that everyone will enjoy.

I'm wondering if there are suggestions for a vacation spot that would work nicely for us next year. Without spending billions of dollars. In, or near, the southeast.

I'm asking anyone and everyone to share locations where you've had a good experience (or heard of one) that speaks to my family's scenario. What would you suggest for us?

Monday, July 19, 2010

You Can Get With This, Or You Can Get With That

So, I keep seeing these teasers for Eat, Pray, Love and they are making me a little sad. I've mentioned before how it deflates me that I'm too old to be on "The Real World" and that I don't have a skill set that matches a reality competition show like "Project Runway" or "The Next Food Network Star." I'm feeling like there are so many things that are beyond my reach. And I hate being left out! Aside from these much less probable opportunities, there are grants and institutes and workshops that I know don't fit into my life. It's not feasible to leave my family for a month or an entire summer. Jaunting off to Paris seems unlikely any time soon. And I still don't understand how anyone manages to write an entire monograph when they have children. Furthermore, shouldn't I be the thirty-something host on "The View" (anybody tired of hearing that one yet?)?

So, here's the thing: The whole Eat, Pray, Love scenario just reminds me that taking a year off from my life may never happen. I remember thinking, around age 22, that I wanted to have a cool, silver convertible sports car. Instead of that, I thought, I'm scrounging for crumbs in graduate school--for what seems like forever. And it kind of was forever. I spent my entire twenties buried under books and living on pennies and then getting married. I didn't have enough money to do anything exciting. When I turned 30, I finally graduated and I was pregnant and adding a whole other layer of responsibility. Being carefree and careless, making totally random choices, eating, praying, loving. When can I do that? Can I ever do that?

I have to acknowledge that this view is the perspective from here. I'm in my thirties. My career feels stalled. My children are at very needy ages. We have lots of bills. I'm tired--a lot. I'm not saying that the trade-off isn't worth it. I'm happy with my choices, but every now and then my world seems very, very small.

I'm starting to wonder if there is ever really going to be a time in my life when I can do something crazy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Deep Thoughts by Small People

The heavier issues of life are coming up more and more around our house. There's the "but how does the baby get in the mommy's tummy?" question, for instance.

The other day we were cutting up tomatoes and cucumbers for a salad. Both children were very excited. They had named the cucumber Larry and the tomato Bob, for the characters on VeggieTales. It was cute until I started to get nervous that they would be traumatized by the idea of slicing and dicing their friends. Instead, they were happy to chew them all up, still calling them by name all the while. Glad I didn't have to fully address the issue of murdering vegetables.

Tonight The Babydoll came in to tell us that she was scared. That happens frequently. We usually tell her 1) that her brother is with her and that God is with her, so she should think of that when she feels afraid; and 2) that she can sing the VeggieTales song "God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man." This time, though, she responds, "But I don't know what God looks like. I've never seen God before. Does God have a mustache?" I let The Hubby handle it since he lead her down this road. He told her that God looks like whatever we want Him to (I decided to just let that gender thing go). That answer seemed to work.

There have also been a number of questions about Jesus' infancy. What did His nose look like? Could He walk?

I often wonder just what's going on in her head that makes these questions materialize. What's she thinking as lies in bed, waiting on sleep? It's fascinating to me. And I wish I had better answers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's Complicated

I'm sitting here reading blogs and watching television. In a quite nice moment of total synergy, I was watching the "The Story of Jimmy Rebel" episode of Aaron McGruder's "The Boondocks" while reading the Jack and Jill Politics post on Tim Wise. It references Uncle Ruckus, from the show. It's a lot to take in. I don't even know what to say about it, except that race and politics and human relations are seriously complex business.

This is probably part of the reason why I had to stop researching candidates for the primary elections today . . . .

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bleh

Again, an essay that I thought was really solid and smart was declined for publication (read: rejected). I was really proud of this one and liked the project a lot. I thought it was perfect for me. I'm sad. :(

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Random Bits

The children have been asking for binoculars and we saw a pair of cute ones by Melissa & Doug yesterday. Now they are skulking around behind sofas and around corners, spying us out like wildlife.

Hot in Cleveland is so freaking funny! I thought it was going to be lame and watered down, since it's on TV Land. But since I like all the actresses so much, I thought I'd give it a try. Hilarious!

We finally had one--exactly one--ripe tomato pop up on our tomato plant. We ate it yesterday. It was sweet and tasty with a little salt. I'm glad that we completed an entire summer project. But it would have been nice to have more than one tomato grow--goodness gracious!

I know that elections are important. But seriously, the political ads are getting on my nerves. Do you really need to say that you aren't even trying to pretend that you care about my vote? Why don't you just call me an idiot because I don't agree with you? Of course, how do you know that I don't agree with anything you propose? Since you say, "Screw you!" to me and my vote, I say, "Screw you!" to you!

Finally finished Wuthering Heights. I hardly had time to read and it took forever. I liked it. Liked Jane Eyre much more. I have to say that I don't get why anyone is love with Heathcliff and Catherine. I found him to be creepy and sad. It was a weird, crazy, needy connection, not a great romance. But maybe it's just me.

What kind of crack-ish sugar cravings am I having? I couldn't stop making s'mores every day, and now I'm pulling out recipes left and right. I want a lemon meringue pie like you can't believe!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

S'more and Some More To Do

I think the combination of pressure to develop my own syllabi for the fall, trying to finish essays that I'm supposed to be working on, beginning the process of enrolling The Babydoll (who will be in private 5K because she just barely misses the public school cutoff) and The Baby Boy (who will likely have to enroll in 2K because of this potty business, even though he technically could/should be in 3K) for the fall, and the 4th of July holiday has set off a S'mores-making spree that I can't shake. The children love it, but Hubby just talked me into joining his gym, so the timing is a little iffy. Mere weeks to go. I'm not ready. I'm not ready. I'm not ready . . . .

*We've been going back and forth about this school thing for at least a year. Hubby thinks it's probably fine for The Baby Boy to stay on the manufactured "start late because I have a late birthday" track and for The Babydoll to get a little manufactured push ahead. He says that she's much more mature and ready for school and that he would benefit from being the oldest in his class. Maybe she should wait--that's what the state says anyway. Maybe we should let him be the youngest--if he ever potty-trains and the school moves him up to his "rightful" class. Is anyone confused yet? I just don't know what's best.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This is What Happens When Your Mother's an Academic

We were reading the iconic and time-tested story, The Giving Tree which both children really love. The simple drawings are inviting. The story itself is beautifully written.

But I had an epiphany a while ago that this tree must be a mother. She freely gives every part of herself away. She puts the boy ahead of herself at every turn. They go through their lives together, playing and learning. The boy comes to her when he's young and moves away from her as he gets older. In fact, he moves away from her and to another woman!!!! (Remember how he carves "T & Me" on the tree and then he starts carving some chic's initials?) The tree is happy when the boy is happy.

Then, I was reading the book at naptime the other day and I had another epiphany: I hope my daughter (and my son, for that matter) don't see this story as an example of how women should behave in relationships. This tree is very giving, but maybe she's just pathetic. Don't give all of yourself away! If all a guy ever does is take from you, run! This boy just wants to use you up, fulfilling his dreams. Then, you are left with nothing but a stump. But when he's needy and old, he shows up again--like you had nothing better to do than wait around on him!

I'll keep reading the book to them because they love it and so do I. But we might have to have a talk in a few years.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What I Realized at 1:00am


I stayed up late last night to watch Royal Pains on USA. While watching, I saw USA's promos for their new CIA show, Covert Affairs as well as their FBI program, White Collar. It occurred to me while watching that there are just so many medical shows (HawthoRNe, Boston Med, Grey's Anatomy, House), law enforcement shows (Law & Order: SVU, CSI, Memphis Beat, Southland, Burn Notice, Chuck), and courtroom shows (Drop Dead Diva, The Good Wife). (Okay, it seems that there aren't as many courtroom shows as there used to be, but the law enforcement programs runneth over!) But this what I want to know: where are the shows about the professors?!?

Life in the academy can be on the edge and suspenseful. Hello! Publish or perish, people! It doesn't get anymore life-or-death than perishing! Plus, just imagine the hours of script that can be written on the tenure process alone! And it can be sexy. We don't all wear corduroy jackets with velvet elbow patches. If you want sexual tension, the mandatory sexual harassment workshop I attend every year insists that there are inappropriate sexual behaviors happening all the time. And then you have the precarious balance between being a parent and a worker who has a job with homework. How do we deal with that? And comedy! The work students attempt to hand in is itself hilarious! And finally, political issues and the greater questions of life could be tackled. This show could have everything. Well, maybe not vampires.

Someone needs to write this series. I'd watch it.

I'm also available for consultation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This and That


*Look! The children and I planted a tomato plant and there's an actual TOMATO on it! Yippee!! Right behind it, to the left, is the basil plant that is also doing quite well. Of course, we just returned from my grandmother's house, where the tomato plants were much more prolific and as tall as me, and they had already cooked up a batch of fried green tomatoes. But that doesn't dampen my extreme excitement over my little tiny tomato.
*The Baby Boy has announced that he wants to be a pumpkin when he grows up. I have no where to go with that. I guess I'll just be proud.
*I really thought that summer at home with the children would be fun, with lots of activities and outings. But I'm spending a lot of time thinking about articles I want and need to write and the fact that it doesn't really look like all of those plans are going to happen. It's almost July already. That makes me sad. Then I think of how the children may very well have memories of a distracted and annoyed mother instead of a carefree, creative summer playmate. Also sad. It's really hard to do both, even in the summer. I have only a few weeks to get myself together before a whole new semester starts.
*The hair transition is very sketchy. I'm at a point when it's hard to comb it, but the curls from the set have basically fallen. I'm trying products and hair ornaments, but it's all very sketchy.
Just watched Aaron McGruder's latest animated "The Boondocks" episode. He's totally loony and awesome. This was a kicking-butt-and-taking-names kind of episode. Fabulous!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I Did NOT See This Coming

We arrive at the grandparents house to pick up our children. I'm so excited to see them. They are napping, so I kiss them and let them finish sleeping in my arms. Finally they wake up and stare at us, bleary-eyed. I'm expecting a big, excited display of affection. That's not exactly what I got. But there were hugs and kisses and cuddles. I was glad to see them. I couldn't get enough of their sweet little faces. Know what I wasn't expecting?

Mumps.

I was loving on The Babydoll, holding her face in my hands, when I commented that her face looked different. "They've been eating like crazy people," my family told me, "Her face is probably a little more plumped up." But her lopsided smile still looked a little "off" to me. Then I felt the large lump on her jaw. We decided to head on over to the urgent care, just in case. I suppose it doesn't really matter, since mumps is a virus and there's no medication. But I'm glad that I at least know what's going on with her.

There's always something, huh?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lit Happens

So, The Diva and I are kicking it together at a gigantic grading marathon. It's PhDs gone wild over here! We're pooped and it's not even over yet. Clearly, I am a complete idiot. I just completed a grading marathon on my own campus before starting this one. Still, it's always cool to hang out with a girlfriend. We saw Sex and the City 2 while we had a free second. The Diva thought it "so-so" but I really liked it. I cried when Charlotte and Miranda were talking (and sipping) about motherhood. It was a really beautiful and honest moment that only real friends and mothers could share. I'm also glad that they acknowledged their privilege in employing help--that's especially true when neither of them is compelled to work for money.
Other realizations during the gigantic grading marathon:
  • There are many, many, many ways to express the EXACT same idea.
  • Premium ice cream heals all wounds.
  • I need time away from my family sometimes, but it only takes a second for me to really miss them.
  • Wuthering Heights is not the go-to text after you've just read about 4 million very questionably written student essays.
  • Sitting around with your girlfriend, doing basically nothing, is lots of fun when you are (practically) middle-aged.
  • You might want to mentally devise an escape plan for when your cab driver takes some unknown residential route and you think he may be taking you to his own house where he will abduct and disembowel you. Just in case. It helps to crazy paranoid and have a friend join in.
  • People who teach English and English-related fields come in two camps: neat, buttoned-up, bookish types or bohemian, artsy, colorful rebel types. It's generally immediately clear which camp someone belongs in. Except for The Diva and me--we're a little of both. :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Random

  • Picked up an animated version of the Henry "Box" Brown story. I thought it would be an interesting, exciting adventurous story for the children. I really should have considered the fact that I would have to answer, "What's a slave?" I was totally unprepared, but I hope that my wide-eyed answer sufficed.
  • The Babydoll is enthralled with the whole idea of mail; I wonder if I should be worried about her trying to mail herself in a box.
  • I've been a crocheting fool. My fingers ache. But I can't seem to stop!
  • We've had a couple of pretty good potty days with The Baby Boy. Yay!
  • The more I watch "Intervention" the more it seems that alcohol--not marijuana--is the gateway drug. Hmmmm.
  • I've decided to read at least one classic text this summer. I chose *Wuthering Heights* I'm enjoying it, but it's been a while since I've journeyed through British Literature. I want to fall in love with it the way I hear other people talk about it. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lessons to Learn in Song


I'm no fan of new singers. I know that makes me sound like an old curmudgeon, but most new music and new singers just fail to move me with their lack of greatness. Or substance. But today, as I was out driving, the radio playing white noise in the background of my thoughts, some new music pushed through. I heard a song by Lyfe Jennings called "Statistics." I listened because he starts in the classroom like Lauryn Hill does in the interludes on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (a great CD) and I was misled to think it was one of her songs. Plus, any song beginning in a classroom has my attention! But then he started giving all these statistics about men in society and the likelihood of women finding one. I'm not sure how true his statistics are, but his chorus is definitely true.
It goes:



RULE #1 Don't be a booty call
If he don't respect you girl he gon forget you girl

RULE #2 If he's in a relationship
If he will cheat on her that means he will cheat on you

RULE #3 Tell him that you're celibate
And if he wants some of your goodies he gon have to work for it

RULE #4 Be the person you wanna find
Don't be a nickel out here lookin' for a dime

DH said, "He had to put that in a song?" Apparently, yes.

These are things my mother taught me growing up, but I don't think young girls are taught these things anymore. For instance, rules #1 & 3. Why isn't this common knowledge? I have heard countless male students say that they don't respect girls who give it up so freely and easily. They'll gladly have sex with those girls, but they won't have relationships with them. But, oddly, my female students will counter that statement with comments about how guys will have relationships with girls like that and they should be able to be as free sexually as the guys. They should, but I try to point out to the female students that this is what the guy is telling you; this is how he feels. Now that you have the information, you have to make a decision about what you want, what's important to you. But it's like they live in this world of disconnect. It reminds me of that episode of Sex & the City in which the women make up these reasons why the guy hasn't called and the guy says "He's just not that into you" and her friends say, "Oh don't listen to him; he doesn't know what he is talking about." Really? You're just gonna make up your own truth in spite of the reliability of the source?

Far more disturbing are the many stories I have heard of tween and teen girls performing oral sex on groups of boys in the Boys bathroom, having sex with random boys in the school auditorium or the library (the library? don't defile the library!), and sextexting. Does any guy have to work for the goods anymore?

Anyway, I think this song makes a lot of sense; I like it. It probably won't be around 20 years from now like songs by Marvin Gaye, but hopefully, the lessons it teaches will. They should.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Reviews are In: All Confused and Such

I just received my evaluations. It's nice that I could have electronic copies, which means that I have them now, as opposed to finding them at some random point when I'm on campus again. Clearly, though, it would have been useful to have had them earlier. Or perhaps it just would have been confusing.

In general, the review are good. I had an overwhelming number of "Strongly Agree" responses for most areas. They reflect the vibe I got while the classes were going on and afterward, when goo-gobs of students returned for rec letters. It also reflects the number of students in the spring who enrolled in my courses as a result of recommendations from friends. But there are some stupefying moments:

  • More than one person indicated that they did not use the library--not even electronically! What?! We had a research paper! How does that work, without using the library????
  • Someone was unsatisfied with "revisions." But I have no idea what that means. Did the student not like the fact revisions were allowed? Or was he/she upset that she/he was not allowed to do revisions (in which case he/she did not read the syllabus, which clearly spelled out the revision policy and the "dissatisfaction" is really unfair.) One word answers are not useful!
  • More than one student indicated that they really liked a text from the very beginning of the term. I didn't think they liked it or that it was entirely related, so I omitted it from the list for the next term. Guess I need to think about adding it again.
  • I was glad that there were fewer personal comments than I sometimes get. Those are often not attacking, but I never really know what to do when students critique my personhood.

In general, I'm pleased with the feedback, and I'm so happy that students are saying that they learn in my classes! Mostly, I'm glad that many students are enjoying this almost as much as I am. Yay!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oh, boy

I'm not sure that I can parent a boy. Seriously. I don't think my heart can take it. My son just poked a huge metal whatchamacallit into a socket. It created a big flash, and he says enthusiastically, "That popped me!"

Yes, I just said that my 2 year old son nearly electrocuted himself.

This, after Hubby and I somehow accidentally left him alone, sleeping in a stroller at a state park while we both took off to separate restrooms and miscommunicated.

After he ran directly towards a moving car in a parking lot.

After he took off rabbit-fast, repeatedly into a crowd, forcing me to leave The Babydoll to chase him.

After he's eaten all manner of nonedible things.

After he had a concussion before he was a year old while learning to walk.

Seriously, this is just too much for me. I've been filled with angst since I discovered that the baby I was carrying was a boy. Raising African American boys, after all, is angst-inducing. Even more so if you pay any attention to the dismal stats about them. I've put my hands on his beautiful little head, asking God to take care of and protect him. And while I'm getting nervous about potential run-ins with the police when he learns to drive, or violent school yard fights, or poor test scores in school, he's finding 1000 ways to put the fear of God in me right now.

This incident tonight just rattled me terribly. I cried uncontrollably and tried every way I could think of to impress upon his little brain the seriousness of touching outlets. I told him he made me cry and worry. That touching outlets would burn his hands. That he broke the rules. Time out guidelines went out the window; I'm forcing him to sit on his bed for the rest of the night since he can't be trusted not to maim himself. Then I held his little body while I looked at every inch of him, tearfully imagining what it would look like to find a black electrical burn on his smooth brown skin (is that even what I should be looking for?). I thought of the other mothers I knew who had sons who made dumb and dangerous decisions or who fell victim to the dumb behavior of some other testosterone-makes-you-stupid boy. Honestly, I just can't take this. This kind of anxiety for the next 16 years (as if it will end at 18!) is just too much. I need a good boarding school.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hairy Situations


So, I've started this new hair plan: I'm going to stop relaxing my hair.

For an African American woman, this is a pretty major move. As Star Jones used to say on "The View" "Women don't obsess about their bodies; white women obsess about their bodies; black women obsess about their hair!" And we do. It's a primary source of pain and pleasure, a focus of beauty standards, and marker of race. The other thing is that we have so many choices about it. When I think of the black women I know, the hair ranges from weaves to wigs to Afros to braids to twists hot presses to letting-it-do-whatever. In fact, I discussed my hair care decision with some female students this semester, and many of them were in the process of an alternate hair decision themselves. One was in the middle of going natural and underwent "the big cut" (cut off the chemically relaxed hair down to the 3 or 4 inches of natural new growth). One had been natural all of her life and usually wore spirally curls or blew it out straight. One had stopped relaxing it but had it hot pressed regularly. One wore twists. One wore a weave (I think). It was a perfect setting to solidify my decision. They were excited and vowed to hold me to my promise to myself to change my hair style. Of course, I told them that I was not going to come to campus every day while this process unfolded. Who knows what my hair is going to look like with half relaxed hair and half new growth? No, I told them, I'll start this process in the summer when I don't have to stand up in front of people every day.

So I've just skipped my first touch-up. Normally, this is when I start to run to the salon for some chemicals. And when people start to ask when I have a hair appointment. My roots are thick and it's harder to comb my hair. The curls from my roller set won't hold very well anymore. But I'm trying to stick to the plan. After each of my babies, my hair fell out in scary amounts. I know that it was normal, especially since my hair was so thick and full and shiny while I was pregnant. It had to end, right? But after the shedding I expected, it just kept right on falling out. Until I was practically wearing a comb over. All around my hair line I was completely bald. With my daughter, I went crying to my hair stylist, afraid that the hair loss that older women in my family had experienced had been jump started by my pregnancy. "You need to go to the doctor, now," my grandmother told me. So I did; I made an appointment with the dermatologist forthwith. It helped, and the hair did eventually grow back, but it took about a year, and by then I was about to be pregnant again. I was really afraid that I was going to be bald. Now, with my hair all unpretty as it is now, I'm feeling a little panicked again.

This weekend, another interesting hair situation came up. The Babydoll graduated from preschool--so exciting by the way, there was a cap and gown and everything--and I noticed how much trouble the moms had gone through with the four-year-olds' hair. Many of them had straightened it or had curly braids put in. I wondered if I should feel guilty because I had not gone to such lengths. We had been cautioned not to put ponytails on the top or sides of the girls' head because the caps wouldn't fit if we did. So I put two thick braids in The Babydoll's hair and left the ends loose, thinking that it would look festive and cute and sort of grown-up. She likes that style, so she had so complaints. But I still wondered if I should have taken her to the salon for curls and hot combs and let her wear it hanging loose like a grown up. I think maybe I just wasn't ready to let go of her little girl-ness, even in her hair. I'm guessing that most of these girls will be getting their virgin relaxers in a year or two. And they'll probably keep doing it for the rest of their lives. That was basically my experience. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'm going to try a different way. If I can learn to handle my own hair, I can teach The Babydoll to do hers, too (although her hair is thicker and more compliant than mine).
A big part of the weirdness is that I don't really know how else to handle my hair. But even though I've decided to stop forking over hours (and hours and hours) of my time to sitting in hair salons, and goo-gobs of my money as well, I'm just sort of standing around confused. Ultimately, I'm probably going to keep visiting the salon until I can figure out how to take care of it myself on a much more regular basis.

So, here's my new hair journey. It feels rather risky and I'm not a risk-taker. At all. Maybe I'll go completely crazy and put some pictures up. Maybe.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Arizona, Your Dixie is Showing

Is Arizona losing its mind? I thought Arizona's new law allowing police officers to require papers of people suspected of being illegal immigrants was harsh and wrong and wide open for abuse. I understand that they have a problem with immigration, but I don't think demanding citizens to prove themselves (because let's face it, that's gonna happen), is the way to eradicate the problem. Especially when there are no standard ways to determine who looks illegal, who doesn't belong, except that they look brown and/or poor. But maybe, maybe, I could chalk the law up to what Republicans keep saying is Arizona's desperation surrounding what to do about illegal immigration. Until I read this. So now they can't have ethnic studies classes? Because Chicano students learn that they are oppressed? Forget that there's some truth in it. Now, you're going to oppress them by not allowing them to learn about themselves, but it will be okay because they won't learn that this is a way of oppressing them? Smart. And racist.

My goodness! Every time I talk about racism in my classes here in Biblebelt, my African American students have story after story about their individual experiences with racism (though sadly, none of them recognize the institutional racism that affects them all), but all of their encounters take place in the South which leads them to believe that the South is the hotbed of racist activity and all other areas of the country have evolved. I think Arizona is trying to say, "No, we haven't. Remember we didn't want Dr. King's birthday either. We don't want people of color here."
But Arizona is not alone, as I try to tell my students. Sean Bell's death happened in New York. The Compton Cookout Party happened in California. And now that we have a nation experiencing massive economic hardship and its first Black president, this type of xenophobic, racist vitriol is happening all over the country.

History has shown us that when resources are scarce, the population becomes quite territorial. I think the Holocaust is an extreme example of this fact. The Germans were suffering and they began to believe the Jews were responsible. Enter xenophobia. Here, in America, we have the event of a lack of jobs and lost houses/shelter; combine that with a new face in authority and we have a perfect storm that rallies Tea Partiers to yell "Give us our country back!" And although they like to dress it up and say they are calling for the return of their country from the government, when the government seemed to be in the hands of a White man who said it was okay to spy on their phone conversations, check into their library book selections, hold them for weeks without benefit of counsel and declare war without their permission, they didn't ask for it back. But when a Black man (who, by the way, is half White and was raised by White people) tries to bring about health care for the majority of Americans, then they want it back. I think they are saying we want it back from the minorities. I think Arizona is striking now before the minorities can take over completely.

But the thing is, the minorities aren't taking over. We still have massive oppression to overcome (even though apparently Arizona and others would rather pretend they don't exist). Minorities are still disproportionately incarcerated; percentage-wise, they have the highest infant mortality rate; minorities were the largest percentage of people losing their homes in this housing fiasco; there are only two people of color on the Supreme Court and one is certainly not working for the good of other people of color; and how many minorities are there in the Senate? Plus, I don't know what the fear is (Glenn Beck), but Obama is really not working toward empowering Black people at the expense of Whites or anyone else. Ask, Tavis Smiley. According to him, Obama is pretty much ignoring Black issues.
If America is to live up to its ideals, what's wrong with minorities being on the come-up? Why can't it actually be about the best being the victor, regardless of color or ethnicity? So, there's a job up for grabs. We shouldn't be like, "They are taking our jobs." The jobs shouldn't belong to anyone except the person--male, female, black, white, brown, etc.--who best meets the qualifications. I realize that it becomes complicated because our history has determined that some people will be in a better position to meet the qualifications than others. So, things like Mexican-American studies should be taught because that will help those individuals become better prepared to meet the qualifications. Studies have shown that when students learn about themselves as a people, they do better in school and thus in life. This wouldn't give them a leg up on the competition; it would just help them get on even footing so that the race would be fair.

These are scary times. Yesterday, on one of the Sunday Morning Talk Shows, the host said 70% of the people supported Arizona's new immigration law. (He went on to say that when they polled non-white people, the numbers were turned upside down against the law.) Apparently, we need to be ever vigilante because I don't think Arizona is the exception. If we're not careful, America is going to march itself right back into the Victorian era.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Can't Help Myself

I sure wish cable channels would stop airing 27 Dresses every five minutes. I am powerless against it and have to watch it every single time . . . .

Monday, May 10, 2010

Losing Lena


In a cultural moment when the beauty and value of black women and their bodies is so much still up for discussion, the loss of the lovely Lena Horne is poignant.

She was rare for a number of reasons:

  • She had a career in which she remained in and out of the public eye for decades, never disappearing or becoming irrelevant. She was recognizable and beloved by generations. Grandmothers who sang "Stormy Weather" every time they saw Horne on TV had grandsons who tilted their heads in mannish admiration of her enduring beauty. Her episode of "A Different World" in the 90s is remembered fondly by most of my peers.
  • She spoke her mind. As an actress, a woman, and a black woman, telling folks where to get off was not supposed to be in the cards. Yet, there are many stories about her outspoken opinions about race in Hollywood.
  • She didn't run from being black, even though she could have. She probably could have "passed" (maybe?) but was very clear about the way she identified herself. She didn't need to come up with contrived categories or separate herself from other actresses who were also confronting the difficulties of discrimination and inequity.
  • She was a sassy singer and a wonderful actress. Many of those today who try to do both clearly need to stick to only one genre. Halle Berry was right to include Horne in her Academy Award acknowledgements.
  • She was the good witch in "The Wiz." That performance is mesmerizing every time I see it. I remember seeing it as a little girl and thinking that she looked like an angel, too beautiful to be real. When she sang, "Believe in yourself as I believe in you!" I cried.
  • She was sexy. The road to recognition for black women has been filled with pressures from within and without that often forced them to strip themselves of sexuality altogether; or they were relegated to a simplistic portrait of hypersexuality that was one dimensional and dangerous. (This happened in literature as well, hence the need to prove black respectability.) Horne, with her impossibly small waist and sultry smirk, dared to present herself as a woman who was desirable. And she knew it!
  • Dang it--she looked fabulous at 92!

Thank you, Lena Horne!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Taking a breather

I'm sitting my eerily quiet house. Alone. I'm crocheting for the first time in months. Had greasy pizza and cold soda for dinner. Will devour ice cream in a bit. Watched a movie from start to finish without having to stop it even once. Read a magazine.

Hubby will be back with the babies soon. Life is good.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

And to all of you. :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh, to be Jean Grey!


While I was grading (or procrastinating) I came across an article and thought I'd share this:

People who really know me know that I like a show in which people have powers--Charmed, Angel, Heroes (the first season), Moonlight, True Blood, Ghost Whisperer, X-Men (the movies and cartoon), Blade, Highlander (does anyone remember that one besides me?), Beastmaster, Underworld. You get the picture. So, apparently, Stan Lee (creator of X-Men) is about to host a show on The History Channel about real-life people who have powers (or differences, whatever) because of their genetic make-up. Real life X-Men? Oh, that I were one! Interestingly, while pregnant, I did have the amazing ability to smell. Everything. The smallest minutia. To a nauseating degree. But that's a power I gladly gave up.

Anyway, I can't wait to watch!

Monday, May 3, 2010

And Then . . .

Just as I'm getting riled up into a good vent about my annoying students (one of whom told me that I use the word "annoyed" an awful lot) one of them shows up today to bring a gift to me. She's one of the ones who totally gets it--she's bright and hard working and sure of herself without being closed to suggestions. She wanted to thank me for writing a string of rec letters and helping with a couple of other opportunities. She's really a wonderful student and genuinely nice person, so I truly hope that she is successful with every position she's going for.

That meant the world to me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This Is How I Know I'm Old

I'm reading through the mountain of end of term pieces from composition students. All year I've heard what seems like an extra amount of complaints and griping from students. Therefore, it doesn't surprise me that, left to write about whatever they want, many of them would vent.

I find myself frustrated, though, with their short-sightedness and lack of logic. They fail to make connections between, for instance, the benefits of attending a small liberal arts institution and the disadvantage of limited campus dining options. Or between demanding they be treated like adults and resenting a community service requirement that means they often have to go off campus. Professors want too much work! Not enough scholarship money! The speakers who come here are boring! I hate my new friends!

Even if the speakers are positively world-renowned, most 18 year olds wouldn't know who they are or if they are important. Time has made it very clear to me that who we are at the beginning of our adulthood may not who we are in the middle of it--thank goodness! But they are so unforgiving of other people!

I can only chalk it up to the folly of youth. They don't even know what they don't know. "You are sooooo young!" I think every time I hear a new complaint. I wish I could be more forgiving, too. But I want them to see how much they are growing, appreciate all the newness of college life, and DO something with all of the information and experiences offered them. Maybe it just takes my own patience to watch them in the coming years. They'll get there. Right?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What the what?: Questions from grading jail

  • How can I take some project and pimp it out for the next couple of decades like Candace Bushnell?
  • How can I tell if non-traditional students are serious when they claim that they are "Just really confused" about citation methods and "don't understand" the problem with taking 90% of an article, plopping it in your essay without quotations marks, and inserting totally different names in the parentheticals?
  • How can I explain to publishers that my book project is actually much better than Lil' Wayne's ex-wife's book (oh, wait--she's so much more than his ex-wife; now she's an authoress)?
  • How can I get all of my besties to move to my city since now one good friend is applying for a position at my institution?
  • How can I get a CT scan of Henry Louis Gates' head to see what's wrong with him for suggesting that American slavery (and Jim Crow too, I guess) is everybody's fault and nobody's fault?
  • How can I keep from killing the lovely herbs that I've just discovered in my new backyard?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Is All I Have Time For. . .

I now interrupt my feverish grading and overworked body and mind to bring you this message:

Who's idea was it to put bacon in between two pieces of chicken and call it a sandwich? I was already upset that KFC was sticking a hunk of meat in a cup and acting like it was a snack. Now they have two hunks of meat acting as bread? What the . . . !

I now return to my regular semester-end program, already in progress.

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Thing I Hate About You

Yes, you. Lady sitting in front of us at church. The church that we were visiting. Where we should have been made to feel welcome. I find you annoying, lady. I know that you would say that you found us annoying, but here's the thing about that: I don't care. Yes, my children were a little too loud a couple of times, and once or twice they were too exhuberant in their play. But they were playing with two other children, and their father was sitting right beside them. Why didn't you look at him with your judgemental, annoyed, and squinty look? And didn't you know that I saw you looking directly in my face the first time you looked at me? I smiled because I didn't know what your problem was. Then you told the children to be quiet. I had already spoken to them, thank you very much. It was loud in this warehouse of a church, so their noise was minimal. But even if they were completely "cutting a fool" one half-turn to the back is enough to let me know that you were disturbed. I didn't need 3, 4, 5 pissy looks in my direction, especially since your own two boys were turned around in their seats, hanging over their chairs and dangling their arms in our space. Even if I were a terrible mother (which I'm not) with uncontrollable children (which they are not), I didn't ask for your advice, so please don't offer it in the form of glares. Next time, I'd thank you to simple take your ample behind to another seat. Perhaps one where you can pay more attention to the service and less attention to my children. And God bless you, too.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Big Epiphany

I stumbled on the 1980s film Breakin' today. I loved that movie! I thought it was awesome when I saw it in the theater. I started calling myself Special K like the girl in the who joined the Ozone and Turbo dance crew. Watching it today, well . . . not so much. While the dancing still seemed pretty cool, the acting was some of the worst I've ever seen. I mean ever. The writing was trite. The plot was silly. But it still felt exciting to watch it. Go figure.

At the end the group goes to a hoity-toity audition where they are denied entrance. They won't waste their time on "street dancers" the judges say. Then Ozone announces they his group will be dancing next. They rip off the sleeves of their coats and walk aggressively onto the stage, staring the judges in the eyes. "What are you people doing? You can't just come out here! We told you to leave!" the judges exclaim. But then they start to dance (don't know where the music came from) and suddenly the judges can't help themselves. They are so good that they can't be denied.

It dawns on me that maybe this is where the people who audition for "American Idol" get the idea that they should ignore the judges when they tell them to take a hike. It's such a feel-good moment in the movie. I'm sure this isn't the only cinematic example of this, but that's my big epiphany for today. So there you go.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dixie Carter

So sad to hear that Dixie Carter has died. I always liked to think of myself as Julia Sugarbaker, bold, sure, righteous, smart. I can probably still quote more of her lines than any other character on the show. In truth, I'm probably more like "Designing Women"'s Mary Jo, who was more mousy, timid, and quietly confident. Still, Julia was the woman I was in my mind; you know, after the moment when you should be telling someone off but instead stand there with your mouth open in disgust. Carter gave her such life and spirit. And sex appeal! She, and Julia, exemplified the real steel in steel magnolia. In fact, as I remember it Carter has brought that kind of joy and sass to every role from Mr. Drummand's girlfriend on "Diff 'rent Strokes" to another sassy Southerner on "Filthy Rich" to the lawyer on "Family Law."

Important, too, was the lasting and loving relationship between Carter and her husband Hal Holbrook, who also appeared on "Designing Women." I loved watching them feed off of each other's energy. He described her death as a tragedy.

I know that actors don't like to be pigeon-holed in their roles, but I have to say, "Thank you, Julia Sugarbaker" for making me laugh and put a little extra switch in my hips.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Random

  • I talked with another parent at my children's school and confirmed that my discomfort at the unquestioned promotion of the pilgrim-Indian version of Thanksgiving (i.e. feathered hats, etc.) I didn't say anything to the teacher because I figured she'd just think I was a crazy liberal. This parent, a sociologist, was more bold that I and actually told the teacher that she thought it was historically inaccurate, insensitive, and so forth. The teacher just looked at her. I guess I was right about the reaction to expect. I think the parent's story was pretty funny.
  • Witnessed a wonderfully beautiful ceremony on campus this week with women who attended and younger female relatives who also attended. It was set to "In My Daughter's Eyes" and so moving I almost cried into my academic regalia. The whole thing really underscored what it means to educate a woman--you educate the world.
  • Another neighbor stopped by today to introduce herself and offer brownies for a welcome gift. Yay!
  • Speaking of my new neighbors: This neighborhood seems to have the best grapevine I've ever heard of! Nearly every person who introduces him or herself notes that they've "heard we have a new neighbors" or that they wondered who moved into the house for sale. In some ways it's cool that there is such intimacy in this community, but it's also a tiny bit creepy that we are the subject of community chatter.
  • Another round of research papers and another two handfuls of topics related to sex education. I still don't quite know what they think they are missing, but I keep getting students who are just begging for more information. Are schools just naming the body parts and moving on?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool, Not Cool

So, I had an ob-gyn appointment today. When I returned home, I told Hubby that we needed to talk. He took one look at my face and asked, "You're pregnant?"

I nodded. "How do you feel about that?" I asked.

"I think I'm happy," he said. "Are you serious?"

"Well, you know I've been dead tired for weeks."

"Yeah. And you look a little heavier." He points to my stomach.

I look at him, blank.

He smiles.

"April fool. Thanks a lot." This was not nearly as funny as I planned.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Wedding Awards


This past weekend, The Steel Magnolia and I were in a friend's wedding (great to see you again, girl!). It was a beautiful event in Savannah, GA, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Here are the highlights:


Best Wedding Attire: The bride wore green! No, not her dress, but her shoes. She had the loveliest emerald green open-toed heels on under her off-white dress which cascaded in a ruffled pattern down the back. The shoes were an unexpected shock of color that set off the entire attire. I wish I had thought to do that at my wedding.


Best Moment of Individualism: The bridesmaids all wore the same green dress, but the bride gave us each a different elegant brooch to wear on the belts of our dresses. I love that idea! And because the bride knew I am The Diva, I love that she gave me an antique starfish with lots of bling!


Most Anticipated Moment (ceremony-related): When the groom sees the bride for the first time. Everyone always turns to look at the bride when she comes in, but I figure, I have the entire ceremony to look at her. I like to see the look on the groom's face when he sees for the first time that day the woman he loves. It's always nice to see tears from the beloved, but no such luck this time.


Most Anticipated Moment (non-ceremony-related): Going to eat at The Lady and Sons. I love Paula Deen! I even went to see her when she came to Biblebelt city (though I got no food for my trouble). So, I was not passing up an opportunity to go to her restaurant. Actually, the bride said she had to have her rehearsal dinner at Lady and Sons because she knew she would lose a lot of people to it if she had the dinner elsewhere. Paula Deen did not disappoint. The food was scrumptious. I had fried chicken, rice and gravy, greens, creamed corn (and I don't eat creamed corn), and peach cobbler. I wanted to go back for some macaroni, but I was just too stuffed. That would have been just gluttonous.


Most Surprising Moment: It was cold as sin out there! The ceremony was outside. On Friday, it was nice, sunny and warm. No such luck on Saturday. DH and I got out to go to buy the Popcorn a sweater and hat because the weatherman said it would be in the 60's. When we got out there, the wind whipped us to and fro and I cringed at the idea that I would be wearing a sleeveless dress later that day!


Most Surprising Moment II: There was a Carter's Outlet store down the street from my hotel! Anyone with a kid knows that Carter's makes all the baby clothes. All of them. Except for a few onesies they let Gerber make. And they're always so cute. So, in our quest for a sweater, we stumbled upon the outlet stores and Carter's, in particular. I wanted to shop so badly, but I was with DH who hates the word "shopping" and so I could only "ohh" and "ahh" as I passed by beautiful, affordable spring fashions on my way to finding a sweater. At least I got to buy that.


Most Symbolic Moment: As cold as it was, the sun came out from behind the clouds when the minister announced them as husband and wife. It's like God smiled on them. Then the sun went back behind the clouds.


Coolest Moment: This one is tied. The first was hanging with my girls. Life is such that we only get to see each other together like once a year when something big comes up. Between jobs, kids and other family and social obligations, we don't often get to cross state lines and just hang. We should make more of an effort to do that. The other coolest moment was showing off the Popcorn. This was the first non-family event that we have taken her to ( we haven't even taken her to church because of her health issues) and the first time that my friends have seen her. They loved her! Everyone did. I was pleased. (I would have been more pleased if someone--anyone--thought she looked like me, but I still can't get anyone to say she does!)


So, that's the weekend's awards. (Did I miss anything, SM?) It was fun and beautiful and special and I'm so happy for my friend.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I should do this every weekend

Interestingly, I participated in a thirty-something friend's wedding this past weekend, just as I did this time last year. It was another beautiful (and shockingly brief) ceremony and a rocking reception. We had a lot of fun, especially my children, who ran free and danced like they couldn't help themselves! I got to dance with my husband, too. It was a wonderful weekend, full of good vibes and slap-your-mama good Southern food.

And now it's back to work. Um, yay . . . ?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thanks again today

So, after positive feedback from students the other day, I had a class observation today and the feedback was very useful and positive. I really feel like I'm getting better and better at this job, becoming more effective. Clearly, there are things to work on, but there are more days when I feel like I'm not just droning on to my own nerdy self. Thanks, God and God's universe, for more affirmation that this work is meaningful. And that my efforts are not (always) invisible.

This, AND, a neighbor in my new neighborhood is bringing us cheesecake this weekend! Yippee!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saying thanks again

Over at academic writing, the discussion was about saying "Thank you." That's been on my mind again lately, so I'll repeat what I wrote on her page

I asked my class to do a check-in exercise that I like to do at mid-term. I asked them to write down what they thought was working in the class and what they thought was not meeting their needs. That lead us down a series of paths and they started to talk about graduating. They were so moved and spoke with such angst about leaving that one of them had to leave the room. This institution, they said, has nurtured them and helped them grow, taught them and pushed them. Their friendships and their professors were important in ways that they would never again experience in quite the same way. They didn't want to leave. (Incidentally, my daughter asked last night why babies had to leave come out of their mommies's tummies. Can't they just stay in if they want? she asked. I thought my students seemed to be asked a similar question.) It was gut-wrenching. And yet, I felt so proud to be playing any small role in the experience that was shaping these students. And to top it off, more than one of them said that they really liked my class and were learning a lot.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you to my students today! I needed that!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The DMV Diaries

  • Part of the moving chaos of this week is trying to cram in all of the required paperwork telling everyone who demands to know where I now live. That includes the DMV folk, for starters. As always, it was an adventure. As soon as I walked in, an . . . "older gentleman" sauntered in behind me and immediately started talking to me. He asks me questions about which line to go to. How to do this. How to do that. Then he tells me--totally unsolicited--that he had a DUI and now that he's paid the "bread" (his word) he wants to get his license back. Now, it's 11am and he's chugging a Coke like it's got the antidote, and belching every 30 seconds. He stops his rambling long enough to very obviously check out a young woman walking by. This man has got me by at least 20 years--and I've got him by at least 5 teeth--and the passerby was younger than me. So I'm thinking, "Dirty old man!" Not to mention that he's clearly giving me his best efforts in what he must think is flirting. It's not pretty. After he checks out the girl, he turns back to me and explains that I shouldn't be offended because he was still talking to me. Indeed, he was flapping his jaws to me the entire he time he was spinning his head around to ogle this woman. I told him to take all the time he likes looking at other women. Fine by me. You could even follow them and go talk to them instead.
But here's the kicker: 11am, right? DUI, right? Why does he smell like liquor?

Please, please, lady at the counter, tell this joker that the only way to get his license back is with a note from his sponsor.

  • Here's the other thing: Hubby was parking the car while I was fending off the dirty old man. I step in line and the worker in the first line gives me a ticket . Hubby comes to rescue me and gets the next ticket. It's one number after mine. We wait for half our lives and they finally call my number. Right after I go up and get the address change completed, we think Hubby must be next. Right? Wrong!? Why are there about 900 hundred people called next? Does that make any numerical sense?
  • Perhaps the worst part is that they made me take another picture. I had the cutest ID picture ever! At the closing for the house I had to use my lisence and my agent commented that it was a really good pic. I was always happy to whip it out. The new one turned out pretty decent, but I'm grieving the loss of that one great ID photo. Oh well.