Friday, January 29, 2010

Zinn, Salinger, and my students

So, it looks like this is one of those times that, sadly, proves the rule that bad things happen in threes--we've now lost three insightful, artistic geniuses this month. Howard Zinn and J. D. Salinger joined Teddy Pendergrass in leaving the world a little better than they found it.

I was glancing through the remembrances and personal reflections of the work of Zinn and Salinger. Many people had their own threshold moments about how their words changed one's perspective on the world or how their ideas connected deeply to another's sense of isolation. It might seem odd that I throw all three of these men together, but the truth is that they challenged the way we see the world. They made us ask the questions that force a look at our collective humanity: Do I matter? Do other people matter to me? Am I loved? Will my love be returned? Am I free enough to be unguarded? There's something so fearless about their work, all in their own ways. I'm amazed.

As I am meeting with students this week, I'm also feeling pretty amazed at their fearlessness. They are writing literacy narratives and I've asked them to think about moments when writing or language helped them overcome silencing. Their stories are poignant and moving and, too often for only 18 years old, painful. Seriously painful. Rape and suicide and violence and death kind of painful. I can't believe they are telling me this stuff (and several times I have wished they they would please stop telling me this stuff! Geesh!).

The point I think I am left with is that words matter. I know. That's simple and cliche. But I hope that my students realize the raw truth of that idea. Words, even their words, can change the world.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Wonderful Weekend

SM, I'm glad your day is getting better. And of course you're not a loser!

My day began fine; I just have the daunting challenge of getting out of the house on time so that I can make it to class on time. I have not made it to my first class on time at all this semester. I think I need to wake up at 6 instead of 7 until I completely stop nursing (which will be soon, but I'll discuss that in another post). Anyway, despite my few minutes of lateness, class went well.

I had a wonderful albeit busy weekend. Last week The Popcorn turned 1! Even before I had a child, I always said giving a one-year-old a party was more about the parents and not the child and so I would have a grown-up party if anything and maybe give myself a gift. Well, this weekend I held true to that--somewhat.

I initially had planned to just have dinner with the three of us and maybe take some pictures, but then I thought about how hard this first year was and how blessed we were to have The Popcorn here, in life and at home, with us, and decided we should celebrate in a bigger way. So, we had a family dinner. I invited DH's immediate family, my immediate family and my sister-in-law's parents. I'm really grateful to them because they all had to travel at least an hour (and more) to get to our house. And they brought her gifts which for some reason, I wasn't actually expecting. (I guess I have been out of the birthday party game for too long.)

The theme of the dinner was Celebrate the Colors of Life! I decorated the dinner table in red, green, blue and purple. I made a centerpiece that was too small, but as it consisted of candy, it was delicious! I also used my good china which in so many years of marriage, I have only used once before. Everyone said my table was so pretty. Also, in keeping with the theme, DH wore a bright blue shirt, I wore a yellow shirt and I dressed The Popcorn in a multi-colored outfit.

For dinner we served the foods that The Popcorn is eating now, in a more flavorful adult version: sweet potatoes, green beans, and carrots. We also had cornbread, rosemary chicken and KFC (because I didn't cook enough rosemary chicken). I was going to buy a cake, but my mom acted like that was scandalous, so I made cupcakes.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and it was good to see family. The Popcorn got to hang with both of her grandmothers who love to shop for her and DH and I got to reflect on how happy we are to have our little baby with us.

Manic Monday

Just when your day feels like it's going head first into the crapper, a few brilliant students show up.

Today did not begin well. We had sort of a lazy weekend, mostly at home, but we are in the middle of house-buying and that decision is totally freaking me out. I'm the worst decision maker you'll ever meet, so I'm scared to death to pull the trigger. What if it's the wrong house? Wrong neighborhood? The schools turn into Eastside High? (from Lean on Me) Our neighbors hate us (incidentally, one of the neighbors has turned out to be my current department chair!) That has been running through my head while I was running through the house trying to get ready and get the children ready; we were all sleepy because they wouldn't stay in bed last night, in part due to someone shooting off firecrackers, which make my daughter's teeth chatter, literally. Anyway, the house, plus potty training that isn't really going anywhere--did you know that a little boy can pee through the crack between the toilet seat and the bowl?--was churning into a hot cup of crap.

But I'm glad that I read the Our Daily Bread devotional this morning. It noted that the original list of deadly sins listed sadness because Christians are supposed to have a joyful heart. So I figured I should climb out of this emotional ditch before I left the house but it didn't really happen. I was laboring to avoid meltdowns all the way to the front door, and I didn't do it with grace and love, let me tell you.

The first class of the day was annoyingly quiet during the writing workshop, so I was concerned that the writers wouldn't get the help they needed. Of course, a digression into Lifetime's The Pregnancy Pact (which, apparently, is going to come up in every single class today) got things perked up pretty quickly. But then one of the bunches of students who have reappeared from the fall to ask for rec letters came to bring a thank you note. She drew pictures on it herself! It was all brightly colored and cheery. Man, did I need that! Then, I met with my majors and they were smart and on top of things. And they were clearly impressed with my insights into the novel. At one point I suggested an interesting connection and one of them said, "And that's why you have a PhD! That's so smart!" Yay for me!

So maybe I'm not just a loser who can't pull it together. Of course, the day is young . . . .

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm Back!

It's been a long hiatus and a wonderful break. I got to relax, not think about school, and celebrate The Popcorn's first Christmas. I was a little concerned that we wouldn't be able to take her around my extended family because my cousin had the flu, but he was getting over it by the time we all were supposed to meet up and we kept her in one room with the air purifier so it worked out. Everyone thought she was so beautiful and such a miracle so, of course, that made my holiday! After Christmas, because I chose a profession with an extended holiday vacation, she and I got to hang out together laughing and playing and sleeping and watching tv. That's what Christmas break was made for. . . .

So, now school's back in and I am being thrown into the water head first. Due to miscommunication, I missed a meeting yesterday and found out I have another one tomorrow. I have an email in my inbox asking for a letter of recommendation by Friday. Another student just left my office asking for a letter needed right now. Also, I discovered that if I want to apply for a travel grant for a conference I'm going to this fall, I need to have the application in and my paper written by February 5 (needless to say, the paper isn't done yet).

Oh my, the memories of those relaxing days of Christmas are fading as I type!

Your mommy epiphany could not have come at a better time, SM!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mommy Epiphany

Today I discovered that just five minutes of yoga, even with a two-year-old sitting on your back for nearly half of it, still provides enough relaxation to laugh instead of plucking out the eyeballs of said two-year-old. Om.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK, Jr.

The message is simple:

Thank you.

For your life, your words, your wife, your fearlessness. Your sacrifice.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

7: You've Never Seen This Before

Per the fabulous evenshine, I have something to say in a blog post. I've been wanting to write, but . . . "the world is too much with us." That dang teaser from The Lovely Bones shows up on my TV every 19 seconds to depress me, and in between there's the seeming endless devastation in Haiti and the nothingness of texting my pennies. I've been weepy for days. Life just seems overwhelming.

Anyway, I'm happy to offer 7 things I've never written on my blog:

1) I'm planning to stop relaxing my hair this year. Don't exactly know what I'll do with it then, though. I keep telling people about my plan so I'll actually do it.

2) I want a house with a wrap-around porch.

3) My daughter is so much like me that sometimes it scares me. But since I was always too afraid to ever do anything really subversive, I guess it's also a comfort. My son is sometimes so much not like me that it scares me, too.

4) Just got new glasses that I might actually wear outside my house. My prescription is so high that my lenses are embarrassingly thick, and I haven't worn my glasses in front of anyone except family since middle school.

5) The first notes of Teddy Pendergrass's "Turn Off the Lights" are so sweet and sensual that my knees nearly buckle every time I hear it. The same is true of the melody in "Hold Me," a song he recorded a long time ago with Whitney Houston when she was just starting out. His death this week is another really sad thing in the world.

6) Some days I totally think I should be on that old show, thirtysomething. I would be Hope.

7) I think being a matchmaker like Patti Stanger would be an absolutely fabulous job.

Wow. Thanks evenshine! This was a fun release. I needed that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"First of the . . .": RBOC on beginning a new semester

For some very strange reason, I keep hearing Bone Thugs 'n Harmony's "It's the First of the Month" in my head.

Actually, it's the first day of class. Not quite the same thing. Plus, it's almost the middle of the month.

I was so nervous last night. I keep hoping that at some point that will go away. But every semester I have a hard time sleeping the night before and I have to check all the paperwork a bunch of times. My stomach is all butterflies. I don't know what it is, but it's both exciting and vomit-inducing, the nerves.

Anyway, I'm please at how the day is going. My fabulous, exciting class on a favorite author looks as if it will make. There were only four students registered last night, so I was elated that there were seven people there when I walked in. Three of them were from last semester, so I'm going to take that as a compliment. My composition classes are totally full, but we've been instructed not to overload anyone into our classes, so I'm happy to turn down the beggars. I foolishly let people in last semester and I wanted to slap them by mid-term. Three comps is a LOT of grading and I should not have invited more--after all, it's the worst part of the job. This time, the cap is the cap is the cap and you can't override the cap because it's the cap. Sorry. Find another section, chick.

Also excited because I bought a new space heater for my office. It's freezing in there, and it seems to only be my office. Now I don't have to swaddle myself in a big wrap. It's toasty!

Blessings to everyone who's beginning anew. May you all have brilliant, hard-working students, fast grading, and upbeat colleagues!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Things to Do When Snowed In By 1 Inch of Snow

Here in the South we're still all freaked out by the white stuff on the ground, so we're into hour whatever of enjoying the walls of our home. Hubby, The Babydoll, The Baby Boy, and me. It's a lot of together time. The roads are still icy, so I don't even want to walk outside, much less drive anywhere. I know that sounds ridiculous, but there's only enough snow to be annoying, not enough to be fun. Here's what we've been doing:
  • playing with puzzles
  • eating frozen pizzas
  • wearing sweats
  • painting pictures
  • making quick crochet projects
  • playing with Facebook, getting bored with it, then reading blogs
  • watching enough Sesame Street and Max and Ruby to make the AAP gag
  • baking cookies
  • eating cookies
  • chores (only a little)
  • breaking up fights
  • hiding the noisy toys
  • potty training--okay, we're not actually doing this, but I keep thinking this would be a great time to do it
  • finishing syllabus work--okay, not doing this one so much either, but the books and papers are spread out everywhere
  • reading Jack Ezra Keats' The Snowy Day

Friday, January 8, 2010


Well, it's snowing in the South! Yes, Ma'am! Imagine that!

A few flurries yesterday and everyone scurried away from campus yesterday. I scooped up the kiddies and delighted in their sheer joy, even though it was only about a teaspoon worth of snow. We awoke this morning to find a layer on the ground. And the campus meeting today canceled. It was a challenge today with both hubby and me trying to work while the children ran around. But you know, we were not even thinking of leaving the house after we saw the multiple car pileups on the news.

So everyone's been aflutter. The Babydoll immediately said she wanted to go make a snowball. Maybe we'll try to scrap enough snow together to make one.

Monday, January 4, 2010


So, I decided to be all industrious and hard-working today. I started working on my syllabi and planning for classes. I listed all of the class dates and started filling them in with assignments and class work. Then I realized--oh. my. goodness.--these dates start next flipping week! What in the world?! Here I was thinking that I had two more full weeks and that I was really on top of things by starting now. Instead, I suck because I don't even have some of the books that I need to list readings on the syllabus. And you know what else sucks like a Hoover? It's what-the-heck? degrees outside and now I'm going to have to drag my behind all the way to campus as if I'm not still on vacation. This is not cool at all.