Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One Wedding and a Funeral

While you were celebrating the joys of love at your friend's wedding, SM, I was celebrating the life and mourning the death of my cousin. He was actually the husband of my cousin, but family is family. He was killed in a vehicle-related accident, struck by an oncoming car as he performed his job as a trash worker for the city.

Each time I think about him and the wife and three young children he left behind, I am saddened. He really cared about his family and now they must find a way to move on without him.

At the funeral I learned several things about him. One, when he first met my cousin, he told her that he had a heart for a family. From the beginning, he knew that he wanted to be a husband and father and he was never derelict in this duty. He took care of them.

Two, he was an artist who tried to impart his passion to his children. I already knew that he was a painter; I have two of his works hanging up in my home and office. I did not know that he taught his children art every Saturday morning. During the service, my cousin shared with us a painting that his 5-year-old son did that morning called "Daddy's Office" which was in fact a picture of his casket. And while I was there his son showed me another picture he drew called "Hot Hand." It was not only pretty good work, but also an encouraging symbol that his father's passion and legacy can live on in him.

Often when one person survives a tragedy and someone else doesn't there is some guilt in the survivor. Although intellectually I know that I shouldn't, I do feel some guilt each time that I find myself enjoying DH's company. I do not even want to imagine myself in my cousin's position and I feel guilt for that as well. In addition to being the Great Equalizer, death is a strange catalyst for emotions as well as behavior. I suppose wallowing in this guilt would not be a fitting legacy for a man who believed in marriage and family.

Keep my cousin and her children in your prayers and be sure to appreciate the loved ones we have with us.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I love a wedding.

Yesterday, my good friend was married and I don't think I've ever seen a more excited groom in my life. He looked like he was going to cash his lotto check. My friend was elegant and glowing and every detail was meaningful and smooth. And the ministers (a husband and wife team) mentioned John Hope Franklin! How cool is that?! And the food was delicious! I sobbed my way through the toast, and my husband informed me later that I actually turned toward the camera each time I paused to compose myself. And he said I went into the ugly cry. But my children screamed my name (well, they screamed, "Mommy!"--is that my name now?) as I entered the reception with the best man. I wish people were always excited when I entered a room; that was nice. Oh well. I'm happy! With so much bad news, and nearly every week I hear that something awful has happened to someone I know, a moment of joy and love fills me with glee. I still have the warm fuzzies.

Yay for love and shout out to my hubby!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

John Hope Franklin

Insomuch as I am still an academic, I want to acknowledge the life and legacy of John Hope Franklin. His influence and respect are unparalleled both within the field of history and in related fields. His seminal work, From Slavery to Freedom, should be required reading for every single American. I am in awe of his long life and important work.

Franklin's study of history testifies that history is made by those whose lives tell the story. Every day men and women are going about their lives, living well and living poorly. Historians like Franklin remind us that those stories matter, especially to the parents, spouses, siblings, and children whose futures--history in progress--will never be the same after they are gone.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Yummy Mummy

So, lately I've really been feeling like a dumpy mommy. I see the other moms dropping off their children and they look like glamazons--cute shoes, flawless make-up, tailored clothes, fresh hair. Unless I have someplace to be, I'm probably wearing jeans. Who are these women, I've been wondering? Aren't they as tired as I am? Don't they have a stack of clothes that don't fit? And why do they all seem 10 years younger than me? I'm in a wedding this weekend (yay A.!) and I had to rummage through my bathroom for my cosmetics stash. I'm sure I'll need to get a mani/pedi for the event, too, but I don't know even know where to go. Clearly, I have not been doing my womanly maintenance.

Nevertheless, I ran out for lunch today and the guy at the counter said, "Hey, beautiful!" I almost turned around to see who he was talking to. But, since I've learned from The Diva, I just smiled and accepted the compliment. Then, as I was walking out of the restaurant, another guy said, "Hi beautiful!" Two compliments inside of 15 minutes! Now, truthfully, I had just had my brows done, and I was wearing real clothes. Still, I felt a little less like a mom machine. I should probably pay more attention in general to these sorts of things. I forget that there's a payoff. The balance between motherhood and the other roles women play is so difficult to navigate. how are we supposed to do it?

Saturday, March 21, 2009


A collection of random thoughts, unrelated to each other . . . and probably unrelated to anything else; none of these seemed to be worth an entire post, but I thought I'd share:

  • Last night, when I told my daughter that I loved her, and asked if she loved me, she said, "No. I love daddy. Brother loves you." I cannot figure out what to make of that, or even if I should be offended. But it does help explain why she says an unsolicited "I love you" to everyone in the house except me.
  • I just watched a rerun of "A Different World." Man, that was a great show!
  • We spent the day in a different, but nearby, part of the city. The high school there seemed to be building something new in their stadium. None of the schools in the part of the county where we live has a stadium--they all share one. Isn't there something wrong with this? And how does this happen? Don't my children deserve to have neighborhood schools that have amenities and resources, too?
  • Just in case living in this part of the city really does mean that we simply don't deserve good stuff, could someone please pay me enough money so that we can afford to live in the part of the city that does have the good stuff? Or perhaps all of my education is worthless . . . well, not if you ask the student loan people . . . .
  • And one more thing about what people deserve: does having children mean that I just don't deserve significant time every day when I can do what I want without interruption?
  • I bought books at the library book sale today. I get way too excited about books.
  • I got all dressed up this morning and zipped out to a fair for teachers. The lines were literally wrapped around the building and the parking people were sending everyone to some random lot about 900 country miles away. People are seriously looking for work, folks. I gave up and went to Target. In an hour, I went back and drove right up to the building; then they told me that I didn't all the paperwork and they wouldn't see me. Soooo glad I didn't stand in that line!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pull Up Your Pants, Boy!

I received this picture in an email message today:
I hear a lot about young men pulling up their pants, especially in churches. But here's my question: Is this really the scourge that (older) people make it out to be? How much does it matter?
I understand that this pants sagging thing isn't progressive or productive. It's really kind of ridiculous. Boys literally have to hold up their pants with their hands in order to walk. They can't stand with a normal stance because their pants would fall down without widespread legs. Criminals can't sufficiently run away with their pants around their thighs. And one of my former colleagues enacted a policy in her classes that identified underwear bearing as, in effect, sexual harrassment. But is it really related to character? Isn't it just a silly fashion fad, like zoot suits or tie-dyed T-shirts or MC Hammer pants? When people argue that pulling up one's pants will cause (or reflect) a change in work ethic or morality, it's never quite clear to me how the two are related. I've had students whose pants sagged who did their work and came to class and had pleasant attitudes. Many people are eager to point out the widely accepted explanation that sagging originated from prisoners who had their belts taken when they entered the system; sadly, their beltless, sagging pants came to be mirrored by their cohorts when they returned home. If that's true, then one might be able to make an argument based on that connection to bad behavior. But even then, isn't there a complicated matrix of issues at work?
In truth, I do hope that Obama's election will contribute to the end of this trend. My father used to tell us, "Look like somebody!" I believe that the way we choose to present ourselves to the world is at least minimally important. Young men should pay more attention to that. But what I really want is for those young men who wear their pants sagging to have decent schools and meaningful work available to them. I want them to have loving, viable families mirrored for them, and I want them to emulate those families. Reducing these kinds of complex issues down to "Pull up your pants!" is about as silly as walking around with your underwear showing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Color Is My Parachute? Seriously. What Color?

Before I secured my now defunct teaching position at Unnamed University, I was so desperate to figure out what to do with myself that I actually got What Color is Your Parachute and a couple of other career guides. I made charts and lists and drew pictures. I even looked for places to take the Myers-Briggs test that reveals your personality type. For the most part, the conclusion was what I knew all along--my perfect, dream job would be to be a co-host on "The View," especially if you throw some books into the mix.

Since the likelihood of that happening is slim, (at least until Barbara Walters gets a clue and ditches that ditzy Elisabeth--what is the deal?? They just ignore her like she's not even talking most of the time. I would be sooo much more interesting and fabulous as the resident thirty-something. I'd replace Star's "I'm a lawyer" with "I'm a Ph.D." But then, I can't keep popping out babies left and right like Elisabeth, so maybe that's why they won't hire me) I've been thinking about what else I could do with myself. Since the fourth grade, when I missed recess to help a girl with her long division, I haven't imagined myself doing anything except teaching students.

I've read that the average person has several career changes during her professional life. How does that happen? When I read articles on this topic in The Chronicle of Higher Education, for instance, people suggest being open to alternative possibilities, but then they present some story about how a wonderfully fulfilling position fell into their laps out of nowhere. How do I make that happen? How do I get to read, talk about books, and get paid for it? How can I have a flexible schedule without (apparently) being expendable? How can avoid putting my degrees on a shelf if I don't work in higher education? And--dare to dream--how can I find a job that will get a professional to do my hair, make-up, and outfit?

Clearly, graduate schools don't even try to prepare students for careers outside of academia, even though most of us won't ever grasp the brass ring of tenure. So, since I'm on this side of the degree and still on the wrong side of a tenure-track position, I feel like I'm flailing. I would gladly consider some other kind of career if I were qualified for any of them or if they didn't make me want to beat myself in the head. I don't even know what I want to do, much less what I can do. I never thought that more than ten years after my B.A. I would be trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I guess I'll just sit here with a ready lap, waiting for something to fall.

* Totally off topic, The Diva, the Today show just played your theme song, "You Wear It Well"!

Thursday, March 12, 2009



I'm crying and laughing all at the same time. I'm so happy for you and baby girl! I've been in such sadness on your behalf because you can't hold her yet. I can't imagine that any of the other 9 trillion diaper changes will be this special, but the first one is special indeed. I know about your poop aversion, but we'll see what happens. I'm telling you, it's much more fascinating that you'd imagine, especially since it doesn't really stink in the beginning. Plus, it's a great measure of a child's health. But I digress.

Congratulations on one of many, many milestones on this journey.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I am still marveling in the way life changes you (and I'll probably continue marveling for awhile).
It has been my contention since my friends started having babies that new mothers spend too much time talking about poop. Green poop, yellow poop, brown poop, runny poop, exploding poop, poop in potties, poop smeared on walls, poop that smells like a man's poop (which probably earns it a name other than "poop"). I know I told both my sister-in-law and you, SM, that if you don't stop talking about your kids' poop, I was going to start talking about my own. I figured it was just as appropriate. And I maintained that when I became a mother I would not talk about poop unless it was medically necessary (like "OMG, my child has passed purple poop! Should I call the doctor?"). And because I believe in staying true to my word, I am still maintaining that poop talk is off-limits.
In keeping with my commitment, I will not talk about poop or poopy diapers, but I just have to say that I changed my daughter's diaper for the first time last night. I was terrified and I am convinced that I did not do a good job, but I was so happy that I got to do it. I had watched the nurses do it for days and weeks now and only one suggested that I could do it. When she did, I was scared. My daughter is still under three pounds, she's in an incubator on a ventilator and her oxygen levels drop when people touch her. So, I told that nurse to do it herself. Last night, however, a different nurse said, "In about 5 minutes, you can change her diaper and check her temperature." What?!? She did not give me a choice and went on to tell me in the nicest way that I was the mother and I have to get used to doing those things. So, I had to woman-up.
Because she's in the incubator, I had to place my hands into the doors on the side of the bed. I was trying to work quickly to avoid having the doors open for long (germs and all) and to avoid giving her time to drop her oxygen levels. I also didn't want to hurt her (she's so tiny and delicate). I got the new diaper on and the old one off even though she likes to kick, especially when people touch her. Although I unintentionally made her look like a young hip hopper with her underwear sagging off her bottom, it was a nice experience for me. I got to hit a milestone in parenting, do something for my daughter, and have physical contact with her. And although her oxygen levels did go down briefly, they came back up quickly. Maybe she knew it was me.
So, this was not a story about poop--I haven't changed that much--but it was a story about a diaper change and apparently a change in attitude. I still can't believe I was excited about it and excited to tell the tale.
Keep on livin', I guess.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Link for Women's History Month

Here's a brilliant analysis from Melissa Harris-Lacewell about Michelle Obama:


I wish that I had said all of this myself . . . . Enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm Not Sure What This Means . . .

So, here's the difference between mommy and daddy: When a coughing fit early (early, early) this morning woke up my son and then turned into a vomit fit, the retching woke me. (Let's just overlook the fact that he was in our bed--again). He was lying right beside my husband. What did he do when the spewing began? He rolled over. Even when I started to pull off the sheets. Right next to the vomit. Sigh.

Watching "Jeopardy" tonight: I got every answer in one of the categories. Which one you ask? Something to do with being fired . . . I kid you not.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Seen and Not Heard?

Michael Steele needs a spanking. Are you kidding me? I chuckled at his tiff with the apparent leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh. I shook my head just like I do when my children have a huge fight about which sippy cup belongs to whom. But now I'm more disturbed. He apologizes to Limbaugh in such a limp-wristed manner that I wonder where all of his normal intestinal fortitude went. What did he think would have happened if he had said, "No, I meant what I said. " Isn't it true that Limbaugh is an entertainer? Isn't true that he's incendiary? After all, he did say that Michael J. Fox was faking his Parkinson's symptoms. Limbaugh isn't even a politician, so why is anyone obligated to engage in discussion with him? This is what people in the South would call loud-talking: speaking in louder and louder decibels so as to keep an opponent from being heard. Loud-talking doesn't actually demonstrate logical weaknesses in another's argument. It just seeks to stop the argument. That's Limbaugh and conservative talk radio in a nutshell.
I am going to go ahead and say that this demonstrates the real place of minorities in the Republican Party. Does anyone think that he would have ever been elected if Obama hadn't won? They needed an image change and he raised his hand. If I were in a class, I would engage a discussion about silencing and voice. Who came to the defense of Steele? It took about 10 seconds for Steele to realize that he would have to apologize, and he didn't wait another 10 seconds before he commenced to ducking his head. And how many people came to Limbaugh's defense? How many people called for him to apologize for denigrating the leader of his own party? Whatever position Steele has officially won here, he clearly is not valued or respected. I wonder if he's had an epiphany or if he's going to keep towing the party line out on a dingy by himself.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In Medias Res

And you know what else? They think they can just do whatever they feel like to us. Like we don't matter and should just take scraps and crawl away saying, "Thank you sir, may I have another?" Like I haven't worked my rear end off earning degrees that make me qualified and then folks just want to throw me away. You now what? Kiss my grits!--

Oh, wait. You don't live in my head, huh? Let me explain my stream of consciousness type vomit of thoughts. I've just had this epiphany that faculty are the peons of the university setting.
As much as I'm trying to forget about how messy and just wrong my job loss is on a number of levels, my impulse is just to let it go (along with some money that is probably still owed me) and move on. In fact, I received two pieces of promising news lately, so perhaps I'll have somewhere to move to, at least in the short term. But when I think about the way that faculty are often cut out of the shared governance that is supposed to happen in higher education, it reminds me that continuing to work in academia anywhere means that I have to accept a certain lack of control over my own career. So much happens to faculty, from course load to course distribution to office space. Even when rules are followed--and they were not in my situation--it seems that faculty is at the mercy of students and administration, caught in the middle.

There are millions of other thoughts running through my head about the complexities of higher education, but I had this realization about being a worker bee. It feels like a veil being lifted. When I was a student, I had no idea that there was so much behind the scenes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gimme a Break

Ok, sue me, but I'm watching the season finale of "The Bachelor"--don't ask why. I don't know why. Yes, it's ridiculous. I've been trying to pretend that it just inexplicably ends up on my TV. Every week.

I know that I have no reason at to be surprised, but what was all that editing that they've been pushing all season? They showed Deanna, the bachelorette from last season, showing up out of nowhere. Then they show her saying that she made a mistake and that he should look "beyond" when he considers his proposal. All of this manufactured drama was meant to have the audience believe that she wanted him to go rogue and propose to her. Since, you know, he was completely in love with her just last season. So, are the ratings going down or something? All this silly BS of made up crap was unnecessary. Why can't television producers and writers put together shows that are interesting and intriguing without manipulating? The Diva, you've made a similar point before about artistic production.

Oh my goodness. Now the after show is on and he's saying that picked the wrong girl and is still in love with her. He's going to break up with the woman he proposed to on air. Isn't that dramatic enough? Okay, so the whole thing is ridiculous. Even my husband is saying, "Kick him! He sucks!" But I'm in love with love. What can I say?
And is anyone annoyed that everyone keeps calling these women "girls"?