why I love my neighbor

There are several reasons:

1. She runs with me, and today we ran over 11 miles. Huzzah.

2. She allows my unruly children in her house, and her fabulously generous and polite (older, high school-aged) children play with them.

3. She does not mind nor does she begrudge me that my husband has 7 cars parked in the front yard.

4. She hangs her laundry out (making it OK that I do as well)

5. She has not shopped at Wal*Hell in something like over 12 years.

6. She makes signs like this:

Love her.

WBHS Class of 94 Reunion

OK…allow me, for one moment, to feel OLD. My high school 10 year reunion is in two weeks, and I just found out about it. In a vicious ironic twist, Brian and I have already planned to be in VA that weekend to visit his family and celebrate a few birthdays (October is a huge birthday month for us).

So I’m faced with the actual *real* option of attending. Well, I can’t waste the whole weekend checking to see which cheerleaders have pudged up and which partying football players are still drunk and cheating on their then-girlfriends/now-wives. But I do have the option of peeking in on the homecoming game Friday night…and I have the morbid urge to slink in, wearing dark sunglasses, and surreptitiously check things out.

I have one (count ’em, ONE) friend from that HS that I am in touch with. It will be worth it to just see her (she’s in Miami now). But part of me is terrified to face the people who, 10 years ago, pretty much could have cared less about a nerdy non-person. (This is evidenced by the fact that I found out about the reunion by accident, not because someone thought to invite me.) Like, no one will remember me, seriously. So I wouldn’t even need the sunglasses.

Now, granted: I only attended this school for one year, the senior one. And the school graduated upwards of 360 people that year. And the friends I did have were not really the upper echelon-y friends…the people who are now planning the event (and charging $90 a person). The people I hung out with simply could not afford such extravagant superfluity.

Plus, some of the people to whom I would be memorable, I don’t want to, uh…remember. Nor would I want to, uh…introduce them to my husband.

That aside, I’d like to post here a few shout outs…

Joshua…I love you little baby, but damn, do you have to cry EVERY TIME I get up to leave the room??

Hannah…Today you showed me “the snake,” a move you learned in jazz class. Honey, you are a white girl. Whitey white. And yes, we can’t afford it but you can take A THIRD dance class. I’ll simply give up that nasty and expensive habit I have…grocery shopping.

Jackson…Cleaning your room is not the same as shoving the piles of clean clothes from the top of your dresser into the hamper, nor does it involve throwing your matchbox cars into the hallway.

HB…Remember the first bathroom we remodeled? We worked into the wee hours of the morning, hurrying to finish the floor so we could replace the toilet (the only one in the house) before we went to bed. Tonight, as you lay the floor in the ONE bathroom in this house, I wait patiently for you to replace the toilet, and the stabbing pain in my bladder complements the pricking nostalgia in my heart.

Piled Higher and Deeper

I just wasted an entire hour reading comics. This one about working out has little to do with grad school, but everything to do with me.

Hello, Hershey Bar.

There are some REALLY hilarious ones… but they are also kinda scary. Like, yeah, this is me. Except that non of the characters is a mom. At least there weren’t any moms for the hour that I read.

the unbearable pitiability

We went to the orchard yesterday. I love apples! I love caramel apples (CAR MEL, if you’re wondering)! But damn it if they weren’t $2.75 a pop at the orchard. So I bought a $9 bag of Cortlands (red, thick skinned, white tart flesh) and stopped at the grocery on the way home to get my own caramel, figuring I can make them.

Well, I couldn’t. Suffice it to say I’m sitting here, unwrapping caramels, and eating a bite of apple, a bite of caramel, and actually only missing the nuts.

Next time I’ll cough up the $2.75.

And if you’re wondering how I can type the word caramel as many times as I had to for this post and still pronounce it CAR MEL, you’re obviously not from the midwest. 🙂

if everyone had children: some olympic sports

1. prepare a meal with an 11-month-old clinging to calves
2. barf-catch with a bucket
3. speed-shower
4. chase baby up the stairs before he falls, quietly enough so he doesn’t turn around, think it’s a game, and climb faster giggling
5. race to shut the toilet lid
6. race to cats’ water bowl
7. race to pack lunches, make breakfast, brush teeth, wash faces, comb hair, and put bodies on bus
8. one-handed diaper change (while the other hand keeps baby hands from reaching down and squishing in his own mess)
9. compose blog post in under 5 minutes and under the duress of multiple interuptions and constant background noise
10. orienteer through laundry, toys, books, furniture, and other miscellany to find that f$#!*ng binky!!


I came across this quote:

isn’t the university primarily a place for the unfettered expression of ideas? The answer is no. The university is primarily a place for teaching and research. The unfettered expression of ideas is a cornerstone of liberal democracy; it is a prime political value. It is not, however, an academic value

here by Stanley Fish.

How does teaching and research categorically exclude the expression of ideas? I just can’t make it work in my head. Can’t make it work at all.

it’s time to put my behind in the past

I posted an aside a while back about my aversion for agonism. I tend to be a somebody faint of heart—competitions and contests of any sort render me shaking with sour adrenaline. I have worked to overcome this anxiety—I always played sports in high school (varsity softball AND basketball—don’t laugh!!), but I have always been more comfortable with events in which 1) other people didn’t count on me and 2) the stakes were low (like, it’s really OK if we lose).

I guess this makes me sound like a spineless urchin. What a spineless urchin is doing in a graduate program (where the stakes are seemingly high) and working as a teacher (where people count on me) is sometimes a bigger conundrum than I care to consider.

I get through school day-to-day continually reminding myself that I am here (as a student) for my own interests, and that my ability to “win” an A or a degree is less important than the person I am and the growth I experience. I teach as a non-agonist, making the classroom as much of a non-competitive, non-threatening space as possible. This sometimes backfires, as students periodically walk all over me; however, for the most part I find the nurturing environment healthy for all involved. [There is an argument here that I am only peripherally aware of that is something about the teacher-as-mom. I need to find it.]

As a student, I don’t mind being challenged—I don’t mind Socratic dialogue. As a student, though, I DO need to know that my own working through of problems, theories, thoughts, etc will be treated with respect and grace, even if I am wrong or misguided. That is, if I am being asked to respond to or discuss something (as we always are in graduate courses), I have to feel SAFE, or else I find myself unable to manage the cobbling together of more than two words.

And I mean safe in the literal sense—I cannot work if I fear that harm (mental, physical) is a possibility. I have been lucky enough to only have encountered the prospect of harm once, but it was enough to convince me that no one gets any productive work done in the face of danger/threat. I must make the distinction between danger and discomfort, though. Much work gets done during discomfort (yoga! running! labor!).

Some stuff I’ve been reading lately addresses this. In Emotional Design, Norman cites a study by Alice Isen, who concluded: “When you feel good…you are better at brainstorming, at examining multiple alternatives” (19). Norman continues, “[w]e have long known that when people are anxious they tend to narrow their thought processes, concentrating upon aspects directly relevant to a problem. This is a useful strategy in escaping from danger, but not in thinking of imaginative new approaches to a problem.”

Of course, later on Norman outlines that positive affect is necessary for the generative phase of a project, but for focusing on a particular design issue or problem, a certain amount of negative affect is called for, and this is what deadlines do. But I’m not sure I completely agree. I’ll have to return to this later.

There’s also a connection here I want to make between affect/education/economy/politics (via The New Work Order and George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute), but as I have now been summoned by the howls of the youngest, I’ll have to flesh this out later.

family reunion weekend

conversation, induced by a weekend of fast-food consumption, during 6-hour trip back from Winchester, VA:

me: did you notice at Chick-fil-a, that they have a mascot in the playground that is a chicken?

brian: uh huh.

me: yeah, it’s a chicken! can you believe it?!!

brian: uh huh.

me: his name is skippy, or doodle, or something.

brian: uh huh.

me: don’t you think that’s simply bad taste?

brian: huh?

me: a chicken! at Chick-fil-a! that’s like McDonald’s having a cow promote their cow-burgers.

brian: oh.

me: and can’t you see some twisted parent, saying “Look, Billy, this sandwich is what Speedy the Chicken looks like inside! These are Speedy Nuggets!”

me: that’s why McDonald’s has a clown and a Hamburgler and a weird purple Grimace monster thing eating cheeseburgers! a cow can’t eat a cheeseburger! that’s cow cannibalism!

me: Speedy the chicken can’t promote chicken sandwiches!

brian: hey.

me: [out of breath] yeah?

brian: KFC makes skinless fried chicken, right?

me: yeah, I think so.

brian: so what do you think they do with the skin from the skinless chicken?

me: uh…

brian: they should fry THAT up and sell buckets of fried skin.

brian: that would sell like hotcakes.

the problem of categories

Each time I post, the little category pull-down menu glares at me: No Category Selected (!). When I began (keeping/)making track(s), I thought: one thing at a time. We’ll just get some posts going first! How on earth will I know what category a post belongs in/with until there are other posts that it can be different from and similar to?

Today, I add categories! (How corny is it that this excites me?)

Tonight: the dreaded Sunny Days Board meeting!! Apparently, some grandmother is working to sue us because her grandson fell and bruised himself last year. Should be an interesting meeting.

In other news, I have been working on a list of 100 things, but I’m still in the 30s. Nothing ever gets done in one sitting around here!!