Monday, March 30, 2009

A Mother's Wisdom--Confirmed

Okay, so I had two very cool things happen this weekend that confirmed my Mommy wisdom.

Scene One:

On Friday, hubby and his friend took the kids camping. They were only about 10 minutes away from home at a campsite at the beach, and it was a beautiful, unusually warm evening, so I decided to stop by the campsite after work. The boy had found a cool bug and had it safely stowed in a plastic Easter egg. You may remember from previous posts that my son is a little naturalist, even to the extent that he was a biologist for Halloween. I'm not kidding. He's also a little bit obsessive, so on Friday when he unknowingly dropped his bug and then couldn't find it again, he was distraught. And it went like this:

Me: Well, there's this thing that people say about situations like this: Easy come, easy go.

Him: But it was really hard to find, not easy, and I won't ever be able to find another one. (He can be a bit fatalistic.)

Me: Well, you never know buddy. Things come into our lives, and then they go out. But that's just how life is. You'll just have to wait and see.

So he sniffled some more, and we packed up the beach paraphernalia and went back to the campsite. At which time he discovered hundreds, if not thousands, of the same bug crawling around on the ground and curbs. It was sunset, so he concluded that they must be nocturnal, and he spent the next hour gathering them.* I said, "See Buddy? Easy come. Easy go. Easy come!" And he gave me a big smile.

Scene Two:

The kids were playing near a creek that goes through a nearby town. The boy found a big black beetle. He wanted to save it for a while so that he could show it to his dad, who was meeting us later. But after carrying it around for a while in his little bug trap, he, somehow, accidentally dropped the beetle in the creek and it got swept away. He cried, sad about his loss and the possibility of the beetle's death by drowning. I told him the beetle would be fine, and then I proceeded with this bit of mommy wisdom:

Me: Remember when you were camping and you lost the bug and Mommy talked about "easy come, easy go"?

Him: Yes. (sniffle)

Me: Well, this is like that again. You happened to find the beetle, and you got to enjoy it, but now it's gone. But you'll find something else another time.

Him: (Sniffle). I'll never find another one like that. (See the fatalism?)

Me (deciding to expand on my wise teachings): Sometimes, things have to go out of our lives in order to make room for something new.

Him: Silence.

Me: (Repeating the same sentiment in various forms).

Okay, so then we walked towards the bookstore to meet daddy, little sister in tow. He grumbled about his loss, and I reprimanded the grumbling and also repeated my wise words.

And I'll be damned if five minutes later he didn't spot--on the sidewalk, next to a parking meter--the coolest walking stick bug I've ever seen.

Me: See buddy? Didn't I tell you? Sometimes things go out of our lives in order to make room for something new.

Him: Nodding, smiling, holding his stick bug.

And I basked in the glory of my wisdom, and I thanked the Mommy God or Goddess for this outcome and the confirmation of the wisdom that is Mommy's.

*For discussion of my willingness to allow my son to gather and keep some items from nature, please see my previous post on grasshopper abduction.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

Just finished observing Earth hour, drinking margaritas in the dark with my husband and his best friend who is visiting this week. Now, it seems painful--both to my eyes and to my conscience--to turn on anything brighter than 40 volts.

Night. Night.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

From the Corners of My Mind

Sorry for this lame post, but what is a blog for if not to put random thoughts out in the world--thoughts no one really cares about at all.

Therefore, for your consideration:

  • It's clear that I should probably get serious about losing a few pounds and getting in better shape if shopping for a bridesmaid's dress feels almost like swimsuit shopping.
  • I had the biggest giggle session ever with my kids on Tuesday night when Roo started in with a rendition of "Oh say can you poop." The three of us subequently had a tough time getting through our nightly songs--what with all of the scatological lyrics.
  • I love the White Stripes. They rock. They are brilliant.
  • I started the day thinking I would just have some light pasta for lunch. Instead, I ate some almonds to tide me over, and then my friend/colleague gave me some pizza, and then I had some bite sized milky ways. And I think I might even still have some port and chocolate tonight. But I did save the pasta for tomorrow. Do-over.
  • After 12 years of teaching, I still have no idea how to teach first-yearish college students how to write good argumentative essays with effective documentation. I thought I did, but now I seem to be sucking.
  • I'm finding it difficult to make time to work on my dissertation despite the fact that I love the work. But after a day of work and kids, I also love sleeping and watching TV.
  • I am having a difficult time deciding what to do about Roo's pre-school situation. Too bad she can't just go to kindergarten next year because I think she'll love kindergarten.
  • I think we might have to get Schmoo some kind of reptile or amphibian for his birthday. But not a snake. I am not yet ready for a snake.
  • I hope that next week my husband isn't bedridden. In the last three days, he has sea kayaked, surf kayaked, white water kayaked, surfed, mountain biked, snowshoed, snowboarded, dirt biked, river kayaked, and rock climbed. Am I forgetting anything?
  • As for me, this week I have walked about three blocks total.
  • Twelfth Night is an awesome play.
  • I can't wait to see I Love You, Man

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm Going to Count to Three

Why is it that when I get stern with my children that I do it in cliches? As in . . .

  • "What is with the attitude, buddy?"
  • "Did you hear me?"
  • "What did I say?"
  • "What did I just tell you?"
  • "Do you want to go to your room?"
  • "One, two . . . "
And on, and on . . . It is only with great strength--and perhaps partly because I teach critical thinking courses--that I have avoided saying, "Because I said so."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Vampires, Writing, and Lost Opportunity

Okay. So, I just finished Twilight and have started New Moon. I decided to read the series for two reasons: 1) I have always been fascinated by vampire stories (you'll notice that Bram Stoker is on my author list), and 2) I see my students reading the books, and I thought that reading them might help bridge the gap between my reading and theirs.

Here are my thoughts about the book:

  1. The sentences are not very good.

  2. There is a lot of repetition and redundancy.

  3. The plot compelled me to finish.

  4. Meyer does cool things with vampire myths.

  5. I am disturbed by some of the power/gender dynamics.

  6. After reading it, I feel as if I've eaten too much cake.

And I'm not saying number six in a metaphorical way to highlight the fact that it's candy reading, but I really do feel physically icky. Perhaps it's because I haven't read suspense in a while? Maybe it's some adrenaline kicking in that I'm not used to. But truly, after a reading jag (often before bed), I feel kind of icky and unsettled. Is it the bad sentences or the cool vampire component? Or perhaps it's the unbalanced gender dynamics and the idea of a 17-year old girl who's is ready to give up her life for her boyfriend?

But mostly, when I read it, I think, "Why the hell did I not write this book (or something like this book with better sentences and a stronger female character)?" I have always been interested in young adult literature, and I've been interested in vampire myth (and the history of Vlad the Impaler) for 12 years. And now, Stephanie Meyers, a member of the LDS church (What? How did that happen--that a Mormon writes these books?) who never thought about writing a book, has written books that people gobble up and that have made her rich. Well done, Stephanie.

Some might say, "Yes, but the writing is kind of crappy." Perhaps, but I have become much less of a publishing snob over the years. I still think Danielle Steele sucks, and I haven't touched one of her books since I stopped reading Zoya when I was a senior in college and suddenly realized that the writing sucked (I was a late bloomer). But I have to give props to someone who finishes a book that a lot of people want to read. And even Mary Wollstonecraft argued that reading crap--even romantic crap--is better than reading nothing at all.

These days, I pick up lot of books that I feel as if I'm supposed to want to read. Yes, the sentences are good, so I'm supposed to bow at the writer's feet and feel honored and proud to finish his or her wonderful book. But a lot of times, I find myself thinking, "Okay, so you can write beautiful sentences. But what about me? What about my needs? Where's the plot? Why must I push myself to finish your book? Isn't it your job to make me want to finish your fabulous tome?"

So, in sum. I kind of think the writing in Twilight sucks, but I like some of the vampire stuff, and I appreciate the fact that she wants to excite the reader enought to compel her to move foreward in the book. Call me a philistine if you will, but I'm grateful these days when a writer at least cares about entertaining me.*

But now I must log off, so I can write my own novel in three months and sell it to a top agent and publisher and become very rich, and then I can just write novels in my pajamas all day while I drink chai lattes.

*However, I do hope that Bella gains a stronger sense of self and empowerment in the second book. I am encouraged that, towards the end of Twilight, she tells Edward that she doesn't always want to be stuck in the Lois Lane role. I'm hoping that, as Meyer neared the end of her novel, she started to realize the gender problems (esp. when we're talking about teenage girls here) and that she deconstructs them, to some degree, in New Moon. We'll see.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Like Water Dressed in Brown

I've been thinking a lot about the trappings of adulthood. Some of these thoughts have been triggered by Petunia Face's downsizing and her fantabulously decorated coffee table. During most of my single years (of which there were many), I, too, painted my furniture in funky colors, and my apartment decor from that era could probably be best described as grad-school-kitch or, perhaps, used-bookstore kitch (although certainly not so stylish as other people's kitchy pads). Even when I got a full-time job and bought a condo, entering the beginnings of responsible adulthood, I painted my living room walls red and yellow, and my home office decor was a fun combo of purple and orange. My couch was a futon, and much of my furniture came from garage sales. But while in that condo, I did start to purchase matching furniture from furniture stores. That, I think, was the beginning of the slow and inevitable (?) change.

And now everything is muted and matched. The paint spectrum in my house goes from aspic to mocha. I drive a grey Honda Odyssey. I have matching towel sets (white and brown). The hallway bathroom is grey and white. Granted, I do have bongos in the corner of the living room and a guitar hanging on the wall, but those seem like vestiges of a time gone by, especially since I rarely play any more. And they are sort of canceled out by the glider rocking chair that we got when I was pregnant with my son, which sits in the living room facing the TV. I could blame it on my husband, who likes symmetry, or the kids (the reasons for the glider), but I know it goes beyond my husband's conservative tastes or the need for things to be kid-friendly. I know this because my wardrobe, which I alone pick out, has gone from brightly colored prints to solid brown, green, ivory, and black.

Last week, I was at someone's house who has four-year old twins. A giant wall in the living room was painted with yellow, orange, and red, like a bright, firey sky. Not aspic.

I do not want to romanticize the fact that Petunia Face and her family have been forced to downsize. But as I see her glam-up her coffee table, start driving an older car, and focus on her writing instead of working at other jobs to pay a mortgage, I just wonder why we get so caught up in the trappings of adulthood. Granted, having a retirement fund is a very good thing. I do not sneeze at financial security. Having enough money to pay the bills is not merely a trapping. It's the real deal. But why does this security so often come with muted color tones, ugly athletic wear, and the letting go of dreams?

Or maybe it's just me.

I've been thinking about getting a tattoo.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

25 Most Influential Authors

Okay, so I saw Dr. Crazy's list of her 25 most influential authors, so I thought I'd give it a try. Recently, when I was listing my top 30 albums on Facebook, it turned into a top 50 or so. I've tried to limit myself here in order to really get to the basics. I've been letting the list sit for a while because I have a very difficult time with commitment to these kinds of lists, and I'm terrified that I've left off someone very important. With that fear in mind, you'll understand if I return to this list whenever I realize I've forgotten someone who was pivotal.

Again, these are influential authors. Some of them are favorites, but some of them are here because they changed the direction of my life, scholarship, or writing. Who's on your list?

  1. Louise Fitzhugh
  2. Judy Blume
  3. Francis Hodgson Burnett
  4. Shel Silverstein
  5. L. M. Montgomery
  6. Agatha Christie
  7. Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  8. Mary Morris*
  9. Charlotte Bronte
  10. Edmund Spenser
  11. Thomas Pynchon
  12. Ray Carver
  13. Flannery O'Conner
  14. John Donne
  15. Joseph Conrad
  16. Vladimir Nabokov
  17. Bram Stoker
  18. Annie Dillard
  19. Jane Austen
  20. Queen Elizabeth I
  21. John Keats
  22. Dorianne Laux
  23. Emily Dickinson
  24. Eliza Haywood
  25. Plato

*the travel writer

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Gift to the Medievalists!

Okay, this is a sign that I should keep the blog. Otherwise, with whom could I share this? I'm currently grading a batch of Brit Lit essays. I'm reading one now that is particularly weak. But it does contain this little gem. Enjoy:

"Gawain in a way is a poster child for chivalry, modesty, and the ideas of being a genital knight."


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Vomit Fear: Part Deux

The vomit fear has returned. My fear has been triggered by my daughter's car-bound vomiting session on the way home from having dinner with friends tonight. She had been complaining of a bellyache for about an hour or so but had said it did not feel like an I-have-to-throw-up bellyache. I tend to take her word on these things.

But not two miles into our 20-mile ride home, Blaaaeeeeecccchhhhhh. It took her longer than I thought it would to start crying. I think that was because she was so tired. Her brother calmly informed me, "Roo is throwing up." "Yes, sweetie. I know." I hear it. I smell it.

It took a while before I could find a place to pull off. When I did, I wiped her down, changed her shirt, and stuck a towel over her in case of additional vomiting. As I worked on the problem, she cried, saying, "This is the worst day ever."

We made it home without additional episodes, both kids asleep. She is now in her bed, albeit a bit stinky, with a "throw-up bucket" next to her head. And I am praying that it was a one-off and that we won't be up all night.

Oh, and I took a shower to rinse her vomit off of me and, while in the shower, remembered that I hadn't pulled her car seat out of the car to clean it and the car. But now, I'm clean and it's cold outside and it's late, so it's just going to have to wait until tomorrow. That should be fun. And aromatic.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dear Colleagues

I know that very few of you want to talk about Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment (SLOA). I know that everyone has been doing the duck-and-cover routine for 10 years, hoping all of this nonsense will just go away. Even as people like me have been saying, "Let's just do this so we can do it our way," most of you have been nervous. "They'll hold it against us," you fear. "They just want quantitative data," you say.

Well, look. I'm not in love with this stuff either. But I just spent all of last year editing our 300 page accreditation self-study, which was hard and extremely time consuming and which I thought might cause my husband to divorce me. And now, despite those efforts, our accrediting organization has put us on warning. Yes, I agree. They are whack. But still, we are on warning, mostly because we don't have our SLOA ducks in a row.

So. This whole duck-and-cover thing has cost me time, time I could have used for much better things--more time, I think, that if we just got the job done right the first time. So I've been saying this to some of you lately, and you still don't want to hear it. So, for now, I retreat. I will do some research, keep some notes, and build my little file of ideas in case you come to me and say, "Um, Hey, GoodEnough. What were those things you said about assessment?" And I'll whip out a plan that we can put into action.

But until then, I retreat. I retreat because I don't want to pull your teeth anymore and, plus, I OD'd on committees last year and am over it. And also because, really, I don't care that much. I feel confident that we won't lose our accreditation because, ultimately, the administrators at our college have way more riding on this than I do. Plus, if someone, in their last minute rush to meet the standards, says, "You need to start giving this multiple choice scantron test to all of your students," I'd say, "Okay. Whatever." Because I've realized that I just don't care that much about whether everything goes down perfectly. I still won't teach to the test. I'll still teach the good stuff. My students will learn. And you won't fire me. And, at some point, we could probably fix the problem because bad plans can be reversed. And I will try not to say, "Told you so."

*I don't mean to suggest that "people" and "bloggers" are two, exclusive categories. I do believe that bloggers are people.

Mercy Buttercups

I so appreciate the comments to my last post. I wasn't fishing for reassurance, but I will say that getting encouragement from some people/bloggers* whom I truly respect and enjoy makes me feel like, "Okay. Why Not." I'll just try not to spend too much time at it. Come to think of it, I spend more time reading everyone else's blogs than writing my own. Same for books. Perhaps this is why I haven't written anything of significance in my life even those I've always fancied that I would.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

To Blog, or Not To Blog

So. About this blogging thing. I can't quite remember why I started. Mostly, I think because of my need to proselytize about my whole GoodEnoughWoman philosophy. But now, I'm thinking about the dissertation that I'm not writing, the books I'm not reading, the other blogs that are way more funny and insightful than mine. And I'm wondering if this is something I want to keep doing or not. This blogging. True, when funny little things happen, it's nice to think, "Oh, I can blog about that."

But it all feels a bit narcissitic and unnecessary. Why am I throwing these words out into the world? As far as words go, they're not all that great or special. So. I don't know if I should continue.

Why do you blog? Why do you keep doing it? Ever think about stopping?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Live Action Schmoo and Roo

Okay. Here they are in live action: Schmoo and Roo. Because this is an anonymous blog (mostly), this video will go "poof" before long. /edited to add: BTW, this video was made with the helmet cam feature in a post from last fall, the same helmet cam that was lost at sea about a week ago when my husband attached it to his surfboard and then wiped out, knocking the camera off of the surfboard and into the Pacific Ocean, never to be found again. Thus, last weekend's hotel pool swimming went undocumented.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Early Retirement

We still use a monitor for our kids' room even though they aren't babies. Our house is pretty soundproof with the doors closed, so, without it, we might not hear them when they (occasionally) fall out of bed, vomit, or wake with a fever. The upside of this monitor is that we get to eavesdrop when they wake up in the morning. Here is a snippet from today:

Girl: "Brother, are you awake?" [In reality, she used his actual name, of course. But for the sake of anonymity, I'll proceed with this Berenstein Bears type of allegorical language. In the future, I should probably just use their nicknames: Schmoo and Roo.]

Boy: Silence.

Girl: "Brrooottheeerrr, are you awake?"

Boy: Silence

Girl: "Brrroooootttthhhhherrr! Are you awake?"

Boy (sleepily): Yesterday was a big day. I'm tired.

Girl: [Gasp!] You retired?! That's so great! Congratulations, brother.

Boy: Silence.

Girl: "Congratulations! You retired! I'm retired, too. It's great to be retired."

This little vignette was, I'm sure, prompted by our recent discussions of my step-father's retirement last week and by, I'm sure, listening to my husband and I talk about how great it would be to be retired.