12 December 2008

Irreverent Nativity

"Goat Uprising" or "Sheep Go to Heaven...."

30 November 2008

Virtual Silence

I haven't been posting much lately, because I have too much on my mind. The diss needs to be done in 3 weeks, I'm anxious about job prospects, and I still have 3 projects to finish sewing before Christmas. Add to that the fact that I won't be having a big fat Italian Christmas this year--and that my in-laws might not even be coming for a little tiny Christmas--and I just feel like a lot of what I have to write would be angst-ridden and complaint-heavy.

And to be honest, I don't really feel like sending all those negative vibes out into the ether. So I'm taking a bit of a hiatus. At least until January.

12 November 2008

The One Where I Think Maybe the Suck A$$ Job Market is Just a Blessing in Disguise

Today Rate Your Students posted this little gem of a survey:

The study asked approximately 400 undergraduates aged 18 to 25 whether they agreed with these statements:
  • If I have explained to my professor that I am trying hard, I think he/she should give me some consideration with respect to my course grade - 66.2 per cent agree

  • If I have completed most of the reading for a class, I deserve a B in that course - 40.7 per cent

  • If I have attended most of the classes for a course, I deserve at least a grade of B - 34.1 per cent

  • Teachers often give me lower grades than I deserve on paper assignments - 31.5 per cent

  • Professors who won’t let me take my exams at another time because of my personal plans (e.g. a vacation) are too strict - 29.9 per cent

  • A professor should be willing to lend me his/her course notes if I ask for them - 24.8 per cent

  • I would think poorly of a professor who didn’t respond the same day to an e-mail I sent - 23.5 per cent

  • Professors have no right to be annoyed with me if I tend to come late to class or tend to leave early - 16.8 per cent

  • A professor should not be annoyed with me if I receive an important call during class - 16.5 per cent

  • A professor should be willing to meet with me at a time that works best for me, even if inconvenient for the professor - 11.2 per cent.

06 November 2008

The Morning After the Morning After

When I woke up yesterday, I did what I always do. I sleepily retrieved my son from his crib when he yelled for me and brought him into the big bed so we could have our morning cuddle.

"Guess what," I said to him, half expecting him to respond "chicken butt" (don't ask, it's a game I probably never should have started.)

"Guess what."


And I smiled, because he was right. Obama indeed.

I was moved on Tuesday night to see the hundreds of thousands who filled Grant Park in Chicago for Obama's victory speech. I wish I could have gone myself, but being a parent, I had other responsibilities. I was moved to see the people gathered at Rockefeller Center awaiting the election results, and happy to see so many young people excited about the democratic process.

That night, I was proud that we had a candidate that didn't win through the tactics of fear or the propagation of hate. Tuesday night's election was a victory because we had a candidate that inspired people to want to be a part of the process. More than 10% of voters on Tuesday were first-time voters. In a country that usually is apathetic about politics, that is a significant victory. Democracy can only be stronger with more people involved.

The next morning, I was moved to see images in the New York Times of civil rights workers' responses to the Obama victory.

How amazing that men and women who were beaten, arrested, and in some cases even killed, just so they could have the right to vote, could see one of their own elected to the highest office in the land. This is no small victory for the African American community. There was no Bradley effect. There was only a multi-cultural electorate that saw past racial divides to come together and elect a leader.

Yesterday, I couldn't help but be optimistic.

After the 2004 election, I was convinced that the country's problems weren't just Bush's doing. They were the problems caused by a majority of the population that believed that America was better that, superior to the rest of the world, and in that belief of superiority, they elected a leader who was unconcerned about being ethical or moral in our dealings with the rest of the world. They bought into his ridiculous rhetoric about Kerry's elitism (whatever the heck that meant) and voted for someone who couldn't manage to pronounce nuclear correctly, much less think past the false binaries that divide "them" from "us."

But yesterday I was proud of the people in this country. They proved that they were tired of being ruled by fear--the incessant "orange alerts" at airports, the constant warnings that the "evil-doers" are out there gunnin' for us. They proved that America might still be a land where anything is possible for anyone.

And then I realized that voters in three states voted to ban gay marriage. They same voters who believed "yes we can" also decided "no they can't."

In three states, voters decided to take away rights that the courts insisted were inalienable.

So today- the morning after the morning after, my optimism is tempered by sadness. Because we still have a long way to go to prove to the world that we believe all men really are created equal, that all men have the rights to life, liberty in the pursuit of happiness. That my son will have the right to marry whomever he deems worthy of his love.

It took until 1967 for couples of different races to be allowed to marry. Maybe someday we'll get to the point where we can truly see all people as equal. Where we can offer the same civil rights and liberties to everyone, regardless of age, race, creed, or sexual orientation. It may be a long time in coming still, but I have to believe that

Yes, we can.

04 November 2008

Yes We Did

For the first time in at least eight years, I feel like it might be possible to once again be proud of this country.

02 November 2008

This Tuesday

Because for the last eight years, our country has been focused on fear rather than possibility...

Because trickle-down will never work in an open economy...

Because forty-five years is too long to wait for a dream to come true...

Because we cannot afford another eight years of an ill-conceived and illegal war...

Because "women's health" is not a euphemism for killing babies...

Because activist judges come in conservative flavors too, and the Supreme Court is supposed to protect the Bill of Rights, not undermine it...

Because universal health care isn't just a pipe-dream...

Because ordinary people deserve a tax break--not the top 5 %...

Because abstinence-only programs just don't work, they just lead to more abortions...

Because community service should count as experience...unless you think the poor don't count...

Because same-sex couples shouldn't be denied the rights and privileges that I have...

Because parents do have a responsibility for their children's education....

Because energy independence and green power aren't just national security issues, they're ethical issues...

Because the office of the President shouldn't be above the law...

Because our seniors have worked too hard to put social security into the stock market...

Because the protection of our troops and their medical treatment once returning home have been shameful...

Because a more diverse electorate means a stronger democracy...

Because the sins of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib need to be remembered and atoned for...

Because we're all a nation of immigrants, and we need reform that doesn't demonize new ones....

Because helping the poor isn't socialism, it's Christian. We are our brothers' keepers....

Because I want my child to grow up in an America he's proud of. One that takes care of those who can't take care of themselves. One that sees the environment as our responsibility. One that won't deny him his right to marry whomever he likes. One that won't keep him from attaining his dreams. One that sees America as part of a larger world, not the only think important in the world.

Because no matter how many years you spend in a rat hole in Vietnam, there is no excuse for race-baiting. There is no excuse for playing on the long history of racial fears just to get into office. There's no excuse for using fear to move into the future.
Because maybe, just maybe, hope can be more than a slogan, and change can be possible.

31 October 2008



Tomorrow's Halloween. Do you know what we do on Halloween?

Yeah! We det some tandy!

And who are you going to be?

I be SUPER WHY!!! And you be NOTHING!

29 October 2008

Random Bullets

  • I love fall- love it. The trees are turning colors, the air is crisp, we have three happy jack-o-lanterns all ready for the trick-or-treaters, and it's almost time to put away the outside toys and furniture.
  • Obama is ahead in the polls--yipee. I'm still not holding my breath yet, but I'm hoping that in a week, maybe I'll be excited about this country again.
  • Now that my applications are all finished and mailed away, it's a matter of waiting. And waiting. But I did get a request for a writing sample and recommendation letters from a school I thought was a long-shot, so that makes me feel slightly better.
  • We have an opossum. It lives somewhere around here, but it comes to our backyard at night and uses it as its latrine. It's like having a dog--and I don't have a dog, because I have no interest in shoveling up something's cr@p. But here I am, shoveling up something's cr@p.
  • I should work more, but I'm addicted to reading. I keep telling myself it's just research for the book I'll write someday... you know, plan C and a half.
  • I need to get back to work--I have a conference to attend in 2 weeks and I haven't written the paper yet. Blech.

22 October 2008

The Pursuit of Happy-ness

In a recent post on RateYourStudents.com, a person responded to a question about whether to tell prospective grad students the truth about their job prospects by saying:

"Anyone who advises someone into graduate school should be sent to advise young men and women to volunteer for active military service in Afghanistan, because their chances of happiness are better there."

I'm feeling that right about now. But at the same time, I can't help but think that if I had known my job prospects would be so dismal, I still would have done the degree. I can honestly say, I didn't know. When Mountain State recruited me for my MA, they showed me an impressive list of their job candidates from the last 8 years--97% were in tenure track jobs within less than three years. You'll get a job coming out of this school, I was assured. By the time that I came to Prairie state to do my PhD, I knew that the market was rough, but I also "knew" that people who were well prepared, with publications and teaching experience, could still do just fine.

Maybe they can, in theory. I'm not so big on theories lately.

The bottom line is that I don't think anyone who wants to go to grad school should be dissuaded from going after an advanced degree. I have come to believe, at least for the humanities, that there needs to be a bit more honesty about what it is you're going to do with that degree.

In my field, people don't get non-academic jobs. Or at least, that's the myth. Instead, people stick around in adjunct hell, basically with about as much standing in the department (and funding) as a public school substitute teacher. But that's the dream, right? Just keep teaching part time to pay the bills and someday that little liberal arts college in the sky will learn of your existence and come to find you.

Once you're out, you're out. Right? And getting out means giving up on being an intellectual. Right?

I can see why people adjunct, really, I can. They get to keep doing what is comfortable for them--teaching, hanging out in academic buildings, reading obtuse theory. And if you're happy making a living doing that, then I think it's great.

But I also think that part of the misery of the job market could be ameliorated if grad students got more guidance with non-academic jobs. You know, the kind that only give you 2 weeks vacation a year and make you wear *gasp* suits to work. Five or more years of living the grad student life--even though you really do work around the clock--can make anyone nervous to leave it behind. The scheduling freedom is a wonder in and of itself.

I can't help but think, though, that hundreds, probably thousands, of smart, capable PhDs are adjuncting because they don't know what else to do. That to leave the halls of academia is to become a failure. There are moments, for me, when it surely feels like that. And then I think about how exciting it might be to get up every morning and go into an office, to have a job with retirement benefits and health insurance that includes a prescription plan and allows me to see a doctor that specializes in something other than mono and STDs. In a real doctor's office.

Because it's true that it would be miserable to be on the market for four years, as the writer above is/was. But it must also be true that it's possible to take your time in grad school as your first career, the one that most people aren't lucky enough to have, and to go out and find something else that makes you just as happy. Right?

13 October 2008


I have a dissertation to finish, a job to find, and a house to clean. So what have I been doing?

And this too:

What is a Racist?

Things on the campaign trail are getting heated. In rallies for McCain and Palin, supporters are getting downright mob-like. In different rallies people have chanted "kill him" and "off with his head," calling Obama a "terrorist." The McCain campaign's response:

"I think there have been quite a few reporters recently," said Mr. McCain's closest adviser, Mark Salter, "who have sort of implied, or made more than implications, that somehow we're responsible for the occasional nut who shows up and yells something about Barack Obama."

True. I don't think that McCain can be responsible for his supporters' preconceptions, but I think that the McCain campaign's decision to pretend that they aren't responsible for the anger emanating from these rallies is disingenuous at best.

We don't get a lot of political campaign ads out here in prairie state, so when I was in Ohio recently, I was surprised and fairly disgusted at the ads that I did see coming from the McCain campaign. In particular, there was an ad talking about Obama's goal to raise taxes for all Americans. As the ad lists the many, horrible taxes that Obama will raise, a dark shadow creeps over the image of Washington, DC, engulfing first the Capiltol, and then the rest of the city. The ad ends with that same dark shadow slowly engulfing a sleeping baby.

I really don't think it takes someone with an advanced degree to see the symbolism here-- dark shadow engulfing a white baby? What the heck does that have to do with taxes? It's a scary image, especially for a country that has a long history of fearing blackness and darkness.

Coincidental? Perhaps...if it wasn't for the fact that it isn't a singular instance. In his Sunday Op-Ed piece, Frank Rich writes, "when the McCain campaign ran its first ad tying Obama to the mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Rather than make its case by using a legitimate link between Fannie and Obama (or other Democratic leaders), the McCain forces chose a former Fannie executive who had no real tie to Obama or his campaign but did have a black face that could dominate the ad’s visuals."

But here's the problem, in the same editorial, Rich claims unequivocally, "McCain is no racist."

Really? Why is that? Because he, himself, has not specifically called Obama a "terrorist"? Because he doesn't outright call him a "n*#ger"? Oh wait... we're not supposed to use that word, right? We're supposed to say "racial epitaphs were hurled." Right? Use that passive voice to remove all blame from the people doing the hurling, and of course, never mention that someone might still use that *gasp* word in public.

This is what is utterly frustrating about the whole issue of race in this campaign. McCain's campaign, especially through the seemingly-unassuming aw-shucks Palin, has succeeded in playing into Americans' fear of the other. It's improper to talk about someone's race, but we can replace race with the term terrorist. We don't need to call Obama a n*#ger. We have something much better at our disposal: we can call him a terrorist. Because, hey, it's permissible not to simply hate or fear terrorists, but to kill them.

So in one breath McCain says that Obama is a family man and a good person, and in the next he refers to his link with Ayers, a known terrorist. Connect the dots.

But McCain is nor racist, right? Haven't we gotten to the very enlightened place in America where no one is a racist? Or at least no one who doesn't where a bed sheet and burn crosses in people's yard. That must be the definition of a racist, right?

I don't think so, and I think that because being racist is so taboo, racism has become more insidious than it was before.

Obama can't bring up the McCain campaign's dirty games. McCain doesn't have to be responsible for the supporters that his rallies stir up. He's certainly not a racist, just because he is willing to come out on stage and pretend that nothing is amiss when a preacher giving a blessing in Iowa prayed,

"I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god - whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah - that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons...And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day."

Nope, nothing wrong with that. Obviously McCain's not a racist just because he benefits from the ire raised by these kinds of speakers and this kinds of crowds. He's just a coward.

09 October 2008

Why was it that I didn't go to law school?

I have the great pleasure of looking for a job in the middle of the worst economic meltdown in a very, very long time.

Oh- and did I mention that I'm in the humanities. You know, the "useless crap" courses that the "make" you take in college. So there's a big demand for me. Right.

At first I was fairly freaked out. ok, totally freaked out. I'm sending out 20 applications so far--not a huge number considering the 100s of us freshly minted PhDs that will be out there this year. That definitely makes me nervous, because even coming from a top-20 program, the odds are decidedly not in my favor.

I'm slowly, but surely letting go of that, though. I should know by Christmas if I have interviews. If I have interviews, I have a real shot. I'll know by March or so if I have campus visits. If I have campus visits, my odds just skyrocketed. And if I don't, or if I don't have very many, I have a good 2 months before the University stops paying me to find something else to do.

I'm lucky in one respect--I could stay on as a student next year. This might actually be a smart move if I took that extra year to add a chapter or two to my dissertation that makes me eligible to apply for contemporary or 19th c. jobs. The problems? 1) I don't want to pay for daycare if that's the case-we could use that extra $5000+ a year in other ways. 2) I'd still be a student--albeit with health insurance. 3) Doesn't really allow for a baby-- you really can't be showing when you're interviewing. 4) There's no guarantee that another year will make any difference and I'll just have more student loan debt to show for it.

But I have other options- I could adjunct. My department will supposedly "support" me for 2 or 3 years after I graduate. I don't think that includes health insurance, though. I also really, really want that to be my worst case scenario. Really. It puts me at a disadvantage in terms of scheduling, class assignments, and seniority. Blech.

But I could also go find something else to do. Right now, staring at 150 pages that badly need revising and another 50 or so to write, something else is sounding mighty good to me. Mighty good. Also a bit terrifying. But lots of people retrain and get different jobs, right??

Damn, if I only had some fabulously rich long-lost relative who could bequeath me their fortune, I could fall back on my master plan of moving somewhere near water and opening a B&B not decorated in the usual Victorian frillery. Not happening.

So I'm applying and waiting and wondering what comes next. But it's getting better. Really.

03 October 2008

Random Bullets

It's been a while, but I honestly just don't feel much like writing anything of real substance. So here are some random updates:

  • We spend most of the last week and a half back in OH for J's grandpa's funeral. It was a lovely service, but there seemed to be so little emotion. Just very, very odd for me.
  • Applications are going out daily now. I know I've proof-read them multiple times and gone over them even more just for content, but there's still that little voice in the back of my head wondering if I missed a typo that will make me look like a complete moron.
  • There still aren't very many jobs-- less than 30 right now, including post-docs or fellowships, but some of them are in decent places. I guess.
  • Little man is getting spots. Not bad spots, tiny little freckles here and there. He has 3 right now. I'm not sure when they popped out, but there they were one day. Strange to watch him change and to realize that he's not a baby anymore.
  • The "Steve Songs" on PBS is just kind of creepy.

24 September 2008

Please, God, Shoot Me Now

I just spent 8 hours trapped in a car.

For the last three of those, I had a two-year old talking constantly:

"Mama...memember went to car wash? Memember soap bubble? Green bubble. Pink bubble. I see towel. Mememeber see towel? 'ellow and bean towel? Memember?

Seriously folks. For three frickin' hours.


Non. Stop.

He's still not in bed.

He's still talking. Standing here next to me. TALKING.

I thought this whole talking thing would be cute.

Not so much.

19 September 2008

Job Market Blues

I bought a big old box of envelopes. I figured it would be more economically frugal, since it cost just over twice what two small packets cost.

I bought the big box because I had expected to wake up on the morning of the 12th and sign into the magic database and see before my eyes a long list of places that I might someday work. I expected to need to send out 40, 50, 80 applications if necessary.

But on that morning, I was greeted with only about 15 places to apply for next year. Two of those are far out my league, and 3 or 4 of them having teaching loads that look downright dreadful. That leaves, so far, maybe 10 places where I have a shot.

It was disappointing, to say the least.

Every week the list is updated. Every week there might be more jobs.

Guess how many there were today?

2-- and those are both a stretch.

This could be a very, very bad thing indeed. I'm out of funding this year. I graduate this coming spring. And I really, really don't want to be an adjunct somewhere.

14 September 2008

And Now A Word From My Resident Economist

[Yeah- he's really an economist. Really. Like with advanced degrees and everything.]

The following is a guest post from J-

3 Simple Reasons to Vote for Obama

(All of which have NOTHING to do with Sarah Palin.)

1. For your own personal gain.
Obama’s tax plan will provide a larger tax cut for a majority of Americans. That means if you make less than $111,000 a year, you will get a BIGGER TAX REBATE under Obama. Meanwhile, the big winners in McCain’s tax policy are people making over $2.8 million a year. Obama’s plan also includes a $1,000 Emergency Energy tax rebate IN ADDITION to the tax cuts for next April. Unless you are a multi-millionaire, a Democrat in the White House is more cash in your pocket, which will certainly help to cover those rising energy and food prices.

2. To preserve your livelihood.
Ok, maybe this one is just for the teachers. In the realm of education policy, there are two ways to encourage better performance from our public school system: the carrot and the stick. McCain, with his strong support for vouchers, prefers the stick. If schools don’t perform they lose students, and more importantly, they lose money. Obama provides the carrot. Pay incentives for teachers who help to improve test scores as well as more of a focus on training and retaining good qualified teachers. The plan is comprehensive and effective, and the National Education Association agrees saying that when it comes to education policy Obama “gets it”. When thinking about our public school teachers, ask yourself, which would you prefer to face when you go to work—the carrot or the stick? And which ones would you want teaching your child?

3. For the future.
I could talk about a lot of things here. Obama has a superior plan to help protect the environment for future generations. He also has a well thought-out approach to foreign policy to ensure future stability and peace for this country while minimizing the harm to our youth in the military. But I think the most important issue facing us and our children is the issue of health care. Obama understands that government intervention is necessary to ensure greater access to health care. McCain believes the market can solve the health care crisis. Given these two approaches, I can say without reservation that McCain is wrong (and I can line up a whole bunch of economists and health policy experts to back me up on this). When relying on the market, individuals depend on employers to provide health care coverage. When I think about my child’s future, I want to know that he does not have to pick his career based on health insurance benefits. I want him to pick a job because it fulfills his dreams and aspirations in life and not because it is the only way he can provide health care for him and his family. Only with Obama’s health care plan is this vision for future generations even remotely possible.

So there you go, three simple reasons to convince anyone who is still on the fence, and I did not even mention Sarah Palin once---err. . .oops.

10 September 2008

Call Me an Elitist. No, Really, I Want You To.

The campaigns are spending a lot of time talking about "small town values" and people who are "real." The Republicans jump at any chance to call Obama an elitist, even as Bill O'Reilly took him to task in a recent interview for "stealing from the rich to give to the poor" when he talked about giving tax cuts to 95% of people. Doesn't sound all that "elitist" to me, but apparently there's something about arugala that I missed...

The whole draw to Palin is that she's "just like me." She "understands what I'm going through," because she's just a regular person. One pundit (I'm put the link up when I find it again) took Obama's camp to task for critiquing the fact that she went to 5 different colleges before finally graduating from one. See-- a regular person, just like you and me... oh, wait. Not like me at all.

Anti-intellectualism has been a cultural truth in our country for at least 100 years. They were already writing books about it back in the 1930s. Intellectuals were regarded with suspicion-- they couldn't be "real men" because they didn't make their living doing "real" work. Reading and writing and thinking didn't constitute the type of work that allowed someone to fashion himself as a self-made man--the epitome of American Manhood.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and not much has changed in terms of the American imaginary. But a lot has changed in practice. Since the end of WWII, an unprecedented number of people have attended and graduated from American Universities, but in many ways the degrees they've attained are not the same degrees given out 80 years ago. Rather than this new population rising to meet the challenges of a rigorous Liberal Arts education, University's changed to meet the needs of their new graduates.

Take English as an example--at one time, students were expected to know the classics, in their original languages, and understand how those classics informed literature. With the 1950s came a push for the "New Criticism." Suddenly, all you needed to know was in the text itself. It wasn't a straight causal relationship, but there was a relationship between that transformation. Don't get me wrong--I'm fairly happy that I don't need to know Greek and Latin to do what I do, but the overall effect of the influx of new students wasn't to make a more intellectual population. Instead, it made college into job training.

I see it in my own students every semester. They're not taught to see college as a learning experience for the good of their intellects or characters. Students most often pick majors that will make them money-- that's why business colleges are so huge in Universities. They give out practical, real-world information. (Except that they don't.)

This is a very personal issue for me. My family seems to be proud of the fact that I'm getting a Ph.D., but really only in an abstract way. For them, being a college professor will never really be any different than being a High School teacher. Actually, some of them think it makes me less qualified to be a HS teacher--less important than they are. They won't see a distinction between them, especially since I probably won't be getting paid that much more than one--at least at first. They won't understand that getting a Ph.D. in English doesn't prepare me to read a textbook--it prepares me to write them. They already don't like it when I talk about things that I know, because a HS english teacher shouldn't know any more about politics or history or culture than they do. It makes me into a know-it-all who doesn't know anything. Except that now, I really actually do know quite a lot.

But the ambivalent reaction of my family to my chosen profession is mirrored in the entire country's reaction to the Obama campaign and Palin draw. They forget that it should mean something to have gone to Harvard, to have been a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. That Palin's stupid quip about not knowing what a VP does should make her look ridiculous--especially since she has a polisci minor.

Instead, we live in a country where we strive to get our children into colleges--4 year, of course, because nothing less will do--but where we don't place any actual importance on those degrees. We live in a country so obsessed with the appearance of equality that we food ourselves into thinking that one type of education and knowledge can't be more important than another. How dare Democrats say that Palin's education isn't good enough?!? Obama must be an elitist. Except that the President is supposed to defend and uphold the constitution, wouldn't it be nice if they understood the history of Constitutional Law??

So call me an elitist. Because we've already had 8 years of a "just like me" president who barely passed his way through business school. Because that didn't work out so well. Because I don't want the average Joe-shmoe to lead our country. Because I want a president who has an extensive education that has trained him or her to think well and deeply about the complications of the world we live in, rather than relying on us v. them arguments. Because I believe there is value in intellect and silly chants like "drill, baby, drill, leave me cold and disgusted. Because I want my leaders to be better than me, smarter than me, more intellectual than me--not less.

Our founding fathers weren't everyday Joes. They were brilliant, learned men who had a specific distrust of the masses. It's why we have the electoral college; they just didn't trust that the average mass of people could really be trusted to make the best decisions for the country. I used to think that was fairly narrow-mined of them, but more and more I'm starting to think they were right.

In the end, though, wanting a candidate to be educated and intellectual isn't wrong. Sure, education doesn't make someone a better person than someone else, but it can and should prepare them for things in ways that "average folk" just aren't prepared to deal with.

Your Happy Baby

I don’t have a baby anymore. Little Man is resolutely beyond the stages of babyhood, so I really don’t pay much attention to parenting books about infants as much anymore. Recently, I found a book that I couldn’t resist picking up....

Continue Reading...

09 September 2008

Random Bullets

  • I *heart* the new piano bar in town. J and I had a birthday date night on Saturday and we checked out the new dueling piano bar. The drinks could be stronger, but the bar itself was so much fun! The crowd was a little old at first--and not the fun old, the sit- on- their- buts- and- don't- even- bother- to- clap old. But it picked up as it got later. Can't wait to go back.
  • Speaking of birthdays, J made me this flourless chocolate tart for mine. mmmm.
  • The job search is on! and I'm absolutely freaked out by it. Because now I have to send out my materials, which are fine when they're just files on my computer. Once they're sent out, though, I have to just sit and hope. I'm really not the most patient person.
  • J is getting obsessed about the upcoming election. He's really worried that McCain will win. I just can't find any emotion to worry with. Not after 2004. The whole 2004 election completely confirmed to me that the vast majority of people in this country are either too lazy or too stupid for their own good. It confirmed that Americans, in general, are unintellectual and ill-informed, and gosh-darn-it, they like it that way. How else can you explain the fact that W won? So I can't even be worried. I'm just assuming that the Republicans will pull out some slimey scare tactics to play on people's fears (they're good at that, you know). And Americans will buy it, because it's easier to be afraid and to listen to someone's oversimplifications than to actually go out, learn about the issues, and THINK FOR YOURSELF.
  • Speaking of which, I'm currently in the market for a "My mama's for Obama" t-shirt for x to where around my family when we're back in Ohio in October. hee hee.
  • Speaking of Ohio- J may be taking an emergency trip back there this week. There's something up with his grandfather's health, and he's getting worried that no one is taking care of it because of family politics. J's not the most assertive guy, so when he starts raising his voice on the phone to his mom, you know that something is totally out of whack back there. I'm just hoping that someone takes care of something before his health gets any worse-- such a sweet old guy.
  • It all makes me realize just how formidable my own grandma is. She took care of her own father and father-in-law for so long. It must have been hard--very, very hard. Stay at home mom, high school grad, and republican--and she's probably more formidable than any feminist out there. Much stronger than I'll ever be, I'm sure.
  • Did I mention that the job market it starting up??

04 September 2008

Would the real Dick Cheney Please Stand Up

Dear Ms. Palin and republic cronies everywhere,

In last night's caustic speech, you criticized Barack Obama by claiming:

"Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?"

Let me just say that if this is a country where we stop worrying about reading people their rights, I want out...immediately.

The moment we forget that our enemies are human, the moment we treat them as though they do not breathe and hope and hurt just as we do, is the day we become something truly evil. I do not want to live in a country where we are so weak, so afraid, so hateful that we cannot afford the most basic human rights to even the most despicable human.

That my dear Ms. Palin is what used to make us better than whatever it was lurking out there. That is what made America a land of promise--that we saw all people as...people. Humans that deserved the same treatment as any other human.

But when we strip away rights-- in the name of fear and of "protection"--we do not make America stronger or more safe.

We simply become one of the bad guys.

And that is unforgivable.

02 September 2008

Let the Mommy Wars Begin

I was watching Meet the Press on Sunday and I was struck by how much emphasis that certain journalists were putting on Palin's role as a mother. Specifically, DAvid Gregory, NBC's chief White House correspondent told the panel, "This is a woman who's got five children and is the governor of Alaska. I think she's figured out the work-life balance that a lot of women struggle with....She went into labor and got on an airplane to go back to Alaska. That's pretty cool. "

I did one of those double takes you see in cartoons.

First-- not "pretty cool." That's what I would call extremely, extremely stupid. What person in their right mind who thinks they're in labor and has a hospital nearby chooses to board a plane for a long flight to Alaska? Especially if this is your 5th child. Not cool-- stupid. Very, very stupid. It shows a complete lack of judgment about the safety of herself and her child--a child she already knew had medical complications. You're not supposed to fly your third trimester-- airlines won't let you on the plane without a doctor's note. You're definitely not supposed to get on a plane when you are in LABOR.

Her lack of judgment aside, though, Gregory's analysis is a lot like much of the statements I'm hearing about Palin right now. The one woman on The View this morning actually said that her being a mother of 5 was the only preparation she needed to run the country. It's very, very surreal to me.

Because here are the facts--in this country, at this moment, having a child--in most occupations--does not mean you get a promotion. It means that you are seen as a liability. I know this personally. I know that I need to keep any pictures or mentions of my little guy off of my web pages and out of interviews because, at least in my line of work, having a kid might cost me a job. In my line of work, where jobs are hard to come by, having a kid might send the wrong message--that I'm not serious about my work, that I won't be a productive part of the department, that I'll want to someday stop the tenure clock, that there are a lot of other candidates out there with similar qualifications who are more "stable" in terms of productivity.

It's not just my occupation that puts mothers at risk. The statistics don't lie. Women with children make even less than men than women without children do.

So I'm torn. Because part of me loves that finally the general consensus is that a working mother can be better suited for a job-- smarter, tougher, harder working. That her ability to balance work and family can be an asset rather than a liability. But I also know that rhetoric can be very, very empty.

News services can't exactly question her ability to perform her duties because she's a mommy. It's not PC. Sexism is bad.

But just because the media seems to be portraying working moms as the country's answer to everything doesn't mean that it changes the reality of working mothers.

Enter the mommy wars. It's already starting, as evidenced by this NY Times Article about mothers' reactions to Palin's candidacy. On one hand, mothers identify with her and admire her. On the other, mothers are speaking up and out about her decisions and the way she balances work and family.

I had many of the same reactions. Because the truth is that balancing work and family means making sacrifices. It has to. There are not enough hours in the day to be the kind of full-time mothers that women could be in the 1950s and the kind of full-time careerists that men have always been able to be. Maybe there is a superwoman out there that can do it all and never flinch. From my own experience, I doubt it.

I do good work-- I know I do. But I also know I could have graduated a year ago if I hadn't had my son. I also know that I don't--not can't, but won't--work as much as some of my peers because 3:30-8:30 every day and all weekend is family time. Period. I also know that I'm missing something by bundling my little guy off to daycare everyday. That someone else has a knowledge of his secret life that I do not. I only see the evidence of it later--things he says and does that I know I didn't teach him.

I'm not saying that Palin can't do it. I'm not saying that I don't want her to be able to do it (balance work and family, that is, not get into the White House). I'll be honest- I have serious, serious doubts. At only 4 months after delivery, she's still at risk for post pardum. With a child with special needs and a teenage daughter who is also expecting, one would thing that she'd want to be there for them first. Those are her choices- fine. But it disturbs me that one woman's political rise has suddenly made millions of other women's daily struggles seem eviscerated. As though they don't even exist.

I think that's the real reason the mommy wars are beginning. This Cinderella story is just that--a story. It may be Palin's reality, but the reality for women across this country is that it does matter if you have a child, but not in the way that journalists and the political analysts are spinning it.

Trust me on this one. Not a single person is going to be impressed if I tell them that my dissertation was completed with a two-year-old in the background. It's not a job qualification for anything else--why should it be for the Vice-Presidency?

Or maybe it should be a qualification, but I don't think that a single woman's rise is going to do a single thing for the rest of us.

31 August 2008

So very, very tired

Would someone please explain why we would want a maverick for president?

Is it just the raw sex appeal?

29 August 2008

Phyllis Schlafly was a Woman Too...

And see where that got us?? Well, at least there aren't any of them un-i-sex bathrooms that will be the undoing of the American Family.

Oh... yeah... I forgot about those

But seriously, McCain's VP nominee is just plain insulting.

The woman has very few credentials. She's the governor of a state with less people in it than more than 10 American cities. Sure, she's pushed ethic reform, but she's also under investigation for ethic violations.

Yeah. Really.

So why did McCain pick a woman that he's only met six months ago and only met with once? hmmmm....could it be because she's a woman?? Could it be that McCain's camp is trying to get those disgruntled Hillary supporters by upstaging Obama's less-than-exciting pick of Biden?

Because if that's the case--and it sure looks like it is--McCain is playing a game of identity politics that are completely ridiculous considering the state this country's in. He, apparently, thinks that women can't tell the difference between policy and pandering.

I love that my mother-in-law is pissed off by his pick. hee-hee. So much for getting the second-wavers behind him. Now if the rest of them are just as smart.

But seriously, this is just ridiculous. If McCain's elected, and there's a good chance he will be*, this woman--with absolutely NO experience in the national or international arena will be second in line as president. And at McCain's age, with McCain's past health concerns, this is a real issue. She didn't even have a passport until 2007.** This is a woman who last month couldn't even answer a reporters questions about her prospects for being VP. She told a reporter:

"As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration."

Um... they serve as president of the senate... shouldn't a person with a poli-sci minor KNOW THAT?!?!

Holy cr@p.

If his ant- women and anti-family policies aren't bad enough--voting against equal pay for equal work, believing that the market can somehow correct the health insurance issues our country faces, his anti-choice stand--he's now proved that he has very little respect for women's intellects. Because to pick such an unqualified candidate, he apparently thought that women would believe that simply picking a woman was enough.

In her speech today she said, "“It turns out that women in America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."

Um...no. Being used as a pawn in the big-boys' political games does not count as breaking through the glass ceiling. Being hand-picked by a man to help out his ticket because you have a vagina does not count as breaking through the glass ceiling. Being second in command to said guy does not count.

It's silly and insulting and downright scary. Because if McCain gets elected and keels over, this woman would be our president. And if that happens-- I'll be looking for jobs in some other country, because this country will officially be certifiable.

*After 2004, I basically have no hope left that the American people even pay attention to more than one issue at a time. Abortion? Gay Marriage? Of course- THOSE are the problems we need to really worry about!
**J keeps saying- "I have more

26 August 2008

Please, Please Tell Me This is Just a Phase

If only babies came with manuals and toddlers came with warranties.

That terrible whining noise that my two-year-old is making should definitely be enough to send him back to the manufacturer, if one existed. I take comfort in knowing that this is just a phase. That’s what people keep telling me, at least.

Continue Reading

25 August 2008

Wordless Mondays

...when you're just too tired and overwhelmed to start anything...

The View From Our Room

Best Food We Had All Week

Our Last Day of Sunshine

All Smiling At the Same Time, For Once

Just in Case You Didn't Believe Me

X with his Cousin K

X and Grandpa by the Shore

23 August 2008

Home at Last!

Or... things we've learned about family vacations-

1. Don't go to the beach during a tropical storm unless you enjoy sitting indoors...a lot.
2. Four days is really the maximum that you should require anyone outside of your immediate family to be with you. Five is pushing it. Six and seven are right out.
3. Do buy alcohol in large quantities. Be sure that it can be blended into a fruity or creamy concoction once the kids are in bed. Trust me, there are some things that beer just doesn't work for.
4. Do bring a sharpie. Label your food. Label your stuff. Label your child if need be. It's disappointing when someone eats your child instead of their frozen pizza.
5. If a house has an elevator, you have a 50% change of not getting stuck between floors. Please see number 3 before entering.
6. Sand can, indeed, get into places you didn't know your two-year-old had. A diaper rash will make that worse.
7. Two-year-olds with southern accents are adorable. Be careful not to pick one up yourself. (The accent, not the two-year-old).*
8. Other people's children are not as cute/smart/well-behaved/clean/interesting/talented as yours. But that's ok-- sometimes the Silver is fine.
9. There should be treadmills attached to vacation food. Especially vacation food that is battered and fried or that comes with a side of melted butter. mmmm butter.
10. There's a reason that the Chevy Chase movies about family vacations are classics. Even if you don't have a Cousin Eddie.

*not that there's a thing wrong with southern accents-- you just don't want to look like you're mocking the poor thing

21 August 2008

Thar be a Hurricane a Blowin'

Ok- so it's mostly just a tropical storm, but being mostly trapped indoors might be its own little force of nature.

It's been interesting vacationing with a family that is only mine by marriage. I am completely used to my own family's craziness and ticks. Not that they don't bother me, but at least I know what to expect. Being with another family has been a...different experience. Usually, I only spend a couple hours all year with J's fam--right around Christmas. 24-7 for a whole week drudges up past wrongs, hurt feelings, and prejudices that remain unspoken but continue to simmer below the surface.

Mix that all together with the child from hell-- a 7 year old that is one of J's aunt's partner's grandkids--and you have yourself a certifiable time.

And now it's raining-- crazy hard raining.

I just want to go to the beach and sit in the sun and listen to the surf.


17 August 2008

Right-Wing Beach Vacation

We're here enjoying the surf and sand at Folly Beach- and while the water isn't as blue and the sand isn't quite as white as where we go in Florida, we're having a great time.

J's family rented this humungoid beach house-- beautifully appointed with a game room up on the third floor and windows that face the ocean in every room.

Oh yeah-- and pictures of Dubbleya everywhere. It turns out that our gracious hosts are part of the republican "Inner Circle." I couldn't make this stuff up. There's apparently an inner circle and they give out little signed pictures of our fearless leader and the first lady with certificates-- you know, like the type that you get in elementary school for having perfect attendance or clapping the erasers well.

There are pictures of republicans everywhere in the living room-- all beautifully framed and matted. There's one of Regan leaving on airforce 1 for the last time. And my favorite-- one of
Bush looking over his shoulder in a cowboy hat looking, well, wrangler-y.

I wish I had a little picture of Obama. We could just sneak it in on the shelf-- as a little parting gift.

14 August 2008

Well, At Least He's Determined

Tomorrow J and X* and I pack for a week at the beach. We have to drive to the airport tomorrow night and spend the night at a hotel because our flight leaves at the most god-awful early time in the morning.

The stress of a 6AM flight has only been exacerbated by the fact that for the last three days, my dear, sweet, lovely little boy has had a sore throat that has kept him refusing food and screaming most hours that "hurt, mouf hurt." For almost 24 hours the kid just wouldn't eat or drink anything. He sat with his little mouth open, lips dripping with the drool he refused to swallow. For most of last evening, he used my shirt as the receptacle for that drool. Yuck and double yuck. I'll give him one thing, though-- the little guy was determined not to let anything at all pass that oh-so-sore throat. It got so bad that we finally had to give him tylenol, um... through the other end.

I think we're through the woods though. Tonight he finally broke down and ate a cookie. And then he followed that cookie with about 8 more.

I'm still not looking forward to the 6 AM flight. Oh- and the airport is in a different time zone, so that flight is really 5 AM our time.

And it looks like the beach we're going to is infested with Jelly Fish.

And because of X's little sore throat, I didn't finish the work that I needed to do-- so this is going to definitely be a working vacation for me. Thank goodness it's at a beach. Because there was some talk about some sort of family retreat house in the middle of nowhere Ohio. This is much, much better.

Beach. Sunshine. Ocean.

Ok- I'm going to my happy place now.

*Little Man isn't so little any more-- we're going to a new moniker

12 August 2008

The Mother (and Father)hood Manifesto

So, there’s an election coming up this November.

A big one.

And whether you are blue, red, or purple, the fact of the matter is that as parents, we face real challenges today. From health care, to family leave policies, to problems with our schools, American parents face real difficulties.

I don’t want to use this brief column to advocate any specific party or candidate, nor even to advocate for one policy over another. But I do want to use this small space to advocate one thing–


08 August 2008

The Race Card

J and I have been following the presidential race fairly closely. J's all worked up and excited, but I'm more wary. I never thought that Bush could win a second time, and I'm not sure that I believe enough in the American people to be all that hopeful about this November. But for someone who was only a few credits away from a PoliSci degree, elections and politics are always interesting.

The recent development about the whole "race card" issue, though, is just plain frustrating.

Recently, McCain's team claimed that Obama played the "race card" when he made a speech claiming that his opponents were trying to frighten voters by saying that he had a funny name or didn't look like past presidents.

But here's the problem--that's exactly what's happening. That's why Obama supporters feel the need to organize a facebook group called "My middle name is Hussein,too." That's why the New Yorker decided to run that ill-advised "satire" on it's cover-- you know the one with a turbaned Obama giving a black panther looking Michele a fist bump.

It's also the reason that the New Yorker cover got such negative press. Because the truth is, conservatives and Republicans--if not McCain himself are playing on Obama's difference to remind voters that he is not one of "us." That cover was too close to what too many Americans actually believe about the Obamas to do any real satirical work to undercut those beliefs.

The fact is, bout 12% of Americans still believe Obama is a Muslim, just because of his middle name. That percentage rises to almost 20% among evangelical voters--the same voters who have been the Republican party's mainstay these past few elections.

The number of times that the mainstream news as confused his name with Osama is just absurd-- don't believe me? Check out this link.

Hilarious and sad all at once.

But here's the problem I have with the whole race card debate. Is it really the "race card" if it's the truth? White America has a real problem with the race card issue--especially ever since the OJ team pulled it out and apparently got their man off on all murder charges. Black man killing a white woman and getting away with it? Historically, that doesn't go over well.

But what if what Obama says is true? What if McCain's camp are using subtle--and some times not so subtle--reminders that Obama isn't white. (Forget that he's 1/2 white, apparently the 1 drop rule is still in effect.) Why is it that Obama can't call attention to it, if only to say that it shouldn't matter. Why is calling attention to racism a bad thing?

Maybe it's because no one is racist anymore. Right? The "n-word" is not something most people say out loud (or at least in mixed company) because we all know it's bad and demeaning and blah, blah, blah. Everyone has a black friend (or a daughter from Bangledesh), so no one is racist any more, right?

So to imply that someone is racist--or at least is playing on the racism of others for political gain--somehow becomes worse than actually being racist. It doesn't matter that John McCain voted against making Martin Luther King day a national holiday in 1983 and against the Civil Rights Act in 1990. Nope-- the bigger issue is that Obama played the race card. That is the bigger problem here. That is the real red herring. Right?

It makes me tired and it makes me irritated. Do I think that Obama should use race to get into the White House- no. It's not a job qualification. But do I think he should be allowed to call a spade a spade? Absolutely.

The term the "race card" carries with it tremendous emotional power. It is aligned most closely with the fiasco that was the OJ trial, and that trial with the long history of white Americans' fear of black men. (You know, lynching, Emmet Till and all of that? Remember?)

Obama has come out and said that ""In no way do I think that John McCain's campaign was being racist...I think they're cynical," he said. "And I think they want to distract people from talking about the real issues."

But, honestly, I'm tired of the whole issue. Why should it even matter? Only because there is still a significant portion of Americans who might have black friends and might never use the N-word that are afraid (even subconsciously) of darker skin, and there's a significant portion of Americans who are more than willing to use the N-word because they still believe that people are different from one another--that some people are less than other people--and those people are more than happy to have a reason not to vote for Obama.

It will be his own fault, after all--playing the race card and everything.

03 August 2008

Strawberry Fields, Forever

He gave me strawberries from a bright orange pumpkin, pulling them out one by one so that I could taste them, and then he went off to pick some more.

How he knows that you even pick strawberries is beyond me. The only kind he's ever encountered are in little plastic containers at the supermarket. But somehow he know.

I'm not sure when this all happened, when I knew for sure that all of his baby-ness was gone. That he was a real little boy--some Pinocchio-like transformation that boggles the mind. Maybe it was when I realized that he takes up most of his crib now, when at first, we could lay him vertically just on one end. Maybe it was when I saw his long, lithe body in the bathtub and realized that soon he won't be able to swim in it. Maybe it was when he actually asked for a time out, because it was better than having to sit through dinner with us.

It's been cumulative, with no real point of reference for me to say, "ah, there it is--the end of infancy." It still surprises me--when he remembers where something is that J and I have long forgotten about. Off he'll go, disappearing into the other room while we sit confused, and then amazed, because he knew where he was going all along. When he sings me songs in the car--knowing all the melody and the words, even though he doesn't know what they mean--no frame of reference for "fleece" or the "live long day."

It always unsettles me at the same moment that it delights me, those small moments that show me just how much he's grown, just how much he really knows., but playing pretend has been the most startling and delightful of all. He loves to play drive through at this one playground we go to. Running back and forth to get me cheeseburgers and shakes, taking my money and making change. We don't really ever go to drive-throughs, I don't know where he gets these ideas from.

But he does, and they delight him. So off he goes to pick more strawberries for me. And I take them, invisibly in my hand and eat, wishing that I could pause this all just for a moment, but then also in wondering anticipation of what comes next.

02 August 2008

Breaking Dawn

My favorite thing about the book? That the spoilers were so crazy that no one on the various message boards believed them....

Turns out crazy wins :)

31 July 2008

Work and Family and Work

It's 1 AM and I've just finished typing out one-half of a two-part chapter. The other half is probably 2/3 done, but it's that last third that's going to kill me. It's been a rough, rough week. There's been a lot of cursing at the computer--

But the difficulty I've had just getting coherent thoughts onto paper has been made worse by the fact that I feel as though I am a horrible mother. I think my kid sees more of the daycare lady than he sees of me, and for the last week, when he's seen me, my nerves have been shot from cursing at the computer.

I know I'm not the first person in the world to worry about how successful the whole balance between work and family is going, but I also get the feeling that he's getting so big...and I'm missing it. It's summer, and I was planning on keeping him home for a day every so often. I haven't done that once. Not one single time.

Sure, I've had to teach a class and work on this god-awful dissertation, but in the end, I wonder if it will be worth it.

Do you ever get to figure that out?

29 July 2008

Nation of Wimps

I once had a student turn in an essay that I could tell wasn’t his. I brought formal plagiarism charges against him, but they were dropped… because his mother wrote a note.

The entire incident was frustrating, but I also had a sense that it was very, very sad. Here was a young man, away from home for the first time, who made a mistake. Rather than learning something from the whole incident, rather than becoming a better student and a more responsible person, this particular young man learned nothing.

I’d heard of helicopter parents. They’re a pop culture phenomenon, but they’re also a very real problem.

Continue Reading

26 July 2008

Stuck in the Middle

I haven't written much here, because for once I've been writing elsewhere. (You know, that dissertation-thingy I'm supposed to be about done with.) I've also been dealing with a lot--a whole lot--of cr@p dealing with the whole knife incident.

The last few days have made me realize just how ridiculous the position of a graduate student is. On one hand, we're supposed to be instructors and give our students the same as we would if we were faculty. On the other hand, we're not faculty, so we don't really count--either as employees or as students.

Because so many of you told me I should report the knife incident, I did. To the police, and I told them I wanted to remain anonymous when they talked to the student. I also emailed our associate department head to let her know that the incident had occurred and that I was contacting the police about it.

I didn't want the student to know it was me who reported the incident for a number of reasons. Class has been going well, and I wanted him to remain comfortable seeing me as an ally rather than an enemy. I didn't want him to think that my reporting the incident was a judgment upon him as a person. But I had other reasons: I didn't want to create an opportunity for him to say that my grading was prejudiced because of the event and, to be honest, the event scared me enough that I just didn't feel 100% safe having him know who reported him.

He wasn't happy about the police visiting, and I did not confirm that it was, indeed, I who had caused his discomfort. But his reaction also bothered me. He didn't seem to understand that it was wrong to have such a dangerous weapon on campus. He didn't agree with the police's visit and didn't feel that he "deserved it." And he didn't seem to understand that other people had a right to feel uncomfortable in the presence of such a large knife. We corresponded via email, briefly, over the course of the week, and he presented to me his belief that everyone should be armed. That September 11th couldn't have happened if everyone on that plane had weapons training and carried knives. I held back and didn't respond by saying that no one would have gotten killed on May 4th had guns not been present--even in the hands of highly trained people. Instead I remained neutral.

Then, on Wednesday (this is now almost an entire week after the original incident), I find out that the associate department head is no longer even at our University and that my email has been forward to the person who is standing in for the summer. That professor must have skimmed my original email, because he responded (again, 5 days after the fact) that I could go to the police if I wanted (too late), but then emailed a few hours later saying that the Dean said maybe I should wait (once again...too late). They wanted the student's name and information, and I complied, with the request that if anyone else were to contact the student that they let me know first so I could be prepared to deal with his response.

So yesterday, I received an email from the student saying that the campus disciplinary committee had contacted him. Great. This is exactly what I did not want to happen. I contacted the acting department chair--he didn't know what was going on. I contacted the dean directly--she was a complete idiot.

Somehow in the course of our conversation, she made it very clear to me that this problem and my fear of the student was all of my own doing. Had I been forthright about telling him that I contacted the police, he would not be upset now. Apparently, I am also naive (her actual words). At one point, she said that what needed to happen was for me, some dean of students, and the student to sit down in a room and mediate this. For me to work out my problem with him and for him to work out his anger at being reported.

Here's the thing--I know that there is only this itty-bitty nonexistent chance that said student is emotionally unstable or psychotic. I know that he may be the sweetest, gentlest man on earth. But he brought, into my classroom, the kind of knife that (as another of my students said) you use to cut someone into fish bait. I don't care how lovely he may be, I am not willing to risk my family's safety if said student might want revenge for what he perceives to be an attack.

The dean didn't quite see it that way. She implied that any anger or anxiety the student feels now was my doing for keeping the report anonymous. As a teacher, I had a responsibility to step forward and tell him that I was obligated to report him.

By the end of the conversation I was sobbing into the phone. Her gut may have been telling her that this was all a big misunderstanding, but from the very beginning of this whole situation, my gut told me that he shouldn't know who reported him. And I trust that instinct, no matter how much I may be scared for no reason. She saw things very, very differently. This will not be the last time, she told me, that a student would make me feel uncomfortable.

No shit. I've had students make me uncomfortable. I've dealt with crap from guys who didn't think a woman should tell them what to do, from women who thought they could get away with anything because they were cute and bubbly, from racists and homophobic students who had no interest in reading something critically and were only interested in spouting more hate into the world. I have not, however, experienced a weapon in my classroom before, and to be frank, I hope to hell I never do again. This is not the same thing.

Luckily, the disciplinary officer was more understanding. He agreed to leave my name out of the conversation. But in the course of his discussion with me, he mirrored the dean's feelings that I had more responsibility to make myself known than another student.

I understand that, I do. As the instructor, I am responsible for the class and I should be able to use that responsibility to say that I am obligated to do certain things. But I'm not really in charge. I can't even bring a student up on plagiarism charges unless my supervisor says that I can. I do want to be a professor and I will accept that responsibility when I have it, but as I told the disciplinary committee officer, I am not a professor yet. I don't have the benefits or compensation that professor's have. I have only the most meager of health insurance, no retirement or insurance benefits, and am pain less than 1/3 of what professors are paid to teach more classes, in some cases, than they teach at my institution.

More importantly, I am not willing to put myself or my family at any greater risk than I have to if those who are my supervisors and who are in charge can't even keep me in the loop about what is going on. I shouldn't have had to make those calls. Someone should have kept me abreast of the situation. But no, instead of contacting me, they contact my supervisor--fine, then let him be the bad guy from the student's perspective, because this was never my intention from the beginning.

The whole situation really underlined just how precarious a situation graduate students are in. On one hand they want me to step up and take the same responsibility and risk that a professor is required to take. On the other hand they keep referring to me as the student's TA (it's my class) and treat my like I am not a colleague--or at least, a partner in this whole issue.

It's a problem, one that ruined my entire day yesterday. Not only do I have to worry if the student will be disruptive in class (he was Thursday), not only do I have to worry about more weapons showing up...now I have this huge wad of self-doubt about what I did wrong. Is the dean right? I don't think so, but that question eats at me. Not completely a student and not completely a member of the faculty, I'm stuck in the middle. And it sucks, majorly.

I have 4 more days left in class, and it's been a great class, but I just want it to be over. I'm just tired.

18 July 2008

And then feminism goes right out the window...

So I had a student pull out a knife today. A great big, "I could gut you like a pig" knife.

It's not as bad as it sounds. OK, it is, but not in the way you're thinking. It was after class and he was admonishing us all to be safe around campus because there has been a rash of sexual assaults. He prefaced the knife by saying that he wouldn't usually have this, but he ordered it for his sister and it just came in.

He reached into his backpack, and for a brief moment I thought he might have a gun. Total paralysis set in.

But then he pulled out the knife, a six-inch weapon sheathed in hefty black leather. "If you pull this out," he said, "no one will mess with you." For a moment I was met with a strange sense of relief mixed once again with paralysis. He pulled it out of its sheath and for a moment I laughed. It looked fake with its black blade. A prank, I thought. Scare the would-be assaulter away with the idea of a big knife. But then he told us it was indeed real, and razor sharp.

I have never felt so uncomfortable and worthless in front of a classroom in my entire life. He meant no harm, but students were visibly backing away from him. What was probably only a few seconds felt like time stood still. And I did nothing but stare at him.

What could I have done? Part of me feels like I should have instructed him to put the weapon away. A bigger part of me knows that this almost seven foot tall man with a large knife scared me too much to even move.

I'm not even sure what to do with the whole situation--I'm hoping that my students aren't too uncomfortable to continue being open in class. I'm hoping that I didn't fail them by not taking control of the situation. I'm hoping a lot of things--many of them involving never seeing any weapon in my classroom again.

17 July 2008

Random Filler

I'm not sure if THIS is funny or sad or what- but for your viewing pleasure, here ya' go.

16 July 2008

The "Other" Mothers....

They’re out there. Those “other” mothers. The ones with the perfectly pressed locks, bangs never out of place who just seem so, well, together. They are the moms that I imagine must have been those lucky creatures who glowed during pregnancy, who pushed twice and gave birth to a baby with a perfectly shaped head. Their children never had sleep issues, never had tantrums, never were picky eaters. They look perfect by the pool in their string bikinis while little Emma floats nearby. They know what’s up. They know somehow, some way how to make being a mom seem natural. No, they make being a mom look easy.

And they regularly make me want to throw a shoe at them.

continue reading....

14 July 2008

Feminism- 21st Century Style

Last Thursday, I did my brief spiel about feminist literary criticism in my class. I asked how many of them considered themselves feminists. Out of 8, only 4 raised their hands. Two women didn't.

That's fine. It's understandable even. We've gotten to this post-feminist moment (god, I hate that phrase) where most of my generation and the generations following me think that feminism equals bra-burning man-haters and that everything has already been fixed. These are young women who never grew up thinking that there were any limitations to their lives. No one told them that someday their brothers would go to college and they'd become mommies. No one tells them that they need to make a choice between being a partner and mother or having a career. And perhaps, for many, they never will.

But the cold hard truth is that someday most of those young, bright women in my class will hit the glass ceiling so hard that their teeth will rattle. Maybe they'll grow up and get married and no one will expect them to start having babies, so they'll be safe. Maybe their husbands will even "help" around the house--how lucky they will be to have such enlightened mates. Maybe, even, they will make more than their husbands.

The cold hard truth is that for many of them--feminist or not--they will reach a point where they have to choose. Where they have to make sacrifices that their partners never even think about making.

I've been reading some of my favorite bloggers lately, and it's made me curiously aware of my own situation. While they've been struggling along, I've been very, very lucky. My own husband is a partner in every sense of the word. I cook, he cleans the dishes. He gives little man a bath, I put him to bed. I nursed, he changed every diaper. He doesn't help around the house. He doesn't babysit for me. It's his home and he maintains it; it's his child and he cares for him. Period. There is no sense that we are anything but completely equal. And that's the only way I would ever have it. I've never been willing to be someone's maid, chef, and nanny.

He was raised by a second-wave feminist--one that marched on Washington for the Equal Rights Amendment and still curses Phylis Schaffley's name if it comes up in conversation. He wasn't raised to expect anyone to cook or clean for him. He's a better feminist than many women I've met.

But the job market it coming fast. Very fast. And I am very aware that his discipline makes more money than mine. If we have to choose between positions, I will loose if it comes down to money. It makes me angry. Very, very angry. And sad. Very, very sad. Because I've been reading the saga of another mother an wife who was denied tenure and who has decided to give up her hope of a research career to keep her family together. I can't help but see the pain and anger in her posts, and she should be sad and angry. It's not fair in a lot of different ways.

Studies have shown that women with families suffer in academia. In one study about the California system, the research showed that women predominantly hold those non-tenure track positions while men who were married and had children actually did better than their non-married counterparts. For women, having children is a liability. For men, it's proof that you're stable.

And I've been reading the blog of a local mom whose husband is a grad student and who stays at home with her daughter. Except that she, too, works as a freelance writer. And she laments being the one in charge of the household alone. It's a choice, I know, but she's also fighting against a society that sees her work as less valuable than his.

And it makes me sad and angry, because this is where we've gotten. To a place where the young women don't need to be feminists, don't identify with feminism as a cause, and won't fight for it.

We still don't have an equal rights amendment. We still have a presidential candidate that claims that women are paid less because they have less education and training. We still live in a world where I cannot put a picture of my son on my web page because it might cost me a job, when it will probably get my husband one. We still live in a word where smart women pick up their husband's messes, even when they have work of their own to do. And we still live in a world where it's a given that mothers will nurture, but its emasculating for men to nurture as well. We still live in a world where the media can call a presidential candidate a bitch or some other misogynistic slur, and there's not a thing she can do about it. We still live in a world where a woman is raped every minute and for the cost of one fighter plane we could test every one of the rape kits sitting on shelves because of lack of funding.

It makes me sad. It makes me glad I have a boy. I'm not sure that I could raise a girl in this world, because how do you tell her that she can do or be anything she wants, when you know that it just isn't completely true?

Post-feminist my a$$.

09 July 2008

ok- maybe not the yardstick...

I haven't written much lately, mostly because I haven't had anything I feel like saying. I feel like I should be writing my diss rather than anything here. And that's not really going right now. It will, but right now I'm a bit stalled.

Although, I think I've reached the point where I feel like I need to write-- like I'm ready. I just have to get a few more notes together an map out the argument. It's coming to me, though. Mostly right after I lay down in bed- zip!- inspiration hits, so I jump up and jot it down on a note card. Because there has to be a link between these things that keep popping--the canonization of big dead white men, the changes in the way americans read and understand authorship, the changes in the way books are made and circulate. It all has something to do with the 1950s and 1960s. Something to do with Postmodernism. And I think I'm almost there.

Despite my earlier rant about students not showing up for appointments, class is going well. I'm down to 9 students, which is fine by me-- I get paid either way. I really like teaching this course- it makes me feel useful. We've had discussions about grad school and what to do with an English degree and why or whether theory is important. And today, they thanked me for not making the class into a summer "fluff" course. But how could I? It's the course that should prepare them to be ready for any other English course. It would have been irresponsible to turn it into 75 minutes of sitting in a circle and singing "kumbaya" while we wax poetical on the way that meaning is, like, so impossible to obtain. Totally.

Nope- it's a class to kick their butts. And I've lost 4 already. That's fine- the ones that are staying I think are really starting to get it. You can see them starting to want it-- even though they tend to look dazed and drained by the end of the hour. It's been exhilarating to teach in that kind of environment. And the best part is that I feel like they should be ready when they leave- they'll know how to tackle any of the major genres, they'll know how to put together a strong argument, they'll know that there's nothing natural about the way we study English today, and they'll have a rudimentary understanding of the way theory has developed and progressed. All in 8 weeks. I call that a deal.

At first the class really took away from my dissertation work- it takes time to respond to daily responses and to grade papers. But I think it's getting to the point where it's inspiring me to get back to my work. Someone asked when it gets easier--the whole interpretation thing--and I told her that with practice it does eventually. But then it's harder again, because you're onto something new.

I'm onto something new- and it's getting harder. But little-by-little I'm figuring it out.

07 July 2008

Great 4th of July Post

I don't have one-- I'm too conflicted about the whole thing. Parades with the Clampets shooting guns as people still die and suffer thousands of miles away. And yet, the freedom to write all this and to say that I hate where we're going as a country, that I often want to leave.

So here's a better post than I could write.

02 July 2008

I believe in assigned seats and I good, strong yard stick....

I've been trying to write a first draft of my teaching philosophy-- one that doesn't sound too cliche, too grandiose, or too, well, anything but me.

This has not been going well.

The fact that I've had two students in two successive days make appointments with me (for which I had to rearrange both my and J's entire work schedules) and then not show the F$%* up.

This only causes anger, resentment, irritation, and the desire to write teaching statements about how even though I want to treat my students like the adults they are, I end up playing kindergarden teacher to a bunch of irresponsible and disrespectful brats.

Dude. I HAVE THINGS TO DO. Things which do not include sitting in a coffee shop waiting expectantly, like some sort of twisted blind date that I didn't want to go on to start with.

Now how am I supposed to sound pedagogical when I just feel like starting class with a stern lecture?

Really people, this is why I never wanted to teach High School.


01 July 2008

If Only the Stork Came with a Personal Shopper

I remember it like it was yesterday–parking in the special “mom-to-be” section, walking through the automatic doors, and encountering a space that seemed the size of a Target which held nothing but baby gear. It was overwhelming. Dizzying that there could be that much stuff to need, that much stuff to buy for a being whose biggest accomplishment to date was being able to provide sure and direct kicks directly to my bladder.

But overwhelmed or not, we marched on, scanner gun in hand, clutching our own list and the list that Babies “R” Us so handily provided for us. We had brought along my parents, and standing in front of the two-story high wall of bottling accessories, my dad asked, “you got enough nipples?” It was funny then, and it’s still funny to me now....