Saturday, July 30, 2005

Love for Sale

...or, rather, Love for adoption.

We are reluctantly trying to find a new home for our youngest kitty, whose name means Love. Which is to say that we haven't yet tried at all, despite an offer from one of my brothers to take Love to live with him and his dog.

Love would do just fine with a doggy companion. But he needs what my brother can't give him: access to the outdoors.

Love is a beautiful, sleek, lilac-point Siamese with periwinkle eyes and a pale fawn coat. He also was slightly insane before we finally granted him access to the outdoors two years ago.

When able to go outdoors once a day, he's the perfect kitty. He's energetic and healthy, but also enough of a coward to keep himself out of harm's way. Upon returning from a day's jaunt, his needs are few. A bite of kibble. A nap. The chance to snuggle in my lap.

Sadly for Love, the vet ordered him converted to an indoor kitty, on account of the pregnant lady in the house. (We live near a woods that harbor summer ticks, and apparently the Advantage anti-tick treatment doesn't deal with tick nymphs.) Love cannot understand why his outdoor privileges were revoked, and so he spends the mornings racing around the house, wailing.

No. Not wailing. Screaming is more like it.

Love howls and rages like an angry infant. Or six. (For such a little kitty, he has powerful lungs.) He stands by the door and commands it to open. He stares up at me and says many a bad word.

Sometimes I can soothe him by holding him tight. By whispering his name and stroking his nose. Sometimes he'll fall asleep in my arms. But, twenty minutes later, he's shrieking again like one possessed.

So I try to distract him with cat toys. With an open window. With cat nip. (Bad cat mommy. But it works.) At a moment of peak frustration yesterday, I carried him to the bathroom, deposited him in the dry tub, and closed the shower curtain. This baffled him enough to produce a few minutes of silence.

Since we now live in an apartment, I worry a lot about our neighbors. After all, the walls are thin. How thin, you may ask? So thin, that when the woman next door sneezes, I have to suppress the urge to call out "Bless you!"

And I worry about Love. He's a good kitty, and, although I agonized about the decision to let him roam outdoors, there is no denying that it made him a much happier animal. He loves the stimulation of new sights and smells. And he loves to roam free in the mornings. I comprehend the enormity of what we've forced him to give up.

Our other two, more rotund, cats are very much at peace with life indoors. They sit on the windowsills and sniff the air. They do not ask to go out.

Geezer Cat sleeps through Love's rants. He's lived with them before, back when Love, then an abandoned kitten, first came to stay with him and Adam in their old apartment.

Poor G. is less certain what to do with Love's meltdowns. He surreptitiously trails Love around the apartment. He looks at me, imploring: "Make him stop!"

Early this morning, when Love sprang onto the bed with hysterical cries, G. had finally had enough. Looking as stern as a fluffy grey kitty can, G. sat up on hind legs — and bopped Love on the head.

Startled to silence, Love licked G. on the nose, as if in thanks. Then the two of them curled up and went to sleep.

Feeling groggy and grateful to G., I stroked Love’s face and thought: “How can we give you up?” And then: “How can we not?

Friday, July 29, 2005

The No-Good, Very Bad Job Interview

So, we cut short our time at a family reunion week on account of my Tuesday job interview. The job was a part-time administrative job in an interesting area of the university. If I landed the job, I would have split the time between it and my upcoming research year. And after that...

"Are you giving up teaching?" relatives wanted to know.

"No. That is, I don't think so. It's only part-time."

You might say that I was overqualified for the job, which required only a BA. But that means little in this town, with its surfeit of overeducated and underemployed academic types. Still, I might have an edge, if only for all the part-time jobs I held while in graduate school. In applying for ther job, I'd created a resume, something I hadn't needed to do since I was 21. And I was surprised at how strong I managed to look on paper. I have a shadow career in graduate school, the result of my own distractions and the post-divorce necessity of paying a mortgage by myself.

I studied up on the history of the university, of this department. I was ready for any question the committee might have for me.

Except for this one, which kicked off the interview:

"How would you describe a satisfying day of work?"

It would be an understatement to say that I botched this one, and I botched it badly. I stammered. I rambled. I interrupted myself with stream of consciousness points that only made sense to me.

Next question: What would you say is your biggest weakness?

Softball! I'm ready for this one. But my carefully prepared answer isn't what comes out of my mouth. Instead, I'm horrified to hear myself referring to my research and how I struggle to make time for it. Research!? These employers don't care about my research. They need to hear about my organizational skills. They need to know that any research life, if I insist on having one, won't interfere with my work in their office.

The rest of the interview is a blur. Historically, I've been a good interviewee — skilled at reading my interviewers and able to present myself as the personable and highly competent candidate. On this day, however, my responses are impolitic, irrelevant, and tedious, as I swing between bouts of inarticulateness and logarrhea.

On my drive back from New Jersey, we'd listened to book on tape about Lyndon Johnson. As I chatter to my interviewers, I hear the narrator's voice in my head: "You are LBJ. Famous for giving long speeches in which he said absolutely nothing."

Am I hormonal? (I can't tell you how much I hate that word. But I have some bleeding that afternoon and worry that I am miscarrying.) Did I deliberately self-sabotage?

The interviewers' body language indicates that they are tired. Bored. I prattle on.

The narrator sighs. "Quagmire. What are you doing, Cello?"

I have bad-interview hangover all the rest of that day. And the next. And the next.

Finally, I write the principle interviewer a carefully worded thank you note, in which I attempt to do some damage control. I feel slightly better. But I can't stop fretting about my sorry performance and what it might mean. I wish I could interview again for another job —any job — just to put this feeling of failure behind me.

Adam is supportive, but also — I can tell — as appalled by my bad answers as I am. That feels lousy.

I learned something. And I’ll do better next time. But, boy, I wish I could sleep this yucky feeling away.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Six more weeks...

...until my deadline. Six weeks and six days until I start my new research gig.

Got back yesterday from Former City. Tomorrow we depart for family time at the Jersey Shore.

Looming: a conference paper to write and a job interview next week.

So, naturally, I spent today shopping for some new clothes. (Birthday money. Summer sales.) Gah! Tomorrow morning's a good time to start kicking my own butt.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Scents and Sense-ability

Thursday, I went floating through the town. Or rather, the town came floating to me.

Green was crisp in my brain from the newly cut grass. Summer asphalt wept tarry tears. Garlic and basil sang out from across the street, where autos grumbled acrid fumes.

How funny it is to smell things before I see them. Oily metal typewriters, for sale on the sidewalk. Musty paperbacks, tattooed with basement mildew.

A man who washed in peppermint soap. Two women with citrus-y shampoo. Today’s pizza special: pesto parmesan. (It hums to me, sweetly, in lemon-salty tenor.)

Olefactory genius, I am. Bless these pregnancy hormones. I’m keen as a wolf.

Then wolf-y snout catches something musky and rotten. Two sweat-sopped teenagers draped over a bench. The curly-haired one has pulled off a sock.

I frown at a Starbucks cup as it passes. “Why can’t I smell you?” I ask the coffee. It is silent beneath whipped cream and transparent plastic dome.

Nausea wants pizza. I walk my slice to the park and sink beneath a tree that's channeling summer corn. Am still contemplating my superpowers when I get a sharp message from my leg.

Unobservant girl! I’m sitting on the home of some cranky red ants. I retreat to a park bench, quite mortal after all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ham and Enos

The news from Iraq today is beyond tragic. As inured as I’ve become to the near daily doses of grim news, I actually cried (and yes, I realize how screwed up it is to say "actually") while listening to interviews with children and parents on the scene. Meanwhile, NPR's Daniel Shor offered up another of his smart, cut-to-the-chase editorials, in which he reminded listeners that the investigation of Karl Rove isn't merely about a leak, it's about the [false] justification for a war. (Would like to link to it here, but it doesn't seem to be on-line yet.)

And now for something unrelated, but somehow fitting for tonight: an excerpt from Priscilla Long’s whimsical “Genome Tome: Twenty-three ways of looking at our ancestors,” which appears in the latest American Scholar*.


In the late 1950s, the United States Air Force acquired 65 juvenile chimpanzees. Among them were Ham and Enos. No doubt Ham and Enos and the others had witnessed the slaughter of their mothers.

Let the new life begin. The Air Force used the chimps to gauge the effects of space travel on humans. The small chimps were spun in giant centrifuges. They were placed in decompression chambers to see how long it took them to lose consciousness. They were exposed to powerful G forces – forces due to acceleration felt by pilots or by riders on roller coasters.

Three-year old Ham was the first chimpanzee to be rocketed into space. This occurred on January 31, 1961. NASA archives record “a series of harrowing mischances,” but Ham returned alive. The results pleased astronauts and capsule engineers, and three months later Alan Shepard became the first American to be shot into space.

Enos, age five, was launched on November 29, 1961. Enos had undergone a meticulous year of training to perform certain operations upon receiving certain prompts. Upon launch, however, the capsule malfunctioned, and Enos received an electric shock each time he acted correctly. Nevertheless, he continued to make the moves he knew to be right, shock after shock after shock. He orbited earth two times and returned alive.

The following year, John Glenn orbited earth three times. On March 1, 1962, in lower Manhattan, four million people greeted Glenn and two fellow astronauts with a huge ticker-tape parade, confetti falling like snow at Christmas.

Ham and Enos were transferred to “hazardous environment” duty. To test the new technology of seatbelts, they were strapped into sleds, whizzed along at 30, 50, 100 mph, slammed into walls.

By the 1970s, the Air Force, done with the chimps, leased them out for biomedical research. These highly sociable primates, now adults in their 20s, were stored in cement-block cells with bars in front, but with no windows between cells to provide contact with fellow chimps.

After such a life, Ham died. After such a life, Enos died.

(*American Scholar is so much the poorer since the departure of editor Anne Fadiman, but I do recommend Long’s essay.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Writing Buddy

I have a funny habit. I sometimes become better friends with people right after I have moved far, far away from them.

The first time this happened was with my dear friend Q. In our senior year of college, we got along famously as roommates. But we hadn't been especially close in college (more like friendly acquaintances) and the fact of our cohabitation was by fluke (both of us returning from abroad) rather than by design.

Still, there was no one I missed more after graduation. Thanks to a then brand-new thing called "e-mail," and our eventual proximity in the midwest, our friendship grew. Now Q is my dearest friend. I know we will be old ladies together.

I mention all this because, ten years on, a similar phenomenon of distance-equals-new-closeness is emerging. This time, I find myself sorely missing my neighbor, J., with whom I now communicate more regularly via email than I did when she lived two doors up the street. (Although we did have a few quality in-person visits just before the move.)

And I have been surprised that E., a woman who once intimidated the hell out of me, has faithfully kept her promise to stay in touch. I long ago realized what a dear and funny person she is. And yet I never would have foreseen what a pleasure it is to talk with her on the phone. (Normally, I hate phone calls with people I don't know well.)

I surely didn't expect that I would confess to E. my recent writing blocks. Or that she would, kindly and non-judgmentally, offer a solution.

We've become writing buddies. She phones in the morning and we each state a writing goal and one unnecessary activity (e.g., midweek laundry, errand that can be put off) that we will avoid. I phone in the evening and we each report on how we did. Such a simple concept, but one that has helped me enormously so far.

So tonight I raise a bloggy glass (blog goblet?) to surprise friends. And to friendly surprises.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Somehow it fits that I wouldn’t have morning sickness since I am not, and have never been, a morning person. Instead, I have afternoon sickness, which segues really gracefully into time-for-bed sickness.

Saltines do a boffo job of muting the queasiness. Now if only I knew what to feed my head. Tonight, my brain is the rollerdome, circa 1954. All my worries clatter round it on horrid metal wheels.

Things I Must Accomplish in the Dwindling Remaining Weeks of Summer
• research and write conference paper on new topic
• write popular (non-scholarly) article by mid-July
• finish revising book manuscript
• prepare for autumn job search

It’s item #3 that’s really freaking me out. I signed the contract a month ago, and I haven’t been working nearly as diligently (or as often) as I should. Technically, I’ve been “unpacking my office,” which indeed has taken over a month. But, really, this procrastination is getting ridiculous, even for me.

Things I Am Worried About
• obligation to go visit former town (too many people to see in too few days)
• in-laws’ impending visit (love them, but five days is way, way too much)
• missing books for new project (I’ve unpacked the last box. Where are they?)
• body feels so strange
• my lack of tunnel vision (the useful kind)

What if I can’t get a job next year? What if I am too much of a putterer to ever make it as an academic? Do I even want to make it as an academic? What’s with A’s oft-voiced desire that we split a tenured position some day? Why does this sound so unappealing to me? And why do I cynically assume that I’ll get the proverbial short end of the stick?

Oh, wait. I can answer this one. I need my own job at my own institution. Or, at very least, in my own department.

But life in academia often feels so airless and unrewarding. (I think that’s true. I don’t think that’s my fear or laziness talking.) That said, it’s still better than any other job I’ve known.

This would have been my tenth year of teaching. I am really grateful for the respite.

Getting sleepy now, but I know I won’t be able to sleep. I can sometimes cure my nausea by breathing the comforting scent of Adam’s skin. Isn’t that sweet? Yeah, and then the next minute I want to kill him because he’s raked me with his stupid toenails AND rolled over with all the covers. Oh, and no, I don’t think it’s cute when his 15-pound cat wakes me up by walking on my chest. Or when I wake up with said cat’s ass on my pillow. On this point, Adam and I will continue to disagree.

Boy, am I cranky, or what?

We have a lot of art supplies. Really, quite a lot. Some of these are the Christmas gifts I gave Adam. He’s a wonderful artist, and occasionally used to sketch when he felt stressed. I gave him some top-notch supplies in honor of his new job and (selfishly) in hopes that he might whip up some art for our very bare walls. The gift failed, because I underestimated Adam’s tunnel vision. The only person to use the lovely pastels so far is I… and the results are underwhelming.

Our newly organized supply closet also brims with stamps, crayons, markers, glitter paint, and all manner of other supplies that I’ve purchased over the years for my freshmen orientations or for me. (Mostly for making greeting cards. I am so not an artist.)

Maybe I should open a kindergarten.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I might not be such a narcoleptic. Tomorrow I—and my concentration—will be so much better.

It had better be. It will be. I will it to be.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The rabbit...

...bit it.

Actually, no animals were harmed in the process of this morning's doctor's visit. The nurse fingered the air with double bunny quotation marks as she announced the rabbit's demise.

Yep. I'm pregnant.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Oh no.

F-ing Idiots.

Praying for healing (literally and otherwise) and that judicious responses prevail.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Blood tests

Poor G. has been called back to the vet. He was traumatized by his visit of two weeks ago, which happened to coincide with that of a dog who had tangled with a porcupine. Sadly for the beautiful husky, she had to be sedated before the vet could begin plucking out all seventy (!!) quills. Sadly for G., the vet ordered the sedation only after tugging on a few of the quills, sending the dog into a fit of tortured shrieks.

I reached into G's carrier to offer comforting pats, and was startled when I couldn't find him there. That’s because a terrified G. had activated his feline super powers, and shrunk himself down to the size of a river stone.

He submitted meekly to the examination, but his blood sample was “diluted.” “Possibly, it was the stress,” said the vet’s assistant on the phone. And so back he goes, tomorrow, to offer up another vial of blood.

On Friday, I’ll be giving blood myself. And that should determine for sure whether my new B-cups are indeed a sign of baby aboard or just a belated gift from the boob fairy.

Say it forward

A lot of the time, yes. (But this was true even before I knew what blogs were.)

"If, as you live your life, you find yourself mentally composing blog entries about it, post this exact same sentence in your weblog."

via Intellectual Con Fusion.

July 3 (part 1)

July 3rd is my cousin’s birthday. He lives in England now, estranged from most of our family. Even my mother now appears to have given up on him.

Once upon a time, my cousin and I were babies together. My mother liked to tell the story of how she and her sister-in-law were reunited after a long separation, and how they bumped pregnant bellies in their rush to embrace. “Hello, baby. Meet your cousin,” quipped my aunt.

My cousin is just two weeks older than I. But he was one grade, and then two grades, behind me on account of all the operations he had to have while growing up. His mother died when we were ten, and which brought us briefly together again. For a while, he was a friend to my brothers.

Then our lives diverged in a hundred irrevocable ways. We had one last conversation, at Christmas of ’99. My cousin seemed a little happier. He was also going through some startling transformations. He had given up metal bands for country. He had met someone on the internet.

He told me that night that our grandfather was crazy. He predicted the family would splinter without our grandmother. He promised he would send me a song he wrote about his mom.

I cringe to recall what happened next. He emailed the song. I couldn’t open the file. Myopic with my own concerns (divorce, prelim exams), I never wrote back.

My cousin has stopped showing up at Christmastime. I know I’m not the reason, but I will forever regret having added to his alienation. The family has quietly split now, between those who stuck around to watch our grandfather in his decline, and those who did not.

I thought about all this on a queasy Sunday afternoon. And silently wished my cousin a Happy Birthday.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Three stripes and I'm...?

Moving to a new city not only rearranges one's sense of place, it may cause one to lose all sense of time. What happened to June? It evaporated somewhere back there in a frenzy of tape and cardboard boxes.

Certain things I can recall: Dinners with new colleagues. My parents' lovely visit. The concert we attended with a pair of new friends. Having briefly absented myself during the concert when I grew woozy and started seeing spots.

Certain things I can't remember at all. Like the exact date of my "LMP" in May. After a year of trying to get pregnant amid haywire cycles, I'd lately stopped paying attention.

But then my body started having funny symptoms. So I dug out the last pregnancy test... which showed itself confident blue.

I've since taken two more tests.



God, I'll be so grateful if this is real.

Friday, July 01, 2005


O'Connor, First Woman on High Court, Resigns After 24 Years

Insert serious swear word here.

UPDATE: Lots of good links at Bitch Ph.D., and all over the internet, really. Meanwhile, I was so sad to learn about Jay O'Connor's Alzheimer's disease. Here's hoping the O'Connors may have a lot of quality time left to share.