Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Food, Glorious Food

Three dill pickles.
1 slice of multi-grain bread with peanut butter.
1 bowl of cranberry-almond cereal with soy milk.
1 two-egg omelette with vegetarian sausage, smoked mozzarella, and fresh tomato.
Many, many grapes.
1 glass soy milk.
1 Luna bar.
2 slices of multi-grain bread with avacado.
1 1/2 bowls broccoli-tomato pasta salad.

All that delicious food, and I'm still hungry. Guess the pregnancy guidebooks were correct in calling this the month in which the "fetal appetite" becomes apparent.

I'm grateful for good food today. The Sept./Oct. issue of Orion has a great article by Mark Winne on "The Food Gap." (not online yet, or I would link it). Check it out—especially if you happen to have access to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

For Badger

New Kid's eloquent post for Mr. Badger.

How to help.

If you haven't yet read Badger's "The Personal Gets Political" on our health care system, please do.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Less yello than blu

Feeling a little blue on this drippy, droopy Sunday. Trying hard to regain the momentum of last week's loverly trip. And to heave myself out of the doldrums.

(Doldrums always remind me of The Phantom Tollbooth. Which reminds me of the Phantom Toolbooth board game that my brothers and I made back in grade school. Which memory brings me to art and Ethel...)

My great-aunt died yesterday. My mother called with the news this morning but—funny thing—I knew already. On the drive back from Canada yesterday afternoon, I thought of Ethel and felt a sort of absence in response. Which told me that she had gone.

Although Ethel's passing was "for the best at this point," it still feels as if a familiar star has vanished from the sky.

And I really miss the light.

[Love and quadruple hugs to Ethel: elegant presence, patient teacher, beloved aunt.]

Monday, August 22, 2005

Baby Eyes

Woke up this morning to a strangest sensation. At first, I couldn't find the word for the feeling, but then it hit me.


For the first time in about three months, I'd gone to sleep and not been awakened by
a) our Siamese cat, going off like a fire alarm at 5 a.m.,
b) nausea, thirst, or an extreme need to pee at 3 a.m., or
c) vivid dreams.

So what does it mean, I wonder, that I was up and walking around town before last night's bizarre dream came hurtling back?

We were having an ultrasound—a very novel sort of ultrasound in which the baby was as visible and illuminated as a museum piece under glass. A friend's mother was the nurse in charge, and talked very loudly and excitedly about "your baby girl."

A girl!, I rejoiced. But then I felt a twinge of dismay at the nurse, since Adam hadn't been sure he wanted to know the sex, and now she had spoiled the surprise. Also, wasn't it way too early to tell the sex of our little baby?

But this baby wasn't so little. She looked smushed, and slightly put out. She stared back at me (in the dream, I was sometimes looking at a screen and sometimes peering right through my stomach) with dark brown eyes. And I thought happily, "She has eyes like her father."

Then I grew alarmed to see that she also had a number of red welts running down her arms and torso. What are those? I wanted to know. The nurse was getting alarmed also. "What's going on?" she shouted. "Why is she covered with sores?"

The "sores" were eye lids, which slowly peeled back to reveal more brown eyes. Our baby had eyes—eyes of all sizes—running up and down her body. I wondered if she had been affected by the same pollutants that had created Minnesota's mutated frogs.

The nurse plunged a hypodermic into the gold of the amniotic sac. "I'm initiating a chemical response!" she announced. Immediately, the baby leaned down and began to slurp, nibble, and pluck the gelatinous eyeballs from her flesh. "The scars should disappear well before she's born," said the nurse.

I halted, mid-stride, as these images came flooding back during my morning walk. Momentarily reverting to dream-logic, I caught my breath and thought: "Oh! Did we do the wrong thing, taking away her extra eyes?"

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Five Phone Calls

It all starts with the friend from Former Town, who emails out of the blue. Big news, she says. No one will get this joke but you. I reach her at work, and her crisp, professional voice gives way to delicious, salt-caramel irony.

(I am walking toward my desk. Oh yes, the writing starts now.)

But, wait, there's a voicemail. Long distance friend's voice is a blurred photo of a dancing child. She is abruptly in motion, moving to Grand City for an academic job. Delighted, I call her up, to give congrats and get the details.

(Now there are emails to send, to put long-distance friend in touch with Grand City friend who will show her around. But, after that...)

Oops — I have to take this call. I have opened a box of childhood, and, draped inside, is the honey-wise voice of my old neighbor. She wants to talk about the pregnancy, so we do. We chat about her children and the difficulties of being twenty-three.

(Vet visit. Pre-natal yoga. And now there's the cat sitter at the door. Will she mind giving Geezer Cat his meds?)

Phone again: grad school friend, whose divorce is getting ugly. Yesterday, her voice was a three-legged turtle. Today, it is fragile sun-lit glass.

(I will write today. I will write. But how much are plane tickets to grad school friend's city?)

O telephone, the day is over. Wicked, witty sister-in-law calling. We haven't spoken since April.

(These things matter. Also matter. They do.)

I pull my feet to the couch and know that this will be the night.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Vigil, Wed. Aug. 17 @ 7:30 p.m.

From Pilgrim/Heretic's site, I learned about a candlelight vigil for and with Cindy Sheehan. To find out about a vigil near your neighborhood, check out this link, and also the links that P/H has provided in her post.

See especially Songbird's site today and the thoughtful post from a few days ago at Badgerings.

Monday, August 15, 2005


My new passport arrived today, bearing my ugliest passport photo yet. (And, let me assure you, that's saying A LOT!) Have discovered that the new passports contain three more pages of fine-print travel instructions. They're also much flimsier than the old versions. This has me nervous, because a friend's return to the States was delayed three weeks on account of a small, corner crease in his passport cover. (It got dinged up in the few months in which he had to carry it as a primary i.d., before he was able to get a U.S. driver's license.)

Also, I can't believe I'm supposed to have this passport until 2015. 2015! That's the same year that my high school class is supposed to dig up the "Class of '90" time capsule that I and other members of my student council interred on school grounds. And that's one more thing to worry about, as I have zero recollection as to where we might have buried the thing...

Challenge to Myself

My in-laws flew back home this morning, following their five-day visit. Five days seemed like an excessively long time for us all to hang out and, indeed, my father-in-law started to make me a little crazy at times. In particular, I didn't appreciate his decision on Saturday night to rant about blogs. Bloggers, it turns out, are "losers" who "crave attention" and "waste people's time by spreading the poison of their unhappiness." The worst "navel-gazers," of course, are the women bloggers. Which is why my father-in-law took special delight in informing me that most of them never get any comments on their silly entries.

I sat there quietly seething. I had talked to this man about blogging two years ago, when I'd confided to him how helpful reading other people's blogs had been to me. I told him how warmed I felt by the chance to read about other people's experiences (especially fellow academics'), and how fond I had become of the personalities out there. I also mentioned how surprisingly meaningful the process of writing my own blog had become. My father-in-law had scoffed at the time, and told me that blogging seemed "desperate." He also told me that I was "too old" for blogging. If I wanted true comfort, he said, I should join a church. Then he demanded my blog address, and seemed genuinely surprised when I declined to give it to him.

I don't know if my father-in-law remembers that conversation. It did happen on the cusp of a period of upheaval for him, in both his marriage and his professional life. So it's very possible that it has slipped his memory. A lot of his bile toward bloggers comes from the fact that he and his church tried, in 2003, to "reach out" to various bloggers, by "assigning specially trained church members to target [target!] a lonely blogger [!!] and welcome that person into the church." Although my father-in-law did not say so, I suspect this effort met with violent rebuff.

I tried to remain calm. I responded with what I intended as tactful questions about how much my father-in-law actually knew about blogging. Why the scorn toward people whose blogs he didn't have to read? Why the certainty that his church's "outreach" efforts were all that different from the "fake-blogger marketers" he also decries? And why worry so much about a format that he believes is a "useless morass of swear words and pathetic people's anger"? Was it possible that the reason he finds blogging so worthless (and so stigmatized) is because he couldn't coax the bloggers to serve his own ends?

There was no reason to take my father-in-law's opinions personally, I reasoned. But his son felt differently. After a few moments of listening to my delicate attempts at persuasion, Adam leapt to bloggers' (and my own) defense like an animal defending its young. A. sharply recommended that his father re-examine hierarchical values conventionally assigned to subjective vs. objective writing and the difficulty of drawing boundaries between them. His father shot back that he knew what good writing was, and that unless something was traditionally published, it wasn't worth jack. Tempers flared and voices rose. Fellow restaurant diners began shooting uncomfortable glances in the direction of our table. The father-son confrontation veered from diary-keeping to Proust's memoirs to the Bible's book of Genesis before I finally managed to observe that others were waiting for our table and that we really should depart.

The conversation didn't come up again until late that evening, when Adam and I whispered about it on the air mattress before bed. And then I felt sick when I heard a creak in the hallway... and realized that my father-in-law had been eavesdropping on our conversation. I'm not sure what he might have heard. All I know is that we had an awfully stilted conversation about keys and plans for Sunday morning.

Sunday morning came. And there was no more talk of blogs.

I hadn't meant to get worked up again about a conversation of little importance. This was supposed to be a blog entry about a challenge to myself. A challenge to finish my conference paper in the next two days. A challenge to write a hard-to-compose email and finish another, shorter article this afternoon. These are the things I need, need, need to do. And yet I seem to have forgotten how to concentrate.

Maybe another challenge to myself is to resist the urge to fight with my father-in-law. He used to really like me and I him. It's not worth getting into full-out arguments with him because that only wounds his already shaky self-esteem and causes him to act out. Better just to grant him the attention he craves so his sweeter side can emerge.

Does this sound like weakness? Believe me, it's not. Some gritting of teeth is better for all of us. And I can always take solace in my mother-in-law, whom I genuinely adore.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


The rejection letter I knew was coming finally arrived today. I ripped it open over the recycling bin, eager to continue repressing memories of my humiliating job interview of a few weeks ago.

I was rejected all right. No surprise there. But I had to read the letter all the way through, because it contained none of the boilerplate language of the rejection genre. Instead, it was eloquent, generous, and warm. What's more, two of the hiring committee offered to meet to talk about my "journey in progress." They also offered some closing words of encouragement that I would record here, were they not so personalized and lacking in cliché.

So I slowly folded the letter in half... and tucked it into the wire basket on my desk. Now I have to figure out if and how I will make a reply. In the meantime, though, that letter feels like a salve on sunburnt skin.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Secret to Writing...

... is just keeping my butt glued to the chair. And the internet connection turned off.

Trying. It's trying. I'm trying.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Techno Hello (+Update)

I heard the baby's heartbeat today. It was strong and quick, and grooving to a techno beat.

The midwife also assured me that I had a "nice big pelvis." Funny how, in this context, that sounded like the best ever compliment.

Update: We had an ultrasound on Aug. 9, just to get a better idea of how "old" this kid might be. (Because of our early summer move and a lost pregnancy in April, I have no good recollection of the date of my LMP.) It's so early in the game, so I didn't think we'd see much of anything. Then, suprise! — there was our kid, swimming and kicking around! Then it (he/she?) slowed its movements for a long moment and pulled its left arm up by its little head. Obviously, it couldn't see Adam or me, staring in awe. But, on the ultrasound screen, it really looked as if the baby were waving and saying: "Hello, out there!"

Oh, and it turns out that we're at almost 11 weeks, 5 days, rather than the 10 weeks that I had figured. So the due date has been bumped up to the third week of February.

Sad Loss

Rest in peace, Peter Jennings.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Mi mi mi

1. First name: Was almost Samantha.
2. Were you named after anyone? I have the same name as my mother, but I was not named after her. Adding to the confusion, my mother has never been called by her real name.
3. Do you wish on stars? I’m a sucker for wishing on anything that seems like a sign…. The place where we now live has a clearer vision of the night sky than any other place I’ve lived.
4. When did you last cry? Saturday.
5. Do you like your handwriting? I’ve been told it’s “distinctive” and “trustworthy.” Not so sure about the former. It’s just my version of Palmer method. I adored “cursive class” in second grade.
6. What is your favorite lunch meat? Technically, I’m a vegetarian, but I’ve been known to eat a smoked turkey, tomato, and mayo sandwich now and again.
7. What is your most embarrassing CD? Oh, gosh, I don’t know. My whole collection is quite girly. It’s not a CD, but, long ago, I used to have an LP of “Disco Duck.” That was probably my musical low, right?
8. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Hard to say. I’m definitely personable, but I don’t do the instant-chum, girlfriend-y thing so well. Maybe I would respect myself for that, and we would have an easy bond. Ha ha.
9. Do you have a journal? I have, on and off. I recently have tried to keep a mini-calendar in which I recorded a few happenings of each day. (Otherwise, it’s so easy to forget where all the time goes.) But I find myself wanting to write paragraphs, and the calendar is frustratingly small. So I’ve been neglecting that practice lately.
10. Do you use sarcasm a lot? I used it a lot when I was fourteen. I started to give it up when I read A Separate Peace and recognized myself in John Knowles’ observation that “sarcasm is the weapon of the weak.”
11. What are your nicknames? Oh…weird varieties of my last name. First name doesn’t really lend itself to nicknames.
12. Would you bungee jump? No, thank you.
13. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? So few of my shoes have laces.
14. Do you think that you are strong? When tested, yes. I have a theory (based on one hiking trip) that I am physically stronger at high altitudes.
15. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Chocolate peanut butter. I also had raspberry sorbet last night, and it was divine.
16. Shoe Size? 9 or 9 ½. (A firm understanding of things.)
17. Red or pink? Red. But reds with blue rather than yellow undertones.
18. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? Find it hard to be at peace with where I am.
19. Who do you miss most? Both my grandmothers.
20. Do you want everyone you send this to, to send it back? I’m not really sending it. Just posting it on the blog. I may be one of the later bloggers to do this. But I'll read anyone else's version of this meme with interest.
21. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? No shoes. Pale blue pajama bottoms. I was dressed earlier today, but I nap a lot these days.
22. What are you listening to right now? Bach. Morimur, by the Hilliard Ensemble. (Adam’s CD.)
23. Last thing you ate? Stale garlic bagel with butter. To fend off nausea. But then I threw up. Yuck.
24. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Pale green. Or maybe a cheerful orange. Depends on the day.
25. What is the weather like right now? Low 80s. Very nice.
26. Last person you talked to on the phone? Adam.
27. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Not sure. Eyes. Hair. Pretty skin.
28. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Yes, certainly. I found it at Lucy’s Always Listen to Your Pig Puppet. Also saw it at New Kid on the Hallway.
29. Favorite Drink? Maybe Arizona Green Tea w/ginseng. I had some sparkling apple cider last night and it was tasty and sweet.
30. Favorite Sport? Baseball. But I really don’t watch it on TV. I do like to play in friendly softball matches.
31. Hair Color? Brownish-blond.
32. Eye Color? Blue-grey.
33. Do you wear contacts? Yes. Am blind without them.
34. Favorite Food? Can’t choose just one. But I have enjoyed watermelon lately.
35. Last Movie You Watched? Netflixed For Keeps. Watched the first half, out of nostalgia and an interest to revisit both the birth scene AND Randall Batkinoff. Was surprised to realize that the latter looks a little like my husband.
36. Favorite Day Of The Year? The end of the school term is always fun. Ditto Christmas and birthdays of people I really like.
37. Scary Movies Or Happy Endings? Oh, happy endings for sure.
38. Summer Or Winter? Both have their appeal. But I’m partial to summer.
39. Hugs OR Kisses? Hugs. There are awkward hugs, but awkward kisses are far, far worse.
40. What Is Your Favorite Dessert? I keep thinking about that raspberry sorbet.
43. What Books Are You Reading? Oh, don’t make me name all the books on my desktop right now. But they are mostly for fact-checking. Am re-reading Sandra Steingraber’s Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood. And I’m almost through Ina May Gaskins’ Spiritual Midwifery. Am slowly making my way through Michael Pollen’s The Botany of Desire and Daphne de Marneffe’s Maternal Desire: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life. (Hmm. Only just now noticed the double dose of desire.)
44. What's On Your Mouse Pad? No mouse pad. I use the little touchpad on my laptop.
45. What Did You Watch Last night on TV? Didn’t watch TV. But a few days ago I saw the program “House” for the first time.
46. Favorite Smells? Citrus. Mint. Basil. Campfire smoke in summer. Fireplace smoke in winter. The smell of good food cooking on a chilly night.
47. Favorite Sounds? I adore cello music. I also like un-self-conscious laughter, like that produced by my little nephew when he’s feeling giddy.
48. Rolling Stones or Beatles? I second Lucy on this one. Beatles if I have to choose between them. But, much as I once loved the Beatles and tried to learn their songs on my guitar, I have to admit that I’m a little weary of them now. Maybe Dar Williams’ “I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono” as antidote?
49. What's the furthest you've been from home? Budapest, probably.
50. Do you have a special talent? Procrastination.
51. What is your ring tone? I recently drove away from a gas station without realizing that I left the cell phone sitting on the trunk of the car. So I have no ring tone now. (It was just the basic one that came with the phone.)

Saturday, August 06, 2005


I started crying in the shower this morning. But it was a good cry — tears of one hundred percent joy. Our dear friends' baby has finally arrived. Granted, he arrived two weeks late and after 50 (count 'em!) fifty hours of drug-free labor. (Did I mention that his mother is a stud?) So we're elated he's finally here. Because I love his parents so much, I am already so very much enchanted with and in love with this new little guy. I can't wait to meet him in person.

Meanwhile, it's been a pretty good week here in Alleged Utopia-ville. My friend Q and I call Thursday "Fave Day," because it's our favorite day, and one on which good things are meant to happen. This past Fave Day lived up to its reputation. I had a lovely lunch with Shelly, a woman who had made friendly overtures at an orientation function back in May, and who graciously followed up on them once I'd moved to town. We confirmed that we do indeed have a great deal in common. And, although she's modest about it, I know there's a lot that I could learn from her. Shelly and I may form a little writing group for ourselves and a few other folks with interests that overlap. But, for now, I'm thankful for the stirrings of a new (and local) friendship.

Fave Day brought a second lovely surprise. My "faculty mentor" emailed me out of the blue. I'd had no idea that I was going to be assigned such a mentor. I also couldn't have predicted that she would have degrees in the two fields that I had, just a day earlier, told Adam were the two fields that I want to pursue. I'm pleasantly freaked out by the serendipity of the match.

Friday held further treats in the form of a coffee with a friend-of-a-friend and a woodsy hike with A.'s new colleague and her partner. I dare say that these were the beginnings of three new female friendships.

So, yeah. Am feeling dizzy with gratitude for the things that make life sweet. And for the people who make a new town feel like home.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mad Hot

This movie is my favorite movie of the summer.* I highly, highly recommend it.

*Okay. Not that it's had a lot of competition. Or, rather, its competition has been as follows:

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Pretty lame. But had to see it because of the Gilmore Girls connection. Alas, Alexis Bledel was the worst thing about the movie. Liked America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn, though.

Howl's Moving Castle. Charming, imaginative. Just hated Howl and the awful ending. On the plus side, we can now crack ourselves up just by saying, "Your hair -- it's like starlight!"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The books you save may be your own

Ours is a pretty strange apartment. So, on that excruciatingly hot move-in day back in June, Adam abruptly re-routed a few items to the basement, which was easier for the movers to access. Four large cartons of books he asked them to stack in the basement corner. These were "low priority" books from his old office. Segregating them made sense, Adam said, as they would soon be transported to his new office.

Five weeks later, Adam had moved into his new office. The basement cartons remained untouched. Six weeks later, I realized with horror that the basement windows leak, and that, in the wake of a heavy downpour, part of the bottom carton had become damp. I pointed this out to Adam and offered to help him relocate his books right then. He declined, citing other priorities, and noting that any of the books in that bottom box couldn't be all that important, since he hadn't been missing them.

This burned me up at the time. It bothered me that A. would willfully let books get mildewed, even if he didn't happen to need them. It also didn't fit my normally bibliophilic husband. After all, it was he who showed near physical grief the time I, in a fit of impotent fury, threw a deceitful woman's novel out into the rain. In that instance, it was he who raced outside to rescue the offending paperback, and who later secreted it away on a high shelf to protect it from further abuse.

So why this utter lack of concern for an entire carton of books? I resolved to salvage the bottom carton myself—but then stopped, feeling indignant at A's carelessness. So I deliberately turned my back on his soggy books, reasoning that to do otherwise was to enable his maddening absent-minded professor routine.

Fast forward three more weeks. I'm working on a conference paper and can't, for the life of me, locate a much-beloved book that I need to complete the project. I reason that the student to whom I lent the book last semester must never have returned it. Mourning the lost book (and my lost marginal notes), I drift back to the bookcase to check on a collection of other wonderful, recently acquired books that will form the cornerstore of my new research project this fall. I can picture exactly where, on the lower hallway shelf, these particular books reside...

...but the shelf is bare.

I feel a little woozy then, in the mingling of time present and time past. I was certain that I had stood here—right here—just a few weeks ago and unpacked those books! But, oh!, what if memory is playing that tape backwards? What if what really happened is that I had stood there, in the old house? What if I had instead pulled those books from that shelf... and loaded them into an oversized carton?

Ten minutes later, I'm standing in a puddle in the basement. A puddle that now harbors a colony of squirmy black worms, thank you very much. I have a scissors in my hand and a grim expression on my face.

Top box: Adam's books. (Outdated stuff. Hand-me-downs.)

Second box: Also Adam's. (Novels. Freebie teaching anthologies.)

Third box: Adam's again. (Really old journals he promised he would dump before the move.)

Bottom box....

Bad news if it's mine. Bad news if it's not.

Bottom box…

I gingerly tap a worm off the box with the toe of my sneaker. Then I take a deep breath and slip the scissors under the packing tape...

On the bright side, the worms are only on the outside of the box. Yeah, and on the bright side, I didn't lose that book to a student after all. There it is, albeit with wavier pages than before. There, indeed, are ALL of my new—and moldy—books.

In the $%#&-ing BOTTOM BOX. That I chose not to save. And that A. hasn't missed.

That's how he knew it was unimportant.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Here, Kiddie-Kitty

I wonder if our baby will love our cats as much as this kid appears to love his.

I really don't endorse stacking stuff on cats — honest! But I found this image on this site, which reassures visitors that the cat in the picture is still breathing and apparently okay with the affection.