-25 points for religious training, +150 points for literature knowledge

Monday, January 28, 2008

On Friday, Emily went with a friend to a Christian "club" for kids. Apparently, they play games and hear Bible type stories. The plan was for me to pick the girls up from school - get them fed, and the father of the friend would pick them up at 6:30, take them to the club, and then return them afterwards for a sleepover.

Emily had already announced to the friend that Mom and Dad didn't "do" church. I have to suffer the pitying glance of a nine year old who, I'm sure, is calculating my descent into hell postmortem.

But hey. I'm no religious bigot. If Emily wants to go and check these things out, no problem. She has attended church with her grandmothers and aunts, so she has a vague inkling of the rituals.

This morning, after the friend had gone home, I asked Emily how she liked the church club.

"It was pretty good", she said.

"Oh. What did you learn?"

"Well, God touched people with lepers and they were healed."

I pause. As a former Roman Catholic, I know my Bible stories.

"I think it was Jesus, honey - and the people WERE lepers. They had Leprosy and Jesus isn't god."

She pauses. "Who was Jesus then, if he isn't God?"

"Well - he is the son of God."

She takes this in. "So Where does Mary come into this?"

"She is Jesus' mother - and God was his father."

She stares off pondering the union between invisible spirit and Human.

"So Jesus is half God, half mortal?"

I raise my eyebrows. "Yeah. I guess you could say that he was."

Her expression smooths into understanding.

"Just like Hercules."

Split personality

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In my second year as Sophist for hire, I find I am still struggling with things I feel I should have put to rest long ago.

My striving need for success, for recognition, for anointment as Better than, smarter than, more than is something with which I struggle deeply.

Is it jealousy? Maybe a little, but it is more than that. Deeper. Jealousy implies to me that it is more surface, more covetous in nature.

This itch that I feel tickles the very bottom of my soul. In a hurtful way, a scab not yet healed but picked off way, a way that aches as I do it, and Yet I can't help it.

I do not like this facet of myself. I have not been served well by it, for it has driven me to exhaustion and gotten me into more trouble than the ambition is worth at times. This is the one that Terrance has correctly labeled the Snob. The part of me that DOES believe that I am better than you.

The filter that I attempt to muzzle over my brain to mouth conduit is part of the repression of these urges. I understand, intuitively, that the intelligence I have been graced with is not always a good thing. My brain - ever active, ever alert, ever watchful and thinking, whirs with information and opinions. They can leap out, unbidden, into the world. I can stand on the side of myself and watch the event, thinking "Oh no. That wasn't good".

For those of you who have had the mixed pleasure of hanging with me in person, you will know that my facial expressions often are matching my internal dialog. EXACTLY matching my internal dialog. Raised eyebrows, eye rolls, looks of surprise, interest, sarcasm, humor, concern - all roll across the palette of my face - a veritable ocean of expressions. I often forget my face and have gotten into more trouble than I care to acknowledge in meetings for my inability to remain impassive. When in doubt, you will find me staring down at a book, or piece of paper in my lap - trying hard not to look up, for I know my facade will be shattered if I make eye contact with anyone.

As I wrestle with this side of myself, I ponder how it came to be. I know not everyone feels the drive I do to be recognized, and the easy answer would point to my father. His distance made me want to be special. His looming non-presence in my life pushed me to be more.

If only it was so very Freudian.

Maybe it is my age - approaching 40 - or the long winter of Montreal. I feel restless and antsy. My comp questions are due and are - for the most part - done. I just have to write them. I have trouble moving beyond these milestones in my progress. Each step brings me closer to the end - which I both long for and fear. For then, what will I do?

I struggle with an apology to the Instructor from Wednesday. I should. My rational side knows that I SHOULD address it. In fact the rational dawn is HOUNDING me to address it. Stubborn dawn? HATES to apologize. A Pathological aversion to apologies.
I will struggle to find a way to say the words and still remain sincere, but also prove that I am right. Not a very good tactic - I know. There are times I wish I could do what so many other people do and just smile and apologize - but my face gives me away. I am a lousy liar, so my lies are mixed with partial truths or statements that I believe are true so that I can say them with impunity.

I counteract the Snob in me by forcing her to put my talents to work for the underserved of the world - Young children, families in poverty. As the snob cries out for recognition, I force her to be involved in the world she longs to escape.

Sometimes I don't like me very much.

Hi! Let me offend you!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It is no greatly kept secret that I can offend nearly anyone upon meeting them.

Now, I wouldn't say that I TRY to do this...




I had hoped that as I left the world of state political machinations and rose into the world of academia that I would find people who finally "got" me. Having felt, at times, wildly out of place in the world of early childhood using my fancy words like "curriculum" and "developmental theorists" I hoped that I would get to a place where my way of talking...of THINKING was understood implicitly.

Add in my innate dislike of most of humanity and - really, it is a wonder that I attracted a mate or have acquired the skills necessary to keep any type of job outside of "distraught loner".

Now, I first had an inkling into this side of my personality when I was in 7th grade and was completely thrown out by my peer group. True, some of the problem was them. I am sure they are very happy at their barely minimum wage jobs today, living in their re-possessed trailers.

It took me a little while to figure out that I had been dumped. Like the day I realized that no one was coming to my birthday sleep over. I still assumed that people were just delayed a bit. You know - life? Gets crazy for 7th graders. Hard to be on time with all those pressing mall commitments.

The pattern has continued. I keep hoping that the next venue - the next horizon will be one that Understands me. I climb up the career ladder thinking "The next stop will be filled with people who speak and think like me".

Um. Nope. Still hasn't happened. I am in academia and I am suspicious that I remain the smartest chick in the group - the biggest fish in the pond. I speak to people who should be colleagues and often wonder if they know what the hell I am talking about, cause they don't look like they do. I find, to my incredible frustration, that I do not find the level of academic rigor that I wished for in the minds of these fellow students and academics - that they have grown stale and set in their ways. I worry that this will happen to me at some point. Will I become convinced that I know everything there is to know about Young children?

My filter - the one which is barely present at the best of times, has started to slip badly again. I did it tonight in a class in which I am a TA. The Instructor made a statement - a statement which was not correct. Not based on research or general professional consensus. Simply not correct.

And without thinking, my head snapped up and I said "No, I don't think that's true!"

This, my friends, is NOT the way to endear yourself to an Instructor.

And this is where I have found myself - doing this very thing in the classes in which I am the TA this term. Trying to stuff down my opinions until they bubble up and out like an unstoppable geyser. Only to be blocked and frozen out - my voice stifled and silenced. Being paid 23 dollars an hour to take attendance and sit in the corner of the room.

So I offend. I talk back and say things to students, even as these instructors try to chase me down to hush me up. And why? Because the Students deserve more and more than them - their future students deserve more. I just have to figure out how to slip them the benefit of my voice without getting canned in my Department.

Pride Goeth before the fall

Monday, January 21, 2008

Yes, a re-print from my first year of blogging friends. I am trying to craft my comp questions and am "interviewing" for something to be revealed (hopefully) later. But this still makes me laugh....

And now, in the dead of winter, I give you a summer story.

We live on a lake. A lovely, pristine lake. One of the reasons I have stayed here in this small cottage for eleven years has been for the love of this lake.

Long before we had a child, I adored laying about in the lake. I would go out, tether my inner tube to a rock and lay there reading trashy novels. I am soothed by water.

My husband, a child of inner city Detroit, does not hold the same affection for the water. He views the lake as a "workout" opportunity. He swims, when he deigns to come to the water, with purpose. He does not relax in the water.

When pregnant, I swam twice a week. I was wildly proud of my swimming class. Truth be told, we were a bunch of heavily pregnant women floating in 85 degree water and doing very low impact activity. The joy in this activity was in the weightlessness of my belly. Emily would grow very still and quiet when I swam. I suspect she was a bit startled that I was flipping and flopping around at such unusual angles. I swam the day before I gave birth.

I was eager to get Emily into the water after she was born. Having a May birthday, I thought this gave me a lovely opportunity to introduce her to the lake when the warmth of July hit us full force. My plan, however, was not Emily's plan during the first year. She screamed like a banshee every time I touched her foot to the water.

This has changed. She is a water baby and an incredible swimmer. At seven, she is confident and comfortable in the water. I float on my noodles and she flips around me like a playful otter.

This August, I decided to show her a few of Mom's water abilities. In my day, I had some skillz.

I started with the underwater handstand. Hands down, legs up, legs straight and together and down.


Emily and the neighbor boy were duly impressed. "Do it again, Mom" said Emily, with a voice full of impressed awe.

I did. I added variations to the additional accolades of the neighbor boy and Emily.

I was feeling good. I was 35 and still able to pull off some water acrobatics.

There was a split second when I searched my mind for any other impressive water tricks I could pull out for this admiring audience. Ahhh, I thought, I 've got one.

Me: "Wanna see my back flip?"

Fatal words, friends, fatal words.

With the admiring stares of these two children, I prepared myself for my piece de resistance.

I raised my arms, and made a big show of centering myself. Then I pushed off and flung myself backwards.

A split second before my face hit the sand, I realized that this was a critical oversight on my part. I was dealing with a whole different body mass than the last documented time I had performed this particular stunt. I had sizable developments in the breast area with which to contend.

Time slowed as my face grated through the sand and my brain connected with the searing pain coursing through my face.

I emerged from the lake bottom, to the stunned faces of my previously enthusiastic audience.

Sand had parted my hair. I was bleeding from one side of my nose. The other side was completely impacted with sand. I had sand in my mouth, that I was sputtering out as I came up.

But the crowning glory of this scene was my bathing suit top. It had completely FILLED with sand and was hanging down to my belly, exposing about 96% of my sand covered bosom to the crowd.

It took me a few seconds to realize that I was showing the neighbor boy far more than he had bargained on seeing. I then dropped to my neck in the water, began dancing around trying to stuff the "girls" back into their LL Bean top, shake out the accumulated sand from my suit and blow the core of sand that had developed in my left nostril.

The two children were completely silent. My boobs had rendered them speechless, and not in a good way.

A few minutes later, the boy says, "It's a little shallow here to do that, don't you think?"

Yes sir, thanks for the heads up. Now I will retreat to my Meme coverup and go sit on the side of the water like people my age should. Lesson learned. There is a time to retire the backflip.

Know where I can rent a Hyppogriff?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dear Emily's current teacher,

You know - I swore I was never going to be one of "those" parents...and to date I haven't. I don't do her homework - at least not with my knowledge or consent. There are times she tricks me into giving up information, but I swear that I am attempting to enforce the "Your homework - Your effort" rule.

And I like how you had the child and parent write out and sign the Plan for the upcoming oral report she will be doing. You made it very clear that this was a project which needed to be thought through - planned for, and rehearsed.

What I think you and I both forgot is that I am, at heart, a teacher. And prep work makes me weirdly happy. So once my kid decided on a topic for "Over the Hills and Far Away", I was off like a shot. Truth be told Emily does know ALOT about the topic of Hogwarts - which was her decided topic. I do too, as a matter of fact. This will help the parent-child connection to be sure.

What you didn't know, and I wasn't externally aware of was my insane need for excellence in Props. There will be no crappy drawings of House crests. Emily now has a beautiful silk banner depicting all four houses.

Did you know that JK Rowling wrote two faux textbooks for the Harry Potter series? I didn't at first - but Emily has those now too.

I can't help but think that the building cards we found to create a Hogwarts will be fun and so impressive. How great the 3-D model of Hogwarts will be to really bring home the visual space.

And Quills. We found Quills and ink in real bottles and parchment. Enough so that the children can give the quills a try with the fancy tips and each get a piece of parchment of their very own...Of course, there will be demo pieces with ribbon tied around, just like the kind the students need to hand in to their professors.

Did I mention the Bertie Bott's every flavor beans? And Chocolate Frogs? For tasting you know.

This doesn't make me one of those parents does it? The 150 bucks I dropped on props?

Sigh. I would SO ace third grade.

Biological Problems

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I have continued to think about the role of women in politics and other positions of power.

What is it that continues to be so scary about assertive, intelligent, ambitious women?

Why does Hillary have to have a "tearful breakdown". And honestly - was that really a "tearful breakdown"? Has she not been criticized, again and again, for appearing to have no emotions?

When I was the director of the child care, I was frequently told by my (male) supervisor that I needed to be "warmer". More "nurturing". The women that I supervised found me a bit cold and intellectual. He even told me, at one point, that he was glad I was pregnant because it would "soften my image" with the teaching staff.

In the performance review after I had my daughter, he noted that my change in status had made me "more human" in the eyes of the staff.

At the same time, I was being told that I needed to keep a professional distance from the staff. I needed to be a leader - and leaders are assertive and decisive. They make the tough decisions and do not show any emotion about making those decisions. They lay off teachers and act as if it isn't any big deal. Business is business.

Women like that? Aggressive and bitchy. Cold. Condescending. Masculine. Too big for their britches.

Let's add in a few more things we've been called, shall we?

1. Dyke.

Of course. A woman who doesn't roll over as soon as any kind of confrontation with a man occurs is surely a dyke. What else could account for their inability to worship the innate superiority of the penis?

2. Slut/Whore

While this gem is generally used by other women to denigrate the renegade female, males have also been known to use this moniker. Any female in a position of power must have fucked SOMEBODY to get there, right?

3. Unattractive

This wide ranging descriptor holds lots of others within it's realm. Fat, ugly, funny looking, exotic - anything which falls out of the limits of conventional beauty can be lumped into this category. The irony is that if you appear TOO attractive than you must be a Slut/Whore - not attractive enough? Dyke.

4. Cold/Emotional

A woman who seeks any kind of external power or responsibility can't be normal. I mean she is either an unfeeling bitch, or a crazy woman whose uterus is going to erupt into crazy crying hormones at the most inopportune times. Usually when she has to make an important decision or choice. Because as we all know Tears=Crazy. Tears=Mentally Unbalanced. Tears=Inability to think clearly.

As a woman, Hillary has had to deal with all of these contradictory messages IN ADDITION to her job performance. She has to face these spoken and unspoken judgments in a way that is absent from the assessment of the male candidates. If she is exhausted, it isn't because campaigning is grueling. It's because she is a woman and they are, after all, the weaker sex. Newt Gingrich's infamous quote about why women shouldn't go to war still stands: "If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they get infections and they don't have upper body strength".

If she is upset, it is because she is a woman - and you know how they can get. The ones who are not menopausal get all hormonal and irrational. The ones who are post menopausal - they can get all hormonal and irrational.

If she is President, won't she just ask her husband HIS opinion? After all, he would know more than she would, and we all know how easily wives are influenced by their husbands. We all do exactly what they say - everyone knows that.

I may not love Hillary's every position. I may take issue with some of her decisions and choices as a politician. However, I intimately know the razor's edge she walks. My hope, regardless of the outcome of this primary season, is that we find a way to start talking again about why women continue to be subjected to this insane double standard. As the generation of women who benefited from the wave of 1960's feminism, why are our daughters and their friends ashamed to be called feminists? Where did we get hijacked along the way? How do we communicate the ground still left to cover to these young women who we have falsely sold the idea that they can do anything?

Still a man's world

Monday, January 07, 2008

Terrance and I - like many Americans (I hope!) had a heated discussion regarding the primary elections.

As we have both lived in New Hampshire for several election cycles, we are intimately familiar with the primary process. We have gone to private house meetings for chats with candidates. We have attended rallies and speeches. We giggle to see people we know extremely well show up on CNN for sound bites about the New Hampshire primary.

I am registered as a Democrat. Terrance? One of those New Hampshire "Independents" that you hear so much about. Truth is, I don't think he could register as a socialist so he chose the next best thing.

While I have been a life long, faithful Democrat, that doesn't mean I always support the presumptive nominee. I voted for Howard Dean in the last primary - and Bill Bradley before that. Neither got the party nomination, but I voted my conscious.

We are both excited to watch this primary. Regardless of whether you support one candidate or another, it seems for the first time in a long time that we have got several well qualified people from which to choose. Bill Richardson? Love him. Kucinich? Really love him. Barack? Like him well enough, and Hillary.

Hillary is where Terrance and I had the bulk of our discussion.

Terrance wondered if the "likeability" factor that has been discussed so frequently is truly a factor, or if this is simply a veiled way of saying something else. Of course, we both worry that white American won't bring themselves to truly vote for a black man...and if they do, they will feel that it wipes the slate of long standing racial inequities clean. As in "Hey, look - I voted for a black guy - See! No racism here!"

The thing that we diverged on was the expectation of women. I contend that Hillary is being held to a vastly different standard because she is a woman. I contend that I understand her tenuous position because I have walked that path, albeit in a less high profile way.

Woman, you see, should both be warm and nurturing - and a hard decision maker.
Women should be friendly, but not too friendly.
Women should be smart - but not intimidatingly smart.
Women should be ambitious - but not so much as a man.
Women should be mothers - but they shouldn't be missing work for reasons around their kids.

My husband looked at me and said "Really? You really think so?"

Good Lord. Has he lived with me at all for the past 17 years? Has he not seen me struggle with the opposing roles that I try to play to the extreme cost of my inner self?

And the answer? Of course he has. He has seen it all. The difference is the lens that he brings to thinking about the issue. He objectifies some of my experiences as a result of my "personality" or "competence". Which, perhaps in some way, they may be related - but not entirely.

There is a much deeper issue. One that the new feminists need to find a way to talk about more completely, with the nuance of life experiences. In one of my last classes of 80 students, only two stood up when asked who identified themselves as a feminist. Two young women at university!

Hillary has the qualifications to be president. She has the experience. She has the intelligence and the energy.

But she won't be president. Americans are more comfortable talking about how NOT racist they are rather than dually address the issue of the unfair double standard to which most professional women are held. Amazingly, they are more comfortable grabbing the third rail of racism than to have a true discussion about the role and value of women in American society.

Barack Obama may be black, but he's still a man.

my pointless update

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

In the spirit of the new year, I would like to share some things I learned during this past few days spent at a gorgeous cottage in the woods in Quebec.

1. Birds are really hard to photograph. I mean - Dude. They are fast, even when lured close with birdseed.

2. I kick holiday ass in my gnome themed pajama bottoms.

3. I have the uncanny ability to fall down/wipe out during EVERY activity. This will include swinging the controller during Wii golf, tennis, or bowling. I will also provide the entire group of people with the most spectacular sledding wipeout in which my hat will fly off my head and I will do two full tumble rolls before coming to a stop - face down - in the snow.

(no photo available)

4. I will remember how beautiful the world is, even when I am crabby and have a face full of snow.

5. La Chatte should be obeyed in all things, for she will crush you like the insignificant bug you are. (and she really digs watching squirrels lured onto the cottage porch with old breakfast toast. Of course she came on holiday with us!)

6. Spending three days with no cable or internet with friends and family is a truly wonderful thing. I couldn't have asked for a better way to start a new year.
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