Friday, February 29, 2008

Sex and the City

HOORAY!! Finally the theatrical trail for the upcoming Sex and the City movie is out! I am so excited about this movie that I have already made plans to see it on May 30th.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Mount

The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, MA, is facing foreclosure. This makes me sad and angry. Sad because this home represents something that most women of the 19th century (and a lot of the 20th century) didn't have: a home of their own. I don't mean to sound trite, but The Mount was the ideal space for Wharton that Virginia Woolf called for all women (ok, not all women; Woolf is fairly limited) to have in order to develop an independent identity. And Wharton had it some 20 years before Woolf wrote about it. This article in the NY Times discusses the foreclosure in detail. This makes me angry from the perspective of someone who worked for a non-profit for three years. Let me first say that I know nothing about the way The Mount has been managed, its donors, its board, or the details of its debt. From my own experience, I do know that this sort of debt for a non-profit generally comes from mismanagement--at not necessarily only by those who run the day to day operations, but from the board. I think Edith Wharton Restoration made a good decision when it began restructuring its board a few years ago to include people who had experience in the business world, although perhaps that decision was made to late. It seems to me that non-profits are too often run by good meaning people who don't actually have much business sense or experience, which can often cause these good meaning people to make poor and uninformed decisions about the financial future of the organization they support.

Regardless of my feelings on the mismanagement of non-profits, The Mount is a place worth saving.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Here's another one that can be filed under "What the hell are people thinking?" This article on rape--or rather how feminists cry rape too often--made me so angry that I still haven't been able to read the entire thing. As if feminists want women to get raped because is supports our argument that women don't receive equal treatment in this country--or most other countries. What disturbs me the most is that this article is written by a woman. She is entitled to her opinion and I will fight for her right to voice her opinion, however misguided it may be. But that she actually thinks her fellow women would cry rape like the little boy who cried wolf shows me that she herself has never been the victim of an inappropriate sexual overture and that she has never had a friend knock on her the door of her dorm room at 3 am, sobbing that her "date" didn't take her saying "no" over and over again seriously. I'm equally troubled that she can't imagine such a thing happening to another woman.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Too much space

When I read today's strip of "For Better or For Worse," I laughed out loud because the idea that a person can have too much personal space directly contradicts everything I'm trying to say in my dissertation.

Looking for Daddy

Wild Man is seriously missing his daddy. He's not missing him so much that he is sobbing or anything like that, but he is randomly shouting out "Dada" and saying to me "Dada?" as if to say, "Where is my father, and when will he be home?" This morning when he woke up (it was a rough night for my teething tyke, and he ended up sleeping with me just so we could get some sleep), he pulled the covers back on C's side of the bed and said "Dada?" I think he was actually expecting to find C under the covers. Thankfully C will be home tonight, although not until after Wild Man goes to bed. I know one little boy who will be very happy to see his daddy tomorrow morning.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Missing my boy

I always miss Wild Man on Thursdays as I am on campus from 9:00 until 6:00 (I teach, do research, and take a class in the late afternoon). On an average Thursday, however, C picks Wild Man up at the usual time, and they have a daddy-son afternoon. By the time I get home around 6:20 or so, C is scrubbing the remainder of their daddy-son afternoon off of Wild Man as Wild Man splashes around in the bathtub (in our house, daddy-son afternoons always equal dirt and lots of it!). This afternoon C is out of town, and since I didn't want to miss my class, I asked a good friend to pick Wild Man up at school when he picked up his daughter and take Wild Man home with them for the afternoon. This friend generously agreed to do this for us, and I am very thankful. I know that Wild Man is in great hands and that he is having a blast with his buddy. In fact, when I explained to him that he would be going home with this particular friend he immediately began chanting her name and searching for her in our house, as if she would magically appear just because he was calling her name. But this is the first time someone other than C or me has ever picked him up from school, and that makes me a little sad. I'm counting the minutes till my class is over, and I can go get him and give him lots of hugs and kisses.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thanks Kate!

Kate, at a k8, a cat, a mission, has named my blog an excellent blog! Thanks, Kate!

In honor of Kate honoring me, I want to bestow a few "Es" of my own.

To Lilian at Mama(e) in Translation who offers inspiring stories about her life and thoughtful commentary on life in general.

To Professing Mama who offers great insight into motherhood and academia.

To AcadeMama who is balancing being a mother and a graduate student in a way I admire.

And to my fellow bloggers at The Rhetorical Situation, who always get me thinking.

On his way

C left this morning to attend his field's version of MLA. Between this afternoon and Friday afternoon, he will interview with various schools. I'm feeling a bit strange about this whole process. Last year, we assumed that C, although he did have a few interviews including an on-campus visit, would not get a job because he wasn't finished with the doctorate when he went on the market. Now it seems (emphasis on seems; I don't want to put the cart before the horse, as my mother would say) that he has a really good chance of getting a tenure track position. I feel excited for him--he definitely deserves such a job--and our family--it will improve our lives a lot, at least financially.

But personally, I am feeling a bit ambivalent. If we move in the fall, my life will change dramatically for a lot of reasons, and I am not exaggerating. The move, although for the benefit of our family, will be largely about C, and while I'm ok with that, I am also wary of my own reaction and feelings once we move. I've made a similar move before when we were first married. I moved with C to the mid-sized Northeast University that treated him terribly. For the first year there, I was miserable, so miserable that I started having panic attacks and ended up in therapy (I am oversimplifying for the purposes of the blog, as the move did not cause the panic attacks and therapy was a good thing). I know what it feels like to be in a place where you have no friends and few options for making them, and I am wary of that. Secretly (well, not so secret anymore) I hope he gets a position at one of the schools that would put us close to good friends. I know myself well enough to know that I will do better in a new situation if I have a support system close by. But then, I also know myself well enough to know that I will make the best of any situation. Here's hoping his interviews go well and that Wild Man doesn't miss him too much.

**Because I've been questioned about this issue before, I want to add this post-script. While I do acknowledge that I am giving up some things (i.e. opportunities for funding and teaching) if C gets a position, I do not feel like I am making any major sacrifices for him. I am not putting his career before mine. Rather the way circumstances have worked out, he is in a position to start his career first, and as we're a family, we have to make the decision that is the best for our family. I am fully aware that I will experience a slowdown if we do move, but C experienced the same thing when we left the Northeast for the Southwest when I began my ph.d. I'm not worried about my career, my dissertation, or my work. I'm worried about being lonely.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about the shootings at Northern Illinois University. C and I had a long talk over the weekend about how vulnerable we are as teachers. He is particularly frustrated by his university's refusal to install a phone in the large lecture hall where he routinely teaches. His desire for such a phone isn't only because of the recent shootings. Because of the way the building is constructed, cell phones often don't work in the lecture hall. He has had to break up at least one fight (between an dating couple) and has had one student pass out in class. Without a phone he has no way to contact his department's office, campus security, or emergency services. He was particularly frustrated by this the day his student passed out, as he knew she was battling cancer and likely needed to get to the hospital quickly. The point is that he has repeatedly asked for a phone to be installed in this particular room, and he has repeatedly been told that the department doesn't have the resources to do so. If someone (heaven forbid) decided to attack this classroom, he would have no way to contact anyone if his and his students' cell phones weren't working, which is quite likely. Given the size of this room and the fact that there is no rear entrance or exit, he is feeling a bit vulnerable.

I hadn't felt a similar vulnerability until I realized that the classroom I'm teaching in this semester leaves me and my students vulnerable to a similar attack. I'm teaching in a small room, made to seat about 30 students. There are no other classrooms near mine. The door, which I typically leave open, is at the back of the room, and I can see anyone enter or exit. My students' desks are bolted to the floor, so if anyone did come in blazing a gun, my students have nowhere to hide. This all occurred to me today as we discussed Frances Harper's poetry. I seriously contemplated shutting and locking the door from the inside, but I didn't. After class, as I left the building, I also realized that I don't know where the fire exits are (I've never taught in this building before). Thursday morning, I think I will do a little exploring and make myself more familiar with my surroundings so that I feel a little less vulnerable.

Ultimately though, while I do think it is a good idea that I do this, I'm sad that on the first day of every semester, I will now determine how to quickly exit a classroom and how my students can protect themselves should I ever be in similar situation.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Labiaplasty: What will they think of next?

Pardon the flip title of my post, but I'm so saddened by this that I had to be flip or else I might cry. I found this sight on labiaplasty via the NOW website, which offered a quiz called "Love Your Body" in honor of Valentine's Day. The question on labiaplasty reads "A new trend of plastic surgery called ________ is when external folds of skin surrounding the vulva are snipped to better resemble images of "ideal" women." Is there actually an image of an ideal vulva that women believe they should conform to? I don't even know what to do with that. I'm not really surprised as much as I am aghast. Are women actually scouring images of nude women to determine if their labia are small enough? Are men actually saying to their female partners, "Honey, I'd like if your labia were a little smaller. Would you consider having surgery to correct that?" I have heard of women having labiaplasty after giving birth because they felt their labia didn't look and/or feel the same after labor (which troubles me as well). But I was totally unaware that there was an ideal image of a vulva and that small labia are preferred. Isn't there a single part of the body that women (and even men) can be universally happy with? Or at least one that we don't feel we need to surgically alter?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I choose my choice part 2

I'm still thinking about this idea, so this won't be the longer post I eventually hope to write. I do want to clarify a few things though.

First, I didn't mean to suggest that feminists are supposed to feel unfulfilled by motherhood (sorry, Jennie, if I did misread you). Rather what I meant was that there is a stereotype of women, who may or may not be feminists, who have given up their high-powered, high-paying careers to have children. These women are either obsessed with their children or unfulfilled by motherhood. I'm thinking of another SATC episode: "The Baby Shower" which is from the first season. In this episode the ladies attend a shower of a former friend who has left behind her high-paying job as a talent agent for a record company to marry and have a family. Aside for the main characters, all the women at the baby shower have children, and several of them have also left behind similar careers to have families. One woman in particular talks about how she used to manage something like 50 people in a Fortune-500 company (it's been a while since I've seen this episode, so forgive me if I'm getting the details wrong. The gist is correct.). She says "Now I just yell at the gardener," implying that she no longer has an outlet for her passion for work. She is represented as unfulfilled. At the other end of the spectrum there are the women who are completely obsessed by their children. There is one woman who says "I think my son is a god, and I tell him so every day." I think we, and by we I mean women and society at large, buy into these stereotypes a lot. Women are supposed to be either somewhat unfulfilled by motherhood or obsessed with their children. There is no in-between when clearly there is as most mothers I know are incredibly happy to be moms but also struggle to find time to do the things they like and want to do that have little to do with mothering.

Second, Amy Reads writes:

I think feminism gave us the right to choose to have a career outside of "The Home," or to "stay at home" with our children, or both, or neither. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't choose to be a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn't mean I have any less respect for the women who do choose to stay at home, Ph.D. or no. Feminism is All About Choice, and who am I to judge another woman's choices? She certainly should not be able to judge mine.

I agree with everything Ms. Reads has expressed, but unfortunately, we, as women and mothers, are judged for our choices. It is all well and good to say that feminism has provided us with choices and that we shouldn't judge one another for our choices. In an ideal world, that would be the way it is, but we do judge each other for our choices. The "Mommy Wars" wouldn't be a term we're all familiar with if we didn't judge one another. I'm really interested in the guilt (and I'm not sure this is the word I want to use, but it is the best one I can come up with right now) women (and, obviously, I don't mean all women) feel for choosing motherhood rather than a career, or a career rather than motherhood, or "trying to have it all." Why do we wonder whether we are sell-out feminists? Why do stay-at-home moms attack working moms and vice versa? Why can't Charlotte (or Jennie, or Supadiscomama, or Megs, or Ms. Reads, or I for that matter) just make a choice for herself, which is really what I want to believe feminism is about, without having to justify it?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I choose my choice

I'm putting this title up so that I actually blog about this line, which is from an episode of "Sex and the City." I've been thinking about this line ever since Jennie and I had our conversation about motherhood and feminism. I think many women, particularly academic women, struggle with being feminists and being mothers. There is the perception, as Jennie points out, that as ambitious, learned women, we're supposed to feel somewhat unfulfilled by motherhood, particularly if we end up staying home with our children for any length of time. I have to admit that I hadn't given that a lot of thought until Jennie brought it up. Why does that perception exist? Why do we end up feeling guilty, on the basis of our feminist beliefs, if we aren't unfulfilled? Why isn't it ok to have a degree (or even three) and decide to stay home with the kids? Why do we pretend to not be interested in our children when we're in certain circles? I have an anecdote about this. I have a professor who is a staunch feminist and who has a young son. I don't see this professor as often as I would like, and when I do, I invariably ask her how she's doing. To be quite honest, I don't expect her to tell me about her son; we don't really have that sort of relationship, and given that she is who she is, I'm more interested in her work. But she does tell me about her son, and she often shows me a picture. I then comment on how cute he is (not out of sense of obligation either. This kid is genuinely beautiful.). She then makes some sort of self-deprecating comment about her mothering skills. This is a woman who is extremely accomplished and fairly confident. It always bothers me that she makes such self-deprecating comments about her mothering skills.

My gut reaction is this issue is that women are too hard on themselves--we have been taught to expect too much out of ourselves (yes, this is the generic sort of statement that my peeps over at The Rhetorical Situation would hate, but I do think it is a largely true statement). I do believe that we're all insecure about our abilities to mother and to be successful in life in general (as evidenced by my professor's comments), but I'm not quite sure why we continue to feel guilt and confusion over being mothers, wives, and feminists. I am going to think about this some more and revisit this quotation. In the meantimes, does anyone have any thoughts?

Random question

I'm taking this post down because this information is mysteriously making its way around my department. In fact, someone I never talk to just stopped me in the hall to congratulate me on the number of interviews C has. That makes me really uncomfortable for a few reasons. First and foremost, yes, C has a lot of interviews, but regardless of how many interviews he has, he is not guaranteed a job. I don't want him to be uncomfortable with the people in my department, especially faculty members, should he not get a job. Second, I don't want to make other people, especially graduate students, feel uncomfortable in comparison.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I think Wild Man needs one

Wild Man is way into coloring lately--ok, he is into scribbling in coloring books, but whatever. To encourage his creativity, I think he needs this coloring book.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Holy crap!

I'm sitting in my office, deep into a book on Wharton as a spatial theorist (this is, by the way, my last week on Wharton for a while; I submitted my unfinished chapter to my advisor yesterday and am planning to begin a new one. I'm just trying to get through a stack of ILL books I ordered.), when my cell phone rings. It is C from his office. The conversation went something like this:

M: Hey, what's up? Are you on your way home?

C: I have an on-campus interview.

M: What in the hell are you talking about? (Thinking to myself: how is this possible? Your field's version of MLA isn't for 2 more weeks.)

C: I have an on-campus interview.

M: That's great! Could you give me some more details?

C: I have an on-campus interview.

Ok, so I am exaggerating a bit, but C was in a bit of shock. It seems that he checked his voice mail when he finished teaching, as he does obsessively these days, and he had a call from Medium West Coast State University requesting an on-campus. It seems that MWC State is following C's fields recent trend of foregoing preliminary interviews at their version of MLA in favor of bringing candidates on campus. They actually want him to come the week of the conference, which he obviously can't do as he now has 8 preliminary interviews there (did I forget to mention that?). My normally unshakable husband is more than a little shaken.

As for me, I am so proud of him! I want to run fly up to the Big Norteast State School where he got his Ph.D. and tell all those hoity-toity, up-tight people who made his academic life hell for almost 7 years: "Look, this is the guy you said couldn't do it! Not only did he do it, but he did it 2 years faster than most of your students, while teaching a 4-4 course load, and having a wife and a child. Oh, and by the way, he's got 8 interviews (1 at an R1 university) at your big conference and 1 on-campus already! What do you think of him now?"

Pretty Mama

Wild Man has recently stopped calling me "Mimi" and started calling me "Mama." He has also learned the word "pretty." This morning as he was running around our bedroom while I got dressed he took a break from chasing the cat and shouting "Pellie" at her (her name is Pearl) to watch me put on a necklace. He then held up his arms and said "Up, pwease." So I picked him up, and he proceeded to touch my necklace. He looked at me, patted my hair, and said "Pretty Mama." Then he wriggled out of my arms and resumed chasing the cat.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

In case something happens to the first one. . .

In a recent conversation with my mom, we got on the topic of me having a second child. As a rule, I do not discuss having children with my parents. They had no idea that C and I were trying when I announced I was pregnant with Wild Man, and if we do have a second child, I plan to use the same strategy. The conversation started with me saying how exhausted I was from the rough week we'd had. It went something like this.

Mom: It sounds like Wild Man is having fun.

Me: Oh, he is. After three days on antibiotics, he is back to his old self, playing, running, getting into everything. I'm the one who is struggling! I have a cold and am still trying to catch up on all the sleep I lost this week.

Mom: Just think how tired you'll be when you have two.

Me: Well, Mom, Wild Man may be it. We may not have a second one.

Mom: (in a very stern voice) You have to have a second child, M!

Me: Well, no, Mom, actually I don't.

Mom: Yes, you do. Parents should always have two children in case something happens to the first one.

Now, I've heard my mom say this my entire life, and she firmly believes it. I don't question her belief in this because I've heard her speak about how close my brother came to dying as an infant (he had spinal meningitis when he was 5 months old, and he was very sick for several weeks). She took comfort in knowing that if anything had happened to my brother she had another my sister to help her through her grief (I wasn't born yet). Every time I hear this story, I always think "Can one child really replace another child? In my mother's case, would my sister have been enough to get her through losing my brother?" Fortunately, we'll never know because (and I think this is something that influences my mother's opinion on this issue) my mother has never lost a child. When she said this during our recent conversation, I just changed the subject, but I had much stronger reaction that I didn't share with her. I really think this is a stupid statement, and I hope my mother never says it to me again. If anything ever happened to Wild Man, I would be completely and utterly devastated. No other child could replace him, just as he couldn't be the replacement for any other child. While I understand that the job of parenting and the love for one child may force a person through the grieving process faster, I don't think one person can ever replace another. And I also think saying this sort of thing in front of a child who has just lost her sibling puts a lot of undue pressure on that child. Not only has the child lost her sibling, but now she must also become a replacement for that lost sibling. I love my mom, but sometimes I really question her thinking.

Another phone call from school

In the middle of teaching this morning, my cell phone went off, and I looked at the number. It was Wild Man's school. I told my students that I had to take the call, and I walked out of the room, dreading the news I was about to receive. It was Wild Man's teacher telling me that one of Wild Man's classmates had bitten him on the cheek. Wild Man is fine, aside from a mouth shaped bruise on his cheek, but she wanted to let me know so I didn't get upset when I picked him up. My students got a good laugh out of that one.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A rough week

Shortly after I posted on Monday, as I was revising a section of my dissertation, I got a phone call from Wild Man's teacher. He had a fever of 103.6. I dropped everything to go get him, while C tried to get us into to see the pediatrician. He quickly learned that there was no chance of us getting an appointment on Monday, so he made an appointment for first thing Tuesday morning. We were scheduled to see a pediatrician in the practice we go to, but not our pediatrician. This is not normally a big deal, except that the pediatrician C made the appointment with is our least favorite of all the pediatricians. When I got home with Wild Man, we quickly assessed the situation, and given how lethargic Wild Man was, we decided to brave the urgent care clinic that afternoon. Once we got there, we figured that there wasn't much chance of us getting an appointment, but C stood in line to check us in while I sat with Wild Man. My normally active little boy didn't want to do anything more than sit on my lap and rub my hair. After 25 minutes in line, C was told that there was a 2.5 hour wait to see a doctor. He made the executive decision that we needed to get Wild Man home and wait to see a doctor until the morning.

Given how terrible Wild Man felt, Monday night wasn't as horrible as it could have been. Tuesday morning was pretty bad though, as C was still getting over a stomach bug he had developed Monday morning. Somehow I managed to get ready to teach, give Wild Man breakfast, give C ginger ale, and get us all to the doctor by 8:15 am. The doctor's assessment wasn't a surprise: a virus. He told us to continue to give Wild Man medicine if the fever was bothering him and to bring him back by the end of the week if he still had a fever. My mommy instinct told me the doctor was wrong; I knew something was wrong, and that Wild Man's symptoms were going to get worse before they got better. The rest of the week has been about keeping Wild Man feel comfortable and trying to find time to do a little work.

Wednesday C was at school all day, so I was home with Wild Man. Considering he had a fever that hovered around 102 all day, we had a relatively good day. At 10:00, as I tried to check email, Wild Man sat down by my desk and just started crying. I picked him up and 5 minutes later he was asleep in my lap. I held him while I answered students' emails for about 30 minutes, and I decided to try to put him down. Putting Wild Man down when he's fallen asleep on you is always dicey. I opted for our bed (yes, I am part of the bad-mommy brigade) rather than his crib b/c he tends to nap better on our bed. Luckily, he stayed asleep. And he slept for 2.5 hours, giving me enough time to get my lessons for Thursday. He woke up in a good mood, so after lunch, he and I headed to school so I could get some copies made and pick up some books from the library. We got home just as C got home, and Wild Man was happy to see his dad. They played for an hour or so, and then Wild Man crawled into my lap and fell asleep for an hour.

Wednesday night was rough. C took the night shift so I was rested to teach. He ended up sleeping on the floor of Wild Man's room so he could comfort him back to sleep every time he woke himself up coughing. I spent Thursday in my office on campus working, and C and Wild Man had the day to themselves. It was, apparently, 180 degrees different from Wednesday. Wild Man was whiny, tired, fussy, and just not himself. We had an appointment with our pediatrician for Wild Man to get his 15 month shots Thursday afternoon, but it was pretty clear that he wouldn't be getting any shots. As soon as C and Wild Man walked into the doctor's office, I knew my mommy instinct had been right. Wild Man was glassy-eyed, listless, and wanted to do nothing more than have me hold him. He made no attempt to get down or to play with the toys in the waiting room. He didn't say hello to the receptionist, the nurses, or any of the other children there. He didn't even notice the doctor as she poked and prodded him--and he loves his doctor.

After the doctor did her initial assessment, she decided that Wild Man needed a chest x-ray; although his lungs sounded clear, his prolonged fever had her worried. She said she'd seen several kids his age with pneumonia, so she wanted to make sure he didn't have that. We headed over to radiology for an x-ray, and 45 minutes later she showed C and I our son's x-rays. She explained that the wedge shaped shadow in his right lung was pneumonia. I immediately assumed we'd be spending the night (and maybe the next) in the hospital. Our doctor is so great though. She wanted to do what was best for Wild Man and given what we'd told her about his hospital stay after his seizure, she said she didn't want to put him in the hospital unless it was absolutely necessary. She had a nurse check his pulse-ox, and when she learned it was 97%, she decided he could go home with us. She gave him two shots of antibiotics, and we made an appointment to see her again today.

Last night was not great, but it was better than Wednesday night. And Wild Man woke up for the first time all week without a fever. He still wasn't himself, but he was more himself than he has been. He actually ate and tried to play. At his follow-up appointment, his doctor decided to give him a course of oral antibiotics rather than another shot, and we discussed what to do if he should get worse over the weekend. Right now he is sleeping soundly, and C and I are both keeping our fingers crossed that he sleeps through the night. Because he and I definitely need a good night's sleep after this rough, rough week.