Monday, August 29, 2011

Starting Over

It's been a long, long time since I've even thought about blogging, but things have changed so much (and then again, so little) in our lives lately that I feel like I'm at a place where I'm really excited about and ready to commit to this whole blogging thing again  (cue the chorus of Foreigner's "Feels Like the First Time"). 

I find myself with much, much more free time now that I'm not teaching and my eldest is in school all day.  So much time!  What to do? For starters, I've found myself falling in love all over again with another old flame: books.  I've been reading voraciously.  I've read more in the past two months since we moved to Evanston than I probably did in the 1-2 years that preceded our move (not counting things I had assigned for my classes, of course), maybe even in the five+ years since my first child was born. There are so many wonderful books out there. It is truly lovely to actually have the time to enjoy them. After several trips to the local new and used bookstores I quickly realized I needed to cut back on my book expenditures (seeing as how I'm not working more than very part-time at one of said local bookstore), which allowed me to rediscover the wonders of the library system.  So many books just begging to be taken home.  The kids and I spent some time there yesterday, and left with a huge bag full of books for them and for me.  It was lovely.  I'm already halfway through one of the five books I picked up for myself, and it's wonderful. 

I've also decided to try to teach myself how to do some things I've been wanting to learn but haven't had the time to until now.  For starters, I've decided to teach myself how to use the manual settings on my camera.  I'm inspired by my good friend, Erin, who's self-taught and takes the most amazing pictures. If I can be half or even just a quarter as good as her, I'll consider it a success. Maybe I'll teach myself web design.  The sky's the limit (although it does not extent to learning physics. Since I'm married to a physicist I'll just let him be the one in our family to be knowledgeable about the subject).  I'm excited to actually have the time to start to be able to do things and learn things that are just for me. 

I imagine this blog will morph into an amalgam of several things: some book reviews of the things I read on here, updates on my "do-it-yourself" projects, as well as my random musings about my life, the world, and motherhood. I hope you enjoy what follows. 

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Awesome Award

Vegan Linda has given me my first ever blog award--the I Love You This Much award. Thanks, Linda! I love you (and your family and blog), too!

As Linda pointed out in her post, though, "it wouldn't be a proper blog award if you keep giving it back to those who gave it to you" so I'm going to link to some of my other favorite blogs.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If you get tagged (and want to play along), write a post with links to blogs that you love,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

Without further ado, I'm giving this award to:

Perpetually Sarah
--Sarah doesn't post much more frequently than I do these days, but hers was the first blog I ever started reading, and she is one of my bestest pals from the time I was in elementary school and was my Maid of Honor when I got married. She is getting ready to welcome her first little one in just a few short weeks, and it's killing me that we live so far away from one another. (Well, it's always been a bummer, but the whole both having kids thing while living so far away is really making me sad.)

Looseyfur's Midwest Adventures
--Loosey's another fabulous blogger, and unlike me, she posts just about every day. Our boys were born just a month apart, and when I read her blog I often feel like she's taking the thoughts out of my mind, articulating them more clearly than I'm usually able to, and posting them. I've really been enjoying her feminist commentary as of late, and it's been a lot of fun to get to know her in person, too.

Two Kids, A Cat, and a Blog--Quigs is another local blogger, and she has the most adorable kids. She really has a knack for injecting humor into her blog posts. I love reading what she writes because it's always so witty. She really has the best one-liners!

Fabulous Follies of a Freaky Family
--The Fearless Freak is yet another fabulous local blogger. Her depiction of her life is so candid, and she lets it all just hang out, so to speak, on her blog. Her honesty is refreshing, and she often posts things that I sometimes wish I had the guts to talk about.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Looseyfur tagged me for this meme (my first!) so here goes:

1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read the player's blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?
I had just recently moved into my first apartment without roommates (unless you count David who lived there when he wasn't in Illinois for grad school) and was working full-time as a Community Relations Manager at Barnes & Noble. It was also just about five years ago to the day that David and I got engaged. I had told him that I wasn't going to move halfway across the country, away from my best--and let's be honest, pretty much ALL my-- friends and family without there being some sort of agreement that we were going to be together for a really, really long time. Procrastinator that he is, he waited until literally two days before he left to pop the question.

What are five things on your to-do list for today? (Disclaimer: I started this post yesterday, so here was my list from then.)
1. Go to the Farmer's Market as soon as Teagan wakes up. (Have I mentioned that she sleeps until 9:30/10 a.m. most days? If only I could convince her brother to do the same. At least on the weekends.)
2. Check out the local Co-op, which is opening in its new location which just so happens to be just a few mere steps from the Farmer's Market.
3. Head out to the Sweetcorn Festival, most likely after naptime.
4. Try to get the kids to nap AT THE SAME TIME so I can work on some of the eight (EIGHT!) lesson plans I have to write for this upcoming week.
5. Do laundry if it looks like the rain is going to stay away.

What are five snacks you enjoy?
1. Strawberries
2. Veggie Booty
3. Carrots and Peanut Butter
4. Tropical Fruit Salad
5. Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?
1. Set some aside for retirement and the kids' college/grad school.
2. Buy a house in Blacksburg and lifetime season football tickets for VT games.
3. Set up scholarship funds at VT, EIU, and the University of Namibia for students who are studying Women's Studies or whose work focuses on issues pertaining to gender.
4. Make sizable donations to the Rape Crisis centers and Planned Parenthoods in the communities I have lived (and will live) in.
5. Travel, travel, travel. Maybe go on a world tour with the kids and David. On this note, I'd also make sure David could go on his "trek," but I still would not join him on it.

What are five of your bad habits?
1. Procrastinating. On just about everything.
2. Getting all worked up about my house not being orderly. I mean, I do have two babies for Pete's sake! My house is not going to be orderly and clean all the time.
3. Occasionally skipping breakfast when I'm running late. Which happens more than I like to admit.
4. Being late. I think this sometimes ties into the whole procrastinating thing.
5. Reading an email and not replying right away.

What are five places where you have lived?
1. Rosedale, NY
2. Staunton, VA
3. Blacksburg, VA
4. Oshakati, Namibia
5. Champaign, IL

What are five jobs you've had?
1. Bookseller
2. Community Relations Manager
3. Literacy Corps Coordinator
4. Primary School Teacher
5. Composition Instructor

Five people I tag:
I have no idea who to tag since pretty much everyone I know who blogs has been tagged... If you're reading this and want to do this, leave a comment letting me know you're doing it and "Tag," you're it!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Working Woman

For the first time in over a year, and the first time since I found out I was pregnant with Teagan, I've got a job outside our home. After three years of grad school (I still count the last year even though I didn't take any classes because I was working on my thesis), I have my MA and am finally going to be doing what I set out to do when I started graduate school: teach at the college level.

Both David and I were a little worried as the summer rolled along and it didn't seem like anything was going to pan out in terms of a teaching job for me. Because, let's be honest...being a grad student doesn't pay too well, and certainly not well enough to support a family of four by itself. Fortunately we had a little something to fall back on this past year, but between me not having any "income" (unfortunately the federal government doesn't see the work I do here in the home as "work") and the stock market being so crappy, it is definitely time for me to contribute to bringing home the tofu.

Now this was a big source of contention between David and me. He wanted me to apply for full-time jobs on the administrative side of the university (I worked in administration when I was at VT for a couple of years and actually really loved it) as well as applying for part-time teaching positions. I was adamant about not doing anything full-time. I mean, the whole reason I went to graduate school was so that I could have a nice, flexible schedule when we decided to have kids so I could be home most of the time with them. (Yeah, the kids came just a *wee* bit sooner than we had anticipated...) And, my husband lives in the Land of de Nile. Seriously, he had no idea how much full-time daycare costs when you have two kids. To put them in a facility where I would feel comfortable, it would cost in the neighborhood of $22,000!!!! Yes, that's THOUSAND, not hundred. And the starting salary for someone in an entry-level administrative position at the university isn't too terribly much more than that.

Um, yeah, if I ended up teaching part-time for two semesters, I wouldn't quite make enough to cover full-time daycare, but the beauty of being a part-time, adjunct instructor is that you only need to find part-time daycare. So, really, daycare for two kids will not cost nearly as much. And I wouldn't have to be apart from my kids nearly as much, either. But I digress...

So, last week I was offered a position teaching an introductory Women's Studies class at the university where I went to graduate school. This, my friends, if my dream job. Of course I said yes immediately. No questions asked. And I am psyched. I can't wait. I'm really excited about teaching something I'm so passionate about. So much so that I'm not even dreading the one-hour-each-way commute, which I will once again be making twice a week come August 25th. I was so excited about getting this position. The only thing that could have made it better was if they had offered me more than one section.

Then, just yesterday I got a phone call from the local community college offering me three composition courses for the fall semester, which starts MONDAY. I said yes, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would probably really want to only teach two this semester. I mean, it is my first time out of the gate, so to speak. And I also realized that if I taught all three community college classes, I would essentially be gone from the time my kids woke up until the time they went down for nap almost every day of the week. Then I would get to see them for an hour or so before David got home and whisked them away to play while I did grading and lesson preps. Oh, and I would also need to figure out a way to pump since Teagan is still exclusively breastfeeding, which I seriously just don't want to mess with this time around. So, needless to say, I asked them to drop one of my classes, which they did (albeit reluctantly--we'll see if they give me any sections next semester!).

But, I'm feeling really good about the decision to teach only two composition classes along with my women's studies class. I'm going to have some adult, intellectual stimulation, which I have been missing so much, but I'll still be around quite a bit with my kids. I'm just feeling so lucky to have this opportunity. Oh, and the financial benefits won't hurt, either--we can finally buy Teagan that carseat she needs! The only challenge is that I just have to create three different syllabi in the next few days...Here's hoping I'm up for it!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rabid Reader?

I got the following list from another blog I recently stumbled upon. Of course, as a "Master" of English Literature (I'm so witty...or nerdy...or conceited), I thought it looked like fun. As indicated on the aforementioned blog, they're not sure whose list this is or why some of these particular books are included. Of course, my feminist pedagogical slant notices immediately that the list is predominantly white, and predominantly male. I also noticed that neither of my favorite authors, William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, made the list. Hmmm...

Nonetheless, I was still fairly pleased (? surprised? not sure what word would be most appropriate here) by the fact that I've read more than half of the books on the list. I also have several in my "to read" pile, and there were quite a few that I felt ashamed to admit that I hadn't yet read. I guess despite my feminist slant, I still feel like I need to conform to the traditional "Canon" on some level.

So, if you're so inclined, let us know how many of these books you've read by doing the following:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you started but did not finish.
3) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 or less and force books upon them.

Also, be sure to leave a comment letting me know that you're taking this challenge. I'd love to see what others have or haven't read. :)

"THE" List
1. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
2. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
3. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
4. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
5. Life of Pi - Yann Martel—in my “to read” pile
6. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
7. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
8. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
9. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
10. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
11. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
12. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
13. His Dark Materials (trilogy) - Philip Pullman (am currently reading)
14. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
15. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
16. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
17. Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
18. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
19. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
20. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
21. Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
22. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
23. Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
24. Animal Farm - George Orwell
25. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
26. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
27. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
28. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
29. Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
30. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
31. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
32. Complete Works of Shakespeare---ummmm, not sure why 'Hamlet' is separate from this listing. Perhaps the anonymous list creators thought it was written by a separate Shakespeare?? lol
33. Ulysses - James Joyce
34. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
35. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
36. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
37. The Bible
38. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
39. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
40. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
41. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
42. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
45. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
46. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
47. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
48. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
49. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
50. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
51. Little Women - Louisa M. Alcott
52. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
53. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
54. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
55. Middlemarch - George Eliot—in my “to read” pile
56. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
57. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
58. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
59. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
60. Emma - Jane Austen
61. Persuasion - Jane Austen
62. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
63. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
64. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
65. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
66. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
67. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
68. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
69. Atonement - Ian McEwan
70. Dune - Frank Herbert
71. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons—am reading right now
72. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
73. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
74. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
75. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez—in my “to read” pile
76. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
77. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
78. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
79. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
80. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
81. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
82. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
83. Dracula - Bram Stoker
84. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
85. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath—in my “to read” pile
86. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
87. Germinal - Emile Zola
88. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
89. Possession - A.S. Byatt
90. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
91. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
92. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
93. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
94. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
95. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
96. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
97. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
98. Watership Down – Richard Adams
99. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
100. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Trivializing Truth?

Yet another post about an article link...

I love the Washington Post. When I was in college we got a sweet deal for a student rate for the paper. I think we paid something crazy like $100 for the paper to be delivered every day for an ENTIRE YEAR. How I miss those days! There's nothing better than a nice warm drink and bagel and the Sunday (or really anyday) Post. When we had our current local paper delivered we ended up paying more than that, and let's just say the local paper isn't quite the Washington Post...

Anyways, all that to say I miss the Post and have to console myself with surfing the paper's web page for articles, one of which I'm writing in response to so now I'll get back to what I was intending to post about...

I thought the above article was fantastic. "Mr. Loretta" and I get into all kinds of debates about Wikipedia. He is a HUGE fan and always using it to find information about whatever has captured his interest at that point in time. The English teacher in me is absolutely appalled by it. I don't let my students use it as a source. There's too much of a chance for error. It is too unreliable. I'm one of those "weird" teachers that are mentioned in the article. You know, one of the ones who makes students actually go to the library to do research for their research papers. I guess I find it ironic that my husband, who is a physicist because he thinks physics is fundamental, because it is the closest thing to "truth" that he believes there is, loves Wikipedia and the internet's ability to provide answers. He is constantly talking about how much he wants a cell phone that will enable him to access Wikipedia at any time in order to find an answer to a question he has or in order to resolve any pending arguments he may have. I guess it just seems illogical (bizarre? surreal?) to me that he goes to Wikipedia to provide him with the truth. It's almost as if "truth" has become so commodified in our society that we are desensitized to the fact that "truth" is, well, not always true or correct, and Mr. Loretta (or Optimus, as he requested I call him when I informed him of his bloggy pseudonym--someone *still* loves Transformers a little bit too much) and his adoration of and devotion to Wikipedia is the perfect example of this desensitization.

The internet has made so many things easier in our society. It's wonderful that, although we live so very far away from our families, we can share photographs and videos with one another (although that means I should update the family blog more often...). It's great to be able to email and message those distant family members and friends in order to keep in touch, just as it's a great tool for getting in touch with those friends here in town to arrange various get-togethers or to discuss different things uninterrupted by the important smaller people in our lives.

But at the same time, the internet has made things so much more difficult. I think about the many many email forwards my grandmother sends me vilifying the candidate I'm most likely to support in the presidential election: He's a Muslim! He took his oath of office on the Koran! He doesn't say the Pledge of Allegiance or put his hand over his heart or look at the flag while doing so! He won't wear that damn flag lapel pin. The list could go on and on. It's become so easy for anyone and everyone to publish their own version of the "truth" that reality often is obscured behind layers and layers of inaccuracies.

And, therein lies the problem with Wikipedia. Anyone can go in and edit a subject to have it say whatever they want it to say. Granted, there are moderators and editors who review the entries and flag or remove inaccurate information, but the fact of the matter is that the sheer volume of entries makes it impossible for said editors or moderators to remove the faulty information in a timely fashion unless they are already keeping a close eye on that particular entry at that particular time. In fact, when I was in graduate school, one of my professors altered the entry on a famous poet with false information. It was up for nearly a week before it was flagged or taken down.

So, taking all of this into consideration, one has to wonder whether Wikipedia, and the Internet for that matter, are beneficial for our society or if they are actually contributing to the trivialization and commodification of truth.

I, for one, certainly don't have an answer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gun Gluttony

While the issue of guns and gun violence are often swirling around in my brain, I have been thinking about it almost constantly the past few days, and it is certainly at the forefront of my brain tonight as I sit here writing this post.

You see, a few weeks ago, I read this. This took place the town over from where I grew up, nestled in the "safe" foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These reckless men/boys were shooting at cars along a highway I've traveled upon more times than I can count. A highway that those near and dear to me--my family, my best friends--drive upon with great frequency. And these men put their lives and the lives of many others at risk because guns are too accessible in our society, a society that is plagued by irresponsibility.

And today, today marks the one year anniversary of one of the events that will be a permanent part of my life, an anniversary that I won't ever forget, for it marks the day on which another reckless young man took the lives of 32 innocent and brilliant human beings before turning the gun on himself at my alma mater. I remember exactly what I was doing when I found out what had happened, how I spent the rest of the day glued to my computer screen, watching the events unfold, anxiously awaiting the emergence of more details on what had happened, waiting to hear from my family and friends to find out if they were okay. Like my parents before me who remembered where they were when JFK was shot, like my grandparents before them who remember what they were doing after the invasion of Pearl Harbor, this day, April 16th, what I was doing, what I was thinking, will be forever etched in my memory.

It is with fear and trepidation that I contemplate the world I have chosen to bring new life, the next generation, into. It is a world rife with violence and pain. Last year, on the morning of April 16th, I was thinking of how best to celebrate the one year anniversary of my son's birth two days later, but all that changed when I heard the first rumblings of what was happening in Blacksburg, the place I still consider to by my truest "home." During this time when I should have been reveling in the wonder of pregnancy, birth, the wonderful life my partner and I had created, and my son's transition from infancy to toddlerhood my mind was otherwise consumed with images of violence, pain, anguish, torment. It is hard to consider the beautiful elements of the world, of life, when confronted with the worst in such a dreadful manner.

Likewise, just one short month after the birth of my daughter, I found myself again faced with the same bleak mindset following another campus shooting, this time not at my alma mater, but perpetuated by a student enrolled at the university in my current hometown, a university where my partner is also a student. Again, a time when I should have been marveling at the perfect innocence in my arms, I was instead contemplating the cruelty of mankind.

Why? Why? Because many of our country's leaders are reluctant, if not outright opposed, to restricting access to guns. Guns are used to inflict harm, to kill people. They have no other purpose. Guns-rights proponents have taken the Second Amendment far, far beyond its intended scope. Much of the gun violence we see today in our society is due directly to the abundance of guns available and the ease with which people can obtain them. I find it appalling that in both campus shootings I referenced above, the gunmen obtained at least some of their weapons from an ONLINE dealer. Online! No face-to-face interaction, just a click of a button and the gun is yours.

I have no solution. I just needed to write about what I am feeling tonight/today. Gun violence has marred the lives of so many I love and many, many more whom I've never met. As I mentioned earlier, it's also irrevocably intertwined, in my own mind, with the nascent lives of my dear children. As a mother, I feel the need for gun control even more urgently. I do not want my children to feel the fear and pain their parents, especially their father, have felt because of gun violence. I want them to feel free, to enjoy life, to love, to be fulfilled and happy. Yet, I cannot help but be afraid of what the future holds for them, and their contemporaries, if we do not change things to make this a safer, better world for them.