Monday, February 28, 2005

Smelling the Tulips...and hyacinths....and stuff

Yesterday, amid my other not-doing-stuff, I managed to sift through some photo files. Some of the files are kinda big, so I'm linking to them rather than plugging the URLS in directly. That way it's your choice if you're crawling along on dialup.

These are from the flowerbed in front of our porch: Yellow Tulip, Pink Tulips, Hyacinths?.

Then these little things showed up as volunteers among the grass in the front yard.

Finally, here's my "baby." Two years ago, Lily was a tiny little pup the day we brought her home. Now, she's a very good girl who likes to play with her toys.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Wonder Woman Doesn't Live Here

So, I'm reading Jen's blog this afternoon, particularly her Saturday post. And I find myself thinking toward that some of us girls should be asking what Feminism has done for us lately.

Wait, before you kick me out of the sisterhood--I am a self-identified feminist. Small "f". I appreciate the advances made in the last century or so. I like voting (although I'm not real whippy about my choices lately), I like education, I like birth control. I would like to see more advances in pay equity and in the boardrooms of America. HOWEVER, I think pieces of feminism have...evolved into something different. What I think of as classic feminism (first- and second-wave) sought equal treatment under the law. Absolutely necessary. Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex established la differance, that a woman is not just Man-Lite. Bingo.

But somewhere along the way, Feminists and feminists branched out. I think of big "F" Feminists as the ones with the press coverage. They're the popular, although not totally accurate, picture of women who think that equality means being exactly the same as men. Unfortunately, in practice, this ends up becoming a sort of attitude where women think they have to do everything men have been traditionally responsible for (success in business/wage-earning) as well as everything women have been traditionally responsible for (housekeeping, cooking, child-rearing, etc.). In other words, we're somehow supposed to be Wonder Woman, able to juggle a career, a traditional family life, and the fight for equality all while saving the world.

My mother tried to do it all. She has worked since I was two-ish, first as a radiology & nuclear medicine technician, then as a medical transcriptionist who eventually moved up the corporate ladder into being part of the design team that creates record-management systems for new hospitals that contract with her company. On top of that, she went to all the PTA meetings, served as scorekeeper for two sets of softball teams (luckily, my sister and I rarely played at the same time), kept three kids fed, clothed and up to date on homework, and drove them around to Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Job's Daughters, church groups, play rehearsals and even jobs. She taught me to sew, cross-stitch, crochet and cook.

Not that my dad didn't help--don't get me wrong, he's always been incredibly supportive, and there were a number of times that my sister and I split the parental involvement when our schedules conflicted. He generally took care of the laundry and ironing (until it became my job), kept the cars running, the electronics hooked up--all that generically "guy stuff." He taught me how to change a tire, starch a collar, swing a hammer, and take apart a clogged sink drain. Anyhow, back to Mom.

She spent years exhausting herself. More often than not, she was out the door before I was really awake, to beat the traffic for her commute. She was almost always the last one home, rolling in around 5:30 after picking up one or more kids at the babysitter or daycare. I watched this for years without really thinking about it, but when my husband and I started talking about how our family would be, I knew I didn't want to kill myself that way.

But I've tried to anyhow. It's what I grew up with as normal, and it's taken me time to sort out how to make my life work--a little better, anyway. Still working on it. I overloaded myself with academic expectations beyond what I really wanted to do. I let myself get lured away from the literature I truly cared about to "Real Literature" in my studies because it was "more marketable." I let my home nearly fall apart, both in terms of the clutter and in my relationship with my husband. I put myself on hold. For years.

I have to limit my committments. Including the ones that are only to myself. I have to find a way to be productive by my own standards, not someone else's. So, today I avoided grading again--it will get done in time, and my course management system gets quirky during peak traffic times anyway. I baked a cake--because I felt like taking cake to a friend's house for the Oscars. I knitted (because I'd like to have this sweater before I go to Florida in a month, although that is probably moronic).

So, what have Feminists done for me lately? Not much, other than making me feel like I ought to be doing a lot more than I really need to. feminists (back to the small "f") give me comfort and a feeling of completeness when I am feeling "domestic" and support when I'm feeling like challenging the status quo. The big F Feminists make me feel guilty for not challenging it to their standards. They can go hang...

Saturday, February 26, 2005

These are the Saturdays I Miss

I'm sitting around, doing almost nothing. Sure, I need to clean up before people come over this evening; I've got laundry that needs folding and ironing; I've got papers to grade. But I'm sitting here instead, blogging. At that, I'm being more productive than I was 20 minutes ago, when I was playing online games. But the day is mine, and I can do with it what I want. That is what I've been missing.

For a fair portion of the last 8 years, half or more of my weekends have been forfeited in one way or another. For years, we held a roleplaying game on Sunday afternoons. Every other week, I'd work at a fast food chain, because they always need people on Saturdays. Or we'd go to a Magic tournament, taking up hours on end. A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided we needed to cut back on the busyness and just relax. I spent the whole weekend reading and knitting just because I wanted to. I didn't even check email for two days. I got a small piece of my life back, and it was wonderful.

Rather than stressing out so much, I think I need to take attitude lessons from my dog. Right now, she's dozing in the bathtub (because the porcelain is nice and cool), and her only care is that we're not playing with her right this second. So I feel no regrets that I'm sitting here doing not much more than enjoying the blues on the satellite radio station, listening to Ray Charles, Floyd Dixon and B. B. King. The music is good, my coffee was good, lunch gave me a happy belly, and if all isn't right with the world, at least this little corner is doing okay.

Friday, February 25, 2005

So, what's with the title?

I'm sure some of you wonder about the title up there. I wanted something better than "Gina's blog" for sure, and I was looking around my house, trying to see what defined me. Best bet is the wall o' books in my dining room. We literally had bookshelves built completely covering one wall of the room, because we had too many books for our two six-foot shelves from Wally World. I thought that I could get buried under all those words...

And then there's the fact that, as a composition teacher, I get periodically flooded with my students' papers. Another avalanche of words, this time burying me in work. I could go on and on, but I'll stop here, because today was one of those days--I've got 30 papers on horror movies to grade by next Friday.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

nulla dies sine linea

That's "never a day without a line" from Horace in 658 BC, for those of us who don't read Latin. I picked it up in a composition textbook, and it's something I'm trying to do.

Make no mistake--I don't think of myself as a writer. First and foremost, I'll probably always think of myself as a teacher. Then a scholar, although I mostly do that to keep teaching. I love to read, and I truly believe it when I tell my students that I don't really know what I mean until I've written it. I have learned immeasurably from reading and working with writers of all stripes.

So, why am I doing this? Well, partly because Jen told me I should. She's a good friend, and she knows just when to push me into something. (Although I still don't know how to drive a stick-shift--instead we got a pickup with an automatic.) Also because I need someplace to let my mind sort out all the little bits and pieces floating around it. And mostly because I want people to respond.

I talk about the academic enterprise (at least, those parts of it I am most familiar with) as a never-ending cocktail party. You come in, you listen to what people are saying to get a sense of the conversation, then you find your own stance and start talking. People respond, and on and on, until you finally have to leave, and they'll still be talking with and about you after you're gone. It's this exchange that I crave, and I've spent 4 years at an institution where the exchange is stifled by the competitive nature of the PhD granting institution.

So bear with me, folks.