Showing posts with label Conversations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conversations. Show all posts

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Happy Pongal!

Imagine my delight this morning when the sun rose magnificently for the first time in (many?) weeks as if to show up for the Pongal sun celebration. 

Close to twenty years ago, I was writing on ye olde blogge about the range of procrastination the various Hindu "fresh start" dates allow. Nu and I were laughing about that at pooja today because At and Nu loved to use the term "fresh start" after they encountered Will Ferrell (their childhood fave) saying it in The Other Guys.

In any case, I've always thought of Pongal as a day to reset any New Year resolutions that didn't take.

A younger and wiser cousin wrote on the cousins' chat:  

The sun symbolizes energy, positivity, equanimity, discipline, consistency... adopt one value that you feel you need in life and practice it for the six months that the sun moves to the north.
I probably need all of those traits in my life, but may pick equanimity--I could certainly benefit by being less emotional.

Pic: Max and I are out by Scout's memorial around sunrise. Scout always came out with me for pooja. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

pivot, pivot, pivot

So we're not headed to Yellow Springs, OH for our belated Christmas with Big A's family this weekend after all. We were holding off on a decision because of the storm and then between the snowstorm... and Nu's finals next week... and my back... and Big A's general fatigue... and the likelihood of Max drooling/barfing all the way... and Huckie's dislike of MIL's dog Izzy... We're just staying home.

I'm so disappointed and my MIL is too--because we're the main gift-pickers and givers, I guess? No idea when we'll reschedule as Big A's hours have been brutal lately. We're probably just going to mail things out next week.

It has nearly been a week since I threw out my back and I thought it would be better by now. I even imagined it was getting better, but no. Today was worse than ever, and I feel so disheartened. It's frustrating because I hurt my back trying out a new exercise routine to get stronger, and now here I am--unable to do anything but the most basic stuff.

Pic: No pics. I was too busy feeling sad and sorry for myself.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

still standing/standing still

I usually sing the praises of the Irish  around St. Patrick's Day, but let me start early this year. South Africa is standing tall with their case against the genocide in Gaza at the International Court of Justice in the Hague and Ireland appears to be the only Western nation supporting them. It is not a coincidence that a nation with a memory of apartheid regimes and another with a history of brutal colonization should team up to speak up for a people suffering both. 

I took little, life-affirming sips of the video clips of the trial online between classes and reveled in the moments of human solidarity. It is shameful that none of the major news channels here are airing this trial although we make a lot of noise about free speech. There's a YouTube channel for the proceedings

In the meantime, we've started bombing Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world. 

Pic: A very tall snow person appeared on campus; they're wearing a wreath garland on their head.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

bright spots

First day of classes. I love the energy. Every term I decide I'm going to be cool about it, but like clockwork I end up loving these people (so much). 
I spent 12 hours on campus today, so it's a good thing I was able to decompress in my office (even if only for a handful of minutes at a time taking care of my now very twinge-y back and legs). 
Our search committee met a wonderful slate of candidates all of whom could be excellent directors of our writing center (choosing between them is going to be so tough though). 
We finally got enough snow for it to stick around and look wintry (I almost wiped out at the exit to work which hadn't been plowed; thank heavens for 4WD). 
Pic: I'm so thrilled by the resilience of my office plants who were ignored all winter break but appear to have thrived (one geranium even decided to bloom)!

Monday, January 08, 2024

of "off-bouts" and going off 'bout sleep

Off-bouts: One of the nicest things about talking to colleagues from other disciplines is learning something new. Today, I hung out with the biologists and learned the word "off-bout"--as in the time a mother bird spends away from her nest and eggs. I feel like I'm on a bit of an off-bout myself this week as I will not be home for dinner with the fam until (at least) Friday. 

Going Off 'Bout Sleep: Gillian, Nicole, Engie, Nance--how lucky I am to have your kindness and caring in this world! I'm sorry I seem to have distressed you a bit with my offhand remarks about sleep. I'm fine. I certainly look less haggard when I get more sleep, but I genuinely don't feel any other negative effects at the moment. I usually wake up before my alarm goes off on weekdays and wake up at dawn even on the weekend. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but... I count these as signs my body is getting the sleep it needs? I love my fam dearly, but I also absolutely cherish the late nights and early mornings when no one else is up. And I feel too set in my ways to change now! 

Pic: I didn't take any today. It was a doozy of a day--I did a new exercise and my back is all tender and twinge-y, and everything is a struggle--I thought I was going to pass out when I tried to get my socks on this morning.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

8 - 8 - 8? Not quite.

Since the new semester starts tomorrow, I've been thinking a lot about the old socialist motto of "8-8-8" or "eight hours' work, eight hours' rest, and eight hours of what you will." My own day divides up differently: work is easily ten hours or more +/- two hours of commute time; there's a lot of "what I will" in my life--family, walks, reading, friends, cooking, entertaining, exercise, "chit-chatting"... so it's not surprising that it's rest/sleep that suffers a deficit. Arguably, those family-time things are restful too, so if I can get four hours of sleep at a stretch, I'm generally good. 

At least it's preferable to any of the available alternatives.

Pic: Out with Max by Scout's memorial this morning. Snow is still scanty, but it's supposed to snow all week... perhaps we'll get there after all.

Friday, January 05, 2024

Five on the last Friday of break

1) Everyone should get a couple of weeks off at the end of the year to rest, reset, and restore themselves. I think I've done all three this time. Happy to report that I'm not clawing myself or pulling out hair--my literal scars are healing. 

2) I'm SO excited to meet my new (and old) students and get started on my new (and old) courses.

3) Committee work will make it tough this term--my standing committees meet late on my teaching days and because I'm on a couple of search committees, I will be on campus until late every day next week either wining and dining candidates or doing a chunk of video interviews. Big A and Nu are going to have to step up to dinner every day next week and at least twice a week after that.

4) So. Many. Meetings. And these are such a big responsibility. It might be just one of the many meetings in my day, but it could be the most important meeting of the other person's day, and that's something to take very seriously. (I do, which is why they're so depleting.)

5) Pic: Max and Huck say they're not mad; they're just disappointed break is over. 

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Slow Learner launch

Today was a long day at work, made a bit longer by checking in with people who are attending the MLA. But I got home at a reasonable hour, and after feeding my pack their dinner, I was so happy and honored to attend the book launch for Jan Shoemaker's new book of essays, Slow Learner. 

First, I picked up L--who had introduced me to Jan--and then we picked up the copies I'd preordered, and found a place to sit. The space was jam-packed and they ended up having to add more seating. Jan, who used to teach English at a local high school, read a pandemic piece titled "Caper." It was characteristically hilarious and suspenseful and I can't wait to read the rest.

The following is from an old essay I found on the internet called "Where the Water Is". It gives some idea of how Jan uses wit in ways that are sharp and searching.

"One of the uncomfortable things about living with a person who suffers from Alzheimer’s is that it makes you confront your own character flaws. Just when you thought it more or less clear from all the times you’ve sent money to public radio and boycotted Wal-Mart that you were the incarnation of Albert Schweitzer, or Gandhi, or both, you find out you’re really just a slightly bitchier version of Martha Stewart. Your well of compassion and patience, which was never very deep to begin with, is now just an empty cistern."

Pic: Jan at the lectern at the Slow Learner launch today.  

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

"enjoy what you have"

The exhortation to use, enjoy... use up stuff came from a friend when we were in grad school. It was prompted by her having to settle her dead aunt's effects and being saddened by the unused perfume, candles, clothes, etc. she kept finding. It's advice I've taken seriously. I mean we use "fancy" dishes all the time. It does mean that they get chipped (and that we try to make sure that one of us and not a guest gets the chipped plate), but it's still worth it.

If we can't or don't use something, I'd rather it goes to someone who might. But this part is more of an ongoing process. I find huge purges overwhelming, but this past year, I collected 5-10 items to give away (usually kitchen stuff, clothes, books, appliances) almost every day. I think we're almost at an optimal level of stuff now.  

And I guess "enjoy what you have" works for time and relationships too. Winter break has been lovely, but we're back to classes next week, and this week has been a lot of prep. (I'm actually on campus tomorrow for a four-hour workshop!) So in the spirit of enjoying what I have, I seized today, and made plans with LD for lunch and JL for tea.

Pic: Yesterday, I stopped to take this picture of a black squirrel in profile on the banks of the Red Cedar because of the almost archetypal "enjoy what you have" pose (inspiration for today's musings). Big A wasn't a fan of me breaking our sub-14 min/mile pace.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

"I believe that children are the future"

My mother once told me that even when she was mad at me, something (sweet/funny/adorable) I did as a baby or toddler would flash in her memory and it would help her get over it. I can safely say this is how it works for me too. 

I mean there's no way my kids are going to meet every arbitrary milestone and make only perfect decisions. Things could get "bumpy" any minute/soon and the one thing that centers me is thinking about how much must be going on in their lives right now, because all they ever did was always only sweet/funny/adorable once. (And in the meantime, I bite my tongue until someone asks for my advice.)

Actually, I think it works for everyone i.e., people who aren't kids in my life too. I think it was in a Jennifer Weiner novel, where the protagonist finally finds a way to get along with her unhelpful MIL by thinking back to her being a neglected baby. I've frequently used that trick to find compassion and understanding for people when they're being jerks.

Pic: My loves--Max, Huck, Nu, and At--hanging out for a moment before we headed to the temple for New Year's Day blessings yesterday. I hope they'll always find warm, cozy places to rest... and that I can make those places for them if they need me to.

Monday, January 01, 2024


How tired the world
how long the way
how we have been 
survivors for over
365 days

may the new year 
be kind, enormous,
hold us in peace
may it gently--
24/7--teach us

to resist, to vary 
history's encore--
the hum of hope
its own language
in 2024
Other New Year's Day poems:

Pic: Our holiday card!

Sunday, December 31, 2023

1 2 3 1 2 3

As the internet has it, today is 123123 (12/31/23--only in the US with our weird month-before-date practice, but still); pretty cute.

I'm very dissatisfied that I haven't done my weekend chores (caretaking plants, vacuuming) going into the new year, but c'est la vie. Nu came over to gently hug me when I was worrying about this and said: "Don't worry, mama! You'll get it done, you always do." I had thought they were going to offer to help me, (LOL) but this is sweet too. 

Also, health is SUCH a privilege. My standards really dropped yesterday. Although Nu was having a sleepover, I didn't make food, check linens, etc. I couldn't. It helped that the guest was celiac and carries their own food, but still.

At 9:00 pm today, I'm headed off to the NYE write-in with the lovely Pooja Makhijani and crew. My plans are to finish the annual New Year's Day poem and work on a couple of projects. 

There's some lingering and irrational sadness today because of all the strange and unsettling dreams from yesterday. But all told, still a good day. I'm glad to have recovered. Grateful for people who light lamps for me when my light flickers. Grateful for family, friends, kindness, and decency in this hurting world. Oh, how I wish Scout were here with me every day. I'm grateful to Max for making me laugh every day.  I am absolutely stunned by the moments of beauty and grace life continues to bring. I hope all of it and justice too will come to all of us. "Ring out the thousand wars of old / Ring in the thousand years of peace."

Pic: I'm in love with this dead branch absolutely bejeweled with moss (from a soggy walk with Max and Huck).

Friday, December 29, 2023

Five on this Friday

1) I'm starting 2024 with most of my medical appointments made and met. The last thing on the med agenda was today--Covid boosters and flu shots for me and Nu. Based on my previous reactions, I fully expect to be completely out of commission tomorrow. (And the day after too.)

2) I'm so ridiculous sometimes. As I did a pull-up, I idly wondered if I should stop because what if my arm got so muscled that the tech couldn't get the needle in. As if!! I have really unrealistic and exaggerated notions about my arm strength!

3) An acquaintance (someone I know mostly from meeting at conferences) lost their spouse to cancer on the evening of Dec 25th. They were a beautiful young couple doing good in the world (teaching, organizing, community building) with very young kids and I'm so saddened and sorry about this loss. Also, how terrible for their kids to have Christmas permanently linked to this. 

4) I usually don't plan meals in advance, but I've made sure I could feed the fam until at least Tuesday, because I do not want to go to the store until the new year is well and truly here.

5) Pic: Max and Huck were over being sent to their room with wet paws and decided to make "snow" by killing a throw pillow. It was a cute one too with a Keith Haring dog on it. I hope the sun comes out tomorrow. We're all going a little stir-crazy in this soggy weather.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

things are still up

Our Christmas tree is still twinkling away, our menorah still has stubs of candles from the last day (birthday candles... we ran out), our porch decorations are still up, my snow globes are still out, my little nativity set (catholic school holdover) is still on the altar, the holiday card holder is full, and there are too many cookies for even Nu to finish. I'll be putting away most of this stuff before the start of the new year (except the holiday cards, I like seeing everyone's happy faces and hang on to the cards until it's Spring at least). My spirit is still up too.
I love birds and elephants, and I'm so touched when new friends notice and make note. At Diwali KM gave me one of those Phil Walters' bird silhouettes that you stick into a tree and last week AS sent me a set of "Guide Birds." I'd seen it in a catalogue and liked it a lot, but couldn't justify buying it for myself. As a gift, it's so perfect in every way. Each of the seven birds "corresponds to an inspirational word, such as joy, courage, and generosity" and I look forward to meditatively picking one every day when I light the evening deepam.

Pic: On my overcrowded altar, guide birds shelter under an elephant lamp.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

finding a center

                    I learn my lessons 
                    from trees who
pull me into the world
all leap and vigor
                    to fall into sudden
                    serene returns
in cushioned shadows
hard as thunder 
                    under vanished arches 
                    grasses drink
at ever new horizons
of fear/wonder

Pic: The rapids of the Red Cedar across from Spartan Stadium. I took myself out for a long walk to clear my head for a writing project. I was surprised by the number of work emails in my inbox--isn't everyone supposed to be on break until the new year?!

Monday, December 25, 2023

This Christmas

The fluffiest breakfast pudding was made and consumed, mulled cider was quaffed with and without whisky shots, pears that arrived as a gift were shared, Whamageddon was repeatedly and intentionally lost, presents were opened, exclaimed upon and loved, every gift bag, sheet of wrapping/tissue paper, and gift box was saved for next year, walks were undertaken despite the soggy day, some difficult conversations tackled, Zelda was played, grandparents were called, Christmas biriyani was made, a raucous dinner had, and the non-resident kid's laundry was folded + kid and laundry were delivered to their residence.

My favorite presents were the picture of me and Scout (it's already been placed at the family altar), a HUGE donation made for medical relief in Gaza, and a coupon for a drawing from Nu. So many books! It was so sweet that At gave me books that had duplicates (Vengeance is Mine, The Berry Pickers) in the big haul from Big A (Judy Chicago! Vauhini Vara! Gusto Obscura!), so I'll keep At's copies and return Big A's.

Pic: By Big A. The many branched antlered human reindeer made a reappearance this Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

my good companions

Nu was a bit under the weather this morning and wanted to stay in bed. While I was getting peppermint tea and oatmeal to them, Big A took a look at me, gave me a tiny nibble of a treat and took me off for a hike on the Potawatomi Trail

By the time we got there, I was nice and mellow and then we spent four hours just scrabbling up and down the trail. It was slow going; on a flat surface we'd have logged 15-16 miles in four hours, but we got in just over ten miles because there was a significant amount of climbing. 

We were being silly and singing songs wrong and laughing and talking for the first couple of hours--we were mostly silent the last couple of hours as we tired, but that felt good too. 

We got back late + Nu didn't want to go + At forgot some meds and would be delayed, so we decided to stay home from the candlelight service at UU. Instead it was dinner and Rocky Aur Rani ki Prem Kahani (with just a little explaining about the old money-new money angle and the snatches of old film songs). 

When Nu was ready to head to bed, we did our traditional pajamas and books presents for the kids and they went off to bed happily laden with new books as usual. I prepped the breakfast pudding for tomorrow and then Big A helped me bring the kids' presents downstairs and put Max and Huck to bed. On to Christmas in earnest now. I am grateful I get to share this life with people who care so much for me.

Pic: Big A waiting for me at the top of a rise. I love how the tree roots criss-cross the path to make natural steps and terraces. Because The Overstory and Braiding Sweetgrass live in my head, I kept wondering if the trees do that to catch us in case we fall.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

hiding in plain sight

At the lovely dinner party this evening, no one spoke of Gaza although I know that every single person at the table is agonizing about it, whether because we've been talking about it (Big A, Nu, LB, and TB) or because I know from their socials how upset they are (AH, KG, LV). It's like we have a disease and everyone knows about it, but we have to bravely carry on without discussing it at the dinner table. I played along beautifully.

I was all full of effing holiday cheer in my Rudoph the reindeer overalls with the jingly red nose. And every time someone remarked on it, I was hard pressed not to sing this song

Because that would also be inappropriate for this group--some of whom I know from work. Something very much on my mind, because after years at this point, last night I dreamt about the person I brought a Title IX case against. No current students remember him probably--he was asked to leave on the cusp of the pandemic--but in my dream an alumnus visiting the department was curious as to why there was no picture of the abuser in the faculty "gallery." I let it go on for a while, and when the alumnus asked again, I burst out: "Because he was a serial abuser. We don't have his picture up because he abused people." 

And then my dream veered off into a seaplane ride and since the only time I've been on one was near Seattle, that's how it looked. And the only point of the ride was to ooh and aah over some baroque Christmas decorations visible from the air. 

Speaking of which, I am almost ready for Christmas! In fact, I was almost ready last week, but I wasn't happy with the way I'd wrapped some presents, so I went in and did them all over again. No one will notice except for me. But it kinda makes sense to me. I'm so excited to give people their presents.

Pic: A blue tit (I think?) hides among the red winterberries along the Red Cedar. Walk with L. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

sign of the times

Just a reminder to my future self that while I continue to do the things expected of me and that I expect of myself, I'm living a fractured life at the end of 2023. 

Paralysis and helplessness and dissociation walk hand in hand with loss and sorrow and outrage.

I celebrated NWSA, Diwali, Hanukkah, and will celebrate Christmas, and the New Year. Sitting with ancestral songs, family and friends, sharing stories and hopes and food... This is the only way I know to get through this time... To mourn loss while holding love close and celebrating life.

Pic: I love this graphic from the Lebanese musician and artist Mazen Kerbaj, which captures the simultaneity of ongoing horrors and our own modes of survival. There's a clearer version here.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

the shortest day's journey into reading and writing

Happy Solstice! I thought I had a solstice hike planned at Fenner Center, but the event seems to have vanished, and we seem to have missed the UU's solstice celebration yesterday. Anyway... I'm still celebrating the arrival of longer days in my heart!


I'm almost done with a review letter for a colleague from another university. I dithered for so long because I didn't know where to start as this person is just such an overachiever. I feel even my eight-page letter doesn't do justice to all they do. But I think I've done my best and it may be time to just submit it. (And move on to other writing projects.)

When the kids and I met Justice Sonia Sotomayor at a reading five or so years ago, I was very taken by her two daily rules: do something for someone else (even if it's just a phone call) and read and learn something every day. Although I read a lot for work, it became a practice to read something "for myself" since then. I keep short stories and flash fiction around so I can read something even on days when I don't have time for a longer reading project. 


I think that resolution just became easier to keep as my alma mater has just come up with what they're calling The Ten-minute Book Club--a treasury of literary pieces that are quite thought-provoking. There's another similar enterprise they're calling LitHits (it's a Substack) here.


And while on writing, a well-known writer friend, PM, is doing a New Year's Eve "write-in" where all of us writers (and wannabes) will be online on New Year's Eve, writing to prompts or following the beat of our own hearts and drums. I can share their invite privately if anyone's interested. 

Pic: Max, the librarian, will see you now! Doesn't he just look so magisterial in this? 
(Will I give away my books? I don't think I'm ready! We have a Little Free Library outside that I do keep stocked, however.)

that's what they said...

I love when we're at dinner and random stuff comes up. Hilarious accidental texts, work wins and woes, getting into AP classes, general ...