Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

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).

Saturday, December 30, 2023


I'm back; it was bad. At least I don't have to do it for another year. I have little recollection of the past 36 hours. I woke up so weak, wobbly, and very sad from my fever dreams.

I would have liked to start the new year with all my household chores completed, but I think I'm going to be easy on myself.

Pic: MIL's sister posted this picture that was taken in 1922 (so over a hundred years old!) of their dad--he's the toddler bottom left. The young boy beside him looks so much like Big A! I think this is the most number of people I've seen in a single photo... I wonder what the occasion was.


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.

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. 

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.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

out with the new

L and I decided while we were walking yesterday that it's hopelessly impossible/impracticable/unacceptable to be perpetually happy in the world we live in. BUT! It is possible to create and enjoy moments of joy and then both of us were trying to tell each other the other person was the best at that. "You are the best at creating joy!" "No! You are!!" The ultimate polite fight!

I've been getting so much joy in these past few months taking things to the Fretail Store and getting people things from their online wish lists. Especially from our Buy-Nothing group, which has become mostly requests from people who are going through hard times and need help getting presents for their kids. A family or two a day gets looped into grocery store expenditure and doesn't hurt us. Especially as our own kids are too grown, too cool, and too socially aware for most stuff. And especially since I'm very much of the but-for-the-grace-of-God/the-universe school of thought. 

"I'll get some books and toys for their tree," I chirpily offered online this morning. And then today's family turned out to have 11 kids. But you can't just buy for some kids in the family, so I had to be creative with multipacks of toys and books and games that could be shared. The choices I make are sometimes sad and informed by my CASA training: no food-themed toys, for instance, as food insecurity might be present (Have you ever seen a food-themed object and craved that food? Now imagine you are a kid with no money); no toys requiring adult supervision as single parents are probably already overstretched and overworked; nothing about looking for bio families--so no Are You My Mother-type books. 

Life should be more fair for children. A new mom I know says she'll never tell her kids about Santa since she doesn't want to perpetuate her childhood anguish at seeing Santa bring the rich kids expensive gifts and dollar-store baubles to the poor ones.

Pic: Unopened gifts culled from my kids' rooms headed for the Fretail Store. To be fair, the kids didn't ask for any of these, but I'd pored over catalogues and best-of lists and really thought they'd like them. 

Monday, December 18, 2023

up and down and around

Yesterday's party is put away. And I vacuumed and dusted and cleaned the entire house. Do other people also clean the house after entertaining?  We used to have cleaners--sometimes twice a week--before we moved here. We're in a bigger house now but I'm the main cleaner. I feel we're going a bit in reverse here. 

Big A has been in Milwaukee for work for the past three days. I couldn't wait for him to get home... and then we promptly squabbled within the first half hour after he did. (All good now. I thought he was egging on Huck and Max who were playing fighting. I probably went too far when I brought up Michael Vick.)

Otherwise, a slow and quiet day. The all-day misty drizzle inspired me to make a big pot of soup. I'm so chuffed that Nu (the baking enthusiast extraordinaire) likes my cranberry-pistachio shortbread! I took a a long walk with L, a long soak by myself, and have all the cookies I can handle for dessert. 

Pic: These koi at the Radiology Gardens aren't coy. Haha.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

it's two o' clock somewhere

Like maybe two or three days ago, I wanted to see my girlfriends and give them their presents and my MIL had sent over a huge box of cookies, so I invited people over for an afternoon of "cookies and cocktails" because I thought that sounded quirky. Since the plan was to start at 2:00, most people could come despite the short notice. 

I cut several sprigs of holly from our overgrown bush in the backyard to slip into little planters and felt very festive. And then it felt a bit naughty (in the nicest way) to add rum to our punch or Bailey's to our cocoa so early in the day.

We played a holiday version of Two Truths and a Lie (or Two Truths and No Lies or just Two Lies--my people don't believe in rules) so people who didn't know each other too well could laugh and commiserate with each other. I like when friends I made in different times and places get to know each other and become friends themselves.

I'm really proud of my cranberry-pistachio shortbread (I added dried rose petals) and the pretty ice ring (to keep the punch cold--I didn't have a "ring mold" so I used a bundt pan). Bonus: Planning and pulling everything off took up so much of my brain space that I didn't have time to worry about stuff. I keep telling myself that celebrations are good, that we should all be celebrating, and we should celebrate for those who are unable to. 

It felt good to celebrate and be with the wonderful women who have all done me so much kindness and supported me in so many ways through the years. They are life-sustaining in a quite literal sense for me.
The only thing is everyone brought cookies too, and although I sent people home with treat bags, we still have more than we started with. 

Pic: A shot Nu took when they snuck in to help themselves to more cookies. I can see my ice ring in the foreground (in my soup bowl pressed into service as a punch bowl), and me in the background (talking with my arms).

Friday, December 15, 2023

sentimental offerings

Another festival of lights at CB's "Winter Warm Up Party." It was beautiful--my neighbors J and E from across the street sang the blessing (I'm more used to reciting it) as we lit the menorahs (I did two). 

Big A's in Milwaukee until Sunday, so I took Nu with me. As always, they protested having to go and as we walked home, raved about how glad they were that they went and how much they love "community." I guess I do know best after all. Ha.

I am a sentimental mess just from reading Nicole's account of The Small One (Q: Is this the first time I've cried at a Wikipedia entry? Ans: No.). I love its theme of offering up devotion in whatever small way one can. "Little Drummer Boy" is another great example of this. And now I'm thinking of "Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame" that I first encountered in Anatole France's version in my French textbook. And now I'm thinking of how much my mom loved that story when I shared it with her, and how she connected it to the story of Kannappa who did all the taboo things (offered meat, spat water, put his feet etc. on the deity) out of love and devotion. And this in turn reminds me of a scene in a Tamil movie whose plot and title I've forgotten in which the Hindu heroine who is in love with a Christian boy goes to church to pray for him. But she doesn't know any Christian prayers, so she recites the entirety of an 8th century hymn-paean written for Durga in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. It's a moment my mom and I found both funny and sweet. It's a hymn my mom and I love. And now I miss my mom.

Pic: A forest of candles at CB's "Winter Warm Up Party."

Thursday, December 14, 2023


I know I can retell the stories 
until I get them right... 
            I may never get them right
            don't be afraid, maya
it's just... the sky is falling
my body is failing 
            there's room right about here 
            for a quiet chorus 
but I hear only stalled words
vowels leave, aiyo aiyo 
            like an ocean finding freedom
            deep inside me
and though disaster is far away
I'm right here, waiting 

Pic: I got some mall-style Winter Wonderland when I dropped off some stuff at the Fretail Store. (I'm so happy this store, which gives people the experience of shopping while giving away things for free, exists in Lansing.) Today was also a day I had to pick up Huck and Max from the groomers and then turn around to take Nu and myself to the dentist. This is what happens when I press pause on all non essential appointments in the final weeks of class. I guess I was tired; I fell asleep while the dentist and hygienist were still peering into my mouth.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

it's beginning to look

a lot like a bit like Christmas. CF, my dear friend who moved to South Carolina sent us a beautiful Christmas centerpiece, JG sent us treats from Sunnyland Farms, AK sent a blooming amaryllis, SV made a donation in memory of Scout. It seems my girlfriends are into sending things that are more like experiences, and I love it.

Counterbalance: My uncle told me that there had been a fire in my sister's office building in Bangalore. My sis then sent me a video of the 20-story fire. Scary. A student whose poetry I love received a rejection. Sad. One thinks we'd be able to protect the people we care about from harm or disappointment, but we're so limited.

Pic: CF's centerpiece--I lit the candles to send her a thank you photo. Bonus peek of Nu snacking in the kitchen.

on a break (Winter Break)

It was so rude of Big A to cheerily text me "one more year" on New Year's day and then explain that in 2025 Nu would be off to...