It's official: the work has begun. I'll be writing about Irish poetry from the prairie, and defend the dissertation next Spring.
Archive for May, 2006
Between the two of us, Attic Man and I have gone through 250 sheets of printer paper this weekend. I say "so far" because the day is not over yet! And we are still working! Happy, happy Memorial Day.
Still, it feels good to be prepared for the Prospectus meeting on Wednesday (I keep calling it a "meeting" and the committee keeps calling it a "defense") and I shan't think about anything Prospectus-related until approximately five and a half minutes before the meeting begins. And then after the meeting! I will get to start on the dissertation. I love that new and fresh reading phase before the real nasty work begins. You know, the lovely exploratory phase. I feel like I'm due after the past year. It's tantalizing amassing a bibliography–intimidating, too–and I just can't wait to get started.
Alas, I cannot simply rest until the meeting. Summer teaching packs a real punch: two three-hour classes a week with five-page paper assignments to grade every week between Tuesday's and Thursday's classes (don't blame me; the University's designation of a "W," or writing-intensive class, requires that students write at least 25 pages over the course of the semester. Only have six weeks? Too bad.). I'm finding that the length of the class demands considerably more planning on my part. I've taught a three-hour class before, but it was only once a week and I had a super-talkative class. This class has less experience with literature and is less skilled (no less capable) at reading poetry and therefore needs more structure. So yesterday I wrote ten in-depth questions for a poem they will read in pairs (I'm big on groupwork for this summer course to break up the monotony, and also because poetry-reading lends itself to paired work) and today I'm finishing up my lecture-reading of a poem. The class is already weary of whole-class readings of poems, and we haven't been reading our texts long enough for them to have a toolbox full of poetry terms and reading strategies, so I'm going to give them an example of a good reading. I'm trying to make it the same length as their papers. I tell myself it's so that they will have a better idea of what a five-page reading looks like, but I think I'm also trying to get some cred with them. I'm trying to say, I think, "look! I am working right along with you," which is something I've always tried to do with classes but haven't up till this one. Somehow I'm more committed and more organized, for which I'm very proud, even though I'm unsure of what has brought it one. Oh, heck. Might as well blame it on the wonders of the second tri.
Tonight I'm also going to try to plan Thursday's class so I don't have to worry about it on Wednesday (and I will be grading 16 papers then, anyway, before and after my meeting). I have my first Prenatal Yoga class on Wednesday night and I don't want anything hanging over my head (except for my feet, of course!).
I am missing the nice day and that makes me sad, as we have little sun in Pittsburgh as a rule. Attic Man is out on the deck with the dogs and his laptop so he isn't missing anything. I go out there anytime I have reading to do, despite the fact that our deck chair is charged so magnificently that I shock the dogs everytime I bend over to tenderly stroke one of their ears. This weekend, though I have been mostly trapped inside. Stinks.
Hope your holiday is wonderful—
When we sat down this morning to do the calculations, Attic Man and I discovered that this is the first weekend we’ve had together in five weeks. And honestly, it feels like a vacation. Yesterday morning I got up and made pancakes while he was in the shower and finished off the meal with fruit salad and scrambled eggs. Then we commenced to his college library to work all day. He got through several years of microfiche for his thesis, and I got both Prospectus and class prep work done. I no longer feel panicked about the Prospectus meeting on Wednesday. Having work hanging over your head is no good. We lunched downtown on cheap Chinese food. It was good. When we returned Attic Man kicked off the barbeque season while I read my breastfeeding book and we settled down to watch Field of Dreams. I made Overwhelmed’s fabulous cheddar muffins* with whole wheat flour and they were pretty good. This morning after sleeping late and watching some good HGTV I bathed the dogs. I’ll get back to work this afternoon.
I find myself really looking forward to weekends with kids. It will be fun to make pancakes for them on Saturday mornings and to just enjoy being together as a family. We’re ready for that. I think I’m finally ready for Iowa, too.
*sorry there’s no link–no tool bar today on WP. you can click on her name in the comments of old posts.
The other day, as I was dressing to leave for Virginia Beach and feeling self-conscious about whether or not to wear full-fledged maternity clothes when I am merely chubby, I complained to Attic Man, "Sheesh. They really should not make maternity clothes out of 100% cotton."
Attic Man looked at me, gave me a long blink and said, "Darling, is it possible that instead of it shrinking you are growing?"
I wore the shirt.
Last night as we were all settling in to sleep Lenny turned around four times, and, realizing that he had forgotten the rules, stopped and turned in the opposite direction once before plopping down for the night. Some days I would like to eat him, he's so cute.
Wednesday afternoon I started crying. Hard. I cried because Lenny was in the sink drinking the soapy water out of a pot and because Heidi pooped in the living room (rainy days are hard on their housetraining). I cried because I was stuck on a chapter description in my Prospectus. I cried because I was lonely. I cried because the house was so quiet and so dirty.
In reality I was famished. The first trimester has been all about sleep. The problem with sleeping ten to twelve hours is that you end up going fifteen to sixteen hours without eating. Cramming six meals into about nine hours is quite the feat. Anyway, my nibblings hadn't amounted to much, apparently, and suddenly I was ravenously hungry.
For reasons I didn't understand until the day was over, all I wanted to do was go to the mall. The mall! I hate the mall, that repository of sinful materialism and adolescent vapidity. But the pretty colors! and the people! I hadn't seen a person all day. And I wanted a pedicure.
I figured I'd be inspired on my way to the mall, and indeed as I reached the bottom of the hill approaching the hideous commercial stretch of McKnight Road I saw it: Red Lobster. Cheddar Bay Biscuits. It didn't matter that their entrees are priced at wunderbar and plated at so-so. I needed the biscuits in the same manner that I used to need McNuggets as a six-year-old already addicted to fast food, despite careful parenting. The Snapper, I explained to myself as I pulled in, needed them biscuits.
The waitress was so, so nice. She brought me food. She refilled my water. She smiled at me. Just as I finished the last bite of salad she brought me me entree, oozing with creamy goodness. And as I was clogging those last arteries that remained free and clear after the biscuits with the last few bites of white pasta drenched in cream sauce, she asked if I'd like dessert. Would I ever! I asked for key lime pie, which arrived promptly with the check. The entire experience took one half-hour. If you are well acquainted with my eating habits, as is Zerolio, you will marvel at the fact that I was able to feast in less than forty-five. I tipped generously, for good service but mainly because this nice woman, Trish, was nice to me. I was also finally sated by a good hot meal and emotionally stable for the first time that day.
On to the mall and my pedicure. There may have been stores and fitting rooms in between; I don't remember. I just remember sitting high upon a message-chair throne with my feet in rolling warm water, being touched. Being paid attention. Nary a word passed between me and the efficient Lena, and although she was being paid, I was grateful for her care. I don't know if she felt that she had provided me a spiritual service, and in fact an eleven-hour day of massaging, scrubbing, buffing, and painting toes probably doesn't lend itself to quiet reflection on the dignity of pedicuring. Being tired, pregnant, lonely, overwhelmed, I was grateful.
When I related this story to my friend A, she laughed long and hard and said I had to blog about it. She was also concerned that every day for the past week she has thought I was still annoyed. I am in fact still annoyed in general at several items on the list, but annoyance is no longer my dominant mental state. That particular post was written shortly before I realized, on another day, that I was in need of a nap and a hot meal.
These days the blessed second trimester is allowing me to feel good on eight or nine hours and I eat the minute I feel that the universe is sobbing or some other awful melodramatic thing that is threatening to send me over the edge of despair. It's working.
There is also dark chocolate in my purse.
Now–thirteen papers to go, and revisions, and class planning.
that Lenny spent 20 minutes outside, then ran into the living room to pee.
that a student complained about getting a B on her last paper.
that my regular clothes are too tight and my maternity clothes are too loose.
that I can't seem to shake this mood.
that I am not writing anything worth reading.
that all that I have to do today is in the house and I am tired of the house.
that my friend hasn't been able to bring her daughter home from Ethiopia and it is making her sad.
with my Prospectus.
at Ed Hirsch for writing great things about poetry couched in sugary language that makes me want to hurl.
that the bathroom sink is clogged and that I can't figure out how to remove the vaneer to unclog it.
that I have been blind all day to the privilege that allows me to have problems no larger than these.
Right now we're both in school full-time and Attic Man is working full-time as well. I'm finishing up the Prospectus, to be defended on May 31 and Attic Man is combing through reams of microfiche for his thesis. He'll graduate in August. We're getting ready to move. Last weekend we traveled to attend Attic Man's sister's graduation. This weekend we're traveling to visit a relative in Virginia Beach (yup, doing it all in one weekend…). I just started teaching my summer course. I'll be grading 19 five-page papers every week in addition to preparing for two three-hour classes a week. I should also be reading for my dissertation now and also preparing an article. Oh, and I'm preparing and eating six meals a day, which takes up more time than I initially thought it would. And also still sleeping ten hours a night to keep the Snapper growin'.
All the stuff that's making us busy, or most of it anyway, is good. We're moving to a place with grass where Attic Man will be able to flourish. I'm making good progress on my degree, and my committee is enthusiastic about my dissertation ideas. We're seeing lots of family before we leave for the midwest. The Snapper is doing very, very well (hearing the heartbeat was way cool). It's just so packed. It's hard to keep a balance. The house is always a mess and always dirty and it is driving us both crazy.
It will pass.
Now that he is on his way home, I can tell you that Attic Man has been in Iowa since Saturday. He wanted to take a few days to get a lay of the land and rest from work. I asked his permission to post the email he sent a few days ago. I nearly burst into tears upon reading it. This email is from a man who has faced nothing but disappointment for the past four years.
I was surprised at how emotional I got at the field. Really surprised. There was a guest book there, and people from all over the world come and are similarly bowled over. The movie is about a guy who makes a significant and life-altering decision. Everyone but his wife and daughter thinks he's crazy and that the decision will lead to disaster. I suspect other people who go there are thinking about baseball, or the movie, or their families, or that sort of stuff. I was thinking about the fact that in less than three months, our lives will be radically different. I like Cedar Rapids a lot. I like Iowa a lot.
In the movie, Ray Kinsella believed that plowing under the corn crop he desparately needed was the right thing to do. No one understood him. People questioned him. He gave up a sure thing in the crop, took a crazy chance by building a baseball field, and hoped things would work out. Now I'm about to leave a sure thing in a job, take a crazy chance by moving halfway across the country, and hope things will work out.
This is crazy. A person would have to be out of his mind to do what we're about to do. It makes no sense. Dropping everything and moving to Iowa is a silly idea.
But when I walked into the law building at the U, I knew it was right. When I wandered around some of the neighborhoods and downtown of Cedar Rapids, I knew it was right. Spending these couple of days here has convinced me that our plan is crazy, but we have to do it. I don't know how to explain it, but there's an energy and intensity and strength here that I didn't anticipate. I don't think anyone who hasn't spent time here knows about it. I hate to sound melodramatic, but I'm starting to realize that our fates are strongly intertwined with Iowa.
Who could have predicted that? The Boston-born Irish-Catholic kid with a Brooklyn accent from a small town in Pennsylvania was destined to be an Iowan. Maybe Cheryl Herr could shed some light on that.
Pictures from Cedar Rapids, where we will be making our home. Sorry, Dot–I just can't agree with the "Crapids" designation. A girl who is living on concrete looks with longing at tree-lined streets. The first few are actually not of CR but of Cornell College.
The odd thing about telling people you're pregnant after you've planned an adoption is that you get to find out how they really feel about adoption.
For the most part, so far, telling has been a lot of fun. From the subdued to the screaming, everyone has expressed the most heartfelt congratulations.
If only I could be sure that the same excitement would have been present for not-Boomer.
The following is a rough transcript of a conversation I had with an unnamed friend or family member who has a lot of experience with childbirth but none with adoption.
Sster: …so, we decided to try things a different way, and I am pregnant.
Friend/Family: How exciting! That is just so wonderful!
S: Thank you. We're excited, too.
F: Well, (lowering voice dramatically, putting on a relieved tone) if you want my opinion, this is the way you should have done it all along. Adopting a child is just not the same as having your own baby.
S: An adopted child would be our own child, too.
F: I know you'd love him just as much, but it's not like having your very own baby. Trust me. I know.
Person in room supportive of F, nodding vigorously: Listen to her, she knows.
S: I have to say, I feel no more connected to this baby than I did to the baby we almost adopted.
F and P: Trust us, you will. The pregnancy will prepare you for motherhood.
S: The adoption process is pretty grueling, too, and has taught me a lot about what it will mean to be a parent.
F: But it's just not the same. I'm sure there are a lot of needy babies but this way is the right way.
S: I've talked to mothers who have both biological and adopted children and they all say it's the same. It's not the same path, but your children are your children no matter how they come to you.
Attic Man: My mother has done both, and I'm inclined to take her word.
Our argument having briefly benefited from the patriarchy, the women press their lips tightly together and the conversation moves on.
S:…We wanted a baby just once, and the neat thing about doing it this way is that it expands our options for adopting the rest of our children. It's much harder to adopt an infant.
F: Well, just make sure you get them as young as possible. The older ones can have some real problems.
As you can imagine, I've been stewing and steaming and raging over this conversation for a while. It's as if this person and the contingent she represents have had these thoughts all along and thought–erroneously–that we've somehow gotten adoption out of our systems and (thank God) are doing things the 'right' way now. I'm furious. So Boomer would have come into the world with several people not convinced that he was truly our own, our very own? What about our future children? When they do have behavioral problems, which they will, because they're, um, children, will everyone be whispering well, he's adopted, you know?
And with the wild excitement we've been seeing from people compared to the generally more tempered reaction we got when not-Boomer's birth was nigh (if you're reading this, chances are it doesn't apply to you), how can we be sure that our family is going to be respected, cherished, and honored the way it would be if all of our children were born to us?
It's put a bit of a damper on this pregnancy.
The other night I was bored and although the house was, and still is, quite a mess, I didn't feel like spending my evening cleaning when there were far less brain-numbing possibilities out there. So I decided to take Lenny to the movies.
Now lest you think I am the kind of person who will feign blindness so she can take her puppy into public places, I must explain that this outing was held at Animal Friends' beautiful new facility. Every so often they hold a family event to which you can bring your kids and dogs. They show a heartwarming movie designed to make you want to adopt another dog and serve popcorn. Since we have been working hard on Lenny's socialization I thought it would be a good opportunity to get him used to public gatherings. L-train is a fearful dog, and lots of people in one place generally terrify him.
I didn't know if we'd even get in the door, much less be able to stay for the whole meeting. I took his entire dinner for reinforcement and set my expectations low. But Lenny was a champ! It took us about 20 minutes to get in the door. We had to enter and leave about a hundred times. Once we got in, however, and settled into a corner spot where no one could sneak up on him, Lenny was just fine. He tipped over a water bowl, as is his fashion, and then rested for the entire movie. A nice lady, Imogene, and her Sheltie, Morgan, joined us and brought us all a blanket to sit on. Lenny was so smitten with Imogene that he snuggled against her leg for half of the movie.
The best thing about the outing, though, was that it was attended by dozens of children whose parents have taught them how to appropriately approach and interact with dogs. In our neighborhood children routinely run up to dogs, full speed, yelling "doggy doggy doggy!" While Heidi doesn't mind, and in fact is used to thirty or so children petting her in the Immaculate Conception parking lot, it sends Lenny tearing back home and me behind, getting roadburn. So it was a delight to be around children who would ask politely to pet Lenny and who knew how to put their hands out and wait for him to approach. It was good for him to have some positive experiences with children who don't scream and make sudden movements.
It was also nice just to have "us" time. Since Heidi's been here Lenny and I don't spend much time alone. He won't go to the park without his entire pack along–me, Heidi, and Attic Man to protect him from screaming children, parked bicycles and women with canes–so we don't take long walks together. It was nice at the movie to love on him with no distractions.
In general, Lenny is getting much better. I was so proud of him last night during our corner exercise. Lenny is terrified of the busy street we have to cross to get to the park, and for good reason. We've been working for months with food and treats to get him up to the corner and have a few times successfully gotten him across the street without the whole pack. Last night we were working and the street was mercifully quiet. Except, that is, for our unsupervised preteens who were apparently engaged in some kind of mating ritual. Just as Lenny confidently reached the corner, four of them came racing around the building, startling us both. Lenny jumped back about five feet. But instead of barking and scaring everybody else (he's a big boy), he collected himself enough to cautiously sniff the boy who was leading the charge. And he wasn't ready to stop the exercise. I had more treats, and he was willing to try it again. It was a major accomplishment. A few months ago the incident would have sent him home and into his crate.
So our Lenny boy is coming along. As much as I miss not-Boomer I'm enjoying this extra time to train the dogs before the baby arrives.
Now to get him to stop eating used tissues and tubes of Blistex…