big girl thoughts


As busy as The Man and I are, it’s a rarity to find time to stop; even more rarely can we work it out to get time off together.  This past weekend we were lucky enough to sneak off to San Antonio for a couple of days.  The nearly constant rain and cold didn’t even bother us so much as we were just thrilled to be doing anything other than studying, working, choring, and/or stressing.

We didn’t have a set schedule.  We slept in.  We drank wine in bed and watched SNL.  We walked the river, ate a ridiculous amount of good food, visited the zoo (SO much fun!), window shopped (and actually shopped), and basically just enjoyed being kids for a moment – we enjoyed running away.

Day 1 back in OKC – walking in wind gusts up to 60 mph, cramming for an Arabic exam, piles of laundry to be done, responding to an inbox full of student emails, plowing through a never ending stack of grading, blah blah blah.  I know all that sounds like a whole bunch of First World Problem whining (and it is) but I can’t help it.  Taking a moment’s pause is so refreshing.  But dammit if the moments immediately after aren’t completely exhausting by comparison.

The Man managed to take this amazing shot of a rain droplet about to fall.

photo credit: viniciousknibb

I keep staring at it.  It feels like the entire photo is holding its breath, waiting for the action to resume but not really wanting it to because the image is too appealing the way it is.  It kind of perfectly sums up how I feel about this weekend.  And I want to go (back) to  there.

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Ladies, gird your loins, cause this shiz is about to get real.

A friend of mine already commented on the following ridiculousness here:

I know right?!  I couldn’t believe it either.  How in the world this stuff continues to infect our lives is seriously beyond me.  Thankfully, articulatethelimb offers a sane and intelligent response to this rancid idiocy.  There’s not too much for me to add to her commentary, which does fantastic job deconstructing the ideas line by line.   Still, her words inspired me to create an image that captured the righteous spirit of her rant in a way that could be shared quickly and effectively.  And so my friends, I offer you my version:

photo credit: supershiksa

Feel free to ‘like’ and ‘re-pin’ this on Pinterest here.  Don’t let that old narrative permeate our lives or define our standards.  Let’s make this the new standard.  Come on, ladies, let ’em hear you roar.

My last few entries have got me thinking about certain kinds of knowledge that I assume the average person possesses. I expect a certain level of sense, some basic problem solving skills and maybe a dose of foresight.  It’s not much, really. Now I know, I wait tables, so I have plenty of reasons to disprove my “the average person is competent” theory. But somehow the wealth of inductive evidence fails to preclude my hoping and expecting.

Even in the university I find, more often than not, that the average student is lacking a basic competence for one upon whom a degree has been conferred. (I would venture to guess that many of my students don’t even know what conferred means.) But maybe that’s not entirely their fault. Since becoming a college professor, I often have conversations with students who are dismayed to discover that college courses bear little to no relationship with their high school equivalents. From a student’s perspective, it’s frustrating to realize that the first thing you must learn in any college course is to dump whatever study methods may have served you in the past and quickly pick up some new ones. (Names and dates won’t cut it in college literature classes. Motifs, themes, unanswerable questions…these are the things that matter now.) From a professorial standpoint, it’s frustrating to discover just how much high school graduates don’t already know. (The basic spelling and grammatical errors I encounter on a regular basis are appalling, never mind the historical ignorance.)

The same gap exists, I think, between college and “the real world.” So often college does not prepare you for the actual lived experience of acquiring a job, paying rent, buying groceries, finding health care, navigating relationships, raising children, etc.  Sure, you can write a killer essay in one night but will your landlord care about that come the 1st of the month? Will your senior paper discussing increasing urbanization and the conflicts of public space, parks, and playgrounds empower you to be some sort of expert parent?  Probably not.

This is not to say that I think writing papers at 3am whilst consuming large quantities of coffee and breakfast cakes is unimportant. I wouldn’t be a college professor if I did. In the immortal words of one Sam Seaborn, “Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything.” And he’s right. He’s also right that education is in desperate need of “gigantic, revolutionary changes” because I can tell you, what we’ve got simply isn’t good enough.

Maybe what would help is some kind of preparedness class, required prior to graduation and in addition to one’s major, that would give students the fundamental tools to function in whatever stage of life comes next. High school to college, college to grad school (if applicable), grad school to “adulthood”, and so on. Schools might even offer a variety of courses from which the student could select, given their particular career and family choices, for instance:

  • “Study Skills vs. Study Hall”
  • “College Life and Sobriety”
  • “Jobs I: Acquiring Employment”
  • “Jobs II: Maintaining Employment”
  • “Deciphering the Graduate Program Application and Process”
  • “FAFSA, FICA, and other Important Acronyms”
  • “Managing Financial Obligations: Beyond the Beer Run”
  • “Changing Your Oil and other Vehicle Maintenance”
  • “Home Repair Matters”
  • “Special Topics: Cohabitation, Compromise, and Commitment”
  • “Introductory Parenting: Diapers and Desonate”

It might help. It might not. As one blue-collared individual got famous for observing, “Sometimes, you just can’t fix stupid.”

I have a secret obsession: DIY design blogs. I’d like people to think that I spend my time pouring over great works of literature or getting involved in socially conscious endeavors but the truth of the matter is, I waste an inordinate amount of time skimming through various blogs and magazines dedicated to making one’s home a prettier place. Some home trends I could do without (I don’t really care for mirrored dressers or duncan phyfe sofas). Others I feel I must have (anything tree related is an instant winner). One of the newest trends I’ve noticed is recycling as an aesthetic. It seems that many people are suddenly inspired to use reclaimed materials in new and creative ways. Sometimes the materials are used for practical purposes (check out a friend’s ingenious use of discarded doors as fencing material) while others have more artistic ambitions (OKC’s IAO Gallery hosts an annual exhibit showcasing local art from recycled materials). Either way, decorating one’s home is fine enough but decorating with “trash”, well, that’s perfection!

I wonder if anything deeper can be said of this fascination with reclaimation? Yes, recycling and “going green” have become more chic in recent years but why? Surely Al Gore isn’t so much a cultural meme that he’s infiltrated even the world of home fashion. And with my other job being a daily reminder of just how selfish people can be, I have a difficult time believing that people are becoming more eco-friendly out of some inner sense of goodness.  Perhaps it has more to do with the idea of taking something worthless and making it not just useful but admirable. In a time when images of beauty are so beyond the realm of normal (read: unattainable), when one’s worth is based more on utility than companionship, it makes sense that we might look for ways to express how we prefer to be valued. It is said that a home is often an extension of the dweller’s personality; what if our homes are also an appeal for appreciation?

Or maybe I’m reading into things. Maybe the economy’s just got everyone down and folks can simply no longer afford Pottery Barn.

The mythologically challenged may not understand the title reference so for their sake, a quick introduction: Set, this is everybody…everybody, this is Set.  Set is an Egyptian trickster god who, in addition to killing his brother by convincing him to lay down inside a coffin-like box (did you not see that coming, Osirus?), decided not to wait until “the appropriate time” to be born and instead CUT HIMSELF OUT of his mother’s womb just to prove a point. Yeah. That’s hard core. It’s also exactly the way bad things tend to happen in my life, not when I could appropriately handle said badness but precisely when it would cause the most physical and emotional damage.

Within the last several months, many Set-like events have begun to pile up. Here are some of the most memorable, in no particular order:

-Within a month of returning home from an amazing vacation, the windows of my car started randomly falling into their doors, one after another, compromising the security of my vehicle and costing me nearly $900 to repair.

-Two weeks later, my speedometer broke.

-Several months later, my driver’s side door began sticking. Have to shoulder slam the door to open it from the inside.

-A week later, the door handle on the sticking door broke off in my hand while trying to exit the vehicle. Had to climb out the passenger side. It’s still broken.

-Feeling productive one afternoon, I sharpened all my household knives and scissors. A few days later, my mother sent me a surprise Christmas package. I sliced a two inch gash in my index finger trying to open the package with my newly sharpened scissors.

-A series of plumbing issues in my house finally culminated one morning before work in a flood of dirty, stinky sewer water overflowing out of every toilet, sink and tub. Turns out an unidentifiable animal had somehow managed to crawl into the pipes and died, causing all manner of nastiness to back up onto my new carpet.

-My original iPod broke two weeks before the aforementioned vacation. I bought a new one just for the trip…and lost it on the plane ride home a mere month after purchasing it.

-Oh, and the foundation of my house may be shifting. It’s creating an odd ridge in the middle of the living room and potentially compromising the integrity of the structure…no big deal.

Some of those are just silly annoyances. Some are fairly serious. All I could do without. There are others, more private and menacing, that compete for my attention and I wish for thicker skin. Anything to keep all this shit from cutting its way in. There are times when I feel I may just concede and lay down in that temptingly comfortable-looking box built just for me.

Where’s Isis when you need her?

Maybe it was excess build-up or some allergic reaction affecting my hearing but I swear I heard a guest respond to my “how are you doing today?” with this:

“Well, I’m white, so I’m great.”

Initial reactions:

  1. I need to Q-tip more often.
  2. I’m only half white. Does that mean I’m merely half great? or half bad?
  3. Is that distinction anything like the “glass half full” scenario?
  4. I should blog about this.
  5. What a sad malady-irony: a waxy blockage affecting comprehension and a consuming ignorance affecting compassion.
  6. Do I really have to wait on David Duke over here?
  7. Sometimes my job sucks.

“Would you like to see the cutest baby in the world?”

Dammit.

The question from my intoxicated bar guest last Saturday night and my annoyed internal response. For the record, I actually really like kids. I’ve done my fair share of babysitting and full time nannying in my never ending quest to pay the bills and for one reason or another, children and I seem to get along. It is, however, an entirely different thing to pretend to be interested in a bunch of pictures of some random baby to whom you have no relation or acquaintance. I mean, come on. Babies are (let’s be honest) kind of strange looking little creatures. I can only “awww” and “how cute!” for so long before my cheeks begin to hurt and little pieces of my soul start slowly dying as I sell them off bit by bit for a bigger tip. But what can I do? I have to say yes or risk offending the nice drunk lady who is about to pay me. So, with forced enthusiasm:

Me: Sure!

NDL: (pulling out her iPhone and beginning to sort through dozens of baby photos) This is the two of us last Sunday…oh! and this is his first real cookie… and this is him giving me a hug… you know, he really does give the best hugs!… and this is him with his Bubby, that’s what we call the blanket I gave him…

Me: (brains oozing out my ears) He seems to be pretty special!

NDL: Oh he is! Well… uhm… you know… he’s… (she trailed off uncomfortably at this point).

Me: Yes?

NDL: Well my son had an affair you know…

PRAISE MERCIFUL ALLAH this just got interesting!!

Me: Oh?

NDL: (pointing to the little boy on her iPhone) Yes, he’s the product of the affair.

Me: Uh… well… at least something special came from the situation…

What the hell ELSE could I say?!

IBG: (enthusiastically) Oh yes! We just adore our new little boy! We can’t imagine life without him!

It’s the word “new” that struck me. They never mentioned their son again and our conversation ended ambiguously in that regard. I got the distinct impression that while they adored their new grandson, they hadn’t forgiven the son for his actions and were instead focusing on their ‘replacement child’.

Instantly, my thoughts began to race. I wondered what that conversation must have been like. “Mom, Dad, I had an affair. She’s pregnant. We’re keeping it.” I wondered what these parents said in response. I wondered about the illicit couple, if they were still together or if the son had tried to reconcile with his wife. I wondered about the wife, what she must have felt having learned of the affair, I presume, at the same time she learned about the child. I wondered about the child who, for the rest of his life, will know that his very existence was formed in secrecy and deceit.

In that one instant I felt sad and confused and indignant and awkward all at once. But mostly, it was just awkward.

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