Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chicken strips and French fries

This evening, tired of cooking and needing to stock the fridge anyway, we ate out. We tried a tiny local mom-and-pop restaurant two doors down from the neighborhood grocery store.

Jonathan, for one, loved it. He ordered French fries and chicken strips, and a huge glass of pineapple juice, and it all came with a whole fresh peach on the side.

"This food is fantastic," he said at one point in the evening.

The boy always orders chicken strips and French fries. Why?

Me, I ordered the fish special, because I never get fish at home. I live with fish haters.

Now that I think of it, Jonathan doesn't ever get chicken strips and French fries at home. Nor, for that matter, does he ever really get anything deep fried. And we haven't seen fresh peaches since September.

Perhaps that's what makes it fantastic: trying something different that he knows he will love. Same for me with the fish.

Perhaps if I deep fried at home, he would think my food was fantastic, rather than eyeball every dish I make with suspicion.

Somehow I doubt it.

I must say, cooking is less fun with a small boy in the house.

And also, the food was very good. I will go back to that restaurant. Sometime when I'm tired of cooking and need something deep fried.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Its a major award

I received a major award this week.

Funny, I am the same person today that I was one week ago.
But one week ago, the university PR department didn't care what my research was about. My department chair was secretly thinking I deserved a course release for my teaching work, but hadn't yet told me so. And my friends and colleagues around the country had no reason to write to me.

One week ago Thursday the astounding news appeared in a benign-looking email in my inbox. As I read, my knees started shaking so badly that I had to put the laptop on the table to read the last few lines. Instructions not to share until Tuesday.

On Monday, I met with the department chair about the teaching thing, and he offered the course release if I would please continue my reorganization of our major general education class. I told him that sounded good, except I might not be the person for the job the following day, when I had some news I would share.

News?!? I think his first guess was that I was pregnant. Then he worried I was leaving.

Funny. Back in the fall, he helped nominate me for the award I was winning. I guess neither of us really thought that I would actually get it.

Tuesday morning the news broke. Colleagues from Michigan, Texas, California wrote to congratulate me. Other universities whose faculty members won the same award posted the news as soon as possible. Tim contacted me through the day. "Berkeley has theirs up on their main website. Texas has theirs up. Where are you?"

No one from my university had won such an award since 1969. They didn't know they should look for it. They probably didn't know what it meant.

And my department chair? We met again Wednesday morning. He suggested extra course releases, not for teaching, but to devote time to my research. I could take semesters off, a full year off. If I wanted. Because I won a major award.

So here's a problem. I actually want the teaching job. I want to continue to reorganize the general education course. And to continue to reorganize the graduate course. And to have extra time for research as well. But I probably can't. In any case, I was promised the whole weekend for soul searching. Tim and I have been talking. Should we go away? Should we stay? What do I really want to be when I grow up? Or better: what do we want in just five years? And how can I use the major award to get there?

University PR contacted me Friday for a story they'll write up over the weekend. They wanted to know what I would do with the research award money. Me too.

Funny. My research hasn't changed, but suddenly they care.

I really am the same person this week that I was last week.

Or am I?

I have something this week that I didn't have before.

Confidence. Clout. Choices.

You know, once before in my life I won a major award, and the winning gave me the confidence to pursue a direction in life I thought I wasn't smart enough to pursue. (As a senior in college. Named one of two top undergraduate women in the country. Decided maybe I could cut it in grad school after all.)

Amazing. I know for a fact that I'm not the most qualified person. Somehow the stars just aligned in my favor. But since they have, the world is upside down.

If it's not about winning, then why does one major award make such a difference?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stress reduction?

I went to the dentist today.

We discussed my tramatic episode of giant swollen gums.

The dentist and hygienist both agreed that it was stress related, and that I should practice stress reduction in my life to save my poor bleeding gums.

They wanted to know what stress I experienced before said incident. I explained that the semester was just starting, that I was designing two classes, that I was finding substitutes and travelling internationally, that I was giving a pair of important presentations in a country I had never visited, where I did not speak the language.

They expressed noises of sympathy. That did sound stressful.

Then they asked where I went for this international travel.


Tokyo? Wow. That sounds great. How was the trip?

Um. I just told you how it was. Stressful enough to make my gums swell up into balloons.

No, no -- aside from that. How was it otherwise?


Speaking of stress reduction, I have some funds I am supposed to use on my research. But the only thing my research is really lacking right now is time. How can I use my funds to buy back my time?

Please send suggestions as soon as possible, before my gums swell up again and I die.

Death by gum disease.

That sounds so pathetic. I'm making myself cry.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things I didn't say

... to the lovely ladies in church today.

I didn't say that I have found good people and bad people everywhere we have lived. I have had neighbors who cared as much about our friendship or family, who did not wear the same labelled religion on their sleeve. Or didn't care as much, but did. Both.

I didn't say that I think grouping into us and them isn't helpful. We are all us. And all them.

I didn't say that it isn't safe to pretend we live in a bubble, safe, as long as we don't let the wrong sort inside. What does that mean? If you knew me better, would I be the wrong sort? (Probably.) Which brings up the question: how do you know that the people in your bubble are the people you think they are?

Me, for example?

Perhaps I am just sitting quietly on the side, hands down, eyes wide, viperous thoughts inside. Wondering about your thoughts. And how to protect my children from your bubble.

I think you are all wonderful ladies, and good neighbors, and trying your best to be the best women you know how to be. And I admire you for it. But some of the things some of you say make my eyes grow a little wide (and my heart a little anxious).

Do you see that in yourselves?

Which brings up the much more important question: which behaviors do I not see in myself? Where do I stand on the wrong side of hypocrisy? On the dangerous side of naive? Where am I? And how can I recognize it?

Because often talking with you, I think that if I just ignore this beam, I can help all of you with your motes.

I didn't say any of that.