Thursday, March 29, 2012

Packing for Paris in Spring

I am at a conference in Paris this week. (I know, hard life.)

This trip, I had a more difficult time than usual time figuring out what to pack.  Because, you know, I would be in Paris.  In the spring.  And in Paris, I don't want to look like a stupid American.  I want to blend in, like the natives.  Camouflaged.

But what do Parisians wear in Paris in the spring?  To conferences?

Tailored trousers, shimmery button up shirts.  A cashmere sweater if it gets chilly.  Black leather boots.  A fine black handbag.  Unique accessories.

What am I going to do?  I don't have anything like that in my closet!


In the end, I packed myself a quality pair of jeans and a few cotton button up shirts.  Boring but comfortable shoes.  Back pack instead of handbag.  Reliable watch and prescription glasses instead of unique accessories.  A couple of pony tail holders.  It didn't even occur to me that I might want a little makeup.

I shouldn't have been concerned.  I'm at an academic conference.  When I showed up and looked around the room, I realized that everyone was dressed just like this:

Just like me.


By the way, that guy in the cotton button up shirt and jeans?  There at the board he is claiming something very remarkable and even historic.  I will not say what it is, nor allow my colleagues to put technical, google-able words in the comments, because this is a personal blog and I don't want my colleagues all over it -- at least not more than those who have already found it.  (I'm happy to have you here, btw.)

But anyway, very important result announced at this conference.

And, um, yeah.  This afternoon?  I gave the talk just before his.

Since I couldn't compete with that result, I should have at least tried to wear a more fashionable outfit.  Seriously.  This is Paris.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


A couple of people have asked how the meeting with the dean went.  It was ok.  He met with all the women faculty in the college.  We fit into a pretty small meeting room.  I went in fully intending to be supportive but to try to avoid saying anything I would regret later.  And I did pretty well for a while, until my impassioned plea for quality child care took me a little over the top, and I had to stop talking before I started crying.

Come on, stupid, the dean can't do anything about child care.

Dude.  I'm such a calm, confident professional woman, eh?

Want to hear other examples of my calm, confident professionalism?

I promised a colleague I would evaluate her teaching, and completely forgot to show up to her class.  I handed back midterms, then got back to my office and realized I never recorded the scores.

And most recently, I offended a good friend.

Tim claims you can tell when I have a migraine coming on just by the tone of my blog posts.  Happy-go-lucky in between migraines.  Gloomy just before.  (No writing during migraine, thanks.)

But this seems like more than just a migraine.  This is chronic stupidity.

I will let you know.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Braces off!

Jonathan got his braces off yesterday.  

I think the new face looks kind of scary.  What do you think?

Monday, March 12, 2012

In support of sex ed

My state legislature just passed a law severely restricting sex education.  If we don't hear about sex, the thinking must go, it won't happen.  At least, teenagers won't do it.

Others have argued about the truth of that statement elsewhere, and I don't want to go there for this post.  For the point of this post, let's assume it is true.  If we don't tell teenagers what sex is, then they won't have sex while teenagers.  No more unwed mothers.  No more abortion clinics -- or at least, no teens in there. That's great!

The thing about sex, though, is that it's actually a pretty natural, normal thing.  Eventually, these teenagers are going to grow up, and be in healthy, loving relationships, and happily married, and they're going to want to have sex.  And then what?  Well, sex is this scary thing that we don't talk about.  So now the healthy adults don't know what they're doing or what to expect, or even that there are options for birth control besides abstinence and abortion.  Where do they go now to learn these things?  How can we teach them?  How can we let them know that sex is a healthy part of a normal relationship?  How do we teach our daughters to stand up for their sexual well-being if we are afraid to use the word sex in front of them?  We missed our chance.

So let me be honest.  As a teenager, I hated health class, and sex ed, and I really didn't want to be there.  On the other hand, the intention wasn't really to teach the sixteen year old me frozen in time.  The point of health class was to help me and the rest of these teenagers to develop habits and learn facts that they would need into adulthood.

For example, most of us had parents who took care of our cooking, and yet we all had to learn about nutrition.  Why?  Because someday in the near future we would all be adults, making choices about what we would eat that would affect our overall health and well being.  Daily.  And all those parents who didn't want their kids messing up their kitchen when they were teenagers?  Tough.  They didn't let their kids opt out of the nutrition week.  Because nutrition is about the adult the teenager will become.

So back to sex.  Eventually teenagers will be adults, and living on their own, and they'll need to make their own choices on food AND sex.  And the more education we can give them now, the better those choices will be.  The more fear and secrecy we build around this horror called sex, the more ashamed they will be to learn about it, and the more their relationships will suffer.  Not just their teenage relationships.  Also their healthy, normal adult relationships.

Dear state legislators, I don't mean to offend you, but sex is totally normal and natural.  In fact, even your parents had sex.  At least your biological ones did.  And those teenagers?   Knowing a little about sex, even including options for contraception and not just abstinence, can really improve their future spectacular marriages -- the ones that I know you are aiming for when you pass this law in the first place.

If we don't teach our kids about sex in high school, we are missing an important chance.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Visiting Teaching

I went over to Norma's house this afternoon.  Norma, who is now 83, has been retired from her job as a professor for many years.  My next door neighbor Cassia came, too.  Cassia retired recently from a teaching job, and her husband retired within the last couple of weeks from his university job.  

Norma and Cassia and I, we laughed a lot, and read over the new instructions for visiting teaching that were just released in the most recent church magazine.  We then scratched our heads and agreed we didn't know where the changes were.  It has always been a program we had to adapt to our own needs and the needs of our neighbors.  It's always been more about helping people than checking dates off a chart.  Hasn't it?  Then what are the changes?

And then Norma and Cassia began reminiscing.  They've been neighbors for decades, and visiting teachers to one another many times in those years.  Cassia recounted how impressed she was the very first day she attended church in this neighborhood, and Norma was teaching, and keeping the class on its toes.  She laughed at the way Norma had teased her decades ago when she dropped her husband off at the university without giving him a kiss goodbye.  

Norma reminded her, do you remember the fun we used to have when I was your visiting teacher with Gail?  And they laughed, and then told me that Gail had died.  And then the conversation turned sober, and Cassia asked, do you remember when I had cancer?  And she told the story of how she had survived.  But Gail had not.  And she said she felt badly for years that she had survived and Gail had not.  

And Norma told how when she had her own cancer, in her late 60s, how she had asked God if He would please let her live to be 70.  And she lived.  And then she told God she was very grateful, but if it be His will, could she please live to be 75?  And she lived.  And then she thanked God, and told him she wouldn't ask for anything more.  But could she please NOT live to be 90?  

And me, I sat back and watched these women laugh, and felt ... an ache.  I was watching something beautiful, but outside.  I was born too late.  Too young.  Moved too recently.  Here these two amazing women had been such friends for so long, and had heaped so much of life upon themselves.  Two impressive careers, illnesses, friendships, neighbors, parents, caring.  What became of the woman who had lived on the corner?  She moved to Arizona years ago.  Do you remember?  Yes, but I was too busy then, with baby and full time job and dying brother.  Did you ever meet my grandmother when she lived with me?  The woman up the street helped me care for my mother.  And as they laughed and reminisced about all the people they had cared for, and the ones who had cared for them, they knew that visiting teaching had been good to them, through the years.  

Someday, when I am 83, with life heaped upon me, will I laugh with my neighbor, and say, did you remember Norma?  Who lived in so and so's house just around the corner?  She showed me how to do visiting teaching.