Friday, March 31, 2006
So I'm done, still in my workout clothes and a ponytail, headphones & ipod, sunglasses on, bopping across campus.
The music is turned way low, just in case I see someone I know.
No one recognizes me.
I live in suits. And pearls. And heels.
Without them, I'm 5'4 and 25 years old.
That's fine. I like to be invisible for a change.
Then I see a student who SITS IN THE FIRST ROW, so I KNOW he KNOWS me.
He's walking in the opposite direction.
As we cross paths, he walks by, nods his head, a big grin breaks across his face and he says, "Hey! ... Hey Baby!... Good workout?"
I smile and kinda shrug.
He takes about two more steps and turns back to shout (yes, SHOUT), OH MY GOD I'M SO SORRY! I DIDN'T RECOGNIZE YOU. I AM SOOOOO SORRY!
Sometimes apologies make things a little bit worse.
But that's OK.
It was the ponytail that threw him off.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
On Monday I taught my regular schedule. After I finished teaching my 1:25pm history class, I went to the gym.
When I got home, we played outside with golfballs.
Silly, simple. Fantastic.
On Monday, Dr. Ted Hemmingway -- a retired professor and Dean from FAMU -- taught his 1:25 history class down the hall from me.
He died that night.
I found out on Tuesday that Zoe's godfather had taken classes from Dr. Hemmingway.
He sobbed in our hallway when I told him the news.
Tonight I'll begin teaching Dr. Hemmingway's Tuesday/Thursday 5:30-6:45pm class.
Somehow I'm going to have to figure out what stories he told and connect them to mine.
Historians are storytellers.
But we each have our own style.
From what I've been able to piece together from my students who have taken his classes, Dr. Hemmingway taught history like a charismatic preacher.
He didn't use much technology, and when it seemed to him topic was important and the students really really interested, he stayed on that topic for awhile.
He had a lot of stories.
Dr. Hemmingway didn't worry about the next class or the next lecture. He was completely focused on the students in the room.
I have a lot to learn from him.
I love my technology, in and out of the classroom. My students send me email, post to a discussion board, and expect lectures to be linear, disciplined and -- well -- funny.
But that's low tech.
Rosie the Riveter peers over my shoulder from the 20 foot screen in the largest classroom I teach in, HSS108.
Sometimes there are images of pessaries, political cartoons, caricatures up there.
But there's always something.
I can't stand having students stare at me.
At least with a screen and image, we have a common point to refer to as I weave the story.
It helps my pace and it promises the students I have given thought to exactly where I'm taking them with my stories.
Tonight I'll be teaching Dr. Hemmingway's students in that same room.
His last lecture was on the Dred Scott decision.
Supreme Court ruled that Dred Scott was black (no, seriously, they did) and because no "black" is a citizen of the US, they couldn't hear his case about whether he was free or not.
I have exactly seven lectures (including tonight) to get the class through the Civil War, to the 1920s, and -- hopefully -- to 1980.
Goodbye Ted.We are completely stunned and saddened at your passing, and remain inspired by your life. Thank you for sharing your stories and for making history a bit more real to a generation of students who love you.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Chuck left for a few minutes and Zoe climbed the fence to peek at the neighbors & see if they were doing anything worth spying on. Nothing.
Then Chuck returned with a golf club and a bunch of wiffle balls.
The kids got giddy, I got confused.
It seems like they all knew what to do next.
They stand really still & he starts whacking (chipping, whatever you do with a golf club) balls in their direction.
He hits them (yes, he hit my children with wiffle balls -- target practice) a few times, and they strike crazy statue poses.
I run inside for a pen, because this is the funniest thing I've ever seen.
As I walk out, Zoe goes "GET MOMMY" and Zack goes "Mommy! Balls! Mommy! Balls!"
Then, because I didn't move, just focused on WRITING, and because I underestimated Chuck (yes, all the time, and I'm learning not to) a wiffle ball knocked the pen right out of my hand.
I looked up and the three of them were waving and laughing from across the yard.
Ow! Hey! They're having fun without me!
So I picked the pen up, put it inside, and joined their game.
- MonaLisa Smile
- Valley Girl
- Say Anything
- Bonefish Grill's Bang Bang Shrimp
- sushi in general, with lots of wasabi
- chocolate mint
- Trading Spouses
- Taxicab Confessions
Friday, March 24, 2006
Don't change your name. That messes everything up.
One of my favorite teachers in graduate school was Lee Chambers-Schiller.
She wasn't Russian, and she didn't change her name. Not really. She hyphenated.
Actually, I think she was the first person I knew who had a hyphenated name.
Until I met her -- and studied under her -- "women with hyphenated names" were on my mental list of people who lived in another universe.
Which is funny, because I'm Cuban. (Oh? Do I mean Cuban-American? Damn hyphens!)
We're known for keeping every name every relative every had and sticking them together in a tangled up puzzle that only we can explain.
That's on my mind because Chuck is bringing IT up again.
Not that he doesn't bring IT up several times a week.
For 12 years.
Hello? I'm talking the NAME GAME.
When we first got married, I decided to hyphenate.
We didn't discuss what my name would be after we got married.
We didn't discuss A LOT of things before we got married (student loans, outlook on life, whether to move to California, whether either of us wanted any kids, views on God....)
We also didn't discuss where to go on our honeymoon, and ended up in a deserted town in an old hotel in the exact room he had stayed with his girlfriend when they broke up 2 years before.
Anyway, although I am always editing and changing my physical world, I can't let go of the name I was born with -- it's just.... me.
So my dear husband responds, "Your Mom did it!" -- basically maneuvering to cut me off from the "it's a Cuban thing" response.
OK. My mom didn't keep Fornias y Polo in her name.
But her parents live in the house behind hers.
They've been living like an extended family for about 20 years.
I'm not saying -- or threatening -- that I'll only change my name if we bring my parents up here.
Not going to happen.
But changing my name isn't viable either.
I love it when people connect me with my parents.
I'll be beyond happy when I finally meet someone (I picture them to be wearing a suit) who will read my last name and say, "Hey, is your brother Winn??? Wow. What a family."
My marriage name is part of my identity.
But it isn't who I am, any more than my birthname is.
I am both.
And, unlike Russia in 1918, I'm not giving up any terrain here.
After 25 years of WAR with food, I've decided to eat whatever I want.
OK. 25 years is an exaggeration.
There was definitely eighteen months of pregnancy woven in there where I tumbled into the world of fried calamari, Ben & Jerry's and biscuits.
It wasn't even that I loved those foods, or that I love junk food in general...
I just felt so... free!
Like an immigrant reaching US shores, wandering the streets and buying salty food on street corners.
That's me, off a diet.
In a mental wonderland, released from Martial law.
Remember that glow that I had? It wasn't pregnancy hormones.
It was *relief.*
I wasn't in pain.
The hardest part of my life has been the months after each pregnancy.
Walking around in a strange skin, a mis-shaped body no longer flattered by maternity clothes OR regular clothes.
I longed for a cheap Wal-Mart t-shirt (size XL, but the tag cut out) declaring, "HEY, This isn't what I really look like! I just had a BABY!"
Funny, huh? I was serious.
I've always felt, deep down, that I need to provide written documentation for all my physical shortcomings. A lumpy rear and frumpy tummy are, in my little world, signs that the walls that hold my life together might be crumbling.
I don't look bad right now, considering that over the past 25 years I've lost and gained territory more than Russia did between 1915 and 1944.
I've had my own person Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (and Operation Barbarossa) only I ended it all (temporarily) with the iron girdle instead of the iron curtain.
I still have that evil girdle, but haven't subjected myself to it in months.
Besides being so tight that I can't really breathe or sit (or teach without distraction) it has these crazy strong straight plastic things inside of it that poke me in the ribs as if to say (oh, I imagine it would have a sneaky hissy and growly voice like Lord Voldemort) "HEY, if you LOST those last 10 pounds instead of sssssssspending ssssssso much time with your family I wouldn't be sssssssssooo tight. ssssssssss."
Just as the iron curtain fell, and the Berlin Walls crumbled, I too am ready for a change. A big one.
The answer isn't in starving, in pills, in beating myself up.
The answer is right where I left it.
And if you think I'm going to tell you EVERYTHING, now -- here -- then, well, you don't know Melissa.
But don't worry.
I'm sitting here laughing, typing away, diet coke right next to the computer.
Free, again, for as long as it lasts.
Pass the calamari!
And, in response to the three emails I've ALREADY gotten --->
NO, I AM NOT PREGNANT.
- Dog the Bounty Hunter. And his son, Leland. Despite their mullets.
- Scott Stapp, and his look-alike, the hot but less talented (and mores sober) Ace Young.
- Bernie Kosar. My first crush.
- Ice Cube. The Rock. Barack Obama. Orlando Bloom.
- Anderson Cooper. Charlie Gibson
- The guy from Entourage.
- Mr. Big.
- Joey Greco, from Cheaters. But I watch it compulsively, anyway.
- Leonardo Dicaprio. I still see him as an 8 year old.
- Prince William.
- Andrew Jackson.
- Lance Armstrong.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
So now I'm sick.
I spend pretty much all of my time with either college students and preschoolers, which means I'm ground zero for viruses.
Last night I went to bed at 7pm - not an easy feat with two kids whose bedtimes are much later than that. Chuck handled it.
Very well, I might add.
Only twice was I waken up by Zoe, who climbed into my bed to 1) have me smell her breath (Chuck had bought her honey peanut butter) ; and 2) tattle that no one (Daddy) was paying attention to her.
I fell back asleep.
On one of my many middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom, my mind filled with gratitude for the man who was holding down the fort so that I could get better and teach today.
Then I had a sudden realization.
In almost twelve years of marriage, the man never left the toilet seat up.
I have never sat down on the toilet, half-asleep, only to be jolted awake with a "falling in" sensation.
Now *that's* a sign of a great husband.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Friday, March 17, 2006
Overwhelmingly concerned and annoyed about the TURN of my essays.
THANK YOU for commenting - the comments get shot to my email box & I can publish them or not.
For now, I choose not to publish them, but let me address a few - you'll know if this is for you if you remember your own comment ---((( if you don't, well, didn't ANYONE warn you about losing your short term memory??)))
1) You're right, I do live in the bible belt. Maybe it's starting to get to me!
2) I don't think my son has diabetes. Thanks, though!
3) Pascal probably wasn't trying to be funny, he was trying to reconcile logic and religion.
4) My book has been coming a bit slowly, and you're right, I do get sidetracked!!
5)Yes, writing about my husband and kids is soooo much more fun to WRITE and READ.
So, thank you for the lively (?) discourse, but I'm going to go back to my happy place.
SPEAKING of happy places, I LIED TO MY SON AND IT WORKED!
OK, my husband colluded in the lie, but it was my idea.
If you ever need a lie, come to me. I'm a writer, so I lie professionally. Anyway.
Background: Zoe breastfed too long. Maybe it was my fault.
Breastfeeding burns like 500-1000 calories a day, so I wasn't hurrying her to end it.
When she was 2 years old, though, I started to get really ANNOYED with her bossing me around, telling me to sit down, etc. She just couldn't fall asleep without nursing and if (I mean WHEN) she woke up, couldn't fall back without nursing.
I began to hate her.
So when she was about the same age Zack is now, I told her the milk was broken. She looked at me like I was nuts, but managed to get to sleep somehow, holding tightly to leak-proof sippy cup.
Last night was Zack's turn. I told the little nosepicker that his *night-night-apple-juice-babas* were ALL broken.... But, since he was BIG like his SISTER, he could drink WATER from a BIG BOY SIPPY cup if he was thirsty at night.
This sounded like a great idea at first, then he started to really get hit with the reality of it... and he cried like someone died. (( Someone he loved died, that is. ))
He cried for over 2 hours.
Not whining, not whimpering, but full-blown, deep lung WAILING.
Paralyzed except for his voice.
We didn't leave him alone to work this out. We were there, patting his back, trying to sing him to sleep. Hush him to sleep. Anything.
Then finally, he took a few jagged breaths....
And slept all night.
I have this deep down, good feeling, like I've done something very-very-very right.
Give me a few hours, I'll find something new to beat myself up about.
Or have a wardrobe malfunction.
Happy Friday ~
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I've reduced my life to sleeping next to him so that he will get back to sleep. Not fun.
He cries for me in his dreams. The fact that Mommy is right next to him doesn't seem to help. He shouts out things like "don't take my cookie!" and thrashes around, headbutting me and crying some more. He orders me to get him bottles.
Can you believe that I do that? I get up at least four times A NIGHT to get him FRESH bottles?? ((Will you shoot me? Or rescue me???))
Considering how little I sleep -- and how early I dash out of the house -- that works out to about three naps for me, about 90 minutes each.
By 2am I was angry, frustrated, and very very awake, cogitating my new assignment from Anonymous Teacher, basically writing about the root of evil.
I gave up on sleep and mentally outlined an essay that I'm sure is less intelligent than I am truly capable of because I'm droopy, cranky, and feeling a bit evil myself.
But really, who wants to read about that????
So, no essay here!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Pascal's Wager: Why We Dunk Our Young"
Well thanks...then, re: my argument about Pascal do you agree or disagree, and why?
PREAMBLE TO MY RESPONSE
I have my site set up so that comments are emailed to me for approval.
Why? because I get about 10 comments a day, most of which make me laugh, choke, roll my eyes, grimace, and cringe... and it's my choice to share them or not.
Although I filter WHAT gets posted, I think I'm pretty freakin' liberal for letting people (men. definitely men) protect their anonymity.
It also means that I get to decide (fantasize?) who I THINK the anonymous-commenter is... which is fun for me, and hurts no one.
Oh My God (or should I say, Oh My Zeus, just to cover my bases????).
Are you actuallly giving me an essay question?
Agree/disagree and why? Alright. I'll do it. Homework is sexy. Thanks.
Thank you Teacher, you helped me clarify my thinking.
I didn't even think about "option C" (yes there is a god, but you were praying to the wrong one) because the question Blaise Pascal posed is whether there is GOD not whether there is THE GOD OF MOSES AND JACOB AND JESUS AND ALL THAT.
So the real question becomes, to me, "is there something more?"
Is there more to this world than we can see? Specifically, is there an omnibenificient creative force that has manifested itself differently to cultures throughout the world?
I believe. I do.
I believe there is more.
I just know that the human spirit cannot be completely contained in a body, any more than the wind can be contained in a tree.
That belief brings me immense peace. At times.
I cannot -- will not? -- believe that I am (or you are) just a sophisticated amalgam of biochemical reactions.
If I have to pick sides, I pick side of a god who manifests itself in trancendent love.
I retreated to the kitched to stir the dinner-that-must-not-be-named (for fear of inciting great jealousy among my dear readers.... but it was smelling goooooood).
My daughter put down her book and followed me.
Mommy, you'll be OK. Shhh.... Shhhh....
I will. Thank you.
(She reached up to pat my back, and get a look at dinner)
Take a deep breathe, Mommy...
Thank you, Zoe.
Now think happy thoughts. That *always* helps me when I cry.
(She didn't see any immediate improvement, so she continued....)
Pretend you're somewhere else, all alone, with none of us to bother you. Don't you feel better?
You DO feel better!! Good job, Mommy!
Yes. Thank you. Now.... Grab me a pen so I can write that down, you goofball.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
She woke me up in the middle of the night on Saturday to steal my pillow.
Then she took a sip of her water and was outraged.
THIS WATER ISN"T FRESH.
mmmm. shhhh. go back to sleep.
MOMMY PUT ICE IN HERE. I CAN'T DRINK IT.
Now, I'm starting to think about the ethics of telling a 5 year old where to put her sippy cup, but I don't want to wake up.
She shoves me a little.
Then I remember that I'm the smart one.
Zoe, ice is dangerous at night. It'll cause bad things.
Like magical things?
No. Like throwing up. Or turning into a troll.
A troll? With warts? Oh. Nevermind.
She fell back asleep.
After about an hour of mentally gloating about my little victory -- and a bit of daydreaming in the dark -- I gave up on sleep, and migrated to the livingroom to watch three Tivo'd episodes of my favorite show (which I won't dare disclose, at least not for free) and do a hundred situps.
Who needs sleep?
Monday, March 13, 2006
Why do we baptize children in a dress? Even the boys? And does it make any sense to do so?
If you step back and objectively think about the idea and process of Christening/Baptism--imagine its 2000 years from now and a future religion is dominant and is studying Catholic practices--baptism , and a lot of other crazy ass "traditions" look as stupid as sacrificing a bullock to appease Baal. I mean we are anointing the little babies with oil on their heads and water why? Essentially to ward off evil spirits. It's voodoo, packaged differently.
Dear Intense in Chicago,
I think the dresses are a remnant of Roman togas, which evolved into a unisex heirloom.
It seems like MOST Catholic "rituals" involve men in dresses, so why would an infant son escape that one?
Second, If I remember correctly, you are about as Catholic as I am.
Genetically and culturally "Catholic" -- descendents of generations of Italian, Irish and Cuban immigrants who held tightly to their religion during the stress of acculturation.
We grew up with prayer cards, candles, oils, special rosaries and palm-frond crosses -- all pieces of life that were passed down over the generations.
So, yes, maybe it IS voodoo -- but is is YOUR voodoo (and Santeria, if you want to be particular --- )
It is our choice, as parents, to pass all, some, or none of that on.
You're talking to the woman who has been in church twice in the past 5 years... once to baptize her daughter, once to baptize her son.
Normally a person has be a "practicing Catholic" to dress their children in frilly dresses and slam dunk them into a pull of sin-dissolving liquid.
I got around that because both of the fly-by-night baptismal ceremonies were orchestrated by a certain well-connected but-not-to-be-named well meaning person, who may-or-may-not be the same person who dropped us off at CCD classes so she and Dad could have a nice long "breakfast" on Sunday mornings.
So why did I baptize my children?
Because, at a nice Jesuit University, I learned about Pascal's Wager.
To semi-quote him, "It's better to believe that there IS a God and find out there isn't... than to believe there ISN'T and find out that there is...."
Maybe the Catholic Church is wrong.
Maybe there is no original sin, and even if there is, maybe the smallest act of kindness and joy -- or the tears of loving parents -- can wash it away.
You are the culmination of generations of ancestors whose minds were as full of intelligence, inquiry and doubt as yours.
They dunked their kids.
And then, from what I hear, they had GREAT PARTIES afterwards.
Togas are optional.
I'm back Spring Break, and happy to report that I did some serious relaxation during my week off..
I sat in the sun (with sunscreen) (<--- a lie!) on a blanket in my backyard and daydreamed.
I avoided the internet, email, housecleaning and deep thoughts (<---another lie! BEEP BEEP, hear the lie detector?)
I took my kids to school, and picked them up in the afternoon.
Today -- Monday -- my first day BACK to real life, has been a productive one.
I got to the coffeeshop at 5:45am, wrote for 2 hours, and basically became the Melissa-in-a-suit-and-heels that I'm comfortable with.... and I was having a GREAT day.
Until Peggy (Dr. Russell, Ms. Jackson if you're nasty!) walked behind me and GASPED, the escorted me back to my office.
My skirt was ripped in the back.
All the way up.
Don't worry, ripping my suit didn't make me feel fat (beep).
Well, I ran out and bought a new suit (beeep).
I took out the sewing kit I keep in my desk for emergencies like this and fixed it right up! (beeeeeeeep).
I kicked off my high heels, and pulled on the yoga pants and running shoes I packed for today's workout.
Which don't look all that bad with this suit.(beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep)
Friday, March 10, 2006
Thursday, March 2, 2006
(who dares call me Missy! The 1970s are soooo OVER... ask Jimmy Carter and Chevy Chase )
Yes, I can cook.
I cook up stories. Compulsively and lovingly. Bedtime stories about the Cuban Revolution. Twisting plots about money laundering in the 1980s. Stories about characters like "One-Eyed Jack" and "Snorty McGorful." My mind is perpetually preheated, ready to broil the characters and pansear the plots.
I also cook up secrets. Just now I passed Jarrett in the hall and managed to hide the donut I was eating that I am SURE will cure my sore throat.
Yesterday I cooked the Dominoes Wednesday Special $5 carryout, large, 1 topping.
Today I'm cooking myself right out of town for 5 days.
Besides that, I have impressed people far and wide with....
- lechon asado
- arroz con pollo (no beer in mine, I don't like it mushy)
- jambalaya (the secret is in the sausage)
- apple pie (file that under: Recipes I Did Not Get from My Cuban Family)
Right now I'm cooking up an exam for my Foreign Policy class.
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
A few weeks ago she got a coloring story-book at her preschool about Dr. King, which chronicled his childhood experience of not being allowed to play with the white kids.
Zoe wanted to right this wrong, so she's been pushing me to call Martin's mommy and ask if he can come over for dinner. Or just to play dress up. Maybe watch the Amanda Show.
Look, I've been teaching college history for 12 years. I've told Dr. King's story several times, but always assume the students have some idea how the Reverend Dr. King's life ended.
So I told her last night, after dinner but before American Idol, that Dr. King was in heaven.
After a few silent seconds, she repeated what she'd heard. "He's dead?"
I confirmed it.
How did he die?
Someone shot him.
Because he wanted to play with white kids?
Because he wanted all the kids, and grown ups, to come together. He wanted us to work for justice.
Are his brothers and sisters OK?
I think they are. Most of them. I can check into that for you.
Will you email them, tell them that I'm very sad?
I will, Zoe. I'll find them for you.
She took a deep breath, and looked down for a few seconds. Then she cocked her head and asked, "Is Fidel Castro still alive?"