Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Zack and I are outside.
He is talking to his Spiderman Halloween Candy basket, pretending it is a dog.
I'm scooping the dirty water out of Lake Melissa, cleaning the aqua-environment for my koi and goldfish.
A flat goldfish, one from the pack I bought on Friday -- 20 for $3 -- floats lifeless on the top of the little lake.
"Zack? Here's another dead one. Should we flush it?"
I have to ask him because the kid flipped out on Sunday when Zoe and I sent another fish down the toilet to visit Nemo.
"No! Put it...." He looks around, then points to a loop in the hose... "right there."
"I don't think the fish would be happy just laying on the grass. How about by a rose bush?"
He frowns and surveys the backyard. "How about.... by the froggy?"
I scoop the dead fish out with a blue cup, and lay it at the feet of the plastic froggy who lives by the rose bushes.
Zack stands back. "I think it's going to come back to life."
"Nope. Dead is dead."
He stands near it, wiggling just slightly.
"Honey? Do you have to pee?"
He nods his head, grabs himself, and eyes the sliding glass doors.
"Want to pee outside?"
Zack smiles with relief.
"Can I pee on the fish?"
"You want to pee on a dead fish?"
"Yes. I think it will bring it back to life."
"You can try...."
I keep my eyes down, directing my own attention back to cleaning the little lake.
If I look up, I might laugh, and if I laugh, the kid could be scarred for life.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I am reading, Zack is watching Pokemon, and Zoe is studying her placemat which has all the presidents on it.
She decides ((perhaps because she sees her mother do this)) to pass the time by writing.
It takes a few minutes for her to assemble a pen, journal, and settles into a floor-based writing position.
OK Mom, tell me about.... (there is a pause as she scans the presidential placemat... I don't worry about what she'll ask because, I mean, c'mon, I'm a history professor.....) Zachary Taylor.
What? Who? Dammit! Dammit! I try to distract her with other obscure presidents about whom I know more trivia.
Oh. Um. How about any of the Roosevelts? Or both of them? Rutherford Hayes? Chester Arthur? Taft? McKinley?
No, I want to write about Zachary Taylor. That's who Zack is named after.
I don't correct her and tell her that her Dad wanted to name him Blue.
Or Blue Sky.
Or Sky Jack.
But the nurse in Labor & Delivery refused to let us burden the child with a hippie name.
Um. OK. (Think, think, think!)
He was president before the Civil War....
(I look at her placemat to help jar my memory)
He was president during the Mexican American War.
We went to war with Mexico? Why?
Zoe, do you want a history book? I have a bunch you can look through ....
Oh, no. That's what I have you for.
She leans up from her writing spot, pats me on the knee, then cocks her head, ready for more wisdom....
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The lights are off, but he's not ready to fall asleep, so I gear up for a story.
In the beginning, there was nothing. And then God created light. And the stars and the heavens.
I can see Zack's hands waving around, imitating a wizard-like God. When he drops his arms, I continue.
And then God made the earth. And the mountains and the water.
Zack wiggles his fingers in the air, and makes a whoooshing noise.
Then God made the trees, and the fruits and the plants and the fish and the lions and the birds and almost all the living things....
Zack claps his hands together, about 10 times, then pauses for me to continue.
And then God made people. Adam and Eve. Guess what? They could talk to God. And see God. There was only one rule. They weren't allowed to eat from one tree. Anything else was fair game.
I feel Zack shove wiggle to me under the covers, clearly anticipating something scary is coming...
And guess what they did? They broke the rules. They ate from that one tree. And that changed things... God became invisible and silent to them, and to almost everyone else...
But God's still here.
Yes, he's everywhere. Just invisible.
No he isn't. He's in oranges. I can taste him.
See that plant? It was originally in my feng-shui "wealth" corner, but it needed more sun, so Miss Janie moved it to my relationship corner.
Now it can see planes and pinup pictures.
That's my wonderful mirror with a bird of paradise curving over it.
Oh, and above my head on the wall behind me is a pretty sign that says "laugh" .... you can't read it because it's backwards in the mirror.
Next to it is the cupboard with office supplies and kashi bars.
If I had tilted the camera up, you would see a globe that was created in August of 1939 (if you're nice, I'll show it to you), wind chimes and a silk plant.
Behind all of that is hidden a fan which creates a nice white noise AND makes the windchimes twinkle.
This frog makes me giggle every day
I bought it with Josh when we went to Cracker Barrel for our once-every-three-years talk, when I saw him this summer before he left for Iraq.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Zack is running a fever, and I'm sitting on the recliner with him, reading a book I can't bear to put down.
Zoe is leaning over the arm of the chair, acting out essays and poems from her long-lost and just re-found journal.
I hear pieces of an essay about George Washington, and a fragment of a story about Boogernose Jones as I sink back into my book, tuning her -- and Zack's Pokemon show -- out with a practiced ear.
Minutes pass, Zoe moves away and returns with the battered and over-used laminated placemat with pictures of all the Presidents
"Here Mom, point him out."
"Hmmm?" I only halfway tear myself back from the world of the book, look into her round hazel eyes, and raise my eyebrows.
"Which one is Franklin?"
"Oh, he's at the top, by Washington."
"OK..." she starts reading the names out loud, adding bits and pieces from stories I've told her and books she's read.
I almost allow myself to start to fall back into the book when it hits me like a brick wall.
"Hey! No! WAIT! Franklin? Benjamin Franklin wasn't president! He's just on money!"
She almost got me.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Zoe and I kneel by the coffee table, pretending the rock magnets are little cars as we channel one magnet's repelling force to push the other magnet around our pretend speedway.
She distractedly asks a simple question.
How do these work?
I start with the easy stuff.
Positive charge, negative charge.
Like attracts like.
She doesn't respond, so I wonder if I've made even a bit of sense.
OK Zoe, this is what I forgot to start with. Every single thing is made of matter and energy. These look like rocks, right? That's the matter. And they have energy, which is transferring between them.
She repeats it back to me, in her own words, attention mainly focused on keeping her rock-magnet-car from falling off the coffee table mountain cliff.
Now do you understand God? And love?
She looked up.
Energy, invisible yet so completely visible? Constantly pulling things together?
And pushing them apart if they aren't supposed to line up a certain way?
I'm impressed, but know better than to show it.
I move several magnets toward each other, and we laugh as they excitedly and almost willfully realign themselves.
(to be continued)
I have spent hours this week admiring them, stacking them, restacking them, lining them up, laughing at their resistance when I align the wrong poles.
Clearly, they are alive.
Clearly, they are magic.
Clearly, there is much more to them than what my eye can see.
So I asked another professor, "Are magnets alive?"
He leaned back in his huge chair, laced his fingers, unresponsive.
I continued, "I mean, they chase each other, they stick to each other, they do things. They have energy, they .... well, what do YOU think?"
He waved his hands, dismissing the thought. "I do things, and I'm not sure I'm alive."
"Oh. OK, thanks."
I lowered my eyes and continued back to my office.
Had he been my dean or at least my department chair, this might have worried me.
Monday, October 22, 2007
We got caught unprepared in a small rain shower, ducked under a tree, leaned against a large rock and watched the black-socked tourists go by.
My phone rang.
It was a Tallahassee number I didn't recognize, so, because I wasn't really available to talk, I let it go to voicemail.
I showed her my phone, and she agreed it wasn't a cellphone number.
We shrugged together, and waited to see if there would be voice mail.
Beep. The front of the phone lit up.
I flipped it open, turned on the speakerphone, and we both leaned in to hear.
It was Becky.
The radiologist would like me to come back.
I frowned at my companion.
I thought I was completely out of the woods when they didn't call back Tuesday, the very next day.
OK, when they didn't call on Wednesday, I only thought about it a little.
By Thursday morning, I wasn't thinking about it every second of every minute.
NOW they call?
The day before the presentation?
Before Halloween Horror Night?
Before Epcot Food and Wine Fest?
I called Becky right back.
This is Dr. Soldani, I just got your voice mail.
Hi! Good, thanks for calling back. How about coming in tomorrow at 2:30?
No. I'm out of town.
Monday at.... 10:15am?
No, I can't cancel class. It's World War 2....
How about Tuesday....?
I cut her off. I'm ONLY available from 3:00-4:45. That's it. That's all I can do.
OK, (I hear click, click, some whispering) October 31, 4:05pm.
That's fine. That's perfect. Thank you.
I look at my friend.
What did they say? Why do they want you to come back?
I didn't ask.
I held my hand out to confirm that the rain had stopped.
Are you going to cry?
Me? Cry? No. But I'm going to feel this. For just a few minutes I'm going to let it go completely through me.
She stood still.
It was clear I didn't want a hug, a pat, any sort of silly pep talk.
After a few deep breathes, I lead us out from under the tree.
This is all we have. Today, here, this. Now. This is all there is.
And it's pretty damn great isn't it?
We continued meandering around tourists, stepping over puddles, laughing at nothing in particular.
Monday, October 15, 2007
I heard from a good source that women who forget to wear two piece outfits to their mammogram end up wearing one of those hospital gowns that allow gentle breezes to waft up their sacred Brazilian rainforest.
Forewarned, I have dressed for battle in my 2-piece red suit, the one that shows my curves in a I'm-too-powerful-to-have-anything-wrong-so-don't-cross-me way.
I have my rope pearls on, ruby ring and brown crocodile print pumps with dainty bows on the just-subtly-rounded toes.
Into my matching crocodile print brown bag I've stuffed:
- 7 tubes of lipstick, lipgloss, lip shimmer and lip glass because it's IMPOSSIBLE to match a red suit in changing light...
- 2 protein bars, just in case my appetite returns
- $3.35, excavated from the bottom of my red purse.
- The pink prescription form from my gynecologist, with it's generic stick figure drawing of a woman's drooping breasts, providing a field for physicians to sketch in any "suspicious areas."
- The checkbook, in case there is a co-pay. And also, because I have promised myself I can buy Boston Market chicken soup and a bottle of Francis Ford Coppola's Rossi on the way home. I may or may not do this, but in the meantime, I'm unapologetically allowing myself to imagine it soothing me.
- The lucky silver egg that I bought in Austin
- My brown-pink-and-teal striped journal
- A very engrossing book which I decline to mention here.
I hate waiting-room magazines especially ones targeting women, warning them to clean & decorate their house (cheaply and quickly!), lose weight (quickly!), teach their children manners (quickly!), fix their marriage (because that's a woman's responsibility!), and -- after home and family are all safe and perfect --- figure out what they want to do in life.
I already live my dreams, and the only magazines that helped me get here are the ones that published my articles back when I was taking baby steps toward finding the writer I'd buried deep under shame, pain, and habit.
That was years ago, in my own dark ages, before I realized that my writing gives me nerves of steel.
So this afternoon, while I'm standing there alone in a cold room, breasts squished between unforgiving metal, that's what I'll be thinking of.
Nerves of steel.
Living my dream, today, tomorrow, and every day.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
Yes, you read it right. Boots. In Florida, on a 90 degree day.
But it was worth it. They make me feel powerful. Sharp. Tall.
Today's lecture in my auditorium class was on Prohibition, during which I coyly pulled my pantsleg up, revealing my boots, and demonstrating (with an *imaginary flask,* or course) the origins of the term "bootlegging."
A student blurted out, "is THAT why you wore PANTS today?"
They noticed I wasn't in my happy-go-lucky-and-yet-powerful dress, suit, skirt mode.
"Ha! No, I didn't wear a dress because I forgot to shave my legs today."
This was a bold face lie, but it was worth it to hear 80 students laugh as I shuddered at the imagined thought of facing a day with prickly legs.
As the giggles died down, Idirected their attention back to the slide, which was an image of a 1922 Prescription for Medicinal Liquor, the precursor of our modern Medical Marijuana, and then previewed next lecture's topic, the Rise of the KKK & nativism in the 1920s.
Hours later, after dinner, after changing into workout clothes, after dusk, I was lost in yoga, stretching every tiny taut leg and back muscle that had been punished by a long day in heels.
After downward dog -- a moderately challlenging pose which involves feet flat on the ground and palms flat on the ground, back bent at a 45 degree angle-- I made a slow adjustment to deepen the stretch, lowering my weight onto my forearms, pushing my elbows to the ground, dropping my head, feeling an exquisite pulling resistance from my heels to my back.
I breathed deeply then exhaled, holding tightly to my pose, flush from exertion and full of the ecstatic buzz, gleefully but accidentally muttering "oooooh shiiiiiiiit...."
"Oh Shit! Oh Shit!" Zack parroted from the hallway where he was sitting on a beanbag chair, having a pretend playdate with his toy vacuum cleaner who he sleeps with, loves deeply, and calls Ashton.
"Zachary! We don't say SHIT," Zoe calls out from her room, where she is watching Malcolm in the Middle. "Or damn! Or Dammit! Or... or what else Mom?.... "she pauses, not waiting for my response. "And we don't say Boobie or ass either. But breast is OK. Got that Zack?"
Zack then scolds Ashton. "We don't say shit. You have to go home now Ashy-poo."
He kisses his vacuum cleaner, and carries it to his room, where he tucks it into the futon.
I take a few more deep breathes, still maintaining my balance, face between my kneees, smiling, thankful for something to laugh --and write --about.
Friday, October 5, 2007
With a click of button I can find out what they think, if they are (collectively) lost, and generally keep them even more engaged that I usually do.
Students see this slide, we discuss it.
Then comes the clicker question:
What do you think comes NEXT?
A) allies re-invade Germany, collect taxes
B) US lends money to Germany to pay its debt
C) Allies lower reparations bills by 85%
D) Hitler rises to power, cancels debt
E) World Court rules T.of.Versailles illegal
Now having made their "guess" the students are more interested in learning about what really DID occur as a result of Germany's problematic economic situation.
And then we are ready to discuss whether lender-nations can truly ever be isolationist during times of escalating violence.
Have I mentioned how much I love my job?
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
“I have no trouble with my enemies, I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends . . . they’re the ones that keep me walking the floor at night!"
So said one of my most almost-but-not-quite favorite presidents, about whose talent for effectively doing nothing Walter Lippmann pointed out in 1926, "This active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country admirably."
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Good questions. Really.
And I bet some of my students - especially in the foreign policy class - would drool at the thought of such a juicy assignment.
But I can't do it.
I'm just not qualified to teach students the art and science of projections.
I don't know how to tell them to imagine the future, how to weigh variables, how to predict geopolitics.
No, I'm a historian.
I'm the one who holds your hand and tiptoes with you through the dimly lit tunnels, catacombs and caverns of the past, finding patterns and connections, pointing out pieces of truth.
Monday, October 1, 2007
But I didn't.
Today when I came home, while the kids were rummaging around for afterschool snacks, I taped it up at eye level on the side of the refrigerator.
It took less than 15 minutes for Zoe to see it, read it, and ask me what was going on.
"Oh that? It's for my mammogram."
Damn, why didn't I leave it in my purse?
I don't want to talk about this.
I don't want to TALK about this.
I don't want to talk about THIS!
"Mammogram. It's where they use a special machine to squeeze your boobies and to make sure everything is OK."
She gasped and held her imaginary breasts. "Will it hurt?"
I don't answer.
It hurts now, deep in the pit of my stomach. Thinking about it makes me flinch, the pain more emotional than physical.
My breasts have been good to me. I can't imagine them being part of any sinister plot.
"It's no big deal. If it does hurt, it'll only be for a minute. I'm tough, right? Plus, if there is anything wrong, I can get NEW breasts!"
She gasped in mock excitement. "How?"
"You know Aunt Milly? She had breast cancer and she got two new boobies AND a tummy tuck. You can ask HER how they make new ones."
I smiled and locked my teeth together, waiting for Zoe to lead the conversation.
To change the subject would raise her antenna.
To lead her deeper into this could be dangerous.
The girl would be googling "double mastectomy" within hours, and parents from school would be calling us to discuss Zoe's "anatomy lessons" in the playground.
Zoe smiled at me, looked down at her unopened bag of doritos, and -- I imagine -- considered whether spending time on this with her mom would be as satifying as a rerun of Full House.
"Well, we girls can talk about this later."
She spun on her heels, disappearing to her room, content and secure.