My Beautiful Wickedness


What’s not witches is pirates…
September 4, 2010, 1:52 pm
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I’m at an odd stage in my research and teaching life. Instead of doing a lot of quotidian things to pay the academic rent in hopes of being able to do a little cool research now and then, I’m actually teaching about witches (next class, familial ideals, familial discord and their bearing on witch accusations/convictions) and researching pirates as a type of non-state national actor in the early modern period.

It’s actually a little frazzling.

In ordinary circumstances, I can put in my time on the survey class and then steal some focused time away on my cool stuff. Now, though, I’m so interested in everything that it’s actually a little hard to know where to look first. I also have a research assistant to keep busy on the piracy work, so I’m having to learn how to be a good research director without giving up all my most interesting stuff (which I actually want to look at).

Anyway, I realized today that this is the kind of career I never could have anticipated in graduate school and it’s actually more personally rewarding than the R1 career we were urged to see as the pinnacle of academic success.

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Girl (sleep) interrupted
September 3, 2010, 10:33 am
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I’m mentally toasted today. Kid has gone from being a “go to bed at 9, get up at 7” kind of a child to getting up about every fifteen to thirty minutes to tell me that she can’t sleep and could I please fix that.

I know that part of it is the surge of hormones that kick of puberty. I think that part of it is still grappling with the aftermath of having her lullaby eliminated unilaterally by me about a month ago. (A kid who wants to stay up until 10 every night and begs to watch Glee does not need a lullaby tuck-in.)

I am guessing that without that familiar ritual, she just doesn’t know how to shut herself off. Or, rather, she gets to sleep rather easily (9-11) and then can’t get back to sleep once she wakes up.

She gets plenty of exercise during the day, both running around outside at the park and dancing. She has a light snack before bedtime so I don’t think she’s hungry.

Any ideas about suitable age-appropriate bedtime rituals for a kid entering sixth grade? Alternately, any insights from your own experiences about what she/I can do to get her back to sleeping through the night?



So, it’s kind of hard to tell how it went.
August 31, 2010, 5:56 pm
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I guess I won’t know until the class gels (normalizes, to use a Montessori term) a little bit.

However, I have to remember that academics is not uppermost in some of their minds. There’s a mentally ill guy in the neighborhood whose particular compulsion is having to repeat the last thing he’s heard. Today, I walked by him and he was muttering “I’m kind of homesiick and I miss my dog. I’m kind of homesick and I miss my dog.”

And then I said “good morning” and off he walked, repeating “good morning good morning good morning…”

That was sort of how the day went. I feel like I too was repeating myself (a repeated prep).



Something wicked this way comes.
August 29, 2010, 1:18 pm
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My Salem class launches on Tuesday. I’m freaking a little.



The ridiculous things I get myself into
August 29, 2010, 10:31 am
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I won’t even talk about going swimming in a cold inland lake in a driving cold rain to make a kid happy. I figure that’s garden-variety maternal ridiculousness. (Subsequent days, I sat on the dock in a hoodie and a raincoat, thinking “you go, Daddy” while John froze his balls off — see also, I’m not such a good person.)

The caterpillar, though…

John’s aunts (Kid’s great-aunts) are lovely Progressive-era Hull House reformers stuck in the 21st century. No, really. They grew up in the whitest of white suburbs, privileged and well-educated in the late 50s and early 60s and so they are the last gasp of noblesse oblige. They have home economics degrees. They believe in the gospel of fresh air and good drainage and the home beautiful as an aesthetic experience of uplift. They have absolute faith in scientific observation and data collection — there is no unmeasured substance in the kitchen and every mention of a book comes complete with citation. They all love nature and believe in the redemptive power of children’s experiences with nature. That is why they all own (and bring with them on vacation) small screened in bug observation houses. Larvae and eggs and wingy leggy things creep all over the lake cottage in these containers, inviting the guests to contemplate the life of the insect (and, you know, write a 5-paragraph essay to be published in Girls’ Life or something so that everyone else can be edified).

However, if one takes in the hungry, the tired, and poor — especially the hungry, in the case of a Monarch caterpillar — one has to find them food. I interrupted the normal order of things by removing that monarch caterpillar from its patch of milkweed where it was so happily chomping down everything it could lay a droopy little feeler on. It’s on me to make sure that this little guy makes it into his (or her) cocoon. It is, you know, part of the one generation during the life cycle that will live up to seven months. I feel duty-bound to give it its chance — perhaps to be snapped out of the air by a passing hungry crow, perhaps to freeze to death in Texas, or perhaps to make it all the way back to Mexico to huddle with millions of others

It is like suddenly having a newborn baby again. It eats and sleeps and shits and little else, not even a gassy smile to break up the fierce concentration on satisfying its physical needs. I have turned thief to satisfy its relentless appetite, walking casually down two doors to my neighbor’s garden at twilight and, while pretending to admire her azaleas, pinching a couple of leaves. I know a growth spurt when I see one — caterpillars and human babies are not so different — and I know within a day or two it will transition to its chrysalis stage.

I feel as if these last days of summer are being counted in caterpillar time. My child is changing rapidly, leaving behind her caterpillar days and making the transition to what she must become. All I can do is observe closely and feed her what she needs.



Home invasion
August 21, 2010, 10:31 am
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As I had hoped, when all the grubs were gone, the skunks saw no point in staying.

In other news, my in-laws left this morning.



It can always get worse.
August 19, 2010, 9:38 pm
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Seriously. We now have skunks under the house. If this was a short story, my editor would tell me that I was being too damn obvious.