My Beautiful Wickedness

Something wicked this way comes.
August 29, 2010, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

My Salem class launches on Tuesday. I’m freaking a little.

The ridiculous things I get myself into
August 29, 2010, 10:31 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

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
Filed under: Uncategorized

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
Filed under: Uncategorized

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.

And the moral of the story (that I’m not telling here) is…
August 18, 2010, 3:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

don’t try to cook when you’re angry. It never goes well.

So now I have a sinkful of dirty dishes, a five-person dinner to serve in less than two hours, many less ingredients than I had before, and a spiteful urge to call out for pizza. Really greasy pizza.

I am not a very good person.

August 17, 2010, 8:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

My in-laws are in town. The planned family hike in the Adirondacks didn’t happen, but we did hike on an island that is at the confluence of the Hudson and the Mohawk. We also watched a lock operate. The planned going to the art museum didn’t happen on Monday either, but we did wind up spending all day at the track placing dollar bets and eating dry sandwiches that we’d packed along. I bought milkshakes for John and Kid and I. They were the best part of the day.

Today we still aren’t going to the art museum, but we are going to the county fair to look at the gladiolus. Kid’s friend was going to come along, but allergies intervened. I’m a poor substitute for another child, but at least I’ll ride the rides. We’ll leave after lunch and come back before dinner. Maybe we’ll go to the art museum on Thursday.

I am so not ready to be an old folk.

Making a mezza…
August 13, 2010, 10:37 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yes, it’s that time again in the W-S household — we have way way WAY too much eggplant. So I’m going to put some on the grill and smoke it, I’ll make minted baba ghanoush out of some of it, and if I get really crazy, I’ll make some eggplant rollatini. Thanks to all who participated in the FB “what the hell do I do with four pounds of eggplant?” survey and so generously donated recipes.

Earlier today I got busy with the new box grater (whee — what a useful small thing) and got carried away making lemon zest. These things happen to me; I don’t know if they happen to other people. Tonight’s menu will also have some lemon-garlic hummus and possibly lemon-ginger-date cookies. I guess that skews us to a Middle Eastern theme for the night.

Speaking of, if you’re local to Albany, the Iraqi Refugee Project is a worthwhile outfit. They help war refugees resettle, find jobs, negotiate their way through an alien and hostile culture. (Remember, these are the people we think highly enough of that we’ve destroyed their country to help them into modernity.) Anyhow, as an act of personal war reparations, I’m rounding up some donations of kitchen gear, school clothing, etc. They come in with nothing and many times are asked to repay the State Department for their airfare over. Welcome to America.

The kitchen remodel
August 12, 2010, 9:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yes, I’m trying to get my blog groove on again. I’m not thinking great thoughts at the moment, so I will assume if you’re reading, it’s because you already know me somehow (FB, BlogWorld, In Real Life) and you might want to know what I’m up to.

This month has been consumed in kitchen remodeling. No, not the kind that you see in a magazine or in Extreme Home DoOver, but the other kind…the “hey, when we get paid on Wednesday, let’s buy some more paint.”
I have a firm faith in white high gloss paint — I slop it around like a priest at Easter, on the walls, on the doors, on the cabinets. I also believe in getting rid of everything I don’t need — like, for the most part, cabinet doors. We’re taking most of them off and storing them down in the basement in case the next people to buy the house want to reinstall. Anyhow, these are not major renovations but they are making the kitchen look more open and the space that we have is put to better use. No cabinet doors, no need to spend money on new hardware. Plus, as a house divided between those who close (John) and those who don’t (me), we instantly got rid of one of the minor sources of domestic stress. I highly recommend it. We’ve reclaimed some cabinets that were useless due to their bad location (seriously people, who locates a cabinet directly behind the door) and got rid of some kitchen junk we weren’t using, so overall, it’s working a lot better. We’re going to install an over-the-door wine box (ooooh, styley!) so that we don’t have to take up counter space with wine bottles.

Speaking of, we haven’t quite figured out the counterspace issue yet, though we have gotten all the appliances except the Kitchenaid and the toaster into convenient shelf storage.
We installed the track lighting and over-sink lights last year. We went from being barely able to see to being bathed in beautiful useful light. The track lighting allows us to direct the beams where we need it, so counter surfaces suddenly became useable. (Of course, we have to keep them cleaner now because we can see the crumb piles, but oh well….)

We have 4 feet of beadboard (white, hi gloss) on the walls, then the wall itself. That’s going to be redone in a pale orange color (already know we love it because we put it elsewhere in the house). It will be a great improvement over the party-mint green color we inherited from the former owners.

The whole backsplash/countertop thing is going to have to wait while we stockpile some money. We don’t have a tremendously large kitchen (house built in 1914, so reasonable square footage) and the gold-fleck Formica is in good shape so we’ll probably just suck it up and live with it for a bit. What I really would like to put in is some of Green Depot’s beautiful red eco-friendly countertops and a recycled glass tile backsplash. It’s like the Cubs…maybe next year.

The wood floor is in pretty good shape. We’re old hands at refinishing those, so if we get really ambitious, we’ll (and by we, I mean John) get out the sander and go to it. It would be nice to have the cash to just call in the team of flooring guys and point to it and say “Go!” but that’s not where we are.

All of this remodeling is just building skills for next year’s grand adventure — the upstairs bathroom.

August 10, 2010, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Someday I will be caught up, but I’ve come to accept that I am more interested in having the experience than making the book.

What I’ve been doing…
November 15, 2009, 11:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve been teaching five days a week (error in scheduling has me on campus pretty much all the time). I taught the intensive methods course (known colloquially as ‘boot camp’) and got to know all the first-year students pretty well. That has been the enjoyable part. The not-so enjoyable part has been grading 3 sections worth of weekly tests, teaching the early months of writing-intensive courses (when the writing skills have not yet picked up), and dealing with the students who are under-motivated. My solution is to focus on those who want to learn and go after the lost lambs but let the sullen and hostile fend for themselves. They have a choice to make — they will either get with the program or they will find somewhere else to study or they will persist in imagining themselves the victim of a hostage crisis of their own making, but I refuse to play the “you are my oppressor” game.

Note to sulky students: If you truly feel oppressed, you need to find a different place to be and something else to do. No hard feelings, kid, but it’s not my job to make you comfortable at every moment. I’m here to present material and challenge you and you then choose to learn or to ignore, to rise to the challenge or to go play beer pong or whatall. Most of your peers are trying their asses off while you’re asleep in my class, so I think it’s you and not me.

I’ve been working on an undergrad research journal and so that’s been good. The papers submitted vary in their readiness for print, but it’s kind of exciting to be working with a more progressed student who is thinking about grad school. Makes it easier to believe that the writing instruction I’m doing in boot camp will bear fruit eventually.

I’ve been working on student recruiting issues — we really want to bring in many more students and get more well-prepared students so we’re amping up the amount of time we spend contacting high school seniors. Right now my main contribution has been to help write some letters presenting what we have to offer, but I imagine that at some point I’ll be travelling around on the recruiting tour as well. I feel a little like a college coach.

And speaking of, I’m also a new appointee to the Athletic committee. I’m still not exactly sure what I’ll be doing there, but I tend to get along well with the student-athletes here and I think faculty tend to dismiss them intellectually and I’d like to turn that around. As the mother of a student who is also a dedicated athlete, I know that these are the kids who have to have exceptional discipline in a variety of arenas and I think it’s worth my time to advocate for them.

Along those lines, I’ve been spending five nights a week either at the dance studio or at the gym watching Kid do her thing. She’s actually dancing fewer routines than last year but she is more serious about ballet, so she’s taking class with her balletmistress more frequently. That alone accounts for why I’m not writing here. I just don’t have a lot of time at home any more and what time I do have, I’m grading.

However (before this turns into the most boring blog post ever…too late, too late), I will be getting my old work schedule back next semester so I will be able to write here more and with more interesting content.