Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I KNOW. I said I'd probably be blogging more and that has turned out to be a damn dirty lie. By the end of the day, I am sapped and pretty much in the mood for hunkering down with some tea and some mindless entertainment and some chatting with the boyfriend I love and miss. As a result, it's taken me three weeks, for example, to post three new dresses in my etsy shop, even though I photographed them two weeks ago. The books I thought I'd be reading are all in a pile, uncracked. Before bed, I can idly manage a few pages of this kinda woo-woo book that some of my students have been assigned to read this term, and then I pass out. And mercy on those poor students who get me at the end of each teaching day, when I've repeated myself so much I hardly know what I'm saying anymore.

The hardest thing about all this, frankly, is remembering that I have another job that needs my attention. I was home last weekend and went into the office twice, and Anna observed that I'm like one of those dudes with two families in different states. That's pretty much how I feel: very compartmentalized, with a deep sense of unreality about one compartment whenever I'm inhabiting the other. I am also in need of much solitude, which fortunately I can have here any time I don't have responsibilities on campus.

Lifestyle-wise, I'm eating superbly well at every meal, but not getting any exercise, apart from the jumping around I might do during a lesson. This morning I did a yoga video I streamed off Netflix, and I was kind of appalled by my lack of focus. My body is actually crying out, like wailing and gnashing teeth, for exercise at this point. Just now I was going to make a bunch of excuses involving the fucking cold weather, too, but I pooh-poohed those before they even made it onto the screen. I'm like 2 blocks away from the rec center and I can stand that much cold. Next week when it's in the 20s I will not have a single excuse left for anything.

I guess what I'm saying is that my after-hours life is pretty well confined to this studio apartment and the various pieces of electronica that keep me connected to the outside world. The Brit and I bought webcams to make our nightly wrap-ups more futuristic, and once we get those fired up I might not even talk to any other human people. Maybe we can exercise together on camera, or I could like lead a workout that he could do. That would be hysterical. I know his white limey ass hasn't been at the gym either.

In other good news, teaching is awesome. All of my students are working at a really high level, and it is a pleasure and privilege to be able to boost them upward. I like working with beginners too, but to continue my sports analogy from a few posts back, when I work with beginners I'm a tennis pro coaching six year olds or straight up newbies instead of, like, junior champions. It's rewarding in a different way, and calls on different skills.

Anyway. Next time I report, it's going to be all "my exercise routine this" and "my lap swimming that." For real.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blog for choice.

It's the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade today and is Blog for Choice day. The topic is "What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?"

I have a crazy busy day and am driving home when I finish late this afternoon, so I likely won't be able to post. But you can. Discuss.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Looking back.

Now that I'm teaching again at the same institution where I got my undergraduate degrees, I've managed to escape being steeped in nostalgia all the time (which would be crippling and regressive), mostly because I feel pretty well in charge of my new role here. Still, I can't help but have the occasional flash of "oh I remember when I did this or that thing on this spot X years ago," usually when I am doing something stupid like taking a pee. I've actually wondered how many gallons of my effluvia have passed through these pipes over the years, since I spent soooo much of my time in college one particular building (and always drinking a lot of water).

So I was walking back to my office after lunch today and thinking about my first year here, how I was finally old enough to vote and it happened to be an election year and I voted by absentee ballot on this very campus, and helped to get Bill Clinton into office (as Anna said today, "I think Bill is pretending today is his Inauguration again. He loves being President.") for the first time. And because I really love me some bookends when I'm reflecting on my life, it seemed fitting to be thinking about my first vote, and how that ushered in a new era, and how today's inauguration did the same thing, and here I am in the same place I was then. I could never have anticipated it. The big difference is that practically everyone on campus seems galvanized by the political climate and by world events, and even first year students have a much greater awareness of politics than the average student did in 1992. This is good news.

Also, if you haven't yet read Vanity Fair's Oral History of the Bush White House, it's a must-read.

That is all.



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Done, to do.

Tonight I:
+ ordered a really big flat screen monitor
+ returned TWO phone calls
+ beat a buncha bitches at Word Twist
+ made curried red lentil soup with sweet potatoes and coconut milk, with roasted cauliflower on the side
+ put the leftover cauliflower into a container which I then inexplicably placed in the dish rack and discovered later
+ watched Persepolis (thumbs up)
+ consulted a feng shui website and discovered that my bed is already optimally placed
+ rearranged the rest of the furniture
+ unpacked the few books I brought with me
+ put the TV in the closet, which pleased me inordinately
+ drank a delicious smoothie made out of half a cold banana, a handful of fresh pineapple chunks, some fresh ginger, soymilk, and a little leftover coconut milk
+ deleted about 75 text messages from my phone

I did not:
+ deal with a bunch of outstanding work items for both of my jobs

There is always:
+ tomorrow morning
So for a long time I've been planning and threatening to post a little piece about my ongoing feminist education and why I'm a feminist. It probably would include a lot of stuff about the disproportionate burden of women's healthcare costs when basic--not special--needs like family planning and birth control are not covered by insurance or by safety-net providers. Or this doozy of a study I read today that tells us that "women over 45 are significantly less likely to be placed on a kidney transplant list than their equivalent male counterparts, even though women who receive a transplant stand an equal chance of survival." Or the statistics on rape and domestic abuse, or this depressing tale of the hidden camera "what would you do?" segment on Good Morning America, in which 3 men sat and watched another man drug a woman's drink while she was in the bathroom, and they didn't try to stop him, and they didn't tell her.

But it turns out I don't need to do all of that to explain why I'm a feminist because I can just quote Hillary Clinton from her opening statement at her senate hearing. Women and girls, she says, "comprise the majority of the world's unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women's rights in every country on every continent."

Feminism is really that simple. "Equalism" is fine, but the people who prefer to identify themselves that way need to walk the walk and push for gender parity and social justice and human liberation and not just use "equalism" as an excuse for why they, personally, are not feminists. And until worldwide institutionalized misogyny is a thing of the past, I will be a feminist. Which means I will probably be a feminist until the day I die.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I just got totally sucked into this gallery. I think someone I know used this photographer for headshots--and the other photos on the site are fantastic--but what I am really digging is this project.


This is your basic upper Midwest parking lot in the winter:
Except today there would be a fresh few inches of snow on top of everything.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Some things, and also stuff.

On Friday night I saw the first moon halo I can ever remember seeing, even though all the websites that tell you what it is claim it's a very common occurrence (caused by light refracting through hexagonal ice crystals in the upper atmosphere at an angle of 22 degrees). It pleased me inordinately, not only because it was beautiful, but I suppose because the whole week had been so freaking slippery and cold that it was nice to take pleasure in the outdoors. The moon obliged me the following night by being full, massive, and bright enough to cast shadows on the snow and give me a Cat Stevens earworm.

At dusk the rabbits come out and lurk around the bare bushes in front of the house where I'm staying. A friend of mine saw one scrabbling in the parking lot last weekend, trying to traverse the ice and not managing to get any purchase on the ground. I always wonder what these animals DO in the winter, and like what are they thinking when their little feet are moving on the ice and they're not getting anywhere? Last night I dropped my broccoli and carrot butts and peelings next to the porch where the rabbits loiter and today the evidence has disappeared. I now officially have a bunny bowl on the countertop and that's where my toothsome fruit and veg waste is going until I can carry it outside each day. Today they're getting apples and the rest of the broccoli.

I've gotten myself into a morning routine here, which is easy to do when you're in a small space and you work within walking distance. Up with the alarm, start the tea and oatmeal, open the blinds, make the bed (which I never do at home), write down some things I'm thankful for. I've been doing the latter before I go to sleep, too. I can't tell you yet whether it's improving my overall quality of life because there are too many variables here; since last week, practically everything about my day to day life is different. This is the first week of a full teaching schedule, too, so it's about to get different-er.

Have I ever explained what voice lessons are like at the college level? Oh I did, way back on the old blog, for the first lesson at least:
5-10 minutes of get-to-know-you chat, during which you try to put the student at ease and assess whether you are going to be able to get a grip on this personality. [eta: if the student is chatty or just has a lot of issues about which he/she is up front, this can go on for 20 minutes and involve disclosure of physical and mental health problems, medications, learning disabilities, etc.]

5-15 minutes of silly yet serious vocalizing, during which you assess the voice itself and what you're going to need to do with it and what, in fact, you'll be able to do with it, based on the personality and responsiveness of the student.

15-30 minutes of working on a song the student already knows, which for me means alternating between crapping all over the piano part (figuratively), listening, making the student repeat stuff, fixing stuff, picking stuff apart, coming up with weird images and metaphors to try to release the voice, and figuring out whether I can even speak a language the student understands.

10-15 minutes for everything else, including a second song, making assignments, fielding emotional breakdowns and administering kleenex and/or kindly advice/tales of my own lesson-related emotional breakdowns, busting into a jester routine in an attempt to loosen the student up or elicit some sign of a sense of humor, etc.

Also, you repeat yourself ad vomitum from lesson to lesson and even WITHIN a lesson, because constant reiteration is the name of the game with young students. It can make you feel like a blathering idiot. Some students bounce your energy right back to you, but some suck it up and leave you a crusty little shell of your shining morning self.
To that I'd also add that there's still a big range of ability level, preparation, aptitude, and plain old talent among voice majors, which means that no two lessons are the same. If you crossed your athletic coach with your therapist, you'd get a voice teacher. I'm anticipating some exhaustion.

In other news, I think my ear stopped ringing. In case you're keeping track, that's just about 4 weeks. I say I THINK it stopped because there is so much high frequency white noise in here between the radiators and the fridge and computer that I can't really tell. But in any case it's become much more manageable.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My dad called me and reported that Willa said her first sentence. It was "Henry poop."

Already a snitch.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

This state is still coated in ice and my downstairs neighbor is playing the kind of bass-heavy slow jamz that are going to interfere with my plans to get to bed early. So far I'm not stressed out, but I still don't feel perfectly healthy and I could use a lot more sleep. Especially since the radiators in this house are the 4 AM clanking variety. I stumbled into the bathroom in the wee hours this morning and fumbled around for some silicone earplugs that I presciently packed and jammed them in my ears so that I could go back to sleep. The sound of my own brain was better than the intermittent, arrhythmic, unpredictable radiator.

I'm keeping sort of a low profile on campus right now. One nice thing about being here, even with two jobs to do, is that this apartment is very much a fortress of solitude. Just a little studio a stone's throw from my office, with a little 3/4 stove and tiny fridge that I packed with the like three organic vegetables I was able to find at the grocery store. I can come over here basically whenever I have downtime during the day, and I have tea going at all times. When the teaching day is done, it's just dinner with me, and I love that.

Also, I finally started streaming stuff directly from Netflix. It never made sense at home because the Brit and I like to watch stuff together on the bigger screen, but for sheer cozy convenience you cannot beat movies (or 30 Rock) delivered directly to your laptop. I love living in the future.

Speaking of which, you can likely expect more blog posts while I'm in the hinterlands. I was going to promise not to blog about my gratitude journal, but I just realized I can't promise you anything because I am going to be responsible for entertaining myself quite a lot for the next 10 weeks.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ice ice baby.

Would you believe that when the wrecker driver hitched up my car to pull me out of the ditch, the first thing I thought was "oh man I can't believe I didn't take any pictures of this." I was obviously not in my right mind. If you spin off the highway at 65 mph because the road is coated with ice, it's a bad idea to get out of the car and walk around to the front to take pictures of your accident scene even if it will make a good show and tell later.

Yesterday was action-packed.

I am in my bed in Collegetown, back in the selfsame apartment I was assigned when I taught here back in 2005, right after I started dating the Brit. There's a gold striped thrift store pitcher sitting atop the cabinets, right where I left it. I grinned at it like an old friend when I spotted it last night. Outside, the sidewalks, streets, cars, and snowdrifts are coated with ice. When I finally rolled into town last, 8 hours after I left home, my first act as a temporary resident of this place was to salt the whole sidewalk.

If you've never spun off the highway, I recommend you try to do it in daylight when there are no cars next to you and the ditches aren't too deep. Your chances of plowing into the snow more or less harmlessly are pretty good, I'd say, though your car will obviously be stuck and you won't be able to just drive out of there. What happened to me was your basic best case scenario for spinouts: no collision, no one hurt, no damage to the car, nearly instant help. This is not to say that it wasn't freaky as hell.

When my car started to drift across the lanes I actually thought "huh, it must be extra windy" and realized what was happening a split second later. I knew I was going to go off the road. I just didn't know whether my car would maybe hurtle into the car up ahead of me first. Thankfully that didn't happen. I know I was perpendicular to traffic at one point, but then I think my car fishtailed back the other way before it slammed into the snow. Snow arced up over the car and coated my windshield so that I lost any sense of my location. I ended up facing the right direction--just well south of the actual highway. Shaking and taking deep breaths.

Almost immediately, someone pulled over on the frontage road and came down to ask me if I was okay, if I had a phone, if I needed anything. They'd seen it all unfold. Further east, she said, there were three cars in the ditch, one of them flipped over. Within minutes a state trooper rolled up behind me and opened a case and called a tow truck. After that, two more people stopped to check on me--one of them on the highway, which wasn't so smart, but people's kindness undid me. I was feeling kind of fragile anyway.

The tow truck arrived next. The driver efficiently pulled my car out and set me on the side of the road and drove off to handle the next one. You could tell that the guy has spent a lot of time pulling people out of ditches. The physics and geometry involved are second nature to him. I snapped some pictures of the truck's flashing lights as the cable inched my car up toward the highway. It had gotten dark by then. The whole thing--accident, cop, tow, drive-off--took just one hour.

After he drove away, I forged ahead, slowly, to the next exit, and stopped at the gas station that was actually a massive log cabin-style travel center, the kind of place where there's a restaurant and they sell souvenirs and like legitimate cowboy boots and the espresso machine spews out 5 different flavors of sickly brew. There was a massive Christmas tree in the foyer (there was indeed a foyer) and a display of snowmobiles and ATVs lined up down the hallway between the bathrooms. Wisconsin. I parked myself next to the fireplace and chewed over my options with the Brit. In the best conditions I would have had over 3 hours of driving left. The weather map for the rest of the trip looked patchy but not terrible. I decided to keep going and see how it went.

Since I got here safely, that wasn't a bad decision, but it was hands down the worst drive ever. I drove 40 most of the way, and didn't tally the number of spinouts I saw, but let's just say there were lots, many of them much more serious than mine. I never slid again, but was constantly suspicious of the road. It was probably better for me psychologically to keep going. When I stopped about 70 miles from my destination to stretch my legs and pick some stuff up at Target, there was a full inch of knobbly ice on top of my car and two inches of slush on the ground.

Anyway, I'm here. After I unloaded my entire car and carried everything up to the apartment and moved my car to the parking lot, the cherry on top of the day's events presented itself in the form of completely falling on my ass, like banana-peel cartoon-style, while standing still. It was that slippery outside. Fortunately my right cheek caught most of the impact. I gots padding.

Today I feel grateful for a lot of stuff and I have a lot of things to do. Classes start tomorrow, which is nuts, and I'm really glad I'm not making the drive today and having to get my head right before the term starts. I'm also really glad someone around here has a wireless signal.

Some crazy-ass person just went jogging by outside. This is why I love the Midwest.