Saturday, December 29, 2007

beach city

Taking a break. Article has been sent off. The holidays have come and gone. We are still away from home. Most special spouse’s parents both passed away some years ago, his sister lives in other country over there. My sister lives in country north, and we first had thought of visiting here, but remodeling stress prevented that. My father lives with his wife in country over there, too far for a short visit. So we joined distant relatives to join them on Beach City Island on the Atlantic. I enjoy the lushness of the vegetation with Spanish moss hanging from those low trees. Slender Cassia trees are in bloom, and Nandinas with their red berries add even more color. It is good break, but I have no time to myself, and I am missing that. Tomorrow we are going back.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

black holes

Writing week is over. I am about to finish the article I have been working on this semester, only minor clean up is needed, and then can I send it off. Finally! This last week I spend at the table, together with a writing buddy. Working together helps not to feel guilty for not cooking, going shopping, doing whatever needs to be done. I really enjoy writing week. I will take off a few days to recharge from sleep deprivation. Even while sleeping, I dreamt of arguments, the little wheels kept turning and turning.

One long conversation with friend in other country over there revealed that another very close friend of mine had just passed away, also cancer. He was diagnosed in May and did not see to live this Christmas. I remember when I heard about the conversation when he was delivered the news of his imminent death with no hope of survival. What is going through the mind at such a moment? I cannot even imagine. Hello my dear friend, can you see me? Sometimes I feel a presence in the room by someone long gone from this earth. All the dead become one, one large entity filled with memories but free to roam and experience the world from an entirely different dimension, residing in the void of a large black hole and filling it with so much energy that it can only exist in the non-existent form of a black hole soaking up every thought ever thought, every dream ever dreamed, and every second ever lived. You are all with me now, my dear friends, but I still miss your presence in this life.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Last night the thermometer went finally down and we had a freeze. It is cold, and the elephant ears are finally dead. This morning I found out that a friend with cancer passed away last night. I hope she is in a better place now. Sadness fills me, and my writing is not going well today. The eternal cycle, life and death, death and life, and in between we try to make sense of the in between.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


It finally got cold last night, but still no freeze. My Angel Trumpet has still buds, and because the last week was unseasonably warm, one has opened and is exuding this beguiling scent, with two more blooms about to open when the Northern wind blew in colder weather last night. I do not know if it is here to stay, but the heating system is running and running.
Walking black dog last night, I thought how most of us are yearning for what we do not have. Is that what defines us as human? Is it the source of curiosity and inventiveness leading to come up with new ideas and things to fulfill an inner yearning for whatever it is that presumably makes us happier? I saw how the wild growing Four O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) have died down and I caught myself thinking how nice it were to live in a gardening zone where the Four O’Clocks would not die at all. At other times I have regretted not to live in a cooler gardening zone were Lilacs grow. Never content – how about enjoying the path I am walking instead. It made me aware to be thankful for what I can do and what I have. It is nice that I can grow such a variety of plants, and I can enjoy and appreciate the Lilacs even more when visiting a different gardening zone in the spring. I need to get back to walking more - it clears the mind and fills the senses.

Today is the second day of writing, and it is so enjoyable if no classes need to be prepared, papers graded, and tedious administrative paper work taken care of. Writing week is when I take time for myself, meaning I only write and have a finished product at the end. No allowing myself to feel responsible to grade papers, prepare dinner, advise students, do laundry, help Teenage Daughter with home work, shuffle paper work around, wipe the floors in the kitchen, in short have my brain full with this never ending to-do-list and the cause of eternal guilt and thus paralyzing my creativity. Writing week takes a lot of preparation, have all books and articles read, only short revisiting of secondary sources is allowed. But everything is sitting right here on the floor or table, in piles or boxes and ready to be confirmed. Food is bought, partly prepared in advance, and most special spouse and Teenage Daughter are supportive and leave me alone when it comes to deciding which sweater to wear or movie to see. Writing week is such a luxury, and only recently I have learnt to take that time for myself. And then again, why should it be luxury? Research is part of my assignment as a professor. I should not feel guilty at all to think only about myself and the project at hand, but rather enjoy it and let the creativity flow. Show me the button where I can turn off the to-do-list of paralysis.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

semester over

It has been unseasonably warm, finals are graded, the semester is over, tomorrow is taking care of all kind of business day, and on Saturday begins writing week, finally!

Monday, December 10, 2007

first date

Teenage Daughter went on her first date! It feels just like yesterday that I dressed now Teenage Daughter in her purple little snowsuit and strapped her into the car seat. And now she went on a date!
On Friday she asked if we could drop her off at the movies on Sunday afternoon. She wanted to see “The Golden Compass” with Tall Guy. I have never met Tall Guy, but his name has been mentioned occasionally when Teenage Daughter talks about school. I asked what Tall Guy’s parents did, and was relieved when I heard the dad is a prof. What does that say about me? That I am an educational snob? That I trust profs entirely? I want to scream NO NO NO, but she is my daughter and I just need to know!!! But I know, she is fourteen after all, and there were also other kids. I did not drop her off out of fear to get out of the car and give in to my curiosity. Most Special Spouse took her to the movies, and picked her up. Did I manage to make a fool of myself? Of course! Before Teenage Daughter left, I told her not to do anything she did not want to do, and she just replied: “Mama, I am not stupid!” I apologized right away. After Teenage Daughter and Most Special Spouse returned, I asked TD how the movie was (“great”) and MSS if he had seen Tall Guy, but the only info I got was that Tall Guy is tall.
I have to say that Teenage Daughter is blessed with good looks. She is also tall, and I do not know how often people have told me - in her presence - how beautiful she is (“she should be a model”), and I am left standing, not sure what to say to a perfect stranger in the Target sock section – yes, we worked very hard? So she is tall and beautiful, and it was a matter of time when this first date would come around. Maybe if this whole thing would not have such a serious word / concept. In countries over there the concept of ‘date’ is alien, even though the English word is now used more and more. You go out in a group, then maybe alone with someone, but everything is more relaxed, not so much pressure as with a date. I am trusting Teenage Daughter. She is an only child and extremely independent and mature, but still, her brain is only fourteen. And if you wish to read more the about brain of a teenager and get scared, just read Inside the Teenage Brain, a Frontline interview about a study on the teenage brain.

And then I am never sure with my “mothering skills.” Since my mother died when I was five I do not have a natural model. Several years ago appeared Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss which I came across last year. I only recently learned to go to this dark place in my soul. The book is fine, but I did not experience this revelation other women expressed about the book. Edelman lost her mother when she was seventeen, and that is tough. The loss of the mother is tough no matter how old you are. But the experiences of most women in the book did not speak so much to me, since they knew and remember their mother. I could relate much better to The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father by Maxine Harris since it addresses the void that cannot be filled even with memories. Hope Edelman has now a new book Motherless Mothers: How Mother Loss Shapes the Parents We Become. I probably should read it, but I think I already know what I will find, that motherless mothers protect their family, always with the possible loss in mind you wish to spare your own child. It is so exhausting to go this dark place in the soul, but maybe I need to read the book just for reassurance, that is fine to feel insecure, that there are no perfect mothers, and that you would not even like to be a perfect mother! Imagine the legacy for the child – mother did always and everything best, you are doomed to fail!

And speaking of dark places in the soul: In one of my courses we also had read The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe. It turns out that one of my students had likewise experienced unrequited love like Werther. He told me today after the final that he had attempted suicide when he was fourteen years old and showed me the scars on his wrist. Fourteen – what a vulnerable age. I am glad he did not succeed.

Time to think of eight things that make me happy...

take him and shake him

Dr. Between,

Honestly, I meant no grievances by it-- I just don't happen to have a
connection to the internet at home, and printed the assignment out in a lab without seeing the "Turnitin" portion. So, honestly, I did not feel I was making an exception of myself, in fact, in all my haste I simply brushed past a sentence in the assigment [sic] that I probably shouldn't have, but of course it is to your discretion to interpret it in whichever a way you choose. Anyway, I got the sheet and pasted everything onto a .doc document, which is now on the Turnitin website.
Incoherent Nietzsche and Foucault reading misunderstood-genius-student

Now I feel bad. I suspected that the kid simply does not have his act together, but after an entire semester of ignoring MLA Style (or any style at all even though pointed out on every essay) and incoherent writing in desperate need of being worked on (also pointed out repeatedly), and help from my side allowing twice to re-submit essays, as well as unacceptable PowerPoint presentations and an artifact reflecting the coursework that turned out not to reflect the course work (admittedly so), I was so exhausted by this student as anyone reading this sentence. I want to take him and shake him and try to awake him – get out of your world at least for as long as it takes to read and follow all instructions! How can I help this kid? I feel like an enabler if I continue to provide him with more help and support than other students, probably less gifted and in way more in need of extra support. I feel manipulated, and I do not like the passive aggressiveness peeking through from time to time. The saga will probably continue next semester since he asked if I were willing to do an Independent Study with him. I will need to talk to him about that.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

incoherent Nietzsche and Foucault reading misunderstood-genius-student

Dear incoherent Nietzsche and Foucault reading misunderstood-genius-student,

I have not received your first part (take home section) of the final.*

[*to be submitted via Turnitin]

Doctor Between,

The final should be in the folder in front of your door-- I left it there this morning.
Incoherent Nietzsche and Foucault reading misunderstood-genius-student

Incoherent Nietzsche and Foucault reading misunderstood-genius-student,

Why should the rules for the take home final not apply to you but anyone else? Please submit your answers via Turnitin.
dr. between

to be continued

Saturday, December 8, 2007

holiday parties

A morning in fall
It is unbelievably warm for the season. Christmas decorations, articles and discussion in the local newspaper on Holiday Trees vs. Christmas Trees, and tropical Mandevilles still flowering in my neighbor's and my garden make for an unusual mix, very different from the sensual experience in ice box state. I remember the days getting out of the house and my glasses going blind. At times I was afraid the glass would break because of the sudden change in temperature. Yes, my glasses were and still are from country over there with real glass, and therefore much thinner than any glasses I could ever get this side of the ocean. But that is another story. Back to winter in icebox state as I remember it. Then baby Teenage Daughter needed to be bundled up, which took at least ten minutes and required leaving her alone for a minute before the process so that I could start the car so that it could warm up at least a little. After the wrapping exercise - presents are nothing compared to squeezing a baby into snowsuits, attempting to fit uncoordinated little feet into tiny boots and convincing the little one whose face is turning rosier and rosier to keep those gloves on, all the while smiling happily and talking or singing to distract the now cocooned being from bursting into hot tears while you wrap yourself in the winter survival paraphernalia – you finally grab that carrier, step out and lock the door, while baby is hit with the sudden cold, and pray not to slip on the ice while making your way to the car with the clumsy baby carrier in one hand and your purse, bag or whatever over the shoulder. But I liked the always blue sky, the brilliance of the sunrays on the white snow, and the exhilaration of going on the walk with baby Teenage Daughter in tow in a brown carton box we had secured on a sled. Christmas parties, and most of the time they are still called that, make much more sense in that kind of setting with snow crystals on the ground instead of students walking around in T-shirts and drinking mulled wine while the thermometer registers 60 F outside.
Official Holiday parties – I have enough of these, even though I did not attend too many this year, I was gone the previous weekend when the first round took place. I survived the departmental Christmas party, this year in our lounge, and actually fun with a variety of different foods, the student party yesterday evening was also fine; I am missing a “Holiday Coffee” this morning at a colleague’s house who lives further away because Teenage Daughter is taking the ACT, and I want to pick her up after that experience. I looked at sample tests, and I am not sure if I could pass the ACT with a good grade. I never was ‘trained’ in these tests, and I wholeheartedly do not believe in them. But that is again another story. There are a few more Holiday Parties to come, then it will be time for finals, and then I can finally finish my essay which has not happened due to hormonal upheaval in the household, but that is a different story altogether.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

misunderstood genius, not

I gave my incoherent Nietzsche and Foucault reading misunderstood-genius-student a second chance to do better on the PowerPoint assignment. I have never done this before, but I thought the one slide he had prepared for a confusing presentation must have been the result of underestimating the time involved, or being preoccupied by the content. So today this student presented again on a new topic with my reluctant approval since it only remotely relates to the course. And what did he do? He came ten minutes late to class, had copied more or less everything from a wikipedia page without even changing the formatting. What an insult to the hard working students who had put time and effort into their presentations. Complaining that university education in general is boring and not challenging enough, walking around with important books, but then insulting all present with a presentation that was no presentation but a wikipedia page pasted into four PowerPoint slides … I am left speechless.

Monday, December 3, 2007

no time

Back home, still tired and exhausted, but I slept in my own bed last night, and loved it.
Too much to do, too little time. No time to read, except tests and papers, not time to write, except more tests, finals, emails, and letters of recommendations. And my garden lies neglected.