Thursday, October 29, 2009

RBOC: In which a single post is a microcosm of the whole blog

  • The trope of regret, in which I apologize for not having blogged.
  • The trope of political advocacy ex-post facto, in which I am happy that hate crime legislation is finally law
  • The theme of crazy teaching juxtapositions, in which I teach "The Waste Land" and The America Play back-to-back on the same day, not long after I did the same thing with Waiting for Godot and Heart of Darkness.
  • The trend of pondering ethical teaching questions, such as "when does one draw the line between sob story and actual tragedy, between reason and excuse?"
  • The recurring plotline of uncomfortable family moments, in which my mother has an accidental overdose resulting in hallucinations in front of the children, and also in which my father and I negotiate tacitly and ickily about patriarchal responsibility.
  • The typically unusual catblogging about the-kidney-failure-that-is-now-just-fleas.
  • The odd publication news about the collection that Amazon said was due to be released yesterday, but is still only available for pre-order.
  • The familiar adoration of chocolate that would likely show up as a product endorsement for this overpriced, but somehow still worth it merchant.
  • The ethical rumination on masculinity, football, fanhood, concussions, and a month-old post-and-discussion at Tenured Radical.
  • A bit of subtle gloating about getting ready to go to ASTR in two weeks, held this year in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Which is warmer than it is here.
  • A great deal of doting on a beautiful baby boy who is having trouble gaining weight (like both his siblings, and apparently, once, his father), but is still hitting all of his developmental marks.
  • Some thoughtful response to a book I have recently read for pleasure, such as my positive-but-still-ambivalent thoughts on Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
  • Some fanboyish anticipation of a forthcoming album, like perhaps Hem's musical setting of Twelfth Night as featured in this summer's Shakespeare in the Park.
  • A minor rant about academic politics, probably concerning Outcomes Assessment and a fair amount of work I did last year that was not really even acknowledged when the discussion was taken up again this year.
  • Some rhapsody on nature, such as the beautiful leaves this season that keep making me not want to go to class, and instead take walks around town with the baby boy in the black fleece slig that sometimes lulls him to sleep.
That's what I would post, if I had time to post.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My own personal madeleines

Rambunctious and I went to the farmer's market today, and picked up a bag of Winesap apples: they were locally orchard-grown, and so they didn't look like perfect grocery store apples. I immediately flashed back to a memory of picking small winesaps off of a tree at the farmhouse of a great-aunt and -uncle when I was probably not that much older than Rambunctious.

My father's family is rooted only about 2 hours away. The first ancestors helped settle that foothill town about 200 years ago, and some still farm that land today. In fact, the very first of my clan to settle in the new world put down their first homestead in what is now this very state in the 1780's. If anywhere in the country is "my people's," this is it.
It was brisk morning today, and a bit wet, so Rambo and I were a little shivery when we walked in, and we were immediately met with the warmth of the house, and a smell that made me think "Hunh, I wonder if thinking about those apples made me think of Grandma's house?" But then I realized no, it was something more specific: Willow was slow-roasting pork, my grandmother's favorite dish. That's why it smelled like her house.
It's fall in the foothills: Apples and pork shoulder on a chilly October Saturday.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Why I love October

October is, far and away, my favorite month. April is a distant second, followed by May and then June (especially a temperate one). September not so much, and November is just too cold. Here then, are ten reasons why I love October:

  1. The weather: today it was 65 and sunny. Earlier this week it was 55 and rainy. by the end of the month, we might even have a daily high in the 40s. Who cares? It's temperate, and bit brisk, even, but it's rarely really cold here in October. Perfect day for walking to campus or driving with one window down.
  2. Teaching in October: While it may be the fat part of the semester, when the blush has worn off, and the hustle hasn't yet begun, I find that this is the time when a class really begins to define itself, and some of the best individual lessons happen. Classes are more relaxed, and discussions can be a bit more wide-ranging.
  3. The pumpkin patch, complete with hayride and the maize maze (although I will lament that hayrides apparently no longer feature actual hay. bummer). That makes for a damn good Saturday, with kids or without.
  4. The leaves turn. Here the have just started changing color in earnest, and will peak in about three weeks. We have three beautiful seasons and then winter here. Of the three beautiful ones, fall is the most extraordinary. I've been told that some places in this state technically could be called deciduous rain forests, which doesn't surprise me. And as we know, wet conditions mean more color. It's been a wet spring and summer here, so I'm looking forward to extraordinary foliage.
  5. Pumpkin-spice whatever. Latte, beer, bread, pie, toast, chocolate, meat, water, milk, cardboard. You name it, pumpkin pie spices makes it better. But only in October.
  6. Clothing: The leather jacket comes out, as does my extensive collection of sweaters (many of them in lovely argyle). In the autumn, people start dressing like grown-ups again, and so I can stop pretending I am a teenager in cargo shorts and ill-fitting t-shirts. This is a self-serving thing to love, since my love of nice clothing earns me funny looks in the summer, and no looks at all underneath the bundling of the winter. But the autumn is the time to bring out the best outfits. In fact, I'm feeling a velvet blazer day coming on.
  7. Brunch. I don't know why, but brunches are best in the fall. Since we've moved to the new neighborhood, we've developed a friendship with two other families of new faculty members, both of whom just moved in around the corner within a month of us. We've started having brunch every weekend, and there's really nothing like a brisk morning of strong coffee, bacon, fritatas, and mimosas, with Thistle-and-Shamrock on NPR, or African Jazz on the CD player, or whatever, and sunlight pouring through the windows. And then that full, drowsy, I want-to-get-inside-and-take-a-nap feeling afterwards. Good many times of the year, best in October.
  8. Football: College, Professional, or backyard touch. I love a good football game, despite myself.
  9. The twins' birthday on October 30. I am looking forward to when they're in middle school and high school (really one of the only reasons I am actively looking forward to them being in middle school), and the Claycomb birthday/Halloween party becomes an annual event.
  10. Did I mention Halloween? Since the kids were born, I haven't been able to do much myself, but any holiday involving elaborate and/or creative costuming is going to be a favorite. Some of my past best costumes: The Universe, Route 66, and an illuminated manuscript.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Daddy Time

Willow and Junebug are on the West Coast, halfway through a 6-day excursion, which leaves me home with the twins during a long weekend (half day Thursday and inservice Friday for parent-teacher conferences). Everyone's been saying things like "will you be ok?" and "let us know if you need any help" and things like that, comments that, while of course well-intentioned, also reveal the differing expectations for academic mothers and fathers.

Of course I'll be ok. Rambunctious and Imperia are almost six. They play well together; they are well-behaved (if, well, rambunctious), well-adjusted, and easy to entertain. And if not, they fit nicely into a closet (I joke). So far we've had a fantastic time: playdates, the Children's Museum, soccer practice, Saturday brunch with friends.

But even this afternoon, after all the activities, and the scheduled quiet time, we were great. They played in the back yard, collecting grass clippiings for the nest they were building for the butterflies in the butterfly bush, while I cut the grass and moved some of the summer stuff into the garage.

Then we went in and they colored while I made dinner (pasta, tomatoes, limas, milk, pears), and we cleaned up the kitchen together, and they colored some more while I folded a couple of loads of laundry. Kind of what we do every night. Imperia got a little sad at bed time, missing mommy after a phone call out west, but barring that, this was a pretty average fun Saturday at Chez Horace.

BUT. I've barely thought about my teaching or scholarship since I picked the kids up on Thursday afternoon, and of course this is precisely why these distinctions get made: because so many women are doing that second-shift work, especially since female academic have those flexible schedules that are so easily and blithely carved into. That I am doing the second shift is not uncommon for our household (though admittedly, Willow typically does more of this than I do), but it always makes work-life balance difficult.

I'm in a lucky spot right now. I have almost a full year before my critical year for tenure begins, and I've already met my benchmarks for publishing, have earned a minor teaching award, have a raft of strong evals, and do more service than is good for me. I would be shocked if my tenure case at this institution posed more difficulty than simply the labor of compiling the file (no mean feat, I understand). But I was reading Earnest English, and hearing her talk about the anxietieis of new parenthood coinciding with the new demands of TT faculty life. My comments there were that it can be done and is done often, and that early baby time is the worst time to try to gauge how hard parenting will be. I did it with twins (thoughas a Dad, not a Mom), and am kind of doing it again, and it was hard, but it happened. It would've been much harder were I woman.

All of this makes me a bit more bothered by the questions, not because they assume that I can't do the job, but because so many mothers in the same scenario would not get nearly the same sympathetic concern.

OK, so this post went ina direction I didn't expect, but there it is. And now, since this is my only alone time of the day, I'm off to read for this week. It's Beckett week intro to drama, and so I have to find a way to teach 200-level non-majors how to love the wait for Godot.