When will November be over?

It’s been a rough November. And we’re not quite half way through it.

It’s no secret that I’m pretty left of center politically speaking. Moving to MI after living in GA where, because I lived in a pretty left of center part of Atlanta, I could be sure that at least one of the people I voted for in November would win (usually the person running for House of Representatives), I had hopes of happier days after the election, more equitable living, etc. I mean, the South is much maligned as the most racist, most homophobic, most uneducated, and on and on and on part of the country. Even when I gave a job talk at a fancy private university (Syracuse) about my dissertation (topic: the intersections of homophobia and religion in preservice elementary education), a faculty member asked (in 2005, when, apparently, all bigotry was gone! amazing) if my research would even be relevant up in the great blue north. And, you know, there have been some descent years here, politically speaking. But lately? Shit man.

Two days after our governor got reelected, the sixth circuit court of appeals decided against marriage equality. We all know how the rest of the country is going on this (and, for real, I’m tired of regionalism. “Now we’re worse than *name a state that is characterized as ass backward by liberals*” is tossed around a ton. Shut up people. Even if we had marriage equality in MI, the bigotry that caused the ban to pass in the first place won’t dissolve.). I am on the record here, and basically everywhere that I write anything on social media, as saying that I find it problematic that marriage equality is THE fight of the queer community. It benefits those who already have privilege more than anyone else, and I think there are more important civil rights for LGBT folks needing attention, but more on that in a minute. That said, I was stunned. I was stunned by the decision, and stunned by how upset about it I was/am. I said to a friend that I felt like I woke up in 2004 with a hangover. I mean, I already got over that shit, and now I have to deal with it again? Plus, I still don’t have a legal connection to my child. Plus, it’s just stupid that we’re still talking about it.

The reason I think it is stupid is because of what is happening THIS week here in Michigan. The state is trying to pass laws that leave out protections for trans* folks. This, of course, means that people can get fired from their jobs, not have equal access to housing, etc. Maybe two years ago at this point, but in some marriage equality conversation where my lovely partner asked if we could just move on, a lesbian acquaintance who is very very very concerned with marriage equality wrote something on my Facebook page about how she wished that perfectly acceptable women weren’t lopping off their breasts and pumping themselves full of hormones (paraphrase except the lopping off of breasts and pumping full of hormones. I still can shake those words.). I kept and keep thinking that if we as queer folks are moving in a community that has SUCH disregard for the identities of others, such an ego that decides that our identities are the only ones worthy of rights, that ignores the experiences of others because they don’t match our own, how can we expect society at large to change? To be more humane?

I feel sad and angry that I don’t have the rights that would make my already privileged life more comfortable and more sure. But I feel outrage that the government of the state I live in sees fit to treat humans as not humans. To not care about the employment, housing, basic humanity of citizens who, at the very minimum pay taxes, and contribute to society in a variety of other ways. I don’t really give a shit if governmental officials, employers, employees (and, shit, LG and B folks) aren’t comfortable with one identity category or another. Lives should not be up for vote, devalued systematically, or be legislated as wrong. That does not sound like democracy to me.

anyway. that’s what I’m thinking about.

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Petunia

I didn’t grow up with pets. The two I’ve ever had have now died within a year. I had the sad honor of weeping over each of them as they drew their last breath. Stroking their soft ears. Lifting them to the car. Putting them in the ground.

Our Petunia died last night after having a massive (5 or so minutes long) seizure. The emergency vet’s guess, based on her history, and her still daily .75 to 3 mile walks is that she had tumors on her brain, and we would just be waiting for the next one. We love her too much to go through it again, even with us holding and soothing her through them, much less if we were at work when the next one came. I feel shocked and crushed, and then it came again when we told our kids this morning, especially Buddy. He saw some of the seizure, and Jess stayed with him while a friend drove Petunia and me to the vet. When I called, she said that he wanted her buried next to Rudy in the front yard. They are good friends, those who will dig a grave with you in the rain at midnight. I imagine her finding Rudy, and with her puppy energy renewed, bounding up to him, expecting a playmate. He’ll give her his old man “I’m resting just now, but let me humor you once” look, and then, once she has run laps and laps around him, they’ll find the most expensive piece of furniture available, jump up with their muddy paws, and snuggle up for a nap. If they hear the “W” word, they’ll sprint to a window or a door, ready to explore. Their souls are content.

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running numbers

So, how’s your fall going? It, all of a sudden, is really really fall, as we learned while watching soccer games–freezing at Arden’s Friday night game, with big kids running up and down the field, passing, keeping unofficial score, high five giving, and then freezing at Trudy’s Saturday morning game with adorable little ones looking like they are wearing soccer pjs, so big are the sizes and tiny are the children, as they run up and down the field, oblivious to the ball or goal. I do enjoy coffee at a game though, which has never been possible at Friday night games, so this was a plus. Also: I love watching both. One is, I will say, decidedly cuter while the other is decidedly more exciting. You pick.

I’m finishing up a sabbatical application that is due Monday (my chair said Tuesday at the dept. meeting this past week, but I checked, and I’m wondering if she is intentionally giving me an extra day, or if she wishes September wasn’t already halfway over. In any case, I’m glad I checked). Who knows if I’ll get it, but I really hope so. One semester of writing as my only job? Yes, please. I took a break so that I didn’t just write “duh” in the section where I’m describing how the project has “merit in its own right,” and checked out the race results from the run I did last Saturday. It was a crazy race–15K on a cross country route that has you up and down in sand dunes, running along the beach in Saugatuck (gorgeous), and, between miles 5 and 6, up 302 very very very steep steps. I had been training in my building at work, running stairs on Sundays with my friend (who ended up 4th among the women, and 1st in “masters”–over 40). Those stairs? half as steep as the race stairs. Anyway, I finished, and didn’t hurt (running injuries gone? One can hope.), but the last three miles after the steps were brutal (and really hilly). I hadn’t looked at my actual pace, but I did just now, and really, for someone who is running about half of what I used to (I’m biking and swimming instead which, I’m sure, is why I don’t hurt when I DO run), I was pleased. I knew that I finished just at an hour and 31 minutes, but when I saw my pace (about 9 min, 46 sec miles), I stopped being so disappointed in my race. In a half marathon, I now have a goal of 9:15 miles or faster, but I run flat halves. I feel good! Proud! And, also like I’m glad that this research that I’m hoping to get a sabbatical to write up is qualitative in nature. Because, dude. It should not have taken me a week to figure out that I didn’t run as slowly as I thought I had.Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 8.06.46 PM

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Here’s the thing

Our children have mostly not at all dealt with homophobia because of their parents. I mean, we’ve done a lot of talking with Arden, and started conversations with Trudy, but for the most part, when there has been homophobia in the room with them (one example: at an early doctor appt. in Kzoo–we never saw that doc again.), it has been directed more at us. I can handle that because I know what to say, how to respond, etc. And, generally, I hold the view that if you are homophobic, I’m already smarter than you and will win the conversation. That’s how I go into it, anyway. Feeling sorry for you that I have to clarify your bigotry. I mean, I am pissed about it, but personal (rather than institutional) homophobia is pretty easy to counter.

But. Today, Trudes and I were doing our usual Sunday morning ritual–coffee for me and a donut for her, and then grocery shopping at our local cheapest grocery store in town. We always see tons of people that we know at both places, so it’s kind of a fun way to get a chore that neither of us loves out of the way. Anyway. I like to do the self checkout because I’m a control freak and like to bag my own groceries. Lately, Trudy likes to watch from a bench directly across from where I’m bagging groceries–a small independence, I think. I can still see her, and we can talk a little.

This morning, there was an older lady waiting on the bench. Because Trudy is the extrovert that nobody else in our family is, she immediately engaged in conversation with her. They talked about preschool and the weather. You know, the usual. Then, the woman asked, “Are you here with your mom or dad?” Trudy responded, “Oh! One of my moms!” She pointed at me, and I waved. “One of your moms? Is your dad at home?” “I don’t have a daddy. I have two moms! A Mama Jill and a Mama Jess. Some people have a mom and a dad. Some people have two dads. Some people have two moms. [Thank you Todd Parr!] That’s my Mama Jill.” I wave again. “Oh, is one of them a nanny or your aunt?” “No, they’re my moms. Mama Jess is sleeping at home right now.”

At this point, I put down the grocery and walked over. “Trudy she doesn’t understand.” I looked at the woman and said, “She has two mothers. Two moms.” I walked back. The woman continued, “They can’t both be your moms.” Grocery down. WAlk over. “She told you. She has two moms.” Walk back. Trudy is swinging her legs. “Do you have a brother or sister?” “I have an Arden. He’s my brother.” “I want to ask some questions about this other mom.” I walk back over. “Trudy, come with me. She doesn’t get it.” “But, I just need to ask some more questions.” “No you don’t.”

I told Trudy that sometimes people are mean about people having two moms, and I didn’t want her to have to listen to that. She threw her arms around my neck and said, “I love you. I love my whole family.”

As I said to Jess when we got home, “What kind of asshole forces a 4 year old to defend her family?” Jessica’s response, “a homophobic one.”

Yes, things are slowly changing, and as Jessica said, my Mama Bear-ness was coming out, but really? I sometimes feel more like more people “know what to say” than really think about my family and my children and other queer people who aren’t in, frankly, homonormative constructions of family as equal. Lucky us that we’re white and in the tax bracket we are and have a lot of education. Otherwise, the kinds of responses my kids would have to understand and use would be different and more frequent. It’s more than maddening.

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Small Craziness-es

My house is quiet here at almost 7 in the morning on a Monday. We got home late last night from a party to celebrate the marriage of one of my favorite colleagues (seriously, he is the kindest man. So kind that, when Trudy was in her “every man must be a dad” stage 2 summers ago, and she held up her arms and shouted “DADDY!” when he came over for a meeting, he just smiled and gave her a hug.). It was at a gorgeous house on Lake MI, and watching children play in the waves while the sun set? Gorgeous. Anyway, everyone (including the dog, whose bed we’ve moved into our room which seems to have calmed her anxiety some, thank goodness) is still asleep. Except, of course, me.

On Friday, we went to a block party–they’ve been happening all summer at different homes, and it’s been a nice way to get to know neighbors, plus there are a million kids, and it is just easy–everyone gets home from work and wanders over to the gathering, has a bite to eat, chit chats, and wanders home when the kids are sleepy. Anyway, Jess and I were chatting with a neighbor who is thisclose to giving birth to her first child, and she was telling us about her second cousin who had colorectal cancer 7 years ago and then it came back, and now it is in her lungs, and I looked at Jess wide eyed, and she suggested I go check on the kids. I keep thinking that my oncologist told me that at FIVE years (ahem, next year!), any cancer would be a new cancer, but here is a case of seven years, and it comes back, and it keeps replaying in my head, and then I know I’m crazy.

But, and here is how you know I’m crazy, this morning at my spinning class, in walks my oncologist. Apparently, her (much fancier) gym is closed for yearly maintenance, and they have a deal with the Y, so here she is. First of all, it was strange to see her so out of context. And, you know, so early in the morning (she got there 10 minutes late, which made me laugh to myself. in my head. while sweating my brains out. Because, never ever has she been on time for an appointment. anyway.). But, I felt like I had to show her how I am keeping the cancer away, so I might have pushed harder. Dumb. Also, I kept thinking: this is a sign! I was worried, but Dr. L is here, so I won’t get cancer–at least that kind–again. Sure. But it’s comforting. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

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Aging

I mean, it happens, right? I don’t feel the 39 that I have now been for a week, except when I do. I mean, I am straight up middle aged. Right? In the middle. Of my life. Strange.

Watching loved ones age, however, is hard. My parents were here a few weeks ago, and it was the first time, Polar Vortex aside, that my dad did not go running every day, or at least most days, that he was visiting. He ran once. I mean, he was sprinting bases with Arden in the yard which most almost 70 year old grandpas are not doing, but my mom told me how hard this aging thing is for him. He’s always been super active, and I think he finds it frustrating that his body is not up to its usual antics. His mind certainly is, however.

But, what has all of this on the brain is my sweet dog Petunia. Having watched Rudy decline for years, I’m recognizing similar behaviors in Tunie (we had a realization that Rudy’s dementia started long ago, like when Arden was 4 or so. We can actually remember the Christmas–we always have a ton of people over which, at one point in his life, he loved. That day, however, he was out of sorts. He walked over to the rug, upon which I was sitting, lifted his leg and peed. He really went downhill after that, clearly for years. I’m sad about it now. If only dogs could talk. Trudy and I are reading Charlotte’s Web right now, so I keep thinking, “just listen more, and maybe I can hear.” To no avail.). Anyway, over the past 2 weeks, I’ve noticed a new tiredness, a new tenderness, a new unsettled-ness in my sweet girl. I’m watching her closely because the last thing I want is for her to be in any kind of pain, but at the same time I’m wondering if some anti-anxiety meds would do the trick. We got her when she was 4 months old, so I still think of her as a puppy even though she’s 13. I can really honestly say that, globally, I’m kind of ready for a pet free house, but intimately, I love this dog. Love her. She is ridiculous and silly and, I think, thoughtful. She had a second wind after Rudy died in October, and I just am really not ready to part from her yet. But, 13. She’s an old girl. She’s aged, to now, pretty well. Here’s hoping she’s got a few more in her.1917763_194079898478_3629807_n

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A decade

We are hosting Arden’s 10th birthday party tonight. TENTH. Kind of hard to believe. Also hard to believe: how much planning we are not doing. There will be pizza, ice cream sundaes, movies, sleeping bags in the basement. He asked for “basically a playdate” with 5 or 6 friends. Jess just owned that she’s a little nervous, but we figured: we can handle 16 hours of crazy to make our kid happy.
I can own that I’m more than a little delighted that the request of my southern born, midwestern raised child for his actual birthday (which is Tuesday) includes white cheddar cheese grits and biscuits and gravy made by me and a black forest cake made by Jessica. He’s moved from “shape cakes” to a desire for delicious (the shape cakes were delicious, too, but I do like the shift–I mean, there is really nothing like watching a bunch of three year olds dive into a shark shaped cake, but still … I like it). Trudy has made him so many cards over the last week that I wonder if she is A) more excited about his birthday than he is, and B) if she gets that it is kind of a big one. A decade. I cannot believe it is possible.
Anyway, I used to reflect through the years in photos, but I stopped at 5 years. Looking at it now, he’s so different and so the same. Mature, angular, thoughtful, with shadows of his adult self, while also silly, quick to giggle, and snuggly (I hope that lasts a while). Can you believe that little guy is my big boy? Because I cannot.
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parental balancing

So, one of the things I find hardest about parenting is that I don’t call all the shots. I mean, that is a duh, but there are some times when I”m more uncomfortable with the way my kids become themselves than others. Example: Trudy is really really (really) really into princesses. Like, really. This is a kid who would not put on a dress until last summer. When she was in two weddings. She got LOTS of attention while she was wearing said dress (I mean, we were all, “can we justify $40 on a dress that she will wear twice? Maybe? I mean maybe she’ll rip it off!”), and, indeed, she is still wearing that dress. In the winter, she layered long sleeves and leggings and socks and snow boots with it, and, it is a little shorter on her now, but just Wednesday, she wore it with yellow capri pants and purple knee socks that she, ahem, borrowed from preschool and purple shoes (“I’m all yellow and purple today!”). The princess thing started when she started school. Jess and I are kind of No Thank You At All Please when it comes to princesses, but it is one of the dressup things in the dressup section of preschool, and she does love it. She’s seen Frozen and Brave (“I shivered! I need to be a grown up to watch it again!”), and has a whole get up with a big blue dress and purple Frozen cape that my mom sent. I needed to return some papers to my students on Monday, and she had to come (because they frown upon leaving your 4 year old home alone, even though she’s told me that she isn’t a baby, and she is just going to hang out). She was wearing, of course, her whole thing because that’s what you wear to eat breakfast when you’re Trudy, and didn’t want to take it off. So, you know, pick your battles, right?

I joked with my students that I was losing my feminist street cred, and they both laughed and admired Trudy. She beamed. Every single person we encountered outside of that classroom told her that she was either a princess or beautiful. I was super uncomfortable by the time I was buckling her into her car seat. “Trudy, is what you’re wearing or what you look like the most important thing about you?” “No!” She gave me her “are you dumb?” look. “Well, what is?” “Loving people!” Sigh of relief.

She just digs it. I don’t even know. This morning, she and two friends were playing superheroes and saving Arden (seriously cute. Also: good big brothering right there), and she did it all while wearing her blue dress. As Queen Elsa would say, I need to let it go.

I guess I’m learning that you only get so much input as a parent. I mean, I can mediate the other input, but even at 4, it is her decision about what to take on or not. I know, too, that helping teach them balance now will help them find the balance that I am ever trying to achieve later. You know? I mean, I’ve been thinking about how they might be experiencing this summer (where as I KNOW that I have been experiencing it as over worked and too committed). We balance home weeks (because we have the privilege of flexible jobs) with weeks at camp (that they really love. I mean, really.), with family beach days (y’all, Lake Michigan is not warm. Yet. It might get there, no?), with yesterday’s sort of spontaneous day trip to Chicago for a visit to the Lincoln Park Zoo (children–my own and others–giggling while watching primates swing, stick fingers up the ass of another, pick things out of the fur of another, nurse their mamas was my personal favorite part) and go to a Cubs game (cheap seats are awesome–we were in the shade, and Wrigley Field is small enough that we felt close even though we were far), and I think they love the mix of structure and sleeping in/wearing pjs all day. The mix of socializing with friends and being mediated by someone other than their parents at camp, and playing with friends or each other to the occasional, “y’all be nice,” or “find a new game” when things get hairy.

And, I’m loving who my kids are becoming. I think Trudy still seems like a baby to me because she is my last baby. But, she’s this independent (albeit princess loving) kid who writes stories and paints and is the least shy member of our family (while we were waiting for the bus to the Cubs game yesterday, she told the other folks that we are from far away, we are going to a game, and we just came from the zoo. The rest of us smiled and tried not to make eye contact because, thanks, but we don’t strike up conversations with strangers.). Arden is so fiercely independent in his own way. I was chatting with a mom who was about to send her kiddo off to sleep away camp about how he seems so … differently in his skin when he comes home. So much more aware of himself. My summers as a kid were filled with swim team practice and 6 weeks at what I always call “rich white girl” camp which I loved and still love, even as I find it problematic. His camp is much shorter, and I will say, much grittier. Folks who know us well, but who didn’t have camp experiences themselves, or who are acquaintances have said to us that this seems an extravagance (there are others who think it is cool, or he is lucky, or that we are crazy. all of which are true.), but for me, giving my kids (because, we will eventually give it to Trudy) this gift of independence, of being in the world protected but not by me, is something to cherish. He is also a kid who is kind and annoyed and careful with his sister. Yesterday in the car, he was explaining the images in her book to her, and I said to Jess, “Arden might just be a teacher.” He is hysterical. He has moments of teenager hood, even at almost 10.

The thing is: I have to let go. I also have to realize that my kids, like me, have all of these moments of imperfection. And that those moments are important and delightful and a part of them. I don’t have to prove to the world that they are great–they just are. When Arden sighed at dinner last night and said that it had been a great day? That is what parenting is to me. Giving my kids great days. And? Frankly? Giving them boring ones, and over planned ones, and days that are full of not me. I’m learning to be OK with all of it.

Pictures of Some of Summer:

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Trudy swirls

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friends came over to cook with us–all but Trudy had a hand in the dumpling filling. It was delicious.

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Laughing at primates

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Sibling love

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Lake Michigan

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Warming up in a sand blanket

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Serious art during the baseball game

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Cubs watchers

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Flamingo watcher

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siblings

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siblings

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princess/author

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balancing it out

This is the latest I’ve ever started summer break. I typically only teach 2 classes, and both in our first summer session, but for a variety of reasons, I also taught a very very intense (5 hours a meetings, 7 meetings, 3.5 weeks) course about educational policy and multicultural education. My students are in an intense program themselves–they are math and science folks, many of whom have years of industry experience–and have a year of classes and student teaching (3 semesters of classes, two of which are at the same time as their 2 semesters in the classroom) to get a grad degree in teaching middle and secondary math or science. For many of them, this course was the first time they had been asked to consider, certainly, educational policy and the media’s portrayal of it, but also issues of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism and their/our roles in perpetuating it or challenging it. I had one student for whom this was a particular challenge, and I realized in the middle of a class discussion that we were considering issues that republicans, generally, don’t think exist, so OF COURSE this is a challenge for her. Anyway, I love teaching that class, but I feel like I was hit by a train at the end of the day. And, to top it off, my fabulous collaborator came to Kzoo this week to write–we had three pretty ambitious goals for 4 days and 3 nights plus two 5 hour teaching days for me, but we accomplished two and a quarter of them. There were, to be sure, cheesy metaphors along the way (“this argument needs more meat. It is presently vegan. Not that there’s anything wrong with that”) and spontaneous outbreaks into songs by the Carpenters (“it’s only just begun!” Seriously, when, unplanned, that happens with someone who is not your life partner, you know that this is the right person to collaborate with. We are clearly in the other’s brain.). After she left yesterday, I thought about going for a run, but then realized that I wanted to just … sit. The kids were at camp, and I had 3 hours to myself. I decided to watch dvr-ed Daily Shows, but seriously? I was too brain fried to keep up. This is where I am right now. My entertainment is too hard.

This morning, Jess had to go to work for a few hours, and she asked me to coordinate the plans we have with friends this evening (which, seriously, entailed fb messaging them a time to come over), and I lost my shit. She gently suggested that I take one full week off of doing any work.

I’ve been thinking about it. I really really do love my work. I love teaching (and, if I could do it without the piles of grading? Just the prep for class and in class teaching and thinking? I would love it even more. I really really love those two parts), and I’m lucky enough to have mostly great colleagues. Caitlin and I worked a lot in the common area (a corner open room with great windows and chairs) of my departmental office suite, and as it is summer, only a few people were in. Those who were were not only interested in what we were doing, but supportive, and full of suggestions when asked. Sometimes, it feels like a movie rendition of what being a professor is supposed to be (um, without the A-list actors). And, I really really love the research and writing part. I said to my other collaborator at our skype meeting two weeks ago that sometimes I want to be the kind of professor who really does take the summer off, or who doesn’t over commit to projects. She laughed, agreed, and said, “But that’s just you, Jill. Nobody’s making you do these projects. You have tenure. You just like it.” She’s right. I think that, for the sake of my career not burning out, and for my family not thinking I’m crazy, and for Jon Stewart not seeming too hard, I have to figure out a way to balance all of it.

Things that I find annoying are: the self importance that comes with some advanced degrees. This is just a job. I mean, I feel like it is a valuable job, and that, both in the classroom, and in the scholarship, I am contributing some small thing, but in the end, it is just a job like (and not like) every other job. I remember in grad school, and in the weeks after I defended my dissertation, feeling like I had accomplished this huge thing. Indeed, I had. I mean, it is, without a doubt, an accomplishment anytime a goal is completed. But, I think that what I’m starting to realize as I begin my 10th year as a professor (oh my god. that is hard to believe. Also: I am olde.), is that using the accomplishment well is almost bigger than the accomplishment itself. There is a new head of school at my kids’ school, and she asked me the other day if I felt a sadness when I finished my dissertation. I didn’t. I felt that when I finished my course work because I knew that the taking classes part of my life was over, but the work of scholarship is the work of being a professor. I get to still do that, only I have to fit in more teaching, more service (much of which I couldn’t give two shits about), etc. etc. I know that this is the forever and always discussion among women who work outside of the home, but finding the balance for all of it, not in the same ways that every other woman finds it, but for oneself is part of the making the sustenance of the career sustenance, and not burden. I don’t know. I actually cannot believe that I wrote all of those rambling words after a week in which I collaboratively wrote (and edited) close to 10,000, but it’s on my mind. Now, I must do some house cleaning with Trudy (“I LOVE cleaning!!”) who is currently swirling around the kitchen singing for me to “let it go!” Here I go.

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Gone to Carolina

I’m not really a cat person. However, the sweet purring of this persistent cat ( now rubbing his face on my laptop) who is flinging himself around on this guest room bed at my sister’s house is pretty charming. Last night, as I was chatting with Jess (and telling her about our 6.5 hour hike in the mountains. Lovely. And intense.), I watched him catch and kill a mouse, so you know. Cats. 

I get to pick up my sweet Arden from camp today! It is time. I keep wondering if he wrote me letters I’d feel less worried? I don’t know. 2 weeks is a long time to go without having a conversation with one of your most beloved. Because I went to camp every summer (for SIX weeks in Tennessee, a state that I did not live in. Six. Crazy to me now, but highly anticipated from the day we got home in August to the day we returned the next June when I was a child), I know that the time has been so wonderful and full of independent growth and and and and. But, still, I miss him.

I told my sister and brother in law that, as much as I miss him, I want this place to become a place that he, and eventually Trudy, hold as sacred. When I drive through Tennessee, the landscape feels like home in a way that no place else does. It holds me. I got turned around in Ohio on my drive down, and when Jess wondered if I’d be OK once I was firmly on I-75, I knew that I would be because I would be in familiar territory. Indeed. (although, really, as soon as I crossed into Kentucky from the midwest, I felt better. When we moved to MI, and I was desperately homesick for Atl, Jess had to remind me over and over again about the parts of the south that aren’t so great. But the great parts? So great. I don’t really think I’ll ever be a midwesterner, even as we approach the anniversary of our 9th year of living there, and even as I love so many parts of Michigan.)

And, while North Carolina has never been a home to me in the ways that Tennessee and Georgia have been, I have an emotional response to Western North Carolina. So many friends from college and our post college life in Atlanta are from here. I have vivid memories of hiking outside of Hendersonville. Our honeymoon was to Asheville. We lounged with a baby Arden and the dogs of all of the friends in the childhood home of one of the friends in Waynesville right before we moved. The curvy mountain roads have made me sick more than a few times, but it is balanced by the beauty of the views. I still vocally react to the first sighting of the Western NC part of the Appalachians. I just love it. And, now that my sister lives here and my child (and, eventually, children) come to camp here, lucky me. Lucky lucky me. I’ll get to come to Carolina not just in my mind on the regular. 

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