Monday, August 30, 2010

Owning Up and Trying to Have a Sense of Humor

I'm so behind. SO behind. I still haven't gotten things back on track since Tot and I were sick. Then last week I had one of those funk days where I got a number of good things done, but I didn't make great headway on the things that are really behind. I'm just hanging on until this is all over, so I can focus for a while on an old (creative) project that I'm all excited about again. But first I have to slog my way through to the end, starting with catching up on things I'm having a hard enough time getting myself to do already.

Now, this morning Tot is sneezing and sniffling. And I've already had a minor freak out. This is not a great way to start out the week!

My emotions were also running high yesterday. I hate apologizing for being a bitch. But I certainly was. I'm pretty sure it's that I'm excited about this new-again project, but I have no time to work on it. My home life is almost completely Tot-care. Tot is not the kind of kid who can be held on my lap while I work. In fact, if the laptop is out, he wants to plunk on it. If we're not paying enough attention to him, he starts running around the house screaming. So I can't get work done here, whether teaching, scholarly, creative -- you name it. The only thing I can do is cook, and then only if Absurdist Lover watches him. The trouble is we both have our agendas for the day and have to compromise. I was definitely not a good compromiser this weekend. In fact, I pretty much sucked at being a decent adult, at least yesterday. But I did make a pretty fabulous zucchini bread, my first. Not that zucchini bread makes anything okay, but it certainly makes for a nicer breakfast.

Now, I'm going to pull myself together and try to be a calm mom and academic with a big supply of humor. Is anything so bad that it's really worth freaking out about? This is just the natural absurdity of our lives. If I just look at it right, I know it's super-funny.

Everyone: have a great week full of focus, self-knowledge and -control, and lovely things going right!

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Cooking (Finally!)

So cooking is now my main creative outlet (though I'm also trying to coax myself into writing again). I love it. I had forgotten how much I loved it. In the past I've gone through periods of being really into cooking, and then sort of falling away from it. But right now the loads of fresh gorgeous vegetables that we get from working at the CSA and the fact that we now get ALL of our meat from local and organic sources means that I must cook. All that good food deserves good care. So lately I've learned how to cook kale in garlic and onion (everything tastes good with garlic and onion -- that is my kitchen motto). I also stuffed a zucchini really vying for baseball bat. I make a lot of small organic burgers, like my grandmother used to make though she wasn't American at all. I made pizza with homemade pizza dough, though it had too much whole wheat flour and AL wasn't a big fan of that. I've also made two rounds of pasta sauce starting with these amazing heirloom tomatoes from the farm. Then there are the sausages we get from the farmer's market. Tot loves ground meat, so he eats sweet Italian sausage and brats and burgers. If only I could get him to eat some fresh veggies! (Though he eats some root veggies he really loves from jars -- organic, of course.)

In addition to figuring out kale, which isn't a big hit in my house (the kale chips went over with Tot like a lead balloon), I've made homemade coleslaw (also not a big hit with anyone but me), cooked beets for the first time (oh my! delish!), made tomatillo salsa, and figured out a sure-fire garlic and onion green bean recipe that AL loves. (Made it with bacon yesterday -- and he was totally overthetop happy.) I also have a broiled zucchini recipe AL loves.

And then there are the omelettes I make when I'm tired and want to make something fast.

AL has sort of despaired of ever eating takeout again, but I don't want to eat CAFO meat (which means eating fish or vegetarian, which is fine) and I want to support Tot's growing interest in eating whatever we're eating. I want Tot to eat mostly organic foods and definitely not CAFO meat since a kid DIED from eating a fast-food hamburger. (How can we live in a country where the government does NOT have the power to recall bad meat? Or to notify citizens of where it came from? How come it's more important to protect the good names of cows (okay, some of these laws probably cover more than just beef -- or not even beef) and CAFOs and the four main meat processors and stock prices than it is to protect citizens? Government by the people for the people? I think not. More like government by the people with money for the people with money. Why aren't we outraged? Why aren't we rebelling against our corporate-driven government? Do we expect that someday we too will have the money to shape policy? I think we're so disgusted we've opted out. AL and I want to move to Europe. You know, no country quite has CAFOs like we do. And many countries in Europe have outlawed GMOs while we have them rampant all over our food and can't even get a law forcing companies to LABEL their products! What is wrong with us???) So takeout is not a great option, though we did get pizza over the weekend.

I also taught myself how to make cheesecake, which has nothing to do with organic or healthy anything, though I'd really like to teach myself to make cream cheese so I can be sure that it's rBGH free. (By the way, did y'all see that Haagen-Dazs has not gone rBGH-free? I bet they use the same arguments that so many others use, that "the market" simply won't allow them to make a commitment to using milk products that don't increase the likelihood of cancer. The fact is it's totally possible to get rid of rBGH completely. Other countries have banned its use, leaving the good old US of A as the only industrialized nation that permits its use. But it's bad for cows and people. But guess who developed rBGH and sold it to a division of Eli Lilly? Yes, one of the most powerful transnational corporations in the world. Yes, the one that seems to care WAY more about their own profits than the health of any of us. If Haagen-Dazs won't figure out how to get off the Monsanto dole, well, they don't deserve my money. Goodbye Haagen-Dazs coffee and chocolate chocolate chip! I'll eat Ben and Jerry's!)

What else have I been making? I can't remember. I think I'll go and cook up some beets.

I Wanted to Write about Cooking, but This is What Came Out

So while many of my academic friends are starting their semesters or gearing up to start them, I'm waist-deep in my summer quarter and taking the day off because I'm sick.

I've been thinking a lot about how I grew up -- or specific shaping experiences from my childhood -- and how they affect me now, how they color my view of the world. And I'm thinking that they do. I see possible menace around most corners. Sometimes it seems amazing to me that people don't kick in locked doors and smash through glass much more often than they do. I guess some part of me doesn't really believe in safety or security. Many of my dreams are about being chased or found -- or acquiescing to some terrible more powerful person in order to live through it. (I guess that sums up some aspects of my childhood pretty well.) I also have a terrible temper, a really low threshold for frustration.

I've explored all this -- written about it, talked about it, addressed it. I was in therapy once, though I think we focused on other things, and it seems like therapy is probably the next step now, but I also had a bad therapy experience. (Don't get me started about therapists I've known from the way past and the problems I can see with therapy.) My former therapist said I had a lot of stuff that was right on the surface. If the point is to talk this stuff out in order to get it out of my subconscious, well, I've done that. I know at least some of the ways in which this childhood stuff colors my life. But what do I do about that, dammit? I want practical strategies, not to just talk about it all the time. I told this to my former therapist, but I think developing practical cognitive strategies wasn't really his strong point. Of course, he also wanted me to go get diagnosed and medicated as manic depressive. I will admit that I feel like I've spent a fair amount of my life trying to cope with fluctuating moods, but not in a manic depressive way. More of a turbulent way. (Super rapid cycling?) A friend of mine said it really well. What did she say? She said I was. . .unpredictable? Something like that. Well, if you think it's hard to predict how I'm going to respond when you're a different person, imagine how much harder it is to live inside that? I try for self-awareness, growth, self-acceptance, but there's a lot going on in here. I often don't know what's going on! It's not that I'm deliberately emotionally dishonest, but I've got a lot of conflicting emotions, some that are elusive even to me! I'm trying to be more mindful. And Tot definitely deserves someone more in control. I certainly don't want to recycle that particular childhood with different players. AL says that a good therapist would help me to see it differently, would ask me different kinds of questions that would help me see it in a different way. It's hard for me to imagine that there's territory I haven't explored, read about, written about, talked to other people about, etc., but I guess that's when you go to therapy. So that is likely coming up in the coming months.

I also really have an aversion to some of the discourse around childhood experiences like mine. The victim discourse. The overuse of the word "abuse." I do understand when people say "I'm this way because this happened to me when I was a kid and I'm still dealing with it" but I don't like to do that. I guess I really want to pass as normal in some ways. I know I'm not. But I don't want people to look at me as some maladjusted misfit either playing the victim card. Yes, I have the credibility to play that card. But I like being able to pass. I really don't want to blame my present lot on my childhood -- that was a long time ago and I'm an adult. But I can see the ways all this fear and crap self-esteem sort of lowers the horizon of my expectations. Sometimes life seems so bleak. (On the other hand, there are great gifts of all this too. I think I understand better when people living under political oppression say that they wonder if every car they hear is for them, if soldiers or whoever are going to break in and drag them out from their beds. How do people live with that, most Americans wonder? You just do, I want to say. You can't help yourself. You live with it, around it, under it. You get used to it, even as it weighs on you, even as you wonder if your kids will make it home from school. You half-expect something to blow up between here and every there you go to.)

But why does all of this lead to crap self-esteem even eons hence? I know I didn't deserve those experiences. I really do know. I know the circumstances and life histories that led to those experiences. I've done work on forgiving the people involved. I can conjure up anger at them if I want. But it does me no good except that anger is a firey emotion and is not as debilitating as grief. But it's all so stupid. Of course, having a child has brought all this up. I wanted to be better by the time I had a kid. I get so mad -- and at what? The fact that being a toddler, he has different priorities. He doesn't understand the importance of getting out the door right now before the cat scrambles out. Or that he can't have his way all the time. Ridiculous. He's a child. He needs love and discipline, not a mom who flashes red because of stupid things. I really do think a part of this is that I feel so worn down that those flashes of anger are also flashes of energy. I need to work out, which is the only thing that I've decided I really must do today, even in the face of a bunch of work that should get done but which is not compatible with the relaxing and recuperating taking a sick day ought to involve.

Why is all this on the surface and why do I feel compelled to share it? Well, I saw a website that advertises parent coaching. It might good. It might be totally inspired. I don't know. But it basically said that when I lose my cool, this reflects on my maturity level. Parenting is about the parents. And while I totally agree with this, reflecting on it in the moment only contributes to my feeling terrible about myself, something I'm trying to work on. I'm actively trying to have a better outlook and not indulge in the ridiculous self-fulfilling self-talk that I'm undeserving and undisciplined and nothing good is ever going to happen for me (a line of logic that my lived life already proves false, but these things aren't logical). Somehow saying to myself that I've got problems or that I'm not good at controlling my temper means that I'm a totally terrible person, rather than a person with an important flaw that I'm working on. So I'm not that mature. Okay, I can live with that. But is parenting really all about the parents? Is this discourse really about blaming parents for all that happens with kids, when that's really just not fair at all? (I'm not linking to these websites because I don't feel I'm representing them fairly or accurately. I haven't participated in their programs, so I can't really say. But I wonder if I would want to participate in their programs or if this is just another way to make parents feel bad or what?)

Why post this on my blog? To own it? To come out? I don't know exactly. I'm writing it because though I really want to write about other things, this is what's come out. But that doesn't explain publishing it. Hmmm. I guess I'm pressing publish because I need to connect with others, share, be heard and listen to what others have to say. Your turn.


I feel flipping fantastic! Worth 50 mg of Zoloft my friends. Surely if I worked out regularly, my frustration would just melt away. So much of my life is good. Blessed, really. Thank you, Legs of Steel 2000!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Quick Grumble

I've got HFMD now. I should've realized it was inevitable; Tot would likely have not shown symptoms if I'd be immune. It's not so bad. Mostly the blisters are just painful to the touch, as if I've got splinters or something inside my skin. I was having some other trouble anyway, so now I just feel pretty diseased all over. It took Tot forever to finally go to sleep. Absurdist Lover went to bed hours ago. I should go to bed and get some sleep before Tot wakes up and wants to be brought to bed. I always do better if I get to sleep and get some sleep before he comes to bed. What a great start to the weekend.

I've been trying to be more mindful of what goes in and out of my head, so I won't vomit grumbles though it's really tempting (but will it make me feel better?). I wish to spend at least part of my day on things that make me feel better. The interesting thing about having to stop like this mid-quarter is that I've been thinking a lot about creative work. It's nice.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grumpy Tot, Grumpy Mom. . .Not?

So guess who was at the farm today when she got a phone call from the daycare saying that Tot has blisters showing up on his hands and feet? As in Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.

That's right! Me!

So despite that there is a local conference I've been looking forward to for months, I'm looking squarely at least a week of full-time Earnest-as-Supermom Totcare. I wonder how many times one can watch Follow that Bird before one becomes stark raving mad? I've been reading Amanda Cross mysteries (thank you, Ink, if you're out there, but what happened to that Professorroman link?), and finishing the last one I thought maybe I'd try to read some inspiring creative work or something on anger, but clearly I need to get over to the used bookstore immediately because I'm going to need to read something soothing after hard consoling-Tot days.

He's in his crib now crying because he threw toys when I said not to and that's his punishment. Dear lord. I feel like a terrible mom. Maybe the next week will be fun. Right? Any ideas of consoling things to do since we can't go to the park? Sigh.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

At Long Last! Finished for Now

So I've been in article-writing mode for the last three weeks. Blogs haven't been read, emails haven't been returned. Obviously, I haven't been writing here either. I finished and turned the article in last night. It's not very good -- and I don't mean that just in the usual self-effacing way. I've got to figure out a new way of approaching an article so that I'm doing more of my own writing and less picking out of quotes earlier on, because this article really feels like quotes strung together. I think I'm going to take my advisor's advice about comp exams and transform it into advice for articles, which is that after some reading, stop and write for a while. I sort of did that, but not very well. I can do better. I really need to teach myself a way of writing a journal article that feels more organic. Cutting and pasting a bunch of small writings just doesn't lead, usually, to an article that has organic flow. I need to be a better tour guide through my ideas. Now I have to figure out how to do that.

I'm so glad to have this one off my plate for the time being, so glad in fact that I've been pondering my next project, which is to turn one of my dissertation chapters (the first fundamental one) into an article for my favorite journal. One of my fundamental research sources for that project has a new edition, so I need to catch up on the latest. I also have tons of things I just want to read and understand, some related to this immediate project, some not. I'm also going to use my write an article in 12 weeks book for the upcoming article as well. I'm planning on giving myself until the end of the year to experiment with new ways of writing while I revise this piece. Maybe one day I'll get back to some creative work (though not before October).

I'm completely behind on grading and service, naturally. But I'm not worrying about that today. I've plagued my poor little family with my stress, compounded with Absurdist Tot's incessant teething of his two-year molars. But Tot slept through the night (until 7:30am) last night, the first night in weeks where he hasn't gotten up in the wee hours and come to bed with us. So I'm going to try to have a relaxing family time, complete with cooking, which I finally figured out is the great project of 2010. So far, I've taught myself how to bake bread, make homemade pizza, make cheesecake, and countless things having to do with wonderful farm-fresh vegetables. I intend to continue doing great things in the kitchen. We're also going to the farmer's market today. Yum. I'm looking forward to a shower.