Monthly Archives: May 2008

Happy Belated Birthday

Yesterday was my beloved’s birthday and no, I didn’t forget; I had a FFFriday post all written and ready to go, and yesterday was too busy for me to take the time to write a proper birthday post. Besides, Mr. Chili isn’t the “go all out for birthdays” kind of guy, so I’m certain his feelings aren’t hurt that I’m posting his birthday love today instead of yesterday. Here, then, are some of the many reasons why I’m celebrating another trip around the sun with my husband:

~ He’s funny as hell. Literally not a day goes by when he doesn’t make me laugh. We’re well-tuned to one another, and we have enough shared history that, often, a raising of an eyebrow or a wink and a nod is all it takes.

~ He loves his children with a fierceness and playfulness and ease that astound me. He volunteers for field trips (as a matter of fact, he spent his birthday yesterday chaperoning Punkin’ Pie’s fifth grade band trip to an amusement park), he reads bedtime stories, he disciplines and coaches and tutors, and he does it all without a second thought – he’s their dad, that’s what he does. I knew, when I married him, that he’d be a great father. I had no idea then, though, just how lucky our children would be to have this man to call Daddy.

~ He is the smartest person I know. Seriously. I’m in awe of his professional life and proud of his work ethic. He can explain things to me in a way that makes me understand him. I feel safe when he’s around and smarter because he’s with me.

~ He is crazy-reliable. I trust him with literally everything I am and everything I have. It’s sometimes scary to have all one’s eggs in one basket, but I’m as certain as I can be that all of my proverbial little chickies are safe with him.

~ He is the kind of man that I imagine other men admire. He’s strong in an understated kind of way. He’s compassionate and caring while still guarding his inner self. He can talk sports and politics, and he’s a mean hand at the grill. He is a good and true friend.

~ He picks up where I leave off in just about everything. We make a great team, and I can’t imagine making this life with anyone else.

Happy Birthday, My Mister! The post may be a day late, but the love never stops.

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F-F-Friday

There are few flowers blooming around Chez Chili right now. The Tree is completely stripped of its blossoms and is in full leaf; the lilacs are mostly gone by. I’m not sad – these flowers had their time and I heartily enjoyed them, and now I’m looking forward to the daylilies and irises that will soon be opening.

Since I’ve got nothing current to show you, though, I went through my iPhoto and came up with these. I took them when the Chili family was vacationing on Sanibel Island in Florida in 2005. This isn’t technically a flower, but I LOVE it – it’s in the rotation for my screen saver and the symmetry of it thrills me.

This is the hibiscus that was at the bottom of the stairs of our apartment.

The only way either of these plants would even consider growing around here is if they were kept indoors.  That’s okay, though – I love the diversity of plant life in the places I go – if I could grow hibiscus here, it wouldn’t make me happy when I saw it on vacation.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

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Itchy, Updated

So, I’ve been thinking about my desire to go back to school and, as part of that thinking, I emailed a former professor to ask for advice.

I loved the class I took with James.  It was an African-American literature class, and in it we investigated the works of W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington and other influencial early-American writers of color.  We looked at speeches and books, we read short stories and listened to spirituals. It was a great course.

What I really remember about this class, though, is the way the professor let us (me) investigate the work in whatever way we felt was appropriate and meaningful.  At one point, for example, I was put in a group whose job was to deconstruct a piece of literature in the context of an historical event.  As my contribution to the group’s presentation, I looked at the race riots in Sprinfield, Ohio in 1904-05 and investigated Washington’s “cast down your bucket” speech in a voice informed by the social conditions of the time.  Washington was heaped with criticism over his “accommodationist” speech, but when one views the remarks in light of the very real – and very dangerous – social climate, one sees that Washington was probably a  lot less “accommodationist” and more “surivivalist.”

The point is that I loved this class, and I loved that James really encouraged us to think it ways that stretched the normal edges of an English class.  He was open to the idea of bringing popular culture into our discussion (both current popular culture and that of the time period).  He wanted us to make and test hypotheses – to reach just beyond our intellectual means – and was neither surprised nor disappointed when we missed.  The learning environment he set up was one in which I thrived, and as I started musing about continuing my education even further, it was James who popped into my head as someone I would want as a mentor and advisor in the process.

James has moved south of the Mason-Dixon line to work in Southern State University, and I emailed him the other day to tell him of my plans and to ask for his advice.  He was excited that I’m thinking of another degree, and told me that while a Ph.D. may feed a part of my ego, it likely isn’t my best option if I plan to work locally – a Master’s will be just fine to suit my needs.  This is advice I’ve heard before (the last time I mentioned this idea, some of you have told me that a doctorate would likely limit, rather than expand, my employment options).  James was also excited about my decision to pursue a degree in history.  He is a prominent scholar of African-American history and literature and is pleased that I want to work toward making my own connections between history and literature more stable and clear.

Finally, James told me that it would be perfectly fine for me to work toward my degree from Local U.  It seems that my alma mater has a good reputation in the historical-academic community, and James doesn’t think that having all of my degrees from the same institution would be a hinderance at all.  I’m more than a little happy to have him say that; I’ve got two daughters whose schooling I’ll need to pay for and I’d like to not spend any more money on my own education than is strictly necessary.

SO!  The next step is finding out if adjuncts get a break on tuition.  Even if they don’t, I’m still committed to taking at least one class in the fall.  God/dess help me!

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Beating Back the Voices

One of my friendships died not too long ago, and I’m spending a fair bit of time being mindful of NOT letting myself take all the blame for it.

Am I culpable?  Sure; nothing is ever entirely one-sided.  I’ve got plenty of “woulda, coulda, shouldas” floating around in my head.

I’m kind of like an alcoholic when it comes to guilt, though, and I’m trying very hard to not accept any more responsibility than is actually mine.  I’ve investigated my behavior and have come back with the assessment that – again, while I’m not perfect or blameless – neither am I any of the things that the voices in my head (the ones that sounds remarkably like my parents) would have me believe.

I still find it amazing, in a sad and sorry way, that after all the work I’ve done to heal my childhood – after all the realizations and all the rehabilitation of my psyche that I’ve spent the better part of 20 years doing – all those voices can come crashing back with such arrogant authority.  The clarity and volume with which these voices still speak to me is astounding, and while I am up to the task of silencing them, I’m surprised that it’s taking as much effort as it is.

I can wedge a chair against the door, but the monsters will forever live in that closet.

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Ten Things Tuesday

The holiday threw me, and I almost forgot it was Tuesday!  I’m totally boosting my sister‘s theme today – ten things I love about summer:

1.  The ice cream shacks open up.  Really?  Doesn’t this kinda go without saying?

Oh, and there’s Ben and Jerry’s in my freezer again.  Mmmmmmm!

2.  Sleeping with the windows open.  I love the sound of wind through the trees, I love the sound of peepers peeping and crickets chirping, and I love the way the air smells at night.  Oh, and thunderstorms!  I LOVE a good thunderstorm.

3.  Cooking outdoors.  Now, it’s true that Mr. Chili has dug paths through the snow to get to the grill, but somehow the food cooked outdoors tastes better in the summer.  Our favorites are lemon-garlic soaked chicken, hamburgers, and good steaks.  Mmmmm!

4.  Green things.  We don’t have a garden, per se, but a bunch of stuff grows in our yard all by itself.  I’ve got lilacs out there and, of course, The Tree.  We’ve also got hostas and some lilies and irises coming up, too.  In another week or so, I’m going to put my houseplants out for summer vacation – they LOVE that, and I love how much they grow over the warm months.  Often, the growing they do in the summer is enough to hold them through the dark cold New England winters.  Plus, all the trees outside our windows leaf up and we can’t see our neighbors for six months.  I love that.

5.  Driving with the windows down.  Despite the fact that my hair goes EVERYWHERE (I’m thinking about leaving a hat in the car), I love driving with the windows open.  Even better if I’ve got some music going at teenager-volume.

6.  Summer clothes.  I love light linen and cotton, I love short pants and tank tops, and I love sundresses and skorts.  My summer clothes are cute, and I’m always excited to take them out of storage at the end of May. (Of course, I’ll be excited to rediscover all my trousers and woobie sweaters come October, too, but that’s another post).  I love summer pajamas, too.

7.  School vacation.  Even though I’ve been working during the summers for the last few years, I still love having the girls home from school.  We have nice, leisurely mornings (most of the time) and the entire pace of our lives feels less stressed and hurried.  This summer, I’m only teaching one course, one day a week, and the class is scheduled at night, so I’ll be able to be home with the girls full-time.  They’ll likely want to go to day camp for a couple of days a week, but I’m looking forward to bicycle rides, walks, and lunches with Daddy this summer.

8.  Summer food.  Salads, watermelon, peaches, strawberries and blueberries.  Mmmmmm.  My diet improves dramatically over the warmer months, and I look forward to the produce departments getting more colorful as the summer approaches.

9.  Long days.  I may bitch about the fact that it gets dark around here at quarter to four in the afternoon during the depths of winter, but I LOVE that it’s light out until damned near 9:30 at the height of summer.  I love being able to read in bed without having to turn on the lights, and I really like that the light – and not the alarm clock – wakes me in the morning.

10.  Hanging with friends.  O’Mama and I spend time together window shopping or lunching outdoors.  The Chili family went in for half of the inflatable pool that Bowyer set up in his yard, and I love spending afternoons on his porch watching all our kids splash around (and then kicking the kids out, getting noodles and wine coolers, and floating around in there ourselves).  Lazy time spent with good friends.  THAT’S what I love about summer.

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!

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Boosted from Bo

Don’t you just love alliteration?

I was going to post something profound and meaningful about Memorial Day, but I just don’t have it in me. I was in bed this morning thinking about how to best acknowledge the day, and all I came up with is how conflicted I am about the whole affair.

I hate war. HATE it. I can understand it on an intellectual level… sort of… but as a thinking, feeling human being, I just can’t get behind it. I don’t live an antagonistic and aggressive existence, and I have a hard time understanding where the glory is in our choosing to kill one another instead of our being grown-up and compassionate and figuring out a way to work our shit out.

I am grateful to the people who choose to serve. Our reality is that such service is necessary for the kind of lives we choose to lead, and I’m not being disrespectful or dismissive to soldiers in general. I just wonder how much our world was (is) served by the slaughter of our young people in fights over land, resources and, more accurately, ideologies (and when I say “our,” I don’t mean only red-blooded American boys, either – I mean everyone).

So, instead of waxing philosophic here, I’m going to do a meme I boosted from Bo. Then I’m going to go to a 400-yard parade in the next town over, have some lunch with my family, and visit my grandparents. We’ll probably hang out with the Bowyer clan later this afternoon, and I’ve got some grades to enter. That’s my Memorial Day. I hope yours is lovely.

What do you most hate about modern life ?

A lack of manners. I’m not sure what caused it, but it seems that precious few people anymore know how to be nice to each other. I’m constantly amazed by how many people are willing to take me aside to tell me how lovely my children are. People, my children are polite – they’re not superheroes or anything; they know how to say please and thank you and how to look people in the eye when they talk to them. Seriously?

What kind of people annoy you ?
(I’m stealing Bo’s answer to this question – it’s pretty much exactly what I would say) The willfully ignorant. Stupidity isn’t your fault, but ignorance is. If you can’t learn, that’s fine. If you won’t, then it’s quite difficult for me to find any motivation to help you.

What drives you nuts ?
People who stop at the end of highway on ramps. Students who refuse to do their work. Parents who refuse to do their work…

What do you watch on TV ?

We have TiVo, so we watch stuff off-time. I like Medium (that’s “Weird Lady” to Gerry) and Grey’s Anatomy. We also like Good Eats and Mythbusters.

Films watched many times ?
Ooof. This is a question that I could (and will) answer more completely later. How about these three: Mississippi Burning, Apollo 13, and A Few Good Men.

What sport do you follow/teams do you support ?
The Red Sox and the New England Patriots.

Why?
I learned to like baseball because my husband likes baseball, and the Sox have a team loaded with lots of fun personalities. I like the Patriots because I love football and, during my formative years, the Patriots sucked really, really badly, so it’s fun for me to see them actually doing well.

Sport on TV ?
I’ve been to a Sox game or two, and I watch my daughter run her track events, but I usually only watch sports on t.v. I’ve never been to a Patriots’ game and I likely never will. It’s too far to drive, it costs too much, the traffic is stupid getting in and out and really? The view from my couch is MUCH better.

What might surprise people to know about you ?
I think my taste in music and movies surprises most people. I love to rock out on stuff that’s much harder than people would expect, and I love me a good, fast, loud action/adventure movie.

What trait do you most dislike

Closed-mindedness. Bigots need not apply.

Believer or non ?
I believe in a higher consciousness, and I believe that I’m a part of it.

In which case, does anything irritate you about other believers ?

Back off of me. I’m not trying to convince anyone to think the way I do, and I’d really appreciate that the favor gets returned. I also hate the fact that people use their “faith” to justify their above-mentioned closed-mindedness. Don’t blame God for your prejudices.

What would you rather people today did not do, other than obvious wickedness ?
I wish that people would stop thinking of themselves as separate from everyone. If we start recognizing ourselves in others, we’ll stop hurting each other.

You are God. What sins do you find hardest to forgive ?
God, by the very nature of the idea, forgives everything (because, really, there’s nothing TO forgive – it’s all about learning). What *I* find hardest to forgive is willful harm done to others – taunting, hate crimes, crimes for sport.

What skills would you love to have ?
I’d like to be able to sing consistently well. I’d like to be able to play an instrument. Of course, I don’t want either of these things enough to put time or effort into them, so there you have it.

What bores you ?
Basketball and racing on t.v. Politicians droning on about something that doesn’t operate inside my sphere of concern. All-employee meetings.

One word to describe yourself ?
Compassionate.

What are you most looking forward to ?
Honestly? This semester being over. I want a few days to myself.

Happy Memorial Day, Everyone!

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Itchy

I’ve been thinking, again, about going back to school.

To be fair, I never actually stop thinking about going back to school. I’m like a hungry baby when it comes to education – I always want more.

I’m thinking a lot today about going back to school. I want another degree – whether another Master’s or a Ph.D. doesn’t really matter to me – though the degree itself isn’t the motivation. I want to be challenged and to be inspired. I want to work and to think and to discover things that I didn’t know before. I want to write and to argue and to convince. I want to learn more as a student so that I can be a better teacher.

I’ve been circling around areas of concentration for a while now, and I think I’m narrowing in on the literature and history of the American Civil Rights era. I’m withholding a final judgment on that until after my fellowship at Not So Local College’s Holocaust center this summer, but I know for sure that I’ve always been drawn to the writing and thinking that comes out of human struggle. Apartheid, the Native American experience, gay and lesbian literature, India’s fight for independence from England and, of course, the work of both the Holocaust and the Civil Rights are absolutely fascinating to me, and I’m itching to design a program of study of the literature of the oppressed

The struggle for equality – for humanity – finds its highest expression, I think, in art. I’m not entirely sure that it’s possible to struggle for something as momentous as freedom without artistic expression. I’m still working my way toward this idea, of course, and I’m going to need advisers who are much smarter than I to put me on a path that might actually lead somewhere, but I’m certainly not short of enthusiasm. I’m ready, I think, to think like a student again.

Earning degrees is a lot like giving birth. It’s hard work. It takes a lot longer than one wants it to. I remember well the lead-up to finishing my Master’s, and how much it really sucked. Like giving birth, though, there’s joy in it (and, like giving birth, one needs a recovery time to forget how much it sucked and be willing to do it again). Yes, the work is hard and yes, sometimes it’s painful. It’s work that’s rarely done in isolation, though, and the end result is always worth the effort.

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