Archive for September, 2012


will I?

If I let them cut and highlight my hair, will I look like her?

Cuz’ that would totally be worth it.


oh, and have a nice day

Received this in my college-job email inbox tonight:

Greetings (Adjunct) Faculty,

Today was first overload and adjunct pay for Fall 2012. On 9/1_, your check should have reflected the pay for this academic year.

Attached is a Pay Calculation worksheet you can use to determine if your Fall 2012 is correct. The contract is posted online at http://www.xxxfaculty/*, starting on page __ (Appendix XYZ). Please take a few minutes, and run your numbers with this worksheet to ensure that you are being paid correctly.

Under NO circumstances should you respond to me asking questions on how do use the form, if your pay is correct, or to report problems. I teach computer programming and networking, and can barely spell deductions. I’m just the person sending you the information, the one who drew the short straw. I will not respond to any questions or replies.

However, if you do have problems, contact someone in Payroll or C W at culater@wedon’

Have a great weekend…and don’t reply to me 🙂

Faculty Association Secretary


Charming, isn’t it? Really makes me feel valued. Never mind that this secretary is certainly paid more money than any of the adjuncts with whom she is communicating, despite the fact that they probably have multiple advanced degrees, and can spell deductions as well as write complete sentences.


*Full disclosure: the 2+2=5 and culater@wedon’ were made up. The rest is a direct quote.




a journal of an event too long to chronicle, with none of the dates right except this one

this will be way too long to be a poem, probably
can’t be bothered with the pentameter or the rhyme

five years ago
or so
on my way to see mom after her second cancer surgery
wearing green pants and red sneakers
only daughter asked
you’re not wearing those shoes with those pants are you?

be careful what you wish for
(a girl in my house,
someone to tell me
if my shoes went
with my outfit)

not what they thought it
but a “glio”
and then

and mascara on husband’s pants
from crying with my head on his lap
(he said he didn’t mind)
(I believed him)

DVTs and oxygen

today restacking the long shelf of music
unbending the scores to stand them up against the
shelf above
reminding me of shifting mom in her bed,
nurses at corners counting one two three
while I “mind the feet”

crying in the tub as the water climbs

I am her
her disappointments and her defensiveness and the fact
that what I say is rarely what the world hears
and my attempts to order the world
without ever ending up really knowing
how I feel
about anything



just found this in my drafts box

from May 22, so not even the date is right

am not going to edit it, so here it is, in its raw form


oh, *that* conflict of interest

Romney’s latest: Democrats should stop taking money from the teacher’s unions, as it presents an inexcusable conflict of interest.

Unlike all those donations from corporations. Guess that’s ‘cuz corporations are people too; but teachers, apparently, are not?

This, also from the article linked to above, is pretty precious as well: “I know something about polls and I know you can ask questions to get any answer you want.”

Like the ones you quote when you say you’re in the lead?

Just keep talkin’ Mitt. Just keep talkin’.



waiting for mom to die

Husband and I were on our way to a lakefront cottage for a week*. We had rented it the year before, and peopled it with family and friends until we were literally bursting at the seams. We took turns cooking, and drank margaritas and copious amounts of wine, and had a fabulous time. But this year it was just the two of us, a conscious decision that we would alternate this week on a yearly basis, one year with as many people as we could squeeze in, the other just the two of us.

Saturday, our first day, was also the first day of a three-day gig for me at a nearby music camp, accompanying for an international brass competition. Husband loitered in the parking lot while I rehearsed, and then we headed the rest of the way at around 5 p.m. We stopped and shopped on the way, filling our cart with food we would both enjoy, and that we would enjoy even more because it wouldn’t be accompanied by the groans of picky children complaining about our choices: arugula, lots of seafood, sharp cheeses, local berries and corn and tomatoes; lots of good wine, loaves of sourdough. We tucked the grocery bags around and between the duffels and pillows and bedding and board games in the back of my Prius.

The first few days of the trip were quite cool and cloudy, but the sky would always clear faithfully right at sunset, so I ended up taking dozens of pictures as the view changed dramatically (well, it seemed so at the time) every few seconds. On the second night, Sunday, the clouds and water seemed to be competing to see which could display the most and most varied shades of purple, and one bird in particular seemed to be posing for his portrait by zipping back and forth in front of my camera and across the gleaming path laid down by the sun across the water.

On Monday morning, very early, the taptaptap of the coming rain woke us, and Husband dashed out to the deck, naked, to rescue chair cushions and towels. Monday night we made a fire in the hanging fireplace, using wood we had bought for $3/bin from a stand alongside the road. While we were loading the wood into the back of the car the neighbor’s mutt had dashed across the road to greet us, sniffing at our ankles and then the car door. I thought he might get in the car and go off with us, but his owner called him back, and he trotted across the road, no one seemingly concerned about the possibility of any oncoming traffic (there wasn’t any). We then drove to the nearest town, buying food at an excellent Mexican restaurant and beer at the Mexican grocery to bring “home” to eat. At the grocery the owner’s two children played in the store window, their black eyes shining as the younger one peeked out from the cardboard cutout he was hiding behind.

Tuesday was to be our first full day at the beach, as the brass competition had kept me traveling back and forth the previous three days. Monday night Husband had asked me about my “ambitions” for Tuesday, so I had listed them: sleep until I woke up, drink lots of coffee with breakfast, read on the beach, take a nap, swim if it were warm enough, a long walk on the beach before dinner, a good meal and a good bottle of wine with dinner, and then losing at Scrabble by the fireplace after sunset (I only win Scrabble in Pisa). I had managed the first two things, and had just settled down in my beach chair with “Ulysses” (I’m trying, but am mostly just puzzled), when Husband appeared at the bottom of the stairs with my phone in his hand and a concerned look on his face. One of my sisters had called the landline at the cottage, and told him to have me check my voicemail.

It was my oldest sister telling me that mom had taken a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, was in what the medical professionals called a stage of terminal restlessness, and was about to be sedated. The goal was for her to sleep, and, once sedated, it was doubtful that she would ever wake up. If we wanted even the possibility of one more conversation, or at least her awareness of our presence, we needed to come. Now.

The most recent development had been five days earlier, when, out of frustration with continuing digestive problems, mom had informed this same sister that she wasn’t going to eat anymore. We all figured that, once she had taken a day or two off from eating, her digestive system would “calm down” and she would resume eating at least jello and broth and the other few things that hadn’t been aggravating her stomach.

But all of these problems were actually a result of the fact that she had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma over five years ago, a couple of years after having one mastectomy, and a couple of years before having another. (These two cancers, the brain tumor and the breast cancers, were completely unrelated.) In hindsight, the digestive problems were probably a sign of her system shutting down.

She had outlived the prognosis for people with glioblastomas by around four years. She had long exceeded the protocol for chemo, and had discontinued it more than year earlier, merely because it wasn’t known what being on that type of chemo for that long would ultimately do to/for her. When the brain cancer began to show progression again she resumed the regimen that had been previously effective, but was immediately so tired and felt so generally unwell that she decided it wasn’t worth it and discontinued it shortly thereafter.

(It would seem that, with all of this history, this call wouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was. As one of my sisters put it at one point, we had been sprinting a marathon since May, with no view of where or idea of when we would reach the finish line.)

We decided to drive up, about 100 miles from where we were, so we filled up a water bottle and threw a couple of peaches and a can of almonds into a bag, and headed out. It seemed that our drive was destined to be thwarted by “life is a journey” drivers, and people turning left against a lot of traffic. What we calculated would take an hour and forty minutes or so took well over two, and mom was deeply asleep by the time we arrived.

I sat by her side in her hospice room for over three hours as friends came and went, giving quick hugs and kisses on a cheek or forehead, and ducking quickly out blinking away tears and patting us sympathetically on our shoulders. When we would tell mom that someone had arrived she would move one foot, which we took to mean that she heard and understood, although nobody could tell us for sure. When I was alone with her I sat, wishing I was one of those people who just knew what to say, convinced that she could hear us and would want us to talk to her and around her, but not knowing what to say. When I did speak, I would look at her feet. Neither moved.

When we left that night we drove to a nearby newly-opened, highly-acclaimed restaurant, and Husband and I ate a delicious meal — baked sunflower served on a tomato puree and topped with goat cheese and puff pastry, broccoli raab with lemon, caramelized scallops on creamy polenta with eggplant and tomato chutney, grouper on parmesan risotto so creamy and cheesy I’ve sworn off “healthful” risotto for the rest of my life as a waste if not a betrayal to the spirit of risotto itself. We accompanied the meal with a Sonoma Valley Chardonnay and finished with dark chocolate cake over a raspberry reduction. I felt this topped off the surreality of the day, and we toasted my mom and her life while I savored every bite and felt pathologically guilty for doing so (the story of my life; I’m nothing if not conflicted).

The expectation was that, once sedated, my mom would probably continue in this sleeping state for anywhere from a couple of days to a week or more. Our plan was to drive back to our cottage, spend Wednesday there, and return to her hospice room on Thursday.

I sat on the steps leading down to the water that night and listened to the endless ssssswwsssshh of the water against the shore. The moon was markedly absent, so the stars shone in stark relief against the night sky, and a plane at one point flew directly across the Big Dipper.

Wednesday was a beautiful day. We felt like we were stealing it. We slept in, puttered around, walked a good ways along the beach, picked up a plastic bag full of dead balloons and ribbon and plastic water bottles and other detritus on the way back; then I sat in “my” chair and watched the water. I checked my phone every ten minutes. We cooked a delicious meal, and had just settled in to a game of Scrabble when my sister called. Mom’s breathing had changed markedly a couple of hours before, and became slower and slower, until they — two of my sisters and my youngest brother — realized that it had stopped.

Mom had died.

We actually had gone through many weeks in May quite sure it was just around the corner as she recovered from a brain bleed after she fell in her apartment. It had been discovered early in May that she actually had two large blood clots: one in her leg from ankle to thigh, which had caused severe swelling and pain, and one in the airway between her lungs. We had rallied, and set up a schedule to have someone staying with her until she became more steady on her feet as she started a regimen of blood thinners and breathed oxygen from a portable tank. Blood clots, or what is technically referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVTs), are common side effects of some cancers, as apparently the presence of certain cancers in the body alter the chemistry of the blood and make it more likely to clot. She was moved into hospice after the brain bleed and resulting paralysis on her left side left her unable to get up by herself and required the use of a catheter. Early in August she had regained strength and mobility, was able to walk with a walker, was deemed a hospice “failure,” and moved to an assisted living facility. This move was short-lived, and her return to hospice had just been completed on Monday.

And on Wednesday she died.

We drove back up on Thursday and stocked coolers for visitors and went through dozens of her photo albums to assemble a collage of pictures of her and her friends and family and travels. Back to the cottage Thursday night, up for the visitation and funeral on Saturday and Sunday. The services were evangelical, and disappointing to me as they seemed to focus on the pastor’s vision of what awaited her after her death, (a vision I don’t necessarily share, and certainly without all of his certainty,) rather than a celebration of her life and family. Maybe it’s just me, and my state of mind at the time, and my fate as the sixth of eight children, and my pervasive sense for most of my life that the afterlife mattered more to my mom than I did. I know there were conversations I had wanted to have with her, but chose not to, realizing that they would only try to serve what I needed, probably fail, and probably make things worse between us than they already were. I’m sure this is not only my story, but that of many. I also know there were conversations she had with my sisters about these very things, but she never had them with me.

I know she did her best; we all do. Knowing this, I am still sad that I will always feel that her best left me feeling that something was lacking. I worry that my children will feel the same.

At the burial we released balloons into a gorgeous blue sky, and I remembered all of the balloons we had picked up along the beach.

We drove back to our cottage the day after the funeral, Only Daughter in tow. The owner of the cottage had graciously offered to extend our stay for a few days, as our week had ended up so fragmented and difficult. We drove more than a thousand miles that week, and hadn’t spent more than 36 hours in any one place. We were very grateful.

We spent Monday afternoon, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning at the beach. It was warmer, and lovely, and surreal. Only Daughter practiced her balance beam routine on the deck’s benches; the water warmed enough for us to swim; the sunsets were beautiful.

On Wednesday morning, our last day there, we took one more long walk on the beach. A short way into the walk we encountered a gull, apparently sleeping, but as we neared he turned his head weakly towards us, and then tried to drag himself sideways away from us with a wing. He was clearly severely injured, and we know enough about seagulls to know not to try to get close to help. We walked our “usual” long path, and watched for him upon our return. He was still there, caught in the edges of the tide, waiting to die.

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*This all happened in mid-August. I have just found time, and the frame of mind, to write it now.


looks about right

(Clicking on each headline should take you to the article in its entirety.)

(This right after his brilliant suggestion that we “kick [the difficult problems in the Middle East] down the road and hope someone else comes up with a solution.”)

To sum up: Apparently Mitt believes that he is in a dead heat with Obama,  ” . . . an outright denial of political reality, but Mr. Romney’s willingness to stray from the truth is at the root of what’s really going on.”

and. . .

an article which includes the line: “And we need to ask whether we now have an electoral process so vacuous, vicious and just plain silly that most people in their right minds wouldn’t go anywhere near it.”

Which reminds me of this. (Click “this” to read it.)


If only we had a Holocaust cloak and a wheelbarrow. (I’m not really sure why the above reminded me of this clip, but it did. Maybe it was just the use of “to sum up.” It’s a good clip, either way.)


now that’s true leadership

“You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem,” adding, “And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen to resolve it.”

Just as I thought.
Cluelessness, Powerlessness, Idea-less-ness as the latest campaign “strategy.” Who knew?
He has earned his inclusion in “Palinschmerz” — a category that includes all politicians who embody blatant idiocy on and off the political stage. Nice of him to do some of Obama’s campaigning for him.


time, and truth; from “Aubade,” by W. A. Auden

. . .But Time, the domain of Deeds,
calls for a complex Grammar
with many Moods and Tenses,
and prime the Imperative.
We are free to choose our paths
but choose We must, no matter
where they lead, and the tales We
tell of the Past must be true. . .


yes, they should

“When I look at nature — the way a sea gull spreads its wings wide as it hovers just above a meal, the way the tide rushes in, bringing shell sparkles and lost treasures, the way the sun rises every morning even when it is cloudy, the way a tree stands proud even when it is wounded, its roots deeper than the trials it endures — I see truth, a truth where there is no need for anxiety because things are as they should be. People should stand strong and say what they really feel, not what they think others want to hear. They should flow with their emotions, like the tide, whether they be happy or sad. They should rise bright with possibility into every day and hover gently near what they want instead of aggressively taking [it].”
~Alexandra Heather
“Surviving the Pain at the Roots,” NYTimes, Sunday, September 16, 2012


After Twelve Days of Rain, Reprieve

I posted a link to this once, to RedamancyLit’s page, but I don’t know how many of you actually follow those links, especially when all I write is something like “Exactly this.” or “Yes.”

I have read it over and over, and have a little frisson every single time, so decided it was worth posting again, this time in its entirety.

After Twelve Days of Rain

I couldn’t name it, the sweet
sadness welling up in me for weeks.
So I cleaned, found myself standing
in a room with a rag in my hand,
the birds calling time-to-go, time-to-go.
And like an old woman near the end
of her life I could hear it, the voice
of a man I never loved who pressed
my breasts to his lips and whispered
“My little doves, my white, white lilies.”
I could almost cry when I remember it.
I don’t remember when I began
to call everyone “sweetie,”
as if they were my daughters,
my darlings, my little birds.
I have always loved too much,
or not enough. Last night
I read a poem about God and almost
believed it–God sipping coffee,
smoking cherry tobacco. I’ve arrived
at a time in my life when I could believe
almost anything.
Today, pumping gas into my old car, I stood
hatless in the rain and the whole world
went silent–cars on the wet street
sliding past without sound, the attendant’s
mouth opening and closing on air
as he walked from pump to pump, his footsteps
erased in the rain–nothing
but the tiny numbers in their square windows
rolling by my shoulder, the unstoppable seconds
gliding by as I stood at the Chevron,
balanced evenly on my two feet, a gas nozzle
gripped in my hand, my hair gathering rain.
And I saw it didn’t matter
who had loved me or who I had loved. I was alone.
The black oily asphalt, the slick beauty
of the Iranian attendant, the thickening
clouds–nothing was mine. And I understood
finally, after a semester of philosophy,
a thousand books of poetry, after death
and childbirth and the startled cries of men
who called out my name as they entered me.
I finally believed I was alone, felt it
in my actual, visceral heart, heard it echo
like a thin bell. And the sounds
came back, the slish of tires
and footsteps, all the delicate cargo
they carried saying thank you
and yes. So I paid and climbed into my car
as if nothing had happened–
as if everything mattered–What else could I do?
I drove to the grocery store
and bought wheat bread and milk,
a candy bar wrapped in gold foil,
smiled at the teenaged cashier
with the pimpled face and the plastic
name plate pinned above her small breast,
and knew her secret, her sweet fear.
Little bird. Little darling. She handed me
my change, my brown bag, a torn receipt,
pushed the cash drawer in with her hip
and smiled back.

~Dorianne Laux

My hair gathering rain.

Heard it echo like a thin bell.

All the delicate cargo they carried saying thank you and yes.

As if nothing had happened.

As if everything mattered.

What else could I do?

All of it. Exactly this. Yes.




Watched Michelle two nights ago, Elizabeth Warren (honk if you’d like to elect HER president in 2016) and Clinton last night, Obama tonight.

Reveled in the diversity in the audience.

Cried a little (I’m a big fat baby, but still).

So just one question remains:


what price disingenuousness?

I’m so tired of the lies.

The lies and the fact that they all get away with it. Even Fox News admits it — go figure.

And that they don’t even care, to the point where they are quoted as saying ingenious things like they don’t want their campaign to get bogged down in fact-checking.

I’m completely disheartened.

So much so that I spent the week unsubscribing from every political action group I get emails from because there are too many and it’s too hopeless and I don’t even read them any more.

I don’t know if I should send money to People for the American Way or save up to move to Canada.

And I don’t think anyone even listens to what’s actually said — I guess that’s why they all get away with it.

So Clint Eastwood cried years after Obama was elected and millions were out of work.

But what about the millions that were out of work before Obama was in office? Not so much?

And then we get this pearl of wisdom:

Never mind who helped get Motor City fighting again. Why bother with such a trivial detail when we can just say the part of the truth that serves us and omit the rest?




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