All quiet in the nervosa front lately. Jen and I speak nearly every day and we’re always saying, I need to post! Life is all-consuming right now. Jen’s fourth baby is due any day now, and we are both being swallowed by the POLAR VORTEX. We are muddling through. We’re here, we’re just not here. The blogosphere feels so much like an echo chamber that it’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished something when I post here, other than the fact that it’s living proof that I haven’t quit writing. It seems like the possibilities for blogging are vast, but it’s harder and harder to climb your way out of obscurity and towards a readership without 24/7 presence, ads, etc. That’s just not gonna happen with us. Even writing and submitting poetry — which I continue to do — feels ephemeral, next to pointless. Nanowrimo taught me that the world is drowning in words. I’m dog paddling. But hey, I’m out here.
Our post-academic e-book got published earlier this week. It’s bargain-priced and completely lovely and you should read it. I have to say that collaborating with JC, Currer Bell, and Jet has been enormously gratifying. We worked beautifully together for a year and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s out there, and it’s being read.
I started crafting again, which is a surprise to all of us, and am loving sewing and crocheting. The projects take shape in my hands, and I can listen to audio books. Sweet!
We continue to struggle mightily with our finances. Loans, childcare, and it seems like everything we got for our wedding 10 years ago is breaking, and our lovely old house is doing that Murphy’s law thing. I realized last week that there’s simply no way we can afford to have our kids in full-time care this summer. I have no idea what to do about that. I mean, I’m at a loss.
I’m slowly but surely working towards applying to secondary teaching positions at some point in the future (near or far, not sure). I’m dreaming in curricula, missing the energy. I got my teaching license in the mail last month.
2014 — joy, surprises, handiwork.
Posted in Books, Craft & Home, Creativity, Grad School Quittas, Pop Culture
Tagged babies, crafts, crochet, money, polar vortex, postac, postacademic, student loans, stuff, weather
I have to say that I am so very, very, very sick of blogging about dead children. This world.
This time last year, I did a series of memoir posts about my home state, Oklahoma, a land of contradictions so huge they make your heart burst. It started with a post about living in tornado alley, “Stormchaser:”
In Oklahoma, you lose those touchstones. Everything sort of runs together in “coldish and brown” or “greenish and fucking hot” with no transition. Leaves go from green straight to dead: sometime in late October a switch flips. Similarly, it feels springish about half the time in February (the other half it’s just nasty) and by April the sirens are being tested and you’re making sure the batteries in your weather radio are still working.
Severe weather terrified me: things could turn on a dime and a day could go from bright and pleasant to a boiling green sky and fearing for your life. Live in Oklahoma long enough and you become resistant to weather scares, even though every other night from mid-April to late September, So You Think You Can Dance is pre-empted so Gary England can make sure you don’t die. My husband’s first instinct is still to walk outside and take a look when a siren goes off: he’s a millionth generation Oklahoman. My instinct is to carry everyone and everything we love into the basement and hide under a mattress for four hours. (OK: experience has mitigated that somewhat, but I’m still edgy until things clear up.)
I fell in love with Oklahoma while attending college in Norman, OK, which is about 10 miles south of Moore. (Our relatives live in northeast Oklahoma, which dodged the bullet, at least for now.) An infamously bad tornado struck Moore just the year before I started college, and you could still see the path of destruction crossing the highway for the next several years as I took I-35 north and south and north again to go home for weekends.
I can smell the heat, the humidity.
Yesterday’s storm was far worse. Far far worse. The funnel was so broad that chasers couldn’t fit it in their viewfinders. It decimated two elementary schools, killing many many babies. It sucked up a town and spit it out. These good people need our help. Throw some money and help down south and help this town rise like a phoenix again, and not for the last time. My friends, my former rugby teammates, my teachers and neighbors — they’re already there passing out blankets and water. Pitch in.
To whomever is in charge of the weather:
I need the rain to stop.
And not just because my kids want to ride bikes and my kitchen floor is perpetually muddy with dog paw prints and my toes are cold all the time.
Two of my students have been raped. One left a violent relationship because she was afraid her son might also be in danger. So many of them started weeping silently in the classroom when we talked about sexual assault and gendered violence that I stopped trying to teach the textbook material and just started trying to make eye contact while saying things like “You need to know that every single one of you deserves to be safe. You deserve to be respected. You deserve to be heard and believed.”
I walk into classrooms every day to talk about oppression, about violence, but also about survival, about strength and courage and beauty in unexpected places. I teach about rape, yes, but also about movements for peace and social justice. When I can walk out of my classroom and see signs of growth, of renewal, reminders that cold, dark days don’t last forever, it’s easier to feel hopeful, joyful.
But when it rains for days and days on end, when the air never feels warm, when spring still feels impossibly distant? Its hard to shake those soft conversations after class. It’s hard to clear my mind and be fully present with my amazing, beautiful daughters. Its hard to be patient with them when I am so impatient with a cold, grey world.
To everything there is a season, right? Its time to turn turn turn. I need to feel the sun shine on my face and see it splash in through the windows. We need to ride bikes fast and feel the air rush past us. I need to work the earth with my hands, plant seeds, chart growth. Let the rain come soft in the evenings after my girls are in bed. But please, could we have bright, clear, warm sun in the morning and fluffy clouds in the afternoon? Because some of us are drowning over here.
I signed up to coach pre-k soccer this April. I don’t know how to play soccer, but it seems like when you’re coaching 5 year olds, the only rule is HAVE FUN!!11!!!!1 We won’t keep score or have goalies.
We signed Robin up for soccer because she’ll be attending school in our farm town this fall and we don’t know many kids around here yet. I wanted her to have some familiar faces in her kindergarten class. Plus, sports are a huge deal here, for better or worse: I think about 1/5 of the town’s population is signed up for summer rec teams. Seriously.
Maybe I’m nuts but I think it will be fun. I can think of some silly games we can do, and it’s only for 5 weeks. Just one more hat I’ll be wearing, I guess!
We’re still waiting for my niece/nephew to come into the world, still waiting for spring, too. But life is good in Iowa! How about you?
I love this time of year. I can’t wait for the snow from our 3rd storm in as many weeks to melt away and we can start smelling fresh rain and opening the car windows. I always want to listen to Guided by Voices at this time of year; and “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin. I fell in love with our house in late spring. We had just started looking in March and I hated all the options in the bedroom community we were in at the time. I found a listing for a place in farm town and one day after teaching, I drove to it before I picked up the girls. I remember pulling up and getting goosebumps, thinking to myself, “So this is what it feels like to drive up to the house that will become your home.” We bought it. I’m going to plant flowers this year, for sure.
Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.
I’m waiting for my sister to have her first baby. The little one was due about a week ago and my sister is being a very patient and loving Mom. I can’t wait to drive south and help my sis, squeeze a baby, and write and read.
3 weeks ago, I resolved to be more intentional about the rhythm of my days, weeks, months, and semesters, in order to be more productive at work and as a writer, and in order to be more peaceful and less frazzled in the everyday routines. How’s that working out, you ask?
Very well, thanks, despite the lack of posts to the blog. I’ve been writing some (if not posting), and working out, and my kitchen is clean, and I’ve made several new recipes courtesy of Pinterest, and I overhauled my syllabi and shifted the deadlines for several assignments to try and ease up the end of semester workload. And I’m trying to stay focused on just doing, in the moment, the thing that most needs to be done, rather than putting it off. Return those books to a colleague. Walk right now to the campus police department and figure out where to park my car. Wash the pots and pans. Shovel the snow. Play Sneaky Snacky Squirrel.
It’s bitterly cold here, even if the snow isn’t very deep, and it feels like winter has finally arrived. Winter for me is usually a season for dreaming and planning, so all this doing feels odd. But so far, it’s working. The fridge is stocked with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunches. The laundry is caught up. I have a legit parking pass. I have posts percolating about the Tooth Fairy, and Pinterest, and body image. I’m not settled in this new rhythm yet, but I’m working on it, working through it, bringing it to fruition little by little. It feels surprisingly satisfying, all this doing while the snow flies outside the windows. Now I just need to create as much time for writing as I’ve devoted to cooking, cleaning, and looking at tattoos on Pinterest. That seems like a reasonable goal for the week: more blog posts, fewer imaginary tattoos.
Were you aware that it is fucking hot?
I’m not one to complain about heat (other things, we’ve established, I’m happy to complain about). I lived in Oklahoma for 12 years, where heat indices of 103 are de rigeuer (check it and see). When my Iowa friends start sweating bullets as the thermometer pulses past 85, I sorta smile. It’s a real privilege to complain about a 94 degree day with a cool breeze, in my opinion.
And yet, I have to acknowledge: it is really hot. My facebook feed teems with updates that:
- describe what people are doing to beat the heat
- complain about the heat
- complain about people complaining about the heat
- fret over global warming
I’m no fool; global warming is for real. But I find it amusing that people think we are witnessing the end times because of a few hot days in July. Check this, for example:
While setting hundreds of new heat records, the most notable aspect of the current heat wave gripping the central U.S. and spreading east is the associated humidity. In the upper Midwest Monday, the combination of heat and humidity brought widespread heat index values of 110+, with numerous 120 degree readings. The peak heat index occurred in Knoxville, Iowa, which reached a suffocating 131 degrees.
This was written in July 2011. Yes: it has been hot in July in years past. Wikipedia teaches us that it has been hot in July many times in the past
. My friends, it gets hot in the summer. So I just don’t see a purpose in getting angry about it, or trying to avoid it. Yes, all right, FINE: my kids and I spent 8 hours inside yesterday watching She-Ra and eating no-bake cookies. But really, the best thing to do is go into it. As with many things — swimming in a cold lake, childbirth, writing an essay that feels like it’s going nowhere — the way out is the way through.
We may grit our teeth at the prospect of two more weeks of this heat. We may despise how trapped we feel and how annoying our kids are becoming. We are angry and want to run away. But that shit will not change the weather. This is the absurdity of our summer condition. We must imagine ourselves happy in the heat.
In The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus uses mythology to deal with man’s existential crisis. Sisyphus’s story is simple: he did some bad thing and pissed off a God, and his punishment is to roll a boulder up a hill. When the boulder reaches the top, it rolls back down, and he has to start all over again. Camus likens this to the human experience: condemned to repeat the same things day after day; and, if you follow the existentialist philosophy that there is no God and therefore absolutely no larger point or payoff to life, it can feel pretty fucking bleak. Camus asks the simple question: Must we commit suicide in the face of this pointlessness? NO, he concludes. He writes:
What counts is not the best living but the most living… The struggle itself […] is enough to fill a man’s heart. We must imagine Sisyphus happy.
Camus asks us to embrace all that the unreasonable world has to offer. So, be like Sisyphus and imagine yourself happy in the heat. After all, we can’t change the weather.
10 Ways To Embrace the Heat:
- Wear less clothing. “No shit, Sherlock!” you’re saying, but seriously, this is a common mistake. When I lived in Oklahoma, I packed away everything that went past my knee or elbows. I lived in skirts, shorts, and tank tops. Are you wearing jeans right now? Did you layer your shirts? Were you foolish enough to put on close-toed shoes? Amateurs! Change into something else and see what a difference it makes.
- Put a fan on your porch. Moving air makes all the difference, even if you’re in direct sun. If you have a covered porch with an outlet, plug in an industrial fan and sit outside. You’ll get used to the heat. I’m outside right now, on a covered porch with ceiling fans, and it’s 90 degrees. I feel completely comfortable.
- Get up earlier. During my last summer in Oklahoma, I got up at 6 every day and immediately went for a walk (this is back when fitness was a priority for me). Play before breakfast instead of after breakfast. Get your outdoors fix in before Ellen (or, if you’re a hipster nerd like myself, before On Point). (I love you, Tom Ashbrook!)
- Get wet. I bought a swimsuit last week for the first time in 6 years and it’s amazing how much cooler you feel when you’re actually playing in the fountain or swimming in the pool instead of sweltering alongside it. Get your suit on, set up your hose or sprinkler or mister or sink sprayer, and get wet. Suddenly 95 feels comfy.
- Listen to music really loud. It feels more like an awesome montage in a summer camp movie if you are blasting “Panama” by Van Halen then if you’re listening to NPR.
- Drive faster, with the windows open. Create a breeze. According to the Car Talk guys, the drag created by open windows is probably as energy inefficient as using your AC, anyway. Combine #5 and #6 and you’re halfway to a brilliant and beautiful summer memory.
- Nap in the sun. Lather up with sunscreen and try do this off peak hours. Then you’ll see why cats like it so much, and, bonus, you’ll feel absolutely frigid when you go in the shade or AC.
- Get yourself on a boat. How long has it been since you went on a boat ride? Did you forget that boats are fucking awesome? I don’t care how much of a city mouse you are, flying across any lake — even a dirty, syringe-filled lake — feels incredible.
- Two words: ICED. TEA. It doesn’t even have to be sun tea, although that is obviously the best kind. We get cold brew bags and stuff our mason jars full of chipped ice and mint leaves or lemon wedges.
- Fruit. It’s on sale. Buy as much of it as you can fit in your trunk and eat it all, tonight. Make your whole meal out of fruit. Bonus points for super cold and refreshing citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges. I rarely bought fresh fruit when I was a swinging young working single non-parent, but this is the time to take a gamble on a flat of strawberries and challenge yourself to use it all up.
There you go. I bet you are feeling better already.
Lauren’s severe weather post reminded me immediately of my own inner struggles with Iowa weather and meteorology. I can definitively second her description of the weather maps as an endless sea of undifferentiated potentially severe but maybe it’ll be just fine and the soccer game won’t be cancelled weather. One of my favorite features of the forecast was the weekly weather coaster, which featured an animated graphic of a roller coaster car with a local celebrity’s head photoshopped in riding the bumps of the 7 day forecast. Like Lauren says: weather does not appear to be particularly serious business in Iowa.
I spent most of my grad student years living in what can only be described as a shack. I say that lovingly: it was a tiny house at the end of a driveway/alley in a neighborhood of large older homes. and when I say tiny, I don’t mean cute 1 bedroom bungalow: I mean, the only door was a pocket door to the bathroom. It might have been 20 feet by 20 feet on the outside. It was the perfect space for a single grad student: walking distance from campus, cute little deck to read/drink wine in the evening, fireflies. It made no sense for us to stay there after T moved in but we did anyway, because I loved it so much, and so the shack eventually held not just the two of us but also a cat and a dog. Continue reading
Between the early spring and a few severe storms lately, but I’ve been thinking a lot about and missing my home state of Oklahoma. We’ve been watching Stormchasers with the girls, one of the few shows they’ll watch that we all enjoy – and I mostly enjoy it for the scenery. I’ve been calling it “Norman Porn” because one of the chasing teams is based out of Norman OK, where we attended college. It’s weird how the wide, wild skies, that red dirt, and the scrubby grass in highway ditches gets me feeling all nostalgic.
Oklahoma: Land of Perpetual Road Work
There was a time in my life when I’d have recoiled in horror at a description of the Sooner state as my home or a place I’d consider myself “from,” but since moving to Iowa eight years ago, that’s how I’ve ended up responding to any question about my origins. I wasn’t born in Oklahoma, and I lived in several Midwestern states before we moved to Tulsa, a large city in the northwestern corner of the state, when I was 11 years old. I never loved it; I never felt like I belonged there. I moved away from Oklahoma when I was 23, just months after getting married, in August 2004. What is home, anyway? When I’ve lived less than 12 years in any given state in my short life, is it where I was born? Where my family originated? Where I became myself? I don’t know. But Oklahoma became a part of me. Continue reading
Posted in Memoir, Pop Culture, TV & Film
Tagged Gary England, home, identity, Iowa, iowa city, Life, meterology, Midwestern United States, National Weather Service, Oklahoma, seasons, severe weather, spring, Storm Chasers (TV series), tornadoes, tulsa, weather, winter