Saturday, April 30, 2005

fiasco; and my funny, funny girl

8:30 this morning, I show up at Julia's house with Annabelle. The plan: go to breakfast at Denny's then come back to her house and play Scrabble while the dogs play together. I get out of the car and bring Belly over to the yard. Tucker's thrilled to see her, and to show her his love, he flips up a bird in the air. No, he doesn't flip her the bird, you bad people. He flips a bird up as if to say, "look what I got!" He was clearly showing off.

Except the bird wasn't dead. Julia's cat, Max, aka, Monster Cat, injured the bird but did not kill it. We both screamed. I mean screamed. Woke up whatever members of her neighborhood who weren't already awake. Put all the animals back in the house.

What to do, what to do? The most humane thing to do, of course, is to kill it, but do you think I've got it in me to kill a bird? Nope. You think Julia's got it in her? Nope. The next logical thing: go door to door looking for a man to do the dirty work.

First neighbor. No answer.

Second neighbor. Seems like the whole house is still asleep, so we stand there for a while and finally decide not to ring the doorbell.

Man innocently walking his little pug down the street. Ummmm.... Naah, that's too crazy. Excuse me sir, would you please kill the bird in my yard?

Man across the street? Okay. He answers the door in his white bathrobe. Julia tells him* what's going on, he hesitates for the slightest second, and then says, "I'll take care of it." When he gets dressed and comes across the street, he tells us that he's an old pro at killing birds who are half dead.


Not really sure how he did it.** Not really sure we want to know.

Julia and I thank him and go back in the house. Julia's checkbook is on the floor.

Julia: Where's my purse?

We look around. Her credit cards and receipts and other various wallet stuffings are strewn across the floor. We look over at Belly, who's been innocently sitting on her blue towel since we got in. She stands up. Julia and I both see it at the same time.

Belly's got Julia's purse looped around her neck. I crack up.

Belly: We ready to go to breakfast or what, people? I've got my money.

* My favorite part of this "telling: "blubber blubber blubber...bird...injured...blubber blubber...suffering....and you're a man...." Holy lord.
**Okay, really, he probably suffocated it. Or broke its neck. ugh.

oh, the irony

1. My email address, aerobil, is one letter away from the word aerobic. It took me this long to figure that out.

2. I've decided to keep a pen and notebook next to my bed so that I can write down the really crazy shit I've been dreaming about lately. So now I've been dreaming about trying to remember my dreams. Lord.

3. That's it. Only two ironies. But a list with just two items looked so sad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

almost done with my first year

This week and next are relatively stress-free as students write their final papers and I anticipate how long it's going to take me to grade them before I hop on a plane to Massachusetts. And when I get on that plane, I will have officially finished my first year as an assistant professor at ISU. Next year I won't be the newbie anymore.

The year's accomplishments:
1. Awarded summer grant to write an article on "Why Composition Needs Bourdieu."
2. Finished forty-three more revisions to the g.d. s.f. article, and sent it off to a biggie journal. Still waiting to hear on that one.
3. Made two really good friends that I can talk to everyday if I need to--Julie and Julia--and made lots of other friends who are fun to hang out with on the weekends.
4. Taught two graduate courses and loved them because I think I learned as much as the students did--about myself as a teacher, about graduate education, about the field, about authorship and writing.
5. Taught three sections of a junior-level rhetoric course and learned a lot there, too. Case in point: before I taught that course, I had no idea what stasis theory was. Now I'm all about it.
6. Directed my first independent study with one of the students from one of the Fall rhetoric courses. Independent study title: Feminist Rhetorics and Reproductive Rights.
7. Started blogging over Christmas break when I didn't know how to stop working.
8. Adjusted to a department of more than 44 colleagues--this, coming from a department with ten.
9. Presented a damn good paper at C's.
10. Presented a paper on plagiarism at ISU's teaching symposium in January.
11. Moderated the Teaching Composition listserv in February.
12. Pranced around the department with a copy of Authorship in Composition Studies open to my chapter. Humble.
13. Lived to tell.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

of sanity and such

The end of the month at the DMV is not a pretty place. Take a number to go wait in this line. Then once you're done here, get to the back of the line that snakes around the entire place. I didn't even have a book with me. But I'm now officially driving an Illinois-registered car. Land o' Lincoln, watch me go.

As for that business a couple days ago about finding an apartment that'll allow the beast, I've taken a personal inventory of what it takes to keep me sane [insert wicked laugh here] and the number one item on that list is a yard. I won't move if I can't open the door and push Belly out said door. The guilt of cooping her up in the house all the time will literally consume me and I'll be dead by the second month in an apartment with no yard. Belly'll be running loose around the neighborhood and I'll be dead. Period.


Becky's provoking me again. I shall comply.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. What book do you want to be?
Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
In high school, I wrote on my brown paper-bag book covers "I love Holden Caulfield."

The last book you bought is?
Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, M.D. Reading up on PTSD.

What are you currently reading?
Trauma and Recovery
Process This by Nancy DeJoy
Fat Girl by Judith Moore
Punishment and Modern Society by David Garland

Five books you would take to a deserted island:
1. Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones
2. Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces
3. Jim Henson, The Works
4. John Irving, The World According to Garp
5. Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
1. Schmoozin b/c I can't wait to see what wacky titles she comes up with.
2. That's all the readers I got, people. Becky and Susan. And Heather, but she's not blogging that I know of.
3. It's yours for the taking, this meme.

Monday, April 25, 2005

effing a

This is blogworthy, no? A town in Illinois by the name of Effingham.

Goddamn mother of a town.

I effing hate my hometown, sez the kid who grew up there.

Obscenities (also known as "swear words") must be illegal in Effingham. Otherwise, just imagine what the town might be called.

When you get right down to it, though, how much better is Chicopee, Massachusetts? Home of the world's largest kielbasa, thank you very much. Former home to the annual Kielbasa Fest. How's that for a claim to fame? Because of its large Polish population--and the same initial letters--Chicopee has more in common with Chicago than one might initially think.

More to the point, I wish I could say I knew someone in Effingham. That way I could say, one day, I'm on my way to goddamn Effingham. wink wink

Sunday, April 24, 2005

fears for today, April 24, 2005

1. I've forgotten how to write.
2. I don't remember how to write stuff that matters (i.e., stuff that gets me tenure).
3. My dog will never use her yard again because she's so afraid of the goddamn seven kids who live next door. Seven kids. In a ranch. Only a wee bit larger than mine. Christ.
4. I won't find a two-bedroom apt that takes dogs and isn't surrounded by four hundred children.
5. I'll keep reading Trauma and Recovery and will never sleep well again.
6. One day I'll be 500 pounds.

perhaps I should rename this the "dream blog"

Last night: I'm on the set of fucking Full House and I've been told to bring some props with me, so I brought painted pottery, for crying out loud. One of the pieces I brought was a mouse-sized round thing with the word "bump" painted on it. Huh? Also, they warned me to be careful when pronouncing the letter u.

Also last night: One year to the day after defending my diss, I'm required to come back and re-defend because, well, that's the new rule. Fuck. Apparently this one replaces all those biology test nightmares I had pre-defense.

Woke up exhausted to Belly yelling at the neighbor for daring to come on our side of the property to measure his fence. She's a good watchdog, that one.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

all hail the Queen

Congratulations, Dr. Mary Queen!

The Queen successfully defended her dissertation yesterday. Thanks, Jen, for calling to let me know that it was all good.

Haven't been writing lately and I don't really have any good reason except that I hate the month of April.

Here's a meaningful thing I figured out by writing the autobiographical essay for my graduate Authorship course: everything I do, all of my scholarly interests converge on the concept of belief. Authorship: what makes some writers authors and others not? Autobiography: why we write: to produce belief for both ourselves and our readers. Plagiarism: how is disbelief produced? Trauma: the dialectic between denial denial denial and the need to be believed. Not just to be heard, but to be believed. Rhetoric of fear: at its simplest, the study of the production of belief.

I've always believed that each of us does the scholarly work we do for very personal reasons, that scholarship is in this way intensely autobiographical. The root of all of this: never having been believed as a child. And still: not quite believing that I'm a grown-up. Even that term, "grown-up" is a childish word. Adult.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

what happened to human-sized sleeves?

I hate three-quarter sleeve shirts. All they do is encourage a person to pull pull pull on her sleeves until they actually cover her arms. I went shopping yesterday looking for some new spring shirts, and jesus, what happened to regular ol' short-sleeved shirts? Everything is these stupid funky "cap" sleeves which encourage a person to pull pull pull on them until they cover the flab on the upper arm. Plus they show the tan lines and the difference between the white glow-in-the-dark skin and that which has seen the light of day.

Bean it's gonna have to be.

holy downpour batman

Forecast called for some late afternoon thunderstorms, but I walked to school anyway. Got out at 4 and the sky was very very dark. Made it halfway home before the skies opened up. No umbrella. Short-sleeved shirt. Pink pants. Completely soaked. So much so that I finally just began to enjoy it. Cuz, really, how often do I find myself walking in a downpour with no umbrella? When I'm three houses away from mine, my neighbor drives up and offers me a ride. At this point, the only thing that would accomplish is getting her car soaked. So I just kept on walkin'.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

it's the Mary Queen countdown

Good ol' Mary Queen defends her dissertation on Friday. Wish I were there to throw things at you and to lend moral support. Of course, Mary Queen has told me on a number of occasions that she doesn't read my blog, so phooey on her. I can say whatever I want about her and she'll never know.

Just make sure 'milla's there. Cuz then she's coming home to Normal.

bad dreams

Last night I dreamt I had a stye in my eye and I couldn't close my eyes all the way. It was sticking out. Guh-ross.

A couple nights ago I dreamt that Keita was back from Germany but she was separated from her family. Damon was nowhere to be found and the kids were with some family in Michigan.

And a couple months ago, long before Hudson died, I had a dream that Julia gave me Tucker. Hudson was nowhere in the dream. Sigh.


blooming everwhere.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

he got the job

Tucker did great at his interview, sez his mommy. He begins his job as therapy dog (sounds like a superhero to me), er, Therapy Dog on Thursday evening when he goes with his mommy to the Prairie Oaks Nursing Home.

It blipped across my mind for all of about half a second to have Belly go for an interview too. Yeah, not so much.

Belly, we're not in Normal anymore

Belly and I took a short road trip yesterday out to a state park a colleague had told me about. It was about a 25-minute drive, total, but since most things I need in this town are no more than 10 minutes away, it felt like a long drive. For the first 15 or so minutes of our drive out in the middle of corn fields, Annabelle was so excited. She'd pace back and forth in the back seat, stick her head out the window in anticipation of the fun fun place we were surely going. After about 15 minutes, though, she gave up and curled up on the back seat for the long haul. Me: Belly, don't give up! We're almost there. She stands back up again, sticking her head out the window in anticipation of the fun fun place we're surely going.

The park was nice. We walked on a path that was probably about a mile and a half long in the woods. I'm not really sure where these woods came from, out in the middle of the cornfields, but for a good hour or so it was like we were back east. There were small hills, winding paths, and surprise streams for Belly to splash in. She even got to run off leash for a little bit, and she was such a good girl, staying close by, checking in to see where I was. Perhaps 4 is the age where it all gets easier....

Friday, April 15, 2005

holy gorgeous weather

I've complained about the weather before, yes. But holy shit, spring is gorgeous in central Illinois. The lilacs are already starting to bloom. They're my favorite spring flowers. Everyday is sunny and between 65 and 70. The lawn already needs a-mowing. Belly lays outside in the grass, rolling around, scratching her back, providing a beautiful example for how to enjoy these days.

Here's a pic of me and my girl:

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Just because

Do not forget:
The overwhelmingness of the dominant.
The daily saturation.
The knife of the perfectionist attitude.
The insoluble.
Economic imperatives.

--Tillie Olsen, Silences

So, tell me about yourself

One of the ways Julia is coping with Hudson's death is to take steps to getting Tucker to work as a therapy dog in Bloomington-Normal. He's done it before, but he's got to go through the interview again on Saturday because Julia can't seem to find his paperwork. Julia was telling me how much Tucker loved doing his job. He tried so hard to be a good boy, looking up at her every once in a while: am I doing good? I had tears in my eyes picturing him bringing smiles to people's faces and trying so hard to make his momma proud. He's such a good boy anyway.

Did you hear me? Tucker has an interview on Saturday.

Me: What's he gonna wear?
Julia: His white fur coat.

We're planning a mock interview with Belly as interviewer. She can't wait. She's rubbing her little paws together mischievously.
So, Tucker, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Where do you see yourself in thirty-five years?
What makes you the top dog for this job?
Who's your favorite person in the whole wide world?
How does your research affect your teaching? (whoops, wrong interview)
Tell us a little bit about your girlfriend, Hell's Bells.

Miss Belle is currently accepting suggestions for additional questions for Mr. Tucker Boy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

skinny i

deep thought of the day:

Notice how many of the words that mean skinny have the skinniest vowel: i


And so many of the words that mean fat have the fattest vowels: a, o, u

butter (just checking to see if you're actually reading....)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

who needs therapy when you're teaching authorship?

So, remember when I said I couldn't figure out what to write my autobiographical essay about? Well, after all that happened last week with Julia and Hudson, I posted about my inability to grasp what it must be like to lose a child, which led to my confirming that, indeed, I do not want to have children. Well, I extended that post into a short essay, and we workshopped it--along with three others--in class last night. For about ten or fifteen minutes there, when we were discussing the essay, I felt very much out of control in the sense that I was being asked very hard questions that I hadn't realized my essay had provoked. Questions about my mother and unconditional love and Annabelle and being ordinary and what it was like to be sick as a kid around my mother and the kinds of things you can tell certain people and the kinds of things you just can't.

Part of my reasoning, I told them, for assigning the autobiographical essay was to juxtapose their "public" authorship in the first half of the semester (a conference proposal) with what is so often considered "private" authorship. Well, damn if I didn't do a dang good job of juxtaposing the public Amy with what I sometimes like to consider the "private" Amy.

If nothing else, this process helped us all see just how collaborative any kind of authorship--public or private, academic or autobiographical--really is.

Happy when it all comes together like that.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Belly hits the gym

You know that famous picture of Belly with her purple winter coat and her purple booties? If I had a digital copy of it, I'd reproduce it here, but those of you who know and love Annabelle know the one I mean. Eileen calls it the elf picture. Today during office hours, I showed it to a grad student and she said, "She looks like she's ready for aerobics."

Belly in her workout suit, legwarmers and all, ready to hit the gym. Now all she needs is a gym bag. When I clip her portable, fold-up water bowl to her leash, it could pass for a little purse. People bring water bottles to the gym; Belly brings her bowl.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

planning to make a plan

I do feel better about one thing. I've got a plan to make a plan. Becky, my official Life Director* and I are getting together in May at Gilligan's Isle in the beautifully small town of Sherburn, NY to plan my book. Just knowing that this date is in my calendar will get me out of my funk. And I'll probably get lots of work done because of it.

My work ethic will be the death of me. Guilt guilt guilt.

*capital L, capital D

on blogging emotions

Tonight Becky says she's noticed that I've been sad on my blog lately. I have, of course, with good reason. But this got me thinking about the public "face" we present to one another via blogs. Becky pointed out my sadness because it's not the norm, in real life or in the blogosphere. Blogs are great places to complain, to be ecstatic, to celebrate, to bitch. (Well, sometimes they're great places for that. Sometimes not so much.) But how do blogs accommodate sadness? The very immediately public nature of blogs seems to discourage the kind of sadness I've been experiencing lately, though I've written about it anyway. Is there a default emotion for blogging? Do we blog when we feel happy or confused or pissed off or content but not when we're struggling with sadness?

I dunno. What would Goffman say about the presenation of self in the blogosphere? Who do I want you to think I am?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Hudson Jane

She was a smiley, smiley girl who loved her mommy most of all. She made many people and dogs smile everyday. She earned her nickname Bright Eyes.


and by that I mean things that seem so ridiculous and meaningless and trivial in the face of a dear friend's unbelievable pain. Her total heartbreak.

New Year's resolutions, continued. As much as I hate having my photo taken--for all the predictable reasons about how I don't like myself--I resolve to ask friends to take more photos of me and my girl together. I have many many photos of the beautiful Annabelle, but not very many of us together.

Things I think I'll never understand: how people go on living the day-to-day crap after experiencing the death of a child. How people find enough love in their hearts to try again. How people can say things like, "it's just a dog." How people are strong enough to have children in the first place. So so so much bravery.

Things I think I'm beginning to understand: my love for Annabelle keeps me alive in the face of all the day-to-day crap. She can be a royal pain in the ass at times, but god, I love her. I'll never have children because I'm just not strong enough. I love kids, I do. But I don't think I've got the constitution it takes to be responsible for a developing person's emotional health. And I want to celebrate that understanding. It's enough to know that I can't do it. Every time I see mothers yelling at their children in the store for the most ridiculous things, I thank my lucky stars that I have a choice about having children. This is what right-to-lifers will never understand. It takes so so so so much to raise children and we should be thankful that some people know enough not to have them. It's not just about promoting a culture of life, for chrissakes. It's about understanding how much you yourself have to give to another life. Admitting weakness. Believing that a decision not to do something is a contribution.

I'm moving pretty far afield here from the sorrow that instigated this post, I know. I cannot understand the pain Julia's experiencing on this warm, sunny April day. I love my dog with all my heart. She is my heart. But that doesn't mean I can fathom what my life would be if she were to be taken from me in two days. That's how long it took. Two fucking days. I can't believe it. I just can't. I wish it were rainy and grey.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


No words. No words at all.


My dear friend Julia is going through hell right now, and I feel so helpless to make her feel better. Her beloved doggie, Hudson, age 8, has cancer. She might not make it, and if she does, it will be for a short time, I imagine. It happened so suddenly. Hudson had been particularly clingy for a week or so and had refused to eat, but Julia figured she wasn't eating because she'd recently changed the dog food. She brought her in to the vet yesterday and right away she had to make the decision to either euthanize her or send her into surgery. She sent her into surgery. They found a cancerous mass on her spleen. The mass had exploded. Her kidneys are failing.

Hudson is her bear, her Cha Cha, her Bright Eyes, her lovey girl. Hudson is her best friend, her rock, her baby. Hudson is Julia's heart.

My heart is breaking for my dear friend.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Belly and the little ones

On our walk tonight, two small children come running out from their yard, yelling, "Doggie! Doggie!" I keep walking, pointing Annabelle straight ahead. The bigger one says to the smaller one, within earshot, "I guess she doesn't want us to pet him." I feel bad, so I look back at the little munchkins and say, "She's not real good with little ones."

The older one puts his hand on his head and says, real loud, "But I'm four!"

The smaller one: "I'm two!"

mini funk

The sun is shining, our high today will be 60-something. Yesterday was 80.

And yet.

I'm feeling very lackluster.

It blows my mind how much the weather affects me. When it's freezing and gray, I want to go to bed. Yet when it's sunny and gorgeous, I can't imagine spending time inside doing work because it's so nice out. Gotta get out and enjoy it.

I'm also feeling a little down because, well, there's no big seemingly impossible goal for me to reach this year. I mean, sure, I could write a book. That seems impossible. But it's not as all-or-nothing as the job search and the dissertation were. This is it. This is my life. And if this is my life and it's so so so so good in so many ways, and I'm still in a funk, then I'm in big trouble, no?

Not sure I should actually write this down, but I'm better off when I have MORE to do rather than less. Not so much time to think. I knew I didn't like April.

Monday, April 04, 2005

today's big step

I'm not telling you what it is, just telling you that today I finally took a very big step toward becoming a grown-up.

Patting myself on the back....

Sunday, April 03, 2005

what I'm reading these days

David Garland, Punishment and Modern Society. Giving me all sorts of ideas about the social functions of punishment, the emotions ignited by punishment, the significance of different forms of punishment, all in service to working out a conception of plagiarism as punishment.

Along those lines, too: David Garland, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. Who'da thunk that my experience teaching life writing in prison would be helpful/generative for my work in plagiarism? Lots of things coming together: prison, life writing, autobiography, authorship, authority, capital, plagiarism, punishment. (I bet you read those last three in the wrong order inadvertently: capital, punishment, plagiarism.)

Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point. This is rather like reading a young adult novel: some important insights but simplistic in its presentation.

Frank Farmer, Saying and Silence: Listening to Composition with Bakhtin.

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture. I'm thinking I'll do my Fall section of English 101 on plagiarism and intellectual property (shocker!), and this just might be one of the key texts.

Oh, the guilt, though, that comes from not actually writing anything. All of this is in service to scholarship, all of this is crucial to said scholarship, but none of this is writing. Of course I'm taking notes, but I have a little nagging voice in my head asking me what I'm writing and when it will be published. And yet there's nobody holding me to any foreseeable deadlines.

In my authorship course, I assigned an autobiographical essay (two shockers in one post!) and I mentioned in class that I might do one, too, cuz I love this stuff. Except I am at a complete and total loss for what to write. I'm at a loss for what to blog lately, too. I feel the pressure to blog, but then when I go to write there's nothing there.

Early mid-life crisis perhaps.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

why I'm scared of April

April 19, 1993: The Waco Massacre
April 19, 1995: Oklahoma City Bombing
April 20, 1999: Columbine High School shooting