Tuesday, January 31, 2006

even my comfort foods didn't really help

On the way from the doctor's office to the pharmacy to pick up the THIRD antibiotic prescription in a week, I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and scarfed down two chocolate covered donuts with sprinkles on top. They were yummy. And yet afterwards the Clara problem was still there. Bombs bursting in red air and shit.

I cannot finally produce a narrative of what happened yesterday because time stood sickeningly still while the doctor took a scalpel to THE MOST RIDICULOUSLY RED AND SENSITIVE AND SWOLLEN part of my body. He had tried to give me a local anesthetic, but try sticking a needle onto that MOST RIDICULOUSLY RED AND SENSITIVE AND SWOLLEN part of my body. Yeah not so much. I'm lying on the table squeezing the nurse's hand, going "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!" Biting my own arm. Sweating. Flailing. Kicking. Reduced to paroxysms. Reduced. Period.

As he was leaving the nurse to help me gather my things, the doctor said to her, "Make sure she gets a sucker on the way out."

Me: A sucker? How about a drink?!?

The only thing I can think to say is that it was utterly unlike any pain I've ever experienced in my ENTIRE LIFE. The pain of a scalpel on a very raw infection. The pain of that scalpel and the pain of pressure and the pain of the doctor pushing to get some stuff out. The kind of pain that I would do anything in my power to avoid experiencing EVER AGAIN.

I had my favorite pizza for dinner last night and it was yummy.

Bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. Two donuts in the middle of the day. Thick pan pizza for dinner. If this thing doesn't kill me by infection, it'll give me a heart attack because of a rapidly gained 20 pounds.

Monday, January 30, 2006

the kind of pain that knows no language

Language fails, my friends. It fucking fails. For five minutes today I would have rather died than go on for one second more of what I was experiencing. That doesn't even make sense. It shouldn't. I actually thought of Frey's description of the root canals--how could he have written that if he hadn't been through it? Mother of Jesus H. Christ.

And it ain't even over. It's not even fucking over. Shoot me now.

Amy impaired

Things it's really hard to do when you're carrying around a golf-ball-sized sebaceous cyst right where your pants hit your waist: (I was going to link to something from my google search, but Jesus H. Christ, I can't do that to you people, my devoted readers. Don't do it.)

1. Close your pants
2. Walk the dog
3. Sit
4. Bend over to pick up the pill you dropped on the floor this morning
5. Think
6. Think about writing that damn book
7. Sleep
8. Imagine life without this son of a bitch
9. Give a shit about eating right
10. Resist the breakfast bagel

Things it's not so hard to do:

1. Feel guilty about not getting work done. Jesus H. Christ.
2. Play Scrabble online
3. Read a wonderful, wonderful book of autobiographical stories by Jo Ann Beard: The Boys of My Youth
4. Moan and groan and whine and moan and groan and whine, although I gotta say, even that's getting old.

Rest in peace, Clara, you biatch.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

the current goings-on

Don't want to keep my three readers in the dark. Clara's been killing me. If she's not taken out tomorrow, I shall kill someone.

Here's something. I've been working for a while on an essay that primarily explores the effects of sibling abuse. Being a rhetorician and being obsessed with the study of effects more so than causes, I came to something of an insight while revising the last version of the essay. One of the effects of prolonged abuse is that, as an adult, I see suicide not as the taboo aberration that it's comfortable for most to see it as, but rather as an issue of control. If things get really really bad ever again, it's nice to know that I have choices. I know this isn't unique to me, but it was important for me to figure that out for myself. The other major effect I came to understand is related to the suicide point: I am not very willing to suffer anymore. Emotionally, physically, otherwisedly. The whole incident with Clara this week is one manifestation of this personality defect of mine. The damn thing HURTS like hell and if it ain't ectomized (there' s a word) tomorrow, I might, well, kill someone. Not willing to suffer. Been there. Done that. I'm not saying this is right or good or even in my own best interests, but such it is in the psyche of Amy. This makes me demanding, whiny, a big baby at times. But it could be worse: I could be demanding, whiny, a big baby at times without even realizing it. Self-awareness makes me just a bit less repulsive, or so I like to tell myself.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

death cab for Clara

Probably Monday she shall be killed, my Clara. She kept me up almost all night last night because I cannot fall asleep on my back, and she's positioned in just the spot that she hurts like a motherf****er if I try to sleep on either side. Clara is a sebaceous cyst for those who haven't heard me talk about her incessantly for the last week. She's at least 12 years old and gave me no problems until last Sunday when she started screaming and spewing shit.

And a cutie she is not, but the death cab shall come for her nonetheless. Look at me making pop culture references and crap.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

when bullshit misfires

In my Rhetoric class, we've been talking about bullshit. In class on Tuesday, we made a list of rhetorical moves students make when bullshitting their way through papers. This list wouldn't surprise any of my readers. We also made a list of things students perceive as being bullshit coming from teachers. It's a good list. And I'm thinking a lot about bullshit lately. It would be quite fitting for my name to appear someday on an article about bullshit, no?

Anyway, being the ever-organized teacher that I am, I emailed the bullshit document to the listserv for the wrong class. I'm also teaching a class on Advanced Exposition: The Personal Essay. Just imagine their surprise when they got an email from me with the one-word subject line: bullshit.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I am very afraid of boredom

Vewwwwy vewwwy afraid.

Just got of the phone with life director, who assured me that she has a bit of sympathy for me because I can't bear the shit I'm writing right now because it's not new and exciting to me anymore. As the boss put it, I'm not having a fantastic new discovery everyday and somehow, somewhere I got the idea that this life in the professoriate would let me have that. But alas some of it is just not exciting but it's gotta get done.

So. New paragraph. I'm now working on the rewards system. On the days that I'm supposed to write, I can only play Scrabble after I've spent the three hours writing. And I'm giving March over to my C's paper and to an article that I want to come out of it. So for the rest of this month and all of February, it's the drudgery of this damn book.

I sure do moan and groan a whole lot. Raise your hand if you can still bear it. 'Cuz I can't.

when there's too much in your head

Let me rephrase that: when there's too much in my head, I tend to just stop and stare blankly at the wall.

Feeling a little bit like I've forgotten how to write. The writing teacher in me is trying to tell the writer in me that beginning with the introduction is probably the hardest thing to do. So be a little bit easier on myself. And then there's the possibility that what I'm trying to do is a bit more complex than anything I've done before, so of course I'm going to struggle with it. And want to quit. And blog instead. And actually look forward to the deparment meeting at noon because it gets me away from my computer.

Hate hate hate this feeling. Big sigh.

it's baaaaaaack

I'm busier now. I can handle a game here and there. I promise not to sit at the computer for hours on end playing Scrabble. I promise.

And you're gonna love the rationale I gave myself for downloading it again: there was nothing on TV last night and my brain couldn't stand to read anymore, so I could afford to waste an hour honing my skills again.

Right now I'm playing and my ass is getting kicked. Damn vowels. Grrrr.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

feel felt found: bullshit

Have I mentioned here yet how much I love my classes? God, they're good.

Today in rhetoric, we were talking about bullshit and one of my students has a bit of experience with one of the branches of the U.S. military. Shall I keep it anonymous? Oh, it's pretty easy to figure out which one it is. Anyway, she told us a formula she learned to use as a recruiter. Any objection can be overcome by using the feel, felt, found formula. Here's how it works.

18-year-old: I'm afraid to go to war.

Recruiter: I understand how you feel. Others have felt that way before. What they've found is...bullshit bullshit bullshit.

26-year-old: I don't want to leave my wife and children behind.

Recruiter: I understand how you feel. Others have felt that way before. What they've found is...bullshit bullshit bullshit.

You get the picture. What I just love about this is how it preys on the basest human needs: we need to feel a) understood; and b) like we're not alone. And it doesn't hurt to be told that others have found a rosy solution to their dilemmas.

I am in the right field. I am. Love this shit.

Monday, January 23, 2006

why didn't anybody tell me...

...that my boyfriend (well, one of them) is hosting the Oscars? I'm so excited. Yet so mad at all you people at the same time.

I love Jon Stewart.

ask me about Clara

I'm too modest [gack] to tell the story here, but it's a gross one, so don't forget.

oh, the crap you'll collect

I am one person. I live in a five-room house with a garage and a fenced-in back yard. Two bedrooms: one is being used as, duh, a bedroom, the other as an office. There's the living room, the "dining" room, and the kitchen. Up until yesterday, the dining room housed the futon and a coffee table--it was an extra sitting room. Well, I decided I really want to get a table and chairs--nothing fancy, mind you--for the dining room so that I could have people over for dinner and do jigsaw puzzles and such (not at the same time, of course). So I moved the futon into the office. This took much finagling. Lord do I have a lot of shit in this office. The filing cabinets went into the closet which is itself getting a bit overstuffed. The piles and piles and piles of papers and books and CRAP got rearranged, but it's still feeling a bit cramped in here. But the good news is that when Uncle Paul comes to visit his girl in March, he'll have a room to sleep in. No sleeping in the dining room for my guests.

What did I do to make myself feel better about having so much crap? Got rid of a couple pairs of shoes that I know I'll never wear again. Nonsensical, I know. But it made me feel better to get rid of something.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Nanny Goat and Knockers, Attorneys at Law

spoons and dimes Originally uploaded by aerobil.

Other possible titles for this post:

Scooby Doo and the case of the stolen banana fucking bread

Bitch Rat Bitch

"Let's let Nan back in the game."

So the dog park gang came over last night to play cards--Skit Skat and Spoons. Hence the artistic composition above.

Nan, queen of all those who enter the dog park, made the mistake of telling us a couple weeks ago that when she was a kid the other kids teased her by calling her Nanny Goat. Well. Guess what we've been calling her ever since.

When playing Skit Skat, the object is to get 31 of the same suit. You can't knock until you've got 18, and the one who has the lowest when you've knocked puts their money in the pot. Well, last night was Denise's first time playing and, well, she knocked quite frequently. So much so that Kelly decided to give her a new nickname (we'd been calling her Neecy): Knockers. At one point someone said something about Nanny Goat and Knockers and Sarah finished that thought with "Attorneys at Law." We wrote that one down in anticipation of this very blog entry. If you have a problem with sticks, stones, or names that hurt, contact Nanny Goat and Knockers, attorneys at law.

And then there's the case of Scooby Doo and the stolen banana fucking bread. On Christmas eve eve, December 23, Nan had a party. Nan drank a lot. I had brought Nan a homemade--from scratch, no less!--loaf of banana chocolate chip bread. Deeee-licious. Last night that came up somehow and we determined that someone stole it because Nan never did get to taste any. We have our suspicions about the culprit, but we shall keep them to ourselves to protect the probably-not-so-innocent. And, more importantly, to protect them from the wrath of Annabelle, Scooby's apprentice.

That Nanny Goat, she's not so good at the spoons game. It's kinda like musical chairs: there's one fewer spoon than there are people and you gotta be quick on your feet. As the cards are going around, your goal is to get 4 of a kind, but you also have to keep your eye on the spoons because as soon as someone gets 4 of a kind, they pick up a spoon. Then everyone else's gotta get one. The one without a spoon has to pay up. In most cases that was Nan. Poor sacrificial Nanny goat.

Fun time was had by all, I can safely say. But remember, if you're injured by the callous, unfeeling name-calling of others, contact Nanny Goat and Knockers today.

Friday, January 20, 2006

holy clean house batman

Mother of god did I clean today. The dog park peeps are coming over tonight to play games and lose their dimes to me in Skit Skat. There'll be pizza, there'll be beer, and I should be a couple bucks richer by the end of the night.

I cleaned for almost four straight hours. Did five loads of laundry. Replaced shower curtain liners. Even dusted the floorboards. Cleaned under the stove's burners to get all that grit. Vacuumed. Cleaned behind the toilet bowl. Dusted dusted dusted. Decided that since she is the source of so much dirt, I'd just vacuum up the Belly girl. She didn't like that idea so much.

Amy tired. But I can't take a nap because I made the bed. Not that that's stopping the stinkbomb over there.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

bury me at the dogpark

Not because it's beautiful or that's where I really want my final resting place to be, but because if Annabelle continues with the behavior she's been displaying the last few days, I'm just going to have a heart attack and die there, so to make it easier on those involved, just bury me there. Erect a tiny headstone on which the boys can pee.

Tuesday before the dog park I come home from a great first day of teaching to find trash strewn all about the kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Tuesday at the park: Belly finds a delicious spot on the gravel where some idiotic freakshow spilled Cheerios--who brings Cheerios to a dog park: idiotic freakshows--and would not leave that spot for all the lovins in the world. She snapped at Molly, who wanted in on the breakfast delight. So finally I pulled her away from the spot and did my best to shovel it all up with a random piece of metal. But the girl's on to bigger and better things. She found a baseball. Fine. I would like someday to have a dog who actually chases a ball. But noooooooo. My dog has to lie there for a half hour and chew the damn thing. When I finally decide that's enough, I go to take it from her and she rips the outer layer off and gobbles it down like it's a Thanksgiving turkey. So now I have to monitor her poops to make sure nothing's obstructed.

Wednesday at the dog park: She's a good girl for about a good half hour or so. And then she finds a piece of something that we think was once alive--it was round and reddish and globular and dis. gust. ing. She gobbled that damn thing down before I could even get near her. More worries about her poop. Kelly shows up a few minutes later. We're all walking toward the south end of the park (look at me using directions and shit in a park! I'm from New England!) and we see the two black girls, Molly and Belly, very close to the fence. So close to the fence that, in fact, one of them is on the other side of the fence. Guess which one.

Somehow she'd gotten underneath some netting that was covering up an open spot in the fence. We go over to the fence and she's just standing there, knowing full well we can't get her, chomping on the bones of some dead animal.

At that point I was so mad I thought I was going to cry. I wasn't really worried about her because, as readers of this blog know, Belly's pretty smart and she's pretty attached to me, so she's not going to run too far away. But damn I was mad. Tired of it.

Of course, the end of all this, if you could call it a story, is that I got her pretty easily, she's fine, and she's been an angel ever since. But I'm still carrying a bit of a grudge. She's being a dog. Dogs eat the disgusting remains of other animals.

I wonder if she'd try to dig up my remains at the park. Nan might still bring her there after I'm gone.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

the curse of the recurring dream

Yup, dreams again folks, but this one's not nearly as wacko or as funny as what's come to be affectionately known as the dead-squirrel bouquet dream.

Most of my devoted readers know that I worked at a business writing training company full-time for a couple years after college and then part-time while I was getting my M.A. at UMass Boston. The place was a nightmare in so many ways. Not the least of which was that it was all women for a long time. No men anywhere to step into the bickering and the passive aggression and the emotional warfare (I know that sounds incredibly sexist and essentializing, but this is how I remember it). I made some great friends there, though, and for that I'm grateful.

In any case, the recurring dream has been happening almost every night for weeks. I'm there for my last day of work and I realize that I haven't been paid since June. It's always since June. WTF? It's easy enough to deduce that I was probably not feeling valued while working there--braniac at work here, watch out--but what's up with the month of June? In different versions of the dream, I'm talking with the payroll person, I'm talking with the boss, I'm talking with my friends about why the fuck I'm not getting paid and nobody ever has an answer for me. Frustrating, I tell you.

So my new plan is to tell my three readers in hopes that this will make the cursed dream go away. Help?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

good one, this semester's gonna be a good one

I love school. I love students. I love my schedule: Tuesday and Thursday 9:30-2--and that includes office hours, though it doesn't include committee meetings, which haven't yet been scheduled. Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9-12 at the coffee house writing my book.

I love what I'm teaching: upper-level rhetoric and upper-level advanced writing.

Two very good classes today, I think.

It's all good, peeps, it's all good. Crossing my fingers that it stays this way.

Monday, January 16, 2006

changing my mind about Frey

It's the jail time lie that's doing it to me. SO MUCH of both memoirs hinges on the experiences Frey narrates about his time in jail; the first chapter or so of My Friend Leonard is really one big fat lie. For the first day of class tomorrow in my Advanced Exposition, which I'm devoting to the personal essay, I'm bringing in the first three pages of Leonard to initiate a discussion of the role of truth in memoir and the essay.

I argued earlier that it's the feeling of what happened that matters, but now I'd like to revise that to say that it depends on who you are and what kind of story you're telling. Here's the thing that convinced me, and it's something I've talked about a lot with students when we discuss autobiography. In The NY Times on Jan. 15, Randy Kennedy wrote this in reference to Casanova, Benevuto Cellini, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain and Thomas DeQuincey:
Of course, all these writers, except DeQuincey, had a special kind of raw material: their accomplished, celebrated and famous (or infamous) lives. This kept readers engaged, even if their facts got a little foggy.

In the case of Mr. Frey, however, and many others responsible for the flood of memoirs in recent years--Jennifer Lauck, who has written about her awful youth; Augusten Burroughs, who has written about his really awful youth; Dave Pelzer, who has written about his even more awful youth--their primary claims to readers' attention are the horrifying things they say really happened to them or that they really did.

The other argument that got me is the one about his selling it as fiction first. And when I think about it as fiction, I realize how very different the book would be, how I probably would've given up after a few pages. In fact, I'd probably never have picked it up. I just wouldn't have cared.

And while we're on this, here's an excerpt from an Oprah magazine editorial published at least four years ago (I came across it today reading up on the Jonathan Franzen debacle for my book). Oprah writes, "I have always been a truth seeker. Not a day goes by that I don't look for it, consider how I can use it to evolve into all that the Creator intended for me--and then seek to extend that truth to others."

Yup, I knew you'd love it.

coincidence not so much

Oprah's announcing her latest book club pick this afternoon, so tune in!

Nothing like taking the spotlight off Frey and all...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

interior design by Amy & Belly

Last night's dream was beyond wacko: I'm with a bunch of friends (though I'm not really sure who) and our task is to decorate the foyer of this huge mansion. So we get this huge flower arrangement, which looks great, but what would look even better, I try my damndest to persuade everyone, is a bunch of dead squirrels fanned out along the bottom. What kills me about it is how convinced I was that my friends just couldn't see the beauty that was right in front of them.

Perhaps it's time to go back to that teaching gig?

James Frey's emotional capital

Oh, the hullabaloo surrounding The Smoking Gun's investigation into the "facts" of James Frey's claims about his Criminal past.

Anyone who reads memoir knows that the point is often not what happened on which date to whom and when but why it happened, how the narrator responds to the why, and what readers glean from that about living their own lives. Memoirs are not how-to manuals. They do not tell us how to live our lives. If you're a drug addict or an alcoholic or a criminal and you're looking to Frey's books for advice on how to live and what to do, you're not gonna get far, contrary to what Oprah tells you. If you're a drug addict or an alcoholic or a criminal, you're likely not reading Frey's book anyway.

Frey created a persona to tell his stories, a persona that is not reducible to James Frey the man. I finished both books, I felt like I knew him, I wanted to know more about him, but at the same time I understood that I was falling in love not with a real person but with a construction for the purposes of storytelling.

Last night I was reading essays out of a book called Feminism After Bourdieu. In "Gendering Bourdieu's Concepts of Capitals," Diane Reay argues that "emotional capital," is a capital unlike cultural, economic, or symbolic in that it is "all about investment in others rather than self--the capital that is used up in interaction with others and is for the benefit of those others" (71). She also writes that emotional capital "gained in the private sector lacks the direct convertibility of other capitals like cultural and economic capital" (60). First, cultural capital is never directly convertible, but more important to my point is that Frey's work challenges this notion of emotional capital not being subject to commodification in the same way that cultural capital is. Of course Frey's emotional capital is being commodified. We read his books because we want to know what it felt like to be a drug addict who couldn't have anesthesia during two root canals. We imagine what we would do in a similar situation. We thank goodness that we're not in that situation. And Frey's counting on that, on our lack of knowledge of what it feels like to experience the extremes he supposedly experienced. And if he didn't experience them exactly the way his book claims that he did?

Memoir is not the Truth with a capital T. Writing about the self is never the Truth. Emotional truth, what it felt like to be me, to paraphrase Joan Didion, that's what matters.

Perhaps the reason so many people might feel duped is that they expect that Frey's memoirs represent a transcript of his life during those years. That, my friends, that would likely be very deadly writing indeed. Writing is what you make of your experiences.

Friday, January 13, 2006

mother of GOD what a day

Department Retreat today. 'nuff said about that.

Exhaustion beyond belief.

Gratitude beyond belief to Nan and Molly who kept Belly today while I was gone for almost ten hours. I called Nan at lunchtime to see how my girl was doing.

Me: She being good?

Nan: I'm sorry if your girl comes home with a chapped face. Molly's been licking her practically the entire time she's been here.

OH MY GOD how I love that Molly girl. She's about a year and a half, full-blooded black lab, and full of the fire. Completely full of it. And oh, how she wanted Belly to play with her. Oh! But Belly's 4 and a half now, ya know, she's not much of a player anymore. So Molly, every time she walked by the Belle, licked her face just to let her know she was welcome anyway. BREAKS. MY. HEART.

Really. It does.

So then I went over to Julie's for a couple of hours--with the Belly--for a post-retreat processing session. Very good. I love my friends.

Home tonight. Put Belly in the yard. Check email and such. Go to get Belly. SHE'S NOT IN THE YARD AND THE FENCE IS OPEN. Panic.

Walk the streets yelling her name, can't help thinking about the very busy street one block away, about how I've not really had to run after her in this neighborhood, about how she's probably dead and I just got finished telling Nan how I always wanted her to be a bit more obedient and attached to me and how she couldn't stop kissing me when I picked her up at Nan's tonight.

I'm walking outside in my pajamas with her leash in my hand calling her name and the neighbors--the ones across the street who most consider a nuisance because of their pit bulls and their many many children--they're the ones who come out to help me call for Belly. And that, THAT, my friends, breaks my heart even more than Molly. The neighbors that EVERYONE on the street warned me about when I moved here--they're the ones who open the door and say, "Is Annabelle loose?" She's the one--the mom--who comes out in her robe to help me search for my girl.

I got my girl. She's okay. I'm still a bit mad at her, but she's okay. I'd finally gotten into the car to look for her and the second time back around to my street, there she was standing there on the front porch. She knows where she lives. That much I know. But oh, the exhaustion. I'm beat. Completely. And I'm beginning to understand that saying. You've beat me. I'm done. I surrender.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

new Trident watermelon

Being on the strict phase of the South Beach diet fuels my addiction for Trident's Tropical Twist flavor because it tastes like I'm having a sweet treat. Today at Target I found a new flavor of Trident: Watermelon Twist. I do believe I can safely say that the watermelon twist (what the hell's twisted about either of these flavors is indeed a mystery) allows larger bubbles and feels even more like I'm having a sweet treat. Plus with the new easy open packs, I always feel so cool flipping the top open to get my gum. Kinda like I'm flipping it open to get a cigarette except not.

See what happens to my blog when I'm deprived of Scrabble? I write about g.d. gum!

group therapy is better than pizza

I'm still a dork and I still love school.

Last night I and my 8 grad students from last semester's social class course got together to workshop two of the essays for the edited collection we're putting together. Throughout the entire three hours, Stefanie was hankerin' for pizza and making that fact well known.

The workshopping: IT WAS SO GOOD. It's group therapy of an intellectual sort.

Me at one point when a particularly deep insight was arrived at: I love group therapy.

John: Group therapy is better than pizza.

Stefanie glares at him.

At the end of the night, we made our plans to workshop the next two essays in February. Stefanie says something about crying when she finished reading Devon's essay.

Stefanie: I cried when I read Amy's, too.

Rob: You cried for Devon, you cried for Amy, but you didn't cry for me. That's my new goal, to make Stefanie cry.

John: Just bring a pizza and don't let her have any.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

why I need a shrink

My alarm goes off at 7:30 this morning as it has all week. The plan is to get to the coffee shop by 9:00 to work for three hours. But I'm OH SO TIRED and my bed is OH SO COMFY and the weather, well, we already know about the weather, it's DEADLY.

So I turn the alarm off and decide, shit, I'm on break, I should get to sleep in if I feel like and if my body needs it (rationalizing already). So I get all comfy again and think about all the terrible repercussions of not working on the book today. Here's what goes through my mind as I'm trying to enjoy sleeping in:

I'm never gonna get the damn book done if I let myself sleep in like this. It's just one day. But every day matters you're always telling grad students that they have to write everyday on a really big project like this and you know from experience that it really does have to be everyday. I'm on vacation. But the book's not going to write itself and you know you're not going to get any work done at home that begins at 10:30 even if Scrabble isn't on your computer. But I'm oh so comfy. You're never gonna finish the book, you're never gonna get tenure, you're gonna lose your job, you're gonna end up living in a cardboard box on the street and Belly will starve. It may seem like just one day but just one day turns into just two days turns into just a week and then you're screwed. Sleep well.

And I'm really not exaggerating. I wish I were, but it ain't pretty inside this head, folks. Not pretty at all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


This is my new favorite word because, WTF, the weather here has been as gloomy as death. This weather, it is indeed deadly. Wrist-slitting deadly. No-coffee-left-in-the-house deadly. No-end-in-sight deadly. I'm-going-to-die-alone-with-five-hundred-cats deadly.

Other things that are deadly:

1. Vile man at the dog park who looks like a serial killer with the new facial hair
2. My urge to play Scrabble
3. The amount of time Scrabble was taking from me every. single. day.
4. The mud. The mud. The mud.
5. Penises the size of thumbs

Got ya on that last one, didn't I?

and then, and then, *sniffle sniffle* I uninstalled Scrabble

Big sigh.

I can't do it. I can't resist it when it's on my home computer. I will never get another thing done as long as that damn program is only a click away. So I killed it just now. Dead. Gone. We loved you very much, Scrabble.

That damn book isn't going to write itself, a wise person once said.

And staring at a book cover has never achieved much. Gotta open it.

I feel a very big sense of loss.

Monday, January 09, 2006

on humility and uncertainty

I'm reading Vivian Gornick's The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative for my English 246 course, which I'm devoting to the personal essay. Gornick references a concept that I really really like, and that I know that I'll use again and again when talking with students about writing--any kind of writing--writing the personal essay, writing an argument, writing an analysis, writing a speech. Gornick writes that when reading a really good personal essay, "we are in the presence...of a mind puzzling its way out of its own shadows--moving from unearned certainty to thoughtful reconsideration to clarified self-knowledge" (36).

Unearned certainty. That's what's wrong with so much of the writing that frustrates me. That's what's wrong with unreflective narrators. Their certainty is unearned. Certainty is something we're all searching for, and that's the point. It's something to be searched for, earned, not something to which a writer is ever simply entitled.

Well huh.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

a lovely Sunday morning

Classic Belly at the dog park Originally uploaded by aerobil.

Just look at this loud mouth girl. This is one of her classic poses at the dog park. All the other dogs are running and playing and having a grand ol' time and Belly, well, Belly's gotta yell about it. Classic. Simply classic.

Belly's reputation at the dog park: completely shot

Everyone knows that Annabelle is a fierce little hunter. She killed three groundhogs in her younger days AND she has new camo boots to help her sneak up on the squirrels at the dog park. Of course, the weather has been such that she hasn't had a chance to sport her new kicks, but that's another story for another time. At the park, whenever Belly is getting a little too clingy or immobile, Denise will yell, "Belly! Squirrel!" and Belly will turn around and run in the exact opposite direction that Denise is pointing in. Belly's pointer heritage is a certainty; we've all watched her stalk squirrels for what seems like an eternity before sprinting to try to catch them. But alas, she's never gotten one at the park.

Yesterday Belly and I got to the park at our usual time of 10:30 and as soon as we were in the gate, I heard Denise yell "Squirrel!" I just assumed it was because Belly had arrived. Turns out it was because Sarah's dog, Lucky (who Sarah's had for only 2 1/2 months or so--her first dog) has a very fat, very dead squirrel in his mouth and is running to the gate to show us all his kill. I scream (shocking, I know). Sarah's trying to catch Lucky, but at the same time she doesn't really want to catch him because she's so grossed out. Sarah: I'm a vegetarian! As though we're planning to eat the squirrel for brunch.

I go over toward the killa beast and grab his collar, but that's about it. I'm not about to get near that dead thing. Sarah picks up--of all things--a board that someone has placed near the very muddy entrance. Later Sarah says that her plan was to hit the squirrel with it, not her boy. Uh. Yeah. That'll work.

Sarah: What the fuck do I do?

Amy: We need a man (hooray for sexism).

A couple guys who we don't know come over because they hear our distressed voices shrieking. By this point, miraculously, Lucky has dropped the squirrel. The guy, who's thankfully wearing gloves, picks up the squirrel and drops it into the trash can just outside the gate.

Anonymous man: It was surprisingly pliable. Not dead long.

The group of us walk back to the middle of the park and begin processing what just happened. Lucky is given a new middle name: Killa. After we've been talking for a few minutes, I realize I don't know where my dog is.

Me: Where's the stinkbomb?

Denise: She's off behind the barn sulking.

Update: Be sure to read Sarah's account of the blessed event here. I think she thinks I'm loud or something. Huh.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

when Scrabble takes over your life

Whoooh boy. The Scrabble. It's killing me.

On Thursday night I turned off my computer at 7:00 (I usually turn it off right before bed) because I knew I wouldn't be able to stop myself from playing just. one. more. game. Really. just. one. more.

I've dreamt of Scrabble words before, and I'm doing it again. When I walk the dog, I note the Scrabble value of signs in people's yards. For Sale By Owner. 25 points. For Rent. 10 points. Beware of dog. 21 points.

Get a life. 12 points.

Write that damn syllabus. 35 points.

Help me. 13 points.

Make it stop. 18 points.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Memed from Devon:

List the first sentences of the first entry you wrote for each month of 2005.

January: Toward the beginning of every semester since I began teaching in 1998, I've had teaching anxiety dreams.
February: surly
March: My friend Hillary and I have been playing Scrabble together since before we could talk.
April: April 19, 1993: The Waco Massacre
May: Welcome, oh month of May.
June: The abstracat is a highly evolved academic species, one who entertains only highly theoretical notions and resorts to spraying those who dare try to engage him in issues of the everyday.
July: Today's my big brother's birthday.
August: Oh. My. God.
September: ...it's the little things that blow my mind.
October: I colored my hair last night.
November: First, the sugar.
December: It's only about an inch, but it was a nice surprise this morning when I opened the door to let Belly outside.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

dog owner of the year

Not so much.

Yesterday morning I woke to yet another day of doom and gloom in Central Illinois. Deadly, I tell you, simply deadly. At 8:30 I got up to let the girl outside. The moisture, it was coming in a spray, nothing big. I went back to bed.

At 9:00 I woke up to the sound of big raindrops on the window near my bed. It was pouring. And poor little stinkbomb was sitting outside in it. I ran to the back door to let her in. I felt so bad. So so bad. But I also had to keep myself from laughing because she just looked so pathetic with her little wet head hanging down in the pouring rain. There's no cover for her in the yard, so she had nowhere to go. Poor poor Bellybugs.

If I were faster on my feet, I would've taken a picture of her suffering out there, but then what kind of dog owner would I be? Running to get the camera while her little head hangs in the rain? Be glad I have no photo, people. Be glad.

Monday, January 02, 2006

First name Abbie, last name Normal

Check out this AP article about the beauty of Normal, IL.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

goodies, goodies, and more goodies

Cherlyn getting busy Originally uploaded by aerobil.

Had SUCH a blast last night--and this morning--at Chris and Christy's New Year's Eve par-tay. In the wee hours of the morning Chris broke out his trumpet and we all took our turns working the instrument. Here's Cherlyn having a good time with it. Click on the photo for more.

We started the game portion of the evening with the Family Feud. Cherlyn is the QUEEN of the Family Feud. For every single question, she got the number 1 answer. As she was part of my family, we won $20,000 to be split evenly among all of us.

When it was my turn to go up for the face-off, the question was: Name a form of punishment for children. Keeping in mind that this was written sometime in the 70s, understand that my first response got a big ol' strike: Time out. Nope, the number one answer according to Richard Dawson (Robbie Doodle) was spanking. So the other team got control. The answers were things like, get sent to room, sit in the corner (what is that if not time out?), get sent to bed with no supper, and no television. When it was our family's turn to steal, we conferred, as all good families do. We decided to go with "no dessert." I turned to Richard/Robbie and said, "Richard, we're gonna go with 'no dessert.'" Richard paused for a moment. "Nope. I'm sorry. That is not correct."

When we asked what the real answer was, Richard/Robbie read it: "no goodies." The room erupted in laughter, disbelief, and a few small cries. Even the other team thought we should've gotten that. Then you hear Chris say, "Depends how we're defining 'goodies,' I guess."

Ah yes, indeed it does depend on how we define "goodies."