Friday, March 31, 2006


Disturbing dream that I guess I can now say is recurring since I've had it twice in the last two months or so: I'm at the hospital about to have an abortion. And this time I actually did go through the entire procedure and they gave me pizza afterwards. I was in the hospital with all the other people who were waiting for your everyday, regular surgeries. There was no special place for the women who were about to abort the teeny things inside them. I had my own nurse assigned to me and when someone wheeled two very very burned victims by (this wasn't the ER, but it was a dream, so hush), I winced and then felt horrible for wincing. The nurse reassured me that my reaction was perfectly normal.

My nurse asked me whether this was likely to happen again.

Me: I'm never going to have sex again.

She gives me a look until I revise my response.

What in my life is not yet fully developed that I've killed recently?

I feel a bit as though I've broken all the rules of this blog by sharing this dream. Transgression.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

one more thing about that essay and then I'll shut up

I went into class this morning with no plan. I said instead that I'm not really sure how to teach an essay that is this phenomenal, so I'm just going to wing it. Perhaps it's even an essay that cannot be taught, but that just needs to be read over and over and over again.

As many of my readers know, I have a tendency toward exaggeration. No! Little ol' me? Well, yes. Which makes it hard to express how I feel about this essay. Which makes it hard for me to say that I'm actually a little bit jealous because I know I could never write anything this good.

a perfect epigraph for a future essay

Again from Cheryl Strayed's "The Love of My Life":
In fact, in their deaths I felt more deeply connected to them, not because I grieved for them, but because I wanted to attach myself to what is interesting. It is interesting to be in a Chinese restaurant and see a poster of the smiling face of an acquaintance, who is one hell of a painter, plastered on the front door. It is interesting to be able to say, I know him, to feel a part of something important and awful and big. The more connections like this we have, the more interesting we are.
We all know this feeling. This is the first time I've seen it in print. As I told my class this morning, this is the most dangerous implicating of the reader in the entire essay. I just want to curl up and sleep with this essay, to own it, to be it, to possess it somehow.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

do I really have time for Law & Order?

Crazy busy this week, it seems. Reading reading reading. Responding responding responding to student work. Trying desperately to catch up with what I've assigned students to do. Trying still to catch up on the reading for the trauma course I'm sitting in on this semester. Wondering where all my time is going. I have ten minutes left until Law & Order comes on, but since it's over at 9, I can get a bit more work done before going to bed. I think.

If you haven't already read it, please get yourself a copy of Cheryl Strayed's essay "The Love of My Life," which was anthologized in the 2003 Best American Essays. Oh. My. God. That's all I'm sayin'. Okay, I'll say just a bit more:
We like to say how things are, perhaps because we hope that's how they might actually be. We attempt to name, identify, and define the most mysterious of matters: sex, love, marriage, monogamy, infidelity, death, loss, grief. We want these things to have an order, an internal logic, and we also want them to be connected to one another. We want it to be true that if we cheat on our spouse, it means we no longer want to be married to him or her. We want it to be true that if someone we love dies, we simply have to pass through a series of phases, like an emotional obstacle course from which we will emerge happy and content, unharmed and unchanged. (294)
Fontana and Green, they're calling me now.

word about the dog park...'s getting around.

Exhibit A.

Monday, March 27, 2006

he loves me, he really really loves me!

Got a Priority envelope in the mail today from my sister. Inside was this note (David is my brother-in-law):
Hello Amelia!
How are ya? David's mother picked up a little present for you (and one for my boss's wife, who is a huge Law & Order fan). Vincent was visiting his mom, who, I think I told you before, lives next to Dave's mom. So, Dave's mother actually got to hang out with your honey and saw him sign your picture....
And Dave's mom wrote, too, that my picture comes with a kiss on the cheek. Though I think she meant lips and just wrote it wrong. That happens when one ages.

On the photo, Vince, as I like to call him, wrote "To Amy. I love you. You are my dream come true. When can we meet again?"

Okay, so that's a teeny exaggeration. But still. I feel like a teenager. I think I might have to be visiting my brother-in-law's mother in Florida sometime soon....

digging out

From papers and ideas and emails and snail mail and telephone calls to return.

It took almost an entire week to prepare for C's. Now I feel like I need an entire week to recover. Is it because I'm getting old? Because I have more people I want to see each year? Because I actually went to a whole bunch of sessions this time?

I don't know how people with kids do it. They must be tired all the time.

I know now that I the only way I'm going to feel comfortable leaving Annabelle with someone when I go away is to have someone stay with her at the house. Every person I saw at the park yesterday commented on how depressed Annabelle was the entire time I was gone. It makes me want to cry. In an emergency, I'd board her or let her stay with someone, but I'm gonna do all that I can to avoid that. It's worth it to me to know she's comfortable.

Off to a department meeting. Then a writing committee meeting. Then the park. This is my life.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Number of times I read some form of the word "bullshit" to my audience: 45

Number of ideas I walked away from the Fitzgerald/Fountain/Wharton panel with: 6

Number of future articles I could title right now: 3

Percentage of those future articles I plan to finish by the end of the summer: 33

Number of articles I must publish before I come back to the work of the book: 2

Number of panels I attended on Thursday: 1

Percentage of papers on that panel that included something I didn't already know: 33

Number of panels I attended on Friday: 4

Percentage of papers on those panels that included something I didn't already know: 100

Rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, that I would give to Deborah Tannen's talk before seeing Patricia Williams' talk: 7

Rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, that I would give to Patricia William's talk: 10

Rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, that I'd give Tannen after seeing Williams: 3

Keyword for next year's proposal: shame

Winner of the 2006 Ross Winterowd award for best book: Julie Wonka Jung

Percentage of my readers who should read Curtis White's essay in this month's Harper's Magazine: 100 (I'm proud proud proud to be White's colleague)

Number of years it seems to have taken to be able to call Bloomington-Normal home: 1.5

Biggest realization of the entire conference: The work I do is mostly for me, which is to say that if I don't really really love what I'm working on, I shouldn't bother doing it.

Number of people I actually recognized when I walked into the bar for the Syracuse gathering on Friday evening: 2

Percentage of those people I wanted to talk to: 100

Percentage of those people I talked to: 50

Number of times I thought about or missed my blog: at least 4

Number of times I'd actually talked to a publisher before Saturday: 0

Percentage of the time I was gone that Belly was utterly depressed: 100

Hours Annabelle spent snuggling Uncle Paul last night and this morning: 8

Number of days until the proposal for next year's panel is due: 40

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm exhausted just thinking about it

C's. Tomorrow. Train at 7:30. Which means getting up at 5:30 in order to shower, eat, and get Belly to Nan's house by 6:50 so that I can leave her house at 7 to get to the train station by 7:10. And I'll be going non-stop until dinner at 6, party at 8, death at 10.

Maybe if I anticipate the exhaustion in advance, it will somehow be more bearable? Maybe. Doubtful.

It's 5 pm. I should go to bed.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

mother of jesus h.

I didn't really take them seriously when they predicted a spring storm of 3-8 inches of snow. Um, shit. I let Belly out this morning at about 8:30 and by 9:00 her footprints had already been completely erased by the drifting snow. She might get to wear her boots this year after all.

I had a student email me to ask if there was any chance class might be canceled today. ha! I've never gotten an email like that before. Apparently her earlier class had been canceled and she was just killing time waiting for my class to begin. Fun. Nee.

Saturday afternoon, recall, I was sitting on my porch in the sun with my girl. I've already taken out 1/2 the porch furniture!


Monday, March 20, 2006

what's the difference between a 4-yr-old and a little old lady?

Talking to Hillary on the phone tonight. I've woken her from her crossword puzzle. She was working on it and when she became really stuck, she just closed her eyes... and then the phone rang.

"Imagine what I'll be like when I'm old," she says to me at 7:30 pm.

Yesterday Tobi and I wandered around Chinatown together. We had lunch at Won Kow (yum!), we went into a bunch of cute little shops, we bought random useless items for $3.98 apiece, and we didn't stop talking the entire time. We had a lot to catch up on--ourselves, of course, and then all the people that glue us together, the people we have in common.

When we were leaving Chinatown, Tobi asked if I wanted ice cream. Uh, yeah, I want ice cream. Duh.

"Okay, but you have to get what I tell you to get. Or else we're not going."

"What do I have to get?"

"A hot fudge sundae with chocolate chip ice cream. Or you can have half chocolate chip and half coffee. But that's it. No other substitutions."

So we went to Mitchell's in Homewood. I didn't even order my own ice cream because I was too busy drooling at the chocolates behind the glass. The hot fudge comes separately in a little jug and you get to control how much you put on your ice cream when. Control. Yum.

Later we were back at the house playing Scrabble and I was coming down with a very bad case of the tired sillies. Everyting was making me laugh and I couldn't keep my head up. I tell Tobi I think it might be that I'm overstimulated, that's why I'm so damn tired.

Tobi doesn't get why I might be overstimulated. I remind her that we were just in Chinatown, which is itself sensory overload, we ate a lot of MSG and a lot of sugar, and we never stopped talking. I never talk to a single person for such a sustained period of time anymore. I live alone, remember?

Tobi says, "Amy, you sound like you're describing a four-year-old."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunday 8 am blogging

Per my obsession with SCRBBL, here's an article about the missing vowels in new brand names like the RAZR and sites like FLICKR. Imagine the words you could make on Scrabble!

And yes, it's 8 am on Sunday and I'm up and almost ready to hit the road to see the Tobi-licious. Er, the TBLCS. That name, it's quite vowel-dependent.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

learning to just be

Saturday afternoon two days before spring officially begins. I graded a few papers and then decided to clean up the two porches in anticipation of spring. I cleaned up all the trash and the hundreds of sticks in the front yard and then swept both porches. Then Belly and I sat on the front porch for a while just smelling the spring air. She's good for me, that girl. She was so happy just lifting her head high and sniffing while getting love pats from me.

We'll take a nice long walk soon, eat our dinner, and snuggle in for some good reading tonight.

I almost just wrote what my next article might be about, but I stopped myself.

Tomorrow I'm driving up to Chicago area to visit with Tobi for the day. Can't wait! Lots of Scrabble, I'm sure. Scrabble and deep-dish pizza. That be good.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Belly's Day

Patty. Belly. Shit. What's the difference? She's mostly a saint.

Went to Kelly's tonight for corned beef, potatoes (I skipped the cabbage), and a card game that's new to me: Tripoley. Fun stuff. I won lots o' nickels and well, Sahara owes me at least one beer the next time we have a cheese date.

I love my friends. Thank the good jesus h. that I have people who will not throw me outta the house when I laugh too much.

Starting to get the 4Cs jitters. Shit. Fuck.

I want deep-dish Chicago pizza.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

C's paper: done

Next up: worry about what to do next.

New title for C's paper:
"For Argument's Sake: Bullshit, Social Class, and the Work of the Academy"
Coming soon to a Saturday near you. Shee-it.

My mother called me last night to ask how far I was from the devastating tornadoes that hit Springfield a few days ago. I tell her I'm about an hour away.

Mother: That's it?

Me: Yes. But we're fine.

Mother: What would you do if they came your way?

Me: Grab Belly and go to the basement.

Mother: What if your house blew up?

What if your house blew up?

Me: Well, I guess I'd go up with it. Me and the girl and the house, all up in the air.

What if your house blew up?

And they say I worry too much.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

the line that keeps haunting me this week

From Seymour Krim's essay "For My Brothers and Sisters in the Failure Business":

I have never really learned how to live. I improvise--and fuck up anyway.

I have never learned how to be. I don't know how to allow myself to lounge around the house doing nothing. I don't know how to not think about the work I should be doing. I don't know how to live for right now rather than for vague moments in the future that may just never come.

I'm at school in my office as I write this. It's the third day of spring break. I'm here working on my CCCC paper, but if I wasn't working on that, I'd be working on something else. I don't know how not to.

Last night after Julie's birthday dinner party (it was soooooo good), I came home a bit tipsy and lay on the floor with Belly, playing tug with her, giving her lots of pets and thinking the entire time that maybe this is what it means to just be.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if I stop thinking about all the work I have to do, I might think about other things that are just no fun.

Back to the paper.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

happy birthday Julie Wonka!

I know she doesn't read my blog, so I can tell my 3 readers what the big present is! Four of us pitched in to get Julie Wonka a karaoke machine for her 40th birthday. I hope she loves it. I know she'll love it.

I hope she loves it.

In other news, I know I've said this a hundred times on this blog, but I gotta say it one more time: What an amazing difference the sun makes. I was so happy driving into school today, singing along to my Winterpills and thinking about my C's paper. It's on bullshit, literally. Because our proposal for some reason doesn't have titles for individual papers, I feel like I have a little more leeway. Working title right now: Bullshit, Social Class, and Persuasion. That's likely to change in the next few days.

I'm looking forward to summer when I can write for a couple hours everyday. No matter what they tell you (ah, the infamous "they"), the best way to work through complex ideas (and we all know that bullshit is complex) is to work on it everyday.

Anyway, happy birthday to my good friend Julie. She makes me laugh always. She kills me. Dinner party tonight with a monstrous chocolate layer cake. YUM.

Monday, March 13, 2006

my very first trophy at age 33

Last night was Julie and Rob's bracketology party wherein a bunch of clueless wonders, along with a few who were actually in the know, filled out a NCAA bracket while drinking fabulously strong sangria and eating DEElicious organic hamburgers. The bracketology party is an annual event at the Jung-Isaacs household. After the teams for this year were announced, Julie and Rob did the honors of handing out the much-coveted trophies for last year's brackets. The categories were Most Correct Guesses (or something along those lines) and Best Upset.

I won a trophy, the first of my young life, for choosing one of the best upsets! Apparently I chose Bucknell last year to beat ??? (I don't even know who they beat, but it was apparently quite the upset).

I decided to build my very own trophy shelf.

But then it looked awfully lonely, so I put my fancy little trophy on top of my dresser, next to a cute little foam basketball that I stole from among the party favors.

In other hilarious, predictable news, I chose the same two teams to go all the way last year and this year: BC and Syracuse. You can see where my allegiances are. Last year I chose BC to win, this year Syracuse.

I do not profess to know a damn thing about college basketball, but shee-it, I got me a trophy.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

a Saturday with no work to do

Oh boy. What's a girl who's not sure what to do when she's not working TO DO with a day like this? I promised myself the weekend off.

1. Take the girl to the dog park because it's almost 70 degrees out
2. Rent The Constant Gardener
3. Play lots of online Scrabble
4. Laundry
5. Clean the house, but not too thoroughly
6. Blog
7. Wonder what to do next

Sits and picks at fingers while wondering what to write next...

Will probably read. Fun stuff.

Friday, March 10, 2006

softball and spring and HAPpy

We've got a team together, folks. We don't have a name yet because there's a bit of conflict amongst all ten members of the team. Yes, TEN. It takes 9 to play and we've got ten. That ain't pretty. But we've got a couple alternates, so that's a good thing.

It was over 60 today and SUNNY. The air smelled so good.

Here is the question of my life, the one that will never really be answered: WILL I EVER stop feeling stupid? And dumb? And stupid some more? I know I can write, but I wish I could speak. Jesus H.

Iron & Wine

Oh. My. God. The. Voice.

I can listen to "Trapeze Swinger" over and over and over again. Or "Such Great Heights."

It's the voice. It's killing me. I love it so much that it makes me want to climb under the covers and just die while listening to it. Bittersweet. Melancholy. Nostalgic. None of these words really work to describe it.

When I die, play "Trapeze Swinger" at whatever services there are. The eloquent graffiti at the pearly gates. Indeed.

Like"We'll meet again."
And "Fuck the man."
And "Tell my mother not to worry."


Thursday, March 09, 2006

I'm like a little old lady...

...sitting in my office at school eating peanuts out of a jar. Remember your professors from undergrad who would eat the brownest of bananas and the smelliest of tunas? I feel like that right now. A student just left and he's probably thinking I'm turning into a little old lady already.

In response to Annabelle's many escapes from the dog park recently (and I haven't written about most of them because there's nothing new to say about them), I bought her an orange collar. Not quite safety orange, but close enough. You can see her from pretty far away. She looks a little bit like she's anticipating Halloween coming a bit early this year.

In last night's dream I was wearing a teeny little nightgown in class. The nightgown barely covered my butt. It had teeny little blue flowers on it and my biggest concern was that it was going to get wet. In my dream, apparently, it hadn't occurred to me that I'd actually have to sit down in class.

In the new version of the online Scrabble dictionary, QI and ZA and FE are words. I'm just sayin'.

Spring break next week. Hoorah. I have promised myself to take at least a couple of entire days off. I'll take lots of afternoons off. But an entire weekend, perhaps. Crazeeee.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

in which we drive our pottery teacher nuts

On Sunday afternoon Julie and I drove up to Lexington for yet another lovely Sunday afternoon painting pottery at Christy's house. I love these times because we get to be creative and we get to gossip and catch up and when we're not quite sure just which color to use, Christy's there to help us. Sunday was no exception.

Julie's first job was to finish a bowl she'd begun the time before. And even though Christy has told us time and time again (I can just hear my mother saying, "If I've told you once, I've told you a million times!) to write down the colors we use and how many coats, Julie hadn't done so.

Julie: But I don't know how many coats I've done.

Christy: You're gonna have to do another coat.

And then, in her best teacher voice for kindergardeners, Christy says: I know it's more work, but...

And Julie and I both howl.

Me: Christy, can you help me draw a lightning bolt?

She comes over and tries.

C: I'm no good at drawing things. Sorry.

Me: What if I decided to write out "Skit Skat?" Will you help me?

Julie rolls her eyes and makes a Wonka face.

Later I'm working on a tray and I've decided to do a very intricate pattern that deep down I know will look horrible, but isn't it best to try?

Julie: I think it's best that we all come to terms with our own limitations.


I draw a flower pattern instead and it is god. awful. I paint one coat of light scarlet over the entire thing. And still I'm not happy.

Me: Um, could we wash this off?

And by we, my friends, I mean Christy. And she obliges.

As we're leaving, Chris, Christy's husband, tells us he's going to go grocery shopping so that Christy can have some alone painting time. I can't imagine why she'd need such a thing. Huh.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

when a stranger's death affects me

I turned on my computer this morning at school to find out that Dana Reeve has died only seven months after she announced that she had lung cancer. This just makes me so sad. Her son is only 13. An orphan. Two parents dead in the space of two years.

Of course there's the part of me that feels like Reeve's death will be used to bring more attention to nonsmokers who die of lung cancer, and that's a good thing. Maybe part of what makes me so sad about this is that I've bought into the belief system that says that lung cancer is a preventable disease: quit smoking. Or that those who smoke like chimneys for years and years and then end up with lung cancer somehow deserve it. Nobody deserves cancer, but that logic--the logic that lung cancer in smokers is theoretically preventable--is sometimes hard to counter, no matter how hard we try to look for technicalities in the arguments. I say this because I've been following Bloomington-Normal's public debates about the smoking ban in restaurants. And bar owners have used the teensiest technicalities to argue that there isn't a direct causal link between second-hand smoke and health problems.

But mostly I'm just sad. I'm struck by disbelief in some ways. Lung cancer kills so goddamn fast. August 2005. March 2006. Rest in peace.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Annabelle lite; Annabelle heavy

First, Annabelle lite:

She did just okay with the sedation on Saturday. This because when we thought she was all the way out, we moved her foot and she went to bite first me and then the vet's assistant. She pierced the assistant. I pulled my hand away in time. Tears came to my eyes at that moment, not for Belly's fear, but for myself. WHY does a nail trim have to be so goddamn complicated?

We went over to Nan's house that night--I didn't want to leave her alone as she was still kinda groggy. Everyone was asking how Belly was doing, and I said, well, she's 1/2 Belly. And then Sarah put it best when she said, "It's Belly lite."

And yet. Here's the Annabelle heavy part:

She's gained 7 pounds in the 4 months since she last had her toenails cut. She went from 75 to 82. Oooooh boy, do I feel like a bad doggie owner. We're cutting back seriously on the treats. I know it's the treats because she doesn't CARE about her actual food. Guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

wishful thinking...and it might be working

Yesterday I put the flannel sheets away and made my bed with cotton percale. What a nice word that last one is, eh? I've still got 14,000 blankets on my bed, including FOUR quilts, but still, the switch to cool sheets from flannel can only mean that spring is on its way.

I woke up this morning to sunshine sunshine sunshine in my bedroom.

In other news, in about twenty minutes, Annabelle will be sedated in order to have her toenails cut. This is harder on me than it is on her, and I'm already feeling jittery about it, and I'm afraid Belly will sense my anxiety. Instead of our usual Saturday morning trip to the dog park, we're going to the vet. On such a sunshiney day. Sadders.

Rereading Beloved this weekend and drafting my C's paper. Playing skit-skat tonight with the peeps, and painting pottery tomorrow. And, of course, watching my boyfriend as he hosts the Academy Awards. Ahh, love.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

what I did in class today

My students and I were trying to imitate the rhythm and detail of Joan Didion's "Goodbye to All That." Here's what I wrote:

You see, I was in a curious position in Syracuse; it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there. I was always there for four or three or two more semesters. One more summer. I had only one more summer to walk the dog up the hill on Genesee with Mary and Paul and decide nightly whether to take a right on Dewitt or Oak or Highland Street. The long, the medium, or the short walk. I lived in limbo between my “home” in Massachusetts and my “home” in Syracuse, between my mother and the friends I’d had since I was ten years old and the friends I’d have for the rest of my life, god willing. But it was another kind of limbo, too. I lived with an eye on tomorrow, on where I’d end up teaching for the next who-knows-how-many years of my life. I’ve forgotten what it was like to live as though I wasn’t living a real life. Now I’m in a position where I cannot say with any certainty that I’m here for three or four or five or six or seven or sixty-three more semesters. In Syracuse I was always on my way out. I’d go to Green Lakes State Park on the weekends with Annabelle. I’d convince Paul to meet me for coffee at Pascale’s on a Saturday morning when we should’ve been reading Bakhtin or revising our third dissertation chapter. I jumped at the chance to meet colleagues at the Empire Grill because I too had heard the rumors that it’d be closing its doors in the spring. I knew we’d look back nostalgically on the celebrations we’d had there for my thirtieth birthday and for Joddy’s thirty-fourth and for Susan finally completing exams. We were at an Irish bar whose name escapes me when Paul told Mary that the scar on her lip made her look butch. That was the night I’d finished exams and all I cared about was whether x would show up to help celebrate.

Now I often feel, when a class is going really well, nostalgia in the present moment. I know I can never get these moments back again, and I want to record them. I want to remember what it felt like to write with my class and to share that writing with them and to feel like we all learned something that day that isn’t recorded in a book.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

ripe, I tell you, RIPE

One of my students did me such a big favor yesterday: she brought in a copy of James Frey's "note to the reader" that bookstores are now giving out with copies of A Million Little Pieces. I'll give you an excerpt here because it's too long to reproduce in its entirety (and I'm sure it's somewhere online, but I haven't checked). One thing that's noteworthy about the very materiality of the note is that it looks like a poem. The title "a note to the reader" is all lowercase and each of the subsequent paragraphs is centered. The entire note is about the size of a third of a regular 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, and it's printed on both sides in very small font--8 or 9 point maybe. a whisper.
A Million Little Pieces is about my memories of my time in a drug and alcohol treatment center. as has been accurately revealed by two journalists and an Internet Web site, and subsequently acknowledged by me, I embellished many details about my past experiences, and altered others in order to serve what I felt was the greater purpose of the book. I sincerely apologize to those readers who have been disappointed by my actions.
I made other alterations in my portrayal of myself, most of which portrayed me in ways that made me tougher or more daring and more aggressive than in reality I was, or I am. People cope with adversity in many different ways, ways that are deeply personal. I think one way people cope is by developing a skewed perception of themselves that allows them to overcome and do things they thought they couldn't do before. My mistake, and it is one I deeply regret, is writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience.
James Frey, writing with a smoking gun to his head. The passive voice in that first paragraph is loved by me.