Monday, April 30, 2007

if I'd made this up, you'd think I was all sentimental and shit

Me: Honey, I'm gonna make you some Scrabble tile coasters next time I go to pottery.

He: Okay. Good.

Me: What are your favorite letters?

He: A, M, Y.


Friday, April 27, 2007

ughhh, they're making us move

The third and fourth floors of my building here at school have to move over to the abandoned building on campus, the one with the ghost of Angie Milner. While we're allegedly going to be in healthier environs in a year when we move back (no more asbestos), the disruption to all of our routine little faculty lives means that

1. We have to pack all of our shit into boxes and put THREE labels on each box. I already got in trouble yesterday--by the Wonka of all people (who has not yet begun packing, I'll have you know)--for writing in teeny tiny letters on the box itself that inside were textbooks.
2. We'll all be in offices that are far, far more depressing than the ones we're in now. Orange carpeting. Brown metal bookshelves. No windows. And a ghost.
3. Nobody is handing out extra anti-depressants or even anti-anxiety drugs to help us get through this.
4. Many people have to share offices, but I'm not among them. We pre-tenure faculty need a quiet place to work. So we can interact with the ghost all by ourselves.
5. I actually have to leave the building in order to teach. This means coats and umbrellas and all that.

I usually don't fear change. I'm usually very good at adapting to a new home. But I love my office and I love my hallway and the people in it and this all makes me want to throw a little tantrum. Cuz we all know how much effect that would have. And have I mentioned how easy it is to get LOST in this new building of ours? The organization makes ZERO sense. I got lost trying to find my BASEMENT office. One colleague has a window in her office--that opens into a hallway. A window out onto the hallway. I shit you not. One flight of stairs skips the second floor altogether so you go from floor 1 to floor 3 in one flight. Department people-in-charge even organized TOURS in the beginning so the faculty wouldn't get lost all by ourselves.

Yeah, this is gonna be something.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

uh-oh, it's that time of year again

That time of year when I get all nostalgic for the classes I'm currently teaching, not wanting them to end because we're all just at the point when the rapport is strongest and we're learning the most from one another.

These people teach me so much, not just about writing and about reading, but about living. I wish I had the wisdom at that age that some of them have now. Shit, I wish I had that kind of wisdom now, at this age.

I know I'm probably romanticizing all this even as I experience the last week or so with these two groups of students this semester, because surely it hasn't all been good. But more than anything, I think, teaching students who respond in the ways so many of these students have responded meets a deep psychological need to feel like I'm doing good. And I do. I feel like I'm doing good.

What more could a girl ask for?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

following the rules

My honey bought me a sleeveless Cubs shirt recently, and when it arrived in the mail he was a bit concerned that it would be too small for me. It looks really small, he tells me on the phone. Will you go measure one of your shirts from armpit to armpit so I can ease my mind?

Me: No. Just wait till I get there and I'll try it on.

He: Just go measure one of your shirts.

Me: I'm not gonna measure my shirt from pit to pit.

He: Fine.

When I get to his house later that night and see the shirt, I immediately decide that there's no way it'll fit me. But I try it on anyway and, much to my surprise, the material is stretchier than it looks, so it fits. I go look in the mirror.

Me: Honey! It shows off my rolls.

He: No it does----. I mean, you don't have any rolls.

Me: Nice one.

He: How can it show off your rolls if you don't have any?

He wipes the sweat from his brow, thinking he got away with that one.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

snoutie snout snout

Originally uploaded by aerobil.
Do I have a piggie in the house, or is that the Belly girl?

My dog, she makes me laugh every. single. day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

happy birthday to my hun-bun

I gave S. the world's best birthday present on Saturday night: tickets to see the CUBS in June! At Wrigley Field! My first time ever! We were so excited about this that we immediately went online and bought another pair! For a game in July! When it will no doubt be 400 degrees!

My honey, he's happy with his gift.

Not only that, he's becoming a dang good Scrabble player. And I'm becoming a bit of a Cubs fan. I even have a Cubs shirt or two, courtesy of my honey.

I was teaching S. the strategies to get the most points in a Scrabble game, one of the most important being to never use your "S" unless it gets you 8 extra points. See, cuz you can always make more than one word with the "S" and you don't want to just use it blindly. In the early stages, this conversation happened:

Me: Uggggghhhh, you gonna go any time soon?

He: I can do DOT or DOTS.

How cute it he?

He did DOT, saving his S for a better move. Wisely.

He's getting better every time we play, and he's learning the two-letter words. All-important.

I told him if he's good tonight, we can play Scrabble on his birthday. And maybe watch the Cubs. The Red Sox will always be first in my heart because I'm geographically loyal, but this could be fun, this rooting for the losing team.

Happy birthday to my snuggle bear.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

stage two: anger

Bill's post this morning got me thinking a bit more about anger. I've been thinking about anger for a while now because I've been wanting to understand the effects of teachers' angry responses to plagiarism. Here's an excerpt from an upcoming article on that very subject.

Anger, like all emotions of subordination (e.g., shame, bitterness; see Worsham, “Coming”), must be understood rhetorically, for it is a response initiated by the actions of others.

The rhetorical characteristics of anger focus our attention on the ways in which anger participates in—affects and is affected by—social relations. Anger, which Nietzsche defines as “the pathos of subordination,” is a response to a perceived insult (Walker 359) or the feeling of being dominated (Lyman 61). The insult to which anger is a response is perceived as a “violated expectation of justice.” This sense of justice, according to Peter Lyman, is both collective and individual: “It is an appeal to an absolute standard of justice; it is an appeal to a community to hold the violator responsible for the violation, and to punish him or her” (61).

Jeffrey Walker explains that anger is unlike other emotions of subordination in that it requires one to believe “that appropriate revenge is possible.” If one cannot believe that revenge is possible, Walker writes, “the particular form of pathos that results cannot be anger but must be a different state—humiliation, perhaps, or shame or fear, or something else again….” (359). Further, anger is pleasurable for this very reason. The resolution of anger—punishment or revenge or both—is understood, according to Walker as “approvable, honorable, public action” (364). This is so because the response to anger functions to defend, in Lyman’s terms, a society’s “mores and sacred values.” (62).

These group mores and sacred values likely contribute to one’s belief that one has the right to be angry, that one’s anger is justified. True, as Naomi Scheman explains, “One can acknowledge the reality of an emotion while believing that it is in some way illegitimate. And to acknowledge that one’s feelings are legitimate—sincere, not self-deceptive—is not necessarily to take those feelings to be justifiable” (177). But it is also anger’s object hunger (Scheman 178) that contributes to one’s ability to persuade oneself that one is legitimately and justifiably angry. As Scheman notes, “if there is no one and nothing to be angry at, it will be harder to see oneself as really angry” (178). Lyman notes that this object hunger runs deep: “The depth of the irrational compulsion to assign responsibility and impose punishment, to find a cause for one’s pain and impose pain on it, is apparent to anyone who has ever kicked a chair after tripping over it” (62).

We might summarize these points by saying that anger is a legitimate and justifiable response to what one has been persuaded is an insult that violates one’s sense of moral justice and the sacred values of one’s community. Anger by definition includes the assignment of responsibility and the possibility of revenge, which is pleasurable because it is sanctioned by the community whose values have been violated. Central to an understanding of anger as social rather than individual, as political rather than neutral, is the notion that one must be persuaded to be angry, that what one is feeling is legitimately anger, and that that anger is justified.
The angry responses Bill's talking about function in these very ways. We need to believe there's an object for our anger and that revenge is possible. Because Cho is dead, we cannot exact revenge on him, so we shift our anger to the media, to school officials, to the campus police chief, to the gun laws, and on and on. I'm sure it's only a matter of time until we shift our anger to Cho's family. This is not to say that we're not angry with Cho, but that that anger gets us nowhere. Our sacred values have been violated and in order to protect those sacred values, we must be angry. If we're not, somehow it means that we don't care. We're not strong if we're not angry.

Personally, my anger has been directed almost entirely at the media. And one of my students told me yesterday that Dr. Phil actually had something smart to say the other night, 30 seconds before his interview ended. He told reporters at CNN that we need to stop interviewing these kids. Anyone who has even the slightest understanding of trauma knows that Dr. Phil is right. Of course, we never should've begun interviewing these kids. But stopping now, that would be a good first step.

Lyman, Peter. “The Politics of Anger: On Silence, Ressentiment, and Political Speech.” Socialist Review (1981): 55-74.
Scheman, Naomi. “Anger and the Politics of Naming.” Women and Language in Literature and Society. Ed. Sally McConnell-Ginet, Ruth Borker, and Nelly Furman. New York: Praeger, 1980. 174-87.
Walker, Jeffrey. “Enthymemes of Anger in Cicero and Thomas Paine.” Constructing Rhetorical Education. Ed. Marie Secor and Davida Charney. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1992. 357-81.
Worsham, Lynn. “Coming to Terms: Theory, Writing, Politics.” Rhetoric and Composition as Intellectual Work. Ed. Gary A. Olson. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002: 101-114.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

mid-day phone call

Hello, Professor Robillard?


My name is Jane Doe and I'm calling from Channel X news. I'm wondering if you have time to talk with us this afternoon about, you know, the shootings? And about English and writing?

I'd rather not.

I shit you not. She actually said "you know, the shootings?" Julie Wonka was in my office during this and was laughing at the frozen look of incredulity on my face: mouth hanging open, shaking my head in disgust.

Wonka: My mom called last night and told me not to fail any students.


Monday, April 16, 2007


My heart hurts for the folks in Virginia. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that campus is feeling.

None of the cliches fit, none of them work because we can never really know. Words simply fail. Words will come later, surely, for many many people, but for now we're just stuck with so much loss.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

cruel, cruel April

Imagine if I were a person prone to depression.

Oh, wait a minute. I am one of those. And this month is going to be the death of me.

THIS WEATHER is enough to make Pollyanna shoot herself. Drizzly, cold, gray, miserable.

Because I'm on meds, I work to look for the silver lining, and here's what I came up with: at least with weather like this, I don't ever feel like I'm missing out on a gorgeous day when I'm sitting in a classroom. THAT'S IT. That's all I could do.

I feel like I'm trapped in a cruel joke.

Dar Williams' song "After All" comes to me now:
And it felt like a winter machine
That you go through and then
You catch your breath and winter starts again
And everyone else is spring bound


Thursday, April 12, 2007

a steaming hot cup of cocoa in April

I bet you think this is a post about how goddamn cold it is here in the middle of April.


As she usually does, Annabelle was sleeping on the 1 1/2 chair at S.'s place the other night, all curled up and snuggly and smoochy. S. keeps sheets on the couch and the chair because of all the beasts that use them (including me). Well, on this particular night, Belly got up and left a little stain behind. S. yowls. "Ewwww. Did she pee?"

"No, she didn't pee." Appalled at such an accusation.

I bring my nose closer down to the sheet--but not too close. "It smells kinda like cocoa." I drag the sheet off the chair, pulling it out of the cushion's corners and bring it over to S., essentially sticking the little cocoa stain in his nose. "Smell it," I say.

He smells it (he has no choice as it is in front of his nose). And then he almost loses his lunch, as they say.

"Um, that ain't no cocoa. I'd know that smell anywhere."

I give him a dumb look.

"That--that--is the smell of anal glands."

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

one more thing I could write an essay about

Office hours.

The setting: yesterday I met with all of the students in my advanced exposition (personal essay) course to brainstorm/discuss ideas for their final personal essays. I met with 2 or 3 students at a time a) to get more students in to see me in a shorter amount of time; and b) to give them the chance to hear others' ideas and help one another. So it's about 9:25, and the first conference is wrapping itself up. I've got three young women in my office, so it's kinda cramped.

OUT OF NOWHERE appears the Julie Wonka. No hello, no greeting, no nothing. Simply, "I need you to cut my bangs RIGHT NOW."

I look at my students. They are in a bit of shock. I shrug my shoulders and grab my industrial scissors. I squeeze between the students and go to the Wonka, scissors in hand. And I trim her bangs. Right then and there. And she walks away without even a thank you. Nothing.

I sit back down and one of my students says, "That's the strangest thing I've ever seen during office hours."

I say, "Imagine an essay in which I write about my wacky relationships with my colleagues."


"I should've cut more off."

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Monday, April 09, 2007

at the risk of overselling once again...

...I got my honey the world's BEST birthday present EVAR.

The big day is April 23, and though he really doesn't like attention to his birthday of any kind, I say too bad to that cuz I like to buy presents and then oversell them here on this blog.

There will be no party, but there will be cake and there will be, ahem, the best present in the history of presents. He's gonna be so happy.

No, really. He will be. I promise.

Trust me on this.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

breaking it in

Originally uploaded by aerobil.
People, this is the first piece of living room upholstered furniture that I have ever been the first to own. All other furniture has either been given to me or picked up off the side of the road. Granted, this wacky chair has no arms. But it's comfy and it's kinda crazy and it came with 3 massive pillows. Plus it was on clearance.

The girl, she wastes no time. None at all.


Friday, April 06, 2007

ever the dutiful life directee

The beloved life director has tagged me with a meme-o-rama. I am supposed to list five things I do every day that contribute to "success." Scare quotes optional.

1. Teach. Okay, I don't do this everyday, but I know very very well from lots and lots of experience that when I don't teach I go a little bit nuts. This doesn't apply to summer somehow, perhaps because I feel like I'm allowed to rejuvenate during that time. My students keep it real for me. Also, I make it a point to teach things I've been wanting to read and likely won't get around to otherwise.
2. Set aside time and space for writing. I come to my office at school where there is no dog and there is no laundry and there is no house to clean. Force myself to sit here for 2-3 hours before I'm able to go home.
3. Remind myself that I'm doing good. I so often suffer from that little nag on my shoulder telling me that I'm not doing enough that sometimes I just have to SCREAM back that, yes, I am, thank you very much. I'm getting stuff published and I've got stuff in the works.
4. Get enough sleep. There is nothing more delicious in life than sleep.
5. Walk that beautiful doggie at least twice a day. I cannot rest (see #4) if I haven't gotten her the exercise I know she needs. Side effect: I get at least two walks a day.

Tag, you're it, Schmoozin, Nels, and Mike.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

personal essays I'd like to write someday

Lately I've been saying, "I've really gotta write an essay about _____________." Here are some of those blanks. To look back on during those times when I have nothing to do.

1. my tendency to oversell. It will be the best, most mind-blowing essay anyone has ever read.
2. my mother's divided feelings about men and the effects such feelings have had on my own feelings about men.
3. anticipating memories before the events even happen.

There are more, at least a couple more, but I can't remember them for the life of me. I'll remember them tonight as I'm falling asleep. But the computer will be turned off and there'll probably be no paper by my bed.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

in which she reports on having a little mini emotional breakdown of sorts

It's Saturday night. It had been raining very very hard. S. and I joined up with a group of friends at a teeny tiny bar in a teeny tiny town called Merna (I had been picturing the town as though it were spelled Myrna, and I was a bit disheartened to see that I was wrong about that 'y'). When we sat down to listen to the band play, the band in which three of our dear friends played, we were both cold and wet. I drank beer to warm myself up, S. an Irish coffee. Or two.

I can't remember the last time I had three beers in one sitting. It was not in the year 2007. The effects were, in part, the little mini emotional breakdown of sorts referenced in this post's title. Of course, the beer was not the only or even the primary cause. I'd been feeling emotionally out of sorts since I returned from NYC. Tired. Old before my time. That kind of thing. And this book I'm reading--that I actually just finished--it makes me yearn and it makes me cry.

I should also mention one more factor. I asked my friend Bill how his baby girl's doing. Brooklyn was born in December, so she's about 4 months old. He told me about how happy she is every morning just to be alive, how vulnerable and how much of a joy she is. Not that he ever tended toward depression, but if he had, this baby girl would be the cure.

Back at S.'s place afterwards, around 11:30 or so. I'm lying on the couch, he's slumped on the chair. We're both exhausted. I begin a weepy conversation with, "I think I want a baby."

S.: Um, you've been saying since Day 1 how much you don't want kids.

A.: I know. I don't. But talking to Bill tonight about Brooklyn and reading this book. I don't know. It makes me want to give myself to something bigger. Belly's not gonna live forever. After work, where does a person put her energy?

NOTE: This was not all said at once, but I'm trying to get the gist of it down here. So I can remember.

S.: You put it into other people and other interests. You use it for good.

A.: I want something little to put all my energy into.

S.: I guess we could talk about this some more, though I'm not sure I really want this at this point in my life.

A., weepy: I want a baby.

S.: What's this book about again?

A.: A woman who loses her newborn baby after only one day at home. I'm haunted by it.

A few moments of silence.

A.: I don't really want a baby. I don't know what I want.

Today, in my office, I told Wonka about this conversation. Her response: You'd get a lemon. You want that happy smiling baby, but you'd get the one that stares off into space.

Me: No, I'd get the one that is so depressed she can't even lift herself up off the couch to get another Suzy Q.

Tonight I told S. that I'd told Julie about my little meltdown.

Later in the conversation:

S.: What're you gonna do tonight?

A.: Probably finish that book.

S.: Good.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

doggone April

happy Spring
Originally uploaded by aerobil.
Here's Belly in our front yard chomping on a Nylabone, happy as can be. As I used the front porch to assemble a new table-top gas grill (S. believes 100% in charcoal grills--he's afraid to blow himself up), Belly kept watch over the neighborhood on this gorgeous, gorgeous spring Monday afternoon. You can see that already the grass is ready to be mown. And yet it's gonna get down to the 40s again by Wednesday.

Chomp chomp.

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