Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April came early this year

Let me say that one more time.

April came early this year. Waaaaaay too early.

How'm I gonna make it through the real April?

Exhibit A: S.'s oldest and closest friend died last week.

Exhibit B: Insanity in the department. People fall apart in April, yes, I know, but March? Must we be early with this?

There's more, I know there is, but the April fog has me all kinds of confused. Thing is, Exhibit B covers so much, but of course I'm not gonna dooce myself. Heh. Dooce as a verb. I like it.

But the teaching these days is so damn good. In both classes. I can't really even say which one I like better. But the combination of the two of them in the same semester--one on the personal essay and one on life writing--is exhilarating. I have so many ideas for essays I want to write. I just need to find hours at a time to sit down and do it. On that last point, let me recommend to you my colleague's new memoir: Talking Out of School: Memoir of an Educated Woman by Kass Fleisher. I haven't finished it yet, but the first half has made me want to write in order to continue her project of challenging what we think of as traditional knowledge. What do we make of the stuff we know not from facts or record books but from acts of imagining?

Can't wait for her to come to class next week. Even though it will officially be April.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009


How do you spell youie, as in a U-turn abbreviated?

On Thursday night, C. and I drove about an hour and a half up to Oak Brook, IL, to see Heather Armstrong, aka, Dooce, give a reading from her new book. We had a blast together. We ate dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, and before and after the reading, which was great, we shopped at stores we don't have down here in Bloomington--The Container Store (love it!) and Crate and Barrel (love it even more). We left Oak Brook for home at about 9ish.

About a half hour into our drive, I have to pee, so we get off on the next exit on the highway. There's a McDonald's/BP station right off the highway, but in order to get to it, you have to drive a bit and then take a U-turn in order to get onto the other side of the road to get into the parking lot. In other words, there's no direct way in. And the U-turn you've got to take is clearly illegal. Two big signs tell drivers not to do it. C. told me not to do it. I justify it to her by saying that they should have an easier way into McDonald's cuz I really gotta pee. So I make the U-turn and drive into the parking lot.

Meanwhile, as we're driving I've been telling her the cute story about how every night all we have to do to get the girls to go out one more time to go potty is say to them, "Who gots to go pot-pot?" and they book it out the dog door. Belly's usually in one of the bedrooms at this time of night, so she comes bookin' it down the hallway and has to slow down a bit before she turns from the hall into the kitchen. It's a sharp turn. We call it roundin' third. Here comes the Booda rounding third and she's being sent home. I'm gesturing wildly as I'm telling this story and I finish it just as I drive into my parking spot at McDonald's.

And the blue lights grab my attention in my rear view mirror.

"Oh Amy. I'm sorry," C. says. Christ. I just got "pulled over" in a parking lot. That damn U-turn. I gather my stuff--registration, insurance card, license--and I have it ready for the cop when he comes to my window.

"Good evening, Ma'am. Do you know why I stopped you tonight?"

"Actually, no I don't." I sounded so convincing I think I convinced myself.

"You made a U-turn back there and there are two signs clearly posted prohibiting a U-turn."

I didn't even stop to think up this response. "Oh. I was just so intent on using the bathroom"--I nod toward McDonald's--"that I must not've noticed it."

"Where're you headed?"


"Where're you coming from?"

"Oak Brook. We went to a reading up at the Borders there." Why I felt the need to tell him this, I'm not quite sure. Probably a class thing. See, I'm a good, cultured person, the kind of person who attends book readings. I don't deserve a ticket. Not for having to pee real bad.

He hesitates, looks at my documents, tells me that if my license is valid, he'll cut me a break this time. Goes back to his car. But not before telling me--twice--that I can go ahead and use the bathroom while he looks me up.

So I go inside, confident that I'm not getting a ticket, impressed with my own quick reactions to his questions. When I come back out, he gives me my stuff back and tells me to be more careful next time.

The youie. Rounding third. Belly and me both doing so just to pee one more time before bed. But my prompt came from a 25-year-old cop who got off just a bit too much on his own authority.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009


Last night S. and I attended a visitation for a very close friend of his who died of cancer at age 46. Scary how that puts things into perspective. S. will be 45 next month. At the visitation, there was a closed casket, which confused me a bit because I knew that S.'s friend was going to be cremated. At dinner afterward, I learned that cremation still requires that the family purchase a casket; the whole thing goes into the furnace with the body inside.

All sentiment aside, this seems to me to be a racket. I've never warmed to the idea of cremation in the first place, but this makes me nuts. The idea of a multi-thousand-dollar casket getting buried in the ground made me kind of nuts, but this makes me double nuts. I've always said I want to be buried in the thinnest possible pine box so that I can become part of the earth sooner rather than later. In fact, I asked S. if he would just bury me in the back yard next to Belly (can't bear the thought of burning that beautiful body), but since that's illegal, I've decided to donate my body to science. Do something useful with me. Let someone learn how to perform plastic surgery on my chin that never really existed in the first place. Let someone learn how to do heart surgery or how to remove a spleen. If I leave this world with a body in tact enough to be of use in some way, go for it. Shit, use me as a crash-test cadaver.

S. and I are having all the important documents that come along with marriage being made up as we speak. I guess I better put this wish somewhere in there. If I die before that happens, use this blog entry in court. Set a precedent.


Monday, March 23, 2009

my big girl

Since you've seen me last, Annabelle has earned a new nickname. I'm not really sure how it came about, but lately I've been calling her my "little baby big big." This morphs easily into simply "Big big" or, simply, "Big." When I write it out, it looks even sillier.

My big big girl has very bad arthritis in her left elbow. Bad arthritis in her right elbow, but REALLY bad in her left. This diagnosis became the lesser of two evils, the other evil being bone cancer. During that time I kept telling myself that it can't be cancer, it can't be cancer. Arthritis we can deal with. We can manage that pain. We can't manage the pain of bone cancer.

And it's true, we can manage this pain. But because of the way I learned about this diagnosis, I trained myself to think of it as not so bad, really. Not life-threatening, obviously. But it is incredibly painful for my baby. I'm begining to think she's had elbow dysplasia her whole life, that she was born with an elbow out of whack; this would explain the on-and-off limping after running really hard. She's only 7 1/2 and her arthritis isn't going to get any better. It's breaking my heart.

The fear of that cancer diagnosis prevented me from understanding the seriousness of this diagnosis. And I knew that even when I was saying to anyone who would listen that arthritis, we can deal with. Cancer not so much.

Nothing I wouldn't do for that girl. My little baby big big.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

lesson plan

Today I once again teach Cheryl Strayed's essay "The Love of My Life." The last time I taught it in my two sections of the course, things didn't work out so well. But every single time I read this essay, I see new things in it. New patterns. New meaning. Instead of going into class this morning with the assumption that everyone will have loved it, I'm going in with the goal of helping students articulate what this essay does. If they loved it, great. If not, I hope I can help them see some of its power.

This instead of deciding not to teach it anymore.

Someone once told a dissertator during her defense to "never teach your favorite things." But I can't not teach my favorite things. Isn't that why we're in this business? Because we love what we love and we want to share that love with students?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I blog so I can remember moments like these

In my life writing class this afternoon, in the building that is forever being renovated, the horrible stench of paint thinner or spray paint or SOMETHING forced us to go outside. It's a gorgeous seventy-degree day, so it was an easy choice to make. As we were walking out of the room, I told everyone that I just wanted them to know that I never cave and have class outside because it's so easy for everyone to get distracted. But since the smell is so bad and you guys are so mature, I think we can do it.

Once we round everybody up outside, we actually have a pretty productive meeting. We always have great discussions in that class, and that continued outside. We were running a little short on time, but then again, in that class, we're always running a little short on time. Too much to talk about. A lifetime's worth of material to try to fit into one semester: not easy.

With two minutes left to go, a doggie walked by. I could see him clearly. He was not on a leash, but he was obeying his person so well among the throngs of students walking by. I regressed to my doggie voice. Doggie! Look at the Doggie wog! Who's a good little doggie wog?

And as I was giving students their papers back, I noted that we'd had a pretty productive class outside. And I usually don't have class outside because students so often get distracted. Doggie!


she lives! And it's 2009!

Hello you people. I've missed my blog. I think that not blogging can account for some of the free-floating anxiety I've been feeling in the last three months or so about not having a defined writing project in the works. And I thought about my blog a LOT in February when I was going through a very difficult time with Annabelle--in short, a cancer scare that turned out to be just that, a scare. I know that writing about it here would've helped me, but it all seemed so damn complicated at the time, so I just stayed away. So what else has happened since December 19, you ask?

I've spent too much time on Facebook, which is such a surface among surfaces. It only gives me a blip of other people's lives, gives others a blip of my life and then we move on to the next day. No room for complexity.

I've been teaching a life writing course this semester and absolutely loving it. This blog is, after all, a kind of life writing.

We had new carpet installed in the three bedrooms upstairs. Holy shitters, is it fourteen thousand times better.

Mom had a very minor heart attack back in December and will be having surgery soon to fix the problem.

My office at school has officially been designated "headquarters" for the wicked cool people. Right now we've got a few satellite offices and we're still looking to expand, though I'm not sure how many more bodies we can fit into headquarters as it is now. Might have to get us a bigger space.

I've missed my blog. Welcome back, LTF. We'll soon be writing more about doggies. I promise.