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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The DoN Indulges In A Little Bit Of "Pop Culture" (Which Is What We Prefer To Call It In Public)

One of my little adjustments still in the works is timing dinner.  Since I often have all day to plan and make it, the whole meal can be immediately ready when Rick walks in the door at the end of his workday.  Problem is, he's not usually ready to eat it, having just had his lunch a mere four hours earlier.  Since I am not a luncher myself (and breakfast is only coffee), the schedule makes plenty of sense to me, but I'm flexible.  So we use the time to chat, cook a little together, and sometimes, as was the case a few days ago, watch a little TV.

Rick likes to watch Dr. Phil.  He finds the drama of other people's issues to be relaxing since they allow his/ours to pale by comparison.  Also, Dr. Phil is great for mocking.  His downhome Texas sayings, which he passes off as Psychology For The Masses, allow us to riff on and on.  Our favorite one to hybridize is always, "Just because the cat has her kittens in the oven, that don't make 'em biscuits."  Go ahead, try it.  Like this:  Just because the dog has her puppies in the garage, that don't make 'em Volvos. The possibilities are endless, and you can make a great game out of it.  Sometimes, we like to get a little R-rated, but you can always decide on your own rules.

But, I digress.

The other day, we tuned in well into one of Dr. Phil's earnest and sincere diatribes directed toward some blonde woman whose boyfriend was the problem. Here's an approximation of how the scene went:

Dr. Phil(already in mid-lecture; stern and earnestly intense)  ...but all those are relationship issues.  Those we can deal with later.  Right now, what I'm hearing you say is that he put his hands on you.  In anger.

Blonde:  Yes.  (nods; looks down)  Yes he did.  But I love him, Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil:  I don't care about anything else right now.  I want you to hear me on this, loud and clear.  You got that?  You don't ever let a man put his hands on you in anger.

Nance (in Dr. Phil voice)  Now, if he's frustrated, that's different.  That's a Frustration Issue.  That we can deal with.  Let him go ahead and put his hands on you then.  Or if he's just crabby.  He can put his hands on you then, too. But not. In. Anger!

Rick:  Yeah, I don't get that.  Isn't him beating her up a relationship issue, too?

Nance:  And is it ever okay for a man to put his hands on a woman, so to speak?  (again, a Dr. Phil voice)  Now, if he puts his hands on you when he's just feelin' silly, why that's okay!  Or when he's plumb nuts!  Tell him go ahead!

Rick(in a Dr. Phil voice) But never on the face.  That's just Not Okay.

End Scene.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Thinking And Teaching And Retiring

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that I think too much.  While I'm not sure what would prompt that admonition, I do know that it continued long into my teen years. 

These days, when the weather here in NEO has turned cooler, greyer, and wetter, I am prone to introspection.  My tendency is also to cocoon.  Piper and Marlowe don't do much to discourage this behaviour; they're drowsy and inclined to curl up on my lap or in their beds and only animate themselves if I am up and busy.  There is always a Project, or Light Domestic Goddessing, or Something To Do.  I have some writing jobs, paid and pro bono, the latter for charities and people I care about. When I do go out for errands, the cats are accusatory and reproachful upon my return.  Only when they see I am staying home for a while do they accept me back into their good graces.

I'm often asked if I have regrets about retiring.  The short answer is No.  My dear Aunt Shirley, herself a retired English teacher, counseled me way back in July to take a short trip the week school started.  "You'll need to be away," she said knowingly.  "Trust me. You don't think you'll miss it, but you will.  You need to be away when it starts back up so you won't feel strange."  Well, I didn't and I don't. I left at just the Right Time for me.

I am often asked if I miss Teaching--in my mind, a different question entirely.  The answer is very complicated, so I usually answer, "Oh, sometimes."  My teacher friends never ask me.  They already know. 

I do not miss the Not Teaching part:  incessant record keeping, phone calls home to parents of highschoolers, labyrinthine office procedures, unreliable copy machines, being informed that the internet is down via email, baffling administrative protocols, and the constant disrespect by government--and, oh hell, let's throw society in there, too--at every level. 

But every so often, I do miss the Teaching part.  I treasured being the Giver Of Literature to my students.  It was with true reverence that I gave them the work of Walt Whitman (America's first hippie); that I introduced them to the genius of Miss Emily (Dickinson).  Who else will enlist empathy and champions for poor, motherless (for all intents and purposes) Holden Caulfield? Who else will defend the honor of Edgar Allan Poe and beg the students to look, look deep into his eyes before they read his work, before they dismiss him as some drunk crazy who married his teenaged cousin?

And I miss working with Creative Writing students the most. Words and writing are my passion, and there was an electric satisfaction, a sort of inspirational symbiosis that occurred when I sat down in conference with my writers those many years.  I felt simultaneously rejuvenated and drained by them. It was a glorious paradox, and those decades were Golden Privilege.  This year, Creative Writing is not even offered, and it breaks my heart.

So much of Teaching--True Teaching--is a Gift. I have it, I gave it, and I got it in return.  Like many gifts, it wasn't always perfect, and there were times when I wondered if the recipients were deserving. But let's not belabor the metaphor.  Or...think too much about it.

Instead, I have a little jaunt to get ready for and some PR stuff to write.  And the head of cauliflower in the crisper won't clean, cut, season, and roast itself as part of tonight's dinner.  It might be a good idea to update our Cellar Inventory, too. Allow me a small indulgence:  to leave you with my good friend, Walt.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

There Once Was A List From Nantucket...The Dept. Is NSFW

One idyllic afternoon on the Lake House deck, my sister Patti and I were entertaining our mother, St. Patsy, with bad language (mostly me) and philosophy (largely Patti).  It was the kind of discussion that started innocently enough and soon became wide-ranging and free-flowing and all sorts of other participial hyphenated predicate adjectives.  You know?

Anyway, there was alcohol involved, so....

We were three older chicks sitting around bitching when I made the boozy pronouncement that "Life is too short.  It's time to cut a lot of stress loose.  More than half of my life is over.  It's time to live." (Hey.  I didn't say it was profound.)  This is when my sister introduced her List.

Oh, not That List.  Although, Patti is plenty self-actualized and I'm sure she has one.  And not one of those groan-inducing Life Lists that have taken over the Interwebs wherein bloggers all join virtual hands and help each other realize dreams big and small, like "Be a clown for a day!" and "Knit my own hammock" or "Fly a hovercraft."  Life Lists are inspired by Bucket Lists but are so much more POSITIVE!!  Well, Patti's List is inspired symphonically by the Bucket List and is called...ahem...The Fuck It List.

A true Fuck It List is a lineup of stuff that we are legitimately still concerned about.  Now, however, we have laid it out and asked ourselves the sterling question:  WHY?
And the answer is--you guessed it--Fuck It.

For example:  I have, in our thirty years of marriage, beseeched, pleaded, exhorted, and admonished Rick to let me know when he was using a ladder to go on the roof or to clean the gutters.  I would stand at the bottom and hold said ladder, I explained early on, for safety's sake.  About fifteen years ago, I gave up that crusade and settled for "At least let me know when you are going up there so that I will look out now and then to make sure you're not lying on the ground for too long if you fall." Now, Fuck It. He still rarely, if ever, tells me he's going to use a ladder. If it's not important to him, why should I get so calisthenic over it and lose valuable Serenity Time? 

The idea of the Fuck It List is life-changing for me.  It's all about acceptance as well as rejection.  It works for people,  it works for relationships, it works for everything:  Why are you sweating that?  Why are you so invested in it?  Why are you the only one who cares? If you cannot provide cogent, grounded, valuable reasons for these questions (known as the Why Filter of the Fuck It List), then something needs to go on the FIL.

I cannot begin to tell you how many things I have run through the Why Filter of the Fuck It List since I have been retired from teaching.  It's as if that part of my brain had been dormant or atrophied.  Why didn't anyone tell me about this sooner?  Have you all been keeping this from me on purpose? 

Better yet, what's on your Fuck It List?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Think I'd Still Keep Joe Biden


David Gregory:  Welcome, panel.  The Washington Post this morning noted a growing unrest among the Democratic Party faithful:  the president's poll numbers are dropping in almost all major categories.  His coup this spring in finding and killing Osama bin Laden didn't bounce him in national security, his jobs plan is, for all intents and purposes, dead on arrival, and even likeability numbers are in the basement.  (snickers)  It seems no one even wants to have a beer with the guy.  So now the inevitable rumors have begun.  We saw it a few weeks ago with even Dick Cheney suggesting Hillary Clinton should run in 2012.  What do you think, panel?  Is there room for a challenger from the left?

Chuck Todd:  Well, look, David.  We're seeing the same thing here as we're seeing with the republican field.  The American voters just aren't happy with who's out there.  There's a softness to the slate of candidates available overall.  No one's really speaking to them, personally.  That's why we're seeing someone like Governor Chris Christie--

David Gregory(interrupting)--But I'm talking about the Democrats here.  They have their candidate.  They have the incumbent president.  He's supposed to be their guy.  The party supports the one who's already in the White House.  That's the rules of the game.  Doris?

Doris Kearns Goodwin:  But we've seen this before.  Before the Civil War when the country was so fragmented, so roiled up with dissent.  There were any number of political groups, all clamoring for their pet causes, whether it was the Natives who wanted to do something about the influx of immigrants or the Know-Nothings who--

David Gregory(interrupting)--How about this woman who calls herself merely Nance?  She's recently burst onto the political scene and has all but threatened to challenge the president for the nomination.  We know very little about her, but it's clear that that's about to change.

Erin Burnett:  There's not much that we know about her, but pretty soon, we might.  Or we might not.  That much we do know.

David Gregory:  She's a blogger, and her blogs serve as a sort of manifesto of her politics.  She's liberal, pro-union, pro gay marriage, pro agriculture, pro animal rights but eats beef, and (laughing) would definitely object to most of my ties.

Chuck Todd:  Look, David, like it or not, this Nance candidate--or potential candidate--has something to say and has, already, for the most part, said it.  And said it to one of the largest audiences this country has, the Internet.  She's already reached, perhaps, her target demographic in a pointed and meaningful way. If she's who she says she is, all she has to do now is declare and raise her money.  But she'd better do it soon because just like with Chris Christie, it may already be too late.  This Nance, whoever she is, needs to--

David Gregory(interrupting)--And that's all we have time for.  See you next Sunday on Meet the Press.
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