Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Successes and failures

Successes: I survived the holidays (well, almost). I finished Microbiology and did well, I think. USF accepted me to the Master's Entry program.

Failures: I was rejected by UCSF without even an interview. I am plagued by self-doubt where it comes to my Samuel Merritt application because I really want to get into the FNP program (which USF's isn't), and my rejection by UCSF stings.

Then, as the cherry on top, I feel angry all the time right now, especially with my husband and kids. I could be PMSing, but don't think so. It's been a long time coming.

At least I was able to see two movies this week that I enjoyed wholeheartedly: The History Boys and Night at the Museum. Good thing about the second is that I went alone and could laugh to my heart's content. Bad thing about the first was that my mother, who has absolutely no whisper at all, kept asking me questions about the plot or asking me to translate the bits in French (there were no subtitles). Still, it was lovely to be challenged intellectually by a film, and it has helped me to realign my personal statement for SMC.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I have known for most of my life that one of my major flaws is a mean perfectionist streak. I hold myself (and sometimes others) to unreasonably high moral/ethical/performance standards, and I often become really morose or angry or both when I (and they) fail to meet those standards. Perfectionism is ridiculous, I know, but I also feel that it has helped me be successful in my academic work. It has also made me a damn good copy editor (aka nitpicker).

I had a head-on collision with my perfectionism this week after I got my grade for an exam I took in Microbiology. I did well (got an A) but it wasn't as high an A as I would have liked, and I am excoriating myself for making two stupid mistakes that would have given me three more points. I always recheck my answers to catch careless mistakes, but occasionally I don't notice the mistakes, or the way in which I thought about the question at first continues to color my reading of the answer on the second run through. I probably wouldn't even care so much about my score if a fellow student (a very lackadaisical, uninvested young student in fact), hadn't bettered me (by one point). It's so awful, but I have now spent two days second guessing myself and driving myself and the people around me absolutely nuts. I feel completely pathetic being so obsessed about such a small thing. I can come up with innumerable reasons that I should let go of this, but none of them are working at the moment. I guess I need to go on a good, long run or escape to the movies. All I know is that I'm going to KICK ASS on the take-home final. I am sooo fired up.

If I were a reasonable person, I would be focusing on my older son's downright beautiful blossoming in speech. For some reason, the floodgates have opened and he is a becoming a complete chatterbox. I really think that he will catch up verbally, or be close to catching up, by the time he starts Kindergarten. How exciting for him! I am also incredibly thrilled for him because his ability to speak is making so much difference in how he handles stress; now that he can explain what's going on for him and how he feels, he resorts less to physical violence directed at his brother or the poor (medicated) dog.

Another completely unexpected thing happened today. My husband mentioned that he'd been thinking about what it would be like to have a third child (rest assured, I will NOT allow this to happen). I have not entertained the thought of a third for more than a heartbeat because the prospect is so overwhelming that it makes me want to vomit, faint, then run away upon resuscitation. I am flabbergasted that my dear one would even verbalize this; as a friend said, his telling me this means that he's given it more than cursory thought. I am beyond shocked because I thought that if ever one of us would contemplate having a third, it would be me (after a cold day in hell). Well, people are surprising.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


A friend once told me that she found it quite odd that the very first thing I ever said to her was that I had to drop off my dog at daycare. I guess that I've been on the fringes of the dog world for so many years that it didn't seem weird to me. But I have now really crossed the weird threshold in my own estimation: I spent the afternoon at the vet having a three-month checkup for my dog, who is on Prozac. Yes, my dog is on psychotropic meds. Why? Because she has to live with me (certifiable) and two very naughty little boys. I feel so sad and awful that I have to medicate my canine friend in order for her to handle everyday life.

On a parallel track of strangeness, I find that I am fascinated by the weird facts I'm having to learn about parasites for my Microbiology laboratory exam. I had no idea that there were so many little creatures so happy to make their homes in humans. And of course, being a hypochondriac, I will soon diagnose myself with at least ten of them.

Less absurdly, I am thrilled to have found the person from whom I was separated at birth (give or take a couple of years). My new partner in crime brings a smile to my face and a wicked laugh to my belly. It's nice to giggle with such a kindred spirit. She is also in my Microbiology class and is a fantastic study buddy, not to mention having a large soft spot in her heart for men from the Northwestern Archipelago and being willing to analyze the character of Tom Quinn in MI-5 with me ad nauseam (and in return, sharing all kinds of juicy tidbits about Hugh Laurie). She is also a refugee from the arts, but in a much more glam fashion. She worked in film and even has her own page on IMDb. I will be sad when she gets into Johns Hopkins and NYU and flees the West for greener pastures East, but I promise I will haunt her there.

Only five papers and an exam to go before the holidays.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I have a great friend, Greensunflower, whose blog is all full of holiday cheer, and I feel like a curmudgeonly slug by comparison. I do hope that she will remember to give me some of her peppermint bark this year, as I am sure that is all I need to get me in the holiday spirit.

In the meantime, I am having one of those weird afternoons when the hours move very slowly, but everything I do seems to happen in fast forward. The babysitter has the kids, and I've worked hard to finish two written assignments due Monday. It didn't take me all that long (at least after all these years of the academic slog I've learned to write well and quickly). I've otherwise been feeling a bit odd and lethargic; I spoke with a friend on the phone and got up to date with his life, have been reading poetry, and thinking that I should go for a walk with the dog, but I am having the hardest time shifting myself. I think I need to walk to the cafe in the building next door for a HUGE coffee if I have to remain relatively sharp until the kids go to bed (still three hours to go for that).

I've also been blog hopping, reading about people's families, beliefs, children, food loves, travels. It's fascinating to pop in and out of people's lives. What a wonderful invention the Web is. I feel downright old just in thinking how my kids will never know a world without all this technology, while my granparents (three of whom I never knew) were all born before 1910 and the first successful airplane flight. Weird. At least I was born almost three full months before the first moon landing!

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I am taking an interpersonal communication class as a prerequisite for nursing school. That much is unremarkable, and while the content of the class is mostly common sense and otherwise yawn-inducing, I have been thinking about the idea of "faces" and "saving face" in terms of relationships with others. I always find it interesting, even if sometimes sharply painful, to hear what other people think of me, or how they categorize me. It is all the more interesting to catch fragmented images of myself in my thought processes, and to think of all the bits that make me "me."

While I was out shopping today, for example, I was watching all the perfectly coiffed and manicured and fashioned women walking down the very bourgeois shopping area. I didn't feel ugly, but I did feel a bit out of sorts (that's why I can't live in the keep-up-with-the-Joneses town over the hill from where I live). I realized that I miss my dearest, far-away friend, because no one dares look askew at a woman walking around with a queen (unless the watcher is another queen). I also missed him awfully as I was walking around the Cody's on Fourth Street in Berkeley; the inventory is more shockingly inadequate than ever, the art history books are more ridiculous, if possible, and there was no one with whom to share little sarcastic tidbits from Jessica Mitford's collected letters. There was no one to tell me how splendid my newly waxed eyebrows looked, how I need to get some shirts other than t-shirts, and that it's shameful that the same images get used ad nauseam on books: Friedrich's "The Wanderer," a bust of Julius Caesar, a photograph of the Pantheon's interior, and some dreadful detail from an Impressionist painting that would cue the great line from the film "Clueless" about Monet. In my mind I drew another cliche comparison, between myself and Duerer's "Melancholia."

I thought back to how, at someone's birthday party in England in 1979, a friend named Gavin told me that I had the reputation of being "far too serious." I was ten years old! But there it was. Perhaps that's partially to explain how I ended up on the margins. Some other faults, enumerated by friends at various junctures, include being rude about acknowledging hospitality (age eight); lacking discretion (many times); being unfaithful (mostly from age sixteen onward, and I have severed ties with family members over that one); being a poor listener (age seventeen, and thanks Sisir for that one). I often want to feel perfect, so I try to change, knowing that I can never really be perfect. I am quite sure that there are many more shortcomings I could find with very little effort, and that my friends would be all too happy to tell me. But then there is the defensiveness that accompanies the introspection and the holding up of shortcomings. I suppose that what I'm saying is that I don't really want to know, because I spent so many years living under what turned out to be the burdens of other people's expectations of me rather than who I was. I remember writing one time in a journal that a then-boyfriend thought that I was clumsy and stupid, two things I really am not. I should have left him long before I wrote such a thing, but those ideas became part of me until I shook them off in the last few years. Ah, the tyranny of self-fulfilling prophecies!

As I mentioned in my post from earlier today (it's almost tomorrow, now), I was going to buy a book of Shakespeare's sonnets. Number 29 seems particularly apt for someone at the margins:
"When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate. . ."

Its ending, too, provides a positive light to balance the melancholy:
"Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

But rather than think of a single "thou," I see my friends as my most powerful resources and allies.


For as much as I've had my head in the clouds (or in less exalted climes) of late, I have been thinking hard about how I am grateful for what I do have: my adoring husband, my two lively sons, my health, my intellect, and most of all, beloved friends.

It is all too simple to forget the wonderful things when I think about what I don't have, and I, only child that I am, can be incredibly selfish. I am so lucky to have friends who love me and support me despite my self-centeredness, and I salute you all and send you my most steadfast love and admiration. I am forever and adoringly yours. And I want to say that I am most touched that you share what you do with me, and hope that I am more than a little supportive in return.

Now off to get my eyebrows waxed and to buy a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets (having just heard a recording of Matthew Macfadyen reading Sonnet 29). I shall lose myself in literature today, rather than DVDs.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


I am a pop culture junkie. There's no way of getting around it, and I am not ashamed to say that I read People, US Weekly, etc., in the line at the grocery store. The only reason I don't subscribe is that if I did get those magazines at home, I'd never read anything remotely good for my brain cells.

Having said that, I am not one of those people who just "runs into" celebrities everywhere, like some friends of mine, or who make it their mission to meet or talk to their favorite celebrities. My two celebrity sightings (until tonight) were having had Sean Connery tell me that I forgot to take my cheeseburger when I was studiously trying to seem indifferent to his presence and walked away from a restaurant's counter without my order, and having seen Leo DiCaprio in a London bookstore.

In tonight's chapter, I was eating at a local fast-food Chinese restaurant with my hooligan children, my parents, and my two friends visiting from Belgium. I was trying to prevent my kids from wreaking havoc, and largely not succeeding. Then one of my friends pointed out a woman in line with a man and two children. He was convinced that she was a famous actress, possibly from a soap opera. I tried not to stare too intently (she was about two feet away from us), and couldn't figure it out at first. She was dressed in thrashed old clothes, was wearing no makeup, and had long, grayish blond hair. I couldn't see her husband's face, but he was dressed in old jeans, a denim jacket, and a trashy polyester trucker-type hat that said "CIA" on it. Then I realized that the woman reminded me a lot of Robin Wright Penn. But there was no way that she'd be in the fast-food restaurant, and no way was that guy Sean Penn. Except they were! I quelched (barely) my desire to tell him how I admire him, and to tell her the same, while Callum dumped an almost full glass of water on my mom's lap. It was a disaster, but at least Sean Penn smiled at me as I attempted to deal with the mess.

So when is Matthew Macfadyen's family going to go to my local Ben and Jerry's?

Not all there

My beloved husband is in India on business, my parents are visiting (thank goodness for their help), the kids are crazy, and I am existing moment to moment. I am certainly to blame in large part for my exhaustion as I stay up extremely late watching DVDs (I am currently mesmerized by the BBC program "MI-5" and instead of watching one episode, end up watching 2 or 3 at a time). I should be studying Microbiology, but I am powerless against the siren call of the screen.

The last few days have been particularly rough on my eldest son, who has a cold and a particularly nasty stomach bug. Sparing the disgusting details, I can say that there has been much cleaning up to do, and much trauma associated with his bed. I was worried that he would refuse to sleep there ever again, but he's tucked in and out for the count, at least for now.

I have also been enjoying the stellar company of one of my oldest friends, who is visiting from Brussels with his partner. I realized today that I have known my friend for 29 years, which is almost unbelievable. We went out tonight for dinner, along with my parents (who have of course also known my friend forever), and it was fun to remember silly things we did at the ages of 8, 9, 10, and 11. I completely adore my friend's partner, who has been a softening influence on him, without doubt. It's wonderfully fun to be silly and to tease my friend (who can be a delightful stick-in-the-mud, but a stick-in-the-mud, nonetheless). We have decided that the next time I need to visit my in-laws in Germany, I will help my beloved get the kids to Oma's house, and then take the next train to Belgium.

What else has my addled brain been up to? I am reading an article in the New Yorker on Charles Darwin, written by Adam Gopnik. I completely abhor Gopnik's tone and mode of thinking, and have been very unimpressed over the years by his supposed skill in art history (I am most disdainful of his biases against certain artists, failure to look closely at works of art). I am also underwhelmed by his ardent Francophilia, shared as it is by too many wannabe French art historians. Before beginning his articles, I bet myself about the number of paragraphs it will be before he manages to share a pearl of wisdom about France or French culture, no matter what the subject. So it is with great surprise and not a little grudging respect, that I have to admit that I am thinking often and positively about what I've learned about Darwin. I particularly enjoyed the comparison of Darwin and Trollope and Eliot; it makes complete sense, and I am intrigued.

I have also been driven to buy Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" following my marathon DVD session of last week, which was spurred on of course by Matthew Macfadyen's gorgeousness and sublime acting skills. Now it sits on my bedside table, where I reckon it will remain, unopened, until the end of the semester. But at least beginning the book can be an admirable goal; maybe I'll even finish it before 10 years go by. I won't hold my breath. Somehow I never have enough time to dedicate to such elevated pursuits as reading things longer than 10 pages.

Before I go to bed, I am thinking about my beloved, and hoping that he's doing all right as he deals with horrible jet lag and culture shock. I miss him and wish I could be there with him in Pune. I wonder if he'll run into Brad and Angelina? Not that he'd even recognize them.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


It's pretty sad that I'm already haunted by nostalgia at the age of 37. I realize that the good old days weren't all that good, but there were certainly times that I enjoyed immensely. This isn't a rant about how kids today are horrible and my generation was so great (every generation is horrible in its own way), but rather a strange glimmering of insight into a part of myself that's been hovering just below my consciousness.

I was watching the 2005 film adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I'd put off seeing it for a while because I didn't want to be disappointed by a poor script or indifferent casting. As I watched the glorious story unfold, I had so many flashbacks to my childhood spent in England, as well as the years I spent there as an adult. I could feel the dampness of the air and knew what it smelled like as Lizzie waited for a downpour to stop; I could hear the birds and feel the atmosphere at Pemberley (Chatsworth, in real life), and remembered the day I spent there in 1990 with one of my long ago boyfriends. I recalled walking through the grounds, looking at the marvelous art collection, and having a fabulous afternoon. But what was most haunting was the dialogue. Of course it was very formal, but the wit remains forever fresh, and the exchanges were polished to a degree that is familiar and yet foreign. Moreover, the perceptiveness, the joy of word choice, and the glow of emotional precision brought to mind conversations that I had with my most learned and fun of English exes.

I sat on the floor this morning and read through all the letters that I'd kept from him, and was again enchanted by his erudition, kindness, and his elegant turns of phrase. Perhaps it was his public school education (in one letter, he joked about how one of my childhood friends had pegged him as "very public school"), perhaps simply his personality. What remains is that I feel so fortunate to have shared that time in my life with him.

I know many years ago I realized that I am truly American and not English, but I still feel that part of me is indelibly marked by my experiences living in the UK. I wonder sometimes if I'll ever be able to explain that part of my life to my children.

I also wonder if a large part of my sadness about leaving academia is tied to my leaving Britain behind, in terms of my career and immediate focus of critical attention. I suppose that I will continue to read The London Review of Books and The Times Literary Supplement, because I always want to know what's current there, in terms of cultural events and ideas. I think I am also mournful because it's been so long since I was in London. It's not my "home," but I do feel truly "at home" there in a way I don't in other places. I take it as an excellent sign, however, that I do feel at home in the East Bay; it's the only place in the US that I have ever felt that way.

I was at a friend's son's birthday party today, and there were so many lively people there, lots of kids and animated conversation. I couldn't help but feel a little envious that my friend has lived in the same place more or less since she was six, and has years and years of solid friendships here. My life is so disjointed in that aspect: childhood friends in St. Louis and England, college friends all over the place, Thomenon in Utah, but very important new friends in the Bay Area, too. I think that I don't trust people very much, and certainly not easily, although I come across as very easygoing and immediately open. I'm extremely good at isolating myself and living in my head (hence the nostalgia). But somehow I feel as though I'm emerging from a long period spent walking aimlessly and sadly in the gloom, and if I am patient and careful, much of the heavy weight of the past 20 years will lift.

To myself: carpe diem.

Friday, September 29, 2006


My relationships with religion have always been very marginal, but I admit to being intrigued by the history of Catholicism, and I have cycled half of the pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. I also took quite a few courses in South and Southeast Asian art, and have learned a cursory amount of information about Buddhism. My dear friend Thomenon likes to say that the Jesuits and Buddhists have much in common in terms of being hair-splitting in their approaches to life. Both also stress compassion as one of the most important human virtues.

I would like to think I'm compassionate, but the truth is that I am pretty much only compassionate with people who don't piss me off. That isn't really what compassion is about, I know. And in my current sleep-deprived and constantly simmering state, it's really easy to make me mad. I get mad about all sorts of things, my personal favorite being the shortfalls of others where it comes to politeness. (I know all about glass houses, thank you.) I suppose that I like to think of myself as near perfect or at least ashamed of my imperfections in this realm, so I hate it when others are knowingly and unabashedly rude. I must learn to watch myself because I am starting to yell obscenities in the car in response to others' rudeness, and while my son is apraxic, it won't be long before he is able to emulate me, none the less.

So this morning I had a terrible time with the two kids in their Music Together class. It's normally fun, and of course the mix of children can be wild, not to mention that my son's best friend is in the class and that they are frequently exuberantly wild. Most of the mothers in there are understanding of my being stretched in making sure my two don't end up killing each other or themselves or anyone else. But some of the moms look at me and my elder son as if we are subhuman. These Stepford moms must have a lot of childcare at home or be extraterrestrial themselves, because I have no idea how they and their kids can be dirtless, spotless, and snotless at all times. And some of the moms are perfectly made up with shining hair. Maybe they come out of pods in the morning. Who knows? Anyway, one mom with an 18-month-old son gave me some nasty looks when my elder son knocked hers over in a game of wild chase. Yes, Callum pushed him. It may or may not have been intentional. I gave Callum a time out and severe warning. I apologized to the mom. No spoken reply to me or acknowledgment. Then her 18-month-old took drum sticks and beat my one-year-old over the head repeatedly and severely. Did she apologize to me? No. She removed her kid, but hey, perhaps she could have acknowledged that her kid isn't perfect, either. After one more push by Callum we left class because I was 1. too tired to keep dealing with the situation 2. living on fumes 3. worried that I couldn't bite my tongue if her son beat my one-year-old any more, while she gave me icy looks.

My goal today: be compassionate for those who lack compassion.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


A dear friend sent me e-mail the other day, noting my long hiatus from posting and suggesting that my blog was an abandoned project. I by no means see it as a finished project, so my chastened self is back on track.

By way of excuse, I submit that I have been terrifyingly busy with all number of academic and volunteer projects. I took the GRE almost two weeks ago, and all my preparation seems to have helped me mentally and in terms of my scores. Disappointingly, I got the same on the Verbal as I did sixteen years ago (not that it was a bad score at all, but I had hoped to raise it a least a smidge), but my Quantitative score went up a brawny 60 points from last time. I am still waiting to hear about my essay scores, but I feel relatively confident that they will be fine. I also had to work hard to finish my application to the Masters Entry Program in Nursing at UCSF. In typical fashion, the more prestigious the university, the shorter the application and the fewer the requirements. I am about three-quarters done with USF's, and hope to get that on its way Saturday or Monday. That will give me a good three months to make sure my application to Samuel Merritt gleams. On top of that, I am in Microbiology (not easy at all) and Interpersonal Communication (lots of busy work). I do have to say that I took last night and the night before off to watch "Ladies in Lavender" and "A Room with a View." Hugely refreshing for my intense Anglophilia.

Before I get to my epiphanies, I want to relate a humorous anecdote relating to my beloved German husband. He knows that I am an Anglophile and that I spent years trying to find Mr. English Right. He occasionally asks me (particularly when I am embroiled in an obsession with an English actor--at present, Toby Stephens) if I regret marrying a German and not an Englishman. Last night, prompted by my mooning over "A Room with a View," he asked me this, and I answered, "I love you so much, darling." He replied, "You didn't answer my question." I responded, "No, I didn't." We then smiled and laughed. My mother, when I told her about our exchange, opined that Mark is a German-English hybrid: not English, but not rude and presumptuous, like many of his countrymen. I think she made an excellent point. I love that he is German, and that he recognizes and is horrified by the downward spiral of manners, as an Englishman might. But I am in no way giving up my English obsessions, especially when reading interviews with Toby Stephens teaches me new words, such as "rictus."

OK, back to my epiphanies. First, my pillar of support in life and academia has asked me to apply for the Nineteenth-Century Art job at his university. This means a number of things. First, that I have to find a new recommender because there is no way in hell that I will ever ask my evil advisor to do ANYTHING for me EVER again. (Tangentially, I saw the witch the other day when on campus to meet with a more worthy and wonderful faculty member, and she refused to acknowledge me; I ignored her, too. What an odd, infantilizing situation the whole adviser-student relationship can be.) Second, I would have to go back to teaching thankless, rude, presumptuous undergraduates, most of whom I loathe on principle. Third, I would have to figure out what I really want to work on that I could finish in time to get tenure and that would be of interest to others. I have realized, especially after publishing my article, that I really do think about marginal topics that aren't of great interest to many people. It doesn't make these topics any less interesting to me, but it makes my position within the field rather more tenuous. I know in my heart of hearts that I'm finished being an art historian--there, I've said it--but it feels horribly wrenching to take action and admit it widely to colleagues because it will burn bridges and truly be THE END. More than anything, I think I fear admitting to myself that my academic life is over (at least as an art historian) before I am accepted to nursing school.

My second epiphany is more self-relexive and inextricably tied to my emotions. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I (used to, anyway) love sex and that I have been haunted for three decades now by one particular boy/man. As a girl, my (unhealthy) obsession with this boy was all consuming, and I felt tied to him in truly transcendent ways. We had been best friends in first grade, and he had asked me to marry him (he rued that day, I'll tell you, later on) when we were six. For some crazy reason, even back then, I "knew" we were soul mates. Time passed, things changed, I moved to England and back (where I was obsessed with his near doppelganger in school), and we were teen-agers. I felt that we were meant to be, I pursued him, he rebuffed me, and I never felt an undoing of my resolve to be with him. Not even the worst dumping or heartbreak finished what I felt for him. We were together and apart more times that I can count (no, really I can count them all, but won't bore you). I last saw almost 18 years ago, when he came to visit me at college. We had tried at numerous points to be friends, but it never worked.

In the ensuing years, I have made peace with him in my head, and I have lovely dreams in which we're friends. One relatively recent dream had us meet each other's spouses, and it seemed like I had finally come to terms with how things had ended. All the psychology classes I've taken recently have helped me see that my feelings don't diminish because they're tied to adolescence and childhood, and were part of making me who I am. I've journaled about this, talked to therapists about this, still cyber-stalk this person. I can't erase the intensity of my feeling, and I couldn't figure out why.

The first part of my epiphany happened about two years ago, when I was driving at midnight to pick up Thomenon at the airport. I was of course going over the scenario yet again, as it can be a fun activity inside my head. I realized at this point that I really didn't know anything substntial about this man, except a few facts that stuck in my head. I do know that he listened more than he spoke, and didn't really open up to me (perhaps I didn't let him, preferring my fantasy boy/man). I think to all of my healthy relationships and know so, so much more about each of them.

The second part happened in the past few weeks, as a corollary to my Toby Stephens obsession. Toby Stephens is HOT. I like to watch him and Ralph Fiennes because they are HOT (as well as English and beautifully cultured and well spoken). I realized with a jolt that the reason I've always been obsessed with this Irish-American boy/man is that he exactly fits (or perhaps he helped to create) my ideal physical type: 6'4", black hair, green eyes. In any case, one reason I still feel viscerally connected to Shamrock (one of his nicknames: a fact I do remember) is that I think he is HOT.

The other night on the phone, my erudite and perceptive friend Thomenon summed it up: "You are a woman raised in a culture that disavows female sexuality, and also sexuality in children. You sublimated your sexual desire in favor of a romantic fantasy that he was your 'perfect' man. Now that you're 37 and the mother of two, you know that you just always wanted to f*** him." How true. Shamrock wasn't particularly bright and came from a conservative family. He might have been marginally (that word again) awed by my brains. I sure was in awe of his athletic bod. His good-boy Catholicism was also a remarkably appealing challenge to a sex-crazy man-hunter like me. He never gave in. So Shamrock, if you're out there, sorry about all the stalking and harassment. If we'd ever had sex, I'm sure I would have left you alone much sooner.

Monday, August 14, 2006


So hubby looked at our joint account and saw that I bought oodles of books over the weekend. I was in trouble because we're trying to save to buy a house. I feel very naughty and should know better. Oops. But I still can't wait for the Daedalus books to arrive; my excitement cannot be dampened.

My friend Greensunflower told me today that I should pare down my book collection by giving her books that I'm ready to part with. That seems like a good compromise, IF I can be convinced to purge. I suppose that I'm not quite ready to let go of my academic collection or my shelves of classics of American and British literature or those French novels that I will read again one day. Shouldn't I at least make an effort to read Sartre in French? Doesn't make much sense if I'm supposed to learn Spanish. What will I be buying next--Don Quixote in the original?

I also have to work on my academic cv tonight to send to the Director of the Center for British Studies at UC Berkeley. I think that having a connection to a group of academics would help me to push forward with publishing another chapter of my dissertation before I forever abandon the field to be a nurse. Perhaps I'm just excited that my article is coming out soon. I will probably be cursing and raging with a sudden onset case of academic Tourette's, and running in the opposite direction in no time.

Special thanks to Greensunflower for saving me and my kids from homicide/suicide today. It definitely helps the day to pass more quickly and sanely when there is another adult around, and it's even better if there is ice cream involved. Moreover, she and I could laugh with each other when my crazed 2.5-year-old son started to say what sounds suspiciously like "douche." I can only hope that he's picked up the German word "Dusch" (shower) from his father.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Confessions of a biblioholic

As one might expect of an academic, I adore books. I have had little time in the past year, however, to read anything more substantial than textbooks and magazine articles. After recovering from the travails of a dreadful summer school class, and having another week or two before I need to buckle down to more academic work, I've spent the past few days dreaming about adding to my book collection. After sending in the proofs for my first article, I decided to indulge my inner glutton. While out shopping the other day, I bought two tomes, one new to me and one old: Jessica Mitford's "The American Way of Death Revisited," and Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw/The Aspern Papers." Once I'd gone down the merry garden path of book purchasing, I had merely stoked my hunger for more.

I went through two book catalogues from Daedalus and ordered three more books, two for me and one for the kids. The two for me are a a biography of Gwen Raverat, a granddaughter of Charles Darwin and satellite member of the Bloomsbury Group, and a book by an evolutionary biologist about the Y chromosome. The kids' book presents what looks to be a delightful tale written by Virginia Woolf, accompanied by some charming illustration. Woolf is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I will devour the story greedily and hope that my kids will follow suit.

A terrible blow, however, came when I decided to reward myself with yet another book, memoirs of Diana Holman-Hunt that I had seen some time ago in the beautiful pages of the book catalog "A Common Reader." I went online to buy it, only to find that the company had gone bankrupt in December of 2005. I had from occasionally wondered absently why I hadn't received any of their catalogues for months, but I simply figured that I had fallen off their list after failing to purchase anything for so long. I am positively heartbroken to find that their extensive holdings will no longer be available in one place, and that one of my favorite ways to keep up with new books has evaporated. This only compounds the sense of melancholy I feel after Cody's Books closed their store in Berkeley last month. Where am I to browse? Oh sadness. At least I had the forethought and pack-rattiness to tear out pages from catalogues with books I wanted to buy in the future.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ties that bind

There is a war going on inside me right now, and it's not pretty. I have a large extended family, and my parents are the youngest kids in their respective families of origin. They shoulder a very large burden of guilt where it comes to pleasing said families, and I was "trained" to do the same throughout my youth. Case in point: we NEVER EVER took vacations that were about fun. All of our summer vacations (well, at least 97% of them) were spent in long, hot peregrinations throughout the Midwest, paying homage to this great-aunt or that aunt and uncle or my grandmother. On the plus side, I got to read many books, uninterrupted, while we drove for hours. On the minus side, I spent a lot of time in what my beloved friend Thomenon has called "forced association" with people I wouldn't say a word to otherwise. It could be lonely, and my parents' liberalism and openness were generally not taken in a good way, causing lots of palpable tension.

What does that have to do with today? One of my many cousins (one I haven't seen since my grandmother's funeral in 1993) is vacationing nearby with her husband. They're very nice people, I'm sure, but I have pretty much nothing in common with them. I am a decent conversationalist, so I could probably come up with something, but I am tired. Anyway, my mother must have given them my telephone number, and they called, hoping to meet. The obedient daughter in me agreed, with some reluctance, but guilt won out. So we set a time of 2 p.m. today. I just got a call from them, saying that they're outside my place (I live in a secure converted loft building), and it's 12:30 p.m. My two kids are asleep, and I really don't want to disturb their naps. My excellent boundary-setting husband said that we should just ignore my cousin's message until 2 p.m. Ever in a panic, I called my mom to see what she would do, and like the great placator she is, she said that I should go down and take them to a local coffee shop until the kids wake up. Why, I ask, should I reward their trespassing on my time? I feel guilty about ignoring them, but I didn't ask them to come early.

As my wonderful friend Greensunflower said yesterday, it can take a long time, but saying no will come to feel good and not wrong. I'll let that side win out in the battle and hope for the best when it comes to this afternoon.

This girl has done ENOUGH accommodating for the time being.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I have eleven minutes before my sons' babysitter leaves, and thought I'd ruminate for a moment. I spent today working on my math skills, very rusty indeed, for the GRE (for a career change, more on that to come). I took it last almost 16 years ago--YIKES--and after going to graduate school in the humanities, it's taking quite a bit to get the gears cranking again. I can do all the problems, but I'm excruciatingly slow, something that must be remedied in five weeks, if possible. I feel as though fences have been erected in my head that separate off all my mathematical mental agility, and it takes an overwhelming amount of effort to get over those walls.

On the other hand, I am frothing and seething inside because I am unable or incompetent where it comes to setting boundaries between myself and others. Most of the time this doesn't matter too much, but then there are those who take advantage of my softness (because I let them, of course), and I get out-of-proportion mad once I hit a certain zone. One particular person has been annoying me greatly of late, and I feel such tremendous guilt about putting up a boundary, and yet if I don't, I'll go bananas. My guilt is two-fold: one level is because I hate letting people down (damn that "need-to-please" side of myself), and one level is because the person who's annoying me is developmentally disabled. I just can't take being her dumping zone for the little that goes on in her life. It's too much. I've told her this, and given her more chances than I should have, but nothing has changed. Hence I am helping both her and myself by cutting things off, but it's SOOOO aggravating to have someone call and leave messages four or more times a day. I don't even pick up my phone anymore because I don't want to reward her persistence. Am I bad? No. But it's really hard to let go of the guilt.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Anger management

I'm not really sure that what I'm doing would qualify as anger management for most people, but I'm hoping that it will work for me. I've decided to start a blog as a way to deal with the quivering jelly that is my insides; I tend to bottle things up extremely effectively and then boil over or drive my loved ones crazy by spreading my self-torture to them. So maybe by blowing off steam and practicing witty repartee in cyberspace, I'll garner some strength to engage more actively and assertively in my life.

Why do I think my perspectives are marginal? I've always felt as if I'm living my life along the margins (more on that to come), but at the same time, my experiences in the liminal space occasionally offer me insights that I've come to treasure. So it's definitely an intellectual place with some benefits, although it tends to be rather lonely. I was also thrilled to learn long ago that the margins of medieval manuscripts were lovingly used as places for monks to doodle. The margins were places where creativity and humor could be engaged in an otherwise rigidly defined place. Perhaps I should remember the joys of marginalia more often.