Thursday, November 30, 2006

Getting a little personal

I read a statistic at some point (don't remember when, where, or exactly in what context--obviously not in research mode at the time) that only 10% of women think about s@x* more than once a week. As with so much of statistics, this number raises more questions than it answers. The article claimed that it makes sense women would think about this so little since testosterone is the primary hormone responsible for arousal and women have 10% of the testosterone of men. I remember wondering about what research went into the statistic back when I read it.

And when this number floated across my brain earlier, I also began to wonder how such an interview was conducted and what qualified as "thinking about s@x." Fantasizing about the act? Admiring a partner's physical features? Deciding you'd be up for some action tonight? Bemoaning the fact that your partner will certainly be interested when you're exhausted?

And is this an average? Or was the number arrived at in some other manner?

So why was this floating through my head, you may be wondering. I'll answer as best as I can without getting too personal (the title of the post, after all, is "Getting a little personal").

I've mentioned the charting of my fertility signals before and the fact that I'm pretty in tune with my body. Besides the changes I've discussed before, one surefire sign that I'm ramping up to peak fertility is a surge in my libido. And so, as I find myself heading to that point in the first cycle of my two-month break, I am not charting my fertility with the same compulsion as before, yet I still can't help but notice that's where I'm headed.

And if the statistic I quoted above is at all true, I must rate somewhere around "h@rny teenaged boy" for at least one week a month.

I'd imagine that still qualifies as TMI, but there you have it.

*Seriously, not a prude. Just trying to avoid some unwanted search attention.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In a quan-tree

Upon reading Mother Bumper's post--over at Mommy Blogs Toronto--about trying to live a greener life, I was reminded of the recent environmental angst that has been plaguing me of late. I haven't talked much about my green leanings, but it is actually an issue that is very important to me. And as we enter the holiday season, the perennial question comes to mind: What should we do about a Christmas tree?

In the early years of my relationship with Trillian, we had a fake tree, following along with the whole argument that it would be a one-time purchase and would mean saving one tree a year. But that (and our Christmas lights) ended up in a landfill before I got pregnant after we found out that the plastic in those products uses lead to increase pliability. I once read somewhere that there are some fake trees made without lead, but cannot find the reference or the trees now, of course.

The tree issue had become a mostly moot point before then anyway. By that time, we had established a pattern of visiting my in-laws for a week around Christmas, so we simply enjoyed whatever tree they had. It didn't take away all of my anxiety over the kill-a-tree vs. purchase-a-plastic-monstrosity debate. But at least I didn't have to accept responsibility for the decision.

The Christmas before Scooter was born, however, we hosted family for the celebrations since I was starting my third trimester and couldn't fly. There was no way to get by without a tree. Trillian talked me into a cut tree. I could justify it because it was a farmed tree, grown specifically for the purpose. Plus, our county would pick the tree up after Christmas and use it to create mulch for local projects (and that residents could purchase for fairly cheap).

We have thought about a live tree from time-to-time, but there's always been a reason against it. Most years there was the problem that we would be away and unable to water it for too long. Or we didn't have a place to plant it after the holidays when we were living in rental properties. When we had a cat, we knew from experience that she would use it as a litter-box. And now we're back to the whole rental property, nowhere to put it problem.

Even though we're headed down to the States for the last third of December, we contemplated getting a tree this year. But that brought me back to the above debate. I nearly caved when we went to the grocery store last week and walked by the cut trees. The scent of fresh trees was so wonderful. But I chose my usual way out--no tree. Scooter is enjoying the trees that are up around the city--there's a giant one not too far from us with excellent lights. And Grandma and Grandpa will have a beautiful tree at their place. So we'll have plenty of Christmas cheer.

Of course, it still doesn't settle things for the long-term. In my fantasies for the future--that perfect house we'll find in our favorite part of the country (the US, that is)--there's a large evergreen out front that we'll decorate each year with bird-seed ornaments. There will also be something indoors, that we can use to display our favorite ornaments, though I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

Anyone got this one figured out?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Scooter's staying home from school, so it must be Tuesday

We've fallen into a problematic pattern. For all but one of the past 4 or 5 Tuesdays, Scooter has stayed at home with some degree of illness. The one time he went, which happens to have been last week, he threw a royal fit about going and was in a rotten mood the whole time. When he has stayed home, it's been fairly legitimate--today, he was coughing again, had a runny nose, and was running a low-grade fever (but his hands and feet felt hotter than normal too).

I figure that part of this is the cycle of the week. While we have fun on the weekend, our activities are not as (over-)stimulating or exhausting as school, so Scooter has a chance to recover a bit. By Monday, he's ready to head to school. But then all of the activity and excitement wears him down so that he gets grumpy and any minor physical complaints are aggravated. So Tuesday is difficult. We then usually make it through the rest of the week just fine.

Since his recent stays at home have coincided with Trillian's low recovery from pneumonia, my Tuesdays have developed a new schedule: stay home a little longer than usual, head off to campus in time for my office hour, wait for no students to show up, run home for lunch and to get Scooter down for a nap, back up to campus for class, and a final trip home. It sure keeps me going!

On the plus side, even if this pattern continues, I only have one more Tuesday with this combination of office hour and class, so I won't have to keep up this crazy schedule.

In other news, I presented the research I've done so far for my seminar paper. It feels good to get that out of the way! The trick now is not to bask too long in that feeling since I still need to write the paper itself.

Little steps to the end of another semester!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Just a quick blog and run

I had no intention of blogging until tomorrow night, as the presentation is not quite done (and will be by then, for better or worse). But...

1) My first post went up over at Mommy Blogs Toronto. I didn't know it would be the next in rotation, so it was a fun surprise to find my words staring back at me when I clicked over from my Bloglines. Go check it out--not just for my post, but for everyone's. I'm just amazed (and so very happy) that there are so many interesting, intelligent women in Toronto who were my virtual acquaintances first. And even if you're not local, the posts are worth a read!

2) I made the mistake of reading more on the breastfeeding ruckus during one of the breaks I allowed myself. The problem was not the original post but, as usual, many of the comments that followed. More anger and frustration (how can these people not agree with my stance when it is obviously right--this is one place where I really can't step back and try to see it from the other side).

That is all for now. I'll attempt something resembling a real post tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Making my excuses

I imagine that the next few days (maybe up to a week) will be light posting days. I have a seminar presentation to give next week and need to write the term exam for the class I'm teaching. I just know that if I get started on some of the topics I want to write about, I'll be here for an hour or so--and the big girl in me knows that's not an appropriate use of my time right now.

So no worries. I've not fallen off the edge of the world. I'm not shutting down here. Just trying to be responsible. As much as that's killing me.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I swear, this is not becoming a food blog

But, seriously. Thanksgiving. And the meal was amazing! So you'll have to bear with me for another account of a meal.

Originally, we had thought about inviting all of the US students in my department over here (with a few Brits to boot), but Trillian's pneumonia meant we didn't have a chance to get that organized. So it was just going to be the three of us. It was a fairly traditional Thanksgiving for us, a la Trillian's family recipes.

There was, of course, turkey. We roasted just a small turkey breast, basting frequently with butter. It browned up nicely and stayed moist.

But really, for both Trillian and me, the day is about the sides. In the order we prepared them:

1. Dressing. A recipe from one of Trillian's grandmothers. A whole loaf of white bread plus some cornbread, mixed up with broth, celery, onion, and eggs. Enough to fill a 13 x 9 pan. It browns a little bit on top and is absolutely delicious.

2. Green bean casserole. Nothing fancy, but my favorite. Canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, a little milk, and some French's onions--it's pretty much the recipe on the onions can, but I improvise amounts. It's creamy and quite tasty.

3. Sweet potato casserole. This could practically be dessert. Mashed sweet potatoes mixed with sugar, milk, eggs, and some spices. Once this has cooked for a bit, the topping is spread on top: butter, crushed cornflakes, brown sugar, and pecans. Another 10 minutes, the brown sugar melts and the topping gets crunchy. When I ate my dinner, I mixed in a little of my homemade cranberry sauce--perfect contrast of sweet and tart.

I used a powdered gravy, but it was an organic one I got from Whole Foods and lacked any chemical taste.

Dessert, of course, was pumpkin pie with some real whipped cream.

We managed to forget to heat up the brown-and-serve rolls, but those can be for tomorrow since we have plenty of leftovers.

* * * * * * *

Now, we didn't do the traditional saying of what we're thankful for at the dinner table, but it's something that has been on our minds lately. Not too long ago, Trillian and I found out about a site through the Daily Dose at Club Mom. Amalah linked to Atomictumor. Usually a husband and wife (and some other friends, I think) contributed to the site, but it had become a bit of a virtual vigil. The wife had mysteriously fallen ill and her husband was using the site to deal with his emotions.

I use the past tense, because things took a sudden and unexpected turn on November 17th. The husband is now a single father of 2 boys.

My wife has been following the site more closely than I and also has conversed with him via email. Today, we bought some Leafs gear to send down to the family (he has family from the Toronto area, so it's appropriate). It's a small gesture, reaching out to someone in such a bad place right now.

And so I am thankful for my wife. That she is recovering from pneumonia; as slowly as it's happening, it is happening. That she and I have been able to enjoy time together the past couple days; we did our food shopping together yesterday and went out again today. I am aware of how thankful I am to have these moments.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Silver lining

I spent the past two weeks ambivalent about what I wanted more: to be pregnant or to have the two month break I'd decided to take. Despite the turmoil of the inner dialogue, I discovered something yesterday morning.

I really wanted to be pregnant.

But now that I will be taking two months off from the baby dance and all of the complications it brings into my life,* I've decided to look at all of the positives of this situation. Consider it practice for (US) Thanksgiving tomorrow.

I am thankful that taking a break from trying to get pregnant means:

1. I will be able to focus more of my mental and physical energies on the end of my semester. This is traditionally a busy time for me anyway, and right now I need to think about preparing my presentation for next week, writing my paper for December, and studying for my exam in January. Not to mention the extra work that comes with teaching and giving an exam.

2. I also gain many hours back to put towards my work since I won't be spending 6 hours or so a couple times a month driving to the clinic and back.

3. I can focus on improving my health, at least a little. I've decided to engage in some form of exercise every day--something I wasn't doing, because of the concern I might be pregnant or might soon be pregnant (plus all of the craziness in our household lately made it easy not to find the time). Since I'll have about 10 weeks before my next try, that gives me plenty of time to establish new workout habits which I should be able to continue into pregnancy.

4. I can also make a concerted effort to eat better, especially appropriate amounts of unprocessed fruits and vegetables and as little refined sugar as I can manage. While it would be nice to lose some weight in the process of following through on #3 and 4, more important to me is feeling good. I've been successful with this in the past, but too often let these go when busy and stressed (which turns into that awful cycle of making less of an effort to workout and eat well since I don't have the energy, leading to feeling worse, leading to further slack off).

5. I might be able to present at a conference in May. I had mentally written it off before since I expected to be in my third trimester by May and knew we would need to fly to make the trip. Even if I were to manage to get pregnant on my first attempt after the break, I would only be around 20 or 22 weeks pregnant at conference time.

6. I can apply to teach for the entire summer term. My supervisor has suggested I apply, specifically to teach the full version of the course I'm doing right now (which is only the first half of a year-long course). If I were already pregnant, I would be due in the middle to the end of the course. While I did teach when I was pregnant with Scooter until a week before my due date, and stopped then only because it was Spring Break, I'm not sure I'll want to do that again.

7. We might be able to fit in the family reunion that's being planned for August. I might not be able to fly at that point (though I think that would be the case only if I got pregnant in January), but it would be easy to drive. If I had gotten pregnant on my previous cycle, the baby would have been due right on the weekend the reunion's been scheduled.

8. My next child will not be born in August. The month is a bit of an emotional minefield for my family, especially my mother. My parents' wedding anniversary and my father's birthday were both in August,** and my mother's very fragile around those days. There are already issues about her relationship--or lack thereof--with my son, so I'd rather avoid adding another dimension. The two month break also means I'll avoid giving birth on or around her birthday.

9. We will have time to finish getting the master bedroom arranged to share with a baby. We've decided that this will work best for us with our current floorplan and what worked with Scooter. But we haven't put the crib back together yet and have some heavy furniture to shift. Since I'm the handy one and the crib requires getting into some awkward positions to tighten bolts, it will be best to get this done while I have no physical restrictions.

So a whole range of reasons. And I didn't have to think for too long to come up with any of them.

I imagine I'll be rereading this list throughout the next two months to remind me of what I'm gaining by taking some time for myself. But I can guarantee that when this break is over, I'll be ready to start the baby dance all over again.

*I've been meaning to write about what this entails for me and my family in an average month.

**If anyone from my family reads this and has not figured out who this is yet, this ought to give it away.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comfort food

OK, still not ready for the deep posting. And I may not be for a couple days.

So I've decided to share with you a very satisfying meal, the one I made for my family today. Apologies to vegetarians in advance; it's a crockpot pot roast.

This morning, I took the thawed roast (around 2 lbs/1 kg) from The Healthy Butcher (lots of organic meats, and they taste so wonderful--they also deliver!) from the fridge and seared it in a little olive oil over high heat. Tip: If you have a vent fan, turn it on before you put the meat in the pan. Smoke alarms at 7:30 am are no fun for anyone.

Before I put the roast in the crockpot, I chopped up a couple potatoes and stalks of celery and put those in the bottom. Place the roast on top and sprinkle an envelope of French onion soup mix over it. Then I spread two cans of cream of mushroom soup over the exposed parts of the roast--I think the original recipe only calls for one, but a second one is nice. Throw some chopped carrots around and on top of the roast, cover, turn to Low, and wait.

It was so nice to walk in to that aroma this evening. The juices of the roast and the soup combine into a very rich gravy. And the roast and vegetables all were wonderfully tender.

I have another favorite food day coming up since US Thanksgiving is coming up this Thursday. It'll be just the three of us since we couldn't organize anything bigger, but we've drafted a menu with all of my favorites: dressing, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes, OH MY!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Miscellanea for a Monday evening, again

Some odds and ends today. I have some real, serious posts in the works, but don't have the attention span needed to bring them to fruition.

1. We had the honor of attending WonderBaby's 1st birthday party! Scooter had the fun of being one of the big kids, though it also meant he had to guard his favored playthings closely. Cakes had a tendency to want whatever he had--and they have matching shrieks of protest! Towards the end of our time there, he enjoyed chasing Strawberry through the front hall, kitchen, dining room, and living room, back to the front hall and around again, each one pushing some rolling toy. Much fun for all! Scooter fell asleep on the drive home and went to bed quickly. Bonus!

2. I've been very emotional today, even more so than usual. This is easily ascribed to hormones, but the question, of course, is PMS or pregnancy? Not sure. Waiting for the answer sometime this week, either way.

3. I am a little conflicted about what I want the outcome to be. I am very ready to have another baby, but would kind of like a break before the actual pregnancy. Perhaps the one thing that keeps coming to mind when I think about being pregnant again is just how exhausted I was during the first trimester--and that I have a lot to get done for this semester still, so I'll need to be sacrificing a little sleep in the next couple months.

4. Trillian is looking and feeling much better. She still feels weak and has a slight cough, but is no longer in the grips of pneumonia. So she now feels well enough that it annoys her not to be able to do everything she wants.

5. Trillian also discovered today the reason Scooter and I may still be coughing and feeling under the weather, despite plenty of recovery time. We almost always keep our blinds closed, because even a little sunshine heats our apartment insanely. Trillian looked outside to see if it was snowing. Instead she noticed pools of water along our window sills and mold. Apparently with the cold air outside, all the moisture in our air has caused condensation. Given that we strongly suspect mold allergies in Scooter and me, it would explain the continued cough. Time for the Lysol!

6. I'm still thinking about the recent breastfeeding brouhaha. Given that I'm likely to be breastfeeding again in less than a year, I've been thinking about it anyways. And I've been thinking about what I can do to make a difference, especially since reading Sunshine Scribe's new blog at Mommy Blogs Toronto.* So maybe there's a point of intersection?

*P.S. Go check out Mommy Blogs Toronto. Lots of great bloggers, lots of great content, lots more to come!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Breastfeeding = Terrorism?

I spent the day composing several different posts in my head, some funny, some serious. But I'm writing something completely different.

I had read about the woman who was kicked off a Delta flight for breastfeeding.* And of course I was angry and outraged, but had not particularly resolved to do any more.

Then I saw Her Bad Mother's addendum to her Thursday post. I went and signed the petition (easy to do--if you haven't already, head on over there!). And then I went over to MSNBC and found the section where they printed readers' comments on the issue. I did not ever click on "Read the full entry..." I got everything I needed from the little blurbs.

The anger boiled over.

While a few of the comments fully support the woman who had been breastfeeding, many of them put some of the blame on her or suggested ways in which the other side of the story might validate the flight attendant's actions. A good number of the comments decried the woman's rejection of the blanket that was offered, saying things like:
However if she did not want to comply with accepting the blanket, then she set herself up to be removed from the airline.
Another commenter used the argument that:
The issue is with breast-feeding in public. Breasts arouse sexual feelings in men and sometimes other women, and THAT is why there ought to be discretion. A pro-breast-feeder is going out of bounds when she purposely breast-feeds in a public place while it is made known to her that some people are uncomfortable about it.
But the one that really got me?
It does not offend me at all. I think this incident might have been more of a safety issue. After 9/11, flight attendants are more concerned with safety and if any passenger makes them feel uncomfortable or a passenger seems to not want to comply with the flight attendant's request, often they will be asked to leave the plane if it has not left the gate. Maybe that flight attendant felt threatened by the woman or felt she could cause trouble later in the flight.
OK. Deep breath.

Rant begins:
  1. Given the reaction of some commenters, it appears that others may have brought up the child's age. 22 months. Almost 2-years-old. And in North America, in particular, often treated as "too old" to breastfeed. Never mind that the WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years of a child's life, that in many third-world countries children continue to nurse at least a little for several years beyond this, that the North American recommendations (6 months before solids, a year on at least some breastmilk) are frequently presented as compromises that try to balance health-based decisions with society's general ickiness around the breast.
  2. Which is a whole other thing. The over-sexualization of the breast. One little flash, and people get all up in arms. I can't believe that some ass thinks that it is the breastfeeding woman's fault that the tiniest sight of her breast might cause men (and us lascivious lesbians) to lose control. Seriously--if she's nursing, maybe some of the flesh is showing. Perhaps there is a flash of nipple at the transition. But the solution? The perv doesn't need to be looking.
  3. And the idea that she needs to cover the child up with a blanket. My son hated it whenever I tried to cover him with a blanket. With the thrashing and my inability to see what was going on under there clearly, there was more danger of me giving a show when I tried to be "more discreet."
  4. I don't even know what to say about the suggestion that this was a security issue and that the discomfort the flight attendant felt about the breastfeeding woman might be equal to the discomfort created by a passenger who is acting weird and sending off terrorist vibes. Because if she was breastfeeding before the plane took off, she might very likely try to rush the cockpit once they were up in the air?
I had thought the hoo-rah over babytalk's magazine cover a few months ago was insane. And it seems even more so when I see these crazy moments juxtaposed against the studies and reports that demonstrate breastfeeding's benefits.

I'm not trying to pass judgment on anyone's breastfeeding practices, but--damn it--when will we get society to back off and not add another dimension to the difficulties?

*I just found on MSNBC that the flight attendant who removed the woman has been disciplined. Anger level recedes a little. Just a little. Because, really, why did this need to happen in the first place?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The green-eyed monster

I am jealous! And have been for a while.

I think it was Sunshine Scribe who first mentioned NaNoWriMo. That's National Novel Writing Month
. The idea: during the month of November, write a 50,000 word novel. Focus on quantity over quality, an act to get the creative juices flowing.

Then I heard about NaBloPoMo and found out that Something Blue is participating. That would be National Blog Posting Month, the idea being to post something on one's blog every day of the month. I find this one slightly ironic, as I had been in a good pattern of writing every day here for over a month--something that ended with the events of Friday, October 13th.

But I am jealous of those who are participating in either of these challenges. Both of them elicited an "Oh, I want to do that." I toyed with the idea until I forced myself to be mature and responsible.

I have to give a seminar report on my research paper at the end of the month. And then write the paper (OK, it's not due until the beginning of January, but I need to get it done before I leave for Christmas so that I can study for the exam I'll have a couple days after the paper's due date).* Then there's the term exam I need to write. Soon. And oh-so-many pages of reading to do.

So this would be the dilemma posed by my blog. It has gotten me back into the habit regularly. I like that, as opposed to a journal, it encourages me to think about single topics and to shape my thoughts a little before putting them down. It is an outlet I have sorely missed. On the other hand, it makes me yearn to do more with my writing. I had forgotten just how fulfilling it is.

I'm already taking on a bit more. My first post over at Mommy Blogs Toronto should be up sometime soon. And in my other life, I have a chance to write something for a newspaper--a one-off, but tempting, nonetheless.

And I know, I've fully acknowledged, that I cannot handle both academic work and creative writing at the same time. And it's not something I can afford right now.

Speaking of which, off to some reading...

* It's a 15-20 page paper. And probably a 10 page presentation. Would that count towards the 175-page goal?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A new way to break an old rule

I have this rule, although it's kind of moot given my marital status, against dating within my field. While Trillian and I met in a class that was required in my field, it was only peripheral to hers. Some of this is due to my competitive nature; I would find it hard not to compare--grades, abilities, etc. Since my wife was using an aspect of my field as a tool in her field, not as the central focus, we could study the same material without encroaching on each other's territory.

There are several couples in my department, and I always wonder at their ability to balance their work and their relationship. Perhaps some of them are less competitive than I--though that's definitely not the case for all of them--or they are able to create a safe space around their relationship. I respect that most of them are committed enough to work through the rough spots.

And then I was introduced to a whole other aspect of the intra-departmental relationship. Recently, my best friend in the department--who is straight--was out with other students for a social event. Another student, who has made it quite clear that she embraces many forms of sexual expression, hit on her... quite insistently.

Now, after I had a hearty laugh, I realized that this is an aspect of my rule I had never considered--the one night stand. I'm pretty sure I had not consciously formed a corollary to my rule on this issue, probably because it is so obviously a bad idea. Especially when you will have to face this person around the department on a regular basis. Especially when the prey makes it clear that s/he's not interested and you keep pressing--wouldn't you get the idea that anything that might happen afterwards would be a result of either the pressure or too much alcohol and a major source of regret?

But maybe I'm just old-fashioned that way.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


While in the car for a couple hours last week, I had a long and spirited debate about this whole trying-to-get-pregnant thing. OK, so I was the only one in the car, but I'm a passionate arguer. The debate: where to go from here?

The process has already been draining, more so than before. The major problem has been coordinating a minimum 5-hour trip (and usually more like 6 or 6 1/2 when I leave extra time for traffic and if I have to wait a little before a nurse can see me) to Nearby US City with my school obligations--teaching, office hours, my own classes--and my family--making sure Trillian can get Scooter to or from school and that they don't need the car. Needless to say, it can be difficult to coordinate and a source of much stress. With the added complication of the plague that has overrun my household, those 5+ hours take away greatly from other things I could be, need to be, doing.

So while I really want to be pregnant (NOW already!) and have my second before my son turns 2 1/2, I've decided to take a two-month break. That will get into the next semester, when my schedule will open up significantly, as I will not be teaching. I hope also to use the break to get better (since I'm still coughing), let my family recuperate, and maybe work out a bit.


This is where the irony fairy could suddenly work her magic. Because this debate I had? On my way back from the fertility clinic. (That's try #3, for those following along at home.)

I doubt that I'm pregnant, given (TMI alert!) that my egg had already been released before the insemination and my cervix was not quite aligned or fully open. The nurse assured me that about 50% of the women who conceive have sonograms that show the egg has been released, but I also know that the time I did conceive, the insemination occurred just a little early. Similarly, the position and openness of the cervix tends to indicate the body's receptivity and fertility at the moment, so I suspect we just missed the window.

On the other hand, it would be just about right for me to finally* get pregnant when I am ready to take a breather.

*'Finally,' I say, as if I've been trying for ages. The last cycle was particularly disappointing because all of the signs pointed to peak fertility.

Monday, November 13, 2006

10 square

My 100th post! Assuming I did the math right (posts minus drafts that will never see publish). So here are 100 things about me, divided into 10 categories:*

I. 10 adjectives I'd use to describe myself (in alphabetical order):
  1. contemplative
  2. creative
  3. intelligent
  4. female
  5. introverted
  6. kind
  7. lesbian
  8. maternal
  9. shy
  10. tall
II. 10 ways in which I do not match the lesbian stereotype
  1. I wear skirts and dresses (and can pull it off; I have lesbian friends and acquaintances who occasionally wear them, but it just doesn't work)
  2. I took ballet lessons and seriously considered pursuing a performance career through high school.
  3. I frequently let my hair grow long.
  4. I am very curvy, not at all androgynous.
  5. I own two purses (but see #3 below).
  6. I am a dog person.
  7. Most of my friends are not lesbians.
  8. I sew, by hand and with a machine.
  9. I wear girly underwear
  10. I now drive a family car.

III. 10 ways in which I do match the lesbian stereotype
  1. I almost always wear comfortable shoes, including wool socks with Birkenstocks or Crocs.
  2. My wallet is brown leather and comes from the men's side.
  3. I almost always carry my wallet and keys in my pockets (except when wearing a dress without pockets), rather than carrying a purse.
  4. After letting my hair grow out for a while, I often cut it very short.
  5. My favorite cold day outfit: T-shirt covered by flannel shirt, jeans, wool socks, hiking boots.
  6. My first vehicle was a pick-up truck.
  7. I'm pretty good at fixing things (though I'm allowed no major power tools--beyond the drill, sander, and small saw I already have--due to noise, mess, and the possibility of cutting off a finger).
  8. I don't wear makeup.
  9. I keep my fingernails fairly short.
  10. I've had a cat most of my life.

IV. 10 jobs I think (or know) I would enjoy
  1. Writer
  2. Professor
  3. Subject teacher (i.e., teaching my area of specialty in 7th-12th grade)
  4. 4th-6th grade teacher
  5. Artist-mosaics
  6. Artist-bookmaker
  7. General craftsperson
  8. Mathematician
  9. Research scientist
  10. Xerox repairperson

V. 10 teachers (anonymized, of course) who have influenced my own teaching, working backwards
  1. My Master's thesis adviser. Not so much for the thesis work (though that was enjoyable), but because he made it OK for me to leave my previous PhD program, not because I couldn't hack it academically, but because I didn't want to be there.
  2. The professor who, with a well-timed compliment, gave me a boost of confidence and made me realize just how much I had improved in my subject area after having hit a plateau for some time.
  3. My undergraduate mentor. She had high standards for coursework, but was one of the most sympathetic and caring people I met at university.
  4. The teacher I had in high school for my primary field. She was all business in the classroom, but remained interested and involved in my studies long after I left. I have even emailed her on occasion when seeking teaching advice.
  5. One of my high school social science teachers. I was never better informed about world events and geography than when I was in her class.
  6. A high school English teacher who I had not wanted to take. He was a coach and popular among the weaker students. But my schedule wouldn't work any other way, and it was a course required of everyone in my grade, with no available honors versions. Once I got over my initial unhappiness about being in the class and accepted that it would not be as rigorous as I wanted, I began to use classtime to really observe what was going on. And I quickly came to appreciate what an amazing job he did of drawing out students who considered themselves dumb, helping them to find levels of literature they never had before.
  7. A junior high teacher who was funny and quirky and so very smart. She got my attention and held it from the beginning. I still write to her too.
  8. A junior high math teacher who used humor to help put me at ease. I was advanced in math from an early age, so I was taking a class two years ahead of most of my peers. When I started junior high in the same class as people in their last year at the school, I was a bit overwhelmed. He did a good job of balancing drawing me out and not making me feel too vulnerable.
  9. The sixth grade science teacher who was just awful (I learned from negative examples too). Students quickly learned that if they didn't do their assignment, she'd devote all of our classtime to finishing it. I and another student were the sort never to put off homework, even if it was likely we'd have classtime to finish it--I always thought, "What if this is the one time she holds the line about handing it in at the beginning?" She also tended to reward the worst behaved students (pizza in return for serving their detention).
  10. The teacher of gifted education who couldn't handle me. I had a whole slew of decidedly unintelligent 'gifted' teachers. This one made the mistake of starting a unit by saying it was on everyone's individual educational plan. It was not on mine and not a unit I cared to do, so I boycotted her lesson. She fought back, but I won the argument and was allowed to do an independent unit. The lesson I learned from this: don't try to pull one over on students, especially gifted students, but it's not fair to any of them.

VI. 10 authors who have influenced me (in writing, thinking, wishing I could run away to their worlds--and yes, many are sci-fi)
  1. Robin McKinley
  2. Kurt Vonnegut
  3. Douglas Adams
  4. Ursula LeGuin
  5. Sheri S. Tepper
  6. J.K. Rowling
  7. Alison Bechdel
  8. Maurice Sendak
  9. Dr. Seuss
  10. Shel Silverstein
VII. 10 movies I own on DVD so that I can watch them when I just want a good laugh
  1. A Fish Called Wanda
  2. Fierce Creatures (done by the same basic cast as #1 and generally under-rated)
  3. When Harry Met Sally
  4. French Kiss
  5. Cold Comfort Farm
  6. Princess Bride
  7. Dogma
  8. Office Space
  9. The Full Monty
  10. My Best Friend's Wedding

VIII. 10 TV series I own all or part of on DVD
  1. Battlestar Galactica (all that's out there so far, including the miniseries)
  2. Firefly (the few episodes there are)
  3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (all but the 7th season, can't tell you why we still don't have that)
  4. Wonderfalls (another show that was gone too fast)
  5. Monty Python's Flying Circus (about half of the series)
  6. The L-Word (first season only, don't particularly want the second or third)
  7. SportsNight (fastest half hour I've ever watched)
  8. Coupling (first season, others are on our wishlist)
  9. Powerpuff Girls (a few episodes)
  10. Black Adder (the "Complete Collector's Set)

IX. 10 things I miss from the US
  1. Target
  2. Morningstar Farms vegetarian food
  3. Sci-Fi channel
  4. Lane Bryant bras
  5. The Lebanese place within walking distance of our old house
  6. Our favorite coffee shop--they roasted their own coffee on site
  7. Whold Foods' organic macaroni and cheese
  8. Earth's Best organic cereal bars
  9. Being able to easily figure out how many miles per gallon my car is getting (our odometer is in miles, so I can't easily switch to kilometers per liter)
  10. Spelling words with an -er instead of an -re.

X. 10 types of animals I have had as pets
  1. dogs
  2. cats
  3. guinea pigs
  4. hamsters
  5. rats
  6. tropical fish
  7. saltwater fish
  8. newts
  9. tarantulas
  10. snakes

*This is not exactly a novel idea. Thanks to Bub and Pie for her 100th post and its inspiration.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sometimes it takes me a while

Back when I started this blog, I fully intended to devise pseudonyms for my wife and son. Because, let's face it, just saying "my wife" and "my son" is cumbersome and boring. Yet somehow, I never quite got around to it.

Then I agreed to write for the new Mommy Blogs Toronto. It sounded like fun and might give me a new (or at least broader) audience. So I signed up and didn't worry about the details until I had to do things like come up with a title and a description. And in that process, I revisited the whole name issue.

So, since the names will be hitting the ether in my new 'column' soon, I thought I'd introduce them here.

For my wife, I have chosen (with her consent) Trillian. The name comes from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, one that both my wife and I really love. Trillian is a woman Arthur Dent, the protagonist, once met at a party, but struck out with, when she was known as Tricia MacMillan. He runs into her again, when he is picked up by a passing spaceship after being ejected from another one by the Vogons. It is a statistically improbable event, made possible by the Infinite Improbability Drive on the Heart of Gold. If all of that means nothing to you, go read the book, listen to the radio play, rent the movie.

Aside from the common interest, I have a sappy reason for choosing this name. Sure Adams plays it for the laughs, but there's something about the randomness of who we cross paths with and, against all odds, finding someone. My wife (I swear, I'll switch to Trillian soon) and I made a lot of choices along the way and could have ended up in very different places. I don't necessarily believe in Fate (with the capital F), but I get the sense that we would have met one way or another. We seriously considered several of the same schools for our undergraduate studies, and she thought about applying to the residence I lived in for a couple years. Not quite traversing the universe, but still an amazing statistical event.

The reason for the name (with my wife's help) I've chosen for my son here is less deep. He's had a whole range of nicknames, but most of them are based on variations of his name, so they would violate the whole anonymity thing. And then there are the names that wouldn't hold up to common decency; I don't think he'd appreciate pages covered with "Stinker Butt." So Scooter it is. Probably not a big surprise that he earned that nickname during the days he was learning to crawl.

So now I'm done with that, and only 3+ months after I intended to.

BTW, tomorrow is my 100th post (I think, need to recheck the numbers).

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I should be ecstatic. The Democrats took the House of Representatives. And not just barely. More seats than predicted. They have a comfortable cushion.

And the Senate too. That was a truly pleasant surprise. That was not on the list of predictions. Yet there we sit, 49 seats for each of the major parties and 2 independents who have pledged their support to the Democrats.

We control both houses. That has not been the case since Bill Clinton's first term.*

And yet, I'm not nearly as happy as I'd predicted.

It's the states. As happened in the previous election, the one that precipitated our move to Canada, several states passed bans on gay marriage. On the plus side, Arizona rejected such a ban--the first state to do so. We had our fingers crossed on Colorado; there were ballot issues both for domestic partnership and for a ban. Didn't go our way. We watched Virginia with an air of resignation. The ban they passed there is the most comprehensive one to date--a ban on recognizing anything that approximates marriage. It will most likely go to the courts, possibly be overturned, since it's written in such a way that it could be interpreted to nullify wills and powers-of-attorney, for any non-married couples. It passed with a smaller margin than expected, so small favors.

I had been waiting for this election, looking for it to serve as some sort of barometer. I don't know exactly what I expected--a vast sea-change in which the states and federal government suddenly reversed course and welcomed my family with open arms. OK, not realistic, and I'm not sure why I invested so much in this one election.

I'll be looking at a permanent resident application any day now.

*If I'm remembering correctly. I saw the figure in an article that it's been 12 years. 12 years--has it really been that long!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

His heart is racing

Depending on your perspective, there was something more important than the elections in the States on November 7th.

Cars came out on DVD.

Rather than wait and see who had it for the cheapest, we went ahead and pre-ordered from the Disney Store.* The selling point? The four free prints that came with it. Instant decorating theme for my son. We also got a 15% off coupon good during the first few days the video could be picked up.

So on my way home from school, I made a little detour to the mall to get the video and a few other goodies. Most of those have gone into a drawer to be pulled out later, as needed. I would worry about him losing interest, but I feel pretty confident that this thing will have legs at least through the holiday season.

Of course, the highlight was showing him the DVD box and his excited, "You bring me the Cars DVD!" Then, my wife and I stood off to the side and watched his face as the movie began. He giggled at the first image of cars zooming around and then smiled just about the biggest smile possible.

I have written before about wanting, once upon a time, to avoid too much branding, too much Disney, but I've given in. And with Cars, I've embraced it. It was my son's first movie in the theater, a magical moment that I will always treasure.

Plus, it's got a solid lesson, fun characters, and some great music (I definitely need the Sheryl Crow song that starts the whole thing)! Which is all good since I expect I'll be seeing this once a day for the next few weeks.

*It was, of course, more expensive than in the US, but the free prints more than make up for that. I also noticed only a $1 difference from the other places I've seen it for sale, so not a bad purchase.

Living up to the promise of blogging my politics

Today is the first major election day in the States since I moved north of the border. I voted via absentee ballot a couple weeks ago--the powers that be allow my wife and me to vote for federal-level offices based on our old home address. So now we're just sitting and waiting to hear the results. While this election won't see the end of W.'s reign, there is the possibility of a shift of power in the houses; the House of Representatives looks like it will flip to the Democrats, the Senate is not quite as certain.

I have a lot at state, psychologically speaking, in this election. In some ways, this is the barometer that will help me determine if my home country is ever likely to move in a direction that would allow my family to move back home. I guess I have this fantasy that if the Democrats take power, they will immediately pass a federal bill on gay marriage* that would somehow be veto-proof, and voila, we could live wherever we wanted with protection in place for our family.

More practically, the scenario will probably play out as follows: the Democrats gain much power in both houses, probably with the majority of Representatives and almost even in the Senate. As a result, nearly nothing will be accomplished at the federal level for the next two years. And there will be no progress on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Which is something.

I think there will be more movement at the state level. There are several states with a variety of propositions affecting my family right now, both for and against our rights. The awful law in Virginia will most likely pass (saying that the state won't recognize any contracts between non-married people that would approximate the rights of marriage--it's poorly written and will cause problems well beyond what's intended). But there are a few states, such as Wisconsin, where it's looking like there might not be enough support to pass laws banning official recognition of same-sex relationships. And in Colorado, there are two propositions on the ballot, one creating some sort of official recognition, the other banning recognition. It's very close on the former, but at least the latter looks like it might be defeated, especially since one of the most strident opponents of gay marriage was recently caught out in some outrageous lies, proving yet again what can happen when Republicans try to repress their true identity by stridently opposing what they are.

I don't intend to watch numbers scroll by on CNN, but it's really tempting to stay up until midnight so that I can watch the coverage by Stewart and Colbert.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a link to a truly hilarious article that will also make you pause. When I first read it, I laughed out loud at parts. And then I noticed the byline. That is in fact the Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Those men are not just funny, they're damn smart too.

*Or civil union or whatever. Right now, I don't care what it's called as long as my family is protected and I don't have to carry paperwork with me everywhere (which I don't always do, though I'm nervous when we travel without).

Monday, November 06, 2006

I am not my writing

One of the major hurdles for me in my writing is handling criticism. I know and understand that constructive criticism is important and can help me develop, but it is still difficult for me not to feel like any criticism of my writing--down to the obvious grammar and spelling errors--is not personal criticism. Recognizing this knee-jerk reaction and trying to ready myself for those situations where it's inevitable helps a little bit, but I haven't overcome my anxiety entirely.

But the party on Saturday helped me realize that I've made some improvements on this front. I freely admitted to Crazy Mumma's better half that ultimately I would like to be doing some serious creative writing, but that I don't have the time or focus to follow through on even a short story right now; yes, it's something I'd like to do more of in the future, but blogging allows me to keep practicing my craft without the pressure of a major product.

Another interesting moment, replayed with variations, was the apology from another blogger that they don't know/read my blog. I think at one point in my writing development, that would have crushed me. But as I stood there, meeting and talking to this amazing array of women, it just didn't matter to me--it didn't feel like a negation of my value, just a simple fact of life. (Ok, so maybe it helped that I was in the same boat; so many blogs I need to check out now!)

And there were many moments that made me feel very good about what I'm doing here. It's nice to have an accurate mental image of the women I'm in conversation with. As I said in a comment somewhere, many people did not look like I expected, but I can't tell you what exactly I did expect. Not only did I get to meet many of the women I've been admiring online, but I discovered that I have my own admirers. I haven't fully processed that yet, but I'm working on it. Nonetheless, one of the true ego-boosting moments was being introduced to Something Baby Blue, and when I shyly explained, "I'm Mouse, my site is the Mouse's Nest," having her respond, "Yes, I know your blog." OK, so from StatCounter I know that I have some readers who don't comment, I just hadn't thought about actually meeting them.

So I'm feeling a bit revitalized and looking forward to bringing you some posts that reflect this.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Climbing back out of the trenches

During the last two weeks, I was sorely tempted to write a post entitled "Crisis of Faith," in which I would discuss (i.e., whine about) not being madly in love with my area of study and my continued questioning of whether or not the move to Canada was a good idea. I recognize, and even recognized then, that our recent poor health has sapped much of my enthusiasm for anything, but when I was in the big fat middle of it, it was hard to imagine anything improving.

Finally we're crawling out of illness. While my wife does have pneumonia and will be in recovery for some time to come, having the diagnosis and the proper medication has helped our state of mind. I can finally feel the antibiotics working on my sinus infection with the result of fewer dizzy spells, less exhaustion, and the realization that I'm doomed to feel like this for the rest of time. My son is still coughing, but it's not disturbing his sleep as it did before (and some of it is fake--whenever my wife or I cough, we hear a little cough in response).

And I've talked myself back into a truce with my studies. I recognize and duly note that I am not greatly motivated by my current courses. I am also not the kind of person who is so in love my subject area that I want to spend all of my time on it. But I had a chance to talk to some of my friends in my department, to lay out some of my frustrations, and to be reminded that I'm not the only one who feels that way. It doesn't mean I'm finding it easy to devote the time I need to my studies, but I'm not beating myself up over feeling that way.

It also helped that last night I got to meet a whole bunch of wonderful women (and many of their husbands). Ever since I made my first trip back to the States in our quest for child #2 and had a chance to meet up with the two colleagues who were my closest friends at the last school where I taught, I've been aware of how much I miss having 'adult' friends. Not to say that the classmates who have become my friends here are immature, but we're in very different places in our lives. Whenever I bring up something about my son, I usually get a response like, "I don't know how you handle school and having a child." I have missed chatting with people who instead respond in kind. So I finally got a fix of adult conversation. Sure we talked a lot about kids and related tangents, but also a fair amount about schoolwork, education in general, and the virtues of several different cities.

And of course, the night provided me with some more ideas for posts...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Because I no longer have a dog to eat my homework

Dear Professor Of-my-required-Friday-class,

Since I've already missed one of our weekly classes, I recognize that it would not be in my best interest to miss another; however, I have not been able to prepare adequately for tomorrow's class. I recognize that it is my responsibility to spread my work out over the week, but my schedule is such, that Thursdays are my most open day of the week.

Except when I spend the entire day in the emergency room.

As I (and my constant coughing in your class) have made you aware, we've had a virus running through our family. Yesterday my wife developed flu symptoms--aches, chills and a fever that wouldn't go below 101 (38.3 in Celsius), even with Tylenol--along with an additional sharp pain along her rib cage. This morning we were advised to go to the emergency room.

After dropping my son off at preschool, I got my wife to the hospital at 10 am. After about two hours in the outer waiting room, we were brought back to the "fast track waiting room." Over the next three hours, they asked a battery of questions and ran several tests. At 4 pm, with a diagnosis of flu, my wife was still waiting, though we didn't know for what. I had to leave and pick up our son.

My son and I returned home a little before 5 and attended to our usual evening routine (including the first food I'd eaten all day), waiting for a call from my wife--which finally came a little after 7 pm. I bundled my son up, loaded him in the car, and headed back to the hospital.

On the ride home, my wife informed me that she has pneumonia. Again. The second time in three years. But this is actually good news, as her symptoms matched a pulmonary embolism.*

Once I got home and settled my wife in the living room and my son in bed, I headed out to the pharmacy for my wife's prescriptions. By 9 pm, I finally had my shower and dinner. And a chance to do my work.

So I may not have read through it as carefully as I should have.


*And they were so concerned about this urgent issue that it only took 9 hours to get through everything.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sick of being sick

The "luxury' I perhaps miss most since becoming a mother? Being sick. Not that I'm never sick. It just doesn't work the same way anymore.

Before my son was born, being sick meant hanging out in bed or on the couch whenever I didn't absolutely have to be somewhere else. If only I was sick at the time or could play the trump card of "I'm sicker," my wife would make me soup and tea and the like. It's not that I was one of those sickies who needed total babying, but a few little gestures went a long way. If we were both sick, we would both lounge around, taking turns heating up the water or the soup while commiserating about our aches and runny noses.

But this is a thing of the past. Now it never happens that only one of us is sick. The most common progression: Son picks something up at preschool (don't they always?). I then catch it (probably because I'm also exposed to things at his preschool). Then my wife gets it.

The expanded version:
  • My son starts to feel under the weather. This means extra-grumpiness, more accidents than usual. Once it's obvious he's sick, he spends a day or two at home, often not consecutively, as he'll start to seem better and then run a fever again.
  • At this point, I'm starting to develop the same thing. I almost always ignore a cold for the first couple days--denial is my first line of defense. But by the time I'm finally willing to utter the statement, "I'm sick,"...
  • My wife gets sick. Now I always think of her as incredibly healthy--she's in good shape and her weight is under much better control than mine. Her immune system, however, is not as strong as mine, so it almost always hits her twice as bad as anyone else.
As a result, I almost never get to the point when I feel I can say, "I'm too sick to do anything today." And on those occasions when I do get to that point, I'm often the healthiest of the three of us and have no choice but to soldier on. I almost got a true sick day to myself last month, but that turned into my nightmarish Friday the 13th.

This is the long way of saying I'm still sick. Yesterday, after a few days of sudden dizzy spells and extreme exhaustion, I took a pregnancy test. Despite being on day 4 of my period and knowing it was impossible. It wasn't until after it remained decidedly negative that I put everything together and came to the conclusion that all of this congestion and such has turned into a sinus infection. So now I am on an antibiotic. My cough has gotten worse again, but I'm hoping that is just a result of everything that's getting flushed out of my head. With all luck, this will all be cleared up before my next trip to the fertility clinic.

So that the next time I feel like crap, it will be worth it.