Thursday, November 16, 2006

When you least expect it

My mother died nine years ago last spring. As I think (believe, hope) is common, I sometimes panic that I'm forgetting everything about her. I struggle sometimes to remember even the sound of her voice; I can bring it back most easily when I picture her on the phone in our kitchen, talking to her own mother, with her Southern accent more pronounced than usual. I try to keep Mom somewhat present in our family -- I talk about her relatively frequently with WonderGirl, and my clumsy attempts to answer her early questions about death have resulted in WonderGirl's firm idea that my mom is underground, playing games with other people who have died, such as the father of one of her preschool teachers.

I'm always grateful when something brings up unexpected memories of Mom. It helps to stem the tide of forgetting, or more precisely, the tide of worrying about forgetting.

I'm wearing tights today, and I noticed in the full-length mirror in my department's bathroom that there's a hole in the heel and a run up the back. Instantly, it reminded me of one of Mom's projects: collecting old hose and tights with holes and runs. She'd read somewhere that they made perfect stuffing for home-made throw pillows, so for months? years? she and I dutifully saved our dead hose in a drawer. When there was finally enough nylon/cotton volume collected, we eagerly zipped it into a pillowcase and created what would always be known in our house afterwards as The Pillow of Death. Given that Mom was a math teacher, and was all about real-world math problems and everyday estimation, we should have already guessed that a throw-pillow's worth of pantyhose weighs approximately 71 pounds. Although never proudly displayed on the couch, we kept that pillow in the den anyway, tucked away, our secret weapon in case of enemy invasion.

I remember that.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The aftermath

My predictions for last night were all completely wrong. My in-laws had what I will euphemistically call "car trouble" and didn't make it to our house, but will try again today. This is in some ways a good thing, because DT and I spent most of the night with the TV on, listening with one ear, and occasionally saying, "Holy crap!" as it appeared that the Democrats might actually have a chance to take over some seats. Neither of us really thought it would happen. Our little victory dances this morning would have been curtailed out of politeness if DT's parents were already here, but it was so much fun to hear Rocco imitate our woo-hoos of excitement that I'm kind of glad they're going to be a day late.

Of course, in our state, the Republicans kept solid control of everything. But at least now I can accuse them of being out-of-step with "real" Americans instead of vice versa.

Now, I'm just hoping against hope that the Democrats really do change some things. The legislative high road is pretty empty; I hope they jump on up there. Work with the Republicans to pass things that people care about. There is a part of me that wants revenge for a lot of the petty (and not-so-petty) crap, a part of me that would love to see impeachment hearings. However, as I told DT this morning, if there's a choice between spending time passing a livable minimum wage (or health care for kids) or spending time going after Bush, for God's sake, let's worry about the people that need it most first.

On some level, Bush is, finally, a comma. Suck it, Karl Rove.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The party line

I'm nervous about the elections today. I follow these things a little too closely, probably, and don't have a long history of happy Tuesday nights in November. 2004 was particular painful for me; DT's parents were visiting, and my intensely-conservative father-in-law had the job of trying to comfort me as I realized that things were not going the way I'd hoped. For the last two years, I've felt guilty for putting him in that position, and I've hoped that we wouldn't repeat the scene. Of course, he's driving down to visit us as I write this, and he and DT's mom should be here by the time the polls close. This doesn't feel like a good sign to me.

My first vote ever was an absentee ballot cast more against Jesse Helms than for his opponent -- not exactly an illustrious, or productive, start. I now live in a blue island in a red sea, which means that when I voted this morning, there were virtually no truly-contested races. My state senator and representative will certainly be Democrats, as will my congressman, and there is no way my governor won't be Republican. Because I'm idealistic about voting, though, and I refuse not to participate, I tracked down voters' guides from the League of Women Voters, the local paper and the local independent paper. DT and I shuffled the kids off to the polls this morning after we left the house, and we doggedly made choices through all eight pages of races, amendments and referendums on our Diebold machines. After agonizing for a few days over which of the five candidates (all without bachelors degrees!) I should select for our county school board seat, I discovered as I voted that we've been slightly redistricted, and I should have researched a different race.

My predictions for tonight: I will repeatedly (surreptitiously) check the internets while we catch up with my in-laws after the kids go to bed. My mother-in-law will pretend not to notice because she doesn't want to talk politics. My father-in-law will pretend not to notice because he doesn't want me to dissolve into tears again. When we do talk about it later, he will be shocked (for the third time in the last several years) that I voted for some Republicans. He will forget again before 2008 that I have ever voted for a Republican, and he will lump me in with "you Democrats." I will chafe and DT will remind him that the Democrats are way too conservative for us, at which point my father-in-law will say, "Huh. Let's eat dim sum!" We will eat dim sum.

Predictions for the races? I have no idea.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Grad student hack

I'm a fan of the website Parent Hacks. I often find little tips that are at least vaguely useful, but I've never thought of something I do that might help someone else. Or, at least, I don't really think my little parenting techniques are hack-worthy until I read the same thing, submitted by someone else. But I'm not bitter.

My point (yes! I have a point!) is that I have a grad student hack to share. I use Google Reader to keep up with blogs and news, and it only recently struck me that it would be a good way to keep up with the main journals in my field. Now I have RSS feeds for my favorite journals, and I don't have to remember how long it's been since I've checked for new articles. Now, unfortunately, I also have no excuse for not reading the latest relevant articles.

(Proposal update: HAH! But I did do my presentation, and it was good. So that's something.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Day 1 update

I'll sum it up: not good. I planned to give myself a good way to ease in to this NaProWriMo thing, namely that I would start by simply writing a report on a project I recently completed. It's not technically part of my proposal, but it has to be done, it's fairly straightforward, and it would get me in the writing spirit.

I wrote about five sentences.

Today probably won't be much better, as I have to spend time putting together a presentation for tomorrow, but I'm going to redouble my efforts. Surely I can write an entire paragraph. Surely.

Totally unrelated - if anyone has a suggestion for a Cinderella doll that will make both me and my soon-to-be-5-year-old happy, I would love to hear about it. I'm fine with indulging princess fantasies, but I'm not so keen on freakish unrealistic Barbie bodies yet. Googling phrases such as "cinderella doll feminist," "cinderella doll realistic" and "cinderella please let me keep my lunch down" haven't gotten me far, although I have now read several middling college papers on body image and have also discovered the importance of realistic, rooted hair in dolls.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I buy it for the articles, natch

I finally took the plunge and have a post up at Begging To Differ:

It is not a small irony that this, my first post at BTD, is inspired by Playboy. Generally speaking, I don't think Playboy and its brethren contribute a lot to our society: I don't condemn the women for posing or the consumers for buying, because some pretty basic human instincts drive both behaviors. I do subscribe to the idea that unrealistic sexual images can create barriers to real, healthy adult relationships, and that, in my mind, is a shame. That said, I may be buying the December 2006 issue.

Miss December (do they still name the Playmates?) Cindy Margolis posed for Playboy after years of demurring. One of her reasons? To raise awareness and money for RESOLVE, a well-known infertility organization. Margolis' three children were born with assisted reproduction techniques: a son through IVF and twins via a surrogate. Although infertility affects around 10% of the US population, very few celebrities go public with their stories. I certainly understand and respect their need for privacy, but it is incredibly refreshing to hear frank discussions of infertility from women such as Margolis or the Dixie Chicks. Kudos to Margolis for understanding that more public voices can make infertility less stigmatizing for many couples:

[It] is very important to me, to make fertility mainstream so everyone understands it.
Talk about giving back -- not only is she donating part of her profits to RESOLVE, she'll likely end up helping someone's husband give a "sample" in the pursuit of an IVF or IUI pregnancy.

Happy National Infertility Awareness Week, everybody.