Saturday, February 10, 2007

Day 12

12 -- Today, I will choose to be aware of what I talk about and I will refuse to gossip.

I love thinking of small intentions such as this one leading to an atmosphere of increased peace and nonviolence. Not sure I'll have much of a chance to gossip today anyway, but it's always worthwhile to be mindful. Honest, but mindful.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Day 11

11 -- Today, I will look beyond stereotypes and prejudices.

Again, this one is timely for me. Our department's annual prospective student weekend starts today, so we have 8 or 9 people visiting, some of whom will receive offers to being graduate work next fall. I saw the list of visitors, with a bit of background on each, and was disappointed that over half are international students. What a perfect time for me to be more aware of my prejudices in this context. (Insert earnest "I'm not a racist!" protestations here.)

I think our department is fairly typical of US graduate programs that attract a high number of international applicants. Often, the domestic students are not as well prepared (certainly true for me), and the international students come in more advanced, more focused and more intent on their academic goals. From a research perspective, on average, the international students are more productive. From other perspectives, though, there are issues. Domestic students end up taking more than their fair share of teaching responsibilities (we don't get paid extra for teaching, it's simply required) because they're native English speakers. In our department, the international students are almost exclusively Chinese, and they eat together, study together and, when they are around the department, speak entirely in Chinese. I don't blame them, and I know that if the situation were reversed and I was studying in China, I would definitely grab any opportunity to relax and speak in a comfortable language. However, ironically, it is intensely isolating to be an English-speaking student here. I actually switched offices this year largely to be in an office with at least one other English speaker. Not only did I have a hard time working because of the constant conversations in my old office, I couldn't even eavesdrop because my Mandarin is limited to "Hello" and recognizing the sound of DT saying "I don't speak Chinese."

Given this, I think it's understandable that I would hope for more domestic students, to even out the experience. However, I shouldn't assume that these prospective students have no interest in interacting with non-Chinese students; that's the kind of assumption that, when made, is nearly always self-fulfilling. Today, when I meet the students, I will be mindful of approaching them all equally. I'll do my best to assume the domestic students are insular and unwilling to reach outside of their community. Since I probably won't get to know any of the new students very well, it's best to operate on the assumption that they're all jerks.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Day 10

10 -- Today, I will oppose injustice, not people.

I don't think I can promise anything on this one. While it was easy enough last night to oppose the injustice of being made to look at Carolina blue uniforms, instead of opposing the somewhat-comical Tyler Hansblahblah, I don't think I'll be able to do anything other than oppose Ivory Latta, Erlana Larkins and Sylvia Hatchell tonight.
They make me psycho.

The injustice will be if Duke loses again tonight.

Rip em up, tear em up!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Georgia's state legislature is currently considering House Bill 147, which is yet another thinly-veiled anti-abortion law. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about the bill:

HB 147 requires women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. The woman is then given the option of viewing the results. The bill also has language that says the ultrasound must be of high enough quality so the fetal heartbeat can be heard.

I'll be frank: I'm pro-choice when pressed, but am hardly comfortable with it. I've always felt that both sides purposefully push the rhetoric and debate to the extremes, out of their fear of giving an inch and having the other side take a mile. It seems so obvious to me that an embryo or fetus is not "just a clump of cells"; neither is it a child. To argue otherwise not only makes me dizzy, it minimizes the very real trauma that many women go through when making difficult decisions about an unwanted pregnancy, a pregnancy begun in violence, an unhealthy pregnancy, a dangerous pregnancy, infertility, and of course, miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

Okay, all that said, I have two main problems with this bill, and neither one (surprisingly) has to do with the fact that it's a transparent attempt to decrease the number of abortions by some method other than decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies.
  1. It is often impossible to get an ultrasound for a wanted pregnancy in the first trimester. If you don't have a history of loss, some previous medical problem, or extra cash, you're probably not going to have an ultrasound until 18 weeks. This bill is not about giving women who are seeking abortions the standard of obstetrical care. It would actually give them better obstetrical care than most women in Georgia. Something's wrong here.
  2. The assumption that these poor women have no idea what they're doing is so patronizing as to make me feel physically ill. Again, from the article:

    Rep. James Mills (R-Gainesville), the sponsor of HB 147, told the committee the purpose of the bill is to give women all the information necessary to make an informed decision before getting an abortion. Mills said women need to know information about fetal development, heartbeat and other factors prior to getting an abortion.

    This is coming from the same state that passed a bill which required doctors to give women seeking abortions incorrect information linking abortions and breast cancer. Thanks, Rep. Mills, but I think I'll inform myself instead of relying on you. Go ahead and spend your time on something useful, like repealing the Sunday alcohol sales law. Because, you know, I'm just a stupid woman who likes to get drunk and pregnant so I can have abortions for fun.

Day 9

9 -- Today, I will work to understand and respect another culture.

I see two choices here:

  1. Continue with my efforts to understand and respect my mother-in-law's culture, both the culture she derived from growing up somewhere other than the US, and the culture of being a mother-in-law, or
  2. Attempt to understand and respect the culture of UNC, since the Duke-Carolina game is tonight.
Truly, I don't know which to choose. I'm only one person, and I can only do so much.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A season for nonviolence - days 5-8

Better late than never. Here are the daily pieces of peace since the weekend:

5 -- Today, I will plant seeds--plants or constructive ideas.
6 -- Today, I will hold a vision of plenty for all the world's hungry and be open to guidance as to how I can help alleviate some of that hunger.
7 -- Today, I will acknowledge every human being's fundamental right to justice, equity, and equality.
8 -- Today, I will appreciate the earth's bounty and all of those who work to make my food available (i.e., grower, trucker, grocery clerk, cook, waitress, etc.)

I have found myself thinking about some of the earlier days' intentions more than these, but here they are for anyone playing along at home. It's a bit paralyzing to try to be "open to guidance" as to how to mitigate world hunger. I'm an overly-scheduled wife-mother-student-daughter-in-law with more disposable income than time (although not much of either), so my first thought is, "Ack, help! I'll give some money." Supremely unsatisfying, but in the name of making peace with myself, I'm not going to beat myself up for the fact that I cannot be everything to all people. I'm doing the best I can, and I'm trying to be mindful about how to do better.

Along those lines, I'm giving a little bit to the Global Fund for Children. This organization was started by a friend of mine and it does good things. If you're looking for a place to share at some point, please consider it.

Back to my peaceful coffee and solo working time while I wait for a doctor's appointment. Right now I appreciate the woman who made my coffee and who chose a beautiful CD to play while I enjoy some alone time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Texas giants

If it wasn't enough to lose Ann Richards recently, now Molly Ivins has died as well. There's not much I can say that would do her justice. She was passionate, she was funny, and her dog's name was an expletive. We should all do such a good job living.

Day 4

Day 4 -- Today, I will take time to admire and appreciate nature.

Well, that one's done. How can you not take time to admire and appreciate nature on a morning when the fog is playing with the trees, the redbuds are already blooming (yikes!) and the bushes outside my building have really strange berry configurations shooting out of the stems?

Thursday, February 01, 2007


WonderGirl brought her first report-card-like-beast home yesterday. We've had parent conferences in the past, or updates from preschool teachers, but never an honest-to-goodness written, check the boxes, line up the horses, kind of evaluation. We discovered the folder in her backpack as we were heading out the door, but DT and I both knew we couldn't wait until we got home to read it. With DT's mom cozily stuffed between the kids and carseats in the back, he quietly read the highlights to me as I drove and we both hoped that WonderGirl was sufficiently distracted enough by trying to keep Rocco from taking her Corduroy book that she wouldn't pipe up, "What? What are you reading?"

Here's the thing: I know WonderGirl is interested in learning. She's curious, loves school, is attracted to new ideas and stories, draws appropriately for her age, has suddenly become an independent reader, and seems well-adjusted socially. She's independent, to put it mildly, and has a level of confidence in herself that I think is appropriate for her age. I know she's doing fine in life. Add to this the fact that I have a great amount of respect for her teachers and her school, and they've never given us an indication that she is doing anything other than thriving.

And yet, I'd by lying if I didn't say I was quietly nervous, waiting for DT to give me the word as we drove.

The report was glowing, I think it's fair to say. It was thorough and detailed, with little pieces of commentary that made me laugh. One of the (many, many) skills which were evaluated was something about following multi-step directions. Not only does WonderGirl apparently remember directions exactly, she "helps the rest of her work group remember the directions." In other words, she's bossy. We read that she is meticulous to the point of not always finishing work, since she holds her work to very high standards, but there wasn't anything about frustration with not being able to do something the way she imagined. I would guess this is something we'll have to work with her on, in time, but for now, it just means that she has excellent handwriting for a 5-year-old and art projects that are slow but well-done. We read that she had a problem at the beginning of the year with pushing when there was a conflict over who was rightfully first in line; now she "remembers to use words," as she "asserts her position." That's our child -- she doesn't let others walk on her, but if she can do it nicely, then more power to her.

I'm not surprised that she's doing well on the academic side of things, precisely because she is curious, trusts adults and likes to be told new things. I'm quite happy, and relieved, that she is doing well socially, and that she is turning out to be sensitive to her classmates and tries to help when they have problems. I'm grateful beyond description that she has teachers who see her clearly and honestly; there was nothing in the report that felt off or biased. Here's hoping that her school career is always so positive.

Day 3

Day 3 -- Today, I will practice nonviolence and respect for Mother Earth by making good use of her resources.

I don't know that there is a lot new I can do for today's practice. I did make sure to take the stairs this morning, instead of the elevator; my (vegetarian) lunch is in reusable containers instead of a ziploc bag; I drove as smoothly as I could, sans tailgating, for fuel efficiency; I turned off all the lights at home in unused rooms. Except for occasionally taking the elevator and using a ziploc bag (which I throw away instead of washing, bad Ruth!) every few weeks, these are my daily rituals, though. We're fortunate to have excellent curbside recycling service in our county (plastics #1-7, baby!) and DT saves most of our food scraps for composting at WonderGirl's school. We don't generate as much trash as the majority of neighbors. Definitely, we could go pioneer-style if we decided to change our lives completely, but given where we live and where I go to school, we can't stop driving completely or start growing our own food, etc. Plus, there's that whole I-can-kill-a-cactus horticultural thing I have going on.

I think this might have to be enough. I'll be mindful of the small things and intentional about and grateful for what I do use.