Tuesday, November 16, 2010


That's right friends! I am moving my blog!

Please come join me over on WordPress.com at: http://ahab1.wordpress.com/

Also, please update your bookmark--all posts will now be made on the WordPress.com blog; this blog will no longer be updated.

See you over there! :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lazy Blogger(?)

I'm stunned that my last post was over a month ago! I've been fairly busy--October has essentially killed me. Maybe that's hyperbole, but you get my meaning. This month has been chockfull of financial woes, dissertation woes, conference paper woes, grading woes, traveling woes, health woes, and fitness woes.

But maybe I'm not being fair. I might be coming at this from the wrong angle. My life this past month hasn't been all bad. In fact, most of my life has been quite good. Although October has been uncommonly busy, and although I have had my fair share of stressors, I can say that generally I'm in good spirits. One of my favorite October stressors (eustress, mind) was that my very good friend A.Mo came to visit us at the beginning of the month! Why is her visit considered a stressor at all (eustress or not?), well, because I got to have a lot of fun running around with her as her photography assistant throughout her visit. And, if you've never served that role before, it's definitely a fun sort of stress. I enjoyed carrying around her ridonculously expensive camera equipment (I was an extremely careful walker during those hours...I knew that if I should but trip...cringe), wrangling adorable dogs into unlikely positions by way of a cookie, and scouting out locations like treasures. We had such fun with her in town, and I can't wait for her next visit!

Another highlight of the month, albeit a generally stressful one (and only sometimes eustress-ful), was the conference I was fortunate enough to attend last weekend. I presented a portion of my dissertation chapter (a much, much shortened, much, much condensed version of my current chapter) at the Sixteenth Century Society Conference in Montreal. I enjoyed the panel I served with, and I had a great time fielding compelling and thought-provoking questions from our audience. I felt a resurgence of energy and passion for my topic, which couldn't have come at a more appropriate time. I also picked up a book to review in the Sixteenth Century Journal, which counts as a publication if it gets in. This is good for me because publications combined with job experience can only make a candidate that much more appealing to the market in general.

Despite my brief shining moment at the conference, I did fall disastrously ill while in Montreal. On our flight up, a woman carrying what I am convinced to be the Bubonic plague, attempted the entire trip to hack up her lungs either through her mouth or her nose. She was disgusting, at best; and she was tremendously infectious, at worst. Yes, yes, even upon boarding the plane, the woman chose me to speak to--and of course she would choose me since I had had a compromised immune system for two weeks already. (Hence the medical woes I previously mentioned--this is the end of my third week of illness. First, I had upper respiratory issues; second, I had laryngitis, which hurt like the devil; and now, I have a virus that really wants to be a sinus infection and might have been on Saturday.) Perhaps that has been the worst part of October and what has colored it as generally unappealing to me: I have been sick nearly the entire month. I'm sick of being sick!

Fortunately for me, though, I am feeling better by the hour, so I'm hopeful that next week will be perfectly fine.

November still requires a great deal of responsibilities, but most of them are not related to teaching. I may be the only one, but I feel more in control of my responsibilities as a student (dissertation, reading, research) than I am of my responsibilities as a teacher. Or maybe it's this particular semester...one of my classes is a bit unpredictable. I look forward to November because it brings with it a strong promise of progress and forward momentum.

If October has brought me anything, it has brought me a motivation to graduate so that I can move on with my professional life. And, as one who has so desperately lacked that professional drive in these past several months, I will take my motivation where I can get it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Anatomy of Repetition

After several semesters teaching multiple sections of the same course simultaneously, I have come to expect certain truths about repeating lectures.

1. One class will inevitably misunderstand an element of lecture that the other class seems to innately "get."
2. One class will find great disgust with a section of text whereas the other class finds the same section appealing.
3. One class will have greater energy levels while the other class slumps and sleeps.
4. I will ultimately question what changed in myself to make the same lecture so unbearable for one class yet exciting for the other.

These past few weeks, I taught, for the first time, The Ramayana. In addition to feeling like I do not fully grasp the true implications or beliefs or characteristics or whatever of Hinduism, I still believe that I grasp it a bit more fully than some of my students. (I'm being purposefully conservative for the sake of avoiding generalization--I actually believe I understand the concept of Hinduism better than 99% of my students...allowing for a possible "closeted" Hindu student.) My confidence in this borders on arrogance, particularly because I am capable of realizing how very little I actually understand about this complex religious system.


Today's lecture was the final one for The Ramayana. In my first class, I walk in to a class of highly energetic students who are excited to talk about the last few sections we read. We had a beautiful discussion about a beautiful text. We discussed destiny, emotions, and (to some extent) religion. I felt we wrapped up The Ramayana as well as anyone could have hoped, especially given the massive sections I had to excise from our assigned readings. (With a great deal of care and regret, I should add.)

In my second class, it was a completely different story. First of all, that statement is generally true of my second class anyway. I have a couple of students who are a bit...how shall I say it?...defensive? combative? presumptive? Something along those lines, although none of those words fit perfectly. My first class takes place right at lunchtime while my second class takes place right after lunchtime. I suppose that could account for the complete lack of energy I experience when I first walk in on any given day. Today, however, my students were really quite dead, I mean truly flat-lined, about this epic battle at the end of The Ramayana. If you haven't read it, The Ramayana is the story of Vishnu coming down to Earth in the form of Rama (think: Christ). Rama is destined to defeat Ravana, who is the king of all the demons (think: Satan). The final book (if you go with the traditional format, it should end on Book Six) describes the war between Rama and Ravana. It's intense. It's brilliant. It's MASSIVE. My second class? Couldn't give a rat's ass. Their reason? Because the whole text is about destiny anyway, so you already know that Rama is supposed to kill Ravana from the very beginning. This takes away from the entire story and makes it disappointing. Apparently.

What is one to do with that? I couldn't excite them about the text in any way. I couldn't ask them a question that would cause them to tilt their heads with inquisitiveness. They were bound and determined to feel disappointed by this book, by golly, so they were. And I was disappointed by the final lecture.

And now. Now I receive a text message from a colleague saying that she is on the transit with a student of mine, overhearing a conversation this student is having with her mother. Apparently I am not a Christian, and my student is convinced of this because of something I said in class. Fortunately for me, however, she and her mother will be praying for me. Lucky day.

I don't discuss my religion with my students. Frankly, I learned at the green age of six that you don't talk about your religion with anyone who isn't your religion because you're probably going to just be condemned to Hell. This is the joy of growing up Catholic in the buckle of the Bible Belt. It's such a joy. (Sorry for the sarcasm, but come on! It's been nearly thirty years--can't I just BE?) I can't conceive of what I might have said in class that would have indicated that I'm not Christian (or that I AM Christian for that matter!)--there are three things I strictly keep out of my classroom at all costs: 1. my religion, 2. my politics, and 3. my sex life. Those topics are off limits so severely that I'm surprised my students can even attempt to nail me down at all.

I suppose it's a good thing that I've got this one girl so confused. I suppose it indicates how awesome I am at being open-minded and willing to entertain different interpretations of the Human Condition. Tsk. My religion should not even be a concern of hers, and I am more insulted that she is discussing my religion with anyone at all let alone praying for me. In the good old Southern tradition, bless her heart.

These are the days I don't want to pursue this career. These are the days I hate my job and wonder what could possibly redeem this job for me. These are the days I lament time wasted and tremble at the thought of starting over in anything else.

So I know I'll continue. Despite anything else, I know I'll keep teaching, and I'll keep stepping on toes and pushing boundaries and pissing people off.

I'm not sure this is a valiant move on my part, but it is what is meant to happen. And that's my dharma. So there.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The person my dog thinks I am

I was taking a brief break from an Althusserian-sized brain fart (think: utterly thought-halting...like, it took me five minutes to come up with the term "brain fart"), and I read a short blog about marriage. In the comments section of that short blog was a woman's response to her motivation for dumping her baggage that was external to her marriage. She said she was reminded of an unattributed quote (although potentially received from a song of the same title by the Bellamy Brothers) which says that she wanted to be "the kind of person my dog thinks I am." Like Annie's when she hears anything out-of-the-ordinary, my head tilted to the side, and I suddenly became curious about what kind of person Annie must think I am.

Well, for one, she obviously sees me as her rescuer. That's just a matter of course for shelter dogs. Milton looks at Robert with such devotion and gratitude--Annie gives me the same look. But what else does she see in me?

She obviously doesn't see me as a fat woman. She doesn't look at my body with disgust and revulsion. Even when she's asleep, she wants to touch me with a toe or the tip of her nose.

She obviously doesn't harbor any resentment or disappointment in my stilted approach to writing my dissertation. In fact, when I need to write on my laptop, she is happy to sit beside me or under my feet, as long as she's nearby.

She obviously doesn't judge my all-too-often decision just to stay in my work-out clothes all day because they're comfortable. As far as she's concerned, my comfortable clothes are comfortable for her, too.

She obviously doesn't see me as lazy or inconsiderate. I'm not sure she even notices the piles of laundry that have accumulated, or the fact that it's Robert who cooks dinner most frequently, even on "my" nights.

She obviously doesn't judge my hair or the fact that I choose to wear it pulled back every.single.day. As long as I give her a good whiff of my hair straight out the shower, she's happy.

She obviously doesn't reject my training methods because I am a first-time puppy owner. As far as she's concerned, I'm an old pro at this. She listens to my commands and respects them for what they are. (Plus, she knows she'll get all kinds of kisses and cuddles if she follows my directions.)

To Annie, I'm a source of rules, food, cookies (sometimes, especially when we're learning something brand new), affection (like really awesome tummy rubs), and shelter. To Annie, I am not my baggage. I am not someone with failures worth noting or someone who should be rejected on the basis of those failures.

Perhaps it would be fair to suggest, and I am not attempting to equate my husband to my dog, that Annie sees me in a similar way that Robert must see me. Before we got married--hell, even now I find myself saying this to him--I would tell him, "I just can't see the woman that you see when you look at me." And he would respond, "One day you will." Same goes for Annie. I can't see the woman that she sees when she looks at me. I don't look in the mirror and think, "Wow. I am truly awesome, just like Robert, Annie, Milton, Callie, and Beatrice think I am!" (I would wager that most of us don't do this when we look in the mirror.) Instead, when I look in the mirror (if I look in the mirror), I see the flaws, the failures, the need for improvement, the places to be corrected. I see the shortcomings, the self-disappointments, the rejections.

But I'll tell you what friends, it's a waste of my time. If I'm the only one who sees myself this way when I look in the mirror, then it's a freaking waste of time.

And I'll tell you another thing. In a couple of weeks, I turn 29. That means next year, I begin a whole other decade. The last time I started a whole other decade (literally 9 days afterward), our country was attacked and my sweet little world was a little bit more jaded and cynical. I feel like I've wasted a decade on cynicism and sarcasm (not wit, mind you--sarcasm is a poor second to wit).

I will not spend the next decade, my thirties, rummaging through twenty-nine years' worth of baggage.

I will be the person my husband thinks I am.

I will be the person my dog thinks I am.

I think you all would like her, if their opinion of her is any indication.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meet Sophie-Anne!

On Saturday, Aug. 21, Robert and I decided it was time to take the plunge and adopt the puppy we had been talking about for a very long time. Through the course of that day, we visited several different locations within about a 50 mile radius of each other. The first place we went, we found no little puppies. The second place we went was closed. The third place we went didn't seem to exist (our GPS dropped us in a parking lot of a business center). The fourth place was extremely depressing and reminiscent of those ASPCA commercials. Finally, the fifth place, which we visited as a last ditch effort, proved to be the most wonderful place of all. The humane society was clean, air conditioned, well organized, and well managed. Our little Sophie-Anne (Annie) was in the puppy room, eagerly awaiting someone to love on her.

I knew she was our dog the moment I laid eyes on her.

Milton wasn't so sure that she was "the one"
when he first laid eyes on her....

When we adopted her, they estimated that she was three months old and guessed that she's an Australian shepherd mix. Now, for the record, I have always wanted an Aussie--they're good with children and cats, and they're extremely intelligent. Finding a sweet little Aussie baby was ideal for us.

See the line that's circled in this picture?
That's a tattoo to indicate right away that she's been spayed.

We took Annie to the vet the next Monday for a couple of reasons. Although the humane society had already spayed her, vaccinated her, dewormed her, microchipped her, and given her an overall wellness check, Annie was still feeling congested. I thought it would be wise for her to have one more wellness check. Our vet prescribed Clavamox (amoxicilin) for her because he surmised that she had tracheitis, which is essentially kennel cough. We're going back in two weeks for another wellness check and for a booster of the vaccinations that she was previously given. Our vet isn't so convinced that she's definitely an Australian shepherd. He guessed that she could be Australian cattle hound. I guess we'll see when she grows up!

Although I can see the resemblance to the Australian cattle hound,
that's a remarkably shepherd head, to me.

It's not featured in any of these photographs (but may well be in the future, as it could be a growing concern); Annie's tail was broken early in her life. Our vet does not suspect foul play, but rather believes it could have been a result of her mother gnawing off the sac a little too aggressively. Apparently this is fairly common. Annie's tail has grown into a strange little Q shape, which causes her to "spin" her tail when she wags it. Myself, I find it endearing and adorable. Unfortunately, it could cause a bit of a hygiene problem, since she can't lift the entire tail up off the ground when she's pottying. Our vet has said that we have an option here either to keep the tail as is or to amputate it. Because our vet is so conservative (meaning, he never recommends unnecessary tests or surgeries), I was a little surprised that he would be supportive of an amputation. This suggests to me that it might end up being the best move for us. We'll see. He said we have some time to think about it, since her tail does not cause her any discomfort or immediate risk.

Oh, and yes. Our little Annie was named for my favorite vampire of the
Sookie Stackhouse novels, Sophie-Anne Leclerq, queen of Louisiana.

Welcome to the family, little Annie girl! :) She has been a wonderful addition this week, and I am so looking forward to spending the rest of her life with her.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Family Time

This weekend my parents came to town. We had a great time with each other, but I think we're all still trying to figure out what it means for them to visit without having to plan a wedding or go to meetings with vendors. See, we've been planning weddings since Dec. 25, 2007 when Robert and I got engaged. My sister got engaged a few months before our wedding, and her wedding was this past June. (Our poor mom.) In fact, I think this was the second visit we had without wedding plans being on the docket. It's wonderful to be able to relax and enjoy each other's company without a sense of rushing.

Yesterday, we decided to spend our family time by seeing a couple of movies. The girls went to see Eat Pray Love, while the boys went to see The Expendables. I have to say that 1. I am grateful I got to see this movie with my mom, my mother-in-law, and Robert's grandmother. (My sister is a pharmacy student who, a week before classes start for the rest of the university, is already working her buns off for a class that had an early start. We missed her at the movie.) 2. I am relieved that my dad and my sister's husband were interested in seeing The Expendables with Robert because now I don't have to go see it. I had absolutely zero interest in seeing this fast-paced shoot-'em-up. Yes, yes, I know who's in the film; and, yes, yes, I understand the important implications of that. But I just still can't work myself up to develop any interest in seeing it. When Robert and I reconvened after our movie, the first words we said to each other were, "You would have hated it." Sometimes it's nice to know your partner well enough to know better than to torture him or her with a movie they'd hate. And it's even nicer when you have someone else to go with instead who will appreciate the movie.

Confucius said, "When father and mother are alive, one does not travel far;
and if one does travel, one must have a fixed destination" (The Analects, 4.19).
Another translation I've seen reads "...if one does travel, one must leave an address."

I believe this portion of The Analects paints a clear picture not only of filial piety but of the path toward the Right Way of Being. It's a matter of respect, love, compassion, and (sure) duty. It's a feeling I myself have been grappling with as Robert and I start to consider our options for where we might like to settle. Soon, probably this month, we're going to sit down and create a hard and fast list of schools for Robert to apply to--he wants to get his PhD as well, but we can't afford for us both to be students simultaneously. Once we have that list secured, I'm going to create a list of schools in those areas that I'd like to look at as well. So far, though, our list does not include the states in which our parents live. And I am grappling with this on a level.

We live five minutes away from Robert's parents--in fact, he grew up here, so no wonder he's eager to fly away. We live about two hours away from my parents--I moved out of my parents' house when I was 18, but I'm not sure how eager I am to be a plane ride away from them. Of course, I want my husband to be happy, and happiness is key when choosing a PhD program. It is a 4-6 year commitment, and settling for a program that's not a good fit can be like torture for those several years. Fortunately for me, I didn't start to feel outgrown for my program until these past couple of years. But I also think that's more of a sign that I'm ready to complete the program and move on with my life than it is a sign of anything else. But if going to the other side of the country is what will make Robert happy, then I will do everything in my power to help him achieve that happiness.

With that happiness, though, does come a level of sacrifice on my end. But, as Confucius says, not traveling far from one's parents is more of an ideal than anything else. His advice does not end there. He continues to say that if extenuating circumstances require that we travel far from our parents, then we owe them at least a fixed destination (or an address). Our parents have to be able to reach us in some way; they have to know where we're going. It's much easier in this day and age to offer a fixed destination for our parents. Our world is a great deal smaller now, and it's not just to do with the convenience of flight. That thought does offer some comfort.

After this weekend, though, I just realized how easy it was for us all to get together to watch a movie and have dinner. There were no plane tickets. Sure, my parents had to drive two hours to get here, but it's not a terrible drive. And it's one that Robert and I are able to make easily as well. If we end up on the other side of the country, we won't be able to do this sort of thing on a whim. Seeing our parents will take more planning, both in selecting the appropriate date as well as setting aside money to travel. The same will affect them.

I am grateful for the time we got with our parents this weekend. I am eager to know what our future will hold and where Robert and I will find our true happiness. But I will also hold Confucius' teaching in my heart: if you must travel far, at least tell your parents where you are. And I will be comforted by knowing that although the convenience and our activities may change, our world is a lot smaller than Confucius' was. We will not disappear into the wild blue yonder, never to see our families again.

In the meantime, though, we will take advantage of our close proximity and of the time that we do have with them now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Making choices

Just a fair warning, although I have generally avoided topics of sex and sexuality on this bog (realizing that I could potentially have readers of any age or sexual comfort level), I will be tackling a particular issue that has plagued my mind for quite some now. The idea of an open marriage.

This topic does not come without a source. Actually, I blame it entirely on watching Talk Sex with Sue Johanson (before she retired the show) and reading Dan Savage's column "Savage Love" with regularity. I like to consider myself a sex-positive person in many ways. My philosophy is that what a loving, neurologically mature adult couple chooses to do in their own bedroom is none of my business. Just as what my husband and I choose to do in our bedroom is no one else's business. And, as I've promised you all as well as myself and my husband, I will not be divulging intimate details in this blog. As I said, it's none of your business. But my point is that I do have a fairly sex-positive attitude. Sometimes, though, that positivity has limitations. And those limitations fall upon open marriages. Now, I would never condemn a loving, neurologically mature adult couple for choosing to live in an open marriage, if that's what floats their boat. It's just something I can't quite wrap my little neurologically mature mind around.

Dan Savage recently devoted an entire column to answering questions from people who are either curious about open relationships or who are themselves in them. This is what he had to say about that. Dan Savage is also a very sex-positive fella, but he seems a great deal more positive than I am. He not only "doesn't condemn," but he outright approves open relationships. He even suggests them for some people. That's where his sex-positive attitude leaves me perplexed. Are there no other ways to spice up a couple's sex play in the bedroom? I would offer that there's an entire industry dedicated to it, chockfull of toys, videos, "sex aids" and the like. Surely there are more options before a couple chooses to invite a third or fourth to bed. (Yes, yes, I also know that not all open relationships result in a ménage-à-trois, but Dan Savage does discuss that possibility as well.)

In the column I've linked to above, Dan Savage refers to the book Sex at Dawn, which refers to potential biological proof that humans are naturally disinclined toward monogamy. I get that. It makes sense to me in the most fundamental of senses. However, it's the "struggle with monogamy" that I scratch my head over. When I talked to my own monogamous partner about this, trying to discern what precisely this "struggle" could possibly be, I ultimately decided that I've never had this urge for variety. I've never felt trapped or scared or doomed in any monogamous relationship, and certainly never in my engagement before Robert and I were married.

And then, I stumbled upon this blog entry called "So this is what 30 looks like" on Peripheral Perceptions. It's written by a woman who celebrated her thirtieth wedding anniversary a couple of days ago; her blog reminisces on lessons she learned over the first few years they were married. Although the blog is humorous in nature, she does admit to her marriage having its pitfalls in the course of thirty years (as, I'm sure, they all do). She ends her blog with this little gem:

"Finally, marriage isn’t all about the mushy feelings during the 'honeymoon period.' Emotions change. People change. Entrepreneur and I aren’t anything like we were 30 years ago. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes not so much. Marriage isn’t a feeling. It’s a decision. A decision to love 'in spite of' as well as 'because of.'"

I think this is why I have the feelings I do in regards to the concept of an open marriage. Because Robert and I always made a choice to have a monogamous relationship and marriage. That's why we can't conceive of anything other than that. So, although some people do pursue open relationships because the flame starts to die, it does make me wonder about the choice they made when they entered into that specific relationship. Were they honest with themselves and their partner? Did they enter into a monogamous relationship despite misgivings that suggested they would have preferred some level of sexual freedom? Were their psychological fingers crossed when they chose to stay faithful to a single body?

The point that "[m]arriage isn't a feeling. It's a decision" truly resonated with us. We had a long conversation about the choice we made and what that meant for us. Yes, we entered into our relationship based on a feeling. We entered into our marriage, though, because of a specific decision we made. I want to maintain a sex-positive attitude, but I just don't think I would be able to accept an open option in my marriage.

Anyway, this is the sexual controversy that has recently plagued my mind for the past couple of weeks. Thoughts?