Email sent. Used up all my writing mojo on edits. Say a prayer or wish us luck, please.
Joe made up a joke at dinnertime: What was the pirate's favorite part of the polar coordinate?
[wait for it...]
If the STEM career doesn't work out he can do standup, I'm sure.
P.S. Email to the principal drafted. Eek.
Back in December I wrote an angsty post about all the stuff that was weighing on me. (That was a rough month! I wound up just sending photo cards with no letter, on the principle of "if you can't say anything nice...") On December 29 I added a task to my Remember The Milk list: follow up with the principal about antisemitism.
It's still sitting there.
I don't really want to write the principal and say "Your response is unacceptable to me," but I feel that I ought to try again to communicate my frustrations and ask him to take action. I haven't re-registered the boys for 2017-18. I don't want to commit a five-figure chunk of money to a school that conflates partisan identity with Catholic identity.
Tonight at dinner we were talking about options. My freshman has applied to a magnet high school. "You can go there," I told him. For my junior I suggested student-at-large classes at Gladlyville U, followed by the GED when he turns 18. My husband thinks there's a GED stigma -- that it's mostly for people who dropped out and went back later in life -- but I'm not sure that's true these days, now that homeschooling is so much more common. And I'm not sure I care anyway.
I think, though, that I need to reiterate my concerns with the principal even though it makes me uncomfortable. Did you see this tweet?
Trump has condemned women who breastfeed in public more vehemently than he condemned antisemitism.— OhNoSheTwitnt (@OhNoSheTwitnt) February 21, 2017
Pope Francis, sensibly, supports public breastfeeding and opposes antisemitism. I'd like my kids' Catholic high school to align itself more closely with Pope Francis than with Donald Trump. If they have credible reports that students are throwing around antisemitic slurs, they should address the issue.
So, friends, I'm writing this post as an anti-procrastination strategy. I'm going to draft an email tomorrow and send it Tuesday. Wish me luck. I'll report back.
I didn't say a lot about it here, but 2016 was a year of spiritual change for me. Let's see-- I told you about some of the bits and pieces along the way. I told you about the retreat with old friends in May, without sharing details about how my friends had prayed for me. I told you about reading Understanding Scrupulosity, but not about my own struggles in this arena. And there's some other stuff I should really post about for the benefit of my future self, except the prospect leaves me feeling raw and vulnerable. But here is the bottom line, which is probably not a surprise to anybody who's been reading this blog for very long: I have always been a worried person: I might make a mistake. It might be a big mistake. It might be an unforgivable mistake. Perfectionism is not my friend, I know, and yet it has been so hard to shake off.
But reading the catechism and Understanding Scrupulosity, and having a conversation with my pastor about the things they stirred up for me-- that was huge. This is going to sound bizarre to those of you who aren't Catholic perfectionists, and maybe even to those of you are well-catechized Catholic perfectionists, but I let go of the idea of accidental sin. While I can commit an inadvertent blunder that might necessitate an apology or require me to provide compensation (or both), I can't sin against God inadvertently. Serious sin is chosen, freely and deliberately, in defiance of a clear understanding of what's right.
This afternoon in the Adoration chapel I was reading Leviticus. It has pages and pages of instructions about remedies for accidental sin. This is maybe the fourth or fifth time I've read it, but I have to say it's the first time Leviticus ever left me bursting to discuss important issues. Friends with theology training, can you help me out here? It seems like the new covenant has altered the very definition of transgression. I am intrigued. Can anybody tell me more?
It's been a high-judgment week, you guys. Last Friday I graded most of two batches of exams. On Saturday I went into the office and graded the grad students' projects. On Tuesday the search committee made decisions. On Wednesday I submitted the final round of admissions committee ratings, which was A Project. Today I graded another batch of exams at breakneck speed (let's hope the grading was consistent as well as lightning fast -- I had promised to return them today, and it's been a hectic week), and the admissions committee met all afternoon to plan its recommendations to the chair, and then I graded the online discussion I'd been avoiding all week. I am all done making judgments for a while.
Pretty soon I am going to go and curl up with the last chapter of When in French (I have some things to tell you about it; they will have to wait until my judger is restored), but I've been musing all week about the likability question. Jody left a comment which I'm going to paraphrase here-- I'm remembering it as saying that an emphasis on likability is a channel through which bias makes itself known. I can absolutely imagine how that could happen, but it wasn't the thing I was fretting about. I'm wondering how much an emphasis on likability penalizes people who are quirky, or reserved, or less confident.
It came up for me in both committees, curiosity about how much weight to give the feeling that an applicant was someone I'd like to invite for coffee. I almost never have coffee with my students; I seldom have coffee with my colleagues. Does it matter if I think I might want to? Can I really tell anything worth knowing from that feeling? I'm not sure. In the end I gave the feeling a little weight, but not very much. We'll see how it all shakes out, I suppose.
I think tomorrow will be the first Saturday of the semester in which I haven't needed to go to the office. I have some email I didn't get to this afternoon, but I can knock that out from home. I am BY GOLLY not grading anything this weekend. Whee!
When I am Empress of the World, do you know what will be a capital crime?
Well. Pretty much nothing, truth to tell, because Evangelium Vitae. But do you know what will cause me to look sternly over the tops of my empress glasses and say caustic things, and perhaps even break out the Imperial Peashooter as a tool of chastisement?
I cannot even, she said imperiously, if it is possible to sound imperious while also sounding like a teenager.
I have more to say about the likability question BUT my ostensibly two-hour meeting this evening ran to more than three. Which means I am out of blogging time. And also crabby. Let's talk about likability tomorrow, shall we?
OH YOU GUYS, my judger is broken. Is there, like, a belt that starts to slip after one passes too many judgments in a row? Or a version of WD-40 that a person could squirt into one ear to loosen up the judgment lock that's currently happening inside my head?
I have two judgment-intensive service commitments this winter. One committee met today to make its final decisions, and the other committee has a big deadline tomorrow in preparation for Friday deliberations. And I...just...can't make any more judgments tonight. I was trying to do something that's usually easy and objective -- assigning a score to an applicant's letters of recommendation -- when something seized up inside my brain.
Have you ever been running when something started to twinge a bit, but you figured you could just run through it? Yes? Have you ever been running when all of a sudden your body said NOPE NO MORE? This was a NOPE NO MORE moment, only in my brain instead of my knee.
So I am going to start the dishwasher, which requires only that I judge between the normal cycle and the light cycle, and put on my pajamas, which requires only that I decide on pink fleece vs. purple thermal. Wait, this freakishly warm weather does open the alternative of cute floral print. No. Better to roast than to make more decisions. Holy cow, I hope my brain is recovered when the alarm goes off. I'm going to need it to work really fast in the morning.
Wait again, I actually had a question that got buried in my pile of complaints. It is this: how important is it to like a candidate for a position? Know what I mean? If someone is interviewing for a position at your workplace, how heavily does likability get weighted when competence is roughly equivalent across candidates? And how important should likable be as a qualification?
Huh, I think when my judger returns it will have something to say about the phrase "how heavily does likability get weighted," but unfortunately for you all it's out of commission.
This morning Stella was browsing through an Ogden Nash book on the couch. She doesn't really read Ogden Nash yet -- there's too much wordplay for her to enjoy it on her own. But that particular shelf is a favorite of hers, and she often sits down to pore over the pages of something she isn't ready to read yet. In school they push hard for the kids to read within their ZPDs,* but at our house we encourage browsing through whatever catches your eye. I bet I have a dozen different pictures of Stella peering at the pages of a Shakespeare play, even though she won't be reading Shakespeare for a while.
(*Is Zone of Proximal Development an abbreviation that needs to be spelled out? It seemed weird to write it out and also weird to abbreviate it.)
Ogden Nash was still on the couch when I came home this evening. When I picked up the book I flipped to the front, where I saw this inscription. The Elizabeth in question was my great-aunt-in-law; the Pa my husband's great-grandfather.
In December 1938 Aunt Elizabeth had no way of knowing that far away in Milwaukee a baby girl had just been born, a baby girl who would grow up to marry Elizabeth's nephew. She could not know that they would have a book-loving son who would marry a book-loving girl. I am the book-loving girl in this story, and coincidentally, in the year that Elizabeth died, I gave her great-nephew a book of Ogden Nash poems. It is also inscribed; the inscription begins "When we are old and wise and famous, when you've eclipsed Einstein and I've topped Camus..." Even as I wrote it I knew that it wasn't quite right: the thing about Nash is he rhymes things that seem like they shouldn't rhyme, whereas I was only not-rhyming things that looked like they ought to rhyme.
These days the two Nash volumes sit cheek by jowl on a crowded shelf, tucked into a corner of our dining room because (a) we have so many books in this house that they have to spill over into the dining room too and (b) it is much easier to resolve dinner-table arguments about Shakespeare if a person can just lean over and grab the complete works. I might lobby for keeping the complete works within grabbing distance of the dining room table even if we were to move to a bigger house someday.
Aunt Elizabeth could not have foreseen that in December of 2008, 70 years after she gave that Ogden Nash book to her father, his great-great-granddaughter would slide into the world a few feet away from the shelf on which it sat. She could not have known that the preschool-aged Stella would grab the eye-level Shakespeare volumes from her Goucher College days, or that the 8-year-old Stella would be fond of Nash. Perhaps 12-year-old Stella will be browsing from the next shelf up: will she like Dante, or Euripides, or Aristophanes? I cannot see the future any better than Aunt Elizabeth could. In fact, I am writing this post and realizing that I cannot even see the present clearly. Stella saw me taking a picture of the inscription and launched into a disquisition on Ogden Nash. She likes his Doves poem, on page 61, but it has some confusing parts, and here is what she thinks it means...
Color me surprised. Color me wistful.
That shelf is mostly books that Elwood and I have bought, and I wonder tonight where they might be eighty years from now. I've posted before about my copy of Paradise Lost, with one ink color from Intro to Western Lit and another ink color from my class on Restoration literature and a third ink color from my Milton class. Together they remind me of the hard work that went into those classes; they are a trail of breadcrumbs through the thickets of Milton's syntax. And I cannot help but wonder whose hands might page through that book in eighty years' time.
Tonight, though, I am being summoned to read Mysterious Benedict Society. So I will hand off my wistfulness to you, my friends in the computer who love to read, and maybe you can tell me about the volumes on your shelves that tell a story in addition to the stories they contain.
I have a kid whose friend group blew up when one friend accused another of a crime. We're not talking a casual accusation; we're talking charges pressed. My kid would like to continue to be friends with both parties, and I am not entirely sure how to proceed. No, scratch that. I am completely in the dark about how to proceed.
I wouldn't have said it was easy to deal with kids who kept peeing on the floor, but peeing on the floor was a low-stakes kind of problem.
I have an acquaintance who frustrates me on a regular basis. Years ago I posted here about something she told me and you guys left me a bunch of gobsmacked cannot-even-believe-she-would-say-that comments, but it was a totally normal thing for her to say. Once in confession I was talking about failures in charity when the priest said, "Maybe you can spend less time with that person," and I thought, "Ahaaaaa, maybe I can spend less time with that person! What a genius idea!" It was a great idea. Charity is easier in small doses.
Today I learned that I'm going to be seeing her much more frequently.
To be a Christian is to believe in second chances. No, that's wrong. To be a Christian is to believe in four-hundred-ninetieth chances. And yet-- I'm not sure how to weigh up the risks of offering second chances in these situations versus the risks of withholding second chances.
I'd appreciate advice and/or prayers.
I don't know how I got to be so cautious about color combinations. It goes way back: I remember worrying in junior high about whether my clothes were too bright. I was going to make a Fox Paws to use up a bunch of fingering weight leftovers in similar colors. I started off following the recommended color sequence exactly, with a rich brown, a peacock blue, an ice blue, a pale celery green, and a fabulous poison green. See?
You might notice that over there on the right things get a little more varied. You can't really tell from a cursory look at the Fox Paws projects, but they are a lot of knitting. A lot. Like, when I finish this scarf I will be able to swathe myself in it and head outside without getting arrested for indecent exposure. (Although it's likely I would garner some funny looks.) It was clear that I wouldn't have enough of my five leftover colors to do all 15 repeats.
I decided that I'd make it a little longer than called for, 17 repeats instead of 15. In the middle seven pattern repeats, I'd do two in which I subbed a pale yellow leftover yarn for the pale green, and then three in which I used a deep yellow leftover yarn, and then two more pale yellow before I went back to the original scheme. Doesn't that sound pretty?
Except, alas, I ran out of pale yellow yarn. Now it goes deep yellow-pale yellow-pale green in a lickety-split way instead of a gradual fashion, and it pushes ALL of my caution-caution-color-clashing buttons. I am worried that the deep yellow is going to be capital-C Conspicuous, and that the paler brown doesn't quite work, and that the new Palette colors I bought to pad out the leftovers* aren't as saturated as the originals.
*One of these days I really will make a leftovers project that doesn't require me to buy more yarn.
Here's the pale green-pale yellow-deep yellow transition I had planned, which I was not able to mirror due to a yarn shortage:
My daughter has been watching me nibble away at this slowly, while scrunching up my face at regular intervals. "Mom," she said tonight, "I know you don't like the way the gold yarn looks with the light brown yarn. But I think it looks like a walk in the woods, with the sun shining and a river flowing nearby. I love to look at those colors."
Take that, imaginary Pigment Police.
Fox Paws is pretty high on the pain-in-the-butt scale. Those rows in which you branch out to form the paws are a nuisance, and then the dramatic decreases are a further nuisance. I am not sure I have enough of my 5 original colors left to do the last 4 repeats, which is annoying. I will not be sorry in the least to bind this scarf off, and I cannot imagine wanting to make another one.
But it does remind me of a walk in the woods, with the sun shining. Don't you think?
Today my two youngest kids had the day off. I sent them to a park district camp, one they've attended before. I didn't know that today's camp was headed up by Miss Jenny.
Most people who work with kids, I think, do it because they genuinely like kids. There's a small subset of people who work with kids because they genuinely like making kids obey them. That's Miss Jenny. "No, you cannot get a drink of water. You have to wait until the schedule says it is time for drinks of water." "No, you may not keep the little ball of Sculpey you found. It's not time for Sculpey, so you have to give it to me" -- whereupon she threw it in the trash. "No one can watch the movie until I say it's time to watch the movie, and then we're starting it where I say we left off, even if all of you think we left off in a different place." Stella got frustrated and started to cry during one of the planned activities. Miss Jenny said, "You have to sit in the corner by yourself until you stop crying." Stella stopped crying and sat with bowed head; Miss Jenny said, "None of that pouting, either."
This was not what I had in mind when I signed them up.
I am sure Miss Jenny would tell a different story about the day. I am sure she would say she wanted the kids to be safe, and that's why she didn't allow any unplanned water fountain stops. I bet she would say that she didn't want any children to be treated unfairly when there wasn't enough Sculpey to go around. I expect she would say that she couldn't allow an agitated child to disrupt her carefully planned activities. I would be pretty surprised if she is sitting in her apartment right now, thinking, "Wow, I spent my whole day upsetting children. Perhaps I need a different job."
The thing that's most on my mind is Pete's reaction. He's my sweetest, meekest, most rule-following kid, and he was on the edge of tears when I picked them up. It wasn't exclusively about Miss Jenny, but she was a big chunk of it.
I don't know quite how to respond. Stella is supposed to go back for another day of camp on Monday. I suppose I can stop by tomorrow and see if a manager is available to tell me who will be running the show. If Jenny is in scheduled to be in charge again, I could conceivably request a refund and let Stella hang out with her brothers on Monday. They are not going to be delighted about giving me a refund. But they might also be un-delighted by blog posts about spiteful camp staffers who make campers cry. (NB: I have never once said "I am going to flay you on social media if you don't make this right." Not really my style. I'm just musing about outcomes here.)
Advice? Commiseration? Job recommendations for Jenny?
A Fox News video clip showed up in two consecutive Facebook posts tonight: one from a horrified Gladlyville resident, one from a West Virginia friend who was cheering the news. Trump signed legislation to allow mountaintop removal waste to be dumped in West Virginia waterways, and as he did so he gave a little speech to the assembled parties, including legislators from WV and eastern Kentucky and some miners in hard hats who thanked him in husky voices for keeping his promises. (Trump was eager to point out the margin by which he had won in their home counties.)
Mountaintop removal is an ugly business, but I'm less concerned about the impact on the scenery than I am about the effects on the people who live near it. Let me just say it one more time: toxin exposure is bad for gestating babies. It is bad for developing brains. You cannot dump mining waste into a watershed and expect all to be well.
It is tempting for me to make this about the legislators who owe allegiance to Big Coal; I've posted about that before. But I am also seeing jubilation in the Facebook posts of my just-scraping-by West Virginia friends. This is harder for me to understand. I did not really expect McDowell County to welcome Bernie Sanders; what I know of McDowell County makes me think they would prefer for Sanders to take his East Coast accent and his East Coast agenda right back to DC. I suppose it is naive for me to expect that my acquaintances two counties over would be more enthusiastic about a rule promulgated by Obama.
And yet I did expect it. I cannot help but feel hopeless about a region that poisons its children while its adults applaud.
The house we lived in was about a 30-minute drive from the airport. I was an adult before I looked at a map of the region and saw how crazy that was: they were less than 3 miles apart as the crow flies. What you can't see from a two-dimensional Google map is the gorges, the way the creeks and streams have eaten their way down down down into the valleys. There's no direct route, because the terrain is too steep to make it practical. There is no bridge. You have to go around.
I am thinking about the divide between those two people whose posts popped up side by side in my Facebook feed: same news, opposite reactions. It goes so deep. I don't know how we're going to bridge it.
I took down a post from last night in which I was complaining AGAIN about my frustrations with Christian Trump supporters. Here are some happy thoughts instead:
I am heading to bed in hopes of eradicating this lingering respiratory crud. Good night, all.
I am registered for a 10K ten weeks from today. And you guys, I have been a SLUG lately. I mean, I live a life in which I routinely cover 15K steps in a day, but I think I have only worked out 2 or 3 times in 2017. Pacing around the classroom does not actually elevate my heart rate.* Map My Run is sending me emails that say "When you need to get back to running..." instead of emails that say "Your running accomplishments this week!" To be sure, my running accomplishments are always things like "showed up" and "didn't puke even if she thought about it briefly," but I miss having running accomplishments.
*I've posted before about pacing during my lectures. On Friday I didn't cancel class after all, but both of my classes were somewhat abbreviated. I used a microphone because I hardly had a voice, and so I was tethered by the cord. It is much harder for me to lecture standing still. It is WEIRDLY harder.
This week I have a boatload of grading to do and another pile of admissions stuff to wade through and two undergrad classes to teach, but I do not -- I DO NOT -- have to prep 5 hours of new grad content. Wheeeeeeeeee! Freeeeeeedom! I actually enjoyed those four weeks more than I expected to, because it was really interesting content. (I think I must also give some credit to the Whole 30, which worked its usual energy- and motivation-boosting magic.) I will not miss that pace, though; I most certainly will not.
So: this week I am getting back in the workout groove. And I am grading All The Things too.
I found out belatedly about another event here in Gladlyville that I would have wanted to attend if I'd known about it in time. Now that my schedule will be a little more open, I really want to get more involved in promoting justice here in my town. Justice is my priority, really, but if I can help to unseat the rep who keeps sending me regrettable letters*, so much the better.
*Do you ever think of great ideas as, like, jewels ferreted out from a deep dark mine? His letters read like they were written by someone who went jewelry shopping in a slag heap.**
**That's probably not as evocative an image for people who didn't spend their childhoods in WV, driving along country roads marred by hideous roadside piles of mining waste.***
***Which can now go unfettered into WV streams. Thanks, GOP-controlled House!
Wait, where was I before I was clotheslined by bitterness verging on despair? Oh, yeah, justice in Gladlyville.
I've been looking around, trying to find places to start. Latent racism, the kind that people don't want to hear about, is part of the problem, so I am going to see what's up with our local Black Lives Matter organization. Welcoming the stranger is important to me because it was important to Jesus, so I'm going to try to get to a rally next week supporting local immigrants.
"Hmm, I thought to myself, "there must be some kind of local clearinghouse where I can get lots of information about local opportunities to promote social justice. I know! I will search the UU church's site."
This thought made me sad.
I am committed to my parish; I am committed to the Church, my Mother. I have to say, though, the Catholic parishes in my town are not doing a bang-up job addressing the turmoil of the day. We should be a unified voice against racism, if we really believe that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. We should be a unified voice for the poor, unless we think Jesus was only joshing.
We should have parish websites that steer people toward concrete ways to be salt and light in difficult times. Maybe that part could be more prominent than the fish fry schedule.
It's all over but the grading, friends. Phew!
I have lost my voice. If it's not back by tomorrow I'm going to have to cancel class. Only once in every 10 words or so can I squeak out something that's not a whisper. This means that shouts of victory are not an option, and even murmurs of victory are optimistic.
I'm feeling victorious anyway. That was crazy.
This one is for the language lovers: you can participate in an online study that maps relationships among words. You can do it more than once if that kind of thing floats your boat. They're trying to get a whopping n, so you can share it with your pals if your pals are also into that kind of thing. Plus we can talk about in the comments. Quick, what are the first three words you think of when I say perch?
I think I can.
I think I can.
I think I can.
Big committee deadline tomorrow; exam ready to roll by 5pm Thursday. I won't think about the grading for my grad students until those things are taken care of.
I need some help from St. Blase with the sore throat that is currently threatening. Ha, Safari wants him to be St. Blasé! But I think that in order to be a saint you have to be the opposite of blasé.
Think of me, friends; it's a little crazy just now.
In our department we keep the service assignments quiet. This is entirely due to the existence of a single committee: it's better if the students don't know who's making admission decisions in a particular year. That's why I've been vague about my giant service responsibility here, just because it's the department culture. But it occurs to me that you guys are highly unlikely to use that knowledge for evil purposes. I CERTAINLY HOPE there are no Gladlyville U students reading my blog [insert shudder], but even if there are I am almost done with those rankings.
I am watching a lot of application videos, and reading a lot of personal statements, and drawing a lot of distinctions while trying to avoid Lake Woebegone syndrome. It's a little strange, how even in our internal ratings we don't want to say that people are below average. It makes me want to say GUYS WE ALL TOOK STATS THE DEFINITION OF AVERAGE IS THAT HALF THE PEOPLE ARE BELOW IT. HALF, NOT 10%.
But probably I'll just say that here, and then queue up another applicant video.