Category Archives: Questions

Walking the line

On Sunday a major tornado came through Minneapolis and devastated several blocks in North Minneapolis neighborhoods. Our south Minneapolis home was blessedly spared, but the pictures and stories have been all over Facebook and the news, and we have friends within blocks of the destruction. At my ECFE class this morning, we were talking about disaster preparedness and how to talk to your kids about these kinds of events. I shared this list of things to do to prepare for a major disaster, and we all nodded our heads and murmured about what a good idea that was and how we all really needed to put some of that stuff in place. And then we talked about how we never had any awareness of stuff like this when we were kids, and was that because there weren’t as many disasters (hi, global warming!) or because our parents were less paranoid than we were or what? And it got me to thinking about how so much of what I think of as good parenting is finding a way to walk the line between anxiety and neglect. I mean, do you have yearly fire drills with your family, because: Safety! Or do you just install smoke alarms and assume that everything will be all right? Because, statistically speaking, of course, it probably WILL be all right. But, you know, I still make my kids wear seat belts and hold my hand when they cross the street.

Of course, this sense of walking a line isn’t limited to safety issues. I have the same sense of precarious balance when it comes to, say, gender issues with my two girls. For a long time, the Hatchling was completely uninterested in all things pink and princessy, for example. I mean, this is the kid who has been, respectively, a ladybug, Yoda, a cowboy, and a tornado for the last four Halloweens. But then she went to preschool. Or maybe it was just turning four, or maybe I let her listen to too many Broadway soundtracks – anyway, whatever the reason, she is now TOTALLY into the whole glitterlicious girl complex. Asked what she wanted for decorations on her 5th birthday cake this year, she said, and I quote, “ponies, unicorns, dolphins, and rainbows,” which also happens to be a comprehensive list of the contents of my 5th grade puffy-sticker album. I’ve talked with friends of mine who have girls the same age, and we’re all in the same quandary. On the one hand: Feminism! Woman power! Realistic body images! Fuck the patriarchy! Etc. But on the other hand, Choice! Support kids for who they are! Embrace multiplicity! Etc. Which is to say, yes, dammit, Barbie makes me fucking uncomfortable on every level, but if that’s where my kid is right now who am I to say that’s wrong?

That strangled sound you’re hearing right about now would be my mother choking on the words “You’re her PARENT, that’s who!” See, when I was growing up, there were lots of things that were off limits in our house for specifically feminist reasons. We weren’t allowed to watch The Flintstones or The Jetsons, for example, because of the problematic way they represented the role of women. (TV in general was both rationed and heavily weighted toward PBS.) And Barbies were RIGHT. OUT. Dolls were OK, and we could – and did – play dress-up Queens and Princesses to our hearts content. Hell, the first book I ever memorized was a little golden book version of Disney’s Cinderella, which ain’t exactly the most feminist story in existence. But the closest I ever got to a Barbie was a Princess Leia doll, who, while pretty stacked, was acceptable because a) she had flat feet like a normal person, and b) hello! Princess Leia is the shit! And I loved that Leia doll, don’t get me wrong, but I also yearned – YEARNED – for a Barbie doll. So while I totally and completely get why they were off limits, and my mom was really good about explaining exactly why she wouldn’t let me get one, I’m also pretty sure that they were way more important to me because they were off limits than they would have been if they hadn’t been forbidden fruit.

I guess what it all comes down to is that we all draw our lines where we’re comfortable drawing them, and if we’re conscientious about morals but also sensitive to cultural pressures, that can result in some arbitrary-ass line-drawings. So in our house, barbies are a non-starter, but the Disney Princess dolls are OK. (I know. Totally irrational.) I’ll let the girls watch Tangled and The Little Mermaid until they have the complete score memorized (with gestures!), but The Biggest Loser will air in my house over my dead, fat body. I’ll talk with them about feminism and self-respect and kindness and empowerment until their eyes roll back in their heads. I will strongly encourage them to read Louisa May Alcott, and I will pitch the mother of all fits if they want to read Ayn Rand. (Or at least if they want to read her uncritically.) I will happily embrace life partners of any race, color, creed, gender or ethnicity, but if they vote Republican I might have an aneurysm. And, of course, I reserve the right to redraw those lines whenever I see fit, because I’m still figuring this parenting tightrope out, dammit, and I might need to reroute myself occasionally.

So how about you? Where do you draw your lines? Does it feel like a tightrope to everyone, or just to those of us with a tendency toward neuroses? Lay it on me, y’all.

Question

Why is it that they can make perfectly acceptable artificial cherry, grape, orange, lemon, strawberry, lime, etc. beverages, but artificial apple beverages universally taste like ASS?

Enquiring minds want to know.

Link Dump + Question

Link Dump:
Foodscapes – amazing landscapes made entirely from food. Seriously, you have to see these.

It’s like Matt Groening knew back in 1987 exactly how I’d be feeling 21 years later.

On the other hand, it’s not like anyone’s hiring right now, anyway.

A very interesting article about the British healthcare system.

A very depressing article about Brian Williams and NBC.

Extreme Beer. What more do you need to know?
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Question: We have some kind of critter in the wall beside our built-in buffet. Based on the noise it/they are making, we think it’s either a mouse, a bird, or a bat. Anyone know if bats hibernate? I mean, can we rule that one out? Mr. Squab would be very happy to know.

Question

Is it wrong that, at two-and-a-half years old, the Hatchling can unplug Mr. Squab’s iPhone from the charger, turn it on, unlock it, open her favorite application and start to play?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Question

Is it possible for nausea to get *worse* in the second trimester?

Is voicemail really dead?

Some people are saying that voicemail is dead, and we should all be emailing or texting instead. Not sure how I feel about this. I have family members who are ONLY accessible via text, and sometimes this is a pain in the ass, frankly. I have an ollllllllld cell phone (counting down to my new iPhone!!) and I HATE texting. I’m an old-school grammarian, y’all, and I just cannot make myself send messages to people without proper spelling and punctuation. On the other hand, texting is sometimes the most convenient option, and it certainly can be a pain in the ass to retrieve and listen to voicemail. And I know I’m much faster in responding to emails, myself.

On the third hand, sometimes tone and expression are important. Text and emails are notoriously difficult to contextualize – we’ve all had the experience where someone tries to crack a joke and it just comes across as hostile, for example. So I feel like voicemail should at least be an option, no? Am I hopelessly out of touch?

What do you think?

Saturday musings

It is a GORGEOUS day today here in Minneapolis. Sunny, not too hot, a nice breeze – really just a perfect day to be outside. Not that I really know, mind you, since I’m at my regular coffee shop all day, doing the writing thing, hoping that there will be more perfect days once I’m done with the damn diss. Which I now have even more incentive to finish in a timely manner, because that job I interviewed for? I got it. One course in the fall, one in the spring – a perfect load for getting back in the swing of teaching, and hopefully it won’t be too hard to work out the childcare/scheduling thing. I gotta say, I’m excited to get back in the classroom. Teaching is really one of my passions, but unfortunately, it’s not one of those things that you can just get up and do for the asking. It will be good to mix with students again and get back to figuring out how to help them learn how to learn.

I was thinking last night about what I’ll call avocations, for lack of a better word. You know, “callings” – the things that you’re drawn to do no matter what. My senior year in high school when they asked us for quotes for the yearbook (seniors got special pictures and quotes) I eschewed the ever-popular Bowie/Changes quote and chose this one from Robert Frost instead:

But yield who will to their separation
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one
And the work is play for mortal stakes
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Almost twenty years ago, and I still have that memorized. And though it’s a bit highfalutin’ for a high school senior, in a lot of ways it still defines how I think about work and career. I am, I have discovered, not one of those people who can be satisfied with a “day job” – you know, the place you work to cover the bills, so you can live your “real” life outside work hours. I just can’t do it. Part of it is probably from growing up in an academic family, part of it is being overeducated with an overactive imagination, and part of it is just my nature. But whatever the cause, Frost’s idea of uniting avocation and vocation is pretty much what I’m always after. And I’m lucky, really, because I do have something that I feel “called” to do: theatre’s been my calling since approximately junior high, and teaching got added into that calling somewhere towards the end of college.

Having a calling is a gift, I know – I’ve pretty much always known what I wanted to do and be when I grew up – but of course it can also be a curse, because when you know for certain what you want to do, it’s pretty difficult to accept anything else as a substitute. Tenure track theatre positions aren’t exactly falling into my lap, you know? But I value it, nonetheless, because it’s a very centering thing to have in my life. Even if I can’t get that tenure track job I’d dreamed of – yet – I can get courses here and there, maybe start up a new theatre company, coach auditions, try to publish some articles in dramatic criticism. I mean, I might not know exactly what I’ll be doing ten years from now, but I know the general area I’ll be working in, because I have this avocation – theatre – and I’m the kind of person who has to make that my vocation, my “day job” as well.

Anyway, I was thinking about this because of a conversation I was having with some former students of mine, some of my favorite students, in fact, with whom I was talking about career goals, avocations, vocations. Over the years, I’ve taught a fair number of students, some of whom were interested in theatre, some of whom were not. All in all, out of the hundreds of students I’ve taught, there have been maybe a dozen that I really believed could and would and should make careers in theatre. It’s a demanding discipline, and you have a weird combination of talent, stubbornness, drive and insanity to do it for a career, but there were these few kids that I really thought would go there. And none of them – none! – have ended up doing it. Oh, they’re all doing various worthy activities. Lots of them are in public service jobs, working with underpriveleged kids or teaching in other disciplines or doing related humanities or nonprofit work. But none of them have made that lifetime commitment that I thought they would. In my more cynical moods, this feels like failure on my part. Why couldn’t I inspire them to follow that dream? I’ve found such a wonderful home in theatre – why don’t more of my students want to stick around and play? I know, of course, that this is a silly response. Like a parent, a teacher’s job is to prepare her students to find their OWN way, and as long as they’re happy and productive that’s what counts, right? But still, I wonder: how many of my students are even looking for a combination of avocation and vocation? How many of them will be brave enough, or crazy enough, to hold out for it? Will any of them find it where I have, in theatre? And is it my job to help them find theatrical avocations, or to use theatre to help them find whatever avocations or vocations will be their own? Heady thoughts for a Saturday, dear readers. How about you? Are you of Frost’s mindset? Or are you more contented with a separation between your work and your play?