Sunday, May 25, 2008

Elliot at the helm

Elliot's been telling me that he wanted to start working with the sewing machine again, so today he did it. I showed him how to stitch triangles together to make quilting blocks, and he quickly figured out how to chain the pieces together so that he didn't have to cut his thread after each one. He made about twenty of them before dinner during the time it took our pizza to bake!

Right before dinner, when her behavior is usually at its most challenging, Astrid rolled my work chair right into my ironing board, which, as you can probably see, is embarrassingly overloaded with stuff (sewing related and otherwise....), and it capsized. It's kind of surprising that this has never happened before, as I insist on using the ironing board as a catchall surface, and Astrid insists on zooming across the hardwood floor on the rolling chair. We were quite glad to hear the oven buzzer go off, so that we could put aside all our disagreements and eat homemade pizza together.

After dinner, the four of us watched Singin' in the Rain, one of our favorite musicals (it was Astrid's first time seeing it--she liked everything but the "smooching,") and we ate apricot nectar cake that Astrid and I made this afternoon. It was sweet and tangy, just like the movie.

Lessons learned

So I did rewrite my chapter proposal, not quite from scratch, but it took me just as long to reconstruct as it had to draft the thing the first time around. I do think it's better than it was, which is satisfying.

The quality time I spent with my laptop, trying to figure out where in tarnation the file could have gone, led me to some sobering discoveries: I didn't have automatic backup turned on in *either* Windows or Open Office. I'm just plain lucky that I haven't lost a lot more files. I also realized that, when I open an attachment to an email, I've *got to* save it with a new name before I do anything else. And, in the future, if I'm that close to being done with something, I will not let myself feel so rushed that I can't finish what I started.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Du plane, du plane!

I spent three hours this morning writing a kickass chapter proposal for a collection of essays on undergraduate General Education reform--I get mighty excited about this stuff, and I was very happy with my work. I shut down my computer to go home from the coffee shop, as the lunch crowd was coming in and I didn't want to keep anyone from sitting down to eat. When I got home and tried to email the file to the editors.....well, let's just say it was not there. I searched my computer, and later my husband searched the whole thing, too, and folks, it was not there.

Tomorrow morning I'll be trying to remember what I wrote so that I can reconstruct it. I couldn't face it today. I've lost big chunks of writing before--twelve years ago, I lost a third of a textbook I was helping to write!--but for some reason, losing those 1200 words hit me really hard. I've been out of it all day. I finally started doing some aggressive clutter reduction in the dining room and then in my "work room"--an unheated tandem bedroom that's more of a dumping ground than a workspace. I made only the tiniest dent in the overwhelming mess, but I have to say that it helped me feel better.

Going through a very tall pile of Astrid's artwork (she's *prolific*), deciding what to save and what to toss, was fun. I came across a picture that she made just a couple of weeks ago at one of Elliot's baseball games. Astrid generally brings her sketch book with her; when she's not playing with other younger siblings or begging me to take her to the playground, she sits by herself and draws. I do my best to let her work without interruption, and then I invite her to tell me something about what she's done. Here's what she told me about this picture: It's Egypt, as we can see from the pyramids and the Sphinx and hippo in the middle. Now, flying overhead is a pilot who believes that the Sphinx is alive, and that s/he and the hippo must be very thirsty there in the Egyptian desert. As the caption at the bottom of the picture explains, "Du plane jopt joosis" ("The plane dropped juices"). According to Astrid, the plane also dropped a case of Diet Coke, which the hippo is excited to drink; he doesn't know, however, that the bottles have been badly shaken and will make a big mess when they are opened.

Just looking at this picture makes me feel good.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Finally getting to type

Over the past two weeks, I have composed many, many blog entries in my head, but have gotten not a one typed into my machine. On my long drive to work, I cheer myself with the thought of stealing time away from my duties to get that blog entry typed up (and the pictures uploaded--always the dealbreaker when I'm working at home....). Then I get to my office and I either get so caught up doing (and, OK, enjoying) what I get paid to do that the day slips by without the materialization of the already-imagined blog entry. (I know--what a terrible problem to have--liking one's job.....)

Yesterday, after getting my spring grades turned in, I rewarded myself by using lunchtime to find the JoAnn Fabric store that Google Maps suggested was fairly close to my office. I've been looking for an iron-on transfer pencil, because I want to embroider some of Astrid's drawings, and the website said that JoAnn's carried them. (I had already checked my nearby Hancock Fabrics and Michael's stores, without any luck). I don't like to drive on the expressway, so I basically ignored Google's recommended route to JoAnn's, and, of course, I got a little lost. My lunch hour turned into 90 minutes away from my office--not a huge deal, as we're in the week between spring and summer classes--but I felt sheepish.

Especially, I should say, because I didn't really have much fun shopping. I searched high and low through the store to find the transfer pencil. When I'd completely given up, I found it--right where the cashier said it would be. (I *swear* it wasn't there the first three times I looked in that exact place.) I also thought their fabric prices were really high. Granted, I don't pay full price for many fabrics--I buy things on sale--but the regular price on the kind of denim I'd use to make pants for Elliot and me, for example, was $12.99. It was on a 50% sale, so $6.50---not what I'd call a deal. I could understand the price if it was an independent fabric store where customers can get good advice from the employees--but the store was understaffed and a lot of the fabrics were on high shelves. Some of them I couldn't even reach!

The happy part of this whiny little story is that I have a better appreciation of my local Hancock's store now. I've always kind of liked listening to the staff bicker with each other, or hoping that I can get my hands on the Butterick catalog when it's a 99 cent pattern day. (I *don't* like finding out that my size isn't in the metal drawer, though.) I don't think I'll go back to the JoAnn's store, not least because I now know it's too far to do in my lunch hour.....

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Last Week of Classes

Tomorrow is my last evening of class, and though I've completely enjoyed working with my students this term, I am so ready for a break. This must be mostly because I'll also be teaching all summer, and I have done no prep at all for my 12-week course. In the meantime, I'm having trouble doing the little prep and much grading that remains for this class. I was at home, sickish, today, because the meetings I usually have on Wednesdays were mercifully cancelled. The kids are at school--Astrid's only a little sickish, so she was able to go--and it just didn't make sense to me to go to my office when all I could think about was sleeping. Of the time I've been awake, though, I've probably spent more of it ironing cloth and cutting out summer pants for myself than doing the grading and reading that will enable me to perform my classroom duties tomorrow.

On Saturday Elliot and I cleaned the front porch and bought a new cushion for the footstool that goes with the chair we keep on the porch. The weather was gorgeous--my spirits rose as I prepared my favorite "room" for regular occupation. I'm hoping to create mosquito netting curtains that will help us spend more of our evening hours outside this summer; I'd also like to get a little CD player and a lamp that we can bring out for nighttime Scrabble games. This is what I'm thinking about when I should be grading....

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Underarm Storage

No, not storage *for* underarms. Using one's underarm *as* a storage space.

Over the past week, I've had three or four panicky moments when I couldn't find something that I needed right that minute: my keys, a bottle of cumin, underpants for Astrid. After racing around like a flustered ostrich for two or three minutes (which is a long time when you're in a hurry), I realized that the item in question was stuck in my armpit, where it was so comfortably and securely lodged that it could probably have stayed for at least an hour. When did I start storing things in my underarm? Is this something that other people do?

I decided to do a bit of research, so I googled "underarm," and (not surprisingly) most of what I found was frightening. The "best" things I came across were several Philipino websites selling "underarm whitening" and "underarm peeling." I'm still not sure what these are--but it was definitely one of those moments when the strangeness of faraway women's body hatred got me thinking about the forms that plague the women closest to me. (A topic for another day. Today I'm all about underarms.)

Much more compelling and happy-making is the work of Mary Yaeger, a Colorado fiber artist who produces Merit Badges to mark female rites of passage and biosocial accomplishments. Here's one from her Signs of Puberty series:

I also came across a special travel wallet that one can wear "like an underarm holster."

OK, so the obvious question arises: when I use my underarm as storage space, do my belongings get stinky?

So far, the answer is no, though I suppose that if I'd held Astrid's undies too long, they might have, especially since it was a sort of warm day. By its nature, of course, cumin smells a bit like underarm sweat (to me, anyway....and I mean that in a good way, as I really like cumin), so it's possible that the cumin and the underarm smells got kind of mingled. Who knows. I'm not going to worry about it.

Back in graduate school, I had a friend who had worked on Wall Street for several years before starting at Rutgers. To avoid having to dry clean her suits and blouses, she always wore a close-fitting men's undershirt with the collar and much of the chest snipped off. I rarely wear a suit (it's nice to have tenure.....), but whenever I wear anything synthetic or less than breathable, I do what Elise did, and I feel much more comfortable. It's all about layering. (I also wear bike shorts under my skirts in the summer time....same chafing, and better breathability.)