28 December 2009

There Are No Stars Like These

There are not many things I miss about my hometown: my family, piles of snow, and the stars. There's something about the frigid temperatures of the Great White North that makes for the most amazing skies. There are no stars like these.

I'm leaving tomorrow to travel back downstate. It's a mixture of emotion as I've so loved having the little brothers crash into my bedroom every morning and wake me from a perfectly good sleep. Even Yo Gabba Gabba has been entertaining. I cannot fathom not seeing them again until summer but know that may very well be how it all plays out. Painful.

This whole area has changed so much since I left ten years ago. There are so many storefronts empty downtown, so many houses up for sale. Part of me aches for that, for the city I grew up in with the ice rink and the sledding hill, the Ben Franklin on the corner with the gift shop opposite. The decimation of downtown: it's not something I haven't seen before so why should my hometown be excluded?

Tomorrow I pack up and leave as my family resides here but my life is elsewhere. There's something bittersweet to that.

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

One of my favorite things about being home for the holiday is the early morning; my little brother sneaks into my room, giggles maniacally, and crawls underneath the comforter for another half hour of shut eye. It's adorable.


I've been on antibiotics for five days now and the cyst, which I named Cystal Gayle, hadn't gotten any smaller. It hurt less, yes, but was still ridiculously huge.

Wanting to trim my beard sometime soon, an act I had been avoiding to cover up Cystal Gayle, I ran to an urgent care clinic this evening, where they removed not one but six sebaceous cysts from my face. It was the gift that kept on giving.

Despite the lack of pain killers, it was all good. My face hurts again but is slowly returning to regular form. This is a good thing.

Merry Cystmas, y'all.

22 December 2009


I've decided there is one, and only one, condition under which I would move back to the Upper Peninsula. Such a move would require a house overlooking the Mackinac Bridge. I don't need waterfront, just an unobstructed view. That's it, really. I don't think that's a lot to ask for.

21 December 2009

Haul out the holly

I try so hard to maintain some element of balance; in grad school, it can be ridiculously difficult. It's such lonely work. But it's work that does eventually get done. I handed in grades for my two classes four hours ago, officially ending any obligations I have to the Fall 2009 semester.

I am on vacation and will decorate trees and cookies with zest. I will read entire magazines in one sitting. I will read books that would be classified as fiction. I will knit while watching horrible reality television. I will eat too much and laugh too loudly and spend way too much time with my friends.

And I will not think twice about it. That is my holiday vacation resolution.

17 December 2009


I had two goals this morning: (1) Finish my paper by the 3:00 deadline and (2) Call the health center for an appointment. Late last night, I noticed that what I thought was an ingrown hair in my beard had ceased looking like an ingrown hair. It had, additionally, begun throbbing, a low achey pressure that made me nervous. The paper ("Just another form of love?: Families as sites os surveillance, picture books as technologies of heteronormativity") was turned in by three and by four, I was waiting for my appointment at the Health Center.

It turns out what I thought was an ingrown hair probably started as just that: an ingrown hair. Something went wrong and now I have a giant, red, painful bump. A cyst. Not exactly what I wanted for Christmas.

Regardless, I have medication and only have grading that needs to be finished by Sunday. I leave for Michigan tomorrow. I am ready for a break.

Also: that apron? I totally made it. Roomie holiday was delightful.

The last week has been such a blur. My schedule has changed a ridiculous number of times, I have survived on fewer hours of sleep than I thought possible, and I've somehow survived. Bring on the holly jolly. I'm ready.

15 December 2009

The Morning After

I started rewriting last night. Not adding to the draft already in progress. Writing it anew, from page one. I like the paper better, think that it makes for a more concise argument about picture books, but the reality of starting the physical act of writing over... well, it just makes my head hurt.

But I have time to rewrite and while it is inconvenient for my travel plans, it is necessary for my development as an academic, this constant reworking of ideas and remapping of intellectual territory. It's good work - the process, not the paper. The value of that has yet to be proven.

14 December 2009


I've been staring at a blank page for the last two hours. I want, no need, to finish this paper. It's for a professor I'm terrified of and I think I've psyched myself out, thinking no matter what I write, no matter how eloquent my words or how tight my argument, she would hate it regardless.

Must write. Must finish paper. Can edit later. Right?


13 December 2009

The Party Before the Storm

What a weekend! I alluded to the lovely party and how lovely it was. The roomies and I hosted the House of Whelmed's Ho-ho-ho Homemade Holiday Hoedown on Friday night. Despite the looming finals scheduled for the coming week, some of our nearest and dearest spent an evening eating way too much sugar, partaking in a variety of festive beverages, and just enjoying the company.

What strikes me after every single gathering we've hosting this year is how fortunate I have been to find really great people to surround myself with. I am continually blown away by the caliber of friends I have found in graduate school; quite honestly, when I moved from Michigan, I was unsure I was ever going to find such good people again. Luckily, I was wrong.

You know people are good when they're willing to play inane party games, like cotton ball race. There was some cheating, lots of laughter, and I won my match. What more can be asked for?

Despite all of the things I should have been doing, I am so glad we threw this party. It was worth it to see Maria decorate cookies, watch inappropriate Seasame Street clips with John, and engage in verbal shenanigans with Joe. There will always be papers to be written.

To top it off, my bestie from Michigan, Candice, came for the weekend. She drove six hours for our party and we spent the rest of the weekend wandering through town, eating at various local establishments, and watching Harry Potter. I'm still angry about the changes they made to the ending.

Despite Candice's leaving this afternoon, I can't help but feel insanely fortunate. I read and write and teach for a living, am surrounded by interesting and creative people, and am in control of my time. I know I sometimes grouse but, dang, my life is good.

12 December 2009

Half a Century

I slept in this morning, an attempt to recover from the House of Whelmed's Ho-ho-ho Homemade Holiday Hoedown, and spent my first waking moments paging through my current non-required reading. I'm twenty-eight and it's the day after a lovely party and I'm laying in bed reading a book. Somewhere in the chapter on Paris's hot chocolate, I remembered: my mom would have been fifty today and suddenly I'm frantic about whether being twenty-eight-the-day-after-a-lovely-party-reading-a-book is a proper use of my time. There are other things I should be doing, clothes to be folded, papers to be written, rooms to be cleaned.

And then I realized this is exactly how my mom would have wanted to celebrate fifty years of life: laying in bed the morning after a lovely party, quilt pulled tight, reading. And read on, I did.

10 December 2009

Baby, it's cold outside

The semester isn't over yet, but it's ridiculously close. I've only two papers and a stack of grading between myself and non-required reading. That's it: two papers and grading. It feels overwhelming, as though it will never get done, but it will. It always does.

I'm trying not to freak out about programs of study, about transferring credits into my PhD from my master's work. I'm trying not to be annoyed with the fact that my driver's side door latch doesn't work and that I will need to drop Oscar off at the mechanic's in the morning. I'm trying to not to feel like I'm drowning. You've got to swim.

I'm trying to enjoy the first snowfalls of the season, stealing the occasional moments of quiet, clasping a hot mug of tea and enjoying the flurries outside. I'm trying to take those few minutes between one project and the next to wrap presents, address holiday cards, and engage in general holiday shenanigans. I'm trying to get back here, to writing, to help me take measure of the days that seem to be flying by.

In some of these endeavors, I am successful. In others, well, not so much. 'Tis the season.

07 December 2009

Vintage Zippers

I am nowhere near a competent sewer. I'm closer to competent than I was this this summer, but I know I have a lot still to learn. I've managed to sew up a few presents for the holiday and have even sewn up some projects for myself as well. The only way to become competent is to keep at it. So I sew. Tote bags with exposed seams. Quilts whose lines don't match up. Pajama pants that are funky in the crotch.

And I amass. I've a bin filled with fabric, which seems to be as addictive as collecting yarn. I've several spools of colorful thread and an assortment of needles for my borrowed machine. I've bought notions from flea markets and have fallen in love with zippers. I found these zippers a few months ago and have marveled at their packaging ever since. There's something cheerful about these items, the care with which they were packaged. I also find it entertaining that I paid a nickel over what they retailed for back in 1949 - fifty cents. To think they have been lying in wait all those years for someone to use them! I am tempted to leave them in their packaging simply to enjoy their aesthetic but will resist. These items were made to be used, have been waiting all this time to be used. And use them I will; I hope they will forgive me my uneven stitching.

06 December 2009

Happy Randomness

I love my roomies. They are willing to dance to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance during a study break. I'm secretly hoping they don't get their dissertations written so that they might be around for another year. (Okay, I'm really not, but it would be nice.)

I went grocery shopping this morning with what my grandmother would call the Geriatric Crowd: those over-sixties who flood the grocery after church. There tend to be less of them than there are the college kids who push around carts later in the afternoon. Anyway, I was in the baking aisle, sipping my coffee and trying to find a confectioner's sugar not derived from beets when a woman asked where I had found my bag of granulated sugar. I directed her to the end of the aisle and we bantered about our collective need for early morning caffeination and the pull of donuts with holiday sprinkles when she stopped:

"You know, you're a nice guy. You should totally date my granddaughter." She paused to look at my bag. "Or my grandson. Whichever works for you." She put her hand on my chest and chortled. "Oh, dear, I am so out of line, aren't I?" We laughed and parted with our sugars.

Later on, at the food co-op, I was in line with my vanilla extract when the woman in front of me asked about the NYT. There were none in the rack; I searched the other lanes and found a copy. Handing it to the women, I told her I understood the bleak prospect of a Sunday without the Times. "You must be from the East Coast," she said as the cashier scanned the bar code. I explained I was born and raised in the midwest, to which she responded, "That's why I figured Vermont."

In the course of grocery outing, I've been propositioned by a grandmother and mistaken for a Vermonter. It's been a good day.

05 December 2009

Homemade Holidays

White Christmas in on AMC tonight: this is a wonderful thing. Perfect for grading undergrad papers and blog updating, yes?

With the holiday a few weeks away, I've been knitting and sewing away - nothing I can show here just in case someone happens upon my ramblings (hi!) - but as I haul my knitting from one space to another, I'm reminded I haven't written about my new knitting basket.

A few weeks ago, I was flea marketing with my aunt and uncle and happened upon this vintage sewing basket. The print was gaudy and the fabric musty but there's something delightful in the idea of having such a contraption in which I could place the plethora of projects I'm currently working on and move from room to room. A quick check of the price tag - $6 - and it was coming home with me. I knew it was meant to be when I was checking out and discovered it was half off. Lovely.

I got it home and slowly but surely began pulling it apart. Rather than being glued, the dowels were stapled in, making it quite a challenge to disassemble the contraption without losing a finger. After the basket was apart, I made something of a faux-pas: I washed the fabric bag, figuring that I would make a pattern from it after it no longer smelled like damp basement. The fabric, which wasn't high quality to begin with, literally disintegrated in the wash, leaving me with shreds of what was. Ugh.

I used newspaper to lay out what I imagined would be a pattern for a new fabric bag to fit onto the frame. A quick trip to my local fabric store, Shiisa Quilts, resulted in a yard of John Dewberry's rust-colored damask home decor fabric. On sale, nonetheless. I found a different shade of burnt orange for the inner liner at Joanns. I cut out my pieces and, over Thanksgiving break, spent an entire morning piecing the bag together. Since I'm relatively new to sewing and it was a pattern I somewhat figured out, it was a morning of thinking and rethinking where seams need to go, what steps to do first, just how is the liner going to get sewn into this thing?

In the end, it turned out beautifully and by beautifully, I mean that it's functional. There are seams that don't match up, pieces that are cut just a smidge too wide (or perhaps my sewing is inaccurate...) but it works well. It'll make a great bag to carry all the knitting I'll have to finish as I travel over the break.

01 December 2009

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

I big red heart Carole King. She's the soundtrack of my childhood - I can't count the number of records, tapes, and CDs we went through as we repeatedly listened to her 1971 album Tapestry over and over again. These are the songs my mom made marinara to, the songs I studied Shakespeare to, the songs we sang at the top of our lungs on road trips. I return to this album when I'm incredibly happy, blaring Smackwater Jack as loudly as I can, or when I simply miss my mom, taking those minutes of Way Over Wonder as a respite from the chaos of my life to acknowledge how much I miss her before I throw myself back into the fray. It's cathartic.

Lykke Li released one of my favorite albums of last year, the brilliant Youth Novels, and, as posted by the delightful PaperMichelle, recently covered King's Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. It's lovely. Li's wavering voice and sparse piano highlight just how fragile this song is as it poses that most daunting question. Brillz.

Coincidently, Li contributed the song Possibility to New Moon. I recently saw the movie and, while I had issues with the movie, loved the music.

29 November 2009

Bubble Lights

Is there anything better than a strand of bubble lights? Over the course of the last few years, I've collected a few strands but am a long way off from being able to deck out a whole tree with these effervescent delights.

Regardless, the House of Whelmed tree looks pretty spiffy and makes the entire house smell like pine.

Relax. Breath. Everything will get done.

27 November 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For the first time ever, I didn't head back to the Mitten state for Thanksgiving. Rather, I stayed in Bton and gathered a group of lovely people for dinner and a showing of Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving. Conversation was delightful, food was delicious and the lines we encountered when we went to the Outlet Mall afterward were distractingly long. All in all, a fine Thanksgiving.

Surprisingly, I emerged without purchasing a single thing from the Outlet Mall trip. True, prices were low, but it just felt weird. Women in the hundreds were wandering around the store, bunches of purses on their arms, confident these objects were the key to their holiday joy. After last year's knit-a-palooza, I find that I can't try to my loved ones with whatever the stores are offering. I really enjoyed knitting for everyone last year, regardless of how much work it was. I haven't had the time to do the same this year, so I'm taking a different strategy: I've knit quite a few things for people over the course of the year. For those who I have not squirreled some piece of fibery goodness away for, I will figure out sewing possibilities. I've managed to collect a decent stash of fabric and some decent sewing skills; I can come some up with something, I am sure. For those who are left, I'm trying to wrap my head around books (I love books as gifts, especially when said books come from people who share my reading tastes and/or know me well) and vintage items from flea markets and thrift stores. If I can't make a homemade holiday, I'm thinking this is the next best thing: gifts that are thoughtful and attempt to sidestep the cookie cutter commercialism of the season. Now to check my list and make a plan to finish everything in the midst of papers and grading and general school insanity.

These next few weeks are hectic: holiday preparation, classes wrapping up, and the everyday goings-on of life. I will try, however, in these coming weeks to breathe and enjoy the season, revel in my friendships, and not let the to-do-ness of the holidays get me down.

09 November 2009

Today I Broke

Nope, I'm not crying. At least not in this picture.

It's nearing the end of fall semester, third year in and I have yet to have cried over a professor's feedback. I've taken classes with some of the most difficult profs in my department, submitted papers where I was unsure of what I was doing, spelled out my ignorance about this topic and that with glaring clarity. And never once have I cried.

There has always been something to be learned, something I've done well enough to warrant revisiting the writing a second time. There's always been something redemptive about the feedback I've received from my professors, regardless of how crappily I laid out my argument or splotchy my literature. I've never had a professor tell me my writing is sloppy and nothing more.

Honestly, I don't quite know what to do here. Were the assignment something polished, rather than a working draft, I would understand the comment. But it is a working draft and while there are sections of the paper that are sloppy, I felt my epistemology and theoretical underpinnings were solid. I don't think I'm someone who needs coddling but I am here to learn. Nothing comes out of feedback that is meant to belittle and gives no direction for positive change. Teach me.

Today, I cried. Her feedback, my apparently sloppy writing, broke me. Today, after seven semesters, countless papers, and eleven sections of teaching, graduate school broke me. I'll mend but, for today, I just want to wallow.

01 November 2009

Welcome, November

October was a great, if not harried, month. Papers (one of which I should be writing right now...), proposals, teaching, giving feedback on assignments: it makes one really have to schedule time for enjoying the season. And there has been enjoyment, friends, particularly in these last few days of October. Take a look-see:

Haunted Halloween Hellaballoos, Mummy races, and zombie parades: a nice way to see one of my favorite months out and usher in the home stretch of the semester.

Now only if I could get this paper written...

27 October 2009

The Ghosts

And, suddenly, we're back where we began: on the phone, after the rest of the world has gone to sleep, talking out the problems of our days. Well, your day primarily, but that isn't anything out of the ordinary.

In the course of four days, you've seeped back into my everyday, your emails piling up in my inbox, your messages on my voicemail. I've heard more from you in the past three days than I've heard from you in three years since you and I were no longer you and I. As I attempt to parse your problems into manageable questions leading to an ultimate conclusion, it strikes me as funny that your current relationship problems are our past relationship problems. Is that why you called? Because I have first hand experience?

When I told you I wanted to be friends, I meant it. I called. I emailed. I didn't hear back from you, so I'm adrift in a tumultuous sea as we engage in the witty banter: simultaneously, I'm ecstatic to hear the familiar timbre of your voice while drowning in how angry I am with you for never returning my = occasional phone call, never responding to an email with more than one line. I don't want to admit how much you hurt me, how much it still hurts, and, as such, will continue to believe my high pain tolerance to be strength.

25 October 2009


This? This pile of books? It's not what I want to read nor is it what I've read thus far this semester. This pile of books is what I'm reading RIGHT NOW. All of them are attached to some class, some project, and I find myself reading for the majority of my days. That's not a horrible thing; I'm not whining (okay, maybe a little), I'm just trying to justify why I haven't been here lately. Between the classes and attempting to get a jump on my proposal and quals, time's been a little strapped, leaving barely any time for friends much, much less blogging. I need to be better.

I have been updating my Flickr Project 365, though. Well, weekly at least.

27 September 2009

Mondays are just so weekly

One of my favorite people was here this weekend and it was spent laughing, talking, picture-taking, and people-watching. Lovely.


* I bought new jeans this weekend, which allowed for two new discoveries: (1) that I am actually one size smaller than previously thought and (2) that I can no longer shop in the young men's department. I bought jeans from Kohls. This, friends, is a first.

* My iPod died. It makes the strangest little sound and then I am faced with the iPod face of death. This is the refurb they gave me last year at this time when my year-old iPod's battery died. I believe my AppleCare is officially expired but will be making an appointment at the store to plead my case. iPods should not have a year life expectancy. That's ridiculous.

* I am insanely tired and need to go to bed. I've been neglecting the blog, however, and felt I needed to remedy that immediately if not sooner.

20 September 2009


It's been a stressful day, attempting to navigate the multiple egos that makes up group work. I'm really just in it for the grade, people, and refuse to allow it to take up any more of my time that it absolutely needs to.

So, at eight o'clock this evening, I shut my laptop and proceeded to iron and cut fabric in preparation to make Halloween treat bags for the little ones in my life, as well as a set of pillowcases for holiday gifts. No sewing today, but I did manage to get everything cut and started a project I've been looking forward to for a while: embroidery. Jenny Hart's Sublime Stitching book guided me through this first piece of embroidery. My stitches aren't even and aren't really even all that pretty, but I like it and am pretty excited to finish up the project to see how it all comes together. Embroidery + sewing = possible good time?

Now I just need to find time to finish it.

19 September 2009


After I told my first graders I would be gone for a while, I walked out to my car to begin the long drive up north to my parents' house. Clara somehow, in between shuttling her children to school and daycare and attending to her own busy life, managed to shove this note underneath my windshield wiper blade. For the next nine hours, as I tried to make sense of what my life had become, who I had become, I would take quick glances at it, reminding me that even though I felt like my world was ending right there, in that car, that I had friends who would help me rebuild.

"Of course, all of their words for a thousand years could not fill the hole left by his mother, but they could raise a loving fence around it so he didn't keep falling in." (Spinelli, Eggs)

And that is what Clara and so many others have done for four long years now: stopped me from falling in.

18 September 2009

I'll never tell you what I do on a Friday night

My new idea of an exciting Friday night: reading about concepts of gender and development while watching The French Chef on DVD. Oh, yes, this is living.

I will admit, though, that I am a little in love with Julia Child. She's just adorable and makes me want to cook all kinds of things in massive amounts of butter. I am a little less in love with gender and development as I struggle to maintain my interest in the topic. I fear I am at the point in my academic career where I find myself reading the same ideas over and over again when all I really want to do is work on getting my own ideas down on paper.

Unfortunately, I am still embroiled in classwork and I am still responsible for readings assigned by someone else. However, there are three The French Chef DVDs, meaning I have entertainment lined up for the next three weeks.

11 September 2009


I went to a friend's dissertation defense this afternoon, the first since I've become a doctoral student. She was nervous at first, partly because the LCD projector failed to sync with her laptop (called IT - they fixed the problem) and partly because... well, it was her dissertation defense. You're supposed to be nervous at a dissertation defense. I think it's a rule written down somewhere.

After the insanity of the technology and once her committee was sitting around the table, she totally transformed into this eloquent, lovely intellectual. She spoke of her research with passion, with conviction, and it was truly a thing of beauty to listen to her document the years of hard work put into her data collection, analysis, and writing. Even when her committee began questioning her, she continued to be graceful, injecting humor where appropriate and carefully weighing the opinions being given to her.

It was inspiring, albeit a little terrifying, as I consider the very real possibility of defending my own work in the coming year. While her defense looked ever-so-elegant, I know the hours she spent in the library translating, transcribing, and making diagrams. Ph.Ds aren't for everyone but they are doable.

I just have to keep telling myself that: they are doable.

08 September 2009

Making the Habitat a Habit

With school in session, my knitting time has decreased in dramatic ways. It makes me sad as the chilly weather has descended on Indiana, totally putting me in the mood for wool. I do sneak in a little knitting here and there in between classes, carrying small projects with me that I can finish a row or two on when I have a spare five or ten minutes.

One of my recent favorites is the Habitat by Jared Flood, the infamous Brooklyn Tweed. Hats in general, I have found, make great knitting projects for those in between times, but the Habitat is a great cabled knit that makes a beautiful product while being interesting enough to keep me from getting bored. I've knit three of these hats thus far and have a fourth on the needles. I think this next one may very well be for me.

But for now, must go read. And write. Lots of that going on today.