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.