Monthly Archives: August 2005

Mea Culpa….

There, Linda — did I spell THAT right?

Yes, the eldest sis kindly pointed out to me that I misspelled "sacrifice" twice in my last post, although I did spell "sacrificial" correctly.  Alas, I have no excuse, other than that I wrote the post quickly this morning after 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. I mean, I was still breathing hard.  Had any aerobic exercise lately, Linda?

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My colleagues have been telling me for several weeks that come the first three weeks of school, I would be as fed and feted as a preChristian sacrificial harvest king, without the inevitable letdown of sacrafice.* Especially as new faculty, I was told, free food opportunities would abound.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m all about the free food and the feting. But I wasn’t particularly concerned about the possibility of my own gastronomical overindulgence and diet wrecking.  I mean, I’m pretty familiar with institutional food. Four years at BGSU, 16 years at UNR, which comprised the beginning and end of countless dining service contracts, and 6 years of fundraising and political action lunches and dinners at various of Reno’s casinos when I worked with Planned Parenthood Northern Nevada.  I’ve eaten mass-produced chicken in all its possible sauced and lettuce-bedded and noodled permutations.

Or so I thought. And then yesterday I experienced one — one, mind you — day of institutional party food here.

Oh. My. God.

Breakfast at 9 a.m. was a typical collation of muffins and bagels. Good coffee, though, and the spreads available for the bagels rivaled Panera’s. The butter rose should have been a clue though.  At 10, a basket of cookies, yummy, soft, fresh cookies, was added to the table, just in case 1 hour of meeting time had proved wearing. At noon, we adjourned for lunch, which was a chicken breast on a bed of lettuce, surrounded by generous chuncks of watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, and strawberries, drizzled with honey-mustard dressing. The chicken had been very, very, very lightly coated in flour and spices and was fantastic.  Okay, I know one can get only so excited about a chicken breast, but on a scale of chicken breast yumminess, this rated ten clucks, some fireworks, and a quick smooch from George Clooney. It came with a breadstick and cheesecake, just in case there was any dire possibility of us having to wait more than 3 hours for our next meal. So you can see how we almost died of hunger waiting for 3:30 and the reception for new faculty (that’s me) to roll around. There, I met many lovely people whose names I cannot now remember, but I bear a deep and abiding regard for the just-barely-pickled cucumber slices wrapped in horseradish creme and shaved corn beef. And the seafood dip. And the cocktail weenies,** which appeared ordinary but were in a lovely sauce. And the chocolate-dipped strawberries.  I didn’t get a chance to sample the meatballs because I’m a lady and I can eat only so many lbs. of food in 6-hour period.

When I came home, beyond sated and still licking horseradish creme off my fingers, I could barely bring myself to feed the cats and the bird.

*Yeah, talk to me about that in a few weeks, when I’m grading papers for 4 classes.  I might be begging for a nice, restful blood sacrafice….

**No, not the guests.

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42 comes on little cat feet….*

I see that my sister Fanny has been very busy and political and photo-op-y, which merely highlights my own recent lethargy.** As my 42nd birthday barrels down upon me, I divide my time between preparing for the classes I’ll teach this semester, devouring fantasy novels, wondering how I failed to lose 20 lbs this summer, and napping.***

And as I comtemplate becoming firmly, even weightily established in my 4th decade, the covers of the fantasy novels aren’t helping. Finally we get a wide selection of strong female characters who are driven by considerations beyond marriage and child-bearing, and how are they pictured on the covers of the books? Look at her — how can she even wield a sword around those honking big breasts? The artist probably had to use a Dow Chemical silicon pencil just to draw them. And it’s a good thing she’s a strong heroine who is not interested in child-bearing because she couldn’t squeeze a Beanie Baby out through that sorry excuse for a pelvis. Also note that she’s not even wearing a sword and is standing a bit behind the male charachter (who looks eerily like Charlie Sheen in drag), even though she’s the primary protagonist, a kick-ass warrior, and a bit of a bitch. Would a reader attracted by this cover even enjoy such a story?

I’m tempted to pull my almost-42 years around me like the cloak of a doom-preaching prophet and declare that in my day, paperback covers accurately reflected the stories inside. Unfortunately, I’d be telling the truth because most of the fantasies I read in my youth contained trip-and-fall-at-the-crucial-moment females who wanted nothing more than to fall in love, have a family, and settle down near a decent hairdresser.****

So I guess I’ll have to be satisfied that many modern fantasies offer strong, size 8 or 9 shoe-sized heroines with complex motivations, and I’ll try to live with the cover art. But I can still bitch about it. If growing up to be a relatively sane, strong, happy middle-aged female in a world that still produces such book covers doesn’t entitle one to a bit of bitching, I don’t know what does.

*As anyone with cats knows, they can at will increase their weight a thousand-fold and stomp around like buffalo. Sandberg must have been a dog person.

**Although I did rate a direct mention and several references in her recent texts, which makes me feel smugly important.

***And yes, I understand the link between the final two items in that list. You can add the novel reading too, because what’s a good reading session without M&Ms and/or popcorn?

****In my early teens, I read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His female characters***** had a habit of losing their pretty little tempers and indicating that loss by stamping their pretty little feet. By age 12, I wore a women’s size 10 shoe. I knew early on that traditional heroine-hood was not for me.

*****And talk about the ultimate male fantasy women! Burroughs’ Martian princessess****** reproduced by laying eggs — small eggs that then grew over 5 or 6 years and hatched out school-aged children. So the women reproduced with no unsightly physical changes to discomfit their husbands, and no one had to deal with crying infants and dirty diapers (okay, I kinda like that part). On top of it all, these distinctly non-mammalian women had — you guessed it — honking big breasts.

******I do agree with Fanny and the Col., however, that with today’s CGI special effects, the movie version of A Princess of Mars would rock.

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Call me Miss Cellaneous

That’s Dr. Cellaneous to you, bub.

First, the new kitten. If Amelia and Astrid aren’t actually friends, they’ve become the kind of enemies that siblings often are — devoted to one another’s downfall but recognizing they must stop short of actual murder.*

It’s been years since I’ve had a kitten in the house. I had forgotten that they live a truly 24-hour day, playing and sleeping around the clock. Currently, I am reminded of this every morning around 3 a.m. when Amelia chews on my hair and pats my face with her paws in a manner that would be absolutely adorable at 3 p.m., but in the wee hours merely gets her tossed onto Astrid, who sleeps at the foot of the bed, which results in a kitty chase down the stairs as I go back to sleep. I once heard Anne Lamott say that "getting a new kitten is like inviting a crank addict into your home. One you’re not even related to." On the other hand, Astrid seems to be the better candidate for kitty drug addiction given that she keeps sleeping on the bed despite the high probability of incoming kittens at 3 a.m.

Other than appreciating Amelia’s adorableness, my days are now occupied with preparations for the coming fall semester. Ever had those dreams where you’re back in high school but you can’t remember your locker combination,** or you’re in college and it’s the last day of finals and you realize that you never once attended a crucial class all semester and now you’re late for the exam? Well, such dreams persist. Most nights, I dream that I’ve completely forgotten to teach one of my classes for the whole semester, although sometimes I show up to teach freshman English but I’ve brought notes for advanced calculus instead (and the very idea of me taking any kind of calculus, let alone teaching it, is a whole ‘nother nightmare).

The problem with this current batch of teacher-anxiety dreams is that they’re based, however slightly, in reality. I can be quite the airhead when my stress level is high. For instance, when I was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Nevada, Reno, I was nominated for and won the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award one year. Great news, happy happy and it came with money. Yay. On the night that the faculty gathered at the yearly function to dispense awards and recognition, where was I? At the mall buying a blouse to wear to the function, which I was positive was the next night. Several of my professors called my home immediately after the ceremony to assure themselves I hadn’t been in a car wreck or some other award-function-usurping tragedy. No, I assured them, I had just been proving what my students had come to know about me: good teacher, easily confused. But hey, I had a fabulous new blouse.

*It is because my sister Fanny and my big bro ascribed to this philosophy that I am here typing to you today.

**nakedness in the dream is optional. When I’m naked in high school dreams, no one else even notices, which probably speaks volumes about my teenaged*** self esteem.

***yeah, teenaged. Like now I’m all better #snarf#.

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Another step toward spinsterhood….

Yesterday, it got a bit more crowded here at Left of the Mississippi — a little orange tabby cat, Amelia, came to live with us. Ooh, feel that? Just now, that little wobble in the Earth’s rotation? That was caused by my siblings and most of my friends simultaneously rolling their eyes and sighing. She got another cat pretty much the first minute she had a chance to. Yeah, that was real unexpected.

I could rationalize Amelia’s adoption. She needed a home and had been living at the vet’s office, Storm Lake’s equivalent of the Humane Society, for weeks. Astrid needs company since I’m starting back to work full time. Zeke was getting lazy and needed another threat to his little birdy life. But the truth is, when I took Astrid to the vet yesterday for her shots, they said they had kittens needing homes (some as young as 3 weeks, abandoned!) and I knew, even as the words, "oh, can I see them?" came out of my mouth, that one was going to be coming home with me. Amelia was the oldest, the cutest, and already fixed. And so here she is. Oh, that red spot on her belly is from an infection from her spaying — she couldn’t leave the stitches alone. It’s clearing up nicely with the antibiotics the vet gave (for free).

AmeliasideAmeliadownAmeliaupThis is the same toy Astrid loved as a kitten. (click to enlarge)

And what does Astrid think about this? See the evil in her eyes AND the waves of hate eminating from her furry little self?
Astridangry Zeke, on the other hand, cares not as long as his cage is sacrosanct and his food supply is unaffected. Here he is, head buried in his breakfast as the kitten plays: Zekebutt

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