Let’s Do Lent

I am officially on a shopping ban until April 6. Or, as some would say, I am giving up shopping for Lent. As a non-practicing Catholic, I do reserve the right to participate in Lent under the general idea of — to borrow a friend’s words — figuring out what is in the way of doing what is right, making room for growth, and participating in the things that give life. This is an idea I wholeheartedly agree with, even as a non-believer.

Regarding my shopping ban and how something so mundane is connected to those lovely words: in my case, shopping has been taking place in the form of “retail therapy” recently, as opposed to seeking out the things I or others actually need. Unlike actual therapy, it is not life giving or supportive of growth; it is in fact often in the way of my doing what is right. In order to make room for growth (buying a house, starting a family, supporting our future security, or giving to others), I need to cut it out. Done.

This morning I also got a bit of a wild hair up my…sleeve and decided I was taking an extended break from Facebook. Perhaps I’ll align this to coincide with Lent as well. I didn’t think of it until today and was likely all over Facebook yesterday, Ash Wednesday, but I can certainly stick to it for the rest of the season, right? I’m not sure giving up Facebook fits in with the Lent paradigm I outlined above, but I do know that there are many, many occasions where, after checking on my newsfeed, the way I feel gets in the way of my doing good. It’s far more likely to spur me toward feelings of jealousy, negativity, irritation, and criticism of others. So I’ll be stepping away for a little while.

(Facebook friends, I’ve kept the messaging app on my phone so we can continue any ongoing conversations, but I won’t log into the site. This is great because the messaging app allows me to send and receive, à la email, without ever having to see the verdammten newsfeed.)

On the other hand, I find some social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, to generally be things that support my happiness and well being. I can air my thoughts and receive support from friends; I can be introduced to new and interesting ideas; be exposed to people and things that inspire. Most often, the connections I make and maintain on these networks spur me toward feelings of community, friendship, generosity, and support of others. Funny how that is the exact opposite of what I said about Facebook, isn’t it?

At any rate, I’ll be staying active on those sites. I don’t think Lent should be about giving up things that make you happy and keep you connected to others. I’m not going to wear a hair shirt. Even for the most devout Catholics, I don’t think that’s what the season is about.

I’d love to hear from others on this topic — do you celebrate Lent, either as a believer or as a non-practicing “cultural Catholic”? What does it mean to you? If you don’t mind sharing, what are you giving up or adding into your life this year?

On Audience

Of the social media platforms I use, I am by far the most active on Twitter. For a long time, it’s been the place where I’ve blathered on and on about whatever’s been going on in my life at any given time. I started using it in 2007, pretty soon after it started. I’ve had at least 4 different usernames that I can think of. I’ve always followed and been followed by a mixture of people I know in person and people I know online. I’ve strengthened friendships there and I’ve forged new ones, too. I love Twitter.

Lately, though, it’s been a little hard to manage. The fact that I talk with different circles there usually doesn’t bother me. For the most part (though not without exception), my friends who don’t run can still put up with my running-related tweets. People I didn’t know in grad school aren’t awfully bothered by my occasional Achewood references. My (admittedly small) number of male followers don’t seem, as far as I know, terribly put off when I post the obligatory complaints about my Special Lady Time.

The exceptions, though, seem to come more and more often to mind, and seem more and more able to vex and occasionally silence me on topics I wish I could talk about.

A non-Twitter example: I don’t post anything personal on Facebook (I tend to share articles and occasionally talk about local races I’m signing up for), but a while back, I posted a link to this article. It’s sort of an in-joke for fans of The Decemberists or, at least, for people with at least a passing familiarity with their catalogue. This is the kind of post I fully expect to be ignored my the majority of my Facebook friends, but that I hope will be appreciated by the group of friends I know to be fans of the band. What wound up happening was that the post elicited a comment from my dad along the lines of “I have no idea what this is even about.” I know that Dad. I know. You are not a fan of the band. That’s okay. This post is not for you. You are not in the intended audience. Feel free to ignore it.

Pop culture related posts are like that, aren’t they? They’re written in a language of references that work like a not-so-secret handshake for the people who are affiliated with whatever element of culture is being indirectly named. (Never directly named, because of course not.) Reference a “Scranton Party” or a “Red Wedding” and people — certain people — will absolutely know what you’re talking about. Others will wonder what you’re doing in Pennsylvania or at a whore’s wedding.

Running is the same. If I’m talking about hill repeats or Yasso 800s or my weekly LSD, I am speaking the language of the recreational runner who likes to imagine she takes her training seriously. The person who reads Runner’s World and sets time goals for every race and enjoys reading and writing and thinking and talking about running on the regular. If my other friends don’t know or care about a specific track workout I’m referencing, it’s nobody’s loss. It’s just not their conversation.

Similarly, when I’ve been feeling the urge to talk about women’s health concerns on Twitter lately, I have a certain audience in mind and I’m writing in a language I know they understand. I know if I complain about the madness on the TTC boards, or my nervousness about an upcoming HSG, or the sheer number of OPKs I have floating around in every single bathroom drawer, that I have a veritable army of women on Twitter who will have something to say to me. They’ll understand those terms and they’ll commiserate or empathize; they’ll offer me a virtual hug or promise to send me thoughts or prayers; they’ll joke with me about some of the ridiculousness of the situation. They’ll, in short, just be my friends. I really need that.

Being able to connect with others, whether it’s to talk about a shared passion or a shared worry, is so incredibly important. I’m always grateful I have all of these folks I can reach out to – no matter the topic at hand.

But when the Twitter equivalent of my dad’s Facebook comment happens, it makes me self-conscious. It reminds me that, hey, these posts aren’t just going out to people in this community who have these shared concerns and speak this common language. They’re going out to everyone I know, basically. ALL my Twitter friends just read whatever I was saying about my monthly cycle. Ooof.

I once read an analogy from someone — I forget who now, but it was for sure one of my wise Twitter/blogging friends, maybe Jonniker or TemerityJane? — who compared the situation to being out at a bar with your friends. Sure, everyone else in the bar potentially can hear your conversation. You’re in public; that’s the way it is. Some of those other bar patrons might also be inclined to jump right into the conversation, too. They’re your friends! You all know each other from the bar, or from the neighborhood, or whatever, right? So they’re gonna jump in! So if I’m sitting in a corner booth talking about track workouts with my running friends and another friend pops over and is all like HEY MAN WHAT ARE THESE YASSO 800s ANYWAY? What’s the problem there, right? My friend just overheard part of a conversation and is curious. No problem.

On the other hand, when a friend who doesn’t fall into the community who shares experience with trying to conceive pops over and is all WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT OVER HERE DOES THAT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH YOUR UTERUS? It’s a bit awkward, to say the least. It’s a little more awkward than having to explain The Decemberists or a track workout. And it makes me not want to talk about it. It makes me wish I hadn’t posted whatever tweet they’re replying to, because hey, friend, I love you but I wasn’t trying to talk about my uterus with you. I forgot you might be listening. I kinda thought you were over there at THAT booth with our OTHER friends and I was going to come by and say hi to you in a minute, so, like, let’s pretend this never happened, okay? Uter-what? I don’t even KNOW THAT WORD.

I suppose this is something we just have to get used to unless we whittle down our social media contacts to only the smallest niches — which is something I don’t really want to do. And of course, the friends who jump into our bar conversations when they pass by the booth are just doing the same thing we are — reaching out and trying to connect. It’s well meaning and kind, almost always. But it’s still hard sometimes.

I don’t know, what do y’all think?

On Changing my Name

I’ve meant to write a post about changing my last name after the wedding, especially since Rose-Anne asked about it, but I’ve been holding off because I felt like it was a somewhat, well, important (and usually controversial) subject and I wanted to do it justice. This post got long. I wound up writing not only about how I feel about the decision, but also what it’s been like to change my name in various places and settings, and how it feels and so on. Apparently I have a lot of feelings on the matter.

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I know a lot of women out there who have made the decision to keep their last names after marriage, sometimes as a professional decision (like writers/academics who have a career built on work they’ve already published), sometimes simply as a feminist decision — they don’t believe in keeping up the old, patriarchal practice of a husband giving his wife his last name as a signifier of his ownership over her. And right on!

I certainly identify as a feminist (even tough my academic work isn’t in this area) and I firmly disagree with the view that women who marry a man can be passed on from their fathers to their husbands as property. To say I find this notion offensive and distasteful would be an understatement.

But nonetheless, I still decided to take my husband’s last name after marrying, which seems to be a choice that doesn’t reflect the above statement.

The professional and career concerns weren’t a factor for me: I have published and presented academic work under my maiden name, but I’ve taken the teaching-based path in my work (as opposed to the research-and-publication-based path), so publications aren’t my focus anyway. If there’s ever any confusion in the future about the work I’ve put out with my maiden name on it, I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to resolve. It certainly isn’t an issue in my workplace.

When it comes to the (what I perceive as) more important issue, the feminist issue, it might be more complicated.

(And, if I may be allowed an aside, I really feel like I ought to be calling it The Feminist Issue, don’t you? It feels like it needs title caps. And maybe a colon and a subtitle after it. “The Feminist Issue: Unraveling the Patriarchal Naming System.”)

I’m certainly not okay with feeling like or being treated as property. But would changing my name make me feel like that? Would it allow me to be treated like that? The first question is easier to answer: no, I don’t feel like that. I considered it early on and I didn’t think I would feel as if I were being transferred over to my husband’s “ownership.” And after the fact, I still don’t feel that way. I do feel like sharing the same last name supports our vision of ourselves as a family unit. I (we!) like that we share it and that any future children we might have will share the name, too. And, you know, these are just usual feelings women cite when discussing why they made the same choice I did. I don’t have any new or earth-shattering ideas here, I’m afraid.

The second question, would changing my name lead to me being treated like my husband’s property, is a little different. Living where we do, we are bound to run into no small number of people who have fairly antiquated or downright sexist ideas about marriage. The people who call us “Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirst Hislast,” for example, seem to betray a little of this attitude. (Technically, we’re Drs. Hisfirst and Herfirst Hislast, thankyouverymuch.) For the portion of the population who still thinks of wives as their husband’s property, I don’t think my last name would make much difference. Even if I’d kept it, I’d probably still be referred to as Mrs. Hislast, whether correct or not. How others treat me wouldn’t, I suspect, suddenly be more egalitarian if I’d kept my old last name.

(Another aside here: It sounds like I’m saying, “Hey, people are idiots and continue sexist practices no matter what we do, so why bother trying to change things?” I don’t like that attitude and I hope I’m not guilty of it.)

I don’t want to make some kind of blanket claim that names don’t affect how people think of, respond to, or treat me. That clearly isn’t the case. People do respond to these decisions in noticeable ways. Colleagues might respond with a brief-but-palpable pause, for example. In-laws might be more overtly pleased with the news. My friends and family haven’t voiced any opinions on the matter, so are either being tactful or just don’t care. The opinions I care most about, of course, are my own, CW’s, and our families’.

I feel like some of this post reads too much like an apologia — like a response to some imagined accusation. That really shouldn’t be the point here, and the world hardly needs me to sit at my keyboard defending myself. So I’ll move on to some other issues:

How was the process of changing my name? How did I feel about it?

[23/365] New IDs

Online: Changing your name on social media is the easiest and somehow most fun thing to do. The day after the wedding: boom goes the dynamite.

The Legal Name Change: I kept hearing (rumors of) nightmares people had with changing their names legally. Long lines, inscrutable paperwork, confusing procedures, lengthy bureaucratic processes, and plenty of hoops through which to jump. In my case, at least, it wound up being really simple. I had one afternoon off work, and I had my IDs and a certified copy of my marriage license on hand, and I quickly went to the Social Security office and then the DMV. By the time I was done, I had my new driver’s license in hand and the promise of receiving a new Social Security card by mail in 10 business days. Once armed with my new IDs, it was easy to change my name at my bank and my workplace and to get a new faculty ID card. Ordering a new Passport was simple, too — once I realized that because I was both renewing the passport AND changing my name, I had to mail in an application rather than stop by an office. Fine. I’m a pretty organized person who often enjoys filling out forms, sure, but honestly, I don’t know what people were complaining about.

At Work: I’ve had some awkward moments at work. Academia is the one place in my life where I feel like an oddball for changing my name. One weird moment happened as a result of it’s being almost too easy for me to change my name in the university records. I assumed it would be one of those typical bureaucratic things that just took a long time “in the system,” so I started the procedure during the last week of fall semester, hoping to have everything fully changed over before spring semester started. I didn’t want to have any confusion in January with my new students who would just be getting to know me. So. I walked over to HR on my lunch break, let them photocopy my new Social Security card, and then walked back to my office. By the time I sat down at my desk and logged into our course management system, my new name showed up. Oh. That was fast. This led to me having to tell my classes about the change during our last week together. (I’d imagined it happening between semesters, thereby avoiding awkward in-class announcements.) I was all, “So, um, if you get an email from someone named Dr. W____, you should still read it. It’s really just me!” My students took this as an opportunity to go “Awwww” and …clap a little. Well, if they insist, I s’pose.

On another occasion, just before classes started, I attended a teaching workshop with people from all across the university — some from my department and a lot of strangers. On the way down to the room, in the elevator, I ran into a lady I recognized from previous workshops and we both re-introduced ourselves — except I forgot and automatically said my old last name. D’oh! I was too embarrassed to correct myself. Then, in the workshop, during the go-around-the-room-and-introduce-yourselves segment (which, as an introvert, I already hate), I thought about the awkwardness that would ensue: not only would I be introducing myself by a new last name in front of people who knew me mainly by my old last name, but I’d also be introducing myself by a different name than I’d just given to this woman in the elevator ten minutes prior. Some people would not let this situation produce anxiety, but I am not some people. Ugh.

Email: For the 14 years I have been teaching, I’ve been signing my work emails with my initials: KO. I’ve mentioned this here before, but I really love(d) those initials. KO. How cool, right? Anyway. I’ve switched over to signing KOW (I moved my maiden name to my middle name slot and ditched my former, unused middle name — adieu, Elizabeth.) KOW doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I will adjust. I GUESS.

In General: It’s weird. I’ll just say that straight out. It’s disconcerting. Seeing and hearing it, remembering to use it, introducing yourself. Not having the same name you’ve had for 35 years of life — it’s a strange feeling and although I like (LOVE) my new last name and everything it signifies, I still think of myself as Kate O______. That name feels like me. Kate W______ doesn’t — not 100%, not yet. But it’s starting to feel more me-like as time goes by.

One way I’m starting to get used to it is changing my name in all sorts of places: all kinds of online accounts, for example. Not just Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram and Flickr, Amazon and Goodreads and Ipsy and Hulu and such. (It occurs to me that I haven’t yet changed it at LinkedIn, but let’s face it: LinkedIn is a joke.) Getting my Amazon packages addressed to my new last name, seeing it when I log in, that sort of thing — it all adds up and reinforces. I buy personalized day planners every year, and this year I went ahead and ordered my new one to start in November, after the wedding, with my new name on it. I think I’d like something monogrammed with my new initials, too. (Necklace? Tote bag?) I had lovely monogrammed stationery with my old initials. Surely it’s time to replace that, too. Fully embracing the change and seeing the new name everywhere seems to help the transition.

Zoë asked me on Twitter how long it takes to get used to it, and the short answer is, I guess, “longer than three months.” I’ll let you know!

What Happened on Bloomsday

There is some exciting news around these parts, namely that I am getting married! To this guy! MARRIED!

Can you tell we are both pretty happy about it?

I think a lot of you already guessed my news the other day, when I tweeted that I was “having a REALLY GOOD DAY.” But! How did you know I didn’t receive a deposit in my bank account from a deposed Nigerian prince? Or find out I was pregnant? Or have some really excellent blueberry pancakes? Or hear news of an enemy’s demise? Huh? It could have been anything, really.

On Sunday, CW and I went out for breakfast at the Irish pub in order to celebrate Bloomsday (the date of the events of James Joyce’s Ulysses, because yes, we are nerds for Irish Modernism; who isn’t?). I did, in fact, have some really excellent blueberry pancakes there. We’d gotten an early start to the day, so after breakfast we “wound up” going on a lazy Sunday drive, which seemed quite spontaneous but must have actually been planned to land us at the beautiful arboretum on campus, where we walked around and explored for a while and then sat on a park bench and talked for a while and then he asked me to marry him. And yes I said I will yes.

It was a total surprise. Probably the best surprise ever. The moment was so perfect and sweet and my heart was all a-flutter. (Oh, and CW has excellent taste in jewelry: he chose an engagement ring in the exact style I would have picked for myself, and he did it with no suggestions from me at all. It is beautiful and I love it.)

For a long time, I didn’t imagine that I would be the kind of person who got married. It seemed like such a distant, unreal idea that I would meet and fall in love with a man who would fall in love with me right back. But I did, and he did, and now we will.

Fun, Narcissistic Questions & Crappy Day Present Stuff

Hey, hey, time for some fun questions! I recently joined the Crappy Day Present exchange organized by Doing My Best. Do you know about it? I’d seen it mentioned tons of times on Twitter and in blogs, and I just happened to see that it was time for people to register for another round of exchanges, so I jumped right in! If you don’t know, it’s a gift exchange where we are assigned a person to send a selection of fun little packages — the person keeps the packages around until she feels like opening one (or more), like, say, on a crappy day where she needs a little friendly pick-me-up. Isn’t this a wonderful idea? I think so. It’s too late to register for this round, but I’m sure there will be others in the future.

So, one thing to do to help out your exchange partner is to answer some getting to know you questions so she can figure out what kinds of little things might be good to send. The person I’m sending a package to has answered some of these questions herself, which is providing a some good ideas for me to plan her gifts. Here is my list from the registration post, plus some more questions I found that looked fun.

If you’re in the mood to answer questions about yourself for fun, even if you’re NOT taking part in the CDP exchange, why not play along? I love reading other people’s answers to these types of questions just as much as I love answering them myself! If you do any of these on your blog, would you leave me a link?

First, the questions from Doing My Best’s CDP Central:

1. What is your favorite color?

I love all types of blue and green, especially the aqua and teal family. Also navy, and pear green, and grass green. I wear a lot of grey, too. Blue with orange accents is also really nice, as my school colors (where I teach) are orange and blue.

2. What is your favorite season?

I love something about every season, but I think my favorites are winter (snow!) and fall.

3. What is your favorite treat?

I have … a lot. I love bourbon and french fries and cupcakes and champagne probably the most. Also candy: those Lindt dark chocolate and sea salt bars, the Lindor balls (any variety), Girardhelli squares, anything Reese’s, caramel, Swedish Fish, Skittles.

4. What is your favorite scent?

I love anything vanilla, citrus, or ginger. In terms of, like, lotions and candles and stuff, anything that smells like baked goods is a safe bet. I also really like fresh/green scents — remember Gap Grass? — anything herbal. I’m not too into florals, except lavender.

5. What is your favorite coping mechanism?

Running and biking (alone time + endorphins!), reading, blogging, snacking, drinking.

6. What do you like to do in your free time moments?

Reading (fiction), working on photography, learning the ukulele (new hobby!), hanging out with my dachshund Egon.

7. What do you not enjoy doing, and why, but have to do anyway?

I’m a college English lecturer, so I have come to dread grading papers. It’s the most tedious and often frustrating part of my job, but it’s also completely necessary.

8. If someone gave you money with the instruction that you had to spend it on something frivolous for yourself, what would you buy?

A new dress, earrings, bag, scarf, or shoes. Or nail polish. I never spend money on these things without feeling guilty!

9. Do you have any decorating themes in your home/office?

No real themes, but I try to keep things pretty clean and modern. I like simple designs and nothing too fussy. My “design aesthetic” is mostly…Ikea. I’m not fancy.

10. Is there something that you REALLY, REALLY like? (Burt’s Bees, horses, cats, fairies, unicorns, birds, patriotic stuff, babies, chocolate, Diet Coke, etc….)

Bicycles, dachshunds, anything Oregon-related (I lived there while in school and miss it terribly)

11. What is the VERY! BEST! present you have ever received and why was it the best? (The purpose of this question is to give people another idea of the sorts of things that make you happy.)

This is a hard one — Maybe my DSLR, which I picked out myself and my family gave me money toward buying it. This was a great one because I’d been wanting a nice camera forever, and it’s something I use all the time, it feeds my creativity, and it’s just plain fun. Maybe the fancy perfume my boyfriend gave me for Christmas (Arquiste L’Etrog), because it’s sort of indulgent and romantic and I’d never spend that much money on something for myself. Both of these are way out of CDP range, of course, but hopefully this gives some impression of what I’m into?

12. What are you passionate about?

Reading and writing, photography, running.

And now, some similar questions I found and answered just for fun (and to provide some extra info about me) (but mostly because I just love doing these things; what can I say?):

13. What was your favorite food when you were a child?

PBJs, probably. I was obsessed with them as a kid, and I’m not ashamed to say I still am now. My usual breakfast on work mornings is an English muffin with peanut butter and cherry preserves. If I am feeling healthy (and flush with cash for expensive groceries), I substitute organic almond butter. Also, I am Team Crunchy 4 Life.

14. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?

Here are the top five:

Your Heart is an Empty Room – Death Cab for Cutie
This Tornado Loves You – Neko Case
Way I Are – Timbaland
Middle Cyclone – Neko Case
More Adventurous – Rilo Kiley

15. What’s your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?

Outdoor: running and hiking. These days I run all the time and hardly ever go hiking. I’ve been filling the hiking-shaped hole in my heart with this tumblr.

Indoor: TV, internet, reading.

16. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?

I actually like all sorts of domestic chores, including all sorts of cleaning. I sort of hate putting away laundry, but at least there is the satisfying element of having a full, organized closet when you’re done. As far as what I hate, though? Truly, absolutely hate? Mopping. I never ever mop my kitchen or bathroom floors. I will swiffer them a few times a year and then eventually move into a new apartment. Horrified? Sorry. There’s really more swiffer-able dirt than anything else, so I don’t feel like they really need mopping.

17. What is your favorite form of exercise?

Running, natürlich. Also biking and yoga.

18. What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?

Time of day: Morning, with my COFFEE! Just me and my coffee and the quiet. Or the moment I walk in the door after work and can kick off my shoes, remove my pants, and flop down on the couch with a cocktail.

Day of the week: Friday, because I go to work (I like my job), but afterwards I’m done with work for the week and there’s the rewarding sense of finishing. I also get to start my weekend. Best of both worlds.

Month of the year: December, because it’s got my birthday AND Christmas AND New Year’s Eve AND a paid vacation. Plus, winter is my favorite season. No contest.

19. What sound do you love?

Coffee brewing in the morning while I lie in bed, bicycle wheels on pavement, my dog’s sleepy grumbling noises, my friends’ and boyfriend’s laughter. (I almost typed “boyfriends’ laughter.” Nope. Only one boyfriend over here.)

20. If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?

I’m not sure what it would be for, but I would love to get my friends to dress up and make fancy cocktails and eat a lot of food. Basically, any excuse to put on a pretty cocktail dress would work for me.

21. If you could paint a picture of any scenery you’ve seen before, what would you paint?

The mountains and lake at Kirkwood Lake in Northern California (near Tahoe), where my grandparents used to have a little cabin where we would spend several weeks in the summer. I miss that place a lot.

22. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Sing really, really well. The kind of singing where you go do some karaoke and everyone in the bar is impressed into stunned and awed silence. Unfortunately, I cannot carry a tune no matter how hard I try. Off key, all day every day.

23. If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?

As a literature teacher, I feel like I should have a great answer to this question, but the truth is, I never really want to be anyone other than myself. I like myself. The character I most often identify with, though, is awkward and bumbling professor Timofey Pnin of Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin. I think the kind of novels I read aren’t exactly populated with the kinds of characters people fantasize about being. Now, television, on the other hand…. How about The Doctor? Veronica Mars? Sydney Bristow? Kara Thrace? Peggy Olson? Or movies: Maude from Harold and Maude, for sure.

24. Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?

I don’t get MISTAKEN for anyone, but if people have to come up with a celebrity who could, say, play me in the movie of my life, I hear it’s a little bit of January Jones, a little bit of Uma Thurman, and mix in a little Ellen Page — for attitude.

25. When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

If I only have 30 minutes, I like to peek in on Twitter and Google Reader (well, now I’m using feedly for RSS) and see if there’s anything new going on. Then I’d check Instagram and Facebook. Then probably repeat that sequence. If I’m home, I’ll give my dog some snuggles. Lately I’ve been practicing my ukulele, too.

26. What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life?

I really like this question and I really, really want to have a great answer for it, but the pressure, man, the pressure! I know I’m going to forget a bunch of really great songs and only think of mediocre ones. But here’s a try, anyway:

Ani Difranco: I would like to say “her entire catalogue,” but let’s say “Untouchable Face,” “Overlap,” “Anticipate,” “Shy,” and “Gravel.” And a million more, but definitely those.

Bob Dylan: “If not for You,” “Idiot Wind,” “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”

Simon and Garfunkel: “April, Come She Will,” “America”

Cat Stevens: “Trouble,” “On the Road to Find Out”

Death Cab for Cutie: The entire Plans album

Dinosaur Jr.: “Freak Scene,” “Not You Again”

Neko Case: “Middle Cyclone,” “I’m an Animal”

Rilo Kiley: “More Adventurous,” “The Absence of God”

Dolly Parton: “Jolene,” “Here You Come Again,” “Islands in the Stream” (shut up)

Taio Cruz: “Dynamite”

Kanye West: “Stronger,” “Touch the Sky”

OK, I could go on, but I’ll stop now.

27. When was the last time you were nervous?

I always get really nervous on the first day of a new semester, when I have to go speak to my new classes for the first time. Public speaking is not really my forte, but I’ve made myself accept it as part of my job, and, to a large extent, I’ve gotten over my fear of it. But that first day, some of the fear makes it’s way back in.

28. What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been re-watching Friends from the beginning, and I just saw the last episode last week or so. That one made me a little misty, for sure. Friday Night Lights always gets me, too. My boyfriend and I were re-watching it for a while, but we got out of the routine somewhere in the middle of the last season (we need to get back to it!), so it’s been a while there. The Parks and Rec episode with the wedding got me, too.

29. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I want to say losing weight and finishing a full marathon, but once I got started those things just happened. There was enough momentum that actually getting there wasn’t that hard. That sounds awfully smug, but I suppose what I mean is that the hard part was setting things in motion. Getting started. That was rough.

30. What was the last experience that made you a stronger person?

Asking for help with Egon’s surgery. That was incredibly difficult, too, but it was one of those experiences where I was so filled with gratitude and amazement that I think I really learned from it. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it, even if asking horrifies and embarrasses you. Also, people are remarkably kind and generous.

31. What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

My “fresh mouth” and sarcasm got me in trouble all the damned time. I know, it’s hard to imagine.

2012 in Photos

This year, I once again did Project366, in which I took (at least) one photograph per day all year long. This is something I’ve now been doing for three years — here are the photos from 2010 and 2011. What a strange and wonderful thing, to record life this way. If I wonder what I was ding on any given day from January 1, 2010 through today, I can find out. The entire 2012 set here, or will be, once I add the last couple of images.

This year, I relied more on my phone than I ever have before, which is why so many of these are Instagram images. I am rethinking if/how I’ll participate in a daily photo challenge for 2013. On one hand, the best camera is the one you have with you, and I’m less inclined lately to carry my Nikon everywhere with me. On the other hand, you can’t argue with the fact that the Nikon’s pictures are about forty-seven times nicer than the iPhone’s. Hmmm. At any rate, here are twelve photos from the project, one per month. I chose one that either was representative of that month as I remember it, or just a pretty favorite.

[7/366] Eggs in a Basket
January – Eggs in a basket. Eating eggs was new for me this year.

[45/366] Red Velvet Cake Poppers
February – Red velvet cake truffles I made for a jerk on Valentine’s Day.

[71/366] Cycling
March – Cycling with my friends around Sanibel Island, Florida. Also, this
was the day I made a big, tough, good decision.

[112/366] Hurray for the Riffraff
April – Hurray for the Riffraff, a fun new band I saw at the Old 280
Boogie in Waverly, Alabama. It’s one of my favorite annual events here.

[151/366] Famous Egons (Censored)
May – Famous Egons. The team at the animal hospital gave Egon these pictures of famous Egons for his crate while he was recovering from surgery.

[155/366] BW Velos
June – Cycling with CW and the beginning of something great.

[192/366] Encore
July – Furthur in Alpharetta, Georgia. We had a wonderful time at the

[236/366] Just snacking on some grass on a sunny afternoon.
August – Egon chomping on some grass outside. He was back to his normal,
fabulous self. Plus wheels, of course.

[273/366] From the trail 5K
September – My acorn award for winning second in my age group at a trail 5K. My first ever age group placing and the first race back after months of PT.

[293/366] The Lumineers
October – The Lumineers in Atlanta. Another fun trip for CW and me.

[322/366] Wood Sculpture
November – Pretty leaves and a sculpture in downtown Chattanooga. A great
trip in a lot of ways.

[357/366] Buildings B&W
December – The farm in Iowa.

Year in Review: 2012

It’s time once again for the year’s end survey! Am I richer, thinner, and happier this year? Do I hate anyone? Read on and see.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

I went to physical therapy for a running injury, placed in my age group at a (very small) 5K, went to Iowa, tried cross-country skiing, taught a 90-person lecture course, asked the internet for help and received it, started taking care of a paraplegic dog, and made caramel.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I wrote: “For 2012: I’d like to keep working on that half marathon goal, ride my bike more regularly (whether for commuting or sport), continue work on the article, and try to make healthier eating more compatible with my relationship (i.e. not just eat whatever he’s eating).”

The half marathon goal was put on hold due to injury; I succeeded at riding my bike a lot more, together with my awesome cycling partner; I shelved one article in favor of working on a different one, which is sort of a success, I guess; and I mostly ate healthy food — although in the context of a different relationship.

For 2013, my goals are: keep cycling an active part of my life on my soon-to-be-acquired new road bike; train for another half marathon while avoiding injury; send out at least one article for publication; pay off at east 75% of the remaining dog surgery bills.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Two women in my work-friends circle both had new little ones this year. Very much cuteness.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. Thankful to be able to say this again.

5. What places did you visit?

The exciting new place to visit this year was of course Iowa, but I also spent a little time exploring Chattanooga and liked it a lot. The usual trips to Mississippi and Atlanta happened as well.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

Road bike, still. This year I finally started saving for it, so it’ll become a reality in early 2013. There’s usually something intangible that I feel needs to go here, too, like time or patience or balance, but this year I am feeling good about all that, so I’ll have to just make this a materialistic answer.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 11th – a tough decision that was also very easy

June 9th – a second first date (our first first date was two and a half years ago)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I’ll have to go with a professional achievement this year: being given a new format for a course and working with others to plan and design it, and then bringing it to fruition, mostly successfully, was a big part of my year. It was a challenge, an opportunity, and a huge learning experience.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I think the time between January 1 and March 11, when I was in a situation I knew was bad (knowing I was being lied to and suspecting I was being cheated on) and I waited to take any action to change it, was a bit of a failure. I told myself I was waiting to know for sure, but I was really just postponing the inevitable, and I shouldn’t have.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Only the stupid hip flexors that would not heal. And the mysterious haunted leg. I don’t think I ever really got sick this year, knock wood. Not even a cold. (Oh dear, I never should have typed that, should I? Shit.)

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I didn’t buy a lot this year. When Eegs had to go in for surgery in May, I went on a shopping hiatus that’s lasted for the rest of the year. I guess paying for his surgery (with my own funds + your donations) was my most important purchase.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My friends who helped me through a tough time this spring. The community of friends and strangers far and wide who helped me pay for Egon’s surgery. I’m so grateful for all that;  I really will never forget it.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Oh boy. Well, how about anyone who tries to tell me teachers should carry guns? How about that? I am a teacher and I will never carry a gun to work. I will never work in a school where guns are permitted. Not happening.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent, dog surgery bills, and some to savings (for summer living expenses when I don’t get paid and for a new bike)

15. What did you get really excited about?

A guy.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Either That Goyte Song (for the first half of the year) or That Lumineers Song (for the second half).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Happier by FAR
b) thinner or fatter? I think I’m about the same (I think this time last year I was also carrying a little “holiday weight,” just like Ross Geller)
c) richer or poorer? I got a small raise, so I’m technically richer, but with all the vet bills and socking so much away into savings, I feel poorer, with less “running around” money.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Running, although that was beyond my control. Academic writing (the new course took the place of that in my schedule).

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Nothing, really.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At my boyfriend’s family home in Iowa, with nine other people. We went to mass on Christmas Eve (they go at 7:00 pm instead of midnight) and then had a big meal. The next morning, it was breakfast and presents. I was the very lucky recipient of some generous gifts. We watched Lord of the Rings (over a few days). I got to talk to my family on the phone — they enjoyed the gifts and candy I sent their way.  All in all, a top-notch holiday.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?


22. What was your favorite TV program?

Mad Men was great this year, as is The Vampire Diaries. I’m also still really loving Parks and Rec. CW and I are re-watching Friday Night Lights, and I’m reminded again of how stinking fabulous it is. I also re-watched all of Buffy earlier this year. That show cannot be beat. Cannot.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Not…really. I don’t want to have room for hate in my heart.

24. What was the best book you read?

The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. Fantastic. A campus novel with wonderful characters, and baseball! I’m finishing up Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving right now and loving the hell out of it, too.

25. What music did you get excited about?

The Lumineers, Furthur and The Grateful Dead (oldies but goodies of course), and in the last month or two, I’ve been addicted to Of Monsters and Men.

26. What did you want and get?

The one who got away. Snow at Christmas. A happy and healthy dog.

27. What did you want and not get?

A year of injury-free running. A new bike.  Zero credit card debt.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Movies I saw in the theater: The Avengers, Cabin in the Woods, The Hunger Games, Breaking Dawn 2, Skyfall, The Hobbit, The Five Year Engagement, Moonrise Kingdom, Magic Mike, The Dark Knight Rises, The Bourne Legacy, Looper. 

Magic Mike was the worst of the worst (how could a movie about male strippers be so boring?!) and Looper was kind of mediocre in retrospect (though exciting at the time). The best of the best? I’m not sure. Of all these, the ones I really want to see again are Cabin in the Woods, The Hobbit, Moonrise Kingdom, and Breaking Dawn 2. That movie was so much better than the book. OH YEAH, I SAID IT.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I went for a run, got a manicure & pedicure with my friend, and had cocktails and dinner with my boyfriend. It was a great day. I turned 35 this year.

30. What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?

I’m not sure. I’m satisfied already. I’m tempted to say something snarky like “revenge,” but when it comes down to it, the best revenge really is living well. If somebody screws you over, the best thing you can really do is just go right out and get happy again. So my year has been pretty damn satisfying in that respect.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

This year, in the fall especially, I’ve been trying to dress more professionally at work and not repeat so many of the same outfits. I did a series of photo posts on that here and then eventually started a tumblr for just that purpose. I think it involved a lot of cardigans, trousers, pencil skirts, belted dresses, and (when the weather got cool enough) blazers and boots.

32. What kept you sane?

Good, supportive friends both online and off; a boyfriend who makes me laugh and whom I could talk to about work stress (among countless other things); twitter and blogging.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Coach Taylor. (Both the Academic version and the TV version)

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The election was big. Guns and schools are big. Look, I’ve already brought this up ONCE and I don’t want to get all stirred up AGAIN, so let’s just leave it there.

35. Whom did you miss?

My far-away friends, as always. My two BFFs from college are both having big years, with big things going on, and I’d have liked to be around and be there for/with them more this year.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I haven’t met any significant new people in my day-to-day life in Auburn. Of course, there are the usual nice new colleagues who join us every year, but no one I’ve become close to yet. Can I say “everyone in Iowa” for this question? I’m hoping the Iowa people will be part of my life for a good long while.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

The value of trust really can’t be overstated. And, of course, as every year: qui patitur vincit.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

If everything we are is real
Our memories are attics in those houses on the hill
Our love is there above us holding everything so still
And we are always here, yes, we are always here

So follow the lights that line the streets
Connecting telephones
Follow the lights from house to house
And they will lead you home

They will lead you home
‘Cause there was never anywhere to go
There was never anywhere to go
There was never anywhere to go
But home, home

(Ryan Adams, “Follow the Lights”)

Giving Thanks

I’m full of gratitude this year, in ways I haven’t had the chance to be before. It’s been an interesting year, for sure. Twenty-twelve started out with a slew of no-good, stupid, vexing shit, but hot damn has it turned around! The last six months have been downright wonderful.

[200/366] Exploring

Sweet Guy.Posing

[164/366] One Happy Dog

One thing I am thankful for on a daily basis is that in May, when Egon had his second disc rupture and needed a $5,000 surgery, friends, family, and strangers from the internet gave me and Eegs the support we needed to get it done. I am still amazed by all that warmth and generosity — it changed both our lives. While the operation did not give Egon the use of his back legs again, it did likely save his life. The ruptured disc had already caused softening and deterioration of his spinal cord by the time he went into surgery, and he was lucky to recover without it spreading and becoming fatal. I am so thankful that he got the help he needed, that he made it through surgery and recovery, and that he and I have now adjusted to his new care and routine. We’re both as happy as ever.

[288/366] Baby Jades.[286/366] Habanero from last night's tacos.

[155/366] BW Velos

I’m also incredibly thankful for the series of events and small moments that led me and my boyfriend together. I started the year in a relationship that was basically an illusion, precariously held together by a bunch of lies. Getting out of it (or finally deciding to, I suppose) was an ugly experience. It was hard to take action and for a while I felt paralyzed. I suppose the painful process of removing things from your life that aren’t working is, if viewed differently, also the process of creating fertile space in your life for new things to grow. Either way, it isn’t easy, but it is of course worth the trouble. Thank goodness I did! Now I just find myself full of happiness and excitement; I feel grateful and lucky and confident. The sense of wonder I felt when I wrote this hasn’t left me. Having a person in my life whom I trust without question is something I appreciate every single day.

Campus.Eegs was just chillin' with me before school. Wish I could've stayed home and hung out with him, but SOMEBODY has got to pay the bills around here!.[252/366] To the Moon.Where the Magic Happens, Part I..Hotel system down and we can't check in yet. Not a problem when the bar has Basil Hayden.. [306/366] Sunbeam Dog.Breakfast. Poem I'm currently obsessed with (from Poetry, January 1939).[235/366] Representing.Lounging.[209/366] Permission to Run.[204/366] My cute new mug.[176/366] Sunday Bike Ride.More amazing cherry tomatoes from my plant!.[192/366] Encore.Loving life right now..Reading material.[77/366] Ready for the Party.[181/366] More Edna.Flowers (the green ones are my favorites).Hey, short guy.

I am also, as always, thankful for good friends, family, challenging work, coffee, health, running, good food, bourbon, books, biking, champagne, flowers, television, and poems.

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is lovely, friends!


I am carving out space. My life is incredibly full right now in mostly wonderful ways, but I still feel there is not quite enough space for me to breathe sometimes. This may be what I was getting at when I wrote about The Bartlebys last week — that feeling where I would prefer not to do much of anything when I walk in the door at the end of the day. I feel like the time I might spend doing any one of a number of things for myself is being wasted, frittered away on the couch as I recover from my day and stubbornly insist on doing nothing.

In an effort to stamp out this case of The Bartlebys, I am trying a two-front attack. First, I am trying to do something different with the first hour after I get home from work. Instead of sinking onto the couch to snack and/or nap (let’s face it; it’s usually “and,” not “or”), I am trying to take some time to do something active, like my physical therapy exercises, walking the dog, or going for a run. It’s simple how much better this always makes me feel. Today, instead of a morning run, I slept an extra hour and ran after work, during the time I usually fall half comatose and stare at the wall. The schedule switch seemed to work well in terms of my energy and it was absolutely gorgeous to be out, crunching through the leaves. Could I be changing over to evening running? SHOCKING! And just in time for Daylight Saving Time to end, of course, so I may be in the market for a reflective vest if I want to continue evening runs when the sun starts going down at 4:30. (HOLD ME.)

[303/366] SidewalkThe second attack front is on social media. I spend far too much time checking and rechecking Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, Instagram, Tumblr, and even Pinterest. Then, once I’ve determined that there’s no new content on any of those platforms, I still cannot be stopped. I will find some way to click mindlessly around the internet, no matter how useless it may be. I’m not sure how to break completely out of this pattern, but I am starting by just cutting down on all the people and blogs I follow. I’ve cleaned up my Twitter and Google Reader lists, trying to unsubscribe from all the content I’ve been scrolling past or “marking as read” without actually reading. At this point, I’m simply making changes that reflect what I was already reading or not reading, but it should make the process of getting through several hours of unread posts much more efficient. I also need to clean out all of the feeds I follow but don’t really interact with or learn from, the businesses and fan pages I “liked” on Facebook just to be nice but that I don’t actually care about, and the people I am only following so I can darkly mutter about the ways they’ve just offended me in their most recent posts. (Please tell me you do this, too.) (And if you are reading this post, there’s essentially no way I’m talking about you, I promise.) It’s an ongoing process, but I hope it will help. Next, I need to think about limiting either the amount of time or the times per day I am online mindlessly refreshing or clicking.

I’d like to open up some space in my life for a few things I’ve been missing and longing for: leisure reading, academic writing, creative writing, blogging, photography. I don’t want to bounce from work to nap to social life to sleep to exercise to work again without doing some of my own things — the creative solo things that make me who I am outside of work and relationships. My work and my relationships (both romance and friendships) are incredibly important to me and sit high on my priorities list, but browsing women’s fashion on Pinterest? Following other people’s workouts on Dailymile? Interacting in any way with anyone who qualifies as a frenemy, trainwreck, spectacle, or other source of Schadenfreude? No, not so much. So if I’m looking to carve out more personal time, it’s the random internet hours that will have to go. Maybe by cutting out some of this nonsense, I can actually make better use of the (hopefully smaller amount of ) time I do spend online. It’ll take some thought and effort, but there’s no way it won’t be worth it.

Three Things

1. I am registered for a 5K trail race a week from Saturday. It’ll be my first race since I finished this round of PT, and the first one this year in which I expect to be able to run the entire distance. (The last 5K race I did involved a run/walk strategy as I was still in the middle of my first round of PT). I’m pretty excited to be back out and racing again, even though I won’t be able to really race the distance — I plan to just run at a steady pace, exert myself as much as I can, and stay out of the way of other runners. I’m not particularly graceful on trails and it’s been a while since I last ran anywhere other than the road or sidewalk, so I’ll try not to wipe out. My race plan: have a good time!

[254/366] Pretty Skies on Campus

2. I mentioned recently that I’ve been feeling harried and disorganized, and I’m sorry to say that the feeling persists. I am constantly monitoring my to-do lists (yes, lists plural; I have several going at a time; I like lists) and yet I have been unable to shake the feeling that I’m forgetting something. Is it work-related? Something for teaching or for a committee? Did I miss a meeting? Have I neglected to get in touch with a friend, answer a text or email? Or am I forgetting a social engagement on my calendar? I even wake up from sleep with the feeling of alarm that accompanies remembering something you forgot to do, only I can’t remember what it is my brain thinks I forgot. It’s not a severe, constant problem, but rather a nagging undercurrent of anxiety. I think it’s partly to do with my new schedule and responsibilities at work plus the typical onslaught of functions, parties, and get-togethers that happens at the beginning of every new semester. I’m working on methods to keep myself on top of it all, including shifting to a paper planner instead of relying on iCal, which I never remember to check or edit. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe it’ll all shake out soon. Otherwise, do y’all have any suggestions?

[259/366] Vertigo

3. Last weekend I attended my second football game since I’ve been working here. It was, unfortunately, the second time I haven’t been able to see a real marching band halftime show. As a former marching band person (and a person who can only muster, at best, a tiny handful of interest in football itself), I strenuously object! Both games involved special guests playing with the university band — the alumni band at a homecoming game and a high-school honors band last week — which meant they all stood in a giant square and played some bullshit nonsense songs and then marched off the field. Example: “Moves Like Jagger.” You have GOT to be kidding me. I have sat through two entire football games here and seen precisely zero marching band shows. This cannot stand. Unfortunately, however, I think I probably won’t be heading back for any more games this season: my friends have seats in the upper decks, like three rows from the very top, and my vertigo makes it impossible to sit there without praying for death. (Seriously, I was so proud of myself for sticking it out and I thought, “Wow, I’ve made it almost halfway through this game without vomiting,” and then I looked at the clock and realized we were only 8 minutes into the first quarter.) And, an obviously more pressing matter: they don’t sell beer at college stadiums.