Friday 27 May 2016

7 Quick Takes 32: Geriatric Mother: One Year On

Apparently I have survived a year. At least, I know the baby's a year old. I have trouble remembering my exact age. A few reflections, a little rambling due to #6.

The birthday boy already knows how to take selfies.
Not the best photo, but it shows nicely the chaos
 that went into baking a handful of cupcakes.

1. Most people kindly said, "It'll give you a new lease of life." Only one friend at church, who started having children at thirty-nine, said, "Don't believe them. I was exhausted." And... she was right. You out there in your early thirties, with several small children. Think you're exhausted? You're frisking about like Bambi. Me, I'm more like Bambi's father. 'Nuff said.

Young parents: your life is like you fart butterflies. (I didn't say that out loud, did I?)

2. What having children late does do is slow down time. The cliche that the years go by faster and faster was getting more and more true - but now, it seems a lifetime ago that I was counting down the half dozen years to an empty nest and plotting what to do with my future. Instead of years, I now count my hours playing, strolling, rocking; instead of huddling in my own little bubble, I watch the universe unfold through a baby's eyes. That, and plotting how to use pension funds to pay for his college :)

3. I don't have to waste time reading child care manuals. We just follow the baby's lead and trust we'll recall enough to get by. My mantra is "Out eldest is studying Mathematics at MIT; I must know how to bring up children." Or create mentally scarred mathematicians. But many of the best mathematicians are mentally unstable, so.. ahem, on to the next one.

4. One thing I have learned without cracking open a book is that there is a reason "boys" rhymes with "noise". His love of noise is incredible. When our contractors were running a compressor for their nail gun, he yelled along. Getting out the vacuum cleaner is party time. He shouts randomly just for the fun of it.

5. Less is more. Apart from socks and a couple of books, I've bought no new clothes or toys, but, thanks to the cats, our home is full of enriching activities like anatomy (whatever half-eaten animal the cats leave on the rug) or a second language (from meowing to hairball coughing, the baby's cat is fluent), and adventures in nutrition (hello, cat food).

6. I know what full-blown mastitis is. Got it the day after he turned one this past weekend - it went from pain to fever and chills in about 30 minutes. Luckily, I nipped the worst of it it in the bud, but I've still had to spend a lot of time sitting on the sofa. And just when I was going to spend the week tackling all the chicken coop/yard jobs I'd left undone for months. Oh, darn.

7. You can still achieve your lifelong ambitions. I've had a copy of Moby Dick sitting on my shelf for about twenty-five years because I know I ought to read it, but it's about whaling and I'm a vegetarian. Enter... Cozy Classics. Classic books with felted illustrations, in twelve words. Who needs hundreds of pages describing the whaling industry when you can have:

Come to think of it, that's pretty much a metaphor for the past year.

My husband says he's still having trouble following the twelve-word plot of Jane Eyre, though.

For more quick takes, hop on over like Thumper to Kelly's at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Friday 13 May 2016

7 Quick Takes 31: Things I Wish I'd Told My Students

Because it's over! Not just finals, but the job. Time to regroup, reclaim our family life, and then on to pastures new. And a few reflections on things I ought to have said in class: the good, the bad, and the ugly...

1. I know I look pretty old standing up here (because, unlike most of your mothers, I don't dye my hair and wear make up), but I really remember being your age, and I really, really feel compassion for you. It's just, I have to be your teacher, not your friend.

Me in class on a good day...

2. I get much more excited about the student who struggles his way from a D to a C (or even B!) than the know-it-all who breezes through with his A. OK, I try to say this on occasion, but I doubt they believe it.

3. Just hand me the exams and let's all go home. There are usually two types who stay for the whole university-appointed three hours: the over diligent who already have a solid A, and the desperate who aren't going to pull their grade up at the eleventh hour. The air conditioning's been going full blast and I'm freezing, I've read exams until my brain has given out, I've scrolled through Facebook ten times, I'm dying for a cup of tea. It's painful to watch you scribbling against the clock - let's take pity on one another and call it a day.

4. Please cover up that cleavage. Here's a poncho I have just for the purpose. I never had any problem telling guys to hitch up their trousers and not flash everyone their underwear, but there's all this baggage attached to requesting that girls have a certain minimum dress code: you're suggesting they're asking to be assaulted, that they can be labelled for what they wear, that their body isn't their own, that it's always the other person's problem if they cause distraction, and so on, and so on.  No, I just want a level of attire that shows both respect for everyone in class and suggests you are learning how to dress and act for the occasion. That, incidentally, is why I also ban swearing and blasphemy - and told a student not to wear a baseball camp with "f**k Trump" written on it.

Now that creates a proper learning environment.

5. I'll say this only once. I never dared say anything less than three times - and maybe that wasn't enough for some. Maybe saying it once would have trained them better.

6. Whine all you like. I've given in my notice and got an exit letter of recommendation from my department head - and he's retiring and moving to Wyoming. Burn. A very small, naughty part of me longed for a student to make a complaint so I could say this :)

7. And finally, I really, really wish I had said this:

For more life lessons in seven digestible bites, hop on over to This Ain't the Lyceum.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Book Review: Rethinking Women's Health: A Guide for Wellness

When I first moved to Starkville, MS, there wasn't much here. A handful of restaurants, three grocery stores, none large. Certainly no health foods - I had to join a cooperative that bought from a business in the Ozarks. Slowly, resources for health and wellness are growing: a large health food and bulk section in Kroger, a summer farmer's market, a CSA buying club - and Alison Buehler.

Alison lives a couple of miles down the road from me, in the Homestead Education Center, where she and her family have founded a way of life they share with others. As well as offering classes in health and homesteading, she's worked hard to attract nationally-known figures such as Sandor Katz and Glennon Melton (of Momastery fame) to Starkvegas (local joke).  I don't get out to her programs as often as I would like, so, when I saw in her newsletter that she was offering a year's membership for those who pre-ordered her book, I thought I had nothing to lose and might just give myself the nudge I needed to take advantage of what's on offer almost on my doorstep. So any bribery involved in this review is by me to myself ;)

The book is divided into three main sections: maiden, mother, and wise elder. Each is part manifesto, part resource, and part memoir of Alison and her family's journey into health. Alison begins by setting out her passionate vision for how we as a society might better manage each stage of life. She then moves into a survey of current options for health issues related to these stages, with an extensive bibliography for further reading. Alison is trained as a qualitative researcher (among many talents!), and applies it to women's health, looking for places where data, stories, and observations point to the same solutions. Not only has she trawled the latest information to bring solutions to women's health problems, but she models a research process that everyone can use in their own health plan. All this aside, I find Alison's voice at her best when she is sharing her personal story, illustrating her belief that stories themselves have the power to heal.

Published by Mississippi press, Sartoris, the book has a regional feel, speaking to a state that badly needs to focus on health issues. [Side bar: as I found out when I was pregnant, there isn't a single birthing center in Mississippi.] Yet the message is national. If you're looking for resources, inspiration, or affirmation that you are not alone in your struggle to achieve wellness, Rethinking Women's Health is for you.

Looking for more? Connect with Alison on her site The Healing Wall or the Homestead Education Center.