Thursday, January 12, 2017

You've come a long way, baby. Well, a little way. Well, a teensie, weensie way.

Let me rant a little bit about the “S” word. Conservatives think it’s nonsense, and we liberals like to think we’ve risen (or are actively rising) above it. I mean SEXISM, of course.

Some sexism is so overt it’s beating us all over the head with a 2x4. Girls’ toys vs. boys’ toys. Dresses vs. pants. High heels. Makeup. Hair products. And on and on…

Consider the election. We’re so afraid of women, or we have so little regard and respect for them, that we’ll take a nutbag, egomanaicle, child-raping lunatic over a woman. We hem & haw and blame it on the Russians, Hillary’s failed campaign, the FBI, the disenfranchised & ignored working class, blahblahblahblah, but someone finally had the balls to call it what it is: SEXISM ( Because people squirm at the thought of a “lady” running the show. Gawd, she’ll make us all pack Kleenex and button our coats. And then she'll have a period!

Or take equal pay, for example. COME ON! This is 2017! Seriously?!? Anyone, I mean absolutely ANYONE, who thinks that women earning 21.4% LESS than men doing the same job with the same qualifications & experience is justified, is a SEXIST PIG (Ouch. Hope that stings.).

But the most insidious kind of sexism is deep inside, like a slow-growing, non-fatal cancer. We look just fine on the outside, but inside, the cancer is self-replicating, eating away at us, and keeping us weak, but just so’s it’s barely noticeable. It’s so deep in our blood that maybe only a good leeching will finally leach (bwahaha) it out.

You’ve felt this undercurrent of sexism: Men are assertive, aggressive, determined, forthright. Women are pushy, bitchy, negative, bossy. Athletes (understood to be male) vs. female athletes. Musicians (understood to be male) vs. female musicians. Grrrr.

Or take, for example, domestic partnerships. I’m of a generation spawned in the 50’s and 60’s. We were all about that fight-against-The Man, anti-establishment, free love, braless, progressive thought mumbo-jumbo. Until we settled. Suddenly, here we are, living a life so close to the goll-dern Cleavers it’ll make your hippie head spin. We women may not be scrubbing in shirt-waist dresses and pearls, but we’re still doing most of the scrubbing. 

Even in the most enlightened households, those replicating cancer cells drive men OUTSIDE (shoveling, garbage, car maintenance, tree-trimming, mowing, etc.), and keep women INSIDE (cleaning, cooking, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, baking, and most importantly, child-rearing). Men are workers and adventurers; women (even if they work full-fricking-time outside the home) are domestics. Even in “egalitarian” households where partners “share” duties, you can usually find OUTSIDE/INSIDE residuals. We chalk up the differences or imbalance to differing interests, talents, time, or whatever, but at its root—in the blood—it’s that same old SEXISM that we just keep passing along, from one generation to the next.

Or here’s another one. I teach college English. Not only is there still a gender pay gap in higher ed (, men also still hold most of the higher paying faculty and administrative positions, something called the “representation gap.” I don’t know that anyone’s come up with a satisfactory (or any) explanation for this, but I have one: my School Marm theory.

My theory goes like this: women who teach are school marms. They wear dresses or casual clothes, because they aren’t really doing any serious work beyond readin’ and writin’. They’re just keeping busy until that man comes along to marry them and take them INSIDE, where they belong. They’re nurturing babysitters, minding society’s brood. Men who teach, however, are professors. They’re intellectuals. They stimulate and challenge and mold the next generation of professors (if the future marms learn a little something along the way, well isn’t that just darling). Professors wear ties and suit jackets and pressed pants, but if they wear jeans and dirty 90’s band t-shirts, that’s okay too because they’re quirky, rogueish, temperamental, or flawed. And they’re just so darned brainy they can’t help it. And boys will be boys.

In higher ed, we like to think we’re well beyond School Marm. But she’s alive and well, not just in disparities in pay and representation, but also in student evaluations ( Students take male teachers more seriously. School Marm, like Caveman dragging Cavewoman around by her hair, is so deep in our blood that it skews our perceptions and values. We don’t VALUE female teachers as much as male teachers. (In some states we just don’t value teaching. Period.) I’ve seen parents completely delighted to find that their kids have a male elementary teacher. We EXPECT elementary teachers to be women, and a male teacher will be “better for the kids” (I’ve actually heard this), tougher, more serious, etc.

Here’s another one. I have a dear friend who’s a retired pastor. Churches, of course, are bastions of sexism. I won’t even discuss the Catholic church’s spreading “cancer” of institutionalized patriarchy, and I LOVE the Catholic church…the ritual, the mystery, the sanctuary of it all.

Even in other churches, where women CAN be clergy, sexism still has a good hold. Male pastors are leaders of the church, God’s right hand, mediators between God and Man (not so much between God and women, because any male pastor will tell you, women should be busy singing in the choir, supervising the Nursery, or setting up coffee in Fellowship Hall). Male pastors HAVE authority. They SPEAK to God and know God’s intentions. God wants you to hold firm! Cling to the rock! Female pastors, on the other hand, are motherly, counselors, nurturers, patters-on-back-ers. They APPEAL to authority (God’s, The Book’s, the bishop’s, the synod’s, etc.). There, there, there. God loves you, and so do I.

Sadly, I don’t have a solution for any of this other than my leech idea, which isn’t likely to be popular. And I’m really weary. At 60, I’m tired of raising the same red flag over and over (nagging…another “woman” thing). I’m tired of all the excusing and cover-up and pretending. I’m tired of a man who does dishes once in a while thinking he’s enlightened and has “liberated” some poor woman. In some ways, I’d prefer the caveman days, where there’s no pretense of equality. Just drag home a stegosaurus, baby, and I’ll cook ‘er up for you. But you might want to remember, women who cook MAKE FIRE.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fasten your seatbelts...

The new semester starts Monday, and I might actually be…READY!! It’s a scary thought, me being ready for something, but I think I have Donald Trump, aka Voldemort, to thank. I think I’ve actually thrown myself into semester prep in order to avoid thinking about a world where Voldemort could actually become president. It’s like a horror/sitcom pilot so bizarre even Rod Serling wouldn’t bite.

In spite of my avoidance, I know I’m still shaken to the core by the election disaster. I know because I accidentally deleted the past THREE YEARS of this blog; I know because I’m looking seriously at Mexican retirement spots; I know because I’m stockpiling dehydrated food; I know because I will no longer laugh off, ignore, or tolerate ANYTHING I’m asked to chalk up to “boys will be boys” or “locker room.”

I am a diehard, unashamed liberal, but I have many Republican friends (and family members). I can coexist with Republicans, many of whom are just as perplexed and disillusioned, and who are about to be royally screwed by their own party. But I will not, any more, be friends with anyone who tries to justify, excuse, or explain away Voldemort’s comments or behavior, his kissing of Putin arse, nor the sexual assault and harassment charges brought against him by so many frightened, humiliated women (and a 13-year-old girl). I will not listen anymore to Republican red-herring redirections to Bill or Hillary, while Voldemort assaults or bullies another individual, group, or country. He may hold power for the next four years or until he’s impeached, but he is not, and never will be, my president. 

I hope the folks who say we have to hit rock bottom before real change can happen are right. Because Voldemort will surely take us as far down as we’ve ever been. In the meantime, I will madly (yep, both meanings) prep for classes, dehydrate some more kale, knit, and as my mother taught me, hum “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The End [of Summer] is Near!

yellow tomatoes and basil
more tomatoes, and jalapenos to stuff
Apparently, Ray and I are prepping for the End Times.

This thought occurs to me as I look over some of the un-done chores on today’s to-do list (lesson-planning and grading are a given on EVERY list, so I never need to write them down):

(1) find space for another 14 quarts of canned tomatoes in the pantry;
butterflies are stocking up, too
(2) inventory and rearrange items in two freezers (one small chest freezer is full to the brim with parrot food and gooseberries), to see if we need a third small freezer for the 50 lbs. of local grass-fed beef we’re picking up this weekend;
(3) roast a bucket of Roma tomatoes and blend them into sauce for the freezer (see #2); and

Just in time for my first enormous pile of papers to grade, our garden is easing up. The cuke vines are dying back, and the acorn squash is hardening. There are still plenty of tomatoes out there, and today’s high 80’s should help them ripen. I’ve already put up enough pesto and basil cubes ( to supply the Upper Midwest for the winter, but it keeps coming, so I’ll have to dry some this weekend. I hope to get one more big meal of cream cheese and venison stuffed jalapenos before the peppers are done. And the guy with the amazing grass-fed lamb will be at the farmer’s market tomorrow—what’s a crazy [food] prepper girl to do?

we'll soon be knee-deep in these
roasted veggies to blend into sauce
Except for a brief warm up today, the weather here at the Row has been coolish and damp, in the 60’s. Soybean fields are yellowing, the apples are ripe, and our honey locust tree is a gorgeous disaster of a bajillion pods. These subtle signals trigger obsessive gathering and “putting by” here on the SoDakian tundra, because there’s only one thing prairie folk truly trust, and that’s a full larder. By the time we get our first whiff of autumn—a mixture of late-lingering dew, turned earth from a farmer’s early harvest, smoke from someone’s first wood-stove fire, and a delicious hint of decay—we’re already tacking plastic on the windows. We’re stockpiling canned tomatoes and Colorado peaches, Trader Joe’s mixed nuts, CafĂ© Altura Italian Roast beans, crossword puzzles, longjohns, and good toilet paper. We’re hanging the down jackets on the line to air.

It’s survival, plain & simple. These signs of brief, beautiful autumn remind us that we’ve been living in the Happy Bubble since last May. But it can’t last. Winter is just out of sight, waiting, with his pointy little icicle.

pickled whatever's-still-growing
we could live on peaches
Ray & I aren’t prepping to the point where we’re putting up rooftop sniper perches or razor wire, but I WILL rearrange the venison and coffee beans in the freezer today. And we’ll need a few more wool hats and fingerless gloves in the 30-gallon Rubbermaid tub o’ knitted outerwear.  And maybe I’ll haul some wood up to the back porch. But right now, while the low-carb venison chili is simmering in the crockpot, I’ll take a nap. Because if the End Times are coming, I need to rest up.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Grandma's Manifesto

My baby daughter.
Ray and I have four kids—his oldest son, my son and daughter, and our youngest son. Ray’s oldest claims to be a confirmed bachelor, though I’m not giving up yet. I’m trusting the Universe to blindside him with his true love, though it will be just fine if he ultimately chooses bachelorhood. My oldest son gave us grandkids #1 and #2, 15-year-old granddaughter and 13-year-old grandson. My daughter gave us #3, 3-year-old grandson. Our #4 (our daughter’s) is due any second, and #5 (our youngest son’s first) is due next week. Both new babies are supposedly girls, though I won’t be completely convinced till they’re here. (Clearly, the children weren’t thinking of ME when they timed these births to coincide with the start of Semester’s rampage.)

I don’t know if I was distracted, or blinked, or turned my head for a moment, but suddenly, my babies started having babies. It’s the greatest gift I can imagine to watch our children turn into wise and loving parents. But they’re still my kids, by gum, and they don’t know EVERYTHING yet. So, I’m offering a few things passed down to me by my mother, that I tried (and still try) to pass along to them, and that I’d like them to pass along to our grandchildren:

My baby daughter's newest baby.
1.     As long as you’re not cooking meth, turning tricks, running guns, selling stuffed jackalopes at Wall Drug, or otherwise bringing harm to yourself or others, it doesn’t matter what you do to make a living. It only matters who you are.
2.     Only fresh-ground organic Sumatran beans brewed in a Chemex pot qualify as real coffee.
3.     Sarcasm is NOT the same as humor. Learn the difference. Sarcasm is a defense mechanism that often just makes you mean. But a sense of humor will save your life, over and over and over.
4.     Money does NOT “make the world go ‘round.” Angular momentum does.
5.     Of all the desirable human traits you can develop—intelligence, sincerity, integrity, honesty, etc.—COMPASSION (empathy for the suffering of others) is the most important. In fact, none of the rest matters without compassion.
6.     Folks will try to tell you about “sin” or money being the root of all evil, but in truth, the only devil is SUGAR.
7.     If I die today, not a soul will remember how well I taught restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. They will only remember what kind of human being I am. Don’t get stuck thinking you ARE what you DO (see #1).
Our baby son, with his oldest brother.
8.     Sometimes, your heart will feel like it’s breaking. This is not the end. Sadness can be beautiful, too. Broken hearts remind you that you’re a good and decent human being. If your heart never breaks, THEN you should worry.
9.     Sing every day. Dance often. Always have at least two books going. Write letters and mail them. Stop texting and TALK to people. Learn to make a good pie crust.
10.   Love whomever you want. As long as they’re of consenting age and not your immediate family (we want MOVING water in the gene pool), don’t worry about what others think. And don’t be a doormat—you deserve to be loved back and treated well.
11.   Be nice to your parents. They’re humans, too. They’ve been through a lot.
12.   There are a few things in life you should NEVER skimp on: socks, shoes, coffee, cheese, and toilet paper.
13.   FAMILY comes first. Before boyfriends. Before girlfriends. Before parties or concerts or sleepovers or shopping. FAMILY comes first.
14.   TV and videogames probably won’t hurt you. But they won’t help you, either.
15.   This planet is a wondrous, miraculous, generous, fierce, gently rocking cradle. It can bring you to your knees. It can make you weep with joy. It can take your breath away. See as much of it as you can. And PLEASE take good care of it.

Our baby son and his new baby.
And finally, if you hear conflicting advice (even from your parents, because I’m still their mother, dangit), remember: always trust Grandma.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Paleo Procrastinator

Semester turns my dining room table into an office.
I cannot believe Semester is already circling me like the rabid hyena he is. Classes start Monday, and not only am I not ready, I’m already way behind. This will be my first semester back full time since BS, and while I had good intentions of prepping non-stop over the summer, I mostly recuperated from last spring’s half-time semester and continued my post-stroke recovery. 

I’m headed back to class with a sharp mind (though my brain’s processing speed is definitely slower and has occasional momentary “brown-outs”), impaired short-term memory (I now make notes for everything), some vocal damage that gives me a hushed, breathy, sometimes croaky voice, and a body that is clumsier, slightly off-balance, and easily fatigued. I will sit down to teach this semester, though I am, by nature, a pacer.
Parmesan "crackers" with tuna.

Mini cheesecakes are saving my life.
I’ll be teaching one combined composition/remedial writing class and two intro to literature classes, and I’ll serve as the fearless leader for the U’s literary & creative writing student organization, the Vermillion Literary Project (VLP - In all-day meetings yesterday, I was introduced to two more (as-yet non-functional) crumpled wads of confusing technology I’ll be required to use, which doesn’t do a thing for my ballooning pre-semester anxiety, and which will probably leave me no time to actually TEACH.

Tuna salad lettuce wraps.
So am I madly prepping today? Yes and no. Because just in case I’m not torturing myself quite enough with pre-semester jitters, I’ve also been on a no-carb diet for almost three weeks. I’m eating so much meat, poultry and fish, I’m developing fangs & fur. I’d rather starve than eat one more Brussels sprout (which I used to love). I love, follow, and admire every low-carb blogger out there, like they were my children. I eat things called “fat bombs.” I’ve nixed bread, pasta, rice, noodles, potatoes, and anything sweet that isn’t made with stevia. I hope I don’t accidentally eat my students.

My friend, sister-in-law, and niece are also doing no-carb, so we commiserate and trade recipes. My favorites so far are these:

My new hangout.
As if to thumb his nose at me even more, Semester is arriving with 92-degree temps, after a long stretch of too-cold-for-the-beach days, as if to say, “Here’s your summer at last. Now get to work.” Okay, fine. I’ll whip up a little tuna salad on a lettuce leaf wraps, then I promise I’ll finish that homework schedule and update the VLP promo materials. Or I’ll take a nap. Or I’ll knit. Or I'll blog. Or I’ll write a poem…about sugar & Doritos.