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December 2009

random thoughts on the end of the decade

DreamingMoiHmm, it's been an interesting 10 years. In just about 6 months, I turn 50 and it seems to be making me a little philosophical in my old age. The last 10 years have been, in comparison to, say, my 30s, really good personally, despite some things most people would call tragedies but that I've come to see as either life stages or just ordinary events. I think I've grown and changed more in roughly the last decade than I have in the first 40, with the possible exception of childhood, when pretty much every human being grows and changes exponentially. It's not that I've gained so much more knowledge (though I hope I never stop learning new things), but that I've figured out what to do with what I already know, emotionally and otherwise.

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sing the sun back again

SnowbunnyMoiWinter's here. Tonight's the longest night of the year, or today's the shortest day, whichever sounds better to you. Personally, I'm okay with long nights, being a night owl, but I know some people dread this time of year and suffer from the lack of sunlight. I'm not one of them, though I find the older I get, the more disheartening it was to get up before dawn and come home after sunset. I think that had more to do with work being what it was than with lack of sunlight though. And we've been graced with snow this year, lots of it, though not as much as I'd hoped. The Bronx only got 6 of the maximum 27 inches possible in the area, but it's still on the grass and in piles along the edges of the sidewalk. The air is crisp, cold and fresh and it makes me happy. Happily, I have the cold-weather clothing for it.

I've spent the day working on a PowerPoint for class tomorrow, and weaseling out of grading their midterms (three more weeks of classes when we come back in January, so I don't feel too guilty about it). I'm going to Eva's (appropriately enough, even though she's an ecumenical Jew) for Christmas Eve, to watch Babylon 5 and eat bagels and lox with her and Vinnie and Roz. I'm bringing along the infamous chocolate whiskey cake too. Hopefully it won't stick to the pan this time. Maybe I'll get a chance to decorate it too. The pan I make it in is a giant daisy and this cake'd make an awesome black-eyed susan. And that's appropriate for the season too: a Day's Eye cake, i.e., a sun cake.

I've got Loreena McKennit, Clanaad, Paul Machlis, Iron and Wine, Alastair Fraser and various Celts on the CD player. Maybe I'll light some candles tonight, while I'm roasting poor man's winter veggies (spuds, parsnips, turnips) for stew, and have a nice dark beer to celebrate the season. I've still got to make my New Year's card, but that's going to have to wait until break. They might be a bit late this year. Maybe some year I'll get them sent out by the real solstice. In the meanwhile, this (a solstice blessing gakked from one of my LJ/fandom pals) will have to suffice:

IMG_2377 Shed away your tired old coats my darlings.
Shed the tears
that tear you from within.
Like a snake
who has outgrown her skin,
writhe and scrape
until the dull old scales
fall away.

Slough off the remnants
of your worn-out self.
Peel away the layers
that no longer suit you,
that constrict you,
so a shiny,
lissome you

Glide effortlessly
into the new year

Enter your new beginning
with grace,
warm, bright, glistening,

Winter Solstice Blessing by Stacy Anne Murphy

A h-uile la sona dhuibh 's gun la idir dona dhuibh, my friends!

May all your days be happy ones!

teaspoons and awakenings

Badgirl MoiAs I mentioned before, this has been a hellish semester, crammed with classes. My two writing labs just ended and I was looking forward to sleeping in on Wednesdays again, but now I've just acquired two more classes that meet on--guess when?--Wednesday morning. I'm filling in for another adjunct who's had a heart attack. Here's hoping I don't have one either. So I'm back up to five classes now, for another five weeks.

And sometimes I wonder why I"m doing this, and I wonder if I'm reaching anybody. My Modes and Logic classes at CNR have been fraught with fraughtness this semester, including a power struggle to get the media resources I need. The discussions, which are usually so lively there, have been like pulling teeth. Students have been falling asleep in class; we've all been sick as dogs. One of my students just found out she has small cell lung cancer. Another's been in the hospital off and on with asthma. The absenteeism has been alarming. And the coming in late pernicious.

Just when I'm ready to throw in the towel, something happens like what happened this morning, at the make-up class that was half-empty. Whatever stories I pick for this class, I try to teach them from a feminist, and a humanist, perspective. I want us to be able to talk about not just sexism, but racism, and class, and any other kind of discrimination and bigotry, because that's what so many of the great stories, and our stories, are all about. And I try to infuse those stories and the backgrounds to them with as much feminist theory as I've gleaned from my own readings (since there were no women's studies classes when I went to school) and relate them to our lives today. We talk about the limited choices women have been presented with, about the madonna/whore dichotomy we're saddled with, about how childcare and caring for everyone but ourselves is always our responsibility, how important education and economic independence are for women, and how even now women pay for their desires with their lives. I'm never sure it's sinking in, or making any sense, until I get comments like this:

As we're sitting waiting for the rest of the class and the AV equipment to show up, my one student who's always there when I walk in says to me, "you know, your class has really opened my eyes to a lot of new ideas about the way women are treated. You really got me thinking about that now." And as I'm doing a little happy dance inside, another student agrees and starts to relate how she's begun rebelling against the way her husband treats her as property, as something he has the right to rule over or boss around, and describes her most recent act of rebellion, which consisted of going out of the house wearing pants instead of a skirt, and giving him the stink-eye about it when she came home, all because of the way we've been talking about The Awakening, and "The Story of an Hour," and "Seventeen Syllables," and "The Lesson," and "Eveline."

Then I'm glad I got out of bed and shouldered my teaspoon and went to class. There's nothing like seeing feminist awakenings happen right under your nose to make it all worthwhile.