Friday, April 30, 2010

Captain Mommypants and Bug Come to Austin

Sorry for the quiet, but it's been an insane-o week. Captain Mommypants and my little brother Bug are in town visiting us this week, and between hanging out, playing music, eating good food, and trying to snatch little bits and pieces of work in the midst of it all, I've had little time to blog. Pictures and stories to follow, I promise, but for now I've got 2 hours to myself, and 52 six-page essays to grade. Go, go, go!

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Can't Title This Post

Friday was one of the worst days. As anybody who's ever spent five minutes talking to me or reading my blog knows, my little dog Birdie is unequivocally the cutest little muppet in the world, but she's also something of a case. She's roughly 12 or 13 years old, mostly blind, almost toothless, nearly deaf, allergic to almost every food that dogs normally eat, and also sort of anorexic. She shivers and shakes as her primary form of communication, and needs a sweater when it's 80 degrees outside. But she's snuggly and adorable and hilarious. She hunts her own shadow and trips over her own extremely long legs and gets her tongue stuck hanging out of her mouth. To say that I am totally in love - perhaps even obsessed - with my little Bird is extremely understating the situation.

Lately, Birdie's been acting a little weird. Weirdly constipated, weirdly shaky, and then last week she went off her food for three full days. She's been sleeping like a maniac. So I took her to the vet and finally ordered the geriatric blood screen vets have been recommending that I do on account of her age. In spite of everything, all the signs, even the fact that a friend who's in vet school told me that Birdie looked like she needed to be on dialysis, I somehow had convinced myself that the blood screen would be totally fine and a complete waste of money.

But on Friday the vet called back and as soon as I heard his voice my stomach dropped clean out of my body. "Birdie's blood screen shows some worrisome elements..." he began in a funeral voice, and I felt my throat start to squeeze up. Birdie, it turns out, has an advanced case of kidney disease. Blood values that are supposed to measure between 7 and 26 in a healthy dog are at 132 in the Bird, and the list goes on. He recommended that I bring in a urine sample so they could eliminate the possibility of a kidney infection. What followed would've been hilarious - me, running around the back yard after Birdie with a tupperware container in my hand trying to catch her pee - if I hadn't been crying the whole time. But it wasn't an infection, it's kidney disease, and a pretty bad case of it. I spent the rest of the day coming to grips with the fact that this marvelous little dog, in whom I've invested every ounce of love and care I have in my spirit, and who, in return, has loved me fiercely, is terminally ill.

I have no idea how much longer Birdie will be with us. The vet gave one of those vague "maybe months, maybe a year..." kind of answers. Given her street-fighter mentality and fiesty spirit, I'm betting on the latter. This is, after all, the 7 pound toothless wondermutt who will take on a pit bull as if it were a mouse. The good news is that if you've got to go of something, kidney failure is about as easy a way to go as there is. Eventually she'll just get extremely lethargic as toxins build up in her system, she won't be able to eat anymore, and one day it'll be too much. But she's not in pain. This is the same thing my mother's dog Sheba died of. So we'll keep her happy, as healthy as we can, and comfortable until the end, and let her sleep in between us in the bed, because she loves nothing more than that. These last months will be the best months of her life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Nerds of Nerdville

A few months ago, Handsome and I went to meet up with Penata and her boyfriend, The World's Greatest Carolina Fan (TWGCF) at a local bar. In the midst of drinks and merriment, I spilled a little (oops!) and reached for the nearest napkin, a decision that happened to change my life for the subsequent future. You're dying to know why, aren't you. Well. It changed my life because scribbled on that napkin were the names of 17 African countries.

"What's this?" I inquired, holding the napkin scrap up.
"Oh, just a game," said Penata. "We were testing each other to see who could name the most African countries in 60 seconds."

Instantly (and completely predictably), I was hooked. How many could I name? Seventeen seemed a paltry number, surely I could best it by a wide margin! No. It turns out I could not. I got 18, and one of them I only remembered because I had just seen it written on the napkin 45 seconds earlier. I was humiliated. What kind of educated person am I? I'm supposed to be earning a doctorate here, and I can't name even half of the African nations? That's just downright embarrassing.

So there you have it - thus began my latest obsession. Within a month we had a world map shower curtain, and another world map hanging in our bedroom. I have been steadily studying these maps a bit at a time, and I think I'm ready. Eventually my goal is to name all 47 in geographic order, but for now, my goal is to get most. Not all, just most. I think that's as much as I'm ready to commit to.

Before I begin, I would like to invite you to challenge yourself before reading the following. Close your laptop, grab a spare sheet of paper, and see what you can do from memory. Unless you don't think deliberate exercises in self-humiliation have a positive effect in your life, in which case, go ahead and study up first.

Now. Ready? I am on the couch, not a map in sight. I haven't looked at the map since yesterday, so this is as close to my natural state as I get. I have a timer, and I'm holding myself strictly to the honor code.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a test. This is only a test.

Western Sahara (occupied Morocco)
Burkina Faso
Cote d'Ivoire
Guinea Bissau
Democratic Republic of Congo
Central African Republic
South Africa
Sierra Leone


Shit. I don't think that was even close to 47. Hang on, let me count. OK, 39. Unless I accidentally repeated some, and I know I got out of geographic order a couple times in there. What the heck did I forget. Dang.

Oh, well. There is always room and time for improvement. Let me know how you all do, if you take the test!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Few Random Thoughts

1. My fingers hurt from practicing the guitar. This makes typing a little more painful than normal, but only on my left hand. I will take this opportunity to not write my dissertation today.

2. It is April 19th in Austin, which normally is quite hot. I should be at Barton Springs in a bikini, lazily considering whether I should put on another coat of sunscreen (yes). Instead, I am inside wearing sweatpants and a sweater. I have a blanket on my lap, a pot of tea to keep me warm on the inside, and a green chile beef stew on the stovetop. I looked at the thermostat and it was 61 degrees in my house. I know all the folk in northern climes will either gasp, laugh, or keel over dead when they read this next thing, but I just turned on the heat. Surely in the history of Austin, this is an unusual day.

3. Just for the record, that last was not a complaint. The longer winter lasts, the shorter summer will be. Right now, I'm looking at only 6 months instead of the normal 7 or 8. Rejoice!

4. Birdie got a mani-pedi today. Absurd dog.

5. Handsome is so good looking and wicked smart. I am one lucky gal.

6. I have been floating on a tide of happiness since last Wednesday, after I lectured for a professor of mine and she said I'd done a "really excellent job." Considering this woman's life motto is "Tough but Fair," and the superlative form is entirely foreign to her, I practically floated home from school that day. I loved getting to teach a class - to design the syllabus for that section, select the readings, deliver the lecture, answer questions, engage their minds... After years of slaving away at one paper or article or project after another, it was a wonderful reminder of why I got into this field in the first place.

7. Every now and then I squeeze my eyes closed for a little bit. Then when I open them I look around me real quick to make sure this really is my life, and I really am this happy. Each time I do it, I am reassured. Yes, this really is my life, and yes, I really am this happy. I'd like to say thank you to whatever karmic fairy gods are out there sprinkling their magic dust upon me these last months.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Contrary to Public Opinion...

I am still alive. Not posting, true, but alive and well. Sorry for the prolonged silence, but the Friday deadline for a chapter turned into a Monday deadline, and then Tuesday I had to lecture for one of my professors, and then the Wednesday for another one of them, and then by the time it was Thursday I was so tired (and blessedly without prior commitments) that I ran a hot bath at 10 am, and soaked in it for an embarrassingly long time while reading a frivolous novel. I followed that ridiculous exercise in self-indulgence with a 2 hour nap, after which I sat on the front porch and drank a glass of wine. To say the least, as a result of my indolence, the following few days were also on the far side of nutsville. So there you have it. More to follow, but it's Sunday and I'm not writing any more. Mostly because Handsome is making pancakes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Naked Bike Guy

There is a man in Austin who rides everywhere on his bike completely ass naked, except for a bright blue g-string banana hammock. I've seen him around before, and am past the point where I'm shocked, or even surprised anew each time I see him.


He just rode right by my front window, and I have to report that while, due to this habit of excessive undress, he is normally a very tanned individual, he now looks like somebody basted him with butter and stuck him under the broiler for 50 minutes at 425 degrees. Not lobster red, just a very crispy and unnatural brown color, rather like burnt sienna with a dash of turmeric. I hope Naked Bike Guy is ok.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nothing New, I'm Afraid

Sorry to bum out this week on blog posting, but I've got a chapter due on Friday and no time for shilly-shallying. Or dilly-dallying, come to think of it. Wish me luck, and while you're at it, you might also do a dance of joy on my behalf, as I just learned that I've gotten enough funding for the summer that I can travel to Cuba and Nicaragua for brief research trips and still have enough left over that, if I live monastically, I don't have to TA for a summer course. WHICH MEANS. I am six weeks closer to being totally done with this beast of a burden. Huzzah!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Little Visitor

One of the nicest things about our cute and delightful little Casita Sonrisa is the office. An office, I say! A room for working and books and sitting down to do things for work that keep me out of sight of my bed, the refrigerator, and the back yard. It's marvelous. When I was living in Matagalpa doing research, a guy I became friends with drew me a picture of the city, nestled in among the mountains. I taped that picture to the door of the office and now when I need to do work, I simply announce to myself (and Birdie, because she needs to know as well), "I am going to Nicaragua!" Then I walk in the office, close the door, sit at my desk, and work. This is excellent. No distractions. Except...

Sometimes I get riveted by what goes on right outside the window I sit in front of. The other day, I watched a red-headed woodpecker feed her nest of peckerlings in the tree across the street. Last week a cat sat upon my porch and groomed herself in highly entertaining detail. And then just two days ago, a little teeny tiny baby opossum ("the other white meat," as we say back in North Carolina) climbed up on the porch and started sniffing around. Naturally, I grabbed my hunting rifle. Er, no, that's wrong. Camera. I meant to say camera. Yes.

As I was saying, I grabbed my camera and sprinted out to the front porch to take pictures. By the time I got there, however, something had startled the baby possum, and it was nowhere to be found. Undeterred, I looked about, certain it couldn't have gotten far. "Here, little possumy-wossumy! Where aaaarrreee youuuuuuu?" I heard a little hissing sound coming from the corner, and approached with caution. Are you in the box? No. Are you under the chair? No. Are you...

In the map? Yes.

There she was, inside the rolled up map of the world. She stared me down, swaying her head back and forth, hissing at me incessantly. You know that rule that applies to all of nature, how no matter how ugly an adult version of something is, the baby is always cute? Not true. Not true at all, when it comes to possum. Can you see her? I tried to get my camera to focus on the bottom, but was thwarted at every turn, so this is as good as it gets:

I think I'll call her Carmen Sandiego.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Very Hard Worker

I just wanted to issue a brief assurance, for any who might be curious, that I have not in any way been distracted by the glories of spring as it bursts forth all around me. I remain impervious to the blossoming flowers and budding trees, blind to the warm breezes and gentle sunshine of these long afternoons, and deaf to the chirps and twitters of birds as they celebrate the coming warmth. Instead, I remain steadfast at my desk, bent to my work with the seriousness of purpose befitting a graduate student hard at work on her dissertation. Rest assured, for work is my life. I shall not falter along this path.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

In Which The Internets Show Me Strange Things

So my amazing brother The Fairy King googled my name the other day while bored at work. Actually, he works in Australia, so technically, I believe it was "whilst" he was bored at work, but I digress. Anyway, I can't believe what he found. Back in 1987, my mother was interviewed and quoted in Working Mother Magazine in a curiously-titled little article called "Should We Tell Our Kids The Truth About Santa?" I mean, really. KIDS CAN READ. Don't put that on the cover and then mail it to some harried woman's house. She's trying to keep the shit storms under control, and this? This probably won't help.

The whole magazine seemed a little funny, come to think of it. They perhaps might better have called the magazine "Alarmist Parenting," or "Did You Know How Many Secret Horrors Lurk Out There Magazine." Then the articles entitled "Down With Office Parties," "Crying: Why It's a Career Crusher," and "Compassion: Are Children Really Capable Of It?" would seem more appropriate.

The story about my mother and me, and our little Santa anecdote? Cute as hell. Apparently, I was something of a winker back then. And yes, now my real first name is on the website, technically, and no, nobody but my family calls me that, so don't start.