Professor J's Place

29 December, 2007

The Year that Was: Jobs

Well, I wrote all about this in my Christmas letter, but since most of my bloggy friends aren't on my list, I thought I would go over some of the main events of 2007 as I prepare to enter into a new year with new hopes and dreams. So, here goes.

2007 began with the usual fanfare at the usual time. I wanted more than anything to continue moving forward in my relationship with Susan and to continue to improve in my job/career.

To start things off with a bang I got fired decided to make a career change in February.

I should mention here that I wasn't really fired, I was just informed that I would not be offered a contract for 2007/2008. There's a big difference. For one thing, I still had a salary. Nice thing, that. And I had some time to plan. Also nice.

I was the chair of the developmental writing program at a local university. I was teaching many (7) sections, supervising other people, and attending meetings around the clock regularly. It was really a drag. I was especially not fond of supervising other teachers. While I had good relationships with most of them, I had one particular instructor who made life difficult for me.

One good thing about getting fired deciding to make a change is that I spent a good deal of time thinking about what I'd like to do in the near future. I looked at becoming a technical writer or working in business as a writer, editor, public relations person.

I thought, I wrote, I talked, I brainstormed, I read inspirational books-- I even put in applications at some big companies. But I kept coming back to the fact that I love teaching.

So, I wrote to some old friends and I ended up getting a full time position offered me at UTSA. Go Roadrunners!

I had worked at UTSA in the past, and I also got my Master's degree there, so it was a homecomming in many ways. One great advantage is that I get to work for my old friend Judy. She rocks.

Judy's been ill lately, so I am thrilled to have the opportunity to spend some time with her. Of course, Judy is so tough that she comes to work after her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, so she'll undoubtedly outlive me. But it's good to have the time together, nevertheless.

I am also working in the evening and online for the University of the Incarnate Word (go Cardinals),

so I have plenty of work to keep me off the streets and out of the pool halls. It turns out that I am still teaching seven sections, but now I don't have administrative duties. Wh00t!

Don't ask why I'm attracted to schools with bird mascots--really, I have no idea.

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23 December, 2007

Merry Christmas (and a belated Happy Solstice and Hanukkah)

Happy Holidays from Morgan, Susan, and Karen!


Christmas Poem: A.A. Milne

King John's Christmas

King John was not a good man —
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air —
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon ...
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
And signed it not “Johannes R.”
But very humbly, “JACK.”

“I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man —
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
“I think that’s him a-coming now,
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
“He’ll bring one present, anyhow —
The first I’ve had for years.

“Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man —
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,

King John said grimly:
“As I feared, Nothing again for me!”
“I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven’t got a pocket-knife —
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all...
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!



22 December, 2007

Birthday Week

Flash back a month or so ago. Susan asks sweetly, "What do you want for your birthday?" Now, I will probably post on this topic one day soon, but it has been a long time since I have wanted something and waited for it. If I want something reasonable (not an RV or a new lap top or anything outrageously expensive), I purchase it for myself. Gone are my girlhood days of the wish list. Everyone I know is this way--we just don't allow ourselves want any more.

So, I thought and thought, and here's what I came up with:

Yep, that's right. A trip to Johnson City!

For those of you out of "the know" (or those of you not from Texas), Johnson City is the home of Lyndon Johnson, our thirty-sixth president. It was actually named for his grandfather's brother, who donated the land for the original settlement. What a trip it would be to grow up in a town named for your family. Perhaps that gave LBJ some of his sense of responsibility and destiny. Perhaps it lent a little hubris to the mix. And yes, I am a dork. I am a bit of a political junky and I love social and political history (I'm not so big on the history of wars).

Here's the house Johnson lived in from the age of eight until he left home.

President Johnson was a great president. SAY WHAT? Has Professor J lost her ever lovin' mind? Okay, I take it back. President Johnson had a great record domestically. I will admit that the war in Vietnam was a great big clusterf**k, and he managed to make it even worse with many of his decisions. I will also admit that he was controlling, manipulative, paranoid, and downright mean at times. But, my god, what that man accomplished domestically.

In 1964, after his landslide election, Johnson passed a major civil rights bill. In 1965, he passed the voting rights act. He gave us medicare, for which I would personally like to thank him (my mother would have died much sooner and in a great deal more pain without it). He passed more education bills than any president before or after (combined). He gave us Head Start. And, at the urging of his lovely partner (an early and strong environmentalist), he passed our first clean air and water acts, he added dozens of national parks and wildlife refuges, and he passed the highway bill (remember when our highways were cluttered with billboards every few feet?).

I can't help it. I like the guy.

And by the way, do I not have the best girlfriend in the world? Who else would consider this trip a romantic getaway?

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16 December, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

I lived with my mother for the last twelve years of her life. During that time, she nursed me through a bone graft, and I nursed her through colon cancer, a broken wrist, two broken ankles, emphysema, and two separate iterations of lung cancer. And, of course, I was with her when she died. It was an important time for me in many ways. I got the opportunity to forgive my mother for being mentally ill, for drinking too much, and for being, well, not the best mother in the world to us three girls. I got the gift of seeing Mama as a human being who just didn’t have what it took to be the mom we wanted her to be. I remember watching her with her beloved cat one day. Kitty was sitting next to Mama on the couch, and Mama was patting the cat on the head. It was the best she could do. And the cat? The cat acted like someone was giving her a sensual massage. I realized then that Mama’s affection and support for us over the years, as limited as it seemed, was all she had to give. As we grew closer during the final years of Mama’s life, we became good companions. I enjoyed her sense of humor, her clumsy generosity, her intellect, her spirit. And Mama loved me fiercely. I loved how either one of us would be reading a good book and would run into the other’s room saying, “listen to this.”

The last year or so of her life, when the second lung cancer emerged and we both knew this would be her last illness, we began to talk lightly about what would happen when she was gone from my life. She wanted me to have the house, of course, and she tried to make it clear to my sisters that this had nothing to do with favoritism—it had more to do with the fact that I had been paying more than half the bills, that I had been her primary caretaker, that I was the single daughter. . . But more than that, I think, Mama worried about whom I would love in her absence, about who would love me. “I wish you had a daughter,” she’d say to me, “someone who could be a companion to you like you are to me.” I agreed with her. I didn’t worry so much about someone to care for me in my old age, but I did worry about having someone to love the way that she loved me and I loved her.

I did not want to have a child. I am a little afraid of young children. They need so much, and I (having inherited my mother’s and my grandmother’s mental illness) was not sure that I could provide the loving consistency a young child needs. “What I want,” I told my mother, “is a girl. A nine to thirteen year-old who needs a mother. Someone I can talk to in a normal (adult) tone of voice.”

I did some research and decided that the path for me was getting a foster child. I would give a home to someone who needed one, and we would get to know each other and decide if we wanted to become an official family. Of course, I had Mama to care for in the meantime, and I was a new teacher teaching at three different schools. Who had time for foster care?

And then Mama died. Around that time, the Texas legislature made it illegal for lesbians and gay men to become foster parents. And I had an ovarian cyst that made it necessary for me to have a hysterectomy, so “natural” children were out of the question. Of course, it did not matter. I was in such a deep depression that I was unable to care for myself and my dogs, much less a child.

After a couple of years, when I clawed myself out of my depression, I took the advice of several friends and checked out an online dating service. I saw Susan’s profile and decided to pay for the service so I could meet her. I fell in love by the second email, I think. Perhaps I fell in love while reading her profile. At any rate, we have been dating since March 1996. I moved in and pledged my troth this summer.

And why do I write about this? Because Susan has a daughter. Morgan just turned 26 the 14th of December. She has some developmental disabilities, so she is intellectually somewhere between nine and thirteen. Does this ring any bells with my readers? Morgan loved me from the second time I saw her. The first night I spent the night with Susan, she says that Morgan came out into the kitchen with a “can we keep her?” look. I loved Morgan from the time I went to see a movie with the two of them, and on the way out she took my hand.

I think she started calling me “Mama #2” and “my other mother” about three months after I started dating Susan. She needed me as much as I needed her.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a very good mother. I tend to get frustrated and tired of hearing about Hannah Montana. But I love her more than I can say. And she loves me. And now, Mama, I have a girl to take care of—one who needs me as much as I need her. Here are a few pictures of my Morgan at her 26th birthday party on Friday. I am a lucky, lucky woman.


15 December, 2007

Poetry: Leslie Norris

The Pit Ponies

The come like the ghosts of horses, shyly,
To this summer field, this fresh green,
Which scares them.

They have been too long in the blind mine,
Their hooves have trodden only stones
And the soft, thick dust of fine coal,

And they do not understand the grass.
For over two years their sun
Has shone from an electric bulb

That has never set, and their walking
Has been along the one, monotonous
Track of pulled coal-trucks.

They have bunched their muscles against
The harnass and pulled, and hauled.
But now they have come out of the underworld

And are set down in the sun and real air,
Which are strange to them. They are humble

And modest, their heads are downcast, they
Do not expect to see very far. But one
Is attempting a clumsy gallop. It is

Something he could do when he was very young,
When he was a little foal a long time ago
And he could run fleetly on his long foal's legs,
And almost he can remember this. And look,

One rolls on her back with joy in the clean grass!
And they all, awkwardly and hesitantly, like
Clumsy old men, begin to run, and the field

Is full of happy thunder. They toss their heads,
Their manes fly, they are galloping in freedom.
The ponies have come above ground, they are galloping!

Just a note from me:
This is not a post about the end of the semester! I do not feel burdened at all by my work (see below). I simply love this poem. I think I identify with it mostly because I have a history of depression, and that awkward galloping?--that's me experiencing joy.


12 December, 2007

Final Exams

While my day time students find themselves stuck with the usual final exams, my evening students--who are adult returning students--get the special treatment. Our final exams are always at a local restaraunt featuring really good margaritas.

This is the life!

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10 December, 2007

I Protest

I have read some complaints on other people's blogs about posting responses to Blogger in recent days, and I have become concerned. I recently got this blog because Yah**'s blog sucked was experiencing problems, and now friends may have trouble commenting on my new site! Poop!

And then this morning, I received this email!

Prof J.
I've tried to comment on your blog, but the comments section is different than it used to be. I've tried using the "Open" feature as Idon't have a Wordpress (or any other) identity featured. I'm so bummed.
Anastasia Beaverhausen

If the lovely, talented, and soon to be employed Anastasia Beaverhausen cannot comment on my lowly blog, I'm steamed!

I went to my blog control and found out that (although I had previously said anyone could post) the stupid thing was no longer set to allow annonymous posting. So I changed it again. Of course, if my name were as awsome as A. Beaverhausen, I would not want to reply annonymously. I am considering a new home.

What is a good server to use? I like the fact that Blogger is easy to use and free, but I am willing to change. You tell me.

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07 December, 2007


mama milton: restless hair syndrome

I start this post with a nod to Mama Milton, who got me thinking.
Hair is one of the principle means of self expression for women (and, to a lesser degree, men) in our society. We color, cut, tease, perm, straighten, process, glue, and spray it into submission. We adorn ourselves with hair. When it changes color or texture or it thins or we lose it, we begin to panic.

When we want to change our lives or make a statement, the first thing we change is our hair. Hairdressers even have a name for it. "Post Break-up hair."

I have had me some hair dos.



I like to think of myself as a simple woman with simple tastes, but I have been known to go crazy on my hair. Thankfully, I don't have any pictures on my computer of me with a perm , but I once even had poodle hair. Hey! It was the eighties and everyone was doing it! I would have had big glasses, too, if I wore glasses in those days. I even shaved my head in the nineties. What a shame there was no digital photography then.

For the first time in my life, though, I now have long hair.

What can I say? As I grow older, I become more comfortable with things feminine. I now like the color pink. I paint my toenails. I have long hair (what?! After all these years they're going to throw me out of the radicalfeminist club for that?).

I remember an essay by Alice Walker. "Oppressed Hair Puts a Ceiling on the Brain."

In it, she writes that our obsession with hair blocks our thinking. For her, it was important to stop cutting, processing, and torturing her hair. She began to braid her hair in the late eighties and does it to this day.

I have read countless student essays this semester about body image--how our obsession with being thin has warped our lives. I'm glad to see my students thinking this way. It reminds me of the seventies when we started to question the male gaze and our willingness to go to any length to be attractive.

While I am glad my students question themselves about this, I find that in my middle age, I am enjoying a new found sense of beauty. And I like it. As a feminist, I once thought that it was beneath me to think of beauty. I wore the uniform: the short hair, the androgynous clothing. I even seriously considered breast reduction surgery-- it's difficult to be androgynous with an hourglass figure.

And now, as I near the end mature, I find that I have mellowed. I think the feminist movement is marching along with me (or me with it), but that's another post.

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06 December, 2007

Because I haven't posted in awhile and this looked like fun

Here's a meme I got from Organic Mama. It's fun, even if it has an inconsistent point of view.

110. My middle name is: Jean

109. I was born in: Jackson, Mississippi

108. I am really: silly

107. My phone is: a hot pink razr

106. My eye color is: green or blue or some combination

105. My favorite colors are: green, blue, red, orange

104. My ring size is: huge

103. My height is: 5 foot 1

102. I am allergic to: shell fish

101. I was born on: December 20

100. I am annoyed by: stupidity and bad grammar

99. Last book you read: How to Re-Imagine the World: a pocket guide for practical visionaries by Anthony Weston

98. My bed is…queen sized, dressed in red

97. One thing you hate about yourself: irritability

96. My favorite holiday is: Thanksgiving

95. The perfect kiss is: soft, sweet, long

94. The last three CDs I bought were: James Taylor, The Weepies, Paul Simon (but this is over a couple of years—I mostly buy individual songs off of I Tunes)

93. Are you living at home: my own

92. Are your parents divorced: Since I was four—both are deceased, too.

91. What did you do yesterday: Washed the floors, graded papers, taught evening classes, watched tv.

Do you believe in…

90. Love at first sight: Yes

89. Luck: not as a life strategy

88. Fate: No

87. Yourself: Yes

86. Aliens: Yes. Haven’t seen them yet, but I’m pretty sure we can’t be all there is.

85. Heaven: right here

84. Hell: right here, next to heaven

83. Ghosts: why not

82. Horoscopes: no, but I read them for fun

81. Soulmates: yes

Which is Better?

80. Hugs or Kisses: Yes

79. Drunk or High: neither, though I don't mind a pleasant buzz

78. Phone or Online: online

77. Red heads or Black hair: red heads

76. Blondes or Brunettes: brunettes

75. Hot or cold: cold (you can always put on more clothes)

74. Summer or winter: Fall and spring!

73. Chocolate or vanilla: chocolate

72. Night or Day: day

71. Oranges or Apples: Apples

70. Curly or Straight hair: I like curly—I have straight

Here’s What I Think About…

69. Abortion: Pro-choice

68. Backstabbers: I don’t get it.

67. Parents: Loved my mom—miss her every day.

When did you last…

66. Hug someone: minutes ago

65. Kiss someone: same as above

64. See someone: same as above

63. Cry in front of someone: yesterday


62. Who is the ditsiest person you know: me

61. Who makes you laugh the most: Morgan and Joel the cat

60. The last movie you saw in theaters: Love in the Time of Cholera

59. What I don’t understand is: Apathy

58. The most unsatisfactory answer I’ve ever received is: “There’s nothing we can do about it, anyway.”

57. Something I will really miss when I leave home is: I left home and then came back to care for my mother until her death. I miss her voice.

56. The thing that I’m looking forward to the most: Winter break!

55. The thing that I’m not looking forward to is: grading finals

54. Tomorrow: My first final exam

53. Today: keep grading, blog, go to costco for dog food and my last christmas gift

52. Next Summer: I’d like to travel a little with Susan

51. This Weekend: my friend Patty’s Christmas concert

50. People call me: mommy #2, professor, sweetheart, kitten, bear

49. The most difficult thing to do is: I’m stealing this from Organic Mamma: fight apathy!

48. I have gotten a speeding ticket: once when the speedometer in my vw bug was spinning like a top.

47. The first person I talked to today was: the dogs. Oh, person? Susan

46. First time I had a crush: Susie B. (a different person than this Susie) –kindergarten through third grade or so

45. The one person from whom I can’t hide things: Susan

44. Last time someone said what you were thinking: Last night, talking to my old friend Michelle

43. Right now I am talking to: Myself

42. What is your dream job: instructor of English at local U (I stole this from O.M., too, but it is my dream job, and it is my job)

41. First job: shelling pecans and selling them

40. I want most: my life. Just as it is. And maybe an rv for future travels.

39. I wish: life will stay this sweet

38. The worst sound in the world is: a tight, angry voice

37. The person that makes me cry the most: Susan

36. Best sound in the world: laughter

35. Person[s] who makes you happy: my family, my friends, some of my students

34. Cats or dogs: dogs, then cats

33. Didn’t want to be: prone to self-doubt

32. Which Golden Girl would you be: don’t remember. Is that a bad sign?

31. MySpace or Facebook: neither

30. Mexican food or Chinese? mexican

29. My favorite piece of clothing:an orangey red vest

28. My favorite color(s): we did this

27. Last time I cried: we did this, too

26. My friends are: the thing that makes life possible

25. My computer is: my biggest addiction

24. Last person at whom I got mad: myself

23. Person on whom I secretly crush: oh, heck, this is embarrassing, but it would have to be Rachel Ray

22. Favorite Song: “Slow Pony Home” the Weepies

21. Paper or plastic: plastic—so I can use the bag to pick up dog poo

20. The all-time best movie(s) I’ve seen: Babette’s Feast

19. The all-time best feeling in the world is: the deep, to the marrow, feeling of contentment and love when I am with my family (O.M. said it better than I would)

18. Favorite scent(s): coffee

17. What color is your hairbrush: black

16. Favorite shoes: tennis shoes

15. I lose all respect for people who: don’t vote

14. Color of your room: yellow grey / gold

13. TV channels you watch: too many

12. Best feature: my eyes (the fat girl answer)

11. Worst habit:I procrastinate

10. The worst pain I was ever in was: recovering from bone graft surgery

9. Best memory: falling in love

8. Favorite TV show: Pushing Daisies

7. My favorite celebrity couple is: none of them

6. Favorite stuffed animal: any of them

5. My weakness is: chocolate

4. What I like about the opposite sex is: That I can tease my male students

3. Who broke your heart: Mama

2. One thing that makes me feel great is: cuddling

1. One person that you wish you could see right now: there are three: Gini, Heidi, Michelle (alphabetical order)


01 December, 2007

Yellow Dog Democrat

In an earlier post this week, I identified myself as a yellow dog democrat. Bipolar Lawyer Cook asked what that could be. She is not alone. For some people, including my partner, this is not a well known term.

Melanie, over at Bean Paste, was quick to offer the definition in the comment section, but I wanted to give you a little bit of the history (I'm all about the history, dear readers).

There are competing online versions of the history of the term, and this time, I think that Wikipedia has the more correct of the versions. DO NOT tell my English students about this; they will insist that their desire to cite Wikipedia in academic writings should be honored.

The term, "Yaller Dog Democrat" springs from the post restoration period in the South when white men swarmed to the Democratic party as a response to the restoration.

Wikipedia sites the book, Exit Laughing, with the story of a Kentucky democrat, Theodore Hallam, saying that he would sooner vote for an old yaller dog than a republican.

Another history, at a commercial website, claims that the appellation comes from the 1928 Presidential campaign when many democrats, while they didn't like Al Smith, were loath to vote republican.

When I was a yunggin, my mother told me that a yaller dog democrat was a bad thing: it evoked an ugly, racist past that was better left in the past, and it also spoke of a person who was closed minded. After all, it is possible that a republican might actually be a superior candidate.

Mamma was a wise woman, but I don't think she ever knowingly voted republican in her life.

In recent years, liberal democrats have decided to reclaim (and respell) the term yellow dog democrat. While it still means that we would rather vote for a yellow dog than a republican, it has a different ethos, I think. After all, the voting rights act of 1964 saw to it that most of the racists switched parties. Anyone for a post on the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party?

(Before you ask, the dog at the beginning of this post is mine, the other is just a good looking yaller dog.)

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