Monday, October 30, 2006

Life on the Other Side of Done

The big news: I have now finished my written exams!!! As of Friday at about 4:30 pm, I completed my last one--six exams in all! And it feels great to be done!

I have been gradually returning to life over the past few days. After an initial 'high' on Friday evening, boy, did I crash this weekend. I'm glad I hadn't ended up planning a grand celebration. (We considered possibly going away for the weekend, since I had Sunday off from church.) But I don't think I could have possibly done it!

Friday night, about 2:30 in the morning, I woke up in awful pain. I had a pain in my back, just between my shoulder blades, that was just shooting through me, especially down my left arm, but also just all over. I've never felt anything like it before. And I have to admit, I was a little worried it had something to do with my heart--especially since women's symptoms are so different than men's when it comes to heart stuff.

But I decided it couldn't be that, took a couple ibuprofin, got out the heating pad, and managed after a while to get back to sleep. Next morning when I woke up, everything still hurt, though not quite as terribly as it had been. Even so I couldn't turn my head very far in either direction and felt stiff and achey all over. Miserable!

Little by little, in the daylight hours, it dawned on me--the pain was from sitting and typing furiously for four hours straight without even the slightest pause. This was my body in an uproar at all the anxiety as well as no small amount of physical punishment I'd put it through. I crashed on the couch and barely ventured far from it for the next two days. I had truly pushed myself to the edge of exhaustion!

D was not the least bit surprised. And he was wonderful about letting me catch up on sleep. I was surprised, though. I mean, I knew it had been hard work and that I had a lot of stress built up around this stuff, but I was completely unprepared for the physical crash after the experience. I just marvel at that.

Yesterday afternoon, D had a hockey game and cookout with his team. He took Monk with him and left me home to laze about happily and drowsily. I flicked through the channels and came across one of my all-time favorite movies: Same Time Next Year. I can't count the number of times I've watched that movie over the past twenty years or so. But it makes me cry at all the same places, without fail, every time. It was the perfect movie to watch yesterday.

Except I was amazed to realize that the last video montage (there are numerous ones placed between the scenes to mark the passage of time) was from 1977. And everything in it seemed so vividly memorable to me. And that was thirty years ago. In fact, when I first started to watch Same Time Next Year, the video montages from the 1950s which open the film were just about equidistant from me then (in, say, 1986) as the 1970s ones are from me today. That just makes my head spin.

Then I happened on the channel SoapNet (!) and completely indulged in watching a week's worth of General Hospital episodes. (It think it's been about seven years since I've watched GH--the last time was probably when Monk would take his afternoon naps as an infant.) But it was so cool to catch this particular week, for those of you may have loved GH once upon a time, because Laura came out of her four-year coma by the end of that week. In time for Luke and Laura's thirty year anniversary which comes up next month, apparently. :D

They've got a few of the real old timer characters from the late 70s early 80s--including Robert Scorpio, Robin Scorpio, and Luke and Laura. And of course the Quartermaine gang still going strong. A baby named after Lila Quartermaine was also born in the episodes I was watching yesterday. (None of this will make any sense to someone who's never been a fan of the show.)

Well, as you can see, it was a great day. A good, if hazy weekend. And I am trying to take things slowly as I recover from this giant push.

Next steps? Scheduling my oral exam (likely not 'til the end of November/beginning of December, unfortunately.) And working on my dissertation proposal.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

South Beach Diet...(for Cats)

Still slogging away at my exams. Finished one more last Friday. One written, timed exam to go. My heart is on taking it this Friday, too. Though waiting 'til Monday may be the more realistic option. I just soooo want to have my weekend finally free. Keeping my head in the books, but in the meantime, life delights in unexpected ways. Here's one.

My cat Felix. There's never been another one like him. This summer I discovered, for instance, that he goes bonkers for corn husks. There was a husk hanging out of the bottom crisper drawer one day and Felix started gnawing on it with obvious delight. After that I tried to keep fresh corn around, and each day would peel off a leaf of the husk and let him go at it. He would rapturously consume it every time.

A couple days ago I decided to pick up the South Beach diet again--wanting to shed a few pounds that seem to have wandered back over the past year or so. Well, turns out Felix loves just about everything I'm eating these days. Now whenever I sit down to eat my snack (usually string cheese or Laughing Cow cheese on celery) he's right beside me, meowing, yowling, and nudging my plate and hands until I give something up. I've also felt compelled to share some salmon and tuna with him, too. He gobbled the tuna down with such obvious joy. (Certainly more than I could muster as I dragged myself through that particular salad!)

What a dear companion he is. :) I dunno, maybe he's trying to lose a few pounds, too. Here's an especially undignified photo of him squashed up beside me on the sofa.

Monday, October 16, 2006

After School Conversation

Those who are close to me know that I am in the midst of major academic work right now as I try and complete my comprehensive exams by the end of this month. For that reason, I have mostly had to neglect my blog until my time opens a bit more generously in November. However, today I just had to get down the conversation I just shared with Monk, my wonderful eight-year-old son.

Monk: Mom, I had to go see the principal with Tough Guy today.
Me: What happened?
Monk: Well, there's a real problem with cooties at school right now. See, I don't believe in cooties. I actually think they were just invented to keep boys and girls separate. But someone passed them on to me, and even though I don't believe in them, I had to get rid of them.
Me: (marveling) So what did you do?
Monk: I passed them on to Tough Guy. And then he hit me in the stomach. And we had to go see the principal. But it turns out, after we talked, that I had gotten him harder than I meant to when I passed the cooties on to him. And he thought I hit him. So he hit me back.
Me: So everything's alright now?
Monk: Yeah, but cooties are a real problem at school. So me, Tough Guy, and Principal have decided to ban them.
Me: Sounds like a good idea. But what if someone passes them on to you anyway?
Monk: I don't know. We didn't get that far.
Me: (reaching behind me to my belt) Here, I have some anti-cootie spray that I always keep with me. (I hand him the invisible spray bottle) If someone passes cooties on to you, just take out your spray and tssshhhht (pretending to spray all around me) tell 'em it doesn't matter 'cause you have anti-cootie spray.
Monk smiles and puts the invisible bottle of spray behind his back as he makes the sound of a 'click'--clearly securing to his own belt the antidote for the thing he doesn't believe in which he's banned from school grounds.

Life is great.

Monday, October 09, 2006

New Worlds to Learn

Last Thursday evening we signed up Monk for aiki-jujutsu classes. This is the first time he's ever taken any martial arts classes--in fact, D and I have never had them ourselves. (Although, interestingly enough, both my brother and my Mom have taken martial arts classes in the past. Mom started them when she was in her fifties, I guess. Cool mom.)

After checking out the website for the particular dojo where we would take Monk, having a phone conversation with the sensei (yet another vocabulary to learn!!!), and visiting on Thursday evening--I was especially excited to have Monk begin.

But I was also surprised by the amount of misgiving I had about it. First of all, and I don't know how I'd managed to miss this as long as I did, I'd managed to forget that the word martial connotes military. I guess that's where we get the concept of martial law, for instance.

The sensei sent us home with a book about aiki-jujutsu and as I read through it, I was surprised and a bit concerned to see the military principles incorporated in the practice of akai-jujutsu. (The section that lauded the people who had committed suicide--warriors, women, and children, alike--was more than I could stomach.) Suddenly I became aware that basically we'd signed Monk up for Japanese military school. And I didn't know quite how I felt about that.

At the same time, I was delighted to see that this place takes its Japanese heritage very seriously. Inasmuch as it's possible to contextualize the discipline of aiki-jujutsu in Japanese culture, this dojo is interested in pursuing that. Given that the class we're teaching tomorrow has to do with liturgical inculturation, I'm especially interested in how this is possible!

Quite related to this, the other thing that I was surprised to be concerned about is the extent to which aiki-jujustu is part of another faith. As a family raising our son in a Christian family, I was surprised to find myself a bit concerned about introducing our eight-year-old to another way of conceiving of the world. And I am more than a little chagrined that Christianity has failed for the most part to teach children the contemplative aspects of our faith. The dojo where Monk will be going teaches Japanese yoga to the kids as well as martial arts.

At the end of our appointment with the sensei last week, he asked Monk: "So, do you want to practice?"

Monk nodded and immediately began to take off his shoes to climb onto the mat. But I could tell, after a moment, that the teacher wasn't asking him to step out immediately. Then it dawned on me--he was asking Monk if he wanted to engage in the practice of learning aiki-jujutsu.

This is how I've come to love to think of Christianity, although I don't think it's a widely held perspective anymore. Recently I read a liturgical theologian who pointed out that in the first century, Christianity was not a "worldview"--that is, a way of perceiving the world; rather it was a practice, which is to say, a way of being in the world.

This is precisely the thing that I feel like Christianity has failed to teach kids so far (and I implicate myself in this as well). And yet, at least at this particular dojo, they seem to teach it unapologetically.

I dropped Monk off at the dojo this evening. The class meets four times a week, although we'll only be taking him three of those time. The other evening he'll be at church. I could tell I was feeling nervous, because I simply wasn't sure what he would be taught.

But when I picked him up, he was aglow. Most of the first session was "lecture." And I could tell he'd listened closely. When I arrived, as I waited outside, I saw the kids lying on their backs, clearly learning some of the yoga positions. I was surprised to find it moving. And was grateful that the teacher seems to trust the kids -- and respect them enough -- to teach them these things.

These are some initial thoughts. Though I have others. Better keep it here for now.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Four Down, Two to Go!!!!

I just finished another comprehensive exam! This one was one of the most difficult subjects I've ever written on. I'd proposed the question because it was on a subject (liturgical aesthetics) I did not yet understand but desperately wanted to. And now I truly have a decent handle on it.


I'm taking the night off.

(And the parrots are flying over as I write this...)

-sigh of contentment-

We're Living a Calvin & Hobbes Comic Around Here

At 2:45 a.m. while D & I were fast asleep, we hear the call from Monk's room: "Mom! Dad!"

"Yes?" We both call out in alarmed reply.

There is a brief pause. "Okay, now I have two questions." announces the Monk. "First, can I have a drink of water so I can get back to sleep? And second, what the heck are you two doing up at this hour?"