Friday, May 29, 2015

Car Stories: The Little Green Fiat and Me


Dear Dad,
Not Oliva, because Will has her at work today, but you know, for size comparison
I’ve never really been much of a car girl. I find them more of a necessary evil than something you love.

I dislike driving, more and more the older I get, and I’ve never really seen the appeal of cars as objects of affection. In fact, I remember a certain 16-year-old Texan showing off his new-to-him BMW and thinking “It’s ok I guess.” (he still talks about that car, 25 years later, so I suppose it was probably more than ok, but what did I know?)
Other than a love affair with a Landcruiser named Ramona, whose

Car Stories: The litttle cockroach who could


Dear Gillian,

I think my car may be a cockroach. If Armageddon ever comes, it won’t be the meek who inherit the Earth. It will be all those unkillable cockroaches – driving Geo Trackers.

I fell in love with my 1990 Tracker almost the moment you and I spotted it at the dealership in Pendleton, Oregon. No worries that it was seven years old. It was tiny, it was bright white and it was four-wheel-drive. And best of all, it was a convertible.

Well, I suppose the best of best of all was that it was cheap. We didn’t need a limousine, just a snow car. This one might actually qualify as a snowmobile.

I loved it, but only expected to see it around for a couple of years.

But it didn’t die in the eastern Oregon snow. And when

Monday, May 18, 2015

Academic Seasons: The Sour with the Sweet


Dear Dad, 
I always look forward to summer vacation. That sounds obvious, I realize, but for ten-plus years, I haven’t really had “summer vacation” from work. In fact, summer means more work, because the kids are on vacation, which is not, by its very definition, a vacation for a mom.

But despite the days filled with entertaining/feeding/keeping track of the bands of kids that will come and go from my house this summer, despite the heat – which I despise, and the humidity – which I despise even more, I do love summer vacation. I love the dirty, sweaty kids bursting into the house in search of Kool Aid and popcorn. I love the long nights, movies in the park, schlepping to the pool craziness of summer. It’s both laid back and chaotic

Academic seasons: Growing a crop of graduates

Dear Gillian,

No one likes to say goodbye. But twice a year I do it with a wistful smile.

For graduation week at the University of Missouri, I put on my bright green doctoral robe, cocked my tasseled tam and made march of pomp with my professorial colleagues.

With us on the arena floor, scores of black-robed students laughed nervously. In the bleachers around us, parents looked on with that special mixture of emotions: pride in accomplishment, relief in completion and worry in a yet-unsettled future.

I understand those emotions – mine are just as mixed. But let’s step back a few months.

Professors could trade their fancy robes for bib overalls. What we do

Friday, May 8, 2015

You Get a Gold Star or, My Week in Three Paragraphs


 Dear Dad,
It’s amazing what a gold star can do to make even the most strenuous, tiring, or boring work worthwhile. Last month I gave my students a Dewey Decimal number each day to go hunt for, and if they could find it and tell me what was there, they got a gold star. Honestly, I wasn’t sure they would buy it, but boy did they. A whole group of fifth graders even came in during recess on their non-library days to earn their stars. In fact, even though we’ve moved on to a new activity in the library, they are still asking me for a number to go hunt for to earn another star.

I totally get it. The past two weeks have been a blur of too many things in too little time. My days have been spent running from one thing to the next to the next. But this week was teacher appreciation week and man, even though I know most of the little notes I received were parent-driven (having sent my own kids off with cards and treats for their teachers), I enjoyed getting my gold stars. I love my job all the time, but this week, despite being in the middle of mid-term madness in the grad school end of my life, was a gold star week. How can you not smile when you get a note that says “I love books! I love reading! I love you!” from a smiling five-year-old? Also, I found out that wearing your hair in mini (messy) victory rolls earns you cool points with middle school boys, mostly because they can't understand how you make your hair do that. Who knew?

And now it’s Friday. And sunny. (And Mother’s Day weekend) And other than the normal child-centered weekend activities that come with parenthood, I am taking the weekend off from that pile of things to do in my head so I can enjoy the sunshine and the city and my family. I heard a great expression today “First I have to contend with the assholes who control my brain.” Well, I’ve told them to can it until Monday. I’ve turned in my papers and answered my emails and shelved all the books that are going to get shelved. I earned my gold star for the week. Now it’s time for the weekend. 


Having it both ways , or life in three paragraphs

Dear Gillian,

I feel both old and young today. Very tired but very invigorated. It’s one of those days when nothing seems as it appears.

The spring semester ends this week. But while classes are over, I’m faced with a pile of complex final projects. The constant parade of bright students young enough to be my grandkids reminds me of how gray I am – but the mere fact I am around them puts a bounce in my step. Even the weather is contrary – sunbreaks between rain showers.

But I’m happy. The love of my life smiled to me when I awoke. I had breakfast looking out over a rapidly-greening forest viewed from our one-of-a-kind house. I walked onto a gorgeous campus to do the work I love. Tonight I will dine perhaps too heartily and later kick back and read notes from the two no-longer-children who make me proud. I will have sweet dreams. Guaranteed.

            -- Dad