A Pregnancy Story

March 8, 2013

When I was pregnant, I didn’t want to get an ultrasound to find out the sex of the fetus. I knew she was a girl. I knew because I couldn’t fathom balls coming out of my vagina. 

Every Deed

March 8, 2013

Underneath my belly,

Above my knees,

Hanging in front of my shoulders,

In my clothes,

Is my body.

Behind my forehead,

behind my boobs,

In my fingers and lips and soles,

Is me. 

One day, all this flesh will be ash and dirt. Like my dad’s and Nana’s.

And every violent word, every piece of trash, every destruction, every punch and kick, every fuck you, every disrespect I ever shared will outlive me.

But so will every kiss I ever gave, every hand I ever held, every dance I ever did, every idea I ever shared, every touch, every meal, every compliment, every wink, every teaching, every love, every tear, every help.

Fathers to Daughters: Be You

December 28, 2012

Letters are my very favorite form of communication. I especially adore letters from fathers to daughters.

I have every letter my father ever sent to me banked safely in a wooden box in my bedroom. My most prized possession, a letter from my dad marked 11.19.98 8AM, he wrote to me when I had just begun college in New York. He begins the letter by talking about a medical seminar he attended, where he heard “two female physicians that were absolutely great.” Funny how he always made a point to highlight working women’s exceptional achievements to me. We spoke of gender dynamics often and passionately, and this was his way of picking up on an ongoing conversation of ours that began before a point I can recall. Near the end of the letter he writes, “Be strong, be true, and always be honest.” I have the line, in his handwriting, tattooed on my side.

This morning I came across a letter from Richard Dawkins to his 10-year-old daughter. An excerpt:

Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.

Your loving,

Daddy

I love the encouragement of critical thinking, the genuine interest and passion in the topic, and the raising of a conversation between father and daughter concerning an intellectual issue. Little girls, as any attentive father knows, crave knowledge and respect in equal measure with beauty and fun.

I’ve been reading lots of letters lately. I received the book Kurt Vonnegut: Letters for the holidays. In it is a letter that Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his daughter Nanny while he was away teaching at a university. The postscript he included stuck with me: “P.S. The last time I saw you, you were certainly one of the nicest people I had ever met. Now I hear that you are learning to dance. That makes you just about perfect.” What girl doesn’t love to hear how wonderful she is from the (biased) men in her life?

What struck me about all of these notes is the attention that the fathers paid to the internal character of their daughters. They are, in essence, encouraging their beloveds to be as fully human as they can be and to be themselves. They aren’t talking about jewelry or boys or makeup or pink, the stuff that media sells to our daughters. They are talking about the mind, life, self-expression, and humanity — the stuff girls actually give two shits about.

At the end of every semester, I have the chore of responding to student emails. Once students have received their grades, they email me in flocks to reconsider my grading standards because they really need an A to boost their GPA. Or because they can’t tell their parents the grades they earned. Or because they came upon some rough times this semester. Or because they only missed a few classes. And I respond with something (exactly) like this:

Dear Student X,

Your grade will remain an F (or C or B). You had over 5 absences, you were late multiple times, you came to class many times unprepared, and the work you did do was of poor quality. If you want to appeal this grade, you can write to the Director of the Writing Program.

Sincerely.

But then. Lo! And behold! I get an email from a student, who earned an A, who wants to see my comments on his final paper entitled “Black Is Beautiful Until the Movie Starts: A Look at How African American Males Are Portrayed in Film and Television.” I know! It was amazing. He followed directions. He was smart and original in expressing his ideas. I wanted to hug him after I read it, but then he topped it all off with ASKING TO SEE MY COMMENTS. He cared and used what I say regarding his writing. He wrote, “As I continue my education, I would like to use this paper as a base and build on it. Seeing what you had to say about my writing would be helpful.” And I’m like “FUCK YEAH, DUDE.”  I mean, “Absolutely! If you’re comfortable sending me your mailing address, I’ll mail it to you.” And so I did. And that’s how 1 student can make the entire semester worth low pay, no office, no benefits, and no job security worth it. I can die happy, in love with teaching and students and the higher education system and all of life.

Wish List 2012

December 5, 2012

I usually try to avoid feeding the consumerist machine, but sometimes it’s just fun to look at stuff. And when most of the stuff is local art, I feel justified in my wanting 🙂 Here’s my list so far this Holiday season:

#1 John Fullbright album. This precious singer\ songwriter grew up and still lives about 20 minutes away from my hometown of Holdenville, Oklahoma. Pretty song:

#2 Oklahoma state charm necklace from Gleeful Peacock.

The turquoise is my favorite.

#3 Welcome ‘Homa Mat. Isn’t it cuuuuute?!?!

My home needs this ‘homa.

#4 JD McPherson Record. ‘Cuz I saw his live show at Cain’s this summer, and it was one of the most fun concerts I’ve been to. And ‘cuz I’m probably the only Okie that doesn’t own one yet. I mean, tell me this doesn’t make you feel good:

#5 Kurt Vonnegut’s recently published Letters. Please, oh, please.

#6 I want about 5 or 10 of these versatile hand-forged S hooks, for to hang my pots and pans and whatnots:

s hooks

HAND-FORGED.

That’ll do for now.

This Wednesday is good news\ bad news reporting day. First the bad news: Big banks are still being assholes. Citigroup will close over 80 branches worldwide and cut over 11,000 jobs as they record profits and re-allocate billions of federal bailout money. I thought the whole point of the ‘too-big-to-fail’ bailouts was to save jobs. Ha.

Now, moving one to the good news: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled two dangerous anti-abortion laws unconstitutional! O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, Oklahoma, O-K!

What happy days December 7 and 8 will be when Wendell Berry comes to Tulsa to read and talk with the public! Wendell Berry is a farmer, philosopher, writer, and anyway, he is one of the thinkers who has most influenced and helped progress my thinking on local economies, gardening, making, and sharing. He’s got just the right mix of stubborn idealism and smart dirt-under-yer-fingernails philosophy. Some may say his thinking is incorrigibly outdated. But I say take what you can and leave the rest. What I love most about this man is that his intellect and theories connect his body more to the land instead of separating his body from the land, as happens to most philosophers on (the) economy. I’ll just leave some of his words here and say I hope some of you can make it to hear him talk:

So far as I can see, the idea of a local economy rests upon only two principles: neighborhood and subsistence. In a viable neighborhood, neighbors ask themselves what they can do or provide for one another, and they find answers that they and their place can afford. This, and nothing else, is the practice of neighborhood. This practice must be, in part, charitable, but it must also be economic, and the economic part must be equitable; there is a significant charity in just prices.

Of course, everything needed locally cannot be produced locally. But a viable neighborhood is a community; and a viable community is made up of neighbors who cherish and protect what they have in common. This is the principle of subsistence. A viable community, like a viable farm, protects its own production capacities. It does not import products that it can produce for itself. And it does not export local products until local needs have been met. The economic products of a viable community are understood either as belonging to the community’s subsistence or as surplus, and only the surplus is considered to be marketable abroad. A community, if it is to be viable, cannot think of producing solely for export, and it cannot permit importers to use cheaper labor and goods from other places to destroy the local capacity to produce goods that are needed locally. In charity, moreover, it must refuse to import goods that are produced at the cost of human or ecological degradation elsewhere. This principle applies not just to localities, but to regions and nations as well.

 

Update: See ya Saturday at 10ish at the Central Library!