Tuesday, December 30, 2003

off we go

Information on our boat is here, though we have a customized itinerary:
Day 1 Baltra, South Plaza
Day 2 Espanola (Gardner Bay, Punta Suarez)
Day 3 Floreana ( Punta Cormorant, Devils Crown and/or Champion, Post Office Bay, Highlands)
Day 4 Santa Cruz (Charles Darwin Research Station, Highlands)
Day 5 Genovesa (Darwin Bay, Prince Philip Steps)
Day 6 Bartolome, Santiago (Puerto Egas)
Day 7 Rabida, Santa Cruz (Cerro Dragon)
Day 8 North Seymour, Baltra
It is the two days in Quito first I am worried about--traveling with kids in a third world country. We decided to arrange to have a van meet us at the airport after the person in the Galapagos who is arranging our trip sent us the following information about taking a taxi safely:
It can still be a bit of a scramble getting through the crowd to the taxi van outside, so make sure you keep your eyes on your bags at all times. When travelling as a family we always have the following rule when getting into a taxi of any kind: one parent always gets into the taxi first, before our kids get in. (This is to avoid the very unlikely but still possible danger of having a kid get in the taxi and the taxi driver suddenly driving off with him or her before the parent gets in - unfortunately kidnapping is a real, though rare, event). The second rule is for one parent to get in the taxi before the bags are put in--this is to avoid the driver driving off with your bags before you get into the taxi. Also be vigilant like this when you get out of your taxi when you arrive at your destination. It is best for one adult to stay in the taxi until the bags and kids are out.
We'll be back Jan. 10.

Friday, December 26, 2003

still here, barely

My daughter had a stomach virus a week ago, my husband got it Tuesday, my son last night. I'm not feeling too good myself now. No one was sick Christmas day, and the most important thing is to get through it before we leave on our big trip Tuesday. But there was an awful lot I was hoping to get done this break that isn't getting done. Expect little posting until after we get back Jan. 10.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Holiday Greetings!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

good news

I went to the doctor and got the results of some blood work. My Hemoglobin A1c, which measures average blood sugar, was down from 6.5 to 6.2 (actually, I had hoped for even better). My cholesterol panel still had the excellent numbers I have always had--I was worried that would change either as a side effect of the diabetes or because I am eating a somewhat more fat and protein because I have had to cut back so on carbohydrates to keep my blood sugar down.

I didn't get the results yet for female hormone and androgen levels. The doctor thought I would probably turn out to have high androgens. But without the evidence to talk about I didn't get to use the line I have been thinking about: "But I don't want to be less masculine!" Very hard to find any information on that, though I found one web site that lists "a hard-driving personality" as a symptom of high androgens.

Monday, December 15, 2003

end of the semester

Most of my grades are in--I need to concentrate on the last few tomorrow. Then maybe I should think about Christmas? I'm sure I can think of something better to do. I've got an article to write, and an awful lot to get ready for the big trip after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


I just figured out the trick to wetsuit sizes. A woman's XXL in wetsuits is a size 14. Since I wear a size 16 or larger, this is a problem. I have to find a shorty wetsuit for our after-Christmas trip.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

mistakes and sins

I've been trying to learn to be less afraid of mistakes. My kids learned in school to say "Everyone makes mistakes." Mistakes are a good way to learn. I grew up feeling so desperately that I had to be a good girl, and I tend to feel I can't afford to do anything wrong. In parallel to mistakes one might at least argue that we shouldn't be so afraid of doing something wrong, so long as we learn from it. How do we learn to believe in forgiveness?

Friday, December 05, 2003

the last day of classes

is always a relief. This has been a hard semester; I've been distracted and not as into the flow of my classes as I like to be. I did get passionate in my final lecture to one class, but I never know how much my call for making choices about technology gets through to them.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

low carb

I've made a big point of not paying attention to the world of diets, and so I am rather horrified by what I find now that I have to pay attention. There are not only so many conflicting and extremist approaches but so many conflicting goals. At the moment I'm trying to follow the goals explained here. I can do that and eat not too low carb a diet. But would it be better to eat fewer carbohydrates and have still lower blood sugar? Some people definitely think so, but at the moment I incline against the idea. The glycemic index approach allows selecting carbohydrates that have somewhat lower effect, but I don't find that much difference.

Monday, December 01, 2003

last week of classes

I just had my students do the university student evaluation form on line. Since I teach a laptop course I can have them fill out the questionnaire in class, and I feel fairly comfortable with that, particularly since my department has a separate evaluation form which asks the students to write a paragraph on paper. Other faculty who are not teaching laptop courses are very worried about online evaluation, as they think students will not take the process so seriously if they do it at home in their dorms rather than in class.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003


Back from one trip Sunday and going away again tomorrow. We are going to a Thanksgiving retreat at an Episcopal conference center on the coast, so I hope that will be relaxing. But I miss my routine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

I'm here, sort of

Lots of appointments, including a big one that got rescheduled from today to yesterday. And tomorrow I head out for the History of Science Society annual meeting.

I was brought up short last week when I asked myself the question "Why am I doing this?" about working so hard to get my blood sugar into the normal range. I realized that I was just doing it so the doctors can't say "It's your fault." The rational answer would be that keeping my blood sugar in the normal range is the best way to avoid complications later on, but that doesn't work for me on a deeper level because there are feelings deep inside me of wanting to be disabled (wanting my pain to be visible). I struggled with some of those issues yesterday and where I ended up was to just say that I'm working on controlling my blood sugar because it is interesting. For example, how do certain foods affect me, and affect me differently at different times? That it is interesting is a good enough reason for the moment.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Episcopal History

A friend forwarded to me the following piece of humor:
"The actions taken by the New Hampshire Episcopalians (INDUCTING A GAY BISHOP) are an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the church's founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriages."

If you want thoughtful discussion of the issue I point you to

Thursday, November 13, 2003


I feel like the new attitudes to food that I have worked so hard to build are destroyed by the diabetes. So I need the symbol of balance more than ever. The rocks gave me the courage to have icecream as a treat. The good news is that my blood sugar two hours afterwards was ok.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


I gave a talk at my 13 year old son's school on the history of computers. The concept I wanted to get across to the students is that computers were originally used just to do mathematics; the ways they use computers (applications and the World Wide Web) are very recent inventions. They were amazed that the computer just uses numbers and someone has to write a program to get it to do all the fancy things we do with it. Several of them were intrigued with the idea that games are programs people write and wanted to know if they could write their own games.

When I was in high school, learning to program computers was seen as a useful thing to do to be prepared for the new world of computers. When I was in college people like scientists wrote their own programs. Now it seems that no one but professionals programs any more, they just use applications. It seems to me that despite that it might be something valuable for students to learn, as learning how to flowchart still affects how I think about analyzing complex programs.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

my body, my science experiment

I didn't have time to balance any rocks Thursday, but I did work through some of my feelings about the diabetes. Then yesterday I got The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes by Gretchen Becker, which is a wonderful book. It encouraged me in a direction I was already going, of wanting to test out what works for me. The idea of testing my response to different foods appeals to my need to feel in control (at least of the data, even if I don't like what it tells me to do) instead of feeling that some outside authority is telling me what to do with my body.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


A couple of busy days are done and things should settle down a little. Except my husband is going to a conference for four days, so I will be doing the single parent thing. I'm praying for several friends who are in hard places.

Monday, November 03, 2003


I went looking memoirs about diabetes and was surprised to find just a few (and those dealing more with childhood). Very different from the huge literature by cancer survivors. Is it not dramatic enough or is the shame I feel more common than I realized? I did find Rick Mendosa's very helpful web site and a couple of yahoo groups to try out.

Friday, October 31, 2003


I ran an old blog post (the one about Millikan) through gender genie (which I discovered thanks to Misbehaving). The result was overwhelmingly male and when I told the program that the text was written by a female I got the comment: "That is one butch chick." So women aren't supposed to be analytical? I tried an email to a friend about personal issues and even that got a higher male score than female, though it was much closer.


My daughter wanted to be a penguin for Halloween. We worked hard on the costume but I am afraid everyone is going to say: "Who are you? Darth Vader?"

Thursday, October 30, 2003


Wednesday, October 29, 2003


I was diagnosed yesterday with pre-diabetes. It shouldn't be a suprise; I've worried about my blood sugar for years (because I was borderline for gestational diabetes and because I was diagnosed with diabetes 5 years ago only to have my doctor say no, don't worry, on the basis of a different test). I'm below the diabetes line partly because I have done a good job of improving my diet (using the glycemic index). Yet the diagnosis still has thrown me for a loop. One of the things that bothers me most is that I feel everyone will see it as my fault for being overweight. With some outside help, my doctor has gotten the message not to tell me I have to lose weight (that triggers too many negative childhood messages). But it was clear that he didn't quite know what to say when he couldn't make that his central point.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


My professional society's Women's Caucus has discovered that this upcoming annual meeting will be our 30th anniversary. I was in college 30 years ago, not going to the professional society yet but caught up in the early excitement about women's history and new opportunities. We are much securer as women professionals than we were then, but the world has changed a lot less than we expected. We thought we could change how people thought.

Monday, October 27, 2003

technological frustrations

The latest news from computer support is:
Just when I thought all the problems were fixed. Apparently Daylight savings time has messed up the internal clocks on the ISM. Since Daylight savings time occurs at 2PM, and all the machines on campus are set to rebuild at 2PM, their behavior has been unpredictable. They are all rebuilding at strange times.
I assume he means 2 AM, but still it seems ridiculous. In one classroom I taught in Internet Exporer froze up every time I tried to start it, but Mozilla worked. We are having many more computer problems this fall than we did last spring.

Friday, October 24, 2003

papers to grade

In my large class for freshman engineers I give a choice of assigned topics for a short argument paper (the topics change every year). It is always intereresting to see what topics the students choose. This year order of preference was:
life extension
the future of the space shuttle
impact of genetic engineering on farmers
viruses and worms on the internet
electronic publishing of textbooks (only one paper on this topic)
Their preferences suggest a romantic view of technology, where I expected them to be interested in topics that affect them most directly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

girl 101

My 10 year old daughter said the other day that she wanted to go to a real clothes store, like Gap or Old Navy. I buy not only most of my kids clothes but even most of my own clothes at WalMart and Target. Her request brought up my guilt that having missed Girl 101 myself (and not being interested in learning because of my feminist principles) I don't know how to teach her things that most girls learn about female culture. She already feels that it is going to be difficult to decide whether to shave--I told her that most women do, though I don't, and she will probably want to. At this point she seems to see it as hard to be disloyal to my example.

Sunday we stopped at an outlet center and went to the Gap and Old Navy outlets, as well as a few others. And yesterday I actually took her to the nearest real mall. I probably haven't been in a mall in 5 years. It wasn't crowded so it wasn't too bad but it wasn't inspiring. She bought one shirt but the thing she wanted most was a Beanie Baby.

Monday, October 20, 2003


My friend vowed:
I desire to dedicate my whole life to God and the Body of Christ in the Order of St Helena. And I wish, of my own free will, to share in this community's life of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.

I believe that God has called me to make this dedication of my life.

I solemnly vow, with God's help, to live the life of Poverty, regarding nothing as my own, but always striving to live simply, to share generously, and to use the good things which I have been given to the glory of God.

I solemnly vow, with God's help, to live the life of Chastity, to root in God my power to love, using my freedom to love and to serve God, and to live in the single celibate state for the service of others.

I solemnly vow, with God's help, to live the life of Obedience, remaining open to the will of God as it is heard not only in my own prayer, but also in the insights of others and in the common mind of the community, and committing myself always to serve not my own will, but the will of God.

Sunday, October 19, 2003


Yesterday I went to the Convent of St. Helena in Augusta, Georgia, for the service where a friend took her first vows as a member of the order. It was very moving to see her vow poverty, chastity, and obedience and to be welcomed into the order. I think what made me cry most was the sense that she has been accepted into a safe home. Since I don't have any pictures of the service here are some rocks I balanced in the convent's meditation garden:

Thursday, October 16, 2003


No, I can't build from the bottom up. I've already made myself a place in the world, and it is a good place. Somehow I have to put a foundation under that. I do have an image for that--about 10 years ago the old family house on Cape Cod was jacked up so a new foundation could be built under it.



I did this at the South Carolina Botanical Garden, which has an extensive sculpture program. I keep wondering if I am going to get into trouble for doing unauthorized art.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


Two students coming into my classroom for the class after mine were talking about a course that one of the students was considering taking on line. The first student said he thought he would learn a lot more if he went to class. The other student said "You don't need to learn that much."

There is the fundamental conflict of goals. I want my students to want to learn, and some of them want to learn as little as possible.

Monday, October 13, 2003

rock balancing

I made myself a rock balancing web page.


There are days when I just can't accept not being able to please all the people all the time. I teach a lot of freshman engineers, and the history course they take from me is low on their priority list. I would like to think they come away thinking more carefully about the impact of technology on society; some do. I would like to think they learn because they care and are interested, and that is probably unfair to expect. But the issues I want them to think about matter so much to me.

Friday, October 10, 2003




Someone said to me yesterday that it wasn't that he saw some of the intense ways I follow my inner journey as bad or wrong, but he did feel the need for caution. He said cars are good but you have to be careful with them. I laughed and laughed and said I argue with my freshman engineers all the time about whether cars are good.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


My son finished sixth grade last spring, which is as far as our local Montessori school goes, and the question was what next? He's ahead in some things and behind in others and has had a lot of problems with teasing, so we didn't want to put him in public school particularly in this era of budget cuts. The only other private schools in the area use the Bob Jones University Curriculum, and I'm not willing to send my kids to a school that doesn't teach evolution. So last spring we talked to a Montessori School 20 miles away, that has 7th and 8th grades. The middle school teacher initially said they couldn't meet P.'s needs, but we persuaded him to agree to take P. this fall for a 6 week trial period. Thankfully that teacher left, and the idea that P. was accepted only for a trial period seemed to disappear. Yesterday we had a teacher conference on the results of the first 6 week block. As part of the transition to public school this Montessori has tests and grades in middle school. P.'s lowest grade was an 83, and most of his grades were in the 90s, and that is essentially without accomodations (except a laptop we provide). The teacher said P. participates a lot and is fitting in very well. I've known it was going well, but it is awfully nice to get the official confirmation.

Sunday, October 05, 2003



Friday, October 03, 2003


For what it is worth, this is the first anniversary of this blog. It is doing what I wanted to do, serving as a place where I can put the different parts of my life together. What I've never been clear on is audience. It seems to work as a place where some friends can see what is up with me and write me an email when something particularly strikes them. I think I need to just not worry whether anyone else reads it. I don't want to make it less diverse and I don't have time to write at more length, so I am what I am.

Thursday, October 02, 2003



It took a lot of tries to get this one to balance. But the two I balanced last week were still up despite wind and rain. There is a picture of all four here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Evidence in History

Timothy Burke writes about the danger of distorting evidence in historical writing. It reminds me of a story that I heard Gerald Holton tell in a paper at a history of science conference many years ago. He had been reading Millikan's lab notebooks from the famous Millikan Oil Drop Experiment. Holton's conclusions are published in: Holton, Gerald. 1978. "Subelectrons, presuppositions and the Millikan-Ehrenhaft Dispute." Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 9:166-224. Reprinted pp.25-83 in The Scientific Imagination (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978).

In his experiment Millikan measured the electrical charge of oil droplets by how they moved in a magnetic field and calculated that the charges only came in certain amounts. You could have an oil drop with a charge of 2 or 4, but not one with a charge of 2.5. This showed that electricity came in fixed amounts in particles that came to be called electrons rather than being something that could come in any amount (like heat).

On each page of the notebook Millikan goes through a lengthy calculation to find the charge of a single oil drop. If you have done the modern version of the experiment be aware that Millikan's version was much more complicated because he had to calculate a correction for the evaporation of the oil. Holton showed us a slide of one notebook page in which Millikan's calculation found a charge almost exactly half way between the fixed amounts. At the bottom of the page Millikan wrote: "This couldn't be an oil drop." And it may not have been--it may have been a dust mote. (A defense of Millikan.)

Some scholars argue that Millikan was not as ethical as he should have been--in fact the 58 observations Millikan reports in his scientific paper are culled from at least 107. I draw a different conclusion. We make sense of the world by a process of simplification--we could never know anything unless we select for the evidence relevant to the particular simplification we want to make. As a historian, I select the evidence that is relevant to the point I want to make rather than putting a lot of irrelevant evidence in my paper. Someone else may come along and feel I have distorted the story. I can avoid some of that problem by being honest about my point of view. It is certainly possible to take selection too far so that it becomes distortion, and that is to be avoided and criticized. But selection is necessary and there is no nice neat line that defines when you have gone too far.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003


A friend wrote me about fairness: "Fair doesn't allow for grace. Fair doesn't allow for gifts or hope or serendipity." When I was growing up my family (when things were going smoothly) put too much emphasis on fairness. If there is one piece of cake left the older kid (me) cuts it in half and the younger child gets to choose which piece she wants. Everything was a zero sum game. I've tried to learn to believe in abundance instead.

It occurred to me that it is significant that my mother speaks of the hard things that have happened to her as tragedies. Tragedies don't get better. And the classical theory of tragedy says that the bad thing that happens is the result of the hero's tragic flaw, so in some sense it is the hero's fault.

I'm trying to learn that it is possible to accept that something bad happened and grieve it and go on instead of trying to find someone to blame. All radical new ideas for me, particularly when applied to my childhood.

Monday, September 29, 2003



I had wanted to walk Seed Orchard Road down to the lake over the weekend, but I hadn't made it a high enough priority. Today I didn't have anything on my calendar in the afternoon and I realized it was important to listen to that impulse. Balancing rocks is my symbol that it is all going to work.


I didn't vote for Jimmy Carter, I couldn't forgive him his comment that "Life is unfair." (I've learned from that experience to hold my nose and vote for the least worst candidate; there isn't much other choice in South Carolina).

But I'm thinking today not about politics but about fairness. As a child I believed I deserved the mistreatment I got. I've heard it said that children tend to believe that because that gives them some sense of control when it is too unbearable to feel powerless. At the moment, though, it seems to me that what is unbearable is not being powerless but injustice. If life is that unfair then how can we live it?

Saturday, September 27, 2003



I was afraid I had lost my touch--at first I was trying to stand up the rock that became the top rock and it wouldn't balance well. Then I had the idea of trying the other one, and balancing it on a single rock rather than between rocks. The thing that most felt like magic, though, was when I put the top rock on the standing rock and it balanced right where I first put it down, first try.

Friday, September 26, 2003


The New Yorker has a review of an autobiography by Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, which concludes with the unkind words "The fact that you’re the last one left doesn’t mean you have to turn out the light." I read that last night after a conversation in which I wanted to use the phrase "let a hundred flowers bloom" (I couldn't remember whether it was a hundred or a thousand). I knew it came from Chairman Mao and I associated it with the Cultural Revolution and felt it had turned out to mean the opposite of what I meant.

So I found myself being defensive about having been attracted to communism when I was a college student and graduate student (mid to late 1970s). Feminism ended up more important to me, but I did see myself as in the community of fellow-travelers. I remember defending sometimes the Soviet Union and China, and that leads to my current embarrassment about those views.

In principle... Is principle possible? In principle I am attracted to direct democracy--let the voters make the decisions. It is another way of valuing the people on the bottom. Living in the south I know the problems of that--around here voters are definitely pushing us in what I consider the wrong directions (the Southern Baptist Church is another example). I do believe that the government should provide more basic social services, starting with universal health care. I suppose the basis of my sense that I no longer hold the views I did when I was in college is that while I am a critic of big business, I do conclude that a centrally planned economy proved to be a bad idea.

Thursday, September 25, 2003


Today I tried big rocks:

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


Diver go down
Down into the green
Inverted dawn
To the dark unseen
To the never day
The under night
Starless and steep
Deep beneath deep
Diver fall
And falling fight
Your weed-dense way
Until you crawl
Until you touch
Weird water land
And stand.

Diver come up
Up through the green
Into the light
The sun the seen
But in the clutch
Of your dripping hand
Diver bring
Some uncouth thing
That we could swear
And would have sworn
Was never born
Or could ever be
Blaze on our sight
Make us see.

Robert Francis, Come Out Into the Sun: Poems New and Selected (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1968). more poems by Robert Francis

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


I've been reading Nancy Tomes: The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life. It focuses one of the dilemmas of women's history--new ideas about housecleaning seem to have been both a way to keep women down by setting impossible tasks for them and something women embraced as a way to achieve goals they valued. What intrigues me most is the remnant practices: my parents built a sleeping porch because my mother grew up with one, but I had no idea that the original reason for sleeping porches was to fight tuberculosis.

Monday, September 22, 2003


We had a wet summer and then the rain stopped. So heavy rain all this evening is a sound I am not used to. It is a winter sound, reminding me of the cold of winter rain even though it isn't cold yet.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

more rock balancing

This is what I did at Hagood Mill today:

Friday, September 19, 2003


I'm very proud of my first effort at rock balancing!

More pictures of rock balancing.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


I've been thinking about resolution in the sense of finding resolution for issues I struggle with. I attach great importance to finding a sense of resolution in the short term, feeling I have gotten somewhere, and I usually am able to have that. That results, though, in a pattern that has its own frustrations. On a month by month basis I feel like I am making a lot of progress, but on a year by year basis it is less clear. I'm certainly still going deeper into the onion, not working my way out again. Is it an infinite onion?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


I've been feeling ungrounded. I think a lot of it is the added complication in our lives of our son going to a new school 20 miles away. I've got more than I can juggle, though I've made a good transition to an earlier morning routine and my husband is doing most of the afternoon driving. I realized recently that my tendency when I feel some imbalance in my life is to add something, and that just adds to having too much to cope with. I don't see any way that I am willing to take anything away. So what I've realized is that I need to work within the pieces I have and find ways to feel more balance.

Update: Thanks to Burningbird, inspiring images of balance.

Sunday, September 14, 2003


I was looking for references for a student interested in the history of automobile aerodynamics and I did a search on streamlining history. Almost the first thing to come up was an abstract for an article: "Streamlining breasts. The exaltation of form and disguise of function in 1930s' ideals," Journal of Design History Volume 14, Issue 4, 2001: pp. 327-342.

Friday, September 12, 2003


I try to avoid the memory controversies. Someone on a discussion board once wrote that she started worrying about whether something she remembered was true and her therapist said: "Ah, the truth committee. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for offering your services but we aren't ready for you yet. Go do something else for a while; we will call you when we need you."

A therapist told me recently that if he answers yes to a question about whether he does memory work, his malpractice insurance will triple. I feel like we are heading all they way back to Freud not believing his patients who reported childhood sexual abuse. I did a google search on Freud memory sexual abuse and what came up was mostly false memory stuff. How many people who are bravely beginning to face memories of sexual abuse are being shoved back in the closet by society's refusal to believe them or help them?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

a good night's sleep

makes it a lot easier to cope. Finally the heat has broken here.

I was reading email from a listserv and a member is collecting information on policy decisions about allowing dogs (leashed) on national park trails to give some context to a local issue. She write that the larger context "will give a frame for the mud to stick to if nothing else." I'm very taken by that concept of a frame for the mud to stick to. I tried to give my students that the other day and they didn't get it at all--they wanted to know what issues are going to be on the test, not have a larger context of where the issues lead.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


How does the child still inside come to terms with having been manipulated and compelled to do bad things to herself?

Monday, September 08, 2003

results of my survey

Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to retrofit his Hummer to run on hydrogen. What do you think of this idea?

82 students picked a. This is a good technological fix--Americans aren't going to give up SUVs so we should make them more environmentally friendly.
13 students picked b. This is a foolish technogical fix--the Hummer is an example of the excess that harms our environment. We need to change our values and behavior, not think we can have it all.

Did I go too far in trying to phrase my answers so as not to slant the results? Or is it simply that student do think they can have it all?


On Friday I talked to my classes about the technological fix , the idea that technology can solve all our problems. And today I ran across (thanks to Alex) an example of a bad technological fix that to me is as clear as the old one I have been using about giving free airconditioners to ghetto residents to prevent riots. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to retrofit his Hummer to run on hydrogen. What I wish I knew was how many of my students see the irony in that and how many think it a good idea. I'm doing an in-class survey today anyway (one of my teaching techniques in laptop classes)--I will ask them. Results later.

Friday, September 05, 2003


LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Thursday, September 04, 2003


I was feeling the child's fear of being abandoned today and someone who cares about me gave me more than I expected. Then this rainbow followed me as I drove for more than 20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003


I was feeling like I was settling into the semester and things were calming down, but now I've fallen into feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities again. There are research-related projects I need somehow to get done this fall, and I don't know how to put that on top of kids, household, marriage, teaching, and my own journey. Particularly when that journey is both back into intense memories and moving forward in my training to be a spiritual director at the same time. I have a feeling I need to not further organize myself but let go some control and trust God to lead me. But I'm scared whether anything will get done; I don't have a great record.

Monday, September 01, 2003


Akma speaks of his faith and points to a post by Kurt about suspicion of organized religion. I personally feel very torn on just the divide that lies between their two perspectives. I know I fall into cafeteria faith, picking and choosing the pieces that work for me (though mostly, like the labyrinth, from my own Christian tradition). I understand why it is desirable for individuals to give authority to their faith community, but I am not comfortable doing so. I'm perhaps reading in things Akma has said other times to make authority the issue, but I do see that as the key question about community--do I let the community tell me what is right? I let the community provide the story that makes sense of my experience, but in the end I won't let the community tell me anything is right that feels wrong in important ways to me. I know that the community truly lives only if we are willing to do that, but I don't have that much trust.

Friday, August 29, 2003

the burden theory of parenting

I realize how much I grew up in a family where parenting was seen as fundamentally about doing things you don't enjoy for the sake of your children. The assumption is that parenting is hard work with the deferred reward that hopefully you can be proud of how your children turn out. I've long tried to get away from that idea and to see parenting more as a matter of tradeoffs between my children's wants and needs and mine. But I realize how little model I have of adults just enjoying children. I didn't grow up with that.

Thursday, August 28, 2003


No particular reason, just a break from the intensity of weeks of back to school organizing. Kids at two different schools is much more complicated than I realized. But everything is started now, at least, including my own teaching. Can I keep up some energy to do anything else?

Wednesday, August 27, 2003


We went from no home internet service until two weeks ago (it was easier to go into my office half a mile away than to use a slow dial-up connection) to DSL with a home wireless network. Really neat. Though what the kids thought most exciting was sitting side by side, one using the desktop and the other a laptop connected wirelessly (via an antenna a foot away), sending each other email.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Today's entertainment

After working on a syllabus for one course and a blog for another, the thing that cheered me up this afternoon is a web site that does amusing anonymous reviews of church services, in restaurant review style. (Thanks to Sursum Corda.) My church has a new interim rector starting tomorrow; I pray he will be able to help us come together.

Friday, August 22, 2003

memorial service

I went to a memorial service for a colleague who was a character but at one stage of his career negatively evaluated and in some cases fired a lot of people who deserved better. It was a totally secular service, not even the form of a religious service without mention of God. It did celebrate him for the interesting character he was. I don't know what to feel. I wish somewhere in the process for the concept of forgiveness.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

scary California candidate

Thanks to Ampersand, some scary information from Trish Wilson about an anti-feminist candidate for Governor of California. I realize that being a candidate for Governor of California is no testimony to social acceptability, but it still makes me nervous that people can say such things and be taken seriously.

the isolated nuclear family

My son is now going to a school 20 miles away, and we have been trying to work out carpooling. I've talked to two mothers who live in our area, but they are both stay-at-home moms and not that interested in car pooling, except that one works one day a week and needs help that afternoon. We set up for us to pick up her kids that day and for her to take my son. I picked up the kids yesterday and it was a real pain to drive to her house 10 or 15 minutes past ours. But I think we need to get used to it so we will have someone we can call if we get stuck on taking or picking up our son.

In this area most middle class parents drive their kids to and from public school; it seems to be as status thing and is also self-reinforcing--because few kids take the bus, bus routes are an hour or more long. I was talking about this with a friend who said "they don't have anything better to do." Carpooling seems to be seen as an invasion of family privacy. I would like to learn how to be tied into a community more, rather than so isolated.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

computer frustrations

Today we are getting hit by the Sobig virus; campus email has been closed down much of the day. I'm surprised this one is causing so many problems, as it is the kind of virus the university usually filters out more quickly. I got maybe 30 virus related emails yesterday and today. I should consider myself lucky I didn't get more, given that my email address was stolen and used as a "from" address. Perhaps the campus computer support staff didn't get the virus blocked sooner because they were working on a different problem. The authentication server was down for part of this morning so no one could log on. Thankfully it was up by the time I taught. It would have looked pretty bad to have no one able to log on in the first day of class of a laptops-required class.

Monday, August 18, 2003

judging character

I don't usually go in for these, but a quiz testing whether you can tell programming language inventors from serial killers caught me (thanks to Penny). I got 10 out of 10--is that because I look at historical pictures of engineers a lot or because I am hypervigilant?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

long day

In my time in my office today I have:
  • Written an email to colleagues explaining that Netscape has been taken off the smart classroom computers and replaced by Mozilla, but if they want Mozilla on their office computers they will have to ask for it to be installed or download it themselves.
  • Taken my own advice and started getting used to using Internet Explorer for web browsing and Mozilla Composer for writing web pages.
  • Recreated a page that the people who built our new department web page replaced with an inadequate substitute (actually, recreated it twice, as not knowing enough about Mozilla I accidentally deleted everything I had done when I had finished it the first time).
  • Written another email to colleagues reminding them that this year they need to decide between our local course management system or WebCT or Blackboard. All three will be offered this year, and then the university will choose one for future years (making lots of people unhappy).
  • Chosen WebCT for my own courses, but realized that I don't know enough about how it will work differently now it is on the university network instead of on a separate server.
  • Emailed a professor in another department to ask why no graduate students from her program have enrolled in the course that she requested that I offer for them.
  • Researched email screening systems for my kids to use with our new home internet service. None of the company web sites answer the question of whether I have to pay double for two kids with their own email accounts. So far I'm leaning towards Kindermail.
  • Copied my son's school schedule for his church youth group, as he is going to a different school from everyone else. I hope they don't schedule things when he can't go.
  • Not gotten very far revising my course syllabi for the new semester.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

frustrating morning

I didn't have much time and I ended up spending it on worm fixes. The university got hit badly by this one, essentially anyone who turned on their computer yesterday got it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Former Episcopalians

My husband and I thought this was very funny, that the choice of people who want to leave the Episcopal church would be this run-down storefront church. (If you want to use this picture you are welcome to--a large version is here.) The Bishop of Upper South Carolina, who to my regret voted against Robinson, did write an excellent letter about how these issues sometimes take hundreds of years to work out and the church can survive heresy but perhaps not schism.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

weakness and strength

Last week was very stressful--leaving Philadephia after a month, picking up my kids from my family, and returning to Clemson. This week I got several messages and letters from my family complaining about things I didn't do while I was there picking up my kids. I thought I was doing well to get through it all and get to the airport with all our luggage. Am I strong as I thought I was or weak that I can't do all the other things too? Should I try to defend myself now or is that just getting enmeshed?

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

peace and quiet

Saturday, August 02, 2003


We are leaving this afternoon for a week of real vacation at Kanuga. I will be checking my email but I won't have internet access.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Connecticut marshes

This is an example of the views I love riding Amtrack through Rhode Island and Connecticut, taken as I rode from Philadelphia to Providence on Wednesday. It was frustrating trying to take pictures from a moving train with a digital camera with a significant delay between pushing the shutter button and when the photograph is actually taken.

home safely

We're back home in South Carolina. My kids are in excellent shape, though my daughter found the two weeks staying with their grandparents, aunts, and cousins somewhat difficult. Partly it was having to compete with a slightly younger cousin as hard-headed as she is. Partly it was the expectation that everyone would do the same things. I don't think she got pushed too hard, but when I got there to pick them up I got a lecture about how I was a bad parent because I won't push her to play tennis, which is such an important life skill. Then after we left I found an angry message from my mother on my cell phone about how I had missed saying goodbye to one sister and her kids properly (there were 10 people in the family group there and four guests around at the time I was saying goodbye, not to mention two second-cousin families I was told it was important that I spend time with before we left at noon). I don't think my kids got hit with too much of that kind of thing; I suspect that it had been held back and that was why it got dumped on me so hard.

Monday, July 28, 2003

packing up

I'm trying to get packed up--John and the car leave tomorrow, I have one more night here before going to pick up the kids and fly home. Hard to believe that the month is up. We had another long interview with Ruth Patrick today. Tomorrow I need to try to get through some files we just found out about. Very hectic and pressured; heading back home (by way of Cape Cod) feels like more change just when I was feeling a little settled.

Sunday, July 27, 2003


Most of the other participants in the mosaic workshop were artists or art teachers, and at least three were professional mosaic artists (including one from Israel and one from Quebec). I usually hate being a beginner at something. But in this case I found that an advantage. Isaiah kept saying to the group that we were there to learn his techniques and we were his hands for the day; we had to do everything his way. That was easy for me, since I didn't know any other way. The main mural we made is in a narrow 40 foot space and can't really be photographed, but we also completed a smaller one. These were Isaiah's designs; we did the filling in.

Today's work

Making a mural at Isaiah Zagar's workshop.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

William Penn again

Looking north on Broad Street at city hall. We went out to the Hagley library this morning and it was nice to be in the country but you can see from this picture that I am still enjoying the visual clutter of the city. The tower is a part of the City Hall building in the center, despite the different color of stone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

The Patrick Principle

We gave a talk on our research today, obviously very much as a work-in-progress. It was clear during the question period that at least some people had not understood from our talk that Ruth Patrick was a very eminent scientist. They hadn't heard of her, but then I'm not sure how many historians of science who haven't read in the history of ecology would know even the biggest names of 20th century ecology, such as Eugene Odum. The Patrick Principle hasn't caught on as a general term. I think I was too modest (a matter of female style?) and should have done more to brag on Patrick's accomplishments. She wasn't someone who went after publicity; that is part of why she worked so well with industry. But I wonder how much even our audience assumed that because Ruth Patrick was a woman she wasn't that important. What I've added to the talk for the next time I give it is that she was one of the top five ecologists of the mid-20th century.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


Two oral history interviews today, one a little over an hour long but an hour and a half out of town and the other almost three hours. Tired. It takes such concentrated attention that it takes a while for the rest of my life to feel real again at all.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Andy Goldsworthy

I went to see a film called "Rivers and Tides" about the work of Andy Goldsworthy. The South Carolina Botanical Garden near my home has a significant collection of site-specific, nature-based art, but Goldsworthy's work is still more ephemeral. To see the works move on film is wonderful, but for some examples in still photography see Iris Blades and Rowan Berries, Leaves with Hole and Soul of a Tree. The Center for Global Environmental Education has more images.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

city life

I didn't go do anything exciting today, but I enjoyed living in a city. In the morning I walked to the jewelry store district and got my wedding ring made larger. How long will it take for the groove in my finger to go away? In the afternoon I walked to a bakery and enjoyed the row houses and the variety of people on the way. I took a nap, and I did a little writing on my project. Restful.

Friday, July 18, 2003


I had a long, trafficky drive to an interview this afternoon, but now I have a quiet weekend alone. On the way home I bought myself a bunch of lilies for $3. I'm glad not to be flying--last weekend my flight south was cancelled after boarding 2 hours late and sitting on the runway with no air conditioning for half an hour and my flight north was two hours late so we had less than 5 minutes to make our connection (we did but our bags didn't). I've been worrying about being so alone, no one to see me, but right now the quiet just makes me happy.

While I ate my supper I read a story in a local weekly paper about a student who has taken a two-month vow of silence. He has a blog and also a free-form web site. A providential reminder to enjoy the silence, make it my own retreat.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Philadelphia murals

Philadephia has over 2500 murals, an anti-graffiti project that has grown and grown. The one I've photographed near our apartment isn't in the data base, so I don't know much about it. What you are looking at in my picture is a trompe de l'oeil painting on the flat side of a four-story building above a parking lot. It is only part of the mural, which continues to the left and then wraps around onto the building on the next side of the parking lot.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

back in Philadelphia

It was pretty disorienting, starting at home in South Carolina Monday morning, spending a night at the family summer house on Cape Cod, and arriving back in Philadelphia Tuesday night. We flew from Greenville to Cape Cod Monday, barely making our connection, and then I took the bus to Providence and the train from Providence to Philadelphia Tuesday. Amtrack hasn't changed much, though I took someone else's word for it that the food you can buy in the snack bar on the train hasn't improved in the last 25 years. The ride is still just as pretty from Providence to New Haven. One thing I noticed new was lots of osprey nesting platforms, a good number of them inhabited.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

a weekend of traveling

I'm off tomorrow back home to South Carolina, to pick up the kids at camp Sunday morning. Monday the kids and I fly to Massachusetts, and Tuesday I return to Philadelphia by train. Prayers for weathering the stress of transitions would be appreciated.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

the wild woman and the unicorn

I went looking for a coloring book for myself and found one I liked about unicorns. It has not only the late medieval virgins with unicorns, but also earlier images of wild women and men with unicorns. I also didn't know that the unicorn is mentioned several times in the Bible. The King James translates Job 39:9-12 as:
9: Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
10: Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
11: Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
12: Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
The New English Bible and New Revised Standard Version translate the animal as wild ox.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

taxonomy vs. ecology

The Academy of Natural Sciences where we are doing our archival research was founded in 1812 and has strong tradition of taxonomy (classification of species) and large collections of specimins from which species were classified. I think of that as very-old-fashioned scientific research, in opposition to more modern genetic and ecological approaches. But I sat up and took notice today when I read a comment scrawled on a copy of a letter to the editor of a scientific journal. The letter pointed out that a major problem in understanding tropical ecosystems is that a significant number of the species important to the ecosystem haven't been named and described. The handwritten comment pointed out that this brought taxonomy back to central importance in modern science.

Monday, July 07, 2003


A professor I had when I was an undergraduate died a few weeks ago. I was taking his course when I decided to major in history of science; I wonder how much I was influenced by the fact that my mother had taken his course about 25 years earlier and hated him.

I ran into a historian of science yesterday who worked with that professor when she was a graduate student and she told me about his death. Apparently he had a disease that required blood transfusions to keep him alive. He was writing a book, and when he had finished the book and mailed it to the publisher he said no more transfusions and died a week later. She saw that as heroic, but I'm not sure I do.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

William Penn's Hat

Here's a view out our apartment window:
You can see the statue of William Penn (why did I always think it was Benjamin Franklin?) on top of city hall, though the tower on which it stands is mostly blocked by a closer building. Until 1987, Philadelphia had a height restriction that no building in center city could be taller than William Penn's hat. Apparently this was an unwritten regulation; it says something about Philadelphia that it lasted until 1987. There is an interesting blog about Philadelphia called Philadelphia Reflections.

Friday, July 04, 2003

My pictures of Isaiah Zagar's murals

I went by early this morning to photograph Isaiah's murals and constructions with the morning light on them, though a still camera just doesn't capture it because so much life comes from the changing reflections in the mirrors. Isaiah came in and invited me to wander around--the rooms around the courtyard are filled walls and ceilings with more mosaics. Here's an article about Isaiah.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

letting down

I've hardly had a chance to think, with getting organized to travel and then 15 hours of driving over two days (counting taking the kids to camp) and then getting settled in a sublet apartment and two new workplaces where I didn't know anyone. We went to the symphony last night as we wanted to go to the hall a block and a half from our apartment rather than to the outdoor concerts in the park. The Philadelphia Orchestra has a brand new hall, which is interesting architecturally but a bit heavy-handed. Simplicity is appealing but it is hard for a building to be both simple and impressive without looking facist.

So now after all this activity we head into a three day weekend. When I have been holding things together intensely it is hard to let down, hard to feel it is safe to let down. I'm afraid too much dark wildness will come out. I'm trying to use art to give me an alternative way to let things out while I am away from my home safety net; I will see what I can come up with this weekend.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Isaiah's murals

I had forgotten until I stumbled upon them again the mosaics here and here on South Street in Philadelphia by Isaiah Zagar. I remember some existed 25 years ago when I lived in Philadelphia before--in fact he began them in 1969--but I can't visualize what it looked like then. What a wonderful image of hope they are.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003


Leaving the kids at camp was as hard as the first time two years ago. John stayed home and loaded the car for our trip to Philadelphia, and it is a lot to juggle getting both kids settled on opposite sides of the camp. But I suppose it is also my fears of being in a new place myself that it was hard to leave them in a new place.

Our drive to Philadelphia went smoothly--about 12 hours total. The only snag was that the message to let us in didn't get passed on to the right doorperson and we couldn't get into the apartment when we first got there, but we got safely in about an hour later. I don't feel settled in, but at least I have a place to settle into now, both the apartment and an office at work.

I was very strained yesterday morning but since we have gotten to Philadelphia I have been forcing myself to cope. I hope to be able to let down some this evening.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

heading out

I take the kids to camp early this afternoon. It took a long time to pack them yesterday; just writing names on 10 pairs of socks for each kid is a nontrivial job. And some of the things on the camp list are not easy to put together: 4 beach or bath towels for each kid!

When I get back from the camp we head for Philadelphia; we just want to get a few hours down the road today so that the drive tomorrow won't be so long. I hope to be writing here again Tuesday. I'm mostly shutting down my feelings and coping, but my anxiety level seems to have settled a bit.

Friday, June 27, 2003

The Yellow Bag

When I first started working with a Jungian therapist who loved my artwork, I carried an ordinary canvas bag with my pad. When I started making cloth hearts they outgrew my plain canvas bag, and I made myself a large yellow canvas bag. I’ve used it now for 7 years as my therapy bag. It contains some artwork, though I do art irregularly now, and a collection of symbols that I can pull out if I need them, as well as some miscellaneous paperwork.

A fairly complete list of current contents:
  • a man’s shirt which symbolizes my first father
  • a symbol of my mother: a piece of blue-patterned cloth rolled up and tied with a red shoelace containing branches cut from a rose bush, a cloth fish, and a small human figure made of wire with a red-clay head
  • two cloth frogs
  • a ziplock bag of my hair (I don’t remember why)
  • a bag of sidewalk chalk
  • a red folding umbrella
  • a small box with some pieces of flint
  • a blanket I made, yellow satin on one side and a yellow and orange pattern on the other
  • a lightweight silk rainbow—15 feet long and 3 feet wide
  • a large red silk shawl
  • most of a blue-and-white-patterned sheet, though part of it has been torn off
  • a wooden cross with a cross of nails mounted on it—maybe 5 inches tall
  • a silver spiral pin (still with a $12.95 pricetag on it)
  • a small icon of Mary mounted as a magnet
  • a folder of papers
  • two knives made of paper, one with a blade covered with aluminum foil
  • a small bag of marbles
  • a container of bubble solution (for blowing bubbles)
  • a spool of silver thread

Yesterday when I got to therapy I discovered my yellow bag, which I thought I had left in the car earlier in the week, wasn’t there. I was disturbed not to have it, but I thought I could have taken it into the house and forgotten I had done so, so I called home. My daughter reported that the police had just called to say that my yellow bag had been turned into the police station. The person who called me described it as having a lot of personal items in it (very polite of her) and some documents with my name on them. When I went by afterwards to pick it up they said it had been thrown over the fence at a construction site, so I guess it was stolen out of my car (which I don’t always lock).

Two things were missing from the bag. I had in there a plastic box which contained two Easter eggs—real blown eggs that I decorated as a child and gave as a gift to my grandparents. I was carrying them around thinking someday I would like to ceremonially smash them. The box and the note I wrote to my grandparents is still there, but the eggs are gone. The other thing that is missing is my art pad. I think it had three pages filled of which I remember two. One was a drawing of my hand being held over a candle. The other was a drawing of myself, nude, covered with geometric patterns of red lines. Sort of like a combination of this, this, and this. I’m a little weirded out that the person who took my bag kept my drawings. I hope they give him nightmares.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

here a few more days

I posted yesterday, but hit publish just as Blogger shut down to install the new version, and my post disappeared into the aether. I'm slowly turning my attention towards Philadelphia--working on making some contacts there. It is still hard to imagine being away from the structure and safe place of home for a month. We leave Sunday afternoon. I do expect to be able to write here while I am in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003


Suddenly yesterday I thought of the Passover song Dayenu. I found a traditional version:
How many levels of favors has the Omnipresent One bestowed upon us:

If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their first-born Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had smitten their first-born, and had not given us their wealth Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Beit Habechirah (Chosen House; the Beit Hamikdash) Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

Thus how much more so should we be grateful to the Omnipresent One for the doubled and redoubled goodness that He has bestowed upon us; for He has brought us out of Egypt, and carried out judgments against them, and against their idols, and smote their first-born, and gave us their wealth, and split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land, and drowned our oppressors in it, and supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and fed us the manna, and gave us the Shabbat, and brought us before Mount Sinai, and gave us the Torah, and brought us into the land of Israel and built for us the Beit Habechirah to atone for all our sins.
(source--if it comes up in Hebrew click the translation button)

I'm thinking about the idea of Dayenu: "it would have been enough". One article I came across says: "Many feel that redemption requires complete change. The Dayenu reminds us that redemption or self improvement is a process." I easily feel frustrated with myself for not being farther on my journey. My word for the week is now dayenu: what I have accomplished already is enough. I don't doubt God will lead me farther, but I will focus on gratitude for and acceptance of where I have already come.

Monday, June 23, 2003

moving forward

It was hard to slow down all the way to a silent retreat, but I'm awfully glad I had the break from the pressures here and a place to be quiet. Now I need to focus on packing my kids for camp and myself for a month in Philadelphia!

Friday, June 20, 2003


I turn 48 tomorrow, and, tired of my kids' expectations of birthdays, I'm celebrating this one by going to the convent in Augusta for a silent retreat. I don't yet mind getting older, and when I turned 40 I realized that I couldn't complain because I have very much more in my life than I ever thought possible. But I don't want to be celebrated; it only stokes up the negative messages that come up so easily in my head.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

the personal and the professional

Marshmellows and Bile points out a very interesting article about a specialist in bioethics who has had to confront his own heritage. What struck me was less the questions about new genetic choices, though those are very real, but his reaction that "He'd always feared becoming the sort of academic whose career is based solely on his personal obsessions" (p. 2). It strikes me that this is one of the ways in which women are still discredited in academia, for being motivated by personal concerns. There has been so much work critiquing the old notions of objectivity, but to the young scholar in the article disinterestedness is still a sign of valour. I don't deny that there are people who get tripped up in their professional work by personal concerns. But aren't we on average better off if we have scholars who also have emotional as well as rational knowledge of issues they study?

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

the struggle

It is so hard to live a new life, and in the midst of the old one. My son turned 13 yesterday, but I am hardly 13 in learning to be myself.

Yesterday I taugh a workshop on alternative ways to use computers in teaching for writing to learn (I covered listservs, discussion boards, chat, and blogs). At one point I found myself talking about being a role model, in the context of using my course blog to be a role model for students in thinking critically about technology and society. I'm struck by how on a personal as well as a professional level I have come more and more to see role models as central to how we learn. I can't tell people much beyond facts, but I can show what I have learned through how I live my life. I'm grateful to Burningbird for being a role model in standing up to and naming the ways women are marginalized in the tech community.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

more thoughts on forgiveness

A friend writes:
I also think you're right about forgiveness being a thing that is covered and rediscovered over and over again. New little pieces of the pain come out like shrapnel in a soldier, years after the war. Each piece has to be integrated into the process and therefore warrants the attention other wounds have gotten. Although thrown back to square one each time, we get faster about processing things as we "practice" the process over and over.
Anger is about being able to defend myself and feeling able to defend my children. I need to know I have that right now. It is also about not blaming myself, something that takes a lot of work.

Monday, June 16, 2003

forgiveness and anger

My art project is here, but be warned that it is a graphic expression of nasty anger. It is on a host that isn't always reliable, so if you get a connection refused message try again another time.

All I know to say at this point is that I don't see forgiveness as a once and for all thing; sometimes I need to go back to anger and that doesn't mean that what I have done to forgive is a failure and wasted effort.

Friday, June 13, 2003

art project

Ok, I have a digital photograph of the gravestones of two of the family members who abused me as a child. What can I do with it? That is my project for this weekend, as a way of doing something with feelings from the trip that I haven't had a chance to work through yet. I'm thinking about printing out multiple copies and using it in some kind of art project more than about manipulating the photograph on the computer. But I might at least print it out in different sizes and colors. It is a simple white gravestone, not something bizarre. Any suggestions? My first thought is some variation of this, but that would be pretty indirect.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

50s science fiction

I reread First Lensmen by E. E. "Doc" Smith because I wanted to know what appealed so much to me when I was a teenager (in the 1970s--it was old already). The plot turns around a device provided by a superior race than can only be used by people who are absolutely incorruptible. I think the idea of a world where you knew who could be completely trusted was tremendously appealing. There is plenty of sexism, but at that time I identified easily with male characters. The device (the lens of the title) also makes possible mental telepathy, and the idea that what was hidden inside me could be known was appealing. Reading the book from my current perspective it is very funny from the perspective of the history of futurism--in the spacefaring world of the future the engineers still whip out their slide rules, and in fact "a computer" still refers to a person who does computations.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

facing pain

I was thinking about why I keep going back even though it is painful, and I realized that connected with the idea that forgiveness is somehow about being willing to absorb the pain so it doesn't keep bouncing between people doing more harm. But there are several dangers in saying that difficult experiences come out for the best. On the one side, it can lead towards chosing unnecessary pain out of a kind of spiritual masochism. On the other side, people can say "it was a blessing" about some painful situation as a way of dismissing or avoiding the pain. The right to get angry needs to come first. And while the situation is not one we would choose, usually there needs to be some choice to accept the pain before it can be redemptive.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

picking battles

I hadn't been following the story, so was impressed to hear that the Episcopal church in New Hampshire has elected an openly-gay bishop. My previous link to an article didn't work, but try the New York Times or Washington Post.

I understand that this is a difficult issue for the well-intentioned leadership of the church because of the views of Anglican leaders in the third world. I don't take the Biblical argument seriously because the biblical condemnations of homosexuality have no more authority than the requirements that women take ritual baths and cover their heads in church. But what strikes me is the effect of the New Hampshire decision on me as a liberal who tends to avoid conflict. Without this example I was tending to feel that it isn't the time to fight these issues. But the New Hampshire decision makes clear that the church can't afford to postpone the issue and rule out leaders that God is raising up right now.

I do want to point out that I am in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, not in the Diocese of South Carolina whose bishop has issued a statement condemning the New Hampshire decision.

Update: a number of good reflections

Monday, June 09, 2003

quick update

Right now my pictures aren't working at all because the server that hosts them is down. But some haven't been working even when the server is up. It seems to be choking on so many pictures on a remote server--I get different ones every time I reload. So here are some links instead:
houseblessing picture
living room picture

I'm safely home but just beginning to catch my breath. The schedule of day camp for my kids here the next three weeks is all messed up. And I'm teaching a workshop tomorrow in which I am giving a demonstration lecture using laptops.

Friday, June 06, 2003

tough time

What hits me as we start to get ready to leave here tomorrow is the unchangingness of the place. The priest remarked on how the living room hasn't been changed significantly since my great-grandmother and great-grandfather lived here (except the art). My parents and my sisters are trying hard not to change anything. Last year I wrote on a stone "change is possible" and left it in my room. When I try to leave this place I feel like it is not.

Thursday, June 05, 2003


We blessed the rooms we use most and rooms of significance from my childhood in all three houses. In the rooms where I have bad childhood memories we said the prayer:

"Let the mighty power of the Holy God be present in this place to banish from it every unclean spirit, to cleanse it from every residue of evil, and to make it a secure habitation for those who dwell in it; in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

The priest seemed to really understand what we were doing and prayed for past, present, and future inhabitants of the house.

My kids were uncertain about the idea beforehand, but when we blessed the rooms they use they joined us. It seemed to mean something to them.

It meant very much to me. The electricity went out sometime while we were doing the houseblessing and I joked it was that powerful (it came on again about half an hour later).

Then the sun came out and we went to the sandbars in Nantucket Sound.
Book of Common Prayer.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003


Here are the two houses:

The big house was built in 1913 for my great grandfather. It is where I spend summers during my childhood.

The other house is an antique house my parents had moved to the property two years ago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

houses and nests

I talked to the local Episcopal priest today about doing a houseblessing, and he seemed very comfortable with what I want to do. So he will come to the house Thursday at 10 am to do it. I told him some of my friends would be praying for me then.

This morning was beautiful and after that meeting we went out in our boat and picnicked on Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Herring gulls were nesting right at the edge of the beach, most with three brown speckled eggs. No chicks yet. The weather was changing by the time we headed back and it was cold and wet until we got back into Stage Harbor.

Monday, June 02, 2003


We had a big northeast storm yesterday, rain and high wind. We went out to see the ocean (I'll have to see if I can figure out a way to post pictures before I get home). But the second stop my daughter shut her finger in the car door badly, and we spent the rest of the afternoon at the emergency room. Nothing broken, but they drilled a hole in her nail to let the blood out.

Today is sunny but cool and very windy. We really want the wind to go down so we can go out in the boat. It is very hard to find our own routine here with my parents here (though in a different house) suggesting things. The last few years they haven't been here when we were here. They will go to New York Wednesday and Thursday so that should give an opportunity to do the houseblessing, if all goes well when I meet with the priest tomorrow.

Saturday, May 31, 2003


The first leg of traveling went well, we spent last night in Concord with my parents before going to Cape Cod. We took a walk in the woods and saw an amazing beaver dam, a long dam creating a good-sized pond fairly high on a hillside. Now that I live outside the area shaped by glaciers, I am so struck when I go back by the rocks of and ridges left by the glaciers. Stony soil.

The forgiveness issues aren't something that are spoken of, they are acted out in subtle ways. I did tell my mother that I am talking to the priest in the town on Cape Cod about doing a house blessing, as I think that would help me settle the memories some. She said nothing. That is good enough; now I can tell the priest that I am not doing this in secret from the other people who use the house. The uncertainty is the scheduling, as my parents are going to join us on Cape Cod sooner in the week than I thought and aren't sure whether they are going to go to New York for an event midweek. I want to do the houseblessing when they aren't around.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

more travel

I'm off tomorrow for a family vacation in Massachusetts; back here June 9 (though I may end up having internet access there instead of my usual email only). Most of the time we will be on Cape Cod, which is beautiful this time of year before the schools up there let out, but can be very cold. I spent my summers in that house as a child; I want my kids to have the good things in that place but it is always hard for me because I have bad memories.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Weakness and Fierce Landscapes

I've been reading The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, by Belden C. Lane. I wish it were yet more personal, but it is a fascinating weaving together of the personal, the spiritual, and the scholarly. He talks about the desert as a place where we meet God when we have to face our powerlessness.

Somehow for me the difficulty of facing my powerlessness is woven in with the issue of forgiveness. I want the power to hold the other person responsible just as I want to believe that I could have resisted as a child. To admit that I had and have no power to change the situation is hard

Monday, May 26, 2003

Early morning on the beach

Seabrook Island, May 14.


I've been using the distinction that forgiveness is something I can do without the participation of the other person, while reconciliation is the restoration of relationship (I got my ideas originally from Forgiveness Forum). But someone in my Sunday school class brought in a sermon on reconciliation that gave the definition truth + forgiveness = reconciliation.

It would be wonderful if the other person admitted the truth of what happened or there was some other kind of public recognition of the truth. Certainly many people who write about their childhood abuse experiences are wanting just that: public recognition of the truth. But there is only limited room for that in this world. Is it possible to feel that the truth has been said without either an admission from the abuser or public recognition? It would take a kind of internal confidence I don't have yet; I've been discovering I don't expect people to believe me (when what I have experienced in recent years is that they do).

I'm realizing that it comes back to forgiveness. I don't want full restoration of relationship; I don't want to give that gift to the other person if they have not acknowledged the truth or asked for forgiveness. But that then sounds like another level of forgiveness to work on, because I am still wanting the other person to pay a price. I would like to get to the point where I'm not still wanting to hurt that person back. I can see that step is both hard and hopeful, to sacrificially absorb the evil.

Friday, May 23, 2003

teaching with technology

I just taught a workshop on alternatives to PowerPoint. One of the participants asked me what advantages my web page approach has over PowerPoint, other than the ability to scroll up and down. I said I don't know that it has any major advantages, PowerPoint just doesn't feel right to me. It doesn't suit the way my brain works. It felt hard to change people's mindset from "what is the best way to do X?" to the idea that different approaches suit different people. I finally said that I'm not a dynamic lecturer like some of the professors in my department but I remember that when I was a student I didn't like best the professors who were flashy performers, I liked quiet sincerity. Variations in styles of teaching are a good thing because different styles are going to suit different students, not to mention that it would be boring if everyone were the same.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Saving Endangered Species

I was intrigued by something I read yesterday about the Endangered Species Act, in the book The Red-cockaded Woodpecker by Richard N. Conner, D. Craig Rudolph, and Jeffrey R. Walters. In the spring of 1985 the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and the Texas Committee on Natural Resources filed a lawsuit against the US Forest Service, which came to include charges that management of the National Forests was causing harm to the Red-cockaded woodpecker. The judge ruled in June 1988 in favor of the Sierra Club, and his ruling included a crucial new definition. He wrote that destruction of habitat constituted "taking" (harming or killing members of an endangered species), which was prohibited by the Endangered Species Act. That definition was appealed to the Supreme Court in a related case, and the Supreme Court upheld it in 1995. (More information) What a crucial difference that legal interpretation makes: protection must be given not only to the endangered species but also to the habitat it needs. That may seem obvious, but given the large habitat requirements of many endangered species it was revolutionary.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Darkness and Light

Monday I had a safe place to go deep into a childhood memory that had been triggered last week. I realize now better why I have always been so shaken by the scene with the rats in Orwell's 1984. It isn't rats, specifically, but self-betrayal.

When I came out of the memory I had a sense of a tiny star in my wounded hand. And I wondered how much the world of such deep pain and evil is the same world as the world of deep spiritual experience. Do those experiences happen in the same place in the inside landscape?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Sursum Corda Spiritual Directors' Formation Program

I spent last week at the first residency of this program. It was an amazing experience of being accepted in all my woundedness in a group and of experiential exploration of spirituality. I'm very much still processing it all. But one of the high points was that Saturday morning at breakfast I said to someone that I felt I was being turned into a (minor) expert and I didn't want to be one. And then the next session answered my concerns. Shaun McCarty spoke on the spiritual director as mystagogue, exploring a shared language for mystery.

I found online an article on one of the topics we explored, centering prayer, by Shaun McCarty, one of the faculty.

Turtle Tracks on Seabrook Island

These tracks were left by a loggerhead turtle coming up on the beach at night to lay her eggs.

Friday, May 09, 2003

going away

I will be out of town May 11-18. It is the first residency for the Sursum Corda spiritual directors' formation program run by the Diocese of South Carolina. I'm three months into the program and have done one set of readings and written one paper, but this is the first time I will meet anyone in person. I'm a bit anxious about my place in the community, particularly with my tendency to question everything. But the funny thing is that my reaction to going back to school is to be obsessed with doing everything right. Despite that, what I'm hoping for is a deep experience of learning with my heart instead of with my brain.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Insecurity and Gender

In the middle third of the nineteenth century there was a lot of emphasis on women's place being in the home. To oversimplify a theory in women's history, the reason for this was that men felt insecure in the new more competitive world brought by new technology, and they reacted by wanting to preserve an imagined older stability in the home. I thought I saw that sort of thing happen after 9/11/01; in times of insecurity society tends to want women to be more domestic, wants to make gender roles more rigid.

The question I got thinking about is why is it in gender roles, particularly, that the need for stability is acted out? Why not in some other area of culture (I suppose the other place it is acted out, which fits both cases, is in religion). The answer that just occurred to me is that as our world becomes more and more mediated by technology, gender feels like our grounding in biological reality. The more out of touch we are with biological reality the more people hang on to gender roles as the one place where we are grounded in biological reality, even though gender roles aren't biological at all and there is far from a fixed line between male and female even biologically. We don't grow our own food any more but we still make our own babies (most of the time).

For me, gender fluidity is a liberating idea. But not very many people see it that way.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Thoreau online

I went to a workshop yesterday in which an English professor talked about his experience getting started in teaching with technology. He said he had been struggling to find a book for his student that had the classic essays he wanted to teach, and he thought maybe he could find them online instead. He said he almost cried when he found Thoreau online.

I almost cried to think of what Thoreau would say about what we are doing. A man who said "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes" and asked "What's the railroad to me?" would see instantly that we are pursuing innovation for its own sake, not because it is actually better. Now I don't dismiss that entirely; one of the values of technology is to keep me and my students from getting bored. But Thoreau deserves his due for suggesting that it is enough that "I have travelled a great deal in Concord" and musing that "We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


Is it possible to speak the truth? No, I don't mean some absolute truth, I mean being real, being who I really am. Dorothea writes of something like what I mean. I spoke with feeling about some of my current struggles in a Sunday school class this past Sunday, and it actually went ok, if I don't get hurt by the people who will now act like it was never said. But it is so rare that people do share what is inside. I really really don't want to live by social conventions but it is hard to get past that (particularly in small town South Carolina). The other side of the problem is how much will anyone else actually understand. I want to believe that not so much the details but some of the meaning can be understood. That seems crucial to me to life being worth living.

Friday, May 02, 2003

releasing young trees

Walking through the woods at the convent, which is in the sandhills region of South Carolina, I noticed a few young longleaf pines, some still in the grass stage. From the forestry I have learned from my current project I was thinking "someone ought to cut down the scrub oak so that the longleaf have enough sun to grow." Foresters call that releasing the seedlings.

I laughed that I was worrying about forestry instead of spiritual matters, but then I realized it is good symbolism. I'm trying to get out of old patterns and let some sun in to what is growing inside me.