Monday, June 29, 2009

Who Am I?

I'm Andrea Buford, that's who I am. I no longer want my ex-husband's last name. It makes me sad every time I see "Rusin" written anywhere with "Andrea" attached to the front. Who IS that person, I wonder.

Like any change, it's been a little more complicated than I would have liked. I'm working on it, though -one step at a time. A small thing has been to change the name and e-mail account that is associated with this blog, without losing all the content associated with the old name. I needed space, time, and patience to figure it out, but apparently I finally did -and without moving the blog to another server. So, I THINK that from the reader's point of view, nothing has changed, except that you'll see my new name attached to posts from here on out. If that's not true, please let me know. From my point of view, this is now one more place where the new-me (the old me?) is fully present.

Whew! That feels good!
LogoThere are
people with the name Andrea Buford in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Vacationing in Andrea-world:

1)Definitely, go to a week-long workshop that has three yoga sessions a day, when the longest yoga session you've done in 2 years is probably 45 minutes. Yeah, that's a good idea. Oh my lands, I hurt everywhere.

2)Since this is a "girl's weekend" for you, pack all your girly face products, which will then spill on the clothes in your suitcase, doing what face masque does -become rock hard. So now you have two outfits.

3)Get asked out by a very interesting Italian man, and then realize type-wise, he IS your ex-husband. And you don't have any clothes to wear that don't have green goo solidified on them, anyway.

4) And definitely, definitely, when you know full-well that you are the kind of person who can get lost in her own bathroom, leave your GPS in the car.

5)And forget the cord for the camera. I have pictures, but no way to upload them. I'll take care of that when I get home.

I'm having fun, and I'm very glad that I took this time for myself. But that thing I say "wherever you go, there you are" -it turns out to be true.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Academic Arrogance

Ummmmm.... you guys, am I arrogant??? (Don't answer that, please; I think I don't want that answer.)

I know those of you who know the in-real-life me are probably expecting a different post. You'll get the yoga and knitting and travel and Tuscany posts, I promise, but I don't want to lose this germ-cell of a thought.

Here's the back story. (You knew THAT was coming.) It doesn't take long hanging around the ivory tower before you notice that there's a certain amount of pomposity; about 5 minutes will do it. Well, probably you noticed in the first minute. It just took you another 4 minutes to realize that some of it is unmerited posturing. That nonsense depends for its success on the innocents among us (and I usually count myself in this camp -maybe it's time for a facebook quiz on this question) believing that arrogance is the same as aptitude.

Yet, some people do have just flat-out jaw-dropping intellect. Through a series of youthful misadventures that involved accidentally (I still believe) getting admitted to a world-class college, I have had the privilege of hanging around with some of these people for a good bit of my adult life. I think it's false to say that the best minds don't need arrogance and can just be relaxed good-natured folks. Some are, but even then... a certain kind of idiotic questioning and challenging can bring out arrogance that is a SIGHT to behold. It's there all right. And it does what it's designed to do -put idiots in their place. This arrogance is just the certainty that very VERY few people play in their playground and that there's work to be done to get an invitation to this party. OK, there's a little bit of smackdown going on, too.

And academics aren't the only ones I don't understand. What gives people the audacity to challenge someone they don't even know, simply assuming they are on equal footing given the subject-at-hand? Say, hypothetically, you're on an airplane and someone sits next to you and asks what you do. So you try to describe it. OK, so it's not all that hypothetical. For the record, I stuck with social worker and described my research a little; it's true, and way easier than describing the whole story. This person had already told me his life story. He probably took one course in psychology in high school (because it was an easy A, he reveals), 15 or so years ago. He remembers THAT imperfectly, and has certainly not followed the research and the literature. But he knows my research plan is flawed in the following million ways, and that homeless people are all mentally ill and deserve their fate, and won't change, and....

A year ago, I would have rolled my eyes (possibly visibly), but not gone for the smackdown. I would have thought it, right enough, but I wouldn't actually have said anything. And then I would have been upset for hours. I think, though, it's possible that there is something in between the arrogance earned by those with jaw-dropping intellect and foolish preening (which is just a measure of a lack of self-confidence, when you get right down to it.)

Before I go any further, there are things that need to be clarified. I don't think a PhD is the only thing in the world worth wanting. I don't think an academic life is the only life worth living. I know plenty of people without advanced degrees, and some of them are brilliant.

But, and oh dear, here come the truly obnoxious question. Are brilliant and untrained people qualified to question and challenge? OK, of course they are. The knowledge that professional researchers come up with is pointless if it can't be explained -and knowledge isn't the same thing as wisdom, anyway. But what if their questions are just flat-out dumb? (Another falsehood is that there are no dumb questions. I think Fox TV and Rush Limbaugh have pretty much proven that one.) And some questions reveal by their word choice and the questioner's tone a political agenda and its attendant assumption that there can only be one right known-in-advance answer. I am a smart-enough person, but I wouldn't go up to a chemist and suggest that he's misunderstood the subtleties of the polymerase chain reaction. I wouldn't do that, because I know that I don't have the first freakin' clue if he's done that or not. I don't even know what the polymerase chain reaction IS. I might have made it up.

When you're questioning from a position of fundamental ignorance, you should probably shut up and listen instead. Being smart IS NOT ENOUGH. There is work to be done, reading and thinking and making connections between this body of work and that one, and extending and nudging theory. Then you can play in the sandbox.

Yeah, I went for the lady-like smackdown. "My goodness, that might have been more effective as a question rather than an assertion." But now, of course, I'm upset about having done that. And I am wondering if I've taken a path that just leads to trouble.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Second star to the right

...and straight on til morning. That's how you get to Neverland, if you'll remember.

I'm off to Italy. Me??!!! We're deeply into the melting down phase of our program. WHERE are my yoga clothes? What knitting do I take? Should I take my rock climbing gear? WHY didn't I remember to charge my phone last night?

But I always do this. I know that. I can't quite get past the "who do I think I am to be doing this" question. I wonder if I'll be sad not to be sharing it with another person. And I'm irritated that every darn thing still makes me afraid. But I'm doing it anyway, and that's not nothing.

I'll send you pictures.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Garage

It's not here yet, but we have plans. The people door and the car door will switch places, the trim will be white, there will be carriage lights, the garage doors will have windows... and I think those are the only changes. I'm just taking a little break while my bank account recovers, and then we'll get back to work on this project.

And then, I'm finished with big projects for the year. The new furnace and central air will have to wait until next year.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Twirly Skirt

Knitter Notes: I got the pattern off Ravelry. It's knit with 4 colors (pretty much all the pinks) of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece. The pattern is written in two pieces. WHY???? I disregarded that entirely, and it caused no trouble at all.

Now... It's knit for this little peanut....

Meet Nina, my one and only niece. She's a little older than this now. She can't twirl yet, but I remain steadfast that she needs a twirly skirt. Moreover, in spite of the fact that she has red hair and her mother is probably going to want to bop me over the head with a skein of cotton fleece, she needs a PINK twirly skirt. (Aunties have privileges, and I exercise them all!)

Do you remember that? Twirling and twirling, just to watch things spin and to see your beautiful skirt move like a dancer's? And then you fell down in the grass, laughing, just from the joy of the spinning?

Yeah, we pretty much all need a bit of that. How can we teach the little ones to twirl, if we don't do it ourselves? OK, so now that I'm not a toddler, literal twirling makes me queasy. Metaphorical twirling, that's more like it. Today will be a twirly day! We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

At Least it Leaned to the Left (???)

My big house project for the year is underway. Can you see the problem?

Yeah, it leaned a little bit. And it was being held up by a house jack in the center. And the doors were ugly, and weren't even the fold-able garage doors, like they've made for, oh, about the last 75 years. It was unsafe and ugly, and had no redeeming historical value. It had to go.

I knew the demolition guys were coming this morning, so I acknowledged that I'd seen the garage for the last time. They've been doing preparatory work for days, but the weather has been so rainy, they couldn't actually get the thing done. But the task was scheduled -again- for today, and the weather was lovely. I knew the garage had reached the end of its days. Even so, when the girl-child called me and said that they'd started, I felt a little gasp of fear. This is a HUGE thing to have undertaken. Who do I think I AM? Someone who knows how to do all this???? Who am I kidding?

I'm glad I missed this:

I was breathing into a paper bag at work, as it was. And then I got home and saw this: Okay, they'll come back for their equipment, and they didn't leave a bill. So, I'm thinking they're not done. But it's not as though the view has been improved, exactly.

Next up, pouring a new foundation and pad for the new garage. One step at a time.... the path is the goal....

Pass another brown paper bag, could you?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Our Capacity for Self-Deception

It's huge. The only thing to do today is laugh about it.

What we say: This will probably start to look smaller when I decrease for the armholes.
Truth: Unless you're having a fling with the Jolly Green Giant, that sweater's not fitting anybody you know.

What we say: Wow, I must be getting stronger. Yay me!
Truth: There's a big ol' reality check waiting for you when you turn around and the wind is now in your face.

Rock Climbing:
What we say: "Check me out. I climbed a 5.8. Hey, I wonder if my belayer is getting sick; he's breathing awfully hard."
Truth: He's not sick. He's worn out from hauling you up the rock face.

Oh well. I had fun in the process.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

About this Yoga Thing

That's not me, it need hardly be said. What it is, is a slightly imperfect triangle pose (really, her top hip could roll back a smidge), and it's one of my favorites. And it was lost in the great life-changing debacle. I'm too old to be sedentary for two years, apparently. Bad things happen -and losing triangle pose isn't the worst of it, of course. But it bugged me.

You would think this posture would be simple, to look at it, but there's a lot to think about and explore. It's one of those postures that is available to most yoga practitioners (possibly modified, but still an authentic pose)on day one, and remains interesting across a lifetime's practice. And it feels really good, to boot.

It's a yoga belief (in some schools of yoga, anyway) that there is always a modification to make many postures available to everyone. Believe me when I tell you that the modification of triangle pose that I was doing is the one reserved for little old ladies in the nursing home. My knees were the problem -which seems a little odd. Your hips, or back, or neck, or balance.... those are the obvious challenge points in this posture; but for me it was my knees. I lock them, and it hurts.

So, ummmm, "stop locking your knees" comes to mind as a solution.

Therapeutically, locked joints are a (potential) indicator of over-discipline and a distorted need for control. Believe me when I tell you that knowing this doesn't help. Ceding control got me where I was 18 months ago, and that will never again happen to me. Heartache may well be out there for me again, but it won't be because I turned my life over to someone else.

But there's power and a certain kind of healthy mastery -and there's grasping control. As usual, I'm seeking a balance that is elusive. This morning, I gave triangle pose another shot -and fell over backwards. Given my current weight and fitness level, the thud shook the entire house; I wasn't sure the roof wasn't going to cave in ;) The situation was so ridiculous, the only available path was to laugh. Do you suppose the right path through this grasping-letting go quagmire is to let go, laughing?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Women in Black

In an on-line support group I'm in (all women, but not by design), we have a running joke about donning our black pants, black turtlenecks and black sunglasses, grabbing absurdly large and destructive armaments of some kind, and avenging any wrongs perpetrated on one of our members. We are the Women in Black, setting out to make a more perfect universe, and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones should quake at the mention of our name. Hell hath no fury, indeed.

The thing is.... it's hard not to notice that most of the wrongs are perpetrated against women by men. I am not a man-hating feminist. Moreover, I think that's largely a myth. All feminists come with fathers, most with brothers (I imagine), and certainly some with male partners. Some feminists ARE men, forcryingoutloud. But, for the love of Mike, it's sort of hard not to notice the pattern.

Certainly, you all know that I believe I was treated very ill by a man I trusted. I imagine that trust issues will now haunt me for a good long while, possibly forever. His actions were brutal. He knows that. He knew that when he was doing it, but felt entitled to act that way anyway.

FOUR women who are dear to me are in relationship-drama. The drama ranges from dire to worrying-but-probably-nothing. And it is all perpetrated by men thinking (apparently) that they can have bloody well whatever they want. I've had it.

Men who are dear to me and men who are not, these are the rules.

You don't have to go all Promise Keepers on me, but if you made a promise, keep it. If you must break a promise because the keeping of it is more destructive than the breaking of it, do that with as much gentleness and integrity as you can find.

YOU are not the center of the universe. Sorry. Your mother didn't lie, exactly. You were the center of HER universe, but she sort of thought you'd figure out that you weren't the center of the whole bloody thing. Work on that for me, would you?

Treating your wife as a partner and a friend is not some post-apocalyptic violation of all that is true and holy. Grow up. You can't be all things to all people. Honor your wife's giftedness. Respect that she can do plenty of things you can't do -and let's discount the obvious stuff like have a baby. She has talents and gifts and wisdom you don't have. This fact does not threaten your virility.

And about that virilty. We like it, true enough. But it's not the only reason we love you. Seducing a 22-year-old won't help you relocate it. She doesn't think you're hot; she wants a father figure. Give it up and come home.

We will warn you a few times when you break these rules. But there is an end-point. After that, I'm calling my friends. We're getting our black turtlenecks out of the laundry basket and getting to work. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

This is America

Let me preface this by saying that I am emphatically a patriot. The thing is, there's a slight difference of opinion about that. Many of the people who are out there describing themselves as patriots wouldn't consider me to be one. I think dissent can be patriotic. I don't think waving a flag around is enough. And I really, really don't think either of the wars we are involved in has anything whatever to do with patriotism. I think they are monstrous disasters.

So that's the background.

Yesterday was an amazing day. I got called to serve on a jury. As with many people, when the time came for me to put my patriotic beliefs into actual, inconvenient action, I had to heave a sigh and make myself act appropriately. But I got through it and drove to Sycamore to our beautiful old courthouse (last seen by our heroine on the day of her divorce).

I hadn't realized that on that very same morning, a Sycamore-based unit of the National Guard was scheduled to return from Afghanistan. There was to be a parade in their honor at the exact time court was supposed to start. Instead, the courthouse was (temporarily) closed, and the streets were lined with flags and people. The Boy Scouts were out. The high school band was there. People I know -at least one whose son was in the unit- and people I didn't. One little girl on a teensy pink bicycle was riding next to the soldiers, yelling "Look Daddy, I can ride my bike!!" There were babies and strollers and old people in wheel chairs. Judges and jurors and police officers lined the streets.

And there was not a a dry eye to be seen. Seriously, it was a picture right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Or a country music song. Honestly, if it were in a movie, you would have thought it was too sweet to be believable. But there it was.

I hate these wars. But it's also true that I have a brother who is in the Air Force. He's safely state-side at the moment, but I want it to be true that there are parades in his honor and people saying thank you, and (rather dreadful) bands doing their best to celebrate his heroism. I want the town to temporarily stop to say "oh my goodness, we are so glad you're back," and to take a moment of silence for the ones who can't come back. He deserves it; he really does.

And so... I'll stand with the other patriots. For a minute, we'll make room for each other, and celebrate other patriots who express their beliefs differently. They'll go home and, God willing, watch their children ride pink bicycles for a while. I went to the courthouse and did a different kind of duty.