Wednesday, September 29, 2004

50 dollars a barrel, folks

Ok, does anyone out there really believe that we aren't on the precipice of peak oil? My economist buddy, Steve, told me last spring that there was no way that oil was going to keep rising to $50 per barrel. Not a chance.

Guess what, we're here. There is already evidence that the poorest people in the US
(G-d help the poorest people in the rest of the world) are going to have to start choosing between heat and food. How long before the rest of us feel the cold?

We've built an economy on oil. Not only do we need oil for nearly everything, but we need it to be cheap. We need oil to pump our water and remove our wastes, to warm our houses and cook our dinners, to get us to our jobs and to visit our parents in the Home. We need oil to grow our food and transport our starlink corn to the feedlots.

And when the oil prices start to rise, the turtle tower (think Yertle) starts to rock. What happens when we have to choose - food or gas, heat or sewage disposal? What happens when all those jobs supported by suburban sprawl can't heat those buildings or get their employees to work? What happens when the economy teeters and crashes, and there is no more cheap oil to raise it up again?

I don't think we really can fix this one anymore. Not by electing the right president, not by conservation (although it would certainly help), not by invading more countries. All we can do is be the youngest, weakest fairy godmother at the baptism, softening the curse a little. We can soften it for our children and hopefully our grandchildren by personal preparation. We can soften it for our communities with planning, for our nation by conservation, but we cannot fix it, and every minute we let slip by, every day we waste because we don't want to change our lives, every act of education we (I) forgo, we make the curse a little darker, longer and deeper.

Damnit, get cracking folks!!! Don't wait for Colin Campbell's $286 per barrel.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

On learning to knit again

Gram was a nasty old woman, and Great-aunt Helen was worse. They'd lived together for thirty years by the time I knew them, since Gram divorced my grandfather in the 1950s, and spent much of that time subtly manipulating my father and his brother into hostilities. Once grandchildren came along, did much the same for my sister and me. Oh, they loved us, indulged us, entertained us, adored us. It took a while before we noticed how much pleasure they took in playing my sister and I against each other. I was the favorite, so smart, so talented, of course not too much to look at, but that's all right. Rachael was the pretty one, such a lovely blond, and if she was a bit dumb and overly-theatrical, well, that's nothing. Our father was wonderful, but our mother... Uncle Rick was perfect, but his wife (who my sister and I worshipped), well, there were terrible things there. There were nasty suggestions and bitter comments about everyone, and each of us wondered what they were saying to other people about us.

With our visits came subtle (and at times not so subtle) diminishment, mild cruelty, the simple certainty that I was ugly and Rachael was stupid and that we were (and should be) in competition with one another. They told stories of Rachael's errors and small sins to me, and vice versa, making us into conspirators against each other. We came for a week each summer and left angry and confused and hurt in ways we could not articulate, but took out against each other and our parents.

At the same time, however, those weeks were magic. Whatever we wanted, we had. Our mother, who disapproved of junk food, was appalled when we told her what we ate. There were cookies - peanut butter and chocolate chunk. Favorite foods were cooked, and they rose early to make popovers. There was candy in the glass dish, and we could watch as much television as we wanted. Little statues of animals and other decorative items inhabited the massive hutch in the dark front room, and we were permitted to take them out and play with them. The garden was filled with flowers, and we picked them and thrust them into the endless supply of glass jars under the cabinet. They were admired as much as if we'd grown them ourselves. More jars were taken outside to collect fireflies, toads and crickets, also deeply admired. In the huge backyard one year, Uncle Rick set off illegal fireworks to our amazed eyes.

We took the fat, elderly dogs for dozens of walks each day, visiting the drugstore and the hot dog stand where everyone knew we were Barbara and Helen's grandchildren. We rode the horses and played Atari and Uncle Rick and Aunt Karen's house, and we raced around Aunt Edith's farm, chasing the barn cats, playing with the chickens and proving how much we could lift with the cousins. At night, we tried on the perfume and jewelry in Aunt Helen's boxes, at whatever we desired for dinner, and watched tv drowsily as Gram and Auntie knit sweaters for us in our favorite colors.

Oh, could they knit. My father still wears the Aran fisherman's sweater they knit for him 20 years ago, and it looks nearly new. Not only were there sweaters and mittens and scarves for us, but crib mobiles for my baby sister, halloween decorations, blankets, everything you could imagine, in vibrant colors and patterns that I now know must have consumed them. I liked to play with the yarn when I was young, pulling it out of the knitting closet, and tying things together with it. How much did I waste, and they never said a word, just pulled out a skein of another vibrant color for me to make spiderwebs of. It was always this way - they were wonderful and terrible, generous and petty, loving and cruel, and even now, I cannot divide the dualities that shape my memories.

We wanted to learn, of course, and they wanted us to learn. Even in the early 1980s, they felt that they were losing us to a different kind of girlhood. The lamented my short hair, predicted dire things for girls who played too much basketball, and tried to make us into ladies, without much success. They tried hard to teach us to knit. I was too clumsy. I learned to crochet, but showed little interest, and a few granny squares later, gave it up. I never did master the rhythym of two needles. My sister was a bit better than I, but the magic of their hands never appeared in ours. The knitting lost out to the horse, and to our resistance of anything that smacked of ladyhood.

As my sister and I became teenagers, some of the magic faded. The dogs of our childhood died. The multicolored sweaters we had been so proud of became less cool. And we began to associate some of the anger we came home from our visits with with Gram and Aunnie. The final year came when Aunnie read my diary aloud to Aunt Karen, with, I gather, snide commentary. After that, the visits were shorter, and never happy. When we became teenagers, we stopped making the four hour drive altogether. We visited only rarely. And they got older.

By the time I went to college I was truly angry at them for the things they had done to me. Aunt Helen would call sometimes in my dorm room, but I rarely returned her calls, although she begged me to. One day, in my sophomore year, I found a package waiting for me. It was a baby blanket. I was horrified that she would send this thing to me at college, so totally alien, so like them to inflict upon me expectations that I had not interest in meeting. When I called her late, Aunnie said that she didn't think she'd live long enough to see my babies. So she made the blanket for me and sent it, and I stuffed it in a box and rolled my eyes at how little they understood me. Trying to hurt her, I told her I'd probably never have any. She didn't believe me.

Aunt Helen lived to meet my future husband, lived to express horror that he was Jewish, to complain to my face that I never came to visit any more. She did not survive to see the babies. I had not visited in many years when guilt drew me there, and I saw how near to death she was, still bitter, still snide, but on the edge of total failure. Still, I went once (in many years) before she died. My sisters did not, and paid the price in my grandmother's anger.

Gram managed to survive on her own just a few months before she went to the nursing home. There was no more knitting there. She faded, stopped walking with her walker, stopped reading, settled for complaining and watching television. I visited her more then, coming a few times a year, first with one son, then two. She died shortly after I let her know that her third great-grandson was on the way. She never knew that the fourth, my youngest sister's child, followed shortly after.

When I was young, Gram and Aunnie made elaborate lists of who would inherit what after they died. In fact, my aunt and uncle took what they wanted (not much), and then my father and sisters and I came and took what we wanted - that was all. Mostly, there was garbage. I took some strange things. This was before I had children, but I felt compelled to salvage the period clothing - the hats with elaborate feathers, the fur stoles, the sparkly shoes and other things that we had been permitted to dress up in when we were children. I am not sure why they mattered to me. I took Gram's cedar chest, and left Aunnie's for my cousin Cody. I took books my father had read as a boy for my future children. I took some of the dishes that stood in the hutch. I took the knitting needles with the cloisson ends. I had no children, and I did not knit, but I took them. Somehow Aunnie's anticipation of my future had begun to change me. It changed my sister too. She took the unfinished Aran blanket, with the hope of someday finishing it.

There was no funeral for my grandmother. My uncle Rick decided against it, I think perhaps in part to hurt my father, but also because there was almost no one left to come. Her sisters were dead. Her friends, the ladies who knit from the DAR and Eastern Star and the church committees were dead. The younger women in those groups, even the neighbors no longer visited, except to ask if she wanted to renew her memberships to things. We never convened to say goodbye to Gram, and I think only my father was much troubled by it. I was relieved, more than anything, not to have to travel while pregnant, with two young children, not to have to watch my father and his brother fight out the battles of their childhood again.

Right before my first son was born, I dug out the blanket. It was white, with pink and blue stripes delicately across the middle. Like everything they tried to give me, it was not a perfect fit. The yarn was cheap acrylic, I loathe pink and baby blue. But I felt then a twinge of sentiment, that Aunnie, whatever her flaws, had believed in and loved my children before I ever knew them. I threw away a lot of things they gave me, but not that. My son slept beneath it, some of the time.

And then, not long ago, I was seized with the desire to knit. My sister had her first child, the one that Gram never knew, a little girl. And the desire to knit her a blanket was nearly intolerable. Knitting blankets is what aunts do for their baby nieces. And so I did. I learned to knit from a series of books. I am not a coordinated woman, and it finally took a book about knitting for small children to bang the basic motions into me. But once I began, I could not stop. And I thought of them every moment. Of how much I wish I'd listened to some of what they knew. Of how badly I wish I'd been able to distinguish between their desire to make me in their image and their desire to simply teach me what I knew. Of how much easier this would have been if they could have showed me, hand over paper-thin hand.

I am still not sure how much nostalgia for them I have. I find them easier to live with as anxious memories, for it is easier to distinguish between sorrow and pleasure, to sort out the things I liked best, and try and leave the others behind. And all I can do to assuage the memory (the ghost) of my failures to understand, and theirs as well, is to knit for the great-grandchildren they did not live to see, but believed in so fervently.

Monday, September 27, 2004


Looking at my blog from this morning, I'm struck by how bitter and incoherent it is. Let me assure you all of several things. 1. When my infant allows me more than 8 hours sleep (over three nights ;-P) I can write a simple declarative sentence. 2. I am not (quite) as petty as I seem here - my irritation was not at political bloggers themselves, but at the Times article attempting (badly) to evaluate their impact. 3. Yes, I really am this cranky.

Today has been more or less a total loss. Eli was off to school (hallelujah, school!), but Simon (irritable and sick), Isaiah (a little sick, not too irritable) and Mommy (sick, exhausted and really, really irritable) were trapped in the house together for 8 hours, after five days of totally disrupted routines. It was not a recipe for joy, particularly if you are the kind of horrible, evil Mommy who does not want to perform Bob-the-Builder related acts of love all day long. If I were a good Mommy, I would:

1. Let Simon watch Bob the builder videos until his brains started to leak out his ears.
2. Play Bob the builder colorforms for hours on end.
3. Carry the garage, giant scoop, and 680 seperate pieces of Bob the Builder paraphenalia up and down stairs every half hour.
4. Hold Simon in my arms and lovingly tell him stories about how his best friends came over and they played Bob the Builder games, and helped Lofty rescue Pilchard from Scoop's bucket, while Spud did obscene things to Muck and Bob behind Farmer Pickles's barn (ok, I swear, I didn't say that. I was just tempted to.)

Instead, what we did today was - whine. All three of us whined, except when we yelled. Isaiah whined because he did not take a sufficient nap. I whined because I just wanted to be left alone, and I really hate Bob. Simon whined because I hate Bob, which apparently means I don't love him, and because I did not fill his world with non-stop Bob. Then I yelled at Simon for whining. Then I gave in and played with the fucking colorforms, while removing them from Isaiah's mouth at various intervals. And I let the kids watch a truly grotesque amount of television, so that I could blog, among other things. This seems appropriate, doesn't it?

Grand total accomplishments for the day - hideous neglect of my children, 1 load of laundry, two blog entries. Yep, I can see why I started doing this...



Why I should not be allowed to read the Times Magazine

Ugh. Long week - 12 for dinner every night, Grandma's 80th birthday, descent of relatives from CA, baby sick and not sleeping, yom kippur, sukkah to put up, deliveries to do, cranky children, nowhere near enough sleep.

This morning I finally got to yesterday's Times Magazine, and besides the hideous article in defense of cars and sprawl, which contained a level of coherency and reason only occasionally matched by some of my densest undergraduates in their first drafts (anti-sprawl activists are elitists, and those who advocate higher gas taxes and tolls (regressive taxes that injure the poor the most) are good Americans, intolerable misuse of both Plato and Aristotle, not to mention poor sentence construction); there was the cover article attempting to gauge the importance of blogs on the current political campaign.

Ok, let me be clear. I have no idea how many hits this site gets per day, since I haven't the faintest idea how to download a hit counter, but I'm guessing maybe...2, one accidentally through the "next blog function" and one that plugged "Shakespeare and farming" in for reasons that escape me. I am giving no one any kind of run for their money as a political blogger - I am so deeply nauseated by the present political process on every side and so short of time to attend to the news that I am reading yesterdays Times. So I should be clear that I am the wrong person to gauge the impact of anything on anything. And yet, I still think we probably shouldn't care.

The thing is, as many hits as political bloggers get, do we really imagine that Wonkette is being googled by the last undecided voter in Ohio (I know her, actually - she's the moderator of a list I belong to, very sweet, very wise in her own way - I promise, I'm doing my best to swing her towards the left!!!)? Oh, maybe she is and they all are - maybe they are changing the landscape with younger, angrier voters (Dear G-d - are there really people angrier than me? I know they are younger, but if they are angrier, I pity them and hope the medications help!) - they are certainly raising new money, and I'm grateful for that. But I suspect we're going to lose this election by a considerably larger margin than we did the last one (ie, we're going to actually lose it, instead of having it stolen), and I don't think any amount of money could make a difference.

John Kerry is a mediocrity - he has been forever. Bloggers are giving a direction to the disaffected left, but the disaffected left (which includes me, and has since I worked on my first campaign at 12, and was deeply disillusioned - oh, and for the record, I worked for two of Kerry's campaigns, once in high school and once in college) has damned little power right now. But the Bush-loathers (of which I am one most passionately) aren't going to swing this election. And the shame of it is, yet again, we'll have thrown away an election we could have won, with a passionate, charismatic candidate. Democrats are cowards, and I'm frankly ashamed to be one, but I'm not sure what else to be if I want even the remotest access to change.

I do not aspire to blogger fame - well, ok, just a tiny bit, in the sense of wishing for influence. But the people who I want to influence don't read blogs - or at least not mine. I don't know how to reach them, and I wouldnt know how to move them, given the hand we have been dealt. And it appears no one else does either.

Monday, September 20, 2004

We're going to lose

The reason I'm writing about knitting today is because the world is damned depressing. I am nearly certain that the democrats (who I hate with a passion for selling their fucking souls), ie John Kerry (who I hate for being John Kerry) are going to lose to My lord Vader & Chippy, the wonder chipmunk, also known as the current administration. Please understand that I would have cheerfully given a limb to help the dems, deeply as I have come to loathe them, because I'm downright terrified about what's coming - the world that my kids are going to grow up in. But I don't think I can fix it - we're going to lose (and I'm not sure we don't deserve to), but I can wind yarn and knit.

On a list I'm on, someone rather cynically suggested he would vote for Bush (he lives in Florida, natch) because he needs more time to make his peak oil preparations - ie, he wants us to continue conquering the earth and claiming the oil for our own. And the horrible thing is that I can't find much flawed in his logic (which I am not representing fairly here - it was pretty good).

Grandma and Grandpa absolutely refuse to move to Canada here, and our great neighbor to the north has made no move annex the northern states (please, please, please - we'll cheerfully come!), so I guess I'm stuck here, taking bets one whether we'll blow up Iran or N.Korea next, and whether the draft will be in effect for the World War we're building for ourselves when my boys turn 18. Flat feet and heart murmurs...sigh.

This is just depressing. Really, really depressing. Noticing ponchos are back depressing. I should eat pringles or buy yarn or get drunk or something. But breastfeeding mommies can't get drunk, I don't really like the aftertaste of sour cream and onions, and I've busted my yarn budget for the month. And so I blog. Someone please tell me its going to be ok?


Knitting and Crocheting

I like to tell myself that knitting and crocheting will be useful in a post-carbon era, and that we will need lots of warm garments - scarves, mittens, sweaters, hats, blankets. In fact, I think I'm just a little bit obsessed. I really love to knit, and I like crocheting even better, because it is so much easier, and thus I can even watch movies with subtitles while doing it. If I do that when I'm knitting hideous things happen.

I also like to tell myself that my little yarn addiction is good for us, that it means we'll all be warm after the peak ;-), but its really just a bad habit. But I really, really like running my fingers through yarn, winding it, knitting and crocheting with it. My current favorite yarn is a beautiful bulky merino from They are an uruguayan collective, and they spin the softest, most beautiful stuff I've ever come in contact with, in the most astounding colors. I'm currently knitting an afghan with their yarn in shades of dark green, chocolate, cream and peach.

My other project include a couple of ribbed scarves for my Dad and his partner Anna (made with another favorite yarn, Brown Sheep's bulky wool - have you noticed I like bulky yarn?), a striped blanket for Isaiah (who sadly was born before my fiber resurgance, and got no homemade blankie from mommy), a sweater for Eli made from a beautiful blue and purple ribbon merino (did you notice I like soft yarns?), a handspun afghan of wine, blue, purple and brown for my dissertation advisor (I swear I'm going to finish, so I have to make him a thank you gift - then I can claim that I didn't write the diss because the blanket wasn't ready), an afghan for us in blues and creams, light blue cotton slippers for Grandma (Brown sheep cotton fleece yarn - another favorite), an afghan for new niece Abby (she also missed out), chenille scarf for Mom, scarves for my sister and her boyfriend (Soon to be fiance, I hope, they are at present on their way to Italy where she expects to be proposed to - although she's been expecting for a while, without results), socks for Susie (my step-mom), a blanket for Grandma and Grandpa, and a baby blanket for pregnant friend Bess, who I think is having a girl (they don't want to know the sex, but I'm good at guessing them - one of my few talents).

Do I have a few too many works in progress? Knitting is kind of like my life - I think my theory if that if I keep up the WIPs, I can't ever die.

Talk about weird and obsessive - I'm so into knitting that I have purchased the yarn for the *next* baby's blanket - a baby I don't intend to conceive for a good 5 or 6 months. I'm sure this is bad luck. But I really, really liked the yarn, and this one will probably be the last, and it takes me so long to finish anything that I wanted to plan ahead....sigh.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

100 Things you can do to prepare for Peak Oil Part 1

I thought I'd start a list of skills/studies/actions one could take to prepare. Let me be clear - I don't find the Olduvai hypothesis compelling. But I do believe that with the end of cheap oil, we find ourselves in a very different world and a very different economy. Americans live now entirely in a world of consumption - most never really make anything that matters to anyone. But I suspect that is going to change, and change fast.
Every need of your own you can take care of outside the money economy makes you safer. Every skill you have that can be traded upon is a gift. Get ready now - I dont think we have that many years to go. Many of these things can be done even in an urban apartment - although I wouldn't recommend that anyone stay there in the longer term.

I am aware that this makes me look rather like a wacky survivalist, and perhaps thats true (a leftist survivalist, I would like it stated for the record.) But then again, is this really so foolish? Think about the last 100 years - depending on where you lived when, I can think of dozens of reasons why one might have been poor, cold and hungry. Being able to live outside the money economy is the only real surety one has - whether peak oil or some other disaster comes this time. I would be grateful for my stored food if we lost our jobs, and for my skills if we were forced to flee as refugees - things that happen all the time, all over the world. It is possible that peak oil will be nothing more than a depression, although I find it unlikely - the food-energy link is too strong. But this makes my family more secure than it would have been otherwise.

100 Things You Can Do to Prepare for Peak Oil

1. Talk to your neighbors, friends, family - almost all of them will think you are a nutcase, but at least get them thinking.

2. Learn to knit

3. Grow a garden, however small. Start your own seeds. Grow only open pollinated vegetables and save seeds. Check out for an inspiring example of small scale gardening. Remember, however, that this is done with lots of outside inputs.

4. Compost your own humanure (check out Jenkins _Humanure Handbook_)

5. Make beer, wine, mead or liqueurs. Or better yet, get a permit and make ethanol - then you'll know how to make whiskey when the time comes.

6. Make a quilt.

7. Begin a food storage program - each week spend ten dollars on a staple food like rice, beans, canned fish, shortening, vitamins, sprouting seeds, dried milk,honey, salt, tang/vit. C supplemented koolaid. Check out and click on their food storage faq, also the wonderful Alan Hagan's Prudent Food Storage FAQ at

8. Write your congresswoman or man, your senator, anyone you can think of about peak oil. They'll almost certainly ignore you, but you can say you tried.

9. Grow papaver somniferum (available from Park Seeds as "florists poppy" - check out Michael Pollan's great article in Harpers April '97 about growing opium poppies in cool climates at BTW, for the records of the DEA, I have not done so, and have no intention of doing so any time soon.

10. Live somewhere with available greenspace for food growing - work hard to keep that greenspace (private and public) open. Read _The Tragedy of the Commons_.

11. If you have young children, be prepared to educate them through the college level at home. Books have an excellent "R" value, and make good insulation. Get all you can on every subject, especially traditional skills.

12. Take an EMS course, or at a minimum, a good first aid course. EMS is far more useful, particularly if you are young enough to be drafted anytime in the next 20 years - medics have gory, hideous jobs, but aren't front line soldiers.

13. Get in better shape - do lots of weight bearing, aerobic exercise. Gardening and yard work is perfect.

14. Learn to play a non-electric musical instrument. Sing a lot. Teach your family to sing with you.

15. Buy a manual grain grinder, and use it to make flour.

16. Turn off your dryer and put up a clothesline. Use it.

17. Buy a few good bicycles and get in the habit of using them - they are the most efficient form of transport. If you have a bad back, consider making or building a recumbent (plans at

18. Eat some dandilions from your lawn. Learn to recognize wild edibles in your area - most likely, no one else will.

19. Learn to spin. Even better, raise some sheep, and learn to shear, butcher, trim hooves, wash and spin fleeces. Oh, wait, I'm not supposed to be scaring you ;-).

20. Arrange a showing of _The End of Suburbia_ in your community, and lead a Q&A afterwards.

21. Learn to split wood - manually.

22. Convert your car to biodiesel.

23. If you are post-childbearing or do not want children, get a vasectomy or your tubes tied. Poverty means less access to contraception, and times of crisis bring comfort and unexpected children. Or prepare for the unexpected children - learn to deliver babies at home, store formula (in case the mother dies in childbirth), cloth diapers and other necessaries. Remember, little as you may like it, your 17 year old will probably not be deferred from sex because you can't afford condoms.

24. Bring your elderly family members to live with you - they will suffer or be evicted in nursing homes as costs rise and government payments lower.

25. Make friends with your neighbors. Do them favors. Bring them baked goods. Loan things to them. Share their pains and pleasures - your life will depend on these people in bad times.

Ok, end part 1 - more coming.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Eli and autism

It took a while before I was ready to acknowledge that Eli was autistic. Part of it was denial, of course. Part of it is that he's not classically on the autism spectrum. He makes eye contact. He cuddles. He says, "I love you." He doesn't engage in self-injury. I was convinced it was something else - Sensory integration dysfunction. He was just a late-talking child. But it wasn't, and it isn't - my son is on the autism spectrum, diagnosed with PDD-NOS, Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified - possibly the stupidest disorder ever described. It means that my son has some autism related disorder that no one can identify.

Eric and I have not, so far, been the kind of parents of disabled children who devote their whole existence to giving their child the best future, and I wonder if that is a terrible mistake. We have not, for example, seriously contemplated working with Eli after school so that he could get a whole ABA program - 40 hours a week of intensive training. We make sure he receives speech and OT, we advocate for him, but we don't spend hours daily in his classroom. Unlike the mother of a friend of Eli's, I am not going back to school to get a special education degree.

Some of the reasons that we are not devoting ourselves to this are philosophical - we feel like Eli has managed to do quite well at becoming functional at home, and that the best things we can do for him are allow him as normal and functional a childhood as possible. So instead of doing an extra 2 hours of ABA work when he gets home, he goes out and plays, he swings, he runs, we listen to music, play with the dog, feed the chickens, spend time with other kids. Maybe this is the wrong approach - I don't know. But it seems like we want him desperately to have a childhood.

But part of the problem is probably something else - to do the kind of intensive training that Eli would need would require that Eric and I be his teachers, enforcers, the dispassionate observers who require constant repetition, and that's a hard role for me to take. Eli hates showing what he knows, and getting him to work is a constant battle. I don't want him to battle with his parents all the time - I want him to get comfort and nurturance here, not conflict.

Every time I read a story about some tireless parents who made their child normal by working 8 hours a day with them, I feel terribly ashamed that I do not wish to and do do that. I want my child to be normal, and I ping pong back and forth between confidence that things will work out all right whether he is or not and terror that Eric and I are limiting him, damaging him. I don't know if I am doing the right thing or not, if I am failing my child or giving him a childhood.


Monday, September 06, 2004

Academia and Domesticity

The two don't go together very well, do they? Academia requires sustained periods of concentration, freedom of movement and comparative instability until your middle year, a lofty perspective. Domestic life, especially life with small children, means constant interruptions, at least arguments for stability, a very narrow perspective. The traditional solution is to hire a lot of help - nannies and daycare centers, cleaning services or housekeepers, a lot of takeout, lawn services, etc... And there's nothing inherently wrong with that - it certainly helps in job creation. But I'm uncomfortable passing off my domestic labor onto poorly paid women, who then, to do my work, have to leave their children with even more poorly paid labor... And I fear we can't afford to pay them well.

So mostly, we do it ourselves. We keep the house passably clean, grow the garden, mow the lawn, put up the food, take care of the kids, walk the dog, clean the animal pens, and also attempt to write, teach and study. I'm not sure how we're doing - I'm two years past my hoped for doctoral defense date, Eric hasn't written much.

It is hard to go from toilet cleaning to the higher plains of Milton, from Green Eggs and Ham to the latest info on Gamma Ray Bursts. I'm not sure why we try so hard to do it all. I certainly don't think our choice is the best of the bad lot out there. But it seems like one way to raise children who don't think that toilets are someone else's job. It also is a way to slow down our lives - the few times we've tried to have both of us working and teaching full bore, we've both been very tired and cranky, and it hasn't felt as if we were serving our children.

Our struggle with this seems to be more common than not - most of my friends, most of them women, are in their early to mid thirties, and most of them are trying to figure out what they are going to be when they grow up (older?). The careers we trained and planned for don't seem to fit with our other responsibilities, and some alternative is necessary, but what? Among my immediate circle, I know only a few women who are full-speed ahead in the career they spent their twenties preparing for, and most of those either have no children or have a spouse who is willing to take on the career crisis for them. Oh, there are exceptions, and don't think I don't admire them. But so far, I can't be them, and still live the kind of life I want for myself, my husband and my children.

Peak Oil links

If you aren't aware of Peak Oil, you should be. The end of the carbon age is coming, and what this means is up for grabs. But take it seriously, folks. Check out this site's links pages. I'll be posting some of my own prior stuff on this elsewhere.


First attempts.

I swore I would not blog. I do not need anything else to take up my time right now, nor do I have the skill to do cool things with one. And does anyone who knows me really feel they need to hear more of what I already say too much of?

And yet, forthly I go. I thought this might be an amusing way to put together my rather disjointed collection of interests. Thus, of course, the name. An old Prof of mine used to say that all his female students wanted to be Dorothea Brooke, but I was always more compelled by old, foolish Casaubon - or at least his project. Of course he had it all wrong, but oh, the pleasures of synthesis, of creating the theory of everything.

So here are the ramblings of a 32 year old academic/writer/knitter-spinner-fibergeek/mom-of-three/CSA farmer/lefty-progressive/neo-luddite/cook/peak oil advocate/wanna-be-domestic-goddess/homesteader/quilter/dissertation-avoider/food-storage-and-preservation-semi-expert/Shakespearean/theory geek/aspiring-novelist/and-on-and-on-ad-nauseum. I do too many things to do any of them especially well. My working theory (ie, the random thoughts that added blogging to my list of weird habits) is that this might help me integrate the fragments of my life. But it will probably simply end up being another thing I do.

Welcome to chaos. You get used to it after a while.