Wednesday, November 28, 2007


So, I woke up this morning to a couple of inches of snow. It was lovely, and still soft and powdery so my walk to the train station wasn't too messy. I fell asleep on the bus, and I woke up in Boulder to dry ground, dry air and patches of blue sky amid the grey, and it's about ten to fifteen degrees warmer here. The difference thirty miles makes. . .I bet I looked a little silly to passersby, all bundled up. At least I'll be ready when the snow hits us here this afternoon.

Mostly I'm writing to announce that I am in fact, still waking up every day, in spite of myself. This is by far the worst semester I've had in ages. With some luck I anticipate I'll be able to make it to December 17th without institutionalizing myself. Here's hoping.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Buenas noticias, por fin

So for anyone sick of my griping (this includes me), I finally have some happy news. I have the best husband in the world. That's not the news, y'all already knew that. The good news is that my incredibly wonderful husband, who doesn't particularly like to dance and feels self conscious about it, took me to a salsa club last night. And he danced with me, quite a bit. And it was his idea in the first place. I got an email from him on Wednesday attached to an announcement that a group of Spanish-speaking law students was planning on getting together Thursday night at said salsa club. He wrote, "I know it's been a rough week. Can I take you dancing?" He's simply amazing. He knows that back when I was single I used to go dancing with my girlfriends not just for fun but to relieve stress and unplug for a while. It was cheap therapy. He knows I miss it. So, he took me dancing. Some of my friends from my program came down from Boulder and joined us for the evening. It was great. A few hours on the dance floor did wonders for my soul, and I didn't think about phonetics the entire time.

Hopefully this afternoon I'll finally get to meet my niece. Cross your fingers and hope that tomorrow this space will be filled with photos of me and the little one.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Aún más asquerosa

So, I've had this weird new addition to the battery of manifestations of my unhealthy psyche. I've reached a point of stress to intense that it makes me physically ill. I've seen my brother do this, but I've never done it myself. Here's how it works:

I'm feeling really tightly wound lately, but I'm still somewhat susceptible to distractions (gracias a my sweet husband). Monday afternoon I choose to distract myself by going to my parents' house to make sure my Mom's doing okay (she hurt her back this last weekend). When my Dad gets home, we all sit down to plates of tamales smothered in green chile, both of which are near painfully-hot and therefore extremely enjoyable. Assured that my mother is fine and now that Dad's home with her, I head back to my own place to get some work done. I settle into bed with my phonetics homework, and then the nausea sets in. I violently vomit out the tamales and chile, which incidentally burn a great deal more on the way out. I call my parents to make sure they're doing okay, and they are both just fine, no belly troubles at all. Hmmm. What did I eat that they didn't?

The next morning I go to phonetics class. Lately this class gets me so frustrated with lack of clarity that I'm on the verge of tears by the time she's halfway into the lecture, so I'm not taken aback when I feel my blood pressure rising the first time she "explains" a concept in a throroughly incomprehensible way. But wait, a new sensation! My stomach is in full revolt, and I feel the need to run for the ladies' room. What the hell?

Today I managed to keep my breakfast down, but I got the same shakes, racing pulse and nausea the moment I sat down in the phonetics lab. This class has me so stressed that exposure to it makes my physically ill. It's nothing I ate, it's acoustic phonetics. I'm morbidly fascinated by this. I have such a tremendous psychological aversion to this material and its potential effect on my academic career that my body responds to it like a pathogen. I admit that I probably ought to seek some help for this, but I know it won't do any good. What are they going to do, give me a medical excuse for turning in my homework late because I can't get through it without puking? Any way you slice it I have to finish the class, and I have to get out of there with no less than a B.

Lola needs to escape from this crap. Why is suicide only a solution to this problem, but it screws up everything else in so many ways? Where's a non-destructive remedy when a girl needs one?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No me mejoro

I'm having serious doubts about making it to the end of this semester. I feel tremendously guilty about it. I hate that next week is Thanksgiving. I have an amazing family, an incredible husband, material comforts galore, and more opportunities than I can handle (literally). I have a great life, but somehow it's still dismal and grey and school is killing me. I'm afraid I'm going to snap soon, and it would be quite the challenge to finish the semester from inside the psych ward.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


So I didn't post yesterday. So shoot me. And guess what, I've got nothing to say today, either. Life is hell. It may be prettier than the biblical version, but it's still hell.

Friday, November 9, 2007

El día después

Yesterday turned out to be nice, especially for a birthday, and I am convinced I have the best friends and particularly the best husband in the world. Dinner was really disappointing, but we couldn't have known that it would be, and I still got to spend the evening with my sweetheart.

The Broker Restaurant is going to get a nastygram about how much and to what depths their quality has slipped over the past few years. The last time I ate there was about five years ago, and it wasn't the absolute best I'd ever had but it was good. Last night was awful. Some of the food was just mediocre, but some of it was downright awful. I was sad. They should be embarrassed.

I have to run. I have some thing to do before tonight, and I may as well get started now. Here's hoping I manage to squeeze in some relaxation this weekend, ha-ha-ha.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cumpleaños, no necesariamente infeliz

I will do this early in the day because Thursdays tend to get crazy.

I woke up feeling down this morning, because birthdays in one's thirties will do that to a person. I'm still me, though, and it's still the busiest day of my week, so like any other day I numbly got out of bed and got about the business of the day. The down didn't last. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when I heard my husband's alarm going off. I looked at the clock-- 5:15am, much too early for my man. I went into the bedroom as he was reaching for the snooze alarm and queried why on earth he was getting up this early. "To spend the morning with you", he responded, setting my heart to instant melt mode. He's good at that. He dragged himself out of bed while I showered, we sat down to breakfast together, and he gave me my present that he bought three weeks ago. He can't stand having surprises sitting around, he's terribly impatient in that way-- the last few days before Christmas are pure torture for him. He gave me kitchen toys. I know there's that old rule about not giving a woman utilitarian homemaking devices as presents, but I love to cook and he's so good at finding just the right new gadget for me to tinker with. I'm the happy new owner of an Émile Henri deep dish pie plate. It's this wonderful, durable, even-heating ceramic that makes the most tender, perfect crusts, oh, and just in time for pumpkin pie. . .he knows me. He knows me well. He listens when I fantasize about how I'd like to have a particular dish or pan or knife or gadget, and he knows I've been lusting after this high-end pie plate for a while. He's got a good racket going, though-- he gives me culinary toys as presents, I get excited and play with them, he ends up well-fed. Hmmm. He's definitely got me figured out.

When I got to campus, I found a piñata dangling over my desk, a little brightly colored burrito, left there by one of my scheming colleagues who threatened it a few days ago. She's great. I figure we'll bust it after Colonial Lit seminar this evening.

The last several days I've been unhappy about my birthday, but the first few hours of it was great. Let's hope the trend lasts, or at least resumes after phonetics. No one should have to go to phonetics lecture on their birthday.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

La lectura

I feel so overwhelmed. I get this way every semester, around this time. I've matured and no longer entertain fantasies about robbing a bank and running away to some place with no extradition treaty, or dropping out forever and working at a coffee shop as that bitter, failed academic wannabe that spouts random bits of pseudo-wisdom from pop-y writers and superficially trendy philosophers. Well, that wasn't really a fantasy, it was just the easy way out that seemed appealing for a few minutes. I still envy those people that read what they choose, that don't do it on a schedule. I felt frivolous this summer when I read Harry Potter, extremely frivolous. I read it in a little less than a day and a half, and so did Reva. However, she devoured it for the sheer pleasure, because it was so good she couldn't put it down. I read it fast partly because it was good, and partly because there were several academic texts waiting in line behind it.

I'm only complaining a little bit. I love school. I'd like to say that I can't imagine working outside of academics, that my imagination can't sink to that level of dull, but I've been there, and I imagine it in stark plainness. A few months in a regular office job was more than enough to send me running for the grad school applications. I love school, minus phonetics. I love the constant intellectual stimulation and the opportunity to spend most of my waking hours with colleagues who are even nerdier than I am. How can something be so draining and so stimulating all at once? It's the quantity, I think. Overstimulation. I have too much on my plate, but that's unlikely to change before next summer. I guess I'll just cherish sleep during Christmas break. And when I wake, I'll spend my days with my books, one volume at a time to slowly chip away at my MA reading list. Christmas or not, I still have impending exams. It'll be a while before I read another novel, especially one as light as Harry Potter. I don't know whether I'm relieved or sad that the series is finished. It was an excuse to read something else, but it was also a social obligation that pulled me away from that MA list.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Todavía nerviosa

So, I'm only posting today because I committed myself to this NaBloPoMo nonsense. What a scam.

I met with my phonetics prof this afternoon, and after discussing my final project proposal with her (which she thought was cool, by the way, and gave me a couple of good pointers on data collection) I mentioned my fear of getting an unsatisfactory grade and having to repeat the class. She smiled weirdly and told me she didn't think I needed to worry about that. I protested that my department insists on higher grades. Still no need to worry, says she.

I ought to be relieved by that, but I'm not. I still don't understand acoustic phonetics, and I can't do the stats. Not entirely true, I guess-- I do that stats just fine. I am not challenged by entering data into a spreadsheet and coaxing means and standard deviations and p-values out of them. Not a problem. I just don't know what that p-value means, or what a two-tail t-test is (besides alliterative). How can I be confident that I'll perform swimmingly on the final exam when I don't understand the material?

Lola is not lulled into a false sense of security (but she sure wishes she were, dangit).

Monday, November 5, 2007


I had a really wonderful cup of chocolate today. I brought dinner to my husband when I got back from Boulder, and after we finished that I was craving something sweet so we went for a walk. He was thinking baklava but the 24-hour Palestinian dive on the corner was packed, so we walked another block over to the neighborhood coffee shop for some hot cho. I hadn't been in there in a while, because I'm not a coffee drinker and because until recently they didn't have WiFi (I discovered today that they've joined the 21st century). The big board over the counter offered not the standard "hot chocolate", but "xocholatl", which had me instantly intrigued. I inquired what merited the Nahuatl throwback spelling, and the barrista informed me that the barely-sweet concoction bragged not only canela but chile. The real thing. I ordered it at once and was so happy that we'd passed up the baklava. Poor Europe. What was their food like before tomatoes, before potatoes, before chocolate, chile, avocados, corn, and all those other wonderful things that make the prospect of another day of caloric ingestion worth getting out of bed? Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for good baklava, but dark, spicy chocolate satisfies like no other. Throw in the chance to sit and chat with my sweetheart for a spell and this little Lola had a perfect, phonetics-free evening. We flipped through a local rag together, read movie reviews while we held hands and banished the slight chill the late autumn evening with hot liquid and chile in our bellies.

I think we might be building a straw-bale house. Anyone out there have some info on that? Personal experience, I mean. Huff and puff, come blow it on down. I think that they're pretty, but also solid-looking, romantic in that scruffy, dirt-under-the-fingernails kind of way. The energy efficiency is also sexy.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

. . .que otro estaba soñándolo.

I had a meltdown this morning, but the reasons for it are hardly worthy of the words I'd waste to describe why, and then to explain and justify that description. So, I'll say this: I have an incredible husband. I know he doesn't understand why I fall to pieces sometimes, but he's patient and loving when I do, and he holds me and tells me that I am not, in fact, a despicable being, flouting my insistence to the contrary. I know it worries him a little too much even though he tries not to let that shine through. He is good. Good. He holds me and tells me it'll be okay, which is often the most and best I could ask.

It would be somewhat deceptive to say there's a streak of mental illness in my family. Wide swath is more accurate. It picks and chooses, and it doesn't get everyone, but those of us it puts its finger to, it likes to pick at mercilessly. I think I do a decent job of wrestling my demons to the ground and keeping my foot on their throats while I go on with the rest of my life, superficially stable and sane, but I do wonder how late into my golden years I'll keep up that bit. Will I decide sometime in my sixties or seventies that it's not worth the effort anymore? Or will I hold out into my eighties, stubbornly sane until my last breath? If I threw in the towel today I'd probably have to just go on living with my crazy self for too damn long, and that's too much added stress when my plate's already overflowing with the grad school mess.

So, while I dutifully keep frequent mental tabs on my sanity and keep up the maintenance and mostly do just fine, there are days when I wonder, when I think about it a little too much.

I have always been a vivid dreamer, and it's always more heightened during a depressive or manic episode. In fact, it's one of the standards by which I keep tabs on myself; just how vivid are my dreams this past week, last night? If I have too many mornings in a row that I have to exert extra effort to coax my mind back into waking reality, I know it's time to give my brain some extra love. It's not that I don't enjoy the dreams, but they can be draining, and they're a portent of further mental unravelling. So, I do my best to keep them in line.

Yesterday we went to visit my grandfather at the hospital where he lives in New Mexico. He's in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's, and they keep him there so he doesn't wander. It's not one of those nasty old-age homes that smell like urine and look like a horror film set. It's a really nice place with an amazing staff. They take exceptionally good care of him there, and they are kind. We got lucky. But I digress. We got there in the afternoon, and he'd already fallen asleep on the couch. We couldn't rouse him. We tried off and for an hour, and our best efforts (and the staff's) couldn't get more than some muttering out of him. Just as well, because he's not always alert when he is awake. I mostly gave up try to wake him and settled for holding his hand. I could feel little twitches in his fingers, and it seemed to calm him to know that someone was there. I kept noticing his eyes, though, because there were periods in which his REM was clearly visible. Naturally I wondered what he could possibly be dreaming. What images and sounds run through an advanced Alzheimer's mind? I want to believe that in that unconsiousness, he has access to everything his brain denies him when he's awake, that he is lucid, that he remembers it all and is spared the frustration of needing to be reminded of own name. But I've seen the brains of Alzheimer's dead, thin plastinated slices of grey matter peppered with holes and gaps, empty vaccuous voids where memory used to be. Sleep is not such a magician that suddenly the synapses reach across that chasm.

What does and Alzheimer's patient dream? Why do the brain and body continue with such a seemingly empty ritual? Does he still get the seratonin-balancing effects of REM? Is he articulate and witty again in his dreams, or is he robbed of that at all hours? What's so good about sleeping and those dreams that he fights waking? Why do some parts of the brain keep chugging along as others decay away?

I know I am more than the sum of my genes, but in the back of my mind (mostly) I worry.

Don't get the impression that yesterday was a downer (that was this morning). I had a great mini-road-trip with my sweetheart, who got to meet my amazing Aunt Terese for the first time, and he met her father (my great-uncle) and got the nickel tour of the mini-museum he calls a living room. He showed us old family photos and told us stories and I caught up with my aunt. We went to lunch with them at an ancient restaurant down on the river, where he eats almost every day. The green chile alone is worth the four-hour drive. He took visible delight in introducing his "little niece" to all the cooks and waitresses, who all know him well and like to take care of him. I was relieved but also slightly disappointed that my husband didn't see him pinch any of the waitresses. He must have outgrown that in the past couple of years, finally. My husband was charmed by them, just as I knew he would be. They are good people, and some of them are far better than good. I've got that in my genes, too.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

En la ruta a la memoria

I'm leaving to spend the day in Southern Colorado with family, we're getting on the road as soon as my husband is out of the shower, and since I don't know if I'll get a decent internet connection again today, I am posting before 6:00am. Gack. It's not even a weekday. We want to get down to Trinidad in time to have lunch with a great uncle of mine, mostly because I want my husband to witness and participate in Saturday lunch at a local restaurant that this uncle haunts and where he hits on the waitresses. He is 92 years old, I believe. Maybe 93. Viejo rabo verde. We will probably hop over the border to NM to visit my grandfather in the afternoon. He is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's and lives in a lockdown unit of a home so he can't go wandering down the highway anymore. He used to do that. He'd set off for Trinidad to visit his siblings who live there (or sometimes the ones who've been dead for ten years), thinking it was a perfectly good idea walk up I-25, over Ratón Pass, no less. As if that weren't bad enough, on the way he'd forget about his sister Margaret and end up thinking he was behind enemy lines in France in the early 40's. When he'd inevitably get picked up by the State Patrol, he couldn't remember his name but he'd insist that he had to get back to his unit, that they were just over that next rise and that they were waiting for him. After a while he began failing to differentiate between English and Spanish and would code-switch at random, not realizing it, and then he lost coherent language altogether. Last time I saw him he liked to mumble, giggle, and make animal noises as though he were telling me a story, but then his eyes would wander off in another direction and he'd forget I was there. When he'd finally look my way again he would smile politely, surprised at the visit from a kind stranger.

I don't know if I visit him for my benefit or his or some combination of the two. I do it for reasons beyond duty, but it's difficult to articulate. My other grandparents did not lose their cognition, they were all three absolutely lucid until the moment they passed. They never stopped knowing who they were, who were were, never slipped out of the stark understanding that disease was rapidly and painfully shortening their time here. It is hard for me to see the silly, gentle, stubborn, contemplative man I knew supressed or disappeared while this muttering shell remains.

My husband is out of the shower and getting dressed. That's my cue to sign out for now. Hasta mañana.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Otro viernes

You know that lame expression, "what a difference a day makes"? I don't need a whole day, I just need a good nap.

Yesterday afternoon I skipped my Colonial Lit seminar (I'm only auditing, this is not a reflection of academic irresponsibility) and came home to take a nap. Two hours later, I was a new woman. No more bitching and bitterness. No more seething hatred of phonetics (I'm still not fond of the stuff, but I'm able to keep a lid on it when I'm well-rested). Sleep, precious sleep. I have fantasies about life after the MA, and most of them revolve around days on end where I get more than the minimum four hours I need to function like a bare-minimum automaton. I think about all the things I do in a day on those four or five hours, and then I wonder wistfully if I'll be phenomenally more productive when I can count on a good six. Of course, there's always the possibility that flow of creativity is cruelly and inextricably linked to mild REM-deprivation. Let's hope not.

Incidentally, Reva, "gruñon" means grumpy, gripey, put-out and vocal about it. So, yeah, you kind of nailed it.

Autumn is lasting longer than usual this year. I've been trying in my mind to describe this day in a way that doesn't sound trite, and it's not happening. I would take a photo but I know it would only capture the color, and that feebly, that a mere 2-D image doesn't transcribe the sharp edge of the air that is colder than it looks in the long, almost horizontal rays of sun. At this angle some of the UV harshness we usually get at this altitude is tempered and it doesn't sting the eyes so much, and I find myself walking on the sunny side of the street rather than seeking refuge in the shade. It's downright cold in the shade, but the sunny spots take the edge off. It has been just the right amount of chilly for just the right number of days so that the leaves that are still on the trees have had a chance to ferment into deep oranges and reds and golds and not just sickly yellow-green hat suddenly goes decayed brown and grey in the snow. I know there are some serious downsides to climate change and they frighten me when I think about them, but if I can find a sliver of silver lining it is this: For a few years, perhaps, before we all get wiped out by raging storms and rising coastlines, Colorado will have longer and indescribably beautiful autumn.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Agotada, or, Why This grumpy girl feels her MA is worth a little more than some others at this university

Happy NaBloPoMo. You get to hear from me every day for the next 30. I don't think every entry will be as gruñon as this one is shaping up to be.

I got here (my office, that is) at 5:45am, which is early even for a madrugadora like me. Last night I stayed at my parents' so that I could take them to the airport at O'dark:30 this morning to catch a plane to Kentucky. They're going out to visit my brother's family. This includes the new baby. I am jealous, not just for the few days' escape to some different scenery, but for seeing the baby. I'm not known for ever experiencing excitement over babies, and I had a hard time getting into my sister-in-law's pregnancy. I was certainly very happy for her, but we're not as close as we probably ought to be, and she already had plenty of other female relatives and friends hovering over her and we live in different states and I'm busy and blah blah blah, I just didn't participate in the pregnancy rituals. I've felt a little disconnected from the whole process--not in a bad way, just disconnected. However, as soon as the baby was born I was unexpectedly rushed by a mostly inexplicable thrill, and I am dying to meet this baby. I want to poke her in the tummy. When I call my brother, sometimes I can here the baby in the background screaming in that mashed-cat way that newborns do, and it makes me smile and laugh because it's cute (also because it's them and not me that she's depriving of sleep). This is good. This gives me hope that I won't feel indifference toward my own hypothetical children in their infant stage. I am really, really looking forward to meeting her. My brother and his wife and the baby are coming out in a couple of weeks, and in some moments I find myself struggling to focus my work because my mind is wandering to my niece. I've never even met her, so how can I like her this much already? Must be a blood thing.

But I digress. I got here even earlier than usual (I am still the only one in the offices, except for someone banging around two floors up) and sat down to the dreary task of finishing my horrid, horrid phonetics homework. I serendipitously checked my email before I started, and found much to my delight that most of the rest of the class has also had complications with the assignment and that the deadline is extended to Monday (I'm delight about the Monday bit, not the shared exasperation. I'm not that nasty). I don't want to draw this out any longer than I have to, but this means I have time to get help with doing statistics in Excel. I hate this class. Yesterday I told my husband that I couldn't remember the last time I hated a class this much, but this morning I recalled. It wasn't undergrad stats, it wasn't Philosophy 101 taught by an angry unmedicated jerk prone to ranting in Greek. The last time I had a professor this unreasonable and out-of-touch and assignments this ridiculous, was my sophomore year at BYU when I took the first of three required semesters of anthropological theory. I was nineteen, and it was my first time coming up against material that heady, and one of the profs (it was team-taught in sections by five members of the faculty) was an outspoken, arrogant misogynist who gave us what then seemed like (to my undergrad self) excessive work that was not part of the established curriculum. As a group we complained to the department chair. He shrugged it off, dismissing it with "yeah, he's like that, but don't worry, I've got the say on final grades and I'll make sure none of your grades suffer because of him". This phonetics course is bad in slightly different ways. The professor communicates poorly, lectures vaguely and gives us poorly planned and poorly explained assignments, but she's a nice person and generally approachable (though I teach during the time she usually holds office hours). The workload is fine as far as quantity, but lately it's unclear exactly what the assignment is. The administration of the last exam was thoroughly botched. It was a transcription exam-- heavy on the listening, that is-- and around half of the recordings were nearly inaudible. I don't want you to get the impression that I'm lazy, because I'm not. But I am tired, and I'm worried about my grade, and I feel like the other members of the class are whiners (pure hypocrisy, I know). Here's my main gripe: They are required to do half the work I do, and they're not required to do all that great a job at it, and in the end we all get MA's from CU. Huh? Here's why: I am not officially a part of the linguistics department, I am a part of the Spanish department. Therefore, I am "expected" to take three seminars each semester, and I'm "expected" to teach one five-credit course each semester ("expected" in quotes because these are official requirements of first-year MA students only, but they are de facto requirements of those of us in the second year, as well). In the end I will have completed half again as many seminars to earn my degree, in the same amount of time, balancing teaching all the while. I also am held to a higher GPA standard. I am allowed up to one grade of B- in a course, which must be repeated. Two final grades of B- or less and I'm out of the program. I'm okay with the high standard. It has never given me grief before this semester. High expectations make me work harder. Consider, though, for contrast, the requirements for linguistics MA students: Two graduate courses per semester. No teaching appointment. Any grade of C or better counts happily toward the degree. What this means is that my phonetics professor thinks its perfectly acceptable to give me a C. I'm not anticipating a C, mind you, and I'm not shoving off my personal accountability for my final grade. In the end it's up to me. However, given that the last few homework assignments have called for physics that I never learned and statistics that I've long forgotten, neither of which was explained in class or readings or lecture notes, I worry. I'm a decent autodidact with many things, but not with math or hard science. I can't read a formula on a page and just get it. I can get help with homework assignments from the left-brainers in my life, but I'm concerned that much of this material will make an appearance on the final exam when my right-brain and I are left to our own meager devices. I'm more than a little scared that I won't pull off something better than a B and that I'll have to repeat this dismal scenario next fall. The phonetics prof is a nice person, but certainly not nice enough that I want to repeat her class. I don't like anyone that much.

I have never in my life been so terrified of a B minus.

I should quit griping. I can find a way to pass this class. I might be able to sleep less and push myself a little harder. In the end I have to settle for the personal satisfaction of knowing I worked harder for my degree, that I had to work harder to get into my program in the first place, blah, blah, blah. At some point it's not worth it to worry about whether or not things are fair, because inevitably they aren't, usually from many angles. Will that make it any easier to get a job?

Lola has to write a project proposal, and promises that tomorrow's entry will be less negative. Sometimes I just need to get it off my chest.