Friday, December 5, 2008

Una rosa por otro nombre. . .

Moving plans have finally been cemented, and I have a one-way ticket with my name on it. I'm really, truly moving to Mexico. Soon.

Though the nation has progressed in numerous ways in the last several decades, Mexican mail service is still notoriously third-world. So, we've got a P.O. Box just on the other side of the border. It's small place; a few bars, gas stations, last-chance-Mexican-auto-insurance offices, a trailer park, and the post office. Both and the maps I've seen refer to the town as "Lukeville", but when we stopped there on our way through over Thanksgiving, the sign on the post office wall said "Gringo Crossing". I noticed that several other signs in town had the same name. I asked my husband about it, and he didn't have any illuminating information on the subject. Oh, where is the fount of Arizona history minutia when you need one?

Maybe "Gringo Crossing" is an older name? I can understand why you'd change it; it sounds like something out of a lame western, and "gringo" isn't exactly a compliment. It's an ugly name, but intriguing in its overt tackiness. Part of me is tempted to give out my new mailing address as Gringo Crossing, precisely because it's so awful. I assume the mail will still get there, since we rely on the ZIP code more than anything else. Yes, tempting.

Lola is NOT a gringo, no matter where she crosses the border.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

La vida nueva

I spent the fall break with my husband in our shiny new Mexican home, and exploring the most beautiful beach I've ever experienced. I arrived late Friday night, in the dark, and promptly fell asleep. I woke up on Saturday tangled in the sheets on our huge king-sized bed with the filtered morning sun coming in on me, and indulged in leftover sparkling juice and chocolate truffles from the night before. When my husband got home from the office (he works half days a few Saturdays a month) we went to the playa and I played in the clearest, softest little waves in the world (that's subjective). My husband turned to me and said, "Well, welcome to your new life!"

And so it is. I don't have a job and I have no present plans to even apply for a work visa, so I'll be spending my unemployed days writing, researching, and playing in the Sea of Cortez. Life is rough, wandering the tide pools at dusk.

Lola feels justified in taking a break.

Monday, November 17, 2008

La ironía

This event I'm about to narrate happened last week, the night of the day of my last post, but I still think it's funny and so I'm going to share it anyway.

We had yet another event to celebrate here in the sótano last week: my friend La Rusa's divorce was finalized, finally. She's been trying to two long years to sever her life from that of her shiftless, cheating, alcoholic, paranoid-schiz now-ex-husband, and he's been fighting her on it all the way. Normally I'm a proponent of marriage, but not when it mires the involved parties in misery. Now she's free to move on with her life and find someone who treats her right, appreciates her mind and spirit and loves her completely (she's a catch). As my suegro observes, "There are things in life worse than death, and things in marriage worse than divorce".

Anyway, having been at her side these last two years of heartache and bank-breaking legal battle, I thought we should celebrate the occasion and so on Wednesday we went out to happy hour at a nice tapas bar down the hill. We ate too much and laughed like adolescent girls for a couple of hours, but afterward we both had to head back up to our offices in the sótano to attend to piles of ungraded exams. On the way back we ran into a colleague leaving the building, and she asked what we were so happy about. I told her we'd been out celebrating. She asked what the occasion was, and La Rusa laughed and said, "her anniversary and my divorce".

How's that for opposite ends of the celebratory spectrum?

Funny thing is, I don't feel like one is all that far removed from the other, at least in our cases. We were celebrating shared life with a wonderful man, and her now wide-open opportunity to find one for herself, more wisely this time. Call me cursi, but in their own ways, each situation is pinned to the hope of life-long companionship with someone who'll help us become better people, rather than damning our progress.

Lola is grateful for her marriage, and wishes her friends the same happiness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tres años

Today is my third wedding anniversary. I can't believe it's been that long. Then again, I've gotten to the point that some days I feel like we've always been together, that my life before my husband is vague and somehow less significant. I know that isn't true, because I had 29 years of mostly good and certainly jam-packed life before 12 November 2005. Sometimes I forget that he wasn't around for all of that, and I half-expect him to remember things that happened before we met.

Of course, this doesn't change our present geography. He's off in Mexico working at his new job, and I'm here in Colorado doing mine. I just finished teaching for the day, and am settling down for a day of extracting tokens from a corpus of spoken English. I suppose that's a sign that we're used to this marriage thing-- it's a special day, but it's still a day like any other in that we still have work to do and can't slow down except for a moment to say "I love you, and it's been a great three years so far".

Lola occasionally resents these reminders of responsible adulthood.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I don't know where to draw the line between all this excitement-- I passed my MA exams AND Obama won. Today, at least, I've lost that cynical smirk that always lurks beneath my grin (a friend noted my "sonrisota" this morning). I got a lump in my throat last night listening to McCain's beautiful, inspired concession speech and his call to back Obama, his own pledge to do so, and his plea that we unite as a nation. Though, I was extremely disappointed by his sore loser supporters who actually _booed_ when he mentioned Obama's name. I can't believe he had to shush them! What jerks! In contrast, nobody booed when Obama acknowledged McCain's graciousness and his status as a great hero and as someone who will continue to help this nation progress.

If McCain put a lump in my throat, Obama made me tear up. I don't think his message of hope and progress and unity and personal responsibility is just rhetoric. I honestly believe that he can help us move forward. Naïve? Perhaps. For today, at least, I'm going to ride this feeling of hope and a bright future, along with most of the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


So, I know it may not seem like a big deal to some people, but I PASSED MY ORAL EXAMS THIS AFTERNOON and now the only things standing between me and those two blessed letters M and A after my name are five more weeks of classes, two half-written term projects and a cakewalk French-translation exam. The biggest, most stress-inducing portion is behind me, and I passed. I did it. I am not an idiot, and that has been verified by by three very bright and highly overqualified professors of mine, one of whom is one of the most influential minds in the field. All of this busting my ass, lack of sleep, and further ruination of my eyesight over the last two and a half years has been validated. I learned stuff, I can analyze it and articulate my analysis. I'm not knocking other kinds of work, but to anyone who thinks that life in academia is cushy or that we don't appreciate the meaning of hard work, you haven't been here. This is at least as hard as any other job, and the climb up the ladder is at least as grueling.

Forgive my narcissism when I say I'm smart and proud of my big accomplishment. Today I feel justified in telling the world.

Magister Lola is comtemplating how to celebrate.

Monday, October 27, 2008


In answer to Jane's urgent request, I'll attempt to make up for my delinquency in filling you all in on the exams. The written portion went well, I think. I feel a little iffy about my morphosyntax question, but I hope I answered sufficiently that they allow me to explain myself in the orals. The orals are next Tuesday, and if I pass, the only things that lie between me and my M.A. are two term projects and a French translation exam. Facilísimo, ¿no?

In other news, I went to Phoenix for the weekend and met up with my husband at my in-laws place. I won't say it wasn't nice to see them, because it was, but obviously the highlight of my weekend was seeing him. I can't believe how much I missed him. I won't see him again until fall break, at Thanksgiving, but blessedly the University gives us the entire week. I'll be with him for six days, most of it at our little casa in Peñasco. He'll still be at work all day so I'll have time to write aforementioned term papers and maybe even nest a little, and I'll watch the sunsets over the turquoise water of the Sea of Cortez with my media-naranja. Cheesy, I know, but he's really played up those sunsets.

Lola is on the downhill.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

La espera

I've reached a state of calm, and I'm unable to pin down whether it's because I feel sufficiently prepared for the big day on Monday, or if I'm just numbed past the point of being able to worry about it anymore.

Right now I'm exactly fifty hours and eighteen minutes away from sitting down in the seminar room to write the first portion of my exam. Wish me luck, mis queridos.

Lola is approaching the most important test of her life with no signs of jitters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Why is it that in my particular sleep-deprived actuality, my mind is drawn to twisted little details of the writings of William Faulkner? Where did that come from? Yesterday while I was strolling up the hill to my office it occurred to me that my mother is indeed a fish, given that her last name is Herring, ja-ja-ja. The sick part of it is that I'm so punchy (see previous reference to sleep deprivation) that Faulkner's Greek-style hubris lessons in decaying gentry aren't tragic, they're damn funny. I'll grant, Benjy is funny in that sick way that we all inwardly, guiltily laugh at the mentally retarded, but Quentin Compson should probably never be humorous. Then again, we are a special little exclusive club, we failed suicides, in our noirish adeptness at finding a chuckle in it.

Point being, I ought to be drawing connections between various theories of language change, not indulging in the distraction of Southern Gothic.


They liked Los Simpson, by the way, once we resolved the technical difficulties. Maybe I'll teach them the mambo sometime in the last ten or fifteen minutes of class.

Lola strangely feels like Mississippi might have some redeeming qualities, after all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

La locura no para

I bet you were all just astounded that I didn't update the day after the VP debates to freak out about the Governor's g-dropping, winking, long ums and pauses, weird down-hominess and the shout-out the the third-graders, weren't you? Lo siento, mis queridos, I was just too stinking tired. Can-saaaaa-da. Too tired even to bitch about the statistical-inacuracy pitfalls of evaluating the economy from the junior-hockey league sidelines. That's some serious exhaustion, folks.

I'm only writing here at the moment because I desperately need a short break from the MA list reading and figured I should update. Eight days and counting (incluso hoy). I'm just numb right now, and feeling a bit detached from reality. My husband has already gone to Mexico and started his new job, I've moved back into my old bedroom at my parents' house during the (procrastinated) prepping of our place for the renters, and in one week I take the most significant exams of my life to date, and here I sit watching my words pop up on a screen and being annoyed that my fingers are cold, again. Why am I not thinking about sociolinguistic theory, like I ought to be?

Because my head needs a #@&*ing break from Dr.s Bybee and Labov and Lapesa, that's why. Feel free to remind me of this when I start babbling about PhD programs.

I haven't cried in over a week. I'd like to call that maturity, but I know myself too well. Numb, indeed.


I had a good teaching idea today and managed to impress myself, because that hasn't happened for a while. I'm been operating on auto-pilot in the enseñanza department, but my kids don't seem too much the worse for wear. I've told them at least three times that class will be better after October 22nd. I'd better live up to that. Anyway, here's my nifty idea: We're going to watch part of an episode of Los Simpson in class tomorrow. The culture section for this chapter is on Puerto Rico and the stuff in the book is painfully uninteresting, so their homework for tonight is to look up some info on Tito Puente online and write a short paragraph about him. Tomorrow, we're going to watch a few minutes of the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?: part II" episode, specifically the part where Tito Puente argues that it's better to slander Mr. Burns with a scathing mambo than to shoot him.

"Señor Burns, ¡con el corazón de perro! Señor Burns, ¡el diablo con dinero!"

You remember.

Then, because I am an educator an it is my mission to foul up entertaining things by converting them to learning activities, I'm going to make them get into groups to write a short narration of what happened in those ten minutes, because some of them are still struggling with conjugating the past tenses. It's better than verb drills, though, yes?


Back to the grind for me and my bloodshot eyes. I'll let you all know how things go with the late great Sr. Puente tomorrow.

Lola is still counting down.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

La candidata perfecta

I'm sorry, but I just had to. Every time something comes out of her mouth, or someone repeats previous idiotic comments, I laugh even harder (mostly to bury the fear). Anyone else planning on being gleefully entertained by the debates tonight?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Contando los días

There are:

0 days until my first paycheck of the semester (I love a less un-cushioned bank balance!).

7 days until my husband moves to Mexico without me.

8 days until Rebe moves away, during which time I may or may not see her.

21 days (incluso hoy) until the written exam portion of my comps begins.

31 days to pack up whatever my husband doesn't take with him this trip and be out of the house so that our renters can move in.

52 days before I can escape for Thanksgiving break to visit my husband in our new coastal home.

2 months and twenty-some days until I'm free to leave this final semester behind me and move down to Mexico with my husband.

Being a verbal person, numbers are near-meaningless to me, so if I put my life into little numerical slots it seems less overwhelming and stressful. If there's any one emotion on which life is overdosing me these days, it's "overwhelmed".

Lola has a long wait ahead of her, to be followed by a long drive.

Monday, September 29, 2008


So, I know I should stop using my blog as a GOP-bashing forum at some point, but I can't stop laughing at them and at jokes about them. Besides, we need some lightheartedness in these troubling times, right? Is anyone else worried that the DOW dropped 778 points today? I think the bailout vote was a damned-if-you-do, etc. situation for Congress. I think it would have plummeted if the measure had passed, too.

At any rate, I submit the following visual displays for your snickering / horror / offense:

This first one I spied in a sculpture garden in Ft. Collins, CO. I think it's supposed to be whimsical because it was in the vicinity of other circus-themed pieces. Pero: yes, that is indeed a globe the elephant is standing on, and I think the symbolism is less than subtle. Tee-hee.

My husband and I saw this second one in the grocery store parking lot and pulled out our camera phones once the laughter subsided. If this joke is before your time, ask the nearest 30-something about Top Gun.

I'm trying to find some funny things that anti-Dems have to say or display, but they just don't seem to be as humorous as anti-GOPs, and Obama's ears are only funny for so long. I'm used to looking at them now. My mom has a T-shirt that she touts as pro-McCain that says "You have hope, I have skills". Funny, but the shirt says "Nike", not "McCain". Take what you can get, right?

Lola is ready for the elections to be over already.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Protesta, parte II

So, I figure I should justify my barbed anti-Palin remarks of the previous post by giving a brief (ja-ja) litany of my complaints against her. I could bag on her appearance and her annoying voice, but rather than stooping to that I’ll just tick off a wee list of some of my deeper concerns.

1. Book banning. While the media reports cannot confirm that she ever actually banned anything in the public libraries while serving as mayor of the thriving metropolis of Wasilla, there are confirmations that on at least three separate occasions she asked the public librarians how they’d feel about banning some books, and may have submitted a list of possible blacklist candidates on one of those occasions (rumored). That means she's okay with it, people. Not just that she thinks it's acceptable, but that she outright supports the whole atrocious possibility. She’s also in support of making individual’s library records accessible to government entities, which leads me to think she’s nowhere near a position that the Patriot Act ought not to be renewed. Our freedom to read whatever we please and other civil rights are at risk here.

2. Thinks creationism is science. I’m not strictly opposed to teaching creationism in schools, if it’s in a comparative religion or possibly a philosophy class (generally not offered at the K-12 level, last time I checked). It may have a place as background info in a Western Civ course. But, it’s not science, and has no place in a science curriculum. Here’s some science: the earth is at least billions of years old, fossils are not the creations of the devil meant to lead good Christians astray, the universe is expanding, and evolution of species by the mechanism of natural selection is a natural law, not a theory. Theories of human evolution are yes, theories. The law of evolution is not. I’m just waiting for her to come out against gravity and the rest of physics.

3. Thinks God is down with warfare, and apparently that she can read His mind. While I don’t assume to know exactly what’s He’s thinking, I do not say that I don’t know and then go on to put words in His mouth in the next breath. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t think we shouldn’t pray for our soldiers. I don’t think we shouldn’t support them in their work. I don’t think we shouldn’t be trying to stamp out terrorism. I do think we need some better leadership among the upper brass, and some better efforts at diplomacy instead of just invading and pissing off the locals, giving them further reason to listen to Taliban-types. I suppose it could be argued (in a circular way) that we’re in Iraq “on God’s errand”, as she calls it, if you take into account that we’re cleaning up a hideous mess and trying to restore order and establish infrastructure—from what I’ve read in scripture I gather that God wants His children to be able to live in peace instead of perpetual fear (I could be mistaken on that, of course. Heaven knows that's not what Ms. Palin got out of it). However, if you recall that we created this mess in the first place by invading and removing the former government (dysfunctional and evil though it may have been), we’re only there to make a (flailing) effort to make up for what we’ve done. I also get the impression that she’s already gunning for Russia.

(A little caveat here of my personal, possibly wacky, philosophy on liberation of oppressed peoples: people have to want to be free, and they have to be willing to fight for it. You can’t “liberate” people who don’t value liberty enough to put everything on the line for it. I do think it’s okay to answer pleas from people who can’t do it alone; remember that a fledgling U.S. petitioned the French in our cause for independence from colonial oppression. But, to go around the world trying to “liberate” people who may not necessarily want democracy is a recipe for disaster and myriad dangers, not the least of which is being perceived as bullies and colonialists by the rest of our fellow earth-dwellers).

(Another caveat/plug: read “Three Cups of Tea”. Now that’s an anti-terrorism campaign. But who in government thinks of winning over enemies by exercising faith in humanity?)

4. Makes uninformed decisions about hunting and other means of wildlife management. Shouldn't a gun-toting "chick" from Alaska know a little more about this stuff? I’m not opposed to responsible hunting. I’m not opposed to responsible firearm ownership and usage within the citizenry. Understand, I’m from a family with a long history of ranching and hunting, and such activities are merely a part of everyday life in many parts of the West. Being pragmatic about it, it’s not too far off-base to see hunting as a necessary component of wildlife management, to keep down herd populations and cull unhealthy animals to protect the health of the species. Of course, if we hadn’t driven out and decimated natural predator populations we wouldn’t have this wildlife management situation on our hands. That said, I highly object to Ms. Palin’s means of wildlife population control. Alaska’s caribou herds were reaching lower levels than is healthy for the gene pool due to overpredation, so instead of issuing fewer hunting permits (a more practical and far less expensive solution), she had the state Game and Fish officers out shooting wolves in a bizarre effort to restore some kind of “balance”. ¿Qué? I can’t help but wonder, with her touting that her father was a science teacher, why she has such a feeble grasp on physics, biology, geology, and ecology, and who knows what other –ologies.

5. Thinks that being able to see the Siberian coast from Alaska constitutes foreign policy experience. Was she able to hear Russians shouting at each other at that distance, too? I’m sure that’s a fine way to learn a language, standing there at the far end of the Aleutian chain. I bet she understands the culture, too.

6. Can’t keep from sticking her foot in her mouth, even when she’s apparently been “coached” before an interview. See above complaints. (At least, the GOP claims that they’re coaching her. I’d hate to see her unrehearsed again).

7. Hypocrisy. I know this is common among politicians in general, but I have to bitch about it this time. She claims an anti-abuse-of-power stance, and yet. . .I cite the trooper-gate mess. Recent McCain-Palin campaign ads hype that she stopped the construction of the “bridge to nowhere”, despite the fact that she earlier campaigned on a promise to build the thing.

8. Lack of experience. To avoid the risk of repeating everything everyone else has said on the subject, I’ll refrain from citing the numerous available examples.

9. Even more ambitious than your average politician. Was anyone else shocked and creeped out by her comment that she believes she's ready to take the helm? Did anyone else get the impression that she's anxious for Mr. McCain to bite it so she can be Ms. President? I wonder if her handlers coached that comment.

I could go on, but I’ve got other work to do. I’m puzzled though, at why McCain/GOP advisors made such a blunder. She’s definitely getting lots of press and drawing some air time away from the Obama camp, but what good is media attention when it’s overwhelmingly negative? What were they thinking? Is this some feeble attempt to win over female voters? I feel both patronized and insulted. I’m not sure even the GOP respects her all that much, given those ridiculous “Hot Chick from a Cold Place” buttons many of them were sporting at the RNC. Is this really the way they want to be perceived in their oh-so-modern views of the value of women? Forgive me, I know very good people who are card-carrying Republicans, but the party as a whole freaks me out. There’s plenty of womanizing going on at all levels of government and on both sides of the party line, but the Republicans seem almost proud of their archaism.

Lola’s not converted to Obama (yet), but pleads with us all to consider who’ll be sitting behind the Oval Office desk when McCain screws us by kicking the bucket before his term’s up.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I've been practicing some restraint lately, and that's why this blog hasn't turned into a daily plea to the average uninformed US voter to PLEASE pay closer attention, and PLEASE don't believe everything you hear on TV. Please read, please dig a little deeper and investigate the issues. I could daily fill my wee blog with endless rephrased versions of that exhortation, but so far I've abstained. Though, I may not be able to contain my diatribe against that scary Sarah Palin character much longer.

But that's not why I'm at this particular spot in the wide world of internet at 7:00am, blogging when I ought to be reading something about the influence of ancient social history on the Iberian articulation of the Latin phoneme /f/. No, I had a funny thought that was far more accessible to the non-linguageek general public.

So, you know how voters-- those with and without media attention-- start making mostly empty threats around this time to leave the country for the next four years if their chosen candidate doesn't win? Sean Penn didn't do it-- I know because I have a photo of a friend (who shall remain nameless) chillin' in front of the Brown Palace Hotel with a (very, very baked) Mr. Penn a few weeks ago at the DNC. Some people make good on their words, other not so much.

I realized this morning that, given our impending move to parts abroad, I can make all the silly threats I want about moving away when Candidato Fulano doesn't win, because I'll be going anyway. Ja-ja! Of course, while my protest-promise may not be empty, it's certainly pointless, given that I'm moving to a nation with even less understanding of first ammendment rights than the aforementioned Ms. Palin. No, I'm headed to a place that is possibly more conservative, more indignantly and deliberately ignorant than even the US Bible Belt. «¡Gasp of shock and horror!» you say! «Can it be so? Does such a place exist?» Yes indeed, web-o-sphrere, Lola is moving to small-town Mexico! Woo-hoo! (At least it's not Puebla, known far and wide as Mexico's most conservative region).

Truth be told, I'm quite excited about it. Mr. Lola got a job down there that will do loads for his professional development and puts us about five years ahead of that plan. I don't have a work visa at present, though even if I were to get one I'd still probably spend the time writing, doing research, and digging for research grants without the stress of exams and due dates hanging over my frazzled head. Teaching there pays even dismally less than here. And, as my advisor astutely observed, it's "a great opportunity for data collection". She's right. Those words also warm my heart (brain?) with the hint of a promise of continued research support.

So there you have it, friends. If the McCain-Palin ticket heads to the White House, Lola's moving to another country. You can interpret it as protest if you like.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

El fin del verano

I should update once again, if only to say that the new semester snuck up on me, and I'm beginning to feel the weight of all the information I have to master before my comps. Gah. Don't expect much in this space anytime soon. I'll be spending my waking hours with diachronic linguists in print form. I should have studied Latin.

Lola needs another month of summer before classes being, and only gets five more days.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Para sobrevivir

Thursday morning I was at my parents house to help my mom with some errands, and (remarkably) saw something wonderful on TV (it might be more remarkable that I saw something uplifting on the news). While I was eating my Raisin Bran, Matt Lauer introduced an interview with Ingrid Betancourt. It caught my attention, since I'd been following her release in the news.

(If you didn't know about it, Betancourt is a French-Colombian who'd been involved in Colombian politics until she was taken hostage by FARC rebels (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) six years ago. Obviously she was tortured, etc. She was released in an unexpectedly non-violent and sucessful airlift by the French last week).

It was an impressive interview.

Ann Curry did the interview, and she asked her questions with the requisite saccharine journalistic tone, and asked Betancourt what they did to her. She simply said she wasn't ready to talk about it.

When asked "What kept you alive?", she had a beautiful, perfect, one-word response:


The way she said it, there was no doubt she meant it.

Curry asked her if she felt "anger, hate, vengeance" toward FARC, and Betancourt responded with a quiet but firm "no, no, no. . .Vengeance is a chain. I don't want to be chained to that jungle. . .There's no room for hate or revenge. I could have compassion for them. . .for me it's very important to forgive. I think it's something makes you more human, makes you a better person.

Wow. I'm impressed. Impressed, touched, inspired. How different things would be if all our world leaders could harbor such sentiments.

If you'd like to watch the whole interview, the link is below. I highly recommend it. Add something edifying to your day.


And Jane, I haven't forgotten you. In response: I'm not letting out a peep about what I'm writing, other that to say that it will likely take shape as a novel. I've become a bit paranoid about my intellectual property of late. Don't worry, I'll let you know (if) when I get a publication contract.

Additionally, you're right about the lyrics to the anthem, and for the record I know it has three verses (thank you, hymnal!). It's just that we usually only sing/hear the first verse. And you're also right about the only way to get there.


My final word: watch the Betancourt interview. If you get choked up I'll take the blame. Lola has a new name on the Heroes list.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


This small Wyoming town is a good place and bad place to spend the 4th. First of all, there's nightly rodeo. On the one hand, it's refreshing to witness people exhibiting a true love for their country. On the other, the traffic is awful with all the tourists quadrupling the population for a few days, it's more than a little frustrating to hear the blind sentimental drivel of people who still believe that there's nothing wrong with this country except those damned godless liberals who insist on voting and those immigrants who refuse to act like good 'mercans. Mostly though, the patriotic expressions have been pretty grounded and pleasant.

We went to the rodeo a couple of nights ago. I like rodeo, especially the bull and bronc riding. And yes, I am one of those awful people who thinks animals aren't the same as people and dreams of seeing a really, really good bullfight before I die. But I digress. Because this is Wyoming, the rodeo opens with a prayer to protect all the cowboys. Then we get the national anthem.

I like our national anthem. I like it because I'm a bit of a pessimist, and I appreciate that it's not just a rah-rah-we're-better-than-everyone-else chant. Francis Scott Key, God bless him, knew how to make us feel proud and prick our collective conscience at the same time. If you can remember the lyrics, you'll note that the anthem ends with a question: "does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?" Well, does it? Here in the U.S. we certainly enjoy more liberties than many people in the world, overall. We need to be a little more conscientious about making sure that everyone here gets an equal distribution of those same liberties. Home of the brave? I know an whole slew of iron-spined U.S. citizens, and I'm proud of them. I hope I'm one of them, some days I wonder. I think that in general it's part of the national character, but I worry that it's changing.

So, humor me and ponder Key's question for a moment. What are you to help us all answer it with a resounding yes?

Lola's done preaching for the time being.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


This writer's block is killing me. I feel like a have zillions of wonderful ideas knocking around in my head, but then I sit down to write and end up staring at a blank page. Or screen, as the case may be.

Mostly I'm whining. I'm in rural Wyoming visiting my husband's family for the 4th. Don't feel sorry for me, it's actually a very nice part of Wyoming, that rare bit with some trees. I'm blessed enough to have great wireless access at his uncle's house, but my cell reception is dismal. There are a couple of spots right in town where I've got it, but mostly I'm isolated, phone-wise. Maybe I should be spending more energy hanging with the in-laws, and they're really fun, but I can't shut off. I feel like I need to be working, but I'm too distracted and blank-minded to get anything done.

Lola needs a vacation by herself where she knows very few people and can sit and write all day.

Monday, June 30, 2008


So, having been told that's it's unfair of me to leave you all hanging, I now finally proceed to get down to the point and share my juicy tidbit. And yes, Yvonne, it's something I already told you about, while snickering profusely.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were having dinner with our friend La Rusa, and the conversation found its way around to spying and eavesdropping and bugging and such. We chatted a bit about the situation in Russia, both Soviet and present, and what the US government may or may not be doing to our civil rights, and my husband nonchalantly says "yeah, I'm pretty sure my phone's bugged."


The conversation went elsewhere, and it wasn't until later that night on our way home that I had the chance to ask him if he'd been speaking in earnest when he dropped what I interpreted to be a rather speculative remark. Of course, said he, adding that probably all the communication lines in and out of the clinic are compromised.

For those of you who don't know, my husband works in the legal aid clinic at the law school. There, law students (under the supervision of professors) take on noble causes, like people having their civil rights violated (and not so noble causes, like lots and lots of DUIs. It's all educational, though, right?). A proud moment: last year a team of three students took on the Federal Department of Corrections in defense of a supermax prisoner whose rights were being stomped on fifty different ways, and they won. The students at the clinic take on some unpopular cases, but someone's got to do it. Think Atticus Finch. Unlike Tom Robinson some of these clients are guilty as sin of the offenses for which they've actually been convicted, but that doesn't mean they lose their civil and human rights. Technically.

Anyway, it's (plausibly) rumored that certain governmental elements may be keeping tabs on the clinicians, students and staff.

Then he tells me, also nonchalantly, "yours is probably bugged too, by the way. Since we're on the same cell phone contract, I mean, and because you used to interpret for the clinic." I took an awkward breath. "Oh, and they're probably reading your blog, too."

Otra vez, y ¿QUÉ?

That had me rattled for a while. Then, after a few days, I started to get a sick sense of glee picturing some low-level CIA or FBI peon stuck in a dark, cluttered office, monitoring my phone calls. That poor sucker, who is dyyyying to catch something about my plot to free all the alleged terrorists in Guantanamo, instead listens to Reva telling me about the last unsavory thing her child tried to eat, or my husband and I trying to figure out what we need from the grocery store. I wonder if the poor someone buried in that basement office is reading this right now, digging for my encoded message. Here it is: xIxxLxOxVxExxAxGxExNxTxxMxUxLxDxExR. And that, o ye violator of my civil rights, is the most intriguing this I have to say today. That's my real secret plot: fight back with drudgery.

Think on this: when we were in D.C. a couple of years ago, we went to the International Spy Museum, which by the way I highly recommend (well worth the twenty bucks, because with the Smithsonian's free admission, it all balances out). When you first enter the museum, you get an identity and a secret mission. At special stations throughout the museum, you check in and get new info or do little things to further the mission. At the end, they tell you whether or not you'd make a good spy. By the Spy Museum's estimation, my husband would not make a very good spy. My theory: he's from a small town where people don't lock their doors, and his default setting is that people are generally nice. I, on the other hand, am the daughter of a police officer from a fairly large city, and I drive with my car doors locked. I'd make a pretty decent spy, says the museum. I wonder if the government keeps tabs on the results from tourists to the spy museum? It's a good thing they've got my phone bugged, too, me being a credible threat and all.

Lola is just waiting to be blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Bring it on, Senator Joe.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cinco trivialidades

I know, no updates in months, blah. I just haven't had the ganas to write. That's not entirely true. It's been a question of spotty internet access, and of only having the ganas to write about things that aren't necessarily wise to post in an open-access forum like the internet. My husband shared a tidbit with me a couple of weeks ago that I've been dying to comentar, but I didn't have the nerve until two days ago to ask him if I could blog about it.

Anyway, the dull update:

1. The semester is over. I win. Happy grades in both seminars, overall my students did well, and I get to chalk up one more semester completed without resorting to institutionalization.

2. My husband graduated from law school. We're damn happy, damn proud, and damn relieved.

3. Now he's studying for the July bar. Not so relieved about that one.

4. I'm finding infinite ways to postpone studying for my comprehensive exams in October. That has to stop sometime soon.

5. One method of procrastination: I took a road trip with my parents (first time I'd done that in a long time) to Kentucky, to visit my brother and sister-in-law, but mostly to poke my niece in the tummy.

6. I also introduced her to the joys of pulling on the dog's ears while emitting squeals of glee. Poor dog. I think she's actually not allowed to touch the dog (I know he's not allowed to come near her) because my first-time-mommy sister-in-law is under the false impression that dogs are germier than people (exposure is good for the immune system, says I). Anyway, all week she'd been reaching for the dog and following him with her eyes, fascinated by that canine mystery. I just took the next step by sitting her down next to the dog and allowed her to demystify the rest for her wee self. Poor, poor dog.

7. My niece only squeals at the dog, and when you take her out of the tub. The rest of the time she grunts and growls at people (and giggles a LOT). This makes me kind of want a baby of my own, so I can sic it on those nauseating cutesy people who think babies should be sweet and sugary and limp all the damn time.

8. My other niece, on my husband's side, also suffers from too much personality for her age. We sent her a toy monkey a few weeks ago, and as soon as she grabbed it she started biting its head. She also refuses to go to sleep without the stuffed rat toy that we got for her at Ikea. Those Swedes are sick, sick people.

9. I've been playing in the kitchen. A lot. I have a new bright-red Kitchenaid 600. With an ice-cream bowl attachment. Yum. Dangerous, peligroso yum.

10. Now that I have time, I have writer's block.

11. My friend Yvonne is in town for an academic conference, and so I get to hang out with her for a few days. And, you guessed it, put off studying for those October comps.

12. A friend of mine is releasing an album soon. He's worked really hard and his music is incredible. He's an amazing lyricist. Album to be released later this year. That's my plug for my amigo supertalentoso. Here's his link:

That's my update. I'm sure I've forgotten something significant, but there's bound to be at least one thing of interest to you in that list.


Reva tagged me to list five uninteresting things about myself. This will put me squarely back in bloggerdom, I think, and then I'll stop for today.

1. My feet are always cold.

2. I've had an irrational fear or frogs for as long as I can remember.

3. I like the taste of mushrooms, but the spongy-meaty texture rubs my mouth the wrong way with every bite.

4. To the distress and dismay of my husband's family, I only very rarely bake cookies. I like to think my rockin' key lime pie takes up the slack.

5. I really, really, really want a cat.


The juicy tidbit? He said I could share. This is my way of making you tune in tomorrow. It's an evil plot. Much more interesting than my key lime pie, ¿no?

Lola has information.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Más nieve, otra vez

It snowed yesterday. Again. Sloppy, wet, heavy spring snow. It was only pretty for a couple of hours, and then it started falling off the trees and rooftops and onto our passerby heads beneath in cold, wet clumps. Anyway, it didn't make for bad roads, at least not here.

I'm updating, yet again, not because I have anything to say, but because I feel obligated. Is that a good enough reason, or is it a sign that I should quit this thing altogether?

The semester is almost over, and it's not nearly as ugly as the last one. I'm taking only two classes, both of which I enjoy, both of which have manageable final projects and no exam, and teaching is going well. I think I'm going to have to fail a few students, though, and it pains me. Why should it? They're irresponsible, and I only give out the grades that they've earned, but I still feel rotten about it. I have to remind myself that some students earn an A, others a B, and some earn an F. I'm not doing anyone a favor by passing them to the next level when they're not prepared for it. On the flip side, I anticipate assigning a few more A grades than usual this semester. There are some very serious, hard-working students in my class this semester.

In other good news, the meds are doing their job (read: I'm sleeping and not crying every day) without robbing me of my creativity. If anything, with the upswing in motivation I'm more apt to write down my ideas, which come more freely (surprisingly) and aren't as dark as they were before. The other day I started writing about my childhood experiences with Barbie. Still dark, but in that humor-noir way, and not outright depressing. I'm aspiring to the feminine counterpart of David Sedaris. Set the bar high, right?

I have to meet with a student. Such is the life.

Lola wants some sunshine.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Día soleado

I think the meds are finally starting to kick in and the sleepy side effects are beginning to wear off. I've been progressing back toward my normal morning-person self the last couple of days. Keep your digits crossed that the trend continues.

Through the stress of this semester, I've had a bright spot that I've mentioned before, and that is teaching. It keeps me focused. Some days, it's the only thing that musters my focus. More than that, by coincidence or providence, I have a great group of kids this semester. There are, as always, a couple that aggravate me now and then, but for the most part they are good, motivated, fun, hard-working students, and a higher-than average number of them are consistently pleasant and prepared. Because today is sunny and beautiful, we went outside for class today. I'm always a little hesitant to do it because of the inherent distraction, but today these kids exceeded my expectations. We went outside on a gorgeous sunny day, and they stayed focused and on-task the entire fifty-minute period. We're going through some confusing grammar right now, and they plowed right through it like troopers. Good kids, I tell you. Today has been one of those days that I feel less insecure about the future in the hands of our youth.

I sound like such a vieja sometimes.

Last night I had an unexpected surge of motivation (I tell you, the meds are kicking in) and busted through the first chapter of Wheelock's Latin. I'm probably speaking too soon because I haven't gotten to any noun declensions yet, but Latin's not so bad. I'd even say easy. Anyway, I had a couple of mini-epiphanies about the vosotros conjugations in Spanish, and how they came almost directly out of Latin. Vosotros, no me fastidiáis más. Ahora os entiendo.

Lola sees a light at the end of the tunnel, and so far it's not a freight train.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Todavía invierno

The first day of spring isn't for a few more days. To remind us of that fact, we received another big storm last night. I slept poorly last night and figured I'd probably have to work on not being a grouch today, but as I got my sleepy self off the bus I was caught off guard by this vista, and I smiled in spite of myself.

Lola loves a good spring storm.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Un lunes más o menos ordinario

A sincere thanks to those who have shown love, support and concern. Sometimes I feel awfully isolated living out my waking hours down here in the basement of the languages building on the far end of campus, and while my colleagues are wonderful and supportive, it's good to feel the support of my loved ones spread far and wide.

And on an update sort of note, I am once again among the ranks of the medicated. Gah. Of course, they're taking their sweet time to kick in, all except the temporarily-prescribed sedative, that is. I'm still waking in the night, but now it's only once. In the mean time, my poor system is reacting predictably to new substances being introduced to it, that is, with nausea. Gah, indeed.

I'm still shaky, but there's a sense of relief that comes from knowing I'm moving toward some better management of my mess.

If slowly, Lola's on the up and up. Keep your digits crossed for me.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Me caigo

I'm cracking up.

Looking back I can see that this has been on the horizon for months, but I didn't imagine that it would get worse. Well, it has. I shake, I cry without warning or provocation, my ability to focus is shot, my sleep is the worst it's been in ages. If I'm so damn tired, why can't I stay asleep through the night? My shiny new therapist could offer several explanations, probably all good.

He asked if I was getting at least eight hours of sleep a night. It was such a preposterous question that I laughed out loud, perhaps a bit rudely, and reminded him that I'm a grad student. He smiled knowingly (psychologists have PhDs, after all) and told me he had to ask anyway.

Anyway, it's gotten to the point that I'm having to make some major adjustments, at least as major as they can reasonably be mid-semester. Some things will have to wait until May (getting 8+ hours of sleep a night, for example). I am blessed in that the people around me-- fellow students, remaining friends, advisor, and my amazing husband-- are powerfully supportive. However, that doesn't change the fact that I'm cracking.

I still haven't snapped in front of my students, though, and I take tremendous pride in that. When I teach I'm in a zone, on a different plane, and there's no room in that space for my issues. I have fifty minutes each day to cram a certain amount of grammar and conversation and writing and listening practice into their heads and mouths, and I don't have time to worry about myself. Forcing myself to go teach every day has been pretty decent stop-gap therapy, for what it's worth.

I'm still here. I've beat it back before, and I'll keep doing it for as many years as are alloted to me. Someday (hopefully some far-off day) I will die a natural death and this will be over.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nuevo México en febrero

In Antonito, Colorado, there lives a crazy(?) man who built himself a house that is principally two large stone- and- cement towers adorned with soda cans and hubcaps. The locals refer to it as "Cano's Castle" (the man's moniker is his own truncation of "Chicano"), but the towers remind me more of bell towers on a church, which, taking into account the proclamations to/about Jesús y La Virgen and the virtures of mota, is perhaps the aesthetic he was aiming for. I'd heard about the place, but I saw with my own eyes for the first time yesterday as we made our way north through the San Luis Valley on our long-way-back from New Mexico. Is it "pilgrimage" if I sought it out of curiosity rather than some desire for spiritual awakening? I've had ganas to see it for a while. I wasn't disappointed. If I gave up on holding myself together, I wonder, would my mad energy manifest itself in something like this, or just more ramblings? I'd kind of prefer the funky aluminum castle to piles of illegible theorizing. Productive insanity is still productive, right?

My grandfather was sick last week. My parents had been down last weekend, and Dad said (in passing) that he's so frail that a bad cold could take him. The next night my step-grandmother called to tell us he'd come down with the flu. However, being a Montoya, within two days he'd rallied rather than passing (his own father died well after his hundredth birthday). Late Thursday night as we were sitting in bed, my husband suggested that we take Saturday morning to drive down and see him while we still could. So, we drove as far as Pueblo on Friday night and arrived in NM early Saturday morning and caught the viejo awake and (relatively) alert. It was good, and heartbreaking. He was more talkative than I'd seen him in at least a year, if not longer. He rambled on, losing the thread of each utterance less than five words in, and code-switching between Spanish and English at random. Both are more difficult to understand, not just because nothing makes sense, but because he doesn't wear his teeth. All that aside, he was happy. He hasn't known me for several years, but he's happy that someone who loves him has come for a visit. He held my hand while we walked around the building. He held my hand so tight, and there were moments when he looked me right in the eye as thought he wanted desperately to say something and couldn't put the pieces together. It hurts. I wonder what's still keeping him here, why he hasn't gone on yet, what more he can possibly accomplish in this life. Someday I might be privy to the reasons for this but in the mean time I'm just trying to figure it out.

I was a little teary as we left the hospital. My husband asked if I wanted to just keep driving south and relax for the weekend. Good man. We stopped in town for a while to visit with my step-grandmother, and then headed for Santa Fe. (On a slightly unrelated note, I have few fears about making it into my eighties if I can be as sharp and spry as she is).

The last coupled of times I'd been to Santa Fe had left me underwhelmed and with a mildly bad taste in my mouth, but in the off-season it's a different place. It's still colorful and quirky, but in a much more subdued, pleasant way. We've been tossing around the idea of possibly settling in northern NM, so it was nice to see a bit of its non-touristy side. I won't bore you with all the minute details of our weekend, but I will say that was relaxing to wander the streets and hang out with my husband, and that I ate too much. How can I turn down all that green chile? Also, the people were friendly and put up with all of our nit-picky questions about quality of life there. We may be relocating there sometime in the next few years. There, or any one of at least half a dozen other places on our list of options.

Lola is grateful for her awesome husband and her as-yet healthy mind.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Carretera congelada

5:30-y-tal de la mañana: after spending around twenty minutes scraping a thick sheet ice off my windows, I'm satisfied that I have safe visibility. My little car struggles over the ice and up the hill to the light, and we manage a left turn onto University Boulevard. All is well, more or less, for about three blocks, at which point a light turns red and my attempt to brake sends me spinning. I deftly steer away from the big truck ahead of me and deposit myself in the relative safety of the lawn of the Methodist church. Kudos to me for not hitting a single tree.

The city is iced over, and I'm not going to Boulder today. Even if I managed to get there safely without careening off the road again (not all places are as friendly to me and my car as Methodist lawns), the round-trip commute alone would rob me of about five hours of my day. I can't sacrifice that kind of reading time. Me rindo. I got a sub and I emailed my profs to let them know I likely won't be in class this afternoon (if things clear, I may launch a second foray, but don't bet on it).

I recall previous mayoral adminstrations in Denver that had the sense to send out the plows. When did city hall stop watching the weather forecast?

I also had a nasty little sociological thought as I de-iced my windshield: Garages aren't just another convenient block of square-footage on your single-family home, they're a class-distinction-marker that can translate to social capital (Feel free to skip ahead to the end of the entry if you're already bored). Walk through it with me: Joe's job pays well enough that he has a place with a garage. On icy and snowy mornings, Joe just revs the engine, opens the door and drives cautiously (we hope). Jim, on the other hand, pulls down a smaller paycheck, so he pays lower rent or mortgage, and has to park out in the open. Jim has to scrape the ice off of his car, which delays him. This means he makes it into the morning rush a bit later (and we all know what an ugly difference five or ten minutes can make in traffic), which delays him further. Let's say Joe and Jim live within a mile of each other, so they both got hit by the same exact storm, and that they both leave the house at 7:30am. However, because Jim doesn't park his car in a garage, he arrives at the office a good fifteen to twenty minutes later that Joe, give or take. Even if he plans ahead and watches the forecast, Jim will probably consistently arrive five minutes late to work, all winter long. Even if Jim's boss is a kindly soul, these kinds of things will reflect poorly on him when evaluations and promotional opportunities come around. Joe and Jim's differential access to covered parking translates to differential access to professional advancement opportunities. Yes, a bit of a leap, I know, and I'm leaving out other factors-- maybe Joe is a lazy TFB and their boss promotes Jim because she thinks Joe's obnoxious, or perhaps Jim is a lush who'd show up late and hungover no matter where he parks-- but it does give pause.

Someday I'll have a place with a garage. By that time in my life, I'll probably be a kept woman who doesn't have to be at work at 8:00am, dangit.

Lola wishes you all a very happy Valentine's Day, Singles' Awareness Day, whatever you may call it. Go get yourself some chocolate, and drive safely.

Friday, February 8, 2008

género gramático

Once again, I'm updating not because I necessarily have anything worthwhile to say, but because this oft-neglected space needs some love. More of the same: the house is a mess because we have no time to pick up all the piles of books, teaching is good but not great, classes are great but the reading load is ridiculous, my husband rocks, etc., etc. Maybe this time no news is good news.

I started an Arabic class a couple of weeks ago. It's very, very low-key-- we only meet twice a week, there are no quizzes, no exams, no assignments, and no grades. The instructor is a PhD student over in Linguistics, and he does a great job of explaining the structures in simple linguistics terms. Simple? Well, I think so, but the other people in the class might not like it so well. I love it. Anyway, we blew through the alphabet and now we're learning the basics of noun phrases. Last night we learned some weird (I think) things about Arabic nouns. For those of you who can't disassociate biological gender from grammatical gender and grasp the arbitrariness of it all (I still have students who obsess about how and why a table is feminine and a book masculine), chew on this: There are some nouns that are masculine in the singular but feminine in the plural, and vice-versa. That's going to be a concordance headache for me, I know it already. Another funny arbitrary tidbit: Body parts that occur in pairs (eyes, feet, etc.) are feminine, while singular and non-dual-plural body parts (tongue, fingers, etc.) are for the most part masculine. The suspense was killing me. I asked my burning questions, and now I share with you, dear internet public: yes, in Arabic, "testicles" are feminine. Nope, nothing arbitrary about that. Ha.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ocupada, nada nuevo.

Following Reva's lead, I'm putting up a new post, not so much because I have something to say but because this space needs news. Sadly, I have no photos of my current dumpy hair, nor of how I wish it looked instead. Like Reva I am in desperate need of a trip to the stylist but I don't have the time. Maybe over spring break? Ha. At least Reva managed to continue looking hot through grad school. For better or for worse, I have not. Does this mean motherhood will be even worse to my appearance?

I just finished grading a quiz my kids took yesterday. Not so hot. Did I teach it poorly, or did they study poorly? Some combination of the two? Lucky thing we've got a quiz every week, so one bad quiz can't hurt anyone's grade too much. I'm tempted to go easy on them this Friday, but I'm not sure that's fair. I'm not too keen on passing out A's because I feel bad for them, but I don't want them to be discouraged, either.

In response to Kendra Leigh and Jane's comments on spouses skiing/not skiing. . .I failed to mention that we struck a deal, my husband and I, and so far I'm holding up my end. We agreed: if I learn to ski, he will learn to dance. It's all a little painful for both of us at times. Here's hoping. . .

I have to go. More reading. I am making a truly sincere attempt this semester to stay organized and stay ahead on my readings and blog postings (the academic ones, that is) and homework problems and lesson plans and all of that, and I have to say it's much more taxing than the lo-haré-mañana approach (well, duh). So far, so good, but we'll see how long this lasts.

Evidentiality and transitivity, here I come!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Respiro, respiro, respiro. . .

I'll write this quickly because I have to go teach in a few minutes.

But WOW. I have to say I'm enjoying this semester more, I'm definitely more organized and I feel on top of things and my anthropology class rocks, but I am already soooo busy. I'm not even taking my exams this semester. Good thing, because I have loads to read for my classes. At some point in the near future I've got to start preparing seriously for my exams. October is going to creep up on me, just like January did.

Deep breath. It's not even noon, and I've already gotten a lot done today. So much more awaits before I can feel good about going to bed, though. Le sigh. I have to keep reminding myself that I signed up for this.

In completely unrelated news. . .drumroll please. . .I ski like a big kid now! A season-and-a-half into it, I'm no longer snowplowing down the slope like an oaf, I can control my turns and keep my skis parallel. My husband (the cause of my taking on this enterprise so late in life) is so happy and proud he could pop. I'm not feeling too bad about it, myself.

Lola has to go teach the irregular preterite now. Estuve, estuviste, estuvo, estuvimos, estuvieron; pude, pudiste, pudo, pudimos, ad nauseum.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Capital social

I robbed this little idea from Jane's blog, and she took it from someplace else, and as requested by the original authors of this little bit of socio-introspection, they are credited below with their names and the link. Being a fan of Bourdieu myself, I was intrigued by the experiment and how the researchers had found a nice application to drive home the idea of social capital. Anyway, here's how they get started: below is a list of advantages that could be thought of as bits of social capital. Which ones apply to you? Note that all of these things are not our own accomplishments, but things that other people do for us. What did your parents do to give you a leg up, to pass on their social capital? What could they do for you? How much further ahead are you by someone else's contributions to your potential success?

In the classroom version of this exercise, students line up atone side of the room, and take a step forward if the statement applies to them. Imagine me taking a virtual step forward for each of the statements in bold type.

Take a step:

If your father went to college before you started

If your father finished college before you started

If your mother went to college before you started

If your mother finished college before you started

If you have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor. (the professors are my cousins, that is, peers, and not of previous generations; that is, I didn't have this social capital in my childhood).

If your family was the same or higher class than your high school teachers

If you had a computer at home when you were growing up

If you had your own computer at home when you were growing up

If you had more than 50 books at home when you were growing up

If you had more than 500 books at home when you were growing up

If were read children's books by a parent when you were growing up

If you ever had lessons of any kind as a child or a teen

If you had more than two kinds of lessons as a child or a teen

If the people in the media who dress and talk like you were portrayed positively

If you had a credit card with your name on it before college

If you had or will have less than $5000 in student loans when you graduate

If you had or will have no student loans when you graduate

If you went to a private high school

If you went to summer camp

If you had a private tutor

(US students only) If you have been to Europe more than once as a child or teen

(International question) If you have been to the US more than once as a child or teen

If your family vacations involved staying at hotels rather than KOA or at relatives homes

If all of your clothing has been new

If your parents gave you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them

If there was original art in your house as a child or teen

If you had a phone in your room

If your parent owned their own house or apartment when you were a child or teen

If you had your own room as a child or teen

If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course (though in my case the school district paid for all the honor students to take it).

If you had your own cell phone in High School

If you had your own TV as a child or teen

If you opened a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

If you have ever flown anywhere on a commercial airline before college (this was on a travel scholarship)

If you ever went on a cruise with your family

If your parents took you to museums and art galleries as a child or teen

If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

I got about a third of the way across our imaginary classroom. I know people who are ahead of me, and who are behind me. I think almost all of them make more money than I do, but I like my job. I have more education than some of the people ahead of me, and less education than some of the people behind me. How far did you get across the room? What have you managed to do with what you've been given?

In the classroom version, students are supposed to pay attention to how they feel: angry, embarrassed, happy, if they feel like a winner or a loser. I feel an odd sort of pride. Looking at my list, I'm impressed with the socio-cultural capital my parents managed to give us despite their somewhat limited financial capital. My father used to tell us stories about traveling in Europe when he was in the military, about seeing Michaelangelo's Pieta before some idiot knocked Mary's arm off, and not knowing until a few years later in an art history class what a significant piece it was. We went to the opera as children, because my father was in the Opera Chorus at the University (first tenor, even). We knew who Mozart was and knew his music before the film Amadeus came out. We both started piano with a fine Suzuki-certified teacher around age six. Neither of us play any more, but we can sight-read decently and pick out our parts in choral arrangements. My mother took us to the public library at least once a week, and I remember her having a perpetually hoarse voice when I was tiny, from reading aloud to us so much. She still reads like it's her job. I may have more education than my mother, but she's smart as a whip and keeps up just fine when I blather on about the material in my MA program. Looks like her private Catholic school education hasn't let her down yet, college or no college. At the same time, we got loads of what WASPy types might call "low-brow" culture, things that might have been more than a little on the ethnic and regional end of things, but I'm also of the strong opinion that being comfortable with diversity (and better yet, having it as a part of everyday life and not as a novelty) is a good thing. My great grandmother was a curandera, was yours? My grandfather, a former cotton-picker, read history books like he was preparing for PhD examinations that never came-- how about yours? I'm proud of those things, by the way. Maybe not so proud that I can recognize and even throw gang signs, but that's one of the bits of covert social capital I picked up in my years of public school.

I'm not sure I'd call it a flaw, but note that this list is extremely establishment-oriented. As in, it pays tribute to The Man. Whether you like it or not, the old establishment still dictates much of what it means to be successful in this country, and who has access to the tools of standard "success".

I wonder what this list will look like for my children. Why do I feel guilty that my hypothetical children will be so much more privileged than others? How do I raise them to be grateful and humble instead of being obnoxious ingrate snobs? We all want our progeny to succeed, and success includes not being a jerk. In my mind, being respectful and appreciative of all people is a priceless kind of social capital. I'll let you know how I'm doing with finding that balance in about another ten or fifteen years.

This experiment was designed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Indiana State University. Loads more info on their research available at

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Not much to report for the day, except that the present semester is looking far more livable so far than the last one. Besides my classes seeming more manageable so far, I also have a schedule somewhat similar to my husband's, which means we'll actually get to see each other on week days this time. Woo-hoo!

Mostly I'm posting so I can share this lovely image my mother sent me in an email, titled "How Rednecks See a Map" (if you click on it it gets bigger and more legible). For better or for worse, my mother is one of those dutiful people that cleans up long lists of other people's addresses before she forwards an email, and consequently I am clueless about the origins of this gem. If it happens to be copyrighted (because it is surely someone else's work), I am deeply sorry for the infringement, but whoever you are, you have a keen grasp on the creepy ignorance of Middle America, and you worked up one damn funny map.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


My brother is leaving to go back to Kentucky tomorrow, so today we humored him went along to the stock show. Now, I know people who think the National Western Stock Show is a big deal, but I grew up here in Denver, so it's always just been that smelly event at the cow palace up on the north end of town, a strange event incongrous with our urban lives, to which our elementary schools brought us every January so that the city kids could look at cows (my uncles had a goat dairy and ranches, so I was unimpressed). Simply, January in Denver means stock show, and it always has. Still, as pedestrian and routine as it may seem when we are reminded of it by the feed lot smell wafting into downtown all month, it's a strange place for me once I'm inside the complex. I'm bootless, hatless, and Wrangler-less, and I feel a little out of place. I'm familiar with livestock but I don't have any of my own, and even though it would be cheap to buy one of those strange fluffy chickens, I'd have have nothing to do with it once I brought it home (not to mention being in violation of zoning restrictions and HOA regulations).

The hermano's current dream is to have a big spread out in the middle of nowhere with some livestock (yes, that's the rolling of my sister-in-law's eyes in the background). He wants to buy a goat for the baby (he's already determined that she'll be just as bovine-lactose intolerant as he is) and to build her a goat cart so that the goat can pull her around the neighborhood. His favorite weird variety are the fainting goats. I didn't believe him when he first mentioned them (he has a history of dressing up truth and reality), but there they are, all over and wikipedia and the rest of the internet.

Goats that fall over when they's startled. How useless is that? Anywaym, they're real. Much to my brother's disappointment, there were no myotonia-afflicted caprids at the stock show today, but we had a surprisingly good time watching his tiny daughter's eyes widen at the different animals and their behaviors. We held out her hand to pet a huge angora rabbit and spent the rest of the afternoon picking the tiny fibers off her fingers, cheeks, and chupi. She's way to little to enjoy the other atractions in Children's Ranchland, but the petting zoo was just her speed.

Lola really is a western girl, somewhere deep down in a corner of her insides.

Friday, January 11, 2008

El descanso sin descanso

Bah Humbug. Yes, Christmas itself was nice and there were some bright spots, but mostly this break has been stressful. I know I haven’t updated in a million years so I’ll just give a quick list of what was good and bad about the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008:


-I’ll start with the worst. Right before finals, a friend was killed in a car accident. She had married into a family that’s like family to me, and it hurts to see them hurt. I missed the funeral because I had a final (Yet another reason to resent Phonetics). The funeral and burial are all over, but they still hurt.


-My students performed with mediocrity on their final, overall. It sunk a few final grades.(GOOD: I still didn’t have to fail anyone this semester).

-Fire in our apartment building. Miraculously and blessedly, our unit wasn’t damaged, but we couldn’t go back for several days and now the on-going clean-up in the building is messy and terribly inconvenient.

-After evading one storm on our way out to my cousin’s wedding, the nuptials were delayed because the groom got caught in another storm, and when we left a day later than planned we got caught in yet another storm that closed down the interstate and left us camped out on a wrestling mat in the Summit County Middle School gymnasium, courtesy of the Red Cross. Happy New Year!

-Raging sinus infection, and the not-so-attentive medical professional who attended to me claims it’s viral and not bacterial (no tests or cultures, mind you) and so I’m fighting this one on my own. It's difficult trying to sleep through the ongoing tests while the apparently inept cleanup crew tries to reset the fire alarm. How tough can that be?


-I passed all my classes, including Phonetics. I have never worked so hard for a B+ in all my life.

-We spent Christmas with my parents and were grateful that our little place was just off-limits and not a heap of ashes.

-My husband and I met an old friend of mine and his partner for coffee the day after Christmas and I got to have an intellectually stimulating conversation that had nothing to do with Hispanic Lit or Ling, or with Law. Well, there was some law in there but it was IP so that’s okay. The world is broader than my research, and it feels good to be reminded of that.

-When we went out for my cousin’s wedding we stayed with my husband’s brother and his wife and their adorable child (I guess that makes her my niece). We actually got to relax and play cards. We also spent some time with other friends we hadn’t seen in a while. So, I did get in a wee bit of relaxation during my descanso.

-The piñata at the wedding had Anna Nicole’s face on it. How can that not make you smile?

-Got to see lots of family at the wedding, including my favorite uncle.

-My brother and his wife and my (other) awesome niece have been here while the hermano’s on a short duty assignment, and I get to hang out with them. She’s still too little to spoil and steer into naughtiness, but it’s best for us to bond early so she’ll trust me later when I get around to teaching her a few things.

And that’s been my welcome to 2008, dear fellow bloggers. As I write this I find myself back at my desk, putting off the preparation of a week’s lessons, sorting out my readings for the coming week. When I woke up grumbling about coming to campus this morning, I had no idea it would be so easy for me to fall back into this routine. It’s comfortable. The craziness of the break is already starting to fade into the new semester. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

One last note on my nerdiness: Some of you will get this, and some of you will just roll your eyes in disgust/confusion. So be it. When the building caught fire and we heard the alarms, when I had only moments to gather up what’s most precious and irreplaceable and fits in my hands, I grabbed my research (my husband is mobile and doesn’t need to be carried). I gathered up my laptop and some papers, and ran into the other room for the flash drive that has my backup sound files. Everything else could be replaced or the loss would be acceptable, but not my data. I had to save them, above all else. Take that as you will.

Lola’s out of the stressful break and into a (new) stressful semester. Cross your fingers for me, chicos.