Archive for August 2007

Call for Submissions: Dreaming About Water

My Literary Mama friends and colleagues Violeta Garcia-Mendoza and Amy Mercer are putting together a new anthology by and for women living with diabetes. They are both such terrific writers, I wish I could submit to their book. But instead I am doing what I can to spread the word; please pass this on!

Dreaming About Water: A collection of personal essays and practical advice by and for women living with diabetes

Co-editors Amy Mercer and Violeta Garcia-Mendoza are seeking personal essay submissions from women writers for their upcoming collection.

Essays should fall between 1,500 and 3,000 words and explore an aspect of living with diabetes.

The collection will cover any and all aspects of living with diabetes: from diagnosis to aging gracefully. Other possible essay topics may include:
• Growing up with diabetes
• Dating with diabetes
• Diabetes at college
• Diabetes & eating disorders
• Finding the perfect doctor
• Wedding planning/marriage with diabetes
• Diabetes in the workplace
• Traveling with diabetes
• Starting a Family (either through pregnancy and/or adoption) with diabetes
• Talking to kids about diabetes
• Dealing with complications/ Staying healthy with diabetes

Our goal is to provide diabetic women- type 1 and type 2- with a place of community while they navigate the various stages of their lives, and their diabetes.

We welcome you to submit one or more essays. For more information, or to submit, please write mercermendoza(at)gmail(dot)com or visit the website.

Two More Reviews of Mama, PhD!

Two more wonderful endorsements have come in for Mama, PhD and I’m a very proud mama, indeed:

“All those sleepless nights and dirty diapers and baby food in your hair –where’s the discursive construction of motherhood when you need it? It’s here, in these smart, funny, poignant essays that struggle to balance mind and body, to balance body and soul.”
–Catherine Newman, PhD, author of Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family

“This is a charming, heartfelt book that expresses the difficulties and the joys of combining a life in academia with motherhood. Each story is different, but the experiences and challenges are widely shared.”
–Mary Ann Mason, author of Mothers on the Fast Track: How a New Generation Can Balance Families and Careers

We’ve got a long wait still before the book comes out, so be patient; you know I’ll let you know when you can pre-order…

8 Things Meme

I was tagged for this meme once already, but it’s always fun to play. And since tonight Eli took an extra-long time to go to sleep (see list 4), I have written an extra-long response. I posted the rules previously, so I’m skipping that step now; I’m also all out of bloggers to tag. But I will say that Jean Kazez tagged me, a contributor to Mama, PhD and a terrific writer, so go check her out!

List One: 8 small ways to improve the world
join MomsRising
subscribe to a CSA
call the organizations who send you junk mail and get off their lists (or sign up for Green Dimes to do it for you)
walk, carpool, take public transit
buy refillable water bottles

List Two: 8 things Ben has made from his new cookbook
heart in hand cookies
extra e-z fudge
papa’s pesto
berry dip and roll
boss banana bread
blueberry pie
chocolate covered bananas
bunny salad

List Three: 8 things I carry in my bag
rosebud lip salve
eye drops

List Four: 8 things I’d rather be doing now than keeping Eli company while he falls asleep
drinking a glass of water
doing research for an essay
packing for our trip
eating the last piece of blueberry pie
putting 3 years of family pictures into an album (or two or three)
reading the newspaper
watching a movie with Tony

List Five: 8 best movies I’ve seen so far this year
Away from Her
Whale Rider

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

The Lives of Others

The Namesake

51 Birch Street

List Six: 8 things I worry about sometimes
light pollution
global warming
the safety of our food supply
the war
my kids’ nutrition
global malnutrition

List Seven: Eli’s current 8 favorite books
The Bunnies Are Not In Their Beds
I Went Walking
Everywhere Babies
Why Do Babies Do That
The New Baby Train
A Fish Out of Water
The Baby Goes Beep

List Eight: Recent(ish) reading that’s stayed with me
The New Yorker article on light pollution
Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise
Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love
Andrea Barrett’s Secret Harmonies
Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle
Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife
Susan O’Doherty’s Getting Unstuck without Coming Unglued

My Son Cooked Dinner

Let’s say it again, shall we? My son cooked dinner! And for those of you who are new here, or maybe just a bit inattentive, I’ll point out that he’s five.

Hats off to the Spatulatta girls, who provided the inspiration and recipes.

The menu: rigatoni with pesto, sauteed spinach (ok, Tony made that), and chocolate covered bananas.

Eli kept marveling, “No Da-da make dinner. No Mama make dinner. Mama hehp Buh-buh make dinner. Buh-buh make dinner!” And Ben was a very proud chef, indeed, telling Tony, “You’re not going to believe how delicious this is, Daddy!”

And indeed it was.

MotherTalk Blog Book Tour: Getting Unstuck without Coming Unglued

On the one hand, I could say–with a great sigh of relief and a handful of salt tossed over my shoulder– that it has never happened to me.

On the other hand, I could say that my eight years in graduate school (and the three years’ office work before that) were a protracted block, a self-imposed detour from the writing I should really have been doing the whole time, an elaborate (and ultimately expensive) procrastinatory ploy.

I’m talking about writer’s block, of course, a subject that I’ve been thinking much more seriously about since reading Susan O’Doherty’s sharp, smart, and sensitive Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: A Woman’s Guide to Unblocking Creativity.

Before I go further, I should say that I am not an unbiased reviewer. I first discovered Sue’s work in Andrea Buchanan’s anthology, It’s a Boy; her beautiful essay, “The Velvet Underground,” about her music-loving, costume jewelry-wearing son, Ben, struck a chord with me, the mother of a Ben who used to wear “dress-up hair” to school. I came across Sue’s work next in Jessica Berger Gross’s anthology, About What Was Lost; “The Road Home” details, with agonizing honesty, her journey through multiple miscarriages to motherhood. When my co-editor and I were collecting essays for Mama, PhD, I remembered “The Road Home” and wondered if Sue might have a story to tell for the anthology. Indeed she did, and in working with her to edit her essay and pave the way for its publication, I’ve come to respect her and admire her writing even more.

So when I saw that MotherTalk was enlisting bloggers to review her book, I signed up, looking forward to reading a book I knew I’d enjoy, despite thinking, mistakenly, that it wouldn’t really have much to say to me.

But here’s the thing: my truth, of course, is more complicated than the two versions I offer in the first two paragraphs above. I would never say that graduate school was a waste of time or even a detour from a more satisfying writing life. I did a lot of good writing in graduate school, including a very readable 300 page dissertation. Graduate school, and the courses I took and taught, gave me a great framework for reading and writing that I draw on to this day, and I’m proud to have earned my doctorate.

Still, Sue’s book has made me wonder for the first time whether if I’d skipped grad school and stayed at work in publishing, would I have kept noodling away at the workplace novel I started at my desk? Would I have continued adding sentences between phone calls and correspondence? Is there enough of a writer in me that I would have kept at it, after work, and on lunch hours? Or would something else have come up to interfere with that writing?

Maybe, maybe someday I’ll dig out those fragmented bits of that novel, dust it off, and see if it might still have life in it. In the meantime, though, here I am, seven years post-doc and five years into motherhood, developing a different and very fulfilling writing career. At the moment, I have more ideas than time to write them all out. I can gaze out my window and see writer’s block just hovering out there, past the trees in my neighbor’s yard, but here come Eli and Ben, thundering down the hall giggling, trying unsuccessfully to sneak up on me at my desk, and I race to finish my sentence, jot a few notes to remind myself where I was headed, close the laptop and bounce onto the big bed with them. For now, writer’s block and I are keeping at arm’s length.

So even though I didn’t pick up Sue’s book looking for answers, I’m happy to report that it gave me some anyway. Each chapter in the book is followed by an exercise intended to help you apply the chapter’s lessons to your own creative life and artistic goals. I decided, as a diligent reviewer, to do the exercises, starting in order, and although I haven’t finished (none of them takes more than twenty or thirty minutes, but each warrants a return visit, a reflection a few days later), I’m learning plenty from them already. Some of the exercises are serious (completing the “Girls Should…” sentence with messages you received as a child; identifying your inner critic) and some are a lot of fun (imagining a day without consequences, or imagining your greatest success) but so far I’m already filling pages with memories from my childhood, images I’d forgotten, ideas for future essays: in short, loads of new material. Thanks, Sue!

Like any good teacher, Sue makes her points in this book by telling stories. She’s brave enough to describe the ups and downs of her own creative life, and then sympathetically relates the stories of several of her clients, women at all different stages of their artistic careers, some trying to come to terms with past difficulties, some trying to address current hindrances. And again, although none of these stories is exactly relevant to my own situation right now, each taught me a little bit more about keeping creativity active throughout various different stages of life, whether single or partnered, parenting or childless, younger or older.

When I first started reading this book, I kept thinking of writers I’d give my copy to when I finished writing the review, thinking I’d absorb the lessons and move on. But now I think I’d like to keep it on my shelf after all, and I’ll be giving some copies as gifts.

Summer’s Fruit and Cornmeal Cake

Goodness, this is a delicious cake! It’s quite a bit like last year’s Easy Summer Cake, though it’s got a higher proportion of cake to fruit, and the cornmeal gives it a nice crunch. I made mine with yogurt instead of sour cream, and served it with vanilla ice cream and some more fresh berries. Yum.

Scenes from Spatulatta

Well, the Spatulatta Cookbook arrived earlier this week and the kids are eating it up. This is not the first kid’s cookbook we’ve encountered; in fact, among the over one hundred cookbooks on my kitchen shelf, five are for children. We’ve got the classic, Mollie Katzen’s sweetly illustrated Pretend Soup; we’ve got Linda Collister’s beautifully photographed Cooking with Kids, plus the retro-looking Look and Cook, by Tina Davis. We’ve got my childhood favorite, Mud Pies and Other Recipes, which is full of recipes to make for your dolls and stuffed animals in the backyard. And then we’ve got a real treasure, Michel Oliver’s La Cuisine est un Jeu d’Enfants, with an introduction by Jean Cocteau. This was given to Tony by his grandmother, and is inscribed thus:

“This is to mark your very first birthday–and I hope you will emulate your Mamma and Papa in the preparation of gourmet foods–I will look forward to your first efforts–and I hope it will be a souffle–that’s my favorite.”

Nothing like setting a child’s sights high! (And in fact, with such familial encouragement, Tony embarked on a culinary career that included, as a kid, chicken kiev and lemon meringue pie, and now covers most of our family dinners). We don’t use this cookbook much — it weighs about ten pounds, for one thing — but I love a cookbook for kids that includes such basics as coq au vin, pain perdu and sauce bechamel.

We use all these cookbooks, but what sets Spatulatta apart is that it is written by kids, the two girls behind the Spatulatta website, Isabella and Olivia Gerasole. As a serious cookbook reader, I was worried that this might translate into some cutesy, written-by-adults-to-sound-like-kids tone, but that’s not the result at all. The recipes are peppered with little comments like “Pretty neat, huh?” and “This is the fun, slimy part…” and Ben, a brand new cookbook reader (let alone reader) was delighted at these remarks aimed at him. I like that each step in a recipe is explained clearly enough for a five year old to understand, with cooking terms marked in bold and keyed to a glossary in the back. It’s a smart cookbook, too, with its spiral-bound, coated pages that wipe clean, tabbed section dividers and plenty of room to write in notes. The people who designed it know what they’re doing.

In our first 3 days with this cookbook, we made Extra E-Z Fudge, Heart-in-Hand Cookies, and Berry Dip & Roll, which were all a tremendous success and are not at all a representative sampling of the recipes in the book, which are seasonally organized and include a nice section of vegetarian recipes. I let Ben call the shots, and he went for the sweets; we’ll get to the Bunny Salad, Black Bean Chili, and other healthier choices another day. The one surprising omission from the cookbook, I think, is breakfast! Pancakes, french toast, and muffins tend to be a staple of most kid’s cookbooks, for good reason: they’re simple and plenty good for you. Spatulatta leans more toward lunch and dinner foods, when I’m less inclined to think of involving the kids in the cooking in favor of getting a meal on the table promptly. But of course, the more I include the kids in the kitchen, the less of an art project cooking will be for them, so I like that Spatulatta will help nudge us this direction. My kids, at 5 and 2, are definitely younger than the target Spatulatta audience, but this cookbook will grow with them, and I’m looking forward to the meals along the way.

Shower Gel Cinnamon Rolls

A few months ago, as a bit of a joke, I gave Tony a bottle of Philosophy‘s “Cinnamon Buns” shower gel. It smells remarkably like cinnamon buns, which is why I can’t use the stuff to wash myself, but I noticed that it has a recipe on the label. And I’m no snob about recipes; if it looks good, I’ll try it, whether it comes from an in-flight magazine or a food package or, apparently, a bottle of shower gel. This one looked too simple not to try. And they’re good, though I think next time I’d toss in some raisins, and then probably frost them, too.

Combine in a large bowl:
1/4 c warm milk
1/2 c sugar
1 t salt
1 T cinnamon
4 T soft butter
2 eggs

Set aside to cool slightly while you combine

1 pkg dry yeast
1/4 c warm water

Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture, and then beat in 1 1/2 cups of flour. Cover and set aside to rise for an hour.

After the dough’s risen, add another cup of flour, blend well, and knead until smooth.

Put the dough into a buttered mixing bowl and let rise until doubled in size. Then punch down, shape into 8-10 rolls, place in a buttered baking dish (I used a 9″ pie dish, the recipe is vague on details like this) and let rise another hour. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, or until golden on top.

Reading in Bed

Everyone in the family is falling asleep with books in their hands these days. I’ve been absorbed in Irene Nemirovsky’s amazing, heartbreaking Suite Francaise; Tony’s filling a gap in his California history with Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World. Ben, as you see in this picture, is just trying to absorb as much information as he can (he alternates reading this encyclopedia and Experiments in Science: How Does it Work? a fabulous book of simple science experiments for ages 5 and up). And Eli lately takes Kipper to bed with him at every nap, clearly enjoying the message about not really tidying his basket; the current crib census includes 6 blankets (which he names as I lay them over him), his lovey (aka “patch blanket”), one mole, one knit bear, one lemur, one Pat the Bunny, one Piglet, one giraffe, one gorilla, one dachshund, one cow, one baby doll, two small stuffed dogs (Brown Doggie and Purple Doggie) and one plastic goat.

An Early Review!

Mama, PhD has received its first review, and I couldn’t be prouder. Robert Drago, author of Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life (Dollars & Sense, 2007) says, “Through the voices of those who have weathered the storm, Mama PhD fills a crucial gap in our understanding of why gender equity has been so difficult to achieve in academe. More importantly, it provides invaluable lessons for young scholars — both men and women — striving to navigate family and academic careers.”