Saturday, January 05, 2008

Joys of grant writing

I've spent the last 48 hours wrestling with a grant proposal, which with any luck, I'll have complete before classes begin on January 14th. Grant writing is singularly demanding and tedious. The "art"consists of packing masses of information into a very few pages. The best you can do is to research well, write clearly, and somehow convey your enthusiasm for a project.

Why do it at all? Well it's like what one administrator said about his job, "It's a way to make things happen." Grants offer a way of exploring a particular research area, implementing a particular project. They don't always get funded. You cross your fingers and hope someone likes your ideas.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A matter of shape

For girls of my generation, three things were considered completely disgraceful: dropping out of school, pregnancy out of wedlock, and having to shop in Lane Bryant. It was known as the "fat girl's store," and whenever we put on weight, our mothers threatened to take us there. I, who have always been heavy, managed to avoid this fate by continual, though not extraordinarily successful dieting.
Shopping in Lane Bryant was social disgrace, a sign of complete failure as a human being. Nothing could make up for it-- even if you were valedictorian, a national merit scholar, or a junior soloist with the New York Philharmonic. Fatties were failures.
I always diet. Sometimes my weight is up; sometimes it's down; sometimes it shifts. Recently, I noticed that a scoop necked blouse I was wearing did not sufficiently conceal my chest. Perhaps I should wear a camisole underneath? I found just one in my size at Belk's, where I normally shop, and liked the effect. I could not find others. My daughter Emily takes an interest in these things, though she is much smaller than I. She recommended Lane Bryant.
Lane Bryant!!?!! According to Emily, they have a line of underwear suited to what we may euphemistically call larger women. I went there this weekend. It was great. I wear one of the smaller sizes they carry, and there was a large selection of things I could wear.
While it makes sense to keep your weight down, there's also a lot to be said for knowing how to dress the body you have.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

From thence we marched forth

I think this was the year in which I travelled the most, and it's sort of a blur. Before it all escapes me, let me try to remember 2007. New Year's Eve 2006, I returned to the Tri-Cities Airport at about 9:30 PM. Most of the previous seven months, I'd spent in China. Joe was waiting for me at the airport.
With little "down time," I plunged into Spring semester. I kept noticing American accents, American flags, and our wonderful Western toilets. The US seemed like a foreign place for quite awhile.I hadn't seen my children at Thanksgiving or Christmas, so they gave me a late Christmas and birthday present by visiting Johnson City on the Dr. MLK weekend.On Spring break 2007, I returned to China with Drs. Chen, and Rhoton, and our Dean Dr. Hal Knight. We worked on arranging exchanges, and did some glorious sightseeing in Nanjing, Beijing, and Jinan. But again, there was little "down time."
Having been half way around the world, it was fitting that I visit my family. Joe and I cranked up the ancient Hyundai and headed North. We saw Emily in Cincinnati; Ben in D.C.; Mike in Philadelphia. Then we visited my brother Ken, my aunt Hilda, and my aunt Rita, all of whom live in New Jersey. It was wonderful seeing them, but it sounds exhausting, just writing about it. And I can't blame it on the university.
On our return, I worked feverishly on a possible summer partnership between ETSU and North China University of Technology in Beijing. For awhile, it didn't seem to be coming off, but things came suddenly together in July, and our visitors arrived. Our visitors were here for a month. The experience was glorious and exhausting. Especially challenging was the last week, during which we took our visitors on a tour of Philadelphia and D.C. At times, I was clearly out of my depth, but the staff who went with us were excellent, and Ben and Mike helped out a lot.

Fall semester, I tried my hand at online instruction and supervised student teachers, in addition to the work I usually do. One day a week, I drove out to Morristown TN, to teach in a cohort program at Walters State Community College. My tenure papers went in September 15. Just after completing them, I attended the Poznan linguistic meeting in Poland. In October, we were back in Cincinnati for our son-in-law's 30th birthday party. The following week, we headed for Tulsa Oklahoma to attend Joe's youth group reunion. We returned to Cincinnati again at Thanksgiving.

Rereading, this narrative sounds rather like the description of a forced march, almost like Xenophon's Anabasis, parts of which I read during college and detested. There has been little time to do writing of any kind. There have been meetings on international education and the task of heading a search committee. The year culminated with our glorious Christmas, spent with the internationals and our kids. On December 30, my birthday, I did very little. New Year's Eve, I spent with my friend Charlotte. Today, I was planning to work on a linguistic diversity grant. Instead, I've been reading an Inspector Lynley mystery. I suppose I really need "Down time." I like what I do, but I understand why people retire.
Scenes from the year: Street Festival in Poznan, Dinner theater, Cherokee church, My son-in-law's birthday party.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Mobility and Continuity

When I told my daughter I'd been located by a classmate via Google, she shuddered. "Remind me not to put my maiden name on things the way you do, Mom. There are lots of people I don't want to be found by."

At 27, my daughter lives in the Cincinnati area, where she grew up, attended college, and married. Former classmates are all around, and she does not care see some of them. During the years I lived in New York, I too drifted away from many of my classmates. I didn't think much about it at the time-- I was getting on with my life. Later, I spent nearly thirty years in Cincinnati, and I've been here another five. At times, both Cincinnati and Johnson City seemed almost different from the Brooklyn of my girlhood as Nanjing or Weihai.

Therefore, it is a wonderful thing when I encounter a former classmate. If I was close with the person previously, as I was with Marnie Mahoney, we may find we have much in common. Even if we don't, it's fun to chat for awhile. Those with whom we grew up occupy a special place in our identity, in our sense of self. How can I explain to people in East Tennessee what it was like to attend a high school with over 5,000 students?

For the Time Being

This is my favorite post-Christmas poem. Enjoy.

Excerpt from "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratio"
W.H. Auden

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
"Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake."
They will come, all right, don't worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God's Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.

Proud to be in 234

After a late lunch with my girlhood friend Marnie Mahoney, I searched the Web for images of Cunningham Junior High School in Brooklyn, where we attended. There were no pictures, just a Yahoo map. The building was nondescript and utilitarian. We received an excellent education in our accelerated classes, but we detested the place.

Brooklyn's elementary and junior high schools were designated by number. My elementary school, PS 206, had no name. Cunningham's number was 234. An absurd little ditty we sang in assembly began:

Marching along together,
Proud to be in 234,
True to our Alma Mater,
We will be forever more...

We lined up twice a day by classes, with the left foot on a line between panels of schoolyard sidewalk. Hallway traffic moved in one direction, with U-turns allowed only at specified points. Between classes whispering in hallways was permitted except during "silent passings" which occurred at least twice a day. Kids that age get out of hand easily. Order was successfully maintained, and this allowed the school to get on with the business of education. But by today's standards, the regimen was absurd.

Girls could not wear makeup or. Pullovers were considered seductive and were forbidden. Our skirts had to be below our knees. Except for class, boys and girls were separated. Boys ate in the cafeteria. Girls were consigned to the auditorium, unless we paid a dollar and bought lunch there, which most of us could not afford. In good weather, they let us out after lunch, but when it was cold or rainy, girls convened in the auditorium and were made to sing inane Rock and Roll songs.

Singing was led by the "Marshalls," a group of muscular, non-academic girls who maintained order. Marnie and I detested the program; we preferred to talk or read. Once, I was sent to Mr. Wittenstein for discipline because I mockingly grinned at a Marshall during these songs. I was not punished.

Below: link to "Book of Love" a song we were made to sang. I always preferred classical music.

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...