Sunday, January 25, 2009

25 Random Things about Me

Copied from facebook . . .

1. I don't believe I was ever a straight-A student. Maybe once. In fact, Marisa (my sister) generally got better grades in both high school and college than I did. For some reason, this surprises people. It doesn't surprise me. I'm too lazy to get straight As. So is Vic (my bro) except now that he's found what he loves, I wouldn't be surprised if he can't help getting straight As.

2. My favorite food is sashimi. I love raw fish - I am convinced this is due to my Scandinavian ancestry. I try not to eat it too often due to environmental concerns. My next favorite food is either rare roast beef or lamb. Can you tell that my attempts at vegetarianism did not last long?

3. Both my children were born naturally - in fact, Eli was born at home and the midwife was late, so Shane caught him. When we moved from that home this summer, Eli was the saddest of all. Just two days ago he told me that although he likes our new house, he misses the old one. I am convinced this is due to the fact that he took his first breath in the kitchen there.

4. Shane, my husband, takes much better care of me than I do of him. But he will not admit to it.

5. On the hand, Shane has addicted me to comic books, like I really needed to add more paper to my life. I'm currently reading Buffy Season Eight, Angel After the Fall, Fables and Wonder Woman. The boys love Tiny Titans. I almost never read comics before I met him.

6. I clip coupons, then forget to take them with me.

7. I have a huge collection of fabric etc. grocery bags because I keep buying new ones when I forget to take one with me. This is not good and must stop!

8. I have never colored my hair. I haven't had any sort of chemical enhancement to my locks since the 80s (yes, even I had a perm in the 80s).

7. I almost never wear makeup, even now that I am getting few age spots and light wrinkles around my eyes. On the rare occasions that I do wear makeup, people are literally stunned. I think because I am totally inept in putting on makeup. :-)

8. I love to sing but haven't been on stage in years and years. When we were driving up to Ogden for ebeilskeivers at Rissa's, I was signing along to a carol on the radio, and my son Michael said that my voice was good enough to be on the radio. He was my favorite son for at least 15 minutes.

8. I inherited an irrational need to collect rubber bands, twisty ties, and plastic bags from my Mom.

9. Speaking of Mom, she passed away a little over a year ago, but it still seems unreal to me because I can still hear her telling me corny jokes and singing silly songs in my head. It's funny that what is annoying to you in life becomes very dear in death.

10. My office is very, very tidy. My home is not. We still haven't put up all the curtains in our "new" house. We are hoping to remedy that today.

11. I go to an awesome women's group every month. You know who you are!

12. I am addicted to magazines. I collect them. I have an almost complete collection of SageWoman and the Beltane Papers. I also love Martha Stewart Living. It helps me dream. We have at least one and a half large bookcases with just my magazines.

13. I can cook if I have recipe. This is strange considering I had very little cooking experience until college. I am continually amazed at Shane's ability to take random ingredients and make a meal without a recipe. And now you know one reason why I married him.

14. Shane and I met at Duke. We are both from Utah originally. We both refused to go out together for some time because of this fact. Yet we would always hang out together at parties. I hate paying my law school loans every month, but then again, it was a bargain price for meeting Shane.

15. I buy beautiful diaries, then fail to write in them. This is one of my traits that my husband kindly puts up with.

16. When I was in grade school, I used to roam around the neighborhood collecting garbage-bound treasures. My neighbors were understandably creeped out by this.

17. My sister, Marisa, and I, who are 6 years apart in age, got our driver's licenses the same year, got married the same year, and had our first children within 8 months of one another and our second children were born within 18 hours of one another.

18. Other people always had much bigger dreams for me than I had for myself. Making a family with Shane fulfilled all my deepest dreams and for that I am eternally grateful to him.

19. I love Studio Ghibli films. In fact, we have a copy of Totoro in Japanese that we watch with the boys even though none of us speaks the language. I have seen it enough in English that I can tell the boys what people are saying, pretty much. I just like it better in Japanese. Ghibli films are so strongly, powerfully, visual that you don't have to know what people are saying for the most part.

20. I love animated movies in general. I really, really like Kung Fu Panda. It has a deeply Buddhist undercurrent that really appeals to me.

21. People who know me now are always surprised that I graduated from BYU, I guess because I'm not active in the LDS church anymore. I am deeply grateful for my years at BYU, annoying though they may have been. I met so many amazing, deeply spiritual and powerfully good people there (you also know who you are). And I got to take a class from Gene England!

22. I also inherited an inability to go anywhere without a book in my bag from my Mom. The tendency is amplified in me, actually, and I usually take at least two magazines and two books with me to work everyday, even though I know I will get no more than a few minutes chance to read.

23. I first studied women's spirituality at BYU, on my own, using the amazing library there. I didn't buy my first tarot deck until I graduated, though. I love reading tarot and am reasonably good at it - on a psychological level, not a "predict the future" level. I feel a deep and profound peace when I access that intuitive side of myself. I am mostly self-taught, but I did get to take a class from Margaret Ruth while I was on medical leave after my hysterectomy.

24. I went to church by myself as a child until my sibs started coming with me - I had a deeply awesome ward and have many dear friends from back in the day - I've always had a strong spiritual side for which I am very grateful. I think much of my sense of the universe is still LDS, but I have been profoundly influenced by many religions, particularly Judaism, Buddhism and the Goddess/Earth religions.

25. My deepest hope is for those that I love to be happy - and I love people at the drop of a hat. (BTW, thank you, Jennika, for bringing that gift to Vic). One of the best things about Facebook has been reconnecting with people I love and learning that they are well. I doubt I am the same person that you knew, if you knew me then, but hopefully I am still a person you want to know. :-) I never stop loving people once I start, which I hope all of my friends already know.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

First Class of the Semester

I held my first class for the semester yesterday. I always feel a bit of nervousness before the first class, similar to the butterflies I get whenever I go onstage to perform. As always, some of the students were shocked by the amount of reading and writing required by the class. Others took it in stride. Some students said barely a word - even after being told that they get points for participation. Others jumped right in and would have done so without knowing that they were graded on, well, opening their mouth. Others said just enough to feel that they had contributed enough to get points. A classroom is such a microcosm of human diversity.

The students mentioned to me how much they like being able to register for classes on the web. That way, if they don't like a teacher or the class isn't right for them, it is easy to drop classes. I reminded them that, although it is nice to have an instructor you "click" with, sometimes you learn more from someone that you don't necessarily like. But I also told them that someone always drops the class and I don't take it personally. I think a lot of my students are just in love with the idea that they have some control over their schedules - so much different from high school.

It's always amazing to me how we filter what people say to us. I told the class that they will be partially graded on participation - whether they make comments and respond to questions in class. One student interpretted that as "being graded for our opinions" and asked me if whether or not I agreed with a student's opinion's would affect his or her grade. He told me that although every instructor says they won't do that, he's seen profs that do. Of course I said no. I tried to be very clear that students are not graded for opinions but for participation. I told them I couldn't give them anything but my word that I grade on how they make their arguments and how they support what they think, not on what their opinion is. I also reminded the class that I am a lawyer, and sometimes, as an advocate, I have to make arguments for clients I don't necesasrily agree with - that's part of the job. I don't know if it reassured him or not.

I've found that conservative students are particularly afraid that they will be graded down for their opinions - yet, they almost always do well in my class because they are used to having to argue for what they think is right. I find that many students who think of themselves as "liberal" presume that everyone (at least in the academic setting) agrees with them, that their opinions are "obvious." This is clearly not universally true - certainly their are liberal students who back up everything they say. I think I'm going to give the student who asked the question a copy of an essay by Stanley Fish, entitled, I think, Note to Professors - Just Do Your Job. His argument is that professers are not in the business of teaching people what to think but how to think. Not to analyze whether an argument is right, but rather how the argument is made and whether it is effective. You can see his emphasis on rhetoric there. I had the priviledge of taking a rhetoric course from Dr. Fish at Duke - truly amazing class. Anyway, his recent book with revised versions of his NYTimes blog enteries about the business of univeristy teaching is entitled, Save the World on Your Own Time. I couldn't agree more. It's not my job to make my students "better citizens" or "better people." They will make their own choices as to what to do with their lives and my influence on them is virtually nill. However, it is my job to give my students options, information, and tools for evaluating ideas. It is my job to make them read things that they wouldn't have read otherwise . It is my job to entice them into writing their ideas down so I can help them (a) write more clearly and (b) write more persuasively.

We watched the first half of Princess Mononoke in class. I have used that film for many semesters. It is an excellent film for getting students to talk. First, it is such a beautiful film - the art is just enchanting. Second, it explores themes that we discuss in class - human responses to the land, marginalized voices, spirituality and religion, death. Third, it has all the elements of art that I want to teach about - music (themes, dissonance, harmony, etc), color, realism vs. surrealism, lighting, sequencing. By showing the film at the very start of the semester I can help students jump right in to seeing how an artist presents their viewpoint without necessarily making a logic-based argument and show how the craft of film-making communicates the message. The film is very accessible I've found - even to people who don't like "weird stuff" or don't think they care for anime. The best part is I don't mind watching it over and over again! The "mononoke" theme sticks in my head for weeks, though . . . it's playing there now actually.

Friday, January 9, 2009


The new year has now officially begun for me, now that both of my sons have had their birthdays. Having them so close to turn of the year seems to stretch out the liminal time of the holidays.

This morning I was thinking again of their births. I was very blessed to have a conscious, no-drugs, natural birth with both of them. This year we moved away from the home where Eli was born. The saddest part of leaving that place was not being reminded each time I walked into the kitchen of the miracle of this birth. I was reminded again this morning of how I lost some of the memories of their births when I had a hysterectomy. I had always suspected that certain physical memories are stored in your body - my experience after the surgery confirmed that for me. Prior to the surgery, whenever I thought of that time, the muscles of my body would respond with little twinges of memory. Birth is such an intense physical event and it seems to have been written on my body. I still have bodily memories of birth, but unsurprisingly most of those memories were stored in my uterus and cervix. None of my medical care providers warned me of the potential loss - I don't think they were aware that there would be any loss (and they were more concerned with saving my life). We are so accustomed to thinking that our "selves" are stored in our heads. Yet there is a reason that traditionally people thought their souls were stored in their hearts.

But the loss of a layer of those memories has not meant a loss of love or connection to my boys. I was deeply worried that it would at first. Now I realize that my memories of them are actually only a small part of my love for them. I enjoy their present 5 and 7 year old selves more than their baby selves. I love babies, but they don't talk. And I like talking. My boys surprise me every day with the things they say, the thoughts they put out there for me to see. I have no desire to "rewind them to a baby" as my Mom used to quote my brother Vic as saying. The boys present selves are the ones currently most precious to me. And I am so glad for that.

Let us quote Master Ugway shall we (from Kung Fu Panda):

The Past is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, but Today is a Gift,
That's why we call it "the Present."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Walking in the Snow (Thursday thoughts continued)

So, the boys ended up coming up here before I got downstairs. Michael read his homework book to Shane and then I looked at pictures on Facebook with Eli. Eli loved seeing pictures of his friend Finn's new little brother. Then we looked at pictures of his cousin Cole's b-day party. It was simple, pleasant & fun. I love the way Eli's face glows when I am paying attention to just him. Then we all piled onto the futon cushion in Michael's room (which Eli chooses to sleep on instead of the brand-new Ikea bed in his own bedroom) and I read another chapter of "Clementine's Letter" by Sara Pennypacker. Michael is a big fan of Clementine. He says he is just like Clementine only more silly and distracted. He says that he is a Tangerine.

Anyway, so Sophie was hyper all through this. It is wonderful for Sophie to be hyper. Sophie is getting older and has severe arthritis. Her vet just started her on Remadril which is a miracle drug. Sophie went from seeming like she would die any day, crying in pain all the time, to doing the circle-hop dance when she saw me get out the leash. It was rain-snowing outside but I figured a walk around the block wouldn't hurt so we ended up walking around at least four blocks. [big smiles]

The rain-snow slowly turned to snow-rain and it got very slick. I liked the walk anyway. Sophie is a very happy girl when she's out sniffing new and interesting smells and its a joy to be with her. The snow-rain looked lovely through the light of the streetlamps. I could occasionally hear thunder and train horns, but mostly it was quiet. Our neighborhood is charming and, shall we say, well-established. Our house is over a hundred years old. The old houses tend to be on the corners of the streets with lots of 1930-40s bungalows and post-war cottages in between. Very few homes have attached garages and almost none have garages on the fronts of the houses. I love that - I hate houses that look like they were designed for cars instead of people. Most of the homes have huge old trees. There's a nice economic mix as well, so you have really nicely kept up homes mixed with rental and/or starter places that are more shabby. Its urban yet not at the same time.

The thing that bothered me through the whole walk was that I kept noticing my brain slipping away from the walk and into some chattering thought (like what I was going to write in the blog when I got home). I wasn't able to stay in my body very well, even though the cold kept kindly bringing my attention back. :-) Then I remembered Pema Chodron saying that thoughts are just the nature of mind and the important part of mediation is just bringing your attention back to center, back to noticing, back to awareness. So I tried to kindly bring myself back to my awareness of the cold snow-rain dripping off my hood and onto my face. To Sophie shaking her sweet golden brown pelt free of the wet then wagging her way to another treetrunk/fencepost/bush/other. To the soft dripping of the snow-raindrops. To the pinging of water on a metal disk. To a lantern glowing. To my aching lower back (I learned that loosening my hips as I walk helps). To the glowing sky. To my joy at still being alive and here, now.

Thursday Thoughts

So, it comes to no surprise to me that I haven't written anything down during the work week. I thought this would happen - write on my time off, think about writing on my days on. I'm not very happy about moving to a four-ten schedule but I have little power to change it. I came home early today because I some parties that could not meet today, when they were scheduled to come before me, and so I scheduled them for Friday afternoon since I now have that power (bwa-ha-ha). And I noticed that I loved coming home before 7:30, but I also find myself upstairs on the computer, and not downstairs with my family. I am going to change that, and write more later.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Intentions/Hopes

Rissa posted her resolutions, so I thought I'd post intentions. I'm not very good at "resolving." I swear every time I resolve to do something, my brain finds ways to not do whatever I resolved to do. Yes, I even rebel against my own self. :-) I notice that whatever I try to force anything, something forces back just as strong. If I try to force down anger, the anger pushes back harder. So my biggest intention this year is to simply be with whatever my feelings are and not try to force myself into some half-formed ideal. That said, there are certain areas I'd like to change.

I've been noticing myself getting more & more stressed at work, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon in this economy. So these are things I intend to do to make my life (and my family's lives!) happier and healthier, and I hope that I won't sabotage myself.

1. Breathe. I notice that when I am stressed I stop breathing - I hold my breath. This does not help almost any situation. So when I am getting tight and upset at a situation I hope that I will notice that, and then take three deep breaths.

2. Un-round my shoulders. My shoulders habitually pull forward when I am feeling stress. It doesn't help that I work at a computer all day, then come home and play on the computer for at least an hour. :-) So I intend to stretch my shoulder muscles daily and strengthen the muscles in my upper back. And I hope that when I notice my shoulders pulling forward that I will refer to intention/hope number 1, breathe and let those shoulders fall back in a more relaxed position.

3. Hug my kids and try to listen to their incredibly long and confusing stories without going insane.

4. Never take the amazing Shane for granted. It seems like everything Shane does is intended to make my life easier.

5. Walk & bike whenever walking or biking is an option. I know that exercise is the key to my mental and physical well-being, and though I do reasonably well on this, I don't spend enough time walking etc. in the winter months. My hope is that by remembering how good I feel when I get some exercise I will want to get out there and move!

6. Pay attention to my home's appearance and to clean with care and love, not frustration and anger. If I approach straightening up with anger and hate, I never want to do it. But hopefully if I can think of caring for my home as caring for my visual sanity and my family's health, it will be easier to pay attention the cleanliness of our home.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why the title?

Back in my law school days, my good buddy Bryan started describing things as being a certain number of "McPeck's" tall. Bryan always called me "McPeck!" and almost never Amanda. So, anyway, I thought if I was going to have to have a blog, I might as well make sure the public understood that it was only one McPeck tall (which is not very tall if you know any McPecks besides my siblings!).