Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Progress... of a Sort

Well, ten measly pages and countless gallons of blood, sweat, and tears into it, I'm scrapping current chapter. Instead, I'm moving on to the next-to-last one, one that I'm actually excited about writing. And, Friday is the last day of my job. Aaaaannnnnddd, I'm returning to my university town (to steal Ragey's term) on the 9th. Not so much to be distracted by there (little family, few friends, don't really know the city that well, etc). So I have high hopes.

For now.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


I haven't been too busy to notice that the great state of Louisiana has passed (and the governor has signed) it's own abortion law, set to go into effect the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned. From what I caught in passing, Abortion would be illegal except when there's some risk to the life of the mother and the quality of life of the fetus (I think. Don't have time to look it up right now). Yep, good ol' Louisiana, the state that can't afford... well, just about everything from education to health insurance when it comes to it's children, has jumped on the bandwagon, led by a Democrat governor and a legislature for whom the appropriate adjective escapes me right now.

The local news showed a celebration gathering of supporters of the law, complete with tear-jerking images of waaaay-pregnant women (I'm assuming that was supposed to be a tear-jerker; I don't remember anything sentimental or sweet about my last trimester) and tiny babies. Oh, and a man carrying a sign that read, "Equal Rights for Unborn Women." I'm submitting that particular gem of a slogan without comment.


No I haven’t given up on blogging. But this job has turned out to be quite the experience.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a job for which I have to get up at the same time every morning. Blech! And, b/c most of the parents work, my job begins before 8 AM—there are some kids I have to pick up and transport.

And then there’s the lovely issue of lunch. Because the state—just this year—decided to make the program from 8 to 2 instead of 8 to 12, we have to feed the children. The Boys and Girls Club in a neighboring parish agreed to provide hot meals, we’d just have to drive and get them. Well, the pastor vetoed it—too much effort, gas is too high. Instead, he suggested in all his wisdom, the children would pay a nominal fee ($10), the church would provide the rest, and the parents would come out and help.


The last of the kids just paid yesterday, 3 weeks into the 4 week program. We’ve had exactly four parent volunteers and only two who come regularly. My best friend hates any talk of a kitchen, cooking, etc, and the other teacher—a male coach—believes he has no place doing women’s work. So guess who does the grocery shopping and most of the meal prep?


Oh, and during week two, the stove in the church’s kitchen just stopped working. So most hot meals, I have to either leave at home cooking while my sister (one of the regular volunteers) is here or my cousin J (the other one) warms them at her home. And sometimes, when we’ve had beef spaghetti, chicken spaghetti, sloppy joes, etc, I’ve cooked it the night before then had to put it in crockpots at the church. I think this is not-so-vaguely illegal, but I’m way beyond caring.

And then there is the matter of field trips. Let me begin by saying that the program coordinator, whom I love dearly because she’s my cousin and is cool as hell, trusts me enough to have almost completely vamped this summer. She’s teaching summer school and attending the trial of her son’s alleged murderers, so I have much understanding and sympathy. But, her mind’s in a million places. Before the first field trip, she forgot to get the money for food and admission from the church (which is summarily reimbursed by the state). I paid it, so we wouldn’t have to let the kids down. Me. The epitome of the struggling grad student. The church reimbursed me that evening, though. Then yesterday, before our 2nd field trip, the van drivers came and told me, we had no gas. Coordinator was at the school board office 20 miles away. Head Deacon (who holds the money so damn tightly—which is why the stove is still unfixed and why an exasperated Elle made a list of all things broken and in need of repair at the church and submitted it) was in Oklahoma. J paid for gas.

Finally, best friend hates the job. She doesn’t like working with elementary kids. She’s found a convenient loophole in the fact that she has a class at a nearby university at 1:15. When she took the job, she assured Coordinator she wouldn’t leave until 12:45. Coordinator promised she’d be there by then to get the class. Now that she doesn’t like it, she leaves at 12:10, right after lunch. And Coordinator has shown up two times to get her group. So, for social studies/science (12:05 to 1:05), I typically have two classes. Believe it or not, that is the thing that pisses me off the most.

Then there’s closing time. I have even more kids to transport and other stops to make. I get home take an hour nap, then think about dinner for the house. My mom says my dad is getting over on me—when we’re not here, she cooks on Sundays, they have leftovers Monday, and she cooks again on Tuesday. Wednesdays and Thursdays, they grab something out because they have church. And she gave up cooking on the weekends long ago. My dad is pretty insistent that I cook four or five days a week. I go along with it because, well, he is my dad, and because he does so much for me financially. But damn, by the time I sit down to write, blogging takes a backseat to dissertation. And current chapter is in shambles. Advisor will be back tomorrow, so all shit will hit the fan. I want to have something decent to turn in by Monday, so I have no weekend plans. Grrr.

So that’s what’s up in my life. And you?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Be Quiet

I’ve read often about the silencing of women of color, experienced the displeasure when I say or do something “inappropriate,” seen the all-out efforts to keep us in our place. Today, I am wondering what role women of color play in that silencing, once we’ve accepted that invisibility is our rightful realm. Why am I wondering that? Because of a little girl whom I’ll call Alyssa.

Alyssa will start the second grade in the fall. She is a smart little girl, with a sweet, round face, and a truly infectious giggle. She’s in my best friend’s class in our summer program. We all like Alyssa, but she makes us pull out our hair.

She’s too loud. Too bossy. Too opinionated. Too grown. Too much of an attitude. These are our regular complaints. There is regularly a chorus of, “Keep it down,” “Be quiet,” “Hush,” “Indoor voice, please,” “That’s not your concern,” and—the most common—“Please stay out of grown folk’s business!”

It has become a mission of sorts, to “correct,” to “quiet down” this little girl. Today, my best friend told her she needed to act more like a lady. And yesterday, another female visitor to the program told her she’d “be so cute if you stayed in a child’s place.”

That’s what got me to wondering. Someday, will “a child’s place” become “a woman’s place”? And why is it that all of us, the women who coordinate, teach, fix lunch, etc. for the program, are so heavily vested in “teaching” Alyssa demure-ness, of holding her tongue, of soft-spoken-ness. We are all black, and I am beginning to suspect that we’ve internalized all those messages, subtle and not so subtle, about why we should be quiet.

The value of invisibility.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


I’ve been thinking about some posts over at Brownfemipower (here and here) about welfare. BfP recently signed up for PA and is dismal about it. She can’t get past the idea that she must have failed somehow to need such assistance.

Nonsense, many of us assured her. Do what it takes to take care of your family—and hold your head up.

But like many, I know how BfP feels. In my case, there is a healthy dose of hypocrisy, however. I am an avid supporter of welfare rights. A small part of my dissertation discusses the history of the creation of the system, how it was fashioned in a way to assure that men and later, women who’d been legally connected to men, benefited from the more “noble” programs of social insurance, while never married women and women who worked jobs like domestic service and agriculture (i.e. women of color) were left out of social insurance and thus, had to turn to the “welfare” programs. I know that. I fully support historians who assert that the Social Security Act created a two-tier system of social provision, with welfare on the bottom.

And, still, I’ve never considered welfare a viable option for me. Too much prying, too much stigma. On the surface. But deep down, there are more hateful, hypocritical, elitist reasons. Welfare, part of me thinks, is not for me. I’ve never been that poor. I’m too educated. I have so many other sources of support. And the worst—I’m different. Only, I fear my different comes with connotations of better.

I discovered that when I was a pregnant grad student waiting for my health insurance to kick in. I had spotting with my pregnancy and, lacking insurance, I went first to a parish health unit. They sent me to a state hospital. I felt so isolated from the other OB patients there. Their’s was not the graduate-school-induced poverty I had. I saw the results of grinding, unending poverty. And my immediate thought was, “God, get me out of here. I don’t belong here!”

As if they did. As if any woman, and especially a woman in this country, did. So, like BfP (though she in no way suggests her feelings ran the same course as mine), I’m trying to do the work to overcome that feeling, that stigma. It’s hard work.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Which Came First?

This past Sunday being the first one of the month and all, my church had communion. Now, I'm not sure what is customary elsewhere, but here, if you're not baptized, you don't partake. The kid is always let down because he hasn't been dunked yet. Though I "joined the church" when I was four, I want his to be a more conscious decision.

In a charitable spirit, I gave him a sliver of my wafer and let him dunk it in my grape juice (I'm Baptist, people). Then, I made him stand and listen carefully to the pastor. He actually paid attention; seconds later, he whispered, "Mama, this is based on that movie!"

The Passion of the Christ.

To which I hissed back, "No, the movie is based on this!"

Silence, and then, "But the movie came first!"


I've been remiss. My life is always so much more hectic here. I haven't felt much like blogging for a number of reasons-- I hate dial-up, for one. And a chapter of my life that I don't much want to discuss right now has finally ended in a very hurtful way.

But there is one good reason for my silence. I have a job--of course, my advisor doesn't know. I actually had two offers a day apart. One at my alma mater to teach a world history since 1500 (my minor but not exactly a comfort zone) and one based at my home church--a tutorial program funded by the Louisiana DoE. I took the paycut and the easier job with third and fourth graders. So my kid is in my class--that's an experience.

But the best thing is that best friend Louisiana has the 1st and 2nd graders in the classroom next to mine. We've never taught together--she started teaching high school the year after I left teaching elementary. I'm really enjoying that.

What I'm not enjoying is writing lesson plans again.
Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...