Sunday, January 23, 2011

I bet I know more about feline diabetes than you do

Maude's diagnosis has put her in some very distinguished company.

A recent vet visit revealed that Maude's long streak of perfect health is finally over. She is diabetic and I must now give her twice-daily injections of insulin and feed her special food. It is certainly the beginning of a new chapter in our lives together.

But I'm coping -- and doing lots of internet research. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has a very helpful video series featuring some adorable cat actors. And this website has some very dramatic rhetoric: "Your Emotions Will Be Raw" cautions one section; another warns that:

Gone are the days of putting out food and water, giving a quick pat on the head, and hurrying out the door ... Friends, relatives, and co-workers may make insensitive comments that you are crazy to care for a chronically ill pet. Although it is difficult, try to ignore the unsupportive people - they do not understand the special bond of love that you share with your pet. Their inability to have compassion for an animal means that they will never experience the pure and unconditional love that can be shared between a human and a companion animal.


I'm going to be the best caregiver that I can and take it one day at a time. Apparently, feline diabetes can go into remission and not all cats need insulin for their entire lives. Honestly, though, the syringe is tiny and Maude doesn't seem to mind so far. And if anything, she likes her new food more than the stuff I was feeding her. So we're adjusting. Our emotions are a little raw but we'll pull through. Feline "diabeetus": it's not a death sentence.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

Leave it to Robert Hass to write a gorgeous, painful lyrical poem about life and art and somehow work in the phrase "fucks in the ass." That's a neat trick. Clearly, the man's got cajones, not to mention mad talent.

Against Botticelli


In the life we lead together every paradise is lost.
Nothing could be easier: summer gathers new leaves
to casual darkness. So few things we need to know.
And the old wisdoms shudder in us and grow slack.
Like renunciation. Like the melancholy beauty
of giving it all up. Like walking steadfast
in the rhythms, winter light and summer dark.
And the time for cutting furrows and the dance.
Mad seed. Death waits it out. It waits us out,
the sleek incandescent saints, earthly and prayerful.
In our modesty. In our shamefast and steady attention
to the ceremony, its preparation, the formal hovering
of pleasure which falls like the rain we pray not to get
and are glad for and drown in. Or spray of that sea,
irised: otters in the tide lash, in the kelp-drench,
mammal warmth and the inhuman element. Ah, that is the secret.
That she is an otter, that Botticelli saw her so.
That we are not otters and are not in the painting
by Botticelli. We are not even in the painting by Bosch
where the people are standing around looking at the frame
of the Botticelli painting and when Love arrives, they throw up.
Or the Goya painting of the sad ones, angular and shriven,
who watch the Bosch and feel very compassionate
but hurt each other often and inefficiently. We are not in any
If we do it at all, we will be like the old Russians.
We’ll walk down through scrub oak to the sea
and where the seals lie preening on the beach
we will look at each other steadily
and butcher them and skin them.


The myth they chose was the constant lovers.
The theme was richness over time.
It is a difficult story and the wise never choose it
because it requires a long performance
and because there is nothing, by definition, between the acts.
It is different in kind from a man and the pale woman
he fucks in the ass underneath the stars
because it is summer and they are full of longing
and sick of birth. They burn coolly
like phosphorus, and the thing need be done
only once. Like the sacking of Troy
it survives in imagination,
in the longing brought perfectly to closing,
the woman’s white hands opening, opening,
and the man churning inside her, thrashing there.
And light travels as if all the stars they were under
exploded centuries ago and they are resting now, glowing.
The woman thinks what she is feeling is like the dark
and utterly complete. The man is past sadness,
though his eyes are wet. He is learning about gratitude,
how final it is, as if the grace in Botticelli’s Primavera ,
the one with sad eyes who represents pleasure,
had a canvas to herself, entirely to herself.

Friday, January 14, 2011

T-minus 45 days

Let the countdown to my 30th birthday begin!

45 days left in my 20s. And one of the things on my mind is what to get myself. What? Get yourself a birthday present? That's absurd!

I am a huge proponent of getting oneself a present for one's birthday. It's the only way to ensure you will receive something you actually want, as opposed to a mousepad shaped like a ladybug (sorry, Mom). It's not necessary to break the bank; last year, I treated myself to a lovely pair of earrings that cost under $20. I wear them all the time.

This year, however, I am planning to splurge a little more, since I am turning the big 3-0. Here are the current contenders:

1. Vespa

Admit it: I would look pretty cute zipping around town on one of these babies. When I told my mother I was considering this, she said "Do you want me to never sleep again?" Good thing she doesn't know about the next option...

2. Skydiving with my brother Richard

We actually talked about doing this when he graduated from college but never got around to it. It could be time. I'm terrified of it and can't conceive of doing it....which is part of what makes it tempting. Achieving something that seems impossible would probably be a great way to kick off the next decade of my life.

3. Lasik

Since age 15, my glasses have been my thing, the signature part of my appearance. Most people dig the look -- more than one member of the opposite sex has said they are a turn-on. Still, I might be ready to shake up what my friends call The Katie Vagnino Aesthetic.

4. Solo trip to Spain

Traveling with friends is super fun, but I've been craving the experience of taking a major trip abroad by myself. And I've never been to Spain. And don't all the men there look like Javier Bardem?

5. Breast reduction

This option I have floated by a few friends with mixed reactions. Women get it -- big boobs are a big annoyance. I long to sleep on my stomach and wear strapless dresses. Men think I'm crazy for wanting to change what they consider one of my better assets. You can't please everyone, I guess. I have done some research and talked with some women who've had it done (and are thrilled with the results) so at the very least, I think I'll get a consultation. And if I do decide to do it, I'll certainly throw my tits a farewell soiree. They deserve that.

So now, readers, I'm giving you the chance to weigh in.....

What should the gift be?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The writing on the wall, er, stall

One week from today, I will teach my first class in a course designed entirely by me. The only parameters: the class must involve a research component and introduce the students to multiple genres (i.e. other than the academic essay). Most instructors choose a theme or topic around which to build their class. My topic is the Women's Movement. Here is my course description:
will explore how informed writing can affect (and has affected) social/political
WR121: The Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves

This course will explore how informed writing can effect (and has effected) social/political change in the United States, as viewed through the lens of the Women’s Movement from the 19th century to the present. This is not, however, a class for or of interest only to women – in the context of this course, women will be considered as a social group with a history of advocating for legal rights and other privileges. We will examine the various waves of feminism, looking at why some movements were successful (the passage of the 19th amendment, granting suffrage) while others were not (the never-passed Equal Rights Amendment), as well as what the label of “feminist” means today. Political cartoons, op-eds, speeches, biographies, and blogs will be among the genres we study, and the course will culminate in a fieldwork-based group project where students will design an advocacy campaign for a local women’s organization. No prior knowledge of the Women’s Movement or feminism is required.

Now, when I came up with this, I was under the impression that this year, as it had been in previous years, the freshmen would be able to read the various section descriptions and select a topic that interested them. I was also assuming I'd have a class of mostly women, like last semester (ratio of women to men was 13:1). However, neither of these assumptions is true. For the first time, freshmen advisers slotted students randomly into sections regardless of their majors/interests and according to my class list, I will have 6 men and 9 women in my class.

Upon learning these things, I initially freaked out and considered going with a different topic. Oh God, I thought, what if I get a bunch of kids who think Hillary Clinton is a feminazi? Or think women should remain barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen?

But I'm sticking to my guns, folks. My boss supports me, though acknowledges that making my course palatable and accessible to a variety of 18-year-old viewpoints will be, to say the least, a challenge. But as one friend reminded me, making freshmen write about something outside their comfort zone is not a terrible objective. My junior year in college, I took a Women's Studies course to fulfill a requirement and I was way more into it than I thought I would be. Do I have a secret agenda to make all my students militant feminists? No. But do I think it's important for college students, regardless of gender, to learn about the victories and defeats of one of the most significant, complex and (arguably) ongoing American social movements? Absolutely.

And while I'm not superstitious, something happened to me yesterday that I'm interpreting as a sign that I made the right choice. I found something tucked away in a book from college -- a transcription of graffiti from a ladies room bathroom stall of the (no longer existent) Cross Campus Library at Yale. I stared at this graffiti conversation and watched it evolve over several semesters before finally deciding to write it down. And yesterday, I found the scrap of notebook paper. The graffiti "debate" was as follows and try to imagine lots of different handwriting, Sharpie colors etc:

When do I turn into a woman?

What is a woman?


When you kiss a frog

When you sway your hips

When you decide or discover you are one

When you have a child <----that's ridiculous, not all women can have children

or want to

It's when you love yourself

When you can look back & want to move forward

I found this so compelling then and reading it again now, am still struck by it, especially the last comment, the one that silenced the other scrawlers: When you can look back & want to move forward. Isn't that why we study the history of anything?