Sunday, March 1, 2015


Maybe I should hold back on my thinking since I'm planning to write a column about this.  Chris, am I undermining my writing in the City Paper?

I'm writing at least a bit of it.

Everybody here knows that I had brain surgery in August, radiation through the fall, and now I'm on chemotherapy drugs.  It's tough stuff, although the chemo isn't that dramatic, so I'm back to work full time.

Back to work!  I love it.  Hello, students:  being with you is such fun, and so satisfying.

It's still hard, though.  And groups of incredibly supportive friends, colleagues, and folks I haven't even met say some version of this:

"You are so brave!"  "You're amazing!" "You're a warrior!"

These are such loving things to say.  And they are a bit distressing.  I'm currently on a pretty serious chemotherapy.  People know that tumor cells are in my body, so they tell me that my body is fighting it.

This is not for me.

As I sat at a barbecue restaurant with Brian, heading home from my recent (successful) trip to Duke Cancer Center, I pondered this.  Other people do find this approach--the attack on the tumor--to be satisfying at multiple levels, so I'm not saying that these loving statements are in any way troubling or inappropriate.  They just aren't for me.  They aren't what I want, what I need.

Ultimately, as I sat there with a barbecue sandwich, I felt myself somehow calm down and let the cells go.  They aren't all going to go away--all the oncologists have said this--so I want them to lie down, drifting.  Some are just shrunk and out of energy.  They don't require me to be a warrior--they just need to be allowed to disappear as I do the things that are part of my medical process.

I don't want my body to be a space of domination, a space where I imagine myself as fierce.  Instead, I want to be soothing to myself.  I want to breathe.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Greatest party ever! And me as a worried mom.

It's kind of a weird combination, isn't it?  The Community Advisory Board of the Women's and Gender Studies Program put on their great fundraising event last night.  It's called Yes! I'm a Feminist.  I'll give you some pictures of it soon.

Thank you to the many, many folks who made it happen.

As I woke up feeling soaking in yesterday's happy party, I saw that my column has appeared in the City Paper:  "Sometimes I Feel as if I'm Failing as a Mother."  What a collection of things going on in my life!  It made me laugh out loud as I'm sitting here drinking coffee.

So as you read my column, realize that I'm feeling pretty damn good this morning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


In Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals (1980), she writes about all kinds of thoughts and analysis.  Here's a paragraph that I circled with asterisks:

In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences….I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself.  My silences had not protected me.  Your silence will not protect you.

It's not that I'm panicked, clutching the possibility of death.  And it's not that I refuse to consider possibilities, that I'm refusing to experience the thing that am experiencing.  I'm a woman with a brain tumor.  I've had surgery twice, and I'm now on my second chemotherapy.  I've been on radiation. I'm grateful for all of those.  And even more so, I'm grateful for the support I've gotten--I've written about that before, for good reason.  I'm grateful.

My speaking has brought up a particular set of challenges that I notice much of the time.  I wrote about it in the City Paper (came out today--go read).  Lorde's writing here is incredible powerful for me.  She has the opportunity to say what she needs to say--to be outspoken, thoughtful, challenging the oppression that's everywhere, loving.  Your silence will not protect you.

I'm considering putting that somewhere it's visible to me.

So now go read the column.

And here's a random video of Maybelle doing a selfie video.

Ms. Mary Mack--you can watch even with no picture here! from Maybelle on Vimeo.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Numbers. And pictures.

Good morning!
Used kleenex.  That I tend to throw
away once a day.  Not kidding when
I've told y'all that I'm filthy.
Good morning!
1000+:  The number of times Maybelle and I blow our noses every day.  This is going to have to end sometime soon, because both of us get up in the mornings and have snot crusted to our faces.

100+:  The number of people who've asked how I'm doing, or who've complimented me on my new hair, and who've then told me that they read the blog and/or the City Paper all the time.  Maybe the fact that they're reading my work means that it's easier for them to talk to me.  Otherwise, seeing a colleague who has a visible scar on the left side of their head might leave them not knowing what to say.

9:  The number of texts Catherine and I exchange in a given week.  It's very helpful to have a very best friend who will talk with you about anything anything anything.  For instance, here's a message I sent to Catherine recently:  "I'm an on again off again mess these days.  Xo!" and she texted back, "I love you and I'm sorry you're feeling all over the place.  It's been a long hard week here too.  Love you!"

El Milagro
Trey and Jason.  They're both really, really funny.  And smart.  I took this
picture because my phone picture stuff allows you to move slowly and get
the whole area.  Oh, and we're in Cookeville.
8:  Cookeville, TN.  I'm not sure how to fit 8 into this, but I wanted to be able to put a little Cookeville love into this list.  It's probably the best town ever.  Did I get to hang out with eight different folks when I was in Cookeville over the holidays?  Maybe.  Let's pretend that's the reason it's listed for 8 here.

7:  The number of doctors who are now my doctors.  Seven:  two neuro-oncologists, a neurologist, another neuro-oncology supporter in the team, my ob/gyn, my therapist, and my recently love affair with my new general practitioner.  Fortunately they all accept emails, so I can often find out the answer to things like "Why is my armpit wonky???" at 9pm.  If you need recommendations, I'll give them to you, because these folks really are great.

6:  A fairly common dinner for Maybelle:  a bowl of sweet potatoes, followed by two bowls of O's and milk, yogurt, and two blueberry bars.  She eats all that stuff, and she's six.  How in the world can she eat that much?

5:  Speaking of eating, I'm eating a bagel once mid-morning almost every work day.  I'm starving between 9 and 10:30 every morning.  Toasted sesame seed bagel with cream cheese.  Excellent second breakfast.  C&B staff say, "Good morning, Alison!" when I walk in the door.

George Estreich.  His book is showing
up in two classes of mine.  I'm
sending hearts his way.
4: How many classes I get to teach in a week.  Four classes!  I am thrilled.  Like, completely thrilled.  I'm fortunate that the students in these class are all interesting, with different perspectives and their willingness to share.  I'm going to get to read scholarship.  I'm going to take part in examining how biology students and WGS students approach the world.  This is fun. 

3: Super Ninja Writing Force.  There are three of us--Conseula, Claire, and I--and we're powerful.  And sometimes in our powerful-ness we cry because we're convinced our writing is terrible.  SNWF never accepts the possibility that our writing is terrible:  the two whose writing isn't be examined that day have meaningful guidance and support.  Yesterday it was my turn for them to give me feedback, and I took three solid pages of notes.  I needed help, and they were amazing.

2: I made a pie last night, and I've eaten pretty generous pieces in the last two nights.  Big pieces, and I've eaten two big servings each night.  We should all that this as a good sign, because in the month of October, I basically lost interest in eating for at least a month.  I might have returned to some affection for stuff I can bake.

Maybelle and I waiting for the MLK Day parade.
1:  Precious angel sent from heaven?  Um, no. For example, she's annoying as hell these days with her dance classes.  LH mercy, folks, I've been going to her classes for the last couple of weeks to help her teachers figure out what to do.  Because she's such a nightmare in those classes.  She loves the classes and apparently wants every person there to adore her and allow her to be the center of the universe.

But I do like her pretty well.  Being her mom, living with her, listening her right now while she comes down the stairs--it's all good stuff even when it sucks.

"Mama, sit on the potty," she just instructed me, so I'm going to go up for part of the morning routine.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


I'm in a weird emotional space currently, so I was very tempted to title this post "Holiday shit."  But I don't know that I want to write about holiday shit.  Do I?  I don't think so.  In general things are very good.  It's just that the shit emerges and hangs around every day--not always, but some.

Ah, shit.

So here are some holiday pictures.

Children's museum.
Maybelle and Nonni playing at the Cookeville children's museum.  Such a
small, sweet, effective place for Maybelle to play.  She loves it, and it's four
blocks away from my parents' house. 

Rudolph and her back-up reindeer.  I made these at the children's museum.
Maybelle isn't a fan of this kind of creativity.  She runs around the place
playing instruments, grocery shopping, and having her girls run the train.

This great jump land.  Maybelle loved it.
And finally, two pictures related to me:
Peanut butter and honey sandwich, eggnog drink.  Excellent holiday lunch.

Coffee, cookie, reading for next semester
Latte, Christmas cookie, and my reading for spring
semester in a quiet coffee shop.

Ho ho ho.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rape article

I've written about it before, and I'll do it again.  Our campus, our college, and our cities do such a nightmarish approach to rape and sexual assault that most victims don't report, particularly since these systems often interpret this victim as lying, being ridiculous, or asking for it.

My latest City Paper column:  Rape victims shouldn't report their assaults to campus police