Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Baby Baer had a doctor appointment the other day, at a pediatrician's office in the same compound as the hospital where she was born. My room in the maternity ward overlooked a patch of green grass and a bike path that weaves through the campus, and seeing it again sucks the air out of my lungs. It's a good feeling, sort of - a happy memory, certainly - but jarring. I can't believe she started life in that building. Isn't that a strange thing to think about? That she wasn't breathing air and then suddenly she was, and it was inside those four walls? How could it be a real, physical place and not some spiritual fifth dimension?

That's also the hospital where I found myself a few months after moving here, with side-splitting stomach pain that we soon found out was an ulcer. I also went to that hospital for outpatient physical therapy back then. I've visited a crop of fresh new babies belonging to various friends there.

It's weird to get nostalgic about a hospital, but I guess this is where we are.

These last couple of weeks in Phoenix feel like this: I feel like my heels are dragging a valley through the burning asphalt. I feel like if you listen closely enough, you can hear my proverbial breaks squeaking. I don't feel ready to leave. I don't want to leave.

I used to blog all the time about the weather here. It's too monotonous, certainly too hot. I never quite adjusted to it, though I learned to cope and hate the summers a little less. (This one has been a doosey though - carting a gradually heavier carseat and drooly baby everywhere you go in the 115 degree heat is... grumpiness-inducing. No matter how scrumptious said drooly baby is.) And truthfully, I feel a little sheepish having so much emotional trouble leaving. I know the impression I gave my family and friends back home was that I hated it here and was desperately homesick for Ohio. That was true for a long time. But then we steeled our resolve and found a beautiful church and a book-of-Acts community, and by the time Aaron suggested we buy a house I didn't even blink. We made a home here.

Part of this is that I simply hate change, like most humans do. It's really unsettling to be sitting here in my living room, with gray morning light coming through the windows like it does every morning, and Jethro the dog lying on the rug waiting to be let outside, and the air conditioning humming and my clothes in the closet and groceries in the fridge and laundry that needs done and then realizing: in about a week and a half, none of this will be. We'll be in another place.

But part of it is also that I love it here. Our routines, favorite dinner joints, book stores, coffee shops. And the people. Mostly the people. Forever the people.

On Sunday I got a tattoo with three of my closest friends, a little prickly pear cactus with a bloom on top on my left wrist, and not to be dramatic, but let's be dramatic about it for a second: it feels so appropriate, like acknowledging that Phoenix dug itself into my skin, and that I'll wear it forever, along with these people, and the desert, and that it hurt while it happened but it was so worth it, and have I overdone the metaphor? You get what I'm saying. Pain, permanence, beauty.

I really should be packing instead of ruminating, but my talents favor the ruminating and isn't packing what husband's are for? Moving is the worst. Just this moment I came face to face with the reality that I'm about to have to bubble-wrap every single dish in my kitchen cabinets. This is cruel and unusual.

Once in my more dramatic days (clearly I've overcome that vice) I wrote this quote on one of my journals in mult-colored gel pens, as one does: "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered." It's something Nelson Mandela said. I know it's not perfectly representative - Columbus and Ohio have certainly changed, and I'm not returning exactly as I've never lived in that particular city. But I'm a little afraid of what I'll find out about myself when we get there. What if I'm not as adventurous as I always thought I was? What does this move mean about me?

Sometimes things don't mean things about you. Sometimes they just are.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

God as Mother

We're about four months into baby Baer's little baby life, and one of the best parts about that is that she finally feels solid. Like a real, chubby, happy little baby who I'm not terrified of anymore. I don't think I realized how scared I was of her at first - they're so LITTLE, and so DEPENDENT, and light as a feather and sleepy and quiet and unable to tell me what they need. At least mine was. Now she's awake, with lots to say, lots of whining, and just now starting to grab at toys and things. She grabs my shirt in the exact same place every time I feed her and we settle in. She likes her elephant rattle. We take naps together. Heaven.

A couple of weeks before I had her, after I had started my maternity leave, I met one of my best friends for coffee at Lux. It was very much a "my-new-life" moment for me; yoga pants and a sweatshirt at 10 am with nothing to do afterwards. I loved it (but also hated it, because of the giant baby pressing on my internal organs, etc. I feel like we've talked about this before.) Anyway, this friend of mine is also a coworker, and she works in the department of our ministry that organizes our overseas missions. She primarily works in Ethiopia and Ukraine.

She was telling me about a community in Ethiopia that - for whatever reason - seems to have a  preoccupation with Mary (the Mother of Jesus.) They're not practicing Christians, per se, but they treat Mary almost in an occult way - building shrines, believing she'll do them harm if they speak ill of her, etc. It made me think about my relationship with Mary, which I don't mind telling you has been a little... strained? for a few years now.

I grew up Catholic, named after Mary and always feeling like I had a special relationship with her. Lots of rosaries said, lots of prayers with her and thinking about her and hoping she was watching me especially, and helping me. Eventually my theology on that was challenged, and when I combed the Bible for some answers I started feeling like maybe I misunderstood who she was. I broke up with her, really. For a few years I tried not to think about her at all - pendulum swinging too far the other way and all that - but now I'm at a place where I feel ok accepting that she is special; that she made an incredible sacrifice, is a wonderful and beautiful example, and meant a lot to me in my childhood. I still look up to her. No more rosaries, though.

But my point is that this conversation with my friend got me wondering what it is about Mary that has this Ethiopian community so enraptured, and was it the same thing that held my heart and my attention as a kid? I think it's partly this: that we naturally seek the love of a Mother. And that the picture we have of God as only a masculine Father is incomplete. (If both male and female are made in His image, does He not have both male and female qualities?)

This thought came crashing back into my consciousness one night after feeding baby Baer. (As an aside, I think that's how I can best describe the hormone storm of post-partum life as I've lived it: rushing, unpredictable thoughts. Some good, some beautiful, some sad, some scary, some weird, always unexpected and very quick.) I was looking down at this girl, and my stomach was warm, and I couldn't believe how I felt about her. That I'd never ever felt about anyone like I felt about her, and how it hurt me, in a good way. I wished so much that she would wake up so I could tell her how incredibly much I loved her, and how there is nothing she could do that would make me not love her, and how wide and deep and aggressively I loved her, and I wanted her to understand me. She was dozing off on me, there in my rocking chair, and an old hymn we used to sing at mass came into my head:

"I heard the voice of Jesus say
'Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, o weary one, lay down
Your head upon my breast."

And! Then! I had this thought that made my heart and mind go wild: is this feeling, the way I feel about baby Baer, the way God feels about me? I had never, ever considered that. Never felt it that way. But if He is our Father, and our Mother, then yes, I suppose it is.

I started mulling this over and found more questions than answers - in a very honest moment I wondered, if that's true, where are my sonnets? Where's the poetry, the exclamations of love and beauty over me? Because that's the compulsion I have when I look at my girl - but that's not how the majority of the Bible reads to me. It's a lot of story-telling; some (a lot) of it violent; and letters from apostles giving lessons they've learned. It's much more than that, but it's not the shouting-love-from-the-mountaintops prose I would've written.

Still, I think my understand of Jesus' love for me started to change in the rocking chair, and it's still evolving. If God is my Mother, too, that means a thousand new things and a thousand times more powerful of a love than I pictured before.

Friday, May 20, 2016

My Invincibility: A Realization

The subject of this post is: I can do anything. This includes (but is MOST ASSUREDLY NOT LIMITED TO) birthing a baby, which if you'll recall from my last post, was a bit in question.

My perfect little peanut butter daughter came into the world on April 15, about 36 hours or so after writing my last post, which just brings a smile to my now not-pregnant self. I'm super stoked that I didn't turn out to be the one woman in the history of all mankind post-Adam and Eve to remain pregnant until the coming kingdom, but even more stoked that my girl is here and she seems to like life. That is just the best.

Now back to me telling you (and myself) about how I can do anything. This will seem like a rather insignificant story, perhaps. But it isn't! You must believe! Come on this journey with me!

A couple of weeks after she was born we took baby Baer to a fund raiser, featuring a fancy hotel ballroom, plated dinner and a Fox News correspondent, if you can believe it. We were determined to do it. We strapped her to me in her little wrap (kudos to the inventors of this contraption; you, I assume, can also do anything), put on maternity dress pants much to our lingering chagrin (SO MANY WEIRD SHAPES happening to my body right now) and a pair of earrings and hit the town.

Was it a crazy thing to do? Maybe, but please remember that I can do anything, and consequently I can also do anything I want; which in this case was to get out of the house. Presumably baby Baer wanted this too - plus, I could finally stand upright after the delivery. This wasn't going to go to waste. So we went, but about an hour and a half into it we realized the event was going to go longer than expected, and I was faced with a Great and Powerful Dilemma, surely faced by many but unexpected by me up until this point: she needed fed.

If you're one of those gentlemen or ladies who can't handle breastfeeding talk, earmuffs please. I'm not going to lecture you on the harmful American sexualization of breasts and how you need to get over it already, because honestly, I don't much care, and I also respect your decision to look at/read or not look at/read anything involving boobs given your level of comfort/discomfort. This is a blog for another time but to reiterate: I'm not sure I care, and I respect you. So if you're uncomfortable, earmuffs. Or the earmuffs equivalent for reading? Open a new tab and shop for something on Amazon Prime. Then come back in ten minutes.

OK FOR THOSE OF YOU STILL WITH US, I had to feed baby Baer, and for the first few weeks postpartum that shit was PAINFUL. Some ladies will say - it shouldn't be painful at all! Which is very confusing. Others will say yes, it will hurt a little at first, which is also confusing. It turns out that both are true. I assumed the pain I was experiencing was soreness, but after about three weeks when it wasn't improving and in fact was getting worse, I realized my babe and I were doing things wrong. We worked together on it, consulted some friends who also have boobs and babies, and we figured it out. Hallelujah. It still hurt a little bit, and every feeding sounded like high school gym class ("take a deep breath! We can do this!") but eventually the soreness wore off.

At the time of the fancy fund raiser, however, the pain was still VERY MUCH HAPPENING and very real and very anxiety-inducing. So the Great and Powerful Dilemma was indeed great and powerful, because was I going to endure that pain in public? Where could I go to do it? Would the baby be up for it?

I decided to give it a try, with my husband's full endorsement that if it didn't work, we could head home. That would be disappointing, I thought, but maybe necessary.

I found a private family bathroom. You know, one of those ones with just one room. This was a victory, but immediately upon entering I realized the air conditioning didn't ventilate in this one room. An obstacle, sure, but not unsurmountable.

Earmuffs again, boob-a-phobes - I was still at this point unable to feed baby without pretty much taking off all items of clothing from the waste up. This feels very vulnerable to do, but nevertheless, I did it, right in that family bathroom. I washed my hands. I set the baby on the changing table. I got situated. We started our sweet little ritual. OUCH IT FREAKING HURT.

Then, a perfect storm came upon us. It started to get really hot in there. SO HOT. In Arizona, in the spring and summer months most especially, it is absolutely imperative that every room has air conditioning ventilation. Imperative. That's why I'm introducing legislation to make it a capital crime not to (just kidding, but I did find out this week that the state legislature passed a bill saying school students are allowed to eat their own vegetables that they grow in their own gardens, which is vexing, to say the least. Not the vegetables; the fact that this bill needed to be written and then needed to be passed. I digress).

Anyway it started getting really hot. Then, another thing happened - people started knocking on the door to get in. At first it was just a polite knock, then they tried the handle and realized it was locked. Then the knock got a little more aggressive, which told me it was not a new full-bladdered person but instead the same full-bladdered person who had knocked a minute ago, and he/she was getting impatient, and even more full-bladdered, probably. This caused a small amount of stress that soon began growing.

Then, baby started really hurting me. I mean you guys, it HURT.

Suddenly I had a moment of perfect clarity. Total and perfect clarity - unlike any other moment I've had in my life up until this point. I'm not kidding about that - I know this is a small situation - but throughout parenting for five weeks (five total weeks!) I've learned that small situations can be really Big Lessons, and this was one.

I saw my two decisions in front of me, and neither held any particular moral weight, which is a very large accomplishment for me. I could give up trying to feed her, get packed up, leave the sauna family bathroom and let Angry Knocker in, and go home. That would be ok. Or, I could keep trying, let the Knocker battle it out in the regular many-stalled bathroom down the hall, accept that I was going to get a little sweaty, and just keep going. That would be ok too. Everyone would be ok.

I looked at it objectively, decided I didn't really want to get home, that the baby was still getting fed despite the stress, and I kept going. We got a full feeding in. I ran my hands under cold water afterwards and wasn't so hot anymore. The person stopped knocking. We went back to the dinner.

This is the point when I realized I can do anything. And I did! I did do anything. I birthed a little baby girl. I endured a really painful post-birth infection, and lived to talk about it. I fed her in a public restroom when it really hurt and people were mad that I was monopolizing the room. I looked at a situation with more than one option, chose one of those options, and didn't feel guilty about it. I have a feeling that is going to be a big part of motherhood and I'm real, real glad I did it somewhat successfully once. Now the next time a similar situation happens, I'll hopefully be able to do it again, stress-free.

Now I have to ask the question that's plagued me since I started this post about 20 whole minutes ago: is this now a mommy blog???? SAY NO!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

39 Weeks Pregnant

I am a beached whale. With paralysis. A paralyzed beach whale. Who has lost all interest in television. This is a very sad state of affairs.

The happy part is that I know this is all so very temporary, and on the other side of this is a squishy little baby, hopefully with Aaron's eyes, that I get to snuggle. But I am not lying or exaggerating when I say it genuinely feels like that is never going to happen. I just can't imagine it happening. I fully expect to walk into my doctor's appointment tomorrow morning and hear my OB say "wow, we've never seen this, you're just not going to have this baby."

And they'll of course get her out in some way, by some means I'm DESPERATE to avoid (read: c-section) and now I'm thinking about that ridiculous article I read in Cosmopolitan (first mistake) like two weeks ago about women who felt like they had no control over their "birth story" (second mistake), and how that meant they lived the rest of their lives to regret it and statistically were more depressed, or some such. (The irony with shit like that is that Cosmo likes to think they're 'empowering women' by articles like this - the gist was 'maternity wards are evil, rabid tools of the patriarchy' - but really they're just freaking everybody out and pushing they're own agenda, which is genuinely patriarchal, if you ask me, which you didn't.)

I'm not even to my due date yet. 5 days away. 5 days feels like saying "two decades." 5 days of this? Of feeling like my hips are falling out of their sockets, and not being able to eat, or sleep, or keep my attention on old episodes of The Office or the weird English novel I'm reading? How could anyone possibly live through this?

Imagine every night at like, 2 am googling things like "are cold feet a sign of labor" or "are chapped lips a sign of labor" or "has anyone died of insanity while waiting for labor" or "oh god is this labor I hope so but also I hope not because that is terrifying." And then your bed mate is like "you ok babe?" And you're like "never better, just watching Jimmy Fallon's latest lip sync battle."

On Monday I went grocery shopping, which was a huge mistake, because I can't walk (I mentioned the paralysis.) I finished my round of the store and realized I hadn't seen the Panko anywhere, so I had to go back and find it, dammit. Because I was sure as hell not going back out later (paralysis) and I had made it this far, etc. etc. On the very front of the box of Panko it says "JAPANESE-STYLE BREAD CRUMBS." But for whatever godforsaken reason, Basha's does not stock them in the "Asian" food aisle. Can you please explain this to me? They are in the BAKING aisle. That is SOME BULLSHIT. Especially because the baking aisle is like, aisle 2, which meant I had to walk again to the other end of the store (paralysis reminder).

Anyway I brought up the grocery shopping because the last item on my list was a modest bouquet of flowers for myself. Well, technically for my impending daughter, but she's not coming anytime soon at all, so I knew they were really for me. For my kitchen table, because for the love, I need something colorful and distracting. But I forgot the flowers. I got to the register, miraculously only encountering one person who exclaimed "WOW! YOU'VE GOT A BUNDLE OF JOY COMING SOON!" (the "wow" part is always just so kind) and as the cashier started ringing everything up I suddenly remembered the flowers. I didn't go back and get them (flowers are not panko status.) I mourned for a little bit, I don't mind telling you.

But I bring that up because today the doorbell rang - you should really hear our doorbell right now. It's dying, so it sounds like the warped tones of a Tim Burton nightmare sequence. Anyway it rang, and there was a delivery - a bouquet of flowers. From my mother-in-law. How did she know? She didn't, but she sent them anyway, and I love them. That's a nice story to share right now, I thought.

Also regarding the weird guy who brought up my BUNDLE OF JOY in the yogurt section - I finally remembered the other day to try out my joke when it happened, which is to look confused and say "what do you mean, I'm not pregnant." But my error was that I pulled this joke on the lady doing my nails, who did not have a great grasp on the English language. She started it by saying "you have boy or girl?" And I said "What do you mean?" And the look on her face! I thought she was going to vomit. She was like "YOU BABY! YOU BABY!" and I realized this was not going as expected, and that she might call the police, so I said "yes, a girl, a girl! I'm just teasing you!" And she looked horrified, and then said her daughter told her she was pregnant as an April Fool's prank. Mine is not an April Fool's prank, except maybe it is and the joke is on me because, as I mentioned, my daughter is just going to live inside me forever. She just is.

Every time I google something about impending labor or the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, all I find are articles about disgusting bodily activities to watch for and all the things that are GREAT SIGNS but also could still mean your baby is 2345 years away from coming. I haven't yet found any articles about the mental anguish of these weeks, and though I've established the good side of all of this above, like a good Catholic girl, (squishy baby, etc.), I can't access that emotion right now, and I feel horrible and like I am going a little insane. This blog post is my contribution to the world of internet discussion boards about week 39. Here's some SEO to make sure you find it:

39 weeks pregnant going crazy
39 weeks pregnant oh my god someone help me
has anyone ever been pregnant forever
39 weeks pregnant i hate everything and everyone

Signing off now, bye.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

They Also Have a Big Twitter Following

I have this one weird quirk where I read this one really crazy, really leftist socialist online magazine every month. It's not always about politics, but it is always very, very strange. I think one reason I read it is it is very interesting, and I am very, very curious. I NEVER could predict the things I find there. But I think the main reason I keep reading it is that I have a small, but deeply rooted suspicion that these people can't possibly be real. They just can't. There's no way people actually live in this world and have come to these conclusions. It's not just the conclusions, either, it's the way they write. I'm convinced as well that several of the sentences don't actually mean anything to anybody - I toyed with the idea for a while that I just wasn't understanding them, and that's still possible - but again my suspicion also remains that the language just literally doesn't mean anything. And everyone's so afraid to admit they don't understand what's being said that they're all nodding, saying "wow, deep." This suspicion isn't COMPLETELY rooted in my pathological narcissism - because I've seen this play out in person before. Mostly in college. Mostly in writing classes. (Sometimes in philosophy class.)

I've literally stopped at a sentence before and read it over and over and over, out loud sometimes, to myself sometimes, trying to make sense of it. I've actually DIAGRAMMED one of their sentences before (find the subject, predicate, object, adverb). Still nothing.

I even think that were I to happen upon these people in a physical reality, and they were like "hey, we're the ones who write that magazine," and they had real faces and teeth and hair, I'd STILL be suspicious. Like, sure, they're real real, but they're just play-acting, right? Like they're all a bunch of Shia Labeoufs? Just method-acting their whole lives away as crazy pretentious assholes? As an art project or something? (I guess if they would be willing to do that then they really ARE crazy pretentious assholes, but at least they don't actually mean what they're writing.)

Anyway I am fully aware that one day (maybe even tomorrow) I will look back on this blog post and read it again and get flummoxed at the way it makes me sound - so close minded - like, it couldn't POSSIBLY be possible that people think different than me. I'm sure that's part of this, because we're all nasty little prideful scoundrels, and I am the chief. But it's more than that in this case. These articles are borderline psychotic. Like, I wouldn't be surprised if I read one  month and found them saying something like "the idea that bodies need water to survive is a mechanism of the capitalist patriarchy." They say stuff like that, too; calling people "bodies."

The thing is, though, they're extremely creative. Maybe riding that line between genius and lunacy? Once they did an entire issue based on male genitalia but it wasn't what you'd think; like it wasn't some Cosmopolitan Magazine with pictures and sex tips. It was very metaphorical and esoteric. Still completely nutso, but points for creativity.

It does seem strange that at this point I still haven't disclosed the name of the magazine to you, which I just realized. I actually think I kinda want to keep it to myself. Because it feels like my alternate reality and I don't want to make it real by inviting other people I know into it. Also because the ideas it contains are such GARBAGE on a moral level that I don't really want to be responsible for propagating it.

The world is big.

Friday, October 23, 2015

10 Ways to Improve your Leadership and the Leadership of Your Leaders: Leadership in the Modern Leader World Full of Leaders Who Lead

I know a couple people who don't like Catholicism. It extends in some cases to their not liking Catholics either. That makes me sad and frustrated. Mostly because this comes from people who place a very high premium on loving other people. Incidentally many Catholics I've met also like to love people.

But that's not what we're here to talk about today. Today I want to talk about leadership. "Leadership" happens to be my least favorite word, topic and concept of all time. That is an exaggeration, I definitely hate at least a couple of things more than leadership - like Futurama, or socks with no partners, or people who won't shut up about coffee, or east coast writers struggling publicly to navigate the hierarchy of societal offenses, which changes every day in both content and severity. That escalated quickly but if you're still with me we're discussing "leadership."

First of all leadership is rarely discussed in the same conversation as women. When it is, it's usually being discussed by women. If it's being discussed by a man, and women are present and are also being addressed, the man is very, very aware and very, very, very proud of himself (and will probably mention this a couple of times). This is annoying, but by far not the most annoying thing about leadership.

Leadership is a bullshit topic. This is something people talk about to avoid talking about concrete things, because it's easier. It's like that kid in my high school who always wrote real flowery poems and shared them with our English class and everyone fawned over them, except I, being a giant bully, always wanted to point out that the poems never actually SAID anything. Anyway - like, let's say you go to the CEO of a company and you say "Sir, you are facing a large budget shortfall. What will you do?" And the CEO thinks for a moment, strokes his beard, tells his female secretary to hold all his calls and wear a nicer dress tomorrow, then it dawns on him: HE NEEDS BETTER LEADERSHIP. And so he spends the next 9 months writing a book about leadership, and what it means to lead from up front and lead from behind and lead from upside down and instill confidence, and then by the time he's done his company has finally gone under! At least his secretary looked nice.

Leadership is also a concept into which anyone can inject almost any meaning, and it will be accepted. You could easily hear two people at the same time say "Leadership means taking charge" and "Leadership means delegating to others" and in both cases their audiences will likely nod, knowingly. Because they're in the leadership club! And they're dudes, presumably.

In addition, leadership gives everyone talking about it a great, great inflation of their ego. After all, if they're talking about leadership, they must be a great leader! No one would talk about leadership if they weren't a leader. And everyone who is listening thinks, I know a person who talks about leadership, and I'm listening! I must be a leader. All of these conclusions really mean, of course: I am smart, but not just smart, I am smart-er, and everyone should listen to me.

This is just what we've always wanted anyway, right? And that's what the bullshit concept of leadership gives us.

My theory is this: just do stuff. Like, accomplish things. Worry about the rest after that, but my guess is you won't have much to worry about.

I just wrote my leadership book!!! That'll be $99 but I'll waive the fee if you organize an international conference around this blog post. International conferences about leadership are just... I can't talk about it, I have heartburn.

Have a great weekend, man leaders! Don't worry about doing anything. You're a leader.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Distressing Report on NPR: The Story of Tuesday

Yesterday I was driving to Panera for Second Lunch and was listening to NPR.

(Second Lunch is the lunch that follows First Lunch but comes before First Dinner. Usually it occurs around 2 - 3 pm and though you might be thinking - well Maria, sheesh you must just get very hungry around 2 - 3 pm! - you are actually very wrong. The feeling is less like hunger and more like this: Maria, the very beginnings of hunger feelings are happening to you. They are very faint and hardly noticeable but they are there, and they have an important message: if you do not eat in the next 25 minutes, you will vomit. Powerfully and with little warning. This is what occurs right before Second Lunch. Also Second Breakfast, Second Dinner, and Popsicle Before Bed.)

Anyway on NPR they were interviewing an Australian composer who is a professor at Arizona State. His accent was ridiculous and really kind of infuriating but I'm a woman of the world so I just pretended he was British and got over it. They were interviewing him about this project he's been doing around national parks in the American Southwest where he records sounds. Like he just, sits outside with some presumably astronomically expensive recorder and records the "sounds of the desert." Like sand blowing and, I don't know. Lizards scurrying along my back fence.

The interviewer asked Professor Australia two questions, the answers to which distressed me very much. The first question was: what's your favorite thing that you've heard? When he asked that question I kind of got a little excited. I was hoping to learn something cool. Like that snakes have a secret language (parseltonge) or that cacti make groaning noises if you're quiet enough. But he said - "once I heard a woodpecker drumming." And now I am so, so mad at him and will probably never visit Australia. Was he serious? I distinctly remember trying to study in college with my apartment window open and having to shut it because of all the damn woodpeckers. I didn't even have any fancy recording equipment and I heard them so much I almost started a campus activist club ("Students Against Woodpeckers; no double entendre, we promise".) I can't believe that was his answer; I also can't believe he is a professor and lastly I can't believe that stupid Australian accent is a real thing.

The second question whose answer was very distressing was: What will these recordings be used for, other than simply having great recordings of nature? (I took issue with "great" but again being a woman of the world - have i mentioned this previously? - I let it slide.) Anyway the Great Australian Scientist said - oh, we want to raise awareness about the sounds in nature. I feel so many feelings about this answer. First of all if the awareness he wants to raise is "sounds happen in nature" he will likely not find a large audience compelled by such news, and additionally if the awareness includes an example of woodpeckers woodpecking, people can just saunter on up to University Courtyard apartments in Athens, Ohio and try to do some quiet reading. They'll come, I promise you, and you don't even have to petition the taxpayers for a million dollar grant.

But seriously - someone is paying for this guy to do this thing. To sit there and record "sounds" and then think about the sounds and go on NPR to talk about them. Do you think he got a governmental grant? I bet he totally got a governmental grant. "Raising awareness" should never, ever be the end game of a project. Because it means nothing. But it should especially never be the end game of a project that's called "recording sounds to that people can hear them."

Lastly I feel like I have to confess something in the interest of full disclosure: if these had been whale sounds that he was recording, I would have been on board. Not just "on board" as in "ok with the idea" but literally on board whatever boat he used to go out and find the singing whales because these are WHALE SOUNDS and I'm a red-blooded American woman; not some kind of uninterested monster.

My Second Lunch was a grilled cheese and it was definitely worth all the angst. Thanks for joining me on this journey.