So, I know it’s been a long time but…

*I wrote this post, but while helping me proofread, Geoffrey put in a few tidbits of his own. He generously left you all a key to figure out the difference between us below:

Key:    Liz’s words

[Geoffrey’s 2 cents]

I think my last entry on this thing was in May of 2014. When I didn’t post anything new, I know that you all probably felt like I did when I ran out of Game of Thrones books to read just as the season finale ended (because my blog is just like GoT except without all the gore, death, royalty, dragons and Peter Dinklage). Okay, so my blog is nothing like GoT except that perhaps you read it while you are stuck in a waiting room or procrastinating. That’s how I read GoT or more accurately listened to GoT, so I feel like maybe you were stuck somewhere boring and while you surfed around Facebook for something to read or comment on, discovered I hadn’t written anything new in 1000 years (much like George R.R. Martin), and were slightly disappointed. Well, here I am to make you slightly less bored or maybe equally as bored as you were before with some news about Team Smemerson. Also, here’s some Peter Dinklage:

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Ironically, I haven’t updated the blog with Smemerson news, because we’ve had SO much going on. Instead of regaling you with the intimate details of each thing that happened, I’ll post a sort-of brief timeline here:

May 2014: We got married…twice

  • May 19th we had a court house ceremony officiated by a guy named Ron. Long story short, Alabama marriage laws are IMPOSSIBLE for anyone who doesn’t want to get married in a church, and Ron is a very nice retired minister who likes to read his paper in the Birmingham court house.
  • May 23rd we had a ceremony with friends and family. Our friend ErSmemerson 2014-68ik officiated, Meredith and Stuart took the pictures you have probably seen on my Facebook page, Chris stood by to keep people from walking through the proceedings in the public park we were standing in, and immediate family came down to see it happen. We had readings from Calvin and Hobbes, John Donne, and an American Indian prayer, Erik said nice things about how much we loved each other, and surprise, we ended the whole thing with beers.
  • We went to Orange Beach for our honeymoon where we read a lot, played cards, and listened to Sph1932236_10100688793040571_5179902786374736393_nere by Michael Crichton (He is one of my favorite authors for vacations, because all his books are page turners and the way he writes women REALLY ticks me off). Geoff likes this too, because watching me yell at an audio book is entertaining in itself. Otherwise, we spent that time on the beach: me on a towel in the sand and Geoffrey in a tent protecting his Irish complexion from the sun.

August 2014: All the Emersons celebrated all the weddings with beer at the cabin in Wisconsin

  • You’ve probably seen pictures of this too, or maybe you were there. We flew up to the great frozen north, which wasn’t frozen at all because it was August [its right on the label: “not actually (always) frozen], and spent a good long while relaxing in the Emerson cabin by the lake, drinking beer, and setting things up for the party. Kent and Brenda also got married by a guy whose name probably wasn’t Ron in Tulsa, so we had a ceremony with them too. We topped off the week with a fantastic party with lots of people, food, drinks, and merriment. Also, Geoffrey and I went to the Mall of America (where I went on a fruitless search for the female scientist Legos at the Lego store) and the aquarium [I can’t believe she wasn’t in the aquarium either].

Later in August 2014: The semester started; I taught five classes (with three preps and over 150 students), and I don’t feel guilty at all about not keeping up with the blog.

December 2014: We traveled a lot

  • Ireland: There are pictures all over Facebook, but to sum up the trip: We drank all the Guinness (no really, I’m pretty sure Ireland had to restock after we left), we ate tons of terrific food, we spent most of the time in Dublin and Galway, but made a day trip to Doolin to see the Cliffs of Moher, 10425403_891662947524124_429173696491770953_nand I told off a high school kid who, in a drunken episode, decided we were hiding a guy called Connor O’Malley in our room. PSA: Connor O’Malley, if you are reading this, your friend is looking for you. [and it seems to have been an emergency since he thought it necessary not only to kick the door, but to jump kick the door] [Also, Liz was cool as a cucumber and informed him straight away that we were just a family in that particular apartment.] It was my eerie calm and teacher voice that put the fear of God in him.
  • Arkansas: This trip was much less eventful, but we did spend Christmas proper in Arkansas with family. Even though we had a blast in Ireland, we were glad to get a break from Connor O’Malley and his ilk.

Sometime during spring 2015: Responsible adult decisions were made

  • I was accepted to a Ph.D program at UA in Higher Education Administration, applied for and got a Graduate Assistantship with UA Safe Zone. This means that someday not too far off, we will be the Dr.’s Emerson, and that’s pretty cool. Also, I get to spend the next four years or so learning to create, promote, and manage programs that help students get their education and find supportive communities in college, and that’s pretty cool too. [Hey Liz, try super cool-very proud of my wife]
  • We bought a house: Once I got into my program, we knew we’d be here for at least four more years, and rent is expensive. We started casually looking around to see if we could afford to purchase some smallish house near the University for less than we pay for rent now, and sure enough, we found a bright yellow, super cute, little home within biking distance of campus (don’t forget, Smemerson’s bike together!). Our house is old, and parts of it are weird; the people who owned it before took some creative, not all together legal DIY short cuts with repairs and renovations. Because that kind of stuff is our problem now, I’ve spent most of the summer at Home Depot. [It is weird, but it’s ours, and I can’t wait to live in it (I left for TN before we actually owned it)]

March 2015: A dog followed me and Maebe home on a run and decided to adopt us

  • I’ll probably write a whole post about Matilda “Tildie” someday, but for now, I’ll say that when she found me, she was emaciated, 11638928_10101016465397541_833309262_ocovered in giant ticks, and had an improperly healed hip injury that has since become a permanent disability. Despite all that, she is the sweetest, and everyone loves her, and if I ever meet the moron who abandoned, neglected and/or abused her, I will show him why Connor O’Malley’s friend was scared to walk down our hallway after he met me.

May 2015:

  • We moved into the house
  • Geoffrey left to spend 8 weeks in Knoxville, Tn to learn Latin. As it turns out, a lot of early modern science stuff was written in Latin, some of it hasn’t been translated into English, and Geoffrey gets some kind of nerd achievement if he can learn to translate it. UA doesn’t offer a graduate reading program in Latin, so they outsource people like him to the University of Tennessee. It’s almost time for him to come home now, and we are both ready for him to learn all the Latin already. Apart from Geoffrey learning a new language and doing good things for his career, the other good thing that has come out of this experience is that we both learned that, “velocius quam asparagi coquantur” means faster than asparagus is cooked, and that Geoffrey will be coming home velocius quam asparagi coquantur. [aahhh the passive voice] I’m assuming this “passive voice” thing is some inside joke for people who speak Latin.

Smemerson Updates

It’s been five months since I posted anything here, and if you have been waiting with baited breath for the latest installment of Go Team Smemerson, (yeah right!) don’t worry; you haven’t missed much. In a nut shell, we graded a bunch of papers, Geoffrey read a bunch of books and wrote a few papers, we drank some beer, watched a bunch of Game of Thrones, and lost at Egans’ trivia almost every Wednesday night. There are a few updates worth mentioning, however…

Cat Toilet Training

Over the past few months, we have been working on toilet training our cat, Noodles. Things went well at first; he adapted to using a litter box placed inside the toilet bowl, and was fine with things after we started cutting small holes in the bottom of the pan. We had a few setbacks this spring, however. He didn’t like it when the holes in the bottom of the pan got to be bigger than the size of a quarter. We think his trepidation was the result of the realization that his “business” and the litter he tried to bury it with disappeared into what appeared to be a smelly black hole. We also had several house guests this semester. We assumed they wouldn’t enjoy lifting the litter pan out of the toilet every time they had to go, so we took a potty training break for a few weeks, and that really confused him. He also started pooping in the shower (we think Noodles developed this particular quirk after he was traumatized by “dropping his kids off at the pool” and hearing them splash when they hit the water). After all the delays and setbacks, we were about to give up. At the end of March we decided to give it a few more days, and if he didn’t make any progress, we would accept the inevitable and go back to the litter box. Then one day, Geoff took the litter pan out of the toilet to clean it, and before he could replace it, he heard running water in the bathroom. Afraid that one of our pipes had sprung a leak, he ran into the bathroom to find that Noodles was perched on the toilet seat peeing just like the creepy cats in the pictures! Now, he goes #1 in the toilet consistently, but unfortunately for the rest of us, he still goes #2 in the tub. He has lots of privacy in the shower, and when he poops there, nothing splashes him or makes scary noises. We’ve tried to break the habit by encouraging him to use a litter box again, chasing him out of the tub, placing him on the toilet when he starts to scratch around in there, and dousing the shower in “kitty keep away” spray, but nothing works. Noodles is determined to keep using his new “favorite spot,” and now he holds it until we go to bed at night to avoid detection. Each morning whichever of us has to shower first, is greeted by a special gift from Noodles. We haven’t resigned ourselves to cleaning poop out of the shower every day for the rest of Noodles’ life yet, but we are rapidly running out of ideas. If anyone knows of a shower alarm system or children’s book about NOT pooping in the shower please send that information our way. Even though potty training the cat has only been semi-successful, the Smemersons are officially “litter free in 2014,” and we’ve never kept our shower cleaner!

The Garden

Our garden is still going strong (kind of). We’ve planted some fresh herbs, arugula, spinach, kale, mustard greens, radishes, pickling cucumbers, zucchini, squash, a variety of peppers, and some tomatoes. We’ve had an unusually cold, rainy spring, and my early crops suffered. The spinach and kale didn’t make it, but my arugula and mustard greens seem to be making a comeback now that the sun is out and it’s warmed up a bit. The tomatoes and peppers look healthy; and the squash, zucchini, and cucumbers are growing like weeds. We picked our first radish a few days ago, and while weed eating Geoffrey discovered that half our backyard is covered in raspberry and blackberry bushes! Regardless of what happens for rest of this growing season, it has already been the most successful garden we’ve ever grown. Of course, keeping most of the plants alive, harvesting one radish, and discovering some fruit bushes someone else already planted is a pretty low bar for success.

CSA

Just in case one radish and a few berries are all we ever get out of our garden, we joined a CSA through Snow’s Bend Farms. We just picked up our second weeks’ worth of produce, and everything looks great. I’ve been enjoying the challenge of trying to plan our weekly menus around the shipment of seasonal fruits and vegetables. At first, I was worried that we wouldn’t get enough each week to sustain our veggie eating lifestyle, but so far, we been struggling to eat it all. If the garden actually works out this year, we may have to invest in a freezer and canning kit to store all the produce we won’t be able to eat.  If you like fresh produce, joining a CSA is a great way to get lots of affordable, locally grown, organic produce. 

Smemerson Sustainable Farming

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

I have tried (unsuccessfully) to grow a vegetable garden twice since Geoffrey and I have been together. The first time, we made the mistake of believing that Memphis soil would be perfect for growing veggies all by itself. We went to Home Depot, bought some plants and tools, rented a plow, and spent a day working what looked like fertile soil. Sore and sweaty we planted our baby plants and stood back in admiration of our hard work as our brand new sprinkler and hose watered them. By the end of the day, we imagined we looked like this:

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Satisfied that we had done a solid day’s work, we went inside to eat dinner, watch a movie, and feel superior about our self-sustainability. Over dinner, we scoffed at all the people who say “gardening is hard,” “you have to research, plan your garden, or start preparations in advance to successfully grow vegetables,” and “it takes years to develop quality, rich soil.” We had shown them all! Our garden was going to be perfect and we were going to eat like kings with all the fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, and squash we would grow.  I got up the following morning to water the garden again, only to find that fertile, delta soil had baked like clay in the sun. Our plants were dead or dying and we could bounce a basketball off the plot we had spent hours tilling, plowing, and digging up the day before. CRAP

The following year, we got started planning our garden in February. We bought an above ground gardening kit, started a compost pile, and paid what seemed like a ridiculous amount of money for quality, vegetable garden soil. I researched square foot gardening, planned the placement and quantity of each plant, planted marigolds near my squash to keep away the squash bugs, fertilized my baby plants with coffee grounds and dried egg shells; this was going to be the year! My plants grew quickly at first, and I thought I had made it. They were alive, strong, blooming! Then it happened, one day I walked outside to find that one of my squash plants wasn’t looking so hot. It seemed weak, wilted, and there was this weird saw dust stuff at the base of the stem. I went inside, googled the problem and found out that my plant had been invaded by vine borers. The gardening sites gave descriptions for numerous ways to salvage what was left of my garden, but they all warned that it was likely a lost cause. A few weeks later, everything was dead but my potted herbs. SHIT

This year is going to be different! I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past few years. 1. Gardening IS hard! 2. A decent vegetable garden DOES take lots of planning, preparation, and research.  3. NEVER trust the soil you have at home, no matter how much your home resembles the “fertile crescent.”  Despite all the lessons I have learned over the past few years’ failed attempts at self-sustainability, I plan to go into this years’ growing season with the self-assured arrogance of a master gardener (or perhaps a madwoman). My garden will THRIVE! EVERYBODY is getting homemade canned salsa and pickles from the extra produce I will grow this year. We will grow ALL the vegetables and set up our own Smemerson Farmer’s Market. This garden will solve world hunger and bring about world peace!  And in the words of Scarlet O’Hara, “As God as my witness, I will never go hungry again!”

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Goals for Team Smemerson

It’s a new year for team Smemerson, so this post is all about looking at where we have been, were 2014 will take us, and the toilet habits of our cat, Noodles.

2013 re-cap:
1. We adopted Maebe
2. I left MCS
3. We left Memphis
4. Geoffrey got into Ph.D. school
5. We moved to Alabama
6. We both started teaching college again
7. We got engaged
8. I started strength training (2013 Lizzie is way stronger than 2012 Lizzie was. I mean, it’s not like I can lift a car or anything, but I don’t get sore muscles from playing too much Wii bowling anymore).

Goals for 2014:
1. Make this marriage thing official one way or another
2. Start working out together, at home. We are both already active, so this isn’t one of those “I’m getting into shape this year!” resolutions. It’s more of a “working out at home is cheap and doesn’t take as long as going to the gym, so we should do that instead” resolutions.
3. Start running with Maebe (or at least teach her not to chase after every squirrel, bird, and paper bag that crosses our path on a walk. She hates bags; they are the worst.)
4. Read more, internet less (I stole this one from Kayleen)
5. Toilet train the cat

Progress so far:
1. Geoffrey and I have decided to wait to make any official wedding plans until we have a better understanding of what our lives will look like this summer. There is a good chance I will either be applying to jobs or will have just started a new job at the beginning of the summer, and we don’t want to make any big plans that end up getting canceled due to work constraints.

2. Geoffrey and I have successfully completed two at-home circuit training workouts, plan to complete workout # 3 later this afternoon, and have set up a weekly schedule. I’ve learned a couple things from working out with Geoff. First, 2013 Lizzie wasn’t as strong or in as good a shape as she thought. I put together what seemed like a pretty reasonable full body circuit workout for our first day, and not only did we not finish it, we were also sore for four days. I modified workout #2 to accommodate our lack of burpee experience, and it was much more successful. Second, I learned that any future children Geoffrey and I may parent have no hope of any kind of athletic prowess. If we start a family in the next few years, assume to find pocket protectors, thick rimmed glasses, and suspenders on our baby registry, because that kid doesn’t stand a chance!

3. Maebe and I made it out on one trial run so far this year. We did a little over a mile together and she hardly pulled on the leash at all. Now that the temperatures have risen a bit, we are going out for a 2 miler later today. I’ve come to realize from this experience, that my medium jogging speed is Maebe’s gentle strolling speed. She loved every minute of our run and wasn’t winded at all at the end. She will certainly be up to going on 3-5 mile runs/ strolls in no time.

4. We have started reading for 20-40 minutes before bed, and it has been nice.

5. We have made some major progress with toilet training our cat, Noodles!
First, I will admit that toilet training a cat sounds like a crazy thing to do, so let me explain. We hate, Hate, HATE cleaning the litter box. As a matter of fact, whatever room the litter box resides in is usually an abandoned place where things go to die in our house. Typically, we don’t clean it out until Noodles gets mad and starts peeing on all our favorite pillows, blankets, rugs, shoulder bags and coats we wear to work, etc… I should probably stop here, and explain that Noodles usually voices his displeasure after 7-10 days. So, when I say we never clean it out, I really mean, we just don’t clean the litter box as often as Noodles would like. Lately, Noodles has gotten more and more particular about his litter box and our stuff is getting peed on pretty regularly (every couple of days). So we figured, if we hate the litter box, and NOODLES hates the litter box, why not do away with the darn thing entirely? We googled “toilet training cats” and found a lot of funny pictures of cats pooping on the toilet while staring creepily into the camera and a lot of success stories about people who successfully taught their cats to “take care of business” in the toilet.

We decided to give it a try, and just before Christmas we moved his litter box into the bathroom (right next to the toilet) to get him comfortable going in there. This worked perfectly from the start. The bathroom is his favorite place in the house, because it is always warm in there, and now that his litter box is right by the toilet and full of flushable litter, he gets it cleaned several times a day. (Maebe eats the cat poop if we leave it there long enough for her to find it; her cat poop obsession is another major reason for our toilet training Noodles. See the link below for a dog’s explanation of why cat poop is so delicious).

Next, we put the litter box on top of the toilet lid and placed a stool next to it so he could step into his litter box; Noodles handled that no problem! Yesterday, we removed the litter box entirely and placed a lasagna pan filled with litter just under the toilet seat. He has successfully “taken care of business” in the lasagna pan a few times now, so things look pretty promising. All we have left to do is cut incrementally larger holes in the lasagna pan until he is just going directly into the toilet bowl. I predict that the Smemersons will soon be “litter free in 2014!” If you were wondering what it looks like when a cat uses the toilet, here is a picture of Noodles demonstrating:

noodles toilet

noodles toilet2

He is kind of a sneaky pooper, so all we were able to capture was a picture of him “burying” his waste, but you get the idea. Just in case you still want more, here is the creepiest pooping cat ever:

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Smemersauruses

As promised to all four of my readers (I checked the stats for my blog; I know who YOU are!) This post is full of fun stuff, or more accurately, self- incriminating pictures and fun stuff.

This Halloween Geoffrey and I dressed up as dinosaurs. I made our costumes out of hoodies and felt, and did they EVER look hokey! Geoff was a T-rex and I was a Pterodactyl, but I prefer to refer to costumed Lizzie and Geoffrey as Geoffriasaurus and Lizadactyl. Here they are:

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Oh, and you might notice our friends Meredith and Stuart. They dressed up as Dr.’s Grant and Sattler from Jurassic Park. See the resemblance? Even though we didn’t win the costume contest that night, (I have it on good authority that we lost because the four of us were some of the shortest people there. Apparently they couldn’t see us through the crowd when our turn came) we got tons of compliments about how “original” and “creative” our costumes were. I’ve learned through years of receiving these compliments that people usually want to say, “boy, do you look ridiculous!” when they call my costume choices “creative,” but I’ll take what I can get. We didn’t care anyway, because we were drunkasauruses.

Wedding Stuff:

A few weeks ago I was searching for literary, philosophical, academic quotations about love and marriage, you know, because I’m a huge nerd and like that stuff. Initially, I planned to use them on invitations, but as I have already established, I’m slacking on this wedding preparation stuff. There is a good chance this grand idea will never come to anything.  There’s also a fairly good chance that invitations in general won’t come of anything either.  If you get an email from me in the next six months that has a subject line reading “COME TO MY WEDDING!!!,” you will know I procrastinated too long on real invitations to get them out. I wish I could say I was joking here, but I really can’t emphasize enough the likelihood of my not getting around to even the most basic of wedding tasks.

Below are several quotations I found that are delightfully inappropriate for any event celebrating a marriage. If I get around to sending invitations out, they won’t make an appearance, but I feel the need to share them anyway.

  • “By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” 
    ― Socrates

If you knew Geoffrey before I did, when his hair was shaggy and he wore wholly button up, short sleeved shirts, cargo pants, and a fedora on a regular basis, you also know that he is a philosopher at heart. According to Socrates, if he reverts back to his old discipline in a few years, you will all know that I am a bad wife.

“An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” 
― Agatha Christie

I suppose if Geoff becomes an archeologist in the future, you all can assume things are going well! Also, Agatha Christie must not feel the need for a wife to become more interested in her husband has he grows older. I think this is unfair. With giant ears and noses and hair growing out of weird places, I think old men are much more interesting and much more like dinosaurs than old women. I imagine an archeologist wife would be even better than an archaeologist husband.

  • “There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will.” 
    ― Robert Frost

I love to cook, and I constantly feel like Geoffrey feels this way about me as he tries all the crazy things I concoct in the kitchen. I always knew he liked Robert Frost, but I never knew they had so much in common.

  • Live while ye may,
    Yet happy pair.

          Paradise Lost. Book iv. Line 533.

This one seems a bit foreboding. It’s particularly worrisome considering that this line is said by Satan as he spies on Adam and Eve and sarcastically wishes them well until he comes back to screw everything up. I think this can be translated to modern day prose as “wait until the honeymoon is over!”

Here are some that I liked:

  • “A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” 
    ― Graham GreeneThe End of the Affair

    This is a line from one of my favorite novels, and I think it’s a good analogy for relationships. Geoffrey and I are getting married in Mayish, and while that officially starts our life together, we both consider it an arbitrary date. We’ve been together for over three years and have known we would spend the rest of our lives together for most of that time; it always just felt right. If that’s the case, it’s unclear when our story began. Was it when we met, became friends, started dating, decided to commit ourselves to one another, when we officially got engaged, or will our story start in Mayish of 2014?

  • “With thee conversing I forget all time,
    All seasons, and their change,—all please alike.” Paradise Lost. Book iv. Line 639.

This one is nice and sappy, and appropriate for Geoffrey and me for a number of reasons. 1. Geoffrey is an early modernist and primarily a Miltonist, so we talk about Paradise Lost A LOT! 2. If Geoffrey and I need to be ready to go somewhere at the same time, it is a certainty that we will lose track of time and show up late; neither of us knows when to shut up already and finish getting ready. We will wander around the house talking about our plans for the day, what we are going to fix for dinner, how to get our dog, Maebe, to stop doing that really obnoxious thing she has been doing lately, etc… and we run late. On days when we both work from home, we don’t get anything done, because every time one of us starts to do work, the other one comes up with some “super important” thing that we have to talk about right then.

  • “And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then asked me would I yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.” James Joyce Ulyssess

I’ll have to refer to Kent for a correct, although likely convoluted critical analysis of the final lines of Ulysses above. This isn’t a jab at Kent’s abilities as a critic, but rather a comment on my understanding of this book as one of those “nobody really knows what it’s about” books. As one of many people who know almost nothing about Joyce or Ulysses, this seems, to me, like a nice way of expressing the feeling of rapture, joy, and excitement that comes with a new beginning like the start of a life together, a brand new family, a new adventure, and on that note…

  • “The Greatest Adventure is what lies ahead…” J. R. R. Tolkien

I like this one for a number of reasons: 1. Geoffrey and I both love The Hobbit, and that includes the book, the original cartoon movie, and the new movies. 2. I have a lot of hobbit-like characteristics (minus the hairy feet) and 3. I really like the idea of thinking about our lives as a married couple as an adventure.

And finally:

Geoffrey and I have never taken down a 12-foot mountain troll together, but we have built our share of Ikea furniture, housetrained a puppy, and taught ACT prep in Memphis City Schools together; I believe those are equally harrowing experiences. 

Becoming a Mrs.

This post is more serious than I’d intended.  As penance for lack of memes, self-deprecating jokes, and wedding updates, I promise my next post will be full of embarrassing pictures, wedding news, and maybe even some not-so romantic literary quotes about marriage.

A few weeks ago, my students read the first chapter of The Feminine Mystique as part of a response assignment, and our discussions of the following passage reminded me of a grievance myself and other female instructors have discussed over beers, lunches, and grading. Essentially, my students consistently refer to me as Mrs. Smith as a sign of respect.  It bugged me at first, because I was not, nor have I ever been married.  I was happy be unmarried, confident in my worth and status as a single lady, and annoyed when my students would mistakenly call me Mrs. Smith, because they were afraid of offending me if I were by chance married.

Before I get into this, let me say that I am excited to be getting married. I am excited about becoming a wife and someday, a mother. What I am responding to below is not the institution of marriage, motherhood, and most especially is not women (or men) who choose to make their occupation stay-at-home mom or dad. Rather, I am responding to a problematic means of assigning worth to women through their marital status instead of their accomplishments.

I have found, however that many of my students don’t understand how prefixes for women work. I have explained time and time again that Mrs. is a prefix for a married woman (which I am not), Miss is the prefix for an unmarried woman, and Ms. is the feminine equivalent of Mr.  It does not distinguish marital status, and is used by unmarried women and married women alike in situations where marital status is irrelevant (i.e. work, academics, etc…). Despite the fact that I have explained this till I was blue in the face, my students still call me Mrs. Smith in person, on written assignments, Christmas cards, and instructor evaluations.

This has always bothered me, because 1.  it’s inaccurate, and 2. men’s prefixes don’t designate their marital status. Why should mine?  Then, as I was re-reading Ch.1 of The Feminine Mystique in preparation for my class, I realized that their mistake was much more than a misguided attempt at respect.

In chapter one, “The Problem that Has No Name,” Betty Friedan says,

Their only dream was to be perfect wives and mothers; their highest ambition to have five children and a beautiful house, their only fight to get and keep their husbands. They had no thought for the unfeminine problems of the world outside the home; they wanted the men to make the major decisions. They gloried in their role as women, and wrote proudly on the census blank: “Occupation: housewife (Friedan 18).

Here, Friedan is describing the cultural norm of post WWII America in which women were raised and bred with no purpose or occupation other than wife and mother. At the time, the prefix “Mrs.” was a sign to the world that a woman had achieved her purpose. It was a designation of their occupation: housewife.   I realized after reading this, that my students are insinuating that my professional status is “wife.” Of course, they don’t realize they are doing this.  They call me Mrs. Smith, because at some point, probably more than once, in their lives, they accidentally called a married woman Ms. So and so, and that married woman made a point of correcting them in such a way that they learned it is disrespectful to designate a married woman as unmarried. Now, they refer to all women they see as authority figures as Mrs. Rather than Miss.

I take issue with this, because when students err on the side of caution when addressing Geoffrey, they don’t call him Mr. Emerson, they call him Dr. Emerson. They show their respect for Geoffrey, a man, by inflating his status in education and career.  When they err on the side of caution with me, they inflate my marital status. This creates a hierarchy in a post 2nd wave feminist world that suggests that women who have a husband are inherently worth more than those that do not while emphasizing that it is more important for a woman to be married than to be educated, qualified, or respected as a professional. By calling me Mrs. to show respect, my students suggest (without meaning to) that being a married woman is not only an accomplishment, but the most important accomplishment I can achieve as a person. This common form of respect suggest that whether or not I am married matters more than my education, professionalism, etc…

I have learned to stop correcting my students when they call me Mrs. Smith and choose to acknowledge that it is their way of showing me respect.  I was, however disturbed to receive an advertisement those personalized “bride” and “groom” t-shirts and tank tops people buy for bachelorette parties and wedding day preparations from theknot.com in my email which was titled, “Make your status known!.” Now, I recognize that wedding planning sites like theknot.com are designed to promote products to women who are excited about the whole wedding production, and I realize that many newly engaged women consider the ring on their finger a sign that they have achieved something.  I know that theknot.com advertises to these women in the way they deem most effective, and I am sure that that email successfully sold many personalized t-shirts.  But after identifying and making peace with yet another way that women are subordinated to men (and sometimes animals) through language; it was the last straw. After raging at Geoffrey about feminism, kids these days, wedding stuff, gender roles, and the less than savory tactics of commercial business, I decided I needed to get some things out there.

So let me make this clear:

Neither Friedan’s book nor I want to suggest that being a GOOD wife and/or mother is not an accomplishment. I hope to be good at both of these things someday, and I will consider them as credentials that add value to my worth as a person in the same way  that I hope Geoffrey will value being a good husband and father (He’d better or ELSE!)

Even though I am excited to be Geoffrey’s wife, to start a life, and eventually a family with him, I refuse to accept the idea that I am worth less or less deserving of respect now than I will be when we are married, and I refuse to participate in a practice that encourages my students (young minds forming their ideas about what men and women can and should do) to subordinate my achievements to the “achievement” of getting and keeping a man. Getting married is an exciting life event, something to be celebrated, but it is not a great accomplishment that somehow validates my existence as a woman, a person, or an adult.  In the same way that Geoffrey’s marital status does not affect the respect he receives in his professional career, I would hope that as an educated woman, a qualified teacher, and a competent professional, my marital status would be irrelevant as well.

While I am sure I will continue to allow my students and other people in the world to call me Mrs. So and so without going into a feminazi rage (although feminazi rage is warranted), I plan to stay a Ms. in all matters where my marital status isn’t relevant, because while my marital status is a part of who I am, it is not the entirety of WHO I am. And to all the married ladies out there: Next time someone calls you Ms. somethingorother don’t take it as an insult or a mistake you must remedy. Instead, respect the possibility that this person may be choosing to address you, the human being, rather than your husband’s wife.

Work Cited

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W. & W. Norton inc. 1963. Print

Smemersons Bike Together!

Well, I had hoped to write a post a week and I have already fallen off the blogging wagon. But I have an excuse! My students all turned in their papers at the same time, which means I had two weeks to grade and comment on 125 freshman papers.  It’s been rough guys… I am writing this in the short calm before the next grading storm, and while I won’t make this post about my grading complaints, I will say this: Grading has driven me to drink many times over the past two weeks, and If I have to read another paper that begins with “In today’s society…” Geoffrey may need to start brewing something stronger than beer.

Smemerson’s bike together!

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A few weeks ago, we got bikes! Parking is a big problem on UA campus, and parking passes run something like a million dollars, so Geoffrey and I currently share one parking pass. This works out on the days our schedules coincide, but most of the time, we can’t drive to work together.  We solved this problem, at first, by renting a bike from the University.  Unfortunately, we did not know, that when demand went up as the school year got started, we would be unable to renew.  A few weeks ago, an unsuspecting Geoffrey rode his rented bike in to be renewed and they wouldn’t give it back!  After much wailing and rending of clothing, we decided it was time to buy some bikes. I felt left out of the whole “brand new toy” thing, so we both got bikes. Now, we pretty much ride them everywhere, and by everywhere, I mean work and the neighborhood bar; we really don’t go to a lot of places. So here is our newest form of transportation!

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On our first excursion together, we learned that Geoffrey’s wheel circumference is larger than mine, and therefore, his bike goes faster. The first time this happened,I scolded him by shouting “Smemerson’s Bike Together!” Geoffrey responded by sticking his tongue out at me, then pedaled on ahead. Now, it is my mantra every time we travel together on our bikes. If you are in Tuscaloosa, you will likely see us, cycling “in formation” to the bar.

Smemersons Bike Together

Speaking of booze, Geoffrey’s newest batch of Oktoberfest is almost done! It will be ready right on time for Halloween, which means we will be drinking Geoffrey’s homemade beer in our awesome, homemade Halloween costumes. I predict an extremely entertaining post-Halloween blog entry, complete with pictures in our future!

Wedding Talk:

There are several reasons I don’t want a big wedding

1. Asking all our family and friends to travel to some boring, non-destination wedding location seems a bit extreme.

2. The idea of planning a big shindig doesn’t sound like my idea of fun; in fact, I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it.

And finally, I’m a wedding planning slacker.

Stuff I’ve got covered so far:

  • We are probably tying the knot in late May/ early June
  • We are probably having an immediate family only ceremony in Conway, AR
  • We want to have a super casual/ informal celebration in both Conway and Wisconsin post ceremony.
  • We WILL have awesome beer koozies at our wedding…

Obviously my priorities are a bit skewed…

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Stay tuned for information regarding a Smemerson party in a location near you!