Thank you Rene Descartes

How many degrees can one person attain during their lifetime? I would like to pursue Anthropology, Philosophy, Religion, Women’s Studies…any or all of the above and combinations also.

What does that have to do with Descartes? Nothing, or maybe everything. The great philosophers name came up today as I was reading my International Relations text. Firstly, this is not a class I would have ever intentionally sought out on my own. It was one of a small handful of core requirements and in my opinion infinitely better than either macro or micro economics. Let’s digress for a moment shall we. When working on my AA degree I purposely chose to focus on the broad area of Humanities which is a kind of glorified, worldly, cosmopolitan general studies degree. I chose Humanities because:

1. It contained only 1 math requirement

2. Refer to the above description of broad focus. I wanted my initial college endeavor to allow me to explore as many areas as possible.

Fast forward to my current degree pursuit: Sociology/English minor. I found myself so fascinated by so many topics while working on my AA that I seriously had days and weeks of indecision in trying to choose a BA major. I still am not completely sure that I chose correctly, although so far I love Sociology and I get to experience and continue to learn about a broad range of topics as evidenced by my reading in IR. I am actually very proudly applying my as yet meager knowledge of Sociology basics for this current class. I hope my fellow students don’t revolt as I continue to base my opinions and replies to discussions of politics, government and global interdependence on sociological principles, but darn, it feels so good to be able to actually use some of this knowledge I am paying for and cramming into my head.

So back to Descartes. In a discussion of transnationalism philosopher Descartes was quoted as part of an example of sources of globalization. Human thought is in part one way we as a people define and connect with other people around the globe. In discussing abstract thought and self-awareness the famous, “I think, therefore I am” from Discourse on Method (1637) jumped out at me. (in homage to Dr. Bach-professor of IR, I will cite this reference, rather out-of-place but cited non-the-less). (Rourke and Boyer 2010, 115). And no I will not provide a reference list–I choose to be a rebel.

Descartes quote above was in a twisted way the inspiration for the title of this entire blog. I was aware of this phrase long before I ever participated in a philosophy class or knew who Descartes was. I simply liked the original and decided to adapt it to fit my image of this blog. My ultimate meaning, if it’s not clear, would be something like: I exist in this world as a human with emotions, opinions and feelings and because of this I must write about the way those aspects affect me. I hope I didn’t plagiarize Descartes with this. Up to now, the citation police have not silenced me so I have to assume I am forgiven for any indiscretion.

So here I am, experiencing college classes that open up my mind, make me realize just how much I don’t know about the world, challenge me to learn more, make me shake my head either in disbelief or joyous agreement and in the words of the wry curmudgeon chef Anthony Bourdain, “make me hungry for more.”

Seriously though, does anyone out there really know just how many degrees one person could attain? Does one’s brain simply run out of room after 1 or 2 or 3. I tend to think that my pockets will run low on available funds long before my brain cells fill up but regardless my quest for knowledge is endless and for as long as I can I want to keep learning.

I leave you with a bit more by Descartes:

“In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn, than to contemplate.”


This is simply wrong in so many ways

I find that I consistently receive in my mailbox a catalog from a company called Blair. I believe a few years ago, maybe 4 or so, I ordered a T-shirt or sweater from this company. Let me be clear, this fashion house caters to the mature woman, which I find rather ironic as they use models who appear to be between 35 and 45, an age I certainly consider mature, but not in the way we associate mature with old.

The catalog and website are chock full of sensible, comfortable, stretchy fashion. That rather nondescript stuff one sees the 4 pm dinner crowd at Denny’s wearing. The mostly non-figure flattering, boxy and please-cover-up-my-flaws fashion that really does more to accentuate said flaws than hide them. You might be asking why I chose to order something from this catalog…at the time they had a side collection, which by the way has made a re-appearance, called Two-Twenty. I would not call this collection trendy by any means, but every so often you could find  a shirt or sweater that was cute, appropriate for the over 45 crowd, well priced and not made of polyester.

The latest catalog came again today, unsolicited by the way but I am just too lazy to take 5 minutes and remove myself from their mailing list. Once more, randomly thumbing through this catalog inspires the question:

Who decided that mature woman enjoy wearing things like this on their chest?

This fine example of cowboy cats was one of the only accessible images not protected by some internet code disallowing us good intentioned bloggers to upload and post images of disturbingly kitschy and really ridiculous women’s clothing.

Believe me, it does get worse-simply go to and take a little tour. To be quite honest, these sorts of essential wardrobe pieces have their very own section on the website: Embellished Tops

Had enough yet or do you need to see more? I know that there are other companies out there that sell the same type of women’s clothing so please don’t think I am singling out Blair. It just happened to be the one catalog in my mailbox today that inspired this post.

I think it’s time to head over to the Blair website now and take my name off their mailing list. If I get too many more of these catalogs I just might be tempted to purchase my very own johnny collar sweatshirt with some homey-sentimental embroidery on it


Early revelations of an empty nester

First full day today with an entirely empty upstairs. Alison was moved out and situated back in at her new rental within hours yesterday. Rental contracts were signed, everything fit and found its place and the house cat took up permanent position on her bed. She is ready to take her official place with the PLU class of 2013 on Thursday.

I realized this morning that it will take a while to accept that the upstairs is remaining empty. She has always come back to refill the space, rather gone 2 days or 2 weeks, it has been her space for so long, now I simply have an unused and really bedraggled 3rd and 4th bedroom with attached bath, and some bathtub caulk that has seen much better days. That stuff has to be priority number 1.

There is only so much a few cosmetic touch ups can cure after 18+ years and three various children growing up in a small space doing who knows what in those rooms. The voices in my head are strongly saying, “Wait, just wait…she like the others WILL return at some point…they always do”, and I don’t doubt that. Her current living arrangements may change, and as her two siblings have found, simply having that college diploma brings no guarantee of immediate grad school acceptance or lucrative job offers.

So do I make the list of “to-do” projects and file it away, waiting for the ultimate move out: the day that the bed and desk and keepsake boxes and ALL THOSE BOOKS fill a truck and leave my driveway? Should I simply close my eyes and avoid the windowsills that need so much sanding and refinishing, the walls and ceilings that need some really good paint and those carpets that should have been replaced about 2 kids ago?

I don’t think my arthritis is going to allow me to participate in too many of those DIY activities although I want to. In a funny way, working upstairs allows me to keep a connection to bygone days–the times when one bedroom was olive-green, the other red and very early on pink with teddy bear stencils.  Times when an enormous loft bed separated Egypt from a really impressive stuffed primate collection. Times when an upstairs landing served as extra storage for books, music, and three different people’s crap.

Maybe the sound of sand paper on wood will bring back other sounds long forgotten from that area of the house. Wafting clarinet and oboe, boisterous saxophone, laughter and arguing and slamming doors and that oh so familiar thump, thump, thump of feet on the stairs themselves. Even creaks and groans of floor boards and computer chairs and bed springs. Sitting in our kitchen/family room we always knew who was moving where and around what with all those sounds coming to us directly overhead. It’s been quieter in the last few years with only 1 occupant.

Taking away the last few unpatched holes, masking the final few extraneous paint splatters that were never quite covered by subsequent new layers, ripping out and replacing that awful original gray carpet with the lives of 3 individuals clearly visible upon it means signaling the finale of 18 years of growth, 18 years in the lives of my three children.

I’m not ready for that yet so the rooms will remain as is for now, although I will replace that tub caulk–gross beyond words and probably some sort of health hazard. The paint can wait, the neon stripes can stay on the ceiling for a while, the stained, ripped and useless carpet can stand ready for the possibility of a future stain or two from a returning archaeology student. I’ll keep it as it for now, just in case…

One week and counting

Right around this time next weekend, the clean-up and clean-out begins, packing commences and Alison moves out and on to bigger and better things. She will officially be moving into her “residence” for the completion of her first college degree–actually I guess for her second college degree as she already has an AA.

So now all of the “mom” reflections must begin.

“It was only yesterday that she…”

“The last one to leave the nest…”

“Her opportunity to explore the world… and life…”

To many cliché’s and she is not a cliché’ person so enough of that. We are all pretty sure of what the future holds for her, especially after getting a taste of her future lifestyle just a few weeks ago in Montana. I know she is sure of what her future holds…although I do try to remind her and nudge her into embracing how varied the possibilities are while among her college peers but she isn’t buying my ideas and being Alison, I wouldn’t expect her to.

If she does discover new and profound aspects of life that differ from her world view, good for her and I will try not to say, “I told you so”, although no promises Al!

She is ready, more than ready to take on life.

I however am feeling those “this is my last kid at home and now what do I do” issues. I will have an entire upstairs open, rooms not lived in, still collecting dust balls but un-disturbed by the footfalls of my youngest child. Who will I call up those stairs to each evening when dinner is ready? Who will I shake my head at over the living conditions not meeting my standards for cleanliness? Even more important: where will the cat escape to for loving attention when I am too busy at my studies? I fear many long mournful days and nights of lonely meowing outside an empty bedroom, trying in vain to seek out a favored companion.

For that matter, who will I have to share intellectual (?) discussions with over world issues–ok, that might be an exaggeration, but we do occasionally have some interesting conversations and I will miss those. Who will ride along with me as I purchase groceries and toss an occasional extra item or two in the cart? Who will get frustrated but go along with me, resigned to the occasional “lets toss out old clothes” projects?

Who will say, “I don’t care, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, and quite”? Who will frustrate me with indecisiveness? Who will go into nature with me and put up with my issues of bridges, cliffs, steep drop-offs, and general high places? Who will laugh at me when I refuse those places yet accept that this is her mom?

Who will radiate modest levels of excitement when arriving home with a new stack of vinyl while methodically peeling off the ever offensive labels and stickers that mar the pristine quality of an extraordinary used record find?  

How will it be each morning when I pull out of my garage for work and I can take up the entire driveway, not having to navigate around the white Jeep, Paul and John quizzically watching me drive away? More importantly, how will it be each evening driving back in, knowing that the white Jeep with those Beatles stickers is now housed somewhere else?

How will it be in just 1 week when the person who entered this home still within me, still unborn, 18 and 1/2 years ago leaves to begin her adult life?

For Alison it will be fantastic, an adventure of epic proportions–ok, again maybe an exaggeration, but non-the-less an adventure into adulthood.

For me, I’ll let you know when I can get past the lump in my throat and the wetness leaking from my eyes.

There was never a doubt


She did it…officially received the word that she is a fully licensed Registered Nurse. Her long, long journey has come to an end.

The starts and stops of college, the return home amid pre-requisites, the acceptance at an out-of-state nursing program, the newfound love of her life, the 2 years of commutes to save her sanity, clinicals, preceptors, study, study, marriage and more study, exams, graduation, BSN, NCLEX,  and finally today the much awaited one and only unique-to-Cara assignment of a license number defining her as a full fledged RN-capable of undertaking, managing and providing healthcare for her clients in the best possible way with the highest skills of her profession

To my daughter, who has fulfilled her goal and dream and can now go out into the world and her career of service to others-Congratulations, I love you.


A day to celebrate

Today is a day once more to reflect back on another adult child, graduating and moving on to begin her future. Then tomorrow we board a plane and head to San Francisco, finally!

Alison is not one to be filled with sentimentality. She doesn’t put a lot of  emphasis on special days. She is analytical, practical and rarely emotional, although underneath she feels passionately about many things. Choosing to pursue a career in the social sciences seems to be a misnomer at face value: social science! Alison’s best moments come in solitude. She is not an extrovert, not a social animal who seeks out others or even needs interaction. But social science is where anthropology falls and where her desire to explore the ancient will be.

Appropriately, with her future planned and with this being graduation day, a famous book makes me think of Alison. I know this is cliché’, this book is probably one of the most quoted in graduation speeches but ironically it could have truly been written for Alison.

 So I give you in this post a link to Oh, The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss as read by John Lithgow. And I say Happy Graduation Al! I love you and can’t wait to see and hear all about the places you will go.