Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Reflection on the First Week of School, Other Goodness, and One Worry

So I've noticed how high I get after teaching! Sometimes I'm super-tired, to be sure, sometimes cranky that it didn't go better. But I love talking with students about intellectual work! Love it! So much better than teaching the SAT! I've already started getting the pesky emails that do exactly what I told them not to do (don't send me emails without your names, because fabdancer211 doesn't tell me who you are; don't demonstrate to me that you haven't checked in with colleagues about your emergency absence before you email me) -- and I'm sure that I'll hate teaching again very soon. After all, I only have letters to read, nothing to grade, though that too will change soon. Both classes are very structured with coordinators who gave me varying amounts of materials. Both classes have way more individual assignments than I EVER give in these kinds of courses. So I'm teaching differently, but I thought with the pregnancy and impending baby it's probably better not to try to reinvent the wheel, try to figure out how much wiggle room there was, etc. So I'm basically following other people's syllabi, though I already ran into another adjunct who asked if I was following Totally Overamped Coordinator's syllabus; when I said yes, this adjunct said that he found that it had way too much busy work -- so it's nice to know I'm not insane. He also said that by midterm I could expect huge numbers to drop. Both a blessing and a curse. (Overamped Coordinator has been coordinator of this class for a long time; maybe it's time for some rotation to occur.) I have to work on the schedule for this class over the weekend, because I didn't get it done during the week, so maybe I'll tone things down a bit.

In super-fabulous news, we found a bed. Literally. Found a queen-sized mattress and boxspring on the sidewalk a block up from our apartment. After a couple days of drying it out (it had been on grass) and fixing it up, we are now happily sleeping on it, grateful to get off the sofabed after three-and-a-half months of back pain and bed squeaking. Which has also meant that we can actually use the bedroom as more than a storage room. It is now voila! a bedroom -- and I can imagine now how all the baby things are going to fit in there with our stuff. We've been able to close up the sofabed, put in a desk (also found with the bed) for me, and now have voila! a living room. It's like having a whole new apartment, really. I celebrated the oddness of the new house by immediately sleeping on the bed, while Absurdist Lover was so weirded out he stayed up plunking on the computer and moving things around. It's wonderful and also occasionally disconcerting. Things are in totally different places -- and we have so much more space! Plus, we have the sofabed for my mom when she comes to help with the first couple weeks, which she has confirmed she will do. That, and the fact that my stepmom is going to throw me a shower, makes it seem like when this baby decides to be born, we might actually be ready!

There is only one wrinkle: all of the sudden I've really started swelling up. As in, there is no bump where my ankle should be. As in, I deformed this sweet silver ring I had on my finger until it almost broke. Parts of me really look like I have elephantitis. Now, this may be normal swelling in the heat and accompanying weight gain (5 pounds in 2 weeks). Or it may be the first sign of preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure). So far, I don't have the other signs (protein in the urine and high blood pressure), but because preeclampsia can have a really rapid onset and can be dangerous for the baby (not getting enough oxygen and nutrients to the baby because of the high blood pressure actually blowing out the fully-dilated blood vessels in the placenta, leading to placental "dead spots" that don't help anyone), my midwife wants to see me again next week -- and I've got an ultrasound for them to check out the baby and the placenta the following week. There's the possibility that if I have preeclampsia, I may be put on bedrest (how do I teach???) or even be induced or scheduled a c-section (heaven forbid) earlier than this baby's Oct 10 due date. Since my shower is on Sept 27, it's totally possible that in the event of preeclampsia, I'll have the baby before the shower! But, as Absurdist Lover says, I shouldn't worry about all this right now. Right now, I should put my elephant feet up, be sure to drink enough water, and rest. Of course, not worrying is not my long suit. On the other hand, we have plenty of good fun things we want to do this weekend. And I've been working on my article, thanks to Hilaire turning me onto the Academic Book Club. So that's the haps. Cross your fingers that I'm just swollen rather than preeclampsic, please!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Photo-Essay of the 34-1/2 Week Belly

I call this big belly with slouch. This is what I mostly look like on the street (though in more structured clothes), since holding my back up and straight is not easy or painless!

This is the close-up belly when I'm actually standing up straight.

This is the belly lying down. Here you can see that there is more bulk toward the bottom than the top. My midwife says Absurdist Baby is starting to move down.

Is That for Me?

Please, blogfriends, meet Ms. Tortoise. She is still hissing at Mr. Tabby, who has decided she's very interesting. As is her catbox. As is his catbox to her. And his food.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Telegram from the First Day of School

First day teaching at Community College. STOP. Teaching totally different classes than I first thought, including 8am class -- UGH. STOP. Barely have a syllabus together and no schedule; amazing even that since I got precious little info from Coordinator of new class. STOP. Have never been to this campus -- not smart. STOP. Don't have parking pass -- not smart. STOP. Don't know how long to drive there. STOP. Also need to work on revision of article this week. STOP. Must go to office job after working out tangles like no books, ordering of books, parking pass, finding out where my mailbox is. STOP. AM SO PREGNANT -- 34 weeks and still not ready as in no car seat. STOP. Wish me luck. STOP.

Over and out. Make it STOP.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Absurdity: Example Number 4,326

A number of moons ago, when we moved into this apartment, we were told that the painters would need to come in to fix some water damage in the baby's room and the dining area. I was assured the maintenance people were very prompt and thorough (a claim almost instantly disproven by a number of instances involving standing water and broken air conditioners). The maintenance people called me and told me that I should be expecting a call from the painters. Never received a call. When I faxed subsequent maintenance requests (basically the only way they'll take maintenance requests -- what if I did not have access to a free fax at work???), I always included the fact that the painting had never been completed. They never addressed it. And in the course of life, I let it go.

Fast forward to this morning. There I was slowly waking (also known as fretting about how to pay the rent, the storage unit, and the bills this month, not to mention the IRS, figuring that I have no choice but to cash in my fledgling 401K), when I smelled paint. There were also voices very close, as if the cops were about to barge into my apartment. I got up -- there was a guy painting the ground outside our patio door, the fumes coming in the open window. We were not notified by the maintenance people to expect people literally on our doorstep. We had not moved the copious little things we keep out there, including a stool so Absurdist Lover can smoke out there, a bunch of herbs, and a couple rugs we need to get drycleaned before we can bring them in the house (do I even have to say they've been out there for months because we cannot afford to get anything drycleaned? on the other hand, a sweet neighborhood cat likes to sleep on them) nor did we know to keep the window overlooking that patio closed. It still smells like paint in here.

This happened at 9:30, when all the maintenance and official offices I could call were still closed. I was incensed. I called and left messages everywhere. We can get spontaneous painting done, but not painting promised to us when we moved in. Now they're dealing with a very pregnant woman in the advanced stages of needing-to-nest (which is different from nesting, because of course a nesting person would actually have the things she needed for the baby by now, rather than a panicking person who still doesn't know how she's going to get the rent together for the month, plus the stuff for the baby). I would say these people are screwed, but let's face it -- they haven't called me back either. I'll probably get no traction on any of it, because, though the apartment is pretty and the managers pretend at being high-end and responsible, the management has proven itself to be slumlordish.

Still have not heard from DC. Must call. What's the point of going to some coordinator's house if I'm not teaching at CC anyway? Must find out. Am s.t.r.e.s.s.e.d. and I don't like it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


So on Monday I received an email from my new Department Chair saying DC would get back to me about whether or not one of my classes was going to get cancelled. When I heard nothing by the next day, I sent an email saying that if my class is cancelled, here are some other possibilities that may not have come up before -- because we had received an email the week before listing classes that were still not assigned. I still have not heard from DC! STILL! And when I checked online, it seems that the class that I did have has now been given to someone else. I realize that it's hard being a department chair and DC is probably going nuts trying to schedule -- but can I say it's also hard being a brand-new adjunct who doesn't know what classes she is teaching the Wednesday before the Monday she is to start? Since I now don't know if I'm even teaching the class that I thought I was, there seems no point in even doing anymore work on it -- though I spent a big chunk of yesterday working on it and considering my options and figuring out what questions to ask at the coordinator's get-together tomorrow.

I hate this. I really hate this. Am I even teaching this semester, or what?

Monday, August 18, 2008

It's Real: The Week Before School Starts

Well, it's dawned on me that I have a ton to do this week to prepare for my classes. Moreover, I have to get as much Job Market Prep done as possible. (Sorry, Sisyphus. I put it off as long as I could, I swear!) I want to use the mornings before I go to work to get things done. Today, I spent the last almost three hours on emails to recommendation letter-writers alone. And that's all I've done. Sigh.

Can I just say that I don't know if I get an office, where the copy center is, which books were ordered for my second class that may well get axed today anyway, where to get a parking sticker, where the department office and mailboxes are or anything at this Community College? The website doesn't list such details, and the email I've sent to the no doubt incredibly-busy Department Chair has gone unanswered. These are mysteries I must figure out this week. I'm not panicking, but only because I've taught enough to wing it -- and maybe because I'm in pregnancy-induced denial. There's no doubt in my mind that this semester -- with teaching, working at the office, pregnancy/having the baby, and the job market -- is going to be one.wild.ride. Hang on, folks!

PS Our new lady cat is indeed a tortoiseshell, or so says Wikipedia. So Ms. Tortoise it is. Photos forthcoming.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Great News, with Inevitable Mindmeanderings on Money and the Academicness of this Blog

I don't have gestational diabetes! Apparently, the official number of diabetes for a glucose tolerance test is 140 -- and I'm at a meager 99. Ha! The midwife is genuinely surprised, considered the diet of lattes and ice cream I showed her. (Of course, the diet didn't show that I was eating reasonably healthily when I was still going to the farmer's market -- until my CD player died and I lost my inspiration, which was Barbara Kingsolver, et al's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. My CD player died like 2 months ago, I think.) When I showed her my new diet sheets, she was also impressed and said it was a good diet, except that I need to eat more protein, which, I have to tell you, is not easy when you're poor and trying to eat organic or at least natural food. (One of the supplements she put me on cost me a whopping $150! I have bills for things like power and cable that total that much that I can't afford to pay. But trying to explain to people who'd drop $20 for themselves on lunch what $20 is to people like me is sort of the continuing saga of what's going on between my family and me. Case in point: my step-mother continues to prod me to go to Ikea to buy baby furniture. She tells me how the furniture is actually better built than it used to be and "so cheap!" -- just $150. Now, of course this is cheap for furniture. Of course, it would be great to have a chest of drawers for the baby. But we don't have $150 for anything, except, apparently, supplements, which I took out of the health fund from Grandma, which is now totally dry. But I don't want to make this post about money, because money so absolutely runs Absurdist Lover's and my life at this point -- and I have to remind myself that most of the really wonderful things in life do not depend on money. I say this on a day when he ran out of the house at the prospect of his dad being able to give him some money. Oy vey.)

So I am to drink some protein shakes with low-glycemic fruit! The midwife thinks I don't have to worry about having a big baby or anything (since what causes the huge baby syndrome is unrestrained sugar in the blood kickstarting the baby to become bigger -- to get unrestrained sugar in one's blood, one's insulin/pancreas has to not be working well, a typical problem during pregnancy, hence gestational diabetes) -- and I asked her about eating granola with yogurt to satisfy my sweet tooth cravings and she said yes! And I probably will go ahead and give myself one latte a week anyway. I'm okay! The baby will be okay! Life is good!

Another piece of great news is that when I was waiting at the birth center for my appointment with the midwife (I love that she's always running late -- she's like me that way), I started reading the article that I need to revise and get to my collaborator. I had some new ideas and got all fired up about revising it! So today I'm going to Nearby Research University to poke into their library and snag some quotes from some books that, sadly, I have locked away in a storage unit in Grad City. Now, I realize that it's already well into the afternoon. But Absurdist Lover has only recently left -- and I'm going to go to the library and work -- and it's all good! I'm excited! I wish I had a library card there so I could get the books and come home, but I don't and can't afford to buy the card for community members and it will be fun to be sitting in a nice cold library working again in any case, even with my belly so huge and this baby having the hiccups. I want to work! I feel clearheaded enough to work! I feel motivated to get over to the library whose parking costs too much in order to work! How often does this happen! I've got to harnass it and get this article revised! Wooohooooo!

(Who'd a thunk last year when I was revising my dissertation for my readers that I'd ever be so excited to work on anything. It does happen, folks! I would not have put money on it, but it does happen!)

P.S. Absurdist Lover brought home his cat from up north. Apparently, she was living in a garage with four kittens (not hers), all of whom she hated. So now she's in our apartment. Mr. Tabby is surprisingly not so worried about her. The first day we kept them separate. But now the door is open between them -- yet she still pretty much stays in the bedroom/baby room, where we don't sleep. (We sleep on a fold-out in the living room, ironically imitating our camper life where bedroom, living room, and kitchen were all connected.) I haven't yet come up with a good blog name for her. I keep thinking of calling her Ms. Thang, since every time she sees Mr. Tabby, who has much more reason to be affronted by her presence that she does, and hisses at him. She's sort of black and orange, not striped, but just mixed in a way that looks just sort of messy. I don't know -- maybe she's a tortoiseshell? Then I could call her Ms. Tortoise, which fits her personality as long as the tortoise is grumpy to her own kind and likes people. Help me out people!

P.P.S. I swear when I started this blog, I thought that "absurdist paradise" referred mainly to academic life. Now I realize it refers to my life. Two totally impoverished adults, one of whom is ridiculously overeducated and underpaid, barely scraping by in one of the most flashy cities in the world that lots of people would like to visit but which the two adults really dislike, living in an overpriced (but cute!) fly-ridden one-bedroom apartment with not one, but two old curmudgeonly cats and a baby on the way. No one could make this stuff up. My life is absurd! Sorry to those who came here looking for good academic kvetching, when this blog has definitely taken a turn toward a mom blog (when I first saw my blog listed on another blog's "mom blog links," I was surprised, even alarmed -- maybe just to think of myself as a mom, though maybe that this blog has become a mom blog). I think I always just felt I was focusing on important things in my life -- and whereas those things used to be the academy because I was very much in the academy, now they are not. But I still think that this is an academic blog to the point that I hold a more academic point of view than your average person, so when I encounter websites that infantilize pregnant women or everyday marginalization and bias against those who don't have enough money to buy the latest baby gadget or academic book, I think I look at it as an academic (a certain version of an academic) does -- an academic loose in a crazy consumerist culture trying to get back into the academy. (There's no doubt that this digression was inspired by Dr. Crazy's discussion of blogging and the comments to that post. Ooh, I see she's put up another post about the comments to that post. Gotta go read that! Then, I really must go to the library already! Bye!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Good News and the Bad News, or How My Morning Regimen Means I Get to Be a Lazy Head

I have been up for an hour and a half doing the various morning things I have to do -- and now when I could almost be ready to go and do something or get something wonderfully productive done, I don't want to. The morning regimen is already enough -- like since it's the weekend I should get to relax already. Absurdist Lover is away for the weekend, and I had planned to do many many things that are more difficult to do when he's here and we want to spend time together on the weekends. There are many things I should do, such as work on the article that could contribute positively to me on the job market this year, call my grandfather, and go out and buy a number of little things that would make life around the house easier (including flypaper, which I have been having a hard time finding and which we desperately need because for some reason our apartment is a daily fly convention), not to mention work on another thing that I realize now I should tell y'all about.

So let me explain my good news and my bad news first.

The bad news (let's get it over with) is I had my nutritional consult with my nutritionally-oriented midwife and she was basically appalled at my diet of lattes and ice cream. She said that the amount of sugar in my diet had probably already led me to gestational diabetes and could lead to hypertension, a big baby (which means a more problematic delivery), and all sorts of bad high-risk things. So now I'm on this no-sugar, no-caffeine, low-fat, low natural sugar, low-fun diet. Today is Day 3, and I don't feel as terrible as I did yesterday when I moaned to my co-workers and Maude that I was going to die. (Something to remember about radical diet changes: Day 1 is not so bad because you're still full of juice about how you're going to change your life and "it's going to be great"; Day 2 is frigging awful because your body is in total withdrawal and you think you're going to die and you wish you could spend the day sprawled on your bed with the clicker exactly like those hangover days, which, sadly, you now remember fondly; Day 3, so far, is not so bad.) In fact, the rest of yesterday wasn't so bad; I went to El Pollo Loco after work and ate a huge-but-didn't-break-any-rules meal to make up for the fact that I had not eaten lunch (a big no-no) and managed to feel pretty decent the rest of the night. Basically, the midwife has already put me on the gestational diabetes diet, so if the tests come back next week with gestational diabetes, well, I won't be surprised and there won't be anything to change. But please cross your fingers that I don't have gestational diabetes, because that means that for who knows how long there has been rampant un-insulin-controlled sugars kick-starting the baby's growth hormone, leading to a huge baby, making a vaginal delivery increase in potential ickiness. Since we're at 32 weeks (if you can believe that), this is the time of rapid growth, so maybe, just maybe, I can nip that one in the bud by reducing my sugar to practically zero. We'll see. The one thing about being pregnant that really sucks is how I feel already like I've already ruined this little person I love. It's ridiculous, I know, because my mother ate whatever she wanted (though she doesn't have a sugar-sensitive body either and I do), smoked, drank, etc. I figure the smoking probably kept the birth weight down, evening out the all-fast food diet. Ugh. If this baby has anything wrong with him/her, I know that I'm going to blame myself for all my bad pregnancy behaviors. I have to remember that while some of this is productive and will keep me on my diet, some of this is totally nonproductive too -- and hubristic, as if I have all the answers and am totally in charge of how this baby turns out.

So, along with the new diet, there are tons and tons of supplements. In the morning, there are not one, but two different things I have to mix up and drink, plus so many pills I inevitably have a bad time getting them down. At night, I now also have a bunch of pills and one thing to drink -- and she encouraged me to order this other supplement -- so as of next week, I'll have yet another thing to mix up and drink three times a day. So when I say I'm done with the morning regimen, what I mean is that I've taken all my morning supplements, given the cat his medicine, brushed my teeth, and cleaned out the cat box (with a mask and gloves, of course). I haven't, for example, eaten breakfast. But I don't feel hungry because my stomach is full of Vitamin C drink, Cal Mag, and pills, pills, pills. (Part of the point of eating the low-fat, no-sugar diet is to get all the bad stuff out of the way so that my body can actually process the good stuff, including protein and supplements, that will make the baby and me strong for birth.) On a positive note, I don't feel bad or caffeine-deprived, no matter how much I really want a latte. We all know the caffeine-withdrawal headache. I don't have that. I think the reason why I felt crappy yesterday at work really had to do with my blood sugar being way too low -- and not having any quick way of fixing it. Though it was probably also withdrawal.

So on to the good news! On Thursday, Chair of English Department at New Community College offered me two classes: one that he's pretty sure will run, one that is sketchy right now. So I emailed the coordinator of Pretty-Assured Class and got a bunch of materials. There is even a meeting for the instructors so I may get to lobby there for someone to take over when I give birth and definitely need to be out. As much as starting something new when I'm about to have a baby, a new lifechanging event, is a lot, there are a few reasons why this is totally fabulous news. One, definite pay for 3-4 months at a higher hourly rate than SAT company gives me (though of course they don't pay for prep and we know how it happens that we end up spending way way way more time than they ever pay us for). Two, a college that I can put on my CV for going on the market. No matter how I talk about SAT Company and how I've learned a great deal that will help me be a better college teacher in the future, I figure there is nothing better than having some actual college teaching on my sheet. (I have more than five years already, but still.) I also feel like the community college experience will help me be a better, more well-rounded teacher. I realize that universities often don't care about this, but I do think that teaching the SAT and the writing courses I've done recently, plus community college teaching will make me a better teacher -- and a better, more thoughtful scholar. This way I can see a bigger picture rather than just what we do in our classes or our programs. I can see how students are prepared to get into those classes. I have to remember to talk about this is some sort of smart way in my letter. GAH! I have to rewrite my letter! Oy gevalt! Breathe, breathe deeply. Three, I like college teaching better than SAT teaching. No matter how stifling the set curriculum (and so far, it doesn't seem awful), at least I will feel like I'm doing what I'm best at or at least what I've sunk my higher education into. I just plain feel better about myself when I'm doing something that feels like what I'm meant to do. (One of these days I have to explore why it is that teaching writing to others feels so much more important than writing myself. When I visited my grandmother a couple weeks ago, she told me how well-written she thought my writing was. Why don't I write more? Why, why, why?)

So, of course it would be a great idea for me to look more carefully through all the things that Course Coordinator sent me, figure things out, come up with questions, etc. And yet. I'm not excited enough about the class to actually go and do that. In some ways, I realize it will be very much like the teaching at Adventure U, which totally didn't fit me. But really it's not that I'm in some working mood, and I just don't feel good about this situation. It's that I'm totally NOT in a working mood. Since my last class with Summer Program for SAT Company ended on Thursday, I just want to enjoy not working two jobs -- and today I want to enjoy not working, period. I want to get lost in a book or something. Or watch TV and movies and do cross-stitch. I want to be a big old Lazy Head.

I thought blogging might help me get in the mood, but I see this post is one big rationalization for not working at all -- on the article or the new class. The new class I figure I can work on during the week, when I would've been working that second job. The article? Well, I have no excuse. Maybe later in the day when I've wasted too much time I'll feel more like a wastrel and get into it. (I should at least make myself work long enough for a ten-minute freewrite.) But for now I'm going to think about the things that have to be done today, such as renewing my library books. Tomorrow, I figure I'll wake up, go to the farmer's market (good healthy food for me, plus I also have to bring snacks to Tuesday's birth class), and then go over to my folks, where I can pick up the bathing suit my step-mom bought me, maybe go swimming if the suit fits (which seems highly unlikely since I'm a beached whale), and call my grandfather on their far-superior phones. Which means today, I can lounge about, post-renewal of books.

I hope y'all out in bloggerland are having a more productive time of it out there! I never did understand how people work all week, then get up early on Saturday to run errands. I just want to sleep and do nothing. August as the month of getting down to business, my foot!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

August: Getting Down to Business

Suddenly, it's August. It's back-to-school time. It's back-to-the-job market time. It's where-did-the-summer-go time. Time for all that self-recrimination. I think I'll just skip that for now. It's pretty useless anyway. With working two jobs, getting bigger and more unwieldily pregnant, and family and Absurdist Lover stuff, well, I've been doing my best -- and to anyone who has anything to say about my not doing enough, I can only say sorry and then, more defensively, tough.

So I promised myself that when August came, I would get down to business with job market stuff. What does this mean? I need to revise my letter, my STP, and other materials, but really this means getting some articles done and out into the "under consideration" world. I have the article that I was working on with Senior Scholar (for a couple years now actually) that I'm determined to get into some sort of shape and send back to him for his comments and revision plans. I also want to revise my first diss chapter into something fit for a journal that I greatly admire. I'm going to do my best to work daily, even if that means doing something wittle and teeny-tiny. As luck would have it, yesterday, the first of August, a.k.a. the month of getting down to business, a friend overseas IM'd me and asked me to help her out with some research. Then she sent me some of her writing, and I sent her some of my writing -- and we made a promise that by the end of the month we'd get drafts of our pieces done. Making plans counts to me as working. But what have I done today? I'm committing to working daily in a public way. And then I'm going to consider what really needs to be done -- and probably check some resources for any recent scholarship that I may have missed. That's enough for one day, I think.

Plus, I have limited time. Absurdist Lover is away for the weekend on a retreat of sorts, so I'm on my own and can devote some time to this work, which is very lucky since often I just want to hang out with him and do nothing that approaches productive anything. But I do have to attend a performance that my littlest sister (get this, ten years old) is very excited about a bit later today. It boggles the mind, but the tickets are $15. $15 for a kid's play!!! As in $15! I can't quite wrap my head around it. Also, there are BBC comedies I want to watch this evening -- and cross-stitch I want to do. So even with this late start, it's a full day.