Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of Year Reflections

I may not be ready to commit to resolutions, but how can I resist looking back at this momentous and hard year? It's too obvious to me what I haven't done, what is still monumentally screwed up (finances), so instead I'm going to focus on. . .


We moved across the country, so that instead of looking out at the same old Urban Home City I was born in and moved away from in 1995 hoping never to return, I'm looking out at snow. My child is going to be brought up to see snow not as something scary, but as another kind of fun. Not only was the move successful, but we moved twice and now we're in a town that seems pretty damn great actually.

I started a tenure-track job, taught classes, served/am serving usefully, I hope, on committees, volunteered for needed service, and am now getting back into my own scholarship.

My beautiful child is a year older. He's so gorgeous and happy, except for the killer molar teething that's screwed up any sleep schedule he's ever had, that I figure I can't have screwed him up too much, except that he's probably not getting enough structure and outside stimulation, both of which we're working on right now and getting him into a carefully chosen day care will help correct.

I learned some very valuable things about myself, including that I have limited time and energy and need to choose my commitments carefully, what I think is useful in this world of ours, and what I have to say to people.

I've made some goals about getting back into writing creative work, which I think I'm finally ready to get back into.

I've gotten back into cooking in a big way, making my first turkey on Thanksgiving and Yorkshire pudding on Christmas.

I consolidated my student loans.

I taught myself how to single crochet.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

T'was the Day after Christmas

And I am doing very little. Actually Absurdist Tot is in some kind of growth spurt where he's eating a lot, so I only just now got to duck to the kitchen. Right now, he's playing with the toys we found, very luckily, at a second hand kid's place close to our house. So he's had a lovely Christmas with four new presents at this very moment making lots of sounds.

For Christmas dinner, I made a roast and Yorkshire pudding, which I'd never made. Absurdist Lover wants me to make Yorkshire pudding all the time, but of course if you don't make it with drippings, then it's just oil and not as flavorful; that said, I think I'll be making it often this winter.

In the back of my mind is this article due for consideration in a special issue of a journal that I proposed a while back. The editors say they are interested in seeing the whole thing, but as always my article feels like only like a partial fit for their theme -- and it's hard to make myself work on it. The work I'd shape to fit the theme is my dissertation work -- work that should really be out there on its own two feet. I keep trying to fit it into special issues and themes and things rather than just shape it for a journal and get it out there. There's actually another collection to propose another version to. Both are due by the end of the year, which is now less than a week away.

I've been thinking about the new year and goals and such. I need to make sure that this first year on the tenure track is not a total waste, no matter how much everyone says that research typically goes by the wayside. I am going to have to show what I'm up to for an annual review, so I better get something done. I've been thinking that maybe I'll go ahead and try to write through some terrible first drafts of articles I need to write -- just write fast and furious, like Stephen King advocates. Just outrun the damn censor! Also, I want to go ahead and get some creative work done, which is less important for tenure and all that but counts for something and, more important, would be great for my brain -- great for me to remember that I am a writer as well as everything else.

But today it doesn't look like anything is going to get done. Absurdist Tot needs to start getting up earlier so he doesn't go to bed as late (around 11:30pm!). So that's another project I have to get on. I think this weekend I'm just going to be lazy -- and start everything in earnest (partial earnest) on Monday.

I hope everyone had a merry holiday!

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's Done!

The quarter is done. Except for one tiny detail that I will have to clear up tomorrow, the classes are tucked in and ready for a long snooze. Or is that me?

Anyway, my students at the end brought up very interesting questions, concerns, and concepts that I want to think more about. The course I've been teaching is a core course, a required course. We even have adjuncts on this course. I like this course because it catches students right as they're walking in to college; it's the pedagogical challenge -- to interest the students and engage them in intellectual and reflective work even when they are least prepared or interested paired with the unfortunate side effect of dealing with people who need firm boundaries because they are so prone to thinking of themselves as exceptional that of course the deadlines will be extended for them. I guess I hadn't realized how unique our students really are, but apparently we get a lot of students who are used to being big fish in small ponds. Anyway, there are all sorts of things I want to sort out, approaches I want to think through. I'm teaching this course again in the spring, when I'm also teaching my elective, another subject I should think about deeply. Soon.

But not too soon.

I need to relax. I need to think in a focused way about the packages I really should be sending tomorrow, but clearly will be sending on Monday. Like maybe what's going to be in those packages. I'm trying to make things this year. And then I'm also sending them Food, Inc. I just have to. So they'll think I'm a crank. So what.

But clearly I can't even really focus on that. I want to be frivolous and watch Julie and Julia again, for the fourth time in as many days, but I guess it really is 2am. Tomorrow I'll wake up and everything will be about the baby and Christmas and shopping unrepentantly. Now if the baby will only let me sleep. Last night he woke up at 1am and I didn't get to bed until 5:30am. Oy.

I want to think about what I'd like to get working on during this break. But before that: the holidays. Amazing to think we're not going to have to balance a bunch of things at the same time. We can focus, for the first time in ages, probably since we moved.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Grrrrr in Grading

Why is grading so hard? Correction: why is getting myself to grade so hard? Probably like most people (except some lucky ducks who are already done), I'm grading myself into a frenzy this week. I knew when I went to bed Sunday night that I just have to hunker down this week and get some serious grading done. The projects I need to grade aren't the biggest baddest projects in the world either. Yet, I'm having trouble getting myself to do them. Yesterday between classes and meetings, I knew I should be grading. And I did, but to a limited extent. Now today when AL is taking care of Tot so I can get this grading week out of the way, I'm checking facebook, email, my favorite blogs (which of course don't have updates -- why? because they are grading too). Bad.

I'm also thinking about what's happening next quarter. For reasons that are unbloggable, I'm not teaching next quarter. I have daydreams about getting massive amounts of work done. I have nightmares that I'll fritter the time away and still not catch up on sleep and doctor's appointments. Clearly I need a goal and a plan. And thinking up goals and plans and what's reasonable and what's not is much more fun than grading. But before any of that can begin, I've got to put this quarter to bed. I really want to have all this done by the end of the week, even though grades aren't actually due until January. But I've got to give myself the gift of finishing them by end of day Friday. Which means using the time I have well instead of procrastinating and procrastiblogging. I think I'm going to have to accountablog and report my progress.


15 projects later -- and I'm beat. I've got something like 8 more tomorrow, then a bunch of other stuff. It's really great progress actually. What exciting blogging. Sorry, everyone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Julie and Julia and Writing

I saw Julie and Julia last night and since I've become so much more interested in cooking and homemaking since the baby, it was great on multiple levels. But the thing I want to hold on to here is how I cried when there were all those phone calls from editors and agents from having appeared in The New York Times. That part was any writer's dream come true. And the important part for me to remember here is that I'm a writer, even when I can barely tell, having not written anything for ages. I can always tell I am a writer (or that the writing dream is not dead and buried, at least) because of how I react to such tales.

Maybe I'm really supposed to outgrow the childhood dream of writing and settle into being a professor and thinker. But that's so sad. Even if it's true, I don't think it hurts anything for me to hold onto the dream. I don't know. Of course, I'd stop kicking myself that I don't write and feel I don't have time to write (which I'm sure isn't completely true, if I could just use those couple minutes a day) if I just gave up. But the thought of giving up fills me with grief. Maybe I'd get over it and live a more contented life. Maybe, but I doubt it. I think I would feel as if I betrayed the only thing I ever wanted to do, even if it was something I'm not suited for. I think I'd regret giving up.

In any case, I'm not ready to tell myself I'm not a writer. Instead, I don't want to lose the sense that writing, even if I'm not doing it now, is still important to me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Almost-Random Non-Bullets of Crap: Mind Muddled Edition

Why am I up? Because I have a crazed one-year old who conked out at 8pm, then woke up to nurse at 3am -- and is now running around the house. Sigh.

I'm so ready for the semester to be over. There's only this week and next week, but I'd rather it were already over. I stand there in class and think: not only is the love affair over, but I hate them and they hate me and we're done, done with each other. My classes suck, I suck, and they suck. None of us wants to be here. Enough already.

The search committee I'm on has been driving me crazy. We got almost 200 applications for one job. All of these people with incredible qualifications and exciting research agendas and publications all looking for a job. I have a job. It hardly seems right. (I'm not complaining.) Now, really only 40 of those met the qualifications clearly listed in the ad. Since we're bound, as I believe most are, to evaluate people on how they meet the job ad, it is just ridiculous that only 1/5 of people who apply actually meet the ad. What are the other 4/5ths thinking? But really the sc is driving me nuts because of the leadership -- we are told what kind of short list to develop, then we're told to do something different in the meetings, basically nullifying a bunch of painstaking work we undertook. I can't take it anymore. I've got a short list that actually has fewer than the requisite names, but they are the only ones I feel good about putting on a short list. And I don't mean to be obstinate or a pain in the butt so early in my career here, but I've worked very hard reading these applications and evaluating what I see there -- and I'm done. I'm just done. I'm not going into another meeting to find that the terms of the game have changed again. Not only is this troublesome leadership, but when we have so much to do and we all would rather be focusing on the holidays and finishing up, it's just. . .rude.

One of the things I've learned in this process is what I think is important in a colleague at this university and what I think, so far, it takes to succeed here. Now, of course, I am new, but I think it's very important to be a reflective teacher who talks with others about teaching beyond complaining or looking for teaching recipes. I want at least one letter of recommendations to talk about teaching -- because teaching excellence is requisite for this job.

Another thing that really stood out to me is how important it is to have someone vet one's letters. I'd always heard about candidates being blackballed by their own LORs, but now I've seen it with my own two eyes -- not just a damning-with-faint-praise letter, but an actual I-can't-recommend-this-person their-research-is-never-going-to-be-published letter. Friends, send your dossiers to a friend who will tell you whether or not your letters are good, and whether the letters all work together, covering your research and teaching (less important, but still helpful for teaching schools).

Over the weekend, my father went in for chest pains and ended up having an angioplasty. He now has two stints or whatever in his heart. I'm only now really coming to grips with the fact that this is a huge deal. At every point, this news was presented to me as not a big deal and intended to prevent future problems, so unlike other members of my family, I didn't panic. I was actually called out a little for not panicking and instead seeing this moment connected to the chest pains he had before I left Urban Home City and warnings about his heart and his lifestyle habits (eating whatever he wants and never exercising) he had when he was much younger. My sibling told me that maybe I wasn't panicking because I was "mature." Maybe it's because I think my father eats like crap and doesn't take care of himself, so I no longer think of him as my invincible dad; he's getting a bit older and there are bound to be problems when someone eats total crap, dismisses any information I have as the ravings of a health food crank, and never exercises. Considering that both grandparents have multiple cancers and problems, I guess my first question is whether someone is dying or not. I figure if Dad is not dying and everyone says he's going to be okay, then I'm worried, but I'm not panicking. All this said, I felt guilty because I wasn't panicking more, like it meant I was a cold person. Really, I know I'm a bit slow to process something big and emotional, which allows me to immediately spring into action if necessary and get things done (like calling half my grandmothers' friends when my grandmother died and answering my grandfather's questions about funeral procedures). But I don't want people to think I'm a cold fish either.

I did talk to Dad. He was complaining about the food and talking about how the nurses came in to siphon him for blood and take his blood pressure every couple hours, making it impossible for him to sleep. Since he's complaining, I know he's fine. Hospitals are terrible places where it's impossible for patients to get any damn rest. Why is this?

My imposter syndrome on this job knows no bounds, making me put on uncomfortable pants on a day I don't teach because I imagine Intimidating Full Professor who wears a suit every day is thinking I'm less than fully professional and professorial when he sees me for two seconds around the department in jeans. The truth is that I'm one of very few women in my department at a school that is mostly male. So as the only young woman with a baby in the department, I always feel like I'm under the gun to prove how professional and together I am, when really inside I am a super-granola absent-minded professor barely keeping things together. I can never really tell whether my concerns are totally ridiculous. Fabulous Colleague who makes the social element of this job bearable for me also feels sort of under the gun, though I should ask her about the jeans, because I may just be driving my self batty. I just don't have a lot of clothes, don't feel like I want to buy a bunch more clothes since many are in storage and I'm fatter than I want to be, and am comfortable in jeans and feel it's not so bad on days I don't teach. On the other hand, no one else looks so casual. All of this is coming to a head right now because we're staring down the Department Christmas Party, where we're trying to figure what is going to be appropriate to wear, especially considering that we're going to have to balance eating and socializing with keeping Absurdist Tot the Wild Monkey out of everyone's hair. They are all going to see me in full mom-mode, so who cares if I wear jeans? All the same, I'm probably not going to. But shouldn't Absurdist Lover be able to look niceish (so no T-shirts) but comfortable? Yes, I'm talking about clothes for the Christmas Party. See what BS ends up taking over one's mind?

I love the holidays. Everyone around here puts up lights and decorations right after Thanksgiving. It's wonderful. I know everyone complains about people getting into Christmas too early (too soon after or even before Thanksgiving), but think about Christmas in European countries, where there is no Thanksgiving to usher in the season. Love Actually starts at 5 weeks before Christmas, which is right around Thanksgiving. Do they not put up their lights and decorations because it's too soon? I used to feel pressured by the early onset of Christmas, but now I want the holiday season to last as long as possible. We've been happy to see all sorts of lights and decorations! We put ours up ages ago! I can't wait until I can focus on the holidays instead of all this other stuff.

The baby finally went back to sleep. So must I. I'm tired. Oh, did I mention that it snowed? That there is a gorgeous blanket of snow (crap, I still haven't planted those bulbs I bought and now we have this early snow!!!) on everything out there. Beautiful.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Times, They Have A-Changed

Who wouldn't want an even longer Thanksgiving vacation? Me, that's who.

Back in my grad school days it was totally conceivable (though pretty unlikely) that I would have cancelled class (though not on the day after we got back from a break) because I wasn't done grading a set of projects. Now, bright and early on a Monday morning, all my projects are graded except one, which I could easily grade at lunch, and I'm awake and alive before the sun's come up. But Absurdist Lover is really sick and obviously unable to take care of Absurdist Tot, who got his first real cold over Thanksgiving break and is a real handful. So here I am, awake, alive, feeling moderately okay, all done grading and ready to teach -- and I'm needed to stay home.

Though I've been dragging my butt this whole quarter and have started counting the days until it's all over, this morning as I was contemplating what's best for the family (in the dark, listening to AL hack and cough), I realized I actually want to go to work, am eager to get my students on track to finish everything up, could do with getting out of the house and being an academic after days of staying in and sharing care of a runny-nosed grumpy AT. But I'm staying home.

I wish I didn't feel like I were falling down on the job, but I keep reminding myself that many academic moms cancel class and stay home when their childcare falls through when their kids are sick. (Of course, my situation is a bit different, since AL is the one who is really sick, but it's close enough. And don't think I don't sympathize with AL, because he's super grumpy-sick, but man, he's grumpy! He must feel really awful.) And cancelling class today makes us behind a day, which means I have to change dates and stuff and I haven't figured out exactly how I'm going to do that yet. This isn't one of those days where I could bring in a sub or tell students to do the day's activities without me. Sigh. I guess this is what academic motherhood is all about.

I've been reflecting a lot lately on the job and how Absurdist Lover and motherhood has changed me. I hope to blog about these soon, though I'm not sure today is the day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ready for the Holidays and Nothing Else

Rather than regale you with my realizations about applications and search committees, let me chime into the chorus of people saying I'm ready for this term to be over. I've got grading this week for all my classes -- and I don't wanna do it! I didn't go in to campus today nor do I plan to tomorrow. Instead I want to spend even more time looking at turkey and stuffing recipes.

After the Great Move of 2009 and all the weirdness not to mention lack of funds, we're not going "home" for the holidays. (I write "home" in inverted commas (as the Brits say) because my folks' place does not feel like home, was never somewhere I lived as a kid or felt comfortable in, and is not in a family configuration that is anything like it was way back when I was a kid.) Instead, we're spending all the holidays here. And what this means is that I've been spending my free minutes away from Absurdist Tot thinking about turkeys! I got on the stick too late to get an organic/sustainable one from a nearby farm, but I did find a hormone-free free-range one at a local meat shop. Today we did the shopping. Now of course I wish tomorrow were Thanksgiving instead of another prep day when I'll make my first-ever pumpkin pie (from organic pumpkin pie mix, I'm afraid -- I'm told the organic pie pumpkin harvest was dismal). If all goes well, maybe I'll post my first-ever turkey pics here. Right now, all I care about is staying in, eating, and sleeping. Like my students and many of my colleagues, I just want it all to be over. I need a vacation like nobody's business. I haven't had one since May 2008.

Note to self: schedule nothing but feast-making and feast-recovery for Thanksgiving weekend. Next time. Now I've got to wrangle Absurdist Tot to bed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I swear I have interesting things to say

  • Like, what I'd like to say to about 2/3rds of the applicants for our search.
  • And what I've learned to not do in an application.
  • And what I've learned I care about in an application and a colleague at my university.
  • And that I have so much passion about this pet subject of mine (not a scholarly one, though I keep trying to bend it into a scholarly pursuit, without much success because of the passion part) that AL recommended that I find some venue in which to speak/write about it. Even though we couldn't immediately think of a good venue, I'm thinking about it.
  • And that I want to say something about things I think I've learned about freshman's preparation for college in writing and life.
  • And that I haven't had any real time off since before May of 2008. I did have exactly a month between teaching gigs, but since AL and I were packing up our whole lives in a big truck and driving it across country with a seven-month old, I don't really consider that time off. So the next time that someone who has all the time in the world tries to be a lazypants and tries to cut corners by asking me for the fruits of my labor, my answer is likely to be one big roll of the eyes and a forgetaboutit. And that's if I'm feeling cheery.
But alas there's no time for any of that because 1) we got an obscene number of applications I'm still sorting through, 2) Absurdist Baby, who now walks so I suppose he's graduated to Absurdist Tot, has been very challenging lately partly because 3) we all have small colds not to mention the usual money problems so unsurprisingly 4) we are cranky. So now I'm a cranky crank crankpot.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I poufed the post I had here because I was starting to get paranoid. If you missed it, suffice it to say I was sharing a situation so I wouldn't feel so isolated, with no one here to talk to about it who wouldn't end up in an awkward position. I thank those of you who commented and reminded me I was not totally insane and who helped me see the bright side of the situation. I'm sure I have more to say about how being annoyed in a work situation has made me feel even more isolated, but I just saw Food, Inc. and though I knew about most of it -- the CAFOs, Mon$anto, the horror, the horror, being a big organichead myself -- I didn't know about the 2-1/2 year old who died from E. Coli and Kevin's law. I just wept and wept to see that mother, working to keep other people safe after her son died. I was nursing when she told the story.

I swear there are some people in this country who don't care whether people are sick or healthy, live or die because it doesn't eat into their overhead. I'm too messed up to post. I need something comforting right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Deadline Looming!

While everyone else is flexing their creative muscles for NaNoWriMo and whipping out words so fast the internet word meters are crashing, I committed to writing an article for a CFP by the end of the year. Being tenure-track means signing myself up for such little fiascos. I should be able to write 8,750 words by the end of the year, right?

In other news, AB wouldn't fall asleep last night, so Absurdist Family is very grumpy this Sunday morning. And I still have five more projects to grade. Alas!

While everyone writes their novels, I'm reminded that I too used to write creative stuff. I should send stuff out. Of course, the stuff I'd send out would be at least three years old now (two years of hectic life and one year of writing the diss). I know I should bother, but it's embarrassing. I should do it anyway. I should put that on my to-do list.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grading at Home

Today I'm trying to do the impossible: jump-start my grading, which has been languishing. I'm still well within the time I told my students, but I know I've just been sitting on these papers for way too long. Not good. And I'm trying to do this at home. Sitting on the bedroom floor, pretending I'm at work. So of course I'm blogging.

I'm also trying to remember Boice and moderate emotions. I don't want to hate grading, and I want to grade happy both for my students and for me. I'm trying.

By the end of today, I really need to have graded six projects (they're big). So let's see how it goes.

***Update 9:11 pm***

I got immediately distracted and barely got things done this afternoon. But this evening has been better. I got five projects done. Not bad. In fact, just fine and I'm not going to feel guilty about it, though I feel stupid that I didn't bring home more projects. (I was planning on going in today, but didn't because the entire family is feeling sniffly.) Piffle.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One of Those Days

You know the kind -- where even though the baby's happily playing in his crib instead of crying and really you could sleep longer all the myriad things you have to figure out how to do in one day start flapping their wings at you so sleep is impossible and so you grudgingly get up because you have to write them all down so you can get the damn flying to-do birds landed and pinned on paper.

So today I need a list. Forgive me for such boring blogging.

  1. Meet with IT .
  2. Fill out dumb paperwork again because the last time wasn't perfect and walk it over to the appropriate office for reimbursement. FOILED! Needed a new receipt and won't get it until tomorrow morning. Which means I won't get reimbursed for a whole other week. GAH! But at least it's off my list for now.
  3. Meet with MIA student. Got stood up.
  4. Write up course description for my spring elective.
  5. Grade at least three projects.
  6. Send email with assignment to both classes. -- DONE!!!
  7. Work a teensy bit on my article (though I did do internet research last night when I should've been relaxing and figured out that looking up everything that's ever been written on my topic is really not going to help make my argument).
  8. Prep.
  9. Meet with colleagues for writing group.
You know, it doesn't seem like so much now. I just have to get it done in about 3-1/2 hours of focused amazingness, though maybe some of it doesn't need to be done while at school. I'm not an organized person by nature or nurture, but I'm really liking being more organized now. I'm figuring this out, how much I like to have things in some kind of order, but more so how much I like to have tasks written out. Without tasks written out, I'm lost and overwhelmed. Weird. I think this is part of me figuring out who I am as a scholar-teacher-colleague.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What I Would Like to Say to the Pediatrician, if She'd Only Listen

Ages ago, it seems, rented life and Anastasia said I should blog about my disillusionment with Western medicine. And in thinking about it, I realize I have two specific experiences to relate about this that show different problems: the way Western medicine cuts us up into pieces and specific problems with the way medications and interventions are tested in this country.

But first, I'm going to mention what Western medicine is great at: saving lives. I wouldn't be alive now if it weren't for great emergency medical intervention. I fell into a swimming pool as a child and wasn't breathing and my heart stopped. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that the defibrillator is the reason why I am alive and can complain about Western and U.S. medicine's shortcomings. So I'm very grateful for what Western medicine is good at and wouldn't hesitate to take myself or Absurdist Baby or whoever to the emergency room or doctor or whatever. But gratitude for Western medicine's achievements should not blind us to its shortcomings.

Western medicine (and much of Western civilization including the academy, to the academy and knowledge's detriment, I believe -- but this is another story) cuts up knowledge into pieces. Now, of course, one does need to put brackets on things in order to analyze. But I think Western medicine takes specialization too far. Here's my story: when I was ten years old, I was diagnosed (if that's what you can call it) with spastic colon. The doctor was singularly unhelpful about this, basically just saying I should write down what I eat, figure out which foods (if any!!!) were giving me trouble, then avoid them when what I really wanted was a cure-all pill. (This doctor's approach to spastic colon assumes that g-i pain doesn't come from food combining, which I could talk about at length, for example, or a muscular problem or stress, but I digress.)

As I grew older, I noticed that my period greatly affected my g-i tract problems. I mean Greatly. There were certain foods that would instantly have me on the floor in pain. Over a period of at least fifteen years, I recounted this issue to a bunch of different doctors -- both GPs and OB-GYNs who all responded with "mmm. . .that's weird." I took a fabulous alternative class on herbs and yoga for women at one point and was given a whole double-sided piece of paper about how different hormones of the women's normal cycle actually need different foods and vitamins and the different herbs and stuff to take for each, including the "right" time to eat chocolate (as if there is ever a wrong time!). I even once saw a book in the rack at a pharmacy that focused on a special diet for women based on where they were in their cycle. (I didn't buy it and wish, even now, that I had. Or at least had the title!) But I could never get the medical establishment to give me much of an explanation for the interaction between my g-i tract and my reproductive system.

Finally, at Planned Parenthood, I mentioned this to the nurse practitioner who was doing my pap, and she said "oh well that makes sense. During your period, you get small uterine contractions, so if you have g-i tract problems, those contractions are going to make them worse." Now, maybe it was just that this nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood was frigging awesome and actually took the time to think about it. In fact, I'm sure that a huge part of this problem is that if doctors can't instantly categorize a problem or maybe if it doesn't sound serious enough to merit further study, then they just don't spend any thinking time on it at all. But I take this to mean that doctors don't usually think about the way that their system is connected to other systems. My father, who has much worse g-i tract problems than I do, has countless examples of this over-specialization affecting diagnoses and treatments.

Another experience I have leads me to seriously question the way treatments and pharmaceuticals are tested in this country. When I was in my early twenties, I was looking for a birth control method that I would have better luck with than the pill. I had asked for Norplant, because I knew I didn't want to get pregnant in the next five years, but my gynecologist said that was really for women who were institutionalized or otherwise in extreme situations. But there was this other similar thing called Depo-Provera, where I'd only have to get a shot every three months. Because Depo often suppresses one's period, as it did in my case, this seemed like a wonder-drug for me (because of those terrible spastic colon-period cramps that make me want to go bundle up and suck gin through a straw -- and I don't like gin!). I was on it and off of it for the next ten years. Years later, when I was in Grad City, I decided I wanted to go back on it and my doctor asked me how long I'd been on it before. At least five years, on and off. And she told me that Depo-Provera had released a recent "black box warning" saying that women should only be on it for a year and a half because it can decrease bone density! WHAT??? I'd already been on it for five frigging years! And NOW they were warning women??? Where was the detailed ten-year studies on the damn contraceptive before they released it??? Well, that's just not the way the system works. I'm glad they continued to do testing. But it upsets me that there have been so many cases of finding out how bad a drug or treatment is only after it's been on the market for a number of years.

Now, of course these two issues are likely related. They probably did not catch the bone density issue because at first they were looking for problems to a woman's reproductive system. My understanding of the scientific method (and my friends in the sciences can please weigh in and correct me) is that in order to test whether there's a relationship between two things, someone has to think of it first and then develop a reliable test. Now doesn't this mean that if people do not ordinarily think of a medication causing a certain kind of problem or issue, then they do not test for it? So then doesn't it matter a great deal, with potentially tremendous consequences, whether people in medicine think of the different systems as interrelated or separate?

And this is why I'm pretty skeptical of new medications. When a medicine came out for spastic colon (also known as IBS), I didn't run out to get it. Though I've been on antidepressants, I haven't been at all surprised to find out their adverse effects on reproduction, for example. (My midwife told me that Zoloft and Prozac have led to brain center problems related to labor -- specifically, that women have problems going into labor naturally -- which did not happen to me, but though I don't understand all the cause-and-effect involved, I believe is possible just from my own experiences.)

And all this, of course, affects the way I look at immunizations for Absurdist Baby. I'm not worried about autism particularly, though there is an interesting correlation between vaccinations and autism in msg-sensitive people that I believe everyone should look at (put out by this woman who used to work in the food science industry until she got so disgusted with what she found out, specifically about the harm of MSG). I'm much more worried about the problems people are not looking for because they're not likely to get tested. (Don't get me started on the wisdom of vaccinating at birth for diseases that are transmitted sexually. ) I feel fine about the polio vaccine and others that have been around for a long time. But I am very skeptical about the ones that are new or the ones that immunize for things like chicken pox, which are just annoying but not terribly dangerous for most people. And if I'm worried about things that may not be tested because people aren't looking for them, and they might adversely affect people who are very young and still developing in some basic ways? Well, how can I just suddenly develop blind faith in this country's medical system and not question anything when it comes to the most precious person in the world to me?

This is why I a person who started out just wanting the right pill to cure all my problems became totally granola-y and will eagerly sign papers that say I have a religious objection to immunizations. As my midwife says, I feel pretty darn religious about not giving my baby interventions that are potentially harmful. For frigg's sake, this baby has eaten nothing but organic food in his year of life! How can I give him things that I don't know enough about to know whether they are okay or not? I realize that this is a thorny issue and parents approach it in a number of good ways and I don't believe that people who disagree with me are necessarily wrong, but with my own experiencing of the medical establishment not looking for connections and finding out too late that certain interventions may be harmful, I just don't know how else I can be a thoughtful and cautious parent.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Do They Know?

How do babies know the worst possible time -- when everyone's already stressed and just trying to smooth things over and get normal again -- to wake up after a couple hours of sleep and refuse to go back to sleep again???

Friday, October 2, 2009

Telegram from Apartment on the Pond

We moved. Or are moving. In slow motion, really. This complex is right near a pond, so we've got geese and ducks honking outside. And the friendliest squirrels ever, who came right up to our door. It's rainy and autumnal and green. I love the fall. I love wearing more clothes. I love being cozy.

I had a good talk with my department chair, who said assured me that getting tenure and parenting are both doable, but require self-discipline, something I've never been long on. But it's clear to me that when I've got an hour to do something, I can sure get it done without all the hand-wringing that used to take hours upon hours. So I'm pretty hopeful I can manage everything. My big goal for myself and for this here blog is to start working on my scholarship in earnest and recording my progress.

Absurdist Baby is so funny. He's sleeping on his boppy on the floor and keeps rolling around and stretching, then turning over and trying to go back to sleep. Will he, so I can blog? Nope, now he is up.

That's all folks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Academic and Mommy Wars Within

Absurdist Baby is exhausting. I just put him to bed. He's going through some phase of super-eating and turbo-playing and ten-minute naps. He's drooling all over his hand, which is always in his mouth. I expect to see molars daily, but nothing yet.

I'm supposed to be finishing up my grades, putting the quarter to bed and readying for a new one. But on days I don't go in to campus, like today, I'll spend the entire day without ever getting more than a few minutes, it seems, to myself. No time to compose myself, check in, figure out what I need to do. Not until now, when I'm bleary-eyed. It's a different way of living -- I spend a lot of time thinking and going over things in my head while I'm waking up or falling asleep, and am at my best when I know exactly what to do with a few spare minutes -- today, I graded some final projects when AB was asleep or happily occupied across the room. In fact, I got an impressive amount done. I'm proud of myself. But it never seems to be enough. I feel like I'm not holding up my end at work -- and I come home and feel like I'm not with AB enough. I watch out for him, but do I play with him enough? We have some games we play, but I feel like I haven't read enough books on child development to know what I should be doing with him to encourage the right things. He's very active, loves to run around. People say things to me like of course I've read all the books and am doing everything right. How stupid I feel that in reality I should really ask them which books I should be reading! I suppose children have grown up perfectly well without a bunch of theories. I know the best thing I can really do is be with him, really pay attention to who he is. I know a big part of it is, as Absurdist Lover reminds me, my low self-esteem. I think my neurosis about being a poor mom and a poor academic is exacerbated by systemic problems in the way both are viewed and structured, I want to tell him, but I rarely can put together such a cogent sentence. In fact, it's amazing my students learned anything at all.

A zillion years ago it seems now, I said I would post about my reaction to the whole parenting in academia debaucle of a couple weeks ago. And even with all this time, my thoughts are muddled. I don't struggle with my colleagues about my being a parent, at least not so far. No one has said I'm not holding up my end, yet. Instead, I am my biggest enemy. I constantly feel I'm not doing enough as I think about how this career is really made for people who don't have a lot of responsibilities at home. I have the example of the EE who dissertated dizzily, each day devoted to my goals of the day. I logged whole long mornings at the Corporation from 9 to 2, determined to pump out a few more pages, not going home until I'd met my goal. Now, I'm in a department that values research, but so far the place has been very lonely so I don't have faculty members provoking thought about my discipline in the hallways or anything (not that many of us do). Consumed with teaching and feeling my way around the place and its various tasks and ways, I haven't written a thing. My feeling of inadequacy is made worse when I read things by academics that suggest that some people either don't know what I'm dealing with here (between fuzzy brain, nursing, and an active child who goes to sleep late), can't imagine, or don't care. I always hate it when people claim that others can't understand because they haven't had the experience; this isn't always the case and it's dangerous to assume that because people have kids, they get how exhausting the double shift is about, or that because people don't, they can't or won't. But I feel like I practically have to depend on people's good graces here because I'm running scared. In fact, I'm barely keeping up in all parts of my life.

So when I read the whole academics and parenting thing, I just felt like many people missed the point. I'm not yet at the point where I'm most needed to pick up and chauffeur my child to different events, go to parent-teacher conferences or whatever. I feel marked. And I know so much of it is me. I feel like I have to work super-hard in order to not be marked as the faculty mother who doesn't hold up her end. I fear being seen as deficient, though I realize it's probably because I feel deficient; it may have zero to do with reality. I have to work super-hard in order to not be seen as the Mother of a Baby faculty member. I want to hold up my end beautifully, not be labeled a certain way or seen as deficient. There are so many things I want to do. I have to remember I can't do some of them. And I'm not good at that.

Oh dear lord. The cat just peed all over one of my bags. This cat that found us is having problems, throwing up what little she eats and being a little unsure on her feet. I really thought we had enough to worry about just now. Ha ha. I was wrong.

One lesson I have to relearn all the time and that AB is a great teacher for is this: be here now. Stop worrying. So taking that to heart, I'm going to eat ice cream, watch the ghosts of TV shows past, and maybe get in a little crafts time. Sorry, I'm not going to be grading any more final projects past midnight. I'm not. And I'm not feeling guilty about it either.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Random Non-Bullets of Crap in Which I Try to Talk Myself into Working

Yesterday, I was just about to write about my thoughts about being an academic and a (new) parent, but right at that moment, Absurdist Baby woke up from his nap. And now Absurdist Lover just looked in on me and now I'm staring at AB again through the gate that separates the kitchen/baby area from the computers. Clearly it's not going to happen today either.

I have grading to do. Revisions on one project and then another project. We're on the quarter system here, so I think this blah I-don't-want-to-do-work-and-can't-seem-to-fret-myself-into-a-good-panic-about-it feeling is just the usual mid-semester blues I'd be feeling if I were on the semester system. (Obviously, this means I'm totally out of sync with the rest of the academic world, most of which just started a couple weeks ago --and the honeymoon period is just ending for you and your students about now, meanwhile my students and I are staring at each other with wild eyes scrambling for the escape hatch.) I really need to do this grading today, which means asking Absurdist Lover to take care of AB. The truth is I just want to lie on the bed and stare at the ceiling -- especially because when I woke up, the baby was in bed. AL tells me that he woke up at 3am and was inconsolable (natch) and came to bed with us. Usually I don't sleep through such things. But I don't remember.

So I've got a case of the ughs. I need to work and don't want to.

I also need to call my grandmother today. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a while back and it's now in her spine. I found this out from my brother's away message on IM. Not only am I unhappy to hear that my grandmother has an inoperable (but slow-moving) cancer, but I'm not thrilled that I was only lucky to find out. Now she's in a special nursing facility where they are going to treat her ancillary problems in order to strengthen her so she can undergo more chemo. The last time I talked to her, she sounded a bit drugged up.

In happy news, we're moving to a cheaper place. We're ecstatic because this place we've got has some major problem with the water system. The water comes from a well and smells all sulfury, which I'm told is normal. But the plumbing in this place is totally substandard. There are leaks all over the place. The plumbing was better in the travel trailer. Seriously. Even I can look at the plumbing and tell you it's crap.

Maybe I should take a shower and get up and fake it. I surely shouldn't go on kvetching. Maybe I'll grade then take a shower as a bonus. AB is laughing hysterically. I want to catch some of his sweetness.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Promises, Promises

I've been wanting all weekend to write a post weighing in on being an academic and a parent -- a subject that exploded around the academic blog community last week -- but I got caught up in a classic academic parent problem: my time is not my own on the weekends and so I never had clear-headed time to post. I'm hoping to catch up on that soon, because I co-opted Profgrrrl's comments and clearly have more to say/explore.

In other news, I'm getting together with colleagues for lunch (yay! having lunch with people like I'm a person rather than a teaching drone!) today! And AL and I are also trying to move so that we can have more money per month and so get AB into daycare.

More blogging coming soon. I hope.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Research Breakthrough and Quick Reflection on Childcare and Money Woes

So why didn't I write over the weekend? Well, because I had a complete breakthrough on the research front. I don't know what precipitated it -- I spend a lot of time just staring out into space (and watching recordings of old TV series, like Northern Exposure, which I recently finished and am now in mourning over), so I think it just came to me.

Let me explain. I wrote a weird dissertation, one that transgressed some field boundaries. Now, I think (and I think other people on my committee and who are familiar with my work think this too) that this transgression is actually the strength of my work. I've often thought that I don't have a single new thought in my head -- my plethora of ideas comes from putting things together from different places (read: fields, disciplines, worlds) and putting them together in strange ways. To answer a burning question over here, my brain naturally asks: well, what do these people over here have to say about that. This makes me a fairly weird researcher and thinker -- one who tends not to have an instinctive repulsion to things many of my colleagues do -- things like quantitative data. (Don't get me wrong: I don't think quantitative data is the end all and be all, but I do like to see patterns -- and that means getting away from purely case study or individual text analysis, which, by the way, I also do.) Sometimes I think I look more like a social science researcher than an English one. But I digress, one of the major problems with being this kind of thinker.

The fact is that my dissertation worked for my committee, but I fear it wouldn't work for a lot of other people. Who would publish that book? I can think of publishers interested in one chapter or another, but not the whole thing as is. And even though it's been two years since I finished, defended, and walked away from the dissertation, I haven't really wanted to re-enter the problems with my dissertation, not even to take parts out of it and publish those. Up until now, I thought I would publish the various pieces, figuring out which more-traditional book I wanted to try to publish as I went, if any at all considering that I don't need a book for tenure. Though I don't need a book for tenure, my department is full of research-driven people and I do need to have a fairly aggressive research agenda -- which is to say, I need a research agenda that goes beyond try to read something occasionally, which has been my agenda for the last year and a half since pregnancy/motherhood/poverty took over. So I've been feeling the pressure of needing some plan, any plan.

And that plan came to me over the weekend. I am going to revise my dissertation into a book. Maybe it won't get published and maybe it will, but I'm going to have to radically revise certain sections (basically switching out an entire chapter and doing a lot more research for another one) and then I can turn at least some of those pieces into articles on their way to being chapters. What makes my dissertation so hard is that it all builds out from the first chapter. Chapters 2-4 don't really build on one another, but they all build on Chapter 1, making it hard to conceive of an article built out of Chapter 4, for example, that would scrunch up the Chapter 1 stuff enough to make a coherent article. So mining the thing for articles has been fairly difficult. But when I do the additional research, I will approach them as separate pieces anyway, so I could make articles out of them on the way to integrating them/revising them into chapters. That's the theory anyway. Practice always changes everything anyway. But it's a plan. A plan that makes sense to me. A plan upon which I can build my professional development plan. On Monday and Tuesday, I managed to spend some time working on my professional development plan instead of just frantically grading. Of course, now I'm behind in my grading, but what else is new. I'm not going to get tenure for just doing my grading. I've got to make time for research. And a colleague of mine told me how easy it is to just lose the entire year as one adapts to the new teaching environment. So I've got to guard against that.

In other news, I don't teach Wednesdays so I get to be home and be Mom for the day. There's really no middle ground to be had between working and being at home, unless I ask Absurdist Lover to take care of him when I'm home, which seems so awful and unfair because he takes care of him when I'm gone and needs his alone time too. He doesn't want to be taking care of him all the time, but he is because we don't have money for daycare. We're in the process of getting my student loans consolidated for a lower monthly payment, then we're going to move out of this place into something cheaper, then we'll get AB into daycare of some kind and AL will be able to look for a job. (AB is a handful; nothing gets done except TV watching when taking care of him.) It's a slow road out of poverty into normalcy. It's weird to pretend to be middle class at work; in fact, it's nearly impossible considering I only have two nice pairs of pants and a few shirts. Climbing out of poverty with a baby is no picnic. We can't even begin to address the outstanding bills from the birth. Oy!

I can't think about that today. In the immortal words of Scarlett O'Hara: I'll think about that tomorrow.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I love reading other people's to do lists on blogs. I think this is because there is the sense then that I am moving through my day with these other people -- people who are also doing their best to move through their own. It's both similar to reading a novel and not. I love novels because I love being able to spend time with these other people, let them enter my head, think about them when I'm washing dishes, wonder what they would do in my life. But sometimes novels annoy me because they only focus on drama. After a novel with a good protagonist is over, I'm sad -- sad not because I want anything else to happen, I just want to hang out with the character more. I want to go to the store with them, drive down the street, see what they want to do after supper. Bloggy to do lists are like that. I get to see in to someone else's life -- the daily part, the need for a to do list, the inertia -- people don't always show the fight with themselves on the outside.

The strange part is that I haven't been writing any to do lists of my own lately. I do record my achievements on a work log, which is satisfying. I started it partly because I wanted to see how much work I was doing in teaching, research, and service each week; partly I admit I started it because I feel like I don't spend enough time at work. I feel like there is so much work to do -- and I want to do it -- but like Horace I just don't even know if it's possible to do all that work and take care of AB. For a while there, I was staying on campus four days a week from 9-6. And of course I occasionally answer emails from home, but really it's very difficult to do a lot of work at home. It's often a challenge to get a shower on the weekends, much less sustained time to read scholarship or -- crazytalk -- write some. Anyway, having the list of all I've done helps me to feel like I'm not an imposter, though of course I feel like one anyway.

Anyway, I'm thinking of going back to writing to do lists on this here blog. One thing about the blog is that I look at it throughout the day to see if anyone has commented, and I also use the links on the left. I know I should use my calendar better and that some people like google's command center, but somehow I need to be able to write things out and think things out. I have a couple of different journals going in various files: a teaching journal, a research journal. It's ridiculous. The problem with those? I write in them but I don't go back and read them often enough (though the purpose of the teaching journal this time is to write in it and then go back at the end and use it to do some formative assessment for the next time -- since it feels a bit lonely to be teaching right now, I've actually kept it up, which is more than I can say for anything regarding research).

Our provost's words are echoing in my head lately: work on your research everyday. Here's the thing: I totally agree with the Boice method of working on something a tiny bit at a time. I've done it. I believe in it. But I find it works best for active writing, once something is begun or being revised. Once it's definite, once it has an "it" of its own. For me, I'm having trouble getting back into my own work because it's been so long. Some of the arguments I really need to get out are from ages ago -- I thought them up ages ago. And they can be framed a bunch of different ways. I just can't think of the right way to do it. I know I would tell someone else to do it the way that seems the most necessary -- the way people most need to hear it, but I'm so out of touch, it's hard even to go there anymore. The arguments that once seemed so vital? I don't know if they've been hopelessly passed by.

Well, that's all folks. AB just woke up.

***Update, 10 minutes later***

AB, who by this time really deserves a more descriptive name, woke up, ate a little, and is now sleeping a bit fitfully on my lap. Maybe he's in one of those cluster-feeding growth phases. He has been much more clingy (though thank heaven not when I leave in the morning because my heart would break). Maybe it's the dark stormy gray day. Everything is quiet and sleepy -- especially the cat -- in the Absurdist household. How can I even think about getting anything done?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Today was an exasperating day. It was all set up to be a good day, free of some of the work that has plagued me for the last week. I was even kerplunking on the interwebs when dum dum duuuummm, I was reminded that the deadline for a project was staring me in the face. I had thought the work wasn't due for another month -- I really did. I went back into my notes and saw that the due date had been buried -- of course my fault for not having paid more attention, but buried nonetheless. Then I was put in charge of my little end of it, which is kind of cool because I love projects, but I felt like a complete idiot for totally having forgotten about the whole thing, not even knowing what was going on when it was mentioned. Oy vey! I hope I made up for it by getting right on it, but. . .well, we'll see. Way to go, Earnest, starting off that first year right. Sigh.

And then. . .students. What are they thinking? Now, I often have mixed feelings when faculty complain about students, but now really. Sometimes you just have to kvetch. (Partly because Absurdist Lover just can't stand hearing about it anymore.) So what I want to say is students, there are these things called due dates. They are not fuzzy rolling deadlines, but hard definite due dates. When the moment has passed, your paper is late. The late policy is on the syllabus. It's all really very simple. Today, students' special requests and begging for special consideration got so bad that when one student just came up to me and said s/he didn't have hir paper and knew it was late and the late policy applied, I nearly wept with joy for someone who just got it. Part of me thinks that maybe I'm overreacting and this is not a sign of the decline of civilization, but I really do see a difference between these students and students I've taught in the past. Some just have this sense that the rules don't apply to them. (Can you say entitlement?) The worst thing about all this is that most of my students are fine, interesting people who believe in the deadlines and really try to do their work and understand the requirements -- but these others just stand out so much in my head that it's generally dispiriting about the whole enterprise. I have to work on not letting a few rotten apples spoil the bunch for me.

Today was a great example of my exhaustion. I came home and hung out with Absurdist Baby, partly to give AL a break and partly because he's my baby and I love him and want to be with him, and I was okay for a while until after dinner when I basically just kind of passed out. (Absurdist Lover knew it was happening before I did so it's not like AB was in danger of not being watched or anything.) I woke back up and fed the baby some solids and everything, but now, the perfect time to go to bed and try to make up some of that sleep I miss when AB wakes me up at 5am, I'm not that tired and what's more, I don't wanna. This is the hardest thing for me -- not having any time for myself, so I stay up late in order to have some time, then I'm even more exhausted for everything. I think living alone for such a long time and being deeply inside of all that quiet (to the point that it was deafening at times, to mix a metaphor) makes it hard for me now when I'm used to all that quiet alone time but it's really not there to be had. But of course even when I was a kid I needed a lot of alone time. I really don't want to become my mother, but when I was a kid she also used to stay up half the night in order to be alone too.

By the way, before we moved, both our cats had gotten sick and had to be put to sleep. So we've been catless, until recently when a little grey and orangey girlcat was found sleeping inside a hose. It seems now we have a cat. Of course, we really should ask around the neighborhood and mean to, but she so fits in around here that it's hard to even want to. She's been here a week and already knows that she can run the place, stealing my water, jumping into the baby's playpen, and stretching out on the boppy when the baby is eating. For all this, she puts up with AB bopping her in the face and pulling her ears. She's sitting next to me now, purring. Her still happiness can teach me something.

Tomorrow is Friday, people. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm Back!!!

I can't stand it. I must come back to Absurdist Paradise! I still read blogs and love them. I love the sense of community when I blog. So why I haven't been blogging? One issue is time -- I'm exhausted already, always feeling like I'm doing less than I need to and way more than I can handle. Another issue is that. . .I'm not sure I'll describe it well. . .I haven't felt like I have much of a sense of self to put out into the world. I'm sure part of this is exhaustion. I certainly haven't been writing much of anything else either except what I have to (i.e. teaching stuff). But there's something about not feeling presentable and faking my way through that makes me feel quiet and like I should shut up. Or maybe that's not exactly right either. I don't know. Finally, I'm sure I'll put my foot in my mouth. Just today when I told Absurdist Lover that I wanted to go back to blogging, he said to be careful. Anyone who knows me knows I put my foot in my mouth and don't stop swallowing until I've chomped down to my thigh.

I have to admit that one of the reasons why I want to come back to blogging is terrible and self-serving: today, I read one of my own posts and found myself. . .well, much more entertaining than I am right now. (Okay, so I found my hateful dissertating self frigging hilarious. I can't believe I had all that time to waste all the time. I didn't know then what a luxury it was. But then, it's not a luxury when you're just waiting for it to pass. Now, I'd love a whole day, even a couple hours, when I could just futz and read and not be on baby patrol. Doesn't that make me sound like I'm a terrible mother? I LOVE Absurdist Baby, but man I'd really like some time to rediscover me. I'd like to go to a very nice hotel room and read. . .anything I want!)

Something about blogging helped me to resee my life in a more humorous light all these years. I think I need that now. I mean really -- what's more ridiculous than moving to a new town and starting a tenure-track job with no money, no childcare, no family or friends in the area, and a partner who really doesn't want to be staying at home with Absurdist Baby, despite that Absurdist Baby is also pretty frigging hilarious, but is. We don't go anywhere or see anyone, and we practically don't notice because with the baby we'd never have time to see friends or anything anyway. So I go to work and bust my butt (really, I've never worked quite this hard on teaching and felt like I still wasn't measuring up), respond to and grade papers, meet with students, and generally drive myself insane, then go home exhausted but feeling terrible that Absurdist Lover has been home with the baby so I should take care of the baby -- and then I'm super-exhausted, especially on the days recently when AB just is a terror about going to bed.

Side note: I'm an idiot mother. The only way that AB goes to sleep is by breastfeeding (actually eating, because he sleeps with a bottle, I think, when I'm at work). This is not conducive to getting a baby to go to bed when you want him to. So most of the time, it works and my only real worry is whether I'm going to wake him up on the long trek from the couch to his crib. But if he wakes up and starts to cry, well, I'm a wimp and can't listen to his blood-curdling screams for longer than ten minutes before I go and pick him up and try again. I know AL is always waiting for the day when I'll just let him "cry it out," but maybe I'm reading the wrong books or something, but all of them (okay, the big purple one) says not to let them cry it out -- that this is actually traumatic for them. All I know is listening to AB's blood-curdling screams is traumatic for me. This is what I mean by being an idiot mother.

Okay, back to the subject of blogging: so I started the blog in the other place and got some of you intrigued enough to ask me the password -- but it's too hard. I can't make the transition. I need to be here at the old haunt. Maybe only for a while. Maybe because my life is so different from what it was when I used to blog in earnest (ha ha) that I need to be here to stay in touch with who I was. Of course, I probably have no readers left. But we'll see how it goes. I need an outlet. And I need to talk with y'all who've all been through being a first-year tenure-tracker or want to. I need to hang out with my peeps! Maybe it's just this quarter or maybe it's my department or maybe it's just that teaching swallows everyone alive their first term, but I feel pretty darn alone at work walking back and forth from classroom to bathroom to my little cell. (See? Now doesn't that make it seem more monastic and cozy?) Also, at least right now, there doesn't seem to be much of a culture around talking about the things that interest me, though I am now on a committee and soon will be talking about something. I'm sure it doesn't help that I don't go to lunch in the Cafeteria (too expensive, too many students, too much work to do) and chance upon people from the other departments. Boice would kick my butt. Of course, I also don't get any research work done either -- both Boice and the Provost would bust me on that one. My Chair though told me to expect that teaching would swallow me alive. Oh how it is. I haven't even worked on my Professional Development Plan except in late night fits and starts.

Have I mentioned that the first time I used my breast pump in my office a guy replacing the phone nearly walked in on me? In my locked office? Sigh. But nothing like that has happened since. These are the jewels of my life I need to share. All the ridiculousness, all the puzzles. Two and a half years ago, I decided I was going undercover to record the hilarity and silliness of MLA, which quickly grew into blogging the aggravation of dissertating and developing a network of people whose support and guidance I swear made dissertating much more fun. Now I'm going back undercover to bring you the nitty-gritty of academic life, the implausibility of balance, the hilarity and exasperations of new motherhood. We'll see where we end up.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Moving Question

Okay, so trying to be cool like Maude and save the name of this blog, I made a private blog at wordpress. But instead of having a password that I can give out to people, wordpress seems to control access through people's usernames. (I seem to remember that someone fabulous had a password-protected blog but now I can't remember who or where it was.) The issue here is that in order to add people I need to know their wordpress usernames. Grrr. So, brilliant blogfolk, what do I do? Do I try to get y'all's wordpress usernames? Investigate where I remember having an actual password-protected blog? Or stick with blogger and change my blog name/URL because it's easy to add people's blogger names since so many of us are on blogger?

Hmmm. . .I could also just password-protect blogposts. Maybe that's the best because then I could actually use a password!

I'm a dork but I can't decide what I should do. What do y'all think?

Friday, July 10, 2009


Hi all. Absurdist Family has moved. In fact, we had a pretty wild ride. Imagine, if you will, a giant moving truck towing a car, two adults, and a baby. 2,500 miles. We crossed nine states and three time zones. With a stop in Grad City, it took us ten days. The baby was amazingly good. Absurdist Lover drove the whole way. I took many pictures of greenery. This country is really beautiful.

Now, esconced in our new home and thinking about the tenure-track and the dangers of blogging, I've been thinking I shouldn't blog and haven't. We all know that I'm the type to thrust my whole foot into my mouth and swallow. But away from everyone I know and looking wide-eyed into a new environment, I have much to write/process/ask about. I just miss communicating with many of you! In fact, if I don't blog, I realize, I'm going to drive Absurdist Lover nuts with my incessant talking/processing about academia. Moreover, I may just explode. So, like last time (for all you longtime readers, assuming I have any readers left), I think I need to password protect my thoughts. If you want to read the next installment of the Wacky Adventures of Earnest, please email me at, and I'll give you the secret password (or whatever). I think I'm going to leave this blog up because occasionally, I see, people still read my graduate school rants -- and I like that they are out there in the world.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


All right, all right, so I haven't exactly been doing research this week. I did, however, finish grading that set of essays. I still have one more set, but because of the Week of Busy Weirdness, I haven't even started. Because the Week of Busy Weirdness is over, I don't even care that I haven't started these essays. I had the kind of week where we did lots of good important things, but so many of them were emotional and conflicted and hard that I definitely feel I'm going to be processing them for a while. (For example, yesterday I went to a funeral.)

One of them, probably the least conflicted of all, was that I got the contract for my job! Yes! One of those mystical animals that are rarely seen: the tenure-track position. I'm sorry I didn't tell y'all sooner, but it wasn't real to me -- which means I could've jinxed it by publicizing it -- until I got the contract. (Which is why I was blogging and then basically dropped out of sight. At first, I was freaking out everyday and had nothing new to say. Then I got the offer, but it took ages until I got the contract and so was paranoid.) I will be fully employed soon! It's a good position for me, I think, because of the mission of the department, though it's not the kind of university I saw myself at. (Of course, two schools that were totally the kind of places I thought I'd be best at contacted me after I accepted the offer. Grrr. Well, if they had gotten their butts in gear sooner. . . .) While not all of the faculty have books or anything, I do think that research is very important there, so I'll be trying to pursue a pretty aggressive research agenda -- which is crazy because I don't even have a firm idea of what to do next and how to think about my research agenda beyond turning my dissertation into articles. If anyone has a good way of thinking about building a research agenda (I mean of course I have a rough one, but I could always use the extra help), please please please let me know. Boice and others don't seem to talk about the project of building a coherent research agenda! I guess we assume that everyone wants to do their research enough that it's merely about following one's interests. For me, the problem is I"m interested in so many different things that I wonder what is smartest for me to do first and how to balance long-term and short-term projects so that I have enough scholarship for tenure. Anyway, the university is in a totally different part of the country, so we're packing ourselves up and moving the second my semester is done here, which is early June.

We're ecstatic to be leaving Urban Home City, which really feels to me a lot of the time like a dying city. Cross your fingers we'll be able to find a place that has a lot of land for my gardening obsession.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Magical Month of Academic Publishing Challenge!

Everyone! Sisyphus has thrown down the gauntlet and proclaimed a Magical Month of Academic Publishing (MMAP)! And let's face it, I need it. So I'm going to blog progress and effort in the upcoming days. Really.

But first I'm finishing up the last few days of spring break (can you hear me crying???) and have to grade grade grade. I have writing projects from each of my courses, though I've already graded their midterms, which should count for something. While I doubt I'll be able to do everything before Tuesday because I don't have any uninterrupted time with Absurdist Baby (who by the way is going to be 6 months old in 11 days!!!), I must get at least one set done. The hard set. From the class who hates me. Who I had to institute reading quizzes for. Ugh.

But I'm very excited about the idea of working on scholarship. I can't wait. As soon as I'm done grading.

*****Update midnight*****

I am only now done with my eight essays. Absurdist Baby is having a really hard time right now with all his new teeth (a new one up top) and he keeps waking up and crying. For a while there I was only getting one essay done between having to go and take care of him. Am exhausted. Eight more tomorrow and the next day. I'm sure tomorrow will be easier, because I've already started.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Incensed about 60 Minutes!

Hi everyone. I'm totally freaking pissed. I just watched the 60-minutes segment on Alice Waters and slow food. It was the worst reporting I've ever seen. The piece focused on Alice Waters herself and different aspects of what she's done in the Bay Area -- and, sadly, Waters came off as an effete airheaded aesthete. But there are gross misrepresentations of the slow food and local food movement.
  1. First, the slow food movement is an international movement, begun in 1986, then really gotten underway in 1989 in Europe. Perhaps Alice Waters was a part of that original group, but it is certainly a movement that has grown far beyond just her and the Bay Area. I am part of a local foods convivium/slow foods chapter and get emails all the time for various events, from presentations to farmers markets to research projects.
  2. Supporting one's local small farmers is increasingly important in our struggling economy. The small family farmer has been eaten up by large corporations. Rather than shopping at a grocery store, one can go to a farmers' market, where I don't find the prices to be that expensive at all. Most big farmers aren't organic, putting pesticides and herbicides (poisons) on our food, and don't pay living wages to their workers.
  3. Part of the reason for eating local food has nothing to do with its taste or even supporting local farmers; it has to do with foreign oil. If we eat more locally, instead of eating food from halfway around the world or country, it takes far less gas and resources to get to us. This makes our economy less dependent on foreign oil.
  4. It is vitally important that our foods don't contain poisons in them, whether antibiotics in our meat or pesticides on our vegetables or artificial hormones in our milk. It's just not rocket science to suppose that antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides harm people. They barely even mentioned this in the 60 Minutes piece!
  5. The 60 Minutes piece compares Alice Waters' elegant breakfast with what a working mother has time to prepare. Local and/or organic food does not mean that it has to be difficult to prepare. In fact, unless one demands the convenience of a pop-tart, making a healthy quick breakfast means no extra outlay of time; cage-free eggs, BST-free milk, and organic oatmeal does not take any longer to cook than the cheapest versions of these at Wal-Mart. This made local foods look like it was only possible for the rich and leisurely, and not for the harried working moms of the world. I am a harried working mom who came home from the farmer's market this morning with cauliflower, peanuts, salad, oranges, garlic, asparagus, and potatoes. I sent out my boyfriend this evening to go get some organic butter at the local grocery store. Eating healthy, organic, and local food is not incompatible with being a busy mother -- in fact, I consider it my duty as a mom and family member to make sure that we get the best food, the best fuel with which to grow, possible on our budget.
  6. The ultimate in local foods is growing your own. How on earth is that an expensive proposition? Not all of us can do it or have time to do it? But how is this an effete upper-crust pasttime -- gardening, the most popular pasttime in the United States and historically the foundation of our economy, an actual survival skill brought back in times of stress with the Victory Garden and current community garden movement.
  7. There are growing foods programs in schools across the country, not just in the Bay Area. This is not to turn everyone into Chez Panisse chefs, but for people to develop a relationship with a resource that we must take into ourselves every few hours. Developing a relationship with how food is produced simply makes good sense. Farming is one of the basics of any society, any gathering of people. Cultivating food in one way or another is vital to our very lives. Moreover, students learn a great deal from these kinds of projects, biology, zoology, metereology, soil sceince, horticulture in addition to finally cooking. Don't we want projects where students can learn about their world? Educational theorists agree that hands-on learning is better for retention than rote memorization.
Absurdist Lover watched the 60 Minutes piece with me and said that it lacked anything of substance about why a person would focus on local and healthy foods. But he said that no one listens to 60 Minutes anymore and that no one would ever think that the movement was characterized correctly. I was hoping he was right. Then I looked at the comments to the segment online. Oh boy. Clearly many people think that Alice Waters represents the elite of America and that "her movement" is some idiocy that only people with more dollars than sense would dream up. I'm considering leading (or joining) a petition to 60 Minutes to object to this characterization of the movement. It seemed to put a whole movement at Alice Waters's feet. Actually, many people have been talking about local food from all sorts of different vantage points. I would like to send 60 Minutes a list!

What I would like to tell people is that if you're interested in these issues, there are better representations of the concerns, such as Barbara Kingsolver, et al's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Slow Food International, and Local Harvest.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mr. Tabby 1994-2009, May He Rest in Peace

This is a picture of him when we lived in the camper. But in the last six weeks he developed mouth cancer -- first it was a hard little ball you could feel on the side of his jaw, then it grew awfully fast until he couldn't close his mouth. In addition to the medication he was on for his hyperthyroid, he was on three additional medications. He looked awful, he smelled awful, worst of all he clearly felt awful. There was nothing to be done to cure the mouth cancer. Yesterday, we decided it was time.

Fifteen years that cat and I were together. We lived together in eight different cities, even more apartments; we went overseas and back together. I picked him out of a litter at the pound. That was before I got married, before I finished college, before I got divorced and got two more degrees. He was there for all of it, purring in my lap. I've had Mr. Tabby so long I don't really know that I got him in 1994. It could've been 1993.

He used to be a great hunter, along with the cat who raised him, who died a couple years ago in Grad City, though with all the moves I eventually made them both indoor cats. He used to jump into people's laps. Even people who didn't like cats liked him.

I'm just sad over here. The rest of the family is merely okay: Absurdist Baby is as happy as ever and occasionally squabbly because of his two teeth, and Absurdist Lover's back has gone out.

Monday, February 23, 2009

He Can't Have a Tooth, He's Only Four Months Old!

But apparently Absurdist Baby doesn't realize that most babies get their teeth around six months. His first tooth came up and is now clear as day (okay, white) -- it came up last Wednesday. And today he is officially four months old.

I'm just trying to make it through -- really I'm just edgy and worried and wishing that I would hear something from Interesting U, though really it will be definitely another week or two and maybe even more before I hear something. And that is if it's good news. Meanwhile I'm trying to do the very reasonable thing of applying to more schools. When I printed out an application for an upcoming community college deadline, I said over the printer: may I not need this application. Sigh.

I'm teaching a pre-transfer course that I taught last semester. Last semester, only a handful passed the class, but with being pregnant and everything, I didn't have time to feel bad about it. Really, most didn't pass the class because they didn't keep up with the work, not because their writing was good or bad. This semester, I began to feel bad about it -- that I can't figure out a way to reach the students, to make the work of academic writing seem worth the investment. But I totally understand not feeling invested in academic conversations. After all, who reads their academic writing to respond other than for evaluation? They are taught so often that academic writing is a matter of structure, rather than conversation. Who cares about mastering a set of discourse conventions if you can't see why you'd want to participate in the conversation? I worried and gnawed at this bone for a while the weekend before last. Then last week we had our first journal assignment due. I went around the room -- and about a dozen people hadn't done it. Sigh. And I had this epiphany: the reason why some of these students are in this pre-transfer class is because they don't do their schoolwork, not because no one has ever tried to reach them. My job is not to feel bad about the ones who don't do their work (but still show up -- don't they realize they're not in high school anymore???), but to spend my time on the ones who really want to figure out what they're not getting and move on. Still, I wish I could make them feel more invested in the work of the class and of the university in general -- but to be honest, I'm not very convinced either that drilling a certain kind of academic essay (which is what this writing sequence seems to do) is really that useful for all students (okay, the ones who are going to transfer, maybe, but what about the ones who are not? shouldn't we be teaching students how to enter a number of discourses and helping students develop strategies for figuring out how to enter discourses?). I'm sure my own lack of excitement for what I'm teaching comes across too. Isn't it interesting that the community college doesn't seem to care what we are committed to?

So here's a question. I'm teaching an intro to literature class organized by genre. I figure we'll do a writing assignment for each genre. But I want to mix it up: I just don't want students to write four different literary essays. It just seems so boring to me -- and aren't there other genres that discuss literature in interesting ways? I've been trying to think of different situations where readers would be asked to make an argument about a text beyond the "this is school, so write me an essay" kind of thing. I could break up the three essays into the traditional explication, analysis/argument, and evaluation essays, but I want to have different situations or even genres so there are real audiences to write to. Does anyone have any ideas? What are your favorite writing projects about literature? I'm out of my element (which is weird, because I used to do literature; on the other hand, I always wrote into conversations that I felt a part of, which I don't think would be the case for these students -- I guess I just want there to be some connection between a Facebook meme that asks people to name and explain a book that changed their lives and a close reading of a text that they have to do for class: help please!).

Money is tight. Jobs are scarce. Absurdist Baby is the cutest happiest thing I've ever seen, even teething (which has made his sleeping habits odd, but he doesn't actually scream a lot or anything). I feel more and more like Urban Home City is dying, and we need to get out because people here are just mean the way too many rats in a cage just start biting themselves and others for no reason. In short, same old same old.

Cross your fingers Interesting U wants to hire me. I'm in the bargaining stage so maybe I've already lost the job: I promise to blog more when I get an offer. Right now, even Absurdist Lover says I'm scaring him (mostly with bad puns). Happy equinox to all and to all a good night!

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's Always Something. . .If Not Grading Jail, Then It Is

that I went on my campus interview, did not actually fall on my face or anything -- in fact, had really stimulating conversations and now wish desperately that these cool people will be my new colleagues -- and now get to wait, wait, wait for them to fly in their other candidates. My new mantra: May I be a tough act to follow, may I be a tough act to follow, may I be a tough act to follow. I really hope to not go insane, because it will definitely be another two weeks, probably more, before I hear word one -- and already I'm Miss Antsy-Pants. I can't stand myself. I don't know how anyone else can.

The two other places that I haven't heard from after my MLA interview? Well, I still haven't heard anything -- and don't know what to think, except that they've probably already started flying people out who don't post to the Wiki. But I would appreciate some news. Soon. Like in my mailbox right now.

Our new semester started, and I have two new crops of students. I'm sure I'll have something to say about them soon. So far, I've just been struggling to keep up, get the semester started, get them their handouts. The usual.

Absurdist Baby is teething. I know he's not even four months, but I can see the outlines of those two bottom teeth pushing against his gumline. My mother said that each of her kids got their first teeth around four months (less than a week for AB). He's growing out of clothes daily. He stares at me when I eat. I can totally see how I'm going to turn around one day and he'll have scooted himself across the floor. Then I'll blink, and he'll be sixteen and wanting to borrow the car for his questionable adventures. I wonder if I'll ever feel grounded in what day it is and what's going on and feel on top of things ever again. But he's so happy and interesting, it's a pleasure to spend my slightly-rattled days with him. What a weird adventure this all is. He's starting to squawk. Gotta run!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Grading Jail

Have only graded two essays out of twenty-eight. Sigh. Am totally panicked about campus visit. Wish the two other places I'm up for would contact me already.

Uh oh, baby awake. Gotta go. =(

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh Wisdom of teh Internets, Don't Fail Me Now

So maybe an hour after I posted that last post on Monday, Absurdist Lover got laid off. Needless to say, this has caused my head to go a-swirl with money problems. I'm going to have to go ask my father if I can borrow money since I don't get paid from the Community College until the 10th -- my father, the same one who said I needed to find someone else to ask. Not good. I'm hoping that because it's a short-term loan, he won't balk. Ugh.

AL's dad has work for him, so he got up early and left the baby and me to sleeping in on this nice gray Saturday. (For a while, it's been obnoxiously hot and sunny, which I find depressing in January, but the last few days it's been raining, so that's better. I don't know why so much sun in the winter makes me depressed -- I think it's that sunny days are these extroverted go-out-and-meet-the-world days that make me want to stay in -- not having the nice gray rainy inward days really knocks me out of whack -- but of course that's this town all over -- a total imbalance of extroversion and do-do-do and by the way, can you get me an agent?) I need to grade. Thursday, I graded seven essays. Then yesterday, I graded three and was totally pooped. (I had spent many hours at the office, so it was hard to do both in one day.) So I have eighteen left -- I should get at least nine done today. I should also get ready for Monday. But instead of grading, I'm possessed with the fact that. . .

I have a campus interview in less than two weeks. I'm thrilled that I have a campus interview, even though it's at a place that seems less than ideal. I'm also waiting for two other schools to get back to me -- one had said they would be getting back to us by now (I realize trolling their website is not going to give me insight into what is going on with them, but when has that ever stopped me -- it's the exact kind of job I want, which means they will never call me), the other still has some time. I should also be sending out apps for the couple of second-season jobs that are out there, but it's hard to screw up the oomph for that. I have to put together a talk, but what I feel more prepared for is a good whine about how much I need a job. Whatever I say, the subliminal message will be: Please, please, please. Hire me! I'll work like a dog. I promise. I'm a go-to kind of person, I swear. I'm a workhorse. Hire me, hire me! I realize this kind of desperation is not the best with which to walk into an interview situation -- a search committee can probably smell fear -- but it's all I've got! This is my first campus interview (Adventure U's process was a bit different) so I'm thinking about all sorts of stupid things like if someone is picking me up at the airport, does that mean I shouldn't wear jeans on the plane? Should I be marginally professional at all times? Ugh. What do you think? What advice can you give me about campus visits?

Monday, January 19, 2009

You Know How People Say that Having Children Focuses You? Today, It's a Lie.

I'm having one of those days where I can't seem to get myself to do anything. Not that kind where I don't want to get out of bed -- I got up, fed the cats, medicated Mr. Tabby, fed the baby, changed the baby, took pictures of the baby propping himself up with his arms while on his belly, fed myself, etc. No, I'm not depressed. It's a nice gray day when it's nice to have the blinds open -- and I just want to enjoy the quiet. Just want to enjoy the baby and my own thoughts. I think I only have these days when I have tons to do and don't do any of it. When I have little that is pressing, I think I get bored. I don't know -- it hasn't happened in a while.

I should be grading student papers. I'm teaching this wild five-week intersession class. They turned these in the last time we met, then my groaner-loaner gave it up, so I had to cancel last week's last meeting day. Today we have off. There's no logical reason for students not to get their papers back tomorrow. But they won't. The question is really whether they will get them this week. At this point, I don't think so.

In addition to my procrastinating habits so bad as to be criminal, it's also just that this weekend was so awful. Absurdist Lover's back went out -- this time on the side. His job doesn't offer insurance, and we can barely afford to make rent -- so getting him some solo insurance isn't possible right now. He didn't work Friday. By Saturday he was in agony. It then moved down to his leg. Last night, his leg went numb, which, while scary, was a relief because the pain medication we had wasn't working. My internet research suggests that his sciatic nerve is pinched -- but what's doing the pinching? We don't know. He was in so much pain it was scary. I was waiting for the moment when I would have to take him to the emergency room. In addition to feeling helpless and trying to help him do a couple things, I had full-time care of the baby -- and we had to get food and stuff. We got my car back on Friday -- and now I'm getting much better at going to the store with the baby. I'd like to say I was loving and helpful the whole weekend, but I wasn't. I had a cold with a headache. And I was worrying about when these papers were going to get graded, since I was getting no relief from baby care. AL went to work this morning, his leg still numbish, so now it's quiet around here -- and even during the times, like now, when I could be grading, I'm not.

I also made the mistake of answering my phone. A medical bill has gone to collection. I got paid on Friday, but it's all gone already -- to food. I can't even pay my sister back the $60 I borrowed a few weeks ago and had for a while, but now it seems to have gone poof! The collection agent was prepared to work with me and reduce the amount, but I had to tell him that I had $25 until I get paid next (and really that has to go entirely to rent, so I actually have to make what I have last three weeks, which is impossible, and I don't know what we're going to do). So I have the whole money thing swirling in my head. I looked up WIC, and I think our little household makes too much money to qualify, which seems impossible because we don't have anything. One good answer to all this would be for me to apply for more jobs. That would even make sense. But though I know I must get a tenure-track job, any tenure-track job, I'm conflicted about it because then I'll be away from Absurdist Baby so much. I mean, I know I have to do it. But it's hard to feel gung ho about applying for second-season jobs. Especially as I've also been wiki-watching and biting my nails hoping for campus interviews.

Sigh. One interview that I thought I did well on has gone on a hiring freeze. Though I'm not sure that they would've called me anyway. So I'm crossing my fingers about two others but really should be applying applying applying to the handful of new jobs. Heck, I should be grading the essays for the job I have now. And what about the bills I should be entering for the law office? This is not good. I'm hoping writing this blogpost will help me get this flakey mindmeandering out of my system. Scarily, I think I'd prefer to do the office stuff over the grading right now. It's already 2pm, and I have gotten nothing done! Where's the panic? What is wrong with me? I just feel so overworked already! Absurdist Baby is wonderful, and I love him dearly, but taking care of him is work! I feel like I should get to enjoy some quiet. And I should get to putter and think about the holiday today and the inauguration tomorrow and the historical importance of all that. I also want to think about the whole immunization thing, since I took AB to the pediatrician on Friday and signed the immunization form instead of had him shot up with six different things(!), but now I feel like a bad parent -- and stupid too. I don't fear autism or anything -- I fear all the long-term effects that we don't really know about. But all this just worries me. I just want to enjoy some worry-free living for a few blessed minutes. After all, if AL were in trouble, he'd call. I hope he is okay. He endures a lot and then to have the searing pain that he's in. . .it's just too much. The poor man is going to explode.

Cross your fingers that I stop puttering the apartment and teh internets and get to work and feel productive and stop daydreaming and worrying about things I can't do anything about right now.