Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tot's in Daycare, So I Should Work: Blogging for Organization

Okay, my beautiful child is in daycare for the day. I did NOT like that I saw the older kids watching TV with popsicle sticks in their mouths at 10am! I realize this is not the worst thing to see in a daycare, but what's the point of being so careful about organic everything at home if he's going to get high fructose corn syrup and other poisons at daycare? I don't like it. Absurdist Lover does not thing it's the worst thing in the world.

I also did not like that Absurdist Tot starting crying again today as we left. He got this panicky look even when he got into the room. It's just a phase, right? Please let it just be a phase. Please let this not be some signal that he's got good reason to be unhappy there. They always say that he has great days there; that he only cries for a few minutes when we leave and then he's fine. Of course, if there were anything bad going on, that's exactly what they'd say. Not that I really think there is anything bad going on. But it's very hard to know. Oy!

But anyway, he's in daycare today. Which means I cannot waste the day reading blogs and being slothful, which is what I want to do since I'm still sick. I must get organized. Since having him in daycare is supposed to be about getting work done, I need to make some movement on my conference paper. It would be nice to get something done on other projects as well, but I'm flexible on that point. I also want to bake some more bread because we got organic flour and butter -- and we just need bread! I also need a shower. (I know, probably TMI, but I'll tell you -- with an active toddler just as with a baby, it's very hard to get away long enough to take a shower. And when the baby is sick too and wants to nurse and sleeps with you in the bed again because he's having trouble sleeping on his own, well, watching movies all day is a cinch, but taking a shower or keeping AT away from the tissues is very very difficult.)

I'm having trouble organizing all this disparate stuff I want to do, so I'm going to do what is best for me (and probably boring for you), and write through it. Bread is great because it takes so many different steps that I can work on it, then go to take a shower, work, read, work out (something else I wanted to do today that if I do manage this I should do this BEFORE I take a shower), and come back. So, here's the list:

  • Bake bread. Done.
  • Work on Conference Paper. Have typed in notes for all 20 pages. Need to make some decisions about how to focus the thing. Probably need to print it out again so I can see what there is. I wish I could do more, but this is probably it for the day, since it's already 3pm.
  • Take shower. Done.
  • Workout (maybe). Amazingly, I worked out. I'm exhausted.
  • This is as far as I got in my list. I'll have to do the other things betwixt and between. Gotta go pick up the kiddo. (Do you know -- I don't have much time to contemplate this, but I can't believe I have a child?!)
  • Think about submitting something to Cool Little Conference.
  • Look for any open and interesting panels for Big Icky Conference that is in Urban City and so would at least pay for my ticket to Urban City.
  • Do some more research work?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Potholders for Tenure

So here are some of my crochet projects, which I wish counted for tenure:

You'll see that the two on the left are similar -- potholders done in Tunisian crochet, a special kind of crochet that is sort of a cross between crochet and knitting, so there's a special long hook with a stopper on the end like a knitting needle. The one on the right is actually not a potholder, but a coffee cozy that I designed myself in single crochet. What is a coffee cozy, and why would one ever need one? Well, we have a French press coffeemaker, but because Absurdist Lover and I often get up at different times, the coffee often gets cold. We know we need to buy one that has the heating guard thingie on it, but we don't have the money, especially to replace something that is perfectly good but annoying. (We need to buy a vaporizer and new immune-boosting supplements for Absurdist Tot -- let me know if anyone has any recommendations on that -- he's been sick once too often for me. Anyway, we have to buy the stuff we don't have way before we ever get to upgrading the stuff we already have.)

This is the Coffee Cozy at work:

And as crazy as it sounds, it actually does keep the coffee warm.

I'm also excited about this new and super-easy potholder pattern, so I made two of them. Ironically, I think these were both the easiest and the most professional looking:

I'm even thinking that those friends of mine who are newly married (ahem, Maude) might want to tell me what colors they prefer in their kitchen so I can make them a bunch of handmade-with-love potholders (from this last pattern that looks so good and is so easy, of course).

I love crochet because unlike teaching or writing, I can see the progress moment by moment. I realize this is probably not what an untenured academic mom should be doing when not teaching, but this gives me such happiness, as does the bread I just taught myself to bake (no bread machine, no Kitchenaid to do my mixing for me). I just love these homey things. And hope everyone I love in the world wants potholders and scarves!

Just like Susan Gubar describes quilting as the thing that helped her to do the difficult work of working on Poetry after Auschwitz, an amazing tome on Holocaust poetry, I bet everyone has their own coping project for the tenure battle. So far, the tenure track process does not seem like dissertating: there are so many different aspects of the process and no one is eagerly awaiting my work, ready to comment on it, stamp it as good enough or not. I'm on my own. My own illness-addled brain has put together this idea about where I need to focus my energies lately: I'm doing the teaching, though maybe I'm not doing as well as I'd like to, I'm doing service, but research is where I need to focus, because that is what I'm just not getting done enough. I'll get them all on track, then work on improving each one. What do other people do to help them cope with the rigors of the tenure track? What other coping projects/hobbies do people have?

I also have pictures of my bread, but maybe I'll forego that project right now. I also have thoughts I want to share about being on the other side, being on the search committee, but I'll save that for another time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sick Again Again

I am sick.

My son is better at being sick than I am. He's still pretty good-natured except when something hurts and then he cries -- but who can blame him? Mostly I am just grumpy. AL's been very sweet. So I'm not so grumpy as much as just slow. I feel like Frankenstein's monster.

I did get some work done in slow motion while waiting to see the doctor.

Over and out.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Work Epiphanies and Runny Noses

So Absurdist Tot has some kind of nose cold again that I hope won't turn into some terrible ear infection. Because of that and a big winter storm coming in, we're keeping him home from playschool tomorrow again. It's too bad because I could really do well with a working day. Last Thursday I stayed home and worked, but because I had things I promised other people, I kept my head down and focused on those, got those off my list -- then I talked to my mom and that was the end of the day. My worst days with AT are those in which I want and am trying to get some work done but then he doesn't want to cooperate, taking a short nap or being impossible to put down, like he was today (luckily I had no expectations today that I'd get anything done -- so I was able to teach myself a new potholder technique).

Over the weekend, I figured out the injunction to write research 30-60 minutes per day actually means to work 30-60 minutes per day. Which means I can write notes on something already written or read research and take notes or whatever. As long as I move forward somewhat five days a week, things are ideal. Of course, I haven't quite gotten that or asked for that. Tomorrow would've been a great day to try to refocus. Oh well. I'm glad I can be flexible now, because too soon I won't be able to. I could always ask Absurdist Lover to watch him for an hour, though AT's been very whiney and it's hard to get to even leave the room to go to the bathroom!

Absurdist Lover has been great about looking for a job too. Obviously a winter storm gets in his way too. He's also pretty much reorganized the entire apartment. All of the sudden, there's more space everywhere. We finally got rid of our Christmas tree (though we're still finding pine needles). This weekend, I've been contemplating my elective and read through five pages of my conference paper (the update on that is on the writing project sidebar, which I've decided would be a good thing to keep up). Mostly I've been crocheting and mopping up AT's nose.

On Friday, I managed to get all sorts of tasks done in almost no time at all -- including scheduling my flights and hotel for Big Conference. But though I should use the conference time to reconnect with what's going on in the field, really all I care about is hooking up with old friends and colleagues. I guess that's what happens when you move to a new place and don't really know anybody.

It's so silly. I've been wanting to blog this great epiphany about how the key for me to working on research is going to be just looking to the next step (like driving in the dark) and working a bit on that. I think next year I'm going to try harder to get research done during the teaching times -- and try to take real vacations. I need them. But really it's hard for me to care about any of that. I'm loving cooking -- I made pork chops with apples and onions last night. I now have yeast for bread. Scholarship seems very far away, almost silly, in comparison with the the dark night where we wait for snow, hoping AT's simple cold doesn't turn into something else, and my throat just this minute starting to feel raw and sore.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

First Step

There have been all sorts of things going on -- I got some needed work done today, AT has started crying when we leave him at daycare (and I'm trying to figure out whether that's significant or it just goes with the clingy phase he's in at the moment), it turns out we can't stay with my folks for my sister's wedding which has brought up a bunch of anger and resentment in me, but underneath all of that is just plain feeling hurt for not being seen or understood by my family as well as epiphanies about the uses of anger in my life -- but after a very work-focused day, I just want to share the cool thing that is coming up, the thing that has Absurdist Lover and me really excited: we joined a CSA! Instead of paying for our weekly share of the harvest, I'll be working at the farm! We're so excited to be connecting with people in this way, since we have no sense of community here. (It seems that very few faculty members at my university are my age or have lives like mine. Other than that, it can be hard to meet people. I've poked around a little for playgroups, but the one close by us here is for stay-at-home moms, which is obviously not me. And I'm not a very good joiner anyway.) The CSA share people will have get-togethers -- and of course the workers too. We're very curious about the other people who have invested in this organic farm! We'll find people like us, maybe! I'll have my hands in the dirt one day a week. I'll learn how to be a better gardener. I'll get some much needed exercise and take in big breaths of good clean air. AL is a huge Star Wars (the originals, thank you very much) fan so he often quotes "you've taken your first step into a larger world" but this time I think it's true.

Have I mentioned recently that when I took one of the tests on one's various interests back in high school career guidance, my top field was not writing or art (like I wanted), but agriculture? Maybe I'll catch up with a different self in those fields. Maybe I'll find out how hard it is to work for one's food. I'm excited!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Time for a Change

I decided that it was time for a change for Absurdist Paradise, partly because some people have commented over time that the blog can be hard to read, but also because I've decided to turn over a new leaf. In order to combat my sometimes dark vision of the world, I've decided to respond with crochet and handmade things and what I'm calling a radical wholesomeness (progressive, of course, homey, backtotheland hippie-ish without the acid and the Kool-Aid) instead of my typical snark, which, while fun in a dark cynical way, hasn't made me happy. I see this new colorful template with its rounded edges as more exemplifying this newer approach to life. So there it is.

I'm taking a big leap toward faith and hope and hoping those things will take a giant leap toward me. In honor of such things, I'm rereading Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies. I also want to get out more into nature, where I feel like I can breathe. Of course, it's been snowing lately. I can't believe our local ducks, geese, and swans are still around and haven't flown south. The swans especially seem to flap around in the one bit of our pond that isn't completely frozen over. I have to remember to bring them some bread soon. And contact this local farm about their CSA. I want to be part of those things I think are good, instead of complaining about those things that I think are bad.

And pics of crocheted potholders are forthcoming, but I've really felt physically terrible today, so everything's a bit slow going.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Parenting Post: Valentines and Immunizations

Truth be told, the Valentines were not a huge success as a craft project for Absurdist Tot. But I had a great time, before and after I got the glue stick out of his mouth (cap on, but still). How fun that I'm going to get to go through all of this twice! When I was a kid, I remember so vividly being mad at my hands for not being able to do what I wanted them to do -- color within the lines, cut straight, be as exact and careful as I wanted. Wow, the frustration. As an adult I've collected some of the Dover coloring books because they are just so good -- and some colored pencils. No, not in preparation for having a child, but for me! Though I haven't colored in a long long time.

Anyway, I think that it's just fine that it didn't go particularly well with AT and the Valentines. It's all a process. And as a parent I'm getting used to the idea that the first time of doing anything isn't going to go well, like feeding him almost any food in his high chair. I'm thankful for all the things that do go well, like his not crying at all when we leave him at daycare (so far and knock on wood) and his eating jarred organic baby spinach (also so far). Lots of things get better over time, like, get this, his taking his medicine. Imagine a toddler coming up to you and opening his mouth for the dropper of pink stuff. I think this comes from how little sugar he gets -- except in his organic "o"s, the fabulous organic crackers we all love, and his yogurt. So that when it comes to the high fructose corn syrup they no doubt put in the pink stuff? He loves it. He also loves taking acetaminephin drops. Go figure.

Can I just take this small detour and say how difficult it is to get decent information as a parent? I went in for a meet and greet with a new doctor for me (who seems great actually, supportive of alternative medicine and into making yearly health goals), and we had the immunization conversation. It sounds so reasonable when someone talks about the dangers of globalization and having seen children suffering from polio and how children's immune systems handle vaccines better than adults do. But then there are all these people I trust who are very skeptical of immunizations from all sorts of different angles -- potential brain injury, the dangers of over-stimulating a child's immune system all at once, the old autism debate, lack of sufficient testing of the newer vaccines (and you should see what they say about the Swine flu vaccine!), that vaccines don't work very well. And then there's the report I heard that pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines give tons of money to the AMA -- and while I don't want to say that there's some conspiracy about stifling certain kinds of research, there really doesn't have to be. It's a well understood psychological phenomenon that people tend to find their friends more persuasive -- and then there's the whole issue that Western medicine is not good at understanding or testing for how different systems interact with one another. Not to mention that we live in the country where certain government agencies are so bought by corporate food and farming industries, it's not much of a leap to think that other powerful corporations and industries might have undue influence on certain kinds of policies, even with well-meaning and rigorous people. And what about healthy skeptical conservatism? When I check online to see if I can drink yerba mate or take oil of oregano (which AL swears by) as a nursing mother, the websites say there haven't be sufficient tests to show that they are safe and nonharmful to the nursing baby so don't do it, don't take that chance. But with immunizations we're supposed to go the other way and ask whether they've been proven to be dangerous and/or caused problems. Why is that?

I'm tempted to collect a whole bunch of information from different sources together and hand them to her and say: here's why a reasonable thinking person would question the value of giving immunizations to her child. (For example, our pediatrician said that while he supported immunizations, he would "respect our beliefs," as if it's not a faith-based decision rather than a thinking one. Weird for me to be on that side of things.)

Anyway, today I have to go to work and be a professional academic instead of a confused mom. Can I please get tenure from crochet projects? Please? I'm becoming a whiz at potholders! (Oh and I did look at an early draft of my conference paper yesterday, but who cares about that?)

Please cross your fingers for Absurdist Lover's job search efforts. We live in a terrible place to find a job, but I'm hopeful he'll find something. I just hope with all my heart that he finds something he likes and feels good and useful at, as much as any of us get to.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Valentines Project

Of course now that I've begun cutting out hearts, my ideas of the whole project have begun to expand: what if we sent Valentines to everyone in Urban Home City and Urban Home State? It's very hard to keep up with everyone back there, so most of Absurdist Tot's family members can't keep up with him.

After I thought about how many extra hearts this would be (around 10), I came back to my senses. There are already 15 kids at playschool.


By the way, I'm sorry that AP has seemed to take a left turn into being a mom blog. Because I'm sick, I've given myself some time off from working on the two articles and one conference paper I have to do. It seems to me that academics just frigging work too much -- and I'm enjoying a little time off. I know most of y'all don't have the opportunity for this, but I'll be teaching and grading and everything when many of you are on vacation.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Monday, February 8, 2010

And So It Begins. . .

the Mom projects. It turns out that Absurdist Tot's playschool (daycare) is having a Valentine's Day party on Thursday. I now have a list of all the kids' names. Do I buy the little Valentines that I remember from elementary school and just put names on them, which I can do easily and quickly one night after AT's in bed? Or do I buy red construction paper, cut our hearts, and begin our first craft project together? To me, this seems like a choice between convenient, yet anonymous commercialism and a handmade but time-consuming, potentially frustrating, potentially fun project. Of course, I am reading too much into it -- not every kid project must bear the weight of my deciding what kind of parent and person I am. But perhaps because I've been thinking about so much lately about how I need therapy to work through some really big issues from my own childhood and how I don't do enough with AT, this choice seems weighty and important. Especially because I'm always touting the intrinsic goodness of the handmade gift. Obviously, this means that I'm going to have to get myself to the drugstore and buy some construction paper and glue. We have some Sesame Street stickers that I thought were a silly purchase of mine at the time (ha! something in me knew better in that JoAnn's line), and I could get crayons, markers, more stickers, or, dare I say it, fingerpaint. The whole thing sounds daunting, especially in our Berber-carpeted apartment. But I was just reading about craft ideas for children his age last night (and saw many different things, including the very real idea that he is simply too young and the best play is self-directed -- of course, they all touted the goodness of pudding fingerpainting which is only good if you don't mind your child eating that much sugar).

I have long wanted to get his little handprint. It's no good always meaning to do something, but not getting to it from just not taking the trouble to get it done. AT needs a better example than that. He needs a good role model. Which is why I need therapy. Having such a happy child and not wanting to screw him up with my baggage is a great motivator.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sick Again

When I brought Absurdist Tot into bed this morning to nurse, I noticed that he seemed sniffly. As the day wore on, this blew up into a full-on cold, complete with sneezing, running nose, crankiness, and strange sleep patterns. All this, while he fights taking his antibiotics (yes, the pink stuff) for the ear infection and upper respiratory infection he seemed to be over. This, so far, looks more like a cold -- a virus.

I could cry. I have. I probably will again.

That is all.

Still Sick

I was going to write everything in bullets, but then I realized that everything sort of bleeds into one another, which probably means that while my life might be particularly messy, most likely it's that I'm unable to divide, organize, basically control or make sense of my life. Yes, that is definitely true. I am definitely feeling my life is happening to me, wave upon wave crashing over me. It's not a great feeling.

First and foremost, I am sick. Really sick. I'm sure I have an ear infection because I'm hearing all sorts of weird sounds in my ear. I got it from Absurdist Tot, who got his first ear infection and is on antibiotics. I am not thrilled about his being on antibiotics because of the merry-go-round of sick-antibiotics-sick that so many kids end up on (where's the preventative medicine, dammit? but I guess that's all the good nutrition we're forcing on him). Anyway, since he's on antibiotics, he's actually fine, going to his second day of daycare on Thursday. They sent home three artworks of things he was working on (I don't know how they did this, because he's fifteen months and super active) on "four" and "yellow" and when I saw them I just started bawling. His first artworks! His first lessons! I'm weepy just thinking about it. We don't do anything like this at home. I mean I point and say things and try to get him to make connections between the color red in the book and the red Elmo doll, but all this really leads to is his throwing the Elmo over the gate and trying to bite the book. I confess I haven't really done enough to try to figure out educational activities for him. Mostly he runs around and plays and eats. I'm already exhausted, have very little time to read, and have no extra money to get books on development or games. But clearly I need to at least know more about how to teach him things. I don't know. The thing I'm really trying to encourage with him right now is communication. I want him to learn more words, since he's only really got two down. But I guess it's okay that I'm not doing the same thing as the daycare.

We took him to the eye doctor because one eye looks in toward his nose, and they want him to wear glasses all day every day. I just don't think this will ever work. He likes to pull my glasses off my nose. And he can't get at them all the time. Absurdist Lover and I haven't officially discussed it yet because I'm too sick right now. I'm sick still because not only have I been doing search committee work that has had me running around and because I don't have a doctor and when I tried to find one, first the local provider list on my HMO's website was completely wrong, listing doctors at locations where the people had never heard of them. Then I called doctors in the booklet. One number was disconnected. Another was taking no more managed care patients. Two more were closed that day. Finally, one is taking new patients but schedules a meet and greet so she can explain her policies. Why do I, who already distrusts medicine in general, have a bad feeling about someone explaining her policies to me? I just want to say look: you work for me. Not the other way around. But I've got an HMO and the real plain fact of managed health care in this country is that the doctors work for the insurance companies. Anyway, I'm still sick and am going to beg her to please look in my damn ear rather than just tell me her damn policies.

There's an unbloggable situation at work concerning other people, not me, but it's completely inflamed my imposter syndrome. Now I think: are they going to remember that I wore jeans come promotion time? I swear I really think this, often freaking out about clothes and how I present myself and what the full professor who wears suits and ties everyday (and, while nice and reasonably friendly, is sort of a caricature of a professor type) must be thinking about me. I feel like I'm just not presentable. And let's face it: with bunched up snotrags in my pockets, I'm probably not. I should not be at work. Of course, the head of the committee wants us to meet again on Monday. And though I think it's important to have my voice in the mix, I think I may bow out. Everyone who sees me says I should be at home (except my colleagues on the committee, of course). OY.

What else? I pretty much have a bleak and dire outlook on everything right now. Much of our lives seems hopeless. Of course, it is February. There's a reason why February is the shortest month. But it's probably really that I'm sick and that AT's two days a week at daycare (we can barely afford that right now) end up getting taken up with committee stuff. I've been trying to get work done on my scholarly projects. But I'm now so sick I really can't do that. Today, I got a nap because AT needed a long nap after waking up early and being tortured by the eye doctor. Glasses for AT! We can't even afford to pick up my glasses, making it good that the frames are on backorder. And I'm so stupid, I didn't sign him up for vision insurance because I figured, ineptly, that what kids needs vision insurance and I was trying to save every little bit of money for our monthly living expense. Stupid stupid stupid.

I want to be one of those women who can't be defeated, like Julia Child or the women in Steel Magnolias (and what else? What else should I be watching and thinking about for inspiration??? Let me know!), but I'm thinking I'm not a strong person -- or the kind of strong I am is flexible, if at all. I want to be one of those people who are just determined and positive and optimistic when things happen, just fighters, unable to feel defeated and sorry for themselves and like the whole world is out to get them. How does one become like that? I'm thinking I need therapy or to get religion or something. Well, first, I need to get well. Except for today's nap, I haven't been able to take care of myself and sleep in. My life just doesn't allow me to do those things. I need to nurse. I need to get up with AT. Absurdist Lover does help and do a lot, but I still don't get left alone much (not to mention the one room where I could get away if AL watches AT is the bedroom, which has poor light and is very cold and without money to rectify those situations -- well, this is what I mean by everything seeming hopeless). I told AL that I want to sleep in, that I'd nurse AT, but then he could watch him and feed him yogurt, etc. We'll see what happens. I'm sure once I'm reasonably healthy, my outlook will improve. Right now, everything but AT sucks. And the poor boy has my eyes.

So my friends you can see that I'm not altogether here. Absurdist Lover is also sick, but doesn't seem to have stuff in his ear. Of course, he doesn't have insurance, since we're not married and he's unemployed, so it's good if he doesn't need antibiotics. I clearly do.

Still I recognize things could be worse, and I'm thankful they are not. I'm trying. I really am.