Friday, December 12, 2008

Dear Mr. President (elect)

Hat tip to Historiann for posting this, and I encourage everyone to support the efforts described below:

Friends and colleagues,
Attached is a letter to President-elect Obama making a historical case for more attention to gender equity in the proposed stimulus package. It is based on a draft circulated by Linda Gordon with input from several others. We are sending it out to you now in the hope of gathering signatures from students of history–which we mean in the most inclusive sense. To sign on, please send an email with your name and affiliation to Alice O’Connor: aoconnor(ampersand)history(dot)ucsb(dot)edu. Please respond NO LATER THAN 5pm (PST) Monday December 15. We plan to send the letter on Tuesday, and then to have it posted on appropriate websites. And DO forward to others. With thanks in advance for your help,

Linda Gordon, New York University
Mimi Abramovitz, Hunter College
Rosalyn Baxandall, SUNY Old Westbury
Eileen Boris, UC Santa Barbara
Rosie Hunter
Alice Kessler-Harris, Columbia University
Alice O’Connor, UC Santa Barbara
Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth College
Sally Stein, UC Irvine

"Dear President-elect Obama,

As students of American history, we are heartened by your commitment to a jobs stimulus program inspired by the New Deal and aimed at helping “Main Street.” We firmly believe that such a strategy not only helps the greatest number in our communities but goes a long way toward correcting longstanding national problems.

For all our admiration of FDR’s reform efforts, we must also point out that the New Deal’s jobs initiative was overwhelmingly directed toward skilled male and mainly white workers. This was a mistake in the 1930s and it is a far greater mistake in the 21st century economy, when so many families depend on women’s wages and when our nation is even more racially diverse.

We all know that our country’s infrastructure is literally rusting away. But our social infrastructure is equally important to a vibrant economy and livable society, and it too is crumbling. Investment in education and jobs in health and care work shores up our national welfare as well as our current and future productivity. Revitalizing the economy will require better and more widespread access to education to foster creative approaches and popular participation in responding to the many challenges we face.

As you wrestle with the country’s desperate need for universal health insurance, we know you are aware that along with improved access we need to prioritize expenditure on preventive health. We could train a corps of health educators to work in schools and malls and medical offices. As people live longer, the inadequacy of our systems of care for the disabled and elderly becomes ever more apparent. While medical research works against illness and disability, there is equal need for people doing the less noticed work of supervision, rehabilitation and personal care.

We are also concerned that if the stimulus package primarily emphasizes construction it is likely to reinforce existing gender inequities. Women today make up 46 percent of the labor force. Simple fairness requires creating that proportion of job opportunities for them. Some of this can and should be accomplished through training programs and other measures to help women enter traditionally male-occupied jobs. But it can also be accomplished by creating much-needed jobs in the vital sectors where women are now concentrated.

The most popular programs of the New Deal were its public jobs. They commanded respect in large part because the results were so visible: tens of thousands of new courthouses, firehouses, hospitals, and schools; massive investment in road-building, reforestation, water and sewage treatment, and other aspects of the nation’s physical plant–not to mention the monumental Golden Gate and Triborough Bridges, the Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams. But the construction emphasis discriminated against women. At best women were 18% of those hired and, like non-white men, got inferior jobs. While some of the well-educated obtained jobs through the small white-collar and renowned arts programs, the less well educated were put to work in sewing projects, often at busy work, and African American and Mexican American women were slotted into domestic service. This New Deal policy assumed that nearly all women had men to support them and underestimated the numbers of women who were supporting dependents.

Today most policy-makers recognize that the male-breadwinner-for-every-household assumption is outdated. Moreover, experts agree that, throughout the globe, making jobs and income available to women greatly improves family wellbeing. Most low-income women, like men, are eager to work, but the jobs available to them too often provide no sick leave, no health insurance, no pensions and, for mothers, pay less than the cost of child care. The part-time jobs that leave mothers adequate time to care for their children almost never provide these benefits.

Meanwhile the country needs a stronger social as well as physical infrastructure. Teachers, social workers, elder and child-care providers and attendants for disabled people are overwhelmed with the size of their classes and caseloads. We need more teachers and teachers’ aides, nurses and nurses’ aides, case workers, playground attendants, day-care workers, home care workers; we need more senior centers, after-school programs, athletic leagues, music and art lessons. These are not luxuries, although locality after locality has had to cut them. They are the investments that can make the U.S. economically competitive as we confront an increasingly dynamic global economy. Like physical infrastructure projects, these jobs-rich investments are, literally, ready to go.

A jobs-centered stimulus package to revitalize and “green” the economy needs to make caring work as important as construction work. We need to rebuild not only concrete and steel bridges but also human bridges, the social connections that create cohesive communities. We need a stimulus program that is maximally inclusive. History shows us that these concerns cannot be postponed until big business has returned to “normal.” We look to the new administration not just for recovery but for a more humane direction—and in the awareness that what happens in the first 100 days and in response to immediate need sets the framework for the longer haul of reform."

Dear Search Committees

Dear Search Committees,

It has come to my attention that most of you really and truly will only consider hiring candidates who already have a PhD in hand. In many respects, I see the reasoning behind this approach and do not fault you for limiting your searches accordingly (a bird in the hand, and all that). However, none of you - and I really mean none of you - found it appropriate to include this little tidbit in your job ads. Rather, your ads indicated that one needed to have the PhD in hand by the time of appointment, which basically means that ABDs will be considered. In fact, some of your ads explicitly said "ABDs will be considered." It seems that, unless an ABD candidate is from an Ivy league school or has multiple publications already under his/her belt, no ABDs are, in fact, going to be seriously considered.

This, Dear Search Committees, is where I get upset, for I could have avoided much time, stress, money, and efforts expended had I been aware of what your actual practice would be. I am finishing my last chapter, I have an internationally-known rock-star advisor writing my letters of recommendation, I have seven years of teaching under my belt, and yet I have no shot at even getting an interview for one of your job openings (even those that come with a 4/4 load in a town that's in the middle of nowhere) because I'm still ABD. My complaint is not that this is how things are, but that you don't have the decency to acknowledge in your ads that this is how things are.

I feel confident that you know what the appropriate solutions are to this problem (more honest job ads, helping to reverse the flooded market by starting with your own departments, etc.). I feel equally confident, however, that you'll continue this practice and feel all the while like you deserve a big pat on the back for all the time you spent poring over all the application packets...oh wait, you probably didn't pore over all of them. Please don't take this the wrong way, but I kinda hope you break your arm while giving yourself that pat.

Yours most sincerely,


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Case in Point

419 hits on EEBO in which "money" is featured as a title keyword between 1640 and 1650

And yes, I must at least glance at every title, skim some works, and read others thoroughly if I can claim to speak with any authority about the main threads of financial discourse during this time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The "Work of a Historian" and The Final Chapter

Off and on since the end of July, I've been working on the last chapter of my dissertation. Chronologically it's the first chapter of the diss, and its main purpose is to survey the kinds of texts that were concerned with my specific topic prior to the period that I focus on. Early on, I considered this my "easy" chapter because, you know, how hard could it be summarize this material? All I had to do was read it, present it in a logical, coherent, and somewhat interesting manner, and viola...a full draft version of my dissertation! Yeah, not so much how that works.

It wasn't the job market stuff the slowed me down. It wasn't the fact that I was organizing a symposium. It had nothing to do with being pregnant, and teaching didn't take up any more time than it usually does. No, the *chapter* slowed itself down! For the past couple of weeks, I've been feeling like my husband, a PhD candidate in history who researched for two years before drafting a chapter! Some of the primary texts I had to go through were 100-200 pages, and I did my best to read them thoroughly, taking notes all the while, and this was just a sampling from about 1600-1725. Out of the hundreds of texts that were published and deal directly with my topic, I'm discussing 24-30 of them in this chapter. After more than two months of work, however, I had a mere 5 pages of writing, an outline, and tons of notes.

Time to see the advisor.

Fortunately, she put everything in perspective by explaining that I was no longer doing the work of a literary critic, but rather "the work of a historian." Uh...okay. I guess that does make sense. But, I'm not a historian, so I was a bit unprepared for this *kind* of work, and I think this is why I was taken aback. She said I'm doing everything right by being thorough, taking notes, pulling only the most interesting examples of texts, etc., and all this made me feel warm and fuzzy (a rare feeling to get from my advisor).

I guess the thing I'm still not sure about is how I feel about doing this kind of work. Technically, it is literary history. On one hand, I love finding some of this stuff because it's just hilarious! The titles are a hoot, the ballads are ridiculous, and what these texts "say" about my topic hasn't really been touched by anyone in the field. On the other hand, this kind of work can feel tedious, unproductive, and down right boring at times. I'm thinking that's just part of the job, and one eventually gets used to it.

Anyway, the meeting helped me feel better because it helped me understand why this kind of chapter inherently takes longer than those that function primarily as literary criticism. I don't feel like a dissertation loser anymore, and I actually have lots of notes to use as a frame for the draft. Looking at the holiday schedule, the dates we'll be travelling, MLA time, etc., I have 17 solid working days in which to finish this chapter. I have 7 pages drafts, and I anticipate the chapter being around 35-45 pages. For now, I'll be happy with 30-something.

The goal: to write 2 pages per work day and submit the draft - come hell or high water - on December 22nd. This is feasible, yes? Only if I stop blogging and get to work :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random Bits of Goodness

I've been waiting for the moment when the job market makes me crazy, yet it still hasn't come. There are several reasons why this is: the MLA trip is paid for with award funds; I don't truly expect to get any interviews this year; and I'm plenty busy with my final dissertation chapter. I haven't gotten any rejection letters, but I know a couple of the schools I've applied to have already sent out requests for writing samples or interviews (and I did not receive one). This week, however, a job opened up in my field at one of my university's satellite schools. I applied for the job and did some poking around, only to find that the department/search committee chair is a graduate of my university *and* my current department head knows hir. So, I trot my happy self into the department chair's office and let him know I applied for the job, and he explains that our satellite schools are traditionally quite happy to hire our grads and, even better, our grads usually are pretty happy with the jobs they take at our satellite schools. Anywho, he was more than happy to offer to pass along a e-mail of recommendation on my behalf to the dept/search chair and indicated that they'd be "really happy" to see my application. Yes, a random bit of goodness today :)

I'm still hoping for the best but completely prepared for nothing to come from this year's search. I've done everything I can do at this point, and my focus is on finishing the dissertation, the final chapter of which will be the topic of my next post.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


- My colleague and I successfully hosted our very first all-day symposium, which centered around our time period/specialization. The keynote speakers were amazing, and everyone who participated (and some that weren't able to make it) were singing our praises. I think I got quite a bit out of the experience, especially in terms of contacts in the field, but I'm not itching to do it again anytime soon.

- I've discovered I do not have the endurance for the whole job market thing. I applied to about 15 or 16 jobs, and I had 3 left that required a writing sample up front. I revised and revised, and I have only minor revisions left, but I decided I'm not investing the time to finish them, at least not right now. I started resenting each minute I spent on the writing sample, because it was time not spent on my last dissertation chapter (which I'd hoped to have done by the end of October!) The three jobs that required the writing sample in the application packet were long shots anyway, and one of them was for a position in Canada. The ad for it explicitly said they'd give preference to Canucks, so I don't feel like I'm missing any opportunities here. I just sorta got to the end of my job list and felt done. That's the best way I can describe it. The process, thus far at least, hasn't made me crazy, and I still don't expect anything to come of it. My decision is simply that I'm not finishing the revisions on the writing sample unless somebody actually requests it.

- The whole family was stricken with a nasty stomach bug this week. Eliza had it on Monday, Hannah and I had it yesterday, and Hubby got it today. All of this has made for little work getting done on the diss this week, but at least it's on the top of my workpile again!

- I finally told my advisor I'm pregnant. It wasn't a big deal to anyone but me, I'm sure, but I'd been dreading that conversation because of my own irrational fears. I was afraid that she'd be disappointed in me, think I wasn't "serious" about my scholarship, think I was plain crazy, or think I was a failure. As it turns out, she thought none of these. Indeed, she laughed out loud! Not at me, mind you, but laughing in the sense of disbelief that I'd add another thing to my plate. She actually had lots of very nice things to say, and the conversation went better than I could have imagined.

- In addition to braces, it looks like Hannah will need glasses too! I think I'll need to have a long talk with Santa Claus this year.

- Eliza has started referring to herself in the third person and by full name, as in: "Eliza Grace ______ is eating raisins." Good to know, Your Highness!


- I've started having Braxton-Hicks contractions at 15 weeks pregnancy...WTF? I've never had them this early before, but apparently it's not uncommon for women who've already had more than one pregnancy. I've also put on a few pounds now...this does not make me happy, but I keep reminding myself this is my third child.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Comic Relief

Hat tip to Professing Mama for posting this. As she rightly put it, a "macabre" but hopeful bit of comic relief for those of us who'll be checking poll numbers every 15 minutes throughout the day.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Because I Needed Something Else to Worry About

...someone decided it would be a great idea to create a counterfeit version of my debit card and rack up charges at gas stations across Jacksonville, FL. $100 has already been swept away, and more charges are pending.

Who fucking does this shit to broke-ass graduate students?? Seriously, we've got bills to pay, and they cannot be paid if money has been stolen from our bank account. This is soooooo the last fucking thing I needed to have happen this week (or anytime, for that matter)!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fun with Student Writing

One of many favorites from my students' annotated bibliographies:

"Whenever writing about a subject, themes are so important to have.Cummings uses many themesin his poems that all have major impacts in the world."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grading, Job Market, Service, Oh My!

While I can think of several things that I'd like to turn into posts, it's unlikely this will happen anytime soon. Why? Just take a gander at my schedule for the next couple of weeks:

- I still have a stack of about 10 annotated bibliographies to grade by 2:00 tomorrow. Then, my students submit rough drafts of their next essay on Monday, which I have to turn around by next Friday.

- Though most of my job application packets have gone out, there are a few that can't be sent until I finish revising my writing sample, which hasn't been touched this week. The writing sample doesn't need global revisions, but the transitions have been described as "kerplunk," and it currently has "too many personalities."

- I'm in charge of a one-day symposium next week that has 2 keynote speakers coming in, one of whom will arrive early to offer a publishing workshop for graduate students. This whole thing requires much picking up, driving around, escorting, and dining out at fancy restaurants. I'm happy to do it generally, as I very much like the keynote speaker I'm spending the most time with, and it's always nice to participate in swanky dinners on a dime that isn't my own. But, it also means that I'll be relatively absent from my family at the end of next week. This isn't a problem when I'm really gone, like in another city/state/country, but I imagine it will be tricky when my kids see me coming and going, stopping only briefly to chat, give hugs and kisses, and then hurry off for another engagement.

- Oh yeah, Eliza is turning two in one week! My mom gets into town tomorrow, so I'm hoping she can help with the kids while I bake and decorate cupcakes, pick up balloons, Halloween the house, and try to find enough chairs for everyone to have a place to sit outside during the party on Saturday.

- And let's not forget the usual pregnancy-related doctor's visits, which have never lasted less than an hour and a half!

I know this is all stuff that I signed up for, so please don't think I'm being whiny. I'm just saying....Lord please help me make it through the next two weeks!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Blame it on the Flu Shot

I got a flu shot yesterday, and today I've felt like nothing more than roadkill. I'm tired (more than the usual pregnancy tired), my body aches, and the day is far from over. Hubby teaches an evening class tonight, so I've got the girls on my own this evening. Before that mayhem begins, though, I should really use the next couple hours to work on revising my writing sample. Why am I not more motivated to do so?

Blehh...stupid flu shot!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Talk; or, A 9-yr Old Girl Giggles at Sex

During a conversation with my friend Sarah yesterday, we were talking about the difficulties we face in raising daughters in a culture that simultaneously sexualizes young girls, yet chastizes them for engaging in sexual behavior. One of the main threads of our discussion was The Talk: when to have it, what should be included, etc. Long story short, my friend suggested that my oldest daughter already knows what sex is. Well, there's only one way to find out right?

While casually watching some TV, I turned to Hannah and asked, point-blank, "Do you know what sex is?" I assured her she wouldn't be in any trouble for knowing (or not knowing) and that I just wanted her to be honest so we could have a talk about whether her knowledge was accurate. It turns out, she didn't know. At first, she said she thought it was when two people "kiss a lot." Then, after a few minutes, she said, "Well, now that I've thought about it....I kinda think it might be when two people take their clothes off and kiss a lot." Oh, if it were only that simple!! Just as I'd hoped, this inevitably led her to ask what sex is, only after asking that we come up with a "code word" for it because the word "sex" made her uncomfortable.

The code word? Ice cream. I talked to my daughter about how people have "ice cream." works for us.

My response was simple: Having "ice cream" is when a man puts his penis into a woman's vagina."

She was both entirely grossed out and amused! She giggled her head off while also giving me a look of disgust, seemingly wondering why anyone would even think to do such a thing. Surprisingly, she didn't have too many questions about the actual practice of sex, but rather her questions turned to issues of spreading diseases and condoms. This is likely due to her watching an episode of Private Practice last week, in which a teenage boy who is infected with HIV tells his doctor of his plans to have sex with his girlfriend. Hannah had some questions as she watched the show, and I answered them, but last night she was trying to connect the idea of spreading HIV with her new understanding of what sex is. Thus ensued many questions about condoms: who wears them, who doesn't wear them, why do people wear them.

I don't even know if I have a point to this post except to say that I'm surprised by her questions. My explanation of the practice of sex seemed like it went over in a way that was easy for her to understand, which is a good thing. She didn't want to hear all the particulars, and we didn't get into a discussion about oral sex, which I don't think she's ready for right now anyway. Frankly, I'm not yet ready for that one. But, I'm very glad to hear her asking questions about the consequences of sex, specifically pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. I also think our somewhat odd discussion indicated the benefits that can come from impromptu Q&A sessions, rather than One Great Long Talk that includes diagrams and books and an official video. I want our conversations to be ongoing and questions to be asked anytime by anyone. I think that the kind of off-the-cuff chat Hannah and I had last night takes some of the pressure off of both parties (parent and child) and leaves the discussion open-ended and informal; it loses what I see as an unecessary element of mystery.

So, yeah. My 9-yr old daughter know what sex is, and I'm happy with that.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Advice From My Mother

As luck would have it, there's a job opening for a generalist at a small-ish teaching school with a 4/4 load, in a city and state where hubby and I would very much like to live. It's only 4 hours away from my parents, and only 2 hours away from Hannah's biological father and his family. It looks to be the kind of school that would be a great place to start out, and the department (in my field) doesn't currently have anyone who specializes in my area. To make things even better, yesterday, we found out the school is also hiring in my husband's field!

When I called my mom to share the good news with her, this is the advice she offered:

"You should fly there and start meeting people in the department!"

Normally, my mother "gets" the academic job market. Not this time. I politely explained this would be the academic equivalent of Fatal Attraction. She gets it now.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

An Up-Front Kinda Writer

I've decided, or rather I've known for some time now, that I'm a big fan of getting to the point in my writing. One of the consequences of this is my tendency to say things, quite simply, in terms of the question I'm answering. For example, if I must (and I must) always ask myself "What is at stake in my project?" then I see nothing wrong with writing, "At stake in this paper is x, y, and z." To me, this seems clear and concise. So why does it feel amatuerish when I actually type these words?

What say you? Are you a fan of a writer telling you exactly what the argument will be? What the "so what" factors are? If not a fan, why?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Speaking of Students

Mine will be getting an early Halloween treat today. I've purchased 4 tons of Halloween candy this morning, which I'll use to thank them for their wonderful class discussion and participation on Monday. On Friday, I'd reminded them that class participation counts for 15% of their grade, and only a few of them had an A at this point. This was a timely reminder, as my teaching was being observed on Monday by the director of the writing program in my department, who will be writing my "teaching" letter of recommendation for the job market. I wanted to make sure my kids brought their A-game, so I gave them the instructions to read the text (1st act of ) as if they'd have to teach it themselves. I think they expected a quiz, but I just wanted to make sure they started bringing up their level of class participation.

The reminder worked, and the class was AMAZING! Great discussion, debate, questions, etc. All I had to do was sit back and direct traffic. When I met with the director after class, she said she'd never seen participation at that level, as average participation is 80%. My class? All but one student contributed to the discussion!! So, they did themselves a great service and, in turn, helped me out as well. Candy for all!

Best Student One-Liners

After my friend Sarah pointed out the great humor in the first line of one of my student's essays, I decided it must be shared with the world:

"In O'Connor's 'A Good Man is Hard to Find', O'Connor's characters represent a wide variety of different things."

Aren't you glad he had something clear and concise to say?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sample Syllabi: Take One & Two

After developing an initial draft of a sample syllabus for a Restoration and 18th c. Brit. Lit. survey course, I give it to my advisor for feedback.

She laughs. Right in front of me. More than once.

She said she liked it a lot, and most of the texts I selected overlapped with what she usually teaches. It was, however, "ambitious" and she thought I'd kill myself trying to teach it. Apparently, one does not--cannot--teach "The Rape of the Lock" in one class period.

When I asked her what the syllabus "said" about me, she replied, "It says you've never taught this course before." Alrighty then. Glad to know this now.

Two days later, I submit a revised version, with pared down readings and a trajectory that seems to go full-circle from the beginning of the semester to the end. She says it's better, more reasonable in terms of reading load, and she likes the way I've grouped certain authors/texts. Good, right? Yeah, except that she noticed the first half of the semester seems to be chronologically following the writers, whereas in the last half time is "more flexible." Uh, sure it is. I meant to do that.

For example, Haywood comes a week before Johnson and Defoe one week after, but not because I'm suggesting they're contemporaries, but because students will be reading a novel from Haywood and Defoe, and I wanted to give them a bit of a break in between. Not sure yet if this is a good enough reason for separating them or not.

At this point, I realize that I'll have a great syllabus when I'm finished, but I'm also realizing that it's really difficult to decide which ideas, themes, historical moments, etc. are most critical to cover in surveys like this. Right now, my philosophy is It's All Important! Read Everything! Clearly, this will not suffice. So, I continue to work on it and hope my advisor doesn't think I'm a total dumbass!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This is what I have to say in response to having to develop sample syllabi just to even apply for a job! Bleh, bleh, bleh!

On a more serious note, I'm curious to hear a somewhat thorough discussion of what purpose the sample syllabi serve at this point in a job search. Are sample syllabi going to be considered in decisions about first cuts? If not, why don't search committees wait and ask for them once they've made initial cuts?

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Job List: Check One

MLA registration and hotel reservations? Check. Flight to San Francisco purchased? Check. (And I got a great price at $370 for a R/T ticket!)

The two versions - one research, one teaching - of the job letter are officially and completely revised. They have, indeed, been reviewed by everyone except my family members and other graduate students.

The statement of teaching philosophy is done. I got lucky and didn't have too much revision to do there.

The director of the Writing Programs Office is coming to observe my class next week. I've asked her to write my "teaching" recommendation letter, as she's familiar with my syllabus, methods, assignments, etc. I think she'll be able to speak most directly to my reputation as a teacher, though my advisor will probably say good things as well since she and I are team-teaching a class next semester.

The CV is updated and all in pretty font and such.

The list of schools to which I'm applying is decent: a total of 16 so far. My committee members have been given this list, along with the mailing address for the career services liason for our department and a deadline by which they should forward letters of recommendation.

This is all to say that, with the exception of two schools who want a writing sample in the dossier, I'm ready to apply for jobs!

EXCEPT....I was just informed that there's some strange belief that the really early applicants tend to be a little nutso. The idea was that they're the eccentric, desperate type, who've been waiting on the edge of their seats for the job ads to come out so they can forward everything on Day 1.

Isn't that what most people do though? Aren't we all--especially those just starting out--just waiting for the JIL to come out?

Anywho, whatever...I don't want to get tossed in with the crazies. So, I'm holding off just a bit, until mid-October (unless a deadline is earlier). This will give me time to polish the writing sample and return to that last dissertation chapter. My hope is that, should I land an MLA interview, my ability to say I have a finished draft of the dissertation manuscript will do significant work in alleviating any possible concerns about my ABD status. If all goes very well, I should be able to walk into an interview with a scheduled defense date, which, again, I hope will count for something. The surprising thing is that I'm not feeling even a tiny bit crazy about the whole job market thing, and I'm not sure why. I expected to feel stressed, or at least anxious, but nope. At most, I have a hopeful lingering for the job possibilities that exist, but no strong feeling of investment in the time I've put in thus far or expectation for what will result from all this. I guess this is a healthy place to be at this point; we'll see how long it lasts :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Numbers I Like

Such as 85-90% chance that this will be a healthy, normal pregnancy, according to my doctor, as of today!

In the past couple of days, the bleeding virtually disappeared, and today's ultrasound showed a beating heart, fetal growth, and a "blood pocket" that was significantly decreased in size. The doctor felt positive enough about what he saw to give me the green light to return to normal activity and some light aerobic exercise.

Thanks to everyone who sent well wishes, good thoughts, and prayers. I believe in the power of all each of them!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm In!

I just got word that my paper proposal was accepted for a panel at Important National Conference in My Field! This was one of the last two things my advisor said "we" needed to do before I finished up, and I worked my arse off polishing the proposal until it was just right. I didn't get in last year, so not only getting accepted, but also being the only graduate student accepted to this panel has given me a little boost of confidence just when I needed it: now. Since the job letter has officially become the bane of my existence, and one of the places I'm applying to is asking for a writing sample and syllabi up-front....blah! I needed this good news :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We Have a Heartbeat!

After two days of bleeding that was heavier than spotting, and despite the doctor's initial exam, which resulted in his warning that "things don't look good," we have a heartbeat (and a fetal pole)!

The doctor admitted that if he'd had to make a guess based on his initial exam (simply looking at things), he would have thought I'd already passed the pregnancy. But, the ultrasound showed a heartbeat, fetal pole, and a placenta that's basically trying to set up shop very near what is considered a "blood pocket" in the uterine wall. While the placenta won't have any problem developing through the vascular area of blood, the hope, of course, is that the placenta will continue to spread until it reaches muscle tissue. The danger is the possibility that the blood may clot and pass, pulling the placenta out along with it and thus separating it from the embryo.

All the blood work he ordered last week looks good, and he said the HcG levels are even higher than he would have anticipated. The orders for now are everything just shy of complete bed rest. No working out or exercising, no long walks, no heavy lifting or other strenuous activity. I'm supposed to do what I "need to do" and rest in bed or on the couch the remainder of the time. Rather than focusing on the inconvenience of these directions, though, I'm being very thankful for what I got to hear today: the sound of my baby's heart beating inside me!

Until we go back next week for another look, we just wait. Not so easy...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Coming this Spring

May 5th to be more precise. Everything is still very early, so I'm reminding myself that nothing is guaranteed at this point. I'm still spotting, though, so they did an ultrasound yesterday and said everything looks as good as it can at this point.

*I realize that this will sound strange considering the fact I've just posted this on a public forum, but this isn't something that I want to be "public knowledge" in my department at this point. So, if you know me IRL, I would be most grateful if you helped me keep it this way for a while.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Keep Giving McCain the Rope, and He'll Do the Rest

Somehow, McCain didn't think to ask Sarah Palin if she was expecting any illegitimate grandchildren anytime soon. I guess this is the sort of the thing one doesn't discuss on the first date with a potential VP candidate. Really, the religious right is gonna love this!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama Drama: One Tiny Complaint

Conclusion: Great speech. If I wasn't watching the next President of the United States, it certainly felt like it.

Pros: Love all the shout-outs to the single working moms in the world. If they ran this country, some shit would definitely be getting taken care of in a hurry.

Con: The back-handed attempt to concede some sort of quasi-liberal position toward same-sex couples. After claiming the certain ability to find a middle-ground on guns (between defending the 2nd Amendment and keeping AK-47s off the streets) and other issues, he then went on to allow that, surely, same-sex couples can have the right visit their loved ones in the hospital.

Gee thanks...I understand that he couldn't stick his neck out too far given the time, event, etc. But, if this was the best he could offer in the moment, I think he would've been better off not saying anything with regard to same-sex issues. It just felt so condescending, but even that isn't exactly the right word.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Uh, no!?

...this is my response to Mary Poovey's claim that "it was generally possible to become a professional Literary writer--a writer who made aliving by publishing imaginative writing of various kinds--only at the end of the nineteenth century" (Genres of the Credit Economy 27).

I'm sorry...but did someone miss an entire century of 18th-c. novelists (not to mention the professional women writers prior to Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, etc.)?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When Your Kids Are Worthless...

you'd better hope you don't have Alzheimers.

I just filed a report of elderly abuse and neglect on behalf of my last remaining grandparent, my grandmother in Hometown. Widowed almost 20 years ago, completely abandoned by two of her children, emotionally, physically, and/or financially neglected by the other three, she is unsafe in her own home (to which she doesn't even have a key).

During our visit to Hometown this weekend, Hubby, the girls, and I visited her house, and I was devastated by what I found: a woman wasting away, alone, and in complete denial of her condition. We smelled something burning and eventually found a coffee pot still plugged in and starting to smoke. I noticed the feces-stained panties crumpled in a corner of the living room. I checked the refrigerator and freezer only to see that they were virtually empty.

When she explained a picture of her grandmother to Hannah, she mentioned that her mother lives in such and such town. Her mother died almost 10 years ago. She'd forgotten that I had a second child. She repeated the same story - word for word - three times within the space of 5-7 minutes. The story was about her sister, Edith, who has been spreading lies about her, telling everyone at the nutrition center that she has Alzheimers (which, of course, she emphatically denies).

I went to the store Saturday evening and bought $200 worth of groceries and supplies for the house, took them over on Sunday morning and unloaded them for her. I also took sticky notes and wrote messages to post as reminders (i.e. "Remember to turn off" on the coffee pot). When I noticed her trash can (which didn't have a liner or bag inside) was full and started to empty it, I soon started gagging on what was either raw shit or dead something in the can. I washed the can with liquid dishwashing soap, but there was no bleach to be found. I explained to her that I'd gotten her some trash bags and she should use those now, which she seemed to think it was a great idea....I have little hope that she'll remember, despite me leaving the bags on the counter.

There's a lot more to the story, which goes all the way back to all but one of her children turning out to be completely worthless human beings. At this point, I can't sit back and do nothing, but my hands are tied as to how much I can do. I have no power of attorney or legal standing. Who does? My father...yeah, that one. He sits back and sends money to my aunt, which she's supposed to use to buy groceries for my grandmother. Yeah, doesn't happen...This would be the same aunt who let me smoke pot at 12 years old. The same aunt who was previously married to a man convicted of shooting a sheriff's deputy.

I'm just sad, pissed, extremely frustrated, and feeling horribly guilty. My heart is breaking for the woman who let me play with her makeup and eat chocolate ice cream 24 hours a day. She was always my favorite grandmother; she even watched Hannah one day a week when I went back to work after Hannah was born. Nobody deserves to be neglected like this, and I'm pissed that I can't change the situation. I feel guilty for choosing a career path that will very likely forever prevent me from closely caring for aging family members. In the same way that parents are held accountable for the safety and well being of their children, I think grown, capable adults should be responsible - to some extent - for the well being and care of parents who are mentally or physically incapacitated. I don't know what to expect from Adult Protective Services, but I'm afraid they won't be able to help until she's literally running around the middle of a highway or something. Until I hear more from them, however, I'm in a holding pattern, seeking information about resources and advice for handling Alzheimers patients in denial.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

This Just In: Graduate Students Don't Have Money Trees

In the very slim chance that any of the Powers That Be might come across this entry, I merely wanted to point out a very important fact:

Graduate students who front the money for conference and research trips (especially international trips) deserve to be reimbursed in a timely manner.

If a student returns and submits all receipts and paperwork promptly, then everything that can be done to ensure a quick reimbursement should be done, especially in the summer months when many graduate students have little or no funding from their home departments, little (if any) financial aid, and little time to waste on a part-time, minimum-wage job that would take them away from both their families (i.e. children) and their dissertations.

In addition, knowing they will be reimbursed quickly might actually serve as an incentive to those considering conference and research travel but aren't sure if they can afford to go two months without reimbursement once they return.

Seriously people, I need the $2000 I spent in England to be reimbursed, like, yesterday!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Clearly, I'm Stupid I have to stop every 5 pages or so and look up the "big words" (numismatic, epiphenomenon, anomie) that the author of Secondary Literary Criticism uses in her book. Doing so simultaneously interrupts the flow of my reading and makes me feel like a moron who doesn't deserve a job in academia. And it's not like I'm reading theory...ugh...stupid big words!

No Soliciting?

Just something I'm curious about....Do people solicit academic employment? By solicit, I mean the following scenario: no position is advertised (or necessarily open), yet a job candidate forwards a dossier to a school in the hopes that he/she might be considered "available" if something should come up.

If this sort of thing happens, do you think people have any success at this? Does it depend on the kind of school being solicited? For example, what about a small school in Town that Attracts Nobody (located in State Where Many Don't Want to Live), which would consider a candidate from a strong R1 school a "good hire"?

Does this kind of thing happen only in my tiny imagination? I'm sure it does...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Word of the Day

Claque: an organized body of applauders in a theater; a group hired to applaud their leader or taunt a designated target

Just thought you should know....maybe I'll have a claque at a conference some day when I'm all grown up and academic-like.

Friday, August 01, 2008

I'm Trying to Work in Here!

As I've sat in my office all day, trying to work on the dissertation, I have

  • heard much swearing by the construction workers who are installing/fixing/constructing the new sprinkler systems in our building;
  • heard much spitting and phlegm-hocking from aforementioned workers
  • heard a variety of racial slurs directed at the "Mexican" boys from [nearby town, not in Mexico]...also coming from said workers
  • been so hard-pressed in trying to concentrate on my work that I'm tempted to take the elevator to the top floor of this building and jump to my death in protest of having to work while this kind of crap is going on around me

That is all.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

All I Really Need To Know...

I learned in Kindergarten.

It's too bad I forget things sometimes.

Though I'm sure the same will happen with Eliza as she grows up, raising my oldest daughter, Hannah, during these precarious pre-intermediate school years has offered me a refresher course in some of life's most basic principles. That is, as I help my daughter learn how to be a good friend, a responsible citizen, a respectful student, and an overall kind human being, I'm reminded of how I too should go about accomplishing these goals. Her peer network is becoming more fraught as she enters fourth grade, and the groundwork is being laid for the coping skills she'll need to survive high school and beyond. This past weekend, she had what I can only hope was a learning moment, while I had a priceless (re)learning moment.

After having a sleepover with a friend on Friday night, then playing with this friend most of Saturday, she came home Saturday evening in tears. Another neighborhood girl had joined them that afternoon, and Sleepover Friend and Neighborhood Girl began planning their own sleepover for Saturday night. In front of Hannah, the two girls chatted excitedly about the awesome Wii games they'd play and what they'd get to do together on Sunday morning. Hannah was crushed. She felt left out and hurt, at which point she came home (across the street) seeking comfort and advice.

My initial response was to explain to her that, throughout life, she just wouldn't be able to participate in every "thing" her friends do (every sleepover, playdate, night at the movies, etc.). She seemed to understand this, though, and she explained that she was hurt not merely because she'd been left out of the plans, but because the girls were talking about their plans in front of her. Hannah has been taught that this (like whispering in front of others) is rude behavior. And it is. Talking about plans one has made with one person (or a group of people) in front of another person (or persons) who've been excluded from the plans is rude, inconsiderate, and hurtful.

So, the question became: What to do? This is when I realized that Hannah's dilemma was bigger than the moment. Bigger than a 9-year old's problem. This kind of stuff happens forever. Elementary school, junior high, high school...many of the nightmares we go through during our youth resurface in our adult lives. The roles/personas remain strikingly similar. The prom queen is still the prom queen; the mean girls often turn into mean women, and my stepdad is just as nerdy now as he ever was in high school. Surprisingly, the circumstances are largely unchanged. The thing that has the most potential to change is how we handle ourselves.

My first response to Hannah was "Try to toughen up, grow a thicker skin." Knowing how sensitive she is (part of ADHD) and how easily she gets her feelings hurt, I immediately put the burden on a 9-year child to change a defining characteristic of her being. Yeah, not my greatest parenting moment.

After thinking about it more, though, I realized that this is decent advice if used alongside two other suggestions. The first was to leave - just walk away - because who would want to play with people who are being rude to you anyway? The second was to have the strength to be honest and direct by calmly pointing out to the girls, "I'm sure you didn't mean to be hurtful or rude, but talking about your plans right in front of me really upset me." The purpose is not necessarily that Hannah can change their behavior; she probably won't. Rather, the purpose is gaining the confidence to speak up when something isn't right. Historically speaking, aren't those the people we esteem?

I don't know if any of those solutions made Hannah feel better in the moment, but I hope she remembers the advice I gave her in the future, because, unfortunately, she'll face countless more situations like this one. I'm thankful for the lessons she inadvertently teaches me along our parent/child journey, as it is easier to be strong when you're the one a child is looking to for strength.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's a Lifestyle Kind of Change

For my birthday earlier this month, Eliza and Hannah gave me Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious.

I'd heard of the book a while back, but never thought much more of it since, until she recently appeared on the Oprah show. I just happened to catch the show while Hubby and I were at home early one afternoon, and I mentioned that I'd like to have it. Hannah is generally happy to eat all vegetables. Eliza, on the other hand, likes broccoli and...broccoli. That's about it for the veggies. She's more of a carbs girls (noodles, bread, rice, etc.). My policy on cooking for the family is that everyone eats a little bit of everything, and 90% of the time, I cook complete, balanced meals: meat, starch, at least two veggies, one of which is green. This works for everyone except Eliza, so she's who I had in mind when I mentioned wanting to have the cookbook. My theory was that I need to get her used to the tastes of as many veggies as possible while her taste buds are still developing.*

As you may know, the premise for the book is that you puree the hell out of fruits and veggies and sneak them into food so that your kids get healthy food without a fight at the dinner table. They never taste the difference, and they get their veggies, while also developing an increasingly mature palate.

The first step, then, is the food processor, which I was able to purchase after receiving some belated birthday money. A nice little ($40) 3-cup Cuisinart Mini-Processor - perfect for my new experiments. So, this past weekend, I went out and bought beets, fresh baby spinach, squash, and carrots. First up on the recipe list: Lemon Rasberry Muffins. Starbucks used to have GREAT ones, and I never found a copycat recipe, so I had to try these. The recipe incorporated pureed beets and squash, and I have to admit that I was skeptical about both tast and texture.

To my utter delight and glee, they are AWESOME! So good in fact, I went beet happy, and Sunday morning I made Pink Pancakes by adding about 1/3 c. beet puree to my regular store-bought pancake mix. The girls loved the pink color (so girly!), and Eliza ate one and half pancakes by herself!! She literally couldn't shove them in her mouth fast enough. I just sat there, stunned yet pleased as punch with myself for taking the time to incorporate this new routine into my weekend schedule. Then, I cooked more!

Sloppy Joes with squash --- totally yummy! Brownies -- low-cal and good (but there is a tiny hint of the spinach taste). Spaghetti with pureed carrots -- you can't taste anything different! I've already used the food processor almost a dozen times, and it couldn't be easier. It takes no hands on time to cook the veggies, and it only takes two minutes to puree. After this, you bag the purees, and you're set for the week (or longer if you store some in the freezer).

I'm most surprised at how easy it was to slip this new "thing" into my Saturday afternoon. I'll probably move it to Sunday afternoons in the future, but it's so easy, so fast, and more importantly, the benefits are so worth it. Today, for example, Eliza had veggies in her breakfast, dinner, and dessert (she LOVES the brownies!) damn cool is that?? And all of this is on top of the veggie side dish that I still provide at dinnertime, so that she's encouraged to knowingly eat her veggies, and Hubby, Hannah, and I provide models for healthy eating.

Few things work so effectively at making me distinctly feel like I'm doing something really good for my children. This cookbook accomplished that, and it's been one of the highlights of the past few days!

*As it turns out, there's a scientific reason children don't usually like the taste of vegetables. Dr. Oz explained this on the Oprah, and he also wrote the forward for the cookbook. Knowing the science behind this phenomenon really made sense of it for me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Green Light: Let the Chaos Begin

During a long meeting with my advisor yesterday, she gave me the official Green Light to pursue an opportunity for publishing a section of a dissertation chapter (the piece I presented at the England conference). This was both good and bad news. On one hand, she finally said "Yes, you should go for this!" It feels like I've been waiting forever to hear her say this, because she's consistently encouraged me to stay focused on writing and researching for the diss, rather than let myself get distracted with the business of writing, revising, and submitting for publication (even though I've had work solicited early in the process). This is also welcome news because it coincides with the choice of a writing sample. If I'm revising this work for submission to a journal, then it only makes sense to use it as my writing sample and thus kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.

On the other hand, this is the least polished chunk of writing in my diss right now. I revised it sufficiently for conference presentation, but a conference paper is 10 pages max, which means I need to significantly expand this section. Not just expand, but frame and contextualize it within the space of what comes before and after it in the longer project. Basically, A LOT of work is still needed. Also discussed was the quite full plate I've prepared for myself this fall: teaching, revising diss chapters, organizing symposium for working group, and steering committee work for a national conference we're bringing to campus, and...oh yeah, going on the job market. Knowing how much I love and need my timelines, plans, and schedules, my advisor simply wanted to give me the standard "We'll-do-our-best-to-stick-to-the-plan-but-be-prepared-for-the-plan-get-adjusted schtick." So maybe next May won't be the graduation date; maybe August is more reasonable, and I'm okay with that. I'm entering my fifth year, so I'm still on track...

Anywho, I have a writing sample to revise and job materials to develop, but I'd feel much better if I could get a draft of my final body chapter finished before the end of August and the beginning of my life being sucked away for the fall. I'm having a hard time determining what the reasonable expectations are that I should have for myself. I'm notorious for putting twice as much stuff on my to-do list as is humanly possible to accomplish, and I don't want to make myself any crazier than usual...bleh. No real point here, just trying to figure things out before passing Go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We Have an Offer

As Hubby and I have busily worked throughout the summer, our attorney has been forcefully "on the case." The case of Us vs. Insurance Company of Idiot That Totalled Our Car, that is. Hubby went through physical therapy, doctor's visits, etc. and was given a clean bill of health in mid-May. At that point, all bills were compiled, paperwork was completed, and the attorney sent everything was sent off to ICITTOC (funny enough, they're known by an acronym in real life). Here's how it worked out:

Attorney offered: $7500 to settle

ICITTOC countered: $2750

Note: the medical bills total $2000, and the attorney gets $600-$800.

Yeah....let's try this again.

Apparently, ICITTOC expects to negotiate and come up on their offer. Our attorney will work to get their settlement offer raised, while also working to get our medical insurance to accept less in reimbursement, because they wouldn't be getting anything if it weren't for us going through the effort of hiring an attorney and pursuing a settlement. In the end, the attorney said he's hoping to be able to get us $2000-$2500 free and clear (maybe more).

It doesn't undo what happened or take away the unbelievable nightmare that was the 20-minute drive it took me to get to my family after the accident. It doesn't payoff the vehicle we were forced to buy, tag, title, and insure as a result of the accident. And it doesn't take away the fear Hannah still has when we're driving in the rain (she remembers and mentions the wreck every time). But, it's better than nothing, and it's definitely been worth us not having to lift a finger to get this settled. I just hope I never have to go through anything like this again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You've Come a Long Way Baby!: In the Wrong Direction

As if baby pageants and beauty contests for little girls (and sometimes boys too) wasn't sufficient evidence for the continued cultural practice of sexing our kids up for adult pleasure, parents of daughters can now dress their baby girls in the latest hooker wear! Heelarious is happy to provide the latest in sexpot footwear for your infant daughter. It's perfect for lounging in the crib or a playdate at her pimp's house.

The only thing worse than the mere concept of high heels for infants is the fact that the vice-president of the company is a woman: Lindsay Lefler. The story for how the company got started is a failed attempt to make the product seem harmless, as well as excuse the cluelessness of its founders as to the implications this product holds for baby girls and the parents who purchase the stripper shoes.

Though I don't necessarily agree with every word, a more in-depth critique of the many problems with this product can be found here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Skipping School

I'm so tickled! Hubby and I are skipping school this afternoon to go see The Dark Knight! We *never* take the time away from work to do things like this, so it's really a special treat. It's nice too because both of the girls will be in there respective "schools," thus no need for a babysitter. I just love, love Heath Ledger, and the trailer for the film looks amazing...Add this to the fact that I sent my first revised chapter to the rest of my committee members yesterday, and I'm a happy girl!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Feminism: Could It Be Any More Difficult?

After reading ld's great post on her female students' response to identifying themselves as feminists; this post at Tenured Radical, which discusses the teaching of second-wave feminism; and the comment that follows the post, which quotes Gloria Steinem, I'm left frustrated at the explicit notion that graduate school somehow "brainwashes" female graduate students, who then go on to face undergraduates that have no ability (possibly no need) to be familiar with a very basic history of feminism (i.e. that feminism doesn't equal man-hating lesbians).

The quote offered by lesboprof (keep in mind it's not direct) was that she believed someone told her in grad school that "[Gloria] Steinem said it took women 3-5 years to recover from every year they spent in grad school."

My problems with this idea begin with the premises on which it appears to be based. The idea implies:

1) that women are "brainwashed" by feminist ideology throughout graduate school. As if we get to graduate school only to have our professors reveal that we've been oppressed all our lives and we must immediately join The Fight Against the Patriarchy;

2) that female graduate students then believe everything they are taught about feminism in graduate school. Yep, we eat it all up...hook, line, and sinker, cause you know, we can't think for ourselves yet, right?

3) that we then graduate, only to spend the next 15-25 years "recovering" from this brainwashing, implicitly discovering some other sort of reality or truth...I'm still not sure how this works.

Did I miss something here? First, yes, I knew very little about the history of feminism before starting graduate school, but I also knew very little about the history of ANY school of ideology or literary criticism. Learning more about the history of important schools of literary and linguistic thought is, as I understand it, one of the benefits/expectations of graduate school, as it prepares one for a career as a academic in literary studies.

Second, if I'm smart enough to understand Derrida, Lacan, Butler, and all the other theorists that I had to read throughout coursework, then it's pretty likely I've got the intellectual hardware to be critical of those writers and thinkers, as well as critical of the choices of specific texts in any given course. Never did I have a professor claim that one theory, ideology, literary school of thought, etc. was The One True Way that I must follow. No professor told me I'd been oppressed, limited, screwed over, sheltered (although that was actually the case), or unenlightened. What my professors did was expose me to texts that made me think critically about the values, beliefs, and systems of thought I'd previously understood as natural, right, common, true, etc. I asked questions I'd never asked. Good questions! Really fucking hard questions. Painful questions. Questions that definitely changed the way I see the world around me on a daily basis. I also had the freedom and encouragement to challenge the texts I read, the professors who assigned them, and those scholars and students who've responded to both. To imply that I suffered in a way that requires "recovery" is, to me, ridiculous, especially framed in terms of what academics "do" with feminism.

Finally, using the term "recover" implies some sort of healing, as if I've suffered a wound or an illness. Yes, many times graduate school makes me sick, but not in that way. When I finish next year, am I going to "see the light" or unlearn everything that my feminist professors have taught me (or more accurately, what they've let me learn)? What does this "recovery" mean?

I'm hoping people will visit and read this posts and join this query, because I'm really a bit befuddled. Feminism in the academy doesn't inherently equal evil, tragedy, brainwashing, or political manhandling, as many would like to argue. Learning is often about what each student makes of it, so the range of experiences is infinite. What, then, are we (by we I mean those who identify themselves as feminists or make use of feminist literary theory and practice) to make of these various posts?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Maybe there really is "No Place Like Home"?

Today's Chronicle offers an interesting little list for those of us about to go on the market this fall. Despite the obvious fact that non-Ivy PhD's have little choice in today's job market, everyone manages to have a few preferences in terms of location or what type of school they'd like to work for. Hubby and I have pretty much ruled out anything in the northeast, California, or the Pacific northwest. We've done so for several reasons, but the most important is cost of living. It makes no sense to accept jobs in places where we'd only be scraping by to afford schools and a house in a safe neighborhood while also paying back student loans. Interestingly enough, my home state has an incredibly low cost of living and two Home State universities consistently made almost every category (in their respective size listings) in the Chronicle's list of 2008 Great Colleges to Work For. Most of the criteria aren't things we'd previously considered when discussing how we would determine which jobs to apply for, but now that I've seen this I'll be keeping them in mind as I pore over the MLA job list in October.

The thing is, I'd NEVER planned on returning to Home State. Sure, it would be great to be closer to family, and a couple of the bigger towns in Home State are really nice places to raise a family. However, the institutions there aren't the kind of places that I see as stepping stones for my career and more importantly, they don't offer much in terms of my field (no major early modern work going on in any of these schools). According to the list, though, there are some really great schools to work for in Home State. In fact, a colleague of mine took a job at one of them last year, and he loves it there.

I guess there's no real point to this post except to say that I've never experienced such a vast Period of the Unknown in my life. It might help us on the market that we're not looking at the typical places academics want to work, but what are we sacrificing in that process? Ultimately, our priority is making the decision that's best for The Family, but there are so many factors in that decision that it's utterly exhausting to think about.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sexy Much?

At Separation of Spheres, M's post on two celebrities' experiences with feeling sexy (or not) during pregnancy introduces a topic that I've always found interesting: the sexy maternal body. As Hubby and I are about two weeks away from our first efforts to conceive our third child, the idea of being pregnant all over again is both exciting and somewhat....well, bleh. I love being pregnant, I really do! No matter the morning sickness, the sore boobs, the stretch marks and back pain, I never feel more content in life than when pregnant. It brings me a peace that I never experience at any other time in my life. But, after two pregnancies, I learned that each one is different. This means that, despite my experience at this, the third time could and likely will bring some possibly unwelcome surprises. I don't like surprises folks. I dont' want to get ahead of myself, so I'll stop here...But I do want this [pregnancy] to happen again, and with my hormone issues, it's just not a guarantee that it will happen easily or quickly. So if everyone could send some happy fertility thoughts my way, I'd be most grateful.

Happy Dance-Worthy Dissertation News

This just in from my advisor regarding my most recent chapter, which was my first effort at a substantial revision: "it's solid"! She liked it, she really liked it! Enough so that there isn't even an end page of comments for further revision. Rather, she's indicated what she calls "quirky asides" and some suggestions for presentation/arrangement. The thing I'm focusing on right now is her comment that the chapter demonstrated a "confidence with what other scholars have previously argued, their readings, etc., while balancing my own convincing argument and evidence." The best thing about her feedback isn't that she liked it though, it's the fact that I had a "feeling" about this chapter when I submitted it. I really felt like it worked, like I'd addressed the most important issues raised by other critics and worked hard to select and work through the texts that were absolutely the best ones for my project, and that I'd paid attention to the critical stakes of my claims at both the micro and macrolevel. I wasn't sure I could trust my instincts, however, until reading what she had to say. Now, I think I can proceed with the *final* body chapter, intro, conclusion, and revisions and sort of know whether or not I'm doing what needs to be done. That is, I have a better grasp or understanding of what kind of work and time each step in the rest of the process will take.

Most importantly, of course, is a) this chapter can go forward to other committee members and b) my timeline for finishing next May seems completely achievable! This is one of those rare days when I actually believe I know what I'm doing and will walk out of this department next year with something called a PhD. Maybe even for the first time since beginning the dissertation, I really *know* I can do this. Holy shit this is cool!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My Favorite Things: London Edition

*Heads up: this is a long post.* In the spirit of not focusing on the things that went wrong during my stay in England and the daytrip to Paris (where I not-so-conveniently found out that Discover card is accepted nowhere in Europe), I’m posting a few more pics and details about the things that stand out as my favorites.

The first represents one of the main reasons for the trip: the treasure trove that is the British Library. What a privilege it is to be able to take advantage of the resources of one of the world's greatest collections of human knowledge. To be able to walk in, register, and then be granted access to manuscripts dating back to 1695, to read the marginal notes left by one Elizabeth Ashley in her copy of a collection of plays, to see the material differences in the three different copies of a printed play that had, just one year prior to publication, failed so badly in performance that the theater briefly fucking cool is that? I never thought I'd do archival research. Indeed, as I sat in the Bibliography and Research Methods Course my first year in this program and listened to the professor explain how archival research is often little more than a matter of serendipity, I remember thinking, "Well, I know how to get around that problem: don't do anything that requires archival research dumbass!" But the dissertation takes you places you never thought you'd be, and so it goes that I fell in love with the British Library and, dare I admit it, with archival research. This statue of Isaac Newton trying to figure out the world with his compass stands outside the library. I still haven't figured out why he had to be naked....
The next item is my room at the Morgan House Hotel. A single room with a shower and toilet just down the hall cost 52 quid per night. Anyone who has travelled to London recently will understand that this is a pretty great rate for a place that’s very close to a tube station and located in a pretty happening part of town (Victoria). The room was typically small, but I was only there long enough to sleep every night. It’s one of my favorites because it was the place where I was finally able to rest each evening and get a decent sleep, despite having a room that faced the somewhat busy Ebury St. Honestly, this made the list because of one amenity the hotel room had hiding in the closet. A thing without which I can have no restful sleep. There was a fan! It was nothing short of a miracle I tell you. I’m a fan person. My mother is a fan person, and she put fans in mine and my brother’s bedrooms from the time we were infants. So, from the very beginning of time, I remember drifting off to sleep with the constant whirring and the light breeze of a fan on my face. The fan alone was worth every penny of the hotel room price.

Okay, technically the next thing isn’t really one of my favorites, it was just really damn cute. I mean, look at this dress! It is beyond gorgeous, and I’d totally love to see it on Eliza.* I was walking down one of the many busy streets in one of London's many shopping districts, and I saw this dress and stopped in my tracks to take a picture. The only thing better than this dress is the name of the store where it was being sold. It’s a high-end, childrens wear store…like Dolce and Gabbana for kids! The name of the boutique: please, mum? Isn’t it the cutest thing you’ve ever heard of?

The following goes without saying for many people who study British Literature, especially between1500-1800. Westminster Abbey was amazing, stuffed to the brim, and surprisingly beautiful - inside and out. I realize I'm a total dork, but I actually shed a few tears over Aphra Behn's stone. I just kept thinking, "I'm writing about you! You're important, you were a great writer and a super cool chick...for God's sake you were a freaking spy! How can they NOT have put you in Poet's Corner!"

Ahhh, the theater. Her Majesty's Theater to be exact. The original was built in 1705, and though it's been through several new designs since then, I got the distinct impression that it retains much of the 18th-c. theater elements. The physical space is nothing like any theater I've been in here in the U.S. The seats are small, crammed together, and the overall amount of space within the theater is quite limited. Intimate is the best way to describe it. I sat there watching Phantom of the Opera with mouth agape with childlike wonder and glee at everything about the performance: the sound of the soprano voices, the mobile stage pieces, the power of the music, the bodily presence of so many players on stage dancing, singing, moving like clockwork. My absolute favorite scene is the masquerade, as it highlighted one of the key cultural moments in the period I study. Bottom line, the entire experience brought to life major aspects of the plays I'm using in my dissertation. I felt, saw, and heard components of theater that are just as integral to stage productions now as they would have been in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, making the experience just as worthy as my trip to the library.

*Yes, that's my youngest daughter's name. I've decided to get rid of the alphabet-letter pseudonyms. My kids have names that truly match their personalities, and I don't feel that I'm putting either of them at any risk by using their real names. So, yes, my oldest daughter is Hannah, and Eliza is the toddler.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Travelling Nightmare, and Highlights

You know every traveller's worst nightmare: you don't make the plane home? It happened to me yesterday. The Piccadilly tube line to Heathrow was shut down unexpectedly, and it just so happened that there was a fatality accident on The Road to Heathrow (where all other roads converge to the airport). Not only did I spend 100 pounds! for the 2 1/2 hour taxi ride, but I also was unable to make my 10:30 a.m. flight. Yes, my friends, there were more tears. I'm quite sure that all of London has seen my ugly cry now.

Anyway, I won't get into all the details, but I was able to catch a later flight home yesterday, and Hubby and E were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. Nothing made my heart happier than to have E come running into my arms upon seeing me :-) Too bad H wasn't there; she'd gone back to Home State with my mom for some more time with the grandparents and her (other) dad.

There are over 350 pics of the trip, so I'll give only a few here and there (most would bore everyone anyway). I decided to reflect on some of my most favorite sights and experiences, so here they are.
"Ginger" and all the other lovely treasures to be found at the British Museum. This mummy has been lovingly given its name because of the reddish hair that can still be found on the skull. The museum was amazing! I could have spent a month inside! I can't wait to take the kids there some day.
Below is the entry view of Saint-Chapelle's famous stained glass windows. I've never seen anything like it, even throughout Italy. The light and the colors are simply inexpressible in their beauty.

Here is the lovely tray I received while having champagne tea at Pret-a-Portea in The Berkeley Hotel. The little savory treats on the bottom plate were mere okay; I discovered that I do not like smoked salmon. At all. The polka-dot sweet treat on the second plate, however, was a piece of chocolate heaven! So yummy!! The top plate, on the right, with the pink flower, was a grapefruit mousse that was refreshingly light, and the champagne served beforehand was the coldest, tastiest champagne I've ever had. The whole time there, I thought about H and how much she would've loved to do this. She would've felt so special getting dressed up and eating off of fancy designer bone china.

More to come...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Letters from London, No. 2

A very quick post on my last night here (I ran out of juice on my laptop):

- Paris was lovely yesterday! I had an apricot crepe next to Notre Dame, and I got "made up" at the Sephora store on the Champs d'Elysees!
- Sunday and today in London went extremely well. I've totally mastered the tube system (which doesn't take much effort, but is very useful), and London did not kick my arse.
- The Phantom of the Opera was nothing short of magnificent! I was just in love with the actor who played the Phantom by the time it was finished.
- I had dim sum for the first time today, and it was delish!!
- I finished my research at the British Library --yay!

The not-so-great part of the day?
- Dinner....Here's a tip: stay away from Porter's English restaurant!! The crab tasted like what I would imagine cat food tastes like, and it took more than 2 hours to complete the simple service (without a dessert, mind you)!

I have lots more to blog about, so you'll probably get tired of hearing about the details, but more will come when I return. For now, it's after 11:00 p.m., and I still need to pack for my flight out tomorrow :-(

Hopping back to my side of the pond,

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Letters from London, No. 1

Well folks, after a very rough first 48 hours, I'm comfortably settled in at the B&B I'll be staying at until Wednesday. The flight over was pretty good; with several glasses of wine and some self-medication, I had no problem going to sleep. I only got about five hours, but it was enough. When I woke up, they were announcing that we'd arrive in Heathrow in an hour. I grabbed the tube to the first B&B, only to arrive and discover that there had been a mix-up in the booking (their fault). They quickly made other arrangements for me to stay with a good friend of theirs who lets out rooms once a month, and they personally drove me to her house.

It turns out, she was an absolutely lovely lady! Half French and half Hungarian, and wonderfully helpful and pleasant; it was like staying with a distant European relative. Thursday afternoon went okay, as I took care of getting my reader card at the British Library, and then I headed to Brick Lane for what turned out to be The. Best. Middle Eastern Food. Ever!! It was a place called Tayyab's, and I'd read about it online. It was everything the reviews claimed it would be, maybe even better. I had starters, a lassi, garlic naan, and karahi dahl gosht (lamb) for under 13 quid!! The only problem? I was still wearing the flip-flops I'd worn on the plane, and my feet and legs were killing me!

Yesterday, everything - I mean everything - went downhill. My pull at the library was delayed by an hour, throwing my schedule off. Then I got rained on (yes, I know it's London, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky!). And, I figured I could pop in anywhere to grab an umbrella....which I eventually did, then promptly left it in the tube immediately after buying it! At this point, I just needed to find an Orange store to top up my phone. Long story short? I walked around London for 2 straight hours in peep toe pumps that eventually gave me gigantic (as in 1-inch long) blood blisters on my left foot. At one point, I finally broke down, and there I was: crying in the middle of somewhere near Piccadilly station. Literally standing on the sidewalk having an ugly cry! No tissues. No help. Nobody cared. My fucking arms and legs were hurting so bad from trying to carry all my luggage around the tube stations, each of which include two sets of escalators and one flight of stairs (minimum). I finally gave up because I needed to get back to the train station and catch my train to the town where the conference is being held. I got maybe 20 feet into the station, and what do I see on one of the storefront walls? A fucking top up sign!! As if it could get any worse, I barely make the train, and there are no seats left, so I stand for the entire one-hour trip.

The Friday battle goes to London. It thoroughly kicked my ass.

Today, however, another story. Great conference - the panels and my own presentation went really well - and I ran into quite a number of people who were good friends with faculty at my home department. I had no qualms about paying for a taxi to take me to the train station when the conference was over, as well as when I needed to get from to my B&B in London (despite the 12 pound cost). Once I settled in, I grabbed comfortable shoes, blue jeans, and headed out for dinner at an Italian place just down the road. I touched base with Hubby, got wi-fi access from the host, and I'm thinking - maybe idealistically - I'll do just fine from here on out.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Au Revoir!

Unfortunately, I'm in the same exact state I was in before my first big Kindergarten field trip: unable to sleep and ready to go! My mom could tell my body and mind were just not going to wind down for the evening, so she was kind enough to share one half of a Xanax in the hopes it might help me sleep. I feel no. kind. of. tired. Sigh.

My mom and I actually have had a wonderful couple of days. We did a bit of shopping, running errands, etc. She even bought me a few small things!! She would've bought more, as she hates to pass up a hoodie sweater on clearance at Kohls for $2.60, but I knew I'd be unlikely to wear it (loved the pattern, but not a fan of hoods). She ironed my clothes today, folded laundry, took the girls for a walk while I made dinner - it was great. The girls have gone to their respective Montessori/day camp programs so that Mom can catch her breath and settle into our routine before I leave, which has left her and I with some rare quality time.

I laid out most of my clothes, shoes, important documents, and technology (camera, laptop, etc.) this evening, so I really only have to throw everything in the suitcase tomorrow. I've even already checked in online and printed my boarding pass! I should be able to rest....arggh, I want to sleep! I'll head to bed and see how long it takes to fall asleep :-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Conference Paper: To Revise, or Not to Revise?

So, I have a bit of a professional dilemma. As many of you know, I'm presenting a paper at an international postgraduate conference in my field next week in England. The paper is based on a section of a dissertation chapter, which I actually wrote early in the spring. Technically, then, the paper is written. I've reviewed it to make some minor changes in wording, organization, etc., but I haven't yet done any significant revision. The good thing is that any revision I do to the paper will essentially also be revision for the chapter. The bad thing is that I just don't feel like doing any revision work right now. I'd rather finalize my itinerary for the trip (a daily itinerary), get all my paperwork in order, get the house cleaned up for my mom's visit, and generally prepare a list of some of the things hubby will need to take care of while I'm gone.

I know I sound totally lame. I know this is completely juvenile of me to think I can just say "I don't wanna...", but that's kinda what I'm saying. I'm also considering two practical points:

a) aren't conference papers supposed to be rough? they're sort of like trial runs for an audience, rather than perfectly revised pieces, right?

b) in the end, all that matters is that i got into this conference, and it's a pretty good line on my vitae; it's highly unlikely that presenting a rough paper will matter to anyone else in the long run.

The question, then, is whether or not to spend two full work days revising the conference paper. What say you? Am I missing something important to the equation? Is this the time where someone is forced to tell me to be a grown up and get my shit together?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Breakin' my heart

H has been gone for almost two weeks now. I miss her so much that, as I was cleaning her room yesterday, I had to stop halfway through because I couldn't stop crying. I know she's having a fabulous time. They've been to Universal Studios, Gator Farm, and the FunHouse, and this week they're going to the zoo, Daytona Beach, Kennedy Space Center, and a water park. This doesn't make my heart ache any less to have her back home. I honestly don't know how my parents were able to do this for entire summers, when my brother and I would go to my grandparents' house for two months. Bittersweet was the message I found waiting for me in my e-mail inbox this morning. Here it is, cut and pasted exactly as she wrote it:

"dear mom,
i miss you and tonight i want you to hug your pillow youll just be hugging me i miss you and love you"

Sunday can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One More Down, and Some Breathing Room

One more dissertation chapter is finished!! Today I turned in my third (of four) chapters--woohoo! Because of the elimination of one of my set-up chapters, I'm actually a teeny tiny bit ahead of my summer schedule, which is good, because I can use the extra time. I leave for England in two weeks, which gives me a full week to revise my conference paper (already written) and prepare for the trip. The prep for this trip is made more stressful by the fact that I'll be gone during the 1st-of-the-month financial time. Bills must be paid, checks must be written out beforehand, and most importantly, Hubby will need to learn all the user ids and passwords for the various accounts that get paid online (something I don't want to be responsible for while travelling). Also, even though my mom is coming to spend time with E and H (and help Hubby should he need it), and I'm totally sure she could take care of everything, it would make me feel at easy to make sure the house is clean, the pantry is stocked, some meals are prepped, and a menu is already prepared and posted on the fridge before I leave. Yes, that's me, I'm a Control Freak, big surprise?

Anywho, I've decided to take tomorrow "off" kinda...I've gotta get some yard work done, some housecleaning done (seriously, I still have Thanksgiving decor sitting next to my desk!), errands to run, and I'm going to do a thorough cleaning of H's room. Despite tomorrow's full list of things to do, I still feel like it's a "break" from academic work, which I always need after working for 10 weeks on a chapter. The up side is that I think I may get to sneak off to the pool sans children and read from the new Supplemental Reading List my advisor developed for me. It's technically work/job market prep, so that's okay, right?

Monday, June 09, 2008

And there goes the light...

From the Tenured Radical:

"Despite the claims of conservative pundits that literary scholars are rotting the academy from inside out while the rest of us stand helplessly by and watch, they have a harder time getting published, finding full-time employment, and being taken as seriously as they should be as public intellectuals than virtually any other category of scholar (except perhaps philosophers and classicists -- new translation of the Iliad, anyone?) "

This isn't the true subject of her post, merely an aside that I found particularly disheartening. Here's to riding hubby's coat-tails via a spousal hire...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dissertation: Maybe a light at the end of the tunnel?

In my meeting with my advisor on Monday, she agreed that it makes perfect sense to cut my second chapter. Of course, I know that the material I'd planned to cover will still need to be very briefly mentioned in my introduction, but she agreed that the chapter wasn't crucial to my argument. This means very good things for my timeline. My project will have an intro, four body chapters, and a conclusion. Three of the four body chapters have been drafted, and one of them is currently under revision. The remaining body chapter is what I call my Easy Chapter because it's primarily a survey of the types of literature and texts (which also deal with the specific discourse I'm focusing on) to which the writers I study would have had access to and/or, in some cases, responded. I will provide some synthesis of this material to help readers get a feel for the major discussions, contributors, avenues and methods of production and circulation, etc., but my task is not to bring new light to them, as I do for the texts considered in my other three chapters).

Despite discovering that revision of a chapter is soooooo much harder than drafting a chapter, I'll be finished with revisions of my third chapter next Friday. This leaves me with two weeks off to prepare for my conference presentation and trip to England. When I get back, I'll have about five weeks to draft the survey-ish first chapter. According to this timeline, the beginning of August will find me with a mostly-complete manuscript draft (with the exception of the introduction and conclusion). I'll then have to turn to the following, but I'm not sure what order they should come in:
  1. Preparing a writing sample for the job market
  2. Drafting either the introduction or conclusion
  3. Revising the first two body chapters my advisor has already reviewed

So which should come first? Do I head into them simultaneously?

In addition to these things, my advisor has decided to create a Supplemental Reading List for me to complete between now and December. Because my dissertation has taken me, quite unexpectedly, into the realm of Restoration and 18th-century drama by women, it's logical to assume that I might/should be expected/prepared to teach a course in early modern English theater. It's also to be expected that, upon reading about the women I study in my dissertation, a job search committee member might then say something like, "Well what about men's dramatic writing? What about Wycherly, Congreve, Farquhar, and Etherege?" These are questions to which I'll need to have very good answers, and the Supplemental Reading List (SRL) is designed to help with this.

On one hand, I'm thinking: Hey AcadeMama, you're doing okay. You've only been writing a year, and you've got more than 100 pages finished and 3 out of 4 chapters drafted! You can totally write a dissertation.

On the other hand, I'm thinking: AcadeMama, do you even know what a dissertation looks like? How the hell do you think you're going to pull this off? What if you don't pull this off? Then what? What if your advisor doesn't think your work is smart, sophisticated, or sufficient to earn you a tenure track position? What if other members want so many revisions that your Grand Plan to finish in May 09 is laughed at by everyone on your committee?

The thing is, I could totally keep going with stuff that's "On the other hand"... Though I'd had a sneaking suspicion of this all along, it was recently confirmed that my advisor is not the Praising-Nurturing kind of mentor, who gives you critical feedback but still somehow manages to make you feel like you're doing a really great job (if this makes sense). She's more like the Yes-You're Doing What You're Supposed to be Doing- kind of advisor. 95% of the time, I'm okay with that, now that I know that this is just her personality, rather than a reflection of my work, capabilities, or intelligence. But sometimes, like 5% of the time, I really wish I had that other kind of advisor. Sometimes, I just want a Scooby Snack and to be told that I've done better than "what I'm supposed to do." You know what I mean?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Daily Dose of Dumb-Ass

You can file this under The Disadvantages of Living in College Town (or any town that's centered around a 4-year university and its lovely, student drivers).

I'm in the drive-through line at Chick-Fil-A when I get rear-ended for the 3rd time in the four years I've lived in College Town. As I get out of my vehicle, I notice the girl (all signs point to undergraduate status) is talking on her cell phone....Imagine that?! Even as I'm inspecting my vehicle bumper for damage, this twit is still on the fucking phone! Unable to contain myself, I look up and ask: "Do ya think you could get off the phone for a minute?" Stammering and seemingly unable to understand the simply request, she climbs back in Daddy's giant pickup truck to look for her insurance card.

While I finish moving through the drive-through line, I realize that even if there were damage (and there wasn't anything noticeable), I'd have no recourse through insurance because the location is considered private property. I pull to side when I'm finished, Twit gets out and apologizes, nay attempts to explain: "I'm so sorry. She was talking to me and I didn't see."

Really? That's the best you've got? I would've never figured that one out.