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.