Friday, February 27, 2009

The Best E-Mail Ever

...came yesterday morning and it said, "Our English committee met today and we would like for you to join our English faculty at" Home Univ. in MidEast. Hubby got the same offer. Our first year on the market, we've both landed job offers that will provide economic, professional, and cultural benefits we just can't get here in the States.

Education City, Qatar

I'm certainly happy, and I feel much more secure about our family's future knowing that this is a definite option for us. But, I'm scared too. Scared of too many things to list here, and to a large extent, scared of the unknown element. Luckily, my "woo-hoo adventure!" side makes up the bigger part of me, so we're moving forward. Making plans and making long lists of questions to ask. I've even asked H to start making a list of everything she's feeling about the move and any questions she has. The CLA Program Director has an 11-yr old daughter (and 2 younger ones), and he's offered to introduce us to them and let me talk with her about her life in Doha. I told H to think of me as her overseas liason, and I've promised to take lots of pictures for her.

Doha Skyline at Night

Now what to say to my Mom (and stepdad), who are pretty much devastated. Right now my Mom can't even see the economic benefit in this because she's so upset about the idea of her only grandchildren being moved halfway around the world. After a trip to London 10 years ago, she and my dad swore off any future international travel, so they're not even willing to consider the fact that we'd be happy to fly them over to see us. I'm sure they'll come around eventually...I just hope it's sooner rather than later, for everyone's sake, but especially for H, because she's old enough to pick up on tensions between people, and that's not fair to her.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Lose-Lose Situation in Which Children Feel the Shame

As a parent whose child is eligible for and enrolled in the reduced-lunch program, this story struck a particular nerve with me today. While I understand the enormous financial bind schools are faced with when parents don't pay for their children's lunches, I equally understand that there are too many households to count that are having to decide between putting groceries on the table or putting gas in the car to get to work. Or, even worse, buying much needed medicine or putting food on the table. Without a doubt, this nightmare of an economy has forced many parents who were already on the edge to simply pick the safest place to jump. But, in this case, it's children who feel the shame for an economy gone down the tubes, and it breaks my heart.

While the New Mexico school system uses the "At least we feed them" excuse to justify their decision to offer cold cheese sandwiches to children with delinquent lunch accounts, it strikes me as a weak solution to the problem. The fact is that while parents are ultimately responsible for paying for meals, it's the children who have to face each other in the lunchroom. Every child knows the difference between a yummy sandwich, snacks, and treats lovingly packed by a parent who has not only the money but the luxury of the time it takes to shop for and pack these meals on a daily basis, and the welfare sandwich that's being served up to those whose parents can't pay. The cheese sandwich might as well be a Scarlet Letter, proclaiming to a child's peers, "Hey, my family doesn't have the money to feed me!" Can you even imagine how a child internalizes the reactions he/she gets from this class marker?

Because the article didn't mention any fundraising efforts, I'm left to presume that this is the only option the school district could come up with....scary if that's the case. I just can't imagine a school district, PTO, or community that would fail to organize some sort of fundraisers to help raise money for local children to be provided hot, nutritious lunches.

H's lunch is .30/daily at the reduced rate, while meals are $1.25/full price. As it turns out, the policy for our district is one of those that doesn't seem to give a shit if a kid ends up going hungry. The program allows a child three charges on their lunch account. Once those are up, the child is provided with a sandwich and a milk carton--for up to three days. After that...well, I guess you're on your own kid.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Please Proceed....

Wednesday morning's video interview went very well. In fact, it couldn't have gone better. I'd gotten enough information from various sources in my home department and from one of Hubby's colleagues who will be working at the overseas location, that I pretty much had a cheat sheet of the exact questions they might ask. And they did. And my answers were great. One of my answers even elicited a "perfect answer" from two of the hiring committee members!

There were 4 members, all of whom were very warm, personable, and eagar to offer useful information about life in Qatar (no big secret anymore, I suppose). Any remaining hesitations, questions, or concerns were generally assuaged, and they all seem like a group of colleagues I could learn a lot from.

Hubby got his interview request Wednesday morning, and his interview is set for Monday. Unless he blows it or there's a long list of candidates we know nothing about, I think there's an extremely high chance that we'll be invited for a fly-back. As I understand it from Hubby's colleague, if you're invited for a visit, it's understood that you're being offered the job, as it's an enormously expensive fly-back ($7K airfare tickets, lodging at the Ritz, etc.). It's a long flight, 24 hours, so we'd end up having to be gone for about 5 days, which means we'd have to ask my mom to come down and stay with the girls. I'm not sure how she'll feel about that, as she usually tries to only have one of them at a time on her own, but if they continue their daily schedule of school for H and montessori for E, this would give her the daytime to rest in between the morning and evening routines.

Also helping us feel better is that I talked with my ex-husband (H's biological dad), and he's given us his full consent and support. He recognizes the kind of opportunity it would be for H, understands that it's only for 2 years, and knows the value of the economic benefit it would be for our family. It also helped him to know that I was willing to let H spend as much time as she likes at his house during the summer.

My mom is talking to me again after a brief e-mail Cold War, but we're not talking about the job possibility. I'm just going to give her some space and try not to bring it up until the time comes (if it comes) where we have to think about arrangements for a fly-back. I do have an uncle who seems to be supportive of the idea, and he's offering a sounding board, which takes some of the sting off of not having my mom to talk to about this.

I still have lots of, What would we do about H's braces? Is there a neurologist I'd be able to see for my neck/DDD issue? Where would I get my hair cut? Will I be able to find pork products in grocery stores? Would we still be able to get Netflix? I realize some of these sound really random or silly or vain, perhaps, but these are the kinds of things that aren't really dealt with in the Relocation Binder provided by our home university. And these certainly aren't the most important questions or issues I have, either, but you know, they're on my mind. They're right there next to the grading, teaching, dissertation revisions, etc...In fact, my head may explode any minute. Or, more likley, I'll burst into tears and I won't be able to stop crying until I'm "all cried out" as my grandmothers used to say. I have a feeling this is inevitable at some point.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Full Speed Ahead

I officially have my first interview request, which came from the Middle East campus of my home university. The video interview is scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Yeah, in less than 48 hours. I'm a tiny bit of a mess.

I've talked with my department head, who visited the campus last semester, and he had lots of great information about the existing administration, the faculty housing, the friendliness of the citizens and students, and the general appeal and safety of the area. He also informed me that I wasn't alone in my application. It turns out that there were several people from our department who applied, two of whom have more experience than I do and have been doing this much longer. After finding this out, I actually felt like I kinda had something to be a little proud of in simply getting an interview request. He, along with my placement director, offered very specific tips on how to handle the interview, which, lucky for me, really won't require any prep beyond thinking about things like:

- How will I teach writing to students who won't have American culture as a context for instruction, examples, etc.?
- How will I help motivate students who have already been assured of jobs upon their graduation?
- How will I handle living and teaching in a multicultural environment?

I have experience teaching developmental English/writing to at-risk students at the college level, which is absolutely something they'll need to hear! I also was part of a pilot program in an Introductory Composition Program at a school that has often been considered among the top rhetoric and composition programs in the country. Finally, that experience will come in very handy as well.

Regarding some of the issues that commenters posted last time--

Visitation Schedule with H's Biological Dad H:
Theoretically, if my ex-husband had ready money and a strong desire to fight me on this, he could. For a variety of reasons, he probably wouldn't get anywhere, mainly because he wouldn't be losing any time with H. The regular American holidays are honored in the private schools, in addition to the native holidays, and a relaxed calendar is in place during major Muslim holidays. For example, there's a one week vacation in September, a month in which she usually doesn't visit him for Labor Day because she's at his house in August right up until she starts school. Hubby and I also agreed that we would return for the summer and rent a place in Home State, allowing H to come and go to his house and my parents as often as she likes. In the end, he might actually see more of her, if *he* would take the time off from his job as the manager of a cattle ranch (a job that's 24/7, literally). Ultimately, I don't think he'll fight it. He won't like it, but he'll see the obvious economic sense it makes for our family and understand that it's only for 2 years. It works in my favor that his father worked overseas for very similar reasons, so it's not like this is a foreign concept to him.

Effect on Future Hiring:
This was actually one of the first questions I took to my advisor and my placement director/committee member. Both agreed that since it's a short-term position (2 years), I'd have the title of Visiting Assistant Professor, and the light teaching load would allow me a significant amount of time to work on research/publishing, it would look good on the CV. Both indicated that it certainly wouldn't look bad. My placement director, for example, said she'd be inclined to see it as something that makes me look more interesting as a job candidate. The only problem is one of logistics: conducting a job search from overseas when the time comes. Hubby has been advised that his department would offer him a verbal agreement to hire him for a one-year term if our later job search was unsuccessful; I'm planning to ask my advisor about how likely it is I could get a verbal agreement for the same thing.

Living Half a World Away:
This one's fairly easy. As long as I have my husband and children, and I can still talk to my mom whenever I want, then I'm fine. That's what Skype is for, right?

Research Trips:
The current package includes $13K per person per year for research and travel. This is in addition to the R/T airfare they provide for each person in the family to return home once a year. We shouldn't have a problem coming back for the long breaks and the summer given this allowance and the fact that we'd have living expenses provided.

Again, I'm hoping I don't have to make this decision. I'm hoping that Regional Campus of Home University - the one that's in this state nonetheless - calls me this week and wants an interview. But if they don't, this is an option we'd be foolish not to seriously consider. Hubby and I have already agreed that we wouldn't make any final decision until we flew over for a visit.

Let's just see how Wednesday morning goes...

Friday, February 13, 2009

BIG Things to Think About for the AcadeFamily

After finding out that the search committee chair contacted my remaining two committee members last week, it looks like I'm still in the running for the job at a regional campus of my home university. This is a t-t position, with a 4/4 load, specifically in my field. While I'm trying to pretend I've forgotten about this, clearly I haven't. But, as of yet, it hasn't at all prevented me from getting work done or anything.

Yesterday, however, Hubby dropped a bombshell of an e-mail on me concerning a very different job opportunity. As it happens, there are faculty posts open in both his field and mine at an overseas branch (Middle East) of our university. Hubby had previously been made aware of a history position after a professor for whom he was a TA decided to sign a 3-yr contract to go over there. This professor mentioned that there would be a future opportunity for hubby to go, and hubby brought the idea up at home last year, at which point I promptly squashed the idea like a bug.

Yesterday, hubby received an e-mail from this professor that indicated two faculty posts were now open and the College of Liberal Arts was "desperate" to fill them. Furthermore, they'd be excited to get an academic couple, and this would likely give us an advantage during negotiations. He then explained the "obscene" salary (roughly 75% over the base starting salary for an assistant professor in the States), the fully furnished house provision, living costs, private school tuition for all children, $13,000 annual research/travel allowance, etc. Let's put it this way, we could be credit card debt free in two months, put a big dent in our student loan debt, and still come back with a huge down payment for a house. In short, there are NO economic disadvantages.

Oh, and the teaching load? It's a 2/1.

I've talked with my advisor, my committee member/placement director, a female faculty member who's there now, and the general sense is that people have enjoyed their time there. It's in a very wealthy and secure area, and though it's an Arab country, it's seen as a modern one.

The program director for the CLA gave me some initial details and said that if I was interested I should forward my CV within the day. I did (so did Hubby), and he's already mentioned us to the female faculty member/administrator who's there now.

My head is still spinning a bit, and there's so much I still have questions about. They plan to hold video interviews for the English post next week, and then for the history post shortly after. I know that if they're interested in us, they will fly us over, business-class, with no committment at all, so we can see the place, meet the people, etc.

Somehow, even the standard practice of making a list of pros and cons isn't helping me right now. This. Is. Just. So. Much. To think about right now. I generally have no concerns about the location, the economics, or the professional aspect. I'm always up for an adventure, and as long as I have my husband and children with me, I'm solid. My concerns rest solely on how this will impact my oldest daughter, who still has a biological father in Home State, which is currently 6 hours away. She, too, has an adventurous spirit and would no doubt benefit in many ways from the experience. But, I know there are intangibles, factors that I may not think about or that may come up after the fact, and those are the things that worry me.

I post all this here and now not for the purpose of concluding anything, but simply to introduce it to this space. To let it out of me so that I can -- please, please -- think about something else for a bit. I feel like it's all happening very fast, and I need it to slow down. For now, I want to be a sponge. I want feedback from as many people as possible, from as many angles as possible, and I want to just soak it all up. For now, I still have a dissertation to revise, and this *must* return to the forefront of my mind.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

For Those In The Field...

...the loss of Professor Richard Kroll (University of California-Irvine) comes as sad news. For more than two decades, scholars of Restoration and 18th-Century British Literature have benefitted from his research, and I'm personally thankful to be reaping the rewards of his work on Restoration drama as I revise my dissertation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Get a Clue

And the idiocy continues....

After parking in the garage next to my office building yesterday morning, I started to open my door and get out, only to find myself being blocked in by an undergraduate driving a way-too-big pickup truck. These vehicles are quite common in College Town, and the parking mayhem they cause is familiar to all in the area. Most of the time, I'm thin enough to not have too much difficulty scaling down the side of my vehicle out of the parking space. These days, it's a different story.

After Redneck Boy pulls in, I try to get of the vehicle once more. I discover that I can either get my body out (barely) without my bags, or can sling my bags out into the parking lot, but the whole package cannot go together. I'd. Had. Enough. Despite seeing me struggle to even crack the door open enough to get out, Redneck Boy sits in his truck with a blank stare, as if I should simply beam myself out of the way. Now, I was pissed!

I slid up to the passenger-side window and knocked on it. Redneck Boy's passenger rolled down the window, and I, in my nicest but most matter-of-fact-voice explained,

"Yeah, I'm more than 6 months pregnant and I can't get out of this parking space. This isn't cool, so do you think you could back your rig up and let me get out with my things before you park?"

Seemingly shocked by my brazen confrontation and feeling like an ass for trapping a pregnant woman in her own damn vehicle, he stuttered that he was planning on "straightnin' her out anyway." Really? Guess what, it's not a matter of being crooked jack-ass! It's a matter of you driving an oversized penis replacement on four wheels!! He realized this after his first attempt at "straightnin' her out," which clearly left no more room than before. He finally just backed up and waiting for me to get out with my bags.

Truly, I've never been the kind of woman who turns into a raging bitch simply as a result of pregnancy. But, seriously, if shit like this continues to happen, I could easily become that person.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dear Miss S------

Dear Miss S-------,

I realize you probably meant no ill-will by your remark in the departmental mail room this morning. After all, you are a young graduate student without children, whom, I will presume, has never been pregnant. In this case, you might be considered guilty of mere insensitivity rather than outright ignorance and rudeness. However, I feel obligated to point out that it is generally considered, how shall I put this, really fucking stupid, to remark to a pregnant woman, "Gee, you seem to get bigger every day, every time I see you!" This is especially the case if the pregnant woman happens to be a colleague who works in the same field as you and could someday be reviewing your work. Comments like this tend to make a pregnant woman, or at least this pregnant woman, want to cause bodily harm to the clueless sap that had the audacity to make any comment about her weight.

I hope that you think back on your comment and quickly feel like an ass, as you should. For now, I will chalk up your remark as the result of someone who is quite possibly intelligent, but lacks any notion of common sense.

Perfectly-Proportioned, Pregnant, AcadeMama

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's Done (kinda)

Last Friday, I submitted a draft of my final dissertation chapter (chronologically, my first chapter) to my advisor. This means that I now have a rough draft of my entire dissertation (excluding a conclusion). On one hand, I still can't quite believe I did it. I wrote four chapters and an introduction, and this is a dissertation draft. Holy cow...

On the other hand, now I must turn to revision. I've already revised one of my chapters and received feedback on it from my advisor, so there are only minor changes to make to it. That leaves three chapters to be revised, some needing more extensive revisions than others (I hope). For example, I'm pretty sure chapter one, which is mainly a descriptive/survey chapter couldn't be so bad as to require major revisions. I mean, how badly can you screw that kind of chapter up?

Turning to my second chapter yesterday, I could already see where I'd gone wrong in certain sections; where I need to qualify my claims; where I need to clarify my argument; and where I need to cut/add deveopment. This is good, I suppose. I have a very good sense of what needs to be done to improve the chapter. The bad things is that I don't have a good way of prioritizing the revisions that are needed. Should I first explain why I'm using city comedies? Or, should I first deal with revisions to the biographical info about the playwright? Some might say that it really doesn't matter as long as it gets done, but that's not exactly the case. I think there are some revisions that you absolutely can't do without for the defense, and some revisions that can be tackled later, when revising it into a book manuscript. Sometimes the difference between the two is clear, other times not so much.

Anywho, I suppose there is a small reason to celebrate: Once I started writing, I wrote an entire draft of my dissertation in a year and a half. How long will the revisions take? Only time will tell.