Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Plan

The comments to my previous two posts have, as intended, had me thinking quite a bit more about my options--or lack thereof--in the current academic job market. Contrary to what most commenters seem to think is the best plan, I'm going to stick it out for at least another full academic year. Call me crazy, stupid, or just plain blind, but I'm basing my decision primarily on three things.

The first is that, contrary to "Linc's" comment that "Academia is, in the end, just a job," it is much more than that to me. It is truly a calling, a long-time goal, and the end result of the past 7 years of work, sacrifices in time away from family, and living in poverty. It is the thing that makes me happy to get out of bed and go to the office, to spend extra hours meeting with students, to work even when I don't need to or am not expected to (for example, now, when research and presenting at conferences are not in any way factored into my position). I honestly cannot imagine myself doing anything else.

The second reason driving my decision to stay the course is that, on average, it takes 3 years for newly-minted PhDs to land a tenure-track job. That's what I was told when I entered my graduate program, and that's what I witnessed in the job market process of several colleagues from my program. Linc further suggests that if I'm "not getting interviews this season—fresh PhD, publications, good teaching record, at least some jobs being advertised—it’s time to rethink the career path. Unless [my] appeal is about to dramatically change (e.g. your dissertation being reformulated as a book, but NOT just adding a new course taught or another article), [my] marketability is not going to change." I disagree with this. Each semester in my current position has offered a new course to teach, which has brought the opportunity for more learning on my part and more confidence in both my knowledge base and skill set. For example, by teaching Shakespeare and incorporating it into my research work, I'm able to more credibly call myself an Early Modernist, rather than a Restoration/18th c. scholar. In turn, this broadens the number of positions to which I'm able to apply.

The third reason I'm going to hang in there a bit longer is that this year sucked in terms of the number of jobs in my field. There were less then 30 in my field, and of those 30, a good number of them were at very prestigious schools, which are likely to only hire Ivy-pedigreed grads. Several of the other positions were somewhat narrow in their search. For example, the secondary specialty was poetics or digital humanities, or tapdancing, or some other subspecialty that wasn't a good fit for me. That doesn't mean I don't have a wide range of secondary interests, but rather that this year's positions were frequently looking for something else. It just wasn't a good year for my field.

I choose to be optimistic, to believe that something will work out, and that God has a plan for me. I can't imagine that He's brought me to this point--through graduate school in three different states, through 10 years of teaching, to the Middle East and back, to a wonderful advisor, to two very good publications and a dozen conference presentations--only to leave me unemployable in this profession. I could be wrong, and I may occasionally be down about the situation, but for now....I'm not out. I have lemons, and I choose to make lemonade!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good News...Finally

Not one, not two, but THREE good things to come from one e-mail.

"Dear AcadeMama, would you be interested in teaching Shakespeare in the spring?"

Why yes, yes I would! This resulted in not one, but TWO Shax courses, which then resulted in an eliminataion of one of my comp courses--the 8:00 a.m. course!--huzzah!!

This news has me all sorts of giddy, but I'm also really nervous because a) it's been a long time since the Bard and I have been together and b) I don't want to screw this up. This does, however, how that I'm flexible and happy to teach a new course at the very last minute, and it will be great for my CV.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Selling Out? Or, How Long Does One Wait?

This is the question: How long do I wait on trying to get a full-time academic job before I decide to get off the pot?

I live in an area where there are more schools (colleges, community colleges, universities) per square inch than probably anywhere else in the country. Theoretically, my chances are good that I would *eventually* land some sort of full-time position, though probably teaching comp classes. In the meantime, we cannot afford to live forever with me being employed only part-time. I've found out some good news, that I'll actually get to teach a summer course in my field, which is great! Unfortunately, the fall assignments have already been handed out, and I'm still down to two classes.

On one hand, I know that once Eliza is in school, that will free up about $500 a month. And then, a mere 2 1/2 years later, Amelia will be in school, and there's another $500 a month. Of course, by that point, we will surely have to actually purchase a new vehicle and take on a car payment (something we haven't had since the first year we were married). Will something come up during that time? Who knows...

On the other hand, I want things! I want to do things! I want to go out for dinner, take the kids to Disney on Ice, a movie matinee...I want to be able to buy lounge pants just because I like them and I could use them. We can't do those things on my part-time budget. When I have money, I don't feel the urge to spend it. When I don't have money, it really bothers me, I feel trapped, and I start thinking about jumping ship altogether.

Like, what if I could get hired at a drug company? Sure, I'd be selling out, but I'd have money, right? No, I shoud try to draw on my skills....wait, I don't think I can sell free-lance literary criticism. Okay, how about a middle ground? There's a full-time administrative assistant position open at the Planned Parenthood office in Nearby Big New England Town. That would still be something I'm passionate about. I've looked at local listings, and there are no part-time administrative positions that would allow me to keep teaching and stay active in academia. I could go back to the banking industry. Of course, any of the options that take me out of academia essentially mean that I can never go back. And what the fuck does that mean?

It means my heart breaking more than a little bit. It means feeling like I've let down my advisor and completely wasted her time, as well as the time of my other committee members. It means forever wanting to slit my wrists when I make that student loan payment every month. It means that I might as well shit all over that PhD I worked so fucking hard for. But really, isn't that what it might come to?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Post Wherein I Bitch...a Lot

Part of the reason I haven't been blogging much...okay, at all, is that I don't want this space to become a Bitch Journal. I don't want to be a blogger who does nothing but complain, criticize, and point fingers. Unfortunately, as job searches move forward--without me--I can't help but feel awful. Like, I'm a failure-sort-of-awful. Like, I'm the only person I know from my graduate program who hasn't landed a full-time job (not necessarily tenure-track).
I know the market sucks and that, in many ways, the entire search process isn't much more than a lottery. I mean this only in the sense that a candidate can do all the Right Things--present at national conferences, take advantage of years of teaching experience, have a SuperStar advisor, and even publish in solid journals--and it still may come to nothing in this market. This is not to suggest that those who land the mythical tenure-track job don't deserve it. Rather, I mean to point out (just like many others have) that the market is flooded with people who have done all the Right Things. So, while the pedigree certainly matters and can filter out the chafe from the wheat in the eyes of some search committees, the rest seems to be a coin toss. At least that's the view from my seat.
To add to this, I got my teaching assignment for next fall, and I still only have two fucking courses, and they're both comp classes!! I can't do this forever. WE can't do this forever. This living off of one full-time salary and my piddly-ass adjunt salary for two classes...we can't do it. And I only have so much patience. I just feel like I've worked too hard and been too poor for too many years to continue being a fucking indentured servant with no job security indefinitely.
Needless to say, I don't do well with uncertaintly. I have really, truly been doing my best to remember that I'm not in control of things. That God brought our family here for a reason, and that He has a plan for me. He has always provided for me, and I know He will continue to do so: God's timing is always perfect. In my head, I know this. But this hasn't been enough to calm the anxiety, curb the sadness, or dampen the resentment I feel at a department that does nothing to make adjuncts feel included, supported, or appreciated.
To make everything worse, I have made no friends here. Zero. Because adjuncts aren't given offices to share--we only get the rent-a-space for our allotted office hours each week--I don't even have the luxury of being on the same floor or in a shared space with other members of my department. I have literally only met two members of my department (other than the chair). Besides home and campus, the only other place where I spend time is at church for our youth group nights. Please, tell me, what the hell am I supposed to do to make friends in a new city/state at 35 fucking years old? I'm not asking for a BFF or anything, I just want someone I can grab a drink or lunch with occasionally. Someone to kvetch with when I've had a shitty day, and someone who wants to kvetch back. Is it me, or does this line of work *really* not lend itself well to social relationships?
I did get a request for a writing sample today, which came just at the right time. But then I poked around on the faculty pages and found that the school already has a VAP in field for which they're hiring, *and* ze does creative writing as well. This person just received the PhD this year, so my thinking is that maybe that's why ze only has a VAP position right now, but that essentially there is an inside candidate. So, forgive me for thinking I've got less than a snowball's chance in hell of this going anywhere.
Yes, I'm all sunshine and roses here folks. If you're looking for Susie Sunshine, let me know when you find her. Kthnxbye!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Catching Up

Here's some of what I've been up to...It's not an exhaustive list, but it's enough to give you an idea of why the blog went to the wayside.

- Hannah started a youth group at a local church. After attending with her the first couple times and meeting the other kids, I decided I wanted to get involved. Now, I'm a youth group leader. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be in this role, but I just couldn't not do something to contribute to the lives of these kids.

- I was told I might not have a job next semester. Then, about a week later, I found out that I still have a job, but my class load has been cut (by one course). Since I currently teach 3 courses, and one class has been cut for the spring, it basically means I've lost 30% of my income. If I think about this anymore right now, I'll start crying so...there you have it.

- Because of the above bad news, it made no sense to move forward with plans to remodel the kitchen. Instead, we spent a lot less money and hired a painter to finish stripping the wallpaper in the office and paint that room, our bedroom, and strip/prep/paint the hallway and stairway. Now, our entire upstairs is repainted and looks a million times better. I completely love the color of my office! It's a dark, teal green that you normally wouldn't think would look good, but with the white bookshelves, desk, etc., it really works well.

- My brother came for a one-night visit. Then, he met my Mom in a nearby town and they had their own little New England vacation. There was some drama associated with it all since my Mom had no plans to come visit my family, but ultimately I took the high road and whatever...

- Our youth group took a weekend trip to NYC--yay!! It happened the same week when I received papers from two classes--boo! Lesson learned.

- In addition to youth group, both Eliza and Hannah are participating in AWANA at the church every Tuesday night.

- My neck completely spasmed for almost two weeks straight. Between pain meds, steroids, and muscle relaxers, and trying to keep up with grading, I wasn't coherent enough to do much of anything.

- The good news is that Hannah got moved into Honors classes!! So far, we haven't had any problems, and I'm so proud of her. She came home the first day and said, "Mom, it's like the first day of school I never had!" She's doing so much better, thank God.

- The job market in my field absolutely blows. It is abysmal! Approximately 15-18 tenure-track jobs in my field, and many of them at schools that probably wouldn't even look twice at my application. It doesn't look good folks, and I don't know what the alternative is.

That's a fairly good idea of how crazy things have been. I'm hoping to get the rest of my job apps out this week, so that should free up some more time. And then, I'll need a place to vent, because unless something good happens with the job market, some big changes will need to be made.

Happy Birthday Eliza!

Chalk up my blog absence to an array of things (beginning of the semester, insane grading load, the need to get job apps out, and some travel). Nonetheless, today there's a great reason to get back into the blogging groove: it's Eliza's 5th birthday!!
We had her party yesterday, and it was fantastic because for the first time in more than two years, family was able to join us for the celebration. Hubby's parents flew in for the weekend, and we had a great visit with them. Even though none of the kids in Eliza's daycare class were able to make it (my fault, since I didn't get the invites out more than a week in advance), she enjoyed herself, and I was thankful that we got to share the time with family.
I am so proud to her Mama!! She's smart, beautiful, and imaginative, and I can't believe it's been 5 years!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Middle School

I'm completely convinced that middle school for most of today's young people is 5 bazillion times worse than it was when I was younger...It is nothing short of pure hell, and I just pray that Hannah survives. I'm realizing now just how innocent, good, and naive she really is. That doesn't mean she's perfect. She tells lies to get out of trouble, she makes bad decisions, and she's often completely disrespectful to Hubby and I. But, in the end, she is a *good* girl. A *good* person, especially outside the walls of our house....especially at school.

She has NEVER misbehaved in a classroom or disrespected a teacher. Never. Ever. And she never would. Moreoever, she's never been in a classroom setting where backtalking the teacher, mouthing off in the back row, and generally being rude and disruptive on a regular basis is how some kids behave. And now, after two years of attending a wonderful school with top-notch standards, best learning/teaching practices, and fantastic facilities and resources, she has now been thrown into the lion's den.

On top of going through the repatriation process, which brings its own specific challenges, she's also going through the difficulties that come with a new school, town, etc. She's hypersensitive AND going through puberty, which means at least 50% of all her reactions to anything end up in a teary meltdown. I'm doing the best I can to be patient, understanding, and helpful to her during this transition. But, frankly, I don't have all the answers. Hell, I don't know if the answers I have are even any good. And honestly, I'm going through my own repatriation/new town/new job issues, so part of me just wants to sit down and cry along with her!!

I don't know that I have a point here. I'm just hoping that if I keep getting things down in writing somewhere, I'll feel better, I'll think through things a bit more carefully, and maybe even some answers will magicaly appear. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Still Here

I'm here...barely.

As usual, lots of stuff happening in our household. My Mom came up for a visit in mid-August, and we had a great time with her. We followed that with a week in Ocean City, N.J., where we rented a beach house like we did last year. This time, Hubby's aunts and their families did the same, so the girls got to spend lots of time with their cousins at the beach. It was a great trip and a perfect way to end the summer. Last weekend, we had the hurricane-related weather, which really just amounted to lots of wind blowing down limbs, leaves, and such all over our yard and sidewalk. We also welcomed a new member of the family into our house last week. Meet Charlie
our new poodle! He's around 4 years old, and we adopted him from a rescue group that transports dogs/cats in the south to their forever homes in New England. We've been promising the girls a dog for the past two year, telling them we would get one as soon as we moved back to the U.S. We knew we wanted a poodle because we'd seen how wonderfully behaved my mother-in-law's standard poodle is. We did not, however, want to buy from a breeder if we could avoid it, because they are just so many dogs that need a loving home. We got very lucky in finding Charlie! He's shy and behaves as if he may have been mistreated at some point. He cowers quite a bit when Hubby approaches him, but he's getting better as he learns that we love him and handle him gently. He's a very well-mannered dog, only barking when he hears someone at the door, and he's great around the kids (meaning he lets them pet him but he's smart enough to run and hide when Amelia chases him). Since I'm the one who drove to Connecticut to pick him up, he has taken to me the most, following me around wherever I go and laying next to me wherever I sit. It breaks my heart to think that some family could give this dog up, much less treat him with anything other than kindness. I pray that we'll have a good long time with our new addition!

Hannah has also started school this past week. It was not the start I was hoping for, though. She faced one part culture shock from being back in the U.S. and one part urban school shock from being at a good-sized middle school in an urban area. It was evidently an R-rated experience, and she witnessed kids being disrespectful to teachers, mouthing off during class, etc. She was unhappily surprised to find the school schedule nothing like what she experienced in Doha, where they followed best practices and allowed students a short morning break and afternoon break between classes (this allows time for students to decompress a bit, regroup, and relax before hitting their next subject). Such a practice is immensely helpful to children like Hannah who have ADHD. Her new school allows only 3 minutes to switch classes and only 15 minutes for lunch. I'm guessing the idea is to keep students out of trouble by limiting their "free" time. Hannah calls it "not trusting students" and she's probably right. That's the really sad part...that they probably *can't* trust their students. It's a completely different student demographic than what she's used to, and she's terrified of getting bullied, called out in front of people, excluded, and a thousand other things.

We've tried to reassure her that things will get better and give her strategies for making sure she's successful in class and in making friends. Overall, though, it seems that middle school is a shark-infested cesspool of delinquency and immaturity. Most of the boys act like morons and most of the girls are catty little bitches. I really am shocked by how bad the school culture has gotten here, and I'm terrified of what it will become my the time my youngest two are in middle school.

I closed last week with a day-surgery to remove an inclusion cyst...lots of fun, I know. It was a delicate procedure that required general anasthesia, so I was sore, groggy, and out of it for most of Friday. Hubby was really great about helping me rest and making sure the girls didn't smother me and cause any undue pain. I tried to take it easy over the weekend, but it turns out that I'm not good at taking it easy. I am feeling better now, though, so it's back to the grindstone.

Hubby and I start classes this Wednesday, and I've finished syllabi for my courses. The job season is officially upon me, and I'm hoping the MLA job list turns up something good. There is a full-time spot open at a very good local university. It's a renewable 3-year contract, teaching first-year writing and literature courses. The bad news is that most of the people who currently hold these positions have PhDs from places like Columbia, Boston College, UC-Berkeley, etc. And these aren't tenure-track spots! I'm going to apply, but I won't hold my breath.

Right now, I'm just trying to get course materials and handouts developed so that I won't have as much prep to do during the semester. Because we're carpooling to campus and I have no campus office, Hubby is graciously letting me stake out some space in his office to work while we're on campus. It's a TINY space and we are not tiny people, so I don't know how well this scenario will work, but it's the only option at this point. I don't work well with distractions and noise, both of which make it hard for me to concentrate if I'm doing anything other than grading. This means that common spaces like the coffee shop aren't good options for me. The library might work in a pinch, but the problem is when I need to be near my books--all of my books--not just one or two.

So, I have no idea how things are going to play out with work space and schedules, but we'll adapt, I'm sure. Work continues on the house, as I try to make progress in my home office/guest room, and I meet with the carpenter this week about renovations to the kitchen. We're finally getting settled in just as new work & school routines kick in. And every week I have college football, which makes me very, very happy!

Happy Fall everyone!

ETA: I have no idea why Blogger keeps adding spaces between paragraphs, but it's really annoying and I'd love to know how to fix it. I've tried editing the post several times with no luck. Ideas?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Knowing Christ: A Question for Praying People

I have a question for people who would consider themselves practicing Christians. It really doesn't matter which denomination (I don't think). Let's say you have, as part of your regular prayer list, a section for People Who Don't Know Christ. What does this mean, exactly?

I ask because it appears that Hubby and I have landed on this section of someone's prayer list, and we're not sure why. We go to church, we actively look for opportunities to be involved in church and the community, we teach our children about God and prayer, and we genuinely believe in Christ and do our best to live according to basic Christian principles: love people, love God. The person who put us on their list is a relative of mine and knows these things about us, so we're both a bit confused and slightly hurt that this person is under the impression that we don't know Christ. I'm sure the intentions were completely good and that it can't hurt to have someone praying on your behalf.....but what does it mean?

Good Stuff

I'm sure I'm late to the party here, but I thought I'd give a book recommendation for anyone still doing some late summer reading. My mother strongly urged me to read Stockett's The Help, and after hearing all the hype in print, I decided to check it out. While I can see why it appealed to popular culture, it is not The Great First Book that I had hoped it would be. It's a mediocre book, and the author frequently slips in the language when she writes as a black woman. She gets it right and gets it best when he writes as Skeeter, and I hope Stockett can come to that realization and improve her writing as a result.

Anywho, the writer I stumbled upon and fell in love with is Chris Cleaves. I started with his second novel, Little Bee, which is not at all something I'd normally pick up.
I was suckered in by the back cover, which teased me by not revealing anything other than this was a story of two women from completely different worlds, whose lives became inextricably intertwinged (in a way that was NOT a love story). I won't say anything else except that you should read it. It's moving, relevant, painful, and hopeful all at once. It's great writing and an even better story.

Once I found how much I liked Cleave, I picked up his first book, Incendiary.

Again, not something I would have been interested in, but I'd already developed a trust in Cleave, and he didn't disappoint. The story of a British woman who lost her husband and son in a terrorist attack, it's an epistolary novel full of humour, wit, and a search for sanity in an insane world. I think I'm largely drawn to the writing because it's set in London, and I adore the narrator's voice. How Cleave writes so well in a "female" voice is an altogether different matter worth further discussion and study.

So, if you're looking for good reads, these two are infinitely better than The Help.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stuff in My Head

I'm sure nobody really cares, but I have several new posts running around in my head:

- the repatriation process and its challenges
- the new house and ALL the things that need to be done with it
- New England living
- making friends
- getting older
- going on the job market again this year

I'm hoping I'll get time to write more, but next week brings the imperative to finish revisions to my article. The following week brings a day surgery for me and Hannah's return from Home State, where she's been visiting grandparents and her biological dad. The week after that brings my Mom's first visit to our new house--so excited for that! Then, we're head to Ocean City, N.J. for another vacation at the shore, where Hubby's parents have a house and his aunts and cousins are also renting a place for the same week. Then school starts...ZOMG at some point I'm supposed to have two syllabi ready to go. Yeah, so don't know when I'll have the time to do anything again, but I'll try.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Room of One's Own...Outside the Home

We've been in our house almost three weeks now, and last week was the first week we started working on our own stuff (article revision for me, HR stuff and office move-in for Hubby). After more than a month of being with the kids, primarily Eliza and Amelia, I was anxious for some quality time with my work. I was excited to return to some sense of normalcy, something that resembles a schedule. The first thought in my head last Monday morning was, "I can't wait to get to the office!" And then it hit me: I don't have an office to go to. Not one on a school campus anyway. For the first time in 10 years of teaching at the university-level, I do not have an official work space of my own .

Even though I had previously always shared an office with one other person (sometimes two), rarely was I ever in the office with an officemate at the same time. I've always treated my job as a regular 9:00-5:00 gig, which isn't terribly common for many graduate students. I've never enjoyed working at home because I'm tempted to do "home things" like fold laundry, clean the kitched, put away dishes, etc. I also don't like the idea of having home/family and work in the same physical space. I function much better at both when I have a separate space of my own in which I can work.

But now, this isn't an option. New England School puts 5-6 visiting lecturers in one large office area for the purpose of meeting with students, etc. I have no idea what this space looks like, or if people are given a desk of their own. Either way, the space is not meant to be a work space for people doing research or writing.

What I have is our fourth bedroom at home, which will serve as my home office. We've bought a futon, mattress, and bedding to use when we have guests, and the room is large enough that neither my work space nor the guest space will feel too cramped if someone is visiting. The guest space aspect is great, but I'm feeling odd and uncomfortable about a home office as my work space. I've never done this before. I almost feel confined and isolated, and it's really unclear how this will work with our plan to carpool together to campus. We're trying to save money on gas, but if my time between classes is the primary time I have to get work done, I don't know how I'll do it on campus. Hubby and I have already planned on sharing his campus office to some extent, but again, I don't know how well that will work either. We both have very different work habits (for example, he listens to music, while I need silence to concentrate).

There's just so much uncertainty about how this will work out, and I don't do well with uncertainty. Does anyone? The best I can do for now is get started on rennovating the room. Just like all the other rooms in the house (except the kitchen), it has awful wallpaper (though I've almost gotten it all stripped down). Once I finish stripping the first layer, I'll take off the second layer, prep, tape, and primer the walls, then paint. I'm thinking of going with this color:

It's a Pantone color called Emberglow...What do you think? It's warm with some punch, but not overbearing or off-putting. I dont' think I'd paint all four walls with it, though...maybe just two? I bought two new, 5-shelf bookshelves, both of which are already full, and my desk is on its way now. I'm going to do my best to enjoy the space, but I already miss not having a professional space on campus, where I can feel more connected to the department. I know plenty of people do this all the time, but this is my first time, and it's going to take some getting used to.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New England Town

We're here! We moved in July 8th, and we've been unpacking boxes, buying new stuff for the house, and getting estimates on plumbing, electrical, and carprentry work. I've already got my new state driver's license, and Eliza and I both have library cards for the public library (she's plowed through the 10 books we took out this past Monday). The move-in had a small hitch, with the movers first being unable to get the headboard for our new bed up the stairs. The next morning, the furniture company sent a new crew, who got it in through the window on the second floor. Unfortunately, once they set up the bed, I noticed where the first movers put two sizeable dents and scratches in the footboard. Another call to the furniture company and two days later, we had a new footboard. Seriously, this is THE most comfortable mattress I've ever slept on! So comfortable that many nights, I go to sleep and don't wake up until it's actually morning! I don't remember the last time that happened.

We've had a few surprises with the electrical work. The original plan was for my brother-in-law, who is an electrician, to drive up and replace the knob and tube wiring in the attic and basement. He's working 7 days a week right now, so that's not going to be an option anytime soon, but if we want to keep the same insurance company, we have to make the repairs in the next few weeks. We ultimately decided to solve the problem by simply changing insurance companies, especially once we found out that knob and tube wiring is really common in the old houses here and that there's no fire danger. Eventually, if we decide to stay long term that is, we'll get it replaced.

Not one, two, or three, but FOUR window A/C units later, our house is comfortably cool. More expensive than what I'd budgeted, but since we're not buying anymore living room furniture, we were able to cover it just fine. I was also able to get a new, stainless steel Frigidaire Professional refrigerator on sale for $999 (regularly $1,599). Under budget there as well, so I went ahead and splurged on this new stainless steel Weber grill!
It's so beautiful! I've never had a nice grill before, and I can't wait to start cooking on it because the weather here is beyond amazing in the summertime. Seriously, the other day it never got above 90 degrees. A gentle shower in the morning cools it off for the rest of the day, and I could sit outside forever.

We've started working on the Wallpaper Nightmare that exists in every room of the house except the kitchen. We're taking out of the little girls' room first and hoping that the job won't take too long now that we have a good solution that you roll onto the walls. I'm also in Contact Paper Hell, with the ugly, dirty stuff all over the kitchen cabinets and drawers. I'm almost finished ripping it all up, but gawd it's been a tedious chore.

I forgot how much work it is to own a home...I also forgot how much of a joy it is! How much pleasure I take in knowing that it's ours and we can do whatever we want to with it. Knowing that we're going to take care of our new home and make it beautiful fills me with such an immense happiness. Of course, so does the fact that I can get a bottle of wine at the store anytime I like :) We stll have a lot of work to do, but it doesn't have to be done overnight. Right now, I'm looking forward to getting back into some sort of routine that allows me to get some work done, as I still have an article due August 15th and two course syllabi to prepare. No rest for the weary, right?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Updates: The Short Version

The hitch was unhitched, and we closed today! Hubby is in New England Town and just finished closing...we're officially homeowners!

This is a huge relief for me, especially, because I've been going back and forth with the underwriter for more than a week, running and jumping, scanning and e-mailing all sorts of documents every time she called. I've had the two little ones on my own at my in-laws home, while trying to get through jet lag, no routine for the kids, and way too much stuff to do.

While there, however, we had some quality time with family at the shore and at a river-side beach resort, where Hubby's aunt served up some fresh Maryland steamed crabs drenched with Old Bay--ZOMG they were so delicious! Eliza got to play with her cousins, and she couldn't get enough. She literally followed her older cousin around everywhere she went. Hubby and hid dad successfully got All The Things We Left Behind moved into storage in New England Town (NET), and made it back safely. The girls were very happy to see their Daddy again, and so was I. Once he got back, I was finally able to have a tiny bit of time to myself (pedicure+hair appointment=one happy AcadeMama).

The drive from Hubby's hometown to NET wasn't bad at all, but living out of a suitcase has defnitely gotten old. Staying in hotel rooms for many nights with a 4-year old and 2-year old has gotten even older! They're like stir-crazed, caged animals...playing with the phone, the radio, the remote, and everything else they can get their hands on. Not listening to either of us and generally running amuck despite all our efforts to keep them occupied.

Luckily, we leave for Disney tomorrow. Hubby and the littles fly out from Big New England Town, and Hannah and I fly out of Home State, with all of us meeting in Orlando. It's beyond wonderful that we'll get to go with the home closing out of the way. I firmly plan on enjoying every second of our time there!

All in all, everything has thus far worked out someway or another. We're all set with movers scheduled to move everything in the day after we get back from Disney, and then we'll have some serious unpacking, settling in, and decorating to do!

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Hitch in the Housing Process

After endless documents requested, sent, signed, etc., I woke up to find an e-mail from our mortgage lender indicating that my employment letter from New England School is not sufficient for the underwriters. Even though it clearly indicates that I'm employed for the next year and provides my salary amount, the underwriters don't see it as a guarantee of employment. Instead, they want a contract, like what Hubby has. Well, guess what? Hubby is tenure-track faculty, so he gets a contract in the spring. Me? Not so much.

When I visited NES in April, the person I spoke with in HR explained that the contracts for Visiting Lecturers don't usually go out until late-July or early-August (typical for academia). However, the lender asked me to "reach out" to my boss and ask if I could get my contract earlier than this. I explained that I would try, but that I very much doubt she'll have any authority over when HR can issue contracts.

Can I just say how humiliating this all feels? I'm stuck in a helpless position, having to hope, beg, and plead with an employer who, as of yet, has no relationship with me at all. They don't know me, and they have no obligation to care whether or not my family has a home to live in. But, it's really completely in their hands. I get the distinct impression from our lender that, if I can't come up with a contract, we will not get this house.

Adding to this utterly depressing and frustrating development is the time zone factor. That is, since we're 7 hours ahead of EST, I wake up to this e-mail and then sit and wait for 7 hours before I can even put in a phone call to NES and see where they stand on the whole contract issue. An. Agonizing. Seven. Hours. During which time, all I want to do is cry.

Really? I could be fucking homeless for the entire summer? This is what I have to look forward to? My nerves are shot and now, so is my spirit.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It Has Begun

The anxiety, that is. General stress over the move and all the related logistics has been with me for the past two months,but the all-out can't sleep, can't stop moving, feel like I'm going to puke anxiety has hit with full force today. Do you know what our travel/moving schedule looks like? Let me break it down for you:

this Thursday (6/16): Mover come to load up all our things for repatriation. (And we are not allowed to pack anything ourselves, which simply adds to my anxiety).

Friday (6/17): Wake-up call around 2:45 a.m. to get showered, get kids up, and get everyone ready, out the door, all luggage loaded (5 large bags, 2 car seats, 1 pack-n-play), and to the airport for a 6:00 a.m. check-in. Then, we fly for 14 hours, layover in D.C. for a little while, then fly to Boston, where we crash at the Boston-Logan Hilton.

Saturday (6/18): Pick up rental car, drive to New England Town, let everyone explore the new home, shop for appliances, enjoy local seafood, and crash when we all hit "the wall" around 7:00 p.m. (if not earlier).

Sunday (6/19): I fly to Philly with Eliza and Amelia, while Hubby and Hannah fly to my Home State. Along the way, Hubby will connect with his Dad, who is also flying to my Home State. After a very short night of rest, they will hit the road in our minivan and the minivan we're buying from my mom and head to College Town (6-hour drive). By 1:00 p.m., they'll meet the movers at our storage unit and load up All The Things We Left Behind (ATTWLB). Then, they'll make the 39-hour(!!) drive to New England Town.

Thursday (6/23): Hubby meets New England Town movers to load ATTWLB into a storage unit and put one of the minivans into a storage unit. They'll both then fly to Philly and re-join the little ones and I.

We wait....

Wednesday (6/29): We head back to New England Town, and I'll catch a flight out to Home State.

Thursday (6/30): Hubby will hopefully close on the house with the two little ones in tow.

Friday (7/01): Hubby and the littles will fly to FL from New England, while Hannah and I fly to Florida from Home State. We'll all convene at the Orlando airport, where we'll finally be whisked away by Mickey Mouse himself and taken to our luxury resort, DisneyWorld's Beach Club Resort.

For one week, we'll enjoy three parks (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom), club-level concierge service, and the best pool the Disney park has to offer. This is our reward, our present to our family for working hard, living somewhat frugally over the past two years, and simply surviving Doha. Who know when we'll have the money to do this again, so this is it! At some point, I'm sure I'll be excited.

Thursday (7/07): Hubby and the littles fly back to New England, while I fly Hannah back to Home State, wait at the airport a couple hours, then fly back to New England and drive to the hotel where Hubby is.

Friday (7/08): Please, for the love of God, this should be our moving day! The shipment from Doha will be delivered, the movers will bring our stuff from storage, the furniture stores (yes, plural) will bring our bedroom suite and living room suite, and Lowes will bring our new refrigerator (and possibly some window A/C units).

Now do you see why I'm literally worrying myself sick? Can you imagine the 5,632,218 things that can go wrong in these plans? I can! And that's why I'm freaking out! I have only a limited number of the anti-anxiety meds that my doctor prescribed for me last fall. I've been exercising to help work off some stress and try to help get more restful sleep. Unfortunately, I'm still overwhelmed. I feel like there's too much to do and not enough time to do it. I'm afraid I'll forget something important or that air travel will get screwed up, or worst thing ever....something falls through with the house at the last minute and we're left freaking homeless!!

I could desperately use some prayers for zen, peace, and calm if you have some to spare.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I finished revisions on my essay for the edited collection last week, so half of my research/writing-related goals for the summer are accomplished. I feel really proud of this piece not only because it constitutes the first academic writing of mine to be published, but also because I began the project on my own. That is, it's been entirely self-driven rather than being directed by my advisor or other mentors. My interest was peaked, I saw an opening for exploring the subject, I did the research and the writing, and I completed the work before I ever sent it to my advisor for feedback. This, in itself, is an accomplishment for me, because I'm very insecure about my academic work. In fact, I was almost in tears with the editors read my final essay and responded that they thought it was "groundbreaking." Really?! "Groundbreaking." I almost wanted to ask if they were reading the right essay. Honestly, I don't think the essay is groundbreaking. Or, if it is, I certainly can't articulate why or how. But my reaction to their response is what's most telling.

Friends, I'm a Praise-Seeker. There, I said it.

I'm not a Praise-Seeker in the sense that I want everyone to tell me I'm wonderful and a genius and my work is brilliant. No, not that kind. Rather, I'm of the praise-seeking sort that, unless someone says something positive about my work, I will most likely think it's crap. I *need* someone else--preferably someone smarter, older, wiser, and much more senior--to tell me my work is good, worth doing, or contributing something original to the field in order to fell somewhat confident about the work I do. I'm quite certain that this is a horrible fault to have, especially in academia. My advisor explained clearly while I was dissertating that, if one seeks external reward or reinforcement to prove that one's work is worthy, then that person will most often be disappointed. I have tried my best to keep this in mind, primarily by making myself think about the value of my work to the field as I develop it. That is, constantly reminded myself to make it clear in my writing why X topic is worth studying, exploring, etc.

And now I move on to the next project, revising an article for publication in a good journal in my field. I chose not to follow the advice of my advisor, a committee member, and several other colleagues, each of whom recommended that I try for a top-tier journal and then work my way down if it didn't get accepted. Since I was on the job market last year, it was more important that I just get something accepted in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal. And, I did! Is it the Best Journal in the Field? No. Is it respectable, well-known, and credible? Absolutely! And the editor, who I got to meet at this year's ASECS, is very lovely, also well-known, and good friends with my advisor. So, there are connections formed that could turn out to be important in the future.

This second essay has also helped demonstrate to me (especially from the reader reports) that other scholars are interested in my book project. Generally speaking, they think the topic timely, the theoretical framework original, and the research solidly done. This bodes well for revising my dissertation into a book, and it just so happens that the publisher for the edited collection is also the same publisher for which I think my book would be a good "fit." I have a plan for the revisions, which I hope to complete over the next academic year, and I have an editor contact in the publishing company.

All good things on the work front...Now I just have to decide, between now and October, if I want to do a full run at the job market (full run meaning a national job search, as opposed to looking only in the New England area where we'll live). I fear that decision will be difficult to say the least.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No Answer

I woke up this morning to check my FB and find the news that a tornado hit my hometown yesterday evening. I can't get in touch with my mom and dad, power is out over most of the town, and I don't have anyone in the area who can go check on them. After talking with someone at the fire department, it's likely that they're okay. Though it swept across their side of town, most of the damage is located about 1/2 a mile south of their home. I'd just feel a lot better if I could just hear my mom's voice.

My prayers are with those friends I still have in the area whose home and businesses have been damaged, and I pray that there are no fatalities.

**Update: my parents made it through okay. I can't say the same for too many other parts of town.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Furnishing a New House

When we relocated to the Middle East, we got rid of several "big-ticket" items: living room furniture, bedroom furniture, television, etc. That is, normally these would be big-ticket items, but since I bought them before and during graduate school, none of them cost terribly much (i.e. my living room sofa, loveseat, and chair were $1,500 total). We planned to save our money here to purchase new home furnishings when we returned to the U.S. in part because it made more sense (the furniture and bed were getting old and worn) and because we felt like it would be a nice sense of accomplishment to work hard for our money, save it for nice things, and be able to own items we could enjoy for many years (as opposed to buying something that will just get by for a while).

Now that we've done the hard work and savings, I'm finding myself a bit distracted by the planning for home furnishings (a.k.a. browsing and shopping)! We've already selected a lovely bedroom suit with mattress and boxspring set, and this is the living room suit we've chosen:

I love the neutral palate with just a touch of paisley, and since there's only a small amount of blue in the pillows, I can pull it out by painting the living room a similar shade (it's sort of an antique silvery-blue). We did keep our coffee tables, but we really have little in the way of decor. And now that we'll be in a house with hardwood floors, we'll need to get some rugs. Luckily, the living room suit came in under budget, so there's still some room there.

I should really be working on revision to this essay nonstop, but I can't help wanting to look at the pretty things I can put in my new home! materialistic and shallow, I'm sure. But finally, we can afford to do this. We worked hard for this, don't we have a right to finally enjoy some fruits from our labors? I've never had matching bedroom furniture before, and isn't that something you get to have when you're all grown up?

Okay, back to work....seriously.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

RBoG (Random Bullets of Giddiness)

- Now that I have the news from the Assoc. Dean at NES that I'll have three courses for the fall, and two of them are the Women Writers to 1900 course, which I've never taught, I can't stop thinking about all the wonderful possibilities for the course! I'm actually giddy with delight in thinking about which anthology to use, which supplements to include...Should I focus on British women writers because that's really who I'm most interested in? What kind of assignments would work well and are appropriate for this 300-level class? And, how can I make it the Best. Fucking. Women's Writer's Course. Ever!?

- Everything is connected. Getting the third course pretty much gives us the green light on the house, as well as a decent monthly budget. In turn, this means that we can proceed with buying things like furniture, bedding, a bed for our oldest daughter, know, things that people kinda need to have when they move into a new house. While in NET (New England Town), I went ahead and picked out a bedroom suit that Hubby and I had agreed upon previously, as well as a mattress/boxspring set. I put down a 20% deposit, and that ensures they'll have it in stock and ready to deliver the day we move in--yay! I also picked out living room furniture, of which Hubby approved, and all I have to do is call to place the order to get it in stock and ready for delivery as well. I'm holding off on dishes because the ones I really, really want
(aren't they gorgeous?)

are almost double what I budgeted. I'll wait and see how all the other expenses turn out--especially the inevitable unexpected ones--before I buy anything. We will, however, need to buy a refrigerator ASAP since the house doesn't come with one. I have one in mind, and we don't have many options because of height issues, but again, I'll wait until we get on the ground before doing the buying.

- The Assoc. Dean was happy to submit a verification of employment to our mortgage lender, and he just passed along the good news that he was able to lock us in at a 4.5% rate for the loan, which is fantastic! Given that the closing costs are approx. $3,400, and we've already put $3,000 down in escrow, the money we'll need for pre-pays and escrow is very reasonable. We're not required to put down anything on the house since we're using the VA loan benefit, thank God!

- The only thing I'm not so giddy about is health insurance. Since we'll technically be unemployed for July and August (our contracts don't begin until September), we'll have no insurance unless we: a) pay for COBRA at over $900/month, b)apply for MassHealth, the state-subsidized Medicaid program that we may or may not qualify for, or c)buy short-term health insurance, which really isn't an option because they don't cover pre-existing conditions and two of us have them. That takes us back to option A: COBRA. In addition, NES has a probationary period of 60 days before employees are covered. This means we'll have to purchase coverage through COBRA for 4 months at more than $900/month. Don't know how we're going to do it just yet, but it has to happen. Right now, we're just saving everything we can, trying to live frugally over here (a difficult feat in Doha), and plan for all the relocation expenses we can foresee.

Many of these things--the good stuff and the bad--have been keeping me from getting any sort of sleep. I don't remember the last time I went to bed before 11:00 p.m. Staying up that late is very rare for me, so most of the time I'm exhausted in the mornings and trying to talk myself out of napping the rest of the day. I don't want to make a habit of taking sleeping pills, but the anti-anxiety meds my U.S. doctor prescribed haven't been helping lately. Not sure if there's anything to do other than just ride it out for the next five weeks.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Finally...I can breathe

I should have been listening to this for the past six days. Or better, I should have sent the e-mail to the Associate Dean to the correct e-mail address! I just got spoke to her, and she's confirmed that they've worked out a three-course schedule for me in the fall AND that she's happy to write an employment verification letter this afternoon and fax it in to our mortgage lender. For the first time in weeks, I feel like everything's gonna be okay.* Some serious Marley shall be added to my iPod tomorrow.

*And that's saying a lot, considering I got into my first fender bender in Doha today, two days before we are scheduled to pass it along to the buyer!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The "Interview"

As I hinted in my last post, my "interview" with New England School (NES) was a fiasco. I went there on word from the Dean that I was "already on the schedule for the fall" and "teaching three classes." I arrived to meet first with the English department chair, who apparently had no idea that the Dean--his own wife--had made such a claim! Before this clusterfuck was realized, however, he proceeded to tell me the one decent piece of information that came out of the whole day. Basically, while the previous unwritten policy was that Visiting Lecturers taught nothing but composition and introductory literature courses, he has instituted the practice of "using the untapped resources" that are the PhDs who are working as lecturers to teach whatever class(es) need to be filled. Generally these are not 400-level courses, but 300-level courses are entirely possible. Unfortunately for me, between the retired professor who still teaches the Rest/18th c. in the department and the new hire they made in the same field, my chances of teaching a Rest/18th c. class are pretty much -0-.

The department chair was neither warm nor welcoming. He freely admitted that there were plenty of lecturers that he wouldn't even know if he passed them in the hall. He explained that NES doesn't "do" spousal hires, and that even if the most tenured member of the department came to the Dean and said "if my wife doesn't get a full-time placement I'm leaving," he'd be told "See ya later!" When I asked if the school had a faculty retention officer, he asked me what that was. And finally, he went on at length about how there has only been ONE lecturer to ever transition into a tenure-track job within the department, and that was only due to the fact that their first two candidates declined the job and the union stipulations required that his application be given preferential consideration. Sounds like a great place to work, huh?

I felt all the optimism I'd walked in with fall to the ground as he walked me over to meet the Associate Dean, who is in charge of all part-time faculty. After sitting down, she quickly asked if the chair had already told me that there were no sections for me this fall. What?! The?! Fuck?! "Um, no, actually he didn't," I replied, trying to hide the bewildered look on my face. That's when I started to get worried. Basically, the Dean hadn't told anyone except my husband that I'd be teaching in the fall, so not only was I not on the schedule for the fall, they explained that they'd have to work hard just to see if they could create three new sections of something for me to teach. I struggled not to break into tears as I explained to the Associate Dean, who actually was friendly, warm, and seemingly enthusiastic about me joining their faculty, that we had just put in an offer on a house and we only did so because I had been told I had a job for the fall. She said she couldn't promise me anything, but that they'd do everything they could to get me three sections for the fall. She had the chair walk me over to HR to get started on paperwork despite having no assignment.....and guess how happy they were to help me? Yeah, it didn't exactly fly. So, the department chair left me sitting in HR signing paperwork, while he went off to "scold the Dean." WTF??

I have never felt so humiliated in my adult life, so completely caught off guard and vulnerable. I've never felt so hopeless about a potential job either. This week, I got my course assignment for the fall, and the good news was that I'd been assigned Women's Writing to 1900 (excellent for my CV). The bad news was that I only had two classes! The e-mail also contained my assignment for the spring, which does have three courses, but for now, we could very well be completely fucked in terms of our mortgage loan for the house without that third course. So, I sent a very appreciative and thankful reply to the chair, expressing how happy I was to have this assignment and asking if there was any possibility of a third course being added. I mentioned that I am also qualified to teach the intro to women's studies course (which is offered as an interdisciplinary studies section), I offered to teach at the off-campus location, and I told him I was willing to take on another evening class (one of my classes is already in the evening). I even explained that I would be happy to take on any administrative opportunities that might be assigned in lieu of a course (i.e. Writing Programs Office). In short, I said I'd do anything, and I explained why (the situation with our new home purchase, which we wouldn't be in if I hadn't been told I could expect three courses). Again, I was very careful in my tone, and I closed with the acknowledgment that there may not be anything further he could do. I got a response that was basically along the lines of, "we're trying our best, but it's very difficult this late in the fact one of your courses may be reclaimed by a full-time faculty member...I'll be in touch."

I'm doing my very best to not be negative and to focus on the fact that we'll be within driving distance to an OMG ridiculous number of schools with whom I could find employment. Not only or primarily community colleges either, we're talking really good, small, private colleges and research universities. It might take some time, but I'm willing to wait if Hubby is happy with his position and our family is happy in our new town. I know I have no reason to whine or complain given that there are so many PhDs who have been contingent faculty for years on end. So, I won' least not much and not right now. Right now, I just need the Assoc. Dean to reply to my e-mail requesting a letter to verify my employment. The mortgage lender has said that it would help to have it sooner rather than later (i.e. when the paperwork gets to underwriting), and I haven't gotten any reply since I sent the mail on Wednesday. I'm chalking it up to end-of-the-semester business and that she may be holding out to see if she can get that third class on my schedule.

It's all just utterly disheartening. There's no doubt I'll be going back on the market again this fall, though I'll focus primarily on our new area. None of it makes any sense...Hubby and I have the same credentials, we both have extensive teaching experience and research awards. I have two publications forthcoming and a dozen conferences. But only one of us will have full-time employment come the fall. It's nothing short of a fucking lottery at this point folks.