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.