Sunday, July 29, 2012

Good Summer Things

One of the best things about this summer is that the little girls have been able to enjoy several activities sponsored either by our church or a neighboring church that we attended for a brief time after moving to our new home. They both went to vacation Bible school (VBS) earlier this summer, and it made my heart happy to hear them singing the songs they learned and repeating the verses they'd discussed. VBS was a staple of my childhood summers. I loved the crafts, meeting new kids, learning more about the Bible, and I'm so thankful to live in the U.S. again, where my children can take part in the tradition.

This past week, Eliza got to participate in our church's Sports Camp. It's a one-week program (just 3 hours each day), where the kids get to be outside and active (soccer, cheer, football, etc.) and work with a camp counselor to connect their activities to specific Bible themes or passages. This year, the theme was Going for the Gold, and it emphasized the importance of the ultimate reward of our relationship with God: heaven. I don't talk about heaven much with my kids. They understand it simply as a place where people they love go after death. I let them imagine what they will and explain that I don't really know with certainty what heaven is like. Regardless of what my kids choose to believe when they are adults, linking the values we believe in to a larger foundation of faith is important to us as parents. We're talking about simple concepts here, folks: Don't steal, lie, cheat, kill. Respect and obey your parents. Help others. Be thankful to God and turn to Him in prayer. Having an environment that reinforces those lessons is something the girls (at least Eliza, who's almost 6) seem to appreciate and enjoy. Seeing their joy is what makes my heart happy, and that's something I really need more of these days.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that I got the job!! Beginning this fall, I will be a Part-Time Lecturer in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at a branch of New England State University. I only have T/Th open in my teaching schedule right now, so I can only teach one course in the new department, but this will change in the spring. For the fall term, I'll be teaching a special topics course, one that I get to build from the ground up, and they're looking for me to continue doing more of this in the future. I learned quite a bit from the interview last week, and it looks like the department has a good deal of administrative support. This is a great opportunity for the present, but an even more amazing job because of the potential it offers for the future. If things go very well, and I am patient and can prove myself indispensable, successful in the classroom, a team player, and effective at securing additional financial support for work the department does, this spot could turn into a full-time--if not a tenure-track--position. I'm grateful and excited about this new direction, and even more thrilled that it will allow (also require) us to move to 5-day/week childcare! Yay for the chance to work every day!!

The bad news is that I have uterine (endometrial) polyps. Almost two weeks ago, I noticed some spotting after Hubby and I had sex, and when light bleeding continued the next morning, I just thought it must be my period starting a bit earlier than usual. During church, I noticed that I needed to rush to the bathroom to attend to...ahem, some lady business. Not only was the bleeding heavy, but I passed a clot so large (bigger than a golf ball) that it felt like I was delivering something (-0- chance of pregnancy). The bleeding and clot passing continued for the next 48 hours, with me going through the heaviest tampon and pad they make every 60-75 minutes, sometimes bleeding through both and my clothes. I was left to pretty much lay in bed, sometimes not even having the energy to go up and down the stairs. I saw my doctor on Thursday, and she ordered some blood work, then my ultrasound was yesterday. The radiologist has not given the official results, but the U/S technician was able to show me at least one polyp and measure it.

The usual treatment, according to my doctor, is a D&C. I've never had one of these, but I know they're relatively common. This, however, doesn't make me feel any better. It still requires general anaesthesia, a half day in the hospital, and extensive cramping. I just feel like this is one more thing added to a very long and growing list of shit--medical or otherwise--that I have to worry about and deal with. I'm supposed to build a brand new course from scratch, prep for a course I've never taught before, stay home with the girls each day (except Tuesday), figure out when I'll have back surgery, help out with our church's vacation Bible school in a couple weeks, get Eliza ready for kindergarten, take a one-week trip to Home State to visit both my mom *and* my biological dad (in neighboring state), etc., etc. I'm just overwhelmed with everything, and I feel like I have absolutely zero time to get anything accomplished. One day, the semester will begin, and I'll be expected to have all my shit together, and I just don't know how that's going to happen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I'm Here...Barely

One day, when I have childcare again, I promise I'll have more time to write in this space. God knows it would be cathartic. But with me staying home with the girls 4 days a week, I'm not about to use any of my 1 work day to blog, and I'm so exhausted in the evenings that I can barely keep my eyes open.
So, what's been happening?

Well, my disc is still herniated, and the neurologist is certain that it's pinching my sciatic nerve, which is the reason for the weakness and numbness in my right leg and why I've lost my Achilles reflex and much of the reflex in my knee. After an EMG to map the nerves next week, I will consult with a neurosurgeon to plan and schedule a microdiscectomy. This is often done on an outpatient basis and requires much less downtime. I'm thankful to finally have some answers and a plan in place!

We took a vacation to Ocean City, NJ for the 4th of July week, and it was pretty good. We enjoyed the beach every day with the girls, but it wasn't quite the same without Hannah, who is in Home State for the summer, visiting grandparents and her (biological) father. We enjoyed a really nice dinner out with Hubby's parents to celebrate my birthday, and the girls got to see their cousins. We have, however, decided that we won't be making that trip in the future. This is due to several reasons. First, we live near beaches that are much closer than the 6-8 hours it takes to drive to Ocean City. Second, we don't always get to most of Hubby's family when we're at the shore. Third, there's no reason to visit somewhere that requires us to rent a house for a week; we just don't have that kind of money to spend every year. Since it seems that nobody in Hubby's family has any intention or desire to drive or fly to visit us, the burden falls to us to travel to his home state if we want our children to be able to spend time with their cousins. Since these cousins are the only ones they have (my brother isn't married, doesn't have kids), and our girls LOVE their cousins, we feel that it's important to just bite the bullet and make the drive (about 6 hours) to Hubby's parents' house once a year.

My mother and I have only spoken once since she left in mid-June. Other than sending me a few text messages to ask questions regarding Hannah, the only time she's contacted me was to wish me a happy birthday. I'm flying to Home State on Friday to see Hannah, and I will *not* be staying at my parent's house. This is a first, and she has yet to ask why...probably because she thinks I'm still pissed at her, but that's actually not the reason. I'm not angry with her anymore; I just think she's a tiny bit f*#king crazy, and until she can realize that her behavior at my home was inappropriate at best--mean and hurtful in actuality--I really don't want to be around her any more than I have to be. For the first time in my life, I'm not questioning myself here and wondering what I did wrong or how I was selfish. This is really not about me; this is about her and whatever chip she has on her shoulder. I don't know what it is or why she feels like she can speak to me the way she does, but I'm not going to tolerate it any longer.

Oh, some good job news. Last week I applied for a part-time lecturer position in the Women's and Gender Studies Program at a branch of Large New England State School, and yesterday I got a phone interview request! The program is impressive, and the school has a longstanding practice of moving part-timers up to full-time positions and making joint appointments, both of which make this a great place for me to get my foot in the door. Interview is tomorrow, so send prayers and good vibes this way.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

So Much Stuff

I don't even know where to begin....

Hubby received a fellowship to study military history at West Point, so he left on Sunday, June 10th (the program is 3 weeks!). His trip last not even a full three days because last Wednesday I was hospitalized for severe back pain, and he had to return and take over with the girls.

I had undergone a second injection procedure the prior week to help alleviate pain resulting from a herniated disc. I had really high hopes following the procedure, but the day after Hubby left, I felt the familiar nagging pain. I went to bed with a heating pad Monday night, but it didn't feel much better the next day. I thought a relaxing day at the beach with another family we're friends with would be a great idea. I loaded the car with kids (even taking Hannah out of school for the day) and we headed to the Cape. The pain slowly got worse and then, while we were walking back to the shore during low tide, I suddenly felt like my lower-right back was "pinched." We still had to eat lunch, go check out the fish market, and drive home, and by the time we got home, I wanted to do nothing but cry, the pain was so bad. I put an ice pack on it and took a muscle relaxer and ibuprofen, but still had no relief in the morning. I started making phone calls to see if there was anyone who could help me out, and by 10:00 a.m., my youth pastor was taking me to the ER while another mom (a friend from church) was staying at our house with the girls. Hannah stayed home again to help while I was gone. By 4:00, the ER doctor decided to admit me to the hospital because the pain was so bad I couldn't walk unassisted, couldn't sit up without screaming in pain...without pain medication, lying down didn't even get rid of the pain.

I was fortunate in that the doctor's son had just recently undergone a microdiscectomy for a herniated disc, so she sympathized with my condition and wanted me to get some relief. Hubby talked with the director of the fellowship program, and they were willing to allow him to come home and help then return to the program--thank God. I felt awful to have to ask him to come back home, but I really had no other choice. Working from the assumption that the disc was the problem, they did another MRI, and I spent the first night just trying to sleep through the noise of the other patient in the room. The next evening, a neurologist ordered a CT scan after his reading of the MRI suggested that the bulge in my disc wasn't large enough to cause such severe pain (nor did it explain the numbness and weakness in my right leg). He confirmed my suspicion that the doctor from the pain clinic was using the injections as a way of padding his pocket, and he decided to explore the nerves to the right of the spine.

While the second night proved much more restful (thanks to my request for a slipping pill and ear plugs), the pain was still significant. Unfortunately, the CT scan was largely normal, only showing some occluded veins in my abdomen, which left the neurologist with no answers. I was beyond frustrated, but determined to go home Friday evening because Hannah's first semi-formal dance was that night, and I wanted to see her in her dress. They agreed to send me home, as long as I took the pain medicine on schedule and followed up with my primary doctor if I had any unrelieved pain. In addition, my mom, who was originally scheduled to arrive yesterday, changed her flight plans and came in on Saturday to help me out with the kids so that Hubby could return to his fellowship program on Sunday. This seemed like a great idea at the time...

To make a long story short, things have not gone well. I'm still in pain (though not nearly as bad as last week), my mother thinks Hubby and I are horrible parents, and she literally yelled at me in front of my children. I'm thinking I should've stayed in the hospital....

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fire at the Villagio

Doha News report for the story as reports continue to come in.

A few hours ago, I learned of a fire at the Villagio Mall in Doha, a shopping center and mall that we spent countless hours at while we were in Qatar. Not once did I ever think to look up and see if there were sprinklers installed as a fire safety. The fire seems to have started in Gympanzee, a children's play area. Thus far, 13 children are dead and 6 adults. The really miraculous thing is that emergency personnel arrived in 8 minutes. Only those who've live in a part of the world like the Middle East can truly understand how traffic there operates. Drivers usually pay little to no attention to ambulances trying to make their way to an emergency, and they certainly are in no hurry to get out of the way.

I am saddened by this tragedy and pray for those hurt and the families of those who died in the fire. Eliza is worried about her friends in Doha, so we're saying a special prayer that they are safe.

You might take a few minutes to be thankful that we live in a place where our safety during emergency situations is something that most people take seriously. We have regulations in place to keep buildings relatively safe in the case of a fire, and that's just one of a million things that people in other parts of the world don't have.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Very Unlucky

When I went to the doctor at the pain clinic today--the one who did the original epidural steroid injection--to explain the subsequent complications and continuing pain in my back, his response was:

"I'm sorry AcadeMama, you're just very unlucky."

I resisted the urge to swear and was in too much pain to kick him in the face. He wanted to know why I hadn't taken any pain medication today, and I explained that I'm tired of taking pills. His view was that I really didn't have much choice if I wanted any relief. He assured me that I could take the medicine he's prescribed for a month, and I wouldn't have any problems with dependency. However, he and my PCP have conflicting views on which pain medication will be least likely to result in dependency or resistance to effectiveness (Nucynta vs. Oxycodone). For now, he has put me back on bed rest. He said if I'm "lucky" (WTF is up with his seeming philosophy that this is all a matter of luck?!), I may get some relief by the end of the week. He said since what I'm feeling now seems like the same pain I was having before the injection (with the exception of a relief of pressure near my tailbone), that it may be the case that the injection was only partially effective. Or, that it could be that the pain will subside with time. 1-2 weeks!! I don't have that kind of time to be laying on my back, people! I've got shit to do, classes to prep, research to conduct, and a household to run.

Did I mention he didn't even say sorry for puncturing my spinal sack?

We trust doctors to get it right. We pay them to get it right. I understand that they're human, fallible. But when they do make a mistake, especially one that puts a patient in such an unbelievable shitstorm of pain and financial burden, is it too much to ask that they take some sort of accountability? Something beyond telling the patient that she is just "very unlucky"?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

4 Days of Hell

 A long story short. The procedure did not go as planned. I've spent 2 of the past 4 days in the emergency room. The first time (Thursday evening) was because of severe pain and pressure I was still having after the injection.

The next day, a complication from the epidural injection appeared. The doctor evidently punctured a membrane, which left cerebrospinal fluid leaking at the injection site, causing an imablance in fluid around my brain. This caused debilitating, low-pressure headaches and nausea with any attmept to sit up, stand, or walk. After 36 hours in this condition, I was in the ER this morning to receive a blood patch. This process takes blood from my arm, which is then injected into the epidural area to "patch" the hole where the cerebrospinal fluid is leaking. The procedure went quickly, and the relief was almost immediate. I'm on bedrest for the day, and I still have some back pain, but the odds are in my favor now (95% success rate). Some tenderness at the epidural site, but headaches are gone!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Pain in the ...

Back. A tremendous amount of pain in my back as a result of what the MRI showed to be a herniated disc and arthritis in my lower spine. I've dealt with problems from Degenerative Disc Disease in my neck for several years now, but this is new. Evidently I hurt myself somehow while painting the dining room in March. My primary care physician (PCP) declared it a muscle spasm, said she saw no reason for imaging, and prescribed pain meds, muscle relaxers, and steroids. Oh, and she was totally condescending and treated me like a drug-seeking junkie off the street by saying, "If this isn't enough then you'll have to be in the hospital on IV pain meds." Alrighty then...

So, off I went, out of commission for a week, but feeling better at the end of that time. Until a week or two later, when the pain not only came back, but returned even worse. I went to see the doctor at the pain management clinic, and he ordered an x-ray, which he knew wouldn't turn up anything, but he had to go through the process for insurance to approve an MRI. I had the MRI, we got a diagnosis, and the pain got worse, almost daily and to the point where it hurt to sit for any length of time. Back in his office last week and we scheduled what he said was the best treatment option: injections to the nerve area in the back. Oh shit.

Well, you see, he tried to do that with my neck earlier in the year and it didn't go so well. Actually, I screamed at the top of my lungs, jumped in some of the worst pain I've ever felt, and he refused to go any further. We ended up having to do the procedure at a surgery center with me under sedation. Sedation is good. Needles in my neck with nothing but a local?? Not good.

He asked me last week if I'd had an epidural during any of my deliveries. I said, "Of course! With all three!" He assured me that the injections were just like an epidural. No worse pain than that and only a little longer. He did say that I would likely need more than one round of injections because the affected area was fairly large, and he also prescribed a large dose of Xanax which I'm supposed to take 30 minutes before the procedure. It's supposed to calm me down.

Fast forward to Sunday night. Until then, the pain medication he'd prescribed was working fine. Granted, it would only last about 4 hours, but it generally took care of the pain. On Sunday evening the pain got much worse, and by Monday afternoon, the pain meds weren't doing anything to help. This level of pain has continued until now. It hurt to sit (even on the couch), lie down, walk, bend over...just about anything. I've tried combining the pain medication with a pain patch (Lidoderm, a very low-level surface analgesic) and Advil, to no avail. My injection procedure was scheduled for tomorrow, but I was in such excruciating pain yesterday, I called the office and asked if there was any chance I could get in earlier. They'd had a cancellation today at 4:00, so I'm heading in later this afternoon.

And, I'm terrified! I had no problem with any of my epidurals, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the fact that a) I'd already been given Stadol and b) there was that whole process of labor keeping my attention diverted. The problem is that if I can't go through the procedure without sedation, they'll have to go through the surgical center again. Because my doctor doesn't regularly work there, he has to simply wait and get his patients "worked in" to their existing schedule, which can take forever! For example, I've been waiting on them to schedule my next neck procedure for almost 4 weeks now. Thank God my neck hasn't been giving me any problems lately.

I'm the first to admit that I've never had a high tolerance for pain. I really don't care, though, because last time I checked, nobody gives out any kind of awards for pain tolerance. I'm not saying that sedation is the only option, but I definitely need to NOT feel a giant needle in my back. I have no problem with needles. I give blood regularly, I've donated plasma, and I've had plenty of IVs. No issue with needles, as long as the person operating them gets it right the first try. The problem is that the area already hurts really fucking bad! So please, please don't make it hurt worse with your giant needle full of drugs that burn!

Hubby has suggested that I take a leather strip in to bite on while they do the injections. I know the doctor is terrified my screams will be heard by everyone in the waiting room. I'm just terrified I'll be stuck in this pain indefinitely and with no relief. And all of this is to still to say that there's no guarantee the injections will work!! I've heard from several friends who said injections didn't work, so they had to have the disc removed. Some people responded well to physical therapy but not injections. Others responded well to a combination. And one didn't get relief from *either* injections or PT, but rather deep-tissue massage. Holy shitballs people!

Seriously folks, keep me in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, whatever. Send lots of happy, calm, pain-free vibes my way.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

This is a first

I have just entered final grades for my second section of Shakespeare, and I had one student--a graduating senior!!--who failed.

Ze was within 2 points of a 59, which I would have rounded up to a 60 (a -D- grade). But instead, ze's complete lack of discussion board posts, two failed exams, half a dozen failed quizzes, and one failed essay (out of two) result in this student not walking the stage on Saturday. I understand that this is not my fault, nor is it a reflection of my teaching skills, but I really hate the situation.

Take note kids: Do the work! It doesn't always have to be stellar, but if you just put forth some serious effort on occasion, that will usually get you something other than an -F-.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Did I Mention...

I'm going to Guatemala??

Yes, I am, in November. I am part of a missionary team from my church, and we're going to Guatemala to perform service (electrical, construction, brick and concrete work, and painting) at the Guatemala Bible Institute. This is my first mission trip, and it's never something I thought of doing before. However, when I heard about the location, I immediately knew I had to join. My grandfather, who died young, did missionary work in Guatemala. He was one of the best men I've ever known, and if I can do anything that resembles following in his footsteps, I will be doing something good. He was a self
less, hard-working man who never knew a stranger. I have no idea what the trip holds for me personally, but I hope I will be able to make myself of use to others in some way.

Shakespeare Success

Maybe I shouldn't break my arm trying to pat myself on the back, but I'm thinking that it's something to be proud of that not a single student failed in either of my sections of Shakespeare. I had one D in each class, and the rest were primarily Bs and Cs. That's pretty good, right? I think most of my students learned more than they expected to, and several indicated that they really enjoyed the class and learned to appreciate the Bard for the first time. I don't normally take much credit at all for the success my students have, but considering it was my first time teaching Shakespeare, perhaps I got a few things right :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Something Positive For a Change

My Dad flew to New England State last Thursday and met his youngest granddaughter for the first time! I stayed until Sunday, and he was able to spend quality time with each of the girls and myself. He took the family out to dinner to celebrate Hubby's birthday, then he accompanied Hannah and I at our weekly youth group meeting on Friday. To end the visit, he and I went out for drinks and to chat about things that we really haven't discussed in almost 20 years. We cleared the air, me explaining that I don't hold anything against him and that I've forgiven him, but I also need him to be there as a father 365 days a year, not just every few months of so when he calls or sends an e-mail. It was a really, really good visit, and I'm hopeful that it will mark a change in our relationship moving forward. He's offered to pay for us to fly down to Arkansas and stay at his house for a short vacation, so we're working on the details of that for the end of the summer. The girls fell in love with him, of course. It probably didn't hurt that he spoiled them rotten the whole time he was here. It made my heart happy to see them have such a good time with him.

We also got good tax news! The good news is that we don't owe anything, but rather we'll be getting a refund--woohoo!! This doesn't mean any spending will be happening. It simply means that we'll finally have our safety net back in place after getting wiped out by the cost of replacing the transmission on one of our vehicles in December and electrical repairs made to the house just after we moved in. A refund means I can breathe a little sigh of relief.

And, we've confirmed our plans to spend a week in Ocean City, N.J. for the 4th of July week! It's something great to look forward to, and the kids always have a great time. Hubby's dad is taking the week off work, so we'll get to see him, and since we're staying at my in-laws' shore house, we won't break the bank for this trip. I love Ocean City, so I'm absolutely thrilled that we get to go back this summer!

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's That Time...

It's that time of the semester where I have no more reading to do, very little class prep to complete, just some homework grades to tally and evaluations to give, which means I finally have some time to breathe. I need this time desperately.

Hannah, as a result of instigating a conflict on the bus, got into her first fight a couple weeks ago. Her problems with impulse control led to an outburst at a "friend's" house, which led to lots of drama at school the next day, and resulted in Hannah letting others bait her into mouthing off and taunting a girl, who ultimately felt threatened enough to start throwing punches. Apparently, Hannah has no fight instinct. She didn't throw a single punch. She simply covered her face and waited for it to stop. Since she didn't fight back, the other girl stopped relatively quickly. Needless to say, it was a very long week at our house, as we went through the appropriate channels to report the incident, made sure Hannah attended group counseling with her regular counselor, and dealt with the aftermath that accompanies teen drama such as this.

It's also a particular time in my life. I know it sounds cliche, but I think I'm having some sort of mid-life crisis. I'm not sure if crisis is the right word, but I'm definitely in a weird space, a limbo of sorts. I find myself, at 35-years old, not knowing if I'll have career in my chosen field, whether I'll live in my home for another year (or two, or five). I find myself questioning what kind of person I am and what I need to be a good mother, wife, daughter, and sister. I am drowning in self-loathing and there's little I can do about it. As much as I'd love to see a therapist, daycare isn't cheap, and I can't simply ask the girls to wait outside while Mommy talks to the shrink, now can I?


It's about time that I think about what I want to do with this writing space. There is a good deal of material that I'd like to write about, but I can't share it with people I know. I worry about being judged and criticized, and I worry about whether such writing would truly be cathartic.


It's time for me to see my friends, and I feel horribly guilty about that. Hubby never expresses any sort of need for friendships outside of our marriage. He doesn't feel compelled to make friends or have any sort of social life with his colleagues, though he is collegial with them and gets along with them very well. Me, on the other hand, I'm dying here. Right now, I want nothing more than to whip out a credit card, charge a round-trip ticket to DFW, and take a road trip to visit my closest friends from graduate school. I want to go away, alone, listening to whatever I choose on the radio (as opposed to hearing a Disney princess movie on the DVD player in the minivan), drinking myself silly, eating in peace and quiet while the food is still hot, and talking to my friends until late in the night. But, this is clearly irresponsible, foolish, and impossible. Instead, I'll just continue to keep myself busy with the demands and needs of everyone else, the watering of my flowers, the grocery shopping, the anxious worrying about whether or not my summer course will make, the hopeful plans that we *might* be able to afford to drive down to the shore and see Hubby's family during our summer break, and the endless planning, prepping, and reading for my new course prep for the fall.

It's also time to stop bitching. I'm really trying to remember that. To remember everything I have to be thankful for: my healthy children, our home, Hubby's job, the fact that we live back in the States, the beauty of the world around me, my marriage, my path with God.

There's a time for everything under the sun. The problem is trying to figure out what that time is...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Some Details

Yesterday was better, so I think I can manage to write more about what's going on.

I was out of the state b/t Thurs-Sat for the annual, national conference in my field, which resulted in some pretty great things (beyond getting to see my 18th-c peeps). While there, I discussed the professional conundrum Hubby and I are in with my position as an adjunct, and I received lots of advice on how I might push forward through various administrative channels to get more answers on the possibility of a full-time position (not necessarily tenure-track). The advice ranged from "Go to the union rep!" to "Have an open-ended talk with your department chair..." and other ideas about meeting with the EEO officer, the Provost, etc. So, I reflected on the advice, talked with Hubby, formed a plan, and began with a meeting with my department chair on Wednesday.

To make a long story short: there is no possibility of a full-time position for me at New England School. It turns out, the school is actually being SUED by the union for the exploitation/overuse of adjunct faculty, so it's not like the administration is in a position to be "afraid" of union action. The litigation will take months, if not years, and will likely result in little change even *if* the union wins the suit. I was informed that the Dean and Provost both know of the shortage of full-time faculty in English, the fact that we're nowhere near our peer schools in the ratio of full-time to adjunct faculty, and neither of them really care because they know it works best for the bottom line.

My chair was, for the first time, quite personable, empathetic, and encouraging. He completely understands our desire to stay, but also knows that we cannot continue indefinitely without full-time employment for both of us. He was happy to hear about other (non-British lit) courses I can teach and agreed to give me whatever he could to balance out the composition classes. He is happy to observe one of my courses and write a recommendation letter for me when I go back on the job market in the fall. In short, he's just as frustrated as anyone else, but his hands are tied.

The other stuff is all family related. I'm not sure if I can blog about it, if I should, if it would help anything....Essentially, my brother sent me a 7-page "manifesto," which he's been working on for more than two years, about what an awful person I am to be around, how much I hurt/offend/put off other people, how this all pisses him off, how I'm "filling a void" with my foodie nature, and on and on. There are many instances in the letter where he is simply factually WRONG, and other cases where he's referring to old shit. In some examples, he makes no logical sense, and in others I see pure hypocrisy. Ultimately, the entire thing demonstrates his ability and willingness to feel empathy for everyone else around him, except me. He attempts to identify how he and other family members feel without ever thinking about the possibility of any other perspective.

The whole thing occupied every cell of my brain all day Thursday, and even now I must work very hard to concentrate on anything else. I'm incredibly hurt, angry, frustrated, depressed, exhausted, and confused. I'm not sure how I want to respond. Hubby suggested that the letter says more about my brother than it does me, and I think that's a good point. I let him read it in order to get a third-party perspective to see if there was any truth in the accusations. He pointed out a couple things I could work on, but generally concluded it was mostly a heaping pile of bullshit.

This has just been a bad week needs to be better. This too shall pass, right?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Have No Idea

how completely, utterly shitty I feel right now. Some of it's job related, but mostly it's family related (not my husband, children, or in-laws). I don't have it in me to write more at the moment because the little ones will see me crying, which makes them worry, and they should never have to worry about the stuff Mama has to deal with.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

And presto, I'm a generalist?

So, one thing about being an adjunct at a school where most of the adjuncts *do not* have the PhD is that I get scraps. These are courses that someone else couldn't/wouldn't teach or something changed in their schedule and they'll be gone or doing some administrative work or something. This semester, I got two Shakespeare sections, which are a new prep, but going very well, and I'm loving the Bard! For the summer, I landed the Johnson course, which will be great. And today, I just got a call from my dept. chair asking if I'd be interested in teaching a Recent British Fiction course in the fall. Uh, duh??? YES!!

Never mind that I could barely even think of two recent British writers, or that I wasn't quite sure how to define "recent." Ultimately, I get what I get, and I don't throw a fit. This is essentially the attitude all adjunct must have if they want to stay employed, right? So, yes, if I keep up this pace--every semester getting some random literature course--I'll be a viable contender for British generalist positions. Ooooh great, because those are SO much more in demand! {{super snarkiness intended}}

Now, back to figuring out what the hell I want to read in the fall.... Any suggestions? I *do not* like sci-fi, so I will not be including Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and any such stuff. Sorry, it just ain't my bag.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Yes, I'm lame, I have no time to write, and all I do is complain these days shoot me. Here's the low-down

  • I scored a summer course in my field! A seminar on The Age of Johnson, and I'm so nerdtastically happy about it, except I still have no decisions on texts....
  • I also scored a third class for the fall (yay, we'll be able to eat)
  • Hubby won a fellowship to a Military History Summer Seminar at Westoint!
  • I'll be sitting in sunny San Antonio in 3 days, sipping margaritas, inhaling Mexican food, and catching up with all my favorite 18th-c. peeps! Oh, and my brother just moved there, so I get to crash at his place for free :)
  • My mom came up last week, and it was a good visit! I was not in the best shape (see below), but we enjoyed our time together and she was a huge help.
  • We finished painting our dining room, and it is beautiful! It's actually my most favorite room in the house. I have every design detail planned, it's just a matter of saving the money to buy all the pieces I want. Really folks, it's so great. Sunny, airy, light, but calming and fresh and inviting. It took four paint samples to find the right shade of yellow, but Pottery Barn's connection to Benjamin Moore paints had this perfect shade. It's called Hawthorne Yellow, and I love it!

I paired it with a really light, matte shade of green called Willow Wind, and the combination is just what I wanted for the room: warmth and color, while being able to draw on the dark wood of our dining table.

Not So Good

  • I hurt my back a couple weeks ago. I was painting, I bent down properly, and I couldn't get up. The urgent care person ordered an x-ray, but my primary care doc said I didn't need it b/c there were no sign of nerve damage (which is what would signal a herniated disc). So, she did neither an x-ray nor an MRI, treated my like a drug-seeking junkie off the street, and demonstrated how to bend at the knee to pick things up. Despite my requests to try to find out what/if anything had happened to my lower back, I was offered steroids, valium (to use as a muscle relaxer), lidoderm pain patches (worthless), and low-dose vicodin. I want to function, play with my kids, get my work done, go to the gym. I do not want to be high. I want to prevent and/or correct any health problem or injury I have. I do not want to stockpile drugs. Evidently, addiction to prescription pain pills is a problem in the area, so my guess is that I was stereotyped. Either that, or she just thinks I'm a weenie?
  • I have no time to work. Seriously. Like, ever.
  • Hubby's fellowship will take him away for three weeks. I will be a single mom of three for three weeks during a time when the younger two won't be in daycare at all. That's enough to make me seek drugs!
  • Even when I'm working out, which defnitely helps my mood, I feel lost and depressed, like nobody understands what I going through (with work, with the lack of friends, with the uncertain career), and I just want to escape it all. Crawl into bed for three days and not even come out to see the light of day.

There's more, but I only get to work after the kids are in bed, and it's pushing 10:00, so off to hit Othello.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I've reached that point...

where I completely resent the situation I'm in. Let me be very clear about this. I do not resent my husband. What I resent is the fact that I'm underemployed.
Why? Because this fact means that we cannot afford full-time child care. The girls only go 3 days a week (MWF), the days that I have to teach, and I stay home with them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are times when this is enjoyable. Today, however, was not one of them. Today, it felt like a reminder that I have failed to get a full-time academic job. It was a reminder that I'm not SAHM material, nor have I ever wanted to be a SAHM. It was a reminder that I will very likely have to make a decision soon about whether or not to leave academia (even though there's absolutely no reason to think it will be any easier to get a job outisde of academia). Ultimately, it was a reminder that I'm in this position *not* by choice, but by circumstance, and nothing grates on me worse than feeling like I've been forced into something.
I understand that there are just some bad days occasionally. Yes, today was one helluva bad day. One simple fucking errand--to exchange two pairs of jeans for the correct size at Kohls with all three kids in tow--turned into me sobbing while driving down the road. Eliza was patient as she tried on three pairs, making sure we got the size that fit, and it all went down hill after that. Amelia climbing out of the child seat on the cart, running around the check-out area, grabbing stuffed animals, flailing on the ground, only then for me to realize I grabbed the WRONG size off the shelf. Customers behind me staring, but nodding understandingly, the cashier realizing how full my hands were, and me having to go back to the children's aisle again. Then, standing in line to try a second time for the exchange, while I hold a screaming, kicking Amelia and everyone around stares at me. Hannah was with me, and she did the best she could to help out, walking away with Amelia and keeping her occupied while I finished up. But, the damage was done.
By the time we left the store and headed home, I'd had enough and I just burst into tears. The girls rarely see me cry, so it was a bit of a shock to them. Amelia was still crying, but even Eliza tried to calm her down. We continued with our plans for the day, but by the time Hubby got home at 2:30, it was all I could do not to pack a suitcase, head out of town, and book a hotel room for a few days.
Because of the new Shakespeare classes, I literally have more work (class prep and grading) to do this semester with less time to do it. This doesn't just affect work load for teaching, but it completely eliminates ANY possibility of doing my own research, another thing I've come to resent.
I applied for several local community college jobs, as well as an administrative job at our school, all with no luck. I've never felt so demoralized, anxious, and uncertain as I do now. The academic job market in my field has completely dried up for the season; there is no more "Spring market." So, now what? I'm guessing running away isn't the answer, but the conference trip I have in a few weeks certainly couldn't come at a better time.
**Note: this was drafted last Tuesday, but I'm just now getting to post it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Things I'd Love To Do

Lots of people have a "lotto list," alist of things they'd do if they won the lottery. I don't play the lotto, so my version is a list of things I'd do if I just had a full-time job (even if I had to save up a while).

I'd love

1. A weekend getaway to NYC with Hubby. We could have a great dinner somewhere fabulous, then catch a show, and spend a few hours doing the museum thing, all sans kids. Of course, we'd only be able to do this if we had a reliable, mature babysitter who could handle a weekend job. I don't know if this will be possible until the kids are out of the house, but God it would be nice!

2. Have a spa day. Like, the whole. entire. day. Massage, facial, hair, pedicure, the works.

3. Go to more museums in nearby New England Town.

4. Eat at a decent restaurant once a week with my family.

5. Take the family back to Home State for a visit this summer.

6. Buy the perfect buffet table for the dining room.

7. Get my hair trimmed on a regular basis (more frequently than once every 5 months).

8. Move forward with kitchen renovations.

9. Buy new shoes when I need them.

10. Start planning our next family vacation!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New England Living and Other Stuff

We got our first good, solid snowfall this week, about 4.5 inches overnight Thursday, and then another 5-6 inches yesterday. It was beautiful! They're well prepared for snow here, and all the main roads were plowed and sanded by the time I commuted to campus at 8:00 a.m. Friday morning. Though we missed church this morning (somehow I woke up with a fever??), I managed to improve enough to go play in the snow with the girls. We made snow angels, I pulled them around in the sled, and we had snowball fights. I felt so amazingly blessed and happy to be here! We don't often feel that way in life, do we? Or, if we do, it seems fleeting and somehow associated with something temporal, like a vacation to some place exotic or something.

I mustered the gumption to head to the gym this afternoon, a much needed event since I didn't make it in the past two days. I forgot to mention that I've lost over 1% body fat in about 10 days!! That's a huge thing for me to see as progress, since the scales aren't actually going down. I still occasionally have some back and neck pain, but the doctor is planning on doing a second ablation procedure, which basically burns the nerve endings so that they can't send pain signals to the brain. The procedure lasts anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, and I'll be thankful for any pain-free time I can get!

I've started teaching my classes, and I know I'm going to LOVE teaching Shakespeare!! My students are fun, they're talking about how interesting the historical context is, and they're putting the context alongside the text in really productive ways--hooray!

The new schedule is still a bit crazy, and I'm supposed to be home schooling Eliza, yet I haven't chosen a curriculum yet. I feel completely unqualified, and I really don't know *how* to do this. So, for now, we're doing several worksheets, covering basics, and I'm trying to get a solid idea of what she knows and where she needs to do some extra work. I'm really hoping I can something more formal in place soon, so that we'll feel like it's more "school"-like.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I Did It

I applied for a non-academic job.

It's very possible that nothing will come of it and that there are 10 other people vastly more qualified than myself. But, I did it.

It's a position in the Center for International Engagement at my current school. Basically, the post involves being the point person for all international and study abroad students, processing student visa paperwork, outreach activities for international students, being the coordinator for their honor society, assisting the Executive Director, hosting foreign visitors, diplomats, and/or faculty, etc. All of the responsibilities are things I've either done before, have some familiarity with, or would be very good at. They really preferred someone with experience living, working, and or traveling abroad....Hey, that's me! As well as someone who's worked with international students....Me, again! They also preferred someone with a Master's degre. Um, how about I do ya' one better?!

It's a full-time job with a salary more than twice what I make now and job security. If I were to get the position, it would mean that we'd be able to stay in New England for the long haul. These things are all good.

It would also mean that I would mourn the wasted time, money, and sacrifices of the entire 6+ years spent in my doctoral program. It would mean that I would grieve the loss of a dream about what I'd be doing with my life. It would mean several things that are not good. But, I'm not going to think about those things right now, because the application I just put in may never even get past the HR stage.

I secretly hope it does though.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trying to Find My Body

Somewhere in the past five years, I lost my body. Well, I did lose all the weight I gained while pregnant with Eliza, but I never lost all the weight I gained with Amelia. I was within about 10 punds several times, but since her birth, I've never been able to establish a long-term lifestyle change in both areas: fitness and nutrition. I'll skip all the reasons, because they really don't matter. What matters is that I've had enough. Not only did I decide that I had to make a change and start getting back in shape, but I've committed myself like never before. I joined a gym and hired a trainer!

I started by going to a kickboxing class that I just barely survived. The experience was humiliating, as I saw my thighs jiggle in the mirror and gasped for air, trying to keep up with the group. Never mind that my arms were so tired during the exercises that I sometimes had to just stop and let them relax a minute. I was completely disgusted with myself, but the experience showed my just how out of shape I am and made me even more determined to stick with this.

I signed up with a trainer the next day, and having someone to whom I'm accountable has already made a difference. I also signed up for a Biggest Loser contest! The person who loses the highest percentage of body fat is the winner and wins a $200 Amex card. My current goal is to lose at least 5% body fat. I'd originally hoped to lose 30 pounds, but since I'm doing lots of strength training, the fat lost will be replaced by muscle, which weighs more. Just so nobody thinks I'm some skinny girl bitching about some tiny bits of cellulite, I'll make it clear:

Height: 6'2"
Weight: 190 pounds

Now, I'm not in any sort of health risk category; I just know that I'm not in the kind of physical shape I've been in throughout most of my life. That has to change, for me, for my kids, for my sanity.

While I've been in tremendous pain at various times in the past week, I was able to see progress early. I lost 1/2 percent of body fat in five days!! And the best part is that I really haven't changed what I eat too much. I've changed when I eat by making sure to have something small every 2-3 hours. I hope this routine continues once the semester starts this week, because I've really enjoyed the sweat, talking with a few other people at the gym, and having a goal to work toward.

Student Loans and Life Insurance

I don't think I'd argue that those of us with extreme amounts of student-loan debt--mine is approximately $130K--should have all our debt forgiven simply because the economy tanked and the academic job market is non-existent. I do, however, think some sort of relief should be possible for those of us who haven't been able to secure full-time work after getting our degrees. Something beyond the income-sensitive plan, which basically means that one still pays well more than the original total of principle and interest over a 20-year period, and then the balance of the debt is forgiven. Over that 20 years, people will need to buy a car, pay for medical expenses, child care, college tuition for their own children, and all sort of other things. I'm not even halfway through this period, and I've already realized I'm worth infinitely more dead than alive. It's not a good feeling.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

To Clarify

In my last post, I mentioned a career in academia as a calling, rather than simply a job. Because I sensed just a bit of condescension or, at the least, a slight eye-rolling cough of "Ahem...bullshit," I feel like I should explain a bit what *I* mean when using this term and the context from which it emerges.

I do not mean that I've heard God speak to me and whisper sweet nothings about a tenure-track job He's personally lined up for me. I have not heard voices or seen "signs," nor am I a Bible-beating evangelical who uses God's will as an excuse/explanation for all things that happen in my life or the lives of others. What I am is a Christian who believes in a very few fundamental matters of faith: God, Jesus, sin, forgiveness, faith beyond explanation/science/reason, and prayer. These are the primary elements of my personal belief system. I realize that there are many academics, particularly in my own discipline, who likely find this utterly ridiculous, and that's perfectly fine with me. To each his own. I am a real live human being who still struggles to find the right balance between what I believe about the world, creation, spirituality, and how to best live my life and raise my children with a value system that is a meaningful, truthful search for how to be a better human being for the sake of myself, those I love, those with whom I co-exist, and the world in general.

When I say that a career in academia is a calling, I am using the term "academia" in a broad sense. I definitely feel like there has been a somewhat defined path in my life that has taken shape with preparation for work in education. There are many things that have happened along the way that were quite coincidental and, consequently, have made my own journey through professional training in this career more successful than it might have been had I actually known to be asking certain questions (i.e. What senior scholar is the *best* in my field right now? How can I study with that person?). Instead, for other reasons entirely, I ended up plopping right down at a program with one of the best scholars in my field, and I'd never even heard of her. I have had relatively few obstacles in proceeding through graduate school, working with a fantastic committee, meeting very helpful colleagues in the field, and being in the position overseas to have the time and financial support for my research to produce work while still teaching and hitting the market. All of these things suggest to me that I'm still doing okay for now. This year was my first traditional run at the job market (by traditional, I mean that I'm back in the U.S. instead of conducting a search from halfway around the world), and after seeing what was available, I knew there was little hope for any job candidate *not* from an Ivy or top-tier school.

Maybe I'll end up using my skill set in another form. Of course I'll be keeping my eyes open for administrative positions at my current and local schools. And if the time comes when this is no longer an option for us---as in, we financially cannot make it any longer---then I will do whatever I have to do. I have several years of experience in banking, HR, and accounting, and I've never been one to shy away from whatever work was needed to pay the bills.

Until then, I'm having a great time planning my Shakespeare syllabus, and I'm reminding myself of the good things that can come out of teaching first-year composition. That is: I'm enjoying what I do for a living and trying my best to learn as much as I can from it. I'm part of the committee to bring a Women's Center back to our campus, which has helped a tiny bith with networking, and I'm planning to make some new connections in our Center for Teaching and learning that will help open possibilities in that area. This plan doesn't seem crazy or stupid or misguided. It seems like a level-headed awareness of what's best for now and what may (or may not) be options in the future.