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.