Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why "Idyll"

This morning, passing through Idyll, I saw a group of children from the Montessori school (5th/6th graders, maybe) demonstrating on behalf of the Snap program, and, about 15 seconds later, an older man with a bagpipe in fully kilted attire.

Other reasons that I call this town Idyll, and the university Idyllic State:

Functionally free public transportation; an endless succession of town fairs, festivals, and markets; aging hippies handing out Bernie materials; a very strong union culture; activist students; multiethnic, multilingual children frolicking in town squares; hand-painted wooden signs for Christmas tree sales; abundant farmers' markets; "Support Local Agriculture" signs and stickers on every third car, every second restaurant window, and every university food service table; people who, when they find out that you've just moved here, enthusiastically say, "Welcome to the [topographical feature]!"; distant views of mountains in three directions; eating a cider donut on a town square and watching my son having a skipping race with a little boy he'd just met; stopping in at a coffee shop for lunch and unexpectedly getting to see a ragtime band perform; yoga studios; coffee shops; restaurants; brilliant maples; white-steepled clapboard churches in every single town; winding roads through hills; gangs of wild turkeys roaming our neighborhood and yard; chipmunks; playgrounds; concerts; lovely public libraries; fantastic public schools; a populace who wants to live here.

On the downside: very cold winters, high property taxes (which pay for great schools and libraries, so I'm actually okay with this, but it is an expense), and the need to drive everywhere. The only walking that I regularly do is the 10-minute hike to my campus parking lot (yet another downside). But at least the drives are pretty.

(Idyllic State, viewed from the library)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Modern marginalia

In the Idyllic State U Library's copy of the Life of St. Clare, of the pope:

An otherwise dispassionate annotator gets carried away.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Haiku in the persona of a student who does not want to do the in-class activity, which is to write a haiku

I'm not doing this;
writing haikus is no fun.
You can go to hell.

(I came up with this while the students were writing their haikus, and I found that I could neither share it with them nor let it go entirely to waste. So here it is, for you.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Maybe I'm ready for the end of the semester, after all

I don't feel like we're only 3.5 weeks from exam period. I don't feel that burnt-out, sick-of-everybody Novemberishness, probably because I spend most of each day alone in my office.

But lately, what I really, really want is a day at home, alone.

No offense to my wonderful husband and son! I love spending time with them. But I haven't had a day at home, alone, since we moved into the house, and...I think I need one.

So maybe I'm ready.

On the other hand, the pile of undone work frightens me, and I want to hold off on semester's end until it's smaller, at least.

Well. Three-point-five weeks. I should get to it, I guess.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What's New: Nothing Much

Yeah. So. Today:
  • I had an unprecedented six students come to my office hours. Of those, three wanted to talk about their midterm exams and how they could do better on the final. Oddly, never in eight years at Field College did one of my students come to see me about a past exam...although now that I think about it, I typically only gave final exams, not midterms. That would explain it. Never mind. Anyway, I'm glad to have students--especially those who aren't doing terribly well--stop by for help! But wow, that was a tiring two hours.
  • Excitingly, two of the students who came by are thinking about majoring or minoring in Comp Lit. And I signed up two new majors last week. Recruiting, yes! (Most students--undergraduate me included--don't really know what Comp Lit is when they get to college. So our major is smaller than it ought to be.)
  • Best news of all: I got my hair cut today, for the first time since July. Amazing how good that feels.
Other news.... Hm. I'm feeling pretty mentally fried and am not even close to accomplishing my overly ambitious research goals for the semester, which were
    1. To finish an article for an edited collection (done--this was pretty quick)
    2. To revise an article that has been boomeranging around for years now (done, sent to writing group; writing group comments received; now I need to read some more stuff and revise AGAIN before I resubmit it. In my loveliest of dreams, that will happen this semester)
    3. To submit an abstract for Kalamazoo (done; accepted)
    4. To submit another conference abstract (due next month; not drafted)
    5. To revise a chapter of my book draft (not started; this is my lowest writing priority at this point)
    6. To write another chapter (what on earth was I thinking? I'm working on one, but I'm about 3500 words in, and I have research to do to write this thing, and probably a research trip, so clearly this won't be written this semester. I am working on it, though, so that's something).
I do need to work on realistic writing goals.

So yeah, that's that. I don't want the semester to end too soon because then I won't be able to believe in the possibility of accomplishing All The Things before December 15 or whenever. And yet, accomplishing the Things will be easier once classes are over. So it goes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Syllabus Impossible

I've been agonizing over a revision to a course that I'm teaching this semester--a 100-level, Gen Ed, lecture-style course.

And this morning I realized what the problem is.

In revising the syllabus, I would like to change only two or so books, and somehow achieve a perfect balance of the following:

  • male and female authors
  • authors of different ethnicities (from all around the world--so including, e.g., African-American, African, Asian, Indian, white USAmerican, European, Latino/a, etc.)
  • authors writing in different national languages
  • authors writing from, or about, different religious perspectives or backgrounds--ideally including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, atheism, and Hinduism
All of this in no more than nine books, please!

Clearly, I have set myself an impossible task.

And so I release myself into imperfection.

Besides, I'll be teaching this course at least once a year forever. I can change it up.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Networking: Another difference between institution types

So I strongly suspect that most of my keen, incisive observations about the differences between my new (public, big, R1) institution and my old (rural, private, tiny, SLAC) institution are pretty freaking obvious, but they still keep smacking me in the face like they're subtle and earth-shattering revelations.

Well, maybe not earth-shattering.

Anyway, one that's occurred to me lately is the ease of networking at this big school, which also happens to be very close to four other schools. At Field, I was the lone medievalist of any kind at the entire college; I was also a half-hour drive from any OTHER college or university, and those others (a couple of community colleges, a state university, and two smaller private universities were within about 45 minutes) weren't really powerhouses in my field. Nor did I have any real "in" at those schools. Nor did I have a great deal of time (or, okay, desire--I'm a little shy) to cultivate such "ins." Nor am I--truth be told--any good AT ALL at networking.

For the longest time--in fact, still now, but I'm fighting it tooth and nail--my inclination, when asked about my research, is to change the subject as quickly as possible. It's probably easiest to just blame that on my thoroughgoing imposter syndrome.

NOW, however, I am in a substantial community of medievalists (from a variety of disciplines, from all five colleges/universities in the area), some of whom are very friendly and have made a point of introducing me around. And there are Events--a series of seminars, for example, that I'm involved with and that brings together scholars from a range of Humanities disciplines from various periods; at our first big meeting this last weekend, I had lunch with an art historian, an English professor, and a religion professor, from three different colleges, all of whom have interests that overlap with mine. (Also an archaeologist, which was cool but less professionally relevant.) This coming week, I'm invited to a dinner with a Big Shot Awesome Medievalist visiting Nearby College, so I will get to talk with her and the other local lit-medievalists who will be attending. And immediately upon arriving on campus I was asked to give a talk this Spring to the local medievalist group (because of a dearth of willing speakers, I suspect).

All of a sudden, I get how people wind up with those prefaces that thank twenty-five thousand people. If you're at a school with a large network of scholars, and that also invites scholars to campus, you will meet more people; you will have circles that can help you think through problems or give feedback on manuscripts; you will (eventually) be invited to submit to collections or give talks or do other cool things of that nature.

I should mention here that the acknowledgements page to my first book thanked, I believe, exactly three other medievalists: my dissertation committee. No, make that five: I also thanked the reviewers.

I still think that I'm not very good at networking. But I'm excited to see how being in an environment that facilitates networking might help me to find a (local, live) scholarly community.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

So Far, So Good, I Think

I somehow thought that I would be less busy at this new job than I was at Field. I mean, look: the teaching load is 50% of what I'm used to. Of course, research takes time and is a much higher priority now, but I don't feel "busy" when I'm reading and writing--not in the same way that grading, prep, and scrambling from class to class feels busy.

However, I'm somehow on two departmental committees already, as well as two dissertation committees and two Master's committees. And I now have a commute--15 minutes, granted, but it feels a lot longer than my previous 5-minute walk. Plus there are lunches to prepare in advance, and I'm doing 15 minutes of Latin translation every day (because I need, need, need to keep up my Latin, especially with the work that I'm doing currently). Also, unless dire circumstances intervene, I'm going to yoga twice a week. And I have a weekly lunch with an informal support group for recently hired mid-career women, which is excellent. And there are talks and the like to attend. And I'm in this big seminar thing that has two mini-conferences, essentially, per semester. So: yeah. Busy.

The other thing is that I'm actually trying to do everything well. At Field, at least in the last few years (and especially since Bonaventure's birth), I did tons of stuff but not very thoroughly. Half-assery was easy to pull off on many fronts; I'd been there long enough to have my classes pretty well under control (I did reread just about everything--Jane Eyre in the seventh consecutive year of teaching it was the sole exception--but prep was minimal); I did my committee work on time, but didn't invest much in it (except for search committees); and I didn't engage in much research or writing during the academic year. As a result, I occasionally read for pleasure and was able to take naps (living so close to campus helped a lot with the latter!). Now, though, I'm really trying to do everything thoroughly, including setting aside daily writing and Latin time.

Because if not now, when? This is my life, right here.

And also, I want to make a really good impression this semester--on my colleagues, of course, but on myself, too. I'm setting the tone for the rest of my career. I want it to be one that I can embrace.

But I do hope that next semester is a little calmer.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Service Counts! Who Knew?

Flavia commented on this recent Chronicle article about who gets hired where, and when. I have no statistically significant information to impart on this subject; however, I am moved to muddy the waters a bit by introducing some anecdata regarding searches at my new uni, including, especially, the one that resulted in my hiring.

First: I've met a good handful of new faculty at Idyllic State, and none that I know of is right out of grad school; a VAP position seems to be minimal (and there's a contingent of us in the Humanities/Fine Arts who were TT for five years or more prior to moving here). There is one person I've met whom I don't know to have had a previous position, but I don't know that he didn't, either. VAPs and moving from one TT/tenured post to another seems well within the pale, in other words.

Second: It's becoming increasingly clear that, while I'm sure that I wouldn't have been hired if my research hadn't been up to snuff, it's my undergraduate teaching and service experience that clinched my candidacy. Surprise! I genuinely didn't think that my service experience, extensive as it is (and frequently in leadership/chairing positions) would help beyond a certain minimal threshold. As it happens, there is a Service Gap in my new department, and also increasing pressure to grow undergraduate enrollments. My strengths, unexpectedly, were a fit for their needs.

Thus, my teaching award, years of positive evaluations with a 4/4 load, chairing of the curriculum committee and subsequently the division, and directing the Honors Program (which involved recruiting and considerable encouraging of students) made me a particularly attractive candidate. Presumably the fact that I continued to publish during this time helped, of course, but it's been pointed out to me since I got here that I have a lot to offer in terms of undergraduate education and outreach. I honestly didn't think that that would matter so much at what is a decidedly research-oriented university.

So...you never know. My research portfolio, on a more junior candidate, might have been much less appealing to the search committee (not that I know that, of course). The things that I emphasized on my CV because, well, why not? happened to respond to needs within my new department that I could not possibly have anticipated.

Good luck to everyone who's on the market. It sucks, truly. And "fit" is a real thing, even if it means a lot of different things; you really can't judge what a committee might be looking for, beyond, of course, what's on the job ad. (And there's always stuff beyond the job ad.) The only (rather lame) bit of advice that I can give is to 1) clearly note on your cover letter how you are the best possible fit for what the committee is asking for; 2) explain yourself if you're moving from a t-t or tenured position; and 3) play up anything (within reason) that may help you stand out.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

TM is really TM, now

In her comment on my last post, What Now? quite sensibly asked what TM's new field is, since he left his tenured position to follow me to my new job.

Well! TM is now...a minister! --Which is sort of funny/ironic, since TM stands for The Minister, the sort of tongue-in-cheek nickname (used only on the blog) that I gave him when I met him back in 2007 and we were both new VAPs at Field.

So he's really a minister, at a UCC congregation in a nearby town, and I, surreally, find myself a minister's wife. (Not that that means much of anything--but someone did ask me a couple of weeks ago if I were "the minister's wife." Life takes us on strange paths, doesn't it?)

A couple of weeks ago, following his selection by the search committee, he preached a sermon before the congregation, who then voted him in as their new part-time senior minister. Tomorrow is his first sermon as a their full-fledged pastor.

He has not entirely left academia, however, and there may be some very good adjuncting possibilities around here (that would allow him to teach his field much better than he could at Field). And hurrah for being a two-income household again!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Settling In

I expected Bonaventure to have some adjustment problems as we started our new lives here in Idyll. And he did, a little--especially when I started spending whole days in the office, back in early September, he would be alternately surly and needy with me in the evenings. And he woke up a little more at night for a while, too; he's still not a champion all-night sleeper (and in fact he now comes up to our bed at around 4 or 5 am--please don't judge; sometimes I let him stay), but he's more or less back to normal.

What I didn't expect, for some reason, was that I would have adjustment issues, too.

At this point--a little over a month into the semester (and somehow already having midterms?!)--I'm feeling like myself again. But things were strange for a little while. Of course, while change can be exciting, changing everything at once is a little bit much.

And the change has been pretty dramatic. We're 1200 miles from our old house; we're closer to family; I'm in a job in the same field but with very different expectations; TM is in a whole new field; Bonaventure is in all-day nursery school for the first time (4 days a week); and we have to drive everywhere, when we used to walk. Even the landscape is different:

Fig. 1: down the street from my first apartment (and last house, actually; they were half a block apart) in Field Town

Fig. 2: the view from my bedroom window in Idyll

Anyway, by now I'm feeling acclimated, more or less. Overwhelmed with work, as always, but it's interesting work, at least for now. I'm on two dissertation committees and a master's exam committee, for students who are doing neat things and from whom I'll learn something. I'm involved in a seminar series that will kick my ass. I'm preparing my first graduate seminar. It's cool. And every day I feel a little less like I'm frankly out of my league, and a little more like this is my new, good life.

Oh, and we DID close on our house--in time to move in the weekend before classes started. Had I not mentioned that?

Monday, September 21, 2015

The downside to working in the office all day, every day is that packing lunch is a macabre affair

Today's noontime menu:

-banana (1)
-carrot (1)
-cheddar cheese (5 slices)
-cottage cheese
-hardboiled egg (1)

I also have a bag of rice cakes in my desk drawer.

I am a good eater. I like to eat. I do not "diet."

This lunch, which I patched together at the last minute out of what was to hand in the kitchen, depresses me.

I am now teaching at an institution with one of the highest rated food services in the country. It's outstanding. But I will not allow myself to drop $8-$10 a day on lunch, especially not at what happens to be a lean financial time for my family.

So...what on earth do people take for lunch? I used to do this regularly, like back when I was 23 and had a miserable office job--although I do remember an exhausting number of cheese sandwiches being consumed in that period.

Leftovers, when we have easily transportable leftovers, are an obvious solution, but otherwise...? I need to get better at this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Bewilderment of Resources

(Another distraction from the housing situation. Re. which: so far, so good. We've had our final walk-through [although the seller hadn't actually moved out; she is, at least, fully packed]. Closing is scheduled for 10 am tomorrow. We know how big the big pile of money has to be. Luck luck luck luck luck....)

Today I had my day-long new faculty orientation at New State U. By the way, I've decided to call New School "Idyllic State," and the surrounding area will collectively be known as "Idyll." I'll write more about why later.

Anyway, a few observations:

First, I was struck by how many of the upper administrators who spoke to us were women, including many women of color, and several women who referred to having young children. While this doesn't necessarily translate into optimal support for mid-career women with children, or women of color, or women, or anyone else for that matter, it is at least...interesting. May or may not mean a thing. But my first impression of Field was of a bunch of men introducing the women who worked for them (that changed a lot in my eight years there, actually), so this was at least interesting in a potentially positive way.

Second, the theme of the orientation seemed to be this: There are SO MANY RESOURCES available for you! In every possible way! For every possible thing! So much money for you to apply to get! So many people eager to help you do any damn thing you want!

This was a) refreshing, and b) completely overwhelming. I now have so many pages of notes (and so many handouts) that I haven't a clue where to go, or to whom to go, for what, or what I can even ask for. Which is pretty much where I was yesterday.

Clearly, I'm having a bit of culture shock adjusting to a Huge Research University after being at a Teeny College (where people are friendly and will go to extraordinary measures to help you and you basically talk to the same three people for anything you want done, but you also have to do an awful lot yourself and there is no money). I'm wildly impressed with the resources that are available to me, and feel special in a way that I didn't at Field. I feel like a total rube, in a way, completely wide-eyed and grateful for everything that comes my way.

For example: I asked the IT guy if I could get a 13" MacBook Pro with Retina screen and maximum memory capacity for my free computer, and he wrote back to say that he'd ordered me one. Um! A used desktop--which was, I'll note, perfectly adequate--came with my office at Field, but this is quite a different order of service. I actually feel kind of guilty for asking for this much--like they're just taking it on faith that I actually need a fancy computer when I'm just a lowly Humanities prof who can noodle around on an outdated version of Word.

Monday, August 31, 2015

If if if

IF the seller of the house that we by all rights should have been inhabiting for two weeks now is NOT in the psychiatric ward of the hospital on Wednesday, we will have a place to live.

I am out of hoping energy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Opening Activities at a 4/4 SLAC and at a 2/2 R1: The First in a Series

At Kalamazoo this year, Notorious Ph.D. asked me if I would blog about the transition from a tiny, cash-strapped, midwestern SLAC with a 4/4 load to a big East Coast R1 with a 2/2. I suspect that there will be a lot to say, so, to distract myself from the ever-changing, endlessly bizarre situation that is the Mihi Family Housing Crisis, I will write about one of them.

Difference No. 1: Gearing up for the new year.

At Field College, this is what happens in the week leading up to a new Fall semester:
  • Wednesday before classes start: mandatory day-long faculty retreat.
  • Thursday: half-day faculty retreat/faculty meeting (which is attended by all full-time faculty).
  • Friday: all-campus (faculty and staff) meeting, at which everyone is introduced to everyone else. This is entirely useless, because either you pretty much know who everyone is, or you don't know anyone, suffer from total information overload, and don't remember a thing. After the meeting is the (equally pointless, in my view) Benefits Fair, at which you collect free toothbrushes and whatnot.
  • Saturday: students move in; we're invited to help them. I have only known one professor who has ever done so. Because: syllabi.
  • Sunday: if you're lucky enough to be teaching a First-Year Seminar, you have your first class meeting this afternoon.
  • Monday: if you advise a student organization, you have a mandatory ice cream social to attend. If you teach First-Year Seminar, you have a two-hour community service project to complete, followed by a picnic. You may also have your second class meeting this afternoon (this has fluctuated in recent years).
  • Tuesday: mandatory (and usually rather nice) opening convocation. Big picnic lunch with all the new students. Advising meetings all afternoon.
  • Wednesday: classes start.
At New U:
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • Classes start! After labor day!
As a new faculty member, I have things to do--orientations and whatnot, which I'm eager to attend (I need information!). Perhaps more senior folk have meetings, but if they do, I haven't heard about them.

There are a lot of factors at work in this distinction. Little colleges like Field need heavy faculty governance and involvement; faculty do all of the advising and need to be apprised of changes in marketing strategies, athletic recruitment, accreditation visits, new requirements for Education majors, and all kinds of things that you wouldn't think that you'd need to know about. They're also expected to be very involved with individual students; the personal connection is, after all, what Field (and a lot of schools like it) sell, and what makes them different from the local State U's. That involvement, incidentally, is what I enjoyed the most at Field, and I hope that I can cultivate some of it at New U (admittedly in a different register).

But now, my primary directive is research. And good lord, I need to get settled in a house and in my office so that I can do some.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Things Aren't Looking Up

But at least we're in New State.

In a hotel.

With two cats and a three-year-old.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Holding Pattern

That's the nice way to put it.

Other ways of expressing our current state would be limbo, suspense, empty void of unknowing, and purgatory.

We're at my mother's house--still. The plan was to leave Field State on the 28th, after closing (check!), go to visit friends in Northern City for 2 days (done!), take a two-day visit to Northern Beach (yep!), then drive out to Mom's for about 3 weeks, with a break in the middle to go to New State and then to In-Laws' to pick up the cats. (New State--visited! Benefits package received! Cats--collected!) And then, we were to close on our new house on the 18th and move in and be sort of mostly unpacked by now.

Well! That didn't happen. Maybe it'll happen on Monday. Maybe it won't. WHO KNOWS????

Here's what happened:

We got a call on the morning of Monday, the 17th--right about the time that I was thinking, Hooray! We move tomorrow! No more living out of a suitcase! Etc.!

It was our realtor.

The seller hadn't opened the doors for the moving company that morning. Eventually, the police were called. It turned out that she had attempted suicide and was in the hospital.

That's one for the books, eh?


Anyway, she has physically recovered and was discharged on Thursday, with plans to move out on Saturday so that we can move in on Monday, even though we might not be able to close until Tuesday (apparently there's a legal way for that to work out). However, she wasn't returning her lawyer's calls yesterday, so who knows whether she'll authorize the movers to come in today?

I am expending all of my hopeful, anxious thinking today wishing her well, hoping that she is safe and able to move forward--and out. And also thinking, Oh my God I have classes to prep! Books to locate and unpack! Meetings next week! And Bonaventure's school is about to start! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DOOOOO?????

Foo. Fleeing the state was all too easy, wasn't it. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Life among the Boxes

We move a week from tomorrow. Our Pods arrive today. (One is already here, in fact--I had to move the car to the street because it's pretty much blocking the driveway.)

I'm almost wishing that I felt more ambivalent about leaving Field Town, but frankly I'm impatient. We've already had our going-away party, and then on Saturday I went to a (former) colleague's going-away party, and it's all starting to feel redundant. We've been doing the "Oh-I'm-sure-I'll-see-you-again" thing, knowing that in most cases, we won't; this helps to soften the blow, but by now, I more or less just want to disappear. Good-byes should only be so long.

But Field has been so important in my life: my first faculty position, meeting my husband, my child's hometown. Eight years! I was only in graduate school for seven.

And will I ever come back? We say yes, but we know (and say among ourselves) that it's unlikely. The town is two and a half hours from the nearest big city, and the possibility of even visiting said city is pretty remote--most of the people that we know there have moved away by now. And, at least until there's a change in administration, we both want very little to do with Field College proper from here on out. That's not a good feeling, by the way. I hate it that our relationship with our former employer has soured, due to--well--meanness. Quite simply.

Anyway. So much to look forward to! The three-week gap between closing on our Field house and closing on our New house is going to be a bit unwieldy, but we'll spend a few days with friends, a few days at the (Midwestern) beach, and time with both of our families. And then: Moving in! Our great new house! My great new job!

Seriously. When I can see through all the mini-crises and the stress (our [current] house appraised at less than the sale price! the seller of our [new] house was refusing to sign the contract! Bonaventure hasn't had some obscure screening that's required for his new nursery school! etc!), I marvel at my good fortune. I hit the freaking jackpot.*

*I may be speaking too soon, of course; who knows what politics and weirdness await? All jobs have politics and weirdness, after all. HOWEVER: 65% salary increase + 50% teaching reduction = awesomeness no matter how you slice it. Not to mention reducing the distance between me and my family from 15 hours of driving to 2.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Survivor: Moving Edition

We got our moving estimate today, and it was a little over twice what NewU will contribute. (More money might be available, but it also might not, so I'm not going to count on it.) I was pretty floored. We live modestly, I think, in a 1300 sf two-bedroom house; we're getting rid of our dining room set; we have only one pretty lightweight couch and no entertainment stuff (TV, "entertainment center," etc.); and so on. Now, we do have a Vespa and a small (50 lb.) boat, so those add a little weight--but still. How on earth do we have an estimated 12,000 pounds of stuff?

So we're looking a little bit at other moving companies, but without a great deal of hope. And we're figuring out how to lighten our load.

One of our strategies will be to fill our little car with all the small-but-heavy items: cast-iron skillets, the marble top of a small table, the blender and food processor bases, TM's collection of antique weights for his scale (purchased in Paris, no less. OK, maybe I can start to see how we live heavily...).

The second strategy is to ditch as much of our stuff as we can.

We've already had a yard sale and, between that and a carload to the thrift store and a hefty clothing donation to the foster-care organization a friend works for, we've gotten rid of nearly all of Bonaventure's baby stuff (my pangs of ambivalence about this went away entirely when I learned how much the move will cost), an absurdly heavy and pretty ugly coffee table ($2!), a superfluous desk, a file cabinet, our spare iron, and four boxes of books. But the purging must continue.

I'm working on getting rid of more books; I have old translations of Russian novels that are probably more readable in more recent translations (and they're in dingy paperback form, so there's no real reason to be attached to these copies except that I read them once), and I'm working on getting rid of novels that I probably won't read again and could get at any public library if I decide that I must. So that's a start.

But what about:
  1. sweaters that I don't really wear much, or at all, but that I knit myself?
  2. art books that don't much interest me but were gifts and probably expensive? and that I might be interested in one day? (yeah right)
  3. our second copies of Wheelock's Latin textbook and the JACT Reading Greek series? Isn't it true that TM and I vitally need our own copies of each?
  4. the second pizza paddle, which is a little too small for a proper pizza but might hypothetically come in handy? (and that weighs about 3 ounces?)
  5. all the CDs that I bought in high school? (I got rid of the cases several moves ago.)
  6. the five Harry Potter books that I own, three of them in hardback?
  7. VHS tapes?
  8. audio cassettes?
  9. a speaker set and subwoofer when one of the speakers seems to be broken, and we don't know whether it's fixable? (It's not even our main speaker set.)
  10. leftover fancy paper used to print the final copy of our dissertations (in, let's recall, 2007)?
And this is just what occurs to me right now.  Discuss and vote, please.

In all of this, of course, I am at once inspired and horrified by Notorious Ph.D.'s recent, drastic purging of everything. (Horrified not by her actions, but rather by the thought of doing the same myself. And also inspired by the same thought. It's a dangerous temptation.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Everything costs money

  • Daycare enrollment: $534 deposit
  • First round of earnest money on new house: $500
  • Inspection of new house, including radon and radon-in-the-water testing: $835
  • Anticipated closing costs on current house: $534, plus we've agreed to pay the buyer's share (including inspections) to the tune of about $1100
  • Ice cream to celebrate selling the house: $10.24
I think that's it for today.

(And we're selling the house without an agent, so really, we're saving something along the lines of $8000--also, we got our asking price, provided we cover the buyer's closing costs! So while the out-of-pocket feels pretty intense right now, everything is going as well as could be expected. Thank goodness we have the cash to cover all the little things. Especially the ice cream.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015


I know, I know. I say I'll blog, and I don't blog. It's crazytown.

Anyway, just a quick update:

-We found a house in New State. It's lovely and costs more than twice what our current house did. But our current house, which is lovely and perfect, was absurdly cheap (we paid $119,500), so I'm not complaining. Plus, the bank thinks we (I) can afford it.

-We are meeting with a prospective buyer for our house IN SIX MINUTES. Wish us luck, everyone.

-Pretty well settled on full-time, four-day-a-week care for our son. We visited the nursery school, and it's wonderful. Plus, it's on my new campus!

-The tiresome awfulness of Field College continues. Just wanting this matter resolved. And I can't say anything at all about it until it is resolved, so that will have to do for an update on the issue for now.

Carry on, everyone.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Things That Keep Me Up at Night

Big rain this morning; now the sun is coming out. We need to mow and I need to touch-up the new paint on the deck, so this is a good thing. (I guess. I hate mowing. But we need to make the house look super pretty all the time so someone will buy it.)

There are things happening that I urgently want to blog about but can't, yet. Work-related things. Once I know what's what, I'll share. It's a big, stressful mess.

Other stresses:
  • The selling of the house, of course! It's our first time doing this, and, given the adorableness of our home, we're trying the FSBO route. In a week, we've had three people look at it and several dozen take our fliers (also more than 250 visits to the weblink). I think this is good traffic, but I'm still anxious about getting it sold.
  • I seem to have injured an ankle, and I'm signed up to run my first (and probably only, let's be realistic) "race" in a week and a half. It's only four miles, which is about the longest I've ever run. I'm not sure what's wrong with the ankle; it's sort of tender when I walk on it much, and it may be a little swollen. I blame all the walking in non-supportive shoes that I did at Kalamazoo! 
  • I have an article due at the end of the summer and, not only have I not started it, I'm not even sure what my primary texts are. On the docket this morning: WORK ON THIS ARTICLE.
  • Bonaventure got into an all-day preschool on my new university's campus, which is great. But the all-day costs a fortune (of course), and I have great big guilt feelings about sending him to an all-day school. (Priority for part-time slots is given to the children of students and lower income families, which is wonderful, of course, but....) We don't know whether, where, or during what hours TM will be working, so we don't want to bank on him as full-time child-carer. And a part of me finds the idea of all-day care divine. I could actually do my job from 9-4 every day! Even non-teaching days! (And what a glorious ring "non-teaching days" has to it, as clunky as the phrase actually is....) So my inner conflict is leaving me a bit stressed. As is the money issue.
  • This work-related thing, which is so appalling I just...ugh. It's to do with Field College, not New University (which is in need of a pseudonym. I might need to wait until I'm there and have sussed it out). I hope to share the story with you once it's resolved, and--I hope--resolved for the better.
OK: Mowing and painting will happen when it dries up out there, so now I'm going to read my article's abstract and figure out what the hell it's supposed to be about.

(Oh, and Kalamazoo was fabulous this year. I may need a separate post about what a better-than-usual experience it was for me. I think that I finally have a little medievalist cohort, which is so very satisfying!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Everything is different now

I did the impossible.

I published my way out.

The waiting is over, and I won't be in Field Town until I retire.

I got a new job--at a Northeast R1. With a 2/2 teaching load. Research money. A salary that's...well, a lot more than I make now. And I'll be living two hours away from my family--thirteen hours closer than I am now.

Oh, and it's in a beautiful part of the country.

I'm going to have to re-subtitle my blog.

I don't feel as over-the-moon happy as I thought I would, but that's a consequence of the complexity of this change: TM is leaving his job for prospects unknown; I may or may not owe Field College a lot of money because I'm departing after my sabbatical. And I'll miss some things here, of course, and quite a few people.

We've been here for eight years. TM and I met here. A lot is going to change.

I find change unsettling, which is something that I'll have to remember this summer. I only got the offer six days ago; I think I'm still realizing that it's real. (And yes, I've signed something with New University and officially resigned from Field. That's why it took me six days to tell you all.)

I'm going to have a lot to say about this transition, I think, and the terms of the offer and the whole search thing at this stage in my career. But that'll be a whole other series of posts. Right now, my almost-three-year-old is calling for me to join him on the porch, so that's what I'm going to do.

Monday, April 27, 2015


I'm very excited about Kalamazoo this year. I normally can't go because it conflicts with our graduation, which I have to attend--but I'm on sabbatical! It's such a fun conference. And also, I'm going alone, which means four days (and nights) of no childcare. Much as I adore my child.

I've got my paper down to about 10 pages, which is great--but I'm on a four-person panel. How I'm going to cut another two pages out of this mess, I don't know. Because apparently I need to talk about four different texts in 15 minutes. Because apparently that's what I've decided to do.

I'd so much rather have to make something longer than to make it shorter. Isn't that the difference, really, between faculty and undergraduates?

Friday, April 24, 2015


I'm in a really strange state right now. I'm waiting to hear about something--have been waiting for a while--and I feel like I can't do anything else until I do.

It is not, of course, the case that I can't do anything. I can do plenty. I can work on my chapter, for example, which I'm trying to do--but working on my chapter means that I'm working on the computer, which means that I can keep checking email and noodling around distracting myself or, more accurately, indulging my heightened state of distraction.

It's a problem of not being able to envision the future. I need to know this thing right now and there is NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT arrrrgh gah powerlessness no control maybe I'll go buy something. (Nope, already indulged that impulse once and won't do it again. Not today, anyway.)

I'm sorry to be so cryptic. This post serves no purpose except to further indulge my distraction and give me the space to complain for a minute about NOT KNOWING AND LOSING MY MIND.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tenure: Till Death

I just read a post at Ferule & Fescue about mid-career restlessness: the desire to be able to move, post-tenure, even if one doesn't particularly want to move. Flavia makes a good point here--she argues that moving between jobs is a visible sign of success at a point in one's career when there are few big landmarks remaining (you got a tenure-track job, you published a book [maybe], you got tenure...now what?). I do think that that's a part of it.

But there's also this: Given the job market and the paucity of jobs, and the near dearth of Associate-level jobs, once you have tenure, it can feel like this, right here, is the rest of your life.

I'll admit that I've been struggling with that. I drive past the Field Township Cemetery and I wonder, "Will I be buried there?" It seems horrible and strange--I am not from here; this isn't where my people are--but, after another (here's hoping!) fifty years of living, my people will be here. Where else will they be? My son will have grown up here. My entire career will have been spent here. Maybe we'll move at retirement--in 27-or-so years--but...um...that's not very satisfying.

I like where I live, I like it well enough, but it's not where I want to spend the rest of my life. There.

And I don't like living 1000 miles from my family, and slightly more than that from many of my dearest friends. And I really don't like the idea of that remaining the case until my family and friends are dispersed and/or dead. I.e., forever.

This wasn't meant to be a macabre post. There's just something so final about tenure. Of course, we could both change careers, look into other fields, etc. Clearly, I'm not (yet) so troubled by my prospects--or my future burial site--that I'm motivated to pursue these options; I like my career, and I really like the wide-open spaciousness of summer. So I'm not at that point. Besides, maybe a new job will open up? Maybe I'll get really, really lucky?

--Or maybe that's precisely the kind of thinking that will lead to my one day, despite my dearest wishes and intentions, looking into grave plots half a mile south of my house.


Bonaventure woke us up at 4:44 this morning, and (it being my turn to get up with him) it took me until 5:30 to get him fully settled (i.e. fast asleep). Then it took me a while to get fully settled. And then he was up at 7. I'm tired.

On his way out the door this morning, though, he said, "Bye, Mama! Have fun! Play with my toys."

Fun...fun? Maybe some fun would be okay.

Not that I never have fun. But every weekday morning is a frenzy of trying to Do All The Things before my menfolk get home at noon. (Today: read, write, practice the cello!)

I'm so sleepy.

What I'd love to do is take a nap, or lounge about watching a TV show on Netflix and knitting.

Maybe I can have half an hour or so later this morning for...fun? (or a nap?)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Here We Are: Another Morning

It's 8:18 am; the magnolia is in full bloom outside the living room windows. A cloudy morning. TM and Bonaventure left a few minutes ago.

B has a terrible new habit of coming into our room at 5:15 or 5:30 and getting into bed with us. Today he did manage to fall back asleep, but he did so sort of draped over me and/or shoving me off to the very edge of the bed, so I didn't sleep much, or deeply, after that. It's hard when you've got a leg wrapped around your neck, or an elbow in your ribs. (TM kindly took over breakfast prep when we finally got up, at a quarter of seven, so I got another half-hour or so of sleep.)

Milk is cooling for yoghurt on the stovetop. The dishwasher is running. I may or may not have to wash the diapers today.

I have three hours and forty minutes, roughly, until Bonaventure comes home. I should have a little time to work this afternoon--Tuesdays and Thursdays are "my" afternoons, while TM watches him--but I can't always count on that.

On the docket: Work on blending my talk back into my chapter (this kind of work is always so confusing, and such a chore. I have to retrace all my revisions and figure out if each of them works in the long version); go for a run; shower; practice the cello. Read an essay or, better, two.

All is not lost. All is not lost. There are weeks yet, and then the summer!

And in the meantime, this is my view (actually taken in April 2011, during our first spring in this house):

Monday, April 13, 2015

De retour


I didn't mean to disappear so summarily, and so soon after "reviving" this blog. It was a busy few weeks. To wit: I visited family for about a week (which was grand), then was home for a couple of days, then took off to deliver a talk in another part of the country. Then got back, almost a week ago, admittedly, and have been trying to re-enter the tattered remnants of my "sabbatical" ever since.

I shouldn't put that in quotes, but I feel like I lost the thread of my sabbatical two months ago--for various reasons, including the Strep Throat That Would Not Subside, And Then Came Back Just Before I Traveled. But really, I have managed to accomplish one or two or three things. To wi---Oh, I can't use that phrase twice in one post. Such as:
  • writing almost 15,000 words of a chapter of Book 2: 15,000 words that aren't half bad, I think;
  • semi-partially-sort-of revising the total mess that is the first chapter (which will remain a total mess until I'm much closer to being done with the whole draft);
  • submitting, and having accepted, an abstract for an article for an edited collection (now, to write the article!);
  • writing and delivering a paper which (a) was pretty good and (b) really helped me think through the chapter that I've been writing, as well as the surrounding chapters;
  • taking up the cello again, after twenty-two years off;
  • reviewing Latin, although I pretty much stopped doing that six weeks ago (must restart!); and
  • writing about 6,000 words of a non-academic book--a small start at something that it might be fun to finish.
OK. Not entirely what I hoped for, but not bad. My declared goal for the semester was 20k words plus some revisions. Of course, I had secret dreams of writing 30k words, and, with three weeks to go, I'm at 21; bear in mind that, by having secret dreams of 30k words, I implicitly had secret secret dreams of 40k words (an impossibility, if even seven of those words were to make sense). Does anyone else do this? --set goals, with secret ambitious goals underlying them, which only masquerade the impossible and terrifying goals beneath?

Anyway. I should read something, or shower, or something. I'm back.

Monday, March 23, 2015


It's sleeting out. Dark gray skies, wet gray roads, the drum of ice on the roof.

I'm very happy to be home and alone this morning! Even if I do need to go read some Kristeva.

Happy Monday, everyone.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I'm in the process of trying to take about 75 pages of written material and condense it down to roughly 20. (Twenty-two, if I'm really bold.)

And, of course, I find that there are things that I'll need to add.

I'm at about 30. The first 15 are okay, but the second 15 are a total mess--a 38-page-chapter that I've just hacked at until it's shorter, eliminating all of the obvious stuff. It's a disaster. I think that I need to print it again. (Or is that stalling? Doesn't matter; I'll do it. Double-sided. Sorry, trees.)

So condensing sort of sucks, because it's so hard to know what's really important, sometimes. And then, you take a bunch of stuff away, and what's left seems more or less fine on its own...so what was with the many many pages of apparently superfluous writing that's now gone? Should I get rid of it in all versions and drafts? (Answer, for now: NO. I can't face it. And I'm not convinced that my cuts are ultimately for the good. Also, surely there was a reason that I wrote all that other stuff?)

But it's a salutary exercise, too, one that I would consider adopting for the junior-level composition class. I'm forced to figure out what it is that I'm actually saying. On the macro level, this means that I'm cutting to the chase much more quickly (and also, of course, eliminating side arguments and some of the texture of the main argument--which is one reason that I'm not jettisoning anything that I'm cutting for this version). On the micro level, I'm streamlining my prose. How many "sort of"s and "it would seem that"s can I pack into 12,00 words? TOO MANY, that's how.

Back to it. I've got 10 pages to chop. (Twelve, really, because there are still a few paragraphs to be written....)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So what's up, then?


I've been living in a degree of suspense, about which I cannot blog. The suspense is partly alleviated--which is to say that it continues. But, since I can't talk about it, I'll change the subject.

I'm writing on sabbatical, of course. A lot. And it...goes. I'm a process writer, I've decided, which means that I write a lot of garbage really quickly, then eventually figure out what I want to say, and revise heavily for a long time. I'm in the stage of having a lot of garbage. It is, at times, discouraging, but I think that there's a second book buried in there somewhere.

I'm knitting a second pair of convertible mittens/gloves ("glittens," a name I just can't get behind), this one for a Christmas present. Yes! I'm knitting a Christmas present in March! Because I need to knit something, and all I have is left-over yarn bits!

I try to practice the cello daily, but probably manage about 3/5 days. Hey, it's better than I did the last time I played the cello (which was in the early '90s).

I've taken up running, in a very small way--like 2 miles at a time, usually twice a week. If I really get my act together, I might do a 4-mile charity "race" in June, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Consider this a placeholder post, so that my pledge of a revival doesn't fall entirely by the wayside....

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Revival?

So I'm thinking of awakening this blog from its long slumber.

Maybe even--gasp!--retooling the way it looks. I haven't redesigned the blog since 2008, I think. (To be honest, I read almost all of my blogs on The Old Reader, so I don't know what anyone else's blog looks like anymore.)


Not sure. Somehow, reading about New Kid's transition to The Desert Knitter got me thinking about how it would be fun to have a blog that reflects more of the sides of my life: academia, sure, but also knitting, and gardening, and yoga (to the extent that I have a semi-regular practice), and the cello lessons that I'm taking for the first time in 22 years (have I mentioned that I'm on sabbatical?), and raising a mostly sweet and silly little boy (3 in June!).

I don't know--I can't guarantee that I'll stay with it.

But let's give it a shot, shall we?