30 April 2008

Ode to the end of another year

last day of class comes
thirty five papers to grade
one more spring to go

28 April 2008

Bithdays are the Best Days

The grandparents came. The grandparents came. The grandparents had fairly inappropriate conversations about, well, poo. But that's another story entirely. And these are some birthday highlights:

One of the many reasons why I love The Cake Artist's Studio. And the best part? It tastes even better than it looks.

Little Man got a lot of presents. A lot. So many that the slide I bought him wasn't even interesting enough to open. He wasn't complaining. My personal favorite, though, were the little tiny tap shoes.

We had the singing lady come over for a little entertainment. Even the easily-spooked-toddler warmed up. Who wouldn't with a parachute and a bunch of flying balls??

Sometimes there's just too much party to keep your hat on straight.

24 April 2008

Happy Birthday

Dear Little Man,

I was reading my old journal the other day, and I realized that I sold my Camaro exactly a year before you were born. I still remember having a minor panic attack as I watched someone drive away in my baby for the last time. I loved that car. Loved it. It wasn't anything special as far as sports cars or even muscle cars go, but it was mine. I bought it when I was 19-a sophomore in college. I went to look at a used Buick and fell in love with a shiny red Chevy instead. It wasn't the kind of car I ever imagined that my 19-year-old self could own at 19. But it was beautiful. The day after I brought it home, I tried looking out a window--you know, just to make sure it was real--but somehow lost my balance and gave myself a black eye. I didn't care- I owned a Camaro. Not my parents, not someone else- me.

I loved driving that car. I loved people looking twice to see who was in it. I loved the way you rode only 6 inches or so from the ground, your legs far out in front of you, as though you were lounging in some sort of souped up La-z-boy. Boys were always impressed with it. Most girls drove around little Cavilers or Toyotas--not me. I would get out of class, exhausted, but my face would light up when I saw her there in the parking lot. And on beautiful spring days, I would roll the window down and turn up my music as I drove from campus to work. I remember one day, in particular-- I was curving down the road that led into campus, the sun was shining (a rarity in Ohio), the sky was blue blue blue, and suddenly Metallica's cover of "Whiskey in the Jar" came on. Perfection.

I always told people that I would keep the car forever. For. Ever. I would shove car seats in the back. I would rent a storage unit to just keep it, so I never had to let it go. I never let anyone else drive it-- until I let your papa drive it. (It was one of the ways I knew he was different- I was that comfortable with him).

On the day we got married I drove myself around all morning, because I wanted to be in my car. It relaxed me to drive it. People thought I was crazy that I wanted to pick them up to go get our hair done, but being in the Camaro made me calm. We drove away in it that night, my skirt fluffed up to my chin in the tiny bucket seats-- I remember that more vividly than the antique limo we paid to have drive us around all day.

When we decided to have a baby, I knew that my Camaro really had to go. I was excited, because I wanted a baby so badly, but I was so sad every time I looked at the For Sale sign we put in its window.

I never expected it to sell so quickly. I thought I would have a month or so left, but then one evening some guy came and took it away. And as I watched him drive off in what was still car, I could hardly breath. Literally. I'm not exaggerating when I say this--I had an unbelievably visceral reaction to saying goodbye to that machine--to that part of myself.

I bought a Toyta.

I couldn't possibly have known that it would be one year to the day that you would come into my life. You could have been born before midnight. Lord knows I was in labor all day--there was really no reason to wait. But you did wait. At 1:15 in the morning you came into this world. On the 25th of April. One year later. It was like you were telling me that something new and better had come along.

When I read that journal entry the other night, I couldn't help but to smile. It's like you knew that you were supposed to be born that day--three weeks ahead of schedule. (Thank you, for that, by the way.)

Part of the pain of letting go of that car was the pain inherent in letting go of a part of yourself--a time in your life. Looking back, that pain doesn't seem misplaced or even overdone. It seems very, very appropriate. And yet, reading over the journal entry, I couldn't help but smile back at my 25 year old self. Because she thought she knew, but couldn't possibly really know that giving up that car meant getting something infinitely, infinitely better.


I used to look longingly at every red camaro that crossed my path. Wondering if that was my car. I don't anymore. Sometime around 1:15 on April 25, 2006 something changed. You changed it.

So I hop into my little black Toyota--the one with only a 4 cylinder engine. And I actually love it- because your car seat is in the back. Because there are wipes in the cup holders and cheerios in the backseat. Because there are little jackets and still the residue from yerps that I can't quite get rid of. Because it's your car--the one that took me to the hospital on the 24th and brought you home on the 26th.

So Happy Birthday Sweet Boy. I knew that having you would change everything. I just don't think I could have ever imagined that they could have been this much better.

Even better than a 19-year old feels with a shiny red Camaro.

Love Always,

22 April 2008

My Life in Six Words

I'm long overdue to finish a Meme from academama, but it's taken me a while to come up with one. I actually really love this meme- it's from a story that Hemingway once wrote a six-word short story: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." So here's mine-

"I'm still figuring it all out."

See, I always thought I knew what I was doing. I was going to be a lawyer, get married in my late twenties, finish the PhD in 5 years, want more than one child. And then life happens. And continues to happen. I decided law wasn't for me, got married years younger than I ever thought I would, have taken far more than 5 years finishing this PhD, and waffle about having any more kids. In the next year, I have huge changes to navigate. I'll be done with my degree and may or may not have a job. We'll have to decide where to move, where to settle, which jobs to pursue, if and when we want number 2. I have a lot of figuring to do. The thing is, I have finally reached the point where I understand that the changes aren't going to stop--that there's no finish line to cross that signals my life is as it should be. And I love that.

I don't feel like tagging anyone in particular, but if you want to play along- here are the rules:
1. Write your own six-word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4. Tag five more blogs with links
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play along

20 April 2008

Something About Elephants

Little Man has a favorite animal- baby elephants. It doesn't matter whether the elephant in question is a mama, papa, or an actual baby-- they are all baby elephants in his book. And he loves them. Every. Single. One of them.

I don't know why he likes them better than cats or monkeys or crocodiles. I don't know what makes his little face light up differently when he spots a picture of one somewhere.

I do know, however, that they bring him pure joy.

It's one of my favorite parts about being a mom--that pure, unfiltered joy. When his face lights up and his entire being seems to jump into life because something has unexpectedly pleased him like he never expected, my whole world is right.

We saw lots of elephants this weekend. When the circus comes to town, the elephants camp out in the local university's parking lot. So we went to take a look at them on Friday. And then today, we saw them perform with their circus friends.

Did I mention that Little Man loves his baby elephants?

I know we didn't need to go to the circus again. (we just saw it in NYC less than a month ago.) I know I didn't need to take him over to the elephant area last Friday--he probably could have gotten his fill of them today. But I love seeing his face light up.

He goes all quiet, and grabs my hand tight, and then he realizes just how exciting it all is. And I melt. Absolutely melt. His entire being is suddenly aware that he is in the presence of a real live baby elephant. And really folks, what could possibly be better than that? What could you possibly buy that could give you that much joy? What could you possibly get that might give you even a twinkling of what his little 29-pound frame feels when he gets to see an elephant?

It's the same joy he radiates when he yells, "Watch 'is mama!" and then leaps off a step. (A new trick-- Papa is not amused.) It's the same joy that engulfs his little body when he sees that we've pulled into the park and the playground comes into view, or when he yells for me to swing him higher and then suddenly, giddily exclaims, "weeeeeeeeeeeeee!" To be honest, I didn't know that people really said "weeee" when they did something fun or exciting. And yet, he does it right on cue, without the tiniest bit of forethought or irony.

It's the spontaneity that makes his joy so wonderful. And it's his wonder at so many things that makes his joy so palpable. When I watch him, I can almost remember what it was like to feel that spontaneously joyful. I can almost remember what it was like when everything seemed taller and wider and the whole world seemed like an adventure waiting to happen. And then, I realize, I don't have to remember. It's still like that--and the same joy he gets from baby elephants, I get from him.

16 April 2008

Mean and Stupid Comments

I've never really gotten a mean comment before. (Not that many people really read this thing.) So when I got one today, I did what any sane person would do-- I deleted it.

And then I immediately regretted deleting it, because now it's gone and no one else will ever see it. No one else can respond to its stupidity and anger.* All because, in my last post, I suggested that the pope not act quite so happy to meet one of the "worst" leaders in the world.

Apparently it's the "worst" claim that got someone's proverbial panties up in a bunch. Because he only waterboarded three people. Because there are so many worse leaders, like Ahmadinejad. Apparently, the commenter thinks I'm a kool-aid drinking idiot for believing all the hype about Bush.

But honey, I've read the Parade magazine top ten most horriblest dictators article (congrats Mugabe, you're up 4 points!) I realize that compared to say, melagomanic psychopathic dictators Bushy is a walk in the park. Duh. But that doesn't make anything this administration has done in the way of crushing human rights, well, right. Only three waterboardings is three too many.* We're supposed to be better than that.

And damn straight I'm irritated at the pope. The priest abuse scandal was unequivocally unconscionable. Period. And the Church sat on its hands and protected those who abused rather than protecting those who were abused. I am a Catholic, albeit not the best Catholic around, so I have a stake in this whole mess. Every time I don't say, "I used to be Catholic," I reaffirm my stake in this mess. The Bush administration started a war that the last pope condemned. It is for capital punishment, something that the Church supposedly condemns. The social injustice that the Church just recently condemned as a new breed of sin is what this administration feeds on. Tax cuts for the wealthiest, anyone? Can you say Katrina? All I'm asking is that the pope at least address these things. He's the friggin' pope for goodness sake! You know, God's right hand man. He doesn't need to be polite. Lord knows he's not when it comes to certain other issues.

Give me a break. If I want to say that Bush is one of the worst leaders in the world it doesn't make me a brainless lemming. I'm not just following some bleeding-heart crowd without thinking through these things myself. I don't care if killing ten kittens is worse than killing one. The one is enough for me.


*but darn it, if I wanted to have people say nasty things about my politics I'd go talk to my family, the good conservative republicans that they mostly are.

15 April 2008


So the pope landed and expressed "shame" over the priest abuse scandal. Um...that was, like, oh years and years and years ago. I was still living at home, and I haven't called mom and dad's house home for at least 7 years.

So it's really no wonder that he seemed happy to meet the Shrub
As the guide of millions of Catholics around the world, I think maybe he could have tempered his enthusiasm to meet one of worst of the world leaders. I mean, waterboarding, torture, killing thousands of people, slaughtering the English language. Maybe he should be doing a little more "tsk, tsk" wagging of the finger instead of trying to get the wave going.

Weekend Update, Home Alone Edition

Last weekend, Little Man and I were flying solo. I was, admittedly, worried, but we actually had a pretty good time. Here are some highlights-

Friday Night- Pizza with Little Man's new best pal "Skeeter" over at MGM's. Skeeter is about a year older, so Little Man had a great time following him around and playing with all the new toys that were, as he claimed, obviously "mine." Plus MGM sent us home with a big old box of some great clothes. Apparently, Skeeter has a closet the size of Oprah's, because we barely made a dent.

Saturday- We did some shopping, ate at the golden arches place (which we never normally do) and then went to a local indoor play area. Can I just say that I'm in love?

Ok, so logically I know those ball pit things are the most disgusting, bacteria-laden areas on this planet. The rational mother in me knows that we should just get some of those bio-hazard bags they have at hospitals in the jumbo size and get rid of all of them. But that's what purel is for, right?

Little Man loved it. Hundreds and hundreds of balls to surround him, to jump in, to throw for mama to run after and replace. Who needs Disney World when there are local indoor playgrounds with ball pits? Germs aside, ball pits are one of the quintessential experiences of childhood. Who am I to argue?

Said indoor playground also had games to play and little mechanized rides that you used tokens for. Turns out that Skee-ball lasts a heckofa lot longer when you have trouble getting enough oomph to get that little wooden ball up the ramp. Plus, there's tickets. Little Man loved that the ball games gave us tickets. As soon as one would pop out, he'd rip it off. Suffice it to say that the poor teenage kid working the prize booth wasn't half as amused as I was when I handed her almost 100 single tickets to claim our bouncy ball.

So it was a good weekend. Easier than I thought it would be, but having him all to myself makes me realize even more that I am going to be miserable in Boston for three days without him.

11 April 2008


So today was the day that I was supposed to really hunker down and work. I arrived at my little basement carrel in the library promptly at 9:30, but when I arrived the door was open and the lights were on. Suddenly I realized that all the carrel doors were open. Apparently, today is the day that maintenance is installing a new sprinkler system in my particular area. It's been an ongoing project since the summer, but today was the day for my little cell. Great. Now I either have to go home and work or work here, in the reference room, where there is WiFi. You know, WiFi that allows you to check your email or update your blog while you are, ahem, taking notes on very important things.

Just Great.

10 April 2008

All By Myself....

J's plane should be taking off in about an hour. He's off to a conference in Denver with another econ friend and I'm staying back here with Little Man. Until Saturday, I'm flying solo--completely solo on this parenting thing.

He hates to fly. His hands get cold and damp, he starts fidgeting, and if the turbulence gets too bad, he grabs the tray table in front of him as though it alone will save him from what's coming. He's been doing a lot better lately, since we've been flying more, but the combination of rainstorms in the area, snow in Denver, and American Airlines causing massive problems in airports had him fairly nervous last night.

He seemed ok this morning. At least I think he did--I was only half awake when he left to go pick up Econ buddy to head to the airport.

This is really the first time he's going off without us. I'll be doing the same in about a month. I don't like it--at all. We're used to being around each other and to helping each other with Little Man. I know it's part of the job, but still. I'm hoping that one day we can swing it so that we can always go together.

08 April 2008

Breathing Again

Yesterday, I went to a talk about finding jobs outside of Academe. Let me just say, what a lovely relief. Even though no one really talks about these things, it is, apparently, possible to make a good living and a happy life in a post-academic world.

But at the same time that this talk was extraordinarily liberating, it also made me realize just how frustrated I've become with the whole PhD system. Here's the deal--I really do want to be a professor. Not just because you get the summers off (you really don't), no just because I'll never have to wear a suit (I probably would anyway), and not because I don't know what else to do. I really do want to be a professor, because I've come to love my research and enjoy my teaching in ways that I couldn't have foreseen 6 years ago. I know the reality though.

The reality is that there are just not enough jobs out there. Only something like 40% of English PhDs get a tenure track teaching position at a university or college. That is less than a 50/50 chance of finding that happy little professorial post somewhere. The rest of the PhDs left will either leave academe or stick around in part-time adjunct positions, teaching ridiculous course loads for a tiny bit of what they should be worth. And they will adjunct for years and years, even though your chances of ever getting a tenure track position drop off significantly after 3 years, and even though they could be making far more money for less work doing something else.

So why do we do it?

My theory--and don't blame anyone but me for this one--is that we're trained to do it. After 5-10 years of being paid roughly $4000 more a year than if we'd been working minimum wage, grad students become accustom to a certain level of poverty. And, after 5-10 years of being the hip young TA that everyone seems to like, never wearing a suit or tie to class, and cultivating a fairly informal persona, grad students are in no mood to go join what they perceive as the mindless minions of a cubicled corporate culture. Put all of that together with a general understanding that to leave academia is to fail and a culture that is more than willing to pay you to continue your grad-like existence, and there's no wonder that so many of us get stuck in adjunct positions.

Now, I don't mean to insinuate that adjuncts aren't worthy or important teachers. For many people, a part-time university teaching position is exactly what they want and need. But for so many more--many of whom are the best teachers a University might have--the adjunct position and adjunct life isn't one to aspire to. No benefits. No job stability. And after 5-10 years in the graduate program, they now rank below graduate students in terms of importance to the department.

I've decided that whatever happens this fall, I refuse--adamantly refuse-- to adjunct.

It is a decision that has caused me no small amount of anxiety. After all, I've been a part of the University life in one way or another since 1997. Leaving this lifestyle is tantamount to a career change. It's a scary proposition.

But the talk yesterday helped me readjust my perspective on the whole situation. The truth is that I could see myself as a professor, but I can also see myself doing something else. Editing or publishing, or writing.

And the truth is that departments should be doing a lot more to stop herding qualified, intelligent students into adjunct land. At the very least, there needs to be a change in the way that professors and students think about post-academic life, because the truth of the matter is that over 30% of PhDs (at least in my discipline) just aren't going to be professors. It's frustrating, but burying our heads in the sand and refusing to think that we are certainly not one of those isn't helping anyone by the people in charge of getting departments to turn profits.

06 April 2008

Things I Want to Write About

I haven't posted much lately, because I feel like I can't keep my head on straight. I've started about five different posts--posts about the guilt of motherhood, the paralyzing anxiety of the job market, posts about the way that Little Man's laugh turns me to jelly just moments after I was ready to run away, posts about the profile pictures people choose on facebook, posts about what it's like to realize that I'm in a different place than I was when I was 23, that I'm no longer 23.

But I just can't seem to write them--not in any sort of coherent or interesting way. I start to write and what comes out seems trite at best, boring at worst.

I feel muddled and stuck, but I'm not sure why.

Today, I hacked away at a tree. It looks better and I feel better from the sunshine and the warm weather. Too many things are swirling right now for me to focus on any one.

I have a chapter than needs finished, but lately I've been reading books about teaching. I've been trying to figure out what kind of teacher I am and what kind of teacher I want to be. J is a wonderful teacher. He even has a reputation in the small program he's been teaching for the last three years. It's a good reputation, and his students seem to genuinely like him and his classes.

But I don't even really want to write about teaching. It's just at the surface.

I talked to my baby brother yesterday. It's been a while, so hearing from him was good. He's out on the edge of the world, trying to make a life that he can call his own. And I think he will.

Something is on the verge, I think. Something is either going to coalesce into a whole that I can identify and grab or it will burst into a thousand tiny pieces and I'll have to start all over.

But for now, the sun is warm and the sky is blue, and the baby is napping.

04 April 2008

Random Bullets

  • Apparently, all you have to do is make one little phone call and then when you get to Boston, someone will willingly had over Hemingway's manuscripts for you to look at. That's all it takes folks--a photo ID and a phone call. It seems like there should be more involved.
  • Which means that I have to go to Boston. Alone. This gives me great anxiety, because I've never been away from Little Man overnight. And I don't like being away from J for too long. It gets kind of boring. It makes me wonder how other moms who have to travel for business do it.
  • I heart Paul Krugman. If you haven't read his NY Times piece today. READ IT. Then try really, really hard not to vote for McCain, k?
  • Little Man now can reach the light in his bedroom from his crib. This means that about 20 minutes after I put him to bed, there is a pretty good chance that he will stand up, turn on the light, and proceed to shout, "mama, mama, 'are you mama??" How am I supposed to respond to that without laughing?
  • J is going out of town next weekend for a conference. Alone. He doesn't seemed as bothered by it as I am about leaving. It means, however, that I'll be parenting solo for three days. Something tells me we're going to be watching a lot of The Little Mermaid.
  • I don't have a (second) job this summer. This is the first time in a long, long time that I don't have to juggle teaching with research for the summer. It is also the first time in a long time that we will not have an income, so to speak, for the summer. So instead of reveling in the possibilities of what I can get accomplished, I'm trying to figure out how I can do something someone will pay me for. Rationally, I know that we've saved for this, but emotionally, I really like having paychecks.
  • So I was watching Oprah last night, and she had on the pregnant "man." I'm not convinced. He is a woman who became a man, but never changed any of her genitalia into a his. Now, I understand issues of intersex and transgender. I understand that gender is a performance--a societal construct--that we need to respect people's decisions to live authentically. But it also seems to me that, as Judith Buttler writes, bodies do matter. And, it seems to me that even if he isn't a woman, biologically he is still a female (you know, with the ovaries and uterus and all), so biologically speaking at least, I think the whole "pregnant man" thing is bubkus. I respect his right to live as a man and identify as a man, but honey, when you got lady parts downstairs still, I don't think you can claim the "wonders" of pregnancy for the male species quite yet.
  • If anyone does know how to actually get a male pregnant, I would be interested to hear about it. Because I think couples should share everything 50/50.