Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Com emoção" (with "emotion" = thrills)

Brazilians or people who have visited Brazil and gone to visit some of its large sand dunes in the Northeast (either in Fortaleza, Natal or Maranhão) will know what I'm talking about here... (the photos below -- credit given -- are from the Genipabu Dunes [google image photos] in Natal).
Image taken from this tourism site (not on that page, though, can't find it).
When you pay for a buggy ride in the dunes, you can choose between a ride "with emotion [thrills]" or without. Here's what part of a thrill ride may look like:
Image taken from this article in a Natal hotels website  
that talks about the two kinds of buggy dune rides

All of this to say that when I was telling my husband on Monday about this metaphor that I've been using on my blog for many years (that our lives are like a roller coaster), he simply replied...

"Yeah, it's because we like it with thrills! [com emoção] It would be boring other wise!"

Oh well, what can I say to that? All I can say is that we've certainly been able to "enjoy" our ride, its ups and the downs, even though some of the downs have been really hard -- like back in 2009 putting the house on the market under financial pressure and worrying about losing it, and in 20089-10, regretting K's decision to leave big pharma and go back to academia with a 60% pay-cut and a high mortgage to pay.

Because everything has come back around, we know this is really nothing compared to what we've faced in the past (and we also have our faith to sustain us -- this is a main thing, actually, not an "and also" in our lives, I just don't blog much about it).

All of this to say that on Monday K found out that one more of the grants he had applied to for summer funding (people in science need grants so they can continue doing research with their students in the summer) had been denied. Such "good timing" in finding this out, right? No summer salary for him will definitely strain our finances.

Now... you may remember that he applied to a HUGE, "dream" NSF career grant last year and the likelihood of him getting that is really, REALLY slim. But he hasn't heard back yet, so we can have a glimmer of hope, no? I'll let you know first thing when he finds out.

Let's keep the suspense, emotion and "thrill" going in this blog, shall we?

So I hope this is the last time I'll mention my job troubles for a while here. I've done all I could do at U#2 and now I wait, maybe for months... I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Good thing I didn't blog about the "Contingency Saga" yesterday!

...or I would have cheerfully written that my meeting with NH (new hire) had gone well yesterday afternoon and that it looked like the problem might be solved pretty easily.

ha, ha, ha!


Just got an email from NH explaining that it's more complicated than what I thought it was. Silly me, didn't ask for more details on the Friday meeting with the chair. (I panicked/despaired & I wanted out of his office ASAP) Or I could have argued with facts and numbers against the dean's determination that I was to teach only 2 classes in the Fall and 1 in the Spring.

Do they think I will drive 152 miles to teach ONE CLASS?


Can they hire someone else right to move there and teach 3 classes a year?

I don't think so. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe everyone else is more desperate than me and they'd move across the country to do that. (?) (in any case I think they can only advertise a full-time position. And they're totally taking me for granted right now. Because I'm replaceable).

~  ~        ~ ~ ~        ~ ~
You know, before I continue, let me just say that I'm confident that I'll find a solution somehow -- be it teaching more classes at U#1 or trying to convince them to hire me full-time, or even continuing at U#2. I have faith that things will be OK, but I still feel the need to commiserate and argue and to talk about trying to solve the problem -- something that is stressful. So I don't want to sound hopeless and angry and upset as I continue to write about this "saga," OK? Thanks.
~  ~        ~ ~ ~        ~ ~

In any case... yeah. I don't know what else I was going to write before going on my digression. It's hard not to be angry at the system, very hard. That's why years and years ago I blogged about my Phd as useless. Because it is. I feel sorry for all MA and Phd students out there, I seriously do. That's why it would be a relief not to be crossing them on the halls anymore. "Look at me! I am you tomorrow!" (not really 'cause this is a top department and they may get jobs, unlike me).

OK, you don't want to hear what's in my head right now, I should stop.

Link Love: Ghosting Assange, Margaret Atwood & Translation, and Women, "Recline!"

It's been "ages" since I've written a link post, so here you go:

It may take you a couple of hours to read, but if you've been as fascinated by Julian Assange as I have  ever since the WikiLeaks scandal broke, you will thoroughly enjoy Andrew O'Hagan's long essay "Ghosting" published a few days ago in the London Review of Books. I had forgotten where Assange was and had to google to be reminded that he's still living in a room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, oh well!... The essay is long because it recounts the loooong period in which O'Hagan was working to ghost-write Assange's autobiography*. Fascinating stuff! And now I'm more repulsed than fascinated by the Australian hacker and whistle blower. Take a look! (Thanks Emily for tweeting this!)

This is a quick read about one of the subjects that interests me the most: translation. The Guardian's short essay titled "Margaret Atwood translates translation" summarizes Margaret Atwood's talk about translation and writing novels. (Thanks to Anjali for linking on Tweeter as well)

Last, but not least, just this morning Laura (Apt 11D) blogged about an essay in which Rosa Brooks urges women to "Recline!" and lean OUT instead of  Leaning In. :) Pretty interesting, but it immediately reminded me of Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece from two years ago on "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." This discussion never ends, does it? But I'll gladly recline, it suits me better anyway!

* The book was eventually published as Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography, so we can actually see the results of O'Hagan's labor if we so wish.

A Beautiful Day For... Line Drying! ;-) (Last Sunday)

Yesterday and today have been cold and windy and tomorrow will be even colder, but Sunday was LOVELY! 64 degrees in February is great. So, it was a beautiful day for the first line drying of the year...

...Except that I suspect our washer may be on the verge of breaking again* and that completely freaks me out. Much more so than the job situation that I know will be OK eventually (and won't involve spending money on a big ticket item, sigh...)

* It may have been my fault (which is mortifying!) because I selected spinning on "Medium" for a pretty large load. The washer didn't finish the spinning cycle (some clothes were still sopping wet at the bottom) and smelled like a broken machine when we turned it off. My husband ran a rinse & spin cycle only with water and it worked OK. I'm doing a load right now, not too big (towels), but I'm doing the "heavy load" cycle and hoping it will be fine. I'm actually nervous about it! I'll let you know how it goes (updating the post).
Edited to add: it looks like washer is OK. It washed and span all the towels with no broken machine smell!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Sad Side of Being "Contingent"

Part 2 of 2 (1 is here)

I've taught myself not to cringe too much when I use the word contingent to refer to my employment situation, but deep down it gets to me all of the time. For all purposes, I am 100% replaceable, I'm here now, but I could be sent away tomorrow, just a small cog in a big machine. Leaving all thoughts on my passion for research aside, that's the worst problem with the tenure-track, non-tenure track discussion: when you're "contingent" and not tenure-track you automatically feel like you don't really have much value for the institution. All they need is your weekly teaching, not you, really, and all you can contribute to your job as a person and a scholar.* 

Ha! The Roller-Coaster that's my life has started to move fast again and now... hold on to your seats, my friends, 'cause we're going down! Yeah... this is an old, tired, cliched metaphor (Why can't I write clichéd with the accent, spell-check?), but I keep using it because it works for me & my unpredictable life.

So, yeah... I'll try to be quick (so I can go to sleep, it's almost 2 am on Friday, but I scheduled this to be published tomorrow so more people can see it).

As you may or may not remember, I'm very lucky  as far as being contingent faculty is concerned because I happen to have a full-time job with benefits. It doesn't pay much, but as far as adjuncting goes, it's heaven! And on top of that, I teach a couple other classes at another university (U#1, where my husband is a tt professor and where I worked on a "class by class" basis every semester before the full-time gig suddenly, and unexpectedly appeared back in 2012). These other classes provide some more needed income for our family.

I wasn't supposed to have had a second year of full-time teaching at U#2, however, because they hired a new tenure track faculty last Fall (a search I applied to and that I never was even one of the MLA finalists for). I managed to maneuver myself into another yearly contract before the new faculty arrived and then, unsurprisingly, double offerings of same classes led to low enrollment.

So today [Friday] I had a meeting with the chair and s/he informed me** that the dean has reduced my teaching load for the next semester and that s/he will do all s/he can to help me have a 3/3 (full-time) load, but that it depends on enrollment. I had to control myself not to despair too much before leaving the chair's office. Because...

(ha, ha, ha) ... if the schedule continues as it is for the fall, enrollment will be the end of me because two sections of the same class are scheduled for me and the new hire (NH).

That means that my full-time status is completely at the mercy of NH (who is fully in charge of our program). If NH decides the schedule can be changed for the Fall and one of us can teach another class, I'm DONE.

I've already commiserated with two of my dear friends who are also lecturers, but who have three year contracts right now (and much higher pay), and we've brainstormed various suggestions that I can give to NH and that will hopefully work out so I can continue full-time. I have decided to email NH tomorrow night and not wait until we can possibly meet on Monday. This situation is much too urgent and I will be way less nervous writing an email than talking to NH. I'll keep you updated as the situation develops. (and I hope I can get some sleep now, sigh...)

Your thoughts, comments, prayers, etc. are appreciated!

* That's one of the big reasons why, among other things, academia completely sucks most of the time.
** I've been trying to schedule a meeting with the chair for weeks now. I'm just asking myself WHEN I would have been informed of this scheduling decision by the dean if I hadn't met with the chair this Friday! Maybe it would have been to late to try to re-mediate the situation. I shudder just thinking about that!

I wish I could go on strike for us contingent faculty too!!!

(Part 1 of 2, part 2 here)
Thursday morning I had to wake up around 5 am for our ski trip and when NPR started playing in our (super old) alarm clock and I heard an interviewer asking someone about a strike at the University of Illinois in Chicago on support of contingent faculty I immediately perked up and sat up in bed and started listening.

It was a strange feeling, especially after only a few hours of sleep, so early in the morning, to be hearing this guy from the Chronicle of Higher Ed (Peter Schmidt) talking about MY LIFE on the radio. I mean, that's all I could think of as he patiently explained to the NPR host the plight of contingent faculty.

I can barely write this or even bear to re-read the transcript because the timing is so ridiculous -- hearing this one one morning and the next day finding out that my situation is more unstable that I thought it'd be. I just have tears streaming down my cheeks now as I write this post.

I mean... I have it better than most, seriously. I know I should be grateful for the half-jobs I have, but the most crushing thing of all is that for the past five, six, seven years (even before I became one of them back in 2010!) I've been reading about the plight of contingent faculty and how it's such a struggle for all of us and it's just been really hard.

Because while I struggle with my situation I feel the acute weight of "THE SYSTEM" over me and the other thousands in my situation. I could go on and on, but I need to go write another post to share what's bothering me in more detail.

In any case, I wish there was something I could do. I wish I could become a true militant in this nearly hopeless struggle, but there's not much I can do. One thing is certain: where I live and work it's even harder because there can't be unions. As I read about the strike in Illinois, I wish we lived elsewhere right now, but that can't be changed. Gotta dry the tears and try to deal with the situation at hand. It's all I can do.

(not that this particular strike in Chicago will do any good, academia is much too slow and much too messed up as regards to career and hiring and the tenure system for change to happen any time soon)

MAYBE, just maybe it's a start, though??  Here are some interesting headlines from around the web about this strike:
Truthout calls it a "Historic Strike" as does "In These Times" and Schmidt titled his piece for the Chronicle "U. of Illinois at Chicago Strike Showed Unusual Support for Contingent Faculty"

Part 2 to come in two hours :)

Blogging, I Need You!

You all know that I'm struggling with the whole blogging thing and I'm trying to write about this and even accidentally published the title and first sentences last week, but that reflection will have to wait because I have a work crisis now and, as always, blogging is my first line of defense, my life-saver in these situations. It allows me to work through my disgruntled feelings and, when I'm lucky and the right people happen to be reading at the right time, even some encouraging feedback. (SIGH... see, I HAVE to write that post!).

All of this to say that there may be several posts coming your way as I try to sort out my permanently disagreeable work situation. And... it's the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT and I can't sleep and I'm here blogging, but I can't bring myself to write the post I need to write because people are sleeping and nobody will read and I need support and feedback and whatever and... I'm sorry, I'm ridiculous in my need for attention right now, am I not?

So I'll publish this post, write the other ones and schedule them to be published mid-day tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get some thoughts from you!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ski Lift Blogging

I'll come back to post a photo later, but I'm blogging from a ski lift! I came with my sons' school for their ski day while my husband will be substituting for me today. 

I'm not a good skier, but I'm persevering! A year ago I was ready to give up, but a free ski lift & rental voucher we received in early January made me go back and I decided to keep skiing, however badly! I'm glad I did! 

Photos later! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Weird/Spam Comments/ Recall

On Friday I started writing a post on my cell phone which I saved as a draft. Then on Saturday afternoon I went back to it, but I stopped and I thought I'd just saved a draft again, but apparently I'd published it! Weird! (but I know sometimes we're not careful and these things happen)

I only found out about that post through a spam comment this morning (oh, how I hate spam comments!), so now I "recalled" the post and put it back into draft form.

Sorry about this unexpected glitch! Back to regularly scheduled programing.

(Ha ha... as if I were blogging regularly this year. Blah...) :( 

Gotta love Jimmy!

& I think he'll be very successful. Good thing I don't have to teach tomorrow at 9 like my poor hubby (and that I'm not sleepy). 'Cause I wanna watch the whole show tonight. ;-)

But I will sure miss Seth in SNL.

Should I "live blog" the show? Nah... I'll just enjoy it (the Spike Lee directed first act thingy just started).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Big Fat Mexican Sunday!

Last Sunday was pretty crazy intense day!

First, I stayed up until past 3 am on Saturday baking not one, but FOUR flans because I was "catering" my friend's reception for her doctoral lecture and recital. She wanted to feed a full orchestra plus some friends, so she ordered tons of mini-sandwiches and I prepared the rest.
She is Mexican and her project was on Mexican orchestral music, so I made the flans (using a recipe in Spanish that I found online -- the author is Puerto Rican, though... oh well...) and a TON of fresh salsa (pico-de-gallo style) and guacamole.

The recital was not until Sunday evening, but it turns out that I my friends and colleagues (faculty and students) at U#2 had their last performance of a Mexican play that afternoon and I didn't want to miss it for anything.

So... I spent all morning preparing food like a maniac: in addition to the salsa (which I like to prepare cutting everything by hand), I also had tons of fresh fruit to wash and cut up (to be fair, my husband helped with that!). Then I had to put everything into containers, coolers and bags, not forgetting tablecloths, serving bowls, spoons, etc. and pack it all into my car.

Then I drove 76 miles to see the play (and had to call a friend on the way for directions to the theater since I didn't have time to look it up beforehand!) and back to U#1 where I not only had to set up the reception, but also (before doing that) pick up the sandwiches and buy soda & ice. It was worth it, though because the play was hilarious! (I don't want to share more details so you can't locate me! ;-)


(meanwhile my husband and sons were skiing/ snowboarding, which cost 75 bucks for our youngest because we didn't want to have him be bored with me all day [and seeing a play mildly inappropriate for a kid] or stay with anyone else... I guess it was a fair price to pay and he enjoyed it too)

Thankfully everything went well on my big fat Mexican Sunday, except for one little "hiccup:" I began to unload all the food at the wrong place and had to unload and take it to another part of campus which wasted over 20 minutes and caused me to miss the whole lecture, but not the orchestral pieces. 

Everyone LOVED the guacamole, which I prepared by simply cutting the 12 avocados my friend had bought and mixing them with my homemade salsa -- only adding more lime.
Here are some more photos for your viewing pleasure!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wanna Blog, Have to Grade :(

So sorry for Shaun White... oh well. (and, Laura, my sons & I love those brothers too!*)

Anyway, I shouldn't be blogging. I have to grade. I don't want to, but I have to.

Oh, and last night, the last thing my exhausted husband heard before he fell asleep was my comment about Bob Costas' red-eyes. Ha! I knew something was terribly wrong so tonight he had to be sidelined. And it does feel weird (or wrong to fly with the same adjective) to have Matt Lauer doing this. Not that I like Costas, no way... whatever...

I need to blog about my crazy-busy-intense-Mexican-Sunday, I'll try to, OK? Promise!

* the boys didn't have school today, so last night I let them watch the Olympics 'till nearly 11 pm. We don't have cable [there's NO cable in our county, is that our fault??], so we can't even watch NBC live through their app (maybe I'll have time to blog about how much I hate Olympic coverage). Today we watched some stuff live through a website.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

I don't know...

... really, I don't.

I don't know why I'm not blogging lately. Sure, I am very busy, but much less busy than last semester (4 meeting hours less and two days not driving 152 miles make a huge difference!)...

I have made it a point to come and say here that life's good...

I've been blogging for 10 years, but that doesn't mean anything, does it? I mean, I've made many friends, I found a voice and I wrote lots. The blog was vital in helping me cope with life with two small children, and, most importantly, it provided the friends that I so needed as a very lonely expatriate person.

It was incredible to get to meet so many of these friends that I made through the blog and I'm still looking forward to meeting more (e.g. Jamie -- it looks like we'll be going close to you in August, my friend!).

But now that we've finally "settled" (gah! I still feel "stuck" instead of settled at times), very slowly, I seem to be making more friends. It's so hard and rare to find kindred spirits, but a year ago we began to find more of them and although we're still not spending much (if any) time together with these new friends, it feels as if maybe we're at the cusp of something new, a new experience (particularly as it concerns "church" or our faith community).

In addition to the busy-ness of work, this year there are other things that are already demanding attention: a friend's doctoral recital (I'm helping her with the reception); friends getting married in July and whose wedding shower I'm helping to organize; pregnant friends and showers to look forward to and, tentatively, a trip in August to take the boys to an event many miles away.

And then, of course, there's the "getting old(er)" part that I often don't think about. Sometimes I have this fleeting impression that all this "over-sharing" that I crave and which motivates me to blog may be a bit "immature" and that maybe I should get over it.

I don't think I'll ever quit, but I never thought, in a million years, that I would ever feel this lukewarm towards blogging.

In the world of (horrid, but addictive) facebook & superficial twitter (and über superficial Pinterest), it seems that blogging is getting outdated. Personal blogging at least.

What do you think? Why do you still do it? Why did you drift away?

No, I'm not quitting, but I do hope I get my blogging mojo back!

P.S. I have thought about blogging about really frivolous subjects & I probably will, now that I have addressed more serious topics... I just didn't want to write those posts without some reflection on how I'm feeling.

Monday, February 03, 2014

It's "Warm"!!

Tried to post this on Sat. Afternoon, but it didn't work! :-(  (today's super rainy)

It's 55 degrees out, but for this boy it feels like summer!
Tomorrow will be even warmer, but then it'll get cold again... Oh well! We'll enjoy whatever we can get!