Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Six Word Memoir Meme (now with more words)

Pretty Hard, Dammit tagged me for a meme. Since I have never been tagged before by someone I know only through the blog world and since I’ve been deficient in my blogging, I am going to write a series of six word memoirs. Lucky you.

1) I know the value of nothing.

I’m sitting here waiting for someone to come look at our dining room table that I’ve been complaining about for a year. The chairs are uncomfortable, the table is scratched. So I posted it on a university classified ad service for a relatively cheap price. Note that our neighbors had already looked at it and did not buy it so it’s obvious, as of this morning, that it’s worthless. After I post the table and chairs on the service, I get 10 emails within 15 minutes. Everyone wants it. Guess what? I don’t want to sell it now.

The couch I listed that no one emailed me about? It is certainly still worthless and I’m still willing to sell it. Until someone lets me know otherwise.

2) I like words: they are deletable.

This table-selling business just clarifies exactly what sorts of therapy I need. Making decisions is just about making regret for me. No matter what I decide, it is the wrong decision. This is why I like writing. I can revise. Delete. Finished is a generally arbitrary idea. I send stuff off. People like it or they don’t. I know it’s done when they like it. Similar to the idea that my table is worthwhile. Perhaps I’ll post some of my essays to the classifieds to see if there are any takers.

3) I just want to go home:

This is a mantra that I repeat always and wherever I go. Even when I am home. Meaning home is always where I’m not. Flip side, grass greener, nostalgia (sickness for the past). I am a sick cookie. I think my true home is Welches, Oregon where once I found fourteen pounds of chanterelles. But it’s kind of shady there with all those firs and pines. And cloudy. Maybe Mountain Town southwest has chanterelles AND sunshine. Except you can’t have mushrooms without rain.

Pretty Hard Dammit actually tagged me to write Zoe’s birth story in 6 word meme. The I-just-want-to-go-home one describes it pretty well. Z however very much wanted to get out into the world. So at 32.5 weeks she kicked her way out of there and made it as far as the NICU. We could see our house from the window, making the longing all the stronger. I was in the hospital for only 4 days but she was there for 20. Still, she was home four weeks before the doctors told us she would be. And she has now lived in two homes and is moving toward another. Perhaps she’ll be less of a I-wish-I-was-somewhere-else kind of person and more of a I’m-happy-wherever-I-am kind of bug. And then I will take a lesson from her and we will hang out happily in the sunny forest full of mushrooms and trees watching the otters swim in the river. I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.

Edited to add: Woman not interested in the table. Table now back on the undesirable list.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Next Go Round

My boss, who is really sweet one on one, took me to lunch a couple of weeks ago and gave me a bit of advice about my next job. He told me to take the long view and not get so stressed out about doing it all at once. I'm not sure what kinds of mythologies exist in peoples' perceptions of my time at this University but I was pretty stressed out. I didn't realize how stressed until I quit. I was never entirely sure how much service I was doing or needed to do, if my presence on campus was sufficient, if my publications mattered at all, if I graded too easy or too hard. So I'm trying to think about how I'll do things differently at the next job.

From the above list, it seems obvious and apparent that perhaps I should have asked. Of course, I did ask my one good friend but, as a friend, he tended to either support or tease me about freaking out about these things. I should have asked the chair these things, at least some of them, just so as to alleviate my stress. I think I was afraid he would say, you do too little. Now I find out that in some ways, he thinks I did too much. I've never been good about asking for help or feedback. In PhD school, I spent little time in my professors offices. I think this was a huge drawback to my grad school experience and, though I've known I'm like this, I still haven't corrected it. In fact, when students come to visit me in my office, I stare at them like what could I possibly tell you here that you couldn't ask me in class. I mean, my students come. We have good discussions. But I'm so unclear as to WHY they're there (they don't tell me) that I just talk and pontificate. If they have a clear question, it's easy, but the hanging out as an extension of the professorial experience makes me act all talky and uncomfortable.
So my prejudice against office-time goes both ways. One way to fix this is to change the context of the office hour by taking it out of the office. Fortunately, at my new school, there are compulsory writing center hours. If nothing else, I will have face-time with students when they don't have to specifically seek me out. The other thing to do, is to schedule time with my chair and other profs throughout the semester so I make myself go to the meetings. If I schedule something, I might be able to be more precise in the way I ask how am I doing, am I doing enough service, what kinds of service should I be doing.....
The other good thing about the new job is that my service is already built into the job so wandering around the hallways looking for ways to distinguish my service will not be so difficult. At my current job, everyone had claimed their service territories and I wasn't sure how to claim my own. I ended up doing a lot of assessment, benchmarking, curriculum development-type work (which helped me get this new job, I think) but at the new job, I'll be the point person, the public face of the department, which is something that suits the kind of service I want to be doing.

Other random things I'll do differently

1. Get to town earlier. We arrived in this town ten days before classes started. We had a couple of personal crises plus a one-year old who was still a entirely new concept. We knew where nothing was. We had no vacuum. We didn't know where the grocery store was. We couldn't decide on cable or not. I barely knew how to drive to campus. In fact, it took me a whole semester to figure out the fast way. I missed some of the first of the year meetings on campus so Erik could interview for jobs. I feel like I started behind and have been playing catch up ever since.

2. Figure out a babysitter/daycare situation. Before we knew that daycare would be the infectious trap that it was, we planned for Z to be in daycare the whole time while Erik worked. We realized that Zoe would not be able to go to school as sick as she got, we ended up in the hospital. Erik quit his job, in part, so he could take care of her. In Mountain Town I'm going to have to have a sitter to cover my schedule plus preschool for her so she can get some kid-time in but if she does still get sick, Erik and I can go to work and I'll feel like I'm putting in plenty of face time.

3. Have a party early on. Invite everyone before I figure out who likes who and who tends to hang out with who else.

4. Ask how people grade grad students and then how they grade their undergrads. Having gone to Reed and then grad school, I still find all this grading mysterious. I do grade creative work but maybe I should stop and just grade brilliant comments.

5. Get in a writing group. I have online ones but I miss having a regular face-to-face meeting.

6. Take at least one weekend day off. Go somewhere. That's why we moved there. For the somewhere.

7. Write down long-term service goals. Piece them out into workable parts. Do a little part. Again, with the long view.

8. Hang out at school. This will be easier as I hope that we live closer to campus. It sucks if it takes 25 minutes to get to campus. One is likely to go for a long time, but not as often.

I'm sure there are more ways to take the long view but this is a good start. Maybe if I make my plans public, I'll stick to them. Perhaps someone could ask me some time in October if I've been to visit my chair lately or had a party. Or find out when I will be having a party and then you can come. It would be easier if I already knew some people there....

Thursday, April 03, 2008

An Update on the Z Zau McFlau

We are living under the reign of Z. She is a gentle tyrant but not to well disposed to instruction or rules or wearing of the clothing. This morning while I was in the shower, she took my make up and spread it like peanut butter all over our leather chair. Why? Because the chair was dry and it needed lotion.
Do you remember when she would wear only purple? Purple turtleneck, purple leggings, purple dress? First went the turtleneck, and now the leggings and now, if we're lucky, she will wear the purple, sleeveless sundress from last summer because she has decided that now it is summer and she is "cold enough" and it's bright out there and even though it's still only forty-degrees tops, that is all she needs to wear.
At night--she needs books. Several books. We started a chapter book. We also finished it that night because she wanted to hear just a little more. And can you say no to books? We have the goodnight moon book from her Maestra (my mom) the blue moon that her aunt Joyce gave her and the Zoe's Potty that my cousin gave her and the animals in the forest from her grandparents and some idiotic everything book that has no narrative that we must read every night. Plus the songs three: Hush, Sunshine and Zoe (Zoe still says her name Dowie so sometimes we think she's talking about her dad, Airwick). And then songs three one more time.
At 3:46 a.m. she would like more milk please. Just a tiny bit, she asks. Tiny bit?
She'll still eat half an onion but is less into other foods like turkey and chicken. Skittles? Those she'll accept.
She counts to ten if you don't make her say 7 and are OK with 8 being H.
Paint a picture of Lily, please. NO PANTS! DRESS! she demands. I tell her Lily, unlike she, wears pants. And a shirt. And some other color than purple.
She must watch Steins (Little Einsteins) and Dora with Diegos in them. We are allowed to dance--swing her around in 20 circles until one of us is about to throw up, practice our arabesques and pirouettes but cannot sing. If we do sing, we must sing loud.
It's a Byzantine system we've been living but we cut her some slack because someone's got to be in charge and she who knows what she wants and what she wants to wear is obviously someone who has good leadership and management skills. And the leather chair, it is silky soft now, even if slightly tinted human color. Plus, when she demands hug and runs full tilt into the surprise of my shoulder or demands kiss and kisses my lips and then offers me lip-stuff because they too seem dry, I give up all plans for revolt and rebellion and spin her one more time. And then one more time again.

Edited to add: Because I wasn't here, I forgot that during random times of the day, one is told to lie down and "close eyes." She puts a blanket on one's body and sings a variation of "hush." If one stirs or makes moves to get up or opens one's eyes, one is told to "go to sleep." I'm not sure why she thinks that would work on either me or Egg, since it certainly doesn't work on her.