Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I'm afraid of a lot of things.

In two days, I'm meeting with the dean, about women's issues, and that scares me.  Sometimes I am afraid of having a job at Good Old Dude's University.  I am a feminist, meaning I believe women and men should receive equal opportunities, and I believe they can perform equally well with said opportunities.  I have never been silent on these beliefs.  And I am also a religious person, although my personal spiritual experiences have led me in different directions than, say, the dean.  Or at least, I presume that to be the case.  Which brings us back to where we started.  I'm afraid of meeting with the dean.

I like my job.  Is it dishonest to want to keep it, and yet still be a feminist?  Is it stupid to hang on?  Should I be applying for other jobs while I am still pre-tenure, and therefore easier to hire elsewhere?  


But I'm very afraid of the idea of moving an entire family.  

That is what the only other woman in my department with family reminded me.  She is a postdoc, and she doesn't think her family has another short-term move in them, in order for her to take another postdoc position elsewhere in two years.  Which probably means in her case that she won't end up with a research job.  And then she'll end up spectacularly happy, because studies have been done, and people who end up in the lower-paid and less-prestigious teaching jobs end up happier than the mean and nasty researchers who claw tooth and nail over each others' sad carcasses to win the last measly crumbs of grant money.  

Ha ha.  It's not really that bad, or I wouldn't like my job.

I'm afraid of writing my next grant proposal, because it has to be a big one.  And if I get the grant?  I will have to run summer programs or organize conferences or something else Big, to match the big proposal, and I'm scared of the very idea.  

I'm also afraid of stuff in my calendar between the dean's meeting and the grant proposal due date, like travel at the end of March to speak at a conference on a topic I haven't yet chosen.  And hosting visitors for a few weeks in a row.  And I'm afraid that I won't get anything done, and yet my task list is deep and wide and stinky.  

I'm so scared I'm going to cry.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Single parent

Tim was out of town last week.  When he travels, I think about how life would be different if something were to happen to Tim and I were single.

When I was very young, my father was in a serious bicycle accident, and ended up in the hospital with a severe head injury.  I only have vague memories of the event.  It was summer, and I think I was about five years old.  It happened in the evening.  Dad was expected home and didn't come.  My mother must have been frantic with worry, but I don't remember that.  I remember hearing that they had found a man unconscious after a bicycle accident, and it might be my dad.  I remember my just-older brother identifying the bicycle.

In the ensuing days, I remember being shuffled from house to house around the neighborhood as our church members took turns caring for us, so that my mom could be with my dad in the hospital.  In retrospect, those church members showed some very serious Christian charity to our family.  If I was five, then my older brother was six, and I had three younger siblings.  I may have been only four.  In any case, there were somewhere between four and six of us, very young children.  We were taken into neighbors homes and cared for.  I liked seeing other people's homes.  I didn't understand the seriousness of the situation.

My mother, however, must have been frantic with worry.  There was a very real possibility that my father wouldn't survive the accident.  There was also a possibility that he would come through it disabled, or with a completely different personality.  Head injuries can do that.  My mother would have had to care for all of us children alone.  She was well educated, with a master's degree in social work, and she had been employed for several years before deciding to have all those children at once.  But if I was five, then she hadn't been employed outside the home for over six years.  Her children were very young and needed constant care.  It would have been very difficult for her to find a job, and then put us all into daycare or hire a nanny.  Even if she had been more recently employed, a master's degree in social work didn't pay that well.  It would have been very hard for her to draw the kind of salary that could adequately support her large family.

My mom's story had a happy ending.  My father completely recovered.  She went back to caring for children full-time (essentially running her own private daycare out of our home, with just my siblings enrolled).

When Tim goes away, I reconsider my own situation.  What if something were to happen to him?

Unlike my mom, I am currently employed, and I have a great job.  And our family is tiny.  We would be ok, financially. There would be a lot of things that would be hard.  It would be incredibly hard to always be the responsible parent, 24/7.  Tim and I take turns now picking up from school, cooking dinner, cleaning dishes, folding laundry.  When Tim goes away from a week, it gets tiring taking over all these chores on my own.  But it's not a big deal when I know it's only for a short time.  However, it would be exhausting to be responsible for all these things day after day, week after week, year after year, with no end in sight.  And in spite of our egalitarian marriage, there is some division of labor.  I would have to learn again to do the tasks that Tim has taken care of for both of us for many years.  And with Jonathan's school schedule, I would have to work evenings, every evening, whereas now I can take many evenings off.  It would be exhausting.

And then I think about the single moms I have known over the years, especially those whose kids were my friends growing up, and my heart goes out to these women.  I had no idea how hard it was.  But they did a really great job.  At least, their kids turned out spectacularly.  It can be done.

That brings me so much relief.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Real-life things I wish my students would understand

1.  Jobs are competitive.  They do not land in your lap.  You have to go out and find what it takes to get the job that you want, long before you start to apply for the job that you want.  Then in the ensuing months or years, you have to make the effort to fulfill the requirements.  The other people who are applying for that job?  They figured this out two years ago.  (But yeah, I'll write you a letter of reference anyway.)

Our grad students, even our good ones, seem to have no clue as to the nature of the profession they are planning to join, and its weird mating rituals (i.e. job application processes).  I think I'd better start running some workshops, ASAP.  

Here are a couple of things for my undergraduates, along the same lines:

2.  Even though the world is a little scary, there are amazing things to do outside of your comfort zones.  And people will pay you to do those amazing things, too.  (Why is no one applying for an REU or internship?)

3.  God probably doesn't want you to sacrifice your talents on the altar of religion.  God probably gave you those talents for a reason, and wants you to actually develop them in order to make the world a better place, and to make your life a better place.  (That one for my women, especially.)

I'm only speculating on #3.  But in a religious university, you have to wonder.  Our best students aren't even trying to reach their full potential.  Especially our top women.  Why not?  They won't even apply.  What is going on?  We need them to be more, to reach higher.  We need them.  I need them.  I don't want to be the lone female in my research group for the next 35 years until I retire.  Step up, ladies.  

And then for those that do apply, and head off away from sheltered G.O.D. University into the wide world, more advice:  

4.  When you do go out and find amazing things in the world, and that helps you suddenly see all the warts on those things you left behind, remember that unfortunately there are warts in lots of places.  This doesn't mean that the warty things should be chucked completely.  It does mean that you will have to revise your opinions, and do some thinking.  But perhaps it's a good idea to do that thinking privately.  Because if you don't flame all the bridges behind you as you go, you may actually be able to use those fancy new skills you're developing to help improve things back where you've been.  (Here I am thinking of angry religion exit stories posted regularly on Facebook.)


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Some stuff I should do:

  1. Write papers.  Three work papers are in limbo, waiting for me to bring them to life.  The research is all done.  It's all there.  Somehow I just have to write....
  2. Read papers.  I have two student meetings tomorrow, and a thesis defense in a few days.  And I need to look at all of their writings and give them useful feedback before they go off into the wide world.
  3. Review papers.  Because people want to know whether they should publish or extend funding or give job to said paper writer. 
  4. Prepare lecture.  I'm speaking in our seminar tomorrow on stuff I haven't read for a while.
  5. Grade.  Because grading never goes away.  
  6. Learn French.  That's the first item that's only marginally work related.  I have a couple upcoming work trips to French speaking locales, and I grow nervous that I will not be able to communicate.  
  7. Exercise.  30 to 60 minutes per day.  
  8. Eat vegetables.  
Some stuff I'd rather do:
  1. Read online news.
  2. Skim recent events on facebook.
  3. Angry birds.
  4. Eat candy from the Valentine's day stash. Not until tomorrow.  
*Sigh*.  Back to work.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ten times

Jonathan:  I can multiply ten times anything.

Me:  Oh yeah?  What's ten times Bunny?

Jonathan:  (Blinks.)  Bunny Zero.

Me:  I think you say, Bunny-Oh.  What's ten times finger?

Jonathan:  Finger-Oh.

Me:  What's one hundred times finger?

Jonathan:  Finger-Oh-Oh.

Me:  You say Finger-Ooh.  What's ten times "you're my ear"?

Jonathan:  You're my ear oh.

Me:  Oh thank you.  What's one hundred times "I can't ear"?

Jonathan:  (Grins.)  I can't ear you.

(We continue for a while.)

Me:  What's ten times ten?

Jonathan:  (Slight pause.)  One hundred.

Me:  No.  It's ten-oh.

Me:  What's ten times one hundred?

Jonathan:  (Smiling.)  One hundred-oh.

Me:  No.  It's ten-ooh.

(We both laugh our heads off.)


Tim:  It's not actually that funny.