Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is that a cocoon in the back of your throat?

D is sick. He has strep throat. And it is freaking nasty.

It started at 4am Thursday morning -- what should have been his first day back to school after 2 snow days. Instead he woke up shivering and feverish, complaining of body aches which were evidently worse than the sore throat. I dragged him to the doctor and when she asked him to rate his pain on a scale of 1 to 10, he said 10 .

This surprised me because I think of D as sort of stoic and non-complaining (whereas I become Whine Central Station as soon as I feel the least bit yucky). My mom says it could not have been a 10 because he has never had a baby or a root canal and therefore does not know what 10 is.

Still, he was completely miserable. Once we left the doctor, I dropped him off at home with motrin and juice and went to the store to pick up popsicles and gatorade and his prescription. He is feeling much better today and hasn't had a fever since yesterday morning, so this is good.

Unfortunately, I'm feeling a little gross. I don't think I have strep (there are no nasty white spots in the back of my throat, although when I looked at David's throat last night it was so disgusting I started dry-heaving and that kind of made my throat hurt). That's when he said "It looks like a cocoon back there," which is so disgusting and so true. Like a silkworm or something. Gag gag gag.

Anyway, I opted out of tutoring little kids today, deciding that I could either be carrying the strep virus or worn down enough to contract whatever sort of cold/flu/grossness they have (if I had a quarter for everytime I said "Do you need a tissue?" last week, I probably could have doubled my hourly pay). Instead, I am doing my second round of laundry (sheets, towels, D's fuzzy Cardinals blanket, basically everything he has touched in the last two days) and trying to work up the energy to run a few errands. I still have some cleaning to do, too -- I feel like every surface in our house is covered with his germs and I wish it weren't freezing outside so I could throw open door and windows and air the place out. As we still have 5 inches of snow on the ground, this seems a bit impractical.

So... good times at my house. Stay healthy and stay tuned. Maybe next week will bring more excitement...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

snow day

D is home from school for the second day in a row. Our yard and deck are buried under 5 or 6 inches of snow, which is lovely to look at but somewhat annoying if you are a small dog.

Little Mac finds the snow a personal affront to her bathroom habits and deals with the problem by not bothering to wade through the snow drifts out in the yard: she pees directly outside the back door on the deck.

Not her most charming habit, to say the least.

In one of the Little House on the Prairie books, of which I was a huge fan, Laura writes about having ropes tied from the house to the barn so that you couldn't get lost in the Wisconsin blizzards. I imagine, although Laura seems to have been too polite to say so, that the same was also true for the outhouse. And as cool as I thought Laura and her pioneer lifestyle were, traipsing outside in the snow to pee cannot be fun. For Laura or for Little Mac.

So, for those of you who are dealing with the winter weather, when you're feeling a little cabin fever, remember to be glad that you don't have to go out in the backyard to your business.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lazy Day

I don't know if it was the meager snow covering on the ground and my car, or a case of the Mondays, or the tiny but irritating blister on my second toe, but I could not drag myself out of bed this morning when my alarm went off at 7:15. Instead, Cooper and I snuggled and dozed all through my morning Jazzercise class.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Note: It is slightly awkward to sit in a desk chair and type at a desk with a 40-lb. puggle on my lap. But Cooper will sit at my feet and make this soft squeaking whine that drives me CRAZY when he wants to snuggle. So eventually I give in and let him up on my lap. Or I grab the laptop and head for the sofa. It might seem ridiculous, but he is so irresistibly snuggly.

I was a crafty girl on Sunday. I spent much of the afternoon working on a Top Secret Handmade Gift for my friend Carol's upcoming baby shower. I am sewing it and I am afraid that the project could be one or two notches above my current skill set. For example, it requires button holes and I have never made a buttonhole. Anyway, I went as far as I could with the pattern and now it is on hold until I can convince my parents to come visit me so my mom can assist. I just don't want to screw this up and end up in tears. The good news is that it is looking pretty cute so far!

I also put together invitations for Monica's bachelorette weekend and ordered invitations for Carol's shower. I am much more confident with my paper skills than my fabric skills. It feels very satisfying to get these little projects taken care of. Now if I could just wrap up that big project I call the dissertation...

And speaking of, Monday morning is slipping away and I need to have something to show for it. Besides a rather uninspired blog entry.

Happy Birthday to David's g-ma Peggy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh Yes We Did!

As I told D last night, it feels really good to be young and alive in America right now.

Today is the inauguration day and for the first time in my life, I am going to be glued to the TV for all the festivities. In fact, I'm having a little brunch party with Tarah & Keya, my English department besties (and, conveniently, both fantastic cooks). I'll mix the mimosas while they whip up quiche and waffles and, in spite of a harrowing job market in academia (one that Stanley Fish argues is on its way out for good), a bleak economy, and cold and gray January day, we will celebrate Barack Obama's inauguration and what it means for this country as we look forward to the future... with hope.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where were you a year ago today?

I was standing up with my BF Jamie. I can't believe it's been a whole year since her wedding. At the same time, it seems like Max has been around forever. Here we are:

(the fur is not faux but it is vintage -- borrowed from the Gma of the Groom because the high that day was 18 degrees). Brrr!

I don't know what it is about this picture -- the lighting, the slight blurriness, the carefully coiffed hair, the expert-make-up-application from Neiman Marcus, or the fact that I'm wearing fur and Jamie is wearing a veil, but we somehow don't look like ourselves. Jamie was a happy bride, though, and we all had a great time in spite of the freezing cold.

Happy Anniversary Jamie & Max!

Friday, January 16, 2009

I'm an expert on Shakespeare, that's a hell of a lot, but the world don't need scholars as much as I thought

(I'm not really an expert on Shakespeare but you get the idea.) We had a meeting yesterday at school. About the grim realities of the job market. And, let me tell you folks, it's not looking good for anybody, but it is really not looking good for English PhDs.

Here are some of the highlights. And by highlights, I mean lowlights:

* Less than half of English PhDs enter a tenture track position within 2 years of finishing the PhD.
* The track record from my program is even worse -- only about 1/3 of PhD graduates from my program have moved on to tenure-track positions. There are various reasons to explain this -- personal choices mostly, like people who want to stay local, or people who relocate for their spouse to get a job and so don't pursue tenure, people who decide to teach high school, etc., etc.
* The job posting list this year was the lowest it has been in the last ten years. And several job searches that were posted were subsequently canceled or suspended -- in one of my friend's experiences, 7 out of 40 positions he applied for were canceled -- making the number even lower.

Most of this is not a surprise. I knew that PhD tenure track jobs were hard to come by. What I didn't know was just how hard, and that it would be at its worst just as I am prepared to finish.

So now I have some major decisions to make. Here are my options, as far as I can tell:

Do I hit this aggressively, apply for every position I am even remotely qualified for, bust my butt to get an article published, submit abstracts to the major conferences, and do everything I can to get a job as a professor -- even if that means moving to North Dakota?

Do I finish and try to get a job within my university -- not a professor job (that does not happen) but a job within the Writing 1 composition program, something more administrative that would likely include teaching freshman composition?

Do I finish and teach on a course-by-course basis, which would probably mean having to teach four courses at three different colleges each semester in order to make a reasonable salary, but still not having benefits?

Or do I finish and leave academia behind, see where an English PhD can get me in the world of public relations, grant-writing, or publication?

My decisions are further complicated by the fact D will finish his specialist degree this summer. This means that he will be applying for administrative positions in elementary education and fully expects to land an assistant principal gig this year or next year. At least it means that I could have health care coverage if I have to teach part-time, but it also means that if I am moving to North Dakota, he's coming with me -- cashing out his Missouri teacher retirement fund, having to learn a new state's education laws, and starting the process of networking all over again.

David has told me that he is willing to do this, but as we have had other conversations about the fact that he will be able to retire in twenty years at the ripe old age of 51, it seems like the kind of sacrifice that would really have to be worth it. I mean, I would have to be landing my dream job to even want to ask him to do that.

The other reality is that his salary as an administrator will be more than twice what I will make as a post-doc, and considerably more than what I would make as a first year professor. Are we ready to move and take a pay cut? On the other hand, am I ready to work part-time and let D be the career guy? I just always thought we would both have rewarding and ambitious careers. And now I feel like my career future means that one (or both of us) will be making unpleasant and difficult compromises, no matter what.

And don't even get me started on the fact that we might want to have kids before we're 40 -- where does that leave us? New professors who get hired tenure track are under immense pressure to publish -- articles at least, but also books. Teaching full time and trying to write a publishable book as well as do the administrative work required of most professors who are also advisors at liberal arts colleges... well, I think we can all agree that job would take more than 40 hours a week.

I just don't know what I want most right now. I can't picture an ideal situation. Part of me is resistant to change, which is also problematic for someone on the verge of finishing a program. I mean, I love living in my little house in the city, I even like living in St. Louis (it's the city that grows on you). I like the change of seasons. I like being close to my best friends from college. I like being able to drive to my parents' for the weekend. But that doesn't mean that I don't want to be a professor and have a real office and teach real literature classes (I know, let's be real. Most professors at small colleges have to teach composition courses, but still.).

I just don't see a clear right answer and that frustrates me. It is terrifying to have worked for this for the last 6 years of my life and to now realize that I have no idea what comes next or even what I want to come next. And I'm forced to admit that every potential decision has a huge downside for either D or me in terms of moving forward in our careers. I guess people make these choices all the time, but I don't know how they do it without going crazy.

So that is where my head is today. Whew. Time to count my blessings, all Pollyanna style, and try not to freak out. After all, I've still got a dissertation to finish before I can even move on to worrying about this stuff full time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

White Girl with Bangs

I got bangs last spring. I pretty much love them, except when I'm working out. But I have found those headbands with the little rubber dots on them keep my bangs out of my face. So I am a big fan of bangs.

At a potluck dinner party shortly after my new haircut, some friends mentioned the blog "Stuff White People Like." Which is just what it sounds like -- a numbered list of stuff that white people like. They were cracking everybody up describing all these things -- ivy league colleges, having black friends, scarves, sea salt, traveling, etc.

So I had to check it out for myself and they were right -- it was pretty amusing. I was giggling over "pea coats" and "hummus" and "appearing to enjoy classical music." Then I came across:

#104 Girls With Bangs.

Here is an excerpt:

Many people associate this type of haircut with children and people looking for the most efficient way to get hair out of their eyes. But for white people, this simple haircut makes a bold declaration by saying that the wearer is artistic, deep, and has probably dated a guy in a band you like. [...]

It is essential for you to know this haircut is more than a mere fashion statement– it is an important cultural marking. Throughout the world, many cultures feature ceremonies to announce that a girl has become a woman. For white people, the haircut-with-bangs is an important symbol that a female has completed her transformation from a nerdy girl to a cool woman. In fact, if you went to high school with a nerdy white girl who moved to a big city, there is a good chance she will show up to your high school reunion with this haircut.

How painfully apt. Although my class did not have a 10-year reunion, I definitely got this hair cut just in time to have attended it, should it have happened. So here I am, just another cliche -- a white girl with bangs.

At the time of discovery, I sent a (cool and ironic) e-mail to some friends, linking them to this website so that we could all chuckle at the implications of my haircut. Since then, I had sort of forgotten about it until this morning with a friend of mine sent me an e-mail, saying that he and his girlfriend were cracking up over this website and a link to #104, explaining "this article made us think of you."

The moral of the story is that bangs are cool. Even if white people think so.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Playing Possum; Or, there's a monster under my shed.

I consider myself an animal lover. Sure I love some animals more than others, but I would never want to harm an animal. Even an animal that totally grossed me out. And rodents totally gross me out.

Mice, rats, possums. I don't want to actually kill them (or even have them killed by someone else). But I do want them to live out their lives peacefully, very far away from me. The thing is, I am more afraid of mice than I am of snakes. I am also afraid of squirrels. Some people find this silly, as mice and squirrels are much less likely to kill you than a snake. (D is terrified of snakes and yet mocks my fear of squirrels). The thing about squirrels (and mice) is that they seem less predictable than snakes. A snake will -- for sure -- try to avoid you (and they can move fast) or they will bite you if they think you will hurt them. I totally get that logic. Snakes aren't found in your parents' pantry (or at least, are far more rare domestic intruders than mice are). Snakes aren't scurrying in and out of trash cans next to the campus library, flitting around with a granola bar wrapper in their mouth. Snakes try to stay hidden, which is what I want scary animals to do.

But mice and squirrels are, well, squirrely. Where do you think that adjective came from? Sure, they try to avoid you, but these guys and their bitsy brains are like one step from panic mode all the time. The world is a big, scary place. Especially if you are a small rodent. And I always feel like the squirrels -- especially the brazen college campus squirrels who let you get so close before they race away -- just might go into a hysterical panic and instead of running away from me, accidentally run up me.

Which would obviously put me into an hysterical panic.

This bizarre fear is perpetuated (and perhaps instilled) by that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation where the squirrel comes in with the tree, the whole family panics and runs from it, but it is stuck on the back of Clark's sweater, in a panic. Right in that middle spot you can't quite reach. Oh, it gives me the willies just thinking about it. The idea of a mouse or squirrel running up my leg. I seriously just got goosebumps typing this.

I see very few rodents in my daily life, so D had never seen my reaction to one. Then one bright sunny day, we were walking the dogs in our neighborhood, and two blocks from my house, a huge RAT saunters across the sidewalk in front of us. I started wigging out. I was screaming in short hysterial bursts and doing a weird "get it away get it away" leg kicking sort of dance. Cooper was mystified and D was amused but I was dead serious. I could not walk in that direction again for weeks.

Which (at last) brings me to my point.

There is a possom living in my backyard.

At least, I am pretty sure he lives there. He is the biggest, grossest thing I have ever seen. He was first spotted on a night in November, when my parents were here. My mom and I were hanging out in the backroom and all of a sudden my mom starts screeching from her seat on the futon "Look at that! Look at that!" Out on my deck, separated from us only by a few feet and a glass-paneled door, is a freaking possum! And this is a big dude. I mean twice the size of Little Mac. He could probably even give Cooper a run for his money. He is huge and white and has that nasty nasty tail and my mom and I were both totally freaked. He just sauntered across the deck like we had invited him over for cocktails. It was so gross.

I hadn't seen him since then and thought he had mosied on his way (which was fine -- remember, I don't want the possum dead, I just want him out of my life!). But the last TWO nights in a row I have seen him waddling around our backyard and I am afraid he might have MOVED IN underneath our shed. Which is a spot that was reserved for cute baby bunnies who bounced around our yard with their cottontails all summer long (Although I suppose rabbits are sort of rodents, I am not grossed out by them. They are far more skittish than squirrels so they never let you get close, they do not typical invade domestic spaces, and also those tails are so cute!).

So now I am afraid that he has kicked the bunnies out of their home. (OMG, do possums eat rabbits? Surely rabbits can move faster than possums. What a horrifying thought. A baby bunny slaughter under my shed.) And he seems to have taken up residence there. I worry about letting the dogs out at night because I think he could beat up both of them. At the same time. He is HUGE.

I think I might have to stop composting. Our compost bin is next to the shed. Could that be attracting him? I've not noticed any digging in the compost heap and it is well covered with leaves so food scraps are not left out on top or anything. But still! Something makes him think my yard is his happy home!

The above picture was taken of a (much, much smaller) possum who killed a few chickens before the chicken owner caught him, fixed the chicken coop, and relocated the possum elsewhere. I am horrified by what appear to be nearly opposable thumbs on this little dude. Sick!

I am also wondering if anyone would volunteer to relocate this possum that has taken up residence under my shed?

Other advice for kindly suggesting he move on his merry way? Strategies that would not involve me having to come into any sort of direct (or indirect) contact with the possum? Eeek. It's horrifying.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Downward Dog

I am not a die-hard yogi by any means. I have taken a couple of classes (one that was really beyond the range of my abilities -- hello? this said beginner to intermediate!) and I mostly enjoyed them. I did Pilates somewhat seriously for a while (which means I went to mat class every week and did the exercises on my own at least a couple of days a week). But I had sort of fallen off all those bandwagons. I appreciate that jazzercise incorporates a lot of Pilates moves into their ab routines (If only we could drop crunches all together. Forever.), but I was just thinking a couple of days ago that I should sign up for another beginner yoga class at the Y because I always feel so good after going to a yoga class and with all of my dissertation anxiety making my chest feel tight, I'm sure some deep breathing wouldn't hurt me.

Today I decided to skip jazzercise. I could not get to sleep last night (for some reason my brain chose last night to begin frantically planning games, activities, and menu possibilities for Monica's wedding shower... which will take place in May). I think it was because we watched Mamma Mia before bed (loved it) and I had the Mamma Mia soundtrack in my head and was suddenly in wedding mode. Anyway, it was 2am before I finally fell asleep and when the alarm went off at 7:30 to get me up and ready for 8:30 jazzercise, I just decided to skip it, promising myself that I would do some yoga stretches when (if) I got out of bed.

I did craw out of bed about an hour later and after putting on my coffee (Kona Vanilla Macademia Nut is my morning obsession ever since D & I took our trip to Hawaii -- it's available at a World Market near you), I started digging around for a Shape magazine that I remembered had a nice little AM Yoga Routine. (D's g-ma gives me the Shape magazines -- she claims that she does not have a subscription but somehow is on the mailing list for Shape, Latina, Men's World, AND Ebony in addition to the Redbook that she actually signed up for.

Couldn't find the magazine after about 30 seconds of searching so I gave up (if it is not visible, that means D has thrown it away or put it away somewhere that he will not remember -- that is just his thing. I am beginning to learn to live with it although I still give him hell for throwing away our extra set of measuring cups. Do you know how useful that would be sometimes? And he just threw them away! Didn't even donate them to charity! Without asking me, even though they were my measuring cups from my old apartment! I was seriously furious at the time and on a scale of annoyance that goes 1-10, thinking about it a lot even now can get me to a 6. I know, deep breathing.) So, no magazine, no problem. I googled "morning yoga routine" and got this lovely YouTube video!

Here is Esther, her charming accent, and the routine that makes her happy in the morning (nice & easy and also weird -- whoever heard of cupping your hand and hitting your arms and then hitting your butt and lower back with loose fists? And who knew it would feel so good?). Also a routine that is supposed to be good for post-holiday -- Party's Over, Back to Yoga! Whatever your post-holiday hangover (food, wine, in-laws), yoga seems to be a step in the right direction.