Friday, December 30, 2011

A New Perspective

Act I

Setting: In the car. Liquor store parking lot. Hubby is buying stores for the cabin (good beer, some wine, and a small bottle of gin). Kids and I are waiting. The Boy is making various noises incessantly, antagonizing Girl. The Girl is entirely vexed and complaining continuously.

Girl: "I wish I had a gumdrop to shove in your mouth."
Boy: "I would just eat it."

And so on. (Boy going back to his noises.)

Act II

Setting: 10 minutes later. Driving through a mountain pass, eating burgers.

Girl to Boy: "I just realized! You're not mean . . . you're *funny*! And I'm funny, too!

[They laugh.]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reason for Guilt #457

We are on the road and have been visiting friends. For the past two nights, we've hung out with friends for dinner, and our kids have hung out with each other. The kids all seemed to be having a good time, and we grown ups have enjoyed ourselves.

But then tonight I found out that one of the kids kept saying to my Girl, "I hate you." And I am confident it's true because the Boy confirmed it, and he is a truth teller.

I know this kind of thing is typical kid stuff, but I felt so bad for the Girl when she told me that she's been trying to hold back the tears for the past two nights. I had been wondering why, early in the evening tonight, she was telling me she wanted to go home and go to bed (she didn't tell me about the "hating" until we were on the way home). And I feel a little guilty about the way we tossed our kids together and expected them just to hang out and get along while we grown ups had a few drinks and enjoyed our time together. We do it all of the time, of course, and it usually goes well. But tonight I'm feeling bad about it.

I said all of the usual things to her: "Oh maybe he was just trying to get your attention. Maybe he was just having a bad day. In the past, he's talked about how much he likes you!" Blah, blah, blah. But then I also fessed up that sometimes we meet people who don't like us. I told her, "There are even some people who don't like me, which is weird because I'm so awesome."

But still. "Hate" is such a strong word--one that we rarely, if ever, use in our house--and it just never feels good to feel hated. And for two nights in a row, I unknowingly threw my daughter in with the hate. The first night, she avoided the kid*. Tonight, we were at his house, so that was harder. And what will we do the next time we see these friends? Should we say something? Should we let the kids work it out? Sigh. There really are SO many things to feel guilty and uncertain about, aren't there?

But in other news, I just submitted grades! So there's that . . .

And, overall, the trip has been full of merrymaking and awesome family time, which is really fantastic and, I hope, helps my sweet Girl feel very loved**.

*The kid seems like a good kid, so I really don't know what was up. In contrast, his little brother was going around saying "I love you" to everyone. So maybe he was just in an oppositional mood?
**And the Girl really is
not hate-worthy. The proof? In kindergarten, she won an award for being "kind and generous to her classmates." Maybe I need to get her a little badge to wear.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


My son has a pet cockroach, and just now, I was putting part of an apple in his cage to feed him. But the apple slipped a bit and bonked him on the back.

The question: Of what did this remind me?

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Dear Administrator,

Really? This comes up now? On the Thursday of finals week? You want me to do what?! By when? Seriously? Why wasn't it done before? Why should I have to clean up this mess? How could this have happened? Why was this overlooked?

Don't you know that I am ON. THE. EDGE?!!!


Dear Union Pres,

Really? This comes up now, the night before the meeting? We can't do WHAT? Seriously? Why hasn't this come up before? It was on the agenda for weeks. How is this happening? Why was this overlooked?

Don't you know that I am. ON. THE. EDGE?!!!

At a loss,

Dear Santa,

For Christmas I would like to have entirely competent administrators who effectively lead the college and make sure everything gets done. I would also like extra hours in each day so that *I* can ensure all of my work is done. And also I would like resolutions to all conflicts between the goals of the Senate and the concerns of the Union.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Vomit Fear--Part the Third

Some of you who have been visiting this little blog for a while might remember parts one and deux. Well, we have certainly had some additional episodes of barfing since Part Deux, but last night was a return of the fear that we saw in part one. You know the fear . . . the kind that comes from being in bed with a barfy child.

The Boy started going down hill after I picked him up from school, and he got worse as the evening passed. Unsurprisingly, he was nervous to be alone while he slept, so he and I both stayed on the queen-sized futon in the guest room. Since he felt bad, he squirmed a lot. And with every sudden move he made, my adrenaline shot up, preparing me for sudden hurling. Fortunately, he, like the Girl in part one, was very controlled and contained, and nothing truly messy happened, but trying to sleep through sporadic adrenaline rushes (and even controlled vomiting) is not easy.

And not only does the poor Boy feel bad, but this certainly adds one more challenge to this crazy week that I was already moaning about.

And then I found out yesterday that I need to have a meeting on Friday (the last day of finals) with the presidents of the Faculty Senate and Faculty Union.

I think I'd rather face the vomit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

On the Sharp Edge of a Nervous Breakdown

(Warning: Garden variety whining to follow. Stop now if you are, categorically, anti-whining.)

This past Tuesday, I thought I might lose my mind. I think it was a culmination of the following events:

Thursday evening: Family Read-Aloud Night at school
Friday evening: Gingerbread building night for 4-H (building GB houses for the elderly to enjoy)
Saturday morning: Gingerbread decorating activity for 4-H (at a house packed with kids and candy)
Saturday afternoon: 4-H arts and crafts activity (more kids, more candy)
Saturday evening: Lighted Boat Parade (we were on a boat which was cool but also cold)
Sunday midday: Birthday party
Sunday afternoon: work meeting about curriculum
Monday: (normal day of work and kids)

then there was Tuesday:

6:30 Up, getting ready, making breakfast and lunches (with Hubby's help)
8:15 Walk kids to school
8:30 Home to make stew for crockpot (dinner)
9:15 Back to kids' school to volunteer in each class
11:00 Arrive at work to hurriedly make copies for class
11:30-1:30 Teach composition
1:30-2:30 Office Hour
3:00 Pick up Girl to take her to dance class
3:30-4:30 Stand in a room full of about 35 kids to help them pick out and put on dance costumes
4:30 escape to go get tea
4:50-5:45 Sit in my car outside of dance studio grading paper drafts
5:45-6:30 Try to get clear instructions (over the voices of crazy dancing kids) about dance rehearsals for the next week
7:00 Arrive home and beg Hubby to put stew in bowls because that small action might actually cause me to implode.
7:30-11:30 Grade drafts of research papers

I think the effect was an accumulation of stimuli that I was storing in my body and mind like some kind of electrical charge. All of that high-energy kid stuff, without time to get release or even get my work done*, made me ready to send out some voltage.

But then, late afternoon on Wednesday, after a day of teaching, I had time to tidy my office and take care of loose ends, and I felt MUCH better. Today, I even managed to enjoy a full day of activities (parade, dance rehearsal, festival), and I feel fine.

Still, this time of year, it's very hard for me to understand how everything will get done--the finals, the grading, the activities, the shopping, the trips to the P.O., the packing for out-of-town trips--and sometimes I feel like I am hyperventilating. But tomorrow, I will get to see my daughter dress up like a rat, and we'll put up a small tree**. And next week, I'll have a lot of quiet time as I grade papers and finals***, and I will find a couple hours to shop, and it will all be OKAY.

Now, if I could just think of something to get my husband for Christmas . . .

*Although I am SOOOO glad that I sometimes have flexibility to do these kinds of things--volunteer, take my daughter to dance--this flexibility often means I feel guilty when I don't do these things even though I do have a full time job. So then I stay up late or work weekends or just make myself crazy during a particular given day.
**We're going on a trip, so we won't get a big, real tree this year.
***Is it sad that my work time is what I look forward to as "me time"?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post-Hotel Report

As one would imagine, I did not get as much work done at the hotel as I'd hoped. But I did focus on work most of the time (except for 1.5 episodes of House Hunters International because, hey, I'm only human), and all in all it was a productive mini-retreat.

I had hoped to get a lot of reading and writing done, and I'm sure you are not surprised to learn that while I got through quite a bit of reading, I didn't even turn on my computer.

But still. The reading was so helpful and relevant, and it helped me shape and frame my ideas and questions, and now I think that the ideas I've been working on are actually two chapters rather than one, which is probably okay. And I also sketched a loose outline of those chapters, which is great since now, when I try to remember all of the good ideas I had while in the hotel, I can't. They have been wiped away by turkey, pie, and the craft-a-palooza that occurred at my house. Good thing I took some notes.

So tonight, post Thanksgiving madness, as I'm coming down from the fun-filled days of family and the ensuing kid frenzy, I'm sitting down to bash out some writing for an hour or so. It seemed like a good idea since Hubby crashed out after dinner before the kids even had story time.

But I'm not sure how successful I'll be since I've got Notting Hill on in the background.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Work Night--The Good Kind

Tonight, Hubby is taking care of the kids. Me? I have checked into a hotel so that I can spend this evening and tomorrow morning doing uninterrupted work on the dissertation. After my last visit to my PhD institution (last January), I decided that I should try to do a hotel night once about every 4-6 weeks. Well, that was in January, and this is my second time doing it--which puts me at six months instead of six weeks.

I've been here for about an hour, and I already miss the family. I think the fact that it gets dark early makes it harder to focus on work. Instead, I want to snuggle with the kids, put them to bed, and then watch a couple episodes of Bones with Hubby. Nevertheless, tonight seemed like a good night to pound out some work, so here I am.

I checked into my room, then hit the lounge with my books. I'm half way through a G & T that is unfortunately strong (considering the amount of work I want to do), but I'm going to chase it with a gourmet burger, so I'm hoping the dinner will revive me. I've almost made it through one article, and I have a bag full of readings to take on. Then, I hope to get 10-15 pages of writing done.

Do you know how much will power it takes to do the work instead of trolling the cable channels? I don't have cable at home so it's VERY tempting.

Ah! My burger has arrived. I hope I can eat and annotate at the same time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Just a Suggestion

I teach at a community college, and many of my students want to transfer. Some of them even want to be English majors, God bless 'em. Every spring, I teach British Literature, and in that class I have students who end up transferring to all kinds of places--local CSUs, small colleges, Berkeley, UCLA, Dartmouth--all kinds of places.

A couple of months ago, one of my students said that she wanted to transfer to a school somewhere back East that had a good English program as well as a good program in another specific interest area. Well, as I'm sure you realize, that's quite a broad request. At first, I told her that there were lots of strong English programs and that I didn't know about the other. I mean, really, it reminded me of when I worked at a used bookstore, and people would ask me to recommend a book. Where to begin?!

But then I happened to think of a school that I went to for one of my graduate programs. And I realized that I could totally see this student at that school. It's not a top tier school, but it's very good, and, historically, they have had a very strong English program. I did some research and found out that they have a rather extensive program in her other special interest area. So I told her about the school (which she'd probably never heard of) and gave her some links to check out.

The result? Over the past four weeks or so, she has applied, been accepted, and plans to begin in January. As far as I know, she's never even been to that part of the country. She is very excited, and I'm really excited for her, and I think it will be a good fit. But I'm also a little freaked out about how much my suggestion has just changed the course of her life. What if she hates it or if things turn out badly?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Dreaded Seminal Text

Early in my PhD research, I learned about a major text by a famous scholar. So I ordered a copy, and I tried to read it. It is both long and highly theoretical, and I didn't understand any of it. So I set it aside, and it became the "dreaded" text about which my supervisor and I would joke.

About a year into my research, I tried to read it again. Still, it was like wading through maple syrup. It felt sticky and unpleasant, and I made very slow progress.

This morning, I got up early with the kids and their sleepover guests in order to prep some food and set up a morning movie. Then, they banished me so that they could feel more grown up without me. So I went to the study, figuring I'd do a little leisure reading in between the summonses (it was still only 6:30am and there were four kids in my house, so I didn't expect to be productive). But, instead of picking up a novel, I picked up the "dreaded" text and started flipping through it, eventually settling into the introduction.

Lo and behold, I understood it. Not every sentence mind you, but I understood the author's argument and his central purpose. I was amazed, not in small measure because of the fact that not only was I understanding the text, but I was understanding it even while getting up every six minutes to fulfill a kid request (another scone, more smoothie, better straw, wet paper towel, please).

When I was about halfway through the intro, the movie ended, and the kids got crazy. Right at that point, the reading got harder. I was just about to set it aside, but I decided to flip through it a bit more, check the index, etc. As I did, I came upon a chapter subheading that seemed relevant to my work. Oh, Boy, was it ever! In fact, it's directly relevant to a chapter draft I wrote a little over a year ago--a chapter draft that is in dire need of more scholarly support.

Huzzah! What a discovery. Now, instead of this being the "dreaded" text, it is the text that I'm eager to tackle because of how useful it could be. It will not be easy; it's a dense 450+ page book with about 180 pages of notes. But at least, now, I feel like I've got a shot at it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bit of Work Today

So, today, I was hoping to work on research and writing for at least 5-6 hours. But there is a big swell (in the surf) that is short-lived and is only here TODAY, so my work time has been truncated. Hubby surfed this morning, and if things hold up, will surf again this afternoon. Instead of OBE (Overwhelmed by Events), I am OBGS (Overcome by Good Surf).

But I've sneaked away for a couple of hours of work.

I'm working on a chapter draft, and it's really interesting work, but it's slow going. I'm reading new primary texts and trying to find helpful secondary sources. I'm enjoyed the former but not having much luck with the latter. I guess I'll just keep looking! The upshot is that maybe I'm heading into new-ish territory. The downshot (is that a word?) is that I'm a little lost. I'm not sure how to think about the issues, I'm not sure which questions are most important, and I'm not sure exactly how to approach an argument. But that's all part of the process, right?

Fortunately, Hubby has promised me more work time throughout the weekend. I hope the research and writing won't be OBG (Overtaken by Grading).

Hope you are all having a good day even as we take time to remember the service of our veterans.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Just so you know, in case you were curious, here are this year's Halloween costumes:

The Girl went as a vampire. I'm not sure why. She doesn't really know what a vampire is (and when I started to tell her, she got kind of freaked out), but she went as one none-the-less. At the last minute, she amended her description to say that she was a "vampire pop-star."

The Boy deviated from his recent pattern of professional scientist costumes (e.g., last year's geologist costume and the naturalist costume from the year before that), and went with "vampire sea monkey." He made his sea monkey costume himself out of poster board and string, and he was quite disappointed that no one asked what he was. (I think they thought the sea monkey elements were skeletal elements.)

But fun was had by all.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


It is 90 degrees outside. Let me tell you how amazing that is.

From October 2010 to September 2011, my little coastal town never even made it to 70 degrees. That's 10-11 months under 70. Do I live in Alaska? No. No I don't. But I do live in a Coastal CA town that is frequently subject to an oppressive marine layer (I.e., fog).

Don't get me wrong. I love, love, love my little town (if you call it a town since, technically, I think we are a mere Community Services District), and I would rather have mild (read "cold") summers than oppressively hot ones. But it is nice to feel the sun on one's back every now and again. True, I can drive the few miles to work and be in a totally different, warmer climate, but it's fun to feel warmth in my home, and in my backyard, and it's even better to have a warm day at the BEACH.

So am I at the beach? No. No I am not. My family is. I am going to use this time to work on my dissertation. The good news? I'm going to take my iPad and my books and an iced chai latte, and head up to the fort that Hubby built (read "still building") in the back yard. It's on five-foot stilts; it has bamboo railing and "walls" made from rattan blinds. There is a corrugated plexiglass roof (that is not quite finished), and the whole thing is surrounded by honeysuckle and leaves from our neighbors Magnolia tree. Normally, it's a little chilly for me to hang out there.

But not today. Fort, here I come.

Update (a couple of hours later): The wind direction just turned on shore, and the temp dropped by
at least 10 degrees in 10 minutes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday?

It's my birthday, too. Yeah! (And, Unicorn, I know you are thinking of the scene from Sixteen Candles that I am thinking of, right? Right?!) (And CT, how did you remember that it was my b-day?!)

Well, actually, my birthday was yesterday, but still. And it's been a very busy few weeks, and I was feeling all sorry for myself because I had so much work to do and couldn't relax on my birthday.

But then something happened. I let go of the idea of trying to leave work early yesterday, and I stayed and got stuff done. And because I'd been working so hard during the first part of the week to try to be able to leave early yesterday, when I did, in fact, stay, I was actually able to get sort of caught up. And I felt productive--like I was doing things that will help the college and my students. And it felt kind of like a good birthday thing to feel useful in the world. And then, I realized that I'm kind of caught up with grading, too, and then I started to feel truly buoyant!

Suddenly, it the stress and self-pity cleared in a way that I wasn't expecting. I suddenly wasn't so overwhelmed any more or so busy, and I totally was not expecting that. Happy Birthday to me!

Other happy birthday occurrences:

  • The bay near my house was full and beautiful.
  • My iPod suddenly worked again in my car when it hadn't been.
  • My daughter danced at a little Halloween event in front of a grocery store, and she had fun and she looked great in her ghost costume.
  • Hubby, the kids, my parents and I gathered at my house for take-out Mexican food.
  • Hubby made his truly awesome margaritas.
  • My mom gave me a painting that I had admired at a recent art show (painted by one of her friends).
  • Hubby tidied the house and made everything look great before I got home.
  • Hubby update my cell phone, so now I have a phone that, while not smart, is much cleverer that my previous 4-year old flip phone).
  • And he got me a really pretty bracelet!
  • The Boy's Grow-A-Frog tadpole arrived in the mail (which wasn't for me, but which made for a very happy Boy).
  • I did not have to do any work last night, and I got to listen to the children do their reading.
  • Hubby and I both dozed on the couch during an episode of Bones.

All in all, I'd say it was an excellent day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

18-week Semester: Part the Second

Last week was nuts. I had all kinds of committee reports to write. And then I had to finish up an accelerated class. And then I had to prep for the new class that starts tomorrow. Also? I had to attend a conference on assessment from W-F. Doesn't that sound like fun?

And this all came after several nights (at the beginning of last week) of staying up past 1:00am grading. In fact, I'm wondering if all of that late-night grading is what led to the burst blood vessels in my eye, which made me look kind of scary during the conference. In fact, I still look scary. Or totally stoned. In one eye.

But, with the help of Hubby, I have gotten most of my work done (unless I've totally forgotten about something), the house is in relative good order, the laundry is (mostly) done, and we have food.

I think I'm ready for the next nine weeks.

Oh, and maybe this week I can work on the dissertation!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Say What You Mean

You know what I love about community college students? They write things like this:

"Gertrude is a character that seems to have stupidity written on her forehead. As a mother, she can't understand why Hamlet is so mad. She also can't realize that the new man she is married to plans to kill her son."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dinner Lost, Dinner Found

Tonight, Hubby and I were planning to get take-out Thai food. Usually, when we get take-out Thai, we feed the kids first and sit with them at the dinner table, chatting and talking over the day while they eat. Then, during story time, Hubby goes on a food run.

Tonight, as we were finishing up homework for school, Hubby said, "Hey, the tides are good and the skies are clear! Is it okay if you put the kids to bed while I go for a paddle across the bay?" I, ever the supportive spouse (esp. since Hubby has given me extra time to work over the past few days) said, "Sure, no problem."

So he got ready, putting on the appropriate garb, loading the boat, etc. Then he left.

Fast forward about 10-15 minutes. The kids and I are reading together, and I start to mention that I'm hungry.

Wait for it . . .

Me: "Hey! Daddy and I were supposed to get Thai food! We haven't had dinner! We forgot dinner. We didn't eat. Now he's gone, and I can't leave to get Thai food."

This was all made more complicated by the fact that the whole reason were were getting Thai food is that our stores have run dry. We have little food in the house because of recent busyness, lack of balance, blissful camping, etc.

I put the kids to bed and tidied up. Then I started poking around the cabinets, the fridge, trying to find something other than peanut butter toast for dinner. Not that I don't like peanut butter toast. I do.

Then, after the second trip to the freezer, I noticed something in the bottom shelf on the door. Praise be, it was two bags of Trader Joe's risotto--one mushroom, one asparagus. Like manna at the bottom of my freezer. I had some, and Hubby can have some when he gets home.

Too bad he finished off the last glass of chardonnay earlier this evening.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blissful Camping

The weather here in GEW-town was beautiful this weekend. By that, I mean it was sunny, nearly 70 degrees, and not too windy. This is all quite impressive when you consider that, between October 2010 and September 2011, the temperature in my town never reached 70 degrees. Cold. Fog. Rain. Wind. That has been our coastal weather until just the past few weeks.

So, despite the fact that I had an incredible amount of work to this weekend, I jumped on board with plans to go camping in a secret special spot with our family and one other family. Because of that decision, the delicate balance that I spoke of a few days ago has been completely lost. I am behind with work, we have no clean clothes, and there is nothing for the kids to eat for breakfast or take to school in their lunches.

But it was so worth it. I'm not sure I've ever camped in a more relaxing, beautiful, blissful spot. Our travel to the spot also involved a short water crossing, which was managed by kayaks and a sailboat. And the water was beautiful.

I did, however, take some papers to grade (double bagged in plastic inside a backpack--just in case the water crossing didn't go so well), but even that wasn't too bad. I had a great view as I read the essays.

But now, it's back to reality. I have an accelerated class ending next week, so there will be a lot of grading over the next few days. I also have a conference next week that will interrupt the flow of it all (but will provide a couple of nights in a hotel room, and, at this point, I don't think I have to share!). And I want to maintain steam on dissertation work. But I feel recharged by the weekend and ready to go.

Carrying on!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tests--The Medical Kind

At the end of the summer, I called to schedule a doctor's appointment for the Boy because I was concerned about his limited weight gain over the couple of years. He has always been small--at the bottom of the height chart and in the negative percentiles for weight. Hubby and I were both small, scrawny kids, but the Boy is truly tiny. He has gotten taller, but he still weighs about 38 or 39 pounds, and he is 8.5 years old. So we figured it was time to make sure nothing was wrong.

When we saw the doctor (our first time with her since his regular pediatrician retired), she said that he definitely should be tested. She ordered bloodwork to screen for a number of things: thyroid issues, anemia, diabetes, celiac, and maybe some other things.

The good news is that all but one of the tests came back with normal results. The one that didn't? Celiac. He received a positive result on one of the four anti-body tests that make up the celiac panel. Our next step is to meet with the pediatric GI specialist and the nutritionist who works with him. I'm not sure what he'll say. Based on brief research and info from others (thanks LKL!--I'd hotlink you here but the i-Pad won't let me), I'm guessing he will either recommend a biopsy or tell us to wait three months and be re-tested. Hubby is inclined to pushnfor the biopsy so we can get answers sooner rather than later. Although I don't like the idea of anesthetizing the Boy, I certainly do want to know if gluten is making my son starve.Cutting out gluten would be hard, but that loaf of bread is much less appealing when I wonder if it's hurting my child. (Interestingly, I, myself, have always had GI troubles--ever since I was a kid. Hmmm.)

So. We'll see. We have to drive to Santa Barbara to see the specialist, so I'm thinking we'll make a day of it with a trip to the zoo or natural history museum. And for now, we'll keep eating gluten because it is not good to eliminate it when testing for celiac.

Anybody want a biscuit?

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The balance here at Chez GEW is, to say the least, delicate. I would imagine that it's the same way for most of you, too.

In order to teach full-time, be a good (enough) mom, and write a dissertation, every hour (nay, every minute) of every day must be put to good use. And things tend to go along fine until, well, until they don't.

Lately, there are some things going on that have helped me maintain the balance. First, I have some reassigned time at my college so my grading load is reduced. I still grade a lot (for my three classes), but it's a civilized number of papers rather than a tortuous number of papers. In addition, while one of my classes is a newish prep (first time I've taught it in years), the others are pretty well dialed (until I change them again, which is my habit).

Also, regarding the dissertation, I have been participating in Another Damned Notorious Writing Group, which is facilitated by bloggers Notorious and ADM. This group has helped me define clear, realistic weekly goals and, as a result, I've been making progress on the dissertation for the past couple of weeks. Granted, I'm going at a snail's pace, but at least I'm not at a stand still. It's been months since I've really made progress on a new section of the dissertation. It feels great. Slow and steady is good for balance, right?

But a few things are threatening the delicate balance. First, there has been dental work going on. I've had a few appointments to get a crown, and the Boy received his first filling last Tuesday morning and will receive his second this coming Tuesday morning (which means that, instead of being at work early, I will be by his side). Fortunately, these fillings are in baby teeth, so there is no permanent concern. Floss, baby, floss!

Then, last Wednesday evening, the Boy came down with a high fever. I spent from 3:00am onward up with him. The balance was threatened, and I was sleep deprived for a day, but, fortunately, he recovered after about 24 hours and we carried on with the week. Just a slight wobble.

In addition, we've been making some changes in the Girl's schedule. For the past year, she has been doing gymnastics, but now she is switching (it seems) to dance. We are trying out classes, working on new schedules, and seeing how things go. I'm also trying to figure out how to get her back into horse riding lessons now that her previous teacher is 40 minutes away and we just can't make that commute during the school year.

This weekend, we had a great time but we were booked out with playdates, a sleepover, and a birthday party for a cousin. As a result, it's now Sunday night, and I will be up very late grading essays and preparing for tomorrow's classes.

Even more significant, however, are some other health issues that we're addressing for the Boy. Those are a matter of their own, so I'll address those in a different post soon, but they might really shake the foundation. Nothing too serious mind you, but it's possible we'll be quite thrown.

For now, I'll get back to work, wobbling along with airplane arms.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Someone Was Out There

Last night, about 2:00am, I woke to the sounds of footsteps on the rocks outside of my bedroom window. Mind you, to be in that spot, someone would have to open a gate or jump the fence into the backyard. What is surprising is that neither I, nor Hubby, nor the dog, heard the interloper breaching the fence. But we all heard his footsteps outside the window (and I do assume it was a "he") at the same time. Hubby sat up, and I whispered, "Someone's out there," and just then the dog started barking.

Hubby jumped up, went to the window, and yelled, "Hey!"

The guy started running. I could hear his feet on the rocks. So then Hubby started running down the hall towards the back of the house (the children's room is in the back). The good news is that the dog sleeps in the kids' room. By the time Hubby got back there, the dog was barking, and Hubby let the dog out of his crate and into the backyard. I could hear all of this happening while I lay in my bed listening to see if I could tell which direction the guy went.

Apparently, when Hubby and the dog went outside, Hubby grabbed a big shovel, and the dog started searching.

They didn't find anything. I think the guy jumped the fence before they made it outside.

This was a strange experience. We live in a small, quiet town that is fairly safe except for occasional drug busts and vandalism sprees. I can't imagine why this dude was walking through our backyard. After a morning inspection of our "perimeter," it's clear that neither of our gates had been opened during the night, so he must have jumped the fence to get in and to get out.

What the hell was he doing?

I used to live in an apartment that was prone to this kind of activity, but that's because it was between a hotel populated by ex-cons and a spot where homeless people camped. Granted, I didn't like the fact that I sometimes had weird lurkers outside my window, but at least I understood why they were there.

This situation was especially weird because I can't imagine what he was doing. It didn't even sound like he was trying to be quiet or sneaky. And he was walking past our window, towards the front of the house by the garage, so it didn't really seem as if he was trying to get in.

Perhaps he was just drunk and taking a short cut. If so, he's lucky he didn't end up with my dog attached to his ass.

I'm so grateful for Hubby and the dog.

As for the kids, the Girl woke up when Hubby was letting the dog outside, but Hubby just told her that the dog heard something like a raccoon. We won't be telling them about the "bad guy."

No reason to alarm the children.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's Out! It's Gone!

The article is out! O.U.T. Out!

I hope I didn't screw anything up. I was rushing because I REALLY wanted it done before heading to the office today. And I was crunched for time because I wasn't planning to have to write a cover letter, etc. And I am prone to making mistakes, so rushing is not, generally, a good thing for me.

But I will think positive and trust that's it's okay!

And now I will grab a banana and rush to school to go to a curriculum meeting!

I am very wired! Can you tell?!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

With Wine in Hand . . .

I will now commence what I hope to be the final read of my article before I send it out. And I hope to send it out tomorrow. I just printed a copy, and it looks purty.

I have an hour before back-to-school night starts, so here I go . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Deep Breath and a Sigh

Don't you love those moments or days when you can stop and take a deep breath? When the treadmill has, if only for a moment, slowed?

I feel like that this afternoon. This past week has been crazy, and I've been running 15 minutes behind for about five days. Between work, family visitors, book group, the second week of teaching, the first week of the kids' school, committee meetings, the article I need to finish*, and batches of essays to turn around overnight**, I've been racing the clock since Sunday night at 9:00pm.

As of today at 1:30pm, I was able to take a breath. It's not that I don't still have a crapload of work to do. I do have a crapload of work . Oh, yes. But! The work does not have to be finished by 7:00 tonight or even by 10:00 tomorrow, which means that, for now, I can sit back for a moment and breathe.

And, of course, snuggle with the children.

And, of course, have a drink.

*Yes, still.

**I'm teaching an class that follows an accelerated pace for half the weeks of a regular semester. As a result, drafts really need to be turned back the next day after I receive them. The downside? It's a time crunch that involves late nights. The upside? A great sense of accomplish and an empty grading folder (for that class) for at least a couple of days.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Tomorrow is my first day back teaching for fall.

I always get so nervous, especially when I have early morning classes. I'm always afraid of missing them. Lots of nightmares in that genre.

Time to set a few alarms!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Love My Yarn Over Holes

I am currently knitting a baby blanket. I'm doing it in squares that I will later piece together with some kind of stitch that I'll need to learn first (I've heard someone use the words "blanket stitch," and I will be Googling those words).

One of the great things about making this blanket--besides the fact that I care very deeply for the baby-to-be's parents--is that I am teaching myself some new stitches in the process. Up to now, I have only knitted and purled, increased and decreased, but not much else. With these squares, I'm doing various patterns, such as seed, moss, and eyelet, and I'm needing to learn new stitches.

So I am now doing an eyelet square, for which I've done my first yarn overs. Can I tell you how much I love the little eyelet holes that my yarn overs make? Granted I counted wrong on a few rows and I'm missing some holes, but I'm not going to worry about those mistakes because 1) I find it very hard to rip out knit-togethers and yarn overs successfully without losing my way, and 2) the baby won't care.

Even with my mistakes, I love my yarn overs holes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sans Girl

I'm here at my desk (in my new study), working on a presentation/workshop for faculty that I have to deliver on Thursday. The Boy just returned from a successful tadpole hunt with Hubby, and now he's happily shucking corn, cooing at his tadpoles all the while.

The Girl is sleeping over at a friend's house, and I miss her.

I love my family.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bits of Progress

This week, the kids have spent their mornings at Art Camp (of which they have mixed reviews). While they are there, I alternately work on my syllabus for my new prep* and my article. I think the article is almost ready. Could it be better? Yes. Are there parts that could me more clear and developed? Yes. But I feel as if it is time to sent it out into the world to see what the world has to say about it. I'm hoping my supervisor doesn't need another look. I sent her a message asking if she wants to see it again, but I think she might be away until next week.

In the meantime, I still have a few things to fix. I need to find a citation and page number for a three-word quotation that I used. Somehow, when I first included it, I didn't note the exact source or page number. I know which critic said it, but I don't know where. Argh. Also, I need to track down a preface to one of my novels from the 1720s because my facsimile edition doesn't include said preface. I guess I'll hunt through various editions on ECCO.

Also, I plan to give the final(ish) draft to a friend or two who might find mistakes that would really embarrass me.

I didn't end up disliking this stage as much as I thought I would. It's actually rather satisfying. We'll see if I still feel that way after it gets attacked by journal editors.

*It's not exactly a new prep, but I haven't taught the class in nine years, so, basically, I'm starting over. And it's a developmental writing class. Organizing the reading and assignments seems like sorting through and organizing a matrix that could contain infinite possibilities. I think I might need to just plan some basics and then jump in with both feet, regardless of how organized I feel.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stay on Target, Almost There

No, I have not spent the morning on You Tube looking at music videos from the 1980s (as much as I would love to do so). Rather, I've been at a coffee shop (while the kids are at a morning art camp) reading over the latest draft of my article. It amazes me that, after spending so much time on various versions of this one piece (chapter draft, conference paper, article draft) that I can still find so many crappy messed up sentences.

I want to send this thing out soon. My supervisor has asked for one more look, but I've only done basic editing since her last read, so I'm not sure it's really necessary. I'm hoping she'll give me her blessing as is. At this point, I need to do a couple of more reads myself before giving it to a friend or two for some final proofreading. Then, I want to send it out to see what real, live, journal editors have to say--for better or for worse.

It's time for me to move on--to get back to the drafting of real, live dissertation chapters. (After I get back to a huge amount of reading.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Best Music Videos of the 1980s

In honor of MTV's 30th b-day (a fact eloquently and nostalgically observed by The Thirty-Something Bride), I am making a list of some of my favorite music videos of the 1980s. This is stressful for me, because I'm going purely off recollection. I'm not Googling lists of 80s videos in order to make sure I haven't forgotten anything.

That's where you come in. Please leave a comment telling me your favorites so we can compare notes. Come on everybody! Let's Wang Chung!

Okay, 10 videos in no particular order that first spring to mind:

"Jesse's Girl," Rick Springfield
"Smokin' in the Boys Room," Motley Crüe
"Rio," Duran Duran
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper
"Look What the Cat Dragged In," Poison
"Lucky Star," Madonna
"Papa Don't Preach,", Madonna
"Little Red Corvette," Prince
"Beat It," Michael Jackson
"Thriller," Michael Jackson

Please tell me all of the videos that I should have listed instead. Except for the following: "Take on Me," by A-ha, "Rosanna" by (?), and "Big Time" or "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel. I couldn't stand those.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


We are doing a brilliant thing here at Chez GEW. We are moving the kids' room.

We have three bedrooms, and our kids share a room, so the extra room is a playroom/office. The problem with this arrangment, however, is that it really ends up being mostly playroom and not so much office. As a result, the kids' bedroom and the playroom are, quite regularly, in full states of destruction. The bedroom they have been sharing is fairly small, and the playroom isI rather large. Recently, I suggested that we move the kids' bedroom to the room that has been the playroom, and then turn the small room into a and office/guest room in which kids do not play.

At first, no one liked my idea. Hubby didn't like it because he knew it would be tons of work to move the furniture and sort the crap. The kids didn't like it because they are happy and safe in their room, and the playroom has a sliding glass door that would be scary at night.

But on Sunday, after Hubby's brother came for dinner with his family (which includes two girls, ages 2 and 6), I said, " I want everyone to come look at the bedroom and playroom." Both rooms were destroyed.

Hubby took one look and realized that I am a genius. Well, maybe not exactly a genius, but he did come around to my idea. And somehow, even the kids became convinced.

So we have moved the furniture and steam-cleaned the carpets. Now I'm sorting through Polly Pockets, and plastic jewelry, and rock
collections trying to purge but also keep what matters. Right now, the kids' new room has no clutter. None. It is absolutely beautiful. The two room are the cleanest they have been since we moved into the house. The kids are amazed, and I think they love it.

Granted, the hallway is full of crap, but I will tackle that today. Granted, we have cousins coming to visit this weekend, and the room will be destroyed again, but with some clutter gone, it cannot end up so bad as before. And the capper? Only one room will be destroyed. The new office/guest room will be golden.

Even better? I now have a place to work on the dissertation in peace. We even have room for me to bring in a new, big bookshelf that can hold all of my PhD books. This could be huge, people. Huge.

Someday, the kids will want separate rooms--the boy girl thing, you know. But I think we have a year or to before they insist on that. And last night, as I gazed upon the beautifully clean and sparse study, I decided that maybe they will have to stay put at least until the PhD is finished.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Media Breakouts of the Road Trip

Musical Artists: Taylor Swift and The White Stripes
Songs: "Mean," "Speak Now," "I Can Tell That We Are Going to be Friends," "Baby Brother," and "Hotel Yorba"
TV Shows: Metorite Men, Fear Factor, Phineas and Ferb, and House Hunters International
Movies: Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2

And there you have it. Judge at will.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Brass Tacks

As I've been gimping along on my PhD thesis/dissertation for the last few years, I've enjoyed the work. Most of it, anyway. I like most of the reading, and I even enjoy writing. I like writing chapter drafts, and I like writing conference papers. But now, I'm entering a new arena: the realm of final, polished versions of articles and chapters. Right now, I'm trying to finish the article that I wanted to finish In April, but here I am now, in July, hoping to finish in the next couple of weeks.

I have feedback from my supervisor and from my writing group partner (can I call it a group if there are only two of us?). They both have very different feedback (perhaps because one is American and one is British?), but they both seem to think I am in sight of the finish line.

But there is still a lot to do, and, for me, it's the hardest part. I am not someone who writes quickly without mistakes. I have to go back over text again and again, fixing typos and changing language. Thank goodness I enjoy revision.

But final revision? When I know it has to be spot on and that my citations must be perfect? Well, that's just leaves me anxious. It reminds me of moving house. You know, when you've taken care of the big stuff and feel as if you've been very productive, but, somehow, there is still all of this crap lying around in the corners that you have no idea what to do with.

The difference for me now is that I can't just throw all of the messiness out. I have to deal with it. So off I go!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hog Pee

You know what's great? Flying down I-40 with the windows down, wind in our faces and hair, singing at the top of our lungs. Know what's not so great? Doing all that behind a semi-truck that is carrying hogs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Back to the Real World

I'm cleaning the cabin, hubby is at the laundromat, and we're prepping to hit the road this afternoon. After a few days of driving and a detour to Meteor Crater in AZ, we will be back in California, back home. Although it will be nice to be there, I am already starting to grieve the loss of the true sense of leisure that comes with vacation. Once we're home, instead of hanging out with the family--drinking tea or wine by the river, reading books, rafting, hiking, swimming, knitting, etc.--I will be worrying about how to get stuff done: dissertation work, house work, syllabi, new prep, campus administrative work-- you know, the list goes on forever. And worrying about all of that work--and doing all of that work--changes how I relate to my family. Instead of enjoying them, I'm often figuring out how to get time away from them so that I can get stuff done. And that makes me sad and it makes them sad.

We've all been together for four weeks, almost 24/7, and it's been great, much easier than when they were younger. I am say to say goodbye to our little family bubble and all of the fun that has come with it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

We've been on the road for three weeks now, and we've been having a grand time. We visited dear friends in Gypsum, rented a little cabin in Minturn, had five glorious days with Grandma in Denver, had fun with Grandpa in Pueblo, and now we are happily stowed at our last real stop--a little cabin on the headwaters of the Rio Grande. It's a little pre-fab jobbie in an over-55 park (it's Grandpa's cabin), but it is steps from the river, the beautiful river, which I can see out of every window. It's a great little cabin in a great spot. This morning, a fox ran by the window.

What is it about a water view that is so compelling? I could watch the river all day.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A New Word

Hyscarical. adj. The description of what it's like to be a grown man who is pulled behind a speed boat at 25 miles an hour on a tube while his buddy, who is driving, tries to dump him by slingshotting him over the wakes. Origin: Coined by the Girl last weekend while we were the lake as her dad talked about about how scary it was and how hard he was laughing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Organizing and Packing

A friend of mine once said that getting ready for a long trip is like preparing to die. I know what she means.

We just spent a weekend at a lake house, which involved much shopping and planning and packing (and much fun, too!), and now we have about a three-day turn around before a month-long trip. We're getting things in order, taking care of all the many things that have been neglected during the school year (which is everything). Taking care of things that we have ignored for months (or even years) because we just wouldn't feel right if we left home for a few weeks with them undone.

It drives me a bit nuts. One time, before a trip, I even started to hyperventilate a bit. So. Much. Planning. I think that, if I were a more organized person in general, it would all be much easier. But I'm not very organized, so every time, two days before we leave, I'm running around the house looking for proof of insurance cards and the dog's vaccination records.

All while trying to get all of the laundry finished, running a bazillion errands, and making sure there are plenty of Magic Tree House audiobooks on my iPod.

And, of course, I don't have my article finished (but it's close-ish!).
Crap. Just remembered I forgot to call today to order contacts.
Oh, and I need to take care of some Netflix DVDs.
Oh, right, we're out of cat litter.
And then there are those library books . . .
Oh, and I have to drop of that deposit . . .
The bills, the newspapers . . . I think the boy needs a new fishing pole . . .

And so it goes . . .

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chick Lit

I've been thinking about "chick lit" this morning. I am reading "Fly Away Home" by Jennifer Weiner, and I am struck by how much I like it. I have read most of her books and have liked most of the ones I've read, and this morning I've been thinking about why they get so much flack. And these thoughts led me back to my dissertation subject--Eliza Haywood--and how/why she got so much flack.

I want to write more about this, but I have to go to an eye doctor appointment right now, so I'll ponder on the topic while my eyes are being examined.

In the meantime, do any of you know of academic conferences that focus on popular or commercial women's fiction--contemporary or historical? I would love to find something like that, especially something that allowed for looking the relationships between early popular women's fiction and the contemporary stuff.

I think I might pick out new glasses today! I think I've had my current ones for four or five years.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Like Bob Dylan Says . . .

Last Wednesday, the Girl turned six.
Next week, she finishes kindergarten.
Last night, she had her first sleepover away from home.

And when she got back today and I wanted to sweep her into my arms and hear all about it, she brushed past me to get the iPad to play a game.

The times, they are a changin'.

And I'm not sure I like it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Unicorn Love

After four days with a house guest (my dad from Virginia) and no time on the Internet, I'm so far behind on reading posts from my bloggy friends! It will take me a while to catch up.

Here at Chez GEW, we had a nice (and kind of nutty) b-day party for the girl, with a last minute venue change due to rain (in California in June? Crazy). The Unicorn piñata was thoroughly whacked and the unicorn cake was enjoyed by all.

But you will be pleased to know that the Girl is bent on nursing the unicorn piñata back to health and keeping her forever. The Girl has cleared out a special spot by her bed, and that is where the Unicorn slept last night.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Grades are finished. I submitted them on Saturday, which was good but also bad because they were actually due on Friday at noon. I think my college changed the grading timeline a couple of semesters ago, and I have yet to internalilze the new grading calendar.

Now, I need to spend the next couple of weeks working on the dissertation, reading several novels that are not available in modern editions. Fortunately, I've downloaded the PDFs from ECCO and can read them on the iPad. I just wish the iPad had notetaking apparatus for PDFs.

I'm also waiting for feedback from my supervisor about a draft of an article that I want to submit for publication. It will be my first go 'round with the process, and I'm eager to give it a whirl to see what will happen. I've formed an academic writing "group" with a friend who is a faculty member at the four-year university near me. she has bee so helpful since she's such a smart and kind reader. She's also been an editor for a journal, so she has added insight. I suppose I have less to offer her, but I am a decent editor, especially when it comes to organization and development, so there is that.

It won't be easy to ge thngs done this week, though, since my father is making his annual visit and I'm planning a b-day party for the Girl. But I have ordered the cake and purchased the piñata, so I'm well on my way. And guess what the piñata is? UNICORN! And guess what's on the cake? UNICORNS!

But now I need to buckle down for a couple of hours so that I can go see "Bridesmaids" tonight.

Oh yeah.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I Must

Must grade finals.
Must grade finals.
Must grade finals.

Must not mix a G & T and read fun novel on patio.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Update on the Boy and His Schoolin'

Some of you might remember the post I wrote back in August when I was surprised to discover that the Boy, a second grader, had been placed in a split first/second grade class with mostly first graders. I was sad and nervous because all of his friends would be on the other side of the school, and I was afraid he would become disconnected from them. Also, I was worried that it was a comment on his low reading level.

Well, the school year is creeping (lurching?) towards its end, and I thought I would give you an update.

In short, it's been fine--great, in fact. I really like his teacher. She is so encouraging, and she is his biggest fan. She "gets" him in a way that his teacher last year never did. She understands his strengths and she helps him work on his weaknesses. She is particularly good with reading and writing. His first grade teacher last year gave students a lot of worksheets for which they would cut out letters, paste them back on, and write words and maybe sentences. This year's teacher, in contrast, has the students (second graders and first graders) read actual books--daily--and discuss them and write in journals. They talk about detail, voice, narrative structure, and grammar. I am blown away by how well her first graders are writing and reading, especially compared to the work I saw from the first graders last year with the other teacher.

As a second grader in this teacher's class, my Boy went from reading way below grade level to reading almost at grade level. Several things contributed to his progress. At the beginning of the year, the teacher made sure to give him easy books to build his confidence. Then, she gradually moved him along. Also, he has participated in a program called Natural Reader that has helped his fluency. Most of the second graders in his class worked regularly with another teacher who would visit the class a few times a week.

In addition, we had him assessed by Lindamood-Bell. Some of you may be familiar with their program. I've had many friends who worked for the company, and I've always heard good things about the work they do with students. During February, they had a discount on their diagnostic evaluation, so we took the Boy. He scored in the 99.9th percentile on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. However, on the Symbolic Imagery Test, he scored in the 7th percentile. This means that he had great trouble visualizing letters and words in his head. We were not surprised by this low score. The Boy has a terrible time with spelling. Terrible. And he can can see a word, learn it, and then not recognize it two lines later. So he wasn't learning sight words, which meant his reading fluency was very low. In short, he's probably dyslexic (he has many of the symptoms, including the fact that he holds his pencil in a fist grip), but they don't really use that label because it's not very specific.

He spent four weeks doing work at Lindamood-Bell. He had instruction four hours a day with one other Boy. It's definitely a pricey program, but it costs less for "group" instruction (which for him, consisted of just him and the on other boy). Despite the fact that he sometimes he was sad about having to work so hard each day, he really thrived there. The teachers were fantastic, he really liked the other Boy in his "group" (who was a fourth grader), and he made great progress. His symbolic imagery is much better, so now he can "see" words in his head. As a result, his fluency has gotten much better. Mostly importantly, he seems happier.

Spelling will always be a challenge for the Boy*, and we'll have to keep practicing his imaging skills. But, all in all, it's been a great year for his learning. I look forward to lots of reading practice over the summer, and I think that now, sometimes, he even likes to read a little bit--if it's the right content at the right level. He's definitely proud of the work he's done.

And his regular school teacher was very supportive, and after he finished the program, she had him give some spelling lessons to the class. That made me very happy.

On the social front, he has maintained all of his good friendships from last year, and he has made another good friend from the grade below him. They are still all girls, but they are the best kind: the kind that love bugs, nature, camping, and my Boy.

*My husband has the same symbolic imagery problems. And he does not spell well. I remember one of the first little love e-mails that he sent me, saying I was his "sweat hart." From him (who has a BS in aerospace engineering), I learned that spelling skills are not, in fact, always correlated with intelligence. He tells me that, even now, he cannot picture the word derivative in his head or be sure how to spell it, even though he's probably written it thousands of times in his life. For those of us who are good spellers, isn't that wild? The brain is a very interesting place. And a bit quirky, I'd say.

Monday, May 23, 2011

In da HIZZouse!

So, throughout the spring, I was keeping a secret from you. The Hubster was applying for a job. But I didn't want to say anything about it because the job was at my own institution, and, in general, I tried to avoid talking about it because I didn't want there to be any suspicion of impropriety or bias. I didn't want anyone to think that I had "inside info" that I was passing on. So I tried to keep my mouth shut, and I avoiding talking to faculty in the department to which he was applying.

In short? HE GOT THE JOB!!!

It's a tenure-track position at my community college, and we are thrilled. I am so proud of him and impressed by his success. As the academics of you know, it's a very competitive field out there these days. In my department, our recent position (for a t-t position) had over 170 applicants and at least 90 of them had PhD's. It's a different world from when I got my job 11 years ago. If I were that same candidate today (only two years out of an M.A. program), I wouldn't have even gotten an interview this time around.

So the fact that Hubby got the job is just thrilling. Granted, his department's position had only about half the applicants that we had, but I was told (after all was said at done) that his competitors were true heavyweights. But I'm not totally surprised that he got the job. He's a smart, likable* person who happens to be a great teacher.

So, now, hubby is no longer an adjunct working at a different university on a different calendar. He has a full-time position and the same schedule as I do. And now, finally, everyone in the family will have the same spring break! WOOT!

And not only are we at the same college, but also our offices are on the same hallway only four doors apart.

It's all so exciting, and I don't know how we got so lucky. Sometimes, I get nervous, feeling as if I am the very button of Fortune's cap, worrying that I could fall to the soles of her shoes.

Still, GEW and GEM are IN DA HIZZOUSE!

*Why do I want to spell "likable" as "likeable"?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Today's Schedule

9:00--Waste time looking at vacation rentals in Colorado that we can't afford.
9:30--Volunteer in kindergarten class, collating art work for Open House.
10:30--Futz around on Internet.
11:00--Work on article/dissertation.
3:30--Run errands to library and bakery.
4:30--Go to community college graduation (in truth, I have no idea what time I'm supposed to be there).
7:30--Enjoy movie night with the family (featuring pizza and either "Cats and Dogs" or "Beethoven").
10:00 Watch an episode of "Bones" with hubby.

I have LOTS of final exams to grade, but I've set them aside to focus on the article so I can meet with my writing partner next week and get her feedback. I hate having the exams and the grading process lurking around behind me like Geico dollars, but it must be done.

I like days like today.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just Stopping By to Say . . .

Cheaters, Cheaters, Pumpkin Eaters!

There is some egregious and rampant cheating going on in these here parts. I think we're hitting a tipping point, y'all.

(P.S. Proper posts to come soon! I have much to tell you about the Boy [learning updates] and the hubby [job update!]). But for now, I'm just grading finals, mothering, and trying to get an article draft completed. It's been a busy semester, has it not? And flying by . . . )

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Write Stuff

I have just checked into a hotel near my house so that I can get some writing done for the dissertation. I have my books with me, and I intend to spread them out on th table (which I have moved so it's near th window). I have about 1/3 bottle of Chardonnay. I have cheese and crackers. I have a strawberry-rhubarb pie. The only thing I'm missing is something for making tea. I suppose the wine will have to get me through. Or maybe I can get some at the bar.

And upon check-in, I discovered that there is no wi-fi in my room. And no cell coverage, so I can't even use my i-Pad through 3G. The horror! In truth, we all know this is a good thing. No futzing around on the Internet for me.

At this moment, I'm in the lobby because I have to look up a few things before digging into the writing. Then, it's back to my room (which has a view of the water).

I'm both excited and freaked out by this uninterrupted work time stretched out in front of me like a . . .

(Choose your own ending for the simile. I can think of happy ones and scary ones.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Novel Suggestions, Please

Next fall, I'll be teaching a developmental writing class for the first time in about 7-8 years. It's one step below transfer level, and we're supposed to encourage a lot of reading. Most instructors teach one or two novels, and I plan to do two. But I'm having a hard time deciding which novels to teach, and book orders were due Friday.

I want texts with good, clean prose that will also be high interest. I think I'm pretty well decided on doing Victor Martinez's "Parrot in the Oven." I'm considering "Half-Broke Horses" for the second novel, but I've also thought of doing "Water for Elephants." WFE would probably hold their interest, but I'm not convinced it's good enough or that it has enough heft to see us through.

I thought about doing Jekyll and Hyde or another fun classic, but I really think these students would rely too heavily on SparkNotes, which undermines the whole purpose of getting them to read a lot.

So, at this point, I'm taking suggestions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Recovery Road

So after the Boy came down with strep throat last Saturday, the Girl cam down with a fever last Sunday. She was already on antibiotics for her case of strep, so I figured it was viral. At first I thought it might be the flu, mostly because of the power of the fever, which lasted through Friday and often got up to 104.5 and lingered around 103. But by Wednesday night, I figured out that it was probably tonsillitis (because of the fact that she was having difficulty breathing at night even though she didn't have nasal congestion). I need to call the doctor today to get results of the throat culture that she had on Thursday, but, at this point, it's mostly academic because she's better.

Thank goodness. Not only is it difficult to see one of my children feeling so sick, but it's hard to maintain other aspects of life during the illness. I'm still tired from spending the nights in her room, keeping a cool cloth on her head and repositioning her so she could breathe.

But now she's better, and I thnk we can back to our regularly scheduled program.

My fingers are crossed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meeting the First Deadline of the New Plan

So, with 35 minutes to spare, I can say that I read an article this week and made some (brief) notes. The article is recent and directly relevant to my work--so relevant, in fact, that I was worried it would cause problems for me. But I think the article will be helpful. The author tackles an issue that I will address, but I think my "end game" is different from hers. Therefore, I can rely on her work to some degree, but then I can extend her argument or take it in a slightly different direction to achieve slightly different ends. I hope I can articulate the distinctions clearly enough that they don't seem *too* slight.

The article was good, but I think her argument could have been more unified. But she left me in the dust when she came to the philosophical bits. I have So. Much. To Learn.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Here We Go. Again.

Strep throat, round two. Kid #2. Weekend #2. Let the Netflix, amoxicillin, and jello stream like rivers into my household.

In other news, I downloaded a few new articles so that I can read one tomorrow and meet my first week's deadline for the new plan. One of the titles seems alarmingly like my own topic. I'm hoping to find that it is of great use to me rather than a fatal shot to my "originality."

Monday, March 21, 2011

A New Plan, Stan

I am mostly recovered from last week's illness. Could have been a cold, could have been strep. Daughter was diagnosed with strep today. But now I am better, and she's getting medicIne, so I'm really hoping to be able to get my head back in the game at work. Currently, I'm terribly unorganized. Lots of stray bits here and there.

But on another note, I have an idea for how to try to get more dissertation stuff done. I think I should plan to read one chapter or article per week, typing up good notes so what I read won't be lost out of my head six weeks later. I'm sure that this goal sounds ridiculously modest to most of you, but when I consider that this is week ten of the semester, and I have read mostly nothing so far this term, and I've forgotten most of what I have read, the plan actually seems rather ambitious. Of course, I will still be trying to meet various writing dealdlines, but I'm realizing that it's the reading that is so unwieldy and time consuming.

And now it's time to hit the hay after a late-night grading jag. It's nearly 1:00 a.m. I remember when that was my nightly bedtime after my nightly date with Charlie Rose. My how things change.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pros and Cons of Illness

Downside to being sick: Feeling various levels of crappy.

Upside to being sick: Taking a sick day.

Upside to taking a sick day: Being at home in comfy clothes.

Downside to taking a sick day: Having to use the time to grade papers and write program review (i.e., work) instead of curling up with a book.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's Up With This?

I thought that last week's cold was on the retreat. But now, my throat hurts like crazy, and I don't know how I'll sleep with the pain unless I put some kind of sorbet ice pack at the back of my throat. Bugger.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

Why is it, that when I'm working on my dissertation, I suddenly feel the need do something like look up information on the narrator for Mythbusters?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Okay, so I know that this is a lame excuse for a blog post, especially after five weeks of silence, but can I tell you how excited I was this morning when I realized that "The Cask of Amontillado"* was on my syllabus for today?! For Carnival?! I love when that kind of stuff happens.

*a.k.a. to Ink's students as "The Flask of Armadillo."

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Weight of Comp

So, as I briefly mentioned in a previous post, this is the first semester of my teaching career in which I have not taught composition (by which I mean a class focused on argument that includes the research paper). It's a fluke of scheduling and loading and will, likely, never happen again.

But I have noticed something. Everything about teaching feels so much lighter. Which leads me to a question: Does teaching comp have to feel so heavy? Does it have to feel like such a slog for me and the students?

Granted, we are dealing with some pretty heavy-duty skillz, and since I'm at a CC, many students aren't prepared. But, still. Does it have to be so, well, hard? And it's not just a matter of grading quantity. My Intro to Lit students write a lot, and the sections have higher enrollment. But the grading experience in Intro to Lit is definitely different--it does make my brain hurt so much, and it's not nearly as depressing.

I know some people who teach comp and argument through literature. Typically, I have rejected that approach since I think teaching students to argue various issue-related topics better prepares them for what they'll need throughout their lives as academics, professionals, and citizens.

But maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe teaching a lit-based comp/argument class would teach them the skills just as well. And would it be less weighty for teacher and students alike?

I love the feeling of this semester, and I'd be so happy to find a way to carry it through, back to Compland. Please weigh in* on this issue. Tell me how to be free.

*Do you like my mixed and unstable metaphors?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back in the Swing

So I've been home for a week, trying to overcome jet-lag. I feel like I've been hit with the sleepy stick. Tuesday night, I was so painfully tired that it took everything I had to stay awake long enough to get kids in bed. I managed to get myself bed with lights out by 9:15 (I'm usually an 11:00pm kind of gal). Woke up the next morning at 7:30 still tired. But today I feel a little bit more normal. Hoorah.

Also started classes this past week, so that was a bit of a shock to the system, three days after returning from my lovely trip. But classes are good, and I am having a strange experience this semester. For the first time in my life, I do not have a comp class. I know. Weird, right? Makes things feel so light and care-free! I don't have to drag a bunch of unwilling students into the land of the RESEARCH PAPER.

The highlight of the week was a visit from Cousin Louise, otherwise known as The Thirty-Something Bride. We had time to wine-taste a little, eat good food, chat, hang out with family, and spend some time at a shop that had all kinds of vintage goodies for T30SB's DIY lovelies. Mostly, it was just great to spend time together.

Now, it's time to get my head back into the teaching world! And the student learning outcomes world! Oh, for the days of afternoon tea and research . . .

Friday, January 14, 2011

GEW at the BL

So here is what I just saw:

The only extant manuscript of Beowulf
A manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
A manuscript of The Canterbury Tales (1410)
A King James Bible, 1611
A first edition of Robinson Crusoe
The only manuscript draft (excerpt) of one of Jane Austen's novels
A handwritten manuscript of Finnegan's Wake
And so much more that I can't even remember it all.

It's all in a fantastic exhibition at the British Library.

Not a bad way to end the trip. Tomorrow morning, I'm homeward bound!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It must be the wine, or cheese, or olives, or missing the children, or Joey, or . . .

I'm in my hotel room, my second-to-last night in the UK, eating goodies from my favorite food place in the whole world, watching the episode of Friends when Joey tells Rachel he's in love with her.

For many reasons, I'm crying just a little bit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Plan for Completion

I spent more time with my PhD supervisor this morning, and we determined the following plan:

The thesis will have five chapters of about 15,000 words each.
The introduction will be about 8,000 words.
There might be a 4,000 word conclusion.

This is my current progress on each of these:

Introduction: Some of this is written as part of an existing chapter draft, but most of it will be written from scratch.
Chapter 1: I will combine two existing pieces for this chapter. I know the argument, which was the core of the paper I presented last week. I can safely say the drafting of this chapter is 2/3 complete with about 9,000 words done.
Chapter 2: No work done on this. Still need to read primary sources.
Chapter 3: 3,000 words complete for a conference paper I did last year that will cover part of the topic.
Chapter 4: 10,000 words complete.
Chapter 5: No work complete. Still need to read some of primary sources.
Conclusion: Nothing, of course.

This is the new timeline:

Article from conference paper drafted by April, 2011
Chapter 2 drafted by August, 2011
Chapter 3 drafted by January, 2012
Chapter 5 drafted by August, 2012
Full draft (and I do mean *draft*) complete by December 2012
Polished thesis complete by December 2013


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Supervisor Meeting

Today, I had my first meeting with my primary supervisor. The good news is that she sees unity in the work that I've done so far, work that I have worried is fragmented. The bad news is that there seems to be no way around the fact that I just have so much stuff to read and write. The other good news is that she really thinks I'm doing something original. The bad news is that my argument has some grounding in philosophy, but I don't know that much about philosophy, so I need to read a bunch of it so that my argument will have a scootch of credibility. The good news is that I find all of (or most of) the material interesting.

The other good news is that I found a nice restaurant for dinner. One of my challenges when traveling in the UK is to find places to eat that have friendly service. It's not that the Brits aren't friendly, but they aren't like Americans when it comes to service. We are a service-with-a-smile culture, especially outside of big cities.

But tonight I found a charming little Italian place. Comfy decor, fireplace. And I was served by the owner, who was nice and friendly and funny. As he was collecting my money, he said he didn't want to be rude but could he ask me a personal question. I said "sure," thinking he would ask where I was from. But no. He asked about my Kindle. Within a few minutes, I was checking to see if it had books by his favorite author (Wilbur Smith), showing him how the pages turn, showing him how easy it is to read the Kindle while eating, showing him the book prices, etc. I think I might pop back in there for dinner on Thursday.

And my dinner was made even better by the book I was reading on the Kindle while I ate. It's The Sherlockian. The game's afoot!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Laundry and the Library

Today, I found a tiny laundrette around the corner. I love doing laundry when I'm on trips. Two loads, and all of my clothes are clean! It's all so organized and manageable.

But then I went to the library and was immediately reminded how unending and unimaginable this PhD seems.

As least I'll have clean clothes in the process.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I spent the morning on the Tube, going to Heathrow and back, taking my mom to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye to her, partly because we had such a good week, and partly because I felt sad that I wasn't going back to California, too, to see my family.

But then I spent the day on the train to Wales, reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was a great diversion.

Now I'm in my hotel. I haven't stayed at this one before, but, so far, it seems promising. I initially booked a single, but they gave me a complementary upgrade to a double with a sea view. It's in a restored, old Victorian building, and while the room is small, it seems comfortable. In just a bit, I'm going downstairs to check out the food while I read more of the Baskervilles.

Tomorrow, I think I need to do some laundry. Then, it's time to hit the library and let the work begin.

Parting note of something overheard from a woman to her husband at the British Museum, in the Ancient Egypt room, while she was looking at the amulets that were buried with the dead:

"So why do you think they felt the need to create such a load of rubbish?"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I like London

Want to know why I like London? Because it's the kind of place where I can spend the whole day at the British Musuem, looking at tons of cool stuff (understatement), and then walk back towards my hotel to a pub where I can get this for dinner: ale, nuts, olives, fresh-baked bread, fish pie, chocolate truffles, and port.

I mean, really.

Extra bonus? I got to do all of this with my mom to celebrate her b-day.

Now, we're like beached seals in our hotel room. Beached seals with iPads.

Tomorrow, I'll ride with her to Heathrow and say "goodbye" as she heads back to California. Then, I'll head back to the hotel, grab my bags, and catch a train to Wales. I'm excited for the next leg of the trip--the PhD leg--but I miss the kids terribly. I can't believe it will still be another week before I see them. Hubby says they have been operating in a state of denial. I feel bad that they are trying to contain the sadness in their little bodies. But I'm sure they're fine, right? After all, they have their Daddy, and Daddy isn't exactly chopped liver.

Ahhhhhh. Now it's time to digest my dinner and set every alarm I can find so that we're on time to the airport tomorrow.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Am now in London in my favorite Bloomsbury B & B. It's great to be here, and it's nice to be able to show my mom around my typical stomping grounds in the Cartwright Gardens neighborhood.

Tonight, we had dinner at a little Italian bistro around the corner. Tomorrow we have two goals as we celebrate mom's birthday (it's a big one*!). Enjoy the British Museum and have a good pub dinner. Aren't they good goals? They make me want to reconsider my typical goals and resolutions. Perhaps New Years resolutions should read like this:

Enjoy museums
Don't stress about grading
lounge around with the kids
go on more dates with hubby

Those sound better that my typical resolutions.

But speaking of kids, word from home is that everyone has been sick. First the boy, and now hubby and the girl. I'm so sorry that I'm not there to snuggle with them and take care of them. but I know hubby can handle it, and he has been sweet enough to tel me not to worry--that they'll be fine.

See why I encouraged him to go to Colorado to see his buddies for nine days in December? Makes for a happy, generous, and understanding hubby.

Now it's time to do a bit of pub research.

*It rhymes with eleventy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Paper? Have done.

This morning I gave the paper, and it was well received. Comments suggested it was "persuasive" and that it offered a "whole different way" of reading the text (both of which were my intentions, so YAY!).

In other news, I have found these British academics to be very friendly and modest. The most arrogant presenters have been other Americans.

And Oxford is stunning. I will write more later. It's been long day, and I'm not accustomed to my iPad keyboard, which is, currently, trying my patience.

Tomorrow it's off to London, and Saturday my mom and I will celebrate her b-day at the British Museum.


Monday, January 3, 2011

In Oxford

After some tearful goodbyes, some bumpy flights, and two train rides, I'm safely stowed in my warm and charming Oxford hotel. But I'm having technical difficulties that I'm too jet lagged to overcome. So, more to follow.