T: Amazing Husband ST: Three-year-old Wonder Prof. G: Advisor I Prof. C: Advisor II Julie: Stylish Sister Rob: Awesome Brother Belle: Our Cat Bill: Grumbling BIL Rita: Uncomplicated SIL SMU: Smallish Midwestern University Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Friday, December 30, 2005
Take My Word For It...
T and I are in the death throes of the "turn the basement into a playroom for ST" project. T has hung the drywall, I have chosen the carpet and started organizing mountains of toys, and my Dad completed the fun task of building ST a train table (this picture is from Amazon), something ST has wanted for ages. They sell train tables at Toys R Us, of course, and even at Target, but my Dad always scoffed at those, announcing that they were "too poorly built and uninspired for my grandson." Dad built the table and loaded it into our Honda, assigning me the task of turning the top into a creative wonderland for ST's Matchbox cars and train set. Painting the table top has turned out to be a lot of fun, although I wish my Mom could be here to help me with it. She is a painting genius -- trained as a commercial artist, my Mom can do wonders with a tube of paint. She and my Dad (who can build just about anything) are the most creative people I know, which explains why their house now looks like a scene from a Pottery Barn catalogue and they've made everything (right down to the oilcloth rug that adorns the floor in the kitchen) themselves. Our basement-as-playroom" project is a bit embarrassing after seeing what my parents can do, but T and I are proud of it nonetheless. We never intended for it to be perfect (and it's NOT!), but we did intend for ST to have a blast playing down there (and he WILL).
My work on the train table top is progressing nicely, and I would love to show it to you. But, you'll have to take my word about its awesomeness because I LOST MY DIGITAL CAMERA. I am sick about this. We've had the camera since early 2004, a cute little Nikon Coolpix, and I used it nearly every day. Somewhere between my parents' house seven hours north of here and our front door, the camera has disappeared. We have searched high and low for it -- T even took the seats out of the Honda to check there -- and it is nowhere to be found. My parents have searched their house, even poking through the snow near where our car was parked, but to no avail. So I have lost my camera, all of my Christmas pictures, and even a picture of me and my two best friends from elementary school (who I hadn't seen since 1993!). I have to stop thinking about it because it just makes me sad, and then it makes me sick to think of someone else possibly looking through my pictures, looking at my cute son opening his Christmas presents, etc. My Dad, the eternal optimist, assures me that if someone found the camera in their neighborhood they would seek out the owner. My brother Rob, the realist, assures me that it's really easy to get the cables and battery chargers for a stolen Nikon Coolpix camera.
So, I am turning to two sure sources to help me with this matter: 1.) St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of Lost Things, who has helped me before in such situations; and 2.) T, who got a really nice bonus from work that will allow me to get another camera in case St. Anthony is too busy to help. Perhaps a Blogosphere Prayer Chain to help me find the camera? The prayer is easy to remember: "Dear St. Anthony, come around. Something's lost that can't be found." Digital camera. Digital camera. Digital camera.
Someday you'll see ST's totally cute train table in our totally un-perfect playroom, and it will have been totally worth the wait.
How awful of me to leave you with a "guess what" post and then not post for a week! T, ST and I just returned last night from an exhausting journey to see our families and so, after battling with ST to get him to take his nap, I am only now getting a chance to write.
The Job: thank you for all of your fantastic comments on my last post. We are very excited; T has started looking for opportunities in the area where we'd be living, starting to browse the real estate catalogs, etc. The job would truly be perfect for us: it's only slightly closer to our families than where we are now, about 9,000 students, the department is a good size (10 faculty members including me), and the University itself seems to be going through a period of revitalization. The benefits are outstanding (although most higher education jobs come with great benefits!), the salary is decent, and the department will be housed in a new facility within the next three years. Actually, the entire place felt a lot like where I did my undergraduate work, which is why I think it appealed to me so much. I will be only the second woman the department has had on the faculty in 25 years. I have until the first week of January to accept or decline; although T and I think we will accept, we're waiting to hear from the other schools I interviewed with first so that we can have some salary bargaining leverage should I get offers from those places.
T's Job: we've had great news on both career fronts, but not news that allows us to doubly rejoice. T was just offered partnership where he works. This is excellent for him in that it's something he always wanted and something he worked hard to achieve, but he thinks he is going to turn the partnership offer down since we'll probably be moving in seven months and the partnership buy-in is non-refundable. He loves his job, loves the people he works with, and loves his clients, but he knows that his job is the portable one and that he's following me. This makes me feel tremendously guilty, knowing that my job success means he has to turn his back on his, but he always tells me not to worry. "I can be successful wherever YOU are," he told me last week. (Yes, he is one of the most awesome men in the world.)
The Holidays: we left for our 9-hour sojourn last Wednesday morning, spent a few days with T's family and then drove some more to spend a few days with mine. It was nice overall, but our minds were so preoccupied that we didn't truly feel like we were in the Christmas spirit. ST had a blast with his cousins, received way too many toys (including a 3-ft long Tonka firetruck with working sirens and ladders, a grandparent gift if I ever saw one), and was generally hopped up on Christmas cookies for the week. I received many of the things I really wanted, including this, thesecookbooks (I adore cookbooks), and a heart locket necklace from my Dad. T was thrilled, as he always is, with gift certificates to his favorite sporting goods store. The week was exhausting with all of the traveling, and ST was not on his best behavior toward the end because I think he was too far out of his routine. We are doing a little catch-up discipline today (not fun!).
The Dissertation: I am actually looking forward to getting back to it! I've been away from the actual writing for a long while, but now that the overseas research is complete and the job search is over, I can concentrate on getting it done. I have to suppress some of my perfectionist tendencies, however, and remember the mantra "the best dissertation is a DONE dissertation..." I won't have time to write this week since ST's daycare is closed for the holiday, but next week -- watch out.
Before I sign off and have a late lunch, I am sending my best wishes to ABDmom, Dorcasina, and La Lecturess, who are knocking the socks off the interviewers at the "Major League Conference" this week. Good luck!
At last, our mad-dash to finish Christmas shopping is over. Since I was gone all of November and then away for most of the past two weeks, T and I have really struggled to get everything done. But done we are, and wrapped, too. Hurray!
This is one time of the year I am thankful I drive a minivan. (I never, ever thought I would utter that phrase, but there it is. Fortunately I still have my cute little Volkswagen in the garage, but T gets to drive his clients around in it and I only drive it on weekends when I'm out alone. Grr.) After I pile in all of the presents I have to load two huge suitcases, diapers (because ST is still convinced that using diapers is the thing to do), Christmas cookies, the portable DVD player in case ST becomes intolerable on our 9-hour trek north tomorrow, pillows, and a cooler full of healthy snacks and cold water so we're not tempted to stop and eat greasy fast food. Last year, before we bought the van (a Honda Odyssey, so not totally uncool) we made the trip in the Volkswagen. Never again.
In my family and in my husband's the adults exchange names for Christmas, each person buying a gift for the person whose name they chose. The gift exchange always has a spending limit. In my extended family Christmas (grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins) the limit is $30.00 this year. I drew my brother's name (easy!), T drew my aunt's name (had to be creative!) and my sister Julie drew my Mom's name. I like having the spending limit because it forces you to really think about what you're getting, trying to maximize your recipient's joy on a relatively small bundle of cash. For example, I got my brother a geeky, sciency thing that he wanted that was $25.00 and then spent hours trying to find something fun for him to use the remaining $5.00. It's all about getting the most bang for your buck.
Yesterday Julie called me so we could chat about Christmas plans and gifts. Since both of us love buying gifts for Mom, I was excited to hear what she found. (My Mom is the easiest person to buy for because she is like a child at Christmas -- she just loves presents, loves surprises, and gets over-excited about absolutely anything she receives.) "I think I really hit the nail on the head this year with Mom's gift!" Julie exclaimed proudly. "I found Mom the coolest bracelet!"
My Mom loves bracelets. "That's awesome!" I said, and I asked Julie to describe it to me.
"Well," she began, "one of my clients brought in a Tiffany's catalog, and so I ordered the bracelet from there."
"You were able to find a bracelet in Tiffany's for $30.00?" I asked, incredulous and impressed. My sister is very well-connected, so it wouldn't have surprised me at all if she was able to arrange some deal with one of her friends.
Julie laughed a little. "Well, no. I went a little over the limit."
"That's OK -- sometimes you have to go over by $5.00 or so just to make the gift work," I said.
"It was a little more than $5.00," Julie confessed.
"How much more?"
"Like... $120 more."
ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY DOLLARS MORE? That's insane. I was really mad after I heard this, and Julie and I got in a huge fight over it. I asked her to explain to me what the point of having a spending limit was if you could just go over it at will. I told her that it's pretty easy to find a "perfect" gift if you have no spending limits, and that the real challenge is to find a gift that fits within the limit. If you want to give an expensive gift, I continued (loudly), you should wait to give it on another day that doesn't have a spending limit practiced by everyone else: a birthday, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day... heck, Tuesday!
Julie protested and started to cry (very typical -- she cries at everything), saying that it was a good gift and that Mom would love it. Well, duh! OF COURSE she'll love it -- it's a bracelet from Tiffany's, for goodness' sake! But the fact remains that no matter how great the gift is, it's still an inappropriate gift for giving in a $30.00 exchange. I was worked up about it all night long, so worked up that I couldn't talk to Julie when she called back after hanging up on me. T talked to her instead in his calm way, reasoning that having a good relationship with family is more important than enforcing a spending limit rule.
I suppose I'm too much of a rule follower at times. I like making rules and I like abiding by them. I'm a bit of a control freak sometimes, and this shows through very clearly at Christmas. I like to budget out how much I'm going to spend, plan out what I'm going to buy, figure out ways to get people what they want on a budget. Spending limits are great for me, then, because I can plan very accurately. I love that, despite the fact that I don't even like to shop. It drives me NUTS when people don't abide by the spending limits. We started exchanging names in my family and in T's family about a decade ago because Christmas was getting out of control and too commercialized -- we decided that it was best to keep all of the holiday craziness in check. For a few years, it worked really well. Now, however, it's going to crap and people are returning to their old ways -- first Julie's bracelet and then my Dad's extravagant gift to my Mom this year. (Apparently this is Mom's lucky year.)
This is always the problem I've had with Christmas -- people get too carried away about the gifts, about spending, spending, spending. If I had it my way, I wouldn't exchange gifts at all. I like Christmas for a few significant reasons: I get to see my family and T's family, I get to go to Advent and Christmas Masses, I like listening to the traditional hymns (love "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" -- good taste, Lecturess!), I like the frosty weather, I like the traditional decorations, I like baking cookies and giving them away, and I like eating my Mother-in-Law's out-of-this-world beef tenderloin and my Grandma's homemade lefse. Having all of this gift craziness sucks some of the joy out of it for me, I guess. It stresses me out more than it should and detracts from the real meaning of the season for me. And now I'm mad at my sister for something stupid and gift-related, and I can't help but think that everything would be better if we just eliminated gifts altogether.
So, I should probably call my sister and attempt to smooth things over with her. I adore my sister. We're very different, but I love her to pieces and she is, indeed, the most generous person I know. I just have to figure out a way to tell her that I still think that what she did was inappropriate but that I can't wait to see her on Saturday.
Yes, after I shook your hand and we said goodbye, I was indeed able to catch my flight home. Turns out my flight wasn't listed correctly on the airport information screens -- it didn't actually leave until 5:25pm, so I was the last one to board. Whew!
I wish you much joy and success in your personal "Manhattan," and I want you to know that I was genuinely impressed with your wit, your charm, and your smooth Matthew McConaghey-esque Southern-tinged accent. Thanks for making me feel pretty, smart, and special during our short flight. It does wonders for a girl's ego. Thanks for noticing my cute (but impractical for dashing through overcrowded airports) Mary Janes.
Mostly, however, thanks for proving to me that I was right about one important thing: there isn't just ONE person out there for everyone, just ONE singular soul who can make you feel happy and complete. I am fortunate that I have already found one of the world's people who can make me feel that way, my darling husband T, the man I will always share my life with. Although I hardly knew you, Mr. 12C ("the Exit Row Guy" -- indeed, we never even exchanged names), I am nearly certain that you were another possibility for my life. I am glad that I met you. I wouldn't change my current life for the world, but it is fun to get a tiny glimpse at one road not taken.
I am sitting in Small Midwestern City, having just completed Day One of my interview at Smallish Midwestern University. The interview is going very, very well. I know that they are only considering one candidate besides me; they had a third candidate but everyone already acknowledged that she did not live up to her CV and is already out of the running.
For the interview I have a little office at the end of the hall and different faculty members come to meet me and chat in 45 minute intervals. I met with the last faculty member in this small (8 person) department this afternoon before giving my job talk. After our discussion we shook hands and he left the room. Although the door was partially closed, I could hear him meet and greet a colleague in the hall.
"What did you think?" Colleague asked.
"You were right," my last interviewer said, "she's exuberant."
Exuberant? I think I'll go with dictionary.com's first definition, which is "Full of unrestrained enthusiasm or joy" and not the third definition, which is "Extreme in degree, size, or extent." I'm taking this as a compliment. I think.
You arrive at the airport, realizing that you have less than half an hour to catch your connecting flight, and quickly glance up at the information board to find the gate for your connection. You breathe a sigh of relief when you note that the gate for your connecting flight is right behind you. How convenient! You also note that your connecting flight seems to be running about twenty minutes late, which is great because that means you can stop at the bathroom and maybe grab a Peppermint Hot Chocolate at Starbuck’s. So you take your time, eventually making your way back to the gate about twenty minutes prior to departure. You realize that everyone around you seems to be going to Sioux City – that’s not where you’re going. Although you’re positive that you’re in the right place, you ask the attendant at the gate desk.
“I’m headed to Small Midwestern City. I thought that flight should have boarded by now?”
“It did board. In fact, it’s leaving now,” the nice woman responds.
You panic. “But I never heard an announcement…”
The gate attendant smiles. “That’s because the flight to Small Midwestern City boarded at a different gate on the other side of the airport.”
With a sinking feeling, you realize that instead of reading the “Departures” information board upon arriving at the airport, you read the “Arrivals” board. You feel like a complete idiot as you are rescheduled on a flight leaving five hours later.
So you wait in the airport for your eighteenth flight in two months (ugh), feeling a bit hazy due to the cold medicine you took just an hour earlier. You rewrite your job talk (have I mentioned how much I adore my laptop computer?), confess your idiocy over the phone to your husband (who laughs his head off), and wait for the next flight.
To top it all off, it’s your birthday. But despite the fact that you’re stuck in the airport and will arrive at your interview location well after midnight, you realize that these 31 years have served you well, and that you can laugh at situations like this because you know that – eventually – everything’s going to be just fine.
(Written yesterday, 12/14/05, as I sat in the airport.)
Since a few of the bloggers I read (e.g., ABDmom, La Lecturess) and some of my non-social scientist friends are talking about the MLA interview process, I decided to learn more about it. I found this website and I have just been cracking up for the past half hour while I wait for ST to wake up.
I'm sitting here at my kitchen island, having fed ST lunch ("fish in a pond" = tomato soup with goldfish crackers in it), put him down for a nap, and scrubbed my sink (yes, I am a tad obsessed with the sink). I have a "to-do"list in front of me and I've crossed most things off of it already today: return recalled books to university library, return DVDs to community library, make oil change appointment, find filter for whole-house humidifier, etc. My mind still feels unsettled, however, and so I'm just going to jot them down here. Nothing earth shattering or terribly poetic, but here it is.
1.) I have my final (?) interview in a few days. I leave Wednesday and return Friday afternoon. This is the interview I've been looking forward to the most because it is at a smallish university in the Midwest. Although we're open to living almost anywhere, I know we'd be happiest if we could remain within driving distance from our families.
2.) I know that Interview #2 and Interview #3 schools are making their decisions this week or next week -- both said that they'd get back to me before the New Year. Yikes. In a recent post, ABDmom spoke about the fear of missing "the one" opportunity she was meant to seize. While I personally don't believe that God would allow me to miss the opportunity that's best for me, I do have some anxiety about making that decision (should I even have a decision to make). T and I have pretty much already said that we wouldn't take a job at Interview #2 school. It was a great place, I really enjoyed the faculty in the department, and everyone seemed impressed with my research and teaching abilities. I didn't really care for the city, however, or the amazingly high cost of living in the area. I don't know that I could cart my little family off to a place I didn't have a great impression of, and a place so far away from "home." Interview #3 school would probably work just fine for us. The department was fantastic and supportive, the Dean and the President of the College were amazing, and the location -- while small -- was charming and reminded me of parts of my past. We'll see.
3.) We've decided to make a little playroom for ST in our basement. We have a multi-level house and our basement isn't dark and dreary like most basements -- it has full-sized windows and is always bright. We didn't really want to invest the money to finish the basement entirely since we might not be here much longer, but we wanted energetic ST to have a good place to play with his larger toys (e.g., racetracks, train set, basketball hoop). So, T has spent the weekend hanging drywall, and we're off to look for suitable carpet remnants tomorrow night. This project has made me so happy because it's just the kind of thing my parents did for my sister and me when we were young. We never had a fancy play room, but we did have a nice corner of the basement with bookshelves, a chalkboard, an old couch, and lots of comfy pillows to call our own. ST will have something similar and I'm glad.
4.) While I was in Europe, T found out that he'll probably be getting a huge promotion at work at the start of the New Year. We're thrilled, of course, and he really deserves this. But then... we might be leaving. I'm feeling guilty about that, despite the fact that T is really OK with it. Still stressful, though.
5.) I've started my holiday baking but there's still so much to do. No one really bakes in my neighborhood, and since I love to do it I always give our neighbors a canister full of cookies and bars each year. I've already done some candies and cut-out cookies for the kids (by request!), but I still have probably 4-5 varieties left to do... by next Wednesday! I think I'll make it. I have to -- the neighborhood is counting on me for its sugar fix!
6.) Christmas shopping. Ugh. T and I did a bunch of it last night, but of course the things ST is requesting from "Santa" are things we cannot find ANYWHERE. For the past month he's been asking for "a yellow shaking car with buttons and a firefighter backpack." We thought we knew what he meant by "yellow shaking car;" we assumed it was a Fisher-Price product like this. Nope. Apparently, ST saw something on TV at daycare one morning and has his heart set on it and we have NO IDEA what it is! I looked all over the mall for a toddler-sized backpack but to no avail. I ended up ordering this one from a company whose customer service is first-rate. I also found things to fill the backpack with: Frog and Toad books and books about construction equipment (ST's favorites). Whew!
7.) It's my birthday on Wednesday, the day I leave for my interview. I've never been a huge fan of birthdays, but T always does something to make me feel special. We've decided to have a "date night" on Saturday after I return so we can chat about everything on this list so far and maybe even finish our Christmas shopping. I'm very excited -- who wouldn't be thrilled to spend some quality time with one's best friend?
Sorry for this randomness, Readers. I promise to be more regular with my blogging after this interview is over and the holidays are behind us. Stressful but exciting days lie ahead and I can't wait to share it all with you.
I am currently sitting in a small airport in a small town in the Mid-Atlantic region, taking advantage of a strong and free wireless internet signal. Fox News is blaring from the television above me, telling me about the massive snow storm whipping through the Midwest. I am waiting for a flight that leaves in three hours, having just finished my third on-campus interview, and am very, very ready to go home. I hope that the runways will be clear of snow and ice just long enough so that I can get home on time, about 3:00pm today. I promised ST that I would play with Matchbox cars with him tonight, and I don't like to break my promises.
At any rate, the interviews have gone well so far, very well in fact. Here's a breakdown, my interviews by the numbers:
Number of flights from my hometown to Interview #2 and then to Interview #3: seven
Combined cost of those flights: $1100
Amount of that I will pay: $0 (love that)
Money spent on Starbuck's Peppermint Hot Chocolate: $6.50 (totally worth it)
Number of hotels: 1
Number of charming bed and breakfasts: 1
Number of individual faculty meetings (total for interviews): 21
Number of individual Dean meetings: 2
Number of individual President meetings: 1
Number of individual Provost meetings: 2
Number of students met: 18
Number of times I've had to repeat why, after studying at a "high-powered research institution," I'm interested in working at a smaller liberal arts college: 21
Number of times I've lost my interview itinerary: 2
Number of times I've been asked, "So, do you have any questions for me?": innumerable
Number of suits I thought I brought: 1
Number of suits I wore: 0, since the dry cleaner inadvertently put my black suit pants in the same bag with my navy blue suit jacket and I was too trusting to check before I left (let that be a lesson to you).
Number of times I've looked at the pictures of ST stored on my iPod: countless
Number of days I've worn my ultra-cute Mary Janes: 2
Number of days I wore borrowed snow boots: 1
Inches of snow accumulated at Interview #3 while there: 6.5
Number of cough drops I've ingested on this trip: 12
Number of days I've had no voice: 1 (today, fortunately after the interviews were over)
Number of days I haven't read any of your blogs: 4 (Off to catch up now!)
After winding my way through three large airports, nearly missing one flight, and actually arriving at my Home Airport five minutes ahead of schedule, I am finally here. I'm sitting in my comfortable office, listening to some classical Christmas music on the radio and listening for ST, who has just gone down for a nap in his room next to my office. I am blissfully happy.
Yesterday at the airport it was as if I'd never been gone. ST gave me a little sideways look and then laughed out loud. We walked to the car and I was amazed at how grown-up my little boy is, after just 30 days away from him. "Mom, my Dad got me a new car seat. It's brown. I like it because it has a drawer for my cars," he explained as he pulled the cupholders out of the bottom of the car seat. A few minutes later, "Mom, my Dad is driving us home. He is a good driver." After that, "Mom, my Dad will make us supper. Did you know that me and my Dad cleaned the house for you?" Everything he said was about "my Dad." It was heartbreaking and adorable. T just beamed.
We got home and T had to rush back to work for a meeting. ST and I decided to take a nap (sorely needed as I had not slept at all the night before or during my flights). We both crawled into his "big boy bed." "Mom, you can use my napping pillow, and I'll use my nighttime pillow," ST explained, handing me his "napping pillow." He pulled the blankets over us and then threw his arm over me. "I was sad yesterday, Mom," he said softly, "but I'm happy today." He gave me a million soft, wet kisses on my cheeks and forehead and then snuggled against me for a long nap. There is no better feeling in the world.
T came home later that night and we all played with construction trucks together and then watched a program on the Food Network about Christmas cookies. ST went to bed and T and I were able to chat for the first time that day. A lot of wonderful things have happened to T at work since I've been gone and we got a chance to talk about them. I also had a chance to thank T for managing everything so spectacularly while I was gone. He smiled and said, "I just did everything how you do it -- you have this place pretty organized!" I looked around my house and saw that he'd dusted, vacuumed, and even cleaned the sink. (I have this "thing" about dirty sinks -- I can't do anything in the kitchen if the sink is dirty or if the faucet has water spots on it.) The laundry was done. The grocery shopping was done. The shirts were at the cleaners, since he didn't want me to have to worry about ironing when I got back.