The dissertation was only the beginning.

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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, June 30, 2006
Active Academic
The new academic community blog, an idea hatched just days ago, is up and running. You can find it here.

I'm still not thrilled with the template, and have been trying to find one that is more interesting and allows me to organize the posts in some other way than chronologically. Nonetheless, there are three posts there now for your reading pleasure: a welcome post, a post about grocery list making and meal-planning, and a wonderful piece by Ragey on her weight-loss journey. Look for posts with healthy recipes coming later this week.

If anyone is a website expert and would like to handle the design of the site, I am more than willing to allow your creative side to run wild. I was looking for a food- or exercise-themed site, but didn't find anything inspiring. If you think you'd like to take on this design project, let me know by sending me an email to my address in the left sidebar.

If you left me a comment or email indicating that you'd like to contribute to the new blog, you will receive an official "invite" in the next few days. I'd also love to know what you'd like to write about so that I could organize the blog, at least in the beginning: do you have an inspirational story? advice about balancing work/home life? tips to for de-stressing? great healthy recipes? a link to an interesting article or review of a book that could be useful to all of us? healthy habits or organizational tips that help you? If so, I'd love to hear from you.

But now, time to preapre for the four-day MIL visit. Fortunately, she's the Queen of Healthy Eating, so I may come out of this visit with some very useful information!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/30/2006 02:57:00 PM   0 comments
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Contagious, Etc.
Remember last Friday, when I had ST's little friend Jack over for the afternoon after his daycare provider refused to watch him? Remember the fever Jack had? Well, now ST has it, the last in a string of neighborhood kids to fall victim to it.

Jack was sick on Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday. Then the baby next door became sick (this baby and his sister go to Jack's daycare). Then the boy at the end of the cul-de-sac. Then the baby's sister got sick on Tuesday. ST is the last "little" kid to get the fever. All of the other children had Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, a virus that causes fever, a sore throat, and blisters in the mouth, on the hands, and on the feet. So far, ST has only had a fever, and so I'm praying that it was just an anomaly and that he won't get any of the other symptoms.

We had a lovely afternoon yesterday with Corinne and her daughters -- so lovely and action-packed, for that matter, that ST took himself upstairs for a nap just before they left. I thought this was strange, but they had spent the afternoon outside riding their bikes, playing soccer, blowing bubbles, and dancing. He woke up after about an hour, his little ears bright red and seeming not quite himself. Sure enough, the thermometer read 101.5 degrees. ST loves to take medicine of any kind, and so when I asked him if he needed Tylenol he eagerly agreed to take it. (When he was 9 months old he had severe reflux problems and had to be on an expensive baby version of Prevacid. Even though the stuff tasted like baking soda dissolved in vinegar, he eagerly slurped it up. Gross.)

Anyway, after the Tylenol he seemed completely fine. I kept him inside. I also decided to keep him home from daycare today, despite the fact that he seems to be perfectly healthy (no fever, no loss in appetite, and definitely no blistering) -- I didn't want to risk the health of the other children if he really does have something. I'll probably keep him home tomorrow, too, even though he'll be bored out of his mind.


In other news, we have had good news on Pond House. We are moving a bunch of our furniture to New Town on July 15, and we just received news from the seller that we can move things directly into the house then instead of to a storage facility. Also, we've also been told that we can move into the house on July 29 without charge, even though we don't close until August 2. Cooperative sellers: that's a good thing.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/29/2006 12:57:00 PM   2 comments
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Just Do It
Update: Wow! The response to this is already greater than I anticipated, and that's awesome. I think this should be a low-key, fun promotion of healthy living, tailored to the relatively sedentary academic lifestyle. I'm eager to get started; if no one minds, I will write up the first "Fitness Friday" post tomorrow with some ideas to get the ball rolling, and we can then decide what to do from there. Still looking for a catchy, fun group name, however -- anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Update II: Actually, I really like the idea of starting a new blog for this plan. That way, we can keep this separate from academic postings and everyone could contribute on an on-going basis. Do you all want me to do this, or are there volunteers? I'm happy to do it if no one else wants to.

Update III: I've set up a new blog for this on Blogger. I was going to do it on Wordpress, AD, but it looked like you had to be a Wordpress blogger to contribute, so I decided to go with Blogger since that's what most of us already use. (But Wordpress templates are lovely!) I'll have it ready for posting by tomorrow. If you think you'd like to be a content contributor (in addition to being a commenter), send me an email using the address in my left sidebar.

My gorgeous friend PhdMe recently posted about her frustrations with feeling unfit and unattractive (even though we all know that, in reality, she's probably just as lovely as her writing is or more so). I could relate. As I wrote in my comment to her, I have never felt as unhealthy as I do now: it's a lethal and lethargic combination of dissertation-related eating habits (goldfish crackers were my weakness, along with chocolate milk), lack of exercise (unless you count pacing around the office trying to think of how to conclude a paragraph, or running books back to the library), and lack of the ability or desire to get dressed up to go out (who can relax and have fun when there's Chapter Six to write?). My half-serious suggestion was to start a Post-Dissertation Fitness Group. I think I'm wholly serious about it now.

Let's figure it out together. Here are some ideas that have been floating around in my head:

1.) Someone could be in charge of setting the week's goals for exercise (e.g., 10 minutes a day, 25 minutes a day, or suggest an activity to do). Each of us could then post when we accomplished the goal, and also when we did not. For me, accountability helped to get the dissertation written -- accountability to Mon, ABDmom, phdme, B*, Articulate Dad, Peri, etc. -- and perhaps accountability would help all of us here, too.

2.) We could post healthy recipes to share. We could even decide on a week's healthy ingredient (e.g., blueberries) and try to incorporate that ingredient throughout the week's meals.

3.) We could each dedicate one day of the week on which to post our progress, how we're feeling, successe and failures.

4.) Everyone could pay me a low, one-time $60 initiation fee. You could pay in installments, or I could bill your credit.... wait. You don't like that idea? Remember, I have Pond House to renovate! Stop being so stingy!

5.) We could post links to health-related articles, perhaps based on activities we've chosen (e.g., health benefits of running, safety tips from B*'s course on Rollerblading (!)) or nutrition research. Or if we read something in a magazine, we could post a citation. (Goodness knows we're all pros at citation.)

What do you think? What ideas do you have? Suggestions for a catchy group name? It may sound a little hokey, but it's at least a start. Even if you're feeling completely fit and healthy, you could join, too and be inspiring! It's summer: it's time to break the bonds of the computer and spend a little time taking care of the body that houses our most precious asset -- our nerdy brains.

Who's with me? (Note: it will be considerably less fun if I have to do this by myself.)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/28/2006 08:45:00 PM   30 comments
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Like a Book
After turning in my neatly-formatted dissertation to the graduate school for review (three days before the deadline -- a first for a Last-Minute Lucy like myself), I had lunch with one of my advisors, Prof. C.

One of the things I really like about Prof. C. is that he doesn't sugarcoat anything. If he is dissatisfied with my research, for example, he'll tell me in the nicest possible way and then give me useful feedback so that I can make the research better. Similarly, if he likes something, he'll tell me to my face, which I think is rare in academia. (We'd all be less insecure in academia if the praise was as forthcoming as the critiques!) Over lunch we chatted about my dissertation, some aspects of which he really likes, and some aspects he really doesn't like. There are some aspects of it he doesn't like simply because they are not directly associated with My Field, but rather with the field of the Outside Committee Member -- a field Prof. C. doesn't completely understand (and neither do I, but I'm getting there).

"The one thing I like best about your dissertation is that it reads like a book," Prof. C. said between bites of his salad. "It reads like a book already."

I wasn't sure if this was a compliment. Should social science research read like a book? "Thanks," I said weakly.

He wiped his mouth with a napkin and started to explain himself. "I've read dozens of dissertations in my time here," he said, "and yours is one of three that I can envision as a book. Not at a major press since the subject matter is so specific, but the subject is interesting enough and your writing is elegant enough that I think you should seriously consider a book."

This took me completely by surprise. I have never envisioned my dissertation as a book; honestly, until now I've only thought of it as a burden or a hurdle, something required to accomplish a larger goal. I thought I'd get an article or two out of it, nothing more. I've never even wanted to write a book. But now he has me thinking about it. On the one hand, the thought of doing more work on this project is completely abhorrent to me, as the dissertation would require a major overhaul and I am sick to death of it. But on the other hand, the subject is interesting and work like mine in topic and methodology has been published by academic presses in the not-so-distant past. So it's not out of the realm of possibility.

This week I will pack up the piles and piles of materials I used to write the dissertation. Maybe within the next few months, however, I will have to pull them all out again for another look.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/27/2006 09:13:00 AM   9 comments
Monday, June 26, 2006
Relaxed (All Caps) (Heading 1) (Center)
Until about 9:00pm tonight, I was having quite a lovely weekend.

After a hellish Friday, I had some time to myself on Saturday while T and ST went to a local parade, a church carnival (they crashed it -- it was a Methodist church and they had lots of inflatable slides and jumping castles ST couldn't resist), and a movie. It was fun to be in the house alone without anything pressing to do, so I took my time tidying the house, making the week's meal plan, grocery shopping, and finding a belated birthday present to send to little Hans in Germany. Before T and ST returned, I even had time to curl up with one of my favorite books of all time, Anna Karenina. I read this book for the first time in ninth grade and adored it, and it was my absolute favorite book until I read War and Peace, which is now at the top of the list. A new translation of Anna Karenina came out a few years ago and my MIL bought it for my birthday the year it came out. Thus far, it is a wonderful read; I'm enjoying it even more than I did the last time I read it so many years ago.

T and I were able to get out later Saturday afternoon to do some appliance shopping, which actually was no fun at all. We were completely overwhelmed by the options available, and thus far have only decided on a range and refrigerator. (Why is a bottom-freezer refrigerator with a drawer -- versus a swing-out door -- so difficult to find?) I think I've also convinced T that a front-loader washer is the way to go, although the price jump between top-loaders and front-loaders is considerable ($300 or less to $800 or more, just for the washer). After an exhausting two hours, we headed to Corinne and Ben's house, where we'd dropped ST. That was at 7:00pm, and as is usually the case when we see Corinne and Ben, we didn't leave until around 10:30pm! It is impossible to capture just how much I love -- love -- these people.

Today was mostly nice, too. After Mass we all decided to pack a picnic lunch and head to a state park for a hike. This was a fantastic idea, since the weather was heavenly today and a far cry from the stifling heat and humidity of the past few weeks. ST was thrilled to see a fawn in the woods, to be the first to spot a blue jay, and to witness a knock-down-drag-out squirrel fight. We ended our hike just in time; as soon as we got in the car, a line of severe thunderstorms began their journey through our town.

The end of the day has been considerably less relaxing as I spent it putting the finishing formatting touches on the dissertation, which I will submit to the graduate school tomorrow. (I should have submitted it weeks ago when it was ready, but I was hoping to do a first and final deposit after the defense since my defense was scheduled before the first deposit deadline.) It is possible that formatting the dissertation is more frustrating that writing the thing. Two abstracts! Four copies of the title page! Three single-spaces between figures and the text! Special margins! It was driving me insane, and I actually didn't have much to do since the dissertation was written in the template the graduate school provides. I think it looks pretty nice now: the table of contents is working, the table of figures is correct, and the bibliography is tidy and complete. God willing, I'll have an uneventful submission tomorrow.

After the submission, I'm looking forward to this week. Lunch with Corinne and her daughters on Wednesday, work on syllabi for the fall Tuesday and Thursday, and preparing for MIL's arrival on Saturday. I'm excited to see MIL, who I haven't seen since Christmas -- she's an amazing cook, is always full of surprises for ST (surprises that usually involve bugs, which he loves), and always appreciative of the effort we put in to please her while she's here. She'll be here until Tuesday morning. And after that? Well, after that the packing and the goodbyes begin in earnest.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/26/2006 12:00:00 AM   3 comments
Friday, June 23, 2006
First Fruits
Although ST was more than a handful today, after Jack left and he had my full attention again he was back to his normal, sweet self.

The afternoon turned out to be momentous: the first tomato from ST's beloved tomato plant was ripe and ready for picking, and ST did the honors just before dinner. We sliced into it and ST had the first taste, declaring it the best tomato he'd ever eaten. (He adores tomatoes -- eats them like apples. No lycopene deficiency here.) I had a taste and indeed, it was a fine specimen. After being forced to buy rather tasteless and mealy supermarket tomatoes, I was almost shocked by how positively tomatoey this was: fresh, sweet, and earthy.

We had ST's tomato on top of Southwestern Grilled Turkey Burgers (from the current issue of Everyday Food) this evening, along with fresh grapes and lemonade. Quite lovely, if I do say so myself. ST mostly ignored his turkey to savor every last bite of his first homegrown tomato.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/23/2006 07:27:00 PM   4 comments
Get Me Out Of Here!
Today was supposed to be a relaxing day. ST and I were supposed to spend the bulk of the day with Corinne and her daughters. I was going to make us all huge taco salads and real chocolate pudding with sweetened whipping cream, and the kids were going to ride their bikes outside while Corinne and I chatted and played with Baby Eva.

Instead, I woke up today at 5:30 am with a splitting headache, the kind that made it difficult for me to walk safely down the stairs to get some Tylenol.

At 7:30am, the phone rang. It was my neighbor. Her son, Jack, had been sick the previous afternoon and now her daycare provider refused to care for him this morning. She wanted to know if it was possible if I could look after Jack, who was no longer running a fever and seemed to be perfectly happy and healthy. I knew she couldn't afford to miss a day of work because she is going on vacation tomorrow, and so I agreed to watch him. He's a sweet boy and he and ST are great playmates.

By 9:00am, it was clear to me that Jack was not OK. He was lethargic and his eyes were sunken in. After I managed a two-minute shower, I sat down on the couch while ST and Jack watched Sesame Street. Jack cuddled up to me and I could feel his little forehead blazing.

During this, ST was being an annoying terror. Shouting, bouncing off walls, bored out of his mind because although one of his favorite playmates was in the house, there was no one to play with. And each time Jack snuggled closer to me, ST grew more jealous and even more annoying. "She is MY mom, Jack," ST lectured, "and you should NOT be here with her!"

At 9:30am I took Jack's temperature (and, at his insistence, ST's as well) -- 101 degrees. Jack looked miserable. I tried to call his mom at work to tell her that he really was sick and ask permission to give him Tylenol, but she didn't answer. I left a message. It's almost 1:00pm now and I still haven't heard back from her. I gave Jack the Tylenol anyway and put him to bed. After much pestering from ST, Jack fell asleep in my bedroom at around 11:00am.

So, while Jack slept I attempted to play with ST. As soon as we started to play, however, my headache from earlier in the morning returned. I had to call Corinne and break off our lunch meeting because 1.) I felt like crap; and 2.) I didn't want her to expose her children to whatever Jack has. This made both of us very sad -- as I've written before, I treasure these lunch dates!

I made ST lunch and tried to get him to take a nap; although he's rubbing his eyes, he will not stay in bed for more than six seconds. He is literally driving me insane. INSANE. He's cranky because he didn't get to sleep until late last night, and he's mad because I can't take him outside while Jack is sleeping in the house. Not only is he insisting on a snack (just half an hour after a lunch of Penne and Tomato-Cream Basil sauce, sliced peaches, a full glass of milk, and a snickerdoodle cookie), but he keeps asking -- over and over and over again -- "Where's Jack? Where is he? Is he sleeping? Should I check on him? Is he awake NOW? What about NOW? Mom, where's Jack? Is Jack still here? Mom? Mom? MOM?!"

I am only posting now to vent my frustrations. ST is right here with me, making a mess out of old copies of my dissertation. I don't even care.

The day is only half over. If this house had a padded room, I would lock myself in it.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/23/2006 12:47:00 PM   3 comments
Confidential to Betty: email me (address in sidebar). I miss you already and it's only been five seconds. Whatever happened in your world has made mine less bright, too!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/23/2006 09:08:00 AM   2 comments
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Old Home Week
The first week of graduate school, back in August 2000, my new classmates and I went for lunch at a small, smoky restaurant that was famous as a graduate student hangout. The food wasn't very good and I was choking on the cigarette smoke, but it was fun to get to know my new colleagues and to try to find my place within the large group of 13 new first-year graduate students. I remember chatting about our courses and the impossible statistics courses we had to endure, and remember Bart telling us all that he already knew what he was going to write his dissertation about and that he was going to finish graduate school in three years. We all scoffed at Bart, but secretly I felt inadequate because I had no idea what I would write a dissertation about, or if I'd ever really write one.

After that first year, several of the students in my cohort either left the program to go elsewhere or dropped out of graduate school entirely. We were left with a group of eight students, and I became good friends with three or four of them. My other close friends were in the cohort above me.

Last year, most of my best friends left for their first jobs as Assistant Professors. Ms. Superstar, the Golden Boy, SuperTA, and Loudmouth were my dearest friends in graduate school: Ms. Superstar (cohort above mine) was silly but motivated, and ended up publishing three articles in our top disciplinary journal before she graduated. Golden Boy turned out to be one of my best friends ever, and could literally do no wrong -- he graduated in five years, took a great job, published like a maniac, and has a book coming out already. SuperTA was one of the finest instructors I've ever seen, but never finished his Ph.D., and Loudmouth took a fantastic job at an R1 school and his book manuscript is now being courted by two major academic presses.

Aside from these four, I have other friends who were at Doctoral University this year. There was Bart, who I was never too close to but whose career I cared about, and then All Heart, who is one of the sweetest people I know but who had a rough time in graduate school. There's also The Don, whose work I don't understand (too many equations!) but whose friendship I really have come to value. These people are my friends.

Today I was on campus collecting signatures for various things, and I ran into All Heart. We ended up having a fabulous lunch together at the very same restaurant we'd visited as first-year graduate students. All Heart defended his dissertation in April, and so it was fun to talk to him now that we were BOTH "doctors."

We came back to campus after lunch and All Heart helped me with a few dissertation formatting concerns I had. As we sat in the office, The Don walked in. I hadn't seen him in about six months! I thought about how lucky I was to run into old friends. The Don told me that, as we spoke, Bart was finally defending his prospectus after six years in graduate school (which was nothing like what he thought he'd write about when he started graduate school).

But then my day got even better when there was a knock on All Heart's office door and when I answered it, Golden Boy was standing outside! I was so happy I nearly cried -- Golden Boy is an Assistant Professor at West Coast University, and I hadn't seen him since September. I swear I squeezed him so hard he almost passed out. Seeing him in the week I defended made the experience complete for me. (I was the first one to see him when he defended his dissertation -- now a book -- last April.)

I stayed on campus all day, reminiscing with my old friends, clutching Golden Boy's arm as we all walked through the downtown area to visit old graduate school haunts. How wonderful it was to be there with people I knew back when none of us had any idea what the future would hold, walking into futures that looked incredibly, gleefully bright.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/22/2006 10:51:00 PM   3 comments
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I promised ST that today he would get a special surprise. I've been building him up for this special surprise for three days, and he had no clue what it was. (His first guess? "The dentist?! Are we really going to the dentist?" He loves the dentist.) This morning, as we finished getting ready, I asked him if he wanted me to tell him what the special surprise was. He nodded enthusiastically and then put his ear near my mouth as I whispered, "We're going to a special movie."

He gave me a very serious look. "Is it... is it that car movie?"

I nodded.

ST put his hands over his mouth and started jumping up and down like I had just told him we could have ice cream for supper. He was spinning around on the carpet, throwing his arms up in the air, and shouting, "The car movie! The car movie!" He has wanted to see this movie for months -- I think it was one of the previews when we saw Curious George in February. The rest of the morning and early afternoon was a countdown to the car movie showtime.

I've said before that the thing I love the most about ST is his capacity for joy. Honestly, he is the happiest person I know, and gets excited about absolutely everything. Life is always good for ST. ST's happiness has always been infectious, and each time I hear his silly laugh I can't stop myself from laughing right along with him. As we sat in the movie theater this afternoon, I waited for that laugh from ST and was not disappointed. He was always the first one to laugh at the animated cars on-screen, sometimes shaking his head back and forth and saying, "Oh, man that's funny!" (The "oh man" is new to his vocabulary. He's wearing it out.)

After the movie (which was adorable and features Owen Wilson's voice, which was a bonus for me) I asked ST if he's like to go have ice cream for a treat. "Can I have black raspberry?" he asked, one eyebrow raised. When I told him he could, the jumping and laughing ensued again. After the ice cream was gone and it was time to return to our car, he was nearly giddy with excitement when he realized that it was pouring rain and we'd have to run outside in the puddles. "We are going to get REALLY wet!" he said, laughing as he dashed down the soaked sidewalk, taking care to stomp in every puddle he saw.

I followed him eagerly, and soon we were both completely drenched. When we reached our car I buckled ST into his car seat and he said, breathless, "Mom, this is such a fun day!" Indeed, it is.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/21/2006 03:37:00 PM   9 comments
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
I apologize for being so secretive about today's defense, and I am touched by all of your sweet notes of congratulations on my previous post. In actuality, only a few people knew the defense was today: T, my sister, and ABDmom. I found out that the defense was scheduled for today in the middle of May, and at that point I felt like the dissertation was so far from being done that I didn't actually believe that a June 20 defense date was feasible. I submitted my full draft to my advisors on May 31, they returned comments to me on June 6, I revised until June 11, and the defense was today. It all happened very, very quickly.

I think my department is unusual in that the full committee only sees the final draft that was approved by the candidate's advisor(s). This means that 3/5 of my committee did not see the dissertation until June 11 -- the last time they saw any of my work was at my prospectus defense. What this means is that the final portion of the defenses in our department are typically reserved for revision suggestions from the non-advising committee members, and a two-week revision period post-defense. I have a friend who defended in early May, for example, who was asked to write another 5-7 pages post-defense.

As I prepared for the defense over the past few days, I was very nervous about the fact that three of the professors on my committee were seeing this dissertation for the first time, and I was certain that they would have millions of nit-picky comments for revision. My stomach churned at the thought of writing more, of researching more, of looking at this dissertation for another few weeks. I went into the defense feeling very jittery indeed.

After the defense started, however, I could feel myself relax. I was on my own turf here -- I could answer my committee members' questions with relative ease, and I was not at all uncomfortable admitting that there were questions I couldn't answer immediately. For the first time in a long time, I felt confident in my research and proud of what I had written. The discussion of my dissertation lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, and then I was sent out of the room while the committee deliberated. Only ten minutes later, they called me back into the room and said, "Congratulations, Dr. [My Last Name]! You're done!"

After the other committee members left, Prof. C and Prof. G remained in the room with me. Prof. C. hugged me tightly and brushed a tear off of my cheek and said, "I'm so proud of you." And Prof. G. -- well, just one look from him reduced me to tears again. I pulled myself together and asked them what I had to do for the final draft. "Which sections do I have to work on?" I asked, paging through the document.

Prof. G. smiled. "Well, the committee didn't recommend any changes to the text. Just fix some of the typos and make sure everything is in the bibliography. No revisions otherwise."

I was flabbergasted. No revisions? This was a dream come true!

A few hours later I returned home to call T, my parents, and my sister. Then T, ST and I went out for a quick dinner at a new cafe in town and later enjoyed hot fudge sundaes while we watched a thunderstorm roll in. After ST went to bed T and I signed our mortgage paperwork for the bank, and then I retired to the family room to watch Alton Brown make granola bars. It was a perfectly leisurely evening.

I really can't believe that it's over. And I can't believe how relaxed I feel tonight, how I'm finally breathing properly again. Bit by bit, the pieces of a new life are falling into place.

I will sleep well tonight.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/20/2006 10:45:00 PM   10 comments
Professor Me, Ph.D.
Have a look at that big old "to do" list on my left sidebar.

I'll be back later with more details, but right now I can tell you that this is one of the happiest days of my entire life (and I've had some pretty good days).
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/20/2006 01:35:00 PM   20 comments
Friday, June 16, 2006
Notes on Stuff
A completely non-academic post about stuff, because that's what I'm thinking about this hot and humid afternoon.

Bitter With Baggage Seeks Same: my sister sent me this book yesterday because she said I sounded stressed on the phone and needed something light to read. She was right! I laughed out loud at the photographs of these stupid plastic chickens, and then laughed some more at the thought of the grown, educated woman who spends her life posing these chickens and photographing them. If you see this in a bookstore, pick it up and flip through it. It'll be sure to bring a smile to your face. Alternatively, you can pop over to my house and page through it in my now-devoid-of-charm living room (all the cool stuff is packed).

Kenmore Oasis Washer and Dryer: I have been doing a little laundry-room shopping for Pond House, trying to figure out what features I want and need in new appliances. I stopped at Sears last week and am now completely in love with this set, although they are expensive. I really wanted a front-loader for the water and energy savings, but I like the convenience of a top loader -- this pair satisfies both of those desires. But are they really worth $2000? Maybe I'll just end up going with a cheaper front-loader, like this.

My possessed refrigerator: whenever prospective buyers asked us what we didn't like about our current house, the only thing I could come up with was the refrigerator. I HATE this refrigerator and will never buy a side-by-side again. Total waste of money for a truckload of reasons, and a new reason was added at 4:30am today: T and I woke up to the sound of running water, and went into the kitchen to discover that our water dispenser was spurting water at the kitchen island of its own accord, and we had gallons on the floor. We finally got the water to the refrigerator turned off and also turned off the icemaker/water dispenser feature. But guess what? Despite the fact that I've removed the entire icemaking unit and it's turned off, the refrigerator is still pretending it is making ice! So, I'm dealing with a loud whirrrrrrring sound emanating from my kitchen. I called for an appointment with our appliance dealer, and they can't squeeze me in until Monday afternoon. Grr.

Aussie Three-Minute Miracle: I love this stuff. I am in desparate need of a haircut, but whenever I use this conditioner my hair feels soft and healthy again. (I have very thick, somewhat coarse hair cut in long layers.) I was showering this morning and T walked in, sniffed the air, and said, "Something miraculous occurring in there?"

Rainbow Pasta Salad: I love pasta salads on hot days, and so I whipped this one up yesterday afternoon. It's a delightful, easy salad that most everyone likes. My modifications: I buy one packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian dressing and just use that instead of an entire bottle of Italian dressing, I use shredded cheddar instead of mozzarella, I use turkey pepperoni instead of regular pepperoni, and I halve the amount of black olives. Very tasty and light for an oppressively hot day!

Banana Ice Cream: in really hot weather when I forget to turn the air conditioning on, bananas I buy green one day are brown the next. I freeze the brown bananas to make this ice cream, which I did Wednesday night in my favorite superfluous kitchen gadget, the Cuisinart Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, and Sorbet machine. It is perfectly sweet, and wonderful when topped with shaved chocolate. Better yet, it's Alton Brown's recipe, and you know how I feel about him. (Sorry, Mon!)

U-Hauls: mmm, yes, it IS as exciting as it sounds! T and I have decided to make two trips to New Town, mostly to accomodate the buyers of our house and to make full use of my moving allowance from SMU. We're going to take one 24-ft. U-Haul to New Town on July 15, loaded with non-upholstered big furniture and boxes, which we'll probably put in a storage unit there. This will make room in our current house for our neighbor's things -- they want to move some stuff in then, since they close the following week with their buyers (July 21) and don't officially close with us until July 28. We're praying that the realtor/seller of Pond House will let us store things in Pond House garage until our official closing date of August 2, but I'm not holding my breath.

That's all for today. Off to clean the kitchen (again) before ST gets home from his last Friday at daycare. Starting next week, he's only there three days a week -- hurray! I'd actually like to cut him down to two days, but don't want to make too severe a cut in Lauren's (his daycare provider) weekly income. Enough. Anyway, stick around for a thrilling post about ST's big baseball debut!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/16/2006 01:53:00 PM   4 comments
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Best Friends
In the fall of 2002, I was working outside in my yard when the woman who lived next door to me, Corinne, stopped by to chat. It was fun to talk with her, since she wasn't usually outside often and I didn't know much about her or her husband. In fact, although we'd lived next door to each other for a full year, we'd never been inside each other's houses or even knew each other's last names. Corinne and I started a long conversation about teaching (she's an elementary school teacher and I was about to embark on my first TA assignment), and before long T and Corinne's husband Ben joined in and the conversation wandered to other topics.

Before long, three hours had passed. It was dark. We were all still outside, talking and laughing, and Ben and T had wandered inside for a beer while Corinne and I admired each other's flower gardens and traded tips. I invited her inside my house, and soon the four of us were gathered around our dining room table, just like we'd known each other all of our lives.

Ben and Corinne are so much like T and me it's uncanny. For starters, we were married on the exact same day in the same year and at the same time (June 19, 19999 at 2:00pm) in a Catholic church. Corinne and I are Catholic; T and Ben are Lutheran. Corinne has a sister who is the same age as my brother Rob. Before ST was born, T and I used to go to the movies at least once a month, and invariably we'd find Corinne and Ben at the same movie on the same day, sitting just across from us. We'd run into them at the same stores. Corinne and I have showed up to occasions more than once wearing the same outfit, or very similar clothes. Ben and T work a block from each other. We bought our new cars on the same day, completely unexpectedly (even now, we have identical Hondas -- same year, same color). When they moved, it was only across the cul-de-sac, and Corinne will still sometimes wave to me from her kitchen window as she's preparing dinner. To top it off, Corinne and I found out we were pregnant on the same day, and ST was born just three days after Corinne's daughter M (ST's best friend). In fact, ST was born on M's due date.

It's safe to say that Corinne, Ben, and M are our best friends here. Getting together with them is completely stress-free and always fun.

Ever since the month after ST and M were born, Corinne and I have been getting together every Wednesday during the summer for long, leisurely lunches and playtime for the kids. This is our fourth summer together. We trade off hosting, and the host provides a no-fuss lunch and dessert and a tolerance for a messy living room as the kids drag out every toy they own. We usually meet late in the morning and are rarely home before 4:00pm. It is a lovely way to spend the day.

Yesterday was our first summer lunch meeting of this year. ST and M don't get to see each other much during the school year, since they go to daycares in different towns, and so yesterday they were bouncing off walls with excitement to be in each other's company again. And for me to be "reunited" with Corinne after a long winter was heavenly. We never run out of things to say, never run out of "I can't believe my husband did XYZ," or "My mother-in-law is driving me nuts" stories. She is one person I can honestly say I never grow tired of, someone I could talk to for hours every day.

Corinne and Ben had another baby this January, lovely baby Eva who looks just like her dad. When Corinne told me she was pregnant last summer, I was thrilled for her and also a little sad, since I knew that this time, we wouldn't be sharing our pregnancies. I told her about my sadness, and how I felt like our paths were starting to diverge ever so slightly. She agreed, and we cried a little about it, not knowing what the future would hold. This past December, as we all rung in the New Year together, we told Corinne and Ben that we were moving to Midwestern State. That same sadness came over us all -- the paths were diverging even further. "Even when I don't see you for weeks," Corinne said, "it's always just so nice to look over at your house and know that you're there." I know. I know.

I am 100% certain that Corinne and I will be friends for the rest of our lives. A lot of my friendships have been "disposable," in that they were fun while they lasted but they weren't worth the effort to keep up when one half of the friendship moved away (usually me). But with Corinne, the connection we share is so complete that I cannot bear the thought of never speaking to her again. I'm sad at the thought that I won't be here to see M -- who I've known since the hour after she was born -- and ST go to school together. I'm sad that I won't see Baby Eva grow up month by month. Time is passing too quickly.

For now, I am etching the sweet memories of Corinne and her family onto my brain, savoring every moment of our relaxing summers together. We will certainly get together after we move -- our home here is only five hours away from our home in New Town -- but it will never be the same. Like everything else about my life in just a few short weeks, nothing will be the same again.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/15/2006 02:19:00 PM   6 comments
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Clap... And They Will Come
Looking out the window in ST's bedroom, 9:20pm tonight.

ST: Mom! I see a star. I think it's Venus.

Me: Yes, you're right. That is Venus. Good memory.

ST: Aliens live on Venus.

Me: How do you know that?

ST: Emily [girl at daycare] told me. And a rocketship can come and take us there.

Me: Really? How will the rocketship know to come and get us?

ST: You just clap really loud [he claps] and then the rocket will come. And then you can visit the aliens on Venus.

Me: Well, you just clapped, and there's no rocketship coming. I wonder why?

ST: I'll clap again. [He claps incessantly.]

After a whole bunch of clapping and no rocketship, I put ST to bed and go to my office across the hall. I hear him slip out of bed and tiptoe back to his open window. Suddenly, I hear him screaming out the window and into the quiet neighborhood:

Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/13/2006 10:22:00 PM   3 comments
Monday, June 12, 2006
I've Got a Crush on You
Is it OK to have a high-schoolish crush on a committee member? (Wait -- don't answer that!)

I just returned from a meeting with the outside member of my dissertation committee. I try to meet with him every three months or so, just to keep him in the loop about departmental procedures, deadlines, progress, etc. Every time I meet with him, I get this fluttery feeling in my chest, my face gets hot, and I smile bigger and laugh more often (which is hard to do, since I already laugh a lot). I don't get nervous around him, but I definitely get that "oh-he's-so-great-I-hope-I'm-not-a-dork" feeling.

His attributes (to substantiate the crush):

1.) He's a brilliant and world-renowned legal scholar;

2.) He's a native German speaker, so has a slight accent that is heavenly;

3.) He has a silly sense of humor that totally meshes with mine;

4.) He talks about how great his life is, but not in an arrogant way -- more in a "I can't believe I'm so lucky" type of way;

5.) He's handsome in a very European way;

6.) Unlike a lot of European scholars I know, he's engaging and very human, not hesitating to get carried away talking about his beautiful, smart wife or his dogs;

7.) My advisor (Prof. G.) "interviewed" him for me before I asked him to be on my committee, and Prof. G. thinks he's fantastic, too. With a sly grin, Prof. G. described Outside Member as "dashing." How appropriate!

8.) He thinks the work I'm doing is interesting, and admires me for taking on a huge subject most people in my discipline don't touch;

9.) When I enter his office, he jumps up from his chair, holds his arms up, and says, "Ah, [My First Name]! How wonderful to see you again!" Then he does the air-kiss on the cheeks thing;

10.) At my prospectus defense he was the one who did most of the talking (because he's the one who knows the most about one of the processes I write about), and a lot of his sentences began with, "You know, [My First Name] is right about this..."

See, what's not to love?

So, now I'm going to be on Cloud Nine for the rest of the day, or at least until about 6:00pm, when my real Prince Charming comes home. (And T is, mostly, a prince. If only he had an accent...)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/12/2006 10:49:00 AM   4 comments
Saturday, June 10, 2006
It Doesn't Grow on Trees
The cash is flying out of this place lately, and it's making me nervous. Nervous because my June 1 paycheck was my last from Doctoral University (the end of my 12-month fellowship) and it was less than usual because they had to take out three months' worth of health and dental insurance contributions, and nervous because my first paycheck from Smallish Midwestern University won't arrive until October 1 (we start in September). Nervous because we just paid the exorbitant (ridiculous) fee for T's Very Important Task ($850). Nervous because we just plunked down earnest money for Pond House ($2,000). Nervous because I had to pay my tuition for this summer semester ($650). Nervous because I had to double-pay for daycare this week ($105 for Lauren, who has a "bereavement pay" clause in her contract, and $75 for my back-up carer across the street). That's almost $4,000 that flew out of our account this week.

T, of course, is not worried about any of this. Honestly, I am so glad that I married a man who is so level-headed about money, and who has his finger constantly on the pulse of every account we have. But this is exactly the kind of financial scenario that makes me a little crazy, as I described in a previous post. It scares me to see the numbers on our money market and savings accounts go down by thousands in a single week, and as I think ahead to July, I can feel my chest tighten. (July will be our most difficult month, since we have to pay our full mortgage plus moving expenses on just T's salary -- which is completely adequate, but we're accustomed to having my stipend money, too. August and September won't be too bad since we won't have a mortgage payment at all, and if T finds a job by then it'll be smooth sailing.) T's view on this is that we have no reason to panic: our savings will be more than enough to carry us through a few lean months, and we won't need to draw on that for long, anyway, since he'll have a job. Once T's job situation is clear, I'll feel a million times better about all of this.

Small consolation for this worry wart: we had a garage sale today with our neighbors and sold a couch, an area rug, and a runner for $90. We hoped to sell more (there are so many things we just don't want to move!), but it was pouring rain here all day and so the furniture shoppers were not out in force and furniture is all we really had to sell.

I have to be positive, though. What is happening to me now is what I've always wanted to happen -- I am slowly, slowly, slowly beginning my new life as an academic, as a professor. I've wanted this since I was in high school. I suppose skipping a few months of organic produce (my favorite luxury) will all be worth it in the end.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/10/2006 11:00:00 PM   3 comments
Friday, June 09, 2006
Why Proofread?
I was reading through Chapter Three of the dissertation this morning before breakfast, and came upon this sentence:

"I have put forward five hypotheses that direct the case studies that follow in Chapters Five, Six, and Seven. These case studies cover court casennnnnnnn jskldfjslk99999s that originated LDKJFWIOERU@#$& and were referred to the WOEUIRWOEIRUjjjjjjjjjjJSLKDFJ uling. In this chapter I have also outlined how I examine the cases and what sources I used to construct them."

Indeed, all of the documents that were open on my computer last night were plagued by this strange gibberish. There could be only one explanation.

"ST!" I called downstairs to him. "Were you on my computer again?"

He ran upstairs to my office to explain. "I couldn't sleep in my bed last night and so I did some work for you."

Note to self: completely shut-down computer before retiring to bed.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/09/2006 01:57:00 PM   2 comments
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Alton Brown Will Get This Dissertation Done
I just put the finishing touches on a section of revisions I've been battling with for most of the day, and I really needed a break from staring at my computer. So, I headed downstairs to find something non-dissertation related to watch for half an hour before getting back to the dissertation -- trading one screen for another.

I flipped on the TV and went straight for the Food Network and there, amidst the trash that is on television these days, was my single beacon of good taste and science, the only person worth watching on television: Alton Brown.

What's more: Alton Brown making galettes, my absolute favorite dessert to make. He chills the butter with the flour for flakiness! He incorporates a little room temperature butter for tenderness! He has a tiny tailor's ruler to measure dough thickness! Anjou pears! Blueberries! Honestly, the man can do no wrong. I can practically taste the galette in my mouth right now, and if I had blueberries in the house I would be very tempted to roll out some dough and throw a galette in the oven. (I have nectarines, but I've tried a nectarine galette before and it wasn't very thrilling.)

For some people, a shopping trip is motivation to finish working. For others, it's a vacation. For me, getting back into my kitchen and baking is motivation enough for me to get this dissertation off of my desk. Out with the dissertation, in with the dough. I just can't wait. Alton, I'm coming.

(And Alton, if you're reading this -- one of your perfect little salt cellars would make an awesome graduation present. I'm totally worth it.)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/08/2006 10:40:00 PM   7 comments
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Awkward Me
I was not a regular viewer of Friends when it was on, but every now and again I'll see a rerun when I'm ironing. A few weeks ago, I caught the episode where Chandler is trying to propose to Monica in a restaurant, but then Monica's ex-boyfriend Tom Selleck strides in and ruins his plans. Chandler introduces himself to Tom Selleck's date by saying, "Hi, I'm Chandler. I make jokes when I'm uncomfortable." That is so me, and I hate it.

If I have the chance to write a sentiment in a card, I can express something heartfelt quite well. For example, I am a stickler for thank-you notes, and try to send one for every gift I receive within three days of receiving the gift. When ST was born, one of T's clients sent us a very thoughtful and unexpected gift, and I sent her a thank-you note immediately. A few days later, she called me at home to personally thank me for the lovely thank-you note. She said she'd never received a note that so thoroughly expressed heartfelt gratitude. So, you see, I do have social graces in me -- at least on paper I do. I am not a total oaf.

When I am speaking to someone face-to-face or on the phone, however, I have no idea what to say in certain social situations, and so I try to keep the conversation really light-hearted and then end up saying things that, as I mull them over in my head later, sound really stupid. Today, for example, I brought a huge platter of fresh fruit (apples, two kinds of grapes, blueberries, nectarines, and strawberries) to our daycarer's house, knowing that her family would probably be overwhelmed with flowers after her stepson's funeral yesterday. At first, I was OK. I hugged Lauren and she cried, and when she looked up at me I just said, "I cannot imagine, Lauren. I just can't imagine what you're going through." This, of course, made her cry more, but I suppose that's to be expected. But it's like I couldn't hold that serious tone too long -- I just had to find a way out of it.

We started chatting and I actually made her laugh, which I think was nice for her. But then I could feel myself pulling away, trying to pull the conversation back to "normal" things, teasing Lauren about the fact that she wants to reopen the daycare tomorrow (which she is doing because she says she needs the kids to make her laugh). And when I saw her husband for a brief moment as he raided the kitchen cupboard for antacid, I couldn't even think of something decent to say to him. I totally froze and said something like, "Oh, gosh, Lyle -- you don't look like you feel well." How stupid is that? Of course he doesn't feel well! His son just died! I am such a dork.

I remember saying ridiculous things to lighten the mood after T's father died. Everyone around me was sobbing constantly, and I just can't do that. It's not like I wasn't sad -- I was very sad. But I can't be sad for a long time, and I can't keep a somber mood going forever. And I think that's horrible. Sometimes I wonder if I ever really experience grief fully. And then I wonder if that's a problem, or if I should be glad that I can mentally/emotionally "move on" so quickly. And then I wonder if I'm offending people by seeming flip when that's not what I intend at all. My Mom says that it doesn't matter what you say in situations like Lauren and Lyle's -- they're just glad you're saying something, glad you're not avoiding them out of fear of awkwardness. I hope that's true.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/07/2006 10:21:00 PM   3 comments
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
What I Love and Hate About Academia
What I Love:

My advisors, who are truly two of the most amazing men on earth and who have always -- always -- had my best interests at heart. My meeting with them today was very productive and made me feel more at ease with the state of the dissertation and the revisions they suggested. Basically, they're both happy with it as it stands, but still want me to polish it a bit more (especially the hypotheses, which I always have trouble with when I'm not doing quantitative work) before I give it to the committee. I am comfortable with what they are asking me to do.

Prof. C. has always been my toughest critic, always skeptical of the approach I'd chosen. I asked him today what he honestly thought of the dissertation. "You know, I like it. It's not what I expected it to be. It's better than I expected, even though it doesn't go as far as I wanted it to go. I wanted something a little different -- I wanted to push you in a slightly different direction -- but to tell you the truth I would sign off on it right now." Whew. Prof. G. is always proud of my work. I sometimes feel like his daughter, and am waiting for him to post my work on his refrigerator. "You're doing important work, you've undertaken a large project, and you've done it well. Some parts are really quite good. Some parts need work, but you have an entire career ahead of you to work on those things." Can you see why I love my advisors? Honestly love them?

What I Hate:

Stupid rules! I really, really, really depise the zillions of rules that "have" to be followed in academia, and I also hate the fact that everyone has their own version of those rules. At the beginning of the day, I was told by a usually reliable source that I needed to have a perfectly formatted dissertation to the Graduate School by the end of the day today -- far in advance of the posted first deposit date. So, I frantically tried (in vain) to get the document ready in the template and to format it perfectly, but it was impossible. I dashed down to the Graduate School offices and begged for mercy, and the administrator there looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Why are you worried about this? The first deposit isn't due for several more weeks!" So, the "reliable source" had been all wrong, and caused me to pull my hair out over stupid details I didn't need to be concerned with until the end of the month. Fortunately, my advisors came to my rescue again, so all is well in my world tonight.

I'm exhausted, though, and I didn't really get anything of substance done today. I literally spent the day riding around between home and campus (20 minutes each way, and I did it three times today), trying frantically to prepare something special for T's birthday while hearing tornado sirens going off in my town. Since we have a nice basement, I've told the woman running the daycare across the street that she is welcome to bring the kids to our basement (her house is on a slab) in the event of a tornado, and so today she took me up on it (ST* was there, too, as she is his back-up carer). With my dissertation on my jump drive in my pocket, I helped referee six petrified preschoolers in my basement while simultaneously writing something sweet in T's birthday card.

At the end of the day, though, there was no tornado (although a funnel cloud was spotted a few blocks from my house), the kids who weren't mine went back to daycare, and we all enjoyed a slice of T's ice cream cake after supper. While I don't expect tomorrow to be any less stressful, I am thankful to have survived the day and to have had a moment to chat with my now-31-year-old husband about OUR Pond House (offer accepted this afternoon).

* I was, however, kind of a crummy Mom today. I yelled at ST for practically everything, since I was feeling pulled in seventeen directions at once. I apologized to him this afternoon, however, and he said, "Oh, that's OK, Mom. I just love you." Sometimes I just want to tuck that kid into my pocket.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/06/2006 10:17:00 PM   5 comments
Monday, June 05, 2006
The Axe Has Fallen (But I'm Still Standing)
A quick post before I dash across the street to pick up ST from his temporary daycare arrangement (hard to complain when your back-up daycare is right across the street, such that you can hear your child laughing from your office):

First, I finally received comments on my dissertation draft from Profs. C and G. I have been waiting for them all day long, just feeling the dread creep up inside of me, waiting for that axe to fall and crush any hope of defending this summer. Thankfully, the comments weren't as crushing as I'd feared. Are there revisions to be made? Yes. Are they substantial? Some of them are, yes. Did they point out weaknesses that I didn't already know were there? No. Can I accomplish these revisions within a reasonable timeframe? Yes. I am meeting with my advisors tomorrow morning to discuss the revision process and to get more context for their comments. I am dreading this meeting, too, but I know it will be helpful.

Second, T is in New Town right now because the inspection of Pond House was this morning. He called me this afternoon to tell me that 1.) the home inspection went fantastically well, and Pond House is in great shape for its age; and 2.) the seller/realtor had another offer on the property today. The last bit of news made me feel like vomiting, until T told me that the seller/realtor was willing to accept an offer from us if we made it today, despite the fact that the other offer was higher by $5,000. The seller/realtor said that he knew we were really trying to make this work, and that he wanted to honor the result of our negotiations last week. He also said that he'd give us his paddle boat in the deal, so that made it even better! So, T made an offer this afternoon, and I assume (although I have not heard back from him) that it was accepted. Assuming all goes well, we close August 2.

It's been an eventful day, the start of an eventful week. Left to do: put finishing touches on the bibliography (boring), iron a few shirts to get T through the week, and make T an ice cream cake for his 31st birthday tomorrow (that's all he asked for). I'll be so glad when this week is over.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/05/2006 04:18:00 PM   5 comments
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Sunday School
Every fourth Sunday, the priest at our church announces to the congregation that there will be a Children's Liturgy just before the readings. On those Sundays, the children of the parish file out of the church and into the connected parish hall, where their teachers read to them and explain the Gospel in a child-friendly way. Every time this has happened in the past, ST has begged me to let him go. I always hesitated, however, since most of the children who paraded out of Mass were at least four or five. ST is only three. Today, however, when ST heard Father W. announce the Children's Liturgy his face brightened and he asked, "Please, please, please, please, please can I go?" I consented, and he literally ran down the aisle to be with the other kids.

It was strange being in Mass without him. He's been my partner at Mass for three years now, and I'm not used to being able to concentrate fully on what's happening at the altar or what is being read for me. Today I couldn't concentrate, either, though, because my mind kept wandering to what ST was doing.

Just before Communion, the children returned. ST bounded toward me, a picture of the disciples in his little hands. He rushed to me and kissed my face, saying, "Oh, Mom! That was so fun!" He could barely keep himself quiet as Father W. prepared the bread and wine.

After Mass, as we were walking to our car, I asked ST what he did during the Children's Liturgy. "Oh, well, some lady read to us," he said. I asked him if he remembered what she read. "There was fire. Lots of fire. Firey tongues. And all of these men had firey tongues on their heads," he explained.

It was Pentecost Sunday, and the Gospel had been about the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples, leaving them with tongues of flames on their heads and allowing them to speak in any language.

"Why do you think they had firey tongues on their heads?" I asked ST.

"Because Jesus died," he responded.

"But what do you think the firey tongues meant?" I persisted.

ST paused for a moment, and then looked up at me with his clear blue eyes, squinting in the sunlight. "Well, I think it means that Jesus doesn't want us to play with fire."

A valid interpretation, I suppose.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/04/2006 01:26:00 PM   3 comments
Friday, June 02, 2006
Incomprehensible Loss
I went to pick ST up from daycare today at 4:00pm, and he rushed to squeeze me right as I walked in the door. As he started chatting away to me, I could see one of his carers, Jolene, in the background. She was white as a ghost. Lauren, Jolene's daughter who runs the daycare with Jolene, was not there.

"Jolene, is everything all right?" I asked, touching her arm. Her eyes were watery under her glasses.

Looking around to make sure no children were listening, she whispered, "Lauren's stepson was in a car accident this afternoon. We're not sure if he's going to make it."

I had noticed the gray Honda in the driveway as I walked to Lauren's house. The car belonged to Lyle, Lauren's husband. Apparently, Lauren and Lyle had driven right to the scene of the accident, over half an hour away in the middle of nowhere.

I asked Jolene to keep me informed when she heard more information about the accident. Later that afternoon, as I visited with another parent whose child attends Lauren's daycare, we heard the news: Lyle's son was dead. He was 16. "Lyle's son did not make it," Jolene said in her message, voice trembling, "and so the daycare will be closed next week as Lyle and Lauren make the arrangements for their son."

I did not know Lyle's son, a child from Lyle's previous marriage. I know that his son stayed with Lyle and Lauren at least once a month -- he had a room in their house. I know that he was a bit of a handful, that he and Lauren often did not see eye to eye, and that he did not always get along with Lauren's daughter. Nevertheless, I saw his picture every day I brought ST to daycare -- a handsome boy who stared out at me from his place on the wall between glass-framed photographs of Lauren and Lyle's two daughters.

Jolene's words are stuck in my head. "Make arrangements for their son." You make arrangements for your son to play baseball on Saturday afternoon. You make arrangements for your son to attend a good school. You make arrangements for your son to be picked up after band practice. You should not have to make arrangements for your 16-year-old son's funeral.

Before I was married, I assumed that the loss of my parents would be the worst loss I could possibly suffer. Then I got married, and I assumed that the death of my spouse would be a tragedy I could not bear. Indeed, when T's father died and we spent time with T's mother afterward, I saw first-hand how devastating the loss of a spouse actually was. But now that I have a child, I honestly do not know how or if I could recover if he was suddenly wiped out of my life. I could certainly go through the motions of living, but it wouldn't be worth it.

I looked at ST in his bed tonight, then knelt by his bedside to smell him. This boy has only been in my life for three years (and nine months), and I cannot bear the thought of ever having to "make arrangements" for him. How much more painful to have sixteen full years together, and to then have them swept away in an instant on an obscure rural highway. It is a loss I cannot comprehend.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/02/2006 10:35:00 PM   6 comments
All Clear
We just received the result of the inspection on our house, which was Wednesday afternoon. No problems! The inspector said that the house was in exceptional condition, especially compared to other homes in the neighborhood. This means that we don't have to do anything before we move except pack and clean.

We also received the appraisal information on our house from the buyer's mortgage company. Perfect! What we sold the house for and the appraisal are only different by $1,000, and so our buyers are pleased. (We were intitally concerned that we underpriced it a little because we didn't use a realtor, but that wasn't the case at all. Other homes in our neighborhood -- where the sellers used a realtor -- have actually sold for, on average, $4,000 less than ours did without a realtor.)

T is traveling to New Town this weekend by himself to be there for the inspection on Pond House Monday morning. The inspector we called said that T was more than welcome to accompany him during the three-hour inspection, and that he would show T how the major systems of the house worked (e.g., the hydronic heating system, the radon emitigator system, the water filtration system, etc.). T is on top of the world -- this is just the geeky stuff he loves to do. God willing, the inspection of Pond House will come back clear as well. (It should, since it was recently inspected for another buyer who pulled out of the deal due to personal issues, and since the seller has maintained it so well -- aside from the 1980s decor.)

Finally, we also received mortgage information from our bank. The loan is approved and ready to go, and the interest rate is decent (assuming we lock-in soon). Assuming T makes the official offer on Pond House after he sees the results of the inspection, we'll close there August 2.

I'm hoping that the smooth sailing will also carry over to my work. I submitted the draft of the dissertation Monday, and my advisors said they'd have it back to me this coming Monday with comments and revision suggestions. I'm praying that the revisions aren't major, and that the "dissertation inspection" won't reveal any major problems with the theory, data, or analysis. I'm so ready to move out of this project and move in to others. I cannot wait to pack up my office and return the (overdue) books to the library. That will certainly feel like progress.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/02/2006 03:41:00 PM   2 comments
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Morning Wisdom
ST's bedroom, 6:25am.

ME: ST, what are you doing?

ST: Looking out my window.

ME: Do you see anything interesting?

ST: (pauses) Yes. I see that today is a good day to wear pants.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/01/2006 08:59:00 AM   2 comments
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