Sunday, October 27, 2013

move it move it

There are a few of you who have followed this blog through several renames, redesigns, new addresses, new handles. You've been with me since I started blogging 10, nearly 11 years ago. I lived in Oregon at the time, and I blogged with my real name attached. About 2 years into my blogging experience, I announced a crazy thing: I'd be moving to North Dakota to complete a master's degree. This would take 18 months and then I'd [by all odds] be moving back to the Pacific Northwest.

I mean, who would stay in North Dakota longer than they have to, right?

Well, plans change, don't they? A degree. A marriage. Another degree. A baby. A career shift (for husband). Prospects and decisions ahead (for me). Much reflection, assessment, and evaluation have my husband and I looking at our situation and overall lives and realizing, hey, "life is pretty good." We can complain about the weather and whatever as much as we want, but in reality, ND has been good to us.

We're thus selling our wonderful little old Craftsman first home -- the one many of you followed along as I rejuvenated. Because we've purchased another, larger home here in North Dakota, for the long haul. After over 8 years of wondering where home would be when we finally moved and settled, it turns out, we already are home. Or we will be at the end of November, when we move in to our new [late 80s] home with the jetted tub and the 3-car, attached garage and the walk-in closet.

What you really need to know is this: that jetted tub is pink.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

post-doctoral career standstill and the serious baby

"So, are you teaching now?"
"What have you published recently?"

As the fall semester starts, I've been asked these or similar questions a few times by professors I've encountered. My answers seem to disappoint them, just a bit, before they try to cover up their concern that my current job is not what I'm supposed to be doing after finishing a PhD. Yes, I had a baby. But a baby (for me, at least), is not a career.

The transition to motherhood has been harder for me than expected. Babies are hard work without much reward. Our baby went from unbelievably fussy (colic/stomach problems) to now better, but very serious. You have to really earn a smile from her. Even her favorite toys provoke concentrated stares and scowls far more often than giggles or grins. She has little patience for lying around or being an observer, which is basically all babies are capable of doing for their first several months of life. So, taking care of her during maternity leave was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting for me.

Going back to work, even during our busiest time of year, has been like a vacation. When I think of all of the plans I had for maternity leave (publish articles, redesign CV, explore possible career paths, etc), all I can do is roll my eyes. It was an accomplishment if I got a load of laundry done or the dishwasher unloaded. And having been dreadfully sick throughout most of my pregnancy, I simply haven't done much in the way of advancement since finishing my degree. I'm OK with it. School and achieving my doctorate was my number one priority for a very long time. I do consider my work life to be a high priority, but something had to give, temporarily. So I let it slide, and I'm doing the same job I have been doing for years, since before I even finished my master's degree. It's comfortable and satisfying to go somewhere familiar and do something I'm good at in a time when it feels like everything else in my life has been turned upside down.

Speaking of priorities, my little girl is now 3 months old (as of today). She's learning to grab for things and put them in her mouth, and her eyes follow you around the room. She has discovered the TV and her favorite thing to watch is the opening credits of The Big Bang Theory. She is rolling front to back consistently, and has rolled back to front a couple of times too. She tries to sit up frequently, but of course cannot do it and cries to express the disgust of such an unfair lot in life. She is in her own room and sleeps through the night more often than not, which has been pleasant for us.

As I mentioned earlier, she's much more versed in expressing dissent than approval. It was even suggested by a friend that I start a Tumblr showing her scowling, screaming, or giving The Stink Eye to various "fun" activities, toys, and gear that "babies love." (I'm not going to do it, though I love the idea. Last thing I need is another blog to neglect.)

I went with my child on her first airplane trip and road trip at 2 months old, to meet her great grandparents on my side of the family. It was interesting, eventful, exhausting, wonderful, and terrible. She did not sleep on the plane as everyone assured me she would, even though I booked the flights during her nap times and attempted to giver her a bottle during takeoff. And the only thing I brought with me and did not use was the baby sling, which would surely make frequent appearances on that Tumblr blog that I'm not going to start. (I didn't bother to bring the stroller, as it retains the spot as Most Hated Device, thus far.) Still, it was a good trip, and timely since I knew once my maternity leave ended, I wouldn't have any time off for the rest of the year, basically.

I am looking forward to this fall, because it seems that she is developing much faster these days and almost every week brings something new that she couldn't do before. And maybe I'll find the time between work and baby-raising to start prioritizing career development again... but I've learned not to make plans too far in advance, since babies certainly don't. They live for the moment.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

and then there were 3

I'm just popping in to announce the arrival of our sweet baby girl. She was born May 28, which means she's now 2 weeks old. (Her official due date was June 8.)
She's a sweetheart. To put it briefly and vaguely, her entrance to the world was dramatic (or traumatic)? 21 hours of labor, a 104 degree fever for me, and a whole host of other issues landed her in the NICU (neonatal intensive care) for a week (and I couldn't see her 'til the next day). She needed a little bit of help breathing, had to have a lumbar puncture (*shudder*), and had antibiotics for a week. Had an IV in her head at one point (not something I enjoyed seeing).

She came home June 4. Unfortunately the trouble didn't end there, as our household has been plagued with various illnesses requiring middle of the night ER visits and doctor appointments and prescription pain killers (oh my). Yet even with her parents falling apart, she's thriving. We're finally getting our feet under us around here and adjusting to life as a family of three.

I've been putting more photos on Instagram periodically.

Friday, May 24, 2013

the quest for an accurate description

I've come here several times to write, only to either chicken out or decide that what I have to say is very much TMI, at least for the type of blog this has become. Finally at some point between last night and this morning, it hit me. The perfect description for what pregnancy is.

To set a base feeling: you're pretty fat and you keep on gaining. You have arthritis, carpel tunnel, and (apparently) runner's knee, even though you're not a runner and never have been.

Now, have you ever been to a chicken wing joint where they have one of those contests, an "Eat the whole plate of a dozen atomic ghost pepper wings and get your picture on the wall" type of thing? Let's say you take them up on this contest. And for every wing or two that you eat, you decide to make it more interesting by doing a shot of tequila. You get home that night and in confusion, take a big swig of what you thought was Pepto Bismol but was actually Milk of Magnesia. Or castor oil, whatever floats your boat.

The resulting aftermath--the way you feel when you wake up and for the following day(s)--is my best attempt at describing the magical miracle that is pregnancy.  Except you feel like that every night and day, sometimes all day or sometimes in (surprise!) waves, even if all you ate is water and plain toast and Zantac. You didn't even get to have any wings (let alone the tequila, heh). You can't even eat a popsicle without paying for it all night long. And you (lucky you!) get to feel like this for the better part of a year.

To every person who tells you to 'sleep while you can' and 'enjoy your time alone before baby' and 'go out with your husband and enjoy yourself,' you wish upon them much misfortune.

So, greetings, from pregnancy week 39. I'm pretty happy we decided to subscribe to cable TV a few weeks ago. It's a true friend.

If you leave a comment telling me to 'walk the baby out' I will hunt you down. Or, I would, if I didn't somehow develop a huge blister on the bottom of the arch of my foot (uh, what?) yesterday from attempting to walk less than a mile.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

keep on keeping on

I keep feeling that I should check in and say hello, even though I have nothing of interest to report.

For those keeping track, I'm about 32 weeks pregnant at this point, or right around 8 months. I have another 2ish months to go, in other words. And boy, do I have an overwhelming urge to overshare to the whole wide Internet about the horror--did I say horror? I meant 'miracle'--that is/has been pregnancy for me. But I'll spare you for the spirit of this blog. What I'll say is this. If you find yourself reading one of those "What to Expect..." type of books, and you get to side effects and see that some women may experience this, or that, or that, just take those "or's" and replace them with "and." That's basically been me so far.  Baby is healthy. I have no disorders either. I'm just suffering from what experts [should] call "really awful pregnancy syndrome."

I'm working the same job and intend to keep working right up to my due date - no need to waste my [unpaid] maternity leave. Husband's new job has been an adjustment, but we're adapting and I think it was a good move for him to take this opportunity.

It is still very cold outside here, was four degrees above zero this morning and the wind chill was decently below zero. Bummer for a lady who can't zip up her coat anymore, let alone reach her feet to put on socks or shoes.

Spring is around the corner.... right? For now, it's one day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

the sound of deadlines whizzing by

It's hard for me to research when I have no external purpose/drive. I'm not expected to do research for my job, and I don't have a career goal for which I specifically need to keep my CV fresh.

I originally figured I'd go all in for 2012/2013, publishing articles from my painfully long and tedious dissertation. I have instead published nothing from it, and I'm not motivated to do so. It's time sensitive and someone else will probably publish something similar, effectively 'stealing my thunder,' or the work will become obsolete. I honestly don't care. When I finished it I was hell-bent on making it 'mean something.' Now I look at it and think that it actually means everything. That fat book is the physical representation of the achievement of all of my academic goals.

So, writing it was very worthwhile, even if it never sees the light of day again. I'm not saying it won't. I'm just saying I have no plans for it. After I graduated, I made deadlines for myself to publish various parts of it. Deadline for article #5 is about to pass and I haven't even begun on the work for deadline #1 (which was, ahem, last July sometime).

I have published one (unrelated) article since I graduated. I could do some research on the topic too, as there is little about it out there (at least, not that I could find when writing the initial article). I promised myself I'd do it this spring. Will I? Who knows. It's February now. I spent January googling reviews of baby gear and placing Amazon & Zulilly orders.

I also spent January starting to feel like a person again (an oddly shaped one), rejoicing the departure of a physical state teetering between "about to die" and "i might already be dead and this is hell." In the fall, there was no way I could do anything more than the most basic functions of my day job, and I was heavily medicated. But now, I really could do research and write article(s). I still have about 4 full months until baby time.

The problem is motivation. I keep waiting to WANT to do the research. When I was in school, the dark cloud of responsibility kept me going. It was heavy and unpleasant, and I kept my momentum with the promise that once I finished, that cloud would lift. It did lift. I really don't want bring that feeling upon myself again. I like feeling light and free, able to just chill out and look at Pinterest or bake a fun dessert or do a house project or watch a movie without the evil voice of responsibility goading me about my procrastination or the ticking clock.

I tell myself this is how most people live outside of work. They relax and enjoy life. But the evil voice is lingering. It says "Not you. You have a doctorate. You have to work 24/7. Forever. Muhahahaha." Ugh.

I refuse to believe that's what a PhD means for me. Many people choose that path, and I know it suits them very well. It is not that I don't want to be a lifelong learner. I'm not sitting here thinking "I'm done learning. No more learning for me!" It's just that I learn other kinds of things (at least right now). Like, I'm currently trying (and failing) to learn how to do some simple crochet stitches. And soon I'll take a class to learn how to keep a newborn child alive (this is a concern of mine).

Besides, my PhD was a personal accomplishment.

My advisor told me once that when I applied for the program, he didn't know if my motivation was in the right place. People usually go in to a PhD with definite career and academic goals, that is, something they want to research. Some topic(s) they are passionate about and thus wish to become experts. Me, I just wanted a PhD. I love my field of course, I didn't want just any ol' PhD. But I internally just wanted to prove to myself that I could complete this highest level of academic study. My advisor felt that for most people, the type of motivation I had was not enough to carry them through the program.

Turns out, I'm stubborn. I did it. It's signed, sealed, delivered. Framed and hung. Bound and shelved. So why do I now feel obligated to "use it" or "live up to it?"

I guess people with a PhD aren't supposed to just work a staff job by day, and then sit around at night  watching reruns of The Simpsons. Food for thought.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

new year full of new news

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It's been a busy couple of weeks since the last time I wrote. Husband got himself a shiny new job, for one thing. He wasn't really looking for one, but when the right opportunity presents itself, you'd be silly not to pursue. His new job is in our same city and is even physically located near his old office building, so our day-to-day routine won't change too much. However, this job will provide him with some diverse experience for his resume that we hope will help him a lot in the future, and it will help us with our long term plans and goals, too. Pretty great news for Christmas time, right?

As for me, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I want to do with my post PhD career. Honestly, I'm not sure. Thing is, I don't really care for doing research and writing papers, and that's pretty much what you have to do to be a tenure-track professor. I like the teaching aspect but don't like the research aspect. Should I become a lecturer instead? Or an adjunct? A consultant? A combination of both? A flexible career would be my ideal, but isn't that everyone's ideal? Time will tell where I go with this... We'll see. Many people would tell you that getting a PhD if you don't intend to become a professor is a waste. I don't see it that way. I do and always have seen it as a personal accomplishment. I came, I learned, I conquered. Now I can make my own path and have many more options -- including becoming a research-oriented professor. I mean, I could just be temporarily burnt out from SO MUCH focus on research with my dissertation. But looking back, I can't really ever remember having a passion for it...

And lastly, here's the news people always wait for when a blog goes silent for months. Usually it's because the blogger is pregnant. In this case, I have to say that my blog has been silent (semi-silent) for other reasons, namely those mentioned in my last post back in December. I'm enjoying being *just a reader*.

So that's a separate issue from the news that I actually am pregnant. This will not be a pregnancy blog or a mommy blog. Believe it or not, I have no desire to write about my experience for an audience. Maybe because I don't want to scare anyone (it's not been fun). But to appease you, baby is the size of a papaya, you know the drill. Imagine a picture of me covered with acne, wearing ill-fitting clothes, and looking decidedly bloated and miserable, and holding said fruit.

Since I know people will ask, here are the answers.
Due? June
Gender? Girl
Planned? Yes (and rude of you to ask).
Glowing? No.
[Insert undesirable pregnancy symptom here]: Yes.
[Insert awesome pregnancy symptom here]: No.
Bump picture? No. Maybe sometime... see Instagram.
Cravings? Potato Oles from Taco Johns. Cherry Icees.

And yes, I am excited and happy about it. It's just thus far been hard to reflect it outwardly when I've spent the last 5 months feeling like you have a hangover*, and a migraine, and the skin of a 14 year old, and an out of control weight problem.

But still: baby girl! We are anxiously awaiting her arrival.

How was everyone's Holiday?

*I know it's one's nature to want to help, but please don't sugged that x, y, or z helped your 'morning sickness'. I am/have been at the "up the dosage on those prescriptions and try combining them" level. Not the "gingerale & apples" level.