Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Archer is settling Bear and Wild Man in for the night, both of whom are wearing their Christmas pajamas.  I'm about to fill stockings and put bows on packages.  Archer and I have to assemble the play table we got for Wild Man and Archer.  Then, we'll partake of our own holiday tradition and watch Love Actually, one of my favorite holiday movies.  Earlier today, we had some friends over for snacks, and then we made pizza, a Christmas Eve tradition that we follow whenever we're not traveling (although we managed to keep to tradition last year given our Italian location, but this year we did not have to eat pizza while sitting on the floor of a Rome hotel room).  All in all it has been a really lovely day.  I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Job search

It is now Christmas Eve, and I've finally broken down and looked at the job wiki, something I avoid at all costs.  It seems I will not be going to MLA this year as none of the schools I applied to contacted me for an interview.  You know what, for the first time I really don't care.  I put out around 26 applications, as I only applied to jobs I felt I was a good for.  Add this the fact that I only sent out applications at the advice of Dr. Writing and the new Dr. English as they felt doing so would ensure my current positions becomes tenure track.  To say that my job search was half-hearted is simply being honest.  Yes, I tailored every single letter to the department it was going to, and yes, I did some research on each school.  But my heart wasn't in it.  It seems in the last year I've become invested in staying at CU and in CU Land.  So while I would have liked to see all my friends who will be attending MLA, I'm okay with not going this year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mommy, Mommy!

It is officially the holidays at our house.  Wild Man had his last day of kindergarten yesterday, and to celebrate, we decided to let everyone stay home today, which means both Wild Man and Bear are home from daycare.  For the next 10 days I will hear cries of "Mommy, Mommy!" every five minutes.  I am really looking forward to some time with my boys--all of them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almost there

Christmas is only three sleeps away, as Wild Man reminded me this afternoon.  We're almost ready.  We've bought all the gifts for the boys, including a joint gift from Yetta (yes, despite being pissed I bought a gift "from her" to the boys; she'll pay us back at some point, I think).  I've baked two kinds of cookies, and I will bake at least two more kinds tomorrow.  I've also baked buttermilk cakes for all the teachers in our lives (for a total of five cakes); the boys delivered these to their respective teachers on Monday along with gift cards.  I've shopped for Archer, and I've ordered gifts for our parents, which I believe have already arrived.  Today we shopped at Costco, so the fridge is stocked.  What is left?  Tomorrow I have to make a quick trip to the grocery store for a few more essentials, and we have to wrap, wrap, wrap.  On Christmas Eve, we have to put together the boys' train table, which is currently hidden in our basement.  I also have to make sticky buns for Christmas morning and prepare a pumpkin pie along with two other yet to be determined side dishes that we're taking with to our friends who have generously invited us to share Christmas dinner with them (yay, I don't have to cook the whole meal!).  Archer has to make a quick trip to the liquor store to purchase some wine for Christmas Eve and Christmas day festivities.  We both have to help Wild Man and Bear compose their annual thank you note to Santa.  Beyond that, we're ready for the holiday. 

Ultimately I'm glad we ended up not traveling, although I will miss seeing my good friend Prudence, as well as our dear friends Supadiscomama and Harrogate, who now live about three hours from our families in Home State (thanks to some good fortune bestowed by the academic gods).  But we will have a low key holiday, which we're all really looking forward to. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oh, and . . .

I'm not sending out Christmas cards this year.  I just can't get it together.  I hope you all understand.

Grant writing

In my previous life, I worked for a small museum where I was responsible for event planning, fundraising, and grant writing.  While there, I had some success writing grants.  I never kept track, but I did manage to bring in a fair amount of money for various programs through grants.

For the past two weeks, I've been working on a grant that will fund a project I'm working on.  Writing a grant for an institution you're working for is much different than writing a grant for yourself.  As a writing professor, I teach students not to use passive voice, to be direct in their language, and to be concise.  While drafting this grant, I've knowingly broken every single rule I beat into my students heads, and I don't like it.  I know that this is how grants are written--in addition to my own experience, I've looked at quite a few successful grants from various other faculty members.  So I'm modeling my language on the winning grants.  But really, I'm having a hard time not following the rules I instill in my students. . .

Monday, December 19, 2011

Waiting and more waiting

I'm not very good at waiting.  In fact, I don't know many people who are.  I have, however, been waiting on something to happen for about 2 months now.  I've been told that this "thing" will happen, but every time I ask about it, I'm put off for various reasons, then reassured, "It will happen.  Don't worry."  Did I mention I don't like waiting?

Thursday, December 15, 2011


As I wrote in my previous post, we're staying in CU Land for Christmas.  Archer called his brother last night to tell him, as R was really looking forward to seeing us.  R was very understanding though, which eased Archer's guilt about deciding not to go a bit, I know.  Archer then talked to J, R's soon to be ex-wife (it is so sordid and complicated that I'm not even going into it).  He asked her what their boys would like for Christmas, and she offered a few suggestions.  She then asked what Bear and Wild Man would like, and Archer listed off a few things.  She then, apparently, said, "Well, your mom told me that if you all aren't coming here for Christmas, she is just going to put money in your checking account here.  That way you and M can get the boys what they like.  Is it okay if I do that to?"  Archer said, "Sure, that will be fine.  You could send a gift certificate though."

When he relayed this conversation to me, I was pissed.  Seriously.  How hard is it to go online and order a gift?  I've sent lists of things the boys like, items at every price range, as every single member of Archer's family has asked me to do.  How hard is it to go to Amazon and order a few items off the list?  You know, Amazon even ships to Canada for FREE!  Or how hard is it to do what my parents have done?  They shop early, so they've had the boys' gifts for a while.  My mom, who is practically agoraphobic, stood in line at UPS for 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon to mail a package to Wild Man and Bear.  Do you know why?  Because, as she said to me, "I know how much fun they'll have opening the package, M.  Be sure to call me when you get it so I can hear them open it.  Hearing their excitement will make standing in line with all those people worth it." I said all of this to Archer last night, and he said, "I know.  You're absolutely right.  It sucks.  They just don't want to put out the effort. But I'm not saying anything because it isn't worth it."  And then I was pissed got him!

On one level, I totally understand this tactic.  I'm a big believer in choosing one's battles carefully.  But frankly, my children are openly disregarded in favor of R and J's children.  Why?  Well, they created the first grandchild, and their children live in the same city as Yetta and Pita.  In fact, that is the precise reason why Yetta and Pita will not spend a Christmas in our house--they can't leave #1 and #2.  To me, this is a battle worth fighting.  You can bet that Yetta will be braving long lines at the toy store and the book store to get gifts for #1 and #2.  She can damn well do the same thing for my children.  Or at the very least, she can know how crappy I think her plan to send money is.

As an important aside, I honestly don't care if they give Wild Man and Bear gifts.  Truly I don't.  They would be thrilled with a long phone call on Christmas morning.  But the whole explanation that putting money in our account is "easier for us" is pure bullshit.  It is easier for them.

It's official . . .

we're not traveling to Home State for the holidays. 

As I wrote last week, a leak in our roof has derailed our plans to visit family.  Getting the leak fixed has proven fairly difficult.  To make a long story short, Archer has called no fewer than 4 roofing companies.  We've gotten an estimate from 1 company.  Archer has made 3 more calls to said company to ask a few questions about the estimate, and we've never gotten a return phone call.  2 companies are no longer accepting new jobs for the winter; why, you ask?  Well, it is now December in CU Land.  The cold makes it difficult for shingles to cure or caulking to dry properly.  In desperation, I called a handyman a friend had recommended for us, and he's coming out tomorrow.  We're hoping that he will be able to help Archer determine the source of the leak.  Then, either Archer or the handyman can at least cover the area with a tarp for the duration of the winter.  Archer explained all of this to his brother last night, who said, "I just want you and M to know that I totally understand why you're not coming.  It isn't so much an issue of money as you don't want to leave your house for 10 days when you have a hole in the roof.  I wouldn't go anywhere either."  I really appreciated that R said that as Yetta has said, "The hole in your roof is ruining my Christmas." 

We'll be here, and we're fine with that.  I'm making shopping lists and ordering the few gifts I have left to send to Home State online.  We've already been invited to a good friend's house for Christmas dinner, and we'll have our traditional pizza and cookie dinner on Christmas Eve.  It will be a low-key holiday, which I really need after the difficulties of the fall semester.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Happy in Academia

Several friends are blogging about happiness in academia, prompting me to ask myself, am I happy in academia?

That's is a tough question to answer with simply a yes or no.  Thus, for me, the answer is yes, most of the time.  My frustrations with my job have much less to do with the structure or constraints of academia than to do with the bureaucracy of higher education.  I also get frustrated by long meetings (although at most of the long meetings I attend things do get accomplished) and annoying colleagues (luckily, these are few and far between).  That said, I've worked in lots other settings.  I've attended long, boring meetings and dealt with annoying colleagues in other work places before. 

For me, I love teaching, and I love my area of research.  I also like many other aspects of my job, including curriculum development.  I'm less enamored by the administrative side, although I've been told that I have talents in that area.  For now, I'm happy in academia.  But if I were ever to become unhappy, I would pursue something else.  I have no illusions about my situation.  I have been in the right place at the right time working with the right people.  If Archer had taken a job at any other university in any other location, our situation could have ended up very, very differently.  I do something that many other people with my degree do in the States but, as it turns out, that not many people do in Canada.  I am valuable to CU for that reason.  On top of that, I am a good teacher, as my student evaluations and my peer evaluations attest to (I have taken the rather unusual step of having several of my peers sit in on my classes and write me letters of evaluation, which I've had added to my annual performance reports; I have no doubt that these letters have helped me).  I'm lucky, and I know it.

So what is the purpose of this post?  Well, it seems that we don't often evaluate our job satisfaction.  It is very, very easy to get caught up in the daily aggravations of our jobs.  I am happy with my job, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Just for fun

So I'm blogging in an attempt to cheer myself up.  So far it is working.  I left my office for a bit at lunch today to do some shopping.  I bought the boys some Christmas pajamas.  Everyone gets new pajamas on Christmas Eve in our house, so I got these for Wild Man and these for Bear.  I got these pajama pants for Archer, and I picked out a matching t-shirt.  We also make homemade pizza for dinner on Christmas Eve along with gingerbread and sugar cookies.  What are your family's holiday traditions?

Christmas Boys

 Trying to get these two crazies to pose in front of the Christmas tree was almost impossible.  Luckily I managed to get a few shots of them in between their laps around the first floor.  Here, Wild Man is holding one of his Pokemon toys (a birthday gift from one of his buddies), and Bear is about to attack Pearlie, our cat.
 They are actually holding still in this photo, but neither looks pleased to be doing so.


I am grumpy.  I would love to be able to write an eloquent post describing exactly why I'm grumpy, but I don't think I'm up to it.  I'm grumpy and frustrated and tired for a variety of reasons.  On top of those emotions I also feel conflicted about a variety of things, some I can discuss here and others I can't.  I'm just having a rough few days, as the tone of my last few posts definitely suggests.

Yesterday, we received an estimate from the roofer.  He estimates that it will cost $1,350 to fix the roof.  This doesn't include what it will cost Archer to repair the wall and ceiling, both of which have sustained a bit of damage from the ongoing leak.  We were both a bit taken aback by the estimate, as neither of us were expecting the estimate to be that high.  The roofer included several things that don't have to be done now, so that may account for the high price.  Really, we just want the roof repaired so that it will get us through winter.  Then we can make more permanent repairs in the summer.  I realize this may not be the most economically sound decision, but it is a decision that means our entire savings won't be depleted.  I'm not comfortable with the current state of our savings account, which is adding to my grumpiness.  I am feeling increasingly angry that the house has proven to be such a drain on our finances immediately, and I'm also wondering why we even bothered to pay a home inspector $350.  It seems as though he should have caught many of these problems during the inspection.  Archer spoke with our lawyer, and we could take the inspector to small claims court.  It remains to be seen, however, if going through that is worth the time and energy when we're only likely to get part of the money back.  The whole situation is incredibly frustrating.

I'm also grumpy by the glacial pace of administrative happenings at CU.  Seriously, glacial.  I can't say anything else about it, but I've pestered all the appropriate people to no avail.  Well, perhaps to a minute amount of avail.  I am, however, still waiting.

Take both of these things and add them to the general holiday funk that I'm experiencing, and I haven't had the most pleasant of weeks.  In fact, I really contemplated just crawling back in bed this morning after I got the boys to school. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

As long as I'm procrastinating . . .

here is what we got the boys for Christmas.  We decided we liked this table much better than any of the very expensive train tables on the market.  Plus, every train table we looked out came with a large amount of track, which the boys already have in abundance.  I really like that this table can be used for puzzles, legos, or crafts, all things that Wild Man and Bear like to do. 

So much to do. . .

which completely explains why I'm blogging.  So what do I need to do?  Let's see
  • grade 22 research papers
  • read 3 weeks worth of blogs
  • finalize grades on 22 final presentations
  • write a mid-term
  • finish drafting 3 more job letters (don't even ask)
  • finish a draft of a grant
  • finish a book review
  • finalize a book order for a grad class (although I have no idea why I'm being asked to do this now as I won't teach it until January 2013)
  • file about 1 zillion pieces of paperwork
What have I done?
  • submitted my professional development expenses
  • entered grades into Web-CT
  • sent about 9 emails to students who are dangerously close to exceeding the number of allotted unexcused absences
  • bought gift cards for Wild Man's and Bear's daycare teachers
  • bought Wild Man's last Christmas present (this is the only thing he asked Santa for, so I felt like we had to oblige)
  • uploaded pictures to Kodak so I can order Christmas cards
  • checked out books from the library
  • ILLed about 10 more
  • proofread part of an article for Archer
So see, I've done a lot.  Just not necessarily the things I need to get done.  Oh well . . .

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Another vent

As of right now, we're going ahead with our planned trip to Home State.  While I was initially excited about this trip, I am no longer excited.  Why might you ask?  Well as Archer and I began to plan the details I suddenly realized, this trip means 4 days in the car with the boys.  Seriously, there is no way this is fun.  It is tolerable.  It is manageable.  It will involve endless coloring, reading the same 4 stories over and over, and lots of Backyardigans on the iPad or the iPod.  It will also involve packing lunches and snacks to save money, except it is December.  Unless we're blessed with stellar weather on the drive South, we won't be able to picnic as it is quite likely to be cold.   I really don't want to drive.  Really.  I don't think I can emphasize that enough.  I really don't want to drive. 

So why are we driving?  Well, Bear is now 2 1/2, which means we would be paying for 4 tickets.  I priced tickets a few weeks ago, and they are holding steady at $250 each.  Given all the expenses for the house we've had, we don't have an extra $1,000 in the budget right now.  If we go, we're driving.  I'm seriously hoping for a massive snowstorm the day we're planning to leave.

A small vent

Ok, so I first want to begin by saying that I rarely vent about my students in a public forum.  Do I complain to my colleagues?  Absolutely, but I have rarely vented about students on this blog or on Facebook.

Now, I am getting really annoyed by the number of people I know who publicly complain about their children's teachers.  Seriously, people, please do not assume that your child, whether high school or college age, is brilliant and that hir teacher is an idiot.  It is entirely possible that your child made a mistake and deserved the less than stellar grade the teacher assigned.  Not all teachers are stupid, just as not all students are stupid.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Something fun, but work related

So I'm about to start a new project, and I will be focusing on some fairly obscure writers.  This means I need to buy quite a few books.  But many of the books are out of print.  Luckily I get a fairly generous professional development account from CU, but still, I'm looking at spending around $500 for 8 books or so.  On top of that, I can't get any guarantee from the booksellers that I'll be able to get the books.  If they are able to get the books for me, it may take 3 months before I have them.  So I started doing some research on E-readers.  I was really interested in the Sony E-Reader, mainly because it isn't connected to Amazon (perhaps not a valid reason, I know) and because it seems very sturdy (I'm under no illusions that Bear and Wild Man won't ever use it).  I spent about an hour on the online store, however, and I quickly found out that I can't get half of the books I want.  So I turned to Amazon. I found this Kindle, and after a bit of research, I found I can get almost all of the books I want for free or less than $5 each.  I double checked with the admin assistant in the department to ensure I could use my professional development funds for such a purchase.  She assured me I could, so I've ordered it.  Hooray!  It should arrive before the holiday, which means if we do get to go on our trip I'll have plenty of reading to do without lugging heavy books with us.  It's the little things that make me happy right now.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

House Drama

I realize that I haven't blogged about the new house much since we moved in.  That is mainly because the new house has proven to need a series of expensive repairs.  First, the day after we moved in, we discovered a major leak in the basement.  Archer had to pull out the carpet and the padding, and then it took another 2 weeks to determine precisely where the leak was.  We had it fixed in late October, at a cost of $1,000.  At that point we made plans to replace the furnace, not out of an immediate need but out of a desire to purchase one that was more energy efficient.  We shopped and compared, and we finally found a local company we liked.  We made plans to have it replaced in January. 

In the meantime, we discovered what we though was a minor leak in the roof of the playroom.  Now the playroom was used as the den by the previous owners, and this room was added to the house about 8 years ago.  When we had our home inspection done, the inspector assured us the room (including the roof) was in great shape.  Now, we've had a very rainy fall in CU Land, and several storms have been very windy.  When we first noticed the leak about 6 weeks ago, we'd just had one such storm.  Archer inspected the room, although he didn't climb up on it, and he thought the wind had pulled a few shingles loose.  He made plans to fix it as soon as he could.  In the meantime, we've had a few more storms and the leak has gotten bigger.  This past Sunday it rained all day, and water literally poured out of this leak.  It was apparent this was more than just a few loose shingles.  So Archer and I dug through all the paperwork the previous owners had left us, and we found some information from a roofing company.  It looks like they repaired the roof in 2005, so Archer called them, hoping the repairs were still under warranty.  The owner of the company came out to the house yesterday, and as soon as he saw the roof, he remembered the house. 

It seems that the previous owners did as much of the addition as possible, including the roof, and they didn't do a very good job on the roof.  This company came out to repair their mistakes on the mudroom, which was built at the same time as the playroom.  The leak is not something they've fixed before, so the company is sending someone out tomorrow to go up on the roof to give us an estimate on repairs.  In the meantime, Archer has called our lawyer to see if we have any recourse, as this is clearly an issue that the previous owners knew about and did not disclose to us.  We doubt that there is anything we can do, but we figured it didn't hurt to call.  Once we get the estimate we may have to put the furnace on hold altogether, and we may also have to cancel our trip to Home State for the holidays.  I refuse to go in debt to fix the roof.  We have the money saved to pay for it, but it will mean using the money we've saved for the trip.  I don't relish having that conversation with my parents or with Archer's mother, but we have to have a roof over our heads.

In the meantime, I'm a very bitter home owner.