Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Presenting at a Conference with Your Baby: It Takes a Village and Realistic Expectations

I meant to put up this post months ago, but completely got side-tracked by excessive need to chat about anything other than what I mean to talk about.

One of my first posts when I re-started blogging was about how difficult I found it to travel with my family because it was hard to let them act as childcare, because they were doing me a favor. Well, I realized that this desire to minimize the help I received was not leading me to accomplish any of my goals and I began to be more vocal about what I needed and expected if someone was so kind as to offer me their time.

I had a paper accepted at an international conference. A big one. The paper presentation was in October, when Z was not even 2 months old. I needed to take her with me. I needed to give the paper. I needed to see some of the other papers/attend some meals/do some schmoozing. I needed help.

My dad offered right away. I didn't think it was going to work out. My dad likes to attend the conferences. He would want to hear the papers. If left with a 2 month old, he would not be able to join in the fun (and, yes, to us, this is fun). However, after considering hiring a local sitter to watch the baby and seeing if my sister was available, I decided to go with my Dad, because he was willing and could pay for his own flight.

I now feel bad because he did excellently, although I do think that this trip was such a success because I both stated my objectives and what I expected of him as my child's caregiver, but, also, I lowered my expectations about what was truly possible. Also, most of the historians I hung out with were women - many medievalists are women - and, even though I'm sure some will be surprised as they are all ardent feminists, they LOVE babies. The only person there who tolerates babies is my adviser and I knew this going in. My adviser, however, is completely realistic ABOUT babies. She is the oldest of a large family and knows what they demand.

What I'm saying is: you want people to remember you and you are a medievalist? Bring your baby to a conference. Everyone loved her, cooed over how well-behaved she was (she's an infant, she sleeps), and were also so impressed with my Dad, who basically followed me to a foreign country, so I could give a paper.

Here's what I told my Dad: I would leave him with the baby for only two hours at a time and then I would switch with him. He would not be able to bring the baby to my paper. No matter what, he needed to watch the baby while I gave my paper.

Here were my hopes: Attend at least one panel a day. Attend one conference gathering around evening. Go to the "big" conference lunch. Go to dinner with adviser and fellow panelists. Give paper.

Here were my expectations: Give paper.

Honestly, I went into this weekend with the belief that if I just could give the paper all would be well. I embraced Dr. Sear's mantra that even if Z cried for the 90 minute panel, she would be crying in loving arms. Luckily, it wasn't an issue.

I left Z with my dad for two panels on two different days as well as my own panel. I brought her with me to the lunch, to the evening gathering, and to the last panel of the conference. She started the dinner with my adviser hanging out with my Dad, but ended up joining us, screaming in the restaurant on my shoulder for 5 minutes, and passing out. She hung out in a bar with me and some other attendees. For some of this, my dad hovered outside, just in case. For some of it, I let him wander off.

Ultimately, it was a success, because after traveling with Q and trying to figure out what to do and how to handle everything, I decided that I wasn't going to handle everything. If I brought Z somewhere and she became upset, we'd leave. It was life. She was a newborn. Everyone would and did understand. All I wanted to do was give my paper and I did that and more. I had a great weekend. Z loves her PawPaw. As of right now, it is my favorite conference, which I have attended ever.

Also, it's always cool to bring your baby into a bar. Z is so hardcore.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What I'm reading (Non-sponsored Post)

I thought I'd just do a round-up of what I'm reading right now.

First, I just want to say that after reading Felix J. Palma's Map of Time and Map of the Sky, I am seriously jonesing for the third book in his trilogy.  I picked up Map of Time on a whim at the airport this summer and I <3 it so much. I pre-ordered Map of the Sky and I don't think I've done that since the Harry Potter series. I actually don't want to explain anything about the series because I was completely blown away by it because I KNEW NOTHING. Literally 50 pages into the book I audibly went "OH!!!"

But, for now, I wait and, while I wait, I have started reading the Maisie Dobbs series. I'm on book 1 and only a few chapters in, but, so far, it hasn't annoyed me with any glaring historical inaccuracies, so on I continue.

What are you reading?

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Funny Thing My Grandmother Said To Me

Now that I've told you about my grandmother's funeral and a little bit - a very little bit - about her life, let's travel even farther back in time ... no, wait ... this post is about something she said before she died (probably obvious), but after I ate all her tums. Okay, it's in the past. (I'm sure the Germans have a tense for this occasion.)

One of the last times I visited with my grandmother, she told me to "Always have a boyfriend on the side." When I told my mother that Grandma M said this, her reaction was "Why didn't she ever say that to me?!?" No idea.

Was my grandmother just telling me to live life and throw away societal norms and give in to my passions? No, not at all. This fact may shock you, but being a ventriloquist on the radio was not exactly a lucrative gig. I know, your mind: it is blown. My grandmother was a secretary throughout my mom's childhood. Given the fact that she was blind, this job garnered her a mention in an article. She wasn't, however, a proud feminist showing that women can have it all. No, she was a woman trying to keep food on the table and a roof over her family's heads.  Instead of thinking that skills and education were the way out of this predicament - after all, she had both courtesy of the Lighthouse for the Blind - she believed the answer was to have another man to fall back on and help provide. If something happened to your husband? Make sure someone was there to step in. My grandmother didn't want my mother to go to college or wear pants and when I transferred colleges and broke up with my boyfriend, whom my grandmother liked, I think she was concerned for my future.

My grandmother during her secretary days.

Unlike my grandmother, I am a feminist. I want my girls to have both education and skills.  When people talk about the Good Old Days when women were women and men were men, I'm not sure what they are talking about. Most women have always had to work, although in the days of cottage industries, not all needed to go far. We do our daughters a disservice not to prepare them for the real world.

Am I saying a women can't have a life goal of motherhood and staying home to care for their children? No. I have always wanted to be a mother and H and I made plans, so that I could be at home the majority of Q and Z's babyhoods.  If something was to happen, however, I have the skills to find work and, more importantly, a belief that I can take care of my family. I think that we need to make sure that our daughters are prepared for all possible problems and that none of them need or believe they need "a boyfriend on the side" to handle it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Grandmother's Funeral

My grandmother passed away right before Christmas my senior year of college. I boarded a train with my grandmother still alive and when I stepped off it and asked my father how she was, he replied, "No one called you?" Not a good sign and it wasn't. (Better, however, than the emails my father now sends to notify us if someone died. If you receive an email from my father and the subject line is a person's name, assume that person is dead.)

Relevant details about my grandmother for this story: she was blind (had been since age 2) and liked to sleep with her "things about her" as we put it.  Since my Grandpa Elias's death, my grandmother had slept on the right side of the bed with her suitcase and small radio next to her. She listened to this radio all night long. When I was little and she stayed with us, I used to sleep with her in my bed and we'd just listen to the radio all night. (She would also snap at me for any movement. According to H, I don't speak or move in my sleep and he often thinks I am dead. Early training tells. She also used to bring tums and forgot them one time. I hid them and ate them like candy for weeks.)

My first trip to Florida. I was 2 months. 
She would probably kill me for putting up a picture with her in a housecoat, but her hair and nails are perfect.

When she died, my mother and uncle wanted to bury some of her things with her, including her radios and a phone as she loved calling people. This conversation ensued:

Mother: Should we put in her phone? Maybe we should buy a cell phone and put it in?
Uncle: No, because then I'd worry that she'd call me in the middle of the night or what if I called the number and someone picked up?

An impasse had been reached, you might say. But the morning of her funeral, I saw my sister place what looked like a rotary phone in the casket. After we had our final moments with her, they closed the casket and wheeled her out of the room to go to the church. I turned to my sister and said, "You know, that phone looked like my fake-rotary phone I used when I lived off-campus."

My sister replied, "Did you want that back?"

It was my phone. I turned to my mother and said, "G put my phone in with Grandma."

My mother said, "Oh, do you want us to get it out?"

No, no. I think I'm good.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ABD to PhD: Week 2

Long-term Goal: write Chapter 3 (Overview) of my dissertation

Week 2

Goal: 1) Go back to records and fill in all the information about where/when the Convocations met in order to 2) complete short section on that and then write it up.

Outcome:  I was able to go and finish inputting all of the information about when/where the my meetings met and even discovered a cool tidbit that can be used - in conjunction with another section - as an article (my adviser suggested that when I told her). I only, however, wrote up a paragraph about it all.

Goal for Week 3: My goal for this week is to finish writing up the section and to also write up a list of questions that I feel I need to address to complete the chapter.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why yes, my grandfather was a ventrilioquist on the radio

One of my most favorite movies is Woody Allen's Radio Days, which is, not shockingly, the story of his childhood set against the radio stories and music to which his family listened. (Given my love of radio, how could I not?)

Anyway, Allen's protagonist explains how one of his aunts loved a radio show starring a ventriloquist and his dummy. To quote the uncle, "He's a ventriloquist on the radio. How do know he's not moving his lips?" I don't get the joke, you see, because my grandfather was a ventriloquist on the radio.

Grandpa and one of his good friends

Also, if you've ever wondered what my family thinks of me getting a degree in medieval history, you might now wonder if I'm the "normal" one. You might be right. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

What I Would Say to My Younger Self

 Christmas circa 1984. A time when no one knew how to tame my hair and no one tried.

1. Learn to use gel or mousse. There is no need to wait til high school graduation to tame your thick, frizzy, curly hair. Alternatively, move to Pasadena. Our hair curls awesomely in dry heat.

2. Do not listen to anyone who says girls aren't supposed to be sarcastic or question others.  We do not exist solely to support others.  We are not a chair. Plus, you are plenty supportive. It is not being unsupportive to disagree with someone. Notice how said people always disagree with you, but, for whatever reason, that isn't supposed to reflect on them? Lamers.

3. Do not listen to anyone who says girls shouldn't have opinions or debate ideas/things.  This one goes hand in hand with my previous comment. At some point, you will leave your happy bubble of everyone encouraging you to have ideas and goals and meet people who feel that is unladylike.  They will tell you so. I suggest walking away. They are wrong, but they will never admit it. Also, if someone constantly tears down your ideas but loves to tell you how they brag about how smart you are to other people? That's weird. That's not endearing, nor does it make up for the aforementioned tearing down of your ideas. If they can't see why that isn't a positive trait, walk away.

4. Do your homework. Seriously. I know you had to get up before 6am to get on the bus, but you can nap AND do homework.  If something is hard to do, it doesn't mean you can't do it, it means it is hard. I'm not sure about calculus. Even if we did the homework, that might still have been elusive. It's probably fine that you spent all of class typing song lyrics into your graphing calculator.

5. Don't leave your Latin book where Max can eat it. He has already eaten a retainer, many of your Madame Alexander dolls (which you will still manage to sell on ebay years later ... people are really into rehabbing), and a jewelry box. Why would you trust him with a book you need to return to school? Don't.

6. And, of course, wear sunscreen. You can never wear too much sunscreen. Actually, don't just wear sunscreen, remember to reapply it. And put it on the backs of your legs. Those burn, too, you know. As do the tops of ears and your part. Honestly, you are one of the whitest people ever. Learn how to apply sunscreen properly.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Q Did When I Said It Might Not Snow

She looked at me, stricken, and said, "But I want it to snow!" And I said, "I know, but it might be too warm and it might not snow." She stared at me for a few seconds and then walked over to her sister and did this:

Hugs make everything better. Z didn't understand what it was all about, but she didn't complain.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Footnoting History: Sisters (and Brothers) are Doing It for Themselves

I've been thinking - a dangerous past time, per Beauty and the Beast - and why not make my own podcast? Why wait for "Stuff You Missed in History Class" to realize how awesome I am? Plus, there's a lot of history to go around.

Realizing the amount of work that goes into this (they aren't using freelance writers for the heck of it!), I turned to some of my friends to see if they would be interested in starting a podcast series of some of our favorite stories from history and they are game. (More than game, but we like listening to ourselves talk).

Without further adieu, I give you Footnoting History, because the best stories are in the footnotes!

A weekly podcast will go live every Saturday, brought to you by a variety of historians and covering a plethora of topics! I, your fearless leader, will be giving the first one, titled "Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck: Pretenders to the Throne? (Yes, yes, they were.)" and it will become available at noon ET on February 2, 2013 - Saturday (Groundhog's Day). Set your clocks!

More information, including a daily historical tidbit, is available on our facebook page and our twitter account (@HistoryFootnote).

If you have a topic or anecdote you always wanted to learn more about, put it in the comments and we'll see what we can do :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ABD to PhD: Week 1

Long-term Goal: write Chapter 3 (Overview) of my dissertation

Week 1

Goal: complete the "master" table from which I can write up information for my "overview" chapter

Outcome:  I probably should have looked at my chapter 3 and tables before writing my goals last week, because I actually had a lot of it done. It is over 20 pages and three of the 4 sections are drafted, if not great. I was able to complete my master table and I wrote a page of the remaining section as well as organized what I had already written. 

Goal for Week 2: What I need to do now is go back to my records and fill in all the information about where/when the meetings on which I am working were held - which I should have done 5 years ago - and then write it up. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Social Media for Research?

As mentioned in my Contact and Growing My Blog sections (and if you noticed the button to the left), I joined Twitter this past Friday as @GradSchoolMama.

I have been having a blast. You know those "Blogs I Read Daily" also to the left? Okay, well, I started following Matt Logelin and he started following me! He does seem to follow a lot of people, but I still felt some love since he doesn't know who I am (although I have commented sporadically over the years). Then, last night when I wasn't watching the Golden Globes because I was trying to get Z to sleep, I tweeted back and forth for a bit with Heather Spohr. Yeah, all that happened. I know, you can't stand it. Neither can I.

But what's even more amazing (what could be more amazing? I KNOW! but it is) is that I tweeted a question to the Parliament Trust on Friday afternoon (@HistParl) and they not only tweeted back where I could find an answer this morning, but, then, they asked if I had access to a certain book and said - without waiting for a response - that if not they would email me a Word .doc with the information! I am seriously dancing for joy about social media making my research easier.  The information is just to set up some comparative history and isn't even a large chunk of the chapter I'm working on, but I know it's important and helps provide context. And this cuts down on the time I need to spend hunting up the answer (plus, when I can get my hands on it, I really want to check out the book they suggested).

I can't decide who I want to marry more: twitter or the Parliament Trust. Warn H.

So what are our thoughts? Is is alright to turn towards social media to help research endeavors or is it klassy (definitely with a k)?

My Campaign to work for Stuff You Missed in History Class

According to Oprah, if you want something you must put it out to the universe. So, universe, I want to work for Stuff You Missed in History Class.  As I detailed in my list of 'Plan B' options, it combines a great many things I love (research, the masses, education) and, to be honest, is now really my Plan A, but I'm still calling it a Plan B. (I get really attached to labels.)

Let's discuss the campaign:

1. Submitted CV and writing samples for freelance work. Have not heard back yet.

2. I am going to try and write up an account of some historical happening for this blog - albeit once a month as, you know, dissertation. Please let me know any suggestions you may have. I am going to try and limit to 1,000 words because, again, dissertation.

After discussing it with some other fans of the show and friends of mine, they had these suggestions:

3. Write really awesome comments on their site. Since their blog doesn't seem to have been updated since May, I will be focusing on FB.

4. Pitch awesome ideas. I'm not sure if this one should be limited to contacting them personally. Also, not sure if I should mention the campaign.

5. Try and find their emails to contact them personally about awesome ideas.

What do we think?


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jedi or Hobbit? You decide

I mean, the sleep sack says Jedi, but the hop in her step, smile on her face, and bears on her feet seem to say "leaving The Shire for an adventure!"

 Z demonstrates her multifaceted nature.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dinner Shoppe Success - Shrimp & Pasta

Again, nothing sponsored here! No money or goods exchanged hands. They don't even know I am writing about them.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were going to try pre-assembled meals from the Dinner Shoppe and, I have to say, we are pretty pleased. The food is tasty and healthy. It also helps spice up our eating habits and introduce new meals to Q. Our only problem is portion size, but that's because H and I are big dinner eaters. We are most successful with having leftovers when the food is a casserole / comes in its own tin.

Overall, a success and we plan to keep ordering from there.

Tonight's dinner: pasta with shrimp/spinach in a lemon sauce. Q requested no shrimp and only H wanted the feta. Took less than 20 minutes, even though it wasn't fully defrosted when I started.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What's My Plan B?

In my last post, I discussed the "adjuncting" life and why it might not be sustainable for me (and isn't sustainable for many). This issue is one that has been addressed in articles, such as "No More Plan B," which suggest that a PhD may lead not only to the academic/research route and that institutions of higher learning should start training their students for alternatives. Basically, (as many law school grads have found out in the past few years in their own field) there are lots of people holding doctorates and few available teaching positions.  Now, for those in the sciences, such as Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory, private companies come calling, but what of those of us in the liberal arts? I give you my own many plan B's:

1. Copy editor. Did you know I wrote "Become a professional copy editor" and, then, realized that it was too wordy and struck out three of them? Obviously, copy editor material. Plus, even though my grammar is not flawless, I must be better than a lot of people. I'm at least better than autocorrect

2. Paralegal. I did this job for a few years during and right after college. I could probably do it again.

3. Episcopal priest. Now, this position would require lots more schooling and I think I'd have to live away from home to go to seminary (none seem to be local), but I could be a copy editor or paralegal until the girls go off to college and, then, enroll. Also, I would need to convert.

4. Historical Fact-Checker for TV/Movies. I'm actually not very good at historical specifics, but I have a lot of friends who are and I think they'd help me if I went to them with a question. There is always google and wikipedia.

5. Stylist. I used to cut my friends' hair in college. One of them told me that when he became rich (direct quote about his post-graduation plans, "Fly like a rocket through the free-market economy") that he would bring me with him to keep his hair in shape. As far as I know, he has not become the next Richard Branson, so this path is also on hold.

6. Politician. Except I like people to like me. I am, however, very opinionated and always right.

7. Podcaster for What You Missed in History Class. I think I could get the NPR-like patter down. I actually sent in my resume and writing samples for a freelance writing gig for the parent program and we'll see if I hear back. If I'm being honest, which why not, this one is a true dream job, not just a Plan B.  I have long been a fan of Peter Laslett and his efforts to create the UK's Open University. I love the idea of making knowledge accessible to everyone. I throw it out to you, universe. Make it so.

The core issue here is passion. I was discussing this with my sister-in-law, who is a working actress, but is considering her options because acting doesn't provide a lot of stability or a steady paycheck, but we have both spent so long following our passions that it seems silly to shift out of gear now. So do I continue to adjunct in the hopes of landing a full-time teaching job at some point? Do I just cobble together lots of different part-time jobs once I have degree in hand? Do I hope that someone from How Stuff Works comes calling?

It's an adjuncting life for me (?)

Well, another term has started and I have been assigned a class to teach.  Now, I wait and see if I have enough students enrolled and whether the class will actually take place ...

All adjuncts will find this period of limbo familiar. Approximately 1-2 weeks before a semester/term/quarter starts, those in the 'adjunct pool' at every university/college and in every field begin waiting around (very hopefully) that they will be one of the lucky ones chosen to teach a class. Maybe even 2 or 3! (3 is usually the most that one adjunct is permitted to teach at a each university, but, to make full-time pay, you usually need to teach at least 5, so many of us have our hats in multiple 'adjunct pools' and are loathe to turn down a job, even if we are already overextended, because (a) we need the money, (b) we need the experience to keep our CVs relevant, and (c) we are hoping that one of these schools remembers what a team player we are and brings us on as full-time faculty sooner rather than later.)

The last hope is, of course, a pipe dream for many of us as over the past 2 generations/40 years, adjuncting has largely replaced full-time and tenured track faculty positions. (Read more here, here, and here.) Of course, this shift toward part-time/no benefits works is not limited to academia (see: any article ever on Walmart), although there are companies that prove that one can give benefits to part-time workers, while still turning a profit (see: Costco, Lowes, Starbucks).

Many of us in the academic field hold out the hope that a community college or maybe really small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere will want us, but it probably isn't realistic. [To say nothing of those that hope to land a cushy job at a research institute, especially right out of grad school. While it can happen, this expectation is right up there with kids who graduate college with a business degree and don't understand why they aren't the CEO of Sony in 6 months. It isn't going to happen and the majority of us know that.]

Anyway, while for now adjuncting, especially online, is ideal for bringing in some extra income, it is not income that can be counted on as there is no assurance that I will have a job next week, let alone next term. I love teaching. A lot. And I've looked into becoming a high school teacher once I'm done and I may do that (not that there are many open history teacher positions as I hear time and time again), so the question becomes: what is my Plan B?

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I am shamelessly borrowing this idea from Shannonlea at Double the Blessings, Twice the Fun. TIDWTFT = Things I Don't Want to Forget Thursday. I'm not sure if I'm going to remember to do it every week, but I really like it.

You have a cold, but are almost better. Every night you cough off and on for about 30 minutes, but you never wake up. You take your vitamins and probiotics nicely because, as you tell us, they will "feel me better." You are working on your letters at Starfall (which is apparently used in our district), but haven't quite accepted that you can't just touch the screen, but must use the trackpad.

You have a cold, too, but are in the middle of it. You hate the nosefrida, but have become very adept at batting it away and twisting your head. I thought I had more time before I'd have to wrestle you to clean your nose! You love to talk and starting "coughing" last week to communicate. You never wake up at night (except to eat), even when your sister coughs for half an hour! Finally, you are working on passing toys from hand to hand (though sometimes your thumb gets in the way) and you can almost fully turn from back to front - if only your pesky arm wouldn't get in the way!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Accountability and Writing: it takes a village

When we left NYC, my adviser warned that many students find it difficult to keep the momentum going once away from the academic solidarity of grad school.  As I had already experienced that during my year of "maternity leave" with Q (meaning I paid tuition, but barely did any work), I knew she was right. Luckily, I earned a fellowship for the next year of Q's life, which gave me enough to pay for Q to go part-time to a lovely in-home daycare.  It was a few months later, however, that H got a job across the country and my adviser sounded the above warning. I scrambled for childcare once we arrived at our new home and started hitting up the local college's library. I had an article, which I needed to finish, and I did manage to pull it together enough to do so, but I failed to hit a groove. I was writing for deadlines and, as many grad students know, those deadlines can be faraway and less than effective at inspiring work.

Soon after, we bought a house and the paperwork and moving was left to me (I might have said we would never move again at this point). Oh, and then we decided to have Z.

What I'm saying is: life, as it does for many of us, kept happening and my writing goals were always the first by the wayside.  (Today, for example, H was home from work, but the girls and I have colds. Z wanted to nurse most of the day and it is pretty difficult to write while checking printed materials and hold a nursing baby, so even with the extra help, scholarship lost. I told H that if he ever wondered why my dissertation never gets finished to look at today. He asked, "This happens every day?" I replied, "Something happens every day.") I kept trying to give myself deadlines by applying for conferences, but it wasn't sustainable.

Finally, as mentioned in my year in review post, I decided to write a page a day. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  Two friends and I decided to keep on top of each other.  This method worked well until Z's birth, when she and my teaching load eclipsed all else (as noted in my hopeful, yet not reflective of reality weekly schedule).  Last week, however, another friend decided to introduce group accountability on a larger scale.  She got the idea from the Notorious PhD.  It is a 12 week system and we write up weekly goals. Those that fail to meet them will be booted. My friend even made up a cute website for us.

My goal this week is to finish my "master" table. I'll post an update of my work every Tuesday - that's the day we need to let everyone know how we did! For more on the success of making daily writing a goal, see this entry from Get a Life, PhD.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I was uncool before it was cool or haters gonna hate

(Update: friend just sent me this article. Brills <---- short for brilliant. I'm trying to make it happen. Tell your friends!)

As I may have mentioned (or not), I have many older brothers - more than 3, less than 5.  None of my brothers ever played sports past grade school. And I believe only one played a team sport at all and that was my youngest, older brother who played on a community soccer team around age 5. Other than that, to the best of my knowledge, my brothers only fenced. Yes, fenced. My father, a lover and player of organized sports, was gifted with 4 sons who could not care less about team sports and don't to this day. What did they care about? Theater. One sailed. Oh, and role-playing games.

Really, in a nutshell, that's all you need to know about the environment in which I was raised.

Due to this environment, I believed it was cool to watch Woody Allen and Monty Python. Before I was 10, I had a crush on Martin Sheen after seeing him in Apocalypse Now. Blackadder? Where it's at. Billy Idol? The ultimate music to listen to, unless you have the Rocky Horror Picture Show available, but, really, you should just watch the latter. I had bifocals until my eyes got so bad that I just needed straight glasses, even to read. I had braces from age 10 to 14. I did go to sleep away camp twice, both times at colleges, where I took classes, including fencing and international economics.

What did I wear? Well, thanks to my mom's love of Laura Ashley and the fact that I was a girl after 4 boys: a lot of dresses and, when those weren't available, pastel corduroy pants with matching turtlenecks. Around 11 or 12, I rebelled and began to pick out my own clothes. My favorite store? A Canadian outpost called "Northern Reflections" that made it all the way to the Paramus Park Mall. I owned some awesome shirts from there. One had a large sunflower on it. Many had animals. All were extremely comfortable. Did I wear them ironically? Hell, no. They were awesome. Would I wear them today? Probably under something because I wouldn't want someone to think I was wearing them ironically.*

Dressing myself circa 1992 in Disney World. You can't make it out, but I'm wearing socks with white sandals and I still remember just how soft that flag shirt was. God, it was so soft.

Which brings me to my main point: uncool is now cool as long as you are doing it in an ironic way and that's not cool. Or that was my main point until I read the following: "Why the 'Fake Geek Girl' Meme Needs to Die."  For realsies?

I was raised playing role-playing games because it was the best way to keep an eye on me when my brothers were in charge. Also, there wasn't much else to do in our town until you could drive, so my brothers' friends would come over to play. Hence, I was pretty sure role-playing was cool, although I did eventually realize it wasn't mainstream cool, if you will. In college, I joined the role-playing game club because I was a little homesick and these guys seemed familiar and nice and they were. I never pretended to know the back story on most of what we did, because I didn't, but the whole point of playing is to create a character and stick to it, which, thanks to the emphasis on theater (also by my brothers) I can do.

Am I a poser? Shut your mouth.

Am I a true sci-fi nerd? No, nor have I ever pretended to be, even though, yes, I sometimes let out a "frack!" but I blame that on TWOP.  I suppose, if we were going to try and categorize it, while I am not a practicing sci-fi nerd, I am a cultural one.

I am, however, a nerd. I have logged countless hours playing games with 20-sided dice, I'm getting a PhD in medieval history, and, to toot my own horn, I won a Harry Potter trivia contest during my study abroad at Oxford. One Christmas, one of my brothers received a Sega Genesis and a game called Star Fox. My brothers decided the best way to play this game, which was pretty much about flying spaceships and not dying, if I remember correctly, was to wear another brother's Darth Vader helmet backward and see who lived the longest. I am proud (proud!) to say that I did. It might have been a full 60 seconds, I can't say for sure as the moment is lost in the mists of times and glory.  I have most of Ellen DeGeneres's comedy bits from the late 80s/early 90s memorized. I used to "do them" for friends while waiting for play practice to start in high school. Also, Father Guido Sarducci from Gilda Live! But now I'm expected to prove myself to some guy that I know as much as he does about an obscure topic just to defend my nerdness? HA! Bring it and I'll respond by asking you celebrity gossip questions.

I say to you, fellow geeks** of the world, stop trying to make yourselves "cool" by forcing someone else to be uncool.  Because, let's face it, you could never rock a sunflower t-shirt the way I did, so you're pretty much all posers.

* H just said that he doesn't think anyone outside of our circle wears animal shirts and he doesn't do it ironically, but wasn't that 3-wolf-moon t shirt a thing?
**Not the ones that bite heads off chickens.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A pretty spot-on assessment of working from home by someone else

Pamie on working from home.

Albeit, sans children. Really need that full-time Edwardian nanny (or two) to show up.

Oh, and the blogger Get A Life, PhD asks if I have an overwork problem? Nope, I have an underwork problem. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

I don't Pinterest and that's okay

(Dammit - I just noticed that the Bloggess's most recent post is about pinterest and now I feel like it is going to look like I'm writing in response even though our posts have nothing in common other than mentioning pinterest in the title. I just really like my title, so I'm keeping it. I seriously doubt anyone would care, because, let's face it, she's the Bloggess and I have, maybe, ten readers on a good day. Hello, readers!)

A few weeks ago, the article Why You're Never Failing as a Mother made the rounds on facebook. The intent behind the article is obvious: don't feel bad about keeping up with the Joneses (how do you make that plural?).  The "Mommy Wars" have received a lot of coverage over the past few years and I'm not going to say that they aren't alive and well, because I'm sure many people have experienced them (or the fall out), but, in my experience, it isn't about stay at home moms against work at home or bottle feeders versus breastfeeders. It's about someone being a jerk and, to be honest, I'm pretty sure that person would be a jerk about anything, not just your or my choices on motherhood.

Yes, people have told me to sleep train my 5 week old, yes, people have told me not to feed her as often, yes, people have stopped me at the playground with (unsolicited) "advice" for how to help my non-crawling 9 month old crawl (Q didn't crawl until 10.5 months). But you know what? I never thought to myself, wow, you are so right, I feel so badly about my choices and you make me second guess myself. Nope, I just thought, "jerk" or "you're crazy."* (One time, a friend and I were at the Fra Angelico exhibit at the Met - I think it was that exhibit, she is an art history grad student, I'm not, and it was over 5 years ago - and we were examining representations of the dormition of Mary, which is an Eastern Orthodox, not Western belief, I believe. At least, my 12+ years of Catholic school hadn't mentioned it and I was confused and said, "I've never heard of the dormition of Mary." Well, a woman behind me interjected to tell me that I need to "read more." It turned out she was a big fan of Dan Brown - no, I will not link to any of his work - and firmly believed in a Church cover up about Mary. My internal reaction? "You're crazy." My external? "Oh, wow, thanks, yes, we'll look into that.")

How do I internalize the majority of unsolicited advice or critiques on my parenting? I don't. I just - in most cases - think "Jerk." What I'm saying is, if you offer me unsolicited advice or criticisms, I will mentally categorize you as a crazy Dan Brown fan who accosts innocent museum-goers and insists that they "read more" until they are as steeped in the crazy as you.

A better question for the Mommy Wars is not "why are women fighting amongst themselves/not supporting their sisters" but "why are women so willing to second-guess themselves?" And it isn't just about motherhood.

I have two little girls and I want them to be confident in their beliefs and choices.

Disclaimer: I am talking about unsolicited, unhelpful advice, not suggestions by professionals. Also, my mom loves Dan Brown. Furthermore, while I don't Pinterest, I love seeing all the creative efforts. My sister did EVERYTHING for her wedding, including making her own papier mache centerpieces and cake top. It looked wonderful and even made it to Style Me Pretty. She and many people are really talented and I am in awe of their and, perhaps, your abilities. But they don't make me feel like my mothering is subpar, since I have not one crafty/artsy bone in my body. They just make me appreciate your efforts all the more. You want to explain the origins of the undead to preschoolers? I'm your mom. You want to make cupcake toppers? I am not.

Z doing tummy time on a blanket made by my sister while wearing PJ pants ALSO made by my sister.  See? Crafty. Me? Not at all. But I reap the benefits.

*I am so badass that neither my parents nor H's liked Q's name when we told it to them when she was still in utero and their negativity did nothing to make me change my mind about it other than to think, "Why would you keep asking what we were going to name the baby, only to shoot it down as soon as we told you? Jerks."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Modeling My Natural Form

Also known as: you will never be alone in the bathroom again, so just tell yourself it is to help your children have realistic expectations and embrace their own bodies as they age.

Just keeping it real over here with my non-Smartphone photo

I'm not sure how well this will work towards helping their sense of self as they grow up, but it's not like I can keep them out of the bathroom or bedroom. Neither has a lock.

(1) let my girls know what a normal, female figure looks like: CHECK!

(2) do not make negative comments about my normal, female figure: in progress.

(3) do not stand in a dressing room bemoaning my legs as my little girls watch me, only to turn to them and say, "You both have my legs!": not yet by me, but pretty much every shopping experience with my mom growing up (and that's a lot! Oh, and my mom is 5'1" and never weighed over 94lbs my entire childhood and adolescence).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I know it's trendy not to do resolutions, because no one completes them, but I'm old school and like the idea of resolutions. Also, my friend, a hypnotherapist, used to say that one of the worst words you could use when planning for the future is "hope." Much like Yoda says:

Here we go:

(1) Finish the dissertation. Not just in draft, but done.

(2) Get ready to run a half-marathon in January 2014.

Should I put my Billy Wilder resolution? What do you think?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not a Bad Way to Start the New Year

As I changed Z on my parents bed - we're visiting - Q lay next to her and said, "You're my best friend, Z."

I hope 2013 continues to be just as sweet and loving for all of you.