Sunday, February 27, 2011

Damn It

I just wrote a really long post about my great, relaxing weekend organizing the house (we finally finished exchanging duplicates to get all of the things we wanted from our registry and I've been loving snuggling up in our new bedding and filling and labeling magnetic spice tins that stick to the fridge and make finding the spices I need so easy I can't believe I was rooting through spice cabinets for all this time, I wasted so many minutes of my life) and playing "Weed or Good Plant?" in the back yard.
And after I typed up the whole thing, it just disappeared. Blargh. I guess the summary is:
-I love my spice tins and all of our wedding gifts, really, and feel like our house is designed to my liking for the time being.
-I spent an hour today picking up sticks from the backyard and putting them into an enormous kindling pile (we have a ridiculous number of trees [9, I think, and that's just the backyard] and it has been a windy winter).
-Penn and I found two garden hoses that had basically become a part of the ivy that covers 1/3rd of our yard. I got them out of the ivy. That was FUN.
-There are so many plants in the yard. I can't wait to see what they are when everything starts blooming. Today I cleaned all of the dead leaves out of the eight flower pots/planters that Penn and I found in the yard when we moved in. I thought I'd plant herbs in them in a few weeks, but it turns out half of them already have plants beginning to grow in them. One looks like a rose plant and most of the others look like they may be tomato plants. I know nothing at all about gardening and always assumed I'd have a black thumb if given the opportunity to take a shot at it, but the internet seems to have a bunch of information on growing plants and I'd like to try. I'll be researching low-maintenance plants and flowers if you need me. I did plant some bulbs when we moved into the house in November and I'm thrilled that my daffodils are starting to come up. I hope they actually flower!
-I'm finally beginning to feel like we're getting the house to a place where we'll be satisfying just doing basic maintenance for a while rather than major overhauls. The inside feels complete for the time being, and the yard is getting there. Penn spent the day laying mulch in the backyard, which goes a long way toward making the riot of plants back there look intentional rather than just crazy. Home projects are never done, but I think...I hope...we're almost finished making weekly trips to Home Depot. Yay
-Now let's hope tomorrow's predicted severe weather doesn't screw up all our hard work.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What I Did in February

I feel like I am never going to catch up on everything I need to do. I'm beginning to wonder if this will just be a perpetual state: no real set schedule from week to week, a constant set of tasks to work on, an ongoing sense that I'm always an hour or a day or a week behind on everything. Last year I felt a bit frantic almost all year. It's not that I wasn't enjoying my life or making free time to relax once in a while because I was (I don't think this is a dire situation, in other words), but my to-d0 list always felt overwhelming. Every time I crossed something off I had to add two or three new tasks. I was hopeful that life was just intensely busy because I was doing so many big things, and I hoped that once those things were over life would become more simple.
This semester should be more simple, in theory. We own a house now and are completely moved in and settled so all of the time and mental energy that went toward preparing to buy a house and hunting for one and moving into and organizing one is behind us. I'm teaching a class for the second time so there is less class prep. The wedding and honeymoon are in the past so all of the hours that went toward wedding planning are now freed up for other things. Somehow things haven't felt easier yet, though. All of those hours have been replaced by other things, like:
  • I've been tutoring at least 10-15 hours a week lately, more when I consider driving time to and from sessions. I thought that maybe I'd take on less tutoring jobs post-honeymoon because I wouldn't feel the pressing need for money, but it turns out nothing makes me more concerned about money than the fact that we may be trying to have a baby soon. I'll (hopefully) hit a point before too long where my ability to bring in an income dries up mostly or even completely, at least for a while [I have so much I could write about trying to decide how often, if at all, I want to work or perhaps need to work while we have young children, but that's a different post...or six...]. I feel this bizarre and somewhat unexpected sense of guilt at the idea of dropping out of the workforce to take care of a baby and even though I know Penn is capable of handling the financing of our lifestyle on his own for a while I don't want him to have to do that, but I also don't want to have a baby and then not be able to at least try to stay at home with my child for a while and, blargh. I'm in an italicized tizzy about it all but apparently the manifestation of this inner debate is that I feel the need to work like a fiend while I still can and save up as much money as possible before I start trying to get pregnant in order to assuage this vague and undefined feeling of guilt about wanting to stay home with a baby and fear that I won't be able to try it unless I manage to save up some mystical amount of money that is "enough" right now.
  • On that note, I've also started writing articles for a content farm. I really should be working on my dissertation in my writing time, but some days when I feel blocked on the dissertation I end up using the bulk of my writing time to do articles instead. The $15 I can make for 30 minutes or an hour of working on an article is irresistible. Finding titles that I feel like writing and working on them has become addictive. It's just so easy. But on the topic of guilt, I feel very icky about the ethics of churning out mediocre drivel for internet search engines. I don't even write the articles under my own name because I'm way too embarrassed to think that someone will find these things on the internet. It's not that I think my articles are bad (some of them are actually good, in a cutesy sort of niche is turning out to be articles on wedding planning and Sunday School activities for children), it's just that they don't jive with the reputation of a scholar that I'm attempting to cultivate. That, and I feel like I'm contributing to the devaluation of quality writing by participating in this company's work at all, even though my own work is fine. It's as if part of me is writing for The New Yorker and then in my spare time I'm anonymously writing articles for The National Enquirer and Tiger Beat. And it feels gross to justify my articles by saying, "Well, I need the money," because I feel like that's a slippery slope, but I certainly can't justify what I'm doing by pretending I'm providing unique and important information. For now I plan to keep at it since it's something I can do from home on my own time while I decide how I feel about doing something I technically disapprove of simply because it's the easiest manner I can find of making quick cash.
  • Wedding stuff isn't quite over. I finally finished opening and putting away our wedding gifts over the weekend (which was a fun task, of course!), and Penn and I finished all of the thank-you notes. But we still have gift cards to spend. That's not a problem--it's a great thing--but it does involve work on my part deciding which of the gifts we were given we should keep and which ones we should return* and what is the best use of our gift cards at three different stores. We used the ones from Sears to get a lawn mower (that was much needed and an easy choice) but deciding which home decor things to get is a bit trickier. I think I've finally figured it out, though, and we're going to do the gift card shopping this weekend. Also, I'm midway through changing my last name. I'm taking Penn's last name and bumping my maiden name to a second middle name. I spent an hour at the social security office applying for a new card and yesterday I spent two hours at the DMV getting a new state driver license with my new name. I still have to change my cards, my passport, and all of my documents at work. It is a PROJECT. I believe it will make life easier in the long run if I just organize this all now, though. I also need to order our wedding album and prints, and I want to write online reviews for all of our vendors, who were uniformly wonderful and deserve praise for making the wedding exactly what Penn and I wanted it to be. So, yeah, it's the wedding that never ends. Fun as it was--and it was a blast--I'm ready for it to fully be in the past. I hope to finally have all of the wedding stuff behind me after next week, though. Other than the whole being-someone's-wife thing, of course.
    *I only return things when we can't use them. We got two slow-cookers, for instance, and someone bought us lamp shades but not lamp bases, and I want to exchange some plates for different colored plates, stuff like that.
  • I was so busy last semester that the course I taught wasn't fully what I wanted it to be, so even though I'm not teaching from scratch I'm doing a fair amount of tweaking to my lesson plans each week. My class is also half the size it was last time, which means that I have less grading but more class prep because the lecture format I used last semester doesn't work as well with a small group and I'm making an effort to create a more engaging, discussion-driven course. So far I'm really happy with how it's going. I really am a good teacher when I have time to focus on teaching. (And I'm a decent teacher even when it's not my focus; I am confident in my teaching abilities and wish I could harness some of that confidence into my research.)
  • It will be spring soon which means Penn and I need to focus on yard work. LOTS of yard work. Our yard was a jungle when we moved in but since it was November and everything was dying we just left it alone to get covered in snow. Now a few things are beginning to bloom and I'm eager to see what we find out there in the spring--we don't even know what half our bare bushes and trees actually are--but I know that getting the yard in a state that's not embarrassing is going to take hours and hours of work.
  • I'm the secretary of a student group and we're restructuring and holding elections and oh my god, it is so much work. I feel like I e-mail people about group issues 27 times a day. I'm stepping down from my post at the end of May because I've held it for two years and because I hope to be wrapping up my dissertation by the fall semester so it's time for a newer student to step into the role. I cannot wait to pass the reins to someone else. I'm proud of the work I've done in keeping the organization going, but it's someone else's turn.
  • At least I am actually working consistently on my dissertation now. I have half a chapter completed and hope to finish three chapters by June. I finally set up an interview with someone whom I've been meaning to contact for a year. Seriously, AN ENTIRE YEAR. And now I meet with two friends every Wednesday to talk about our work and that accountability is helping me immensely.
I'd like to get back into the zone of blogging more than once or twice a month. I like writing here because it's a different format than my personal journal and although I can see that I write less and less every year, I really don't want to kill this thing entirely.
I'm still trying to figure out a concise way to describe my wedding and the honeymoon and how I've been feeling since then, so I'll get that post up eventually. Really.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Today is my wedding anniversary. I have been Penn's wife for exactly one month. I can't believe how quickly this first month has zoomed by.
The years are going to fly, aren't they?

(Real post to come soonish, hopefully. We've been back from our honeymoon for nine days but since I'm simultaneously dealing with the start of a new semester and attempting to catch up on three weeks of ignoring everything in my real life while we were on vacation, it has been difficult to get my life in order. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, though. Yesterday I managed to work out for the first time since I returned from our trip. So time to blog can't be far behind...hopefully...)