Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's a Bird, it's a Plane ... No! It's Dissertation Girl!

The dissertation continues.  I am hoping to defend in January so there is a lot of work to be done before then (graduation in May I hope, hope, hope!)  I have to get the most updated version of all my chapters back to Dr M by November 5 which is doable.  I am pretty much finished with the whole thing but I need to play around with the introduction and conclusion a bit and make sure that my Works Cited page is completely reflecting all of the most current updates (which I am pretty sure that it isn't at the moment).  Right now this weekend has only a few things on the calendar -- one 5K on Saturday night and cheering on some friends who are half-marathoning and marathoning on Sunday morning.  I still have my volunteer job on Sunday morning but that still gives me Friday evening, Saturday during the day, and good chunk of Sunday.  Oh, and I have a pile of essays coming in on Friday.  But I can do it!  Dissertation Girl will power through!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Dilemma

Want a peek inside my head? -- well, one of the issues on my mind right now is the question of applying for a new teaching position.  I am almost sorry that I saw the posting in the first place because now all I can think about is whether I should try applying for the job (or not).  The job is at a nearby university and is a FT, tenured position, just like the type of job that I have right now.

It is not that I am "unhappy" with my present job (I love, love, love the students I work with -- and the fabulous people on my campus who are all so dedicated to helping students succeed) but ... I think I am up for a new challenge (and  maybe the fact that I feel so "not sure" about this opportunity reflects that I am not content where I am).  Like many folks who work on an "outer" campus, I don't get to see colleagues much and this results in not getting many opportunities to help shape and mold our department as a whole.  If you know me, then you surely know that I have tons of energy and I love using that enthusiasm and passion for helping -- sorry if this sounds cheesy -- to make the world a better place.

But then there are the cons, of course, to consider -- you never know if the new place is "worse" than the old place.  What happens if the department over there is filled with folks (faculty and staff) who are not dedicated like the great people here?  What about seniority? (I have been on my campus/ school for almost 14 years)  Could I succeed at another tenure process?  What if the job is harder and I can't handle it?  What happens if I screw up?  Maybe I am not cut out to work at a university and help create and coordinate a program?  Do I have enough knowledge to do this?  What would happen if this new place would "close" and then I am out of a FT job?  What if I regret leaving?

A wise co-worker just told me yesterday that I need to understand that I have two DIFFERENT questions here -- (1) Should I apply for a new position?  (2) Should I take the position if it is offered to me?  This is true -- I am already thinking ahead about something that may potentially not happen (FYI:  My present position was obtained after experiencing one FT interview so I guess I was wondering if that will remain my track record?)  And I am not 100% convinced that this should happen.  So bear with me for a moment while I think about weighing both sides ...


  • I would not have to move.  This school is just down the road from my present school.
  • I would be able to help shape a new Basic Writing Program (so lots of the kind of "stuff" that I don't get right now)
  • I would get the chance to possibly teach a graduate seminar in composition studies.
  • A new campus situation could equal = an actual office (not a cubicle) or even access to a gym (and it might be quieter as my present office is impacted by the karaoke and other student activities going on in the Commons right next door to me).
  • Change is good; it keeps us alive.


  • I love my present job.
  • This new job might include a paycheck with less money
  • I "know" my job here and have been doing it for 14 years.
  • I have seniority (tenure)
  • Jim and I have been thinking about moving far, far away.
  • I am a big chicken.

So there you go (and technically, if you are keeping count, that are more cons than pros!) -- I am beginning to think that applying might be a good thing to do regardless.  I haven't been out on the job market for a long time and it might be interesting to see if I get a nibble.  If I commit to applying for the position, I would need to use some time and energy to get my application packet together (and this, of course, is a resource in limited supply!).  These folks are asking for a teaching philosophy statement and this is something I haven't put together in awhile.

So any thoughts?  What would you do?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Some Advice from Alice Hoffman

So I have no idea what is going on recently.  I just can't seem to get myself to write.  I know that I am busy but I am busy every semester -- lots of students, lots of essays, and lots of things that just have to be done.  This semester I am teaching a night class on Monday nights that goes from 7:00 - 9:50 PM and I know that this one class is seriously kicking my butt.  It is not just the late time slot - it is also just a combination of me being tired from teaching and working all day to interacting with folks who have had similar (if not worse) days.  I just can't seem to get the class at the point where the class is both fun and serious.

So I need to remember to write, something that gets lost in the midst of teaching and just living life.  I am also not reading as much as I usually do and that definitely needs to change.  A few weeks ago, I walked across the street to Left Bank Books (the fabulous independent bookstore across the street) and discovered that Alice Hoffman (one of my favorite contemporary writers) had written a new book called Survival Lessons.  Apparently, she had breast cancer about 15 years ago and she just now compiled some of her thoughts on being a "survivor."  Not only was this an "easy read" (at about 83 pages), but each section of the book had one of those little "aha" moments for me.  So perhaps this would be a good "bridge" in getting back to writing!

First, Hoffman starts by establishing this super cool reminder about how bad events are "important" in your life: "There were many times when I forgot about roses and starry nights.  I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other.  This is what makes us human" (vii).  This is obviously a pretty simple thing to say but I think this helps me better grasp the whole "why me?" mentality when I am feeling down (whether I am bummed about my body and breast cancer or I am bummed about my job).  She ends this chapter with the saying, "There is always a before and an after.  My advice, travel light.  Choose only what you need most to see you through."  Hmmm ... Perhaps this resonated with me because I am probably carrying too much crap in my life (the abstract luggage like "Can I do this?" or "Am I a bad person?")

In a nut shell, there were some many tiny pieces of advice that Hoffman suggested throughout the book to folks who want to "survive" (whether it is post breast cancer or pretty much any other traumatic life event) - here are just a few more that I liked:

"Make time for old friends" (page 20)

I need to do this more!  I have been so blessed to have amazing people in my life.  I know that I love it when I get a surprise card in the mail from an old friend.  I need to work better at being this kind of friend to all the wonderful people in my life.  How in the world did I get so darn lucky?

"When you help others, your own troubles aren't as heavy" (page 45)

I volunteer every week at Hope but I want to do more.  Hoffman is right when she says that we feel better by helping other people.  Even when I am working with a student and that "aha" moment happens, it is a joyous moment for me just as much as it is for the student.  I need to concentrate on the feeling, especially when I am feeling like I am not making a difference.

"Don't worry about wasting [time].  It belongs to you" (page 59)

It does, doesn't it?  I have lived with this Protestant work ethic my entire life that makes me feel guilty for doing nothing.  You know what I mean -- just vegging on the couch and practicing the whole art of doing nothing.  But that is so hard to do!  But I need to get over that.  Sometimes doing nothing is the most productive thing that you can do.

"People say no man on his deathbed ever said he wished he had spent more time at the office.  I disagree ... When your work brings you joy, you cannot get enough of it. .... If you don't feel this way about your current work, take the time to make something beautiful" (page 63)

I am not 100% happy in my job anymore.  I am not sure what it is -- I know that I am yearning for new challenges though I am not sure what those new challenges are or need to be.  Maybe I need to apply for that opening at SIU -- it would mean a HUGE change but maybe change is something I need right now.  But, then again, what if it's a mistake?  What if you are just being tested to determine if where you are at right now is where you should be?

"If you can forgive someone, I highly recommend that you do.  It will be like losing twenty pounds.  Maybe even two hundred and twenty pounds" (page 70).

Forgiving is not easy.  But it is an action that I have control over (especially since I haven't figured out how that whole mind control over other people think works yet!).  So I need to do it often and not carry the burden of feeling hurt and/ or angry.

Hoffman has wise words here.  Simple, but they hit the mark of something that I have been feeling myself and haven't been able to articulate.  So I am going to take stumbling on her new book to be a good thing, even maybe something like a karma-like moment!