Monthly Archives: June 2016

Life Update

The last few posts I’ve made have been mostly about how damned stressed out I’ve been, and while it was somewhat my choice to be so stressed, anyone on the tenure track will verify that the hardest thing about being not-yet-tenured is feeling like you can’t say “no” to stuff. Add that to my tendency to want to Do All The Things (all the things that I feel are important and/or that I’d be good at, anyway), and you wind up under hurricane-force levels of stress for five years straight.

Yeah. It hasn’t been good for me. I’ve come up for air, now, and despite my good work-life balance practices, which I have written lots about…I still packed more stuff into both things (work life and home life) than would fit, then tried to shoehorn it all in. It wasn’t good for me. It wasn’t good for my marriage. It wasn’t good for my relationship with my family. It wasn’t good for my relationship with my SPOUSE’S family. My kids…well, mostly I think they’re fine, because kids tend to be resilient, AND some of the extra stuff was specifically for making sure my kids were fine.

Yeah, I’ve been hard to live with. For a long while. Compared to my theoretical “normal” personality. And it’s hard to come down from years of that. My central nervous system needs to remember what “normal” feels like.

Good news: I think I’m ALMOST there. I’ve caught up at work. I’ve said “no” to multiple things. I’ve finished things that I’m not going to replace with new things. I’ve got some work to do in various types of relationship maintenance, which has never been my strong suit, but, hey, I’ve got the time, right?

So, we moved. We moved to a much nicer house in a better neighborhood. The new location has improved my husband’s commute substantially, though we both get the nasty commute if we’re not careful about timing. But the split is even, now.

What I love about my new neighborhood: there’s a park right next door. Okay, on the opposite side of the house right next door, but LITERALLY seconds away, with no intervening streets to cross. Kid 1 is there as I write this, playing with one of several new friends she’s made. I pop over to check on her every once in a while, but “going out to play” is now a matter of, “Mom, I’m going to the park,” and, “Okay, see you in a few.”

Relatives, please don’t freak out over my unsupervised 6-year-old at the park. She’s okay. Strangers aren’t even in the top five biggest risks to kids, and she’s smart and knows the rules. Kids need to be allowed to develop independence. That said, I’m gonna pop over there now and get eyes on her for a few seconds. Be right back…

Okay, I’m back. You never knew I was gone, did you? Anyway, she’s fine. Playing with yet another new friend, not the same one who came to the door to ask for her. There are about 5 kids and one mom at the park right now. I have a little kid-minding village next door. (I was out there myownself, taking a break with both kids, about an hour ago. I do a bit of kid-minding village duty, too.)

Other stuff we love: there’s a Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, five minutes’ walk from us. Lots of inexpensive fresh produce, and Kid 2 likes to walk the market, scamming every vendor out of a strawberry sample. I swear, he’s eaten an entire flat of strawberries before I finally pay for some. The market is in the OTHER park, the one they can’t walk to alone yet, which is a lot bigger and has a lovely gazebo.

Across the street from the Farmer’s Market is a little coffee shop, which has excellent coffee as well as inexpensive pastries and desserts. They sell a really nice cheesecake, and a cup of coffee and slice of cheesecake comes in at under $5.

Then there’s just…the neighborhood is safer, by all appearances. No graffiti (yes, our old neighborhood had started to sprout graffiti on people’s fences, which, urk). No loud parties at night (so far). Neighbors appear to observe the “it’s dark now, so we start being quiet” rules.

The weather is cooler. Now, I don’t mind hot weather. I grew up in Sacramento, so it’s not REALLY hot out until it hits 100 degrees outside. Or 85 indoors. Whichever. But here…85 degrees outside is a “hot” day. Which makes Dave much happier. We haven’t used the air conditioning (which we have now and didn’t before) once yet.

Other than that – I’m working from home two days a week this summer, and it’s really working from home interspersed with “getting stuff done at home”. Or taking kids to doctors’ appointments. Or going to the park. I’m taking some of my summer to have a summer. Because I’ve worked REALLY damn hard for it. I still managed to get caught up at work, because summer is awesome, and my lab is established enough to function without my physical presence a couple days a week.

I’m trying very hard to remember how to be a person who doesn’t work all the time. Because, for years, even when I wasn’t working, I was working, you know? Dishes, laundry, picking up, keeping the books for the preschool, etc. I’m actively taking some time to NOT work again. For reals. Have a glass of wine, watch TV, read a trashy summer novel, take a bubble bath, take kids to the zoo, walk to the farmers’ market, go to the coffee shop…leave the laundry, it’ll keep. Really. It will.

So, that’s the update. I’m starting to feel like a real person again. By end of summer, I may actually BE a real person again. Won’t that be awesome?

 

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Now, About That Presidential Primary

I’m gonna start by linking to John Scalzi’s post on this, because it does a much better job than I will of covering the same ground.

Everyone who talks to me, friends me on Facebook, or follows me on Twitter knows that I am a feminist…liberal…socialist…all that. Nonetheless, I didn’t support the most liberal candidate for the Democratic nomination, for reasons that evolved but didn’t completely change over the months.

Hillary Clinton…where to start? I love her. I really do. If you’re one of those on the right OR left (okay, only two people on the right actually read my stuff) who think she’s a shapeshifting corrupt career criminal, you’re probably perplexed by this. You may even think I’m willfully ignoring evidence. On the other hand, if you know me, you know better than that. My point is that I have never SEEN any convincing evidence of the criminality or corruption you speak of, while I have, for decades, watched this amazing woman keep trudging forward, fighting her way to what she wants, and succeeding every step of the way. She inspires me. She makes my daughter proud. I got chills both times I voted for her in a primary election.

Also, when I vote, I don’t just vote based on my own personal political views. That is foremost, don’t get me wrong, but I also gauge the candidates in other ways. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are virtually identical in their positions. Her approach has been more incrementalist, more cautious, more quiet, more diplomatic. More political. And when I vote for a President, I want a politician. I don’t WANT an outsider. I want the person who is good at the job of being a politician. She’s simply better at that job than Bernie is.

The fact that Hillary is an excellent politician is part of why people hate her. (Though her being female is a bigger part – I am unwilling to discuss her “likability” in the absence of a discussion of misogyny and double standards for behavior.) She makes deals. She compromises. She seems like the sort of person who will mess you up in public if you cross her. She seems like most male politicians. She seems like she’d be really good at the job.

It’s okay with me if you don’t want that in your leaders. That’s cool. My point is that I sort of do. I want to know that she’s willing to compromise. That she’s willing to not get what she wants now in order to get more of what she wants later. That she’s okay with people not liking her, honestly.

I don’t think she’s remotely corrupt. Or a criminal. She’s also not a pure, perfect angel. She doesn’t have to be.

I will also admit this: when two candidates are in other ways equivalent, I will vote for the woman. Every single time.

The other reason, here at the end of the primary season, that I have bad feelings about Bernie is this: he bills himself as “different”, more honest, the only candidate who has never changed his views, never had to evolve to a new perspective.

For a start, I don’t give out bonus points for longevity of rightness. If I agree with you now, and your opinions seem sincere, I don’t care when you came to your senses. So I never really cared on that front.

But on another front: the second Bernie started winning things occasionally, he suddenly became…less honest. I said this months ago – he repeats the same tired old lies about Hillary. He insinuates that the mere fact that she gave a paid speech to a Wall Street company means she’s corrupt. (That’s not evidence, that’s just wild speculation.)

Also, the tone of a campaign comes from the top down. Like it or not. And early on, I started to notice that the tone of a lot (not remotely all, but a LOT) of Bernie supporters was very much like that of Trump supporters. And the idea that you’re losing due to some vast conspiracy against you? Whatever, dudebros.

Last night, Hillary mentioned Bernie in her speech. Her audience cheered.

Bernie mentioned Hillary in his speech. His audience booed. Yes, I do hold him at least partially responsible for this.

And then there’s the last month of his campaign. EVERYONE in his camp (and in the math-using world) knew he had no shot. He and his surrogates had been saying how undemocratic superdelegates are…for months. But suddenly, that’s his plan. To flip superdelegates and win an election where you don’t have a majority of, well, anything. Not votes, not states won, not pledged delegates. But he gave that plan to his supporters, and a large subset of them bought into it. It’s a lie, people. A big one. And he told it for weeks.

Last night he was more measured. He knows he can’t win. No chance. But he was not gracious. He was not kind. He could not be bothered to acknowledge the momentous thing that Hillary had achieved. Yeah, I don’t like it. I don’t trust him. I think his ego is in the driver’s seat. Not sure it started out that way, but that’s how it reads now.

So…I was thrilled to be a California voter last night. Because, for once, we mattered. We got to say, “No, sorry, the election is over now.” Our votes gave her the majority of the popular vote she needed to claim a mandate of the party’s primary electorate. We handed Hillary Clinton the first ever nomination of a woman to the top spot on a major party ticket. And for this, I am proud.

And her victory speech? Kicked ass.

 

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Huh.

So. Strictly speaking, there are a lot of things to talk about. For a start: how about that Presidential Primary, right? But I’ve been very busy and stressed out and tired, and getting back in the habit of semi-regular writing is hard. (She whined.)

But the only way to get it done is to do it, so here I am. What’s been up in my world lately?

Let’s start with the big one: I was tenured 12 days ago. It was…a huge relief, and just about as awesome as I hoped it would be. My tenure was never really a question, but that Impostor Syndrome thing is real, and you are always afraid, somewhere buried deep down inside, that you won’t succeed, even when you know that this one is largely in the bag.

So what have I done since tenure? Well, I changed all my e-mail signatures and my letterhead, and ordered new business cards. 😉 Beyond that, nothing new. I have things that need doing, and I’ve been trying to catch up. I’m almost caught up, which is lovely.

There is a summer research experiences for undergraduates (REU) program here, for which I became director this past semester, largely because it looked like it might not happen if I didn’t take it over. We have ten students on campus, who started last Friday, and so far they seem mostly happy with their lot. I have a fair amount of secretarial work to do on that score – they need to be paid and fed, etc., and I have to requisition money for these things. I also have one REU student of my very own, who is eager and, as always, somewhat disappointed that fly work takes two weeks to REALLY get going. Had I been less “drowning in my own work” this spring, I might have gotten flies going for her ahead of time.

Or not. We all drop the ball on a few things a semester. But she will have some lovely data by summer’s end.

I am revising my Human Genetics course right now, to include less lecturing, more in-class student interaction, and to eliminate high-stakes exams. One of my “once I get tenure” plans was to figure out how to evaluate student learning without exams, and also without losing my mind.

The good news is that I have tenure and a fully-funded lab right now, so my summer will be less “write grants like crazy” than it ever has been before, and while I have 2-3 papers in the queue, I have less immediate pressure to push them out. (Though I have two that should just be DONE already, so I hope to get them written by August.)

I also plan to revise syllabuses for three other classes, work on changes to our M.S. degrees, and actually talk to my students on a regular basis. Ah, summer.

Oh, and I have a big meeting to go to in Florida in July.

My home life is equally busy right now…my son “graduated” from preschool last week, my daughter’s kindergarten promotion is tomorrow, and we’re moving to a new house in a new city on Friday. Did you all know that a kitchen takes three DAYS to pack properly? Yeah.

Overall, I’d have to say life is pretty good. How’s yours?

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