Mixed Feelings on 2019

In some ways, 2019 was a real shitkicker of a year. I think my mom dying in January basically set the bar real low. Anything after that wasn’t really all THAT bad. Like how you date someone who cheats on you and steals your shit and everyone you date after that is deemed ok by your very bruised standards.

Reader: 2019 was not all hearts and flowers after January.

To start, there are, I think, a lot of people who are fairly patriotic and who are absolutely horrified by everything this president has done. From putting kids in cages to rolling back environmental regulations, many of us have been rocked to the core over things we *thought* we knew about America and Americans are actually wrong. Of course, I’m sure many POC and individuals from First People nations are like, “Oh, that’s cute.”

Still.

There is a sense that 2019 has been a dumpster fire, which is unreal because a lot of people thought 2018 was a dumpster fire. So at this point they are really just competing with each other to see which could be more of a mess.

I “worked” too much in 2019. Basically I have two modes in my life: work and not work. Everything that pertains to responsibilities, duties, obligations, commitments, and actual work is work. In June I agreed to be president of the parent group of my son’s school. I consider this work because it is comprises activities that I do not find fun or relaxing: asking people for stuff, getting approval for stuff, organizing stuff, etc. It’s not stuff I would do for fun: I am not energized nor invigorated by it. I’m not all that great at it; I consider myself a caretaker president, just trying to keep the lights on and help the school the best I can given all the ways in which I am the absolute worst person for this “job”.

Professionally, it’s been a weird year: a couple of different opportunities for advancement with my current employer didn’t go the way I thought they would. Even though I’ve been “alt-ac” for almost 7 years, I honestly believed this year I had a chance to go back on the tenure track, which is really the only career I’ve wanted since 2003. It feels some kind of way to still want that, like I’m the worst kind of delusional. Like a 15 year old still desperately believing in Santa Claus, because not believing means something.

It’s hard to explain all there is to explain about it. But Reader, know that I am aware of the choices I made…I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. I’m also very bad at making decisions and should *really* never be allowed to make them. To be completely honest to myself, I have a hard time making anyone do things thing I want to do. So it wasn’t as easy as “going off” the tenure track. It was going off the tenure track with a husband and son in tow.

It should be noted that a lot of the stuff that faculty do are things that I do with my jobs currently: research, teaching, and service. I just don’t have the benefit of being able to earn tenure. The thing I really liked about being tenured/tenure track was the ability to control my destiny somewhat. And to me, however hard I had to work, whatever it took to earn tenure was worth it because it meant security after 5-7 years. Now I feel like I have work just as hard, but without the promise of tenure in 5-7 years.

And I know my privilege is showing here, that I am pissing and moaning about the exact shade of the collar of my white collar job. And it’s not really hard work like farming, roofing, plumbing, or the service sector. It’s just not what I wanted is all. But that’s not even all that rare these days. The Academy has changed in earth shattering ways since I started grad school. Under and mis-employed PHDs are a dime a dozen. I’m not special.

I went up for a big promotion at work and didn’t get it. I did get a smaller promotion- one that is mostly in title. The big promotion would have meant I wouldn’t need (financially) to teach, that I could lean into research enhancement and promotion and I’d have the nearly perfect non-tenure track job. But that’s not how this story goes.

I have a new boss. I think it will be okay, but new is new. And sometimes it’s hard to tell how that will shake out. I’m hopeful though.

I did some things professionally that were really good. I got a paper accepted that has been hanging around for three years, that I started data collection on shortly after arriving to Chicago. Its publication is kind of the end of a chapter: the unsure steps of my first largely unsupervised research project.

I applied for and won a grant. I wanted to purchase some data from the state of Illinois and couldn’t figure out a way to get it funded. I learned about this opportunity and put the application together in about 2 weeks. It’s great because it will allow me to purchase A LOT of data. I can publish on this data for years- which would be really important if I was on the tenure track.

I leaned into learning R. I posted about it on Twitter, but my markers for what this would look like were 1) doing a workshop on it, 2) debugging R code on the fly, and 3) having a functional markdown document.

In the waning minutes of my last day in the office of 2019, I accomplished this. Even better, I did it with data for one of my new projects. So when I get back in the office in January, I’m ready to continue developing my R chops.

I put together a series of writing workshops/retreats that were well received. The sense is that we should keep them going in 2020 and I think I will.

But ultimately, I worked too hard in 2019. I didn’t move enough, I didn’t sleep enough. I did stupid shit that interfered with both. I need to develop better habits; so that is what I am going to prioritize in 2020. Not because I have some type of superficial sense that This is What We Do in January: make promises to develop new habits. I literally need to, for my health. For my sanity. I just concluded part 1, but I feel like I’m starting part 2 in a hole.

I also desperately need to have some perspective on work tasks. and recognize that just because it has to be done, doesn’t mean it has to be done right now. I can go to the gym, I can go for a walk.

There is also nothing that happens on social media before work that is worth not cooking a good breakfast, doing yoga, or having a slow cup of tea before a 10-12 hour work day. I need to drink more water and eat more salads, which means having stuff for salads in the fridge.

I’m much more than the work I do. I need to remember that. Please remind me.

Not Getting Things Done

Like I mentioned in my last post, I was in Ann Arbor this week.  ICPSR (the Interuniversty Consortium for Political and Social Research) holds trainings every year on lots of topics, from Data to Methods and its basically awesome.  I have been wanting to go for a long time, and this summer I finally managed.  I ended up signed up for a 5 day workshop on Structural Equation Modeling.  Unfortunately for all involved, I only got about 50% of what we covered in class… but its been several years since I had a formal stats class.  The good news is that the materials were ON POINT.  So, I have everything I need to get in lots of trouble with SEM when I get home.  SO that is good.

But being away from home for that long is hard.  I stayed in the dorm- so I didnt have easy access to a fridge or air that didnt feel like the inside of someone’s shoe.  Also, it was pretty structured… so my MO of grazing on healthy food all day was thrown out the window. So instead of eating 4-6 smallish meals/snacks throughout the day, I had to eat three BIG meals.  Plus, with that kind of learning, it’s real hard to be motivated to do anything when I got back to my room.  I’d like to say that I worked out, wrote, and saw Ann Arbor, but I would be lying.  I did manage to get through the 5th season of Dexter… so there is that.

I think I just need to stop kidding myself about being “productive” on trips like this one.  I had grand intentions to GET SHIT DONE.  But then, Netflix Happens.

Ringing in the New Year

After the holidays are always kind of a bummer… it’s a bit of a let down, right?

Winter Storm Hercules made us a visit over New Years.  We got a bunch of snow.  Which was cool.  Like enough to render cars buried in snow.  Dave is still working on his deadline, so Nico and I hung out most of New Year’s Day.  We played Royseball and I taught him Slap Jack and Old Maid. Coincidentally, when you are only playing with two players, most (and in our experience all) games of Old Maid end in a tie.  The good news is, that I love this age with Nico because we can start playing board games and card games.  Although, something tells me this kid is going to kick my ass at Boggle. Still, I am looking forward to him being a scotch older, mostly because he needs to be introduced to the Bishop method… which is running all your errands and doing all your chores on Saturday morning and spending Saturday afternoon, evening, and Sunday lazing around the house and reading the 9314129347 books you got from the library.  
We also did a fair bit of shoveling on Jan 1.   I wonder what I have to do in order to keep the novelty of shoveling snow for him. Because it would be great to have a 12 year old that shovels all the snow.  Don’t tell Dave I said that… I’m not allowed to talk about difficulties of winter weather.  For ever.

I also did a fair bit of knitting.  My mom taught me to knit in the round, which is just like regular knitting, only easier. The socks I am wearing in the picture below were knit by her… in peacock colors… I am halfway though a hat for Le Boy… If Dave doesn’t watch it, he’s going to end up with a hat too!!  Although he probably wouldnt wear it, because he likes the Stoner hat that Aunt Judy got him last year (he wears it pretty much everyday).  
I’d been procrastinating on some errands that needed to happen.  So Wednesday afternoon, I sent Dave to Panera so he could work.  When Nico woke up from nap, we shoveled the car out and set about our errands.  Mind you, I had never driven in snow, but I figured a good way to start would be on a holiday with few people on the road.  I did a pretty good job shoveling the car out- it was surprisingly easy to navigate our road.  Most of the main roads were pretty well shoveled and salted.  
Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist with me using my phone while driving, know that we were at a stop light stopped when the light turned.  
Parking the Kia was a different story- because when I got home, I almost got stuck trying to park.  I finally ditched the parallel parking idea and chose to bury my car in 10″ of unshoveled snow in the next block.  

Apparently a 10″ snow is business as usual, because Thursday DePaul was open and Nico’s school was open.  So I was back at work.  I got a lot going on and am trying to get my feet under me.  I know that my job isn’t like being President of the US or even being an Assistant Professor, but damn it’s hard to take almost three weeks off.  In any case, I am back on the grind.  

I’m baaaaaaaaaack….

Well hello there!!  It’s good to see you.
As promised, I have returned from the hiatus- with a mixed record as to what I did with my time.  Before Thanksgiving, I had gotten down to within 5 lbs. of pre-nico weight, but I undid a bit of that when we were in Texas over the holiday.  I went to the doctor (to get some meds reupped) and was weighed on his “official” (read: bullshit) scale.  He confirmed that since August 7th, I had lost 18 lbs.  This works out to be about a pound per week.  The upside to this that my left knee is feeling great- which is a departure from what it usually feels like.

Moreover, I am getting so strong.  Case in point: we do a lot of pull-ups in CrossFit.  I have never been able to do a pull-up and have always had to use the black band (think of a very large rubber band that you loop over the bar and put your feet in.  Then you step off the box and your weight is somewhat supported by the band).  In order of support, the colors are: purple, black, green, blue.  Since I started CF, I have been on the black band, and have tried a couple of times to go down to the green, but could not get the pull-up.  But the black band has felt really easy the last couple of weeks… like not even a workout.  This week, just for grins, I gave it a go and was able to get a couple of pull-ups.  It was fantastic.  I’m not sure I could do a whole workout with just the green band (yet), but it’s nice to have that as a measure.

Last night I went to an Olympic lifting class for the first time.  I am starting to really like a couple of the movements (power cleans and power snatches), but my technique is a hot mess.  So I went to the class to do a little work and just get in a lot of reps.  It’s totally like goalkeeping… where sometimes the only way to improve is to do 100 punches over the crossbar.  It is what it is.

So that is great.  The trade off is that I am sore all the time these days.  And I have a lot more muscle… so clothes just do not fit.  Not only the ones that I already have but most the ones I’m looking at when I go shopping.  But I guess that is a good problem to have, right?

In other news, I am looking (on my desk) at a complete second draft of a paper that I have been working on.  Today I will be sending it to my old boss at the FSU COM, for his comments and remarks before we submit it for publication later this month.  Which is fantastic.  I don’t know if I mentioned it or not, but I got another publication last month (November).  Back in the spring, I helped one of the FSU COM students with a paper he wanted to submit for a patient safety award.  Well, as I left, he was working on getting it published.  Back in October our old boss (the third author) sent me a note that it had been published.  So, make that two publications since I have been in Chicago.  Isn’t that cool?

I have about a third of the lectures for my Winter Quarter class edited.  I still need to record and post them, but I like the progress so far.  I am experimenting with “flipping the classroom”, where I record my lectures and my students view them on their own time.  Then they come to class and we work on problems together.  For statistics??  I think it could be really good.

More later.

Haters Should Hate

I think it would be hard to like me.

I don’t know if I have haters, but assure me, I probably deserve it.

I have a fantastic life: an adorably funny and smart son; a superhot husband who does laundry and cooks (almost as well as I do). I have a job that I LOVE. I live in a cool ass city and I am getting some time to do things I have wanted to do for a long time (photography and fitness… A LOT OF BOTH). Nobody’s life should be allowed to be that awesome, right??

Speaking of awesome, take a look at this kid:

So that is how the cookie crumbles.

I had my interim probationary review at work this week and my boss had some really nice things to say. One component of my job is to provide research consultation to faculty members. This might be anything from helping someone run some stats, to finding data sources for someone else. Earlier this week a faculty member that I helped a couple of months ago approached my boss and raved about me. Unsolicited. Yeah… that is pretty cool.

I really like the people I work with. While I appreciate that I have fairly low standards for work-place interactions, I believe that my current situation would be enviable to anyone. My boss is cool in that he tries to empower all of us to be in control of ourselves and our work. In fact, he hates us having to be dependent on him for stuff. Which works out great for me, because I hate being dependent on people for stuff.

My co-workers mostly leave me alone. We all have the things that we do and no one tries backstab or undercut each other. We all have the things that we bring to the table, so we don’t compete with each other. And here is a weird thing, that “bitchy-we’re-all-friends-but-we-aren’t” thing that happens in a lot of places? Not up in the SSRC. LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

Opportunity Knocks

So, in other exciting news, I have been offered a course for the winter quarter at DePaul.  I know, right?  Just when I think I am out, they pull me back in!!

Turns out that the senior research methodologist in the SSRC has taught classes in statistics and methods, prior to my arrival, so the teaching coordinator asked if I would be interested.  While I have never taught a statistics class, I have taught methods.  And I have had some pretty damn good training  in the art of teaching.  And also, I have won two teaching awards.  So it’s not really like this:

 

Of course, I am not sure how much of this the coordinator knew when she asked me to teach an undergraduate statistics course.  It’s probably a bit uncommon, for someone who is a good teacher to not move automatically and fully into the teaching track.  If I wasn’t in Chicago at DePaul, I would probably be at a teaching college, with my four courses a semester and no research activity.
The conversation I had with the coordinator was a great conversation and she said that she would send me the course list so that I might consider teaching some of the “fun” classes in demography and health.  Yeah.  How much fun will that be?
This development is actually quite fortuidous…Dave and I watched a thing on Sunday Morning a couple of weeks ago about the Khan Academy that has made me rethink how I would revamp my teaching style, if it ever came to that.
That said, I believe that I will make every effort to incorporate memes in this class, as well as pop culture references to Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Keeping up with the Kardashians.
I think so.

Ice Cream

So, one of the best things about the new place is it’s proximity to a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robins.  When I got home from work yesterday, Nico and I sent Dave to do some work at a coffee shop and we did some stuff around the house.  I tried to put the bed together- but failed because we are, apparently, missing a piece (don’t ask me how).  Then we had some dinner and walked to get ice cream.  Isn’t that awesome!!

I have biked to work two days this week.  It’s a nice ride… about 12.5-13 miles round trip.  Overwhelming though, because I see all these places where I want to go… this bar…this restaurant… this book store.  Its hard to keep my bike going.  It’s weird because I used to be so gunshy about riding my bike.  I would go out of my way to stay on bike paths.  And often I would end up lost.  I’ve finally just said, “to hell with it!” and just got out there with the cars.  I fully expect to get tagged some day… but since I am riding on crowded city streets,  I am banking on the offending driver only going about 20-30 mph when they hit me.  And since I am wearing a helmet, I think I will be okay.  I mean, obviously, it would hurt, which is why I am careful- defensive. When I have questions about other drivers being aware of me- I just hop off my bike and wait for them to go by.  No big deal.  
It’s cool. 
I also finished my work for the College of Medicine this weekend.  I had been working half time for the grant since I left in April… helping with presentations and posters and such.  Yesterday was the big annual meeting and I helped pull together the figures for it.  It was a bit unceremonious of an end for me.  The person who took over my position seemed grateful for my help, but my old boss seemed a bit ambivalent about my contribution.  Oh well.  Consider that a life lesson learned.  
All for now. 

Pipe Dream

Not much else going on.  The legislative session is about 4 days old and I am already over it.  I am going to be glad when the session is over… and better yet, when Dave doesnt have to deal with Florida’s legislative session.  Boom!!

We took Gordon to the vet yesterday for Cardiologist appointment.  You know you have old dogs when your vet starts recommending senior dog stuff.  Cray.  

We are going to Fun Station Junior on Saturday with Graham.  I can almost promise that Nico is going to show his tail when we leave…. But hopefully he will have more fun than last time when it was just us.  I think he will.

Other than that, I am hoping we can just have a chill weekend.  I am trying to stay on top of the cleaning and whatnot at the house.  Who knew that running a household would be so much work?  I don’t know how our Moms handled it.  I am just worn out most of the time.  I am looking forward to the days when I can just sit on the couch and knit ALL DAY while alternates between doing chores and playing… I’m living a pipe dream, you say?  Oh well.

ASA ES

My conference in Denver was okay.  I wasnt on the program to present anything- I was mostly going to participate in the Employment Service.

The ES is mostly just a speed dating service that allows potential employers to interview potential candidates for 20 minutes.  I did it last year and had a bunch of interviews.  This year, I had 7 interviews and an informal informational session- which is pretty decent, especially considering that a lot of people had 0 or 1 interviews.

I have already sent out a bunch of applications.  For those of you who are interested:
Furman University
Skidmore College
Texas Wesleyan
University of Texas at San Antonio
Coker College
UNC Pembroke
UNC Wilmington
Baylor University
U of Richmond
U of Portland
U of Miami
U of Alabama-Birmingham
Ohio University

Yes.  You read that right- three schools in Texas.  Yeah, I can’t believe it either.  Ohio University had the earliest deadline- and they have already contacted me.  This means that I am likely one of about 6-8 other “top candidates”.  After the phone interview, they will narrow that list down to 2-3 and invite those people for campus visits.  The job is at a College of Osteopathic Medicine, in their Department of Social Medicine.  Despite spending about an hour online last night trying to find it, I still don’t know what the difference is between DO (doctor of osteopathy) and a regular MD is.  Both do surgeries, both do residencies, both have specialities…. so who knows.

I really liked Denver.  It is definitely a cool city.  But I was ready to come home.

Snail Mail

So we’ve had Granny You in town of late.  She is here to hang out with Nico during his spring break.  Oh yeah, you heard me.  HIS SPRING BREAK.  Wha-what?  Know that saying, “Youth is wasted on the young?”  this particular situation exemplifies this.  What does he need a spring break for?  What does he know?

So, like a chump, I have been working.  Not so much a big fan of the work during spring break.  😦

This is pretty cool… so one of the things about this project I am working on, is requesting medical records for patients who consented to be part of our study.  I have been a bit bummed because it seems like we werent getting a lot of records that we had requested.  Until I passed an Admin Assistant in the hall and she told me that my mail box was blowing up.  Turns out a lot of offices are sending records via snail mail.  Isnt that awesome?  Woooo hooooo!!

In other news, a peer at FSU (she is an instructor in Sociology) turned me on to new music.  This guy Yt is apparently a grad student in Sociology.  At FSU.

I am currently trying to figure out how to ask him to write/record a song for the War Eagles.  Seriously.  How amazing would that be?