Wedding Planning: A 10-year Vow Renewal Takes Me Back

Welcome back, friend!

For our tenth anniversary, we’ve decided to renew our wedding vows. It wasn’t something I’d planned to do so early in our marriage (when you take the long view of marriage — like our parents, who’ve been married 40+ years — we’re still newbies), but last year was incredibly hard for us. Specifically last spring, when our marriage was hanging by a thread, thanks to my manic episode making me, ya know – crazy. But we came through it. I got on meds. I rededicated myself to my family. I promised him I would do everything I could to prevent that from happening again. And because we are best friends, because we know each other so well, because we have worked to rebuild trust, we made it through.

So we’re planning this renewal. And folks, it’s just like planning a wedding.

lwedding

When I planned my wedding, I was 23. I was finishing my senior year, and doing my student teaching. I was working. I was applying to graduate school and interviewing for a fellowship. I was beyond overcommitted. I barely survived this, and practically collapsed during our honeymoon in New Orleans (don’t worry, I made it to the aquarium, and we had  great time).

Our wedding was very traditional. It’s funny to think how different things were “back then:” Etsy wasn’t around for adorable, customized invitations. It seemed radically cool to order inexpensive (but super traditional) invites via a website. It was brand-new to have wedding websites. My bridesmaids wore short dresses — wow! — which is now much more common. We hired professional photographers but requested “journalistic” photos, and my best friend, an amateur photographer, did pictures as well — again, something fairly common now, but relatively novel at the time. My Mom ordered hydrangeas and lilies from Sam’s and did our arrangements. My sister drove all over Oklahoma City to find vases for centerpieces. And, it turned out perfectly.

It was a beautiful, seamless, perfect wedding. We couldn’t have asked for a better wedding. All of my intense planning paid off. I don’t remember how much we spent — I think it ended up being $2k including the honeymoon, but our parents chipped in here and there.

Our vow renewal will not be fancy, simply because we can’t afford fancy — but also because that doesn’t really match who we are anymore. We’re hosting at home. We’re DIYing pretty much everything. But it’s much the same.

The planning months in advance.

The dress — oh, the dress. Can I find a vintage-style dress for my much curvier body?

The girls! They are so thrilled. They want to be our flower girls. They need dresses, wreaths for their hair.

The food. My God, the food. Can we make enough? What should we make? Do we need to buy serviceware? Can we afford that? Note to self, plan to hit Goodwill soon.

Invitations. Shit. I need to do these NOW, but I need to confirm a time with the reverend performing the (brief!!) ceremony.

Flowers. Do our hydrangeas bloom in May? I can’t remember. We can’t buy a lot of flowers. We may not be able to buy any flowers. Can I make a zillion paper flowers?

Do we need to do favors?

Would plastic cutlery be tacky?

What will Brian wear?

Can we afford a “real” photographer?

And on and on. It’s fun to plan a more contemporary, vintage-style wedding. It’s more “rustic,” more “country.” This is neat. I feel like a bonafide hipster (sigh), but it also feels honest to who we are, now, after 10 years. More tired. More worn in and softer. Quieter, less bright, more homey. All about texture.

With my wedding, I was able to avoid bridezilla. I let go of small details that didn’t work out just how I envisioned. I eschewed a lot of the extras that would have required more time, effort, or money. I delegated tasks and enjoyed it thoroughly. I hope I can do the same this May, even while playing hostess and mother. Wish me luck!

The #PostAc Wanderer: What A Real Career Path Looks Like

Long time, no #postac. As with nearly every post-academic blog, there comes a time when these issues lose their intensity and salience to your everyday existence. Last month marks the second anniversary of my decision to quit graduate school.

My comrades in the post-ac blogosphere — the quieter voices, who garner less attention but are nonetheless some of the most frank and helpful writers on the topic — have written several posts lately about the “right” post-ac job. How To Leave Academia has long acknowledged the messiness of post-academic life, positioning itself in a less popular but, IMO, more truthful narrative of life after academia in which you stagger around in search of a new path; new identity; and most importantly, an income.

postacrainbow

HTLA also notes that as #postac flourishes, those speaking to the challenges and realities of leaving grad school fall to the wayside in favor of advocacy for appropriate post-ac pursuits: career advice for alt-ac, entrepreneurs, etc; critiques of higher ed; etc. A glance at our stats shows that our website still occupies a small corner of the #postac blogosphere. We aren’t getting national attention, even though our issue is.

ANYWAY, what is the right postac job? JC wrote last month that:

… short of contract killing or drug trafficking, there are no “good” or “bad” postacademic jobs. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do postacademia. 

In order to do postacademia “right” (according to me), you need to find a job that fulfills two goals: (1) one that pays you enough money so that you can live a stable life, and (2) one in which your employer treats you better than how folks are treated in the worst aspects of academia.

Kathleen Miller (currer bell) poignantly writes:

How did I get my post-ac jobs? Time. Persistence. Crying. Feeling like a failure. Networking. Not networking. Building a LinkedIn profile. Taking down my LinkedIn profile. Hiring a life coach. Taking classes for a new career path, but not getting certified. Taking any post-ac job because we needed to pay our bills. Refusing to take a post-ac job just because we had to pay our bills. Starting and then not starting a new career path. Applying to go back to school and then withdrawing my candidacy. Starting to open and then pushing pause on my own business. Giving up. Trying again. Luck. Dumb luck. The dumbest luckiest luck.

This resonates so powerfully with me. The truth about postac life is that it is mostly fumbling. You will feel certain one week that freelancing is perfect for you, only to dabble and realize that you hate working alone, or are incapable of meeting a deadline without an advisor breathing down your neck. The next week you’ll start reading about teaching in private schools and obsessively job search and concoct curricula in your head, only to rule it out because you don’t want to move for a job. A month later, you’re swooning over academic librarianship. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In fact, you’ll wander far down many postac paths only to turn back. It’s not a straight shot to postac paradise. It’s trial and error, and as Kathleen says, “the dumbest luckiest luck.” I didn’t stride confidently into academic advising as my postac career of choice. I got the job because I was a good teacher, and I knew people working here, and it came along at the right time – just when my final paycheck for TAing was hitting. In many ways, I had no choice but to take that job, and lucked out because it is a good job with good people.

Just before I took the position, a community college I’d interviewed at (out of state) the year before called to ask me to apply again, but the timing was wrong and I had to regretfully decline. I had wandered far down that path but it didn’t work out; then life changed. I wrote constantly during that transitional semester about my struggle to make sense of the path forward and felt like I was walking down multiple, contradictory paths at once.

And the truth is, advising probably isn’t the final destination for my #postac wanderings. It’s a stop along the way, for who knows how long, before something else arises as an opportunity, or I evolve into other roles and responsibilities that pan out. But the fact of the matter is that I have little control over my postac destiny: I’m at the mercy of the marketplace, of budgets, and geographical options. I may feel called someday to the Perfect Postac Career, but be unable to land it or pursue it, through no fault of my own. A newish post-ac blogger, …and what to do with the books?, writes similarly about her nascent postac journey:

The more I think about it, though, I need to remind myself that a job is just one step on a longer career path. (Not to mention that I just had a baby nine months ago, and she’s not in daycare).  My position and title (should they even really matter) might be very different twenty years from now than they are now. As old as the mid-thirties might sound compared to if I hadn’t gone into my doctoral program and had started regular work in my mid-twenties, I still have a good twenty or thirty years of work ahead of me which might lead eventually to more Big Picture jobs.

I do think the literature (blogged and print-published) about post-ac job searches can give the impression that one might be able to jump from finishing the dissertation to a major management position at a company or organization, and in some cases, this might be true.  My own experience over the course of the past year has been of a much more middling nature.

This is another case of Ivory Tower expectations colliding with Real World pragmatics. We are all #postac wanderers. And we will all be ok.

Logorrhea, Vulnerability, and Blogger’s Block

It’s been over a month — maybe two months? — since we wrote meaningfully at Mama Nervosa and I’ve been wondering why. Jen has a very good excuse — a new house, a new baby boy — but what’s my problem? Why do I hesitate to write out the many observations that occur to me, usually during my morning commute? Why haven’t I shared more with my readers, as I have in the past?

*

When I was in college, I took a 3-week creative writing course over the summer and for one month, I seriously considered being a Writer and getting an MFA instead of going to grad school in the traditional academic sense. I loved the process, I loved the collaboration, and I found my own writing provocative in that way one does at the age of 20. My final portfolio was titled Logorrhea, meaning “a tendency to extreme loquacity,” and representing to me not just a tendency but a nearly uncontrollable urge to “extreme loquacity.” I have always been a talker — ok, a loud mouth — an opiner, and a writer. In high school and college I took some pride in this quality, and without regret engaged with and often humiliated stupid and ignorant young men and publicly “blogged” (before it was blogging) about my intimate relationships. I wrote my senior capstone on Anne Sexton, a confessional writer, and related deeply to these writers who exposed everything, all their dark dirty secrets, and often those of their families and lovers. That kind of naked honesty appealed to me viscerally, and is part of what keeps me on the internet and in the public sphere. I believe in openness and reality and love having an audience.

*

After writing my senior capstone, I took an advanced honors course on American novels and wrote the essay that would get me into graduate school. I’d written an extremely close analysis of Sexton; a theoretically ambitious perspective on Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood; but it would be this essay that cracked the academy open for me. It was about Louise Fitzhugh’s book, Harriet the Spy.

I think we all have a vague sense of Harriet and the plot, a fondness for her writerly ways and spunky, some would say queer, presentation in the midst of a very upper class, proper, mainstream 60s context. We recall that she gets caught spying in the dumbwaiter and that her friends find her journal and she gets in trouble. I think our collective memory is distorted by some of the film and tv adaptations, which position Harriet as a Holmesian detective with a magnifier

In reality, this book is extremely subversive and extremely dark. Harriet is deadly smart and ruthlessly candid. She is a spy in the sense that she doesn’t respect privacy, and that she is judgmental and detailed. She exposes the hypocrisy and foolishness of adults constantly — there’s a scene that probably no one remembers with Harriet and her best friend, a budding scientist, whose idiotic mother can not relate at all to Janie and Harriet. Before Harriet leaves, she and Janie grip hands and whisper fiercely “never give up” — or some quotation that I can’t confirm but basically means FIGHT THE POWER and resist the BS.

Another fact that no one remembers is that when Harriet is exposed — her treasured notebook found — she isn’t just in trouble, she is shunned. She is excommunicated. For months. She simultaneously is abandoned by Ole Golly, the one single person in the world who loves her and understands her unconditionally. She falls into a deep and prolonged depression, at age 10.

*

I often wonder what Harriet’s crime really was. Other than invasion of privacy (the dumbwaiter), she mostly writes thoughts about the world around her, and the people around her. Some of these thoughts are uncharitable, judgmental, gossipy, rude. The kind of thoughts we all have all the time when we read a sappy note on Facebook, receive yet another bogus forward from an uncle, or hear about someone’s divorce. Was Harriet’s crime simply writing them down? Or was it having the thoughts in the first place? Was her crime getting caught?

Like Harriet, I am a thinker, and like Harriet, I am a writer. I’m also a talker. But most of my gaffes are in written form of some kind — an email; notes taken and the foolishly left behind; Facebook updates. I can’t just think, I must put it down. And like Harriet, I get busted, and then I get in trouble, and then I carry around a bad feeling in my gut because I don’t want to hurt people, and I don’t want to be hated. I’m unusually good at sticking my foot in my mouth, unintentionally and with no malice aforethought, just by having the urge to talk about and write about things that are opinionated, sometimes ill-informed, sometimes true but threatening, sometimes gossipy, sometimes genuinely out of mystification or concern over a friend/situation, and sometimes so vulnerable that I end up hurting myself by allowing others to react to it. I’ve accepted this aspect of my personality and generally forgive myself for being human and do my absolute best to make amends and sincerely apologize when I accidentally act like a dick in public. But I continually come back to it — the thinking, the talking, the writing — because it’s at the core of my humanity, and the core of my creativity. I just wish it didn’t blow up in my face.

So I’m struggling to blog.

I’m struggling because I think I might want to be a schoolteacher and I’m afraid my blog could make it hard for me to find work because it’s too honest/political/edgy/full of cussing.

I’m afraid I’m exposing my children too much, especially the more I understand how genuinely small our farm town is and how easy it would be for their peers to one day find out personal information.

I’m afraid to write under my own name because I’m desperate to share the poetry and memoir I’m working on, but it’s too vulnerable, too public, and I don’t trust the internet or my ability to remain anonymous.

I’m afraid if I can’t be truly honest here, than this blog will have no genuine content, won’t be something I can be proud of, and will become distant and removed and artificial and all the things I find irritating about the blogosphere.

I’m afraid that in the current economy of the blogosphere, no one will care or read. I don’t have the time or resources to launch a blog that can crack the glass ceiling of Twitter and Facebook. I’m not — never will be — popular enough to garner attention, and don’t want to spend money to earn cred. Stats and rankings are driven by readership, and readers are driven by controversy, but I’m skittish of controversy now, so I feel doubly sunk and wonder if there is a point.

I’m certain that I will say something or do something here that I later redact or regret, and that on top of all my fears makes me sit at the desk and open and then close my compose box again and again. Foucault would have a field day with my internalized censoring, but I’m not sure how I can get past this.

Bonne Annee

All quiet in the nervosa front lately. Jen and I speak nearly every day and we’re always saying, I need to post! Life is all-consuming right now. Jen’s fourth baby is due any day now, and we are both being swallowed by the POLAR VORTEX. We are muddling through. We’re here, we’re just not here. The blogosphere feels so much like an echo chamber that it’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished something when I post here, other than the fact that it’s living proof that I haven’t quit writing. It seems like the possibilities for blogging are vast, but it’s harder and harder to climb your way out of obscurity and towards a readership without 24/7 presence, ads, etc. That’s just not gonna happen with us. Even writing and submitting poetry — which I continue to do — feels ephemeral, next to pointless. Nanowrimo taught me that the world is drowning in words. I’m dog paddling. But hey, I’m out here.

Our post-academic e-book got published earlier this week. It’s bargain-priced and completely lovely and you should read it. I have to say that collaborating with JC, Currer Bell, and Jet has been enormously gratifying. We worked beautifully together for a year and I couldn’t be more proud. It’s out there, and it’s being read.

I started crafting again, which is a surprise to all of us, and am loving sewing and crocheting. The projects take shape in my hands, and I can listen to audio books. Sweet!

owljack

We continue to struggle mightily with our finances. Loans, childcare, and it seems like everything we got for our wedding 10 years ago is breaking, and our lovely old house is doing that Murphy’s law thing. I realized last week that there’s simply no way we can afford to have our kids in full-time care this summer. I have no idea what to do about that. I mean, I’m at a loss.

I’m slowly but surely working towards applying to secondary teaching positions at some point in the future (near or far,  not sure). I’m dreaming in curricula, missing the energy. I got my teaching license in the mail last month.

2014 — joy, surprises, handiwork.

And Now The Christmas Season Reminds Me Of Dying Children

As the days become shorter and houses start to glow with Christmas lights, I find my mind these days wandering to thoughts of dying children. December 14, December 14.

Now I put up my Christmas tree and write letters to my legislators and congressmen urging them to support Obama’s plans to reduce gun violence.

Now I keep thinking I need to get candles to light in the windows to remember the children who were killed, to remember their parents lighting the tree or menorah or just walking in the snow without their seven-year-olds. And I would if I had the money.

Now I will write my principal and ask her about our darling school’s plans in case of a horrible emergency like this.

I look at TIME’s top 10 photos of this year and note that they all depict victims of violence, victims of disaster. Too many of us live in fear.

What will you do?

Candlelight Vigil for Peace - Boulder, Colorado Jesse Varner via Compfight

Watch Me Nano

I decided late, late, late to go ahead and do NaNoWriMo this year, for the first time. It wasn’t so much that I have always wanted to Nano, it’s more that I’ve had a novel idea developing in my mind for about a month and I’m afraid that if I don’t get it on paper, it will never happen. My goal isn’t 50k, it’s about 25k, but really, I’d be thrilled to get to 10k because that’d be more than I’d ever written towards a novel in my life. If I can get a full first draft written – wow. Bucket list item!

2013-Participant-Vertical-Banner

I don’t even want to talk about what I’m writing about because I (a) am afraid it sucks and (b) Just need to get it down before I start messing around with plot lines and stuff. I am trying SO HARD not to go back and revise as I compose. It’s difficult as hell. I keep contradicting previous stuff and being like, shit! I have to back and fix that! Or I write myself into a culdesac where I don’t know what to say next. I’m trying to just leave it at that and start down a different path.

I’m at 2500 words.

I just started messing around in the Nano forums and. Well. There’s a lot of really bad writing happening out there. A lot of pretentious stuff, a ton of cliche stuff. The teacher in me thinks this is fucking fantastic, gorgeous, inspiring as hell. I would have LOVED to have Nano forums available as an 8th grader writing Three Musketeer fanfic, having other writers take me seriously and help me invent names that would totally have never been used in 17th Century France. I would LOVE to be a HS teacher and have my students doing Nano.

I do like that I can tell people what they should name their [rescue dog][lesbian stripper addict][main love interest] characters, and there’s a thread where you can ask people “reference” questions (so if you are writing about funerals in Edwardian Britain, you can make sure they’re accurate).

But the writer and reader in me cringes. And maybe there’s a little, I dunno, frisson of pleasure at realizing that I might be a decent writer, at least in comparison. Right? Ugh, I’m a bad person. Anyway, read some fun articles about Nano, and wish me luck.

Nanowrimo: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Really Really Ugly

Good Nano Advice

The Worst Writing from Nano

Cringe-worthy posts

Post-Ac Is Happening

I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya. I have been busy helping a friend run for city council, and getting ready for the release of the post-academic e-book.

I was briefly quoted in this New York Times article about life after academia. Check it out! Fancy. I think I might be a post-ac radical :P. Oh well, someone’s gotta do it.

Happy Halloween, and we will be back, perhaps in dribs and drabs.

Hopes

23 weeks pregnant this week. My belly is big enough that I can’t squeeze between rows of desks in classrooms anymore, at least not without inadvertently bumping students. At the grocery store, in the hallways picking up the girls after school, at the dance studio, friends and strangers and acquaintances ask the same questions: How are you feeling? When is your due date? And of course: What are you having?
A baby, I say. I’m having a baby. Sometimes I say, Well, I don’t think it’s kittens!
But they’re not asking about kittens. I’m just delaying the inevitable: No, are you having a boy or a girl? Or if I’m out with all 3 girls, always this version: Your husband must really be hoping for a boy!
I love pregnancy. I love the feeling of the baby in my belly, the fullness of my body and my spirit, the way everything seems possible when I sit quietly and feel this little one’s presence with me. I know some women feel frustrated with the strange publicness of pregnancy, the way complete strangers feel entitled to open up personal conversations with you, and I completely understand their position, but for myself, for the most part, I don’t mind this at all. I like the feeling of connection to other people, the acknowledgement of our shared experiences as women, as mothers, as parents. But this you must be hoping it’s a boy conversation? It’s like a sucker punch when I was hoping for a moment of shared humanity.
We’re not finding out, I tell people. We don’t know. We don’t need to know. We don’t want to know. Older women, I’ve found, approve wholeheartedly of this. Maybe because so many of them carried and birthed babies before ultrasounds were the norm, before infancy was so deeply gendered, before names were chosen and nursery décor was pinned on pinterest months before babies were born and people hosted elaborate “Guns or Glitter” themed parties to release pink or blue balloons from a box and announce their ultrasound results .
But women my age and younger tend to be aghast. How can you stand not to know? Don’t you need to plan? Don’t you need to get things ready? Don’t you just feel like you have to be prepared?
As if choosing pink or blue clothing, or painting pink or blue walls could possibly prepare anyone for the overwhelming intensity, the beauty and joy and heartbreak and exhaustion and sweetness of bringing a baby into the world.
As if knowing what body parts this baby has would tell me anything at all about its soul, its spirit, its hopes and dreams, its gifts, the unique presence it will have in the world.
I know the questions are well-intentioned. But it’s clear to me that when people say you must be hoping for a boy I bet your husband is really hoping for a boy gosh wouldn’t it be great if this one is a boy, part of what they’re assuming is that having a boy will be somehow uniquely different from raising my girls, who must be similar, because after all, they’re all girls.
But if the past 7 years of pregnancy and parenthood have taught me anything, it’s that each of my children has their own amazing, beautiful, powerful, unique place in this world—and their sex has nothing to do with it. D is sensitive, stubborn, thoughtful, curious, insistent about being heard and respected, always wanting to hold on to as much of life as possible as tightly as possible. She thinks hard, loves hard, cries hard, wanders out of her bedroom long after she should be asleep with just one more question, one more idea. Lucy is adventurous, a risk taker, always wanting to climb higher, ride faster, turn another corner. Her sense of empathy and friendship runs deep, but she’s lighthearted, easy in her place in the world. And Margeaux, still unfolding, smart and funny, joyful and easy going, ready to take on every adventure, unaware of her limitations as the littlest. Three girls, yes. But each her own fierce, independent spirit.
So what do I hope for this baby? That it’s a boy? That it’s a girl?
I hope that this baby, that none of my babies, grow up in a world where people think their identities or possibilities are limited by their sex or their gender.
I hope they are smart, curious, driven, bold. I hope they feel powerful enough to reach for all their dreams, to build the world they want to live in, to fly far from home without losing a sense of where they came from. I hope they love hard, find and nurture relationships with friends and lovers and partners and families who value them as whole, complex, imperfect, beautiful individuals. I hope they are kind, thoughtful, empathetic, generous. I hope they think deeply about their responsibilities to others and strive to live ethical, purposeful lives. I hope they fling their hearts open to all the beauty and joy and possibility in this amazing world we are all lucky enough to pass through together.
And I hope I am strong enough, patient enough, present enough, to guide them on this path.
girls

In Praise of Granny Panties

Where have boyshorts been all my life? I bought some (admittedly… perhaps even alarmingly huge) new underwear last month and for the first time in my life, I am “wengie” free (as Robin says). Apparently this is a trend (like I have any clue about those things) and hipsters and boy shorts are more and more popular among women. Did you know that most women buy thongs? What the f, ladies! I’ve been buying mildly uncomfortable bikinis. Not that slingshot crap. But now at long last, I have discovered and will never turn away from the granny panty. GRANNY WAS RIGHT.

I don’t know what else to say other than my butt is so happy.

Feel the cottony lack of discomfort.

Tattoo Thinking (Creativity Tuesday)

Made with Paper

Made with Paper

I used my Paper app to noodle around with potential tattoo designs. I never really intended to get something this elaborate, but I had fun playing around with ideas. Just as a reminder, here’s what I ended up getting:

hometattooAnd yeah, I still love it. Too bad the weather means lots of long sleeves right now!