Posts tagged ‘marriage’

The Road Travelled

my new workplace: the herpetology society

It always surprises me, when I get a new job, to discover the ways in which my past jobs have directly provided the experience I need to do the new job.  Especially since it is never something that I have planned.

The first two weeks of the class I am teaching right now, Strategies for Success, deals with change and goal setting.  I spend a lot of time talking to my students about goals, planning, prioritizing, determination, and all the things that go into being Highly Motivated  and Successful People.  We go over the five steps of the Change Implementation Model — identify change, research options, identify obstacles, establish a plan, and implement it  — as well as the four steps to writing a goal — goal statement, action steps, timelines, and narrative statement.  I literally spend hours talking about the importance of setting goals, coming up with defined plans, and following through on them.  And yet I almost never do this myself.

I can’t make a weekly meal plan, because I always decide at the last minute that I’m in the mood for something else for dinner.  I can’t lay out my clothes the night before, because I’ll want to wear something different when morning rolls around.  I typically decide on the next step in my life, on what will make me happy, and do what I need to in order to get there.  Then I stay there until I am no longer happy, or until something forces me out.  And then I look around and decide on the next step.  I hate the question, “What do you see yourself doing in five/ten years?” in interviews, because the true answer is, “I have absolutely no idea.”

I do set and meet lots of short-term goals for myself, but I have never been the kind of person who decides, “I want to be X by age Y,” and then lays out a multi-year plan for achieving that goal.  I have wandered my way through life, one stepping-stone at a time.  After high school, college was a given.  After college, I didn’t want to go on to grad school right away.  An offhand comment from an advisor got me thinking about volunteering, and a few days of research landed me with the Peace Corps.  After the Peace Corps, I just wanted to be with the boyfriend I’d been on the opposite side of the planet from for the past 2 years, so I moved to the west coast.  When I became dissatisfied with retail positions, I applied for a job at a credit card company doing customer service.  When I became dissatisfied with that, a dream sent me back to grad school.  After grad school, I was tired of research and not interested in pursuing a PhD, so I wanted to teach at the community college level.  It occurred to me that I would be more well-rounded if I attended an archaeology field school, so I went on a whim.  When I couldn’t find a teaching job, I applied for an archaeology position.  When I got laid off from archaeology, I applied for more teaching positions, and actually got one.  When I didn’t get enough adjunct classes, I applied to a part-time job with a herpetology society because the hours were flexible.

And yet, each job seems to be a prerequisite for the last.  My degree in English, even though my major was creative writing, was a great stepping stone for Teaching English as a Forgeign Language in the Peace Corps.  My Peace Corps experience didn’t help much when I was working in retail, but once I got to the credit card company, the “special English” I had adopted in Kyrgyzstan was ideal for working over the phone with clients who spoke English as a second language.  I also used the grammar I learned while teaching it to my Kyrgyzstani students, and was often asked to assist the technical writer.  When I went back to grad school, the skills I had developed at the credit card company for tracking information and juggling priorities were essential for getting through my thesis.  Not to mention, the contacts I made in the Peace Corps made it possible for me to do my field research during a single 3-month summer visit.  Once I got into archaeology, the descriptive skills honed through writing poetry in my youth were essential in writing understandable reports and site records.  Even in the process of moving from CA to UT, I went from an archaeology job where I worked on an enormous Nevada pipeline project, to helping out with a large Utah pipeline project.  And all those years of writing reports in Word, keeping track of data and forms in Excel, and writing grad school presentations in PowerPoint, made it possible for me to teach a computer class.

my current work station

But this extra side job in herpetology?  It just takes the cake in terms of utilizing my past experience.  I am cataloguing and posting for online sale a number of books, prints, ceramic figurines, and other miscellaneous items that were willed to the society by two different herpetologists.  Well, I have experience with books: my very first job was in a library, I worked at the college bookstore during my undergrad years, and even got to assistant manager at an outlet bookstore after graduation.  My writing and descriptive abilities will no doubt come into play when I need to provide summarized reviews of the books, and descriptions of the objects.  But it is mostly my archaeological skills being utilized here — the ability to sort, organize, photograph, document, and track a huge assemblage of items, along with the ability to make sense of scientific and biological nomenclature.

Who would have thought that 5 years in archaeology would help me get a part-time job working for herpetologists?  Or teaching a computer class?  Or that 2 years in credit card processing would prep me for grad school?  I can’t tell if I am making the connections with hindsight, or if I have been, in my own strange way, following a path to get to where I want to go.

It almost seems as though the steps I have taken through the years have been aiming me at exactly where I want to be.  For example, if I hadn’t attended field school on a lark, I wouldn’t have gotten an job as an archaeology field tech.  And I wouldn’t have been applying to CRM firms the next spring when my landlord in Arcata decided to sell our house with 30 days notice.  And I wouldn’t have had any other reason to take a job offer and move to Redding, CA if I my housing hadn’t just disappeared.  And if I had known people in Redding before moving, I might not have decided to finally get a dog to keep me company, after halfheartedly thinking about adopting a dog for years with no action.  And if I hadn’t gotten Cara, I would never have gone to the dog park and met my husband, T.

Maybe there was a plan, and I just didn’t know about it yet.  Or maybe, if you’re lucky, following your heart will get you where you need to go, whether or not you know where that is.


36 and 1st

T and I had a great weekend, where I got spoiled silly.  Saturday was my birthday, and Monday was our first wedding anniversary, but because our schedules would keep us from seeing each other on Monday, we decided to celebrate a little early.

On Saturday morning, T took me out for breakfast, so that I could get my favorite, eggs benedict.  Then we went shopping for a birthday present for me, a nice tote that I could carry my teaching materials in.  After hitting every store that sold luggage in the mall, I decided on the cheapest and best-looking one of the bunch, one we had seen at Burlington Coat Factory, and we headed home.

We got a gift certificate as a wedding present that we decided to use on Saturday night. I was thinking of it as an early anniversary celebration, but I think T still considered it part of my birthday.  So after leaving the dogs in the capable hands of T’s dispatcher’s son, we headed up Provo Canyon to the Sundance Resort on Saturday evening.  On the way, we stopped and had dinner at Carrabba’s Grill in Provo, which was the restaurant we chose for our rehearsal dinner.  They always have amazing Italian seafood dishes and great service, and we even tried their limoncello bread pudding for dessert.  Yum!

After dinner, we continued up to the resort, where we checked into our “room,” which was the bottom half of a little cabin in the woods.  I tried taking a photo, but my cell phone was out of battery, so visiting their website’s photo gallery will have to do if you want an idea of how beautiful it is.  There were flowers blooming all over the place — purple spikes of lupine, cobalt batchelor’s buttons, and at least 6 different colors of columbine.  Our cabin had a fireplace, a tiny kitchenette, a big flat-screen TV and a nice deck to sit on.  We relaxed, read on the deck, listened to the birds in the trees, and got thoroughly scolded by a young red squirrel as he ran up and down the trees around us.  The room had lots of nice rustic touches, like Native American tourist arts pieces and photographs, and board-and-batten panelling on the walls.  The bed was half pillows, and was very comfortable.  We had a wonderful night.

The next morning we got up and went down to the Foundry restaurant for their Sunday brunch.  There was a wide variety of excellent gourmet food — asparagus, lamb, made-on-demand omelettes, potatoes, pastries, fruit salad, bagels with lox and shmear, and a whole table of desserts, including banana split cheesecake made with fresh strawberries and banana chips.  The tab was a little steeper than your average breakfast buffet, but it was definitely worth it, and we got to sit outside on the patio, which was lovely.

We headed home in early afternoon, waved goodbye as we passed our dogsitter on his way out, and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at home.  T and I collaborated on a yummy dinner of marinated pork loin, pasta, and shredded cabbage.  Then for dessert, we unwrapped and thawed our wedding cake topper.  I was afraid that it was going to be dry and terrible tasting, so I decided to make some blackberry ice cream (more on that later), in the hopes that at least part of our dessert would be tasty.  I got impatient waiting for the cake to thaw, so I cut two wide slices, found the center was still icy, and then popped them into the microwave.  I was also being impatient about letting the ice cream set up, so we had soft-serve with our cake.  As it turned out, the ice cream was tasty, but the cake was still moist and absolutely delicious!  It was lemon cake with strawberry filling and royal icing, and while the icing was falling off the cake, it was amazing!  Cakes by Dawna definitely did an amazing job on this cake. (The two layers of cling wrap and about 10 layers of tinfoil probably didn’t hurt, either.  *smile*)

(we didn't feed each other this time around)


Best. Teacher. EVAR.

Now that I’ve been at this teaching thing for about 2 weeks, I’m starting to get used to our new schedule, but it’s not ideal.  T gets up between 4 and 6 am, gets ready, kisses me goodbye, and heads off to work.  I roll out of bed somewhere between 8 and 9 am, get dressed and have breakfast.  I spend the morning making sure I have everything ready for class, which includes making PowerPoint presentations, polishing my lesson plans, grading homework, transferring all the files I’ll need for that night to my thumb drive, and checking 3 different email accounts (personal, work, and the one I made for my students).  Once that is done, I can worry about doing my daily job search (since I am still claiming unemployment as an underemployed part-time instructor), checking Facebook (of course!) or blogging, running errands or walking the dogs, and keeping on top of things around the house like laundry and dishes.  I try to skip lunch these days, maybe skating by with a piece of fruit or a small snack, because I need to start making dinner by about 3 pm.  There are also a few text messages during the day, where T and I check in with each other and make sure we’re both alive.  I eat half of the dinner I cooked, put the remainder on a plate in the fridge for T, and head out the door to school by 4:30 at the latest.

Class starts at 5:30 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, and at 6 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I get paid for an office hour of sorts, so I ensure that I am available on campus half an hour before each class.  When I get there, I spend a few minutes in the parking lot lint-rolling the dog hair off me.  I’m sure any staff and students who see me think I’m insane, but oh well.  Then I need to check my emails again, print out my lesson plan and other teaching materials, and make copies of anything I need to hand out.  A short hike across the parking lot to the annex will get me into the classroom the required 10 minutes before class starts, so that the laptop is started up, the projector is on, and my SmartBoard is calibrated before my students show up.  I teach until 9:50 pm, put the laptop away, hike back across the parking lot to turn in my class roster, and drive home, getting there around 10:15 pm.

When I open the garage door, I am usually greeted by the dogs, and go upstairs to change out of my work clothes before they get too much more dog hair on them.  T is already in bed, snoring like a hibernating bear, with a light left thoughtfully on in the bathroom for me.  I change into pjs, and head back downstairs to unwind in front of the TV until 11:30 or midnight, with T’s snores wafting downstairs for accompaniment.  I sneak into bed next to T, and then the whole cycle starts all over again.  Until Friday, when I can do whatever I want all day, and I get to see by husband when he gets home from work, usually somewhere around 7 or 8 pm.

I guess it could be worse: I could be living in a hotel room in Nevada for 10 days at a time, and only get to see him 4 days a month, instead of 12.  (I’m also hoping that the combination of one less meal plus 4 hours of standing and pacing each day will result in some weight loss that I don’t have to put any real effort into.  But we’ll see if that actually happens. )

The classes themselves are still pretty hit-or-miss, too.  I seem to have more success with my Strategies class, where I only have 4 students.  The class is based on discussion of topics like priorities, reading skills, and managing exam anxiety, and I have a few talktative students who do a good job of keeping the ball rolling.  I can usually stretch conversations if I overestimated the amount of time certain activities would take, and everyone is engaged and usually having a good time.  The homework assignments are fairly easy, and everyone does them.

My computer class is a whole other story.  Some days I have too much work for them to do; other days I have too little.  As I walk everyone through performing functions in MS Office, some people get it right away, while others struggle, so I know there is a lot of time spent sitting there either waiting for the next command or falling behind and feeling completely lost.  Several students regularly show up late, as much as 40 minutes into class.  One girl always leaves 30 minutes early so that she can get to work.  There’s a lot of confusion, when students don’t follow instructions, and I have to demonstrate what they are doing wrong one-on-one.  Even written directions aren’t read and followed.  Some students constantly complain about the work and ask for ways do get around doing the work.  At least half of the class is just not turning in any homework, and I suspect that they are ignoring me in class as well, and spending their time on Facebook.  I try not to take it all personally, but it’s hard; I feel responsible for keeping everyone learning and motivated, and it’s hard to do.

One of the biggest obstacles to teaching this class was the fact that I didn’t have Office 2007 at home!  That meant I couldn’t practice or adapt my lesson plans from home.  I asked if the college would give me a license, but they said no.  So I finally just decided to buy the update and call it a business expense on my taxes.  Hopefully being able to spend more time running through the lessons at home will make my life, and my class, a lot easier and better!

Women’s Choices

I have to say, I hate the new Beyaz commercial with something close to a burning passion.  How can a commercial for birth control, something that was a key component of the sexual revolution, be so sexist?  How did the ad agency get so far off track with this one?

The premise of the commercial is women walking through a store, shopping/making choices about what they want in their lives.  This should be brilliant, because birth control does, in fact, give women more choices when it comes to their lives.  The main problem, in my eyes, is that each woman in the commercial only gets to choose one thing.

It starts with the line, “You know what you want to do.  But you never know what you might want tomorrow.  It’s good to have choices.”  You see a woman grabbing a diploma from a pile labelled “graduate school.”  Then two women check out a selection of pictures of men labelled “significant other.”  One of the women snatches a picture out of the group just ahead of a second woman, then smirks as she walks away, leaving the second woman to look after her in disappointment and disbelief.  In the next shot, the woman who missed out on the guy smiles and reaches towards a choice that we don’t get to see, but from the angle, you get the impression it is somewhere else in the store.

Then there’s a fourth woman who passes over a picnic basket labelled “picnic by waterfall.”  You see her continue past a display with a stork in it.  The stork, with a lavender bundle held in his beak, steps out of the display and chases her, offering the bundle repeatedly, but she smiles, refuses, and walks away.  You next see her walk up to a model of the Eiffel Tower, labelled “Trip to Paris,” and take hold of the tag.

We then switch to a fifth woman, who looks at a selection of houses and cars, labelled “buy a house,” then chooses one and puts it into her shopping cart.  The final scene is the woman who refused the stork, sitting behind the wheel of a car full of women with the Eiffel Tower model strapped to the roof of her car.

By the time we’re done with the commercial we have been given a slew of symbolic messages about womanhood and our choices.  Right from the start, we learn that women are fickle and don’t know their own minds from day to day.  Next we see that women need to fight over men, who are their only potential “significant others.”  Sure, lesbians typically don’t have to worry about birth control and aren’t Beyaz’s target demographic, but there is still an assumption being made.  And why emphasize sexual competition between women?  Why not have both women choose a partner from among the large selection of possible mates and both be happy with their choices?  Then there’s the insistence of the stork, which I can only assume refers both to a woman’s own biological clock “going off” and the pressure from her family/friends/society to get down to the business of making babies, since that’s what women are made for.

But the worst aspect of the commercial is the fact that it makes it look like you have to choose between grad school and a baby, travel and a baby, even home ownership and a baby, and the fact that a woman doesn’t want to get pregnant at a particular time in her life doesn’t have to be tied to the things she would rather be doing.  Sure, having a child makes some things a little bit more difficult, but it’s not an either/or proposition any longer.  I know several women who went to grad school, owned homes, and had babies all at the same time.  I know multiple cultural anthropologists who took their toddlers with them to live overseas while they worked on their graduate or post-graduate research.  I also know women who do not want to have a child right now regardless of the fact that they currently have a partner, own a house, and have their degree — they’re not putting off kids for the sake of something else.  And I know working and stay at home moms, with and without degrees, who rent and own houses, with boyfriends, husbands, girlfriends/wives, and on their own, who have made the decision to have a child without giving anything up in the process.  And whether a woman doesn’t want a child now or doesn’t want one at all, her decision to use birth control isn’t about the fact that being a mom limits her choices.  It is no longer a trade off that women have to make.

I understand, many anti-teen pregnancy campaigns stress the decisions that teens need to make, and the limits that having a child can impose on young girls’ lives.  But in that case, you are encouraging young girls to think about the consequences of their actions and choose one of two things: birth control, or abstinence.  Beyaz is being marketed to adult women, and selling it with the message that having a child means the death of your dreams is sexist to say the least.  Women today have more choices than ever — I would rather see the women in this commercial fill their symbolic shopping baskets with a variety of choices, instead of having to pick just one.  We have the ability to find the combination that works best for us.  And to suggest that those choices wouldn’t be possible with kids?  The 1950s called, Beyaz, and they want their antiquated gender myths back.

One of the monotone facts rattled off in the background of the commercial is the fact that this birth control includes folate, which helps prevent birth defects for women who conceive while on or just after ending use of Beyaz.  So that means it’s safer for women who are on birth control and accidentally or intentionally become moms.  Why not emphasize the variety of reasons why women choose birth control?  The message could be, if you’re not ready yet for kids, if you’ve had a child and want to wait before having more, or if you’ve finished having kids, Beyaz is the right birth control for you.

Oh yeah, that’s right.  Mirena already stole that idea.  *smile*

Hide, Unfriend, or Ignore?

a difference of opinion?

Facebook is a weird place.  It makes it very easy to keep tabs on people.  You can say yes to the friend request of someone you had English class with in high school but never hung out with, or the wife of an old childhood pal, or someone you only knew at work.  And it isn’t until you friend these people, and you are suddenly privvy to their own personal data stream, that you may realize you have some major differences in opinion.

I have heard and read several studies that claim that the Internet and social networking sites allow us to meet more people that are exactly like us, rather than fostering diversity and interconnectedness.  I like to think that I am an openminded individual, who is happy to associate with people who do not share my political views or personal ideals or even religious beliefs.  Hell, T and I have very different political beliefs, so we just agree to disagree, and we don’t talk politics too much.

And there’s the rub.  All these people you friended because you used to know them in a certain context are now sharing their most deeply-held personal beliefs 24-7 with all of their closest friends and family.  And you.  Subjects that would never come up during a 40-hour work week are suddenly posted, shared and ranted about on a regular basis.  Whether you agree with them or not.

Maybe they posted something that is completely contrary to your beliefs.  And you can’t resist making a comment to contradict them, which turns into a comment battle.  Or maybe it’s the other way around — you post something, and get a torrent of criticism or unwanted advice.  I’m sure that everyone on Facebook has run into this problem before.  But what do you do about it?

The first time I ran across this phenomenon was with the spouse of a former high-school classmate.  I had no interest in going to war with someone I had never met in person, so I simply hid her posts.  The next time around, it was a former classmate themselves, someone who had opposing political beliefs to mine and liked to stir the pot.  And I always took the bait.  I finally decided I had to do something, if only to save myself a small amount of mental anguish each day.  Unfriending seemed unkind, so hiding his posts was the easy way out.

But then there was a third person.  Someone I had been close to during our freshman year of college, but had not been in touch with for over 10 years before Facebook reunited us.  This person had become born-again in the intervening time, and frequently posted points of view I disagreed with, both religious and political.  For a little while, I commented on the posts I disagreed most violently with.  In one case, I found myself in an exchange with another of his friends, with several volleys of opposing opinion.  And then I realized something.

I was that person who decided to butt in and provide my unsolicited opinion when no one else wanted it.

My born-again friend?  Never commented on my posts he didn’t agree with.  And rarely replied to my annoying comments on his posts.  He was just stating what he believed to his friends who believed the same thing.  And he let me believe, and post, whatever I liked without comment.

And that’s where I realized that you don’t have to hide or get rid of people you have friended but sometimes disagree with.  Any more than you need to stop talking to your coworker as soon as you realize that they are a Green Party member and you’re a Libertarian.  You simply choose to not get into it with them, in the hopes that they will respect your right to believe what you like and do the same.  So when I see a Facebook friend’s post that I disagree with, I simply don’t read it.  And that way, I don’t get mad, and I don’t have to be that crazy person who is ranting in their comments.  And since I stopped meddling, I don’t seem to have the problem of people butting in and telling me my posts are wrong either.

Most of the time, it works that way.  Sometimes, I admit, I just can’t resist butting in.  Respectfully, of course.  But I do try to hold my virtual tongue.

And I’m sure that as soon as I have kids, and I start to share the choices I’m making as a parent, all that no-one-butting-in will be a distant, fond memory.  But that’s okay.

Because there’s nothing more boring than only knowing people who believe exactly the same things you do.  Just ask T.  *smile*

The Cleaning Paradox

Cleaning has been an issue between T and I for as long as we have been living together.

Don’t get me wrong, I am far from a clean freak.  I have never been someone who aspires to constant spotlessness, and I am far too embarassed to admit in print how infrequently I actually clean.  But drifts of German shepherd hair in the corners, clothes piled around the bedroom and living room, and the inability to actually see any horizontal surface in the kitchen eventually gets to me.  It makes me feel guilty and embarassed for being lazy.  It means when I finally do clean and see just how dirty everything is from my own inaction, I get more and more pissed-off at myself.  Not a good place to be.  The dogs have learned to just stay out of my way when I clean.

T, on the other hand, HATES to clean.  With a burning passion.  He would much rather pay someone to do it for him, and that was pretty much the arrangement he had for years before we met.  However, he is a good enough man to want to help me out when I clean.  He really, genuinely feels bad if I am cleaning without him, and he insists on helping me out.  Despite the fact that he is miserable the whole time.

Which results in the paradox.  I don’t want to be the bad guy and make him clean when he hates it,  but then I get upset that I can’t just clean by myself.  Bad feelings all around.  This makes me, a staunch feminist who believes wholeheartedly that marriage is a 50-50 partnership of equals, wish that I had a 50s-era husband who would just pick up his feet as I vacuum under him.

image from americanmemoryofthe1950shousewif.bgsu.wikispa

But this weekend I may have found a solution.  While we sat on the couch not cleaning, I suggested a possible plan that was recieved with lukewarm support.  We sat on the couch some more, still not cleaning.  I brought the plan up again, and noncommittal noises were made.  There was some more not-cleaning to be done.  Finally, as I started to motivate us to clean, accompanied by the usual, “Fiiine, if you want to clean, then we’ll clean…,” I said what must have been the magic words, “Honestly, I would rather do it by myself.”

And then he accepted the plan.  While I cleaned the house, he took the dogs to the park and did some light grocery shopping.  Both were chores that  needed to be done.  I vacuumed and scrubbed everything I wanted to, sucking up dog-hair drifts, and cleaning toilets and sinks.  Part-way through, I realized that I wasn’t pissed-off at all.  I was actually in a pretty good mood for a change.  I heard T and the dogs come home when I was most of the way done, but, mysteriously, he didn’t come upstairs until the moment I finished cleaning.  And when he did, he announced that dinner would be ready in five minutes!

If I had made him clean with me, no shopping would have been done this weekend, and the dogs wouldn’t have gotten any exercise.  This may become a routine, although I will be sad if I never get to go play with T and the dogs at the park anymore.  So we’ll see how it goes.

But I have to say, it is wonderful to have a husband who is a true partner and helps you out with all the chores.  No matter how you divide them up.  *smile*