Monday, June 13, 2016


Random OMG cookies. August I just made this up and they're SO GOOD.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
Mix those up. Then add:
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
a few Tablespoons of hershey syrup
Bake at 350 for about 11 minutes. Chewy chocolately nutty YUMMMMMMMM..

Friday, June 10, 2016

Dear Katie, on turning 11

Sweetest Katie May,

Can I indulge yet again in some mopey-mommy feelings about how fast this has gone?  The mixture of pictures here is exactly how I see you.  The same sweet girl-- always quiet and thoughtful, happy and excited, observant, supportive, encouraging, brave, and persistent--but just a blur of ages.  You are all of these at once, from a sacked out baby in my arms to a wall-climbing ballerina to this beautiful, tall, scientific artist at eleven.


You've grown and matured so much in the past few years and you are now in that perfect age of "big kid."  You are old enough to do lots of cool stuff but young enough to still get away with playing on playgrounds or giggling like a maniac for no clear reason. You are so comfortable with who you are, what you want, and making it happen.  You care deeply about other people's feelings, but not too much about their opinions. You would give your right arm to help someone in need, but wouldn't change a hair on your head to make someone like you for anything other than who you are. You fight for justice and equal opportunity and understanding.  You are so sensitive to the hurts in this world.  Your heart breaks for the broken and weeps for the hurting. You are a selfless crusader.

You are a bookworm, a math-nerd, a scientist of every stripe, an artist, a talker, a philosopher, a dreamer, a crafter, a nature-lover, an animal advocate, a perfectionist, a helper, an observer, a student of all things, a friend to all, a kind sister, a loving and appreciative daughter, a hilarious niece and cousin, and and a beloved grandaughter.  Happy 11th birthday, my darling Katie.  May you continue to grow in your confident wonderful self!


Monday, June 06, 2016


Auggie started school about 15 minutes ago, and yet he graduated last weekend.

Being our 3rd round of this, we were prepared for the tear-filled slideshow with pictures showing him from a fluffy-headed three year old to a still fluffy-headed five year old.

He has been a challenging student to these two wonderful teachers.  He marches to his own drum and occasionally also sings along. He's crazy bright at the academics, but a bit of a mess with self-control and focus.  We are so grateful to his teachers who reached out to us everytime he had a fall-apart day (um, several times each week) and tried 100 new things per month to keep him focused and engaged. When they called his name at graduation, both teachers teared up as Auggie stood and shook their hands and then gave them his famous Auggie-kissuggles.

He's pure love, this one, and we're so glad that they could see and celebrate that truth buried inside the chattery and distractable fluffy-headed opinionated dreamer.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

No tenure

So..... it was a no.

No tenure.  No pay raise.  No stability.  And no job after May 14, 2017.

I'm looking into the appeal process and some quiet conversations are also happening between key leaders.  In the meantime, I got a huge publication success: my work with two friends was published in the top journal in our field.  The PR team in my school drafted up a summary document and sent it out to "the wires" (what is that?  Is it tubes like the internet? I don't know) and it was picked up by one of the most prestigious scientific magazines in the US and tomorrow I'm doing an interview about the work.  I'll link it up if it moves to a real story.

So there.  Not a single one of the people that voted against me has ever been cited in this magazine.  Bite it.

Also, I was invited by another colleague to speak on a 4-person panel about the challenges of work-life balance as a woman in academics (where we are routinely pounded into the ground and then left for teaching slots). I wrote back that I'd be happy to share my experience but that, since I was just denied tenure, I may not be the most successful example.  They asked if I'd still do it, since it's a real situation faced by the majority of women (not men, just women) that go up for tenure.  So, there's that.

The same day that I was told no tenure, I had to attend a special awards dinner for a student I've mentored the last 3 years.  She was allowed to invite one faculty member to attend this dinner along with her parents, and she chose me.  I arrived to her anxious face scanning me for news.  I shook my head slightly, burst into tears, and excused myself.  But I pulled myself back together and spent the next 2 hours celebrating her success.  She left me with a beautiful bracelet noting my impact on my world; a nice reminder that my success is not defined by the administration.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

This thing called tenure...

Coping with anxiety: A week in the life of an assistant professor up for tenure this week.

Day 1: exercise. Completely exhausted myself and slept like a rock for 13 hours.
Day 2: eating all the sweet things in a 1 mile radius, feeling queasy.
Day 3: SHOPPING. I can't stop loading up Amazon carts. Not buying most of them, but just anxiously hunter-gather hoarding.
Anxiety is strange.

I meet with the dean on Friday.  I have no idea what to expect from that.  If it's a yes, I have a job for life, a pay-raise, a promotion...more benefits than any one job should ever rightfully offer you.  I win the freaking lottery.  But if it's a no I have no job at all.  It's all or nothing.

My case?  In short it's mixed.  The application process was required by my contract this year.  My probationary period was over and I either applied for tenure or left without it anyhow.  There was no more stalling and just being an assistant.  So, I spent much of last July and August putting together a beautifully rich packet of materials explaining my research (including current working projects as well as already published work and how they all tie together to make this intelligent little corner of the academic world in which I live). I also included dozens of folders of my teaching evaluations, course materials, notes from students extolling my virtures as a teacher, nominations for teaching awards, and more.  And, finally, a few documents showing all I do for the university and field: conference organizing, reviewing journals, judging competitions, providing media quotes, committee work, and more. 

This packet was distilled down to a 1" binder and 7 copies of that binder went out to professors at "peer or higher" universities around the world. Colleagues at top universities read my research and wrote letters of recommendation (or not) for me during the fall semester. 

These letters were added to my giant packet and given to the members of my department.  During January they reviewed all of my material and the outside letters and made their own evaulations.  These were compiled into a department statement.  This was added to the packet.

The packet was then left in the dean's office for a month.  During this time, all the senior members of the business school were expected to come spend an hour or so reviewing the materials and forming their own evaulation.  There were meetings to discuss me.  Toward the end of February there was a final meeting in which the faculty cast votes: Yes or No?

This all went to the Dean's office.  He reviewed everything and made his own personal evaluation in early March.  

All of this--my materials, the outside letters, the department and dean statement and the school yes/no vote then went to the university chancellor's office.  The vice-chancellor (aka the provost) reviewed everything again.  She will make her own final recommendation entirely on her own judgement (she's not required to agree with anyone else in the process).  This week she'll present the case and her judgement to the Board of Trustees of the university, and they'll sign off on it (in theory they can make their own judgement, but the provost's decision is pretty much it). 

And Friday it comes back.  Yes?  No?

Rumors have that the outside letters were strongly positive.  (I'm not allowed to see them or know who wrote them)  I know my department statement was strongly positive (I read it.)  The school, unfortunately, voted strongly negative in February which led to my complete and total breakdown for about 2 weeks of panic and sobbing.  The dean has strategically avoided any indication of his opinion either way.  And so this is a very real worry.

If yes?  We fix up the house a little, re-load the savings account that got drained, and do a lot of charitable work we've had to keep at a low-roar.  I take on some bigger and more interesting projects at work that I've put off due to the uncertainty of where I'll be in a year.  Maybe we get a cat.  Or another kid.  Life is beautifully open to us.

If no? I figure out how to get temporary (i.e. half-pay and more work) contracts in town for 2 years so Maryna can graduate from her high school.  I refuse to ask her to move schools again.  We consider homeschooling or public-schooling the other kids if we can't manage their tuition on my reduced pay.  Rob looks for additional teaching slots for the year. I recreate that job market exhaustion of 2006-2007, and if that works out well, then I move to a new university, probably in a new state, and see where life takes us next.  Or we change up careers.  

48.25 hours.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

August this morning at 6:28AM:

Do you know my three favorite numbers?  7, 2000, and 5.  Seven, becuase that's what time I get to wake up and have breakfast.  2000 becuase that's the highest number that I know I can count to, and five, because right now I'm five and I think it's magical.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Here's the truth, because why not?

I struggle with depression.  I've dealt with this in long and short stretches for as long as I can remember.  One of my earliest clear memories of calling it depression was in college, but at the time I remember recognizing it with the knowing assurance of "oh, yes, I know what this is and have been here before."  I can identify a very dark time in late ninth grade and into tenth grade before that.  Age has wiped out much awareness before then.

Maybe this comes as a surprise.  Sorry.  But I see friends and family that are clearly struggling and can't admit it and it's a dangerous lonely thing to wrestle alone.  No one should wrestle this alone, feeling broken in every way and unable to even talk about it. So,  I'm standing up and being clear: I deal with depression--a lot.  I take medication.  I use some crazy self-motivation techniques that work for me.  I occasionally drown myself in church-y feels.  These days I occasionally drown myself in pillows and blankets and growl at anyone that comes near.  I'm working on it.

For me (and this is only me and maybe you but not necessarily so just be cool with that), depression eats my brain, my creativity, my organization, and my perspective.  I can only see the task in front of me.  Thankfully, I can see that task, which is why I've managed to mask depression with my mad skills in academics. Am I depressed?  Sure.  But there's a worksheet to get done. A book to read. A vocabulary quiz. The SAT. No rest, no white flags, just keep moving.  High school's deadlines and small projects were really an endless series of "just stay afloat long enough to get the next thing done" rungs on a ladder.

College knocked me down a little.  Deadlines stretched further out and more ambiguous. There were days at a time without a checkbox to mark off or a task to accomplish.  No one forced me to go to classes and there weren't always attendance checks.  I struggled heavily with depression in the first year of college, only emerging again when I had a tougher course load and more work to do than time to worry. Adding a job or two wiped out any other chance to let myself get sucked down the hole completely.

It still happened, of course.  But by then, I experienced depression like finding myself on a downward escalator.  I felt and saw that I was sinking; I knew where I would end up.  I knew my way around depression by then. I knew that--when I was ready and able--I could find my way back up to the rest of the world.  Until then, I'd be removed from everyone else; able to see and hear them but not quite interact.  For me, depression feels like a 3 second delay; like my brain has detached and lifted about 4" away from the base of my brain. It's a confused fog; a struggle through muddy ground; more work than it seems worth.

Graduate school.  Oh, man. "Choose a topic whenever you are ready, do all the work, and let us know how it goes."  Yep, I hit a few hard spirals of depression again.  I looped around, left for a nice 9-5 job with a routine that immediately bored me, came back, left to have a baby (woah!), came back, and finally finished when the whole thing turned into "do this now or get out."   Task lists were written, schedules and deadlines drawn up, and life kicked back into drive.  And then it was drive drive drive all the way through the job market, starting my first tenure track position, and working my butt off every day. (And adding three kids to the mix!)

And so, now, I find myself spinning at the end of a tenure track.  For three years I've worked nearly every minute of the day.  If I'm not actually writing, then that time must be justified through intense multi-tasking: folding laundry or socializing or reading or knitting while watching a movie with the kids and making dinner; sleeping as little and as efficiently as possible; intentional bonding and teaching to the kids; work work work work work.  Every minute of every day counted and had to be used productively--preferably toward work but if not toward therapy, parenting, housework, and multi-goaled highly intentional time with my family.  "Let's get bonding time while we cook dinner and I explain fractions and share some chemistry and cultural studies."  For real.

And now? Everything is loosey-goosey.  My tenure case is under review and not really open for additions or edits; so every day is just...a day.  Days stretch wide in front of me: "is today the day I want to plan that next project?  It doesn't have to be.  Maybe today I just sleep...again."  I've gone from 120mph to nose down in a ditch.

And so I find myself adrift, cruising around the basement of my brain waiting to find the up escalator, blinking slowly while I process what I just heard for longer than seems reasonable, and wondering what I could convince myself to care about enough to actually do it.

This is my depression.