Archive for March, 2011
No regrets

Only 5 more weeks to go this semester.  Five.

I’m not one to wish my life away, but geez, I wish I could be done with it already.  Periodically, I have a twinge of “OMG, I can’t believe I just walked away from an administrative and teaching position that I totally had in the bag!!” But then I think of how my days have been going lately, and the twinge is quickly replaced with relief.  I have no regrets.

The biggest complaint I have about my job is the student and parent demographic.  Our institution (for whatever reason) enrolls primarily affluent, entitled kids, who actually aren’t all that bright.  The parents contact me routinely.  I think it’s shameful for the parent of a college student to contact a professor about grades or the perceived unfairness of a course.  I had one such situation that took up many hours of my week last week, until after my very blunt response to the parents fell upon deaf ears, when I was finally forced to kick the situation over to the Dean to handle.  The situation will likely get messy, and attorneys may get involved.  All because these parents can’t stand to let their child go through the valuable experience of failing at something.  It drives me crazy, and it’s a situation that I see repeated over and over again, every week I am at work.

Last week I had two other situations in which parents became uncomfortably involved.  In one, the student came to me after class to tell me that his mother didn’t think he could do the assignment.  What went through my head was “Honey, your mother might not believe in you—but I do!”  What came out was this:  ”Do you think you can do the work?”  The student nodded yes.  I quipped, “Then what’s the problem?”  This question was followed by confused stammering.  All I could think about was how much more independent my little 2.5 year old Holden is compared to these college kids!

I have to say, I’m glad I took this job.  It was a valuable learning experience on so many levels.  But I am also glad to be leaving it.  In only 5 short weeks, the semester will be over.  I have 3 weeks of mandatory meetings after that, at which point Holden and I can commence our fun summer together.  We’re taking H out of his school at the end of May, and after that, the sky is the limit!  I don’t like to overschedule our summer, so we just have a 2-week period where H will have swim lessons at the pool each morning.  Other than that, we’re wide open.  Gardening, hiking, going to the park, visiting friends….that will be our awesome summer.  My neighbor and I have also made an agreement to swap babysitting one day a week.  I will take her 2 kids for 1 day, and she will take H for one day.  That way we get a break, can go to our own doctor’s appointments, or clean the house in peace, or whatever.  No money will change hands.  It’s a nice arrangement.  She too is going through a career metamorphosis, so it will be good to be able to support each other in this way.

We had a taste of springtime this past weekend, and ever since, I’ve looked out my window at the subsequent snowfall with disdain.  On Saturday H and I had our usual yoga class, and on Sunday, we went to the maple sugaring open house at Shelburne Farms.  It was warm (40 degrees!) and sunny, with blue skies.  And it’s mud season.  Did I mention the mud?

But the mud is acceptable when the sky is this blue:

And when your son is this happy to be outside:

We visited the animals in the barn:

And listened to the “kaplink-kaplink-kaplink” of the sap as it started to run:

After our day in the sugarbush, we spent some quality time at the park (it was our first trip to the park in MONTHS), and we played in the driveway before dinner.  It was a delightful weekend, and (I hope) foreshadowing for good things to come!  Spring is here in Vermont!

Good & Bad

Good:  We arrived at the Burlington International Airport last Saturday at 4:30AM, a full hour before our flight was set to leave.

Bad:  Our confirmation code was bogus, and (through some programming error on United’s end), it did not match our itinerary.  The gate agent told us too bad, and to call the 800 number to arrange alternative flight plans.

Good:  After nearly an hour on the phone, we were re-booked with a different airline.

Bad:  The single connection we had with our original itinerary turned into two connections with our new itinerary.

Good:  We arrived in Philly, boarded our connection that would be taking us to Washington DC, and dreamed about eventually having lunch in Washington DC before our third and final flight into Charleston, WV.

Bad:  We were 13th in line for take-off.  That should have been a sign right there.

Bad:  After 15 minutes and advancing to first in line for take-off, we had to return to the gate because the hydraulic pump was broken.

Bad:  After the hydraulic pump was fixed, we waited for 20 minutes for paperwork so we could take off again.  Then we waited another hour for a push crew.

Bad:  We realized at this point we’d have no time for lunch once we arrived in DC.

Good:  We made our DC connection with SECONDS to spare.

Bad:  My throat started feeling sore on the third leg of our trip.  I chalked it up to breathing airplane air for too long, because after all, I couldn’t be getting sick again, after only feeling better for 24 hours, right?

Good:  We landed in Charleston, WV, were greeted by my parents, got some dinner, and began the hour and a half long trek to their house.  Fourteen hours after our journey started, we got to my parents house.

Bad:  I lapsed into full-on sick mode.  Chills, fever, aches, pains, coughing, fatigue.

Good:  My brother showed up and surprised us with a visit—this was the highlight of the week!

Bad:  I spent the first 2 days of our trip almost exclusively in pajamas and on Nyquil.

Good:  Despite spending the better part of our 2nd night on the bathroom floor, I ended up *not* puking.

Bad:  Holden puked in my parents bed twice.

Good:  We visited my aunt and uncle briefly, and Holden got to see a baby cow.

Bad:  Three days into our visit, I went to the emergency clinic for a sinus and ear infection.

Good:  Amoxicillin works quickly–within 24 hours I was starting to feel better.

Bad:  As soon as I started to feel better, my parents started to feel sick.

Good:  Holden went to his first movie in the movie theater.  We saw Rango!  He loved it!

Bad:  We didn’t get to do anything else we had planned to do, since everyone was so sick.

Good:  The morning we were supposed to leave, our flight was only reporting a 15 minute delay.

Bad:  My mom said they were too sick to drive us to the airport.

Good:  My uncle volunteered to drive us to the airport if we could drive to his house first.

Bad:  Before my mom had a chance to write down driving directions to my uncle’s house, she fell and hurt herself, and started vomiting.

Good:  I don’t think she broke anything.

Bad:  I’m starting to feel a little panicked at this point.

Good:  My dad says he is feeling OK after all, and can take us to the airport.

Bad:  When we get to the airport, we find our flight has cancelled due to mechanical problems.

Good:  We get re-booked on a different airline, and our bag and carseat get tagged and sent off to go on that new flight.

Bad:  The airline realizes that they mistakenly booked us on an overbooked flight.

Good:  The airline finds us an alternative airline (literally:  United–>Delta–>UsAirways)

Bad:  Our bags are already en route on a flight we can’t go on.

Good:  Our connection in Washington DC goes smoothly, and we arrive in Burlington.

Bad:  Our luggage did not make it to Burlington.

Good:  The airline knows where our luggage is:  Savannah, GA.

Bad:  We’ve been home 24 hours, and we still don’t have our luggage.  No winter coats, snow boots, plus half of our wardrobes and our carseat are still missing.

Good:  We are home!  And we are recovering.

Pictures are here.

Plumbing

The plumber has been here working on our hot water for the past 7 hours.  No wonder it’s going to be super expensive.  I cannot emphasize the extent to which I look forward to a nice hot shower.  I’m wondering if I will feel start to feel better after getting cleaned up.  Sometimes being dirty AND sick makes you feel sicker than if you were just sick all by itself.

H has stayed home with me today while our plumbing is getting fixed.  He’s been GREAT….entertaining himself while I grade papers and enter grades.  He plays with his trains mostly, and talks to himself, constructing complicated dialogues and relationships between the various trains.

I have some of our clothes packed for our early Saturday morning departure to WV.  The rest of the laundry will have to wait until the plumber is gone.  I have 2 classes to teach tomorrow, one from 2:00-3:15 and another from 3:30-4:45, which is quite possibly the worst time slot for a class right before spring break. A lot of students have already told me that they won’t be coming and I’m sure many more simply won’t show.  I wonder how much effort I should put into tomorrow’s classes.  Maybe I’ll come with some sort of fun group-based game that the students can play…maybe I’ll break out my neuropsychological testing bag of tricks and simply have them screen each other for dementia.  That’s always fun.

Earlier this morning, I had the pleasure of seeing a former colleague.  She is a full clinical psychology professor at my former institution.  Last year, we worked briefly with each other on a translational research project, and she even let me test some of the kids at the local elementary school.  She has 2 elementary-aged kids herself, and she came over this morning to pass down her son’s old clothes, along with age-appropriate games, books, and puzzles.  We had a nice discussion, and she asked me how my current job was going.  I told her that I like it–I like my colleagues, I like (but don’t love) the teaching, but that I am really looking for something more quantitative (and research-based).  I told her that I’m leaving my current position at the end of the year, and I told her about my usability plans.  She then told me that she’s working on a very large grant (which if funded, wouldn’t be ready for another few years).  She asked if I’d like to have a role in the research.  I told her that I’m keeping all options open, and that I would certainly consider it.  Why close any doors?

As far as the usability stuff goes—I’m coming along.  I’ve started a usability blog.  I will share the link here once there’s more to see.  I plan to use it as a springboard for reflecting on things that I read in the field.  It’ll help me get up to speed on some of the issues, techniques, and theories within the field.  I’ve almost finished reading The Handbook of Usability Testing, which is a GREAT book.  The parts about research design and test moderation are familiar to me—the parts about recruiting participants are not.  So, I have a few things to learn in that arena.  I’m starting to get more of a sense of what my contributions could be, and what sorts of things I’d be capable of doing.  I’m learning where the holes in my knowledge are.  That’s pretty important I think—knowing what you don’t know.

OK, time to check on the progress of the plumber.  A hot shower is the perfect capstone experience to this sunny, 18 degree day.

Lots of minor annoyances = a single pain in the @$$

We are only a few days away from our departure to sunny West Virginia for my spring break. Rob has never been to my parent’s house, and I haven’t been there for quite some time….over 2 years. In fact, this is what Holden looked like during my last visit to my parent’s house:

Yes, that is a 3-month old Holden, getting a bath in a utility sink.  So, a visit to see my parents is indeed overdue.  Speaking of utility sinks and bathing, we have been without hot water for nearly a week.  We haven’t had hot water in the bath tub for longer than that—close to a month at this point.  H has been bathed at the neighbors, at our friends, etc.  It’s a long story, but basically the plumbing/heating company we hired SUCKS, and this will be their 4th trip to our house.  A few thousand dollars later, and hopefully we will have hot water once again.  I can’t wait until Thursday—that’s hot water day for us!

On top of this hot water ordeal, H was sick with a sinus infection and I have been sick for the past week with something that feels uncomfortably similar to an ear infection.  My midterm grades are due in, and I have mounds of grading, advising, and lecture prep to wade through before the week is over.  Any one of these things would be OK on its own–annoying, but I could deal.  Cumulatively, however, they make me want to gouge my eyes out.

So yeah, I’m complaining again.  I want winter to be over, I want to feel the sun on my back, I want to be able to breathe through my nose, drive with my windows down, run around in my bare feet.  I want to garden with H, go to the pool, camp, and cook dinner on the grill.  I want to drink wine on the deck and slap at those blasted mosquitoes as they alight on my exposed skin.  I want to smell campfire on the air, sleep between sheets not made of flannel, watch our neighborhood turn to green.

Come on spring—I NEED you right now.