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Archive for March, 2008

I have a post about TCKs brewing, but right now C. is trying to engage me from the bouncy seat, and MM is managing to get all her toys everywhere.  So, here’s a couple of recent pictures to amuse and entertain:

(we decided that he’s an earth-tones kinda guy)

and

Daddy and daughter, both looking cute.  I managed to cut her bangs without too much trauma, and she’s just recently started letting me put her hair up in ponytails, so she looks so grown up to me.

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Milestone!

Of the quick kind, since C. just woke up from his nanonap.

Today is C.’s 3 month birthday!!  I realize this is mainly a milestone of the babywear kind, but he’s now a quarter of a year old.

Still not showing signs of sleeping in the crib, though.  And he has a cold that’s making him a little cranky, complete with watery eye (just the one) and loud, old-man sneezes (no delicate little “achoo”s for him).

But three months is three months, no matter how you cut it.

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Just wondering…

I’m toying around with the idea of creating a password-protected dissertation blog.  It would probably be very light on the “why oh why can’t I get work done???” side, and heavier on the explication-with-images-and-video-where-appropriate side.  With snippets of writing along the way.  The reason I’m playing around with this is simply that I get enthusiastic talking about this stuff, it’s kind of interesting in its own right, and it does kind of constitute ‘drama’ of a benign sort to have a blog whose purpose is to try and see a big project through.

But I don’t think I’ll do it if I can’t get at least three people interested in reading – too depressing.

So, I’m just wondering if any of you would be interested in following along on such a blog?  Having the password would not constitute any kind of contract requiring you to comment regularly (although the occasional comment, when provoked by something I’ve written, would be like gold in my impoverished little hands).  If you’re interested, can you drop me a line by email at xilerui [at] hotmail.com?  There are no worries and no hard feelings towards any/everyone who prefers to pass on this – I’m just wondering if there’s any interest out there.

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It’s 6 am. MM has yet to wake up, C. is sleeping fitfully in his chair, and I’m online. I should be sleeping, and god knows I’ll be nodding off all day because I’m awake now, but I couldn’t resist this quiet time before the cacophony begins, and I can’t think straight, to write a little here.

As I’ve mentioned, I got back from the annual Big Conference in my academic field on Sunday. I’m still trying to process my feelings about the whole thing, because seeing all my old friends, reading through the list of panels that were being presented, and strolling around the book seller’s room before my own panel have all gotten me to thinking about my place in academia and my plans for the future.

The most overwhelming feeling I had coming away from the whole thing was one of inadequacy, tempered with indifference. You’d think the two feelings would be mutually exclusive; it takes caring about something – evening if “caring” is limited to competitiveness – to feel inadequate about it, and to that extent I suppose I do care that my atrophied, post-partum brain can’t seem to wrap itself around all of the interesting and complex discussions going on in the field. I look at all the books for sale – all the new literature that I know almost nothing about – and I feel like things have just passed me by, and that my time in the field is pretty much over.

By the same token, however, I know that my life has simply started down a different path. I don’t know if it’s one where I have much to say, academically, but it’s not the same path I was headed down (hopelessly single, devoted to my studies, aiming for a tenure-track job somewhere) when I began. In many ways, I feel a bit like this conference was my swan-song, and I don’t know if I’ll be doing any more of them in the future.

At the same time, I think I’m more interested in writing my dissertation than I have been in a long time. I came away from the conference, however, with a much stronger sense of not needing to make it some kind of groundbreaking work. As a friend of mine reminded me, it’s an assignment, not a calling; it’s the last hoop I’ll ever have to jump through in graduate school – get through this, and I’m done and you can call me Dr. Third Culture Kid(s). And, at the end of the day, it’s a story that I still want to tell. I’m reluctant to talk about the meat of my dissertation in public – not that it’s a hot and happening topic, per se, but the risk of having my ideas ‘borrowed’ is too great, and it’s a very personal subject for me. In fact, I really don’t think there’s anyone else out there who could tell the story in quite the way I can, since I lived part of it and I have a perspective that few people – and arguably no scholars – can bring to the material.

I even know what I might like to do with a PhD, should I manage to finish my dissertation. I’m pretty sure that work at a research institution is out for me; not only do I not feel like I have much to say beyond the dissertation, but I simply cannot stomach the idea of taking even more of my attention away from my family. As it is, I’m a distracted mother and wife, and the dissertation is a constant source of stress that makes me hard to live with. The research tenure-track is, I’ve heard, pretty much more of the same, and for essentially crap pay. Unless you’re very much invested in what you research – and, beyond the dissertation, I’m not – I don’t know that it’s worth it.

But there are other things – academic translation, non-tenure track teaching, teaching overseas, study abroad/area studies advising – for which a PhD might come in handy. And even if it didn’t, I’d have the satisfaction of having seen it through to the end.

I don’t regret having gone down this different path. Every time C. cracks a smile or – lately – giggles, every time MM starts doing her monkey dance or venting her frustrations with me on her dolls*, every time M. walks in the door and I have my constant companion to talk with – something I never had, and desperately wanted, when I was single – I know I made the right choices for me. But being at the conference was a bit of a bittersweet reminder of what I once was, what I’m not now, and how I’m not sure what I’ll be in the future. I suppose there’s some freedom in that, though; if I don’t know who I am anymore, then maybe I can be anyone I like.

*Seriously – she likes to get her dollhouse dolls and reenact whatever argument we’ve had over the course of the day. A couple of days ago, she set up the crib, put the baby in the crib, and then had the Mommy and the Toddler stand next to the crib. I caught the Mommy telling the Toddler, “Don’t climb up on the crib, OKAY?” Fortunately, every time she said this (several times), she ended it with, “I don’t want you to get hurt.” At least I know she hears me.

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Good things

Every so often, I feel the need to kind of recap some of the good things that are happening in my life.  It seems especially important right now, given that I’m running on fumes, sleep-wise.

So, some good things:

  • I had a nice, long letter from probably my best friend in Japan a couple of weeks ago.  She sent a box full of stuff for MM (including a simultaneously educational/annoying book of Japanese songs, complete with electronic music component), as well, and that made her month.  The letter was really lovely, though – very encouraging, with a strong hint of “get over yourself, things aren’t as bad as you might like to think” that I needed.  She’s an incredible person in her own right: a widow twice over (lost her first husband – the father of her three then-young kids – in a tree-felling accident; lost her second husband – they were ‘together’ for about six years, in a long-distance relationship, but married only for about two months – to cancer), who manages to care for her aging mother-in-law, who raised three really grounded, sweet kids, and who’s come through the pain of her losses with empathy to spare.  But the thing I love about her is just that we’re kind of kindred spirits.  She’s known me since my mid-20s and has seen me ‘grow up’, so to speak, and still stays my friend.  It would be great if I could see her in person at some point, but I’m pretty much grounded for the duration, and her job (service industry) gets in the way of any substantial travel.
  • Despite all the sleep issues, one thing that’s been improving consistently is C.’s nighttime sleep.  He still wakes up to eat once in the wee morning hours, but it’s fairly perfunctory and then he’s back to sleep again.  He’s generally been doing two 3+ hour stretches over night – not fabulous, but a damn sight better than the previous every-two-hours he was pulling before.
  • I went to, and returned from, an academic conference this last weekend.  It’s the big one in my field, and I presented a paper for one of the panels.  The paper itself was every inch the confused blatherings of the recently post-partum, but I did it, only embarrassed myself marginally, and, in the meantime, I was able to catch up with grad school friends that I haven’t seen in years.  That part was really lovely – real grownups and real grownup conversation, AND with people I really enjoy.  It was downright refreshing – I hope it isn’t years until I see them again.
  • Last week’s push to write my paper renewed my interest in writing my dissertation, but with a bit of realism on the side.  I had been trying to write something groundbreaking, but at this point I’ll settle for “something done.”  I’m trying to rework my case studies and keep up the momentum, although post-travel sleep issues (yes, the whole family had to come along, since C.’s nursing and my usual childcare is currently vacationing in Hawaii) have gotten in the way a little bit.  I was even weirdly comforted by learning, from another grad school friend who’s already published a book in the field, that I’m not alone in my problems with working away from school and with small children.  He’s got a daughter who was born about 6 months before MM, and he’s working a full-time job to pay for her preschool = no time/energy to write.  He’s got good stuff to say, and I hope he finds the energy and wherewithal to write it; maybe I’ve got good stuff to say, too, and maybe my lack of writing really is more an issue of logistics and sleep deprivation, and not a referendum on the state of my intelligence.

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Mrs. Nesbit

There’s a line in Toy Story – and, believe me, I know them all – where Woody is trying to get Buzz away from Hannah’s tea party after Buzz finds out he’s just a toy. Buzz, having gotten drunk on the tea and wearing his natty hat and apron, shouts at Woody, “Don’t you get it? I am Mrs. Nesbit.”

M. was watching MM “playing” with C. the other day, and observed that C. is destined to be her Mrs. Nesbit. And it’s true. Right now she’s tucking him into his bouncy seat and telling him how to play with the little bear she’s given him, and this is after she was trying out various hats on him (until I yelled at her to stop…I’m such a mean Mommy).

Poor, poor Mrs. Nesbit. And he’ll probably go along with it, too – even Buzz says “Tell me the hat looked good.”

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