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New Year's has turned into a difficult holiday for me the last few years. Instead of a happy taking stock and striving for new accomplishments in the coming year, it tends to be "sum up all your failures of the year, and oh by the way the things you plan to resolve are exactly the same things you resolved and failed at the last 4 years in a row." What the hell kind of holiday is that?

It's exacerbated by the fact that most of the most active people I follow on twitter (classics and digital humanities types) are currently attending national conferences (AIA/APA, MLA, and AHA are all this weekend) and I feel like a professional failure. I know that in the long term the odds of my career continuing and being satisfactory are good, but I am having a hard time keeping my eye on the long term. On a day-to-day basis I am keeping busy (personally), and keeping an oar in professionally (I attended two by-invitation professional meetings this year, was asked to review grant proposals for a prestigious funding body, and have been asked to develop a summer week-long course). But every couple of weeks I have panics that I don't actually have a JOB and may never again. Work and busy-ness is nice, but so is money, everyday feedback, coworkers, and professional esteem.

The year overall was good. The kids are attending a school that is better for them than last year's, and they are doing well. They are good kids. mr. flea is happy at work and seems well-regarded, and this year managed to become An International Expert in His Field (was invited to lecture in China.) Me not working means less stress on me and everybody, and we've dealt just fine with the lower income. Our house in Georgia is rented through July, and maybe it will sell this spring. We've set up 529 college funds for the kids, thanks to some family generosity. We have nice things, a safe and warm and fairly pleasant place to live, plenty to eat, and more wealth and security as the average family. I am not a failure; I am doing my best to balance what's good for my family and myself in the face of a challenging economy and the stresses of middle-class life. Right?
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I've taken a job, on a temporary basis, at the Classics Library at UC. (It was sudden, and is temporary, because it was the result of the unexpected death of the incumbent; I may not apply when it is advertized as a permanent position as it is not a librarian position.) So the kids are in before-school and after-school care, and we all leave the house at 7:20 and return at 5:40 (both basically in darkness at this time of year.) The kids are doing fine, but returning to the grind of the two-career family after even a few weeks away from it is a shock. Our lives are just so much more relaxed when I can put them on the bus at 8:45 and pick them up at 4:15 off the bus and we can do a little homework before dinner, or play, while I make dinner. I was indeed sometimes bored and depressed alone at home all day between 9am and 4pm, but the luxury of doing laundry and cleaning and running errands casually and occasionally as opposed to in a rush on evenings and weekends was nice. We could probably get by without my income now; mr. flea got a raise when he took this job and I don't have to work for us to keep things going at the lifestyle level we're at now (assuming our house sells within a year or so).

Boy, I wish I could have a meaningful, well-paying when broken out by the hour, part-time job in my field. Basically, none such.
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My dream about moving down here had me taking a while to find a job, but putting Dillo in daycare anyway, and having a couple-three months of sitting alone in the house all day, reading, drinking tea, listening to NPR...

Well, the local NPR station doesn't run a format I like during the day, and the perfect job for me was open, and I applied for it and got it before we even closed on the house, and we decided to buy a house that really needed my income to afford, and here we are. It's Sunday night, mr. flea and the kids are taking a bath together in the jacuzzi tub, and I'm contemplating packing some lunches, prepping the coffee maker, and doing another week of it all.

I like the Tuesday mornings off, though in practice it's 'read a chapter of a book, vacuum, read a chapter, empty the dishwasher' but the Tuesday nights are tiring and so far they seem to screw up the whole rest of the week. We really need to fix the bedtime routine and night-wean Dillo and make it so mr. flea or even, egads, a babysitter, could put the kids down alone. I just can't imagine how that is going to happen.

I guess I get the rest in 16 years or so. I just need something a little closer to look forward to.
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This morning we dropped Casper off at school as usual. It was a pretty good morning; after a long slow wakeup period she dressed herself and ate breakfast without too much nagging and no screaming. She devoted her attention to her sleepy brother, who was up approximately 16 times in the night for no reason (ah, the shouting of MOMMY! at 2:30 am!) and was as semi-catatonic as she often is. At the drop-off I opened my car door, and Casper unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed out through my seat. I put her backpack on her and reminded her to return the pen I had borrowed from her teacher (oh, should write about that too) and watched her jauntily stride towards the front door of the school and be greeted by the gym teacher, who is the designated front-door welcomer.

I had a moment of seeing my big girl walking off all by herself, and told mr. flea how I was feeling, and he said, "we have two beautiful children. We are so lucky." And a beat, and then he said that he was feeling lately that two was enough, and now that he is working a normal office job he's noticing how little time there is to actually do anything. This is the second time he's said this; the first was after his first week of work and I replied, "This is what I've been experiencing these past five years!" He said he's got a new appreciation for all I did to keep things together while he was in school and had the flexibility to take 2 hours to potter around the house getting ready in the mornings, or take the afternoon off and keep Casper out of afterschool. Now he's doing stuff like working 4 hours on a Sunday so he has the flex time to take the car in. And that's how life is for a working family. There's always something, and never enough time.

Last night was Title 1 open school night, and we had a good visit with Casper's teacher (and her husband, who is a new PhD student in History at the Uggaversity). They are such a pair of children! Graduated from college in the spring, got married in July, though they were high school sweethearts, I guess. I was pleased by what she had to say about Casper. Academically she seems fine, knows her letters and sounds, a careful worker. Socially she had a bit of a slow start but is now starting to make friendships with the kids who sit at her table. She reiterated what Mrs. E from after school said about how funny they find Casper, and having to try to not laugh out loud at the things she says. She also related an anecdote about boys saying "no girls on the play structure" and the other girls were hanging back and worrying what they should do, but Casper said, "I can too go on the play structure" and climbed right up. That's my girl. She brought home an assignment that made me feel good about the teacher - a story that the class wrote together on the Smart Board in the classroom. It read, "I am a robot. My name is wall-e." The children cooperated in the writing, and did the spelling themselves, (they do that 'natural language' spelling or whatever it is, where communicating is more important than spelling things correctly) so it actually read something like, "Mi nam iz wole." Apparently Casper chose the name, and wrote the "wole." I think she will be reading by Christmas at this rate.


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July 2016



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