August 21, 2008


Posted in Uncategorized at 12:59 pm by Erin

I was going to post something, and then I saw my Bloglines.  Suddenly, my own post didn't seem important at all.

Please, go over to Gillian and Allen's blog. Their son Joseph's tumor is back and they have made the incredibly difficult decision to take him home and make him as comfortable as possible. They used to live in Atlanta and are incredibly nice people–to know that such a tragedy is happening in their family is almost inexplicable.

Joseph just turned 4 years old yesterday. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

August 20, 2008

Mama PhD

Posted in Books at 6:47 am by Erin

I’m a reviewer for Mama PhD, by Elrena Evans and Caroline Grant, for MotherTalk!  It’s my first book review, so bear with me.

Mama_PhD_Image I requested to be a reviewer for the book because, as you all know, I’m a mama with a Ph.D.  Since the book was a compilation about women with PhDs who work in academia, I felt it was particularly relevant to my own career choice.  I thought that it would be a celebration of the accomplishments of women in academia, one of those books on how a woman can “have it all” with both career and family.  Since I made the decision to forego the typical post-doc-second-post-doc-tenure-track-junior-faculty-at-research-university pathway, instead choosing to go to a straight teaching career at a junior college, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it.


Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t one of those books at all.  It was a very open, sometimes brutally frank, look at the academy and essentially how it fails women who want to also have a family.  And yes, some of the contributors talk about how it also fails men who want to have a family—but they also make the point that men are not responsible for the physical demands of both pregnancy, birth, and nursing a baby.


Many of the essays made me feel very…well, vindicated in my career choice is probably the best way to say it.  There were no essays by women who’d chosen the career track that I’ve taken.  All of those who went along the path to a tenured-faculty position in the “publish or perish” atmosphere of most schools felt that they were torn between the demands of their careers and those of their families.  I don’t particularly feel this way.  Since I am not prepared to be a full-time stay at home mom, and we need my health insurance, I often brag that I feel like I have the best job in the world.  My schedule is great and has some flexibility; I have winter break, spring break, all legal holidays, and 3 months off during the summer.  I spend 4+ months each year with my kids full time, yet I also work full time.  I have a career that I love, that challenges me, and that provides what we need financially (since J also works—it wouldn’t be much otherwise).


Clearly, it’s not perfect—we had to travel to get K over spring break or else would have had to wait until May.  I didn’t get any time off when he came home, having to be back at work on Monday after returning from Ethiopia on Friday, but the book made obvious that what I had believed was true about academia certainly seems to be the case.  I had a glimpse of it in graduate school, and still see some of it from my ex-advisor to this day.  The essays in Mama PhD really reminded me why I am glad I chose the career that I wanted.


However, there were a couple of essays that almost made me wish I’d gone the research faculty route.  One by Della Fenster, who is a math professor at the University of Richmond (my undergrad school), spoke of the speaking and travel opportunities for those who are in the research track.  I love to travel and love attending conferences, and wish I had more opportunity to do that.  (FWIW, I also loved U of R and the faculty there is what inspired me to go into teaching.)  At a junior college, we have very limited travel funds.  We go to conferences, but they tend to be smaller and often local.  We don’t get invited to speak many places.  It’s an opportunity that I wish I had; still, I don’t think I would trade the demands of that track for the life that I get to have.

I would have liked a couple of essays from women who went the path that I’ve taken.  The fact that not a single contributor worked at a junior college in a tenure-track position was disappointing.  Those who work at research universities look down on those in my job (we’re often seen as those who couldn’t hack it in research), and I think a few essays on what a junior college has to offer a Mama with a PhD would have been helpful.  It’s not a path that many people with PhDs even consider, and yet it’s one that I think many would find quite fulfilling.


I think this book should be required reading for any woman going into any sort of graduate education program.  And their partners.  When I started grad school, I naively thought that it would be supportive and flexible when I had my children (who we intended to conceive while in grad school); after all, my petri dishes of cells didn’t care what time I did an experiment.  I figured J and I would flex a lot of hours to limit our child’s daycare.  To some extent, we were able to do that.  I didn’t cut back on hours once he was born, I just went in a lot earlier and left earlier.  But I hadn’t realized that my boss, as well as other faculty, saw me leaving at 3 p.m. and thought I was “just a mom” and would never finish the program.  They didn’t see the hours that I was there between 5:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., so those hours didn’t really count.  And even though my productivity actually increased, since I was more efficient with the time I did have there, it wasn’t seen as equivalent to other graduate students in my lab.  That experience made me realize that I didn’t want to be like them anymore.


I wonder if I would have even tried to have a child while in graduate school if I’d read this book.  Whether I would have or not, I certainly would have been more prepared for what to expect.  I went from the “Golden Grad Student” in my lab, because of my input and productivity, to “just a mom” because I’d given birth.  It was a harsh realization.  Having read this book, it seems that what I experienced is pretty much the standard.  There is clearly a need for change within the academy, but it doesn’t seem high on the list of priorities for research universities.  Talented, highly educated women are moving away from this career choice because it punishes us for wanting to have a family.  And that's simply wrong.

August 15, 2008

My office

Posted in The musings of Erin at 9:21 am by Erin

I've got an office!  No more cube farm for me, thank you.  Though I do miss the cube farm for some reasons.  It was away from student walkways, so the only students ever up there were our own.  That meant that it was easy to chat with our colleagues.  In my new office, if I leave the door open, I get 50 students looking in, asking me where to find registration or financial aid.  It's a bit distracting, to say the least.

I'm looking forward to a good, if a little hectic, semester.  I'm teaching two sections of environmental science, which I've never taught before.  Between my three lectures, I have 124 students.  While most of my lab students will be repeats of those in one of my lectures, there's a good chance there will be a few who aren't.  So between my four classes, I'll have ~130 students.  Have I mentioned that I'm really bad with names?  I'm going to use my digital camera to take pictures of them this semester, in the hopes that it will help.

Today, I'm going to go out to buy a fishtank for my office.  I find them soothing.  I'll fill it with some guppies, since they're very colorful, and a few of the baby snails from my home aquarium.  And since I have no window, this will help me avoid feeling completely boxed in.

Although I've been here for two years as a term-to-term faculty, and although our previous department chair treated term-to-terms the same as tenure-track faculty (same class loads, same advising loads, same committee responsibilities, etc.), it suddenly feels different.  More important.  A little overwhelming, truth be told.  I know my job really hasn't changed, although I am mentoring two new term-to-term faculty members, but it somehow feels different.  This little office makes me feel legitimate.  A real college professor.

I used to wonder if I'd ever feel "grown up".  I think I do now.  Maybe that's why it's overwhelming.

August 9, 2008

Semi-drunken list

Posted in The musings of Erin at 8:00 pm by Erin

1. I am semi-drunk because I have the tolerance of a gnat, not because I've been imbibing all evening.  I've only had 1 1/2 glasses of wine in the past 3 hours.  It's pathetic.

2. I know I am semi-drunk, however, because a fly just flew straight at my head and, instead of ducking like a normal person, I thought to kill the fly and whacked myself on my forehead.

3. Normally I would not be such an idiot.  Close, but not quite.

4. I have been drinking wine because 4 of my girlfriends were over to play mahjongg.

5. Although none of us is over 40 (and I, at 30, am only the youngest by a few months) and the oldest of any of our children is 8, we are all old Jewish ladies at heart.

6. I keep expecting to hear one of us say "Not that I'm complaining" at some point.

7. Even odds that it will be me.

8. Even better odds that none of us will think it came from left field.

9. I will be leaving the computer in a few minutes to go watch Olympic coverage.

10. I am an Olympic junkie, and am trying my hardest to turn P into one also.

11. Luckily, J likes them too and is all for it.

12. J and P watched women's fencing earlier today.  They both enjoyed it immensely.

13. K doesn't watch TV, so he couldn't care less if the Olympics were on.

14. I was so proud to watch the Ethiopian team walk in last night.

15. The opening ceremonies were incredible.  Mind blowing.  I wish I had let P stay up longer to watch more of them.

16. P enjoyed mahjongg night since one of my friends brought her daughter, who is P's best friend.

17. They played and then watched Aladdin together.

18. They did the same things last Saturday, when she came over for a playdate after synagogue.

19. In some ways, kids can be very boring.

20. Although Aladdin is one of my favorite Disney movies, to be honest.

21. K was less than thrilled about mahjongg, because he was the only one who had to go to bed.

22. He expressed his displeasure through yelling.

23. K has quite a set of lungs on him.

24. Unfortunately for him, I've already figured out his angry "I'm ticked that I can't do everything that you're doing!" cry from his "I'm really scared of being in my bedroom alone!" cry.

25. We only heard the former tonight.

26. K did cry when I dropped him off at daycare on Friday, but it was a "I'd really rather be with you!" cry than an "Oh my gosh, you're never coming back!" cry.

27. If I never have to hear my child cry the latter of those again, I will count my blessings.  Nothing rips out my heart faster than the terror-filled cry of "You're never coming back!"

28. I will be very happy when K learns to talk.

29. Mostly because I think he has a lot to say, and I can't wait to hear what it is.

30. I am already very happy that he hugs and blows kisses, which are new skills he's picked up in the last couple of weeks.

31. He gives really tight hugs–the boy is a bruiser.

32. Thankfully his growth has started to slow and his muscles have a chance to catch up.

33. He can now walk with a pretty normal gait, is trying to run, and is trying to jump.

34. I'd forgotten how incredibly adorable it is to watch kids learning to jump.  They bend their knees, wiggle around like they're going to take this enormous leap…and then take a step.

35. It's precious.  I must capture it on video.

36. Despite this, he only has 6 1/2 teeth (one is almost through).

37. Our dentist isn't worried.

38. To be honest, neither am I.  He can chew anything he wants and it's not like we can do anything to make his teeth come through.

39. They'll come in or they won't.  If they don't, we'll be paying for our dentist's second home.

40. Brea, I suggest Lake Lanier, since we may also end up paying for your boat.

41. J would like a boat.

42. I would also, but I'd like a sailboat.  I desperately want to learn to sail.

43. I don't know why.  It's just always seemed like something I'd enjoy doing.

44. My buzz is wearing off.  I'm going to go drink more wine and watch the Olympics until J gets home, then I will promptly seduce him.

45. If I know you IRL, you can forget that last point.

46. Have a great weekend–I'm off to work on Monday morning!

August 7, 2008

Back to the grind

Posted in The musings of Erin at 11:33 am by Erin

I'm starting work again on Monday.  In preparation for that, K started daycare again today–just 2 1/2 hours this morning, home before naptime.  Since he's been home with me for the last 3 months, and remembering that even P hated to go back to school after the summer off, I expected that we'd see crying on the level of those we saw when we first brought him home.  Back then, he cried the entire time I was gone.  Cried HARD.  It was horrible for all of us.  After a week, he was only crying when I'd leave, but that persisted for about another month and a half.  It wasn't until his last two weeks that he was really OK with being left there and watching me walk out.

So anyway, that's what I expected today.  P and I brought K over to his school and walked him in.  Joy of joys, his class was in the room with the big bouncy alligator jump!  I brought him in there and his eyes widened with amazement.  I handed him to his teacher, gave him a kiss, told him I'd be back in a few hours, and he watched me walk away with nary a tear.

When P and I returned 2 1/2 hours later, he hadn't shed a single tear.  He'd had a wonderful time bouncing and playing with the other kids, ate two plates of food at lunch, and had just laid down to take a nap.  When I asked him if he'd had fun at school, he giggled.  He waved bye-bye to his teachers, blew them kisses, and we left.

Apparently, my kids are ready for a break from me*.  K had a great time at school.  P has been asking when he goes back to school since June, and can't wait to meet his new teachers tomorrow (he starts school on Monday).  Sheesh.

*To be honest, I'm ready for a break from them also.  I've also learned to stop feeling guilty about enjoying working during the school year and not wanting to be home full time.  Besides, I only work 3 1/2 days a week.  Have I mentioned that I couldn't have tailor-fit a job better for me than teaching at this particular college?

August 3, 2008

Filling my time

Posted in The musings of Erin at 9:56 pm by Erin

Women are complex.  Our blogs don’t often reflect that.  One of the things I really like about reading non-IF or mommy blogs is that they reflect another aspect of the person writing it than their family life; as much as I like family life, I also have other interests.  It got me thinking that I know very little about many of the women whose blogs I read, and wondered if others have the same curiosity that I do.  And I thought that perhaps I might like to write about what I do, other than being a mom and consider how to build our family in the future.


As you already know, I’m an assistant professor of biology at a local college.  I find a lot of fulfillment in teaching about biology, and will be teaching a new class this semester in environmental science.  Since a lot of it will delve into environmentalism, not just physical science, J is afraid that my “Save the Planet” zealotry is about to get worse.  (FWIW, I don’t think I’m that bad about it but crazy people never think they’re crazy, so who knows?)  I also teach natural childbirth classes in my home once a week.


I’m an avid reader and have just recently started attending a new book club.  We’ve had two meetings and they’ve been a lot of fun,even when the book wasn’t ;-).  I read very quickly and go through a book or two a week, sometimes more if they’re completely fluffy books.  I admit that I read some really bad romance novels, since there are times when I don’t feel that I can give enough time or attention to a book if I might not have the time to read it (frequently around finals’ time).  But I love to read many types of books.


Naturally, I love my plants.  It’s hard to garden much when we’re in a Level 4 drought here and I’m forbidden to water outside.  I can water my vegetables, as they’re exempt from the restrictions, and I can use my rain barrel to water whatever I’d like.  (The problem is that my rain barrel is quickly emptying and it hasn’t been raining much.  It’s quite a quandary: if it doesn’t rain, I can use the water in my rain barrel to water.  But then it empties and I need it to rain.  When it rains and fills the rain barrel, I don’t need to use it!)  My vegetables are doing fairly well after a slow start, and we’ve been enjoying fresh green beans and tomatoes for several weeks now.


I’m a bit crafty, though I generally consider myself to be one of the least creative people in the world.  I like to do sewing, crocheting, and cross-stitch projects.  I also like to build things—J and I have a good time doing little projects around the house.  We built my greenhousereplaced our front steps (only the railroad tie portion), retiled both of our upstairs bathroom floors, and several other minor things.  I’m the one who uses the circular saw since I tend to have more patience with measuring and a better eye for it, plus it’s fun.


I really like to cook.  When J and I first moved here, we were part of a supper club.  There were 5 or 6 couples in it, and each month we had a semi-formal dinner at one couple’s house.  The host couple would plan the menu and everyone would cook something from it.  It was a lot of fun, but we couldn’t keep doing it once P came since we couldn’t afford a babysitter.  So I recently joined a new supper club that I’ll attend for the first time this coming week.  It’s only for women and meets once a month.  This month, we’re doing an international theme in honor of the Olympics starting next week.  Everyone chose a country and is bringing something from the country.  I’m bringing Ethiopian food, of course (doro wat and injera), which I tested this week on some unsuspecting victims friends of ours.  I’ve finally learned to properly make injera, which was quite tricky.  I think I’m a decent cook, though I can’t really bake all that well.


As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m a singer.  I’ve been singing in my graduate school’s choir since I was a student there; it’s open to the community and I have really enjoyed continuing to sing with the choir.  I only do it in the fall semester for several reasons but I’m looking forward to getting back to it this year.


Back when I was athletic, I loved to play tennis.  I’m thinking of trying to find a partner around here who is willing to work with me a bit.  I’ve just started exercising again and have rekindled my interest in yoga; believe it or not, I used to do yoga in a class several times a week before we moved here.  My first graduate school had a wonderful power yoga (Ashtanga based) class twice a week in the late afternoons, and it was something I missed a lot when we moved here.  I tried my other grad school’s yoga class and couldn’t stand the teacher, and somehow lost it.  My college now has a decent class with a great teacher, but it’s often at a time when I can’t get to it.  So, thanks to Dianne, I’ve been doing yoga on OnDemand lately—and P enjoys doing it with me!  I’ve also been doing some of the other exercise classes on there and jogging again, thanks to DoctorMama, and I’m feeling a little more myself.


There are a lot of facets to everyone and I enjoy learning more about them.  What’s funny is that if people ask me about my hobbies, I have a hard time finding an answer.  But when I write them all out here, I can see that there’s a lot that I do.  What do you like to do as a hobby?  If you write about it on your blog, post a comment here so that I can come and see it!

August 1, 2008

Please, if you have a minute

Posted in The musings of Erin at 12:19 pm by Erin

Go over to Rebel’s blog.  She just had an incredibly scary appointment–during a routine visit to start IVF, they found something in her uterus and are telling her that there is a 70% chance that it is a tumor.  I know she could use any prayers and thoughts while she is going through this.

I cannot imagine anything more frightening to be told.  Rebel, I’m thinking of you and your family.