Friday, 31 December 2010

Father Time Passes

It’s not a visual that is used much anymore, but I remember New Year’s Eve being slightly disturbing as a child when the old, rickety Father Time smiled exhausted, and faded out and the baby with a sash and top hat came crawling in.  This was on TV specials, by the way, not in our living room or anything. 
After this year, I’m not so disturbed by the exhausted Father Time smiling and fading out.  It was an exhausting year and I am looking forward to it being done and moving on fresh with the curiosity and excitement and general joy of a child.  That has been missing a bit from the end of this year. 
And so, let’s recap the year just to understand why Father Time is so exhausted. 
The first three months of 2010 saw me huddled at my kitchen table, bundled in a blanket and writing 12 hours a day in an attempt to finish the doctoral tome, now three years in the making.  In the evenings I was planning an international five week wedding extravaganza. 
In March, when I got up from writing for the last time, I was permanently hunched over.  My left hip refused to straighten out (and still sticks from time to time).  I was hobbling for days but the writing was done and the 300 page beast turned in on March 23rd.  Four days later, Pete and I left for the US and our last wedding planning trip. 
In April we attended a family wedding in Croatia and got stuck in the village for a week because of the Iceland volcano, Mt. Kyjksntjdnusiohnelf (obviously, I don’t know it’s name, but that is close enough).  On our return I feverishly finished a Postdoc application and submitted at the last minute, literally. 
May was dedicated to preparing for the PhD viva.  The day of Interrogation came and went with little drama, all of which was supplied by me, and a title of Doctor.  (YEAH!!!!!!!!!!)
Two weeks later in June, I left for the beginning of the Wedding Extravaganza. 
I haven’t mentioned Pete’s schedule much in this narrative.  He was basically working his a** off in an attempt to build up some over-time and extra paid holiday time as well as his actually a** (although if he actually lost any of that I would have been very upset).  He sacrificed a 24 hour period of sleep to help me print out my PhD and trouble-shoot the layout issues on printing day.  He also took a day off for my Interrogation to hold my hand through the self-inflicted drama.  But I’m sure his favourite activity of the months were the ballroom dance classes I forced on him in an attempt for us not to look foolish during our ‘first dance.’  However, none of this feverish activity compared to his week before leaving for the wedding.  He started it off going to friends’ wedding and then spending the following week working insane hours while also interviewing for two jobs, accepting one job, and setting up his contracting company.  He was also packing for the wedding extravaganza which would cover four climates and time zones in one large backpack. 
We were married at the end of June.  Five years from the day we met.  It was a gorgeous day.  The only one that week, actually.  The next three weeks were spent flying around the world for honeymoon and a second reception. 
In July we arrived back home more exhausted than when we left.  Pete went back to work for two weeks before starting his new job and I started in on my minor revisions of the PhD. 
In August, the minor revisions were done and my PostDoc application was rejected.  This meant that I had no job prospects on the horizon.  It was a few days of crying.  Oh!  But we got iphones! 
On September 2, I was officially given the title of Dr. while at my last academic conference for the foreseeable future.  For me, this is where it all started going a bit pear-shaped (career and body).  The entire conference was spent listening to my former professors tell me, now that I was done, that there were no jobs out there.  Thanks for that. 
October passed with numerous job applications to universities, libraries, museums, radio stations, and production companies.  All were met with silence.  I started working on a media project based on my thesis work.  It met a dead-end as well.  But the month ended with another set of awesome jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treaters.
In November I had my thesis cited in a draft article as an emerging author and I have a draft chapter for a book looming, but more applications went unanswered and my morale and ambition and motivation sunk lower.  A business trip to Paris with Pete didn’t go quite as we hoped and ended up being more exhausting than we hoped.  I was so down that I couldn’t bring myself to go out and enjoy Paris on my own.  But the month ended on a high note with a Thanksgiving dinner with good friends.
December brought my 32nd birthday and not much else, at least career-wise.  Although my Nigella and Martha Stewart type skills are coming along nicely.  The Christmas decorations never looked better and even though I joined Weight Watchers, my brownies are the best I have ever tasted, if I do say so myself.  We marked our six-month anniversary on Christmas day and can’t believe how fast the months have gone.  But we are still exhausted and feel like we have lost ourselves a bit. 
We have those exhausted smiles of Father Time.  We are anxious to start afresh in the new year.  Bright-eyed, curious and excited about what the next year might bring. 

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

To-do or not to-do

I had a to-do list for December.  It was ambitious.  It was basically a ‘holy-crap-it’s-the-end-of-the-year-and-I’m-still-sitting-on-the-couch’ list. 
It included things like, ‘major clean-out of all storage areas’, ‘get a library card,’ ‘polish the silver’ (we have two pieces of silver from our wedding, but it sounds like a big job, and it went on the list after the fact), ‘register with GP’ (we have lived here a year and a few months and I never got around to switching from my GP in Watford), then a huge time-waster ‘I.D. and prep t-shirts for quilt.’  Most of these are not major chores and really could be done in a busy afternoon. 
The list also includes items like, ‘readable draft of journal article,’ ‘informal book proposal,’ ‘workable routine of writing/housework/exercise,’ ‘research how to make podcasts,’ and finally ‘any job applications.’
I’ll let you guess which side of the list has more checked off. 
There are a lot of reasons the career-oriented side of the list is still intact.  The most important, I think, is that I am not entirely sure what career I am aiming at here.  As I have said before, the thought of writing a journal article makes me physically ill.  I did however manage to send out an informal book proposal.  It was almost immediately rejected (due to the publishers’ prejudices and not my idea, which is not as soul-destroying somehow).  But the fact that I was able to bang it out in an afternoon, and actually enjoy it, makes me think it might be time to give up on the ‘academic thing.’ 
Yesterday I read an article about the futility of getting a PhD.  It seems it is a simple case of supply and demand with a bit of a twist.  There are nowhere near enough academic positions for all the PhD’s out there.  A chief reason being that Universities prefer the labour of PhD students to do the majority of the teaching and research as they are cheap, so full-time, proper, can-afford-to-live jobs are cut.  It’s a truth we all know when we get into the PhD game but chose to ignore it thinking that we will be the lucky one to get the job. 
Getting the job was once a real dream of mine.  But I am beginning to think it is a hold-over from another person.  It was the dream of a person that thought they would be alone, in a cute little arts and crafts house with a cozy library and great big cat.  I am no longer that person.  I don’t think that dream fits anymore.  That’s not to say that the PhD wasn’t an achievement.  It was.  It was a hell of a lot of work.  However, when I look back over the experience and how I worked my way through it, I have to admit I wasn’t working toward ‘the job.’  I didn’t seek out networking opportunities, in fact I hated them and avoided them.  I didn’t structure my thesis in such a way as to turn it into journal articles immediately.  And, perhaps the biggest clue, I didn’t chose a topic that lends itself easily to government grant proposals or ‘hot’ social issues.  From the start, the project and research was geared toward telling a story and not necessarily engaging in theoretical discussion.  Maybe that is not entirely true.  The story I told was definitely more interesting to academia than the actual world.  This should have been obvious when academics found my arguments engaging and everyone else just said, ‘well, yeah.’ 
I did apply for four academic jobs.  None of which I came even close to being short-listed.  And to be honest, I am not bothered.  I didn’t want any of them and was dreading having to pretend in the interview that I wanted to be there. 
All of this is to say, I think that some of the items on the career list are going to be taken off the list.  I think they are counter-productive. 
What will the new to-do list hold?  Stay tuned. 

WW week one: Gold Star

It was a success.  Three pounds down.  Of course it is now the week before Christmas, and while we don’t have the problem of being forced to eat at a never-ending succession of Christmas parties and dinners with work, friends and family, we do have Christmas cookies.  I can’t let Christmas pass without making cookies.  The likelihood of losing any poundage this week (or next) is low.  So my strategy for this week (notice I am already taking up the lingo) is to maintain. 
Yesterday, the first day of my second week, was a difficult day.  I would have probably stayed within my daily point allowance (even with a dinner of beef tacos) except that I decided to have cookies for breakfast.  Oops.  But here’s the thing that weight watchers has really done for me, I went to the gym.  An aerobics class, no less. Here’s why: I can earn activity points which kind of ‘counteract’ the over-spillage. 
The whole thing is like being back in school and earning gold stars for good grades.  I was always someone that lived for gold stars.  I won’t get into the sub-text of gold star desperation, but yeah (!) for a gold star!!!
I suspect it is easy to lose at the beginning as you’re body is in a bit of shock about the lack of food (although I was only really hungry the first two days).  Once the stomach shrinks back down to a normal size, it probably won’t be as drastic.  I also have no idea what will happen if/when I get a job.  But we’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  For now, maintain across the holidays.  Translation: no cookie bingeing!!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Let the Transformation begin...

I joined Weight Watchers yesterday.  I know. 
I’m not overweight, really.  I don’t have horrible eating habits, really. 
But I have come to the realization that at 32, my body no longer works like my 25 year old body.  It took me awhile to realize that even though I don’t feel old (and really, I’m not) it’s time to start taking care of the body. 
I didn’t wear facial moisturizer until I was 29.  That’s the same year I started using sunscreen instead of tanning accelerators.  It wasn’t until I was 31 that I finally found a cleansing routine that basically wiped out my acne (thank, god for that.  It had gone on way too long).  I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that my hair is stick straight and will always be so no matter how much product or heat is applied. 
But I can’t seem to get to grips with, and accept, my body.  I tell myself that I can deal with the increasing innertube that is growing around my middle (it can be hidden with the right tops and control underwear) but I have always been disappointed about the bottom half.  I am pear shaped, average height (on the short side) and a disproportionate torso to leg ratio.  Except, no matter how weight I lose, the legs never get any slimmer.  It will be looking good and then, as I range down my reflection, I get down to the calves and ankles and any excitement I had about an outfit, or progress, or whatever is gone. 
I know that at one point they weren’t so big.  At 27, when I returned from Africa, I was fitting into non-stretch, size 6 jeans with no overspill or overstretching.  How was that possible then?  I was eating the worst food possible for two years before heading to Africa.  I called it boiled-water cuisine.  It started in University.  If I could make it in a hot pot, it was a viable dinner option.  It was all pre-processed and full of nastiness.  My idea of a healthy meal was Kraft Mac & Cheese with tuna and frozen peas thrown in.  WHAT???  And yet I was at my skinniest.  To be fair, I was working three jobs, finishing a horrid Master’s degree, off the Pill for about two years (after about 10 on) and stressed through the roof, just coming out of a second serious episode of depression.
How was this possible?
Today, I eat almost exclusively fresh ingredients and we make many foods from scratch.  I go to the gym (usually) around 2-3 times a week and usually workout to the point of wanting to throw up.  I’m stressed, but I am also happy.  And yet, I am verging on being my heaviest yet.  What is happening? 
I have decided it is about portion control as well as my body just getting older and not working as efficiently.  So I joined Weight Watchers. 
After going to my first meeting and reading through the material I am determined to do the program without buying all the Weight Watchers branded materials.  I did this to make a lasting change with the way I deal with weight and food and I don’t believe that is possible if it is done just buying the Weight Watchers food.  Of course I know why they push it, it is a business after all.  But I think that is the easy way out of taking responsibility for what it is that you are putting into your body.  And I have an aversion to pre-packaged food.  I refuse to believe the Weight Watchers microwave meal is better for me than a meal prepared fresh.     
So this is the goal.  Go through the program successfully without buying into the Weight Watchers branded food (I may indulge in a pedometer and cooking oil spritzer).   It is going to be about being mindful of what I am eating and being strong about it.  It is so easy to have the same portion size as Pete and share in the 6 champagne truffles.  We are planning on going to Morocco in February for about 10 days, half of which will be spent at a resort.  The goal is to wear a bathing suit without embarrassment.  I have already made the move to the one piece and find them a more sexy and practical at my age, but I am still mortified by the action below. 
There it is.  Out there and now I must be held accountable.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Inspi(red) Treats

**Girly alert** The following post is directed at mammary-bearing readers, mostly.

Tomorrow is my birthday and while it isn’t a major birthday I decided to treat myself to some new (and good) frillies.  I went to Rigby & Peller (Corsetieres to the Queen).  The experience and outcome was amazing and well worth the price tag.  These ladies are so good that they just look at your lovelies and produce at least 4 bras that fit perfectly.  The shop is lovely and tiny, all bras tucked away in drawers.  No opportunity for all that lace and colour to divert or distract you from the right fit.  These ladies offer you a beautiful dressing room with a lovely silk robe and just make you look and feel better than ever. 
I was wearing two sizes too small and never realized how much affect this had on my posture and my back.  I tend to have fairly good posture, but my back hurts at the end of the day.  Today, no problem.  Awesome.
If you’re in London, ladies.  Make a call and book yourself in for a consult.  Well worth the trip. 

On another note, if you pass a Starbucks today (it would take a real effort to not pass one) buy a coffee.  Ignore the charred taste because today, on World AIDS Day, they will donate £1 ($.40) for each coffee sold to the Product (RED) campaign which helps people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Last Days of Thanks (for the month, not forever)

2-1:  My other half
I am devoting two days of thanks to my husband.  It may be an easy out on these last days, but in fact he has peppered the posts throughout the month, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.  The 30 days of thanks were suppose to be about gratitude overall, but also about thinking about gratitude each day and what was important on that day.  While I am always grateful for my health, opportunity, family and comfort, I am daily thankful for my husband.  Despite all my daily whining about no job prospects, frustration at my Olympic medal feats of procrastination, it is all better and bearable because of my other half. 
And he really is my other half.  We have been together a little over five years now and in that time we have become almost one person in two bodies.  Sometimes it is a bit worrying that maybe we are losing our individuality, but at other times it is very comforting to be so in-tune with someone else. 
SO many ‘life list’ items would not have happened without my Pete.  I wouldn’t have lived abroad, I wouldn’t have travelled as frequently as we do, I wouldn’t have finished the PhD and, while it wasn’t every really on the life list, I may not have gotten married to the most wonderful man in the world. 
I have always believed in some sort of overall magic in the world that gently directs happenings here and there, and Pete and I just confirm that belief for me.  If Magen and I didn’t pull all-night paleo study sessions we wouldn’t have decided to go to Africa some day.  If my Master’s degree hadn’t been such a horrible experience that I needed to escape we may not have gone to Africa in the summer of 2005 and I would never have met Pete in that campground in Zimbabwe.  My life was at a bit of a low-point when we left on that trip (I know it doesn’t sound like it, I was getting a Master’s degree and travelling to Africa, but I was in a low place mentally) and I don’t like to think about what my life would have been like if I didn’t go and hadn’t met Pete.  In fact, until just now I don’t think I have considered looking back. 
Of all my life decisions, moving to London to be with Pete was the scariest, but was also the one of which I was most sure. 
At the end of the month of Thanks and everyday before and after, I am thankful for my Pete. 
(Today I am also thankful for snow.  I don’t get it here in London the way I am used to after years of living in the snow belt, but these last two days have dumped loads.  I know London and the UK hate it, but I love it.  I’m hoping it stays for the weekend so we can go sledding in Greenwich Park and maybe make another snowman.  Pete made his first our last winter in Watford.)