Academic Flexibility 

There’s a flexibility myth in academia. It goes like this: Academic mothers have it much better than other professional mothers because of their flexible schedule—a luxury women in business, journalism, law, and medicine don’t enjoy—which allows them to set their own hours, and chart their individual paths to success.

It’s not a myth; it’s the truth. I just talked to a woman who is a lawyer at a big firm. She has a 4-year-old and she’s 6 months pregnant. And she has to fly out of state for work yet again next week. This is on top of having to be at the office 10 hours a day no matter what. 

Compared to this, my schedule that only requires me to be on campus 2 non-negotiable days a week and only between September and May is a miracle. Yes, I get paid 5 times less than the lawyer. But for me that doesn’t matter. I can spend tons of time with Klara, and it’s very important at times like right now when she’s going through a vulnerable period. It isn’t easy but if I had took be out of the house every day for any job, I’d be a wreck. 

I have no idea why academics so love to pity themselves and can’t recognize obvious advantages. Or at least not try to deny them.

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Not Podunkville

We are not a total podunkville here, folks. One of teacher aides at Klara’s daycare is a young woman from Saudi Arabia who is working on her PhD in educational leadership. I hate educational leadership but it’s fantastic that a woman from Saudi Arabia is getting a degree in any sort of leadership. It’s also such a joy to have a person with an accent at the daycare. 

In Need of Solidarity

And . . . I was right. Colleagues are actively and passionately denouncing our sister institution for being a money pit and turning us into an unwanted step-child who is not Daddy’s favorite (I kid you not, that’s the language that is being used). There is not a single peep, however, against the person who is actually to blame for this disaster: fucking Rauner.

People, people, people. We resent our brothers and sisters and not those who divide and conquer us in the process. This happens in families and in large communities. Instead of placing a laser-like focus on the culprit, we allow our energy to get dissipated and weaken ourselves by engaging in petty internecine struggles.

Diamond Haddock

I was looking for a haddock recipe and the first one I found informed me that “haddock is a cheap and affordable fish.” The author of the recipe has definitely never been to the Midwest where haddock is a far greater luxury than steak. I unpacked my haddock with my eyes closed because I didn’t want to see the sticker with the price and feel bad about buying something so extravagant.

In the end, I took some olive oil, crushed some garlic (mostly because I wanted to use my new and fashionable garlic crusher than for culinary reasons), mixed in some herbs, poured it all over the haddock and put it in the oven. Let’s see how this fish – that, at least, is somewhat cheaper than diamonds – turns out.

P.S. I remember back in the USSR my great-grandma would cook me soup with this fish. It was super delicious. And obviously not even remotely as expensive as it is here.

Jazz Lover

Klara was cranky all day today. Maybe it’s teeth again, I don’t know. When she’s cranky, she wants me to carry her in my arms. I don’t remember if I shared this, but I actually trained for this at the gym before I had her. But even with the training, I can do 40 minutes max of carrying her around at her current weight of 24 lbs.

So I took her to the bookstore, and that distracted her for about an hour. Then I remembered that a student had invited me to a restaurant where his jazz band was going to perform. And what do you think? Klara loved the jazz. She was dancing to it and was totally into it.

I’m happy she loves music because N and I live as if music were never invented. We are more likely to drop acid than to turn on music for our own enjoyment. And if you know me at all, then you realize that there’s no chance I’d drop acid. N and I were both the “Prepare for your music lesson first, then you can play” kids, and this is the result. 

Literature Games

We had a day of creative assignments with students today. First, I asked them to write a short story in the style of the postwar Spanish writers who had to mask their political message and social criticism because of censorship. One group came up with a story about an obnoxious orange monkey who had a bunch of obnoxious children and wanted to rule everybody. It was lots of fun. 

Then I asked students to write the sentence “It’s Thursday” in the style of an Enlightened essayist, a Romantic poet, a realist novelist, and a modernist. Students are very creative. They came up with really good sentences. And this is a much better review activity than “Let’s make a list of the characteristics of modernist art.”