Sunday, September 30, 2007

Duty Guard

I got a new job. It's only a five hour a week job and the pay is, well, it's not really pay. It's more like money to go to lunch with friends, only now my job is during lunch!

I am the recess duty guard at my kid's elementary school. I'm one of the ladies who wears a bright orange vest with a pocketful of band aids and has a radio on my belt in case I need to get in touch with the office. I stand outside for an hour watching what's going on, who's gotten hurt and who's not following the rules. Then, I imagine I am supposed to take care of whatever problem comes up. Tomorrow's the big day when I start. I am strangely excited for this.

Nathan and Leah are excited that I will get to see them during their lunch recess. Nathan said, "Cool, Mom, now I can come to you for beef jerky money." Leah, I can already see it, will be standing beside me with a silly grin on her face. It's the same grin I see when I come to her class to read on Thursday afternoons. She acts like I'm the coolest Mom ever. Sadly, that sentiment fades as they grow older. Nathan only wants me around so I can buy something for him.

Ever since my oldest was in kindergarten and I watched her play by herself at recess, I've worried about my kids at recess. It seems to me that if anything negative is going to happen at school, it will happen during recess. I worry if other kids are being nice to them. Are they being cliquey or are they including other kids in their games? Are they all alone? Are they sad? Did they like their lunch? Are they too hot or too cold?

Now I will get to see first hand the goings on at elementary school recess, good or bad.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Life of a Political Scientist

Darren just called me, all excited about some news. His article "Democratization of Some Country in Relation to Criminal Courts in the Somewhere of Something as Relating to Previous Democratizations of Something of Somewhere" was accepted into International Organizations, a very hard-t0-get-into political science academic journal. It is considered a "top tier" journal, as ranked by other political scientists, one that he has been striving to publish in for many, many years.

He hasn't sounded that excited since he saw his peas poking through the ground last April. He informs me we will seriously celebrate. He said something about"uncorking the champagne" so to speak. How does one do this if one doesn't drink? We'll see what he has in mind.

Publishing, as I am learning, is brutal test in exhibiting abnormal patience. In political science, first you spend months thinking of an idea and then running that idea by your colleagues who may shoot it down in five minutes. If they think it has merit, or if they think it doesn't, you begin the process of collecting data and researching. Most often you have the help of an RA (research assistant) but sometimes not, if you've blown your research budget on other things like fancy computer software or Turkish baths at your latest conference in Turkey, the one on "Defining International Democratization as it Relates to Blah, Blah of Blah Blah, and How that Theory is Instrumental in Shaping the Blah, Blah or Blah Blah."

Then you painstakingly sift through all the data, and form your conclusions, all while wishing your were back in the Turkish bath where your true creativity can flow. Then you write. Depending on your pace, sometimes this takes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. Along the way your colleagues critique your work and offer constructive suggestions that you may or may not consider.

Then you submit your work to a journal. Then you wait, perhaps up to six months or more. Then you get a letter saying, "revise and submit" accrording to the reviewer's comments. Some reviewers are kind and constructive of your work. Others are downright mean and nasty, and make suggestions as if they were undergoing some sort of physical torture at the exact moment when they were reading your article. After sinking into despair for a few days because your ego is not shot to hell and needs serious plumping, you decide what to do. Are you willing to do as the reviewers suggest and get in the coveted journal, or does what they suggest compromise the integrity of your work? This you must decide.

If you decide you want to be in that journal no matter what, you get down to the business of rewriting, a process that can also take weeks, months or years. If it is a co-authored article, you must discuss with your co-author how this is to be done. On occasion there is a disagreement between the two of you as to how to proceed, you spend another month working that out. Then you begin reworking. And hope your colleague does too, and doesn't decide to have a mid-life crisis, leaving you with the bulk of the project. When he calls you from the beach in Hawaii to discuss his lack of progress, you start to wish you'd never started.

At times, when you have the best idea yet, the one that will solidify your work, your wife calls to tell you the refrigerator is leaking and you HAVE TO COME HOME RIGHT NOW!!!! She is yelling into the phone. You feel your precious thought struggling to stay alive. You quickly jot it down so you don't forget and go home to face the fridge. The next day the idea is there but why you liked that idea and why it fits so well into your work is gone, and you begin cussing modern applicances and all their shoddy workmanship that has ruined your career. Your colleagues console you. They are kind because they are also in the middle of revising and resubmitting. Their hair is turning gray at an alarming pace.

If you can wade through these setbacks and get it done, you send the article off again. You wait months to hear back. This time they may like it and accept it "provisionally," meaning they will publish it IF you make the following changes that are listed on the next three pages. Again, you must decide if this compromises the integrity of your work. At this point you can't remember what was even original about your work. It feels dull and weighted down with facts and other people's demands.

Two months later you mail it back with all the "provisions" changed according to the three page list. Not only is your hair gray, but it is falling out. Six months later you hear back that it will be accepted, congratulations, by the way, and you'll see it in the Fall 2011 issue.

But, HEY, it's a "top tier" journal. I suppose there are sacrifices to make in every career. What I learn from this is that patience pays off . . . . . . . eventually. If you begin a project in Fall of 2005 you will taste the sweet fruit of your labors sometime in 2011.

Way to go, Darren!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Computer Life

I spend a lot of time on the computer. So much that there is no way to keep my passwords straight. I know, I should use the same password, but some sites only want six letters and a number or some require only one number and seven letters, so there is no way to have a uniform one to make everyone happy. I often can't remember my password to I clink the link that says "forgot your password?" and then I have to remember the answers to the "reminder" questions. But then I have to think if it's Darren's Mom's maiden name or my Mom's maiden name. When I typed in my childhood telephone number, they said it wasn't correct. How dare they? That number will forever be etched in my mind along with a few others that are randomly stored in the archives of my mind.

So I started a new novel, even though the "old" one is still in publishing limbo. Right now it's at the Utah Arts Council Novel Contest, probably at the bottom of the "Are you kidding?" pile. I'm not holding out my hopes. I figure something will happen eventually, maybe when I'm old and gray. I would like something to happen before then, but I am taking to heart what I've been hearing over and over: Writing is a lesson in patience. It takes time to figure out what you're doing. Don't expect anything good to happen for a long time. It's the process not the destination.

So while I'm waiting for that ship to come in, and maybe doing a few things to help in come in, I decided to start building another ship. About 10 days ago I started staying up way too late to write, and I must say things are coming along. I have written 16,000 words in that time. I didn't say they were good words, or even in a nice order, but they are there. Most young adult novels are between 50-70,000 words, so I'm may be a third of the way from having to rewrite it about eight times. But I'm moving forward. Moving forward is better than moving backward, which I have been known to do on more than one ocassion in my life. Just ask Darren.

In other news, Nathan's green cast is falling apart and it smells horrible. I think I will vacate the room when it is removed and hope the doctor wears a gas mask. Twelve days until it comes off. I hope we can wait that long.

High school varsity swimming reared its ugly head yesterday morning at 5:30 am and then again at 3 pm. Here we go. Thanks Darren for taking the 5:30 am shift. Leah and Sammie both start clogging this week. Nathan the Sammie are gearing up for a group recital on the 13th and are practicing day and night for it (yeah right!).

I am trying to get used to the peace and quiet around here and not squander away six hours a day on the computer trying to figure out my passwords, blog and write my novel. I am trying to remember how cranky I get without exercise, and get my body on the move. I need to prioritize this. I am trying to get used to this phase when children are at school and I'm at home. It takes some getting used to. It is a beautiful but eerie silence when everyone is gone.

We threw away the green wagon that was terribly broken but had been with us for 11 years. Sammie got it for her second birthday and now she's 13. I felt so sad watching Darren throw it in the church dumpster and got a bit teary-eyed thinking of all the fun times with kids in the wagon. I guess we're onto bikes and cars instead of wagons.