Keep In Touch

First day of a new mathematics seminar, a tried idea that has not had much success in my department before. We need to create a better community with our majors, and, well, no one has any other ideas. I took point on putting it together. My first idea was a meet and greet with games for faculty and students. My colleagues indulged me, and we had students and faculty continue playing well over the hour mark, and feedback was good that this was fun. I was pretty sure I could see it in the students. I think there were even some good conversations about how math could be seen in the games. Cross fingers we can carry this momentum forward to victory!

I get a little overexcited and overstimulated by things like that. I came home wanting a hug. My wish was to be granted, the following arrived in the mail today, from a former student. 20160926_194126 She’s recently completed a tour in the Peace Corps, and enclosed was a souvenir and postcards from her post-Corps trip as she returned to the USA.

I had a voicemail waiting as well from another student who took the GRE today and kicked some serious GRE booty. Somehow I got some credit for that, but I’m not the one who was butt in chair doing the studying.

I tell students that I love to hear from them in the future. If ever they want to write and wonder if they should, YES, YOU SHOULD. And it’s true; I absolutely do.

Quick Trip

When I was in my teens, maybe even into my 20s, maybe even beyond that, at every wedding I went to, I wanted to be a bridesmaid, to wear a pretty dress, to carry a bouquet of flowers. I never was, not until this weekend when I became a maid of honor at the ripe old age of 46. The bouquet was pretty, I was glad to support my friend, but somehow the experience wasn’t quite as exciting as what I had imagined at 17.


I got to see a few friends; I didn’t have a lot of time to try to see everyone. I also didn’t have the energy. I had breakfast with one last friend that last day before going home. I took some anxiety medication at breakfast. I think I might have almost shed a few tears in the airport. I knew when I moved out here that it might take a while to adjust, to make friends, to feel at home, but somehow I thought it would be easier than it is.

Last year was so hard, and I am dreading this academic year because of it. It’s got to get better, except that a wise person knows that things can always get worse. I will keep putting one foot in front of another. I won’t promise to do my best, because I don’t think any of us knows what that really is — if you do your best with one thing, in particular, it would be impossible to do it with at another at the same time.

I can promise to make an honorable effort at the things I am charged with. I will hope to start to feel like I belong, and like I am making a positive difference here.

One thing I try to teach my students about is grit — how to hang in there with a difficult problem, rather than giving up. This is my opportunity to have some grit.

Maybe some gratitude would help too. I will have to make a list for myself this day, and maybe try to make lists of the things I am grateful for more regularly too.

Do I really want to go hiking in freezing rain?

Freezing rain was expected today. I didn’t sleep well last night. It would have been so easy to text one of my hiking buddies, saying I’m not feeling well.

I got out the door. I picked up the fellow hikers from my town. The drive was cold and wet, and I wondered what I was getting into at the rest stop when it was cold and rainy, and I retreated into the car to warm up again.

Then we arrived and it was not raining, not in the Frenchman’s Coulee (a coulee is a ravine, this one near the Columbia river). I found a geocache. We hiked up a wall of the ravine, onto the rib, and it starts to snow, big, fluffly flakes, and I find a second geocache.

Hiking up the rim, looking down into the coulee.

Hiking up the rim, looking down into the coulee.

Despite my worries, I am warm enough in my rain pants and long undies. We hike the rib, come back down to the road, return to our cars, then drive and hike out to the water fall, where I get to find a third geocache. Good hunting today!

View down to the snowy road from the rib trail.

View down to the snowy road from the rib trail.

The waterfall.

The waterfall.

On the way home, I get a driving lesson for inclement weather, continued as we took an alternate route through freezing rain and slush to pick up a missing cell phone. I should be more confident driving in wintry conditions after this.

Sometimes I don’t want to be bothered, and I think something will be uncomfortable, or maybe not that fun, but on the flip side, if I don’t go try new things I don’t get to see new things.

I’m glad I got myself out the door this morning.

Departures and Arrivals

Goodbye College Station. Was that really last month already? Hello Ellensburg as of August 2!

Moving is disrupting and time-consuming, but I am here and doing my best to settle in. A lot of days I feel like I am getting nibbled to death. Thousands of little things to do, and things do get done, but it doesn’t feel like progress. I suspect moving is like that for everyone.

The drive from Texas to WA was beautiful. The Texas Panhandle, with its grasses and hills and canyons, gigantic fluffy clouds in a blue, blue sky, and grain elevators. Northeast New Mexico with hills and sage. Colorado with hills, and, for this trip, rain, rain, rain. Gorgeous clouds when the sky wasn’t completely overcast. The route from Fort Collins to Laramie was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Wyoming got long and tiring, but then you get into Utah and that corner has mountains and clouds and beauty. Then Idaho, with a stark landscape, potato farms, clouds. Before you know it, you are almost there in Oregon, and recent wildfires turned the sunset clouds pink and grey and gold and gorgeous. Also hills and mountains and much beauty.

I didn’t really want the journey to end; I stopped at the rest stop and the scenic overlook between Yakima and Ellensburg, taking pictures of my new home, a lush green valley from a stark, dessert hillside. I suspect the green is all irrigated, but it was pretty from up above.

What can I say about driving a moving truck hauling my car behind on a trailer? You aren’t going fast, not nearly as fast as Google Maps says. I got stuck once at a gas station, but some kind person who knew how to back up a trailer helped me out. “You need to take those turns wider.” “Yes, I know.” I was grateful for This American Life, audiobooks and music to get me through the journey.

I’m not great with endings, and I was sad for the journey to be over (and not *just* because that meant unpacking), but also looking forward to my new life here. Where the unpacking is happening, one step at a time.

Trust the Process

My first interview for tenure-track today!

I felt a little … screw-uppy at first,

  • “Am I saying too much?”
  • “Am I saying the wrong things?”
  • “Oh, I should have sounded more sure of myself when I said that!”

My talk went well, which was a big confidence boost. The afternoon and rest of the day seemed to go well, maybe because I felt more self-assured.

But still, there are those worries.

  • Can I do the type of teaching they want? It is so different than what I’m used to! But so much like what I often think I want to do.
  • Would I fit in here?
  • Will they offer me the job?
  • What if they do, can I handle what they want from me?
  • What if …

I remembered something I tell students.

Do the work, and trust the process.

Ultimately, the school and I have the same goal. They want a candidate that is a good fit for their position who can thrive here. I want to be a good candidate who will thrive. We are not enemies, there is no right or wrong, and while it would be nice to be picked, it is not the end of the world if I am not.

I’ve done my work. From here I have to trust the process will provide an answer. That answer won’t be the answer for always. Whatever I do, things will be different.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart.”
Pema Chödrön

One step at a time I move forward. Two more interviews (scheduled, ticketed, paid for) to go, guaranteed, and maybe one more than that. I will know a lot more about my options are when they are done. And more yet if I do or do not get job offers. And no matter what, I will be okay.

A Month of Excitement, Coming Right Up

Monday I leave for my first tenure-track interview. My talk is mostly (?) prepared, and I will do a dry-run with some generous colleagues today. I still have to research the people I will be talking to; trying to find things in common, questions I want to ask them.

I return Wednesday and leave Friday for my next interview. I leave Friday in order to visit friends on the weekend in the city where I am flying to. If I get in early enough on Sunday to my interview site, they are talking about taking me hiking. I like this bunch already. Interview Monday, and I return on a red-eye flight that night with the hopes of being back in time for class on Tuesday.

That next weekend, I had arranged a reunion with some old friends, but now I have to fly out that Sunday. I think I can still do all, but there will be some juggle in there. That will be interview #3, and I will be flying back super-early Tuesday morning and hoping to make it back just in the nick of time for class. Whooooooo. It will be a trick to get everything done.

In every case I have someone providing back-up should I not be able to make it back.

And school #4 is getting more interested, so I bet I have another trip coming.

I am a little scared walking into these next few weeks. Everything that must get done, will get done. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. I can do this, I can do this. I can I can I can I can. At each one, I walk in as prepared as I can get with the attitude that I am the woman for the job. And with all my strongest characteristics shining through. In a small school you want to hire someone who will be personable and responsible. Pleasant to work with and who will pull their weight. And that’s who I am. I think. I hope. All I have to do is make it show.


I screwed up today. Dad had an appointment for a blood draw at 1 pm, and I didn’t show to visit him until 12:30. My sister was there to take him to his appointment, and I barely got to say hello before I had to say goodbye.

Relations are tense with my sister; we don’t communicate. She had it marked on the calendar in his room, but Dad and I haven’t visited in his room yet this trip. I didn’t see it. I have a cold. I slept in today and headed here later than I might have.

It’s not her fault. It’s not my fault. It certainly isn’t Dad’s fault, but there it is.

Now I have the option to cool my heels for another hour and a half or so and return to see him, hoping he is alert and awake then, or to declare I did what I could today. Neither one feels great. As I so often tell my students struggling with life decisions, “There is no right answer. There is no wrong answer. You have to do your best and decide.”

Today is my last day here. I can’t come back tomorrow; my flight leaves at 8 am. We did have a good visit yesterday. I was there for 2 hours. Part of the time we were watching a holiday performance at the nursing home. Yesterday he told me that he would drive down to Texas to visit me next Christmas. He likes the warmer weather. I suggested we should take a side trip to the Grand Canyon. Of course, I’d have to do more of the driving for that. He wanted to know where we were going to dinner, and I named one of his favorite restaurants in the area. He gave me a hard time about my abused fingernails. It was bittersweet.

So much of visiting a nursing home is bittersweet. It is the right thing to do, so hard to do, and the only thing you can do. I make it out here twice a year. Maybe I could make it three. Given how far away I live, I could probably justify one. Do what you can do. Try not to let the rest get to you.

It is getting to me a little today.

Rats, foiled again!

Last spring break we wanted to go to the Texas Geocaching Challenge. The weather turned cold and rainy, and we bailed. This spring break the weather is again predicting cold and rainy, and we are bailing out on a trip to Tyler State Park. We might go later in the week when the weather clears up. And stay in a motel where we won’t care if it is rainy and cold. Pfui.

Maybe it is for the best. Last night we both started thinking about our work and our taxes. When the hell am I going to find time to file my taxes? Tomorrow when the weather is bad, that’s when.

Today I ran across this article: The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble. It made me laugh because I’ve run across this ego-bound behavior before, as, I think, do all single women in their 30s. The pass from the 60-something (and frequently married) man, often successful in his career, who thinks that you are going to just fall all over yourself for his attention. To whom I want to comment, “a 30 year age gap is a big gap, guys.” Let’s not even get into the married-to-someone-else issue. The men just don’t understand this; they are aghast to hear no for an answer.

Relationships with a big age difference can work, I’m a fair amount older than my partner. (But not 30 years older!) It’s the arrogance here that chafes/amuses me. At least the guy in the NY Times story was divorced already.

Security Theater

What do you think about the TSA body scanners? I won’t go through them.

Thank you, I’ll take the invasive pat-down. That, at least, makes it clear to everyone that my privacy is being invaded.

I am polite and cooperative with the TSA agents, but inside I fume; this is ridiculous. We spent $8.1 billion on TSA in 2011. What has it accomplished aside from long lines and invasion of privacy?

There’s a difference between security and security theater. Reinforcing the doors between cockpit and cabin: that was security. Making everyone go through a body scanner, that is security theater. It is easy to bypass the body scanner. It is hard to get through the locked cockpit to cabin door.

Most people go through the scanners without a second thought. Even I haven’t done much to protest aside from my insistence on the alternative pat-down. Will writing to our representatives in Congress and the Senate and our president help? I fear TSA has too much momentum behind it.

The money spent on TSA could be spent in many better ways. To help the poor and unemployed. To fix and replace aging infrastructure. To promote alternative forms of transportation that would lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and drive funds away from sources that fund terrorists.

For more information, take a look at Smoke Screening and Loaded Gun Slips Past TSA Screeners.