Saturday, October 25, 2014


I get up in the morning and usually, instead of getting ready for the day, exercising, or spending time with my spouse, I jump on the computer to check my email...and to look at anything "important" on facebook. 45 minutes later, I realize I've wasted time that could be spent doing any number of other things, but I shrug it off with a twinge of regret. After all, I'm keeping up with friends! I'm reading good articles! Throughout the day when I need a "break," the same thing would occur with the same excuses.

Then, late-September, I grew tired of it all. Sure, I was keeping up with friends and seeing interesting pictures and learning who was now engaged/pregnant/had a baby/other major life changes, but I also was bogged down with a lot of vapid posts and enraging articles (or pointless ones). Was this really worth the amount of time I was spending on it each day? I had already taken the app off my phone (which was an excellent choice), and I was curious to see what ditching FB entirely would be like.

So I stepped away. I promised myself that October would be a month where I didn't check Facebook. I checked it once in the middle of the month and once because a friend had listed something she wanted me to look at, but otherwise I stayed off of the site.

The first week was hard. My impulse was to check FB at every opportunity where there was a lull, where I was bored, or where I just would normally go look at it. Then, by the end of the second week, I stopped thinking about it, my impulse to check it went away, and I actually forgot about it (except for informing people that I wasn't really on FB lately, so to contact me directly.

It turns out to have been...freeing. I have been more focused on everything else, and I have not been sucked into drama. I have missed things friends have posted (and birthday reminders), but hopefully people won't mind too much. I think after October, I'm going to continue to mostly stay away, maybe only logging in once a week at most.

All this, of course, is not a judgment on anyone else's use of FB. Given my proclivity to be constantly on it and not doing other things, refraining from using it regularly has been a good decision, and one that I'm glad I tried. So if you want to go have coffee with me or chat, give me a call or send me a message!

Friday, October 24, 2014

women + cooking

If you know me, you know I love food. I love eating it, and I love cooking it. And if you know my spouse, you know cooking is something we love to do together, and something that we tend to share pretty equally in terms of household chores.

Yet, I know that other women aren't as lucky as I am to be married to someone who can pick up the slack when a meal is needed, and there can be a lot of guilt associated with the decisions made to feed one's family quickly, efficiently, and cheaply. And Virginia Heffernan's article "What If You Just Hate Making Dinner?" spells out that anxiety clearly as she relates her frustration with the new slate of cookbooks aimed at telling mothers to cook lest DISASTER befall their precious children.

I find this article fascinating, though I don't fully agree with it, because I am interested in the ways modern women are coping with changing domestic roles and home cooking. The world is changing, women are less frequently at home, yet the standards in place have yet to fully reflect the new social reality.  Heffernan notes the hyperbolic language these cookbook authors use to pressure their (female) readers to get back into the kitchen and make their families an organic, whole-wheat, homemade sandwich:
I don’t think there is ONE THING MORE IMPORTANT you can do FOR YOUR KIDS THAN HAVE FAMILY DINNER,” is how Ruth Reichl, of Gourmet, is quoted (italics and caps not mine) in “The Family Dinner,” by Laurie David, with recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt. Pomposity of this kind abounds in Laurie David books, and ultimately the books’ apotheosizing of home cooking is more memorable in its aggression than the somewhat meeker recipes (Easy Cheesy Dinner Frittata, Turkey Meat Loaf, Your Favorite Grilled Cheese). No one thing more important for children than family dinner? I might have put “send them to school” or “hug them occasionally” at the top of that list.
Heffernan's irritation at this kind of mother-guilt is warranted. At first, I was prepared to be frustrated with this article, but I realized that some people truly do not derive pleasure from cooking as I do. Heck, there are days when I'm grateful for a quick bite grabbed as I dash out the door, a bite not carefully crafting but thrown together from what is easy and convenient and meets my basic nutritional requirements. But since I have no children, no one is squinting at me for refusing to sacrifice time I don't have to make a homemade meal every night. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do.

In the end, Heffernan exposes yet another way women are associated with domestic cooking as well as the censure they face if they reject the all-organic and homemade trends. After all, these books are targeted to women, and no clear efforts are directed to the other members of the household (men) who could contribute to the efforts to healthfully feed a family (be that family with or without children). No one faults a man for not knowing how to cook, but women face judgment and scrutiny if they admit to not knowing how to make a simple meal or confess a lack of interest in domestic concerns.

And I realize, once again, how lucky I am to have a partner who shares the cooking with me, and with whom cooking is a joy, not a burden.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

the deep end

I've dived (dove?) into the deep end of academia, and I'm finding myself not sinking, though sometimes just barely treading water. This semester, in all its delights brings article submissions, a co-authored publication, research, and, finally, the job market. Job hunting is thrilling and exciting, and I feel poised to begin my career, for real.

I also find myself in the unenviable position of having to explain to people how the academic job market works. The well-meaning questions like where do you want to go? where will you end up? why not apply to X place? are not that frustrating, but reveal how weird and strange and often esoteric the life I've chosen is to the outside eye. It's not that I wouldn't love to choose a place and apply for it, but with my jobs list growing ever longer, I invest enough energy to get excited enough about each position to convey that I really do want to work at X University. Then, when the application has been emailed, Interfolio-ed, or otherwise submitted, I forget they exist.

You see, if I stayed too excited about any one job and then never heard back, it would be crushing. So by divesting the interest and excitement I generated to apply, I (hopefully) will only experience mild disappointment if I never hear back or they send me the thanks-but-no-thanks message. I'll save my excitement and longing for when I get bumped into the later phases of interviewing and campus visits.

Anyway, so my friends are currently delighted whenever I pop up (which hasn't been very often), and I catch a bit of space to breathe, but I have actually been enjoying feeling purposeful every day. Every day I submit more applications and do more scholarly work, and it feels awesome (though still daunting), and I feel more secure in knowing that this is what I want to do, gluten-free bakery dreams aside.

With all this energy comes an edge of sadness. I was in Megan's barre3 class the other day, and it struck me: there really is so much I'll be leaving behind, be it the easy camaraderie with my best friends, friends who have been with me for so long now, to my inspiring running group, to my barre3 buddies. It made me tear up a tiny bit as I tried to focus on my core, but this too is a feeling I have to compartmentalize for now. There will be joy and sadness in my future, but that's something for future-Jenn to worry about. Meanwhile, I'll savor the moments I'm able to have with these amazing members of my community when I get the chance.

And now, back to it...