September 20, 2015


It can't be a whole year! Not a whole year since I last wrote a blog post. It is inconceivable to me that a whole year has gone by since I started my new job (September 15 was my one-year work anniversary at Vanderbilt-round 2). One year since I mustered up the courage to go back to work full-time after several years of working from home and mostly being a mom. Before I go into a tailspin of how stressful things are right now, I must say how happy I am to be working again. It was not a mistake, I didn't crash and burn a few months in (although there were days I thought I might), and June survived the transition --we all did! And it's better than I would have imagined. I love my job, I love my colleagues, I love being a productive member of a team, love being back at a university, and most of all, I am happy to be contributing financially again to our family which has given me some needed confidence. I also know it is providing a good role model for my daughter.

It has been a year of big changes for us as we enter a phase of life that is one of the busiest we've ever been in, when work and family take up everything and when there is rarely anything left in the tank for having fun. June started kindergarten this year, and while she seems mostly happy and it is going well, it was an adjustment for her. It was frankly more of an adjustment than I expected and I am reminded daily of how she is still young, but so capable, growing more and more independent, but still needs us. Her days are full and her emotions high, and sometimes she has to let out steam. The meltdowns were happening almost every night the first few weeks of school, but they've lessened now and we know she needs more rest and connection when she is at home. And you know what? So do we.

We started a big remodeling project at our house in early June. It was time to finally turn the attic into a full upstairs space, adding a new staircase, taking down a wall downstairs, and adding about 750 square feet of living space upstairs. Nothing has been more challenging to our marriage than this house project. Not having a child, not going back to work, not money worries, nothing. It has been intense. Nothing brings out your differences like a home renovation. Different ways of communicating, the many choices and things to argue about, the money stresses, the onslaught of decisions to make, and just the general chaos of remodeling is enough to break most couples. I had heard this before we got started but it never really resonated. Now it does. I know that I have a low tolerance for chaos and that Daniel can handle a lot more than I can (he does this for a living), but now I know that if faced with the possibility of doing anything like this again, we will definitely move out.

Coming home from work to a house with no roof when you didn't know it was happening that day, or having a worker put his foot through your kitchen ceiling while you stand under it watching the debris fall all over the dishes, or being without air conditioning or a working shower while you host 8 family members from out of town--all of this and more. It's no wonder I had a major health problem that I thought had gone away, rear its ugly head again this summer. I somehow managed to get that under control while learning how to cope (or not) with only half a house and a lot of dirt.

But I know it will all be worth it.

Today I wasn't so sure. We are in the final stages (I hope?) and drywall is happening next. That is the dirtiest of the dirty so we are moving out for a week so that I won't kill my husband. Fortunately, we have a short-term rental apartment to go to where it's clean and comfortable, and free of drywall dust. But I nearly lost it when, right after breakfast and only one cup of coffee in, I learned that we had to basically pack up the whole kitchen, plus everything else in the house we didn't want to get dirty, and cover everything in plastic. All while packing up the stuff a family of three plus a dog and a fish will need for a week away from home. When I found out about the magnitude of what was about to happen (thanks for the advance notice, honey) and I knew I had only a couple of hours to do it (we had plans to attend a birthday party this afternoon), I lost my shit. Poor Daniel. And poor June. Daniel is used to it and June forgives me (thankfully), but I was a bad, bad example for her today and I regret that. I'm under a lot of stress. We all are. But I should be grateful that we have the means to renovate our house, that we even have a house in a great neighborhood in a great city, and we have another house to escape to this week. I feel like a turd.

I am so lucky to have a husband who works harder than anyone I've ever seen and who knows how to build us a house to live in. And I have the sweetest little girl who, when she saw me doubled over and crying this morning, came over to me and said what I always say to her in the midst of a meltdown:

"Take a deep breath, Mommy."

"You're right. I'm sorry," I said.

"Will you do something for me?" she asked.


"Please stop yelling and please tell Daddy you're sorry."


If it weren't for her, I would have given up by now. But she brings me to my knees almost every day and I love her more than life.  I will end with a saying I've learned at work and that I wish I could tattoo on my forehead: "No crying on the yacht." And when you think you're about to drown, ask your five-year-old for one of her life jackets. Because let's face it. Our life is incredibly good.


October 9, 2014

The second time around...

Kirkland Hall, Vanderbilt University

I have been trying to find the time to update the blog, especially with the big life changes going on, but I'm finding it hard to stay awake. Exhaustion comes in many forms, I'm learning. There is the kind that leaves you totally emotionally and mentally spent --as in the kind I felt most days while a stay-at-home mom. And there's the kind I feel now--the kind that is maybe more physical in nature and also laced with a lot of personal satisfaction. Not that staying home with kids is not personally satisfying, but it's inherently not the point. You do it because it's what you think is best for your child and you do it without ever getting the satisfaction of your child knowing the sacrifices you've made.

This working full-time on the other hand, is inherently good for me. As much as I feared it and even sometimes avoided it, I am really enjoying it. Yes, it has been challenging and not without moments of doubt and uncertainty. But for the most part, we are all adjusting well. Also, I love getting dressed in the morning in something besides sweats or work-out clothes. I love drinking my coffee on the way to work while listening to grown-up music or NPR (no more "horse tunes" or "free to be you and me," Hooray!) I love seeing and talking to adults all day. And I love coming home and picking up my smiling girl who runs to the door and squeals with delight upon seeing me. Our time together is now more precious because it's squeezed into a few intense hours in the morning and before bed.

My new workplace - The almost 150-year-old Vaughn Home

My new job at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt means I am working on a college campus again in the same environment I used to teach in (it was the reason I moved to Nashville). But this time I get to do things that are much more practical and mundane, but also interesting and new. Instead of teaching--or trying to at least convince students that the Humanities are worth studying--now I help make possible the kinds of interactions and meaningful discussions that define the Humanities. I get to help provide the opportunities for faculty and graduate students in different disciplines to learn and study with each other. Plus, it's fun! In the first few weeks I got to play tour guide to a group of academics from Ireland and help coordinate a visit from an award-winning novelist and his gospel band. I get to go to the Southern Festival of Books this week and get paid for it. And I get to listen to interesting people talk about engaging intellectual topics that matter. I feel so lucky to have found this place!

I remember one day in the Fall of my first year teaching at Vanderbilt. I was walking in front of a huge magnolia tree and the sun was shining through the leaves on that crisp, cloudless day. I had an almost out of body feeling of being very happy and content with my present situation. That kind of pure happiness that hits you for fleeting moments is hard to come by. That, unfortunately, didn't last too long in that particular time and space, but I feel like I finally have the chance to feel that way again. It's a feeling I longed for many times during the last however many years it has been--years spent trying to find myself and my career path again after coming to a dead end. Now, although the future is unclear and mysterious, I feel like I can finally hope for that contentment again.

It helps that my husband has a schedule that allows for us to both work and still be involved parents. I love my family, I love being a mother, even though it's the hardest thing I've ever loved, but I also love working. And I need to do both. That is not to say that I didn't love my time staying home with June for the past four-plus years. But I think this is what works for me now. And I am grateful for this opportunity. Stay tuned... if I can stay awake long enough to compose my thoughts, I'll be back soon!