Building the Life I Want to Live

For the entire time I was in graduate school I had one goal: to become a full-time, tenured professor in a supportive department at a great university. I had this dream that I would balance my time between teaching and supporting students with my own research and writing. And I would be so happy simply because I would be doing the two things that I love: teaching and researching-writing-publishing about art. I knew nothing else, so for almost 20 years I busted my ass, first to get my Masters and then to get my PhD. I spent countless hours reading, studying, writing … worrying, crying, and exhausted. Somehow I missed the reality of this dream — that the glut of newly-minted PhDs far outstripped the amount of tenure-track faculty jobs available and that the bulk of these jobs were going to Contemporary art historians or those with an already established publishing record, something I didn’t have. I also seemed to have missed the memo that what I study is neither canon, nor really considered marketable. I study it because I’m genuinely interested in it and because I like it. I’m coming to realize that these are not good enough reasons to pursue something, at least not if you want to get things published in “the best periodicals” because, you know, tenure. Most importantly, I didn’t really consider that I might just hate the job when I did finally get it. Maybe I thought academia was some sort of magical place where scholars shared deep thoughts and supported each other’s work? I knew teaching was challenging, but I liked the challenge.

I don’t come from professional stock. My father was a City carpenter and my Mom, while she did have some college, was an administrative assistant … a secretary is what she called herself. I come from people who had to work to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Careers were for people who had the time and leisure to pursue them. As for stay-at-home-Moms … my Mom worked and both of my Grandmas worked. The women in my family didn’t have a choice to stay home. The only two people in my immediate family who finished college are my brother and me. And out of the entire family on both sides, I am the first one to get a Doctorate. I’m one of two.

My only real exposure to academia was as a student in college and grad school, and then as an adjunct in CUNY, Parsons, HCCC, and Seton Hall. What the hell did I know about an academic profession? I asked all sorts of questions and did my own research, but professors never dissuaded me from academia and the grad programs I was in never really discussed non-academic jobs for art historians. We were presented with two choices: the pursuit of full-time, tenured positions and curatorial jobs. What if neither of those positions worked out or were a good fit?

Here I am. I’ve just started my third year as a full-time professor and my thirteenth year teaching. I am not that bright-eyed kid sitting in her very first graduate class at Hunter College. I’m not that person who read Linda Nochlin for the first time and exclaimed, “I WILL be the next Linda Nochlin!” I’m not that young woman who sat in the auditorium at the Grad Center during orientation and listened to the president yammer on about how lucky we are to wake up every morning and do what you love. No. I am a middle-aged woman who realized that I don’t want to work this hard for so little. I don’t want to pursue a tenure-track position with no guarantee that I’ll get tenure in six years. I don’t want to give my life, my soul, and my health to this job. I am not that starry eyed, excited kid anymore. Rather, I’m a very tired woman who sees the writing on the wall and hears the truth inside of her. And the wonderful thing is that I absolutely know what I don’t want and what I do want.

I know what kind of life I want to live … and I know what needs to be done to build that life.

What Have You Done This Year?

Samhain is a little over two weeks away, and like clockwork, my focus moves inwards. A lot has happened this year. On October 7, 2017, I told my department chair that we were moving back to NYC and proposed teaching fully online while coordinating the department’s distance learning initiatives. He agreed and here we are. I’m teaching three courses this semester while finishing my Instructional Technology Certificate. Once that’s done I’m starting my Quality Matters (QM) training so that I can become a peer reviewer which will lead to a Master QM. I’ve been toying with doing another Masters in Educational Technology and Instructional Design. It would be through SUNY Buffalo’s Education Department and would be 100% online. Why? Well, let’s just say that I’m contemplating my future and my career: what makes me happy … what makes me miserable … what I truly want … and what I really don’t want anymore. I know this sounds cryptic, but it needs to be at this moment. I will say, that at this point in my life, balance and quality of life far outweigh tenure track or full-time teaching gigs. Experiencing the death of both of my parents and Ed’s father, and realizing my own mortality, has certainly shed light on my current situation and my own goals, dreams, and desires. More on that as the old year ends and the new year begins.

This year was also filled with horrific health issues. It was around this time last year that I started to have trouble urinating and was taking Ducolax almost regularly. I had issues with my bowels for a few years and concluded that I must have some dietary problems like gluten intolerance. How did I know that the fibroid I had since my early 30s was in an area that would cause havoc when it grew? It most certainly caused havoc and three emergency room visits for a foley bag because I couldn’t urinate! Until my operation this June, I needed to self-catheter almost everyday, especially in the morning. Alas, Melvin — the fibroid — was to blame and a hysterectomy was in order.

How am I doing? I’m good, but not 100%. I no longer need to take Ducolax and my urination is normal, thank Goddess. However, I’m only four months post-op and I still haven’t gotten my normal energy levels back. I need to be careful not to overdo when I walk and work out; if I do, I’m exhausted and my core muscles feel like they’re on fire. And let’s face it, my portions are way to big for the amount of exercise I’m currently getting. Yup, I gained back every single pound I lost when I started Bat Fit in 2012. I’ve decided that I’m not going to beat myself up about it. There was a lot of living done in those six years: Mom died. I finished my dissertation and got my PhD. I got my first full-time teaching gig and moved to Texas. I moved back to NYC. Ed’s pop died. I had surgery. It’s no wonder that I’m back to where I started! For cripes sake!

With that said, I’m back in the pool today. I’ll supplement my swimming with weights and 30 minutes of dancing 3-4 days a week. And, of course, we’re going to be eating home a lot more. It’s time to get back to cooking and eating the way I used to: smaller portions of homemade food that is made from whole foods. I’m limiting the amount of overly processed foods we eat. And I’m certainly limiting how much we eat out! It’s too expensive and I can’t control what goes into the dishes. My goal is to lose 40 pounds by my birthday in June. That’s 5 pounds a month, which is more than achievable.

As for everything else, like I said, there’s been some major soul searching happening around here. What seemed so very important doesn’t seem important at all! And those dreams and goals that got left to simmer on the back burner are calling to me with an urgency that surprises me. My life is changing again and this time it feels for “keeps.” I’m excited and happy and more energized than I’ve been in a long, long time.

Just a Deco Gal at a Wedding

Hello my lovely readers! Hello!

Geez, where did the summer go? Can you believe it’s already mid-August? Mid-August. Yipes! I am nowhere near ready for this upcoming semester and I’ll be honest, I’m not ready to say ‘good bye’ to the summer. Sure, I’ve been counting down the days to Yankee Candle’s Boney Bunch and Halloween Release Party (August 25) and I’m anxiously waiting for the annual release of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Lattés (August 28) … but let’s face it, I haven’t had much of a summer. I spent most of it recovering from my surgery and getting this apartment in order. I’m doing well and, no, we aren’t 100% settled in, but we are getting closer. I really wish we had more time to go camping and take day trips to New Hope, New Paltz, and museums in our area.

At least we got a chance to head up north to Providence, RI and Salem, MA for an extended weekend. A close pal of ours got married in Providence at the end of July, so we decided to extend the festivities for a few days and take a short jaunt up to Salem. It was exactly what we needed after the craziness of May and June! We haven’t been to Salem in two years and we absolutely needed our fix of history, witchiness, and ocean. Good grief did I miss the ocean! I missed it with every, single cell of my being. While we had a most wonderful time, I was having some trouble with my sutures and walking around for extended periods of time. The heat and humidity killed me and has been killing me! Even though I no longer have actual stitches, the suture site feels raw and uncomfortable, and the heat is making any movement a herculean effort. More on that and some of the fun things we did in a later post.

But first, wedding weekend outfits!

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Travel outfit: cook and comfortable for the long drive to Providence. Blouse: Macy’s; Skort: QVC; Shoes: DSW; Earrings: gift from my Mom when I turned 15; Necklace: artist in NYC — I can’t remember her name.

We took Friday before the wedding off from work to travel up to Providence. We honestly didn’t know how I would do in the car. Would the long distance and sitting irritate my surgery site? Would the bumps and traffic jar me too much, making the trip painful? I’m happy to report that I did pretty well considering I was only three weeks post-op. Getting in and out of the car was a challenge, and the stop-and-go of the heavy traffic wasn’t pleasant. Other than that, I felt comfortable.

I’ve been wearing a lot of travel knit lately because it’s not confining and stretches with my surgery site. In other words, it’s really damned comfortable and easy to take care of. For the trip up I wore a travel knit skort — yes, skort!!! There’s shorts under that skirt! HUZZAH! — and a comfy, cotton tunic. I like to take my shoes off in the car, so simple, canvas flats were in order.

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The necklace I wore was made by a local artist whose name escapes me. Once I find the card I will post more about her.

Note: my hair has been growing out and when these photos were taken it was in an awkward, crappy stage. I’ve decided that baby bangs just don’t suit me anymore. I’m sticking to a longer bang that somewhat covers the mole on my forehead. Besides, a longer bang softens my features and is easier to curl under.

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My outfit for the rehearsal/welcome dinner: Blouse and pants (yes, pants!): Macy’s; Shoes: DSW; Beaded necklace: made by my Mom; Earrings: I can’t remember

We were invited to the rehearsal and welcome dinner since we got into Providence on Friday afternoon. I’ve been itching for an excuse to wear this outfit and this was the perfect affair to do so. I’m wearing deliciously soft, wide-legged pants topped with a bat-wing blouse.

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Isn’t the fabric pattern gorgeous? Yes, moths and bumblebees!!!

For those of you who have asked: yes, I’m still rocking retro-vintage styles. However, my focus has returned to the 1920s. I say returned because the 20s influenced many of my fashion choices in college and throughout the 90s. I especially loved incorporating the silent film stars’ makeup and dramatic outfits into my Goth lifestyle. The two mesh beautifully! It was only in recent years that I gave the 40s and 50s a spin. While I may still wear my Gothibilly dresses and 40s inspired outfits from time-to-time, I’m more focused on the “Decade of Deco!” Just call me a Deco Goth! HAHAHAHA! Wait, I like the way that sounds.

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Wedding attire: my entire ensemble was bought at Macy’s. Shoes: ModCloth; Necklace and earrings: gift from my mother-in-law; Headband: Michael’s.

I will admit though, I’ve added quite a bit of navy blue to my wardrobe in the past few years. While I may not be a fan of “blue” in general, there’s something timeless and classy about navy blue, especially when paired with white. Besides, I think I really look good in navy!

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Even my makeup palette has softened quite a bit. As I’m getting older I find heavy eyeliner looks ridiculous on me.

For the wedding, itself, I wore pleated wide-leg pants topped with an embellished, sleeveless tunic, and a beautiful, shear duster. I’ve become quite a fan of dusters, kimonos, and wide-legged pants! They’re some of the most comfortable clothing you can wear. Besides, the light-weight dusters and kimonos are perfect for the summer. They’re cool and breezy in the outside heat and warm and comfortable in overly air conditioned interiors.

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Doesn’t Ed look handsome?

I had to post a photo of Ed and I together. Doesn’t he look dapper in his suit? He always wears that tie to weddings — red for good luck and happiness. Congrats to Sam and Maj.

 

 

And the Pathology Report Said …

I just had my two week post-op appointment with my surgeon and the pathology report came back completely fine … BENIGN … all is right with the world! Benign. Yes, I was THAT worried. I have too much to do to be worried about cancer. I have lots and lots of living to do. Tons of people to meet. Good work to be done. Books and articles to write. Students to teach. Benign! WHEEE!!!!

How am I doing otherwise? He took the steri-strips off and said that everything looks good and is healing well. The cut is clean and clear of any infection or irritation. Inside appears to be healing nicely, so he gave me the clear to sit in the front seat of the car. I can’t lift anything over 20 lbs and I need to really listen to my body and what it needs and can do. However, I can start traveling into Manhattan and back to research. I also got the clear to go into a pool and swim casually — not workout — in two weeks. I need to see him again in four weeks to make sure the internal stitches are healed and good before I can start really working out and swimming, and before I can start having sex again. All in all, everything is friggin AWESOME!!! WAHOO!

According to him I have a damned good constitution and awesome determination, and I should congratulate myself for being so kick ass! HELL YEAH. He told us that my surgery wasn’t textbook or easy. My fibroid lodged my uterus so far back and tucked under my sacrum that he had a really difficult time getting it out. He had to use an instrument like a shoe horn to pull the damned thing free and even hurt his hand trying to get it out! Can you imagine?!? Where it was sitting put TONS of pressure on my back and wreaked havoc on my bladder and urethra. If I waited to get the surgery the damage to my spine and surrounding organs would have been severe and irreversible! yipes. I asked him why it was so painful to poop and he said that he had to move my organs out of the way so that they could get at the uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix. What I’m going through is normal for such a difficult and serious surgery; well, except my quick recovery. I heal fast and have a really positive attitude … it helps.

So, all in all, everything is good. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and out of my belly! HA! I’m peeing and pooping normally, and getting stronger and more mobile every day. In another week I’ll want to get out of the house and into Manhattan! Hell, we’re going to a friend’s wedding in Providence, RI and are taking a short jaunt to Salem, MA for a few days afterwards. We really need a time out and I’m so happy that I’m going to be able to enjoy it without having to worry about anything serious. WAHOO!

Upwards and onwards!

 

Two Week Post-Op and Bat Fit Plans

I’m two weeks post-op and I have my checkup with my surgeon scheduled for this Thursday. I won’t lie, I’m anxious about the pathology report … not because I honestly think that I have cancer, but because it’s such a huge unknown. I keep pouring over my MRI results to see if I can find any clues. The only thing I have is the image and the report indicating that the bones and soft tissue look “unremarkable.” As you can tell, I’m a worrier. I worry about everything and everyone. Mom was a worrier. Grandma was a worrier. It’s in my genes. I’m not going to be happy until I get the pathology report. Thursday. And let’s face it, I still have my ovaries and I’m in the middle of my PMS. Yup, PMS. I won’t get my periods, but geez am I PMSing. Blah.

Other than all this worrying, I’m progressing nicely. Sure, I have my bad days and my good days. I have days when my energy levels are somewhat normal and I feel back to my spooky self … and then I have days when all I want to do is sleep. All of this is normal. What’s important is that I am progressively getting better and stronger, which I am. I can sneeze, cough, and laugh without much pain, though I have to brace with a pillow. I can sit at my desk and work, though I need to make sure it’s only for a few hours and not the entire day. I sat at my desk the entire day yesterday and BOY! did I regret it. For the first time in two weeks I’m actually walking without waddling and I’m able to get up from a chair or couch without struggling. And I can still urinate! YAY! My BMs are … interesting to say the least. I’ll leave it at that. My back and hips feel AMAZING.

After surgery I barely had any appetite and I weighed 232. I lost 10 pounds just from the surgery. It was inevitable — Melvin and my uterus were huge and I wasn’t really eating anything except for broth and jello. Two weeks out and I have my appetite back. I still can’t eat big portions, but I am eating and not really doing much exercise except for walking around the apartment. Yup, I gained back around 5 pounds and it’s frustrating. Ah well. Since I’m walking better and I’m more able to move around, I’m going to start walking around the mall and cooking at home again. Ed can lift anything too heavy and can be my hands when I need help. I refuse to let this hysterectomy flatten me. Onwards and upwards!

Of Mourning and Melvins

It is with great sadness that I have to report that Ed’s father, Edward A. Moretti, passed away on Monday, June 25. He had been battling cancer for over two years — this year it moved into his brain, sealing his fate. He died at home in his own bed surrounded by his family.

Eddie was a kind, generous, gentle man who was always quick with a joke or a bit of advice. In many ways, Eddie was the rock and the compass of the family, quietly supporting and guiding everyone. He was always very loving to me and I adore him like my own father. He loved his family and had the hugest heart in the world. I am very grateful that his son, my Ed, is blessed with his kindness, vast capacity for love, generosity, and, dare I say, good looks. Dad Moretti will be horribly missed.

The very next day on Tuesday, June 26, I had a full hysterectomy to take out my fibroid, Melvin, and his little brother (seen in the photo above). As you recall from previous posts, Melvin was wreaking havoc on my bladder, causing urinary retention and daily catheterization. Well, it turns out the fibroid was also putting pressure on my spine and nerves, causing lower back pain that I contributed to my weight gain. How wrong I was! My doctor urged that I get a full hysterectomy immediately.  He was concerned that I had permanent damage to my bladder, urethra, and spine, and waiting for the operation would only make matters worse.

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So first thing on Tuesday morning I had my surgery — he took my cervix, uterus, and tubes, leaving my ovaries so that I wouldn’t go into menopause. According to my doctor, I had one of the most twisted uteruses he’s ever seen. Not only was it tilted, but it was so lodged into my pelvic floor that he needed to literally “shoe horn” it out of me.

I can’t tell you much about the day of the surgery except that I was terrified. I remember all the prep and seeing the OR. I remember how incredibly nice, understanding, and caring everyone was. I remember cracking jokes in Post-Op. I also remember my doctor showing us a photo of my uterus and noting that it looked like a big rump roast. I slept the entire day. The nurses were trying to get me to move but I refused, stating that it’s been over a decade since I had absolutely nothing to do but sleep and you damn well know that’s all I’m going to do! HA! So that’s what I did: slept. I ate some broth and jello, drank lots of water, and slept … and slept … and slept.

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Ed bought me Pusheen to cuddle with.

I was told that my stay would be 2-3 days and that I would most likely be released on Thursday. I was determined to go home on Wednesday; after all, Eddie’s wake was on Thursday and I didn’t want to interfere with it. My doctor said he only ever had two patients who went home the next day after a full abdominal. I was determined to be his third. All I had to do was pee on my own and fart, my blood work had to be perfect, and I had to walk and walk and walk around the ward. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! Lo and behold, I was released at 6:00 PM! I was going to be able to recover in the comfort of my own home surrounded by my loved ones and the things I adore.

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My healing nest

Alas, what I couldn’t do was go to Eddie’s wake or funeral. My doctor banned any travel for at least a week and Ed forbade me to leave the house. Needless to say, I could hardly move and the pain was pretty horrible. There was no way I would be able to get back into the car, sit in a funeral parlor for hours, and try to pee in a public toilet. Crying, laughing, sneezing, or couching caused some serious pain. sigh … I missed it all.

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Me after my first shower, Friday.

So, how am I after a week? Pretty good. I’m moving a whole lot better, though I do get stuck if I’m sleeping on my back or if I don’t sit right on a hard chair. I’ve been eating normally, drinking lots of water, taking Advil for my pain, and my urination and BM has been regular and normal. It seems as though no permanent damage was done, thank Goddess! I can’t believe my back and hips are without pain! I’m walking around the apartment and doing little things by myself. Ed helped me cook dinner last night and I’m attempting to shower today without his help — wish me luck. It doesn’t take much for me to get winded or tired, so I’ve been napping a lot. I’m still trapped at home and going stir crazy. I literally can’t pick up a book heavier than a paperback. And I still haven’t attempted to ease back into work. Despite this, I’m on the mend.

As for Ed, well … he’s mourning in his own Ed way. He’s very private about it all and I’ll leave it at that. He’s ok. Me, I’m going to miss Eddie terribly. He was so very kind! It doesn’t help that this is the time of year that my Mom went into the hospital to never see her home again. I’m already raw with memories and mourning. Eddie’s death just adds to it all. sigh … all we can do is persevere.

The Curious Professor Z Finds Her Groove … or the Ups and Downs of Academia

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Yesterday, I spent my afternoon bouncing around Manhattan with a coworker from Texas A&M who was in NYC for a conference. We headed up the Metropolitan Museum for the Museum Mile Festival and then down to Lili’s 57 for dinner. It was a gorgeous evening so we walked from the MMA on 83rd to West 57th … and then down to East 48th to her hotel.

This is the first time that my Texas A&M world and my NYC world merged … and it was glorious. My colleague is a great listener and she seemed genuinely interested in all of my NYC tales, especially those about my family and my love of art. I found myself gushing about my hometown and career choice in ways that I’ve never said aloud before … and in ways that ultimately surprised me. She asked me how much time I spent at the MMA before moving to Texas. I was astonished when I struggled to count the many times a month I went to the museum just to walk around, or have lunch in the American Wing, or to meet a friend. The museum is one of my “safe places” where I decompress or think. It’s also a place I go to get inspired when I’m doubting my research or career choice. I recounted how wonderful it was to bring students to the museum. I remembered how inspired, overwhelmed, and gracious my students were, and how utterly blown away they were to experience a Monet or van Goth for the first time. It was bittersweet to realize how much I miss taking a gaggle of kids to the museum, more so now that I fully teach online.

As I spoke I started to remember my first time seeing many of my “old friends” — art works and objects that deeply and profoundly affected me. I remember finally figuring out Cézanne, something that completely changed the way I painted and thought about space. I remember seeing Dalí’s Persistence of Memory at the Museum of Modern Art for the first time and noting just how small it is — a gorgeous, Freudian jewel. And Rosa! My Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair … no, she’s not “disagreeably hidden” Dr. Saslow … I respectfully disagree! She’s mirrored in that gorgeous, rearing female Percheron that firmly and confidently takes the center of the painting. She is that untamable Percheron, a spotty grey and white French draft horse with a mind of its own. I feel a counter argument coming on! jots down a reminder to start the research and writing

As we strolled the streets I pointed out landmarks — civic and personal — and told stories of growing up in NYC. At various points she looked at me and smiled, eventually telling me that I sound so happy to be home. Home. What a glorious word! I’m home ….

In so many ways, I’m home.

I won’t lie, I’m horribly sore today. I’m overweight and out-of-shape. I wore the wrong shoes because I didn’t think we would do that much walking, so my feet hurt today. My inner thighs are chaffed. And my muscles! oh! my muscles are on fire. Despite all of this, I am profoundly happy today. The “walk about” around Manhattan and in my memories did me some good. I have an incredible desire to re-read my Masters thesis and my Doctoral dissertation — projects I want to continue, parts of my cerebral life left unfinished. I want to look at more art. I want to think deep, beautiful thoughts.

This may be somewhat premature, but perhaps … just maybe … I’m finding my groove right here where I left it: in NYC.

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Better Crypts and Gardens: Gothic Nesting

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Hello, my lovely friends! Hello! Oh boy, what a busy month it’s been. Yes, we’ve already been home in NYC for a month; and yet, it feels like we never left because everything is so comfortable and familiar. Even the apartment feels wonderfully like home despite not being completely painted and unpacked. Oh yes, we’re painting and I think many of you long time readers will be shocked to learn that we didn’t paint our living room and dining room “Tuscan Gold,” as we’ve done time and time again.

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A beautiful silvery mauve

Instead we opted for a silvery mauve! Yup. No golden yellow for us — it just doesn’t “go” with our the furniture we bought in Texas, which is predominately grey, black, or dark wood. We also have three metal pieces — two “reclaimed” cabinets and an entertainment stand — that don’t look “right” against a golden wall, so silvery mauve it is!

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The new color on the left, the “baby puke” green-brown we moved into on the right

I know it seems out of character for me, especially since I’ve insisted on living “inside a pumpkin” for years. Tastes, people, and needs change. Lately, I’ve been drawn to more subtle, calming colors — even the yellow we painted my office is light and creamy. Only Ed’s office is slated to be somewhat dark, opting for a light Wedgewood blue. Of course there will be photos as soon as we unpacked more boxes and are somewhat moved in.

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China cabinet is unpacked and ready for entertaining

The whole moving thing is quite a process and I’m exhausted from closing out the Spring semester, packing, driving up to NYC, and dealing with a multitude of personal issues, my health being one. I just don’t have the energy to pour myself into full-on nesting, at least not just yet. I’m sure when I get my surgery date on Thursday, I’ll have a better sense of how much time I have to get this place together. It seems like all of my plans — from teaching to writing to nesting — are riding on this surgery date, and we all know how much I loath having no control over my life and schedule.

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Collectables #1 of 3 unpacked

Most of my furniture is where it needs to be and some of the boxes have been unpacked. There’s tons left to do! My Boneys are still in boxes and my kitchen is still not painted and unpacked. My office was painted this weekend, but all of the books and supplies are still in boxes, which frustrates me to no end. Every time I think, “Hey, that’s in such-and-such book,” I remember that such-and-such book is still in one of the boxes stacked in the living room. BLAH.

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Unpacking clothing

I was able to unpack my clothing and shoes this weekend, just in time for the change in weather. I very quickly learned that I was spoiled rotten in our Texas home because I had a huge walk-in closet. Good grief, the closet was so big that I had tons of room for more clothes, shoes, hats, bags, etc. I’m now trying to fit everything into two regular sized closets … hehehe … HAHAHAHA … yeah right.

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Oh my gawd! SHOES!

It quickly dawned on me that I seriously need more storage, especially for my shoes and bags. We’ll be visiting IKEA quite a bit in the next few weeks as I try to get my stuff unpacked and my life organized … or at least reasonably organized.

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YUMMY chicken soup. 🙂

There’s a ton to be done — boxes to unpack, walls to be painted, furniture to be bought and put together — in order to make this apartment our comfortable nest. It’s well on it’s way and THAT is making me quite happy. Hell, living in NYC and being able to teach at Texas A&M is making me deliriously happy!!! I just need to get through the next few weeks and all will be right with the world … well, all will be right in my world at least.

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Bat Fit 2018: A Mid-Year Update

23621588_1861508880827452_8402498292986502029_nAh Bat Fit … I started this year with good intentions. My goals were simple and familiar: eat smaller portions of good, healthy, wholesome food cooked at home by me and to move more. I didn’t really have a “weight loss goal” or lifestyle goal that would take too much effort to maintain. All I wanted to do is get back to a lifestyle that made me feel healthy and strong.

After my Mom’s death, writing my dissertation and getting my PhD, looking for a job, moving to Texas, and starting a full-time teaching gig, I gained back all the weight that I lost when I first started Bat Fit in 2012: exactly 50 pounds. Living in Texas, where the heat and lack of public transportation made working out a chore instead of a daily occurrence, didn’t help. I worked all the time — sitting in front of the computer answering emails, grading, developing online courses, writing lectures, etc. — and eating out was necessary because I neither had the energy nor the time to cook. And let’s be quite honest here: I wasn’t happy. I really like my teaching gig — especially developing and teaching online courses — but I wasn’t happy in Texas. What can I say, I’m a city gal from the Northeast. This is my home and I’m thrilled that I got to keep my online gig AND move back to NYC.

Besides the weight gain and loss of strength, my health hasn’t been great. In late November/early December, I started to have trouble urinating. I welcomed the New Year with a trip to the ER and a foley bag … which occurred twice more in March. I was taught to self-catheter and have been doing so for the last three months. I don’t need to do it every day or throughout the day. It’s usually very random and, except for twice, only during the morning when I just wake up. The urologist I saw in New Jersey in January said that I have no signs or symptoms of anything wrong with my urinary track. The Texas doctors dismissed me, one stating that it’s “all in [my] head” and that I should “go see a psychologist.” When I asked my Texas primary care physician and the urologist if it could possibly be my fibroid, they told me no. So every morning since January it’s been a crap shoot to see if I can urinate.

I saw my GYN here in Staten Island … who promptly freaked out when I told her about my urinary issues. When she did my annual exam she couldn’t feel or locate my cervix and, therefore, couldn’t do a PAP. She promptly sent me to a specialist-surgeon who was able to do a PAP (waiting for the results UPDATE: PAP came back A-Ok) and who said that he is almost certain that my fibroid, named Melvin for future reference, is probably causing all of my issues. I’m going for a MRI on Monday and a sonogram on Wednesday to see what’s going on and to rule out sarcoma, uterine cancer, etc. Granted, he won’t be able to completely rule out cancer until he gets in there to do my hysterectomy. Yup, that’s my “big summer news.” Once my MRI, sonogram, and PAP results are in my doctor is scheduling me for a hysterectomy.

How am I feeling about all this? Terrified. I’m not scared of the operation or recovery, per se. I’m terrified that my worst fear — cancer — will come true and that all my hard work will be for nothing. I feel guilty that I haven’t been writing or researching because I’ve been so busy with teaching and Texas. I’m scared of what I don’t know and no amount of “it’s probably nothing,” “it’s 90% certain that it’s not cancer,” or the like is making me feel any better. I know that I haven’t been producing. I know that I need to produce and I’m freaked out that I’ve missed my opportunity to do so … which isn’t really helping me, my writing, or my health.

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Fiddleheads! YAY!

So that’s what’s going on and why I’ve been cryptic when discussing my health and Bat Fit. I’m kind of in limbo right now. I can’t really make any plans or goals because I don’t know when my operation will be, how much time I’ll need to recover, and what the end result will be. The only thing I can focus on is eating healthier and cooking more. Sure, I can add exercise, especially walking, but swimming and weights are on the back burner until I know what’s going on.

When I moved back to NYC I had no idea that this was going to be yet another summer of craziness. All I want is some quiet time to regroup, plan, and write … who knows. Stay tuned!

 

 

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NYC Updates, or What I’ve Been Doing for Two Weeks

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Yesterday was our two week anniversary of being back home and I have to say, it’s like we never even left. Sure, things and situations have changed, but the “Big Apple” will always remain the same frantic, neurotic, amazing, wondrous, overwhelming, and magical city that I know and love. Texas is a distant memory.

So what have I been doing lately? Well, I’ve climbed lots of stairs, ran for subways and ferries, walked bunches of blocks, got shoved and cut off, witnessed unspeakable grossness and inspiring acts of kindness, heard lots of different languages, ate delicious food an drank REAL coffee from tiny holes-in-the-wall, and shared my space with thousands upon thousands of my neighbors who are from all over the world. All of this activity and stimuli makes me feel alive … fitter … healthier … sharper … ME. I know that NYC isn’t for everyone, but it’s exactly the balm that I needed to sooth my soul and breath life back into me and my work.

In the last two weeks I:

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Thomas Cole’s sketch box, c. 1832-41.
  1. Visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the exhibition, “Thomas Cole’s Journey, Atlantic Crossings.” What a marvelous exhibition! I don’t know what I enjoyed more: the Cole’s, the Constable’s, or the Turner’s! What a feast for the eyes. While I was there I saw “Visitors to Versailles,” a nice exhibition with limited substance. The period clothing was my favorite part, obviously. And yes, I did catch some of “Heavenly Bodies.” I’m still on the fence about this exhibition. While the concept is interesting, the displays — especially in the narrow Byzantine Hall — are something to be desired.
  2. Hung out with family and friends! There’s been tons of pizza and wine, lots of yapping and catching up, and a whole bunch of fun. And the best thing is that it’s only getting started! I didn’t realize just how lonely I was in Texas until I came home and was immediately surrounded by my family and friends.
  3. Went to the doctor and dentist to get ongoing problems checked out. Doctors in Texas completely ignored or refused to figure out what causes my recent issue with urine retention (long story that I will tell soon). When I asked the urologist if my fibroid was causing the trouble, he dismissed me and told me that there’s nothing physically wrong with me. He surmised that I was being “over-dramatic” and that it’s probably stress. It took my NYC gyn and a specialist to determine that, yes, my fibroid is most likely causing the problem. Matter-of-fact, the specialist is 99.9% sure it’s causing my issues. More on that later. As for my teeth, I’m getting two very old crowns replaced. Nothing major, but something that would have cost me an arm and a leg in Texas!
  4. Went to the NYPL to think and to sort out my research focus and schedule. Yesterday was the first time in years that I had a quiet moment to myself, so instead of doing something for someone else — school, service, etc. — I reflected on where I am as a scholar, where I want to be, and the steps I need to take to achieve my research goals. Again, more on this in a later post, but I’ve been really struggling to find the joy in my research. Yesterday was the first step in doing so.
  5. Cleaning and getting the apartment ready for our stuff. The first of two PODs is being delivered today and the second is being delivered next week. We hung blinds and bought paint. This weekend we’re painting the living room and dining room. Throughout the next two weeks we’ll finish painting the rest of the apartment and start the slow, but rewarding, process of unpacking and nesting.

Other than that, I’m trying to catch up on my sleep and finish any work I have left over from the spring semester. I still have things to do, but they aren’t urgent. It’s now time to shift my focus to my research, nesting, and living … in NYC.

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View outside my window this morning.

 

New York State of Mind

Ed and Franny in the car on their way to New York City!
And away we go!

Ed and I left Texas for good on Sunday, May 6 at 10:30 am. We arrived in NYC early in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 9. I’m beyond thrilled to be home … mentally, physically, and emotionally home. I’m home among my people, home among the things I love, home where my research is. HOME.

I’m still a full-time Instructional Assistant Professor of Art History at Texas A&M; however, I’m teaching fully online. Matter-of-fact, I’m now the Visualization Department’s Online Coordinator/Guru and my duties have changed quite a bit. This past semester I started to work towards getting my Learning Technologies Certificate, which I’ll get this summer after completing my capstone project. This summer I’m going for my “Quality Matters” certification and will begin prepping my online art history courses for QM Certification. Needless to say, I really like teaching online. I like the creativity it allows me and my students; and now that I have a full grasp on “Best Practices,” I understand how to develop and deliver innovative, engaging, and clearly-defined content. Now I need to convince my department that good online courses take time to develop and a few weeks (or a few days before a semester) isn’t enough time to do so! But I digress.

I’m home. Home where good pizza is plentiful and people say “youse.” Home where the Yankees play. Home where the trees grow tall and the buildings are built to kiss the sky. Home where nothing is further than a few minutes’ walk or train ride. The NYPL, museums, the Met Opera, Broadway shows, parks, zoos, clubs, stores … and really good coffee. I’m home. Gawds, how I missed NYC!

So Professor Z, what’s in store for you — and this blog — in the near future?

Well, I’m spending my summer painting walls and unpacking — yup, we’re in the most wonderful apartment that’s literally around the block from our last apartment! Let the nesting begin. Here’s hoping our house in Texas will sell soon … anyone want a house in Bryan, Texas by Texas A&M? Anyone? It’s a nice house. If we can’t sell it we’re going to rent it out. sigh … I really don’t want to be a landlord, but unfortunately, we might have to if it doesn’t sell soon. I just found out that I’m getting surgery this summer — a hysterectomy — because my fibroid (Melvin) is being a complete ass and wrecking havoc in my uterus. BLAH. I’m going to be doing a lot of reading and organizing for my upcoming projects, which means I’m going to be doing a lot of writing and, hopefully, publishing by the end of the summer and into the fall. Post-surgery means that I can’t do much for a few weeks, so reading and organizing seem to be manageable projects.

As for this blog, I plan on posting regularly. Yup, I just didn’t have it in me to write blog posts while living in Texas. No offense to any Texan reading this, but I hated every minute of it. To me, Texas was death itself. It took forever to get anywhere … with nothing in between; it was hot as shit all the damned time; and no, Tex-Mex and BBQ are not their own food groups. The prairie is … well … the prairie. I much prefer my big city living with its diversity, cornucopia of good, ethic foods, good pizza and coffee, culture, and liberal politics. Nope, I will only be visiting Texas when I need to go to campus twice a semester. This NYC gal is staying in the Northeast, thank you very much.

What will I post? Well, I’ve been thinking about the direction of this blog for a few months. Honestly, the only time that I seriously enjoyed blogging was when I just did my weird, eclectic thing. I’m much better when I can go off the cuff and in every direction. Will I feature Punk-Goth or Vintage-Retro fashion? Yeah. Will I feature my recipes and cooking? Yeah. Will I be doing anything with Bat Fit, Homework assignments, and Gothidays? Yup. Will I write about pedagogy and teaching, writing and research? Yeppers. Halloween and spooky stuff? HELL YEAH. In other words, I’m going to do what I’ve always done — be me — and to hell with everything else. HA!

Thanks to everyone for sticking with me!

Academic Kindness

This has been one of those years of self-reflection, especially that of the academic self. I’ve been reading pedagogy and career-related books instead of actually doing any “real” research. I re-read Carnes Minds on Fire, and either started to read or read Filene The Joy of Teaching; Berg and Seeber The Slow Professor; Hall The Academic Self; Fink Creating Significant Learning Experiences; Gabriel Teaching Unprepared Students; Harass, Hiltz, Teles, and Turoff Learning Networks; and (ahem) Silvia How to Write a Lot. In the next few months I’m going to start the pile of game pedagogy books sitting on my floor.

Why? Well, I think that it’s a good time in my career to be really honest about what kind of academic I am, if I’m happy with what I’m doing and with myself, and where I want to be in my career. I’ve been asking myself some important questions like:

  1. What kind of professor do I want to be?
  2. What kind of innovative, immersive, student-centered pedagogy do I want to employ in my real-time and on-line classrooms? What kind of assignments or activities should I give my students? How should I actually teach this stuff? What kind of reading should I assign?
  3. What kind of researcher am I and what kind of researcher do I want to be? What is my primary research? Secondary? How does my research shape my pedagogy in real time?
  4. Why do I find it almost impossible to stay on schedule on a daily basis? What am I fighting and why?
  5. And most importantly, what kind of colleague am I and what kind of colleague do I want to be?

The first four groups of questions are typical for academics to ask themselves periodically. This is especially true when we’re on the job market and writing research statements, teaching statements, and cover letters. These are the things that are asked in interviews. These are the things we discuss at conferences. But the fifth question, “what kind of colleague am I and what kind of colleague do I want to be” never seems to get asked. This doesn’t get discussed in departmental meetings. This isn’t something career coaches address in their writing or seminars. What kind of colleague are you?

Many senior scholars, junior scholars, and  grad students complain about “venomous” colleagues, departments that are akin to “snake pits,” and express helpless horror at the deplorable behavior exhibited by fellow students, colleagues, and professional peers. I’ve seen academics steal projects, ideas, and classes, throw each other under the bus, and engage in damaging gossip. I’ve seen female academics be particularly cruel to each other, picking on everything from writing style to make-up style … or lack thereof. I’ve had male colleagues “man-splain” topics that I know inside-and-out because they read one book on the subject. I’ve been treated like an idiot by my peers because I attended “a public school” while they went to Ivy Leagues. And I’ve been treated like an outcast because I refuse to follow the “normal” academic path forged by the “brave souls” who made their way into the Ivory Tower. Grad students can be really nasty to each other as they compete for advisors, funding, and golden opportunities. And forget about the venom that is spewed forth at important professional conferences! Good grief, how does anyone get out of there alive?

I understand how competitive academia is. I also understand how difficult it is to get tenure-track jobs or grant money. I’m not stupid or ignorant of the realities associated with academic life. We’re often over-worked, juggling administrative and teaching duties with home life and personal research projects, and emotionally taxed by a system that can be humiliating, berating, and demoralizing. Many of us work alone in archives, libraries, or labs. And we all seem to be dealing with increasingly anxious students who are also trying to find their place in a huge, scary world while maintaining “their cool.”

And yet, we find the time and strength to be assholes to each other. Why? Don’t get me wrong, I have befriended some incredibly generous, kind, and supportive colleagues who currently make up my Tribe. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have academic peers within my discipline and outside of my discipline who have taken an interest in me and my work, and vice versa. We make up a supportive circle of friends who have each other’s back no matter what. And that’s a great comfort to me.

But, how wonderful would it be if all colleagues and peers were just nice to each other? That’s all. Nice. Respectful. Mensch. If not nice, than professional. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. What kind of colleague am I? Ahem I’m guilty of gossiping … I’ll admit it. But do I want to be involved in this kind of behavior? And how do I handle people who are? Academia is hard enough without folks being nasty and cruel. Berg and Seeber discuss academic kindness, collegiality, and community in their book The Slow Academic. They argue that the cultivation of collegiality and treating colleagues with respect and kindness is necessary for the health and well-being of academics, as well as necessary for the overall health of the university (Berg and Seeber 71-84). It goes without saying that a supportive community of colleagues, or at the least a group of people who respect each other and treat each other professionally, would make all of our lives better and academia more tolerable.

I’ve embraced “academic kindness” as my mantra. I want to be the kind of colleague who is supportive, generous, and nice regardless of how bizarre it makes me. I want to be the colleague who celebrates my peers’ successes without feeling threatened or competitive. I want to be the colleague who checks in on my peers and brings them coffee when they need a “pick-me-up.” I refuse to play this competitive, crazy game any more. It’s easier — and healthier for everyone — to be nice and focus on our own work and our students, than to constantly spew venom, or knock each other down, or be mean to each other.

Will you join me in spreading some Academic Kindness? #AcademicKindness