I am inspired by Laura’s post on attics and basements. While I’ve managed to clear out a considerable amount of clutter in the living spaces of our house, the storage areas are another story altogether. We have three: the basement, a tiny attic, and a shed (we have no garage). I’m not going to tackle those today as Mr. Geeky has promised to help this weekend, but I am going to dig out my bedroom. Somehow over the last week, everything has gotten dumped in my bedroom. It’s driving me nuts. No more!
To gird my loins for such a task, I’m planning a trip to our local diner for breakfast. I’m going to walk there so I feel better about the calories I’m sure I’ll consume. There are a few minor household purchases to make: dishwashing detergent, milk, kool-aid (an insistent request from both kids). I need to look into birthday party options (we have two upcoming, always a crazy process). Otherwise, I’m not looking at the to-do list.
On my other blog, I’ve begun a summer-long project to review a huge number of social software sites. So far, I’m not hugely impressed, but I fully expect the majority to be mediocre at best. I’m going in alphabetical order, but I hope to categorize a bit once I have a few under my belt–maybe monthly. Anyway, feel free to check it out.
This week has actually been a busy one. I finished up a video for a conference I wasn’t able to attend. I started designing new business cards. I worked on the PTO web site. I perused a variety of freelance jobs (not much worthwhile), and I started work on an article. And none of that am I getting paid for. Well, if the article is accepted, then I’ll get paid for that. I’ll leave with with the video, which I really enjoyed doing:
we need to have a broad, political discussion asserting that the two-income family is not working for many people. This economy, our government, and our own illusions have failed us.
We used to have the “where are the women bloggers” conversation every few months. Now we have the work-family balance is a dream conversation every few months. It’s a conversation we need to keep having, I think. In addition to the government deciding that paid maternity/paternity leave, daycare, and other family friendly policies are a national issue, they need to encourage the business community to provide flexible work schedules for both men and women at no cost to their careers. If people do good work, they do good work, whether they’re around for 20 hours/week or 60. We need tax policies that support all kinds of work-family arrangements. We need schools that accommodate working families better and reach out to working families more and that outreach can’t just be “contribute to this cause” or “volunteer for this event.” It needs to be an effort to make them feel a part of the community, that they’re welcome even if they don’t have the time to volunteer.
It’s embarrassing enough that the US as a whole fails so miserably in its support for families. It’s even more embarrassing that higher education is not more progressive when it comes to supporting dual income families. Like the corporate world, higher ed still has a work load that assumes a wife at home to handle the details of life while the husband slaves away at his teaching and research. We need to figure out a way to make that work more balanced without causing problems for those without kids.
I’ve already decided that if I take a job while my kids are still in school, it either needs to be flexible or we need to do some serious talking within my family unit to make the dual-income thing work for us. I think it was okay for Mr. Geeky, but not so okay for me, and at times, not okay for the kids, which makes it even less okay for the kids.
Lisa Belkin reminded me that I, too, got sucked into the Memorial Day Jon and Kate plus 8 special. I must admit that Kate has always annoyed me. I understand that organization is key when you have 8 kids to manage, but she is a serious control freak. I think she’d be that way with one kid too. Despite my dislike of her, watching the show was pretty painful. It’s not pleasant to watch a relationship seemingly fall apart right in front of your eyes. Jon seemed quite bitter about the path he and his family had ended up on while Kate seemed to be generally happy with where things went (aside from potentially losing her husband). Belkin suggests that the success of the show itself is partly to blame for their downfall. I certainly think it’s true that they didn’t seem to have a conversation about how to manage their success as a family. They moved into a huge home, and it’s likely that they need the revenue for the show more than ever. I wonder, if they stayed in their smaller home, could they have let the show peter out and return to normal lives?
The world of social networking is an interesting thing indeed. It’s created dilemmas for us that we never thought we’d have to face. Like whether or not to friend your mom in Facebook. (I have–hi Mom!) My son found Facebook the other day–at my suggestion. He had been using Runescape as his primary means of communicating with friends–really. Because it’s a game, he had a tendency to get sucked in for hours, so I suggested he use Facebook instead. And yes, he friended me. I guess my parents worried about our spending too much time in front of the tv. I worry about other screens. As the summer approaches, I haven’t figured out exactly how to parcel out time appropriately. After all, I spend probably 8-10 hours online myself and only about half of that is “work”.
This week, the NY Times had an article about the effect of too much texting on teens. I actually think the article makes some good points as we’ve seen similar effects from too much computer use in general–sleep problems, grades falling, anxiety (usually caused by the first two). And, as the article points out, sometimes see restrictions on texting as hypocritical as their parents are attached to their Blackberries. There are simple measures, some of which the article mentions, that parents can take. We discovered, for example, that Geeky Boy was keeping a laptop in his room and playing into the wee hours of the night. Needless to say, we now have him check all electronic devices at the door before going to bed. We haven’t done this with the cell phone since a) he doesn’t have a text plan and b) he isn’t that attached to it yet. But it would be easy to have your kids hand over the phone before bed–and in fact, this could be the rule for the whole family. We’ve also put limits on computer time or had prerequisites for using the computer. For example, homework and certain chores must be done before logging in. That usually means that there’s only an hour left as it is.
I’ve tried to be very careful about my own use of various social networking tools and try to watch my own time online. Several years ago, I had gotten so involved in blogging that I became disconnected from my family. That is not a good thing and I don’t want that to happen to me agian or to my kids. I’m regularly thinking about balance in my own and my family’s lives. I find I start to feel sort of antsy anyway if I’ve spent too much time online.
In an online discussion about Tweeting too Much, meaning, both excessively and tweeting too much personal info, several experts weigh in. Most agree that social norms in regards to what’s “too personal” and how public information is in social networking sites are still being worked out. They all seem to agree that people need to achieve some kind of balance, both about what they’re willing to put out there and how much time (and when it’s appropriate to text, etc.) they spend posting to Twitter or Facebook. Not during birth, please. And maybe not during your kid’s soccer game either. Maybe we don’t need to hear about your relationship issues either. On the other hand, if you think your sharing that information with other people going through similar issues, okay. These things used to get worked out via email lists and discussion forums (and before that, in living rooms, coffee houses/bars or over the phone). So these are new platforms for communicating, not just what we know should be public, but everything.
To some extent, this whole blurring of the public/private line fuels some of our kids’ anxiety about texting and using Facebook. They know it’s public–even if they believe it’s just a small contingent of their friends. They still need to appear cool via these venues. And come on, isn’t that part of what all our blogging, twittering, and Facebooking is about? The web gurus out there need to look like they’re on top of every story, working on cool things, talking to cool people. If you feel like you’re not, anxiety central. I used to sort of buy into that, but not anymore. I think what our kids and all of us need to figure out is how these tools benefit us and how to walk away when they’re not. I leave twitter alone when I have work to do. I only read blogs first thing in the morning and over lunch. And I consider 95% of the blog reading and writing I do to be related to my work. I do sometimes play WoW in the middle of the day when I need a break and only then for an hour (at least I try to limit that). And I don’t have a job. I could spend all day doing stuff online. It’s true, at least for me, that the use of these tools and being online in general comes in waves. There are some times when I seem to be online 24/7 and then there may be days in a row where I am not online for more than an hour a day. Finding a balance will be difficult for most people, I think, as the lines between our professional and personal lives blur and as much of our work and social lives start to take place online.
I’ve been following the Edmund Andrews story as it’s been unfolding via various blogs, mostly via Megan McArdle. In case you weren’t following, Andrews excerpted part of his book on his succumbing to the subprime mortgage market in the New York Times. Since the story came out, lots of blame has been going around, a lot of it focused on his wife, who had been a stay at home mom, struggled to get jobs and, it turns out, had two prior bankruptcies.
Reading the numbers makes me sick. As far as I can tell, these people make about as much as we did when we were both working. And yet, thanks to putting themselves into huge debt, they have a lot more than we do: a larger house, kids in private school, expensive clothes. Granted, they are on the verge of losing much of that, but it’s still depressing. I’m glad I didn’t run up $50k in credit card debt in order to have fancy clothes, fancy cars, and private school. Are there things I wish I had? Sure. But instead of getting in over my head, I’ve lived (mostly) frugally. Like the anger over the AIG bonuses, I think much of the anger directed at Andrews is about the relative wealth they displayed compared to most people. While many people went into debt to live a modest lifestyle–finally getting into a home in a decent neighborhood, for example–a lot of people lived within their means, forgoing an expensive lifestyle. Many people being foreclosed on now did not have 3000 square foot or larger houses. They are now living with family, don’t have jobs, etc. And yet, Andrews still has a job, still has a house even, and a book out that will certainly bring in some income.
My father in law used to say, “Poor people have poor ways.” And it’s sometimes true that poor people make some bad financial decisions, but it’s also true that they sometimes get hoodwinked into doing so or simply have no other alternative than a payday loan in order to put food on the table. Increasingly, though, I think the phrase should be “Rich people have poor ways.” As more stories come out about wealthy Wall Street bankers and mortage brokers as well as people like Edwards, it occurs to me that many of them weren’t so financially savvy. Unlike the poor, however, who tend to only suffer personally for their decisions, the poor ways of the rich are dragging us all down.
So, um, yeah, the rest of my week–mostly like Monday. There was the primary that I worked at all day on Tuesday. Track meet on Wednesday, Shakespeare Club on Thursday and lots of picking up the pieces in between.
Yesterday, Lisa Belkin asked if sometimes the grass is greener on both sides of the single/partnered fence. While single moms say that it is tough to raise a kid on their own, especially financially, they also say there are some benefits, like getting to make the final decision about how to parent and not having someone else to take care of.
I do notice that I feel more in control and empowered when Mr. Geeky is away (I suspect he feels the same way). I don’t have to confer on minor punishments for not turning in homework or how much computer time someone has earned. And, honestly, sometimes Mr. Geeky is as needy as the kids. He, too, wants to know where “those pants that he likes” are or where the milk is.
On the other hand, when the kids were younger and even more needy than they are now, it was nice that Mr. Geeky would take the kids off my hands so I could go for a walk or take a bath or read a book. And he was very good about that.
I wouldn’t want to raise my kids on my own (mostly because I kind of like my husband), but I can certainly see benefits to having complete control over the process. What about you?
You would think that now that I’m officially unemployed, I’d be free as a bird, but no, there’s more to do. I’m predicting no break until I go on my first summer trip in late June. The last couple of weeks have been busy ones around the Geeky household. The semester ended. I went away for a week. Routines were broken. I’m staring at a stack of mail that’s much taller than it should be. The refrigerator needs to be cleaned out. There’s lots of laundry to do. And there are two presentations to contribute to. There’s writing to be done, a business to build.
I’ll admit to wanting to ignore it all and just kick back for a while, but there are deadlines–even for the household stuff. The kids’ birthdays are in two weeks, which coincide with a visit from the in-laws. The house can’t remain in its current state of chaos. More importantly, the chaos makes me anxious, so it needs to go. I’ve felt mildly out of control for the last few weeks and I need to regain that control.
I’m hanging out in my hotel room, having some coffee, CNN in the background, reflecting a bit on my experience of Faculty Academy this year. There were so many good presentations. It’s great to see how many faculty at UMW are really thinking about their teaching. Yes, they’re using blogs, wikis, and multimedia, but the focus is always on helping their students learn. As I listened to them talk about what their students were doing, I kept thinking about how lucky those students were. They were getting a kind of education that will really benefit them in the long run.
James Boyle was the keynote speaker, and he talked about the need for openness in the academy. His basic message was that we should be “open by default”. It was interesting, especially, to hear him talk about sharing teaching materials. He doesn’t understand why faculty keep those materials to themselves. And of course, there was the sticky issue of academic publishing, which is a closed system. He argued that academic presses should release their back catalog under a Creative Commons license and that they might actually make money from such a move. That would be a really exciting move. Over the course of my time here, I’ve agreed to collaborate on at least 3 books (yes, there was alcohol involved). I go back and forth between wanting to try to publish something in the commercial or academic market or releasing it under a more open platform. My principles say make it open, but I wonder about the money. So if I ever get around to writing those books, maybe I’ll find out what happens.
Cole Camplese from Penn State gave a great talk about what students are doing these days and how we should tap into their creativity and engage them where they are. He also talked about the challenges the open web has for administrators.
Here is my talk. I talked about using blogs and wikis as a kind of doppleganger for peer review. I see lots of similarities between the way social media works and the way peer review works (in its ideal state). Like Cole, I see the potential of using social media to engage students. I had a couple of minor technical difficulties along the way–that’s what I get for using new technology. But I like taking risks!
More important than the talks themselves are the conversations that occur around them. It was wonderful to get to talk to so many of my friends. Martha Burtis and Steve Greenlaw kept referring to me as a guest, but honestly, after 3 years of coming to Faculty Academy, I feel more like a part of the community. I am connected to everyone through their blogs, through Twitter and Facebook. I added around 10 more people to Twitter. It’s great to have added new voices to my network. I loved having the chance to talk to Patrick, Jerry, Jim, Leslie, Jeff, Andy, Serena, Shannon, Joe, and the many faculty I met over the last couple of days. We talked shop, sure, but we also shared stories about raising kids, being spouses, navigating our communities, and generally living life. Through those stories, we strengthened our connections to each other and we’ll continue to do so in the online world. That’s what most people don’t get about social media. It’s not about the tools themselves, but the people who use them. It seems to me that the people at Faculty Academy have gotten that message and now they’re thinking about how improve those connections and learn from them. It’s truly wonderful to be a part of that.
In about an hour, I’m heading out to attend Faculty Academy at the University of Mary Washington. I’m traveling by train in part because one of our cars is acting up and in part because Mr. Geeky was worried that driving in I-95 traffic would stress me out and bring back my migraine in full force. I love traveling by train. I seriously want to take a cross-country train trip sometime soon.
The program for Faculty Academy looks great as always and I’m very much looking forward to hearing about some interesting projects and new ideas. I’m also looking forward to seeing all my friends that I’ve made at UMW after having attended the conference for the last 3 years. It’s going to be great to reconnect, much needed after a long semester. You can watch many of the presentations, including mine, live from via the web site they’ve set up. I did this for day 2 last year when I had to come back early. It was well worth it. I may have reports here as well. So I’ll see you guys on the flip side!