Work Rant

I like my job.  I really do.  I like the unpredictableness of my days.  I like the order of a library.  I tell my husband I can get all my crazy, anal, organizational self tired at work, so when I come home at night I can just me be and enjoy life.  The house can be a mess and so many chores left undone, and it’s ok.  I feel that I’ve put enough in order for  one day that all the less important things at home and wait.  It’s lovely.  I like seeing the regular families come in to visit.  I like seeing their faces when I remember their favorites or to save a book aside for them.  I like seeing displays that I created get picked over because people are interested in the books I’ve set out.  I truly like my job.

As with any job though, there are not fun things about it too.  I barely tolerate the unpredictable hours, the random evenings, the increasingly frequent weekends.  Library life is repetitious.  It’s the same few questions over and over.  It’s not extremely challenging mentally.  Click.  Scan. Repeat.

But I really, really hate my job sometimes.  I hear more about what my co-workers refuse to do in an average day than I see them actually take initiative.  When did this become acceptable work behavior?  I wouldn’t dare say the word refuse to any boss ever.  People refuse to work with each other.  They refuse to do certain tasks.  They refuse to work on specific days.  One guy sleeps.  Another takes regular 2 hour lunches.  Some won’t shelve books.  Others won’t create new patron records.  Some days I just want to scream “either do something or leave because I’m tired of hearing it!”  Get off Facebook.  Get off the phone.  Earn your paycheck.  My immediate supervisor is no better though.  She flat out won’t do certain tasks because they confuse her.  She has pawned off several strictly librarian responsibilities to me because I’m better at them.  I wish my paycheck reflected that then because I don’t make even close to her salary, but it is giving me incredibly valuable experience to put on a resume that I couldn’t get any other way.

I’m so frustrated at feeling like I’m one of two, maybe three people who are trying to keep up professional standards at my workplace.  I can’t do it all, and they’re tearing the place down around me faster than I can pick up after them.  It’s not fair, and I hate saying that, but it isn’t.  We’re supposed to rotate evenings and weekends, but since more and more people are refusing to be flexible, the burden is increasingly falling to a few.  I don’t want to be working so many weekends when DH is home.  I don’t mind doing my share, but I don’t want to be walked all over and abused.  I don’t want to work anywhere where I’m stressed and grumpy all the time.  Life is too short, and I try too hard to create a quality of life during my personal time to throw it away for 40 hours every week.

I hate complaining.  The vast majority of the time, I do love my job.  I have only been here a few months, and I don’t want to be burning out so soon.  I just don’t understand people.  What happened to a work ethic?  And what’s the solution?  Try and be superwoman and carry the burden of library standards all on my shoulders or throw them all out the window and watch my personal respect go with it?  Or can I be granted permission to just smack some sense into people instead?

What A Welcome

So I’m back.  The flights were uneventful:  slightly delayed combined with screaming children and me in a lot of pain–closer to the norm than I care to admit.  I stayed in a hotel overnight at the airport and drove the two hours back home early this morning.  I picked up the dog who has been so excited to be home.  The kennel always makes him so tired.  He’s such a sweet pea.  I ran to the pharmacy and was at work by lunch.  No rest for the weary.  I really expected to catch up on my rest over residency week.  Boy, I was dead wrong.

I was so focused on getting my chores done before I got to work that I didn’t notice until about mid day that at some point while my car was parked at the airport someone plowed into the passenger side.  I didn’t leave for the hotel until 12:30 in the morning.  It was too dark to see, and I was focused on getting to the nearest bed as fast as possible.  Got the last room in the closest hotel but missed the mangled plastic and metal that was my front fender.  Fantastic.  So now what do I do?  Do I spend probably quite a bit of money to fix an entirely cosmetic problem for a few months or do I drive an absolute eye sore until DH comes home?  The car is on its last leg.  I just didn’t think it would get beaten with un ugly stick on its deathbed too.

This car is going to drive me to the loony bin faster than any mental illness ever will.  What a crappy way to end a fantastic week.  I was so proud of myself for planning and implementing such a huge trip with absolutely zero freak outs.  I rented a car and drove said foreign vehicle around an unfamiliar city.  I even paid the stupid rental insurance because I didn’t trust myself.  Instead my parked car thousands of miles away is what I should be focused on.  Geeze.  Murphy, what is it about this car that you love so much?

When I get unpacked, showered, the fridge restocked, and maybe even rested I’ll catch up with life again.

Residency Reflection: The End

My professor here summed up graduation well the other night.  He said, “I’m a dude (yeah, he was the type of bad ass professor), and I’ve just given birth.  What now?”

Well, I physically have the parts to give birth so it’s not as powerful of a statement, but I’m left with the same feelings.  This program, the lifestyle of complete immersion in academia, my fellow students are all leaving me.  As much as I’ve grumbled about it all, I didn’t think about life after.  It’s sad, and I will miss many parts of it.

I feel a little dumbfounded that the end snuck up on me and can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that someone will actually give me a degree tomorrow.  Like I’m waiting for the bottom to fall out and to have one more challenge to complete.

The rest of me wants to through the biggest party you’ve ever seen because I’m done!

In the spirit of the ending, I wanted to put some order to my thoughts about the whole process.  Coming back to this campus was hard.  I do not have fond memories of being here as an undergrad.  I cried for the first ten minutes I walked back into the same sparse dorm rooms.  The smell, the building, the furniture all sucked me back.  It felt like I’d never left.  Nothing felt alien at all, and I could easily have just been home for the weekend and not gone several years living my life.  It felt like I could never escape the horriblenss, and it would always pull me back down.  And every square inch of this campus screamed that my husband was not here.  This was his place.  His accomplishment.  His uniforms.  His rules.  I was an unwelcome visitor.  I can ignore that he’s not home when I’m busy with my normal life, but coming back to his place makes his absence unavoidable.  I missed his dearly this whole trip.

Going into residency with these thoughts made me so angry.  I didn’t want to be here with these people, especially if they were excited about it.  I was surprised, though, how much fun I had.  I still hate this place.  I always will for all the damage it did to me.  But the people I met here and the bond we shared over sweat and tears and dusty books was something special.  Residency was good, and I’m glad I came.

I have little respect for my undergrad degree.  I did not feel accomplished after high school.  My Masters is a feat though.  I did something amazing.  This Master’s here is hard.  It doesn’t matter what degree program you choose to do, it is challenging and is a leader in the field of online graduate education.  The professors are all fantastically smart people.  They don’t get just anybody to teach here.  They find the best people out there.  They find the most accomplished and the most innovative to sit down in small groups of students and share what they know.  One of my professors here is a regular expert for the History Channel.  He’s one of just a handful of guys who study his field.  He is brilliant.  I had lunch with him and talked about everything from the weather to history to evolution to the state of academia as a whole.  And he cared what lil ol me had to say.  It was an out-of-body experience.  I don’t like this university.  I have a lot of horrible things to say about it.  But I will whole heartedly recommend it’s School of Graduate Studies.  You will have earned your degree by the time you’re finished.

And tomorrow morning I will cross that stage and back into real life again.  See you on the flip side.

Residency Reflection: Socializing

My Masters was done through an online program.  There are a lot of pros and cons to such a program.  I had never done online classes before, and it is a very different style of learning that I needed to get used to.  The university does have a physical location and a residency requirement (which I’m obviously attending as we speak) that does set it apart from solely online universities that offer similar degrees.  I can cover the program itself at another time, but the online nature of the program naturally limits some of the person-to-person interaction that comes with education.  This program in particular highly stresses discussion and virtual communication, so I had lengthy conversations about the coursework and various history topics with my fellow students.  Residency, however, was designed to give an opportunity to put faces to names and extend those conversations to another level.

I had my doubts about it when I got here for several reasons.  I did my undergrad at this same university (a separate post altogether) and in general I struggle with socializing.  I’ve been doing super well with being social while I’ve been here though.  I’ve been talking with lots of people, and I’ve been giddy over the fact they’re all history nerds just like me and actually interested in the same topics.  I’ve been talking about history with these really cool people both my peers and professors who were including me like peers.  It was really nice.  I was having a good time and was super proud of myself for being so social.  I’ve been to pub several nights with a bunch of guys after our last lectures (which was totally amazing–the lectures not the pub) and we discussed so much history.  It was great.

On the first day of class back when I started my Masters we were required to read an article about “traditional” military history and how it’s often unfriendly to women and “soft” history topics like race and gender.  Oh how welcoming for a younger woman without military experience per se.  The program is organized into small groups that you go through the program with, and my particular group had a lot of hobby historians who were retired, very pro-military guys.  My name could be both male and female, and they chose to assume I was a fellow dude.  I chose not to correct them because I didn’t feel totally welcomed as myself, and I was a little worried my ideas wouldn’t be taken seriously.  I guess some of that confusion was thus my fault.

I got here at residency anxious to see what my group thought about my “real” identity.  They were not happy.  They have avoided me this entire week.  They happened to be sitting in front of me during a lecture yesterday in a stadium seating-style lecture hall, and they were writing back and forth in a notebook the whole time.  These dudes are in their 60s and 70s, so it wasn’t very covert.  I could look straight down at everything they were writing.  They were talking about me.  They were not saying nice things.  It really bummed me out for the rest of the lecture.  Seriously, these guys could be my grandfather, and they’re acting like this?  Are my feelings too sensitive because it really hurt.  I guess I assumed they were more embarrassed that they thought I was a guy, so that’s why they were avoiding me.  I went on to the pub and tried to forget about it, but I came back to my room at the end of the night and I had obscene stuff writing and drawn on my white board in the hall.  Nobody else had stuff written, and we weren’t given white board markers either.  I have no proof that these guys did it.  It seems unlikely that such old guys would do such a juvenile act, but what am I supposed to think?

It just really, really sucks because I was so pumped about being out of my shell.  Now I don’t want to talk to anyone.  I was so excited about my field and having such a good time actually doing it with other historians who are excited just like me.  This makes me feel so unwelcome.  I hate these people for saying such mean things, but I hate them more for ruining such a good moment for me.  No one else here has treated me differently or even expressed surprise that I would be interested in the military history field.  It’s all been about my ideas and passion.  In no way do I blame the program for the small minds of these few guys.  My brain can kick their asses any day.  It hurts though, and it makes me appreciate the awesome people I have met even more.

I have talked to a published writer about everything regarding the Civil War, publishing, researching, and writing.  I’ve hung out with a dude from Louisiana and compared struggles over writing our theses.  I’ve met two amazing Canadians who I respect immensely for researching pre-modern history (which poses unique challenges) and staying true to his roots by researching the less popular Canadian history.  It’s not an easy road either direction.  I talked with a total character last night who’s a veteran from Michigan who decided to examine Roman-era stuff, a huge undertaking.  There’s been tons of other people, and I can’t list them all.  The professors here are leaders in their respective concentrations, and I sat at lunch with some yesterday and talked about history and education system and just bull shitted for a while.  It’s an amazing opportunity to be considered peers with these guys.  I’m so glad I am mentally able to take advantage of it and put myself out there and initiat conversations despite pathetic, small minded people.

Residency Reflections: Nerd Alert

I’m at my residency week for graduation, and a lot’s been going on already.  I got here yesterday afternoon, and today was my first full day of classroom-type activities.  I have a lot of thoughts swirling around, and at first I thought I’d reflect on it here, but now I see it’s going to probably be several posts because there’s just so much to cover.

First are my thoughts about the lectures because I just walked out of the building and I have so many ideas that I can’t keep them all in.  You’ve been warned.  It is about to get all sorts of history nerdish up in here, so if it’s not your flavor, visit again another day.  I won’t be offended.

I went to two presentations today.  First was an amazing session about using non-traditional sources (like tapestries, pottery, paintings, illuminated manuscripts) to study medieval military history.  It was given by Professor Kelly DeVries of Loyola College in Maryland.  He is such a cool guy. and you can tell he really enjoys his area of study.  It very much sparked my interest in the area, and I wish I could take more of his classes.  Here’s a short and really unrelated interview he did, but it gives you a flavor of his style (I can’t embed video for crap–sorry).  He is a fricken brilliant historian.

I mentioned that I loved his lecture so much that I was thinking about attending another session of it tomorrow.  One of my fellow military historians called me a history nerd.  Ouch.  Seriously, how nerdy do I have to be to be shunned by other nerds?  I’d be embarrassed if I wasn’t a tad bit proud.  And if you’d sat through Prof. DeVries’ lecture, I think you’d agree with me.  There are more sources on the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1970s even after so much was destroyed than on everything that happened before 1500 combined.  So much is coming to light now, and so little is written down, that the stuff that is emerging is coming from stuff like tapestries and carved religious relics and archeological digs in Europe.  He talked for an hour about what we know about chain mail and armour from the period around the Crusades, 1000-1200ish.  It blew my mind.  I used to do a lot of this type of stuff when I worked in the museum and archives, and I would teach how to do this type of research on a basic level to undergrads.  I loved it.  I would love to do more of this in my career, whether it’s for my own research or helping others learn how for their projects.  It’s so fascinating, and Prof. DeVries does it on a ginormous scale that I can’t even imagine.

The other lecture was about race and gender in military history, specifically about how the program at this university is being developed further to make it truly an innovative program in the history field by focusing on theory.  For non-history folks who are for some crazy reason still reading this post, military history is often sort of segregated from the rest of history.  True, traditional military history is supposed to focus on battles and weapons only.  As such, it tends to look down upon the wider history world that is shifting toward examining history in the context of gender and racial studies.  It creates a lot of conflict, but inroads are being made into military history, and new historians like myself are increasingly incorporating it into their research.  This university wants to be on the forefront of that to prepare students who go on to a PhD program or back into the “regular” history world.

The lecture was a little less thrilling than medieval warfare, I’ve got to admit.  I am an advocate for gender and race studies already though, which furthers labels me as “one of those” in this field.  There’s already only a handful of women who are military historians.  Now I’m a woman who wants to study gender–could I seem any more stereotypical to these old farts?  The professor, Bob Wintermute of Queen’s College (who doesn’t have a spiffy bio page–what’s up with that?), didn’t start out pro-gender and race, but is amazing in the field now.  He modified the version of the course that I took into something way cool, and I’m so jealous that I can’t take the new version.  He made the amazing point that I want to remember forever, that gender and race are completely social constructs that change over time.  That’s the big argument against including them in military history.  But “war and military institutions are at their core social phenomena and organizations, driven and shaped by the social values of the cultures engaged.”  Doesn’t that just blow your mind?  I sort of feel like it’s so obvious that I should be embarrassed that I hadn’t seen it before now.

I’m torn.  On one hand, I like having all the time to come and go, and the small class size created by most people also coming and going fosters an intimate discussion group.  On the other hand, it’s almost too much free time.  I took a week off work and flew up here.  I want to be a tad more active.  There’s five presentations and nine slots.  I’m only interested in three lectures.  That’s not much.  There are other things going on this week, but I would have liked to hear more from my professors.  It’s a great start to the week though.  I was hesitant (more on that later), but today was good.

One Reason I Love Being A Mil Spouse

I’ve noticed this occasionally for the past few months but never got around to writing anything about it.  Mil spouses are so nice and helpful!  Like, go the extra mile, I’ve never met you before, be my temporary best bud kind of helpful.  Honestly, I love that about the military community, and I love that despite all the horrible side effects of being a mil spouse (way less organized, often scatter brained/grumpy/weepy…), the Army changed me to be that kind of person too.

This woman has been coming into the library for the last few days.  I’ll call her Rose.  We chat a bit as I help her make a library card and check out her materials.  Today she started talking about her husband is in training and she’s a brand spankin’ new mil wife of only a month.  Obviously she’s new to the area and the Army and having a hubby and saying goodbye to her hubby.  I immediately felt for her.  I told her to come into the library all the time to chat if she needs to, and I’m seriously considering hooking up with her outside of the library for a lunch date.  I know she must be feeling so alone and lost in this new life she just acquired.  I could visibly see the relief on her face when I said I felt and did the same things she was.  I am in no way a pro at this life yet, and other women are still taking me under their wing because I’m far from being settled in.  I just couldn’t not help her.  I don’t know a whole lot about her, but she needs a friend.  Nobody knows this life like we do.  Nobody is going to help like we can.  You can go to all the therapy meetings in the world, but unless they’ve done this too, it’s not the same.

Look at me, people!  I’m doing it!!  Two summers ago, I was afraid to leave my house alone.  I didn’t drive and literally had panic attacks if I had to leave my house other to walk to work.  This crazy Army life is helping me connect with people and reach out and initiate relationships all on my own.  I actually called a wife from DH’s unit back today that I’d never met and we talked for 20 minutes about stuff and made plans to meet up in July.  And only had a tiny, tiny moment where I didn’t want to.  I feel like I’m Michael Jordan, and I’ve just made my millionth slam dunk.  I am amazing and capable of great things.  I love that this military life has helped developed this part of me.  I love that I can be helpful and caring and friendly to my fellow mil spouses when I want to and am not hindered by my mental illness.

One thing I don’t care for though, and I see this happen just about every time one of us opens our mouths, is this wierd competition between us.  It’s as though no PSC was horrible enough, no deployment numerous enough, no TriCare experience frustrating enough as the one we had.  We have this wierd need to top every sad story with one that’s more horrific.  And we say it almost with a note of pride in our voices.  Why?  Why are we celebrating every bad experience.  Yes, we overcome a lot in this lifestyle.  We should be proud of how strong, resilient, and adaptable we are.  But does that have to be expressed by topping and subsequently belittling the experiences of our fellow mil spouses?  Can’t we say, “I know it’s rough.  I’ve been through it too, and it doesn’t get any easier” instead of “Yeah, we’ll I’ve done four deployments with no R&Rs, delivering twins alone, while driving cross-country with a puking dog and the chicken pox.  Your predicament is nothing  compared to that”?  What does that gain us?  I know we’re all guilty of this, and it’s especially prevalent in the bloggity world.  I’ve been trying to catch myself when I leave comments.  Personally, I don’t want my newly acquired friendly awesomeness to be tainted by making newbies feel like they aren’t true mil spouse until they can PSC backwards in a snowstorm while juggling their fine china and taking their kids to soccer practice.

Shout Out

I just got this text message from one of my Cool Man Group who helped me make strawberry jam.

This is CMG #2’s facebook status:

Dear Solitary Wind Chime I know you don’t have a Facebook but I must tell everyone your cheesecake was AMAZING!!

Aww, shucks.

I made my squares of cheesecake deliciousness for the canning evening at the request of CMG #1’s hubby who wanted the leftovers.  We made it a girl’s night and enjoyed our chocolate and cheesecake to the fullest.

I feel so loved.  🙂

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