Yay for Vitamins

My good friend Sara takes roughly 400 pills a day. Ok, I'm exaggerating. Sorta. Most of the pills she takes are over-the-counter (OTC) supplements for preventative measures; only a few are prescription medications. Being familiar with her routine, combined with my genetic health history and the realization that next month I officially move into the murky mid-30s, I decided to start taking vitamins.

If you haven't set foot in a vitamin aisle lately, be prepared. The selection, even at a store like WalMart, can be overwhelming. I had done some on-line research and decided upon a daily multi-vitamin designed especially for women, and because of my orthopedic history, a calcium supplement. Fortunately, being raised by a nurse and having an unnatural interest in medical things (unnatural for a non-health care provider), I know about reading labels and the common differences between brand name and generic drugs. After blocking traffic at WalMart (not really, but it seems everyone else does so why not me?) I chose the Equate brand daily multi-vitamin for women and the least expensive calcium/vitamin D supplement.

Now, every morning I take a complete daily multi-vitamin, and a half dose of the calcium supplement. (The multi-vitamin already contains 45% of my recommended daily intake [RDI] of calcium and 100% of the vitamin D; adding only a half dose of the calcium supplement brings me to 105% of my RDI of calcium.)

After about a week of doing this "new" regimen, I already notice a difference. First of all, the vitamins should be taken with food. This forces me to eat in the morning, something I am not good at doing but know I should. Secondly, I have increased energy. Thirdly, I have noticed my common depression symptoms are significantly less. (This is most likely due to the fact that I am now taking 200% of my RDI of vitamin D, which has been linked to helping depression.) Fourth, and I don't know if this is connected, but my blood pressure is down to almost normal levels, 128/82. It hasn't been this low in probably 10 years, and being underemployed and worried about money certainly doesn't have me in a less-stressed position than any of my previous situations.

I know that vitamins are better used by the body when consumed in natural ways, meaning, through our food. Unfortunately, few of us actually get 100% of what we need through our food. A multi-vitamin is a fairly inexpensive way to ensure I get what my body needs and I feel better. Now... the dreaded exercise...


MSM, Sarah Palin, and Overkill

Those who know me well know that I cannot stand Sarah Palin. Now, I don't want to discredit her work/approval rating as the governor of Alaska, but one must keep it in check with the actual size of Alaska. Alaska has roughly 670,000 people. The population of the bi-state metro area I live in -- which includes the 40th largest city in the US -- is almost 2,000,000. Chicago is the third largest city, with over 2.84 million people.

We hadn't heard of her, really, prior to her surprise nomination. Now, we can't turn on or pull up any of the so-labeled nasty, elitist mainstream media without hearing or reading about Palin. Today CNN online reports that she's been offered roughly a gazillion interviews, book offers, and movie deals, including an appearance on Oprah. (An LA Times blog has refuted this report.) The latest example of her savvy political and journalism skills involves her doing an interview in front of a bunch of turkeys being slaughtered.

Happy Thanksgiving.

But this is what I find interesting, if I can find anything interesting about yet another story on Sarah Palin.

1. The woman has a degree in journalism, yet she released a statement saying she "never realized" she'd be giving an interview with such a bloody background and she said the media people "set her up." Nevermind she had gone to a turkey farm and slaughterhouse to "ceremoniously pardon" a Thanksgiving turkey from being executed.

2. The conservative blogs have been jumping all over CNN, MSNBC for covering this story, steering all coments away from Sarah Palin. One blogger said, quoting someone responding to MSNBC, "After she's sworn in in 2013, I hope President Palin arranges for a ritual turkey slaughter to be going on behind her at every press conference, if only during David Shuster's questions." (This same blog poked fun at the NY Times saying the turkey was being "executed." Just who do they think governors pardon? People about to be executed. Duh.) I have yet to find a conservative blog that says anything about what Sarah Palin said or showing why making such a decision to do this interview is a demonstration of her viability to be a national political figure.

3. Liberal blogs continue to keep wondering when she will be able to give a coherent, grammatically correct sentence in the English language.

What supports one's stand on a candidate's viability more: constantly coming up with excuses for the questionable coverage and/or putting blame on other people, or using the candidate's own words against them? Remember this line? "I voted with President Bush over 90% of the time, much more so than many of my Republican colleagues." Or, "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Try and tell me those lines didn't have any effect on McCain's campaign. IF she runs in 2012, I can already see ad executives coming up with 30 second ads that are just footage of a rambling Palin answer, followed by a narrator saying, "Whuuuuuh?" and then ending with "I'm [name of candidate], and I approve this message."

It will be a full two years, at least, before we seriously start looking at contenders to run against Obama in 2012. Two years is a long time in politics. It's longer than Palin had officially been a governor before becoming a VP candidate. In the two months Palin was on the national campaign trail, her approval rating nationally dropped over 50% from the low to mid 50 percentile to the low to mid 20s, and her approval rating back in Alaska dropped over 10 points. Her own state paper is now calling on her to refocus on her real job, working for Alaska rather than running "partisan errands."

Two years from now is essentially when President-elect Obama's newly announced plan to create 2.5 million jobs will be completed, provided the details work out completely and Congress goes for it. If the plan is even partially successful, it has the ability to turn our economy around, reduce the unemployment rate, and stabilize world-wide economics. Frankly, even if nothing Obama does has a direct effect on our society/economy, and yet we are better off at the beginning of 2011 than we are now at the end of 2008, it will be difficult for anyone to challenge his presidency.

I agree with political scientist John Pitney when he says, "If she [Palin] wants a future in national politics, her No. 1 job is doing a good job as governor." And while she will need, to a certain extent, to remain in the eyes of those of us in the lower 48, too much exposure will makes us all want her to just go away, like we all wanted to do with Paris Hilton after she was finally put in jail. We want our legislators, our national leaders, to be good at being leaders, not celebrities. Reagan didn't go straight from the silver screen to the White House, he spent several years being a good governor of California.

Governor Palin, while I know you will never read this blog and I probably would never vote for you, I hope someone somewhere gets it past your hairspray and into your brain that you will make more successful ground towards being a national political figure by being a really excellent governor and putting Alaska on the political map with its ability to be an energy leader. And at the same time, you can be a mother to your infant son with his special needs, which will help you learn what those mothers really need and will help you create appropriate legislation. Show me why I should consider you for national office based on more than your photogenic qualities. And until then, please, go away.


Abortion and Shades of Gray

Facebook is a wonderful thing. I've been able to reconnect with long-lost friends and we've been able to have long-distance, adult conversations surrounding this recent election and the issues associated with it. One of these friends, a fairly conservative evangelical Christian, posted an interesting article/blog from a conservative site defending evangelicals who voted for a Democrat Presidential candidate and who are pro-choice. The responses from his friends have been interesting, to say the least. Until earlier today, things stayed polite and on-topic. Then, one of his friends (whom I do not know) posted three responses that were very emotional, argumentative, and ultimately off-topic, and it reminded me that abortion is not a black and white issue.

This commentor (we'll call him Rob, not his real name) criticized those of us who are opposed to forcing our morals on someone else through legislation. He argued that we HAVE to legislate morality, as the antithesis of such legislation is anarchy. Hence we have laws opposing murder, rape, theft, etc. To this point, I don't necessarily disagree with him, although I don't think anarchy is the opposite of morality. But he went on to the tried-and-not-quite-true NeoCon argument of "how is killing a baby in the womb any different than killing one outside the womb?"

Our nation's forefathers, in their wisdom and uptight Puritanism, decided that religion had little place in politics. We call this the separation of church and state. Yet we also have to consider science, which is neither a religion nor politics. When it comes to abortion, the battle is really between science and religion, with the "winner" (or loser, depending on your stand) achieving legislation to support their views/research/opinion. Here enter the shades of gray.

I don't know of anyone who wants to challenge laws on murder. Those who support a woman's right to choose are sometimes called murderers, and people like Rob ask questions like the one posted above. Enter science. Murder is the killing of a human being, a living person. At what point does a zygote become an embryo, the embryo a fetus, and this fetus become a living person? Ultimately, when does life begin? The stand of many religious people is that life begins at conception. Scientifically, this is true to an extent, as the cells of the zygote/embryo are alive. So are tumors. Both are comprised of living cells that cannot live outside a human "host." Now that's a pretty picture... but true.

Legally, a fetus becomes a baby, a living human, when it becomes viable. The current legal date for that is the 24th week of pregnancy, or the beginning of the third trimester. Only 10-20% of fetuses are actual able to survive outside the womb at this point, even with significant medical intervention. True viability occurs at the 28th week, or around the 8th month.

So is it really murder if it isn't a human being yet?

That is just one shade of gray on the matter, the whether or not it is actually a life, a person, that is being aborted. It's actually a technicality, in the grand scheme of things. People on either side of the argument have their own "conditions," yet they seem to think that folks on the other side of the argument only believe in the extremes. Confused?

People who are anti-abortion (pro-life) come in variations. Some are totally and completely opposed to any abortions. Some do support abortion in certain cases; for example, when the mother's life is in danger, when the child is a product of rape, when the child has been confirmed to have a condition that will not allow it to live outside the womb... but these people are opposed to "voluntary" abortions. My parents actually fall into this category, the "there are times abortion is appropriate, but abortion is not birth control" thought. There are also those who vote pro-life because while they are not morally opposed to abortion, they don't want their tax dollars supporting the procedures. But pro-choice people often lump all pro-lifers together under the "no abortion ever" banner.

People who are pro-choice also come in variations. Some believe that a woman has the right to choose to end her pregnancy at any time. That is the extreme. Others believe that a woman has the right to choose as long as the child is not viable, and some of these folks want to see an increase in education and opportunities for the adoption of "unwanted" babies, including revisions of the adoption laws. Many of these people also believe that abortion isn't birth control, but they acknowledge that people make mistakes, circumstances change, and sometimes people don't know about any other option save abortion. This is the camp I fall into, and I have been "attacked" by pro-lifers who assume that because I am pro-choice I therefore believe in all forms of abortion.

How can I, a Christian, support abortion? I am asked. How can I morally support the ending of a life? Morals, like the abortion debate, are not black and white. Morally, I believe helping my fellow human and giving them options and support is more important that telling them they are a murderer. Morally, I probably would never choose to have an abortion myself, although I could never make that decision unless I was in that situation. Morally, I don't think forcing my beliefs on someone else, someone whose shoes I haven't walked in, is the right thing to do.

I personally believe broad and total anti-abortion laws say, "*I* believe abortion is wrong, so I am going to deny ANYONE the right to have one." THAT is what I don't believe is right. I support laws opposing third term abortions, once the fetus is viable. So does this make me pro-choice (since I'm not opposing ALL abortions) or pro-life (since I'm denying abortions to some people)?

I ask everyone out there engaged in such conversations to not assume anything about anyone based on a simple title. Democrat. Republican. Pro-life. Pro-choice. Christian. Evangelical. People do not fall into boxes, and those who don't want to be put into a box shouldn't do the same to others. Even our laws on murder and other crimes have shades of gray: justifiable homicide is one example, murder as self-defense is another. Why can't our abortion laws have the same shades of gray?


Gay Marriage

The surprising passage of Proposition 8 in my home state of California has left much of the United States, if not the world, in a state of shock. Although I moved out of California several years ago to continue my education and career, I still consider myself a Californian -- 5th generation native, at that. My parents still live in the Golden State, and thanks to networking sites like Facebook I am still in touch with many of my friends from high school and undergrad who live and work there.

A quick diversion into my background. My father is an ordained minister in both the Southern and American Baptist denominations. Both of my parents are fairly conservative, and while I was raised with a childhood where I was never allowed to believe in Santa Claus (Christmas is about Christ), the Easter Bunny (Easter is about Jesus' resurrection), Halloween (celebration of evil), and other such things, my folks did raise me to think for myself. Even if what I think differs from their opinions. I am still a strong Christian, but a liberal-minded one.

I am a professional musician. I think this predisposes me to being around more openly gay people than perhaps others. And after several years of working alongside openly gay people, I have solidified one important thing:

Gay or straight, people are people.

I don't classify my friends as gay or straight, just as I don't classify them by race, religion, ethnicity, or any thing else. They are my friends. And on behalf of them, I am embarrassed to be a Californian.

The arguments against same-sex marriage I have seen have me shaking my head in confusion and sorrow. When did such lunacy masquerade as intelligent thought?

1. Gay marriage will undermine the "institution of marriage." How? Like the astronomical divorce rate amongst heterosexual marriage hasn't already done that? It seems to me that this argument was raised with interracial marriage was a hot topic 40 years ago. And they were wrong then, too.

2. If we allow gays to marry, then polygamists and pedophiles will want to marry too. I have actually seen this argument in a political cartoon published nationally and available on free internet sites. I shit you not. I was furious when I saw it, and then saw a "comment" to the cartoon that not only complimented the cartoonist, but said "...and anyone else who claims they were born this way..." Empirical evidence (a.k.a., scientific research) is increasingly showing that sexual orientation IS genetic. So, yeah, they were born that way. Get over it.

3. If we allow gays to marry, we have to teach gay sex in sex ed classes. Ok, number one: there was nothing in the court ruling that allowed gays to marry in CA that required gay sex be part of sex ed (although it may not be a bad idea, given the STD rate amongst gays). Number two: CA law already allows parents to pull their kids out of classes if something is being taught that the parents have issues with. For example, creationism or evolution. Sex ed in general. Calculus. Number three: the no-on-8 folks were supported by every major educator in the state (i.e., the state's Education Secretary, etc.).

4. It isn't natural. How can it NOT be natural? No one is FORCING these people to sleep with same-sex partners! Ok, fellow straights: think about your "type." Then we'll put 10 people in front of you who all fit your "type." How many will you actually be attracted to? One? Two? It's a chemistry thing, a how we are wired thing. Gays are no different.

Who are we to decide anything for anyone else based on nothing more than morals or opinions? Gay people are no different than straights, with the exception of what they choose to do in their personal, private lives. I know *I* don't want the government -- or anyone else, for that matter -- telling me who I can or can't sleep with (as long as they are consenting adults, of course) or how I have sex.

How would straights like it if legislation was passed by blondes preventing dark-haired people from marrying non-dark-haired people, because it was ruining genetic lines? Or if able-bodied people passed legislation that said disabled people were not allowed to marry? What if we said protestant Christians couldn't marry Catholics, Jews, athesists, any sort of non-protestant Christian? Or we went back 40 years and made interracial marriage illegal? But of course we would never do that, because it is discriminatory!!

Oh, wait.

We just said gays couldn't marry because... because... because... I'm waiting to hear a reason that doesn't involve someone forcing their morals on someone else.

What do gays want by marrying? I do hear this question, and it shows how much straights don't know about marriage and what they gained by marrying someone. These things include, but are not limited to:

Tax benefits

Joint mortgages, car loans, etc.

Health insurance

Hospital rights -- news flash to the straights, since gay relationships are not recognized, when a gay person is hospitalized hospitals have the right to deny visitation to "non-family members," as well as decisions about care. Many gays are estranged from their family because of their orientation, yet that family will make the health decisions instead of the partner. Would you want someone you haven't talked to in 3, 5, 10 years or more deciding if you got life-saving surgery or not?

Right to provide a loving, two-parent home for children

Divorce protection

Ok, I know it seems odd to be pushing for gay marriage and then talk about divorce. But let's be honest here -- people will get divorced regardless of their orientation. I have a dear, close friend who was in a gay relationship for over 11 years. When his partner threw him out of the house, he spent the next three years watching his credit be destroyed as the house they had bought together as loan co-signers went into foreclosure. He had to start over because there was no divorce proceeding to determine division of joint belongings. He was thrown out with essentially a couple of suitcases of clothing. The furniture, housewares, towels, sheets, even their beloved dogs, all stayed with the ex. And my friend had absolutely no legal recourse because their relationship was not recognized by the courts.

What it comes down to is fear and misunderstanding. We run away from what we don't understand. And rather than trying to understand, the people of California voted to discriminate against gays, denying valued, hard-working members of society basic, fundamental rights that every other person, every other minority, has. We should be ashamed of ourselves. I know people in California treat their mini-dogs, their designer pooches, better than they treat people who probably live in their own neighborhood.

To those against gay marriage -- who tend to be the same people who think Obama will make the US a socialist society -- I say, keep good on your threat to move to Canada! Because, guess what? Gay marriage is legal there. So much for the US being world leaders. We've been exposed as the uptight, puritanical people that we are, and it isn't flattering.

I dare you: the next time you have the opportunity to pull the lever on legislation that could outlaw something for someone -- anyone, not just gay marriage -- ask yourself "what if it was me?" Or, if you prefer, "What would Jesus do?"

Old Testament:
"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself." Leviticus 19:18

"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." Leviticus 19:34

Words of Christ:
"He [a lawyer] said unto him [Christ], What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." Luke 10:26-27

Then read the parable of the Good Samaritan.

And then tell Jesus how you thought it was appropriate to deny someone else the right to live as you do, how you passed up the opportunity to minister to others. I'm sure He'll be very interested in your answer.


Life's Quirks

The past week or so has been a real emotional rollercoaster. Now, I normally am a rollercoaster junkie... but I prefer the physical ones that require you to sit in a marginally comfortable seat and strap yourself in so the g-forces don't throw you into the lake. These emotional ones aren't nearly as fun.

I've always known that I pin way too much emphasis on individual events, especially when I'm in the midst of a depressive episode. I see those individual events completely out of proportion. I allowed a person whom I care about to have a little too much sway over my emotions and self-image (hence the previous post). I fired off an email on Saturday that was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic, but after sending it I realized it was just, well, bitchy. So on Sunday I fired off a gazillion apologies and heard nothing from this friend for several days.

Self esteem? At this point, it's in the toilet.

Wednesday was a good day. The first look at my email included a long-awaited response about my dissertation. My committee co-chair had forgotten that he'd received my paper and filed it, and he was going to read it. (I've only waited 2 months for this.) Then I had a phone interview for a position that, frankly, I'm not sure that I want, but it is not every day that you get to work on your interview skills. By the end of the interview, I felt great. It helped that they said more than once that I gave "a very good and very impressive interview." This in spite of me giving a Sarah Palin-esque answer to one question. (I don't remember the question or the answer, but I do remember thinking, "My God, I'm rambling like Sarah Palin right now" as I was answering it.)

After the interview, another check of my email showed that my co-chair had read my paper and wanted to talk about some edits. Thirty minutes with him on the phone, and I've changed a few commas and semi-colons, swapped a few words, rephrased a sentence or two, listened to him crack a few puns, and that's about all he has for me. Is the end of my dissertation drama in sight? I'm not putting that champagne on ice just yet, but I'm starting to think about how it will fit in the fridge amongst the Thanksgiving food. The rest of the day I use my new energy to tackle exciting pre-parental visit chores, like stripping the guest bed and washing sheets and blankets.

Thursday morning dawns. Well, a little late for me; somehow I managed to sleep blissfully and solidly until 10:30. It probably helps that I turn the ringer of my phone off at night, since no matter how I program my "smartphone" it insists on downloading my email even when it isn't supposed to and then tells me about it. And in spite of my sleep, I wake up with a sore throat, fever, and aches. Definitely a day for the pajamas, all day.

Bright spot number 1 arises. My mother has decided that her and Dad are flying me home for Christmas. I had been depressed about spending Christmas alone and couldn't really afford the airfare. You know, that whole "underemployed" thing. So now I am flying home for Christmas, although I will return to my place on a red-eye. I'll celebrate the New Year in the San Francisco airport.

Maybe they'll give us booze on the plane.

Whilst laying on the couch, oscillating between cold and hot as only a fever can do, I thought about other things causing anxiety in my life. I pondered the delay in my other "successful" interview and wondered if it was a bad sign that I hadn't gotten a call yet. After all, they want to make an offer before the first of the year, and there are only so many days to bring in candidates with the holidays before the end of 2008. I worry about my friendship that I think is in trouble. I then get over my anxieties about the friendship issues and give him a call.

No answer. Leave message.

A couple hours later he calls back, which is somewhat surprising since he's not big on checking his messages. He's not mad. There's the first yay! In fact, my apologies were unnecessary because he didn't find the original email bitchy. Yay number 2. We spend a little time catching up, and during the conversation yay number 3 creeps in. He told me he'd been called by the chair of the search committee -- the "other successful interview" -- following up on the reference he gave. They're still looking at me. Yay!

I'm still achy, although I fed myself some of my homemade French onion soup. It's not that late, but I think my bed is calling me. The cats agree. And I think the rollercoaster is approaching the station.

At least, I hope so.


Battling Depression

Somewhere in the mid to late 90s, having a mental illness suddenly became trendy. It seemed everyone was on some sort of antidepressive drug. The cool kids were on Prozac. The annoying ones turned out to have "ADD" and were on Ritalin.

I was in my early 20s before I joined the mental illness cool train. Although they have yet to prove a genetic predilection to mental illness, doctors don't deny that it runs in the family. It runs in mine, lucky me. When I first starting presenting symptoms, my doctor at the time gave me medication to help the symptoms without officially diagnosing me with depression. After all, I was a low energy insomniac with occasional feelings of worthlessness and longer periods of being blue, but no major depressive episodes. No crying for hours uncontrollably. No thoughts of suicide.

At the time, my eldest cousin lived not too far away. We didn't grow up close (geographically) and living in the same metro area (Houston) was giving us a chance to get to know each other as adults. He is also a depressive, and one evening we had a long talk about depression. Until you have been a depressive, it is difficult to understand what those errant brain chemicals can do to you. We came up with this analogy, which has served me well in the years since:

Depression is like a gray storm cloud. Sometimes you can see the storm brewing on the horizon, other times you wake up and the sky is cloudy and gray. You don't know exactly when it will hit. You don't know how long it will last. Sometimes it is just gray. Other times, those storm clouds bring heavy rain, thunder, and lightning. Like the weather, you don't know how long it will be before you see the sun again. It may be a couple of days. It may be a month. And like the weather, there ain't diddly you can do about it, except grab an umbrella or a coat and tough it out. The weather doesn't care about your plans. It doesn't care if you're going to have a good day or a bad day. It's just weather, and you just have to deal with it.

People who aren't depressives have a hard time understanding depression, and I can't blame them. I've heard everything from, "your life is going great, why are you depressed?" to "well, can't you just tell yourself to feel better?" I recognize the symptoms when an episode is coming. Logical thought leaves me. I only have illogical and highly emotional reactions. The glass is definitely half empty, and minor things suddenly become the worst things ever. You literally cannot see the forest for the burrs and rotting limbs on the trees.

An insurance change meant a doctor change, and a different doctor in Houston finally addressed the elephant in the room and diagnosed me as a depressive. We tried changing my medications because one side effect of the medication I was taking was an uncontrollable craving for sweets, and I was putting on weight. We discovered together that I am a member of the very small percentage of people who cannot tolerate Prozac. When I moved to Miami to work on my doctorate, a friend's partner was a psychiatric nurse practitioner. As doctoral studies chipped away at my already fragile emotional state, he agreed to see me "off the books" as a patient.

Chronic Major Depressive Disorder is something I will fight all my life. I have learned many things about dealing with it, though. I am not opposed to medication, although I do tend to wait until I'm really bad. Exercise and meditation/yoga helps, once I can motivate myself enough to get active. A good circle of supportive, understanding friends and family is worth more than I can express. And therapy. Having an external ear to listen to you and really make you dig into the problems works wonders. Lastly comes my faith in God. Through Him, all things are possible.

Even when it is gray and raining outside.


Finding a Job in Academia

My friends who do not work in academia are surprised that I "haven't gotten a job yet." In their biased opinions, I'm a great musician, an excellent and admired teacher, a giving colleague, a wonderful person, a real employment catch. So why am I still without a job?

Academia is a fickle world. It surprises many people that with the vast number of colleges we have, at any given time there may be only 8 job openings in my field nationwide. Somebody with an MBA can find at least that many openings in one city. Sometimes that number of academic positions includes international positions looking to hire Americans. The job descriptions are often misleading as well; sometimes they are annoyingly specific (one job currently on the boards is looking for a "tenor, lyric soprano, or coloratura soprano" -- I'm a light dramatic/spinto soprano, does that mean I'm not qualified?), sometimes they throw in everything they want when they are willing to settle for much less, other times you have to jump through 6 websites before discovering the "Assistant Professor of Music" position vaguely described is for a musicologist. Why couldn't they put that in the title of the posting?

Then you have to decide if your desire or need for a job is so great that you are willing to move to places like ice-encrusted small town North Dakota or the unrelenting dry heat of the deserts of New Mexico, no offense to residents of either of those places. I have a colleague that I did my doctoral studies with who currently patches together a fair amount of adjunct work. His exploration for full-time, tenure-track employment is somewhat curtailed by his wife, who has never lived any further north than South Georgia and isn't fond of temperatures below 45. (They currently live in South Florida.)

Also, hiring is done essentially once a year. There are very few instances when someone can start a position other than in August. Come September, if you are unemployed, it is most likely a full year before the possibility of a full-time job in academia can become a reality. Occasionally a position comes available for a January start; that usually happens because someone is going on sabbatical or the college managed to get funding for a special "visiting" position. Even more rarely is it a position that will go beyond the Spring semester.

The application process is tedious and requires great patience. The application packets are pretty intense and more complicated than simply sending a letter and resume, and every one is slightly different. You can send out a dozen packets, and get back 3 responses that they received your materials. The response that they hired someone else is about the same. Overall, the process can take 6 months or more from the application deadline to the hiring of someone. One of my colleagues in academia admits he never went through the application process, and he is about to retire from only the second position he's held and he's been at for 28 years. He is particularly impatient about my search, not understanding how slow the system works although he's been on his share of search committees.

In reality, given all of this, why do I work in academia? If the jobs were posted truthfully, no one would apply. Would you answer this advertisement?

Looking for an expert in vocal music who has either 2 graduate degrees (Masters and Doctorate) or extensive performing experience (15-20 years on major stages around the world) who is willing to teach an unreasonably busy load of private students, courses (most, but not all of which you may be qualified to teach), advising (primarily of students in other majors which you will know nothing about), and committee work (an exercise in futility and wasted time, occasionally making a decision or producing an overly-edited document no one will read). Additionally you will be tapped to perform (for free) at various college and tangentially-related but not really college functions with little to no warning. Every year you will be required to prove your worth to the school through the vague criteria for achieving tenure, although the college will give you little time and even less money to pursue the outside events and publications we expect you to be participating in or pursuing. Successful completion of vague tenure requirements may not be sufficient to achieve tenure as interpersonal politics will inevitably come into play. The administration will be completely unaware of what really goes into a performance and will probably underrate your schedule as a performer, equating giving a recital with them giving a speech. They will also fail to understand how your teaching schedule is more demanding than your colleagues in other departments, who only teach 2 or 3 3-4-credit courses (but no private students). Benefits include a sub-standard salary for your degree level, mediocre retirement and health benefits (eye and dental separate), and unpaid summers off. Submit letter specific to this position, vita, professional performing resume, transcripts, 3-5 letters of recommendation, additional list of references with phone numbers and email, teaching philosophy, proof of teaching effectiveness, CD or DVD of recent performances, and a DVD of your teaching. Additional materials may be requested of finalists. Materials will not be returned.

Believe it or not, the last three sentences are from actual job descriptions. That much is required for an initial application. Some colleges have additional on-line applications to be filled out, which mostly replicate information on your vita but are required of everyone, a true exercise in futility and red tape. Then come committee interviews, which are akin to medieval firing squads, followed by, for the fortunate, in-person interview marathons which will include more committee and individual interviews, a teaching (lesson) demonstration and/or master class, a mini-recital, a Q & A with students, and probably teaching a lecture-based class. Yet I willingly jump through the hoops.

Why? I genuinely love teaching. Genuinely. Even the problem students, the annoying ones, the obnoxious ones who resist change or think they know it all already. People might be surprised that I don't necessarily want to teach the best natural singers, I prefer the diamonds in the rough. I love watching the transformations in young lives. I love watching them discover for themselves what I already know they are capable of. It is a reward that means more to me than anything else, and it is something that I, a noted verbose person, can rarely express to my colleagues who question my decision to not pursue performance full-time. It is so rewarding that it is worth the applications, the process, and the actual unrewarding part of being in academia.

At this point, I am a semi-finalist for two positions that will start Fall 09. I have several other active applications and more jobs will be posted over the next several months because of the academic trickle-down effect (as those in higher positions retire, mid-level folks move up opening up mid and entry level positions). I am guardedly optimistic and trying to leave it in the hands of God.

Even if I don't get my recordings back.

My path to on-line posting addictions... and what to expect

For a long time I resisted various trends.

I teach college (sometimes) and held off on joining Facebook until I was badgered by professional colleagues who showed me FB wasn't just for the sub-25 crowd. Now I'm a FB junkie.

I was never that much into politics until this recent Presidential election. For some reason I followed this election after the primaries like my life depended on it. I am now going through a certain amount of political withdrawal, still obsessively reading CNN's Political Ticker, politico.com, and the political sections of major newspapers on-line although they have nothing new to say beyond the pack of snarling dogs that is the GOP these days and hypercritical analysis of every breath President-Elect Obama takes. (It will be sad if one of the big "historical" markers of his presidency is being the most scrutinzed President in modern times.)

And now I blog.

I started by posting "notes" on Facebook. I really wanted to post things that were a little controversial, but I just didn't have the guts. There's no anonymity on FB. It didn't help that the first time I went to post a note was when FB was logging me out every 3 minutes for no reason. I wrote a long ranting note about a particularly frustrating WalMart shopping experience only to have it disappear into cyberpurgatory.

So I kept myself to posting articles and such, and "commenting" on the notes and other postings of friends. The latter is not necessarily a good decision when a major election is imminent, I must admit. There are still some on-line tensions between me and a couple of friends who have strongly different political opinions than me. (I say political opinions because my political votes are sometimes different than my personal, moral opinions. But that's another post.)

But now being able to catch up with some friends across the country via their blogs, I've decided to become, well, a blogger. That, and I have waaaay too much time on my hands and a wireless internet connection.

I'm a pretty eclectic person. I'm a professional classical musician who lives comfortably alone with two cats (a.k.a., my babies, Tabitha and Simon). I am officially unemployed although I do work some freelance stuff so I prefer the term "underemployed." I love to cook and am a Food Network junkie during the day. I sing with a professional chamber choir, about which I'm sure I'll blog. I'm trying to finish my doctorate and have encountered more red tape than the IRS has; expect some posts on that subject. I am single and have a friend with whom the lines are blurred (no "benefits," just to be up-front about that) which I can guarantee will create some interesting posts as I overanalyze everything about this non-relationship. I also love watching "What Not to Wear" and my friend Sara and I have our own running commentary/cross-country exchanges on fashion disasters that we see.

Speaking of fashion disasters, laundry calls. Off to be domestic. :-)