Wednesday, 11 September 2019

By the numbers...

I don't really know what "baby brain" is, but it might be real. In my experience, I've found the seemingly unconscious task of growing a human inside of me makes the conscious tasks of my day take that much more time, effort, and planning. I've been back at work since July 15th, and while I have accomplished some, it's hard to not think about what still needs to be done.

That being said, even as a humanities professor, by the way of a general update in this post, I thought I would list life and work happenings by the numbers:

60: I have a total of 60 students this semester in my online course sections. This is the smallest number of students that I have had in one semester while teaching at Olivet, but that is primarily because I am teaching one less class. One fourth of my contracted time has been designated to work on a departmental proposal for a new writing major (more on that below), so I am teaching a 3/3 load of classes this school year instead of a 4/4 load. Of the 60 students, I have had at least one quarter of them in courses before, so although I only get to know them online, I have at least taught 15 of them in person previously.

39: As of today, I am now 39 weeks pregnant. According to my update on The Bump, that means that Baby Boy Bruce is full term! We are hoping that he makes his arrival sometime in the next week to week and a half. Wade and I have a bet on his timing-- I think he will come before September 18th, and Wade thinks he will come after. If he comes on his due date, it's a wash. Let's see who gets that crisp $5 bill! I feel tired, and my diaphragm feels a bit squished, but this past week I have actually been feeling pretty well. Don't really know what that means... hopefully my body is just collecting strength!

30: I made a list of "nesting" type items to complete before the baby arrives. While some of them require continuous work until he's here (and probably after), I am glad to say that I have checked all 30 items off of the list! I do feel good about what we've gotten done.

29: On Sunday, September 15th, my little sister turns 29 years old! I liked turning 29 cause I have a weird preference for odd numbers, and I'm excited for my sister as she enters into the last year of her twenties. She does really cool work here in Madison, WI with Youth With a Mission, specifically focusing on working with refuge women and children in our area. We had our family celebration of her birthday a bit early, and we had a fun day with hot drinks, manicures, delicious dinner, and fun presents and cake.

18: As a more somber anniversary, today marks 18 years since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. 2,977 innocent people, including men, women, and children were killed. I think it's important to remember this day as a reminder to love those around us.

12: With our scheduled appointment this upcoming Monday, we will have had 12 midwife appointments leading up to the birth of Baby Bruce. If the baby comes early, we will have done 11, and who knows how many if he comes late! We have met with seven of the nine midwives, but I've seen or talked to the other two. We feel confident that whomever we have delivering the baby will do a good job and will listen well to what we want. We're also currently reading a book recommended to me by my cousins and to Wade by his coworker,  12 Hours Sleep by 12 Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano, so I'm hoping we can get through that and learn how to teach our baby to sleep and eat well once he arrives.

And now our countdown from ten...

10: As of September 3rd, 2019, it has officially been ten years since I traveled to Oxford, England to begin my 3.5 month study abroad program at Oxford University through the program Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford, which partners with Wycliffe Hall, one of the six Permanent Private Halls of Oxford. My time in Oxford was, hands down, the most transformative period of my life. It was there that I learned to embrace the thing that I truly love, the study of English, and that wasn't hard to do, as I was surrounded by 60 other people who were doing the same. I also remember the exact moment, during our last assembly of the term, where I had the thought: this could be my life. I'm eternally grateful for the semester I spent at Oxford, and the last decade has really been defined by that time. Wade and I traveled to Chicago at the end of July to celebrate this ten year anniversary with 14 or so other 2009 Michaelmas term SCIO students, and it was a lovely reunion.

9: As I mentioned, one fourth of my departmental work time is dedicated to composing, sharing, and editing documents to propose a new writing major at Olivet in the Department of English! I'm really excited about this initiative, and it was one of the main reasons why they brought me on last year. The nine represents a document we just call the "Nine Questions," which are questions that require answers for a new major. My department chair and I put together an outline for the questions last semester, and I've spent the last month or so doing research, drafting, and editing our answers to the questions. There are several tiers of approval needed for our proposal, but I am excited about the possibility and what this will offer our students.

8: Wade and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary on Monday, August 5th, 2019! While we have been married eight years, we have actually been together for 13.5-- since he asked me to be his girlfriend at a snowy park down the hill from our parents house on January 2nd, 2006, the day before we went back to our junior year of high school after Christmas break. We've lived in seven different houses in three different states with our two dogs in these eight years, and I wouldn't trade them for anything! My sister helped us recreate some of our engagement photos that we took at the church where my parents got married and that we now live less than a mile away from!

7: One of the best things to come out of my time time earning my Ph.D. at ASU was my writing
group! As I've said before, I so appreciated the continuing support, feedback, and camaraderie that my writing group gals offer to me. We were able to meet seven times this summer, and we work well on our various projects together, asking for suggestions, bouncing off ideas, and catching up on life. As I prepare for the baby, another prepares for her wedding, and the third is getting ready to defend her dissertation! Lots of new beginnings.

6: Our baby boy will not be alone! Since mid-June we know six women who have given birth to precious little baby boys (and know at least four more babies are on the way). We are excited to be joining this fun Baby Boys of 2019 club.

5: Since the beginning of the year, I've also been a part of at least five different departmental or individual meetings (and countless more email discussions) to prepare for this school year. I did travel down to Olivet at the end of August to meet with my chair, as well as to attend the beginning of the year department meetings. Otherwise, I generally join on Skype or via FaceTime. Though it's a little tricky not being present, I am glad that I am able to join into the meetings and offer my ideas or suggestions. I also have met with my current TA who is doing a great job helping me keep up with my class work.

4: As another part of our proposed major, I have been working on the course descriptions for four new writing major classes. It is fun to think back to the variety of writing class experiences I have had, both as a student and as an instructor. We are proposing classes focused on writing theory (a personal favorite), special topics in writing, and seminar and capstone work in the major.

I also spent quite a bit of time this summer and fall volunteering as part of the leadership team for BLOOM, the women's ministry at Ridgeway Church. In addition to other seasonal events, we have been preparing for our fourth women's retreat to be held in October. I won't be able to attend, but I am very excited about the theme of "resolve" and the awesome schedule of speakers and events that we put together for this year.

3: As I think back on my summer work, I am reminded of the three students that I taught in the online section of Business Communication & Technical Writing. Overall, they did well. It was a demanding course for these students to complete in just eight weeks, as it required a 30 hour business practicum, extensive research, and a group project with live audience feedback. All three students did earn an A, and I am glad to have been able to work with them.

It has also been three months since I posted my last blog. Initially I meant to post one monthly this summer; however, time and energy got away from me. I am glad to be able to post my update now, and I will plan on doing another full blog post in about three months, closer to the new year. The work I will be doing this semester will be focused on developing the proposal materials, developing a new online class for the spring, and instructing my current classes. I think in addition to keeping a new, tiny human alive, that will be all that I have the time to complete.

2: I have two course preps this semester, though, I am technically teaching three classes. I am currently teaching one section of ENGL 306: Advanced Writing and two sections of ENGL 210: College Writing II. I taught Advanced Writing my first semester at Olivet, but I have not taught College Writing II at Olivet before. I did take it as a freshman English major at Olivet in the fall of 2007, and I have taught a version of a second tier writing class at three previous institutions. While it is always fun to create a new class, I do forget how time consuming it is to create instructional materials from scratch. I'm excited about the work my students are doing in both classes, though, as they are gathering ideas, research, and feedback for large scale writing projects to be completed in the last third of their semesters.

1: I have a few different "ones," as some things are more unique! As I mentioned, I did take one trip down to Olivet for course prep, meetings, and a departmental get together. Wade drove me down, for which I was very grateful, and we had a good time in the Bourb for a couple days. I have missed being on campus for other meetings, my students' library days, or the major party they held yesterday. Once my stomach looks (much) less like a beach ball, I'll be glad to be able to have the option to go down to Olivet a bit more.

I also submitted an article manuscript for publication after a final round of revision! I have been working on my manuscript for Peitho: Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition for years, and I am glad to say that it is submitted! The editors, mentors, and reviewers at the journal have been very kind in offering constructive and useful feedback on my manuscript. I am really looking forward to actually seeing my work in print.

Finally, I was accepted, as a workshop co-chair, to the 2020 Conference on College Composition and Communication. The conference will be held in March in Milwaukee this year! While I do like traveling to new cities every year, it is really nice that the conference will be held closer to home. The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Olivet has agreed to fund my trip, so my hotel room is booked, and I am looking forward to attending my seventh Cs in the spring.

Those are my updates by the numbers! As always, I appreciate a good balance of predictability and change, and I'm hoping between the personal and professional, this fall will have a good balance of both. Until next time!

Friday, 5 July 2019

A Baby Blog

The spring semester at Olivet wrapped up about a month and a half ago. It is always a transition out of a semester and into a new schedule, but I've particularly enjoyed not having to travel down to IL during the week. My online summer class started two days before the official end of the semester, and we've been moving steadily forward since! My students' final projects were due Wednesday, and then I had the rest of the week to get their final grades submitted. I had three students in this class, and they did well. I will plan to talk about that class in more detail, as well as the other work I've been and will be doing this summer in my August blog post. 

In this post, though, I thought I would do a baby blog with updates on how things have been going the past 20 weeks or so. I am 29 weeks pregnant, which means that I am within both my seventh month and the third trimester of pregnancy. It has been a journey, and I would say so far, it has been a positive one! If you're not interested in all this baby stuff, though, please come back in July, and I will catch you up on all my summer work. I do think that part of my feminist praxis is to share not only the academic work I am participating in but the embodied physical work that is also happening, and a lot of the time, takes over my daily energy.

I found out that I was pregnant while I was eight weeks along. I have been taking a photo every week since to document the transition, so I thought I'd share the thumbnails of the past twenty weeks or so of photos of Baby Bruce growing away! It is still very surreal to me how these pregnancy changes just happen. I have very little to do with the very literal growing and changing happening inside of me. I don't know that it will/would ever stop feeling strange. Here is Baby B, weeks eight to 29!

There is a lot to do when getting ready for a baby! Our list has included the following items: track the pregnancy on an app, read about birth, sleep, and child training, meet regularly with our midwives, find a pediatrician, tour the hospital birthing suit, take a birth class, make a swim lesson plan, enjoy our shower, take a babymoon, find a birth photographer, practice prenatal yoga, get the nursery ready, make a birth preference plan, clean the car, install the carseat, clean the house, bedding, and baby clothes, and pack a hospital bag. I'd say we are about 70% done with the list, which I feel good about with a little less than three months to go. I'll share the details of what we've done so far, in case it's helpful to anyone to know!

When I first got pregnant I wanted to find a good app to tack my pregnancy and to help me understand what the heck was happening to my body. Now, as is true in a lot of these categories, there are so many options to choose from. As I talked to people and looked at the app store, The Bump app kept coming up. I downloaded that app, and it has been really helpful. It gives me daily updates on the size of the baby, but even more helpfully, it tells me each week what to expect both for myself and the baby. It is pretty accurate, and it helps me to know that what I'm experiencing is normal. There are also good articles linked everyday to help me learn more.

We got lots of recommendations for books that we needed to read before the baby comes. Unfortunately, there is only so much time and so much attention span that we have for all things pregnancy related. Some of that is used up with podcasts, and we particularly loved Dax Shepard's interview with Dr. John Gottman on the February 28th episode of Armchair Expert. We made our book reading choices primarily based on the recommendations that we kept hearing over and over. I'd say at least three people recommended each of the two books that we decided on reading. The first was to help us have a good kid, the second was to help us sleep well. The fact that the books were recommended by people with good kids who sleep well didn't hurt! I gave some other books a shot including The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, What to Expect When You're Expecting, and another one from our hospital, but I found them too dense to continue. Here are the two we read/ are reading together with their Amazon synopsis:

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

"When American journalist Pamela Druckerman had a baby in Paris, she didn't aspire to become a "French parent." But she noticed that French children slept through the night by two or three months old. They ate braised leeks. They played by themselves while their parents sipped coffee. And yet French kids were still boisterous, curious, and creative. Why? How?
With a notebook stashed in her diaper bag, Druckerman set out to investigate—and wound up sparking a national debate on parenting. Researched over three years and written in her warm, funny voice, Bringing Up Bébé is deeply wise, charmingly told, and destined to become a classic resource for American parents."

On Becoming Babywise by Robert Bucknam & Gary Ezzo

"For over 25 years, On Becoming Babywise has been the de facto newborn parenting manual for naturally synchronizing your baby's feeding time, waketime and nighttime sleep cycles, so the whole family can sleep through the night.

In his 29th year as a licensed Pediatrician, Dr. Robert Bucknam, M.D. along with co-author Gary Ezzo, demonstrate how order and stability are mutual allies of every newborn's metabolism and how parents can take advantage of these biological propensities."

We really liked Bringing Up Bebe; we even had my mom read it. We are working our way through BabyWise, and we're determined to get through in order to have a sleep plan. On the recommendation of a couple other friends, I also read (pre-crazy) Jenny McCarthy's book Belly Laughs, which was light, funny, and honest, if not a bit outdated. I'd recommend any of the three!

Baby Boy: 20 Weeks
The very first decision we had to make (prior to even knowing 100% if I was pregnant) was what kind of maternity care we wanted. We had the choice between a traditional OBGYN doctor and team of midwives through our local care clinic/ insurance. Very quickly we came to the conclusion that the midwives sounded like the best plan of care for us. Three of the reasons that we initially decided to go with the midwives (and have really enjoyed working with them so far) are as follows:

1) There is a team of care. We don't see the same midwife every time, but we see one of the nine midwives of the team every time. It also means that when we deliver, we will have one of the nine midwives in the delivery. In opposition to the OBGYN, who might not be available for delivery, we will have one of a team of people who has been monitoring our care throughout the pregnancy. This is also true of after hour care, as whenever I've called, I've always talked to a midwife directly.

2) They take their time in the appointments. Never having worked with an OBGYN through pregnancy I don't know how different this would be, but we have never once felt rushed by our midwives in our monthly (soon to be more) appointments. They come in, and very literally, make themselves comfortable. We chat, they answer questions, they ask questions, and they take their time. I've never left feeling frustrated or unheard by a midwife after an appointment, and I've appreciated their attentive care. We've done three ultrasounds so far, and I don't think we'll do anymore. We do get to hear the baby's heartbeat via the doppler at every appointment, and they measure the baby.

3) There are very few options off limits to us. I feel very blessed to have had a healthy pregnancy thus far, and we are praying and hoping that continues. If it does, and there are no complications, our midwives are very open to any type of delivery we want to engage in. We will deliver at our hospital, but they are open to medication or not, self-soothing through music, yoga, or essential oils or not, and even multiple types of positions for delivery. They say that they are there to support me in my birth, and that is very empowering. Our birth class instructor has told us how important that is, and I've already so appreciated their attitude toward delivery. They emphasized this through our birthing center tour at the hospital as well, which we appreciated.

The one exception to delivering with the midwives would be if we need a c-section, but I'm hoping that won't be the case. We've also found a pediatrician that we like a lot. She followed the same model of care, where she came in, answered questions, asked us questions, and spent time with us. We're glad to have to have that set and ready to go prior to the birth.

First Birth Class
Again, the choices in Madison for birth class are slightly overwhelming in terms of what direction to go. So, we relied on suggestions from friends. Friends with a three year old fondly remembered their birth class experience and recommended the same. They suggested taking the Embracing Birth Classes with Jodi Bubenzer on the west side of Madison. We've completed four of five birth classes with this teacher, and we've learned a lot from mindfulness to breastfeeding to types of medication to massage exercises to postpartum solutions to breathing techniques. We have one more class to go, but both Wade and I have enjoyed our time in the class learning from the teacher and getting to hear from the three other expecting couples in the class.

The same friend who recommended the birth class also gave me a suggestion for swim lessons! I've been reading about the importance of getting children comfortable in water and teaching them, as early as possible, how to flip in the water in order to be able to breathe in any type of emergency. The friend said they took their daughter to Little Strokes Swim Academy in Waunakee; she said her daughter loved it and is a really strong swimmer now. We'd like to get our little guy in this coming March to learn those same crucial skills. I'm glad to know of a quality place that provides this kind of instruction.

The month of June was very fun; I got a facial, manicure, hair cut, color, and style, prenatal massage, and pedicure all in one month! We definitely felt spoiled by so much love, attention, and opportunity to enjoy this time this month, as well. The weekend of June 22nd, my sister and some of my best friends threw us our third and final shower, and it was a lovely baby shower. My friend hosted at her house, our moms helped out, and so many women attended and showered us with love, attention, and gifts. We know that we are lucky to be part of such a strong, supportive community, and we don't take it for granted. Wade attended for about half the shower, and I'm so glad he was there to also feel all the love! The theme of the shower was High Tea for Baby B, and everything was done so beautifully. We had tea, scones, clotted cream, jam and lemon curd, tea sandwiches, macarons, lace decor, baby's breath, and decorated tea pots. So classy. So special. We used Baby List for our registry site, and I think it worked really well. I feel so lucky to have so many wonderful friends who would go above and beyond to make a day like this so special. Sharing this journey with my friends has been one of the highlights of the pregnancy for sure. Over 30 women attended the shower, and it will be such a wonderful memory for us.

Lovely Shower Hosts
First Family Photo

Amazing Display

Sweet Guests
The very next weekend, Wade and I got to enjoy some time away on our self-declared "babymoon" in Lake Geneva, WI. We spent three days and three nights in this idyllic lakeside town. We stayed at The Abbey Resort, and we really enjoyed the resort's amenities. We spent one day getting massages (my first prenatal!) and lounging at the Avani Spa, which was very relaxing. We spent time in downtown Lake Geneva, eating twice at both Tuscan Tavern & Grill and Egg Harbor Cafe. We also took a fun afternoon ice cream social boat tour through the Lake Geneva Cruise Line and learned about the history (mostly old, rich, and white) of the people and homes surrounding the lake. We spent some time reflecting on common goals, getting coffee and tea at Boxed and BurlapAvant Cycle Cafe, and the resort's Cafe Latte, and just enjoying time together. I always say, too, that one of the best parts about going away is getting to come home-- especially to dogs as cute as ours!

Enjoying Our Spa Day

Downtown Lake Geneva

Lovely Vine Wall 
Hey Baby Bump!
Another decision that Wade and I thought about early on was who we wanted at our birth and delivery. Once again, there are so many options. Did we want family there? Did we want a doula? Did we want any other kind of assistance? One thing I have learned through this pregnancy is never say never, as we just cannot plan what our future will hold, as much as we (especially as enneagram ones) want to do that! That being said, we are not planning on having any future children via birth, so one thing that stood out to me that I wanted was a birth photographer. I thought: if we photograph other momentous occasions in our lives like weddings and anniversaries, why would birth be different? I talked to Wade about it, and we decided to hire the wonderful birth photographer Nicole Streeter, who owns Nicole Streeter Photography, to do our maternity and birth photography. Every time I visit her blog or social media page, I am always swept away in the stories she tells through her photos. I'm excited to have her be a part of documenting our birth experience.

In 2013 I was preparing to run the Color Run in Indianapolis with my sister and my cousins, and I would experience extreme hip pain following the training runs. I eventually saw a chiropractor, and he diagnosed me with overextended ligaments, where my ligaments would stretch well but then not properly retract back into place after the stretching. This is both a genetic ailment, as well as one that was probably exacerbated by my 13 years as a dancer. The diagnosis has since been confirmed through both a medical doctor testing for carpal tunnel and a physical therapist who has helped me work on strengthening my wrists and hips, the primary areas affected. When I first received that diagnosis, the chiropractor suggested taking up yoga as a way to strengthen my core muscles and also gently stretch my ligaments. Following the Color Run, I did just that, stumbling upon a yoga instructor named Erin Motz on YouTube.

Fast forward six years (probably almost exactly), and I still practice yoga with Erin Motz regularly. So much so that we pay for a monthly subscription to her Bad Yogi Studio, and I practice yoga in our new home yoga area four to five times a week. Erin is an American who lives in Nice, France, and she is one year older than me (again, almost exactly). I appreciate her mindset, teaching style, and general outlook on yoga and life. What I could not have anticipated is that she would get pregnant about two months before me. What this has blessedly resulted in is a whole slew of prenatal yoga classes available through her studio, which I already have a subscription to, that I can practice again and again. This coincidence has been one of the biggest blessings of my pregnancy. I've literally cried some mornings getting out of bed with back pain (more on that below) to open my email and find a new class from Erin labeled "Second Trimester Back Pain." I never could have known how this would work out, but more than probably anything else listed above, this has helped me move through the last five months of this pregnancy more easily and comfortably.

Well, this is turning into a very long pregnancy post. If you've made it all the way thus far, congratulations to you! As I'm writing, I'm realizing that this may be more for me than anyone else-- a way to remember this unique time in our lives before s*** gets real and we have a new, live human baby boy in our house. There are more things on our to-do list that I mentioned above, but we haven't quite gotten there yet, and I think that's OK. I anticipate the next couple weeks being about building nursery furniture, cleaning cars, making birth plans, and packing hospital bags. To wrap up, I'd like to touch on some of the lows and some of the highs of this pregnancy journey. I know everyone's path is different, and I know that the last fourth of this pregnancy may be different than it has been so far, but here's where I'm at:

As can be expected, this pregnancy has not been a total walk in the park. Weeks before I even knew I was pregnant, my nose started running and it has.not.stopped. Seriously. Seven plus months of a runny nose. Thanks to my Bump app, I know why. The condition is called pregnancy rhinitis, and I guess it happens to about a third of pregnant women. I've gone through more tissue boxes than I can count, and it is especially bothersome at night, which is fun since sleep is so easy anyway. Ha. Speaking of sleep, other bothersome elements of the pregnancy include having to pee a lot of the night, my hands falling asleep if they are ever above my head (like under my pillow), and consistent lower back pain. A midwife said it's sciatic inflammation, and it's not very fun.

I dealt with some pretty nasty headaches my second trimester, but my mom suggested sugar-free Gatorade to help replenish electrolytes, and that has helped, as has moving into another trimester, as hormones and blood (never knew I could hold so much blood) shift around. Brings me to my swollen ankles, which at one point prompted a friend to say: "What is happening to your ankles??" Makes me think a third trimester through July and August will be a joy. I feel grateful to have only ever thrown up once, which prompted me to take a pregnancy test in the first place, and to have had very minimal heartburn.

Some really good things have come out of the pregnancy, as well. Overall, my skin has been clearer, and my moods have been fairly normal. I feel healthier in moving to more natural ways of living, which I touched on in my May blog. I also have had no problems with these prenatal vitamins or probiotics, and I also take one magnesium pill everyday and try to supplement my iron intake due to pregnancy induced anemia. I tested negative for zika and gestational diabetes, and a midwife also confirmed that due to the successful pregnancy I also no longer have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which I was diagnosed with in 2012 and was the main reason we thought birthing a child would not be an option for us.

Probably the best, best part of the pregnancy has been feeling Baby Bruce's little kicks, wiggles, and hiccups from inside. Our plan to grow our family was always to adopt, and that is how we would like to add at least one more person to our family in the future. That being said, this journey of pregnancy and carrying this baby inside of me has been special and unique. It wasn't what we had planned, but the feeling of carrying this person has been both difficult and very rewarding. I don't know what the last few months of this pregnancy will bring, and even less about what life will look like after the baby is here, but I feel like these last seven months I have been given a gift of carrying this person.

As I've said before, our friends and family have been so happy, so supportive, and so wonderful during this time. They know me well enough to know that I don't do great with unexpected change, and yet their joy and consistent encouragement has been such a support to carry us through the pregnancy thus far. I also feel lucky to also have friends who are currently doing this baby thing right along with me or have been in the trenches for the past year or more. As this blog post is witness to, they are an invaluable resource to us. Here's a shoutout to some of the best:

Awesome Baby Mamas

Our Crew

Lovely Ladies

Double Knowledge

Five Cousins: Two Adults, One Toddler, Two Babies
Baby's Four Grandparents

We've learned, we've grown, we've laughed, we've cried. 
I'll be sure to update when we've reached the other side! 

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Another May

Here we are again, at the end of another school year. One of my very favorite parts about working in academia is the constant refresh of energy and focus that comes with the shifting of the seasons. One season does not fade into the next. Instead, all four are pronounced, either with a new beginning or another ending, and that rhythm is really lovely.

We concluded Olivet's semester with a baccalaureate service and graduation commencement ceremony this past weekend. It was a really beautiful spring weekend on campus, and I got my doctorate gown out and was happy to march with my department, other faculty members, and administrators. We were also glad to celebrate the English and English Education seniors with a celebratory lunch and a photo after the graduation ceremony. This year was especially special to me, as it is the year that one of my most influential college professors, Dr. Belcher-Rankin, is retiring. She served as my advisor, then trip leader to Burkina Faso, Africa, then unofficial mentor through graduate school. I felt so honored to spend a year-- my first and her last-- as colleagues in the same department.

As I said, the end of the school year is marked by the end of my first year as a full time faculty member. After graduating from ASU in May of 2017, I worked as an adjunct for a year while going on the job market, and then started at Olivet in August of 2018. In addition to teaching the four classes, which I discussed in my previous post, I'm very happy with what I was able to accomplish this year, as I think some really productive measures were initiated, like the two following items:

  1. Even as a new faculty member, I served on two committees this school year. The first was the Department of English Composition Committee, and we worked on reviewing the composition classroom curriculum. With the committee's support, I piloted using a new textbook in the ENGL 109: College Writing I classroom. The department had previously been using an MLA handbook, but I didn't feel I was able to engage the students in my classroom with it very well. I drew on teaching experience from Madison College and brought the textbook Habits of the Creative Mind into the classroom. I used it throughout the spring semester, and the students responded well. In a survey at the end of the semester, 95% of the students suggested using the text again. As a committee, we decided we are going to do just that, and we will use it in every section of 109 that will run in the fall. I've been working on setting up options for how to teach the text, and I'm excited to see what other professors will do with it. 
  2. The second committee I served on was the Department of English Writing Committee, and we took a look at our programatic offerings for writing in general. From this overview and research we conducted in the fall, we brought a new proposal forward to our department. The department members responded positively, so as a group, we spent a good portion of the spring semester ironing out details of our proposal before we will bring the complete idea to deans and administrators. It was exciting to be part of this work, and we are hoping for a positive outcome. 
My position as a faculty member is shifting. This past year I served as a full time faculty member under the title Assistant Professor in the Department of English, with expectations of service on campus. As the commute got to be too tiring and we realized our family would grow this fall, my department chair kindly offered to shift my position in the department. Starting this fall, I will be an Affiliate Professor in the Department of English. I will still be working full time for Olivet; however, my service obligations will be lightened, so I will be able to do the majority of my work from home. I am excited about this opportunity and so appreciative to my department chair and the administrators who opened up this position for me. 

As part of the shift between roles, I am creating a new online course for the university this summer, which I will teach in the fall. This is an online version of the ENGL 306: Advanced Writing course that I taught last fall. I really enjoyed teaching that course and diving into writing and rhetorical histories and theories with my students. The shift to an online format will be different, but I am hoping it is still very rewarding and productive for the students.

In addition to creating this course, I am also teaching an online section of ENGL 311: Business Communication & Technical Writing this summer. I taught B&T both semesters at Olivet. This is an eight week, online, much smaller version of those classes, but again, I still want to make sure the class is beneficial to the students who are enrolled. Between those two endeavors, and starting department work again in just under two months, I think the summer will go by quickly. 

Personally, I've been very blessed with wonderful support and time with friends these past few weeks. At the end of April, my family threw Wade and I a lovely shower over the Easter weekend when my uncle, aunt, cousins, and their families were all in Madison. We had elephant decor, a guessing game, and a delicious Mexican taco brunch. About a week later, my colleagues in the English department were so kind to throw us another shower on the Monday during the last week of school when I know that everyone had so much to do. 

My cousin Candace made a red velvet gluten free cake with cream cheese frosting for the first shower, and my colleague Ann made a chocolate cake with vanilla cream and mirror glaze chocolate ganache for our second shower. They were both beautiful and delicious! So far, these cakes have been two of the best parts about being pregnant. Just in between the two showers we also found out that Baby Bruce is a BOY, so it was fun to let our family and friends know about that! 

May also started off on a lovely note, as I attended the annual Original Women's Conference in Rockford, IL hosted by City First Church. I went with most of the members of our Bloom Women's Ministry leadership team and several other ladies from Ridgeway Church. This is my second year attending, and I had a really wonderful, refreshing time. The conference was held fresh on the heels of the last week of school, but I'm glad that I got to go and be a part of the conference and the time with the ladies. 

On top of the work that I'll be doing this summer, I do think the nesting instinct will kick in as we prepare for the baby this September. This morning I already got caught down a rabbit hole of learning about toxicity in scented candles, nail polishes, and non-standard essential oils, and I feel like I need to do a clean sweep of my house! I've switched to all natural facial products and hair products over the past nine months, and I'm thinking brands like Pure Hive, Palate Polish, and Young Living will become my standards for cleaner, more natural products in these other areas, as well. 

I am currently loving the summer break (as of yesterday) and time hanging out at home with the worlds cutest doggos. I am looking forward to what's to come, both personally and professionally as the seasons shift once again! 

Monday, 29 April 2019

Grow, Baby, Grow

So far, this month of spring has been marked as a season of growth. I do mean this literally as spring is the season of new growth and new life. I also mean it figuratively, as I have been struck several times lately by the growth I've seen happening in my own life and in my classrooms this semester.

One marker of growth is the way that time passes. In January we celebrated my 30th birthday in Thailand, and then this week, we celebrated Wade's 30th birthday here in Madison. Wade and I have been friends since we were 15 years old, so we've gotten to celebrate half of our birthdays together. Quite a marker! Our twenties, for the most part, treated us well, but I'm looking forward to what's to come in this new decade.
My 30th Birthday
Wade's 30th Birthday
We are also growing our family in our new home! This type of growth is marked by expansion, both of my waistline, as well as settling into a new home that's bigger than any home we've ever lived in. We (and the dogs) are loving the space, and I'm excited to feel fully settled. It's really nice to have space to grow, which is more than I can say for the little one inside.

New Home
New Baby
I've also noticed marked growth in my students and their work this semester, which has been really exciting. The semester has been somewhat of an odd one as we started out on such a rough note with literally weeks off due to cold and snow. That made the remaining fourteen(ish) weeks of the semester feel fairly cramped, and I do know that some of my students were feeling that as they came to their final products. In each of my classes, though, I've seen marked improvements in the areas of composition and communication.

College Writing I
Brainstorming in CWI
I ended up with about 40 College Writing I students this semester between two sections. That is slightly smaller than the average load, but I appreciated being able to give more one on one attention to the students in the classes. One class met from 6:00-8:30 PM on Monday nights, and though I know many struggled to get through, 19 students are finishing that class, which I think is an achievement. In their work, though, I've noticed noticeable growth over the last few weeks, which is always very exciting to see as a professor.

In class we spend a lot of time talking about genre conventions, which we define as "components of any given composition that are considered to be generally true." I usually give an example like, a letter versus an email versus a text message. They are all types of communication, but as composers and communicators, we understand that there are basic format, tone, and delivery methods for each type of composition-- those are the conventions. I would say that the students (like most) struggled with this idea through the first half of the semester, but as they have been composing this most recent project I've been really excited to see them engage with new conventions in ways they hadn't before. They are drafting magazine articles that synthesize outside arguments grounded in their own argument, and they are playing with conventions and new ideas in really cool ways. I've also seen significant growth from individual students, as they struggled at the beginning of the semester and now are near the top of the class.

Business Communication & Technical Writing
I would say of all of my classes, this B&T class felt the time crunch of the semester the most significantly. There are four major projects that run in this class-- right around midterm there are three going at one time-- so I understand the students' concern about getting everything done. That being said, I've seen some of the best results come out of this class that I've ever seen from business or professional writing courses that I've taught. One example is that the students are required to conduct a 30 hour practicum in order to earn one credit of the course. This is 30 hours outside of class where they work with a local business or organization to create professional writing texts. These are very real world situations, as the texts that the students research, compose, edit, and send out go to live audiences. One student's text was even sent to the IL State Senate. The practicum has been a requirement of the course where I've seen some students really excel and some not so much. This semester, though, for the first time, I've received back glowing evaluations from all 22 of the practicum supervisors. Every single student earned full credit from their supervisors on their work, and that is a real testament to their tenacity and work ethic this semester.
2019 B&T Proposals

The students in this class also work as groups to present a final proposal to members of the administration or leadership in various departments around campus. This is a large amount of work, as a problem needs to be clarified, solutions need to be feasibly composed, both primary and secondary research need to be conducted, and all of this needs to be put together in both a professional proposal and a professional presentation. As always, some groups struggled a bit in one or more of these aspects, as working in groups is tough enough in addition to all of these specific components. That being said, a few groups really went above and beyond. Of the five presentations given these year, I'd say at least two were up there with the best I've ever seen. One presentation immediately got the attention of the Vice President of Student Development, Dr. Woody Webb, who told the group he'd like to get working on their proposal immediately and have it in effect ASAP, which was very exciting for the whole class.

Writing Fiction & Poetry 
I was excited about the marked growth in this class because I actually wasn't the one who identified it! As we moved through the semester, I asked the students to consider the five rhetorical canons of composition (as I mentioned in my previous post) in order to better compose and understand the work of their peers. Based around these canons, the students participated in five writing workshops where they would meet with their peers and get feedback on their work. After the last workshop, I had us all gather together and share just one aspect that we liked in the work we read. That discussion brought about comments from multiple students about the exponential growth they had seen in the work of their peers over the semester. I totally agreed with them, but it was really cool to hear them give specific ways that they had seen their peers grow this semester in their voices, style, and arrangement. I think it was encouraging to the students as well, to hear things about their work they may not have even realized on their own.
Dr. Case's Author Talk

The students in F&P have had a lot of outside input, like the two guest speakers I mentioned last time. Since my last post, we have had a third guest speaker come speak to the class. His name is Dr. Stephen Case, and he is an Associate Professor in the department of Chemistry and Geoscience. He has also published widely, including both a novel and now a nonfiction text. He had a lot of great insight to share with the students. We also had a guest lecturer come in, as well as a lot of feedback from each other in the composing process. This will all come to fruition now at the end of the semester, as the students will be submitting work for consideration for publication and doing a public reading as a joint effort with Professor Jon Seals and the Art Department at the Victorian House Gallery on Olivet's campus. I am looking forward to the students getting to showcase their work.

As a professor, too, I think I have been challenged to grow this semester. These four classes that I taught challenged me to transition between conceptions of academic writing, professional writing, and creative writing on a regular basis. As notions of communication, composition, and conventions shift across each genre and purpose, I had to fine tune my ways of explaining ideas and setting expectations for my students. I've also been challenged to be better in those areas myself as I work with my TAs, department members, or other faculty and staff across campus. I think as I become more aware of my own habits of communication and composition I'm able to be more effective in instructing others along those same paths.

I look forward to what is to come as we conclude this spring semester-- my first as a full time faculty member-- and look towards what is next.