Friday, May 25, 2007

The Cure for Blah

I've been working at a job I love for the last 4 years. The compensation has been minimal and the tangible benefits (in the HR sense) non-existent. Despite that, I chugged away because I was doing something I love to do, living where I want to live and getting by thanks to the support of the people who love me. In my experience, that ranks as a pretty decent way of life, so I tried not to worry too much about it. Still, I always felt apologetic about the pitiful paychecks and, honestly, felt ashamed that the knowledge and skill I possess was worth so little in the eyes of the people who employed me. If they didn't think much of it, how could I? (Yeah, yeah, I know my earnings should not form the basis of my self-worth, but the truth is it does come into play.)

Well, today has been my lucky day. Or my pay off day. I was offered a lectureship position by my boss that will slightly increase my course load and more than double my salary, plus I will receive full benefits such as health insurance and the ability to open a retirement savings account. So, am I kicking back on the deck with a pina colada and some light summer reading to celebrate? Not exactly. I'm looking around trying to figure out how I want to structure the Japanese Culture course I'll be teaching next spring! But I also stopped by the public library and checked out a novel by David Liss and now I think I and a glass of cold jasmine tea will head out to the deck for some reading, at least until the current load of laundry is done...

Sunday, May 20, 2007


My summer vacation has started and I'm already catching shit from my family and questioning my own self-worth because of it. Good times, huh?
The deal is that I teach during the academic school year and also translate on a freelance basis. Freelance basis means sometimes I have too much work coming in and I have to turn down offers and sometimes nothing's coming in and I could, theoretically, just kick back and relax and enjoy my free time.
Except I don't just kick back and enjoy the down time. I spend the down time wondering if I should go back to school for yet another degree in order to "change careers" or whether I really should, as my father urges every time he sees me, figure out how to contact Theo Epstein and try to get a gig an an interpreter for the Red Sox even though I couldn't give a shit about baseball and abhor the thought of commuting to Boston, never mind traveling for a job. And then there's my sister, who is now gainfully employed by dad after years of slackerdom, and her not-so-subtle contemptuous tone of "oh, that must be nice" when I tell her I'm currently not working on any translation at the moment and am done with school for the year. Well, excuse me for having skills that let me work freelance and also for having received my settlement check from the divorce, which along with the payment checks now coming in for the work I kicked ass on last month and the understanding and generosity of my wonderful boyfriend who values my contributions to our home and family even if they aren't all measured in dollars, lessens the immediate need to pull in a paycheck at the moment.
But, really, I know I should just say screw them and enjoy this opportunity to slow down and enjoy life. I figured out a long time ago that "high-powered" is not what I want to be. I love to teach. Time flies when I'm in the classroom and it doesn't feel so much like work. Translation isn't quite as much fun as teaching, but I like the freedom of working freelance. So what's the problem? I don't make a ton of money so that means I'm "wasting my potential"? What if my potential to be happy with the way my life is now means more to me than my potential to bust my ass to impress my family?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Yoga and Animal Attraction

I have an on-again off-again yoga practice. I have for years, actually. When I was a kid back in the 70s, my mom used to take a lot of yoga classes and practice at home, so it was something often seen in my daily life. (Mom still does yoga on a regular basis, btw.) When I lived in Hawaii for grad school, I started to attend weekly Iyengar yoga classes held in a little white studio that was part of the Mo'ili'ili Community Center, behind the Down To Earth health food store on King Street. (This was in the days back before yoga got really trendy and yoga teachers could afford full-time studios for their classes.) For all the mellow early Saturday morning sunlight and plumeria scented breezes wafting in through the windows, the classes were quite kick ass.
My practice now is a do-it-myself at home affair. Sometimes I use DVDs or, more often , one of the Yogamazing podcasts. (I think I consider Chaz my yoga teacher at this point.) Unfortunately, it's been several months since I practiced with any regularity, probably since before we moved into the house. When I was still living in the apartment I would lay out my blue yoga mat and inevitably the dog would come over and lay down on it. I would shoo him away and start my practice. At various points, mostly when doing postures that involve lying on my back, the dog would amble over and stick his nose in my face, then try to lie down on the mat again when I got up to do standing postures. Eventually, he'd move off the mat but stay in the room to watch.
This morning I decided that I need to get back into a regular yoga practice. I've been sick this week and I can feel my body is kind of a mess and it needs some gentle straightening out. The dog is at the Girl's father's house at present, but this was the cat's first exposure to me doing yoga. For most of the morning the cat has been content to hang out and keep her distance from me for as I did some chores, read and what not. But once the yoga mat went down, I suddenly became quite irresistible. She was crawling over me, rubbing around me, purring at me, smooshing her face in my face and trying to find a good spot to settle down and sleep on me, which was impossible since I was not in any one position for any length of time that would accommodate one of her naps. She was finally able to happily curl up in my lap for a few minutes at the very end, as I was sitting cross-legged and taking a few final deep breaths. Now she's back at the other end of the couch, napping after such a big workout, I guess.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I Just Feel Like We're Not Communicating...

I'll be teaching an advanced level Japanese class next Fall and I've been looking around for a textbook to use. The normal way to go about this is to contact the textbook publisher and request a free desk copy so you can check out the text before you commit to making your whole class buy it. Unfortunately, this is apparently not the way Japanese publishers do business, but you have to read between the lines a little to get that. Witness the email exchange I had today with the rep from the Japanese publisher. Originally this communication started when I submitted a comment form from their website requesting a desk copy of the intermediate text.
Dear Ms Pamming About,

Thank you for your e-mail.

We would like to tell you that we ask our agent,
XYZ bookstore in San Francisco to send
you Elementary 1 textbook and workbook.

To go ahead, we would appreciated it if you could
let us know your address.

Once again, we thank you for your interest in
our publications.

Yours sincerely,

I was a little perplexed when I received this message this morning because I couldn't recall having requested copies of those books and had half forgotten about the request I sent through the website a week and a half ago. So, I sent back this email--

Dear Ms. Publisher Rep,

Thank you very much for your email. We already use the level I and II textbooks and workbooks in our first and second year classes. My inquiry was about the
Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese by A. Sushi and N. Sashimi for adoption by our third-year Japanese class. If you could send a desk copy of that, I would appreciate it.

My mailing address is:
Pamming About
Dept. of Languages, Literatures and Stuff
Random State Univ.
Podunk, NH

Best Regards,

Because, I really did think perhaps she had misunderstood my original request since all the textbooks have almost exactly the same name. Then, I received this reply--

Dear Ms Pamming About,

Thank you for your e-mail.

We regret to inform you that we are able to offer Elementary 1
textbook and workbook for free. We would appreciated
it if you could understand our company's policy.

Once again,we thank you for your interest in our publications.

Yours sincerely,

Don't you just love it? The rep regretfully informs me she can supply me with the books I don't really need, but never actually says she can't/won't send the one I am interested in and then asks me to understand the company's policy, which has really only been alluded to and not ever explicitly stated. I know it's just an extremely Japanese style of communication, but wtf? Is she afraid my feelings will be hurt if she just straight out told me they don't supply desk copies of that title? Every time I run into stuff like this I'm glad all over again that I left Japan and came home.