Monday, May 6, 2013

Tenure! What a long hard trip it's been.

Dress: Papillon; Ring, locket, chain, and bracelets: vintage. (The top bracelet was my paternal grandmother's.)
You may not see as many posts from me for the next several months. In my real life, I'm a college English instructor working on a tri-semester system. My non-teach term has just ended and the summer term has begun so I'll be busy with that. 

I don't work full time but that's because my back won't permit it; it's not like working half time leaves me with all sorts of space to write a blog. Instead, it leaves me with all sorts of space to rest my back, and, believe me, I need it.

About a year ago, I had a party to celebrate finally getting tenure in my job. I thought I'd share some photos from that night with you. (They were taken before I even thought of this blog, so the photos aren't of the best quality.)

(Okay, technically what I achieved at work is not called tenure but, to explain, I'd have to go into a boring explanation of the university and college system in Canada. For brevity, let's call it tenure. It's close enough.)

It was my party so I dressed up 'cause I wanted to. I always want to. Beau's eyes nearly busted out of his head when I came out of a dressing room in this orange, maxi-dress, so I knew I had to get it.

My friends supplied all the food, much of it homemade. Those are tea-pickled eggs in the front. The cake is an amazing Chinese cake with whipped cream icing. A person would have to be brain dead to live in this city and not be influenced by Asian culture. This includes learning to love a lot of the food.


Alex, my surrogate mother-figure grew the flowers in her yard and brought them to me. Very pretty, no?

Collectively, there was more education in my apartment that night than you'd find in most concert halls. So what did we discuss? Grammar, naturally. Specifically, the problematic grammar on the cake, which read: "Charlotte the Best." It was just all wrong.

(And, yes, if you're a grammar freak like I am, you know that I use some incorrect grammar in this blog. It's a conscious choice. I'm aiming for a conversational tone. Trust me, I can write an academic, grammatically excellent essay if I so choose but I doubt I'd have any readers if I wrote that way here.)

Eventually, a correction was decided upon for the cake and my very good friend, Sal, set about putting the necessary changes into motion. These things are important, I tell you! Really and truly, they are!

Do note that the vase for the flowers has changed here. Both vases were presents from Sal, who's even more of a thrift store junkie than I am.

The chappie on the left, who didn't want to be seen in this post, is a former student of mine who's soon off to Harvard or some such fancy-schmancy school. I'll be at his convocation this month.

You really can't imagine what a slog it was for me to get to the place I am today. My childhood was far more than merely difficult and I left home at seventeen, putting myself through my degrees while dealing with the emotional and physical aftermath of that dreadful childhood, and building a resume in writing, editing, and teaching. It was hard! I mean, it was really really hard.

But I love study. The study itself was not the hard part. I love learning. I always have. I love literature and writing. So, it was very hard, but it was also very rewarding.

Then came the building of the career in college teaching. That too had its own challenges, including the inevitable workplace politics that plague everyone I've ever known who's had a job.

Those are my knees and my toes. Most often, this is my view of whatever company I have, as I mostly lie down and rest my back on my divan while they sit in what I must confess is rather spectacular antique furniture.
That's one of my co-workers on the left. He was incredibly supportive of me as I strove to get tenure and I am extremely grateful to him for his help. Recently, both he and his partner, who also teaches in my department, have decided they will teach only part time so that they can pursue their writing careers. I admire them both for that decision. Learn more about their work here and here.

What I did not know about Paul is that he is, in his own words, "something of a cut up and a wag." That's my father on the right, killing himself laughing at one of Paul's jokes. 

I wasn't kidding when I said I was raised by hippies. My father is dressed up here, for him.  

I look exactly like him, except that I have hair on my head and he has hair everywhere but on his head. He actually didn't really raise me as he left when I was very little. In the last five years, we've built something of a relationship of sorts. It was pretty wild to have him at my tenure party as he's been at almost none of my other big life events. We're trying.

Earrings: Birks
This is me and Beau, before he asked me to give him a makeover. He's pretty lovely here but I think he looks even better now.

Somewhat surprisingly, he and my father got along swimmingly. They talked about Big Ideas together, which is my father's favourite thing.

Sal and Beau. Sal and I have been friends for about seventeen years now and I keep meaning to write a post about him. He has amazing fashion sense, and is staggeringly creative, in addition to being an acers music teacher and a very smart chap.

My two parental-ish units: my bio-dad (my real -- as opposed to step or surrogate -- father), and my surrogate mother, Alex. Both are old hippies but of such different types that, contrary to expectation, they have not become fast friends.

I've also been meaning to write a post about Alex and her fashion sense. I will. Some day.

Alex began running a shelter for battered women long before such things really existed. She was a pioneer in that field. She also gave me (and others) shelter several times, starting when I ran away from home at fifteen and continuing through my many brief homeless stints. In fact, I never thought of myself as homeless precisely because I could crash on Alex's floor if I needed to. I wonder if people know how much that means to a kid from a tough past. It means a lot.

She has four sons and no daughters. One of her sons was my high school sweetheart (you can see him here, looking just like a girl), and she always wished I'd marry one of her sons and become her daughter. When it became clear that this wasn't going to happen, we had a little party on my twenty-fifth birthday, making me an official member of her family anyway. She even has my baby picture on her wall, along with those of other waifs she took in when we were young.

This is my father, Paul, and my neighbour, Emmy, who was an absolute rock for me when my back was at its worst. When I became sick on my pain killers and had to quit them, she stayed up all night with me more than once as I struggled with terrible panic attacks brought on by the pain.

She also owns even more books than I do, especially children's books. And she loves cats. Natch. All the good people do. She was with me when I had to put down my twenty year old cat, Morgan.
Behind them, you see my wall of books. It's a pretty glorious thing, eh? With all my gorgeous furniture, friends who first see my place only notice that wall of books. 

It's alphabetized and categorized, naturally. Despite being decidedly counter-culture, my father and I share an almost obsessive love of planning and organization. It saves time. I swear to God it does.

It was a very good night in a very good dress. It has been dubbed, my Tenure Dress and it will feature in another upcoming post.



  1. Looks like a lovely time and you look like a starlet in that dress. God, that cake is making me hungry LOL!
    Don't worry, we'll keep your place in the blogosphere for you until you're able to post again ;-)

    Spashionista (Alicia)

  2. That cake is really great, not too heavy, not too sweet, just right.

    I will be posting, just not as often and maybe with less text. We'll just see how it goes.

  3. You are fascinating. I wish we were neighbors!