Thursday, April 26, 2007

Don't Push Me 'cause I'm Close to the Edge.
I'm Tryin' Not to Lose My Head

It's like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under

Asbestos tiles everywhere
Roofers broke ‘em on the ground, I guess they just don’t care.
I can’t take the cons, I can’t take the ploys.
I didn’t see it coming, now I got no choice.

Plumbing still leaking, badly framed walls.
I try and try but still nobody answers my calls.
I want to get the work done but I haven’t gone far.
It’s hard trying to be my own recovery czar.

Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge
I'm trying not to loose my head.
It's like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from goin’ under.

Standing on the sidewalk, looking at the windows,
Why aren’t they the same size? Only the contractor knows.
Am I crazy to want it done right?
Why is that so difficult? Why is that a fight?

Half-assed work, they did it all wrong.
I had to say something and now they’re all gone.
We’ll be back here tomorrow. We’ll fix it up then.
Don’t worry. You can trust us. We’re all good men.

Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge.
I'm trying not to loose my head.
It's like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from goin’ under.

People asking, where’d they go?
Shrug my shoulders. Don’t know.
Take the girl’s money. Fly by night.
Run like roaches when I turn on the light.

He worked at my mother’s. He worked at Renard’s.
I thought he was OK. This lesson’s been hard.
I‘m struggling with my thoughts. I’m trying to quell my fear.
But this is what happens when the workers disappear.

Don't push me, 'cause I'm close to the edge
I'm trying not to loose my head.
It's like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder
How I keep from goin’ under.
I swore this would not happen to me. Details will follow. (And if this motherf#*!er doesn't make some kind of contact with me by the weekend, the details will include his name and any/everything else I know about him and his guys.

Thanks to Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five for the Inspiration. (If I have a favorite rap song, this is it.)

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rational Fears

ThroughThe Fingers
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Yeah, it's been a while and it's time to get caught up. Thanks to you who have commented in the last few posts, expressed concern and prodded me to make an appearance. If it weren't for you, I might just go ahead and disappear.

I have but one legitimate excuse and it only gets me off the hook for a part of my absence. I was without my PowerBook for over a month when its logic board failed. (I spent a lot of that time trying to figure out ways to back it up, since I hadn't done so since I bought it 11 months earlier. (Yes, shame on me.) The other computer is in a very inhospitable location for practical use. I can't tell you how happy bI've been to have the Book back.

The bigger problem, aside from time and feeling like I'm being pulled in too many directions, has been my inability to find something to write about that didn't sound pathetic. Time might not ever be a problem if people would just do their jobs right. I wish I could have back all the time I've spent trying trying to fix these screw-ups. I'm talking about things like billing errors, major errors in payroll deductions, contractor screw-ups and more. There have been far too many of these.

Otherwise, I hoped to be in a place where the unhappy events were past and I could start writing about things in The Grander Scheme. But my life remains focused on the daily Trials and Tribulations of Life with most (but not all) of these centered around finances, the house and trying to deal with the associated fears that dog me regularly. These are rational fears, by the way. I'm not a person predisposed to worry and I'm not very comfortable in this state.

The overriding fear is economic. Way back in the early post-storm days, some of you blog-friends kindly made material or monetary donations to help us out and I promised disclosure on the financial situation, but never got around to it. So, here's the untold story.

Once upon a time, I was married with one kid. There were two incomes. We were comfortable and doing okay. Then it ended. Willie and I split everything up fairly and I bought him out of his share of equity in the house. I was still pretty okay. Then came Rachel. Now, I was a single mother with two kids and one income. And no help with the parenting job. I had a choice to make about how to earn a better living and balance everything without compromising the well-being of my children, which has been and will always be my #1 priority. So, I started graduate school and paid for it with my savings. During that time, Rachel's dad decided to reduce the child support without bothering to warn me or go through the proper legal channels. That was years ago. The cost of everything has gone way up since then. and still, the situation remains unresolved. Considering the fact that it's a matter of interstate enforcement (he lives in Hawaii), any optimism is not practical.

Anyway, in December of 2001 I finished graduate school with a 4.0 GPA and honors. Because of my academic reputation and work history, I was offered the opportunity to teach at UNO. My department chair wanted to start a Music Business program at the university and thought I would be a great candidate to run it. The program was slow to develop but more than once I was offered the possibility of a full-time position as faculty, which meant a better salary with regular benefits and more job security. This prospect, my love for teaching, and the flexible scheduling and single-mother/kid-friendly nature of academic life made me willing to suck it up and scrape by on adjunct pay, all the while watching my savings continue to shrink.

By early 2005, a trend toward fewer classes seemed to be forming, so I agreed to start a clinical research business with a doctor I knew and limit myself to one class per semester. This would have produced a livable income. But then came The Storm, which blew our patient base away and killed the physician's practice and our research business with it. (I ran into him in February and he still hasn't recovered.)

I could find no suitable work in New Orleans when we returned from our exile in Virginia, but there was plenty of work to do at the house, so I immersed myself in it. Any money I could save by doing work myself was as good as money earned. That summer, I was contacted by my department chair and told he would be able to hire me to teach a full load of classes for the academic year, (beginning fall 2006), but still at adjunct pay. This, folks, is full-time work at part-time pay (or less). Adjunct abuse has become an alarmingly frequent practice of universities across the U.S., but in my situation, I figured it was better than nothing, (the N.O. job market has been pretty abysmal), and at least I'd have health insurance. Then, in the middle of last semester, I was informed that my schedule for this spring was being cut to two classes, effectively putting me back at part-time. I was asked to teach one of those as an Internet course. And naturally, of the two classes, it was the one that was least suited to distance learning: Music Marketing. In fact, I felt it was such a disservice to the students to teach this as a web class that I refused to do it, despite the fact that I could use the money. There is no text for this class and so much of what we do depends on live interaction, class discussion, and other such activities. I just couldn't bring myself to do anything less, so I refused to teach it that way. I hoped the Powers That Be would decide the class wasn't worth losing, but with enrollment still down and the persistent budget shortfalls, I guess they were okay with saying adios to it for spring.

So, now I'm teaching only one class and I can't bring myself to tell you what that means in terms of my truly pathetic income. I looked for other work but could only find opportunities for unsuitable 9-5 type jobs, jobs that would severely affect my ability keep things moving smoothly on the home rebuilding front, (a huge challenge under the best of circumstances), not to mention the small issue of the likely death of my spirit. That's not good for anyone, particularly my kids.

In the last month or so, the full-time instructor position has again been dangled in front of me, particularly with the impending departure of my Department Chair and his wife for the Greener Pastures of Texas. Somebody has to take his place as Chair, so there will be one less person teaching in the department. That bodes well for me, but already I'm being set up with expectations of lower than usual pay. I deserve fair pay and have for a long time. I've never behaved like a "typical" adjunct, aside from taking on several classes at the very last moment, (once a week into the semester). I give written assignments and essay questions --things that take a lot of (unpaid) time to grade, I keep adequate office hours to be available to meet students, and I do lots of other things I'm not paid to do, like serve as faculty advisor for independent studies and honors theses, not to mention all the Macs I've set up, fixed, and shown people (faculty and students) how to use. I've been willing to pay my dues all this time and at this point, I feel like I have.

So far, I've gotten verbal affirmations that I will, in fact, be hired as full-time faculty for the coming academic year (beginning fall '07) and have been scheduled for a full load this summer as well, but still have no contract and no indication of pay, a situation attributed to our interim dean's campaign for a permanent appointment. In the meantime, all of my earnings for the semester (and more) have gone to pay my homeowner's and flood insurance and I'm without health insurance once again. I looked at individual plans, but the premiums were almost as much as my monthly pay. I pay rent to my mother and on a storage unit, still pay utilities at my house and a portion of mom's, and still have the usual expenses of feeding and caring for and transporting kids.

I've already spent tens of thousands on the house but you have to look high and low to see the progress (the roof and foundation), and I'm terrified that I won't have enough money to finish the job. But that's another story and I'll post an update on the insurance settlement and the house progress next. I just had to get the big stuff off my chest first.

One day, I swear, I will have happy and mundane things presiding over my life and more time to devote to higher matters. Then I can return to better blogging. It seems like a dim memory, but once upon a time, I really think this blog was a much better read. And speaking of reading, I'm way behind on catching up on what you guys have been posting and when I do read, I find the rigorous task of posting a comment...enter the word verification 3 times before I get it right, preview, edit, correct if necessary, post... is just too laborous for me. I haven't had much time to spend at the computer anyway and when I am here, it's usually to tend to more business than anything else. But I hope to change that soon. I hope you'll still be with me.

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