Just when Lorna thinks her life in the “Broken House” is stabilizing and she’s getting into the rhythm of mother, researcher/lecturer, imperfect handy-woman, and supportive wife, things just have to change.

Just when I was getting comfortable on this rock, you tell me you're going to put me in a hard place? Aw, come on...

Federal research grants end, unlike the government bodies that fund them. I knew this, but I also knew about hair grant “extensions” and the always popular, “need for further research” new grant applications. Engaging in Wiccan full moon ceremonies to conjure Holding out hope for our chances for a continuation of funds or a new grant didn’t work. I had to find work that would help to pay the ever-increasing nightmarish bills our dream home was bestowing upon us.

In the past, whenever I needed a job, one appeared. Voila! Two full-time, tenure-track sociology teaching positions opened up at about the same time. “Home” was a small town with one state university and one community college. The chances of one (let alone two) sociology positions becoming available were about the same as being hit by lightning twice in the same spot on the same day only ten years apart and having died the first time.

Was this the first time the lightning struck or the second time, ten years later? It doesn't matter, shizzel like that doesn't happen!

I applied for both. My preference the state university faculty position where I was already teaching and doing research. Never having been turned down for a job to which I’d applied, I felt confident that I’d be a  full-time Assistant Professor at the school smart enough and fast enough to snap me up.

The application and interview process proceeded quickest with the state university. During my time teaching there, I had the highest teaching evaluations in the department. I knew every professor well—many of them had been my professors when I attended there as a student. I even knew the Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs with whom I interviewed. I felt sure I would get the job. So much for my feelings. They hired a woman with no prior teaching experience who was from some exotic part of the country, like Peoria, IL.

Yes, that looks like the the woman who got the job instead of me. I'm sure the students loved her affable personality.

This was the only job I applied for and didn’t get. Here’s why:

  1. During the standard Kindly-Take-the-Candidate-Out-for-Lunch-and Sabotage-Her portion of the interview process, someone on the 7-member search committee asked about my son. I chatted light-heartedly about him. I found out later (from one of the dissenters on the committee, the vote being 3-4) that in a paternalistic and illegal committee discussion, they raised a concern about how I could handle the rigors of motherhood and the demands of the job.
  2. At the time, the woman with whom I worked was the only female in the department and she was dusting her male colleagues’ butts by bringing in millions in grant monies. They saw me as “Mini-Her.” The last thing they wanted was another intelligent, motivated, excellent teaching scholar in their department. (Same source, although I doubt they admitted that part openly in the discussion to hire me versus Dr. No Experience.)

I turned my attentions to the community college. The pay was less, but it was a teaching job and that’s what I loved doing. Search committees in academia are curious, large beasts. I don’t know if everyone wanted to examine the new kid on the block before I got to be the new kid, or if they simply didn’t trust each other, but they got half the staff involved in the hiring process. I made it through each gauntlet. Even the janitors liked me. Most of them remembered me.

I hope you don't mind, but we invited a few of our colleagues in on your interview and they all have some questions they'd like to ask you.

The final round of interviews at the end of a very long day was with 15+ faculty from various “Divisions” (not departments—it’s one of the finer distinctions between a community college and a university). No matter the institution of higher learning, most many some faculty have inflated notions of their importance and intelligence. And they love to listen to themselves blather talk. Most Many Some of their questions to me were opportunities to impress themselves the other people in the room. One professor prefaced his question with an oratory about the importance of students coming to class prepared and the perennial problem of them doing the exact opposite. He ended his diatribe monologue question with, “How do you guarantee that students come to your classes prepared?” Please keep in mind two things before I reveal my answer:

  1. I was exhausted from a day of interviewing.
  2. He just told everyone in the room that, in his expert opinion, there is no way to guarantee that students come to class prepared.

I responded, “I agree that your concern is a grave one. I have no idea how to insure students do their assignments. How do you do it?”

I was looking rather haggard and feeling quite devil-may-care by the end of that day.

The room rippled with suppressed amusement. I got the job. I even managed to negotiate my salary up a couple of thousand from the normal starting salary for an Assistant Professor. I was a Ph.D. making $28,000 per year—no pay differential for my degree.

At least I had a job. Things were stable again for a while. Then Chuck decided to switch careers.

Sometimes you know you're in trouble, but you're already way too committed to do much about it.

And the roller-coaster continues…