Friday, October 31, 2014

Ponderings on Why I Have Little Motivation to Engage in Primary Field at the Moment

So today, I should be spending the day going to an event in a city within driveable distance related to research in my field, but I'm not going to.  Instead I'm going to do a whole list of other things around the house.  (Halloween snuck up on me!)  I feel a bit bad, but I also know that there are a lot of people excited about this thing (my not going is not screwing anything up or preventing anyone else from going), and that I'm not.  I hate leaving my home and family (though if it were for Secondary Field, I'd probably have left by now, I'm so starved for community around that).  Even though it's research and I realize many people are so motivated and excited about research that it doesn't feel like work to them, to me it feels like work.  It's in an area that I've been interested in for a long time but I don't really know what I would do with it.  So there's that.  There's also that I'm burned out, probably.  Going up for tenure and all that.  I think it's also that I'm excited about Secondary Field (aka One True Beloved Field once, the field I entered graduate school to study and then moved away from during my program) and just not really interested in even neat peripheral-to-my-work goings-on in Primary Field, for the moment.  I was reading Dr. Crazy this morning, and I wondered how much this has to do with the fact that I teach in a service department and therefore have no students in my field, no one who really cares about Primary Field (except a couple colleagues who are the type who would do scholarship in the absence of any support:  they love it) and that is also somewhat disengaging to me.  Left with the question of what I truly love, I love Secondary Field.  I'm trying to engage in it regularly, as in every day.           

The beautiful gift that going up for tenure has given me is the freedom to focus on what I love.  I may never get to Full Professor, but I'll do what I love and live out my dream (which has always been about Secondary Field).  That's enough for me. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

This Week's Top Left Quadrant Check In: with Additional Homeschooling Notes

Is it too crazy for me to try to get in some writing-related work every day in November?  30 minutes?  That would be beautiful, as I haven't been writing this past week barely at all (though I did print things out today, which is the next step in my process).  It's definitely worth a thought. 

Last Week's Goals and How I Fared:

1. Live through it.:  I barely made it but I did -- a zillion student conferences, child's birthday complete with party, and a whole grant-related thing that turned out to be terrific but so so early.   
2. Take super care of self this week, including getting foods that will keep me from eating really bad food. Sleep. Get the best sleep I can.:  Getting the best sleep I could sometimes meant precious little sleep.  I ate terrible food this week, yet still Partner is talking about how thin I'm getting.  (I'm nowhere near thin -- this purely a comparative term, though sweet.) 
3. 3 30-minute sessions with Beloved Field:  No.  No, did not do.  Not even close.
4. Turn in assessment plan and get student papers graded.  I did get these done.

And I also got these major things done, which represent a major move forward:

5.  Went to the dealership and test-drove and put a downpayment on my car, which they have to find.  I'd been putting this off forever.
6.  Took up the black mulch from the front garden bed.  Partner had a brilliant idea of putting the raised garden bed there instead of the back -- and it totally works, though that's a place that is absolutely sun-drenched most of the day with light colors behind it.  I think that the crops that love the warmth will love this place and everything else I can shade with big giant umbrellas like film starlets.  Partner loves the idea too so we can devote more of the back to chickens and blueberries.  And I love the idea of an orchard in this back area we have. I'm about to buy a leaf blower so I can shred our fallen leaves for mulch.  I love it! 

This Coming Week:

1.  Continue gardening momentum.  Pick up leaf blower.  Use leaf blower.  Get wire mesh for bottom of raised bed for garlic.  Get lawn and leaf bags.  Work on the front bulb bed.  Gotta hurry up.  Snow's coming!

2.  Take care of self with good food and good sleep.  This is especially important as I have very achy sciatica.  Take mental discipline seriously.  Be kind to self in mind and body.

3.  Plan workshop early in the week instead of going crazy at the last minute.

4.  Work in as much homeschooling as I can while I'm home several days this week.  Today the little bugger, my darling child, had the audacity to ask for Life of Fred!  After I was so proud of learning my lesson and moving on to Singapore Math!  He says he wants to see if there's a number bigger than vigintillion.  What can I do?  He actually moved forward in both curricula today, but then didn't do his reading or handwriting.  We did, however, start some literature:  Kipling's The Jungle Book.  I can't believe I've been so neglectful of his exposure to literature.  I mean we did read Peter Pan and Stuart Little but that's it.  That ends now.   

5.  Start work on getting Great Class proposed to the Curriculum Committee. 

6.   Do as many 30-minute sessions on Beloved Field as I can.  Maybe I'll do my own version of NaNoWriMo.   

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Early Morning Kvetch and Notes on Homeschooling

Good morning, I think.  I'm so tired.  So I'm teaching a night class which totally messes with me sleep-wise, and I've been meeting with each of my students for the last two weeks.  And then today I have to be on campus at 8:30.  You know, like in the morning.  I just get grumpy when I look up at a clock on campus when I'm already tired and wearily note that though I'm still not able to go home yet, I have to be back in 12 hours.  Anyway, as Winchester said in M*A*S*H about a slightly different hour:  I only recognize on 8:30 per day and this is not it.  But the worst part is 8:30 is not 8:30, it's really 5:30 in sheep's clothing because that's what time I have to wake up to get to campus at 8:30.  All told, this means I've had precious little sleep.  Oy gevalt.  I hate this. 

House projects are continuing, due almost exclusively to Absurdist Partner.  The last few days I seem to specialize, when at home at least, in panic and jibbering.  We've had two frosts, at least, but have I managed to get the raised bed together?  No.  Planted the bulbs (which is a huge project where I have to take out hostas planted on a ridiculous sun-filled southern exposure -- oy, I will never understand that one)?  Of course not.  Nor have I put the composter together, though I did order it, which was on my list.  I think I'm only getting items off my list that I can do on my computer.  Maybe this has something to do with the fact that my left hip aches and I get these pains all the way down my left leg.  I assume it's sciatica, but oh!  it hurts more when it's cold.  I did my favorite workout and did not push it or anything and was so sore, not in my muscles, which felt fine, but in my joints.  I'm old.  What's more, I did not take care of myself when I was young.  Meh.

So we got a late start with homeschooling because of when Absurdist Partner stopped working and all the craziness around here, but start we did.  And Absurdist Child and I would do things, but it never seemed official, never seemed like enough, like I was supposed to provide school for 6 hours.  Then I decided to look to the wisdom of the interwebs about how much "seatwork" a first grader should be doing:  about 1-1/2 hours.  (Absurdist Partner reminded me:  they do a lot of things in school that are not academics, so the focus on at-home academics can be pretty short at this age.)  So it turns out, everything's fine.  And instead of really needing to make sure he covers all these subjects, the important things are these:

  1. Reading:  Especially with his eye problems, reading can be a challenge, something he doesn't jump up and do.  But he needs to practice.  
  2. Writing:  He loves to write lists, but there's always on unlined paper and in full caps.  He needs to work on his handwriting, and we have a great book for this:  Handwriting without Tears, which is especially good for left-handed children.
  3. Math:  We started with Life of Fred, which is this narrative about a five year old professor at KITTENS University.  I find it charming, and they sneak in all sorts of cool info about Archimedes.  But I learned a very important lesson:  just because I'm into it doesn't mean my kid's going to be into it.  AC loves numbers and, crazily, computation, so Life of Fred's narrative style with very few problems was just not really his thing, though he'd do it occasionally because he knew it made me happy.  So when I finally figured all this out, I went researching different math curriculum because I'm a bit concerned that his knowledge is too piecemeal.  (For example, he knows how to carry and, less reliably, how to borrow, but is confounded if you ask him where the tens place is.  He is clearly gifted in math as well as logical reasoning, our little litigator-in-training, and gifted kids often just know things without knowing how they know, but I do want him to be able to answer those kinds of questions.)  I got Singapore Math.  He sailed through the first assessment test, but then had problems with only specific aspects of the second, so we got him the books for 1B, and he's been sailing through it.  Honestly, I think I'm going to let him skip the repetitive stuff.  I can't wait to be able to sit down with him and go through this one particular workbook lesson, but with all this busyness, it hasn't happened yet.  
And then the rest of "school" is following up on his interests and going to nature education classes, which AC loves.  We've been getting lots of books about animals, his current obsession, from the library.  I did start him on some history, and so he wanted a book on Stonehenge.  I do the library trips but I don't often get to do the reading with him; I've never cracked the Stonehenge book since we got it.  And that's a significant source of crankiness at the moment:  this feeling that I'm not at home enough, not connected to the family enough, which makes sense since I just had my long day, when I was gone from 10-10.

It will get better, I tell myself.  And in any case, Dory's always right:  just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

Have a great day, everyone!  And a lovely weekend. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Goals for Keeping Sane This Quarter

So I'm doing Top Left Quadrant this term because I do so much better with constant reflection and planning and accountability.

I just spent the last month pretty jazzed about my renewed engagement with Secondary Field, my original field that I love.  I need to blog about that actually. This is a huge priority for me, though I find it difficult to find time during the day for it.  (But I proved to myself that I really can manage to do a lot at night or even in the morning if motivated.)

So here are the big goals, most of which feel impossible at the moment (but I didn't get enough sleep either):

-Keep up Secondary Field momentum.  How best to do this is something of a question.  (Just do it.  Any old way, some part of me begs.)

-Schedule and be firm about making enough time to properly prep and grade for the intensive classes I have this quarter.  (My family is very home-based, and I plan to be at home more this quarter, but this means doing work at home, which is sometimes very difficult for me to do.  I just need to be firm about it -- not angry and panicked because I'm already too far behind.  This really is my problem rather than the family's problem.)  Next step:  figuring out times when I can regularly schedule work time.

-Stay engaged with my child's homeschooling (though my partner is definitely going to have to pick up on that).  To make that concrete, I'd say that I should make sure to do at least two sessions with him a week or take two classes together per week (which are already on our scheduled actually, though as the weather turns, I imagine we'll want to stay home more).  This should be okay, but since I've never balanced work and homeschooling before, I'm nervous about it.
-Maintain gardening, composting (order that composter!), and holidays/family traditions through the term. 

-Take care of myself:  get enough sleep; eat good vegan food as often as possible (and no going to work with no food!); take supplements; exercise at least twice a week; try to catch up with the doctors, especially the eye doctor -- also find new doctors since the move; consider meditation or use writing as meditation; let loose sometimes (go out for drinks with Mentor).  Take that yoga class already?

-Keep up minimal research in my Primary field enough to not have to go insane right before a conference.  This means getting some reading and some notes done.  Next step:  schedule??  I really only need an hour or so per week for this.  (I want to focus my attention on Secondary Field for a while, which I get to do because I've already turned in my tenure dossier.)

-If possible, write some notes about intensive classes I'm teaching.

This is already really helpful as I think about how to make these ideas and goals concrete.

With the rest of this week?

-Prep for Monday.
-Exercise once between now and Sat.
-Do at least one more homeschooling session between now and Sat.
-Take care of self re: food, etc.
-Do 1/2 hr at least two days between now and Sat.
-Order composter.

And now I have to get up and get myself to work.  But this is good.  After working until midnight last night, I feel much more calm and centered going into my day.  I really want to avoid panic as much as possible this term.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

No-Shampoo Update

I've done the whole baking soda and apple cider vinegar routine twice now.  I don't do it every day but like every third day.  The worst part is combing out my very long hair.  The first time I did the routine, I lost a lot of hair and afterward my hair felt lighter and seemed to dry more quickly.  The second time I lost a lot less hair.  (I have tons of hair -- I have so much hair that when I used to go and get layers I'd give them an extra big tip because it took so freaking long.  Hair dressers across the land have said that I don't have course hair, just so much medium hair.  Suffice it to say, even if I clog up the drain with hair, I still won't notice it on my head.)  It seems backwards to me that putting on the vinegar should feel soft and conditiony to my hair, but it does after the harshness of the baking soda.  (I have not yet managed to make a slurry out of it -- so far, I've just put too much water in.) 

The whole thing is a bit of a pain.  But Absurdist Partner said that my hair has never looked better -- it looks all lustrous and gorgeous, he says.  And I love anytime I can save myself from buying some extra product that I think I need.  So I'll likely continue on this.

The vegan thing is also getting good response from AP, though he's pretty sick of my cooking only vegan things.  He's been calling me "skinny," which I definitely am not.  I can comfortably wear jeans I couldn't put on about 6 weeks ago.  So his calling me "skinny" is very motivating!

I do also feel better in general though I'm fighting off a cold at the moment.  And today was crazy.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when we can relax.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why I Need Soothing Novels

Nicoleandmaggie over at Grumpy Rumblings (the best blogtitle ever) read my mind and asked their readers for ideas for "soothing novels."  I don't know why they are asking for this, but I know why I am interested in this.  The entire world seems to be obsessed with pedophilia, and I need a break.  First, it was this awful Prime Suspect I saw where Ciaran Hinds, who is so fabulous in Persuasion, is this awful man in charge of all these kids and he does awful things to them and he's in league with all these others and it's just terrible.  (I don't usually watch Prime Suspect so I had no context for this, but I know now if someone says they've been transferred to Vice, I need to turn it off.)  There was this one scene with a young man who had lived through it who refused to testify because they'd already ruined his childhood and didn't want them to ruin the rest of his life -- and the guy was a great actor.  He looked so tortured.  I'm a soft touch, but I was haunted by this stuff for ages!  Then I was reading Elizabeth George's Believing the Lie (spoiler alert) which includes among its stories a screwed-up teenage boy who sells himself into pedophilia because he wants to die.  This was me trying to give Elizabeth George another chance after This Body of Death, which included the grisly murder of a baby by children.  I love the Lynley mysteries and think George is a pretty good writer, but did she save the teenage boy before the sodomy?  No, she did not.  Instead, right after.  I don't know what I'm going to do because there is already a new Lynley mystery out.  And I don't think I can give any more of my life to being disturbed and distraught over some fiction meant for entertainment!  And I thought I was safe with Endeavour, but no.  Another pedophilia ring with doctors and others who are entrusted to take care of children and instead are awful.  Just awful.  It's gotten to the point that when I was watching Saving Mr. Banks, the movie about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney, I kept waiting for something awful and inappropriate to happen to Helen, when her beloved father being a terrible alcoholic who dragged his family to the ends of Australia and then died, leaving her with her inept mother, was really bad enough.

I understand that within the context of a murder mystery, which is not exactly focused on the best in human nature, people entrusted to take care of children who violate that trust are perfect villains that the audience will cheer to see dead or caught.  And certainly pedophilia rings are the lowest of the low -- the terrible other in our human imagination.  Yes, I get that.  But I also worry what it means when we unearth this terrible fear we have in service of entertainment.  And as a parent, well, I already want to wrap up my child in bubblewrap.  (Ever see that Simpsons where Homer becomes some child safety guru and changes the swimming pools into jello?  I get that.)  I don't need anything stoking my fear.   

I realize I'm probably alone on this.  What do you expect in murder mysteries anyway?  (I'm glad Miss Marple is back!)  And most people don't watch or read something and then have terrible terrible dreams and loops in their heads that intrude when doing something innocuous like sudoku.  I'm super-sensitive to these kinds of images, and they live on in my head long after the movie's over.  (The Accused screwed me up for a long time. Prince of Tides.  Leaving Las Vegas yucko.  You name it, I probably can't deal with it.  AP wants me to see Natural Born Killers.  Maybe it's a great movie.  Maybe it has terrific themes.  But no.  Just no.  A person I trusted long ago told me I couldn't handle it, and you know what?  It may not be worth the risk.)  This is part of me figuring out my limitations.  I can't just watch movies and enjoy the thrill ride and be done with it when the lights come up.  

So "soothing novels."  I like that.  (Also, a big part of my research and teaching includes reading/teaching about some pretty awful stuff.  So I think I can only deal with the disturbing in that context.)

So:  go over to nicoleandmaggie's and check out the list!  Happy Friday!  Or leave your own suggestions there or here!

(The weather has definitely taken a turn toward the gray and chilly, which is wonderful but it makes me want to stay in all day and think about books when really I have to get AC to his hair appointment.  And today, I promised him and me some Starbucks, which I've been virtuously eschewing in my veganness.  Come on, Earnest!!)        

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Away from Work, I'm Focusing on Homeschooling and DIY Hair

So I don't teach until October, and I've told my chair and others so many times that I'm taking some time off before then that it's clear that I'm the one who really doesn't believe it.  I really need to just put the vacation responder (or whatever they're called) on my email and be out.  I did just hand off a responsibility I've really hated for a while now.  Maybe not the best moment to discharge the duty -- right when my tenure binders are being reviewed -- but I'm delighted anyway.  I do need to prep my fall classes -- the coursepack deadline is absurdly early now that another change has been made for financial reasons at my university.  I haven't decided what I'll do about it.  I know there is another company that could put together a coursepack.  Or should I just place the frigging articles on electronic reserves at the library?  Why shouldn't I do that?  Any opinions?  Obviously, I'm missing something here because I think that might be for the best.  We do coursepacks usually because we want students to have a physical copy to bring to class, right?

Frankly it strains my brain to think of work right now so I'm out of step with most of the academic bloggers I'm reading -- that is, probably, you.  Instead of work, I've been looking a lot at different homeschooling resources around our new town.  I don't want us to spend all our time in the car, but AC is really going to need to see his friends and make new friends.  He already said he missed his old school -- and when I asked whether it was the teachers or the friends, he said the friends.

So now he is with me during the day when most kids are in school.  People we encounter ask him whether he's been to school today, and he's figuring out to say that he homeschools.  But people seem to pick up that he is bright, probably because he is so articulate.  A 20-year teacher took one look at him and said he'd be very advanced.  It's funny to me in these moments when people see me as a homeschooling mom and don't know I'm a professor.  But it seems weird to mention it.  Just like I'm now on these various online groups -- and it seems rude to introduce myself to other homeschooling families as a professor somehow but it's also a big part of who I am and shapes my orientation toward education and what I believe is important to student learning.

Similarly, I feel weird writing this here -- and I rarely say this to other parents, but AC is gifted.  I wish there were another word, I really do, because it doesn't always feel like such a gift.  He's stubborn and smart and articulate.  (I love these things about him, but he is also just exhausting because he is on all the time!)  He loves numbers and is obsessed, I think to an unhealthy level, with the racing cars of the movie Cars.  He memorizes long strings of dialogue and repeats them back to himself and us.  And at time he seems way above himself in understanding, but then he is also confoundingly a five year old and clingy in ways that he probably should've outgrown, showing his asynchronous nature.  He barely eats anything but peanut butter and grilled cheese and various snacks, including popcorn, but knows to refuse anything that's not organic.  Parenting and leading a child to learning (clunky but better than "schooling" with its Foucauldian and hidden curriculum overtones -- I distinctly do not want to "school" my child) who is gifted comes with its own special challenges.  So I'm on a bunch of gifted and homeschool and local groups now.  AC's classes start the week after next, and AP will be home then, so the homeschooling will really start then.  Right now, we only do things on and off.  I'm really encouraging AC to read to me -- he can read, but I think because of his eyes (convergence issues that we hope to address very soon with vision therapy) it's difficult, especially if the font is too small or the words too close together.  He read five pages of Frog and Toad to me, so that's pretty good.  I told him if he did one more page each day that he'd be reading whole stories in no time.  We'll see if he's motivated by that.  And we also did a chapter of Life of Fred, this wonderful story-based math book.  (AC is already advanced in math and loves it.  His math is about two years ahead of his grade.  We just started LOF so it's not at all challenging to him and he is not very interested.  I try to remind him that if we go faster, we'll eventually catch up to his understanding.  It doesn't motivate him much.)  But most of the drama in the house this weekend has to do with AP's amazing handyman abilities, fixing a door, buying me a nozzle thing, doing other stuff, but ultimately not being able to get the kitchen sink back into order after I-have-to-admit-I-don't-really-know some kind of project.

Even this and a beautiful 70-degree day after many hot humid days with no air conditioner did not get me out there to get the weeds out of the garden bed.  I just cannot get up the energy and I can't figure out whether it's physical (I'm taking a bunch of supplements, eating pretty darn well except for portions, and have exercised several times in the last 10 days) or mental (maybe my outlook just sucks and my setpoint is miserable which is why I'm reading The Happiness Project.) 

In any case, I'm going to have to take pictures of these plants that are here and post them for a second opinion because I think they are hostas, but that just can't be because no one would plant hostas in a Southern-facing garden bed with the house right behind it keeping it hot and nothing to block the blazing sun except the occasional summer thunderstorm.  Right?  There are hostas right next to some kind of succulent flowering thing.  I'll have to post that too.  It's very confusing.  My tomato and purple pod bean plants are not doing well.  They are basically just burning up with all the sun.  I've always rented and borrowed shade gardens (except at the apartment, where I had the problem of no way to shield plants from too much light, like here), but now, here I am, on my own land that is basically just flooded with light.  Today I discovered that there are some shady parts of the backyard beyond the pond, but there's still a big sunny area where a number of raised beds could go, all lined with wire because our place is studded with holes, and we've seen a number of whistlepigs (AP's favorite name for groundhogs) just lolling in the grasslands that our lawn has become.  (We're waiting to hear back from the lawn guy I found because we are obviously not going to be able to get a big riding mower this season, and anything else would take an impossible amount of time.)  And we have to think of how to irrigate those raised beds because that's a far way from the house.  What I was thinking of doing is something like having the chicken house back behind the pond and then we could do a rainbarrel or two off the chicken house roof and then we irrigate with that, even using drip irrigation lines, if that will work, since doesn't a rainbarrel work through gravity?  Oh I don't know.  I'll have to learn all about this stuff.  What lovely problems to have.  I'm very lucky.

So I'm thinking that this weird time, when I'm still eating vegan (but not losing weight because while mountains of tortilla chips may be vegan, they are certainly not healthy), is the perfect time to experiment with no-poo.  Y'all know about this, about the arguments against chemicals in shampoo, and the no-shampoo method of washing your hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar?  My hair is so full of muck right now (just residue of this organic shampoo I use) that in a different life, I'd be thinking VO5 Hot Oil Treatment.  Do you remember how messy that was?  In fact, I rarely did the whole VO5 thing -- I remember a bag was involved -- instead I did some other VO5 product that sort of refreshed my hair.  Anyway, whether I go no poo or not, I'm thinking a baking soda and apple cider vinegar wash and rinse would be good for my hair right now.  Something!  Anything!  And I'm so sporting the Jewish frizz 'fro halo in this humidity.  I don't know that baking soda, etc. will do anything about that, but it's worth a shot.  A friend of mine posted a pic of her hair after going no-poo and even on Facebook it looked gorgeous and soft.  Now I'm not one who can just hear baking soda and apple cider vinegar and know exactly what to do, so I'm grateful that there are bloggers who spell everything out, like this one.  But my hair has never been hair that can keep a style for ten minutes much less two days (lucky people out there!), so I also looked at this one and her alternative herbal conditioner that seems heavenly, since I'm often one of those freaky people who don't fit in, especially if it has to do with hair.  (Must be my mongrel background.)

I may engage in this mess-making experiment tomorrow or the next day.  The blog says to have the baking soda in a mug, but then where is the apple cider vinegar when you're washing your head, not hair?  It's fuzzier on that.  My apple cider vinegar from the local organic apple orchard is in the fridge.  Is it still good enough for my hair?  I guess it should be in a small bottle since I'm only to use a couple teaspoons, it seems.  New project.  I will report back.

Rosh Hashanah is coming up, which bends my brain.  I can't find challah anywhere near here, much less a round loaf for the High Holy Days.  Should I bring AC into some kind of celebration?  Rosh Hashanah is not important to me for AC to experience because it's such an adult holiday with its introspection and reflection.  I better get on that actually.  Time has just whooshed by.   Really I'd just like to do Shabbat properly, with a challah and wine in our new house.  At some point.  But pushing to do things for Rosh Hashanah may be too much.  But it totally wasn't even on my radar until I saw a Rosh card in Barnes and Noble (which I'm grateful to see as a minority in these pretty-Christian parts) and then What Now really reminded me.  I will try to keep it in mind.