Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Epic Fails of Crap Mom

And now for a wonderful new feature. . .

The amazing adventures of our latest superhero, Crap Mom!

So Spirited's last piano class was today.  He's missed a couple piano classes already because I, Crap Mom, signed him up for a class in September that is practically impossible:  Saturday at 10am.  I realize normal people don't have a problem getting to a 10am class even when they live 35 minutes away, but I do.  Partly, this is because I teach all day Fridays and am tired and want to sleep in.  Since I want to sleep in anyway, if it looks like snow, which makes me nervous anyway since I'm anxiety-ridden about driving (though getting better), I just don't take him.  See?  Crap Mom.

Well, every normal person realizes that the last class is a recital, right?  Not our Crap Mom.  Because she didn't bother to call even though she is supposed to when missing a class.  So we turned up thinking we were early, but it turned out they were practicing for the recital beginning at 10:30.  Who knows what time they were supposed to get there?  (Not our Crap Mom!)

So he went with his class and I went to the recital hall and sat, sending Husband updates about the whole thing.  (We try to make sure neither of us misses a recital, but I wasn't going to tell him to jump in the car.)  I was a bit weepy when I saw the dancers and the choir (both things I had done for at least three years as a kid -- and that Spirited shows zero interest in).  Then the piano class was up.  Where's Spirited?  Am I not able to recognize my own kid?  Usually I can pick him out of any crowd in an instant.  Where's Spirited?  Is that the entire piano class?  Aren't there two that should be performing?  Maybe they're doing two groups of piano.  Where's my kid?  Is there another group coming out?  No, Strings is up next.  Where's Spirited?  Did he have a meltdown backstage?  While I've never known him to melt down in public (he saves his most dramatic emoting for home, where he can stomp and scream and slam and throw his toys), isn't finding out that you're supposed to be performing and not knowing what you're doing a recurring nightmare for many?  Maybe he freaked out.  Where is he?   

Too worried about what happened to Spirited to care too much that I was being incredibly rude by not watching the rest of the recital, I got up with all my stuff (including the grading that I couldn't get to because I was watching the recital rather than waiting outside his class) and went in search of him.  He was fine, running around in a big room where the kids hung out before they went on stage.  He got playing with a friend of his from another class that he knew from his Montessori school and just didn't pay attention to when he was supposed to be performing.  He was upset and wanted to cry but didn't.  He told me later that this was the worst Saturday of his whole life.  We went to Starbucks for a coffee (for Crap Mom) and pumpkin bread (for Spirited).

Sigh.  Lesson learned:  always call when Spirited misses a class.  It may be fine for me to be lackadaisical about classes I take, but:  Don't fuck up where your kid is concerned.

Note:  While the Epic Fail is what it is, I will say that in the middle of the night my calf seized and I dragged myself out of the bedroom in pain and spent some time on the floor just nursing it.   And sweating profusely to the point that my nightgown was soaked.  (First hot flash?  I'm pretty sure I've been suffering from hormone craziness caused by perimenopause, which explains a lot of different symptoms I've been having in one unified field theory.  I don't know if it's true, but that and maybe hypothyroid and all my symptoms are explained.)  When I got home from Epic Fail piano, I saw that my ankle is swollen and painful.  That made everything harder because I've limped everywhere.  This may explain the weepiness as the hormone storms would.  But the Epic Fail of not calling and finding out what's going on in Spirited's piano class?  That's all mine.

Stay tuned for further adventures of. . .Crap Mom!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016


So it's winter, David Bowie died (I'm so upset about this it's embarrassing), and I'm having a hard time keeping chipper with the new quarter starting and snow and all.  So let's talk about Absurdist Child.

So you know how everyone wants to have gifted, quirky kids?  Yeah, forget that.  Absurdist Child, who I'm renaming Spirited! until he earns a new name, is completely tempermental and OCD.  Absurdist Husband mentioned that since his eggs were hot, maybe he'd like to eat his sausage first.   (Sacrilege!) While I was shaking my head and then holding it in my hands out of Spirited's view, Spirited explained that there was no way he could eat his sausage because he always likes to eat his egg first and that is just what he does.  (He loves to say that "people are different, and I'm X")  He also said "come look -- my egg is in the shape of South America!  Last week, he ate his egg in the shape of the United States, marking out California and Florida each time.  That is super cute.  This is the same kid who does his 30-minutes of PBSKids games and gets really mad at himself when he does not nearly do as well as a time before.  He gets really mad.  And he told me the other day to not bother saying that it's not about how well you do, but whether you're enjoying it and trying.  He said he's just not like that.  (See how my hardwon wisdom falls on the deaf ears?  Dude, it took me 40 YEARS to figure that out.  This is gold.  Yeah, not so much.)

Could someone please tell me how my seven-year old turned into a teenager?

He was completely tempermental with a very low frustration tolerance all of the Fall from Hell, which is what last fall was, though I dare not call it that at the time. (I was trying to cultivate a "good attitude," and trying to get through it without gritting my teeth about it.  I pretty much suck at all that -- I'm not a natural-born grin-and-bear-it person.  I admire it, but I cannot be it.) 

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but in the last weeks since I've been home (though I was working a lot) his reading has absolutely bloomed.  While we had read Magic Treehouse before and he'd read it on his own but wasn't very into it, he suddenly got very into it and is now gobbling them up, especially, naturally, at book time.  But other times too.  Now, a part of this is that I've taken him to the library religiously (really -- I don't go to synagogue or church -- going to the library is the closest to religion I have!) and supported him in his Magic Treehouse acquisitions, but he's doing the reading.  We've gone to the library for ages, though it fell off during the Fall from Hell.  An important facet of his love of Magic Treehouse, I think, is that they have numbers.  He's into anything with numbers, so now he wants to read all of them.  (He's also driven to acquire whole collections, like his racecars.  My goodness, what does this mean?)  He has a list.  He fills in the number when he's acquired the book.  (He's a nutter!)

This morning he told me that it's so sad that half of the rain forests are gone.  (I agreed with that one.  I tried to tell him that this is why it's so important that we know about it, so that we can try to stop the destruction, but do I know what to do about it?)  This evening he came in every few minutes telling me about some horrible fact about tornados and 20 tornadoes a week in Tornado Alley during tornado season.

These gifted kids!  You know, I'd love some help with him.  What do I know about math and number-love, after all?  I love words.  I shrug at numbers.  Wasn't particularly good with math.  Thank goodness for the reading -- I know something about that -- and he reads the Research Guides, so he's learning stuff all the time, which is good because we haven't had official homeschooling since before the holidays. He finished the Life of Fred primary series and is now somewhat into the intermediate series.   What to do with him?  For him?  I'd love for him to do an academic talent search because they give you info on what your child needs, but he gets so frustrated!  The book I have on math giftedness suggests that a kid with a low frustration tolerance should probably wait until 4th grade to do it.  Spirited is in 2nd grade!  What to do with him until then?  He'll be in calculus before I can get my bearings (or learn calculus).  We've also got to get him out into some kind of activity or club, so he can hang out with other kids, preferably likeminded, though as academic as he is, he's not a kid to sit in the corner doing math or reading a book unless he's alone.  

What should we do for MLK Day?  MLK is the only historical figure he really knows and who has been held up as a hero or moral leader.  (Okay, so we've done some things very very right.  He also doesn't watch any violent TV.  I've recently been reading Dr. Spock for the first time and felt great when Dr. Spock warned against violent TV and its dangers.)  We should do something, but what?

Any ideas what to do with these math kids?  These low-frustration tolerance kids?  It's so hard, just like it's hard for me to help him go to sleep, because I have those same challenges!  Absurd!

Monday, January 11, 2016

It's Starting Again

A new quarter. I'm not ready.  I do love my job -- or at least significant aspects of it -- but, my word, I'm not ready. (Syllabi have been revised and everything. I just mean psychologically.)  Even though I love my job, it's so easy for me to look on another quarter with dread.  Too easy. I have a bad attitude, I know.  I also got only a couple days of break when I wasn't grading or writing syllabi or getting some training on important tasks.  The lack of time off is significant.  And how that affects my family is also very significant too.

It's also winter, and something in me looks outside and sees all that snow and is absolutely convinced that the snow is a blanket to snuggle under.  Wake me when the daffodils are up.

I'm already dealing with recalcitrant colleagues not doing their jobs and grumpy-making confrontations-to-come and students who call me "Mrs." and past students who ask me to email them back immediately.  How can I learn to leave it all at work?  How can I learn to leave it all at work when I often work at home as well?  Especially in the winter.  I wonder if blogging or journaling at the end of the work day would be helpful so I can more consciously regroup.

Any advice? 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sleep Is the Cure

So not only was I at the end of my rope on Sunday (yes, I did rouse myself and get myself to grade that stack!  It turned out to be easier than I thought), but by Friday afternoon, I was officially stupid.  At the end of my last class on Friday, I was saying things that made no sense.  These six-hour teaching days leave me shaky and rattled and mentally buzzing and physically exhausted.  It's amazing how much this schedule has really screwed me up.  And then there was the fact that last weekend I was grading grading grading as best I could. 

So I tried to sleep in on Saturday to limited success.  But it was a snowing-all-day kind of day and so we had a fire going in the woodstove and I also made soup and bread for lunch (neither homemade -- I haven't really cooked in forever now) which also set me up for sleepiness, and we ended up watching Christmas movies on the TV, and I dozed on the couch.  This is one of my favorite things -- dozing and listening to familiar movies on the couch.  In fact, when I'm sick, this is all I want to do.  I did this for much of the afternoon, and then in the early evening I felt great and unpacked two book boxes in the office, went through the dry cleaning and set aside some to take in, and made myself a little stack of Big Project books to read.  Then yesterday I woke up and made serious and amazing headway on Tiny Article, graded four projects, and did the bills.  In short, this sleep thing is amazing! 

I often stay up late because I feel cheated without any me time after Absurdist Child goes to sleep.  I get so grumpy without any me time.  So sleep often gets shortchanged.  But of course this is stupid too, because sleep is so important to one's overall health.  I'm often trying to balance sleep and morale.  (Keeping my morale up is a huge effort since I struggle with moodiness and depression and once I start getting moody or depressed I make bad decisions and am not a very good family member.  The family suffers enough when I have PMS.)  But obviously sleep is so necessary.  I know this realization that sleep is so important should change my decisions, but I doubt they will.  At the same time, I'm excited about some more catching-up-with-sleep potential of the long weekend.  I also have tons of work (gradinggradinggrading, service, and scholarship) to do this weekend, which I hope to do in the morning when it bugs my family the least.  And I am totally getting out there and taking care of my garden on Thanksgiving (though it's forecasted to be raining, but I don't care -- the garlic is going in!!!!).

Happy Thanksgiving!  Among the many things I'm thankful for?  The restorative power of sleep! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

At the end of my rope

I'm having a hard time. I've been working hard and grading everyday non-stop, and I was on campus all last week and will be all this upcoming week, and today -- with a big pile of grading that must be done by tomorrow by administrative fiat -- I just can't make myself grade the damn pile.  I'm not ignoring work, by any means.  I've done a zillion other things that needed to be done.  If I did ignore work, perhaps I'd actually be getting myself in balance and feel in better shape.  No. I feel shaky and low.  I'm just having trouble digging into this pile.  I'm just overworked and unable to take any time off, and I hate this.  Just hate this.  I don't have time to mourn Paris or any of the other cities being terrorized.  I don't have time to be with my partner and son.  I've sequestered myself off, and here I am blogging instead of grading. 

Long ago, when I was in grad school and working on my dissertation, I used to waste a lot of time.  I thought of myself, essentially, as lazy.  I still think of myself as lazy, though I now recognize that this is a habit that doesn't have anything to do with reality.  Nowadays I don't waste a lot of time.  I still have trouble with transition points, but this quarter I've just pushed myself to go from one thing to another.  Still there are times I just can't push myself forward, and I recognize that these are times when pushing myself means getting sick.  Today, I recognize I desperately need time off and totally deserve time off and totally will not be getting any time off, and this makes me really really grumpy bitchy, which is not a good way to start a week where I have a ton to do and have meetings with people who I'd like to scream at for not doing their share and letting it all fall on me.

Now, of course, I am playing the victim a bit -- and I need to learn to say no and let things get done poorly or not at all by others.  If I don't learn to say no then I'll be the one doing things poorly or not at all (unusual for me -- but getting things done poorly in order to get them done?  check!).  But I can't say yes from now on because I'm going to get ill and stay ill and it's not worth it.

I have some plans to talk about all this with my chair, but none of that will address this pile in front of me.  I have to remember what a joy it is to read student work.  And I don't have to grade the writing of anything I'm reading, which is also a joy.  But I do have to do it.  And I still feel like shit.  But I am NOT staying up late to get this shit done.  So I better get started.

This helped, sort of. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Check-In with Notes about Needing to Learn How to Relax

So what follows is my check-in this week for Top Left Quadrant, but what I'd like to note here is that I've gotten a cognitive-behavioral workbook on de-stressing and relaxation because I absolutely must take care of my health and this is the way to do it.  (It's a great book because in the first chapters the authors show the clear connections between stress and disease, building in exactly the kind of increased motivation I need.)  It kind of blows my mind that I need a workbook to help me relax.  It seems like an intelligent and learned person shouldn't need something like this, but this just proves that a smart person isn't necessarily smart at everything.  I used to joke that I not only lit my candle at both ends but in the middle for good measure.  I cannot do that anymore.  My various health problems make it abundantly clear that such an approach diminishes my quality of life (because chest pains, sciatica pain, etc. sucks) and will shorten my life.  I have a lot of stuff I still want to do, including see Absurdist Child grow up, write some things, and enjoy life with Absurdist Lover!  So it's really important that I don't get into the stress-to-get-things-done illness cycle.

By the way, the theme of the week is the ideal environment for sleep, so that's where I start.  I know -- riveting stuff, right?  Things will not always be like this.  I will one day be able to blog some of the crap going on around my department.  But just not now.

Oh wow, ideal environment for sleep?  Mostly I have what I need for good sleep -- blackout curtains, a mattress that is a bit firmer than I would like but still good, etc. -- but I need more time.

This week I really noticed that sometimes I stay up late and don't get enough sleep because between the high volume of work and my high-energy kid at home, I feel cheated out of any kind of me-focused time, whether that's escapism (which is purposeful as I desperately need to exit my life and focus elsewhere as the stress mounts) or refilling the creative wellspring.  The wise thing to do might be to remember that it won't always be this way and go to sleep anyway, but on the other hand, I'm learning I really do need that time to de-stress and relax.  A 28-hour day would be ideal, with those 4 hours for extra sleep.  More in line with the limits of the real world, trying to get Absurdist Child to go to sleep earlier might help me get some time for myself.  The other issue is getting Absurdist Child to stay in his own bed instead of coming in every night into ours.  He and I have talked about why he does this, and I think it's just a habit, not borne out of some fear.  So we'll work on it.

Last Week's Goals
-order book on destressing and relaxation:  YES, and it's awesome!
-have some down time every day:  I tried.  Transition time is hard.  I'm working on developing better skills and strategies here, thanks to the above book.
-make sure I get enough sleep and take good care of my health (am going to the doctor today, so I'm working on this!):  balancing sleep with me-time was a key challenge, as noted above
-get to grading asap, but in a reasonable and not totally-stressed out way:  I'm so behind now, it's ridiculous, but I've prioritized not making myself sick
-work a bit on Tiny Article due in Two Weeks in small bits (it would be great if I could sit down and schedule this, but I don't know about that):  starting yesterday, I've begun scheduling 30-min sessions on it in the morning, and WOW it's amazing what can get done in 30 minutes!
-pick a book related to Big Project to be my go-to book so I can feel productive instead of spending my time looking for a book and then reading something I really don't need to read (like a magazine) that doesn't get me anywhere (in terms of feeling productive):  I haven't done this, but I think my go-to book for now is the relaxation and de-stressing book
-try to remember that it won't always be like this:  uh huh
-remember that nothing is worth killing myself over, especially bozo colleagues with antediluvian ideas that are unjust. move like water.:  I got mad a bit this week, though far better than last week, and I got stressed about something, but I turned the stress into a productive work schedule, so some very important things are moving forward, and I'm not stressing about it because the work sessions are scheduled so what is there to stress about?

This is a time when I'm relearning how to get things done.  Before I got tenure, it seemed reasonable to make myself sick over grading, for example.  (I'd rush to get something done, even though I'm perennially behind, and then get sick right after.)  Now tenured but with health problems, this trade-off doesn't suit me anymore.  So I'm rethinking assignments that pose particular challenges for grading, including the assignment that is currently killing me, which is good because I'll be teaching this particular course each quarter this year.  So this is a good time to figure that out. 

Goals for the Upcoming Week

1.  Keep up a decent grading pace, which unfortunately includes the stress of telling my family to leave me alone (repeatedly because 7-year olds just don't get it).
2.  Some kind of relaxation work each day, whether that's escapism (watching shows), working on the relaxation workbook, or tuning in to some kind of creative well-filling activity.  (Making a list of these might help the transition issue, but I don't know I can do that this week.)
3. 30-minutes daily on Tiny Article.  It will get done by Friday.  Yes, it will.  Even after two sessions, it's much better than it was, so don't stress about this.  Don't think about it.  Just do it.
4. Magnesium.  Take it daily.
5. Do leg lifts and crunches while watching shows at night.
6. Continue to prioritize eating at regular intervals for good energy all day long. 
7. Don't expect anything of yourself after long teaching days.
8. Instead of stressing, see what service you can scoot over or enlist help with.  (Had a great conversation with a colleague who is sweetly worried about my health who asked why I don't go and get out of one service commitment that is pretty much languishing.  She's right.)  Don't get involved in big arguments because chest pains suck. 
9. Nothing is worth killing yourself over.  Move like water. --> recite mantra at will.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Check-In with Reflections on What Is "Good Enough"

Good enough. There are lots of things I'm so behind on, it's not good, but I'm trying not to stress about it. Just because there's a giant pile doesn't mean I shouldn't take breaks and have a little me time. I'm doing my best, and that's it. If I overexert myself, I'll get sick and then what?

Last Week's Goals

GET ENOUGH SLEEP!! (sorry, but I'm really really dreadfully stupid about this one. I have some thing in me that wants to stay up and have me time, dammit, me me!): I did better. I discovered I really like sleep, but I forget every night until I hit the pillow.
-Eat decent food at regular intervals. Plan ahead. Tuesday sucked. Friday was better, but I still felt weak at the end of the day.
-Stop periodically. Check in. Take a breath. Take another breath. Yes. Doing as much as someone with ten minutes between two very different classes can. Now I know what the students sometimes have that lost look -- they've just suffered whiplash from one subject to another.
-Do pilates twice this week. No.
-Use the relative lull of the early part of this week to pump out that article! No, but I got it done today. There are all sorts of problems, like I totally didn't follow through on the word count we'd agreed on, which I know is an obnoxious academic problem, but. . .it's good enough. I'm so glad it's done. I have a ton else to do.
-15 minutes of writing a day is still writing: and I did that several days, though it was sometimes hard.
-Have a book at the ready for moments away: yes
-Chip away at service pile: there wasn't much chipping this week, though I did a couple things; the pile still remains, mostly
-Make sure to do the online class with Absurdist Child early in the week and watch Wednesday Nature program.: yes
-Be calm. Nothing is worth killing yourself over. This is my mantra. I really don't want to have any more serious health problems.

This Week's Goals

-Keep calm. Nothing's worth killing yourself over. Move like water.
-15 minutes of writing is still writing.
-Take magnesium supplement 2x a day and see if that makes me feel better.
-Be organized about food and eat and admit when I need a break.
-Be good enough about grading and prep.
-Read more, when possible.