Sunday, October 4, 2015

Check-In with Embellishments

Check-In on Last Week's Goals

-stop munching after 11pm: better, not great, but better
-engage in stress-relieving at home: somewhat -- am getting better
-prep and get syllabi to printing by end of the week: got everything to printing and up on Blackboard (to a seriously never-before seen standard) this afternoon.
-roll back sleep slowly until I'm waking up at 6am without undue pain: fits and starts here; I had a day of 5am insomnia and a single day I let myself sleep in until 8:30. Progress, not perfection.
-make some headway on the boxes in the home office: some, yes
-plant elderberry: yes
-make serious plan for the article that is due in two weeks and get major headway made: I made a plan but did not follow it when I realized that working on it was keeping me from focusing on syllabi
-get caught up, somehow, on overwhelming service responsibilities: uh, not really, got one thing scheduled but there's much more to do
-collect and assess Big Project work: no
-figure out Absurdist Child's birthday: yes, almost completely: I'm rockin'

We really rocked here.  We went to the place, scheduled it.  Yesterday we got the invitations and most of the rest of the stuff besides the cupcakes, and Absurdist Child went hogwild and wrote ALL the invitations before dinnertime.  I'm in awe.  Which is good because most of the time he's driving me batty with his toys we need to look up on the internet and his incessant habit of plowing into me physically which I cannot deal with because of this sciatica pain I'm having pretty much most of the time.  Absurdist Lover reminded me that I should go to the doctor.  Ugh.  I'll schedule that tomorrow.

Absurdist Lover is doing amazing things to the house.  Installing ceiling fans (I love ceiling fans so we really are going to have four ceiling fans in the five main rooms of the house!), cleaning things up, getting me to go through things.  Today was the day of hanging things up in Absurdist Child's bedroom.  I also made dinner and then cookies this evening after I was done prepping.  I'm worried about how I'm going to balance all this.  

-The thing that sometimes motivates me to get something done is the stress I feel thinking about it and not doing it. This stress also drains my energy. Modulating emotions and getting things done without really worrying about it is really important.
-I got lots done in some ways, but it was a transition week really. Now it begins.

Habits? I feel like I'm always trying to press forward with a new habit, something I should give up or do. Making habits is exhausting. It takes a lot of energy, all that rushing forward with your shoulders squared to move through anything. Instead I'm trying to move like water. The only way to make it to December is to see a wall, go around. And lots of healthy supports too. That's the habit I'm trying to cultivate -- the habit of doing healthy things, whether it's exercise, or having a tea, or taking a bath. I am hoping to keep myself proactive and stress-relieving as I'm having really painful and annoying sciatica and I'm going to have a very challenging quarter.

This 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!)
-Eat decent food at regular intervals. Plan ahead.
-Stop periodically. Check in. Take a breath. Take another breath.
-Do pilates twice this week.
-Use the relative lull of the early part of this week to pump out that article!
-15 minutes of writing a day is still writing
-Have a book at the ready for moments away
-Chip away at service pile
-Make sure to do the online class with Absurdist Child early in the week and watch Wednesday Nature program.
-Be calm. Nothing is worth killing yourself over.

It begins.  Tomorrow.  The meetings and the BS and the drama, and I will get subsumed in all of it because I really do care about it all and it really does matter because the education of students -- all students -- matters.  But I also need to remember that it doesn't help anything to be anything but be as calm and peaceful as possible. 

Ha!  I'm sort of a troublemaker, so we'll see if I can make that work.  Before tenure, I had limited opportunity for really putting my foot in my mouth.  Now, I have much more expanded opportunity.  I'll try to be calm -- as often as I can remember.

I'm jumping off the edge of not-teaching back into teaching life. . .   Luckily, all of you are there too. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Top Left Quadrant Check-In

Copying over my check-ins seems to be all I can manage lately. I've felt awful and am overwhelmed by the impending beginning of the quarter and the zillions of tasks, at home and work, that I'm supposed to finish before that.  And sciatica.  I'm overwhelmed with sciatica pain.  Pain makes me grumpy.  I know:  profound, isn't it?

So stress relievers that might work for me.  I certainly need stress relievers for work (when I have only an hour break in a 6-hour teaching day) and home (where our high-energy kid runs me ragged though I am LOVING homeschooling with him right now).  Things I can imagine doing:

-coloring books (so glad to see so many other intellectual adults not only doing this but admitting it!  I thought it was only me! By pure happenstance, my coloring books and colored pencils surfaced last night)
-crochet (but crochet is only stress-relieving, as heu mihi noted, when I'm doing something I know how to do well -- I recently started a slouch hat working in the round for the first time, and it was not stress-relieving -- I'm not done but I haven't gone back to it)
-watching shows (I'm on the sixth season of Northern Exposure -- no Fleischman, don't go!  I love your Jewishness!!!), but I seriously need to consider what I'm watching to make sure it's relaxing and how late I'm watching it
-meditation, when I can get myself to do it
-tai chi, as best as I can remember it
-baths (especially good for relieving sciatica, which has been very bad)
-listen to music:  this is probably the big one for work

Report on Last Week's Goals

-work out at least twice this week:  I worked out once and felt pretty good, but then later that night I had terrible terrible chest pains, like I thought I'd had a heart attack, but then later I felt fine
-get draft together of short chapter (which probably breaks down into working on it several times this week):  nope
-prep and write several big emails to get those projects done:  nope
-keep head from exploding by engaging in frequent stress-relieving breaks by. . .???:  my chest exploded instead of my head; I was really grouchy at family this week, granted because of pain, but I need to work on that
-engage in research and reflection on what kinds of stress-relieving breaks would work (saying I'll meditate is fine, but maybe there are better things I like more -- I'm seriously open to ideas!!!!):  sure, let's call reading other people's posts on this as "research"
-compile Big Project drafts so I can take stock of what I got done in the last quarter:  nope
-prep somewhat: this I rocked.  I seriously figured out two out of my three classes, including the new prep

So the big impediment to getting things done last week was my health, which would suggest that I should go to the quack, but. . .I don't wanna.  I better, but I don't wanna.

This Week's Goals

-stop munching after 11pm
-engage in stress-relieving at home
-prep and get syllabi to printing by end of the week
-roll back sleep slowly until I'm waking up at 6am without undue pain
-make some headway on the boxes in the home office
-plant elderberry
-make serious plan for the article that is due in two weeks and get major headway made
-get caught up, somehow, on overwhelming service responsibilities
-collect and assess Big Project work
-figure out Absurdist Child's birthday

This list makes me want to curl back up in bed!  (Can I consider that stress-relieving???)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Top Left Quadrant and Ways to Relieve Stress

Yay!  I didn't miss the entry point for Top Left Quadrant this time!  Fall is seriously crazy, and I can't quite think about it all at once or something in me starts running for the hills, but the structure will, I hope, keep me from going nuts or at least the minimize the time I spend going nuts and maximize the time I spend remembering to keep myself healthy, since health and stress-reduction are really important right now.  (I have until December to try to get healthier to try to avoid taking a medication that I really don't want to because of its side effects.)

So here's my post over there:

The upcoming quarter has a ridiculous number of preps and overfull classes, a number of big service commitments, some research work I really want to get done in a very slow and plodding way, and some health issues that I really must take seriously so exercise and stress reduction are crucial.  Before all that starts, I have a small chapter to write and at least one major home project: making the home office/library more livable by buying bookshelves and unpacking boxes.  Meanwhile I also want to keep up with our family projects -- somehow!  Really just thinking about all I have to get done by the end of the calendar year makes me want to crawl back into bed.  So I have to just keep my head down and keep working, but without stressing myself out because of the health concerns!

So this week's goals:

-work out at least twice this week
-get draft together of short chapter (which probably breaks down into working on it several times this week)
-prep and write several big emails to get those projects done
-keep head from exploding by engaging in frequent stress-relieving breaks by. . .???
-engage in research and reflection on what kinds of stress-relieving breaks would work (saying I'll meditate is fine, but maybe there are better things I like more -- I'm seriously open to ideas!!!!)
-compile Big Project drafts so I can take stock of what I got done in the last quarter
-prep somewhat

What are you favorite ways to relieve stress?  Any ideas for me?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Big Project Planning

It occurs to me that grad school, while it taught me many things well, did not teach me how to approach, plan, and keep up my enthusiasm for a long project.  While the dissertation was, of course, a long project, I didn't take particularly long to work on it -- as in cranking out the actual pages.  I think I began writing real chapters in December or January and was defended by August.  The foundation, though, was laid in work from years previous -- particularly in one class and then in the portfolio that served as my comprehensive exams.  So I didn't exactly know that I was working on the dissertation when I was laying the foundation.  But now I'm a tenured professor, and I've got to be able to plan out my writing work to get done in little drips of time, and I need to be able to articulate a realistic plan for completion for annual review and an application for my pipe dream, a sabbatical.  (It doesn't help that this project is in a less desirable area to my colleagues.)

So I've been thinking about Big Project and how it's particularly difficult to come up with product completion goals for a process that is not step-by-step.  (A colleague and role model of mine recently posted on Facebook that he's been working on a project for seven years.  Seven!  Of course, he's completed and published other work as well in that time, but I tend to work on one project at a time and while I respect the creative process and will follow it wherever it leads, I really can't say that I'm planning to still be working on this project in seven years.  That's not a confidence-builder for a sabbatical application!)

Every time I think about this project as a 3-5 year goal, something in me starts screaming.  No!  I want the writing -- at least the first draft -- done in two years.  It'll take some serious time to revise and there's a colleague I'd love to show it to when it's in a full draft form, and so I'm not dreaming that it'll be substantially complete after the first real complete draft or anything.  If I'm still sending it out in five years, okay.  But I need to get into high gear getting this first draft completed for my own morale, as much as my teaching and service load will allow.

So here are my goals that I think are pretty realistic:

During summer:  ambitious weekly goals so I end up with a serious sheaf of drafted pages by the end of the summer (this is the same goal I've had this summer that I started out quite brightly on but have fallen off of since the family took a stressful trip to Urban Birth City -- oh the drama, oh the jet lag, oh the recovery!  yesterday and the day before I was feeling shvitzy and have been taking naps and stuff and couldn't figure out what was wrong until I turned to Absurdist Lover and mused: last week, we were still in Urban Birth City.  Ah, then it all made sense.  No wonder I've struggled with writing for the last few weeks).  Let's call this total ideal output for summer X.

During the year:  modest monthly goal.  The total output for the "during the year" time is X-1. 

If I can get that done for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, it'll be drafted by the end of 2016-2017.  Then I can spend 2017-2020 revising and sending it out.  Now, if I can get a sabbatical to work on this project, that would transform the six months or so I'd get off into "summer time," shooting my productivity up.  So if I put in a sabbatical application for 2016-2017 (because this year is out already anyway), I'd be able to say that instead of managing X-1 for that "during the year" time, I'd be able to get 2X done.  In short, I'd finish the drafting and be able to get onto the revising.  This would be particularly great because at that point I'm going to have to take a step back and see what all the parts add up to and make decisions about that and do some more focused rewriting, and it would be great to have the time and space to do that. 

I don't know if I can sell that to the sabbatical application committee, but at least it's a plan that makes sense to me.  And I won't be totally depressed if I don't get a sabbatical because I can see that I will get this thing done in a decent amount of time.

It's funny how making these goals makes me feel better, especially during the slog when I really have to focus mostly on teaching.  If I can manage to write a couple times a week, I should be able to more than meet these goals.

But before that, I still have Summer and those ambitious goals.  I'd like to be able to meet my own goals -- as much to be able to report that in my annual review report and sabbatical application as for myself.  So I need to take stock and see how behind I am and what I need to do to make the most of the rest of the quarter.

But perhaps not right now.  I really need to begin working on cleaning out the office, and this is the last week of Absurdist Child's camp.  So I need to get on that as well.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Just so you know, Little Project is actually for a general readership.  If you're interested in learning more, please email me at 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

After Days of Medical Angst, Back to the Garden

So three weeks after the great Nasturtium Planting of 2015, here's what a piece of that bed looks like:

I really do love planting and tending the garden.  I was afraid I wouldn't -- that I would discover I only liked it because I thought I was supposed to like it somehow, or because I had read about it and thought I should but I really do love it.  Partly because beauty is just a balm.  Keats had that right -- "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."  I can just stand and stare at the nasturtiums or the pond or whatever and find myself more peaceful, more calm.  Partly because -- with the exception of this bed full of nasturtiums and spent bulbs and still readying-themselves-for-bloom lilies -- everything I plant is for eating, and I love food.

Though I woke up very late, I ended up doing lots of gardening work.  I planted my second 3 x 8 raised bed with three artichokes and as many onion seedlings as I could fit in staggering up and down (in a 3-2 pattern or a V) at 4 inch intervals).  (First I had to fill the bed with soil, mind you.)  It is really too late to be setting that stuff out, especially as they've been scrunched in near a grow light in the basement for months.  But today's when I could get everything in.  I also weeded the nasturtiums, though the weeds are getting really smart and growing right next to the nasturtiums.  I pulled two nasturtium seedlings up by mistake.  (I ate the leaves.)

I also harvested some shallots that had flopped over.

And I had to cut a few broccoli leaves because they were crowding out their neighbors.  I really don't know what I'm doing with broccoli, but this planting has turned into some kind of broccoli monster.  I tried to upload a picture of the broccoli monster, but it's on its side and I don't know how to get blogger to turn it over.  Grrr.  I also mulched the artichoke-and-onion bed and gave everything a long overdue dose of Neptune's Harvest.  Doesn't that sound like enough to count as a workout?

I've decided just this week to get back into exercising.  A big impetus for this is medical.  So I've been being checked out for X, which has many variations.  The variation I have is most likely is X-2 because I definitely have damage, but X-2 is really only diagnosable when they've totally ruled out X-1 by some tests that are really incredibly inconvenient and expensive -- in short, no one wants to do them.  So my doctor doesn't quite want to say I have X at all, because X-2 is a really weird variation where some of the things that seem to most characterize X are not there with X-2.  In any case, the treatment for X-2 doesn't make any sense as it's the same as X-1, which specifically addresses an aspect of X that X-2 doesn't have.   So my doctor has basically given me an X-1 treatment that makes no sense because my variable-that-in-others-is-high is already really low and there is no reason to further reduce it; I think it's just the difficulty of diagnosing me as positively X-2 and so the idea is why not consider treating it even though she can only say that maybe I have X. In any case, I also have another syndrome that is highly correlated with X-2.  There's very little to suggest that the medication that she's prescribed will address my X-2 at all, and there are side effects that I really don't like.  The doctor gave me three choices, 1) to medicate, 2) to be monitored closely, and 3) to get a second opinion.  A second opinion is astronomical in cost, when I truly believe I have X-2 because I also have another syndrome highly correlated with it along with my definite damage that they've found.  And what causes both?  A vascular disorder that I definitely have most likely caused by my terribly sedentary lifestyle. 

So I've decided to whip myself back into shape and hopefully get rid of both the syndrome and the causes, in my case, of X.  And if this is not what is causing the X?  Well, it's not going to hurt anything for me to stop being some kind of couch potato.  And I'm going back to my doctor in a month so there's plenty of time to get on medication if I need to.  Oh, and of course there's also the possibility that the condition causing both syndromes is actually something else, something much worse.  MS, for example.  I don't care.  I'm not going to worry about it.  No matter what I have or don't have, I'm doing yoga and taking lots of supplements anyway.  Because I have a lot to do this summer, and anything I have or whatever is going to be helped by my exercising and getting thinner.  I'm done with all the medical panic I've had for the last few days, which totally stopped my great mojo where I was really getting things done each day.  Then I was just depressed and barely making it, barely even there.  Forget that.  I'm getting healthy and then we can talk about X and whether I'm really ill or whatever.  Yoga first.  Which is why I'm not going to count gardening as my workout and am going to go do some short form Ashtanga.  Now.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rainy Summer Sunday for the Great Nasturtium Planting

It's pouring here.  A big dark sky and rain.  Rain we can't even see until we look at surface of the pond to see how hard it is. 

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain.  Then it was raining until late morning(?), when I ducked out and celebrated the Great Nasturtium Planting of 2015.  I planted six varieties (about 25 seeds each) in a border:  Tall Trailing Mix and Jewel Mix in the back, where I figure I'll put trellises; Empress of India in tufts where there's really nothing; and Peach Melba, Vesuvius, and Ladybird Nasturtium all in little tufts in the front, because these are the small bushy kind instead of the long lanky vines like the ones in the back.  Since it's raining right now, I guess I really didn't need to soak the seeds overnight.  I hope they all pop right up.  I love nasturtiums and don't get to see them around here. 

Around 5, we all finally went outside, and I cut the spent mesclun mix and the arugula and put them in the composter.  A neat idea:  give Absurdist Child an allowance for turning the composter, which he can easily do, on a daily basis?  Because he's a collector of (Pixar) cars, (Thomas) trains, and (Disney) Planes, he's always chomping at the bit for money or toys, and for the last couple months has been trying to stay up to wish on a star and then wanting to impress the wishing star by doing good deeds (occasionally).  Of course, right now he goes to bed before the sun does, so the whole wishing star thing is pretty tough, not that he goes to sleep.  He's always had a tough time going to sleep, and so far this summer is worse.  Even with blackout curtains, it's hard for him to go to sleep.  Anyway, should I have turning the composter on a daily basis as a chore that he can do to earn money?  I don't like giving kids money for things they should do anyway, and I think everyone should contribute to the "team," but turning the composter seems like something extra enough that he should be able to earn something for it.  What do you think?

Anyway, I got rid of the mesclun mix and the arugula and the sad excuse for radishes and put all that extra soil into the potato barrels.  It was so, so muggy.

It blows my mind how fecund everything is.  You plant a seed, and it comes up.  Yes, I've screwed up some plants, but mostly, they grow.  And grow and grow and grow.  It's amazing.  Where I grew up, it was basically chaparral, almost but not quite a desert.  Scrubby.  And of course near the ocean where some people really had gardens appropriate to the area, you could see how few nutrients got trapped there in that sandy soil, everything moving through it all the time.  Nasturtiums love that.  Here, in the bed, it's packed clay.  In other places, probably near the pond, maybe it's sandy.  But this is not chaparral with the gray-green and brown-green.  Here we have yellow green, spring green, a green so bright it takes you aback, a real pulsing straight green.  It's very different planting in a cleared forest than irrigated chaparral.  It's so easy.  Except, maybe, for the nasturtiums.  We'll see how they do.  They did very well in pots on the balcony at the apartment.  We'll see how they do in this clay.

I did also do some work.  Instead of being able to turn in my Report-I-Always-Turn-In-Late after the quarter is over, I had to get it done a bit earlier because they moved up the date.  But mostly I've been lazy on the work front.  I've gotten student emails and responded to a few, but mostly I need a day off.  And this is it.