Friday, August 28, 2009


I love reading other people's to do lists on blogs. I think this is because there is the sense then that I am moving through my day with these other people -- people who are also doing their best to move through their own. It's both similar to reading a novel and not. I love novels because I love being able to spend time with these other people, let them enter my head, think about them when I'm washing dishes, wonder what they would do in my life. But sometimes novels annoy me because they only focus on drama. After a novel with a good protagonist is over, I'm sad -- sad not because I want anything else to happen, I just want to hang out with the character more. I want to go to the store with them, drive down the street, see what they want to do after supper. Bloggy to do lists are like that. I get to see in to someone else's life -- the daily part, the need for a to do list, the inertia -- people don't always show the fight with themselves on the outside.

The strange part is that I haven't been writing any to do lists of my own lately. I do record my achievements on a work log, which is satisfying. I started it partly because I wanted to see how much work I was doing in teaching, research, and service each week; partly I admit I started it because I feel like I don't spend enough time at work. I feel like there is so much work to do -- and I want to do it -- but like Horace I just don't even know if it's possible to do all that work and take care of AB. For a while there, I was staying on campus four days a week from 9-6. And of course I occasionally answer emails from home, but really it's very difficult to do a lot of work at home. It's often a challenge to get a shower on the weekends, much less sustained time to read scholarship or -- crazytalk -- write some. Anyway, having the list of all I've done helps me to feel like I'm not an imposter, though of course I feel like one anyway.

Anyway, I'm thinking of going back to writing to do lists on this here blog. One thing about the blog is that I look at it throughout the day to see if anyone has commented, and I also use the links on the left. I know I should use my calendar better and that some people like google's command center, but somehow I need to be able to write things out and think things out. I have a couple of different journals going in various files: a teaching journal, a research journal. It's ridiculous. The problem with those? I write in them but I don't go back and read them often enough (though the purpose of the teaching journal this time is to write in it and then go back at the end and use it to do some formative assessment for the next time -- since it feels a bit lonely to be teaching right now, I've actually kept it up, which is more than I can say for anything regarding research).

Our provost's words are echoing in my head lately: work on your research everyday. Here's the thing: I totally agree with the Boice method of working on something a tiny bit at a time. I've done it. I believe in it. But I find it works best for active writing, once something is begun or being revised. Once it's definite, once it has an "it" of its own. For me, I'm having trouble getting back into my own work because it's been so long. Some of the arguments I really need to get out are from ages ago -- I thought them up ages ago. And they can be framed a bunch of different ways. I just can't think of the right way to do it. I know I would tell someone else to do it the way that seems the most necessary -- the way people most need to hear it, but I'm so out of touch, it's hard even to go there anymore. The arguments that once seemed so vital? I don't know if they've been hopelessly passed by.

Well, that's all folks. AB just woke up.

***Update, 10 minutes later***

AB, who by this time really deserves a more descriptive name, woke up, ate a little, and is now sleeping a bit fitfully on my lap. Maybe he's in one of those cluster-feeding growth phases. He has been much more clingy (though thank heaven not when I leave in the morning because my heart would break). Maybe it's the dark stormy gray day. Everything is quiet and sleepy -- especially the cat -- in the Absurdist household. How can I even think about getting anything done?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Today was an exasperating day. It was all set up to be a good day, free of some of the work that has plagued me for the last week. I was even kerplunking on the interwebs when dum dum duuuummm, I was reminded that the deadline for a project was staring me in the face. I had thought the work wasn't due for another month -- I really did. I went back into my notes and saw that the due date had been buried -- of course my fault for not having paid more attention, but buried nonetheless. Then I was put in charge of my little end of it, which is kind of cool because I love projects, but I felt like a complete idiot for totally having forgotten about the whole thing, not even knowing what was going on when it was mentioned. Oy vey! I hope I made up for it by getting right on it, but. . .well, we'll see. Way to go, Earnest, starting off that first year right. Sigh.

And then. . .students. What are they thinking? Now, I often have mixed feelings when faculty complain about students, but now really. Sometimes you just have to kvetch. (Partly because Absurdist Lover just can't stand hearing about it anymore.) So what I want to say is students, there are these things called due dates. They are not fuzzy rolling deadlines, but hard definite due dates. When the moment has passed, your paper is late. The late policy is on the syllabus. It's all really very simple. Today, students' special requests and begging for special consideration got so bad that when one student just came up to me and said s/he didn't have hir paper and knew it was late and the late policy applied, I nearly wept with joy for someone who just got it. Part of me thinks that maybe I'm overreacting and this is not a sign of the decline of civilization, but I really do see a difference between these students and students I've taught in the past. Some just have this sense that the rules don't apply to them. (Can you say entitlement?) The worst thing about all this is that most of my students are fine, interesting people who believe in the deadlines and really try to do their work and understand the requirements -- but these others just stand out so much in my head that it's generally dispiriting about the whole enterprise. I have to work on not letting a few rotten apples spoil the bunch for me.

Today was a great example of my exhaustion. I came home and hung out with Absurdist Baby, partly to give AL a break and partly because he's my baby and I love him and want to be with him, and I was okay for a while until after dinner when I basically just kind of passed out. (Absurdist Lover knew it was happening before I did so it's not like AB was in danger of not being watched or anything.) I woke back up and fed the baby some solids and everything, but now, the perfect time to go to bed and try to make up some of that sleep I miss when AB wakes me up at 5am, I'm not that tired and what's more, I don't wanna. This is the hardest thing for me -- not having any time for myself, so I stay up late in order to have some time, then I'm even more exhausted for everything. I think living alone for such a long time and being deeply inside of all that quiet (to the point that it was deafening at times, to mix a metaphor) makes it hard for me now when I'm used to all that quiet alone time but it's really not there to be had. But of course even when I was a kid I needed a lot of alone time. I really don't want to become my mother, but when I was a kid she also used to stay up half the night in order to be alone too.

By the way, before we moved, both our cats had gotten sick and had to be put to sleep. So we've been catless, until recently when a little grey and orangey girlcat was found sleeping inside a hose. It seems now we have a cat. Of course, we really should ask around the neighborhood and mean to, but she so fits in around here that it's hard to even want to. She's been here a week and already knows that she can run the place, stealing my water, jumping into the baby's playpen, and stretching out on the boppy when the baby is eating. For all this, she puts up with AB bopping her in the face and pulling her ears. She's sitting next to me now, purring. Her still happiness can teach me something.

Tomorrow is Friday, people. Woo hoo!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm Back!!!

I can't stand it. I must come back to Absurdist Paradise! I still read blogs and love them. I love the sense of community when I blog. So why I haven't been blogging? One issue is time -- I'm exhausted already, always feeling like I'm doing less than I need to and way more than I can handle. Another issue is that. . .I'm not sure I'll describe it well. . .I haven't felt like I have much of a sense of self to put out into the world. I'm sure part of this is exhaustion. I certainly haven't been writing much of anything else either except what I have to (i.e. teaching stuff). But there's something about not feeling presentable and faking my way through that makes me feel quiet and like I should shut up. Or maybe that's not exactly right either. I don't know. Finally, I'm sure I'll put my foot in my mouth. Just today when I told Absurdist Lover that I wanted to go back to blogging, he said to be careful. Anyone who knows me knows I put my foot in my mouth and don't stop swallowing until I've chomped down to my thigh.

I have to admit that one of the reasons why I want to come back to blogging is terrible and self-serving: today, I read one of my own posts and found myself. . .well, much more entertaining than I am right now. (Okay, so I found my hateful dissertating self frigging hilarious. I can't believe I had all that time to waste all the time. I didn't know then what a luxury it was. But then, it's not a luxury when you're just waiting for it to pass. Now, I'd love a whole day, even a couple hours, when I could just futz and read and not be on baby patrol. Doesn't that make me sound like I'm a terrible mother? I LOVE Absurdist Baby, but man I'd really like some time to rediscover me. I'd like to go to a very nice hotel room and read. . .anything I want!)

Something about blogging helped me to resee my life in a more humorous light all these years. I think I need that now. I mean really -- what's more ridiculous than moving to a new town and starting a tenure-track job with no money, no childcare, no family or friends in the area, and a partner who really doesn't want to be staying at home with Absurdist Baby, despite that Absurdist Baby is also pretty frigging hilarious, but is. We don't go anywhere or see anyone, and we practically don't notice because with the baby we'd never have time to see friends or anything anyway. So I go to work and bust my butt (really, I've never worked quite this hard on teaching and felt like I still wasn't measuring up), respond to and grade papers, meet with students, and generally drive myself insane, then go home exhausted but feeling terrible that Absurdist Lover has been home with the baby so I should take care of the baby -- and then I'm super-exhausted, especially on the days recently when AB just is a terror about going to bed.

Side note: I'm an idiot mother. The only way that AB goes to sleep is by breastfeeding (actually eating, because he sleeps with a bottle, I think, when I'm at work). This is not conducive to getting a baby to go to bed when you want him to. So most of the time, it works and my only real worry is whether I'm going to wake him up on the long trek from the couch to his crib. But if he wakes up and starts to cry, well, I'm a wimp and can't listen to his blood-curdling screams for longer than ten minutes before I go and pick him up and try again. I know AL is always waiting for the day when I'll just let him "cry it out," but maybe I'm reading the wrong books or something, but all of them (okay, the big purple one) says not to let them cry it out -- that this is actually traumatic for them. All I know is listening to AB's blood-curdling screams is traumatic for me. This is what I mean by being an idiot mother.

Okay, back to the subject of blogging: so I started the blog in the other place and got some of you intrigued enough to ask me the password -- but it's too hard. I can't make the transition. I need to be here at the old haunt. Maybe only for a while. Maybe because my life is so different from what it was when I used to blog in earnest (ha ha) that I need to be here to stay in touch with who I was. Of course, I probably have no readers left. But we'll see how it goes. I need an outlet. And I need to talk with y'all who've all been through being a first-year tenure-tracker or want to. I need to hang out with my peeps! Maybe it's just this quarter or maybe it's my department or maybe it's just that teaching swallows everyone alive their first term, but I feel pretty darn alone at work walking back and forth from classroom to bathroom to my little cell. (See? Now doesn't that make it seem more monastic and cozy?) Also, at least right now, there doesn't seem to be much of a culture around talking about the things that interest me, though I am now on a committee and soon will be talking about something. I'm sure it doesn't help that I don't go to lunch in the Cafeteria (too expensive, too many students, too much work to do) and chance upon people from the other departments. Boice would kick my butt. Of course, I also don't get any research work done either -- both Boice and the Provost would bust me on that one. My Chair though told me to expect that teaching would swallow me alive. Oh how it is. I haven't even worked on my Professional Development Plan except in late night fits and starts.

Have I mentioned that the first time I used my breast pump in my office a guy replacing the phone nearly walked in on me? In my locked office? Sigh. But nothing like that has happened since. These are the jewels of my life I need to share. All the ridiculousness, all the puzzles. Two and a half years ago, I decided I was going undercover to record the hilarity and silliness of MLA, which quickly grew into blogging the aggravation of dissertating and developing a network of people whose support and guidance I swear made dissertating much more fun. Now I'm going back undercover to bring you the nitty-gritty of academic life, the implausibility of balance, the hilarity and exasperations of new motherhood. We'll see where we end up.

Thanks for reading.