Friday, December 24, 2010

Parenting at Christmas

I really appreciate everyone's comments on this, but I'm sick of looking at this post, so


Monday, December 20, 2010

Meeting a Deadline

No, this is not yet the self-congratulatory post of having met a deadline. Actually, instead of beating myself up for still working on an article submission on the day it's due, I've decided to be positive -- I will make this deadline. I have before, and I will again today. I worked all day on Friday, despite being sick. I couldn't really get that much done over the weekend, of course. So I have no time to lose in my usual puttering and procrastinating. (I already started toying with template changes, but working to change the blog so I can have a black font will just have to wait for another day. Sorry folks.)

I also have a number of more substantial posts brewing. But I have to focus. I'm writing here what I need to do, because I love that feeling that even though I'm alone in my house, I'm actually working in the context of a lot of other fellow workers. (Yes, I realize that most of you are probably braving the winter roads and overpacked malls to get Christmas shopping done. No, mine is not done, though as usual I'm going to make things for gifts. This year I'm thinking granola.)

So here are the things I have to do to this article:

  1. Print it out. DONE!!!
  2. Read through existing over-long narrative section for main points. DONE!!!
  3. Restructure over-long narrative section by points. DONE!!!
  4. Hope to God this takes off about 500 words. NOPE!!! Still over by about 300 words. GAH!!! Ahh, just found I could rid of an endnote that was incredibly long. It was a good one though. Sigh. Oh well.
  5. Go through the entire piece and see what else can be hacked off. DONE!!!
  6. Write bib.
  7. Update page numbers to second edition of Incredibly Important Main Text. DONE!!!
  8. Read and revise piece for academic language, making sure that none of the freewriting placeholding blab is still there. DONE!!
  9. Format for any weird particularities. DONE!!
  10. Proofread carefully. DONE!!
  11. Submit. DONE!! (By 3:15pm: oh good, just enough time for me to get cracking on this abstract, then run and get Tot)
I also need to write an abstract for a conference today. I have some ideas, but sadly I'm stuck at the "so what? what does this get us?" part.

And I have to get everything done by about 3:45, because I promised the daycare I'd pick him up at 4pm. They have special sign-up holiday hours, and I just hate the idea that some poor young person is going to have to stay late just for me.

While I'm doing this impossible totally doable work, y'all can help me out. What do you get the lead teacher of your daycare? The cute idea I had totally fizzled out. How much do I spend? What kind of thing should it be?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reflections on the Job, Religion, and My Family of Origin

Hi everyone! First, let me just apologize. I know. . .reading a white font sucks, but I just loved this template and color theme. We'll see how it goes. (I kinda wanted something snowier -- to go with the outrageous snowy outside and my new snowy Firefox theme, but this assemblage of greens, well, I likes it!)

Here's something I want to remember: when I feel hurt or upset about something and just want to withdraw, sometimes the best thing I can do is go engage it! Here's why I say so: not only did I talk to my chair about the lack of electives I get to teach this year and get a good result, but I also held an event on campus that I really believed in. It started small, and I had to fight to keep it high-touch and deep rather than let it get industrialized (which might have made more "product," but would not have been a deep experience for participants), but it went better than I expected. A couple students thanked me for having it as they were exiting. Knowing that I brought something to campus that even a few people think is valuable and interesting makes much of the swimming against the tide worthwhile. Lesson learned: doing something I think is valuable makes me feel good. It boosts my morale.

I want to tell you about these realizations I've been having about my family of origin, but in order for all that to make sense, I have to back up and tell you about church. I'm Jewish and naturally skeptical about God. My father is proud of describing himself as someone who actively disbelieves in God. My mother is a seeker, one of those people who has explored religion after religion, converting to Judaism, but then exploring other things after that. I have also explored religious and spiritual traditions, feeling that Taoism makes the most sense, not that I'm good at all at going with the flow, which is pretty literally what Taoism is about. Judaism is also really important to me. I love Jewish culture and traditions. I felt bad this year until I bought a menorah for Chanukah, though I didn't light it each night. I'm proud of my Jewish background and think that there are some things that are fundamentally Jewish. But do I *believe* in the Old Testament G-d as the truth? Nope. Do I even want to *try* to believe in the Old Testament G-d as truth? Not really. I wish I had faith, have always sort of envied people of faith, am fascinated by nuns and monks and Haredi who reject our materialistic and competitive world for better values. But faith in an organized religion doesn't come naturally to me.

On the other hand, I've immersed myself in academic skepticism and found it wanting. Being a critical thinker all the time doesn't make me happy. Believing in only the material world doesn't explain or make room for the sense of awe and wonder which genuinely seems part of our world, at least the more natural parts of it. I believe that humans don't know all there is to know about this world, that just as there's light that we can't see (ultraviolet) and sounds we can't hear (dog whistle), there are energies that are just as real that our hubristic and materialist explanation of things just doesn't include or make room for. I *believe* in this, even while I also think that there are good reasons to believe it. (The history of science, which I was lucky to take as an undergrad, shows a long history of people knowing one thing to be true, then having that knowledge overturned by a new discovery. What this means to me is that while science may ultimately be progressing, we could very well be sitting right in the middle of some big scientific errors that people will laugh about generations hence.)

Since logocentrism doesn't work for me, I've been trying something else. While I grew up with the notion that those "crazy Christians" aren't very smart, many of the Christian students I've met over the years are, and what's more, they're good people with good values who do worthwhile things. Not all of them, of course. I remember some Christian students who tormented themselves and their loved ones with scriptural dogma rather than love and acceptance. Some things, like being anti-masturbation, seem to go against human nature in a way that can be seriously detrimental to all, I think.

But for a variety of reasons -- including my own curiosity and need for community -- Absurdist Family has been exploring a church. And in general it's been good. I love this pastor's sermons. Maybe I'm susceptible to a message that says that even though I'm a total fuck-up, God loves me and thinks I'm okay. Maybe I'm susceptible to such a message because of my fucked-up childhood, where even though unconditional love and acceptance was occasionally said, it was contradicted by action as well as words on a regular basis. But get Christ into the mix with all that dying for my sins and my needing to accept Christ as my lord and savior in order to get into heaven, and I check out. Out the door. But, this pastor doesn't focus on that. He says: if God is with you now, why wouldn't he want to be with you after you're dead. And the truth is, the pastor says, God is with you, with every one of us no matter what our religion. I don't know if I *believe* it, but I can see the use in believing it, in trying to believe that someone who loves me is with me in the dark times, of which there are many because, as we all know, parenting, living, working, trying to live in partnership with others, trying to do the right thing and waiting long enough to figure out what that is without self-destructing, etc. are really fucking hard.

Having written this, I find I think I'm a little crazy. I was greatly confused for a long time when I realized there were religious people in the academy. I thought those people must be a little crazy. And now here I am, a little crazy. But that's okay, I think. I can deal with a contemplative tradition (which I often can't find in the Jewish world, except in places with a high saturation of Jews).

So, jumping into the deep end of the pool, AL and I joined a small group at this church. And the group's focus was (it's over now) on the intersection between emotional and spiritual issues. One week was focused on messages we got from our family of origin. And now we catch up with what I really wanted to say, though I've long wanted to post all this church stuff, since I know many of you are much smarter about religion and church stuff than I am.

Here's something I realized was very true even though it was originally a throw-away comment to AL: I spend too much time and energy on my family of origin and not enough time and energy on the people who love me. I don't mean AL and Tot, who are my life now. But when we were back in Urban City, folks from Grad City sent me two boxes worth of gifts for Tot, even though I'm notoriously bad at remembering other people's showers and birthdays. These people care about me anyway, despite some really seriously faults at showing them how much I care. (Let's not even talk about the fact that I still haven't sent thank you notes, of which I'm deeply ashamed. Though even after two years, I still mean to.)

Instead of making sure to keep in touch with these people, who've obviously forgiven my faults time and time again, I spend a lot of mental energy being disappointed in my family of origin. It's as if they have to take up a certain mental space in my life even though they're not really in my life. I don't want to be disappointed in them. I realize that it's just who they are, but still, the way they are is just no way to be, at least for me. I managed to get very tense right around Tot's birthday, because I was paying attention to who remembered and who didn't. That is my problem. But my father texted me for Tot's birthday. Texted. Nice to know he didn't forget, and of course he sent a present, but he's not interested in seeing what Tot looks like or checking in or anything -- and for his lack of interest in Tot, I just cannot forgive him. I know my father is who he is -- one of those people controlled and overwhelmed by what is in front of him. And we're not. But my son is a treasure and has never borrowed money and not paid it back. He needs a grandpa. And my father is just not it. My father doesn't answer my emails in general and did not respond when I recently sent him a picture of Tot. At least I'm doing what I think is right. My mom is also a piece of work, frankly. Right now, I think she's giving me the silent treatment for reasons I can guess but have not been told. Not only is the behavior just totally ridiculous and infantile, but it's not deserved, if the reason I'm thinking of is the right reason. I know everyone complains about their parents (at least everyone in places like Urban City), but AL affirms that I'm not insane -- these people really are pretty awful. At the small group, we could see very clearly how most other participants really had no basis for comparison (not that I talked about it much, but most talked about their wonderful relationships with their families).

Now I'm staring down my own birthday. I should make sure my phone has plenty of money on it to accept their texts! Okay, that was bitter. But if I want love and acceptance (which is obviously a hole that no person can fill up), my family ain't it. Don't get me wrong -- my family has been good to me at times when I really needed it. But I'm still paying for that time, for those decisions. But there are these people who care about me even from a distance. Surely, I should be spending more time showing them how much I care and less on thinking about how my family of origin sucks. Instead of thinking about how much my family of origin sucks, I should thank God, heaven, or my lucky stars that I'm out from under my family enough to be able to see that they, probably through no meanness, are not good for me. And I need to have the mental discipline enough to turn my focus to things I like and can do something significant about, rather than just getting whatever it is I get out of (playing the victim, which is way too simple) opening myself up to being disappointed by them. That said, I know also that this is something significant I need to mourn -- and I'm going to feel bad about it until I stop feeling bad about it. But I think I need an outlet to explore how deep the rabbit hole goes instead of thinking about it now, when I should be working on an article with a deadline!

By the way, I never got to therapy or yoga. These are goals for January now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

There are so many things I'm grateful for, including that I don't feel as wretched as I did when I wrote my last post. Thanks those of you who responded to my previous post. I'll respond later, but for now I've got a turkey to get in the oven, a wonderful feast to prepare (without getting frustrated or annoyed, I hope), and a lovely little family to enjoy! (We're not going anywhere nor are having people over.)

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, complete, hopefully, with loving warmth and harvest feasts!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Losing the Faith

I had been thinking seriously about folding up the blog because I started it as an academic life blog, and I'm getting to the point where I don't even want to hear about the academy! Perhaps this is just another phase in the life of an academic -- the point where having gotten on the tenure-track and ruined her life with outrageous student loans, one must ask: is this worth it? Maybe this is what the second year of t-t academic life is all about, losing the faith in what we're doing and then, hopefully, finding it again. But I decided to post today because I really need your wisdom -- especially to know if this is a phase and what I can do to make things better. Here are some of the things that have made me lose the faith in what I'm doing in the past few months (hence my bloggy silence):
  • Morale at Specialized University (lookie! I made a pseudonym for my institution -- that is, the one I work in, not the one I should be checked into) is disastrously low. Money issues have been bad there for the past several years, which has made many faculty members cynical and uncooperative. One of the slightly more cooperative ones even proudly declares that he is cynical. Many faculty members are at each other's throats. Faculty and administration are having a face-off, and those who are more vocal about trying to repair this relationship by listening to the other side are considered by many to be "too soft." Since this blog is one space where I can speak back to this unreservedly, I just want to say: these people who think that barking in administration's faces is going to help the situation are total f***ing idiots. There's a lot of sky-is-falling stuff going on at SU, and I know much of the crap is because people are very very scared. (This is the nicest thing I can say about these people.) I'm scared too, especially having moved Absurdist Family across the country.
  • So what usually keeps me engaged in the work despite depressing institutional crap is teaching. But my last quarter was terrible and really instigated this downward spiral. An us-them relationship developed in one of my courses that I was never able to totally repair. (I repaired things with the ringleader, who was pretty reflective about the whole thing eventually, but it was too late.) Everyone has bad classes, but this was really hard for me because of my situation in the institution. Let me explain: this place is a Specialized University -- not in my specialty or anywhere near. While the mission of the university certainly includes what I do and my department, we're really seen as tangential. Most, not all, students are interested in very practical, non-intellectual things. Everyone agrees that what I teach is important, but generally students don't want to take my courses and aren't good at or engaged in what I teach. I knew that when I took the job. Many of us in the academy live with that. Because of the particular mission of the university and the immediate needs of students, the slant on my core courses is not what I value, though I had worked out a workable compromise that was well within the scope of the class. Perhaps more important, one of my core interests includes a focus that many in my department find absolutely essential for these students. Great! But in an assignment that I gave (to a class that did not blow up), it became clear that many students really believe in something that I think is totally wrong. And much of American society agrees with them. Now, of course, this means that I should spend even more time on similar issues and be proud of getting even one student to think more deeply about such things. Here's the crux though: in order to perform this great educational service of working within and against, I must continue to spend a great deal of my life constantly confronting these mistaken values (I was going to say "evils," but then thought maybe these students, faculty, etc. really are that ignorant -- I'm being charitable here). In short, I have to swim in the ick if I want to try to do some good there. And I'm not so sure I can swim (really live so much of my life) in the ick and keep a hold of my sanity and my best self, which is not only important to me, but to being good to my child and my family. (I'm just not able to completely compartmentalize my attitude or life.)
  • Working at the CSA farm with people who've chosen alternative lower-cost and value-based lifestyles, our bad money situation with my terrible credit even in a place where we could buy a house that costs less than our rent if I only had decent credit and a downpayment, and AL's being totally overworked and also screwed by his workplace have all led me to feel that I've screwed up all of our lives with all this debt. So I feel trapped. AL also feels trapped. We each recently confessed a half-hearted hope to be let go at our respective jobs. (And I took out almost $200,000 in student loans for that??? What kind of idiot am I?)
  • The very latest news that brought all of this to a head yesterday was that I found out that a colleague who got hired when I did is teaching three electives in a row. I, on the other hand, am teaching the core courses. So in two years, I will have taught one elective, while s/he will have taught three. (This is the same person who used my syllabus, that issue I wrote about forever ago and then poofed the post, but it's been so long now that I think it doesn't matter.) Why does this bother me? I realize that Colleague's specialties are sexier, more appropriate to the university and desirable to the students than my specialty. That said, I also found out that another colleague is teaching back-to-back electives. While I am teaching none this year. I haven't made a lot of noise about teaching electives lately because I'm trying to be amenable and flexible. Also, I thought that there were basically a limited number of possible elective offerings. Clearly, I am operating from mistaken assumptions. What's disastrous about this whole situation is that I can't quite teach the courses I'd be excited out of my mind to teach because of certain institutional limitations. But one way of restoring my faith in what I'm doing is to teach an elective I'm happy about, since the focus of the core courses is, for me, a compromise. I thought that each of us basically got to teach one elective a year. I was totally and incredibly wrong. So I'm mad at myself and my chair, who I know gave me the impression of a limited amount of elective availability. So my department, which had been a place where I could at least feel that we were all in this working-against-the-grain together, now doesn't feel so good either.
When I told Best Faculty Friend about my loss of faith in what we're doing at SU and how I want to retire from all the crap and go live on a farm, s/he said that I'm too engaged with political stuff to do that. But I'm not so sure. I would love to homeschool Absurdist Tot far away from any place that brings TV or computers into the elementary school classroom. AL says he wants to spend more time with Absurdist Tot and me, but he feels he's always at work, preparing for work, trying to relax after work. He's actually great, as much as someone who works a full-time job he hates can be. My father sucked at engaging with us kids at the end of his long sucky workday.

I haven't told BFF about this latest development of my totally misunderstanding elective availability, but I'm sure I will very soon. I'll see what s/he thinks.

So, supposing you've actually made it down this far, what do you think? How do you find the faith again in what you're doing? I don't want to poison my classes or my work or my life with all this. I want to find a constructive thing to focus on. BFF gave me a good idea for revising one of my core courses to focus on one of my interests, so at least I'd be reading things I'm interested in. (I don't usually "theme" my courses beyond the subject matter, but I'm excited about what I'll be able to accomplish by theming this one. And I need something to make me excited about these classes, so being this tiny bit selfish seems much better than what could happen if I don't try to reinvigorate the work for me.) I trust that many of you have been through these kinds of things before me -- I'd love some advice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fantasy Life

So the CSA and the farmer's market both ended last week, leaving me only to copious fantasizing about farming. Now I realize that farming is not an easy life, but right now I'm dreaming of being supported modestly with farming-related work, writing, and AL's business, which he's been wanting to start up in earnest for a while now. Sigh.

So what I'm dreaming of is having a limited-menu restaurant or maybe an agro-tourism bed-and-breakfast. There's a lot of fabulous local food here. It's just that a lot of people don't know where to go or are more interested in going to cholesterol huts than farms. So a restaurant that features local organic food would make this area's bounty accessible to those with more money than time. Really this comes from the fact that every time I make a meal, AL says I should open a restaurant. I've tried to tell him that when you've got wonderful fresh ingredients, you really can't go wrong. But he thinks it's me. Sweetheart.

Realistically, I'm probably better off trying to start a home bakery, since that's what I seem to be good at. (We won't talk about my failed canning attempt yesterday. We'll be eating some tomato sauce in the coming days.) But I love the idea of a restaurant, maybe on someone else's farm or orchard that already regularly brings people in. Here are a couple things that would definitely be on the menu based on family reactions: potato leek soup (hot, so it's not really Vichyssoise), banana bread, zucchini bread, omelettes. I'm going to work on a carrot cake this week because it's Tot's second birthday on Friday, if you can believe it! I'd also have lots of sausage and pork products on the menu because I know several sources of really fabulous sausage, bacon, and ham. Like phenomenal food that would bring all but the super-kosher back to the pig. And of course everything would be organic -- if not officially certified, then at least small o organic supervised by yours truly.

Imagine going into a restaurant -- not a really expensive one or ooh la la one -- and being able to be told about every piece of food -- and knowing that each thing is organic and sustainably grown/raised. I want to go there, which is how I know it's at least a decent idea because those of us who are really into organic and local food know that once you turn your back on CAFO meat, you really limit your take-out and dining options. This place would also have to be extremely kid friendly. I do know of a restaurant that was all or mostly organic that went belly up, but it didn't market itself well, I think. It was too specialized. The trick would be that my eaterie would need to have pretty ordinary food at ordinary prices because most people are going to be used to going to Applebees and in order to stay in business I'd have to rope those people in unless it was located on a farm.

Realistically, I might start developing organic baked good recipes in earnest. A new bakery just started up and they're really good so I wouldn't bother except that when I asked about organic, the baker said that he's really going more in the direction of gluten-free. Of course this is important. But my hook would be that everything is organic. Always. All the time.

Even more realistically, AL and I hope to buy a house and have a big garden and that will be the end of it. But even that's just fantasy right now. But if you like the restaurant or baked goods idea, let me know. I'm reading this great book called You Can Farm by Joel Salatin and he talks about a home bakery as a viable farming centerpiece enterprise. So who knows?

There are other things going on in my life, but this one is absolutely the most fun.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life. . .I Wish

Today it's easy to remember why I love being an academic. Because at 11am, I was crossing my apartment complex to go talk to the central command rather than working. (I'm not trying to be annoying to all of you who are teaching right now -- I worked through the summer myself, so while you guys were going on vacation and doing fun things, I was slogging away teaching. Now it's my turn for a little R & R.)

It's noon now, and I've taken Tot to daycare, filled out a permission slip (my first mom permission slip!), went to buy canning supplies, bought bulbs and a bulb-planter, and gotten one of those food mills because I refuse to shell out big bucks for a food processor when I might still have one in storage. I paid the rent and the storage.

Instead of giving myself a week off, which I fear might cause a slide into the slough of despond, I have this wonderful list and all these things to do. Right now, I'm running the jars (why is it called canning and not jarring?) as well as my brand-new stew pot in the dishwasher. So I need to begin my new plan of working on scholarship and creative work. I'm not going to go crazy and drive myself too hard, of course. But I am going to get to work. How exciting! And there are all these apples that need to be cored and softened into applesauce and then "put up." (Really I want to make apple butter for Christmas gifts this year, but I think I don't have enough apples for the recipe. Also there was a terrible late spring freeze that really ruined a lot of the fruit crops in my area, so my wonderful apple orchard is sparse in their offerings -- to say nothing of the astronomical price of Honeycrisps. Mostly I got Galas, which are supposed to be wonderful for applesauce. We'll see how it goes.)

That's really all. I'm working on an article I'm determined to be done with by the end of the calendar year, and I want to make significant strides on a project that has long since been stagnant. There is also work stuff to do: committees and pet projects. But I don't want to deal with that today. Better get to work before I blog the day away.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hello Fall!

So I'm back, or almost back. I've turned in most of my grades. And for unbloggable reasons, I'm not teaching during the fall quarter. So I've already, tonight, a mere hour after I turned my grades in electronically, made lists and lists of what I want to accomplish in the next three months.

I've been very burned out -- at least on teaching and service. I had a crap class. The other class was new to me, the first time I taught it. I had some great students in there, and it went decently. But with the article I was writing and the annual report early in the quarter, I got behind on things and never really caught up. These students were really great about it. But the situation also made me feel like crap, even as I was taking mental health days.

Perhaps it was just that I starting settling into my second year -- a colleague noted a slump in hir own second year. Or maybe it was my grandfather dying and all that and not having the time to deal with it. There were a bunch of other things too that made me disengage from work: the fact that morale is so low there right now that paranoia and cynicism are prevalent; crap teaching; disheartening service; Absurdist Tot developments; and a growing love of all things gardening to the point that I really wanted to be gardening or cooking all the time and suspecting that I'd chosen the wrong path for my life and now I'm stuck with all these student loans and no way to go and live simply and close to the earth somewhere.

Interestingly, I have an insane list of things I want to get done in these three months, but even though there is an intimidating number of items, I feel tired (now) but excited to be able to focus finally on those things. I'm planning to spend a certain decent amount of time each week on scholarship and creative work. And then there are, unfortunately, even now some service things I need to do. Usually I don't mind service -- am even excited to be part of something larger than myself -- but when I think of doing these things, the wind immediately sucks out of my sails. But what is noteworthy here is that I'm not burned out on my scholarship and creative work. That's good. That means that I probably did not make the wrong choice of career.

I've been sort of haphazardly reading blogs, sometimes preferring not to read academic blogs because I'm burned out on academia. I just don't even want to hear about teaching or students or dumb colleagues sometimes. Because I just don't want to spend my personal time on hearing about the academy, I've been checking my favorite blogs less often instead preferring to read about homesteading and small farming blogs, learn more about FarmAid and Because of all this, I'm wondering about whether Absurdist Paradise should morph to reflect these new interests. Partly I'm thinking that the blog has to change or else soon I'm going to feel disengaged from it because it represents only a part of my life. This wouldn't be so bad but I feel sort of weirdly closeted at work because I can't talk about my current passions, so I think if I did that here that I would soon disengage from the blog too. So there'll either be more food and farming talk more here at AP or the blog I started for that several months back will become more important. I don't know yet. Y'all could weigh in on your preferences.

So that's what's going on here on Absurdist Paradise Farm. (Oh wouldn't that be awesome!) Glad to be back, neighbor.

Monday, September 13, 2010

There will be a lull in our lull. . .

I just realized in reading others' blogs how much I appreciate it when people tell me that there's going to be light blogging, so: readers, there's going to be light to no blogging for the next two weeks. (I'm so ornery or my life is so unpredictable -- I'm not sure which -- that having said this I'll probably start blogging like mad.)

In a nutshell, I've been in the professional funk that I mentioned last time for the last few weeks and have now just got to buckle down and get some stuff done. I'm also wondering what this blog is now for related reasons, though maybe that will pass when I have some time to reflect on funkitude.

Thanks for visiting, and I'll have something new to say soon. Meanwhile, happy fall!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Owning Up and Trying to Have a Sense of Humor

I'm so behind. SO behind. I still haven't gotten things back on track since Tot and I were sick. Then last week I had one of those funk days where I got a number of good things done, but I didn't make great headway on the things that are really behind. I'm just hanging on until this is all over, so I can focus for a while on an old (creative) project that I'm all excited about again. But first I have to slog my way through to the end, starting with catching up on things I'm having a hard enough time getting myself to do already.

Now, this morning Tot is sneezing and sniffling. And I've already had a minor freak out. This is not a great way to start out the week!

My emotions were also running high yesterday. I hate apologizing for being a bitch. But I certainly was. I'm pretty sure it's that I'm excited about this new-again project, but I have no time to work on it. My home life is almost completely Tot-care. Tot is not the kind of kid who can be held on my lap while I work. In fact, if the laptop is out, he wants to plunk on it. If we're not paying enough attention to him, he starts running around the house screaming. So I can't get work done here, whether teaching, scholarly, creative -- you name it. The only thing I can do is cook, and then only if Absurdist Lover watches him. The trouble is we both have our agendas for the day and have to compromise. I was definitely not a good compromiser this weekend. In fact, I pretty much sucked at being a decent adult, at least yesterday. But I did make a pretty fabulous zucchini bread, my first. Not that zucchini bread makes anything okay, but it certainly makes for a nicer breakfast.

Now, I'm going to pull myself together and try to be a calm mom and academic with a big supply of humor. Is anything so bad that it's really worth freaking out about? This is just the natural absurdity of our lives. If I just look at it right, I know it's super-funny.

Everyone: have a great week full of focus, self-knowledge and -control, and lovely things going right!

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Cooking (Finally!)

So cooking is now my main creative outlet (though I'm also trying to coax myself into writing again). I love it. I had forgotten how much I loved it. In the past I've gone through periods of being really into cooking, and then sort of falling away from it. But right now the loads of fresh gorgeous vegetables that we get from working at the CSA and the fact that we now get ALL of our meat from local and organic sources means that I must cook. All that good food deserves good care. So lately I've learned how to cook kale in garlic and onion (everything tastes good with garlic and onion -- that is my kitchen motto). I also stuffed a zucchini really vying for baseball bat. I make a lot of small organic burgers, like my grandmother used to make though she wasn't American at all. I made pizza with homemade pizza dough, though it had too much whole wheat flour and AL wasn't a big fan of that. I've also made two rounds of pasta sauce starting with these amazing heirloom tomatoes from the farm. Then there are the sausages we get from the farmer's market. Tot loves ground meat, so he eats sweet Italian sausage and brats and burgers. If only I could get him to eat some fresh veggies! (Though he eats some root veggies he really loves from jars -- organic, of course.)

In addition to figuring out kale, which isn't a big hit in my house (the kale chips went over with Tot like a lead balloon), I've made homemade coleslaw (also not a big hit with anyone but me), cooked beets for the first time (oh my! delish!), made tomatillo salsa, and figured out a sure-fire garlic and onion green bean recipe that AL loves. (Made it with bacon yesterday -- and he was totally overthetop happy.) I also have a broiled zucchini recipe AL loves.

And then there are the omelettes I make when I'm tired and want to make something fast.

AL has sort of despaired of ever eating takeout again, but I don't want to eat CAFO meat (which means eating fish or vegetarian, which is fine) and I want to support Tot's growing interest in eating whatever we're eating. I want Tot to eat mostly organic foods and definitely not CAFO meat since a kid DIED from eating a fast-food hamburger. (How can we live in a country where the government does NOT have the power to recall bad meat? Or to notify citizens of where it came from? How come it's more important to protect the good names of cows (okay, some of these laws probably cover more than just beef -- or not even beef) and CAFOs and the four main meat processors and stock prices than it is to protect citizens? Government by the people for the people? I think not. More like government by the people with money for the people with money. Why aren't we outraged? Why aren't we rebelling against our corporate-driven government? Do we expect that someday we too will have the money to shape policy? I think we're so disgusted we've opted out. AL and I want to move to Europe. You know, no country quite has CAFOs like we do. And many countries in Europe have outlawed GMOs while we have them rampant all over our food and can't even get a law forcing companies to LABEL their products! What is wrong with us???) So takeout is not a great option, though we did get pizza over the weekend.

I also taught myself how to make cheesecake, which has nothing to do with organic or healthy anything, though I'd really like to teach myself to make cream cheese so I can be sure that it's rBGH free. (By the way, did y'all see that Haagen-Dazs has not gone rBGH-free? I bet they use the same arguments that so many others use, that "the market" simply won't allow them to make a commitment to using milk products that don't increase the likelihood of cancer. The fact is it's totally possible to get rid of rBGH completely. Other countries have banned its use, leaving the good old US of A as the only industrialized nation that permits its use. But it's bad for cows and people. But guess who developed rBGH and sold it to a division of Eli Lilly? Yes, one of the most powerful transnational corporations in the world. Yes, the one that seems to care WAY more about their own profits than the health of any of us. If Haagen-Dazs won't figure out how to get off the Monsanto dole, well, they don't deserve my money. Goodbye Haagen-Dazs coffee and chocolate chocolate chip! I'll eat Ben and Jerry's!)

What else have I been making? I can't remember. I think I'll go and cook up some beets.

I Wanted to Write about Cooking, but This is What Came Out

So while many of my academic friends are starting their semesters or gearing up to start them, I'm waist-deep in my summer quarter and taking the day off because I'm sick.

I've been thinking a lot about how I grew up -- or specific shaping experiences from my childhood -- and how they affect me now, how they color my view of the world. And I'm thinking that they do. I see possible menace around most corners. Sometimes it seems amazing to me that people don't kick in locked doors and smash through glass much more often than they do. I guess some part of me doesn't really believe in safety or security. Many of my dreams are about being chased or found -- or acquiescing to some terrible more powerful person in order to live through it. (I guess that sums up some aspects of my childhood pretty well.) I also have a terrible temper, a really low threshold for frustration.

I've explored all this -- written about it, talked about it, addressed it. I was in therapy once, though I think we focused on other things, and it seems like therapy is probably the next step now, but I also had a bad therapy experience. (Don't get me started about therapists I've known from the way past and the problems I can see with therapy.) My former therapist said I had a lot of stuff that was right on the surface. If the point is to talk this stuff out in order to get it out of my subconscious, well, I've done that. I know at least some of the ways in which this childhood stuff colors my life. But what do I do about that, dammit? I want practical strategies, not to just talk about it all the time. I told this to my former therapist, but I think developing practical cognitive strategies wasn't really his strong point. Of course, he also wanted me to go get diagnosed and medicated as manic depressive. I will admit that I feel like I've spent a fair amount of my life trying to cope with fluctuating moods, but not in a manic depressive way. More of a turbulent way. (Super rapid cycling?) A friend of mine said it really well. What did she say? She said I was. . .unpredictable? Something like that. Well, if you think it's hard to predict how I'm going to respond when you're a different person, imagine how much harder it is to live inside that? I try for self-awareness, growth, self-acceptance, but there's a lot going on in here. I often don't know what's going on! It's not that I'm deliberately emotionally dishonest, but I've got a lot of conflicting emotions, some that are elusive even to me! I'm trying to be more mindful. And Tot definitely deserves someone more in control. I certainly don't want to recycle that particular childhood with different players. AL says that a good therapist would help me to see it differently, would ask me different kinds of questions that would help me see it in a different way. It's hard for me to imagine that there's territory I haven't explored, read about, written about, talked to other people about, etc., but I guess that's when you go to therapy. So that is likely coming up in the coming months.

I also really have an aversion to some of the discourse around childhood experiences like mine. The victim discourse. The overuse of the word "abuse." I do understand when people say "I'm this way because this happened to me when I was a kid and I'm still dealing with it" but I don't like to do that. I guess I really want to pass as normal in some ways. I know I'm not. But I don't want people to look at me as some maladjusted misfit either playing the victim card. Yes, I have the credibility to play that card. But I like being able to pass. I really don't want to blame my present lot on my childhood -- that was a long time ago and I'm an adult. But I can see the ways all this fear and crap self-esteem sort of lowers the horizon of my expectations. Sometimes life seems so bleak. (On the other hand, there are great gifts of all this too. I think I understand better when people living under political oppression say that they wonder if every car they hear is for them, if soldiers or whoever are going to break in and drag them out from their beds. How do people live with that, most Americans wonder? You just do, I want to say. You can't help yourself. You live with it, around it, under it. You get used to it, even as it weighs on you, even as you wonder if your kids will make it home from school. You half-expect something to blow up between here and every there you go to.)

But why does all of this lead to crap self-esteem even eons hence? I know I didn't deserve those experiences. I really do know. I know the circumstances and life histories that led to those experiences. I've done work on forgiving the people involved. I can conjure up anger at them if I want. But it does me no good except that anger is a firey emotion and is not as debilitating as grief. But it's all so stupid. Of course, having a child has brought all this up. I wanted to be better by the time I had a kid. I get so mad -- and at what? The fact that being a toddler, he has different priorities. He doesn't understand the importance of getting out the door right now before the cat scrambles out. Or that he can't have his way all the time. Ridiculous. He's a child. He needs love and discipline, not a mom who flashes red because of stupid things. I really do think a part of this is that I feel so worn down that those flashes of anger are also flashes of energy. I need to work out, which is the only thing that I've decided I really must do today, even in the face of a bunch of work that should get done but which is not compatible with the relaxing and recuperating taking a sick day ought to involve.

Why is all this on the surface and why do I feel compelled to share it? Well, I saw a website that advertises parent coaching. It might good. It might be totally inspired. I don't know. But it basically said that when I lose my cool, this reflects on my maturity level. Parenting is about the parents. And while I totally agree with this, reflecting on it in the moment only contributes to my feeling terrible about myself, something I'm trying to work on. I'm actively trying to have a better outlook and not indulge in the ridiculous self-fulfilling self-talk that I'm undeserving and undisciplined and nothing good is ever going to happen for me (a line of logic that my lived life already proves false, but these things aren't logical). Somehow saying to myself that I've got problems or that I'm not good at controlling my temper means that I'm a totally terrible person, rather than a person with an important flaw that I'm working on. So I'm not that mature. Okay, I can live with that. But is parenting really all about the parents? Is this discourse really about blaming parents for all that happens with kids, when that's really just not fair at all? (I'm not linking to these websites because I don't feel I'm representing them fairly or accurately. I haven't participated in their programs, so I can't really say. But I wonder if I would want to participate in their programs or if this is just another way to make parents feel bad or what?)

Why post this on my blog? To own it? To come out? I don't know exactly. I'm writing it because though I really want to write about other things, this is what's come out. But that doesn't explain publishing it. Hmmm. I guess I'm pressing publish because I need to connect with others, share, be heard and listen to what others have to say. Your turn.


I feel flipping fantastic! Worth 50 mg of Zoloft my friends. Surely if I worked out regularly, my frustration would just melt away. So much of my life is good. Blessed, really. Thank you, Legs of Steel 2000!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Quick Grumble

I've got HFMD now. I should've realized it was inevitable; Tot would likely have not shown symptoms if I'd be immune. It's not so bad. Mostly the blisters are just painful to the touch, as if I've got splinters or something inside my skin. I was having some other trouble anyway, so now I just feel pretty diseased all over. It took Tot forever to finally go to sleep. Absurdist Lover went to bed hours ago. I should go to bed and get some sleep before Tot wakes up and wants to be brought to bed. I always do better if I get to sleep and get some sleep before he comes to bed. What a great start to the weekend.

I've been trying to be more mindful of what goes in and out of my head, so I won't vomit grumbles though it's really tempting (but will it make me feel better?). I wish to spend at least part of my day on things that make me feel better. The interesting thing about having to stop like this mid-quarter is that I've been thinking a lot about creative work. It's nice.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grumpy Tot, Grumpy Mom. . .Not?

So guess who was at the farm today when she got a phone call from the daycare saying that Tot has blisters showing up on his hands and feet? As in Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.

That's right! Me!

So despite that there is a local conference I've been looking forward to for months, I'm looking squarely at least a week of full-time Earnest-as-Supermom Totcare. I wonder how many times one can watch Follow that Bird before one becomes stark raving mad? I've been reading Amanda Cross mysteries (thank you, Ink, if you're out there, but what happened to that Professorroman link?), and finishing the last one I thought maybe I'd try to read some inspiring creative work or something on anger, but clearly I need to get over to the used bookstore immediately because I'm going to need to read something soothing after hard consoling-Tot days.

He's in his crib now crying because he threw toys when I said not to and that's his punishment. Dear lord. I feel like a terrible mom. Maybe the next week will be fun. Right? Any ideas of consoling things to do since we can't go to the park? Sigh.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

At Long Last! Finished for Now

So I've been in article-writing mode for the last three weeks. Blogs haven't been read, emails haven't been returned. Obviously, I haven't been writing here either. I finished and turned the article in last night. It's not very good -- and I don't mean that just in the usual self-effacing way. I've got to figure out a new way of approaching an article so that I'm doing more of my own writing and less picking out of quotes earlier on, because this article really feels like quotes strung together. I think I'm going to take my advisor's advice about comp exams and transform it into advice for articles, which is that after some reading, stop and write for a while. I sort of did that, but not very well. I can do better. I really need to teach myself a way of writing a journal article that feels more organic. Cutting and pasting a bunch of small writings just doesn't lead, usually, to an article that has organic flow. I need to be a better tour guide through my ideas. Now I have to figure out how to do that.

I'm so glad to have this one off my plate for the time being, so glad in fact that I've been pondering my next project, which is to turn one of my dissertation chapters (the first fundamental one) into an article for my favorite journal. One of my fundamental research sources for that project has a new edition, so I need to catch up on the latest. I also have tons of things I just want to read and understand, some related to this immediate project, some not. I'm also going to use my write an article in 12 weeks book for the upcoming article as well. I'm planning on giving myself until the end of the year to experiment with new ways of writing while I revise this piece. Maybe one day I'll get back to some creative work (though not before October).

I'm completely behind on grading and service, naturally. But I'm not worrying about that today. I've plagued my poor little family with my stress, compounded with Absurdist Tot's incessant teething of his two-year molars. But Tot slept through the night (until 7:30am) last night, the first night in weeks where he hasn't gotten up in the wee hours and come to bed with us. So I'm going to try to have a relaxing family time, complete with cooking, which I finally figured out is the great project of 2010. So far, I've taught myself how to bake bread, make homemade pizza, make cheesecake, and countless things having to do with wonderful farm-fresh vegetables. I intend to continue doing great things in the kitchen. We're also going to the farmer's market today. Yum. I'm looking forward to a shower.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Article Progress!!! Huzzah!!!!

Today I made very important -- really breakthrough -- progress on my article due. . .way too soon to be mentioned. At the start of today, only a third to a half of my note mess was cut up, labeled, and then put in like piles. But today I determined that I was going to set aside three hours to transform the mess of notes into something else. Now, it's a paper-clipped and ordered collection of cut-up notes awaiting transcription and working over into my outline. So far, I have two single-spaced pages of my outline. This is excellent progress. Not just for this one day, when this project sprang to life from being stalled, but also because the next set of tasks are completely known quantities and so will be easier for me to do as well as dip in and out of. It's true that, as ever, I'm having trouble with organization because everything really does lead into everything else in a sort of web, yet I'm writing a linear article. So the next work is not completely mindless or anything -- I certainly do need to pay attention and make decisions -- but it's not daunting or not as daunting as all the work seemed when I woke up this morning.

Here are some notes about my process for this article that I think are weird and so worth noting:
  1. This is how I used to write my papers in college and Grad School Part 1. Even in high school. Ultimately, I would end up writing a very complete outline (in complete sentences and with plenty of support often just breaking out of the outline into transition sentences between paragraphs even) and then revise the work while I was typing it into a file (or a word processor, in high school). I would get to the outline by putting together a lot of notes or, for grad school, a list of page numbers and post-its. (I learned the benefit of writing one's notes in a single file from my comprehensive exams and dissertation.) It used to be I just couldn't really write on the computer -- or on the index cards foisted on me in high school. Now I seem to be going back to that, using writing on my yellow tablet to make hard decisions, and still using a mix of more tactile creative strategies with the revision into a very complete outline.
  2. Much stranger than the pattern by which I seem to work (now that I think about it, I did a lot of cut and pasting, moving things around, and then revising them as I moved slowly through what was there, adding and reworking things in the dissertation as well) is this silly fact: I typed all those quotes into my notes, right? So those quotes are in a file already. But even of the work I've already begun typing and revising in my outline, I notice that I'm just typing the passage again. It actually helps me to be really grounded in the point, making my own explanations clearer. You'd think I'd typed it once and would just go to the old file to find the quote, but no. It's actually faster -- and more involving -- to type it. Weird.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Through Sick and Syllabus

This morning I woke up with a terrible headache, one that left me feeling nauseated. But since Tot has been sick, this is the only day I have daycare, so I somehow managed to get him up and out and to daycare. I've also managed to clean up the patio -- after days and days of a heat wave, the sky darkened over and burst out a rainstorm yesterday afternoon, knocking the chairs and small plants over. I've also managed to do the dishes. I ate a donut and had my corporate coffee. Now here I sit.

I start teaching on Monday. It's usually good to be prepared with things like syllabi and any initial readings. I know that. I need to work today in order to get these vital things done, especially so I don't have to be away from the family this weekend too much to get it done. That's what daycare is for. But I feel terrible. Just terrible. The headache's mostly gone. But I just want to fall over and sleep. I also want, inspired by her Royal Cogness that starting a project from a dead stop is bad, to work on the article that is due in three weeks. I also want to work on my annual review report that is due in less than a week. My brain has great plans. But I just feel terrible and haven't been quite able to get myself started. Really, I think sleep is such a wonderful elusive activity. Oh goodness, I'm tired. I'm sick. I'm a wee bit whiney. I just want to watch movies all day. Crochet. Sleep.

Of course, if I don't get these syllabi and plans ready then I'm going to have to steal from family time. I don't want to do that either. Sigh.

It doesn't help anything that I'm teaching a new course. Well, let's face it: most of the syllabus is policies and that sort of stuff. I can do that, right?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some of Us Never Learn

So Tot is still sick -- ear and upper respiratory infections. AL has also been sick since the holiday. And guess who's sick now?

Guess who still hasn't worked on her syllabus? And is now late with her annual report? And has less than a month to write a well-written article? Remember when I said that being a mom means that you can't leave everything to the last minute because the last minute is when everyone's going to get sick? Well, I may be smart, but I'm not wise. I haven't learned this lesson yet. Luckily, I have the weekend before the syllabi really need to be done. And Kinkos is open 24 hours (somewhere, not near here).

What a dork.

I'm keeping Tot at home because he doesn't look good and because I can, in contrast to how it usually is when I can't stay home unless it's really bad. Also, I'm sick too, though not terribly. It's also super hot; we've been having a terrible humid heat wave.

Tot is trying to say letters to Superwhy right now. He says these sounds in a very staccato way; it's very cute. Poor guy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Telegram from the Sleep-Deprived

I wanted to respond to this and say something about how parenting is more about contentment and fulfilled-ness and not about participating in pleasurable activities (for frigg's sake: if you want a pleasurable activity, try a movie, a book, pick up a sport -- do NOT have a kid), but I'm too busy hating not just my life but everything right now. After, not one but two nights of sleeping through, Tot stayed up most of last night crying and wailing. I finally got to bed -- with Tot in tow -- around 5am, just in time to wake up and get AL to work by 8. I'm supposed to go to the farm. I'm supposed to get my syllabi done. I'm supposed to be looking for cars. I'm supposed to be a human being. No go on all fronts.

Must call doctor. Must then figure out if I can get Tot to daycare for two hours so I can get some frigging sleep. (Nope.) Must call farm. I'm feeling musty today.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Taking a Sick Day from My Life

So yesterday I ended up being a total crabapple (at first I wrote crapapple, which is maybe more accurate) to Tot, at least during the first half of the day. He's going through a phase now where there are just so many ways in which for him to be annoying or hurt himself. He's started some tantrum-like behavior and then there's the screaming. Oh god, the screaming. And he wants to go outside to the patio every three seconds. As in, he goes in of his own accord, then wants to go right back out again. I don't know what he's thinking. Why not just stay outside?

Absurdist Lover said last night he thought he was fighting something off, and AT had some dreadful cough this morning, but otherwise was fine. I was totally set to go the farm -- sunscreen on and everything (I have forgotten in the past and ended up all red), not feeling particularly well and trying to prop myself up with coffee (not the Corporation because we're scant on funds) -- and then, my stomach started gurgling. I swear, I was on my way, 10 more minutes and I would have been there. I had to turn around. I called in sick. So now I'm at home, trying to figure out what to do with myself. This is the first day in a while when I haven't had that grading hanging over my head. Of course, I know I could work on the thingamajig and my research. But I wonder if I should be doing something else, like figuring out some magical elixir of balance-making so I can be healthier and more balanced for my family and myself. But exactly what would that be? Reading a book because I can? Watching a movie without interruption? Taking a bath? A shower? Truth be told, I don't feel like doing any of that, anything really.

Here's something I want to focus on right now. Once upon a time, I was a creative writer. I focused on creative writing in undergrad and Grad School Part 1. For my doctoral work, I started out with that purpose, but I wasn't happy with what was going on in the creative writing courses. I wanted more. . .meat to the discussions. Intellectual meat. Not just "this works" or "try this." Not all creative writers are intellectuals. Some are amazing artists or craftspeople. In fact, creative writing is an art, not an intellectual pursuit (which is not to say that there aren't very intellectual approaches and intellectuals who are also artists/writers). I felt there was something wrong with their approach for me and began to look elsewhere for meatier stuff and ended up in the field I'm in now. With very few regrets. I have always been wary about staking my survival on my creative writing. Which maybe has always been the problem. I'm too scared or not romantic enough to put it all on the line to write that novel and be poor until I'm rescued by an agent or publisher. Or maybe I just have so many other related interests that trying to put it all in my creative writing is a problem. Really, I want to be one of those writers who ends up writing fabulous op-ed pieces and belles lettres about the issues of the day because people want to hear my opinion about such things. A certain version of public writing. So I have some interest in nonfiction anyway (though when I was a kid, the dream was always about writing novels and it's SO hard to let that dream go, even as I have failed at it a number of times and am probably tempermentally unsuited to writing something that long). But really, I'm sad to have lost creative writing from my life.

I feel it most when I see what my colleagues are up to, when I see my Grad City colleagues publish another book. (Okay, I like it when my friends do it, but when those people who were real stinkers publish another book, I just want to imagine that they have really awful personal lives to balance out that good fortune.) And I wonder: am I just upset because I wish I had published a book by now? Is it about the publication or do I miss the writing, that particular discovery process, the way those finished writings become encapsulations of a particular event or thought or time in my life?

It's also because I feel like I don't know how to write, in some ways. Obviously I know you have to show up, apply butt to chair, and get the pen moving. Not that. But I sometimes feel I have no idea what makes a piece of creative writing good. What's the magic formula? How can I do that? What do I have to make sure to have? How can I get better?

While there is some craft talk in the creative writing world (and I've been out of it for several years so I may not know what I'm talking about anymore), there's a huge strain of creative writing talk that is about the *mystery* of writing, the *inspiration* of it, the muse striking. That doesn't give me much to work on. I realize that there's no guaranteed path to becoming a better creative writer, but I would like to work on it -- and I'm kind of sick of the idea that working on it just entails showing up, applying butt to chair, and getting the pen moving until the muse rolls in. There's got to be more than that. Any ideas? Please?

But no matter how I end up working on it, I need to start writing again. (See how creative writing is really what *writing* means to me? I *work* on scholarship. But *writing* is creative writing.) Absurdist Lover agrees that I need to write; he likes to see me even writing longhand in a journal. What a sweetie.

I don't know how to fit creative writing in. My life already feels so scheduled, so determined. In fact, I don't have time to do the things I need to do -- I feel like I'm constantly giving short shrift to my job because I take care of Absurdist Tot and work on the farm. I don't work out or do yoga, both totally necessary to my brain chemistry, either because I can't figure out how to smoosh it in there. But I've got to figure out how to get these things into my teaching life -- and soon, because summer courses are going to start almost immediately.

And I'm nowhere on prepping for those courses I'm teaching. But I think that taking a sick day means thinking about those things that got me sick in the first place, especially if I'm not going to be able to do the one thing that really most feeds my brain chemistry. (Though I said I'd go to the farm tomorrow or Friday.) So I think I need to think about how to make time for writing and working out/yoga at least twice per week.

And then, of course, there's the report and the research. Ugh. Can I go take a nap now?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

So I've been working on the project of getting Absurdist Tot to sleep through the night. I found the No-Cry Sleep Solution at the used bookstore and have been trying to really watch what AT does. I've long felt really bad for him that AL and I (but especially me) are very undisciplined and unscheduled. Which is not to say we don't get plenty done, but just that we're not very consistent about what we do when. Since AL is quite ADD and who knows what on earth my problem is, I worry that AT may be too, or at least may thrive with more of a schedule. Which I fail terribly at. But I've been trying to work on it, especially around AT's sleeptime.

And he's been going to sleep at 8 (unheard of -- remember, he used to go to bed at 11), 9, and variation thereof, sometimes waking up again, sometimes not. Last night he woke up at 10:30, I got him back down by 11, and then he slept through until 7.

But he's erratic! Case in point: he usually takes his nap around 11ish at home, 12ish at daycare (which he is at 4/days a week now). Today? He crashed hard before Dinosaur Train, which was at 9:30. I had promised myself that I'd start some bread when he took his nap, but I've had some trouble getting going today because the Corporation at the grocery store was closed (I took it as a sign) and decided I'd try to go back to yerba mate instead of coffee. Especially since we're low on coffee and have to make it to Friday morning before we can purchase anything pricey.

I was going to have a protein shake, but then he went to sleep! The laptop is in the kitchen, though, so I'm trying. I've started the first bit, which is putting the yeast, ACCKKKKK! The Tot is up. Oy gevalt.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Grading Prison: Because You're Going to Be Here a While

So this morning, I have way too much to grade. This is my last day of daycare before grades are due, so in a fit of virtue, I'm going to dedicate the day to getting it done, rather than starting off with research or the annual report thingamajig. I have a lot to do. But can I just stop to say that it's not virtuous to wait until the last minute. Being at the tail end of things this quarter frankly just makes sense (my grandfather dying and accompanying fall-out really did take my head out of work for a long while, delaying things to this late date), but while I usually turn in my grades pretty quickly, happy to get done and be done, I almost always wait until the last minute to grade a batch of projects. I wait even with a batch of reading responses. Not during the first couple weeks, but eventually and pretty regularly.

When I was a grad student, I was notorious (at least in my own mind) for holding onto projects for ridiculously long times. I once had an all-time low and held on to them for such a long time I'm frankly just ashamed to tell you. Bad. Very very bad.

Now I always tell my students that it's going to be two weeks. When teaching two sections of the same prep especially. You don't want to hand back one class rather than the other, but it gets so tedious to read 50 of the project, no matter how interesting or unique. But really, there is no way it should take me 2 weeks to hand back a set of papers. I know -- to some of you this amount is already scandalous. I've seen a teacher I worked with hand back a full set of comments for drafts in one class period (it met every other day). The class was at least 25 students. It was inspiring and dispiriting. There really are people who are totally on the ball.

So when all this is over, I want to stop and think about why it takes me so long to make myself dig in to a stack of papers. I think part of it may be that there is no lull between projects -- we turn a project in and start a new one on the same day -- and those project introduction days are usually much more intense for me. Whatever. It makes no difference now, but I know I need to come back to this later. (Hence I put this in a blog, rather than a journal. I feel no responsibility toward consistency or logic in a journal. I don't even necessarily reread my journal for the most part. I feel responsible to the blog though because y'all are out there.) Also, once I dig in to them, they're usually more interesting and easier to grade than I had feared. Could fear have something to do with putting off one's grading? Hmmm.

Please discuss while I stare at a young squirrel who is half-splayed on my patio.

By the way, remind me to tell you about the patio and the wildlife. We've had a very eventful spring turn into summer, with squirrel babies and Canada goslings and the crazy goose who goes up and attacks tires and people. Oh yeah, and if any are interested, I have stories from the farm. I've been working at the farm for three or four weeks now. I really feel I can breathe better there. I swear it's just being so close to so many plants, who are putting out fresh new oxygen at me. I love it. But now it's not enough. I had to go to the farmer's market yesterday in the storm for a booster shot of produce and oxygen and gorgeous green onions that remind you that they are beautiful plants -- as gorgeous in shape as a tulip or iris or calla lily. I'm getting weird in my old age. And five plants on the patio, a place which has become an indispensable part of the house, especially to Tot. We are becoming much more granola earthy farmy people. AL can really feel it at work, how different we are from everyone sharing YouTube videos and apps or whatever. Anyway. Can you tell I'd really like to do something else? I don't even let myself think about it.

So this is what I have to do today:

  1. Grade revisions.
  2. Record revisions.
  3. Grade all-quarter work.
  4. Calculate grades.
  5. Grade final projects of Elective.
  6. Calculate grades.
  7. Contact any stragglers.
  8. Turn in at least Class 1 grades.
Yes, I wrote every little thing in there because I'm going to need the satisfaction of striking things off the list. I am profoundly tired. After a wonderful night of a full, uninterrupted night's sleep on Saturday night, last night Tot went to bed around 8pm, but woke up at 2:30, came to bed, and was very demanding this morning at 6:30. I have a giant coffee from the Corporation (which for money reasons and political reasons I really need to stop frequenting -- there I've made it real by putting it on here -- I really just need to get my espresso machine out of storage) and am fully ensconced in a spot in the house where I shouldn't need to get up for at least two, three. . .minutes.

When I wake up more and am out of coffee, I'll make myself a protein shake and take my vitamins. I would love to be done with Class 1 by about 1pm. That would really set me up for the day.


Hope your day is shaping up better than mine.

***12:15pm Update***

So I'm done with the first class completely. I pretty much rock. I can put all these papers somewhere (to go to the office, since I don't want to keep all this stuff here).

Now, I think I need to eat something. A protein shake. Lunch. Something. And then. Maybe a little bit of rest before I launch into Class 2. Dear lord. But at least if I keep this up I might be able to either work out or do something else besides grading before I have to pick everyone up.

***4:30pm Update***

Well, I'm done. But now I have to pick up the other Absurdists. No shower. No cleaning of the house. No nothing. Sigh.

Friday, June 25, 2010

On with the Show

Okay, so yesterday I did not end up doing any grading at all, and then last night it hit me: I'm going to have only today and Monday to get it finished up, because I'm booked already for all the other days. So I must get at least some grading done today. But I don't get tenure for grading (well, I'm sure I'd not get tenure if I didn't grade, but beyond that. . .) so I'm still going to make sure I get some research and annual review report thingamabob do-hickey done today too. Because I enjoy those, and they make me feel good and productive.

So on with the show:
  1. Go through last 10 pages of Great Article, transcribing the notes I made when I read it the first time. (Yes, this does count as research.)
  2. Work on annual report thingamabob. Try not to get lost.
  3. Grade Class 1's Final Projects.
  4. Assign Participation grades.
  5. Start Revisions, maybe, possibly??? NOPE
  6. Work out
  7. Shower

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blue Accountablogging

I'm feeling low. My grandfather died last week; while my father was willing to pay for the tickets, I got sick and Tot was just finishing up an ear infection, so we didn't go to the funeral. My father and I had it out, finally, over some unfinished business. Members of my family are having catastrophically hard times right now. Lots of death. I'm just feeling low, like everything's dismal and unlikely to get better. But really I'm probably just worn out, not terribly healthy, sore from working at the CSA, and grieving, not just the loss of my grandfather, but the loss of the way I wish my family were. I know that an important part of being an adult is to accept the way things are and stop getting angry or upset that things -- and people -- aren't different. But I think I need to grieve right now, instead of telling myself I should be over it by now. Which I should. It's just more of the same. But I'm obviously upset about it. I don't have the strength to fight too hard with myself.

Which explains why I've been home for two hours and really haven't done anything that I set out to do. I need to finish up the spring quarter (we have a really late grade turn-in date, mercifully, considering that this is the first quarter that I haven't had everything in more than a week early, but then it's been a very eventful end-of-quarter). I have revisions, final papers, and some other stuff to look at in one class. The other class is just final projects and assigning grades to things like participation. I'm not going to get all this done this week. Not even close.

Then there are other things I really need to get to, like this article I'm trying to write and for which I really should have a draft written by the end of the month. That's not likely to happen, but still. And then there's the annual report, which I really need to pound out. Then there's planning for the summer, but I'm not even going to put that on my plate just now.

There are other things I'd like to do today, like work out, do the dishes, and try to take care of myself, since I'm so run-down and borderline sick it's crazy.

So what to do? Originally I was thinking an hour for research, an hour for the annual report, then two hours for grading. But if I do that now, then it'll be 4:30 by the time I'm done and I won't get anything else done, not even, likely, some working out, which I think I need. Maybe 45 minutes for each, then an hour and a half for grading. Then I'll be done by 3:30. That sounds better.

Here's what I've done so far: made the bed, threw some clothes in the hamper, cleaned up the toddler toys all over the floor, watered the plants and took care of the patio, read lots of blogs and wrote a couple emails. Pretty pathetic.

Here's what I'm going to do:
  1. Do dishes, so I get that instant satisfaction that comes from being able to see progress.> DONE!!
  2. Work on research for 45 minutes. DONE!!
  3. Work on the annual report for 45 minutes. I think I spent way more than 45 minutes here, but it felt good to make clear and visible progress on this puppy!
  4. Pump? Eat? Mmmm. Swiss chard. Wow.
  5. Grade for 1-1/2 hours. Hmmmm. Not so much.
  6. Work out.
  7. Take shower.
I realize this is the most boring post in the world, but I need that public accountability. I'm depressed; what can I say?

Friday, June 11, 2010


I found out last night that my grandfather is dying. The doctors say it's a matter of days. He has two different cancers, and he is in his eighties. I should've seen him when I was in Urban City a couple weeks ago for my sister's wedding, but I was barely functional the one day I could've seen him so I didn't.

Though I haven't seen him in a while, my grandfather is a very important person to my writing and my scholarly life. He really started me on the trajectory I'm now on -- in trying to understand the mystery of him, I developed a whole collection of scholarly interests that I am still fascinated by. He was always a very difficult man, sort of cold and distant emotionally. He worked all the time, talked about war and politics during the holidays. He couldn't really relate to people on other people's terms. He was only really interested in talking about a few subjects interesting to him. Luckily, he and I shared interests -- mostly stories about his rather remarkable life -- and I wrote about him over and over again.

Part of me wants to hop on a plane, but I really can't. We don't have the money, for one thing. I would have to take the Tot because we are not at all prepared for me to be gone -- no breastmilk saved up, days that the daycare is closed when Absurdist Lover has to work. I have responsibilities here. I could ask my father for the money to fly Tot and me to Urban City, but there is a whole drama there. I owe my father tons of money already which he is angry about and mentions that "we need to talk" but then doesn't call me when he says he will and doesn't pursue clearing the air with me. Yet, I know he's still mad at me because he didn't call to tell me that Grandpa was in the hospital or anything and because my brother made reference to it. I know Dad avoids confrontation, and I should just deal with it because of course he has every right to be angry, but we're doing our best with one car and can't pay him back yet. It's hard for me to believe that he needs that money to eat the way we do. And maybe I've just been avoiding the whole thing too, because it pisses me off to have to be the one to pursue it when I'm already ashamed of the whole mess and I also have a full and exhausting life without worrying whether my father is angry at me and won't deal with it a dozen states away.

I don't want to borrow pretty much near a thousand dollars right now. I want to honor my grandfather and what he means to me -- my brother says he's only sometimes lucid -- but I also don't want to further weigh down my little family's half-deflated liferaft of hope that we're going to eventually be able to climb up and out of the financial mess we're in. I just can't do that to AL when he's working so hard and not really loving this job -- really finding some of the corporate crap impossible and ridiculous. If my father gives us the tickets, that's something else. Though it would be nothing but headache, I suppose I would take Tot on a couple planes and tough out dealing with all the stupid issues (Tot in some sort of living space not meant for an active toddler, Tot with Dad's dog, etc.) if Dad would buy us the tickets. I'm not holding my breath, though maybe he would. Obviously, I don't really want to go to Urban City, don't really think it will do much for me and my needs when losing my grandfather to deal with all that. I'm really torn. I swear to God I was already really exhausted from trying to be a good little trooper finishing up a sort of depressing quarter, driving everyone around, and dealing with Tot's being sick, which means he wants to nurse through the night, i.e., bad sleep for Mom.

I can't really expect the family to understand and respect that I'm torn between my duties to them and my duties and responsibilities to my little Absurdist Family. (My needs in the face of this loss: how do those factor in to them?) I'm not sure that there is much I can do there in Urban City -- for my grandfather, my father, my siblings. I can see my grandfather, if he makes it that long. I can go to a funeral. I should probably call my father and ask him how he's doing, despite his idiocy. (How angry and disappointed at him I am to realize that his anger toward me outweighs his letting me know that his father is dying! Did he say anything about his anger toward me at my sister's wedding? No.) I know what's important is that I make the right decision for me and feel good about it -- but that's so much easier than it sounds. What is the right decision? (Is not going the right decision for me? Or am I just trying to justify it? I don't know.)

I feel terrible. I've been in my office for hours now. I should be reading some student papers already woefully overdue to be graded. Instead, I've been writing about my grandfather (which I'm sure will turn into a eulogy that I can ask someone to read), remembering things, and reading things I wrote about him. And crying.

So what do you think? Am I the terrible daughter and granddaughter I think I am for thinking that I really can't just up and go to Urban City? Do I wait for the funeral? Do I go to the funeral at all, if I have to pay for it? I figure I shouldn't go anywhere until next Tuesday anyway, when my classes are over. Not really because my job is important, but for my own peace of mind. Maybe I'm terrible, but I'm exhausted and I need to finish up my courses. I have a couple weeks between the end of this quarter and the start of summer. Maybe I can go to Urban City then and help with whatever Dad needs help with.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More on Writing: I Wanna Do More of It!

I was rereading the terrific and varied comments on this post and wanted to respond, but when it got super-long, I figured I better just write a new post. (You all rock, dear great readers! Rock on!) But it's been so interesting to re-read all your comments now after a week where I really wanted to work on research and so I did in weird odd hours.

I read once that the key to writing with kids at home (I think this was a stay at home mom) was to pull up the file and keep it open all day, so that you have that sense that you're still working on it, but that you were pulled away from it and will get back to it.

Now, I didn't do this exactly (I usually have tons of things open on my computer, so having a file open doesn't really exert the tug on me that it should), but I did have this sense that if I had a few spare minutes I wanted to use it to read and take notes on an article, do another library search and request stuff from ILL or even, one exhausted evening, type up my handwritten notes (which is a must for me) into a file.

What I think works about this strategy is that they are all short assignments, little almost modular pieces I can work on and then leave. In fact, in the idea-generation phase of scholarship, it's even better if I come to the work many different times so I get different perspectives and ideas.

This tends not to work as well when I'm actually trying to draft the damn thing, which is usually a terrible battle because I have to figure out how to organize the piece. This part really needs the kind of focused effort that requires a longer session. And then I might try to organize it multiple times until it feels right or at least okay. It's so tempting to not even think of this researching-and-taking-notes phase as writing. Except that it is, and I know it. But this is why I never want to say "I'm writing scholarship"; it's always "I'm working on scholarship."

Anyway, what I noticed about this engagement with working in little bits was that I was much happier and more fulfilled on the days I got something done on the research front. I think I've finally really grokked that research IS the way to tenure as well as the option of moving elsewhere and that I've got to do it. But I think there is something else going on too: I just like what I'm doing.

So it was weird for me to write a blogpost that said I probably can't write every day, then find myself stealing moments to write/work. Since Friday (when I stole some moments at the Corporation, if you can believe it!), I haven't done diddley-squat though because 7am is really really early -- and that's the time that AL has to be at work. And also I'm finishing up the quarter. And Tot is sick. So: no time to even dream about research. Okay, I can dream about it for two seconds before I fall asleep, before Tot starts crying to come to our bed. . .again. Poor guy. Poor us.

I'm going to bed now, because I'm an awful person, a really bad example of an attachment parenter: after a few nights when Tot needs to come sleep with us, I absolutely relish being in bed without him, able to stretch out, able to sleep in any position I want. Off I go. Good night all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Oh. My. Freaking.Goodness

It has been the most exhausting. . .I don't know anymore how long it's been. . .long time.

So to start where I left off last week I woke up late to get to my flight to Urban City, but made it nonetheless. I slept, somewhat, and worked on research on the plane. Then despite the fact that I told my credit card company that I was going to Urban City and what I was planning to use the card for, the idiot company still put out the fraud alert when I tried to rent a car at the airport, making it impossible to use said credit card. Gah! The rental car company was really nice and let me call AL from their phone while we tried to figure out what to do. Ultimately, we had to let the rental card company hold money in our checking account so I could rent the damn car. So that was an exercise in purgatory.

That day, finally, I visited my grandmother. That was fun. Then it was off to the wedding locale and though I thought that everything was going to be mellow, I ended up being whisked away by my sister and her friends and it was a whirlwind from then on, right up until the part where one of the bridemaid's (not me!) didn't have her dress with her until 15 minutes before the wedding. Oy vey! I've never had so much hairspray on my head in my whole life -- and I was an inventive teenager. It took several days to wash it all out.

I got home Monday evening, then Absurdist Lover started his new job the next day. Because we share a car, I had to drive him, then take Absurdist Tot to his eye doctor appointment. The next day I worked my first day at the CSA (yay! in the rain! squashing beetles! yay!), then I went off to my final workshop that makes me despair of any other such workshops. I'm not signing up for anything outside my field that proposes to teach me how to teach from now on. I could critique the facilitators up and down, but I won't. Suffice to say: madness and badness.

Then Thursday, driving everyone everywhere, then going to teach, locking myself out of my office, driving everyone everywhere again. Friday, same thing without locking myself out of my office. All this, while making sure that Absurdist Lover is there at his new job by 8am. Which is a time I don't really believe exists. I now understand how people get their children to sleep by 9pm and themselves crash by 10: it's called waking up at 6. I crashed on the couch at 10pm last night watching Pollyanna. How embarrassing.

Today, I woke up at 7, took a shower (unheard of on the weekends), got Tot, etc. By 2pm, I had baked bread, gone grocery shopping, started the laundry, taken care of the Tot. I wanted to do anything but the grading I needed to do. When I finally got to it at 5pm, I figured I could do one in 20 minutes. And by the end of 2 hours, I had 5 graded. Then I nobly did 3 more once Tot went down to sleep. Now I'm considering my options: I could work on research, which I've strangely been doing in between other things; or I could eat chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. The last few nights I've been too exhausted to get to dessert! What is happening in this world?!

All I can say to all this craziness is that I can't wait until two things: 1) This quarter ends in less than two weeks and then I have about two or three weeks off. 2) We get another car.

I basically go through my day telling myself what a trooper I am, what a good job I'm doing, mostly just because I'm still alive at the end of the day.

This is the first time in a week I've been able to actually consider putting together this blogpost, meanwhile so many of you are off now. Next week will be better, even though I have to have AL to work even earlier (egads!); at least I won't have to go from quietly planting seeds in flats and hunting beetles to pretending I find a bunch of hot air intellectually and pedagogically inventive in a matter of hours.

Tomorrow's the farmer's market. Fitting all the lovely things -- like homemade bread, working at a farm, and going to farmer's markets -- alongside all the other things that must be done means pushing myself to do things when part of me just wants to park my butt on the couch, watch some 8 hour saga, and drool. I feel like this week I've been living my life in a higher gear (or a lower gear -- one that has more oomph). I'm not sure I'm up to it. Two weeks from now I'll be taking Tot to daycare and probably coming back home to sleep. Oy vey.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Inspired to Work, not Travel

I'm not sure if it's the great meeting I had with my mentor or the great feeling I have from having a plan (get those articles drafted and out: you've got 2 years. ready? go!) or if it's something about thinking about the way I'm going to talk about my work in my annual report, but I've been working on my article in drips and drabs, mostly collecting articles to read. I'm really excited about reading some of the stuff I've printed out as well as working on my annual report, so much so that I'm taking those two things with me as I go to Urban Home City for my sister's wedding. I hope to get time to work on them, which I know is terrible, but there it is.

My mother has been totally over-the-top bubbly about it all (sending me text messages at 3am is so not cool, Mom), while I'm just trying to live through each day, get things organized (renting a car when you have no money is no fun), and get it done. I honestly hadn't even thought about the prospect of fun until she mentioned it. Maybe it's just that it feels disloyal to have fun without Absurdist Lover and Absurdist Tot, who are both staying here because it's just too expensive for us all to go, not to mention that I think we'd have a terrible time flying with Tot, despite that his daycare providers say he's the happiest baby they've ever seen and he never cries there. Well, he cries plenty here. He's been tantrum-y lately, pulling my hair and grabbing at my glasses. Maybe I just have a bad attitude about my family, or large parties, or saying the same things over and over again. ("Yes, I like my new job." "Yes, I somehow survived the snowy winter." "No, I'm not looking for a job anywhere near here.") Maybe it's just that I have to wake up way too early, fly, land, visit people, and drive all around way before I'm ever going to get any real sleep. And since Tot has been having a hard time sleeping lately, so have I. I'm pretty zombified.

I'm going to go and try to get 3-1/2 hours of sleep before I have to get up, take a shower, etc. Maybe more blogging on the road.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On Why Writing Daily May Not Be for Me

Undine and Kathleen Fitzpatrick over at Prof Hacker are talking about writing again and the old writing-in-the-morning game again. I know that this conversation, while inspiring, may not really be for me. Yes, I can wake up and plunge into something, but the brain that plunges is certainly not my best brain. Not to mention, one's time with an active nineteen month-old is not one's own. But I'm sure I have friends who'd simply wake up before the Tot and get much done. But here's the thing: when I do wake up before him and focus on work before I get him, I don't really want to stop. And I'm not sure I really want my brain to be in work stuff and wanting to be in work stuff when I really should be with him with my whole head. Especially now as he has just vaulted into some incredibly annoying phase where his favorite things are all things he's not supposed to do: standing on the chair, climbing over the sofa, and sitting on the bottom shelf of the entertainment unit. These are all things he's heard "no" to a dozen times, so he does them while watching us with that smile. I don't know if he can truly understand "no" yet, but he spent a lot of time today in his playpen, which is the punishment for naughty things. Is he too young for that? Are we still supposed to be doing distraction? Any thoughts?

Anyway, back to writing. After a horrendous week where I actually got some strange sickness leaving me very very weak but without many symptoms, I was determined on Friday to get some scholarly work done, especially because it's Annual Review time and I have that my scholarship -- or lack of published verification thereof -- on the brain. So I worked and made good progress. I did not actually write. I read a vital source for my article and took copious notes and really allowed myself some time to wade around in those ideas. It was great. When I was done, I didn't really want to stop. I didn't want to work on the backlog of student marking I have to do. I didn't want to prep for Monday. I couldn't make myself sit still to do those things either. I wanted to do research, Annual Review things like work on the report, or chat with colleagues.

This is my problem with the whole writing in the morning idea. It works really well for people who are better at transitions than I am. I suck at closing something up and going on to the next thing. My brain really wants to stick around in the research. Which makes it hard to focus on even the most worthy student project.

So I have teaching prep to do tomorrow that I couldn't get myself to do on Friday, even though I stayed until 6pm. I don't know if other people have this problem. I don't know how to get around this problem either, because I definitely have to work on research on a regular basis, because this article I'm working on must be done by August 1, and I'll be teaching pretty much straight through until and past then. (We're on quarters, so we're still a month away from being done with this quarter, then I'm teaching in the summer.)

But I feel amazing for having finally read the source article and taken notes. Also, I met with my mentor, and we have a plan. I need to work on getting some articles out. There's even a timeline for this, if you can believe it. So I have to get serious. I am to learn to say no until I get these articles done and out. It's very liberating.

So I'm trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to get work done while I'm teaching. I had a mentor long ago who was one of those giving dynamic beloved rock-star professors who saved one day a week to focus on scholarship. Maybe I can do something more like that, since a half-hour each day may work for me when I'm revising, but not really in the earlier stages. And I hate feeling badly about teaching or taking care of the Tot because they're not research when my brain refuses to shut off and move on.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trying to Honor My Emotions while Focusing on What I Can Control

So, there's a lot going on right now -- and as is usual probably for all of us, that which has been most tumultuous is pretty much unbloggable. But beyond that, I've been feeling pretty hemmed in by my life lately. AL drives me to work, then I'm inside my building teaching and running around until pretty much the second that AL comes to pick me up. Then we pick up Tot, and I'm mom again. What I'm saying is that I get very little time to myself. I guess this is what my chair meant when s/he said that being on the tenure track and having kids at the same time takes discipline. What's made it worse the last few days is that I've been grading, grading, grading -- and so even when I'm home, I'm holing myself up in the bedroom trying to get stuff done. I really don't feel well in my body and know that the answer is going to have to be to get some exercise, but I'm really struggling to figure out when I'm going to be able to do that. I know I'm not completely insane, because a colleague who is also junior faculty says that she doesn't know how I manage at all, because she's running around like a beheaded chicken without a child. Still, I'd really like to live to see my child grow up. And I really feel like I'm run down in a serious way. I'd rather not wait until the heart attack happens. But when? When am I going to fit in some exercise? And how without putting the entire household out? I'm sure that this one is going to take someone else to figure it out, someone who is not staying up late blogging after grading after a particularly hellish day.

Sometimes I don't know whether I'm an idiot for the choices I've made. I guess that's not a very productive thought just now though.

So I'm going to meet with my mentor about the big picture of what I'm doing from now until I go up for tenure. I have to say that lately I've been dealing with the minutiae, really just running from thing to thing and hoping it's enough to keep everyone happy. (Can I just indulge in my bleak mood for one second and say that my running around lately has not been focused on whether I'm happy? But then, that may not really be fair. I'm happy when I'm looking at the six goslings following their parents. I'm happy when I look into Tot's face. Sometimes I feel a wave of love for my life; I'm just tired now. And achy. And dispirited.) So the question of what I want to accomplish and how my goals for P&T fit into that has been interesting and productive. While I thought last year when I was writing out my plan that I really would write the weird fat book where I discuss three different related heads of the hydra, I've thought lately that even though the weird Three-Headed Hydra book would be super-cool, and there would definitely be productive and cool stuff to see when I put the heads together, it really would short-shrift each Hydra Head. And because of stuff going on in my midst lately, it's clear I have even more to say than I thought about one particular Hydra Head. Even in the diss, this Hydra Head was pushing at 50+ pages; one of my readers commented that he thought that the overstuffed chapter probably suggested that there was a book in there waiting to come out. So now I'm thinking of writing the obvious and more conventional book: One-Headed Hydra. It's hard to figure out whether it would actually sell, but I'm not angling for the book by tenure, only a realistic plan for articles by tenure.

There's another set of concerns I'm interested in -- and these I'm sort of collecting into a second book. So I can write aspects of either and still feel like I have a trajectory. I like this. I like feeling like there is a plan. Like I actually have something to say to my mentor. This is exciting.