Thursday, January 28, 2010

Venturing Out of the House of Sick

I've been in the House of Sick and Snot for five days. We were going to start Absurdist Tot at daycare on Monday, but on Saturday he came down with a cold. A feverish, snotty, and now rattling coughy cold. Poor guy. He's in so much pain that he only sleeps a few hours at a time. Our usually happy baby just cries and cries for no outward reason. Of course, then he charms us with one of his cute smiles. Then cries again. It's really heartbreaking.

Of course, AT being sick means that I've been basically trapped in the house, on the couch, where he wants to nurse basically all the time. He doesn't want to be put down to sleep, so his naps are on my lap. I haven't gotten much sleep now that we're back to co-sleeping. (I feel like a retch for not liking co-sleeping that much. I swear I'm a better person when I get good sleep. And worrying that AT is going to fall off the bed is not conducive to good sleep.)

So today, when I've got an overstuffed day full of search committee stuff, I'm sick (oh my throat! no wonder AT cries!), tired (I woke up two hours before the alarm and tried to get comfortable while listening to "Interplanet Janet" loop in my head: which means I got about 4 hours of sleep), and lazy (I've been officially up for 40 minutes and haven't gotten in the shower and would really like to spend the day quiet and contemplative alone with my thoughts and my computer and no snotty whinings or indeterminable signs for. . .what? comfort).

In other news, on Monday I started the first day of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. I was trying to fit in each day's tasks around Comfort-Giving, but yesterday everything fell apart. Being sick is not helping. But I think day 3 or 4 is about committing to a writing schedule, which in theory of course I support. But in practice? Well, this author and writing guru is not thinking about those of us whose schedules are at the whim of infant-toddlers. I'll get time to work on my article when he naps and when he goes to daycare, both of which require his good health, so right now I'm lucky to get an hour to myself all day. I read a wonderful essay once on creative writers who are stay-at-home moms and how one way to remind yourself that you are a writer is to open up your work file in the morning and leave it open, coming back to it as is possible. That's the schedule for me, at this point in my life. Of course, I don't really want to do this with an article, really living inside an article for 12 weeks while I steal time from babycare. I'd feel differently I'm sure if this were creative work, if this were a poem or essay I left open on my computer all day. All the time I'm nursing and staring out the window has to count as writing or at least working, right?

At this point, I can't think about the future, about Cool Elective, which I need to work on, and articles and conference papers and everything, because I feel like I'll never get back to any of it. But the truth is, AT will not be sick forever. And neither will I.

I've got to get my lazy butt up and into the shower. Listen to this: I've decided I'm not going to wash my hair because I've got a lot of hair (the kind haircutters always look at, eyes bulging, and say, "you've got a lot of hair") and it will stay wet and cold all day, which will make me colder on a day like today, well below freezing. Crap. I hear AT. I hope he's just coughing and going back to sleep. I bet he's going to want a last-minute nurse. Oy.

May today be an easy painless enjoyable day, no matter how much work we have to get through! (At least I get to think that all my bloggy friends are out there too! Makes it more bearable that way!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Writing Report

It's Tuesday, and I'm trying to get some writing done. Remember, I have the impossible goal of writing 100 pages of crap (journalese is fine) by April 1. Of course, I'd also like to get some good writing done in there too, but crap is a-okay with me. And I think blogging should count too. (Why do this, when 100 pages seems impossible? Well, because writing is one of the dominant ways I think through things. Yes, I need to communicate, publish, impress, get tenure, blah blah blah. But if I think of all these things, I'll never write a thing. I need to churn out crap. I need to show myself I can do it. Believe me, 100 pages of crapola could easily turn into a a decent 30 page article.)

There was this CFP I was really excited about at the end of the year that I sent out an abstract for. The editors sent me a question, and in answering that question I realized how sick and tired I am of trying to skew the argument of my dissertation in all these weird ways for different CFPs. I'm doing that now -- and basically I just want to tell these editors and everyone else to forget it, that what I really need to do is rock the world with my argument and that's the end of it. Not that I don't have a decent argument for the article I'm doing now -- I think I have a decent argument -- but I don't really care about the opposing argument, about the conversation that's going on that I'm writing into -- and maybe that just means I shouldn't be writing it. No, that's not quite right. It's that I think that the direction the conversation has gone in is totally wrong. Big Impressive Loudmouth Scholar made a grand proclamation on this subject once and just.was.totally.wrong and needs a smackdown. Though the article I'm writing is not really the smackdown this conversation needs. And so a lot of the conversation has gone in this other direction, which I think is the exact opposite of what it needs to be and is actually damaging.

I remember having so much time once and no ideas. Now I have ideas galore, but I don't want to have to flesh them all out. Part of this is I am an idea person. But part of this is that I think I see everything as connected to the diss book project -- and so while I have stuff to say about all sorts of things, it's still all wrapped up and connects back always to the stuff in the book project. Am I just saying that I want to work on my dang blasted book instead of all this other crap?

But what do I do about this article that I'm supposed to be writing? The argument is, I think, a worthy one. If I could actually write it, it would be a worthy addition to the conversation.

Let me put it this way. Let's say that my book project is all about Fashion Theory and why we should wear certain things and not other things. This article I'm supposed to be writing is about mittens, which my Big Fashion Theory says is something we should be wearing. But it's hard to argue for mittens without bringing in the whole Fashion Theory that explains why mittens are better than fingerless gloves or other currently fashionable items. What's more, some people say that mittens are good, but only because of the ways they are like fingerless gloves, which are bad! So I'm trying to make the argument for mittens, but without bringing in all the other Fashion Theory behind it, because it really has nothing to do with this CFP on Mittens. But without the Fashion Theory, it's short. Second, it's lame without all the Fashion Theory behind it. Or maybe this is the crux of the trouble I'm having writing the damn thing (warning: epiphany ahead): without the Fashion Theory, I'm not that interested in arguing for the worth of Mittens.

As you can probably tell, I just want to junk it. I'm really sick of twisting myself and my work in knots over this when I have a conference paper to write for Big Spring Conference and I wanted to go ahead and expand that conference paper into an article and then there's the Big Fashion Theory article I should write for Favorite Journal. I think I'm still in graduate student mode, trying to clutch at publications no matter what, instead of professional mode, realizing that I have a limited amount of time and some big contributions I want to make to the Conversation on Fashion and Fashion Theory. Or maybe being pre-tenure is still about clutching at publications, but it's that as a mom with a baby in the other room I don't want to waste my time.

(By the way, this fashion metaphor is so funny because I am pretty much the most unfashionable person in the whole world. I am not hip. I'd probably be anti-hip if that didn't turn out being as hip as hip is. I wear one of the same two shirts every day and pretty much the same jeans, which is to say, I dress like the mom of a messy one year old. Moreover I don't care about fashion or clothes much.)

In other news, I notice that I actually have more projects and in some ways get more done than I did before I had a child. I have these crochet projects and these cooking projects. I make muffins and potholders. I bought Julia's Kitchen Wisdom yesterday. I'm obsessed with watching Julie and Julia and pointing out the inaccuracies because I'm also reading Child's My Life in France. Clearly, if my scholarship were about Julia Child or learning Tunisian crochet, I'd be set.

This clearly counts as at least one page. And I did at least another page trying to write, again, for the article on mittens. Gah. Am I going to just write those editors that I've given up? I know it's unprofessional, but GAH!

Friday, January 15, 2010

On Writing

So this week has been totally useless for writing. There's no way that I'm going to be able to make up the amount of pages I wanted to get done this week today. Especially since we're going to the new-to-us natural foods store. We're actually very excited about this. I hope to find some granola element to this town -- but not too granola. I did an internet search and found a meetup list for people doing attachment parenting and other "alternative" stuff. I would totally categorize myself in that camp, especially when it comes to my commitment to organic food and breastfeeding, but we don't do cloth diapers (which they listed as one of their commitments) or much babywearing (mostly because from the get-go Absurdist Tot was very active and it didn't seem safe to have him flopping around in a sling, which wouldn't hold him anyway, though I did walk 10 miles once with him in a Bjorn on a pilgrimage, which I think should prove my alternative cred, but doesn't). So we're like attachment parenting with a practical bent. Why do I think we're not granola enough for them? Sigh.

Anyway, I really did want to write about writing. Since Dr. Crazy was writing about her writing process, I've been thinking about how useless the word counter on the left of my blog is. There are really two phases to my writing. One is freewriting and dialogue. Basically I write a lot of crap for a very long time as I attempt to write through my ideas, figuring out what they are. I outline a bunch of different organizations, usually, because that's usually the hardest part for me, since everything I think seems connected to everything else and I really wish sometimes I could write in a non-linear way (which I know is the promise of hypertext, but I haven't done it). The other part of this is that I research and read related texts, pulling out quotes that are interesting to me and writing in response to them. Then there's the second phase. Way late in my process, I finally figure that I have to put something together and maybe I steal from the actual text of my freewriting and dialogue or maybe not. Often this is a rush job. In the best case scenario, I put something together and then ask a writing group to read it. With the piece I'm working on now (if ignoring it for over a week can actually be said to be "working" and I think it is because I'm "getting some space from it" which counts as working on it, if not actual writing, in my book), there may be no writing group on it, just a frantic click of Send.

Anyway, all this means that word counters are actually only useful when I get to the "putting something together" phase. But I'm writing, really I am, even while I'm doing all the freewriting and researching. I want a way to be able to document that I am writing, just not coming up with stuff for some final word count.

My goal for this quarter is to write 100 pages of crap, which means 10 pages per week, obviously starting next week. I think, unfortunately, that the freewriting has to be counted in this total, though wouldn't it be wonderful to come out of 10 weeks with 3 or 4 articles? Alas, it is not to be. Not for me. But if I wrote 10 pages of crap, even freewriting crap, for the article I'm working on now, I feel sure I'd be quite far on the article by the end of that. Because there really is no rushing my process (I need so much time to mull!), I guess I should just accept it. Just as I have to accept that this week's not included in my goal. Obviously when Absurdist Tot is actually in daycare, I'll be able to get this writing done. Until then, I've got to carve out some time to work. But probably not today. We've got too many things on the docket. And soon, AT needs to have his nap so we can get going.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Quarter Begins

While the rest of the world, it seems, is starting a new semester, and my colleagues are starting a new quarter, my head has been in a completely different place. Over here in Absurdist Paradise, we've been checking out daycare centers (or as I like to call it, inspired by Sesame Street, playschool). It is frigging amazing how exhausting it is. While we ask questions and seem to be adults having a practical discussion, we're also watching Absurdist Tot, looking around, trying to get a feel for the place and the people and all-in-all trying to see what meshes with our parenting style and goals. But no matter how intellectual and practical and reasonable all that sounds, we're really dealing with an incredibly emotional issue -- who is going to take care of our precious baby for three days out of the week. He's such a happy rambunctious inquisitive person. What is best for him? It really is quite harrowing.

All that said, I would feel reasonably okay with any of the places I saw if we were in a bind. But which is best? That's harder. What kind of people are we? What kind of experiences would be best for our child? We've figured out which place we like best already, but. . .it was one of those experiences where we saw two places a day and then praised our accomplishments the rest of the day. Just to get through it. It is just really hard. No matter how much I know that he will probably thrive with a bit more structure, a bit more directed learning, other kids, new stimulation. . . my baby!

Plus we weren't able to figure out which places are where the granola-y go. (Maybe truly granola moms in this area stay home.) Tomorrow we're going to the natural foods store that we haven't visited here yet. I'm hoping that we'll be able to tap into the granola element here. So far, I haven't been able to find the granolaheads here apart from an alternative health store. Not that I've had time, until now.

Focusing on all this means that my goal of writing up a storm this week has not yet been fulfilled -- or can't even be said to have started. I did revise my Works Cited and my article, which made me feel all scholarly and inspired. Last week.

Well this is an inspired post. I think what I'm saying is that I'm going to be having a recuperating day. . .whether I want to or not. I'm so tired. I even slept in and am still so tired. Maybe reading blogposts will inspire me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grumble on Academic Publishing and Citation

Now I don't expect anyone to remember, because it was eons ago, truly, but there was this article I was really excited about that I wrote and was accepted. I turned in everything on time. I was given revisions, I revised, and again I turned in everything on time. A year and a half ago. I turned in the revision a year and a half ago. Before AT was born. The article hasn't come out yet.

Now I realize that is pretty normal (though I was originally told it would come out in 2009). Things happen. Plans change. But because MLA in its infinite wisdom has changed the citation rules, I now need to submit a new Works Cited. Blech. I am, by the way, no great fan of the changes in MLA citation rules. "Print," my butt. So I was starting this unlovely task when I decided I better check to make sure that some of the quotes I had from web sources were still accurate. And, of course, because things do actually change over the course of years, the quotation that I had from a website is long gone. (The website has been beautifully updated actually.) So because I don't think it's professional to have a source that is totally out-of-date, I have to go back into the article and revise it. Not that the article wouldn't benefit from a pretty fresh eye at this point, but, you know, this article's promise of publication helped get me my job and so doesn't count for tenure. And I have a deadline for another article I'm writing (granted, on spec).

And of course they need it now. Like yesterday. It's this big hurry-up-and-wait process.

Sigh. Grumble grumble. Dare I mention that Absurdist Family had tentative plans to go outside and enjoy the snow today? Grumble grumble.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Normal

The world is going back to normal. My colleagues are going back to campus. Workers have been industriously clearing snow from the drives, pushing it around with big red scrapers and throwing salt on the ground like chicken feed. It's snowing. It's coming down diagonally, sometimes sideways, out my big sliding glass door. (It frosted on the inside of the sliding glass door yesterday morning. We have a major draft and circulation problem in this place. Talking to this place's central command is one of the many things on my list.) Unlike many, I am blissfully indoors, cozy in my thermals watching Dinosaur Train and occasionally spooning yogurt into Absurdist Tot's mouth, when he comes around. (I know. Absurdist Tot's only fourteen months, and TV is not recommended at this age. I'm a terrible mother.)

Back in Grad City, it's -10 degrees. Here it's about 15 degrees, not that I know it in my bones.

Yesterday, I felt ill most of the day. Today, my sore throat is gone. Yay. (Knock on wood.)

Back when the world was shut down, we had Big Plans. Now, I just think cozying up in the house sounds like a great idea. But I haven't been out of the house since before Christmas. I'm sure I should get out.

(Forget it. Domestic tranquility is blown. AT just shook the table and spilled my coffee. Oy!)

Though I've been in the house for a long time, I didn't get depressed and listless very much -- instead I've been working on projects, mostly getting AT on a decent sleep schedule. He was going to bed later and later; a good night was 11pm. Now he's going to bed around 9, with the attendant waking up at 8. And though I know I'm about to jinx it big time, the last two nights he's actually slept through until morning. I'm pretty sure that this reversion to night waking has been because of teething. I love sleeping through the night. I really do. Mostly because I stay up late. It's happened many times that right at the moment I'm tired and ready to go to bed, AT wakes up and wants to be nursed and coddled, often refusing to be put down. I'm all into attachment parenting and stuff, but actual co-sleeping, with AT in the bed, means I get very little sleep. Not because I'm a worried mom, though there is that - I don't want him to fall out of bed, and since we don't have a bedframe and are perennially poor, we can't and don't want to install rails -- but because he's a very fitful sleeper, sometimes sitting up and falling forward, often turning over in strange positions until he's perpendicular rather than parallel to us other people. It's really a nightmare for me.

Our Big Plans really are all about Building (my theme of the year, following Profgrrrrl's lead) on the foundation we've lain last year. We need to get caught up with doctor's visits (regular for AT; doctor, dentist, and vision for me) and start visiting daycares. We're determined to get AT into daycare by the end of the month. And I have Big Plans too. I have to prepare the elective I'm teaching in spring quarter -- and there's a lot of stuff to do and read there -- and then there are my Big Plans for scholarship. I really want to get some Serious Work done. My dissertation was complete and defended two and half years ago, and I've yet to publish an article on it. Lately I've been doing a fair amount of reading and researching for various articles I'm proposing, and I believe in that work more than ever. Now that's a great way to start the new year! So I want to get regular writing done. Over the next three months, I want to write 100 crappy pages. It sounds like a lot, but really it's only a page or so each day. And I also need to catch up on my reading. I read an article last night. I really need to do that daily or as often as possible in this parenting life.

Okay, I don't think Sesame Street's focus on hibernation today is helpful to my sense of get-up-and-go at all. Of course, AT's biting all his toys rather than watching anyway. He doesn't sit still long enough for me to read him a story! He thinks books are for eating. He's pushing his toys around the room. What a nut.

As discombobulated as this post is, I think it's the most accurate representation of my life. I look at the window and think of my research, my crochet project, the doctor, teaching. Then I snap back to whatever Absurdist Tot's doing, his need for food, a new diaper, whatever.

I think I have to go. The entire family likes poached eggs on toast. And that means the Cook's got to get in the kitchen.