Saturday, September 17, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Part of this may be temporary, as I was burned out big time by this time last year.
What I do want to talk about is how I recently hacked at and finally uprooted a climbing rose gone to seed (and mounded in a big bush rather than draped on the trellis, which had fallen) from the raised bed, then added three cubic feet of the best organic soil I could find, and then, today, seeded it with 2 kinds of lettuce, spinach, arugula (a lot of it!), leeks, kale, calendula, and nasturtiums. It is totally ridiculous to be starting a fall garden this late, and a winter garden is only possible here in greenhouses of one sort or another. But I don't care. We're all here: the place, the soil, the seeds, and me. So we'll do what we can. I did get very cold tolerant varieties, so much so that the kale should be harvestable in the snow. But it is sort of ridiculous. But it also occurs to me lately that some very good work in the world gets done because some naive person doesn't realize that what they're trying to do is impossible. Impossible Harvest? At Impossible Farm.
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said 'one can't believe impossible things.'
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. 'The title of Absurdist Paradise was always meant to describe academia. When I was not part of academia for that half year or so, the blog became more about my life, which also felt absurd. But now I want to spend my time focusing on gardening/farming/homesteading and Big Non Academic Project (BigNAP?). I want a space in my life to focus on those parts of my life that I wish could grow into bigger chunks of my life. But I'm not sure y'all are interested in my little family's long road to homesteading. I'm not sure this blog is the right place to discuss that. But our little family has to do something, because it sure doesn't feel like this so-called "normal life" is sustainable, from a spiritual point of view for us. (I don't mean religious. I mean this life so rubs against the grain -- it just feels wrong and abrasive. Meaningless.)
Even if nothing comes up in Impossible Farm's raised bed, I'll be planting garlic within the next month or two. October-December. That at least shouldn't end a shambles.
You think I should start a new blog?
Over and out.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I'm just so disgusted with politics and government and big business. Our regulatory agencies are staffed by those with significant industry ties to those who profit most from keeping consumers in the dark, no matter which president we have in office. And yet they are in charge of protecting consumers and keeping them safe. Furthermore, corporations have unlimited anonymous power to sway candidate elections with their big bucks. (What does this mean for initiatives and referenda? I don't know.) And when I talk about these issues, I'm the one who sounds nuts. I'm engaged in a project right now to address some of these issues the best way I know how, but even though this is the most exciting thing going on in my life, the more I research, the more I know, the more I get depressed. And it's also a big timesuck, as I evidenced by yesterday when I ended up spending time I should've been working on scholarship talking with someone about related issues and researching and working on the project.
There's also a work-related report that I haven't done that's weighing on me. I definitely find that finishing up some projects and getting them out the door lifts my mood. As does working out, which I definitely want to do today. But what I really want to talk about here is a certain piece of scholarship.
(Can I just say that Absurdist Lover is the most wonderful man in the entire history of the known world? He just sent me a text message saying that I should go somewhere and do something for me. I have tons to do work-wise, but this is quite literally the only time I truly get to myself. When I'm at work, I'm at work and yes, I can close the door, but it's not relaxing. I can veg out, but it's not relaxing. I don't even know what I'd do since we have no money. But maybe he's right. Maybe I need to get out of the house.)
Okay, so there's this chapter I'm writing for an edited collection that now has a publisher (that I'm not at all impressed by, but that's not a particularly significant consideration in this case). I worked hard and pumped a draft of me on this thing last summer. (I taught through the entire summer, so that was no small feat.) I knew when I turned it in that it was not good. But it was a beginning. I didn't get comments for a long time and so focused my scholarly energies elsewhere. I finally got my first set of comments back a couple months ago. They were harsh yet non-directive. So I took it to my multidisciplinary writing group which has a number of people situated much more inside the field than I am. While a couple people really didn't like certain parts of it and everyone agreed that it was very very rough, some others saw what I was trying to do and gave me good comments and direction about what the piece really needed to do in order to be useful. Then I got much more directive comments from the editors that emphasized their interest in it (the earlier comments hadn't) but made suggestions about where to go.
While I had a little spurt of energy on the project and ILL'd books like mad, my interest in the project is at an all-time low. Here's what I think is going on, besides just being in a funk about United States, Inc. and the fact that we're all guinea pigs in a country where Big Business is the bottom line:
- The Comments A-Swirling in My Head: The comments from my writing group suggested more focus on practice. Okay, that's not easy, but it should be doable. I understand why. This is the most important single aspect to work on to make the piece do what I want it to do. It takes a lot of time to put that stuff together, and I feel I have to rob some of my other work or do a lot of new stuff in order to do it. It's time-consuming and means really starting over, but I can do it, and I agree that it should be done. The comments from the editors concurred with this. But they also wanted more of a specific kind of analysis that I don't like to do very much, which means a lot of new work, and asked me to do one thing that I absolutely will not do because it means a whole lot more research. I completely respect that it's their collection, and they need my piece to fit in with other pieces. But I'm not sure whether it's that the piece doesn't feel like mine anymore -- the comments taking up more of my mental space than the engagement with the work -- or my lack of interest in doing the things they want me to do, which probably brings us back around to the issue that this piece is not in my field.
- I haven't gotten a lot of work done on this lately. It needs to be done in 5 weeks (they'd have liked it at the end of this month, but I'm teaching this summer (boo) so I asked for an extension). Not getting work done on it and barely knowing where to start is enough to be in a funk about this.
- The Big Picture, aka Tenure Requirements: As of now, I'm halfway to the university's official tenure-able publication requirements. But this piece is not situated in my field. Now it just so happens that at my institution, I have a lot of flexibility in defining my field the way I want to. While the major field of the collection is not my field, the focus of it certainly is, so much so, in fact, that this and related foci are what my university colleagues outside my field remember about my work (especially when it lines up with their interests, so I've gotten people in the social sciences asking me about my work, which is cool beans indeed). What's more, my particular angle on it is also very much a key research interest for me that anyone would see from looking at my work or even my CV. So within my university, this piece probably does count as a sincere full-fledged publication. But when I think of outside reviewers in my field, well, it's not in my field. A nice outside reviewer will easily see what I'm trying to do, but it doesn't help cement, or even contribute, to my work in my field. And because of that, I see this piece not as useless but as counting as a half publication to my tenure requirements. (I have another half publication that is extremely short and not published in a field journal, so it works out. This and that equal one whole publication.) But probably the prospect of needing to do so much additional work and not getting much out of it (and of course they can still reject it entirely) isn't very motivating.
- The work I need to do on this piece -- rewriting the whole thing and doing some new research for it -- is keeping me from working on another big project that requires copious research but is very well situated in my field. (Okay, it's putting two fields together: mine and one is that I have a lot of familiarity with, though not enough at this point to write scholarship in. But it's on a topic that I know very well in my field, and my particular focus is on something that no one has done yet. So with the four or five months that I have for it, I feel much better about that one, though the research is daunting. Plus it counts as a complete publication. It also has a well-respected publisher already. And the editor is completely excited about it. Maybe that's more significant than I realize: I know the editor will help me hone it because Zie is a generous rockstar and very much in love with the topic. Not so with this piece where I know I'm already skating on thin ice.)
So the whole context around this piece I'm supposed to be working on is negative. With this revision, I have to prove that this piece is worth including, even while my methods are not the field's methods. I'm sure it's occurred to you that I'm thinking of just hanging it up completely. But I hate to do that. It wouldn't exactly hurt me because these people are not in my field, though, yes, the academic world is small. But giving up can be a hard habit to break. (Who am I quoting? I can't remember.) If you have managed to make it this far and have an opinion on this, please please please leave it in comments.
I do think it's difficult to write to a resistant audience. That's what this feels like to me. I need to imagine that I'm writing it to someone who is receptive to the ideas. I know this won't lead me to exquisite argumentation, but right now I need a strategy for getting words down on the page. (I do freewrite on the damn thing, but I've got zero usable pages right now.)
Part of me really wants to not deal with it at all today but take the day off for a little EE time. Though perhaps not working on it will lead me to feeling worse about it later. It's difficult to know. I have no idea what I'd do -- probably work out and. . .oh dear lord, I don't know. Cook? Repot my plants? I should do that report, but that's not relaxing. Take a nap? Get outside? Oy vey. What is it that makes me happy and hopeful again? Organic agriculture, lovely food, farmy stuff, being outside. Good books. (Oh yeah, I'm sad also that I haven't been writing -- not scholarship, but the real stuff. Of course, this is old news. Maybe I'm just in a funk, a physical funk, and looking for mental reasons for it. Maybe I just need to snap out of it, work out, take a shower, and find something lovely to do. Go EE! Get off your lazy butt!)
Monday, August 22, 2011
Mostly I try not to write pejorative things about students on this blog for a host of reasons, but I must share with you: WTF?
No, dear freshmen, emailing me even the most apologetic message a whole day after you miss your presentation in class is not going to explain to me why you didn't email me beforehand. You weren't suddenly abducted by aliens at the start of my class and only now came to, or were you? I can imagine a bunch of reasons why someone would not be able to contact me beforehand, but the excuses I've been handed for missing presentations are totally and completely the kind where anyone but a child would realize that they should send an email upfront to save the situation. And therein lies the problem. And I just love having to send the email that says: if this were a job, you'd be fired.
This is not making it easier to get up and get going today. In good news, I managed to freeze my entire bushel of green beans by 9:20 last night. We now have 16 packages of green beans in the freezer. That should make winter much nicer. I love green beans.
I do not love stupid student tricks. But I better get going anyway. For those of you starting today or soon, I envy you the hopeful excited part. I hope it all starts and goes well.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
So last night, Tot decided he wanted to go to sleep at 7pm. This from the late-night toddler. (Speaking of: he's two months away from three years old! I can't believe it. Surely he deserves a better moniker than Tot, now that most sources seem to call him a "preschooler." Am working on it and thinking about whether he and AL should have monikers that really fit them more than just their relationship to me, but I digress and still don't know what I think about it all.) But I am not one to argue against his sleeping. So he slept. I thought it would be a good time to start freezing the bushel of green beans I ordered from my CSA. A bushel. I had no idea how much a bushel really is. It's a lot. So I took a nap, then got up and made a start around 11pm. AL was gone on his first visit to work at that point. Of course, Tot woke up at 2am and stayed up until 5am, so that nap I took that robbed me of some green bean time ended up being totally inspired. I went to bed at 6:30am. Tot woke up at 9:30am, bright-eyed and shiny-faced. At that point, AL was already gone, having been called in for the second time since he started being on call at 7pm. (The first notice of the first call-in was at 8:30. The darn place can't survive without him for even two hours!)
All this to say: his being on call sucks for the whole family (no going to any of the fairs going on right now because it would suck to waste the entry price); Tot was on some weirdo schedule yesterday, though he's fine today, though I'm quite tired because of it; the upshot of all this is that I managed to freeze about or at least almost half a bushel of green beans in the wee hours last night.
I did take a picture of the now half-full bushel box, which I'll post later. (I haven't downloaded photos to my computer for ever. Though not a big deal, of course, it seems like a big job for some reason. Perhaps everything seems big now.
Oh, gotta go. Tot wants to take a nap. More later.
***A half hour later***
False alarm. He decided he wanted to look at a particular page of The Cat in the Hat, which then meant that we went through all the subsequent pages (not reading, but he likes to flip the page and ask, "What happened?" and then I try to help him figure out what happened based on the pictures). When he got to the last page of the book, the one with just white on it, he did what he did last night: asked about coloring the pages. And I said no, that we don't color our books, only our papers. And then he promptly got up and ran to his desk so he could color pictures of trains. He loves trains and asks daily about going to the train tracks. He also loves cars, buses, and motorcycles. And most recently, probably because his Montessori teacher is an artist herself, painting. Actually his paintings have really nice composition. We hung them up. I like them, even apart from being his mom.
I'm sure I should get started on those green beans, but my energy level has dipped. (I never do well when he teases me that he's going to take a nap and then doesn't.) He's busy with AL talking about "orange" and "red." So cute. I'm going to go and grab what family goodness is available to me this weekend. Talk to you later, most likely about green beans, transplanting container garden vegetables and herbs, and the bounty of local organic food in this region. (Not about work, though I'm up to my navel in summer quarter. I really don't like being so far off the normal academic schedule. It's very alienating. So instead of gearing up for the fall semester, like so many of you with that familiar mix of excitement for it all to start again and dread that summer is over, I'm deep in midterms. Next academic year will be better, I've been promised. I swear I put it on the first draft of my annual report that keeping myself from complaining about my schedule was a part of my departmental service.)
Happy fall semester, everyone! May all your syllabi write themselves and your copying get done!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I've finished three projects. There is no way to fit the work into 20 minutes, and even though I still have three projects to grade before I can consider myself done for the day, I MUST take a break. Most of these projects can only be described by the term "hot mess." Almost all of these students are very early freshman students (as in they graduated from high school about three minutes ago) and are difficult in the usual ways of such young students. I used to really enjoy teaching such young students and being involved in their "transition to the university," but I don't much enjoy teaching this class to these students at this university. Part of it is the focus of the course, which in many ways I support. In other ways, I think the focus does a disservice to colleagues who will have these students down the line. Because of this concern, I may be spearheading a department project on a related topic.
Oh, I wish I were closer to done with grading for the day. Tot is at daycare instead of Montessori, so I can take extra time today if needed. (His Montessori school is closed for a couple weeks before opening for the official fall school year, which I finally managed to get Tot registered for and everything: money has been an important recent concern with moving to a house and everything.)
Oh it's simply been forever since I blogged. Mostly this is because with Tot in Montessori my teaching days are more frequent but shorter, so I really have to use all the time I have. I have far less free time, it seems. (I feel quite behind on work things, especially the chapter I have due.) A big part of this is Tot being more of a handful. Part of this is my recent obsession with Big Project, which I'll tell y'all about some other time. And part of this is my pact with myself that when I'm home with the family, I'm really with the family, cooking and doing home things.
I've been cooking a lot because we're getting beautiful bountiful vegetables from our CSA. Have I mentioned my oodles of containers of plants? (And more coming because I just ordered seeds from Seed Savers Exchange to attempt a fall harvest. There's a raised bed in the backyard that I hope and pray has not been treated with RoundUp and other noxious chemicals that have been linked to birth defects. I haven't yet decided whether to experiment with it yet, though of course I'd build it up by putting in new organic soil.)
My favorite things in my life -- besides my family -- center on food and farming: getting cheese through this ordering system for local farmers I'm experimenting with; going to the New City farmer's market to get organic sweets (last week: blueberry crumble pie -- does it get any better than that? I think not); working on my own garden for a fall harvest; cooking and adding new recipes to my recipe book. I'm considering taking a correspondence course on medicinal herbs in the fall as well. Of course, I'd want to grow some herbs as well.
But for now, I've got three projects to grade. See you on the flip side.
I'm done. And thank goodness because that last one was a complete fail. I did manage to read one today that was pretty much okay. Now I've got to do something else, because jumping right into scholarship? Not gonna happen. I need a break before I can even think of working out. GAH!
Friday, August 12, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Of course, now I have to go and pick up the Tot, so that's all I can manage. But one is better than my usual, which is none. . .for days and days and days. And then there's that pressure to grade and the procrastination and self- and project-loathing. I've made myself a resolution to try to bypass all that by moderating my emotions, not beating myself up about grading, and just getting the hell on with it.
Since I am prone to not giving myself enough credit, I have to say: I'm pretty proud of myself. I really could've easily wasted the time.
The one I graded was very interesting. I look forward to reading the rest of them.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
(Another power struggle over whether putting one's feet on playing cards one has just dropped is a good idea. We do a lot of threatening time in his playpen these days. It's easy to feel like a terrible parent. I lose my temper often.)
But the upshot is that I can blog. Unfortunately, I feel like I have little to say. I'm teaching, doing service work (wow: it would be great if I could make some headway on this report I meant to start but didn't yesterday), and trying to work on the major revision for Article Slightly Outside My Field. For that article, I've been putting some very odd things together, but I knew before that there were some Australian researchers putting them together too. Now I see they have a book due out next year. I can't figure out whether I feel bad about being scooped or relieved to know that I'll be able to simply gesture to them as evidence that putting these things together does make sense. I wish the book were out now. But as much as I went nuts researching and ILL-ing articles that I could find from these researchers, this aspect of things is a small part of the overall argument. (That is, this is theory while the main thrust is application.) Why is it so easy to get all obsessed about one difficult part of one's argument rather than focusing on that which is going to get the most pages? Of course, there's lack of self-esteem and imposter syndrome in the mix, but is it also, in this case, that I'm more interested in delineating that theoretical argument than the main thrust of the chapter, which includes both application (which is okay) but also a specific kind of analysis that I'm not really thrilled about doing?
It's foolish to think I'm really going to get a lot done today, when keeping Tot out of trouble is already a major never-ending project. If anyone has great ideas about specific indoor activities to do with an extremely active tot of 2-3/4 years, please let me know.
Monday, July 18, 2011
In short, I have a lot going on and a lot of other stuff going on in my head, but it's a blur, a whirlwind, a summer thunderstorm threatening hail. I want to back to writing creatively, discover a new way of being a writer in this very busy life. Do I wake up an hour early like so many dedicated women writers? The danger with this is that I get so little sleep as it is. My schedule is somewhat flexible, surely I should be able to sneak in some writing? But then I get ambitious. If I can get some writing published, it might count for tenure. Just like with crochet: it's not enough to just enjoy the doing of it, suddenly I have to crochet all my Christmas presents. Chanukah presents. Solstice presents. (Solstice is the one that really makes more sense to me, though Christmas makes more sense to me now that I have a child.)
I'm rambling. I'm also dozing off. I just wanted to say to hi to y'all. I'm enjoying reading y'all's blogs during the few minutes I have between activities. I hope things will balance out soon, and I can write a blogpost that makes sense. Have enough alone time so that the talk in my head makes sense to me.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
So here's one thing I'm thinking about: as much as there is a lot about grading to hate, both theoretically and actually, the way I typically grade (waiting until the last possible minute and then grading in a huge black cloud huff) doesn't allow me to enjoy it. It's really not much of a possibility. I always read papers with the seeds of interesting conversations in them, conversations I would like to have and should broach with my students (especially considering who my students are and how little intellectual engagement is part of their everyday lives). (I'm not trying to bash my students here; I'm always surprised at how interesting my students are, considering everything. I teach at a specialized institution where only certain kinds of students apply/attend -- students who are not at all like me or who I was at their age. Moreover, they do not come to my uni to take my courses. In fact, my department doesn't have a major; we're purely a service department.) So when my students are up for interesting conversations, I should jump on it. I always put the paper aside and sigh that there's no time for that. Grade grade grade. And I always forget about the pedagogical opportunities of grading when I'm procrastinating digging into a big stack.
I want to enjoy my job more. In fact, I'm determined to. Procrastinating essential parts of my job that I don't like does not make me like my job more. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it -- especially since I tried contract grading, but this doesn't work with my procrastinating tendencies -- but I'm getting control of this grading issue. I am interested in what my students say. I do want to have these conversations. I do want to wade through their prose and help them fix it. I need to think of grading differently.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I just sent him back up to play with his cars. Is he too young to be playing without supervision, I wonder.
He just came down the stairs again. Oy.
He's had pinkeye for the last few days, which has meant really terrible antibiotics that are wreaking havoc on his g-i tract.
But what I wanted to say to you all is that the differences between our apartment and this house really makes me reflect on my relationships to nature and people. I'm even thinking of writing an essay about it, about how much I've loved communing with the ducks and geese and swans, especially this spring when they all had babies. Oh how I marveled at the swan tending her nest, then worried when I saw the nest was abandoned until I finally saw the four signets. The Canada geese parents (both) who spend their entire lives walking their babies around, sometimes in the creek, sometimes on its banks. The duck mama and her tiny babies all running down the bank to the creek at the same time. Now our backyard, which is big, gorgeous, and unfenced, looks out into other people's backyards. When I look out the front, it's worse: just houses up and down.
Here's what I'm trying to say: We have a lot more space -- inside and out -- but I feel more closed in.
I think part of this has to do with my dislike of subdivisions and how much this feels a bit too much like the place I grew up. Some of it is, perhaps, my discomfort about being "the mom" and therefore representative of the family, my discomfort about being observed at close range, being someone who has coffee with the neighbors and seems like she has it together. But some of it is my relationship with nature. I'm thinking since there will be no waterfowl in my backyard, I think I must go and seek out spaces where I'll get to hang out with the birds. Until then, I'm going to get very into vegetative life -- me with my nineteen potted plants now sunning themselves on the deck.
Must go now. Tot's been very patient.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I wish I had some eternally patient single friend who would come over and hang out with me while I'm in pinkeye jail with Tot. Luckily, pinkeye has not stopped Tot from happily playing with his cars. That he's not completely miserable is the only saving grace of the whole thing. Instead, I'm the one who's miserable, realizing the serious limitations of coffee. I gave up the Coffee Corporation a while back, trying to save my stomach and money. Now I see the error of my ways.
It would be a whole lot easier to be blase about the whole disarrangement of a week's worth of plans if I had gotten enough sleep. Sigh.
I have to call Tot's daycare, my dental appointment, and his doctor for an appointment. Impossible feats, I tell you. So.frigging.tired.
Update 2:42 pm
Tot was nearly down for a nap when I jostled him too much and though he tried to go back to sleep, now he's up and driving me crazy (throwing rather than rolling his damn ball -- I can't believe that more people don't go insane with toddlers -- how many frigging times do I have to say that he can't throw it but only roll it, and I know he knows what I mean -- grrr).
And now the damn landlord of our new rental is driving me insane with hir antics and crap. I'm really beginning to think that this is the most ill-fated move ever for a variety of reasons. I'm beginning to hate everyone right now, except the sweet blogger-friends who've left me comments. (And, of course, at just this moment, Tot throws another damn ball. I'm just going to melt down, people. Just like the Wicked Witch of the West. Please. Throw water on me.)
Monday, June 13, 2011
So here goes:
- We're moving into a house by the end of the month. It's stretching us financially, because we had to cough up a huge security deposit, but we figure our quality of life will improve so much that it's worth it. I don't have to do anything on that front today; we're expecting the lease agreement but that's not urgent. We have not begun packing or anything. ETA: They sent the lease agreement. Some stupid ridiculous things that make no sense. Oy! Another thing to deal with.
- Grade 12 portfolios. Yes, I need to grade. Must do today. ETA: Graded three. Oy gevalt.
- I wanted to take my yoga class, but 1) I need to pay because my pass ran out and we don't have a lot of cash right now; and 2) I don't have a lot of time today, but will have time later in the week to focus on my headspace and health. It bothers me that when I'm busy the easiest thing to get rid of is the stuff that actually makes me more balanced, but today I think it just cannot be helped. No yoga today. Go later in the week, if the money's there. Otherwise, work out with Leisa Hart at home.
- I have a therapy appointment in the afternoon. I don't really want to go, because I'm too busy to do navel-gazing, but I've cancelled so much lately I don't want to do that. So off I go to that. Do this today. ETA: This ended up going really well.
- Tot has a water day at school tomorrow, so I have to 1) make sure his trunks still fit (why, oh why didn't I do this before I took him to school today?) and 2) I must buy him a beach towel. I don't know why I feel like I just cannot take his regular bath towel to school and forget this shopping expedition today, but I just can't. He deserves a darn beach towel from his parents who can more or less afford it and are just lazy and skeptical about many of the normal things that kids have. Check the trunks against other clothes he can wear, then go to get a beach towel and new trunks, if needed. ETA: Checked his not one, but two sets of swimming trunks (which is hilarious because we never, and I mean never, go swimming because I'm a big weenie about Tot and the swimming pool), and I'm just not sure that the larger won't be too tight. Must go and get swimming trunks on top of the beach towel. But where? The websites for what's in stock at my usual stores is pretty disheartening. Why is it that I don't think of doing this after I pick up Tot? Hmmm. Interesting possibilities there. ETA: Got trunks and beach towel at Kohl's after therapy.
- I've got to remember to bring a check to Tot's school for his field trip this Friday that I have to go on too, right before I jet to a dental appointment, then back to campus to pick up all the last papers from my courses. Just write the check and be done. Done.
- Tot has lost one of the little feet that cushions his nose on his glasses. I've got to get a replacement, which means I should call around and find out who has one. Have I mentioned I hate talking on the phone (in part because I have a "Smartphone" and it's one of the ones that has really high levels of radiation, which is bad health-wise). Yes, I bought a headset. It's okay. Call Tot's eyecare place because maybe the little foot will be free. ETA: I called, but apparently there are hundreds of nose pads and so they have to be brought in. Right now, they are on Tot's nose at daycare. The next day I can realistically bring in his glasses is Wednesday (considering that I teach all day tomorrow). Sigh.
- I keep buying plants at the Farmer's Market. Yesterday, they had a booth that was all organic heirloom vegetables in little pots for $1 each. Okay, it's basically like they asked what would EE most want to see at the Farmer's Market. It was amazing for all the obvious reasons, but also because while our farmer's market has some organics, it's not as if every other booth is organic, by a long stretch. (Not even every other booth is food! There are lots of crafts too.) So anyway I have all these plants on the patio now, and they really need to be replanted into larger pots. I have to buy said pots. I do have organic potting soil that I bought especially. But no pots. It's getting a little ridiculous out there. I also need a decent watering can because going in and out of the house with a 2-cup pyrex measuring cup to water about 15 plants is just silly. But when will I be able to get to even buying the pots? I do not know. Don't ask me why I couldn't manage to get this done over the weekend. I think it had everything to do with the fact that I was reading a book this weekend. (Despite what my academic calendar says, my brain saw all the sun and the plants and everything and screamed "summer" and hasn't been the same since.) Buy a bunch of pots and a decent watering can wherever I get the beach towel. ETA: This will have to wait another day.
- Since I finished my delicious mystery last night, I'm really dying to go and get another one today. At least, AL said I should go get it today. He must have no idea how long my list is already. I think this is going to have to wait. I could call and find out who has the next book, but I think I can't pick it up today.
- Because Tot is making this transition to his toddler bed, which means he gets up every few hours, I was in bed getting a few needed Zs with him instead of getting up early, taking a shower, and drinking some coffee. Shower and coffee are both still on my to-do list. I'd love to take a nap too. Coffee and shower done. How silly it is that I have to put such things on my to-do list!
- I have a student who wants to see me this afternoon. I think I basically need to say no because how can I get any of these things done and make it into the office this afternoon, however late. The grading, while not totally horrendous, is going to take me the bulk of the day. Everything else has to fit in at the odd angles of my day. Sadly. Send him the email that you'll see him tomorrow. Done.
- I need to send an email to this workshop thing I was very excited about going to, but now have decided to not go to. Why? Here's the story I'm telling myself: I've been in moderate pain since practically the beginning of this year. First it was the back pain (which hasn't gone away, but it pretty manageable now), then the terrible tooth, then just when the tooth was over, I got the worst heartburn/acid reflux of my life. I really thought I was going to die. Now, it's all abated except the referred pain from my back. But during all this time that I've been in on-again, off-again pain, I've been trying to work on Much Needed Article. I decided on a direction, then figured out exactly why that won't work, but in the process missed all my deadlines. Now, I've received word that I need to work on that article from last year because it does seem very likely that the collection is going to pick up a publisher very soon. During all this time, I've been teaching, doing service, taking care of Tot. And me, me in all this? I just want to rest. I want to rest and garden and read books. I want to do yoga and take care of myself and get healthier, because lately I've just been dragging my sorry ass from one thing to another. With Tot and his challenges (sleep and super-activity), I feel like I have very little time off from others' expectations and needs. I have almost two weeks off between the end of spring quarter and my full-time summer obligations, time when Tot will be in daycare during the day. And the workshop is scheduled during those two weeks. No. Just no. I can't. And now it turns out we're going to be moving during that exact same time. No. Sorry. I just can't do it. I.need.some.time.off. This email does not need to be sent today.
Friday, May 27, 2011
- I had terrible tooth pain for weeks, finally went to the dentist, waited for three more weeks for my appointment to roll around, and then had a root canal. Icky. I feel diseased. (And I have not yet had the usual cleaning and diagnostics to tell me what other nightmares await me in the teeth realm.) I'm still on pain meds. It absolutely ruined our weekend last weekend along with. . .
- AL has been on call at work. It's over now, as of today. But he's gotten up in the middle of the night so many times I swear he works more at night than during the day. This made root canal weekend even worse because he was too tired to take care of Tot. Even still, he tried. We managed.
- My sister fell off a horse and actually fractured her spine. She had to have spinal fusion surgery. She's at home now, trying to manage the pain. She's going to have to wear a brace for six months. It's awful. Which has also led to. . .
- My mother came back up from the deep to send me text messages about my sister. The latest ones are all about whether I know whether my sister knows the recipe for my late grandmother's "Miracle Soup." As if I would know. As if my sister, at home alone because her husband and kids are at work and school, respectively, should be making herself soup rather than having someone else make her soup. As if my grandmother's soup was anything more than Whole Foods vegetable soup powder with an awful lot of vegetables in it. Finally, I stopped texting back about that one because it's just so stupid. I really liked it much better when my mother wasn't talking to me for reasons I'm not sure about but can guess. I'm sick of the hot and cold with my mother. It finally occurred to me, because I'm incredibly slow, that not only have I been putting up with the same kind of BS from my mother for my nearly 40 years, but that I'm tired of it and have no more energy to invest in relationships that merely drive me crazy and don't pay off in any way; in fact, I'd be stupid to invest what little time I have that way. As AL said so well, our lives are so busy with full-time jobs and an active toddler. My mother could be a support, something that adds to our lives. Instead she takes away. I'm no longer going to invest time in the minus column of my life.
- I've decided to start Tot in Montessori in July. We've observed the class, we've talked with the director, and I, at least, am looking forward to it. Tot, on the other hand, seems to love his current daycare, though all I have to do to firm up my resolve is to come in at snack time when some deranged parents think it's a good idea to pump their kids full of donuts and cupcakes. (Sorry if this is insulting to you, dear readers. AL says I shouldn't judge. But really: sugar, fat, and likely trans fats and GMO. Oh, and I realize this is a trivial consideration: no actual nutrition for kids' growing bodies. I'm not against the occasional fabulous dessert, but donuts from a coffee place as a kid's everyday snack? Bringing in a giant cupcake snack for a whole room full of early preschoolers? I feel especially responsible for bringing tasty and healthy snacks when it's my turn to feed the entire room. Am I the only one?)
- Tot has started asking to be with "other kids." Which means that I'm concerned that this long weekend isn't going to be as fun as it should be. AL and I are determined to do nice things for ourselves beyond the usual laundry, dishes, trash. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to rain all weekend, when the things we want to do involve being outdoors and eating outdoors. We might try to take Tot to a restaurant, something we've really stopped doing because he is so active.
- The Farmer's Market started up last weekend. Thank God and Hir's wee angels. It was rained out the day it was supposed to start.
- I hate the quarter system and especially my Uni's academic calendar that makes me way off of every other academic's calendar. The good news is that I have today off, though it's only week 8. Which means. . .
- That today is the day I.simply.must.make.amazing.progress.on.the.article I now owe to Grad School Colleague and will soon owe to a professional workshop thing I'm scheduled to go to (but can't quite imagine since I have to leave AL and Tot here) AND to my regularly scheduled writing group.
But you'll notice that none of this is helping me get my article done. So here's what I'm going to do:
- I'm not going to panic.
- I'm going to take my outline and dump in the various discussions I've been working on into it. Had to do a course correction, but done!
- Then I'm going to print it out and do some handwritten revision. Thwarted! Our printer is so close to out of ink that it's giving me very choppy unreadable pages. GAH! Okay, I could go to work or I could go to my friendly nearby Staples. Since I have laundry in the communal laundry room, I suppose Staples is the smart choice. Done.
- My goal is that I'm going to get one of the five sections of the piece written through today. Done.
- But before I do any of that, I'm going to read that blogpost from the day I calmly wrote that article. I have done it before, and I can do it again. But I just need to remind myself how. Done.
ETA: I just figured out that my organization is not going to work because, as always, my points are intertwined with one another. Instead I'm going to group the discussions together differently, which of course means I've spent some of my productive time on important discoveries that don't yield actual pages. Sigh. Back to it.
Friday, May 6, 2011
But what I want to note right now is that I've been agonizing over the revision to my article -- and think I've had an epiphany. I work and work and work, researching bits and writing out possibilities and thinking through different choices. But I don't actually revise an article by adding to it or toying with the existing draft -- at least one I completed so long ago (Chapter 1 of my dissertation). I just can't do that. Instead the old draft becomes what I call a feeder document. It becomes bits and pieces I can cut and paste into the new article, which has to be a new document. I think of it like this: to build the house that is an article, the framework has to be new. I can then use existing pieces to paint and even build ductwork and all that, but the framework (by which I don't mean a theoretical framework) has to be new. I did my dissertation this way, using other stuff I'd written but connecting it together with a new articulation of the main argument. Only when I figure out the movement of the article (how it will flow) can I realistically think about keeping a word count or anything. Until then I'm writing-to-think or working out issues or doing bits and pieces that will end up in the piece (after all, I have to do all the research that I will cut and paste!), but not actually tallying up pages.
The nice thing is that when I do finally write it through, the pages accumulate quickly because so many of the pieces just need to be tweaked. (When I started really humming on my dissertation and I'd do six pages a day, it was always like this, though I'm sure everyone thought I was actually writing all six pages and that I was some kind of fast writer -- yeah right. Instead, it takes me ages to collect all the crap together and write innumerable comments before I can get to this stage.)
The good part is that I think I'm at that stage. I've reduced the scope of my argument and worked out some of the biggest kinks, I hope. I've managed 438 words in a new fresh document, though mostly it's still notes. But it's a start. And it feels real now. Cross your fingers that the pages will accumulate quickly because my May 22 deadline is right around the corner. And I'm teaching and looking for houses and then there's the Tot's terrible sleeping fiasco. I should ask y'all what to do about that at some point. For now I have to go. I hope all y'all's semesters are coming to an easy and happy close. Whimper whimper whimper for those of us on the quarter system!!!!
Monday, April 25, 2011
And it's no wonder to me that some part of me that would usually rather sleep wanted to get an early jump on today because I am simply Deeeeeelighted that both of my boys, whom I love dearly, are taken care of for hours upon hours and I can be alone and focus on me. (No making dinner or taking Tot out on walks or going to the children's museum or whatever because I should. No shoulds!) Mondays I'm scheduled to do yoga and go to therapy. I doubt I'll do either today because I need to take care of me. I don't want to go to therapy because I don't want to rehash the weekend of suckage. And yoga is in less than an hour and my back hurts and I just don't think I'm going to get there. I actually have tons of things to do today, but what I really want to do is research. The entire weekend, actually starting with Friday, I wanted to work on my research, perhaps because it belongs only to me and I have control over it unlike the various reasons that made the weekend of suckage what it was. Partly also because Thursday, which is supposed to be a lesser but still significant research day, was almost completely taken up by this service document I had to crank out. And I really missed not getting to work on my work! (This feels like a really significant difference from the version of me who had to basically cajole myself into writing my dissertation and thought I might be perfect for a job that required little research. Now I know that's not.true.at.all. I love research.)
So work-wise, I want to
- Write up an abstract for a conference paper and send it to the panel organizer.
- Work on article. Accomplished.
- Possibly finish the email I'm carefully crafting to a contact asking for help on a project.
- Stage a creative work submission so all I have to do is print and mail when I'm at work before the window closes at the end of the month.
Other things I have to do:
- Do laundry. Done.
- Do the bills. Done.
- Pick up Tot's favorite seed butter across town at the only place that carries it which happens to be on a street that is now under construction and is just a major pain to get to. Done.
- Call and reschedule therapy appointment. Done.
- Figure out dental insurance, find a dentist, and make an appointment so I can stop living with tooth pain.
Can I just say that I love being invited to do things by other scholars in my field? It just makes me feel like I have something to say and have some expertise for someone somewhere even though I work daily in an institution that merely pays lipservice to the necessity of the skills I teach and I teach things that not only are not my specialty, but are things I don't value to students who on the whole wish they didn't have to take such classes at all. And when I do get to have wonderful scholarly conversations with my colleagues, it's usually not on anything I really know anything about -- though I tend to love having them anyway. It occurs to me now that going to conferences can be a lifeline for some of us, probably most of us, because most institutions hire people to cover certain areas, which often means that when you get right into the fine detail of your field, there's no one right across the hall to talk to (unlike grad school). I didn't go to the Big Conference this year because I don't like to be gone from home a lot and I already went to a specialist conference and am going to a workshop, then two conferences in the fall (one is local). That's a lot. But I think from now on I'm going to make it more of a priority, even though in the past I really haven't liked Big Conference all that much. It's too big, for one thing. And I find going to conferences and sitting in session after session really difficult, so I tend to go to too few sessions. But maybe I have to look at it more as a chance to slurp up new ideas that I can then digest for the rest of the year.
Knowing that a senior scholar that I respect is asking me to do something (or if I'd like to do something) also makes me more careful in my work, wanting something to be good rather than merely done. I'm going to enjoy writing my annual report this year since I've had some rather good luck. In fact, I admit I often go to sleep thinking about the good luck I've had research-wise.
(By the way, the reason why I'm not inundated with grading and counting down the weeks until summer like most of you is because I'm on the quarter system and so am getting my first boatload of papers tomorrow. Worse than that, I'm teaching right though the summer -- with maybe three weeks off at most. So while I'm not in grading jail right now, I am off the normal academic calendar, which means that while you're all writing about your summer plans and then lightblogging because you're out having fun, well, I'll be doing the regular thing, same bat time, same bat channel. Being so far off the academic calendar is another thing that makes me feel really. . .well, alienated from my academic colleagues. The final cure for all this is obvious, but wouldn't do anything immediately for my headspace. So instead the real cure for all this is research. Who knew?)
Monday, April 11, 2011
Taking a hard look at the work I need to get done each week, including my seemingly never-ending service commitments, helped me to say no to a campus-wide venture that, while important in its own way, would probably not do much for me tenure-wise. (It's more of a staff project than a faculty project.) But more important than any tenure issue in my decision was really putting Much Needed Article on the front burner and thinking carefully about how many hours a week I need to get it out in the next few months. I also need other things: I emailed a grad school friend I used to work with a lot and begged zie to please read it. So now I have a deadline of when I need to turn it in (though really this friend would look at it if it were in pieces -- that's how good of a respondent zie is) and a good reader in my field who is well-acquainted with my work and central questions (unlike anyone around SU). And it turns out that the workshop that I'm going to at the end of June also wants us to circulate papers, so I'm hoping to get it to Grad School Colleague (who deserves a better moniker) in time for me to revise it and turn it around for the workshop. I don't know whether that will really happen, but feeling like I have an immediate and real audience for this piece will, I think, help me get it out the door.
So I've organized my time and days, and this is my first research-focused day. I've been looking forward to it all weekend, when I spent some late-night time making notes for this article. Unfortunately, there is a yoga class in about a half hour that I really need to take as well. AL got me a yoga pass two months ago now because that's what I wanted for Valentine's Day. But then I got that back sprain and didn't go all this time. The last time I was at the doctor's, she said that if I am not going to take the muscle relaxers because I'm still breastfeeding, then I need stretch a lot. What is yoga if not stretching a lot? So I'm going to break up my day by going to yoga, which is also incredibly good for me. (Though my back feels terrible -- stupid bed.) And good for my brain.
I've been in a terrible mood, one that makes me suspect that I'm depressed. I'm back to trying to work with Write Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks (though I'm going to try to do it about 8 weeks), and there was a blurb in there about depression and how the problem is that once you're depressed, no matter what the cause, you begin to react to every situation as if it's a stressful one. I certainly have been like that recently. Especially at work. Not only at work though. Luckily I have therapy later in the afternoon and can focus on all that there.
It's amazing to me how long it's been since I really tried to organize my time. Since I had Tot, I've felt like my life is running me, not like I actually run my life. This is silly because I've read Academic Self many times and the author extols the virtues of organizing and planning -- especially to keep productive and prevent burnout. Obviously, I haven't read this book in the last couple years. Just having a plan for my week (which has to be adjusted weekly because I've never been able to keep a schedule unless it's super-flexible) makes me feel more on top of it all, more like a professional. Not someone running from class to meeting to service deadline.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Now I have to go play with Tot. Poor guy. All morning I've been pushing him to the TV and away from me. It's too bad it's raining, or we'd go to the park and play. I've got to go make up for some very bad mommying now.
But I thought I'd just grump here for a moment: since my last post before I went to bed last night, I've overslept by an hour, got the Tot all organized to go to daycare earlier than usual, dealt with a banking snafu created by an overconfident check writer (that would be me), went to campus, figured out that my printing was still down in the basement, picked it up, started grading a portfolio, taught a class, graded through "lunch," if you can call a couple of handfuls of cheese bunnies and some cashews that, taught another class, graded graded graded until I had to pick up Tot, took care of Tot (albeit sometimes almost dozing on the couch), put him down, and went back to grading. I have to wake up early to grade before Tot wakes up. I kept the hardest ones for tomorrow, I'm sad to say. But at least I have some options with those.
Well, that's definitely all we have time for. I have to go to bed so I can wake up and grade before spending the day with Tot. Did I mention I have a toothache? And a slightly scratchy throat? Send flowers. I really hope to see all y'all on the other side. Especially if it's a healthy other side.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Get ready, get set, GO!
So in 3 hours, I was able to get grades done for 5/20. Each one just takes a long time with all sorts of pieces. In the last two hours (from 10pm-12am) I've managed to do all the grades for my other class, except for some small fine details. So at least I won't have much of that hanging over my head, though I will definitely have to try to sneak in as much grading tomorrow (teaching day) as possible. Gah.
Friday, April 1, 2011
So Tot, who deserves a better moniker, is moving up into the next room with the big kids. I think this is a great move for him, because being with the babies had him asking for a bottle. He's done a lot of new things lately: he's talking up a storm (often too fast for us to understand); he asks for milk, which is completely new; he responds to our calls that it's time to go to bed, somewhat. Which is a great foundation for the future. So I met the lead teacher, and we talked about organic and non-GMO food preferences and all the things they do in that room. It's more structured than the toddler room. On the one hand, I think this is great. On the other hand, I'm pretty convinced by the Montessori method of having children be self-directed in a carefully-constructed environment where they can work together and teach each other, as I went to a Montessori myself (though too late for it to be pivotal) and I am also highly critical of the general educational method with the hidden curriculum that says: sit and be quiet; the teacher will tell you the answer because you can't figure it out yourself; all answers are in books rather than in direct observation and experimentation; the way to success and approbation is through docility and following orders. Though I went to a nearby Montessori's open house day pretty recently and saw Tot focus on moving beans from bowl to bowl with a spoon, AL and I have been so busy and wanting to do our own thing in the odd hours that we haven't been able to have sustained conversations about this -- or anything. (We're totally talking past each other in our discussions of whether to move, sign another lease at this place, or what.)
Anyway, Tot moving up to the new room is good in any case.
So I've got ten portfolios staring at me (out of 19 I need to do and, I think, odd projects for about 8 students in my other class), but that doesn't mean I've done a darn thing. Instead I've been on the Timesuck, a.k.a. Facebook, which I had ignored for a few months. Two important discoveries: one person who I'm not friends with anymore but who I'm still curious about (I did Zie wrong, though I didn't do it on purpose and so Zie ended the friendship, which, I admit, was too much for me and had grown into something where I felt I couldn't be myself) has finally un-privatized hir FB info. So I'm weirdly glad to see that Zie looks so happy. Part of me wants to send a message to hir just saying that for all my thoughtlessness when we were friends, I think of hir still and wish Zie the best, but on the other hand I don't want to intrude. Much worse, it looks like my favorite couple in the world may be splitting up. Since I moved to the other side of the country, I've been out of touch with a lot of people -- and this split is just terrible. I hope I'm wrong.
There's been a lot of stuff going on at work -- lots of stuff I'm not very happy about. Lots of situations that really need to be addressed, but can I address them? Should I address them? And how do I explain to a certain Dickhead that rushing to a solution for a complex problem really disappoints me, angers me, and shows me that if Zie thinks that hir students don't take open-minded inquiry seriously, then I can bloody well see why. I realize lots of people don't agree with this, but to me service is a place where I'm called upon to walk the talk -- where I'm supposed to put my thoughtful and reflective scholarly self to work on shared problems. In fact, I've been raging pissed about this recently, but my therapist helped me with all this.
Therapy is going well. I'm also putting Tot into another day of daycare so I'll get more done. I'm determined to get that article to Fave Journal for a variety of reasons. Just determined. Since I got back from that conference I've felt so isolated -- both from friends and from the exciting conversations in my field. (Hence back on FB.) I've decided that I'm going to read more scholarship and do an article swap with a great friend-colleague of mine from grad school. Truth be told, I don't want to work on these student papers or my syllabi because I really want to be working on scholarship, but obviously I'm not doing that either.
So. . .I need to get to work. Even thinking of what I should do first and everything just takes the wind out of my sails. I guess I should get to work on a syllabus or two. Actually read the teaching journal I wrote. Blech. It doesn't sound like fun at all.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Another day in which I discover another big lack of communication around a specific issue that absolutely affects students. It's one of those classic maneuvers actually, one of those that shows how faculty members do not understand how our classes build on one another, how faculty members treat their classes as if they are all one-offs, accountable to no one. No wonder students have such a fragmented experience. No wonder knowledge seems so disparate to students. Students are rarely encouraged to put it all together in a whole. Apart from the cognitive dissonance that this causes, other problems emerge with the bureaucratization of the mind, each piece in its own compartment. We're like that too, each faculty member in hir cell. It's not good. Not good.
Some of this is because of my department specifically. But I've also seen this in other departments, though, perhaps, less so because of majors and things. Sigh.
This week is my "spring break," as much as one exists on the quarter system when one still has all one's Winter grading splayed out over one's desk while syllabi are calling forth from the World of Possibility to be birthed into the world by next week, when we'll do it all again. I hate the transition from Winter to Spring quarter. I really do.
But today I have other fish to fry. Tot's eye doctor has prescribed patching, so I'm going in search of pirate hats and patches to make it all more fun for Tot (who is currently being annoying by taking apart the Hot Wheels track I just put back together). Any ideas of where to find pirate patches and hats during non-Halloween times? I figure a party store might be good.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Today, there are Right to Know-Truth in Labeling for GMO foods Rallies all over the country. I'm not going to the one about an hour away because I got very little sleep (sick -- yes, still -- plus Tot sleep shenanigans), but I want to support them in any way I can. Even if you can ignore the research that shows that GMO foods are bad and ignore the doctors who are prescribing non-GMO diets to everyone as cranks, the fact is that here again we have big business unduly influencing government agencies. Apart from potential harm to human and animal health and the environment, the danger is that the biotech companies involved in GMO development (you know who I'm talking about) spend millions of dollars on lobbying the FDA to keep GMO foods unlabeled -- which means most of us are consuming GMO foods without knowing it. I don't want Big Biotech to decide what it's okay for me to eat. I don't want to be their guinea pig. And I don't want to have to find out whether GMO foods really cause pesticide production in our guts.
Moreover, scientists are warning the FDA that new pathogens are being developed from GMOs, pigs are too smart to eat GMO feed, and then there's this incredible scariness: agribusiness takes schoolteachers on Agriscience Bus Tours so that teachers will develop curriculum based on what they learn. And they are not learning about the dangers of GMO, nor are the tour leaders answering GMO concerns satisfactorily. I challenge you to look up teachers and GMO -- while there is plenty of stuff that is anti-GMO, there are also things like the Biotechnology Activity Book and other biotech lessons, "educating" our kids so that totally unnatural foods seem normal by teaching them in schools. Yuck.
Corporate propaganda in our public schools. Corporate influence on regulatory agencies. It's disgusting. I say we all revolt.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
To review the action for those lucky enough to have slept through the play by play:
9-11:30: Tot too restless and overtired to sleep. Mom would've had no trouble, but alas.
11:30: Woke up from what Mommy thought was a sound sleep
12:00: Finally got him to bed. Mommy went to bed.
2:00: Tot woke up with a leaking diaper.
2-3: Fitful sleeping by Tot and Mom with Mom fighting for space from Tot and Cat.
3:00: Must've slept.
5:00: Mom had to get up.
GAH! Thank God and all the little angels that this is the last day I teach at 8am.
As is usual when I wake up on time, I'm still late getting into the shower. No doubt my being in the shower will wake Tot, still in our bed.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
I'm only letting myself write this blogpost because even though it would be great if I would use the last dregs of today getting some grading done to make tomorrow easier, I will probably go insane if I don't do something fun, something that reaches out past my life and its tight circles right now and toddlers who refuse to sleep at reasonable times.
You remember how in my last post I said I hate being sick? Well, let me amend that: I hate being sick for more than a week. Because this cold bloomed on the last day of the conference and was instrumental in me deciding not to bother turning back across the reservoir to hit up Taco Cabana, which is the greatest "fast food" in the world and can only mean I was feeling very very bad, its start date is etched on my memory: Friday, March 11. Today is Sunday, March 20. For the record: ill every moment since that time. It just sucks. (Then I got my period. And that super-sucked. TMI. Enough about that.)
So it's the end of the quarter and, having gotten so sick, I'm totally behind so now I'm grading a lot and being ill and taking care of Tot (that is, the usual -- and he's sick too) all at the same time. I'm also planning things to make my overall life better, like putting Tot into daycare another day each week, and picking him up earlier so that sometimes we can spend time together going to the park or whatever. But this doesn't help my immediate grading drama, because he's also got an eye appointment tomorrow -- and even if Absurdist Lover calls the daycare in the morning, which he said he would, it would be silly to put Tot in daycare for a few hours in the morning so I can get some grading done. (Of course, when I write it out like that, it seems perfectly reasonable to put him in daycare to get ahead. Well, if I can get up at a decent hour tomorrow, then maybe I can get a few done before Tot even wakes up. That would really help.)
During the times that I'm either wearily taking care of Tot or when I absolutely cannot grade and so am doing something else, I'm daydreaming a lot. I find myself obsessed by two different big and important work-related thoughts. I think I'll focus on one here and then save the other for another time.
I've decided to write a book.
How did such a decision evolve? Because it did evolve and now seems inevitable, but of course a few days ago it wasn't so obvious. Since I went to the conference, I've felt that I really should get on revising my dissertation work and writing this article for my Fave Journal. I even saw this CFP that is completely up my alley that I decided I wouldn't pay much attention to because what I really need to do is write this article for Fave Journal. In thinking about my problems with that article, I had this visual epiphany -- that I want each argument to really be a big file folder unto itself because I feel like everything I read is connected to those arguments. I just need more space than an article allows. And so I thought I'll write a book, but then thought I'd organize it completely differently from the dissertation. And then it occurred to me: instead of writing a book that places this new theory into too many sites and possibly takes on more than it can chew, why don't I look closely at the site I care most about and which will be most important to people in my field? I've gone back and forth on this in the past, deciding it would be a good idea, but not really being passionate about it, but this feels different. I want to do it, I ought to do it, I can do it, and I'm going to do it.
When I look at books in my field, some of them that are very powerful are actually very short. Some are barely over 100 pages. Of course, there are books that hit 200 pages, even 250. But that's about it. Not very many really big books. So I'm thinking about 180 pages, because I just can't imagine it being any shorter than that. And I've been thinking about how I want to proceed, how like Dr. Crazy, I'd like to set up a three-ring binder and tabs, though I also need some pockets as well to just put stuff in. I tend to end up cutting stuff up.
I think that the real hard part is going to be finding each major chapter's organization. I hope that at least one or two will come together organically; others I'll probably have to construct each awkward plank that gets us from here to there. Organization is my weak point because to me every argument ends up leading to every other argument in a way probably easiest to imagine representing with hypertext, but who wants to read that? I certainly don't want to construct that. (Sorry, all you hypertext scholar-writer-innovators.)
What does this mean for my tenure bid, which I had decided to base on articles? Well, as much as I've had a good year so far with decent things in the can, and another piece drafted, and another piece promised, I really want to keep it up. I'd like to have three pieces published in really stellar places by the time I go up for tenure. I've already got one, I think. A very important collection, I think, though I haven't yet seen any post-publication reviews. (Though this is the scholarly world: it could take years and probably will to get the thing reviewed. Now, if anyone quotes me, that will be a very different thing.) But what I'm saying is that even though I want to work on this book, I also want to work on articles. I must write that piece for Fave Journal; as I work on it and see the difficulties, I'll take notes for the book. If Fave Journal hates it, I'll revise it closer to the book and send it to Cool Journal.
What I'm doing is allowing myself to work on the book for 10 minutes per day -- and then that's it, because I have so much grading to do and when I get some time (like the three seconds between this quarter ending and the next one starting -- oh I hate this schedule so much) I need to really just cobble together a draft of the Much Needed Article and get some people to look at it. It just must be done and out, so I can think of other things.
But at least in my head, I'm writing a book. 10 minutes a day.
Monday, March 14, 2011
But as I think about it, I realize that the problems I had were not general, but pretty specific to the focus of the conference -- as in not being able to speak to one thread of scholarship involved in the conference. Mostly I couldn't speak to it because I think the theorist and thus much of this one particular trajectory is bogus -- everyone in the world has critiqued the main theorist, but then they go on using some of the language and assumptions of the main theorist, when some of the main assumptions of the main theorist, in my opinion, are so flawed as to make any of the theory unusable. It's as if everyone feels they've got to argue with . . .Freud, let's say, but if we all keep agreeing that Freud was totally whacked, then what's the point? The issue, of course, is whether I'm in one of those fields that depend on Freud. (Like, if you're in psychoanalytic theory, I guess you'd still have to tangle with Freud.) I don't think of my field as having to tangle with this particular Freud. I didn't position my paper in any relation to Freud, but that didn't stop one of the featured presenters asking me to speak to my argument's relationship to Freud. Gah. I couldn't and ended up saying so. Though of course I spent the next 24 hours first thinking maybe I shouldn't position my work in the particular trajectory of my field that I do (which I still don't think depends on Freud, but maybe others do), then thinking through my ideas about what I remembered of Featured Presenter's question, then coming up with what I should've said to FP. Useful, in its way, but for a while there I was thinking I should just position my work in a totally different trajectory and get rid of all this crap. The truth is that my doctoral program wasn't strong in the trajectory of the field I eventually chose (which still doesn't depend on this Freud and that mini-trajectory), though very strong in another trajectory. This question and my lack of an answer really did mess with my confidence about myself as a scholar -- and I guess is still making me feel pretty iffy, though at least now I'm not thinking I should position my work in a totally different way.
In any case, this conference showed me a number of things, totally apart from whether Freud belongs in my work (and whether FP maybe had hir own ax to grind as well). One, that one of the major conversations of my General Field doesn't apply to me anymore because of the needs of the institution I work in. So when everyone talks about that, I feel really outside of things. This is sad to me. And one of the reasons why I think I really can't make a career out of teaching at this institution. Two, that I'm too isolated where I am, and that I need somehow to work on that. I really need the conversation of other people who are doing things sort of like what I do. As I think of people from grad school, for example, I knew several people doing work in my field, but only maybe one or two doing anything related to my specific focus. Now, those two that I'm thinking of were not people I was really close to. And there are problems with me trying to invent a group with them. But one way or the other I really need to find people who do work like mine, because somehow my work is so different that if I had to figure out outside reviewers right now, I'm not sure I could name them. Maybe I'm just not up on things anymore. Which wouldn't be terribly surprising. Seriously -- I was up on things, finished my dissertation, went to Adventure City, came back, got pregnant when I was underemployed, adjuncted, and got this job, which doesn't promote my being up on my field. So I guess I should cut myself some slack.
I say all this, but it's mainly my dissertation focus that is the trouble. It's so sweeping, really creating a new theory. Who else creates new theories that are like mine? Well, there's this one guy who is not in my field, but I've read his theory-creating before. But since he's not in my field, he's probably not a great choice for an outside reviewer. In some of my other work, I know who the movers and shakers are, who I'd call on to affirm the value of my work. Still. It's daunting.
Anyway, I would just once like to feel like I rock at a conference. I realize that's not the purpose of sharing one's work at conferences, but here I felt the stakes involved in presenting and wanting to come off as a serious young scholar, whereas at the biggies, I haven't. Of course, here one of my favorite scholars in the field, someone whose work was instrumental to my move from Backburner Field to my current field, was at my panel (not to see me, but to see someone else). Here's what I really want to say: I don't want to be mistaken for a grad student at my next conference. Period. End of story.
So, I need to make use of what resources I have. Circulate my paper to my local colleagues. See about making better relationships with people who can sustain my work, either because they're good friends or because they do similar kinds of work.
Oh. And also, going to a conference where you don't know anyone is not fun. You can't just sit there at dinner eating alone, which means you have to talk with people. But deciding where to sit is not easy. I realized how much social anxiety I have. It's just not easy for me to go up to people I don't know.
I realize that my attitude toward all this is also not the best because I managed to get sick on Day 3 of the conference, the day that I was returning home. So I have been sick ever since I got back, have saddled with AL with even more housework and toddlercare since I got home, got very little grading done, and am SO behind and am staring down the end of the quarter, which is great, but I've got to get so much shit done, it's scary. And I'm sick. I can't really even think of what to do about it all, except that I'm going to try to get some work done tomorrow (later today really) when I'm taking care of Tot. Gah.
I hate being sick.
Monday, March 7, 2011
We finally figured out that Tot's cough that keeps waking him up is probably not a hold-over from his last cold, but from a new round of teething. Yay second molars. Oh goodie. Tot slept for a whole half hour of his nap yesterday and then woke up after about an hour last night. Tot ends up nursing all night, so I'm not getting much sleep. So I'm grumpy anyway today. I don't anticipate that tonight will be any different -- and I've got to wake up at 5am tomorrow. And as if I weren't already freaked out about going out of town (not being prepared plus just hating being gone, often convinced I'm going to die on the plane), now I'm worried that AL and Tot are going to have a terrible time because Tot won't have the comfort of nursing.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to figure out what to say in those three pages. I mean, who cares about Animal Mating anyway. And what does it have to say to Root Vegetables anyway? Am I just a pretender to Root Vegetable Studies anyway, since I'm really more of a theorist? Eeegads. So, in the interest of naming things properly: anxiety plus. Waaaa.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
So I feel better about the things that I was really worried about, mostly because when I came out of the therapy session, I decided to address them. And, as impossible as resolution seemed, they got resolved.
So now I'm just back to overwhelmedness -- or as I like to say -- overwhelm because of the normal things: I have a conference in mere days that I only have four pages for my seven page conference paper. In the paper, I'm presenting this research that comes from a Totally Different Field, so different we could call it Animal Mating, that I often draw on that illuminates some important issues and proclivities to Root Vegetable Studies. (You can see that people would often say: why use research from Animal Mating in Root Vegetable Studies? Well, I may be the only person who sees that these are related.) So I have four pages of Animal Mating -- and now I've got to draw out the implications for Root Vegetables and Root Vegetable Studies. Gah. Important work, of course, but could someone else do it please?
Last night, between the time that Tot went down to bed the first time and when he woke up coughing three hours later, I organized all my teaching materials for Freshman Class -- so now I know exactly how much grading I need to do, and it's all organized. Wow, I have a fair amount of grading to do, and it really would be good if the majority of it were ready for class on Tuesday. Could I carve out some time today and tomorrow to do it? Of course, but if I do that. . .what about that conference paper? Do I just leave it for the plane? Dear lord.
I must be in denial -- or I'd be anxiety-ridden and therefore, likely, angry. Instead, I'm just tired tired tired even with the thought of all this. While I was never good at the networking part of conferencing and the thought always stressed me out about conferences (note to self: anxiety), I really don't like conferences so much now that I've had Tot. I always get depressed at the thought of leaving town. And then I get there and can't sleep and feel all weird (note to self: anxiety about being gone) when I should feel elated that I can go to sleep and wake up when I want.
All that said, I've been doing some wonderful research gathering for my new elective. There's a field that I've long argued is vital to Turnip Studies that I'm really boning up on. And there's some local interest in there too, so I can immediately turn this stuff over to students too.
I'm teaching the exact same courses in Spring, which starts maybe a week or ten days after Winter ends. Blech. But at least I'm saving all my materials and handouts. I'm determined to be able to get more research done and stay caught up more on grading in the Spring, because I'm not making anything new. Prep done. These are my two core courses. No wonder I get burned out easily. Thank goodness I have an elective coming up soon after.
PS There's a terrible situation at my uni that I really feel I should do something about. Very depressing.