Sunday, January 30, 2011

What Is This Scholarship Plan You Speak Of?

We're back down to Defcon 5 in the Absurdist Household. We're all sick with some weird thing that comes and goes, and I've talked with the Head Teacher at Tot's daycare and remember why we put Tot in her care. It's not that I like the daycare (or that I don't); I like her. Since he is due to graduate from her room probably at the end of the academic year, that might be a natural time to take him somewhere else, if in fact we're going to do that. Basically, if there's one more problem, then we'll pull him.

But one thing I've found as we're all sick and have very limited downtime is that I'm enjoying using that free time to think about research. But in order to turn that thinking time into progress on projects, I need to figure out which projects I'm working on, what to do next, etc. I've gone ahead and proposed a writing group, but I need to be more specific with myself, both about times and plan of attack.

Times: I only have three days that I can realistically think about writing/working on scholarship: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Two of those days are also big teaching days in which I might, might occasionally be able to swing an hour on one or the other day, but not both days in a given week. I think my goal is going to have to be something like doing four hours per week, tops, one on one the days I teach and three on the non-teaching day. Maybe I can do some work at home too. I think whereas other people fare better if they pick a definite time, I will be better off if I pick a certain number of hours per week. But doing so begs the question: how much time should I be spending if I work a 40-hour work week? It's been a while since I looked at the faculty handbook, but I don't think it divided our jobs into percentages or anything. Though from every single report I've heard at Specialized U, the important issue to focus on for tenure is research. Even without those anecdotes though, there are still very clear signals in the structure of my job that research is important. But how much is enough? How many hours per week on research is appropriate considering its perceived importance in terms of structural elements and its actual importance to my bid for tenure (which, yes, I'm obsessed about, but only since I got ever closer to my requirements recently, as I dream about my much-improved-from-last-year annual report -- yes, I am a nerd)?

From the perspective of the importance of research to my tenure bid, I'd say I should spend at least one-third of my time on research, which would be 13 hours/week.

From the structural stuff, I would think that there's an expectation that I'm going to spend 25% more of my time on research during an entire year. But more than what or whom? Someone who has tenure. And what's that expectation? I just don't know. If it were 1/3 of the time, then instead of 13 hours, it would be 16 hours. (I think. I've had a long full day and math is not my strong point.)

Of course, I do get other time off, so it's not like during teaching quarters is the only time for me to get that work done. But truly, I have, maybe 5 hours per week to write right now. Sure, I do other things, like do searches and write emails and search for conferences and all that stuff in the in-between hours, but I can't write in 5-minute intervals or bleary-eyed end-of-days (but I apparently can make my plans then -- though in looking back over this in the morning, I've had to fix tons of typos). So, I think my goal is going to be 5 hours of focused stuff: writing and reading. (I say this, and actually I've been reading a scholarly book and writing long emails and things in the in-between hours, but I haven't gotten any writing done. Should I focus this time on writing? Probably, though that would never actually fly because I need the reading as a transition.) So I'll try to do one hour on one of the hard days, and then three hours on the easy day and maybe try to dig up another hour somewhere. So I'll try for four hours initially.

Now, there's the matter of my projects:

  1. Article for Fave Journal: I've been talking about this since the beginning of time. It's getting to feel like this work is, for me, a bit historical. And I kind of hate that feeling, because I did so much work and have recently read the Second Edition and have done other things in the same area. But right now I'm having a problem. Basically I argue for this cool new idea/concept/area of Turnip Studies. But whereas before I didn't distinguish between whether Turnip Studies was to prevent badness or promote goodness, as if in preventing badness you're also doing goodness, now I think that distinction may be an important one, one where you can't say that in preventing badness, you're promoting goodness, because there's a difference between not doing badness and actually doing goodness. There's that whole area where you're not doing bad, but you're not doing good either. And I can't figure out whether it's enough of an argument to develop Turnip Studies just to prevent badness. I also really want to draw connections between Turnip Studies and doing good. Yes, I think that's the problem -- and maybe my challenge. That's what I need to make sure to do more: draw connections between Turnip Studies and promoting good. That's a goal. I can do that research. Then I also really just need to revise what I have and get cracking on the revision ideas I already had.
  2. I've been invited (how cool is that -- yes I mentioned this before but I'm still totally jazzed about it, especially as I start to scratch the surface of research) to write a chapter on something that puts two of my interests together in such a way that is so cool, yet makes me need to do a ton of new-to-me research. This thing doesn't have a publisher or anything, so it's not on the fast track or anything. But I would like to collect research for this -- and already have. So really, first I have to find the stuff I need, then write about it and sift through it for the good stuff to write about, then do the focused study. I don't think I'm going to bother with focused study until the thing is contracted and has a deadline (which I have no doubt it will be -- just with whom and when, etc), but I do want to collect the material and sift through it. So that takes up some research time: the finding, the reading, the writing.
  3. Conference paper due in March. I haven't started but I've got serious ideas -- and think that whatever I write there is sufficiently different and useful enough that I should think about another article coming out of it. Part of this paper is theory, which I've covered before elsewhere and just need to craft, but part of it is also going to be a study, and that's the part that once I've started, I might as well go ahead and flesh out for an article. Be that as it may, the conference paper's got to get written -- and it's already the end of January.
  4. Conference proposal due in April. I want to go to a certain conference I don't usually go to, and while conference proposals are usually not really difficult for me to come up with, this one may well be. So I'm going to have to devote some time to a newer side project, because my usual work doesn't fit into their call.
That's a lot. I know I should work on that conference paper due in March. I always leave these things to the last minute (though I was done editing my last conference paper on the plane to the conference, which is a record for me lately) and the paper suffers for it. And this conference is so cool that I'd really like my paper to be pretty decent. But I also feel like if I continue to put off Project 1, I'm never going to get it done. So I think I need to figure out a way to work on both Projects 1 and 3 at the same time -- and as the conference gets closer, I'll do less and less on Project 1 and focus on Project 3. But for the next two weeks, let's say, I still need to make some small headway on Project 1 because I just haven't made any since classes started. Just none. And no matter how things are livening up for me publishing-wise, that doesn't feel good to have this article I've wanted to write languishing for so long. I just feel like I'm never going to get this article out. So I must do something on it -- and soon.

I'll also continue to collect Project 2 stuff; I already got something ILL'd to me that looked really good, though I shouldn't spent the time I'd like to reading the entire book. I should just read the chapter that matters.

And I'm officially putting Creative Work on the backburner: I've gotten two rejections in the last two weeks -- and I'm thinking that my Creative Work just isn't very good. Though I'm simultaneously thinking that whether my CW is good or not is not a reason to stop writing it; my job is not to evaluate the work, but to keep plugging, writing it and sending it out. But I have no time or energy to work on it right now. I will try to send it back out though. When? In those mythical in-between times.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Daycare Problems: What Do You Think?

Oh, I feel so beaten down, trampled really. I know part of it is that I'm sick. My dad is still in the hospital and we're wondering if his being in so long for extra tests signals the Big C; I talked to my brother yesterday and among other things, we discussed Dad's values -- his fancy cars and charging high rent to his kids on an apartment he probably couldn't get rented anyway. So it was already an emotional day. I also didn't manage to eat after breakfast until I got home. But the trampling has to do with Tot's daycare. I desperately need an outside perspective.

Last night, when I picked up Tot, I noticed he was trying to sit down without sitting on his butt -- and his thermals were all bunched up inside his pants. When we changed him, we found had the worst case of diaper rash I've ever seen on the little guy. Painful to look at. A couple layers of skin off. Really bad. And he was clearly in pain, though before he had been basically his happy self, though he's sick (and we clearly shouldn't have taken him into daycare yesterday in the first place).

Both AL and I were freaked out about the diaper rash: he didn't have it in the morning. I changed him, and though I don't remember particularly looking at his butt, I know I would've noticed that. Of course, this puts the question mark on what's going on at daycare. But really, he just has a terrible bout of diarrhea (which we've figured out since) and it's irritating his skin -- and I'll bet dollars to donuts the poor guy is scratching. (Poor thing has my super-sensitive skin.) I had initially thought that he had a skin reaction to the eucalyptus oil I was experimenting with because it's supposed to be good for colds. But now I don't think that was it. Anyway. This isn't the problem.

The problem is that when we took off his pants and thermals, we saw there was poop on them. That's not cool. He has extra clothes, so it wasn't that they didn't have extras and he had to wear them. The daycare people must've not noticed. On the one hand, I can see how it happened -- how they would just not notice, especially in the case of a big bad terrible poop, which is likely what was going on. On the other hand, do I really want my treasure in a place where they didn't notice that there was poop on his clothes? Even on the outside of his clothes? (I guess it's possible that they saw and made the judgment that it wasn't worth changing his clothes because we'd pick him up soon, but that's not a great judgment either.) This comes on top of some issues that have made me a little worried about this daycare in the past, especially about their respect for following parents' instructions. I could go on and on about their totally insane food choices -- okay, so they don't care about GMO or organic or whatever, but everyone knows about what sugar does to children and how children need nutritious food and someone please tell me what possible effing nutritional value Nilla Wafers have? Anyway.

AL put it very simply: we pay them to provide the care that we would. He took me into the bathroom to look at Tot's clothes soaking in the sink: is this what we want for Tot? Is this what we pay for? He's decided that Tot is not going back there. He's taking days off work to make sure Tot is okay. (And there's no way that Tot is starting new daycare all sick and rashy.)

In order to present this correctly, I have to say that Tot has learned all his letters and now sings the alphabet song (though with letters omitted) primarily because this place has done such a good job with him. Not that I care whether Tot is a verbal genius, necessarily. I want him to eat well and be well cared for. I want him to be able to run around. When he's there, he seems to be quiet and into himself. That's not strange for his age or temperment -- AL and I were and are both very animated and goofy at home (when I have the energy, which I frequently do not), but are sometimes withdrawn and reserved out there in the world, especially when we're uncomfortable. Is Tot uncomfortable there? I don't know. He's not as excited about going there (and I can say that the tenor of the place has changed a bit lately), but doesn't cry when I leave either. (He does sort of follow me around and doesn't want me to leave, but I don't know if that signifies anything but that I am his mom and he prefers me.)

Here's the thing: on the one hand, I think AL is leaping to a decision here. He's not being fair to the place. Tot was not endangered in any way -- and a little poop on his clothes is not the worst thing in the world. On the other hand, is that what I want for Tot? What duty do I have to be fair to the place, when the most important thing is Tot? When it comes to my kid, I don't have to be fair. In fact, my duties are to do the best for him. Can I really say now that this place -- poop on his clothes, food issues, respect for parents issues -- is the best we can do? Furthermore, do I want to argue to keep him there? Do I feel so great about it that it's worth arguing about? No, not really.

I'm really freaked out. And I'm not sure whether it's the daycare, my concern for Tot and his diaper rash (which is really terrible to look at), that I'm sick, AL's strong reaction, or just the accumulation of all this on top of my father in the hospital and my poor unhappy brother.

Oh, I hate searching for new daycare. Despite that there are tons of daycares in the area, it never feels empowering. Our stance on vaccinations and food makes us fringe -- and I always feel at a disadvantage. I know I'm paying them -- and in a consumer economy (yeah right) that's supposed to give me the advantage -- but they've got something up on me -- we're talking about my son. My precious, my only, my baby son. (Yes, I'm being melodramatic, but I feel melodramatic. And he's no longer a baby. He's two.)

I'd really like to hide under a rock.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sitting in the Dark, Writing

It's the middle of the night -- everyone's finally asleep and I called my father and he still doesn't know whether he's his chronic illness has gotten significantly worse or not -- and anyway I should go to sleep, but here's something about this last week that I want to remember:

When I was at work, I had those moments when I couldn't settle down into doing the next thing and was sort of at a loose end -- I think this often or maybe even always happens after teaching -- and since I teach at 8am, it's the first thing I do and then I have a big break after it -- and so what I did about it this week was I tried to stop myself from checking my email a dozen times and clicking through webpages and instead got out my notebook to figure out what it was I should be doing. When I got unmoored, I returned to the page to get my bearings. My creative work may be going no place (I got a rejection last week from a place I thought I had a good chance with), but writing is still a home place for me. Maybe that's what being a writer means for me, nothing about publication or readers or a vision.

But then what about the place of blogging? In some ways, it's some of the most private reflective writing I do -- not like the notebook where I'm often negative without being reflective about it -- I mean I get there eventually, but I think I'm often pretty generous with myself about letting myself bitch -- it's not like the pressure of an audience to make you hurry to being a better self -- that accountability for what you're putting out into the world and who you want to be. On the other hand, this writing is also some of the most public communication; as I sit in the dark at my kitchen table, I have no control over who reads this, little over how it gets used. This is one of the outlets for the democratic voice, but not necessarily the one most likely to effect change in a political way. It's really interesting that way. I'm just forming my thoughts about it all. What do you all think about writing and blogging, blogging and politics, blogging for social justice and change?

By the Skin of Our Teeth

We made it through the second week of what will likely forever be known in our house as the Winter-from-Hell. This waking up super-early is really hard on the entire family. Tot has a cold, natch. I was having some mystery pains and then got my period and was super-bitch yesterday. Absurdist Lover is slogging through his job, which he hates. My father is in the hospital with a bad flare-up of his chronic illness. Fun the whole way around.

I have some stuff I want to blog about my scholarship. I've been doing important things while nursing and praying for my son to sleep, like deciding to name my work Turnip Studies. (He's been going to sleep at midnight and, you have to understand, there's not a lot that can make you smile while you're sitting there in the dark hoping your tot will go to sleep and hoping you will not.)

But this is not the time. I can only describe the mood I'm in as the kind of mood when you decide that it makes sense to go trolling the internet for celebrity gossip. I think I'm going to order some old movies. I'm just tired and grumpy, glad it's the weekend because I could not be kind and supportive to worried students just now (especially those having trouble following my directions!!!). We're a sick house, watching lots of Elmo videos. I haven't left the house in over 24 hours, and I'm sure the Coffee Corporation is suffering without my patronage. We ate all the chocolate in our house last night. It's freaking cold. Grumble, grumble. I'm still here, but not so pleasant. Sorry. I shall return when I have something new to say.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Making It through the First Week

Wow. I don't know even what to say, but wow. I'm teaching at 8am course. Teaching at 8am means I have to wake up at 5 because it takes me a really long time to wake up and get my tongue untied and because I'm still nursing the Tot and he needs to eat before I run out for a really long day. It's also winter, which means there's all that extra bother in the morning with the car -- and then there the actual driving which could be terrible. And when I'm driving, it's still dark out. I'm visiting the Coffee Corporation before I go into work, not that I haven't been normally, but this is a must! And then there's actually teaching a full course of none-too-happy freshmen who only reluctantly take my course even as they grudgingly admit that it's useful and they need it. Great. That attitude always makes everything fun -- especially at 8am.

But this is the course I decided to theme, and so I'm determined to have fun with it. I've actually completely revamped my courses, and, inspired by this and the example of a Senior Scholar back at Grad City U, have decided to really experiment with non-traditional grading. I find myself hating grading, and it occurs to me that straining my brain to figure out whether a paper is a B- or C+ is not a great use of my time -- and does the students precious little good too in terms of actual learning and improving their skills. I also revamped my upper division course. Whereas last year I felt that I was in the wrong place, now I feel a bit invigorated by the challenge of presenting such alternate ideas in front of them. (They can argue them down and become more critical thinkers that way.) Or, maybe, with my birthday this year making me feel distinctly middle-aged, I just want to be less Miss Nice and Trying to Help, and relax into being more myself. Maybe not so helpful all the time.

I calculated my hours by writing down when I was working at home and assuming that when I was at work, I was working (which was not always true because sometimes, like today, I find it hard to settle down after I teach into getting anything done). For the week, it is about 32 hours. But who knows what I will do over the weekend (and I do need to do quite a bit actually). I think it will be just about 40 in the end, and so I shouldn't worry anymore about the actual hours or whether I'm overdoing or underdoing, but whether I'm getting done what I wanted to get done. I'm going to try to keep on top of things this quarter, though I already feel all my different commitments spreading me out. For that reason, this financial seminar that I thought I'd take to get the money under control -- well, I've decided I'm not going to add any activities that do not contribute directly to my immediate physical and mental health. The finances certainly do that but at the cost of one evening per week. This quarter is already going to be severely taxing. I'm changing the habits of a life time and saying no to spreading myself too thin.

I actually want to use little bits of time I may have for work because good things are happening on the scholarly front: my little article got accepted, and another Senior Scholar (who surprised me in the dark ages of this blog by asking me for a copy of my dissertation when such dissertation was more imaginary than real) invited me to submit an essay for a volume. The volume is in an area I used to do more work in, or was trying to, but when I received the invitation I couldn't help but sketch out some ideas, even though I haven't yet answered Zie's email. In addition to that, I looked online and saw that the Edited Collection should be out any day now. Hopefully winging its way through the mail to me! I still need to work on a piece for my favorite journal, but these other good things help me to build confidence because my article is not a small one, but an encapsulating theory for doing things differently. Some would say that such a young scholar shouldn't sketch out such big ideas, but. . .who cares! That's the other side of my Middle Aged Status: I just want to say to the powers that be: look, I've done it your way and it's never made me happy or made it easier to sleep at night. Now I know what I'm doing. I know the risks. Leave me alone. I'm not sure who I'm saying that to though. Probably my own voice of fear. So, I hope, I'll soon stop wringing my hands and get started on revising the darn thing.

I also did a colleague a favor. While I was happy to do it, especially when Chair came to me looking distinctly uncomfortable and I had the power to make Zie comfortable, I only realized afterward how this favor makes it impossible for me to do some fun things that I might not have done anyway, but at least I would've had the chance. Oh well. I think this is one of those short-term trade-offs for long-term dividends.

Finally, I'm taking a break from Facebook. There are just too many people out there who drive me crazy. I keep thinking that Facebook can be this space, like other aspects of our lives, where we can live our values. And if someone says something stupid or heartless or racist, we can engage them and try to do something about it. Lived activism. But maybe we can and maybe we can't. But I don't have the energy to pour into engaging with these people. Instead of telling you exactly what's going on, I'm going to tell you a story.

~~~Wavy lines. Wavy lines.~~~

In my high school, everyone ate outside in their own little enclaves (except the Band people, who often ate in the band room), rarely mixing groups. But I moved around a lot. I had a group of friends who were the Good Girls, a group of Mormon and other girls who often talked about the details of the soap operas their mothers would record for them. While the Head Mormon Girl and I often clashed on different things, she and I agreed that this was stupid and we rolled our eyes when the girls started up. But I could only take a certain amount of the whole thing, and when I'd had enough I would silently vow that the next day I wasn't coming back to the group. I'd make some excuse for the next day, say I had to do something, but the next day I'd really dash into the lunch area for a bagel, then jet into the library and hide in a cubicle. Sometimes I just needed to be away from people, away from where I could be looked at, from where people would ask what I was thinking, where I could read or stare out into space, or just be. I'd also wander to other groups, often not rejoining the group for weeks or months.

-Dissolve to present.-

That's what I need to do now. I need to admit that I'm no longer interested in hearing from this little group (actually a specific person) and remember that there was a reason why I jetted out of my nice little suburban Republican upper-middle class subdivision just as fast as my little legs could take me. They don't get it. And while I think someone needs to set them straight, I'm not that person. I have students who I have high hopes for. I have a gorgeous son. I'm chronically exhausted because I have to wake up early, and then later I can't fall asleep and just toss and turn. (True quotes from this morning: "I tossed and turned for about an hour last night." "Wow, maybe you have a problem." "Yes, I do. It's called insomnia." You can see what a snarky bitch I am, even to someone who I love and who loves me, in that wretched place called morning.) I've got scholarship to work on. I can't be thinking about how pissed off I am about one idiot's idiocy. (Of course, the real problem is not Facebook or even this person, but that I can't control my mind's propensity to obsess and fret. I think really I'm just mad that I don't have the ready tools and evidence to argue her down, as if since I'm a professor (isn't that nice to say?) I should be able to refute her arguments from memory. But I can't. And I can't control my mind's obsessive nature either. So instead, just get rid of the contraption causing the problem.)

No yoga yet, but I'm close. The first week is always hard.

I'm falling asleep. Well, that's good at least. Good night and happy long weekend full of inspiration to join together and work for social justice!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Theming the Year and Trying to Get to the Truth about Workload

I don't usually do the whole theme-the-year thing that a lot of you do, but this year I think I'll try it. I'm torn between "Health" and "Peace," which roughly amount to the same thing. I want to approach various parts of my life in a healthier or more peaceful way: academic work, parenting, partnering, connecting with others. I want to be less angst-y and recognize that in some cases it really is a choice. Writing my recent short article was a great lesson for me -- instead of metaphorically grinding my teeth and generally working with a great deal of friction, I just got on with it and did it. I didn't panic, didn't worry anxiously that the editors wouldn't like it or that I sucked or anything. I just worked and got it done. I think that this is how I got the dissertation done on my best days, but it's hard to remember that when those days were interspersed with angsty, procrastination-filled days when I couldn't sit still and settle down into the work. That anxiety often gets in my way. And so often it's about the future, which I can't control anyway.

Then there's my actual physical health, by which I mean that I need to get some exercise, especially since I eat pretty well -- probably too much, but I eat tons of veggies due to my winter CSA. I'd also like to get a handle on my finances, which I've got a plan for.

But what I've been thinking about for the last few days is really marking how many hours a day I'm working. I have this general sense that because I only go to campus three days a week (typical for my university with all the commuting professors) I'm not really working enough. And then I have this inferiority complex and try to take on too much. I really do too much service, probably, but most of it is stuff I really believe in so much it would hurt for me to leave it alone. (Some things are using skills and interests that only I have, you see.) But though I was having a really hard time getting my syllabi done when I was sitting in my office last week, I did notice that I had very little problem working on them in the in-between times this weekend. At no point this weekend did I freak out and yell: "Take care of Tot because classes start Monday and I've got to finish my syllabi GAH!!!" Not only did I just get on with it, but I didn't have to sequester myself from AL and Tot to get it done. Now, mostly I got things done when Tot was asleep. I certainly couldn't grade that way. But I also noticed that I was working a LOT of the time. I didn't take a lot of time to relax either. If I were in my office daily, there'd surely be some time when I sat there staring out of the metaphorical (not actual, though perhaps I should put a lovely picture up that I could space out to meditate on) window pondering. But instead my pondering time -- or much of it -- is when I'm doing something else -- like trying to keep Tot from killing himself by jumping off his new toddler bed. (No, he's not sleeping in it. But he likes to climb into it and say he's going "nigh nigh." I still haven't gotten him off sleeping via nursing. I've tried. He's two years old. I'm tired. I have no great excuses here. But at least I'm only torturing myself. And Lover.) So at some important point (I think actually when I started at Specialized U) I started writing down everything I did and accomplished each day (sometimes week), which has proven really helpful come annual report time. But now I think I also want to spend some time focusing on how long I spend as well to see whether my fears of underworking are really founded or not. (Not that academics necessarily have to work 40 hours a week to justify themselves, but that I feel like I do radically under that, except when grading, when the figure jumps up.) It's not that I will necessarily change anything if I do find that I underwork, but I'd like to really know rather than act out of fear. Knowing the truth seems to be the first step to approaching work in a healthier way.

So I may actually keep track of my hours here on the blog. I've already done a lot of work this morning -- proofread 2 syllabi and associated material, emailed them into printing (twice because I was too tired the first time), checked work email several times, written some email back, and done some hmmphing and thinking because this colleague that I'd like to work with on a specific project thinks I want to do something different but because he's having family crises right now it's not a good time to sort it out. How long did I spend on all that? At least two hours. So that's a good start to this.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Right now, Absurdist Tot is watching his Cookie Monster DVD, totally charmed. Since he woke up with a fever, which made him very toasty when he snuggled in bed next to me but of course is not a good thing, it's a pleasure to see his face break open into a beaming smile even with his watery eyes. This is after he's already gotten one dose of Elmo. My son loves Sesame Street, just like his mother. One of the first songs I sang to him was C is for Cookie, probably not the most brilliant thing to sing a child who you're hoping will eat healthily. Oh well. Consistency and hobgoblins.

Absurdist Lover is sick too and actually taking some really productive steps toward health. And amid the sickness, I feel very optimistic about the new year on many fronts. First, I am committing to doing those things that will make me feel better: namely, exercise. Instead of talking about going to the yoga studio near my house, I'm actually going to go. Exercise makes such a huge difference to my brain and body health that I practically owe it to my family to do it. Yoga especially just makes me feel. . .high. How much of an idiot does one have to be to avoid doing something that feels so good? Just because of a little sweat. The whole pressure to be a good mom also does its number on me. Like many toddlers, Tot is a particular eater, which for him means that he still eats a lot of baby food jars. (At least he eats a bunch of vegetables that way.) He also still falls asleep nursing and goes to bed really late. I feel so behind and bad motherish because I've allowed these things to go on. Most of the time, even AL is itching for me to try to move Tot forward on these fronts, especially the sleeping. But lately AL said not to worry about it, that Tot is fine and will grow out of it. And that's opened up a tiny little ray of grace that maybe these issues do not signal my bad mothering, but just are what they are.

(It's taken at least an hour to compose this post so far. Now Tot is asleep on the couch, which is a marker of just how sick he is.)

So I'm going to exercise. I'm going to try to not beat myself up. I'm going to do other things -- like take my vitamins -- that contribute to a happy, healthy head. I'm going to go to therapy. I also need to find Tot a better pediatrician, because I feel like we're getting drive-through doctoring. He looks at Tot for three seconds, then writes him a prescription. When he's got a cold, okay. I know, the doctor has probably seen the exact same symptoms a dozen times the same week. But when I'm talking about a bump on his penis? No. I need a doctor who will say more than "Don't worry, Mrs. Earnest." I'm also thinking about enrolling Tot and myself in a toddler art class. We need to do fun things when we're together.

I'll be teaching in a week, and I haven't put together my syllabi yet. But I've got some great ideas and revisions to these classes that should jazz up the classes for me and present more involved learning experiences for the students. There are also some little things I'm going to do that to me signal that I've gotten more comfortable at Specialized U. And I'm working on an elective that I'll likely be able to teach in the fall. I'm also one of several people who've been approached about developing a new class that's really right up my alley. So that's exciting.

On the scholarship front, there are good hopeful things too. I'm going to an awesome specialized conference in the spring that will help me further develop my elective and is on a subject I'm completely devoted to. And then there's an awesome workshop in the summer that is in an adjacent field to mine -- I should hear back from them one of these days.

In the past three or so months, I have sent out all my creative work, wrote and sent out a short article, started two groups designed to support my continued writing, and held a successful and very meaningful event. I also worked on our department website, making some changes that I hope improve its overall look and usefulness. That's not bad. I've also managed to get myself excited and hopeful again about teaching.

On personal fronts, I've managed to get on top of our finances, send out Christmas cards to most of my friends, and, with yesterday's strange warm weather after weeks of snow, planted those bulbs in the little patch of grass around our patio. (Yes, even totally missing bulb planting last year, I totally missed prime planting time again this year. But with the wacky warm weather, I figured it might be another chance. I'm not terribly hopeful for the bulbs actually, because the earth doesn't seem particularly fertile and they'll have to make it up through a net of grass, but at least they are in the earth now instead of in a bag or the refrigerator. Maybe next year I'll get them in on time. Maybe next year, we'll be in a house. I've seen some very hopeful looking rent-to-own possibilities here.)

I don't know. I guess taking those vitamins that are especially good for my brain chemistry has really helped. I feel hopeful, even in a house of sickos. Here's to good starts to the year!