Monday, February 28, 2011

Oh the Slog

Well, I managed to do something I thought impossible. I graded 5 projects today while taking care of Tot. (AL's at work.) I'm finally done with this batch, having done 5 each day for the last 4 days, which I realize sounds like practically nothing, but. . .ugh. It's a lot. It's a lot to take time out of being with the family on the weekends. It's a lot when there's already so much to do. And these take a lot of time. Some are fine, just having trouble at trying something new that they're going to need to master. Some are completely maddening. All of them just require a lot of commenting because I do let them revise. Eeegads. It's just the usual stuff. Some plagiarism. Some blowing the assignment off, though the major assignment-blower also hates the subject we've been covering, so I had to be careful about how to address hir's work. Part of me just wants to scream: you're wrong! and be done with it. But there are other, more serious issues to address, so I don't do that.

I want to feel triumphant because I'm finally done with this set of projects, but instead I feel deflated. I have these to hand back tomorrow, but I'm going to have to look at practically all of them again, hopefully in much better shape. There are some great points to my job that especially work for my life right now, but the teaching situation of exactly what I'm teaching and whom I'm teaching it to is not one of the perks. Basically, remember that I'm working on a project that I'm calling Turnip Studies, which is very closely related to Root Vegetable Studies. I consider myself very much a scholar of Root Vegetable Studies. My field is Vegetable Studies, but what I teach is Tomato Studies, which many people consider a part of Vegetable Studies, but it's also a field unto itself and connected to Fruit Studies (not Sisyphus's Fruit Studies) because there are so many tomatoes in the world and they are quite popular and distinctive. I can do Tomato Studies and even have some non-academic experience with Tomato Studies, but I am not a big fan and never dreamed I'd be teaching Tomato Studies quarter after quarter. (Most people in Vegetable Studies focus on Squash Studies, by the way.) I am teaching a class in Root Vegetables pretty soon (yay!), but since most of my students don't care about any vegetable but tomatoes and the occasional pepper, I don't know if anyone will sign up.

In a recent department meeting, I found myself so depressed to realize that all of the issues on the table were ones that really require members of my group to address them (and there aren't enough of us to spread them around and some of us really don't help either -- and we get no course releases for resolving these issues for the university, though that's exactly what we need to do) that I started fantasizing about lifting up and out of this situation and going to a new one. On the other hand, I look at what some of y'all are up against, and I think how well my job works for my life, if not for me, right now. For example, most of the faculty in my department live elsewhere and drive in. So it's normal that people aren't in every day, but only on the days they're teaching and for the occasional meeting. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that my department is considered non-essential to the workings of the university and that members of my department have really low morale for a bunch of good reasons. So no one expects anyone to be there beyond their duty. This works for me right now because I get to spend time with Tot during the week. Now, really I'd like to spend my career in an active thriving department where we spearhead a lot of projects. But this way I can spend my time with my family. It's all very strange because when I was in grad school thinking about the kinds of jobs I wanted, I didn't imagine a family in the mix. Of course, I couldn't imagine how having a family would change my perspective on what's important. And all that said, I really love my scholarship and love what's coming up for me in the coming months on that front. When I went up on the job market the year I got this job, all I wanted was a regular paycheck. I still want that. I can't complain.

But grading's a slog. A merciless slog. And there's more coming up.

Here's a bit of what I need to do in the next ten days:
  • Read and respond to a colleague's article.
  • Write handout for Junior's project 4.
  • Grade Junior class presentations.
  • Grade Freshman class presentations.
  • Grade Junior class projects.
  • And, by the way, I have a conference paper to write for next week.
GAH! Gotta go. Tot needs his diaper changed.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Attempting the Near Impossible

It's 11:30, and I'm totally not really awake yet. Despite my efforts (giving my two-year old the purple stuff that he's not supposed to have until he's four -- but what do you do when you want your congested and coughing tot to sleep so you can sleep and your pediatrician has already prescribed something extremely similar previously -- so much for doing things the natural way -- wow, I'm totally defensive about my parenting -- anyway), Tot woke up at 6am and kept me awake until 8, then we let him watch a movie while we slept, then finally AL got up with him so I could sleep until 10:30, and I'm still completely exhausted. As you can probably tell from some of our parenting choices, we're totally overwhelmed right now. I pretty much feel like a terrible parent, but I hope our choices are defensible in that put-the-oxygen-mask-on-yourself-first way. Also, I suppose Tot will not be forever scarred by watching Elmo in Grouchland in his playpen.

Also, I just feel a bit defensive in general. I don't get much time for myself. Why when I'm at work and supposed to be grading do I end up surfing the web looking at your blogs and get so behind? Because I don't get much time for me in my life, and I'm a person who needs a lot of alone time. Just to figure out my muddled thoughts. Just to figure me out, because I am moody and volatile -- pretty much, by nature. So I've already told AL that I'm staking the claim for more me time -- so that I'll be a better parent, a better partner, a better professor.

On that front, I'm delighted to tell you that I actually called and made an appointment with a therapist. Yay! Huzzah! I have issues, dude. And I need to work them out. I need to work on my anger management. I also need to work out big issues from my childhood and how this affects my perspective on things. It bothers me how many times I've been over the same territory, but I think I figured out the other day that it's just never over. It's never just finally done with. I want it to be done and worked out and never have to think about it again because I'm okay and well and the trauma is over, but perhaps it's just never over. For years and years and years I've figured there has to be something wrong with me medically because I'm so volatile and sensitive -- or maybe I have ADD, or I'm bipolar or whatever. Maybe I just have PTSD. I don't know. But I want to be a better less volatile parent -- and if love of myself and my friends has never provided the kick in the ass I needed, well, finding myself screaming at my kid because he's doing kid things, well, I'm sure that other parents have screamed at their kids in bad moments and I'm pretty sure Tot won't be permanently scarred, but I refuse to be my mother and I really do love Tot more than anyone else in the world and he fucking deserves better, so I'm going to therapy.

Well, obviously I needed to say all that. I had a very bad Thursday where I basically showed up near-tears in my best faculty friend's office. And I haven't even had time to reflect on it or write about it or anything because that's the way my life is. Errgh.

But the near impossible thing I simply must do is try to grade. Tot is taking a very early nap, which means I've got to hop-to and get some grading done -- since I spent Thursday focusing on me things instead of grading and now I'm behind. (I hate that. There's no time for me in my day. I go straight from Professor Earnest to Mommy to a smidgeon of time if I'm lucky between Mommy and bed.)

Anyhoo, I've got to find my Professor hat and work on these projects. Gah. But I'm glad I'm managed to tell y'all that I finally am making some great strides toward this year's goals of health and peace.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Musings from Grading Jail

We had another terrific snow this week, after highs in the 50s and all the snow melting away last week. I swear we had a couple days of spring, though I didn't like it at the time because 1) I worry about how the warm-up and refreeze will affect the apple trees (the apple harvests in our areas tanked last year because of a late freeze); 2) I haven't ordered the seeds I'm going to start indoors yet. So the snow means I've gotten a reprieve on that front.

But the grading front? There IS no reprieve. Let me recount for you. I have had one class's projects for an embarrassing length of time. I'd really like to get them back to students on Friday (when I'll be picking up projects from my other class). Then I also have two stacks of other stuff to grade and get back: one from each class. Eeegads. Every quarter I say I'm going to keep on top of grading, and each quarter I get sick, the world seems to collapse, and I get behind.

So. Tot is asleep at an uncharacteristically appropriate nap time. He keeps waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to come in with us, which I let happen because it's much easier than staying up and trying to get him back into his crib. But then I don't get much good sleep. There was a ridiculous moment where the cat was taking up all of Tot's space, who was basically squishing me off the bed. AL manages to sleep through all of this most nights, though there are the nights where he's hanging off the edge of the bed for dear life. A Queen size bed. When Tot got out of bed at 7:30 this morning, I was not a happy camper, especially because my leg hurt from all the weird positions I was sleeping in.

(Can she procrastinate for another paragraph? Yes, she can!) Part of the problem with these projects is that each one takes a long time -- and even though I've done my best to make sure it's on a topic that I'll enjoy reading about, it's still in a format that I never thought I'd be teaching quarter after quarter. It occurs to me that this is not what I went to grad school for. I mean, I remember wanting to teach a class like this so I'd be more competitive on the market. But I didn't realize I'd be teaching this damn thing every quarter.

It looks like we may have to wait a year to buy a house in order to have the two years of solid paychecks from both of us -- and maybe that's a good thing. Despite that I love some of my colleagues (some), maybe I really should look around next job season. Maybe we don't want to stay and put down roots here. (Easy to say that in the winter with the scary slippy-slidey winter driving.) Maybe I don't want to spend my entire career here teaching things I don't value. (I don't always teach things I don't value. Just some of the things I have to teach. In every class, I teach things I value highly -- granted, to students who just couldn't. care. less, but they're the ones who need it the most, right?) I don't know. I do know that I'm inordinately excited about putting my annual report together this year (which is still several months off) because my long-awaited article finally came out and I have another, much smaller, much less prestigious publication (but still!), due out before annual report time. Of course, if I go on the market, this isn't really enough. Well, I'm not going to drive myself crazy. Looking around is not the same as really doing the job market. But in any case, I'm really excited about doing more scholarship and sending things out -- to paraphrase The American President: I don't want to just make tenure; I want to make it with a couple of touchdowns.

But alas. Those papers aren't going to grade themselves. It's even more difficult to get myself to do these because this class has been full of stupid student tricks -- like people just blowing things off and then a bunch of international students who really don't have the literacy to be in the class, yet are. Ah freshmen.

Okay, so I'll try for two projects in the next hour, which is all I can count on Tot to sleep anyway.


Alas, I barely got one done, and Tot is awake! But at least it was interesting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back to the Old Accountablogging

One of the most difficult things about my life for me is using the little pockets of time I do have well. AL took Tot with him to Target, so I have a little time to grade. Oh dear, do I have to? But I want to just lie around and sleep a bit more. Look at seeds I should be starting very soon. Read blogs (though y'all are "helping" me with that one, since none of you are updating your blogs -- no doubt you're curled up sleeping, which is what I'd like to be doing).

But because public accountability/avoiding humiliation usually kicks me into gear, I'm blogging to let you know that I'm going to try to grade before the whirlwinds come back. I'd really like to grade three projects. I'll let you know how it goes.


AL and Tot came in before I finished the third project, but then Tot was tired and fell asleep for his nap. So now I've finished the third one and geared myself up for working on a fourth. Though truth be told, I'm going to look and see if any of y'all have updated your blogs first. I need a break.


Got part way through a fourth, then Tot woke up.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Too Frigging Much

Oh my friends, my brain is scrambled. There is too much going on, hence no blogging. It's been ironic and silly to see that last post up so long, as if I were going to get scholarship done. As it happens, it's been impossible. For multiple reasons.

The first and most important tonight is that my father had life-altering surgery a few hours ago. My sources say that it went well and that it was a good decision considering what they found. Though there will be a long recovery period, this surgery is hopefully the show-stopper for my father's continuing problems. The man has been in and out of the hospital for a month. I talked to him a few days ago, and he was quite slurry, very down. Getting ill is so bad because it's not just a physical one, it's an emotional and psychological one as well. It colors the eyes with which one sees and encounters the world.

And I know this because I've developed back problems -- an actual ligament sprain or something comparable and have been in intermittent pain. Sometimes really bad, but mostly pretty manageable. But it's still pain. And I get grumpier faster. At first, I thought I was somehow imagining it, but after three weeks I went to the doctor -- and it's completely real. I'm on prescription doses of ibuprofen and now two people have suggested that I wean Tot off breast feeding so that I can take the muscle relaxers the doctor would have given me if I weren't breastfeeding. It really would never occur to me to wean Tot so I could take some pill, but partly this has got to be because I've had really bad experiences with muscle relaxers.

Tot is sick. AL is staying home with him tomorrow, thank God and thank AL.

I have my impossibly-early and long day tomorrow. Teaching all my classes. Oh woefully behind grading. A weird possibly stormy possibly thorny issue arising in my department that I'm very concerned about is helping me crystalize my thinking about pedagogy. An upcoming conference for which I believe my paper was misplaced in its panel. An abstract due tomorrow. Appointments with students. Myriad service obligations. Must call my father. Must get the abstract done. Must grade. Must prep for class. tiltTiltFULLTILT.