Monday, April 25, 2011

Research Monday

Thank goodness it's Monday. The weekend sucked. AL has been super-stressed about some work things going on early this week and has been really ill as well. I've been stressed because AL is stressed and because the work things may affect some immediate plans we have -- so we've been in limbo and still are for the next couple days and that's just never a good feeling. Even though I told myself a zillion times that there was nothing I could do and so should let go of the stress and try to be there for AL, I failed utterly. Tot is making an on again off again transition to his toddler bed, which means that going to sleep is a new kind of ordeal. (It always was, of course, but now it's a new ordeal.) I think Tot also felt the stress or is just exploring and experimenting because he crayoned over some toys and then the walls. They're washable crayons and everything, but you can't just act as if it's nothing, can you? Because then they won't know what's right in the future. Parenting is hard. Sometimes it sucks. Like when Tot steals the bed so that I'm smooshed in the middle of the bed between two restless sleepers. Needless to say, I woke up and got up early for a change.

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 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.
I also have daydreams of things like watching a movie and napping, though I doubt that will happen. I also wish I could go and help out at my friend's farm, though that's not even on the radar for today.

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

A Whole New Me: Organizing

Inspired by my new schedule (with Tot in daycare another day per week) and feeling like I really need to take control over my life and my job (therapy is probably helping with this a lot), I've been doing things that really I should've done a long time ago, like organizing my time.

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

Free at Last!

I'm newly sprung from grading jail and not a moment too soon. Unfortunately, the terrible issue that I'm mad at the university for (I think I blogged about it a bit earlier in the quarter) is still an issue -- and it didn't end with the end of the quarter. Not only does it fall on me and my colleagues to engage in the sticky issue of addressing it so that future professors will not be screwed like I am, I am in fact also still screwed for, at least, the current quarter. F***!

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.

Hello from Grading Jail

And that's pretty much all we have time for.

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

Getting Down to It

Shhhhh. Don't tell anyone, but now I'm really really going to grade. I've got three hours. Let's see what can be done. And since I need to report back to y'all, at least I'll feel compelled to do something besides absentmindedly checking email and FB.

Get ready, get set, GO!

***Late Update***

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

I'm Working!!! April Fools!!

So today was supposed to be a day when I could relax, grading last quarter's portfolios and projects and starting my new syllabi from bed. I don't know why the image of this "relaxing" day always had me in bed, except in years past, I used to love working in bed with all my papers and books strewn about me. But, of course, there's no rolling out of bed and into coffee and work. There's taking Tot to daycare and then there was the leak under the sink.

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.