Monday, November 23, 2015

Sleep Is the Cure

So not only was I at the end of my rope on Sunday (yes, I did rouse myself and get myself to grade that stack!  It turned out to be easier than I thought), but by Friday afternoon, I was officially stupid.  At the end of my last class on Friday, I was saying things that made no sense.  These six-hour teaching days leave me shaky and rattled and mentally buzzing and physically exhausted.  It's amazing how much this schedule has really screwed me up.  And then there was the fact that last weekend I was grading grading grading as best I could. 

So I tried to sleep in on Saturday to limited success.  But it was a snowing-all-day kind of day and so we had a fire going in the woodstove and I also made soup and bread for lunch (neither homemade -- I haven't really cooked in forever now) which also set me up for sleepiness, and we ended up watching Christmas movies on the TV, and I dozed on the couch.  This is one of my favorite things -- dozing and listening to familiar movies on the couch.  In fact, when I'm sick, this is all I want to do.  I did this for much of the afternoon, and then in the early evening I felt great and unpacked two book boxes in the office, went through the dry cleaning and set aside some to take in, and made myself a little stack of Big Project books to read.  Then yesterday I woke up and made serious and amazing headway on Tiny Article, graded four projects, and did the bills.  In short, this sleep thing is amazing! 

I often stay up late because I feel cheated without any me time after Absurdist Child goes to sleep.  I get so grumpy without any me time.  So sleep often gets shortchanged.  But of course this is stupid too, because sleep is so important to one's overall health.  I'm often trying to balance sleep and morale.  (Keeping my morale up is a huge effort since I struggle with moodiness and depression and once I start getting moody or depressed I make bad decisions and am not a very good family member.  The family suffers enough when I have PMS.)  But obviously sleep is so necessary.  I know this realization that sleep is so important should change my decisions, but I doubt they will.  At the same time, I'm excited about some more catching-up-with-sleep potential of the long weekend.  I also have tons of work (gradinggradinggrading, service, and scholarship) to do this weekend, which I hope to do in the morning when it bugs my family the least.  And I am totally getting out there and taking care of my garden on Thanksgiving (though it's forecasted to be raining, but I don't care -- the garlic is going in!!!!).

Happy Thanksgiving!  Among the many things I'm thankful for?  The restorative power of sleep! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

At the end of my rope

I'm having a hard time. I've been working hard and grading everyday non-stop, and I was on campus all last week and will be all this upcoming week, and today -- with a big pile of grading that must be done by tomorrow by administrative fiat -- I just can't make myself grade the damn pile.  I'm not ignoring work, by any means.  I've done a zillion other things that needed to be done.  If I did ignore work, perhaps I'd actually be getting myself in balance and feel in better shape.  No. I feel shaky and low.  I'm just having trouble digging into this pile.  I'm just overworked and unable to take any time off, and I hate this.  Just hate this.  I don't have time to mourn Paris or any of the other cities being terrorized.  I don't have time to be with my partner and son.  I've sequestered myself off, and here I am blogging instead of grading. 

Long ago, when I was in grad school and working on my dissertation, I used to waste a lot of time.  I thought of myself, essentially, as lazy.  I still think of myself as lazy, though I now recognize that this is a habit that doesn't have anything to do with reality.  Nowadays I don't waste a lot of time.  I still have trouble with transition points, but this quarter I've just pushed myself to go from one thing to another.  Still there are times I just can't push myself forward, and I recognize that these are times when pushing myself means getting sick.  Today, I recognize I desperately need time off and totally deserve time off and totally will not be getting any time off, and this makes me really really grumpy bitchy, which is not a good way to start a week where I have a ton to do and have meetings with people who I'd like to scream at for not doing their share and letting it all fall on me.

Now, of course, I am playing the victim a bit -- and I need to learn to say no and let things get done poorly or not at all by others.  If I don't learn to say no then I'll be the one doing things poorly or not at all (unusual for me -- but getting things done poorly in order to get them done?  check!).  But I can't say yes from now on because I'm going to get ill and stay ill and it's not worth it.

I have some plans to talk about all this with my chair, but none of that will address this pile in front of me.  I have to remember what a joy it is to read student work.  And I don't have to grade the writing of anything I'm reading, which is also a joy.  But I do have to do it.  And I still feel like shit.  But I am NOT staying up late to get this shit done.  So I better get started.

This helped, sort of. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Check-In with Notes about Needing to Learn How to Relax

So what follows is my check-in this week for Top Left Quadrant, but what I'd like to note here is that I've gotten a cognitive-behavioral workbook on de-stressing and relaxation because I absolutely must take care of my health and this is the way to do it.  (It's a great book because in the first chapters the authors show the clear connections between stress and disease, building in exactly the kind of increased motivation I need.)  It kind of blows my mind that I need a workbook to help me relax.  It seems like an intelligent and learned person shouldn't need something like this, but this just proves that a smart person isn't necessarily smart at everything.  I used to joke that I not only lit my candle at both ends but in the middle for good measure.  I cannot do that anymore.  My various health problems make it abundantly clear that such an approach diminishes my quality of life (because chest pains, sciatica pain, etc. sucks) and will shorten my life.  I have a lot of stuff I still want to do, including see Absurdist Child grow up, write some things, and enjoy life with Absurdist Lover!  So it's really important that I don't get into the stress-to-get-things-done illness cycle.

By the way, the theme of the week is the ideal environment for sleep, so that's where I start.  I know -- riveting stuff, right?  Things will not always be like this.  I will one day be able to blog some of the crap going on around my department.  But just not now.

Oh wow, ideal environment for sleep?  Mostly I have what I need for good sleep -- blackout curtains, a mattress that is a bit firmer than I would like but still good, etc. -- but I need more time.

This week I really noticed that sometimes I stay up late and don't get enough sleep because between the high volume of work and my high-energy kid at home, I feel cheated out of any kind of me-focused time, whether that's escapism (which is purposeful as I desperately need to exit my life and focus elsewhere as the stress mounts) or refilling the creative wellspring.  The wise thing to do might be to remember that it won't always be this way and go to sleep anyway, but on the other hand, I'm learning I really do need that time to de-stress and relax.  A 28-hour day would be ideal, with those 4 hours for extra sleep.  More in line with the limits of the real world, trying to get Absurdist Child to go to sleep earlier might help me get some time for myself.  The other issue is getting Absurdist Child to stay in his own bed instead of coming in every night into ours.  He and I have talked about why he does this, and I think it's just a habit, not borne out of some fear.  So we'll work on it.

Last Week's Goals
-order book on destressing and relaxation:  YES, and it's awesome!
-have some down time every day:  I tried.  Transition time is hard.  I'm working on developing better skills and strategies here, thanks to the above book.
-make sure I get enough sleep and take good care of my health (am going to the doctor today, so I'm working on this!):  balancing sleep with me-time was a key challenge, as noted above
-get to grading asap, but in a reasonable and not totally-stressed out way:  I'm so behind now, it's ridiculous, but I've prioritized not making myself sick
-work a bit on Tiny Article due in Two Weeks in small bits (it would be great if I could sit down and schedule this, but I don't know about that):  starting yesterday, I've begun scheduling 30-min sessions on it in the morning, and WOW it's amazing what can get done in 30 minutes!
-pick a book related to Big Project to be my go-to book so I can feel productive instead of spending my time looking for a book and then reading something I really don't need to read (like a magazine) that doesn't get me anywhere (in terms of feeling productive):  I haven't done this, but I think my go-to book for now is the relaxation and de-stressing book
-try to remember that it won't always be like this:  uh huh
-remember that nothing is worth killing myself over, especially bozo colleagues with antediluvian ideas that are unjust. move like water.:  I got mad a bit this week, though far better than last week, and I got stressed about something, but I turned the stress into a productive work schedule, so some very important things are moving forward, and I'm not stressing about it because the work sessions are scheduled so what is there to stress about?

This is a time when I'm relearning how to get things done.  Before I got tenure, it seemed reasonable to make myself sick over grading, for example.  (I'd rush to get something done, even though I'm perennially behind, and then get sick right after.)  Now tenured but with health problems, this trade-off doesn't suit me anymore.  So I'm rethinking assignments that pose particular challenges for grading, including the assignment that is currently killing me, which is good because I'll be teaching this particular course each quarter this year.  So this is a good time to figure that out. 

Goals for the Upcoming Week

1.  Keep up a decent grading pace, which unfortunately includes the stress of telling my family to leave me alone (repeatedly because 7-year olds just don't get it).
2.  Some kind of relaxation work each day, whether that's escapism (watching shows), working on the relaxation workbook, or tuning in to some kind of creative well-filling activity.  (Making a list of these might help the transition issue, but I don't know I can do that this week.)
3. 30-minutes daily on Tiny Article.  It will get done by Friday.  Yes, it will.  Even after two sessions, it's much better than it was, so don't stress about this.  Don't think about it.  Just do it.
4. Magnesium.  Take it daily.
5. Do leg lifts and crunches while watching shows at night.
6. Continue to prioritize eating at regular intervals for good energy all day long. 
7. Don't expect anything of yourself after long teaching days.
8. Instead of stressing, see what service you can scoot over or enlist help with.  (Had a great conversation with a colleague who is sweetly worried about my health who asked why I don't go and get out of one service commitment that is pretty much languishing.  She's right.)  Don't get involved in big arguments because chest pains suck. 
9. Nothing is worth killing yourself over.  Move like water. --> recite mantra at will.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Check-In with Reflections on What Is "Good Enough"

Good enough. There are lots of things I'm so behind on, it's not good, but I'm trying not to stress about it. Just because there's a giant pile doesn't mean I shouldn't take breaks and have a little me time. I'm doing my best, and that's it. If I overexert myself, I'll get sick and then what?

Last Week's Goals

GET ENOUGH SLEEP!! (sorry, but I'm really really dreadfully stupid about this one. I have some thing in me that wants to stay up and have me time, dammit, me me!): I did better. I discovered I really like sleep, but I forget every night until I hit the pillow.
-Eat decent food at regular intervals. Plan ahead. Tuesday sucked. Friday was better, but I still felt weak at the end of the day.
-Stop periodically. Check in. Take a breath. Take another breath. Yes. Doing as much as someone with ten minutes between two very different classes can. Now I know what the students sometimes have that lost look -- they've just suffered whiplash from one subject to another.
-Do pilates twice this week. No.
-Use the relative lull of the early part of this week to pump out that article! No, but I got it done today. There are all sorts of problems, like I totally didn't follow through on the word count we'd agreed on, which I know is an obnoxious academic problem, but. . .it's good enough. I'm so glad it's done. I have a ton else to do.
-15 minutes of writing a day is still writing: and I did that several days, though it was sometimes hard.
-Have a book at the ready for moments away: yes
-Chip away at service pile: there wasn't much chipping this week, though I did a couple things; the pile still remains, mostly
-Make sure to do the online class with Absurdist Child early in the week and watch Wednesday Nature program.: yes
-Be calm. Nothing is worth killing yourself over. This is my mantra. I really don't want to have any more serious health problems.

This Week's Goals

-Keep calm. Nothing's worth killing yourself over. Move like water.
-15 minutes of writing is still writing.
-Take magnesium supplement 2x a day and see if that makes me feel better.
-Be organized about food and eat and admit when I need a break.
-Be good enough about grading and prep.
-Read more, when possible.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Check-In with Embellishments

Check-In on Last Week's Goals

-stop munching after 11pm: better, not great, but better
-engage in stress-relieving at home: somewhat -- am getting better
-prep and get syllabi to printing by end of the week: got everything to printing and up on Blackboard (to a seriously never-before seen standard) this afternoon.
-roll back sleep slowly until I'm waking up at 6am without undue pain: fits and starts here; I had a day of 5am insomnia and a single day I let myself sleep in until 8:30. Progress, not perfection.
-make some headway on the boxes in the home office: some, yes
-plant elderberry: yes
-make serious plan for the article that is due in two weeks and get major headway made: I made a plan but did not follow it when I realized that working on it was keeping me from focusing on syllabi
-get caught up, somehow, on overwhelming service responsibilities: uh, not really, got one thing scheduled but there's much more to do
-collect and assess Big Project work: no
-figure out Absurdist Child's birthday: yes, almost completely: I'm rockin'

We really rocked here.  We went to the place, scheduled it.  Yesterday we got the invitations and most of the rest of the stuff besides the cupcakes, and Absurdist Child went hogwild and wrote ALL the invitations before dinnertime.  I'm in awe.  Which is good because most of the time he's driving me batty with his toys we need to look up on the internet and his incessant habit of plowing into me physically which I cannot deal with because of this sciatica pain I'm having pretty much most of the time.  Absurdist Lover reminded me that I should go to the doctor.  Ugh.  I'll schedule that tomorrow.

Absurdist Lover is doing amazing things to the house.  Installing ceiling fans (I love ceiling fans so we really are going to have four ceiling fans in the five main rooms of the house!), cleaning things up, getting me to go through things.  Today was the day of hanging things up in Absurdist Child's bedroom.  I also made dinner and then cookies this evening after I was done prepping.  I'm worried about how I'm going to balance all this.  

-The thing that sometimes motivates me to get something done is the stress I feel thinking about it and not doing it. This stress also drains my energy. Modulating emotions and getting things done without really worrying about it is really important.
-I got lots done in some ways, but it was a transition week really. Now it begins.

Habits? I feel like I'm always trying to press forward with a new habit, something I should give up or do. Making habits is exhausting. It takes a lot of energy, all that rushing forward with your shoulders squared to move through anything. Instead I'm trying to move like water. The only way to make it to December is to see a wall, go around. And lots of healthy supports too. That's the habit I'm trying to cultivate -- the habit of doing healthy things, whether it's exercise, or having a tea, or taking a bath. I am hoping to keep myself proactive and stress-relieving as I'm having really painful and annoying sciatica and I'm going to have a very challenging quarter.

This Week's Goals
-GET ENOUGH SLEEP!! (sorry, but I'm really really dreadfully stupid about this one. I have some thing in me that wants to stay up and have me time, dammit, me me!)
-Eat decent food at regular intervals. Plan ahead.
-Stop periodically. Check in. Take a breath. Take another breath.
-Do pilates twice this week.
-Use the relative lull of the early part of this week to pump out that article!
-15 minutes of writing a day is still writing
-Have a book at the ready for moments away
-Chip away at service pile
-Make sure to do the online class with Absurdist Child early in the week and watch Wednesday Nature program.
-Be calm. Nothing is worth killing yourself over.

It begins.  Tomorrow.  The meetings and the BS and the drama, and I will get subsumed in all of it because I really do care about it all and it really does matter because the education of students -- all students -- matters.  But I also need to remember that it doesn't help anything to be anything but be as calm and peaceful as possible. 

Ha!  I'm sort of a troublemaker, so we'll see if I can make that work.  Before tenure, I had limited opportunity for really putting my foot in my mouth.  Now, I have much more expanded opportunity.  I'll try to be calm -- as often as I can remember.

I'm jumping off the edge of not-teaching back into teaching life. . .   Luckily, all of you are there too. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Top Left Quadrant Check-In

Copying over my check-ins seems to be all I can manage lately. I've felt awful and am overwhelmed by the impending beginning of the quarter and the zillions of tasks, at home and work, that I'm supposed to finish before that.  And sciatica.  I'm overwhelmed with sciatica pain.  Pain makes me grumpy.  I know:  profound, isn't it?

So stress relievers that might work for me.  I certainly need stress relievers for work (when I have only an hour break in a 6-hour teaching day) and home (where our high-energy kid runs me ragged though I am LOVING homeschooling with him right now).  Things I can imagine doing:

-coloring books (so glad to see so many other intellectual adults not only doing this but admitting it!  I thought it was only me! By pure happenstance, my coloring books and colored pencils surfaced last night)
-crochet (but crochet is only stress-relieving, as heu mihi noted, when I'm doing something I know how to do well -- I recently started a slouch hat working in the round for the first time, and it was not stress-relieving -- I'm not done but I haven't gone back to it)
-watching shows (I'm on the sixth season of Northern Exposure -- no Fleischman, don't go!  I love your Jewishness!!!), but I seriously need to consider what I'm watching to make sure it's relaxing and how late I'm watching it
-meditation, when I can get myself to do it
-tai chi, as best as I can remember it
-baths (especially good for relieving sciatica, which has been very bad)
-listen to music:  this is probably the big one for work

Report on Last Week's Goals

-work out at least twice this week:  I worked out once and felt pretty good, but then later that night I had terrible terrible chest pains, like I thought I'd had a heart attack, but then later I felt fine
-get draft together of short chapter (which probably breaks down into working on it several times this week):  nope
-prep and write several big emails to get those projects done:  nope
-keep head from exploding by engaging in frequent stress-relieving breaks by. . .???:  my chest exploded instead of my head; I was really grouchy at family this week, granted because of pain, but I need to work on that
-engage in research and reflection on what kinds of stress-relieving breaks would work (saying I'll meditate is fine, but maybe there are better things I like more -- I'm seriously open to ideas!!!!):  sure, let's call reading other people's posts on this as "research"
-compile Big Project drafts so I can take stock of what I got done in the last quarter:  nope
-prep somewhat: this I rocked.  I seriously figured out two out of my three classes, including the new prep

So the big impediment to getting things done last week was my health, which would suggest that I should go to the quack, but. . .I don't wanna.  I better, but I don't wanna.

This Week's Goals

-stop munching after 11pm
-engage in stress-relieving at home
-prep and get syllabi to printing by end of the week
-roll back sleep slowly until I'm waking up at 6am without undue pain
-make some headway on the boxes in the home office
-plant elderberry
-make serious plan for the article that is due in two weeks and get major headway made
-get caught up, somehow, on overwhelming service responsibilities
-collect and assess Big Project work
-figure out Absurdist Child's birthday

This list makes me want to curl back up in bed!  (Can I consider that stress-relieving???)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Top Left Quadrant and Ways to Relieve Stress

Yay!  I didn't miss the entry point for Top Left Quadrant this time!  Fall is seriously crazy, and I can't quite think about it all at once or something in me starts running for the hills, but the structure will, I hope, keep me from going nuts or at least the minimize the time I spend going nuts and maximize the time I spend remembering to keep myself healthy, since health and stress-reduction are really important right now.  (I have until December to try to get healthier to try to avoid taking a medication that I really don't want to because of its side effects.)

So here's my post over there:

The upcoming quarter has a ridiculous number of preps and overfull classes, a number of big service commitments, some research work I really want to get done in a very slow and plodding way, and some health issues that I really must take seriously so exercise and stress reduction are crucial.  Before all that starts, I have a small chapter to write and at least one major home project: making the home office/library more livable by buying bookshelves and unpacking boxes.  Meanwhile I also want to keep up with our family projects -- somehow!  Really just thinking about all I have to get done by the end of the calendar year makes me want to crawl back into bed.  So I have to just keep my head down and keep working, but without stressing myself out because of the health concerns!

So this week's goals:

-work out at least twice this week
-get draft together of short chapter (which probably breaks down into working on it several times this week)
-prep and write several big emails to get those projects done
-keep head from exploding by engaging in frequent stress-relieving breaks by. . .???
-engage in research and reflection on what kinds of stress-relieving breaks would work (saying I'll meditate is fine, but maybe there are better things I like more -- I'm seriously open to ideas!!!!)
-compile Big Project drafts so I can take stock of what I got done in the last quarter
-prep somewhat

What are you favorite ways to relieve stress?  Any ideas for me?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Big Project Planning

It occurs to me that grad school, while it taught me many things well, did not teach me how to approach, plan, and keep up my enthusiasm for a long project.  While the dissertation was, of course, a long project, I didn't take particularly long to work on it -- as in cranking out the actual pages.  I think I began writing real chapters in December or January and was defended by August.  The foundation, though, was laid in work from years previous -- particularly in one class and then in the portfolio that served as my comprehensive exams.  So I didn't exactly know that I was working on the dissertation when I was laying the foundation.  But now I'm a tenured professor, and I've got to be able to plan out my writing work to get done in little drips of time, and I need to be able to articulate a realistic plan for completion for annual review and an application for my pipe dream, a sabbatical.  (It doesn't help that this project is in a less desirable area to my colleagues.)

So I've been thinking about Big Project and how it's particularly difficult to come up with product completion goals for a process that is not step-by-step.  (A colleague and role model of mine recently posted on Facebook that he's been working on a project for seven years.  Seven!  Of course, he's completed and published other work as well in that time, but I tend to work on one project at a time and while I respect the creative process and will follow it wherever it leads, I really can't say that I'm planning to still be working on this project in seven years.  That's not a confidence-builder for a sabbatical application!)

Every time I think about this project as a 3-5 year goal, something in me starts screaming.  No!  I want the writing -- at least the first draft -- done in two years.  It'll take some serious time to revise and there's a colleague I'd love to show it to when it's in a full draft form, and so I'm not dreaming that it'll be substantially complete after the first real complete draft or anything.  If I'm still sending it out in five years, okay.  But I need to get into high gear getting this first draft completed for my own morale, as much as my teaching and service load will allow.

So here are my goals that I think are pretty realistic:

During summer:  ambitious weekly goals so I end up with a serious sheaf of drafted pages by the end of the summer (this is the same goal I've had this summer that I started out quite brightly on but have fallen off of since the family took a stressful trip to Urban Birth City -- oh the drama, oh the jet lag, oh the recovery!  yesterday and the day before I was feeling shvitzy and have been taking naps and stuff and couldn't figure out what was wrong until I turned to Absurdist Lover and mused: last week, we were still in Urban Birth City.  Ah, then it all made sense.  No wonder I've struggled with writing for the last few weeks).  Let's call this total ideal output for summer X.

During the year:  modest monthly goal.  The total output for the "during the year" time is X-1. 

If I can get that done for 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, it'll be drafted by the end of 2016-2017.  Then I can spend 2017-2020 revising and sending it out.  Now, if I can get a sabbatical to work on this project, that would transform the six months or so I'd get off into "summer time," shooting my productivity up.  So if I put in a sabbatical application for 2016-2017 (because this year is out already anyway), I'd be able to say that instead of managing X-1 for that "during the year" time, I'd be able to get 2X done.  In short, I'd finish the drafting and be able to get onto the revising.  This would be particularly great because at that point I'm going to have to take a step back and see what all the parts add up to and make decisions about that and do some more focused rewriting, and it would be great to have the time and space to do that. 

I don't know if I can sell that to the sabbatical application committee, but at least it's a plan that makes sense to me.  And I won't be totally depressed if I don't get a sabbatical because I can see that I will get this thing done in a decent amount of time.

It's funny how making these goals makes me feel better, especially during the slog when I really have to focus mostly on teaching.  If I can manage to write a couple times a week, I should be able to more than meet these goals.

But before that, I still have Summer and those ambitious goals.  I'd like to be able to meet my own goals -- as much to be able to report that in my annual review report and sabbatical application as for myself.  So I need to take stock and see how behind I am and what I need to do to make the most of the rest of the quarter.

But perhaps not right now.  I really need to begin working on cleaning out the office, and this is the last week of Absurdist Child's camp.  So I need to get on that as well.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Just so you know, Little Project is actually for a general readership.  If you're interested in learning more, please email me at 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

After Days of Medical Angst, Back to the Garden

So three weeks after the great Nasturtium Planting of 2015, here's what a piece of that bed looks like:

I really do love planting and tending the garden.  I was afraid I wouldn't -- that I would discover I only liked it because I thought I was supposed to like it somehow, or because I had read about it and thought I should but I really do love it.  Partly because beauty is just a balm.  Keats had that right -- "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."  I can just stand and stare at the nasturtiums or the pond or whatever and find myself more peaceful, more calm.  Partly because -- with the exception of this bed full of nasturtiums and spent bulbs and still readying-themselves-for-bloom lilies -- everything I plant is for eating, and I love food.

Though I woke up very late, I ended up doing lots of gardening work.  I planted my second 3 x 8 raised bed with three artichokes and as many onion seedlings as I could fit in staggering up and down (in a 3-2 pattern or a V) at 4 inch intervals).  (First I had to fill the bed with soil, mind you.)  It is really too late to be setting that stuff out, especially as they've been scrunched in near a grow light in the basement for months.  But today's when I could get everything in.  I also weeded the nasturtiums, though the weeds are getting really smart and growing right next to the nasturtiums.  I pulled two nasturtium seedlings up by mistake.  (I ate the leaves.)

I also harvested some shallots that had flopped over.

And I had to cut a few broccoli leaves because they were crowding out their neighbors.  I really don't know what I'm doing with broccoli, but this planting has turned into some kind of broccoli monster.  I tried to upload a picture of the broccoli monster, but it's on its side and I don't know how to get blogger to turn it over.  Grrr.  I also mulched the artichoke-and-onion bed and gave everything a long overdue dose of Neptune's Harvest.  Doesn't that sound like enough to count as a workout?

I've decided just this week to get back into exercising.  A big impetus for this is medical.  So I've been being checked out for X, which has many variations.  The variation I have is most likely is X-2 because I definitely have damage, but X-2 is really only diagnosable when they've totally ruled out X-1 by some tests that are really incredibly inconvenient and expensive -- in short, no one wants to do them.  So my doctor doesn't quite want to say I have X at all, because X-2 is a really weird variation where some of the things that seem to most characterize X are not there with X-2.  In any case, the treatment for X-2 doesn't make any sense as it's the same as X-1, which specifically addresses an aspect of X that X-2 doesn't have.   So my doctor has basically given me an X-1 treatment that makes no sense because my variable-that-in-others-is-high is already really low and there is no reason to further reduce it; I think it's just the difficulty of diagnosing me as positively X-2 and so the idea is why not consider treating it even though she can only say that maybe I have X. In any case, I also have another syndrome that is highly correlated with X-2.  There's very little to suggest that the medication that she's prescribed will address my X-2 at all, and there are side effects that I really don't like.  The doctor gave me three choices, 1) to medicate, 2) to be monitored closely, and 3) to get a second opinion.  A second opinion is astronomical in cost, when I truly believe I have X-2 because I also have another syndrome highly correlated with it along with my definite damage that they've found.  And what causes both?  A vascular disorder that I definitely have most likely caused by my terribly sedentary lifestyle. 

So I've decided to whip myself back into shape and hopefully get rid of both the syndrome and the causes, in my case, of X.  And if this is not what is causing the X?  Well, it's not going to hurt anything for me to stop being some kind of couch potato.  And I'm going back to my doctor in a month so there's plenty of time to get on medication if I need to.  Oh, and of course there's also the possibility that the condition causing both syndromes is actually something else, something much worse.  MS, for example.  I don't care.  I'm not going to worry about it.  No matter what I have or don't have, I'm doing yoga and taking lots of supplements anyway.  Because I have a lot to do this summer, and anything I have or whatever is going to be helped by my exercising and getting thinner.  I'm done with all the medical panic I've had for the last few days, which totally stopped my great mojo where I was really getting things done each day.  Then I was just depressed and barely making it, barely even there.  Forget that.  I'm getting healthy and then we can talk about X and whether I'm really ill or whatever.  Yoga first.  Which is why I'm not going to count gardening as my workout and am going to go do some short form Ashtanga.  Now.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Rainy Summer Sunday for the Great Nasturtium Planting

It's pouring here.  A big dark sky and rain.  Rain we can't even see until we look at surface of the pond to see how hard it is. 

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain.  Then it was raining until late morning(?), when I ducked out and celebrated the Great Nasturtium Planting of 2015.  I planted six varieties (about 25 seeds each) in a border:  Tall Trailing Mix and Jewel Mix in the back, where I figure I'll put trellises; Empress of India in tufts where there's really nothing; and Peach Melba, Vesuvius, and Ladybird Nasturtium all in little tufts in the front, because these are the small bushy kind instead of the long lanky vines like the ones in the back.  Since it's raining right now, I guess I really didn't need to soak the seeds overnight.  I hope they all pop right up.  I love nasturtiums and don't get to see them around here. 

Around 5, we all finally went outside, and I cut the spent mesclun mix and the arugula and put them in the composter.  A neat idea:  give Absurdist Child an allowance for turning the composter, which he can easily do, on a daily basis?  Because he's a collector of (Pixar) cars, (Thomas) trains, and (Disney) Planes, he's always chomping at the bit for money or toys, and for the last couple months has been trying to stay up to wish on a star and then wanting to impress the wishing star by doing good deeds (occasionally).  Of course, right now he goes to bed before the sun does, so the whole wishing star thing is pretty tough, not that he goes to sleep.  He's always had a tough time going to sleep, and so far this summer is worse.  Even with blackout curtains, it's hard for him to go to sleep.  Anyway, should I have turning the composter on a daily basis as a chore that he can do to earn money?  I don't like giving kids money for things they should do anyway, and I think everyone should contribute to the "team," but turning the composter seems like something extra enough that he should be able to earn something for it.  What do you think?

Anyway, I got rid of the mesclun mix and the arugula and the sad excuse for radishes and put all that extra soil into the potato barrels.  It was so, so muggy.

It blows my mind how fecund everything is.  You plant a seed, and it comes up.  Yes, I've screwed up some plants, but mostly, they grow.  And grow and grow and grow.  It's amazing.  Where I grew up, it was basically chaparral, almost but not quite a desert.  Scrubby.  And of course near the ocean where some people really had gardens appropriate to the area, you could see how few nutrients got trapped there in that sandy soil, everything moving through it all the time.  Nasturtiums love that.  Here, in the bed, it's packed clay.  In other places, probably near the pond, maybe it's sandy.  But this is not chaparral with the gray-green and brown-green.  Here we have yellow green, spring green, a green so bright it takes you aback, a real pulsing straight green.  It's very different planting in a cleared forest than irrigated chaparral.  It's so easy.  Except, maybe, for the nasturtiums.  We'll see how they do.  They did very well in pots on the balcony at the apartment.  We'll see how they do in this clay.

I did also do some work.  Instead of being able to turn in my Report-I-Always-Turn-In-Late after the quarter is over, I had to get it done a bit earlier because they moved up the date.  But mostly I've been lazy on the work front.  I've gotten student emails and responded to a few, but mostly I need a day off.  And this is it.   

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Gardening End to a Frenetic Week

My week was insane.  I was on campus every day, often long hours.  I also had a couple meetings that generated discussions I found myself embroiled in, in email, text, and face-to-face with others and very much in my own head.  At some points, I was fuming and cursing, luckily to the right person.  I was thinking about these discussions and arguments most of the time, writing about them, etc.  By the end of the week I was in a better place, having realized that I was actually very interested in all this, and I'd like to do some research and get some training so I might as well accept the leadership position in it that I was trying to avoid (because I'm insanely busy already -- if my job were full-time service, okay, but this is ridiculous -- though obviously I love it, love trying to make things better).  The good part about getting really into something that people mostly find annoying is that if you present a good argument you mostly get your way.  

Today I slept in.  I mean I tried.  The menfolk got up (yes, Absurdist Child still comes into our bed most every night), and I tried to sleep beyond that, but it was already 10.  And by 2 or so, I was outside.  Today I cut the peas completely down.  I know it's June and soon they would flower (thought I planted them pretty late), but if I don't get the corn in the ground, I can kiss the three sisters plantings goodbye.   I felt bad doing it but I cut them all down and put some compost on top and planted in one bed the popcorn variety "Smoke Signals" and in the other, the sweet corn standby Golden Bantam Improved.  When they get bigger, I'm to plant the beans and squash around them.  So that's in the works.

I prepared the area and planted the milkweed and butterfly garden seeds as our contribution to monarchs, who we love.  We'll see how that fares.  I am thinking of getting a buddleia butterfly bush at the local nursery, which I haven't been to yet.  And I weeded the flower bed in preparation for tomorrow's nasturtium planting extravaganza.  I have six types I'm going to plant so I found myself loving reading this terrific rundown of different varieties.  Six.  Six different varieties.  Well, this is the same flower bed that had the spectacular surprise red tulips come up and the gorgeous daffodils and dwarf irises and the couple tall irises and gorgeous mounds of muscari.  Lilies are growing and stretching out their buds, but giving nothing away.  Some gorgeous purplish-red callas are coming up, but mostly the place is full of dying-back irises and straggles of this and that and of course it gets mounds of weeds, some that are really neat looking.  Anyway, I want to fill that with nasturtiums.  So they'll be lilies, callas, and nasturtiums.  Not many lilies and not many callas, but a total overload of nasturtiums, which always looks gorgeous anyway with them tumbling around, and I think I'm going to put a trellis behind it so that the Tall Trailing and Empress of India varieties can lounge around on a trellis being gorgeous.  For next year I'll have to think about what to plant for this late spring-early summer time so it won't look so empty and terrible.  Maybe I could plant nasturtiums earlier (officially according to my Zone 5B area only three weeks ago) or plant some other late spring bulb.  I do love my bulbs.

Anyway, I took the day off grading, which of course I still have plenty of.  But the craziness abates for about a week, and then finals come in and everything is madder than ever.  Which means it's almost done too.  I won't be in the classroom again for months!  Three weeks from now, the grading will be gone.  I'm giddy with all that.  Tomorrow:  nasturtium planting and maybe some grading.   

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Working and Overwork: What Is Good and What Is Bad?

So I've been incredibly good about grading lately.  Yesterday I managed to get right to work and do all sorts of things -- not finishing anything, but making very good headway.  Today?  I can't make myself do crap.  I'm super-behind on one facet of my grading, and so I've been trying to just get it done this weekend before I see those students again on Tuesday.  Yesterday, I got four done, which doesn't sound impressive unless I tell you how long I've been putting it off, which, if I did tell you, you'd wonder how I haven't lost my job by now.  Yes, that long.  Today, I've managed two.  And I'm doing a really great job of whining and moaning and bitching about it.

Which leads me to say this:  we reward people for over-work, for insane lacks of work-life balance.  At my institution there is a professor who is lauded because he hasn't taken his regular time off in eons.  A while back we had some leader of something-or-other who came and gave a talk, and he admitted that his success depended on his disengaging with his family.  (It's funny because there is a wonderful piece about how not being grounded by family and friends leads many successful business leaders into thinking they can engage in unethical acts without being noticed.  No one told that leader guy invited to campus, evidently.)  I've been writing about lack of work-life balance for a long time.  Here is a piece I wrote about that ages ago.  And here is my classic piece on the subject, up on my soapbox.    

So here's something important that I need to file away for the future:  working every day is not "being good."  It's denying my students and my work the perspective that comes from being away.  It's more ethical for everyone to take time off (take that guy who doesn't take time off!).  It's also not great for my family or me or the work for me to be sitting here bitching and moaning because I've screwed things up to a point where I have to work everyday.  Bad.  Very bad. 

So, what am I going to do?  I'm going to drink this Earl Grey (second caffeinated beverage of the day:  I'm desperate), and I'm going to work on these 12 more pieces I have, hopefully finishing them but at least getting 6 more done, then I'm going to do some calculations I have to do (gotta love quantitative assessment!  yes, I am kidding) in front of the TV while the sky rains down the buckets we're expecting in a few hours.

Do I have to say that I have not yet been able to schedule the glaucoma tests?  I have an insane week with meetings, classes, committees every day.  But there are only two weeks left.  Then a week of grading.  I.can't.wait.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Update on Several Fronts: Sorry So Random

I finished grading, then had a crazy day yesterday.  So crazy, I cancelled things today and have been taking the day "off," which actually means sending zillions of emails, arranging things according to due dates that are zooming closer, updating my calendar, figuring out where summer conflicts are, yadda yadda yadda.  At least I'm at home.

One of my favorite things lately is to look at the teaching notebook I've kept over Absurdist Child's first homeschooling year and seeing how much he's done.  The most consistent curriculum we've kept has been Life of Fred.  It started at Apples and he's progressed through the B, C, D, E, F books, and now he's on Goldfish.  I love that I can see so much progress.  The vision therapy has really helped his reading.  He reads all the time, but still the print can't be too small, so except for Magic Treehouse, he's still reading bigger-print books. Tonight he insisted on reading Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Yes, at the end of May.  That's my son all over.  What can I say?

Speaking of eyes.  I'm being tested for glaucoma.  I've had three tests so far and the reports are really inconsistent, like the eye that failed the visual field test has a perfect optic nerve while the eye that passed the visual field test has a thin (bad) optic nerve.  So more tests.  She says it's a very slow disease, in any case.  I am a glaucoma "suspect" at this point.  (I watched an Agatha Christie last night on Acorn, which is the coolest thing ever, by the way, if you like British shows, and an innocent suspect was hanged for murder.  Of course, it turned out he colluded with the killer.  I don't want to be a suspect.  I want to live a long, boring, and happy life.)  Sigh.  I'd been keeping myself busy for the last week, determined to not worry about whether I'm going to go blind and not worry about the headache I woke up with today.  I figure I'm getting wiser in this determination not to waste my energy worrying.  They'll be plenty of time later for getting upset about it if I have it.  Still.  When I called early today, they told me I'd have to wait another week, and I started to lose it, but thank God the doctor called me late in the day and told me what there was to know.   More tests.  Uncomfortable tests.  At night in the dark I wonder if this is what it's going to be like one day, just all dark, and I wonder whether I'll feel as vulnerable as I do in the dark, like I'm short of breath and about to be strangled.  That makes for pleasant dreams.

So that's fun background noise to the last half of the quarter.   And I hope one day to get back to work on Big Project, which has languished this quarter after a big push of writing at the end of last quarter.  (It feels like one suffers for this big pushes, but that's probably just my drama-queen monkey mind; really I've just been too busy on every damned committee to the point that catching up on several service projects and sending the right emails and figuring out the right things feels like a frigging vacation.)  Big Project is in an area that is not terribly appreciated at my institution, nor is it what I was hired for, so when Undine pulled out her conference papers are like ball dresses post out of the archive and talked about what's driving your research plan, I stopped and had to think:  what is my research plan?  I went blank.  Big Project and the zillions of projects I'd like to do that are similar feel almost -- not quite forbidden, but just underground, unwanted, not the kind of thing that people around here will feel proud of, work that won't "count" like primary field scholarship would and help me get to full.  But I don't have a research plan beyond Big Project and the one big scholarly project I really should write one day.  My biggest plan is to not go to conferences so much because I hate being away.  (Earnest, stop thinking about yourself trying to get through an airport with dark glasses and a white cane.)  Sometimes I feel like I'm not really an academic because I don't have that excitement about conferences and research, don't have a zillion projects all planned out at different stages of conference paper, article draft, and revise and resubmit.

Then, there's the garden.  Absurdist Partner is doing an amazing job with the house.  Just amazing.  And I'm doing what gardening I can.  So we have two raised beds of garlic I planted last fall that is doing a great job right now.  Then we have two beds of peas that I started too late, and I think I really have to pull out so I can start the beans (I want to do two Three Sisters beds -- that's beans, corn, and squash all growing together -- awesome!), which won't be a waste because peas are so great at fixing nitrogen and making it more bio-available for other plants.  Then we have two half barrels of potatoes.  Two big round bowls of salad -- one mesclun, one arugula.  The radishes I started have, unfortunately, started going to seed in great numbers. Though they are in pots on a covered porch, it's just been too hot for their kind.  I also started broccoli too recently.  I don't know how they are going to go.  I've got a rosemary and a thyme in that bed too.  I have peppers, an eggplant, and celery all waiting to go into the last bed.  And then there are onions and artichokes waiting for a good place, which I don't have yet.  I also want to plant things that will attract butterflies.  And I want to plant nasturtiums every place, which reminds me I need to do something with them tonight if I want to plant them tomorrow, which is seeming like only a remote possibility anyway, so maybe I'll let that go.

The pond is insanely loud at night with frogs.  I believe it's basically a bunch of cat-calling male frogs out there looking for female frogs with low standards.  (Naw, I'm sure they just go all jiggley at the sound.  It's so loud out there, it's insane.)

Somehow, we're managing without an air conditioner.  There clearly used to be one, but it was taken out before we moved in.  (We don't know whether it was the previous owners or before them.)  I had said to AP that we absolutely had to get one, when he was sort of hemming and hawing, and after a particularly hot day, he got a bid.  It was pretty expensive for a conventional central air unit, and so I did a wee bit of research and they are just terrible for the environment.  So I started looking around and found a solar air conditioner and sent the info to AP.  And he's looking at it, and we're trying to figure it out.  But what's really happening is he bought a bunch of fans and somehow we're just dealing, and I'm just getting used to sweating a lot and either it hasn't been so hot that my brain's melted or my brain is getting more hot-tolerant.  Seriously, I grew up in a place where it got 100 degrees a lot and I spent summers reading with the blinds tightly closed in the nice icy central air.  So the idea that I could survive a summer without an air conditioner of any kind is very new.  (Could this possibly last when I'm getting older, and hot flashes may be right around the corner?  Global warming isn't going to help either.)     

Anyway, I thought an update was in order.  I'm sorry for the randomness of the post. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Little Grader that Could: 2/3 Down, 1/3 to Go

I've been on a grading "retreat" this weekend.  That is, I've graded a serious number of essays, and I've still got a serious number to go tomorrow before I can hold my head up in front of one of my classes. Of course, I'm totally behind in my grading in both classes, but it's most egregious in the one class, so I'm working hard. When this is done, I'll still have plenty to do, alas.  A bit more than one month until I'll be done, including grades. Sigh.

I'm doing something I really believe in on the service end. I was all excited talking with a Senior Colleague, and I could see that he saw I just hadn't yet poured my heart and soul into some service enterprise, hoping to make real change around here, and gotten the report or proposal completely shelved. He has. That's probably my future. But for now I'm still excited and hopeful, though I doubt this group will do things my way. I can hope. Anyway, there's still the off chance I could see one of my ideas bear fruit.

Anyway, obviously I really need summer to get here so I can turn into a person again. I'm not sure being so invested and excited during my off time is a good sign.  At least for the other things I really want to get done.

I've been thinking about the kind of professor I want to be, now that I'm "mid-career."  I think I can't help but try for institutional change agent, because I don't want to go into administration and here getting Full means doing a lot of service as well as research which is just plain impossible unless you're super-efficient, and that's just not going to happen.  In fact, being an institutional change agent is probably the service way to Full, unless you piss people off, probably, as I am likely to do, though pissing people off or not pissing people off, it leaves no time for the research part.  Well, I have plans.

I am announcing to the world that I am working on the Great Project.  If in five years, I am not shopping around the Great Project, I'll frankly be pretty pissed off at myself.  Truly, I'd like to try for a sabbatical and get it done in two years. I haven't shared with you all that I managed to place Little Project. It will come out later in the year. 

It's sad and lonely working on Memorial Day weekend, which is no doubt how my students feel at the moment.  Everyone's out having fun. I'm reading my students' essays, having a different kind of fun.

(I should explain that the reason I'm not calling it grading jail and why I'm not kvetching all about the grading in the most animated terms I can find is I'm trying to regulate my emotions about this.  Part of teaching is grading.  If I have a bad attitude about it, it will come out in the grading, which is not good for essays that I'm going to passing back and having to deal with their reactions to my comments.  I have to take the long slow road here because there's still a lot to the quarter.  I have a feeling in a month my tune will be very different.  Don't worry; the snark can't be held back forever.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Awful Part of the Year: Grump, Grump, Grump

It's the awful part of the year for an academic on the quarter system.  All my academic friends and bloggers are doing their countdowns to the summer (it's already started for most and people are talking about reading -- reading, you know, for pleasure - oh I am so jealous I could just spit -- don't get me wrong, academic friends, I love you, but man I don't want to hear it -- Facebook is an exercise in torture!) and posting their ambitious summer plans.  And all I can think of is how much I hate hate hate being on the quarter system, where I have. . .what?. . .six long weeks until it's really over, and I can begin again to have a life.  Maybe.

In good news, sort of, I got tenure, which is lovely, but predictably came with all sorts of increased committee and advising responsibilities.  I'm doing some things I really believe in except I'm finding it difficult to believe in any of it right now.  Grumble grumble grumble.  I haven't even gotten my new title or even seen how much the paybump is, but there's all sorts of stuff to do -- both good and bad -- and it's driving me mad.  This morning I wondered whether for the sake of my family I really should find a different line of work.  The family's been feeling neglected.  Work-life balance is really a matter of choosing who I am going to piss off at any point in time.

But of course I need to get on campus for office hours and this meeting of grumps and that meeting of two earnest leaders.  Then I get to rush home and do a thing with my son to prove that no matter how much I'm gone and how much I have to tell him to go away, I'm busy when I am home, he is the center of my world.  One thing is for certain:  I am not the center of my world, a fact that is both the way it should be and painful.

So all this can be summed up neatly as grump grump grump.  And I feel bad about putting nothing but grumpiness out into the world.  Somewhat.  But not enough to not press Publish, apparently.  I've been thinking that the purpose of this blog is to say things I really can't say to colleagues and shouldn't bother my family with.  So there might be some heavy blogging in the near future because I have a lot to say.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Happy February!

I am alive and on the internets, somewhat, just not posting to the blog.  Why?  I'm trying to figure out what to do with this blog and whether I want to start a new one and then all the questions that come with starting a new blog.  I really want to write about the new house and all our homesteading and homeschooling adventures -- I don't know why I think I shouldn't do it here except that I also may want to put my own name on it for a variety of good reasons.  And I've certainly said things here (granted a long time ago) that it might be a bad idea to stick my own name on.  And so the internal debate rages on.

Meanwhile, I'm reading y'all's blogs.  And waiting to hear from the Provost about tenure after my positive reviews from the department and chair.

Absurdist Child is reading from an animal workbook that I just got him.  I think I better use this to jump into some homeschooling.