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Archive for the ‘Whining’ Category

I haven’t had much of anything to say to anybody lately – blog-wise or otherwise – because my summer has been The Summer of Writing.  Oh, sure, there has been some great hanging out with friends, VERY limited dating (for I have no energy to correspond with new potential suitors what with all of the legitimate writing I’m doing), some workplace shenanigans (though also very limited because IT IS SUMMER AND I AM WRITING GODDAMMIT AND STOP BOTHERING ME), and some drama with Mr. Stripey (URINARY TRACT DISEASE :( But I caught it early, it seems, and he should be just fine now that he is eating $5,000,000 cat food, which of course the Man-Kitty is eating, too, because there is no way to easily separate them, and it’s not like the fancy food will hurt the Man-Kitty).

But anyway, writing.  What am I writing?

1. Motherfucking narratives for promotion.  Which let’s note, are NOT AT ALL PLEASANT TO WRITE.  I mean, sure, I am just writing about how awesome I am, but the whole genre of “really sell yourself because you need to convince people except don’t be a braggart!” is not an easy genre.

2. My book manuscript, which is coming along slowly but surely, though I wish that I had more time.  I am at that point where I see the whole thing in my head and it’s just a matter of getting it down and giving myself time to refine it.  I am fairly confident that I can have the book proposal with two totally polished chapters sent out no later than July 15.  I’d be able to have at least that part of it done sooner than that, but….

3. I have had to interrupt work on the book for a conference paper I am giving about a work by a Notoriously Misogynistic Author (whom I love, even though it’s wrong to love dead people who hate you because you have lady-parts).  I am very excited about this conference paper, which also connects to the MLA paper that I will give in January.  And which I think will probably be my next book project if I can ever get the current one motherfucking finished.

4. And then I had to do some revisions on an article for a collection that finally is under contract and that will appear in 2015.

So I have been super stressed out, actually, in spite of the fact that it’s summertime and the livin’s easy.  More stressed out than I have been during the summer since before tenure for sure. And so, like, my mom or friends from afar will call, and they want to “catch up” and I’m all, “I’m just writing” because I really have nothing else to report, and then, because they think it’s the right thing to do, they are like, “so how is it going?” and then I get all, “FUCK YOU AND HOW DARE YOU ASK ME THAT AND DO YOU WANT ME NEVER TO WRITE ANYTHING AGAIN?!?!  DON’T YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T ASK ME THAT?!?!” and then they are all, “you shouldn’t be so stressed out, it’s not good for you,” and I’m like, “OH REALLY?!?!?! HOW EXACTLY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE MOTIVATE THEMSELVES TO DO WORK THAT NOBODY CARES ABOUT?  THAT DOESN’T HAVE ACTUAL DEADLINES AND THAT MATTERS TO ABSOLUTELY NOBODY?!?! DO YOU THINK I AM WHERE I AM BECAUSE I JUST RELAXED AND TOOK IT EASY?!?! DO YOU THINK THAT IS HOW PEOPLE GET BOOKS WRITTEN AND BECOME FULL PROFESSORS AND PRESENT AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES?!?!  WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!”

Sorry for all the shouty capital letters.  I never have actually said all of those things in so many words or in shouty capital letters – or, well, maybe to my mom – but those are all the things I feel when I respond, “Oh, writing is slow but it’s fine, and I’m just a little stressed out,” or, “Yeah, I know I need to take some time for myself and make sure I relax,” or “Sure, I know I can really get everything done.”

The fact of the matter is, while I intellectually believe that I can do all of the things, that doesn’t make the process feel any less fraught.  I just feel pulled in a lot of different directions.  And no, I can’t just shut all humans out of my life (as my mom suggested might help, and for which suggestion I yelled at her) for the summer because I actually get more nuts if I don’t regularly engage with humans, and getting more nuts stops me from producing anything (as I learned when I tried that approach during the initial phase of my dissertation writing).  So, I’m just trying very hard to keep everything in some sort of happy equilibrium, and I’m for the most part succeeding.

One thing that has helped is I’m regularly going to my local (non-$bucks) coffee shop to do writing stuff.  Now, this is a VERY yuppified coffee shop, and since I go in the morning, what I typically encounter there are very slim, very tan housewives who do fitness walking together every day and then stop by for coffee and then talk about dieting.  Given my research, it’s PROFOUNDLY WEIRD. Oh, and men who are clearly on their way to a business meeting rush in and get coffee, too.  But a coffee shop is a coffee shop, and the music is very Tracy Chapman meets Bon Iver meets the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack, so it’s all very soothing.  And the space is very light and bright, and I always get to work at a big table, and because of the acoustics of the place it is both noisy AND not distracting.  (I know not everybody could work under those conditions, but I am a person who has more trouble in silence and who also has trouble writing in my own home unless I start the writing elsewhere, so this is perfect for me.)

So anyway, that’s the dealio.  You will next hear from me after June 30.  I hope you all are having less stressful summers than mine!  Tell me what you’re doing!

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The beginning of the summer break is always a tough transition for me.  This is not a complaint – just a fact.  Moving from 9 months of meetings and classes and students and deadlines and committees and blah blah blah into lots of unstructured time requires a lot of focus and a huge change in priorities and perspective.  This is probably true for most academics with the privilege of a tenure-track job, though I suspect the shift is a bit bigger for those of us who teach at institutions with heavier teaching loads.  (Note: I know that contingent faculty would kill for this “challenge,” and thus, let me reiterate: I’m not complaining or talking about how hard it is to have a summer without teaching.  I’m very lucky.  I get it.)  But so usually at this time of year I end up making a lot of Big Plans, and then I get all Overwhelmed, and then I freak out a little bit THAT SUMMER IS OVER BEFORE IT HAS BEGUN, and then I settle in and get some good stuff done.

This year, however, my usual “process” for “easing” into the summer has been compromised.  How?  God, where even to begin?

  1. People keep coming to me for Insights, Support, and Advice.  Now, this is happening because I Know Many Things.  And it is my natural tendency to want to offer Insights, Support, and Advice, for, as a Leo (ha!  I’m only half-kidding), I really do believe that I am the absolute best person to ask for these things.  (This is a personal weakness of mine. It relates to my susceptibility to flattery.)  So in the past couple of weeks I have received a barrage of emails and had at least three lunches that are All about the Things in the Department, which is really a distraction from list-making and freaking out.  Yes, I know that I shouldn’t allow this to happen to myself.  Yes, my mother has told me for at least 20 years that I need to stop my impulse to play “Dear Abby” to people.
  2. It has become apparent that I must apply for promotion to full professor in the fall, even though I am in no way certain of actually getting it.  However, it hurts me not at all to apply, while the effect of me going up alongside others who will be applying will potentially have a positive effect, whether I get recommended for promotion or not.  So.  (Note: I am insecure about my application for reasons that have little to do with my CV.  The tiny bit of myself that is insecure because of my CV is basically because of how I was “mentored” by senior professors in my department, even though my research is in fact stronger than any of theirs was when they applied for promotion to full.)
  3. Department administrators have initiated a policy change, via email, as of 5 PM Wednesday.  The chair had scheduled a personal day Thursday, which effectively closed off the possibility for any sort of open discussion.  The policy change itself is not something I actually have a huge problem with.  But do I have a huge problem with the way in which this was handled?  Yes I do.  And do I have a huge problem with the fact that when they finally did offer some (inadequate response to questions today that it was made very clear that they were not going to be available for any other communication again until Tuesday?  Yes I do.  And do I have a problem with the fact that this policy change, while obviously (to me) necessary in the short term, is basically a band-aid over a giant gaping wound, and it does not address the source causes of the problem, nor have they appeared to have thought about the sources of the problem?  Yes, I motherfucking do.
  4. Further, and this relates to both 1. and 3. above, I appear to be the person who is going to explain all of this shit to my colleagues, even though a) I had no role in the decision and b) I actually have no authority to answer anybody’s questions.  So why do I bother to do this totally uncompensated work?  Basically, I’m trying to calm people down so that they don’t do something that totally makes us all look like lunatics to our (new) provost and incoming (in July) new dean.  I really don’t want to be part of the Crazy Department.  This shit reflects badly on me, too, yo.  (I am sorry to say, I have not been wholly successful in this effort, though I do think I have stopped some lunacy from getting out into the world.)

So that’s the overview.  These are the four thematic areas of my problems, but I’m sure if I were to list off all of the details, they would amount to 99.  But to quote Jay-Z, because clearly, we should all quote Jay-Z, “I got 99 problems, bein’ a bitch ain’t one.”

The good news is, I am on track to getting my book manuscript revised, polished, and out and under review by September, I’m going to Italy to present on something that might become the foundation of my THIRD book project in LESS THAN A MONTH, and I found out yesterday that a special session panel on which I will be a presenter at MLA 2015 in Vancouver has been accepted.  Oh, and I have finally been sucked into Twitter fully, and I am excited about my potential to use it for offering resources for the courses that I teach. (So no, it’s not Dr. Crazy twitter – it’s Real Life Professional Me Twitter.)

I do believe that is all for the moment.

 

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So the 2013-2014 academic year has come to a close, all of my grades are submitted, and graduation on Saturday was grand.  I love graduation.  A lot of my students did decide to walk in graduation, and I am especially proud that all of *my* students who walked wore sensible shoes.

http://www.outblush.com/women/images/2010/10/personal-shopper-black-flats-lg.jpg

As an aside, I have Strong Opinions about appropriate footwear for graduation ceremonies: SAVE THE STRIPPER HEELS FOR YOUR PARTY!  SAVE THEM FOR DINNER OUT! DO NOT WEAR PLATFORM STILETTOS WITH A SIX-INCH HEEL TO WALK A THOUSAND MILES THROUGH THE BOWELS OF THE ARENA, UP A LONG AISLE, UP A RAMP, ACROSS A STAGE IN FRONT OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE, AND THEN BACK DOWN A RAMP AND DOWN A LONG AISLE! THIS IS A DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN!

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AND FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, WEAR SHOES THAT FIT YOUR FOOT!!!! YOU ARE TEMPTING FATE! THE GODS WILL GIVE YOU BLISTERS FOR YOUR HUBRIS! EVEN IF YOU MAKE IT THROUGH ALL OF THE PROCESSING, YOU WILL BE WALKING BAREFOOT TO THE CAR WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE AND YOU WILL BE HOBBLING FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS!  (It is also the case that there is a strong inverse correlation between heel height and academic honors: smart women tend to wear sensible shoes, though there is a variable for sorority membership, apparently, that skews these results.  It is also the case that women in the humanities and hard sciences tend to be more sensible about footwear than those in other disciplines.  Yes, this is what I think about to pass the time during the reading of the names.)

As is typical, the faculty who attended are the faculty who always attend.  As much as it pisses me off that so many in my department violate the faculty handbook by never attending graduation and that they face no repercussions for this dereliction of duty, I also did say on graduation – and I do actually believe this – that they are the ones who are missing out.  Yes, graduation is long, and it’s boring, and we all have things we could be doing from 8-noon on a Saturday morning.  But you know what?  It is the one time in the year when the faculty are given a loud round of applause for the work that we do.  And it is so gratifying to see my students so proud of themselves and their families so proud!  And everybody – EVERYBODY – is happy! And it matters so much to students and their families to see faculty there cheering them on.  I do a lot of crap in this job that I resent for one reason or another: I feel nothing but positive about graduation.  It reminds me of why I do all of this in the first place.  Indeed, it’s the whole point.

So I went to graduation on Saturday, and that evening CC and I hung out and drank wine and kvetched and ate pizza.  I arrived home at around 9:30 to an email from one of my colleagues.  A colleague who didn’t go to graduation and who, as far as I am aware, has never gone to graduation.  This colleague wants to “pick my brain” as a result of The Dumbest Survey in the Whole Wide World, which was inflicted on us by an ad hoc committee from within my department.  Note: the survey results have not been distributed, so I, ostensibly, have no idea what they say.  (I have more of an idea than this person might suspect, mainly because, like Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls, my hair (although not big) is full of secrets.)

http://pepperminting.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/hair-big.gif?w=500

But this colleague was on the committee.  The colleague didn’t indicate what the survey revealed, other than that it revealed “issues.”  The one thing that the colleague did reveal in the email is… wait for it… we should have another ad hoc committee to address the issues!!!!  What do I think about that?!?!

People, I can’t even.  It’s like Groundhog Day.  So you just “served” on a totally ineffectual committee that produced no results, took no action and for which you did no work, a committee that reported nothing to the department, and you want another goddamned committee?  And that committee would look suspiciously like the committee that you had two summers ago that was basically organized as the “I hate Dr. Crazy” committee?  And you want me to say that this is a reasonable, productive, good idea?  What the WHAT?

The first thing I wanted to write back was, “Fuck you.  Seriously.  Fuck you.”

I didn’t write that.

The second thing that I wanted to write was a lengthy email that listed all the reasons why this was the stupidest proposal in the whole wide world.

I didn’t write that either.

Nah, what I wrote was that it would be better to talk in person and that we should have lunch.  Basically, I felt like if I was going to spend an hour on this, I might as well have a nice lunch, at least.  And, in the “keep your enemies closer” school of collegiality (which, let’s note, is fucked up), I figured it would be good to get the whole story about what’s going on here – or as much of it as I can.  I hold out, say, 10% of hope that this lunch might aim things in a productive direction, i.e., not toward another ad hoc committee, and so for that reason I do think it’s worth my time not to just blow the whole thing off.  (What do I think would be a productive direction?  These people take on meaningful service and they use the avenues that are there through standing committees to initiate proposals that address their concerns that then we could vote on as a department.  The time for brainstorming and fact-finding is D-O-N-E.  Either put yourself out there with a plan or shut the fuck up, I say.  Also, the idea that they “can’t” do this because some people “dominate” the conversation?  It’s a red herring.  The reason some people might appear to be dominating is because they are the ones who do the fucking work!  Do the work and you have a voice!  It ain’t rocket science!) But I also intend to make it clear that I don’t want any part of all of these behind-the-scenes conversations, and that I’m busy with my own projects over the next academic year – in the summer, with research and professional development, and in the academic year, with my own teaching and real service commitments – on standing committees in the department, college, university, and profession.  Hopefully my willingness to meet will be seen as me taking their concerns seriously, even if I think their methods are bullshit.  But if not, well, I did what I could.

So.  Bullshit committees produce bullshit surveys that produce bullshit results that don’t get distributed and then new bullshit committees are proposed.  Yeah, that’s an effective path toward solutions to very real problems.  NOT.

 

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Survey Says

One of my biggest frustrations in academic life is a tendency, whenever there is some sort of controversial issue or problem or difficulty of some kind, toward “gathering information” or “gathering opinions”  As if this “gathering,” followed by “reporting” that is totally disconnected from meaningful recommendations toward a way forward, constitutes some kind of action all on its own. I know, this is not very “democratic” of me.

Don’t misunderstand me: I do believe that we need to have adequate information to make decisions and take action.  But there as a point at which decisions need to be made and action needs to be taken, and in my experience and from my perspective, that point is usually three or four ad hoc committees ago.  At least on the humanities/fine arts/social sciences side of my campus.  (I’m trying to be clear here that what I experience might not be some sort of universal truth on every campus, and it is not true even on my own campus in some disciplines that are far removed from my own.)

So why is this so frustrating to me?

  • Part of it is totally just my personality.  More and more I realize that I care a whole lot about tangible, concrete results.  Even if they aren’t perfect or if they don’t make everybody (or even me) happy – as they pretty much never can or do.  I am happier with an imperfect or even crappy compromise than I am with never acting. I just want something to be done, which I recognize is not always the best thing, but it is how I operate. This is not very squishy and literature-professor-y of me, since I hear that we are supposed to be the idealists on campus, but there it is.
  • Another part has to do with having been around for a decade at my current institution.  I used to think that surveys and ad hoc committees and forums were a good thing, back in olden times before I’d seen that nothing typically happens as a result of those things.  Now, I’m more likely to resent such things, because I have little faith that anything will ever come of them, based on past experience.
  • Part of it, too, is that I feel like all of this gathering and reporting, especially in my department, tends to be initiated by people who refuse to do that unpalatable service that requires real heavy lifting.  So people who don’t do committee work all year long, and who aren’t in their offices meeting with students, and who aren’t developing innovative courses and assignments, and who aren’t active in research, and who don’t really pay attention to what’s going on around campus wake up sometime around April 1 to some “issue” that they decide is of “urgent importance,” and then they demand that we need an ad hoc committee about it, which of course they would love to serve on, and then they generate a survey that requires a lengthy narrative response or they insist on additional meetings (when the rest of us are at the end of our rope trying to squeeze in capstone defenses and meetings with students about final papers and various student events and end-of-term activities) and all that comes of it is a lot of talk and no action.

Now, you might say, why don’t you just ignore this?  I would.  Except if you don’t participate then the only voices that get heard are the voices of the checked-out and disgruntled people, which is not ideal.  So I find myself responding to the demands of a minority who seem to have a knack for taking over the conversation and the agenda.

I realize as I’m writing all of this that probably my real problem is one with the fact that people who should be leading don’t actually lead.  Because, yes, leadership involves listening, but it also involves insisting on action after the listening has been accomplished.  There should be an end point to emoting and thinking through an issue.  And once that end point has been reached – say, after the first survey, after the first ad hoc committee – leaders need to act, or they need to delegate action to others.  And when somebody calls for yet another committee and yet another survey, they need to say “no, we already did that.”  What I have witnessed over the past 10 years is that those in leadership positions have been unwilling or unable, for whatever reason, to say, “no, we already did that.”

Here’s what I don’t get about that: it’s inefficient and ultimately a waste of time.  We never get over whatever the issue is, and it just breeds further animosity and resentment.

And we don’t allow for this sort of thing in other areas of our academic jobs.  Let’s take the example of a student who objects to a grade that he or she has been assigned.  So you hand back the papers, and the student is like, “this is a travesty of justice!”  The first thing that you do is to tell the student to schedule an appointment with you to discuss it.  You need to gather the facts, to review the situation, to get the necessary information to address the issue that has arisen.  Totally.  But let’s say you look at the student’s paper again, and you stand by the grade.  And the student is still unhappy.  Fair enough.  You don’t keep having meetings with the student.  You don’t keep meeting with the student over weeks and months and years until the student gets the answer that she or he wants.  Either the student accepts your verdict, or the student has to move on to some other avenue for the complaint – first the department chair, then the associate dean, etc.  All of this is clearly outlined in the university policies.  There is no ambiguity about it.  And at some point, relatively quickly actually, it comes to an end.  The student doesn’t have the option of continually bringing the issue up for years until the student gets the answer that he or she wants.  And if the student tries to do that, we say, “no, we already did that.”

It’s not that I don’t believe that there is room for questioning or for dissent.  Or that there is no room for the gathering of viewpoints or the issuing of reports.  But I do think that there is a point at which we should say, “no, we already did that.”

So let me give a general example, which, to be clear, has nothing to do with my current frustrations:

Let’s say that a small group of faculty are worried about salary compression and its effect on faculty morale, which worry is basically generated from their own unhappiness with their own salaries.  So they want to organize a committee and issue a survey about that.  Good.  You do that.  You find out if this is a widespread feeling, and you find out if there are any ways in which faculty morale can be improved without a large infusion of cash (because seriously, regional state university).  This committee then issues a report, and that committee’s report synthesizes the responses, most of which don’t appear to have the problem that this small group of people have, but then the report says, “the only way to solve this problem is to raise associate professors’ salaries by 10K next year,” which of course is impossible.  So then nothing happens.  The report is filed away. And two years later, the same small group of faculty says that they are worried about associate professors’ morale, and they want to form another ad hoc committee for another survey.  That is the moment when I think somebody should say, “no, we already did that.  Here is the old report.  Perhaps you should look at the data that we already have and come up with recommendations that are doable without a large infusion of cash.  If you come up with three recommendations, then issue another survey (for I’m even ok with a NEW survey!  That builds on the old one!) to see which one people think we should implement.  And then you can figure out strategies for implementing it.”  If those people are insistent that they REALLY need a new committee, with no reference to the work of the committee from before, you then say, “No, we already did that.  Maybe you should bring your concerns to the dean.”  You don’t keep wasting other people’s time with the concerns of a few.

Am I on crack, here?  Isn’t this just common sense?  If you give people license to keep badgering, with the idea that if they do it long enough then they will get the answer that they want, isn’t that just dumb?

Obviously, I think it’s dumb.  And yet.  I appear to be in a feedback loop in which I must respond to the same dumb surveys over and over again that never lead to anything, and they never lead to anything because the people generating the surveys don’t appear to have any interest in doing anything and administrators never insist that they do anything.  Or, alternatively, the views of the people generating the surveys never change because they are not actively engaged in the life of the department, college, or university, so they don’t understand that time keeps marching forward and things do change.

As the person who was the architect of the first true overhaul of our major since 1972, and as the person who is now the architect of our department’s first workable assessment plan ever (both of which processes did begin with fact-finding and opinion-gathering, but which continued beyond that initial phase to action), I have no remaining patience for these fucking endless surveys about my goddamned feelings and opinions.  Which apparently when they don’t line up with the ad hoc committee members’ feelings and opinions are totally dismissed.

Survey says?  No more fucking useless surveys.  Please.

 

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So today, as with every Tuesday, I was back on campus less than 12 hours after I left it, because I have The Most Awful Schedule Ever for the Third Semester in a Row.  That’s not news.  And yes, most Tuesdays I end with me feeling depleted.

But I’m especially exhausted today because it was the Big Deadline for an internal grant for which I applied.  I also had a couple of other things to apply for internally – one by the end of the week and one by next Monday, so I bit the bullet and completed all three applications (which all required just slightly different information and formats, so it was a total pain in the ass) today.  Depleted doesn’t begin to cover it.

The Big Grant application I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks.  And I’m in no way certain of getting it, even though I was very diligent in formulating the application and making sure I hit all of the items on the rubric that they use to evaluate it.  (Side note: it is SO MUCH BETTER, if more time intensive, now that The Committee that Decides on Internal Grants actually explains what the application requires, what projects can be funded through this grant, and what criteria are used in evaluation.  When I first arrived 10 years ago, there was little to no concrete guidance about what the applications should include, which was… problematic.)  But anyway, even with that diligence and investment of time, why am I unsure about my prospects?  Well, first off, people in The Humanities rarely get this particular award.  I’m not sure if it’s because people don’t apply or if it’s because they don’t understand how to write grant applications or if it’s because there is a gigantic bias against research in the humanities because my colleagues across campus don’t understand it or value it.  Probably some combination of the three.

But I had an idea for the Big Grant (by big I’m just referring to the application in relation to the other stuff I applied for – it will give me personally no actual money, but if I get it then it will pay for some software/work that will buy me time, which would be grand) that I thought I could sell to people outside the humanities, which they would understand as research and not “clerical work” (which let’s note constitutes a lot of what “research” in the humanities involves but no level of explanation seems to penetrate the brains of my colleagues outside of my discipline or the brains of my administration, who value research involving labs and co-authors much more highly than they value the kind of stuff that people in single-author fields do). So I feel like I’ve got a 50/50 shot.  But if I get it, then I will totally write about it here and tell every single colleague who cares in the humanities in my institution about it, because I might have discovered the One True Way to get access to this money.  Maybe.  But it definitely ain’t a sure thing.

And then I submitted another application for professional development money from my College, which I think has a pretty good shot, depending.  Depending on what?  Depending on how many people apply.  Because I got this money last year, and I can imagine them denying me if there were first time applicants in the pool if there were more applicants than there was money.

And then I submitted an application for a course release, which I’m about 99 percent sure I will not receive, mainly because the only reason I was “allowed” to submit the request was because a colleague of mine was told by the provost to submit one, and my chair (kudos to my new chair!) wanted to be equitable and open up the opportunity to others who had expressed interest.  See, my dean has basically said to the chairs (“basically” meaning that all of this has happened not as a policy matter that is in writing but rather as an ad hoc thing he has “told” them and they’ve gone along with since 2010) that course releases for anything other than administrative purposes won’t be considered.  Because, you know, he can’t be bothered to read and to reject applications for release time for other things, I guess.  On the one hand, this is about the budget, and I get it.  On the other hand, how are you going to fight for more money in the budget if you have no clue what faculty are doing and you have no evidence that more resources are needed?  (Note: course releases are available for research in other colleges at my institution).  My dean is “stepping up” to faculty after this academic year (don’t you love that euphemism?).  I’ll let you infer how I feel about that.

So basically I invested about 20 hours of time in composing applications for institutional support for my research, support that would ultimately benefit my institution in a host of ways – student success, getting a woman in my department fully promoted, institutional reputation – and I might end up with nothing for those efforts.  But hey, you can’t get support if you don’t ask for it.  And you can’t bitch legitimately if you don’t get denied the support that you need.

All this work isn’t for nothing, even if none of it works out.  It’s prepared me for external grant applications for next year, and it’s got me started thinking in a systematic way about my THIRD book project (even though I’m not done with the second one).  This is all good.  And it’s also good to do these things because it makes me recognize the quality of my ideas and the high esteem in which my work is regarded outside of my institution, mainly because such applications require you to self-promote.

That said?  I am exceptionally pleased that I don’t need to write anything for a while that waxes poetic about how important I am.  I hate this fucking genre, though apparently I’ve gotten a hell of a lot better at doing it in the 10 years I’ve been on the tenure-track.  And I’m feeling satisfied, because even if I don’t get diddly from all of this effort, at least I know that I’ve communicated what I am doing and the value of what I am doing without apology.  I’d rather dare them to say no than anticipate rejection and fail to try.

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Let me go on the record and declare the Summer of 2013 as the Most Fucked Up Summer Since 1999.  I noted this a week or two ago in a conversation with Medusa (who weathered the Summer of 1999 with me), and she responded, “What?  Were we dealing with lunatics with God complexes and cowards with anxiety disorders in 1999?”  In fact, yes we were.  But that is neither here nor there.  The point is, I haven’t felt so at loose ends and so colossally fucked up since that summer, lo, 14 years ago.  And let’s note that the fucked-up-ness of that summer pushed me into a terrible 3-year-long live-in relationship with a guy who was So Fucking Wrong For Me, just because I was in such need for stability.

So what is wrong, as this summer of 2013 draws to a close?

I’m heartbroken, my book project is stalled,  I am not speaking to one of my “best” friends, A., the bookstore lost (or just failed to place?) the book orders that I went out of my way to give them IN APRIL for my fall courses and didn’t alert me to the problem until this week, I got my first speeding ticket in my life (after 22 years of driving, and speeding, so probably I was due, and I most certainly deserved it), and I’m about to turn 39 (which isn’t a surprise or anything, and isn’t exactly bad in itself, but with all of the other things that are WRONG, let’s just say that I’m feeling like perhaps I am DOOMED to have a fucked up life, and I will never get my shit together, and I will never find a way to be satisfied and happy).  Oh, and my person who cuts my hair overwaxed my eyebrows so they are way too thin and seem like they would be appropriate to 1999, and I have a balance on my credit card for the first time since I dug myself out of credit card debt (and yet, I keep spending), and I fell off the wagon on diet and exercise and so have gained back the weight I lost on WW a couple of years ago, all of my friends who were supposed to visit me this summer bailed, and I am sure there is more, but frankly, I can’t be bothered to list anymore because it’s all just too depressing.

In an attempt to present a silver lining to you, I will note that my hair is looking great these days, for it has finally grown into a passable bob after a year and a half of growing it out from the VERY short pixie cut, and my living room is no longer the dirty-looking green-cream-color-that-makes-everybody-look-bad that it has been since I moved in, and I finally got a bench for a blank space of wall, and in a month I will have a new sectional-sofa to replace my actually dirty and worn out sofa that I’ve had for 9 years, and I did the Great Book Migration so my downstairs is no longer the Sad Place of too many disorganized books.  And yes, I have good friends, and I will be an auntie to HS BFF’s coming baby.  But you know what?  Other than the friends and tiny human news, all of this is kind of superficial shit, whereas much of the bad shit is actually bad.

At any rate, to get to the title of this post.  My mom came this weekend, and she helped me paint the living room.  I am entirely grateful for her help with that, and I’m grateful for the fact that she helped me mop my floors, and I’m grateful just for the time I got to spend with her.  And for the fact that she bought me the bench. But.

From just about the moment that she showed up, it was an exercise in her pointing out my flaws.  Let me give you an overview: my clothes aren’t flattering or age-appropriate, I have a zit on my face, my eyebrows look weird, I’m a terrible housekeeper (although my house is just about in the same state as hers is), why isn’t my book written?, I love my cats too much and I will never have a relationship because of my cat-love, I shouldn’t be in contact with The Dude but I also shouldn’t be fraternizing with online dating people who are “weird”, the mop that she made me buy three years ago, because the mop I had was BAD, is BAD, I am a terrible hostess (even though she refused to allow me to plan fun things for us to do), I make her do stuff for me (which I don’t) and then I want her to get out “as soon as the work is done” (which isn’t true), when I tell her that I want us to just spend time together, she says what she wants to do is to reorganize my whole house in the way that she wants to do it, and when I express an opinion I am ungrateful, even though I thanked her profusely for everything she did, and even thought it is MY FUCKING HOUSE and my opinion is what matters!

The bad news is that after three days of this, I finally had a major meltdown (precipitated by the MOP) in which I cried and yelled at her, and she decided to leave early.  The good news, I suppose, is that at least she is no longer badgering me and making me feel like shit.  Though, of course, I totally feel like shit because she left.  Which she knew I would.  Because I told her it made me feel bad.  Additionally, she was all, “I’m just not going to come visit you anymore.”  Which, what the fuck?  I want her to come visit.  I don’t want her to show up and treat me like shit!  The point isn’t that she can’t visit!  The point is that I am an adult and that I expect her to treat me with just a tiny teensy bit of respect!  And to stop fucking pointing out every fucking thing that is wrong with me and my life!

We have been having a version of this fight since I was about 14 years old.  I’m tired of it.  And, frankly, the only reprieve I’ve had from this fight was when I lived with that terrible boyfriend from 2000-2003 (one of the few bright spots in that relationship, honestly).  It’s like because I am not partnered or a mother I don’t get to be a grown-up for her.  And it’s fucking bullshit.

Look, I know I’m not perfect, and I know that my house could be cleaner and I could weigh less and my yard could be more pristine and my book could be written and my life could be less fucked up.  But, that’s just it: I know all of that.  I really don’t need her to point it out.  I need her to fucking accept me as I am and stop trying to fucking fix me.  Because the fact of the matter is, I am pretty sure I’m never going to measure up to her ideal of what I should be.  And part of the reason I’m sure of that is because I never have.

And so, I am about 16 years old right now, emotionally.  And I hate my mom (even though of course I love her), and my life fucking sucks (not only because I think so but because she has asserted that it does).

Note to all y’all bloggy readers who are mothers of daughters: when they get to be 38-going on 39-years old?  And when they tell you to stop riding them like they are fucking teenagers?  Listen before they burst into tears.  Listen before it becomes a big THING.  Because you know what?  They will be grown ass women then, and this sort of drama sucks balls.  And your daughters really want to spend time with you.  They just hate it when you act like motherfucking assholes.

In other silver lining on the big dark angry cloud news, the Man-Kitty snores beside me looking very kittenish.  Which, of course, means I love him so much that I will die alone.

Jesus.

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So, this is basically a nothing post, since I’ve been too busy in the past couple of weeks to have an idea that is unrelated to scholarship.  I head off to a conference in a few days, so that has me preoccupied, plus I’ve had friend-related things going on – with friends near, far, and soon-to-be-far – plus I have a fucking boyfriend, which seemed awfully great when that whole thing blindsided me in November, but, in a surprising turn of events, it turns out that I hate having a boyfriend in the summertime, when in theory I should have time to have one.

No, seriously.  It’s easier to go out with him when my time is so structured during the semester, because the things that structure my time then are easy to transition out of.  It’s easy to compress grading.  It’s easy to bring a novel I have to read for class over to his house.  It’s not easy to compress writing, and it’s not easy to do my scholarly work while also attending to another human being.

Oh, I love him and he’s great and whatever, but seriously?  Making time for him has caused a severe uptick in my stress levels about accomplishing things this summer.  Because, you see, I am used to being able to be a workaholic in the summer.  You know, with weekend visits from friends and family thrown in for good measure, but how I’ve handled my professional life in the summer, oh, forever, is that I work like a maniac and then have fun when I have visitors or when I travel.  Only now there is this “person” who expects to see me on the weekends – EVERY WEEKEND – even on HOLIDAY weekends, like Memorial Day Weekend, which is some awesome thing for him who doesn’t have a whole summer stretching in front of him, but which historically for me has been a great time to get a lot of writing done while all of the generica [grad school term coined by my grad school BFF Medusa for guys who wear dockers and work at dumb office jobs] of the world are busy cooking out, and while in the abstract I am totally on board with that, in practice, dude, it’s cramping my workaholic style.

And that makes me cranky.

And it also makes me cranky that he thinks I’m having “fun” when I go to the pool to read, when I’m reading shit for work.  Even though I know that I’m unreasonable because pool>cubicle in terms of fun, and, of course, I am ostensibly “picking” what I read while I lie in the sun and take breaks for swimming.

But for serious, people: you will the majority of the time find me with a stack of journal articles or a theoretical tome or a novel I HAVE to read at the pool (which, an aside: please all of you go read Adam Thirwell’s first novel Politics, and probably everything else he’s ever written, though I haven’t actually done that yet, so I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure, as is Granta, that he’s a genius), as opposed to with some fucking pornographic best-seller.  My pool time is serious business, and I want people – i.e., The Dude- to recognize that the pool is my office.  An office with SAHMs, kids, teenagers, and senior citizens, but my office nevertheless. Which of course he can’t because I’m being an unreasonable asshole, given the fact that he’s trapped in a cubicle.

Honestly, though, I’m feeling pretty good right now, precisely because, taking practical factors into account, I begged off seeing The Dude tonight in favor of doing tons of work, even though in theory I’d have loved to have seen him, and even though we’d had plans all week long for me to see him both today and tomorrow.  (Now we’re just seeing each other tomorrow.) Honestly, I just am having a hard time negotiating the time commitment that he seems to require (which, let’s note, is very small, as boyfriend time commitments go, which is probably why things have been good).

If it weren’t totally crazy, and if I wouldn’t hate it (as I know I would), I would really like it for us to break up this summer and to get back together on August 12, when I’m back under academic contract.  Not because I want either of us to go out with other people or because my feelings for him are in any way in question – indeed, the feelings grow and grow, annoyingly: just because I’d really like to be dating my book right now.  And the fact that he lives 40 minutes away from me means that I can’t just take him for granted and work on my book all the time, expecting him to just show up periodically when I’m feeling uninspired.  No, because of where we live, we need to have “quality time” in the dating.  And I’m tired of dating him and of all the effort that takes, when I want to date my work, and to put my effort in there, which I know isn’t what you’re supposed to say, but seriously: I just want to be able to procrastinate without feeling guilty, and I want to be able to procrastinate without the consequence of not getting my work done because I am obligated to make time for somebody else!

Don’t get it twisted: I totally understand the irony of the fact that I am bitching about being in a relationship when that’s exactly what I want and have wanted; I totally understand the irony of the fact that my bitching originates with a desire to do more fucking work, even though my whole point with continuing trying to do the dating thing was to stop being a fucking workaholic!

And let’s note: The Dude is totally supportive of my work!  The problem is me, and me alone!  Well, except for that in my fantasy version of my life he wouldn’t just be supportive of my work he would totally sacrifice himself on the altar of my work, because, you know, I’d rather be doing that right now.  And then he’d stop sacrificing himself on the altar of my work, and not be resentful, the moment that I didn’t want it.  Because I’m a Giant and Unreasonable Bitch who can’t sustain a reciprocal relationship with another adult human being, and who expects people to read her mind and to coddle her, even when, especially when, her demands are entirely unreasonable.  So in that way, the problem is also him.  Ha!

Look, I was an only child until I was 20.  And I’m a Leo.  And, apparently, my Enneagram personality type also indicates (according to CF, I haven’t done the weird pop-psych research on this) that while I am the most fun person ever, I’m also entirely unreasonable, in search of what I think is fun.  And in numerology my main number is THREE, the CHILD!  Thank goodness The Dude is a Middle Child and an Aries (though I’ve not investigated the other fake personality things for him).

So anyway, all is good.  You probably won’t hear back from me until like June 12 or 14, because I shall be busy with my conference, nursing my jet-lag, and nursing my motherfucking relationship (I say that to be funny – I really do think things are grand).  But let this be a lesson to all of y’all who are desperately alone academics and whining about your desperate aloneness: you get much more work done, even when you’re not getting anything done, when you don’t have a significant other to consider.  And sometimes, what you really want is to work.  Be careful what you wish for :)

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It all began with an attempt to respond to about a thousand emails in an expeditious fashion.

You see, I’ve been trying really hard not to do email on the weekends.  Because, you know, the whole trying to have a meaningful personal life thing.  (By the by, I met The Dude’s parents, and it was very nice indeed, and so that particular bridge is now crossed.  That’s all I’m going to say about that, as I’m still processing, and as I have other things that are in the forefront of the analysis-prone part of my brain, so I’m not processing quickly.  Suffice it to say, it’s all good for the moment.)

And then, because I was trying to respond to email expeditiously, I committed, totally accidentally, the one true sin of email: I hit “reply all” when I meant just to hit “reply.”

Now, you might be thinking, did Crazy write something outrageous?  Did she insult somebody thinking the email conversation was private?  Did she go off on a crazy rant?  Did she tell a secret, or pass along gossip?

Nope.  All I did was accidentally hit “reply all” when I wrote back to my chair, nominating myself for Important Committee.  See, the members of the Important Committee are elected – except for the chair of that committee.  The chair of the committee rotates alphabetically, and I’m due to be chair of it in a couple of years.  But I thought to myself, “Self, it might be good if you got yourself elected so that maybe you would have some experience on Important Committee before you are the chair of it.”  And when I wrote this fateful email, I wrote just that: “I nominate myself because I think it would be good if I’ve served on the committee before I chair it.”

I intended nothing passive-aggressive, and I said nothing outrageous.  I just explained why I was nominating myself – with no ulterior motive other than that I feel like when you run for something you offer an explanation for why you’re running.  And I thought that I was just replying to my chair.

Little did I know that this innocuous email, which yes, went to everybody in the department but said basically nothing, would light a spark that would turn into a full-on three-alarm fire.

Approximately 875 emails later (some to the department as a whole, some directly to me personally, some secretly forwarded correspondence, some BCC’ed), I do believe that it now looks like *I* am the person who has turned this into a Thing, and that I did so on purpose for some nefarious reason.  (Remember: just last April a group of my colleagues decided they needed to get together to start a secret “group” – don’t call them a committee!  they aren’t a committee! Even if they are doing things committees do and the department administration gave them the go-ahead to do these things! – to wrest all of the gobs of power I have from my fascist hands… even though I’d already quit the [incredibly time-consuming and mostly unrewarding] service position that made me their target.)

On the whole, I’m fairly philosophical about this situation.  First, I am not the person (people) who has pressed this into a Full-On Thing, and I had no intention for it to become a Full-On Thing.  And I am confident it will blow over, as all Crazy Things That Happen in April, the Cruelest Month in Higher Education, ultimately do.  (Seriously: So. Much. Bullshit. comes to pass in April.  I can’t think of a single April in the past 9 years in which something fucked up has not come to pass in my department.)

But I am annoyed by the fact that I appear to have started it.  (I mean, I kind of did start it, but without any knowledge that I was starting it!  I don’t deserve the blame!  Yes, my email was the first shot, but it was friendly fire!  It wasn’t on purpose!)  And I am annoyed that subsequent emails to the whole department (from my chair) seem to insinuate that this is My Issue, when it’s not really, even though the people who have turned this into An Issue are totally right! 

Here’s the thing: doesn’t everybody realize that I am doing everything in my power to be affable and to check the fuck out?  That I am not interested in the political maneuvering for power within my department?  That I just don’t care about that right now?  And, in fact, I never really have?  I mean, sure, I like to accomplish things, but I don’t care about being in power!  Caring about that seems stupid to me!  Maybe I need to announce to the department at the beginning of our meeting in 10 days’ time that I am too busy being in love to start shit about the department handbook on purpose?  (My department would probably burst into a round of fucking applause if I did, but no, I’m not doing that, in spite of the advantages that it would afford me.)

I’m also annoyed, conversely, by the fact that I’m sure if I’d intended to start something, people probably would have just blown it off.

But, so, whatever. Let this be a lesson to us all.  Be vigilant about the “reply all” thing.  It’s a motherfucker.

 

 

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It occurs to me that when I planned my courses for this semester I wasn’t entirely in my right mind.  I would like to blame The Dude for this, but, really, it’s not (entirely) his fault.  If anything, part of my problems right now are that I had decided that I was going to check out of the dating scene until summer, and that was when I decided what books I would make my students buy for the four separate preps that I teach.  Frankly, if I were not dating, I would have a lot more time for reading.  As it is, I am under a lot of Reading Pressure.  Like, imagine reading for comps while also doing all the duties of a tenured professor.  This is my situation.  I do at least partially blame that Phil Collins guy I went out with before I went out with The Dude, because if that date weren’t so horrible, I might not have made these silly choices.  But who am I kidding?  The Blame rests with Me.  Sigh.

That said, part of how I designed my courses does have to do with the fact that I constructed them during the initial Lovesick Phase with The Dude, where I felt like Anything Was Possible.  Now that we have settled into this Thing of ours, it occurs to me that Anything is not, in fact, possible, and reading takes a fuck of a lot of time and energy.  Ah well.  I shall soldier on.  Only 10 more weeks of the regular semester to go.

But this week is especially rough.  I gave a test today (although, huzzah, those tests are already graded because of the stroke of genius I had (in spite of my Lovesickness) that I should design a 1-hour test and screen a movie afterwards), three batches of papers to arrive tomorrow.  One of those batches of papers I need to do some assessment-related stuff with, too, which reminds me that I need to design a release-form for students before I collect them (the next time I teach the course there will be IRB approval, but for now, I just need to make sure they are ok with me collecting the assignments with names taken off for a thing related to a grant; also, I need to design an assessment rubric for how some other non-important assignments relate to this assignment; active learning turns out to be a pain in my ass, at least for the purposes of fulfilling the terms of the grant). Plus we’ve got a not-pre-scheduled department meeting tomorrow (related to a Very Important Topic, so I’m not comfortable missing it, even though I don’t plan on saying a word), plus I’m giving a talk tomorrow evening.  Plus I’ve got 14 individual student conferences scheduled for Thursday (though to be fair, they are only 10 minutes a piece), plus I’m finishing up a novel in one class and starting a new novel in another.  And I’ve got two other appointments scheduled for Thursday, too, plus I’ve got an MA thesis to read and respond to.  Plus it’s motherfucking Valentine’s Day this week (though, thank goodness, The Dude was totally amenable to making Valentine’s Day for us happen on Friday, though it’s also the case that I’m cooking, which means the need to go grocery shopping and to chef up a delicious meal (though, to be fair, the level of difficulty of that meal is totally my decision, for he would be happy with something much easier than what I have planned). That said, though, by the time that Friday arrives, I might be a zombie.

I don’t know why I do this to myself.  There is no reason why I should think that I can do All The Things at the same time, or that I should do All The Things at the same time.  But I think that maybe this is just who I am.  S0.

Ok, enough complaining and whining, though.

You know what’s great about The Dude?

  1. He has been totally cool about the fact that I’m busy and overwhelmed and, following that, blowing him off a little (although, of course, that initially made me freak out on him, though it turns out that his coolness does not mean that he’s a jerk but rather that he is supportive and I am ungenerously suspicious).
  2. He is not a guy who thinks flowers are an appropriate present for a holiday (for, as he and I both agree, they DIE, but I also don’t love flowers because of a whole sordid story from my parents’ divorce in which my mother, after she’d kicked my dad out, received the bill for the flowers that my father purchased for her, AS WELL AS THE ONES THAT HE PURCHASED FOR THE HOME-WRECKER WHO WOULD BECOME MY STEPMOTHER, for their closely spaced birthdays, so I tend to see flowers as insincere and fucked up, as such things go, though I didn’t get into all of that with The Dude when he announced I would be getting two fun presents, as opposed to flowers, but rather I just enthusiastically agreed that he was entirely right in his antipathy to flowers as anything but a spontaneous occasional offering for a non-gift-giving time).
  3. EVEN The Man-Kitty has accepted him.  For true.  It all started when The Dude somehow convinced The Man-Kitty to PLAY like 3 weeks ago (which The Man-Kitty does with no one, not even with me most of the time), and this weekend The Man-Kitty ran up to him for petting when he arrived PLUS when we were hanging out The Man-Kitty totally rolled onto his back, baring his furry, furry belly,  in a snoring sleep In The Same Room with The Dude.  This is UNPRECEDENTED.  The Man-Kitty does not make himself vulnerable in this way when Visitors are in the vicinity.  EVER.  (The Man-Kitty’s usual M.O. is to entice people with his fluffy self, while glaring at them and planning their deaths, and then when they try to pet him, he bops them on the hand, which, let’s note, he did with The Dude for a good couple of months.  But now, apparently, he has decided that The Dude is One of His People.  Also, let’s note that he only has three people: me, G. my stepdad, and FL.  And there’s no rhyme or reason to his appreciation of G and FL, given the fact that he only sees them on random visits and he apparently took to them on sight.)

So, sure, there is still the Problem of The Dude’s Old Dog, Little Mama (I love her, and she loves me, but he is entirely unreasonable about her, I think even more so now that it is clear that she loves me), and sure, there is still the Problem of My Relationship-Phobia, but all is well with The Dude, in spite of the fact that it is really interfering with the many hours that I appear to need this semester for reading.

On that note, I need to sleep, because dude, I’ve got a motherfucker of a week ahead of me.  (And let’s not even talk about the writing I should be doing but have no time or energy to do, because if we talk about that, I might cry.)

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So, I had all these plans about what would happen during this break, and some of those plans have happened, and others of them, well, they have not.  I was thrown a curve-ball by a nasty cold involving (this is gross, just skip to the next paragraph if you are a delicate flower) a great deal of mucus.  Gross.  And inconvenient.

I am a little concerned about the way that writing has fallen by the wayside, but it’s really hard to write when you’ve got a head-cold.  Because, you know, writing involves needing your head to be in the right place.  (You might want to note at this point that what I’m doing – in between blowing my nose and whining – right at this very moment is writing. But this isn’t real writing, in the sense of needing to think terribly hard.  It’s just one long complaint.  It seems that is all I can manage with a head-cold.)

So, while I’ve not been writing, I have been doing some other things that are worthwhile.  I’ve gotten the letters of reference that I owed to students done, I’ve finished two books – the David Foster Wallace biography (not terribly illuminating, but I did enjoy reading about his friendship with Jonathan Franzen) and Gone Girl (FUN FUN FUN!!!!) – and I’m nearly done rereading and annotating The Marriage Plot, which I’ll be teaching for the first time this spring.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about the shape of the book, and about how the whole thing works as a complete document, as opposed to thinking just about the parts of the book, and this is work that I’ve needed to do, and frankly it’s not work that is easy to do when you don’t have a big block of unstructured time.  And so I’m trying to be kind to myself about the lack of words getting written, because I can definitely write words during the academic semester, but I can’t really do the kind of deep and wandering thinking that I’ve been doing (while in an over-the-counter-drug haze) when I’m also doing teaching and all the other day-to-day commitments of the semester.

And I also need to be grateful for the fact that I am not at MLA (even though I’m jealous of everybody who is at MLA) this year, because having all this time is a direct consequence of the fact that I’m not there.  And also: how much would it suck to have this cold and to do MLA at the same time?  Totally.

Another thing I’ve accomplished this week is that I made tons of appointments – doctors, dentist, vet, car.  By the by: it seems this is a great time of year to make such appointments, as I’ve been able to get all of these scheduled for within the next two weeks, which I feel like is wonderful.  Something I really hate is making appointments.  I also hate having to go to them, but it’s the making of them that is really my biggest problem.

So, the plan for today is that I’m going to try to buckle down and do a good deal of writing, work out (as I am feeling a bit better and I can at least go for a walk or something), continue to rest up and take care of my evil cold, and do some laundry and stuff around the house.  Will I be able to do all of those things?  We shall see.  I feel hopeful, given that I did wake up at 5:30 this morning with energy and have already accomplished more today than I’ve accomplished in the past two days.

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