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Archive for the ‘Moving and shaking’ Category

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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(For those of you who’ve not been reading blogs since 1912, “RBOC” stands for “Random Bullets of Crap.”)

  • I am so excited about the research paper topics that my tiny honors freshmen are developing.  They are picking stuff that is interesting to them, and they are also totally on top of the fact that they need to have some sort of “primary source” to ground the paper, as well as secondary sources to support their claims.  This is the difference between teaching “regular” comp vs. honors: I really get to focus on the ideas and not on the mechanics of the research process.  It’s really, truly, a gift to have finally gotten myself into the rotation for honors comp (after 9 years).  And I really, really like my students in this class.  They are truly interesting, smart, and thoughtful – all of them.  This is not to say that I don’t get interesting, smart, and thoughtful students in regular comp – I surely do, but it’s usually just a handful (if that) out of 22.  In this class, I only have 14 students, and ALL of them fit this description.  They are a joy to teach.  Also: who knew that it was a “thing” amongst the late-teens to collect vinyl records?  It’s doubly retro, because I feel like that crap was retro 20 years ago when I was in high school/college.
  • Speaking of teenagers, I think I’m going to get to hang out with my little bro C. (half-brother from my dad’s second marriage, for those of you who are just tuning in) when I’m in Hometown over Christmas!  Also: he had an awesome football game last weekend and got interviewed for the local news!  And he was so eloquent and poised – not nervous at all in the video!  He is seriously the most awesome.  It’s crazy to me that every single girl in his high school isn’t clamoring to go out with him.  (He’s cute and tall, he plays football, he’s super-smart, and he’s NICE.  Sure, he seems to share my propensity for breaking up with people with whom he’s not in a relationship, which might explain some things, but DUDE!  High school girls are clearly super-dumb.)
  • In my Joyce and Woolf seminar, my students a) all showed up for library instruction, b) all did the online pre-test and paid attention and actually took notes during said library instruction, and c) so far (I still have to meet with 5 of them) have handled their (compared with what they are used to) low grades on their first papers with aplomb.  Now, partly their ability to handle the grades is probably because I’ve forced them to come to my office to talk to me to get the papers back, which I do think makes the comments sting less.
  • That said, it’s funny: I posted about the papers on Facebook yesterday while I was grading, and who came out of the woodwork to address what I posted but three of my prized students who took the same class with me 4 years ago.  The first, who’s begun his PhD at our state flagship university, just “liked” the post (he’s the only person of all my friends on FB who did); the second, in his third year of law school in a top program. wrote, “This all sounds so familiar”; and the third, who got accepted into Teach for America, completed the program, and is STILL TEACHING in an inner-city middle-school – which just goes to show that not all TFA alums abandon the schools when their time is done, wrote, “Flashback.”  First, I love that they weighed in.  Second, it’s times like these when I want to organize some sort of “Survivors of Dr. Crazy” group for my former students. As I imagine this club, its members would all be super-successful and happy, and they would consume a lot of cocktails at their meetings 🙂  (I’m not saying that all of my former students end up super-successful and happy: I just assume that the ones who don’t end up that way probably wouldn’t enjoy getting hammered and reminiscing with the ones who feel like they learned a lot in my classes.)
  • My students in my Gen Ed lit class ADORE Jean Rhys’s Voyage in the Dark.  1) Who knew?  2) How fucking awesome!  (By the way, if you don’t know this book, you should totally read it.  For it is awesome, if perhaps a bit depressing.)
  • I had a (first-semester freshman) student from my Gen Ed lit class, who happens also to be an English major, stop me as I was leaving the building in which our class meets to ask me about whether I thought it would be reasonable for him to try to “write something up” about Jim Morrison’s poetry through the lens of Nietzsche, you know, “just for fun,” and if I’d give him feedback about it.  This is also the student who wrote his first paper in my Gen Ed class (a really basic 2-page analysis paper assignment) about George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” parodying the style of that essay, which he did quite well, actually, and which obviously was going above and beyond what the assignment required.  It’s wrong, but I want him to take every single class ever with me.  Why?  Because if this is his starting point, I can’t even imagine where I can take him over the course of the next four years.
  • For the first time ever, my College within the university is going to award professional development money on a competitive basis to assist people who are working toward full promotion.  It’s not a lot of money as such things go, and there are only 10 awards available in this first year, and let’s note that there are like 200 associate professors, which makes this in theory exceptionally more competitive than a freaking NEH grant if everyone were to apply (which everyone won’t, but still).  Whatever the case, I wrote up my application for it today, because you can’t get the “not a lot of money as such things go” if you don’t apply, and, since even “not a lot of money as such things go” is more than nothing, it’s worth doing.  And you know what?  It’s about time the College did something to support my work and to assist me in getting fully promoted.  So anyway, I wrote it and submitted it, ahead of the deadline, and we’ll see what happens.

AND NOW THE GOOD NEWS!!!!!  (As if all of the above isn’t awesome enough.)

Unless something goes stupidly wrong, I will have an updated kitchen one week from today!!!!!  A kitchen with new cabinets and counters and an over-the-stove microwave and a dishwasher and a garbage disposal and a brand new sink that can accommodate my stock pot when I need to wash it and a new faucet!!!!   Now.  I’m doing it on the cheap, the Lebanese way, and so it’s my cousin Nino’s “guys” who rehab houses for him (for he’s been doing the whole “flipping foreclosed houses” thing of late), and so G. is accompanying them down from Hometown, and the dishwasher/faucet/sink/over-the stove microwave/disposal are driving down with them and I need to make sure that the cabinets and countertops are available upon their arrival (I’m doing totally standard stuff for that, all available at Home De$pot/Lowe$, so this is not an issue of ordering of fancy business), and I’m still going to be responsible for painting the kitchen and for doing backsplash business as a whole DIY project sort of deal, but after 2 1/2 years living in this house I will have a DISHWASHER!!!!!  And a GARBAGE DISPOSAL!!!!! In time for Thanksgiving!!!!  I’m so excited!!!!!  (You can tell how excited I am by the exclamation points.)

Life is good.

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Energy

I suppose I should note that I’m writing this post at a moment at which I am entirely drained of energy, having just returned home (after driving four hours yesterday, and then driving back 4 hours today) from The Wedding of the Year in Hometown – A’s older sister (who is also my good friend) married a guy to whom she was introduced by my friend J. at a biker bar – and I am in no way exaggerating or describing this place unfairly in naming it as such. A) It lives in a state with a smoking ban and yet it is widely known that it is fine to smoke in there, B) 90% of the clientele is bikers (male) – the parking in front of the place is all motorcycle parking slots – and C) The clientele tends to be old and/or tattooed and/or military veterans, many of whom have missing teeth.  Quote of the night via a toast that J. made: “Dreams do come true at [Biker Bar’s Name].”  If there was ever a place less likely to make dreams come true, I can’t think of one other than this establishment.  DUDE.  But the good news is that I will not go out of town again until Christmas, and I have never felt so happy to be home as I feel right now.  Oof.

But anyway, the post that I intend to write is not about the festivities of last night.  Instead, I want to talk a bit about “energy” as it relates to work.  People tend, I think, to characterize me as an “energetic” professor.  I get this impression in part because of student comments on evaluations (my highest scores tend to come on the question about enthusiasm and energy, regardless of contradictory comments on other questions – they might hate me, but they cannot deny my enthusiasm! and energy!).  I think students respond this way at least partially because I’m fairly extroverted, just in terms of personality.  But it also has to do with rigor of assignments, and the amount of feedback I give on assignments.  For what it’s worth, I don’t see myself as especially energetic or enthusiastic, and it’s not something I try to be in any conscious way.  To me, that level of energy and enthusiasm is “normal.”  I also get this impression in part because of comments that colleagues make to me about how much I accomplish – in teaching, but in service and research, too – or about how I manage certain things in my schedule – like doing 15 student conferences in a single day (as I did last week).  But, as with the way my students regard me, I never especially think that I’m doing anything odd or above and beyond, and so the comments strike me as weird.

If you were to ask me to describe myself, I would not describe myself as a “high-energy” person.  I am naturally a gregarious person, and an extroverted person.  But that, to me, doesn’t necessarily make a person “energetic.”  When I think about people whom I would describe as energetic, I think about A’s sister K, who has a husband and four kids and who managed the day after her sister’s wedding to wake up at 4 AM, to pile three of her four kids into the car, and to drive to Pittsburgh so her daughter could participate in a dance competition.  Or I think about J, who has the discipline to wake up at 5 AM every day to go to the gym, all the while working at a job that requires her to travel something nuts like 200 days out of every year.  Or even about my friends who teach high school or my colleagues who cull together a living out of part-time teaching gigs.  Or about my mom who never seems to sit down in the evening after work – not until it’s time to go to sleep – and sure, she goes to sleep at like 9 PM, but from the moment that she gets up until the moment that she goes to bed, she’s moving.  Or A’s dad, who is retired, and who has 7 kids total, with the sister who got married at 40 the oldest and with his youngest only 15 years old – and yet still somehow is working a 60-hour work-week.

If I were to describe myself, I’d certainly note my gregariousness and my extroversion, but I’d also say that my default “energy-level” is laziness.  I am a person who regularly (like, 5 days of the week) takes an afternoon/evening nap – a nap that lasts anywhere from 1-3 hours.  I am a person who, sure, will wake up at 6 AM, but that’s only so that I have three or so hours to “ease into the day,” which involves watching television and drinking coffee and maybe reading things on the internet – I accomplish nothing during that time.  I am a person who, if her house is messy and her kitchen a filthy mess (in particular) will prefer to live in her filth rather than to forgo her naps or her easing into the day, or even talking on the phone or watching tv.  I am a person who enjoys “taking to her bed” for a day of intermittent sleeping and reading, as opposed to doing anything that has any sort of merit or utility.  I am a person who, at the end of the day, resents meetings and appointments and is exhausted by them, and who will do anything she can do to get out of things that she perceives as “work.”

And yet, apparently, other folks perceive me as having energy.  Indeed, as being highly energetic and accomplished through that energy.

Now, to be kind to myself, I’m going to say it’s probably true that I have energy for things in my job in part because I’m so slack in my non-job life.  It’s easy to have “energy” in some ways if you don’t have kids, or a partner, or an aging parent to care for, or anything to take care of beyond two (fairly demanding, as these things go) kittehs.  I fully recognize that a lot of my energy is due to the fact that I’m a single lady with a totally fine income for one person and two cats.  And who never has to negotiate with other human beings in her personal life regarding the clutter on the dining room table or the fact that laundry hasn’t been done in a couple of weeks.  My life would surely change with the addition of more human beings, which wouldn’t be a bad thing – and is maybe even something I wish I had – but it would cut into my Time of Rest and Laziness, which would be an unfortunate and much-mourned consequence of the addition of more human beings, as great as those human beings might be.

But it occurred to me this past week, as I was forced to reflect on my activities through the summer to report on a fellowship I’d received, that maybe it’s true: maybe I am a person with energy.  Because I did more in the past 3-4 months than I’d ever imagine anybody doing ever in that length of time, and certainly more than I’ve ever done in my academic career.  Weirdly, this was also the most socially busy summer I’ve ever had, so it may be the case that doing lovely non-work socializing (4 weekends of visitors in the 5 weeks before the academic year began, plus additional socializing, plus another weekend of visitors early in the summer and a week in hometown) actually makes me work MORE and with more positive results  – rather than tiring me out.  (See: Definition of Extrovert.)  And I’ve accomplished more this semester, and have been a better teacher, precisely because I’ve been out of town the past three weekends.  (Again: it may be true that I am a textbook extrovert.)

I think it might be true that while I think of myself as lazy, I actually am energetic, when compared with other people.

Or, rather, my modification of that judgment.  I’m energetic when I’m doing crap that I really, really love and believe in.  When I’m doing stuff that matters to me, it takes a lot less of my energy.  Which I should have understood from the time I was a teenager, because, frankly, I was the sort of student who only excelled and invested in stuff she “liked” and let all the rest of it go to hell, even while that stressed her out.  This, right now, is the first time in my life I have been able ONLY to invest in stuff that matters to me, that I “like.”  And, it turns out, I get TONS done under those conditions, and I don’t feel beaten down by the work that those accomplishments entail.

And I also think it’s true that I accomplish more when I give myself permission for fun, as opposed to trying to (or thinking I should) work non-stop.  I was talking to my mom today about all the things (productive) I’ve done since Spring semester ended, and she was surprised: “I feel like you didn’t do any work for half of that time!” she said.  I replied, “No, I didn’t.  I think that might have been the trick of accomplishing that much, actually.”  Because, in giving myself permission not to work – and to totally shut down and not even to think about work – I didn’t procrastinate.  Instead, I worked when I had time to work, and in the meantime, I gave myself over to fun!  I didn’t worry about work, or think I should be working when I wasn’t.  Maybe that was the lesson I’ve needed for the past, oh, 30 years.

So do I have energy? More than most people?  Actually, maybe I do, now.  But only because I’m only expecting myself to have energy for work in about 50% of my waking hours.

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Yes, I know that this should be three posts.  But I want to write about all of these things, and they are all sort of connected in my head, and also given the way the frequency of my posts here has gone down in recent months, I figure if I don’t just blurt out all the things while I’m feeling in the mood in one post that I’d never get around to writing the two posts that I would postpone if I were to sensibly separate out the three topics.  So, what you all are going to get is a Big Giant Post Filled with All the Things.

The Past Week, or The Week Before the Official Start of the Academic Year

I used to think that the first week of classes in the fall semester was the most intense week, but I was wrong.  I believe it’s the week before the first week that really kicks my ass most thoroughly.  In part, this just because of the sheer volume of people with whom one has to interact.  Now, I’ve had a very social summer, and I haven’t once felt isolated – you know, where you start planning daily errands so that you at least talk to somebody at the grocery store and you don’t become the crazy weirdo who doesn’t interact with other humans – even though I’ve spent the summer writing.  But it’s one thing to have a very busy social calendar with people whom one really enjoys, as opposed to have a very busy slate of meetings with people who are not of one’s choosing and who actually need you to respond to certain things that you haven’t necessarily been thinking about for four months.  Now, the last week was actually pretty ok, in spite of my fears and anxieties about it in the week or two leading up to it.  Indeed, parts of it were even quite pleasant.  But, all in all, it was exhausting.  So what was the week before the first week like for me this year?

Monday – A day-long teaching conference in which every possible bad teaching technique was modeled.  Lack of preparation?  Check. Lecturing to the point that everybody in the room is checking her phone or iPad?  YES.  But that was the bad part.  The good part was seeing people from around the university that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen, particularly since I am FREE AT LAST from my Major University-Wide Service Obligation that hung like a lead weight around my neck for three long years.  And one of the thing that was nice was that all of my colleagues from around campus made a point of complimenting me on all of what I’d accomplished in that time and congratulating me for getting out before I lost my mind totally.  Appreciation plus understanding?  That made it worth sitting through a long day of not terribly useful presentations.

Tuesday – The annual department “retreat,” which is basically a very irritating day-long meeting in a room with no windows.  I’d been especially concerned about how this would go, but I was pleasantly surprised at the low level of pain that it caused in me and others.  Now, to be fair: part of the reason it wasn’t terribly painful was that I was not on the defensive.  I brought my knitting with me, and I kept my mouth shut about a lot of things that I would have flown off the handle about in the spring.  I participated, but I wasn’t chomping at the bit.  Because the knitting, it is relaxing.  Soothing, even.  And at least the colleagues who said something to me about it – including some folks who normally would be kind of mean – were just interested in finding out how long I’d been doing it, asking about what I was making, talking about how pretty the yarn I was using was…. Frankly, I think that they were happy that I had something to occupy my mind other than thinking of come-backs to idiotic comments.  And you know what?  The world did not come to an end when I didn’t explain all the reasons why people were wrong.  First, sometimes other people did that job for me, which was delightful.  Second, it meant that when I did speak I wasn’t that crazy loud-mouth know-it-all that people hated.  I will note that the two things that actually got accomplished at that meeting?  Yeah, both of those were totally my ideas.  Ideas I’d suggested before.  In multiple venues.  But somehow this time around I made it seem like they were not my ideas, and so now they will actually happen.  I won’t lie: this is still one of the things that I find most frustrating about my current job situation: that basically it takes at least 3-5 lengthy discussions that go round in circles, and people (sometimes me, but lots of other people, too) doing work that ultimately goes nowhere, so that then people will see the wisdom in the originally proposed idea.  How is that efficient?  Or reasonable?  Or anything other than irritating?  But you know, knitting.  Knitting makes all of this easier to take.  Also, as a bonus: because I behaved myself at the retreat, CF bought me a LOVELY bottle of wine!  Which just goes to show how much it was important that I behave myself, and how awesome CF is 🙂

Wednesday – My awesome birthday!  But more on that in the Birthday section of this post.

Thursday – I launched from bed with purpose.  “Today I shall complete my four syllabi!” I announced, to kitties who could not care less about my plans.  I quickly showered and dressed, grabbed the netflix video I’d had for two weeks, went to the post office, and then, as an incentive for my day of work, I went to the New Local Awesome Coffee Shop that just opened to see what I’d think, because I’d MUCH rather go to an independent place than to $bucks, but until this moment, $bucks was the closest coffee option.  Best. Latte. Ever.  No, I mean really.  It was delicious.  And then I went to the office, and I finalized not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different syllabi, revised my course policies, and emailed my class that meets Monday nights with a request for Monday.  The request: print out this article and bring it with you.  But if everybody reads it ahead of time, there will be something nice in it for you.  Well, in the email that I sent, the link was broken.  ASTONISHINGLY, like five students emailed me nearly immediately to tell me about the problem.  Bad student that I was, if such a thing had happened to me as an undergraduate I would have just figured, “oh well, not my fault, I shall ignore my professor’s request.”  But NOT MY STUDENTS!  So then I wrote a follow up email with a non-broken link.  Since that time, THREE STUDENTS HAVE WRITTEN TO ME to express their thoughts about the article, which, let’s note, they were not required to read BEFORE THE SEMESTER HAS EVEN STARTED.  I mean, sure, I asked them to read it, for extra credit or so that we could leave class early Monday night or something, but I didn’t ask them to COMPOSE A WRITTEN RESPONSE!  This either bodes TREMENDOUSLY well, or it means that I have a bunch of brown-nosing jerks who are going to try to dominate discussion all semester.  Whatever, it’s still kinda awesome.

Friday – Convocation day; I skipped the morning stuff, but I went to my college lunch/convocation, which was three long hours of pain.  But I am a good department and college citizen, goddammit, and let nobody say otherwise.  Then I had a tough decision to make: do I go to the wine store or do I go to the grocery store?  Where I live there is no wine at the grocery store.  I chose the wine store.  Then I came home, and I looked at the filth, and I decided that as long as I got clean sheets on the guest bed, all would be well.  Because friend from when I lived in Boston (with whom I didn’t go to grad school) was coming over, and our mutual friend, my Best Friend From Grad School, aka Dr. Medusa (for longtime readers know her, too) was going to arrive in a stop-over on her journey from the Northeast to her family in the Deep South, accompanied by one tiny and adorable chihuahua named Bugsy!  So FFB (friend from Boston, who is close to local) got here, but then we learned that Medusa was running late, so FFB and I had a glass of wine, and then we went and got some dinner.  We then checked in with Medusa, who had just received a speeding ticket but who was almost here.  Medusa arrived, FFB only got to see her for five minutes, but then Medusa and I had a lovely evening with wine and a puppy and the entertainment of seeing how my cats responded to the puppy (which I would characterize as “This being, it is so small.  Is it a kitten?  No, it smells wrong and it barks sometimes.  Is it a rat?  Perhaps we should try to use some techniques that we’ve learned from Big Cat Diary about cornering this tiny animal.  Except we don’t understand how the puppy just ran past us.  We did not plan for this.  Why was the puppy not intimidated?  This animal seems sort of ok, except something is clearly wrong.  Why does he want to play with us?  Has he no dignity, with his wagging tail and his squeaking in excitement?  But I suppose he’s fine, as we both outweigh him by at least 7-8 pounds.”)

Today – After Medusa and tiny, sweet, energetic Bugsy left, the kitties and I had some breakfast and then took a tiny four-hour nap.  The rest of the day has been spent cleaning litter boxes, doing laundry, making lists, and lamenting the end of summer.

Birthday!!!!

Well, my birthday, in spite of the fact that it was on a Wednesday, was excellent.  CF and CC took me out to a “ladies lunch” (something that we all enjoy, and we’re always looking for an excuse to do) at a lovely Italian restaurant, where I might have had a bit too much wine for lunchtime (as I was not driving). CC then dropped me at home, and I took a lovely long nap, and then I made myself a little dinner (which I probably didn’t need, but it was nice) and then I discovered that Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth was playing in marathon on cable, which was like a Birthday Present from Cable, and then my friend J. called me and we talked for hours about all of the things.

Let me just say, that I woke up very, very happy on my 38th birthday, and I am feeling very, very positive about the year that is to come.  I think that 38 is an auspicious year.  No idea why, but this is my feeling.  Basically, I’m feeling very centered and productive and happy.  For the first time in I don’t know how long I’m really excited about the return to teaching, and I’m also feeling very proud of myself about the way that I’m managing my professional responsibilities.  Further, I’m feeling very positive about the non-professional parts of my life – like everything is for the first time since I started this job falling into place in all areas.  And I’m excited to continue feeling this way, and I’m committed to doing what it takes to continue feeling this way.

The Academic Year to Come

The year is going to get off to a very hectic start, personally, professionally, and socially.  What’s going on between now and October 1:

  • Two grant applications to complete.
  • One report to write on my summer activities to justify my internal summer fellowship.
  • Recommitting to WW, as I am about 10 lbs. heavier than I was at this time last year, and I need to get back to working out and eating more mindfully.
  • Finish up two chapters that are nearly complete that I did this summer.
  • Stuff related to other grant that I was awarded this summer.
  • Reread Ulysses, while teaching it (which will actually not be done by Oct. 1, but it’s a commitment I have between now and Oct. 1, whatever the case.)
  • Teach my four classes.
  • Give a talk at a public library.
  • Go to Hometown for two weekends, one for a Bachelorette thingie and one for an actual wedding.
  • Go to Chicago for a weekend in between, which will, although I am an old lady, rock.
  • Throw a dinner party, because I haven’t done that in a while.

And after October 1, things don’t actually slow down all that much.  At some point my kitchen is going to be renovated (actually, this might happen in September…but that’s a long story that I’ll tell when it happens), I have two to three more body chapters of my book to complete, as well as an introduction and conclusion, and I have all the usual committee stuff and whatever.  Oh, and I might have another article to submit for a friend’s edited collection.

How will I do it all?  You know, I’m not actually that worried about that.  As far as the book goes, I feel ok if I end up working on it into the spring if that’s necessary.  I don’t want to, but it’s ok if that’s where I am with things.  But this is going to be a big year for me with a lot of things.  I want for it to be a big year for me with a lot of things.  And I like that all of the things that I’m doing are things that I’m choosing.  Now, part of my motivation right now is totally that I intend to go up for full professor in Fall 2013, and so I do sort of need to make it a “big year” in order for that to be a reasonable thing to do.  But really all this stuff isn’t externally motivated by that larger goal – it’s really internally motivated by my excitement and enthusiasm.  And this is a new feeling for me.  So much of what I’ve done in my life to this point has been about doing things that are about jumping through hoops, or doing things that other people want or need.  For the first time, I really do feel like I’m in charge.  

But so what can you all expect over this year?  Probably some excitement, tempered by exhaustion, and spiced with a fair amount of stress.  But I’m into it.  I hope you will be, too.

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Oh, it’s that time of year again, my dears, where I realize that it’s probably impossible to do all of the things that remain on my summer to-do list.  And by “probably” I mean “totally.”  Now, this is in part my own stupid fault because I refuse to be a workaholic for the next month.  Last weekend A. was in town for our annual weekend of awesomeness, which was an excellent success, and Thursday FL gets into town for a weekend visit.  Then, the following weekend my mom is coming to town and we’re going to go to The World’s Longest Yard Sale!!!!!  It’s going to be great.  But this means that over that three week period, I will have lost 15 potential work-days.  Perhaps not the wisest scheduling on my part, but fun!  And then my ambitious summer schedule has been negatively affected by adding in three grant applications, which I hadn’t had on my agenda originally, as well as the work that goes along with the one grant of those that I already was awarded (internal), which while not a lot of work, is still time spent away from my other work.  Add to this the pesky problem of needing to prepare myself to teach four classes, and, well, you see the difficulty.

But so this seems like as good a time as any to reflect on what I have accomplished, because what good will it do to beat myself up about what I can’t get done?  That’s right, none.  So what have I done with my summer of 2012?

May

  • Visited BFF.
  • Finished writing an article, polished it, and submitted it to a journal.
  • Read a handful of books for pleasure.

June

  • Figured out three grants to apply for, one related to research and two related to teaching.
  • Completed the application for one of the teaching grants.
  • An exceptional amount of reading, including but not limited to around 25 scholarly books (though obviously I wasn’t just luxuriating in them but reading them for what I need, so in some cases that amounted to a few chapters), as well as three or four novels related to research/teaching.
  • Had my aunt, cousin, and cousin’s son come visit for a weekend of fun.
  • Went to Hometown for a week and attended my HS reunion.
  • Learned that I’ve been accepted to November conference, so thought a bit about what I’ll be presenting there.
  • Learned that I can go up for full in Fall 2013, so began to think about what I need to do in order to be in position to do that successfully.

July

  • Plowed through reading about 50 journal articles.
  • Learned that I received the one internal grant, so then have been doing some planning for meeting its terms.
  • Read a bunch of theory that I’d not read before (approx. 300 pages).
  • Revisited the outline of my book and refined the overall argument.
  • Planned what will be the first chapter of the book, and got about 15 pages solid pages written, as well as a huge mass of note-y pages that are in outline form, so really all that’s left is to write around the notes and that chapter will be done (the goal is that I’ll have a (rough, but complete) draft of that chapter by July 31.
  • Reorganized my Big Binder of the Book project.
  • Bought a new refrigerator and stove (for I SHALL redo my kitchen this year!  I shall!)
  • Worked on the application for Teaching Grant #2 (with the goal being that I’ll have a draft of that written by the time that my mom arrives the night of Aug. 2.
  • Signed up for a day-long internal conference thing.
  • Registered for an actual conference at which I’ll be presenting in November.
  • Worked on the syllabi for two of my four courses in Fall (nearly complete, just a few tweaks left to deal with for those classes).
  • Had visitors two of four weekends.

All of this is a lot of things.  I need to get over the fact that some of my original summer goals are pushed back a little.  When the semester is underway, I am not going to feel like I wasted this summer.  I mean – seriously!  And even with doing all of that, I’ve socialized with my local friends, gone to the pool a bunch, and managed to take an afternoon nap most days!  I am delightful!  I accomplish all the things!

So on that positive note, I need to go accomplish some things with my day, including to work on Teaching Grant #2, as well as to reorganize my closet and do laundry.

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I hate July.  Because it is in July that I start getting all angsty about the fact that the summer is Almost Over and soon I will have to start gearing up to go back to school, it is in July that there is the absolute worst weather for my productivity (living in a miserably humid location plus the fact that my biggest seasonal allergy is to mold means that all I really feel motivated to do is to take allergy medicine and lie around in air conditioning), and it is in July that I start beating myself up about all of What I Haven’t Accomplished instead of celebrating what I have accomplished.  Now, the good news for me this summer is I really have built fun things into my summer, and that’s grand, but then that also exacerbates the angsty feelings about not having enough time left and not having done enough.  Blech.

But so, as you might imagine, I’ve stalled out a bit on progress toward getting the complete draft of the book manuscript done.  I do think that it’s reasonable that I will be able to complete the two halves of chapters that I’ve already got underway, and (if I really push myself) get another chapter done by September 1 (all of the research and reading and outlining/argument stuff is done – it’s just a matter of the pesky part of writing).  But then, I still have either one or two body chapters to write, but I can’t know if it’s one or two until I read a book that comes out in September (the problem with working on contemporary authors is that they have a pesky habit of writing new books), but that chapter or chapters should write up quite quickly because there just isn’t much research out there on this author, and what little there is I’ve already read (which kind of makes up for the problem with the author writing new books, since at least you don’t have all of the pesky scholarship to deal with).  But then that leaves me the intro and the conclusion to write, though to be fair I’ve been making notes for those throughout the process, so I’m actually feeling pretty positive about how quickly I can manage to knock those out, once the body of the manuscript is done.  But I can’t kid myself: it is going to be a MAJOR push to get this monstrosity in a shape that I could submit it to a press by Dec. 31 (which is my goal).  And I might not be able to achieve that, even with making a major push – not while teaching four classes and, I dunno, sleeping.  But if I try, I figure that I can manage to get it done within a couple of months of that goal, which is still pretty great, frankly.

And while I’ve been a bit stalled on the book stuff, I haven’t been stalled on everything.  For example, I somehow managed to apply for an internal grant for which I actually hadn’t originally intended to apply, and I just learned that I was selected for it!  Huzzah!  So for completing an application that took me maybe two hours, and for agreeing to share what I develop (which I will have support in doing any of the tech stuff that is beyond me), I am a thousand dollars richer.  Really for doing work that I have been doing anyway for free for years (out of enjoyment more than anything, in truth) just because I wasn’t aware that I could do this sort of stuff and get compensated for doing it.  And this is the thing: I would so much ratherbe spending my time doing this sort of thing than doing the stuff that I’ve been doing for the past four years!  And sure, it’s annoying to have to apply for every little thing in order to get the resources that are there, but I’d rather spend a couple of hours doing a slightly annoying thing than spend my summer teaching!  Or than do work for free!

So anyway, that’s what has been going on with me.  While I’ve been a bit stalled on the book, I’ve been accomplishing other stuff in the meantime.  And next weekend A. will be here for our annual Vagina Power Weekend (do you know that it will be our sixth?!?!  I’m so excited), and then the weekend after that First Love will be here for a visit (which reminds me that I need to call him up and get him to solidify his plans because it’s not like he lives around the corner and his procrastination about getting a plane ticket makes me crazy – I’m not even entirely certain what days he’ll be here, which, that information would be nice to have not only so that I can plan stuff to do while he’s here but also so that I can plan my writing schedule for that week, because it’s not like I’ll get any work done while he’s here, and also he really needs to tell me whether I’m supposed to be going to his high school reunion with him, because that’s been a topic of discussion, and it’s not like I want to go to his stupid reunion, but if he wants to go I don’t think he’ll go if I don’t go with him, and so I basically need to know what’s up with all of that – by the way, don’t think it hasn’t occurred to me that it’s kind of a pain in the ass to have a close relationship with your high school boyfriend.)  And then maybe I’m going to NYC for a few days, and then school starts, and then one of my oldest friends C. (A.’s sister, actually) is getting married so I need to go to hometown a couple of weekends in September, and sandwiched in between that I am going to Chicago for a weekend for this, and then in October I’m going to see Fiona Apple in concert, and somewhere in the middle of all of this I’m getting my kitchen redone (which promises to be an adventure because I have agreed to use the Lebanese connection to get it done because it will cost me much much less, but that also means that I have no control over when it’s done, and it means that my stepdad G. will be here to supervise it, and who knows how that will turn out).

In other words, I really need to get myself on track because I’m a busy lady with a lot of things going on aside from writing a book.

 

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It’s true.  In just a fortnight, I shall be reuniting with all those people with whom I graduated from high school.

Facebook only makes the whole thing all the more weird.

Basically, there are all of these people on our class Fb page who apparently have a lot of investment in the whole “reuniting” thing.  They also enjoy “memories” and talking about dead people.

So far, what’s most interesting about this whole experience is realizing how different my memories of high school are from those of my classmates (or at least from the memories of the folks who are blowing up our class’s Fb page).  This is not to say that I had a bad time in high school.  I totally didn’t.  I enjoyed high school.  I had fun.  I wasn’t an outcast or bullied or unhappy.  No, high school was fine.

But what I think is different about me vs. a lot of those people in my graduating class is that while I enjoyed high school, those years were certainly not the best years of my life.  They were fun, and I had good friends.  But you know what?  I’ve made a lot of friends since then, and I’ve had a lot of fun since then.  So what makes me weird is that I really and truly have no nostalgia for high school.  And, really, I don’t remember a lot of it.  Not in a “dude, I was so stoned!” way, nor in a “I was tripping through my whole junior year” way, nor in a “so and so’s house parties rocked!” way.  Dude, I was the editor of my high school newspaper and I was in Latin club.  I was not fucked up, in a chemical sense, except for on very rare occasions, in high school.  No, I just don’t remember much of it because it wasn’t all that important to me.

So if I’m not nostalgic, then is my hope that I’ll “reconnect” with people?  Nah, not so much.  I figure that if I’m not in touch with you now then it’s that I don’t really care if I’m in touch.  So not only do I not have a longing for the past, but I really don’t have some desire for a connection in the present with these people.  As I said to my High School BFF, my feeling about what’s great about the whole “reunion” thing is that I won’t need to talk to anybody for more than 5-10 minutes.

So why am I going?  I mean, seriously, if I don’t have the nostalgia, and if I don’t want to “reconnect”….  What is my point?

Honestly? I think that it’s because I want to sit in judgment.  I think that I want to judge how all of us have turned out – I want to judge myself in relation to these people who come from where I come from, and I want to judge us all in relation to where I would hope that we would be.  Yes, I’m judgmental.

The other thing that I think is motivating me is that I’m just curious.  I’m curious to see who shows up and who doesn’t.  I’m curious to see who’s an asshole still and who isn’t.  I’m curious to see what people from then have become.  Sure, it might be a morbid curiosity, but it’s curiosity.

But finally, it’s this: I’m really hoping that this experience will show me that I’m a grown-up.  Last weekend, BES had a wedding reception-y thing (she had a really small wedding a few weeks ago; this was an after-the-wedding sort of thing), and she invited me, and I went, and while I was invited to go out with her parents and all the “old people” after, I somehow ended up going out dancing with all the 25-year-olds and then having a deep after-hours talk with BES about the state of the world and academia and heart-to-heart nonsense until 5 am and ending up sleeping on a bean-bag-chair until BES and Hubby of BES (HBES henceforth) drove me to my car in the morning.  Because you know what?  It was more fun to go dancing!  And that’s great, sure, but at a certain point, shouldn’t I feel like it’s not more fun to go dancing than to go for a drink with the people who are grown-ups like me?  And then to go home like a responsible person at 10:30 pm or something?

Clearly, I’m not there yet.  Maybe I will get there if I see all the people who graduated from high school with me? Or, more likely, I’ll discover that it’s just fine that I am exactly as I am.  Because seriously: I probably will never be a person who doesn’t want to go dancing.  Maybe I need to accept that about myself.

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