Friday, November 30, 2012

Enough with the ratings already! -- a rant

It just dawned on me that it is preposterous to rate the "helpfulness" of other (unknown, probably inexpert) people's ratings of products. How do I know if a rating is "helpful" or not? I won't know if they're right until I read the book/watch the movie/whatever; and, having no idea who wrote the comments, of the value of their opinions, or whether their views are likely to line up with mine, I'm really unqualified to assess their merit. And I was noticing (on Netflix) that each comment was rated helpful by all users who bothered to rate it--e.g., "2 out of 2 members found this comment helpful"; "4 out of 4 members," etc. So, clearly, no one is rating comments "unhelpful"--or almost no one--because why would you? And probably you just say one is "helpful" if it confirms what you wanted to do anyway; on what other basis would you judge it?

Oh, and why do I care how many other members found a comment "helpful," by whatever standard of "helpfulness" they happened to be using?

Where will it all end, anyway? Will we start rating the helpfulness of the helpfulness ratings?

I do believe that we're approaching the ad absurdum limit of the Feedback Era.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The kind of person I am

Do you sometimes have realizations about your own absurdity, which then seem to cast an illuminating light (or something less redundant) upon a whole dimension of your personality?

I can't say that I have, because I just thought of that question as I was typing it and trying to tack some significance onto the little bit of trivia I'm about to give you. But, in the true spirit of Writing to Learn, perhaps I can find something out about myself through the relating of this detail.

Here it is. I am a person who will try to "eat more healthfully" by cutting out orange juice in the mornings, on the grounds that it contains a lot of sugar. (Let's note that my eating habits are, if not exemplary [desserts are frequent], pretty damn good--lots of vegetables, no meat, and nearly every meal is homecooked and balanced.)

TM tried to talk me out of this. For one thing, I like having orange juice in the mornings, so why deny myself? It's full of vitamins. And there are much more effective ways of cutting out sugar (like, for instance, NOT EATING ICE CREAM), but I wasn't interested in any of those.

So I tried to pin it on the expense. Because, you know, a $4 thing of orange juice every few days (TM likes his juice, too) is really killing our budget.

Eventually, I gave in. I drink the juice (a small glass, in deference to my bizarro asceticism) and like it.

But really, what is my deal? Why this arbitrary obstinacy? Is this some kind of purity thing? Virtuous People Deny Themselves Juice? But Not Ice Cream? Is it asceticism for the weak and self-indulgent? That's probably closest, actually. I make little rules to make things just so, but only in ways that either please me (e.g. all of my organizing and straightening foibles) or only inconvenience me just a little.

Sometimes, when I'm hanging Bonaventure's diapers out on the line, I'm tempted to organize them by color. It takes an effort of will to resist this time-wasting, but aesthetically pleasing, measure.

So: there. That's what we learn about me today. I invent arbitrary rules for myself and, if they're not too onerous, enforce them until someone convinces me that they're stupid.*

*Ooh, another example! I used to keep meticulous track of every cent that I spent, color-coding it by category. This was years ago. Finally, after many and valiant efforts, an ex convinced me to try not doing it. I gave it up one month and it was so liberating. Now I limit myself to a balanced checkbook, which I only balance like twice a month. Go me!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reading list

Wow. Okay. So I just don't really blog much anymore, do I? That's been true for a couple of years, though, so I'm sure it's not a big shock.

What's the news, you ask? Not much. Maternity leave is pretty uneventful--unless constant laundry, diaper changes, and nursing constitute "events." The big news is that Bonaventure is apparently allergic to the protein in cow's milk; this isn't that uncommon, and it ought to clear up when he's about 1, but it means that I can't have cow's milk (or yoghurt, cheese, or butter) until he's 1. Have I mentioned that I'm a vegetarian? This impinges gravely on my diet, indeed. Luckily I can have goat's milk, and we have a friend in town who's milking her goats for me. So there's that. (But butter!! A friend brought us a chocolate cake yesterday. I love chocolate cake. But it has three sticks of butter and half a cup of milk in it, so now it's just in the refrigerator, taunting me. This afternoon's project is the baking of a vegan chocolate cake, simply to retaliate against the forbidden cake.)

Other than that, I read. I have this bookstand (did I mention it?) that I use when I'm nursing, and I tear through books like nobody's business--especially because Bonaventure will now only nap after nursing, so I sit with him sleeping on my lap and read. Here are some (not all) of the books that I've read recently:
  • Ian McEwan, Atonement
  • Claire Dederer, Poser
  • Sir Walter Scott, Waverley
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • Tennyson, The Idylls of the King
  • Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
  • William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
  • Neil Gaiman, American Gods
  • Cervantes, Don Quixote (OK, technically I read this before Bonaventure was born. But I'm so pleased with myself for reading this 1000-page sucker that I get to mention it here.)
  • Tolstoy, The Life and Death of Ivan Ilych
  • Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies
  • Graham Greene, The Human Factor
  • Elizabeth Strout, Abide with Me
  • Currently reading: Rory Stewart, The Places in Between
See a pattern there? No? Well, there isn't one! My project is to Read All The Books--all the books that have been lingering unread on my shelves. Hence Don Quixote, Waverley, and Vanity Fair--sizable tomes all--in the same five-month period. Let's note that it would've taken me about three normal academic years to get through this pile.

So, when I'm exhausted from the numerous night feedings, frustrated at my inability to get anything done, and filled with self-pity over the denial of all things milk- and butter-related, I try to remember how much good reading I'm doing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What am I doing?

I don't mean that in an existential sense. I mean, What am I doing blogging right now? As in, What am I going to write about? See, that's about the least existential spin on that question. And that's more or less where I am, mentally, at the moment.

Maternity leave is partly rockin'. It's great that my baby can spend his first seven months being cared for exclusively by his parents, and that I can breastfeed on demand for that length of time (no, really! It's almost entirely great that I can do that! Because TM bought me this great book-stand, and I keep a novel clipped in its pages at the spot on the couch where I normally nurse him, and I am flying through books that I've had for years but never read! I've read Waverley! And Graham Greene! And am currently reading Neil Gaiman! Plus, the baby is cute when he nurses). Not teaching is pretty sweet. It's just a real privilege (which perhaps ought to be a right) to be able to do this and not sacrifice half our income for the semester.

But here's the thing:

I'm losing confidence in my ability to speak in a not-baby voice. I talk about diapers way too much. I am preoccupied with insanely minute details of my child's development ("I think that that was a new 'ah' sound! His B's are getting better! He can turn his head to the left much more smoothly now!"). I pick over his little body as though I were a chimpanzee (sooo satisfying to get the wax out of his ears [the upper cartilage parts; don't worry]). Running through my head all day are the little dorky nonsense songs I make up for Bonaventure, oh, all the time. In short, my world has become pretty small.

And this brings me back to my original question: What am I going to write about here? I mean, right now, not in a "Future-of-the-blog" kind of way.

And is it telling that all I'm able to do is write about questions I'm not asking? I feel that it is, but I'm not sure what it's telling. Of what it's telling. Whatever.

Sigh.

I should go to bed. Last night was a little rough.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

An amusing thing about my baby

My baby is fascinating, isn't he? Don't you want to hear about nothing else? So here's a little bit about Bonaventure:

Lately, when he's upset, he says "Ni!" Actually, it's more like, "Mmmmmmmnnni!" It renders what could be exasperating and frustrating (his sleepy-induced crankiness, which is the most difficult crankiness to remedy) into something kind of cute. Yet it remains roughly as fearsome as its more famous counterpart:


Truth be told, though--and I hesitate to write this for fear that it'll jinx it (this is me, knocking wood) (seriously, I just rapped on my desk)--he doesn't fuss much, and lately he falls asleep beautifully at night, if not quite so beautifully in the afternoon. He's quite an agreeable little guy.



See?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sorting Nonsense

I like to organize stuff. And I have grand plans for maternity leave (although I'm less than a week into the semester and already realizing what a joke my "grand plans" are. Mostly I nurse the baby, change the baby, change the baby's clothes when he gets bodily fluids on them, change the baby again, nurse the baby, play with the baby, try to get the baby to sleep, and THEN spend half an hour doing all the things that I haven't been able to do earlier, like get dressed or brush my teeth. Don't get me wrong--maternity leave is an awesome thing, and I do love taking care of Bonaventure, who is endlessly delightful. But it's not like I'm lounging around all day. Well, except for when I'm lounging around nursing the baby, but even then I'm occupied).

Let me start again.

I like to organize stuff. But for years, I've had this very disorganized folder-box-thing full of letters, cards, notes, and other mementos. I recently found a big accordion folder in my office and thought that, at last, I could organize those things--possibly along the lines of Flavia's letter-sorting system (I'm not going to look for the link, sorry). After all, I am sort of the family archivist; I bound all of our wedding cards together in a Coptic-bound book, I put together photo albums, and I even scanned a bunch of my grandfather's adolescent poetry.

This afternoon, when Bonaventure finally went down for a long and much-needed nap, I settled myself on the bed with my accordion file and my collection, eager to go through it and get it all straightened out.

But along what scheme? It's such a hodgepodge miscellany: a torn-off bit of paper with a nice note from my dad, birthday cards from twenty years ago, a collection of letters from a friend living in Spain, wedding invitations, cute pictures of my friends' kids. I found myself making (I kid you not) the following piles: (1) cards with pictures of cats on them (wow I have a lot of these); (2) items from 2004; (3) letters from Andrew; (4) things on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper.

And then I noticed what fun I was having finding all of these things in no particular order.

So I've changed my approach. Instead of cleaning it up, I'll embrace the disorder as part of the collection's point. I have put it into the accordion file (which will keep it much more tidily and with less damage to the pages), and I couldn't resist a little bit of organizing (group 4, for some reason, remained intact), but I'm keeping it messy--a strangely liberating sensation.

Monday, August 6, 2012

How would you respond?

So I'm afraid that Dr. Koshary's fear has been realized: I had a baby and stopped blogging. I won't say that this was Dr. K's greatest fear, but it was, at least, a minor, trifling concern that he expressed in the comments to one of my posts.

Anyway, I've compounded my unreadiness to post (because of having a baby) by convincing myself--as I always do--that I need to have some earth-shatteringly clever post to mark my re-entry into blogging. And then I would compose mildly amusing posts in my head, decide that they would be said earth-shatteringly clever post, forget how they went, and try to reconstruct them (still in my head) with little success. And then I'd, like, go to sleep or something. And so it went.

Whatever. I'll just jump right in here with this little incident from the afternoon:

I was walking down my quiet, residential, small-town street to a meeting. Two girls (around 12ish? I couldn't see them very well) were sitting in the open cargo space of a van at a house on the other side of the street, with the door open. One of them yelled, "Hey, girl, you want some milk?"

I figured that she was talking to someone in the house and ignored her. But when I drew abreast (ha ha) of the house, I saw that they were looking at me. I smiled, as one does in a small neighborhood in a small town. One of them repeated, "You want some milk?"

"No, thanks," I replied uncertainly, since milk seemed like a weird thing to be selling out of a van.

Then, when I was a little bit past them, one yelled at my back, "Those are some big boobs you've got there!"

!!!

In my inner monologue, I used the fact that I was running late for my meeting as reason not to turn around and demand to know why these young women were heckling women about their breast size, but in fact, I still haven't come up with a witty retort, and this is the reaction I almost always have when other people (= men, up until today) shout comments about my body. I'm curious: What would you have said to these girls, if anything?

All I can figure, honestly, is that they've seen me (discretely, let's note) nursing my son on the front porch of my house, because "want some milk?" is a pretty weird body-heckling comment, isn't it? The truth is, though--well, they're not wrong. But still, I'm not endowed to the point that it would like call to you from across the freaking street to comment.

Anyway, isn't that just strange? I have never been yelled at by girls. I'm rather appalled, to tell the truth. But I do expect that they'll grow out of such behavior, and maybe even be embarrassed about it one day. (Perhaps on the day when men start yelling at them. Unfortunately.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Baby = here


Bonaventure (not his real name) (now that he's earthside, he doesn't have to be Lumpy Homunculus anymore) arrived at 4:30 in the morning on Thursday, June 14. He is a perfect and gorgeous little creature. I've always thought that newborns were rather funny looking; oddly enough, I seem to have birthed the one and only ideally beautiful child!


This is him, just minutes after birth. What a love. Every tiny part of his tiny body fills me with delight, and there's nothing sweeter than to watch his papa cuddle him.

A word about new-parenthood: I'd heard that it's hard, of course, and accepted that in a vague sort of way. But I really had no idea. You know how new parents often say that they consider it a good day if they get to take a shower? That's setting the bar pretty high, methinks. I put on deodorant this afternoon (yes, afternoon). I'm feeling pretty good about that.

And also: My entirely drug-free birth has given me oceans of empathy for women who opt for epidurals.

I'd thought, I guess, that if it's just pain, and nothing bad is happening to you, of course you can bear it, right? I'm good at managing pain and breathing through it, etc. Again: I had no idea. Childbirth has been utterly deromanticized for me. It is extremely hard work--no candles and soft music, here. I spent transition lying inert on my side (if I moved at all, I'd tense up and panic), howling, eyes closed, while TM, my mom, and my doula stroked my hands and shoulders. I wouldn't have been able to do it without their comfort and reassurance.

And as for pushing.... Suffice to say that I was naked, indifferent to decency, emitting unearthly sounds at a very high volume. I bit pillows and growled. I screamed and snarled and thrashed. My whole body shook. Later I was told that I frightened some nurses out in the hall--they aren't used to natural births and didn't know what could possibly happening in the room. Yes, I am Hard Core.

Now I just need to find a way to get to sleep before 3 am....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Two things that may or may not be real

1. A class I totally want to take: a combined history and cooking class on some particular geographic region. For every session, we'd do some readings on cultural influences and major historical events; listen to a little lecture; and then have a cooking class in which we'd make a historically accurate(ish) meal from the period being discussed that week. The course would start as far back as possible and move forward in whatever increments make it most (culinarily) interesting. Wouldn't that be a fun way to learn about cultural history?

The problem is that, as far as I know, I totally invented this concept and certainly couldn't teach such a class myself (not that I'm wanting to do more teaching, anyway). It came to me when TM and I were discussing medieval cooking over lunch--I'd reprised a quite tasty 14th-c./thereabouts dish that I made for my Chaucer class last year. I thoroughly enjoyed making medieval food for my class; I learned such interesting things! Like how to make a sauce gelatinous when one doesn't have access to corn starch.

-and-

2. I may not believe in the nesting instinct, but I just cleaned the toaster. (I'm due in a week. Anytime now, deary...or Lumpy Homunculus, as TM and I have taken to calling him/her, in honor of how lumpy my belly is much of the time.)

(I'm not sure that I don't believe in the nesting instinct; I just think that I'm generally so nesty and compulsive that such a thing would be largely unrecognizable in me. But I haven't cleaned the toaster...well, ever, at least not this toaster, which I bought when I moved to Field Town [for $6--I didn't actually expect to keep it] five years ago. You decide.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's never too late to feel like a huge dork!

Graduation rehearsal today. I'm the first faculty member to come up on the stage to announce graduates. We're in the gym this year, because there's an impossibly remote chance of rain tomorrow, so there's a stage set up with, of course, stairs to get to it. The dean who's MC'ing the rehearsal calls me forward. So off I go, all bouncy and cute and "Hey! I'm 8 months pregnant and still so perky! Look at me!", springing up the stairs and bouncy bouncy bouncy.

And my sandal catches on the top step and I trip. Of course I do. Into a full-out, all-fours plant on the stage. In front of the entire graduating class and sundry others. Eight months pregnant. (My due date is a month from today, in fact.)

The gasp that goes up is terrible. The dean is rushing towards me in alarm.

Oh, I am mortified, and somehow that mortification carries me springing back to my feet (at this point it's not usually easy to get up out of that position--I have no idea what I did), all "I'm fine! Ha ha! That's exactly what I was afraid I'd do!", big smiles and carrying on as planned, etc. etc.

My knee was skinned up, too, and I kept my skirt very carefully over it until I went home. Just to make me look a little bit less like a ten-year-old.

And I can't help but wonder whether there was anyone in that graduating class who might have been secretly glad to see me go down?

Oh, my goodness, I'm such a dork. I really ought to learn not to strut around being cute--it never ends well. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Four more mathrafrakkking papers

(And a cheating issue, and a couple of theses to collect.)

And then I'm DONE.

Can I do it? I'm not sure. Garraregaheassdfaggghhhhhhh!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Life is better now

  • I spent all of last night breathing. And sleeping. But I'm happiest about the breathing. The cold is on the mend!
  • Because I feel better, I'm able to do laundry and various other minor tasks today. This brings me great peace. Eliminating the germy feeling generated by the cold helps me to believe that the cold is really going away.
  • Classes end on Wednesday! Only two more teaching days until January! Hooray, maternity leave!
  • I can't really believe that I'm not teaching in the fall. My hope is that I'll be bored to death and ready to return to campus after 9 months of domestic duty. (And working on the bibliographic essay that I haven't started.)
  • I have a slightly better idea, now, of what I'm supposed to talk about on that PBS panel that I'm going to be on. That's Wednesday. So I'm extra glad that the cold is fading; maybe my nose won't be all red and peeling by then.
  • I have very little actual schoolwork to do this weekend. What I ought to do is work on my "article," but I kind of feel like puttering around the house, instead. I suppose I could do both.
  • Only downside: The weather is cool and rainy, and my most comfortable maternity clothes are all summery dresses. Well, TM and the garden are happy about the raininess, so I'll manage.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pregnancy colds are extra special

Did you know that? Did you know that, when you get a cold when you're pregnant, it sucks extra*? I'm learning. Wow. Three days I've been miserable, miserable, after two days of am-I-getting-sick? fatigue and sore throats and one more day of yes,-I'm-sick,-but-still-up-and-about.

I canceled classes on Tuesday, but not today, because next Tuesday is our last day and so there'd be no possibility of catching up if I'd canceled today, too. They were not my shiningest teaching moments ever, but at least some progress was made. (= judicious use of passive voice; it would be going too far to say that I truly led this progress. It's entirely possible that the only thing that progressed was the syllabus, not actual, you know, learning stuff.)

I think that I can safely say that I feel better today than yesterday, so maybe this won't last absolutely forever? But good lord. This is the worst cold I can remember having.

*This fact has been confirmed by my doctor's office. The body is working harder than usual to make the baby, so it's not really focused too much on healing itself; plus, there's all that extra mucous production! Good times!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Gift of Well-Earned Praise

My favorite thing about teaching is when I can tell a student that he or she has done something wonderful.

Three recent opportunities:

*Running into a student (whom I've had in lots of classes, and who's graduating soon) outside the library. I said hi and kept going, but then turned back--to tell her that she's doing terrific work in my seminar and that her writing and thinking have improved tremendously this year. What was even nicer was hearing back from the student, a few weeks later, about how she told her dad that afternoon that she'd had a good day because I'd said that to her. Best two minutes I spent all week.

*Congratulating a student who won first place in the all-College writing competition this year (for a paper that he'd written in my class!). This is a very bright student who's struggled a bit with his writing, and it was so good to see that work pay off.

*Honestly being able to tell the Honors students, when they've finished presenting their senior theses to a big crowd of friends and faculty, that they've done a beautiful job. Because they always do a beautiful job, no matter how rough the road to getting there has been. I'm really going to miss some of these people.

It's so easy to complain, complain, complain. Lord knows I do enough of it. And sometimes students--including the ones I just mentioned!--can drive me nuts. But it's wonderful to notice the good that they do, and to recognize them for it. College can be rough: commas are spliced, papers are late, students struggle with one thing or another. But every year I actually get to see a few of them settle into the mature scholars--and people--that they're capable of being, and it's beautiful.

When I get to tell a student that she's done something magnificent, I feel that I've given her a gift--and the pleasure I see reflected in her, the pride, is an even better gift that she's giving to me.

I'm such a sap. I feel teary just thinking about it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"I'm not going to lie"

Do you get this? "I'm not going to lie, I haven't started the paper yet." "I won't lie, I've been procrastinating a lot." In emails, I mean--I can't recall having a student say this to me in person (though it may have happened). Why point out that they're telling the truth? I generally assume that they're telling the truth (although I'm not so naive as to believe that students always tell me the truth; rather, in most individual cases, I assume that a student isn't lying unless I have a good reason to believe that he or she is. It doesn't make a difference, in most cases: You do the work or you don't, whatever the excuse). In fact, in these cases, pointing out the truth-status of one's claim immediately makes it--or preceding claims--suspect.

So again: Why inform me of the fact that you're not going to lie? Because here's what that does: It leads me to assume that, in other cases, you have lied. Furthermore, "I'm not going to lie: I didn't do the homework" doesn't get you out of doing the homework. There are no points for honesty here. Am I supposed to feel somehow privileged that I'm the one professor whom you choose not to deceive? Are you to be congratulated for your supposedly exceptional ethical sense, which somehow mitigates your laziness?

I know, I know: "I'm not gonna lie" has become a Phrase, a Thing, People Say It. (I find it irritating, to be honest. In my curmudgeonliest moments, I mentally compile a list of New Things People Say that annoy me. "Remodel" as a noun is right up there; at least I normally don't encounter it in my work. So is "speaking to" an issue. Oh, there are so many; a parenthetical can't contain them all.) So it probably doesn't mean much, in itself, except as a sort of awkward transition into an admission that they're somewhat hesitant to make. But in the last six months or so I seem to be getting it a LOT (further confirming its status as a Thing), and I never know how to respond.

So I don't respond--to that phrase, anyway; to the emails, it depends--and I'm using this venue to say the things that I'd like to say. And if you'd like the more concise version, below are three slightly pithier rejoinders from which to choose.

a) I'm not going to lie: calling attention to the truth-status of your claims is a weak rhetorical move.
b) I'm not going to lie: you're failing the class.
c) I'm not going to lie: I still think you're lying.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One down

Just finished with the first of (a record-breaking) eight honors thesis presentations. I don't actually have to do much at the presentations--introduce the presenting student, start off the questions, mingle at the reception--but leading up to each one is an endless parade of scheduling meetings and presentation rehearsals and presentations, attending meetings and presentation rehearsals, reading drafts, creating and hanging posters, sending out email announcements, organizing catering and room set-up. Each of these steps seems to involve an average of about 17 emails. It's exhausting.

Afterwards, the president of the College told me that it's great to have so many honors students this year and to keep doing what I'm doing. That's nice to hear.

(But if I keep doing what I'm doing, I'm headed for an early grave--or at least some very deep sleep. I am so earning my course release this semester. One down, one down, one down.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's all very peculiar

I've been quiet for a long time, I know. Things are pretty nuts around here. And I decided not to post my last entry, which was a pointless (but impassioned! Ever so impassioned) screed re. my salary.

Anyway, I thought I'd break the silence by telling you about something peculiar and a little ridiculous.

A while back, I was asked to provide a quote for this economic assessment magazine thing for the Greater Ordinary City Area about the important role that higher education plays in economic development. Actually, I wasn't asked to provide a quote. I was provided with a quote, and asked if they could put my name on it.

I found this, in a word, strange.

The organization was legitimate, but I wasn't thrilled with what they had me saying. So I revised the quote a bit, added in something about citizenship! and critical thinking! (i.e. higher ed is about more than making good employees, though yes, sure, it teaches job skills too), and sent it back. (This all went through the college's PR person, by the way, so I wasn't just operating on my own.)

Now they want me to be on a panel about economic development in the Greater Ordinary City Area. On television.

On television!

Local PBS, that is, so it's not like I'll be popping up on CNN or whatever. But I am to appear as a Community Leader who Knows Something about These Things. Which I don't, clearly. And I'm totally nervous about this whole production. Even though it's not a terrifically big deal and there will be 8 people on the panel, so, I mean, how much will I actually have to say, anyway? Still--television! Should I wear make-up? Is it weird that I'll be massively pregnant? What if I say something stupid or get in a fight or something?

Well, I agreed to do it, with the vague idea of insinuating my CRITICAL THINKING! HUMANITIES!!!! agenda seamlessly into the discussion, thereby changing the mainstream discourse about higher education forever.

See? Isn't this just a weird thing to have come up? I think it's completely absurd--and that's probably the main reason that I agreed to do it at all.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Defenestrative impulses

I've had a perfectly acceptable 3 hours of teaching and an Ancient Greek class, and am home until I need to go screen a movie in 4 hours. In the middle of it all, my lunch meeting was acceptable (though I was annoyed that they started on the dot, because "on the dot" was "the minute my class let out," which meant that even though I rushed over there I was five minutes late, and then I still had to get my lunch. But whatever [yet how is it that the other people with the same teaching schedule were halfway through their lunches by the time I arrived? Hm--self-righteousness is kicking in]). And then I just got a perfectly polite email from a colleague responding to a question I had, but adding--in a perfectly respectful way--that he thinks that my proposed curricular revision might be overly complicated, but that he gets what I'm trying to do and is willing to support it once we've addressed the thing I asked him about.

So why, given all of the perfect acceptability of everything, do I want to throw my computer out the window?

You know what I mean, right? There are just those moments when anything feels like too much to deal with and everything is blown entirely out of perspective?

Maybe a little break would help. Email, I shall deal with you later.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Well, that's...terrifying

Lo these many months ago (August?), I submitted a solicited abstract for a proposed edited collection. I then sort of 65% forgot about it. I mean, it would cross my mind occasionally, but it was pretty far off the radar most of the time.

Well, I just found out that the collection has been accepted for publication. Good news! It has a final deadline about 6-7 months out. Um...okay! (This is the final deadline, you know, so it's not the date by which I need to submit a draft. That will be much sooner.)

So what did I say that I would write about again?

You know that kind of mid-way freak-out/happy feeling? Because this is good news, and will spur me to actually do something scholarship-wise (I've been tragically since summer, except for the colloquium talk and the MLA paper and some book reviews), but it's also a little alarming to have, you know, a deadline again, especially on a project that I only 35% remembered and haven't started writing yet. Oh, and I have a book review to write by late April. And right, the annual bibliographic essay. And nine thesis committees that'll be wrapping up in--hey, April! And those three classes that I'm teaching, two of which are writing intensive.

Oh! And right! Having a baby in June!

So there's that. A little more pile-on of the stress. It's okay; I'll manage. I'll whine, but I'll manage. (And I'll be on maternity leave all fall, so there's a light at the end of the work-tunnel, even if those 4 months will only be spent breastfeeding and doing laundry.)

And then I clicked on the "show details" of the "to" list from the email announcing the acceptance of the book proposal. I'll level with you here: I thought that, given that the editors were soliciting an abstract from me, this would likely be a middling collection. (Yes, Impostor Syndrome lingers, despite the publication of a monograph and recent promotion to associate [which comes a year before tenure at Field, so I'm not through every hoop just yet].)

But--well--there are some pretty damn impressive names in that list. Some that I don't know, of course, but some that everybody knows.

So.

There's that.

Terrifying.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

AP Credit

I just read Dr. Crazy's thought-provoking post about women "forgetting" to have children (go read it, if you haven't yet; it's good). I haven't articulated much of a response, but a good bit of it resonated with me--I've often thought that, yes, I'd like to have a baby, but I like the way my life is without a baby, and there are other things that I want to do, so.... In fact, it seems a little startling that we did decide to have a baby. It was sort of like, Well, we want one, so why not now? And once we started thinking in terms of "trying," it became a priority. So it wasn't actually a priority before we committed to the attempt (if that makes sense), but the attempt itself made it one. Or something.

But that's not at all what I was going to write about (as evinced by my inchoate thoughts). Instead, I'm thinking about the phrase "Advanced Maternal Age," which Crazy uses and which is all over my paperwork (as I'll complain to anyone who listens).

Dude, I'm 35. I'm no spring chicken, but I'm not geriatric, for Pete's sake. Seeing that "Advanced Maternal Age" label was one of the first things that's actually made me feel old. And also a little...I dunno, behind? In need of remediation? I started feeling like, How did I make it this long, to this outrageously old age, without having a baby?? Obviously that's freakish and strange; I should have at least been pregnant before now. What, therefore, is the matter with me? People must be staring at this ancient, wizened crone who doesn't even know how to change a diaper. Good Lord. Freak!

It was a weird feeling.

So I decided that I ought to reclaim the term, to make it a badge of honor somehow. And as soon as I entertained the wish to do so, it was so easy! The label invites reclamation. For lo--I am Advanced! Yes! Without ever having even tried to be Maternal before, I've skipped the Beginner and the Intermediate stages. Advanced Pregnancy Credit, man. That's what I've got. It makes sense, really. I've always been a quick study.

The fact that my blood type is A+ just makes it all the more compelling.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year's convention that I'm adopting for the first time

Eh, what the heck. I'll do this rather than work on my MLA paper. But be prepared for lots of N/As.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
  • Hosted three different sets of parent-visitors (my dad and stepmom, TM's parents, my mom and her friend) in a house that I actually own (or am at least paying a mortgage on)
  • Paid a mortgage
  • Had an article come out in a fancy journal
  • Went to Ireland
  • Paid for my mom to come with me on a trip (to Ireland, in this case. It was a very grown-up feeling kind of thing to pay for her! In fairness, she covered meals on the trip--but I bought the plane tickets and hotel rooms and all. This actually worked out really well for me psychologically, because I'd paid for everything up front and didn't have to fret about my bank account during the vacation proper)
  • Rented a car all by myself
  • Drove on the left
  • Met a currently very prominent and (to my mind) rather loathsome political personage
  • Got pregnant
The theme here seems to be: Grown-up stuff. Maybe I'm finally a proper adult?

Oh, and there were lots of knitting and gardening adventures, and probably a bunch of other stuff, too. I can't actually remember spring break at all, for example, so who knows what happened in the first half of the year.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't remember if I had any. I think that I wanted to be kinder and/or more generous? I'm not sure that I kept them, if so. Those don't seem like quite the sorts of things that you can self-evaluate very easily.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A couple of co-workers--actually, quite a few co-workers. Probably some other people, too, but I can't think of them right now. (I'm not putting that much effort into this exercise, evidently.)

4. Did anyone close to you die?

A cousin on my dad's side--a few generations older than me. Well, she was 91 or thereabouts, so quite a bit older. I hadn't seen her in a long time, but she was someone we always visited over the holidays until my family left the state I grew up in (when I was in my mid-twenties), so she was one of the relatives I actually knew best. (We're a pretty scattered--and smallish--family.)

I think that that's it.

5. What countries did you visit?

Ireland! (And Belgium and Finland in 2010--just need to toss those in here, even though they're past their expiration dates.)

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

A healthy baby? Maternity leave?

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Sept. 4--the date at which my pregnancy officially starts. (This is a bit of a theme, no?) Not sure about any others.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Good question. Um...making it through the Fall semester, which was inexplicably difficult? Getting a short story published (in a weird little on-line venue)? Making a journal out of paper I made myself? Those aren't very momentous. It's not that I haven't been doing things, but nothing feels like a Big Climactic Achievement. And that's fine. I don't think that life is normally measured in that way, and--as we all know better and better as we age--the thrill of The Achievement invariably wears off.

Oh! Just remembered! Paid off my student loans! That counts.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Again, not sure. I think that I was less available to some of my students this past semester than I normally am, or would like to be--but I also think that, ultimately, that was a good thing. Setting some stronger boundaries in my professional life is something that I'd like to work on this year. So no--this wasn't a failure.

Getting an article rejected, I guess, but "failure" seems like a pretty strong word for one of the inevitable set-backs of an academic career.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A couple of colds and headaches, but that's all.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

No major purchases this year. I did pay for a year's subscription to a streaming yoga video service, which I liked a lot and will continue to use. And I bought some pretty sock yarn. Also a few really wonderful meals out with TM.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

TM, who is fantastic at all times.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Oh, feh, I don't know. Pass.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage. Trip to Ireland.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Being pregnant (although it took a while to sink in. It's still sinking in, in fact, and the excitement is still mixed with anxiety, so "really, really, really" is pretty much relative). And TM had a couple of articles accepted, which was great.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?

N/A (I've listened to amazingly little music this year, in fact.)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

I was pretty happy this time last year, I believe, so I'm probably about the same on that score. Weight-wise, well, I'm up a few pounds, but to say that I'm "fatter" would be unfair, given the circumstances. Financially, close to the same, but we're in slightly less debt, so that counts as "richer," right?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Yoga. Meditate. I gave up both in the fall due to first-trimester fatigue, which I believe was a legitimate excuse, but I intend to get back into them now that I'm feeling better. I have started doing yoga again, in fact.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worry, probably. That's always the case.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

I spent it back East with my family. The littlest nephew was incredibly cute.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

Already was.

22. How many one-night stands?

0

23. What was your favorite TV program?

Doc Martin.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No.

25. What was the best book you read?

Scott Russell Sanders, A Private History of Awe.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

N/A

27. What did you want and get?

A positive pregnancy test.

28. What did you want and not get?

Can't think of anything at the moment.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw exactly one movie in a theater--The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It was pretty good. This brings the total number of movies that I've seen in theaters since I started dating TM (in April 2008) up to 2: Our first was Metropolis. (I'm probably a poser, but I sort of love having absolutely no idea what's going on in the entertainment industry.)

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 35. We bought a new oven because ours broke the night before. My dad and stepmom took me and TM out for a nice dinner.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Immeasurably more satisfying? I have no idea.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Eh?

33. What kept you sane?

I wasn't aware that insanity was such a proximate risk.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

N/A, for reals.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Oh, whatever particularly outrageous thing TM read me out of the Times on any given morning.

36. Who did you miss?

A couple of friends. Family, sometimes. But I got to see a lot of them in the last few months!

37. Who was the best new person you met?

I don't know. I'm sure that there were some good ones, though.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

No, thank you!

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I repeat: No, thank you!