Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One more thing

Here's a way to liven up a week packed with meetings: Have a natural disaster!

(Field Town proper is fine. We had a day without power and two days without Internet--which was kind of freeing, in truth. The bigger town up the road is not okay, and will be dealing with this for quite a while.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Agh gah gah gah

The car is in the shop (for a $500 repair). The baby is sick (a cold or something equally snotty that makes him cranky). I'm conferring (can I stop saying "conferencing"?) with two classes over the next week and a half. Campus interviews for the search committee I'm on start tomorrow. I'm learning how to hire adjuncts for next semester. I need to meet with four Honors thesis writers and their committees before Thanksgiving. And a committee from the Student Senate would like to meet with me about their concerns and suggestions regarding one of our required composition courses.

Can I just skip the rest of the month?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Starting early

It recently occurred to me that I haven't posted a Bonaventure picture in a while. (Yes, this is an easy-post strategy.)

Here he is: my little scholar...



...and my wee sophisticate.



Monday, October 14, 2013

A note on the death of my colleague

First, I'm doing fine. As I said in my last post, this wasn't someone to whom I was particularly close, although s/he was in my division (and I'll be talking to the Provost about how to staff his/her classes this afternoon). Thank you all for your condolences.

What I want to say is that this death has made me me--and, I suspect, many of my colleagues--think, painfully, about the importance of kindness.

Our late colleague, although s/he had a good heart, was sometimes hard to work with; s/he could be a little...lost in space, seemingly, at times. S/he was never prickly or difficult, but we got impatient. I got impatient.

None of us was responsible for what s/he did. But we could have been kinder. I could have been kinder.

In the last week, I think that we all learned a lot about him/her that we never knew--good things; things about the love that s/he had for his/her students, and how meaningful that was to them. I would have liked to have known these things before. And I would have liked to have had the patience, and the grace, to appreciate them as I ought to have done.

So I hope that I learn that. Because, honestly, there are a lot of people that I could write this stuff about. As one of my co-workers put it: Will this make me less of a bitch? I hope so.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My problems are tiny

We walked into work this morning to discover that a colleague committed suicide last night.*



I don't know what else to write. I keep deleting things.




It's a pretty weird day.

*No one I was particularly close to, although I did have pretty frequent contact with him/her.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting better

So we more or less got the daycare situation worked out--we have less coverage for slightly more money, but it's fine, and we're able to go to classes without the baby.

The refrigerator door is holding strong. The garage door still usually won't close unless you push it shut, but that's no big deal. The cat is healthy again (although the other cat continues to pee in inappropriate places). We replaced the broken blender part and the broken wipes warmer part. We're hanging in there.

And I've only graded at home once, so that resolution is mostly working out.

I pretty much stopped working on my own writing for about two weeks there, however. I'm trying to start up again this week. Scratch that--I am starting up again this week, since I've actually done some reading and writing more or less every day since Sunday.

I don't know how to add one of those little meters on the sidebar of my blog, and I absolutely cannot be bothered to find out, so I'll just say that I have now written about 4,200 words of Book Two, and I got a good idea (I hope) for another chapter/half chapter last night. (I mean, I have chapter ideas, but they're not all very fleshed out; I'm a process writer, or something. I have a plan, but I mostly just have to start working and trust that it will all come together; if I wait until I truly know where I'm going, I'll be in the position that I've been in for the last three years: idly jotting down disconnected notes and imaging that I'll write another book some day.)

So here goes. I had a lot more faith in my dissertation, frankly, but it had a tidier structure (one chapter per author) than I want to go with this time around. Anyway, I don't need a second book for...well, anything at Field (I don't need a first book, in fact), so I'm free to plug away and see what happens.

--Unfortunately, I was asked to be on what promises to be a super dull and annoying search committee today, and I didn't have the wherewithal to say no. And so it goes.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stating your plans out loud guarantees that they will fail

It's crazytown over here.

No, I haven't graded at home yet. But I did take some grading with me this weekend, just in case. And I've only worked on my research for 6 of the last 14 days.

Here's the deal, though. Last Sunday night, Bonaventure's daycare provider had emergency surgery, so daycare shut down for the week. We patched together babysitting, but it cost more and covered less time than daycare--so we've been taking Bonaventure to office hours and meetings and just spending more time at home.

AND NOW, it turns out that daycare will be closed for THREE MORE WEEKS. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO????

As if that weren't bad enough, here's what else happened this week (in roughly chronological order):

  • Bonaventure's wipes warmer (necessary for his cloth wipes) quit working.
  • The oven light and the porch light almost simultaneously went out.
  • The refrigerator door fell off.
  • We had some minor flooding in the basement.
  • The cat got sick and spent all night hiding outside.
  • The garage door stopped closing.
  • I'm pretty sure that there's something else, and that I'm blocking it out.
I consider the fact that weren't relatively calm this evening to be a pretty major success.

Unfortunately, I have about 800 meetings coming up this week. And I'd rather not be chasing a baby/toddler--or actually nursing him--during a meeting with first-year Honors students. It's going to be an adventure.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Trying

So here's my thing. I'm making this massive effort to produce some new academic writing this year.* Lately I've been wishing that I had a job that truly valued research so that I'd feel a little more incentive to do some; when you have a heavy teaching and service load, no colleagues in your immediate (or even adjacent) field, and no one ever talks about their research (in fact, you suspect, 80% or more of your colleagues don't do any), I do believe that it's objectively harder to get this sort of thing done.

I'm trying to be realistic. I'm division chair and the director of the Honors program; I have three classes (and three preps) this semester; and I have a young son and a husband with whom I like to spend time. I also really appreciate having a clean house and decent meals, so we put some time in on that stuff. However, I've been vaguely "planning" the "second book" for like 3 years now, with nothing much to show for it except a couple of semi-related journal articles. I don't want to non-write and non-publish myself right out of my field.

So I'm trying three new things, the first two of which are bound to fail sometimes--but I hope that I can be forgiving and just start again when I have to.

1) Grading happens in the office, and only in the office.
I have an outstanding track record for returning papers: They're back within a week, no matter what, and sometimes even sooner. It doesn't have to be that way. If I get papers on a Tuesday and they don't go back until the following Thursday, no one will care. So far, this resolution is forcing me to use my office hours productively, rather than just futzing around filing and shit. And it is so liberating to not even put grading on my weekend to-do lists!

2) I'm writing for half an hour a day.
Okay, I've managed this for four days now, which isn't exactly earth-shattering.... But dude! That's two hours of writing that I wouldn't have done! And I'm actually being pretty intense about it--mostly; since it's such a short period of time, I'm trying to jot down as much as I can very quickly, rather than screwing around online. (There is some screwing around, but it doesn't count towards my half-hour, so there's little incentive to engage in it.) If I keep this up, I could conceivably have a very crappy draft of part of a chapter done by the end of the semester!

3) I'm writing along with my junior-level composition students.
The junior-level comp class is focused on one major paper, which they spend the second half of the semester writing; in the first half, they summarize and synthesize academic articles, pursue bibliographic threads, and the like. I've told my students that I'll do similar assignments all semester (adapted to my own project, of course) and post them on the course website as optional models for them to look at--with the idea that I, too, will produce a 10-page (or longer) paper by the end of the semester. I managed the first assignment, and I'm a little ahead on the second (not due till early October). I think that this will both give me deadlines and let me see whether my assignment sequence is actually helpful for paper-writers.

So that's it. Wish me luck as I try to make my research actually important to me!

*To be fair, I produce new academic writing pretty much every year, and even get some of it published. My publication record is quite good for someone at my type of institution--a book and 5 peer-reviewed articles, plus book reviews. But it's not going towards some big, new, exciting project, and that's what I miss--the feeling of being caught up in something larger than an article-length argument.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Easy option

Belle, in her comment on my last post, gave me an easy out for another post: Pictures of Bonaventure. So here they are! Isn't he cute?






Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is this blog dead?

OK, so. I haven't posted on this blog since May, people. Have I stopped blogging? Well, de facto, yes. But that doesn't mean that I've done so forever, or anything. Clearly, I still read blogs. And comment on them.

And I really don't feel like a big announcement is in order either way.

So I'll just tell you about some things that happened today:

1) I was quite cranky this morning, feeling stressed and struggling. We're in the third week of classes, and already Bonaventure has had a cold, then an ear infection which meant that he had to come to class with me, and then TM had some kind of flu this week. It's been rough.

2) But Bonaventure came home from his half-day in day care (we pick him up at 12:30, because he still nurses and will NOT nap without a nurse) in the sweetest mood ever. After his nap, we were sitting together looking out his window, and he was still being super-sweet. I kept kissing his little cheek, because it's so soft and perfect, and then I said, "Do you want to give Mama a kiss?", and then, "You have no idea what that means, do you?" But he smiled a little bit, leaned over, and pressed his lovely little lips to my cheek. My day was made. My whole year may have been made, in fact.

3) And later in the day, while TM and I were both hanging out with him, he stood up all by himself in the middle of the room and took his first steps. I'm so happy that we were both there for that!

4) I may actually and for real be co-taking a group of students to England for Spring Break. With an almost-all-inclusive travel company, which is pretty much the only way that I'd be able to stand such a thing, let alone be excited about it.

5) I just had my first taste of homemade peach ice cream made from OUR OWN PEACHES, which have been growing in WILD abundance from the peach tree TM planted 2.5 years ago. We've put up 4 gallons of sliced peaches, made sorbet and ice cream, and given away many dozen--and are still drowning in the unbelievably delicious suckers. My God. I'm teaching The Iliad, and I now have a very vivid image of the ambrosial nectar with which Athena sustains Achilles when he's hunting Hector. My goodness. I used to like peaches; now I know them to be divine.

And now I need to go get Bonaventure's lunch ready. Else we will never get out the door tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

And another thing

Ugh. This article that I've been writing on and off for...two years? now is...kind of a mess.

It's trying to do too much. You know?

There are these sections that are very clear, lucid, and compelling. I'll make quite a nice little argument about something. And then I write, "Another example of something sort of similar but not quite the same is X," and off we go into the muddle.

I'm starting to suspect that the solution is to jettison about 30% of the whole. I don't actually have a problem with that (and it would still be plenty long enough for an article, I think), but I'm not sure which 30% needs to go.

Part of the issue is probably that I've been working on it for so long. I've amassed more examples, related points, evidence of further scholarly discussion, etc. than I know what to do with, and I'm afraid of cutting too many of them for fear of weakening my case. (This might not be unrelated to the rejection that the initial version received, which accused me of being unfamiliar with much of the literature on the topic [not so!] and not having a clear thesis [guilty. But fixed!]. So now I'm trying to make it really really clear that, oh yes, I'm familiar with the literature. Familiar, I say! Look at all these footnotes and gratuitous quotations!)

OK--Bonaventure has now been napping for 2.5 hours, which means he'll be up at any moment (indeed, this is, so far, his second longest nap ever. Comes of skipping his morning nap, the goofball), so I ought to get back to work in the little time remaining to me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

For your delectation

A sentence composed of some of the more egregious spelling errors encountered in the grading of my exams:

"It would be obsurred to sudgest that Charolette would diside to lable the jars herself!"

(Granted, it's hard to think of a context in which this particular sentence would be uttered, but you see what I have to work with....)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I'm grading papers

Is it just Field College students, or do undergraduates everywhere ceaselessly talk about things being "up on a pedestal" or "frowned upon"? When did we all get so prim?

Adultery is frowned upon...infanticide is frowned upon...Queen Elizabeth is on a pedestal, along with Jesus and "good morals".... Okay, these are fictitious examples, but they are not at all far removed from reality.

Back to work.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Overwhelmed by beauty

We know that April is hard in academia; I don't deny it. And I don't want to diminish the suffering of others, and of myself (I was appallingly cranky yesterday, in fact, for no discernible reason). But perhaps a distraction is okay?

I always feel that April shouldn't be so hard: Spring is (finally) here (for most of us; sorry, Bardiac!), summer is nigh, and the world is suddenly blindingly green and full of flowers.

Also, I get to have this outside of our living room and dining room windows for a good three weeks:


So, as I try to buckle down to the last batches of papers--and can I say that, while I have some very good students, especially in composition, this is a year in which, for some reason, I have quite a few students who really struggle with writing, more than usual? (That was a far from exemplary sentence, actually. Perhaps it's infectious)--I'm going to pause to reflect on some good things:

*I just took my Ancient Greek exam. Somehow we were able to host a 3x/week Greek class in our dining room for both semesters, and I have temporarily (thanks, cramming!) mastered histami verbs and the aorist passive tense.

*I have no idea when I'll actually use my Ancient Greek, other than to be able to pronounce Greek words when they come up in older literary criticism. But it's great to be able to pursue an intellectual hobby for fun.

*Bonaventure continues adorable and is the most outgoing baby I've ever met. We don't know where he got it. I mean, he's ten months old, and he totally knows how to work a room.

*Here's a cute picture of Bonaventure:


*Kalamazoo is next week! I'll miss the meet-up, but I'm taking the whole family, which should be fun--and I'm looking forward to the book exhibit and what looks to be nice weather. And, of course, to thinking about the Middle Ages again.

*This semester, I managed to write my conference paper and redraft an article that I made a mess of two years ago. The article needs work, but, last I looked at it (some weeks ago, alas), it is much more interesting than the original mess. I mention this by way of acknowledging to myself that I did, in fact, get some writing done this semester.

*At the end of May, my good friend H. from grad school is going to visit for the weekend. We plan to watch a lot of Doc Martin and catch up.

*In June, my dad and stepmother are coming to visit. Hooray!

*I'm sufficiently green to actually be excited about chairing the Humanities division next year. Don't throw this back in my face when I'm bemoaning the task come October. I'm even excited about running a search in the fall. What's wrong with me?

*It's May!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A sign of spring?

A rabbit just gave birth in our backyard.

I missed the birth itself, but saw her just a minute later, digging around and covering the babies all up. Yes, there is now a hole full of baby rabbits in our backyard.

In the middle of the yard, I should add: unprotected by shrubs or trees. I'm worried about them--especially because the mother is now off careening around the neighborhood, being chased by two other rabbits (one of which chased the other for a good fifteen minutes while she covered her babies. It was pretty comical, actually).

However. This is Nature, after all. I'm sure that mama rabbit can take care of her baby bunnies without our intervention. Right?

We are, of course, keeping the cats inside for the near future.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What would *you* do?

For some reason or other, I qualify to renew my driver's license--which expires in six weeks--through the mail, thereby avoiding a trip to the DMV.

However, I loathe my driver's license picture. I look like a murderous hippie.

Is it worth a trip to the DMV to get a new picture? (If it helps: The agency is about 15 minutes away, and it's in a miniscule town, so the lines aren't too horribly bad. However, I am just about as likely to get another ghastly picture, so....)

Yes, I'm breaking a 33-day blog silence to ask this.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Inbox 9

I don't seem to be able to get to Inbox Zero, a concept to which I read a reference and have latched on. I haven't actually read about this concept, but from its name I assume that it means keeping your inbox empty. Sounds good to me, as I'm just a disaster when it comes to email.

So on Sunday, the last day of Spring Break, I did a pretty substantial inbox purging. It didn't actually take all that long. The worst of it was having to apologize to so many people for having taken such a very long time to answer (in one case, TWO AND A HALF YEARS. It was a social email, so nothing work-related went awry, but nonetheless very embarrassing).

And since then--all of three days!--I've been able to stay at exactly 9 emails. Not the same 9 emails, though, which is a little weird. It just seems that there are always 9 things to which I am unprepared to reply (or can't face, or whatever).

Still, it's pretty close. I feel absurdly virtuous.

(OK, I must answer one of those messages tonight, too. Inbox 8, here I come!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

If

If I grade all the papers, I can have ice cream (non-dairy, because of B's stupid allergy, but it's still pretty tasty).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On getting out of the way, or, What to do with a boring class

I'm in my (gasp!) 6th year of teaching the Brit Lit surveys--both halves. And, dare I say it? I'm getting bored.

This was my fun class for my first few years at Field College. It was a lot more engaging (and engaged) than comp, and less daunting than my upper-level seminars. I relaxed into it; discussion was pretty good, and I got to know the readings very well.

But now--well, I think that my standards for a good discussion are higher, to be honest. And my notes are, for the most part, 5 or 6 years old (and I just don't want to take the time to take a whole new angle on prepping the same texts!). I've changed up a few of the items on my syllabus, but with a 4/4 load, I need to keep this class pretty much ready to roll.

So I've been bored and mostly unimpressed with student participation, even though it's a smallish class--usually no more than 20 students (which is still my biggest class). I largely (if not entirely) blame myself for the middling participation; I'm pretty directive in my comments and questions, and EVERYthing that they say passes through me, in true Lame Discussion style (where the professor comments on every single remark that students make, and they only ever look at the professor as they speak).

The other day, sitting on the bed watching Bonaventure play with his xylophone, I decided to try something new. And today I took the first step towards what might be an improved survey experience.

Inspired by What Now?, this morning I tried something like the "written discussions" that she's written about on her blog: I put a question on the board asking them to compare and contrast an issue in a couple of texts, told them to write about it for 5 minutes to get their thoughts organized, and then told them that I wasn't going to speak for the next little while. Instead, one of them would talk about what she/he had written, and I expected others to jump in when something in the discussion connected with what they had written or gave them a new idea.

What took place over the next twenty (!!) minutes was the best discussion that they'd had all semester. It was great! I took notes, so that when they finally ran out of steam I was able to go back to topics that I thought we could look at in more depth. They had excellent things to say. They argued. Nearly everyone spoke, including a couple of students who never speak. And they talked to each other, not just to me.

So next week, we're rolling out Phase Two. I've asked them to keep an eye out for things that interest them in the reading and to think about what kinds of interpretive questions we might ask of the text. Then--I've warned them--we'll start with a 10-minute period in which I will not speak, and they will be responsible for discussing their impressions and coming up with some critical questions for discussion.

This probably isn't radical in the least, but it feels vaguely scary to me--to step away from my tried and (sort of) true agenda. But it might really inject some energy and life into a class that was feeling a little dead, without requiring me to actually do more prep work (although it will mean that I'll have to be more on my toes in class--which is great! An end to the boredom!). I'm sort of absurdly excited about this.

The thing is, as I told my students this morning, one of the main goals of the course is to help them develop the ability to have interesting discussions about literature and ask good interpretive questions about texts. I haven't been letting them do this. By getting out of the way, maybe I can create the space for them to really learn.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

All power to the Mihis!

(I am, by the way, aware of the grammatical problem with that title.)

In my last post, I hinted at a few grand things that were happening at work.

Well, #1: As of yesterday, TM and I have tenure. This is kind of weird, since "tenure" always seemed like something that was only held by people who'd been professors for ages and were hopelessly ahead of me. And yet, here we are.

#2: Last month, in anticipation of his receiving tenure, TM was voted faculty vice president for next year, which means that he'll be faculty president in 2014-15.

#3: And then I was asked to chair the Humanities Division. I'll keep directing the Honors Program for at least one year, too, which means--wait for it--a 3/2 teaching load! Woo hoo! (And I never say "woo hoo.")

#4: In an effort to totally concentrate power over Field College within our household, we have arranged to have Bonaventure named Vice President of Academic Affairs, and the cats are now Associate Deans (Student Life and Admissions, respectively). That's right: We now run everything.

Blah blah work blah blah baby's naps blah blah blah

I've become boring.

I'm obsessed with getting Bonaventure to nap more and for longer periods. Unfortunately, barring some magic spell, it's virtually impossible to "make" a baby sleep longer (unless I can stay in bed with him and let him nurse at will, anyway), so this is largely a fruitless and uninteresting topic.

But at the end of every day, I could tell you exactly when and for how long Bonaventure has slept--even if it's only through the reports of babysitters. I memorize this information effortlessly and think about it all the time. So the "largely fruitless and uninteresting" thing doesn't stop me from talking about it with anyone and everyone who asks me how I'm doing.

So! Yes, boring!

Work is the only other thing really going on (unless you count laundry, and let's not count laundry), and it's not wildly interesting, either. It's all right, though. I've found that having a baby has had the salutary effect of getting me to not worry too much about my classes, or put an excessive amount of energy in them. And they're going perfectly fine (even if I was a little boring last week--but that often happens around week 4 or 5). The fact that I've been at it for 5 years now probably helps; I don't need to prep obsessively and run through all of my notes in minute detail right before class. So I'm viewing this mellowing-out and getting-by as a good thing, in the balance.

There are a few grand things going on at work, actually. But because I want that post to have a different title, I'll hold off and write about them later. (This is what comes of not posting often enough: I now want to write multiple posts at once!)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Screw you, William Blake

So we're working on "nap training" this morning, which is horrible procedure far worse than night-sleep training was (at least for our little guy) and which involves just putting the baby in his crib when he's tired and letting him go to sleep. Or, in our case, letting him cry for half an hour (with a couple of quick check-ins), then picking him up to resume (sleepy, cranky) playing.

It's heartbreaking, and Bonaventure's crying, and I feel terrible. So I start reading for next week's Brit Lit, trying to get a little work done and take my mind off of our collective woes. The Norton has added a new poem to the Songs of Innocence section, "On Anothers Sorrow," and as I'm holding back my own tears and B is wailing away, I read:

"Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd.

"Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear--
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be."

That did it. I cried. We picked B up at 27 minutes instead of the mandated 30. It was just plain rotten all around.



(This afternoon is going better--he fell asleep quickly and has been down for 25 minutes. I guess just wearing him out to the absolute limit is the key? Sigh. This all just makes me feel like a terrible, terrible person.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

You have no idea what this means to me

Bonaventure is currently napping in his crib.




You know, I've done a lot of difficult things. I wrote a dissertation. I got a tenure-track job. I published a book. I biked 330 miles in 4 days and, in the same year, walked 600 miles across a country whose language I don't speak. I've survived passport theft in southern France teaching three 20-student comp sections in a single semester. I can handle shit.

But getting a baby to sleep when and where he's not used to sleeping? That's just about beyond my capabilities.

Bonaventure had developed the sweet (but unsustainable, now that I'm going back to work) habit of napping on my lap, or in bed with me, after a nice long nurse. Breaking that habit is not easy. But today we've made a little bit of progress.

Now, if he'd only take a bottle....

Thursday, January 3, 2013

And now for something less fuzzy

OK, I was totally sincere in my last post. But I do actually have some more tangible, ordinary things that I'd like to work on this year. They're not interesting, but I like account-a-blogging, and for some reason I like reading other people's to-do lists and whatnot, so here goes: I'm sharing my boring bourgie goals for 2013. Brace yourselves!

  1. Get Bonaventure sleeping on his own, in his crib, and--eventually--through the night. This needs to start happening immediately. In fact, it has started happening! We initiated Phase One of the Ferber method (please refrain from freaking out over sleep training in the comments, please) tonight. I've been worried and anxious about it for days. Would I be able to withstand the crying? Well, I don't want to jinx it, but so far, so good. He was asleep in 15 minutes. Now to start working on the 4+ night feedings....
    1. Subnote: If you're considering sleep training, do not cruise the interwebs for advice. You'll just find people telling you that letting your baby cry at all is torture and teaches him that he's unlovable. To which I say, if that's true, I've already done it, because the dude cries about half the time that he's in the car, when we really can't stop to pick him up and reassure him. I can't see that there's any difference between that and crying in the crib. And he's a very happy, sweet, secure little guy. So that's all just hooey. (Not saying that sleep training is an unqualified good--just that the critics are in some cases a little low in credibility.)
  2. Revise Stupid Article into something potentially publishable. Step One: Come up with a better nickname for it than "Stupid Article."
  3. Apply for a research course release for next year--which will mean more clearly articulating my research plans.
  4. Write Kalamzoo paper--for I am planning to skip graduation this year and take my family to Kalamazoo! Hooray!
  5. Do some mothertrucking yoga again, good God. I've lost all my pregnancy weight and then some, but I'm not in any kind of shape, and my back is getting wacky from all the baby-tending. I'd also like to swim again sometimes, if the pool's opening hours are at all convenient. 
That's all I can think of. At least two of these things absolutely have to happen, and two are very concrete, so I don't really know that they count as "resolutions." But the secret, buried resolution lurking beneath 2-4 is really to recommit to my scholarship. That's the key thing. Wish me luck!

And happy new year (slightly belatedly) to all!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

De retour

Well! It's the new year, and we're back from Christmas Visits 2012--which I'm calling Bonaventure's Great Train Adventure. In the course of 12 days, we took a total of 7 trains, including 2 overnights (we got sleeper cars, but the very smallest sleeper cars, and it turns out that these are very small indeed. They certainly put the "ette" in "roomette").

 Bonaventure is now a seasoned traveler; he even brings his own reading material. See:

On train no. 5   





Our trip out (to my folks' state) was pretty good, even though we left our house at 8:30 am and arrived at my mom's at about 4:30 the following afternoon--a long trip, but with only one (9-hour) layover and a relatively comfortable sleeper car. The intermediate journey (from my folks' to TM's) was fine, too, although we had to push our departure back 6 hours because of snow. (The good news was that this meant not have to wake Bonaventure up at 5 am.) The 29-hour return journey (from TM's home) was a bit more agonizing: three trains, one of which had a midnight departure time. We got home at about 5:00 pm on New Year's Eve, unpacked a bit, ate, put B to bed, showered, and collapsed.

Oh, and the visits themselves? Yeah, they were good. Bonaventure got loads of toys, but he's not really old enough to appreciate a lot of them, so they'll last us for a while. And it was such fun to share him with our families. One thing that I didn't anticipate enjoying so much about having a baby was how pleasurable it is to entertain other people with him. Okay, most likely I overestimate how entertained these other people really are--I am unabashedly and unashamedly in love with my little pudding--but honestly, we have a surprisingly sociable guy on our hands. He loves smiling at people. Both TM and I have noticed recently how, when we're out in public with him, he'll look at every single person who walks by with this hopeful little smile, and if they smile back at him, he just beams--a full-on Muppet smile, his mouth as wide open as it can get. It astonishes me that anyone can resist him.

(Here he is grinning at my dad, who is, in his opinion, the funniest--or funniest-looking?--person on the planet:)



Today has been one of those relaxed, easy, post-holiday days. Bonaventure napped more than usual; I did a load of laundry, washed out an apron that's been dirty for too long, and baked cookies; TM fixed some good meals, played with B, and worked on his manuscript. I feel so happy to be home. As, it turns out, I usually do. Lately I keep thinking about how lucky I am: I have a snug little house that I love, am married to a wonderful partner whose conversation I adore, get to snuggle the sweetest baby in the world whenever I want, and make enough money to pretty much buy what I want (our incomes actually aren't very good, certainly well below average for our disciplines and status, but our needs are modest and we have no big, looming expenses at the moment); everyone in my family is apparently in quite good health; I have a job that I find sufficiently interesting and meaningful (no job is always interesting and meaningful, right?); and my own habits are largely healthy and orderly.

That last one sounds a little weird, yes, but I'm thinking about new year's resolutions here, and there aren't many habitual actions that I think I need to worry about too much--I mean, I'm sure I could refine things here and there, but I eat well (with enough treats thrown in to keep me happy), floss daily, and certainly do not need to resolve to be more organized or neater or anything like that. In fact, lightening up could be a good idea.

But, seeing as it's new year's day and all, I'm thinking about what I'd like to have more of in my life, and it's this: enjoyment, or presence; actually living through all of the beautiful moments in each day. It's a habit of mind, not a habit of body, that I'd like to change. While I have concrete things that I'd like to accomplish this year (including dramatically revising Stupid Article, applying for a research-related course release, getting Bonaventure to sleep in his damned crib, and maybe trying again to find an agent for my novel), my resolution for the year is to ease up on the need to be productive and accomplish stuff all the time.

Maternity leave has been good practice. Certainly one doesn't need to have a baby to realize this, but one of the things that caring for Bonaventure has taught me is the importance of letting go of the need to Get Things Done every moment of the day. There have been times, especially early in my leave, when I was worn out and frustrated by my inability to Accomplish; but by the end of the semester, I was much more comfortable with the idea of lying in bed for two hours with Bonaventure sleeping against my side, idly reading a few pages of a book now and again, dozing or letting my mind wander the rest of the time, and occasionally bending down to kiss his fuzzy head. Or sometimes when I'm playing with him and I start to get bored, I remember that he won't even be a baby anymore by this time next year, and suddenly my attention is drawn right back into the moment and the pleasure of watching him grow.

That's what I want to keep with me. And not just when it comes to Bonaventure, but in my moments with TM, with friends, even with myself--the other night I wrote in my diary for just a little while longer than usual, letting myself not be in a hurry, but taking the time to describe things at greater length, even moving the pen a little more slowly than usual across the page. It felt good. I spend too much time straining for what's next; I want to bring myself back to what's now.

Oh, and I should work out or whatever more often, too, of course.