Friday, December 30, 2011

I Want a Syllabus:

--a common want,
When each semester seems to need two new ones,
And after slogs through books and sites I flaunt
My stacks of photo-copied true ones.
But this one differs: The course I must invaunt
Is opaque, obscure, like a few tons
Worn round my neck all winter. So I moan
And hope a draft arrives by fax or phone.

(OK, that's a pretty dreadful bit of doggerel, I admit, and I even had to make up a word. But I've had that first line running through my head for days and I had to do something with it.)

Actually, I want two syllabi: The first is for a writing course that is still a blank page, but I'm not going to talk about that one. The other is for my own benefit--to make sense of this:

I've been given or otherwise collected this entire stack in the last few weeks, and am more than a little overwhelmed. On the surface, it seems like there are pretty obvious ways of organizing all of this material: The pregnancy/nutrition/exercise stuff, the childbirth stuff, the breastfeeding stuff, the child-care stuff. But the breastfeeding books tell you what to do before birth in order to get ready to breastfeed, and there are childcare things to take care of before the baby is actually here, and at some point I need to look at birthing centers and talk to doulas and all that, right? So it's actually all quite interrelated and intermixed and I need someone to give me a syllabus so that I read the right bits at the right times and turn in all of my assignments by their proper due dates.


Admittedly, I'm making this out to be worse than it is, and worse than I actually feel. It'll be all right. Right? People manage these things.

The more pressing problem is what I can wear to MLA. My nicest pants are now out of the question, and I'm pretty well lacking in the spiffy-professional range of my wardrobe at the best of times. How can I pull together something to wear for my paper--something that fits over my now-somewhat-visible baby belly--without actually going shopping? That's the question....

(And so intellectual concerns give way to the sartorial. It is break, after all.)

(And hey--MLA meet-up? When/where? If there was a conversation, I missed it!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's true what they say about the second trimester

I've decided to come clean. Here it is, folks: I'm pregnant, and due in June.

To be precise, I'm just over 12 weeks pregnant--which means that I'm at the end of the first/beginning of the second trimester. Judging from how I feel, I'd say that it's the latter. For, on Sunday, lo and behold, I got a few things done.

If, for some reason, you've read my comments on the Another Damned Notorious Writing Group check-ins, you may have noticed that I, not...happily productive? Maybe a little pissed-off and bitter sounding? Struggling to do even 1 hour a week of work on my writing? Well, now you know why. No--I was not pissed off and bitter about the pregnancy; on the contrary. But I was exhausted. All the time. And in the last 2-3 days, by virtue of the sudden contrast in energy level, I'm starting to appreciate just how exhausted I was. (Perhaps this also accounts for the total near-lapse in blogging this semester, but given what a lame blogger I am at the best of times, I'm not convinced.)

So it was a rough semester: 4 classes/4 preps, plus taking Greek, chairing a major governance committee, and running the Honors program--which grew enormously this year and last (it now has twice as many students as it did two or three years ago), and struggling through the crushing fatigue of starting to grow a person. Basically, for the last seven weeks, I had almost enough energy to do the absolute minimum that I needed to do every day to get by--which means that this week, I'm trying to catch up on lots and lots of loose ends.

All this by way of explanation, not complaint. TM and I are delighted, apprehensive, and hopeful (it's still early yet; miscarriage is always a possibility). I've been lucky to have only a little nausea and a weird aversion to cooked greens and tomatoes, which is totally unlike me, and 10 days ago we had our first ultrasound. It was amazing--way cooler than I expected--to see the little thingum in there, all person-shaped, kicking its feet and waving its fin-hands around. The heart was beating, and it even has a head!

(Yes, I know how that sounds, but I don't think that I was really convinced that I was growing a baby until I actually saw it. I spent the first 8 weeks or so half-convinced that I had psychosomatically given myself pregnancy symptoms and somehow stopped menstruating through sheer force of will. Oh, and the positive pregnancy tests? Clearly I was manufacturing pregnancy hormones through, um, the power of suggestion? I don't know. I didn't say it was rational.)

Anyway, that's all. The semester is almost over. I'm a little nervous about telling everyone about this whole thing, since of course it's not a sure thing until the baby's born. But I figured you all ought to know.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grand and glorious plans

So, in my strangely refreshed state, I have lots of Schemes for the Day. Things I want to Do. For I actually don't have too much homework (of the prep/grading variety), and so maybe I could get some of the other stuff accomplished?

Id est:
  1. Read thoroughly enjoyable chapter for first-year seminar.
  2. Read less interesting chapters for comp.
  3. Figure out an activity for Monday's comp to replace the fun-but-useless activity that I usually do on that day. (I already have an idea, I just have to get a few things together for it.)
  4. Finish writing my colloquium talk (so, so close).
  5. Yoga.
  6. Work on promotion binder (requires going to office, alas, but mostly just involves photocopying and printing).
  7. Vacuum.
  8. Greek homework.
  9. Read article for upper-level seminar.
  10. Grade first-year seminar journals.
  11. Finish laundry.
Hm. Well, now I'm depressed. That's a lot of...stuff, and more on the prep end than I expected. Realistically, though, most of these items shouldn't take me very long, so the depression is fleeting.

You know what's really depressing? Picking up three different batches of papers on Monday. Why did I do that to myself? This isn't the first time this semester, either. Normally I'm pretty good at staggering grading, but this semester I clearly did nothing to synchronize my syllabi. We also have Big On-Campus Events Monday and Tuesday nights (the Monday night event having been organized by Me), so the week promises to be pretty hectic.

Well. Fine. Most of the stuff on that list isn't so bad, and some of it will even be fun. Time to think cheerful thoughts! It's a beautiful day (for sitting inside working)! I am still in my bathrobe! Consider the pleasure of checking things off! Yay! Go go go!

10 hours

That's how long I slept last night. I feel better today than I've felt all week.

And have I really not blogged in almost a month? Sorry about that. But what can I say, aside from work work work work work?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Day

So today:

In the office at 8:15 to start composition conferences. I only have two or three in the morning, but am also busy putting together the invitations for the big banquet I organize every fall, prepping for class (i.e. reading students' posts on the course website), and grading papers for upcoming conferences.

Class 11-12:15.

Home at 12:15 for a quick lunch with TM.

1:15-2:30: Ancient Greek class. We're moving sloooowly in there, which is a good thing, frankly. (And I have an A!)

2:30: Swing by the mailroom. Discover envelope from journal. Force myself to read it on the walk to my office. My article is rejected. It's a nice letter, but the criticisms are pretty strong, and I'm disappointed. Push disappointment aside as much as I can because I have appointments.

2:45-3:45: Four more conferences, one of which involves busting a plagiarist--one of my absolute least favorite things to do.

4:00-6:00: Run a board meeting for the charitable organization on whose board I serve as VP. The meetings usually go about an hour, but for unexpected reasons this one went two. It was a good meeting, but we have some issues to address, so sunshine and roses it was not.

6:15: Come home, finally, and check my email to find what should have been good news: A story I submitted this summer got accepted somewhere. However, it had recently been accepted somewhere else, first, and I had completely forgotten to notify the other journals to which I'd sent it (simultaneous submissions being perfectly okay in the fiction-writing world). So instead of rejoicing, I felt rotten for being discourteous and unprofessional, and wrote a deeply ashamed and apologetic email back to the journal.

In brief:
One rejection, one plagiarist, one embarrassment. These are small problems--not even problems, really, because I don't need to solve them; but they're blows, however small. I'm feeling, I confess, disheartened and uninspired.

Now it's 8:27 pm, and because of all the conferencing/administrating I haven't read for my 8:00 class or graded all the papers for the students coming to see me tomorrow. And tonight was the night I was supposed to get some work done for Another Damned Notorious Writing Group. (I suppose I could've skipped writing this post, but I sort of felt I had to.)

I want to crawl under the covers and either cry or sleep. Probably sleep. Alas.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This must be my fault

How many times this semester have I had this conversation?

Any student: "Can I come see you about [fillintheblank]?"

Me: "Of course. Why don't you stop by during my office hours?"

Student: "When are your office hours again?"

Me: "Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 to 10."

Student pauses, thinks, finally says: "Okay! I'll come by on Wednesday." Scribbles a note in his/her calendar.

Me: "Uh, actually--oh, all right. I'll see you then." (I'm in my office anyway, after all, and who needs the confusion....)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One of the ways in which I suck

I'm pretty bad at answering emails. I get better during the school year, but only with my Field College account; my regular gmail languishes pretty badly year-round. It's not that I don't enjoy hearing from people--I just always put off writing back, and then (alas) I'm afraid that I lose interest in talking about myself. And then I feel guilty, and Too Much Time Has Passed, etc. etc. same old story.

And then there's the email account associated with this blog.

Hoo, I'm sorry, anyone who tried to contact me via that address since, oh, mid-July! Because apparently that was the last time I checked it. And as it happens, in addition to the exhortations and messages from Al Gore & Co, I had some actual, real-life messages in there! Including some actual, real-life work-related stuff!

I'm sorry. Apparently, what I really need is Another Damned Notorious Answer Your Goddamn Email Group.


In other news, here's a picture of the travel diary that I made for my trip to Ireland this summer. Isn't it nice?

(On location at a pub in Limerick.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fully Dawsed

I have a cold. And this afternoon I took non-drowsy cold medicine.

Guess what, non-drowsy cold medicine! Your non-drowsy wiles don't work on me! Hell no! My body will foil your every effort to keep me awake!

In brief, I find myself fully zombified this afternoon. Trying to read the General Prologue to the CT. I was out midway through the Prioress.

Got up a while later to get something from the bathroom. Knocked over everything on the shelf. Replaced item on the shelf a moment later, knocking everything over again.

The main benefit of cold medicine? Not, as far as I can tell, clearing my sinuses (though my throat feels slightly better). Essentially it forces me to rest. I predict that I'll be retiring the guest room (my preferred sickbed) for video-watching and napping soon, perhaps with some very, very simple knitting (which I'll probably have to redo next week).


(The semester has evened itself out a bit, though, and I'm no longer overwhelmed in the way that I was that first week. My classes are fine. Everything is fine except my NOSE!)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oh God!

I'm drowning in work, I tell you. Drowning! Yes, drowning.

Four distinct preps (I usually have 3) and a staggeringly record number of honors students--both first-years and seniors, the two groups that require the most attention--have me in the office from 7-4ish daily without a break. Lunch at the desk and shit like that. (And then the reading and prep in the evenings, of course.) Oh, and did I mention this? I don't think I did. I'm taking a class! Ancient Greek! It's fun--but we have actual homework.

And now, because I'm an idiot, I'm prepping a Derrida essay for my seminar tomorrow. The students will be baffled (understandably; this is a tough one, and I'm pretty well baffled myself). Once I'm done, I expect that my prep will have sucked about 4 hours out of the evening. I am tired, people. And I have three thesis meetings tomorrow (two of which I just remembered).... And I haven't memorized the declension of the definite article yet....

OK. Next week will be better. Next week will be better. Three-day weekend coming up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Low-Hanging Fruit": The Low-Hanging Fruit of Metaphors?

So TM and I were having a conversation the other night, and he used the phrase"low-hanging fruit." I smirked, as I ALWAYS do when I hear that phrase, and we got into a discussion of why I can't hear (let alone say) it with a straight face. I think that it has something to do with how the first time I heard it, it was in reference to someone who used the phrase a lot (are you following me?), and my friend, who was talking about him, said, "I'd like to kick him in his low-hanging fruit."

You get where I'm going with this.

Also, I have a tendency to "hear" it punctuated as "low, hanging fruit" and to imagine it said in a voice like that of the narrator in Rocky Horror Picture Show when he describes the clouds as "heavy, black, and pendulous." (And if you've ever seen or experienced the interactive version of RHPS, you know that the shout-out line only adds to the immodest association hinted at above.)

So yes, I do have a juvenile streak, much as I try to hide it. (See this post for additional evidence.)

SO ANYWAY, we then started talking about alternative metaphors/cliches, and we couldn't think of any good ones. I suggested "easy target," but that doesn't mean quite the same thing. As TM pointed out, "low-hanging fruit" clearly suggests the easily reachable targets that you accomplish first, with the expectation that you will then get into the higher branches with their less-reachable fruit; "easy target" doesn't imply any more difficult targets to come.

And then we were pretty much stumped.

Thus I give it to you, dear readers. What alternative metaphor(s) would you suggest? Are there other figures of speech that serve the same purpose? Or is there a new metaphor, possibly less testicular, just waiting to be coined?

Monday, August 15, 2011

My happiness does not depend on ----

Everything starts tomorrow (we have 3 days containing meetings, including one all-day retreat, then classes begin on the 24th, except for that one Extra Special Class that starts on Sunday).

My wish tonight:

May I please not begin the year with resentment.

I had a flash of it tonight, you see. Resentment. Feeling unappreciated (how childish that sounds!). Recalling a promise that may not be delivered.

I ended the year--an otherwise pretty great year--on a not-great note, feeling taken for granted and put-upon. That feeling vanished over the summer. Tonight it resurfaced.

It's bad news, people. My happiness does not depend on the promise that may or may not be fulfilled. It does not depend on a raise, or a course release, or a small token of favor. These things are nothing.

Remember that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gratuitous Picture Post

A week or two ago, I was suddenly hit with an intense desire to relax. You know--enjoy the summer without working. Not that I've been working all that much, but.... Well, what prompted it was an email in which my mother asked me if I'd started a novel that she'd lent me, and I realized in writing back to her that I hadn't been reading fiction. Forgive my italics, but it shocked me.

So--rather than reading Cloud Atlas, the erudite and clearly fabulous novel from my mom (I started it and was liking it, but I lost my train of thought)--I've been reading Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series. They start off as "mysteries," but lose that moniker pretty quickly; mostly Isabel reflects on moral philosophy, cooks risotto, and drinks wine with her youthful paramour. They're delightful, cozy, and easy on the brain (which sounds insulting, but I don't mean it that way. Look, I didn't want to work! This is a good thing). And they usually end up with some really sweet reflection on love or kindness or something. I like them.

The novels are set in Edinburgh, which brings me to my gratuitous pictures. I spent almost a week in Edinburgh back in '07, and I loved it. Today I browsed through the pictures that I took on my trip there; some of them are quite nice, so I'm sharing. Enjoy!

(And yes, all of them were taking in Edinburgh, even the ones that look like they couldn't possibly be urban--that was Holyrood Park, where I spent one of the nicest mornings I can remember.)

[Sigh] revision.

Long gap in blogging here due to a semi-chaotic family visit and a very sick kitty. Family left on Saturday. Kitty is still sick, but somewhat better (down from a very high fever into sneezing and snuffles). There really is nothing more pathetic than a sick cat.

So anyway, with all that settling down, I got back into my article this weekend. A few weeks ago, I read it over in hard copy (my preferred late-stage revision mode), made a few edits, and thought that it was just about ready to go. This weekend, I reread it, and did this:

Might I just say, Augh!!

Now pardon me, please, while I go type those notes up before I lose the ability to read them.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Paper-making is easy!

What Now? asked about paper-making in her comment on my last post, and I thought I'd answer her here. (Why not?)

Paper-making, as my title suggests, is easy! Especially if you shell out a bit for a kit. I went fancy and bought Arnold Grummer's Papermaker Pro, which is a hand-pour mold, though I would eventually consider getting a dip mold for faster, more consistent production. (Don't I sound professional? I am, after all, a Papermaker Pro! I have made 25 sheets of paper!) Truth be told, I didn't look into the difference between hand-pour and dip molds, and thought that I was getting the latter, since that's what I used in high school. But hand-pouring is super easy and, as the websites will tell you, the clean-up is easy.

Basically, here's how it works:
  1. You get all your supplies lined up, and fill the kitchen sink about 2/3 full of water (depends on the depth of your sink, of course. Mine is fairly shallow).
  2. In a blender, combine about 1 1/3 sheets of torn-up, post-consumer paper with 2 cups of water. Blend for 30 seconds.
  3. Insert the mold into the sink, getting the water to within about 1/2" of the top.
  4. Pour the blended slurry into the mold.
  5. Agitate it with your fingers.
  6. Carefully, but without delay, lift the mold straight up in the air.
  7. Use various techniques to squeeze water out of the sheet, using a sponge and some screens (it's not that complicated, but you don't want to read about it, and I don't want to write it).
  8. Dry the sheet! I leave it stuck to the window for a while and then, when it starts to fall off, press it under some books (with dry "couch sheets," as they're called, to absorb the moisture).
Really, it took me all of 5 minutes and one or two awkward attempts to get the hang of it. And within about 4 sheets I, being me, was tired of straightforward pages and started adding leaves (without reading directions on how to do so--that resulted in some weirdness) and blending for different lengths of time, etc. One technique I made up is to blend one sheet for 15 seconds, add 1/3 of a sheet in a slightly different color or with writing on it, and blend for the second 15 seconds. This produces interesting textures, and sometimes letters or fragments of words show up in the paper. I love it!

Below is a scanned image of one of the sheets I made yesterday using this newly invented technique (which is, I'm sure, not unique to me, but hey! I didn't read about it or ANYTHING).

It's not like a money-saving hobby (although I do intend to use it as the basis for many Christmas presents), but it is a form of recycling, and it's fun! Plus, I haven't found anywhere around here to buy handmade paper for bookbinding, so it'll be useful there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hot Dry Summer

In honor of July, I bring you a photographic essay documenting the behavior of cats on a 92-degree day:

The series concludes with Constant M.* telling me to knock it off with the picture-taking and rub her belly already.

Actually, it's cooler today, but we should be back up into the 90s this weekend. And just in time for the heat, I've finished my shawl:

Like the patrician tilt of my chin?

I'm also working on the paper-making, as this picture demonstrates:

Letting the sheets dry against glass gives them a smoother finish for writing, or so I have read. (I haven't actually written on them yet.)

In other news, I suppose I ought to go to the gym. At what point in my life does that requirement go away?

*A sudden, irrational fear that the eminent C.M.--whose work I respect--would find this page and be bothered by my pun has prompted me to abbreviate the cat's moniker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two Firsts

1) Got my first agent query rejection yesterday morning. The first of many, many such, I'm sure.

2) Also in my inbox yesterday morning was an invitation to contribute an essay to an edited collection. The book isn't under contract yet--they need the article abstracts for that, obviously--but there is an "interested press," as they say. Anyway, what's cool is that this essay collection is exactly in line with my current research interests! How did that happen? I mean, since no one officially knows what my current research interests are, given that I haven't published anything on them yet? (One article is coming out in the Fall, but it's not out yet, so....)

Anyway, it's all very exciting. It makes me feel like a Real Scholar of some kind. (And maybe I should, like, get over feeling like an Unreal Scholar, since I do have a book out and all that. But, you know, eh. I still feel like I'm about 23 years old when it comes to this profession.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Favorite Writing Resources?

I was just glancing over the comments on Notorious Ph.D.'s/ADM's writing group (which I totally plan to join this fall, by the way--I just missed the first couple of weeks this summer and got out of sync), and something completely obvious occurred to me:

Writing an extensive, independent research paper without strong external direction/guidelines does not come naturally to (almost) anyone. (I expect that there are exceptions. Incredibly enviable exceptions. But we aren't going to talk about them.)

Now, I knew this from my own experience, of course. But I also serve as second reader on all those pesky Honors thesis committees (by which I mean, ALL of the pesky--and even the rare non-pesky--Honors thesis committees at Field College), and undergraduate students, quite understandably, haven't really figured this out. They've never had to write such a paper. They're used to deadlines and people making them do things, and then doing said things often in haste, at the last minute, and under tremendous stress.

As we all know, that system doesn't work well for...well, almost anything, but you can probably pull it off on a 5-page paper. Not, however, on a thesis.

So what I'd like to do is to compile a list of resources, websites, and tips for students who are struggling with motivation, scheduling, organizing, drafting, etc. etc. And what better place to go than to the blogosphere? Since so many of you have blogged so beautifully and brilliantly about such things in the past?

I ask, therefore, that you comment with your favorite resources, motivators, organizers, what-have-you. Feel free to just remind me of a post that you've already written on the subject, too. I do plan to look around and do some of the work myself, but I'm very likely to miss some things--so I would love love LOVE your suggestions! And my students would love them even more!

(And let's not forget the thesis advisors and readers out there, who are surely as frustrated as I am when students don't even start writing until December.... Think of this as service! Tenure file, here we come!!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ambition Sucks

Um, so, that to-do list in my last post is too long.


I hate it.

Why do I feel that I must do everything, every single thing, that I possibly can, every single summer? I don't ever do it all, and I spend a lot of time being stressed out about having so much to do. Why do I insist upon putting fun things--like making paper, or knitting, or reading a book for pleasure--on my Task List? On the one hand, it gives them some priority. On the other, I find myself thinking things like, "OK, if I just knit two rows of this afghan every day, I'll have it done by September!", and then it becomes a Required Homework Item and I drain all of the fun out of it.

When I was a kid--like, twelve--I'd get so excited about summer that I'd start planning it in early May. I'd make up detailed schedules of what I was going to do every day: play horses from 9-10, work on a puppet show with my brother from 10-11, read from 11-12, go to the pool from 2-3, and so forth. Then I'd look at those schedules, feel like the summer was already over (and hadn't been all that interesting), and get depressed.

I was twelve twenty-three years ago. Have I learned anything? Not really.

So here's the deal. I might not do all the stuff on my to-do list. (In fact, I definitely won't, but don't let me overhear myself saying it.) And that is simply going to have to be all right. If I can finish this one article (which I can), outline my colloquium presentation, and decide on a topic for Article/Chapter/Whatever the Next (and I have an idea for that), then I'll be all right research-wise. And the book reviewing stuff will just happen. Right? Right.

Okay! First up: Course packs are due this week! So I've got to go make some copies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What will I do today?

In addition to yardwork, I have a very long list of things to do this summer. One of the blessings of academia is the summertime. The curse, however, is that we (I?) plan to do everything that occurs to me all year long during the summer, which can make for its own breed of stress.

Research and writing:
  • I want to finish and send out this article on G. I've drafted it, but it needs some contextual underpinnings. I'd like to send it out by August 1.
  • Review this 800-page book I volunteered to review. 800 pages!!!
  • Get about 90% of the annual bibliographic essay done. I think that I'm at about 60% right now.
  • Draft a presentation for a colloquium in the fall; this should be pretty easy.
  • Think in some kind of serious way about that sort of book-like project that I'm kind of sort of planning. What's the first step, though?
School stuff:
  • Get my syllabi in order. I only have one new class this fall! I don't think that I've ever had fewer than two new preps before--unless you count that anomalous semester when I only taught two classes.
  • Read the one book that I'm teaching and haven't read before (I read the others earlier this summer).
  • Get course packs together.
  • Revise and reprint the Honors program handbook.
  • Clean up some files.
Crafty things:
  • Finish knitting my shawl--I'm almost done!
  • Knit an afghan.
  • Finish a pair of socks (and probably start another one).
  • Make paper and bind it into journals for Christmas presents.
  • Sew three new curtains for the kitchen (I did one over spring break, and it looks so lonely in there!).
Housy things:
  • Organize some files and whatnot.
  • Um...the house is in pretty good shape, actually.
Fantasy career things:
  • I have a novel that I would like to try to get published, for real.
  • I have a few short stories for which I'd like to do the same.

    I don't actually want to be a creative writer; it's too weird and exhausting. The truth is that I really like working with people (who knew?); I also find that being absorbed into a story of my own creation, while exhilarating, is also really draining and disorienting. So I don't include this category of projects because I want to move out of academia--I don't. What I would like to do is to try to move some of my better stuff out into the world, so I don't have it hanging distantly in the background of my mind forever. I love me some closure, I do. And if it doesn't get published, at least I'll have tried.
All righty! What'll it be today?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Home ownership = Watching your husband garden

Three posts in one day! What am I, some kind of blogger or something?

Anyway, as I promised about 8 minutes ago, here are some updated pictures of the garden. (As for the subject heading, I guess it's appropriate if, as I indicated about two years ago, marriage = owning a lawnmower.)

First, here's the front of the house. The dandelions have given way to clover. But don't you like my flowers? Assuming that you can make them out at all?

The sidewalk has come along a little bit. It's proving to be a ton of work. But look! The trees have leaves! And you can see the no-mow-zone over on the right. Don't be confused by all the tall weeds that surround it--it is in fact a distinct area.

Here's the smaller garden--asparagus in the back, artichokes and eggplant in the front. Those are also various peppers and some melons mixed in there.

And the bigger garden: tomatoes, lettuces, chard, cilantro (gone to seed), more eggplants and peppers, beans, zucchini.... That structure in the background is the garage.

Just for kicks, here's the back of the house (which faces our neighbors) and the garage. We put in the flower boxes on the deck. In the foreground is a chestnut tree, with a container of soapy water in which to capture Japanese beetles.

I forgot to mention our compost bins and bramble patch! We have blackberry and raspberry bushes (no fruit yet, though).

And here you can see the strawberry patch against the garage; the retractable clothesline is just visible up there, too. Against the house are the herb garden, our new rain barrel, and some landscaping that came with the house.

TM did the vast majority of this, by the way. Am I grateful? Why yes, yes I am. (He's in the kitchen fixing us a salad right now, too--with the very lettuce that he's picking four pictures up.)

Home ownership = Weeding

Sisyphus has asked for house pictures. Well, Sis, sorry to say that the house hasn't changed much since you saw it last--here and here--but what has changed is the yard! So perhaps you'd like some yard pictures? Since dealing with the yard is one of our major occupations this summer?

First, I shall whet your appetite with a picture of our glorious magnolia in full bloom, as it was in mid-April, seen through the living room windows.

Second, I shall bore you with our yard issues. Here are the realities that we daily confront:
  1. Our yard is freaking BIG.
  2. Our property is on a corner, so we don't have much of a back yard--most of it is bordered by the street, which means that it's not very private.
  3. It's on a hill, too, so that adds to its non-private nature.
  4. All of this is to say that our weedy, dandelion-filled yard is highly, highly visible to everyone.
  5. We hate lawn.
  6. We hate mowing.
  7. We are obstinately committed to not spraying with poisons, because of all the toxic run-off and poisoned groundwater and all.
  8. None of our neighbors seem to share the views expressed in 5-7. We are surrounded by chemically enhanced, oft-mowed, immaculate lawns. Note the contrast in the picture below, which was taken from our front porch:
Welcome to Dandelion Town!

Thus: We are determined to get rid of as much of the lawn as possible. We'll keep the southern patch around the magnolia, where the retractable clothesline goes, and which would make a perfectly reasonably-sized yard in its own right; it's less weedy, and the dandelions haven't fully taken over in there yet. Even in the picture above, you can see the dandelion-density difference between the north (right) and south (left).

So what are we doing? Well!

We have TWO large vegetable gardens! An asparagus row! Two new (small, but expandable) flower beds! Six fruit trees! A tiny little redbud tree! Two chestnut trees! A no-mow zone which we will convert to wildflowers next summer! A large area where we're killing the grass to replace it with blue-rug juniper! Plans for a blueberry hedge, a second (and larger) strawberry patch, two big beds for native plants and flowers, another lilac bush, and more! (Everything preceding the last exclamation point will have to wait for next year or the year after, however. Petit a petit le oiseau fait son nid, etc.)

We've even introduced ajuga into the lawn in the hopes that it will take over! Desperate times, man.

I don't have any pictures of the current state of affairs, so you'll have to see what it looked like in mid-April.

TM checking the asparagus. (Isn't his hat darling?)

The first garden (before anything had grown there--it's coming along nicely now).

Here's where I dug the sod out and arranged old bricks to make the two new flowerbeds.

One more thing: There's a buried brick sidewalk running through the front yard, which we're slowly uncovering. Here it is at an early stage. You can see the newly-planted fruit trees in the background; they're bigger, now, and have actual leaves.

Clearly, I need some more recent pictures! Stay tuned (assuming that you haven't totally lost interest yet).

What Makes Me Blog

I've been aware that I needed to post for a long time. I think that I've had ONE post in the last month? (Traveling with family, visiting family, having family visit = not posting. I don't blog when there's a chance that my parents will catch me. And then I just got lazy, and then overwhelmed by the non-blogging, and the cycle continues.)

But I'm posting now, because...I'm grading!

Yes! I have a paper from the FALL that I'm about to start reading. I know. It was a very legitimate and not-begrudged Incomplete (family health emergency, all kinds of awfulness), so I harbor no ill will towards this paper. Or the student, for that matter, whom I like very much. But I have had the paper for three weeks and have not been able to bring myself to open it. Now, it is open. Now, it WILL BE GRADED.

The awful truism of grading: One paper is harder to grade than twenty. Why is that?

And now that the ice is broken, perhaps you'll hear more from me this summer!

Friday, June 17, 2011


is there a DEAD FISH under the pine tree in the neighbor's yard? --the tree, I might add, that is right up next to our property?

Why, exactly?

And for how long will the smell pervade the Eastern end of our yard?

(I realize that this is a peculiar return to blogging after nearly a month's hiatus. But it needed to be said more urgently, apparently, than anything else that I could impart.)

(More soon.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

As if blogging hasn't been light enough

I'm off tomorrow for 8 days in Ireland with my mother. Given my mother, we will have many stops in cute little restaurants for appetizers and a glass of wine. Should be fun.

Following that, I'll be visiting the family (with TM, this time) for five or so days. In other words: I'll be off-blog for a grand total of two weeks.

Enjoy the start of summer!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yes, I said rollerskates.

Over the weekend, TM and I catered to one of his whims and watched Xanadu on Watch Instantly. Neither of us had ever seen it before. I was skeptical.

Holy cow, that's some crazy business. The '70s and '80s collide in a horrifying rollerskating pile-up. Why was everyone on rollerskates? Why did Gene Kelly stoop so low?

Sometimes the movie seemed like little more than a flimsy showcase for bad fashion. I mean, you've got legwarmers, short shorts, orange jumpsuits (my favorite line: when Sonny Malone has a vision of a club with a "great rock band" which he describes as, "Six guys in electric orange suits!"), extraneous straps and zippers, off-the-shoulder peasant blouses--a panoply of ugly clothing, none of which seemed to have anything to do with any of the other ugly clothing. And, oh yes, rollerskates.

The plot, which lacked all narrative tension, goes something like this:

Sonny Malone is a whiny would-be artist. He's a commercial artist who believes that he is meant for Higher Things, but the Man (= his boss) tries to dissuade him by saying, literally: "I used to be into Art. But I gave up Art for Money. You should do the same thing." It's subtle!

Anyway, Sonny mopes, and somehow his moping causes a really bad painting of eight or so women to become animated, and the muses descend upon LA. Apparently, see, Zeus really wants a roller rink called Xanadu to be built, so he sends the muse Kira (the muse of disco?) to inspire him. He sees her and becomes obsessed, but his pursuit only lasts about three minutes, because then she turns up and they start hanging out. Meanwhile he meets Gene Kelly, who used to play the clarinet but doesn't any more. For some reason, they decide to open a disco/nightclub/roller rink (because, the movie tells us, They Need A Dream To Care About. Why be more specific than that?). Everything goes exactly according to plan!

However, Sonny then tells Kira that he loves her. For some reason. I mean, he knows seriously nothing about her--like, she won't even tell him her last name. But whatever. She says that she loves him, then immediately reveals that she's a muse and disappears. Sonny mopes some more--he almost refuses to go to Xanadu's opening!--but then, for some reason, he jumps headlong into the aforementioned bad painting and finds himself in a crazy electric Tron-like space. There, he rails ineffectually against Zeus and is then dumped back on earth. Kira sings an incredibly boring song, and Zeus and Hera decide that she can go back to earth.

The club opens. There is a bizarre and spectacular club-opening dance sequence. Kira serves Sonny a drink. All is well.

So the movie would, in fact, be pretty dull, but for all the fashion hilarity (which is totally worth it). It does, however, have this fucking insane sequence.

Watch it! Gene Kelly dancing with punk rock oompah loompahs, and Spiderman! Take a break from grading and watch it!

(In other news, I'm almost done with EVERYTHING. More bad movies in store, perhaps?)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why do they do this to me?????

Here's what I hate more than anything in grading--more even than "since the dawn of time" intro-sentences:

When a student who has been doing really good work--like, earning an A despite being a non-major, participating in discussion every day, and coming to see me about papers and all that other solid stuff--plagiarizes some stupid sentence in practically the last assignment of the semester--an assignment for which, I might add, there were plenty of options, so zie didn't even need to pick this particular (and difficult) poem to write on.

Don't you haaaaate that?

According to my policy, I need to fail this student. For the course. A student I really like, a lot. I hate that!

Well, I mean, first I'll hear hir out, and perhaps there's some perverse misunderstanding of "ethical research" here, but...argh! WHY???? Dude, if you didn't understand the poem, you could've come to my office hours, and I swear I would've just explained it to you. ARGHHHHH.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Drunken Rampage

Internet be warned:

I have had some wine, and I am commenting on your posts. Ha ha!

(It's been a verrrry long couple-two-three weeks.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sans Snark

My last post was, I know, rather embittered. I'm not entirely embittered, however (although I do kind of hate teaching statements, much as I recognize their utility and would ask for them were I to chair a search). But the first half of the week was long. And we're approaching the end of the semester. So sarcasm is easier to pull off than sincerity (isn't it always?).

So: Here are some better thoughts. I'm not going to put together a philosophy statement because, well, that's too much work. Instead, I'll aim for bullets of teaching goodness:
  • This first-year bio student in Brit Lit II. He's taking the class for a gen ed requirement, and first-years don't normally do very well in the class, but, despite not being a brilliant writer, he works really hard and it shows. It delights me to consider this biology student who will go out into the world able to say intelligent things about Jane Eyre, Virginia Woolf, and Wordsworth. That's what a liberal arts school is for.
  • The student who remarked, on leaving class on Monday: "Dr. Mihi, you're awesome. Just FYI."
  • A student challenged her grade on the first paper that she wrote for one of my courses--I'm one of a team of instructors for the course, so challenges have a particular procedure that brings in a third party. The third party upheld my grade decision. The student then approached me to ask if it would be all right if she met with me about future papers (why in the world wouldn't it be okay?); she started participating much more actively and doing better on quizzes; she showed me a draft of her next paper--and she just got an A- on said paper. It's clear that she fundamentally didn't get the expectations for the first one, and now she does--and her work is actually good! So pleasing.
  • Those moments in class--especially in the surveys, which is funny because they're the courses I've taught the most--when I suddenly realize something completely new about the text that we're discussing. It makes me realize how much easier it can be to generate new thoughts through a conversation than stuck on one's own.
  • The fact that I am now able to go completely off script in class on a regular basis. In fact, there are days when I don't use my prep outline at all. And teaching is so much more fun.
  • And honestly, sometimes, I just really love my students. All of them, more or less. Not for anything that they've done, but because they're there, and they're trying (or not), and going through all their stuff, and I get to play a part in that.
See? I can be lovey, too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sisyphus's Teaching Philosophy Meme

OK, so there's this.

In the spirit of P, however, I've got to go for snark. It is April, after all, and I've got absolutely no patience left. At the moment, my real life teaching philosophy is DO YOUR GODDAMN HOMEWORK AND GET TO CLASS ON TIME, I AM TIRED OF YOUR BULLSHIT.

So here's my world-weary, when-will-this-semester-end version, born of actually serving on search committees that require teaching philosophy statements.

My teaching philosophy centers on students. I believe in a dynamic classroom where students learn actively. I eschew all forms of sage-on-the-stage, chalk-and-talk, rhymey-blimey-whatever teaching. Eschew it! My pedagogy requires students to talk, to discuss things, to actually participate in the learning process. In this, I am refreshingly newfangled.

In my student-centric classroom, we occasionally sit in circles. This radically disrupts the power structure of the classroom, enabling students to take an active role in their own educations. Sometimes we also do group work.

Further, I am committed to developing critical thinking in my students by getting beyond the notion that learning is all about memorizing facts and regurgitating them at the professor's will. I know that this is a new idea, but bear with me here--as it turns out, literary study is not just about plot summary! I ask challenging and innovative questions to connect the material to students' own lives. I also use PowerPoint sometimes, because today's students are digital natives who learn best through visual stimulus and are excellent multitaskers. These are all very exciting new ideas that I came up with myself while I was TA'ing that course that one time.

Hm. That might actually be too snarky even for me. And truthfully, I can't say that my real-life teaching philosophy was that much better (content-wise, anyway; I had very little teaching experience when I first went on the market). I've tried my hand at writing more original teaching statements, and they all sounded just a little crazy. But "student-centered" has GOT to be the tiredest classroom-descriptor in the book.

At one point in the last committee I served on, I started fantasizing about receiving a statement of teaching philosophy that embraced straight lecture; at least it would have been different.

If I'm in a better mood later this week, maybe I'll take Sis up on her challenge for real and write about what does bring me joy in teaching. Up until about a week ago, I had plenty to say. And, okay, honestly, my seminar students are rocking right now, so I'll leave you with that bit of positivity.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Biggus Dickus moment

Last week was a looong week, which, because of an overnight field trip, didn't really end until Saturday night.

And Monday was a loong day.

We had two candidates on campus on Monday, for two different positions: one in my department, and another which is not in my department but on whose search committee I'm serving. So, long story short, on Monday I got to campus at 7:45 and went home at 4:15. During the eight and a half hours that I was on campus, I taught for one hour, went to one meeting, and spent five solid hours with the two different candidates.

Then I had my Chaucer seminar from 6-8:45.

So I was tired when I got to class. I had changed into jeans and a sweatshirt and taken out my contacts, declaring a one-woman casual day (not that anyone, in class or on faculty, would care), and taken a little nap, but I was far from refreshed. We were reading MT and RT,* though, so at least the subject matter promised to be interesting.

And it was interesting. I was engaged in class, becoming more energized as the discussion went on; of course, given what we were discussing, there was also a lot of humor and some degree of silliness accompanying our Very Serious Exploration of the Literature. The class, I should mention, has fifteen students in it, nearly all of them very bright, talkative, and fun. (I'm lucky.)

But I do think that the fatigue, the lingering stress of driving a vanful of students around all weekend, the exhausting small talk with job candidates, etc., was still there, underlying my enjoyment of the class. And that it was these factors that contributed to my completely losing it about halfway through.

We were talking about female sexuality. One student had posited the possibility that these fabliaux are in some way affirmative of female sexual pleasure. But it's hard to say that this is what's going on in RT, which contains what we could call rape. So I asked them, What image of female sexuality does this tale present us with?

One student raised his hand. Slowly, thoughtfully, he began to speak. It seems like...women have sexual desires, but they don't show them. [I'm paraphrasing, badly, but it'll do.] And then these opportunities--arise, and they seize them.

A flicker of a smile, a smirk even, passed over my face. I quelled it. Immature! Get a grip! I quashed the giggle that I could feel brewing. But I also caught a smothered smile on the face of a student to my right...and across from me...and to the left.... So I did what was probably the worst thing that I could do, then, and forcibly arranged my face into a very solemn expression. If he doesn't say "arise" again, I'll be fine.

He went on, becoming more impassioned as he spoke. It's like the text is saying that they don't normally express these desires, but then these unexpected circumstances just...arise!

The laugh was there. I could feel it actually in my mouth. For a moment, I contemplated running from the room--but I wouldn't have made it. I looked at him, tragically, and managed to say, "I'm sorry," before bursting into laughter, laughter wild and uncontrolled, tears running down my cheeks. I covered my mouth, I looked down at the table, it didn't matter.

The class erupted, as you'd imagine.

Oh, my God, it felt so good.

*I'm acronyming these titles in the EXTREMELY unlikely event of a student's googling them + some other key words and finding this. Sorry for the obscurity, non-medievalists.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Annnnd not so much (the writing, that is).

School's back in session this week. Am I the only one who finds the post-spring-break re-entry hard?

Also we're hosting job candidates this week and next, so things are more hectic than usual. Mondays are my long days: I teach at 10 and then from 6-8:45, usually with a handful of meetings at odd hours in between. Today also included a teaching demo, a meet & greet with the candidate, and a candidate lunch. Whew.

There've been a lot of searches here lately, and one thing that I've become increasingly aware of is the following: When you're interviewing for a job at a small college like this one, where the faculty need to work together a lot, much of what the interview is for is to find out whether we like you. Like, as a person. Do we want to hang out? How will you be on a committee? Could I see having this person over for dinner, and enjoying myself?

This is not a profound point or anything--obviously "fit" has a lot to do with whether or not one gets along with the department on a personal level--but it's much more important than I would've thought coming in. I suspect that it's especially important at colleges like Field, where being a cutting-edge scholar is less important than being able to engage students successfully and contribute towards the College's ongoing development.

Again, not profound. But at the end of my 13-hour day (on campus by 8am; off campus by 9pm), it's all I've got. (And yes, I know that I say "important" three times in the last paragraph, but I'm not going to revise it or anything.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dare I say it? : I'm writing!

For the last two years, it seems like, I've had this research idea bobbling around in my head. I've written an article that's tangentially related to it--actually, the research idea came out of the early stages of the article--and, in September, I gave a conference paper that was intended to push me towards articulating SOMEthing of what I've been thinking about. (Basically, it's the use of a type of image in a type of medieval text; one of the problems has been that I've defined this image so broadly that, at times, I wondered whether I wasn't just making the whole thing up.)

I've also been reading, for the last two years, all sorts of books and articles that might be relevant. Some have been extremely helpful; some have just sent me back into doubt about the existence, relevance, and/or interest of these images.

I've tried, on several occasions, to write up a sort of prospectus or abstract of the "book project" that I claim will come out of this interest. I've even submitted an application for a course release that borrows from these various prospecti.

But the trouble is that I've been spinning. This happens when I just think and don't write: the idea doesn't go anywhere, maybe because I feel like I need to make sure that I don't forget it. Thus: more doubt, more torpor, more pointless thinking and, eventually, exhaustion. Before I'd even got started.

This week is Spring Break, however, and I had decided to start Writing An Article this week. It wasn't looking good over the weekend; in fact, I've spent much of the week getting ridiculously ahead in my courses (I've prepped through next week and read through the week after that, and I also sewed a curtain--which has nothing to do with my courses, but was an accomplishment, nonetheless). But I did sit down on Monday and start sketching in a bit.

I think that I've worked between 30-60 minutes every day this week (meaning Monday-Thursday). Some of that was patching in bits of a conference paper and two different abstracts; I've also copied and pasted notes on articles, revised sections of all of this material, written notes to myself, and pointed out half a dozen places in which I need to elaborate.

And I've got something like 6000 words (22 pages). What the hell? I've hardly even said anything yet. Yet if I were to actually elaborate on all of the "elaborate" notes, I'd have something like 60 pages of an unholy mess of stuff. Could it be that there's something there? As I write (mostly in a stream of consciousness, pre-writing sort of way; and I should perhaps note that I'm a very fast drafter), I'm having new ideas; things are coming together. I think that I've even managed to figure out why this one text counts as a text that uses the image I'm interested in, even though it actually doesn't. Hey! I think that I have a point.

Granted this draft--as you could doubtless gather from the preceding paragraph--sucks mightily, and is truly a disaster of composition. But it's a start, and I really, really needed a start. I like revising--I'm good at it--it's the drafting that's hard. Once the draft is there, I'll have something to work with, and I'll know, more or less, what I need to do.


(Of course, the odds of my getting anything of substance done on this project between March 21 and May whenever-graduation-is-this-year are very, very slim. But at least the summer will start off with a little less random flailing than usual, I hope!)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More News from My Transparent Psyche

I dreamt last night that my grad advisor had read the recent review of my book. She came to me, looking sorrowful.

"It was pretty good, right?" I said. "I mean, I know that she has some criticisms, but it was good on the whole."

"It was very...polite," she replied. "But if we had caught the errors that it points out in time, you never would have passed your defense."

I was devastated. I tried to rally myself to point out that the reviewer had really liked my chapter on ---, but the skepticism on Advisor's face checked me. And I woke up, wondering whether those little criticisms outweighed all the praise, and why in the world the reviewer would have contacted me if she didn't like the book.


Could I have a more literal dream-life??

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fan Mail

In the last few months, I've received some (slight) correspondence about my book. So far, this correspondence has come from the following places:
  • a prison
  • a Bulgarian monastery.
I am pleased to have appealed to such a diversity of audiences.


In other news, Spring Break is here, and I am trying to get all my homework done early in the week. The week after break promises to be absolute madness, what with: my regular evening seminar; campus interviews for a new departmental hire; a meeting to decide on candidates for a different search committee; a board meeting of the homeless shelter on whose board I serve as Vice President, our first with our new director; a big-deal public lecture delivered by TM; a faculty meeting that is destined to be of epic length--such things will take up Monday-Thursday. On Friday, the English faculty depart for a conference in City to the North with about 15 students, returning Saturday night. And the week afterward, the search committee that I'm actually on will be holding campus interviews. Thus, I am trying to prep all of my classes for next week, and read ahead for the week following, so that I will not simply DIE.

My plan, originally, was to start drafting an article this week. That would be nice. I might just need to not die of work. That might be the best of plans.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Aerial View

It would appear that I still have little to say.

(Actually, I could talk your ear off, but it doesn't mean that any of it's worth saying. Also I'm pretty tired. In blogospheric news, however, I did get to catch up a bit with both Dame Eleanor Hull and The Rebel L this weekend! RL and I even got to celebrate her first night out in living memory. Good times were had.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Cat Picture

Because I've got like nothing to say, evidently.

So there you are.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Apparently the Field College yearbook does these "superlative" awards for faculty and staff--who knew? They're mostly on things about sports team fan-hood and other stuff for which I wouldn't particularly want to be competitive, but they seem like a nice enough idea.

I know about this because I'm apparently a finalist for one of them--there's been a tie, so they're having a vote-off. I'm in the running for "Most likely to be a friend after graduation."

I surely do think that's sweet (though it must be said that my money is on the other contender.)

And you know, I don't think that my students' thinking of me as having friend potential undermines my authority. I am pretty much positive that my students respect me--and, if they don't, I don't know about it. My classes are difficult and my evaluations very good; many of my students work hard in my courses. I seldom get the sense that anyone is trying to pull one over on me; this is not to say that they never do, but I'm okay with letting the occasional con artist get away with something* if it means that, on the whole, there is trust between me and my students (as well as the peace of mind that comes with not looking for cons).

This is, by the way, a marked change from my first year or so here. I knew that a lot of my students liked me back then, but I knew that a lot didn't--and, more to the point, I felt highly embattled. I did have disrespectful students. They freaked me the hell out. And even when I didn't run into open hostility, I was highly alert to the possibility of disrespect. I think that a lot of this--and a great deal of my stress and unhappiness--came from being afraid of my students. That's a perfectly normal new-teacher feeling, I think, but it doesn't make for a sustainable career.

And now, you know, it's just a pleasure to walk around campus, especially because we're such a small school, and to have to pause every few seconds for a "Hi, Chelsea, how's it going?" or "Lou! Congratulations on the law school admission!" or "Hey, Veronica, you feeling better this week?"

It's nice. It's a community. And, in a weird way, it is precisely my position of relative power and authority (as a professor) that enables me to make all of these fond and dispassionate connections--to be friendly without judgment, as it were. I don't need to assess these people as peers; I merely need to be compassionate, and fair, and courteous, and somehow, that makes me love them.

*We're NOT talking plagiarism here--that's a different issue--and one that I do catch on occasion.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I'm not even on the market and looking at the job search wiki (for like a second--to see whether a job that a friend interviewed for has been filled [it hasn't]) made me feel terrible.


Friday, February 4, 2011

An Impossibility

Reading a review of one's own work.

I think I'll just let it sit on my desk for a couple of days.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Review

I'm filled with JOY this afternoon. And it's only partly because we're having at least 1.5 snow days (starting this afternoon and possibly lasting through Thursday--Wednesday is definitely off). This is the third actual blizzard I'll have witnessed this year--bringing my Grand Lifetime Total up to 4. Ironically, the blizzard is requiring the cancellation of a climate change denier's speech. Heh. Earth doesn't like him.

Anyway. The main reason for my JOY is an email that I've received from one of my Medievalist Heroes. Actually, she is probably my One True Medievalist Hero. Truly a fabulous and awesome scholar. I love her work--it's erudite, compelling, and an actual pleasure to read.

She emailed me because she's reviewing my book...and she likes it! In fact, she's sending me a couple of her own off-prints in the hopes that I'll find them interesting! (By the way, isn't that just a nice thing to do? I'll have to remember it for when I'm big & fancy.)

First of all, it's honestly thrilling for me to have anyone who's a medievalist (i.e. not my mom--whose first words about the book, by the way, were, "I don't mean to be critical, but there were a lot of typos," so maybe she's not the best counterpoint here) actually think that my work is legitimately good. But to have such a medievalist say so--well! I might just need to dance around the living room to "Come on Eileen." Too ra loo ra loo indeed!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Valentine's Convergence

I'm teaching a seminar on Monday nights this semester. The other day, I realized that this meant that I'll be teaching on the night of Valentine's Day. "Well, that's kind of too bad," I thought idly. I don't care deeply about Valentine's Day, but some students might care, a bit, and anyway, it could be an excuse for some candy. So I reflected further: "I should do something fun in class that day to commemorate it. But what?

"It should have something to do with what I'm teaching. Perhaps I'm teaching a love vision, or something. Hey, what am I teaching that night, anyway?" I asked myself.

I checked. And...lo! The Parliament of Fowls!

How weird is that, eh?

If you're not a medievalist, I'll tell you: The Parliament of Fowls contains the first known English reference to Valentine's Day. HOW WEIRD IS THAT????

Also, I consider that in itself to be sufficiently celebratory, which means that I'm off the hook for bringing candy. Sweet!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tired of being COLD

We're five days into the semester and it's going swimmingly. Quite swimmingly, in fact. Classes are good. I'm enjoying myself. There are interesting things going on at the college (we're hiring! three people!!). So that's all very nice.

But the heat in our office suite has been out for TWO WEEKS--the furnace is busted--and we're all using space heaters that blow fuses on a regular basis, which means that the chair and I need to take turns heating our offices. And unless I actually set my heater on my desk, the surface of my desk, the mouse, and the keyboard remain very chilly. This little feature of my workday, combined with the fact that TM and I never, ever heat our house above 64 degrees, means that my fingers and the tip of my nose (and sometimes my legs, shoulders, neck, arms, etc.) are NEVER WARM.

DUDE. I am TIRED of being COLD.

(Our furnace should be functional by the end of the day tomorrow. Here's hoping.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shop in Haste?

I just ordered a bunch of stuff from here. I didn't mean to order as much as I did. But every time I checked my shopping bag, something else was out of stock, so I finally hit "check-out" in a panic, and now I'm hoping that I don't live to regret the almost-$250 I just dropped (in my book, that's a lot to spend on clothes).

On the other hand, we bought our house in haste, and it is a delightful treasure! --And with that ever-so-natural segue, I shall finally (FINALLY) put up the rest of my house pictures, since I'm sure you've been dying to see them.

The kitchen:

(With skylights!)

The bedroom:

The basement (not terribly exciting, but it is mostly finished):

The wine cellar:

And...the bathroom. Admire! Admire! This sucker took me like a WEEK to paint.

Note the Gothic cathedral theme: gold stars on a dark blue ceiling, corners that are suggestive of a dome, a gargoyle, the candle-holder. Here's the power switch (I cut out God to make room for the switches):

And here are some little pictures I put up (I paid $0.60 for all four frames, and the images came from medieval conference CFPs and catalogues). What puzzles me is that people always tell us how cute our bathroom is; apparently they haven't noticed the bleeding Christ or the suicidal woman.

Funnily enough, we are daily tormented by a cardinal who is determined to fly through the window of the bathroom. As TM remarked, "It stands to reason that the cardinal would seek entry into the Gothic cathedral, no?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Year, New Feeling

Well, this is different.

My first year of teaching, I started every semester--nay, every day--quaking with dread. Okay, that's an exaggeration--but a really slight one, honestly. I feared teaching. I looked forward to its end. Sometimes, during class itself, I liked it all right...but I inwardly rejoiced at the end of every hour, every week, every semester.

That's no way to live a life, right? Just waiting for it to end?

As it happened--and as typically happens, and as I expected to happen--the dread and the fear diminished with time. In my second year, I noticed that I did not actively dread each class; I even seemed less sweaty. By last year (my third), there was little or no anxiety most of the time; I no longer feverishly reread my notes right up until class time, and I had figured out that just being, you know, a mostly-normal person in class, one who talks to students and pauses and makes jokes and whatnot, made teaching feel almost natural. This year, I'm feeling even more at my ease, and I like getting to know my students and interacting with them in class (for the most part).

Today was our first day back; I just had one class, at 9:30. I wasn't nervous (not consciously; my body does persist in having some first-day-nervous-symptoms, but I don't actually feel it in my brain, which is where it counts) (if that makes any sense) (okay, to give you an example, at one point I just kept dropping the caps of dry-erase markers on the floor, and I noticed that my hands had a little shake to them, which surprised me, because I didn't feel nervous. That's what I mean) (I also like completely lost my voice about 10 minutes in to class--which is something that I think happens in the first class of every semester, now that I think about it! I'm going to need to start carrying water on Day 1) (and I'm going to end this sentence now because it's way too long).

(Let's start again.)

I wasn't consciously nervous (how's that?), but neither was I, like, thrilled to be back in the swing of things. When people say that they're eager to get back intp the classroom, I don't really know what they're talking about--as much as I like my job, I would always rather be able to stay home and read some interesting books than to have to go someplace, and be prepared, and talk, you know? But today, about 20 minutes into the class, I realized that I was having fun.

And even when I first walked in, I said "Good morning!" with more real enthusiasm than I think I usually do. And I was happy to see the students whom I've had before.

And, as I was leaving class and a new class was filing in, several of the students in the new class waved and greeted me cheerily. One did pretty miserably in my class last year--but it was good to see her. I felt...happy.

So, um. This probably makes it sound like I'm normally a miserable wretch who hates teaching; such is not the case. Teaching is pretty fun. But, again, I'd always rather be on vacation. But today? For a little while? I was happy to be back in the classroom.

How freaking weird is that?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

THERE. That wasn't so hard, was it?

You know how, when you have one paper to grade, it's like the most difficult thing in the world?

Well. I've had a paper (fulfilling a well-deserved Incomplete) sitting on my desk since I got back from my holiday travels--that is, for 16 days--and I just couldn't bring myself to deal with it.

The worst [or best?] of it is, I knew that it was going to be an excellent paper. It was from my upper-division seminar, by an excellent student, and I'd seen a draft (which was quite good). There was no question; it was going to get an A.

But I dawdled.

And dawdled.

And, since classes don't begin until Tuesday, had very little incentive to grade it (other than to finally cross it off my list of things to do).

So, tonight, finally, I made myself do it--in part because I spent the early part of the evening clearing miscellaneous papers off of my desk (this is my home desk, mind) and it felt good, so I wanted to get this thing off, too.

And yes, it was an excellent paper. It got an A. And it took me all of 15 minutes. And it was an interesting paper that I actually enjoyed reading.

So what in the world is my problem, anyway?

I think that we need to resurrect this old picture:

--lest I forget who and what I am.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy new year!

We are home, home, home! It is exquisite.

We got back at around noon yesterday--after an all-day drive on Thursday, a little dinner party and an overnight in City to the North, and then a mere 2.5 hours of driving yesterday. It's good to be here--everything is exactly where it ought to be. Both TM's parents and my mother are, like us (or, especially, me) when it comes to housekeeping and home arrangement. TM's folks just have loads of stuff--stacks of magazines and books and papers, boxes and boxes of crackers or whatever--stashed around the house (not like hoarders, but like people who don't get rid of stuff--there's a difference, really), and my mom is an artist whose dense, dark, creepy little collages sort of expand out to fill the entire house. Her house is very interesting, but it's also a complete mess and drives me a bit crazy. We, on the other hand, are all about the open space and the findability of objects and light coming in through the windows and whatnot. I love our house.

New Year's Eve was a very quiet affair. We're both still recovering from the Most Enduring Colds Ever, and were also rather tired; thus, we spent the early afternoon having a Family Nap with the cats in the guest room (they're not allowed in the bedroom). In the evening, after dinner, we watched a couple of episodes of "The Office," ate chocolate cake, and were in bed before 11. Hurrah! I despise watching the ball drop (which we, being sans TV, couldn't really do anyway) and find New Year's generally overrated; since not a one of the parties that I've been to in Field Town has lasted past 10:15, I couldn't imagine that even a party would make it to midnight. Besides, there weren't any parties. So it was quite lovely to go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour, very rested, on New Year's day.

So today, I shall do the following, in an effort to a) get back on track with some stuff after the long trip and b) start the year off in a constructive fashion: 1) practice yoga at some point, and 2) work on an article proposal. Perhaps I shall also knit. And I need to walk down to the office to pick up an article. Oh, and I need to make granola.

Resolutions? I have two. One is to get my yoga practice in order. I subscribe to this online thing where I get streaming yoga videos for a very reasonable price, and I need to just do one of them every couple of days. That's all. The second resolution actually comes out of that reverb10 thing where people had to come up with a word that they wanted to define 2011. It made me think about how quick we are to think about resolutions in terms of improving our own lives--but maybe it'd be good (at least for me) to think outside of my own comfort? So the word/resolution that I thought of was "Kindness." I'm going to try to be kinder, just in general. Not that I'm horrible as-is, but I can be selfish, and impatient, and surely my comments on students' papers could be less sarcastic now and again. Thus, resolution no. 2.

I shall conclude this post with pictures of the guest room, which is where we napped yesterday. Enjoy!