Sunday, December 31, 2017

Macabre musings on New Year's Eve

Ever since becoming a grown-up--by which I mean, since turning 35; or, more acutely, since turning 40; and, even more acutely, since the despair induced by the 2016 elections--I've been pretty un-keen on the turning of the year. The passing of time. The reminders of age, transience, and mortality. I look at my hilarious brilliant five-and-a-half-year-old son, and I can't bear to think of him growing too old, too soon, you know? And--more to the point--I can't bear to think of myself grown old-old, the world failing through the travails of global climate change, und so weiter und so weiter etc.


I mean, yes, death. Not much fun to contemplate. In the end I do think that it's the work of life to come to terms with death, something that seems more urgent yearly, if not daily. This is the call, for me, to practice, to meditate, to deepen. I don't do it much; certainly not enough. Every year, it's a resolution. Every year, it fails. Will this one succeed?

Because otherwise, the passage of time yields little to fear--at least, if experience is the measure. I'm really happy with where my life is. I have a lovely little family. I love my job, and it looks like I might secure tenure this year (so far, so good). I love where I live. I have a wonderful yoga studio that's also a kind of spiritual sanctuary for me. (And there's church, of course, where my husband pastors, which makes it a little bit unusual and peculiar, but that's generally good, too.) I'm increasingly physically fit (although my weight has gone up! Wtf? Vowing not to worry about this, too. Muscle mass, I tell myself). My son is thriving, and more astonishing by the day.

So the years have been kind, very kind. And really, I wouldn't go back in time, certainly not to the fun-but-also-weirdly-horrible 20s, or the better-but-professionally-frustrating 30s. And the political situation? It has the feel of something that must be confronted, and pushed through. May we come out stronger in the end.

Death is its own thing. I'm working on it.

Happy new year, everyone.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I Love Gracious Writers

So this is pretty fantastic:

Yesterday afternoon, I was preparing to teach the first day of a new book in my big lecture class (we started it today). And so I popped over to the author's website. It says that she lives in this particular half of my state.

Huh, I thought. I wonder if she's nearby?

A White Pages search revealed that yes, she is very nearby! Like a 15-minute drive away!

So I wrote her an email, which I had to revise about 35 times to make it sound sufficiently respectful and not pushy; I wound up with something like, "I would love to invite you to speak to my class next year, when I teach the book again. (I realize that it's probably far too late to invite you for this year, but, if you're free in the next week and a half, we would love to have you.)"

Yes, I went for the cowardly parenthetical. I almost added another parenthetical explaining and apologizing for the first parenthetical, but I stopped myself. Thankfully. Hyper-self-conscious meta-writing is sorta my thing, but sometimes it just isn't appropriate.

And she wrote back! And asked for dates and times!

And now she's coming to my class next Wednesday!

How cool is that? Bonus cool: That's one less day I have to prep! Plus my TA is lecturing on Monday! So basically I'm done lecturing for the semester, a whole week early!!

Monday, November 20, 2017

I Have Become Obsessed with NaNoWriMo

And that's pretty much all that I've been doing this month.

The end.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Music for the ages

I first saw this on Flavia's blog, back when we were all writing rather more regularly. It's absolutely necessary today, as Reformation Sunday and the 500th anniversary of the theses is upon us. Actually, no, it's just necessary because it's so outrageously well done; no occasion necessary.

I got 95 theses and the pope ain't one

Saturday, October 28, 2017

"It's not even fair"

--The words of my five-year-old upon the cancellation of this morning's playdate, which was to afford me and TM both 3 hours of uninterrupted work time.

Sure isn't. But the sitter is sick; no one is culpable. We'll go to a playground with his friend, maybe. But ohhh, what a boon those three hours would have been. Two blog posts down--in February--I complained about a dissertation that I was reading. Well, the final draft is in, and it's almost 300 pages long--mostly single-spaced, at that. I started it yesterday, and it's not bad in substance so far, but it's going to take me an absurdly long time to get through it, and...I don't wanna.

So...maybe I'm not so sorry about losing the time, after all?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Working from bed today

It's been a long first half of the semester. No real problems, or anything, but I'm teaching an extra one-credit course and I'm on way too many committees, most of which have long meetings on Friday afternoons or during my lunch break on Mondays, and I've been pushing myself hard on all fronts.

Or I was, until a few weeks ago, I guess. I submitted both my second book manuscript and my tenure file on the same day in early October--not a coincidence, as I wanted to say in my tenure materials that the book was under review. Up until that point, I was a highly organized and efficient machine, working steadily on the manuscript (and the tenure stuff as needed) and getting everything else done in the margins of that. Successfully, I might add. And I was running three times a week, plus yoga twice a week, and the house stuff.

Since the submission of those materials, I've been at a bit of a loose end. More than a bit. My work seems like a series of small, uninteresting tasks: grade these, answer this, write up that, read this. There's no sense of a coherent, driving project underneath it all. I have an article that I'm working on in the mot desultory way imaginable, and I can't really put pressure on myself to move that forward any faster, all things considered.

So I decided to do NaNoWriMo, just to have a Project. Kind of a silly reason, but I've had a half an idea for a novel for a while now, and why not? Whenever I've written long-form fiction (twice in my life, really), I've done it in big binges: a 200k novel in 6 months, a 90k novel in 56 days when I was on the job market for the first time. I don't know how much I'll actually get done--and I've allowed myself to start a few days early, because I'm sure that I won't write every day--but what the hell, after all. It's not like I need to write something for tenure right now.

Oh, and the title of the post: I'm home sick today. I'm not sure whether I'm sick, but I very likely am, or getting there; anyway I sure don't feel well, and I've been sleeping just terribly for a lot of reasons, so this is a day that's been long in the making, and I need it. Also, my TA will cover my discussion section (I'll grade some of his papers in return). Luxury indeed.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sometimes one must complain

This is one of those times.

Trivial aggravation: I'm reading this dissertation and it's not really bad, exactly--in fact, the student knows a tremendous amount and is impressively erudite--but it's just driving me crazy, because none of the 80-page chapters seem to have a central argument and the writing is frankly rather purple and why do all the critics have to be praised as "erudite" or "insightful" when they're introduced? and there are all manner of unsubstantiated claims being made--claims that plausibly could be substantiated, but they're not, so I need to keep commenting, and the commenting slows me down in doing a task that is already just boring because, again, I don't know what the central argument is.

A thesis is just so damn important.

And then you need to stay on topic, too. There's that.

This student is quite lovely in all other ways, and is not particularly interested in a research career, so the thing doesn't have to be publishable. It'll be defendable, in the end, with revision.

And s/he's done his/her research. And knows like six languages, so that's cool.

But OH MY GOD I have 48 pages to go and it's

/end rant of the privileged.

(This is my Saturday night.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

And then of course there's politics

Other than this morning's rather chipper remarks about my upcoming semester, I haven't posted since well before the election.

And then the election happened, and I couldn't bear to write for a while.

And then it seemed like there was too much to say.

So I'm not just ignoring it, although it looks that way here. I marched on Saturday. I've sent postcards. I may volunteer for the statewide women's political caucus (ideally after July...). I've donated or pledged more money this year than I've ever given before, and I have plans for more. (Next up: donating to a domestic violence shelter in "honor" of Super Bowl Sunday.)

But I think that this could be a very good time for my scholarship, because it has come to feel like a refuge from the political world. When the news overwhelms me, I open a chapter draft and dive in.

Lemons, lemonade (she said somewhat cynically).

And may the revolution bring us all some giant bubble fun.

How the Semester is Shaping Up

Quick comparison:

  • Last semester, I had 111 students in one class (I was responsible for grading the work of 24 of them) and 14 in the other.
  • This semester, I have 5 students in my grad class--two of whom are auditing, and therefore not writing papers--and 4 in my undergrad class.
  • Last semester, I had complicated assignments: required journals in the smaller class, optional journals + a lot of papers + exams in the bigger class.
  • This semester, the pendulum has swung the other way and I have very simple assignment structures.
  • Thus whereas last semester I graded more than 600 journal entries, 150 papers, and 36 exams, this semester I will grade a total--a TOTAL--of 14 papers.
  • Last semester, I gave a talk in March and a paper at Kalamazoo (in May)
  • This semester, I am serving as a respondent at a conference in March, then presenting papers at Kalamazoo (May), Berks (June), another conference (June), and ACLA (July).
  • Oh, and it's the last semester before I go up for tenure, so I'm pushing hard to get my book in near-submittable shape.
Somehow I think that this semester is going to be busier than last.

Still, I'm pretty psyched about the grading thing.