scattered thoughts

I have got to get my sleep schedule back on track.  Then again, I’m not sure it was ever ON track, which does complicate matters.  I’m a night owl, always have been.  Staying up is rarely a problem for me; I usually catch a second wind around 10pm; I’m more alert after the sun goes down than I am in the afternoon.  I’m getting a little better with mornings – my usual wake time is somewhere between 9-10am these days – which is great, except that I’m not getting to bed until 3am-ish.  I’m wide awake!  I’m tired – very, very tired – but awake, so I wouldn’t fall asleep even if I did go to bed at a decent hour.

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You know what’s not cool?  Realizing that you assigned a book about a young man coming to terms with his mother’s approaching death the same semester you have a young man coming to terms with his mother’s death.  That hit me in class today – a sort of “Oh, shit” moment.  I won’t change it, of course – as I tell my students constantly, literature deals with difficult topics and we do our students a disservice when we steer away from them – but I can hate that the planets aligned in such an awful way.

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I made an actual dinner tonight: cauliflower cheddar soup.  Think potato soup with cauliflower.  Not bad, actually, and a slight step in my efforts to eat a little healthier these days.

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I should have been grading papers tonight; I have many of them staring at me from the dining room table.  I just didn’t have the mental energy.

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I have a policy that students have to be in class to submit their assignments – none of this “I can’t come to class but I’ve emailed my paper to you” stuff.  It’s one thing if a real emergency arises, of course, but I find that students manage to rise to the occasion when they realize I do mean what I say.  Today’s example: a student emailed to say the plague had descended and class attendance wasn’t possible; a major paper was due in class today; I reminded student of the policy in the syllabus; student arrived, with paper, looking quite healthy.  Bless ‘em.

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Maybe I need someone holding my feet to the fire; it seems to work for my students.  My grad student is sending chapters of his dissertation every Sunday.  We’re on a strict schedule because of his quickly approaching defense and upcoming employment.  He sent the “there’s no way I can make the deadline to send you my chapter because it’s not ready and I’m totally freaking out but it’s just too much for me to write and I need to send it tomorrow” email this weekend.  I feel for him – I do – we all remember that feeling.  Still, the deadlines don’t get easier and the dissertation has to get written; he can’t fall behind and make his defense.  So, I played the hard ass and he made his deadline with an hour to spare.  Look at that!

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What in the world will ever convince me to start going to the gym?  I know I need to exercise.  I even want to, in the sense of wanting to keep off the weight and improve my health.  But I hate it.  Hate. It.  I hate figuring out when to go, taking multiple showers in one day, feeling like I’m wasting time that I could use elsewhere, sweating.  It’s all just not appealing.  Except the whole not dropping dead thing.  You’d think that would be an incentive, wouldn’t you?

a decided twinge of mania

One of my graduate students suggested the title of my biography last night: A Decided Twinge of Mania: The PhD Me Story.  (Don’t worry, it was taken from a comment I made, not an unsolicited evaluation of my mental state.)  I laughed very loudly.

Life is good at the moment: not great but good.  I’m enjoying my classes this semester; I’m making very slow progress on research and writing tasks – but it is progress; I’m tackling service commitments with a fair degree of efficiency.  I’m doing my best to fit in down time every day, whether reading a couple of chapters (even if it is to pick texts for next semester) or watching something enjoyable on tv; tonight, I even sat down and played the piano for half an hour.  I’m going out with friends, even if I have to be the driving force behind the going out, so we have some communal down time.  I can deal with my single-hood with equanimity these days; it isn’t ideal but life rarely is so why focus on what I don’t have.

But life is also busy.  Very, very busy.  When I get to campus, I feel like I hit the ground running and don’t stop until I leave for the day.  One of my students said today she knew I was coming down the hall because of my fast footsteps (I also wear heels on teaching days, so I’m rather loud).  I do walk fast, because there are places to get to and things to do when I get there – and if I’m lucky, I can fit in a trip to the bathroom along the way. I’m less frantic at home – and I wear socks – but I’m still busy.  I might take an hour or two to watch a show or wash the dishes but I’m back to the computer after that to try to keep up with everything that needs my attention.

A student came to office hours today to talk about graduate school; she’s considering different avenues and gathering information.  Amongst the many things I shared, one hit me as the most true as it left my mouth: A PhD doesn’t prepare you for the job, it prepares you to think.  I try very hard to give students some insight into life as a professor when they ask about grad school; it isn’t strolling around an ivy-covered campus thinking deep thoughts, that’s for sure.  You grasp (some of) the skills you need to function as an academic, of course, but grad school doesn’t teach you what the job “academic” actually is.  It’s running full-tilt, it’s juggling, it’s balancing, it’s meeting deadlines, it’s grading papers, it’s dealing with rejection.  I wish I had time for some deep thoughts.

after the fun

Ugh.

I got back very late last night, and – of course – I was too keyed up to go straight to bed so it was a very late night, followed by a late morning, followed by a squirrely day.

I had a very nice time visiting my niece, though.  It was a little strange to spend time with her as an adult.  That may seem like a stupid comment – she’s clearly been growing older over the last 26 years – but this is the first time I’ve traveled expressly to spend time with grown-up her.  She’s lived close to my parents (and hers) for most of her life, so seeing her was part of the whole “going home” routine.  Now, I have to go in the opposite direction and it’s just the two of us (plus her boyfriend) when I get there.  It’s fun to think that I have a new destination when I want to run away, though!

We didn’t do anything particularly exciting.  There was a lot of eating (wow, can young people put away a lot of food without consequence) and walking around scenic areas.  We visited some location-specific places, including a very tasty candy factory.  We did some shopping, too, which is sort of our thing.  I consider Oldest Niece my personal fashion consultant, which isn’t to say I agree with everything she tries to get me in, but I do appreciate her eye, especially when it comes to make-up.  That girl knows her beauty products!

Today was me trying to catch up on some of the tasks and emails I ignored while I was gone.  I meant it when I said I wasn’t working over break.  I took care of a few things that were absolutely essential; otherwise, I let the out-of-office message confirm that I wasn’t paying any attention.  I managed to get my head above water this afternoon, which will hold me for the rest of the week, but I shall be very grateful for the weekend.

on the plane

I’m sitting on a plane at the moment, feeling exceptionally grateful that I booked the ticket to visit my niece long ago. It would be too easy to claim too much work to leave on a purely fun trip. And I’m planning to enjoy myself for the next four days, which means no working.

My fun has already started with my two seatmates: a brother and sister, probably nine and seven. They’re pretty funny and I’m fairly certain everyone thinks they’re mine.

why, yes, it is a bit much

I had a marathon meeting with my grad student yesterday. He graduates in December and there’s a dissertation in the way so he’s writing full out and I’m trying to keep up. In the course of our conversation, he commented on how I am crazy busy this semester. I scoffed – I’m always busy, every academic is – and said it was just normal workload.

It is not normal workload.

I got over 70 emails today. 70. I was full tilt as soon as I stepped on campus: meeting at 10:00, finish early and arrive late to another 10:00 meeting, make it back to office in time for 11:30 meeting with student which requires a degree of sternness, teach at noon, meet with student after class, meet with department head at 2:00, meet with student at 2:30, teach at 3:00, meet with student after class.

Dinner with friends at 5:30 since none of us had made it to lunch.

Get home around 7:00, change into comfy clothes, head to computer. For the next four hours, review proposals for professional organization, respond to 25+ emails, send 10 new emails, buy ticket to next month’s conference, finish budget work for study abroad, schedule new committee meeting.

It’s not that I’m crazy busy, I’m just crazy.

random weekend thoughts

I bought a pair of size 10 jeans today.  I realize that numbers don’t mean anything and it’s superficial to focus on sizes; I don’t care.  I’ve dropped two sizes since this summer, and I’m proud of it.  Now I just have to work on keeping it off.

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I spent Saturday on a field trip with my students.  Yes, there are field trips in college, much to (some of) my students’ chagrin.  I’m trying to employ a few more of my study abroad learning experiences while stateside, like getting students out of the classroom to expand on concepts we’re learning.  It’s much easier to do that while in London but I’m pleased with my efforts here.

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Because I promised some students that I would, I saw Gone Girl today.  Even though I recognize the appeal, I didn’t enjoy the book; the movie was better, in that the book was basically a screenplay so might as well have at it, and the embodiment of the characters provided a little relief from their sheer despicableness.  The whole storyline is just deeply disturbing, perhaps because I can recognize the kernel of reality in the awfulness.

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I’ve been having awful leg cramps the last month or so.  They aren’t regular and they aren’t connected to anything, that I can tell, but they are painful.  I’ve even woken up during the night to scream a few times, they were that bad. My legs were twitching tonight, as I was watching my favorite show (The Good Wife, in case you wondered), like little tremors.  It’s the weirdest thing.

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It’s going to be a busy week, mostly because it’s short week.  I have lots to squeeze in before I leave Thursday to visit my oldest niece in her new home.  I’m focusing on how fun that will be versus how much I need to do so I don’t choke when I return from my visit.