my tuesday

At one point today, I had my office phone to my right ear and my cell phone to my left ear while talking with a graduate student and responding to an email.

Yes, it was that kind of day.

day of me

I have been just slightly off this week.  I had to drag myself out of bed every day; I couldn’t focus on my work; I was slightly irritable with my friends.  It wasn’t a very productive week, in any sense of the word.  Nothing’s wrong, to my knowledge; I think it was just one of those weeks.

So, I didn’t even try to work today.  I should have – trust me, I should have – and I did consider it.  But it was a gorgeous day; I finally woke up not feeling like I’d been hit by a truck; I had a few things I needed to do out of the house.  So, I spent the day away: from my house, from my computer, from papers to grade, from papers to write, from emails to send, from books to order, from classes to plan, from it all.

It was lovely.

I started at the local farmer’s market, the last of the year, unfortunately.  I loaded up on carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, beets, onions, leeks – I’m declaring this week Vegetable Week in my house.  Then I met some girlfriends for brunch; we had a nice time and I fueled up on pancakes.

My next stop was a new car lot.  I have decided – drum roll, please – that it’s finally time to get a new car.  As Cool Friend said when I texted her this afternoon: Who are you and what are you doing with my friend’s phone?  I love my 15-year-old automobile and I’m not keen on a car payment but the little vehicle is starting to show and feel its age, especially on those long rides to visit the family.  I came to this conclusion over the summer; much like the new garage door, I decided I’d rather look at cars before I absolutely need to; it’s just taken me this long to make myself do it.  Car salesmen: shudder.

The good news is that I pretty much know what I want, so my goal today was to drive a few and get some idea of price.  The first salesman was pretty low-key – perhaps a little too low-key, actually; he didn’t do much actual selling.  I said I wanted to drive X; he got the key; we drove around; I asked a few questions and we were done. (I don’t want the beat-you-over-the-head sales pitch but you should probably make the effort to convince me to buy your car: just saying.)  Still, I liked the car, I enjoyed driving it and it’s in my price range.

The second salesman – who was a lovely young woman rather than a seemingly tired older man – was much better in the selling department; she went over the entire car, pointed out every feature, asked me lots of questions.  We drove around in one; we drove around in another one; she got some numbers for me – and tried really, really hard to sell me a car.  I didn’t mind – it is her job and she wasn’t obnoxious – especially since I knew I wasn’t budging.  My best line of the day came when they came back with my credit score (and they were visibly impressed): “I have excellent credit because I follow my father’s advice to go home and sleep on it before I spend my money, so really, I’m not buying a car today.”  She conceded after that one.

When I finally make up my mind to do something, I’ll do it, so I am buying a car this week, barring unforeseeable circumstances.  I’m pretty sure I’m going with the latter.  It’s the new version of what I’m driving, so I’m already sold on the quality of the car; it looks nice; it handles well; it’s in my price range.  I might go back and look at the first one again, since comparison is always a good idea.  Besides, I know a few things about sales: they need to move inventory at the end of the month and if I have another option, they’ll try harder to sell me theirs.  I know the strategy of leaving me at the desk to stew while they go off to get information, too; I got a diet Coke from the machine, pulled out my phone and made myself comfortable.  Maybe I’ll bring a book next time… The clincher, really, is that I called Little Brother for his opinion; he’s a mechanic and I trust what him when he says that either is fine but he likes the latter better.

So, amidst all that, I got a haircut.  I’m so happy with my hair!!  I’m still growing out the perm I got a year ago (seriously) so bad hair days are a regular occurrence these days.  Probably more to the point, I was ready for something different; I wanted a style, not just a haircut.  My stylist came through: a blunt bob with layers and long bangs.  So much better!

After all the cars, I did some shopping to flesh out my limited wardrobe.  My new goal is to only buy things that I truly like.  None of this “It’s okay” or “It’ll do” anymore; I want clothes that fit, that suit my style (whatever that is), that I enjoy wearing.  I really would have enjoyed the leather jacket I found but I decided to be sensible on that one; instead, I got a short-sleeved black-and-white sweater, an all-purpose black henley, a pair of green jeans and a pair of black wool trousers.  And these four-inch blue suede heels for $50.  Yes, they are as awesome as you think – and surprisingly comfortable (for heels) – and yes, I will wear these to teach.

So, it was a pretty full day and I had a lovely time with my own company.  I came home with some nice, new things; I didn’t buy any junk food when I picked up a few things at Red Dot Mecca; I have a new car in my sights.  That should set me up nicely to be productive tomorrow (she says optimistically).

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.