the grid

the grid

Sunday 24 November 2019

Northern Autumn/Southern Spring Week 11

Hi everyone!  I didn't check in last week for family reasons - my sister and I organised a weekend away for the whole family to celebrate our parents' 60th wedding anniversary.  The important bits - that our parents enjoyed themselves, that everyone had food they could eat, that there were no rows, that the "grand-dog" didn't eat people food, break anything or spontaneously combust from the excitement of a new place and lots of petting hands - all went off fine, which is what really matters!  The rest of last week was a mess - I had a migraine, a late report, a talk to write, an important research related meeting to attend away from campus one day, my car broke down (on the way BACK from the meeting, at least) and needed to be towed and repaired, my work computer broke down (and is not fixed.  Which slowed me down SO MUCH), and Christmas Is Coming regardless of whether I've done anything for it or not.  And don't even mention grading - which thanks to our fancy VLE and my town's not great internet I can't easily do from home any more, and can't do at the office right now thanks to the dead computer, and also the brain computer Does Not Want To.

Naturally I prioritised working on my NaNoWriMo effort, naturally, and have now hit 50k words... bad, messy, zero draft words for the most part, but actual words in a Scrivener document, and I think I've finally solved the "this timeline doesn't quite work" problem at the heart of the novel sequence I mostly work on, so maybe it will FINALLY come together into a first draft (with a lot of moving around of words).

At this point of the year, both academic and calendar, things are reaching a crunch point.  It's time for triage, and some brutal actions - throwing things we said we'd do by the end of semester or by the end of the year overboard, sending those postponment emails, admitting that our to do lists are just too full.  It's also a time when we get a barrage of positive messages - for North Americans, thanksgiving really emphasises that, but for all of us whether we celebrate or not the run up to Christmas is a time of light in the darkness, kindness to stranger and friend, and doing nice things for people we like, love or rely on - so for this week's topic, how about some advice on how to be kind to ourselves too?  How do we frame the necessary triage as realistic, professional and smart?  What gifts do we want to give ourselves this year? (I'd like to give JaneB some guilt-free permission slips for missing deadlines, some extra naps, and a teflon shield for her email to deflect the toxic academic-blaming messages of the central administration.  And some grading-elf-lures).  Which little pieces of the seasonal ritual do we genuinely enjoy, benefit from and intend to prioritise in the coming weeks? (For me, that's having a ring of advent candles, and taking a few minutes to sit in the dark then light them for a few minutes each evening.  It's meditative, it's symbolic... and it may not be very practical with an idiot floofy cat who loves to waft his tail over whatever I'm focusing on that isn't him, but I intend to try).

Goals from last week:
Dame Eleanor Hull
*draft abstract, send to writing group; two more hours on R&R;
*write one quiz, grade it plus a one-sentence assignment;
*daily exercise and stretching (x6);
*keep up with dead languages;
*pay bills; book flight to see my dad.

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell
Start to tie up loose ends, and decide which ones can stay untied in the old job.
Look at five of the suggestions for the special issue.
Finish packing the cubicle.
Look at the second interlibrary loan book.
Plan what I need in the new office space.
Edit Prudence 30 minutes a day.
Find out the brass tacks of the new building--refrigerator? Lounge?
Begin the attack on the yarn stash.

Heu Mihi
1. Survive the following: Tonight's speaker, whom I'm hosting; Husband's 50th birthday party tomorrow; guest author in class on Wednesday; giant birthday party for Husband on Friday. Take care of everything that needs taking care of. Don't freak out about the house being small and full of people and getting messy. DON'T.
2. Language x 3
3. Read 2 chapters/essays on research topic

1 Submit DQ, for real.
2 Write next book review
3 Submit old Perform abstract for new publication
4 Grade like a madwoman

JaneB (from previous week) 
1) maintain habits (8 items)
2) research - flat project, do SOMETHING. MAYBE
3a) External examining - read a large, large pile of final projects and prepare for a trip to Crowded Capital on the 20th... this has to all be done by the 15th because of family stuff...
3b) prep everything for next week.
3c) Sit down and look seriously at what is to come, and possibly throw self on the mercy of timetabling to ask for a change of some sort, or the mercy of my colleagues, or just... I dunno, cut something. I just. Can't.
4) NaNo. Discuss family stuff with sister, try to finalise the plan for parents wedding anniversary weekend.

OceanGirl101 (from previous week)
1. grade midterm, input all grades etc.
2. prep classes
3. two article reviews
4. read student diss chapter
5. bills
6. exercise x 2

1. Make committees
2. Get all the assignment prompts and related material for both Course A and Course B
3. Finish grading papers for B
4. Do stuff for committee I chair
5. Start reading student dissertation
6. Read 3 journals
7. Walk
8. Sleep
9. Keep knitting in meetings. I started a scarf at the conference, and have decided it's good for me!


  1. Congratulations to JaneB's parents, and commiseration on the busted computer and other hassles.

    I have an e-mail from myself to myself pinned to the top of my Outlook (work e-mail) list: "I'm the only one who spends much time thinking about myself, so I should think kindly." I've forgotten where I got that line, but it is a useful reminder.

    How I did:
    *draft abstract, send to writing group; two more hours on R&R; YES to abstract, NO to R&R.
    *write one quiz, grade it plus a one-sentence assignment; YES both.
    *daily exercise and stretching (x6); YES.
    *keep up with dead languages; YES.
    *pay bills; book flight to see my dad. YES both.

    Wow, a good week. It felt very harried. It was nice not to have long things to grade, and good that I didn't dither over the trip but just booked it, and I'm glad I got some good research time.

    1. The gift I really want to give myself is regular research time. I used to have it, but often at the expense of keeping up with teaching prep/grading, which was stressful. This year, I'm keeping up beautifully with teaching (and that is worthwhile, because I don't feel guilty about Not Grading, so it's easier to get it done promptly), but research is going in fits and starts. Mostly fits. I want to be able to balance both!

      This week, except for being on campus Monday, I have off for the Thanksgiving holiday. Like Linda, I'm grateful for this community, which is so helpful. Since this is already Wednesday, I'm not sure how realistic the following goals are, but we're not doing full-bore Thanksgiving stuff, so let's just see what happens:

      New goals:
      *submit abstract; 4 hours on R&R.
      *grade 1 complete set of papers, start 2nd set.
      *daily exercise and stretching.
      *work on dead languages.
      *sort/file/toss papers; tidy my study.
      *enjoy 2 social engagements.

    2. I love the quotation in the email pinned in Outlook. The Philosopher often tells me that there are always people willing to make one feel worse about oneself, so we should counter that with kindness to ourselves.

      Great job on getting the trip booked. I find it hard to "just do it" as the megacompany says, but the feeling of accomplishment is quite nice.

      Finding the grading/research balance is so very tricky. I did seven years of courses that were all mine--topics, grading, the whole ball of wax. I found it very hard to balance with the classes I was taking and thesis-writing, so I have a glimmer of understanding, and a lot of sympathy.

      I also want the gift of research time. Part of my new position is to write up lots of small things, from brochures for exhibits to introductions to catalogs of a collection; I hope (and expect, really) that I will have time to throw at my own work as well.

      I agree wholeheartedly with you and Linda about this community. Despite being spread across the globe (or this term across the pond and contiguous 48 states), the camaraderie is wonderfully supportive.

  2. First, thanks to all of you for being here, and coming back. I am ever grateful. My first thoughts about gifting myself were things like courage or determination to get my writing done. But in the end, I want to unlock this problem I’ve had for too long, because there was a time when I wrote abundantly and met deadlines routinely. I would like that back, or something similar.

    Last week:
    1 Submit DQ, for real: Not yet.
    2 Write next book review: Finished book but not review.
    3 Submit old Perform abstract for new publication: Uncertain about the political stance of this new publication so I decided to return to the original plan of submitting to a journal in my own discipline that I know well. Will schedule for 2020.
    4 Grade like a madwoman: Some.

    This week:
    1 Submit DQ, for real, for real
    2 Write next book review
    3 Try to finish 1 December article
    4 Submit KR abstract

    1. I share your gratitude, Linda, and gladly join in thanking all the members of this group for sharing their time and support.

      Your comment about being able in the past to meet deadlines and write abundantly is intriguing. Perhaps you can dig around to see what and when things changed to make writing and meeting deadlines difficult. I have had external forces (changes in the emphasis on research at the department/college/institutional level) and personal (being depressed, harried, or having to work on something that doesn't truly appeal). Some of the barriers are easier to address, in the sense of being under your control, and others harder, in having to fit one's interests in the interstices of institutional goals.

      I can guarantee that you are not alone in this problem, if that helps at all.

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