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Sunday, 3 May 2020

Summer session Week Zero…


This session of TLQ (hosted by Daisy and Susan) will run for most of the summer, I’m thinking 15 or 16 weeks to get us to early/mid-August. This is going to be the Week Zero post, with no particular goals posted quite yet. I would like to leave the official goal-setting post until next week because we’ve all had a rough month or two or fifty (April was really, really long in my neck of the woods…). This week will be introductions and if you feel like it, some thinking out loud about goals, because we are facing a fairly uncertain summer, and I think we can use a bit of non-pressured time to think about goals. So, let’s think about what we really want to do, what we are capable of doing with current constraints (mental, physical, organizational etc.), and what we need to do in order to make things work for us right now.

The text below owes a debt to those who have been good enough to host here previously...
The format will be the same as ever. We will set goals (next week) for the whole session and then for each week. It's really easy to get carried away setting goals so I encourage you all to be optimistically realistic without creating a new source of pressure to perform! Goals can be in any aspect of life although the key focus is often writing tasks that are personally (and professionally) important but that never quite tip over into important AND urgent. Urgent things sometimes find their way in here too, that is completely ok too. Each week there will be a discussion topic, suggestions for those are very welcome. We’ll remind everyone of their big session goals about midway through the session, I for one always find those quite a surprise when they pop up…
Anyone new or old is welcome to join. And finally, don't worry if you miss a few check-ins. Life happens. Oh, do we know that… And as always, this is a supportive, generous space with no intimidation factor so enjoy it!

So for this week:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your main focus at the moment? And where are you based? You are welcome to be vague and mysterious in the interest of maintaining anonymity while still introducing yourself to the group.
2. Think and speculate and dream (out loud if you want!) about goals for this session, but sit with them for a week or so and we’ll officially post them next week. Feel free to throw out a whole bunch now and pick from those next week. Maybe warm up with a few small things you want to do this week to get ready for bigger goals, or things you want to clear out of the way to make room for those.
3. For discussion, I’d love to hear what things have been good for you over the last 2 months of chaos? Is there anything positive you want to take from all the changes and carry forward even when/if things go back to “normal” (which really is just a dryer setting most of the time…)? What has worked well for you to keep you going during all the disruptions?

Something JaneB said in the intersession comments struck me – she mentioned that since we always interact here online it is actually a “normal” space, and that’s very true since this space operated exactly as it does in regular times… I think that made me appreciate it all that much more while everything else was changing day by day… So, thanks to everyone!

45 comments:

  1. I like the idea of coming up with a lot of goals now and narrowing them down next week. Thanks, Daisy!

    What has been really good in the past months is exercising outside every day, sometimes twice. A long walk in the morning and another in the late afternoon do a lot for me. I hope the weather continues to make this possible. I don't feel I'm getting much done but it works well to focus on a limited number of things, like pick "three things" for a day, or some days even just one thing, and if that/those get done, then it's a good day.

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  2. Hi, I'm Susan, co-hosting with Daisy through the summer.

    I'm a senior faculty member in the humanities at a newish (15 years old now) public research university in the US. Like Heu Mihi, Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, and Dame Eleanor, I study a place long ago and far away (though not quite as long ago). Normally I live a somewhat trans-Atlantic life, as I have both research and family in the UK. Like many of us, I have a complicated relationship to my institution (things I love, things I hate) and am trying to focus on the nice ones right now and not get annoyed by the stupid. Otherwise, I'm a widow, I live alone with two cats in a small and poor rural town. My mother who is 89 lives in an assisted living facility in town, but I worry about her a lot, and if there's a medical emergency... I am lucky to get on well with my two siblings, one of whom lives in the same state (but far away) and the other of whom lives in Paris, so VERY far away.

    What's helped me a lot over the past few months has been two things: regular walking (I've done at least 10,000 steps I think 18 of the last 20 days) -- now in the morning, before the heat. Also, all the connection with friends near and far. As one said today, she'd been in touch more with friends around the world than she was in regular life. I have one group of friends that does a weekly zoom happy hour, and various other friends who I've been semi-regularly touching base with. We've even had Mom on zoom for family chats on Sunday mornings. I have one or two friends with whom I've started to think about an extended household --all pretty well isolated and living alone. We have had dinner together twice, and it's really nice to be in the presence of another human, not just on zoom.

    I'm going to have really simple goals for the session, because I think right now simple is better. Broadly they are:
    1. I'm writing a book on a Famous Author. I'm sort of stalled now, but getting my head into it more so I think I see my way forward. (I'm writing for a broad audience, so it's a lot of making sure that while I'm simplifying, I'm also accurate.) Keep writing. I should be able to finish by the end of June/middle of July, but who knows? (In a perfect world, I'd assign the draft ms. to my students to critique in the fall, but we'll see.)

    2. Plan courses for the fall. We have been told to expect at least partially remote instruction, so I am planning my classes to function remotely. One is pretty simple, but the other is a major rethink. The only good thing is that I was ready to do a rethink on it anyway (it's a required course for hte major) so . . .

    3. Keep myself physically and mentally healthy -- exercise, reading, being with people virtually and in person

    4. Be kind to myself and others. Everyone is pretty stressed, so remembering to cut people slack is important. (What's hardest for me is people who are not taking this seriously enough and are rushing to open up...especially here, where our medical resources are TERRIBLE. But it's a poor town, and I get it.)

    Anyway, that's an opening.

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    1. Thanks for co-hosting Susan! We'll just alternate weeks and if we need a switch will message.
      Like the idea of an extended house-hold, it would take the pressure off a bit and provide much-needed company! And sharing cooking would be one of my wish-lists, I'm getting quite tired of my own since I always know exactly what is coming!

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  3. Hello! Just in case anyone is new this time around:

    I'm a medievalist at a public R1 in the Northeastern US; I have an almost-eight-year-old son and a husband (The Minister/TM) who is a theologian/pastor. We also have a cat who celebrated her 20th birthday in March.

    I need to think carefully about goals, because I'm (still) feeling at rather a loss research-wise. I just had a book come out, and the article that wouldn't go away has gone away (accepted!), so I'm in an awkward starting-up point for a new project. It's quite tempting to just *not* start a new project right now, but I'm due for a sabbatical in a couple of years and I'd like to be able to take advantage of that to make progress on the inchoate idea for my next big project. Plus, I don't feel quite right if I'm not working on something!

    What's been good, this weird season: Like Susan and DEH, I've been exercising a lot. Running and walking. Now that classes are over, I've also been actually paying attention to my son instead of covertly trying to work or clean or whatever while we're "playing"; that's good. It's better to dedicate myself to him when I'm with him and to work when I'm not. I found the last month really frustrating, at times, because my attention was split and I was neither present with my child nor getting anything done.

    What's not been good is that various other important self-care things have fallen by the wayside. I haven't been meditating or attending many yoga classes--partly because the latter are on Zoom, of course, rather than in person--or writing in my journal.... It's easy to confuse self-indulgence with self-care, and I've also been leaning a little too heavily on the former. I want to straighten this mess out.

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    1. Welcome back! I keep thinking about doing video yoga classes, but more zoom? no....

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    2. Now that classes are over and I'm not teaching on Zoom, I think I can tolerate it, more or less.

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    3. I think the line dividing self-indulgence and self-care is much wider now than it would be in "normal" times, and that is not a bad thing... I read an article yesterday about how the things you miss most during this time give you a really important clue about what you are, and according to that I'm about half double espresso and half butter tart, both from my local coffee shop! Yes, normally I would just think of that as indulgent, but thinking more clearly it was also the highlight of many days because the coffee and tarts came with people and unplanned chats and fun conversations... So definitely a little of both!

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  4. Who I am, my focus, thinking about goals: late-career medievalist (English lit, some book history), at a used-to-be-large regional institution in the midwest; about to move from a too-big old house to (we hope) a right-size newer one, so at present thinking a lot about tasks involved with that; since this is final exam week at my uni, I have a lot of grading to do this week before this semester is truly over.

    For the last couple of months, I've been getting by, doing the thing in front of me but struggling with long-term planning. It's hard to think about the summer. Things I know I have to do: find a place to live, move, set up in the new place. Plan fall classes so they can go online or in some hybrid format (but maybe wait on that till the uni decides whether we'll be all online or not). Do some advance planning for a new grad class in spring. I also need to do some online training for online teaching, and I have a big service task this summer, involving someone else's promotion. I want to return to research and dead-language study; both of these have fallen by the wayside recently. Low goals seem like a good idea: maybe an hour a day of reading/taking notes, before turning to all the Life Stuff involved in moving. I will need to figure out some small number of books to read---not Read All The Things---I want to pack a "work suitcase" as well as a personal suitcase and a Last In, First Out box for household items, with everything needed for the last week here and first week in the new place.

    Last time we moved it was hard to get it together, because the move happened in November, I was teaching, I'd planned to move six weeks earlier (so left grading-free gaps in the syllabus at the appropriate time), but this house wasn't ready on schedule. This time, I can focus on planning the move without the distraction of teaching and other work deadlines, needing to keep work stuff available, all that.

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    1. Welcome back, Dame Eleanor! Making the work of moving part of your plans makes sense. And the work and personal suitcases, last in/first out boxes are great ideas.

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    2. Whenever I move, moving takes over my brain completely, and I find it well-nigh impossible to even imagine a time when I *won't* be moving or thinking about moving. You have my sympathies. (I do love unpacking in and setting up a new place! It's the mental take-over that exhausts me.)

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    3. I love this focus on long term planning and not just focusing on the drama in front of you. The last few months have felt like we have all had too much of that.

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    4. Always so tempting to summer goals that say "read ALL the things" and "write ALL the things"... And that rarely works. I like the idea of process goals for continuous focus.

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  5. 1. I’m an early mid-career (tenured a couple of years ago) associate prof in a physical science discipline that depends heavily on field work and fancy lab machines. I teach at a small primarily undergraduate university in a cold, isolated place with beautiful scenery. I have one child. My classes the last few years have been huge so I’m usually struggling to keep my head above water, but my research is fun and inspiring and interesting so I’m really lucky there.
    2. I’m not sure about session goals yet, I could do the standard list of papers I want to write, but maybe I’d be better off with something more process-oriented… Or maybe something habit-oriented? Something to think about! This week I really want to get lingering accounting work done, doing that is quite hard remotely so I’ve been putting it off and procrastinating. I also have a very big dataset for a coworker I promised to clean up and process, so that should be a nice easy thing to do and clear out of the way. And a Masters thesis to read and comment on, student is getting close to having a defense-ready copy so turnaround times are getting shorter and shorter.
    3. The thing that has been most valuable for me the last 2 months is getting back into running consistently. That has been a life-saver, and I can feel that I’m making progress. A nice tangible achievement is a big bonus right now, another one has been learning new difficult music for piano. Having my child cook and bake things by herself has been great fun for both of us, she’s very proud of her efforts and has learned a lot.

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    1. Way to go, Child! That's terrific. We need to get our kid back into the kitchen. (He did help my husband make a Baked Alaska a few weeks ago, though.)

      I hear you on the running; I didn't really start running until a few years ago, when I turned 40, and I've recently upped my weekly runs from three to five (two of them are very short--1.25 miles of "interval training," to give it an ambitious label). But I'm finally feeling like running is *not* a chore, and my speed is definitely improving, and it's exciting!

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    2. It is wonderful when running flips from being a chore to being necessary! Even a bad 15 minute run makes a measurable difference in mood and outlook.

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  6. 1. By way of introduction, I’m Elizabeth, a late-career rare books librarian at an R1 public university in upstate New York. I achieved tenure in 2016, having spent thirty years at institutions where librarians were not academic faculty; I’d like to go up for full at some point before I retire.

    I have an MA in Comparative Literature, with a concentration in Medieval Studies, and a dissertation that I should have finished decades ago. I ended up going to library school to support myself through the dissertation, found myself working with 15th- and 16th-century scientific texts in my first job after receiving the MLIS, and, despite looking back nostalgically at “what-might-have-been,” have continued to work with rare books off and on through the rest of my career.

    On a personal level, I am married to the Philosopher, a man I met in library school. Our sons, the Historian and the Political Philosopher, are in college and graduate school respectively, and living with us, something they are beginning to deeply regret in this lockdown. Our daughters, the Navy Wife, and the Web Marketer, are grown and married with blended families of their own. I have one sister, who lives in Seattle, but we talk/text/communicate often these days.

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    1. 2. I like JaneB’s goal of being kind, especially of starting with being kind to oneself. I struggle with that.

      I also want to work on my health. I am starting to get the creaks and cracks of advancing age, and I don’t want to surrender.

      When we were sent home from work, I carved out a corner of the attic for my desk, but I sit surrounded by piles of books, papers, and totes containing winter clothing, old photographs, and curtains from other houses. I binge watch Marie Kondo, and dream of decluttering.

      I want to finish Illuminated. I want to work on Perseverance (previously known as Prudence, but much more a work needing perseverance). And finally, I want to plan the next translation study.

      3. The lockdown has been good for me by letting/forcing me to think about what I’m doing rather than working on the first thing I see/first call I answer/first email I open. I am actually sitting quietly, thinking about the day and what would best serve the researchers’ goals, and what would best serve my goals.

      It has also been very beneficial to connect with people I have let fall by the wayside. Yes, there are uncomfortable places on the internet, but there are a lot of wonderful people I have met through the years. Granted, I am using the lockdown as an excuse for why I’m getting back in touch after radio silence for a while, but it gets me past the hump, so I’m okay with it.

      Everyone, take care of yourselves. Float like mist.

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    2. So interesting that you find yourself working more consciously. I've found the reverse, and am trying to change that.
      I'm totally NOT a Marie Kondo type, but I've been doing a fair bit of clearing, slowly but surely. Even thinking about books!

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    3. I'm surprised that I'm doing better with conscious choices, but I'll take it!

      It also took me quite a while to be a Marie Kondo fan, especially given her take on books. However, her views on good versus bad reasons to keep things resonates with me.

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    4. There is one bit in her book where she says that no one needs to keep books they've already read, unless (I paraphrase) you're a literary scholar or some other breed of academic who might actually go back to them. That's my loophole!

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    5. Mine, too--along with all the novels I haven't read yet!!

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    6. My books bring me joy, so I'm good!

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    7. I think people love getting back in touch, lock-down excuse or not. It is definitely one of the things I would like to keep going after things improve... Love the idea of thinking about what work to do instead of just grabbing the first thing that comes to mind, or in many cases, the thing that looks the easiest!

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  8. Hi all,
    In tidying up my bookmarks I have re-found this group, and it is amazing to see you all here. It is lovely to be back. Who am I? A mid career scientist working at a government institute in the Southern Hemisphere. I have posted as allan wilson in past years. I have spent the last 15 years struggling in the science system, and have found it exhausting. I am still trying to find my way as a scientist; how to compromise between my passion for what I do, minimise the non-essential, and ensure I spend time on self care and with those I love. I am really looking forward to being here again with you all.

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    1. Welcome back! It's lovely to hear from you again.

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    2. Welcome back! It's great to hear familiar voices.

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    3. A thistle by any other name is as beautifully purple and attractive to goldfinches! It's good to have you back.

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    4. Welcome back! I loooove thistles (and have quite a few in my "nature space" (aka the raised bed that I can't easily reach into to loosen the soil because my back hates me so it's kinda gone its own way). And what perfect timing, to rejoin us as a new session is starting!

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    5. Welcome back, it is always nice to "see" familiar faces/avatars/pen names! Always room for more here!

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  9. Hi Everyone, I am a early middle career associate professor at a SLAC that is also a state school on the East Coast. I am a social scientist in a discipline that prioritizes fieldwork and labwork. I carry out my fieldwork, often with my graduate students, on tropical islands. For the last few years I have been struggling to write my second book and have lost both my parents. I feel I am emerging from an anxiety filled mid life crisis due to all of that. Ironically, I was so worried about getting sick because I live alone and have no family nearby, and then I developed one of the first cases of the virus. It was hard and long and my recovery is not over, but I did get through it so I feel grateful for that.

    Of course I have had to cancel my summer fieldwork, so I am here yet again to work on my book. I have c. 2 chapters to finish and I am optimistically hopeful that I can get this done this summer. Of course, like everyone my concentration has been off, but its coming back. Other than the book my goals this summer might look something like: exercise/move each day for at least 30 minutes or more; try to cook healthful meals; reach out to friends/family via text or email or phone, at least once each day; get my aunt into the state economic system; get my taxes done; be mindful of what feels good and what does not so as not to make bad choices about what I should be doing rather than what I want to be doing.

    What has been working for me: staying in touch with friends, often via Zoom but I prefer phone since there is now far too much Zoom in my life. Gardening- this was the one thing I really looked forward to getting back into once my fever was over. I also hope to make a DIY composting bin. Spending time outside helps, whether it be gardening or taking walks. I had a dream last night where I was so tan from all the yardwork, I think its my body telling me its good to be outside and its good to be in the sun for some time each day. Some quiet time is good too- I often garden and walk to podcasts but post virus I walk in silence so I can hear who might be behind me and move off the trail, there are far too many trail runners running by huffing and puffing at too close a distance. The walking in silence has reminded me how meditative my walking time can be, so I want to keep that practice up.

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    1. So good to see you, and I'm so glad that you're well again!

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    2. Walking and paying attention to what is around me is wonderfully restorative. Yesterday held a lot of stressful, urgent paperwork so I couldn't get out of the house till after dark, but then I walked 4.5 miles and felt more human when I got home.

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    3. Its a good reminder to hear this from others. I still get so tired at the end of the day. Today I wanted to not do my walking because it was already almost 4 and I was exhausted after several Zoom meetings- but I did it and feel restored!

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    4. Welcome back! You've had a really rough stretch. So glad you're recovered from the virus.

      I stopped listening to music or podcasts while walking, and I like just paying attention to what's going on around me, and letting my mind wander.

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    5. Walking outside in spring is always the best, hearing birds start to get active again always makes my day even if it is still cold and rainy! Glad you are on the mend!

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  10. I’m humming42, a late mid-career prof in the humanities at a mid-sized third-tier state school in the US Southwest. Happy to still be here with all of you.

    This is finals week (although I don’t have any final exams) and grades are due mid-next week so I think I will be better able to really look forward when I get closer to the finish for this semester. And perhaps “finish” is where I am right now. I’ve mentioned previously how bad my Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) is, and as I’ve looked at the alluring new things I want to take on, I also want to finish some old projects. One that I think I code-named Perform is at the top of that list. I’m also determined to make significant progress on Tiny Project, the someday book manuscript.

    Pandemic has been very polarized for me. I’ve either been overwhelmed and unable to sort anything out or delighted by clicking along and feeling creative and fulfilled. This may be the usual for me, though. If there’s an upside, it’s that I’m more aware of the overwhelm and trying to learn how to manage it better.

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    1. Good luck with the last bits of the grading and semester stuff! "Managing the overwhelm" is a great expression, and definitely a life-long project...

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  11. 1. I'm JaneB, I'm a mid-career STEM academic in a mixed-discipline department in a squeezed-middle UK university. I live alone (apart from the dumb but lovable Fluffball, a cat who is developing a little cautious bit of Cattitude now I'm home All The Time). I live in the middle of an old British town (very narrow pavements, also old and uneven flagstones), I'm in the Moderately Vulnerable category relative to the Pestilence, and I'm not getting out of the house much at all because I don't really have anywhere to walk and I'm Really Anxious about All The Things... However, I am doing a lot better than I normally do at doing my stretching and at doing bits of movement during the day (dance to one track of bouncy album between each bit of work, marching on the spot, that sort of trivia) so it's more than nothing.

    I am not enjoying this Spring - I feel like I have 'inverse seasonal affective disorder' because springs are always hard for me (it's not JUST the nonsense of the end of an academic year), and this one is so sunny and nice most of the time and it just feels like the wrong weather to be inside. Also PC Rain would help a lot to deter the covidiots.

    I'm struggling to be coherent. I self-diagnose as ADD or something in that area and I am just so. much. worse at the moment. My executive function is shot. My university is TRYING to be decent, and they are going above and beyond for students in difficulties, but the communication is all over the shop, they're still expecting us to review all our degrees AND pivot to online AND make three plans for on campus, blended and online for next trimester, and they're giving out extensions right left and centre so we won't be done supporting and grading until August. And SOME people (mostly postdocs but also project-colleagues in academic jobs with less teaching) are using this time to demand all sorts of research stuff and I'm rambling.

    I'm a mess.

    I did spend this evening crocheting a pair of animal ears for a themed Zoom meeting for another research project, which was mostly fun with a side of cursing (the ears are slightly different sizes and I couldn't find quite the right tools and I'm just getting mad at things a lot for No Good Reason right now). But I have animal ears? Of course I then check and discover the meeting is NOT next week, it's in three weeks time. But the deadline for the marking I didn't do this evening, in favour of a break and crochet, is actually tomorrow, not NEXT Thursday. Did I mention I'm a mess? I have lists everywhere and alarms on my phone and I am mostly functional, so.

    Goals? Ugh. Survival. Supporting my students. Making myself useful enough that I'm not an obvious candidate to lose my job if other universities collapse faster than mine and mine survives with only (more) cuts. Stop dropping quite so many things (I always get the dropsies when I'm stressed and I have hit my head on my desk three times today trying to retrieve pens I've dropped...). I have bigger and more "sensible" goals, but the most important things remain the intentions I set at the start of this year, presciently - kindness and growth.

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    2. More sensible goals are around preparing for blended or online learning (taking courses, learning software, and a collation-and-creation-of-resources project for my sub-field which I have somehow ended up setting up - one of those "someone should do something"-->"we should do something"-->"I will do this small part"-->"what do you mean I'm in charge of the elephants?" sort of sequences, writing materials and designs, supporting my colleagues & attempting to rein in their wilder attempts at using all the bells and whistles the internet offers (digital poverty is a BIG issue for our student cohort and some of our academics too), supporting students all summer. Sigh! Research wise, well, I need to prepare for a new PhD student starting this autumn if that works out (do some quick skim reading to catch up with literature, and do some planning of the wider project so that they can see clearly where they fit), keep working with various protegees/junior collaborators on their papers, especially the wretched and deeply annoying FlatProject (it's fine. I'm learning things. I just wish it wasn't a constant dance of trying to pry things out of the two early career researchers who are technically doing the work... if they put the right version of things on the shared drive every time they changed things, it would be So. Much. Easier). And putting together a workshop sequence on the software I developed with my now-retired colleague WeirdBugMan since there's a lot of interest now that everyone's field seasons are messed up. And possibly try and do some of my own research, or at least try to remember what that was and what it looked like.

      I'd like to get my reading mojo back too. And stop being so messy. And stop lying awake until 4am (my brain thinks sleeping when it's light out is definitely safer than sleeping at night). I wish the university would make up their minds, I wish I trusted our government to do anything in the interests of the lives of ordinary people, I wish I could make my students and their families safe and help them thrive.

      Apologies for the incoherence - I COULD be more coherent but it would probably mean I didn't post at all this week because of lack of time, and I wanted to post. This space is... normal. And me being late to post and having a whine is also normal. Now welcome normal, with thy sunne soft...

      What's going well? I like being at home and having a reason for being occasionally paranoid about going out. I like being able to start my day a bit later (no fight for car parking spaces when you work from home!). I like how much more regularly my sister and I exchange jokes and share things we saw on the internet and all the little details of our days. I like that my cat is getting a little cheeky (he's a rescue. He clearly had a pretty unstimulating early cat-hood and is also an inherently cautious personality - not nervous, cautious. He's lived with me since Autumn 2018 and during the last few months has started to express disagreement and personality in a way he didn't before. It's nice to see). I'm glad to be an intravert and this whoile thing confirms that my teenage ambition to be a part time hermit (the plan involved two afternoons a week of cautious socialisation or teaching) was actually well suited to my nature...

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    3. I think you are remarkably coherent. Sympathy on confusing messages. Our campus messaging is "we want students on campus, but some or all teaching may be remote and we may not be able to have all students in a classroom at once, and of course if you are in a vulnerable population, you may teach remotely, and we fully expect a second wave in November which will probably shut down campus again". I understand what they are doing (our students who stayed on campus or in town have been happier and more successful than those who went home), but it's really confusing. So I'm assuming remote teaching where that may be streamed in person. Full rethink of my courses...

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    4. It is nice to have daily connections with important people... Glad kitty is doing well! Our place is just as confusing about its messaging... I've decided to pay no attention to it for all of May, I can't make any decisions anyway. If they open registration without a clear decision I will put my courses online because as much as I dislike everything about teaching online the thought of switching back and forth gives me hives!

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