the grid

the grid

Sunday 29 August 2021

2021 Session 3: Let's just start!

What's clearest from the comments on Karen's Intersession post is that several people would appreciate a longer session this time, so I'm going to jump in and get us going! We want to get our 16-week session over before the New Year. If we call this week our first (rather than week 0), week 16 would begin on the weekend of 11-12 December. The reason it often seems that endings sneak up on us is that there's some question as to what the "end" of a session really means: is it the last week we set goals, or do we have 16 (or whatever) weeks of goal-setting, plus a final check-in where we report on session goals but don't set goals for the following week?

So I'm going to be a bossy-boots distinguished leader here, and say that we will set goals every week(end) for the following week through 11-12 December (so, on that date, set goals for the week that ends 18-19 December), and then on that last weekend there will be a goal-reporting, celebrate-your-achievements post. 

Heck, you could even set goals for the holidays at that point; maybe we'll have a sort of bridge session to span the holidays and start of January. We'll figure that out later.

It sounds like at least one of Karen and Susan will join me as co-leaders; perhaps we'll all three contribute this session. 

Here's the copied (and lightly edited) language from previous sessions, with thanks to those who have worked it out in the past:

The format will be the same as ever. Please introduce yourself and set goals for the whole session this week (or wait till next week, but leave a comment to indicate that's what you will do) and then continue with weekly goals. Goals can be in any aspect of life, although the key focus is often writing tasks that are personally and professionally important yet never quite tip over into important AND urgent. Urgent things sometimes find their way in here too; that is completely okay, and process goals are also most welcome. Most weeks there will be a discussion topic or prompt to write about if you feel so inclined. We’ll remind everyone of their big session goals about midway through (that should be around the middle of October, this time).

Anyone new or old is welcome to join. And finally, don't worry if you miss a few check-ins. Life happens. 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? You are welcome to be vague and mysterious, or make up a character and allegorize your goals/tasks, 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. Post them now if you can, or leave a comment that they'll need to wait for next week. Feel free to throw out a whole bunch now and pick from those next week or think about the things you want to clear out of the way to make room for the bigger goals.  

3. Feel welcome if you are so inclined to set an INTENTION for the whole session. If that’s something you want to do, this is a great time to think about it. 

I think introductions and goal-setting are enough for this week, without an extra discussion topic. I look forward to seeing old friends and maybe meeting some new ones in the comments! If you've been considering joining in, here's your engraved invitation: please present it to the footman (footperson?) and you'll be admitted and properly announced by the butler! 


  1. This morning, at least, I'm feeling like I want to write a character for this session, and I'm inspired by M. C. Beaton's "Poor Relation" mystery series (definitely recommend if you like cosy mysteries!). So . . . this iteration of Dame Eleanor Hull is an elderly, aristocratic British lady equipped with a very effective glare and a large leather-bound library. She tutors some students and is writing a book, and she is a dear friend of Lady Fortescue, who turned her home into the Poor Relation Hotel.

    Session goals:
    Research: draft and/or expand two book chapters. [Same for the fictional version of Dame Eleanor.]
    Teaching: deliver effective courses, grade promptly, do a little prep of spring courses. [Prepare for tutoring sessions, seek out new students for when this lot go up to university.]
    House/Life: unpack at least half the boxes in the garage. Put the garden to bed. Do at least ten things on my list of Stuff That Will Stay Done. [Go through at least half of the trunks in the attic, put the garden to bed, do at least ten things . . . ]
    Time Management: take Sundays and at least half of Saturdays off from work, and work more efficiently on weekdays to make this possible. [Observe the Sabbath, and take Saturday to prepare to do so.] This will depend on
    Health: manage food and exercise so as to sleep adequately on a regular basis. [A lady does not speak of such pedestrian needs, which we all share, though dear Lady Fortescue insists that this attitude enables considerable suffering, especially among the genteel poor; NB, reflect further upon this point, as Lady F v. insightful.]

    1. Goals for this week:
      *write 2000 words
      *correct Johnson Minor's execrable Latin translations and prepare for Miss Baddesley's Greek lesson
      *open and inspect Sir John's crates from his sojourn on Crete
      *retire to bed at a suitable hour
      *ask Cook to prepare frozen custard, under threat that if she does not, I will attempt it myself. NB, if this prompts her to quit, send Morrison at once to employment agency; also ask Lady F for suggestions: perhaps hotel cook would like to work for smaller establishment.

    2. Love the leather-bound library and the effective glare! I'm looking forward to hearing more from this aristocratic lady!

    3. I'm currently reading Becoming Duchess Goldblatt and scrolling back through the Duchess' Twitter feed. It's been a long time since I have had a fictional character affect my interior monologue--I'm emulating her diction. I'm considering a character as well.

    4. As always, I thoroughly enjoy your fictionalized self! (Your unfictionalized self is pretty delightful, too.) More mundanely, I really like the category of Things That Will Stay Done.... If only that could be applied to certain kinds of committee work.

    5. Oh, my, I need the glare. I might go visit Lady Fortescue!

  2. Thanks for getting us started off, it feels like the perfect time to get going! I’m an early associate prof at a small mostly undergraduate university, in a physical science field. I have some lovely grad students based at other institutions, and I’m on sabbatical for the first time in my career (yay, and a bit scary) so research gets to be front and centre for everything. The only fictional persona that resonates with my current state of mind is Arthur Dent… “What? I don’t understand… Where’s the tea?” is about the level I’m comfortable with, and it is a little scary how often the first two questions drive my work… And the answer to the third one helps with everything!

    Session Goals:
    Research: I have five papers that need to be finished. That’s it, that’s all… Two are brand new, and two are close to done and have been through some review already, one is new and written and needs to be reviewed by co-authors and I need to be the organizer and compiler of everything. So I really need to focus and find a way to move them all forward and not let the harder ones languish forever…
    Students: I want to get new grad student started off well, get current grad students through the rigours of writing a thesis.
    Life: In the Fall gardening category I want to remember to plant bulbs (I never do), and move hostas to make new flower beds. In other life things I want to continue my excellent exercise regimen from last session and give time and attention to something creative for my sabbatical.

    This week I’m teaching a graduate level field course with my closest coworkers, that will be great fun and will involve being out in the woods and creeks for a week at the nicest time of year (and we will 100% get rained on often, there’s no such thing as field school without rain!). Best part, someone else is cooking and we are staying in a place with solid walls, electricity, and hot water! A little end of summer retreat!

    1. Goals for week are minimal:
      1) Teach well and make sure the students enjoy the process.
      2) Get a few revisions done on either old paper.
      3) Get to know teaching area well enough to be in charge next year.

    2. Arthur Dent! Being a hitchhike could be great fun. Since Towel Day is in May, we could celebrate it as a half-year day.

    3. Enjoy the woods and the creek!

    4. Field school while being cooked for and having hot showers sounds lovely, even if you do get rained on!

  3. Hello! As most of you know, I'm a medievalist in a literary field at an R1 university in the northeastern US. I have a nine-year-old son (who started school today!) and a husband who's a part-time pastor (The Minister) and full-time scholar of theology. I'm currently up for full professor--yes, that might sound familiar; there were Troubles last year (of Covid's doing, not my own) and I was persuaded to wait until this year--and chairing a big committee, but I'm only teaching one course this term, which is a relief--especially given that Covid cases have already started to abound and classes don't even start until Wednesday!

    (Our students are required to mask and to be vaccinated, but Delta.... And they do have to unmask to eat, after all.)

    My intention for this term is to ENJOY LIFE. I have decided that that will be my number 1 priority. Research can come second. Then all the stuff that other people expect of me. I mean, I know that I'll grade, and show up prepared for class, and do my committee work, so why put that at the top of the list?

    Session goals:
    1. Take time to stop doing things.
    This means: sit, go into the forest, do yoga, rest, knit, enjoy my family.
    2. Write steadily and calmly.
    This means: Finish WH and SUBMIT IT, work up a rough draft of paper due in February (which will also inform chapter 1 of big new project), submit grant proposal and sabbatical application, submit Kzoo abstract on time.
    3. Take an Italian class!
    4. Do good things for others
    This means: Write letters/postcards for political activism group, eat more vegan meals (twice a week?), respond reasonably promptly to emails, stay on top of big committee

    This week:
    1. Complete my part of WH intro and send it back to co-editor
    2. Grade paper from incomplete from *last fall*, for Pete's sake (I only got it a week or two ago)
    3. Submit Kzoo proposal
    4. Yoga once; sit daily during the week; run as possible/appropriate
    5. Read the research-related stuff that I've been trying to get through lo these many days (half a chapter and 2/3 of an article)

    1. I think that is an excellent intention! And I like that you're thinking about how to put it into practice in your session goals with ideas for how to "stop doing" and approach tasks "steadily and calmly."

  4. Hello! Returning with optimism but not confidence about managing to actually keep on top of things this session... thanks for the clarification of how the session will work - and also for actually having the last weekend be the end of my teaching trimester! Very convenient!

    Hi, I'm JaneB, I'm a "mid-career" academic in a multi-disciplinary field at a UK regional university, and I am mostly drowning inelegantly hence my absence the last two sessions. In some ways things are going quite well - after a long period of no research group, I have a very good if somewhat unnervingly direct graduate student just finishing up their first year and a second one starting in September, was part of two large grant applications one of which was funded (it has a pedagogy focus. I feel like a HUGE FRAUD), am involved with another large application which is close to submission, and even have three papers out to review with good journals (all of which I am middle author on, but heck, that still counts for my annual review KPIs). And this was despite a teaching year which on one hand was horrific (we were almost entirely online, I worked 7 days a week for most of the year) but on the other went pretty well (as I've always suspected, I LIKE blended learning).

    This year is not starting great on the teaching front either - low student intake, a team member (we team teach a LOT) out on maternity leave and their replacement not officially on the books so I haven't even gotten to talk to them (and they are NOT in the same general field as the person they are replacing), COVID is soaring in the UK but the government and university management and much of the population are acting loudly as if we are now post-pandemic - we are due to be "back to normal" in many depressing and problematic ways. I'm scared, I'm anxious, I'm burnt-out, I don't like my research any more, and I'm struggling mentally with leaving the house enough to put the bins out (and I gained even more frigging weight over the last year, and am creaking after all the computer time etc., so not exactly doing well at self-care), but students are back on the 20th September and I'm supposed to be there.

    I am up to mid-thigh in that well known Egyptian River and wading firmly forward in order to stay generally functional!

    If I'm picking a fictional character I'm currently choosing between a cat for the "eff it all I'm perfect despite the wreckage around me" attitude and a chromatic dragon for mindless setting fire to everything and flying off after snacking on a few administrators and politicians. So you'll mostly get me, with extra D&D comments since that is currently my main social/creative outlet (running two online games for my nibling and three of their friends, ages 15 to 17 - we alternate weekly between playing a crazy home-made pirate-themed game ("Be Gay Do Crime" and "fancy waistcoat envy" seem to be the main flavours so far) and the classic "Lost Mines of Phandalin" which has also jumped the rails because people can't always all attend and I tend to make stuff up to fill in the gaps and... ).

    1. Goals for the session:
      Sad but realistic goal for the session: SURVIVAL (i.e. all my classes were covered to a minimum level, I am alive without long covid, my grad students haven't sacked me, and I have not told the university to stuff its job where the sun don't shine. Also I didn't actually make the state of the house WORSE and the cat is thriving as far as an anxious, dumb, cautious cat who apparently was put on this earth to shed fluff can thrive). Setting goals is depressing because they keep being wrecked by circumstances...

      Goals for the coming week:
      1) self-care: do 3 songs worth of exercise each day, bring the downstairs basket up and the upstairs basket down and PUT AWAY the items in each (hereafter "basket swap"), improve one small area of the house somehow.
      2) make a list of the essential VLE work I need to do before students return, and a schedule for doing it over the next 2-3 weeks
      3) get caught up on stupid CPD videos and things
      4) read over what we said we'd do for the grant that got funded, and make some initial notes.

    2. And an intention - BE KIND. Be a little kinder than necessary. Be kind to myself, and to others, and continue learning about pedagogies of kindness

    3. Welcome back! I'm now imagining a hybrid cat-dragon that sets fire to everything, snacks on administrators, and sits back enjoying the warmth of the flames while feeling smugly perfect.

    4. I like the cat-dragon. Something to aspire to!

      Next week isn't up yet, but I need to trade back to my work laptop shortly, and I'm TRYING not to blog/do personal stuff from my university issued machine (not always succeeding, but...). That was not a good week. I spent far too much time, especially considering we are still two weeks out from induction/freshers, on email and student support (still dealing with resits, who gets to return etc.), and I have stupid amounts of teaching prep to do, not just mine but also covering for others, and my Director of Studies (the admin role I wanted, but as "too needed" in the classroom to get) is pretty much unworried by COVID and thinks the university's "back to normal as far as possible" with precautions mostly "for the comfort of our more anxious community members" is fine. I was really feeling overwhelmed and worried, and got a bit all over the place verbose, too, so it was just tough for us to work together. My ability to translate a thought or intention into action is through the floor - the action sequence "get up - pee - feed cat - fetch hairbrush - brush out hair (I have past-waist-length hair and had been lazy about brushing it out owing to beihg barely-on-time to online meetings each morning this week, and it's juuuust wavy enough to tangle) - shower and wash and condition hair - get dressed" took about three hours because, brain squirrels.

      1) movement: M-Th were OK, then... no. Did both baskets. went through the fridge and threw out all the dodgy margarine tubs of unnamable remains and random out of date stuff which tends to accumulate when I'm stressed. Didn't CLEAN it, but it's more than nothing...
      2) No, I checked the timetables & sketched out the schedule in detail but that was it. A LOT to do.
      3) no.
      4) no. Felt very incompetent.

      Goals for this week:
      1) self-care: do 3 songs worth of exercise each day, "basket swap" at the end of the week, improve one small area of the house somehow. Clear off the reading chair in my work area.
      2) make a list of the essential VLE work I need to do before students return, and schedule it - do as much of the three first trimester skills-led modules as possible (do knowledge-led next week)
      3) get caught up on stupid CPD videos and things
      4) read over what we said we'd do for the grant that got funded, and make some initial notes.
      5) redo figures for Ferret (long standing members may recall that this paper has appeared for seevral years now...)

  5. Thank you, Dame Eleanor and Karen! I'd be happy to be part of this kind of threesome (or twosome).

    I'm Susan, a senior scholar in the humanities at a newish university on the west coast with a particularly inept administration. Because we're newish, we're still a bit small, but very aspirational. (Insanely so, if you ask me.) I'm a widow, living in a small city with my 2 cats. My mother (90) lives in an assisted living place near me, so there's that. While the state has a high vaccination rate, my county is only 34% vaccinated. We're back in person (students required to be vaxed, masked indoors, but yeah, they have to eat.) Classes in person starting this week. I am *very* anxious. Eager to see my students, but anxious.
    Just to add to the fun, we're close enough to the fires that when the wind is in the wrong direction, we get a lot of smoke.

    Intention for the session: kindness

    1. Research: get rough drafts of last two chapters of Famous Author, a short book I'm writing about someone you have heard of. Usually do at least two writing sessions a week

    2. Teaching: keep up with classes, don't get overwhelmed

    3. Admin: I'm drafting the self-study for the graduate program review. It's due at the end of September but mid-October is probably reasonable

    4. Other service: I'm finishing (this week) work on both a book prize & article prize; I've got a tenure review; a jacket blurb; and a ms to read for a colleague. I'm also president of a scholarly organization, so stuff will come up about it.

    5. House: 3 house tasks (clean ducts, refinish floor in guest room & paint guest room)

    6. Keep up with exercise, multiple kinds. (biking, strength, maybe more yoga)

    7. See friends, see my mother

    8. Read for fun

    1. OK, let's see if we can both paint our guest rooms this session, since that's the room I didn't get to during the summer!

      We'll have to figure out a schedule for who's posting when.

    2. Susan, do you want to take next week, then I'll do week after, then back to Dame Eleanor again? And onwards on that cycle?

    3. That would give us the following dates:
      DEH, 29 Aug (done), 19 Sept, 10 Oct, 31 Oct, 21 Nov, 12 Dec.
      Susan, 5 Sept, 26 Sept, 17 Oct, 7 Nov, 28 Nov, and the wrap-up session goals post of 18 Dec.
      Karen, 12 Sept, 3 Oct, 24 Oct, 14 Nov, and 5 Dec.
      The midterm post would be 17 October (week 8), if I'm counting right, so Susan's. Since the wrap-up post will also be Susan's, I could collect the mid-term re-set goals on 12 Dec, making clear that contributors have one more week to work on goals before posting achievements at the end of the session.

  6. Thank you for starting us off, Dame Eleanor! I will be extremely brief, since I have the dubious honor of being the first in my social and professional groups to be felled by the flu.

    I'm Elizabeth, a late-career associate librarian at an R1 in upstate New York, an institution that is continuing a decade-old trend to STEM. My own research circles around early printed translations of classical literature, and early female translators.
    I will add my session goals next week when my brain returns to its version of normal. My only goals this week are to get better and rest.

    1. So sorry to hear about the flu! I hope you have a mild case and can be back with us next week. Rest as much as you can, and I hope you're able to enjoy some mindless reading or TV when you're awake.

  7. These days I am the Queen of Distraction, experiencing too-many-tabs overload in the form of paralysis and solitaire. Trying to balance the Want To and the Need To. I am a humanities scholar trying to navigate down a hallway of social scientists. Onward through the fog.

    I might set an intention and might end up adopting Queen of Distraction (QoD?) as a persona here. Session goals, less specific than they should be.

    Do the usual
    Draft proposal for new program

    Draft DQ book proposal
    Write quality presentations for three online conferences
    Submit to favorite spring conference

    Organize existing drafts of poems and flash nonfiction
    Create a submission plan
    Commit to and enjoy online classes

    Finish cleaning office
    Build and fill bookcases
    Clear all recycling from house and garage

    1. That sounds pretty specific to me! And also like a lot.

  8. Jumping in very late this time - for some reason blogspot won;t work on institutional wifi, but is fine from home, and this week has been travelling between campuses and other mid-semester chaos so working form home hasn't happened till today... Anyway, maybe my fictional persona can be the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, hopefully going through some kind of metamorphosis to calm and planned version of self.

    I'm a lecturer in a southern hemisphere regional university, located on a satellite campus surrounded by major building works. This year I've had a major shift with some extended leave and returning to my substantive role from a couple of years in service roles. I have two kids, a partner who is contemplating mid-life career change, and a garden that I'm hoping to stay on top of over the spring/summer.

    I've been heartened by the intentions of kindness from other group members, and I think want to join in with that - my sector and country all feel very fraught and tired and tense at the moment, so bringing kindness to everything seems timely.

    Session goals
    Teaching: finish up this semester without getting behind, set up external connections and partnerships for sem 1 2022 unit.
    Research: pilot SOTL project and present paper on it, see three PhD/Masters students to submission.
    Self and Home: maintain planting schedule, get out (in some way shape or form) each week, get home office fully functional given there's at least one more year of hotdesk hell to come.

    1. Bad blogspot! Behave yourself!
      I like the "get out each week" goal. And a fully functional home office will help a lot in feeling more stable.