Archive for the ‘time’ Category

The years (2013)

Last year, winter break meant the end of my one-semester experiment teaching an online MFA class, and I was relieved.  I acknowledged that break is never “the fantasy of the complete break from work and obligation,” but enjoyed having the time to see friends and family, read, and relax.  We visited Stubb on the road again and had breakfast with Elinor.  I reapplied for something I’d been a finalist for earlier in 2013, didn’t get it, and found I didn’t actually mind too much.  (There, too, is something I need to look at this break–upcoming deadlines for residencies and colonies, and decide whether I want to apply to anything.)

For now

Taking a break from the nostalgia to think out loud about the rest of this break.

I’ve mostly taken the first five days of it off…sleeping, fighting off a cold (it really doesn’t seem to have bloomed yet, but I feel it lurking in my head), reading indiscriminately (not quite the same as last summer’s binge-reading, but some of this and some of that; also a graphic novel recommended by the talented artist who works as an assistant in the high-school office), and spending time with family: a Hanukkah party, our almost-six-year-old nephew’s basketball game (seriously), trivia night, lunch with cousins. A few errands and chores around the house. A bit of exercise.

Started my Seinfeld chain today.  Actually, I got ambitious and started three: writing, exercise, and work around the house (mostly tidying and decluttering).  The goal is fifteen minutes of each every day, always with the option to do more.  So, for example, a regular exercise day is usually either a 25-minute bodyweight workout or 35-45 minutes walking/running; under this plan, I’ll still aim for 15 minutes of something every day (just a walk if it’s a “rest” day), but most days I’ll do more.  There will, I hope, be days when I write more than 15 minutes (Morning Pages and blogging don’t count for this), but 15 minutes is the minimum goal.  And 15 minutes of house stuff is easy, and relatively brainless in the evenings once we go back to school.

Apart from these things, I have some fairly hefty school projects to do.  I’ve decided that grading and prepping will be done in the second week; I want a full week (actually nine days, including the first two weekends) off from that.  I’m thinking of going in to SA on Monday and Tuesday morning of next week, actually–maybe three or four hours each day to do the grading and prepping below.  The school work is as follows:

  • Read three books that are under consideration to add to the tenth- and eleventh-grade curriculum.  Decide whether I am willing to support adding them, or prepare to articulate my concerns to those grade-level teams.
  • Comment on, and assign grades to, thirty-some paper drafts for the juniors.
  • Read and grade a handful (maybe seven) senior papers that came in late last week.
  • Prepare classes for the first week back, including rereading a short novel and reviewing an AP multiple-choice practice section.
  • Create rough drafts of first-semester exams for the juniors and seniors.
  • Thank-you notes to the students who gave me gifts last week.
  • Edited to add: Work on plans for a new approach to second-semester AP Lit.

Then there are the personal plans and to-do lists:

  • Writing.
  • Exercise.
  • Tidying.
  • Time with Stubb and the Snork Maiden, separately and together.
  • Book and get a haircut.
  • Get a massage (already booked).
  • Coffee with Dr. Tea and Theresa (former student, now a junior in college).
  • Pay bills.
  • Birthday present for nephew, baby shower present for Elinor*, etc.
  • Emails, always emails.
  • Edited to add: Summer colony applications, submissions.

It’s not too pressed, really, is it?  I mean, I will have no trouble keeping busy, but I should also be able to have fun and relax.

*Yes, Elinor is expecting a baby, and some of her SA and non-SA friends are throwing her a little party when she visits during break.  I’ll mail the gift to her home, though, so she doesn’t have to schlep it back with her.

Footnote to utopia

I just wanted to add that I decided I would not do any work at all this weekend, and I haven’t, and it has been lovely.  I wrote; I did some errands, some cleaning and some laundry; I ferried the Snork Maiden a few places; and I went out to lunch with my neighbor C.Mom.  We went to this pool hall/bar place where a friend of Stubb’s was holding court for his birthday, so we got to chat with him for a little bit, and then we had lunch and half-watched a few different football games unfolding.  (The switch back to Standard Time was this weekend, so there was even an extra hour in there somewhere.)  I’d probably be in better shape for the week–on paper, anyway–if I had done some work, but I probably wouldn’t be in as good a frame of mind.  It’s Sunday night and I have just the tiniest touch of the Sunday-night blues.


Hi, friends!  Thanks for your supportive comments about the end of my Lucinda-substituting and the beginning of my possibly foolhardy involvement in NaNoWriMo.  Let me be clear that I do expect to be getting more sleep (this weekend has been a good start), and I anticipate a healthier balance all around.  So far, actually, I’m quite happy with the decision to do NaNo.  Here’s why:

  1. I’m writing between 75-120 minutes a day.
  2. I’m writing just for myself.  I have no plans to show it to anyone
  3. I’m writing to understand something I don’t totally understand.  It’s a novel about relationships, and I’m interested in relationships, but there’s much I don’t understand about them.  I have done pretty much all of my good writing in order to explore things I don’t understand, so this feels very comfortable to me.
  4. I’m hardly self-censoring at all.  I’m barely self-editing, in fact; I’ll write something, think “Wow, that came out kind of dumb,” and then just keep plowing along.  One of the things about being a poet is that every little decision matters so much to the finished poem.  I really do perseverate about putting a comma in and taking a comma out.  I love doing that, but I am not good at just opening the gate and letting everything out.  I have to give myself explicit permission to do that.  And when I do, I find that I can do this:
  5. I’m writing my way to some scenes that I’m absolutely fascinated by.  I’ve written some things that I think are true, but I’ve never said or thought or written them before.  I’m being reminded that you really don’t know what you think until you try to express it.  And if I’m not happy with how I’ve expressed it, see #2.
  6. I am doing some silly stuff that, if I were thinking about publishing this, I would have to keep myself from doing.  Rock-music epigraphs for the chapters, for example–what a pain it would be to get the permissions!  And I’m also describing my main character’s dreams, and am completely fascinated making up her dreams–but I can do this without imagining what some future reviewer would say about how boring it is to hear about other people’s dreams, let alone a fictional character’s!  But again, see #2.  As long as I’m interested, who cares!
  7. So far, this project is really only sucking up time that I would have spent screwing around, anyway.  And, unlike grading and planning, I seem perfectly happy to work on it in smallish increments of fifteen minutes and then another fifteen minutes, so it works well as something to do before school, or after school while waiting for the Snork Maiden to get out of rehearsal, or after dinner (as I’ve mentioned, I am close to useless for regular work in the evenings, but I can, apparently, write mediocre prose for my own enjoyment).  We’ll see if I can maintain it during the regular school week that lies ahead.

So, what else is going on?  I need to do some general tidying and laundry this evening.  Tomorrow:  three classes, some free periods for planning and revising a test and starting to set up observations (which I should begin toward the end of the week).  A meeting after school–one of those committees that I now have to attend–and then taking the Snork Maiden to her sax lesson.  Just the usual stuff, as long as there are no emergencies…


I uploaded three college recs today.  Yay me.  I also agreed to write for one more student, so that leaves eighteen to go.

I’m wondering at what point in the Snork Maiden’s high school career I have to stop forcing her to go to bed at a decent hour.  She really does better on between eight and nine hours of sleep, and it’s hard to get her up in the morning when she gets more like seven to eight.  She’s almost fourteen and a freshman, so I think it’s still okay for me to be enforcing a nine-thirty or ten P.M. bedtime (she usually gets up around six, and we leave the house either at six-thirty, on jazz mornings, or seven, on regular mornings).  But she’s already complaining that she needs to stay up later to work on this or that, and I definitely see teenage circadian rhythms kicking in, with the alertness in the evening and the sleepiness in the morning and so on.

It isn’t that she has so much work that she has to stay up really late just to get it all done; she usually gets in some homework time at the end of the school day (because she did, in fact, end up leaving herself no free periods) and then has play rehearsal three afternoons a week.  She wants some down time when she gets home, and usually takes a while to get back on track with the homework–or maybe there’s a TV show she wants to watch and she’ll try to get it done in time for that.

Interesting to watch all this from the parental side.  And once again, I’m so glad not to be teaching nights at NLNRU so that I can watch it unfold and give her the support from the sidelines.

Speaking of sidelines, Friday is our homecoming game, and I’ll be attending for the first time.  The Snork Maiden is playing with the band.


And just like that, things are better.  I got a grip on my perspective, I guess.  Also, sometimes when the big obstacle in the path is rolled away, nothing else looks like much.  Today was the day when I teach all five classes–that reasonable schedule did not, after all, come to pass!–but I was thoughtful about my class plans and built in independent work and discussions, and it all went fine.  Still feeling grateful about things–my job, my family.  Health–I had an eye exam yesterday after school.  Wish I could use gratitude to keep from getting in a swivet about workload, but once I’m in a swivet, it seems to need to run its course.

Missed aches

Did I maybe mention awhile back that I was going to be teaching a little bit in a low-residency MFA program?   Then now it’s time to mention that I DO NOT CURRENTLY HAVE TIME TO BE TEACHING IN A LOW-RESIDENCY MFA PROGRAM.  I’m in a dumb place where I feel vaguely guilty for not paying enough attention to it and vaguely resentful because they’re not really paying me enough either for my attention to the course or for the low-level guilt I’m enduring.  So, of course, I become avoidant and that just makes everything worse.  I just wrote a huge long email to each of my two advisees and now I feel a little better–but it took about 70 minutes that I could have spent sleeping, prepping, or grading things for my definitely not low-residency, non-virtual students, or even doing something fun, like knitting or reading, or useful, like washing the dishes or tidying up the place in preparation for weekend guests.

However.  I did exercise–literally because I thought it would pump some much-needed endorphins to my brain and make me able to sit down and knock out those emails.  I also had some lying-around time earlier, during which I reread Part One of Wide Sargasso Sea in preparation for teaching it, although I don’t expect to really crush it–as the kids would say–this time around, as I haven’t taught it in years, and never in high school, and am feeling kind of lukewarm about it right now.  On the other hand, sometimes being a little detached is good for my teaching, and I end up getting good results out of books I’m not that excited about.  I wish we’d read Jane Eyre together instead of their reading it over the summer.  That might be something we’d switch up next year.

The idea about the low-res program was that I would enjoy continuing to work with grad students, make a little extra money, and keep a university on my resume for possible future changes in employment.  And maybe, once Gamma is back and my teaching load is lighter and I’ve been chair for a while, that will all make sense again.  The people I’m working with are good, though, and I can see that I have something to offer them.  So maybe it was an okay decision.  But DAMN.  Do I have that problem where I don’t feel like I’m working hard enough if I’m not doing too much?  Because let me tell you, leaving NLNRU was a very good decision, and I have had hardly a twinge of regret about that.  I miss people, but I don’t miss the institution, and I don’t miss the commute or the aggravation.  I was doing meaningful work there, but I am not suffering from a paucity of meaningfulness right now.  Actually–as I said to the GGE today–I really am glad to have the opportunity to serve as chair, because I am seeing ways that, if I do my job well, I can make it possible for other people to do theirs better and be happier at the institution, too.  So it’s not like I really need more work.  And I’m not feeling worried about not being taken seriously as a writer if I am not teaching in a college or an MFA program.  But oh well, it’s too late to dump this gig for the fall.  I’m not sure when they’ll ask–if they ask–me to take on students in spring.  I hope it’s late, after Gamma returns and I get two of my periods back, because I’ll be able to make a more realistic decision then.

Can you tell that it’s late, and I’m rambling, and I’m not quite wound down yet even though I need to get up in six hours?  Damn.  I really meant to get a full night’s sleep tonight, too.  But I do feel better having the MFA-ers off my plate for now.  We’ll just have to see whether there ends up being room on the plate for them in the long run.

Night thoughts

I have never been quite clear on whether I’m an owl or a lark.  In my case, I think the two extremes meet–I really like both the very late night and the very early morning; in short, the times when no one else seems to be awake, or at least isn’t sending me email or, worse, trying to call me on the phone.  Teaching high school has emphasized my larky qualities: I got up at 4:30 on Friday to comment on paper drafts and exercise before school, and had a great morning overall, even completing two small writing projects that had been on my to-do list for weeks–an abstract and a book blurb–while my students were having writing time on the drafts I’d returned.

But then I napped in the afternoon and stayed up late–it was Stubb’s last night at home before going back to his current gig–and wasn’t much use on Saturday (napped again, even, which is fine, but unusual).  And now it’s late Saturday night–Sunday morning, really–and I am awake and feeling owlish.  The question is, do I attack this giant to-do list now, making good use of the wee hours, or do I try to go to bed so that I can get up reasonably early and get a good day’s work in on Sunday?  Because we still have two weeks of the school year left, and if I try to owl it tonight, how will I go back to larking it on Sunday night and for another two weeks?

A complicating factor: I’m not the owl I used to be.  My eyes are tired, and I know I’ll look haggard in the morning if I stay up late.  It’s just so peaceful here in the middle of the night.

Middle of nowhere

gaming_lego_lord_of_the_rings_4Spring break is more than half over.  Stubb goes back tomorrow.  He and the Snork Maiden are busy playing Lego Lord of the Rings on the Wii, an activity on which they’ve spent approximately 12 hours in the past week.  We’re a little gloomy about his going, but he will be back in about five weeks, and home for most of May.

I’ve started several posts in the last few days on subjects like The Real Differences between High School and College Teaching–and run out of momentum before finishing them, or even getting very far.  But I am reading and reflecting on teaching this week, and enjoying having more time to do that.

The taxes are finished; I just have to fax one thing to the accountant tomorrow, and then I need to copy our return and send the copies to SA and to the Snork Maiden’s summer program.

This week, I have to write; I have to go to NLNRU twice, once to teach and have meetings, and once just for meetings; I have to do some SA stuff, grading and (I hope) one meeting that would just be so much more convenient to have during spring break; make some appointments that I never seem to have time to make during the regular school week; take care of some Snork-Maiden-related business; and continue making summer plans, while waiting to hear something about the Thing.

Thank goodness, in other words, for a second week of break!

Dress your family in corduroy and denim

I wear black pants to school approximately 80% of the time, with…something on top…usually a solid-colored shirt, maybe about half the time with a scarf.  Most of the rest of the time, it’s a black skirt ditto.  For really wild days, I have one brown skirt with a matching cardigan, and I also have a black tank dress that I wear with an overshirt, a jacket, or a cardigan.

And that’s about it.  Also, some of these clothes are a little too big on me now, which is a fine problem to have when one has been trying to lose weight, but there are some key items that really should fall out of the rotation.

If I could add one item to my wardrobe right now, it would be a pair of colored pants that I could wear with a black or neutral top.  But pants shopping…I’m going to spend some of my precious weekend time pants shopping?  

Well, maybe.  And what else will I be doing today?

  • Writing goals for the week and group update
  • Laundry
  • FA paperwork for the Snork Maiden’s summer program application
  • Some form of exercise
  • Grocery/Target (which is where the pants shopping might happen)
  • Prep for NLNRU class
  • Prep for two student meetings
  • Dinner and the Oscars (or some part thereof) at my mom’s

That last one means I have about eight hours for all the other stuff–which is a reasonable amount of time and can also include some breaks, including a nice nap, if I’m feeling so inclined.  I have SA prep and grading to do, but I think the list above is enough for now.  (NLNRU definitely looms over my weekends more now that I’m teaching on Monday nights, and SA is more likely to get back-burnered.)