new year new plan · saving my sanity · time crunch

What do you need?

It’s the end of week 6 for me, midway through the term, or as I like to call it, the trough of the term. The energy and potential of early September has wilted like those impatiens that reproach me from my sad looking front porch. Ambition falls away like all those leaves dripping wetly off the maple trees on campus. Early assignment, first papers, midterms have been written, graded, and returned. Some people are elated: students who have done well, professors who have successfully graded everything that’s been handed in. Some people are demoralzed: students who have done poorly, professors irritated by late papers, poor results, cheating. We’re in that kind of void now before the big push of final papers, final assignments, final exams.

We’re all, it’s fair to say, exhausted.

What to do? I can’t change my deadlines, or my students, or my workload, or the weather. I probably can’t change your deadlines, or your students, or your workload, or your weather, either. But how are we going to get ourselves out of this pit, and maybe with enough energy to spare that we can maybe our students up into the light with us?

Here’s the question that’s animating my climb: What do I need?

I can be flip and say “I need a sabbatical,” or “I need to assign self-grading papers,” or “I need an invisibility cloak.” However, when I can articulate more seriously to myself what I need, I then can start to think of the steps to take to get it. My mid-term needs, it turns out, involve time and freedom from details, and since I can’t magic time out of nothing, I have instead taken my family out for dinner twice this week, which saves me the time involved in cooking, and cleanup, and dishes, and leftovers, and the stressful management of the details of shopping and menu-planning that I just, frankly, don’t have it in me to deal with right now. I have also temporarily given up bed-making and laundry. I have enough clean underwear to go for another two weeks, and I just might. This leaves me a bit of energy to take my girl to dance lessons, and to watch The Ultimate Fighter with my husband, and to write two public lectures and bring some life to my teaching.

What do you need to make it to the end of term? It feels great to write ’em down and share ’em–then they seem like goals, and from goals we can create plans, right?

I was pretty sure my first year class needed schooling in Awesome Music as well as New Media Art, and I surely needed a mid-afternoon dance party so you can rock out to this while contemplating what you need:

thank you · time crunch

It’s the small things

What kind of collaborator would I be if I didn’t follow my lovely colleagues’ generous lead and write about my many blessings? This frantic month of October, it’s the small things that count.

  • I am thankful for having thick long hair, so that when I trim it on my own with a dull pair of kitchen scissors, because I can either find the time to make an appointment or go to a hair appointment, but not both, my skilllessness doesn’t really show.
  • I am grateful for a biggish turnout at Pilates the other day, so that the teacher didn’t really notice I was dogging it.
  • I am thankful that I spent all weekend cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family, 12 in all, not only because we have leftovers to eat this week but also and more importantly because it means my sister will have to take on Christmas. (Sidebar: grateful not to have leftover Brussells sprouts.)
  • I am thankful that I live with a wonderful partner who is approximately my age, so that when I start the same story for the third or fourth time, it still sounds new to her.
  • I am thankful for the kind of pleasant fall weather that means you can wear long skirts with bare legs, which means a) you can get away without shaving and b) you don’t have to replenish the stocking supply.
  • I am supremely thankful that a colleague canceled a meeting yesterday morning. There is no gift sweeter than the gift of an hour on a Tuesday masquerading as a Monday.
  • I am thankful for payday, which can come around anytime. Seriously. A-ny-time.
  • I am thankful the farmers’ market is over for another year, which also makes me feel guilty because I really really love the downtown Edmonton farmers’ market and I believe in buying locally and supporting your small producers, but I won’t lie to you, I am already daydreaming about lying in bed on Saturday morning reading the newspaper.
  • I’m thankful for the invention of the combustion engine, through the wizardry of which I can have locally produced food delivered to my door.
  • I am thankful for Dr Phil and Oprah, whose TV guests make me feel better about my life, and in particular help me deal with my white liberal guilt over having local organics delivered to my door by a climate-destroying automobile.
  • I am thankful that I live with a wonderful partner who is approximately my age, so that when I — wait, did I say that already?
  • I am thankful that we have a working alarm clock, and I swear to god I will remember to set it tonight.