Holiday Preparations, An Email Digression, A Call for Assvice

Oh y’all. It is finals week here, which means that things are simultaneously wonderful and horrible. I am so, so close to being done and to starting my holiday break, and yet I am still so, so far from that.

[333/366] Wine Glass

I’ve created the final exams for two of my three courses, but I still need to write one more. Once I give the exams, I’ll have 140 of them to grade before determining final semester averages and such. It is a lot left to do, and yet it isn’t. The only really stressful factor is dealing with the steady stream of emails from students who are fretting about the exam and/or worried about their other grades — as is only natural, of course.

A little digression, if you don’t mind: Email existed when I was an undergrad (ca. 1996-2000), but back then most of my professors didn’t use it. I had an account I accessed via VMS (anyone remember VMS?), used mainly to write to my friends at faraway schools and my boyfriend back in my hometown. I did not ever email my professors. I often wonder what I would have been like as a student if email use had been more widespread on my campus back then. Would it have replaced the regular sit-down meetings I had with my adviser every semester, when I had to get his signature on my registration card before I would be allowed to stand in the hours-long queue and wait, hoping to get into my desired classes? Would I have developed the same close relationships with my professors over email exchanges as I did by sitting down with them in their offices — and occasionally smoking cigarettes with them (!)? I don’t know; what was it like when you were in school?

At any rate, there’s no use longing for the old days. I’ve got emails to answer and that’s just how it is.

Extra Branches

On another note, this time next week, I will be done with fall semester and ready to sit on my duff until early 2013. Ahh, I can hardly wait! I have been working so hard this semester, and it’s all been good (interesting, challenging, both new and familiar) work, but I’m ready for time off. Winter break is my favorite time of year. I love the holiday season; winter weather is my favorite; everything about it is tops!

I’ve already put the holidays in action in my place. I love white lights and snowflakes and I love to have a tree. Here’s what I’ve got going at the moment:

Snowflake Garland
Snowflake Garland
Falling Flakes.Tree
Another Ornament Self-Portrait

Now, once I get through finals week, I’ll really be able to soak it up. Flannel fir tree pajama pants, flannel snowflake sheets (a dangerous flannel-on-flannel combo at times), Silk nog spiked with bourbon, holiday treats, Christmas movies, Pandora’s Jazzy Holiday station (try it!). I’ve also got my birthday to look forward to (the big 3-5) and a trip up to Iowa to enjoy some cold weather and hopefully some snow and, oh yeah, also to meet my boyfriend’s parents. ‘Twill be fabulous. As long as I can avoid making a fool of myself.

Really, though: any tips? Etiquette tips? Like for when you’re going to be staying with your significant other’s family for a week at Christmas time and you’ve never met them before? I welcome your assvice people, and that is a rare occasion, as I do not normally suffer assvice kindly. Hit me.

In Which I Take a Vacation on My Own Patio

Greetings from the last day of classes for spring semester! Oh yes indeedy, my time in the classroom (aside from proctoring final exams) is now over for the spring. I still have a mountain of work to do, but most of that will be done at home. This means patio time! I am, in fact, enjoying time on my patio as I type! A bit of sunlight, some twittering birds, a refreshing beverage, the distant laughter of neighborhood children, a sigh of relief.

[109/366] Patio Time

Summer is almost here. As I’m sure you know, teachers have a three-month vacation in the summer. Oh, WAIT.

Sure, I could take a vacation all summer — if I didn’t mind not getting paid! No, I’ll be working. I have at least one five-week summer class from mid May to late June, and hopefully a second one that covers just June. Then, I will actually have some time off — a strange phenomenon, as it’s been years since I took any time off in the summer.

I obviously can’t afford to whisk myself away on a dream vacation in July, but I will likely have some truly free time, during which I plan to lie low and avoid spending money. In spite of the surely less-than-exciting sound of that, I am genuinely pleased. It means time for reading, writing, movies, bike rides, creative endeavors, late nights, afternoon naps, trail runs, leisurely dog walks, evenings spent floating in the pool, and whatever else I damned well please. All of that stuff? Completely free. Doesn’t cost a dime. I’ve got your dream vacation right here, y’all.

Patio Herbs

Today I packed up my teaching materials (normally left at the office) and brought them home so I can do a serious home-office set-up for the next four days, during which time I will grade 58 essays and write 8 different versions of the same final exam, all before finals week officially begins on Monday. Somehow, I don’t find this too terribly daunting. After all, I’ve already met my self-imposed grading quota for today. So I’m going to treat this afternoon and evening like a little dose of vacation time. Patio, sunshine, beverage, and dog snuggles are on the menu. Pants, on the other hand, are not.

Long Days, Long Weekends

I’ve recently seen a few people posting about their “typical days” and I thought this seemed like a cool idea for a blog post — what do I do all day and how does the life of a college English lecturer unfold? The problem is, I have two very different kinds of days during the week.

With the teaching schedule I have, I’m only required to be on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays (unless we have a Wednesday faculty meeting or something extra comes up). This is why people think teachers have it easy. Summer vacations! Two-day-a-week schedules! It’s not really what it seems, though: I mean, for one thing, if I took the summer off, I would be unemployed and without money for three months. Not exactly a “vacation,” which is why I beg to teach as many classes as they can give me in the summers.

[159/365] iMac

My two-day-a-week schedule comes with its difficulties as well. I get to campus by 7:00 am at the latest to get ready for my day, which officially begins at 8:00. I am in a classroom teaching from 8:00 am until 2:00 pm without a lunch break, though I do have 15 minutes between classes. This consists of public speaking and discussion leading, two things that, for me, are very exhausting. After classes end, I stay for office hours, which are filled with student meetings, student emails, prep work, grading, paperwork, updating the classes’ Blackboard websites, desperately shoving food down my calorie-hole, and colleague drop-bys. This lasts until at least 4:00 pm, but more likely 5:00 pm (I tend to get involved in what I’m doing and not notice I’ve stayed late). Those two days are completely exhausting, both mentally and physically (yes, lecturing in heels is physically tiring). The day flies by, though, because I am busy-busy-busy, and for the most part doing my favorite things: talking about reading and writing. This is why I do it.

[47/365] Productivity
[194/365] Aw, Crap

But! Sweet, sweet freedom is to be had on the other days! If I’m not in classes or meetings, I can work from home. These are the days I can make use of my glorious home office and do prep-work, reading, research, writing, and grading. Through the magic of the Dropbox app (highly recommended), I have access to all the same files on my home laptop as I would in my campus office, and I can sit here in my pajamas with a dog or cat at my feet (unpaid interns) and work all day, if I like.

Workspace, Evening

What I usually do is start the morning with my workout (run, yoga, or a weights class these days), come home, shower, have breakfast, answer emails, and then figure out what else I need to get done for the day. If I’m good, I can get everything done by mid afternoon and call it a day. These days I also often do my random errands, shopping, and household stuff. It’s nice to be able to hit the grocery store when most people are in classes.

This can be a wonderful schedule. The two classroom days are often brutally hard, but I can recover on the other days. Last weekend, for example, my man friend and I spent all day Saturday having an epic Lord of the Rings marathon, watching the extended editions of all three films on BluRay and ordering Thai delivery. It was delightful and cozy and perfect.

This weekend I spent Saturday doing some much-needed cleaning, organizing, and puttering around the house and then went to some friends’ house to watch the Oregon/LSU game. While the game was a disappointment, I did get to hold a four-week-old baby and give her a bottle and burp her, which was a lovely little distraction from the Ducks’ loss.

Sundays I like to sleep in as much as possible, and then spend the morning/early afternoon lounging and drinking coffee. I try not to schedule too much to do on Sundays, though once big assignments start rolling in at school, Sunday usually becomes a catch-up day for grading anything I didn’t get done earlier in the week. I try to limit that to afternoons/early evenings, though, so I can stop work at dinner time.

I tend to have a rule about working after dinner: I just don’t do it. I have so many collagues who work late into the night, leave social functions early to go grade more, or spend the entire weekend grading/working. I mean, hey, whatever works for you, right? But I am saying: that absolutely does not work for me. I have to draw a firm line between the workweek and the nights and weekends and I really only violate that division in extreme circumstances. Nights and weekends are mine, as much as I can possibly keep them mine. I may not have the typical M-F 8-5 job, but I like to constrain my work to those days and times regardless.

Currently, it is Sunday afternoon and I am busily uploaing photos of the aforementioned lovely baby girl to flickr (I took some portraits for her birth announcements), sipping coffee, and writing this blog post. I haven’t gotten dressed yet for the day and I’ve got a mug of hot (but slowly cooling) coffee at hand. It seems like this week has worked out exactly right. And with that, I’m off to do some more relaxing!

End of Summer Highlights

Good morning, friends! Or good afternoon or good evening, depending on when you are reading this post. Oh, the magic of the internet.

Anyway, today marks my return to work for the fall semester. Although classes don’t start (for me) until Thursday, I have various meetings and duties to take care of starting today. I took the advantage of having this morning to myself, however, and got a 2.5 mile tempo run in at the gym, had a lingering breakfast (oatmeal with banana and blackberries, two huge mugs of coffee), and am now sitting around watching a couple of episodes of Friends before I go into campus. I know. How do I do it all?! Working life is hard. I kid; I kid.

Anyway, I have certainly enjoyed having the last week off in between summer and fall teaching. I have managed to get in plenty of rest, a little reading, a little socializing, and so on. One night, W. and I headed out to find his favorite (and most elusive) cocktail, the Sazerac. Have you had one before? I believe it’s a New Orleans specialty, and involves rye whiskey, bitters, lemon peel, and an absinthe rinse. High maintenance but delicious.

[224/365] Sazerac Night

I’ve also had several great meals lately, some out at restaurants and others cooked just for me. That always makes a little staycation feel more special, too. On the whole, I feel rested and ready to hit the books!

One of the highlights, I cannot lie, has been getting my new washer and dryer installed. I dorked out over this to an extreme degree, but like I menioned before, I have been longing to have my own laundry machines for years. I don’t have to collect and save quarters anymore, or endure the put-out glares of the grocery store cashiers when I beg to buy a roll of quarters from their cash tills. I don’t have to go gingerly brushing a strange person’s pubic hair off the top of the washer before adding my clothes. It’s the little things, you know?


Another highlight was a trip to the local farmers’ market. Can you believe that in four years I had never been before? I KNOW. In my defense, it only operates in the summer, only for a few hours once a week, and a lot of the time I’ve been getting produce from my CSA. So anyway, I finally managed to make it to the market on Thursday and it was fabulous! It turns out it’s quite the place to see and be seen – I ran into my friends S. and H. there and saw quite a few other familiar faces from around campus.

Jams and Jellies Peppers
Chilton County Peaches

My big purchases were some peaches (amazing), tomatoes (bring on the sandwiches!), and some local goat cheese. Yes, that’s right, goat cheese. I have been interested in finding some quality local dairy from a trustworthy farm for a while now, and the goat cheese at the farmers market is sort of famous around the area, so I decided to try some.

Here is one of my concoctions:

[226/365] Peaches

Peaches, goat cheese, and a balsamic vinegar reduction. Simple and delicious.

It’s easy to see that the summer is ending, though: this morning I slept in until the late hour of 8:00 and walked to the gym and it wasn’t even 80 degrees out yet. It felt amazing! Soon enough the weather will start to cool down for real and it will be sweater, blazer, boots, and scarf season — and then it will really feel like fall semester! Fashion-wise, I can’t wait. On the other hand, I certainly wouldn’t complain if I had a few more restful summer weeks like this one before I had to go back to work. I don’t, though, so I’d better get moving. The office and my syllabi await me!

Doing It

First of all, thanks so much for sharing all your thoughts on the post below. It is interesting to see the different ways we all integrate blogging (or don’t) into our everyday lives. Such a smart, thoughtful, and interesting conversation in the comments!

Next week begins the busiest three weeks of my summer, when all of my classes overlap. After that, I’ll go down to two classes and then just one. My schedule is weird, y’all, but I am most of all incredibly grateful for the work this summer. I wasn’t sure everything was going to work out, but it did! And now I barely have time to feel stressed out about it because I am quite simply too busy.

I kind of love that actually: when my day is so packed with training, work, errands, and the occasional social event that I don’t have time to sit around thinking about my schedule; I just do it. Maybe those Nike ad writers had a valid point after all.

This philosophy also applies to my weekends right now, too: long runs and rides, big blocks of grading time, domestic business, and perhaps a date. At any rate, in the interest of brevity, may I offer you a few of my favorite photos from the past week?

Egon in Profile
[151/365] CSA Week 2 : Contents
[152/365] Bird's Eye
[153/365] Rainier Cherries
[154/365] Haze

As you can see, life is good. What’s going on with you?

Summer Plans

Good day, friends! It is the last day before classes start for the summer, a.k.a. my last day of “freedom” before I am overwhelmed again. I stopped by my office to copy syllabi this morning, but now the rest of the day is mine. MINE I TELL YOU!

Whew. I had better enjoy it. My plans for the summer are busy indeed. I will be teaching in the special program for incoming freshmen again — a four week course that preps them for college writing — plus I’ll be teaching one five-week intensive literature course and one ten-week literature course. The three courses overlap in potentially confusing ways, so I have set up my google calendar to sync to both of my computers and to my phone and I have entered everything in and color coded it and all. Just hoping I can hold it together and not walk into my little freshmen’s class and try to teach them world lit 2 or something. Yikes. The best defense is good preparation, I think.

And that’s just teaching! I will also be moving into a new apartment at the end of July. It’s narrowed down to two choices: the preferred one that may not have a spot for me and the less preferred but still nice one that definitely has a spot. I’ll be happy in either place, and mostly very happy to be leaving my current place behind. I don’t want to gripe about it too much, so I’ll just say: ongoing plumbing issues, generally poor quality, and a population of neighbors that has been steadily trending downward in recent years. Anyway! New horizons (and washers/dryers) await.

On the sporting front, I have decided to train for at least one triathlon this summer, and I’ve just registered for a women’s sprint tri on August 7th. Bring on the swimming, biking, and running! There are a couple of other ones taking place in September that I might also add to the schedule — at least one, anyway — but we’ll see. I’m also aiming for a half marathon in the fall. Maybe Montgomery in October or Savannah in November. Maybe both!

So things are looking to get really good and busy up in here any moment now. But for today, I am taking my time, walking everywhere I need to go (just to enjoy the gorgeous weather), and I am currently sitting in the coffee/book shop, drinking a latte, and writing this post. Tomorrow the chaos begins, but for today, there is this:

Gorgeous day on campus. So glad I didn't drive!
Oh, hi, this again.

So what’s on your plate this summer?

String Theory

“The hardest knot is but a meandering string; tough to the finger nails, but really a matter of lazy and graceful loopings. The eye undoes it, while clumsy fingers bleed. He (the dying man) was that knot, and he would be untied at once, if he could manage to see and follow the thread. And not only himself, everything would be unravelled, — everything that he might imagine in our childish terms of space and time, both being riddles invented by man as riddles, and thus coming back at us: the boomerangs of nonsense… Now he had caught something real, which had nothing to do with any of the thoughts or feelings, or experiences he might have had in the kindergarten of life….”

— Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

“It is as if the space between [them] were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before [them] in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between [them] like a looping string, the distance being the doubling accretion of the thread and not the interval between.”

— William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

“If you could just ravel out into time. That would be nice. It would be nice if you could just ravel out into time.”

— William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

“The spiral is a spiritualized circle. In the spiral form, the circle, uncoiled, unwound, has ceased to be vicious; it has been set free. I thought this up when I was a schoolboy, and I also discovered that Hegel’s triadic series (so popular in old Russia) expressed merely the essential spirality of all things in their relation to time. Twirl follows twirl, and every synthesis is the thesis of the next series. If we consider the simple spiral, three stages may be distinguished in it, corresponding to those of the triad: We can call ‘thetic’ the small curve or arc that initiates the convolution centrally; ‘antithetic’ the larger arc that faces the first in the process of continuing it; and ‘synthetic’ the still ampler arc that continues the second while following the first along the outer side. And so on.”

— Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory


[133/365] Finishing Up


From the Oxford English Dictionary:

thread, n. 7. A thread in various mythological or legendary tales (esp. that of Theseus in the Cretan Labyrinth) is mentioned as the means of finding the way through a labyrinth or maze: hence in many figurative applications: That which guides through a maze, perplexity, difficulty, or intricate investigation. See clew, n.

thread, n. 8. That which connects the successive points in anything, esp. a narrative, train of thought, or the like; the sequence of events or ideas continuing through the whole course of anything; train. Esp. in phr. to pick (or take) up the thread(s) (of) , to continue (with) after an interruption or separation; spec. to resume an interrupted friendship; to lose the thread , to cease to follow the sense of what is being said.

clew, n. 7.b. With the literal sense obscured: An indication to follow, a slight direction, a ‘key’. See clue n., the prevalent spelling.

clue, n. 2.b. With the literal sense obscured: That which points the way, indicates a solution, or puts one on the track of a discovery; a key. Esp. a piece of evidence useful in the detection of a crime.

clue, n. 3. Any figurative ‘thread’: 3.a. the thread of a discourse, of thought, of history, tendency, etc.

denouement, n. A Romanic formation: Latin dis- + nodāre to knot, nodus knot. Unravelling; spec. the final unravelling of the complications of a plot in a drama, novel, etc.; the catastrophe; transf. the final solution or issue of a complication, difficulty, or mystery.


Like a Looping String

I Shall Call My New Shorts "The Fascinators"

It has been a long week here, friends. It was our last week of regular classes at school (next week: final exams), and I spent my time anxiously awaiting some work-related news. I actually got TWO really great pieces of news at work that I’ll tell you all about once all my I’s are crossed and my T’s are dotted. Or whatever. At any rate, I am excited about my plans for the summer and next year.

Easter came and went and with it the end of my shopping hiatus. In fact, the end of said Lenten hiatus was the only way in which I actually celebrated Easter — as a single, childless, non-religious person living far away from family, I just don’t do Easter. Not that I am opposed to candy, spring, and such. On the contrary. But I like to think that I celebrate those things often. Whenever I like, in fact.

More importantly, I’m sure you are dying to ask: how did I celebrate my great return to shopping? With the purchase of The Pale King, The Deathly Hallows Part I on DVD, and a pair of plaid Bermuda shorts. It’s exciting times here, I tell you.

Oh, you would like to know more about the Bermuda shorts? Well, you probably wouldn’t, but I am going to tell you nevertheless. I have been wanting a pair of patchwork madras plaid Bermuda shorts for two years or so and never found any that I liked. I have been wanting such shorts even in spite of being mocked by my friends, each of whom has had something snarky to say about plaid shorts. Was I returning to the 90s? Going on a golf cruise for seniors? Joining a fraternity? Oh no, friends. I simply recognize the bright and breezy summer utility of a great pair of plaid shorts. Sadly, most of the shorts I have found are super-duper short, maybe a one-inch inseam. This is not a good look for me no matter how liberating running may be for my thigh-related self esteem. However! My friend Becky had the brilliant idea of checking the men’s section at Old Navy when we were there and I realized they make tons of such shorts for men! I got this pair, which is perfect.

I also wound up buying a maxi dress, having bravely entered the fashion world of 2009. Between the senior-citizen golf-cruise-wear and the dated maxi dress, I know I am probably intimidating all of you with how cutting edge I am, stylewise. Well wait until I show you this:

And Thematic Shirt

That’s right, it’s me with my hair au naturel and a silly feather head adornment and a Union Jack t-shirt, attending a royal wedding viewing party. Feel free to mock me if you must, but I will have you know that there are not enough opportunities in life to sit around in your pajamas at 4:00 AM drinking champagne and eating delicious baked goods. At least not socially sanctioned opportunities. So of course I had to participate.

[118/365] Vegan Pumpkin Scones

I made these vegan pumpkin spice scones (recipe here) and they turned out amazingly well. I realize pumpkin is not exactly in season, but as I haven’t made scones before at all (let alone vegan ones) I figured a recipe with a strong, fibrous binder like pumpkin would be foolproof. And it was.

[319/365] Fascinator

B. sported a super fancy fascinator* and made some cucumber sandwiches (I LOVE cucumber sandwiches). Between this and the vegan terrine and the aforementioned bubbly, it really did not matter if I had to watch a wedding or not. That said, we obviously did watch the wedding. My thoughts:

  • Enforced group singing is the worst thing ever. Everyone looked completely miserable while having to sing those hymns.
  • Kate Middleton has badass eyebrows, just like me, and we have the same first and middle names. I dig her.
  • *The Fascinator is the very best fashion term ever. Seriously, ever. I had never heard of one until this week! I don’t think the term should be restricted to hats, however. Many stylish items may fascinate.

That’s it, I guess. Did you watch it? What do you think about the whole big spectacle?

I Sat Down and I Typed Some Things

Unlike Tuesday of this week, I managed to get a whole boatload of work done today. I am feeling mostly better and (not going to lie) a massive amount of coffee and Diet Coke got me rolling with good momentum today. This week entails not only normal teaching/grading/prep but also writing group meetings and gathering paperwork for my annual review, so believe me when I tell you that the extra caffeine was not optional.

I’ll have another long workday tomorrow but after it a big reward: hosting friends for another night of watching Twin Peaks! I just love David Lynch, and that show was what got me hooked on his creepy, surreal, noir sensibilities at the tender age of thirteen. When my mother caught me watching an episode one night, though, she declared it to be inappropriate material for my viewing (the phrase “of the devil” was invoked, so there’s that for amusement) and Twin Peaks became verboten and I never got to watch the second season. Now that I have finally bought the boxed set of DVDs I can complete the mission I started twenty years ago.


Okay. I’m all right now. Just having a minor, age-related, sands-of-time kind of freak-out for a second. Gathering myself now. But seriously, folks: did you know that people born in 1990 can now buy beer? And liquor? LIQUOR?

Moving on. Isn’t Agent Cooper just dreamy?

"This is some DAMN fine coffee. And HOT."

I have a feeling Twin Peaks night is going to be the one and only fun night of my weekend: I left myself with a lot of grading to do and I’ll likely be gluing my rear to a wobbly coffee shop chair and hunching over a stack of essays for all of Saturday and Sunday so I can get things ready for the coming week. Something feels a little bit wrong about planning ahead for Monday when it’s only Thursday night, as if I have already erased the weekend before it has even happened. Hopefully I’ll find time to squeeze in a yoga class, a swim, or at least a nap or something.

Oh yeah: I’m not running this week because the hip whose flexors I strained last fall is acting up again. Lucky me! I am taking some time off until the twinging is totally gone (as opposed to just lightening up my runs, which I already tried and which did not turn out to work after all and which in fact just kept the twinging at a slow simmer until it finally erupted into a full-on rolling boil Monday night, which was delightful I assure you).

Well! This has been a largely rambling and pointless entry, hasn’t it? Work! Twin Peaks! Work! (Not) running! What can I say; this is my life lately. It marches relentlessly onward. At any rate, I should hopefully have my new computing machine in my hot little hands come Monday, which should make blogging more interesting. For me, anyway. Maybe not for you. Sorry, suckas!