Kentucky, Bourbon, and Cinema

I am back from my second conference trip of the school year, which went very well. Because the vast majority of the time I am focused on teaching, it’s always nice to work on the research and writing sides of life. Of course, conferences are a great chance to present one’s academic work and receive feedback from one’s peers, but let’s face it: it’s also really fun! Once again I was able to use the conference as a way to travel with and/or meet up with some far-away friends and we had a wonderful time of it.

One of my favorite places to visit in Louisville is the Seelbach Hotel, which is very glamorous indeed. It has this lovely old bar, which is — according to legend — the very bar where one F. Scott Fitzgerald met the man who inspired him to create Jay Gatsby. The bar has great character and a list of bourbons a mile long. It’s always on my list of places to go when in town for the conference and so far I’ve had at least one drink there every year.

[55/365] Basil-Hayden

Around the Table

Friends

I'm in This One

I know it sounds like this was a drinking conference and not a literary conference, but for one thing I don’t like to blog about work, and for another thing, listen! Kentucky is where bourbon comes from! And bourbon is my favorite! So you will not be shocked when I tell you that B. and D. and I also managed to squeeze in a distillery tour. On Friday, E. had to teach classes, none of us had an conference sessions to attend, so the timing seemed perfect to escape to Lawrenceburg, where Four Roses Distillery is located. Our tour guide, Terry, showed us all of the operations and led us through a tasting afterward.

No. 2 Yeast Tub

Beer Still

Doubler

I Forgot

Tasting

[56/365] At the Four Roses Distillery

I was excited to learn that their Small Batch Bourbon is made specifically with the K and the O strains of yeast — my initials! — and it was also my favorite of the samples we tried, so of course I had to buy a bottle. I haven’t opened it yet — saving for a special occasion.

I am thankful that I’ve had a couple of days to wind down from the trip and the absolutely insane two work-weeks that preceded it. If I hadn’t worked my butt off all last week, I’d have found myself with stacks of essays to grade upon coming home. As it was, I was able to attend a friend’s fabulous Oscar party last night, where we all dressed up in costumes inspired by the ten best picture nominees. I went Black Swan style (as did a few others), and The Fighter, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, and Toy Story 3 were also represented.

Oscars Collage 1

Oscars Collage 2

If you are thinking that my costume was merely an excuse to buy myself a pair of legwarmers, you are only half right: I also got to attend a party in what were basically pajamas. Totally fun. Sadly the broadcast itself was a bit underwhelming, but I did enjoy the following elements: Helen Mirren looking like a total fox and speaking French, Trent Reznor looking also foxy but charmingly normal and articulate, and James Franco’s bit about all the film titles that sounded dirty. Heh. Winter’s Bone. Heh.

So how have you been? I’ve been rushing around so much and so behind on the internet that I need an update on YOU! What’s up?

Stolen Moments

The past two weeks have been the busiest of the semester by far. As midterm approaches, I am always so busy I’m on fire, but this semester it’s worse than usual. I’ve planned things rather poorly and (it’s way too boring to get into) I seem to have found myself in an endless string of ten- or twelve-hour days, writing, grading, and doing regular classwork. Even typing that short version of life lately was exhausting, you know.

Let me take a deep breath.

Moving on!

I’m stealing a moment or two right now to write this blog post, and I’ve managed a few other stolen moments here and there, too: a night out to celebrate a friend’s birthday, an hour here or there to catch up on my hulu TV (Parks and Recreation, I am telling you, is the best comedy on right now), and a morning spent running a 10K race with a few friends.

There’s been a little of this:

[50/365] Gonzo Lit Crit

A LOT of this:

[45/365] Taking it Home

A few tiny glimpses of this:

[43/365] Laughing Friends

And more still of this:

[52/365] Working Late

That last photograph is me, reflected in the darkened window of my office, long after almost everyone else has gone home for the night. Usually, I don’t like to stay too late at work and I never like to take work home with me. I am usually pretty successful at keeping most of my work to within my normal hours (7:00-4:00 or so), but lately it’s been either stay late, or take work home, or both. Usually both.

Being in the office so late can feel a bit creepy: the halls echo; the elevator groans; footsteps sound sinister. It’s also a bit nostalgic, though. It reminds me of those long hours working late at night in graduate school, when I stayed in my campus office with the door locked until as late as two or three in the morning, studying for exams or writing my dissertation; the only sounds in the building were my typing fingers and the occasional ka-pshhh of my cracking open a can of Red Bull. Oh, youth.

On Wednesday, I leave town with three good friends to drive up to Kentucky for our annual conference trip. I’ll be gone all weekend, and my goal is not to have to take any work with me. I plan to spend my time looking at the beautiful countryside, visiting with my friends, and sippin’ on Bourbon. And oh yeah, I suppose I have to present my paper and whatnot. Right. Public speaking. Well then.

I’ve stolen my moment for the day. If I am going to make this (semi-) leisurely trip a reality, I still have to write the conclusion to my paper and grade a massive pile of student essays. Back to the books, then!

I hope life finds you in fine fettle today, friends.

Love Lately

Anything involving cherries. From the cherry at the bottom of my Manhattan to the cherry preserves I have been eating on everything to the bag of frozen cherries that I have in the freezer and from which I have been grazing regularly, I am all about cherries right now. When will it be time for fresh cherries?

Trail running at the forest ecology preserve. It was a gorgeous day out on Saturday and I hit the trails with glee and abandon. I see this becoming a regular weekend run again if the weather holds.

Tree Tops

Green smoothies. Mix a handful of greens with a frozen banana and some soy milk. Tastes mostly like banana and is a lovely shade of nutritious green.

[32/365] Green Monster

Thoughts of summer. Have I lost my mind? For one thing, it’s only January. For another thing, summer in the deep south can be smothering. I don’t know, though; I’m thinking of sundresses and sweat rather fondly right now.

Nasoya “Lite” firm tofu – tastes just like the regular stuff but less than half the calories. I cannot argue with this.

Power yoga and body pump classes at my gym. I’ve been attending tons of these and loving it. Read more about it in my latest post at Bodies.

Running in general. Sure, I always love to run, but lately I am feeling better and faster than ever. Post-marathon recovery, lower mileage, speed workouts. More on this sometime.

Scholarly reading and writing. It’s been a while since I have worked on a new scholarly project and I am appreciating the chance to flex my intellect.

[30/365] Reading

Standoff. Hulu recommended this show to me and I do love a good crime drama. I also love Ron Livingston and badass Gina Torres. It seems there was only one season and I’m already halfway through it.

The comments on my last post — you guys are great! Thanks for saying hello.

My tumblr. In the comments section of the last post, a few of us were talking about tumblr so I decided to check it out. I plan to use it as a place to link/share content from the internet that I am enjoying. Minimal writing, just neat stuff. See more things I’m crushing on over there.

Back to Business

What a strange week that was! Between the (disappointing) National Championship game and the two snow days, I only had a three-day week on campus, but I swear to dog it felt like ten days. I’ve got a million bits and pieces today, so here we go in list form:

[12/365] Ready

School: Teaching is going to be busy and different this semester, with four honors classes. I think I like my young whippersnappers so far. The Big New Thing, though, is that I am working with two groups of grad students who are in the midst of writing their dissertations, helping them form productive writing groups and mentoring them. (Not to be confused with advising them academically, as an academic adviser would, which is a whole different can of worms, and not part of my job.) Anyway, this is a very exciting thing for me to do — let’s hope it goes well and I can really help them with their writing projects!

Music: Are you psyched about The Decemberists’ new album? You had better believe that I am. The Decemberists track I included on the Winter 2010 mix, “Down by the Water,” is from the new album, which (I happen to know already) rocks. Lots of harmonica and steel guitar and whatnot. You can stream the entire thing here. At the moment, however, I happen to be listening to the new(ish) Kanye album. Say what you will about the man and his behaviors and attitude, but try to deny how great this album is and you will fail.

[10/365] Divided Loyalties WAR DAMN CANDLE

Football: So, as it turned out, watching the Oregon-Auburn game was significantly less fun than I predicted. At least I was well dressed! Heh. I thought I would be delightfully bemused the entire time, happy with whatever the outcome was (while quietly rooting for the Ducks). As it happened, I was stressed beyond belief, and totally sad about the outcome. Only on an intellectual level am I able to muster any happiness for Auburn’s win. Sorry, Auburn people. I tried.

Food: This coming week is the last week of the current CSA season, which is also a sad thing. It’ll be back to grocery-store produce for me after that. I’m also kind of wondering if I’ll be able to join up again for spring, since I am trying very hard to save all my pennies for moving into a new apartment in the summer. I will have to look at my food budget and see if it’ll be feasible. In better food news, I am currently caramelizing onions on the stove top while roasting garlic underneath. If I could bottle the way my kitchen smells right now, I would.

Sports: I’ve been attending a lot of yoga lately, which has been wonderful. I’ve also been fitting in some body pump (weight lifting) and RPM (spinning) classes, which are also challenging and great. But my running just has not been happening as much. At first, after the marathon, I had to rest until my knee felt better. Then, I was hitting the treadmill for very short (2-3) mile runs, which occasionally brought back the knee tightness, so I eased off. THEN I got sick and couldn’t do anything at all. Not running is not fun.

Today, though, today! I was on my way around town, getting groceries and running a couple of other errands, and it was the most gorgeous day we’ve had in forever. I do not exaggerate. It was about 50 degrees, sunny, and beautiful. So many folks were out hitting the roads — I saw runners everywhere! “MEEE TOOOOO,” screamed my brain. I had to get out there. I wasn’t sure if it was wise, with the lingering knee tightness and the fact that I’d only been on the treadmill lately (for more stablity and less impact following my injury). But I was sick of holding back.

[15/365] A Mile in These Shoes

I strapped on my Vibrams and hit the road for one easy mile, just to test them out. It was surprisingly easy and almost effortless to run in them for the first time. I felt great. But I didn’t want to overdo it in the new, weird shoes, so I stopped back at home and switched into some “real” shoes and went back out for another 2.5 miles. Amazing. Glorious, perfect, perfect run.

Seems like a good note to end on. How about you guys: what’s the haps in your week?

Come Back Tomorrow: Photography Edition

aka Scenes From The Week Of

Monday I had to go to the dentist to get a couple of fillings done plus a crown. Yes, a CROWN. I guess probably the ultimate sign that you have failed in life and dental hygiene is actually having the tooth pulled, but I think a crown is pretty damn close. Anyway, it was a miserable experience (the first bit of Novocaine wasn’t enough, and the dentist made fun of me for complaining when I could feel the drill — “that can’t hurt as much as THAT THING in your nose,” she said, meaning my nose ring — she is kind of a mean person, I think). I not only spent the entire day feeling like a numb-faced marble-mouth, but I also now have this temporary crown in my mouth that in no way resembles a real tooth and also kind of tastes weird.

[3/365] Marble Mouth

[4/365] City Lights

Tuesday I ventured up to Atlanta to soothe my pain with some shopping from the Anthropologie clearance racks. I bought two new dresses and caused my debit card to whimper in pain a bit, but all for the good. They are work dresses, therefore necessary and unavoidable. So at the mall, we were sniffing some perfumes at the Dior counter when the makeup artists working there accosted us, picked me out of the group, and basically gave me an entire makeover. It started with the fact that I needed some mascara to show off my “great lashes,” and included some “airbrushing” foundation that turned me into a fresh-faced teenager, a bit of brow filling-in that called to mind the great Brooke Shields, and some, like, lipgloss and stuff. I don’t know. At some point, my friend B. grabbed my camera from my purse and started shooting.

Lipgloss

Seriously, check out my brows and lashes. This lady was not joking around!

[5/365] Irrigation

Wednesday I spent pretty much the entire day lounging on the couch and trying to fight off this mysterious non-cold I have. It’s, like, trying to be a cold, but it just can’t achieve full success. I have commissioned an army of vitamins and fluids and even a neti pot and such. I seem to be holding it off, but the stupid sore throat and random nose-drips linger. I’m sorry, there is nothing worse than a person describing their illness symptoms, unless it is a person describing their dreams. WHICH REMINDS ME! I had this wacky dream the other night….

[Actually, I did have a wacky dream, but I’ll keep it to myself.]

Vlad

Today I spent the day gathered around a conference table with some colleagues for a work training session, but thankfully this conference table happened to be located in the library. After we were finished I had occasion to roam the stacks, check out my favorite sections, and then spend some time in a comfy window chair reading. I realized how much I miss spending time in the library. Ours has a wonderful book delivery service for faculty, which means I can quickly and easily order whatever books I need, have them checked out in my name and delivered to my office. But that means I never go hang out in the stacks! I need to remedy this more often.

[6/365] Dave

In other news, I am participating in Project 365 again this year. I am actually kind of proud of completing the project last year. Last January, I had just gotten my new DSLR, so taking photos was going to be happening no matter what, and a daily photo project was a great way to guide my exploration of the new camera and make sure I was practicing every day. Even on days when I didn’t have my camera on hand, I was able to snap iPhone pictures and managed to get something “on film” every day for the whole year.

The thing with Project 365 is this: every day is not exciting. Every day is not an adventure. There is not always beauty or even interest apparent in each day. The goal for me is not necessarily to take a beautiful photo every day or even an interesting or good photo every day. It is to take a photo every day. A photo, period. Many of my photos are repetitive: dog, food, book, bike, running shoes, bed. Last year, I often only managed a photo as I was getting ready for bed. There are at least 3 photos of my pillow in last year’s set. But there are three hundred sixty-five photos, dagnabbit.

And you know what? Even the most mundane or unskilled or artless of those photos is an interesting memento for me. When I look back on them I remember my year in an entirely different way than I am used to. I am no stranger to the way that writing about my life can preserve and shape my memories, but photography has added to that in an incredibly interesting way. As alive as the moments of my life may be in my own mind, it is another thing entirely to see them captured, in the smallest degree, as pixels.

I look at this as one of life’s situations where the most important thing to do is keep showing up. “Come back tomorrow,” as Mr. Miyagi would say. Some days will produce boring, repetitive photos of my tofu and collard greens and lattes and running shoes. But if you keep showing up for long enough, there may be beauty waiting in the most unexpected places.

[14/365] Waves

[120/365] Totally Tubular

[167/365] Bicycle Fence

Come back tomorrow.

Weekend, Missouri Style

Why hello, friends of the internet! I am back home from my trip and happily ensconced on the couch with a dog and a blanket and a laptop. I’m full of that pleasant feeling that follows a great trip when you are also glad to be home (but still in denial about the upcoming work week).

We had a lovely time in Missouri, presenting and listening to papers, checking out the town, and eating and drinking our way through the weekend. You know, business as usual! While my drive to Mississippi was (as usual) peppered with insane thunderstorms, I was treated to this gorgeous sunset on the way there, and weather throughout the rest of the trip was picture perfect.

[300/365] Sunset in Mississippi

On the second leg of the trip, from Mississippi to Missouri, we did encounter some strangeness. First of all, we stopped at the biggest roadside convenience store I have ever seen — and all of their bathrooms were out of order. ALL of them. Really? At least they had this entertaining display of knives.

[301/365] Let's Shop!

We were told that a new rest stop was being built nearby, however, “over by the tire fire.” And while a future rest stop not yet in existence was of no real help to us, we did indeed pass by a huge tire fire a couple of miles up the road!

Once safely arrived in Cape Girardeau, however, everything went smoothly. I had to get in a long run while we were there, and I managed to find myself on a nice long, paved running trail through a park and nature conservation area. We don’t have anything that nice here in Auburn, so I enjoyed the area quite a bit. I got to see some real fall leaves for the first time this year, and I also was treated to the sun rising over the frosty, misty grass.

Orange & Blue

Sunrise Run

As I entered the eerily quiet woods, a huge, hulking shape moved quickly deeper into the trees just ahead of me. A mugger or rapist, I thought, surely. Or, wait. It was way too huge to be human. It was practically the size of an elephant. It turned out to be an enormous buck, who retreated so fast I barely had time for my eyes to catch him before he was gone. Incredible.

Driving over Bridge

Later that day, when our conference panels were done, we explored the town a little bit, driving over this big suspension bridge, across the Mississippi River and into Illinois. On the other side of the river all we found was a long, desolate stretch of highway with nothing on it save a strip club called “The Pony” and perhaps some car title loan places off in the distance. We quickly turned around and headed back to the cute side of the river.

Clock, Downtown

The downtown area was charming and, with the exception of some shuttered businesses, a good place to check out small shops and caf├ęs. One coffee shop there, I hate to tell you, had the only bad service in the entire town. While literally every single other person we encountered was kind, warm, and helpful, the people at this place were grouchy, slamming dishes and doors, and cursing in front of customers. Not a great business strategy! We never should have gone back there. (Dun dun DUNNNNN.)

The Mighty Mississip'

But before we got back to the coffee shop of doom, we spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the waterfront, the Mighty Mississip’, and the complimentary drinks and snacks at the hotel bar’s happy hour. That’s right, y’all: FREE WINE. We were staying at a Drury Lodge, which, despite the unfortunate sounding name and the slightly creepy resemblance to The Overlook Hotel in The Shining, had the best service ever and a generous breakfast buffet in addition to the free happy hour drinks and snacks. I definitely recommend it for budget travelers who like free food. (Let’s face it, who among us does not fit into this category?)

Maki

Fried Tofu

Seaweed Salad

Later, sushi dinner was had. Once again, an extremely reasonably priced place with just stellar service. Aside from the employees of this one coffee shop, the people of Cape Girardeau are some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered. We all noticed it. If life ever takes you there, you’ll see what I mean.

Look, I know this recap is getting long, but I still have to tell you what happened at the coffee shop the last day. We never would have gone back there if we didn’t suspect that Clarabella might have left a sweater behind the day before. So we went back to check if it was there and to grab some coffee for the road. No sweater. And apparently the grumpy girl working the counter (same girl as the previous day) thought C asked about a “bracelet” when she said “gray sweater.” Get your ears checked!

So. I ordered a soy latte with caramel, and, yeah, I am pretty sure that the mean counter girl gave me regular milk. Which I have not had in over two years now. And which I would probably never notice if it’s mixed with coffee and flavoring. And which made me feel AWFUL for the rest of the day. Sure, maybe my awful feeling stemmed from the large amount of wine I had the night before (free, cheap wine), but I didn’t feel bad at all until I finished that latte. The world may never know, but I know who I think is to blame: mean coffee shop girl.

You’ll be happy to know that I seem to have made a full recovery. In spite of the knives, the tire fires, and the dairy poisoning cruelly inflicted on me, I give the town of Cape Girardeau (apparently pronounced “Cape Gerardo,” as opposed to French style) a gold star. The university put on a good conference, but mostly it was a great place to relax and have fun with my friends — and on the cheap, too. Missouri, I think I like your style.

(Working) Vacation, All I Ever Wanted.

I’m traveling to an academic conference this week for the ostensible purpose of presenting a scholarly paper on the subject of Important Literary-Sounding Words and Phrases as They Relate to Difficult Authors*, but the secret is this: I am getting to spend the weekend with my two BFFs from college, Clarabella, frequently mentioned here, and Mel, our very pregnant and usually very far-away friend, who is coming all the way from the wilds of the Pacific time zone to hang out with us, be all academic-like, and (though she does not yet know this) be the subject of many, many photographs in her (I’m sure) adorably pregnant state.

That was all one sentence, though not technically a run-on sentence, in case you were concerned. Told you I was a writing teacher.

So as you can imagine, I am gleeful with excitement about getting to see my two favorite girlfriends at the same time. It only happens about once a year, most recently in February of this year and, before that, in March of 2009. Aside from educating ourselves on erudite and complex topics, I hope we will get to spend plenty of time eating, drinking, chatting, relaxing, and so on. It doesn’t really matter to me where this conference is or what we may find to do there because I know I’ll be sure to have a good time with good company. We are the kind of friends who have been friends for so long we just snap right back together like Legos**, even after a long separation. You know what I mean? I’m thankful to have that.

On a more superficial level, I am also excited, I must admit, about the prospect of cooler weather. Highs are only supposed to be in the 60s! This means jackets, sweaters, and scarves will all be appropriate. Tights! I’ll be able to wear TIGHTS; can you imagine? I just bought a very cute pair of gray and black argyle tights in anticipation of this very trip. Argyle is quite a scholarly pattern, is it not? I think so.

Have a lovely rest of the week and weekend, friends! I will catch you on the flipside.

*Not my actual paper title.

**Also like Legos, it is hard to find all of the pieces you need at any one time, and it hurts like a bitch if you step on us in bare feet. Weird, right?

Back-to-School Scheming

Most people look at the beginning of a calendar year as a time to review where they’ve been in the last twelve months and what they want to do in the next twelve. This makes sense, of course. The first day of the first month of a new year seems so ripe for new beginnings.

For me, though, the new year always begins at the end of August. When a new school year begins, so do I. I have been living according to the August-to-August year for as long as I can remember. I started Kindergarten in August, 1983, and since then I have been governed by the school year. Thirteen years of primary education (counting Kindergarten), four years of college, seven years of graduate school, and three years of college teaching — this is year four. That’s a lot of years, now that I list it out like that. Twenty-seven years. Damn.

Well, to steer back in the direction of my point: I don’t begin the year anew in January, but now. Now is the time for me to think about goals, hopes, plans, plots, and schemes.

A building that reminds me of Winthrowup.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about trying to accomplish this school year:

Stay Organized: Between my campus office, my home office, my teaching, and my research, things can get crazy. I always find myself wishing I had brought home a book or folder that I left at school, or frantically looking for my flash drive. I am attempting to solve this problem by syncing my work-related files with dropbox (AMAZING, simply amazing tool), keeping up with my schedule on iCal and my tasks with teuxdeux.com. My home office will be used mostly for research and writing; my campus office will be prep, teaching, and grading central.

Plan Ahead, Grade Ahead: Hopefully staying organized will help here. My goal is really to avoid last-minute class prep and weekends full of grading hundreds of essays. Do a little at a time until it’s done. SO much easier said, though.

Pack Lunch: My office mate and I are going in together on a mini fridge to use in the office, which will make this easy and convenient. Any lunch I pack, no matter how hasty, will be cheaper and better balanced nutritionally than anything I can find on campus. Period.

Maintain Weight: I am really happy with where I am right now weight-wise. My fitness goals are always growing and changing (with my marathon focus right now and maybe more triathlons in the spring), but I don’t need or want to lose any more pounds. My newest Sports & Wine post over at the Bodies site explains my plans for the food aspect of weight maintenance, should you want to read about it in any more detail.

Bike Commute: I am committing to get to campus by bike instead of by car on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Those are my non-teaching days, where I might go in to grade or prep and thus I’ll be dressed in more casual, bike-friendly clothes. I may also try biking in on Tuesdays and Thursdays if I am wearing trousers, but my road bike with horizontal top bar isn’t ideally suited to biking in skirts (which I wear frequently). I have biked to campus once last week and twice so far this week, and it has made a trip in to the office on my “off” day much more enjoyable!

Dress Nicely: I still run into the problem of looking a little too young for my job, so I’m trying to cultivate a more professional appearance on teaching days so I can feel more confident and authoritative. I think it’s also going to help me to project more professionalism around the halls in general. Plus, clothes shopping is so much more fun now that I can wear standard sizes and therefore can shop in any store (uh, any not-too-expensive store, anyway — I still do have that enviable teacher’s salary). I’m currently finding inspiration from a few academic fashion blogs. See here, here, and here.

Job Market: The academic job market runs concurrent with the school year, meaning that postings for tenure-track assistant-professorships will start appearing soon. I don’t want to talk about this too much because it is an AWFUL topic, but here are my thoughts: I am not going to waste a ton of time and energy throwing myself at any halfway appropriate job just because one “should” go for the tenure-track openings. If something truly great appears on the job list, I will attack it with purpose. Expect not many updates on this one, ’cause, like I said, AWFUL topic.

Open Windows: I am going to try to be open minded about relationships and new people. Not just romantic relationships, but new friendships and social opportunities, too. Even though the guy and I split up, I still believe everything I said in this post. Just because that relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean I have to be like Clooney in Up in the Air, and shit, you know?

What about you guys? Though your lives may not be Ruled by School like mine is, do you have any goals or plans cookin’ right now?

Miscellany

I am sitting in my classroom right now proctoring the final exam for my summer course. The end is in sight! This might seem like an inappropriate time and place to be composing a blog post, but I’m afraid it might be the only chance I get to write anything before I take off for the weekend.

After this exam I’ve got to finish all my end-of-term grading and reporting, deal with a few (?) recalcitrant late assignments, and run approximately forty-seven various errands. But now! Now I just sit, and watch, and wait.

And blog, apparently.

So this weekend I am heading off to Mississippi to visit Clarabella. We are going to be running a 5K and then celebrating afterwards with watermelon-based frozen drinks of some kind. Even if you don’t like to run, wouldn’t you do a 5K for the promise of a watermelon-based frozen cocktail? I bet you would. If you do like to run, well, that is just even better.

I am very much looking forward to the chance to get out of town for a little while and decompress after a summer of teaching intensive courses. When you unceremoniously stuff a semester’s worth of literature (almost four thousand years of texts!) into five weeks, everyone starts going a little bit insane — not just me. I don’t know how the students manage to keep up with it either. We are all ready for a break.

On another subject, I have been loving having my little basil plant in the front window so much that I decided it needed a few friends. Last weekend I went down to this amazing nursery in town and picked out a few succulents to join it in the window. I have had succulents before and have managed not to kill them, so I hope these guys will stick around for a while.

I got a jade plant (my favorite),

Jade

an elephant bush (hilarious name),

Elephant Bush

and an aloe plant (very useful for a klutz like me who is always accidentally burning herself in the kitchen).

Aloe

Also to be spotted occasionally in my windowsill:

[213/365] Windowsill Cat

A surly feline, who occasionally has been putting some effort into pretending to be nice. We’ll see if it’s just an act, or what.

Well, I hope you each have a lovely weekend in store. May I suggest a watermelon-based frozen cocktail? If that’s not available, something else, perhaps? As long as it is decadent and relaxing.

Not-So-Extreme Home Makeover

Although I’m still all wrapped up in my summer teaching, it’s about time for a reckoning with regards to the fall semester. That shit is fast approaching! I want to be able to make the most of my time next semester, when I’ll only be teaching two days a week and will have the other three work-week days to do prep, research, grading, and other business. Which I can do from home. That’s right; I’ll be able to work from home three days a week!

This was a bit of an unexpected boon — I’ve been wanting this schedule forever but never thought I would get it. I usually teach three days a week and I had thought I was going to do five days a week this fall. Due to some scheduling and registration mishaps, I got the coveted Tuesday-Thursday schedule of my dreams at the very last minute!

My office at home, where I hope for much of the awesome productivity, writing, and such to occur? Well, it has been sorely neglected for the last couple of years. I almost never work in here at all, and only really come into the room to feed the cat (her food is in here, where the dog is not usually allowed to go because they usually harass each other), to fetch a book, or to dump mail, exercise equipment, and other unwanted detritus.

The room was a disaster. I don’t know how many pieces of old mail and paperwork are in here, but even just the amount on the desk took ages to go through, sort, shred, file, and so on. There are still two small boxes of mail I need to handle.

Office Before: Piles of Junk on Desk

The area by my bookshelves was a random dumping ground for nonsense, as you can see here.

Office Before: Cluttered Shelves

I definitely had my work cut out for me. I headed out to Walmart, where I usually do not shop, for cheap file boxes and a paper shredder. It’s much closer and a bit cheaper than Target, but readers, I ask you, is that worth the pain of being in Walmart? First, I had to listen to an angry dad yelling at and berating his maybe three-year-old crying son over why he wouldn’t buy him something. It went a little something like, “YOU GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON — ONE GOOD REASON! — WHY I SHOULD BUY YOU THAT. CAN YOU? CAN YOU GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON? I DON’T THINK YOU CAN. EXPLAIN IT TO ME. ONE GOOD REASON.” In response to which the boy just whimpered. Nice job, Angry Dad. Nice. I’m sure that’s an effective communication technique for barely-verbal toddlers.

Then, after paying, I had to wait in a second line of about six shopping carts at the exit. Why? Well, a very officious, bitchy woman was working the exit door, checking everyone’s receipt before they could leave the store. That’s right; in the fifteen yards between the cash registers and the doors, surely we had all managed to steal some of their valuable merchandise. Is this shit even LEGAL, I wonder?

Well, I have gone off topic here, but that all needed to be said, if only for my own sanity.

So, after all that I came home and started tackling the office. I managed to clear off the desk and finally hang a white board and some cork boards (those are actually cork trivets from the kitchen section at IKEA only a couple of dollars per three-pack).

[212/365] Office After: Clean Desk

Don’t worry, after I took the picture and saw how crooked the white board was, I re-hung it. I tend to just eyeball those things instead of using a level, which sometimes works and sometimes does not.

I also neatened up the shelf area:

Office After: Shelves

Also, after the picture, I realized I still had some things cluttering the top of the shelves, so I took care of those, too. The white shoe boxes on the short shelf are full of MORE MAIL to sort. Good lord, I hate mail. (And before everyone suggests it, yes, I do have everything possible handled online instead of through paper billing. That makes a dent, but not a big enough dent, you know?) But now I have a paper shredder and a better filing system, so that should help matters.

I’d still like to make a few improvements: I’d like a regular desk instead of the door-balanced-on-two-cabinets thing I currently have going on. The cabinets are about 3 inches too tall for this to work perfectly, but with the addition of a new, taller desk chair from my friend MZ, it’s a bit more comfortable. Then, I’d like my bookcases to match and be of better quality, which is something I don’t see spending money on in the near future, so I will live with what I have. Finally, the couch (whose corner you can see above) needs to go. It has been a bit shredded by the cat and I am constantly having to manage the cat-fur(niture) situation and it’s a giant nuisance.

Otherwise, I am quite happy with the newly organized office! I have put my laptop here as its regular home, and will only carry it out to the couch/coffee table for, say, watching movies on Netflix Instant Play. I like the idea of keeping the computer in the office and having the living room be mostly computer-free.

What this means is that I’ve been hanging out in the office a lot more already, and the dog has been following me in here, and the cat has been allowing the dog into “her” space, for the most part, and everyone seems to be happy.

Happy Camper

Good start. I just have to keep the room neat and functional throughout the semester, and I should have a great set-up for working at home three days a week. Now, let’s hope I can resist the lure of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and online shopping while I’m here!