Sunday, December 31, 2006

More end of year reflections

Another end-of year meme, last seen at MaggieMay's.

1. What did you do in 2006 that you’d never done before?
- Interview for a tenure-track job (and be offered it)
- Navigate a very complicated breakup
- Blog
- Meet blogfriends in person!
- Visit a number of new places

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My New Year's resolution for last year was to give running one more go by trying new shoes, and it worked. The knee problem is fixed! For this year, my resolution is to be better about remembering friends' birthdays. Also, to read more novels. Also, to lift weights again.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my friends K & J. K had a baby in October after a long time trying with artificial insemination.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
US, UK, Germany

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?
Stability (sadly, until at least the last third of the year, that's no gonna happen.)

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
November 5, the day GF and I had the conversation about the end of our relationship.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Convocating with my PhD, winning an award for my dissertation, publishing two articles, getting a job offer.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I failed to be a very good daughter to my mother.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I had a stupid, annoying injury in March - I stepped out of a taxi and skidded on black ice with that first stepping foot. The other leg wrenched grotesquely, resulting in a horrible knee injury that required six weeks of physiotherapy and interrupted my running for two months.

Also, the dog-pulling incident happened, resulting in cut-up and badly scarred knees.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This fantastic pair of black swingy culotte things, that look absolutely fabulous with heeled boots, are cut like a dream, and are the most comfortable thing ever. Just a few weeks ago.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

14. Where did most of your money go?
Credit card payments and travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Camp-for-adults. Great new friends I met in last year's Uni City, where I am visiting now. The job I have this year. My students at that job.

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?
"The Ring," by Sarah Harmer. "A Case of You", by kd lang.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Sadder, same weight, richer (?)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Talking on the phone with friends, as Maggie says. Seeing friends. Step classes. Writing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Crying. Eating sugar. Being angry at GF.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
This year I spent it in New York. But does this mean next year? In that case, I imagine it will be at my mother's in Home City, where I will be visiting from afar.

21. Did you fall in love in 2006?

22. How many one-night stands?

23. What was your favorite TV program?
The L Word (for the train wreck of it all) and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. And the perennial favourite, The National (what a geek).

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

25. What was the best book you read?
None stand out. That's awful, isn't it. It was a bad reading year.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Sarah Borges.

27. What did you want and get?
A PhD. A job. A brown belt.

28. What did you want and not get?
Nothing that I can think of.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Stranger than Fiction.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Yesterday, I turned 32. I did a meme. I hung out with my mother and my favourite aunt, and there was a Family Christmas party at my aunt's house. I watched twentysomething cousins and cousins-in-law get plastered and cut a hole in the ice on the lake and jump in naked. I had a couple of awful conversations with GF, and cried.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Getting a TT position at current, Dream Uni.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?
Classic with a twist. And necklaces.

33. What kept you sane?
Blogfriends. Regular friends.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I don't really fancy any celebrities, I have to say. It is ever so. It's pathetic.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The government's decision to suspend funding for...anything to do with women, essentially.

36. Who did you miss?
Lots of people. Including my dear friend who lives in Vermont, whom I usually go to visit every spring or summer - but I didn't make it this year. I last saw her for a few brief hours a year ago. But absolutely most of all, my best friend, who has moved to London.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Medieval Woman!

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006.
Sometimes loving each other isn't enough.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

When the days close on the memories that you’ve acquired
And your body cannot hold your soul inspired
You are here and not alone
Everybody has come home
There’s a bed made up upstairs
If you get tired

All the heaviness around you will get light
And your worry lifted up into the night
Left with nothing but pure love
Left with all you are made of
Can I stay around awhile
Is that all right?

Oh lives don’t end
We're goin’ out to be brought back again
Our lives don’t end

- Sarah Harmer, Goin' Out

Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

An end of year geography meme

I saw this at Sarah's and wasn't sure if it was intended as a meme. But I'm making it one, because it's my birthday, and all I feel like doing until I go out for a long run with my much younger cousin, is end-of-year memes. I have had a very long string of highly unhappy birthdays, for some reason. (Last year's really took the cake - it was so bad it is almost funny, in retrospect.) This time I'm doing what I want ( at least until the 28 family members descend, mid-afternoon).

One of the nice things about having a birthday at this time of year is that it allows you to really deepen that "reflecting-on-the-year" thing. I like that - expect lots of that over the next week, since it's been such an incredibly eventful year.

Anyway, Sarah's meme was a list of the cities in which you have spent at least one overnight in the last calendar year (aside from your hometown(s)), of course. I'm going to make that "places", since cities is a a not-qite-accurate description of many of the places I've stayed. There are quite a lot, for me! It has actually been such an unsettled year that part of me almost wishes for a smaller list next time. I spend so much time dragging bags around! Although, be careful what you wish for...

London, England
Berlin, Germany
Ottawa, Ontario
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Tucson, Arizona
Cold Spring, New York
New York, NY
London, Ontario
Kelowna, British Columbia
North Bay, Ontario
Kipawa (area), Quebec
Guelph, Ontario
Plymouth (area), Massachusetts

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Major error

The other day, in a bookstore in New York, I came across a brand new book in exactly my field. Concentrating on some of the stuff that I will be looking at in my book project. The kind of book that simultaneously excites you and makes you go cold...will it make my project irrelevant? you wonder in a panic. Having glanced at it after I bought it, I don't think it nullifies what I am trying to do; it can just be delightful and fascinating.

The other thing I noticed in giving this book a once-over is a huge mistake. The publisher is a big-deal university press - one of the biggest and best known and respected. It's a lovely hardcover first edition. On the back of the jacket are three blurbs from other scholars. Including one by the most prominent North American in the field. The name of this scholar is spelled wrong. And it's not just a minor mistake, like McAuley instead of MacAuley. It is missing one third of its letters. It is such a mess that it's shocking to me to think that this got by copy editors, editors, the author. How does this happen?

Update: I've just been sent the proofs for the article I am having published (yay!). My name is spelled wrong at the beginning of the article, where it's all bold and capitalized, and is also wrong when it appears at the top of every second page. At least I am catching it. But again, how does this happen??

Blogging to the world

Good lord.

It's funny how you forget that your blog is actually publicly accessible, and that you might want to, uh, think carefully about what you put on it.

Yesterday I got 9 times more blog visits than my average. When I realized in the morning that this was happening, I was completely freaked. I traced the visits to a post on a site with what is obviously very high readership. The author had posted something about one of my posts, and thus was driving all their traffic to me.

There was debate. And all manner of impassioned emails to me. There were implications.

I took the post down.

It's not that I am upset with the author of the post that directed readers to me, not at all. After all, this is a public forum. That's just it, though - I forget that what I write here can be accessed by anyone. I chug along, imagining that I am writing for my loose little academic-blogger readership - for some kind of virtual community. Sure, my site counter tells me people often find me when they are looking for banana muffin recipes or academic lesbians. But somehow that doesn't translate, in my mind, into much of anything.

A good reminder to be careful.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Random update

We had a fabulous trip to New York overall - got back late last night. On Christmas Day, we had yummy brunch, then lingered over tea and coffee in a coffee shop, then walked for three hours, then went to a movie (Stranger than Fiction - what a delight!) and then a really, really good dinner. What a great way to spend Christmas - I'm all about the getting away...though now that I've been away two Christmases in a row, I know I'm going to have to spend the day with my Christmas-mad mother next year.

I'm feeling predictably overwhelmed by the task - organizing and packing to move - that confronts me over the next ten days. I am moving out on January 6. So I'll blog, instead! I don't have anything much to say, just thought I'd like to say something...So here are some things I'm thinking about:

- I am wrapping my head around the job. After some anguish, I've decided that I can't pass up the opportunity. (Favourite job, which asked for a writing sample, won't be shortlisting till sometime in the new year, of course - I need to just get on with the offer I have, can't wait around for that possibility...) I need to get my career really started (I have a book to write, dammit, and feel as if I could do that much better with the support - financial and otherwise - that a permanent job would give me), I need to have some security, I need to not be on the job market next year, I need to not be unemployed over the summer, I need to throw myself into the admin work it will entail and get really experienced and good at it so that I'll be able to go on the market again in a couple of years bolstered by that - with a view to ending up back in my part of the world.

I have to recognize that it is a great opportunity, partly because of the university - even if it's in upheaval - and partly because of the role I'd have, which would give me more freedom and pull than most junior faculty members get to have. Of course, there are hidden perils in it but I could learn from it all, I think.

- A straight woman I was talking to recently asked me, "What is it about you lesbians and your breakups?" She was referring to the famous tendency of lesbians who are splitting up to be so enmeshed even through the breakups...or to not be able to really break cleanly at all. I guess that GF and I are a textbook case of this. But I guess that it is the only way I'd like to have it. It makes intuitive sense to me. We'll see if it bears out so successfully in the long run. But for now, I'm happy to make a plan to have a bite to eat with to-be-ex-GF every Monday evening, when she comes over to pick up our Divorce Child, Mr. K., for the week. (I will have him Friday-Monday, she will have him Tuesday-Friday, when I'm in Uni City.)

I'm happy to have her plan to come and visit me shortly after I move for this job. Of course, there will inevitably be complications if either of us ever becomes seriously involved with someone else, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. To me, it doesn't seem to make much sense to cut someone so important out of my life when there's been no transgression or betrayal.

- I have to go away again, on Friday, to last year's Uni City. I have some relatives there, and friends, and my huge extended family is having the Family Xmas Party there on Saturday. Which is also my birthday, and I'm really freaked out at spending my birthday and New Year's without GF for the first time in five years. I don't know why so much anxiety is settling around just is. Anxiety is also being caused by the fact that I will have to answer lots of "Where's GF?" questions, and do not feel like explaining anything, and so will have to make up excuses and lies. Ugh. Anxiety is also coming from the fact that I have to travel there with my mother, and spend a lot of time with her there, and I'm just not good at doing that well, am I? Um, why did I decide to do this, again?

- I wish all you MLAers the best of luck, and much fun at blogger meetups, etc.!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The letter G

GF and I are in New York, for the end of our relationship! As I suspected, it is turning out to be lovely - we are able to rise above what has gone on these last 6 weeks or so and, in a sense, honour the 4 1/2 years we've spent together. And be good to each other. This is the fifth Christmas holiday time we've had..and the first was, in part, also spent in New York. Fitting that a city that both of us love so much has bracketed our relationship...

Today we ate diner breakfast, walked for a total of three hours, much of it through Central Park, spent four hours at the Met, had tea at Lady Mendl's, and saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater perform. These are all things we did together on that first trip here. They have all been wonderful. The sun even came out to break up the gloom, this afternoon. The weather is pure spring - 57 degrees today!! (Outrageous, in fact - but it sure is nice!)


Maggiemay has graciously bestowed the letter G upon me, for this meme that everyone in the blogworld has already done, wherein you list the top ten things you love beginning with this letter. I am late to it, but here goes:

Gorgonzola...Such a fan of cheese I am...the stronger, the better. This one is very near the top. And when it's all melty...oh god...

Greens. Of all sorts. They are a life staple for me - see the "subtitle" of my blog. Mmm...greens and gorgonzola? Heavenly.

Gelato. I am a fan of the fruit dessert, much more than chocolate or anything else. The simplicity of fruit gelato does me in. They have a frutti di bosco gelato at a famous gelato place near where I live - I've never tasted anything like it. And last night I had a homemade cherry gelato that made my eyes pop.

Gin. This, with tonic, will forever be my favourite drink.

Gillian Welch. My favourite musician, the only one I've really traveled to see. (GF and I built a weekend in Pittsburgh around a concert of hers there about 3 years ago...)

Graciousness. Sorry to get maudlin. But if only people could treat each other all graciously...imagine what life would look like.

Galleries. Pure aesthetic indulgence. Almost always like a tiny holiday.

Grand Central Station. As a symbol of New York. But also just for itself - the bustle, the grandness, the ceiling...

Gaylords. Love 'em...As in, effeminately-masculine gendered folks...

GF...Speaking of gaylords (truly)...It may be the end of this form of us, but she will always be in my life and I love her very, very much.

There are other thingsthat belong on this list: guacamole, ginger, grilled cheese...but 10 will have to do...

Happy Holidays, blogfriends!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Universes colliding in blogger meetups

So I've been seeing bloggers lately, after having met my first, grumpyABDadjunct, in October (and seeing her again last week).

Also last week, Sarah and I had a truly lovely mid-afternoon tea at a luscious place; it was grand and she was delightful.

And on Monday and Tuesday, Medieval Woman and I met up - for meals, drinks, furniture shopping, campus visits - when I was visiting her city. It was fabulous!

So I've been thinking about what it feels like to meet these folks. Sarah noted that it felt like a blind date; it does, except that we already know so much about each other's lives. So I've been noticing what I feel like in the few moments before a meetup. It's the oddest feeling. It has an element of the paradox about it - like this approaching joining of two spacetimes. I have noticed that I resist it, just for a moment, and I think it is because of this weirdness. Like, " doesn't make head and the world are going to explode! Can the hyperreal be real?!"

That passes, of course, and all is instantly well. But it's a funny discomfort that marks me, I think, as a member of a transitional generation, one that is comfy with the Internet but still maintains that separation, whether intentionally or not...

At any rate, here's to blogger meetups!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ooh, god

So I'm being offered a TT job at the place I interviewed at a couple of weeks ago.

Thing is, I don't really want it.

I cried the whole plane ride home, precisely because the interview had gone so well and I knew an offer was a very real possibility.

It was: The city - oh god. The fact that the university is in upheaval. The fact that I'd have a huge - and potentially exciting, but really just a lot - service role in the midst of a university in upheaval. As a very junior faculty member. The Dean telling me, in our short meeting, that I'd have to come in there with my eyes open. Its huge distance from anyone I know; that means a lot for a person who values connection, and has many connections in my part of the world. All these things combine to make it seem terrifying.

The university that was my favourite of the five I applied to - and the one that I also supposed was the longest shot - has asked me for a writing sample; they wanted me to get it to them asap. By yesterday (which I dutifully and excitedly did, of course). So there is the potential that I will be considered for that position. And last week, after I was back from the interview, I asked my Chair at current Dream Uni - where I am on full-time contract - out for a drink, and we talked about the possibility of securing a two-year contract for me there. I would, I think, be willing to stay for a multi-year contract. Am I crazy? Anyway, it probably doesn't matter if I am, because though Chair would like to keep me, it's unlikely the administration would come up with such a thing.

Anyway. Algh. I should be happy, I know. A TT job! But I only feel apprehensive. The job freaks me out. And the thought of trying to juggle and push at departments and people makes my stomach lurch and turn.

I need a drink. A big one. Now.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grading lessons learned

Okay, so there have been lots of lessons learned on the grading front this term. As you regular readers know, it has been a great teaching term. But, boy, have there been some mistakes in terms of evaluation strategies and my own lenience.

I gave take-home examsn for the first time. In two classes - in one, it was the final exam, and in the other, it is the mid-year exam. I knew it would be a delicate task designing these. And then it turned out that I was madly rushing and preparing for an interview when I should have been carefully doing that. The result? One that is way too easy - it is essentially what I would have given as a closed-book, regular examination. And one that is too hard - grad school level. Oy. I haven't graded the difficult one yet, but I've done the easy one, and the average is too high. Right now I'm thinking, never again with the take-home exams!.

The other thing was that I didn't explicitly put in the syllabi that I wouldn't accept take-home exams after the due date of 3pm on Thursday, December 14. It didn't even occur to me that students would think it was acceptable to hand in an exam late! And yet, oh yes, there are at least a couple who think that's perfectly acceptable, and, I suppose, assume that I'm just going to dock the standard 5% per day that I indicate in my late submission policy. Damn them!! Without having spelled out that exams won't be accepted late, I think I have to accept them. Perhaps with double the penalty.

This gets me to the question of my lenience. At the top of my list of goals for a new academic year, I put "stop being a pushover". No such luck, I'm afraid. I watched myself give in until now I feel completely taken advantage of. The thing is, I don't mind giving an extension if a student asks for it well in advance of the deadline. That has never been a problem before - last year, I had 2 1/2 times the number of students I do now, and didn't feel that was abused. But this time, oh lord! I can't even get over the ways people in my Theory class have been pushing me. One of them had an essay due on the 29th of November. She asked me if she could have a 2-day extension because of grad school application deadlines, and I said sure. Have I seen the essay yet? NO. So on the weekend, I emailed her asking about it, and she said "oh yeah, my Berkeley application is taking longer than I thought. I'm going to be able to get to the stuff from [our class] soon." This means she hasn't submitted the exam either! No apologies, just a "Thank you!" at the end of the email. The audacity!! I didn't give you a three-week extension, you twit! I gave you two days, and now have had to spend my time chasing you down!! Frankly, how dare you?

I am going to have to start the new year with a stern speech about how I feel my flexibility was completely taken advantage of, and there will be no such flexibility this time around.

Sigh. I don't like this role.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

End of term

It is 15 minutes to 3 on the last day of my term...classes ended last week, but I am waiting for the last of the 43 take-home exams - for two different courses - I am expecting by 3pm! I expect I will have the remaining 20+ people all show up in a panic at 3. Sigh - students and their time management issues!

It has been such a great term...I am sorry to have my fourth-year seminar on Precise Area of Research ending - though very happy that I will see almost all of those students back in another fourth-year Special Topics course next term. And I am so happy that my Theory course is continuing after the break.

It has been so nice to sit here and have students trickle in all day, and chat with me. One brought me a black scarf that she had crocheted for me! One brought me a card that told me she admires me because I am "classy and sophisticated" - haha, surely the most important qualities of any academic! All of them bring in smiles and well wishes. As difficult as this term has been personally, I am so thankful that I've had these absolutely fantastic groups of human beings as my students...They really saved me.


Some half-formed thoughts about ambition...

I didn't really have any, for the longest time. Or at least not much. And I think I frowned on it, to some extent, since so many of the very ambitious people I saw around me were either really unethical or really unhappy.

Early in my PhD program, I remember talking with a guy who was poised to be the next Derrida. I told him that I could sense that he would be a star, and that he would be good at that - that profile would fit him. And I said that I'd hate to be a star, that I'd rather just be somewhere quietly where I could teach, and be well thought of. That's all I could imagine wanting, asking for. Not long after that, I remember declaring to someone that I'd be just fine teaching at a community college. (Now, this means something different where I live from what it means in the States. It means a vocational college, essentially. Where nobody majors in Humanities, they major in plumbing or nursing or graphic design or whatever. And a few Humanities courses are just tacked on as breadth requirements - writing courses, critical thinking courses, etc.)

No longer would I even consider teaching at a community college in Canada. And, while I don't want to be a star by any means - too much pressure! too many politics! and I'm ultimately too shy - I would like to have my work read by a few people, recognized. Yesterday I gave a talk at a small conference here at Dream Uni, a conference showcasing the work of some of the uni's researchers in the Humanities. I was happy to be well received, to have my work recognized here, to think it might have an impact on someone. I want that. I think all this translates into ambition. (This all reminds me of MaggieMay's post, a few weeks back, on how nice it is to achieve recognition at her college...)

So of course, I rethink my feelings about ambition. I see that for me, this just means recognition of the thinking work I do. The time and care that goes into it. My ideas. And with my excitement about collaboration lately - on two panels, on some other stuff - I see that ambition also means, for me, achieving the respect and regard that means people will want to embark on projects with me.

I am also ambitious in the sense that I want to able to be taken seriously where I work (wherever that is!). I want my contributions to matter in the university. Again, I want my ideas to matter - in a service context. This is about voice, I guess. I am ambitious in the sense that I want my voice heard.

That makes me realize how much academia has changed me, especially over the last few years. I've written about this before - about how teaching has brought me out of my shell. I once barely knew I had a voice that could matter. Now that I do, I think that for me, ambition is about respecting that voice.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Early resolution

I just registered for the half-marathon* in the famous race day in DadCity. Even though it's six months away.

I was going to wait until the New Year, to make that my New Year's resolution, but I figured, why not do it now? Why not commit myself to that, so that I can't back out?

The last time I ran a half-marathon was in 1997. It was near the beginning of my time as a runner. About 5 weeks later, I developed an undiagnosed knee injury that prevented me from running, pretty much. Even with a brand new pair of shoes. Nobody could figure out what it was. I would run occasionally - a few times a year - but mostly had to do other stuff (fitness classes) because my knee would flare up with running. I even had an MRI in the summer of 2005 - nothing could be found. Then about a year ago - last year's New Year's resolution - I thought I'd try to give it a go one more time. I went and had myself fitted at a truly expert place, for different shoes. And what do you know? That seemed to do the trick, and I have been able to run all year with no problems. (A good lesson there on the absolute necessity of properly fitted shoes! I thought the ones I had before were good...but no...)

I had said initially that I didn't ever want to do a long distance thing again because I worried that my knee couldn't take it. But if it's held up thus far - and I don't run miniscule distances - then I'll bet it will be fine.

I seem to want to push myself. I am running pretty fast these days, and quite often finding that joyful plateau, that runner's high. I am sure that this has something to do with the craziness, the upheaval, of the rest of my life. Running is truly good for my soul, at the moment. More than anaything, it makes me feel strong. And I need that.

*I really have no interest in running a marathon - a half-marathon is it. The way marathons break people's bodies doesn't look like fun to me. And I just don't want to take on the time commitment that training for it would mean, either. I am not that disciplined.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday random list

Lots of up and down - I am really trying to just give in to that as the structure of my life right ride the waves, essentially...Some bits from the last few days:

- My interview went extremely well. But there is, complication around that, which I will no doubt post more about if an offer materializes.

- Oh, the roller coaster with soon-to-be-ex GF. Right this very minute we're okay...But it honestly changes day to day. The next challenge for us is to spend Christmas together in New York. That's right, folks...we are spending four days there, just the two of us, from the 22nd to the 26th. Good lord. This is, of course, a plan that predates the meltdown of the relationship over the last five weeks. But I actually have some confidence in us - that we'll be able to weather it and spend some bittersweet but good time together at the end of our relationship. Sound crazy?

- The thought of moving out of this beloved place in a month exhausts and terrifies me.

- Saw a close friend, S, last night. We drank way, way too much red wine at an obnoxious art gallery opening and then a noisy bar. S is an old and dear friend; I always say that she is the closest thing to a sister in this only child's life. That is, we drive each other crazy in a way that I wouldn't tolerate with anyone else, but love each other to pieces. Anyway, we were out with her boyfriend, as well. This was the first real time I've spent with boyfriend since he was exceptionally rude to me over a year ago, and then proceeded to break S's heart by being a first-class ass. I was not feelin' the love for him, you know? But now he's come back to Canada (he's from the UK) and they're trying again, so what can I do but be supportive? I didn't know if I had it in me, but we spent a very long evening together last night, without incident. I like this; I like being able to let go of that anger. It is cathartic and necessary.

- I have coordinated a panel that I am so proud to propose, for Congress 2007 (for those of you US folks who don't know what it is, it's like an academic super-conference that happens every spring at a different university; the meetings of 70+ different scholarly associations over 10 days). This is with my colleague Flake and good friend, M. I mentioned it here when it was but the germ of an idea. Now it's a full, ready-to-go proposal that I've drafted, and the other two are really behind the way I've framed it, and I'm so damn excited. It's a great panel, I think. Yay! I can't wait to go hang out on the prairies with them, too.

- My birthday and New Year's loom, a day apart. I will spend them without GF, for the first time in five years. That makes me really, really sad. But I have hatched a plan to spend a quiet country New Year's with my friend M, and that makes me happy. He is having a brutal time right now, and we have found each other a good source of support lately. I think it will do us good to spend New Year's together.

- I love bloggers. Tomorrow I'm going to go over to grumpyabdadjunct's to look at some furniture I may be able to take off her hands, to use in my new, furniture-less life. Later this week I am hoping to have a meetup with another blogger, Sarah, whom I've not met before. And next week I'm going to have a visit with Medieval Woman. I would never have imagined, when I started this, how wonderful a source of support and friendship you would all be. Thank you!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Annoying food words

So I'm at this hotel alone, waiting for my interview tomorrow and Friday.

So I got to dinner at the hotel restaurant, which fancies itself as quite snazzy. Because I'm sick of looking at job related materials, I read the menu descriptions are fun.

But this menu committed some food writing crimes. The number one word I hate, in food descriptions?
It's always "X nestled on a bed of..."

Ugh. That is gross.

Coming a close second is "zesty". A lemon tart? Zesty? No!! Who'd have thunk it?

On a related note, my most hated fashion-and-lifestyle word, the scourge of fashion writing, is "flirty" - as in a "flirty dress". Retch.

Any food or fashion words you hate??

Monday, December 04, 2006


How much does it bug you when students can't even get it together to spell your name right on their papers?

I get this so often. It pisses me off! I may have a name that's a little unfamiliar to you, but come on!! It's there on the syllabus for you to see, and in any number of other documents I've given to you.

Today's example is a travesty that bears so little resemblance to my name, aside from the first letter, that I feel like failing the student just for that.

It's just such sloppiness, such direct evidence of a lack of effort.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Woman in a yellow skirt

I bought this painting last night. It's called Woman in a Yellow Skirt.

I was the high bidder at a fundraising auction for a queer institution.

I hadn't seen it in the preview, because I was distracted and inattentive, I suppose. It came up during the raucous, alcohol-saturated auctioneering (hosted by the guy who was my first aerobics instructor, 10 years ago - that was weird). And I fell in love with it, and bid. And won.

Why does this matter?

Because it's been four weeks to the day that GF and I decided to end our relationship. It's been four weeks of trying to hold it together, to "be good to each other", so that we could stay together until the summer, loving each other well.

And last night, aside from my buying the painting, GF and I decided that this is the end. Now(ish). I will move out in a month or so, probably into the home of a close friend of mine, A. For six months or so, until I sort out where I'll be next. It hasn't been easy - the last month has been hell. Every Thursday night, I would come home from Uni City and hope it would be alright this time. It never was - I've lived this last month in suspension, floating numbly above my life while I was away, and descending into pain whenever I'd be back in Home City. I guess that's no way to live.

I don't have any furniture of my own anymore, besides a few odds and ends - an old table, some bookcases, a dresser. No bed, no couch, no chairs, no desk. Also, it makes me sad to think of leaving here because I've lived here longer - 3 1/2 years - than I've lived anywhere in my life. I have lived in about 25 places in 32 years. I am tired of moving and tired of having nothing of my own. Everything feels completely ungrounded right now and I guess I was hanging on to this place as the one thing, you know? The one thing I have, even if it's not really mine.

But what I do have is some art. Including this new painting. I guess it will always remind me of the end of this trying. But overall, somehow, it makes me hopeful.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Emotion in the classroom

Such a class I had last night.

I wish I could reveal my discipline and the topic of last night’s theory class; it would make it easier to explain and ask for feedback on what went on last night. But I’m not going to do that (even though I’m sure some of you have figured it out).

At any rate, last night a student – one of my favourites – cried in class. That might often signal the devolution of a class into personal narrative and an abandonment of the intellectual project. In this stellar class, it didn’t mean that at all. The crying didn’t take us off course. The student spoke through it, made the point, and if anything, the tears hammered home the relevance of the intellectual work at hand. Many disagree, I know, that emotions have any place in the classroom – but I feel strongly that they do. That they are always present, and that in some disciplines, with some topics, they are simply given more space to emerge into. That our knowledges emerge from people's lives.

There was also some emotionally charged, but silent, staking out of positions. I could see this happen as I surveyed the class – someone reacting strongly, as if attacked, to what someone else had said. The student didn’t say anything, but I was strongly aware of the discomfort – and the fact that it might point to others’ discomfort.

I left the class very upset, shaking, knots in my stomach. On my long walk home from the bus station, I tried to figure out what had me so worked up. In one way, it was simply that there was crying and conflict “under my watch”. I feel somehow responsible for these people. If they are emotionally wounded during their time in my class, how am I complicit in that? Or am I, at all?

In a broader sense, I don’t feel equipped to deal with the emotional dimensions of some of what we study; I don’t have the skills. In this class, because the level is so high and the discourse already very familiar to many of them, it’s not a huge problem. Members of the class can guide their peers in productive directions; they barely need me (and that is a good thing, because I was really no help at all last night). But this is an exceptional class; most of them aren’t like this. And yet there is undeniably this emotional element to what I teach, sometimes. I just don’t know how to position my self in relation to it, what to do with it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Depressing paper

It is paper-marking time. Last night I read the most atrocious paper I have ever seen, no exaggeration. This is from a student in an upper-year course. She's in her third or fourth year. She had given me a draft of the paper a few weeks ago, and I'd gone over it with a fine-toothed comb, correcting grammar and sentence structure. I'd also typed up a sheet of comments and directions on ways to fix the disaster that it was. (She is not an ESL student, by the way.) And she was going to go to the Academic Skills Centre to get help. So she handed it in, and it is no better - possibly, it is worse. It is completely unintelligible. Also profoundly offensive at times.

What depresses me is that she's gotten this far. And I think of the course of mine that she's in, which is a theory course, and which I pitch fairly high because there are a lot of exceptional thinkers in there. I can see now that she is getting absolutely nothing from it. That she doesn't even grasp the principles taught in the first year, let alone in an upper-year course like this. This essay assignment was to use materials from the course, and she's completely misinterpreted them, even though they were discussed in class. That feels bad, frankly - to know that I am completely failing to communicate with at least one person in there. Possibly others. Sigh. I can't *wait* to see their take-home mid-year exam.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh, whine

A student of mine came by to see me this afternoon. She sat down and just chatted. She is a wonderfully engaged student from my theory class. She said that she'd run into another professor from our department at her workplace in a fabric store, and told this colleague of mine, "You have to hire Hilaire back!!" That was very nice to hear. She asked me about whether I'd be there next year and I told her that because the uni doesn't have TT job in my field that I can apply for, it's unlikely that I'll be back unless I don't get a TT job somewhere else.

Then she said she was disappointed because she'd wanted to ask me if I'd do a Directed Reading course with her next year.

Can I just tell you, it makes me want to cry and scream and stomp my feet in frustration that I can't do this with her.

I know, I know, you're raising your eyebrows - I know lots of you hate and resent directed reading courses. It's probably just because I am not yet jaded, am still full of enthusiasm about most things in this profession...but I love the idea of doing a directed study course with a student I like. The idea of working with her to narrow her interests, collaborating on a list of readings, and having occasional meetings to talk about things - I love it. I actually also see it as a real learning opportunity for me, on a whole lot of different levels. Perhaps this is because I did so goddamned many of these directed reading courses, especially as a grad student - I found them really rewarding. Anyway, boo hoo.

Sigh. Damn, I wish I could stay here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


It is amazing how you can't really see the truth of things until you read them aloud...

I had two friends over today for a run-through of my job talk. I'd thought it was pretty much finished. But as I read, I was stuck by a dozen formulations that were off. Not in terms of content - that felt solid, with the exception of one bit that suffered from trying to smoosh four pages of complex writing into one page. But at the level of sentence structure, word choice...These are easy things to fix - not a problem. It was a reminder of how important it is to read work aloud. I tell my students to do this as a proofreading technique, but I haven't been following the advice myself. And I feel my job talk will be infinitely smoother for having done this.

My friends thought my talk was very good; accessible and yet not dumbed-down, they said. That is encouraging. I actually feel pretty good about it. That is a nice feeling to have.


My other strategy has been to type stream-of-consciousness responses to every interview question I can get my hands on...I have pages and pages of conversational answers. This is so useful for me, as someone who most definitely thinks through writing, and not through talking. And of course it's not that I'm going to memorize answers - I couldn't do that, nor would I want to - but that I can tap into what I've previously worked out through writing - thoughts I wouldn't have had if I hadn't done this exercise. Since it's been actually thought and articulated before, it exists, it'll be accessible...

I realized that I did this before, nearly two years ago, when I interviewed for the job I had last year (though I didn't do it nearly as extensively). What a difference to look at my answers from then; I pulled up that old file. It was helpful - I thought, a number of times, "hey, that's a good idea!"

Friday, November 24, 2006

Eye update

Remember, I have that eye thing?

Well, I saw the doctor and it is probably fine. I am supposed to watch it, but they think it is not a big deal. So that's good.

And I, very much a non-shopaholic, bought the following random selection of completely unnecessary items in half an hour today after my doctor's appointment:

- four hair clips
- homemade deli mustard
- unsuitable hair conditioner
- silicone pastry brush
- $19 piece of Basque sheep cheese

That about says it all, really. Paper over emptiness with commodities. How predictable.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Facing the future

Today I arranged a “realty tour” at the place I am interviewing in a couple of weeks. Some local realtor has offered to take university candidates round the area, to both introduce them to the place and give them a sense of their realty options. You know – it’s a soft sell. I am a little averse to any kind of sell, but since I declined the university’s offer of a rental car as part of my flight/hotel package, I thought that this would be the only way to really see the place.

I don’t have any money. If I got this job, I sure as hell wouldn’t be buying a home. But I wrote to the guy that if did happen to get the job, I would rent at first, and then consider buying a place in a year or so, and this would be my price range, etc., etc. It just feels completely ridiculous, like pie in the sky.

But it also feels really sad. If GF and I were going to stay together, there really would be house buying, if not right away. She’s the one with the money, and already owns the house that we live in.

All too often these days, I am having to simultaneously confront both the reality and the unimaginability of my future without her. I wrote to the real estate guy that since I would be single, I’d be looking at a condo or a small house, if I were to buy. (Notice ambiguous use of language, to speak to ambiguous situation.)


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

how strange

I just made up an evaluation form.

This university doesn't have a standardized evaluation process. They mandate end-of-course evaluations, of course, but departments do it - and in my department, at least, each individual instructor can do what they want. The department assistant showed me some examples of the form people use. Most use the same one, with essentially the same questions. There is no numeric scale on most of these.

I find this weird. I don't get it. It makes me see the value of having a centralized evaluation system, as there has been at the two other universities I've taught at. Frankly, I'm really surprised that this place doesn't have that. I mean, it's a good university. How common is this?

So I made up a form that contained a numeric thing as well. I don't want to dispense with numbers! Numbers have been very good to me in evaluations! The 1-5 scale is one of my best friends; it makes me look good. I don't want to give that up! Numbers are easily crunchable evidence, too, for teaching dossiers, job applications, tenure files.

How weird. Anybody else make up their own evaluations in a centrally mandated process?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weekend update

It's (yet another) gloomy day 'round these parts. Sun, why have you forsaken us?

My weekend has been crazily up and down...

On the plus side, I accomplished the three currently realistic Goals for a Happier Me that I blogged about on Thursday (the fourth is not possible until January...). I:

- talked for an hour and a half on the phone with my friend M, satisfying my desire for phone connections instead of email; and
- went out (relatively spontaneously, in Home City terms - only 24 hours' notice) with my friend K, to celebrate her having been made a partner at her law firm. This one outing counted toward the other two goals: seeing friends, and having joyous eating occasions. We went out for mid-afternoon tea and treats at a place I positively worship. I am serious; the food at this place is works of art, and nearly brings tears to my eyes every time. Not even kidding. The sheer beauty!! Of food and surroundings, actually - I swoon from the gorgeousness. It is really, really nourishing on every level, and I hope for future blogfriend meetups there. I had a maple pumpkin tart and nearly melted with happiness. And I talked to my friend K about what's going on with GF - she is one of the very few real-life people I've talked to about it, for a number of reasons - and she was lovely.

On the more difficult side, the job talk literally drove me to drink on Friday night, after my second day of trying to write it.

But on the plus side, I had an emergency phone conversation with my former supervisor this morning, and she agreed with my misgivings about the route I was taking, and concurred with my hunch that I should start over again with a different chunk of research. A few hours of work today, and I seem to be nearly there. Thank goodness for her!

On the minus side, things with GF have been a bumpy ride this weekend. Blech, blech, blech.

Another minus - my aunt F reminded me of what I had conveniently forgotten. That there is a very rare, hereditary eye ulcer condition in my mother's family. So I'd better get me to the doctor about my eye thing, though from what I understand, it's so rare it's one of those things that nobody will have even heard of.

I remembered, then, this horrible thing: Once, when I was five or six, I was woken up in the middle of the night by my mother screaming as my dad led her downstairs. Some kind of eye thing had flared up out of nowhere and she was screaming in agony about the light. She went to emergency and they bandaged up her eyes for a few days. I remember that she looked like a fly with those enormous pillowy bandages. Let's hope that the fly look is not in my future.

The plus side of the eye thing is that it doesn't hurt.

Also on the plus side, I am going to go for a run shortly, for the first time in two weeks - crisis and cold have conspired to keep me out of my running shoes. And I am making comfort food for dinner - pasta with chickpeas, and a salad with arugula, and maybe even a half-batch of brownies. And Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is on - I am loving it. It's nice to have a show (besides downloaded L Word); I never have a show.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Worry and weirdness

- There's something wrong with my eye. I first noticed this about two weeks ago, but things have been so crazy that I put it out of my mind. It's sure not going anywhere, though. There's some kind of...thing...on the lens of my eye. It's all red around that part, and I can detect some sort of aberration on the surface. Some kind of concave...thing. What it reminds me of? When Mr. K. got a wart under his eyelid and it grew and pressed into his eye so that he got an ulcer and almost lost the eye. It looks like that. Nice. Uh, I think it's time for an appointment with the doctor.

- This week, my colleague Flake and I hatched an idea for a Congress panel...a cool theme that unites our quite different work. I told her about my friend M., the kind of very cutting-edge work he's doing right now, and how well it would fit with our little theme. We were both excited. Yesterday I emailed M, in the middle of an email conversation we were already having (to set up a phone date...sigh; when did it come to this - phone dates?). He's very, very, multiple-exclamation-mark-ly in. Yay! We have a (kickass) panel, I think.

So late last night, I come home to my completely fucked up and ambiguous home life in Home know, the one where GF and I are sorta together, but not forever. This morning, there is some upset, some predictable tears. Then I take the dog for a long walk. When I come home, I tell GF about how I have worked up this panel with Flake and M. She is happy for me, thinks it sounds great. And then she gets this coy little smile. When I press her to tell me what she's thinking, she says, "I think you and M would be great together. I've always thought so. You have such a rapport."

So. My girlfriend is planning my next relationship, with my friend the engaged transman, while we're still in this one.* Who would have thought, six months ago, that November would look like this??

Off to schedule an appointment with the doctor!

*For the record, this is a dead-end thought for me right now. I have no stomach for thinking about a date ever again in my life.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Putting my house in order

So obviously it's not the easiest time for me right now. Things are just a little bit of a mess. What's most difficult is the ambiguity of the situation. The uncertainty. And yet I really strongly feel that I need to live with ambiguity for at least a little while. I've been finding myself dragged down into something just beginning to approach depression - sleeping a lot, not wanting to go for my runs, feeling unmotivated and lethargic. This is a particular fear of mine. (My mother, a single mother, essentially went to bed for six months when I was eight; that has always been a concrete image of a situation I never want to find myself in.) So I'm aware that I need to make some changes so that I don't go that route, and so that I can start building a slightly different life from the one I've had these last few years.

What is making me happy right now? My students, most of all. I continue to just adore them. That Wednesday night theory class I'm always on about is getting better and better, the more comfortable we all get with each other. Last night none of us wanted to leave.

And I have all sorts of wee collaborations going on with people, workwise - imagining and proposing two exciting conference panels, having the reading duo, talking with colleagues about pedagogy, etc., etc. I like this kind of academic collaboration a lot.

That's what's making me happy. But it's all about work. I need to figure out a way to be something other than my work. I have always so grateful to have a very rich, full life outside of academia, as I've written in the context of the now-defunct Activity. What happened to that? In one sense, it's great that I have this work stuff to focus my energy on, since the relationship stuff is so hard right now. But it sure can't be all.

What's missing is joy (outside the great student moments, which sometimes feel a little joyful) - I've been feeling that lack of pure pleasure for a while now. How can I bring that back into my life so that I have the energy to re-imagine things?
  • I need to see my friends more, first of all. Living away from Home City last year essentially functioned as a break in my many friendships there. Friendship habits were broken, you know? This year, I am in Home City for three days a week. But because my schedule and situation in Uni City are weird and grueling, as I've mentioned before, I get to Home City and all I want to do is cocoon. I want to just curl up on the couch and hang out with the dog. The result is that I am not seeing friends nearly enough, and this is time when they are vital; they are a lifeline to that elusive joy.
  • I should have more phone talking...somewhere in the course of the last few years, phone talking has mostly gone out the window with friends. I miss its doesn't do it.
  • I need to eat more exciting food...go out for fun dinners more, or have little cheese parties like I did a few weeks ago. This does connect me very concretely to joy.
  • I need something for my body, besides running. I have an interest in dance - The Activity was a dance form. I will be in Home City one more day a week starting in January...and I see that there is a ballet class I can take at Extremely Good Place on that extra day. Although it is not my first choice of a style to learn, I am interested in ballet. And I think that what's important is to be using my body in the way that I am used to with dance. My body misses that.

That will be a fine start, I think.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The beauty of the bottle

Alcohol is so therapeautic sometimes. I stayed late at my office last night, and then went to a local bar/cafe here in Uni City to get something to eat. And something to drink - which I'd been, frankly, craving for days. I had soup and salad and some pear ciders, and read some articles. And it was divine. It's not the beginning of any sort of downward spiral (with an alcoholic mother, I'm too careful to ever go there), but it renewed my appreciation of drink in times of crisis. Sometimes, it is just the right thing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Such a freaking sad sack I am

Whew. Lighten up, Hilaire. A meme seen at various, but first at New Kid's.

"You can only type one word. No explanations."

1. Yourself:

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend.....

3. Your hair?

4. Your mother?:

5. Your Father:

6. Your Favorite Item:

7. Your dream last night:

8. Your Favorite drink:

9. Your Dream Car:

10. The room you are in:

11. Your Ex:

12. Your fear:

13. What you want to be in 10 years:

14. Who you hung out with last night?

15. What You're Not?

16. Muffins:

17: One of Your Wish List Items:

18: Time:

19. The Last Thing You Did:

20. What You Are Wearing:

21. Your Favorite Weather:

22. Your Favorite Book:

23. The Last Thing You Ate:

24. Your Life:

25. Your Mood:

26. Your best friend (s):

27. What are you thinking about right now?

28. Your car:

29. What are you doing at the moment?

30. Your summer:

31. Your relationship status:

32. What is on your tv?

33. What is the weather like?

34. When is the last time you laughed?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Job talk advice

Shitty times continue. What a fuck-up of a day. Argh, everything. (Except my students, who provided me with the one bit of comfort and happiness so far…)

But it’s on to the next thing. I would love some advice about my job talk. This will be the one for the upcoming interview and also for any other interviews, should I happen to get some more. I have seen exactly no job talks in my life because my grad programs were interdisciplinary and didn’t do their own hires. The place I was teaching at last year didn’t have open talks. And when I interviewed at that place, I made a short research presentation on my dissertation (then in progress) to the hiring committee only. I’m freaked because of my lack of experience in this area.

Here’s the deal, and here’s what I’m wondering. ..

I defended my PhD in early December of last year – so, essentially, a year ago. A version of one of its chapters has just come out in a collection of essays – so I won’t be presenting that. But the rest of the dissertation hasn’t been mined yet. My plan, outlined in my job letters, is twofold. It is, on the one hand, to generate two more articles based on the dissertation material – but really building on it, transforming it. (I find it organizationally unwieldy.) The other plan is to write a new book – and I have just begun to work on that project, having presented the first paper at a conference a month ago. The book project is in broadly the same area as my previous work; it really clearly evolved from that research, but is on a more specific question. An analogy would be if I were a Canadian historian and I worked on the Depression; my dissertation was on, oh, say, ideology in the labour-management relationship in the Depression and my new book project is on unions in a particular industrial sector in that same era. But both the dissertation and the new book are trying to “do” the same thing, to intervene in/have an effect on/build the literature in similar ways.

So, does it make sense to use the bulk of my job talk to present dissertation material (which sets up my theoretical interest and approach, and what I consider the urgency of the topic)? I’d have an example or two in there, to be sure, but it would be broad – a non-specialist, but at the same time not superficial, introduction to the kind of work I do, and where I see it fitting. And then, at the end, to spend ten minutes or so indicating the questions of my new project, with a sense of how they build on the approaches established in the earlier work.

Or should I be seeing this as a contained argument/chapter from my dissertation, rather than a broader introduction to what I do?

I feel as if the committee will watch closely how I interpret the vague imperative to “give a research seminar”, and choosing the wrong approach, even if what I say seems okay, could be a bad move.

What have you seen in the best job talks? Or, what did you do in yours when you were a successful candidate? (If it helps, this place I’m interviewing at next month could probably be characterized as a moderately research-intensive institution; it’s kind of hard to categorize at the moment for reasons I can’t get into here.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Elements of a bad week

This has to have been one of the worst weeks of my life. Besides shock and grief on the relationship front, there were:

- a bad cold;
- a student who came and told me that she had been slipped a date rape drug at a Halloween party - and had ended up in hospital, after passing out in a bathroom and being found by very unsympathetic, mean, judgmental female peers. (The world sucks.);
- a student who handed in veiled homophobic nonsense in a critical response assignment - and I couldn't write "F. F for you're a Fucking Idiot";
- needing to get out of the house I stay at in Uni City on Wednesday night. Since the friends I stay with won't let me give them any money, I feel as if I have no real claim on the space. So when they announced they had a friend coming through town, and did I have somewhere else to stay for that one night, I felt I couldn't help but go somewhere else. I ended up spending over $100 on a hotel.

And then there was the up and down of loss and grief. And not knowing where to put it. Not feeling as if I can talk about it to friends, because it's so ambiguous. GF and I aren't breaking up right now - we will end when I move away, in the summer, for one job or another. We have both recognized, finally, that our relationship isn't sustainable. We are too different - and yes, I think there is such a thing. I've wondered about this for years, and GF hasn't been willing to wonder with me. She came back from her trip having really felt this.

I have written here that I am lonely. She is, too. I don't think it makes sense to be lonely in a relationship. For that reason, and for others, we need to recognize that we're not forever. That we can't give each other what we each need; such very, very different things.

What breaks hearts is that we've tried so hard. I find it breathtakingly sad to recognize that even when you've worked as hard as we have, these last four years, sometimes that's not enough.

And so now, an odd space.

We are together, but see the end in sight. GF has said, "let's spend the next few months being rally good to each other, having a lot of fun together..." This seems right to me, intuitively - though something rational in me wonders if it's not dangerous on some level, emotionally. What with me eventually needing to break away from this and make my life over in a new place, while she stays in Home City with the friends and family and space and routines she knows, to fall back on.

What this means, though, is many months of ambiguity ahead. This week has been characterized by a sense of mourning...and the downs have been profound. If this doesn't settle down a little, soon, I will need to re-assess...perhaps it won't be healthy for me to stay here if it just presses my emotional buttons so much. I can't spend eight months crying.

The other thing is the way this whole thing plays into my job search. Since it is my moving to begin a new job that will instantiate the break between us, I now have profound ambivalence about that. The interview coming up in a few weeks, for instance, is something I feel myself psychically resisting because of what it symbolizes. I need to stop doing that; I need to recognize these as possibilities, not simply as looming loss. How do I do that?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


The last few days have been grief-filled. Pretty much devastating things about my relationship. I spent 48 hours crying, emerging from that tearful state only long enough to teach my class last night. I haven’t ever, in my life, felt sadness like this. I can’t get into it right here, right now. I don’t have energy for much besides getting through; certainly not for recounting the history of my four-and-a-half-year-old relationship and how I got to what feels like the real tragedy of the place I’ve arrived at with GF. So I won’t explain – at least not right now.

I thought I would take a long break from blogging. But for some strange reason, I feel accountable to this forum, and as if I should be upfront about the fact that there is something very big, and very bad, taking up most of the space in my brain at a time when all should be excitement and planning for job interviews, etc. This brings up some tough questions about what this blog is for. Perhaps I have taken it on too much; I do tend to do that. I also tend to be unnecessarily honest, if that makes sense. At any rate, I feel responsible, somehow, to all you lovely bloggers. So I figured I’d mention it. Now that I have been able to pull it together enough to write.

What I can ask is this, about all that seems so paradoxical:
- How can it be that it’s when you realize the depth of your love for someone – for each other – that the impossibility of keeping on becomes clear?
- Why does the clarity and purity of intention and feeling that you’ve been searching for – for years – come through only when you realize that this is finite, that you, as a couple, will not last forever?
- How can you love each other and imagine how to let go?

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Hey, blogfriends, thank you for all your little notes of celebration and support over the last couple of days. I love ya!

There is relief right now. Relief in knowing that I am marketable, since someone wants to interview me. Relief in knowing that I can write things that people want to publish in Big-ass Journals. But most of all, there's a very surprising relief having to do with my current Uni, the (contractual) Dream Job.

As I wrote the other day, I've been wary of letting myself get too invested in the place. And ever since I was hired in the spring, there has been this talk of a TT job opening up that, perhaps, I would be well positioned for. Long story short, they are trying to secure the funding for the position and post it very soon. What they were initially aiming for was a very broad posting, listing about four different possible areas of expertise - including one that fits my profile. So I've just been quietly obsessing over this.

And then, on Thursday, I went in to talk to my Chair, to let her know I have this two-day campus interview in a faraway place - at the worst possible time...the last week of the teaching term. So I'd need to miss at least one class. We ended up having a long chat. She told me that because of political pressures, they've just had to scrap the initial job call and redesign it - specifying very precisely a field that has nothing to do with my fields. I won't even apply for this job. She expressed disappointment that she couldn't create a posting that might be geared to me, though, and said she hoped that I'd consider coming back here in the future - she said that wherever I end up, she'd keep me in mind for the next TT position that comes up. And she also asked me if I would be willing to take another contract next year. I told her that I would, but only if I didn't come up with a TT job, which she understood. Before I left, she offered out of the blue to write me a reference letter.

Now, I would have guessed I'd leave such a meeting disheartened, since the possibilities for a long-term future at Dream Uni are shot (at least for now). But it was a profound relief, I've found. Now I know I won't be there next year - unless, that is, I don't get another job. I can focus my energies elsewhere. I can let myself integrate, or not. There's no more pressure. I can just do my job. And I can also be assured that if nothing else works out (god forbid), I have an option to stay on there for a year - I won't be unemployed.

I can't believe what a weight I feel has been lifted from my shoulders. And how lucky I feel. It's lovely.


And tonight, GF is arriving home from her three-week trip. We have lots of catching up to do. Lots of talking about futures. I'm excited to see her. Soon I'm going to trek out to the airport to surprise her.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I guess it's officially my week

Well. When it rains, it pours.

I just got home from dental appointment and jacket-buying - the latter in preparation for my campus interview.

And I found, in my email inbox, a letter letting me know that Big-ass Journal has accepted the article I submitted in the summer! Just when I was starting to worry and wonder about it. What's more, the editor says they'd like to send it to press ASAP, since it fits well with some other articles that are going to press. What, no changes?!

I am so pleased. I really love this paper - it began as a paper for a PhD seminar five years ago, and I always held onto it as the only work of my own that I was really satisfied with. So I expanded it in June and put it out there. And now, look!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Just found out I've been short-listed for a very good job!!


I can’t believe I’m saying this, Miss Mary Sunshine that I am about my students.

One of them – a great student – is really getting on my nerves. Who would have thought an exceptional student could bug me so?

She is the Golden Child (henceforth she will be known here as GC) of this department…my colleagues have been gushing about her to me since my first week here. She is in my theory class on Wednesday nights. And yup, she’s good. The level of intelligence and calibre of discussion are high in that class to begin with – and she and another student are far and away the brightest there. Until last night, I was really appreciative of her presence (and I still am, to some extent). She’s the very model of an engaged student; it’s hard not to love that. She is also very sweet and kind.

GC sits right next to me (it’s an around-the-table kinda deal). And she has the most irritating tendency to interrupt me to take exception to many of the things I say. I am absolutely fine with people challenging me – there were people who disagreed with the reading I was giving of one of our readings, and that was just fine; it was a great class. But for christ’s sake, let me teach the goddamn class already, GC! Yes, you’re damned smart – probably brilliant, probably way smarter than I am. But it’s my class. Why can’t you just take your turn with the other folks?? Why do you have to sit there policing me? (Some of it did feel like policing – once, she corrected me when I used the word “of” instead of “for” in the name of an organization! And then smiled, self-deprecatingly, sweetly. Argh!!)

I felt as if she was this irritating elder-colleague presence. As if I had invited some senior person in to watch my teaching and she ended up inserting herself and her freaking wealth of knowledge into every nook and cranny of the content. I shouldn't feel that way with a third-year student, for goodness sake!

GC also seems to have some sort of encyclopaedic knowledge of the biographies of every fucking theorist. So sometimes others have asked specific questions about the life stories of people we’re reading – and she’s on it, boy. She just jumps to answer them. And that’s fine – I don’t have a monopoly on this stuff. Frankly, I don’t care all that much about the life histories of some of the people we’re reading – that’s not why we’re reading them. So if someone’s asking, share your wealth, GC. But last night someone asked a question about one of the folks we were reading, and I started answering. And there was GC trampling right over me, talking as I was talking. And ending with a quiet aside to me about one of the things I’d said about said theorist. ("To be fair," GC said, "she apologized for [famous, evil thing this theorist said].")

Shut up, GC. I know she freaking apologized - it wasn't the apology that mattered!!

Now I feel mean and grody. But ugh – she’s getting under my skin in a big way.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Emotional attachments

I’m back at work this week, after that fall break last week.

I have to admit that I surprised myself with a certain amount of dread about coming back. I was surprised because I love this job, this university – I tend to have a good time here. I suppose, though, that it was because I had a quiet, productive week at home, and that put me in touch with what it feels like to have space of my own, and home-cooked food, and relationships (with people other than students) – all things that are in short supply in Uni City. I also desperately missed Mr. K before I even left, and all day yesterday, my first day back. I missed him on a very visceral level – the feel of him. It was hard, too, to watch him panic as I left. (Boxers naturally look sad because of their droopy cheeks, it’s true – but there is no question that Mr. K was feeling especially down yesterday as he watched me get ready to leave after ten lovely days together.)

Returning to my fourth-year seminar last night, though, wove me back into this life. I walked in there exhausted and relatively unmotivated, and left energized and happy. And today I’ve had another very productive day, what with finishing up and sending off that thing I was working on last week, and doing up a frightfully complex job application, and looking into some research travel (my book project involves work in Paris archives and museums…fun but daunting – expensive!). I feel back into this world, and I like it.

My Chair also reminds me how much I like it here. I’ve mentioned before how excellent she is at her job – she falls into the category of senior scholars I deeply admire, for various reasons. I try to watch and learn from what she does that makes me feel so good - things that are also deeply appreciated by many, many others, judging by people’s loving responses to her, the extent to which they praise her if I mention her name. She is unfailingly genuine and generous with her time and her spirit, and with her ideas. Her commitment to the program is deep and, I think, emotional, but she is pragmatic; she gets things done. The amazing thing is that she manages to make this little department, our little corner of this campus, feel like something approximating a real community.

Today we chatted a lot – about life and work. And then, as she was leaving to go and carve her pumpkin, she spontaneously asked me if I wanted to come over for pizza and Halloween treat-dispensing this evening. This will give me a chance, she said, to meet her partner and her dog.

Of course I’m delighted to be asked, and I’m about to head over to her place…I love the energy in the air on Halloween nights, the people in the street. I miss handing out candy – GF and I live on a major street and no kids come by, sadly.

But I’m also ever so slightly wary. Not of my Chair – she’s lovely, obviously. I’m wary of my own capacity for attachment. Let’s face it, as hard as I’ve been trying to remain nonchalant about what I’m doing here ,I’m already deeply attached to this place that I have no future guarantees with. Christ, I was attached before I came here, what with it being my dream job and all! I would like more than anything in the world to get the tenure-track job they’re on the verge of posting, but the chances of that are slim to middling, because of the combination of fields they need to hire in. I’ve spent the fall trying to balance the need to protect myself emotionally, with my immediate and visceral love for my students and for some of the things that go on here. I’ve told myself it’s a good thing that I’m not really integrating into the community terribly much for that reason. But here I go, integrating.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Recipe Blogging: Savoury Scrambled Tofu

Good lord, I'm blogging yet again.

But I'm allowed to, I guess, because what a productive day it's been. I have nearly finished the encyclopedia entry, done up an abstract for a presentation at my university, looked over Medieval Woman's awesome syllabus and corresponded with her about it, and decided to organize a panel on Exciting Topic for good, big, intimidating conference next fall - and potentially got one presenter already (besides me). I have also done four loads of laundry, cleaned the floors, and gone for a run in the wind and rain. And blogged twice before this. And it's not even 7:00.

I'm going to make the tofu scramble below for dinner, before the Queen of Dereliction comes over for a long evening. This is a recipe GF and I eat all the time around here; we love it. I find that other tofu scrambles aren't flavourful enough, often. This one is all flavour - I sort of think of it as vegan junk food. It's not about subtlety. But it's gooood. We usually eat it for dinner, with salad or something. But it can also, of course, be had for brunch - and is good in a tortilla, as a breakfast burrito. Also, it's exceptionally easy...I find that this is a theme with the recipes I post here, even though I do like to cook. I don't do much complex cooking these days.

From Juice for Life: Modern Food and Luscious Juice

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 cups tofu
3 tbsp Engevita (nutritional) yeast
2 tsp dill
2 tsp garlic powder
Pinch turmeric
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup water

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over meduium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Crumble the tofu with your hands and add to the pan. Cook for two minutes.

Combine the yeast, sill, garlic powder, turmeric, sea salt, and pepper in a small bowl with just enough water to make a think sauce. Whisk with a fork to remove all lumps.

Pour this mixture onto your tofu and stir frequently. The turmeric will give the tofu a nice golden glow. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.

NOTES: I use a 454-gram/1 lb. cake of tofu. I think 1 1/2 tsp salt is way too much; I use a scant teaspoon. I have never put the garlic powder in, because I don't have garlic powder. It's fine without it.

Friday meme-ing

I feel as if I'm nearing the end of this encyclopedia entry, and the last 800 words are easy to write, I think, so I think I can reward myself with a frivolous meme seen at Polyopia.

Explain what ended your last relationship?
Hmmm. Almost impossible to answer unless I write a terribly incoherent book. Let's say "a confluence of factors" to guide us away from the fact that I really don't know.

When was the last time you shaved?
Erm - about two weeks ago.

What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.?
Standing outside in the cold with the dog. At the park across the street.

What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
Making ginger tea.

Are you any good at math?
I am not good. I failed Grade Eleven math through sheer lack of effort, and that was the end of my math career.

Your prom night, what do you remember about it?
I didn't have a prom. I went to alternative schools.

Do you have any famous ancestors?
The Pankhursts, English suffragettes par excellence!

Have you had to take a loan out for school?
Only twice in twelve years; I was lucky with scholarships, and, in the beginning, dad help.

Do you know the words to the song on your MySpace profile?
What MySpace profile?

Last thing received in the mail?
A quarterly statement on ethical funds.

How many different beverages have you had today?
Three. Water, two cups of English breakfast tea, and ginger tea.

Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine?
Voicemail, sure.

Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to?
Unfortunately, it was Lionel Richie (fall 1986). This wasn't because I was a fan, but because some friend's dad had comp tickets he gave us. Sheila E. opened, and she impressed me. My first chosen concert was U2, 1987. Those remain the only stadium concerts I've ever been to.

Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?

What’s the most painful dental procedure you’ve had?
Wisdom teeth removal, I guess - though I was under, so it was post-procedure pain. And then it got infected a week later - that was painful. (I've had so few dental procedures, and they were mostly 25 years ago - except the wisdom teeth - that I'm terrified of them. And have to have a filling replaced a week from today, and I'm worried. I'm a wimp.)

What is out your back door?
Stone steps to the backyard.

Any plans for Friday night?
Er, illegal substances, to be honest. With my friend, the Queen of Dereliction.

Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
Very much, though I know I wouldn't like it if the ocean were an everyday thing for me - since I am very fastidious and obsessive about having healthy hair.

Have you ever been to a planetarium?

Do you re-use towels after you shower?
Of course.

Some things you are excited about?
GF returning from her trip a week from tomorrow. Going dancing tomorrow night. Being finished with this encyclopedia entry soon.

What is your favorite flavor of JELL-O?
Red. (I know, I know, that's not a flavour.)

Describe your keychain(s)?
Way, way too many keys, including two for bike locks and four for various uni offices and doors. They hang on a keychain from the Swansea (Wales) Summer Festival, or some such, which I got at an outdoor production of Pride and Prejudice in Swansea in 2004.

Where do you keep your change?
In my wallet, which means the wallet very, very heavy. Down with pennies!

When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people?
Well, last week, I guess, though my largest class is only 25.

What was the weather like on your graduation day?
High school: I don't remember. Warm, I think.
BA: Freezing and blustery and grey.
MA: I didn't go.
PhD: February-y. Grey.

Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed?
Open. There's no one to shut it on.

Requiem for a university

Yesterday I went to Grad School University for the first time since my PhD convocation in February. (I know, February - weird.) A student of mine from the last time I TA'd there - two years ago - has been in touch, and really wanted to see me if ever I was on campus. So I planned a visit there since I also needed to use their library to get some articles for my winter term teaching.

It was a strange feeling, walking the crowded trajectories of that institution I'd spent so very many years at. On one level, it is so familiar that it's in my muscle memory. I walked like an automaton through corridors I'd passed through probably thousands of times. It took conscious effort to remind myself that I wasn't the same person I was when I was there, that the me on these paths had grown away from this place, that I wasn't on my way to the lecture for the course I TA'd for, or to buy myself a banana bran tea biscuit at the coffee shop or whatever else I used to do there. But if I wasn't doing any of those things, if I wasn't really here any longer, what was my relationship to it?

I went to the library - again, the almost oppressive sense of familiarity closed in - and then made my way to where my PhD program lives. Things have changed so drastically there that when I stepped off the elevator, I felt immediately lost, was convinced that the offices weren't there anymore, and almost gave up. I spent a few disoriented minutes wandering around the hallways before I got to the office.

I sat and chatted with the program's admin assistant for half an hour. I emerged with the clearest sense of liberation from this place. The assistant told me endless tales of the woes that have beset the program and the institution. Add to that what I heard from grumpyabdadjunct at our blogger meetup the other day (she is there, too!) and the vicious fighting that takes place among students on the departmental email list (which I am still on - though not for much longer, thank god). Frankly, it seems like it's going to hell in a handbasket. I can't express the relief I felt about being gone from there. It seems to me as if the institution's current direction crystallizes everything that is wrong with higher education today. And the grad program - that ultimately unfriendly program populated in part by self-righteous, emotionally stunted twits - is just as bad, though it styles itself as the opposition to the institutional disaster.

If I were starting there now, I realized, I don't know if I would finish. I think I'd be out of there within the year. Ouch.

So I left that chat profoundly relieved, but also sad. I went to find my former student, Antonio. We had a lovely lunch in a sunny window. Antonio remembered minute details of our course. Things I said, things other students said, the details of arguments he made in a paper on a text he'd fallen in love with, one that I love too. The way I'd come out to him - he is a very openly and flamboyantly gay man - toward the end of the year, shocking him. What I drank (cider) when I took a few of them out to the pub after our last class! He told me, "You were the best TA or prof ever!" Which was so nice to hear from him, a student I respeted greatly. I told him - and it was true - that he'd been perhaps the principal reason our class had succeeded so well; it was his commitment, his work ethic, but also his openness to ideas and willingness to cooperate, that set the tone. Last year I very happily wrote a letter of recommendation to that effect, for the concurrent education program. He got in. He will be a great teacher.

The time with Antonio mediated the earlier, rather distressing time I'd had. Even as the institution loses its way, there will still be people like Antonio, who will forge bonds with people like me, and those relationships will be precious. What is terrible is to realize that they will increasingly be lived under duress. And that should be fought against very hard.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The goodness of today

This is turning out to be a nicer day than usual...not that my days have been bad, per se, but they have admittedly been characterized by a kind of searching/questioning/uncomfortable orientation of late:

Why is this a nice Wednesday?
  • The sun came out! Hurrah!It was only for about 15 minutes. But still - it's about damn time.
  • I have been battling a cold for the last 48 hours. It has been trying to worm its way in to wreak havoc, but I have been struggling valiantly against it. I sense that I am triumphant.
  • There are roasted beets in my fridge and in my life.
  • I just spoke to my great friend in Berlin, whom I miss and don't talk to enough. We made a plan to have her be accountable to me with her dissertation writing, as she tries to finish up a PhD that has dragged on too long. She will send me 20 pages every two weeks. I love being involved in something like this; it makes me feel productive, too.
  • Today I was able to let my hair down as I wrote my encyclopedia entry, and say, "to hell with structure - I'll fix it later!" I've never really been able to do this before, as I wrote the other day about my difficulties with revision.
  • I am having dinner with a good friend tonight at my favourite Japanese restaurant.
  • I have been having such a satisfying off-blog email conversation with a blogger about work/life. Also I had a lovely blogger meetup on Monday. This "community" rocks!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Editing skills, or lack thereof

I am writing a long encyclopedia entry this week.

It is putting me in touch with the naked fact of my inability to edit.

I've never been in a situation where I've needed to deeply edit my writing - at a structural level, I mean.

My mode has always been to edit as I go...I don't just freewrite and then go back and cut and rewrite. I write, carefully, once. I work sentence by sentence, deleting or restructuring individual thoughts at sentence level before I go on to the next thought/sentence. It has meant that I am not the world's fastest writer (nor am I, by any means, the slowest), but also that I have never had occasion to tear apart something I've written. Because I've gone over something so fine-toothedly at the micro-level, I effectively understand the finished product as...well, completely and forever finished.

In retrospect, I wish there had been significant structural problems with my dissertation, so that my supervisor or committee members had asked me to restructure. (Actually, I think there are structural problems, but nobody else ever said there were.) Rather, what feedback I got on this largest piece of my work to date, which could have made me an editing machine, was at the level of a missing reference here, an idea that needed pushing there, a context I might want to mention way over there. I didn't actually have a lot of revisions at all. And that was nice then, sure. But now it is leaving me flailing a little.

That conference paper I gave ten days ago? It is a mess, in terms of structure. I could feel this as I wrote it, but couldn't figure out what to do about it (possibly because I wasn't willing to just start slashing and burning, such an approach being too painfully novel to me). I showed it to a friend, and he said it was fine. But when I was giving the paper, I thought, "Oh dear. This doesn't work." I feel quite certain about this. But the task of fixing it is completely daunting. In the end, it will be okay with this work because what I'm going to do is significantly expand and lengthen it. And I feel as if that expansion will have a healing effect, so to speak. But if I had to just restructure in the context of the truncated work that it is as a conference paper, I wouldn't know where to begin.

And now I'm writing this encyclopedia entry, and the challenge I gave myself was to just write, and to worry about the big-picture structure later. To train myself in this. Could I do it? No. I still niggle over every sentence, line editing as I go, so that when I am happy with a sentence or paragraph, it feels as if it is effectively set in stone. But I know that this one, too, is going to have some structural problems. And again, how will I fix them? Argh!

I sometimes tell myself that it's okay, that this is just my style, and blah blah blah. But I don't think it is okay, because it's getting me in hot water lately.

If anyone has any fantabulous and less painful editing techniques they'd like to share, I'll be all ears.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Two weekend highlights

This was going to be a post trying to work through some reflections I have brewing about the loneliness I wrote about last time...but I think I'll save that for another time. Because there were two great things about my weekend:

Remember how I posted, last month, about my mourning the very close friendship I had made in last year's Uni City? About how it seemed to be over with Faux-Girlfriend? Well, I won't bore you with the details - they have to do with a major problem I was having with my ISP, which was screwing with my emails to and from a few people...and what I didn't realize was that she was included in that small group. We literally weren't getting each other's messages. Anyway, we are so back on - have talked a couple of times, and are emailing. And it feels so good - such deep relief.

Faux-Girlfriend was in Home City for the weekend, and she and her boyfriend stayed overnight with me last night. As if that weren't enough - and it really was special, it really felt like an emotional reunion - they had stocked up on fine food. They'd bought five artisanal Quebec cheeses, and the best olives I've had in North America, and homemade caramelized onion flatbread, and sparkling wine, and Riesling, and handmade caramel/sea salt truffles . And we made that our dinner, and it was divine. Since one of the things Faux-Girlfriend and I share is a deep love of good food - and of drinking together - it was about the loveliest thing I'd done in months. And the cheese! Good lord, the cheese...

And then tonight, there was this: A CBC TV movie called Booky Makes Her Mark. When I was ten or eleven, I had an obsession with these Canadian young adult books by Bernice Thurman Hunter, about a character named Booky. I reread those books - especially With Love From Booky - more than any other. I'm not sure what it was about them that appealed so much - probably the depiction of everyday life in a historical period, the Great Depression..I continue to enjoy that. And the books were set in Home City - I think it was in part that I was able to map out Booky's life. Also, Booky wanted to be a writer, a fantasy that appealed deeply to the voracious reader - and writer - that I was in those days. It's funny - I recall that I was on to adult books in general, but I just could not get enough of that series...Many of the scenes in those books are really etched in my consciousness...

And yet, of course, I'd forgotten about them. So to have them made into this Sunday-night, classic-CBC, gritty-but-feelgood TV movie was just such a thrill! What a way to be reminded. Best of all, Megan Follows starred as Booky's mother. Megan Follows! Could Sunday night have gotten any better? Megan Follows, of course, played Anne of Green Gables in the two CBC miniseries of those LM Montgomery books - TV events with which I was similarly obsessed, in the same period as the Booky books.

Sigh. I even ate my dinner (which involved roasted sweet potatoes - yum!) in front of the TV, watching Booky and Megan. My mother never allowed me to eat in front of the TV. That's a policy that I agree with in spirit (imagine being a single mum, cooking dinner for your ungrateful kid and having her eat it slouching in front of the TV instead of talking to you). But I have to say that eating a meal while I watch TV still resonates with forbidden decadence.