Monday, December 31, 2007

Totally random New year's Eve post

I don’t know what to say about the last few days...there was some fun in them. Highlights? Going tubing at a ski resort on Saturday night. A fantastic 25th wedding anniversary party at my aunt F’s on the 27th. Not falling into the Vortex of Fighting when we spent the weekend at R’s mother’s place. Walks in the deep snow with Mr. K, who flails wildly when he runs, sometimes – his limbs going out in all directions – and provides much amusement for all who see him.

Yesterday was my birthday – I turned 33. I was bitten by a cat! Like, seriously bitten - the skin was broken and blood was drawn!! It was a cat in the Pet Valu. He was up on the counter and I was petting him and all of a sudden he bit me. It was - I kid you not - one of the more painful things I've ever experienced. It Hurt A Lot. Anyway, just a weird, random thing, being bitten so badly by a cat.

The highlight of the birthday was dinner at perhaps my very favourite restaurant...I go there just once, maybe twice, a year – so it remains special. And goddamn, it has good food. Really simple, really awesome Italian food. Last night for an appetizer I had baked polenta with wild chanterelle mushrooms and toasted ricotta – good lord, that was good. My main was a beet ravioli. Here’s the thing – usually beet ravioli is not very beety at can barely taste the beet. This one was marvellously beety, exploding with the earthiness of beet. With a fantastic counterpoint of some very sharp cheese over top. So simple. So. Freaking. Delicious. Dessert was a little thing made of hazelnut meringue and dark chocolate mousse and espresso zabaione. And they gave us a gorgeous, peachy, frizzante dessert wine because it was my birthday. I kind of died. Like every time I go there. Yum.

We drank a lot at dinner, though, and then headed out to meet two friends for drinks at my local gem of a bar. The result was that – without intending to – I got really, capital-D Drunk for my birthday. We both did. That would be fine, except for the fact that being drunk meant that I went to bed wearing the new necklace R had given me that morning for my birthday, which is delicate and has a pendant made of wood. It is a thing that should not be slept in, and would certainly not be if I were in my right mind, that's for sure. It broke while I slept. Oh my goodness, that is SO bad. So bad. I have some faith that it can be repaired, though. Eeep - I hope so.

Today? Ouch. Today we walked the dog in the morning, both headachey and exhausted. Then met my mother for lunch – which, thank god, restored me somewhat – and then went to a matinee of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Hee – it was amusing. Much more of a silly spoof than I was expecting...obviously I knew it was a satire, but I didn’t know it was bordering on that kind of Airplane genre. Fine, though, especially for a hungover day like today.

I was planning to go out to friends' annual really fun New Year’s party that I usually go to every year I am in Home City, but I am most definitely not up for the dancing and merriment that it entails, after last night. Instead, we have decided to stay home, do up a taco kit with veggie ground round, watch our remaining two episodes of The Tudors (a gift from me to R for Xmas), and...I suspect I will fall asleep before midnight.

Happy New Year, faithful blogfriends!

My comment silence

Many of you have written really thoughtful comments on some of my recent blog posts - and I didn't know it until just now! I just realized that many comments have been failing to reach me through my email. I feel quite terrible about this - What Now?, Squadratomagico, Neophyte, Medieval Woman and others left comments that were sweet and that deserved acknowledgement. I'm so sorry for my silence - I don't know what happened with Blogger/my email. At any rate, THANK YOU all for being such great, attentive blogfriends!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Oh dear

Today was supposed to know, relaxing. There were signs of trouble when R broke her finger (in an intervention with an uncharacteristically aggressive Mr. K) over the weekend, resulting in a visit to Emergency on Sunday, and then when on Christmas Eve Day I began feeling both as if I'd smoked two packs of cigarettes the night before, and as if sandpaper had replaced the flesh in my throat. But we pressed on, and had a nice day and evening yesterday, notwithstanding broken fingers and throats.

Today we were supposed to open presents and take the dog to the park, before taking transit out to my mother's for dinner and "festivity." Alas, R spent the night violently throwing up. She hasn't been able to move from the bed yet, after 3pm. (She is convinced she picked up whatever this bug is in her short time at the hospital.) Poor R!! We had to call and tell my mother we couldn't come today, which resulted in major disappointment for her; I'd bet my life she cried - nay, howled - when we hung up the phone. I invited them to drive over here in the late afternoon, bringing the huge Xmas dinner with them. So that is what is happening. I suspect my mother and stepfather and I will eat in the dining room, and R will have to stay in bed - and not eat. I worry about Xmas-dinner smells making her sick again. Oh dear -I feel really awful for her.

I took the dog for a considerably less cheerful walk than planned, my head pounding with something that seems to be related to the fun in my throat. And then I have spent much of the day cleaning the house to ready it for guests. Again with the funny/depressing times!

Ah yes, the best-laid plans...

Monday, December 24, 2007


Hello! Sorry, lovelies, that I've been so absent since I got back to Home City. It's just that there is nothing work-related to blog about, and my miserable personal life is not something I want to whine about. So I've been taking a hiatus.

I've also been BUSY! I was in Fun City (certain bloggers who live there - forgive me for not getting in touch...I was only there for 48 hours and decided not to see any of my friends/family there except for the one friend I was visiting, M) and Dad City last week, returning on Friday afternoon to a booked-solid weekend: Tea dates both days, lunch one day, dinner parties both nights. At this point, after two solid weeks of socializing over major meals and treats, I feel as if I need a serious detox! I may actually do some kind of cleanse after I get back to Scary City.

My 33rd birthday is on Sunday. My Jesus/Buddha year. Great. So far the only thing of note that I can imagine is going into therapy, which I am going to look into when I get back to Scary City. (Slightly worried about finding an appropriate therapist there, but I'm sure s/he exists...)

R and I are going to my mother's on Christmas Day, after (I hope) a nice long walk with the dog in the morning. On the 27th, I'm going to North City for the night - it is my favourite aunt, F's, 25th wedding anniversary and she and her husband are having a big party, and I'm staying over with M, who will be in North City visiting his family. On the weekend, R and I are going to visit her mother out of town for the weekend. This is worrying because historically, her mother's place has been like a Vortex of Fighting for us...we usually have quite a miserable time there...even when we're not staying, but just dropping in as we drive past from visits to North City, somehow we always manage to get into a fight in the car as we approach - with me invariably screaming at her to drop me off at the bus station - and then have a visit with her mother in which we are secretly not speaking to each other. Ah, yes. Charming. My strategy to counter this, on this visit, is to have R and I go inner-tubing at a nearby ski hill. I am excited!

To all of you, dear blogfriends, whether you are celebrating things or not, have a happy, safe week!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Loss of self

I am here in Fun City on a whirlwind visit to my friend M. It's been great to see him - we have such wonderful talks. And last night went out, at my request, to dinner at a restaurant I just love - with another friend of his I just love. And today bought myself two fab pieces of clothing at Awesome Department Store that I Can Only Access in Fun City. And tromped about with him, to his office at the uni and through snowy city streets. It's a great, if short, time with him here.

He told me something important when we were talking about my job situation and about how unhappy I am - how I feel like my unhappiness has turned me into Shriveled Heart Person, emotionally distant and feeling-less, and most of all, completely estranged from myself. He said he watched (well, listened to) that happen...he could feel my personality change. He said that when I called him from Home City over the weekend, leaving a message on his answering machine, he heard "me" - as a person who can be light and relatively bubbly - for the first time in months. He'd been only hearing me become more and more shut down, ever since I arrived in Scary City with Potential. This is interesting because I didn't realize how incredibly poorly I was projecting...I thought I was covering it up admirably. Apparently not. (I think of how my TA said to me, about 6 weeks ago, "You seem really unhappy...If you ever want to go out and talk about it, then I'd be more than happy to..." (This is more appropriate than it perhaps sounds, since she is a couple of years older than me - it's not like she's a twenty-two-year-old fresh out of her undergrad...))

Well. I don't know what to do with this information, right at the moment. I want to apologize, retract myself. That doesn't make any sense. I suppose I want to "be myself" again, so that M - and others - see and hear me again when they call. So I can hear myself again.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Five Books I Loved

I am being quiet. It's been a bit of a crazy time these last few days. Much too much eating, and running about visiting people, sandwiched in between not-so-fun dynamics with R. I just haven't had the time to post anything.

But today I am inside all day avoiding Insane Storm, and so it is a fitting day to do the meme that the lovely Earnest English tagged me for. The meme asks one to name five books that one loved in 2007. So here goes. I don't know really what to say about these, besides "I loved it and it moved me." I'm not feeling inspired these days. So I guess I won't really say anything.

1. Veronica, by Mary Gaitskill. (I was most surprised and thrilled with this one.)
2. Be Near Me, by Andrew O'Hagan
3. Literature After Feminism, by Rita Felski
4. Borderlands/La frontera, by Gloria Anzaldua. (Reread this; always adore it.)
5. Soucouyant, by David Chariandy. (I just started this novel yesterday, but good god, do I love it already or what? The opening scene was three pages of perfection. I read it on the bus and began to cry. Also, it has possibly the world's best cover.)

I am meant to tag five people, but I'm just going to invite you all to do this. I'd love to see your inspirations and recommendations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Grad students in undergrad courses

Why does Blogger keep coming up in Spanish for me?

Anyway, really what I'm wondering about is grad students in undergrad courses. For a number of reasons that I'm not going to get into here, often MA and PhD students at my uni take upper-level undergrad courses for grad credit. Of course they negotiate an appropriate workload for themselves, appropriate to the grad level. I'm not wild about this because I don't think the level of discourse is high enough for grad students, but so be it. This fall, I had one (good) grad student auditing my upper-level course. In the new term, she'll be taking my Theory course for credit, as will at least one other (PhD) student. Another PhD student has asked to see the syllabus. So it looks like I'll probably have several grad students in there, to my 20 or so undergrads.

Does anyone have any experience with this? I remember that as an undergrad, I took one fourth-year seminar that had about half a dozen grad students in it. That's the only experience I have with a mixed classroom; it simply wasn't done, where I was, except in this one department. I'm wondering if people have taught such courses, if they have been students in them, and what they might be able to share about it in the way of advice. My plan so far is to have a meeting with all of the grad students who take the course, to determine a common workload for them - I don't want each of them doing something completely different. Anyway, I'd love to hear any thoughts on this phenomenon.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back in Home City

I arrived back in Home City on Saturday. I'm here for four whole weeks! (Well, next week I'm also going to Dad City and M City for the week.) I feel like I've been gone for two weeks, not five months. I can't get over how easily I've just slipped back into my old life. I expected to feel disoriented or something, but no. I'm home. With R in the house, and in the big, wide, urban world, outside of the house. It's not all about excitement, but I wouldn't want it to be. Home is about comfort. I am so happy to be here.

This week is dinner date week...Every night. Egads. I also need to get work done...WANT to get work done. Some of my own work. I really have been craving, for the last month or so, turning back to my own project. I have some exciting new directions to pursue...some reading before I turn to writing the first chapter, in January. So I'm hoping to get at least a couple of hours of reading done each day...Laced in between other bits of work, and a few daytime coffee dates. R works all day, so I am relishing this time to get my own work done.

The big thrill - besides seeing R - was seeing Mr. K. He peed on the floor from excitement when I arrived on Saturday afternoon. He has been inordinately happy ever since. Never stops wagging. I imagine that to him, it's like some kind of miracle that I've returned...


In being here, and talking about it with R, I've already achieved some clarity about what has been going on in these last few months. It's not so much about Scary City with Potential, my unhappiness, as it is about the job. The institution. I could handle Scary City if I liked the job. I definitely could. But the uni - ugh. There is lots I haven't felt comfortable blogging about, that would show you what I mean. Just know that it is quite an unpalatable place, and it isn't just me being whiny. Cases in point:

The other night I went out for dinner with two friends who have been hired at SCwP U over the last couple of years. A good part of our evening together was spent exchanging the tales of our distress and dismay during our interviews and the negotiation process. All of our stories involved tears and resistance. (I was thinking last week about how my interview was exactly one year ago. I cried for the entire flight home, knowing an offer was likely. And those of you who read me last December will know that I was very ambivalent when the offer did materialize.) Each of us chose this job against our better judgement.* There's something important in the fact that all of us had this gut reaction - and that we each feel disillusioned enough about the job to be honest with our colleagues about this at this stage.

A few days later I had dinner with another colleague, also hired in the last couple of years, who asked me quite early on, "Can we be really honest tonight?" And told me s/he - though in a senior position - is trying to get out. It is quite telling that this person - who ostensibly has a lot of power in the world of SCwP U - is fleeing. S/he feels lied to, betrayed, manipulated. Those aren't exactly the sentiments I feel, but they're not far off.

So it's pretty clear that the place is poison; it's not just me. It is clear, too, that I need to get out. And I sort of wish in retrospect that I had applied for jobs this fall. Not having done so puts me there at least another year after this one. But it is good to realize that I'm not alone, that I don't have to feel like a whiny ass for not being "grateful" for this job, and that there are alternatives. It is interesting to me that I couldn't quite see this until I arrived in Home City. But at least I've seen it.

Off to take the dog for a long walk and then settle in for an afternoon of reading...

*This says something really quite depressing about academia - that none of use felt it made sense to turn down these offers, even though our guts told us to run far away. The job market is tight, and we have internalized ideas about sacrificing ourselves to our jobs...Yuck.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Group work thoughts?

So yesterday I wrote up the syllabus for the second part of the Introductory course in my program. (We have Intro Part I and Intro Part II.) I'm so excited about this one. These students were really good...and Part II is going to be half the number of students...nice and intimate (well, intimate for a first-year class.) The ones who are taking Part II are the cream of the crop in terms of their interest and engagement, too.

And, if I do say so myself, I am just damn proud of the syllabus. I feel as if it's a really coherent set of readings...They are all up-to-the-minute and either Canadian or global...(It's a problem that so much of the available literature is American, speaks to the US situation - it's really easy to default to that.) I've built in good films. The units work together as a wonderful, interlocking whole. We end on an "up" note. And I've put in a couple of cool assignments. I think they're really going to like it!

My question for the blogosphere: I am having the students do presentations in groups of 2 or 3. Fun ones, I think. But I've assigned no group assignments, ever. I've resisted it, for some reason. So I am a complete novice in this area. I am wondering if you could tell me what you've found is the best way of grouping students? Having them choose their own partners/groups, or assigning them into groups? Also, what have you found is the best way of spreading out the presentations? I.e. there are six presentation days spread across the course - there's one at the end of each units...and I'd like to have them choose what they're most interested in, but what if they want all the same dates? What are your ways of spreading it out? Do you ever just assign dates/topics randomly?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Celebratory grading?!

So I'm grading take-home exams that I received yesterday from my 70+ first-year students. Two essay questions asking them to make broad, theoretical connections across texts.

I am so pleased!!! They're doing a fantastic job. They really get it, many of them. More than that, they know how to put into practice, how to "do things with" what they've learned in the course. What a heartening feeling. Granted, I am only grading one of the two questions, while the TA is grading the other (harder) one, but still, there is proof here that the course has been an intellectual success, at least. Hurrah! Who'd have thought I'd love my first-years so much??

Coming soon: Leaving for Home City on Saturday (surely there will be exclamatory posts surrounding that event), overall reflections on teaching this term, and thoughts on assignment design for my courses for next term.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What's the deal?

So you know what I find really problematic? I've been volunteered for something, without being consulted. This really bothers me. I find it incredibly rude. I woke up to a flurry of emails the other morning, about bringing a VIP speaker to campus - I was included on the list because I am the campus "point person" for Issue; that, it has already become clear, is my perennial role. Anyway, so I was keeping silent in this email discussion for a few hours, because I was feeling completely swamped - I have a hell of a lot of work to do, as we all do - and because I don't really give a fig about this person. I really just don't. I couldn't get excited about it. Anyway, next thing I know, somebody is saying I and this other person will take this to the next level of investigation! What the hell? How is that okay?

The thing is, this volunteering-me email was sent to a good half dozen people, including a Dean, etc. (Not my Dean, but still.) As an untenured faculty member, this essentially puts me in a position from which I can't say no. I really, really resent that. I have enough to do right now without working to bring to campus someone I really could not care less about. Especially given that it is SUCH a long shot...this is just going to be going through the motions, and it is not going to pan out in the end, mark my words.

I am coordinating three freaking DAYS of speakers and events and off-campus shindigs in well as running a program, even though I'm a brand new hire. I feel as if I'm more than covered, thanks, in the service department. Blech.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cat and other random things! (And Monday Recipe Blogging)

I love the feeling that the term is over. I have a ton of work to do this week, before I leave for Home City on Saturday, but I notice that it just feels so much more manageable now that classes have ended.

My friend C from Nearest Metropolis was here for the weekend. We had a great time - I cooked a lot, and we drank wine and watched movies. I had rented a car for the weekend, but we were pretty homebound, in the end. Only really took one short excursion on Saturday afternoon. It is so wonderful to have her near me for the year. We only actually lived in the same city for one year...and for the last five years she's been living in European City. So all this time with her is a treat.

Anyway, guess what? I had been hatching a plan to foster cats for the humane society...I am home so much, and love cats a lot, and am missing animal snuggling...But I learned last week that my downstairs neighbours are moving out at the end of this month, going away for a year of backpacking and working in Southern Commonwealth Country. I impulsively asked them what they were planning to do with their cat, and they said they didn't know yet. I offered to take her. And so I am going to have a cat for the year!!! I even have a colleague/friend who would be willing - nay, happy - to take the cat for when I'm away for chunks of time (including up to 2 months in the summer). How excited am I???

Finally, Dr. Bad Ass asked me if I would post the recipe for the cranberry pear chutney I made and canned yesterday. Sure!

I tripled the recipe, giving me enough for a dozen 250-ml canning jars of chutney + about 3 leftover cups for which I had no jars. I have made this recipe before...people really love it. It is the kind of thing that goes really well with cheese.


2 pears, peeled
1 green pepper
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp salt
1 red onion
1 bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp tabasco

- Dice pears into 1/2 inch pieces
- Dice onion and pepper into 1/4 inch pieces
- Placeeverything in a medium-sized saucepan
- Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat
- Reduce heat and simmer gently, covered, stirring often until berries have softened and everything is a deep, ruby red (about 40 mins.)
- Place in airtight container and refrigerate
- Keeps up to two months
- Place in sterilized canning jars to preserve.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

7 Random Things

So! I have been tagged! Twice for this meme, in fact - by Adjunct Whore and Maude Lebowski. Fun! What's more fun that writing a meme when you have way too many un-fun things to do (grading, making annoying last-minute requested revisions on an article)?

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.


1. When I was seven years old, I invented an that I called the National Society. It was populated by figures from pop culture (plus me, of course): Anne of Green Gables, Kimberly from Diff’rent Strokes, the Charlie’s Angels, etc. The National Society was headquartered in a building that was one mile high and one block long, and there were two multi-storey apartments on each floor (?). I seem to have imagined myself in a kind of “recreation director” or camp counsellor role...I still have notebooks filled with things like groups I had organized them into, each the name of a bird (the chickadees, the tufted titmice (!)) for various scheduled activities. (‘cause we all know how much Cheryl Ladd would have loved to ‘play gymnastics’ with Anne of Green Gables.) I kept this going until I was about nine, maybe even ten.

2. I used to imagine quite vividly – when I was about twelve – that there was a kind of big slug-like worm living in the flesh at the base of my neck. I would picture paring off some of this flesh (yum) and seeing this fat immobilized worm just curled into me. Delish. Note: This was not a pleasurable fantasy, just so's you know. It was just...neutral.

3. When I was twenty-one, I used the postmodern theory with which I was all newly heady to excuse and justify my mean and irresponsible treatment of my girlfriend. Not my finest moment. (The mean and irresponsible treatment involved cheating on her – with a guy, gasp! – and dealing with the fallout (breaking up with her to date him) very callously.)

4. I had a wonderful experience in high school. I went to alternative schools, and they attuned me to the possibility of critical education and were just generally fabulous communities.

5. Until I was in my mid twenties, I was thought by many to be very sullen. Part of this was shyness, but part of it was that I didn’t smile much. I am infinitely more smiley now (also not so shy)...I detected a change in myself in this regard, incidentally, when I moved back from France.

6. Sometimes I think I'm destined to end up with my friend M.

7. I can’t really get it up for Christmas. At all. No thanks. Although I did today spend my afternoon making and canning cranberry-pear chutney to give as gifts to people here in Scary City with Potential who have been nice and/or helpful to me, like my Chair and my TA and the admin assistant, and the couple who invite me to the blues jam every time they go.


Erm, so many of you have done this or been tagged!! I will try to think of seven who haven't been (sorry if this is a repeat for any of you):

Psychgrad (oh no, psychgrad! Email me!), Kermit, Neophyte, grumpyABDadjunct, Medieval Woman.

(That's the best I can do right now.)