Monday, December 29, 2008

End-of-year meme

Skipped this last year, but seeing it at Dr. Crazy's reminded me of its value...

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
- Broke my knee
- Traveled to Hawaii
- Put a dog to sleep
- Viewed active volcanoes
- Joined Facebook (like, yesterday)
- Was stung by a wasp (and had complications)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't think I really had any resolutions. I appeared to want to have more fun. Instead, I had less. Hmmm...So I don't know about goals for the coming year...Perhaps, write lots and lots and lots. Yes, that's it. That will make me happy.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My beloved dog, Mr. Kasper.

5. What countries did you visit?
France and the United States.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- January 25, the day of Mr. K's death.
- March 19, the day R arrived in Scary City for a trip that was entirely overshadowed by my cancer scare.
- June 30, the day I broke my knee in Hawaii.
- August 16, the day of a family party to which I drove, contemplating the fact that R and I were about to break up.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I dunno. Can't really think of anything. It was not that kind of year.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I really did not write enough.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Oh boy, did I?! The knee, the ovary, the infected arm, the headaches.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A gorgeous blue silk top. A fantastic red and white and black dress.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My departmental Chair, in all the ways he supported me.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A colleague who shall remain nameless, who has been putting me in touch with the depths of academic sliminess.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Plane tickets. Credit card companies.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- Volcanoes.
- Boogie-boarding.
- Being able to try running again, about a month ago.
- Crepes.
- Archives.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Goodnight California, by Kathleen Edwards

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

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
- Writing.
- Dancing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
- Frittering time away on the Internet
- Drama

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent it at my mother's, with her and some family members. It was really fun. We laughed a lot.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
No, but damn near.

22. How many one-night stands?
That's a tricky question...

23. What was your favorite TV program?
I am behind the times, of course...years behind. Six Feet Under. The Tudors.

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

25. What was the best book you read?
Hmmmm...Miranda July's collection of stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You. Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Again, remember that I'm behind the times...Iron and Wine.

27. What did you want and get?
The ability to run again.

28. What did you want and not get?
A certain unnamed individual.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Hmmm...Perhaps The Band's Visit?

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Tomorrow (the 30th) is my birthday. I will have lunch with my PhD supervisor, hang out with A, and have dinner at the same fave Home City restaurant as last year, with R.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
No corrupting drama in the epic story with the individual alluded to in #28. But really, how can I name just one thing?

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
In flux. Needing an infusion. Confused by my age.

33. What kept you sane?

34. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Dude who plays Duke of Suffolk on The Tudors...Henry Cavill.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Our recent constitutional crisis? The coming of the 2010 Olympics, which is a nightmare in the making?

36. Who did you miss?
My dance community in Home City and elsewhere.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
New friend La. Was a grad student taking a course with me in the fall, so happy she's not anymore, because we have become fast friends, and I want to be able to fully drop the student-teacher pretenses.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Deep, decade-long connections won't get you everywhere.

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

You know what I wish
It was just you and me
Sitting in this corner bar
You could tell me how you are
But I'm not gonna lie or anything
You don't even have to speak
If you keep looking at me.
And I'm not gonna lie
I'm not looking for love
I won't let you in my heart
But you are always my mind

- Kathleen Edwards, Goodnight California

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Here I am

Yeah, so I don't know what's going on with me and the blogging of late...I just don't seem to have much to say. There's plenty of drama, but I seem to have made a move away from using this as a tell-all space...My feelings of self-consciousness have finally won out.

So I've been in Home Region. I've been Here, I've been There, I've been in three different cities in the last week-and-a-half. Stayed in five different places. Gotten to know my new piece of luggage really, really well.

Christmas cheer? I have none. (And I don't say this in an embittered kind of way...I just don't feel it...I'm okay...) Though Christmas Day at my mother's was surprisingly nice. A fun Christmas dinner.

Now I've spent the weekend at R's, taking care of the cat. She's away. On Tuesday, my birthday, I move over to A's for the last four days of my time out here.

I've been doing a bit of work. Some of it involved grading for the PhD student described here. Hir final paper. Oy. A disaster. A disaster, I tell you. Over the course of this Directed Studies with hir, I have become more and more appalled by the level of the work. This is someone who needs some undergraduate-level training, I kid you not. And now this paper. It angers me, actually. I don't understand why this person was admitted to this program. And I feel as though hir work and potential were misrepresented to me - someone heavily edited hir proposal, that much is clear. It had a level of sophistication that hir work doesn't have, not at all.

In reading all of this person's work, and now the paper, I've been fighting a certain level of...revulsion. For this person makes some egregiously essentializing moves in hir writing...really egregious. In fact, hir project seems to be based on this. The fact that zie doesn't know better, after the Directed Studies, than to continue to peddle these assumptions, this worldview, is very upsetting to me. I feel as if I may as well have not conducted the course, since clearly zie got nothing from it. What good was the feedback I gave hir? What good was a whol ehost of readings that problematized these assumptions (along with some that reinforced them)? And it's that old thing...fine, you and I can disagree on this issue, as long as you back up your position with thoughtful marshaling of evidence from the literature in the field. But no. Noooooo. This person has naturalized this position so deeply that it wouldn't even occur to hir to treat it as anything other than a given. This does not an intellectual make.

And so I become extremely emotional. Enraged. And this is not good. I haven't let my emotion dictate hir grade on the paper or anything. The paper was terrible enough, aside from the awful essentializing, that I didn't bring it down on that count alone. But it makes me wonder about being on this person's committee. I need to get off. I feel that the work is so profoundly flawed that I don't want to have anything to do with it. This worldview, and the uncritical way it is being espoused - reproduced over and over and over again as if it is 'fact' - is too disturbing to me. I find it problematic that anyone would support this work, actually. But that's not my problem. My problem is that I need to get off, lest I fly into a murderous rage every time I read even a sentence of hirs. I can't be a suitably objective judge of the work. This is an intellectual issue - sure it is, because zie is not providing sufficient (or any) justification for this position. But it's also an emotional issue for me, as I am implicated in what zie is writing about. In fact, I implicitly become a "bad person" because of where my life fits vis-a-vis what zie is working on. Shudder.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ready to head out

- I'm getting ready to go back to Home City, tomorrow. For 2 1/2 weeks.
- This is stressing me out because all it will be is lurching around from one place to the next, for a few days at a time. No down time at all. I was making up a list of phone numbers for the cat sitter today, and I am going to be in at least 6 different homes (and three different cities) in my 2 1/2 weeks. It is not the recipe for a relaxing holiday.
- This is making me rethink the way I am always turned to face Home City/Region. It gets so tiring. Perhaps I need to spend less time there. I'm torn about this...this is where the closest people in my life are.
- But it's too exhausting...and it takes away from my other vacation time. This becomes how I spend all of my vacations. As a consequence, I feel out of touch, for one thing, with other ways of spending vacation time...I was just thinking last week about how incredibly much I miss camping and canoe trips, for instance.
- For these reasons, it actually makes me quite happy to be planning to stay in Scary City for most of the summer. So that I can go on those camping and canoe trips, and get to really know and feel this region I'm living in.

- Today, though, today. Lots planned for today, in terms of getting ready to go. This morning I started my laundry, and the washer broke - full-on broke - partway through. It didn't drain, and will not. So I was left with a washing machine full of water and clothes. I frantically called my friend L, who I was planning to see later on, to drop Diamond off at her place. She said not to fret, but to bring my loads of laundry over to her place. Thank goodness I happened to have a rental car for the weekend - as a carless person, I don't know what I would have done without one. I brought my loads over to her place, only for us to discover that her power was out. I went back about three hours later, and it was still out. Poor L was sitting there freezing under a blanket in front of the gas fireplace, not knowing what would happen. My laundry was undone. So I had to frantically call a second friend and take my laundry over there. In the meantime I had to take the car back to the rental place, and so friend 2 has to drive my laundry over here when it's finished. Ridiculous!!! What a gong show.
- I had to take Diamond over to L's today. I miss her desperately. I'm become so damn attached to that little one. Damn. I feel all quivery-lipped, thinking about her little face, and not seeing her for almost three weeks. :( Another reason not to go away for so long in future.

- But there are fun things to look forward to in my trip to Home Region. A couple of days with M in Fun City. A blogger meetup over food! Fun New Year's plans. A friend's 50th birthday dance party. These will sustain me.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ah, the edited volume...

I knew, going in, that co-editing an anthology was a thankless task. Oh, I knew. William Germano had certainly told me in no uncertain terms, and I'd heard intimations of what I consider to be anthology horror stories. I knew, too, that the level of recognition it generates from the institutional machine, vis-a-vis things like merit and tenure, is far outstripped by the work one puts in. But, I said, sign me up!! (Not without some angst, to be sure...) I really wanted to work on this particular project - really was quite excited about it - and loved the idea of meaningful collaboration.

My co-editor and I - come together, basically, for this - get on famously. The collaborative aspect is extremely rewarding. We seem to have a very similar take on most of the issues that come up - and on the work that we're reading for the volume. And I really value hir extraordinary ability to be both blunt and diplomatic. Also, I'm in awe of hir intellect, and hir nuanced and extraordinarily learned readings.

But, do I ever wonder, sometimes, what we've gotten ourselves into. The majority of the essays we've read have been mediocre. Some quite astonishingly poor: so senseless that I am shocked they would be sent to us as finished drafts. Some we will have to reject altogether. It is clear, too, that the process will drag on far longer than we imagined it would...

I am afraid that I have come to see the wisdom of forgoing the anthology. At least until tenure, when presumably one will have more of a chance to futz around with poor work for draft after draft. Not that I'd want to stop this project at this point - there remains a lot to be gained from it, and from our collaboration. But I might rethink the decision to embark on such a project to begin with. The end result, I feel certain, will be fabulous, but the going is proving to be tough.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Overdue reflections

I spent a couple of days - Thursday-Saturday - in Nearest Metropolis with my friend S. In my mind, this was supposed to be a bit of a (much-needed) blowout - ye know, doing Metropolitan things, which tend sometimes to be a little costly. I got thing off on the wrong foot when I forgot my wallet at home. S had to pay for me the whole weekend. It skewed the plans a little, unsurprisingly. Though I did come away with the most beautiful (and costly) top I've ever bought.

The holidays are shaping up to be a bit - well, a lot - wonky. I had all these plans, and now they're falling apart. I feel as if this is a sign that I need to start thinking of Scary City as my home. I can't pin hopes on Home Region. This is depressing.

Part of this is that R and I are having a falling-out. We've continued to act as if we are together as a couple, in many ways. We talk all the time. I've known it's problematic, but it's been very, very comforting. But now that is definitely over. It feels like a mini-breakup all over again. It shifts my relationship to Home City. To everything. Ugh. All of a sudden I feel profoundly unmoored. There were a few tiny certainties about the holidays, and now that they've come undone, I feel quite without an identity, frankly. It is not a nice feeling.

Hell, I wish I could have some sort of extended bloggy holiday party with all of you would be a lot better than what the actual holidays are shaping up to look like.

However. Today I will be able to finish my grading and submit my grades, and I shall be done with teaching until September. I am amazed and happy about that.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Monday notes

- Have a surgery date; January 8.
- Will not be teaching next term! With at minimum 4 weeks off in a 12-week term, seems the powers that be have decided it's too much to try to work around. Wow. I guess this is the benefit of an institution that takes care of you, really takes care...(Lil'rumpus and others...I don't know why 4-6 weeks, but the doctor is really insistent on that - though probably 4 for me due to youth, strength, vigor or whatever. It's a full (not mini) laparotomy, not laparoscopic. I suppose the other thing is that in case there were dire findings once opened up, I'd need to have other procedures afterward and convalescence would be extended.)
- This means that lots of writing must get done in the new year so I'm not wracked by guilt. I shall be very productive! Oh my goodness.
- What else can I volunteer to do so that people at work don't perceive me as a slacker?
- Will proceed to book Paris research trip for late April/May (4 weeks) without worries about insurance. (Thank you for the tip, though, JoVE, about provincial insurance. I'm not in the province you were mentioning, but imagine it's the same where I am - good to know for future.)
- Oh my god, I have nine months off of teaching???!
- Diamond is newly in love with me, it seems. Like, full-on love.
- She's also in love with her new gopher, in an I-shall-maul-you kind of way.
- I have new friends - and they live right across the street. And are a couple with whom it feels just fine to hang out as a single - doesn't feel like being a third wheel. Last night, spent eight hours chatting. Very stimulating. They're a change from most of my friends here, who are overwhelmingly not up for doing much, so beaten down are they by their jobs. I always feel like a freak for being up for doing nice to find others who share in my desire to lift the head from the work.
- Am going for a mini-break in Nearest Metropolis later this week. With my friend S. We are opting for the long bus ride instead of short flight because it will give us an opportunity to get some of the mounds of grading done - and then we can fully relax and enjoy the Metropolitan time. We are going to use the certificate for a deluxe hotel room that I was given when I had this awful hotel experience in NM back in the spring. But I am also considering this a little vacation, and am going to treat myself to non-frugal experiences.
- Am writing - trying to turn latest conference paper into article. I feel an intuitive sense that this is going to work out nicely.
- Am not, though, looking forward to grading 115 take-home exams beginning tomorrow. (I have let my TA off the hook for these, as she is writing three graduate seminar papers right now, and is the mother of a one-year old.)
- But, strangely (though I'm unhappy about the thought of having my abdomen cut open), I'm happy to have the surgery lined up...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Plagiarism and grants

The number of hours I am spending catching plagiarism is bringing me down so, so much. It is happening sooooo often. Even on assignments that are supposed to be relatively plagiarism-proof. They're spending so much freaking time plagiarizing creatively that they might as well write the damned thing. Really, it's unimaginable how much of this I'm finding...I have a growing pile of photocopies of plagiarized documents - starting with this infamous one, of course - on my desk. The size of the pile - and the number of hours I spend on this - is really too, too dispiriting.


In other news, though, I've been awarded an internal grant that will fund a month in Paris in the spring/summer, even if I don't get my SSHRC. Hooray!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Continued drama

I haven't known what to blog about. There is so much f'ing drama. On two fronts: medical and emotional. I am now having pain "in my ovary" or whatever - of the kind that took me to the doctor in the first place, leading to the diagnosis. It's been over 24 hours of constant discomfort now. I haven't had this since that first time. It makes me feel nervous and worried.

I am seeing my specialist again next Monday so that I can tell him about this, and tell him that I want the surgery in January instead of waiting until April. My Chair is being amazing. He has consulted with the Dean, and they will find someone to replace me in one course, and they feel fine with cancelling the other - it has low enrolment, anyway. It's funny how over-responsible I feel for everything. Well, not funny, but problematic. It was feeling indebted and responsible that led to my saying I'd wait until April to have the surgery in the first place. And yesterday, when Chair told me he was fine with cancelling the second course, a wave of guilt washed over me and I offered to "make podcasts" of my lectures for that course, for the 4-6 weeks I'm off. (I'm going to plead temporary insanity on that front...I won't have time to make 15+ hours of podcasts in December!!) My reaction to being "let off the hook" like this was to feel bad and as if I owe someone something. Thankfully, Chair seems to genuinely think that's ridiculous. I seem to have to keep telling myself to get a grip, that this is the benefit of having a full-time, permanent job...that the employer will take care of me to some extent. I need to let that happen.

And last night there was continued drama in this other area. I really am so tired of things going wrong that I just feel like one big mass of scar tissue...I really don't feel much anymore. So I took in upsetting news with much less conscious upset than the last time. Instead I just somatized it all, and immediately developed a headache and had to sit in a darkened room for the evening.

And now I can't work. Tomorrow is the last day of classes, I have lectures to prepare, and most importantly I have a pile of grading to do. And I can't bring myself to do any of it. I'm nervous and jumpy and distracted.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Damn my health

My dear friend, M, likes to point out when he or I "somatize" our emotional lives. I thought of him today as I walked the 25 minutes home from my gynecologist's office and felt completely, falling-down dizzy...the whole way.

I have been monitoring the growth on my ovary since last March's unpleasant scare. (Well, "I" haven't been monitoring...doctors have.) Every two months, I go for an ultrasound and then a follow-up appointment with the specialist. It's mostly all stayed the same...same size, etc...and we were vaguely discussing the eventual need for surgery, but it all seemed far away. There was never any real urgency after the initial scare. But today, I learned, it's growing again. And he's clasifying it as a tumour, not a "complex cyst." So we are looking at surgery. I told him I wanted to do it in April, after classes are over. He hemmed and hawed about whether it would be okay to wait that long, and decided that it would. BUT he wanted me to have another ultrasound in a month or so, and a certain blood test, and if either of those indicates further rapid growth, then he'll want to do surgery immediately. I.e. in the middle of the teaching term, I'd have to be off for at least four weeks. Ugh.

And he also told me that my research plans (3-4 weeks of research in Paris, in late May/June) will perhaps be messed up by travel insurance, which will not pay if I have a pre-existing condition. So that leaving the country just, say, 6 weeks after this surgery, is very risky. Damn. Damn damn damn.

So I walked home and felt very, very dizzy and just tired of all this. Just kind of small and unexpectedly a little scared.

Also tired because this morning I went to another specialist - a neurologist - about the insane headaches and strange facial and aural things I've been having. (He thinks it's nothing, really.) And two weeks ago, went to the orthopaedic surgeon after I came home from that dance weekend and basically my knee was completely fucked. I've been doing physiotherapy for over two months now, and it's becoming more and more clear that my knee is just not ever going to be the same. the initial goal of physio was to strengthen so I'd be able to run again. But I am seriously doubting that I'll be able to run again, given the way my knee is - even in the face of my diligent and zealous commitment to my intense exercise regime. The physiotherapist - I adore him - has gone from extreme positivity to a much more tempered and sober outlook.

The surgeon was a dismissive ass and now I'm on an eight-month waiting list for an MRI. (That's right, Michael Moore, the free healthcare system you laud is BROKEN.)

I think I'm dizzy because I'm overwhelmed by having gone from the picture of health, one year ago, to this...where I have four health-related appointments this week alone. I'm only turning 34 next month, for chrissake. What the hell is going on. I feel old and tired.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am back after my conference and my forced detainment in an airport hotel.

Reflecting upon my conference, I think: I am not thrilled about the facet of the profession that is all about who you know, and what they are planning, and whether you'll be in on it, and so on. I mean, I was in some senses inducted into some sort of in-crowd, given a dinner that my co-editor and I had with some folks. But I note so much anxiety in myself about that, and about whether I'll be left behind in certain plans, yada yada. I don't want to care. But I must care. I must cultivate the relationships.

It was lovely to spend a good chunk of time with my co-editor, with whom I get on famously. She was great to have in the background of our hotel room, to chat idly with as I drank minibar vodka in some kind of celebration about our panel/wake about the news that had come as I traveled to the conference.

That news has stayed with me, weighing heavily. Making me dream strange dreams, and experience odd, feverish hallucinations. It has affected me more than I imagined such news could. Though the heaviness was mitigated in some small part over the weekend, with some more correspondence with the person from whom the sadness and drama have sprung. So now, rather than being in the kind of dreadful, shocked, publicly weeping state that I was in, I am in a blunt, cynical, and inert state that doesn't feel much better. I see that my heart is sewn up so tight after this latest blow, I don't know if it will ever open again.

But I have come back with some ideas for writing - expanding my conference paper, which was really quite flawed, into something less flawed and more interesting, and hopefully publishable. I want to try to do this by early January, and feel some excitement about it. Excitement in which I can subsume my heavy, sad self.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

God, Air Canada sucks.

My everyday hate for Air Canada - which I share with most Canadians, it seems - has today reached murderous new depths.

I sit here writing this in a cheap Best Western airport hotel, where I have been forced to stay for the night (on a travel voucher) because of Air Canada's spectacular incompetence. I had three flights booked home from Conference City to Scary City - an epic day. I won't get into the boring details, but I was bumped off the second leg of my trip, and can't now get home until tomorrow. This makes me miss both of my classes tomorrow, at a crucial time in the term, with work coming in from them. It means Diamond is without me for another night, and the cat sitter isn't coming in. I don't have any clean socks or underwear left, nor any comfortable clothes. I don't even have any toothpaste left.

The rage I feel is pretty strong. Not least because the people around me were given flight vouchers, and I wasn't. The customer service agent just shook his head sorrowfully at me until I wanted to strangle him. Due to some arbitrary technicality, they are calling mine a "missed connection," when it wasn't. I was there, at the gate, while they were boarding the flight, but they wouldn't let me board. Everything that happened is their fault, and others got compensation, but this bullshit means I didn't. God, I'm angry. This is simply too much.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am still conferencing. In the end, thank goodness for distractions and the friend/collaborator I'm sharing a room with, with whom I can talk about trivial things when I don't have panels to distract me. I can go for a couple of hours without thinking of the thing below. Then, of course, I remember, and I am gripped - absolutely, physically gripped - by panicky sorrow. I think I panic because this felt like a chance at happiness, and it's been wrenched away, and - because happiness has been far away for a long time - I feel deeply somewhere that I have lost my only chance. I know that is illogical, not true, but certainly it's how this feels. It feels like a tragedy. I have never had a story like this.

But I can report that I tried to do some positive visualization before my panel - imagining myself calm, etc. - and it worked! The extreme presentation nerves that have been sabotaging my conference participation for a long time - and which have somehow gotten worse in the last year or so - seemed to be mostly banished, and I got through my presentation more smoothly than any I've ever given. I even remained calm in the face of an interesting, fairly strongly worded challenge from an audience member - and had a good talk with him afterward. And I even remained calm in the face of the recognition that my paper was deeply flawed, especially at its repetitive end. I'm happy about that. Happy to have successfully repressed something. If only I could visualize away the panic and sadness now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

There was some hope in my life for a while there. I was being awakened. It just got shut down. So that I spent the evening crying in an airport last night – on my way to this fucking conference. Now I’m sitting in a Starbucks warehouse, having been in the same clothes for 29 hours, slept for a fitful two hours or so on one flight, and am not able to get into my hotel room – it’s too early - to have the good fucking bawling cry I need – and a shower, and a lie-down in clean sheets and maybe a preciously hoarded Ativan, which I take only on the most dire of occasions. Instead, I’ve been weeping in public all too many times. Just last night, on the first leg of my journey here, I was reading something for teaching that was speaking to the hope and awakening I was feeling. Which was attached to someone, but also - more - was about finding myself again. Rescuing me from wherever I’ve been these last couple of years. Reading this, I felt excited, as if there were possibility. An hour later, an email told me everything was a grand, cosmic joke. I’m devastated. And I’m here in this place, with nobody around to vent and weep to, and I am just sick to death.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I have just essentially finished a draft of a conference paper for later this week. As always, I write in a kind of fog, finding my meaning as I go. The result is more severely damaged than usual this time, and I have basically ended the paper on a completely different note than I started on. After having installed about five different things as the major theme along the way. So the process of writing went like this, essentially, and this is reflected in the complete draft I have now:

"This paper identifies foxes as the operative concept. But in fact, the great significance of this is that is about marigolds. Actually, the over-arching point of all this is humidifiers. One sees, thus, that this is most usefully read as a comment on whaling. Finally, the belatedness of the birthday emerges as the dominant concept."

Augh!!!! I have finally arrived at something I like ('the belatedness of the birthday') but the thought of revisiting and substantially revising the rest of this terrifically difficult paper to support that theme makes me want to tear my hair out.

So. I hate writing conference papers. There. I've said it. Something happens in the process that is different from when I just write, say, for publication. I wonder if this insane directionlessness that is much more characteristic of conference-paper-writing, for me, is the result of imagining my audience in a different way from the way I do when I write something that will not be presented aloud. I remain a very nervous presenter - that does not seem to be diminishing at all, unfortunately. And so I am wondering if those nerves play themselves out in an excessively jittery, unfocused approach to writing the actual papers for presentation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wow, and whoa

Congrats and a major hug and smile for all my US friends who helped to elect Barack Obama last night. I'm so thrilled for you all.


Someone I know has just emailed me to strongly encourage me to apply for a seriously Fancy-Pants position. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What?! I'd seen the ad for this job, at an institution I'd die to work at - in the city where my best friend lives, as well as a past and current object of romantic interest - and written it off because they seemed to be looking for a much more senior scholar than I. I hoped that - as I'd heard - they might post a more appropriate position in my area next year, and that I'd have a shot at it.

But then today this email from a senior insider there, saying I'd be a super candidate. Encouraging me to call hir to talk about the position. I'm pretty stunned. Knowing a bit about the politics there, I'm just hoping that zie doesn't want to suggest me because I'd be a good puppet for hir. I'll try to suss that out when we talk.

But for now, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Random bullets of "christ, what a day"

- I have been led to believe that the plagiarism of the MA thesis may be met with a warning letter, and that is all??? I weep, I tell you. And gnash my teeth. I want out. Everything to do with graduate studies at this institution makes my eyes bug out of my head with frustration and anger.

- Today after my 100-person lecture, a student came to talk to me. Zie is one who is very vocal in lectures and yet usually just. not. getting. it. - so much so that you can hear the other students buzzing with frustration and amusement when zie speaks up. So zie came up to me to take me to task for representing [topic I was lecturing about, and about which they had a reading] in what zie took to be politically neutral terms. Since this is a topic that zie is impassioned by, zie thought this was inappropriate. Thing is, zie didn't have a clue what I'd been saying. The reading was an indictment of [phenomenon], and offered a framework for understanding it. My lecture and this reading - which zie admitted to not having read - were littered with signals that problematized the phenomenon I was talking about, including words like "racism." The way I was framing it theoretically was as intensely, well, evil. This was the whole point of the discussion! Other students were on the same page, I could tell from their responses to my questions. Therefore I don't think I was being unclear; I was calling a spade a spade about [phenomenon.] So this one comes up to me and starts to lecture me about this thing!!! Give me a break!! I had to say, over and over, "We're on the same page. I agree with you. That's exactly the point I was making." I don't know why I found this so irritating. But good lord, to be called to task for saying the opposite of what you're actually saying is really freaking irksome. Go away!!

- While all the rest of you do InNaNo-whatever-it's called, I have my own writing goals. I mean, I have some professional writing I need to do - I'm halfway through a conference paper for next week - and I have some editing of contributions to our edited volume. But I don't need any more scholarly pressure or I will implode, quite frankly. So for me this November, the goal is to begin writing in my journal several times a week. I need to do life writing more than anything right now. This represents a big shift for me. In 2001 my now-ex, JZ, read my journal and I had hell to pay. Though I'd been journalling for over a decade by then, that violation shut me down completely. I basically haven't touched it since. But I bought a new one this weekend. I'm so, so in need of unstructured writing that will allow me to work some things out, I tell you. I am in some serious need of real rumination on a number of issues. And since I think through writing, then personal writing it will be.

- My life is a bit sordid right now. My best friend M and I were talking yesterday about how sordid both of our lives are. I thought it would make a good, depressing film, featuring exhausted, bored-but-overworked, emotionally aimless junior professors in their thirties doing stupid things for the hell of it. I know you can picture it - though you probably wouldn't go see it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Muse of the moment

As seen at Belle's. This makes some sense right now. Though I don't know if I "understand life to its fullest extent." I wish.

Your result for The A-Muse-ing Test...

Your muse is Melpomene!

50% Melpomene, 10% Calliope, 10% Thalia, 0% Urania, 10% Clio, 10% Erato, 0% Euterpe, 0% Polyhymnia and 10% Terpsichore!

Melpomene is the muse of tragedy. She is also known for her singing and as the "chanting one." She is a guide for the lost or those seeking a way to something, but they just can't quite figure out what or where. She can beautifully wear a tear or a smile, for she understands life to its fullest extent.

Call upon Melpomene when you are searching and need to heal yourself.

Sit somewhere quiet where you can be alone with your thoughts. Light a candle and gather some paper or your journal. Sit comfortably and allow yourself to fully feel the pain you have inside and ask Melpomene to help you bravely face it with honesty. Write what you are feeling and what you have experienced. Express your loss in yoru own way, with your own words. Now determine to be creative and use that energy in a new way. You are ready to create something beautiful out of your sadness and loss. Paint, sculpt, write, sing, or just explore a new place. Artistic creation will help you refind joy and reexperience life in a new way.

Take The A-Muse-ing Test at HelloQuizzy

Thursday, October 30, 2008

You know what, student whose MA thesis I am currently reading? If you are going to plagiarize gigantic swathes of your MA thesis, choosing something other than Sparknotes' fully googlable online guide to the novel might be a good idea.

I am so done.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Something just humanized my 100 first-year students so much for me...

I was grading a test I had given them the other day. The test was quite quick to write, and so many of them sat there for a good ten minutes or more waiting for everyone else to finish.

I needed to turn over their tests to write something on the back, and I saw the sweetest traces of them there on the back page, where obviously they'd killed some time doodling while they waited for everyone else to finish. There were lots of instances of writing their own names with hearts, of course - but I even found that sweet - and there were many melancholy song lyrics, a fragment of an Edgar Allen Poe poem, pictures of flowers with the word "fleur" next to them in graceful cursive. An "I heart Sharon."

For some reason, this just warmed my heart. And that's hard to do these days.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I've had a close friend from Home City visiting since Wednesday. She just left. It was grand fun, but it's incredible how behind her visit has put me, in terms of work. I'm feeling slightly panicky. (And so, I shall fritter away my time blogging.)

This was a funny visit. My friend S is the person I've always said is closest to a sibling for me, an only child. I've known her since I was fifteen. She and I did the Activity together, and still do things like go to dance camps and weekends together. I love her to death. But she is intensely negative about everything from job to love to hobbies to life - always has been. (I know, I am too on this blog - but I don't exude negativity in my everyday life.) She is always this way, but she seems particularly unhappy with her life right now - relatively newly single at 35, she is full of rage and disappointment about the possibility of finding a man to settle down with. She's lonely for friends, too, she says.

I was talking at one point over the weekend about a decade-long mutual infatuation I've had with someone S and I both know, a really quite extraordinary and somehow intimate relation (which has been sexual on a few precious occasions, when he and I have both been single). Out of what I could tell was jealousy and loneliness, S asked me quite aggressively how I "always make all these deep connections with people..." I don't know what to say to that. It feels odd to be attacked for it. As if I'm doing something wrong. And I don't know how to tell her that what comes across as negativity is probably part of the problem she experiences in making connections with people. This was an odd theme that seemed to add a tiny bit of tension to our visit.

Anyway. We had fun. It's lovely to have someone I'm so close to visit me here. It helps me feel better in this place, for some reason. Even if S did observe, a number of times, that "it is really weird that you live here."

But oh my goodness, the work (and life-work) that awaits me. I am going to be paying for this visit for a couple of weeks. This is so much the case that I need to make, for the first time ever, a boring blog to-do list for today, in the interest of keeping myself accountable (and even though I don't know how to do a strikethrough):

- DONE: Call C in Berlin
- DONE: Reading and prep for first-year class
- DONE: Reading and prep for upper-year class
- GOT 8 DONE: Grade 15 of ~40 first-year assignments
- NOPE: Grade the set of critical questions for the upper-year class
- NOPE: Email K
- NOPE: Email Su.
- REFIGURED: Email St.
- DONE: Return video
- DONE: Do the many dishes
- DONE: Go to gym for some of physiotherapy regime
- DONE: Finish physio regime at home
- DONE: Meet my friend D to strategize my nomination of him for an award
- NOPE: Outline my nomination letter for D
- DONE: Shitloads of laundry - probably 5 loads

What's freaking me out is that I have a scary conference paper to write, and I just haven't had time to get there. I have only a couple of weeks left, and I'm worried. But oh well, this list is all I can contend with today.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

JUST TO CLARIFY THE BELOW: In my second paragraph, I'm not saying that my 2-2 teaching load is too much to run the minor in terms of too much work for me; I'm not that much of a princess. What I mean is that I can't run the minor because if all I teach is 2-2, and two of those four courses are the companion Intro courses, we (I) can't deliver enough programming to make taking the minor possible. (And I'm not about to volunteer to teach more in an institution with very stringent standards for tenure; that would be suicide.) And yes, I should learn to be clearer in my writing and not deliver off-the-cuff rants.

I have learned that I won't get to make another hire in my program for next year. I once really thought there was a strong chance - there was supposed to be a strong chance that I would. And even though I knew the chance was getting slimmer with each passing day, I still held out some hope. But the faculty is getting exactly zero brand new positions. This isn't about my program, then - I do have some faith that if there were new positions, my Dean would have allocated one to my program. But it sure is demoralizing.

The thing is, there is no POINT to me or my position. I can't effectively run even the existing minor, with my 2-2 teaching load. I am redundant, pointless. It's a really, really fucking bad feeling.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Even though I just got an email from an upper-year student asking what, exactly, a research paper is, I am trying desprately to screw my head back on. In a positive enough fashion to get me through the rest of the term.

I'm sitting here contemplating this in Nearest Metropolis airport, waiting for a connecting flight home. I'm on my way from Second Nearest Metropolis, the American city where I spent the weekend. Dancing. Yes, i got to dance all weekend (well, actually, I took it easier than I usually do because my knee was a bit shocked by this activity).

Yes, the dancing that I love. That I haven't been able to do since February since I missed dance camp in the summer. That I now have to travel to do, since I live in Scary City.

So that infusion of joy - as well as a gorgeous weekend in a Metropolis, meeting new people who feel so much like the community I left behind - make me feel alive again. I need to bottle that feeling.

Thankfully, I do have a good friend - also from my world o' dancing - coming to visit me from Home City this week.

Even though it's late and I'm tired, I'm looking forward to bringing this energy home with me, to Scary City.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

WARNING: Horribly misanthropic post below.

I don't know how I can imagine surviving decades more of dealing with first-year students, without succumbing to a murderous rage.

I can't get over how they can't follow simple instructions. How they become so wrapped up in their grade-grubbing anxieties that they can't even listen. And so I deal with the same questions over and over and over and over again.

Yesterday I stood in front of my 100-person lecture and FOR THE FOURTH TIME was confronted with a barrage about the annotated bibliography they have coming up. I have fielded questions about this since October 1. I have posted a detailed handout about exactly what they need to do, on the course website. I have posted style sheets for the citation style. But no, they cannot look at this. Or they can, but their brains are sieves. I get exactly the same questions - and answer them - every. single. freaking. time. When all of this information has been provided to them in written form. The tediousness of this exercise made my eyes nearly pop out of my head, yesterday - I stood there and furiously clicked the pen I was holding, tapped my feet restlessly as I answered their questions in an incredulous, condescending voice. (I didn't realize how awful my body language and overall vibe were until some slightly more mature students in the front row started laughing - they got what was going on.) I just cannot imagine dealing with this inanity for the next twenty-five years.

I suppose I need to cultivate my bitch self - the one that pointedly says that I have already answered that question, and refuses to answer it again. But that's not me, and I would feel uncomfortable doing that. But is projecting the bitchiness I projected yesterday any better? I think not.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Election looming

Ugh. Tomorrow's Election Day.

I voted at the advance poll, since I will be traveling from Home City to Scary City tomorrow, and unable to vote. For the first time ever, I stood behind the little screen and thought of throwing my vote away by voting for a fringe candidate. I am usually a good little voting soldier, and even - very, very briefly - once joined a political party despite my cynicism about electoral politics, because I wanted to support a great candidate in winning the nomination...I am sure you can guess which one.

But the cynicism that I managed to overcome long enough to join said party and even attend a couple of folksy fundraisers for candidates at the municipal and provincial levels has returned to define my political consciousness. Or lack thereof. Like so many people in this country, I really couldn't care less about this election. That is a terrible sentiment. But all it looks like to me is a pointless exercise that won't redraw the face of things here at all. Our resident sociopath, Harper, will end up with another minority government. End of story. Blech. Eternal return.

I am also irritated at further fragmentation on the left, which has smothered any last hope that had managed to stay alive in me.

Here we go, then. Onto the world's most boring and pointless election day. Mirrored in the world's most boring blog post of the political variety.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Home City

I arrived on Thursday morning. I'm here in Home City until Tuesday afternoon. I'm staying at R's. She's not here. She's in Chicago because she's running the marathon tomorrow. That was a trip we were supposed to take together; I had it booked. But, of course, we're not doing that. Because we're not together. I saw her for a few hours on Thursday when I arrived here - so strange. It made me sad, and I've been haunted by that sadness ever since. I feel as if I missed out on my one chance at happiness. That she's all set to move on, in this city that she loves. That I'm far away from it and, in letting her go, have lost my chance.

So on one hand it's great to be staying here - it cushions me from the blow that inevitably will occur because I no longer have a Home in Home City. I get to be in this place I lived in for years, and not be confronted with the feeling that I don't know where to go in my very own city. But it has been underscoring, more than I expected, the fact that R and I are over and I'm in a place - literally and metaphorically - that gives me no hope.

It's been beautiful weather here in Home City, and I've walked a lot, feeling the sense of deeply embodied comfort that is the most striking thing about this place. Yesterday, because I need weight and other equipment to do my physiotherapy regime, I went and used the gym at the university - a gym I used for six years, but stopped three years ago. The guys at the front desk recognized me, and were excited to see me. They see thousands and thousands of people a year and they recognized me? It touched me. It made me long to be back in that part of the community, to be able to walk there, to work out there. And then I thought of something: If my job in Scary City continues to feel unbearable, I do need to think about leaving. If nothing changes next year, and yet I'm unsuccessful on the job market (or, as with this year, there are no jobs to apply for), then I might very well need to just walk away from the profession, lest I end up up sacrificing my happiness and health to it. And maybe I could see about working at the university here in a non-professorial capacity. Finding a job that draws on some of my skills - working as a Research Officer, for example.

Everyone tells me that I am the person they know who is best suited to being a professor. I sort of know what they're talking does fit me. It hadn't occurred to me (duh) to think about other ways to continue working in the university. I couldn't think of anything else I'd like to do. This seems a bit hopeful as a back-up. I know that what I'd rather do is find a professorial job at a place that doesn't break me. But it's helpful to begin to recognize another option. And one that could take me back to Home City.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I'm pretty much disappearing from here, it seems. I don't seem to be able to balance things very well right now.


Diamond was diagnosed last week with a liver condition. I'm treating her with powerful "liver medication." I just don't know. I feel terrible leaving her for five days, this coming weekend, but I have two different people coming in to watch her every day at different times. She seems as if she might be beginning, just beginning, to feel a bit better.


I mentioned a little while back that I was planning a post about how this job turns me into someone I don't like very much. Yes, indeed. That comes from the feeling of pressure and impatience. It comes from rage. It comes from being ungenerous with myself and with other people.

I really noticed it when I started dealing with a PhD student who is doing a Directed Studies course with me. As it turned out, she has NO training in critically analyzing texts. None. None, none, none. How can it be????!!! My response - two weeks in a row, after receiving her "critical reflections" on the readings - was to do things like slam my computer shut and swear. How awful. It is not her fault. I recognize that. I see that she comes from a very different background, one where she is not expected to approach things in this way. I see that this is a fatal flaw in an interdisciplinary graduate studies program, which potentially sets up people to pursue projects for which they're inadequately prepared. I see all of that. But instead, I react with anger and am not particularly generous with her. I just want her to go away. I feel misled about her and her project and her capacity to do that project. These are all awful things to feel. I sense we're heading somewhere bad. I know she's been panicking to her supervisor about me. And she seems to have gone uncharacteristically quiet. Probably as a result of my not being terribly supportive - though I have tried to explain in detail - twice - what I mean by critical engagement and analysis, and given her five examples of the kind of response I want her to write.

But I feel impotent, in a sense - I don't know what to do about it - and all the solutions I can think of involve more, so much more, than I can give. So I react ungenerously - and even though it's really only in my own mind, it feels wrong. It's terrible. I don't want to be this nasty person.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


According to this sophisticated quiz, there are only two possible answers to every gender or sexuality issue...And I become a member of the Black Bloc. Hee.

As seen at Luckybuzz's.

Your result for The Feminism Test...


You scored 100% Gender-Abolitionist, 80% Sexually Liberal, and 60 % Socialist

You are the Revisionist Feminist! You are, by far, the most philosophical, the most sexually-liberated, and the most politically extreme variety of feminist. You are very, very freedom-oriented. You abhor oppression in all forms. For instance, your views on sexual liberation and reproductive control adequately reflect your devotion to personal freedom. Not only that, but you also feel gender needs to be destroyed to maximize equality and freedom, because accepting socially-constructed gender roles binds women into false categories and places upon them an unneeded identity. Gender should not be a part of one's identity, but rather an irrelevant aspect of their physical bodies, such as their hair length or nose shape. Not only that, but Revisionist Feminists are political extremists and feel very strongly that the oppression of class society is a big part of the cause of women's oppression. Basically, a Revisionist feels that cultural ideas of gender, political class, and repressive sexual morality all work together to oppress women, and the only way to truly escape this oppression is to challenge all of these problems directly and extremely. You are a Marxist, a Gender Abolitionist, and a Liberal Feminist all rolled into one.

The other feminist types:

The Housewife

The Marxist

The Liberal

The Liberal Extremist

The Gender Abolitionist

The Radical

The Gender-Liberal

The Revisionist

Take The Feminism Test at HelloQuizzy

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Poetry Blogging: Jaan Kaplinski

(Untitled. Tanslated from Estonian by the author with Sam Hamill and Riina Tamm.)

I do not know whether each believer
is as joyful that God exists
as I was upon hearing
the wood owl call from the ash tree
where his nest box
has already rested a dozen years. Now
he has nested there
four or five years himself.
He is.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random bullets...

are all I can manage...

- Diamond has been quite unwell, and I've taken her in to the vet twice. She has blood tests going right now. The vet thinks she has arthritis beginning, and possibly had a skin infection, which she is being treated for antibiotically. But I think there's more than that going on. I honestly can't even face anything terrible after everything else, so I'm largely not going there, mentally - I'm just giving her lots of love and hoping that it's going to be okay. But she really doesn't seem very happy.
- I am so tired of working 12-hour days every day and feeling like I'm running around breathless for most of that time. I am having fantasies about quitting. All of the incidents of last week aren't helping.
- I'm doing another round of the Academic Writing Club and it's working the wrong way on me. Quite the opposite of my success with it last time. It's only making me feel inadequate. Because I just cannot seem to get to my research. There is just a staggering amount of other things to do. People are horrified at how much service I do as someone so junior. How did I get myself into this mess?
- I have finished my SSHRC grant application, though - I completely overhauled it - and had overwhelmingly positive feedback on it from a mock review committee at my uni. Which was wonderful. It's disheartening knowing that my chances are still so low, though.
- I heart my physiotherapist. I first went to him two weeks ago. He's a sports physiotherapist, and an incredibly knowledgeable and competent one. I told him from the get-go, "I am here because I want to be able to run again." Well, the work he has me doing is sooooo intense, sooooo hard, soooooo exhausting - and I love it for being all these things!! It's so different from the couple of other experiences I've had with physio over the years, where I just feel like I'm doing useless exercises. Today when I went in, he had me doing mind-numbingly tough things, and I felt as if my athletic body, the possibility (and actuality?) of my being a strong body, was truly engaged. I was challenged to extremes I wouldn't have imagined at this stage. It restores me to myself, after feeling so weakened and physically vulnerable. I could just kiss him for that.
- He is thrilled with me for the extensive cycling I do, and says that is the best possible thing I could be doing for my leg. He thinks I will be able to try running in another 2-3 weeks from now. That feels a little ambitious to me, but if I stick with this program of incredibly challenging exercises for the next couple of weeks, maybe it'll be okay...
- If only all of this didn't take up so much damn time. Time I could be using for writing or relaxing. But obviously it's worth it in the long run.
- Ugh - I'm annoyed that it's almost 10pm, I have to get up at 5:30am, and yet I still have work to do...and it includes grading a paper called "Society as a Social Construction." Nummy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get ready for it

I am going to be spending the next few days evaluating graduate students' SSHRC (national social sciences and humanities funding body) fellowship applications. I just opened the files for a first quick glance. Each has two letters of reference. For one poor female PhD student, would you like to know what information was included in her reference letter from her male professor? That she was "a knock-out" and "the best looking woman in the department." This was conveyed in an anecdote about her getting all dressed up for a party.

That "I need blood" energy that I thought was dissipating? It's returned. On my list? This guy, obviously. And the stupid fucking students sitting across from me on the bus the other day cruelly ridiculing a friend of theirs for taking Women's Studies because "that was over in the 80s." Fuck you all. And this fucking profession.

A blogthing, a placeholder

A placeholder for a post on the way my job makes me into somebody I don't like very much...too busy to write that post right now...Hmmm, do you see how these things might be related? Gawd.

Anyway. I like these socks. Overall, apparently I'm a far less fabulous human being than most of you (which about matches how I feel right now).

(I don't know how to fix what's wrong with this - sorry.)

What Your Socks Say About You
You are:

- Quite glamorous
- Somewhat reserved
- A little bit greedy
- Known as attractive

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My fury only grows

Yeah, you know that "harassment" situation from last week? Well, no one has responded to anything, and students have been told the most outrageous things. This is profoundly affecting them. It is sick. They need an advocate, and yet I - their natural advocate - have no recourse due to the harassment accusation. Thankfully my Chair has been willing to take it up, but still. He doesn't think it will have an effect.

I haven't been this angry in a long, long time. And now resentful of being consumed by this anger. But I can't let it go because the situation hasn't been resolved and the students don't have what they need. I suspect, in fact, that the students may be being used as pawns in an attempt to sabotage me. It has got to stop. I have to figure out a way to take this up with someone who can do something about it - something like firing people.

Last night I had to phone someone to talk it out with me and offer me alternatives to defacing a certain part of campus or going into the place in question looking for a physical fight. As you might guess from this blog, I'm a pretty damn peaceful person - and one who always gives people the benefit of the doubt, tolerates mistakes, etc. I have been told, in fact, that I do this far too much - my faith in humanity was an issue between R and I. Not so, anymore, apparently.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

City allergy

Recently a friend here quietly said to me that she wondered if the ridiculous chain of bad things that have happened over the last year was trying to tell me something. About the wrongness of this place for me. I admitted to having thought the same thing myself...idly, mostly scoffing at myself. Because I don't believe in that kind of fateful energy. But it's true, I do wonder sometimes. If I should be fleeing because this place and me, we just don't mix.

I thought it as I cycled home from the farmers' market this morning. Two things happened. First, I encountered a ragtag band of NDPers holding signs for the local candidate. (Americans, we are having a federal election here right now, too, though it is much less exciting - even to many of us - than yours.) I dinged my bell in support several times as I passed them, and they let up a pathetic cheer. Somehow it made me tear up to see this sad, because ultimately pointless, spectacle in this place that is so tightly sewn up by the Conservatives, one can't breathe. Then I continued my ride, and was cut off by someone making a left turn...I, who had the right of way, was forced to brake quickly to avoid being hit. The person in the passenger seat laughed at me as they drove by. These two events were linked in my symbols of an unsustainable, misanthropic place.

I know it doesn't help to think in these terms, and I try my best to avoid getting sucked into negativity about this place. I'm always going on about how beautiful it is, and I do take advantage of the area, I do. I try and try. But damn, do I ever wonder if we're just allergic to each other, me and Scary City.

This would be less disheartening if I could actually see a single job to apply for. There's not one. Last year there were, I think, a mere two that I could conceivably have applied for, had I been on the market. This year, I have the job letter all ready to go (with help from a lovely blogger!) and it's quite possible that it's just going to sit there, unprinted, forever.

It does all make me feel a little trapped, sometimes.

But this week I was given promise of a reprieve from entrapment. My favourite aunt was here for a whirlwind 36 hours, and she and I had a delightful time. She also, while she was here, booked me a ticket to Home City with her air miles, for over Thanksgiving weekend. (She is like some kind of miracle-worker! I love you, F!! For so many reasons!) A mere three weeks from now, an unexpected visit there! For five and a half days. I shall walk and walk and drink it in.

(BTW, the update on the "harassment" situation is that my Chair intervened on my behalf, going to the person's manager (who I had also cc'd on my original, "harassing" email). Neither Chair nor I have heard back, after three full work days. What a place I work at. No wonder I want out.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

S/he's very clever, is the person who says s/he's going to charge me with harassment. I was making a legitimate complaint and inquiry about the status of something that is incredibly urgent, and is impairing my ability to do my job, and the students' ability to do theirs. In saying s/he's going to charge me with harassment and go to my Dean, s/he knows s/he's going to scare me off. S/he doesn't have to provide me with an answer or explanation of why this job is not getting done. S/he has effectively silenced me.

The more I think about this, the more I seethe. Now I want to go to my Dean to make a complaint about this person, who is damaging the educational experience for some students with this nonsense.

And really, I also seethe because I have enough fucking stress right now as it is and I don't need to take on the shit of people who are too fucking lazy to do their jobs and rely on tactics like this because they can't own up to their own fuck-ups. Pardon my language.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Holy hell

I am being accused of harassment. The accuser says s/he is taking the case to my Dean.

I am horrified. Horrified.

The issue in question is an email I sent last night to a staff member. It was an email of complaint. I think you can imagine that my idea of a complaint is not exactly a nasty screed. I even apologized for adding to the chorus of complaints I know this person is currently facing. I just felt a situation had carried on far too long, and it was unacceptable, and I wanted to register my dismay at the situation.

I should add that this staff person is not an administrative assistant nor in any kind of subordinate role relative to me.

Now the staff person has sent me a reply saying this constitutes harassment and s/he is getting the Dean involved.

I'm so freaked out I don't know what to do. I don't know whether to reply, or to just sit tight, or to contact my union. I guess replying is not a good thing to do, though my instinct is to send an email explaining that I intended a complaint, not harassment.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Bike rides

Today I tried riding to work for the first time since my accident - I've been going for shorter rides to do errands, etc. Nothing more than about 20-25 minutes round trip. So today, it was hard. It's always been a good workout, since it takes me nearly 40 minutes and most of that is uphill. But this time I was more winded than I used to be, and it took me nearly 10 minutes longer to get there. Sigh. I should have expected this, of course - it's been 2 1/2 months since I've had any real cardio exercise and the muscles especially on the one leg are weak. But still, it made me sad. And I had to ice my knee - it's sore.

Riding home, though - coasting downhill at 3:30, so different from my ride up the hill at 7am - was a treat. I saw the horses again, out playing in the sun. I was surprised - happily surprised, as I often am - by the landscape I live in, unfurling ahead of me. I remembered how, last fall, the ride home was the one consistent bit of happiness in the general overwhelm and dislocation of my new job. I think it will be this year, too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I think this is the longest break I've taken from blogging since I began, with the exception of times when I've been away. Truthfully, I haven't known what to say. I've been having a hard time - too hard to blog unself-consciously about - since writing that last Post of Hope. I suppose this is to be expected, in wake of breakup and all the health problems. It was premature, ten days ago, to think all was changing for the better. It's a slower process than that. And I'm just tired. Tired already.

That's not to say I haven't had some good times. I've made a new friend in the last couple of weeks, who is turning out to be that elusive friend, the wine drinker extraordinaire. We hang out for, like, 15 hours at a time. This is good. He is great. Except that it sometimes involves too much wine.

But yes, otherwise, things feel overwhelming. I still feel like my blood pressure doubles every time I walk into the university. My dark office continues to be a site of stress.

And then there is my work in single-handedly keeping the helping professions afloat in this province. Let's one week I will have seen OB/GYN (about the ovarian thing that refuses to go away, meaning we are tentatively planning invasive surgery for April), regular doctor, physiotherapist, and new therapist, and been referred to neurologist. I feel ridiculously broken. You'd think I was eighty-five.

And I'm not sleeping well. Haven't since I arrived back from Home City. I'm not a troubled sleeper, normally. But I have slept through the night only once in the last three weeks. Today I look like I have a black eye, actually. And I have to go to a department party with my black eye.

Still, there are small victories, small bright spots:

- My department has come out overwhelmingly in support of me and my one-person program. Overhwelmingly, jaw-droppingly, and even passionately in support. I will - as long as the Dean approves it - get to hire a colleague.
- My 8am class, the one I fretted about last spring, so worried was I about potential lateness problems? Well, I have had not a single late arrival since it began!! Plus, they all arrive bright-eyed and ready to talk. (Part of this is because it is my upper-year, 18-person class, rather than a 100-person first-year lecture, as I had originally thought it would be.)
- I went to a concert the other night, of a band I love and have seen several times in Home City. I went with my friend L, who takes care of Diamond when I go away. This was a reserved-seating show. What happened when I got there? All of my favourite people in Scary City (whom I didn't even know would be attending the concert, with the exception of one couple), were not only in attendance, but were either in our row - right next to us - or the one behind it. In a 400-person hall. This felt like some kind of cosmic alignment, I must say. I felt temporarily grounded in Home City, surrounded by all these folks I like so much.
- I have visitors right now - an ex-student from Dream Uni who is on a cross-continental odyssey, is here with her travel partner. She graduated in spring of 2007. She'd gotten in touch to ask if I could suggest some places to see in this area, and see if we could have lunch, and I invited her to stay. It's nice to see her/them.
- And I have Favourite Aunt whirling in for two days next week.

So there's enough to buoy me, in theory. I'll get there.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bullets of back to school

- So I was grieving in a major way, and I took what I was thinking was too much time off work. But, you know, I can see my way to feeling better now. School has started and - unexpectedly - I feel the potential for lifting up, though I also feel that it will be a slow process. It's as if, at least, I can imagine it, where I couldn't for a couple of weeks there. And I think that time off was important. I was talking about my lack of work with someone today, and she said that she had been told by someone, when she had her own loss a couple of years ago, "grieving's work." I hadn't thought of it in quite those terms. But it's true. I was working while I wasn't working on my "work."

- Certainly I'm lifting out of the exhaustion that was killing me. That week of ER every night, two weeks of antibiotics, followed by last week - of being, unusually for me, unable to sleep - took their toll. Such a toll that I felt something was really wrong. But today seems to mark a turning point, and I feel more energized than I have for a while (which isn't saying much).

- My classes are fine, I think. Very, very smiley. Very excited about content, judging from nodding and engagement. Very, in the upper-level class, responsive to my talking about the necessity of cultivating patience and openness with difficult material. And damn, do they ever like certain kinds of gently self-deprecating humour. I'd forgotten that.

- Grad-student-o-rama for me, this term.

- In fact, my friend S and I have decided to plan a little cocktail hour thingy - well, a cinq-à-sept - for grad students who study X, later in the month. So they can meet each other and combat their isolation. We'll have it at S's house. (Don't we wish we lived lives where we had cinq-à-septs all the time, before we swanned off for dinner and more drinks, somehow non-drunkenly?)

- Wore fabulous new skirt - one of a kind, ordered on Etsy - today. I might need to marry fabulous new skirt.

- But administrative duties are going to be the death of me. People, never be a very junior-ranking department of one who is also charged with single-handedly growing it into a high-performing behemoth.

- Good/weird: I may get to make a hire; I may get a colleague - will know in next couple of weeks. (Yay!) Would then be chairing hiring commmittee. While also looking for a new job myself?! Ugh - can you say awkward? Am not sure what to do about this.

- A very sour note: I'm pissed. At a healthcare system that a) never referred me to or even said anything about physio either during two months of incapacitation or after crutches came off (I found someone on my own), and b) let me walk away from the hospital last week with absolutely no guidance. Nothing about what to expect, what to do, what not do. No benchmarks for progress, no idea of what to look out for. Even when I asked, just basically shrugged and said, "you're fine." Well, it sure as hell doesn't feel fine, and I can't stop worrying. And maybe everything is okay, but I don't know, do I, because I've been told NOTHING. Grrr.

- Tonight had spur-of-the-moment socializing. My friend S drove me home, and I suggested she come in for dinner. I made pasta sauce while she did a salad, and it was easy and she was home by 8. Why not more of this? I love this. If I had me some more impromptu socializing, I'd be a happier hilaire. I would not feel as if everyone I know here is thoroughly brutalized by their jobs. In the wake of break-up, spur-of-the-moments feel particularly important, taking the place of that mundanity lived with a partner, even from far away.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Supervision philosophies

So. Let's hear about your philosophies for dealing with the graduate students you supervise. (Or "advise," in the US.)

I ask because I am a first-time supervisor, this year. This MA student is, I think - by all accounts - fabulous. We have met a few times, she and I and my friend S, who's co-supervising. But her super-engagement and nerves are going to be my issue. Weekly. Almost daily.

I'm doing a Directed Studies course with her. I suggested that we meet about this every two weeks (what I did in every one of the many directed studies courses I took), and she wrote back that she would really like, if that's okay, to meet every week, because she learns better when she can talk through ideas with someone. She also emailed, over the weekend, to tell S and I about her extreme nerves about starting this process. I knew she was looking for advice, reassurance. So she's going to be high-maintenance. In a mostly good way. But still. I'm aware of a kind of added psychic burden, now that she's in my life. And I'd love to hear the philosophies you bring to your graduate supervision, those of you who do it...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The not-quite-holiday weekend

So, yeah, I had the grand plans. Of taking this weekend off completely. I had my ridiculous spa experience yesterday - there was an element of the ridiculous about it - and I came home and napped and then went for dinner and then to a party. Vacay-esque, to be sure. But I'm afraid that, having lost last week to the Franken-arm experience, I am behind where I need to be with my work right now...I can't kiss it entirely goodbye over the next few days.

But I do have Season 4 of Six Feet Under to watch, and plans every night - these are things that make me happy. Under these conditions, I can sneak a bit of work here or there, relatively painlessly.

The big news, though, is that I am off crutches. On Wednesday I was given the go-ahead. My left leg is in a kind of mild shock at being used again, but nothing has been hurting. I've been walking - a little gimpily, at first, but that is sure to change. My muscles will come back from their famine-victim state. I must say, though, that I've woken up this morning feeling a little off in the area of the fracture...something feels mis-aligned. This worries me. My provisional solution is to stay away from walking today, though that's not going to help me much if there really is something wrong.

Really, I can't handle any more problems. So let's just pretend, shall we, that I am not feeling as if my bone is un-knit, and tackle the weekend of fun.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Goal for the new year: Protecting my Morale

The new academic year is imminent. I am far, far from the headspace I would like to be in. I feel gutted and exhausted. Very, very empty. (Compounding this is the demise of my 6-year relationship...for real this time...I haven't blogged about it because I couldn't bear to add another thing to the litany of disasters, and because I also can't bear to write about it in this forum, but there you have it. It is a tragedy, and it has been devastating. And that's all I'll say about that.)

I need to be good to myself this year, if I am to pull myself out of this awful period. I don't trust the academic year to offer me many opportunities to be good to myself, though. And so my major goal - I have others, mostly having to do with the contradictory poles of high productivity and lack of stress, but this is my major one - is to save my morale. What's left of it.

The morale is shockingly low at Scary City University. Shockingly. People are so overworked and so unhappy that they become consumed with negativity about the place, their jobs. Their lives, sometimes. I have come to realize how corrosive this is for me. I need to do my best to avoid getting sucked into whining conversations at every turn. Sure, venting is important - and there is plenty to vent about, as I know all too well after a year in this awful place. But because I have so little here, so little life outside my work, my work already threatens to become everything. And if all I ever hear from anyone else about the work context is negativity, then it just casts the most awful pall over my life in general.

So I need to do whatever I can to avoid being eaten alive by other people's unhappiness. I have enough of my own - and I don't want even that, much less other people's. So this means closing my office door sometimes, it means making an effort to cultivate friends outside the university, it means declaring some get-togethers with friends from work to be "work-talk-free zones."

It also means making sure I have a life. I used to have a life outside my work.

So those are the most important goals for the new year. Picking up the pieces, really. Putting myself back together again, which requires some neutral energy and some distraction from Scary City Uni. This is, paradoxically, what I need from Scary City Uni this year - time and psychic space away from it and the sadness it creates in all of us.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I'm back in Scary City.

I am finished with IV antiobiotics and onto a week of pills, but not over the exhaustion caused by that ordeal: I went to ER for this 5 late nights in a row, since I was supposed to get them every 24 hours and the first dose had been given at about 2 in the morning. So I spent 2-3 hours in Emergency every night (though didn't go as late as the first time!), and then cabbed home, comatose. I am so sleep-deprived. So freaking depressed. I feel robbed of my last week in Home City. Also, other bad things happened last week.

And now I'm back here, as of today. Great. I sat on my couch and immediately became itchy. It was crawling with tiny ants, which had come over from an infested plant. Nice. Welcome home.

And with the crushing weight of the new year upon me. Thank goodness I have another week until it really starts up. But since I didn't get any work done last week because of the arm, I am appallingly behind on everything. And I feel a strong sense of dread about the prospect of the overwhelm. In retrospect, last year was just so overwhelming. I can't have that again.

All I can think about this horrific last eight months is that it's my "Jesus Year" - I'm 33. Maybe all of this together moves me toward the big spiritual transformation, the life shift, the new learning, etc., etc. Yeah, well, great. Fabulous. Also, I cannot wait till New Year's Eve...I usually am not much for New Year's, but I can tell you that I am going to say a very conscious and celebratory goodbye to this year, that night.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Very quick update, as I'm supposed to be not typing or doing any work (just great...great timing...). I went back to the hospital in middle of night last night; was given first round of antibiotics by IV. I will go back at least twice more - every 24 hours - for same. I am meant to be resting the arm, which is hard to do when you're on crutches.

And frankly, life fucking sucks, in more ways than this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Off to Emergency for the 418th time this summer...

Yes, that is right. I am just waiting for morning rush hour to lighten up so I can manage the bus with my crutches, and I am taking myself to the hopital for the wasp sting I got on Sunday afternoon, which has made my arm balloon to alarming proportions - truly alarming - and is getting worse by the hour. I had a terrible sleep last night because of it.

I know it's a bit rich to be going to Emerg for a sting, but I feel as if, though this isn't a life-threatening problem or anything, it needs to be treated effectively, not with the half-assed measures that clueless walk-in doctors seem to take. The walk-in clinics I've been to in Home City always feel sketchy to me, as if they're populated with doctors who trained in the 50s and are stuck in a time warp.

Like the doctors from the new X-Files film, which some friends and I had the misfortune/delight of seeing last night. It was truly, truly, truly heinous. I couldn't believe it. So bad it was amusing. Did Chris Carter have a head transplant and forget what his show actually was? My goodness - appalling.

Anyway, I shall update ye. I seem to be in amused, light spirits, though I am sure being in Emergency for eight hours or whatever will beat them out of me.

Update: I went and didn't have a terrible wait - I was out of there in just over 2 hours. Anyway, the young doctor took one look at it and said, "Whoa, you have a nasty infection! I'm going to prescribe antibiotics, give you some benadryl, and I just want to have the other staff eyeball it so we can see if we should give you the antibiotics in an IV to begin." When she took me to the head doctor, he said you can't tell if it's an infection or just an allergic reaction, and so he didn't want to give me the antibiotics - he made her draw a line around the affected area and go home and watch it, and come back if it continues to grow and/or I develop other symptoms of an infection. I am to take benadryl for four days - which means now I'm going to go for a nap - this is going to be a very dozy four days.

My gut thinks it's an infection, but whatever. Let's just keep fingers crossed that it's not, and I don't have to spend tomorrow morning at the hospital, too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Life change

Yesterday I was taking a long drive back from a family party four hours away. I put in Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and found myself tearing up. Why, you ask? Because it reminds me of running. It brings back very strong memories, for instance, of training for last year’s half-marathon – I listened to it addictively then, and it is intimately linked with long-run endorphins, in my brain.

And the thing is, I miss running. I miss “real” (read: cardio) exercise, for which I have a strong predilection. I was ramping up my running to get ready for an autumn half, just as I broke my knee.

I am also aware that I may not be able to run again. There is no certainty on this question – the orthopaedic guy thinks I may be able to, but is not sure. The Internet tells me – as did the first surgeon, in Hawaii – that my knee will never be the same, and that I will almost certainly develop arthritis in it.

I am sad about this. I will do everything I can to rehabilitate the leg. I have already started, having gone to see a physiotherapist on my own (I was never referred to one, which shocked me and the physio) so that I can start building up strength and range of motion even while still unable to walk on the leg. (Though my left calf is a sad, pathetic little thing by now – it’s atrophied alarmingly.) I’ll work and work and work so that I can get back to what I love to do. If I can’t run, I’ll maybe go back to swimming laps, which I used to do, but got bored with.

But this is bigger than the question of cardio exercise. My worrying about this is one symptom of a larger, looming confrontation with aging and mortality. What with everything that’s gone on recently – ovary still probably needing to come out, this stupid injury*, even the first-ever migraine - I’m really feeling quite uneasily in touch with my own eventual deterioration and death. It invades my consciousness daily; it never really had before. And you know, I’d have rather put off this feeling for another couple of decades.

For that reason, it is a great thing to be watching Six Feet Under right now.

At any rate, I feel quite fundamentally changed. Quite.

*Stupid being the operative word. Do you know, this past week I have started to experience some real anger over this injury for the first time. I mean, for chrissake!! I was just bloody standing there!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So my mini-vacay – with input from you – will start on the Friday afternoon of Labour Day weekend – hurrah! I have already booked my two spa thingies...and since the spa is about a 30-second walk from my house, I can come home and have a post-reflexology mid-afternoon nap. So exciting. Then there will be wine and baths and swims and swims (the thought of which makes me drool) and the big, fat novel I was recently given as a present (don’t you love friends who give you random presents in August, with cards that say, “we love you?”).

But really, it’s quite pathetic that I’m such a wound-up head case that it’s an effort for me to plan downtime.

When I had an awesome blogger meetup with the lovely Psychgrad (with whom I talked and drank Strongbow as if we’d known each other all our lives), she asked me if I was happy. I was pretty much stumped. See above.

But moments like the meetup with Psychgrad – and the hours-and-hours-long dinner I had with a friend last night, and other times with my dear friends on this trip to Home City – make me very happy indeed. It’s just too bad they’re few and far between.

Especially in Scary City.

I was feeling better about Scary City – my line recently has been that I don’t mind Scary City, I just hate my job – but I’m feeling pretty upset about the thought of going back there in ten days. I hate how fucking uptight everything feels. Maybe that’s why I’m so uptight. I hate that everybody I know – because most of my friends are from the university – is so bloody overworked and beaten down that we are all a bunch of pathetic people who don’t know how to actually have a life anymore.

But I’m actually okay, for the most part. I am almost ready to come off the crutches and I have somehow decided that this will magically be the end of my year of awfulness.

And hey, I’m writing. Even if the part I’m writing at the moment is gut-wrenchingly difficult. At least I’m writing.

And I have been watching Six Feet Under with R. (Yes, I know, I’m always 7 years – or, hell, 15 years - behind the shows.) I had never seen it. I love it. We’re finishing up Season 2. The way it makes me sad makes me happy, if you know what I mean.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I'm feeling pretty burnt out. This isn't good. Because I'm also feeling the creep of the new academic year. Never have I dreaded it before. Never. But last year was so stressful that I can't stand the thought of this year.

And the problem is, I haven't really had any down time in a long time. My week of true vacation in Hawaii was ruined by my accident and my five days in hospital. My week of bliss at dance camp - the last week of August - is now cancelled because of that. Those were my two weeks this year free of work. My trip to France was lovely, but it was a research trip. My two-day getaway with R near Scary City was marred by the fun ovarian scare. My long weekend in Nearest Metropolis was truncated by the bed bugs. Vacations are not meant to be, for me, it seems.

And I've just been plowing through, machinically, trying to get far enough ahead with my stuff before the year starts that I don't feel like I'm drowning. So I churn through it, anxiously. Today I: finished writing my job letter, wrote some of the current book chapter I'm on, drafted about a quarter of my revised SSHRC grant application, and closely read and commented on an essay for my co-edited collection (which was a disappointment and will require significant revision - and I had such high hopes for this one!). I didn't touch the other looming things - course design for the fall that is not even finished. There's administrative service that I'm supposed to be doing - more growing of my program. I feel exhausted, and it's August. This does not bode well.

I wonder if I can take Labour Day weekend off. If I can plan for a full three days OFF just before classes begin. I wonder if I can afford the time. I don't even know what I'd do. I'd be in Scary City. Maybe I'd just read novels and go for swims. And walks - if all goes well, I should be coming off crutches and able to walk properly again just before that weekend. I think I need to do it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Writing surprise

After a lot of self-reproach, and a little motivational help from this, I seem to have found my writing groove again.

It is even fun. It is even about discovery.

I can't believe it. The last couple of weeks have seen me produce over 8000 words with little angst and no sweaty, painful effort - not my usual deal. I've even seen myself work while on "vacation" - like last week, in Dad City, where I grabbed 30-minute chunks of time a couple of times.

That's the key - I've finally given in to the writing experts, with their "you don't need to be precious about your time" shtick. I've finally seen that it's true that I don't need five uninterrupted hours in which to sit down and write. No. I can work in 45-minute blocks of time, and actually think intelligent thoughts and get some momentum going. I never thought it possible. I always thought I needed to be the tortured artiste in order to write well, but I don't - and this doesn't mean I'm uncreative. In a sense, it is as if I'm finally giving in to my own creativity, and am more in touch with it than I have been when I've been buying the tortured artiste thing.

Part of what has been helping, too, has been working at the library. Not every day, but at least half of my writing days. Free from the distractions of the Internet right there in my laptop.

I feel returned to what writing was for me before graduate school ruined it. I never thought that would happen.

I do feel this might have negative consequences for my blogging - because I do still get exhausted of my own writing, and so it's much less tempting to compose blog posts at the end of a day. And I am no longer afraid of what will happen when I sit down to write - so I am not as likely to use blogging as procrastination.

But the important thing is, I'm writing (a book - I can finally say I'm writing a book, and feel like I mean it). And I'm enjoying it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Quick Update

I have been away! Since Friday afternoon. In fact, I am still away. I am in Dad City. After visiting First Unit City for four days, staying with most loved family members who live there.

I was sad because it is a beautiful house on the water, a house that I adore, and I LURVE swimming, and I couldn't go in the water, really. I would have been able to go in off a dock - I could, I imagine, hop down the ladder on the one good leg - but since this is shallow water, I couldn't do it, really. I did have one attempt, crutching in and then sort of crouching there, supported by R. How ridiculous I felt!

Also in First Uni City, there is my grandmother, who is 85 and broke her pelvis around the time that I broke my knee. She is recovering at the Most Loved Home where R and I were staying. Others - Favourite Aunt, mainly - were ther for the first two days. But for two days, we took care of her - which was an odd challenge for me, given my crutching around. So I hopped around in the kitchen semi-preparing food, and R carried the trays in to her. It was sad, and interesting, and a post about my grandmother is coming soon.

But I am too tired right now. Too tired to write about any of the things I thought I would write about. I drove for five hours today, from that city to Dad City, and I am amazingly exhausted - it can't only be from the driving?! At any rate, there is much to blog about: grandmothers and writing and other things.