Friday Thoughts: Oops, I did it again

Totally didn’t get to my morning post. Still writing syllabi like a fiend. Oh, hey. What if a fiend really did write syllabi? What would those look like? Hmmmmm. Must. Work. On. Syllabi. Must. Not. Get. Distracted….

Seriously, back to work. More later.

Coddiwomple

This word popped up on my FB memories thingy today. “Coddiwomple” means to travel purposely towards an as-yet-unknown destination. This is perfect for 2019. I’m coddiwompling into the year! Whee! The definition is a little bit off, I do know where I want to end up, I’m just not sure, right now, how I’m going to get there yet. I’m writing (in fact, I need to get back to it as soon as I finish this post), and I’m creating a vision of how I want my life to look (found those ideas from this book by Jen Sincero, along with inspiration from Scott Adams). This is not to say you can sit on your butt dreaming and expect it all to fall into place before your very eyes. There is a lot of work involved. But, this is what I want, so the work is almost immaterial. I will look back in a year and say, yes. It is all worth it.

At the same time, this is a very scary thing to contemplate. I find myself saying things like “Well, if it doesn’t work, I/we can always do X”. And, I have to remind myself, that no. X is not an option, not if we want to move forward with our lives and into a new, more fun, and more in our control life. Writing this blog, and writing fiction are my new world or worlds. I have discovered a creative streak in myself that I never knew existed. Or, rather, I knew there was a little something there, but the über-practical voices of my mother and grandmother were always reminding me that one could not, and should not try, to make a living being creative. So, I threw my energy elsewhere. I threw it into education and into being an educator and a researcher. But, now, 25 or so years on, I’m realizing I’m not happy. In fact, my annoyance trigger is dangerously close to the surface. And, right behind the annoyance trigger is the “I don’t give a f*&%” trigger. This is not a good thing. Regardless of how I feel about my life right now, I don’t need to be going off on students and colleagues. Bad form, as my dad would say.

So, sitting here on Day 9 of 2019, I’m going to go for what promises to be a cold, very cold, windy, walk, and then come back and write, write, write. And, then squeeze in some class prep and syllabus work. And, then continue to coddiwomple!

Go coddiwomple!

The Last Week…of break

A week from today classes start. I will be back in the rhythm of the semester by the end of next week. This is a very familiar place to be. I am working on prepping my classes, because I put that task off until now. I am also trying to write and do research. More personal, but still research. As always, I head into the spring semester with a mixture of hope and dread. Hope, because it’s a new semester and that always brings a sense of optimism. Also, the spring semester is followed by summer! Yay!

Dread, because I’m afraid that the freshmen will not have learned anything from their mistakes last semester (years of teaching supports this hypothesis). and because, administratively we’re entering another period of uncertainty and that means faculty never really know if their ideas, programs, trips, etc. will be approved as before, cut, or ignored. Regardless of whatever else the semester brings, it will bring change. And, change is a scary, exciting thing.

I am a creature of habit; got it from my parents who definitely were creatures of habit (when the bartender pours your beers as he sees you through the window, you’re a creature of habit). But, I think that the majority of humans are creatures of habit. So are other animals. We have the ability to recognize long-ingrained habits and to persuade ourselves to ditch those habits. Hence, the plethora of books, blogs, articles, etc. that urge us to get out of our comfort zones, push the edges of the envelope, change our world, etc. etc. etc. While exciting to contemplate, such change is often scary to implement.

So, where am I going with this rambling? Well, in the words of Mal Reynolds, captain of the spaceboat Firefly, “no more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.” I am embracing change, some of it pretty radical, and I am going to enjoy the hell out of the roller-coaster I’m currently building. I promise to post updates.

(picture is personal photo)

Friday Thoughts: Late Afternoon…

I missed blogging this morning due to sheer, unadulterated sloth. Just didn’t feel like moving off the couch. This has happened before and in the same time frame. The closer it gets to the start of the semester, whether fall or spring, the less inclined I am to do the work that’s required of me. Every semester I swear I’ll get an earlier start so I’m not hammering along as the semester starts. And, like clockwork, every year, two weeks before the start of the semester, I’m doing any but prepping classes. At this point in my career, I’m just going along with it.

I’ve been avoiding the news, aside from skimming headlines to make sure we’re not involved in yet another war, or that California hasn’t fallen off the continent after the “Big One” earthquake. I’m a much happier person if I just keep up with news and information versus dwelling on it and getting into meaningless Facebook arguments. And, I find that I like the happier me much better than I do the deeply involved and “very concerned” me.

This may seem like a “no duh” sort of statement, but actually recognizing that I feel happier is something of a revelation. It’s a lighter feeling; I have more energy to pour into other aspects of my life.(even class prep!). I pay more attention to what’s going on in my immediate surroundings and more attention to the people in those surroundings. I sat on the bus this afternoon on my way home and just watched the neighborhood go by, looked at the people on the bus and tried to guess where they were going and from where did they start (the family of tourists was pretty easy since son was holding a map and checking it as the bus made stops). Just idle speculation with no real purpose, but enjoyable nonetheless. And, bonus: I didn’t wind up with a crick in my neck from staring down at my phone. Win!

Home, doing laundry and looking forward to a quiet evening with Mike. Enjoy the weekend, all!

Heading out into 2019

Well, OK then. It’s 2019. Still no flying cars; bummer. But, then, given the way people tend to drive (or pilot shopping carts for that matter), that may be a good thing. As I sit at my computer supposedly prepping my spring courses (but, obviously, writing this post), I am forced to think about the year ahead. Academic calendars run about a year ahead of the current time. For example, I already know what I am supposed to be teaching this time next year. That forces one to plan out a year at a time. Right now, I’m not sure I’m enjoying planning that far ahead. Tends to lock you in and remove flexibility. But, once the prep for this semester is done, I should be facing a relatively easy-going semester which will leave more room for personal pursuits.

On a less confused note, I’m looking forward to this year as I know it will bring new and exciting changes. Not sure what exactly those will be, but for about eight months now, I’ve been trying to face the world in a positive way, expressing gratitude for everything, large and small. One thing I’ve certainly noticed is that I am less frustrated with situations and more inclined to examine what I can take away from any given issue for future learning. It really does help. In addition to noticing what I can change in terms of my reactions or actions, I’m noticing that it is becoming easier to put stressful, annoying, or frustrating situations and issues behind me. This does not mean ignoring things as they come up, but rather, taking care of it and then letting it go. I’m also getting better about dealing with things that come up in a timely manner, rather than putting them off and letting them fester. And, I’ve become better about doing silly things and enjoying small moments in the day. I got a small BB-8 droid for Christmas. It’s powered by an app and I am having a lot of fun rolling it around the house to the great interest and consternation of the cats. They’re not really sure what to make of it!

So, it turns out, you can teach an old dragon new tricks. I’m writing more, learning German, about to revisit Spanish, and generally having a good time. Classes start in a couple of weeks, so I will get into the rhythm of the semester soon enough. For now, I’m off to take a walk and then more prep. Happy New Year! Here’s to an interesting and joy-filled 2019.

*Image from Pixabay

Winding down the year

We got back from California this morning after a red-eye flight from San Francisco. It was a direct flight, so not as bad as previous trips. I think I actually managed to sleep on this flight and I’m grateful for that.

There are a number of things I’m grateful for as this year winds down. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal; trying to make sure each day I write down 10 things I’m grateful for. There are a couple things that appear every day. I’m always and forever grateful for my husband. I totally won the lottery in that category. I’m always grateful for the purrs and snuggles of our cats. I’m grateful for my health (cliched I know, but I am). My point here is that I did not keep the journal while we were traveling. So, this post is a sort of catch up on gratitude for the last 10 days.

I’m grateful:

  • that we got to visit our families
  • that we got to peek behind the metaphorical curtain that is covering some of the family tension (it was enlightening and for that I’m grateful).
  • we got to walk on the beach on Saturday
  • we had easy travel days
  • we got to eat a lot of good food.
  • that we spent quality time with my cousin and his wife
  • that I got to spend time with my favorite cousin who is a sister and best friend to me.
  • I got to have lunch with my best friend from college.
  • And, maybe most of all, I’m grateful that I get to sit here on my own couch, surrounded by snoozing cats, while I write this.

So, a very happy, healthy, and enlightening new year to everybody. May 2019 bring you much joy and fun living.

Image ©Rebecca Jones, 2018

Friday Morning Thoughts: Good-bye 2018

To paraphrase the opening line of Anna Karenina, happy families are all alike. Unhappy families are unique in their unhappiness; or as is sometimes the case, in their weirdness. Here we sit at the end of 2018. I’m currently sitting in my father-in-law’s house while his wife cooks breakfast. So far for the last four days we’ve done a lot of eating and a lot of driving between father-in-law and mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Always an interesting balance.

This year, FiL’s wife had several different families over (she has four children); daughter and family live in the house behind this one, and one son and his family were up from LA until the day after Christmas. Another son and his kids came down from Sonoma for a visit yesterday. Mike and I have only met most of these people once, maybe twice. We ended up going for a walk for an hour or so to get away from the chaos and our feeling awkward and out of place. Somehow, that never happens with my family. Or at least I don’t feel like it does. Even Mike says it feels different. Maybe it’s because we are now the elders of the family and therefore we are keeping things together. But, I don’t see the significant others/partners sitting apart from the rest and it seems that Mike and I do at some of his side of the family gathering.

That feeling got me thinking. How out of place do people feel in blended families? In this case, my FiL has been with his wife for 25 years; he’s seen these grandkids, and now great-grandkids grow up. They call him Grampa Jim. Mike & I are not really a part of this family as much as my FiL would like it. Sometimes it’s almost as if people want my MiL to just disappear. Which, of course, is not going to happen, especially not for my husband, her eldest child. I don’t know. I’m rambling, but it’s been a weird week.

Today will be a day of hanging out. I will try to get some writing done and maybe we will go for a walk. Tomorrow, we head down to Santa Cruz to visit with Mike’s other sister and her family. And, meet up with mother-in-law and first sister-in-law (are you confused yet? I know I am). As usual, I’m just along for the ride. We head home this weekend and back to our comfortable routine. We’ll shake that up soon enough.

Friday Morning Thoughts: Family & Christmas*

It’s the Friday before Christmas, which this year falls on a Tuesday. We are in California visiting family. Between the two of us we have several visits to make. In my case, my family does a big pre-Christmas Christmas the weekend before the actual day. This means that everybody gets together at one house and we eat, hang out, and exchange gifts and generally raise a ruckus. In other words, a lot of fun.

My husband’s family is our other crew. This is a bit more complex and jigsaw puzzle-like. We have to juggle my father-in-law, his wife, my mother-in-law, two sisters-in-law, and brother-in-law and wife. This usually entails Christmas Eve in one place, Christmas breakfast in another, and Christmas dinner in yet another. We drive around the Sacramento area A LOT.

It’s always nice to be back in California for the holidays. I have to admit, I don’t require a white Christmas in order to get into the spirit. A warm Christmas works just fine. What makes Christmas a bit more challenging out here is the amount of planning and re-planning that goes into each visit. I know that we’re not alone in dealing with this; plenty of other people travel back and forth between parents. Hell, there was even a movie, Four Christmases, that took on that challenge. We only have three and one of those is not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so I feel lucky. We get to spend time with family, eat good food, and be back in California.

We even braved a mall today. And, made it out alive! At least we’re not flying to Portland on Tuesday.

*OK, so it’s Friday afternoon. Whatever.

Friday Morning Thoughts: Jumping on the offensensitivity* bandwagon

Lately, it seems as if everybody is looking for reasons to be offended. The latest petty reason that’s come to my attention is the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.  Bored Panda had a short piece that highlighted an English teacher’s discussion (maybe it could be called a reverse fisking) of the lyrics of that song. In that discussion the teacher explains that given the social mores of the day (1940s) the woman in the song is trying to figure out a socially plausible reason for spending the night with the man. He’s also working on persuading her to stay. In the end, as the teacher notes, yes, it could be seen as “rapey” (the guy is working hard to get her to stay), but it’s also a level of empowerment for the woman as she wants to stay, but has to figure out a way to do so without harming her reputation.

I posted this link on Facebook with the simple comment that this provided an interesting take on the song. The reaction was mixed, but what stood out to me the most was the response of a college friend (really not a good friend, just one of those you happen to reconnect with on FB, but who was not a close friend during college). This woman is far to the left and swallows anything coming out from the opinion arbiters on that side of the political spectrum almost without thought. And, her reaction to my post was no exception to that. Full bore “how dense can you people be?!” response. I initially responded with asking if she’d read the entire post, and copying the images of the teacher’s tweet/instagram response. A few minutes later I reconsidered and deleted my comments hoping she hadn’t seen them yet and wanting simply to ignore her comments. No such luck. Another comment along the lines of “I can’t believe you’re such an apologist for this crap!”.  This one I’m ignoring.

This friend is typical of many on the left, or those who wish to be seen as on the left, who simply do not want to engage in any kind of discourse (while loudly proclaiming that they do). I know this is not a shock to many people, but when I run across it proclaimed so blatantly, it just sticks out; and most especially sticks out when it’s an otherwise competent and intelligent person. I am getting stronger about speaking out and holding my own ground as opposed to employing a go-along/get-along strategy. Mostly I’ve grown tired of getting yelled at for holding views that differ from what is considered by the woke crowd to be wrongthink. I’m just done. You want to be offended? Fine. Be offended. Spend your energy in a useless fashion. Me? I’m gonna be over here enjoying life.

Now, I’m off to ignore Facebook. 

*I first saw the word “offensensitivity” in a Bloom County cartoon. All credit to Burke Breathed and Opus.

Friday morning thoughts: Change

Sarah Hoyt had a great post about emerging from a cocoon and being a different person than you were at 7 or 18 or last night. That got me thinking about changes in my past and changes coming up in my future.

Right now, the Center of My Being and I are figuring out when we are going to move back west of the Rockies. We want to be closer to family; his parents are aging, all but one of his siblings and closest cousins are in California, my cousins are up and down the West Coast. It makes a lot of sense to move back. It is also an absolutely crazy idea. I have tenure; an impossible-to-fire-me job. Why the hell would I think about giving that up for the insecurity of adjuncting, or working in the “real world”, or, as I will be doing, writing full time?

There are many reasons for doing something that appears to be quite crazy on the surface. For one, I can’t expect him to remain 3,000 miles from his family when he put up with my parents in close proximity for as long as he did. Secondly, I made a promise when we first left California, that after tenure, the next major move we made would be because he found the cool job. Finally, I’ve come to realize over the last two to three years what my father was talking about when he fussed that tenure was a trap of sorts. I scoffed at the time and said, how can having a guaranteed job be a trap??

Well, I found out. You get to the point where you will put up with innumerable indignities because you KNOW you can’t leave this job…you have tenure! You fight the EXACT SAME battles again and again and again. A really ugly version of “Groundhog Day.” The same colleagues react the same way to the same battles…it really never changes.

I had a sabbatical last spring (OK, so tenure has some really great bonuses…sabbaticals are one of them). As I settled in to do research (the reason for the sabbatical), I realized that this just did not make me happy or interested or anything. I started teaching myself German (you have to totally check out Gabriel Wyner’s site fluent-forever.com…no, I don’t get paid for endorsing it, it’s simply that good) and had a blast and now I’m coversationally fluent. I also read my first ever self-help-figure-yourself-out book. Rather eye-opening. Then, I added an opening line for a book to a FB comment string…then I started writing…Now, 11 months later, I’m about to finish my first ever work of fiction. I have plans for two more in this series; I’m building another world for another series; I have outlines for at least three short stories.  I’m having a blast AND with indie publishing, I can do this. This makes me very, very excited and happy.

So, we’re leaving. Not sure exactly where to yet, but west of the Rockies or thereabouts.  And, I’m going to become a recovering Academic. And, I’m really very happy about it.