Strange days indeed

Strange in a good way, I should add. I was taking care of a couple of things when I realized that I was not as stressed out as I should be. I mean, I’m putting together two syllabi for three classes, I’m reading about EU sanctions on Iran and Russia, I’m leaving on Wednesday for Belgium with students. We’ll be there for 10 days. We get back on a Saturday and classes start on Monday. I should be completely stressed and racing around like the proverbial headless chicken. But…I’m not. I’m weirdly calm. I mean I like it, but it’s weird. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way at this time of year before. Friends always say, “Gee, must be nice to have four weeks off between semesters. Wish I got that.” What they don’t realize is that in that four weeks I have to grade and finish all the previous classes, write the syllabi and prep all the classes for the spring, deal with committee work (yes, that continues through the break), and in my case, lose a week to 10 days shepherding students around Europe. Oh, and my own research.

So, it’s not really a “vacation” in the sense that I get to sit around, read fiction, binge watch whatever, and take nice long walks. I do those things every now and then, but after I’ve done about 6+ hours of research/prep/committee stuff. I’m not complaining, just pointing out that it’s not all bonbons and soap operas. So, why am I so relaxed this year compared to other years? What’s going on? I had to think about this.

I am not doing research. At least not political or work-related research. I am doing research for a book I want to write. But, I’m not doing my usual political parties in Serbia research. I’m not worried about getting something out, past the reviewers, and hopefully in a journal by the end of 2020. And, doing all that so I can show it to my colleagues and have them nod and smile. I really am over this. I still like to know what’s going on in the Balkan corner of the world. I just don’t want my world to be required to revolve around it.

Starting next week you will see responses to prompts here. I’m participating in a group to create and respond to writing prompts in order to hone the craft and maybe get ideas. At the least, to make sure I’m stretching that creative muscle on a somewhat regular basis.

I’m enjoying my busy, but less-stressed-than-expected last few days of 2019. I hope everybody has a good end to 2019 and is looking forward to an adventurous and fun-filled 2020.

Image by 1980supra from Pixabay

Work vs. writing

Yesterday and today I have been trying to get a start on my syllabi for the fall semester as well as keep up with the writing I really want to do. A colleague turn me on to the Pomodoro method. Basically, you work on something, one task, for 25 minutes. Then you take a couple minute break. I get up and walk around, pace around the circle in the office hallway, walk up and down the house, whatever. Every four Pomodoros (about 2 hours), you take about a half hour break. The idea is that you let things float around in your head, and get better insights to whatever you’re working on. It really is amazing. I’m far more productive when I spend my day on the Pomodoro method. Plus, it reminds you to take a break and get up from your chair so you don’t atrophy.

When it comes to dividing my attention between a syllabus and a book, I find it very useful. I do two Pomodors on the syllabus (that includes reading the book, going over notes for assignments, creating assignments, watching videos, anything to do with class prep), then two on the book. This means that I actually get in several hours of productive work. Fan-freaking-tastic! Productivity! Yay!

Seriously, though, I am a world-class procrastinator and this method really does seem to insure that I can avoid that snake pit. Well, as long as I stay away from Facebook….I am working hard on this book and the series. I also have ideas for another series and several short stories. I’m working on them. I will get things sold. I know it. I do wish I could keep going without the looming semester. On the other hand, the semester and its schedule and stresses will require me to be more organized and more productive in a shorter period of time. This is a good thing.

In the meantime, I keep Pomodoro-ing along getting the edits done and the next one written.

Go tackle the week!

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

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