T: Amazing Husband ST: Three-year-old Wonder Prof. G: Advisor I Prof. C: Advisor II Julie: Stylish Sister Rob: Awesome Brother Belle: Our Cat Bill: Grumbling BIL Rita: Uncomplicated SIL SMU: Smallish Midwestern University Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Tuesday, October 31, 2006
My parents were here this weekend. They arrived on Friday night and left yesterday morning. From the moment they arrived until the moment they left, we were in full work-mode. As a result I am completely exhausted: I am still recuperating from my weekend.
What we accomplished (now with photos!):
Stripped cutesy 1980s wallpaper from half-bath off of the kitchen. This was a bigger project than I imagined it would be, simply because the wallpaper was so old it was coming off in tiny shreds. This weekend I'm hoping to paint in there, as soon as T and I can decide on a color. After the stripping experience, I'm very glad it was the only room that was wallpapered.
Mom stripping wallpaper
Installed new microwave. The house came with a microwave, a greasy white Whirlpool Gold that was held together with duct tape. (Classy!) We've replaced it with a stainless steel microwave to match our other appliances. Now the only white appliance left in the kitchen is the dishwasher. The replacement dishwasher I want is kind of expensive, and since this white one works fine we've decided to hold off on making another big purchase.
New Microwave (Stove/Oven purchased August 2006)
Demolished entryway closet. We had a closet between our main entrance and our garage entrance just off the kitchen. The closet made the corridor between the two entrances rather tight, and so we ripped it out. This was a huge project that involved a lot of re-wiring and lots of gypsum dust from the new drywall, but in the end the new entryway is a LOT larger and is precisely what we wanted. T is continually amazed by what my Dad knows how to do -- my Dad is not trained in construction at all, but seems to know how to tackle any project, large or small. "I definitely married up," T said last night. "I married into talent!"
Closet progress: Saturday and Sunday. The half-bath is the doorway in the back; the kitchen is the entrance to the left. I'm taking this photo near the main front door entrance. The white door on the right is our garage entrance. New tile flooring coming soon to replace poorly-laid and very ugly vinyl. Clearly, we still have to mud and tape the drywall and then repaint.
Removed ugly Love Boat light fixture in the stairwell, and patched holes where matching Love Boat sconces once hung. This job was tedious for T and my Dad and still isn't quite complete because T had to re-mud some of the drywall patch after he found a few bubbles. We haven't yet replaced the light fixture in the stairwell because we can't find anything we really like. We want something in the Mission/Arts & Crafts style (since that's what most of our furniture is), and everything we've found thus far is a bit too "curvy."
Wired for a garbage disposal. A major source of frustration for me in my kitchen is the lack of a garbage disposal. Dad told T how to wire an outlet for one, and to T's surprise he was able to do it himself! Now we just need to hire a plumber to install the disposal. "I do everything BUT plumbing," Dad said. "Too messy." Agreed.
So it was a busy weekend, but a lot of great projects were completed or mostly completed. I told my parents that I was never again going to clean BEFORE they arrived, since the place is always trashed minutes after they walk in the door! I am going to be mopping up gypsum dust for the next month and a half, I'm sure, and I've already had to wash everything that I had sitting on my kitchen counters (cake safe, utensils, toaster) twice.
I have a busy week ahead, too. Exams and papers to finish grading, a few complicated lectures to write, and lots of other paperwork to get off of my desk. Add that to the fact that my little Superman has to go trick-or-treating tonight... I'd better get cracking!
ST's serious "Man of Steel" face; just look at those abs!
I am married to a "do-er." T is one of the most ambitious and goal-driven people I've ever met, and that was a huge attraction for me when we first met. He gets his mind fixed on something and then he methodically chips away at the obstacles until he reaches his goal, usually in less time than it takes "normal" people. He's like this with everything: when we were in college together he would study for his exams and write his papers with a clear method; he sets financial goals for us and then has all of the micro-goals we need to meet mapped out in Excel; when he was training for the marathon he ran last year at this time he trained according to a strict schedule spread out over six months, missing only one training run due to a slight injury. He's a very accomplished person as a result, but he never gloats about what he's achieved. His successes are due to planning and hard work.
The problem with being a "do-er" like T is that he sometimes gets focused on one single goal, and that goal overwhelms thoughts of everything else. When he was training for the marathon, for example, we talked about training ALL THE TIME and he was obsessive about keeping his training journal, food intake journal, and making sure he rotated his shoes for every 30 miles logged. While he still helped around the house (he's good about stuff like that), his heart was just not in it -- he was thinking about running, about meeting that goal. It was a little frustrating for me, but in the end I was extremely proud of him for running the marathon in under four hours (his goal for his first marathon) without injury.
His latest obsession: Pond House. I suspected that Pond House would consume him the moment we stepped onto this property for the first time in May. As he looked around and saw the lawn that needed maintenance, the empty and cavernous basement just waiting to be finished, the large garage in need of insulation, and the dock in the pond in need of repair, I could almost see and hear the wheels turning in his head. Those wheels have not stopped turning for a moment since we've been here.
When T comes home each night, we eat dinner, clean up, and then he's off to work on something for the house. On nights like tonight, when I have to prepare for classes the next day, he takes ST along with him: tonight they're at the home improvement store looking for bathtub drain covers, light fixtures, and moulding. For his birthday, he asked for gift certificates to the same store; he's asked for the same thing for Christmas. He regularly reads all sorts of home improvement magazines and books, and often spends his lunch break in his office, eating his lunch while looking up things like "pond weed management" or "radiant heat efficiency" or "installing crown moulding" on the internet.
Talking to him last night, I just had to laugh. He started by asking me about work and how it was going, asking me questions about my students and my colleagues. But, soon enough, the conversation turned to the bathrooms and when we would get rid of the brown tub, when we would replace the mauve carpet, when we would put in a window in the dining room, when we would put on a screened-in porch. "You know, the more we chip away at these little projects, the more I want to really tackle the big ones," he said to me. He wants the ugly brown tub gone ASAP (hurray!), the ugly gray tub next, and then the carpet. "We have the money to do it. Let's just do it, don't you think?"
I hesitated. "That's a lot of money," I said, "and we have a lot of other things to do with that money." I'm not even sure he heard me. His eyes were closed and I could hear his brain turning, turning, turning. In the next moment, the phone rang. He answered it. It was my Dad, who launched into a conversation about all of the projects he and T would do this weekend while my parents are here. As soon as I realized it was my Dad, I knew that it was no use talking about it any further: there is little that can stop T when there's a goal and there's a plan. When we bought this house, we started in on a whole new kind of marathon.
Since I haven't posted since No Complaining Thursday, this post will be devoted to all of the things I AM complaining about today: All Complaining Monday. I am not by nature a complainer: it takes a LOT to make me angry or sad, and I tend to see the bright side of everything. But... well, it's Monday. It's raining. And I'm tired and a bit cranky. Hence, All Complaining Monday (PM Edition).
Things I AM Complaining About Today:
1.) For some odd reason my face seems to be breaking out. Not anything major, but I generally have very clear skin and so this is particularly annoying. Of course the mini-breakout could be due to the fact that I consumed huge quantities of quality dark chocolate with MIL this weekend, but I'm going to rule that out. Dark chocolate is good for you. Look it up.
2.) Our mostly well-behaved cat Belle is driving me insane. If I leave anything out on the kitchen counter she will hop onto the counter to investigate and chomp on it. Example: this weekend MIL and I planned to make my Nearly Famous Vanilla Cupcakes, and so we left a stick of butter on the counter to soften (as you do). When we returned from a short trip to the grocery store, we discovered that Belle had eaten the middle of the stick of butter and had left greasy paw prints all over the kitchen. Gross. She is now going up there even when there's NOTHING there to entice her. This is annoying, and she never did that at our old house.
3.) I was lecturing this afternoon and totally lost my place in the middle of explaining something very complicated. I hate it when that happens. I think I confused my students even more than they already were after doing the readings. This means I'll be doing damage control on Wednesday, and I hate doing that.
4.) I have a stack of 35 6-8 page take-home midterm exams to grade. I have had them since October 13. I have not touched a single one of them yet. That stinks. I am praying for a teaching assistant to fall from the sky and take care of them for me. I'll let you know what God's response to that is.
5.) I had tentatively scheduled a lunch date with a new friend in a different department. We had scheduled the lunch last week and I was really looking forward to it. However, T and I also have a completely clogged bathtub drain that has not responded at all to OTC plumbing products. As luck would have it, the plumber could ONLY come between 9:00am and 2:00pm tomorrow. Raincheck on that fun lunch date, please.
6.) ST has decided that it's "Dad Week" (his term). This means that Mom is persona non grata for the time being. I'm not sure what happens during "Dad Week," but it must be pretty doggone fun and it stinks that I'm not included. T, of course, thinks it's funny and I have to admit that I do, too, but I am already missing bathtime ("Only BOYS in the bathroom tonight, Mom!") and storytime and "Dad Week" has just begun.
7.) My students are taking a midterm exam on Friday. It is half multiple-choice and half essay. This means that I will have essay exams looming large over my weekend with my parents. I will have to accept that the exams will simply not be touched until at least Tuesday of next week. When the teaching assistant fairy comes to grade my other exams, I'm sure he/she will grade these, too. I'll keep you posted.
8.) I have an intense craving for cauliflower. I ate the last bit of it tonight with my dinner. Every now and again (every 2-3 months, maybe?) my body seems to NEED cauliflower -- I don't know why, but I do know that I'm unhappy that I can't satify my current cauliflower deficiency.
9.) Today the left leg hem of my favorite gray pants from Ann Taylor fell. It was a rainy/snowy, disgusting day. This means that I was essentially walking on my fallen hem, grinding muddy water into the fabric before I had a chance to make an emergency pants repair with masking tape. Now I have to dry clean the pants AND hem them again. Very annoying.
10.) It is COLD here. Average temperature for this time of year is around 56 degrees. We have not seen 50 for at least two weeks. It was snowing today. I love winter, but I'm not quite sure I'm ready for it. ST has already lost one pair of mittens, T can't find the scarf that goes with his dress coat, and I have no idea where the red scarf Mom made especially for me ended up after the move. Unfortunately, it's supposed to average around 40 degrees the rest of the week.
1.) My BIL, with whom I generally have a rocky relationship, called last night to talk to T. T was still at work (worked until 9:00pm last night, but I'm not complaining) and so I talked to BIL for almost 45 minutes! The conversation was actually -- dare I say it? -- enjoyable.
2.) T and I finally put up the beautiful mirror in our dressing area, the same mirror that was sitting in our bedroom for several weeks awaiting installation. It looks awesome.
(There used to be a mirror filling the entire wall above the counter here, topped by those ugly Hollywood dressing room lights. The wall also used to be painted the color of gel toothpaste; now it's the same color as our bedroom. You can't see it here, but we also replaced the cabinet hardware in this dressing area as well as in our bathroom. The old hardware was cheap fake gold crap. It's black now -- and at $6.99 per knob/pull, it had better look nice! The countertop still needs replacing, but that will probably have to wait until the new year. And hey, I'm not complaining about that.)
3.) One of my students came to my office hours to discuss graduate school and her own graduation from SMU. She was convinced that she would graduate in Fall 2007, and was unhappy about it. I looked at her academic report from the Registrar's office and, together with Amy (Best Administrative Assistant EVER), we figured out a way for her to graduate this spring. Both student and professor were very, very pleased!
4.) My MIL is coming for her first visit to Pond House tomorrow. We're excited to see her -- mostly ST, who has been counting down the days all week: "Tomorrow when I get up it will be just one more day until Grandma comes!"
5.) After watching the BBC news last night and seeing a report on the China-North Korea border, ST wanted to know what "China" was (he was convinced that he'd been there, given that he's eaten Chinese food). We pulled out his atlas, looked at all of the countries, and figured out where China was in relation to the United States. On the page where the 50 states are listed and described there was a small picture of an American flag. "Oh!" ST said, smiling, "That's the same flag we have in my preschool!" Then to my amazement he stood up, put his hand over his heart, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. I had no idea he knew it. (His version went, "... one nation, under God, unbelievable, with liberty and justice for all.")
6.) Today I am writing a lecture (to give tomorrow) about one of my favorite topics ever. It's nice to be able to talk about things you really, really care abut.
In our Honda, 3:35pm today. ST humming something in his carseat.
Me: ST, what's that song you're humming?
ST: It's a song that we sing in preschool. It's a song for kids.
Me: Really? Can you sing it for me?
ST: Sure. (Sings) It had to be you.... it had to be you... I stumbled around and finally found somebody who....
Me: That's not a preschool song. That's a love song.
ST: Yes, it is. I know I love it.
(Later that afternoon he started singing snippets of "I'll Be Seeing You." Turns out they're listening to the Rod Stewart Great American Songbook CD in preschool -- I called to find out! I can't stand Rod Stewart, but at least he's learning the standards, which is what we play at home anyway when we're not listening to NPR. Anything to keep him away from the garbage that is Justin Timberlake!)
For phdme: what the heck is up with Sting these days? First a crappy, sappy duet with Sheryl Crow (shoot me now!) and now crazy LUTE music? I guess once you've made it to the top you can afford to get weird.
I really do appreciate that you call every Tuesday morning. I enjoy hearing from you. However, is it so much to ask that you let me speak once in a while? Is it impossible for you to concentrate on anything but your own life? I have something important that I want to share with you, but I cannot because you will not let me get a word in edgewise. While hearing about the great outfit you wore Saturday night, how stupid your boyfriend is, or how dull your coworkers are is fascinating, I'm starting to feel more like a brick wall than your sister.
With much love, Your Big Sister
Please be careful what you say to T. He thinks you are God. Since your most recent telephone conversation, T has decided that we not only need to reconfigure one of our hall closets, but we need to completely tear it out. I like that you give him good advice and the confidence he needs to take on more complicated projects, but could you at least talk him into installing our new microwave or ripping out the brown tub before closet demolition begins?
Love, Your Oldest Daughter
Dear Neighbors Around the Pond,
I beg you: stop burning leaf piles on Sundays. My eyes are so puffy and watery now from the smell and my head is going to explode with a headache that's been building all day. This has happened on three consecutive Sundays. Can't you do this mid-week, when I don't have time to spend outside?
Sincerely, Pond Neighbor With Sensitive Nose
Yes, quite honestly you DO look very handsome and manly when you're outside using your new chainsaw or your new leaf blower. Maybe if you'd come inside at some point during the weekend I could show you just how attractive I find you lately.
Love, Your Wife (With the Puffy and Watery Eyes)
You are a cat. Cats are not supposed to like homemade Pumpkin-Ginger Bread, especially not cute little mini-loaves that are perfect for stashing in lunchboxes. Cats are also not supposed to fall asleep on the stove, leaving loads of cat fur and tiny pawprints all over the smooth cooktop. Cats are not supposed to sit at the table when we're eating dinner. You are a cat. We love you dearly but -- well, you're a cat.
Love, Your Adopted Mom Since 1998
You have been quite nearly the perfect boy this week. I try to tell you this every day but in case I've missed a day: thank you.
Love you always, Mom
P.S. Thanks, too, for the lovely hydrangea you found in the garden this afternoon. I would have missed it. And yes, I promise to "teach" you to wash dishes this week, since you're so insistent. As always, I love having your help. Hope you had fun jumping in the leaf piles this morning!
I appreciate you letting me know why you were absent from class. I wondered where you were. But honestly, there are some things about your life that your professors don't need to know. Which organs you are missing is one of those things.
Most of yesterday afternoon was spent in meetings with students.
Student A (Senior Seminar): "You mentioned the possibility of doing student-faculty research. I know there are a few students in our class who wanted to work with you, but I'm hoping I got here first!"
Student B (Senior Seminar): "Can we do the Jeopardy thing again sometime? I have other classes with the people in Senior Seminar, and everyone's still talking about it. None of the other professors in this department do creative things like that." (The last bit is untrue -- there's lots of creative teaching in my department -- but the comment made me feel good nonetheless.)
Student C (Intro to Subfield): "At first I thought I'd hate the reading quizzes, but I get way more out of lecture when I'm forced to read the stuff in advance. I hate to admit it, but the quizzes are a good idea." (Third reading quiz is tomorrow.)
Student D (Intro to Subfield, Zombie Class): "I know it was awkward for you to crack down on the class last week, but thanks for doing it. It's much easier to talk in class now."
Student E (Senior Seminar, via email): "I've been meaning to tell you this for a few weeks, but I'm really enjoying this class. I wasn't sure what to expect, but you really put in a lot of effort to make the class interesting and fun. And you know what else? I've been here three years, and you're the only professor who knows my name. Thanks!"
Our weather forecasters here in Midwestern State encouraged us to live it up this weekend, as they predict some rough weather for the end of the week. "This is probably the last nice weekend of the fall," one meteorologist noted with dismay. T and ST perked up at the announcement, realizing that they had better spend every last second of the weekend outside just to take advantage of it. And that's precisely what they did.
On Saturday (after I begged ST to go grocery shopping with me in the early morning, just so I'd have some company), T and ST were outside from 8:30am until 10:00pm, coming inside only for bathroom breaks and meals. (Indeed, T was so dirty from yard- and pond-work that he took his meals on the patio just off the dining room.) They mowed, mulched, trimmed, burned brush piles, played, split wood, swepts, visited with the neighbors, went for ice cream, washed the cars, installed a new rock border between the woods and our lawn, practiced hitting the baseball and kicking the soccer ball, laughed, and finally, when they HAD to come in because the fires were out and ST was getting cold, they bathed and slept. Today was hardly different for them, except that ST was inside more due to numerous time-outs (ST and the neighbor boy were pushing each other's buttons all day long).
I was not outside. I spent the weekend inside, unfortunately, with only small spurts of outside fun. Part of this was due to the fact that nearly everyone is burning leaves or brush at this time of the year and the smell of burning leaves and brush gives me an instantaneous headache. I've had a headache all weekend, it seems. The other reason is that I was stuck grading a zillion (or 90) really bad 3-page papers from my Intro to Subfield students. This took most of the evening Saturday and part of today. But I did do other things, none of them terribly interesting:
Decided on books for Intro to Other Subfield and Senior Seminar on Favorite Things for next semester.
Started writing syllabi for both of those courses.
Prepared lectures and Powerpoints for tomorrow's classes.
Baked banana bread.
Baked Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Finished painting in Master Bath and Master Closet/Dressing Area.
Installed new light fixture in Master Dressing Area.
Found new microwave to replace disgusting one that came with this house; will order it this week.
Not a bad weekend, but I sure wish I could have/would have spent more of it outside. After all, who knows when the next nice weekend will be?
Until today, I had not graded a paper since May 2005. I had forgotten how mind-numbingly boring it is. I had also forgotten the sense of relief one feels upon finally reading the paper of a student who "gets" it, that student paper that captures every piece of knowledge the assignment was designed to capture.
I am lucky that this is my first grading experience this semester. Thus far, Amy (Awesome Administrative Assistant) has graded small assignments and reading quizzes for me. ("I just loooove to grade!" she wrote to me when I asked, unbelieving, if she'd really handle my reading quizzes. She enjoys it and she does a great, quick job.) Thirty writing assignments down, sixty more to go. It will be a long, boring evening. (I've got rooms to paint, doggone it! How dare this job interfere with my decorating plans!)
Yesterday we confirmed that the end of this month will be busy with visits from family. On October 20 my MIL is coming to town to visit Pond House for the first time, and the following weekend my parents and my brother Rob are coming.
When MIL said she was coming, T and I both felt a little panicked. My MIL is a sweet woman and I enjoy her immensely, but both T and I are worried about her reaction to this house. She's a very, very particular woman, even more so since FIL died in 2000: her house is neat, sterile, organized, and new. She has top-of-the-line everything (kitchen appliances I would kill for, including the most amazing microwave I've ever used). She does not do any work on her house herself: she hires out the painting, the decorating, and sometimes the cleaning. When she built her house (a large condo) a few years after FIL died, she became obsessive about it, so much so that T couldn't stand to talk to her about it. For example, she sent her the bathtub in the guest bathroom back FOUR TIMES because she "thought she could see a little scratch in it." Four times? She still complains about her kitchen ceramic tile because there's a slight (read: completely unnoticeable) discoloration on one tile IN THE CLOSET.
You can imagine why we're a bit nervous about her first visit to Pond House. You're on this journey with me, and you know that Pond House is a big work-in-progess. Nothing is perfect or even close to it. Nothing is the way we want it, although we know it will be someday. When we showed MIL pictures of Pond House before we bought it, she not-so-subtly discouraged us from taking on such a big project. Not even the beauty of our yard could distract her from the ugliness that is our brown tub. She has no imagination when it comes to houses like ours; it is impossible for her to see the diamond in the rough. (She is very excited, on the other hand, for Bill and Rita's new house. They are indeed moving after all, and have decided that they are going to build a five-bedroom McMansion in the suburbs. Bill's justification for this is that he has "such expensive tastes" and "couldn't live with anything less than granite countertops and designer lighting." Give me a break.)
My parents, as you also know, are completely the opposite of this. When they first saw pictures of Pond House, they were practically ready to buy it for us. They saw what we saw: a house oozing with potential, a project that would test our creativity, a place we could inject with our personalities. When they were here to help us move in this past August they could not get enough of the place and the fun projects they could do with us. As I've said before, my parents are devout do-it-yourselfers, and the thought of paying someone to decorate, clean, or paint your house is more revolting to them than it is to T. My Dad has already been chatting with T on the phone about what project they're going to tackle over the long weekend they're here. Dad is especially thrilled because my brother Rob will also be here, and that simply means more manpower to do bigger jobs.
It's going to be a busy end-of-October for us, but also good. Despite the bit of stress MIL's visit will cause us, I'm really looking forward to seeing her and so is ST (who adores her because she is always full of surprises for him, usually plastic bugs and baseball cards that she somehow manages to pull out of her purse in an almost endless stream). And of course I'm looking forward to seeing my parents again, and to the projects we're going to tackle when they're here. I'm hoping to get rid of this disgusting 1980s item from the stairwell, which Mom says makes her feel like she's on the Love Boat:
Maybe the cutesy wallpaper in the half-bath downstairs will go, too. How lucky is MIL, though, that she will be able to relive the 1980s in our brown tub? I'm hoping she doesn't decide to check into a hotel!
A few snippets from me before I head to bed (before midnight! On a school night!):
1.) I'm going out on a limb tomorrow and am using a game show in my great Senior Seminar tomorrow, as suggested in the fantastic comments I received on a previous post. Tomorrow's reading assignment was kind of self-explanatory and not really "meaty," and since they're getting ready for a midterm essay assignment I thought I'd prime them with my own version of Jeopardy! I downloaded a PowerPoint Jeopardy! template and made two full sets of answers/questions for them. There are usually about 27 students there, so I think I'll divide them into two big teams and have prizes for the winners of each question and for the winning team. I hope they like it; I'm a little nervous because I'm so used to lecturing that coming in without pages and pages of notes makes me feel a bit insecure. T seemed to think it was a super idea, though, and said it was just the kind of thing he would have enjoyed as a college student. If it goes well, I'll use it in my Intro to Subfield classes, too. I wanted to test it out on a class I already completely connect with before trying it in the harsher environment of Zombie Class.
2.) After complaining about how my students don't and won't read in my Zombie Class and after using a One Minute Paper with them on Monday, I am more convinced than ever that, indeed, they are Zombies. The One Minute Paper asked them to answer some very obvious questions about the readings I'd assigned -- short readings that were completely factual and current, stuff they should get into. Of my 30 students, 28 of them wrote something along the lines of "I was too busy on the weekend to do the reading." How can we have a discussion if they have NO CLUE what I'm talking about? I ended up lecturing AGAIN. I wanted to have them find the answers to my ridiculously easy questions in groups, but of course the 28 students that hadn't read the materials also hadn't downloaded the articles from e-reserve.
UPDATE: after reading Flavia's comments this morning before class, I decided to "get tough" with Zombie Class. I told them that, until I think they're no longer necessary, there will be reading quizzes that count towards their participation grade. I explained that I knew who the 3-4 active participators were, and that the rest of them were already failing in participation. I told them what I expect from them, that I'm not assigning readings for my own health, etc. You know what? After being a little mean in the beginning, it turned out to be the best class session EVER for this group. Hands were raised, students were talking. I was pleased. Very pleased.
3.) I had a student visit my office hours on Monday and honestly, what she said made me feel so relieved and happy I nearly hugged her. She's in my lively Intro to Subfield course, the larger one of the two. She said it's her favorite class by far, she wants me to be her advisor, and that for the first time she's seriously considering graduate school. "Watching you up there made me realize that it's the kind of job I think I'd really like," she said. "You make it so fun." That comment made my entire day, especially since I was feeling so low about the Zombie Class. As it turns out, this student's best friend is in Zombie Class, and apparently the best friend is frustrated with her Zombie Classmates. Good! I know this student -- she's one of the 2 who actually did the reading for Monday.
4.) A great conversation with my "little" brother Rob (23, recent college graduate and also 6'4") reminded me to do something: tell the good students that they're good. He gave a great example that really stuck with me: he said that in one of his senior seminar courses last year he and a group of fellow students stayed after class to figure out a particularly tough assignment. The professor noticed them and said, "I really like to see this. You students are my core. I always know I can count on you for solid work." Rob said that this comment was inspiring to all of the students in his group, and from that moment they became the "core," even if that's not how they originally thought of themselves. He reminded me to compliment the good students, the good classes. That's what I did to my large section of Intro to Subfield on Monday, and they really seemed to respond. The atmosphere, which was already pretty good, was bumped up a notch.
5.) In other teaching-related news, ST loves his new preschool. The first day went incredibly smoothly, I think he might have a slight crush on his new teacher, and he's already made two friends. His comment after Day 1 (Monday): "Mom, I told Miss Sharon about those planes that crashed into the buildings and she KNEW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!" He's fascinated by terrorist attacks lately -- not afraid, but he wants to know everything about 9/11 and "mean guys" and the people who try to stop them -- and was so pleased that Miss Sharon would actually talk to him about it instead of skirting the issue because he's only 3.5 years old. He's absolutely glued to NPR in the mornings and afternoons while we're in the car and that's all he wants to talk about: news. I'm fairly sure Michele Norris, Melissa Block and Robert Siegel narrate his dreams. (Although Friday he was very interested not in the news, but in the meeting I had on campus that made me 35 minutes late to pick him up. He asked what my meeting was about and I told him. His response? "Oh, grant proposals. Tell me more about that, Mom." Right. I could barely stay awake during the meeting, and now I have to relive the meeting to entertain my preschooler?)
I don't love my job, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
I don't hate my job, either. For now, it's just a job that I do to get through to the next weekend.
It's not that I think I took the wrong job; indeed, SMU is even better than I thought it would be. I have tons of freedom to do what I want, after this semester I am in almost full control over what and when I teach, the financial support for research is far greater than one would imagine for a school this size, and the support for academic travel is astounding. Add that to the fact that my colleagues are all fantastic and supportive, my students are (mostly) pretty great, and I get to talk about my favorite subjects all day long. Overall, SMU is a pretty nice place to have landed, and we really are enjoying New Town and Pond House. T even seems more positive about his job, and hopefully ST will have a good transition to his new preschool tomorrow.
But I really don't love what I do. Not at all. I realized this when my sister Julie called on Thursday morning and asked, "So, are you just loving being a professor? This is what you've always wanted!"
I had to think for a second. No, I don't love it. I like it, sure. It's OK. But I really don't like staying up until 1:00am or 2:00am every night before classes, writing lectures and preparing PowerPoint slides, posting lecture notes and figuring out how to incorporate other texts. I really don't like lecturing to my Zombie Morning class (see previous post), stewing in my office for an hour, and then finishing my lecturing tasks for the day with my other (although fantastic) classes. I don't like that the way I organized the first part of my Intro to Subfield course no longer makes sense to me, and I don't like that I can't change it until next semester. I don't like thinking about how much research I'm not doing (and don't really want to do at this point) because I'm spending a crazy amount of time on teaching tasks (which I swore I would not do). I don't like that I have a conference proposal due tomorrow that I haven't started and that I will write completely on the fly, praying for acceptance, despite the fact that I don't even really want to go to the stupid conference (I HATE my discipline's conferences. HATE them). I don't like that I'm never EVER ahead in my course preparations, always jotting myself notes at the last minute. And I sure don't like attending "important" departmental or college meetings when I have little opportunity to influence things at this point, although I know I need to attend the meetings to learn.
Overall, I think I just don't like being new and inexperienced.
I told Julie that no, I don't love being a professor, but that someday I probably will. Someday when I have a reservoir of lectures to draw upon, experience with textbooks, knowledge of procedures, and time to work on things other than my classes. I hope that "someday" comes sooner rather than later. It's only Sunday night and I am already clinging to the promise of Friday.