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Various family members (my mom, my MIL, and my SisterIL) all asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day this year. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything material that I wanted – or at least want badly enough to ask for. But no matter how much I try to carve out time for writing on teaching days and on non-daycare days, it is never enough. So I had an inspiration and asked for childcare in order to have more time to write instead. And furthermore I asked for at least four days of pre-planned babysitting coverage before the end of May, and to combine this “present” with my birthday gift as well (I turn 40 next week – ugh). 

So today is the first of my ‘gifted’ writing days. SIL is taking care of Buddy this morning (with SG downstairs and available if needed) and my MIL is taking the afternoon shift. We are most nervous about the nap – Buddy goes to sleep without a peep at daycare but it is always a struggle at home. However I am hopeful that with MIL – who has successfully put him to sleep at night several times – he will behave differently then he does with me. 

But I’m trying not to think about that. For today it is not my problem. I’ve left the house and the neighborhood. I drove up to our old neighborhood – the one we lived in for 6 years until I got pregnant and we could no longer afford to live in because we needed a bigger place. I am now in  my very favorite coffee shop working on my introduction (taking a break at the moment to write this post) and drinking too much coffee. This is one of the places where I wrote much of my masters thesis, prepared for my comprehensive exam, and wrote my grant applications. So it is a sight of inspiration and success for me. At least I’m trying to think of it that way.

So far it is great. Best gift ever!

Oh dissertation. How I avoid you! You make me break out in a cold sweat. You have come to haunt my every waking thought and many of my sleeping thoughts as well…. and yet, I just can’t seem to quit you…. or rather to FINISH you….

I realized recently that until this dissertation is done, signed, sealed and delivered, I will have no peace and no rest. I will never be able to TRULY relax and enjoy a real day off. Sure there will be other projects and other priorities – articles, hopefully a book or two – that will replicate this feeling of dread and doom hanging over me in the future – but that’s in the future. And in the meantime, after I finish the diss I can take at lease a couple of weeks off. At least. 

Last week I wrote a preface to the dissertation. I realize that the preface is something that most people write last, but I felt I had to do it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, recent events in ResearchLocation, particularly as they relate to my interview subjects, have made it difficult for me to contain the scope of the dissertation.

In other words, do I include a discussion of recent political events or not? How do I account for NOT including them if I don’t – or alternatively how do I finesse the fact that I WASN’T there to observe and interview on these events if I do? After some serious consideration, I decided to limit the scope of the dissertation to the time frame leading up to and including the research. Hence the preface in which I address recent dramatic political events, point out how my research informants have been central to these upheavals, and justify my decision theoretically. All in all I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of it and it clears the deck in a way. 

In other news I received comments back on the introduction from my advisor. I didn’t really want to write the introduction before finishing all of the chapters but she insisted and in a way it WAS helpful. However, now she has come back with a bunch of comments, which while insightful as usual, make me tired just thinking about reading through them and making the necessary changes. Especially since I was somewhat leery of the whole exercise in the first place.

I am something of a time management, personal organization junkie – as you might have guessed from the Life Improvement Experiment. So I was checking out the latest posts at some of my favorite productivity blogs and I came across this one on the best software for time management at Whakate and started drooling and thinking –  hmm, maybe I’d better check out this piece of software or that website app and give them a try – when it hit me:

My life is not that complicated right now.

Yes, there are always little things that need to be kept track of, but really, what do I need an elaborate time management system for? The answer is, I do not.

The fact is that I have found some aspects of Paul Allen’s Getting Things Done (or GTD as devotees term it) incredibly helpful for getting things, well, done. But when I reflect on it, two things become clear:

* First, my experiment with GTD was most successful during January and February of this year, when I was using a combined calendar/list system I “designed” (really it was so simple it doesn’t really deserve that appellation) myself and kept in my Moleskin Weekly Planner. I’ve since abandoned it in favor of a more elaborate system using Circus Ponies’ Notebook – a product that I LOVE for many reasons (and that I will blog about at some point) but that doesn’t function very well FOR ME in terms of day-to-day organization. I need to go back to a relatively simple PAPER-based system. Whether that is the moleskin again or something else (I am intrigued by some other systems on home management/plans for moms), I’m not sure. But it is clear that what I really need to do is to keep it simple.

* Second, GTD is not the ideal system for an academic. Others have blogged and written about this topic (sorry, I’m too lazy to track down the links right now), but what it comes down to is that long-term projects of a somewhat amorphous nature are more difficult to “fit” into the GTD system, which tends towards a work model that features lots of on-going projects and tasks with relatively discrete steps and well-defined outcomes. As a consequence, at least for a consummate procrastinator like me, I end up getting the small stuff done more efficiently than ever, but the big picture suffers.

Which brings me back to the larger point:

 My life is not that complicated right now.

Basically I have three primary responsibilities right now:

  • FINISH THE DISSERTATION
  • Teach
  • Take care of my child and tend to my family life/social reproduction

That’s all. That’s it.

Yes, other stuff comes up – there are conference abstracts to write and job sites to check and bills to pay – but seriously, it is not like I am juggling a full-time job with multiple projects and priorities (something I have done, I must say, with considerable success in the past). I have two projects – finish the dissertation and don’t make a fool of myself in the classroom.  And of course being a good mother and person is important to me as well, but really, should I be concentrating on being super-mom and homemaker right now? No, I should not. It is a distraction.

That isn’t to say that I should stop trying to be organized – but only in so far as it helps me achieve my goals and particularly the first one (dissertation, dissertation, dissertation).

So the take away?

Time to stop using time management as a time waster.

Time to get back to basics. My life will probably not be so straightforward again for a long time (maybe when I’m old and “retired”). It hopefully will not be so straightforward this time next year (I hope not – because that would mean I haven’t finished yet). Time for me to become much more single-minded. The other stuff can wait. Buddy is doing fine. I already live with a dirty bathroom and I’m still not much of a cook and there is no particular reason why I need to work on transforming those particular aspects of myself right now. Or rather it is worth doing if it helps keep me healthy, sane, and focused. Not if it becomes a distraction.

Today is May Day, which in pre-Christian Northern Europe (and beyond) was celebrated as Beltane – one of the most festive and holy days of the year.

I find Paganism and Wiccanism (is that a word?) very appealing in many ways. For one thing I am fascinated by the ways in which our lives are shaped by ancient traditions, rituals and stories in a multitude of ways that we are not even aware of, and rarely think about (except for historians – they think about that stuff all the time – which is very cool). 

For another, something about the narrative of a female-focused (or in some iterations a religion that at least did not view women as the lesser, weaker, or inferior “sex”) religious tradition that was brutally suppressed and supplanted by a male-dominated one, rings true to me on a deep, almost bodily level. I sense resonances of this “truth” everywhere, in my daily life as a mother, wife, daughter and friend, in my complex and often contradictory relationship with nature, history, and capitalism, and perhaps most problematically, but also the most suggestively, within my academic life (for who is Donna Haraway if not a pagan-marxist-feminist-scientist-truthsayer subverting the dominant system from within – she speaks the “truth” to power in order to reveal and expose those who claim that power is truth).  

I understand that it is the nature of oppression and suppression that much of the “original” practice of paganism has been lost (although it was undoubtably diverse to begin with – encompassing many different traditions and beliefs) and that as a consequence much if not all of the tradition has been recreated by its contemporary believers and devotees. And that is as it should be and that is how it is with all religions – they are living things that both shape and are shaped by societies. But I do find much of contemporary Wiccanism and Paganism off-putting. It isn’t even the deeper philosophical and psychological debates that I might have with the practice of “magick” (and that is a topic that I need to explore more deeply within myself before ever even attempting to post about it). It is, I’m ashamed to say it, more about the aesthetic – the fantasy novel, flowing hair, wild woman of the wolves, aesthetic of it all that I can’t truck with. 

Isn’t that terrible? But I can’t deny it – the iconography of the whole “witches” thing just isn’t me. I see the appeal and I’m not dumping on those who love and embrace it, but just as I will never be a gortex-wearing kayaking, mountain, outdoorsy person (although I love the outdoors – in my own way), I will never be a embrace the “goddess within” kind of gal.  And I am of two minds on this shameful secret. On the one hand, I wonder if my aversion might point to some part of my psyche that I’ve sealed off from myself – in my self-identification as a “serious” scholar – in other words, has the inner-critic taken over? On the other hand, part of me just says who gives a f*ck? After all, it’s my spiritual path. And like I said, I have no problem with those who find meaning and beauty in that universe. Plus I truly believe that our lives are more than our intellectual minds – symbolism is important – and if something does not resonate with us on an aesthetic level it is not touching our spiritual self. 

But I do want to renew and explore, in a meaningful way, my spiritual connection to the earth, to history, and to the cycle of life and I also want to share the wonders of ritual and celebrations – of holidays and the seasons – with Buddy. And while I will continue to celebrate Christmas because I love it deeply and it is a part of who I am and where I come from, I am intrigued and drawn to the idea of going “back” to the roots of many of the seasonal holidays that we still celebrate – and the Pagan “Wheel of the Year” seems like an excellent place to begin. 

So this weekend, I will be doing something with Buddy that I did with my mother as a child, we will be making simple May Baskets and picking wild flowers and leaving them on the doorsteps of our neighbors. And perhaps SG and I will find another, more grown-up appropriate way, to celebrate Beltane as well!

In thinking about this topic I tried to find a few links to ubran-modern Wicca and Paganism. I haven’t had a chance to explore further, but here are a few of the many interesting and promising links that I have found:

Ah… and there are many many more. Obviously an area that deserves further study!

 

I teach about labor and work and globalization. So by all rights I should be joining the big march and rally that takes place downtown in Big City every year. But I’m not going to.

Friday has become sort of my “day off” – which is bad because I can’t really afford to take a day off, but there is no rest on the weekends with the little bundle of energy and emotions that we call “Buddy” here at LivedSpaces headquarters, and by Friday morning I am drained dry, particularly if I was productive on Thursday (which I was).

So get Buddy off to daycare and then come home to sleep. And it feels SOOO good. Not just to sleep for 2+ hours but to have the room and the bed to myself.  To know that Buddy is off having a fun day with his friends (really – he loves daycare, we are starting to worry that we might have to take him out because of the cost and my not having a job and all).

Today I slept from 9 am to 11:45 am. Totally decadent but I needed to catch up on my sleep. Plus it is May Day and I am a working mother. So for all of the workers out there – whether you work in the “productive” (paid) or “reproductive” (unpaid) sphere or – like most of us – BOTH, Happy May Day!

Students

I’m really enjoying my class so far this term – all of the students are really into the topic and since there are only about 20 of them, I am managing to stay on top of the grading without too much difficulty. 

But on Thursday 6 of them didn’t show up and one snuck out during the break. Three of them wrote me later to apologize and explain (when they sent along their paper topics, but still…) but I was annoyed. I know the weather is getting nice but a lot of their grades are based on participation. Plus it was some of my more talkative students who were absent so the discussion dragged a little bit.

So it is OK. This time.

Grrrr… .But they’d better not make a habit of it..

Progress report, of sorts, on efforts to declutter and do some basic home (re)ordering…

Living Room (aka the Toy PURGE)

In addition to the big bookshelf re-org, SG and I cleared out about 50% of the toys (maybe more) in the livingroom/play area. My parents bring them over, Buddy receives them as gifts and hand-me-downs, and they just seem to proliferate on their own. In any case I took a boatload of crap down to my office and yesterday and today (in an attempt to get my office under control – more on that later), I sorted through them. The smallest pile was made up of toys to hold on to for when he gets a little older or to bring up when we need a fresh or “new” toy. The next pile – a great big box – went back to mom and dad (I put it in the back of my mom’s minivan this morning). The rest I put into bags to take to Goodwill. 

I also brought up some clear storage containers from the basement and sorted out the remaining toys into bins. Big legos, medium legos (he’s still not ready for the regular/little legos), train tracks, “buses” (his word for all vehicles), and animals. Right now the stuffed animals hold court on the back of the couch and although it is not very sophisticated, it works because he does play with them a lot and it is nice for him to be able to locate and retrieve “white bear” or “brown moose” or “boots bear” or whichever of his plush citizens is in favor at the moment.

That’s about it for the moment. I’ve also made some progress on the kitchen and dining area, but I hope to do some more this week and post some photos. In any case, my slow – glacially slow – battle to organize our lives is progressing….