Friday, July 9, 2021

Rainy Day Brain Dump


Rainy Day View from My Office
Like many on the East Coast, tropical storm Elsa is dumping buckets of rain on Salem today. The storm warning predicted heavy winds with gusts up to 60 mph. So far we've only gotten an occasional gust that's nowhere near their prediction. As for flooding, we're not close to the water and we're a bit higher than other parts of Salem, so we're dry. From the photos I've seen on social media, others have not been so lucky.

In preparation for high winds, we brought our container garden into my office for the day. As you can see, there are plenty of tomatoes and flowers on the plants. The cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, and pepper plants all have flowers. There was no way I was going to lose everything to a tropical storm! Besides, these pots would have surely become projectiles if we got the winds they were predicting.

BOY! does my office smell glorious. This has given me the incentive to bring my herbs indoors before the frost. I'm going to get a plant stand so that I can put them by the deck door during the fall and winter months. How nice would it be to have basil, Thai basil, and cilantro during the winter? sigh ... and lots of growing things in my office. I'd love to fill this room with tons of plants. I need to buy some African violets for my desk. My Mom always had African violets in the dining room. I used to have a few, but had to give them away when we moved to Texas. It's time to bring them back into the house and my life. As my Mom always said, "Grow African violets for luck and love." Me, I just like the variety of flowers.

New glasses.
Today's weather has caused a welcomed respite in my normally busy schedule. I just don't feel like "making progress" or "being productive." All I feel like doing is reading, flipping through magazines, and drawing. Actually, that's all I really feel like doing all weekend, especially since I'm at the midway point between semesters. 

I start my MS LIS classes on September 1. I'm excited, but pretty nervous about being a student again. I've been having a difficult time focusing on anything, including reading for long periods of time or any kind of writing that takes concentration. I just can't seem to sit still or stay on one task for extended periods of time. 

There's a lot of left over baggage from my PhD and early post-doc time attached to these activities. And there's certainly a lot of personal insecurity, especially when it comes to my writing. I think the main problem for me is the amount of criticism, often no nonsense and sometimes cutting, heaped on academic writing. Sure, I'm supposed to roll with the criticism and see it as helpful. I'm supposed to grow from it. I'm supposed to be clinical when it comes to criticism and editing. And yet, after 20 years of graduate school and 6 years post-doc, I still can't be clinical and unfeeling when it comes to academic work. I still ruffle at criticism. Not all criticism, just that which tends to be overly negative and destructive. The last time I received good criticism was in 2016 when I submitted my essay on Mary Beth Edelson to American Studies. Good criticism is when the reader or reviewer points out the issues with the essay and where the essay could be improved, while giving concrete suggestions on how to do so. Good criticism also points out the good stuff -- where the writing is clear, where the author makes a solid argument, etc. My last essay was shredded by the reviewers and none of them gave me any good, constructive feedback. Hell, my experience writing my dissertation was somewhat the same; though, I did receive good, constructive feedback during my defense. It's exhausting to only be told what sucks and what needs improvement.

Reviewers and professors forget that criticism needs to be helpful and constructive. It should provide examples of where the essay is strong, and it should clearly and objectively ... but in a pleasant tone ... point out where the essay needs work. I'm not saying sugarcoat it. I'm saying be mindful that overly acerbic criticism could turn someone off from writing and research forever. This is especially true for first generation students. We don't have the same background as many of our colleagues. I honestly don't know when my writing is good because I wasn't constantly told how brilliant I am or how good my writing is. Instead, I was told that "I'm a diamond in the rough" and that I need help. Pffttt ... I didn't really need help with my writing. I needed help with time management. I still do. I need help falling in love with the process. I still do. 

Both of my parents didn't go to college. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own or seek out help, which wasn't always easy to do in graduate school because of the competition and desire to "weed out" the bad or unpromising students. The only reason why I finished my PhD is because I was a stubborn jerk who refused to be pushed out of a program that I had the right to be in.

What's wrong, Mommy?

I've been doing a lot of meditating and internal work this summer. It's been difficult to deal with some of the issues that are surfacing. But, I'm dealing with them. Thankfully, I have Ed and Bijou to help me through this. There's nothing better that cuddling with Ed or playing "mousy" and "pancake" with our cutie, fuzzy Noodle. 

As for teaching, we'll see. The enrollment is down at City Tech and one of my classes only has four people registered. The other class met the registration requirement. If my classes aren't canceled, I will be teaching two classes, starting on August 26. I've been applying to all sorts of GLAM or cultural jobs, mostly part-time, just to get some experience in my future career. No bites yet. It's kind of frustrating to have all of this experience, but none in the field where you want to be. All I want is for someone to give me a chance! 

Other than that, COVID-19 has really forced us to focus on our health. We both have underlying conditions that may or may not be a problem if we get the virus. We've really stepped up our physical activity and made some major changes to our diets because we want to survive the virus if we do get it. Sure, we're both fully vaccinated and still wear masks inside, especially now with the delta variant. We're doing everything we can to stay healthy and alive.

We walk 6,000-15,000 steps almost every day, and I've added yoga and weight training to my daily activity. Ed's been watching what he eats and has cut down on snacking at night. I'm doing a combination of intermittent fasting and volumetrics, which works very well for me. I'm down 15 pounds and have about 30-35 more to go before I'm at my optimal weight. I'm anxious to see what my blood pressure and blood sugar numbers look like. Alas, I need to wait until the end of August to meet my new doctors. 

How are you coping with this new COVID threat? What's it like where you live? East Coast friends, how did you fare with Elsa? 

Most importantly, stay tuned ....


  1. Congrats on your health improvements! Enjoy your summer before work and classes resume in the Fall!

    1. Thank you! It's going to be a crazy Fall ... it's best I chill out now, right?

  2. It is SO much easier for people to give negative feedback. I know this from a previous life as a corporate supervisor and in my current roles as an adjunct and editor. And as an editor ... I can affirm that EVERYONE needs help with their writing. So I hope that you can be proud of what you've accomplished. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum :)

    1. Yeah, I was going to talk to you about all of this. This is the biggest thing standing in the way of writing right now. I just can't figure out how to get around it. I know, I know ... by writing. sigh.

  3. I know what you mean about criticism, I am definitely someone who really responds a lot better to constructive criticism than negativity.

    1. EXACTLY! I'm a 'show me what I did right' kind of person.

  4. Lainie, THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! I feel like I've been spinning my wheels this summer regarding my career. I've been so singleminded on my goals and path the last 20 years that it's been challenging to make this switch. What I find most difficult is explaining how the skills associated with being a professor/academic relate to whatever job qualifications prospective employers require ... even in the GLAMs!

    Since the numbers are going up here in Massachusetts again, we're wearing our masks inside and in crowds outside. I just bought more good, cloth masks and hand-sanitizer while I can. I also lucked out and found a real box of 3m N95s, which I'm going to put away for an emergency or when we really need them. Unfortunately, even here in liberal MA, the delta variant is creating havoc. It's just going to get worse before it gets better. BLAH.

    Thank you for believing in me! And please, please, please stay safe.

  5. Brilliant job!!! Nothing, truly nothing, is (IMO) more important than one's health and well-being. Indeed, I was just saying to Tony the other day that "health first" is number one priority for both of us now and going forward, which he completely agreed with.

    Love your Hocus Pocus Funko figurines. I saw on the Spirit Halloween (US) website that they have a Dani Funko this year and sufficient to say, I'm keeping my fingers, toes, and (imaginary) Binx-worthy kitty paws all crossed that Cnd popup stores stock it (and that, if they do, I can pick one up before they no doubt sell out faster than Sarah Sanderson can smell a child nearby :D).

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. Thank you. I've been watching Tony's health journey on FB. His "stick-to-it-ness" is truly inspirational.

      I've been very selective about the Pop figures I buy. I have both versions of the Sanderson Sisters (riding the brooms and standing) and the Billy figure. I have a handful of other figures, including the Addams Family, Mary Poppins, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie. That's enough for me.