Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fun: Halloween

Hippy Dippy Halloween has begun, and, as you can see, Geeky Girl is going hippie this year. I forced her to look at Woodstock pictures to "understand" the time period. The interesting thing about them is that most people look fairly ordinary. What we think of now as hippie is a caricature based on a small group of outlandishly dressed people.

Following Geeky Girl's lead, I'll be dressing as Gloria Steinem. I'm tempted to burn an old bra.

Have a fun Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Revision

When I was in college and in my MFA program, I wrote poems in these hard-back blue notebooks with green ruled pages. Often I would write a draft on one page, scribble through lines, write new lines, mark out words, write in new words. On the opposing page I would rewrite the poem again, scribble through some more stuff before I'd type it into the computer. In those days, typing was a big deal, so I always waited until the poem was done before trudging over to a computer lab to type it up. Cutting and pasting were hard then, requiring knowing some special functions.

Now that I'm writing prose, I'm starting on the computer instead of notebooks. But my revision process has been a handwritten affair. There's something about putting giant x's through section and scribbling in the margins that is more satisfying that highlighting sentences on the screen and pressing delete.

I recently read that one shouldn't start revising a piece until one has a complete draft. That's quite easy to do when your piece is a poem that's only a page long. When you're aiming for 200 pages, it's easy to get impatient. So I violated that advice by starting to revise the first section of my piece while writing the second. But now, I'm realizing that that's a bad idea. I need to see the whole arc of the story before I figure out if I have the pieces in the right order or if new pieces need to go in. I'm feeling like I'll sit at Starbucks for hours one day with the whole thing printed out, a notebook by my side, and I'll scribble and write until I'm done, as much like my revision process for poetry as possible. I might even rewrite by hand.

I used to tell students to remember what revision means, to see the work again, to see it anew, to have a new vision for it. There's something about having a clean page to see your work anew, not like the electronic draft that sits before you on the screen and feels so final, where deleting words means they're gone and not visible under a line or a squiggle, where you can't feel the page or the heft of your work. If I wait until the end to revise, going back to the beginning will feel like coming at it for the first time, like a stranger, and will be more like a real re-visioning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Confidence

My very first WoW Wednesday post was about tanking and I'm going to go back to that again. I've been tanking more and more and getting much better at it. It's been very nice, especially, to have some experienced players with me, giving advice during an actual dungeon. And I've had some excellent tank moments. During one fight in Ulduar, which is an endgame raid, not only was I able to tank a mob, but was also able to freeze and destroy spark, all without missing a beat. I felt on top of my game. But then a couple of days ago, I was tanking a dungeon, one I'd successfully tanked before, and we wiped many times before I had to call it quits for dinner. I just couldn't get my act together for that one. I've had several moments as a tank where I literally can feel my heart racing as we go into a situation because I'm so worried that I'm going to mess it up. I know how unfun it is to die over and over again. I'm pretty patient about these things but some people aren't.

One thing that's occurred to me as I've been playing and mostly in my role as tank, is the role that confidence plays in doing some of these things well. I've seen bad tanks who're all overconfident and talk a big game and then can't keep aggro. I'm just the opposite. I have almost no confidence at all going into a fight and will sometimes even warn people. But then, most of the time, things work out fine. And I've come to realize that my confidence (or lack thereof) in game is similar to my confidence in real life. We academic types talk a lot about the impostor syndrome. I feel that more often than I should. I don't think my writing is as good as anyone else's. I think I shouldn't do this or that because I'm not good at it. I'm constantly comparing myself to others and find myself lacking. Sometimes even in things I *know* I'm good at.

What WoW has taught me is that it takes practice to be good at something and it takes work and it takes constant tweaking to get something right. I've logged many hours playing WoW. To be good at anything, you have to log many hours, something Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers. I've also learned that even if you're not so sure of yourself, it's okay to try something and that it's okay to mess up. You learn from your mistakes. When I feel my heart racing, I can think, what's the worst thing that could happen? Everyone could die and we'd have to do it again. Big deal. Even if we have to give up or if I have to bow out and let a more skilled person take over for me, it's okay. And applying that to real life, I have to remember it's okay to stick your neck out. Fear of failure only leads to actual failure. It sure would be nice to have armor, maybe emotional armor, like I have in WoW or multiple do-overs. But really, most things we do do have do-overs. You just have to take advantage of them.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Coup d 'etat

Hello and welcome to the 2nd entry of Geekboy's posting on Tuesdays. If you are not used to this by now, I recommend you get used to it.

Today I'd like to bring you into my daily life. I think you'll like it.

0000 - 0559 Sleep
0600 - 0610 Shower
0611 - 0630 More Sleep
0631 - 0635 Getting Dressed
0636 - 0645 Getting some Breakfast
0646 - 0700 Touching up
0701 - 0709 Scrambling Around
0710 - 0720 Carpooling
0721 - 0730 Waiting Around
0731 - 0955 Western Civilization
0956 - 1015 Home room
1016 - 1148 Creative Writing
1149 - 1231 Study Hall
1232 - 1305 Lunch
1305 - 1354 Study Hall
1355 - 1422 English
1423 - 1440 Trying to Get Home
1441 - 1850 Eating, Playing, Napping, Bothering Geekymom
1851 - 1940 Dinner
1941 - 2130 Ayche Dub (Code, if you break it, you get a prize)
2131 - 2399 Sleep

Rinse and Repeat.

Now that you know a little bit about me, you can now say hi to me on the street and be like "Heyyyyy I know you!" and I'll be like "Yeah I get that a lot." And then we'll be good acquaintances

Now I was overloaded with questions this week so I will only answer one to make things fair.

How do I feel about limiting screen time during the school year?

Now very simply I like the phrase, everything in moderation. There should be a limit on screen time during the school year, because if there wasn't, I wouldn't get my work done. Neither would Geekymom or Geekygirl or Geekymom or Geekycat. We'd all be Fat 'n Lazy, a Family Company.

All in all, there should be a limit on screen time during the school year, but you should also make sure you leave time for any form of entertainment. I think kids ages like 8 - 18 should all be allowed the same amount of time. It's important to have fun. An hour a day keeps the stress away.

I'll leave this spot open for more questions :)

Women and Children First

I was just reading through the comments on this IHE post about having kids or not in graduate school and one commenter says the following:
From my perspective, I find many (not all, not even most) of my female friends and my grad students can't articulate what they want, what will help them navigate the difficult process of completing a PhD, landing a job and keeping it with a child or children in tow. For these people universities can never do enough, there's always something more they need that will help more, that will be the magic bullet that makes it "easier" to have a child (never easy) and do their job. What I find among these women is an insufficient appreciation that everyone faces challenges about work/life balance.
She goes on to suggest that we all need to understand and appreciate work/life balance and work to make institutions appreciate that as well. The idea that there's not enough support for parents is a common one looked upon quite often with resentment by those without children. "Suck it up," is often the common response to the whining of mothers about how hard it is to juggle both raising a child and going to grad school or working. I've seen this so often lately that I've been trying to puzzle over why this is so common for women to feel this way or to have this perspective put on them. And I think I have part of an answer.

The default for women is still get married and have children. That's what you're "supposed" to do. Decades ago, that would have been it, the pinnacle of your life. Now, it's still the default but with the added dictum that women can do that *and* pursue a career. Don't worry, people say, your husband will pitch in, your workplace will be supportive, your colleagues will understand. When those things don't happen, new mothers are often thrown for a loop. Too often, women don't pay attention to the way other mothers are treated in the workplace. And that's often not their fault since many mothers are often made invisible in the workplace. Having an honest conversation with a chair or a dean feels risky since there may then follow a stigma about one's seriousness toward work. So a lot of moms find themselves with kids, without a plan because what they thought was going to happen didn't. They're left saying, "Now what?" and don't know where to turn. And let's face it, if we're talking grad school, some people are young and idealistic and immature. Speaking even for myself, one doesn't always make the best decisions when you're young and idealistic.

I had my first child while working a corporate job that I took to fund my husband's grad school education. We decided to have a child because my job had insurance that would cover much of the cost of having a kid (though it didn't cover it all), which we didn't have as grad students. I had my second in grad school, so I completed a master's and (eventually) a Ph.D. with two kids. In fact, what postponed my Ph.D. was not my kids but my husband, who left his job and dragged me across the country. There was nothing we could have done about the timing of that. But I had some advantages that some people may not:
  • Income. Mr. Geeky had a real job that paid for the majority of our needs, including full-time daycare for both kids. I don't recommend having a kid when you're *both* in grad school unless you've got family or something that can substitute for what may be costly daycare.
  • Flexible schedules. Both Mr. Geeky and I had flexible schedules. If a kid got sick or their school was closed, we could usually manage juggling. We made this even more flexible by making sure that our class schedules did not conflict. If I got a MWF class, Mr. Geeky made sure his were on TTh.
  • Other mothers in the department. I shared an office with a women who had a preschooler. She had breastfed as well, so she was very supportive of my doing so and gave me plenty of advice, both about parenting and about jugging life as a grad student.
  • Supportive faculty. Everyone just assumed I would continue working as I had before. No one thought I was less serious than before I had my second child. In part, I think this was because they knew I had another kid at home that hadn't slowed me down.
  • Less intense program. I think it's fair to say that the program I was in, while good in its own way, was not in the top 10 programs in the country. I knew this going in, and I didn't choose it for that reason, but it was definitely helpful to not be in the kind of program that was a hothouse of competition.
  • Affordable daycare. My kids only overlapped daycare for one year, so that was the most expensive year and even that year only cost us about $700/month. After that, we paid around $400/month.
Things really got tough for me after we moved here when the cost of daycare skyrocketed to $1000/month for one kid. I needed to work part time to cover those costs, often with a 1/2 hour to 45 minute commute, which cut into my time to work on my dissertation (as did the grading and class prep). Had our daycare costs been cheaper or non-existent, I might have been able to forgo the jobs and finish sooner. I'm actually glad in a way that that didn't happen as I liked the dissertation I ended up with better than the one I started on. (I switched topics and advisers).

I think there are so many unknowns both in grad school and when having children that it's very easy to find yourself in the weeds quite quickly. I think women should assess their own situations and do what's necessary to make the balance work. I dropped a class in the fall after my daughter was born. I worked very intensely from 9-5, trying my best not to have anything to do in the evenings, which were often unpredictable in the early months. That year is certainly a blur to me in many ways and I remember when I got my first full night of sleep six months after my daughter was born, I was amazed that I'd been able to function at all. I felt so amazingly good after that, I couldn't believe what a walking zombie I'd been before that.

In many ways, I did "suck it up," but I was able to, in part, because of the support I felt surrounded by. No one said that I seemed like a zombie all those months. And most grad students are surviving on little sleep anyway. I never tried to make my own lack of sleep a special case, never asked for extensions, trying to plan papers well in advance. But had I really needed one, I knew I could ask for one without any repercussions. And that's where I think institutions can do something. Because it's often the attitudes, not the policies that get in the way. So parents can try to anticipate what parenting is going to be like and put support networks in place beforehand, but institutions can try to make sure some of those are there as well. Faculty and student parent groups might be helpful. Childcare benefits are good. But fostering a general attitude that parents are perfectly capable of graduate work can go even further than many official policies.

Teen takeover

Geeky Boy will once again post something here after school. What do you want to know about from the teenage perspective?

Monday, October 26, 2009

NaNoWriMo

I just signed up for NaNoWriMo even though I'm writing nonfiction and not a novel. Having a goal of 50,000 words will be good for me and I'm looking forward to the challenge. I did NaNoWriMo back in 2006 I think. I didn't quite make the goal, getting stuck around 30,000 words. November is a challenging month to write in. There's Thanksgiving, of course, for which we're traveling this year. But there's also election day, which I work and right after, I'm going to a conference. So my writing schedule is going to take a big hit. We'll see if I can stick with a plan despite all the setbacks.
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Tales from my Soccer Mom Weekend

My sporting weekend actually began on Thursday, when I had to bounce back and forth between two different fields watching Geeky Boy play soccer and Geeky Girl play field hockey. The soccer game was the last of the season so there were more parents than usual. I watched for a few minutes and then hit the field hockey game, where the PTO was selling baked goods and pretzels to raise money for new track uniforms. I was greeted enthusiastically by the other moms, quite a contrast to how I'd felt at the last field hockey game. I didn't pay much attention to the actual game as there was a carnival-like atmosphere on the sidelines. I chatted with one mom about the web site, and a couple of others about the craft-costume-baked good fiasco. All of us, apparently, had been running around like crazy people until well into the night. I confessed to using a mix for the cornbread. The response was, Well of course you did. Who wouldn't?

After the game was over, I gave Geeky Girl money to buy a preztel and some water and headed to the soccer game. Geeky Girl met me there and we cheered the team on. Geeky Boy scored in the last few minutes of the game, winning the game for the team. It was pretty exciting.

Saturday, it poured rain off and on and we thought for sure the game would be canceled. But it wasn't, so I stood on the sidelines with the other moms under our umbrellas. We complained that the game should have been called. When I told the other moms that I was going out after the game, they told me I shouldn't even be out there. I did leave early, sending Geeky Girl home with the coach. I have no idea the outcome of the game. It was called, in fact, not long after I left.

Sunday, Geeky Boy had his last game before the playoffs. He plays goalie for this team, which makes me nervous every time. I spent much of the game yelling that the ref wasn't calling offsides or pushing and pushing the players to "go to the ball." I was a bad soccer parent. They lost the game, but it was a good day to be outside.

It's all almost over for this year, all this running around from game to game, keeping soccer socks and uniforms clean, and hauling lawn chairs in the trunk of the car. I won't lie. I won't miss it. But I'm very glad the kids do it every year and that they enjoy it. Geeky Boy is talking about doing winter soccer so that he has something to do before lacrosse season. And Geeky Girl is planning either lacrosse or soccer in the spring. I don't have to push them to sign up. They ask me to sign them up. As long as that's the case, I'll keep doing it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fun: Chore Wars

My Chore Wars character A couple of days ago, Collin pointed me to Chore Wars, a site that lets you keep track of the things you do around the house. Better yet, it lets you keep track of what your family members do around the house. I set up a party for our family, The Geeky Household, and emailed everyone the link that invited them to join our party on its chore adventures. On the way home from not one, but two kid sports events yesterday, I was telling Geeky Girl about it, and she wasn't too thrilled. But then when we got home, she checked her email and followed the link. "This is so cool, Mom!" She said. Apparently, I didn't do a good job of describing it in the car.

The way it works is that each person sets up a character. The dungeon master (me) sets up adventures like vacuuming, taking out the trash, or making a bed. People can then claim an adventure and earn experience points and gold for each adventure. Sometimes you run into monsters. I faced a soap elemental yesterday while doing the laundry. There's also a chance for treasure either from the adventure itself (I got a spatula from making dinner) or from killing a monster.

So far, it's a big hit. Geeky Girl unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, cleared and set the table, and vacuumed the living room. Geeky Boy loaded the dishwasher, hand washed the pots and pans, and made his bed. Geeky Girl raced to make her bed and claim it this morning so she could see if she encountered any bed bugs.

The kids get an allowance every week, one dollar for every year of their age, under the assumption that they help out around the house. They're good about cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and I make them clean up their rooms from time to time, but other than that, I can't really track what else they might do. So, now, I've told them that if there are no chores claimed via Chore Wars during the week, they won't get their allowance. Geeky Girl and I also decided that for every five levels they gain, they'll get something special, perhaps a new DS game or a book or a dinner out at their favorite restaurant.

We've all kind of realized that we're a competitive lot, so making chores into a game is a good idea. I hear Geeky Girl unloading the dishwasher. I gotta go do some laundry so I can hit level 2 today!

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Open Letter to My Kid's Elementary School Teachers

Dear Teachers,

I love you, I do. I know you work hard and often work long hours grading, participating in after school activities and more. Your job is difficult. You have to teach kids who are often squirming in their seats, pulling the hair of the girl in front of them, or passing a note to the kid next to them. I support you in every way I can. I vote for increases in funding for the schools. I pay my taxes. I volunteer at the school and buy stuff so the school has even more funding.

I am willing to do a lot to support my child's education and learning. I help with homework. I provide her with a good breakfast and lunch. I enhance her education by going to museums, encouraging her to read, and discussing current events over dinner. But I'm a busy person, as are most parents. So, I'm begging you, please, don't have a costume, craft, and baked good all due on the same day. I can't sew, nor can most of my fellow parents. Crafts? Foam crafts, sure. You know, the kind you can buy kits for. But crafts involving colonial products? Not so much. Also involved sewing. And baking? Baking I can do, but I'm betting some moms or dads aren't so good at that. And it had to be done after dinner, so yeah, it was late.

I appreciate the concept behind all this and I know, you gave us notice. I know. Did I mention we were busy? That we didn't get home until late? Maybe next time, just one of those things. I could handle doing just one. K, thnx.

Geeky Mom

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Halloween Fun

I have some more serious thoughts in my head about WoW, but they're not congealed yet, so instead, let's talk about Halloween. Blizzard has incorporated a variety of events related to seasonal holidays. We actually just had brewfest a couple of weeks ago. I'm now a member of the Brew of the Month club and a brewmaster. W00t!

These events tickle me with their allusions to the real world while taking advantage of the game world. For Halloween, you can go trick or treating at all the inns. There's an achievement to get candy from the pumpkin buckets at every inn in the world. You can also "trick or treat" once an hour with an innkeeper. Tricks include getting turned into things like bats, frogs, and ghosts. Treats can be candy, masks (which need to be collected for an achievement), or other fun items like toothpicks. There's also a headless horseman who terrorizes a couple of towns by setting the buildings on fire. Characters form a bucket brigade to put out the fire and become a hero.

You can take down the Headless Horseman by taking 4 of your best friends into the Scarlet Monastery, calling out the horseman and then killing him. It's a fun fight, especially when his head disconnects from his body and you have to chase the head around. The horseman drops several unique items, some of which are needed to get the Hallow's End achievement. There's a pet pumpkin and a special helm that are especially coveted. There are also several rings, a broom mount (seen in the picture above), and a horse mount (which is very rare).

Throughout the season, you see people running around with pumpkinheads, as ghosts or bats. The towns are decked out in Halloween decor, and the whole scene generally puts you in the Halloween spirit.

WoW.com has the lowdown on all the achievements for Hallow's End if, like me, you're an achievement whore.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Geekyboy Posts for the first time!

Hello. I think we are all well aware of why we are gathered here today. It is posting time. For those of you who don't know what posting time is, I recommend you learn immediately. I have received requests of what to post about, but like on facebook, requests are really codes for demands. Oh you have a new demand to be this person's friend. What are you gonna do? Say no? No your not that mean and you can't say no. As far as I'm concerned, demands are something you can't say no to. I could do less with these mean demands and I'm just going to do my own thing. I like to talk about me so here are a few things about me.

Blood Type: O (no you can't have my kidneys)
Favorite flavor of ice cream: Bacon
Special Talent: Sneezing with eyes open
Least Favorite Book: Where the Wild Things Are 2: College Party too Wild for Even the Wild Things

Now that those are out of my way, I can continue walking on the sidewalk. About three thousand people wanted to know what books I read. Its more like a genre as I don't read many series. I really won't read anything that isn't an action adventure. If someone doesn't get stabbed in the Achilles tendon within the first 50 pages, it is clearly not my book. There is a small exception to my strict category with George Carlin. He is a nice guy. Someday, I'll have to bring it a quote or two.

I don't like writing in big paragraphs as I think this is easier to read so I'm going to put my series that I read down here. Now, some of you that are aged 14 to about, 14, may have heard of the series Ranger's Apprentice. It's a wonderful story of a tactical archer that saves the day. If you like a good medieval action adventure this is your book. Unfortunately, only some of the books have come out in America while the others are only found in Australia. If you want to pay more in shipping than you do for the actual book, you are truly a action adventure fan.

I think this is enough for one day. I need to save some ideas for next Tuesday. That's posting day.

Watch this space

Supposedly, Geeky Boy is going to make a guest appearance here today. Might be later this evening. At any rate, keep an eye out. If there's something you'd like to know from a 14-yo boy's perspective, let us know.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Writing habits

This IHE article on writing was a much-needed inspiration today. Single discusses two myths of writing. One, that one can only write in large blocks of time and two, that you need to be motivated to write. I've know for years that these are myths and I've worked accordingly, writing whenever I could, as I did when writing my dissertation, and writing whether I've felt like it or not, which I've had to do most of my life. But these are myths that are sometimes hard to dispel when you feel stuck and/or truly unmotivated.

When I look back on my dissertation writing, there are a few things that distinguish it from the current writing I'm doing. One, I didn't have as much time then. I had a full time job and if I put off writing one day, a long time passed before I'd get back to it. So I set up a routine where I got up at 6 and wrote for an hour before having to get the kids up for school. I also wrote almost every day after dinner. The after-dinner writing was contingent on how my day when. If I was physically and mentally exhausted, then I didn't write, but I felt okay about it because I'd written in the morning. I spent weekends researching and/or revising, often for large chunks of time. The second big difference was that I had a more focused end goal with people motivating me to reach that goal. My adviser wasn't emailing me every day or anything, but I'd set a deadline for a section for myself, and even though he may not have noticed if it passed, I could *not* let the deadline pass. I gave myself a couple of extensions, but knowing that someone might be disappointed with me was a huge motivator to get work done on time. It was also nice to know that once I finished my dissertation, there was a pretty big reward waiting for me.

Now I'm faced with vast stretches of time compared to what I had before. I could indeed write for four to six hours a day. (Though I have to absolutely wait until the distractions, aka the kids and the husband, have left for the day. In the last 10 minutes, I've had to field at least three questions). So what's stopping me? Well, there is other stuff to do, for one thing. Housework beckons. I have to shower at some point. I have to go to the grocery store. I have conference calls and presentations to prepare. I let that stuff hover over me. As I'm writing, I'm also often thinking about whether I'll have enough time to get the laundry done or the shopping done. I'm in just the opposite situation I was in with my dissertation. No one will be disappointed if I don't write except me, but there are three people (maybe four) who will be disappointed if the house is a mess and there's no clean underwear. So I focus on that because it's harder to worry about disappointing myself or about the reward for the writing, which is a long shot at best. Also, there's some sort of social norm I feel like I'm violating by not showering before noon. I truly am the pajama-clad blogger!

Single suggests writing for no more than four hours/day. She says in fact, to find the amount of time that works for you. For the last couple of months, I have written almost every day for at least an hour and most of the time for at least two hours. I have tried not to beat myself up if I miss a day or to worry too much if I stop after an hour. I was about to write that unlike Single's audience, my career is not on the line if I don't write, but that's exactly where I am, by my own choice, and that's exactly why I feel anxious. I feel like two hours is nothing, especially when I theoretically have all the time in the world. But maybe two hours is what works for me, and I need to start being okay with that.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Motivational Swings

Warning: This post may be whiny and self-indulgent. Don't say I didn't warn you.

It's either the weather or the hormones, but I've struggled the last couple of days to do anything productive. Just Tuesday, as I was walking back from Starbucks, I was feeling quite proud of myself. I was thinking, damn, I finished a writing a section of a book and started the next section, and no one paid me to do it. There was a real spring in my step.

But then Wednesday, for some reason, I couldn't get up the motivation to do anything. I wrote a couple of blog posts, one for another venue I'm experimenting with. And then I felt kind of sapped.

As is my usual habit, I've been analyzing the reasons behind the lack of motivation in order to figure out what to do about it. I could just blow it off, go play WoW and return to working when the mood strikes again. But my protestant work ethic won't let me do that. There's writing to be done! There's laundry to do, floors to vacuum! You're not making any money, you have to do something productive to contribute to the family! And there's the rub. It's not the only rub, but it's a big one.

While we're able to cover our necessities, there are some things we want to do that we can't really afford right now, but that we could easily afford if I were working. Both Mr. Geeky and I have acknowledged this. And I'm torn in multiple directions on the career front. On the one hand, I could put considerably more effort into my consulting work. On the other hand, I could hold out hope for the writing to pay off, but that's very long term. On still another hand, I could just get another job. My worry is that doing either option one or option three would detract substantially from the writing and it would never get done. Because that's where I'd sacrifice the time, not on the family side of things, which are mostly positive right now and I'm getting a lot out of being with my kids more.

And then there's this reality. I am doing 80-90% of the housework. And I really hate housework. I actually had the kids clean the bathrooms yesterday, but I folded 4 loads of laundry and made dinner. Mr. Geeky cleaned up and this morning took the garbage out. But I'm picking up socks off the floor, school papers off the coffee table and dining room table, and generally keeping in my head the various chores that need to be done. It sounds more even when I type it out here, but it doesn't feel even and that's the problem. And I've discussed this problem with the family, and well, no one's really got a solution yet. And frankly, I kind of feel like no one but me cares about the house.

And there's the kid activities, which I really am glad I'm able to let them do, but which is more work on my part also. Yesterday, I went to the farmer's market at 2:30, came home, unloaded, then went to Geeky Girl's field hockey game. I didn't go to the last one and just picked her up from school afterward and GG complained that she was the only one whose mom wasn't there and could I please come to her next game. For the record, I was at Geeky Boy's soccer game. Sigh.

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with the feeling, once again, of being completely disconnected from my community. When I got to the game, there was a group of moms standing watching the game. I walked toward them and stood near them, but didn't say hi or anything. I only knew a few of them and just didn't feel comfortable just walking up to them. They were kind of huddled together talking and they either never saw me or chose to ignore me. And I know this is more my problem than theirs, but still, I just felt awkward. A majority of my social interactions are coming through the Internet, which is not a good thing, but I have few ideas about how to fix that, at least on a regular basis. We are having people over later this month and going to a party next week, but day-to-day or weekly at least, I think I need more face-to-face connections. I miss that about work.

And then there's the walking/exercising, which has slowed down considerably. The weather has been uncooperative and it takes a lot of time. I might have to work on a better schedule for it at least. I'm sure it would help with the mood issues. Geeky Girl has promised to go on a longer walk with me on Sunday if the weather holds out. It's a nice show of support.

I'm feeling pulled in too many different directions and none of them feel comfortable for different reasons. I like writing the best, but worry about its financial viability. Playing the role of sahm is rewarding for the time I have with my kids, but isolating, lonely, and somewhat thankless (especially on the housework side of things). Starting a new business is liberating and exciting, but proving difficult in a down economy in an industry that doesn't tend to look outside its walls for support. And thinking about a regular job feels like giving up, but would bring in much appreciated income. I know I will work through all of this eventually, but it's a lot to process. Thanks for giving me the space to process it in. If you made it this far, you deserve a gold star.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Proud Geeky Mama

Geeky Boy makes the front page of the school district web site.

WoW Wednesday: LFG

LFG stands for Looking for Group and eventually, you're going to need a group. It might be for a group quest or, more likely, to run a dungeon. There are a couple of ways to find a group and some things to know before you head out on your group adventure. There's a built in LFG feature within WoW pictured to the left. This puts you in a list that people can see and then they might invite you to join a group.

While this is sometimes effective and I like to use it if I'd like to join a group, but not immediately, if you really want to do something with a group, it's often better to just ask in Trade or General chat. In a major city, trade chat is usually more active, but if you're out in the world, general chat is going to be your best bet. To find a group this way, simply type /trade (to get you into trade chat; use general if you want to chat there) and then type something like "LFG ToC." Now, you have no idea what that means. Most people use acronyms for all the dungeons and you'll look less like a noob if you do too. The acronyms can be found at sites like WoWwiki and WoWHead. It's sometimes also helpful to let people know what role you can play. So, you can say "DPS LFG ToC" which tells people that you're a damage person looking for a group for the Trial of Champions dungeon.

Another way to find a group is simply to monitor chat and when someone else announces that they're looking for a group or looking for a particular role for a dungeon or quest you're interested in, you can ask to join. Of course, if you're in a guild, you can ask your guildies to join you for an adventure.

Lingo alert! A group formed spontaneously is called a PUG or pickup group. Think of it like pickup basketball.

Once you're in a group, it helps to figure out what the expectations are. Group chat is /party and that's where you can start these conversations. You might want to clarify roles--who's tanking, who's healing, etc. Most importantly, you'll want to clarify loot rules, especially as you get into higher level dungeons where the loot is awesome. Any time something drops from a kill that is green, blue or purple while in a group, you get a dialog box (right). You roll on these items by clicking the dice or the money icon. You can pass by clicking the x to close the window. The dice is a need roll. Need rolls trump greed rolls (money icon), and are usually only used if you really want something. Most of the time, people roll greed on an item or pass on items that they really don't need. You might ask at the beginning of a dungeon run whether most stuff is need or greed. If something drops that you really want, don't be afraid to ask if you can need roll. I always ask before I need and so do most people I've been in groups with since need rolls trump greed and some items become non-tradeable once you pick them up. This has changed a little bit and even bind on pick up items are often tradeable to other players in the group for a certain period of time. Still, it's always good to ask. There's nothing more annoying than someone needing something that you really wanted. More than one person can need roll on an item and if two or more people really want something, that's generally the way it's handled.

If you've never been to a dungeon before, don't hesitate to ask for advice about what to do. Most parties end up with one or more people who've run a dungeon several times and they're more than willing to tell you what to expect during a boss fight or more generally. They'd much rather explain it to you than have your lack of knowledge cause everyone to die. Often, the tank will mark mobs in the dungeon, having everyone focus on one mob at a time. It's a good idea to follow the order, again, so that everyone won't die.

Group dynamics can get especially weird if things don't go well. Personally, I've never had the experience of being the new person causing everything to go bad. Generally what I see happen is that someone in the group isn't geared enough or is being haphazard about their play style (like not waiting until the healer has enough mana to heal or jumping into a fight when not everyone is ready) and causing everyone to die. If you're lucky, the person will realize that and will quit voluntarily. Sadly, more often, I've seen people blame everyone but themselves and then quit in disgust. Good times. And sometimes, you just have a bad combination of people. You might really need a ranged dps to win a fight and all you have are melee. It's okay to say, hey, this is working, I think we should call it. Because when you die a lot, you're going to have to repair, and repairing costs money.

Group experiences are really fun, though, and it's a great feeling to work together to beat a really complicated boss or make it through a long dungeon. Now that I'm at max level, I find group experiences, whether with my guildies or with a PUG, to be my favorite part of the game.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Even a Vacation is about Learning

Our trip to Monticello happened to coincide nicely with some of the work the kids are doing in school. Geeky Girl is doing a whole unit on colonial America. They visited a colonial cabin nearby, a trip I served as a chaperon on. Geeky Boy has been studying the French Revolution, a movement inspired by Jefferson's words and work. We were able, then, to make concrete many of the lessons they've been learning in school. It's one thing to read about slavery. It's another to see the conditions under which slaves lived. The history of our nation is written as a kind of grass roots movement by people who wanted to be freed from royal tyranny. The truth is much more complicated and visiting Monticello brought that complexity home. There's the matter of the land and house itself, which clearly show that Jefferson was a well off man. IMGP1572Though he considered himself a farmer, he was not like the farmers who scraped out a living on a borrowed piece of land. He grew a mass amount of fruits and vegetables. And, he had slaves to tend all of it. Another complication for a man who wrote "All men are created equal."

It occurs to me that this kind of immersion into history is not something available to everyone. We didn't go with the intention of the trip serving as an educational moment, but we were able to make it into one without, I think, taking away the fun. The reason we could do that were a) we knew what the kids were doing in school because we talk to them; b) we have the financial means to travel, stay at a hotel and pay the entrance fee; and c) we ourselves are educated and know enough about the period to connect the dots. The first reason is easy enough for anyone to do. The second is harder. Certainly, there are budget hotels, but the cost of entrance is quite high. It's a trip that I think many would have to budget carefully for. Monticello The third reason may seem impossible to overcome, but I think a combination of the library and available online resources could even alleviate that. But still, it's a lot of work for a small trip, and it was no work at all for us to manage. It just made me think about advantages I often take for granted.

Monday, October 12, 2009

When I'm Sixty-Five

This weekend, the Geeky family went down to Charlottesville, VA to celebrate my father's 65th birthday. We visited Monticello and Michie Tavern and skirted over to UVA Sunday morning and walked around a bit. Geeky Boy declared it too big a school for him to consider.

We celebrated pretty simply, having a late lunch at the tavern after a tour of Monticello. Instead of a big dinner in what would have been a crowded restaurant (given that it was homecoming weekend), we had cake and wine in our hotel room. We had a big brunch Sunday at the Boar's Head Inn, where we had celebrated my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary about 10 years ago.

My dad does not seem 65 at all. Despite having an artificial hip and knee, he's still very active, more active than me actually. He rides his bike and golfs. He's still working full time as a lawyer and shows few signs of slowing down. Mr. Geeky declared that he hoped he made it to 65. I figure I'll make it. I want to be like my dad when I get there.
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Talking about drugs to your kids

Lisa Belkin discusses a survey about parents who used drugs in the past and what their kids know about that use. Do kids want to know? It turns out they do.

I have always been honest with my kids about my own drug use in the past. Yes, it was sometimes fun, but looking back at it now, I realize how much danger I often put myself and sometimes others in. And there were times even then where I scared myself and I knew that I'd gotten lucky. Drinking and doing drugs at too young an age cut me off from some opportunities. It definitely affected my school work. And it kept me from pursuing other activities like sports or student leadership.

By the time I was approaching college graduation, I had pretty much given up drinking heavily and doing any drugs. Yes, there were occasional escapades, but nothing like the crazy stuff I'd done earlier. And my work showed that. I was more focused. Having work outside of school, as well, meant I didn't have time to pursue drugs or drinking.

The big question is, what effect will that have on my kids. It's hard to refuse doing drugs or drinking when you're not sure of yourself. I guess I've mostly tried to give my kids the confidence to refuse, and the knowledge that abusing substances can shut them off from opportunities that they'll only have now. The activities I keep them enrolled in are designed in part to keep their minds and bodies busy, to help them feel good at something, so they don't feel like they need to resort to altering their mood through drugs. I keep talking to them, keep tabs on their friends, but honestly, I also just keep my fingers crossed.

Nearly end of the week update

It's been an interesting week around here. It started with a potential tv show appearance, which those of you who follow me on Twitter likely saw me tweet about. No offense to said tv show, but it wasn't the kind of thing I wanted to do. NPR, 60 Minutes, Bill Moyers, any of those would be good, but a hugely popular but somewhat fluffy show? No thanks.

Despite the drama, I've been plugging away at the writing and I will likely finish the first section of my project today. It's coming in around 70 pages, which is more than I thought it would. Heck it might be 80 by the time I'm done. According to my outline, there are two more sections to write. I'm planning to hand the first section off to Mr. Geeky to read. He's a pretty harsh critic, so that makes me nervous. But it'll be good for me, too. My plan is to begin new writing and tackle that in the mornings, and then work on revision in the afternoons. My goal is to finish the whole project by Christmas.

I'm also working on a presentation that I'm giving next month at SLSA. I think it's going to be a fun presentation as my co-presenter, Anne Dalke, and I are using the techniques I've been using with my other colleagues, Leslie Madsen-Brooks, Barbara Sawhill, Martha Burtis, and Barbara Ganley. We make the audience do some of the work.

Last night, I attended the second PTO meeting of the year and I must say, it was much better. One thing I like this year is that the new president insists on introductions at the beginning of the meeting, even though many of the same people are there. It's a great way to help people get to know each other. This year is a real struggle for the PTO with lots of restrictions being placed on communicating with the families. Membership is down as are our fund raising numbers. The PTO money essentially doubles the amount of money available to the school. Even if much of the money goes to what amount to extras, they are extras that the students wouldn't have, and not all of it is extras. We do buy books and supplies for the classrooms, for example. So, I think it's going to be an interesting adventure.
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

WoW Wednesday: Heading to the Big City

Day 21: Auction HouseImage by lorda via Flickr

As in most bildungsromans, our intrepid hero eventually travels to the big city where they must resist temptation and navigate unknown territory so that they may learn and grow. Sometime around level 10, your character will be directed to the nearest major city or you may simply venture there on your own. Where you started out is a small town with a few vendors and trainers, but the big city offers everything. Every trainer, lots of vendors, and the auction house.

When I first hit the big city, I must admit I was overwhelmed. I was literally afraid of the auction house. Having heard the term "gold farmers" and read about virtual things selling for real money, I had assumed that only the seediest of virtual people hung out at the auction house. It took me a while to venture in there, but I was glad I did.

Before we get to the mechanics of the auction house, we need to talk about professions. Professions are skills you can learn that will provide your character (and others) with items. There are gathering professions: mining, herbalism, and skinning. And there are crafting professions: tailoring, jewelcrafting, alchemy, blacksmithing, leatherworking, inscription, and engineering. Enchanting is kind of both since the materials provided for enchanting come from disenchanting and not from a gathering profession. Generally, you pair a gathering profession with a crafting profession. So mining can be paired with jewelcrafting or blacksmithing since mining provides the materials for those. You can only have two primary professions. There are secondary professions and you can learn all of these: fishing, cooking, and first aid.

There are two approaches to choosing professions. You can choose professions that would be good for your class. For example, I have a warrior who is an herbalist/alchemist. She's able to make herself useful potions. I might have also chosen mining/blacksmithing so that I could make my own armor. Or you can choose professions that make money on the auction house. I have never deliberately taken this approach, but I can say that my death knight's mining and jewelcrafting combo is quite profitable. If you're playing for fun, choose professions that sound fun. More than likely, you will be able to make money off of your leftover materials. To train for a profession, you need to find the trainer for it. Though you may have run into these in the smaller towns, the big city will offer you almost all possible profession trainers. There are guards in the town that you can ask where things are--very handy. If, when you mouse over a NPC, a scroll-like icon shows up, you've found a guard who can give information. They can tell you where the trainers are and where the auction house is. You will need to return to your profession trainer periodically to learn new recipes, but you may also be able to buy new recipes from vendors or you might find them as you kill things.

So now that you're trained up, you can start gathering up stuff for your profession. As you gather and make things, your skill level will increase. And you'll have things you can use like potions or nice new pants, or you may decide to sell them off. To sell stuff, make your way to the auction house and right click on the auctioneer. The interface that pops up should be fairly self-explanatory. You can browse the auction house to find stuff to buy or you can drag an item from your bag to sell it. When you sell an item, you can set an initial bid and then a buyout amount. You might want to look up the item you're selling and see how much it's going for and set your price accordingly. I often set a buyout price that's double the bid price. After selling things for a while, you'll get the hang of how to price things. A good add-on* for auction house stuff is auctioneer. It will price things automatically and keep track of your sales and purchases.

In addition to selling materials for crafting like herbs or ores and products like potions or gems, you can sell off items that you loot from things you've killed. You may get armor and weapons that you don't need, but that are green in color, meaning they have some value (white or gray means they have little or no value and are usually best sold to a vendor). If you're an enchanter, you can disenchant these, but they can be sold usually to be purchased by enchanters needing materials.

You can, of course, buy stuff from the auction house with your earnings. You may need to buy materials for your professions. Sometimes recipes have items that you can't gather yourself or you just don't feel like gathering and you have money, so you may as well buy them. You might also buy equipment for yourself. Generally at the lower levels, you can find equipment out in the world that's suitable, but as you level, you might decide you need better equipment. You can often find better equipment in a dungeon (which I'll talk about next week), but you can often buy some good things at the AH. Having good equipment can make leveling and questing go a lot faster.

Next week, we'll talk about dungeons, where things get really interesting and where we're adding in the element of group dynamics. Is there anything else you'd like to know to get started? Have questions? Let me know and I will try to answer them.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


*an add-on is a third-party program that enhances some aspect of wow. there are hundreds of them.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fun with Money

No really. Thanks to ProfHacker, I was reminded of Mint.com, a site for tracking your money that I heard about on NPR. The problem with hearing about web sites on the radio in the car: no internets in the car. Last week, I signed up for an account and pulled in all my various accounts. I still have to pull in the retirement account, but am planning on it today. It is soooo much fun and so informative to have all of my accounts--savings, credit, loans, investment--all in one place. I can see at a glance where my money is, what's coming in and what's going out. The coolest thing about the site for me was the way it decided on categories based on the name of the company listed in a transaction. It was about 95% accurate. It was easy enough to spot the things that were off and correct them.

Even more exciting are the graphs and pie charts. Here's an example of one from my account (without numbers):
You can click on each slice to drill down into the category further. So, for example, that orange slice up there, that's shopping. When I click on it, I get this pie chart:

That's a thin slice of books and the rest for clothes. Clicking on a slice that has no subcategories takes you to the transaction itself. This is how I found inaccuracies in categories. I would see a huge slice for something like movies and then clicking on that slice would show me that they'd categorized cable as movies or something like that.

I find being able to visualize my spending and drill down to find exactly where the money goes extremely helpful. I know Quicken and other programs like it did this in the past, but the categories often had to be done manually and it was complicated to set up multiple accounts. I felt like you needed a degree in accounting to do it successfully. Mint, by contrast, is dead simple, relying on data your banks already keep. Since we're down to one income with my own income coming sporadically, keeping track of our spending is more important than ever. I've already found some places to cut more corners, and I'm actually enjoying the process of managing our finances. Who knew!

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Waiting for Wave, Playing with Sidewiki

Google has launched Wave, a new social media tool that's supposed to be a game changer in private beta. While I'm waiting for my invite (pick me, please!), I decided to have a look at their slightly older release, Sidewiki. I must say, it's pretty cool. By adding a simple toolbar, which takes one click, you can add comments to any web site, which show up alongside the site. Further, you can post those same comments to Twitter, to your blog, to Facebook, and more. If a site has comments, you can see them by clicking the little text balloon and voila! find out what others are thinking. Some people have suggested that this usurps commenting on blogs or fractures that conversation, and that may be true, but for sites without comments, it offers a really easy way to make comments. I can imagine lots of educational uses, too. For example, students might be required to comment on a site for class and sidewiki provides easy tools for that comment to be shared, even via email. There are tools that already do this, like Diigo, but with many schools already usuing Google's apps, this offers better integration with that toolset.

Michael Clarke has argued at The Scholarly Kitchen, that sidewiki means institutions will no longer have control over their message. I think that's long been true, with blogs and Twitter and other media. But it is true that there's potential for someone to see what others think right from your site rather than through a Google search that lands them on a disgruntled employee's blog. Now the disgruntled employee's comments might appear side-by-side with your slick marketing campaign. Prof Hacker has a good write up and some interesting comments about how good or bad the tool is.

The whole concept is nothing super new, but whenever Google starts doing something, it often becomes mainstream. Whether it's sidewiki or Diigo or something else, I think the idea of being able to comment on websites and share those comments widely is here to stay.

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Ignore Everybody

Over the weekend, I read Hugh MacLeod's book, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. He also blogs at gapingvoid.com. It was an interesting book, quite simple and direct and refreshing. There's nothing in it that I don't think you couldn't figure out for yourself, but sometimes we forget the most obvious things. One thing that comes through in the book quite clearly (as you might guess from the title), is the idea that you should have the confidence to pursue your ideas without worrying about what other people think of them.

My years of academic training, even in Creative Writing of all places, taught me to worry about what other people thought constantly. People talk about writing articles that will get published not writing articles that have good ideas. People talk about pursuing paths that are more marketable than others, not pursuing a path that you love. Your work is under constant scrutiny, such that it is difficult to erase that inner voice that's your adviser's or the review committee's or the book publisher's saying this isn't going to work, it's not good enough or original enough and by the way, you're not smart enough. Now I know some people in academe escape that and just pursue an idea for the love of it. But I think that's actually pretty rare these days in a very tight market.

I've broken some of Hugh's rules, like quitting my day job (sort of). In part, I did so because I had become part of what he calls "the watercooler gang," the people who've been around for a long time, have become mediocre at what they do, hate what they do, and complain about it with whoever will listen. Being a part of that crowd was soul sucking, but the job itself had no creative outlets for me and I had few outside of the job, so I think Hugh would agree that quitting, for me, was the right thing to do. And, of course, he suggests not following anyone else's advice anyway, including, presumably, his.

It's a fun read, and certainly gave me hope about my own adventure, however it may turn out.

And the following cartoon had to be my all-time favorite, because it is so. damn. true.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Note About Community

Suburban sprawl in Colorado Springs, ColoradoImage via Wikipedia

One of the things I wanted to do when I quit my job was to get more involved in the community, in the town in which I lived. It's not a huge town, about 80,000 people, the same size as the city I grew up in. I felt like I was part of my community growing up. We knew people. We waved to people on the street. And while that happens occasionally here, and I've been thinking about why. I think there are differences, obviously between where I live now and where I lived 30 years ago, but I am also living my life differently than my parents did. All of those factors are coinciding to make me feel like a failure at getting involved, at feeling a part of the city around me.

First, the town. The biggest difference between where I am now and any other city of this size I've lived in (and I count 3) is that it's a suburb of a major city. As such, it's kind of considered part of that city, as are the many communities that surround the town. I'm not used to there being anything but the town itself and then the rural areas surrounding it. The effect of this is that people are splintered. Not everyone works and goes to school within our city limits. And the city isn't trying to provide enough jobs for that. So, people go off to work in the city or in another suburb or in a town 45 minutes away. And while all the kids eventually filter into the same public high school, being near a large city means that there are lots of other options for schools. There are at least three other private schools in our township alone and in the surrounding area, there must be 10 or so more, and then there are religious schools, Jewish, Catholic, etc. In fact, I don't know our neighbors across the street because all their kids go to the nearby Catholic school.

Where I grew up and in the other cities I lived in, there were no other options really. In one place, there was a Catholic school. In another, a fundamentalist Christian school. And a handful of people were sent off to military school, usually after something really bad happened. So most of us, whether we lived next door to each other or across town, ended up in school together. Parents got to know each other, even if they just saw each other at the various school events and weren't going to PTO meetings or running the bake sale. I ask about my old friends' parents. I remember them well.

Counter intuitively, where I live now is quite insular compared to the similar-sized towns of my past. Here, generations of people grew up and went to the same schools and churches, lived on the same streets. They have cousins three blocks over and their mothers watch their kids for them while they work or when they go out for an evening or even a weekend. There's no need, then, for most of these people to reach out to neighbors for carpooling or babysitting, thereby creating a connection and perhaps a friendship. There's also a tendency for people who've lived here their whole lives to assume everyone else has, too. I've noticed this happening in a number of contexts, and it's merging with my experience in thinking about audience and teaching students how to think about audience. I've decided a lot of people don't think about it.

The most blatant and kind of sadly funny example was the web site for an event that occurred today, but which I had never attended until today. Go ahead, visit the site. Does it make you want to go? Do you even know where to go? Do you know what kind of activities there will be? It's there, but it's hard to find. Who's this site for? Like most sites, of course, it has multiple audiences, but it's clear to me that it's focused on one in particular. This is a huge event, and if you've lived here forever, you already know about it. You either enjoy it or not. You go every year or you don't. If you are new to town, well, the web site isn't going to help you much. It's very indicative of the prevailing attitude.

The other towns I've lived in had large influxes of new people pretty constantly, so they all tried to make sure newcomers felt welcome, that they knew what the special events were in town, that they were kept informed. One town I lived in had an event similar to the one I attended today and for weeks leading up to it, banners were everywhere that touted the event, giving the date, time and location. In other words, buzz. The local news covered it. There's no local news here, an artifact of being a suburb.

So it's easy to not feel a part of the place, and while there are reasons within the environment for that, there's also my own personal issues. What I've found is that it takes a lot of effort to become a full-fledged member of the community. Effort that I find very exhausting. I used to think I was an extrovert, and it's true I really enjoy being around people, but I'm not the kind of extrovert that walks up to people I don't know or don't know very well and just starts up a conversation. If they come to me, fine, but I find it difficult to be the one who initiates things. My mother, completely the opposite. She will strike up a conversation with anyone. So, if she lived here, she'd be fine. Hell, she'd probably be president of the PTO by now.

Part of me longs to be back in one of those other places, where I'd see the same people at the farmer's market every Saturday rather than the random people I see at the one I go to here. But I wonder if my lack of ability to reach out wouldn't hinder me in those other places, too. I was younger when I was in those places, and that may be a difference, too.

I'm not giving up, though. I'm just recognizing the factors at work here, and trying to work around them. I'm going to write the township day planners, cause I had a great time today, and it's a shame I've lived here for 6 years and haven't gone to this event. I'm going out drinking with the PTO moms. I'm actually thinking about having a block party. In 20 years, maybe I'll have roots here. Or maybe it will be time to give up and move to Florida.
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Thursday, October 01, 2009

This week is a wash

I can't quite believe it myself, but the whole week has pretty much gone down the drain. Monday, I did nothing because of Yom Kippur. Tuesday, I jumped back in and then, around noon, started to feel crappy. I forged ahead anyway and got some extra work done after lunch. Tuesday afternoon, Geeky Boy and I had gone to the drug store to get cold medicine. You can't get anything these days that doesn't claim to cure 14 different things at once. I tried to find something for sore throat, runny nose/sneezing, and congestion, but everything also included something for coughing, or chest congestion, which I did not have. I was willing to buy separate things, but I couldn't even find separate medicines. Sure, I could get tylenol or advil for the pain, but then I couldn't find something that just dealt with the congestion and sneezing situation. I finally settled on Alka Seltzer cold, which had what I needed, but, I must say, it didn't taste good.

Wednesday, I woke up feeling like crap. Despite medicating myself, I'd spent the whole night sniffling and swallowing hard. I have not felt that bad in a long time. Everyone in the family had been sniffling and sneezing for a week. I figured I was safe since I hadn't gotten sick yet and none of them had been sick enough to miss school. Boy, was I wrong. So, I spent the day in bed, watching reruns of last season's Top Chef. I did nothing that required any brain power, canceling a meeting with a colleague to discuss our upcoming conference presentation. I could barely move, much less think straight.

I'd gone to bed at 9:00 on Tuesday, which is how I knew I was really sick. I just fell asleep. Last night, same thing, 9 p.m. bedtime. This morning, I'm feeling much better, but I'm going on a field trip with the 5th grade class, so the day is shot. I don't get back until 2:00 and then I have to pick up one kid, drop another off, go to a meeting and I probably won't be back until 8 at the earliest. Sigh.

I haven't looked forward to Friday this much since my working days.