What’s your BASE?

A post came through my Feedly today from The Thesis Whisperer reviewing Helen Sword’s new book on academic writing (Air and Light and Time and Space: How Successful Academics Write). The review started by asking how my writing was going and then asked if I wanted to reflect on my behavioral, artisanal, social, and emotional writing habits. To do so only required me to answer four questions to discover my profile.

I feel extremely time-poor at the moment but I was reading the post on my phone while waiting for the temperamental photocopier in my department, so I needed no time at all to decide to click on the link and take the quiz. (Do you want to take it too? It’s here and it’s really cool. I’ll wait!)

My first result was The Axe Head. Then I decided to take the quiz again, giving myself a lower score for the B (behavioral habits) because while my writing habits have been fairly good for the last six weeks, before that they were dreadful, and they’re still pretty dreadful for any writing that isn’t related to my research.

Changing that one variable gave me The Mountain instead.

The really interesting thing was when I looked up the other profiles. That page also lists the relative frequency of each profile. It turns out that The Mountain is the second most common (after The Pebble, which is the profile where you identify as unhappy with every single one of your writing habits, which says something about how academics tend to feel about their writing).

The Axe Head was one of the rarest.

It didn’t take me too long to figure out why that probably is- to get the Axe Head you have to score yourself highly in artisanal and behavioural habits, but low in social and emotional habits. Leaving aside the social habits variable, this profile means that you think you are a good writer, and you are a productive writer, but you feel stressed and anxious when you write rather than joyful. It strikes me that it must be hard to feel consistently negative about your writing if you are doing a lot of it and you think you are good at it. Writing begets more writing, and the more you write the easier it becomes to write. That has to improve your emotional outlook.

I’m also not remotely surprised that The Mountain is so common. That’s the profile of people who give themselves a high score in the artisanal category but low scores everywhere else (i.e., people who believe they are good writers but don’t make the time to write, don’t have support, and associate negative emotions with their writing). Knowing that you are a good writer but not writing definitely brings on negative emotions, at least in my experience.

The site also points out that “your Writing BASE may change its dimensions from day to day, from project to project, and even from one type of writing to another”, which aligns with my current profile- an Axe Head for my academic writing and a Mountain for everything else.

For me the next step is obvious: more writing, both academic and otherwise. I know from experience that when I am writing regularly and fluently I do experience enormous joy.

Next up- The Lone Wolf!

Did you discover your BASE too? Tell me your profile in the comments, and whether or not you found this as interesting as I did.

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Filed under Books, Life after the PhD, Writing

Microblog Mondays: Thankful

It was Thanksgiving here north of the border a couple of weekends ago. Q. and I opted to rent a cottage for the weekend, rather than making the drive to see my parents, partly because we couldn’t face the idea of driving in holiday traffic in both directions after the abject horrors of said drive the previous year and partly because we realized that we hadn’t gone anywhere without friends or family since August 2014, when E. was three.

It felt both wrong and right to put my little nuclear family first, even though we found another weekend this fall where we could go to see my parents (E. has the Friday off from school and we’ll pull him out on the Monday as it’s not feasible to do both houses unless we have four days) and there’s the possibility that my father might be actually moved into his new house by mid-November. Gaining an extra five hours to visit (instead of sitting in traffic) and avoiding the horrors of visiting in the ICU with a toddler in tow seemed like a no-brainer, but I still felt guilty knowing that my sisters had made similar decisions and this meant that all the parents would be alone over the holidays. Our family is not in extreme crisis any longer, but it would be a lie if I said either situation was easy at the moment.

When asked if I was looking forward to the cottage, I said that I expected it would be not remotely relaxing but that it would be a nice change of scene, and (surprise, surprise) I was right.

There were some excellent moments (E. learning to kayak, discovering a tree castle on an island in the middle of the lake that E. could climb, watching the storms blow in and blow out again, E. catching tiddlers off of the dock, P. sitting up on the big outdoor benches eating her lunch) and some less than perfect ones (having both kids screaming within ten minutes of going outside because E. had fallen off a wooden swing and hurt his tailbone and the swing had then swung forward to smack P. in the head, not going hiking with our friends because the car couldn’t get back up the driveway that I had told Q. on arrival I didn’t think we should drive down, but which Q. thought would be fine, and then taking two hours to get said car up the driveway, breaking a taillight in the process). P. struggled with the slope of the ground between the cottage and the lake (read: fell down a lot), and tried to throw herself (or any toys within reach) off the dock at every opportunity.

E. had a blast.

Q. and I each managed to get in a bit of solo kayaking, and Q. even braved the lake for a (very) brief swim. I didn’t get much time to play with my camera, but I did what I could.

 

 

 

A cottage will be easier next year, when P. is older, and even easier the year after that, but I am trying not to wish away the phase of life that is my present. Two years ago we went to another cottage with friends for Thanksgiving. I had learned I was pregnant the day before we left. We didn’t yet know how it would turn out, but now, two years later, here was P., giggling and smiling and climbing into the kayak when she thought we weren’t looking.

I am so thankful.

How do you balance vacation time between your immediate family and your extended one(s)? Does anyone else find this incredibly difficult?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Choose Happiness, E.- the seventh year, Microblog Mondays, P.- the second year, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Microblog Mondays: Planning Ahead

I’d been doing really well with Microblog Mondays until September arrived and my new academic year started. I think I’d only missed one or two in 2017 before Labour Day. Since then it’s been a struggle, as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this on Tuesday morning in the spare fifteen minutes I have before meeting with my postdoc supervisor (for the first time since the postdoc started on 1 September- we’re pretty relaxed about the whole thing and she recognizes I don’t want to drive the 90 minutes it takes to get to her university any more often than I have to).

It’s a combination of being home with P. on Mondays (and thus having very little time to myself), teaching on Tuesday nights, and trying to keep teaching prep and marking from eating into my regular working hours on Tuesdays. This means I spend P’s nap on Monday and Monday nights frantically making a PowerPoint, creating an answer sheet for the exercises from the chapter(s) I’m teaching that week, adding grades to the spreadsheet, etc. I should also spend Sunday nights working on the course as well, but I’m usually so tired by the end of the weekend that I opt to watch something on Netflix with Q. instead.

All that to say I think I need to start writing these entries on Fridays.

Have you had to suddenly change up your routine this fall? How do you figure out what needs to change and where you can fit it all in?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

 

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays

Accountability- September

Today is my last day of work for September, my last day of work in my first month back from maternity leave.

What have I accomplished?

  • I have written just shy of 8,000 words of the first draft of a chapter for the edited volume which Q. and I are editing. The chapter is meant to be no more than 10,000. I will be over this in the first draft, but I am not worrying about that at this point.
  • I have entered all of my evidence into my giant spreadsheet, which means I no longer have a million post-it notes in several books, left over from the reading I was able to do in the spring. I’ve also read a few more authors and have added their evidence too. I am not finished collecting evidence, but I’m far enough along with the project that my argument is clear and it makes sense to write at the same time as I read.
  • I have read and provided feedback on some of the other chapter drafts for the edited volume (although not as many as I feel I should have, since our co-editors aren’t doing their work and the lion’s share has landed squarely on Q’s shoulders).
  • I am 25% of the way through the fall semester of my class. I have taught the second half of this class before, but the first semester is new to me, so there is a lot of prep work. I am enjoying the teaching and my anxiety about teaching has largely dissipated now that I have a connection with the students. (I am a very good teacher but I always feel sick before teaching a class, especially in the first couple of weeks. I think it’s a form of performance anxiety. I’m so introverted that even though I genuinely love teaching I have to consciously prepare myself to do it.)
  • I have managed a daily (almost) writing practice on work days. Four days a week, I sit down first thing in the morning with my laptop and write for ninety minutes (or two hours if it is going well). The morning is my most productive time by far and I have fiercely protected my writing time from teaching prep, marking, reading, email, life admin, etc. I have always been an academic writer who think and thinks and thinks and then writes and writes and writes. I wrote my dissertation by not writing for weeks or months at a time and then writing 1,000 words a day (or more) for a few weeks when it was time to produce another chapter. This wasn’t a form of procrastination- it was just how I operated. I thought about my ideas for so long that when it was time to write them up the first draft needed very little to be changed. It worked well with the dissertation, where probably 85% of the finished product is identical to what I first drafted, but it meant I hit a hard wall when it came time to think about making revisions for the book. Admittedly, with this current chapter, I have been thinking about it for months, but I can certainly see a difference in the way that I’m writing. My hope goal is that when I get the draft finished I will be able to just start tinkering with editing the book manuscript, since I will have established writing and rewriting as part of the daily routine. I love to write and hate to edit. I’m trying to change that as it’s become abundantly clear to me that I will never publish if I don’t.
  • I have found places I like to work, particularly a little room on the second floor of one of the smaller libraries of the university that is not mine (but at which I have borrowing privileges).
  • I have completed the first three weeks of the C25K running program (and started week four this morning). That is the most consistent running I have managed since I last completed the C25K program, right before our final FET in the fall of 2014. I have run three days a week every week for three weeks. That should make a habit.
  • I have read five books for fun and am well advanced on a sixth. That is the most books I have read in a month since December 2015.
  • I have mostly stayed on top of our life admin. I have figured out how to pay our nanny; booked a cottage holiday for Thanksgiving; ordered hot lunches for E. at school and signed both children up for activities (swimming lessons and an after school science class for E., music with her nanny for P.); read emails and (mostly) answered them; had my eyebrows waxed and my bangs/fringe trimmed; visited the dentist (twice in two weeks since I am someone who needs to go every three months and I hadn’t been in nine).
  • I went out for lunch with Q., the first of our monthly lunch dates that Q. packed into my tin lunch box on our tenth anniversary, even though we didn’t actually go to the restaurant he had planned as it was so unseasonably warm I insisted we find a patio. I went out for lunch on two other occasions with dear friends whom I never get to see often enough.
  • I ended my work day early once to go and sit in a cafe and drink tea and eat cake and read a book. It was so lovely I had to promise myself I would only do this once a month.

There are still things I am working on. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to use my time in the afternoons when I am tired from the writing and the reading and the deep work but it’s still too early to pack it in for the day. I haven’t solved the problem of how to get up from my desk frequently during the day, particularly since I have to bring my laptop, phone, and wallet with me wherever I go. My original plan was to walk over at lunch time from the small library to the big library, but it turns out I don’t like working in the big library all that much.

I do not feel like I am being a good mother, at least not to the standards to which I hold myself. I am not getting enough sleep because P. is up more than she should be at night and she gets so angry and sad when Q. goes in to try to settle her that it is just easier for me to go in instead and give her the cuddle and the milk that she wants. I am sure I would be better at managing this if I were home more during the day and did not feel as guilty. I am convinced she wakes up because she is missing that connection with me, but it is probably teeth or developmental or habit.

I am not as patient with E. as I would like to be, which is a constant battle made worse by the fact that I feel like I should have so much more patience for him since I now see him less. I have a lot of patience, but there are many days where it is not enough.

I do not always manage to have a real conversation with Q. rather than one about logistics and timings and schedules and house needs and kids needs. This morning I volunteered to take E. to school since I was going to be ready to go at about that time anyway, and then E. took a very long time to brush his teeth so I ended up bundling him out the door and forgot that I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to Q. or given him a kiss.

I still think Q. is doing too much of the housework, but every time I suggest an alternative he restates his position that he thinks it makes sense to just get it all done in one morning. He certainly is doing too much of the cooking, but I have to admit that the nights when I need to cook from scratch are frantic and stressful as it turns out there are very few meals you can cook from scratch with a toddler on your hip who is usually trying to nurse. My idea of “easy weeknight dinners” is not the same as Q.’s, so if he wants to do most of the prep on the weekends, I think I should just gracefully accept.

I am still not sure this is what I want, but I do like having the time and space to think about my research and I can see how difficult it would be to build momentum if I had any less time in which to do that. It’s also extremely difficult for me to rationalize taking any time for myself if I’m working less than four days a week, as I feel that if I’m not with the kids I need to be working, especially if Q. is at home with them.

I am still taking it one day at a time, but, on balance, I think this month has gone well.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, Sleep, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing

Microblog Mondays: Don’t Rock the Boat?

“I love [Nanny’s name] days,” E. told me one day last week.

“That’s great!” I replied. “What do you like so much about them?”

“She always has so many great ideas for what we can do after school.”

“Of course she does,” I said. “She doesn’t have to worry about cooking dinner or cleaning the house or all the other things. Her whole job is to have fun with you.”

P. & E. are happy with the new routine. In fact, they’re thriving. P. loves her new routine so much that she gets cranky if I don’t do things the same way L. (our nanny) does.

Q. is enjoying his day at home with P. and is somehow able to do the grocery shopping, clean the entire house, and get most of the laundry done, all between dropping E. off at school and putting P. down for her nap. Apparently P. just potters around next to him and has a nice time rather than attaching herself to his leg and screaming until he picks her up, which is what happens when I try to do any of the above.

All of which raises the question: if everyone else in your family is happy, is it selfish to want to change things just because you aren’t?

I still miss my baby.

I miss my big kid.

But they don’t miss me.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Microblog Mondays

Microblog Mondays: The Green-Eyed Monster

In late August a house on our street went up for sale, one that I’d often walked by and wondered what it was like inside. I went to the open house, determined that it was big and beautiful but a) needed too much work and b) was going to be too expensive even if we were looking (which we aren’t, not even small ‘l’ looking, as E. took pains to point out at dinner that night telling me in no uncertain terms that “Our house is a good house!”).

The first day of school I found out that one of the families I know best had bought the house (the mum is one of the mums I keep trying to make into a friend). And although I was (and still am) really excited to have them on the same block, and I was super happy for them as I knew they’d been small ‘l’ looking for a while (they are really squished in their current house), there was a tiny small medium-sized part of me that was hugely jealous.

It turns out that the house doesn’t need as much work as it looked like it did (they went through with their contractor) and it didn’t sell for as much as I had been assuming it would (although I’m still not clear how they were in a position to buy it since they are a single-income family- maybe family money, maybe they’re not as debt averse as we are, who knows- it’s none of my business).

It might have been the right house for us in four or five years, but it wasn’t the right house now. I knew that when I walked through it, and I know it now, even if it did have a third floor that would have been our library (just like the other house that “got away” nine years ago when we first bought our place, which I STILL think about sometimes).

There is something about having someone who is “just like us” buy it that makes it harder to let it go.

Do you second guess your decisions? Do you have a house (or houses) that got away?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Microblog Mondays

Eat My Words

Last week I had a post all planned for Microblog Mondays.

It was going to be about how I used to love September, how it used to be my favourite time of year, how much I used to love looking forward to the new school year.

And then I was going to write about how I was dreading Tuesday, because it was the first day of school, and E’s first day of Grade One, and I was just.not.ready for another eight-week four month transition like we had with JK and SK.

I wasn’t ready for the endless tears, the bargaining, the requests to stay home, the plaintive statements that school was “just too long” and he just missed me “so much”.

I wasn’t ready for the phone calls from the teacher, the meetings after school, the behavioural charts.

I wasn’t ready for the feeling that everyone else’s kid was getting it when mine just wasn’t.

But Monday was Labour Day and we got busy and I never found time to write the post.

And that, it turns out, was a good thing.

E. went to school on the first day worried, because he had heard that “In Grade One you just have to sit and write all day.”

He came out of the school at the end of the day bubbling over with excitement. Grade One had been fun! He had his own desk and his own pencil case! His teacher had told him she was amazed at how much French he knew!

It’s just kept getting better.

All week we had a few tears at drop off (because, as he told me, he finds drop off “so hard and scary”), but he was fine during the day.

He’s been eating his lunch, despite now being in the lunchroom, “which is really really noisy and filled with like a gazillion kids”.

He’s wanted to play in the playground after school every day, something which he almost never wanted to do last year.

He loves that he can go anywhere he wants during recess.

He loves that he has an agenda.

His best friend is in the class, and they come up with crazy games to play on the field (“Mummy, this morning we made a dust storm!”), and he’s already playing with some of the other kids he was friendly with last year.

On Friday he came home, starving and exhausted, and told me, “Mummy, I’m so disappointed it’s the weekend. I just love school so much!”

To top it off, today he voluntarily went to school 45 minutes early because he wanted to try out for the cross country team.

I’ve had no phone calls from the school, no notes from the teacher, no hand waving me over at pick up for a “brief chat”.

My kid, it turns out, is rocking Grade One.

I have never been happier to have been so wrong.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, E.- the seventh year, Grade One