Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When this is the kind of day you're going to have . . .

Why get up at 6:30 in the morning? 

A bit of exposition:  It's not for nothing that I have stated over and over again, across the years, that no matter the circumstances I can at most accomplish 6 hours of work a day. Usually, I don't come anywhere close to 6. Three and a half is a much more realistic (and depressing) estimate; sometimes, even that's pushing it. 

When I say "doing work," I don't mean doing some reading for class, then checking my e-mail, more reading, then grading a paper or two, reading five stories about celebrity babies, checking my e-mail, more reading, all while texting back and forth with my hubby and people from school. I definitely do all of that - and almost exactly like that - on a pretty much daily basis (wherein we find much of the problem). I'm talking about only the actual work part of all that - reading, grading, responding to student e-mails, researching, writing a paper/assignment, developing a paper/homework/in-class assignment/activity. 

Given that, this semester, all of the classes I'm in; the course I'm teaching; the hours I spend tutoring in the Writing Center (by mandate of my fellowship . . . sigh); and my office hours all take place on a very long Tuesday and an even longer Thursday - given that, I spend three of the week's workdays at home "working." Hell, ask me what I'm doing on any random Saturday or Sunday, and there's an 72% chance I'll say "doing work" and a 100% chance that, if I've got something else going on, I'll add, "And then doing some work." 

This takes me to the title of this post, which I guess we'll call Rising Action:  Brad's alarm (that is, my husband's alarm) goes off at six a.m. I am wide awake. I continue to be wide awake through the sounds of his morning routine (the running water, the creaks in the floorboards, the footfalls on the stairs). So, my enterprising side takes over and - voila! - I decide to get out of bed at 6:30 a.m. even though I have nowhere to be today, just so I can get a headstart on my work

File:Windup alarm clock.jpg

In the moment before I swing my feet off the bed, I muse, "Wow, I could get like 12 hours of work done today!" What silly silly folly. 

The part of the story that is probably most interesting is the part I will leave out. (Brad has long accused my fiction of too much subtlty; I can't say the reaction in my MFA workshops were usually much different. Pardon me for crediting the reader with a nuanced understanding.) Well, maybe I'll sum it up in a sentence just for continuity's sake:  the speedometer on Brad's Blazer isn't working when he leaves this morning, so he takes my Honda, and I end up spending my morning at Monroe Muffler finding out the myriad defects plaguing the car (we're talking probably $1200-$1500 parts and labor for a car that - oh, I can't even go into this car right now) only to decide, with Brad, that we need to take it to my dad's "guy" (that is, the mechanic who has fixed my family's cars for 15 years and is located an inconvenient 50 minutes away) who will not rip us off, and so I leave with a car still broken and 11:00 on the clock. 

That was a long and somewhat digressive sentence. So is my nature. 

All of this by way of pondering why - when I know I will never get 12 hours of work done (or even 7) - do I still get up at the crack of dawn, set myself an ambitious plan for the day, think about how much stress will be relieved when I get this work done, etc. etc., and by way of all this get my hopes up? 

I'm inclined to say all kinds of things about the desire to inflict pain on myself and/or being delusional. Instead (and this is coming 10.5 hours into my day, after having worked for maybe 2 hours) I'm going with hopefulness. I like the sound of hopefulness much better. I mean, if I'd gotten up at 10 as I am wont to do on Wednesdays and then left the house at noon, the car problem would still be the car problem. I'd have still ended up at Monroe and the car would still be a whole bunch of crap. 

That's part of my philosophy of trying, I guess. It (whatever it is) ain't gonna happen if you don't at least make the effort. Sure, it's probably not gonna happen anyway in 99% of cases. (I've actually gotten less work than usual done today.) But you can't win the lottery if you don't play. And I actually don't play the lottery, but I've got some faith, however, little, in getting up before 7 a.m. with high high hopes. 

(The conclusion? When a day can't get worse, it will. A great pair of Steve Madden flats (which I've worn only four times) suffered the fate of an increasingly wet, gross, salt-laden parking lot while I stood outside discussing on the telly what to do about the car. A brief lament, not in iambic pentameter: 

Half-ruined those precious 
flats be. Woe, oh woe is me.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Skinny Jeans, Leggings, and Boots; or, Selling Out?

My beloved black boots; from Sundance Catalog (on amazing sale) 

This fall I took the plunge: I bought a pair of brown Franco Sarto boots for $12.95 at my favorite thrift store. I bought them on a whim, and days later, I wore them on a whim. 

What followed in the course of the next few months neither I, nor anyone who has ever heard me talk about clothing, could have predicted. Leggings entered my life on the same day as a pair of skinny jeans (thanks, Target!); snakeskin (totally fake; no worries) booties followed. Next came another pair of skinny jeans and the amazing (and oh-so-flattering) black boots pictured above. 

For many women in 2011, owning any or all of the abovementioned items is no biggie. And, since I love clothes and really really love shoes, shouldn't it be the same for me? Well, no. Because for years (I mean, like 5 or 6) I railed against boots; "they're ugly," "they're clunky," etc. etc. I teased not a few of my female students who stomped into class in pair after hideous pair of Uggs. And don't get me started on the leggings. In fact, if you had access to the transcript of but a single conversation in which I bemoaned the reign of leggings - and, working on a number of college campuses, there have been a lot of these conversations - you would likely never forgive my purchasing not one, but two pairs of those not-quite-pants-not-quite-tights. 

So, as I write this, having just worn my favorite Christmas present to Red Lobster with my hubby last night (the black boots, of course), I wonder, How in the world did I turn into such a shameless sell-out? 

Let me start by explaining what I so hate about "fashion": the very fact that it's so darn fashionable. That is, women so often wear these things - whether we're talking boots and leggings or capes and clogs - because someone says they need to if they want to be stylish, not because they necessarily look nice in them. 

Now, I bought my cool-girl clothes long after the height of their coolness. (No, I'm not one of those people who only likes things that other people don't like. I swear.) Sure, they're still in style, but I missed the super-fashionista boat by at least a few years. Truth is, those leggings had piqued my interest months before I ever tried a pair on. What stopped me for so long? Stubbornness. A sense of superiority over what I deemed fashion's slave-minions. And, if we're being honest, having announced very loudly and very forcefully to anyone within hearing distance that (fill in clothing/shoe item here) were an abomination, I was too proud to admit that maybe I'd been just a wee bit harsh. 

Perhaps it's funny that when I finally "gave in," no one had a negative word to say. Except me. I guess it's not for nothing that my good buddy Butcher (that's his last name, of course - and oh yes, there's a good last name story for another post) says I'm way harsher on myself than anyone he knows. (And also that it must be exhausting to be me. Which it often is.) But is there a chance that it's not selling out? Maybe I just realized I was wrong and could finally admit it. As an almost grown-up (does the real thing happen at 30?), admitting when I'm wrong is an ongoing project for me. It's taken a lot of years, but I can confidently say that the old stubbornness is easing up a bit. 

The boots lengthen the look of my legs; and skinny jeans, it turns out, are pretty flattering on skinny girls. Like anyone, it makes me feel good to look nice. It makes me feel young. I'd be a fool to pick the bitter satisfaction of stalwarts over that. 

Don't worry, though: I continue to abstain from make-up wearing, Tweeting, and potato/macaroni salad-eating. I've still got some standards.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

If you try really hard despite all roadblocks, then we should talk

It only makes sense that I'd have writer's block when trying to write my first blog post. I mean, nothing is ever easy, right? I suppose blogging is no exception. But I'm going to press on. 

As for nothing being easy, well, nothing is, but I'm trying hard these days. I'm trying to make it through 4 and 1/2 more years of an English lit. PhD program, despite being on year 22 and 1/2 of school already (that's more than a little sad, I know). I'm tired, and I'm underpaid (me and every other teaching assistant out there), and I can't even imagine coming up with a dissertation topic. (Ideas?) 

I'm trying to write a novel. Though at this point, I'd settle for a complete poem. Time and mental energy are a bit elusive these days. I'd call it writer's block, but even that seems like I'm giving myself too much credit. 

I'm trying to make a baby. I've got some help here from my hubby, of course. We're on month four; I'm getting a little impatient. And of course, every woman at Target has a new baby, a whole brood, or the cutest little baby bump that ever made me gag (jealousy looks particularly bad on me). I usually just have an iced caramel macchiato. 

Some lesser efforts: trying to figure out why my husband enjoys Monster Hunters 3; trying to get up the energy for Zumba, to take the Christmas decorations down, to put the laundry away; trying to eat something other than potato chips or fries for dinner. 

Some of these things are going better than others. The wallpaper in our powder room is halfway down (and has been since August). The freezer's got a half gallon of Heath ice cream, some wings, and not much else. My husband swears he's going grocery shopping tomorrow, before the Steelers take on the Jets. Of course, he also swore he was going today. I'll give the guy a break: he drives 60 miles each way to work five days a week. Basically, we're trying.