Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some General Catching Up


Another academic year has drawn to a close. It's been a full year, and in many ways a solid good year. But it has also been a year laced with anxiety as our university has been coming to terms with a changing economic context. "We have to do things differently," was the common refrain, but no one really knows what that means yet.

We've had financial concerns for years already, so we're used to it; but we also feel we've scaled back so much already it's hard to tell what more we can cut.

Our faculty is starting to shrink in the subtle way resulting from not hiring visiting replacements. Next year, we will be down one faculty member in our department because of not hiring a sabbatical replacement. Already this year, our classes have bulged. Next year they are likely to bulge even more. Since we are a small liberal arts college with reasonably small classes to begin with, I do not regard this as a catastrophe. My class sizes still are not what I had when I taught in graduate school, so I know I can handle this. But, still, it is a disappointment. It begins to change how we teach.

Right after final grades were due, I had two days of all-day faculty development workshops, then Commencement weekend, then two more days of workshops. Yesterday was the first break in this intense schedule. Yet I still had/have a lot to do.

Other updates:


Yes, my roof is finally being done. Right now, in fact. This very moment. The roofers arrived about 15 minutes ago. I should perhaps flee, but I'm kind of curious. And I also want them to feel welcome to help themselves to coffee, water, cookies.

My pulling snow off the roof all winter did prevent any further leaks, I am happy to report, but I am very glad to be getting the problem fully fixed now.

Lawn Mowing

Now that I have a house, I have to cut my grass. So I bought one of those non-gas-powered push mowers. I could feel the curious eyes of my neighbors on me as I pulled it out, put it together, and then got to work.

It worked like a dream! What's more, it was FUN! As I mowed, I wondered why people need gasoline. If you have a non-self-propelled push mower, you still have to push it around. What's the gas doing? Spinning the blades. Maybe that eases some of the work. But I didn't find my mower that hard to push around. It does give me a good workout, but I don't mind that. I welcome it. I need all the exercise I can get!

It takes me about an hour to do my whole lawn. It looks really nice when I'm finished. The mower makes a nice "flttt flttt flttt" sound -- much nicer than the sound of power mowers!

My neighbors come out and come over and talk with me when I cut my grass. They start by admiring my mower as they eye it skeptically, sure that something so simple could not possibly be very effective. So I gush about how wonderful it is. They admit it does a nice job.

How long will it be before I see another appear on the block? I'll keep you posted on this!


I'm playing baroque flute at a memorial service in a couple of weeks. The memorial service is actually for the philosophy professor I replaced. I feel honored to have been asked to play. As the day approaches, I'm starting to feel a little nervous. I've never played for a memorial service before. What kind of music does one play? What is the music for -- comfort or catharsis or both? Have I chosen good pieces? Will I be able to do justice to the occasion?

I've also been learning piccolo, and I have just joined a community band for the summer, probably playing flute (modern flute), but I did indicate that I play piccolo too. Since modern flute and piccolo are not my main instruments (I would say baroque flute really is, followed closely by 19th century flute, a.k.a. Irish flute), I'm hoping to be seated last chair. There's a music school in my area, and I already know that all of the other flute players are accomplished modern flute experts, so no pride lost at all. I have a lot to learn about how to play this kind of music in this kind of context.


The last time I seriously picked up running, I then twisted my ankle in a non-running moment. Although it was not a running injury as such, I think I was in a weakened condition from pushing myself too hard. At any rate, it sidelined me. Then the ice and snow came. So I lost it.

After a couple of false starts and long lulls again, I finally got it going again. I am in Week 7 of my new program, and it is going very well. Starting in early spring was a good plan -- the weather keeps getting nicer! So my hope is that by the time the weather changes again, I'll be so into this and so fit that I'll be able this time to keep it going through the winter, and forever thereafter!

I'm doing a lot better than I thought I would. But last week I did start pushing myself too hard. And then after 3 hours in the sun for graduation, I was so wiped out it was kind of scary. I realized I was fatigued on many levels, and told myself it was imperative to take an easy week this week. So this week I've refused to time my runs, and let myself return to walk/runs, based purely on how I feel from moment to moment. My "discipline" has been to not push. And I'm feeling much better. Sometimes this is what we need: the discipline to cut back, relax, let go a little.


My move last fall dramatically changed my life and I'm much happier overall. But my life is still not completely where I want it to be. I still have not made the progress I want to make on my writing projects. I'm still half-thrilled, half-overwhelmed by my responsibilities in developing our new Peace Studies program. I still have too much a tendency to sacrifice my own goals in favor of what others want from me, but I'm better at catching myself, questioning that, and feeling more protective of and assertive of my goals. I realize I have a responsibility to nurture, develop, and live true to my sense of call -- no one else can do that for me.

So, I am making progress overall, even if that progress is slow. Slow but real progress is better than false progress, temporary fragile progress, or no progress at all.

State of the World

I am very worried about the BP oil situation in the Gulf and its environmental repercussions. I am also worried about the financial crisis.

I hold out hope that these problems are a wake-up call that will precipitate positive changes.

And I am ever alert to ways that I can, in my own daily life, encourage a more positive future.


  1. Warm greetings from eight time zones away, and thanks for the catchup!!

  2. Glad you haven't given up on me, Johan! We are having a beautiful spring here, and I hope you are too!