Thursday, September 01, 2022

Major Tom to Ground Control...

 Or lack thereof?

I'm usually moderately excited to be teaching new courses every fall, to be seeing students, and so on.  Planning my courses is usually fairly pleasurable; it's like a fantasy: what can we do this semester?  what can we learn?

This year feels different.  I just don't want to prep.  I've procrastinated about prepping my class way longer than I should.  (There's still plenty of time; I'm about half done, and my first class isn't until Wednesday next.)

Every afternoon lately, as I walk across the big shot parking lot next to my building (the big shots all have numbered slots in this special lot, which is why I knew that certain officials were rarely on campus last year and such), I just feel like I want to cry.  It's not quite at the point of actual tears, but close.  Why?

I don't feel like crying when I get up in the morning, when I go to work, while I'm at work... it's walking across the lot leaving.


Our administrators are so very out of touch with the teaching side of thing, and let's be real, the teaching side of things is where the revenue happens, so even if you don't give a [expletive deleted] about educating students, it's still [expletive deleted] important.  Here's an example, only the latest:

Chairs are on contract for various percentages most of the summer.  Then in early August, there's a two week lapse.  (I don't know why, but it's there.)  And then two weeks before classes start, new contracts start (so we can do prep and have endless meetings).

Some administrator has decided that all chairs and above need "media training" so that we can talk to the press.  (Yeah, imagine how well that goes over in the Journalism department...)  One day into our "no contract" period, we all got this doodlepoll thing insisting that we'd been assigned to a three hour media training and should choose a time, yes, during the two weeks we weren't under contract.  They had all summer, and they just then urgently need us to do that?  I call BS.  And so did lots of other people.

I guess they were talked out of insisting on that meeting and told to wait until we're back under contract.  At which point, if they had good sense, they'd look at the schedule for the two weeks before classes start, find the times with fewest meetings, and send out a doodlepoll for a couple times before classes start.

Alas, no, they sent out a doodlepoll yesterday, insisting that we all pick a three hour timeslot during the second week of classes.  I'm guessing the deans and such are pretty much booked most days so there's no free three hour slots.  I have a couple, but two of the choices happen while I'm teaching, so that's a no.


On the other hand, here's hope:  we got a notification that there are practice fire drills coming up.  We have these every semester, and let's face it, practicing evacuating a building is important.  Mostly, the times are pre-announced and set up so that they hit the last 15 minutes of an hour, cutting 5 minutes of class time.  Except that most classes at 2 pm on MW don't also run Fridays, but run an hour and a half, because few students want to take class until 3pm on Friday.  The chosen time was 2:45, which is right in the middle of the 2-3:15 class time.

So, I wrote a short, polite note explaining that to the person who'd notified us, and got a polite note back saying they'd check into it, and then, miracle!  a note thanking me and saying they'd changed the time, and then a note to all of us indicating that the schedule had changed slightly.  So there's someone over there who's actually willing to think about teaching as important!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Retirement Meeting

I had a meeting with one of our HR folks about retirement stuff, making sure I understand what I need to understand, when to do things, and so on.  It was really good.

I found out approximately what my state pension will pay every month, and even better, learned how the very generous state sick-leave policy works in retirement.  Basically, if you're lucky enough not to need to take a lot of sick days, then the value of the unused sick days gets moved to pay for health insurance.  It pays for the group insurance until you hit 65 and get Medicare, and after that pays for the Medicare B part, until it runs out.  Mine will run out when I'm about 80, so that's pretty darned good.

Having read blogs for a longish time now, I have a feeling that the most interesting blogs are about someone's life in transition: grad school, new professor, new parent, and so on.  So I'm sort of hoping I'll feel a bit revitalized her as I transition into retirement.


Monday, August 22, 2022

Beginning Again, For the Last Time

 We've come back "under contract" now, and so it's time to get ready for the new school year.  We have two weeks til classes begin, so plenty of time.  And not.

This is my last fall getting ready for classes.  I thought I'd feel emotional, sad, teary, but not yet.  I tend to be fairly emotional about some things like that, so I'm pretty sure it will hit at some point.  But for now, it's not!

A couple of colleagues are asking for a special "take it easy on me" semester/year as far as service.  On one level I'm sympathetic.  On another level, I'm frustrated.  We've lost several people to service in other areas, an interim chair of another department, an interim administrative post, and all of a sudden, we're really hurting for committee roles.  And we need a senator.

Now to prepare for classes!

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Yes, Retiring!

Since a couple of people kindly asked, yes, indeed, I'm planning to retire during summer of 2023.

As to what I'll do when I retire?  I learned when I had sabbatical that I'll never be bored, so there's that.  

My local nature center has a bird banding program which I worked on during sabbatical.  I'd like to become way more involved.  I really liked the people, and the birds are endlessly fascinating.  I'd like to bird more, and since spring and fall are the best birding times around here, I haven't been able to much for a couple of years.

Some depends on covid etc.  In my dreams, I've always traveled a lot when I retire.  Will covid mean that's not really possible?

My dream travel: get an air bnb or something for a month or two in different places: a month in Barcelona, a month in Porto, a month in someplace in Italy, someplace in southern Germany, and so forth.  The idea would be to be away for two or three months, then come back and relax at home, then recharge, and off again.

Where's home?  That's a great question.  I really enjoy my house.  You may remember when I posted about having my old rug taken out, and then having hardwood floors put in.  Then the hardwood floors being darker made the house feel dark and sort of cave-like, so I picked new colors and a friend painted the interior for me (for pay, of course).  The thing is, every time I look at the yellow, I smile.  It's just happy.  The floors are beautiful, the house is very live-able, I love the colors.  Yes, it's too big, and yes we have winter.  But it's also fully paid off, so my expenses are real estate taxes, maintenance, and utilities.  Less than you might think.

But then, maybe I want to move back to where I'm from?  That's not clear at this point.  It's way expensive there.  But there's good weather year round, and family in the area, which I really enjoy.

We'll see.

If covid makes travel really untenable, then I may get a dog...

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Two Years In

 I've been chair for two years now, and am looking into the final year before I retire.  So this is a little weird.  Everything for the last time, to some extent: my classes, the chairing work, all that.

And yet I still feel like a beginner in so many ways.  All sorts of higher ed organizations have "becoming department chair" programs to help new chairs do a good job; I was signed up for one my first summer, but it was cancelled due to Covid.  Last summer new chairs got to go to them, but I didn't, so now I'm still behind in some ways. 

What I've learned by being chair.

1)  No one ever asks to talk to me about anything good.  If someone says "can I talk to you?" I brace myself, because there's no way it's ever good.  It may not be horrible, but it's never good.  No one says, "Can I talk to you?" and then reveals that their book just got published.  That's a quick email, and congratulations.  Or a chat in the hall and congratulations.

Recent "can I talk to you" issues:  1) I found a new job and won't be teaching in fall.  2)  I'm pregnant.  3)  I bought a house in a state far away and want to do all my work remotely.  

None of these things is about me at all, but all will make life more complicated and difficult for me (but at least I don't have to become a parent, which I've never wanted to be).

2)  Nothing is ever stable nor meant to be.  There's always turn over, always stuff that breaks down and needs to be replaced, always some new task coming from higher up that will take time in meaningless but frustrating ways.  There are two extreme ways to get around in trees.  1. Sloth: go slow and careful.  2.  Orangutan: take a swing and hope for the best.  I'm trying to be an Orang for most things.  Because the tree I'm in may get chopped down at any moment and I'd better be a moving target.

Sunday, July 31, 2022


It's been a while.

I sort of posted a what's up post in January.  My Mom spent the last of December and the first third of January in the hospital, and I extended my stay for almost two extra weeks.  Evidently, getting someone into a skilled nursing facility ("snif") over the holidays is pretty impossible.  But we finally got her transferred to her prefered place, a place she has life-care with.  

For the first few weeks, we hoped she'd actively do physical therapy and be able to stand up, walk to the toilet, and back, which was the minimum to go back to her independent living place.  She refused physical therapy, mostly, though, and that didn't happen.  

My amazing brother and I started talking about moving her stuff out of her apartment in March, but we both work full time, and live a plane ride away, and so, we finally got that done this past month.  (We--well, my Mom's accounts, managed by my brother--started paying double rent in April, I think, so that was ouchie.)

Between then and now, my brother has pretty much visited every second or third week, and I flew back at Spring break, in early June, and in late July.  My brother--did I mention he's amazing--has done a lot of the heavy lifting in arranging for things to be taken to a consignment place, getting furniture to relatives who wanted it, and so on and on.  

Our Mom's living the life no one really wants: sleeping mostly, unhappy, not really in pain but not always super comfortable, bedbound unless the staff gets her up (which they do).

Before my most recent visit, which was planned to coincide with my brother's visit so that we could do the final moving stuff, Mom had a thing and was hospitalized again, so my brother flew out a few days early, and I flew as planned.  

My Mom had a tube through her nose down into her stomach to drain it to try to clear a blockage, and it looked uncomfortable.  She didn't want it, but they put it in.  And at some point, she pulled it out, so they put it in again, put her hands in mitten-things, and restrained them so she couldn't pull it out again.

Which is when I appeared.  My brother and I had a meeting with her "team" who said that they could probably take the tube out, but then what should they do if she couldn't swallow (which, I guess, is a thing that sometimes happens to people who've had these tubes), because to feed her she'd need either to swallow herself, or a tube down her nose, or a tube surgically placed in her side, or IV, which has to be specially done for long term.

They'd asked her, and she didn't want surgery or tubes and wanted the tube removed and the mittens off.  And my brother and I concured.  (We're very lucky that we had these discussions a long time ago before they were too painful, and we're all on the same page.)

Anyway, they pulled the tube and we were allowed to give her ice chips for a while, and by the next morning she was willing to eat (if someone fed her), mostly soup and mac and cheese.  (We knew her favorites from the previous hospital stay.)

And the next day, they'd detached the IV (but the vein was still accessed), but she was still in the mittens.  So we talked to them, and said we were willing to take the risk of loss of access if they took out the IV, so that they could take off the mittens.  So they did that, and we took off the mittens, and life got a bit better for my Mom.

And then we had the harder discussion:  what to do if she got another blockage?  Take her to the hospital, do another nose tube in hopes of resolving it.  Or not.  She shook her head vehemently: no hospital, no tube.

And we agreed.

So, that's that.  For now things are stable, but they won't be forever.  

She's back at her nursing facility, and unhappy, mostly bedbound and so on again.

Sometimes she's scared and upset, and I have to tell myself that it's the dementia (which is off and on, and more confusion than total memory loss, except for short term memory).  It's horrid to talk to her when she's most scared/upset, and know that there's really nothing you can do to help.  Even if I were there, it wouldn't really help.

She talks about being scared that she won't see me (or my brother, his kids, etc) before she dies.  And at some point, that will inevitably be so.  But I can't really say that.

That's been a big part of my life of late. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Assessment = Grade?

 I was in one of those meetings with people where we were supposed to talk about assessment stuffs, and the question came up:  Assume you have three possible outcomes for a specific assessment bit, which is being assessed based on a given assignment, say an essay.

exceeds expectations

meets expectations/

doesn't meet expectations.

One of the people in the room said, basically, that meeting expectations meant the assignment was an A.

I tend to think more, meets expectations demonstrates competency, which is a C to start, though a B definitely meets expectations, too, and maybe an A exceeds expectations?

How do you and your colleagues talk about these?

Monday, March 28, 2022

Been a While

We just finished spring break, but it didn't feel like much of a break.  I went to visit my Mom and things remain pretty much as they are.  Sometimes she's confused, sometimes not.  Sometimes she's unhappy, sometimes not.  This could go on for several years, and that's depressing as all get out.

I'm muddling through my chairness, trying to do the right thing, and hoping I'm not hopelessly naive.  We're doing a couple of searches in various ways, one of which is very complicated and political, and I feel like I'm about to walk into a metaphorical minefield.  Which is better than a real minefield, of course.

One of the searches, in multiethnic basketweaving is especially complicated.  Multiethnic basketweaving has a few courses in common with underwater basketweaving, but others not.  So, the current director of that program was in underwater basketweaving for many years, and wants the underwater basketweaving department to do a search for a specialist in multiethnic underwater basketweaving for when they retire.  

But admin wants to do a search in multiethnic basketweaving for an adjunct. 

Here's what the admin folks say:  adjuncts here teach 15 credits a semester, so that would be 5 courses in multiethnic basketweaving.  One or two of those could be our cross-listed courses in multiethnic underwater basketweaving.  The others would include multiethnic dry basketweaving, history of multiethnic basketweaving, and so forth, a wide variety of courses.

These courses would all count for general education, and the thing is, we offer, say, 1000 seats in GE, and students need 1000 seats in GE, so they take what's available, even if they hadn't really wanted to.  That means that there would be 5 GE courses that would pretty much fill.  And if the adjunct is a good teacher, ideally, then more people might decide that multiethnic basketweaving really IS a fascinating area of study and maybe they'd do their major or minor in it.  And it would grow.  And that would give the administration a way to argue for hiring a tenure track person in the area (who would teach 4 courses a semester, instead of 5, all in MEBW.

BUT, if we hire a tenure track person into Underwater Basketweaving, then half their load is intro to UWB, and they'd only be able to offer 2 MEBW courses a semester.  So the bang for the buck is, from the administrator's point of view, far less.

It WOULD be great to have intro UWB taught from a multiethnic perspective, of course.

So, I may be naive, and this may be the administrator's way of killing off MEBW here.

And the current person, who's a multiethnic underwater basketweaving specialist isn't convinced that a person who's, say, a multiethnic dry basketweaving specialist could also do a good job teaching multiethnic underwater basketweaving.  It's a massive field, and that's a big ask, seems like.

But at any rate, I'm pretty sure the admin isn't going to hire an adjunct AND give us a tenure track search next year.  And they've got the ad for the adjunct up, and both the current person and I are on the search committee.  

This should be fun.

Friday, February 04, 2022

Wandering in the Wasteland

Things continue on.  My Mom's really not improving, and my expectations are that she won't.  

My brother is amazing, and continues to be.  My aunts (both retired) who live near her are great.  They've been wonderful all along, but they also make me a bit frustrated at times.

One of them talked to her on the phone, texted our group, and then asked in the group text if I hadn't called that day.  I'd just gotten home from work, sat down for a bit, talked to my brother on the phone (about my Mom)... and the text.  Nope, I hadn't called.  I was at work mostly, and then barely got home from a tiring day.

So I called.  My Mom's sort of closed off sometimes.  She sounded reasonably alert, and said she was happy to hear from me, and when was I coming (I'm not any time soon because flying half way across the country to expose myself (and her, and others in her care center) to covid so that I can visit for a couple hours before flying back to be at work just isn't really workable).  And then she asked about my brother, and would I have him call her.  She wanted  me to do that then, so I said okay, said goodbye, and texted the group about the call.  (From his text a bit later, he called and had a nice chat.)


We're at the end of our first week of classes.  So far, so good.  My intro to lit class students are so far pretty engaged and interested.  I'm enjoying our discussions.  I hope they are, too.


Covid continues to suck.  We all put a ton of energy into trying to work around problems and through problems and so on.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Reporting on Reports

Thanks for the kind words everyone.  Things with my Mom are stable in terms of physical health, but up and down in terms of mental stuff.  Let me say: my brother is truly a rock in the best ways.

I had a meeting yesterday to help me do a report on our assessment reports.  I have two to do, one for college stuff, and one for our programs.  The college one is due first.

The person helping me spent about 45 minutes talking about how to do this massive, complicated excel database form.  And then mentioned that I could use the same form I used last year if I wanted.  It's a pretty simple form.  The difference is that if you use the new excel form, then you only have to work with one document, and once you enter everything, you can basically pick up back up next year to update.  So that would be good.  But it's incredibly complicated, and I suck at doing more than basic database stuff with excel.

I had a meeting earlier this week with admissions.  I thought the meeting was going to be them telling me things.  But instead, I found out once there that I was supposed to tell them all about my department.  So off I went.  I wish I'd been better prepared.

I still need to work on my syllabus.  That's going to happen this afternoon, is the plan.  I hate not having it done yet.  Classes start Monday.  I wonder when my break is supposed to happen?

I seem to spend a fair bit of time in any given week comforting various faculty/instructional people about stuff.  It's important, but it's a lot of time and energy.  I wonder if the time/energy investments for this comfort were the same before covid?

Monday, January 17, 2022

Slogging through Winter

 Mom's in rehab, doing... okay.  She's more confused than she'd been before, but things seem to be improving somewhat.  She doesn't want to be there, but sometimes says no to physical therapy.

And mostly, she's scared about spending the rest of her life in a wheelchair/bedridden in a place in partial covid lockdown where no one can come to see her except her kids who live far from convenient visiting distance.

Meanwhile, I have so many school tasks that need need need to be done, and so little feeling like doing them.

1  Reviews of the contingent folks so that we can order them in case there's not enough teaching for everyone.  This is hard work, and the idea that it might lead to someone not having employment sucks.

2  I have to do an annual review on a scale of 1-4 of everyone I "supervise" in case we get a raise next year.  Typically, we don't.  But every so often the legislature votes university employees a raise.  Usually it's 2% max.  If it's 2% or less, anyone reviewed at a "solid performer" level (2 on the scale) gets the 2% bump.  If it's more than 2%, then there's merit involved.  But I don't remember the last time we got more than 2%.

3  I have a class to plan.  Usually this is a joy, but what with knowing that we may go on line or need to support students who get covid or have to quarantine, it's going to be hard.

4  I'm so far out of shape that I'm upset about it.  It's to the point where I just need to sit on the trainer bike for 15 minutes of pedaling every day, or take a walk, or something something anything to get moving.  This is all the more upsetting because of my Mom's condition.  And because someday I'd like to be able to travel, but deep down I worry that I never really will because covid and climate change...

Sunday, January 09, 2022


Things are better...

There was a lot of sitting around in my Mom's hospital room waiting.  And then more waiting.

On Thursday, they finally were able to transfer her to the rehab/nursing facility we wanted, and they'd started reducing her dosage of the one drug, and she'll have her last dose today (Monday).  (I guess it's a thing where they taper people off rather than going cold turkey?)

At the rehab place, the doctor looked at the discharge information and told my brother that he thought that drug might be causing drowsiness.  (My brother came Thursday evening, and is staying through the weekend to help her get settled.)

I came home on Saturday, and got ready for a full week of work.

My Mom was still really drowsy all day Sunday, so here's hoping that she starts being less drowsy.

Thanks for all the kind thoughts for us.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Much Better

Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

Today was much better.  My Mom fed herself her meals, and ate them well.  (Yesterday she'd eat a few bites but not feed herself, and then fall asleep.)

She got out of bed, talked to my brother on the phone, and ate dinner in a chair.  And then was totally ready to sleep.

The doctor noticed the change, as did the nurses.  And me.

The one drug they think it might be was reduced today, and dosed tonight.  So we'll see how she is tomorrow.