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Welcome to the Cauldron, @beinspired1, @JoanneWadsworth, @Monica_H_Bouman, @eminethe1st, @etingen, ararecat, @dawntegwen, @coulls, and @cmthomas!

In My Head: I hope DD#1 wakes up feverless; this is not the week for sickness to descend!

In the Cup: Yuban dark roast with a splash of almond milk

Currently Playing: The Bob Moog Foundation: Mooged Out Asheville, Volume 2

Daily Run: According to Google Maps I did 5 miles, but I’m not buying it, because I was only out there for about 43 minutes and I haven’t been running enough lately to be going that fast.

On the Desk: my term paper on Human Rights and Human Responsibilities; drafting on Merrin Born

On the Nightstand: Mahoney, The Challenge of Human Rights; Carroll, Cultures of Violence; Fenster & Smail, Fama: Politics of Talk & Reputation in Medieval Europe; Allegory and Violence; Chivalry, Maurice Keen

BPAL of the Day: Blood Rose

Just for the rest of this week, somebody remind me to breathe, and somebody else remind me to return the ILL books, and somebody besides those two remind me to eat something, and I also need someone to remind me that this was my idea. Also, we should probably line somebody up to make sure I remember to shower and use deodorant. Thanks in advance….

Oh, of course I am exaggerating. But not by much. I told my DH two weeks ago Sunday “the next three weeks are going to suck, unequivocally, and just don’t expect anything from me, at all.” I was thinking that would give me the cushion I needed to be splendid and fabulous when I exceeded expectations by juggling everything far better than I had led him to believe I would — but, as it turns out, I was just being uncannily prescient. The last 2.5 weeks of the term are definitely the worst, and I haven’t had the chance to come up for air yet. I had 2 oral presentations, 2, 20-page papers, and a 20-page portfolio to complete. So far, I have completed the presentations, one of the papers (although it is up for critique and revisions, so don’t count those chickens hatched just yet) and the portfolio; just one paper to go, and I’m 9 pages into it.

But.

BUT.

Those nine pages may have to be completely rewritten — and I mean, toss them out and start over completely. And that paper is due Thursday night. Today is a full workday, all the way through 6:30 p.m., and tomorrow night I have a 3 hour seminar, which essentially leaves 2.5 days to work on this paper. I started working on it 3 weeks ago. I worked on it all day yesterday. It is giving me utter fits. And now, I may have to scrap everything I have and start over again, with fewer than 3 days to finish it out properly.

This is entirely my own fault. I was the genius who came up with the topic; I was the innovative thinker who went beyond the bounds of the course to come up with something no one has ever done with this subject matter; I was the one who just had to go out on the limb and experiment, to test my boundaries, to see what I could do with the material. And do you know what I have learned?

I have learned that I’m kind of a terrible first-year doctoral student. I mean — don’t get me wrong, the original thinking and all is fabulous. They definitely want the original thinking to be going on. But for final papers for classes, the wise first-year taking a course outside her general purview would stick to a close reading of something on the syllabus, or a review of current theoretical trends in the field, or a comparative approach using two or three different modes of witnessing to look at a text. I am Not Wise. I am an overachieving, doing-too-much, overextended bundle of stress.

I came to this realization on Saturday morning, when I was reeling in a particularly tricky bit of thinking, playing with it, letting it tire itself out, trying to land it… and then (as you probably have already guessed):

“Mommy? Good morning, Mommy! Can I watch My Little Pony?”

Where my academic scholarship and my daughters' My Little Pony obsession intersect in not-so-productive ways...

Where my academic scholarship and my daughters’ My Little Pony obsession intersect in not-so-productive ways…

Sayonara, Idea…. Sighing deeply, feeling hopeless, I turned to confront my super-happy, wide-awake youngest daughter: “Did you see Mommy thinking?”

“You were sitting at your computer but you weren’t typing anything. You said don’t interrupt when you are typing. But you weren’t typing.”

“Okay, new rules: This week, don’t talk to me at all when I am sitting in front of my computer. Okay?”

“Okay Mommy. Except…”

“Except WHAT?”

“Except, you’re always sitting at your computer, and I’m hungry. Do I have to be quiet when I’m hungry?”

There’s nothing like a 5 year old to make you feel like the Worst Mommy In The World, just when you are already feeling like the World’s Most Inadequate Scholar. “Okay, fine. Here’s what’s going to happen. Go get your sister. Wake her up. I am going to make you both breakfast. And then you have to be quiet and let Mommy think, okay?”

“Okay, Mommy. But can I have a PBJ for breakfast?”

“You’ll have what I make, and no whining about it.”

“And can I have a story, too?”

Sighing, and looking longingly at my computer, with the half-finished sentence waiting for my mind to string together a series of tricky points into a coherent and easily comprehensible statement to complete it, I stood up. “Okay, here’s how this is going to go: I will make you breakfast, and then you are going to get a snuggle and story each, and then you are going to go into your room and leave Mommy alone until you are told otherwise, is that clear?”

“Okay, Mommy. But I want a PBJ. Can I have two stories?”

So, I went about the business of getting breakfast, and snuggling, and reading; and it was 8, and then 9, and then 10, and DH was supposed to wake up and take them somewhere so I would have time to work on my paper, and half the day was gone, and finally I begged them to go to their room and watch something on the Wii and let me get back to work, because I MADE them breakfast, and SNUGGLED, and READ to them, and now I needed Mommy time to get my work done. But the girls — as all children are wont to do — sensed my stress and reacted by whining and clinging, until finally I sat them both down on the couch:

“Okay, I need you to listen to me. Listen Very Carefully, okay? This week is a Bad Week for Mommy, because she is writing a really hard paper. She needs to think. This is the hardest kind of thinking a human being can do, and you are not letting Mommy do it. See, Mommy has some ideas that are lurking in the corners of her head, and she’s trying to draw them out, and it’s like fishing. Virginia Woolf came up with that analogy, and she’s absolutely right. And I’ve been sitting here for hours trying to catch the fish, and when you talk, the fish” — here, I paused, for dramatic effect –¬† “GOES AWAY. And then Mommy is really stressed out, because it takes her such a long time to catch these particular fish, and this paper is due in four days. And if I don’t write my papers, I can’t stay in graduate school, and the whole point of being here and moving and leaving our old home and friends and lives is for Mommy to be here writing these papers. So, you have to be quiet so Mommy can catch her ideas, okay? OKAY?”

Well, that did not have the desired effect; they started giggling, because Mommy has fish in her head.

DH, aroused and attracted to the site of carnage by the noise,¬† laughed at me: “They’re 5 and 8 years old. They’re not going to understand Virginia Woolf, Love.”

THEY HAVE TO UNDERSTAND VIRGINIA WOOLF!”

I glared at Benedict Arnold. “I am trying to write this paper so I can get it done so we can all be one happy family again and I don’t have it hanging over my head, and I haven’t had any time to work on this one in a week because I had to teach and work in the writing center and go to classes and be the mommy and finish the two presentations and the portfolio and the other paper, and you said you were going to take them hiking to get them out of the house so I could think today but you slept in until ten because you stayed up too late so (pointing at DD#1) she’s not helping because she is too happy and chatty and (pointing to DD#2) she is not helping because she is too whiny and (pointing at DH#1)you are definitely not helping because you knew I had a deadline and I needed time and space to think and you went right on ahead and stayed up too late and slept in and now I’m using all my energy being stressed out and frustrated instead of getting this done and my mind is going to be too tired to think the way it needs to think to catch the fish and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT!”

“Does Mommy need a hug?” DD#1 unexpectedly asked just then. The room went silent. We all stared at her for a moment; me, incredulous because she interrupted my Very Serious Talk, and DH and DD#2 looking at her in consternation: ohmigod, you poked the bear!

“Anna, I don’t think Mommy wants to be interrupted,” DH finally said in a very quiet voice.

I glared at her for a second, and then felt tears spring to my eyes: “Actually, yes. I DO need a hug. Thank you.” And I got not one hug, but several. And DH was properly apologetic about breaking his promise to get up and take the girls for the day so I could finish, and it ended up being okay because I never got back to working on the paper anyhow, because my thinking about the topic changed too much and I spent the rest of the day working out the new line of thought instead of drafting — but on the other hand, the new line of thought is more workable than the old one was, so that’s probably a good thing.

And that was when I realized, that I probably should have stuck closer to the syllabus instead of trying to catch the really hard fish my first time in the boat. Fortunately, I have a loving and supportive family to get me through these errors in judgment and remind me that sometimes, snuggling in the papasan chair and reading The Monster at the End of this Book is a better way to solve my mental block than sitting in front of a computer freaking out over how to define and use subject positions in a term paper.

Somebody remind me to ease up on term papers in the future, okay?

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