Dispatches from grading hell.

November 27, 2007

Well, we’ve come to *that* point in the semester.

I am in the middle of a batch of 23 short (3-5pp) papers. I have graded 11 of them so far. The students really must get them back on Thursday, because they have a big research paper due in two weeks, and they really need the feedback on this last short paper before they turn their full attention to the longer one.

On Thursday, I am getting about 18 more, slightly longer (4-6pp), papers from a different class, and then perhaps 6 more on Monday from the people who requested an extended deadline. Those papers ideally will need to be graded by next Monday, but probably won’t be completely finished until Thursday, December 6th. Oh, and I’m sitting on a batch of 20 one-page responses from that class that I should have returned already. Those have fallen to the bottom of the queue, though.

The only good thing about grading the current batch of papers is that many of them are revisions of a prior paper, so they are easy to get through. About two thirds are revisions, and one third address a new topic. Doing the revisions first has allowed me to get through a lot of papers fast, even though I didn’t even begin grading until 11:00am today.

I also do something that many other academics swear by–saving the better papers for last. That way, as you get more exhausted from grading, the grading gets easier, because the papers overall are better towards the end. I grade in sets of three at a time before taking a break (you know, to check email or eat a snack or post to my blog), and I’m at the point, now, where the next set of three contains the last really “bad” papers in the batch. The really GOOD papers are still far away, papers #20, 21, 22, 23 or thereabouts, but papers #12 and 13 are the last of the groan-worthy ones. Paper 14 promises to be decent, as a reward for getting through #12 and #13. And then from there everything should be a bit more bearable.

Is this the most boring post ever? I’m sure it is. Sorry. But here’s something exciting: my RE appointment is tomorrow morning! Expect a full report this weekend, when hopefully I will have more time to blog.

Okay, I’m heading back in to suffer through paper #12, which promises to be just AWFUL. Sigh.

World of random

November 20, 2007

I am feeling very scattered today, hence the title (and structure) of this post. But very happy, too–excited about life, which is a nice way to feel. I guess you could even say I’m feeling completely thankful for what I have right now, which seems apropos. Here are some reasons why:

1. By way of a further update on my last post, my “boyfriend” R and I had a fantastic heart-to-heart yesterday, and kind of resolved some lingering questions about who we are to each other. I really do think we’re going to be great, great (platonic) friends, which makes me very happy. And G has been a true saint as I worked all of this out. He knows he has nothing to worry about, but still, I don’t know if I could have been as patient as he’s been. More proof that I married the best guy in the world.

2. Thanksgiving! Whee! My in-laws are coming for the weekend, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them. I’m also looking forward to cooking the big Thanksgiving dinner–it’s my first time doing this kind of dinner on Thanksgiving, but I’ve made similar dinners before. Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans was a standard Sunday dinner for us for ages last year. I know roasting a 4-lb chicken and roasting a 10-lb turkey are not the same thing, but I’m still pretty sure I can handle it. And it’s low stakes–we thought a couple of other people would be coming, but turns out there will only be the four of us, so if something goes horribly wrong, we can just get pizza.

On a related note, this afternoon I bought some fancy zinfandel to serve with the turkey that I’m super-excited to taste. I also bought a bottle of this, which is a zin I already know and like, though I’ve only had it a few times. I may be more excited about the Thanksgiving wines than I am about the food/desserts.

3. T-minus 8 days until my first appointment with the RE. Finally, getting somewhere! When I first made the appointment I was pretty nervous and anxious about it, but now I’m just curious. Bring on the blood tests! Tell me EXACTLY what’s going on in there, doctor lady. I am also feeling very good, reproductively, because I just had the lightest, shortest period EVER in my life. Except for periods that I had while on the Pill, but those don’t count, since they’re not “real.” (For the record, for me, “short”=five days. And “light”=able to wear a super plus plus tampon for a full four hours in a row on my heaviest day. So, neither short nor light, by objective standards, hence I emphasize the “in my life” part). I’m hoping this shorter, lighter period means my overall health is better than it used to be, and that my body’s getting more prepared for this pregnancy thing.

4. I have been downloading a lot of music, and really enjoying it. Right this very instant I am listening to One Republic, who kind of sound just like The Fray, only better. And I really like The Fray! So I am loving One Republic’s album. I’ve also been listening to Alicia Keys’s new one, which has some great tracks on it, apart from the two that have been released as singles. My favorite might be “I Need You,” closely followed by “Wreckless Love” and “Go Ahead.”

As far as hip hop goes, Little Brother’s Getback and Jay-Z’s American Gangster CD have also been getting heavy rotation on my iPod, and I am loving the way they both are using these super lush, soulful, very 1970s tracks behind their lyrics–Jay-Z because he was inspired by the Denzel/Russel Crowe flick of the same name, Little Brother I guess because that’s a part of their southern/urban/down-to-earth/political style.

So, anyway, I am loving it! Sometimes I just break out into broad smiles on the subway while listening to some of my favorite stuff. Have you ever considered how much less interesting life would be without music? I sometimes find it amazing that people are able to make more music that moves me, when there is already so much great music out there, much of it made decades ago. I could just live for the rest of my life on the collected pre-1985 oeuvres of Stevie Wonder and Prince alone, I think, but what’s great is I can have that music AND the new music too.

Life’s an embarrassment of riches, I tell you. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

And complicated. I’m not sure it makes me look very good, either. It has a happy ending, though, I promise. (Oh, by the way, Flo abruptly showed her red face this morning, after absolutely zero advance spotting yesterday or last night. This seems to be the new, no-nonsense way that my periods are arriving–and departing–now that I’m 30 lbs thinner and exercising regularly. And if I ovulated when I think I did, I’m back to at least an 11 day luteal phase, if not 12. Which can’t be a bad thing, can it?)

Ok, so on to the actual story–

There is a guy, let’s call him R, that I knew through academic channels many years ago–perhaps the last time I saw him before catching up again recently was in 2002, right around the time I met and started dating G. Back then, R and I were friendly but not friends, had some mutual friends in common, but never spent much real time together, beyond a few intense, thoughtful conversations at conferences. I felt very drawn to him, but not exactly in a sexual way (although not exactly not, either), just something almost mysterious or cosmic, like I’d known him in another life or something. But we lost touch, and stopped running into each other, and I pretty much forgot about him for many years.

Enter my recent trip to Savannah for another related conference, where I saw R (and lots of other old friends) again, after all these years. Turns out, he just got a new job in NYC and is moving here soon with his partner, and is already in and out of the city a lot preparing for that. While we were in Georgia, R and I and a bunch of other folks had a grand old time hanging out and catching up. Then, when I got back, R and I ended up exchanging a few friendly emails, and planned to meet in the city for drinks, and then, well, things took a turn for the flirtatious. Nothing explicit or particularly scandalous, but once we realized in the course of conversation that there had been a mutual attraction many years ago (for some reason we’d each been unaware of the other’s thoughts back then), things got a little complicated.

This might be a good point to interject that I am HAPPILY married. As in, beyond happy, as in, I sincerely believe G is my soul mate, and quite possibly the only person on earth who would put up with me, the real me, and certainly the only person that I could love to this degree. I also feel like my relationship with G was fated to happen (more on that later). Naturally, I felt incredibly guilty about this situation with R, and so I did the only thing I could do–I confessed to G. Given that he is the most incredible, wise, and laid back man on the planet, he responded with something along the lines of: “Oh please, that’s your big confession? It’s natural to feel attracted to other people, and also crazy to think that getting married would mean you never thought about anyone else besides your spouse.” Cue big sigh of relief on my part. G also said that it would be silly to cancel the drinks plans with R, which I had thought maybe I should. He made it very clear that he trusts me, just as I trust him. I feel very lucky to have a relationship that is so solidly built on trust and honesty and mutual respect, and I want to make sure that I continue to merit that trust.

So, like most things that start out as serious “issues” with G and me, once it was out in the open this became a pretty hilarious joke between us–G would tease me about my “boyfriend” (almost literally a boy; did I mention R is about 4 years younger than I am?) and we plotted together about what kind of sexy-but-not-trashy outfit I should wear on my “date”–and finally yesterday, the day of the big date, arrived. And it was fun! R and I flirted, yes, and had a great conversation, but it was always very clear that I didn’t and don’t intend to do anything that would cross a line. R drove me back to our place, so I even brought him upstairs to meet G.

Ultimately the reason that R and I like each other, I think, is that we are a lot alike. Not only are we both Capricorns, birthdays within a week of one another, but (and probably more importantly) we’re both academics, looking at the world in a certain way, talking and thinking in what G, who is not an academic, calls “parentheses and italics.” R’s partner–whom I haven’t yet met, but hope to, although she’s practically a mewling infant, at eight years younger than I am–is also not an academic, and I wonder whether R and I both like the idea of relating to someone of the opposite sex with whom we can really connect intellectually. Half of our flirtation is philosophical discussions over email of things like Freudian versus Lacanian desire. That is not the kind of conversation I can have with G, and that has always been okay with me. G is an incredibly intelligent person, and that’s not at issue here–he just doesn’t perform intellect the way that we academics sometimes do, with all of the jargon and posturing and unnecessary obfuscation.

I had always, not just with G, but really ever since I started trying to escape the “nerd” label as a 17 year old college freshman, compartmentalized my intellectual performance side and my social side, doing my jargon-y academic thing in the classroom and later, in professional settings, but putting it aside, for the most part, when I was “off the clock.” R made me realize how fun it can be to let Academic-Performance-Cityprof out of her cage in the off-hours too.

But I came away from my platonic date with R feeling even happier about my life with G. The more time I spend talking to/hanging with R, the more clear it is to me that I chose my husband well. One reason of many: R has no sense of humor. Or, well, that’s not entirely accurate. He has a passable sense of humor, meaning he’ll laugh at what’s humorous, but he’s not CRAZY FUNNY, like G is. I could go on for pages about how and why G is so freaking hilarious. He’s an incredible mimic, and can capture almost any accent or pattern of speech in an uncanny way, which makes for amazingly funny impressions of people. He is incredibly observant, and both of us love to people watch and crack jokes on strangers (does this make us mean? we make sure we’re not overheard, though). Plus his wit is sharp, way sharper than mine, which means he can play the dozens like a champ–not so much with the Yo Mama jokes, no, but sweetly barbed Seinfeld-esque quips, oh, yes. And isn’t that the language of love? I cracked one little joke* at R while we were out and he practically fainted, poor thing. Intellect without sarcastic humor is like peanut butter without jelly, as far as I’m concerned. Tasty, but kind of dry and sticky if you get too much of it.

So after R got the tour of our place, chatted for a few, and took his leave, G and I ate a little dinner and hung out, and somehow we ended up pulling out some old photo albums from my college and grad school days. And there, in a series of photos from 1998 or 1999, several years before I’d officially met G, there was a photo of him in my photo album! Maybe this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but I was so amazed–I have always claimed that I’d met G once, briefly on the street in front of a famous Brooklyn restaurant a few years before we’d really “met,” and that even then I’d thought he was incredibly cute but also thought he’d seemed unavailable.** But G, of course, had absolutely no recollection of said pre-meeting meeting, and I think always kind of doubted that this random guy I had met was actually him. Even I had some doubts in my mind–was my memory really that good, that some guy I had talked to for fewer than 30 seconds back in 1998 was the same guy that I ended up falling in love with in 2002?

Well, ten years ago I was ALWAYS taking pictures, especially of people I found attractive, and it turns out that while I was hanging out with my girlfriend that day in 1998, the day that we ran into G briefly on the street, I had my camera in tow per usual. And snapped a photo–two, actually! One of G alone, and one of him talking to her. And those photos were right there in my old photo album, which I clearly had not opened since at least 2002, because I had no idea. Isn’t that just bizarre?

And it’s probably ridiculous, but that was a crazy kind of confirmation for me of how fated G and me are. We were meant to meet when we did, and probably not before. And we are SO good together, and there was some part of me even in 1998, when I was very far from being ready for him, or he for me, that recognized him and wanted to capture his image for posterity. I think that’s pretty cool. Not to mention cool, finally, to have documented proof that I DID meet him way back in the day, and wasn’t just imagining it to have a romantic/funny story to tell.

So that’s my happy ending. R is a swell guy, and I actually hope we can be good friends, but G is my true home in life. I have the photographic evidence!

*totally a garden-variety tease of the type that G and I trade back and forth all day and night. R had black mitten-gloves on on Wednesday, those gloves that are mostly fingerless but have a mitten top that folds over to cover your fingers in the cold–MITTENS! on a grown man!–and it was 60 degrees out that day, by the way. He also had on a hoodie and leather jacket. (whaa???). Me, joke voice: “What are you, a hobo? You’re wearing fingerless gloves?” Him, smiling, but slightly wounded voice: “Well, I was cold.” Me: “Yeah, I can see that.” (Cue surreptitious eyeroll. I mean, really. Step it up, man, if you want to hang with me. I can’t have a pretend-boyfriend who can’t take a joke!)

**full disclosure: “unavailable”=gay, which he obviously turned out not to be.

Drive-by posting

November 15, 2007

No time for a real post, but updating to note that Flo is still absent, but I’m feeling a bit crampy this morning. By my rough estimation I’m only 11dpo, anyway, on CD28–that would still be my longest cycle in a while, assuming I make it through today without seeing red, given that my recent cycles have been 23-25 days. Shall keep you posted, dear reader, and also tell you all about the “date” I had last night, when I have more time to write.

On not dieting.

November 13, 2007

Aunt Flo Update: No signs yet, but I’m guessing that if I continue to post, she’ll arrive eventually.

I’ve had a good eating day today. This morning, after my post-workout banana, I made myself a 3-egg omelet with prosciutto and asiago cheese. Heaven! And only 400 calories. Now, as I type this, I am sitting here eating three of the most delicious things on earth:

1. Bucheron goat cheese, with that incredibly oozy, creamy edge, near the rind, and that tangy, chalky, slightly salty, chevre-like center that makes for such a transcendent texture and flavor combination;

2. double-cream Brie. not even triple-cream, and not even a particularly special Brie–in fact, quite ordinary–but still, even an ordinary Brie is practically ambrosia, especially when you eat it with #3, below;

3. this:
Bonne Maman raspberry preserves are the most delicious jam, jelly or otherwise fruit-related product I have ever tasted. If you can believe it, I had never tried them before this Sunday. Of course, I had seen them around at the various gourmet shops that I frequent, but there are always so many choices of things like preserves. How was I to know which to choose? I was never even that big on preserves, per se, being more of a grape jelly with peanut butter kind of girl before I became a foodie. And as a rule I like chocolatey sweet things, not fruity sweet things, so even though I am solidly a foodie now, I am late to explore the wonders of the sweetened fruit world.

These preserves, though–I picked them up because I knew we had cheeses 1 and 2 in our basket, and I read on a little card in the artisanal cheese case at our grocery store that these cheeses might well be served with preserves. Hmm, I thought, preserves. I was going to pick up some more complicated ones, with pear brandy in them, because I liked the packaging (and the idea of pear brandy) but G was with me, and he objected, on the grounds that those brandied preserves looked awfully full of seeds, like, overly full of seeds. So I picked up the Bonne Maman jar instead, and WOW am I glad I did so.

But the point of this post is not actually to wax poetic about these preserves (although really. Go get some for yourself, immediately. Just stop whatever you’re doing–which is probably wasting time on the Internet reading this blog–get on down to your local purveyor of fancy eats, and buy yourself a jar. You will not regret it, and you can finish reading this post later).

The point is that these foods are probably not what you might imagine a “dieter” eats. (They also might not be what you imagine someone who is TTC eats either, what with the whole soft cheese issue, but that’s a topic for another post–if it makes you feel any better, though, both cheeses were made with pasteurized milk, I checked). I am anti-diet, even though I count calories. Perversely, counting is what allows me to indulge.

An ounce of brie contains about 95 calories; I am eating about 3/4 of an ounce, which I know because I weighed the slice that I took before I started eating. I sliced off a full ounce of the boucheron, since goat cheese is closer to 80 calories per ounce. Half a tablespoon of preserves, which is plenty for this amount of cheese, is 25 calories, which puts me at a total of 180 calories for my “dessert” (I’d already eaten a bowl of Progresso canned chicken noodle soup for lunch, at 220 calories). So that’s a total of 400 calories for lunch and dessert, a very respectable, reasonable number by any dieting calculation.

Now, I know that one reason it is possible for me to put together a meal like this is that I am working from home today (ahem, depending on how you define “working”) and have the time literally to weigh my food. But I could certainly see myself packing up a few slices of cheese and some preserves in a little plastic container and bringing it to work with me, and if I had access to a microwave oven I could also bring along the soup. It’d likely be a lot tastier than anything on offer in the faculty dining room.

I have been eating (so-called) decadent, non-diet foods like this from fairly early on in the process this time around, and I think it’s the only reason I’ve been able to stick to calorie-counting long enough to lose 30 pounds. For one, I rarely feel deprived, because if I want something very rich that is a real food*, I go ahead and have a little bit of it. For another, I feel very empowered when I know how many calories are in things–it’s so much easier to choose how much of something to eat (or drink) when I have a sense of how many calories it contains, and the longer I consciously count calories, and the more real foods I cook and experiment with, the more of a sense I have about how many calories are in specific things.

Which makes it a lot easier to work in the foods that I love and still stay in a reasonable calorie range for the day.

I wonder if thin people know instinctively how to do this, or whether thin people just have higher metabolisms and can get away with not knowing and not paying attention. I don’t know. But paying attention does seem to be crucial, at least for me. I wouldn’t say I’m dieting, I’d say I’m eating way more mindfully. In earlier days, I might have sliced off twice as much cheese, not knowing how much I was eating (surely this big hunk the size of my head is an ounce?), and taken a handful of crackers, too (which I found unnecessary today). I might have run out of cheese before I ran out of crackers, or vice versa, so I’d have gone back for more of one or the other, and then I’d have felt compelled to finish it all merely because it was on my plate. And then I’d be stuffed, and sluggish, maybe too tired to exercise, maybe my stomach having expanded enough that I expected twice as much volume at my next meal, and my next.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me they could “never” measure their food or count calories consistently, but it took me less than ten seconds to weigh out an actual ounce (or less) of each cheese. I don’t get why more people don’t take the time to pay attention. I’m sure that sounds smug, and I don’t mean it to, but I guess I am sort of amazed that calorie counting has worked so well for me, especially since the effort of counting gets more and more minimal over time. Maybe I’m just lucky, though.


*To paraphrase an old article in the New York Times magazine, “real food” is something your grandmother, or possibly your great-grandmother, would recognize as food. Fruit, cheese, eggs, butter, meat, fish, vegetables, fresh bread, stuff like that. A few things that are, in my mind, decidedly NOT food: Twinkies, Cheetos, Doritos, Fritos, “Go-Gurt,” Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, “American” Cheese, and anything “watermelon-flavored.”