Monday, November 29, 2010

Refrain of the Week

This week, I'm thinking about taking a page from Melville's book and adopting a new refrain from Bartleby the Scrivener.

Thesis prospectus? I would prefer not to.

Please notify the department of your final thesis committee: I would prefer not to.

Final papers? I would prefer not to.

Off-month budgeting? I would prefer not to.

Planning for next year? I would prefer not to.

Making decisions? I would prefer not to.

It worked for Bartleby, right?


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Epic Thanksgiving in Two Parts

Thanksgiving is like a giant "Don't Panic" sign in the midst of a galaxy full of exam- and school-related Vogons.

Thanksgiving in the South, I might add, is a cultural experience unlike any other.

You Might Be at a Southern Potluck If... ask, "was that pimento cheese in my corn casserole?"
...walking by another woman carrying the same dessert is a travesty akin to seeing another woman in the same Dior dress. keep the peace, you must take a spoonful of each homemade applesauce. The respective owners will have a running tally of whose dish is emptier, and it might come to blows.
...watching what you eat means you forgo thirds and skip straight to dessert.
...the vegetarian option is to eat around the ham in the green bean casserole.
...normal laws of fractions don't apply when you eat "just a sliver" of multiple kinds of pie., eating, hospitality, and complimenting the cook are 100% still art forms.

Beyond the Bounty

(...the quilted quicker picker-upper)

Thanksgiving is definitely about more than the food, however. This year, I've managed to renew my fear and utter, complete, total, infinite loathing of the sound of styrofoam squeaking against itself. It brings back memories of easing frosted china figurines out of a thick shell of styrofoam for the family snow village. Fingernails on a chalkboard x 10 to the power of 10. Shiver.

What being the resident English grad student means is that I can't escape the Shakespeare recitation after Thanksgiving dinner, with its panicked mid-Julius Caesar memory check to make sure there are no sexual innuendos in the piece I've started declaiming.

There's also the glorious experience of sitting in Denny's and drinking enormous whipped-cream topped coffees with my sis and brother-to-be because nothing else is open on Thanksgiving evening. Let's not forget the small child in the restroom who looks through the crack in the stall door and asks "Who's that?"

On the way home, there's that magical moment of turning on Christmas music for the drive and singing along, loudly. With it comes the overnight multiplication of bundled up Christmas trees on other cars' roof racks. And knowing that I'm enjoying the warmth of bed while the madness of Black Friday shopping goes on without me.

The Don't Panic sign starts to blink feebly on Friday, and by Saturday, it's needing new batteries desperately. But after all, panic is the best motivation, and I can always justify the time off from schoolwork by saying confidently, "Imagine the time I'll save on eating during finals week because I'm still stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner(s)!"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today, I'm thankful for a lot of things.

.A family that cares deeply.
.Friends, old and new, in abundance.
.November sunshine after clouds.
.Autumn colors and the ability to see them.
.Four seasons.
.Good food, and plenty.
.The ability to notice beauty.
.Conversations, the deep and the light.

Too many to list, really.

What about you? What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Pal Potter

Not gonna lie, I'm a little excited about this. Just a little.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not Just Me Anymore

Well, it's happened. After twenty-plus years of questions about "anyone special?", I've finally found myself in a relationship.**

Sad to say, it's not been a healthy one. In fact, it's decidedly problematic.

But at least I've reached the point when I can finally admit it.

I, Jen, am in a very unhealthy relationship with this fellow called Time. You could call it co-dependent. Obsessive wouldn't be off the mark. Over-protective? Yep. Controlling? Oh yes.

See, My Time is not only the name of a racehorse in Walter Farley's Black Stallion series; it's also the most common way in which I approach time. As a result, I've developed a rather irritating refrain this year: I don't have time. I need more time.

This semester, in the midst of reading British novels like Jane Eyre and Frankenstein, I've noticed that one of the motifs I pick out is what I usually notate as "the tyranny of time." The characters in these novels structure their stories within a framework of time: they apologize for the passage of time unmarked; they initiate and conclude events by referencing the time of day; their subjectivity is closely linked to their appropriation of time.

If these literary characters are subject to the tyranny of time, I haven't got a prayer. Busy-ness is part of the contract in graduate school, and in one respect, it's non-negotiable. But I'm starting to think that there's a difference between treating time as something to be wrung, manipulated, fractured, and hoarded; and as something to be mindful of and to preserve wisely in order to be generous with.

When I'm sitting in my tiny metal cubicle at 3 a.m., I think about these things. But it's one thing to wax poetic about the tyranny of time and yet another to translate thought into action. How to make that distinction in a day-to-day life that flees past me from job to job and assignment to procrastination technique (i.e. blogging) is another matter all together.



Well, call me a geek, but what would it look like if, "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you"?

Given to, not owned by. Maybe that's a starting point.

Switching off the Internet might not be a bad idea either.

**Made you look. ;-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time is leaving us behind

The magic of Standard Time is that my body doesn't know about it.

Ergo, although it takes a little more effort to stay up at night, I'm now waking up (thank you internal alarm clock) a full hour earlier!


(theoretically, that is.)