Reinvention summer? Work summer!

While the pandemic was not all bad for my research– I broke some bad habits and somehow made it so I’m not the go-to person for students with problems anymore– I’ve also gained a lot of bad habits.

With travel starting again and a whole summer ahead of me and my pipeline looking like maybe there will be a gap in it in the future if I don’t do something, I’m going to swear before the blog that I’m going to try some stuff.

  1. Write 1 hour every (week)day.  I have papers that just need to get written.  I have literature reviews that need to be done.  Stuff doesn’t get out the door just as powerpoints.
  2. Email 1hr INCLUDING reading emailed lists of abstracts.  So… during the pandemic, I just stopped reading the weekly/monthly/quarterly summaries of working papers and published work that I get.  Instead I put them all in a folder called “TO READ”.  Once my final grades are in, I am going to start tackling that.  And the huge pile of paper versions I have in a pile on my desk.  If it is 3pm and I don’t feel like working– that is what I am going to do.
  3. Class prep.  I am supposed to be developing a new course that has something to do with my research but will also make.  I ordered textbooks for one of the possibilities months ago and I got a syllabus and reading list from a friend who teaches the other possibility (at Stanford!) but I need to read the textbooks and decide and make a syllabus and set up whatever class it is that I decide on.
  4. Exercise even if it is just a daily walk.  This is easy to do when I go into work and my walking buddy is also there, but I don’t know what her plans are this summer, and I need something for the days I stay home as well.  Both of our kids are also going to be home, so maybe I should do something that gets them out of the house too.  Perhaps it is time for DC1 to learn to unicycle.
  5. Wean myself off of sugar and refined carbs.  I’m so much more energetic when I’m not eating things that don’t play well with my PCOS.  I need to stop bringing them into the house.  (Exception:  DH/DC’s baking, food while traveling.)

So, that’s me trying to be productive this summer.  This does not include all the travel I’m doing this summer.  I don’t need to write or do email or class prep while I’m at a conference or on vacation.  But because I have that vacation, I do need to be productive while I’m not on it!  And I need to get things off my plate so I’m ready for new projects and possibilities.

Do you have any summer work goals?

February Challenge Update

Maybe I’m just doing this as an excuse to use the habit tracker I bought from jetpens and don’t need and to get to use DC2’s Zig dot marker.  There is something very satisfying about dotting a little box in a grid.  (Not sponsored, just addicted.)

Last week was a bit light, but this week is really heavy at work, so I did a bit more than one would expect last week in anticipation of not being able to do much this week.

  1. Donation to Donors Choose classroom (not in NYC or CA) that wants Maus (there are a lot of options now!).  I saw another story on books being banned.
  2. Donation to Donors Choose classroom (not in NYC or CA) that needs stuff for LGBT students.  More LGBT books banned.  This one got fully funded, and when I checked on it, they’d ended up not buying any of the LGBT swag because it was out of stock and they didn’t replace it.  So I did another search and found someone (not in NYC or CA) who wanted a book with “queer” in the title.
  3. One of my friends recommended donating to Trey J. Hunt because he is unopposed in his primary and he’s been spending a lot of time registering voters.  I don’t know if he has a chance against his evil Republican opponent, but I thought it was worth a donation, because if we don’t try, evil will definitely win.  (Feel free to let me know of any candidates you support and why in the comments– maybe I’ll throw them $25!)
  4. Elizabeth Warren sent me a convincing email about fighting for voters rights, so I sent her some cash too.
  5. Wrote 10 postcards to voters supporting Tracye Polson’s runoff election in FL.  I especially like the excuse to use the excess pens I’ve bought from jetpens.
  6. Read another article about books being banned, so supported a Donors Choose classroom that wants Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
  7. Read another article about books being banned, so supported a Donors Choose classroom that wants All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson.
  8. Proofread an activism newsletter before it was sent out.  (Also recommended a Donors Choose classroom specific to the newsletter locality as an action item.)
  9. Wrote 10 postcards to voters supporting Keturah Herron in KY.
  10. Donation to Donors Choose classroom (not in NYC or CA) that wants a copy of the 1619 project, which is apparently *banned* in several states by name, according to a news article I read.

Activism February Challenge

I am totally going to satisfice this.  I know there are optimal things that I could be doing, starting with figuring out what the current activist landscape is like, and other things that involve talking with people and organizing.  I’m not in a place to do that right now.  But I am in a place for baby steps!

My goal for this month is not to necessarily do something every day, but to have done 28 activism things by the end of the month.

Here’s some examples of things I will consider to be an “activism thing”:

  1. Write 10 post-cards to voters
  2. Donate $25 or more to a single activist cause
  3. Call my reps about an issue
  4. Find a Democratic candidate to support who is not in a competitive primary and donate to their campaign

I’m open to other suggestions!  Even if I don’t end up doing them, some member of the grumpy nation might think your suggestion is perfect for them!

Navel gazing on goals and midlife crises

It seems like everyone I read online is stepping back to focus on enjoying life and working less.

I’m not thrilled with my work right now and I’m not that interested in the projects I’m currently doing.  But I’m resisting this notion of purposefully cutting back.

The truth is, I like being busy.  I like accomplishing things.  I like *having accomplished* things.  I also like reading books and watching youtube videos and eating yummy food.  I like reading cookbooks, and if I don’t have much to do, cooking ranks as a hobby.  I think I enjoy the quiet life that I fit in around the edges of my job.  I love my little family to pieces– DH is my world, my kids are amazing, our cat is sweet and adorable.  Maybe not healthy, but they do bring me joy and make it extremely easy to practice daily mindfulness.  #blessed

The things I’m not currently delighted with (and could, indeed, be the subject of New Years resolutions or February challenges or just life goals in general) are 1. persistent work worries, 2. a feeling of fractured attention (ever since I got a cell phone 6 years ago… was it Trump or Twitter or both?), 3. a concern that I’m not doing enough activism, and 4. a general underlying feeling that I’m not particularly physically fit these days.  This last one seems both the easiest to address in terms of obvious actionable items but is also the one I care about the least. Though having problems with plantar fasciitis and injuring myself doing online yoga videos or calisthenics and so on have really shaken my underlying belief that I can, someday when I get around to it, just get back into shape.

The work worries are the biggest thing bothering me right now (besides things I can’t do as much about, *gestures at incipient fascism*).  Their two main things are 1.  I’m great at planning but am currently having difficulties with motivation which is kind of weird for me– in the past even if I’m not motivated to do one thing, I can productively procrastinate with how motivated that makes me to do other work.  #CatholicGuilt and 2.  Although I currently have two solid projects that are almost done (both literally need a week of work from a coauthor and a little pushing from me before getting sent out), I don’t have any big projects set up after that.  I have lots of little projects that me 6 years ago would never have even started because they’re so little, but they have student coauthors and grant funders and so on who deserve these smaller publications to be published.  Two of them are even currently R&R and just need to get DONE (the second R&R the student is working on, the first R&R the student has graduated, gotten a full time job, and had a baby so it’s all me.).  I know the path forward for these smaller projects and just need to get them out so I can start thinking big thoughts again and try to get back into the mindset of solid field journal paper in economics.  But I need space and time for that, and I think part of me is afraid of having that space and time in case I end up with nothing.  Which may be why I’m procrastinating on the smaller papers that need to get done.

And sometimes I wonder… I mean, I could just give it all up.  Give up my association memberships (including the new unexpected one), give up my identity as an economist, and I dunno, organize my house or something.  I find sorting things calming, so long as there’s a purpose to it and nobody unsorts it right away.  Then I could focus on stepping back and working less or something.  I mean, I really have nothing to step closer to.

I was brought up to believe that I should be productive, that I have gifts and I should be using those gifts to make the world a better place for other people.  I can do a LOT of that in my job– researching important topics with policy implications, mentoring students, mentoring junior faculty, teaching really well, removing students’ undeserved math phobia and building their (deserved) confidence, making sure that meetings are efficient and we actually move things forward based on best evidence (people who don’t remember meetings where this doesn’t happen don’t appreciate this last thing).  What if I were more selfish and just I dunno, spend the days cooking and reading novels?  (No gardening since I’m allergic to so many plants.)  Would I feel guilty?  Would I be unable to do it and end up throwing myself into volunteering and be miserable so doing?

Fractured attention– doomscrolling twitter is problematic.  I definitely feel more focused when I don’t start the day reading twitter.  But I can’t block it on my phone because of my stupid dual factor authentication software that I need for work.  Likewise I can’t just leave my phone elsewhere because of said software.  So although this seems like a simple thing to fix, it actually requires willpower.  I’m trying to think of if there is any device I could use for duo that doesn’t also have twitter… and … maybe my university has a usb fob that you can stick into some computers?  I don’t know if that works for the web-based things I need or just for logging into university computers, but I suppose I could try.  Looked it up– NOPE.  So, still need my phone.

Not doing enough activism.  Right now I’m not sure what I should be doing.  It was easier when other people were also doing activism.  It sounds like people are starting to get over being burned out, so this may be a place I can focus again.  I should make it clear– I do not enjoy doing activism.  This is something I hate doing.  It does not bring me joy.  But it is really important.  How best to do it right now, I don’t know.  But I do know it is really important and we are at a potential inflection point in the US and we cannot keep quiet or we may lose all the gains we’ve been fighting for for the past 50-100 years or more.  We need to protect our democracy and we need to protect vulnerable people.  The promise of the American Dream is in our hands.

And yeah, physical fitness.  Just needs time and probably money.  I should probably join co-Pilot like DH has and just do what the trainer says to do.  But I don’t wanna.  I do not want to.  So I will keep up with my desultory walking around and occasionally trying things until I hurt myself and give up.  I am being honest that this is not a priority.  And I’m sure there will be comments from people trying to talk me out of it (oh, but you will feel so much better in every other aspect of your life, oh all you need to do is X etc.), but all those will serve to do is vaguely irritate me.  I’m not a total lump.  My bloodwork numbers are fine.  I get my 10,000 steps in or whatever (though now while wearing slippers with arches instead of barefoot).  I will do whatever I do on physical fitness on my own timeframe.

So where does that leave me?  Still waiting for space, I think.  Still trying to find the perfect organizational system when really I know it’s not the organizing that’s the problem, it’s the willpower.  But I’ll get these papers in and coauthors will finish things, eventually.  And time will move forward.  And I’ve got some space this semester and even more next year.  I’ll be fine.

Here’s what Scalzi says about his New Years Planning:

2020 was the year a lot of things fell apart for me (and for everyone else, to be fair); 2021 was in many ways a year for me to rest and regroup; 2022 is hopefully the year I’ll start building some of the structures and practices that could carry on for me for the next several years.

Maybe that will be for me too… I just have to get some of these small projects out the door first.

Are you thinking of ramping up, cutting back, or reorganizing this year?

Challenge update: In which I fail

So this month’s February challenge, I said I was going to do two things:

  1. No devices in the morning.  (I added to this:  no social media in the morning, since getting up and going to my computer to check twitter isn’t great either)
  2. Write every morning

I did really well on the first.  And I think it helped.  I ended up spending less time on social media overall, which is good during my busy times.  I didn’t do as many phonecalls to politicians, but I think I still got the big stuff from activist emails and the short times I was on social media.

I crashed and burned on the second.  I did fine the first week, but then I didn’t have things to write because other things had to be done first before I could write and then I’d end up writing all day because the thing was due.  I’d have days filled with just teaching and service.  Early in February I had a melt-down in the hallway when my department head, after PROMISING there would be no more service this year given how much I’m already doing (and how little my next closest substitute is doing) asked me to do something again.  While I was in a faculty meeting last week I got 2 referee report requests and about 5 more things requiring attention.  I just don’t have the time or space right now to do regular writing in a fashion that makes sense.  I need space and time to set that up and that’s just not my life right now, even though it means I’m being more scattered and less productive flitting from thing to thing.  I sent out two referee reports, submitted an IRB, handled 3 editing jobs, was part of a grant, and submitted to two conferences… but none of that was in an orderly fashion and very little writing got done on any actual papers.  I have nothing under review right now which I HATE.

I’d like to try #2 again for March, but it’s March and all of my problems from February are still there.  I’m going to see what Spring Break brings.  Everything is still a mess.

I’m not sure what to do, but all that seems to have worked for me for February is to take things one day at a time based on next deadline.  I know that’s not efficient, but everything is so scattered that having a master plan just isn’t working because when any part changes everything else goes to heck.

What challenges do you like reading about and why?

I really like reading and hearing about no-spend challenges or buy-nothing-new and so on.

I like reading about how people’s lives are changed, with their relationship with “stuff” now different.  I like seeing people pay down debt with what they didn’t spend, or increase their savings (or vacation fund, or whatever they put the money towards that they value more than their gazingus pins or whatever they were buying habitually without really appreciating).  I can’t really seem to get tired of reading about people’s personal journeys with challenges that limit what they can buy.  Even their failures are instructional.  (I googled “no spend challenge” and it seems like it was really a THING back in January 2018!  But it’s still a thing even if not a THING.)

I don’t know WHY I like this brand of challenge so much.  A friend suggested it’s because I’m uber-frugal, and I’m like, so I like watching people challenge themselves at doing something I’m really good at!  (I’m not actually uber-frugal, given that we spend more than the median family makes each year, but conditional on our income one could make that argument.)  But that can’t be it.

Because I’m also REALLY good at reading novels.  Like SUPER good at reading novels.  And I find people’s novel reading challenges to be supremely boring.  Like, read 12 books a year or 30 or whatever.  I don’t count and I don’t get counting.  So me feeling superior is not it.  Though, I do kind of get a kick out of when people who read only white dood books do a “read only women authors” or “read only authors from underrepresented groups” challenge.  Because then they discover all these great books that they never knew existed, which is cool.  I do already read mostly women authors and a lot of underrepresented authors, but because the fact of bias in the publishing industry means that anything by an underrepresented group actually published is probably going to be better than average or it wouldn’t be published.  Similarly self-authored stuff is going to be better on average for the same reason– more underrepresented group people aren’t getting regular publishers because of bias so there’s higher quality.  So… that’s kind of selfish on my part even ignoring the benefits of diversity.  I’d love for a world in which mediocre books by underrepresented groups are also published just like they are with white authors, but we’re not there yet.

So I guess I like challenges when people’s eyes are opened and they learn something about themselves or about the world.  When challenges help people grow.

I do kind of like wheezywaiter‘s random challenges even when they don’t work.  Because I’m curious about people’s experiences with things even if they’re not things I’m going to want to do.  So it’s not just challenges that are likely to be successful and life-changing, but seeing what happens and what works.

I am not the only person in this world who loves reading about challenges.  I mean, that’s kind of wheezywaiter’s current brand right now, and it’s made his popularity go way up according to a couple of his videos.

But I don’t like all challenges.  Maybe the question is more about why I don’t like the reading some number of books challenges.  And maybe it’s just that I don’t like challenges that are about doing something fun.  Which makes sense– a few years back #2 did a read steampunk books challenge and she hated it.  Challenges take away fun from things that are already fun, but they add something to things that aren’t.  Sort of like taking that Jane Austen class in college was the last time I ever reread Pride and Prejudice without zombies, but it made Mansfield Park somewhat interesting.

Do you like to read/watch other people’s challenges?  What genres are your favorite?  Do you prefer doing or watching?

February snuck up on me: February Challenge, gotta get some stuff out

I am so far behind on everything, Grumpy Nation.

But… for the first time since NOVEMBER, my computer desktop at work is finally fully functional.  Like, I can use dropbox and WinSCP and not get a BSOD 5 minutes after logging in.  So… that’s a miracle.

February is the best month for challenges, even if there’s an extra day this year.

I’m going to combine two previous annual challenges:

1. 2018’s No Devices In The Morning Challenge

and

2. 2017’s Write Every Morning Challenge

I will be taking one weekend day off for the write in the morning challenge, which is good since I didn’t realize February 1st was February 1st until Saturday afternoon.

Everything I said in that 2017 post is 100% true this February as well, up to and including the 8am office hours one day a week.

February Challenge Fitness ladder update

Recall this February challenge I did the calisthenics Fitness Ladder.

I got up to Rung 4 and was on the cusp of Rung 5.  The sticking points are push-ups (my arms have gotten weak) and, oddly, running in place.  I keep getting lactic acid build-up.  DH tells me that as my circulation gets better the lactic acid build-up will gradually become less of a problem.  The fact that I have this as a problem makes me concerned about my lack of circulation!

My progress wasn’t as impressive as when I did the 7 min workout (for example, I can barely do 5 pushups, but I ended that challenge with 9).  I don’t know if that’s because I’m 4 years older and in worse shape, or if it’s just not as intense a workout.  However, I did not hate this workout.  I kind of like it (except the lactic acid part), and DC2 and DH are also into it.

Of course, on March 1st when the challenge was over, I was like, I don’t *really* need to do this, so I didn’t.  And March 2nd I completely forgot until after I’d showered and was already in bed.  If it had been February I’d have gotten out of bed and done it, as happened a few times, but since the challenge was over I felt I didn’t need to.  I have no willpower.  March 3rd I decided to do it in the morning.  I kind of felt like doing sit-ups which is the first time I can say that in 4 decades, give or take.

I think the big thing for me if I want to keep up with this is to have some sort of regular time and reminder for me to actually do it.  Mornings would make sense except that I am barely making it to my 8am classes this semester.  There’s just too much packed in the mornings already (and I don’t shower in the morning like DH does, so if I get to the point of sweating stinkily I’ll have to add a second shower to the day).  Right before bedtime is what I’d been doing because that’s when I would remember, but now that there’s no challenge going on, that’s not a great idea because I have no willpower before bed.  Though I suppose it could be fit in before the shower in theory.  I also don’t know if I have willpower to do it right after work– usually at that point in time I’m trying to get dinner ready.

I’m still doing a walk every day at work– generally sometime between 10:30am and 1:30pm.  That happens because I have a motivated colleague who also needs an exercise and gossip/work break in the middle of the day.  It’s also a good vit D pick-up for me since I’ve given up on trying to stagger my pills (I generally forgot the second one and it would take a couple hours to realize why I’d been so tired) and just take both of them after I brush my teeth in the morning.

It may be that I need to set a timer for calisthenics for sometime in the evening.  It helps if DH is doing it at the same time too.  I don’t know if he’ll be going back to doing it in the morning though.  I also think I should add some stretches because the ones in the workout are kind of silly… or at least seem silly to me because they’re not stretching the muscles that my American education has taught me should be stretched.

For any of the self-care things I need to do every day, showering, teeth brushing, etc. it’s important that I have a regular process for each– finishing showering means it’s time for teeth, and so on.  For things I really don’t want to do, it’s extremely helpful to have someone else there to nudge it along.  Though I can’t use another person as a crutch or excuse– I just need to be grateful for being included.

How do you get yourself to do self-care things regularly? 

February Challenge: The Fitness Ladder

Whenever my DH starts feeling out of shape, he digs out a “fitness ladder” that he got from some engineer on the internet and starts doing calisthenics.

The idea behind this ladder is that exercise shouldn’t be painful and shouldn’t suck.  If you will recall my February challenge a few years back with the 7 min workout, I hated that with a violent passion.  It worked, but it sucked.  So I stopped.

The fitness ladder basically says:  start at the first rung of the introductory ladder.

Introductory Ladder

Rung Bend Sit up Leg lift Push up Steps Count







1 2 3 4 2 105 1 30
2 3 4 5 3 140 1 65
3 4 6 6 3 170 2 20
4 6 7 8 4 200 2 50
5 7 9 9 5 225 3 0
6 8 10 10 6 255 3 30
7 10 11 12 7 280 3 55
8 12 13 14 8 305 4 5
9 14 15 16 9 325 4 25
10 16 16 18 11 350 4 50
11 18 18 20 12 370 4 70
12 20 20 22 13 390 5 15
13 23 21 25 15 405 5 30
14 25 23 27 16 425 5 50
15 28 25 30 18 440 5 65

What the numbers mean here, is, using rung 1 as an example, that you touch your toes twice.  Then you do 3 situps.  Then you do 4 leg lifts.  Then you do 2 pushups.  Then you run in place for 75 thingies (every time your left foot touches the ground, that’s one thingy), then you do 7 jumping jacks, and then you run in place for another 30 thingies.  When a rung feels easy, move to the next rung.  After the introductory ladder, there’s an advanced ladder with slightly different exercises.

Feb 1st, I did the first rung and everything was easy except running in place.  Feb 2nd I came down with a virus from DC2 (headache, tummy ache– vomiting in hir case, other stomach problems in my case), but was able to get through everything but the running and jumping jacks from rung 1 after sleeping most of the day.  (The bouncing was not a great idea for my stomach and I had to have seltzer).  Feb 3rd I was recovered and did the first rung with little effort so Feb 4th I moved to the second rung where I stayed feb 5th (almost forgot yesterday and ended up exercising right before bed.)

cheer me on, grumpy nation!  What’s your latest fitness thing?

Dispatches from the Year of the Oxygen Mask: January

I talked about my 2019 hopes/goals in a previous post.

Except for that one slip-up I noted early on, I have done a good job of noticing my spending and of not spending money on anything except food and mental health.  I should have said “(and mental health)” in my original post but I forgot to spell it out.  Of course I’m not going to *not* pay my therapist or psychiatrist.

So now I’m getting new meds (again).  I have been on almost every kind!  This one’s new.  I’m looking forward to finding out what fun side effects it will have!  (Narrator:  She was not looking forward to it.)  Currently I am in a 3-way fight with the insurance company and the pharmacy (and the shrink) to try and authorize the drug so that they’ll pay for it so that the pharmacy will fill it.  I cannot project-manage this situation and my job at the same time, so I’m sucking at both.  #SinglePayerNow

My lovely MIL continues to have Teh Sad.  She too has a therapist and medication, and she also has various bereavement groups.  Have I mentioned that my dad and all 4 of his kids are on psychiatric meds of various sorts?  (Some of us off-and-on.)  We’re doing better, though!  My family is looking forward to positive changes this year.

I almost went through all of January without spending money to fill my car’s gas tank.  I didn’t quite make it, but it was pretty close.  I think that’s pretty good!

Also, I spent like 85 minutes on the phone with TIAA-CREF yesterday and the upshot is that I need my husband to sign some forms in front of a notary.  Because my previous job set up their retirement accounts in a dumb way that means my spouse has first claim on what I do with my money, somehow.  So in order to move the money into an account that he doesn’t have to approve every transaction on, he has to sign some forms saying it’s ok for me to close my accounts with my money in them.  You can possibly imagine my reaction upon learning this on the phone: “That is some bullshit.  Get rid of that!”

I never thought the uni where I had my crappy tenured job would be good for much, but their retirement accounts are actually set up way better, so I’m consolidating everything I can into that one.  Like we effin’ have time to go to a notary during business hours, goddamn.

As a reminder, in February, I will go on Patreon and sign up to support at least 2 creators whose work I appreciate.

What giveth and/or taketh away your oxygen recently, Grumpeteers?

Wednesday we’ll talk about #2’s February challenge!