Sunday, December 4, 2011


I like taking the weekend off whenever I can.  It's not always possible at my busiest times.  But the weekend is an essential period of recharging, resting, and recreating for me.  Whenever I can successfully compartmentalize home life from work life, I do it.  I find it makes me appreciate both spheres of activity more fully.

Intersessions pose a challenge to that philosophy.  We're quickly approaching winter break, and this year because of a late start to the semester, the last day we full-year employees are supposed to be at work is the day after grades are turned in.  Usually there are two or three days after that day -- which is a very busy one, considering grades must be reviewed, grants awarded, and scholarships renewed based on that data -- to wind the semester down and do some prep for the next one.

Much of the winding down comes with an inflexible deadline.  Everything has to be graded in time for the grading deadline; that's the biggest one for faculty.  Any communications with students prompted by their performance has to be done before the university shutters, whenever that is.  But the preparation for next year is naggingly unconfined to working hours.  Course construction of all kinds might be done by the ultra-efficient before leaving for break, but most of us are probably still assembling syllabi and schedules in early January.  Some projects span semesters, like student theses or research endeavors.  And of course there's work that is not course related -- publications, scholarship, editing, writing.  Breaks are often times when we turn to that kind of work, trying at the very least to leave teaching behind when office hours cease.

Where does that leave my carefully hoarded off hours?  The time I want to devote to my avocations, my family, my church, my health, my soul -- all without the feeling that I should be working, that feeling that saps the joy and presence from that time and replaces it with guilt or anxiety?  I've written before that I am most blissful when those hours are not stolen here and there from my schedule, but instead pile up in wanton excess -- uninterrupted days devoted to my free choice of projects.  But I understand better and better than, as much as I love and crave those times, they are rare and cannot be expected as my due.  Most people have busy lives and full calendars; their hobbies and passions, the ones that don't count as work, have to be undertaken in between everything else that demands their attention on other people's timetables.

All that is to say that this weekend, while Noel was in Chicago and I was taking care of the kids on my own, contained more than my fair share of restfulness.  I gave myself the weekend off after an extremely high-pressure week executing the Craftin' for CASA sale, even though I'm predictably behind on the grading that has to be done quickly as the semester rushes to its close, even though complex initiatives in the areas of curriculum and hiring and planning are clamoring for attention before everyone scatters, even though a colleague and I are creating a new course to debut in 45 days for which all the structure that currently exists is a list of required textbooks.  A rainy Sunday led to an afternoon where Archer played Wii, Cady Gray worked on a craft kit, and I happily cut fabrics for a sewing project. Only when I looked up from my intense concentration on accurate measuring and cutting and realized that I hadn't been interrupted by a child in an hour.

That's all I can ask on a day when I'm solely responsible for them.  And combined with my determination not to let academic work intrude on my mental life for sixty hours or so, it's profoundly rejuvenating.

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