Thursday, April 28, 2016

Prep work

While walking to the office today I was congratulating myself on making it to the end of the school year. The summer, much longed for in the darkest days of February, was suddenly and gloriously here. My calendar: empty. My schedule: my own to determine.

I still have quite a bit of grading to do. But I can do it in the order I prefer. I can do it fast or slow. A couple of assignments unrelated to class lurk on my task board; I owe some researchers an interim report, and an editor an essay. Not behind on them yet, though. Just know that I need to find a little time in the next few days to move forward on them. None of it affects my chill.

Then at about 11:30 this morning, something triggered my memory. I don't recall what it was. Maybe a student assignment I was grading, in which the student innocently asked about Catholic soteriology ... but I think it was long after that. Maybe the teaching assistant for next semester who arrived for an appointment I had forgotten I'd made ... but I don't remember panicking at that point either.

At any rate, I suddenly remembered that I'd agreed weeks ago to lead a discussion on Augustine for a group at church. Was that tonight? I wondered, with rapidly growing suspicion that it was. It was.

I suppose I should be grateful it came to mind at all. I have in the past simply blithely failed to show up to something I agreed to do, for lack of checking my calendar or getting a check-in from the organizer. (If you ask me to do something, send me friendly reminders. I need them.) I dug up the email with the assigned reading, made a few notes, and in 30 minutes I was ready.

What surprised me was how much of my sang-froid was troubled by the event. It wasn't that I had an appointment, or that my anticipated free time was interrupted. It was that I had to prep for something.

I have to prep for things almost constantly. Every day at work I am prepping for a class -- usually a class that meets in a day or two, but (more frequently toward the end of the semester) a class that meets in an hour or two. To prep, I read, take notes, formulate questions for the seminar, occasionally design an activity, and preface it all with reminders about upcoming events and course logistics. I also have to prep for committee meetings by reviewing the agenda, minutes, documents.

I thought that my happiness about summer break was mostly about my calendar being empty -- about not having classes and meetings and a rapidly rotating schedule of deadlines. But now I think it's because I have nothing I need to prep for. When a prep necessity popped up today, I was unaccountably deflated. I hadn't realized how much I look forward to not having to look forward.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Last Friday was a very full day. I served as a moderator for a half-dozen senior thesis presentations, then had a short break before delivering a lecture to sixteen applicants to my academic program. I spent maybe 90 minutes in my office all day.

During one of those 90 minutes -- one of the last of them, actually -- a man poked his head in my door. I recognized that face, even though it was older and wiser than when I last saw it. Austin was a student of mine several years ago, and he has gone on to amazing things. I haven't seen him for quite a while.

He said he was in town and just dropped by the campus to see if anybody was around. I explained that my colleagues weren't in the office because they had schedules like mine that day, and that I was only a few minutes away from my next obligation, apologizing that I couldn't do more than hug him and promise to spend more time later.

Austin said that he understood, with his usual grace. He didn't seem disappointed or make me feel bad at all. But he did mention one thing he said he needed to tell me.

Not long ago he spent some time out of the country, in a place with only brief and spotty internet access. He told me he would go to my blog and open a bunch of posts in separate tabs. That way he could read through it while he didn't have internet. The blog, he said, was a lifeline.

"I haven't updated it in so long," I apologized. He said it didn't matter. Reading through the years of previous entries helped him stay connected.

My book Prayer Shawl Ministries and Women's Theological Imagination came out last November. I excused myself from a lot of other writing during the two years of intense research, writing, and editing that it took to produce. I've got another book under contract that I am about to start working on in earnest -- another reason to postpone a potential re-commitment to writing more often here. I still have this blog in a lot of social media profiles, and sometimes wonder if I should take it out since it's largely historical.

Well, historical is just one perspective. I'm glad it's here when I need it. And maybe somebody else sometimes needs it. Thanks for the view from across the ocean, Austin.