Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Before September Ends

The month of September has been productive and busy in many good ways. Progress has been made on several fronts although there are still existing frontiers out there to explore. That's part of the pleasure of being an academic.

On the personal front, the situation at Dad's house is much more stable. We no longer have to worry about personal possessions and toilet paper going out the door. Dad is also feeling like getting to various tasks in and out of the house that have been on his list for a bit. We gathered together as a family last night and enjoyed a nice dinner.

Today I'm off to work with grant teachers to discuss Westad's The Global Cold War. Westad is a prolific scholar and also impresses the teachers who attend his Gilder Lehrman Institute Summer Seminar for Teachers on the Cold War. Getting together teachers from diverse nationalities is always a good thing. They not only learn from one another, they are often surprised by how much they have even common even when they live on opposite sides of the world from one another.

On campus, the week can be encapsulated in one word - meetings. But that is a major part of my duties now. I'm still, however, doing my part to request agendas in advance so that we all know what we are doing and have time to think before discussions and, even more importantly, before voting.  Most importantly, I enjoy helping colleagues achieve their goals even if they do not always realize it.

The weather has finally turned cool, at least in the evenings. The crisp fall air is quite enjoyable despite the rampant allergens surrounding us here in Kansas and the Midwest.

The new fall season actually has some interesting shows - at least more than one or two that seem to have been the limit in previous years.

There's my contribution to ensuring that this blog does, indeed, include tangents.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

For most of my life, I have spent the Labor Day weekend working. I was either getting a head start on the fall semester as a student or as a teacher or as a professor. This year, I decided to try something new. I finished a book review that was due a week earlier on Saturday morning and then spent some time at the local festival, including the chili contest and quilt show. In the afternoon, I did some cooking per Dad's request to take to the family lake house on Sunday.

It's been gorgeous weather here - warm days with cool nights. Some rain this morning delayed my morning walk but there will still be cool weather after the rain clears to walk. One thing I really missed in June was my early morning walks when it was still cool since the heat started so much earlier this year. At least the last few weeks in August and early September we've "reclaimed" that weather.

This was also the first time since I can remember I actually looked forward to going into the office. It's amazing what impact our work environment can have in both positive and negative directions. There is enough real stress in life to be forced to deal with stress created unnecessarily. As my new chair says, "We're not landing airplanes here." ;-)

My new responsibilities have provided not only interesting learning opportunities but also new opportunities to interact with a more diverse group of colleagues. Getting things "in order" is a very satisfying exercise - especially when you have dealt firsthand with the downside of disorganization.
Students will know more about how to plan their college careers which will ultimately also benefit their professors and disallow the increasing number of "I need an exception to the rule because . . . ."

Taking time this weekend to read non-work stuff has been refreshing although I am anxious to get back to my book on the GI Bill and my research on the U.S. Census for an upcoming workshop in DC. I'm continuing to read "Eat, Pray, Love" after seeing the movie.  A friend recommended it and I trust her opinion. When I first saw it arrive on the bestseller lists, I dismissed it as too "touchy feely". Some of it is but it does appear to be an honest account of a woman's journey. It's somewhat similar to mine but also dissimilar since I have always felt like I knew where I wanted to go, at least professionally. It has primarily helped me with learning to take baby steps in permanently reclaiming my non-work life. I know in the long run it will ultimately benefit my work life but convincing my Type A+ oldest sibling German self is quite another thing. It will certainly be a process.

I also finished reading Kristin Chenowith's book - an interesting "inter-read" with Elizabeth Gilbert's. Kristen is originally from not too far away in Oklahoma and is setting her own terms in another cultural realm quite different from the one she grew up in. I could also empathize with her balancing the belief that all others are good until proven otherwise to learning how to protect one's self from predators while not losing out on rewarding experiences involving the rest of the human race.

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