Friday, October 28, 2011

Three days of tribulations

I hate fall.

It's not because I dislike trees turning colors, or even that I dislike the thought that winter is coming. I don't mind the cold once it gets cold and stays there (most of the time). But fall is not a good season for someone with clinical depression and a basketful of acronyms that sound like a pharmaceutical commercial, especially when one of those acronyms is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And if there was ever a more appropriate acronym for something, I don't know what it might be. I think of it as The SAD. A big, gray, wet blanket of unhappiness that lurches about and drapes itself over you like a perverted approximation of a superhero's cape.

Some people don't understand what depression is like. Well, it's a lot like this. Only I haven't had the trip to the movie store where I can start armoring myself in Don't Give a Damns. (I have had lots of cake, though. Don't judge me. I feel fat enough already right now.) I would have to want to go to the movie store, and that would require energy to get up off the couch.

I say this, of course, writing this at my desk at work. I can make myself get up and do some things--like go to work and teach. Other things, not so much. Rather than work ahead this week and get a presentation, homework and midterm done, I let it go until I had no choice but to sit down and pound all of it out the night before it was due and then work some more on it yesterday morning before class. (I was ashamed to turn it in.)

It's not that good things haven't happened this week. Lots of good things have happened this week. My new iPhone came in the mail, Poe Girl and I were both nominated for the highest honor our department gives, and The Boy is making arrangements for the Big Important Job Interview next week. I can be happy, even when wrapped up in The SAD, especially when I'm happy for other people, because while there's always something there saying that I don't deserve to be happy, I know that YOU do deserve to be happy and I am genuinely happy for YOU.

But my mind inevitably focuses on the bad, and the last three days haven't been great. Tuesday afternoon started off with a migraine. I rushed through Alexander Pope and sent off my reading response at 11:00 that night (since Dr. L told me that he didn't get to it until Wednesday morning anyway). Wednesday morning, I had to go in (with the migraine still) and give my students the "Come to Jesus" talk about how they have to behave like adults and do their homework and take responsibility for their work--before I discovered that no one had read the homework, which threw out all of my plans for the week, which revolved around this one piece.

Then I needed to be working on my midterm and presentation--the materials for which I'd left at home, and once I got home, I had no energy. I sat and read all afternoon, thinking that I would get up and work here any second, once I was through with this chapter...until I realized I'd read for more than two hours and hadn't gotten anything done. I worked and worked and worked, then went to bed, then got up, still with a migraine, and worked and worked some more. Then went back to bed with the migraine until I absolutely had to get up and work some more. And the only reason I got up was because I *had* to work. Part of it was migraine. More of it was depression.

Then I went to the orchestra with Snarky Writer and her husband. That was great fun, and it lifted me out of the funk for a little while. My head still hurt, but I could laugh and clap and enjoy. And then I came home and went right back into the depressive funk that had been sneaking up on me with the migraine for the last several days. It's more than a wet blanket. It's a wet wool blanket, that's freezing cold and heavy and just itchy enough that I can't stand for anyone to touch me. Even my sweet cats, who were obviously concerned about their mama, were shouted at and shoved off the bed.

Then comes the guilt. The kitties look at me and don't understand. My students looked at me with wide eyes when I lost my temper in class Wednesday (and used words that would have caused me to have gotten my mouth washed out with soap). I freaked out about the midterm and kept texting Snarky Writer with my anxiety, while she's trying to worry about preliminary exams this weekend. My husband feels powerless to do anything to make me happy, which makes him upset, even though it's not his fault in any way. And in the meantime, the guilt begins weighing down because I've made all these other people unhappy. And even when I'm not actively making other people unhappy, I feel guilty anyway. One of my friends is in the hospital--and here I am whining about not feeling like I have the energy to climb up the stairs?

And the spiral continues. Down, down, down, until I feel like hiding under my desk with a pillow and blanket and sleeping there for a couple of weeks. Until I feel like I cannot simply face having to get out of the bed.

But I don't have a choice.

Don't get me wrong--this is why they give me medication. It's why I have daylight lamps at my house for me to sit under, so I can get some relief from the SAD. But sometimes it's not enough. Part of the reason it hasn't been enough this week has been because I've had a migraine that's going on four days now. It's lurking, mostly, now, rather than actively hurting, but it's still there, and it's just waiting, and for some reason things get worse when I have a headache like this.

So. If I have snapped at you this week, ignored you, told you to go away, bitched at you about something inconsequential, ignored your own personal problems, had no sense of priorities: I apologize. Being depressed gives me no right to take it out on you. But please know that your presence means everything. I may not want you to touch me or talk to me--I may want you to leave me the hell alone to stew in my office or on the couch or to let me sleep for hours on end. But knowing that you're there if I need you means everything. Please don't take my silence or ignoring you personally. I'm wrapped up in the SAD, and it won't let me loose.

But I will get loose. It may take a couple of days, but I will get loose, and for a little while, I'll be able to behave like a normal human being. Just please be patient with me.


Now for something that matters - best of luck to Snarky Writer and Gravedigger in taking preliminary exams today. You guys are going to do awesome.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's Fall Break!

And what have I done? Approximately nothing. I turned my Fulbright into the State Department on Friday, and now I have nothing to do but wait until January. So I've nothing since then.

That's not entirely true. I finished one cross stitch project and have moved on to this one. I have no real idea why I've wanted to cross stitch this rooster so badly, but I have, and therefore, I have started, thanks partly to my sister-in-law who gave me my subscription for Christmas last year (which has been delightful), and thanks partly to Snarky Writer who toted me around town Friday, since I'd not had enough sleep the night before to be driving (and who also very kindly not only dragged me around town, but hit three craft stores with me, looking for the proper fabric for this project in a reasonable price range, because I refuse to pay $20 for a piece of 32 count linen).


In other news, I hate AT&T. My phone broke the other night, and then AT&T, in attempting to fix it, broke it more--it now won't turn on it on. Their solution after that was for me to go buy a new phone. Fortunately, I have a very kind friend who is more than generous and who is sending me his old iPhone, though it won't be here until next week. In the meantime, I've been contemplating a response to AT&T. Though it's for bad PR, I thought about sending them a picture of Wil Wheaton collating papers. Still, it's not quite appropriate. I wonder if I could get a ragequit picture of Wil Wheaton shouting into his iPhone.

Actually...*goes running to Twitter for a minute* I should point out that while Wesley Crusher was an annoying little prick, Wil Wheaton is a nerd god.


I noticed something odd when I went to the library to tutor a client of mine. I was looking around and saw some new books that just came out that I would have liked to have checked out. However, the library here does something odd: they charge two dollars to check a new fiction book out for a week.

Being a cheap-ass, and only having made ten dollars tutoring, I didn't come away with any of them, because if I've waited long enough for them not to buy them, then I can wait long enough for it to be free at the library. And Lord knows I have no problem with a library trying to raise some revenue for themselves, especially since I know that the great state of Tennessee is just so incredibly devoted to education and literacy. But something about that seemed just a little bit wrong to me. I did manage to get Kim Harrison's Pale Demon without having to pay extra for it. It joins the stack with Joanna Lindsey's That Perfect Someone. In the meantime this week, I've also got to work on Boswell's London Journal, and some poetry for 18th century and work on studying for a midterm.


Anyway. I'm really behind on reviews, so here is a quick and dirty review of three books I just recently read, and then one really detailed review:

In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster: Fantastic. Generally speaking, Stephanie Laurens follows a certain pattern in her books where the heroine refuses to marry the hero until she gets a declaration of love from him. There is nothing like this here--it's real. They gradually fall in love. The hero is not just a warrior alpha male. He's also a scholar, but one who can kick butt when he needs to. In some ways, he reminded me very much of my husband. I have to say, this truly is my favorite of all of Laurens' novels that I've read, and I've read a good number of them. A+

When Strangers Marry: I've never read any of Lisa Kleypas' work before, and I was very entertained by this novel, in particular because while it's set during the early 19th century, it's not set in Regency England; instead, she sets the novel in a newly American New Orleans. That alone is incredibly interesting, because there are a whole other different set of conventions. Is it the best written novel? No, probably not. To be fair, it was a rewrite of her first novel, Only In Your Arms. B-

Wildest Hearts: This goes under the oldie but goodie category. It was a Jayne Ann Krentz paperback I scored from my mom, and I've read it before. It's really interesting to see something from the early 90s from her; the male character is very different from some of her other heroes. Something about her male characters in her earlier books are rather stuck-up. This one, Oliver, focuses on two things: business and ferns. That does seem to be one thing I remember from her earlier work: the heroes have some odd enthusiasms. Now that I've gone back to it: C.


Now, on to the most important bit of this blog post. Terry Pratchett's Snuff was just released last Thursday, and in our jaunt around town, Snarky Writer took me to Barnes and Noble where I obtained said Discworld book. This one is especially important to me. Not only is it a new Discworld book, but it's a new Watch book, and given that I wrote my master's thesis on the Watch books, you can imagine just how excited I was.

So to my review. SPOILER ALERT. (That means close your browser, Dad, I'll bring it to you the next time I'm home.)

Sam Vimes has been forced to take a vacation, and when the Vimeses go out to Ramkin Hall, trouble invariably ensues when Vimes discovers a murder scene on the property--a young goblin woman. He's out of his jurisdiction, but that has never stopped him before and won't stop him now. We get a interesting look into a new society that Pratchett has put into the Disc, and the goblins are demanding justice--not just for the dead girl, but also for the way that other goblins have been rounded up and taken off.

Vimes, of course, won't let anything like this stand. He discovers that Lord Rust's son is involved, and this brings up one of the main themes of the book: rich versus poor. It's fairly obvious that this was written during the middle of the recession, because the struggle between rich and poor and what someone in Vimes' position--as the Duke of Ankh-Morpork--does to help out those less fortunate. It becomes part of what both Vimes and Carrot term "the terrible algebra of necessity." Goblin mothers, when they cannot feed their children, eat them instead. Then they build a pot, put the soul of the baby in it, and wait for it to return at a better time.

It turns out that Gravid Rust is transporting goblins away to work as slaves on tobacco plantations in Howondaland, where they are all dying, assisted by one rather awful character known as Stratford. One pot makes its way into a cigar, picked up by Fred Colon, who then becomes possessed, as if a goblin. Vimes, through all of this, is assisted by the quasi-demon that he picked up in Thud!, The Summoning Dark, which has left its mark on him and who he can interact with in his own head, Feeney, the somewhat inept country constable who is still learning how to be a policeman, and Willikins, his gentleman's gentleman who grew up in a street gang only a few lanes down from Vimes and who still retains all of his skills.

Stratford, though, is crazy, and does something that no man should ever do if he wants to live--try to kill Young Sam Vimes. But the elder Sam Vimes is a good man and simply would have taken him to jail. Willkins, though, is not a good man, and takes very unkindly to someone trying to hurt his family.

There are a couple of things that I really liked, small things. Vetinari is frustrated as hell with the Ankh-Morpork Times' crossword compiler. Willikins and Vimes have real conversations that are very friendly, even though Willikins works for Vimes. For the first time, it seems like Vimes has a real friend. Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs have been his friends, but he can't talk to them about everything; they don't understand his position between the street and the aristocracy; Willikins does.

I was glad to see that Angua's promotion to Captain has finally taken hold permanently. Wee Mad Arthur's reappearance was fantastic and wonderful. I liked seeing that Vimes is really in love with Sibyl. I would have liked to have seen more of Carrot--the question of what Carrot will actually do as far as the kingship goes remains unanswered. But that's the only criticism that I have of this book.

The last two books, Making Money and Unseen Academicals, had a couple of problems. They weren't tightly plotted, and they relied far too much on poop jokes. That's not to say that there aren't some of those in Snuff, but they're reserved for Young Sam, who at six years old, is interested in very little else, which makes sense. This novel is so tightly put together that you can't see Pratchett's Alzheimer's at all.

At the same time, this is not a light novel. While there are some really great funny lines, the way that there are in all Pratchett novels, this is far more serious than any of his other novels. It's darker than Night Watch, even. It's dark, it's serious, and it's good. While Men at Arms will always be my favorite Discworld novel, I think Snuff has just become the best. This book is an A+, hands down.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I should definitely have more faith in my colleagues.

Now that things are official, I can talk about it. After my email to the Victoria list, I got quite a bit of email from fellow Victorian scholars, and as of this morning, I had two official letters of affiliation: one from the University of Warwick in Coventry, and one from Birkbeck College at the University of London (whose English department is based out of one of Virginia Woolf's former homes). I also had some interest from the University of Buckingham, which was having problems figuring out visa logistics, though not an official letter. I'd also had suggestions from the rest of the list on how to find other affiliations. All because of the generous nature of my colleagues, both in the US and the UK.

I have been getting the following, though. "That's great! What does it mean?"

Basically, when you apply for a Fulbright scholarship, you need a letter of affiliation, which is a letter from a university or library in your host country that states they will support you academically. They'll give you help, access to libraries, etc. In some cases, people enroll in a foreign university and take classes.

You can put an application in without these affiliations, but if you want a really strong application, you need one (or two, which I just happen to have now!). It increases your chances of actually getting the grant.

So tomorrow and Thursday, I need to revise my documents a little bit to make sure that everything reflects my letters of affiliation now, and then it will get sent off to the State Department. It will be January before I hear whether or not I've made it on to the next step. Since the UK is so incredibly competitive, if I am to make it, I will need to go through a phone interview with the Fulbright Commission there before they would make a decision.

In the meantime, I continue on normally and put my focus on my preliminary exams in the spring. Ever onward I go.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm stalling.

Imagine that. Me, procrastinating.

I was procrastinating before. Now I'm procrastinating and I'm in a bad mood, which means I'm procrastinating even more.

The aforementioned bad mood is partly caused by the fact that I gave myself a concussion this morning when I beaned myself in the head opening the car door. Corner of the door made direct contact with my forehead. Cue concussion symptoms - headache, drowsiness, and nausea. Cue me leaving anyway because I have an appointment to tutor my landlord's son.

The tutoring went fantastically--I would love to have a student like him in my classes (he is, of course, applying for universities much further up the academic ladder than mine). I came home, head still pounding, and managed to pour half my lunch down the sink. *grumble*

Anyway, I got an email this morning that said that I needed to upload my revised Fulbright materials ASAP so they can be proofed, and....I don't wanna. Partly, this is because I have not yet revised them, as I was desperately hoping I would have a letter of affiliation by now and could then tailor my materials to that.

That said, I reached out to my last hope for such a letter and emailed the VICTORIA listserv run from the University of Indiana, basically begging them for any help they could offer by Thursday, since all other contacts have basically come up with less than nothing so far. So, no, no word from the Cambridge library or the Tennyson Research Centre as yet. This in itself was nerve-wracking this morning, because this week, I was reading messages that had come across from names I recognized. For instance, Anna Henchman. She wrote an article on stellar parallax in Tennyson's In Memoriam. That I used for my Tennyson paper for Dr. K's Pre-Raphaelite's class. That helped direct me on toward my dissertation.

So that put me in a mode of absolute and complete terror this morning. The big names in Victorian studies are on this listserv, and I, a lowly graduate student, had the temerity to ask them for help.

Then there is this nagging feeling that simply says "Don't apply at all."

My favorite Snarky Writer and I were discussing the possibilities of trips to London, and I had been assuring her that two weeks in London would be fine--she would go and have a great time. (This, unfortunately, has fallen through. Dear economy, you suck. No love, Me) After all, I was applying for a year away.

And I kind of don't want to.

I mean, I'm married. And I would have to leave The Boy behind. For a year. And I don't want to! I realize that this would be a fantastic professional opportunity. But there's this bit of me saying "If you don't apply, then you definitely won't get it, and then you don't have to be in the position of having to decide whether or not you leave your husband behind in the US for a year."

He, of course, wants me to apply and go because he knows what an opportunity it is, and I cannot help but thank God that I have such an amazing, supportive husband. How could I bear to leave him?

I've already gotten through some stages. And I should just apply and trust that if I am meant to go, I will go, and if I am not meant to go, then the blistering amount of competition will unceremoniously weed me out.

I'm still stalling.


In other news, I have about four romance novels to review that I have yet to get to, my mom gave me a copy of That Perfect Someone by Joanna Lindsey, and the new Terry Pratchett book, Snuff, comes out this week. On top of this, I need to read Joseph Andrews for my directed reading and Ava's New Testament Narratives for medieval women's lit. I really want to go play Knights of the Old Republic instead.

In final other news, if you're a gamer of any kind or otherwise interested in nerd culture, The Boy has started his own blog at Parallax View. Check it out.


Edited to add: I just got an email from the Victoria listserv from someone who is going to speak with the registrar at their university tomorrow. I should have more faith in my colleagues, perhaps?


Edited to add again: I just got another email suggesting an alternate way to get the Fulbright and expressing general support. I should definitely have more faith in my colleagues.