Mamma Mia!

I had a full post planned, but today’s shopping trip was an epic adventure that left both me and my wallet depleted, so maybe tomorrow.

For now, enjoy these hilarious compilations of PSAs by Italian mayors who are sick and tired of their disobedient denizens breaking quarantine.


So I finally joined Facebook. I know, I am a true trendsetter, riding the bleeding edge of the social-media movement. I did it in order to become part of a small writing group run by one of my scribbler friends. The group features flash-fiction sprints and other challenges, and I hope these will be the kick in the pants I need.

Walking through the neighborhood today was really creepy. It was 7 pm, not 2 am, but not a soul in sight.

After ten days in quarantine, I am bracing myself for shopping again tomorrow. Do I even remember how? My middle son might eat my youngest one if I don’t get some groceries, stat.

I received a story acceptance today, which is surreal. This weird year has been a good creative-writing one for me.

I have online office hours set up and a video conferencing group meeting. nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

I kid you not, I dozed off. I’m not erasing those n’s; they are a true testament to the weirdness of this particular day.

Whassup, blogosphere? What’ve you been up to? 

P.S. Aaaaand an evening declination from the NSF. I skimmed the panel summary, then reviews. Two in-depth, thoughtful reviews that also gave high scores; one brief, drive-by-night miscapitalized and mispunctuated review, written by someone who was clearly very loud during the panel. None of this is a surprise to anyone who has experience with the NSF. Whatever.


On the upside, I’m cooking more than ever. On the downside, I’m cooking more than ever. It’s a thing I can do and do well, but don’t burn with a desire to do more of. This from-scratch French bread was a big hit, but it was very low-tech (I mixed everything by hand and also have no rolling pin) and not something I want to do every day, especially because cleanup is a bitch.


I’ve been mostly in good spirits during the quarantine, but occasionally feel like I want to burst because there’s nowhere to hide for some peace and quiet. Last night I was this close (*holds thumb and forefinger a quarter inch apart*) to just hopping into my car and driving around. At least I can go out to take a walk during the day. It must be awful for people in big cities who literally can’t go anywhere.

I’ve got stuff to do, I’m not bored, we’re well stocked, but the people around me, lovely as they are, get to be a bit much.

Introvert readers, how are you coping? Extrovert readers, how about you? Too much/too little togetherness or just right? 

Damned If You Do

Withdrew from several magazines a poem that’s funny and angry and profane and has to do with rage over a physical exam, which I had submitted weeks ago. Why? Because, at this point in time, it seems really inappropriate to have out for consideration something that is even jokingly negative about healthcare provides.

The worst thing about a surreal state (not unlike the morning after the presidential election of 2016, mind you) is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

You must not pretend things are normal; if you do, you are blind or delusional or insensitive.

You must not focus on anything other than the train wreck du jour; if you do, you are blind or delusional or insensitive.

You must not spend all the time on current events; if you do, it warps your psyche and sends even the mentally toughest among us into a spiral of doom.

This all sucks and it looks like we’re in it for the next few months. What a mess.


As I said, I’m running a drabble contest on my fiction site, so the entries have been cheering me up. Btw, I have the submissions set up through Google Forms, which is free and super convenient to collect submissions.

Today was a grumpy day for me, not sure why, but I battled the mood with one of the two ways I know. The first is mindless entertainment, which I was too antsy for, and the other is rolling up my sleeves and getting something useful done. I cleared out my associate-editor backlog and investigated the teleconferencing options available through the university, so tomorrow I get to see my grad students again after more than a week. I hope they’re all in good spirits.

I received a positive report on one of my own papers, so in the near future I have that and a book chapter to revise, then about five papers in various draft stages. Honestly, if I could just do some research and tend to the family, life would be fantastic. Actually, I don’t mind teaching. So why are the academic years so insane? We are all like headless chickens, and it’s mostly self-imposed. And by self, I mean self-governance.

For instance, I received hundreds of emails in the last few days from various levels of administration in regard to the virus alone. From the chair; from the dean, then regurgitated by deanlets, then chair; from the chancellor and/or provost, vice chancellors, dean, deanlets, chair. Whom do they think they’re fooling? Or is it a lack of understanding how mailing lists work? These emails have very little substance, or have whatever substance they have endlessly wrapped in adminspeak and then re-forwarded ad nauseam. They are all just covering their butts (“Look, I’m proactive!”) and maybe transmitting some of their own anxieties onto us. But mostly covering their butts in front of students’ parents, alumni, and the general public.

Not sure where I’m going with this, other than I feel this quarantine is reconnecting me with the parts of the job I love, parts where I can be genuine, which is interacting with my graduate students and doing research. I know this sounds selfish, but I can’t think about all the sick people 24/7. Sometimes I have to focus really hard on the silver lining.

How are you doing, blogosphere? How has the COVID-19 response been at your institution? Your city and state? Your country, if you’re not in the US?

Play the Long Game

I promise I won’t blog about the quarantine every day, but this is as new and overwhelming to me as I am sure it is to you, so let’s just all take the time to adjust. It takes as long as it takes.

The university is closed for the semester and, as of today, K-12 are closed indefinitely. Homeschooling my two kids (3rd and 7th grade) will now become a reality. This feels surreal to type and will take some time to sink in.

I have been checking in with my grad students and assuring them that I don’t expect great productivity from them, that these are highly unusual times, and that, first and  foremost, they need to do whatever they need to do to stay sane. I will institute group-meeting check-ins twice a week, less for productivity and more for maintaining group cohesion.

Creative and cognitively demanding work is hard now, with all the anxiety and the kids at home. I’d say if you can do 1-2 hrs/day of this kind of work, you are well ahead of the curve. I’ve been catching up on the backlog of papers to review and my associate editor duties, and sloooowly working on some of my group’s papers. The rest of the time goes on the maintenance of family and my own sanity. (Example: I made a gigantic batch of mushroom risotto. It took forever. If it doesn’t last at least two days, there will be blood. Having rage issues over risotto might be a sign of cabin fever. Or, you know, just my baseline temperament.)

Blogosphere, how are you adjusting to what now seems like it will be a several-months-long new normal? 

Here is a good thread on how to shift mentally and not burn out. Hint: Play the long game. (Below is same thing but in screenshots, because you never know when the threader app discards threads.)


Yep, Socially Distancing

Ok, not much interest in a microfic contest here, so I won’t run it. I am, however, running one for real (and already getting a bit swamped with submissions) on my fiction website, so if you want to partake and aren’t already following me on literary Twitter, shoot me an email.

Well, that’s out of the way.

We’re in Week 1 of quarantine here. I did tell my grad students to start working from home a couple of weeks ago, which is one of the ways in which my hypervigilance (often unflatteringly referred to by family and friends as “panicking” and “worrying too much”) paid off. Other ways include having enough food and supplies without having hoarded  like a maniac, just by having started weeks before most , slowly buying a little extra every time I went to the store. No one’s complaining now.

My concern is my eldest son, who remains in his apartment in town. He says he mostly stays put and goes out only to buy food, but I’m worried about the hygiene standards, what he’s eating, and if he’s lonely. He, however, doesn’t believe that he should be entirely quarantined and prevented from seeing his friends, and this continued socializing seems to be something many of his generation insist on. On the one hand, I understand, as I was his age back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. On the other hand, this is not a joke. I wish he’d just come home, at least I’d know what he’s eating and that he has at least us to talk to, but if he did come home, he’d just be in and out the door all the time, putting us all at risk. He’s 20 now, so I guess he does what he wants to… But he’s still my baby!

It’s really hard to be creative these days, be it for work or my extracurricular activities. I try to do at least something productive every day, which usually means reviewing a paper or proposal, tending to my duties as associate editor, revising student drafts. But the motivation is low. There is an ominous air around all we do, mostly because this otherworldly state doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon. My university canceled in-person instruction through the end of the semester. Public schools will be closed for three weeks, likely more; I am dreading having to homeschool my headstrong soon-to-be teen, considering he’s been battling me to the bitter end over the half hour of math I’ve been making him do at home each day to compensate for the fact that he doesn’t do jack shit in class (this is a whole other rant). Today we had the first videoconference piano lesson for Smurf, my youngest, which was logistically weird (we will need to optimize laptop placement for next time) but the to-be-nine-in-June Smurf handled it with confidence and flair.

OK, so this wasn’t a very academic post, but hey, I’m on sabbatical and in quarantine, the double whammy of non-academy!

How’ve you been doing, blogosphere? I hope you’re healthy. If you’re teaching, has instruction moved online? How are you feeling — physically, mentally?