Sunday, October 02, 2005

My Inability to Stay on Task

So far my greatest accomplishment for the weekend has been catching up on sleep. A few naps this afternoon, and I should be good to go for this week.

Grading the midterm took all day yesterday, what with that agitated rhythm of sit down, grade a few questions, get up, walk around, have a snack, read something, sit down, grade a bit more. It took all my self-restraint not to make snarky comments in response to the worst answers. Like when I asked for a "precise and mathematically accurate definition of rational number" and the student wrote, "Numbers that are natural or real, that are good and whole." Do you know how hard it was to not write, "I think you're talking about organic numbers."

I made another feeble attempt to sort through the box of stuff my parents brought. All I've managed to do so far is to take the books out of the box and put them on a shelf. The rest of it keeps getting moved around, sorted and re-sorted. (Have you ever poured a bag of M&Ms out in front of people on acid and asked them to sort? That's a good model for my sorting process.) Everything is all mixed together. Xerox copies of a friend's obituary. The cards from my first birthday -- including a very strange card from my great-grandmother ("Dear Great-Grandchild, All God's blessings to you. Love, G. Grandmother Veronica"), that I believe was written by someone else because Babka didn't speak (or write) English. All manner of photographs. Notes and letters. Literary magazines that I contributed to.

Even though I was published in every issue, I was going to throw away the art-literary publications from elementary school. I looked through them a bit, and I found that I liked my elementary school art much better than my elementary school writing. (My high school writing I will keep.) (This should not have surprised me: I have one of my middle school paintings hanging on the wall in my office.)

What I did find really moving was a story, called "Why the Grass is Green", written by one of my high school friends when he was in third grade:
One day in a little town there was a man and his wife. They were very poor. They had to chop wood for clothes and money. They had two kids. One day they got in a fight. The man got so mad he broke a $20.75 vase. The wife got so angry they got divorced. The man had to go live in the woods. He started for the woods. Finally he got there. He decided to become an inventor. Now people always wanted some way to color things. Finally he invented the color green. He took his invention to another country because he could sell it for more money. On his way there he spilled some of it. It turned the ground green. That is why the grass is green.
This would be an example of "write what you know."

So much of the stuff in the box seems to center on him and Michelle. In addition to the notes and letters we wrote to and about each other, there's also an issue of Prism with a piece that Michelle wrote about him. Sometimes it seems like there's a story to be pieced together with the things from this box and all the other boxes, and sometimes it just seems like a rehashing of things that happened 15 - 25 years ago that really need to set aside and let go of.

Meanwhile, I need to craft an agenda for a mandatory meeting about nothing (because Dilbert's boss had a part in shaping math department policy?), deal with stacks and stacks of homework, decide what topic I'm going to present for this semester's teaching seminar (I'm considering "academic integrity and our institution's policies and procedures"), try to do some work around the house, and come up with a secret plan to hold my life together between now and fall break.