Facing the Pressure of Impending Spring


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Ice melting at the end of a Mount Mercy parking lot March 24. It’s been cold, but the March sun is slowly warming the world.

Not that I want winter to continue forever. In fact, it feels as if it has already.

But spring is bringing with it a seasonal load of stress. The second half of spring semester is normally my most busy time of the school year, and it lasts only a few weeks, but this year feels more stressful than most.

For one thing, I’m behind in my grading. I had hoped to finish grading all speech proposals, group grades, group papers and mid-term exams by Wednesday of spring break. It didn’t happen. I got a substantial amount of grading done, just nowhere near as much as I wanted to get done—not even half. There is still half a week of “break” left, but I’m feeling a bit burdened by the fact that there is only half a week until the rush and crush of the final few weeks of spring semester come crashing down on me.

For another things, and, in terms of my personal stress, probably the bigger thing, there is no editor-in-chief for the “Mount Mercy Times” for 2014-2015 yet. The deadline to apply for the job was Friday before spring break, and we got zero applicants. That has not happened to me before. Most years we get at least two applicants, which means the Board of Student Publications can meet, do interviews and make a choice. A few years there has been only one applicant, and the interview-choice process feels odd and false, but still, the paper has a leader.

I had a student in mind this year, a young woman who I thought would be excellent for the job, but she is in many other activities and decided against taking on this new burden. Although every editor I’ve ever had in 14 years of advising this paper has been glad, in retrospect, that he or she took on that daunting job, it is a daunting job. And the student in question is not holding herself back—she is very busy and aspires to leadership in some other areas. I have to respect her, I think that she made the decision that is best for her.

But I don’t have a plan B. There isn’t another pitcher warming up in the bullpen. Enrollment in my communication and journalism courses has been eroding in recent years, and I’m afraid the bench is getting thinner.

It’s not empty. There are students who have expressed some interest in lower leadership position for the paper. But, so far, none who wants to be the primary leader.

Yeah, I’m a bit bummed. It feels like a valuable brass ring nobody wants to reach for. Students: come on. The most marketable route to a writing career is through this job.

I am at a loss as to what is logical for me to do. I’m facing a battle with no strategy in mind, no tactics to deploy. All I have is a rather lame checklist that I’ll run through: Extend the deadline, contact Kirkwood again to let them know an incoming transfer student has an opportunity, talk to a small handful of students who had been on the staff in the past to see if any are interested—but I have a feeling I’m fishing in a pond where the water has been getting more shallow and the big ones more scarce.

Any great ideas, blog pals? I realize it’s not all me, but somehow feel as if I should have seen this coming and had some grand plan, and frankly I’m not sure what to do.

Other things are gradually grinding at my sense of self, too. I’m not sleeping as much or as well as I ought to be, and feel like I’m slowly growing more and more tired. Other than creeping late middle aged weight, which is difficult to do anything about but the root of a host of potential health problems, I don’t’ feel anything terrible is going on, but the trend isn’t helpful to me as I head into the “busy time.”

There are some good things I’m trying to do at MMU right now. I had the bright idea of staging a campus-wide World War I remembrance series, and the idea has caught on. So, one of the neglected tasks of spring break that I’ll get to someday is writing a proposal for funding for the series. It has to be done by April 1, I’ve never written such a proposal, and I don’t frankly know what to put in it or who to ask for help on it. I suppose when it’s time and I have to produce something the results won’t be that bad, but it’s another nagging thing hanging over my head.

I also suggested that the idea of a video facility be revived at MMU—because we have multiple disciplines such as marketing, communication, art, even education which must use more video projects and have to emphasize video work more in their curriculum, but we don’t have a place, a decently-equipped studio, to do any student video work.

Others who heard me speak on video have liked that idea. “Write something up, Joe,” they say. I don’t know what document I’m writing or for whom, but I know I’m expected to be the one who puts the information together and that it was urgently needed yesterday. And I don’t really even know what information I need or where to get it.

Bleah.

Winter. Followed by spring. It’s normal that when the weather starts to get nice and the first flowers bloom that I take some time to bike or walk and enjoy the sun—but that I also feel guilty taking that time because each year there are too many urgent tasks piling up in my horribly messy office in spring. This is just a particularly bad one.

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Hawthorne tree in my yard. It’s  a stump surrounded by young branches–much of it didn’t make it through the winter of 2013. I hope it can revive after the much tougher winter of 2014. We’ll see.

And I feel as if Mother Nature has created that kind of spring of pressure for every living thing in Iowa. There was a story in The Gazette a few days ago about honey bee keepers being worried because the long winter has killed off an unusually large number of bee hives. I know that in my own yard, some bushes may not make it to spring because hungry rabbits or squirrels gnawed off all the bark they could reach as the cold carried on and no new lush green growth was there to eat. I remain concerned that some of my young trees will not revive after this unusually long dormant season. Online, there is anxiety about the Decorah eagles—did the eggs laid this year already freeze and will we have a spring with no baby eagles? Here are some photos I took of some late March snow this week.

I feel as if the whole world in my little corner of the world is on edge. End snow, come warm weather, we can’t take much more.

And I’m ready for warmer weather, for green and the color of crocuses and the happy yellows of daffodils.

But, I’m also not ready. So not ready this year. So dreading May and graduation and the future. I think the feelings are unrealistic—somehow, putting together the WWI thing, while it’s added to my work, has always been a delightful diversion. Somehow, the paper will find its way forward even if I can’t see what the route is at this point. Somehow, as best I can, I’ll cope with the crush of spring classes.

Still, I can’t help hoping that the march of time doesn’t do what it usually does each spring. The final weeks of the semester always seem to come in a headlong rush. I have too much to do, and too much to wish for: A student editor; a more rational schedule to keep up with grading and classes; and a way to deal with registrations, assessment reports, faculty summaries and whole the host of bureaucratic crap that always comes with years end without going crazy.

OK, I’m looking forward to spring. And I’m not, too.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Facing the Pressure of Impending Spring

  1. ugh, sorry to hear things are piling up. It doesn’t help that a long winter really takes its toll on emotions and energy levels. If you need any help on your video proposal, hit me up (not exactly sure how I can help, but there might be some way, even if it’s just fact-finding)

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