Procrastination’s Purpose

Yesterday I cleaned out my freezers. Not just the one in the kitchen, but the big deep-freeze in the basement too.

How does this have anything to do with writing your book, you may ask? Ah, it is classic procrastination.

When faced with a daunting writing task, the first thing you always must do is find some completely unnecessary task that suddenly has taken on mammoth importance and tackle that instead of the writing work you are supposed to be doing. (In my defense it was getting to the point where you’d have to open the freezer from the side to protect defenseless toes from the kamikaze bricks of flying squash. Plus, was a bit tedious shoving and pushing and elbowing the peas and frozen waffles back in there whenever you wanted an ice cube.)

Now, WHY should anyone procrastinate in this way, and how could it possibly benefit a writer?

Procrastination, at its best, can incite the Productive Panic.  It works like this: after a day spent scraping dehydrated chicken breasts off the back wall of your freezer, suddenly you look up and it’s 3:00.  You’ve got exactly two hours until you have to pick up the kid, at which point all chance of work goes down the disposal with the frozen mystery stew and the shriveled cake from last Easter.

So you sit down and start to write something, anything, so that you’ll end the day by saying, “Hey, I accomplished something on my book today!” Instead of saying, “Well, I cleaned the freezer….”

Sometimes what you write in the Productive Panic is total crap. Sometimes it’s brilliant. Usually, it’s somewhere in-between. Bits of crap and bits of genius all rolled up together. Yesterday, what I wrote wasn’t that great, but it had the virtue of both being written, and getting me thinking about the new introduction or preface (I’m still grappling with which one) that I’m working on in a pretty productive and useful way. Would I have done more if I’d worked all day?  Maybe. But maybe not. Sometime’s there’s stress in the six-hour stretch of time that rebounds into massive unproductivity.  Sometimes it’s good just to take a quick pass at something. That’s what I did yesterday. And so today, I’ve got three pages of ideas to work with.

And, bonus!  Clean freezers.

Struggling Toward a New Ending…

Uh, Hi. I’m Stewgad, Ph.D.  Been a while, eh?

For years I wrote this blog as I desperately/slowly tried to finish my dissertation while I held down a full-time tenure-track job, raised a baby, and managed a marriage. It was a trip and a half, that’s for sure. (see previous blog posts.)

Then, I did it. I finished the Ph.D.  (Yay!)  At the same time, I stopped blogging. (Boo!)  I did this for a number of reasons:

Good Reason #1: After I finished the Ph.D., I was dreadfully sick of it. And of myself. And of my whole drama around its completion. I needed some space from it, and stepping away from the blog was a one way to find some of  that space.

Good Reason #2: I got INSANELY paranoid about blogging while I was up for tenure.  There have just been too many ugly stories circulating about online indiscretions (or perceived indiscretions) having bad consequences for academic bloggers. I felt extremely vulnerable without tenure, and while I was going through that process, (which was about as fun as getting a root canal WHILE finishing a dissertation) I figured it would be way too tempting to me to bitch about it here. And that would not have been a good idea.

Good Reason #3: I was tired, drained, and had no words left.  Especially not extra words that I could spill out over the internets. For a little while, I thought I’d try Twitter, ’cause, you know, all the cool kids were doing it.  And for someone who felt like she didn’t have any words, being constrained by the, like, 10 characters they allow seemed refreshing.  But I quickly discovered that Twitter sucks.  Ok, well, maybe not sucks, exactly.  But let’s just say, it’s not for me. I could just never get the hang of the short statement, and I remain completely confused by the tweet-speak linguistic alterations it seems to require. It makes me feel old.

Most critically, over the past couple of years, any energy I had couldn’t go to Twitter or the Blog – it had to go into getting tenure and turning my dreadfully hated (by now) dissertation into a book.

Which brings me to today: I’m a tenured professor, with a kindergardener, (I know, right?  The Gadlet’s FIVE!), a happy-more-often-than-not continuing marriage, and…. a book contract.  Gulp.

I know, I know, great news.  But it also means that I have to take this book manuscript-that-was-once-my-dissertation and revise it for publication. And, it turns out, all of that anxiety I had about writing did NOT go away with the Ph.D. or with Tenure.  I can’t decide if that is because I lived with the fear so long it has become an ingrained part of me I’m stuck with forever, or if it is just a bad habit like chewing hangnails that a little willpower and some cuticle ointment will cure.

Until I find that fabled Fear-of-Writing-Failure miracle ointment, though, I’m reviving the blog to help me work through the fear.  I’m hoping that being open about my writing struggles will not only help me with the process, but also perhaps help others who are in the Ph.D. process, or beyond, who also grapple with writing issues.  So in the next few months, I plan to check back in pretty regularly and post updates about my progress.  For a more daily account, I’ll fire back up the Evil Twitter feed (Stewgad or Pretty Hard, Dammit should bring it up if you want to follow me) to report in on what I do each day. I know, yawn. But, really, I think most of writing is about accountability — and if you can’t be your own accountability accountant, you must recruit others, be they dear friends or random internet strangers, to do it for you.

Thanks for reading.  Tune in next time for the continuing adventures of Stewgad in Writingland….

@stewgad on Twitter

Hello to the blogosphere — (if anybody is still out there following this poor, lonely, neglected blog.)

Looking for more Stewgad Stories?  You can find the new, reduced, and probably not really improved, albeit slightly more recent, Stewgad Stuff on Twitter.  ( .


It came by UPS last week.  A thin cardboard box, no more than 1/2 an inch tall, and about 11X14.  I heard the big brown truck pull up outside my house and ran to the front door, standing there until the delivery guy put his hand on my door knob.  Then I whipped the door open and scared the living daylights out of the man.  But I was too excited, I couldn’t wait for him to ring the doorbell.  He handed it to me, and I smiled at him, a little shaky, and as he gave me the electronic tablet to sign, I told him, “This is my degree!!!”  He gave me kind of a half-grin, and said, “Yeah, I’ve been delivering a lot of those today.”  I thanked him, and walked back inside.  What for him was a routine, and a repetitive one at that, was the most momentous day in my intellectual life.  It was the arrival of legitimacy.  He didn’t know it, and perhaps couldn’t know it, but he had just delivered back to me a piece of my soul.

I sat down at the dining room table, pushed aside my laptop, stacks of papers waiting to be graded, and my toddler’s breakfast dishes.  I pulled the ez-open cardboard tab, and slid out a large white folder.  Inside it was a thick piece of paper, although it wasn’t as thick as I thought it would be.  It felt oddly insubstantial.  The page had my school’s name on it in large, gothic letters at the top, and then my name underneath it.  Then it had a paragraph about how I was now to be admitted into the privileges and rights that all holders of my degree have, and finally there was a shiny seal and some signatures.  That was it.

I sat there holding that piece of paper in my lap and I wept out a giddy little laugh.  It was suddenly real.  Apparently in the months since August, nobody had called the graduate school and told them it was all a big mistake and that I should never have been admitted after all and all that coursework I did was of course inadequate and I my defense wasn’t good enough and all of those errors that still remain in the submitted text clearly disqualify me for this thing oh and by the way you didn’t pay a fee back in 1999 so it’s all over now.  Apparently none of those things happened because here it was, in my lap.

My Ph.D.

It was real. And it was mine.  My name was right there on it.  Printed in black ink.

Right after I had submitted my dissertation, Spousal Unit said that for him the stress of the whole experience fell away slowly over time, kind of like a shedding.  I’ve been shedding bits and pieces for the last few months.  But it’s not natural yet — and I’m still stressed.  It took 15 years to create the stressed out energy that pushed me through the process, and that’s not going away overnight.  Every now and then I’ll be cooking or eating or reading or walking with the Gadlet and I’ll think, “Oh shit! Stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and get back to work on your dissertation!”  But then I remember I don’t have a dissertation to work on any more.  It’s done.  And then I take a deep breath and shed some stress, feeling a bit of my anger, my pain, my fear, my armor, my sadness fall away.

But I still wasn’t sure it was real.  Until last Tuesday when a nonchalant UPS guy in doofy brown shorts who had clearly talked to 150 other overjoyed overwrought dissertators that day brought vindication in a small, white cardboard box.

Blurg: Gadlet Conversations

Yesterday Afternoon at the Beach:

Stewgad: “Hey Gadlet, tomorrow Dada is going to take you out on a Very Big Boat and you guys are going to sail around in the ocean and look for Dolphins.”

Gadlet: “No no Pat Pat Dolphins.  Dolphins Wild. (pronounced Whydld.)”

S: “Yeah, you’re right.  Dolphins are wild.”

G: “Elephants Wild.”

S: (surprised at this turn of conversation.)  “Yeah, they are.”

G: “Giraffes too.”

S: “Yes, Giraffes are wild.  What other animals do you know that are wild?”

G: “Yeah.”  (Her standard response these days when she doesn’t know the answer to a question.)

S: “How about Tigers?  Can you pat tigers?”

G: “Noooo.  Tigers wild.”

S:  “Yeah.  How about Lions?”

G:  (Giggles.) “No.  Lions wild.”

S: “What about kitties?”

G: (Very Seriously) “Kitties wild.”

S:  “Really?  What about Nana’s kitty, Shiloh?  Is Shilo wild?”

G:  “Yes.”  (kid’s right, that cat’s pretty intense.)

S: “How about doggies?  Are doggies wild?”

G: “No.”

S: “You can pat doggies, can’t you?  Do you pat Nana’s doggie, Buddy?”

G: “Yes.  Pat Buddy.”  (Pause.)  Doggies happy.”

S: “You’re right, kiddo.  Doggies do generallly seem pretty happy.”


This morning, Beach House, 6:35 A.M.

Gadlet:  (Having been extracted from her Packnplay by that soft touch, Spousal Unit, she walks over to the bed where Stewgad is trying to sleep.)    “Mama.  Restaurant Please.  Eggies.”



It’s in!!!
I’m done!

Stewgad, Ph.D.

Making Lemonade

So what is that saying about life, when it gives you lemons, make lemonade? I guess I’m wondering what you do when life hands you a plate full of shit. Shit salad? Flambe? Smoothie?

I had two weeks between when we got back from visiting family to finish my dissertation to submit for the last degree deadline this year. I did it. I finished the changes, fixed all problems, turned in everything, handed it all in to my advisor, bought the archival paper, saw the thesis advisor, and found out about the WHOPPING $1400 bill. (that’s what they charge you when you take 15 years to finish your thesis…) I’m sitting here all poised to print this puppy off and run it over to the thesis czar for checking and final approval.

And I haven’t heard word one from my advisor since I gave him the whole thing earlier in the week. Not an email saying he got it in reply to my email saying I dropped it off. Not a note saying that it is all awful and I have to redo the whole thing so get going, Stewgad. Not anything.

So it doesn’t look like I’m going to get to file for the degree for this year.

I suppose I should just say, what the hell, after 15 years, what’s another year? Is a ’10 degree really that much different than a ’09 degree? Somehow, it is. It meant something to me. It meant a lot. It meant that I could go away on Saturday with my head held high. It meant that I could start the semester knowing that I had a degree. It just meant I was done. And now, I won’t be.

And did I mention that the fucking university doesn’t take credit cards to pay your fees? So I have to somehow find $1400 in CASH to fork over to those fucking greedy bastards. As if I haven’t given them enough of my money over the years…

Oh and if all of this isn’t stressful enough, I’m supposed to have a book review and an article finished by tomorrow. And did I happen to mention that my Dad is going into rehab today?

Yep. Plate full of shit. Anybody got any good recipes?


I decided that instead of sitting here crying, I should get on touch with my advisor and let him know the time frame. He finally emailed back!! We’re meeting tomorrow at 8 am to hand over the approval forms! Then I have to run to the thesis office and get the czar to check the format. Then fix whatever she says, run to Spousal Unit’s big science thingey, print the sucker and hand it in by noon when the thesis office closes. Wish me luck, hope, dignity, and no new arriving plates full of shit!


Previously, on Pretty Hard, Dammit: 

Our feckless heroine began graduate school with a over-inflated sense of hope, and an underdeveloped sense of the dangers she was about to face.  Consequently, she stumbled into some excruciating scenes of advisor-inflicted pain, humiliation, and emotional abuse before the old guy (we’ll call him Advisor 1) retired and passed her along to the new guy (Advisor 2).  The psychic scars Advisor 1 left behind were deep, jagged, and wound up festering for years.  But, despite this, our heroine, as all heroines must do, eventually overcame the trials and tribulations she faced, and completed her degree.  


A few weeks before my defense, I was meeting with Advisor 2 about the process on the Actual Day.  We were talking about who would be present, and he asked me if I would like to have Advisor 1 there.  Cue a Very Long Pause during which I was trying very, very hard to come up with a polite way to answer his question.  (window into Stewgad’s brain at that moment:  So, self, what do you think? NO FUCKING WAY not if my very life depended on it, nope, there is not enough no in the world,  NO FUCKING WAY, I’d rather have anesthetic-free dental surgery and give birth at the SAME TIME, and by the way, NO FUCKING WAY!)  Instead of saying any of those things, I thought back on my many, many years of graduate training, pulled up every resource I could muster, and used my hard-won skills: “Do YOU think I should have him there?”  (genius move, eh?)  In the kindest way possible, he pretty much said “NO FUCKING WAY.”  He had asked, he said, because he thought I should have the option of having Advisor 1 there since I began this whole business with the guy, but that he wasn’t sure it was such a good idea.  I responded with some variation on, yeah, dude, you can say that again.   Then I said that I hadn’t even laid eyes on Advisor 1 in something like 4 or 5 years.  I expressed a degree of surprise that I’d never even run into him at the grocery store or anything,  since this is a pretty small town.  Advisor 2 said he probably thought Advisor 1 didn’t get out much.  We chuckled, and moved on to the next topic.

Fast forward to last week.  

On Sunday, we all skipped church, (yes, church!  Gasp!  We’ve gone over to the “dark side” and have been going to a church.  But before y’all revoke my potty-mouth atheist academic skeptic credentials, it’s a UNITARIAN church, so I’m not sure it REALLY counts as church.) Anyhoo, we ditched “church” in order to go grocery shopping — the absence of fresh food in the  house was that bad.  We’d pretty much finished shopping, and Spousal Unit was heading with the Gadlet in our cart to the checkout when I suddenly remembered that I needed some Very Important Things, so I ran off to get them and said I’d meet up with them shortly.  I trotted off to buy my necessary products, and returned to the front of the store, where I started merrily blabbing to Spousal Unit in a probably over-loud voice about the criminal rising costs of tampons and about how if men menstruated then those suckers would be handed out free on every street corner.  S.U., made a weird face, which I thought was odd because he doesn’t usually mind talking about feminine hygiene products, on the everybody-knows-they’re-not-for-him principle.  Then he rolled his eyes, and jerked his head to the front of the cashier line, with a grimace and an urgent eye roll that said, “Shut the hell up, Stewgad, and look behind me.”  

Time slowed in that way that it only does in movies or in really terrible real-life moments, and as I turned my head to look around Spousal Unit, I saw him.  Advisor 1.  At the Grocery Store.  And me, standing there, with my arms wrapped around a 5,000,000-count box of tampons.  

So I did what any sane person would do. I ducked.  Literally.  With lightning fast-graduate-student-terror-induced, ninja-like reflexes, I dropped down below the level of the cart, narrowly avoiding getting kicked in the head by the Gadlet, who had to have been wondering what on earth her mama was doing.  Then I crab-walked my way around so that I was hiding behind the candy/tabloid display.  There I crouched until S.U. gave me the all clear signal.  What the other shoppers thought of this, I can only imagine. 

As we walked out of the grocery, S.U. and I had a good chuckle about it.  Whew, we said, that was a close one!  Not only would have talking to him opened up a whole barrel of shit that I really didn’t want to deal with in the middle of the grocery store, but for chrissakes, I was holding a box of TAMPONS, which would have made everybody there think about where those things go and why and that would have just created a whole new universe of terribleness that would have made the shame of academic humiliation utterly pale in comparison.  After we got home, I didn’t think much more about the incident, except to send up a big boatload of gratitude to the Universe that the rich variety of American tabloid journalism had turned out to be so useful in preventing such an awful encounter. 

OK, now I know you’re not going to believe this, but three days later…

On a total whim, I decided that I absolutely could not bear one more instant of my fucking car lock clicker working only 1/15th of the time.  For months, every time I went to the car, I’d stand there and then: click, click, click, “fuck!”, click, click,click, “fuck!” click, click, and then finally, the car would half-heartedly unlock.  Wait, you say, do I know that I could have just stuck that nifty little piece of metal into the handy little receptacle on the handle of the door and turn it, and hence, open the car that way, the way people have been opening cars since cars began?  Why, yes, I reply, that is very handy, except for when you are very angry at the small and partially useless piece of technology in your hand that is supposed to make your life easier, and so are hell-bent and determined to get that fucking thing to work.  Where was I?  Oh yes, on a whim, I decided I could not stand it ANY LONGER and so after I dropped the Gadlet off at day care, I went to the Subaru dealer to get them to fix the clicker. 

I walk in, go to the parts department, and watch as the guy says that it probably only needs a battery.  Chagrin.  Months of excessive anger over a dime-sized battery.  Sheesh. Anyway, the guy prys open the clicker, he finds the battery type, and goes into the back for an interminable amount of time to find a new battery of the  proper type.  I’m standing there waiting, and I turn my head and look and in the next room is…drumroll please… Advisor 1.  

I can’t fucking believe it.  I haven’t ever run into the man in 15 years of living in this town, and I run into him twice in one week?!!??  

I start looking around for alternate exits so I don’t have to walk past the waiting room to get out of the building.  That duck-and-cover move worked so well at the grocery, but I didn’t think it would fly here.  For one, there was no grocery cart or tabloid display to hide behind.  There was nothing to hide behind.  Just the parts counter, a short wall, and the waiting room.  And that battery guy was going to be back any minute.  I didn’t see any other exits, oh shit, there’s no other exits!  Like a cornered rat, I started to panic. 

And then some small rational voice piped up in my head.  Stewgad, it said, I think that the Universe is trying to tell you something.  And I think it’s trying pretty hard.  You’ve never run into this guy in 15 years of living in this town and you run into him twice in one week??  What do you think is going on?  Do you think this is a strange coincidence?  Maybe, just maybe, you should buck the fuck up, get over yourself, and talk to the man.  

I took a deep breath, girded my loins, whatever the hell those are, and went into the waiting room and said hello to him.  He actually looked happy to see me, and congratulated me on finishing my degree.  (!!)  I said something like, “yes, finally!”  

And then a small miracle (for me) occurred.  He said, “Yes, I’m really sorry about that.”  


Now, let’s just pause for a moment and let that sink in.  


He was really sorry.  And he TOLD me that he was really sorry.  For all of the damage, for the way things turned out, for the psychic scars he left, and for how long it took me to finish.  In six simple words, he said all of that.  I knew it, and he knew it.  We shared that knowledge and the emotions of that mutual experience.  He was sorry. 

In my shock, I started babbling about, yes, well, full-time teaching position, baby, etc., extenuating circumstances, blah, blah.  All the while my mind was reeling.

He was sorry.  

We went on to have a really, really lovely conversation about my prospects for publication, about the article I was thinking about writing, and about the book I’m thinking about writing next.  That really perked his interest, and he had a great suggestion for something I should look at for it.  It was delightful.  We talked about my kid, his grandkids, his kids, and his work too.  At the end of the conversation, he told me to stop on by his office the next time I was up on campus and we’ll chat some more. 

I walked out in tears.  He said he was sorry. 

And suddenly, I was free.  Free of the burden of the last decade, free of the pain that the dissertation process brought, and free from my guilt and anger about him and our relationship.  It was like closure for my whole graduate school experience. 

Now, I’m not a big believer in universal conspiracies.  But, if his car hadn’t crapped out, if my car clicker hadn’t been annoyingly dying for months, if he hadn’t run out of milk and had to shop, and  if I hadn’t hid at the grocery with the tampons… I’d still be carrying all that toxic stuff around with me, and who knows when I would have gotten to deal with it.   Or, looked at another way, if I hadn’t decided to take a moment and solve a small problem, this huge one would have never been resolved either.  I suppose, though, that if I hadn’t gone to the car dealer that day,  I’d have run into him the next day at the taco stand or two days later at the beautician or the following Friday at the DMV.  I think that when the Universe wants you to get something, it can be pretty persistent.  

As I sat in the car for a few minutes thinking about what had just happened, it occurred to me for the first time that maybe Advisor 1 had also been feeling bad for years about the way it went down with the two of us, and that by finishing, I put all of that to rest.  Not just for myself, but for him also.  And then, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, that brief conversation in the waiting room had been healing for him too.  Maybe now he was also a bit freer than he had been when he went into the car dealer that day.  

So, it turns out, miracles can happen, and they can happen anywhere.  I mean, who knew that the local Subaru dealer sold car parts, clicker batteries, and forgiveness?

Thursday Night Bedtime Conversation

Stewgad: “Good night, Gadlet.  Sleep tight.  I love you so much.  Tomorrow is a Mama day, so I’ll see you in the morning.” 

Gadlet: “Ah-Ee”?  (Her name for Darby, her daycare provider.) 

Gadlet: “Kya-Kya”? (Her name for K, Darby’s son.)

Stewgad: “No, sweetie.  We won’t see Darby or K tomorrow.  It’s just the Gadlet and Mama; just the two of us while Dada’s at work.  We’ll see Darby and K in a couple of days.” 

Gadlet:  Sad sound. 

Stewgad: “But, maybe if the weather is good, we’ll go to a playground.”

Gadlet: Long Pause.

Gadlet:  “WHEEEE!!!!!”

Stewgad: “Sure, love, you can go down the slide.”

Gadlet: “Ge-Ge, Mama, WHEEE!!!”

Stewgad: “You want Mama to go down the slide with Gadlet?”

Gadlet: “Yeah.”

Stewgad: “That sound’s great.  I’d love to.  We’ll go down the slide together when we go to the playground tomorrow.”

Gadlet:  Short pause.

Gadlet:  “Happy.”

Final Foibles ’09

The only thing that keeps me going during the horrible few days of finals is the search for fantastic sentences that make me laugh so hard I weep.  (otherwise, I’d just weep…)  So I’ve started to chronicle these little gems that my students provide.  And before some deeply well-meaning commenter, most likely a hapless student, chimes in here to tell me what a horrible human I am for doing this, let me just say that if you had to read almost a thousand pages of student writing in 48-ish hours, you too would be a little on the edge.  (If you doubt my commitment to my students, please read this and then check out the rest of this blog before you get all righteous in the comment section.)*    I tell my students in advance of each paper that funny errors will be preserved for all time in my files, so they know the risks.  

And the 2009 winners are:

In the Circular Argument Category (With bonus points for an additional Huh? clause):

 “A group of woman formed a club to maintain the cleanliness of the streets by keeping the streets clean, and reinforcing morality and good domestic skills through pictures displayed in public classrooms.”

Yes, forming a club to clean the streets by cleaning the streets is the perfect way to keep the streets clean.  

In the Air Supply Category: (Writing a Paper out of  Nothing At All)

“Women have come along way in history in terms of fighting for their self respect and equal opportunity.  They have impacted a variety of issues that have been a concern for many years.”

In the Inside Outside Category:

“Technologies like computers create problems for women because they portray the desire to have a perfect body and exemplify this through models and women that are not average.  Along with computers are TVs, they show advertisements that encourage change within your outer appearance.” 

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking to change within my outer appearance. 

In the History Comic Book (Anti)Hero Category: 

“In Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale, she take the reader through the life of a midwife in the late Eighteenth Century and early Nineteenth Century. [Martha Ballard, the midwife] challenged these socially constructed roles, not in an evil way, but in away that was positive for females.” 

Yes, watch out all you females of the past, Martha Ballard and her Evil Death Canoe are coming for you.  

In the Confusing Canonical Texts Category: (with bonus points for excessive literality)

“In the creation story man was here first and from man came women.  This is unrealistic because biologically women must give birth to men.  This is not the only place in the bible where women were not treated correctly.  The statement ‘all men are created equal’ completely leaves out women.” 

Yes, you can find this discriminatory text in the infrequently cited biblical Book of Jefferson, 17:76.  

Crowning Glory Extra Super Grand Prize (For Creative use of Spontaneous Combustion):

“Women’s clothing was very complex, and caused public embarrassment while they got in and out of carriages or happened to catch on fire.” 


And finally, just so you all don’t think I’m a complete failure as a teacher, here’s an actual fantastic sentence written by one of my students: 

“American women have adapted varied strategies to translate their power within the private sphere to affect changes in the public sphere.  Using their responsibilities to protect and nurture their families as justification, these women demonstrated their ability to mobilize politically through existing social networks forged through their involvement in the private sphere.” 


* Sorry for the disclaimer, but every year somebody writes a response about how mean and terrible I am for making fun of these students’ sentences.  I thought this year I’d try to head that off in advance.