Friday, September 25, 2015

Letter #61--Julia Child

Dear Governor Ducey,

Julia Child never said ‘no.’ If you called her to ask her for a recipe, she’d recite it for you, clarifying what she meant by medium heat and the size of pinch of salt. If you lived close enough, she might come over to help you make it.  If you asked her if your second cousin could join the dinner party she was hosting, she said yes. If you asked her to appear on your radio show, she said yes. Your TV Show. Blurb your cookbook. Bring the dessert, she said yes, yes, yes.

I admit I was getting a feeling a little overtaxed and begrudging about the conference I’m hosting in October during my sabbatical last semester. I really did not want to send emails about tote bags or find out NAU takes 8% off all funds raised while I was supposed to be researching and writing a new and exciting book. Zoe has a friend whose parents took both their kids to spend their sabbatical year in New Zealand. As I called the conference center to see if I could reserve a projector for a panel, I felt like I had failed sabbatical.

But sabbaticals can’t be failure. So few people get such a thing. I am lucky I even had a sabbatical to call mine. There is no way I could have pulled off the conference with my regular teaching and admin role.
So I decided to be Julia Child. I decided to say yes and to chuckle a big belly Julia Child laugh when I got emails about the budget numbers and how we might not be able to pull off the hosting the event at the conference center. Instead of having a panic attic wondering how I’d remember all these things, if someone wanted a projector, I said ‘Yes’ and put it on a list in Google Drive. If someone wanted to host an offsite event. Yes. If someone wanted an easel or a walking microphone. Yes, happy, yes, if someone wanted to change the time and date of their panel, yes, because no one forced me to host this conference, and really, instead of staring at my email box and getting nothing, now I get emails about how the conference attendees can offer their books at the conference. I found a new bookstore with the coming-guests. Now I have a bookstore owning friend and some friends with books to sell.  It got easier instead of harder. Saying yes, although we are cautioned, as young, female faculty that we will be asked to do too much and that it is in our nature to say yes so we should instead say no, it still got easier. It’s so much more work to say ‘no,’ especially when all you need to say ‘yes’ is to play a short You Tube of Julia Child grinding pepper and access to Google Drive.

Today was a great Julia Child kind of day. I made a list of acknowledgments, which made me feel grateful. I made a spreadsheet on G-drive that volunteers could access and sign up for what events they could cover. That made me feel tech-clever and also grateful to the volunteers. I sent a list of keynote speaker books to order from the bookstore which made me feel in awe of our guests writers and grateful to the bookstore to handle this part for me. I called the hotel to see how many rooms we had left in our block. I emailed the conference center to see where panelists could pick up their box lunches.  I emailed my co-coordinator who emailed me back to say, how else can I help? And, she too, said, “this is going to be fun” and she and I will be glad we said yes together when we do this thing five weeks from yesterday and in five weeks from Sunday when it’s all over. I added up registrants and sponsors. I connected the off-site event organizers with the offsite manager and made a page of offsite events for the program. Onsite events and offsite events. There are 3.5 days of nonstop events. So many people are coming to support us. 400 participants. Grateful? Yes. I emailed presses about the book fair to make sure they were on track. I checked the map my students made (thanks, Sonya Huber!) of Flagstaff which has been, for me, the most fun part of all this yes saying. There’s a lot of stuff to do when you say yes but also a lot of stuff to add to the available universe and there is evidence of all this work on the Google drive if not at the bookstore in book form.

Today, ABOR met to discuss the future. There was much glad-handing and approval. The good university president’s got bonuses. They approved programs and deleted programs. They probably did not proofread programs but I guess they also asked the state to restore university funding which makes me think that yes (and Google Drive) are good things and that I think you would make an excellent Julia Child.

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