November, 2011

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At one point, early in the afternoon on Thanksgiving the DH let the dogs outside, and notice that the back gate was open.  Weird.  We don’t use that gate very often; however, just last week, after my re-potting frenzy, I went through that gate to put the potting soil on the back porch.  Maybe I didn’t latch it.  He shut it, we moved on with our lives.

Yesterday I wanted to give the front yard one last mow.  Wild chives grow in our lawns here, and while the grass has stopped growing the front yard has little random tufts of chives growing out of it.  You can probably see where this is going.  Someone stole our lawn mower … on Thanksgiving.

Apparently, the universe will kick you when you are down.

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s always hard for me to talk about all the things I’m thankful for; I’m never really able to get it right, so it all sounds a little over-done, and trite, to me.  This is year is going to be no exception to that rule.  What I mean and what I feel won’t really be captured, but I think there is a value in trying anyway.

Even in the minimal amount of time I’ve put into creating this space, I’m pretty sure it’s been obvious that this has been yet another in a series of remarkably trying years.  Oddly enough, what I am most thankful this year has been the struggle this year has been.  If only because it meant making a decision and getting out of the stasis we were in, I am so glad we moved.  All that had happened afterward, the house, the yard, the DH’s struggle to find a job, has sucked; it’s broken me down further than I thought possible, yet at the same time it feels like forward movement.  I guess I’m just a glass half-full kind of person because I feel like that’s something.

For a long time it felt like we were stuck, and we just kept getting hammered by stuff.  We are still getting hammered, but at least the scenery has changed a little — and, I feel like moving targets are a little harder to hit.  That is, however, probably just my nomadic genes talking, and I am really not trying to tempt fate.

Anyway there have been fruits to this struggle, it almost did the DH and I in, but I think we’ve finally learned from it all, and started relying on each other a little more, and in healthier ways. So, here’s to the struggle.

Writing Updates …

Someday I will write about something other than writing, I promise.  Unfortunately, I don’t anticipate that day happening with any regularity any time soon.

Recognizing my need for some help getting my butt in the seat and actually writing, I decided to build writing into my schedule.  Not wanting to overwhelm myself, I started with just one week at a time, and I built into the schedule the writing I was already doing.  Since I was already writing on the bus, and I knew there was no way I’d be getting up any earlier than 6:00am, the next time I could work writing into my schedule was at lunch.  So, I started putting my lunch/writing on my schedule at work. Initially, I was going to work at the library, which would have the added benefit of getting me to walk across campus another couple of times during the day.  The reality is that it’s getting to be winter, which around here means rainy and cold – walking across campus is not necessarily going to motivate me to get writing.  Just outside of my office there are several cubicles used from math/science tutoring, so now I just check the tutoring schedule to see which one is open, and I take the little netbook in a cubicle and write for an hour.  Surprisingly, I really love it.  I don’t waste time getting anywhere, and it still feels like a ‘new’ space, and since it is a cubicle I can really focus.

At the start, I’d also put some evening writing time in the schedule, from 7pm – 9pm.  Yeah, um, that didn’t work.  My brain is pretty much drained by that time, and I want some time to spend with the DH.  Sure, we might spend all that time sitting on the couch playing Scrabble on my phone, but it’s still together time.  Ok, and sometimes, when the stars align, we have sex.  The point is that no good writing happens, not even shitty first draft writing.  Not keeping the appointment was diminishing the success I felt at writing everyday in other situations, so I took it off the schedule.

So, this is what my writing schedule looks like.  Early morning bus time, an hour at lunch, and full mornings on the weekends.  This might not help me meet the crazy goals I’ve set for myself, but, most importantly, I think it is a sustainable schedule.  (I’m silly like this, so I made sure the appointments show up in my calendar as a color I like.)  Time for my weekend writing to start.

On Writing

Writing the dissertation has been a project in trying to figure out what works best for me as a writer.  It’s not like I didn’t already have a writing process, but that process was built around fulfilling a certain number of pages for an assignment.

The dissertaion is the first project I’ve attempted that didn’t come with an assignment. Well, I suppose “write a book about a scholarly topic” is a kind of assignment.  The problem with this particular kind of assignment is that if I wanted to write a book it might not be fiction, but it might not be about a scholarly topic.  Okay, enough about the dissertation as a project, this post isn’t supposed to be a diatribe about graduate education.

It’s about figuring out what I need as a writer, and really coming to own that title.  I might not be a writer in the way Tana French or John Connoly are writers, but I am a writer nonetheless, and I am a writer in need of a method.

Consequently a good part of the dissertation process has been trying to find a writing method that works for me. This week I’m giving scheduling a try.  Instead of just knowing when I need to write and telling myself to do it.  I’ve actually put it in my calendar.  To make myself feel like I’ve accomplished something I’ve made some times that I’m already writing into appointments on my calendar, and then added some new ones as well.  It’s an ambitious calendar, and while I don’t want to give myself an out before I start, there are some appointments I anticipate dropping already.

In addition to the calendar, I’ve set up a spread sheet to keep track of my word counts.  I think that if I stick with this long enough it will work for me.  My problem with word counts, however, is that they don’t really do to well for revisions, and since that is where a lot of my work is currently, I suspect I’m going to get frustrated when my word counts aren’t that good because in addition to writing that day, I deleted a lot of crap.


Last night as we sat on the couch talking about everything and nothing, the DH turned to me and asked, “If we ever have kids, would you want a girl or a boy?”

Let’s face it the chances of the DH and I ever having kids are slim, and slimmer.  We’ve always adopted an, “If it happens it happens” approach to the whole situation that seems to have worked out for us.  (More about how much that freaks people out another time.)

It’s not the first time we’ve pondered the question, but last night the DH asked it just after I had him read, “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit.  It also came right after the bus ride I’d spent reading the #mencallmethings thread on Twitter; and, the whole “Occupy a Vagina” thing on Facebook.

Since my senior year of high school, I’ve identified myself as a feminist.  I’m not naive when it comes to what women face in this culture.  Yet, at any other point in time I’d have answered, “I’d want a girl” without really thinking about it.  Last night, however, I paused.  Being a woman has never felt harder.  Sure, my life is not exactly smooth sailing right now, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  How women are represented in the media, and how they are treated when they speak out online or in real life. How hard this world has become to navigate if you are in any way different.  Forget, do you want a boy or a girl?  I don’t know how I’d raise a child in this environment. The whole world feels hostile.


In keeping  with the random subject matter here, how about an ode to my diner.  Well, not an actual ode, but a loving tribute.  Although it’s supposed to warm up again this week, the weather here has finally turned a little chilly.  I’m excited because suddenly all the dishes that just seemed to hot and heavy for summer sound just about perfect.  Tonight we are finally going to return to our favorite winter stand by – TaterTot Hot Dish.

Trust me this dish is certainly nothing special, but both the DH (dear, dastardly, dimwitted -pick your adjective husband) love it.  I think you had to grow up in Minnesota in the ’70s to have an appreciation for any kind of hot dish.  When I was 10 and we moved from Minnesota to Washington State I realized that the rest of the U.S. calls a hotdish a casserole.  The hotdish has endless forms Tuna Noodle (with or without potato chips on top), Chicken noodle, rice with sausage, my mom would even make Spam hotdish.

Tater Tot is by far the best.  Brown some hamburger with onions (drain it), and pour into the bottom of a rectangular baking dish, then poor a can, or bag of frozen, corn over it.  Over the corn put a can of cream of mushroom soup, and on top of everything a layer of TaterTots.  Throw everything in the oven (350) for long enough to cook the TaterTots through (20-30 mn) .  It is just a good warm, cold night dinner.

In lieu of the dissertation

Busy times, busy times.

In a perfect world busy times might mean I have a lot to say, but I think we’ve already established this is not a perfect world.  Around here, busy times just means other writing.  The last couple of weeks, I’ve actually managed to work a little on my dissertation.

Last week, I think it was Tuesday, I turned in the first few pages of my Introduction to my committee chair.  She sent me good feedback, and said she was pleased.  Riding the high of getting the introduction in shape, I brazenly thought I could just dive into Chapter 1 a.k.a – THE THEORY.  As much as I adore M. Levinas about two minutes of diving back into Totality and Infinity told me I wasn’t ready for that yet.   This week I’ve been focused on Chapter 3, which is where everything gets fun.  The most challenging part of Chapt. 3 is walking my walk.

Since I spend the whole dissertation talking about hospitality, I think it is only fair that I give the essay a hospitable reading, but ultimately the chapter says “Hey, you got it wrong.”  The entire chapter is an attempt to respectfully disagree with what the article says.