Saturday, December 30, 2006

The tree

We're taking down our Christmas tree sometime tomorrow. Figured I'd post this short album of tree decorating pictures up before then.

A funny thing happened: I was crawling around on the floor trying to water the tree the other day, and I pulled on the base or something a little too hard. Next thing I know, I hear my mother-in-law shouting "Tree! Tree!" I'm not aware that the darn thing is falling over on top of me till needles and ornaments start coming down like a hailstorm. Fortunately, Wife was only a couple of steps away and was able to save the thing from going completely horizontal. That's a first for our family! After we up-righted the tree and re-decorated it, it never really quite looked as good as it does in this album. It has a pretty good lean to the left. Oh well.

Anyhow, here's the album.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mappy Chrismakuh/Herry Hannumas

When I was younger, my bi-religional (bi-religional?) family would use these phrases to ring in the winter holiday season. Herry Hannumas was my personal fave.

Speaking of which, I completely missed Hannukah this year. This is unfortunate because for me Hannukah is more of a celebration of God than Christmas is, even though Hannukah isn't all that "important" in the Jewish faith. Don't get me wrong, I think the American Christmas is a whole bunch of fun, but the part one celebrates at home is essentially a big birthday party. Doesn't do much for me in the god department, but that's just me. The home festivities themselves are fun, I love the music, and my wife does a wonderful job of decorating our home with festive things. So, I'm thankful for the season and the various tidbits therein, but I'm kicking myself for not at least taking out the menorah and lighting a candle or two. My own darn fault on that one. Bah humbug. At least we'll hit church tomorrow (twice, I think?), so there will be some religion in the season tomorrow. This is good. I don't mind a little liberal religion one bit.

I've not written here in the blog most of the month. But the dissertation is going well, believe it or not. Chapter 1 is revised already, chapter 2 is into DC (the ball is in her court to give me feedback), and I've created much of the interview protocol that I'll write about in chapter 3. That chapter should go smoothly as soon as I find time to write it. Finding the proper balance among dissertation work, family work, and work-work continues to be a challenge, but overall I've no complaints.

Wife's family arrived here last night and will stay through Christmas. Then wife & I head to see my family in Chicago for a few days while parents of wife stay here with Moose (a VERY nice Christmas present!).

We actually got a "real" Christmas tree this year that was chopped down yesteday. It just went up in the livingroom/dining room/music room, so I need to run and help decorate. Bye.

Happy Christmas, too!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Moose hung out with Santa

I completely forgot to post this last week. The day after Thanksgiving, Wife and my mother took Moose shopping around SCT (not at any of the big-box stores at 5:00 AM, mind you).

They had a chance to stop & see Santa. If they hadn't taken these pictures, I never would have believed that Moose actually interacted with this strange man in the fake beard. He's making a ton of progress lately - very exciting to see.

Writing and Holiday Preparation

I cranked yesterday, thank God. Got lots of writing done, and am attempting to do the same this afternoon. In the past hour or so I've only written another paragraph and done a bit more moving around of other paragraphs. I guess this is part of the whole deal. It may never end, but if it does I've certainly come much closer to it in the past couple of days.

I also have the warm fuzzies I usually experience preparing for the winter holidays with Wife. We decorate the house a bit, play some of our holiday music that we only take out in December, that sort of thing. We sang "O Come O Come Emmanuel" at church this morning, which reminds me of college and fun times singing in the Christmas Carols & Scripture concert each year. No doubt about it, it's Advent out. I do enjoy this time of year.

It's funny: I now associate these Advent weekends with the time when I hunker down and write final papers till my wrists hurt. For some reason, today's afternoon solitude in my home office/prison is actually adding to the warm fuzzies. Well that's sort of messed up, isn't it?! But, this is my fifth December in a row doing this sort of thing, so it's becoming sort of a tradition, I suppose. And I actually don't mind it this year - it's that "do or die" time of year with my academics. Not that anything academic could really ever KILL me, but, well you know what I mean. Life's pretty simple right now: I just have a SHITLOAD of work to do in the next two weeks.

Guess I should get back to it, then. Just had to share these weird thoughts & feelings of "comfort & joy" along with fervish writing. I am SUCH a nerd.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Behind, yet thankful

We had a thankful holiday weekend here at Chesterley. My mom came in from Chicago and we all a lovely time. My mom is a very good photographer, and she attempted to snap several shots in an effort to help us get find a greeting card photo. See the album linked here if you're interested. Only a couple turned out OK, but of course either my eyes are closed too much, open too much, or Moose is looking the other way. C'est la vie, I suppose. Wife looks fantastic in all of the pictures, of course!

SCT has a neat tradition of lighting up the courthouse square for the holidays on the night after Thanksgiving. We went for the official lighting event for the first time this year. Pictures of that are also in the album linked here. Really is quite beautiful.

I got a little bit more done on the diss, but not as much as I had hoped. So, I'm feeling behind, but I suppose it's understandable. I'm thankful for many, many things, and this weekend was a time to celebrate those. Sure the damn diss is still hanging over my head, but I'm not really stressed about it today. However, my sense of awareness is heightened that time for the completion of the proposal is running out quickly if I indeed want to collect data next semester. So, I guess I have a mixture of emotions today, but remarkably none of those involve stress. Guess we all needed the holiday.


Any thoughts on which picture(s) to use for the holiday photo? Speak up!

Geeky part: Also, am still deciding whether or not to keep using the Google Picasa feature for posting these, or if I should fork over the $25 for a Flickr "pro" account to share pictures more widely. Hmm...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Feedback Received on Draft 1

...and it was good! And now I know I need to kick my @ss into gear, FAST, if I want a chance in hell of collecting data by the end of the year.

Tasks:
  1. Tweak chapter 1 (glad I'm in the tweaking stage now)
  2. Finish chapter 2 (she told me I don't have to do as much as I thought...but I do still have a bit left to do)
  3. Draft chapter 3 (this won't be nearly as tough as chapter 2)
  4. Get a committee together (oh yeah, THAT)

If I can get a draft of all of this by November 27 (um, that would be 10 days from now), I'll feel MUCH better.

The light at the tunnel has gotten a bit brighter. Can I really pull this together between now and the end of the year? Well, I've had more end-of-semester work to do in the past, so if I can kick up the work gear just a bit for this final push, I should be good to go.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanksgiving is Next Week?

I shudder to think that we're already nearing the time when seeing holiday decorations is appropriate and not too early.

I was out of town at the end of last week and into the weekend. It was a stellar experience, truly one of the highlights of my doc student career. I attended a conference, well more of a workshop, that explored creating a new research domain around the notion of creativity. The focus was on participation in the arts when in college: right up my alley. And I'm making a pretty major connection between creativity and some other concepts in my dissertation, so this was a WAY COOL experience. I have much more to say about it, but I'm not yet ready to share those thoughts here.

Now I need to synthesize all this information and get the damn lit review done. I think I'm almost there, and I meet with DC on Friday to get my first round of feedback on the first 20 pages I gave her a few weeks ago. Since then I've written another 15 pages or so, and hopefully that will increase by a few more pages between now and Friday as well. Gotta get these thoughts out of my head and get the literature cited.

The looming Thanksgiving date is a bit daunting. If I don't finish the proposal by the end of the year and start collecting data next semester, then I'll either need to change my entire topic or wait an entire year to collect data: I'm attempting to research seniors in their last semester of college: um, that sorta starts in two months. I don't want to wait a year.

I suppose things could be worse. As far as I know, I'm not dying anytime soon from some unknown disease (except maybe Wife may wring my neck if I don't get this done soon). But I am so sick of having this hanging over my head. Just want it done.

I'm glad the weather has finally turned cold. Makes me want to hit a pub and drink several thick beers with friends and wife. There's no time for this, I realize, but it's what I like to do on rainy cold grey Midwestern days like today.

Wait, it's only 10AM and I'm thinking about beer? This is bad!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Elekshun Dae

I haven't really ever posted anything political on this blog. I guess expostulating on the state of world affairs isn't my strength, so I don't attempt to do it very often. However, I vote in every election and feel very strongly about doing so. I come from a line of relatives who were highly involved with various civic responsibilities, though thankfully (my opinion) none of them ever really ran for an actual political office. My parents and grandparents always seemed to be volunteering their time for the betterment of society in some way shape or form. My grandmother, especially, continued this sort of work until just before her death at age 98, earlier this year. I have yet to meet another with the same sort of "do it to improve society" determination that she had.

Growing up in this "engaged" family (ack, did I just say engaged?), I always thought it was normal for people to get involved in a cause, even if it meant working with those who held different political or religious beliefs (hell, my family had, at minimum, two very different religions within itself). Disagreement was just a part of a good conversation. Not only was it acceptable, in fact it was expected. Discussing where people differed in their views was a crucial part of my childhood education. Don't get me wrong: this wasn't always easy, and sometimes it really sucked, but this sort of thing taught me a great deal.

I realized something sort of funny a few weeks ago while hanging out with a buddy who was the best man in our wedding. If I based my friendships on agreement in political affiliation, I literally would have had NO groomsmen! These are four of my very closest friends, two from high school and two from college. I don't think it occurred to any of the five of us that our friendship was somehow impacted by my "different" political views. I guess we're all able to see a little bit of both sides of political arguments, and we don't let it get in the way. I can pick right up with any of these guys at a moment's notice, no matter the time, place or situation. In spite of their unfortunate thoughts on certain issues (and they're all WRONG! haha), I can't imagine not having these four guys as good friends.

And yet it seems this country is completely torn apart by politics. Why? Is it turning into a civil war of sorts? I'm not sure. What I do know is that I think our society needs to learn how to have a good, healthy argument without completely losing its cool. We all need to be more comfortable disagreeing with each other. Where's the joy in a good discussion unless there's disagreement leading toward growth? I don't think I'm being too idealistic when I ask this last question.

Well, the election coverage on the network television station I tend to watch started about 50 minutes ago, so I should go see what's going on. I hate this part of the night, but I'm looking forward to the end of the political advertisements and telephone calls.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Deadline Loomethed and Passethed

Earlier today I turned in a draft to CPA Kim, the one who works across the hall from me and is helping me find the extrinsic motivation to kick ass on the proposal. She gave me an "incomplete," which was appropriate, but I was grateful for the deadline to actually make myself progress. Being accountable to someone else (funny word choice in "accountable," since she's a CPA) (I digress) is what made all the difference.

She moved the deadline back to next Wednesday, the day before I go out of town to confer at a conference. I now have only two sections left of Chapter 2 to write before going back and trying to make better connections between the sections. The goal is to have the two sections written before the end of the morning on Wednesday. Shouldn't be nearly as tough as the first portion I've already completed, because these last two sections deal with areas I've already read about. The first two sections involved exploring some new territory. I anticipate doing some editing on the plane to & from the conference and in the late evenings at the hotel.

"It" is getting easier. Finding the inner energy to get this done and not take it so damn seriously is how I'm defining the "it" in this case. The light at the tunnel's end is getting brighter each day, and I think that's my main motivation at this point. I can practically taste what life will be like when I'm done. That sort of sounds pathetic, because it seems these last four plus years are culminating into an attitude of "just get it done!" Not sure I like that too much. On the other hand, it's a hell of a lot better than sitting around and basking in academic masturbation, i.e. having great thoughts but making no progress whatsoever. Tee hee.

"It's Friday out," and I need to finish up a project at work before going home to mow the lawn/rake the leaves. Just thought I'd get this thought out of my head before the day's end. K, bye.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

National Novel Writing Month

Well shit. I mean, isn't a dissertation nothing more than a really really organized novel? Perhaps I should join this group on the National Novel Writing Month. I could be done with the proposal before December hits.

What's ironic is that I clicked on the web site for the organization (www.nanowrimo.org) and the page isn't working. How am I supposed write my dissertation in a month if the site is down?? It's almost the end of November 1 - I only have 29 more days!!! ACK!

OK people, gimme a fuckin' break and let's get real. I mean, are we expected to quit our jobs and do nothing but write a book? Are we living in fantasy land? Oh yeah...oh SHIT. I quit my job over four years ago to start this degree. Forgot about that detail.

[Rob goes to crawl into a hole now and ponder this fantasy land life he's been living much too long...]

Friday, October 27, 2006

Looming Deadline

With the exception of the post from last Tuesday that just went up, I realize I haven't written in a while. So, hi.

A work colleague, who has already finished her higher education profection, is wonderful about checking in on me just about each day to help me be accountable that I'm actually getting things done on the diss. I'd say it's working. I turned in about 20 pages of the diss to DC on Monday. It's a large portion of chapter 1 and a medium-sized portion of chapter 2. Sounds like I'm ordering fries: I'd like a large please! Oops - digression. Anyhow, that experience was sort of scary in some ways, but cathartic in others. At long last, the feedback loop has been opened. I won't hear from DC for a while, but knowing she has a good chunk of the first two chapters is making me more comfortable with the possibility of sharing it with other colleagues I trust. Feedback would be a welcome change.

Anyhow, said work colleague from the preceding paragraph has set a firm deadline for me and another doc student for a draft of the entire proposal, or dissertation chapters 1-3, on her desk at this time one week from today. This is a good thing: I need the extrinsic motivation (even though it's "weaker") to fuel the stronger, more crucial intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Will I ever again be able to write something without citing it (Harvey & Katz, 1985)?

Guess I'll be focused this weekend in my on-campus office. Oh joy. But it'll be worth it if I can actually get something done by next week. Perhaps I should start chapter 3? YIKES!!!

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.

Harvey, J. C., & Katz, C. (1985). If I'm so successful, why do I feel like a fake? The impostor phenomenon. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Writing Sojourn

I wrote this at 10:00 AM last Tuesday, but I wasn't connected to the Internet at the time, and I haven't had a chance to post it till now.


Today I’m at the cabin of family friends in the next county over from SCT. They are new friends, actually: he is our minister who moved to town July 1 of this year. We quickly struck up a friendship and are still getting to know each other. Jack has his Ph.D., and the minute he realized I was working on my dissertation, he and his wife offered their cabin in the woods to me as an occasional retreat from it all…to write write write and get this thing done.

It seems to be working out just fine. I rearranged my schedule to take some time off from work. 45 minutes later, here I am in the woods. Beautiful time to be here, with the fall leaves and such. The location is the top of a hill covered with tall trees, accessible by a small gravel road leading to an even smaller gravel driveway that splits off an even lesser travel fork of said driveway, and you need to just know just which fork to take to find the place. It’s truly quiet and peaceful, therefore. No internet access, my cell phone hardly works, nothing. All the comforts of home, otherwise: running water, heat, & electricity. I’m glad it all works.

My grandmother lived in the woods for so many years, but I was never alone at her place till just before she died and I stopped by to take some pictures. Being alone here is a bit odd, I’ll admit, but also very nice.

First of all, I could literally walk around naked and not worry about being arrested for indecent exposure (and believe you me, that would truly be indecent). Can’t see another person out of any window. Nothing but trees. Ah, nice. Second, I suddenly have a very heavy reliance on my car, and I realize that I’m in desperate need of an oil change and the like. I wouldn’t neglect my car if I lived out here all the time, that’s for sure.

Third, it’s nice to just be completely myself and completely alone. This is a rare thing. Even the writing retreat in Chicago was in the middle of suburbia, and there were some distractions. The only distraction here is nature, which is quite attractive I must add. But life is simple today. Write write write, and then hopefully have time to reward myself by taking a hike or just looking out the window. I sorta like this.

But I sorta don’t. There is a lot of pressure to finish this up and “move on” with life. Frankly I’d rather be out here to relax instead of work. Wife wanted to come with me, saying she was jealous of my time here alone in the woods. I said to her that if she wanted the pressure of having the family rely on me to finish this up, then she could take it. Probably wasn’t my finest moment, but my point was that this isn’t all that fun. I would rather be here with her. Coming to the woods to work is about as much fun as traveling across the world to see a new country, only to fine oneself confined to a strip mall doing the same old thing you always do.

I have no complaints about this opportunity to work here in the woods, and I look forward to another day when I could come back to do so again. But I really look forward to just coming here for a day of peace and quiet with my family in tow. Now THAT will be nice.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fun Ride

Below is a link to pictures from yesterday at a horse show at the theraputic riding place where Moose goes once per week. He did a stunning job, and he even clapped for himself at the appropriate moment (picture 14). I couldn't believe it! Many of the pictures are blurry since we weren't allowed to use the flash.

By the way, I'm considering switching my picture storage over to Picasaweb from Flickr, since I'm reaching my limit at Flickr and would have to start paying if I want to store more stuff. I really like Flickr, but why pay for picture storage when there are other options? Anyone who has more insight into this stuff than I do, please share your thoughts. Oh, and enjoy these fun, but blurry pics!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Blemish

If I'm 35 years old, then why do I have the biggest zit of my entire life just left of center at the end of my nose??

Friday, October 13, 2006

Circle of Support - 1st Meeting

On Wednesday night we had the first meeting of Moose's Circle of Support. I wrote about this a while back. It was an amazing experience. One of the many things Wife and I recall from our wedding was the incredible feeling of support we felt from our families and friends who gathered from all over the country for the event. In many ways we felt a similar feeling the other night when the Circle got together for the first time.

Similar to the wedding invite list, it wasn't easy to determine who we wanted to invite to the circle group. Many of our good friends are not in this group, and it was tough to make that decision. But we wanted the members to have developed a good relationship with us AND with Moose. There are a couple of exceptions to this. A woman at our church has a 40-something-old son with Autism. She doesn't know Moose very well, but her words have always been inspirational to us. She raised her son here in SCT, so we figured she'd be an interesting addition to the group. She was true to form in the meeting: truly inspirational! About 18 people came to the first meeting, and the ages range from 14 up through about 80. Really fascinating group of people.

What's been sticking with me is this picture and the meaning behind it:


We ALL have circles like these around us. The first circle represents those closest to us, like our close relatives, our partner, or our very closest friends who know all the deep secrets about us. The second circle is our group of friends. The third circle represents the activities in which we participate; for me this is my church choir, the office where I work, organizations I belong to, and so forth. The fourth circle consists of those you pay to be in your life, like our doctors, dentists, the plumber, the dude I need to hire to clean my second-floor gutters this fall...

So who's in your second circle, and even in your first? How did you meet them? Aside from your family members, you met your people in your third circle: the things in which you can participate.

For an autistic person where social skills are comprised, the ability to join in a third-circle participatory activity is compromised as well. How will Moose make friends? Will he date? Who will hang out with him? And MUCH later on down the road (hopefully), who will join his circle of intimacy after Wife and I die? Well, let's face it, he would have to rely on Circle 4 folks: those we'll pay to help him out along the way. That's all well and good, but his caregivers will want to go home at the end of the day and be with their own circle 1 and 2 people, so where would that leave Moose? What kind of life could he lead?

The main point of the Circle of Support, therefore, is to help create a life of better quality for Moose. It's to create a group in which he will be able to participate, eventually. It's to help him build up that crucial Circle 1 and 2. And, frankly, it's going to allow Wife and me to maintain a Circle 2 ourselves. There are times we feel our closest friends are Moose's caregivers, because they "get it." But we realize the more friends we can have on board in this circle, the more they will "get it" too. And that will make all the difference for us, and for Moose.

We are blessed with a fantastic facilitator, a woman who has been part of numerous types of these Circles for many years. She anticipates our questions and can go with the flow no matter what happens. And the funny thing is: she already knew four or five of the members in our Circle, mostly due to personal friendship connections and not just her own professional ones. Amazing, the coincidence of that! She's quickly becoming a good friend to us.

So it was a very big, very emotional evening, and we're excited for all the possibilities. The group will meet only about once per quarter, but we'll keep in touch regularly via e-mail and our every-day lives. I'm not sure we'll ever want to move away from SCT, since this Circle of Support would take years to create in a new town. We feel like we're in the right place at the right time. Not quite sure how that happened, but I'm not going to question it one bit!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Defining the Bricks

I guess I never realized how technical the literature review construction process is. Had I realized this earlier, I may have completed this chapter long ago. Oh well: such is the learning process for me. I need to experience something to really learn about how I'll handle it.

I enjoy thinking in the abstract, but for some reason my confidence level with synthesizing constructs between works of literature has been low. Horribly low. Perhaps I'm a slow reader and felt behind others in during my time in coursework on making these connections. However I'm usually able to meet, and dare I say exceed, expectations when it was time to write papers, take exams, and so forth.

What's odd is that when embarking on a paper or other writing project, I first feel more comfortable writing about something straightforward and technical. Perhaps it's the "check it off the list" factor. When I've written something technical, there's a logical beginning, middle, and end, and when complete I can check it off the list.

However,when writing papers for courses, there was usually the assumption that the professor had already read most of what I'll be citing in the paper. There was very little need to be detailed in the literature review process for smaller papers. Otherwise I'd receive a comment from the professor like, "I already know this! No need to explain it here!" So instead of writing down the basics and editing them out later on, I would procrastinate on papers because I wouldn't know where to start. I would try to be conceptual right off the bat, though I'd rather start with the technical and move toward the conceptual. That would always throw me off kilter till I actually got into the writing process.

In my mind, the dissertation literature review chapter was this huge wasteland of philosophy and theory, connected by bits and pieces of literature that I'm supposed to be able to recall off the top of my head. Now I realize it's silly to think this way. After reading some other dissertation lit reviews and considering the audience of a diverse committee of professors, I realize I can (and NEED to) include the details. As a result, I am flying through this chapter now, and it's due to the fact that I'm building the foundation of it brick by brick with summaries of literary works, many of which I've already read, some of which I have not. Even my reading rate is speeding up, however, because I have a direction. The process is pretty technical right now, and I like it so far.

I really look forward to the next step of being more conceptual, though, and I'm preparing for it. In the back of my mind, I keep asking myself, "why are you including this summary in here?" I take a few notes separately to answer that, knowing that later on I will need to go back, move the bricks around, and connect the concepts in a logical manner. That's where my favorite part comes in: being able to think in the abstract and use the basic concepts to bring out another idea.

Eureka, I think I've got it! Assemble the materials for building up the wall, but don't lay the bricks and fill in the mortar till later on. It seems so obvious now. I thought I would have learned this stuff before the 23rd grade?

Friday, October 06, 2006

On Aging

A while back I posted that my favorite cafe in town is closing. It is still slated to close and turn into another extension of our local food co-op, but for now it's still open and functioning as ever. I'm back here again for the first time in a while, and things are going well. Am probably on a roll to write another page or so before I have an eye doc appointment later this morning.

Near me sits on older man with a large book on his table. He's intently reading, and yet seems relaxed and secure in his old age. Here I sit at age 35, writing as quickly as I can to get this chapter finished, thinking of how much the completion of the degree will change my daily life without this large orangutan on my back. This gentleman doesn't seem to have a care in the world. Just having breakfast while reading a book. I mean, look, he's probably a world-famous endowed professor who has to run over to a seminar he's teaching, and he just read the entire 400 page book on his table in one sitting. But STILL: he looked serene. There are times when I can't wait to be old and settled in my life. I don't want to rush along the life process or anything (can you tell I'm writing about identity and self-authorship right now?), but there is something appealing to me about being in the later years of life and have "things" all settled. Ya know?

Don't get me wrong: I enjoying being "young" and I attempt to live in the present day. I guess I'm just acknowledging I have something to look forward to later in life.

Back to writing, feverishly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Finding a rhythm

I wish this post was related to jazz, but alas it is not. Though I am listening to some cool vocal jazz radio right now, which is pretty damn cool.

I'm back in my on-campus office getting back into the rhythm I established last week. This should be good. Of course I left my flash drive at home (laptop is there too), so Wife just had to e-mail me my chapter 2 document from said flash drive. Nice going, Rob. Oh well, at least I got off my assets and get myself here early today.

I'm glad it's rainy & dreary today, so I can focus (ack, the sun is coming out...go away, Sun!). When I start working at work-work (i.e. my job) later this morning, I'm amazed to see that I don't have any appointments. [sigh of relief]

And away I go to keep on writing.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Writing Retreat 2: Complete

I'm home here in SCT again. I was up in the air about if I would come home today or tomorrow, but I decided I needed a fully 24 hours here at home before going back to the work routine. Man it's nice to come home to Wife and Moose. Moose was sleeping when I got here, and I think he's managed to grow a foot during the past week in my absence.

All in all, the week was a great success. I do not have a finished draft of chapter 2, but I'm pretty much done with the Identity section, and I have the rest of the chapter mapped out. For me, the hardest part is over. The rest now is just writing, and I can do that. I do need to continue to kick some dissertation ass in the next few weeks if I want an entire draft of the first three chapters done before Thanksgiving. Doable, certainly. The proposal ain't gonna be perfect, but it just might be done. Finally. Then the real fun begins: conducting interviews!

Onward and throughward...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Retreat 2, Day 4: Continuation of Identity stuff

But I'm almost done with identity....really! This is definitely going to be more than just four pages per section, but somehow I don't think this will be frowned upon by DC and others. Wrote a few more pages today, and I obtained a copy of Erikson's Identity and the Life Cycle to help out rounding out my theoretical knowledge. I'm finally feeling like a "scholar" with this stuff. Not trying to sound snooty or anything, but my brain is HUGE this week! haha.

Tomorrow will be one last push, and I'll decide if I'm going to stay here Saturday through the night or head back.

Had a nice dinner with sister & her family this evening - kind of spontaneous. "Rob, c'mon over and bring a salad." Who am I to turn that down. Sis even made brownies with gooey caramel on top (I am NOT losing w8 this week). I could get accustomed to living closer to them. This would require a well-paying job (it's CHICAGO) and a good special ed program for Moose. I'll keep dreaming...

To bed I go, high ho, high ho.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wife's Blog

I now introduce Wife's very own blog site: http://chesterleyschild.blogspot.com/ . Already she has two posts as of last night, and I'd say she's doing quite well.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Retreat 2, Day 2: Identity Day ... again

True to form, "everything always takes longer!" That quote comes from numerous doc student colleagues who consistently say that any writing assignment takes longer than originally thought. So, ignore the days I assigned to the schedule in the previous post. I continue to work on the identity "paper" today. It's OK, I'm sort of enjoying it.

Sort of.

I realize I cannot write about every single identity theory ever written. I do think I'm going to end up erring on the side of writing, or at least researching, too much and then narrowing down. We shall see.

Saw an old friend last night after dropping by my sister's place. While I do enjoy living in SCT and the friends I've made there these past 4+ years, I miss having friends who have known me since, well, since I had hair! I value these long-term friends a great deal, so it was good to have the opportunity to have made the connection yesterday evening.

OK, back to it, then.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Retreat 2, Day 1: Four short papers

Greetings from Chicago, where it's five degrees colder than SCT, but at least it's sunny.

I've decided that I'm writing four short papers this week. I have four sections of the lit review to write, each on a different, yet related, topic. So, the goal is a rough draft per day for each topic. The topics are:
  1. identity development (today)
  2. creativity (Tuesday)
  3. purpose (e.g. finding your life's purpose) (Wednesday)
  4. engagement (e.g. involvement in the college experience. Not "engagement" as in diamond rings and all that) (Thursday)

They may not stay in this order in the final version of the lit review. I'll need to write an introduction and then later find good ways to connect the concepts together. Shouldn't be too tough once I get these basics written down.

I'm settled here in my mom's place. There are articles strewn about the floor (in neat, orderly, piles), and my box of books is nearby. All signs I'm getting something accomplished.

OK, it's time to profect the identity section now through the rest of the afternoon. Then, I'm hanging out with my sister and her family this evening, which'll be nice.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rain and Preparation

Big-ass rain drops falleth down. But I'm content in my house, as is Lemming today, with Chester in his typical position sitting on my feet and Wife and Moose downstairs playing. I'll join them in a few moments.

I'm getting all geared up for the writing retreat, phase 2, which will start tomorrow assuming tornadoes don't blow away portions of the Interstate between here and Chicago. For a while I hear fear, trepidation, angst, and stress about this week. But hell, if I could write two quals questions in four days each, two weekends in a row, and still manage to pass, then surely I can take 6 or 7 days alone to nail out a good literature review draft. It doesn't even need to be a good draft...just a shitty draft.

Wife and I have a date tonight, just the two of us. We need that before I leave; am looking forward to it. Dinner out, and then we'll see "The Illusionist." Should be a good one. Do I really look like Paul Giamatti? Lots of people I know have said this to me recently.

I'll post again from Chicago in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Writing

I think much of the problem with why I'm not writing (frankly, I'm just not doing it at this moment) is that it's so damn technical. For me, writing is more organic. Just start the fingers typing or get the pen in hand and see what happens. I've never had a problem with the creative process, but writing to someone else's specifications just pisses me off.

I know, NOT a good attitude when writing a dissertation! But in my blog I do what I want. So there.

How much more am I really going to learn between now and when I finish the study? Probably not a great deal. I will have jumped through the hoops and will be eligible to join The Club, though. I realize the benefits associated with this. But when there are days that I'm not entirely certain what I'll DO after joining said Club, the motivation to push onward is slim to none.

Groan.

This writing retreat next week will really kick my ass (and my ass needs a couple of good kicks), but I'm looking forward to a simple life of having little else to do but this research. Of course, I just realized some of the simplicity went out the window. I'm also going to be a caretaker of the place I'm staying in, and did I mention it's for sale? They scheduled a mid-week open house while I'm there. HELLO?? Little do they know I sit around in my boxers when I write, so boy are they in for a show.

Oh yeah, my minor advisor stopped by my office yesterday, not to see me, but because he was on the wrong floor of my building. Nice. Of course he very loudly said, "Rob! How's your dissertation??" I tried to avoid explaining my procrastination and go more with the "life happens" excuses, but this is a man who has been a professor in three unrelated disciplines during his career. He basically looked at me with the, "What the fuck? Just write the paper!" expression that I knew he would. He's right though. And deep down in his own little way he is supportive. He did give me some good advice in his own little way.

Groan.

Does anyone else besides me see the relationship between procrastination and masturbation? The process of doing the activity is fun, but in the end you're still right back where you started.

OK, I can't believe I just wrote that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Prep for Writing Retreat 2006

I am preparing for my second annual (ugh) writing retreat this fall. You may recall I did this last October as well. I'm blessed by a relative who likes to travel this time of year, and her house is just begging me to come live in it and write for a few days.

I'm looking forward to the simple life of waking up, exercising, writing while the sun is up, and then relaxing a bit when the sun sets before starting the routine over the next day (I still have a few friends in the area, and my sister lives only 7 minutes away). The plan is to have a shitty draft of chapter two done by the end of the week. Chapter 2 has been my Golliath ever since I arrived here at LMU, and I'm determined to win the battle during the week I'm on the retreat: September 24-30.

If I can edit out some of the shittiness of Chapter 1 prior to my departure and share it with DC, then hopefully I'll be on solid ground prior to when I depart. Keep your fingers crossed, if you do that sort of thing.

Wha-happund?

So I had every intention of waking up early today and getting to my campus office by 8AM. I was actually excited to make progress on things, for a change.

At what felt like it was just halfway through the night, I heard Wife say to me, in a sleepy voice, "We need to get up. Natalie's going to be here in a half hour." Natalie is one of Moose's speech therapists.

That's impossible, I think, because she doesn't arrive till 8:30 AM, and surely it can't be...FUCK! It's 8AM! Why am I in bed??

Moose overslept. He's our alarm clock: usually is awake at 6:30 AM each day. I know, I know: I shouldn't rely on him to wake us up on time, I should use an alarm clock. I don't need to hear it, OK? He actually slept in till 8AM, which is unreal.

A comedy of errors ensues while it's raining cats, dogs and squirrels outside. Chester is reluctant to go out for his morning "evacuation." I forget to shave before my shower, so I have to shave in the bathroom mist thus nearly shaving off my goatee. I hadn't yet made a lunch, so I practically knock over the fridge doing that. I must have run up and down the stairs about 87 times this morning because I kept forgetting stuff upstairs. Moose is just chilling out, eating breakfast. Wife is literally moving around in slow motion. Meanwhile, Natalie arrives while Wife's still in her bathrobe and I'm snarfing cereal trying not to get milk all over my cleanly-shaved face (I did save the goatee, by the way). I finally get here to the office at about 9:35. And I've lost my steam to get things done. Nice.

Oh well, life happens. Guess I should quit writing in the blog and get something done today, ya think??

Monday, September 04, 2006

It's September Out

I find it odd that the weather drastically changed here in SCT with the onset of September. It's almost as if Nature changed her calendar to September and decided to get more temperate. Suddenly it's no longer hot & humid out: instead it's September out. *

[* I use the phrase "It's _____ out" with lots of things, referring to hunger, tiredness, etc. "It's hungry out!" is a common expression heard from my mouth around Noon. "It's tired out," comes around Midnight]

I'm glad to be writing a post for September on my blog so I can close out the month of August and make those individual post titles stop showing up on my archive. I had one positive post last month as related to making academic progress. The rest was, well, the rest. To the past with it!

I have a good friend from College (a medium-sized private research university in the northeast) who works as a high school teacher and therefore has her summers off. She refers to the entire month of August as "just one long Sunday." Teachers spend the month of August preparing, physically and mentally, for the upcoming school year. My friend finds it depressing. She loves her job, but who doesn't love a vacation?

I guess August was a long-ass Sunday for me this year. I dunno - for some reason I'm glad it's over. On the other hand, I realize that I feel way behind from where I wanted to be, and that's just a bit scary too. Oh well.

Random post, but at least it's officially September in my blog world. K, bye.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Circle of Support

We're forming a Circle of Support for Moose. I just finished up a meeting on this a few minutes ago, and I need to get my thoughts on this out of my head.

The goal of a CoS is to form a group of friends who will "be there" for our son throughout various aspects of his life. But these are more than just friends. Instead, this will consist of others who are willing to actively participate in fostering his growth and integration into mainstream society.

We realized a while ago that while we attempt to provide a great deal of support and innovation to encourage Moose's development, we know there is always "just a bit more" that can be done. That gets extremely overwhelming, as we start to feel that if we don't provide every last thing we can provide, then we're doing Moose a disservice. Now, we try to keep all of this in perspective and not beat ourselves up about the pressure we feel, but it's tough to keep it all in perspective.

The CoS, I think, is going to fill in a couple of gaps for us. First, there will be many other minds involved with creating ideas to help out with the fostering of Moose's development. Perhaps we'll feel like we're not missing opportunities and such. Second, it's an organized approach to helping us help Moose. We know we're not alone in our interest to support him, but this is yet one more thing we can do in an organized fashion to provide a sense of community for him.

(And for us.)

The first meeting is going to be next month sometime, and the group will consist of his teachers, therapists and friends that we see here in town on a regular basis. I'm sure the group will grow with time and will eventually involve his own friends and classmates. It's pretty exciting to think about all of the future possibilities.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh well

Today wasn't quite as productive as yesterday. Stayed up too late last night doing stuff around the house. Overslept this morning and didn't get motivated all that much. Perhaps this evening I'll crank out something at home. I need to get this article finished and out of what little is left of my hair by the end of this weekend.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

At long last

I finally found the focus to forgo all other fuzz and was thus able to freely further my research (couldn't find an 'f' word for research) (that is, since today I'm not associating the word with the f-bomb, as I have in posts past) (why the spontaneous alliteration, I'll never know). Anyhow, I read a valuable article for The Study, and I also have finally developed a viable system for organizing my own notes on various readings that I'll be able to print off when writing the dreaded chapter 2. Big burdens are beginning to lift.

Now it feels like I just need to keep pushing to get this stuff done. Whew! On the suggestion of Pink, I developed a daily journal to track my accomplishments. Kind of a reverse to do list. I like it.

Oops late for work bye.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A syllabus, perhaps?

Today is the first day of fall term classes here at LMU. Of course, I'm not taking any! I'm registered for "G901 - Advanced Research," which means that I'm in the vast abyss of working on my dissertation. There's very little structure in my student-life now, which doesn't bother me too much. I do realize, however, that I need to create my own structure in order to be productive.

I think I'm going to create a one-page syllabus for this semester. I'm considering seeing if DC would be willing to sign off on it and help me stick to some self-imposed deadlines. I think if I had the external structure and shared it with others, I'd then be able to hold myself accountable.

Part of me thinks this need for external structure is lame. I'm in 23rd grade, for crying out loud, and one would think I'd be able to structure this stuff out without the watchful eyes of a "teacher" hovering nearby. Well, so be it - at least I'm self-aware enough to consider creating the friggin' syllabus in the first place.

I may post the syllabus here, too. We shall see.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Becoming Accustomed to Growing Older

I don't think I'm all that old, however I'm certainly no longer "young." Well, that probably depends upon the others with whom I'm hanging out here & there, but I digress.

What I mean is that I can remember events, places I've visited, things I've done from 10-15 years ago as if they were yesterday. Sometimes I find that a bit disturbing, but other times I start to feel "wise," I suppose. I mean, I have a ton yet to learn in life, so don't mistake my self-proclaimed wisdom for arrogance. However, I do feel as though my life experiences have gotten me somewhere and have certainly shaped the person I am today. I dunno.

OK, can you tell I'm writing a paper on student development right now? I guess I'm processing my own identity development along the way.

I also have recently read Beloit College's Mindset List for the class of 2010: this year's typical college freshmen. Take a look: it always makes me feel just a bit old.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cafe morning

After a quick doctor visit (my lungs sound "good!"), I went to a Starbucks here in SCT to do a little reading. Just couldn't face the on-campus office today first thing. I'm really glad I did: I cranked on an article I've been meaning to read for a while. It was a study of people writing dissertations and finding their accademic identity (academic ID is the point of The Study and may trickle into the diss as well). Basically, I feel very much as a member of a community of others struggling to find academic identity in this hazy dissertation world. It was a helpful perspective, and it will also lead to another couple of articles to read. Yes, the never-ending web of reading. At least it was productive for a change.

It was really good to get back to a cafe again for a change. I've been boycotting my regular cafe lately because...oh, have I mentioned this?...THE PLACE IS CLOSING. I'm so mad. They're not closing entirely for low revenue, they just want to open another branch of the food co-op in its place (the food co-op owns the cafe). It's one of the better restaurants in town, so it was a sad day earlier in the summer when it was announced.

K, bye. Off to a meeting.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Back to it

I'm finally feeling better. We went to the local farmer's market yesterday morning, and I was still a little bit loopy. It was my first time out of the house in over a week, except for two trips to the doctor. I enjoyed seeing a variety of people, sights, sounds and smells, but afterward I needed a nap. After the nap, though, I felt much better. We even had a few friends over for dinner (Thai food take-out - yum), and much fun was had by all.

Today was church, again my first time in a couple of weeks, and that was good. Had lunch with a friend, and then just had an easy-going afternoon here at Chesterley. I'm needing to clean up the office/prison again so I can have some sanity, but frankly I'm doing more work at my campus office these days for it to really matter. Perhaps it's time to close up the home office/prison and it turn this room into a guest room or library something.

Tomorrow morning the plan is to hit the campus office by about 8:00 AM and spend three hours on The Study for The Article. I think I'm still on hour 3 or 4 of the 8 that DC is allowing me to spend on it before submitting it for rejection, I mean publication. If I can knock that out early this week, then I'll feel that this last week of summer was spent wisely. I can then focus "only" on the diss when classes start up next week.

Perhaps the energy of others starting up their classes will inspire me to get cranking on my work? Perhaps, but I've gotta tell you my perspective has changed. The motivation isn't something so worthwhile anymore; I'm now doing it for the money. Time to buckle down, finish up student life, and move the hell onward.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Can't Sleep

Whomever heard of a sick person who couldn't sleep? Well, guess I'm not sick anymore.

I keep thinking about the week I've essentially lost with this illness. I mean, it's not the end of the world, I realize, and what's more important is that I'm better without requiring major amounts of time and hospitalization. There's now one more week left of "summer" before the fall classes at LMU officially begin. I was hoping to be finished with the proposal at this point, so I'm a bit bummed/stressed/annoying that I am not.

I am much further along with things, however, than I was at the beginning of the summer. I guess that counts for something. I hope that I can just focus and buckle down with this. ARGH, I feel like I've been saying that for a year, though, so in some ways I admit I'm beginning to lose hope.

I say that as if this is all beyond my control. To lose hope for something over which I have control doesn't seem to make sense to me. I mean, if I want it, I have the time, I have the idea...why the hell not just do it? What else IS there?

I think part of it is that I need to surround myself by people like Pink, that is, people who can be supportive of others during this selfish time of doctoral student-ness. I miss my long-term friends, I guess, and it's unfortunate that very few of them would really understand all this shit if I were to share it with them, which I haven't. There's a part of me that wonders what life would have been like had I found a career path in business and had just settled in one town. Would I be back in Chicago with a group of long-term strong friendships? Should I just screw all this and go back to Chicago?

Big digression, Rob. Live in the present. Focus on getting through the next month and just write a little bit each day.

The department's fall cookout is coming up on Tuesday. It'll be my fifth one. I only expected to be here four years...perhaps that's contributing to keeping me up tonight as well? Ya think?

Hmm...this brain purge must have worked...am getting very sleepy...

Friday, August 18, 2006

A new face

Am trying on a new face for a while with a new template. Hey, if I still had hair, I'd try dying it different colors once in a while. Figured this is sorta like that. But, it's not.

Anyhow, this is sorta fun. And, it's nice to not lose any of the personalized stuff I brought over from the old version. That's a nice improvement in the new system.

Someday I'll actually get back to writing about being a doctoral student.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Quick makeover, I guess

Well, I converted things to the new Blogger Beta because I wanted to use the labels. It went pretty smoothly, but one can't yet edit the html code of the page itself, so I'm unable to customize the florid picture at the top. That's OK for now, but when fall comes I'm going to want something else up there. I may change templates, but I've liked these colors and the layout for a while. Not sure about that just yet.

The labels are going to be fun. If the list on the right gets too long (scroll down a little), then I'll just delete it and just keep going with the individual labels in the posts. I've gone backward in time and labeled the posts from this month only. I don't have THAT much time to spend on this blog! :-) I may label a few key posts from the past hither & yon.

If anyone has thoughts/comments on this stuff, lemme know. I'm declaring myself only at the "advanced intermediate" level (a throw-back to Red-Cross swimming skills levels at summer camp), so am certainly open to advice on this sort of thing.

Heath update: the fine motor skills are working fine, e.g. I can type, click & drag. Obviously. Now, gross-motor is another story. I'm in my office now at home...how long will it take me to walk down the 7 steps to the kitchen to get a refill on water? I'll let you know next week when I return to my home-office desk. Haha.

Renovation in progress

What better task to keep the brain active when sick than to tinker with my blog site? Especially when there is no physical effort involved.

You'll notice that the blog is looking rather "basic" at the moment. Bear with me, I've switched to the new Blogger mode for now. I may revert, but I sorta doubt it. I've been waiting for a handy way to have category labels for each post, and Blogger finally came through. I'll bring back in some of the elements I've lost in the transition as soon as I can. Also, there will probably be a few new things showing up here & there as well.

Description of the sickness: I have pneumonia, just like I wrote about last. Nice fucking way to end the summer. It was diagnosed Monday morning, and the fever FINALLY went away yesterday after five nights. It's been a royal pain in my ass. I now have a good word from the doc that I'm improving, and she gave me a handy, and ENORMOUS, inhaler that will help me pull through just fine. Wife has been her angelic self, which is wonderful. I need to find a way to give her a vacation.

Bring on a change of season into autumn - I'm ready to move onto something new.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sick

I am not one to complain about being sick. In fact, there have been times this past year or so when I've been sick, and I didn't feel a need to share it on this blog.

I don't think I've been as sick as I have these past 48 hours since I had pneumonia during my freshman year in college (um yeah, that would be 1989). I've had a fever since Friday afternoon (around 102) and what feels like a chest cold. Perhaps a recurrence of pneumonia? Sort of doubt it. But it's the type of fever with body aches throughout the torso, making me freezing, and then later I, frankly, start so sweat like a pig. None of this feels so out-of-the-ordinary: I'm reminiscing back to the bout with pneumonia and what seems like countless other childhood illnesses. I have found that I'm not very good about staying in bed for long periods of time. It's driving me nuts. However, Wife has been her usual wonderful self, bringing me things as I need them. I'm on a regimen of acetaminophen and ibuprofen alternating, along with my regular allergy decongestant which I'm convinced has been the ticket to keeping this infection from spreading into my sinuses, which is good. And this is probably way too much information.

I'm very current on the news thanks to the Cable News Network, and I've been watching Digital Video Disks on my Dell Inspiron 600M laptop personal computer, upon which I type this post now. My wireless internet access throughout the halls of Chesterley has helped me keep in touch with the rest of the world, so this is good. I'm missing a couple of fun events today, including a potluck lunch at our church and trip to Large City to the North to get Moose's hairs cut. I'll live though this, but wife is trying not to tell me how nice the weather has been this weekend and how much fun she's had hanging out with a couple of friends yesterday afternoon. I know better, though. I'm missing the first "nice" weekend in months, and this sucks! Also, I had a date with a friend to sit in the campus office all day yesterday and crank out dissertation prose. Another weekend shot to hell.

Am feeling a nap coming on. More later...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mini Me


Mini Me
Originally uploaded by chesterley.

Thought this was a cute picture from yesterday morning. Moose has been making a ton of good connections lately, and he's really beginning to follow directions well. Last night when I brought him upstairs for his bath, I gave him directions of each task to do in turn, and he did them all (e.g. take off your shirt, take off your pants, hand me your pants, walk into the bathroom please). I really couldn't believe it! We've had him in a couple of intensive language programs this summer, and we also enrolled him in a really fun summer camp at our local Young Men's Christian Association (I hate acronyms). He's made a lot of progress this summer, and it's been cool to watch!

I can't believe he starts school again a week from Wednesday. Where has summer gone?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

busted week

This week has been sort of a bust, in terms of dealing with The Study and The Dissertation. It's been a busy week at work, and of course the time that I usually work on The Study and The Diss is in my office before I start my work hours. The work plan was busted this week as I pitched in to make things work. No, I didn't bother trying to get the work done after hours. I'm through with staying up all night.

So, I won't be done with The Study this week as I had planned. However, I do have tomorrow morning and perhaps part of the afternoon to work on it. Gotta make up the time somewhere, right?

The good news is that the busy time at work has passed, and we finished a major project about four hours ahead of time. Hoodathunkit?

In other news, I can't believe it's August. Moose starts school two weeks from today (WHAT?), and he'll go to a new preschool this fall. We're excited about it: it has a Montesorri philosophy which is therefore highly structured and should help toward a transition into kindergarten for the following year. Who knows where in the world we'll be a year from now, though??

That's about it. Back to work with me.

Monday, July 31, 2006

8 more hours and that's it

OK, I can't really believe that tomorrow is the day we flip all of the calendars over to August. August?? Buh bye summer.

Had a good meeting with DC last week. It lasted about two hours, with the first 30 minutes or so just catching up from our summer adventures and such. And then the rest was all business, which was good. I like having an advisor who doesn't make me prove myself to her. Actually, I may have proved myself to her when I took a class from her in 2005, not sure. Anyhow, now it's very much a mentoring relationship more so than one where I have to prove my worth, and I appreciate this. We have confidence in each other, and she expects I'm going to be able to keep up. Big expectations, but if it wasn't for those, I probably would lose interest, honestly!

So, we agreed I need to spend no more than 8 hours working on finishing up the study from last year. It will help with the diss and I (we?) may even get a publication out of it. That would be nice. This means that by the end of the week, it's all about the dissertation and no more extraneous study hanging over my head. I hope.

Was a good weekend just gone by: Moose & Wife were away visitng relatives and I got a much-needed "vacation." I miss them, but I admit once in a while it's good to have the place to myself. I look forward to their homecoming tomorrow, though. Over the weekend,I did some reading for The Study (only a couple of the 8 appointed hours), and I also got a few things done around the house ("weed-b-goned" the front lawn, etc.). Had dinner & drinks with friends on Saturday night. Sang a big choral work in church on Sunday to celebrate the departure of our choir director. I do enjoy singing in the choir again.

Lots of my colleagues here at LMU are in qualifying exams this week and next. Good luck guys! Just pull them on through the chute and get 'em done.

Off to complete Hour #3...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Too many strands...

I'm editing my first chapter now. It's not very good, but that matters not since no one but I is reading it at the moment. This first draft is decent, I guess. Good general ideas, but the concepts don't hold together really well. I'm essentially critiquing it as if I weren't the author, asking myself questions in the margins like, "What does this mean?" or "Think about moving this paragraph earlier." Too many loose strands of concepts right now, and not enough of them are tying together just yet.

Bottom line: I still feel like I have a ton of reading to do before I really master these concepts. And that sorta scares me, because I'm concerned about keeping all of this literature organized. I'm also concerned about completing the proposal anytime soon.

The good thing is that I'm meeting with DC later this week. I'm not 100% certain if I'm going to be able to communicate these dissertation ideas very clearly to her, and that's a bit scary. I don't want to look like a complete idiot.

This is going to sound weird, but part of me thinks I should take this dissertation process less seriously. I find I get fearful when I need to edit things I've written, and that's ridiculous. I'm allowing the fear (the origin of which is unknown to me) keep me from focusing, so I find ways to procrastinate. Not very productive...I'm essentially allowing myself to not focus very much on something I find important. It's backward: I'm spending time on things that are NOT important when I should be working on the dissertation.

It's time to change and tie together these loose strands. I declare that I will not "care" about this dissertation! It's no longer important to me! From here on out, my form of procrastination will be to work on my dissertation and forego the things that are really important.

Would that attitude actually induce productive procrastination?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I don't feel like it today

I'm feeling a push to get some work done today on the dissertation, but it's more of an external push than an internal one. External forces on me are telling me to get cracking on this, and yet I really don't give a rat's ass about it today.

Part of me feels like I have this great idea for the dissertation, one I've been working on quite a while. But the "work" hasn't been active work, it's been in my head. And my head as been buried in books, though a little half-heartedly I'll admit. My head as also been buried in recent family shit too (extended family, not Moose & Wife) , and that's taken a higher priority. And I suppose my priorities are in line. But when is the dissertation going to take on a higher priority? Not sure about that one. I mean, one may think it's good I'm not letting it take over my family life. But then again, I'm not getting it done, either, so what good is that?

At this point, I know I'm being too abstract with my conceptualization of the dissertation idea. I just need to narrow, focus, and get the study done. While I have a chapter 1 draft, it sucks so much that I won't let anyone else read it. Well, that's not very productive, is it?! So the goal now is to at least get some feedback on the fucker, even if it rips my heart and brain to shreds in the process. Feedback should help with the forward motion of the process. It's been a while since I've had any feedback, but then again I haven't produced much substance in order to obtain feedback.

Onward, then. I'm torn: do I indeed complete chapter 1 before I feel like I've done enough reading, or do I read some more too so I know what the hell I'm talking about? I think I'm going to keep reading and get a shitty draft of chapter 2 done. Then I can go back and tweak chapter 1. We shall see. Am not feeling very optimistic about all this today.

Off to the library...

Perhaps I should quit while I'm ahead?

Saw this one on Lemming's blog.

Maybe I shouldn't be in educational research after all...

I am nerdier than 17% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Monday, July 17, 2006

What's your personality type?

Whever I take any version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I try to vary my answers a bit depending upon my mood or recent experiences. Never seems to have an effect on the outcome. This is me, no doubt about it.

You Are An ENFJ
The Giver
You strive to maintain harmony in relationships, and usually succeed.Articulate and enthusiastic, you are good at making personal connections.Sometimes you idealize relationships too much - and end up being let down.You find the most energy and comfort in social situations ... where you shine.
You would make a good writer, human resources director, or psychologist.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Document Analysis

Four of my closest relatives and I had a difficult, yet important, experience together last weekend. We cleaned out the family home of our GoGA (Grandmother of Great Age), who you may recall died last March at age 98. Just a year ago Wife, Moose, and I visited her home for a week-long visit and had a good time. Dealing with her end has been a long and drawn-out process, mostly due to the physical distance among my cousins and between our homes and hers.

You may have heard the cliché, “she kept everything.” Well, this is no cliché with our grandmother: she truly kept everything. Not only did we four grandchildren uncover just about every letter we had ever written to her during our lives, but we found everything from our great-grandmother’s Shabbat notebook from 1897 to auto registrations from the 1940s and plans for parties my grandparents held in the 1960s. I learned many things through this experience. For example, the format of tax returns have not changed very much since 1937. And, did you know that if you wanted timely delivery on a letter, one needed to indicate “via air mail” on an envelope traveling from New York to Chicago as recent as the late 1960s?

Document analysis is a qualitative data-collection technique that researchers use when wanting to learn more about a certain entity. I’ve used this data collection form in the past when assessing the effectiveness of a program or when learning more about the history of a college. I realized early on that we were performing a large document analysis on the long life of my grandmother. This was a gift, in some ways, though I admit I wasn’t really very pleased with my grandmother for essentially forcing us to take a week off and go through her files, some of which were ridden with long-gone mouse nests and years of mold (Cape Cod is rather humid, so mold accumulation is a regular experience) (ew). The gift part of this experience comes into play when considering that we essentially were able to relive parts of her life through the last century, and there were many of these moments we did not realize existed.

I cannot and will not outline all of her life experiences here in this blog. Suffice it to say, however, that any major life event I was aware of in her life were documented somewhere in her house. For example, whenever she started a story about a place where she lived, she would give us the street address; we found unused personalized stationery from every residence where she had ever lived. She would describe the cars she drove across the country to go to her summer home; we found the bill of sale for when she purchased these cars. Through these documents we saw her life at its height when she was an activist for human rights in Chicago (the mayor would ask her to lunch on a regular basis to discuss these issues). We watched her life age when her handwriting became illegible and her filing system moved from organized files toward a series of piled papers along her desk and bedroom floor.

Soon after her death, I wrote that I thought it was odd I was missing, of all things, her house. Now I think I understand this a bit better. Her house was a symbol of family gatherings, both good and difficult. We’ll never be able to replace this symbol once we sell the place. Five generations of my family have enjoyed this house, all people related to GoGA in some way. Her mother would join her during summers in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. My grandparents of course spent countless months enjoying the home and the beaches across the road. My parents, and aunt & uncle, would visit with my cousins and/or me and my sister in tow. Other extended family members would see us all gathered there both in the summer and winter months for informal family reunions. And more recently I, my sister, and one of my cousins would bring our own children to visit their great-grandmother. Selling a home that’s been in the family for about 50 years is a grueling process. Going through the files and other personal items is strange and tiring. But the emotional aspect of losing family history in a physical place is unfathomable for me at times. It’s amazing to think my grandmother lived in this house for only half of her life…50 years seems like a long time to live in one place. Perhaps I will get used to the fact that another family will stake claim to the sand dune we referred to as “Gram’s house” for so many years.

I have mixed feelings, though about the sale of her house. I admit there’s a large part of me that’s glad to see the place go, as I had some very difficult times there that I’d rather not remember. But another part of me will always wonder how many more years I and my relatives would have carried on the tradition of these family gatherings. Sort of seems like a waste to sell the place after all these years.

Someday I may take some of the documents I saved and write a book about my grandmother’s life. It may make for an interesting story.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Earlee

Well, here's day 1 of trying the new schedule. I was up at 5:30, out the door just before 7, and here I am at my desk on campus, ready to work after a stop at the post office and preliminary work e-mail check. Wait. What am I doing again? Oh yeah, this dissertation proposal...that's it!

Long hiatus in posting here, I know, mostly because I've been traveling just about every weekend this summer. Finally, I think I'm all done with that. When I have more time I'm going to post more about an interesting family experience from last weekend.

Time to crack the books. But I need some coffee first. zzzzzzzzz

Monday, July 03, 2006

Fireworks are Everywhere

Ever since my state passed a new law which actually PERMITS morons to blast off fireworks till 11:00 PM each night, including the ones that go off the ground, into the air, and onto my trees and roof, people in my neighborhood are louder than ever. Normally, it's a quiet place that few SCTers have ever seen (it's built behind several old farms that are no longer functioning as such, but one cannot see this from the main road...just looks like a series of old farms with a couple of little roads in between). But around this time of year, the fireworks "season" begins. Not just around Independence Day, but the sounds keep going till September. I don't think I'm exaggerating very much.

Tonight I think I'm hearing popping sounds on three sides of my house. Last year I actually called the police on one neighbor who was allowing his 10-year-old to set off huge-ass fireworks that went up above their two-story house and onto my tree line, which was completely dried out by a lack of rain. It was 10:30 PM, and I was told by the police that any fireworks up in the air like that were illegal. Made sense to me: pretty dangerous. And especially for a 10-year-old...HELLO?? And it's 10:30PM. Send your kid to bed!

So this year, that would be legal? If you smell smoke and see flames, send the firetrucks to my house.

Now don't get me wrong: I like to have a good time just like anyone else. But we live about two blocks from an absolutely enormous open field surrounding a school (another former farm). Why the hell not go out there and do this instead of our thickly-settled neighborhood?

Wow, I just realized I posted on this very topic about a year ago. I guess some things never change. At least I've had no altercations with my neighbor since I called the sherrif last year (knock on wood!).

ADDENDUM (7/4/2006):
And with what does Wife surprise me this evening? Our own stash of fireworks!!! They're the kind that just make a lot of smoke and spin around on the ground. Oh, the humanity!

But boy oh boy was that fun! Yeah, just feeling a little hypocritical right about now...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Conditioning

I've had yet another busy weekend: the 3rd of 4. Wife's family has been in town, and we've been "camping" at a nearby state park. I used quotes around "camping" because we (Wife, Moose, Wife's Parents, and I) actually rented a cabin on the grounds of said state park, while Wife's sister and partner were in their trailer at the campground itself. It was fun, though I was running back & forth between the state park and town late last week since I still needed to work. No complaints: I'll take a "real" job over a vacation at this point in my life. As a result of the running around and fresh air, my ass is tired. Last night I went to bed at 9:30, sound asleep. Woke up at 6:30 AM today. NINE hours of sleep? Hardly ever happens.

However, the early bedtime is good conditioning for the schedule I'm going to try & start keeping starting tomorrow. It involves getting up before the crack of dawn (good idea from my colleague John) to attempt to get my dissertation work done. I'll work my "real job" hours from about 10 AM - 5PM or so (start at 11 AM if I have no lunch hour plans). So, if I can get to my campus office (did I mention I have my own office now?) by 7 or 8 at the latest, then I'll have a few hours each morning to get something done during my peak brain power time. Guess I'm a morning person at heart. I hope to use Saturday mornings in the same way, so I still have plenty of family time Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. We'll see how this goes, but I fiugre a few hours each day is better than no hours.

I enjoy getting lots done in the morning. Today I've already exercised (I know, Rob EXERCISED?), shaved/bathed, paid a couple of bills, had breakfast with Wife, Moose, and Wife's Parents, and now I'm actually finding time to write this blog. Still about an hour before we leave for church...mabe I'll tidy up Home Office for while? This afternoon I'm going to Campus Office to put up pictures and such. I have a window at said office, so I'm looking forward to getting that set up. Perhaps I'll eventually move the home office/prison to campus?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

No posts in a long while

Where has the end of June gone? I don't know. lemme think...

First, I'm transitioning into this new job that is supposed to start on July 1, but since four new staff members also start around that time, I have plenty of work to do in both the old and the new posts right now, and I've been this way for a couple of weeks.

Second, I went to this conference in Phoenix. Very cool - have never been to the Southwest before, so it was a bit like going to Mars, in terms of the terrain. Interesting spot, though.

And finally, family stuff. We've been very busy finding Moose good things to do this summer and help him grow. We have him in summer day camp here & there, and he's working extensively with two people (separately) both of whom are getting trained to engage autistic kids in purposive activities. Brilliant! We even have him in these 15-minute long piano lessons. Hell, I don't know if they're doing any good at all, but one of his preschool teachers does music on the side and offered to teach him for free. Why not?

My in-laws come in for a week this Wednesday, and then I turn around and head off to Cape Cod to clean out my grandmother's home along with my sister and cousins. Cousin Dave, all I can say is I'm glad the hotel rooms have fridges, the perfect size for a couple of six-packs...

Busy summer. Dissertation? Oh yeah, THAT. Well, I have been reading a great deal, but actually writing some of this shit down might convince DC that I'm planning on writing this book sometime in the next year. Yeah, better get on that sometime soon.

In addition to not posting here much, I also haven't been reading anyone else's blogs lately. Gotta get back to that too...

Guess what WE did today?


Yep, we rode Thomas the Tank Engine. A good time was had by all. Check out the pictures!

Monday, June 12, 2006

More alone when reading than writing

I've always enjoyed a good read, ever since I was a little kid. But when the reading involves topics that I'm learning about or things for which I need to demonstrate my understanding, I find the process of reading to be extremely lonely. I don't care for that very much. Learning is a social process at times, but I do need to spend the time alone, I suppose.

It's funny though: when writing I feel more "in charge," so to speak, and I don't mind spending the time alone because I'm more productive. I've been reading much of the morning today, and right now I have a bunch of ideas flying through my head that I'd like to bounce off of someone. However it's a day where "no one" is around (kind of funny saying "no one" or even the word "lonely" being that I'm sitting at a booth in the middle of the cafe). I suppose it's part of being in the wilderness when doing the initial review of the literature. Perhaps when I gain a better understanding of how I'll discuss the literature I'm reading, then I'll be better able to enjoy the company of someone else? I dunno. I would love to get through this part and finally get into conducting the study. Oh yeah: I don't quite know how I'm going to construct the actual study just yet...guess I need to spend some more time alone and figure out these "minor" details!

Ho hum. At least they have one of my favorite coffees available today. Gotta go get some more.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Saturday thoughts on the deck

It's Saturday late morning on the deck at Chesterley. And it's 65 degrees in early June? How'd that happen? Very odd. A buddy of mine is getting married today here in town...hope the rain holds off, pal!

I'm nearing the end of reading much of the large literature review I mentioned in my last post. This is good: when I started I was at a loss for how I was actually going to organize my thoughts on the literature, and now things are starting to gel. Slowly.

It's funny: I keep forgetting that I wrote a draft of a dissertation proposal just over a year ago for a proposal-writing course that I was required to take. I honestly haven't read it in months. WHY?? Guess I need to print off a copy sometime soon and take a look. There probably isn't much in there of substance for the lit review portion I'm working on now, but I really should see if my thoughts from a year ago are similar or different to where things are now. I never thought the process would take this long, but I guess when one allows life to happen, the consequence is a longer time to dissertation completion.

I'm getting excited to start my new job, even though the thought of having less dissertation time is a bit stressful. Somehow I think it will all even out, and the office itself is very supportive of seeing me through to the completion of the book. I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am to have a part-time job that pays enough to live on and allows me a little flex time hither & yon.

OK, off to (hopefully) finish another chapter in this book before my friend's wedding festivities start this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A System and a Job

I haven't posted in a while. Busy time around here lately, but good-busy as opposed to sucky-busy. I like good-busy. Sucky-busy...bad.

First, I think I've finally developed a decent system for reading and processing articles for The Dreaded Chapter 2. "Processing" is a means for remembering all the stuff I've read! Basically now I'm reading a large literature review that's famous and wonderful in higher education circles. From this I'm slowly gaining another list of articles/books I should be reading. Fortunately, many of the things on the list are that which I have already read for coursework, which means the entire act of coursework itself was meaningful. This is good. So I read, I compile a literature list in a database which holds notes, quotes, etc., and I produce another list of things I need to retrieve either from the library, a friend's bookshelf, or the bookstore, which, when read, will be included in said database. A system. And I like systems.

Second, I haven't mentioned here that I'm starting a different job on July 1. It's a promotion of sorts, though fortunately it's not a full-time job so I can continue to work on the dissertation. It's in the department where I've attempted to be a Good Little Graduate Assistant, and apparently the work has paid off. I'll have some supervision responsibilities and will be paid just enough to no longer need student loans. Yippee! It's 30 hours per week instead of 20, so I'm pushing this month to get much of The Dreaded Chapter 2 finished before my hours increase July 1. Then, I'll "only" have Chapter 3 hanging over my head, which should be do-able during some evenings and weekends, and on the one day off from work during the week which will be devoted only to writing (at least that's my plan). Most important: the job is in the field where I eventually want to work "when I grow up," so it's relevant career-related experience in addition to being a viable income source. Whew.

The transition into the new job is going well so far, though it's causing me to be scheduled into numerous meetings: a huge change from the last couple of years. I'm working hard to only work my 20 hours per week this month, because the paper MUST get done. Still, it's good to feel like I'm "working" again, and I hope that feeling continues after July 1. I don't think I'd feel good about the job transition if I didn't also feel good about the dissertation reading process. I'm glad a few things are falling together nicely right now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Baby Bunnies!


Baby Bunnies!
Originally uploaded by chesterley.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday morning I was watering our front garden only to find four baby bunnies running away from the cold water! I had seen Momma Bunny in the garden a week or two ago, but I figured she was looking for food: I did not suspect she had built a home there! Very cute to see the bunnies running around. For a while I was concerned I had desecrated their home by mistake, but later on we saw them running around again.

Wait a minute: We just finished planting the vegetable garden yesterday. Ugh! Lucky bunnies! How ironic.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Weekend Warriors



Just one more post on the house for the weekend, before this turns into a house blog instead of a doctoral student blog.

As a younger adult, whenever I would hear of people doing all they could with their home improvement projects, I used to cringe. I would ask myself, "Why can't people balance their lives better so they don't save all of these projects for a weekend and then have to rush around doing all this work?"

And now here we are, the little weekend warriors. Heaps of self-disgust! Well no, not really. It's hard to believe I've fallen into that routine, though. Seems so "typical." Anyhow...

This patch of ground, above, was at one point part of a dog run area for the prior owner of Chesterley. There is a whole bunch of river rock here, but over the years weeds have grown in as the rock settled into the dirt. The several inches of rock makes it nearly impossible to dig in and plant anything. However, it happens to be the one private, flat portion of our yard that has sun most of the day long. Thus, the one perfect spot for a vegetable garden in our yard has been blocked by the rock.

We found a way to conquer the rock by building a raised bed. Wife has ALWAYS wanted her own vegetable garden, and now after almost four years of home ownership her dream is coming true! See the four "DIY" pictures in my Flickr site, if you're interested in seeing more. I'll more pictures add to it as we get the veggies planted during the next few days.

Oh yeah, did I mention I'm writing my dissertation, too?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Summery Yard



We've done a ton of work on the yard this summer, and I've posted several pictures under the "yard" tag in Flickr. I really think the key to a healthy marriage is to do yard work together. We love it. It's a nice balance of independent and group work, and it's fun to see the results of your work. After buying this house (our first), we quickly learned the yard work we do this year will look better next year. Right now it feels like we're seeing the results of the last few year's worth of work coming to fruition, so that's pretty darn exciting.

Wife planted Cosmos out front this year. Before this spring I had not met a Cosmos. I like them so much, I used this pic of them for this post. By the way, those frogs took up residence in our front garden in 2002, soon after we moved into Chesterley.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Demise of Cargo

I am not one to read many magazines. Heck I have enough trouble reading the literature I need to for my dissertation, but that's an entirely different story.

My aunt and uncle gave me a subscription to GQ when I graduated from college. I liked it, but I have never made oodles of money such that I could ever think of affording the clothes and such advertised there. Also, I just don't spend a lot of time on clothing or grooming. I mean, I certainly like to bathe and shave and look decent, but if I'm not wearing designer clothing, I really could care less. As long as it fits and the things were purchased this decade, I'll go with it. Many of the articles in GQ are interesting, so I kept my subscription going for several years. When I came to SCT, I scaled back on several expenditures, one of which was that subscription.

Of course I'm still on their mailing list, and I receive ads for other magazines published by the same group. A new one came out about a year ago that was inexpensive and peaked my interest: Cargo Magazine. Good mixture of "men's magazine stuff" like electronic gadgets, clothing (with inexpensive options!), fitness, and sex. And some of the models look like real people instead of like "models," if you can believe it! And really: the emphasis was on the electronics and not the fashion, which I liked a great deal.

Unfortunately, I received a postcard last week saying they will discontinue publishing Cargo. And to compensate for the rest of my subscription, I'll get copies of GQ instead. Ugh! I guess I'll just take it in and have a clearer picture of the high-fashion stuff I cannot afford. Inspiration to complete the doctorate? Perhaps, but it's not like I'm going to walk into a six-figure job when I complete this degree anyhow. Ho hum.

Long live Cargo!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Chapter 1

I finished the draft of Chapter 1 early. As I stated Sunday, my goal was to have it done later this week. I actually finished it yesterday. I can't really believe it, so I didn't jump onto Blogland to post all about it for a while. But it's true: it went much more quickly than I thought.

Don't get me wrong: this isn't very good. DC will never see this version, and I still have a long way to go. But the important thing is that the initial concepts are out of my head. Now I can focus on refreshing my readings and getting chapter 2 planned. Chapter 2 will take a while. Hoo boy...here goes.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A poem

Mom said, "oh no," through a stifled laugh.
The son had found Dad's leftover birthday cake
That which he had not consumed was
ground into the white shirt he wore
to church that morning.

Son looked dazed,
though happy.

Dad said: "hey, save some for me."

And then Son bounced himself off the walls.

Time flies like a pad of butter on a hot frying pan

Has it been a week since my last post? Time flies, though I have no idea why the anology of butter & frying pans just came to mind, but it did so I wrote it.

Here I sit on the back deck of Chesterley, "vigorously" writing my dissertation. Ha, I wish. At least I'm here. Tomorrow is Writing Day, so I endeavor to get much more accomplished. I did write seven more pages last week, so it was a productive time. If all goes as planned this week, then I'll finish a shitty draft of the first chapter this Thursday or earlier, and I'll have a chance to revise the shittiness out of it next weekend before sharing it with Pink or another colleague after the Memorial Day holiday. I think DC is out of contact for a while, as is the norm during the summer. I can live with that. After the holiday, it's onward into the dreaded Chapter 2: the literature review. Oy.

I marked the 35th anniversary of my life this past week. It was the first birthday where I felt like I'm not "young" anymore. At least I have my health and most of my brain cells in tact, so this is good. My mom was here much of the week, so between the family & friend support I made it through the b-day experience just fine. A decent supply of alcohol and chocolate helped as well.

There is a big-ass bee (BAB) flying around out here. Hey, can't you see the flower boxes over there? Get away from me. Geez, big enough it's creating a shadow when it flies. Stop blocking out the sun you blasted bee...

Digression over, kind of like this post.