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


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...