Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writing Week: Day Three Reflections

Back in the day, now three semesters ago, one of my courses was focused entirely on preparing our dissertation proposal. We spent the semester writing a draft of our proposal, which was our main grade for the course. I ended up taking an incomplete for the semester (most of us did), to buy a little more time to work on my proposal. Our instructor actually encouraged this, because, as she said, dissertations are not written within the arbitrary deadlines of a semester. Boy, have I proved that to be true...

Needless to say, what I submitted that July totally sucked. It still was not anywhere where I needed it to be at the time. Nor is it there yet.

As I sit here trying to crank this thing out today, it strikes me as interesting to think about what that class prepared me for, and what it didn't. Our professor did a great job of outlining the different sections, what is included and what isn't. For example, no adjectives. None. As someone who LOVES adjectives, you can imagine that this is not just a challenge, but a MAJOR challenge. She also gave us a document outlining the major grammatical errors that PhD candidates tend to make in their dissertations. A good reminder to proofread. And most importantly, she told us, when in doubt, go back to the literature. I have had to do this many, many times.

But when it comes to the things that I wish someone would have explained to me, they are as follows:

You will spend about triple the amount of time thinking about your dissertation as you will spend actually writing it. Maybe I am alone here. Maybe I am just trigger shy. But I find myself having to walk away from my computer a lot. It doesn't mean that my brain turns off, or that I am distracted by something else. In fact, I am usually stepping away to mentally process something I just typed and/or read. I walked to the coffee shop around the corner, and spent the whole trip processing my rationale, and what it would look like if I mapped it via post-its. Then when I came home, I mapped the post-its. I later wandered down to our basement to find a book that I needed, and stood there pondering the concept of "goodness" in qualitative research for about 20 minutes. This feels both productive and unproductive at the same time.

You might spend just as much time reading dissertations as you will writing yours. As I try to piece together what a dissertation should look like, I have found that I learn best by example. As I start to write my key concepts, or some other component of this thing, I find myself having to go back to see how someone else did it. Thanks to those that have shared their proposals with me. I also spend a significant amount of time reading bibliographies to see what others read and cited, and then even more time trying to find those articles.

You will find yourself hitting a peak of productivity right when it comes time to do something else. Ugh. This is annoying. These past three days, I have been the most productive between 1 and 5 pm. I am just finally hitting my stride when it is time to make dinner, or to go look at washing machines, or for date night at the movies (Don't worry Chris, I do still want to see Lincoln tonight!). When what I really need is to just keep writing It's not that I didn't plan my day around these things happening. It's just that I spent my morning mucking through all the crap in my head. And by 4:30 pm, when it's time to roll out pizza dough, I am saying, "Crap. Why couldn't I have been in this awesome groove at 10 o'clock this morning?" If it makes me unreasonably crabby, I apologize. I have a feeling that it is going to be hard to pull myself away to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. Because I just want to read and write about phenomenology. I'll make time for the parade and for eating. But that may be it.

I am thankful that friends that have come before me and other faculty have given some good advice too:

"All diets are off during the dissertation process." - Shelley
-Evidenced by the rows of Oreos that I ate today.

"Write something everyday, even if it is just a sentence." - Leah (via Janelle)
- I am working on this one. I wrote it on a post-it as a reminder.

"Copy someone else's methodology. You are not the first to do this type of study. Don't make it harder than it needs to be." - One of my professors.
- This was not an okay to plagiarize, but an acknowledgement that there are only so many ways to collect data.

"A good dissertation is a done dissertation." - My advisor
- A good reminder to get out of my head and get this ish done. I am not in this for any awards. I do not anticipate a research career ahead of me. I just want to finish.

Many have said what an isolating process this is. It is the one thing in the educational process that you do totally by yourself. So if I seem a little crazy or distracted, it is because my brain is going 100 miles an hour right now, but sometimes it feels like it's going in reverse. Dissertations come with a lot of mind games.

Current page count: 39

Pinterest Project: Tiered Stand

My DIY To-Do List has been growing, with limited time for new projects. Which is hard, considering I just got my copy of Young House Love by John and Sherry Petersik. If you haven't seen it, you need to pick up a copy of your own. Lots of great inspiration.

I had a little bit of time last weekend, and decided to finish a quick project that I had been planning for over a year, based on these inspiration pictures:

From here
From here
From here.
Who doesn't need a functional tiered stand, made from two Target plates and a cheap Walmart candlestick?!

Here is my version, made in 10 minutes with a few glue dots holding the thing together:

Fantastic jewelry holder. And these plates are the inspiration for the new color scheme that I am hoping to make happen in the master bedroom in our place, which is totally blah right now. I am thinking this will be a good project for over the holidays. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Crafting: Santa Wreath

One of my self-imposed rules for Christmas this year is not to go overboard. I love all things Christmas - cookies, decorating, gifts, etc. - but it can get very overwhelming. When it comes to new decorations, I am trying to utilize the ones we already have and make just a few new things. Sadly, this means I didn't buy the gorgeous chevron tree skirt that I found on Etsy. Womp womp. So pretty. I guess I'll just wrap some fleece blankets around the bottom again...

Anyway, my plan for this year is that I can be creative with all of the supplies filling my craft drawer (and wheelie suitcase, and front hall closet...). Which was perfect for making my very own Santa wreath from this Pinspiration!

I already had a skein of red yarn sitting around, and I had purchased two wreath forms from my last wreath project. Which meant that all I had to do was spend some time wrapping the thing with yarn while watching this week's Scandal and Grey's Anatomy on Sunday afternoon, and I was close to finished. I just added a felt belt with a little buckle made from yellow craft foam, and voila.

I love it, despite the fact that Chris told me it was a very nice steering wheel cover... Boo. Definitely an improvement from my last wreath-making experience.

Now if only I could figure out how to DIY my own chevron tree skirt....

Writing Week

My study buddy. He is anything but helpful.
This week is one that I am lovingly/begrudgingly referring to as Writing Week.  I took the whole week off from work to work on my dissertation proposal. Which may explain my stink face when I tell you that I am off this week and you tell me to "Enjoy it." Not exactly.

Rather than enjoyment, what this week really looks like is more like this:

  • Using Freedom to minimize distractions. It may seem silly to have to lock my computer off from the Internet for hours at a time, but going "off the grid" seems to work.
  • Setting a timer for 50-minute intervals of work, with 10 minute breaks built in to do things like taking out the trash, checking Pinterest, etc. There are hour-increments where I count down the minutes until that break time. Who knew that doing the dishes could sound so exciting?! 
  • Opening multiple windows in the house, despite the cold air coming in, to try to distract the cats so that they stop crawling across my laptop and notes, confused as to why I am home. If it means that I have to wear the zebra-print snuggie while I work, so be it. 
  • Eating strange combinations of snacks, most of them not healthy, like the leftover Jack's pizza and mint Oreos with coffee for breakfast. Diets are off during Writing Week. 
  • Staring at my notes for long periods of time, trying to figure out what magical sentence that I can add that will make this thing feel like it is coming together. And/or finding that one citation that I need that demonstrates that I am not making this up because experts have already said it.
  • Finding at least one errand that I can run during the day as an excuse to leave the house.
While this self-imposed week of focus may seem like torture at times, it was necessary to set aside some solid time to work on this thing. Because after a long day of working and coming home to make dinner, it is really hard to want to sit down and write some more. I am hoping to work through large chunks of this proposal this week, so that I can spend future writing time focusing on tweaks and additions.

Here goes. Writing Week: Day 2.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gobble Gobble

Yep, that's me!
One of my favorite parts of working in student affairs is the opportunity to support student events. Sometimes that means sitting in the audience at the Greek Week talent show, while students sing, dance, and make people laugh. Other times it means going out to eat at a restaurant where a chapter might get a portion of the proceeds from my dinner. You know I love food, so I am in.

Yesterday was a first. I was invited via tweet to wear the turkey costume at Tau Kappa Epsilon's Gobble For Groceries, a food drive that they do each November to benefit the Hunger Task Force. The chapter president said he'd donate ten pounds of food if I would come put the costume on. I try to always be a good sport, so I agreed. It might have been hard to walk and breathe, but it was worth the laughs I got from the students, the honks and waves from those driving past, and most importantly, the awareness for their cause. And my ten minutes in the thing was nothing compared to the hours that members are putting in wearing the costume this week to try to raise more donations. I am excited to hear how many pounds of food that they will raise this year.

If you happen to drive down Oakland in Milwaukee, consider stopping at their house and sharing some canned goods. #proudadvisormoment

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Running MKE

You might remember that back in July, I posted about running through the city of Milwaukee. I did this as part of participation in a blogging project, hosted at A Good Run. One of my colleagues, Steve, has a different person run their city each week, and share the experience through a blog post.

My post went up today! I am so excited to share the run that Becca and I did of Milwaukee. We had so much fun, and I can honestly say that throughout my training experience, it was probably my best run. Maybe because there wasn't really a lot of pressure, it was just fun. It was a beautiful day to explore the city.

Definitely check out my post there, and all of the other awesome city tours that others have done. You might just find a new way to explore the next city that you visit!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Counting Stitches

As I sit in the midst of writing my dissertation proposal, you might think I am crazy to try to squeeze in some crafting. With everything else on my plate, why would I take on more projects?

In reality, I find crafting to be great stress relief. In fact, one of the ways that I calm my brain down so that I can get a good night's sleep is by cross stitching. Yes, another new hobby that I have picked up. I grabbed one of these little kits from Walmart a few weeks ago, and found it to be a really easy and relaxing. Minus the fact that I cannot do a french knot to save my life.

All I can focus on is counting while doing it, so I am not worried about those things I have to do at work the next day, or the next sections of my proposal that I want to work on. Counting stitches seems to be better than counting sheep.

Maybe it's a little cheesy. Yes, it is a hobby for Grandmas - my Grandma Ruby has been making beautiful cross stitch pictures for years. But right now, it's easier to pick up and put down than knitting. And it's a better pre-bedtime activity than cardmaking or scrapbooking. Plus it is much cheaper than some of my other hobbies. So it's what I'm doing.

Please let me know if you would like a tiny cross stitch, because I am working on a cupcake right now, and not really sure where I am going to hang all of these things.

: )

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Christmas Crafting: DIY Snow Globes

Yes, I realize that Christmas is still a long time off. No, I have not starting decorating my house. I love my fall decorations too much to take them down before December. But December 1st, these bad boys are coming out:

Another quick, fun, as-seen-on-Pinterest project. Snow globes in mason jars. I basically just used some glue dots to fasten some toys, ornaments to the jar lids, then dumped in a bunch of snow-like glitter. Sealed the jar, and dunzo.

I actually first attempted this project a few weeks ago, as a gift for a friend. I made the mistake of adding water to the jar and sealed the thing with Gorilla Glue. The dye in the tree immediately turned the water blue. At first it looked cool. Then it became really cloudy and gross and the Gorilla Glue puffed out and turned orange. Ick. I told her she could throw it away.

Sure, my glitter may not float. It may not be a "true" snow globe. But I still think these things are cute. I may just have to make a few more.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mr. President

Please note that I wrote this post to share the experience I had seeing the president and my excitement about it, not to start a political debate. If you are a Romney fan, vote for the guy. Everyone should vote. While I love political discourse, if you choose to make nasty comments on this post, I will delete them. Just sayin'.

On Saturday, I got to see the President of the United States. My favorite president. Barack Obama.

He was in Milwaukee for a campaign rally, just days before the elections. I was determined not to miss him this time. I saw him back during the last election when he was a candidate, but there is just something different about getting to see the sitting president. It was totally worth getting up really early on a Saturday, standing in line for three hours before the doors opened, followed by standing in the convention center for another two before anyone spoke. He may have only spoken for a short time, but it was totally worth it.

Finally inside after a long wait.

The podium. We were only about 10-12 people back.
The screen behind Katy Perry's stage. I couldn't see her at all when she was performing, but she was pretty good.
MKE Mayor Barrett was one of the many speakers, although none of my other pictures turned out. Always had other people's heads/cameras/signs in the way. #shortpeopleproblems
President Obama!
Take 2!
Chris let me borrow his button.

My thoughts on Obama: He is my president. He is the first person who I voted for, not because he was who my parents were voting for - my mom is a conservative, through and through, which I will admit did influence me the first time I could vote. I voted for him because his ideology most closely matched my beliefs and views on the world. I voted for him four years ago, and I voted for him again last Friday. If I could elect him a third time, I totally would. I truly believe that he is a person of character and integrity, who got into public service to make our country and our world a better place.

No matter what happens tomorrow, he is my president. And Saturday was an awesome experience. Katy Perry was good too.

I just hope that after Tuesday he can get some sleep - the poor guy is running a campaign and a country at the same time. He looks tired.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

October Meal Planning Recap/November Plan

Happy November!
So that whole meal planning thing worked really great for week one. Week two - sorta skipped the whole thing. Woops. Hoping to give this whole meal planning thing a second shot in November, attempting to plan for the whole month.

Things that Worked Well
  • I was able to use up some veggies I had on hand.
  • We had guaranteed lunches for the next day, which definitely saved some money.
  • We discovered some new recipes that we liked and would try again - definitely the Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
  •  We learned that we need to do better at planning our grocery trips. I can't tell you how many nights that I went to the grocery store this month. Or would discover that we threw out all of the tortillas we had (because who knows when we bought those), and can't make quesadillas anymore. There was one day where we actually made three separate grocery trips.
  • Sometimes when I had a plan for the night, I might get a thumbs down from Chris. Some nights you just don't want what's on the plan.
  • We know that we like to eat out, so it's okay to plan in a few of those nights into the schedule.
Here is my plan for this month. I have a busy few weeks ahead, so you can see that I am planning stuff that I can take with me to work, and there are nights that Chris will be on his own.
  1. Went out to eat for a fundraiser.
  2. Chris made homemade Chicken and Orzo soup - awesome!
  3. Obama Rally - Went out to eat after.
  4. Lemon Parsley Risotto
  5. Louisiana-Style Red Beans and Rice - since we skipped this one last month and I'm still dying to try it.
  6. Election Party
  7. Chris is on his own. I am pre-making a quiche again, to take with me to work. 
  8. Chris is on his own.
  9. BBQ Chicken Salad (personal made-up recipe) - for a craft night with my sister.
  10. Easy Calzones
  11. Chris is on his own.
  12. Chicken Lettuce Wraps (w/tortillas for Chris)
  13. Rachael Ray's Penne Vodka - Perhaps my favorite recipe of all time.
  14. Honey Chicken with Snow Peas
  15. Taco Soup
  16. Chris is on his own.
  17. Badgers vs. Ohio State!
  18. Meatball Sandwiches
  19. The Lady's Cheesy Mac - Another personal favorite.
  20. Cuban Picadillo - A personal favorite.
  21. Homemade Pizza
  22. Thanksgiving Dinner at my mom's. 
  23. Out and About
  24. Oven-Baked Chimichangas - likely with leftover turkey, am I right?
  25. Family Dinner
  26. Spaghetti/Sauce
  27. Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes
  28. Mini Meatloafs - another holdover from October
  29. Lime and Honey Glazed Salmon/Chicken (This girl needs some fish every once in awhile)
  30. Baked Potatoes with toppings
Goals for this month:
  • Cut down grocery trips with some better pre-planning and communication between Chris and I.
  • Try some new things, but also plan for some favorites - especially during the week of the 19th, which I have declared Proposal Writing Week.
  • Use up the last of the CSA veggies, which include: shallots, butternut squash, red potatoes, regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsley, sage, rosemary, parsnips, carrots, celery, spinach, swish chard, green pepper, jalapeno, red peppers, and yellow peppers. Plus I still have an acorn squash and a cucumber from the grocery store. Since I am the sole veggie eater in the house, I need to squeeze most of these in as lunches or sides.
Wish us luck!

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