Monday, March 31, 2008

Dissertation Gods, Why Have Ye Forsaken Me?

I don't expect an answer, but I've finally reached the point of desperation, the point at which I pray for some dissertation relief! I've been working on my second diss chapter since the beginning of December. I've suffered some significant setbacks, as the plays I'd originally planned to use got tossed, then I had to read far and wide in search of the *best* plays to use, then I found the plays, but had to do the research on their production background, etc. Then, of course, the writing... Oh yeah, and then E got sick, really diarrhea-for-10-days sick. Then the car wreck and accompanying new car search. Then I hurt my back in The Most Embarrassing Chair Episode ever. And several times in the Spring term, I've been tapped to do some department service kinda things. Oh, and I almost forgot, the crazy neck pain/disorder thing reappeared, and I've been referred to a neurologist, who I'll see tomorrow. It actually returned again in January, which is when I consulted the chiropracter. Surprisingly, she suggested that I *not* come in to see her, as she couldn't help me. She explained that she thinks it may be adult-onset torticollis, but they won't know for sure until an MRI and a nerve test are completed. Apparently, I'm a freak of f*#@ing nature. Or at least that's the way I feel right now.

I'm sooooo close to being done with this damn chapter, and E just got sick again. She caught another stomach bug and has been out of commission since Friday. I took off work Friday to stay home with her, only to wake up Saturday with a Head Cold from Hell. I managed to still get some food prepared for everyone and help care for E, but by yesterday, she and I were both napping at 9:30 in the morning. We slept for over 3 hours! So, no diss work done over the weekend.

A week or so ago, I ran into my advisor and told her that on March 31st I was submitting my draft, no matter what it looked like. Her response? "Okay." She said lots of people do it that way, and it was perfectly fine with her. So when hubby comes home today at 12:30, and I head to the office, that's my goal for the afternoon. I'm going to polish it up as much as I can in the few hours I've got, then I'm turning it in as is. The Good, Good, Good News is:

- the next chapter is the last chapter of my diss that deals with the texts I'm studying;
- because I did such extensive foundational work/notes/drafting on those texts last summer;
- and because the conference paper I wrote last fall was based on one the plays in that chapter (that is, the paper will basically constitute the last 15 pages or so of the chapter)

I've already got 30 pages or so ready to go! The plan is to finish the last chapter in April-May, so that I can use the summer months to work on my first two chapters, which lay out my background, historical, and theoretical framework. I consider them my "easier" chapters b/c the thinking has already been done, I'm just sorta putting the pieces together and setting up my approach. After that, I'm done with the body of the diss in draft form! I'll have my intro (which already exists in a draft form) and conclusion to work on, and revisions will take place throughout the fall semester.

The current chapter has been my most difficult: unknown texts, unfamiliar history (theater), and very little known playwrights (anonymous in one case). It actually drove me to the point of finally thinking "I don't care if it's good, I just want it to be done." I understand this is fairly normal for Dissertators, so I'm not too concerned. It took me over a year of work to reach that point. Turning in what I've got finished today will help I think. I just need this particular monkey off my back right now...know what I mean?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Can Technical Writing Really Ever be "Fun"?


I put in a request to teach my first-ever Technical Writing course in the Fall, as our DGS indicated that past graduates have found the experience to be something that was valued once they hit the job market. Since I'm going on the market in the Fall, I thought this would be perfect timing to teach the course, but I'm now somewhat dreading the unknown. When I initially (way back as an undergraduate) switched to an English major, I thought I wanted to be a tech writer when I grew up. After talking with my tech writer uncle, however, I was quickly bored to tears and running for the nearest exit --- agghhh! I still don't know how he does his job...Anywho, the way I understand it is that technical writing is a course students try to get some benefit from in the sense that they develop things like job portfolios, business design-y things, etc. I also get the impression that our department has the materials available to enable instructors to follow a standard cookie-cutter tech writing course, complete with the textbook, assignments, evaluation rubrics, etc. if one chooses this route....Yawn....I'm bored already.

So I ask you: Is technical writing a course that can't help but be boring? Is there anything an instructor can do - short of a song & dance/stand-up comedy routine - to make the coursework and projects interesting (dare I say fun)? If you've taught tech writing before, what kinds of things did your students enjoy? Or, is this one of those situations where I just have to suck it up and be bored for a semester?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

On Their Way Home!!

After a long week without my girls, they're finally on their way back home! H just called and said they're about 45 minutes away and that the drive has been traffic and hassle-free!! I was extremely anxious about Hubby making the drive back with both girls, as he has much less patience than I do in general, but especially on the road. He gets frustrated if traffic is backed up, and if you add to that E throwing a fit in the back seat and H just trying to help (but sometimes making it worse), it's more than he can usually deal with calmly.

To make it worse, I had horrible nightmares last night about almost everybody (E, my friend Sarah, random people I went to elementary school with) was bizarre. I have the really strange experience of having dreams that are Super Real. As in, I can't get them out of my head Real. I was in tears on the phone with Hubby this morning because I was so upset and nervous about their drive back. I'm sure this had something to do with the fact that it was the first time he was driving with the girls again since the accident. I literally fell asleep repeating the same prayer for their safe drive, over and over.

I'm so excited!! I just can't wait to squeeze them both and give em tons of kisses!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Introducing: The Mani-Van

That's not a typo folks. Our new ride has been dubbed The Mani-Van because my husband will be the one driving it, and he has been *dying* to get into a mini-van almost since we got married, but especially once E came along. He's practically giddy! He went from a Jeep Wrangler (soft top), to the grocery-gettin' Lumina, to this: The Mani-Van. According to him, he has matured and risen higher in the evolutionary ladder of masculinity, and being the primary driver of the van demonstrates this. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I *loathe* mini-vans and don't ever want to drive one on a regular basis. I guess you could call this one of those....what are they??....Oh yeah, a compromise.

My mom, a.k.a. Our Loan Officer, is holding the girls hostage until we pay off our debt to her, as she fronted the entire purchase, and we owe her a grandson (this is what she'd like in return for the loan). My uncle deserves thanks as well, because he called as we were literally driving in Giant Texas Town, looking at 2 pages worth of Ford Windstars, and he advised us that the Odyssey would be a much better purchase and that we should get somewhere to use the internet and check out I'll spare you all the details, but he convinced us on the spot, and we had to change our plan. We stopped and asked directions to the nearest college campus or public library; hurried there; accosted students on the sidewalk demanding to know "Where's your library?!"; planted ourselves at two of their library's public access computers; and searched the craigslist offerings. More than half of the offerings were already gone, but we scored with this one.

We actually got a pretty good deal: it's a 2001 Odyssey EX, with 71K miles, no exterior or interior damage or heavy wear, power everything, and store-n-go 3rd row seating, etc. for $8750. We checked the NADA and the Kelley BB, and if all the numbers are right, we got this for less than any of its retail valuese by going through a private party seller. Speaking of private parties, by the way, is AWESOME! It doesn't cost anything to list an ad, so people are more likely to list there before putting an ad in the classifieds.

This means that we are fully prepared for when the 3rd child eventually becomes a reality (sometime early next Summer, hopefully). If you remember, not having a mode of transportation that would carry all the children was my husband's primary objection to having a 3rd child almost a year ago. There were others, of course, but this was a big one for him. That obstable has been removed; now we just have those pesky dissertations to finish.

I should hear from the insurance company today, as they're supposed to call and make an initial settlement offer. I really hope they're playing in the same ballpark as me, because I DO NOT want to have to get an attorney to settle this. Wish me luck, as Hubby has left for Home State and I'm flying solo into what I hope is not a Battle.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Look Ma, No Car!

There once was a car that did not look like this:

A car that was valuable only to us as a dependable, grocery-getting, perfect vehicle for a family of four. It was the first vehicle I paid for, on my own, every penny. The insurance company called Friday evening to let us know they weren't even going to bother sending an adjustor, given the car's age and the extent of the damage. They're picking it up on Monday and taking it to their Total Loss Storage Facility. They said we should get an offer late Wednesday or early Thursday. We have a rental until then, and all we can do is wait.

I have so much work to do over Spring Break, that I can't even imagine where I'm going to fit in time to think about all the used car ads my husband and I will be poring over during the next few days. For once, despite my Total Control Freak nature, I sort of wish some magical fairy could come in and make The Right Decision and all things related to the searching, calling, checking out, purchasing, tagging and titling of the new car would be taken care of without me every needing to look up from the piles of papers to be graded, award applications to be completed, and dissertation chapter to be finished.

The girls are now safe and sound at their Nana's house in Home State. Tomorrow morning will be the very first time since E's birth in October 2006 that my husband and I will be able to sleep in together! We'll only have a few days of alone time, as he's going up to Home State on Wednesday, but it's both exciting and comforting to think of the quality time we'll have for the next few days :)

And thank you to all my friends who commented, e-mailed, and/or called to send me good thoughts or see if they could help with anything! Your thoughtfulness is so generous, kind, and very much appreciated. For now, we're okay....we just wait and see what the offer is, then go from there.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Counting our Blessings!

Well, the good news is everyone's okay.

The bad news is that our car is likely totalled.

Around 4:30 yesterday, Hubby called me at the office to say that he and the girls had been in an accident. Though he said they were all fine, he also said something about H's neck hurting. I drove as fast as I could to the scene (which was less than 1/2 mile from our house), and pretty much lost it as soon as I saw the ambulances. I was expecting to see the cars and maybe some police, but the ambulance scared the hell out of me....There was basically no calming down until I reached in the car and held my girls.The story is that some idiot tried to pull out across two lanes of traffic to make a left-hand turn, despite traffic to his left being so backed up that he couldn't even tell if the path was clear. Hubby had less than 20 feet of stopping distance, so there was no avoiding a head-on collision. Luckily, he had a feeling, after seeing the traffic backed up, that somebody might just try such a thing, so he slowed down. The weather was awful, 40 degrees, rain, and blustery winds, and they'd been on their way to take E to the doctor's office because she'd woken up from her nap with a 103.8 degree fever (no. seriously. we. cannot. catch. a. break.).The guy at fault admitted his fault-to Hubby and the police officer-and some nice guy actually pulled in to help block traffic because nobody was even slowing down! There were people literally just swerving past the cop cars and ambulance (Can you tell we live in college town?).

So, they towed the car, the police took a report, and unless we get an insurance adjustor to miraculously declare that the repairs can be made for under about $1500, it's almost guaranteed they'll total the car and write us a check. A check that will be no good to us because we won't be able to drive it. We definitely won't be able to get what we had in the Lumina with whatever the insurance company pays.At the end of the day, though, I was just glad to be able to hug my husband and my kids a little bit tighter. It really could've been a lot worse. H has a mild abrasion where the seat belt strap caught her neck, but she'll be fine. She seemed most worried about the airbags not deploying (which was likely due to the lower speed).

Hubby is beyond stressed and still hasn't stopped thinking about the "what-ifs" (what if he'd taken another route? waited five more minutes to leave? etc.), which obviously doesn't do any good, but I'd probably do the same thing if I were in his shoes. I know there's a lesson I/we are supposed to learn in this, so I'm thinking about that and reminding myself that the most important thing is that everyone's okay.

If you're the praying type, though, we could use some good vibes from the Man upstairs!