Learning to Be…in a Whole New Way.

Well, here’s a thing I realized late last night. I have lost the ability to just…be. To be still. To sit. To relax. To read for pleasure.

Yes, I do have a book due to my publisher on July 1 and really have no hope of making that deadline.  I am finding it difficult to sit and write. I am truthfully finding it difficult to just sit.

Yesterday, as I was preparing for my afternoon swim with my neighbor, I realized I had 15 minutes before we were to meet. I thought of at least a dozen things I could do in that time before realizing that I did not HAVE to fill that time with anything!

What a shock!

I have heard that post-doctoral folks tend toward depression following completion of their programs and I can see why. I’m not by any means depressed, but I am finding it hard to not work on something like crazy.

Take, for example, my newest endeavor: The Treehouse.

I have always wanted a treehouse and have always wanted a pop-up camper. Now I have both, combined in one. I bought, for a ridiculously low price, a 30+ year old Starcraft pop-up, complete with worn through canvas, rotted wood, and about 60 or so black widow spiders.

Not kidding about the spiders. Got the thing home, put it in the garage to work on it, and then bombed the crap out of the thing. Came out the next morning and the garage floor resembled Gettysburg, post battle.

Now that I have a Project (aka, the Treehouse), I’m going to town on the thing. Since the doctorate is done, I will be posting the progress on the Project. We are not replacing the canvas. Instead I am making something I saw once, fold-up/down solid walls (the top still pops up). Kind of like this one. The difference is that ours has slide-out beds that will also have rigid sides.

Pictures to follow in the next blog, this has gotten too long.

Tonight. Reading. For realsies. And relaxing.


Missives From Mount Dissertation

My Dearest Family,

I can only hope that someday you shall read this. Or better, that I shall be able to share this with you in person.  But, if that is not to be, if the mountain should claim me, let this be a record of our journey.

I write to you from the very depths of the caverns of Mount Dissertation, a place that lives in my mind near the famed Everest…but taller.  As had Sir Edmund and his intrepid team, I, too, began this journey with the highest of hopes.

None but I would be able to scale the mountain before me. Yes, there would be hazards. The early days of Introduction were nothing at all, and I thought, “Onward to glory” at every step.

I admit now that my steps slowed some as we slogged through the Swamp of Previous Literature. As all prior reports had indicated, this was indeed treacherous ground.  At every turn one was tempted to stray, to stop, to read, to sink… Alas, I too found myself tempted.  It was only the strength of my boon companion, the dog I call Sir Charles, and the whispy fantasy of the woman I love and left behind in this quest.  I say “left behind” in spirit only because I know that she, in her quiet and unassuming way, slogs beside me with each wearying step.

There are nights were I am sure I cannot go on, and I dream that a meal has been placed before me.  Sir Charles and I both wake, sniffing longingly, and dream of home.

Ah, but in my delirium I digress.  Yes, the Swamp of Prior Literature was indeed a boggy ground, but I thought, “Onward, ever onward” to my goal.  For somewhere ahead lay the Prize. My raison d’être… the Floppy Hat.

We had heard, Charles and I, that the most tedious and technical part of our ascent would be the Wall of Human Subjects Review. However, to our surprise, our preparation and planning won out and we managed that in a mere 27 days.  An accomplishment, to be sure.

Following the Wall were, as you will recall from our planning sessions, the dreaded Cliffs of Methodological Design.  Those were, indeed, as treacherous as we had feared.  I was almost lost at one point when a missive from my good friend Dr. (almost) V. Bailey arrived to provide me light and guidance when it was needed most.  Truly, those three words, “As we know…” offered strength and fortitude in my darkest hour.

While the Cliffs were oft touted as the most dangerous and harrowing of this ascent, I shall share with you, my loving family, that is not so.  The greatest danger in this endeavor is not the climb through the Cliffs to the top, it is in forging our path back down, through the Miasma of Incomprehensible Findings.  Alas, this area casts the Swamp and Cliffs before in a shining light of easy memory.  The Miasma is a swirling vortex of thought and wind, of fancy and dream.  Oft I fall back from our attempts to pass too weary to continue.

We were told, were we not, before the journey that this was one of endurance, of fortitude.  I fear, now, in my darkest hours, that I shall not be able to carry on.  That I have not the fortitude. The strength. I have the desire, surely, for the Floppy Hat, but often wonder if I have the will.

I am weary now, and it is difficult to form my thoughts. The Grippe has gripped me and I fear my strength is waning.  We, Sir Charles and I, rest here beside our guttering campfire dreaming of days long past. Of warm breezes and Sport to be watched and enjoyed. Of Family and companionship. Of the love of a woman.

The end is near, now.  Sometimes I feel that I can just see it, wavering just on the edge of my vision.  Beyond the Pale lies the Slope of Conclusion and then home. And then…victory.

Sir Charles and I are footsore now, I in the grip of illness that shakes me to my core.  Charles, ever faithful Charles, can only gaze upon me with love and as give as much comfort as can any faithful hound. Writing this, simply putting words to paper has given me, given us, strength.  I believe we can do it.  We can conquer. We can achieve. Weary, battered, worn, but not broken. Never broken.

Onward, ever onward, to the Floppy Hat.

Victory shall be ours.

My love to all.


This blog is linked to wonderful blogs others write about…well, writing, etc.

My blog was originally begun to chronicle my time in the doctoral program. As I write this, I am in the home stretch. The final mile. The last inning. The final quar– well, you get the picture. I am writing this weekend, all weekend, on Chapter’s 4 and 5 (Results and Conclusions). On Monday I deliver all five chapters to The Powers That Be for hacking and slashing (and refining).

Hence, the continued dearth of blog postings of anything that would be of interest to normal human beings. For that, I apologize. For entertainment, check out This Video.

For even more entertainment, check out his Facebook page. I love this guy’s sense of humor and absurdity.

Tonight: More writing. And tomorrow…and Sunday…

Catching Up…

I always think about posting to this blog late at night just as I’m falling asleep.  Of course, once awake, I lose the brilliance that was last night’s inspiration and this is the result.

To catch up:

The blog was initially begun as a way for family and friends to keep track of me while enrolled in the doctoral program. I was promised that I’d have little time to eat or sleep, let alone correspond with other humans on the planet.  Well, that was certainly true for the first two years, but this year that has been less so.  Thus, less blogging.

The reach of the blog has expanded and allowed me to connect with heretofore unknown relatives, and that has been the very best part of posting here. (Waving to my “new” Hall cousins!)

The year is almost ended and it’s been quite a year. My first novel was published to good reviews.  I even got my first royalty check recently…I was paid for my writing! Oh my gosh!

I was advanced to candidacy in the doctoral program and just yesterday began (after passing IRB requirements) the research phase.  I even have a graduation date and tie: May 24th, 6:30 pm. Sweet.

Another semester of teaching has come and gone, quite quickly this time around.

Then there’s the surgery.  Back surgery was successful, though not without its trauma.  I have lingering paresthesias in the left leg below the knee and including the foot.  The “drop foot” (a result of nerve damage from the surgery) gets significantly worse when I am out and about for any length of time.  On the positive side, my walking is much smoother and, unless I’m excessively tired, you cannot really tell there’s damage.

Things I’ve learned this year:

  • Nurses should be revered above all others.  The middle-of-the-night freakout’s for post-op patients are made better by a kind word and a warm hand.

  • Doctors should be very careful about overmedicating patients.  I fell asleep on two separate occasions with food in my mouth.  I was so severely overmedicated that they brought in a respiratory therapist because they thought I was having breathing problems. I was, but that was because my body was asleep!

  • True friends are those who will go through anything with and for you. Cherish them.

  • It’s all about love, everything else is just rhetoric. Go Navy (<– link. Those are words I never thought I’d say.)

  • I’m sure I learned more, but at the moment, I’m out of bullet points.

Today: writing, some last Christmas shopping, lunch with the great Tammy at the WB, and then cleaning house for visiting family.

Tonight: More relaxing reading.

Merry Christmas, Good Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, Good Kwanzaa, and/or Happy Holidays (or days off) to all and sundry.

Look! It’s Here! My Book Cover!

It’s Sunday night, it’s raining (again) here in Southern California, and I’m home alone. Just me and the dog…so, not so alone, I guess.

Is it wrong that I’m enjoying this so much? *Looks around guiltily.*

S. is still in Guatemala, so I did what any self-respecting spouse would do while she is away. I spent Friday rearranging the house. Well, not so much the house as the master bedroom and the living room. Put the treadmill in one spot, put the big comfy chair in another. So now when I (or anyone else in the house) wants to work out, the rest of us can simply lock that person into one room at the far end of the house. Works great and has forced me to use the thing more, too, which is good (and was quite necessary).

What else? Saturday morning was an early start to get M. off to his flight to Texas (only to find out hours later that he’d only made it as far as Vegas before the Gods of Thunderstorms closed all flights in and out of Dallas. He eventually made it, 24 hours later than planned). Since I was already up I stayed up to organize and pay bills.

Ick. Seriously. Iiiiick. Bleh.

Saturday afternoon was spent grading all of the assignments I had pending for a class that finished last Tuesday (thank God!). 24 students multiplied by 5 assignments=long afternoon. But, grades are posted for that class, hurrah!

Saturday evening I had dinner with a friend, but first braved CostCo. I know! On a Saturday! What was I thinking! *Shakes head.* Then, later that night, did a really stupid thing. Started a friend’s book. I think I finally fell asleep around 5 am. That was really dumb.

Sunday. Ahhh, Sunday. Spent the day with various football games on while I worked, then stopped work in time to see my DirecTV HD signal die, JUST as the Packer/Viking game was kicking off.

S.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y.   T.i.c.k.e.d.

Oh yes. Ticked.

Went into S’s office (next biggest TV) and watched the first half there while on the fruitless customer service call with DTV. For more on their “customer service,” check out a past blog on the Olympic Games. Anyway, after convincing the woman that I did not, in fact, plan on crawling up on my roof while A) alone in my home with nobody to call 911 when I fell; and B) in the pouring rain, we agreed that she’d do as I’d initially asked and send out a service tech.

On Wednesday.

Between 8 and noon.

Murphy says the guy will get here at 11:55 am.

So…all TV’s are off again (ahh, blissful silence), the rain is pattering down outside, and my classwork is prepped for the week. We won’t discuss the doctoral reading/writing I didn’t even touch this weekend. I’m pretty much doing the minimum on that whole thing right now.

And I will never again (repeat after me) schedule myself to teach 21 units in a semester again, even when I am not writing a dissertation. And a book.

Aha! Which leads me to the very best part!

Beautiful cover designed for me by the great Linda Callaghan. The book will be available from Bella Books in spring, 2011

How. Freakin.’ Cool. Is. That!

18-Months and Counting…

So, one of the five regular readers of this blog asked me tonight, “Whassup? No blog?” So…here we go. Tonight was the first night of the semester, the fourth one of our doctoral program (yes, we had to count Summer…ugh).

I love, as a 40-something adult, being treated like a moody 12-year-old with self-control issues. Holy cow, just what grade did this woman last teach? And, add to that, this is the third, yes third time we’ll have this woman as an instructor.

Third time in four semesters.


With a faculty pool of more than 50, we get the same woman three times?

And…honestly…she’s just not all that.

Oh, and puhleeze, let’s not bring up my profound joy and gratitude at also having “overhead Oliver” as her co-teacher. Already the “I don’t know, it’s somewhere out there” has begun.

18-months and counting. I can do this. I just may need to up my blood pressure meds.

Vacation photos coming sometime this weekend. Just been too busy to sort the pics. As a teaser, we’ve got bears (both black and brown), Old Faithful, stunning vistas, glaciers…oh, the list goes on.

Tonight: book editing.

View on the Morning Walk

Taking a wander before I spend the day on my bum writing.

The mighty hunter snoofing the tall weeds

A view to the southwest, the little league fields on the right.

Another view to the southwest after the baseball fields.

The view east along the wash. This is post this morning's storm, so those east of us are getting it now.

And lastly…

The beastie...relaxing and taking homage, as is his due.

Today: Write. write. write. write. (and edit the manuscript). In that writing pile are the last few assignments of this year’s doctoral classes. Yay!

Tonight: Sushi with a buddy.