Monday, November 1, 2010

Least favorite question

We all hear the many commercials that make fun of the "are we there yet?" types of questions that kids ask.  In fact, many say it's their least favorite question.  In my life, I can't ever remember asking whether we were "there" yet.  It seems to me pretty obvious: if we're still driving, we're not there.  But I never minded not being there yet.  I had my books, and beyond reading, as my mom would say, "you're never wasting time if you're looking at scenery."

I've discovered that I have a least favorite question.  I just cringe when a student comes into the classroom and says, "I was absent--did I miss anything?"  YES, YOU MISSED SOMETHING.  YOU MISSED CLASS.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Festival Recipe Exchange: Cantaloupe Bread

This is the first time in three years since I've learned about its existence that I've watched it go by:  Dewey's 24 hour Read-a-Thon.  I had about seven things planned for this past weekend, three of which were at the various schools I attend and teach.  I had to make the hard choice and say no to the readathon this fall.
I've caught up (a wee bit) on my Google reader and found some exciting things going on today!  My friend Trish from my master's program over at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity announced (with a delicious-looking coconut oatmeal cookie recipe, might I add!) that today My Friend Amy is hosting her second annual Fall Festival Recipe Exchange.  This is a great opportunity to find some new favorites and share one of your own.
Scott and I have, within the past year or so, discovered the joys of Cantaloupe Bread. One day we cut into a store-bought cantaloupe that felt ripe but was not sweet at all.  This was completely on accident, of course, for who would do this on purpose?!  But the accident was actually a blessing in disguise, because through the cantaloupastrophe came good.

I can't waste.  I was not raised to throw away food.  I was not raised to leave uneaten food on my plate.  I was not raised to throw something away that tasted a bit weird.  My mom has the uncanny ability to turn something that seems iffy and/or icky into an amazing cassarole, stir-fry, enchilada, or stew.  And, in all my life, the only time I ever got food poisoning was from a pizza place in Mississippi on a trip to visit Grandmother in Tennessee.  So, I think my mom's methods are dependable.

As soon as we determined that the cantaloupe was not sweet enough to be edible, I jumped online and started sleuthing for recipes so that we wouldn't have to throw the melon away.  After a few disastrous clicks (who would eat cold cantaloupe soup!?! gross!!), I happened upon a recipe for cantaloupe bread with a praline glaze.  We whipped it up that night, sans glaze, and it was pretty good.  To me, it tasted like pumpkin bread except with slightly less flavor.  So, the next time I made it, I added more spices and altered several of things that I didn't like about the original recipe, and ~voila!~ it was the best bread I had ever eaten, if I don't count my mother's Gramp's Dinner Rolls or Homemade Crescent Rolls.  Definitely the best dessert bread I had ever eaten and the easiest one I had ever baked.  We have been making it ever since, whether the cantaloupe is mild or sweet!

Without further ado...

KB's Cantaloupe Bread*

2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups cantaloupe – peeled, seeded, and pureed
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
½ teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, vanilla, and pureed cantaloupe.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and other optional spices.  Stir flour mixture into cantaloupe mixture; stir to combine.

4. Pour batter into prepared pans.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into center of a loaf comes out clean.  Let cool slightly in pans (about 20 minutes), and then cool entirely on wire racks.

6. May be served warm with or without butter, or at room temperature.

7. For storage, wrap cooled loaves separately in plastic wrap, and then cover with aluminum foil to preserve freshness.  The bread stays fresh for about a week, out of the refrigerator in a cool kitchen, or in the refrigerator in a warm kitchen.

*recipe altered from  They ask for 3 eggs and more sugar, which it doesn’t need. They also don’t use as many yummy spices as I do, because they serve the bread with a praline glaze.  If I have more than 2 cups pureed cantaloupe, I go ahead and put it all in.  The consistency of the bread stays about the same and just makes a little more!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life lessons, part three: Packing

According to government travel regulations, you can bring neither sabers nor brass knuckles on planes.  The good news is that they have started allowing tweezers again.  Cricket bats, unfortunately, still a no-go.  Dominic will have to get his very first cricket bat from someone else.

Need more info? Here's the best itemized chart I've found:

Conceived in love: Dominic

I have a new baby nephew!!  Dominic Josiah Lopez, was born at 10:39 a.m. on September 30, and weighed 8 lbs. 5.5 oz.  I am flying to TX to see Dominic and all my family!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

thinking in the abstract

My students' reading comprehension quiz for today was on a chapter they read about research and using sources, including online databases.  Question number 5, what I thought was a gimme, was "What is an abstract?"

The answers were awesome.  I was in awe.

Q:  What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is something out of the ordinary.
Not too bad, I least they were thinking of one sense of the word.

Q: What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is a unique way to quote an author.
Getting cooler.

Q: What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is a way of writing that doesn't reveal everything but keeps the reader interested.
Ha!  Close, but no cigar.

Q: What is an abstract?

A: An abstract is an interview with a professional in the field.
Hmmmm...  Is that what is wrong with the nightly news?

Q: What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is going outside of the box to create your own idea.
Nope, but you tried hard.

Q: What is an abstract?

A: An abstract is a piece of writing that is off topic or vague.
Oof. Cute, but way, way wrong.

This is why it's called a reading comprehension quiz, and not just a reading quiz.  Of course, doing the reading wouldn't hurt, either.  :)  Which one of these is your favorite??  Or do you know the answer?!  I'm looking for some doozies. :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

response from journal

I received a response from the film journal this week.  It turns out that they won't send my article out to reviewers yet because it's still too long, even after all my cuts.  I hadn't counted the footnotes, and I thought I was barely below the maximum, but it turns out I'm still over by about 1000 words counting all the notes.  Back to the cutting board.  I really want to publish this article!  (Nag nag nag blargs the list of other, more pressing things that need to get done right now, such as my dissertation.  Blarg.)

PS:  My sister is still pregnant!  This baby boy simply will not come out.  It's 3 days past d-day, but he's just relaxin, hanging out in the warm belly.  I'm starting to think about this baby the same way I do about my film article.  It's (taking) way too long, but I love love love it.

where's that red pen?

I'm a professor of college writing, which already tells you a lot about me.  It tells you that I have one, if not two or three, degrees in English.  It tells you that I'm not in it for the money.  It tells you that I love grammar more than most, and I probably drool over clap my hands at appreciate well-placed semi-colons.  But, it also tells you that I have to work extremely hard at my job to see improvement in my students' writing, if only because they resent me for the fact that they 1) didn't score high enough on the SATs to get out of taking freshman comp., 2) didn't score high enough on the AP exam but think they know everything after taking AP classes throughout high school and, thus, refuse to listen, or 3) have to take a general ed. class when they'd rather be gathering credits that count toward their majors. 

And I know they resent me for these things that are completely outside the realm of my control.  However, with most students, the resentment usually only lasts a month or so.  Once they start to trust me and let go of all the residual resentment from bad experiences in previous English classes, things start clicking in amazing ways.  Trust is key because, you see, writing is a very personal subject.  Students are attached to their words in levels of intimacy they never attain with math proofs, nor chemical equations, nor Spanish vocab flashcards.  In my job, I walk a precarious line between crushing their dreams and cherishing their ideas.  They love their words.  They believe their words...

...which brings me back to things you must know about me because I teach writing.

I have a wonderful sense of humor.

I've occasionally used my blog as a forum to discuss my students' slip-ups with word choice and their very cute works cited blunders.  If you've been reading long enough, you probably remember the famous poultry mishap and the infamous citing of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  As I was cleaning out my closet this evening looking for a purse I haven't used in a year, I found an old spiral notebook that I had used as a gradebook several years ago.  Flipping through, I had a sweet moment of nostalgia reacquainting myself with the students names and other tidbits of information I wrote down in my spiral.  "Absent b/c of basketball. Memo from coach."  "Broke arm, can't write in-class essay.  Find alternative assignment."  "Late AGAIN."  "Brought me coffee."  "Not on task during peer review."  Each of these little notes-to-self brought back a memory. And then I turned to the very last page in the spiral.  This was where I had written my students' funny sentences for their last essay cycle!  I totally struck gold.

"Once lost and confused, John Newton went through a time where he was looking for something he simple could not fine, God.  After changing his ways from being a self-proclaimed wrench, he was finally saved by what we could all call, amazing grace."

"He was a monk and had certain expectations expected of him."

"After a facelift you can obtain nerve damage that can make your face insensible."

"The argument here is that speaking in tongues is elf-edifying and Paul shows disapproval."

You bet he does!  Those elves can get out of hand so quickly.

Monday, September 13, 2010

send article to journal, check!

I've already posted today, but I couldn't help adding a little note since I can't keep my news to myself any longer.  I submitted my first scholarly article for publication today!  I'm trying not to get excited at all since it is a top-tier scholarly film journal and I have very little hope of getting accepted the first time around.  I mean, people that are BIGshots in the industry are frequently rejected by this journal.  And film isn't even my major field of study.  But, all that aside, what I am most excited about is the opportunity to receive professional feedback whether or not it is accepted. (YAY!)

When I sent my lovingly- and painstakingly-crafted 42 pg. article through email attachment to the editors (as the guidelines requested), I thought I might have a nervous breakdown.  It's my first one.  I felt like I was sending my firstborn off to kindergarten or something.  To a kindergarten from which she still could be rejected!  Anyway, here's to having it checked off my to-do list, which, to be honest, is kind of a big deal!

life lessons, part 2

It seems that sleep is no longer just my dissertation topic.  It's the one thing that never seems to happen at the right time.  When it's time for bed, my body is all spazzed out and ready to party.  When it's time to be up and alert, my body feels like molasses on a cold day.  Sllllllowwwwww.  (Yeah, bad analogy, but give me a break. I'm tired.)

I'm trying to eat right, minimize the caffeine, and get at least 3-4 hours of exercise a week.  And yet my body can't get into a good sleep pattern.  If this keeps up, I might just konk out in front of my classroom of students.

Innnnn other news, my sister's baby is almost here.  Her due date is a week and a half, but she probably won't last that long.  This kiddo wants out!

*Added thoughts from later in the afternoon: It occurs to me that I have provided zero life lessons in this post.  So, here's my attempt at reconciling my title faux pas. 
  • Lesson #1 of the day: always email professors when you plan on visiting their office hours.  99% of the time, the hours will be cancelled on the one day of the semester you show up. 
  • Lesson #2: Try not to cringe or laugh when a student asks you if you're Asian when you're clearly a southern white chick.  Stick to yes or no.  Or there's always the joke, "Why yes, I'm CAUC-Asian."  Seriously.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

difficult life lessons, part one

School started today, which means hubby and I began our fall schedule of waking up at 5:30 on MWF mornings to go teach, between the two of us, our five writing classes from 7:15 a.m.-11:35 a.m.  Early does not describe that time of morning adequately.  But perhaps painfulQuietPrayerful. And this morning, rainy.

I already love my students.  I can tell they are pumped about starting to party college, and as much as I joke about them, freshmen hold a special place in my heart.  Ten years ago this week, I started college far away from my family and friends, and my choice of college has impacted nearly every part of my adult life.  It's been a wild, wild decade.  What surprises will the next one bring?

Life lesson from today:  it is exponentially more difficult to put on mascara at 6 a.m. than at 8 a.m.  *Sigh.*

What have you learned today?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Me. Only better.

Last week, I reached a critical mass of stress and anxiety in my head, muscles, nerves, mind...

I started complaining about any and everything to any and everyone who was within earshot.  And, when I was by myself, that didn't stop me.  I complained to myself!  Why why why? I whined.  Why do I have to work so many jobs to make ends meet?  Why have I not lost more weight after an entire summer of strenuous workouts?  Why am I not further on this chapter of my dissertation?  Why do I have to pay tuition even though I'm done with coursework?  Why is our house such a mess?  Why did my professor let me down and forget the details we've discussed four times in twelve weeks?  How could she?  How could I?  How could they?  Why me?


And then...

...when I had quieted my mind long enough to hear myself and register the words I was saying...

I felt so ashamed and unworthy of the blessings in my life.

  • I was complaining about having too many jobs while millions of people have none.
  • I was complaining about my weight while millions have no food to sustain their bodies.
  • I was complaining about working out all summer and seeing minimal results while millions are sick, handicapped, arthritic, or unable to move their limbs freely.
  • I was complaining about my dissertation while millions go uneducated and cannot read or write, much less engage in the privilege of scholarly research.
  • I was complaining about housework and clutter while millions are homeless.

Quite simply, I had made myself mentally sick.  And, quite honestly, I was disappointed in my words, actions, and mindset.  Once the scales fell from my eyes, I sat down and--instead of complaining--I gave myself a stern reprimand.

I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, clothes on my back, books on my shelves (and, yes, my floors), a candidacy in doctoral studies, and an excess of employment for the number of available hours in each day.

So, I propose a movement away from this narcissistic feeling of entitlement.  Out with sickness, out with disappointment, out with inadequacy.  In with action.  In with energy.  In with beauty.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

(I) love this boy.

I love my little nephew, and I can't wait until I have one more! Timothy has been the cutest , sweetest, smartest nephew ever and now there will be another little guy in the family! I don't have to wait too long anymore. Christy's due at the end of September.

Scott and I had a wonderful time visiting home, and of course it was too short of a trip when all was said and done. We needed to get back to CA and back to work, and time stops for no Karen Beth. We got to see a great number of friends and family while we were in TX, though, and I got to attend my 10-yr reunion, even though it was cancelled! (Long story, but it was cancelled due to not enough tickets being sold, and then an "unofficial" reunion was planned in its place.) I also was able to throw my sister a baby shower for baby #2. I was blessed in so many ways on our trip home. For me, this was one of our best trips home since we have moved out here.

I miss my sister and her husband and son. I miss my parents and Scott's parents. I miss my cousins and relatives by marriage. I even miss the people I went to high school with.

We've been back for about three weeks now and are fully immersed in planning for our semesters at both schools, as well as working on our dissertations as much as we can. I finally got a better hold on my Jane Eyre chapter, and now I'm way more organized on my topic than I was before we left for TX. It just took about 90 days of brooding over it, ya know? Then something finally clicked.

Two of my friends are taking their qualifying exams today, and I am praying and thinking calm thoughts for them. I know how difficult these exams are, and I am excited to see them *almost* done with the exam process. Dissertations are a whole different ballgame.

Okay--enough school talk. Let's see some pictures of the aforementioned cutest nephew ever.

Cookout at Scott's parents' house: Mom and Dad

Christy, me (Aunt KB), and my nephew Timothy

Mmm, strawberry cake.

There's no doubt what my husband will look like in 30 years. :)

Timmy, just bein' adorable. (age 3)

Tim and his trains


Timmy and his mommy/my sis Christy

Tim and his aunt...goofing around

Tim and his Uncle Scott (I LOVE THIS PICTURE!!)

It's a Timmy sandwich! Cuteness abounds.

Until next time!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Muffins and Mom

I miss my mom all the time (she's in TX/I'm in CA), but I think I miss her most in the summertime. Not at birthdays, not at holidays, but summertime. Mom is a piano teacher and has her piano studio at home, so even though she worked, she was also a stay-at-home mom because she worked from home. It was wonderful to know that we could count on her for everything. Mom took us to our ballet lessons, our piano and violin recitals, our Girl Scout meetings and campouts, our fundraisers, our church activities, everything. She was always dependable, and she was always there.

Mom used to take my sister and me to the library several times a week when we were kids, and then we would play together, read together, take day-trips to museums or the Discovery Science Center together. We picked a book that we would read together as a family each summer. One year it was Cheaper by the Dozen. Another year it was a big book about the seven wonders of the world, and other world wonders. I also remember the Bobsey Twins and Hans Brinker and other amazing literary characters showing up during the summer.

We would cook or do special Girl Scout projects for badges. We would watch the French Open and make Wimbledon predictions in June. We would watch Wimbledon and make special Breakfast at Wimbledon meals for the championship matches (strawberries and cream!). The three of us (Mom, me, big sis Christy) were a great team and a great family. And when Dad would come home at night after a long day of working, the four of us would watch movies and eat meals and have great conversations about life, music, religion, books...and he would take care of us and make us all feel loved and safe.

(Family 1983)

(Parents’ 30th Anniversary; 2006)

My mom is an amazing woman. She's strong and intelligent. She's high-stressed and high-energy. She's full of nerves but full of love in every ounce, every nerve. She cooks homemade and knows where every good recipe is, even though she knows most of them by heart. She taugh her daughters how to cook with the same care and creativity (and generosity) that she does.

(Christmas Cookies in 2006, nowhere near Christmastime)

Mom bakes cookies and caramel popcorn for her piano students. She makes birthday cakes for the family. She cooks breakfast every morning (it is the most important meal of the day). She has “piano parties” at the end of every school year for her students, and one year she made this:

(It’s a piano cake! White sheet cakes with Twix bars for the black keys. YUM. I think I’m five in this photo, 1987-ish)

My mom was there for my recitals and concerts when I started playing violin in middle school.

(Fall 1995, age 13)

And she was there for my recitals and concerts in college (driving from three states away)

(Senior Violin Performance Recital poster/postcards, taken by my friend Nick Choy in 2004)

She was there cheering for me when I graduated as Valedictorian from my high school (while I was thus rewarded by having to wear a hideous orange robe instead of the classy white of my classmates)...

(June 3, 2000, age 18)

…when I graduated from college at Azusa Pacific...

(May 2004)

and when I graduated with my master’s degree from Texas Tech.

(May 2007, age 25. My fiancĂ© at the time, Scott’s wearing a tux because he was in the graduation ensemble…Scott, Me, Dad, Mom, Grandfather)

Mom was there on the day of my first ballet recital.

(Karen Beth age 5, big sis Christy age 9)

She was there on the day of my wedding.

(Wonderfully windy day, August 4, 2007. Grandparents, Scott’s Parents, My parents, Me; Photo by Anna Hinds)

So, now that I’m in my (gulp) late twenties, trying to accomplish all that I can before I get too old for adrenaline to work properly, I just want to say Thanks MOM. You may never read this blog. I know you’ll probably never know how much I cherish the small and big moments. But you’re great and I love you and Dad with all my heart.

What brought this all on? Well, I was at Molly’s blog reading her muffin recipe, which got me thinking about my muffin recipes. This past Christmas, when mom asked what I wanted, I told her a muffin cookbook. I expected something like one of the hundreds of cookbooks I had recently browsed at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Instead, I received a homemade cookbook in a big blue binder filled by my mother with copies of all the muffin recipes she could find from all of her books. But what’s more, she had written a letter to General Mills asking for their best muffin recipes for her daughter. And she included their several pages of response in the binder. Now, would a muffin cookbook from a bookstore have achieved the same result as far as recipes go? Yes, I’m sure. But do I cherish my mom’s homemade Christmas muffin binder more than life itself? Yes, I am sure.

The next batch is for you, Mom.

(Mom and KB, Christmas 2008)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Proposal

Writing my dissertation proposal was exciting for me. Completing it and turning it in were serious accomplishments in my semester. After completing my film article and setting that aside, I was *finally* able to focus on the BIG PICTURE of the dissertation rather than worrying about this source or that source or this article or that bibliography. Of course, the proposal needed to talk about many of those itty bitty things, too, but at least I finally saw structure to the dissertation rather than some HUGE, amorphous blob of stress-induced writing.

My dissertation proposal has sketches of chapters (Hallelujah!), a tentative table of contents (minus the pg numbers, of course), and a massive bibliography that I've been honing for about two years while writing seminar papers on this same topic. It also has an abstract and justifications for why I'm writing on certain texts and excluding others. It was actually a very interesting document to create. Looking at the big picture has already helped me. I added two chapters that I wasn't even expecting (but now am really excited about), while scratching another one that wouldn't have worked out with the argument I'm proposing. I also combined two others.

When my advisor handed it back to me (luckily it was done before he resigns on July 1st--don't even get me started on that subject...), I was surprised at how little he actually wanted me to change. The abstract needs to be revised to fit within the graduate school's guidelines because mine is too long and not focused enough. Also, my introductory chapter needs to encompass a broader survey of my topic rather than jumping so quickly into my argument. But, other than that, it seems that everything is a go. Green light, KB!

My first chapter after the intro will be on Jane Eyre. I am excited about diving in to JE again. LOVE it.

In other news...I bought our 10-year high school reunion tickets this week. I'm actually getting pumped for it. I need to go shopping for some cute dresses. Does anyone know what is in style right now? I have had my head buried in books too long to have any idea. But I know who all the hot literary critics are right now. Does that count for anything at a reunion?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Theme on a variation of sleep and grad school


And I might finally get back to blogging now that I've completed a major project!! I received a really nice research grant last year, but 12 months later a report was due about how that money was used and how much I had accomplished...etc. I'm really glad that I had to do a write-up because it affirmed for me in new ways how much I really had learned and accomplished. For the grant, I was able to complete an entire scholarly article on film, which is not my major, but one of my minors. I was looking specifically at how directors were using sleep in a silent horror film and in film noir. My mom used to balk at my research topics of sleep, nightmares, insomnia, somnambulism, murder and trauma during sleep...but now I guess she's going to have to get used to it as my specialization, since that's my dissertation topic. I'm going to be writing about all the crazy things Victorian women were doing in their sleep. :) And...hopefully I'm one of the first. Otherwise, I might as well go dissertate on cheese or something less scary. I say less scary because, well, you just never know with cheese.

One of my bffs is gearing up to take her qualifying exams this week which kind of makes me anxious all over again, even though I've already taken and passed my exams. I'm one of those friends, the kind that hovers over the phone for news all day when I know something big is going on. It's a good kind of friend to be, but I also need to relax a little bit more.

I am leaving for Texas in about 50 days for my ten year high school reunion, so I guess that means I have seven weeks to remind myself why I want to see these people again. There are a few that I am so excited to catch up with, but there are a few that will probably judge me because I have no kiddos or no retirement plan at age 28. No house of my own and no back yard for lounging. (Suddenly I'm distracted from what I was saying because I am trying to remember the last time I lounged!)

But, I took a different path from my high school peers. I went to college and then went to grad school and then went to another grad school...and now I'm....still in grad school.

I think this whole reunion would be a lot less stressful if I already had my Ph.D. instead of being in the dissertation stage. I could say, boo yah, looky there. It's fine that I don't have kids and a home because I have a frickin doctorate! But when it's all said and done, I'm not interested in comparisons (and hope they are not either) because I know I chose the path I wanted, and most of the people I am talking about chose exactly what they wanted. It's not that we don't want kids, we're just not there yet. I am already doing what I want to do for a living (teaching at a college), I just don't have a full time position yet. And I am looking forward to showing off my wonderful husband. Things have been really great for us this year, and we're working hard to stay on track to graduate by next May.

Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. Does anyone have any stories to share from their reunions? They can be good or bad--I'm interested!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Readathon totals

I finished the readathon last night (actually this morning) and am amazed that I'm not really tired today. Here were my final totals. Unimpressive, but overall successful for what I intended to accomplish.

Readathon totals:
Book read during the readathon: Little Women, The Law and the Lady, and Paul Ferroll
books completed: 2! Little Women and Paul Ferroll, both of which I was about halfway through when the readathon began.
minutes total: 638 (so about 10.5 hours? I thought it would add up to more than that.)
pages total: 392, all from nineteenth-century British and American novels
minutes blogging/commenting total: just over two hours
cups of coffee: 4
minutes spent napping: 210 (3.5 hours)

So now I'm a free woman today, except for attending a friend's graduate cello recital and then working my evening shift at the writing center, but I want to keep reading! The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was reach for the book on my nightstand. The 'thon energy has not fallen away yet. :)

Readathon hours 21-22

I'm still reading! But I'm turning off the computer and getting in bed with my books, so I won't be making my final updates until tomorrow.

This has been fun. :)

Readathon Singalong break

My husband (in true Darcy fashion, I love, I love, I love him, most ardently) bought me the new Train CD this week titled Save me, San Francisco. It is SO GOOD!!!

My favorite line of lyrics from the CD (and there are a lot) keeps sticking in my head during this 'thon, so I decided to share it with y'all.

The song is "If it's love," and part of the chorus goes...

While everybody else is getting out of bed
I'm usually getting in it
I'm not in it to win it
I'm in it for you.

Readathon hours 18-19

Scott is making me some nachos to help sustain me through the night, since in my time zone (Pacific) the readathon goes until 5 a.m. I'm putting on another pot of coffee and going to keep reading Paul Ferroll and possibly open up the book I need to review this week if I'm not too sleepy.

I am proud of myself for getting through Little Women. I so badly wanted to chuck its chunky spine across the room at least once an hour. But it is one of the only books I've ever read that made me cry about six different times. I think only Dickens's Dombey and Son shares that stat for me!

Anyway, here's lookin' at you kids. Good luck on your next five hours. I'm going to go downstairs, indulge in some cheesy nachos and caffeine, and watch a few minutes of our latest Netflix loan (Defiance) with my husband, who has been working on his dissertation grant proposal all day, bless his heart!

Readathon totals so far:
Book reading right now: It's dissertation hour! Wilkie Collins's The Law and the Lady and Caroline Clive's Paul Ferroll (which I'm probably the only person in history to read, besides the editor--ha!)
minutes read hours 18-19: 50
minutes total: 518
pages read these two hours: 33
pages total: 306
books completed: 1- Little Women!
minutes blogging/commenting total: around 115
cups of coffee: about to savor #4
glasses of water: 5 big ones
minutes spent napping: 180
cleaning task this hour: two loads of laundry and then folding

Readathon hours 13-14 (and 15-17)

Oops, I'm a little bit behind schedule on my readathon update posting, so I'll try to get caught up right now. Scott and I had a YUMMY dinner (corned beef, cabbage, and other veggies!), and after that I didn't last long before falling right asleep. Now I'm back up after about a 3-hr nap (hours 15, 16, and 17). Little Women is finally finished, but in my opinion it could have concluded about 50 pgs sooner. I am still conflicted about the end but have to move on if I want to add more pages to my total today.

Readathon totals so far:
Book reading right now: Wilkie Collins's The Law and the Lady
minutes read hours 13-14: 57
minutes total: 468
pages read these two hours: not enough
pages total: 273
books completed: 1- Little Women
minutes blogging/commenting total: around 100
cups of coffee: 3
glasses of water: 5 big ones
minutes spent napping: 180

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Readathon hours 11-12

We are at the halfway point! How is everyone doing?

Readathon totals so far
Book reading right now: Little Women --nearly finished. I can taste it.
minutes read these two hours: 38 (took a cooking and dinner break)
minutes total: 411
pages read these two hours: a wee 12
pages total: 216
books completed: 0
cups of coffee: 3
glasses of water: 4 big ones
cleaning tasks this hour: putting all my scattered shoes away

Readathon hours 9-10

Readathon totals so far

Book reading right now: sigh. Little Women...still. At this point they should be elderly women. Longest book ever. Except for maybe Clarissa.

minutes read these two hours: 64 (I've been working in the kitchen. Making my corned beef and cabbage!)

minutes total: 373

pages read these two hours: 30

pages total: 214

books completed: 0

minutes blogging/commenting total: 85

cups of coffee: ONLY 2, but longing for more

glasses of water: 4

cleaning tasks this hour: sorting laundry

Readathon hours 7-8

Readathon totals so far
Book reading right now: sticking with Little Women until it is over

minutes read these two hours: 63
minutes total: 309
pages read these two hours: 33
pages total: 184
books completed: 0
minutes blogging/commenting total: 70

cups of coffee: 2
glasses of water: 3
cleaning tasks this hour: put out new towels

I'm feeling verrrrrry sleepy right now, and I'm not sure if it's because I went to bed at 1 a.m. and woke up at 5 to start the readathon, or if it's because I'm coming down from my sugar high from my indescribably delicious homemade vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting. Maybe both?

Readathon hour 5-6

Well, it turns out that I couldn't put LW down even though I was frustrated, and I was right not to. As soon as I went back to the book, I started bawling it was so good. Relationship stuff between Laurie/Jo, Meg/John, Amy/Laurie, Jo/Beth: SO GOOD.

My husband is awake now (finally!!) but it is going to mean less reading for a few hours. He's making breakfast burritos right now, and then I might ask him for help with some things around the house.

Keep reading, everybody. It's a great day for books!

Readathon totals so far
Book reading right now: Little Women
minutes read these two hours: 79
minutes total: 246
pages read these two hours: 63
pages total: 151
books completed: 0

minutes blogging/commenting total: 50
cups of coffee: 2
glasses of water: 3
cleaning tasks this hour: picked up the living room a little--much more needed!

Readathon hours 3-4

Little Women is going really slowly, and Jo bothers me to no end. I know these characters are supposed to be endearing, but I can't help but want to jump into the book and shake her sometimes. I am in love with the character of Laurie, though. At least for now.

Maybe I should switch books for a little while.

Readathon totals so far
Book reading right now: Little Women
minutes read these two hours: 80
minutes total: 167
pages read these two hours: 58
pages total: 108
books completed: 0
minutes spent blogging/commenting: 45
cups of coffee: 2
glasses of water: 2
cleaning tasks this hour: folded some clothes

Readathon hours 1-2

Readathon totals so far
Book reading right now: Little Women
minutes read these 2 hours: 87
minutes total: 87
pages read these 2 hours: exactly 50! (pretty small print, but I'm also still waking up)
pages total: 50
books completed: 0
cups of coffee: 2
glasses of water: 1
cleaning tasks this hour: unloading and loading the dishwasher

Everything is going great so far. Scotty is still asleep so I'm trying to be quiet downstairs. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I started this morning about halfway through Little Women, but right now it seems to be at a slow point. We've already had one marriage, and the rest of the "women" are kind of biding their time. Or so it seems. But I am enjoying it thoroughly, slow parts and all, since I've never read it!

Readathon Begins!

I am up and at 'em with my coffee percolating and my bookmarks handy. I am so excited to be participating in my third readathon. I've even asked my husband to document the event with our camera, but he won't wake up for at least 3 or 4 more hours--ha!

The book I'm starting with is Little Women (1868) by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888). I'm already about halfway through this novel, so I am definitely hoping to move through it pretty quickly. I might also be reading the Little Women graphic novel during this readathon. These are both on my list because I will be presenting the novel, graphic novel, and one of the film adaptations to one of my school groups on Friday, so I'm trying to take notes on the best passages. That slows my reading down some. But NO SPOILERS for me! I haven't ever read this great classic children's novel. :)

Let the readathon begin!

My readathon list

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reading it for a school group)
  • Little Women, the graphic novel adaptation by Graphic Classics (ditto)
  • The Cinematic Jane Austen (writing a review for an academic journal)
  • The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins (teaching it to my college freshmen right now)
  • Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (for the dissertation)
  • Paul Ferroll by Caroline Clive (for the dissertation)

I love my list! It's a good, hard list.

I've also decided that this is going to be a clean-a-thon, as my our house has become more and more cluttered and dirty the further we get in the school semester. For every hour that I read, I want to accomplish a small cleaning or sorting task (15 minutes or less) that I have been putting off. It's a good goal! It means that I probably won't have as much time on the computer reviewing books or blogs or cheerleading the other readers. But after all the hours of reading are done, I'll be able to look around and enjoy my house and everything I've accomplished. Anyone want to join me?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Read-a-thon next weekend!

Last night was the first time I checked my Google reader in about a month (like I said in my last post, I have no idea where March went). Much to my joy and surprise, the annual 24-hour readathon is coming up again next weekend! This will be my third time to participate, and I hope it will be successful on my part. I have so many books piled up beside my bed that I feel overwhelmed. And don't even get me started on the "dissertation" stacks in the office in front of my bookshelf. Why are they in front of the bookshelf? Because the shelf is 100% full!

The readathon starts at 5 a.m. Pacific Time on April 10 and goes until 5 a.m. on the 11th. I don't have a specific list made today, but I'll try to post one this week before I take the plunge. So far I know I need to finish Little Women for my reading group at school, since it's my turn to present our text. I also have a scholarly book on Jane Austen that I have to finish so that I can write my book review on it (since I promised the editor I'd have it turned in by the 15th before she goes to press). So, if NOTHING else, I have to finish those two books by the end of the 'thon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April already?

March came and went and I kind of remember it but not quite. I remember being very sick, being in an airplane, being in a different state, being super-wife, and being very tired, but not much else.

After I passed my qualifying exams, life got even more hectic--if that's possible. I think it's because, as soon as my exams were over, I immediately had to start working on everything I had postponed "until after quals." Real life was much less fun than quals life, as stressful as it had been for the past seven months, and on top of everything else, my husband was gearing up for his quals exams. Enter super-wife. (She looks a lot like me, only with deeper circles etched around her eyes.)

Then came our Pride and Prejudice transdisciplinary panel at the College English Association conference at the end of March. The trip to San Antonio with Scott, Jan, Stefani, and Sharone would have been a blast had I not had the worst cold imaginable. I probably haven't been that sick in the past five years. Instead of partying Tex-Mex style on the Riverwalk, I had to settle for watching the rest of the gang have a blast while I ran off to blow my nose every two minutes. Nevertheless, it was a memorable trip that had positive effects on my scholarship and possibly on my future career, so we'll chalk this up to a disappointing while at the same time really good trip.

Let's see....what else happened in March? I was given two really big pieces of news--one good and one bad:

1. My sister is pregnant with her second baby, so I'll be an aunt again! We are all thrilled for baby #2, which is due in the fall.
2. My dissertation advisor is resigning his position at our university as of July 1st. *enter wails of frustration and self-pity here* We're still trying to work out the details, but from what I've been told by my advisor, as long as I can get a completed dissertation proposal turned in by the time he signs his resignation letter, he can still be my dissertation chair from long-distance. Considering that he's the only prof I've taken any Brit Lit courses with since I've been at this institution, I think I need to keep him on my committee, even if it's extremely complicated. I'll probably have to find another chair-of-record on campus, but at least my current advisor is willing to continue working with me even though he's moving to a more prestigious school and has no legal obligation to chair my committee. So, I'll just keep praying about it and working on my proposal as quickly as I can. That's really all I can do at this point. Advice? Suggestions?

Oh, the other big news (finally this is MY news and not news imposed on me) is that I lost seven pounds this month! I've gained a few of them back with the traveling and flying and weird eating schedule during the trip, but I am excited about my "loss." I went on an all-natural foods diet for 10 days that focused on eating cruciferous veggies, leafy greens, citrus, eggs, berries, apples and carrots, and lean meats cooked with olive oil. There was not a single day that I was hungry, and the fresh produce was so delicious! Scott and I have continued to cook all-natural whenever we have the opportunity. Once I stop eating Easter cookies, maybe I'll be back on track again. :)

Anyway, that was my March. How was yours? Reading anything good?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

three years of becoming me

I'm within five days of turning 28 years old, and the thought of it has stopped me in my tracks more than a few times this week. Twenty-eight is not an exciting number. It has none of the connotations that 13, 18, 21, or 29 do. I'm not becoming anything, except older. I'm not gaining any privileges. And I'm not on the precipice of anything different, like *gasp* my thirties. But 28 is closer to 30 than 25, which has caused me to be more thoughtful about how I want to celebrate the upcoming day.

In fact, I've been thinking often about all that has happened to me since age 25, and I can't help but be proud of what I've accomplished. In the past three years, I have...

  • completed a master's thesis in Victorian literature and successfully defended it (Feb. and Mar. '07)
  • presented paper at CEA in New Orleans (Apr. '07)
  • accepted a marriage proposal from the man of my dreams (Apr. '07)
  • completed master's degree coursework (May '07)
  • graduated with my Master of Arts in English (May '07)
  • planned a wedding in three months while working full-time (summer '07)
  • got married! (Aug. 4, '07)
  • moved across three states from TX to CA (mid Aug. '07)
  • started new teaching job two days after we arrive (Aug. '07)
  • started Ph.D. coursework at new school (Sept. '07)
  • presented papers at CEA in St. Louis (Mar. '08) and Pittsburgh (Mar. '09)
  • Taught 12 writing and literature courses as an adjunct professor (Aug. '07-present)
  • Also a university writing tutor (Sept '08-present), teaching assistant for crazy/brilliant woman (Jan. '09-May '09), library grunt-worker (Summer '08 and '09), and editor for scholarly journal (Oct. '09-present)
  • completed French language requirement (Jan. '09)
  • completed Ph.D. coursework (May '09)
  • completed Spanish language requirement (May '09)
  • completed Ph.D. qualifying exams and successfully defended them (Jan. and Feb. '10)
(tired yet? because I am...)

The past three years have gone by very quickly, and there is no doubt that they've been the hardest of my life. I've worked day and night for my accomplishments, for my career, and for my future life as a scholar and a loving wife. It has been arduous; I've wept and slept over many a book, I've typed until I had blisters, I've sprinted across university campuses with no parking in the highest of heels to get to classes I'm taking or teaching, and I've had monumental highs and lows of faith and doubt in my own ability to succeed. To fight through when I would rather cry or curl up in a ball with a blanket and cozy mystery novel.

But I've also shared it all with my husband (also a doctoral student) and had some beautiful and hilarious moments with him as we venture through our married life together.

I've made some of the best friends I've ever had in life.

I've read more books than I thought humanly possible.

I've taught hundreds of students how to appreciate the symmetry of a well-placed semi-colon in an argumentative essay.

I've taught hundreds of students how to appreciate the beauty of metaphor in British poetry.

I've become an aunt and discovered that, someday, I too will be a wonderful mother.

I've learned to love others unconditionally.

I've had a great time being ages 25, 26, and 27. These three years have excited me, stretched me, challenged me, and defined me as a young adult.

I don't expect my birthday to be a big deal, but I can't keep my heart from fluttering in anticipation as the calendar days tick by. I already know that I won't graduate with my Ph.D. until age 29, but 28 is the year that will push me to that finish line. It might not be an exciting number, but it's mine, and I'm gonna milk it for all it's worth. 28? Bring it on.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This qualifies me to do...what exactly?

Christmas was beautiful and time with family in Texas was blessed.

Scott and I accidently slept through New Years after a reeeeally long drive back to the West coast, but our neighbors' fireworks so politely reminded us of the event.

It's been too long since I've logged in, but in a way it feels like not long enough. I don't have any huge news to tell other than to relate my anxiety. I've been reading non-stop all the way through the fall semester and then through the holidays to get ready for my upcoming qualifying exams for my Ph.D. program. Our school doesn't believe in giving the traditional 12 months--we only get about 7 months to prepare--so needless to say, I feel like I could have used a little more time. I don't think I want more time, though. I really want to get it over with.

I have done all that I could do to prepare, and now I just need to get organized. I have about 40 hours before I begin my major exam. I'll be taking my Major (19th c. British lit) on Friday-Saturday, my first minor (film adaptation) on Monday, and then my second minor (18th c. British lit) on the following Friday. Sounds easy, right? All nice and spread out...

Here's the catch. The university at which I teach (not where I go to grad school) starts its spring semester next week, so I'll be teaching on Tuesday and Thursday between my exams. I was upset to discover all of this was happening the same week, but then it occurred to me that I would much rather be taking my quals the first week of the semester than, say, one month in, when my students are more involved and their assignments require more of my input. This is actually perfect timing [she says with a grimace on her face, bracing for her impending head-on collision with academic destiny].

So right now I need to relax, take a deep breath, stop counting the cups of coffee I've consumed this week because I don't have that many fingers/toes, and try piecing the puzzles of all this knowledge together.

These exams are actually the easy part. After this I get to write my dissertation. My book. The manifesto of literary me. I can't wait!!!!!