Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quick Book Review of Sorts!

I just finished my second novel from the perspective of a biracial girl this month. (and I have reviews of them both under the "Books" link above). But I don't think I can kid myself that this is actually working on my dissertation even if I found some great lines and zingers pertaining to race in both novels!

So here goes ....

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. I found this book on a best-selling novels table (at the cool independent bookstore, The Book Loft) while I was in a conference in Columbus, OH, this past October but just now got the chance to read it. The book caught my interest for several reasons -- it about a biracial girl (cool point number one), one of the main characters is named "Nella" after the fabulous author "Nella Larson" (cool point number two), and a good section of the book takes place in Oregon (good point number three). Though I wasn't crazy about the ending (I will let you decide if you like it or not), I loved the intrigue behind why this girl "fell from the sky." And there were some great lines (the author contributes to NPR on a pretty regular basis apparently). When the main character, Rachel, thinks about her Scandinavian heritage (her mom was from Denmark), she thinks, "I don't want being Danish to be something that I can put on and take off. I don't want the Danish in me to be something time makes me leave behind" (205).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sorry. But I admit it. I stole someone's blog entry! So here it is. I read this entry this morning from the fabulous Popsicle Report -- Click here for the blog! -- and I realized that there was no way in heck I could replicate what she says here. Every single word of it rings true for me, too!


Day 1:

So I’m tooling along Cancer Road. Don’t want to be here, but at least I’m past the multicar pile-up of surgery, chemo and radiation, and I’m picking up speed. Hope the rest of my trip is event-less. Man, it’s hard to drive with your fingers crossed.

Switching lanes now and – oops – wait! How did I end up on this ramp? I’m not supposed to get off this highway for another year or so, when I get to the exit marked “Dramatically Decreased Chance of Recurrence.”

Wait — what’s that brown sign? Looks like the ones that point to scenic attractions. Maybe a welcome sign?

Well, maybe not.

Welcome to Camp Hypochondria

No pets allowed

Aw, rats.

Somebody warned me about this place. A guy on the Road ahead of me. He said he got stuck there, but I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about then.

So here I am now, parked in the middle of a bunch of tents.

Looks like one of those Occupy campsites that were recently closed down. Maybe I’ll stay here for awhile and see what’s going on. I’ve got a tent in the trunk.

Day 2:

Here I am, lying awake on my cot.


What is that?

That ache in my wrist that woke me up.

Surely it’s not…

I get up quickly and look for my checklist, the one I made after talking with the oncologist at my last check-up. There it is, tucked away in my special Cancer Survivor backpack, the one I assembled after the end of radiation. I carry it around with my water bottle and dietary supplements. It’s got a special pocket for Good Humor.

Let’s see – what did the oncologist say?

Cancer doesn’t attack the joints, or recur below the elbows or knees. (“Everything else is fair game,” he said.)

Oh, so I guess that pain in my wrist is simply, what, arthritis? Or – no – maybe it’s degenerative joint disease, one of the side effects of chemo the naturopath told me about.

Or, maybe I just slept in the wrong position.

But just for security, let’s continue down the list.

The doc said that, if it spreads, breast cancer usually heads for the brain, lungs, bones, or liver.

So, let’s see:

No headache. Guess my brain’s OK (relatively speaking). Check.

Lungs? No cough or shortness of breath. Check.

Bones? No pain. Except for that wrist. But that’s a joint AND below the elbow. Double check.

And I’m hungry.

That’s a good sign. A good appetite and steady weight indicate a healthy liver.

But just to be sure, I’ll check my weight on the bathroom scale. I just happen to have one of those in my backpack too. (Mary Poppins would be so proud.)

Two pounds heavier.


I never gain weight (well, except for those pregnancies and that one summer at Girl Scout camp).

Uh-oh. Weight gain. Isn’t that one of the signs of ovarian cancer?? Sometimes breast and ovarian cancer are linked.

Rats — No trapdoor I can open into my body for a look inside.

OK, quick – pull on my shorts. If the waistband’s too loose, it could be weight loss from liver metastasis. But if it’s too tight — abdominal swelling can mean cancerous ovaries.

But these fit just right.


Must have been that Halloween candy my son gave me from his trick-or-treat bag, and all that extra sitting writing blog entries like this one.

I dig again through my backpack, looking for what, I’m not sure. And I see it in writing – a folder with a label that reads “cancer.”

Oh wait. No. That says “career.”


Last week I saw something written on my to-do list and I thought it too said “cancer.” But it was only my note to myself to cancel the newspaper. Yeah, I’d like to cancel cancer too.

I glance down and notice that small mole on my right calf. It disappeared during chemotherapy, but now it’s back.

Oh right, that’s below the knee, and therefore off limits.

Unless, of course, it’s . . . skin cancer.

I remind myself, as the oncologist said, that if today’s pain is new AND above the knees and elbows AND progressive, I should start the countdown. If the pain is still around after 2 weeks, I’m supposed to call him. I am amazed at how many pains can come and go from a body in the course of 2 weeks.

A few months ago, it was the lymph node under my jaw that was tender off and on for a month. Pressing on it (of course I did!) irritated my ear and sinus and I had some tingling along my nose and lips. I was sure this meant a brain tumor that was affecting my facial nerve. But then the air dried out and the molds disappeared and the node retreated into obscurity.

And that tender spot in my abdomen last fall turned out to be just a bladder infection.

If nothing else, all these false alarms are a test of how well I know my own anatomy. In the misguided process of trying to diagnose myself, I’ve discovered just where my liver and pancreas are and what they do. And now that I’m in menopause — not through the natural gradual descent but from a shove over the cliff by that villain chemotherapy – I wonder just where are those ovaries anyway? Everything in my body seems to have shifted. The joints work differently. Even my teeth don’t come together quite like they used to.

A yoga teacher once told me that, if we are spiritually healthy and mature, we grow in awareness. I don’t think this is the kind of awareness she meant.

I resent the way cancer has hijacked my thinking.

Hypochondria: It’s just another word for obsession.

“Presque tous les hommes meurent de leurs remèdes, et non pas de leurs maladies.”

Nearly all men die of their remedies, and not of their illnesses.

Molière: The Imaginary Invalid (1673), Act III, sc. iii

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hello everyone! Sorry to take so long in posting! Dissertation Girl is not dead! But -- It has been an amazingly busy last couple of months! The semester ended at SWIC -- which includes tons of grading, evaluating, conferencing, etc -- and then the holidays were here (which included me going off on a cruise with my good pal, Peggy!).

So here we are in January 2012. My one goal this year -- finish the dissertation!

Like I did before, I want to use this web space to write out and think through this enormously important time in my life ... finishing up the dissertation. But here are a few other things on my mind right now.

1. I found out earlier this month that I was accepted at the Dartmouth Composition Seminar (something I would have never been able to do without the dissertation help of the amazing Dr M, my advisor!). Here is a web link to the seminar: Dartmouth Seminar. This seminar is indeed at the one and only Dartmouth (in Hanover, NH) and so Jim and I will be making this our big holiday for the year. We rented this cabin near the college and will be staying there for the entire two weeks that I am studying and working at Dartmouth (Stella gets to come along to as the rental is dog friendly!). This seminar should help me finish up any crunching of data that I will still need to do dissertation-wise.

2. The 4C's Conference is March 21-24 in downtown St Louis (a mere block or two from our downtown loft) -- and I am serving on the Local Committee (as the official "Information Chair"!). This is a HUGE conference for we writing teacher types -- I would guess that about 3000 or so of us show up for this annual conference (information about the conference here!). I am working now at finding discounts from local businesses for this event! Once this conference gets going in March, I suspect that it will be eating tons of my time!

3. Triathloning (and a fair amount of half-marathoning!). Yep, I am back at it. I am determined to get better at this sport (and lose that darn cancer weight!). Right now I am doing an indoor triathlon series with a friend at the St Peter's Rec Plex in preparation for the outdoor tris that will be starting around May. Jim and I are off to Myrtle Beach, SC, so I can run the "Run Like a Diva" Half-Marathon on May 20 (again -- we will be taking a short vacation here and click here for the fabulous beach rental we found for the time we are there! And, again, it is a Stella-friendly rental!)

4. Just being the best teacher I can be! I am starting a new semester where I have changed and organized my developmental classes especially in the quest to find better ways of helping my students recognize the value of effective writing skills. I am not sure how it will all turn out by the end of the semester but this semester represents yet another attempt at experimentation!

5. Playing with Twitter and Linked. Because I have been lucky enough to have a few publication credits (and help out with some reviewing for the journal, Teaching English in the Two-Year College, I want to use that momentum to embrace the academic/ publishing world more fully. I am still trying to learn how to use hashtags and all that fun stuff on Twitter and I am trying to keep my Linked page updated. In a nutshell -- I need to keep myself more informed about what is going on -- and both of these social media forms appear to be great ways of staying on top of what's going on! So watch out world! Here I come!

PS: As I did last year, I am also going to use this space to keep track of my races (see new tab for 2012) and a new tab will organize all the books I read (I am sort of curious how many I read!)