Friday, January 8, 2021

Ugh. January.

I am already stressing about keeping this blog updated and super stressed and we are at like, what, day 8 of the new year?

So what am I stressed out about?  Will it help to write this all down?

1.  Whisky.  Every walk with him is leaving me in tears lately.  He pulls so hard and I have been trying to train him with words but it isn't working.  He cowers at me when I say "no" and it makes going on a walk = the last thing I want to do.  But we need to help him get exercise because his puppy-ness leaves us tired.

2.  School.  I will be teaching in person in another week.  I have no idea when I will get a vaccination and I am terrified of catching COVID after we have been so careful for the past 9 months. I always feel a little nervous before a new semester (I so desperately want to be a "good" teacher, not just an "okay" teacher).

3.  Hemorrhoids.  I hate them and I need to see a doc soon because I am experiencing the worst problem with them that I have ever had. The big issue with this is that I no longer have a primary care physician and so I am not sure how I go about getting one.

4.  Our old place.  We want to put it on the market by Feb 1 but it is taking so long to get things done -- like painting, dealing with the floors, installing new appliances, etc.  I am terrified that we won't be able to sell it and will always be paying two mortgages.

5.  No sewing.  I just seem to have lost my mojo on this one.  I start a project and then never get past the second step.

Ugh.  This won't help with any of the above, but I need a glass of wine now.

Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year's Eve 2021

 I saw an advertisement back in November for a virtual sewing party on New Year's Eve and I thought ... why the hell not?  Perhaps this will help me get some of my "mojo" back in terms of motivation (especially in terms of sewing for myself and it being a pleasurable activity).  This was a joint party held by Sulky (a long-established machine embroidery company) and Sallie Tomato (a sewing pattern company by a young designer who has really taken off the last few years!).    It started at 8 PM EST and went to midnight EST (so an hour earlier for me here in the Central Time Zone!).

What got my attention was that this party was focused on creating a bag in about 3-4 hours called "The Zelda Bag" named after the infamous and seriously brilliant  Zelda Fitzgerald (the whole event had a 1920's theme to it!).  I also pre-ordered the kit so I didn't have to cut anything out.  Access to the event was $5.99 and then the kits itself was $39.99 (link here).  With the choice of color -- beige or charcoal -- I went for the charcoal and the machine embroidery option.  And I am a bit of a sucker for fringe!

So now that the event is over (welcome to the first morning of 2021!), what is my assessment of this whole event?  Though I said a ton of bad words (why did I think sewing late at night was a good idea?) and the pacing was fast to make sure completion happened before midnight, it was a great experience (and, luckily, my admission to the event includes the video that I can watch over and over again).  

Of course, being New Year's Eve, I had to start with a drink (and the pre-purchased kit came with some 1920's themed party favors).  My computer and desk area are a part of my new sewing studio so I was perfectly set up to watch and sew:

Thankfully, there were plenty of guests (as you can see from the picture above, there is apparently a "Sewing Cowboy"!).  I was glad for this because I needed to the time to catch up several times (and, yes, the seam ripper made a few appearances!).  I didn't win one of the awesome door prizes but fun was still had during the entire event.

Sure, I definitely made a few mistakes (I am always struggling with zipper tabs and how they fit into a bag's side seam) but I like the overall look.  Here is what I ended up with:

I am not crazy about the embroidery design that came with the bag but I like the overall design and this was the first time I ever added a fringe to something.  My machine struggled a little but I didn't have time to look for a plastic foot or tissue paper (two suggestions from the host to make this part easier).  The instructions was going so fast that I am curious to make another without the time pressure.

So there we go!  I ended 2020 with a crafty project!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

New Post for an Old Blog!

 About 6 years ago, I wrote my last post here on Dissertation Girl (my online blog for a couple of years).  I stopped writing, I suppose, because I had completed my dissertation and PhD, a process that was made even more difficult by a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010 as well as driving 100 miles to and from class (between St Louis and Carbondale, Illinois) for 12 years while teaching full-time.  This blog helped me a lot during that time and then … well, life happened.  I got busy with school and I felt sort of "burnt out" after completed this huge milestone that had taken me so darn long to complete.  

So here I am again, in the middle of a pandemic, trying to get my bearings again and reconnecting with the thinking and reading that had been so important to me just a few short years ago.  I am not sure what will happen with this blog but I want to have a space to write a bit more and not just look at social media posts from others and feel bad about my own lack of writing.  The timing of this corresponds to a new year (can we just get on to 2021, please!) but this is more than a traditional New Year's Resolution -- this is a sincere effort on my part to connect with the writer I used to be.  So stay tuned as a spend the next few days updating this blog and getting a new start!

The "old" Dianna who wrote and read all the time!

The more "recent" Dianna who is just trying to survive during a pandemic!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Two Book Subscriptions: Which is Better?

So let's talk books, one of my favorite topics in the entire world!

As many of you may know, there are a million subscription boxes out there where generally you pay a price and a surprise box shows up at your door!  Well, good news for readers -- there are at least two out there that cater to our needs!  I have been a subscriber to Indiespensable from independent bookstore Powell's (out of Portland, OR) for more than two years; however, I recently decided to try Quarterly, which is organized by the good folks from Book Riot.  To my delight, both of these subscription boxes showed up on the same day this week so here is a side by side comparison:

Quarterly by Book Riot ($50):  First, the packaging is done thoughtfully -- nice first impression.
Notice the the quirky book-themed tape around the box?  Nice ....

Next -- I opened it up!

Box 2
Lots of papers on the top and under the papers ... books!  I see books!  Here was my first look:
Once I took everything out of the box, here is what I found:

As you can see above, there were four books:  Sarah MacLean's A Rouge by Any Other Name, Jordan Sonnenblick's Drums, Girls, + Dangerous Pie, N.K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon, and A.S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz.  There was also a poster to accompany the romance book, a poster that highlights why you should read romance books, along with a Young Adult pin and a pack of literary playing cards.  There was also a 2 month free subscription to Oyster Books (an online lending library).  The papers included a handwritten note (though copied for the folks getting the boxes) from one of the authors, N.K. Jemisin.  Apparently, there was a giveaway going on with the boxes and some folks got extra things -- the book by Sonnenblick was a lottery winning for me and not the usual part of the box (5 lucky readers got a Kobo Arc Tablet in their boxes!).  Looking up the value of all these things, I estimate that my box was about $85 so I definitely got more than the value that I paid for the subscription box.

Pic 2
I like the printed items that came with the box -- I have to admit that I might have just ignored the romance book but the commentary included with the box talks about the preconceived notions that someone might have about the so-called "low art" of romance novels (a genre I ate up when I was in junior high and high school!).  
The poster was a nice touch to make a case for reassessing our biases against this genre in general -- so I am up for the challenge.  This will be the first book in the box that I tackle!

The other three books are a nice mix -- and represent three books I did not know about.  Jemison's book is an epic fantasy (according to the commentary) and I love the fact that the letter  below(again, from the author!), accompanies the book:


The two books by King and Sonnenblick seem to be Young Adult (thus, the cute little button included in the box!) and both look to be fairly interesting based on a quick skimming of each of them.  And I love book-themed swag -- so the little pencil pouch from Out of Print (a company I already love!) was a nice touch!

Powell's Indiespensable ($40):  Each box from Powells has been something I look forward to about every 6 weeks or so.  Most of the time, I have been exposed to books that I had never heard about, authors who aren't always in my radar.  For example, though I had heard of Donna Tartt, I had never read anything by her until I was sent The Goldfinch as one of my Indiespensable selections and I fell in love (probably one of the finest modern novels I have ever, ever read!).

So a typical Indiespensable is focused on a theme, often something to do with the book itself (and because Powell's tries to stay local, the extra product(s) are usually from small, local businesses.  I forgot to take a picture of the box, but once I opened by package from Powells, here is what I found:

As usual, the main feature came with another book, an extra from a small company, and a cute little booklet that explains the entire box (definitely less paper than the Quarterly box!).

The highlight of this box is that the feature book is in a special hardback edition, enclosed in a beautiful slip box, and signed by the author.  Very cool!  This time, the book is All the Light We Cannot See, an amazing epic historical work that has already gotten a lot of buzz (see the NYT review here!)   I loved Anthony Doerr's collection of short stories The Memory Wall from a few years back so I am anxious to start reading this novel!

The little booklet doesn't fail to please me this time either!
Not only is there an interview with Doerr in it but there is also some great discussion of the other book included in the box, Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams, a collection of essays from a writer that so far seems to remind me of Joan Didion.  This is another example of someone I had not heard of before but my brief skimming makes me want to read more.

As you can see from the first Powell's picture, this box came with a heart shaped ... something.  I wasn't sure what it was until I read the booklet that accompanied the box -- it is a die-pressed graphite heart (I guess connecting this to Jamison's book!) that is a sculpture and a writing tool -- how cool is that!  It is hard to put a price tag on a signed slip covered edition of a book that you can't really buy anywhere else so I think $40 is more than fair for these boxes (and you help to support one of the few independent book stores left in the country to boot!)

The Winner?  Trick question -- there is no winner!  Both boxes are great and I think you get your money's worth with both.  Of course, both of these box subscriptions work best for people who like getting surprises in the mail -- and perhaps being exposed to writers who you may not find on your own.  The book nerd in me gets super excited when a Powell's box shows up on my doorstep -- and now every three months, perhaps even a Quarterly box!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dissertation Break: Wanna See My Stylish Surprise?

OK, before jumping right back into dissertation stuff tomorrow, I do want to share the "Stylish Surprise" box that came from Modcloth on Saturday.  So here is how it works:  Modcloth sales apparel items for $10 (it was $15 last time!), $10 for shoes, and then $5 for accessories or home items.  You have no idea what you are going to get other than just indicating your sizes.  Sometimes -- as most folks know -- sizes are not consistent so you never know if the item will fit you or not (and no returns).  So when the sale first started (and there ended up being a technical glitch that I will explain at the end of this entry!), I purchased five items -- four apparel items and 1 shoe.

Here is the box itself:

I loved this first glance!  I loved the color that I saw!  And print!  I see prints!  (if you don't know, I am a print kinda gal!)  So after taking this picture, I took everything out of the box and tried it on!  (and I googled for images of the items on the Modcloth web site -- a little tricky to do since most of the items in the Stylish Surprise boxes are no longer available for purchase via Modcloth!)

Dress #1 --  "That's Doll Folks":  This was the dress I saw at the top of the box.  Love, love, love!  It has a cute Russian doll print and it fits!  I think the original price for this dress was around $60.  The belt is a little cheap but I am fine with using my own belt!

That’s Doll, Folks Dress, #ModCloth

Dress #2 -- "All That and Demure" dress -- again, major love!  And it fits!  Love the color, too!  The fabric is lovely -- sort of an the heavy side in a good way (definitely high quality!).  I saw this dress listed on another web site for just over $100.  So not so bad for $10!

All That and Demure Dress in Daffodil, #ModCloth  

Dress #3 -- "Cute to the Cordial Dress":  Of all the items in the box, this is the only one that is not going to work for me.  I love the idea but it's too big.  This dress is definitely going to go up for swaps in my swapping group!  (again, this is a dress that was approximately $50-60).

Cute to the Cordial Dress, #ModCloth
(Sorry -- no picture of me modelling it!)

Clothing Item #4 -- Antarctic Social Circle Sweater:  Now when I first saw this in the box, I was like, "Nope.  Hate it."  And then I tried it on.  Super cute!  And soft!  I am going to put this away for next winter.  Or maybe I will wear it tomorrow?

Antarctic Social Circle Sweater, #ModCloth
(I forgot to get a picture of me wearing this!)

The Shoe Item -- "Mix and Match Heel" (Poetic License):  I cannot say how much I adore these shoes that -- luckily -- fit me perfectly.  These shoes run around $125-150 on Modcloth so I think I am super lucky to have gotten these shoes in my box! (for $10!)  Sure, these are not shoes that (1) I would have ever purchased myself mostly because of the price, and (2) are not shoes I would have been attracted to if I were going to spend that much on a pair of shoes.  I have been drooling over some of the shoes from Poetic License on Modcloth but never dreamed a pair would show up in my Stylish Surprise box! Most of the ones I have been coveting have been on the more flat, modest side but the more I "play" with these, the more I love them!  Pretty English teacher-y, don't you think?  However, I probably won't be wearing them to work (I move around too much!) but I can see wearing them out!  :D

Mix and Match Heel in Yellow, #ModCloth

So in a nutshell -- my Stylish Surprise (SS) was a success!  For $50, I would guess I got items that valued about $400+  And four out of the 5 items fit and are my style so now I have some new items to blend into my wardrobe .... There will be a part II to this SS blog entry, however.  See, when the sale first started, the Modcloth web page for the SS went crazy and failed.  Some of the orders got through, however, including this order.  But I didn't know for sure for a couple of hours and at one point when the folks at Modcloth tried to run the sale one more time (before that attempt also failed), I panicked and made another order (four clothing, one shoe, and two accessories make up the second order).  And a day later I discovered that order went through too.  So guess what is coming in a day or two?  Yep, another Stylish Surprise box.  I noticed through the FedEx web site that this box weights about a pound less so I am guessing the shoes are not so heavy and nice quality like these -- and perhaps the clothing items are more light weight?

Anyway -- stay tuned!

Friday, March 21, 2014

And So We Move on to Plan B ...

So I guess the title of this entry says it all:  I am now moving on to Dissertation Plan B.  If you remember, Plan A was the following:  (1) work like crazy to come up with a complete, ready-to-go dissertation, (2) set a defense date based on the fabulousness of the complete PDF draft, and then (3) get all the paperwork in order before the April 11 deadline for graduation.

This isn't going to happen.  I have some issues with Chapter 6 (the conclusion) that need to be worked out (along with some other editing that is more minor) and I want to include an epilogue that just didn't get written when I did the complete draft (I wasn't going to do one at first but now I think I will).  However, Plan B does mean getting the dissertation defense done before the end of the semester (probably April).  I will miss the deadlines for graduating in May and so I won't be "officially" finished until December (the next graduation opportunity).  The end of the semester should bring the main part of this to a close, though -- that darn defense represents the last "hard" thing that I need to complete (and any editing after that should not be too big of a problem).

I am writing this after a long day of sessions at 4C's -- the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the conference that we college writing teachers look forward to every year (this year in Indianapolis).  Not only did I present today (and, geeze, was I nervous!) but I went to several sessions that will help me re-think some of the ideas in my conclusion (and even bigger ideas post-dissertation).  In a nutshell, I just had an exhausting day.  Wrapping my head around the "not graduating yet" thing on the day I was presenting at C's, as well as just being generally annoyed at my body right now, just made for a rough day (and we won't even get into the deep stacks of grading that I am running behind on, a task I take seriously on behalf of my students).

I have had lots of people tell me at different times during my life that I always seem to have so much energy, so how do I get everything done that needs to get done?  I am beginning to wonder myself.  Right now I am feeling tired and but there is still so much that needs to be done (with my dissertation, with my students, with my life, with my triathlon training, etc).  But I do know that I have the support of the best husband ever and the best graduate adviser ever so I just need to take a moment to rest, I suppose, and get right back in the saddle (God, I hate cliches!).

For tonight, I am about to head up to my room way up on the 17th floor (I am using the Internet in the lobby since apparently when you stay in a super expensive hotel, the hotel can't be bothered to let you use the Internet in your room for free).  And what will I do once I get there?  Though I would like to say that I am going to turn on the television and veg (especially since I just came back from the gym), I know that isn't the truth.  Instead, I will get crackin' on some of those student papers and work on an epilogue for a dissertation.  And I will focus on this quotation:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spring Break!

So a week ago, I was in the midst of dissertation-alooza and knew that I would have a tough week catching up on all the student work that I had to ignore for three days (a task in itself for me!).
BUT -- here I am on the other side of all of that!  In one week, I managed to come up with a complete 304 page dissertation now in one glorious PDF file, I graded three sections worth of ENG 101 essays (about 50 or so students), and I gave feedback on 34 or so ENG 102 Annotated Bibliographies!  But -- all done!

Folks have been asking me what the next step in the process of "dissertating" is and here is the answer:  wait!  I need to get feedback from my fabulous adviser/ dissertation head/ mentor to see if she thinks I am ready to defend the sucker.  Believe me, you don't want to schedule a defense and not be ready!  So worse case scenario -- I need to do more revisions and defend in April or May (which would mean a December graduation).  Best case scenario -- my current PDF version is "good enough" and I can defend it ASAP (late March?).  So right now I don't know.  But it was sorta cool to be able to look at my computer and see something like this:

No matter how bad it is (and I hope it's not too bad!), it is an amazing step to see the whole research as one PDF file -- and the fact that it turned out to be just over 300 pages is staggering for me -- I have never had a project quite this big before!  The big conference for us college English types (Conference on College Composition and Communication -- or 4C's for short!) is coming up next week (starting the 19th of March).  I will be presenting many of the findings that I came up (in short, an analysis of using themed writing prompts in first year writing).

First, though, I get to take a little holiday!  Jim and I are flying to Portland, Oregon, tomorrow so I can (1) see my fabulous grad school friends Bonnie and Amy whom I haven't seen in 17 years! and (2) go to Powells, the best (independent) bookstore in the world!  Jim will get to see one of his favorite pals as well (who will be driving down from Seattle).  And fish!  Lots and lots of fresh fish!  I am so excited to get close to home!  Of course, I cannot resist to end this blog entry with a scene from one of my favorite shows, Portlandia (with the genius Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein!):