Happy New Year!!

Wow, is it already 2011?!  Nah, but it will be in a few hours!

As the new year approaches, I can't help but wonder where 2010 has gone.  Of course, I suffer this same nostalgia every year, but most of the time I'm more than happy to see the year go, in exchange for the promise of a new year.  This year is no different, though I'm certain 2010 is a year I won't soon forget.  It's the year I found myself half done with a Master's Degree and the year I lost my grandma.  It's been a hard year, filled with ups and downs, and though I'm not elated to see it go like I have been so many times in the past, I'm glad it's over.

New years always make me feel so very cheerful, at least for a little while, and for that alone I love the New Years holiday.


Why yes, yes I am PowerPoint card making crazy!  I hope you like it (click the image to see it larger).  I decided to put my babies on it this year, but now that I look at it, I managed to forget Mr. Pretty.  Oh well, maybe he can make it to next year's card!

Wherever you are, and whatever you're doing this New Year's holiday, I hope you're safe and sound and with those you love.  For my part, we're going out to dinner tonight, probably to Chilis, and then spending the evening in to watch the ball drop.  Tomorrow, I think we'll watch the Rose Parade, even though Matt doesn't enjoy parades  -- I just asked him, he said sure!  2011 is looking up and it's not even here yet!

When I figure out what my resolutions will be, I'll post them.  I never actually adhere to those things, and it's gotten me thinking that maybe if I did, I'd have a better year than the previous have turned out to be.  So, this year I'm going to think hard and try to come up with resolutions that will improve my life, but are manageable.  I'm tired of making idealistic resolutions, time to make one that's realistic for a change!

Happy New Year!!

Christmas 2010

Now that Christmas is over, and it's nearly New Years, I thought I'd take a minute to reflect on the holiday.   This year, Matt and I had an amazing holiday!  I know I spend a lot of the year complaining about this, or that, but right now I have no complaints, except that I wasn't able to be with my family.  That's it, everything else was really nice.  We got some lovely gifts, had a nice dinner with my in-laws, and spent the post-Christmas eating our very own Christmas dinner and watching some football.  I would go so far as to say that it was the best holiday we've had in a very long time!

I know, I know, stop the gushing and tell you what I got!!  Wow, that sounded kind of self-centered, didn't it?  In my defense there's really no way to share an un-self-centered entry about Christmas.  It's almost always about the gifts and fun you had.  Okay, enough inner dialogue for one post, onto the gifts!

Matt's been giving me gifts for about the last month, but he still managed to give me something really amazing for Christmas... on Christmas (or pretty close)!  He ordered a custom novel for me from UStarNovels!  They're a company who take a classic novel that's out of copyright and allows you to put in your personal information to create a personalized novel experience.  No surprise, and a testament to how well he knows me, Matt ordered me Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Rather than Miss Elizabeth Bennett & Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy being the main characters, Miss Kristyn Rhodes & Mr. Matthew Hammond are.  It changes all of the names, of course, so the Bennett family becomes the Rhodes family, but the story remains the same!

Here're some of the pictures I took of the book, sorry for the wonky angle on all of my pics lately, I can't seem to manage to the flash glare and it's entirely too dark in my house to take pics without the flash, even during the day...




I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear me say that Matt hit it out of the ballpark with this gift!  I absolutely love it... LOOOOOOOVE it!!  The book is really nice quality, the pages aren't cheap or thin, the print is clear and beautiful, and who doesn't want to star in their favorite novel?! UStarNovels clearly pays close attention to detail when printing these paperbacks, they're really lovely!  Matt did have a little trouble paying for it, as he tried ordering it from the UK version of their site and our bank wouldn't approve the funds transfer.  He finally did get it paid for (obviously), and apparently their customer service is top notch because he said that every time he needed to email them, they had gotten back to him in only a few hours. Anyway, when the book came, there were two.  They had accidently processed the order twice, so now I have two copies!  One is in my curio cabinet so nothing happens to it, the other is in my filing cabinet.

He also got me two little plushies, which wouldn't mean anything to those who don't play WoW, except that they're adorable.  One is a Griffon Hatchling, the other is a Windrider Hatchling and they came with in-game pets.  They are so adorable!  He would have saved them for Christmas, of that I'm certain, had I not insisted that he give them to me the moment they arrived!  Otherwise, he got me a Sarah Peyton Homes flame-less candle set which is really neat, a little Happy Bunny notebook, a pink wallet, and a magnet with a very perky woman's face on it and says "Surprisingly Enough, I don't give shit."  Oh, and all the smaller gifts (wallet, notebook, & magnet) were wrapped in a gift bag and rather than using tissue paper, he used Hershey Kisses!  So, now I have three bags worth of Hershey Kisses (caramel, candy cane, & cordial cherry), which I'm working at slowly.  Then of course there's Mr. Pretty the Betta and his tank!

My awesome parents sent us gifts in the mail, which we opened late on Christmas Eve when we opened our other gifts.  They got us each a Snuggie (which we asked for... don't judge us, they're really warm!) mine's pink and Matt's is camo!  They also got me matching slippers, a really cute handbag with matching wallet and scarf, and my little sister Candi got us a sandwich maker, which Matt was especially happy with as he can't cook.  He can, however, use the Foreman Grill, so we have the utmost confidence that he'll be able to use the sandwich maker.

Earlier in the week, we had gone out to Melanie and Joey's for cards and Monday Night Football and while there they gave us our gifts.  Melanie made me the most adorable vintage apron and a picture with little aprons.  I had been saying that I want to make a vintage apron but couldn't find a really good pattern.  I love them and have been wanting one, so she made me one.  I had the hardest time getting a picture because when you hang it up, you can't see what it is and I don't have a dressform -- although I think I'm going to look for a vintage dressform, I just love them so much.  Check this out, pink and brown polka dots...


Cute, right?!  Otherwise, my friend Marsha got me a really lovely pink sweater and Nikka got me a pink and white chocolate shoe that is far too cute to eat!  My pal Paula got a little mouse toy and some peanut butter filled Oinkies for Anakin and put them in a cute little bag for me.  My girly Mayren sent me a whole bunch of homemade bath stuff, including soaps (I LOVE the Energy Blend!!), foot soak, bath fizzy, sugar scrub, lip balm, dry clay facial mask, a lotion stick, and a candle all the way from California!  The packaging on that stuff from California was really pretty, too!

On Christmas day we went to Waco to see my in-laws.  It was just us and them and it was really nice.  We had dinner and desert, and opened presents, of course!  My in-laws got us gift cards to Sonic & Subway, a tin of popcorn, a loaf of cinnamon raisin Panera bread, cute little note cards, chip clips, a notepad for the fridge, a nail file with a K on it, calendars for the new year, and a cute red sequin ball cap.


Okay, so I had to include a picture of that magnet, it's too cute.  Matt said he saw it and it looked just like my attitude.  It's on my fridge and every time I see it, I smile.  It never ceases to amaze me that he knows me so well.  I never took him for paying so much attention, but it seems I underestimated him!

The day after Christmas I made a post-Christmas dinner, we watched Football, and played Shadowrun.  It was really nice just spending the day together, and since I enjoy baking, it was twice the fun!  I made a huge ham, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, pink salad, brown and serve rolls, a 3-layer pumpkin spice pie, an apple-raisin spice pie, and a pecan pie. Dinner turned out amazing and now we have a ton of left overs, both from our dinner and from my in-laws, who sent us home with a ton of food.   We've been eating ham and potatoes for days, and I wish I'd gotten double the makings for the pink salad because it got gobbled up in record time, we both love it so much!

All in all, we had an amazing day.  I didn't include pictures of everything I got because there would have been a lot of pictures, but also because it would have taken me hours to crop them all down.  I've been working on this post for more than two hours now, besides more pictures would have just been overkill.  I'm hoping that I didn't forget anything, but I really think I got it all.  I omitted most of what Matt got, who cares about that anyway? Ha!  I'm hoping we have as lovely a New Year holiday as we did Christmas; I think we'll probably just stay home and spend the holiday together.

Wow... I just realized, reading back over this, that I had a very pink holiday.  Almost all the gifts I got, and pretty much all from the people who really know me, were pink!  Even the rocks in Mr. Pretty's tank are pink!

One final note, Thank you to everyone who extended a lovely invitation for the holidays.  It always makes us feel loved to be invited to share the holidays with family and friends!

Happy Holidays!!

After seeing a lovely holiday card at Jodi's blog, which she made with PowerPoint, I was reminded that another friend of mine also makes holiday cards with PowerPoint.  So, inspired by the beauty of their cards, I set out to make one of my own!  The resulting card is the one below and I think it came out pretty good for my first try!!


The picture is one of the only pics I have of us, and it was taken a long time ago. We still look like that, plus about 8 years, give or take a year. I used a clip-art background, added the picture, and made the "Warmest Wishes this Holiday Season" part with Photoshop and added it as an image.

So, with Christmas quickly approaching, I hope you all have a very happy holiday! Drive safe and eat too much, that's what we intend to do!

Cupcake Vineyards: Red Velvet

I found this lovely bottle of wine at the store last week and bought it on the weight of it's name -- Cupcake Vineyards!  Now, I can't bring myself to open it, it's just too pretty!  Of course, my horrible photography skills don't do the bottle justice at all.  It has a deep blue color to the glass.  I just had to share, it's too good to pass up!


The back of the bottle says, "This wine shows a heady nose of chocolate, deep rich blackberries, red fruits, and a creamy mocha finish that is unmistakable in its intensity and length." It's not just called Cupcake Vineyards: Red Velvet, it apparently tastes like chocolate, too!   The wine is actually a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, & Cabernet Sauvignon.  I just don't know that I can open it... of course, it wasn't very expensive, so maybe I will and if I love it, I'll go get another. I'm just afraid I won't be able to get it here again, that's happened a time or two.


You know, I think I will open it and have a glass.  If I can't find it here, I can always order it online if I really fall in love with it!

**Update:

I wanted to take the time to make an update to this post because I've been getting a lot of hits, which indicates to me that people are interested. I've had the opportunity on several occasions to share a glass of wine with my husband and we both really enjoyed it! I had chilled it, but we both agree it's better at room temperature. The rich, chocolate flavor is very available when the wine's at room temperature. In short, we loved it and highly recommend it!


Beautiful color, no?  We thought so!  Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!!

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like... Christmas?

I'm back and it hasn't been a month... it hasn't even been a whole week.  This has to be some kind of record!!  Might be that I'll be able to write more over the Christmas break, but I'm not going to push it.  I'm really happy to have a break and I'm trying to enjoy it without stress and pressure.  I told Matt we're having a "stress-free break" which he seems to like, but is a little skeptical about. I think he's waiting for the other shoe to drop... silly boy! When I said I wanted to have a nice break, I mean that.  I think he's starting to see that I actually meant it because he's beginning to relax.  Poor guy, living with me must be a nightmare -- I know he's recently expected a house to fall on me at any moment, it's been really tense around here.  I'm tired of tension, I want my break to be a break!

And, on that note, I've gotten all of my grades back for the Fall semester and I made straight A's!! I knew last week that I had gotten an A in British History to 1603, but I learned today that I also got A's in British Lit: Early Modern & Restoration Drama and in Studies in Classical Rhetoric.  I am elated, to say the very least.  This last month and a half or so, since about the beginning of November, has been a rush of un-ending work, both school work and work work.  Papers to write, test to take, presentations to give, labs to conduct, students to tutor, it was amazingly crazy and I was immensely happy when, last week, it was all over.  I was also fairly concerned about my British Lit grade because it was teetering on the edge of an A, but I wasn't certain I had done well enough on the final to actually pull the A out.  It turns out that, in fact, I did!

Since school's been out, I've actually been pretty busy, but not with work or school.  Rather, I've been cleaning my house.  I worked on it on Thursday, Friday (with help from Melanie), and Saturday and I still don't feel like it's really clean.  I still have laundry to do, but the biggest problem is the clutter.  It's everywhere.  I'd love to have a clutter-free house, but I don't see that happening without getting rid of a LOT of stuff.  I'm trying to tell myself that it just looks lived in, but the truth is, I've got a lot of things and things produce clutter.  Mostly, I spent so much time cleaning up because I want to spend my stress-free break in a nice clean house.  It's been a mess for months, since during the semester I can't seem to find much time to clean it up and Matt's not much of a helper when it comes to cleaning.  So, it was a top priority and I got it mostly done, thank goodness.  I may try to do something with some of this clutter, but I'm not sure what yet, so for now things are as good as they're going to get and that's okay!

I also wanted to have a clean house because Christmas is coming and I wanted my decorations to stand out and look nice, rather than just being more a part of the mess.  I think we'll have a really good holiday this year, I hope so anyway, even though I miss my family.  The only problem with the holiday this year is, despite the pretty tree in my living room, the unseasonably warm weather is making it difficult to feel festive.  I want to feel like it's Christmas, but at 80 degrees (yes, that's what it was here today), it's almost impossible to fool my brain into believing it's winter.  The funny thing about that is, it actually is winter, but Texas has me thoroughly tricked.  It just doesn't feel like Christmas!

Ah well, c'est la vie, can't help the weather!  Believe me, if I could, it would be snowing here like it was this time last year.  As it stands, we can't even get rain.  It's been months since it's so much as clouded up, let alone rained, and there's no rain in our immediate future.  This is a terrible way to ring in the new year, especially since I'm hoping that we'll have a cooler, wetter 2011!  2010 has been such a dud!

 I hope you're having as good a week as I am. To those who aren't, I hope things look up soon. Good night, my friends, sleep tight!

Dear Light, I See You...

I'll just start with this: I lied, I don't have pictures today -- In my defense, I'm at work and don't have access to my pics.  Maybe next time.

My finals are nearly over now, just one to go tonight, and I'm feeling much better than I was when last I wrote.  Stress does terrible things to my psyche.  The two finals I had yesterday were pretty brutal, but tonight's should be fine, so I'm not worried.  Okay, to be honest, even if it was going to be brutal I still don't think I have it in me to worry anymore about this semester; I'm all worried out.  Sadly, I still didn't sleep well last night, even after taking two really hard finals yesterday.  I can't seem to let down from this semester, but am hoping that once classes are over and work's done, and once grades are in, I'll feel better.  Unfortunately, grades won't be in until Monday, so I most likely won't know how I did until Tuesday morning.

I have gotten a few individual grades back so far and they've been okay.   I got an A- on my childfree rhetoric paper, which I feel like I really earned.  It was a good paper with a few problems, like having cast too wide a net for the project, but overall a good paper. I made an A-/B+ on my British lit paper, which is the equivalent of a 90 -- it's an A, but only barely.  When my professor gave the Brit lit paper back yesterday she went over all the problems with it and we discussed how I could have tightened it up.  Talking to her, I was feeling okay.  Then, I left her office, the paper in hand, and it took everything I had not to burst into tears right there in the stairwell.  I worked so hard on that paper, I felt like it was good, and she said she could see that I'd worked extremely hard on it.  She also said that my "prose were elegant and beautiful" which is an immense compliment coming not just from a professor, but from someone I respect as much as Dr. Y.  She also loved my title, but then, she's a sucker for a good title and mine was awesome (if I do say so myself)!

I can almost hear you asking yourself why I would cry at having made an A.  The answer isn't a simple one, becuase I don't exactly know.  It's like the feeling you get when you're proud of something you've done, and think it's good work that represents your intellect and work ethic, but then someone else sees what you've done and isn't really as impressed as you were.  It's heartbreaking.  Also, I think it has to do with the frustration of never seeming to be able to do better than that.  I'd really like to make an A, or an A+, but can't seem to do better than an A- on most of my work -- Okay, in all fairness, I did make an A on my rhetoric mid-term.  Ultimately, I know it's my fault, I need to maybe study  more or thinking it through a little harder, but it's still frustrating.  I work really hard for the grades I get, I put in 100% of my effort, and I'm finding that 100% isn't representing anything better than an A-; it makes me feel like a sub-par person. Also, embarrassment is a hard pill to swallow.  I want my professors, especially the ones I respect, to look at me and see a smart capable student and when I do A-/B+ work, I don't feel like they're capable of doing that.  I guess I feel like I'm letting them, and myself, down.

I have a complex and I'm hoping, soon, to overcome it.  I'm just trying to tell myself that I need to toughen up and grown thicker skin, because when it comes time to write my thesis, it's the job of my committee to scrutinize my arguments and tell me how to improve them.  I have the feeling that when that time comes, I'm going to spend a lot of time feeling sub-par, so prepare yourselves for the pity-party of the century.  Maybe I should start prefacing my posts with content warnings.  "Warning, this post contains large quantities of pitiful self-loathing.  Read at your own risk."  That sounds about right.

Wish me luck on my last final, and send good thoughts that the work I've already done has been good enough to warrant good grades.  I'd really like to make A's this semester.

It's My Party & I'll Cry If I Want To...

I usually start these posts after a long time with an apology, or some sort of surprise that it's been so long since I last wrote, but I don't really have the energy to do that this time.  So, instead, you're getting an explanation about why I'm not apologizing or waxing philosophic about where the time has gone.  Now that I think about, that would probably have been quicker, but it just doesn't fit today's mood.  Today, I'm tired and a little bit grumpy... surprise, surprise.

It's only Monday and I'm exhausted, which does not bode well for the rest of the week.  Though work hours are short this week, since we're only open from 10-3 for finals week, I still have finals and I'm feeling, right now, like that's simply too much, like I won't get through it, like I can't possibly write even one more test, or paper, or word, really. It's not a good feeling as I reach the end.  I should be happy, right?  I got all my paper's done, that should be a good thing.  Not really feeling it, but I'm hoping to feel better when it's all over and grades are in.  I'm so tired of being worried about grades, so tired.  At this point, if I fail everything I doubt I'd care. Indifference is not a good feeling, I should be elated or excited, or... something, right?  Huh.

Nope, nothing.

Maybe it's because I've been so busy and haven't had time to think it through, or worry about worrying, or throw a tantrum about being so busy?  I don't know.  Over the last month I've done two long papers and four short papers, given two presentations, studied, worked and gone to class, and I spent last Friday night proctoring a final for freshmen English.  Believe it or not, I kind of enjoyed it, the final I mean.  It gave me a chance to sit and read my friend's novel, which I've been trying to get to for weeks.  I really just want to do something I want to do, rather than what everyone else expects me to do, just for a little while.  Pretty immature, isn't it?  Still, I can't help feeling like I should have the right to time to myself once in a while.  Everyone needs time to unwind without someone else's expectations hovering over them.  Can't play World of Warcraft or read a book or watch TV, have to write a paper, study for a test, go to work or class, clean the house, do what Matt wants, cook dinner, do the laundry, go to this appointment or that appointment, or a thousand other things not of my own devising.

Yes, I'm having a tantrum.

I'm just not cut out for this stress.  And yes, much of this is my doing.  No one forced me to apply for grad school (eh hem, mostly), no one forced me apply for the assistantship, and while that may be technically true, expectations are still hanging over my head like a two ton anvil.  My own, those of my husband, and honestly, I have no idea what I'd be doing if not this.  Probably something else I'd complain about in equal measure.  I suppose what I want is stability and a normal life.  I see people around me with normal lives, regular jobs, and I want those things too (with a few notable exceptions).  I wasn't cut out for a life with a schedule in flux, where expectations are constantly changing, where I feel, all the time, like I'm being chewed up and spit out.  College is supposed to make your life better, right?  Not make you feel more hopeless.

Ultimately, I try to remind myself that this is a means to an end.  I have a job I like (generally) and am attending classes I enjoy (for the most part) and in a few years, when it's all over, I'll have a Master's degree and two years quality work experience. I have a wonderful, if unhelpful, husband and a great family.  I just need to remember the good things and try not to let the bad get me down.  Here it comes, an apology... I didn't mean to spend this whole entry complaining or sounding like a whiny baby, but it certainly came out like that, didn't it?  Not much of an apology, but you get my point.  I just, I don't know, I think I just needed to get this all out because I'm feeling a little better now than when I started this entry.

I'll write again soon, I promise, and next time I'll bring pictures -- this post would probably have come out less whiny and more upbeat had I been at home and had access to pictures.  I hope y'all are having a better week, or month, or year than I am.  Thankfully, it'll all be over soon.  I really need the break to rest and refresh, and the promise of a new year to look forward to.

Happy Thanksgiving

No time for a long Thanksgiving post today, like I had planned, but I wanted to extend a very Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends. I hope you have a happy and safe holiday, and that you're spending it with family and friends. Matt and I are going to Waco today to spend the holiday with our dear friends Amanda & Karen. Matt always looks forward to their cooking -- and he can't stop talking about the spicy ranch crackers they make!! Most of all, we're grateful to be spending the holiday with our loved ones, even when we can't be with family.

This year, I'm thankful for so much, but most of all for family. Having lost my grandmother this year, I go forward with a renewed sense of love for my family. I appreciate my parents, sister Candi, and my husband more than I can ever say and I thank them for being the most amazing part of my life. I'm thankful that this year, unlike the 10 that came before it, I saw my family a lot, but am sad that the circumstances couldn't be better. I'm thankful to have reconnected with family and friends I'd lost contact with. I'm thankful for a wonderful grandmother who always loved and cherished us and for the time I got to spend with her before she left this world. I'm thankful for wonderful friends, for all the lovely and thoughtful thanksgiving invitations (Melanie, Phoena, Amanda & Karen, Aunt Sue), and for some of the most awesome co-workers a girl could ask for. I'm thankful for my education, my health, and the little moments I can manage to steal away for quiet meditation and reminiscence. Finally, I'm thankful for the most amazing wintery weather this Thanksgiving holiday, for an exciting football season, for the spurts of creativity that give me hope for the future, and for my babies Anakin and Galileo.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, may yours be amazing!

(Un)Thankful

So, in true pessimist fashion and with Thanksgiving approaching, I thought I'd do a little something different this year.  Rather than a "thankful" post, which everyone does, I'm going to write about the things for which I am not thankful.  Now don't get me wrong, the thankful post is coming later in the week, closer to Thanksgiving.  I have so much to be thankful for this year, despite some of the hardships, but you'll have to wait until nearer Thanksgiving to learn what those things are.

So, what does a (un)thankful list look like?  About like this, I'm not thankful for...

  1. A co-worker who can't pull her weight and doesn't think about anyone else in the office -- rather, she does things like going out for a fifteen minute presentation, with me having gone in early to cover her, and doesn't come back for an hour! Or, coming in 30 minutes late because she must eat lunch at noon, on the dot, without exception, never mind that she should be working and is putting someone else out by being late.

  2. A classmate who's a total misogynist and bully -- the man comes to class and sleeps half the time, he plays on his computer and does homework for other classes, and when he says something, it's always sexist and ridiculous.  He tries to leave early and while others are still talking, he likens the plays to the "piƱa colada" song, and he rudely says things like, "I liked the [insert author name] from the book better before this discussion" which is his prerogative and might mean more were he not denigrating the student giving the presentation that week.  Oh, and if he says "but, but, but, but..." or "ya know" one more time I might strangle him!

  3. My own inability to get the job done -- Let's just say that I'm still no where near having my papers done and they're due in 8 days. Everyday I tell myself it's time get a good start and everyday I find a new and creative way to procrastinate for another day.  I'm running out of time, I know that, but I'm still not getting it done.  I'm not sure what's going to happen, but that worrying I talked about in the last post, it's starting and I'm starting to panic!  Panic is a good thing, but it's also a bad thing.  All I can say is, I feel like I work best under pressure... which is a good thing at this point.

  4. The lingering sickness -- I can't quite kick the sickness and it's starting to be really damn annoying!  I think, or hope, that over Christmas break I'll be able to get some rest and recoup all the way.  That way, my voice will quick cracking and I'll start sounding like me again.  Of course, then school will start back in January and I'll get sick again.  It's a vicious cycle!  Of course, it wouldn't be so bad if it were just me, but it's not, it's my husband, too.  As a matter of fact, he's sicker than I am and may have to have surgery (which I'll elaborate on more later, after he sees the surgeon).

  5. My messy, messy house and messy, messy spouse -- I hate to clean, but would do it if I had time.  I'm so busy right now that finding time for domesticity is impossible.  Matt's not at all helpful when it comes to picking up, which is both annoying and ironic, since he's the one making the huge mess.  Anyone who thinks one person can't possibly be that messy hasn't met Matt.  Messes just appear around him, it has to be his super power or something, to generate messes without really trying.  Of course, his not trying extends to his not trying to pick them up, too, which is very annoying to say the least.

  6. The damn bill collectors who are calling for everyone but us -- our phone rings off the hook, starting bright and early at 8:00 a.m. every single morning.  The people calling want money, but not our money, they want other people's money.  No matter how many times we tell them they're calling the wrong place, they persist in calling.  This happened once before and got so annoying that we changed our phone number.  It's not helped anything, not really, they keep calling.  Now, some of them are for us (hey, the economy's bad, sue me!), but most of them aren't.  I'm going to result to screaming at them soon... seriously, screaming!

  7. My pointless dry erase calendar that doesn't help me remember anything and can't seem to help keep me on schedule -- this may go with #3, but it's true anyway.  I got myself a dry erase calendar with empty squares.  Every month, I fill in the squares with numbers representing the date and write my schedule and due dates.  As things come and go, I erase them. If I had a dollar for every single day's schedule I erased because it passed and nothing to done, Matt and I would be going out for a nice dinner and drinks at the end of November!  I see it, but I can't seem to do what it's telling me I need to do. It's very discouraging!

  8. 1,500 miles of insurmountable distance -- I really miss my family and the miles between us really chafe sometimes.  No, not sometimes, all the time.  I'm so tired of being so far away, I just want to be able to get in my car and go see my parents and sister.  I hate living in Texas, more and more every day, but I'm stuck here until I finish grad school.  In other words, May 2012 cannot come soon enough!  Sadly, though I love the holidays, they only seem to magnify how far the distance really is.

I could probably go on, but I realized this pessimistic list was starting to get rather lengthy, so I'll call it quits there.  I hope everyone's having a nice week so far and has a good thanksgiving holiday.  The thankful list (sans the "un") will come later in the week.  We're planning to go to Waco to see Amanda and Karen for thanksgiving this year and I can't wait.  It's going to be amazing fun!  Until then, life goes on as usual and I get to work and go to class -- oh joy!

So Much Work, So Little Time

I'm working the Writing Center hours in the library tonight from 5 - 8 p.m., along one of the undergrad tutors.  It can be a real drag, since it's normally pretty dead, but it gives me time to do other things... this this, for instance.  A little extra time here and there is a good thing, I need it.  Matt seems to hate these nights when I'm out until late with work or school, but he's learning to cope.  It's much better this semester than it will be next, I only have one class at night and work in the library ever three weeks right now.  Next semester I'll have two night classes and work in the library, and he'll have a night class, which will be on a different night than my night classes -- did that make sense?  I hope so.

As it stands right now, next semester won't matter one iota if I don't get everything done in the next few weeks for this semester.  I'm in the final stretch with my classes, with less than two weeks until both of my long papers for the semester are due and I'm not nearly done.  I have a hell of a lot to work on between now and then, and I'm more worried that I'm not worried than I am about the papers.  And now I'm worried because worrying is what I do, and if I'm not doing it, my level of detachment is worse than I thought it was.  I need to start worrying, and soon, because worrying about worrying isn't cutting it.  Great, now I'm worried about worrying about not being worried!

I know I'll be less nuts when I get them done, it's just a matter of doing it that seems the problem.  I can't seem to get a good start, which I should have already gotten; I have starter's block!  I can't start.  Once I start, getting them worked on is easy, it's starting I can't seem to manage.  In addition to getting those papers done, I have to start the short papers for my history class because they're due by the end of the semester and I still have two that aren't even begun.  Oh, and I have finals in all of my classes to worry about, but not in the next few weeks, so that's okay.

The moral of the story seems, then, to be that grad school is harder than I thought it would be.  Working while going to grad school is insane.  Working while going to grad school and trying to have a personal life is impossible.  That pretty much sums it all up.  I seriously wonder how my friends with kids do it?  Graduate school is hard enough when you have a husband who can semi-fend for himself, kids have to be taken care of.  I wouldn't be able to cope with kids and grad school, it's one nervous breakdown inducing lifestyle issue at a time for me.  I'm not that stable... I hardly remember to feed my dog.

At least labs are nearly over.  The labs for the basic writing classes are meeting for the last time this week, so after tomorrow's 1:00 p.m. lab, I won't have that to do.  However, I'll have to fill in those hours in the Writing Center instead, so it's not really less work.  Not that I'm complaining because all in all, as jobs go, this one is pretty nice and they're very understanding about all that we have going on since they're a part of the university.  They're sensitive to the fact that we're not just employees, we're students as well.  Still, between work and going to class, time to work on the papers is short and when I am at home there're other things I want to be doing, or I'm exhausted, or both.

Next semester will be both better and worse than this one.  I'll be teaching both the class and the labs, but there're less classes and labs overall.  I'll also be working in the writing center and attending my own classes, two of which will be from 6 - 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  The other class, because I have to take 9 credit hours to qualify for the assistantship (even though 6 hours is full time for a grad student), will be directed readings.  Directed readings is a special problems course every thesis-track graduate student takes in the English department.  It's constructed together with my graduate committee chair person, who will also be teaching the course, and will include reading primary texts (of my choosing) and discussing them in preparation to write the thesis.  I sat down last week with Dr. Y, my committee chair and all around awesome prof and we filled out the paperwork for enrollment, we even got to name the course, which we're calling "Representations of Woman as Monster in Literature."  This is, of course, a remarkably wide open topic, so some narrowing will have to take place soon so I can compile a list for consideration during the Christmas break.  All in all, I'm looking forward to that.

Next semester is also special because it signifies a turning point in my career as a graduate student.  After next semester, I won't be taking any more face to face courses.  Everything beyond that point will be internship and thesis hours.  Internship is 3 hours per semester for two semesters (1 school year) and involves receiving credit for doing the teaching graduate assistantship.  In other words, I'll be getting paid to teach English 111 & English 112 (college comp 1 & 2) as a part of my job as GA, and getting college credit for it.  It's a pretty sweet deal.  Thesis is a 6 hours graduate course which most of my peers will only take one, but that I will take twice since I'm ahead.  It's really strange, actually, and the only reason it'll work out like that is that I've committed myself to staying and working for 2 years as a graduate assistant, which means I'll be here one semester longer than than I should be in school, and since I need 9 hours to be GA, I'll take thesis to fill the space.  When I graduate, I'll have between 9 and 15 too many hours.  In all, though, it's better this way because I'll have twice as long to work on my thesis as any of my classmates.  I may need it.

Okay, so now that I've droned on and on, much longer than I expected to, I'm off to do other things.  I hope everyone's having a better, more productive week than I am!

NaNoFail...

I cannot believe that it's already mid-November and this is my first entry.  I'm so busy with everything else that blogging seems to have fallen by the wayside, again, but this time blogging's not the only thing.  You may have noticed that the progress meter on my sidebar marks a measly 1,200 words, and though it likely goes without saying, NaNoWriMo is not happening this year.  I found rather quickly that I don't even have enough time for work and school, let alone an additional (quite voluntary) project.  So, I've given it up for another year and when next year rolls around, I'll definitely think twice, especially since this time next year brings my comps and thesis. I probably won't be able to resist giving it a try, so someone remind me that I said that I'd at least think twice, rather than taking for granted that I'll just jump in with both feet.

On that note, and with some suggestions from Matt and Phoena, I've decided that I'm going to write a short story collection.  I won't be able to do it this month, which is half over, but will probably start after finals in December.  The theme will be Dark Hearts, so I'm giving it some thought by way of preparation. I've never actually written a short story collection, so I'm hesitant to just jump in, but I think it's something I could do and it's a new challenge.  I don't know exactly how many short stories make a collection, but I figure I'll do some research and wing it.  I'm using the Dark Hearts theme that was going to be a novel, rather than abandoning it all together.  I'll keep you posted.

Okay, so I suppose with that said, I should be off.  I have much paper writing to do and this is not getting it done.  This is procrastination!  I have two papers due in two weeks, and three short response papers to write, in addition to my regular school work.  So, I have a lot to do and very little time to do it all.  I'm going to grab something to eat and get cracking on the papers.  Maybe I can get one or two of them done today -- yes, that is definitely wishful thinking!!  Hope you're having a good weekend. I can't believe it's already Sunday!  I'm having a really hard time getting use to the time change, it always feels later than it is... god, I'm old!

Happy Halloween: Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven"


The Raven - Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She
shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

This image is a handwritten page from The Edgar Allen Poe Digital Collection at UT Austin. It's the last stanza of The Raven, written by Poe. If you're interested in Poe, check out their archive, they have some neat items, including an illuminated manuscript with several of Poe's poems. Enjoy and have a safe and happy holiday!!

November's Mixed Blessings

With November looming large on the horizon, I'm staring a month of utter misery in the face.  I have so much to do, and I'm not sure how I'm going to actually get it all done. I have to write a proposal, take an exam, read four plays & three books, give two presentations, write four small response papers, and two long papers, all the while working -- in the writing center, observing classes, and teaching labs-- and going to class... oh, and did I mention I have a performance review on Tuesday?  To say I'm terrified about that is an understatement.  So yes, November spells doom, and if I make it through, I'm going to be ready for the Christmas break!  Hell, I'm already ready for Christmas break and it's still a month and a half off.  The only really good news is that the semester is on the down-slide.  Thank goodness!  In many ways, I utterly despise November.

So, in an attempt to make myself more insane, I've decided that I'm also going to give NaNoWriMo a shot again.  Call me crazy, but I just can't give it up!  Will I fail?  Most assuredly, but it's not about finishing, it's about giving it a go. It's about the ritual of it.  It's been a part of my November since 2004, I can hardly quit now.  It's something I do, something I enjoy immensely, and something I'm unlikely to give up any time soon. Do I feel like I'm piling on?  Oh yes.  Yes, yes.  Still, I can't see my way to skipping it this year.  I may not finish many things I start, but at least I don't give up on starting them. I'm persistent!

My novel in progress, as you may have noticed from the empty progress meter on my sidebar, is tentatively called Dark Hearts. It's going to be a fantasy novel about a slave girl in a world where Vampires are born, not made, and live openly like any other society.  I'm not 100% certain where I'll go with it, but I know who some of my characters are and I know what the setting is, so that's enough that I might start writing and see where it takes me.  Who knows if I'll finish, lord knows I haven't finished either Love's Daughter or Remembering Tomorrow but I'm confident that I'll actually finish them some day and Dark Hearts will be no different. Something to look forward to in the future, when I have a minute or two, perhaps after I've graduated? That would be lovely.

What you're seeing over yonder, on the right hand side of the text, is the concept book cover.  I create them for all novels in progress these days.  If you've taken a gander at the "Novel" page on this blog, you've probably seen the other two, also. The one thing they have in common is the hearts, because I love them and because in some way they all have meaning to what's going on in the books.  I feel like this cover, which is clearly for my benefit and not an actual cover that could ever get printed --especially considering I have no idea to whom I might attribute the art, nor pay for use-- captures the heart of what I'm trying to achieve with this book.  I don't know why, since it's not even begun, but for some reason, it inspires me. I'll take inspiration wherever I can get it, so this is a positive thing!

Ultimately, I keep telling myself that I'll get ahead or that it'll be okay.  Do I believe it?  Not really, but I'm trying to remember that if I take things one day at a time everything will work out.  Do I believe it?  Not really.  So what about you?  Doing NaNoWriMo?  If so, good luck.  If not, check it out, you might just appreciate the exercise in... determination!

Professional Conferences

So, now that I've regaled you with my tales of woe, onto something much less gripey (gripey... is that a word?).  On October 15th I went to my first professional conference! I was so excited to be able to go, and though it's a small conference by comparison to some of the others, it was pretty exciting. Some of the writing center staff (most of the GA's and one of the undergraduate tutors) went to the North Texas Writing Center Association Fall conference, held this year at TCC's  Trinity River campus in Ft. Worth.


I rode to the conference with my friend, co-worker, and student cohort Marsha and her husband, Randy.  It's only about an hour drive, but there was no way I was driving myself.  I can't deal with the traffic, so it was nice to be able to ride with them!  The TCC Trinity River campus is brand new and it's absolutely gorgeous.  I would have pictures to share that were actually taken by me were it not that the camera on my cell phone is horrible; I can't even take pictures up close,  let alone ones at a distance!  I should have taken my camera, but I forgot. So, you get this great photo I swiped off another site.  Isn't the campus lovely?!  Anyway, we got there a little early and had to navigate the levels.  We were told to park in a specific spot, on level four, but when we got into the building we realized that parking level four is actually floor three, so we were a little bit lost.  We figured it out, but it was an adventure and I know the students thought we were crazy.

The conference room itself was beautiful, but it was also freezing!  I can't believe how cold it was.  I'm use to being cold, since Matt runs the air conditioner year round, so it hardly phases me anymore, but I was absolutely freezing.  I was wearing a sweater, even, and thank goodness.  I really think the cold ruined the atmosphere a little bit and we kept thinking that when everyone got into the room it would warm up, but that didn't turn out to be the case.  It just kept being cold, in the conference room, in the hall, in the bathroom, freezing!  I really felt for the woman who had come wearing a skirt, her legs exposed.

There were only about 30 or so attendees from across North and Central Texas colleges, everything from Writing Center directors and tutors, to adjunct and administrative staff.  The hosts were really nice and lunch was provided to all attendees, which consisted of a voucher to use in their on-campus cafe. Their cafe was so neat, they even had a genuine brick oven pizza place where you could make your own pizzas and they were fired in a real brick over.  I had the pizza and it was amazing!  Even the dining room had a lovely atmosphere, complete with a conveyor where the lunch trays and trash went to be taken into the kitchen and washed. I just can't say enough about how amazing this campus really was.

Our Writing Center directors at Tarleton are the President and Vice President of the association, but they weren't actually able to go to the conference this year because they were both ill. So, we went and tried our best to make them proud anyway.  The conference's key note speaker was really interesting, discussing the issue of how assessment can be successfully tied to writing centers.  Marsha and I were on a tutor panel, with four students from other schools, discussing how working as a writing tutor had changed our lives outside the writing center.  It was the first time I've spoken at any kind of conference, but it went really well and makes a nice first entry for my CV!  All of the people at the conference were really friendly, so that made speaking in front of so many people easier.  They say it's hardest to speak before ones peers, imagine speaking in front of ones superiors.  It's terrifying, but the attendees were welcoming and made us very comfortable.

It was actually really neat because I mentioned that what makes the job really fulfilling is the "Ah ha moment."  After that, it caught on and everyone was saying "ah ha moment" which made me feel really good as a contributor.  This whole thing was also right in the midst of my sickness, where I was coughing up a storm and had almost no voice.  I almost didn't go at all because when I woke up that morning I couldn't speak, but I managed to pull it together, get there anyway and I'm really glad that I did.  I sounded terrible and I know I was difficult to hear, but in all it was a really rewarding experience and we got to meet a lot of really neat people.

The next conference is going to be the CCTE (Conference of College Teachers of English) conference in the Spring, which is being held at Tarleton this year!  We've been told that since it'll be at our school we'll probably actually be working the conference, but even if we're not, we'll be going.  After that the Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association conference, which will include not only the regional, but also the national together this coming year in San Antonio!  I'm looking forward to going to both and I'm considering submitting an abstract for consideration to the Pop Culture conference, if I can get a proposal together by December 15th.  That's a big if, since I've got a lot of schoolwork to do before then.  Either way, we're going to plan to go.  I know Marsha's planning to go, but I'm hoping Melanie and Nikka will, too. It would be neat to be able to all be there together, especially since it's so close to here -- about 4 1/2 hours, but that's really close for Texas.  I simply can't wait!!

*Photo by John Tucker

WTB* Bubble...

I can hardly believe it's nearly November!  Time has just flown by, and as usual the things I've had to neglect to get everything done have been those things I enjoy most... like blogging.  I'm working the Writing Center hours in the library tonight (5-8 p.m.), which I only do once a month right now because the GA's rotate, and since it's really quiet I thought I'd get a word in while I have a chance.  I actually have a ton to say, so much in fact that there's no way I can fit it all in one post without it being brutally, unsympathetically long.  So, I'll break it up, though I have no idea where to even begin because it's been so long.  Chances are, things will be forgotten because there's no way I can recount so much in so little space.  Fortunately, most who read here with any regularity are my friends on Facebook or Twitter, so they get my updates in fits and spurts.  Okay, enough with the introduction already, I'm getting bored with myself (never a good sign!).

I'm actually enjoying the cooler weather that fall brings, even here in Texas where fall is an illusion we pretend behind because it's still 85 degrees at the beginning of November.  In all fairness, it has actually been in the 70's most days, making the facade of fall easier to swallow.  Though I have been enjoying it, I've been sick for a month which makes it a little bit more difficult.  I suppose you can't really call it sick, but I've been something. It started with a sinus infection and I felt horrible!  I was sick for several weeks but started to feel fine, with the exception of a nagging cough and persistent case of laryngitis.  Talking is the biggest part of my job, so not being able to speak is a real bummer.  Matt finally insisted that I go to the doctor, which I did, and they said that I wasn't sick --something I knew-- but rather that I was suffering from some sort of allergic reaction.  Unhappily I started taking Allegra and Tessalon (cough meds), but the fact is, the allergy could be to absolutely anything.  I started to wonder how I might narrow it down, after all, I have a cat and dog, my husband smokes, the pollen count's extraordinarily high thanks to the lack of rain, my house is dusty, the offices I work in are dusty, the classrooms are dusty, I'm allergic to dozens of foods, and every time I get in the shower I sneeze.  Not good, at all.

The first thing the doctor asked me was whether or not I smoked.  I told her no, but that my husband (and everyone in my life) does. She said, rather rudely, that I smelled like smoke (bitchy old woman!) and I should tell my husband to smoke outside.  With that exchange in mind, I asked him if he wouldn't mind doing so.  Guess what, I started to get better.  This is both good and bad, since I really feel awkward asking him to smoke outside forever.  He helps to pay the bills, it's his house too, and I knew he was a smoker,and that I was allergic to smoke, when I married him.  So how could I now make him smoke outside?  It was a real problem for me, especially since he sort of made me miserable about having to go outside to smoke.  He'd make a big deal about how annoying it was every time he had to go out and it made me feel about an inch tall.  It's not my fault that I'm sick and suddenly developing a horrible allergy to something I've been living with for years, but it's not his either.  Still, he did it, begrudgingly and though I felt bad, I could speak again and wasn't coughing nearly as much.

Fast forward to this last weekend.  It was raining on Saturday (finally!!) and since we don't have a patio I couldn't very well tell him he had to go outside into the rain to smoke, so I thought it might be okay for him smoke inside.  By the time the day was winding down, I had almost no voice again and I was coughing like crazy.  More than that, it hurt to use the breath it took to speak. My chest literally hurt with the effort to force breath up and out.  Sunday, the sun was shining, but he continued to smoke inside and I continued to cough and my voice sounded terrible!  So, surprise, surprise, it has to be the smoke I'm having a reaction to.  In addition to a horrible allergy reaction, I think I'm developing asthma.   This is bad, especially since everyone in my life smokes.

Sadly, I'm not sure what to do about it.  There has to be some happy medium.  Matt can't smoke outside forever, but he can't smoke inside either because it makes me sick. He smokes inside when I'm out, or when I'm sleeping, and that seems to be okay, but I think the lingering bit of nagging yuck that keeps me coughing is probably a result of being in an environment where smoke has permeated everything.  It's also pretty depressing because all my friends are smokers and I can't very well ask them not to smoke around me just because my body  has decided to do something completely annoying.

Take for example last night, when I went out to coffee with two of my girlfriends after class.  I woke up this morning coughing like crazy, my voice cracking. Both of them smoke.  I knew they smoked, this is nothing new, and going out was my suggestion because I don't see them nearly enough. So, I'm frustrated and have no idea how to approach an answer that will work for everyone.  I can't very well live in a bubble, where no one smokes and the environment is filtered.  I want to be able to do the things I've always done and hang out with friends the way I always have, without having to worry about whether or not their cigarette smoke is going to make me sick.

On second thought, maybe I should look into a bubble.

Alright, enough complaining.  I didn't expect this post to turn into a pity party or a bitchfest, so I'm going to sign off for now. If, however, y'all have any creative solutions to my problem, please feel free to make suggestions.  I welcome any ideas.

* "WTB" means "Want to Buy" in WoW lingo.

Welcoming the Season

I've changed my theme... again!! I'm sure you've noticed, but I always feel obligated to write a post when I make changes.  I spent more than a few hours yesterday, while halfheartedly watching football, looking for a good fall-ish theme.  I searched every way I could think of, looking for fall, autumn, or Halloween themes for WordPress and all I came up with were ugly, ugly, ugly themes!  Since I don't want anything that's going to scare you, or me, away, I decided on a different approach.  Instead, I installed Vigilance, which I love, and stuck a banner on top, which I made!  Now don't get me wrong, I didn't take that picture, rather I found it on DeviantArt.  Isn't it pretty?!

I just got tired of looking at the pink, lacy theme.  I love it, that much is certain, but it doesn't reflect the fall.  I want something, right now, that speaks to the autumn season -- my favorite season, in fact!  I love everything about it, from the cool crisp weather to the spicy scents of autumn baking.  Love it!  I enjoy the winter, but it's often too cold, and the spring, were it not for my horrible allergies, and I absolutely hate the summer because I can't well tolerate the heat.  No, the fall is the ideal season for me in every way!

Okay, maybe not every way.  Like all things, fall signifies a semester of school and work.  It also brings a root canal this year. So, it's not all joy and happiness, but I love it anyway.  So much so that soon I'll be getting everything I need to do the fall baking.  I don't have a lot of time to bake, but when I do, I'll be making pies, both pumpkin and apple, pumpkin and banana bread, and maybe even Mom's sundae cookies or maybe some persimmon cookies.

Best of all the fall brings Halloween, wherein much candy corn is consumed, and Thanksgiving, which we will be spending with dear friends this year!  It also brings NaNoWriMo, which I will be again attempting, though I will likely fail to win.  It has become a part of my yearly ritual, something I look very forward to, and not something I'll easily give over, even though I don't technically have the time.  So if you're doing it, and we're not writing buddies, look me up and we'll support one another though the challenge.

Anyway, I hope you like the new theme.  It's clean and bright, but reflects the season.  I like it!  So tell me, then, what's your favorite season?

Soapy, Soaps!!

Has it really been more than two weeks?  Wow, this past month or so has just flown by in a blur of exhaustion!  I've been so tired, so posting here has been something I've strove to do, if not something I've managed to actually get done.  It's not that I have nothing to say, I have plenty to say, it's that I'm worn out.  That said, I'm so happy to have time to be able to blog tonight!  Several weeks ago, my long-time-friend Mayren sent me a package of homemade soaps to test.  She and I have been friends for eleven years this month, we met in October 1999.  Now, she's in southern California and has recently taken up soap-making.

I was so thrilled to get them and they were in such good shape when they came.  I tore them open, identifying each of them by scent and with the guide she sent me.  Each soap was carefully wrapped with newspaper and labeled with a number.  By the time I was done smelling them, they were all laying out on the table together, so I took some pictures and then packaged them up in ziploc bags so they wouldn't get lost, damaged, or mixed up.


As you can see from the picture, she sent me a nice mix of shapes, sizes, and scents.  She sent me (all pictured above):

  • Apple Oatmeal - Brownish, lightly speckled soap (2 bars).

  • Bastile - White/off-white circles (2 rounds)

  • Cherry Almond - Light blue bar.

  • Cocoa-Nilla Coffee - Brown & tan swirled bar with dark brown speckles.

  • Cucumber Melon - White/off-white bar.

  • Naked - Whiteish bars (2 bars).

  • Rain - Smaller white cube & round (2 soaps).

  • Spa - Dark blue & green swirl bar.

Of those she sent me, my favorites were definitely the Apple Oatmeal, Bastile, Cherry Almond, Cucumber Melon, and Rain. Each of them are distinct, smell amazing without being overpowering, and are just the right size for comfortable use.

The first picture is a shot of all my favorites of the bunch.  The second is a picture of the Apple Oatmeal, which was, among my favorites, my favorite. It smells great, and the scent persists pleasantly after my hands are dry. The speckles are oatmeal, which makes  it great for scrubbing.  There was some question about the batch of scent she made the Apple Oatmeal with being tainted, but I used the soap and it didn't make me break out, so it must have been fine since I have extremely sensitive skin.

Of those she sent me, the only one I didn't much care for was the Spa.  It smells really good, but I didn't use it because it's really strong.  Matt, however, really liked it!  Also, I really liked the Choco-Nilla Coffee, but I had to break the bar up because it was enormous and my hands weren't big enough to turn it over to work a lather, otherwise, the texture was really nice!

All of the soaps she sent me lathered really beautifully and left my skin feeling very soft and clean!  The Bastile, which I put in the kitchen, also took the scent of onion out of my hands and made my rings shine.  Its light, pretty scent is great!

Thanks for the soaps, Mayren, I've really enjoyed them!  You rock!!

The too long week...

I can't believe the weekend's nearly over.  I really need another three or four days to recoup from last week.  Of all the bad weeks, last week was the worst I've had in a long time.  I know I'm not the only one, either... maybe there's something in the air? Or the planets are aligned for misery?  Ugh, from a no-go root canal to a pregnancy scare, this last week can take a long walk off a short pier.  Sadly, it doesn't work that way, does it?  Bad weeks always get away without punishment.  Meanwhile, I'm left feeling like the tragic hero (yeah, not quite the right word there) who's suffered more than I deserved.  Welcome to my pity party... I feel like such a whiner.

So, Monday I woke up feeling so sick.  Not just a little woozy, like usual, but so, so, so sick.  I dragged my ass around all morning, contemplated staying home from work, but decided against it.  Because I had a root canal scheduled for Monday afternoon I figured I might as well just go to work.  What didn't occur to me is that I was actually sick.  My tooth was killing me, and had been all night, which was making my ear hurt.  The pain in my ear was making me dizzy, which was making me nauseous.  Couple that with having not slept and my assumption was that the sick was a result of the pain and the tired.  So, when I got off work at 1pm Matt and I went to grab a bit to eat.  I didn't eat much, because I was sick, but it turns out that was the wrong thing to do.

When I got to the dentist, made payment arrangements, and sat down in the chair I was still feeling sick.  I decided against the conscious sedation, largely because I was afraid it would make me more sick than I already was.  According to the dentist, I was right, if I'd taken the meds I'd have started throwing up. Not what I wanted to do, at all, so I rescheduled my root canal for October 19th.  Honestly, it wasn't just the sick, it was the fact that I'd eaten an hour before and the fact that my tooth is infected again.  Add all that together and I the conditions were completely wrong. So, I went home instead.  Or, would have gone home if Matt's phone hadn't been on silent.  When I came out of the dentist, early, I called and texted but got nothing.  After about 10 minutes of the same, still unable to get a hold of him and feeling miserable, I called Melanie to see if she could come get me.  She did, so I went to her house and continued to try to get ahold of him, which I was able to do after about another ten minutes.  Very annoyed, I went home and went to sleep.

Not a great start to the week.  Tuesday I woke up feeling sick again, but not sick enough that I stayed home.  Instead, I went to work and battled against the woozy feeling.  Tuesdays are my long day, we're talking at the school from 7:30am until after 9pm.  I really, really hate Tuesdays.  Turns out that one of my labs on Tuesdays has some problem students, which makes the day even longer.  By the time Tuesday was done, all I had time to do was sleep.  I didn't really eat, I just worked and slept. I know it's not good to skip meals, but who has time to eat?

I was sick again on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings.  I've been waking up sick every morning for the last several weeks.  So, it was Wednesday morning, when I told Matt I still wasn't feeling well, that he decided that I might be pregnant.  At the very least, though I was pretty sure that wasn't the case, he wanted me to take the test.  Better to know than not know, right?  So, while I worked, he went and got me a pregnancy test.  I took it at mid-day when I went home for my break.  It was, of course, negative and though I knew it would be, when it said no I was relieved.  The last thing I need, or want, is a baby.  I don't like kids, but also, I don't have time for that.

Still, waking up nauseous everyday is making my life miserable.  I know it's just the combination of nerves and... I don't know, stress maybe?  I just don't feel like I could really be stressed, it's only the end of the first month of classes.  How I could I be stressed already?  I think it's just the fact that working and going to school is more work than I have ever done before.  I'm not in terribly good shape and I don't have time to work out or worry about what I'm eating.  I hardly feel like I have enough time to work, do school work, and squeeze in a little bit of sleep.   Having a job that I'm not 100% comfortable with is making me feel flustered.  Doing presentations and standing up in front of people all the time is making me constantly nervous and shaky.

Thursday morning I had to give a presentation to a group of 70 students. They were nice students, it was quick and went well, but it was also terrifying. Friday I had to give another, to another class, and while Thursday's class was nice, Friday's class couldn't have been less interested.  The professor wasn't there and the other girl, who I think was probably there to give another presentation of some sort, wasn't particularly nice.  And, I get to give another presentation to a class on Tuesday afternoon.  All these presentations are doing a number to my nerves.

Needless to say, by the time this week was over, I was never happier to see one go.  The weekend's been remarkably short and I'm wondering where it has gone?  I need more time, more days to recoup from last week's mayhem. I guess I'll just have to be contented with the two days off I did have.  I need to go make dinner now... might as well eat on the weekend. I hope your week was better than mine.

I'm here...

It's been a while since I've written anything of substance, hasn't it?  For the record, that nearly said "hasn' tit" but I caught it in time. Ha!  Okay, seriously though, I know I've been quite, but in my defense I've been remarkably busy and haven't had the energy to write.  I'm in the writing center right now, catching up with y'all during a lull.  I've been working, going to school, or doing homework nearly non-stop lately.  I'm exhausted, so rather than blogging I've found it easier to keep in touch via Facebook, where instant gratification is the name of the game.  I can post what's going on and go, which is much quicker and requires much less attention than blogging.

The fact that I'm blogging right now is a testament to both my love of blogging and my fortitude to put down one word more than I'm compelled to do for those activities that account for my real life activities.  Clearly, I love to hear myself speak (type?), why else would I be doing this right now when I could (should?) be doing homework?

So let's get on with it, shall we?  I'm sure you're tired of hearing how tired I am and, as a result, you're about to change the channel... so to speak.  Don't do that!  I'm working on getting on with it, I swear I am.  School's been great so far.  With one class online, one in the evenings and another that's something like a regular undergrad class, I'm feeling okay about my scholastic endeavors, so far.  Work is also great, I'm enjoying my new job, though I find it both nerve wracking and exhausting.  Although, it's probably only exhausting because I'm A) not used to working like this and B) I'm expending a hell of a lot of effort in being worried about my performance and the fact that I have to stand-up in front of people and speak on a (close to) day-to-day basis.  Maybe if I could chill and enjoy the experience of being challenged with something new, I'd be much better off.

I must say, I did have days early on (yes, I know it's still technically "early on" but I mean earlier on) where I nearly forgot that the reason I was doing this job was that I was a student.  I got so wrapped up in doing the job and doing it right that I forgot that homework was something I had to make time for.  I almost completely tuned out on the idea that I'm a student, not just a graduate assistant, and that meant doing the things a student must do.  Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't miss class or anything stupid like that, I just put up mental barriers between my job and my education, something I simply can't do given that the two are completely interrelated.  This job cannot exist without school, it simply can't, that's the name of the game.

And you know, to switch gears slightly for a moment, I've always had the feeling that if I worked outside the house, if I interacted more with others, I'd have more to blog about.  This person's silly antics, or that person's hilarious situation, but I'm finding it to be the opposite.  I do have a lot I could say, but I'm afraid to put my job in jeopardy by saying it.  When I attended the College of Graduate Studies Official GA Orientation last week they said that we're responsible for ethical behavior and I'm finding that talking about students, or whatever, could breach the gap between ethical and unethical, so I've decided I just can't do it.  All working outside the house has done is give me less time to say the things I might otherwise have had time to say.

One thing I feel I can say without concern is what I'm doing, so here goes.  I think most of you know my feeling about public speaking.  I'd rather stick a thousand needles in my spine than do one speech.  Well... it turns out that public speaking is a big part of my job.  I teach labs to basic writers and work in the University Writing Center.  The speaking part of teaching the labs is a no-brainer, but would you believe working in the WC means giving presentations?  Who knew?  Not me, but it's something I'm trying to adapt to without fear.  I'm a graduate student, doing a graduate assistantship, and this is a part of the job.  I figure the world is filled with obstacles to over come and this is just another of those.  You wouldn't believe how proud of myself I am when I pull myself up and get the job done, fear or no fear!

So, now that I've rambled on and on for too long (much longer than I intended to, in fact), I'm going to go.  My shift will be over in 20 minutes and I'd like to write another post, for a later date, about my awesome (sarcasm) experience today.  See y'all later!

Handbag!!

I took my sewing machine and went to Melanie's yesterday for a sewing party.  We had a really good time!  The idea was to sew together, but for the most part, she just helped me figure out what I was doing while I navigated my first project in more than 15 years.  I am so grateful to have had her help.  Though we had a few technical glitches, like a bobbin that wouldn't behave (pet named "ill luck bobbin"), everything went very smoothly.  I made a bag, a simple project that actually took me about 7 hours to finish.  It's a long time, but the final product came out really good!  So good, in fact, I wanted to share the pics with y'all.

(Please click the images to see them larger!!)


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I hope you enjoyed seeing the pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them! I had a really great time working on this bag and will likely make several more of them in different fabrics and colors. I have Melanie to thank for finding the brown fabric with the teal circles, we were looking for fabric when she pointed it out and I loved it the second I saw it. I have enough extra that I'm going to make dice bags out of it.

My next project, as you can imagine, will be dice bags -- going to work on it next Saturday. I got some fabric last night so I could make some, one of which will be for Matt, who chose a gray fabric with skulls on it. I should have known he'd pick something like that. I don't think there are patterns for dice bags, but they're fairly simple, so I'm not concerned. Might hunt around the net for instructions, I don't know yet.

Today, I feel like I got a workout yesterday. It's funny how exhausting sewing is. It's very rewarding, but it's exhausting, too. I'm looking forward to sewing next weekend!!

What doesn't... ah, forget it.

What doesn't kill me will make me stronger, what doesn't kill me will make me stronger, what doesn't kill me will make me stronger... okay, enough of that.

You've just read what seems to be my motto for the fall. Those of you who read here with any regularity know that I had a horrible summer. Those who don't, well, I had a horrible summer. Now everyone knows. Everything that could go wrong did. The stove going out, work, my grandmother passing... horrible... freaking... summer. Now that fall's here, I'm trying hard not to have a horrible freaking fall, too, but I'm also feeling like by the time Christmas break comes, I'll be ready for a break.

I started school and work on Monday, but that wasn't where things began. I had orientations and meetings last Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Turn around from that and I was at the school bright and early Monday morning. So far, school's okay, but as one would expect with graduate school, I have a lot of work already! Work is busy, busy, but will get busier next week when the labs start. Right now, I work every day in the writing center, observe basic writing two mornings a week, attend a weekly meeting but starting next week I'll also teach two lab sections and work every other Wednesday evening in the library from 5-8 doing writing center stuff.

That's not to say I'm not enjoying it, because so far, I am. I'm also exhausted and it's only Thursday, but I've been assured that that will get easier. I'm looking forward to all of this becoming routine, because I need to lull into a sense of routine to keep my sanity. I have the feeling that it won't be routine for a while yet, which is expected. With every job, and every semester, a period of adjustment is normal... right? Gah, I hope so, because if not, the exhaustion and subtle confusion are just me and I hate when things like this are just me.

Right now, my biggest concern is next weeks start of labs. I am petrified with fear over having to teach these labs. I know it's nothing to be worried about, I know I know more than basic writers, but all the knowledge in the world isn't putting to bed the fear that I'm going to screw up, or look like an idiot, or come off unprofessional. In all this fear, I do have moments of lucidity and sheer, unadulterated confidence that I can do this, but the other 23 hours and 59 minutes a day, I'm terrified. I'm hoping it'll pass once it's over, or at the very least ease as the semester progresses. We'll see if my nerves can do that, or if I'm just a total basket case from here on out.

I have to say, though, I know that at least part of my problem is the realization that presentations are all around me and that I can't escape them. I have to teach the labs as a part of the GA job, which I understood when I took the job, but I also have to do a presentation and a class discussion thing in my British Lit class and give presentations about the writing center as a part of my writing center duties. Fear of public speaking be damned, it's something I have to do. Yay for being a grown-up, grad student with grown-up grad student responsibilities.

Two years, two years, two years... yeah, repetition because I learned in high school senior psych that you have to repeat things if you hope to commit them beyond your short term memory. Not that the fact that it'll take two years needs be committed, I know it with every shred of my being. May 2012, it seems like forever but by the time I get working on everything that needs be worked on, I'm sure I'll wonder where the hell the time went.

To top it all off, though it's not really time yet, my thesis topic is floating around in my brain. I'm thinking about it all the time now, ways to spin it and make it as original and compelling, both for myself and any prospective audience, as I possibly can. We'll see what I come up with. Nothing I can possibly share just yet.

Is it Friday afternoon yet? No? Damn!

It's here!!

My new sewing machine is here!!

It's kind of a misnomer to call it "my new sewing machine" since I never had an old sewing machine, but it's new and it's mine, so it works. It came on Thursday night. I was gone all day Thursday with training and orientations at the school, so Matt agreed to stay up and wait for it to be delivered.  The poor guy had only had about 2 hours of sleep but still said he'd stay awake until it came.  He waited and waited, but it never did come. When I got in about 7:30 p.m. to find a very sleep, not terribly happy hubby telling me that it didn't come, I checked the tracking which said it was out for delivery.  Poor guy seemed genuinely concerned that I'd be upset, which I was. Then, not ten minutes after I walked through the door, here comes a knock. It's FedEx delivering my package from Amazon.  Matt like to pull his hair out, but we were both glad it got here.

So, I unpackaged it, but I've not had a chance to use it yet. I only paid about $100 and I got the machine, a plastic hard case, and a pack of 10 plastic bobbins, which aren't here yet.  I want to make something, but I also want to do it right, so I'm waiting until I have time.  It's not been easy, let me tell you!  So here it is...

Isn't it pretty?! I had more meetings on Friday, so afterward I headed over to Melanie's and we went to Wal-Mart. I got scissors and all of the stuff I'll need to get started.  I also got three patterns. Two garments and one handbag(s).

I'm going to attempt the bag first! Not the messenger bag, but the other one (bottom left/top right).  I think in the long run, it'll be the more simple of the two because it doesn't require quilted fabrics.  With my experience being limited, I'm going to start with something a bit simpler. I got this really amazing fabric to make the bag.

The brown fabric with teal circles is going to be the outside of the bag, while the teal fabric will be the lining.  I considered brown lining, but I just love the way the teal looks!!  The brown fabric is actually a light corduroy, so I got some heavier weight needles because I've been assured that this fabric is hefty and will break the regular needles.

Unfortunately, though I have everything I need to get started, I can't actually start until next weekend. School's starting back tomorrow (August 30th) and I have both my classes and my the basic writing for my assistantship to attend during the week.  I have to get text books, order a new stove, go to work and study. So, sewing will have to wait until I have a free moment, which won't come until the weekend. Melanie and I are going to get together and have a sewing party, wherein she holds my hand *ehh hmm* offers me guidance through the process. She'll probably get a heck of a lot more sewing done than I will, but I'm glad I have here here to help me when I get stuck.  I'm really looking forward to it.

In the mean time, I've been hunting down apron patterns online because I really want to make some vintage aprons. Turns out you can get upwards of 50 different apron patterns on the web, for free.  Many of them aren't actually patterns, but rather are just instructions and measurements, but I think I could follow simple instructions... maybe.

More pictures coming when that fabric is actually a bag, and not just fabric.  By the time I get good at sewing, y'all are going to be so tired of hearing about sewing and my sewing projects.