Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

#ROW80: Momentum, At Last

Happy Sunday, friends! We’re on the verge of a new week (not quite sure how that happened), and I finally feel like I’ve gained the momentum I need to keep rolling with this dissertation. Huzzah!

3 Things I Loved This Week.

1. My family was in celebration mode this weekend, with a combo belated Mother’s Day & 23rd birthday celebration for my little sister. We all went out for afternoon tea at the glorious Rotunda restaurant at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco, and had an awesome time.

2. Even though I’m approaching 30, my inner-five year old still likes to come out and play. I still haven’t managed to get rid of my stuffed animal collection, and yesterday I added a new one to the mix. I initially picked it out as a birthday gift for my boyfriend’s niece, who celebrates her first birthday on May 22nd, but the minute I picked it up I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let it go. #trueconfessions


3. My dissertation advisor agreed that I should walk in the June commencement ceremony, since I’ll be defending by the end of the summer. I haven’t wanted to make a huge deal about it–after all, I’m not technically *done*, so why bother? But my announcements came in the mail the other day and suddenly it all feels incredibly real. I’m gonna graduate, guys! And even if it *is* sorta symbolic, it’s symbolism that counts.

(Yup, that’s my not-so-secret birth name you see printed there!)


I finished Chapter 4, “Origin Stories,” a few days later than I had initially intended. But! It is 36 pages long, and over 11,750 words, so WHOOOO.

At the moment, I’m about one week behind on my writing schedule. It’s not terrible, but cross your fingers I can finish drafting Chapter 5 by Wednesday, May 27th. 

This next chapter, “Transplantations,” explores the complex dynamics that Catholic sisters faced when they arrived in San Francisco during the 1850s. As I wrote in my not-so-official summary:

“Transplantations” is a chapter about a bunch of European nuns who sail to San Francisco in the 1850s, only to find a lot of crime, poverty, and pretty deplorable conditions. But because they were a bunch of badasses, they battled religious and ethnic bigots, built dozens of schools, established their own hospitals, and saved a lot of people from cholera.

I’m really excited to work with this chapter, partly because I get to dig into all that archival data I spent over a year collecting, and partly because I wrote about it in an article I published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal, U.S. Catholic Historian. Given the audience, the article is pretty heavy on historical description, and less so on sociological analysis, but it will provide an excellent jumping-off point for rewriting. (Shameless self-promotion: if you’d like to read the article, here it is, published, once again, under my Very Official Academic Writing Name.)


And there you have it! I’m a little wiped out from burning the candle at both ends last week (up early each morning to write before work, then to bed super late so I could write after work).  Because I clearly write and think better when I’m rested, this week’s goal is to write till 10 pm, read something fun for 30 minutes or so (that way I hopefully don’t have a repeat of Wednesday’s stabby stabbyness), and then go to bed by 11 pm.

I’m a little behind on answering comments and blog hopping, but I am totally rooting for everyone! Don’t forget to wave a friendly hello to the rest of this week’s ROWers.

ROW80: This is the Chapter That’ll Never End

I tried, you guys. Seriously, I did.

I gave myself a hard deadline of Sunday to wrap up the dissertation chapter I’ve been poking at for the last four months. Then I extended the deadline to late Monday/early Tuesday. But now it’s Wednesday, and the chapter is like 11,000 words long (is that too long? short? I HAVE NO IDEA). and it STILL ISN’T FINISHED.

Like I mentioned earlier on Facebook, I’m feeling stabby and violent and would like to burn this chapter with fire… but California’s in the middle of a drought and something like 12 million trees have already died from lack of water. I don’t want to add to the problem.

So, basically, I hate deadlines right now, because they never seem to be quite realistic enough. And trying to write after a full day of working, or before a full day of working, or somewhere squashed in-between my halfassed attempts at exercising and a full day of working, is SO. DARN. HARD.


That is my tirade for the day. Probably the only positive thing to come out of this is the fact that I have succeeded at writing for at least 45 minutes for the last five days, and sometimes (most of the time) much longer than 45 minutes. So… Huzzah?

For fun, here’s the first two paragraphs of this chapter, which discusses the “origin stories” of the 5 religious orders I’m studying for my dissertation: the Sisters of Mercy, the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of the Holy Family, and the Daughters of Charity. The decision to follow one’s spiritual calling to serve God by serving others placed the founders of all 5 communities in challenging, difficult, and sometimes dangerous positions, but few of them faced the same stakes that Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of Mary, did.

 In 1609, Mary Ward, a highly educated Catholic woman whose family fled England for the European continent, succeeded in establishing the first order of religious women rooted in the Rule of St. Ignatius, the foundation of the famed Jesuit order. Ward was “related by blood or marriage to most of the Catholic aristocracy of England” (Burke-Sullivan 2009:177), many of whom joined her congregation, the Institute of Mary. Together, the community adopted an active life similar to the Jesuits, one that eschewed cloister for an active life of ministry. Ward and her religious sisters worked in education and healthcare, and even disguised themselves as domestic servants in England “to draw back into faith many who had fallen away” (ibid.). But in 1630, Ward was imprisoned by the Church, her order officially suppressed. She “was charged with (but never granted a trial or hearing for) heresy, schism, and rebellion” (pg. 178). Her crime? Stepping outside the tightly prescribed boundaries that existed for women in the seventeenth century and creating a religious institute that went beyond the approved tradition of cloister.

Ward’s example serves as a reminder of the deeply precarious position that women occupied when they sought to transgress the narrow rules that governed women’s lives, both religious and lay. However, she also demonstrates the incredible feats that women could accomplish if they had the faith, resilience, and strength to persevere. Despite her imprisonment and ongoing persecution that she faced for the remainder of her life, she continued to work throughout Europe, founding schools in countries like the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Austria, traveling often on foot. When the persecution of Catholics in England ended, she returned, creating free schools for the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working with the sick.

Mary Ward, and all of the other women in my study, are the ones who keep me going, even when I want to give up on this stupid dissertation. These women–ordinary individuals who managed to do extraordinary things–deserve to have their stories told.

And that’s my Wednesday! I’m going to be relaxing this evening with a cocktail for my weekly happy hour date night, and afterwards I’ll be back on the writing grind. Don’t forget to say hey to everyone else who’s checking in today.

ROW80: It’s Time to Get a PhD

Hey friends! It’s been ages since I’ve participated in a Round of Words in 80 Days, but here I am, in the final push to finish my dissertation and get a PhD, a massive goal that’s been almost 7 years in the making. I’m in major need of accountability, so here I am, ROWers, joining in for the remainder of Round 2.

I’m going to try and keep check-ins simple, so I am more likely to actually do them, so I figure I’ll share 3 things I loved from the week, and the progress I’m making towards my goals.

3 Things I Loved This Week.

1. This song is a little dated (which shows you all how often I pay attention to the radio these days), but my Hot Hula instructor used it for one of our routines, and I’m a little obsessed.

2. I saw THE BOOK OF MORMON a couple of weeks back, and holy heck, I haven’t laughed that hard in a really, really long time. The musical was co-written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame), and can be a little offensive during certain parts, although I thought the satire was really, really well done. The best part about the whole experience? Getting to take my cocktail into the theatre with these awesome reusable sippy cups!


3. Now that I’m earning a paycheck that let’s me do a little more than just pay the bills, my boyfriend and I have been trying to do a handful of cool events that we’ve always wanted to attend. This past week, we went to the Conservatory of Flowers‘ Annual Gala, and wow! Talk about an awesome, super fun event, complete with open bar, gourmet food stations, and live music. The Conservatory of Flowers is extra-special for us, because we went there when we first started dating (it’s where he first held my hand!). So yay for being able to get dressed up and do something awesomely fun during the middle of the week!


All dolled up, and feeling a little like Cinderella.

The Goal.

My goal is simple: I need to finish my dissertation, tentatively titled Sisterhood on the Frontier: Catholic Women Religious in San Francisco, 1850-1925 (yes, it is a sociological study of historical nuns!). To do that, my plan is to write 1 chapter every 2 weeks, through mid-July. Then I have maybe 1 month to revise and overhaul the entire thing, so I can defend and file with the Powers That Be by September 8th. I’m trying to write for at least 45 minutes, 5 days a week.

Progress So Far:

I’m just about finished with chapter 4 of 10, which will hopefully be wrapped up by Sunday night and sent off to my advisor, along with my end-of-year progress report (ugh). Once that’s done, I can embark on Chapter 5 (whoo!).


That’s about all from me! I’m looking forward to brunching with my boyfriend’s family to celebrate Mother’s Day, and then hanging out with my family Sunday evening. Don’t forget to swing by and wave a friendly (and encouraging!) hello to the other ROWers checking in this week.


Is There Life Beyond Grad School?

The answer to that question is, of course, yes. But as someone who’s spent the last eleven years of her life in non-compulsory higher education, I’m not exactly sure what that life is going to look like.

I’ve got a few ideas. Guilt-free Netflix binge sessions after work! Reading novels, writing novels, hanging out with friends, napping, shopping, singing, adventuring… ALL THE THINGS, only without the dread of a humongous dissertation hanging over my head.

But beyond the fun stuff, beyond the fact that my evenings and weekends will finally be my own, and that I’ll no longer have to do this crazy juggling act between a fairly intense 9-to-5 and an equally intense behemoth, is the very scary, very real thought of having to decide What To Do With My Life.

This used to be very simple. I made the decision to go to graduate school because I wanted to be a professor. I wanted to be like my favorite mentors in college, who were so fired up and passionate about their work that they gave me purpose. They taught me to think critically, and they gave me tools to make the world a better place.

And so I signed up for a PhD program, partly because of them and partly because I’ve fancied the sound of “Dr. Corazon” since I was about 10. And I’ve worked hard, and ticked most of the boxes off of my Academic Pre-Career to-do list: TAships, check. Yearly conference presentations, check. Academic article published, check. And even though I haven’t had the chance to teach as instructor-on-record yet, my advisors assure me that I would be a viable candidate for a tenure-track position on the strength of my research and teaching assistantships.


I… don’t really know if that’s what I want to do anymore.

There’s so much bound up in that decision, of course. There’s the fact that the number of tenure-track positions are swiftly shrinking, with universities depending more and more on part-time adjunct labor–something I’m not willing to put up with. And then there’s the fact that teaching is intense, and depending on the courseload, leads to a lot of burnout, and work on the weekends, and on and on.

And, of course, there’s the fact that I’ve somehow fallen into grant-writing and resource development… and I kinda like it. The pay is decent, with a lot of room for growth, and it feels good to write things that are going to help people, proposals that will have an immediate impact and pay off in multiple ways.

On the flipside, academia–research in particular–is thrilling. And as much as I hate the process of writing this dissertation, I am so passionate about my topic. Historical studies of Catholic nuns in San Francisco might not seem super interesting to everyone, but I’m in love with it, and I feel like it’s, in many ways, really important, both in terms of illuminating forgotten history and in making connections with current events. There’s so much that I haven’t done with it, and so much that I want to do (my advisor is already listing potential journal articles and book proposals)… what I’ve done so far is just the tip of the iceberg.


So I’m in the middle of a gray zone, like I took the wrong fork in the road but have been so busy staring at the map that I’m just now seeing this strange, new place, filled with flora and fauna that I never anticipated, pitfalls that I can’t predict, but a savage beauty that comes from being a place that is new and uncharted.

This level of possibility makes my palms sweaty with fear and excitement and anticipation of new adventures. Because it can lead to so many things. Take, for example, the chance to unify my fiction writing and professional worlds. Three years ago, I took a pseudonym, more than a little terrified at the thought of my creative hobbies being “discovered” by hiring committees and somehow branding me as unprofessional and unscholarly. Having this separate space has been a joy in so many ways, but there are days when I feel like I’ve muzzled myself, like dividing myself up has resulted in an inability to express all the things that I’m passionate about and love.

I don’t know where the next few years where lead. There are so many stories I want to share, so many darn things I want to accomplish, and my roadmap… well, it’s a little nonexistent at this point. But I have that stirring feeling that I’m poised to make all my dreams come true, if I can only let go of the fear, embrace the unknown, and accept uncertainty. Easier said than done for a plotting, planning, detail-oriented stickler for rules, but crazier things have happened, right?

ROW80: Holiday Preparations In Progress!

Happy Sunday, friends! This weekend I’m gearing up for the Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday. My sister and I are in charge of cooking this year, and we’ve just finalized the official menu. We’ll be making Patti Labelle’s famous macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and candied yams from the Pioneer Woman, and what will hopefully be a super-tasty apple crisp.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to look something like this on Thursday afternoon:


Here’s how the rest of the week has gone:


I’ve been feeling yucky most of this week, so I’ve opted to sleep in instead of waking up for my early morning writing sessions. With that said, I wrote about 200 words today–not much, but it’s a decent start to this chapter.

For the week to come:

  • Continue work on this chapter. I’m going to treat it like a zero draft, and just write it like I’m writing notes to myself–no worries about academic jargon or “sounding smart.”
  • Finish note-taking on the Sisters of the Holy Family’s official annals. I’ll be heading back to their convent archive in a couple of weeks, and I want to be caught up with my research.


It’s week 3 of my ROW80 check-ins, and that’s WAY better than I’ve done for most of this year, and probably most of last year. I also pulled together a non-ROW80 post: a silly Monday pick-me-up with the sweetest little sloths ever.

For the week to come:

  • Keep up the momentum of commenting/visiting everyone else’s blogs. I’ve slacked on this, but with the long weekend coming up, I’ll hopefully have more time to do this.
  • Finish my post for Friday. I will (fingers crossed) be launching a “Friday Reads” book review series. I’ve drafted a post, but I need to put some finishing touches on it.


I finished a book this week like I was hoping–A DANGEROUS INVITATION by Erica Monroe, which was AWESOME. I’ll be posting more about it on Friday. I haven’t been journaling, partly because I’ve just been so darn tired, and those magazines I bought last week? Still haven’t read them. Claiming time for myself, and trying to be deliberate in my self-care efforts, is really darn difficult.

I’m going out of town for Thanksgiving weekend to Carmel for a relaxing, romantic weekend. That’ll hopefully be a good excuse to hang out at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, stroll on the beach, and drink some wine in front of the fireplace.

For the week to come:

  • Read another book! I’m only 15 books behind for my Goodreads challenge, and I’ve got a ton on my Kindle that I haven’t even touched.
  • More journaling. My allergies seem to be (sorta) under control, and I only work Monday and Tuesday this week, so I will hopefully have a little more time to write.


And that’s it for me! For my friends in the US, how are your Thanksgiving preparations coming? Any exciting plans for the long weekend?

Don’t forget to say hello to everyone else checking in for the week.  Best of luck to everyone working towards a NaNoWriMo win!

A Gratuitous Sloth Post, Because I Love You

Because it’s Monday, and I love you all, here’s a much-needed pick-me-up: a gratuitous sloth post, because sloths chase all my blues away, and because I haven’t posted a single sloth picture since February 17, 2013 (!!!!!). That’s a long, long, long time to go without sight of the cutest little monsters in the western hemisphere–and, perhaps, the world.

This week, may you be as happy as a three-toed sloth on bath day, or cuddling in a bucket,  or chilling with its favorite stuffed animal.

ROW80: Getting Into Gear

Happy Sunday, friends! It’s been a slow start to the weekend for me, as I spent most yesterday bundled up in bed with an unexpected round of chills and sniffles. I’m not sure what it is, but as soon as the weekend rolls around, my body breaks down and all I can do is rest till I feel better. The rest, I’m sure, is necessary, but I can’t help but get irritated about all the plans that get derailed as a result.


Because of that, today will be my writing day. I’m all set up and ready to go: I’ve got a bagel and one of those fancy new Chestnut Praline lattes from Starbucks (my early verdict: pretty darn tasty), and even better, I’ve got a pitcher of winter sangria chilling the fridge. Right now I intend to use it as a reward for accomplishing everything on today’s to-do list, but there is every possibility that I may cave and start sipping it a little earlier than I intend. 😛

Beyond my weird 24 hour bug, the last few days have been good ones. I actually wrote a non-ROW80 post, a short piece about classical composer Aaron Copland, who would’ve celebrated his 114th birthday on Friday. And yesterday I made the Target run that I’ve been wanting to do for weeks now, and picked up all those small things that are total essentials in my life. Brand new mascara FTW!

Given that I just jumped into the ROW80 ring on Wednesday, I don’t have a ton of progress to report, but I’m proud of my tiny baby steps:


First, a recap on my project, since it’s been a while since I’ve discussed it. My dissertation is a sociological study of the Catholic sisterhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area, between 1850-1925. Women religious during this period established some of the earliest social service institutions (orphanages, hospitals, schools, etc.), and they did it while facing countless challenges–lack of funds, opposition from secular and religious authorities, the sexism that ran rampant in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, among others.

More specifically, I’m looking at these sisterhoods from a sociological/institutional logics perspective, which means I’m interested in questions of organizational identity (how sisters defined themselves, as a group and individually), authority/autonomy (how they asserted themselves within a space that could be intolerant to women in authority), and anything else that may emerge as pertinent.

So right now I’m trying to push forward with my writing, and take a closer look at the data I’ve collected so far. It feels so daunting, but every little bit counts.

For the week to come:

  • Start a list of notable historical moments for each religious order. Here, I’m looking for any conflicts that sisters had with male authorities, both secular and religious; moments when sisters were forced to reevaluate and define their purpose, mission, and goals; and anything else that touches on the questions I mentioned above.
  • Work on a chapter. There’s a section I’ve been trying to write, about the roots and origins of the Catholic orders in my study, looking specifically on the women who founded those orders. I don’t want to spend too long on this, but I do want to get it done so I can send my advisor something in the next month.


I made my goal of 2 posts for this last week, so yay! Even better, I’ve got a post lined up for tomorrow that I’m super excited about. Hint: there are sloths involved. And I’ve been tinkering with themes and widgets and whatnot. I think I’m pretty pleased with how things are looking around here.

For the week to come:

  • Keep answering comments and making the rounds to visit all of my other friends. It’s so nice to see what everyone is up to!
  • Finish at least one post, to be published either this week or next.


Self-care has been sort of enforced for the last day or so, because I’ve been feeling yucky. But I’ve also done some practical things, like stock up on extra lotion to keep at my boyfriend’s house (no chance of eczema outbreaks because I forgot my lotion at my parents’!), and pick up a couple of magazines so I can relax a little.

For the week to come:

  • Read a novel. I’m 16 books behind in my Goodreads 2014 challenge (50 books or more by the end of the year!), but I think I can catch up. I’ve got a few historical romance collections on my Kindle that I’ve been dying to read, and I also just picked up K.B. Owen‘s latest book in her Concordia Wells Mysteries series, UNSEEMLY AMBITION.
  • Write daily. Setting aside 30 minutes to write each morning has made a really big difference in keeping me centered, so I’m going to try and keep that up this week.
  • Maintain my exercise regime. My mom and I have been taking Hot Hula every Monday, and going to Zumba every Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve been pretty sporadic in my attendance, but I’ve been going regularly for the last few weeks. I am finally seeing a difference in how my clothes fit, which means I feel way more committed to the routine.


So that’s the state of affairs right now! I’m looking forward to starting this week with a little more clarity and serenity than last week. Don’t forget to stop by and see how the rest of the ROW80 gang is doing!


Remembering Aaron Copland, American Composer

Today would have been American composer Aaron Copland’s 114th birthday, which gives me an excuse to finally blog about one of my favorite classical artists of all time. Most people may not realize it, but they already know one of his most famous works, Rodeo, from the “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” commercial that seemed ubiquitous in the 90s. Remember this?

Copland was born in Brooklyn on November 14, 1900. His story is, in many ways, a strikingly American tale: the son of Jewish immigrants who later became a composer of music that encapsulates the American spirit. He studied music in Paris between 1917 and 1921, part of the larger community of American expatriates including Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. When he returned to the United States, he collaborated with other young composers, and entered Alfred Stieglitz’s community of artists. Copland, like many other artists of his generation, was inspired by Stieglitz’s belief that “the American artist should reflect ‘the ideas of American democracy.'”

"AaronCopland" by Gov - http://memory.loc.gov/music/copland/phot/phot0098v.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AaronCopland.JPG#mediaviewer/File:AaronCopland.JPG

“AaronCopland” by Gov – http://memory.loc.gov/music/copland/phot/phot0098v.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In keeping with that ideal, Copland’s work, particularly between the 1930s and 1940s, was deliberately accessible, written in what he referred to as the “vernacular” style. The landscape of the American West became an inspiration for many of his pieces, including ballet scores Rodeo and Billy the Kid, as well as his Fanfare for the Common Man and the Third Symphony.

Copland wrote an impressive array of music,  from symphonies and ballets to film scores and even an opera. My favorite, however, will always be Appalachian Spring. In it, he draws on the famed Shaker melody, “‘Simple Gifts.” At just over 30 minutes long, it is a slice of heaven. Below is my favorite recording, performed by the San Francisco Symphony and led by composer Michael Tilson Thomas. If you’d like to see footage from the original 1944 production of the ballet, check out this video clip.

One of the coolest things about Appalachian Spring is the way that it has been used and remixed by other artists to give rise to new works, in the same way that Copland himself draws on the Shaker song. Echoes can be heard in Shaker Loops by modern composer John Adams, as seen in this performance from the Ciompi Quartet below.

Likewise, composer John Williams pulled from Appalachian Spring when he wrote”Air and Simple Gifts” for President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, where it was performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill and Gabriela Montero.

Copland is remembered for his talents as a composer and conductor, as well as his role as a teacher and mentor for countless young musicians. It was the latter role that led to his nickname as the “Dean of American Composers.”

For me, Copland’s work evokes both nostalgia for the past and unbounded optimism for the future, music that is not only timeless and beautiful, but evokes the dignity of the human spirit. I leave you with his Fanfare for the Common Man, introduced by Leonard Bernstein, and conducted by the composer himself (music starts at 2:02).

Anyone else a fan of Copland’s work? If you’re interested in more information about him, including photos, news clippings, correspondence, and other archival treasures, check out this awesome collection from the Library of Congress.

ROW80: Self-Care is Self-Preservation

Once again, I’m dropping back in to wave hello to all of my wonderful friends taking part in this season’s ROW80 challenge. I’m especially excited because it is NaNoWriMo time! Even though I’m not participating this year, there’s something so intoxicating about the energy that abounds throughout the writing world during this time. I’m hoping a little of that energy rubs off on me.


Back in August, I identified some of my major pitfalls when it comes to writing and productivity. I was hoping it would jumpstart me to get back on my research/writing/blogging game, but instead I realized something else that’s been nagging at me: my lack of self-care.

Splitting my time between my parents’ house and my boyfriend’s home has left my bedroom is shambles–half-empty suitcases on the floor, clothes strewn about, papers and books everywhere.  I wear stress on my body, visible in weight I’ve gained from a lack of healthy eating, and in the rashes that have sprung up on my arms in legs, partly from nervous habit, and partly because I don’t take the time to moisturize and apply the necessary medicine.


I’ve stopped writing, whether poetry or prose or silly blog posts. And I’ve stopped dreaming (unless you count regular nightmares). That lack of dreaming hurts the most, I think. The visions of the future that I used to entertain have morphed into something else altogether: fears about never finishing my PhD, or worse, that I’ll finish and never find a job that captures both my passion and expertise.

And so that is what I’ve been trying to conquer these last couple of months: to care for myself, to take time in the evenings to read magazines and journal and listen to music, to listen to my body when I need to rest, to give myself the space to listen to the stirrings of my heart. I’ve been reorganizing my room and eliminating the clutter, the better to give myself a sanctuary that will encourage serenity and dreaming.

After all, as the great feminist scholar, poet, and warrior Audre Lorde once said, self-care is self-preservation–a profoundly radical act. Because if I expend all that I have and all that I am for others, without taking the time to nourish and restore myself, there is no way I will ever be able to accomplish all that I’ve dreamed. More importantly, there will be precious little to support the happiness and joy I’d like to feel in my day-to-day life.

These are my challenges, then: to overcome fear, to recognize and tend to my needs, to rediscover my passions. I’ll be pinning this Audre Lorde quote over my desk to stay motivated:

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

For this round of ROW80, I want to take steps to living  fully, deeply, and deliberately. Here are a few concrete ideas for how to get there:


To date, I’ve written an introduction + chapter one. My committee has been encouraging me to write about my findings, so I’m juggling a few things here:

  • Reviewing my data: I’ve got to identify the historical examples that help illustrate my overarching arguments, which involves wading through all my notes to figure out what to flag.
  • Reading secondary literature: I’ve got a stack of books that my committee recommended when I met with them in October. Getting through 2 per month would be phenomenal
  • Writing, writing, writing. There’s a chapter I’ve been dying to write which is already partly done. If I could buckle down and finish it, and then have an outline of that “substantive” chapter done by the end of this Round, I’d be really pleased with myself.


I’ve neglected my poor blog for way too long. I’ve got 7 unfinished drafts that I’d like to polish up and post, and I’d like to get back to reading everyone else’s posts. I’m aiming for 2 posts per week: 1 ROW80 update, and 1 non-ROW80 post.


This is simple, and also the hardest. I want to use my weeknights for myself, and to have time on the weekend to rest and recharge. Bottom line? The goal is to do the following: Journal. Clean. Read. Write. Sleep.  


And there’s where I’m at this week. I’m excited to put these goals into motion, and even more excited to catch up with everyone. Be sure and cheer on the rest of our ROW80 participants!

ROW80: Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

Glorious, glorious weather!

Glorious, glorious weather!

Happy Labor Day Weekend, friends! Here in San Francisco we are enjoying surprisingly lovely weather. The sun is shining, the sky is cloudless, and we’re all running around in shorts and tanks. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer, and while I’ll be sad to see it go, I’m starting to dream about the 1960s vintage wool coat I’m dying to buy for the inevitable cool-down.

I’m grateful for friends and family and good health this weekend, especially because this time last year I was nursing my boyfriend through a fever of 103 F, and because all of my coworkers have been ill. But I’ve had a chance to catch up with two of my oldest friends–always a joy–and time to take naps and relax. This afternoon I’m aiming to spend a few hours with my dissertation, but my motto right now is to move slowly. 



I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’d like to revamp my blog. Over the past three years I’ve toyed with different theme days, but moving forward I think I’d like to do something that includes Guilty PleasuresBook Reviews, and maybe Midweek Poetry. I’ve got an ongoing list with ideas for over 15 posts, and I now have incomplete drafts of 4 different posts. I’m adding onto those drafts little by little, when I have a new idea and a spare moment, so hopefully I’ll have a few finished by my deadline.

For this week: I’ve been wanting to write about Penned, the new writing app for the iPhone, for a few weeks now. The goal is to get that finished and posted by Friday.


Dissertation writing is in progress, and proceeding slowly but surely. I am still trying to think less and write more, but that is hard work. I’ve added something like 500 words this week. Not terrible, but if I want to get these chapters written, I need to do more.

For this week: My realistic goal is to finish the section on the founders of religious communities. My epic dream goal is get this whole darn chapter finished (but that’s probably a huge reach). Sigh… We’ll see.


I haven’t written anything new in the fiction department, but I have been toying with new ideas. My favorite so far? A character named The Peddler, who is loosely based on one of the vendors I see at the flea market each month. The first time I saw him he was standing on a table, dressed in a full-length fur coat, cowboy hat, and Ray-Bans. In TELL ME NO LIES, I think The Peddler will be one of the many unsavory sorts who hang out in the Barbary Coast, selling illicit (and, obviously, overpriced) items to the rich dandies who wander into “Hell’s Half-Acre” looking for debauchery.

For this week: I think it’d be nice to start typing up the snippets I’ve been writing by hand. I flipped through my notebook the other day and found a draft of the ending (!!!!) that I totally forgot I had written, so putting everything in a spot that’s easy to organize and find would be nice. Scrivener, here I come!


So that’s about it for me! Tomorrow I’m looking forward to checking out the Kings Mountain Art Fair, which is held in the lush, forested area of Woodside, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. It should be a nice way to close out a long weekend.

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