Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: progress (page 1 of 8)

#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

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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!)

Progress.

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.)

-oOo-

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.

*Whew*

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!

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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!

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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!).

-oOo-

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.

 

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:

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

Dissertation

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.

Blog

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.

Self-Care

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.

-oOo-

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!

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.

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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:

Dissertation

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.

Blog

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

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.

-oOo-

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!

 

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. 

 

Blog

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

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.

Fiction

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!

-oOo-

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.

ROW80: Change Is The Constant

Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix.”
– Christina Baldwin

 

Friends, it’s been way too long. But those of you who hang out with me on Facebook and Twitter know that it’s been a helluva year. Every time I feel as though I’ve gained a semblance of control in my life, it slips away and I’m left scrambling all over again. Solid ground turns out to be nothing more than an illusion, and “control” is all but impossible.

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That moment when “solid ground” isn’t as solid as it looks.

So I’ve reached the conclusion that, for the time being, this is the new normal. My day job is still the kind of place where anything and everything can, and will, happen–inevitable when there are involves 100 screaming kids, constantly ringing phones, demanding parents, and way too many surprises. I still have a dissertation looming in front of me, and an anticipated graduation date of June 2015. And I’ve still got those three novels sitting on my hard drive and taking up residence in my head, unfinished and gathering dust. Add in conflicting demands from family and friends, a boyfriend who’s going through his own share of massive transition and change, and the result is that “somewhat managed chaos” is really the best I can hope for.

It would be easy, I guess, I just do the bare minimum and try to get by. But I want to live, in ways that go beyond just moving through the motions. I want to be creative; I want to blog, to interact, to engage within a community. I don’t want to have to wait until I’ve finally got that PhD in hand in order to write, and speak, and exercise my imagination in all the ways I’ve been dreaming for years.

The trick, as I see it, is going to be mastering tools, tricks, and strategies to get things done. Over the last few weeks I’ve started to identify the ways that I can work smarter instead of harder, ways that I can make the most of my limited free time. I’ve also started identifying some of my habits that have been preventing me from accomplishing the goals that mean the most to me. My top 3 fatal flaws:

  • Trying to do things at the last minute. It’s been my MO since I was in elementary school. Once upon a time I was able to churn out brilliant work in a single night, motivated by panic and stress and a lot of caffeine. This isn’t an option anymore. I can’t write chapters, or blog posts, or an entire dissertation in one sitting. Hell, I can’t even pull together a newsletter for the Day Job in a 2 hour stint. My new goal? Spacing things out. Giving myself enough time to get things done. Which kinda goes along with the next point…
  • Trying to work for extended periods of time. Gone are my grad school days of having multiple days in a row to just sit in my house, grade papers, and write. Now my mornings are filled with exercise classes (Zumba FTW), my afternoons and evenings with the Day Job, and my nights with trying to stay awake past 9 pm. My attention span for writing has all but evaporated; I can barely manage 15 minutes before I start to go a little nuts. So I’m aiming for short sprints, 15-30 minutes of focused, sustained work where I’m not multi-tasking or daydreaming or Googling that random (but brilliant!) idea that popped up out of nowhere. Lauralynn Elliot talked about this in Monday’s ROW80 sponsor post, which I have printed out and tacked up next to my desk.
  • Being scared of success. I always scoffed at the idea of being scared of success. After all, don’t we all want to be successful? But I started thinking about the fact that I’ve abandoned tons of projects midway through, projects that I was super excited about at the start, and ones that showed a lot of promise. And when I really dig deep, it starts to become clear that I am terrified of what will happen when I’m finished. I don’t know what’s worse: the outcome being either (1) terrible, (2) mediocre, or (3) brilliant. The thing that sucks about #3? The fact that people might notice me, and that I will get attention. It’s horribly irrational, because there’s a part of me that loves the spotlight and enjoys having a somewhat public voice. But there is a part of me that is 12 years old, painfully awkward, and terrified of being seen. The key, at least for the moment? Reminding myself that I have important stories to share. Pushing past that niggling voice of doubt. Locking up my inner editor until I have something finished and complete to polish. Thinking less and doing more because, sweet Jesus, I have been overthinking everything lately.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m trying to be honest with myself, and trying to retool things that just haven’t been working. And not everything in this last year has been a total disaster. I’ve made some important strides at the day job, drafted the introduction to my dissertation, and had a successful conference presentation at this year’s American Sociological Association meeting. I’ve also had some awesome experiences that I’m looking forward to sharing in the weeks to come: visits to cool historical spots around San Francisco, meeting a couple of amazing NYT-bestselling authors, and getting started with Penned, an awesome writing app currently building steam on iPhone.

I’m jumping back into ROW80 in the hopes that I can use this momentum to stay accountable and bloody finish something for once. Here’s what I’ve got on my agenda:

DISSERTATION

  • Finish at least 2 chapters by September 20th.
  • Continue data analysis between September 20th and October 10th.
  • Read at least one dissertation-related book by September 20th.

BLOG

  • Write at least one ROW80 check-in each week until the end of Round 3.
  • Draft 4-6 blog posts by the end of Round 3, to be posted on the blog starting in late September/early October.

FICTION

  • Continue to jot down ideas, by hand, for the last remaining chapters in Act One of TELL ME NO LIES.
  • Outline the first few chapters of Act Two for TMNL.

This doesn’t seem like a lot, but honestly, it’s more than I’ve been able to accomplish for the last year. So we’ll see! In the meantime, I wave a hearty hello to all of you. I can’t wait to take a peek and see what everyone else is working on at the moment.

How’s the end of summer shaping up? Any fun plans lined up for Labor Day weekend?

ROW80: The Train Has Left The Station

Hey there folks! I missed Sunday’s check-in because I was in the midst of a research trip (SUCH an awesome experience! More about it below), so I figured I’d post something today. Gotta keep working to stay accountable, right?

I know there’s only one more check-in left for this round, but right now I feel like I’m just gaining steam. Last week was a really good one in terms of stoking the creative fires and taking baby steps to integrate self-care into my life. I did a lot of thinking about TELL ME NO LIES, my steampunk murder mystery project, and realized that it’s not nearly as incomplete as I’ve been telling myself, and everyone else, for the last year. My mom and I did two days worth of Zumba classes, which means I’m starting to feel a little more fit and active. And I had the BEST RESEARCH TRIP EVER to the Sisters of the Holy Family’s archives.

The SHF motherhouse is located in Fremont, not too far from Mission San Jose, founded by Spanish missionaries in 1797. While the Sisters originally lived in San Francisco, they moved to Fremont in the late 1950s, and built their motherhouse on the property of Palmdale Estates, a historic property that dates back to the time of the California Gold Rush. The place is absolutely exquisite, and I got the chance to take a walk Sunday afternoon to clear my head before going back into the archives.

 

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

 

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Two of the English Tudor-style manors on the property, built in the early 20th century.

 

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A view of one of the ponds on the property.

I’ll be doing a couple more overnight stays this summer, and I’m really looking forward to it. In a lot of ways, I feel like this research trip (my first archival jaunt in almost a year) is exactly what I needed to get me back on track with my dissertation. Between the stresses of work and life and change and such, I’ve fallen into a real malaise when it comes to writing. It’s the usual–not feeling good enough, doubting every word, depending way too much on the delete key. But this past week I was also reminded of the glories of the zero draft, and how true passion for a topic can produce something that has crazy potential, despite inconsistencies and mistakes and huge gaping plot holes.

So I’m thinking of my dissertation as a zero draft, and reminding myself that there’s no pressure (right now, at least) to make it perfect. And hopefully that’ll help me lock my inner editor away, and liberate the creator in me, and I’ll actually get something done.

Here’s the week’s progress, in a little more detail:

Dissertation

  • Data Collection: Spent Saturday night and Sunday in the archives, read roughly 20 years worth of historical annals, and made some plans for how I want to start coding my data.
  • Dissertation Chapter: I didn’t read the 3 chapters I had planned to, but I managed to do a lot of thinking work. The new goal is to actually use my words this week. More specifically: Write 250 words each day, and GET THIS CHAPTER DONE.

Creative Writing

  • Poetry: I didn’t write anything new, but I did post an old poem in response to a really good prompt. Rereading my other old poetry reminded me that the only way I’ll be inspired to write poetry is to read it, and so I’m trying to add that to my reading repertoire. And I would like to write 2 poems in the next week, at least 1 haiku and maybe (if I’m inspired), something longer.
  • Novel: I’ve got a working outline of Chapter 14 of TMNL, so this week I’m going to finish the chapter. Woot!
  • Reading: I read THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brooks, and ohhhhh mahhhh gawwwd. So. Friggin’. Hot. So dark and glorious and wonderful and on-the-edge-of-my-seat action, along with scorching love scenes. I think I will start doing book reviews in April, and I can’t wait to write this one. For next week, I’m going to start Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I picked up the box set, so that’ll keep me busy for  while.

My main goal for this week: to try a new system where I  complete 1 item on my to-do list in the mornings, and 1-2 on my list in the evenings. The trick is to not overwhelm myself with the fact that OMG I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING I AM SO BEHIND, which usually results in me reading celebrity gossip columns for hours and hating myself. Self-hate = bad; self-love = good, therefore I am going to aim for fewer gossip columns, and more gettin’ it done.

Whew! That was a lot. How’s the week progressing for everyone? East coasters, has spring reached you yet? I’m dreading the drought that is currently spreading through California, but… ugh, I’m kinda loving the summer-ish weather, especially when it gives me sunsets like this:

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

Don’t forget to wave a friendly hello and cheer on the rest of the ROWers. We’re just about to the end of Round 1!

ROW80: The Power Of The Force

Happy Sunday, friends! As you can see, I’m all about the power of the Force this weekend. My friends and I are going to see the Star Wars exhibit at the San Jose Tech Museum in a couple of weeks, so I’m fixing a few holes in my nerd cred and finally watching the original 3 films. Not sure why it took so long for me to get around to doing this, but I’m glad it’s finally happening!

This week I had the chance to hit up the California Academy of Sciences‘ weekly 21+up event, “Nightlife,” for the first time in a couple of months. Nightlife is the only event in the San Francisco Bay Area with music, creatures, cocktails, and science–definitely my idea of the perfect night out. As always, the creatures were out in full force, with butterflies flitting about the rainforest…

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…tropical fish floating about in their tank…

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…a brightly colored lizard, who left his perch to peer a bit more closely at me…

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…a sleepy frog…

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…and some very industrious leafcutter ants.

IMG 6234 from Lena Corazon on Vimeo.

 

I’m feeling a bit like those ants right now: running to and fro, sometimes in the wrong direction, with a giant leaf that’s several times larger than my body weight on my shoulder. I’d like to think that I’m getting things done (honestly, just checking in feels like a huge accomplishment, so I am going to congratulate myself and tell myself that it is), but some days the things I finish hardly seem proportional to the things left languishing on my to-do list.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? I just purchased a handy weekly planner in the hopes that having something tangible will make it easier to schedule the few free hours that I have each day. It’ll arrive eventually; in the meantime, I’m trying to check in with myself every couple of days, if not daily.

Progress, hey-o!

Dissertation:

  • Dissertation Chapter: I’m iiiinching my way along with this chapter. I printed the current draft (9 pages long, lots of gibberish), and I’ve got some notes on how to refine the outline. I also bought a copy of sociologist Patricia Wittberg’s book FROM PIETY TO PROFESSIONALISM–AND BACK?: TRANSFORMATIONS OF ORGANIZED RELIGIOUS VIRTUOSITY. While it’s a study of current Catholic women religious (unlike my historical study), she utilizes the sociology of organizations and institutional logics, the perspective I’m attempting to apply to my project. I read sixty pages this week; the goal for next week is to read another three chapters. 
  • Dissertation Data: I haven’t gotten around to looking at all the data I’ve collected, but I’ll be in the archive next weekend doing a bit more collecting. To prepare, this week  I’ll be reading up on the overall history of the religious order, the Sisters of the Holy Family. Cool story: they were the only religious order to be founded in the US, west of the Mississippi River.

Creative Writing:

  • Writing: Nothing new in terms of fiction or poetry. I’m halfway through Chapter 14 of TELL ME NO LIES, and I’ve been trying to fix the outline. I’m merging multiple drafts into one, and I still can’t decide what I want to keep and what needs to be discarded. This week, I’d like to have a chapter outline complete.
  • Reading: I finished ALL THE PATHS OF SHADOW by Frank Tuttle, and ohhhhh. Can we talk about a book that just left me devastated when I was done? Not because of some horribly sad ending, but because it was lovely, and wonderful, and it made me feel. The novel is fantasy with steampunk touches, and gave me lots to think about in terms of the fantasy/steampunk hybrid novel I worked on for NaNoWriMo 2012. This week I’ll read CHASING THE STAR GARDEN by Melanie Karsak.

So that’s me this week! Be sure to wave a friendly hello to all the other ROWers participating this week.

As a fun aside, and in keeping with the Star Wars theme, I leave you with the greatest comedy sketch of all time: Eddie Izzard’s “Death Star Canteen” sketch from his stand-up show, Circle (2000). Some brilliant person with way too much time on their hands rendered the entire thing in Lego, and it is glorious. Warnings for strong language (multiple f-bombs, etc.). Oh, and don’t eat or drink anything while watching. 😛

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ROW80: All About Baby Steps

Happy Sunday, folks! It’s evening here in San Francisco, and I am feeling very thankful that I have tomorrow off. I’ve been a little out of sorts the last few weeks, in that odd, uncomfortable, disjointed period that accompanies all transitions. Creating the space to have daily “me” time has been difficult, but I’m taking baby steps to get there! I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to leave the house at all tomorrow, which should give me a chance to work and rest.

I declared my intentions to participate in NaNoWriMo on Wednesday, but I’m not attacking my WIP with nearly the same sort of vigor as I have in years past. The act of writing after being silent for so many weeks is a decidedly strange feeling. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching words form and drop onto the page, and it’s a little crazy to see tiny ideas growing, connecting, deepening, expanding. It almost makes me feel like I am a beginner all over again, but a beginner in the best of ways: able to appreciate the magical alchemy of the creative process, to feel inspired (and, to a certain extent, humbled) by the story being woven out of thin air.

My writing ambitions received a bit of a boost this week with a shipment in the mail from The Goulet Pen Company, an awesome company that sells fountain pens, inks, paper, and tons of other supplies.

My first shipment from Goulet Pens.

My first shipment from Goulet Pens.

I received an Ahab Flex Nib pen by Noodler’s Ink, along with five ink samples as part of their monthly “Inkdrop” subscription. I’ve just filled the pen with my favorite peacock blue ink, and whee! I am going to have fun working through the next set of scenes for THE GILDED CAGE.

Practicing my autograph with my new Ahab flex pen by Noodler's, filled with Pilot Iroshizuku's "Ku-Jaku" ink.

Practicing my autograph with my new Ahab flex pen by Noodler’s, filled with Pilot Iroshizuku’s “Ku-Jaku” ink.

 

With that, here’s how I’ve progressed over the last few days:

DISSERTATION:
I only worked one day this week (Tuesday), but I made a teeny bit of progress on the very-overdue-proposal. More to come tonight, and lots more tomorrow.

CREATIVE WRITING:
Writing happened on two days this week, for the grand total of 2 hours, which technically satisfies my goal. I’d like to transition to writing as close to every day as possible, though, but baby steps, etc. Because I’ve done some writing by hand, I’m not quite sure what my total word count is, but it’s probably somewhere around 2,500. Again: baby steps.

EXERCISE:
My mom and I went for a walk + a bit of jogging twice this week, so yay! This week I’d like to add in a 3rd day of working out on my glider, but we’ll see…

-oOo-

With that, I hope everyone has a wonderful week! So far mine is shaping up to be a quiet one, with Monday’s holiday, though I will be putting in a few extra hours at work to tackle a big project. But as we move closer to Thanksgiving, I have to say that I am so very, very grateful for this community. Be sure to swing by and give a word of encouragement or two to the other ROWers who are checking in this week!

 

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