Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: self-care (page 1 of 2)

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. ūüėõ

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!


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: Starting Fresh With Strength, Courage & Wisdom


January 7th marks the start of a new round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” For those of you looking for more information about the challenge, you can find it here.

I’m waving a wildly enthusiastic hello to all my old ROW80 friends, and offering the warmest of welcomes to all the new folks joining in on this round. This community is one of the most supportive and welcoming that I’ve found online, and is one of the reasons that I’m participating in my 7th (!!!!) round.

For anyone who may have missed my first post of the year, I’ve declared that 2013 will be my year to “stop the cray.” I’m pulling the plug on negative thinking, nasty energy, and all the habits that cause me to sabotage my own success.

To aid me on this journey, I’m blasting my anthem song for the year, “Strength, Courage, and Wisdom,” by India.Arie. As she sings,

It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long but freedom is mine today
I’ve gotta step out on faith, it’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down but look what I have found

With a little strength, courage, and wisdom in my life, I’m launching myself towards two¬†giant goals for the year: (1) completing (at least) one novel¬†and (2) finishing the first draft of my dissertation.

I won’t lie. Just¬†typing¬†those giant goals makes me want to do this:

supernatural-shockBut if there’s anything I’ve learned with ROW80, it’s that identifying small, achievable goals goes a long way to helping me conquer seemingly insurmountable tasks. With that in mind, here are my overall goals for Round 1:


  • Finish dissertation proposal and have quarterly meeting with committee
  • Complete preliminary archival research at 4 out of 6 locations
  • Continue to write rough sketches of research memos based on collected data


  • Write 2-3 poems each week
  • Revisit TELL ME NO LIES and THE PEACOCK QUEEN; identify what needs to be tweaked/fixed/written in order to finish first drafts
  • Figure out Ultimate Editing Battle Plan (and which novel I feel like hanging out with–or if the answer to this question is “both”)


  • Write 1 ROW80 check-in post each Sunday, along with 2 non-ROW80 posts each week
  • Respond to all blog comments
  • Use weekends for catching up with Google Reader, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Visit 10 blogs each week to read, comment, and promote posts


  • Journal daily
  • Read 1 novel each week
  • Unplug when necessary

So there you have it, folks! Is everyone feeling rested and ready to go? Anything special y’all are looking forward to this year?

Tell me all about it in the comments, and be sure to swing by and wave hello to everyone else participating this round.

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While I’ve Been Away: A ROW80 Goals and Update Post

Sometimes we all need to slow down and unplug.

As many of you may have noticed, I’ve been pretty silent on the blogging and social media front over the last few months.

This year has been an intense one as far as my academic career is concerned. There’s been lots of success (earning my long-overdue MA degree, changing my dissertation topic, starting dissertation research, advancing to doctoral candidacy), but it’s taken most of my mental and emotional energy to make that success happen.¬†Add in a major move, settling in at my parents’ house, and lots of personal growth and change, and you have a sure-fire recipe for burnout.

Unplugging has also allowed me to enjoy some gorgeous San Francisco days.

Unplugging from social media and dropping my blog for a while was a huge help in giving me some space to hear myself think.

I have to admit, it felt good not to think about blog topics, or obsess over my site stats, or freak out about the ups and downs of my my Klout score. ¬†I did a little writing, but it was full-fledged pantsing–no worries over story structure or plotlines or character arcs, just pure, unbridled creation.

While I’ve been away, I’ve read many books, cuddled with my cat, visited with old friends, and took lots of time to sit and think. Even more exciting, I’ve returned to my “roots”: writing by hand, complete with vintage dip pens and ink. Nothing makes me feel more whole than having ink-stained fingers and a cramp in my hand from furious scribbling, and nothing makes my ideas flow faster or more furiously than a good brainstorm-by-hand.

The product of my last “brainstorm-by-hand.”

My respite has been good, and it has definitely been necessary. But there’s a downside about disconnecting: losing touch with all of my amazing friends.¬†I feel blessed to be part of a wonderful community, and I can’t wait until I can contribute once again.

With that said, I am delighted to take part in Round 4 of ROW80, a challenge and community that has a special place in my heart. Unlike Round 3, “the ROWnd that wasn’t,” I plan on being¬†much more present this time around. ūüėÄ


Day Job: Now that I’ve cleared all the administrative red tape, I’m officially “ABD,” or “all but dissertation.” The goal for this round is threefold: (1) continue my archival research, (2) keep reading and taking notes on secondary sources, and (3) start writing up short memos. By the end of the round, I will also need to complete a 25-page dissertation proposal based on the advice my committee provided in 2 hour grueling but enlightening meeting we had earlier this month.

Writing: There are a few things going on in the world of writing. October will be dominated by October Poetry Writing Month (or #OctPoWriMo), which I blogged about the other day. I’ll be posting 1 poem a day for a month over on my tumblr account, and linking to my favorites here on Flights of Fancy every Sunday.

October is also plotting and development time for NaNoWriMo, and I CANNOT contain my excitement. I’ve done a little work hammering out the beginning and ending of the novel (steampunk/fantasy), and all I want to do is play with it.

I’m breaking down my writing goals by month:

  • October: Write 1 poem each day, and brainstorm the NaNo novel for 1 hour each day.
  • November:¬†Write 1667 each day or die trying.
  • December:¬†Finish PATH TO THE PEACOCK THRONE.

Exercise:¬†I’ll be walking 4-5 miles a day, 4-5 days each week. If I am feeling particularly ambitious, I may even throw in an at-home Pilates routine as well. Simple, but effective.

Social Media: Okay, this has been my Achilles heel for months, but I think if I start small, I can work my way up to being a social media powerhouse (in my dreams, maybe). I want to do the following:

  • Blog 2-3 days/week
  • Comment/like/retweet 2 blog posts each day
  • Visit 10 ROW80 blogs each week

Self-Care:¬†If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that I can’t tackle any of my goals if I’m not taking care of myself. This means that I’m carving out 1 hour each day for myself to use for journaling, free-writing, and meditation. Having a little space will go a long way towards maintaining my mental, spiritual, and emotional health. (I think my Very Lazy Cat, Napoleon, approves of this plan.)


So that will (hopefully) be my Round 4! I’m looking forward to diving in and getting things done, and getting to know all of¬†you. Swing by and wave a friendly hello to all of the other Round 4 participants here. ūüėÄ

ROW80: Embracing New Beginnings, and Banishing the Doubt Monster

If I had a brain scan taken right now, I think it would resemble one of those houses on an episode of¬†Hoarders:¬†piled high with junk, all discombobulated, disorganized, and frightening. July has sped past me with all the zipping and zooming of a bullet train, and I’m not¬†quite sure when I have to show for it.

A photo from one of my fun day trips: The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Marin. (Photo taken by the author)

One of the causes of this mental disorganization of course stems from the craziness of moving and settling back in. I’ve adjusted to being home with family fairly easily — maybe a little¬†too easily. There have been all sorts of lunches and dinners out, day trips to fun places, and other activities and outings going on. All this social time has been wonderful, but it’s been eating away at my quiet time. As many of you introverts will know, that quiet time is darned essential, and so I need to do a better job at setting boundaries for myself.

To make things even better, the Doubt Monster has been lurking around for the last few weeks, accompanied by his cronies Irrational Fear and Angst. This means that writing, both creative and academic, has been an agonizing process. Words are wrangled onto the page with back-breaking effort, most of them get deleted, then replaced with approximately the same level of pain. My rapidly approaching (and expiring) deadlines have done little to kick my butt into gear, which in turn brings back the Doubt Monster in all his wonderfully doubting glory, and the cycle begins again.

But it is August 1st! This means that it is time for renewed energy and new beginnings. Better yet, I have decided that it is time to banish the Doubt Monster and his posse into some galaxy far, far away so that I can clean up my mental house and get things in order.

August 1st is also the start of CampNaNoWriMo, which I (of course) decided to tackle in a moment of wild idiocy (supreme overconfidence?). I toyed with the idea of pulling out, but part of me thinks that the forced focus might actually be good for me. To make my life a little easier, I’ll be working on STRANGE BEDFELLOWS, my somewhat-erotic romance that is already 15k long. An outline sort of dropped into my lap, fully-formed and shiny, a couple of months ago, so I’ll be using that as my guide.

My itemized list of things accomplished/not accomplished will be posted on Sunday, but until then I leave you with this picture of my cat, Napoleon. I like to think of him as my mascot in all things associated with lazy, and a welcome reminder that a little rest and relaxation in the midst of all our busy time.

Napoleon, the Little Corporal of All Things Lazy

Practicing Stillness

When was the last time that you stood still and did absolutely, positively nothing? When I say “nothing,” I mean it: no talking, no reading, no surfing the web, no mental planning and prepping and worrying.


How often do you stop just to enjoy the world around you? (Photo credit: Emdadi)

If you had asked me a week ago, I’m not sure I could have thought of an answer. Oh, sure, every once in a while I’ll head to the beach or relax on the deck to catch a few rays. On occasion, I’ve even been known to venture outside at night, sip hot chocolate, and stargaze, but those occasions are far and few between.

On a normal basis, I think I operate like most people: I spend my days doing. I measure my life by the number of items I can check off the daily to-do list, by the words I am able to write, by the assignments I grade for the day job, hell, even by the achievements I can accrue in my favorite video games. Real, true stillness is something that doesn’t exist in my vocabulary.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been living in warp speed: defending my MA thesis, grading wave after wave of papers, weathering finals week and the end of the quarter, followed by glutting myself on fun and games and sightseeing over spring break and the start of the new quarter. I had one day of psuedo-downtime planned for myself — a Monday that would be “catch-up” day to tackle email, reading for class, and some writing if I was lucky — but I never quite made it that far. My body, it seems, had other ideas.

My tumble off-the-grid was completely unintentional, the byproduct of a short, but nasty, bout with food poisoning. It didn’t seem¬†so bad at first. Yeah, okay, there was the expected nausea and dizziness, but it sorta felt like a migraine, and I’ve worked through those before. But oh, ohhhh. It just got worse.

The thing is, I don’t do sick. I refuse to let most colds keep me down, pushing my way past them to at least read or write or tackle something. I thought I might be able to do the same with this. Like, maybe if I just showered and brushed my teeth, I’d be good as new. Right?


There was nausea and dizziness if I so much as lifted my head from the pillow. There were intense muscle aches and chills just from breathing, it seemed. And of course, there were the *other* symptoms brought on by my body’s attempts to rid itself of the yuckiness. Blech.

So, no, I couldn’t read for class, and I couldn’t “relax” by playing video games, at least for the first couple of days. Listening to music became too much for me to handle, and ditto on watching television.

Instead, I sat (or, rather, huddled) in bed. I did absolutely nothing, not by choice, but because I really couldn’t… and it was actually an amazing experience, if we ignore the whole “being miserable” part. For three days, I let myself just be, allowed my body to recuperate and repair itself, and let go of all the stress and worry that had been plaguing me.

It is striking for me to realize that the only time I give myself permission to “indulge” in the joys of stillness is when I’m too sick to function, and I get the feeling that I’m not the only one. It doesn’t seem fair, really. We spend so much of our time doing for others, and it’s so easy to let ourselves fall by the wayside.

What would it be like if we took even a little time out of each day to recharge and wallow in laziness? Just 10 or 20 minutes to be quiet and tranquil, to turn off the computer and television and radio (yes, sometimes I run all 3 at the same time) and just let our minds wander? We’d be healthier for it, I think, and maybe even have a chance to savor all of the joys that we have a little more deeply.

What do you do to recharge and regroup? What are your favorite places or times of the day to practice stillness?


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Waving Goodbye to 2011

This is a bit of an unscheduled post, but I spent most of the week running myself ragged and fighting a cold (the cold, sadly, has won), and I haven’t had the chance to blog in a few days. I’m closing out 2011 much in the same way that I ushered it in: curled up in bed, pajama-clad and sneezing. This year, however, my ¬†cold is waning, and I’ll hopefully make a full recovery by the beginning of the week. In an effort to feel a little less lame, I am blasting Britney Spears and quaffing glasses of sangria (a gal’s gotta find a way to feel a little festive, right?).

2011 In Review

Marking the turn of the year is always a time of introspection for me, and I know I’m not alone in that. In so many ways, though, 2011 has been a decidedly odd twelve months. Because of the academic trajectory that I’ve been on over the years, I’m used to feeling like I’m on an escalator flying upwards. Each year brings a set of challenges and benchmarks for me to tackle and to overcome, and at the end, I almost always have a list of successes to tally: important academic achievements, conference talks, and other such things. I won’t lie — I’m an overachiever, and I hoard those little accomplishments the way a miser collects coins.

This past year, though, has been different. I declared that this would be a non-conference year (I’ve presented on at least two panels over the last 3 years) so that I could have more time to focus on my research. At the same time, the thesis dragged on much longer than I anticipated. Without having the thesis finished, I haven’t been able to move forward in my grad program, and so I’ve felt a little like a plane circling around and around in an endless holding pattern, just waiting for the signal from the control tower to swoop down for a victorious landing.

On a personal level, I’ve had my share of ups and downs as well. I started the year with loss, as my boyfriend of almost two years and I broke up during Thanksgiving 2010. I don’t think I quite realized the emotional stress I would experience, especially given that he was, in essence, my first love and my first relationship. I spent six months fighting back unexpected waves of anger, which of course gave way to bitterness and sadness and grief and a whole host of other things that I’d rather not feel.

The highlight of the last year has been my writing. I began 2011 wringing my hands and lamenting that I would never find a good idea ever again, that I would be doomed to be without words¬†for the rest of my days. Somehow, through a combination of hard work, unexpected strokes of inspiration, the support of some wonderful communities, words have returned to me. Between two NaNo events and ROW80, I’ve written well over 100k on various projects, which is more than I’ve written since maybe 2008 or 2009. I finally feel like I have a foundation¬†for building work that is far more mature than anything I’ve tackled before, stories and tales that reflect who I am, and where I am, today.

Looking Forward to 2012

2012 is all about change.

With school, I’m on schedule to finish my coursework by June 2012, and to advance to PhD candidacy sometime during the summer, as I close out my 4th year of graduate school. This means that my chapter in Santa Barbara will be coming to an end. I’m fully-funded for my 5th year (huzzah for small miracles), and so I’ll be moving back in with my parents, where I’ll stay for a year or two to write and finish my dissertation. I’ve been waiting a long, long time for this, and it’s scary and exciting and wonderful all at once. I have six months left in SB, and I hope to make the most of it.

More immediately, I’m marking a major milestone in February — the big Quarter-Century Birthday. Given that I spent most of my teen years wishing that I was 35 years old with a husband, family, and a career, I’m not scared¬†to get older… but twenty-five is kind of a big deal, and it’s the sort of birthday that gives me pause. I am mostly on track with the Life Schedule I made for myself in high school (yes, there really is a spreadsheet with my life goals between 18 and 30 sitting on my hard drive), though I feel a strange need to treat this birthday with some form of reverence, or something.

One of the things that has become clear to me during my holiday break is that I need to get back to being me. This is a quest I will be talking about at length over the next few months, but the bottom line is that I’ve dropped a lot of things that I’ve loved since I got to grad school. Writing was one, and I’m delighted to have that back, but there are a host of other things that I’ll be working to re-integrate into my life.

So with that in mind, here’s my somewhat-random list of things I want to tackle in 2012:

  • Get a tattoo (or three). I’ve been nursing the idea of getting inked for over a year now, since my break-up, but I wanted to hold off so that I was sure that I wasn’t going through a rebellious phase. But I’ve figured out what I want (an art nouveau-inspired peacock, plus a couple of quotes), where I want it (a quote on each forearm, and the peacock on the back of my left shoulder), and the artist (Siri, a former illustrator who works at Black and Blue Tattoo in San Francisco, and did this amazing peacock). My first will hopefully be a quote from A.S. Byatt’s POSSESSION: “Words have been all my life.”¬†
  • Finish a novel. I suck at finishing things, just for the record, and I want this to be the year when I finally stop sucking at it. I have 2 partly-finished WIPs that need some tender-loving-care, and I’m going to make sure that they get enough of it so that I can have at least one¬†completed draft to my name.
  • Stop being so scared of love. I think I’ve healed up from my last break-up, but I have been reminded that I’ve sorta sealed myself off like some uber-fragile object, all encased in bubble wrap and styrofoam peanuts and other forms of insulation. My best friend’s aunt, who is quite adept at reading people, has told me that I have been “too much alone,” and it’s true — living in my happy fantasy worlds with my lovely made-up characters is endlessly entertaining, and means that I don’t have to worry about getting my heart stomped on. So I’m not saying that I’m going to be hunting down a boyfriend, but I am¬†saying that I am not averse to the possibility of one somehow landing… nearby.

Better yet, I’m thrilled to have another year of blogging, socializing, and supporting all of my online friends. I’m looking forward to another round of ROW80, which starts on Monday (get your engines revved, people!), to jumping into the 50/50 Challenge (reading 50 books and watching 50 films in 2012), and all the other magical, unexpected surprises that will crop up along the way.

Happy New Year, friends!

ROW80: The Best Laid Plans…

I’m a little confused how Wednesday got here so quickly. Weren’t we all just checking in, like, yesterday? This week seems to be careening forward, but I’m okay with that, since it means that the weekend is all the closer. ūüėÄ

The past few days has been a mixed bag of highs and lows.First, The Good:

  • Had an incredible Sunday that somehow fulfilled all my mind, body, heart, and spirit needs. It started with a great morning at church with my colleague and friend, Megan, followed by shopping at the Farmers’ Market, and, finally, 4 hours of studying and gabbing on the beach. To illustrate:

My worksite of choice.

  • I’m close to being finished with the chapter of my thesis that I’ve been working on since, er, July. It is over 7000 words long, which seems so darn short for the amount of time I’ve labored over it (and given how much will need to be overhauled in the final draft), but I’m proud of it nonetheless.
  • I have a ROWsista! Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, my fellow academic, writer, and Round 3 veteran, has agreed to team up for this round. We are going to keep each other accountable, and have lots of fun in the process.

The Bad (because, sadly, you knew it was coming):

The migraine that I thought I vanquished Saturday night with my usual remedy (an Excedrine migraine pill, followed by 8 hours of sleep) came back with a vengeance Sunday night, after the aforementioned Day of Bliss. The migraine refused to retreat until late Monday night, and was bad enough that I skipped my morning Monday class, and had to suffer through my afternoon class feeling super gross and nauseous.

I was back to normal this morning, but of course the whole episode threw off my carefully-wrought schedule. ¬†It also called into sharp relief, once again, the fact that I need to make sure that I’m taking care of myself. I never had a migraine till I got to grad school, and I’m almost 100% certain that migraines are the way that my body responds when I’m stressed, worried, and underslept.

This means that I need to finish my schoolwork by 7 pm¬†at the absolute latest. It also means that I need to cook myself dinner. I started off really strong last week, and then sort of tapered off to the point where I was, er, munching on cookies in the evening and calling it a meal. ¬†And this also means that I need to make sure that I’m in bed by 11 pm, and/or taking midday naps when I need them.

To tackle during the rest of the week:

  • Exercise. I’ve slacked off on this over the past two days, so I’ll need to hop on my glider every day for the rest of the week to make up for it.
  • Thesis stuff. I promised the draft of this latest chapter to my advisor by the end of the week, so I need to make this a priority.
  • Writing. I used my writing time today and yesterday to write more flash fiction, this time for Glitterlady’s weekly Tuesday Tales. The resulting story, “The Dark Prince,” was a fun distraction, but now I need to get back to prepping for NaNo.
  • Reading. I am still¬†at the start of Book 3 in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever¬†series, and it is driving me wild. For all you KMM fans out there, I highly suggest checking out the extra scene she’s posted — a steamy scene told from Barrons’ POV. It’s NSFW, of course, but well worth your time. ūüėČ
Finally, stuff to look forward for on Sunday:
  • Blog awards!
  • News about an awesomely amazing, totally wonderful NaNo support group that Em and I are currently plotting.
And with that, I’m off to bed. Happy Hump Day, all!

The End of Summer: A Recap

I’ve survived the first week of school, and October is looming before me, cinnamon and pumpkin-scented, filled with the promise of chilly, cozy nights and the inevitable march towards winter.

I really wish leaves on trees changed color where I live. Autumn leaves are so beautiful!

I’ve been a bit remiss when it comes to blogging, responding to comments, and making the rounds through my Google reader, but with my mom in town for a week and a half, and the various challenges related to packing, moving, and doing lots of traveling and sight-seeing, I suppose I was being a little ambitious, thinking I could maintain the approximately three million things I took on over the summer.

Certain things fell by the wayside this month: the awesome Dice Games flash fiction challenge that I had planned on tackling; visiting my fellow #writecampaigners on a regular basis; editing and rewriting TELL ME NO LIES. On the other hand, I’ve had the chance to visit with friends and family, including my mom, my younger sister, and other extended family members.

At any rate, October is almost here, and with school is full swing, I’m reevaluating everything that I have on my plate. I can’t quite give anything up; I refuse to go another semester without writing, and social media and blogging is something that nourishes me in a way that nothing else can. I’ve come to depend on the community and the connections that I’ve made over the past few months, and I don’t plan on walking away from it any time soon.

Instead, what I’ll be doing is retooling the way that I approach my various responsibilities. I’m using Google calendar to create a detailed schedule for myself,¬†setting aside time for writing and social media, time to deal with the mountain of reading I have for class, time to work on my thesis, and time to prep for the sections that I have to teach.

I’m also rethinking how I tackle blogging. While I like the themed days I’ve been trying out over the past few weeks, I think I’m going to have to scale back a bit, at least until l can build up a decent queue of posts. Right now the pace of trying to write and edit daily is way more than I can conceivably handle, so the plan for the moment will consist of ROW80 updates, and one or two extra posts in addition. ¬†We’ll see how it goes!

In the meantime, many fun things have happened in the past weeks. To recap:

Blog Awards!

My fellow ROWer, Em, over at Loves to Read, Wants to Write, as well as Miho Li (who I know from the writecampaign), both awarded me the Versatile Blogger. Sorry for taking so long to announce and link back, you two!

I won’t bore everyone with another list of 7 random things, but I will link back to my original post of randomness.


Writing Challenges

The 2nd challenge for the Writers’ Campaign was a doozy, one that asked us to use lots of obscure words that I haven’t seen since my SAT prep days, but overall, it was pretty enjoyable.

My entry is “Imago, Shattered,” and one day if I ever have the time, I am going to expand the scene. There’s much more that happens between Robert and Tessa that I couldn’t pack into 200 words.

I also entered Jenny Hansen’s “Dirty Fighting” contest, where we had to write a 150 snippet using any of the 23 Dirty Fighting Techniques she shared on More Cowbell (I encourage everyone to check out the list. It’s a fantastic resource for building tension in your writing).

My entry, along with 2 others, were chosen for an on-screen edit by none other than the Naked Editor herself, Tiffany Lawson Inman. Tiffany took my little drabble of a tale and kicked it up fifteen notches — so. darn. awesome. Check out the original top 3 entries, as well as Tiffany’s mark-ups¬†— I learned a ton from all of her comments.

Rock the ROW!

Round 4 of A Round of Words in 80 Days begins next Wednesday, October 5th. To celebrate the general awesomeness of everyone who has been involved, will be involved, or has supported those who have participated, we are throwing a full-scale, 24 hour long Twitter party. Here are the details, via Jenny Hansen:

  • Theme: ‚ÄúRock the Row‚ÄĚ
    However you want to work that in is great. I leave it to your outrageously creative imagination!
  • Date:¬†October 5th, 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM ET in the U.S.
    This also happens to be the first day of check-in so there should be a ton of ROW80 fun happening around the blogosphere.
  • Party will be held at the #ROW80 hashtag.
    Fire up your Tweet Deck or HootSuite and let’s get jiggy with it.
  • Photo Competition:
    You can start now…we won’t tell. Start digging for or taking photos that reflect the theme. We’ll do our best to gather them and decide on the best to spotlight in a post at the ROW80 blog. One the readers vote, the 1st place winner gets a copy of Kait Nolan’s latest book, Red, in e-book format!!
  • Friendly Blog Competition
    We will also post a mash-up of favorite ROCK THE ROW posts at the Row80 blog.

For my writing friends who haven’t jumped onto the ROW80 bandwagon, I encourage you to do so. The folks who are apart of this community are some of the most supportive I’ve ever met, and there’s nothing better than having a built-in cheerleading squad, especially as November inches closer. I credit ROW80 with helping me break out of a very long, very painful period of writer’s block, and I can’t wait for Round 4 to start. I’ve got some goals that I’m eager to share. ūüėÄ

How’s everyone doing? Are you ready for autumn, or hanging on desperately to summer? (I’m part of that latter category, in case you hadn’t noticed. :p)

Thesis Thursdays: Back-to-School Beatitudes

For this week’s edition of Thesis Thursdays, I’m changing gears for a bit. ¬†Sadly, I’m pushing aside poor Emily once more, but with the start of my school year rapidly approaching, I wanted to share this article that I found from The Crunk Feminist Collective, one of my favorite blogs that tackles issues surrounding academia, race, feminism, and social consciousness.

Although the article, “Back-to-School Beatitudes: 10 Academic Survival Tips,” is directed towards women in academia, I think the overall tips can apply to everyone who is struggling and striving to juggle multiple responsibilities without having a meltdown. ¬†As the school year rapidly approaches, I’ve been pondering these tips, and they way that I want to enact them in my own life.

I recommend checking out the whole post, but the 10 tips, along with my commentary, are below:

1. Be confident in your abilities.

Regardless of our passions and professions, it’s easy to be bogged down by fears of inadequacy. ¬†My own internal voice is incredibly insidious. Sometimes it whispers lies about how I’ll never finish my MA thesis or be good enough to find a job; other times, it tells me that I’m a horrible writer, that I’ll never complete a novel or get my work published. That little voice also preys on my self-image¬†and likes to tell me that I’m not pretty enough, or skinny enough.

Lately, I’ve taken to countering that voice with a constant mantra of “I know I can, I know I can,” like The Little Engine that Could. It almost feels infantile, that non-stop repetition, but it serves to keep the demons at bay.

2. Be patient with yourself.

I have high ambitions for myself, and yet I always have to remember that I won’t accomplish them in a single attempt. ¬†In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell presents his “10,000 hour rule“: in order to do succeed, he argues, we need to devote at least 10,000 hours to honing, practicing, and sharpening our skills.

If Gladwell is correct, that means it’ll take years, if not a lifetime, to fully develop our talents. ¬†If that’s the case, I can’t expect myself, or my work, to be perfect. ¬†I also can’t beat myself up every time I say something less-than-stellar during seminar, or write an article that’s a bit of a dud and isn’t accepted to the journal of my choice, or stumble a bit in my quest for global dominance¬†achieving success as a novelist.

I also have to remind myself that it takes time to develop an idea. ¬†I’ve been joking that writing a thesis is, to a certain extent, similar to writing a novel: both projects tend to morph and evolve in directions that one doesn’t really expect, and both require a certain amount of “brewing time” in order to work out the kinks in plot, structure, or theoretical/analytical framework. We have to learn to get comfortable with those periods where we’re not actively producing, because even then, we’re working.

3. Be your own best advocate. Prioritize your own (professional) needs/goals.

One of the most important lessons I learned in junior high was the power of being perseverance. As Mr. C, my 8th grade homeroom teacher told me, “If you want something, Lena, you’ve gotta go out and get it yourself. You have to be prepared to fight for what you want, otherwise you’ll never get it.”

In this case, the magical unicorn that I was fighting for was a list of privileges for the 8th grade class that included bathroom breaks and class sweatshirts (ah, the innocent days of my youth), but the advice still applies.¬†No one is going to deliver our goals on a silver platter. We’ve got to chase them.

4. Be kind to yourself.

I love this one, because I find that it’s much easier for me to be unkind to myself. That niggling voice of doubt is incredibly powerful, telling me that I don’t deserve to take time off, that I should be ashamed because I had a rather large slice of chocolate cake after dinner, or that I’m not really¬†a scholar, because I haven’t published in X-journal, like my other colleagues have. ¬†But as Jami Gold wrote in a recent post, we have to give ourselves permission to mess up, to fail, to chase our dreams, and to have a breather now and then.

5. Be proactive about self-care.

I ignored self-care for a long time in grad school, and wondered why I was getting struck down with horrible migraines every few weeks. Turns out that sleep is useful, as well as a means to manage stress. ¬†Writing is my outlet, but I’ve found that I need to find other ways to take care of myself, like going outside and getting some sunshine, taking time out to meditate and go to church, spending time with friends, or just taking a mid-day nap when I feel sleepy.

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