T: Amazing Husband ST: Three-year-old Wonder Prof. G: Advisor I Prof. C: Advisor II Julie: Stylish Sister Rob: Awesome Brother Belle: Our Cat Bill: Grumbling BIL Rita: Uncomplicated SIL SMU: Smallish Midwestern University Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
My ideal blog would be 1/3 academia (boring dissertation news, other professional information), 1/3 family (how great T and ST are), and 1/3 food (recipes, recommendations, nutrition information). I have considered starting a new blog after I finish the dissertation, a blog where I could be true to this ideal form, which covers a lot of what makes me who I am. I think I've decided against it (although the new blog's name would have been super-cute), and so for now you'll just have to indulge my occasional recipe sharing.
I love to cook, as you know, but truth be told I'm not into fancy food. I don't read Gourmet or Saveur, for example, because I know I won't make anything containing the word "seviche" or any ingredients I cannot find at my local supermarket. I want food I can make any day of the week, food that my entire family will eat (usually not a problem, given ST's love of anything edible), and food that I'd recommend to non-cooks. Most of my recipes come from the cookbooks I collect, my family/friends, the internet, or a few cooking magazines I subscribe to: Cooking Light (subscription lapsed, but I have tons of old issues to read), and my all-time absolute favorite magazine ever, Everyday Food. I also head to Barnes and Noble now and again to read Cuisine At Home, Cook's Country or Cook's Illustrated. I've also been influenced a lot lately by the book Superfoods Rx, which I read on the way to New Town during our last visit. I'm trying to incorporate the Superfoods into our diet in every meal I make (although I despise salmon, no matter how hard I try to like it and no matter how it's prepared).
Here are a few recipes ST and I particularly enjoyed today. I list the original recipe first, and then give my alterations in the "Notes" section.
Pumpkin Dip (for Apples)
3/4 cup (6 oz.) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 cup canned pumpkin 2 tsp. maple syrup 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon Approx. 24 apple slices (about 4 apples)
Allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature. Combine it, the brown sugar, and pumpkin in a medium bowl and beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well-blended. Add the syrup and cinnamon and beat until combined. Serve with apples.
NOTES:make sure the cream cheese is really at room temperature, otherwise it takes forever to smoothly incorporate into the pumpkin. We've been keeping this dip in our refrigerator for the past week, and it is heavenly on a crisp, cold slice of Granny Smith apple. It's a perfect anytime snack. If you like pumpkin pie and apple pie, this is a relatively healthy merging of both.
Cheesy Tomato Risotto
4 tbs. unsalted butter 1 small onion, chopped fine 1 carrot, diced 1 zucchini, diced 3/4 cup arborio rice (can use regular white rice) 1 (14 oz.) can chicken stock 1 (14 oz.) can chopped tomatoes (undrained) 1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add onion, carrot, and zucchini and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Add rice and stir to coat grains; add stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and return heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in cheeses and let stand. Serve topped with extra cheese, if desired.
NOTES:I find the onion in this recipe too overpowering, and so I only use about 1/4 cup of finely minced onion. I also omit the zucchini, since I don't like the texture, and I increase the carrot. I use Petite Diced* tomatoes, usually the kind pre-seasoned with oregano and garlic. I do not serve this with extra cheese, since I don't think it needs it. This is great served with chicken and a side of steamed broccoli, although ST and I regularly have it alone for lunch.
* ABDmom, I think you could handle this recipe if you used the "petite diced" tomatoes, since they eliminate the "squishiness" of regular cut tomatoes.
I don't really want to post, but I feel like I should to get back into the habit of writing for myself again. Lately, I've felt like the only writing I've been doing is for my advisors or for interested friends and relatives (e.g., house-hunting information, updates on ST) -- those things are fine, but they're not therapeutic for me. I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head these days that sometimes I forget how I'm feeling, and I forget that this blog is really just for me. I'm so busy sorting my life out for other people (advisors, T, ST, buyers of our house) that I've neglected myself.
The big news of my mini-(and interrupted)-hiatus is that I have a complete draft of the dissertation, and it was submitted to my advisors last night. Oddly, I don't feel good about this at all -- rather, I feel like I'm just waiting for an axe to fall, waiting for them to tell me that the work is no good. I'm at the point where even I cannot accurately assess the quality of the work. I'm tired of reading it, certainly tired of writing it, and tired of thinking about it. My neighbor, who is always sweet and thoughtful, came up to me today and hugged me and said, "Congratulations on finishing the draft!" She couldn't really understand why I wasn't thrilled -- not thrilled at all. Sure, I'm grateful that this "thing" is technically done, but it still feels very, very, very far from complete. I will feel better once my advisors have given me feedback, but to be honest I'm scared to death that the feedback will be bad.
I guess I just have to accept that if they hate it, they hate it, and they will tell me what to do to make it better. Honestly, I have no idea why I'm feeling so low about it all right now, but there it is. I mean, they've already seen over half of it and liked it, so I'm not sure where all of this anxiety is coming from. Maybe it's a bad dissertation. Maybe it's good. I don't know. But it's a finished dissertation, and that's all that matters right now.
No other news for you on Pond House. We've worked up the offer, but since T is anal-retentive he does not trust the home inspection contingency clause on the Offer to Purchase in Midwestern State (he doesn't think it protects the buyer enough, and gives too much leeway to the seller). He insists on being present when the home inspector goes through Pond House, which means rearranging his already complicated schedule to drive (by himself) five hours to New Town. He will not make an offer until the home inspection is done to his satisfaction. While I think this is good in the long run (T's anal-retentiveness is generally an admirable trait, but it does mean that it takes us ages to sign any contract for anything), it means that we won't make an offer for a few weeks, at least. Personally, I just want it all over and done with so I don't have to think about it anymore. I am tired of thinking about it.
Actually, I'm just tired of thinking, full stop.
My faith keeps me sane these days. I honestly believe that God would not have allowed me to come this far only to fall flat on my face now. I believe that I've been given millions of blessings and it is my responsibility in life to use them wisely. I am trying to do that. I am trying to accept that everything will work out in the end. However, it is harder to accept that everything will work out as God wants it to in the end, which may or may not be how I want it to work out in the end.
Tomorow is Wednesday, which means that I will get to spend the entire day with ST. I am thrilled about this, because it's time that I can fully concentrate on my wonderful little boy and not think about the craziness and uncertainty that surrounds me these days. We will spend lots of time outside in the sunshine, tend to our plants (ST's tomato plant has three tomatoes now!), make manicotti for supper (little fingers are surprisingly good at stuffing manicotti shells), and maybe even take a dip in our local pool. We'll practice writing the upper-case letters. We'll sing some new songs in German and learn a new nursery rhyme or two (although hearing ST recite "Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub" is funny -- he says the final line with such relish that he sounds like a bad actor at a Renaissance festival: "Turn them out! Knaves all three!"). Most of the time, however, we will just be.
Midwestern State House Hunters continues with the big decision (somehow, blogging about this and involving you in the process makes this seem so much more exciting than it probably really is).
Funky Waterfront House: we really liked this house, mostly because it had the Traditional elements to which we are always attracted. The neighborhood was fairly diverse (well, as diverse as a smallish Midwestern town can be), with a mixture of huge McMansions and older ramblers, all with well-maintained yards. The lake access was certainly a big draw.
We had an architect friend look at the house for us to see how expensive it would be to make the changes we'd want to make. Basically, this house is now out of the running because it would cost big dollars ($50,000+) to renovate it: the Jack and Jill bathroom would have to be completely torn apart in order to make it more functional, the laundry room is not configured properly for an oversized washer and dryer, and renovating the kitchen would be a massive project -- virtually nothing would be salvaged. All of that and the fact that the furnace (which is approximately the size of two refrigerators!) would likely have to be replaced in the near future made the decision to eliminate this house from consideration relatively easy. (Photo at left is of the crazy linoleum in the laundry room, and my cute new Keen Mary Janes.)
Boat Ramp House: I'm suprised none of you picked this house! It is a gorgeous place, a lovely blank slate on which we could put our own mark. But we ultimately decided against this house because 1.) the yard would cost a lot of money to get started, since it was basically all weeds; 2.) we were concerned about the possibility of a boat access expansion, which would probably eliminate the trees in the backyard; 3.) the house was really too similiar to what we have now, although the rooms were considerably larger; 4.) the builder was not going to budge at all on the price; 5.) the size of the dining room was a real disappointment to me, since we spend so much time in our kitchen/dining room; and 6.) it was new construction, which we had sort of decided against, and we knew that we would have construction going on around us for at least two years as the rest of the neighborhood developed. We've lived through that once, and it's a noisy, dusty time and not fun at all. (Photo at left is of amazingly huge bonus room -- it's larger than it appears in the picture. It was nice, but honestly -- what do you do with a room that size?! T is really not a fan of wasted space, and that's what this would be for us.)
That leaves us with only one choice:
Pond House. After our second visit to Pond House last Saturday, we both just felt "right" about it. A second and more in-depth examination of the kitchen convinced me that it didn't need a major overhaul -- just appliances, new flooring, and new cabinet hardware. Eventually I'd like to replace the countertops, but for now they are serviceable. The big expense at Pond House will be the bathrooms, which really are ugly. Everything works, however, and so we can wait to do a major renovation until at least next year. Until then, we can get creative with paint and shower curtains! The dining room is fantastic and huge (shown in photo at left, with hideous chandelier), and leaves me a massive wall on which to feature my cookbook collection, and the office has more space than I would know what to do with. Assuming we get this house, we would have the carpet replaced before we moved in -- that would do wonders to freshen it up. Overall, the biggest thing lacking in Pond House is a family: it is crying out for a family to come and live in it and make it a home again. Hopefully, we will be that family.
We have not put in an official offer yet, as T wanted to have the home inspected first (and he wants to be there for the inspection, so it might a few weeks given T's hectic schedule). But we did have a great conversation with the realtor (who is also the current owner of the property) and have already knocked the asking price down $10,000 because we did not use a buyer's agent. We're hoping to get an additional $5,000 off to put towards appliances and carpet. We didn't think the realtor/seller would budge on the price at all, but since he just bought a lakefront property for himself I imagine that he's thrilled at the prospect of getting Pond House off his hands, and to people he likes. The only reason this property is for sale now is because the realtor/seller found a lakefront home he could afford (they are ridiculously expensive). The realtor/seller and his family lived in Pond House for nine years -- his kids grew up there.
I am very excited about Pond House -- excited to make an offer, excited to get in and paint, excited to see how my furniture looks in a new space, excited for ST to run rampant with the neighbor kids (there are paths running through the woods between the houses -- kid paradise -- and the kids around Pond House are within a year of ST's age). I'm excited because T really, really loves this property, and since he doesn't yet have a job I'm glad he'll have something to look forward to as we move to Midwestern State. And I'm excited to share the transformation of Pond House with you all, if you'll indulge me! I hope we can make this deal work -- I don't want to lose this house (although it's in a price range that is not moving quickly). Stay tuned as House Hunters (God willing) becomes Design on a Dime!
I'm re-emerging from a fog tonight to share some news that has, in part, made the fog seem less dense and forboding. T, ST and I have decided on a house to make an offer on, and we're quite excited about it. We've done some pre-negotiating with the seller's realtor, and we're fairly confident that we can get the house if we want it.
House Hunters on HGTV is one of the few television shows I watch with any regularity. I love watching people go through the home-buying process, love making fun of their bad taste, love seeing their housing options, and really love seeing how they made the house they eventually bought a home. Here is my version of Midwestern State House Hunters:
Option 1. Funky Waterfront House This Traditional-style house was built in the 1970s and is one of the most interesting properties I've ever seen. The rooms are huge, but some are oddly-configured and the major working spaces (e.g., kitchen, bathrooms) need a lot of updating. The house had one owner, and her 1970s decorating tastes are all over the house: rainbow-striped wallpaper in one bedroom, psychedelic red and blue linoleum in the laundry room, cork board on one wall of another bedroom. The house is unique, though, and a true diamond in the rough. The basement is large, dry, and unfinished -- perfect for T's vision of a media room. The best feature of the house, however, is outside: it is on a sort of canal that leads right to a large lake. We could dock a boat right in our backyard and be on the lake within a minute. The lake access makes the price tag hefty and the property taxes high.
Option 2. Pond House I've talked about Pond House before, and we visited it again when we returned to New Town last weekend. As I mentioned earlier, Pond House is stuck in the 1980s and needs a lot of serious updates. The bathrooms are both hideous -- a brown tub in one and a gray tub in the other -- and the vinyl flooring in the kitchen is very dated. The outside of the house is also not a style we envisioned for ourselves. We typically prefer Colonial, Traditional, or Cape Cod style homes, and this one is definitely Contemporary. Nevertheless, this house has good bones and could be a real showstopper with some updating. The house sits on a wooded acre about 10 minutes outside of New Town. There is a clear five acre pond in the backyard, and songbirds galore. Because of the waterfront bonus and a recent assessment for city sewer, the taxes on this property are sky high. The price tag is also at the top of our budget.
Option 3. Boat Ramp House This house is in a new subdivision just blocks away from Pond House. It is new construction, and the style is Colonial. The house is lovely and has a lot of nice features, not the least of which is the cavernous bonus room over the 3-car garage. We liked all of the fixtures (e.g., dining room chandelier, faucets) and the colors for the carpet and tile. Another bonus is that the house has a huge (but not sodded) yard that backs onto the public boat access for yet another large area lake. Some of the downsides: it is a lot like our current house, so aside from the huge bonus room and an additional bedroom, we'd be moving into nearly the same configuration of rooms. Another downside is that the dining room is small, and I'm not sure our large dining room table (similar to this) would fit in it (and that table is my favorite piece of furniture, and so is non-negotiable). When we visited the house, we were excited to see the bright basement with egress windows, but dismayed to realize that the sump pump had failed and the basement floor was covered with two inches of water. The price is the same as Pond House, but the taxes are about 25% lower.
I have to pick up ST in a few minutes -- it's Wednesday, which is usually our day at home together but I had a bunch of stuff to accomplish this morniing and he won't be at daycare on Friday -- so this will be brief. Nothing too exciting to report, anyway.
Revisions are going well, but slowly. There aren't as many revisions as I thought (remember my advisors have already given me reactions to Chapters 1-5), but some of them are taking me a lot of time. I recall now why I hate revising: I get wedded to previous text and then sit and stare at my computer screen, praying that the right words magically appear without destroying the lovely words I'd already written. One good thing that has come of working with the text again, however, is that I'm rereading old case study chapters and thinking, "Man, did I actually write this? This makes sense!"
Just returned from a local public library, where I was typing an application form for T's Very Important Task. I hate to admit it, but it was kind of fun to work on a typewriter again. It also made me a little sad as I typed up the details of T's career: every time I typed to answer to "Reason for Leaving Job," it had to do with me. "Relocated so wife could attend Doctoral University." "Relocation to Midwestern State, where wife has accepted position on the faculty at Smallish Midwestern University." When I entered the library, I was feeling a bit bitter that I was doing his work, but I left the library remembering that I am the reason he has to do it.
We are gearing up for another trip to New Town this weekend, leaving on Friday morning. So far, I've set up appointments at seven different houses, including a revisit to Pond House. Pond House is annoying me at the moment because T and I go back and forth about buying it: it's lovely, it's expensive, the location is fantastic, it's too far away from other kids for ST, it would be fun to renovate and decorate, it needs too much work and will be too costly... I just wish I knew where we were going to live. Hopefully we'll see some good options. One is already intriguing to me: let's call it Nature Preserve House. Extensively updated on the inside, and a nature preserve is in the backyard. Granite countertops in the kitchen and Kohler fixtures are another bonus for me. We'll see.
Off to the post office and then to retrieve my sweet little boy.
As I was making dinner yesterday, the doorbell rang and an acquaintance of ours, "Susan," stood outside. She had come to drop off some papers for T, who is assisting Susan and her husband with some Important Business. I don't know Susan very well, but I do know that she's incredibly smart, witty, and is about to move to a new city five hours away where she will begin her dream job. Her husband is already there, having found a job in the new city several months ago.
I talked to Susan for a few minutes about her work, and about her impending move to the new job. Susan is an oncologist at Doctoral University Medical School. She does breast cancer research and is apparently very, very good at it; she's won several fellowships, has done research everywhere, and she was heavily recruited for her dream job. After chatting with her, I listened in a bit as she and T discussed the details of her Important Business. It's always interesting for me to listen to T when he's in "professional mode," using language reserved for the office and sounding so confident and knowledgable, answering complicated questions with ease.
Later that night, I retreated to my office to finish up revisions to a chapter I'd been working on and collecting important bits for my conclusion. I labored over a few paragraphs and re-did some of the figures to make them easier to read, and then I just stopped and thought, "What's the point of all of this?" I couldn't work anymore after that. I went to bed, feeling hollow.
I've always wanted to be the type of person who makes a difference. I've always wanted to help people, to make a contribution. And sometimes, as I sit in front of my computer and type up the results of my research, I feel like I'm not making a contribution at all. Sure, I'm making a contribution to my field, but it's not like I'm helping alleviate the horror of breast cancer or resolving complicated financial, legal, or business problems. No one's life (except mine) is going to be measurably better because of what I do. At least, I won't be able to point to a group of people and say, "These are the ones I worked for all those years."
I'm a social scientist. I study a small sub-group of people and the effects those people have on the lives of others and on the institutions of social life. (Those of you who actually know what my research is about realize that this is and incredibly vague statement!) I have friends who are social scientists about whose research I feel the same sense of emptiness: their research will have little impact on real life. And then there are social scientists like my friend Jared, who does amazing, policy-relevant research that has the potential to get to the heart of a major world problem (HIV/AIDS). After this dissertation is completed, I feel like I have to shift my research focus to something with a few more policy implications instead of pure academic implications.
Don't get me wrong: I like my research. I think it's important, and my advisors do, too. I'm sure there are implications for it that I cannot see; indeed, Prof. G. continually has to remind me that what I'm doing is relevant, that what I'm doing is a continuation of what he has spent his successful career doing. But right now, the research feels a little self-indulgent. I'm hoping that next year, when I have dozens of students waiting to hear from me, I'll feel like I'm actually contributing something real.
When I was six years old, I asked for a typewriter for Christmas. You know that feeling you get when you want something so terribly badly that all you can do is think about that thing, think about how your life would be so much better if you had it, and think about how you just might not be able to go on if you don't get it? That's how I felt about the typewriter. I can't even remember why I felt I needed a typewriter when I was six, but I do remember my collection of little notebooks, filled with my scribbles and six-year-old poems, and thinking how much better all of my "work" would look if it was neatly typed.
My parents did not disappoint me. My sister got a Barbie convertible that year, and I got a baby blue Brother children's typewriter and a stack of thin typewriter paper. When I think about pulling that heavy typewriter out of the box, I can still smell the typewriter ink as if it were yesterday. I can still hear my Grandma's voice in the background of the memory, saying, "Now, what is a little kid going to do with a typewriter?" And I remember Mom and Dad deflecting the comment for me so I wouldn't feel silly as my sister played with her Barbies.
I was disenchanted with the typewriter at first because I didn't know how to use it. I didn't know how to type, and even then the blank sheet of typewriter paper staring back at me made me panic, much as a blank computer screen makes me queasy now. But soon I became quite skilled at hunting and pecking (despite the fact that Mom tried to teach me the correct way to type) and I have a small collection of childish, typewritten stories and poems hidden in a box in my basement to show for it. (My very first poem began like this: "Could it be/ That I could see / An elephant / With a chimpanzee?" Heady stuff!)
When I was in seventh grade, I bought my grandfather's IBM Selectric II typewriter for $15.00. It was a beautiful, heavy machine that typed smoothly and corrected easily. Later, in ninth grade, I asked for a word processor for Christmas. Again, Mom and Dad did not disappoint, since by this time I spent nearly every moment writing short stories in spiral-bound notebooks. The word processor was amazing: there was a little screen that flipped up from above the keyboard, and I could see the words flash across it before the machine hammered them out onto paper. I used this word processor through my junior year in high school. At that time, I was the only student who typed her papers for class, and classmates nicknamed me "The Typewriter" because not only did I type a lot, but my handwriting also looked like a typewriter font.
I received my first computer (a Macintosh Classic II, with a Stylewriter printer) when I started my senior year of high school, an early graduation gift from my parents. The computer was exciting (the fonts, especially!) -- I spent a lot of time on it, although I can't remember what I was doing without the Internet -- but it wasn't the same as the old typewriters were. I didn't feel as committed to what I was writing, somehow, when I wrote on the computer. It was too easy to delete, too easy to rearrange sentences. I felt like I was more willing to settle for sub-par writing when I used my computer, because it was just so easy to change later. When I wrote on the typewriter, I thought everything through well in advance, mapped it out on notebook paper, and only started typing after I had a detailed plan.
I am thinking about this today because T's Very Important Task is almost complete. The last part of the VIT is to turn in a lengthy application, and the application will be rejected if it is not typed. On a typewriter. We do not own a typewriter anymore, and so I spent a few minutes this morning calling around to local libraries to see if anyone had one we could use. "Yes, we have one," a librarian told me this morning. "You'll be the first to use it in YEARS!" I will spend part of my Wednesday at a small library, painstakingly typing the application on an old IBM Selectric typewriter. In a strange way, I'm looking forward to it. After years of thinking about words as fleeting symbols on a bright computer screen that makes my eyes hurt, I'm eager to touch some real paper and tap out words, real words I have to think about before my fingers move.
We both have a positive attitude about nearly everything. My Mom is quite honestly the happiest person I know. She makes every day seem like it was tailor-made just for her (or me).
We both have a talent for making people feel good about themselves. We like to give compliments, and we mean them. We both make friends easily.
We both have happy marriages.
We are both committed to our faith, although she demonstrates hers much more actively than I do mine. I hope that, someday, I can be as active in church groups as she is.
We both hate to drive, and prefer the back seat when someone else is driving. We are also both petrified of interstate driving, since neither of us like to go fast (60mph makes me feel out of control).
Neither of us think stainless steel appliances look appropriate in a home kitchen.
We both enjoy doing laundry.
How I am not like my Mother:
She is extraordinarily thoughtful, and never misses a birthday or a special occasion. If I DO happen to remember a birthday, it's usually because my Mom reminded me of it two weeks prior. She also buys the perfect gift for every occasion every time. I struggle with gift-giving.
She is one of the most creative people I know. From quilting to painting to gardening, she has ideas I could never imagine. The only way I am more creative than she is is in cooking; she doesn't like to cook.
She cannot use the computer. I am attached to mine.
She never graduated from college.
She has never lived more than 100 miles from where she was born.
She always knows the right thing to say or the right way to react when she hears good news or bad news. I tend to fumble around for some cliche phrase, or not respond at all.
Things my Mother does that drive me nuts:
In a phone conversation, she sometimes has a tendency to give me pointless details about things I don't care about. For example, she recently talked for 20 minutes about the four houses my aunt and uncle did not buy.
She is neurotic about money, as I've written about before.
Things I do that drive my Mother nuts:
I tend to distance myself from certain family members, mostly my aunts (her sisters) because I honestly don't feel too close to them. I try, but we don't always click.
I hate having my routine disrupted, and so attending family events (e.g., my brother's graduation) is something she feels she has to force me to do.
One word that I'd use to describe my Mother:
One word that I'd use to describe myself:
What my Mother received for Mother's Day from her eldest daughter (me):
A card and a handmade (not by me) bracelet. (I'm sure she received something totally extravagant from my sister Julie.)
What I received for Mother's Day from my only son:
Two new laundry baskets (a running joke between T and me, and something I honestly wanted) and new lipstick (which I needed but hate to buy because that would require shopping, which I don't like doing).
As we left New Town last weekend, we drove by ST's future preschool. He'd seen pictures of the place before and seemed excited about it, especially after he saw the big playground in the back. We've been telling him that when we move to New Town, he could start going to preschool with the other Big Kids. He asks me nearly every day if we're moving to New Town soon, and I always tell him that it will be in the summer, when it gets really hot.
Last night, before we put ST to bed, he asked us if he'd be going to daycare the following morning. We told him that yes, he'd be going, but that Friday was his last day at daycare before the weekend. He loves Friday, as he knows it's pizza day at daycare and that when Friday's over, Saturday waits for him in all of its stay-in-your-pajamas-and-watch-cartoons glory.
This afternoon when I went to pick ST up from daycare, he pretended I wasn't there. Usually, he runs up to hug me and kisses my face, but not today. He was engrossed in some new toy car. I gave him a few minutes to finish playing and then got his backpack and shoes ready for him, as usual. He would not come. I went after him, pretending to play a little game with him, but when he saw me holding his backpack he screeched, "I don't want to go home, Mom! I want to stay here with Lauren!" (Lauren is one of his daycare providers.) He was crying really, really hard, almost like he was afraid of me. This went on for twenty minutes -- each time I tried to gently reach for him, he would scream and cling to Lauren. Lauren was shocked by his behavior. Finally, Lauren told me to act as if I was leaving. ST did not budge. I even went out to my car and waited to see if he would act concerned. Nope. Lauren finally managed to get his shoes on an coax him out the door. As soon as she left his side, however, he screamed for her again, crying hysterically.
Naturally, I was concerned at this point (well before it, actually). This has NEVER happened before. He screamed all the way home (just a few blocks; I drove because it was raining). He initially refused to get out of the car, and was yelling at me, "Take me back to Lauren! I don't want to be here!" When he did get out of the car, he literally bolted out of the garage and started running down the sidewalk, straight for Lauren's house. He was almost a full block away when I caught up with him (he's FAST!), and I had to carry him literally kicking and screaming all the way back to our house.
We got inside and I set him down. I was so disturbed by his behavior that I literally could not talk to him. So I left him on the stairs to take his shoes off and went to the kitchen to compose myself. I noticed that I couldn't hear him. I went downstairs to discover that he had unlocked the patio doors (glass slider and screen door) and was running away toward Lauren's house again! He has never "escaped" like this. Never. When I brought him home this time, he just cried and cried, leaning his head against the tile around the fireplace. He would not talk to me, did not want to be cuddled -- he wouldn't even let me wipe his nose.
I stayed there with him, not talking, just listening to my little boy cry his heart out. He's not much of a crier, so I knew something was really, really wrong. I turned the television on, something I don't usually do, and tried to find something that would capture his attention. He finally sat down next to me, still sobbing heavily.
"Are you ready to talk to me?" I asked him. He nodded. "What's going on today? Why are you so sad?"
He snuggled up to me a little. "Today was my last day at Lauren's," he said. "Tomorrow I will go to preschool." He told me that he was sad that he wouldn't see Lauren again, and that he didn't want to sell our house and move to New Town. In my rush to explain things to him, I somehow forgot that a preschooler has no conception of time, and that "in the summer" might very well mean "tomorrow." When I told him that today was his "last day" at daycare, he thought I meant "last day" forever, and not just for the week. He was completely confused and so, so sad.
I hugged him and told him that we wouldn't be moving for a long time, and that he would return to Lauren's house on Monday morning after a few days with Mom and Dad.
Getting down to the wire here dissertation-wise, and I still have a crazy amount of work to do. I started revisions last week but didn't get very far, and now I'm working on Chapter Three, which is the most revision-heavy of all eight chapters. My goal is to finish the revisions by Tuesday of next week, and then set down to the task of writing the conclusion (which I am not looking forward to in the least). We are probably heading back to New Town next Friday to continue the house-hunt, and I'd love to have a full draft I'm satisfied with by that time. We'll see.
In non-dissertation-related news, T told his employer on Tuesday that he's leaving. The reaction was far better than he anticipated, and he expects that they'll let him stay on through the summer if he wants to. That made him happy, and he now also feels more free to continue his search for a job in Midwestern State. (He has one lead that, if it works out, will be more evidence of the Divine in our lives than our neighbors buying our house.) At any rate, it's nice not to feel like we're hiding something from people we care about.
And finally, a bit of wisdom from ST I forgot to share: on Sunday, as we were making the five-hour trek home from New Town, ST kept calling out from the back seat, "Hey, Dad! Dad! DAD! Look at me! Look what I'm doing!" T explained to ST that he was driving and couldn't turn around to look. ST persisted. Finally, I turned around and said, "ST, Dad cannot look at you right now because he's driving. Do you see all of these semis around us? If Dad doesn't pay attention to the road, we could crash into one of them." ST's reply: "Oh, that's OK Mom. Our Honda has airbags."
Yesterday afternoon none of the meals I had written out on my weekly meal plan (which I used to post each Sunday, but I've been lazy about it) looked terribly appealing or fun to make, and so I decided to surf the web for some inspiration. I remembered that BrightStar had recently engaged in some tasty dinner blogging, and after looking at her recipe and realizing that I had all of the ingredients on hand, I decided to make "Chicken and Ziti Bake."
It was delicious. My alterations: I shredded the chicken (and used a bit more than 1/2 lb.), I used petite diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes, I used whole-wheat penne pasta, and I used oregano, garlic, and basil instead of Italian Seasoning (which is a little too heavy on the rosemary for my tastes). I used the recommended amount of cheese. I also added fresh parsley on the top, and served it with a green salad and garlic bread. It was quite good, and T was thrilled that there were plenty of leftovers to take to work this morning. Even ST had two big helpings!
This was an easy recipe, satisfying, and attractive. It also didn't use any "strange" ingredients, so perhaps even picky eaters (ahem, ABDmom!) would like it. Perhaps this will become the "Dinner Meme?"
I know our little academic blogosphere group is a bit overwhelmed by house-shopping buzz lately, but now that I've started on that path I have a duty to keep you updated, right? After all, who else will listen to all of this drivel?!
Wooded Dog Pee House: found out from the realtor that the house has been vacant for over a year. The previous owners had to leave quickly in order to take a new job in another state, and when they couldn't sell the house their relocation company bought it from them. The relocation company is located in Texas, which is not at all close to Midwestern State, and so literally nothing has been done to the house since the previous owners moved. That explains why the gutters were full and why everything else was in such a state of disrepair.
As cute as it is, I think Dog Pee House is out of the running, but for a reason I didn't mention in my previous house post. While we were there poking around in the basement, we heard the sump pump running. We both thought that was strange, but then resumed our task of measuring and checking for leaks, cracks, bugs, etc. Then the sump pump started running again. When we were outside looking at the yard, it ran twice more. T and I both walked over to the sump pump discharge hose and saw gallons of water pouring out. This is all fine... IF it had been raining in New Town. It hadn't. The sump pump was running at least four times in the span of a 45 minute visit.
The agent is sending us a lot of information on the house -- she's being so helpful. But honestly, if there's THAT much water around the foundation, we will not touch that house with a 10-foot pole. The sump pump pulls water away from the foundation, into the pump, and then away from the house. If the sump pump would ever fail, we could have a swimming pool for a basement. Not a great place to build a media room, which is what T wanted to do. Grr.
Pond House: in all honesty, this house is looking better and better, because T and I would have so much fun making it our own. It would cost A LOT of money to do it, and it would take us a long time because of that (we'd have to do a project each year), but I really think it would be worth it in the end. Now we just have to scrape together funds to buy the place. We've already been approved for more than the full amount of the house, but we don't want to have such a huge mortgage that we can't afford to make the desired changes. I mean, the carpet would have to be changed right away, and the kitchen and bathroom floors, too. Plus we need all new appliances. That ain't cheap.
But oh! the land. It's so lovely. My Dad, a do-it-yourselfer par excellence, was drooling over the pictures of the property last night. And when I told him that there was already a slab poured to build another 25'x25' garage on the lot, he was almost giddy. "We could build a wood shop! Or even a little guest cottage!" he said, getting carried away with excitement. He said that, pending a home inspection, he'd be more than willing to help us out financially in order for us to buy this property. We probably won't have to do that, but it's nice that he's so thrilled about the place. My Dad's stamp of approval means a lot to us.
We'll probably head back up to New Town in a few weeks, hopefully for an interview for T (God willing!). "If I had a house on a lot like that to look forward to," T said last night, "I'd be happy flipping burgers all day if it would pay the mortgage." Not sure that's the best use of a professional degree, but...!
A few weeks ago, ST picked out and planted a small tomato plant, truly handling every aspect of planting, fertilizing, and watering it by himself. Every day since then he's asked me, "Do you think my tomato plant has tomatoes on it today?" And every day since then I've explained to him that it takes a lot of time and energy for a little plant to produce tomatoes, and that we'd have to wait until the summer started before we'd see any actual fruits from the plant.
Yesterday was no different. We made our daily trek outside to check on the plant. "Oh, Mom!" ST screeched to me, having reached the tiny plant first. "There IS a tomato today!" Sure enough, as I pulled the leaves aside, there was a small, firm and very green tomato growing. ST was beside himself with excitement, and later that evening called two of his neighbor friends to come and see his wonderful tomato. "When it's ripe, it will be red," he explained to them. When one friend reached out to touch it, ST said, "No, don't touch it! It's just a baby!"
I wonder if, once the tomato is indeed ripe, ST will actually let us eat it -- he is so proud of that little plant. I have been blessed with a child who eats virtually anything, a child who even eats the lettuce used as garnish on his plate at a restaurant, and a child who roams the cereal aisle at the grocery store telling people not to eat cereal with too much sugar in it ("Mom says that Fruity Pebbles aren't breakfast, they're candy!" he says in the loudest voice possible). But this tomato might be too precious to him to slice up and serve with olive oil, parmesan, fresh basil and penne.
We just returned from New Town and have a lot of thinking to do.
We saw a bunch of houses today, and surprised ourselves by the type of house we were attracted to during this trip. We saw several new construction homes because we thought that's what we wanted: T likes new things, I like to paint, I like perfect appliances and shiny sinks, and T likes to tinker on a blank canvas yard. We bought the house we currently live in partially because it met all of those requirements. We bought the house new, we picked everything out, and the house was perfect when we moved in. But when we toured the new construction homes in New Town, our perspective changed. We found ourselves rejecting the "cookie cutter" neighborhoods with the perfectly rectangular yards and without trees or landscaping, wrinking our noses at the smell of freshly-laid carpet, and even sighing with dismay at the perfect, untouched walls. Don't get me wrong: the new homes we toured were beautiful and move-in ready. But T and I decided we just don't want to do that again.
Instead, we were drawn this weekend to the more "distinctive" properties, properties that had something special to offer us that we couldn't find in a cookie cutter neighborhood. Over and over again, we were pulled toward older homes in more established neighborhoods, homes that were on the edge of town and partially obscured by wilderness. I'll detail two of those homes here, as they are our top two contenders in the housing game:
Wooded Dog Pee House: this is a house I've been gazing at online for several months. It is on a heavily wooded lot in a neighborhood on the edge of town. The rest of the houses in the neighborhood are out of our league price-wise; most of them are occupied by professors at Smallish Midwestern University and doctors at the local hospital. The houses are separated by lovely stands of maple and aspen. T and I were thrilled when we saw the lot -- as I wrote yesterday, however, we were dismayed when we saw the condition of the house itself (overflowing dirty gutters, damaged AC unit, house in dire need of powerwashing, etc.). The house is adorable, with a wrap-around front porch I loved (below).
When we walked inside, however, the illusion of woodland coziness was disturbed by the nose-burning stench of dog pee. Seriously, I gagged when I walked in. Through the smell, however, I saw a house I really liked: the office is fantastic (unfortunately, it's also where the dog pee smell emanates from), the dining room is big enough for my huge table and has lovely hardwood floors, there's a sunroom, a two-way fireplace, a huge master bedroom, huge second bedroom, and a darling third bedroom with hardwood floors. The basement is funky, but we could make it work with the help of an architect.
The house needs a lot of updating. All of the carpet would need to be replaced, as well as the outdated appliances. The house needs a thorough, professional cleaning. But the structure and the layout are good, and I honestly think that we could buy this house for far less than the asking price. The seller is out of state and is desperate to sell. The agent we spoke with today said, "Just make an offer -- any offer -- and I bet they'd accept it." We're thinking about it, but it's a tough call because there's A LOT to do. T and I love house-related projects, but this might be a real kicker. If we made an offer, it would probably be close to $50,000 less than the asking price because there's so much work to be done. T always repeats the adage of buying the worst house in the best neighborhood, and this fills that bill to a tee.
1980s Pond House: they say it all comes down to location, location, location, and this house is the epitome of the phrase. The house sits on an acre in the middle of the woods with a five acre pond behind it (below). The pond is deep and sandy, and there were kids fishing in it when we were there. It's so clear that you can see the bass swimming around from the dock. Across the pond is a sandy point that will never be built on because the property is held in trust. The yard is massive and planted with native trees and wildflowers, the lawn goes on forever and is well-maintained.
The house itself is stuck in 1985, the year it was built. It's a four-bedroom house and is HUGE -- almost 2,700 square feet. The living room has floor to ceiling windows that offer a view of the spectacular pond, and the dining room is expansive and decked out with recently refinished hardwood floors. The bedrooms are big and airy and offer pond or forest views, and the office has a lovely view of the secluded front yard as well as a walk-in closet filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. The basic structure is sound, and you can tell someone loved this house very much.
It does, however, need a lot of updating. The kitchen would need an overhaul, all of the bathrooms need TLC (there's a disgusting brown tub in one, a gray tub in the other), the vanities and faucets need to be replaced, and the 1980s light fixtures can all go. Eventually, we'd replace the siding -- it's cedar and is attractive and in excellent shape, but not what we like. Also, the carpet would have to be entirely replaced, as some of it is... mauve.
This is a house T and I feel we could live in forever. Seriously. We could make upgrades bit by bit, and truly make it our own little secluded paradise. We wanted to live on a lake someday, but living on this large pond has all the benefits of lake living without the noise of motorboats and jet-skis and with added privacy (there are five other homes on the pond, but you can't see any of them through the thick foliage). The downside: this house is at the very top of our price range, and the seller also happens to be the agent selling it. We doubt he'd budge too much on the price, and we'd need some major cash to make the needed upgrades (e.g., the carpet, which is far too ugly to live with long-term).
These homes are two definite options, though. They are both "project" houses, but houses we think we could really turn into something amazing. T looked at the pictures I took of the new homes, and as he looked at one shot of a perfectly tidy kitchen he said, "Hmm. Boring." As much as the shiny new oven appealed to me, I think I feel the same way.
The housing options are not our only conundrum, however. If you look at my left sidebar "Big To-Do List," you'll see that one important task has been completed. Our house is sold -- it's official. This was a huge relief, as it means we have a decent down payment on our next house and can buy without the contingency of our house selling. Hurray! The complication is that our buyers would like to move in the first week in July -- fully one month earlier than we'd planned. We were hoping to close on this house August 1 or around that date so that T could have a full month of paid work before we step into the vast unknown in Midwestern State. We will have to negotiate the closing date, especially if T's firm will keep him on until the end of July. Worst case scenario: ST and I move to Midwestern State without T, and T lives here with friends for a few weeks to finish out his job. That's not an altogether bad scenario, but it's also not ideal. Another complication this raises is, of course, the necessity of our finding a house to buy ASAP.
There's a lot of thinking (and not a lot of sleeping) going on in this house tonight.
A quick post before T and ST get back from the hotel pool:
We are in New Town, and have visited several homes. Very, very disappointing. Now, I've chatted with ABDmom about houses and about searching for a new home, and she knows how picky I am so it will come as little surprise to her that I've found NOTHING I like. Nothing. We saw one house this afternoon that excited me a lot when I looked at it online (ABD, it's the house with the kitchen I thought was small and you thought was huge, with the apple tree in the backyard) -- I liked it mostly because it seemed a lot like our current house, which I love. The pictures online made it seem neat and orderly.
We arrived there today. The neighborhood was nice, golf course across the street. No problems. But when we got inside -- oh my goodness. We could not believe that someone would actually put a house on the market in that condition! The carpet was stained all over -- every square foot would have needed to be replaced. The oven had a huge crack down the glass front door. The sink? Dirty! The bedrooms were closet-like, the basement was dark. Very disappointing.
We also drove by two of the houses we're scheduled to see tomorrow. The first is one I really, really like from the pictures online (ABD, it's the one you liked, too, with the trees in front -- the good news is that they've painted over all of that orange and pink paint!); we're seeing it tomorrow morning. The house is empty, and so when we drove by it today for a preview we decided to get out and walk around, peek in the windows, etc. I hope the inside is good because the outside is horrendous. It's in a charming, wooded neighborhood -- the kind where all of the yards are perfectly manicured with little stands of trees to separate the yards -- but this house's yard is the eyesore. Totally overgrown, no lawn to speak of -- the current owners have let it go. And the outside of the house -- oh dear. The gutters are full of dead leaves and muck, the siding is really dirty, and two of the spindles on the porch are snapped in half. Add that to the fact that someone has literally kicked the air conditioner unit in on one side, and you have what could be a lovely house turned into a landscaper's challenge. I honestly hope that the inside is as nice as I think it might be.
The thing is, it's not like we're looking at cheap houses, and we're not looking at houses advertised as "fixer-uppers." We're looking at houses usually less than 10 years old, mostly newer than that even. We're going to plunk down a signficant chunk of change for a piece of real estate here in New Town. You'd think that such a significant amount of cash would at least earn us the privilege of seeing homes that are kept up and nice (I've seen the house AD and his family have just accepted an offer on, and that was an adorable house that was well-maintained -- you could tell they took care of it!). Even though my house has an accepted offer on it, I still maintain it like it was for sale (since it technically still is) -- I believe in pride of ownership. Heck, when I lived in an apartment, I believed in pride of rentership! Clearly, some people don't... it's just frustrating.
Here's to a better day of home-searching tomorrow. Gotta run.
I'm working on revisions to Chapter 1 of my dissertation, and I must admit that it's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be (the bad stuff is waiting for me in Chapter 3, I'm sure). As I read the words I first drafted so many months ago, back when I was a new ticket-holder for the dissertation rollercoaster after defending my prospectus, I recall how uncertain writing those words felt. I remember typing up the first "real" section after the introduction and thinking, "Does this make sense? Is this even right? Where is this going?" Today, however, I read the words and I know that I'm right.
There are precious few moments in life lately where I can hold my head up high and say with confidence, "I am sure about this" or "I know I'm right." So it's been especially uplifting when I read some of Prof. C.'s questions scribbled in the margins of my draft: "Does [causal process] really work like this?" or "I understand [overarching principle] to mean XYZ -- can it also be interpreted as you have written?" or "Wow -- is [strange fact] really true?" I love that I can answer his questions immediately. Yes, it really works like thatand here's proof. Yes, my interpretation is correct and here's why. Yes, strange fact is really true. These revisions are making me feel, for a moment at least, smart.
Before I reached graduate school, I always thought that I'd feel really, really smart when it came time to write and defend my dissertation. After all, you'd have to be "smart" by some standard to come up with a topic in the first place, a topic no one had yet investigated. You'd have to be "smart" to know how to support your ideas, to know where they fit into the larger literature, and to write hundreds (and hundreds, if you're Mon) of pages about them. But as it turns out, I've never been less confident about my abilities as a scholar than during this time when I've been working on my dissertation. While I was taking courses and certainly when I was writing my comprehensive exams, I felt like I was at the top of my game. I was up-to-date on the literature in three different subfields, was writing interesting seminar papers, and incorporated discipline-related jargon in my conversations with classmates. I was learning and I was having fun, for the most part. Then the prospectus was successfully defended and voila! I was expected to take off and produce something great on my own. It is not easy to be smart when you're alone.
I was explaining this to one of my friends recently, a friend who graduated from my program last summer and is now a highly successful Assistant Professor at a Major Southern Research Institution. She told me to gear up for another "wave of confidence" once I start my job. She said that she felt the same way I do now when she was finishing her dissertation last year: unsure of herself, unsure of her work, unsure of her future. But when she started her job, she said that her confidence surged and she somehow felt "smarter." She said in all honesty that things come easier to her now: ideas for teaching, answers to student questions, ideas for new research. "I know it sounds ridiculous," she said, blushing a little, "but once you have that Ph.D. in hand it's like a personal Enlightenment!"
I hope that will be true for me. After suffering through this dissertation, I feel like I've been holed up in the Dark Ages for far, far too long.
3.) Different noise-making cars/trucks going all at once.
4.) The sound of glass breaking in the grocery store.
5.) Preschoolers crying about nothing.
6.) Mothers coddling screaming preschoolers when they should be disciplining them.
For the record, the preschooler was not mine and the Mother was not me. It's been a long, long day and I just want some quiet. There's something about noisy, whiney children that just makes me want to tear my hair out and scream myself (and this is also true when the whining child IS mine, which is thankfully not too often) -- I almost reached that point today.
I think Chapter Seven is done, or at least as done as it's going to be at this point. It's a short chapter (less than 20 pages), which is exactly how I wanted it to be given that my other chapters are around 30 pages each and Prof. G. doesn't like long dissertations. I've had misgivings about Chapter Seven from the outset: on the one hand, it was going to be an umbrella chapter that rounded out the case studies, making them into a more cohesive whole. On the other, however, the cases themselves weren't that interesting, neither in subject matter nor in their ramifications for the project. My brilliant plan to combine the final two case studies into one mega-chapter was brilliant... or would have been brilliant if the last case hadn't been a dud. Today I pulled out the last case, deleted it, and decided to do only the less-boring alternative case.
The thing is, none of my chapters are "complete," and this is because I've avoided tacking conclusions onto most of them. I despise writing conclusions; by the time the analysis of the cases is complete, I'm tired and bored and want to do something else. However, now that I am faced with writing the conclusion to the entire dissertation, I can't just do something else: I need to go back and spell it all out in each chapter, and decide which important nuggets of wisdom I want to hightlight in the Grande Finale. As Prof. C. told me a few weeks ago, the conclusion to my dissertation is one of the more important chapters, since the majority of my committee members probably won't even read the case studies that make up the bulk of the dissertation.
Aside from the big conclusion, there are the revisions. And there are a lot of them. Some of them are easy to do, some of them will take a lot of brain power and rewriting of sections of text. I am glad, however, that Profs. C and G gave me their comments on Chapters 1-5 already, since I wouldn't want to waste more time waiting for them to finish reading. I just want to be done. I just really, really want to be done.
On a lighter non-academic note, I am fortunate to be the noontime caregiver to the new puppy next door. He's only eight weeks old, and since his owners work some distance from our neighborhood they asked me if I could feed him and let him out each afternoon when I'm home. I was happy to oblige since this dog is so incredibly cute (and I'm not a dog lover by any means). The sad thing: this dog is not a good fit for our neighbors, and it's quite obvious. The husband (who really, really wanted the dog) is rarely home, leaving the wife (who doesn't like animals) to care for the puppy and her son (who is afraid of the dog because he's jumpy and likes to nip at people's hands). The sadder thing: they paid $800 for this dog at a local pet store (oh, how I hate pet stores!) and they won't take the dog back. But sadder still: the same dog (a "mutt" according to the vet who lives down the street from us) would have cost them less than $100 had they adopted it from one of our many animal shelters. Poor dog. Poor family (in more ways than one).
On a totally self-absorbed note, my skin looks awesome. I would like to use this blog space to proclaim my undying affection for Cetaphil cleanser and moisturizer. My skin is usually very clear, but a few weeks ago I started having a weird reaction to my normal product (Oil of Olay, which I've used for a decade now). After struggling to find something new, I followed a recommendation for Cetaphil on her blog, and I must say that my skin has NEVER looked better than it does now.
And on the "stresses" front: T has begun the Very Important Task and has also sent out four resumes based on a contact he has made in the area (through professors in my department). Hurray for T -- I hope one of these options pans out for him! Additionally, I've lined up four houses in New Town for us to tour this weekend -- three homes about 5-7 years old, and one new construction. I so hope that we can have the same success as the family of my sweet friend ABDmom and find something we actually want to buy!
After typing up this post, the dissertation is still there. Darn -- I half hoped it would just go away. But since it's staring at me (again!) I'd best get back to it.
I stayed up far too late last night, rereading and re-revising a paper I wrote with my advisor. It's a paper we affectionately refer to as "The Unpublishable Paper" because we've sent it to several journals and each time have had the same response: "This is a really interesting paper and makes a contribution to our understanding of XYZ. However, the paper is to specialized for the readership of our journal." Admittedly, we've sent the Unpublishable Paper to several top-ranked journals in my field, which was probably the wrong move considering its relatively narrow subject matter. This time, we're sending it to a niche journal and will hope for the best. At any rate, I spent most of last evening/night working on the latest incarnation of this paper.
When I finally did turn off my computer last night and climbed into bed, all I could think about was the dissertation. That's a rotten feeling, being cuddled up in your cozy bed and thinking about case selection and hypothesis testing when you're too tired to do anything about them. Now that I'm closing in on the dissertation, now that the end is well and truly within reach, I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed at the thought of the revision process. I've had comments from my advisors on the first five chapters, so I can start right to work on them once the full draft is written. I am definitely NOT looking forward to it, though -- I'm looking forward to being done. I am tired of looking at the same words, the same ideas -- I don't feel like "re-working" anything.
I seriously am barely keeping my eyelids open right now, and so I might have to take a short nap before I can accomplish anything today. I am not a good napper -- especially not when I have so much to do -- but I think I might have to give it a go today. Writing a dissertation on four hours of sleep is probably not the best idea.