Saturday, March 30, 2013

Balance


One of the things I struggle with most is finding a balance in my life.  I’m either too focused on work, school, or whatever and forget to take time for me. 

This week I had a long to-do list for homework I wanted to get through.  It involved three chapters, videos, and labs for science, three books, excerpts and comments, paper, and final project for Prose Stylistics.  In addition to that I had a long list of crocheting I wanted to get done including three graduation gifts which are time consuming. 

For a change, I think I've found a balance (temporarily I’m sure).  Yesterday is a perfect example.  I spent four hours working on homework.  I finished (well all except a final read through) of my paper, read the last nine excerpts and wrote comments, and I worked on some comments for science.  This four-hour session was spent at my computer and by the time I was done my legs were bothering me. 

After I was done at the computer I took my science book with the intention of sitting in the recliner and reading.  Instead I watched some TV with Vicki and then took a nap.  After the nap I worked on crocheting a grad gift.  The rest of my day was spent either crocheting or enjoying my down time. 

This morning I am working on homework until Vicki comes back with our friend.  Then I will work on crocheting because they will be playing on the Wii and it is too distracting for me to do homework.  However, I can enjoy their company while I work on grad gifts.  I won’t have to feel guilty for the down time because I will be putting in some study time before they get here.  I may finish another chapter of science or just make progress on it.  I don’t know how far I’ll get but I know I will feel like I balanced out my day by working this way. 

Without a doubt, I will struggle with having balance, but for this past week, I can at least feel like I found some semblance of it during my vacation time.  My to-do list didn't get done – either one of them – but I did make progress on both.  Maybe that is the point, especially for someone like me who always has too long of a to-do list, I got something done on both lists and made progress.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Progress?


It seems a bit ridiculous to think that in the same two hours two days in a row I didn't accomplish the same amount of work but I didn't.  Yesterday I got up in pain.  I made such little progress I was frustrated with myself.  Today I got up not in pain.  Here it is 9:00 am and I've accomplished a lot. 

In my head, I've had this to-do list which I know is too long for the amount of time I have but still I want to accomplish all the things on my to-do list.  Today I've checked off a number of things in just a short period of time.

Yesterday I tried to write my paper for Prose Stylistics.  I sat at the computer and bumbled my way through it.  Now I had a strong outline and all I really had to do was organize and fill it out.  I tried doing that and it was a poor attempt. 

Today I got up, showered, dressed, and while I was going to the bathroom (I know too much information) I realized exactly what I needed to do for my intro and how to reorganize.  After my shower, I sat down and whipped it out.  I now have nearly four pages for my paper and I think it is done.  I’ll leave it until tomorrow and read through it.  I’m sure I’ll find things I want to change but mostly I’m done with it. 

Last night I read two chapters in a book for Prose Stylistics.  It is the most blathering type writing.  He goes on and on and is ridiculous.  But I managed to skim my way through the two chapters.  I have one more to read and then I’m done. 

Today I have been reading some of the nine excerpts I need to read in order to finish off the best sellers vs classics for Prose Stylistics.  I’m through with three of them and will be done with the fourth shortly.  I will try to get through all of them before I wander back to the couch. 

Last night I got my grade for my science exam – 27 out of 30!  I was thrilled as this is the best I've done.  I finished chapter 10 earlier this week and today I am hoping to finish chapter 11.  I was hoping to finish all three chapters but it doesn't look like that will happen so I will just keep plugging away at them.  I literally have four chapters left after I finish chapter 11 and I will be glad to be done with my science class.

Hopefully the rest of today will be as productive as the first two hours.  It is amazing how much I can accomplish if I’m not in pain and I put my mind to it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Content vs Style vs Context


What is more important your content or the style in which it is written?  This has been an ongoing debate in my Prose Stylistics class.  I say content is primary, with style playing a secondary role and context coming in third – this is a photo finish fall these three. 

Style involves things like sentence structure, tropes and schemes (like alliteration, metaphors, syllepsis etc.), word choice, punctuation and so on.  It is how you write your content.  Content of course is what you are saying.   

As an author I know I don’t take style into consideration at all (at least not consciously) when I’m writing for the first time.  If I’m doing a rough draft of fiction, I just write.  I don’t’ think about my word choices, sentence structure, or anything else – it is just a matter of getting the story out of my head and onto the paper. 

When I’m editing, I make all those tough choices.  It is then I look at my metaphors and similes to see if they are tired.  I look at the structure of the sentence – does it sound right?  Often I will read it out loud to see how it sounds.  This is when style comes into play. 

If I’m writing for a particular publication, I look at their writing guidelines and issues to see what has been successful.  Depending on what it is – an essay or fiction or ??? – I will model my work after what has already made it into the publication.  The one caution about this though is that you have to remember to keep your approach fresh.  Following someone else’s format too closely may make your own piece seem a bit stilted and tired. 

For me, I just want to write a good story, essay, directions, or whatever it is I’m writing.  I want it to entertain, instruct, or persuade.  You do that with great content and great editing to adjust the style to the context you want the piece to fit.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How Did You Sleep?


For the last five months I’ve been sleeping in the recliner.  The last time I tried to sleep in my bed I woke up hurting more than when I went to sleep.  After consulting with Ken about how he was sleeping we decided our old mattress / box springs had to go (as I mentioned yesterday). 

The bed arrived and it is much better than the old one but I’m still having problems sleeping in it.  I slept for two hours before I woke up with a horrible back ache.  I stayed in bed – partly because I was so tired and partly because I thought it was just my back / muscles acting up – and spent the rest of the night in the bed.  I woke up regularly in pain – back not legs mostly.  Now I have to decide whether it was just a bad night because of the level of pain I was in yesterday or if it was due to the new bed.  I’ll try it again but not tonight as I work tomorrow and need to be able to function more fully. 

Ken, on the other hand, slept better so that is a good thing.  At least he got a good night’s sleep and feels better this morning.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Break


The last couple of weeks have been busy with school.  It is now spring break.  Friday at work was very quiet and I was able to clear my desk and organize my tasks.  I made a list – of course – and got several things crossed off that list because it was so quiet. 

Next week I’m working two days and taking the other three off but that doesn't mean I’m doing anything fun.  I have a long list of homework I need to get done including three chapters of science and a paper to write. 

I’m at that stage – I think most students and teachers are too – where I’m ready to be done with classes.  I have another six weeks but I’m just ready to be done with the classes and move on to the next set.  Part of my antsyness is that I only have two more classes to take. 

There is no week-long party for me over spring break.  I’m taking this weekend to relax and get some crocheting done.  I’m working and doing homework during the work week.  Then next weekend I’m working on more crocheting projects.  I have three graduation gifts to get finished.  After those are done – I have a few other projects I want to get done as well. 

I’ll also be taking a day to go to the orthopedic doctor to see about goo in my knees again.  They have really been bothering me so it is time to see what can be done in order to reduce the pain I’m in.  We also bought a new bed in the hopes that it will help both of us sleep better.  Our old bed was old and broken so we went out and got a new box spring and mattress.  Tonight will be the first night we sleep on it and I’m hoping for a really good night’s sleep.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Action!

In my Prose Stylistics class, we had to write a paragraph using only active verbs and no passive verbs.  In case you don’t know passive verbs are the “be” verbs like is, are, was, were, will, have been, had been, etc.  Here is a good link for passive voice if you want to learn more:


The instructor wanted us to watch a pitcher or jockey or some other sports event.  You all know me I am so not a sports person.  Instead I wrote about Vicki cooking.  Here is the sample:

            With a jerk, she flipped the onion, peppers, and garlic in the pan.  The smell invaded the entire house as she stirred the fry pan filled with fresh herbs and vegetables.   The chicken breasts sizzled as she added them to the mix adding another layer of scent lingering in the house.  Steam billows from the pan of noodles bubbling next to her mixture of deliciousness.  With an experienced hand, she spills in cream for the sauce.  She tilts the spices in with a practiced air, knowing the exact amount to add without getting a measuring spoon.  The food simmers burbling and expelling tantalizing fragrance that makes the mouth water.  With a gush, she empties the noodles into a strainer and then plops them back into the pan.  She scoops out the noodles and tops them with the chicken and sauce for a delicious plateful of sustenance.    

There is no passive voice in this paragraph at all.  I used all action verbs as requested in the assignment.  Passive voice shouldn’t be completely driven out of our writing but there is a time and place for it.  Here is the different between two sentences

Active
With an experienced hand, she spills in cream for the sauce.

Passive
With an experienced hand, the cream was spilled by her for the sauce.

As you can see active voice is more direct and interesting.  It keeps the reader’s attention by keeping the action going.  My professor was not happy in class because no one was talking about the use of passive voice.  She slammed down the stapler on the table and made us write about it using no passive verbs.  I hate busy work and this was definitely busy work.  Many of those who wrote about it in class described the stapler but I took a little different tone.  Here it is:

            It waits silently, prepared for the next invasion.  Flat and thin, they slip between the guard posts.  The general slams down and the sentries impale the invaders.  The invaders escape embedded with two spikes and a rail. 

I will concede you can’t really tell that I’m talking about a stapler but at least it amused me while I did the busy work.  The professor seemed to enjoy my little bit of fantasy. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Batch Cooking


A former co-worker told me about batch cooking and how she does it with her sisters.  This got me thinking about how we could do it and from there it led to Vicki investigating it.  Now we are in full-fledged mode of batch cooking. 

Yesterday, I spent my day chopping veggies, making my garbage soup, making meatballs and mini meatloaf, assembling lasagna, and cutting up meats.  We chop up veggies like onions, mushrooms, and celery (and a whole lot more) in volume for all the dishes we want to make.  The chopped up items go into bowls so that when Vicki is cooking a dish all she has to do is grab the appropriate amount. 

The first dish to go in the oven was my garbage soup.  As I chopped up all the veggies, a portion of them went in to my big roaster pan.  Vicki also picked up a large can of the cream of mushroom soup I use to make this.  Buying larger is usually more economical.  In most cases the larger isn’t worthwhile for us but when we batch cook it is. 

Vicki started with making the sauce for the lasagna and boiling the noodles.  Once the two were done, she handed them off to me and had me assemble.  The thing about this is she doesn't like to assemble and we made three pans of lasagna.  We switch off doing things like this to stay out of each other’s way in the kitchen but also to play to our strengths. 

I am not able to stand at the stove and cook.  My legs just won’t tolerate it yet.  Vicki is but she has issues with her thumbs so cutting things up is hard on her hands.  We play off each our strengths but dividing the tasks up according to whom is good at what and what causes the least pain for each of us. 

We spent all day cooking.  At the end of the day, we had three pans of lasagna, three pans of chicken carbonara - one of which was gluten free, Mexican stew, garbage soup, turkey meatballs, beef meatloaf, and finished baking the chocolate chip cookies Vicki stirred up on Friday.  We used up all our freezer containers - Ken even had to go buy more.  The freezer now is full of food for lunches for the next month.  The thing is these lunches are healthier and better than the frozen stuff you get in the store.  they are also more cost effective because we made them in bulk.  All the way around there are benefits - the only downside is at the end of the day we are damn tired and don't want to look at food anymore.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Long Weekend


I’m taking a four day weekend.  Yesterday, I took off and even skipped my class.  I stayed home and spent the morning studying for my science exam and taking it.  I think I flopped it.  I knew the material would get progressively harder and I have a tough time with science. 

The rest of the day yesterday was spent doing nothing.  Well okay I worked on a few little things like crocheting and – nope really did nothing.  I took a shower in the afternoon and tried a new shaving cream Vicki made and we watched top chef. 

Three more days to enjoy on this long weekend, I’m trying to plot out my time.  Saturday, we are doing batch cooking.  While Vicki is making cookies this morning, I’m going to create a cut list for the batch cooking.  This will give me a starting point for all the dishes we are going to make.  Then tomorrow when we get started I’ll know what needs to be done first and can start before Vicki has to be in the kitchen.

Aside from that I have to start the next unit for science and finish writing / editing my paper for my Prose class.  If I manage to get all that done, I will work on crocheting.  I have a number of projects I want to work on.  I may have to put up the card table and look over my yarn to determine what yarn I want for which projects. 

For all the wonderful people who wished my happy birthday – you made my day yesterday – thank you.  It is very affirming to have such an outpouring of well wishes.  I’ve turned 49 and I know a lot of women would be freaking out about it.  I just feel like I keep getting better.  This year I’ll finish my second bachelor’s degree and will hopefully move forward with my writing and a few of my other goals.  I don’t feel like I’m getting older, but that I’m getting better and better.

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