The Scamp Has Academic Writer’s Block

For three days not a word has been written for my dissertation. Not one. No chapter headings, no subheadings, no quotes from the abundance of research I have at my fingertips…nothing. I was supposed to spend the week working on my literature review. I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks, and it is holding me back from the rest of my project. I have about three weeks before I need to have it done, and so far, the introduction is the only thing that is complete.

I’m not sure what it is about the literature review that has me stressing out, but I am stressing out big time. After staring at it for the last three days without really being able to see what I wrote, I decided to send it to my supervisor as is and let her rip it apart so I can put it back together. She helped me make my introduction better, so I am hoping that she can work her magic on the literature review.

The next part of the paper to be written is the methods section. Basically all I have to do is justify my project, outline the way I analyzed the two children’s stories, and justify why I chose Chato’s Kitchen and Skippyjon Jones. This should be an easy section to write. I know why I want to do this research, I know exactly how I am going to analyze the visual and written texts of the stories, and I even know why I wanted to look at these two particular books (Well, okay, one was one of my favorite books growing up, and the other one is about a spunky Siamese cat who thinks he is a chihuahua….who wouldn’t enjoy reading and analyzing that?). I’ve done my research on the design I am setting up, and should be able to knock out 3,000 words on this easy.

When I sit down at my computer though…nothing. Not one things. I keep getting distracted. I literally cannot figure out how to get the thoughts in my brain to words on the page. I have tried everything I can think of to fix this. The house is clean, my laundry is done, Kelly’s house is clean…even my car is clean. I’ve done hours of yoga, watched cat videos and even tried to write out my chapter longhand while sitting at the pool. Now, everything around me is clean and I have a good tan, but I still have a blank page.

I guess I have to go back to the research and read how other people wrote about their research designs. Maybe something will jog the academic writing part of my brain and get me back on track. I’m going to start with the article I read by Misty Sailor.

Yep. That’s her name. When I start my stripper career, I am going to borrow that name. What a perfect stripper name. Poor woman is never going to be taken seriously in the field of education. Not as long as people like me are part of the field and see her name and think of this song:

 

A Scamp and Cars

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately. I used to love being in the car. I spent a lot of time as the DD in college, and always loved the chance to drive my friends’ cars. When I was home visiting my parents, I would drive my mommy around running errands or going to dinner. I spent most of high school driving Kelly everywhere because she refused to get a licence. The craziest thing I did was drive an hour and a half one way to work two days a week. I’d put on a podcast, cruise to work and enjoy my drive along the coast (okay, that had more to do with my want to teach and not my love of driving).

When I moved to Scotland though, I stopped driving. I practically stopped taking any form of public transportation altogether. I fell in love with walking….even in the snow. I still listened to podcasts, but now instead of driving way too fast down the freeway, I was walking  up and down hills and down quite streets. I learned how to walk in wind without getting knocked over, learned how to avoid ice patches, and how to really use my feet as a mode of transportation. I fell in love with walking. I decided that when I came back to the States, I would try and walk wherever and whenever I could.

Of course, that plan went out the window. Brea, and California in general is not really set up for people who like to walk. Sure, San Francisco is a good place for that, but one city not really enough to sway me. I find myself in the car a lot, and besides being expensive, I found that I have lost my defensive driving urge.  Since I have been home I have been cut off more times than I can count, just about rear ended and sideswiped, sat on a closed freeway so cops could finish a car chase and  got hit by a guy on a bike (I also busted one of my mother’s tires, but I would like to think that it was the nail that did it, and not me). A 20 minute drive to the gym is now enough to give me a headache.

I miss walking. I never got hurt walking.

There is another reason that I don’t really like cars right now. I lost a cousin in a car crash yesterday. She was only 23. I had only met her once, but she was really friendly and had a great personality. She was newly married and has a 3 month old son. Her husband has a broken leg and pelvis, and a broken heart thinking he killed his wife. He keeps thinking that if he didn’t take her out for the first time since their son was born, none of this would have happened. I can’t imagine how much pain he is in right now.

This is why I miss walking. While I know that it is just as easy to get hurt walking, people are so careless with their driving around here that driving gets more and more stressful.If you crash into someone while you are walking, chances are, damage will be minimal. If you crash into someone with your car, chances are the damage will be much more severe.

My family is small, and seems to be getting smaller everyday. So I ask, lovely readers, please be careful when you drive and be nice to your family, no matter how crazy they make you.

The Scamp and Some Edits

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I have one week to get my literature review in some sort of order to send to my supervisor. The words are written, they just have to be worked into a coherent set of sentences that tell an awesome story of children’s literature, picture books, critical literacy, critical media studies and the use of all of those in primary school classrooms.

The problem is, every time I sit down to get something written today, I get distracted by something on the internet. I’ve already browsed my favorite fashion site looking for a dress to wear to a wedding (it’s this one in case anyone is curious http://www.modcloth.com/shop/dresses/midnight-sun-dress), stalked people on Facebook, and played two rounds of Sushi Cat.

For the last hour I have been looking into traveling and how many body parts I’d have to sell (or how many sugar daddies I would have to acquire) to make it happen.  I’m sort of attached to most of my body parts though, so I am thinking that finding an old man who would like to invest his money in something (or in this case someone) worthwhile. I’d use the money to pay off all of my loans and pay my tuition for the next couple of years, so technically I wouldn’t be spending the money on something frivolous. I’d use the money I make (assuming I can find a job) to go on adventures.

Right now I am itching for an adventure.

The Scamp Reverts

Before I came home from Scotland I had made up my mind that I was not going to get stressed about my paper, was not going to worry about money, and was not going to stress over finding a job. I was going to tackle one thing at a time and trust in the process that everything was going to work out. I made a crazy schedule of work, yoga, and socializing with the few people that I still know here. I had a good solid plan, and I was determined to stick to it. The only stressful thing about living in Scotland was David, and once I was free of him, not only did I get things done, but I didn’t have a care in the world. I was happy, I had a lot of fun, and I was able to get a lot of research done.

I came home with that attitude, but I apparently left it with customs. I started to stress about work, turned into Oscar the Grouch, and didn’t look at the schedule I made until three days ago. I have managed to do the yoga….that’s about it. Writing is getting done, but it remains to be seen if it is any good. I’m still having communication issues with my supervisor, so I have not gotten any feedback. I should be almost done with the first draft, and I have only about 1/3 of the work done. Today I wrote 0 words related to critical literacy and the evaluation of children’s books.

The only thing I managed to do today was put together an IKEA dresser (Well, me and the help of my sister and brother-in-law) and finally unpack my bedroom. I no longer feel like I am living in boxes….or in this case, under boxes. Almost all of my clothes and shoes are inside, and if I ever manage to find a job, I have a wardrobe all ready to go.

We made some friends at IKEA. My new pal is Brock the broccoli, and Kelly is holding Carrot Top

We made some friends at IKEA. My new pal is Brock the broccoli, and Kelly is holding Carrot Top

Onward ho! Thanks to my awesome navigational skills we found everything we needed

Onward ho! Thanks to my awesome navigational skills we found everything we needed

Who knew this little beauty would make me feel better about my room. It's been several hours and it is still in one piece

Who knew this little beauty would make me feel better about my room. It’s been several hours and it is still in one piece.

I heard back from the college today. They were unable to hire me because I cannot work in the evenings….even though they knew that when they interviewed me and told me that was not a problem. I actually cried after I got off the phone with the dean. The unemployed, really broke, huge loan and massive tuition bill to pay is starting to stress me out a lot. I applied for a couple of other positions today, but I am starting to feel a little depressed about the job thing. I’m really thinking that the next logical step is sugardaddies.com to fund my EdD.

I will now settle in with a quiet house, the 7 minute workout from hell and an evening of bad reality TV.

I can change my attitude tomorrow.

A Scamp, The Electrified Squirrel, Missing Pants and a Job Interview

Words you never want to utter, especially when you have a job interview: “I can’t find my pants”. I had my nice dress pants in Scotland…even wore them once for a presentation. I know they got packed and made it home, but for the life of me, I have no idea where they are. I’ve emptied all of my drawers, checked all of the boxes that got shipped home from Scotland and checked every room in the house, but my pants are just nowhere to be found.

Not good when you have a job interview with middle aged men for an instructor position at a college. I have plenty of professional outfits, mostly in the form of skirts and tops or dresses, but I know the looks I get in public when people see my tattoos, so there is no way that is the first impression I am going to make when trying to get a job (except for the stripper job, then it would be totally okay for me to show all of my tattoos). I had to do some quick thinking (and a lot of hunting through my closet since most of my professional clothes are packed in a box in the garage), but I was bale to come up with a skirt and top combination that was professional without being too old. I paired it with black tights and the one pair of sensible heels that I own and I was all set for the interview.

When I got to the interview though, things went slightly downhill.  The secretaries were out sick, so the dean of the department was in charge of getting the candidates prepped for the writing test and interviewing them. To add to his stress, there was a 15 minute power outage that somehow managed to put all of the interviews behind schedule by 45 minutes. I understand that things happen and schedules have to be adjusted, but I would have liked to know that before I showed up on time for my interview. I sat in an office for almost an hour while  waiting to be interviewed, and the interview itself was very quick.

Come to find out, the power outage was caused my a squirrel. poor little guy got BBQed and almost ruined my interview. The school sent out an email to all of the employees thanking them for their patience and all it said, was power outage due to squirrel. My mom forwarded me the email, and I definitely laughed out loud while working on my research.

All in all though, the interview went well. I should know sometime next week, but the dean made the comment that my schedule and availability seemed fine and that he had a lot of classes to fill. If I could get one class I would be very happy, and if I could get two classes, then I could make my loan payments, put money in my savings account for a reunion with the EdLang girls, and a trip to see the bestie in New York, and still have money for gas, my phone bill and anything else that may come up.

Fingers and toes crossed. I’ve gotten a bit lazy since I’ve been home and my baby beer gut will not make me an ideal stripper.

 

The Scamp and Fast Cars and Freedom

When the cat’s away, the mice will play….or at least that it my motto for the next 24 hours. My mom was nice enough to accompany my dad to the mountains to do a little work on the cabin (I like to think the world revolves around me, so her choice to go was to help me out). That’s right, this girl has the house to herself until tomorrow morning. That means I don’t have to wear my headphones to listen to music while I work, I won’t be distracted by the TV, or have to hide from baseball, and the best part of being alone overnight:

I don’t have to wear pants.

…and now a quick pause for my happy dance

I wish I could say that I am spending the day lounging by the pool or laying on the couch watching TV. Instead I am locked to my desk (well, the desk I have now claimed as mine) trying to write the introduction to my dissertation. I’m about 2,000 words in, and I have to say, I think it is complete rubbish. Luckily it does not have to be a perfect little gem right now. I have to say it is nice to be able to take a break from doing research and reading other people’s writing. I’ve been reading some crap studies lately. The only good thing about that is that it gives me hope that someone will actually want to publish my work. I currently have 3,000 words written, which means I am only 12,000 from my goal. I got a little distracted today with a trip to the gym, and currently Top Gear U.K. has my attention, so it might be time to call it a day on the writing.

I am going to spend the evening trying to rearrange my room and clean it up. Right now it is full of boxes, shoes and books on teaching, and that is making it hard for me to focus. Right now, I need all the focus I can get. I have been home for about a month and have yet to settle into a normal sleep schedule, and have yet to secure gainful employment. I’m starting to feel like this:

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I know this will change…in fact, I am hoping that it changes on Thursday. I finally managed to get an interview for an instructor position at Fullerton college. Hopefully they will be dazzled by my wits and my red pen and they will hire me on the spot. I have a lot of bills to pay, and would like to have some money coming in to pay those down. My mom told me the other day that she would like me to keep living with them until I pay off my loans, but since it will be at least 10 years before that happens, I can’t see that happening. I have no desire to stay in the U.S. after I graduate…..especially when New Zealand needs English teachers and I could supplement my income by working at a place like this:

http://www.sheepworldfarm.co.nz/

Really, that would be enough to cure my wanderlust for awhile.

A Scamp and the Never Ending Outline

I don’t like outlines. I never make them. I like to take my William Faulkneresq stream of consciousness writing style and clean it up into the pretty little gems that eventually get turned in. I will admit that several of those gems were a bit rough before the editing stage, but I have survived my entire educational career without making an outline.

The writing class that I was forced to take for the doctoral program was all about formulaic writing….and making outlines. 2 outlines per paper….yes 2. One outline for the beginning of the paper, and a reverse outline at the end of the paper to make sure that we did everything we mapped out in the first outline.

Shoot me now.

I know that I teach my little future leaders to make outlines and do whatever they can to make their drafts easy to write, but I really hate doing them myself. The only good thing about not enjoying making outlines is that I am not alone. I would have never dared say anything in class about it, but one of the guys in the program raised his hand and actually asked what the purpose of making several outlines was. I believe he is a vice principal, and probably in his late 40s, so I figure, if he hates outlines, then it is okay for me to hate them too.

I didn’t have long to sit in my hatred though. My adviser in Scotland asked me to make an outline and a timetable for my dissertation. I am a little bit behind in the writing portion of the project, but I sat for the last two days and made a very pretty (okay, it is not pretty at all, it is actually mostly bullshit) outline and sent it to her. I am still slugging through the literature review, so I think tomorrow I am going to switch gears and work on my introduction.

It will be much easier for me to expel bullshit out of my fingertips when I am writing about myself and my interest in the research. Should anyone want to know about critical literacy, and how to use it in the classroom, or feels the need to talk about children’s literature, feel free to come my direction. I’m 57 articles and 20 books in to these subjects.

I’m practically an expert.

In the meantime, I am going to channel my need for naps into going to the gym to work out. If I have to go dateless to a wedding attended by my ex-boyfriend, then I am going to make sure I look damn good.

Of course, this always gets in my way:

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A Scamp Reviews the Literature

I’ve felt like a slacker since I have been home. The first two weeks I was home I did very little research and absolutely no writing. I was starting to feel like I was behind on my deadlines, and would really have to shut myself away in the next few weeks to even think about finishing the paper on time. My mom cleaned up her office and turned it over to me and has been really great about finding things for my dad that will keep him out of the house so I now have a quiet place to work. I have read and skimmed a lot of articles, and tracked down a lot of books that still need to be looked over, but I am making great strides in my research collection. I have started to organize all of it according to subject matter, and I am kicking myself now for not having taken notes on my computer to make that process easier. It is going to take me a long time to code and organize the 50+ books and articles that I currently have notes for.

I wish I had a research assistant to do this part of the work for me.

The outline for the chapter is coming together, and I have a good 2,000 words written, but since I have yet to hear from my supervisor regarding anything related to my dissertation, I have no idea if I am even headed in the right direction. I finally got an email after 2 weeks of no response to my emails, but all she said was that she wanted to schedule a time to meet with me since I have not been contacting her…..I’m so annoyed with her and her lack of communication skills. I really hope my grade doesn’t suffer because I am not getting any help. This was one of my worries before I came home. If I was in Scotland, I could camp out in front of her office until she agreed to help me, or at least wander into the office of the director for my program and get some help (and a good story) from him.  Here, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that she eventually emails me back.

On the bright side, Saturday is my last day of summer school for the doctoral program. The class this week went surprisingly well. I really like the people in my program, and this time we were a lot more comfortable with each other. There were lots of jokes and sarcasm, and even talk about how we were going to schedule our Saturday meetings. The downside of this program is that I will be on campus every Saturday from the end of August until 2016, and will have little to no social life outside of who brings the wine to the study group. I’m lucky that I don’t have small children and there is no one who is going to be mad at me if I am not home for dinner or can’t go to the movies on a Tuesday night, but I am still a little bit sad about the idea of losing my weekend to nothing but educational leadership lectures and readings. Soon I will be replacing my mystery novels with journals on writing instruction and community college policies, and instead of writing blog posts about getting on stage at a play about drag queens, I will be writing memos and small scale research papers about my underlying epidemiological assumptions and how best to work my viewpoint into my writings.

Last week’s class did bring about some good news. The director of the program is the one that has been running the workshops, and he asked me all about studying in Scotland and whether or not I would ever like to go abroad again. He mentioned that CSUF is working with a university in South Africa to run a program like the one I am in, and that I should meet some of the students who are going through the program (who just happen to be here right now visiting the campus) and see what they have to say about the program and living and working there. I’ve never been to South Africa, but it sounds like it might be a fun adventure. Who knows what will happen in the next three years, but I know I will be ready for another adventure.

 

and now…back to the outline. My research assistant is a cat, and besides the fact that he can’t type, or read, he is currently out and about enjoying the pleasant evening.

A Scamp on Stage

I’m famous…and this time it is more than just in my own mind. Earlier in the week the mom, the seeester and I drove to Hollywood to see one of our favorite shows on stage.

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The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is not only an awesome movie, but has been made into a more awesome play. The movie was a favorite of my grandma, and when we saw an ad for the play, my mom and I knew that we had to get tickets. For those of you who do not know the awesomeness that is Priscilla, watch this and then go rent the movie:

For those of you who have seen the movie, but have yet to see the play, here is a little taste of what you will see:

The show was amazing from start to finish. The music was great, the costumes were fun, and the seats were amazing. At intermission the show got even better. The production crew canvased the audience looking for people who wanted to go on stage during the show to dance with the actors. Of course, I immediately volunteered myself and Kelly for the job. We got to be backstage, see some of the actors, and then go onstage at the Pantages Theater and dance a crazy little country jig.

For those of you who say, “Pics or it didn’t happen”

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My new dress made a great debut, and Kelly’s butt has never looked better. We had fun, and despite my Jewish White Girl Rhythm, I didn’t fall on my face or embarrass myself. I even got to dance with a very lovely drag queen.

It was just the boost I needed from my little funk. I had a good time with my mom and sister, got to enjoy some great drag queens, and got a little break from my routine of procrastination.

Today I spent the day amerced in the  fine world of professional development for reading teachers and literacy experts. Many of the articles that I read were filled with points and suggestions that made me say, “duh!”, but that thought was comforting to me because it means that I might actually be able to make a reasonable contribution to the field of education.

Of course that could be leftover excitement from being on stage, or the massive amounts of sun that I have been getting, but I am going to hope that my more productive feelings might actually help me get some words on paper (or words on to computer screen) for my project.

I only need 15,000 more words….no big deal, right?

A Scamp and Domestication vs Foreignization

I actually did some research today. I sat down with my laptop and my dissertation notebook, and read articles and op ed pieces that relate to the work I am doing for my thesis. It is the first time that I have looked at anything related to my dissertation in almost 2 weeks. I would be patting myself on the back for this, but I lost valuable time, and I am in a mini panic mode about the number of words that I have to have written by August 16th versus the number of words that I actually have written (that number would be 600 out of the needed 15,000). I let my focus be pulled by friends, family and cute boys, but now I am starting to see that I am going to need to be a hermit for the next three years if I am going to get anything done.

Today I spent a lot of time reading articles about two very important concepts in translation studies: domestication and foreignization. I’m going to break my rule about using Wikipedia for a second because it actually does a really good job of defining the two terms. The definitions read as follows:

Domestication is the strategy of making text closely conform to the culture of the language being translated to, which may involve the loss of information from the source text. Foreignization is the strategy of retaining information from the source text, and involves deliberately breaking the conventions of the target language to preserve its meaning.[1] These strategies have been debated for hundreds of years, but the first person to formulate them in their modern sense was Lawrence Venuti, who introduced them to the field of translation studiesin 1995 with his book The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation.[1][2] Venuti’s innovation to the field was his view that the dichotomy between domestication and foreignization was an ideological one; he views foreignization as the ethical choice for translators to make.[1] 

He estimates that the theory and practice of English-language translation has been dominated by submission, by fluent domestication. He strictly criticized the translators who in order to minimize the foreignness of the target text reduce the foreign cultural norms to target-language cultural values. According to Venuti, the domesticating strategy “violently” erases the cultural values and thus creates a text which as if had been written in the target language and which follows the cultural norms of the target reader. He strongly advocates the foreignization strategy, considering it to be “an ethnodeviant pressure on [target-language cultural] values to register the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text, sending the reader abroad.” Thus an adequate translation would be the one that would highlight the foreignness of the source text and instead of allowing the dominant target culture to assimilate the differences of the source culture, it should rather signal these differences.[3]

 

These terms are very important to my project in terms of the language choices used in the picture books I am studying, but they also got me thinking about my return home. I am not thinking of the terms in the way they are used in translation, and translation studies, but I was thinking about the roles they play in culture and identity. My transition back to life at home has not been an easy one. I feel like I need to slide back into the role that is accepted by the people here, but I am not sure how to do that. I am a lot different than I was 9 months ago, and that new person is being lost in translation here. It was said a week or so ago that I was maladjusted and socially awkward since my return to California. While that comment made me laugh (I mean, come on, I’ve always been socially awkward, and I have not been home long enough to adjust), it did make me think about how I am being translated now that I am home. The problem with some of the people here is that they are trying to domesticate me and make me fit into the culture of living here. They are trying to stick me into a mold that I don’t fit into. The hardest part of this is that while I struggle to maintain the culture and identity I developed living abroad, they are trying to stifle me back into a little box. I no longer want to be caught up in petty drama, or stuck in rut with my career and life goals. Now that I know this, my first inclination is to just withdraw and not see anyone. I have friends and a cousin in San Diego that just had babies that I have yet to meet, friends in Orange County that I want to see and catch-up with, but I am not sure that I am ready to share how great it was to be in Scotland, and how much I miss it. Everyone expects me to be super happy that I am home, and while I am happy to be with my family, I miss Scotland terribly. I miss my little bubble there.

In order to adjust and try to snap myself out of the funk I let myself fall into I did what any good girl would do: I bought three pair of shoes and a dress that can really only work in a place like California.