Every new beginning is some other beginning's end

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's that time again! You know, the time when I crawl out of the hole where I've been hiding these past couple of months and overwhelm you with information and pictures in an attempt to catch you up to speed. So let's begin, shall we?

It's been a BIG couple of months here. On June 29th, my full-time job at SFU ended and I officially joined the ranks of the unemployed. Well, at least until the new semester begins on August 25th and then I will be teaching a couple of classes. But still, full-time administrative work ended, and full-time dissertation writing began! (Or it did after a lovely two-week vacation.) Other than the whole no-paycheck thing, I vastly prefer my new situation. My husband comes home and gives me these sad, worried looks because he thinks I'm probably getting bored or depressed or lonely, shut up in the house all day by myself, so I have to keep reminding him, dude, I am living the dream. I think it's hard for non-writers to understand (and even some writers, who prefer to work in coffee shops), but I was built for this.

My blessing and my curse.
A friend posted this on Pinterest, and I thought, yup, I may not be the biggest Franzen groupie, but he gets it.
If I had my druthers, I would never work outside my house again. Sometimes I go days without even leaving the house (which sounds rather pathetic, I admit), but I honestly don't even notice. I'm sure I'd get out a bit more if I lived...well, anywhere else, but since I live in a tiny mountain top "town" (calling it a town is an insult to towns everywhere, but I don't have another word), and about the only excursions within a ten minute distance are to the post office or the university where I worked this past year, I'm pretty content just staying home, working in my kickass office. (One day, when it's clean, I'll post pictures.)

So that's where I've been the last three weeks, working in my office at home. The day after my job ended, T.J. and I headed to D.C. to begin our sixteen-day vacation, which included a day in D.C., nearly a week at Walt Disney World, and eight days in California. We had an amazing time, and after this blog my next few posts will be a series on our trip. (I promise they won't be as long as my Hawai'i posts, though.) When we got back, I began life as a full-time writer, and in 2.5 weeks I wrote forty-five pages on my dissertation. Forty-five pages! For those of you keeping track (i.e. no one), that's more than I wrote the entire previous year combined. So, yeah, the Single System that I've been preaching? WORKS. My critique partner Jamie and I text each other every morning to set an agenda (what we hope to accomplish that day), and then the next day we check in to see how we did and set a new agenda. Every couple of weeks, we exchange our writing and give feedback. On August 1, I had a sixty-page chapter to submit to my director, right on schedule, and we spent Friday emailing back and forth as she was reading it. I have some small revisions to make and some research she wants me to add, but nothing major. I can probably knock everything out in less than two days, and then I get to forward it on to my other committee members at the end of the month! So yeah, progress. The light is now clearly at the end of the tunnel, whereas before I was afraid I was going to be lost in the dark forever.

My next chapter isn't due until Nov. 1, so the pressure is off for a little while. Even though I'm still going to be researching and reading this next month (and revising Chapter 1), I'm not going to start writing Chapter 2 until September because I'm participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. For those of you who don't know, the folks behind NaNoWriMo run two similar programs in the summer months, during the months of June and August. As I've mentioned before, I usually attempt NaNoWriMo only to give up after a week or two. November is a hellish month for teachers, AND it only has thirty days (and a major holiday), so it just never works out for me. But the stars aligned this August and I said, if I'm ever going to finish a NaNoWriMo, now is the time! I've got 31 days to work with this time around (1613 words a day instead of 1667--trust me, it makes a difference), school doesn't start until the 25th, and we don't have any trips planned. I'm starting a bit behind because T.J.'s parents were here visiting since Thursday and we went away for the weekend, but I'm confident I can make up that time in the next few weeks.

Because no post of mine would be complete without a ton of travel pics, I'm going to conclude my post today with a few from this weekend, when we hit up the Harrisburg/Hershey/Lancaster area:

We had lunch at Hershey Pantry Saturday, which was muy delicioso.  Everything we tried was nom-worthy. (I had the turkey and cranberry sandwich with Swiss on cinnamon bread. Seriously, every sandwich I eat from now on must be on cinnamon bread.) The main decorations in the little cafe are ceramic coffee tumblers, which you can purchase. This one grabbed my attention because, even though it's about breast cancer, the message resonated all the more in light of recent chicken-related events. (And that's all I'm going to say on that topic.)
After lunch we had a surprise for T.J.'s dad--a visit to the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum, one of the biggest and best collections of antique cars in the country. I'm not a car person, by any means, and even I enjoyed the museum thoroughly. Very cool cars throughout, and I was snapping away at some I thought I might use in historical stories. 
One of the first Corvettes, parked at the drive-in, natch. I can just see James Dean in it now.
'75 Chevy Caprice, which had a starring role in one of my short stories from my undergrad thesis.
Our next stop was Hershey's Chocolate World, where sadly I took few pictures. It was  a nasty, rainy day, so Chocolate World was super crowded with people taking refuge. That may have been partially why we were disappointed in the place; there were just too many people and it was a bit disorganized. We did the "factory" ride, the tasting class (basically just the pre-wrapped Hershey's chocolates anyone can buy at the store), and the make-your-own candy bar station. Here is my white chocolate base being filled with yummy inclusions.
And now proceeding to the chocolate coating station.
Now on to the giant cooler.
At the end, you get to design your own label and the bars are nicely  packaged. I was pretty proud of mine, and the bar inside was surprisingly yummy! I included butterscotch and butter toffee in mine, so I was a bit worried how it would turn out, but I needn't have worried.
Chocolate World and the Make-Your-Own Candy Station weren't quite what we were expecting (everything was assembled on a factory line and behind glass, even though we had to wear hairnets, aprons, and gloves), but I still had fun. Once the rains cleared, we headed to our hotel in downtown Harrisburg for the night and ate at a wonderful little Irish pub, McGrath's, a couple of blocks away. If you're ever in the area, check out the Shepherd's Pie. Definitely the best I've ever eaten!

Obviously not a picture of Shepherd's Pie, but the trees outside our hotel which were FULL of black birds. They were screeching so loudly I was sure I was in a scene from The Birds and was about to be Tippi Hedroned.
The next day, it was back to Hershey to tour Hershey Gardens...

Inside the butterfly house.
The butterfly house wasn't the best I've visited, but it had lots of unusual butterflies I hadn't seen before (like the zebra swallowtail), and the coolest thing was this case of cocoons, where you could actually see butterflies being "born" (breaking out of their cocoons). These are two new butterflies.

Then we drove over to Lancaster to tour the Amish House and Farm and take the bus tour around the Amish countryside...

Back of Amish House, built in the early nineteenth-century (1805, I think)
Amish schoolhouse
One of the many covered bridges in the area. We saw this one on our bus tour, which we all agreed was the highlight of the weekend. We learned so much about the Amish community and culture, and since it was a Sunday, we saw dozens of young Amish couples out in their "courting" buggies, kids on their scooters, Amish teens playing volleyball, and families out visiting. No pictures of any of that though, of course, out of respect for their beliefs.
All in all, it was a great weekend! But it's good to be back and working again today. I'm excited about the progress I've made and about all the projects I have left to complete, so it's a good life right now. :-)


Snowie August 16, 2012 at 10:30 AM  

I came across this while looking for interesting writing blogs, and I've got to say I totally hear where you're coming from with not minding being at home all day. I started staying home full-time to write last summer, and my husband also felt like I was a shut-in who needed to be cheered up or something. At first he called me every single morning from work to see if I was ok, which totally interrupted whatever I was doing and really annoyed me. It did get better, though, when he eventually saw I wasn't going to go all "Yellow Wallpaper" on him. So hang in there and your new normal will eventually establish itself.

Lacy Marschalk August 23, 2012 at 4:16 PM  

Thanks for stopping by! My husband read this post, so I think he *finally* got the point. He called me every morning to check on me too! Now he just calls to ask how my work is coming, which is just the kind of incentive I need to get my butt in gear and get some work done...

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