ROW80 check-in Thanksgiving Nesting

I spent most of the last week feeling ill enough not to accomplish much, but not ill enough to stay home from the day job.  I also had to work on Friday, which allowed me to concentrate at work, since my department was empty, the phone didn’t ring, and I was far away from the few students who came to the library.

I spent most of Friday organizing my office, and planning my next few weeks of work.  I felt miserable yesterday, and puttered around the house, filing papers, discarding clutter, and generally lazing about.  Today, however, I have been a house-cleaning machine.  I have cleaned the kitchen from floor to walls, as well as the downstairs powder room from floor to cabinets to walls. 

It feels preparatory, as though I am clearing the decks to move ahead with my life.  I have let things slide, and need to do some more soul-searching, but I feel clearer. I have a lot of homework to do for the blogging workshop, lots of work at the day job, and a real need to find ways to accomplish everything without taking a toll on my health. I needed to clear the decks just to see the landscape of what has to be done.

I hope all my US colleagues had a good Thanksgiving, and all of you a good end of the week.  I hope you have a productive week to come, and I hope to have something more interesting to relate!  As always, please encourage someone from the linky here as we slide into the home stretch of this Round.


Renegade Reflections, ROW80

A cautionary tale

editing, writing, red pen,
Red Pen by Cellar Door FIlms from WANA Commons

Please scroll down for my ROW80 check-in.

Earlier this week, I was pointed to a funny, true, and far-too-self-revelatory comic by The Oatmeal on creativity. (Thank you, Kristen Lamb). I heard from fellow writers that The Oatmeal is well-known, although not to me.

I sent the link to my husband, who, as it happens, follows law blogs and copyright law.  He said, “Oh, yeah, that guy was in a lawsuit,” and proceeded to send me all the relevant blog posts.

It is a cautionary tale for those of us who create.  The Oatmeal called out a site that posts creative works without permission or attribution; the site’s response was to threaten legal action.  An awesome set of bloggers, known as Popehat, found lawyers to work pro bono for The Oatmeal.

I cannot tell the story better than the string of posts about it on Popehat; the snark is delicious and redolent. They are in reverse chronological order, so one has to read up, but they are numbered after number 3.

I was touched that Popehat puts up a Popehat signal (yes, like Batman) when they feel someone needs legal assistance; lawyers respond by the legion, and offer pro bono help. It seems the name Popehat is an inside joke among the founding bloggers, with nothing to do with the papacy or Roman Catholicism, but coming from a staunch Irish Catholic family, I had to love the Popehat as a Batman-type signal.

I also love to see lawyers paying it forward in this way.  I cannot say with any certainty, but I suspect some of those offering pro bono work enjoy fighting the sleazebags who have given lawyers a bad name since Shakespeare’s time.

A incident like this one makes me nervous about sharing anything I’ve created. I would hate to feel powerless against a legal threat when I merely want the rights to my own work.  Early in my academic career, it was accepted procedure to sign away all rights to the journal publishing one’s article.  The sea change has happened in that world as well, with academics keeping the rights to their work.

I have no snappy conclusions or smart solutions.  I wanted to call your attention to some of the good guys. I think it is arrogant for a site to think they can post things without attribution or permission.  I am glad that, with Popehat’s help, The Oatmeal won the day.

How do you feel about having your work out there?  Do you post excerpts or serial snippets? Have you ever had anything posted without permission or attribution?


I’m still in the chrysalis phase, uncertain whether I am Swallowtail Spicebush or Monarch. The blogging class is coming along reasonably well, and I am learning some elementary things like embedding videos and the like.

I spent most of the week feeling like I’d been drained by vampires, with none of the eroticism. I’m probably valiantly fighting off some virus making the rounds of the students, so I’m not worried, but it has put paid to my doing much outside of the day job.  I have gotten most of an article written for the day job, which does help keep the pump primed for fiction writing.  All in all, I’ll take it. 🙂

Please go encourage some of the cohort here.


Re-assessment of Goals

Kait’s check-in asked whether we have to adjust our goals. I have been thinking for some time that I need to do so.  My original goals are in roman font, my emendations in italic. As it turns out, I have been best at my personal goals.  I have felt somewhat uncertain about writing and being a grown-up the past few weeks. Taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging class has given me a wealth of information, but has slightly eroded my confidence.  I know it will pass, and I will shake it off, but it does show in my progress toward my goals.



  • I will create an outline of the entire novel, spending at least 7 hours a week in whatever configuration works for that week. This work is just not happening this Round.  Deferred.


  • I’m starting a blogging course on October 8th, and will keep up with the assignments. I am slightly behind, but keeping up within a few days of target dates.  I’m learning a lot, and the learning curve is much steeper than I expected.
  • I will be doing research the week of October 1-5, which I will turn into a first draft of an article, spending at least 4 hours a week from October 8th on, in whatever configuration. This first draft needs to be done by Christmas; I enjoy working on it, so even though I am falling behind, it stays as a goal.


  • As a sponsor, I will visit my assigned blogs twice a week. I often fall a day or two behind, but am managing to keep up within that time.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs. I am about a week behind on this goal, but it is very important to me, and I will leave it as is.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  I will assess which platforms work for me, and which ones do not. I have been largely absent from social media, except for the time that the blogging class assignments require.  I am getting a better idea of what is working and what is not.


  • I got stress fractures in two metatarsals by walking, so I will walk for only twenty minutes an evening. Nope.  Changed to three times a week, which is not giving up entirely, but is still a stretch.
  • I will continue to use the stairs. At least one goal that is working out still!
  • Starting October 8th, I will investigate low impact exercise, choosing one by week’s end. I have done the investigation, looking at Tai Chi and Yoga.  A sharp decline in my shoulder has deferred actually pursuing this exercise until at least the next Round.


  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read. I read before I fall asleep, which is proving very helpful for understanding structure, dialogue, and genre.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best. Although I haven’t managed an hour every week, I want to keep this goal, as I have come close most weeks.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month.  This one is actually working as well.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids.  Again, although I haven’t managed an hour every week, I want to keep this goal, as I have come close most weeks.
Renegade Reflections, ROW80

More Gratitude and ROW80

Siesta Key Elizabeth Anne Mitchell December White ChristmasI’ve included a very cute video of a puppy playing with his favorite toy below this post on gratitude, above  my ROW80 check-in.  I hope you enjoy!

After writing about some of my family in the last post, I wanted to express my gratitude to some other family members: my aunt, my brother, and my sister. I am very grateful that my aunt found time to spend with her niece, and that my brother and sister have endeavored to stay connected with me despite the centrifugal force that characterizes my family. My mother’s sister was nine years older than my mother, with no intervening children; my mother always looked upon her as a mother, and I saw her more as a grandmother.  A big believer in idle hands leading to devil’s work, my aunt taught me how to knit, crochet, embroider, and tat when I was very young.  She was teaching my oldest sister, but I hung around like a pest and learned as well. She came to see us every month or so; we were always glad to see her, because she knew all sorts of stories and could bake the best pies and cookies I’d ever had.Even though she always made me keep my hands busy with knitting or tatting while we talked, I looked forward to her visits.  I felt as though she could see me, when very few other grownups could.  She despaired when I became a perpetual student, often shaking her head at my explanations of why I studied all these things.  When I finally got married and settled down with my instant family, you would have thought she had been the matchmaker, she was so proud.  And when we added more children, she was ecstatic that I had given her more children to love.Two days before my youngest son was born, Aunt Ellene felt ill, describing it somewhat like indigestion, but worse.  The hospital gave her heartburn medication and sent her home.  Three hours later, she passed away from a massive heart attack.  My mother debated delaying her planned trip to help me with the new baby, but she came the day he came home from the hospital, missing her sister’s funeral, because that was what my aunt would have wanted. My son is nineteen now, and I still miss talking with Aunt Ellene over our knitting or embroidery.
My brother didn’t become a human being until I was 11 and he went to college.  He actually corresponded with me; when he was home on vacation, he still acted like a jerk sometimes, but that behavior diminished through the years.  He married into one of those huge families that gets together for birthdays and holidays and weddings; I have never asked him directly, but I suspect he felt the same kind of attraction/curiosity at the concept that I did when I first saw this unaccustomed behavior.  No matter, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly, leaving my father to shake his head in consternation at how he and his wife travel cross country to see their kids and grandkids.  I stand back in admiration.Last year, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and had one lung removed.  I had not realized until that point how much I thought my siblings were immortal, nor how hard it would hit me.  He is still fighting, but it is a long path through the woods.  He cannot fly anymore, but he and his wife pack up the car and still travel hundreds of miles to see their families. I am so grateful that he has tried valiantly to establish the sort of relationship with me that his wife has with her siblings. I am thankful to them both for showing me that it could work when I was still young enough to do the same for my own family.

One of my sisters is four years older than I am; reportedly she told my father that I was not the fun kind of baby doll, and would he please take me back.  No luck, sorry!  After this bumpy start, my sister and I started to bond her senior year in high school.  I stopped being the “faery child” who did not seem connected to the world, and started being able to see her.  During her college years, we shared hopes and dreams, despite long periods where one or the other of us would pull away to nurse our wounds in private–she, an abusive marriage; me, an early failed marriage, the abyss of graduate school.  Even now, she calls me regularly; I promise to call her, and forget (I am a very bad sister).  She and I are so different in so many of our world views, but we get each other, especially given our shared history.  I am grateful that she continues to knock on my door and pull me out of my little world now and again.

ROW80 Check-in:
While there is still a lot going on behind the curtain, I haven’t much to offer.  I am uploading hundreds of photographs from the past several years, creating a pool to use in my blog from those and others that are not copyrighted or restricted.  I am slowly shoehorning three blogs into one, and endeavoring to find my voice and my niche.  The hardest part so far is to find what might be most interesting about my odd pockets of knowledge or interests.
The day job is heading into high gear, the rush before the holidays. I’m facing longer and longer days, but enjoy most of the work.  I feel the tidal pull to get back to writing, which is only slightly sated by doing the day job writing.  Soon!
If you can take a break from NaNo or your other projects, please go encourage some of the ROW80 folks here.
Renegade Reflections, ROW80


Fall colors, pear tree,
source: E. K. Carmel, from WANA commons

My ROW80 check-in is  at the bottom of this post, if you want only to look at that.

Shan Jeniah, a writer I have met through ROW80 is participating in Thankvember.  While I haven’t signed up, I have been thinking about gratitude. Going through some of my posts while combining my various blogs into one, I found this one still rang true.

The holiday season that ends the calendar year often focuses on family.  Many of the bloggers I read have recently posted about family and family celebrations during the holiday season.  I, too, am very grateful for my family, but I have very few traditions to draw upon.

My parents both had such Dickensian childhoods, it is nearly unbelievable that they grew up in the 20th century.  My father was supposed to be the daughter that arrived two years after his birth.  A fourth son, he was seen as completely superfluous.  My mother was the youngest daughter in her family; in the Southern tradition I thought went away by the end of the 19th century, she was marked to stay with her parents and care for them until their death.  To that end, she was taught early how to run the household, standing on an orange crate to cook and wash dishes at four years old.

My mother and father met on a blind date and married within a year.  Because my father was an Irish Catholic from Massachusetts and my mother a Southern Baptist from Georgia, both of their families summarily disowned them.  My mother’s family went so far as to obliterate her name from the family Bible.  Eventually, some members of both families had some contact with our family, but for most of them, it was limited in both time and warmth. It left a legacy of a real lack of warmth among my own siblings, which is something I realized only in contrast with other families.

Also, my parents seem to have very little tradition to call upon. My father has resisted all my questions about holiday family traditions; my mother has been only slightly more informative, saying that she often got nothing but an orange for Christmas. Because my mother then spun into her “you ungrateful children” speech at that point, I never asked for more details.  Given these deficits, my parents tried to give us children the American dream holidays.  We rarely had a turkey for Thanksgiving, due to the cost, but my father did relax that day.  Christmas Day was a bigger deal, with  presents under the tree for the four children.  I did notice we never had any other family around, like all my schoolmates did.

Due to this upbringing, I really didn’t bring any holiday traditions to my married life; in my first marriage, I played along with traditions I didn’t feel inside.  When I married my second husband, we worked to create traditions together, melding his traditions with my dream holidays. We went through the common tug-of-war between the families, whom to visit when, whom to eat with, whom to stay with if we had travelled.  The situation was complicated by my daughters having their own traditions, as well as another set of grandparents, aunts, and uncles to visit. Thankfully, it got much easier as the girls became older and made their own decisions about the scheduling, rather than being pulled so many different directions.  Even when they spent less time with us, I felt better knowing they were making the decisions.

Perhaps because of my background, family is very important to me.  I don’t tell them often enough how important they are to me.  Some of that reticence is due to my teenage sons, who flee emotion as if it were hydrofluoric acid, but sometimes I take all of them for granted.

I am grateful for my sons, who defied all medical opinion to exist, appearing after three doctors had told me I could not have children.  They helped me learn how to be a mother to alien creatures, who didn’t act at all like their sisters. Furthermore, I had met my daughters when they were 5 and 3, so 0-3 was uncharted territory.  My sons laid to rest any nature versus nurture discussions I had in my mind; their drive and fearlessness taught me how to take risks, while making my face pale with fear.

I am grateful for my daughters, who accepted me as a second mom, and weathered my learning to walk the tightrope, and how to be that second mom. Recently, one of my sons-in-law paid me one of the best compliments I’ve gotten.  He told me that the way I accepted and loved my youngest daughter showed her how to love and accept his two children.  He said she might not have married him had she not grown up with me. It brought me to tears when he told me, and it does so now.

And I am grateful for my husband, who puts up with my weird mental glitch, where I point right and say left, especially annoying when giving directions in the car; follow the hand, not the voice, is the trick.  He accepts my ADD as well as my Irish temper; he glories in my nerdiness, and thinks I’m still as interesting as I was when he met me so very long ago.

To all of you, thank you for keeping me sane, human, and open to the people around me.

writing pencil composition book, L.E. Carmichael WANA commons
source: L. E. Carmichael, WANA commons

ROW80: Not much to report here,  I feel like a cop, saying “Move along, people, nothing to see here.”  While there is a lot going on beneath the surface, I have very little on the surface that reflects the changes. I am learning and working hard in the blogging class; I have managed to keep up my sponsor duties; I have written scads and scads of words on the academic article and procedural documents at the day job (woo-hoo!)

I will return to the novel and blogging by the end of the year.  For now, please go encourage someone in the ROW80 group.  They are a great bunch, and can be found here.


Waiting for Stacy

Although I am back on track with check-ins, I can’t shake the feeling that I am spinning my wheels.  It’s one of those dreaded periods of self-doubt.  It will pass. If I am objective, I’m doing better than I had been.  

I am eating better, avoiding the foods that waft their siren song toward me, then stab me in the back by making me feel ill. I see their true appearance now! My wonky shoulder is slowing me down a bit, but I am seeing a doctor on Thursday, so I give myself kudos for self-care. I will discuss what exercise won’t hurt the shoulder, so hey, a two-fer.

As for tv marathons, between the World Series and NFL football, I have graciously ceded the tv to the men in the house.  Aren’t I just the nicest?  I have also put a timer on the computer games–15 minutes twice a day.  I still twitch when the timer goes off, but so far, I comply with it.

Today we are hunkering down for Hurricane Stacy.  We are on the edge of the worst winds and storm surge, but are still under a wind and flood watch.  My neighborhood was built in the early 1930’s, and the trees were planted at the same time.  While I usually love looking out the windows at the huge trees only feet away, I must admit I am a bit nervous.

I have spent a lot of time on the blogging class, but I know it will pay huge dividends down the line.  The logline class is more focussed, less of a time commitment, but still takes a lot of brain power.  I’m tweaking my resume for the day job, as well as writing an article.  Both are outside the normal 9-5 time commitment, so I feel like I do nothing but write these days.

Rather than feel overwhelmed by all the writing, I am energized by it. I have a chance to attend classes at the New York Writer’s Institute, since it is housed at the university where I have my day job.  I need to get some of my other commitments out of the way, but I am going to attend some of the talks and workshops when I can.

So that‘s all the news in my neck of the woods. I hope everyone in the path of the storm stays safe; here’s hoping we all keep our power!

The ROWers would love to get a comment and an encouraging word from you. The blog hop is here.



I missed the last two check-ins, which is never a good sign for me. I’ve had some personal angst going on, which has added to the stress level.  I’m not that good at handling stress, sigh.

It’s time for a reboot–not so much a change in goals, as a refocus and refinement.  I do three things when I am stressed, none of which are good things:  I eat comfort food, I do marathon tv watching; and I play computer games.

My husband is rebooting his diet to control his diabetes, so I’m going to tag along with that and his exercise. I am swearing off the tv watching for a bit, saving it as a reward.  Finally, I am paring back on the computer games, by giving myself seven minutes a day. I now write in a notebook at break and lunch at work, so the computer is not as big a temptation.

Also, not all the news is bad.  The blogging class is going well, although it is an amazing amount of work. I’m still struggling with describing myself; unfortunately, the timing is the same as my having to come up with a detailed resume at work, so the whole thing is making me run around in denial.

I’m also taking a loglines class, which should help me stay focussed on the plot line of the novel. Everyone is commenting on everyone else’s work, so it is proving very helpful.

Last Saturday night, I went to a pre-season NBA game at the local arena, with both sons and hubby. It counted as somewhat of a date night, since we had to wait for an hour to get out of the parking garage after the game.

I’m also keeping up with my sponsor duties, so that’s one in the plus column as well.  I hope everyone has a wonderful rest of the week.  If you  have a chance, go encourage someone here.


Musings on music and comfort zones

This check-in is more ruminative than anything else.  I find it interesting what things stretch my comfort zone.  Saturday night, I went to a performance of Bach’s Magnificat with Eden.   There was a piece by Hayden beginning the evening and then a piece written in 1959.  I hate to admit it, but I immediately sighed to myself, thinking, “I don’t like modern music.”  I know *hangs my head in shame* how awful that sounds.  

Once the music started, I was drawn in, feeling the gooseflesh that usually only the “greats” can elicit from me. It was a challenging piece, more than willing to dip me into atonal depths that I have sworn never to revisit, but it deposited me whole and safe, shaken in good ways, at the end.

Earlier on Saturday, I was endeavoring to work on an exercise for the blogging class that makes my teeth hurt and my eyes water–to describe myself.  I would rather scrub toilets, grade freshman English composition papers, swim a mile. . . well, you get the picture.  It seems like such a small thing to my husband and sons, none of whom pat my hand when I whine to them.  

Obviously not done with locking myself out of my comfort zone, I did an online writing exercise at noon today. It made me write and think in ways I don’t often (or ever) do, and it was among the hardest writing I’ve ever done!  After I got over my surprise at the difficulty (my perfectionist never likes to be shown up!), I realized how much I had learned from it.

Both the music and the writing exercises are opportunities to leave my comfort zone, and to grow.  I’d forgotten how much growing hurts, but I’d also gotten terribly complacent, and I am glad to ache in good ways this evening.

I haven’t hit all my goals, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve had in the last week.  I stayed at work late Thursday night, revelling in the quiet and lack of interruptions, and got some writing done.

I hope everyone is motoring along well and finding their stride.  If you have a chance, go encourage someone whose link you find here.  It helps to hear from other writers!


Lessons Learned and Au revoir, New York

Today I leave New York City and return to my now-familiar haunts in upstate New York.  I enjoy the dip into the big city, drawing energy from the crowds on the sidewalks, the taxis blaring by, horns in counterpoint, the aromatic steam rising from the food trucks, all waking me early and filling the well.

I’ve been doing back flips into the research pool, and must admit climbing out to go back to my day job reminds me of being summoned from the neighborhood pool on hot summer days when I was a child. I also had to deal with the magpie this week, as I kept finding interesting side paths while working on my article.  I am proud to say I just kept putting notes in an idea file for future research trips.

My husband came to the city yesterday morning, so I managed to meet my date night goal.  We didn’t do anything much, but wandered around the city and talked.

Tomorrow, I’m starting the blogging class taught by Kristen Lamb at wana.intl, and am looking forward to learning and improving.

Speaking of learning, I want to share something I learned from the academic writing group in which I participate. This quote is from Dame Eleanor Hull’s post where she attributes the quotation to Dr. Isis’ post here.

“A friend just gave me a new framework for ways of comparing things: normative, ipsative and aspirational. So think about reaching a goal, say training for a marathon.  Normative – how do I compare to others around me with whom I train: are they getting better faster than me? Ipsative – how do I compare to where I was: am I running at a consistently faster pace than a month ago? Aspirational – how do I compare to where I want to be – can I run 20 miles without puking?”

It made me think about how we can make these comparisons negative or positive, depending on our psyche, or our mood of the moment. For example, I could take the normative comparison to beat myself up–”this acquaintance easily wins NaNo every year, so I’m a failure since I haven’t ever won.” Or the aspirational comparison could be so far out of reach as to be ridiculous–”I’ll have a book contract and three novels under my belt by this time next year.”

However, I can make positive normative and aspirational goals, which are the kind that work best in ROW80.  I have to admit, though, that I am intrigued by ipsative goals, where I compare myself to me, and I can celebrate progress, or even give myself little rewards. 🙂

Also, Kait gave a wonderful explanation and rationale for visiting each other and strengthening this great community in her check-in post.  You can find everyone here.

Let me know what you think about these comparison techniques for goals, and how you might use the different techniques in your own goals.  I love to hear from you.


Manuscripts and Incunabula, Oh My

This week I’m in Manhattan, on a research grant from the day job, spending my days at the Pierpont Morgan Library. I am in my element here, I have to say.  I spent Monday with photocopies of manuscripts and yesterday morning with microfilm, but I worked with a manuscript from around 1440 yesterday afternoon.  Later this week, I will look at an early printed book from about 1530–not an incunabulum, like I said in the title, but “early printed book” doesn’t fit in the linky title line very well!

I get these chances to do research very seldom, but they are always revelatory when I get them.  Not only do I enjoy doing this research, like a pig in clover, my aunt would have said, but I’m very good at it.  It boosts my self-confidence immensely to dust off my paleographic and language skills, immersing myself in the alien cultures of 15th- and 16th-century England and France and finding myself so very much at home.

I find that I am storing up all the experience like photographs of loved ones, to take with me. I can pull them out in low times to remember who I am and where I come from.

I’m not meeting my other goals due to spotty internet, but I will have time to catch up when I return home.  I am ecstatic that I could start this Round with such a wonderful sprint, or to follow on my fledgling images from last Round, a breathtaking soar far above the treetops.

Kait’s post  about best practices and checking in with others is a very good one.  Please add the best practice of encouraging everyone; they are listed here.