Nearly…there…one…more…step…

Haven’t written in the blog for a while because I’ve not had a chance to work on the PhD since I started back at work and my kids came to visit for a holiday. But the DH has now read it and made some salient points about what I still need to do. He liked the narrative chapters a lot. He reported that after the very deep and dense literature and methods chapters that he just needed some data. I agreed. He also said the literature needed more signposting, and that the headers in the Methods chapter weren’t always working. I agree, but when you’re stuck with two types of fonts in varying shades of underline or italics then you’ve not much option except for size.

He thought my argument in the literature was fine. He thought my ideas were fine. So, it’s once again just super structure. This is easy to fix with a few diagrams that show where the literature is headed. Clearly while I’ve signposted the links in writing, my visual DH needs a picture or 2 for clarity and brevity, dare I say. So if he needs it, so will others.

I’ve still to finish the discussion but I’m going to give it a red hot go on the weekend – it shouldn’t be too hard to bed down now. I think I’m going to have to argue for an extension on length as I’ve three quite long narrative chapters that are central to my thesis and I can’t lose those. Also my discussion chapter deserves space and it’s not yet finished.

I looked just now at my concluding chapter and the master apprentice paradigm I’m trying to articulate is not completely visible here, so I’ll have to spend a bit of time managing this. Nevertheless, it is nearly done. I can see where to fix it. I’m sending it to my supervisor next week so it is very close to completed. Whether it’s any good…well, I can’t say. I just don’t know any more. I know I can write. I know I can research. Are my arguments any good? Do they work? There’s certainly a philosophical underpinning I’m having difficulty articulating. Something about artistry. Which I don’t have time or space to explore. Gah. That’s a journal article for another day.

I love my husband

I really, really do. I’ve had this ongoing minor illness – nothing to really complain about except I feel a bit tired and woozy and have low energy. DH took me away on a writing retreat so that I didn’t have to think about the house or money or being busy, and I was simply there to write!

And write I did. Now I think my Methods chapter is nearly ready. I spent more time on my literature review – such as it is – and just now I sent off nearly my entire thesis to my supervisor for the dreaded OMG discussion on Thursday.

I’m tired and want to stop this now, but I’m a bit off because my literature review is so hideous. Gah. I’m taking about 5 weeks off my private students in June so that I can finish this thing, which will be very bad for the pocket but good for my brain.

Anyhoo, my husband has been feeding me all day and now we’re about to entertain guests so I’d better have a shower and clean up the house before they arrive.

I love my husband. I do, I do.

My new studio!

Well, ok, it’s not my new studio, it’s my current one remodelled to enable my daughter to have her own room. In other words, I lose space. But while it’s long and thin, I think we’ve made it work very well.

Today my hubby and I returned home after a lovely indulgent weekend on the Sunshine coast hinterland to a house a little hysterically small and overflowing with books. My studio held 4 of those ugly but crazily useful Ikea bookcases and they were full to overflowing, so trying to shoehorn all those bookcases into a smaller area was awful. In the end we came up with some good solutions and now my studio is clean, tidy and surprisingly large given that we’ve lost 6 square metres. We removed the largest bookcase from the room and I upended another so that it sits vertically, not horizontally against the wall. We took out another small bookcase, I’ve remodelled the entry and now folks enter from the lounge room. It’s not ideal because we have to keep the house super tidy – no dirty dishes lurking in the sink! But I think this will work nicely. It feels new and fresh and all the surfaces are clean at last.

Hubby and I went shopping for a glass topped desk in a vain attempt to reduce visual bulk without success but I think I’ve solved the problem of my large desk by sliding it to the left away from the door. It’s out of the way of the students and better suited to my space now.

A nice spring clean in preparation for my last gasp to the finish line with my PhD. So, it’s after midnight here, and I have a full day of teaching tomorrow, plus proofs of my book to correct and send back. But at least I can work in my space now! No more excuses, I believe my supervisor would say, rather drily.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Hysterical with exhaustion, my 44th birthday yesterday was celebrated at the end of a VERY long day, with wine and good food and my husband and daughter.

Like many folk who teach music for a living my work is peripatetic and sporadic, therefore like all good musicians I rarely say no to any job. So it is I’ve found myself teaching singing 4 full days a week this year from 8.30am – 7.00pm with only a 30 minute lunch break most days. I’m told the best thing to do is ask a busy person to do something because they will make time to do it, and so it was with me. Found myself on Wednesday teaching singing for 4 hours, then tutoring music history for 3, then teaching singing for another 3 hours, with only enough time to drive to each venue before starting afresh. In that time I managed to write 4 quite important emails, redraft an essay question for 1st year music students, have several discussions with colleagues, then go out to celebrate my birthday.

I was so tired I frankly got quite merry on 2 glasses of wine. Unlike me – I’m a complete lush normally.

So, at the end of a frankly exhausting week, reeling slightly under the weight of not quite enough sleep and too much 1-2-1 singing teaching, my lovely hubby is taking me away for the weekend to a country mountain retreat. I’m taking my computer. He promises me there is no wireless, but I’ve assured him I don’t need it: I’m doing a lit review, not checking email! But before I get to spend this much-needed time with hubby, I have to meet with my supervisor, who will no doubt look at my rather paltry attempts to write my literature and discussion chapters and laugh and point.

Oh, well. It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

Getting into the swing of it. Again. And again. Aaaand… again.

Holidays, or PhD? PhD, or holidays? That is the conundrum pendulum for today. It’s a Saturday, after all, and Thursday I actually did 5 solid hours of work, but the rest of my family are on their summer break and the siren wail of long walks by the ocean, chippies and glasses of vino beckon, and it’s hard to get motivated when everyone else is lounging about!

Friday I couldn’t work as I was packing the car, driving the children of step to the beach house, shopping, and cleaning the house. So I have a deficit of 5 hours to make up next week. I am determined to make the time up, because it’s marching on and I’m getting antsy again. And as usual, getting started is ALWAYS the hardest part of the PhD work. Once I’m in, it’s much easier to stay there.

I’m aiming for 5 solid hours of study/ reading / writing per day, during the week, and time off for good behaviour on the weekend. I realistically won’t get any more time than this, because even if I start at 8, there’s lunch and walks to be had, dinner to make and time to be spent with my kids. But next week will be 6 hours a day – nearly full time! Gosh! But this makes up for the hopeless November studying, when I only did the equivalent of one week’s study for the whole month.

On the plus side, no more Facebook means much less procrastination. It’s been super hard to do, and I was trembling as I deactivated it, but already I feel less jumpy and disconnected and I’ve managed to stay on task much longer. If people want to get in contact with me, they can call me. If they don’t have my phone number, it’s readily available on the www. If it’s that important.

I am writing this blog from the relative difficulty of my internet dongle – it only has 2gig per month available to me, so I have to be a little circumspect about how much I use. But this is the moment – when I am away – when it comes most in handy. Most of the time I’m connected through work or home, so the dongle just gathers dust in its case. Just as well I’ve paid for it anyway. Sort of.

So, December will be the month to finish draft one of the literature review, which is currently about 14,000 words along. Then January will be writing my discussion chapter and finishing the introduction. February will be to look through the whole draft once again and put it into one single document – something I’ve not yet attempted. I have yet to make sense of my methods chapter because I’m so far removed from this that I’ve forgotten what I did and how I did it! But it’s getting there, slowly.

One thing I have yet to do is try and find the gaps in my work – what have I missed? One of the areas not really investigated is the current opera and concert stage world – the business of opera and how we perceive it when developing our students for a career in this industry. There is little actual research available – mostly the current work is about transitions OUT of the profession, so I have to glean information from anecdotal information including news articles, opinion pieces, interviews with professional singers and the like. Luckily, some clever folk have published books on the subject (purely journalistic) but I can extrapolate some of the better information which should help me build a case.

So, even though I’ve not done any study today or yesterday, my brain is percolating along. Again.

Air and Light and Time and Space

Getting myself in the state of mind for study is as easy as climbing Mount Everest, some weeks. I start climbing the North face, because it’s bright and sunny on that side, when a blizzard hits and I tumble down with an avalanche of long-overdue work and things I have set aside because my teaching is so time-intensive.

The last two weeks have been “school holiday” weeks, but I’ve not had any time off then because last week was audition week (9am – 5pm) 5 days, and the week before I was still teaching: I had all my uni students and a day of singing audition preparation with my private students, plus assignment marking. I get too buggered after hours to maintain a mental flow, plus I usually want to cook dinner or eat, or walk the dog. All the things one has to do to maintain a happy work/life balance.

So now, I’m back at work on my full time teaching load for the next 4 weeks or so, with only Fridays available. It’s so stop and start! I’m struggling to keep my head focused on my study because my brain is all tuckered in from working and doing the household and business finance, plus any other organising stuff I have to do.

This weekend we head to Sydney for a PD session on Singing teaching, and the next few weekends and evenings are a riot of busyness and work functions. ARGH.

Still, I can see where I am wasting time now: I am waking up at what a friend calls stupid-o-clock (before 6am) and while I’m not tired then, I rarely jump out of bed to study. Maybe my body is telling me to get my arse into gear and do the morning work thing. Maybe. Or just exercise, because it will be too hot this summer to exercise any other time.

I read a salient comic of Charles Bukowski’s poem Air and Light and Time and Space

http://zenpencils.com/comic/97-charles-bukowski-air-and-light-and-time-and-space/which basically tells me to shut the f**k up and just write, darn it. If I want to do this, I’ll do this.¬† A great reminder to me that this work – in its own way creative – will be done if I want it done. So I must do it.

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Hubby starts a new job today. We’ve spent the best part of 10 days frantically getting ready for this new change in our lives as the job he is starting is the Director of the Queensland Conservatorium. It’s a pressure job. Last week we went away for a few days to the coast for a mini break and even though I took my computer I didn’t open it once. Not once. Instead, we went to the Eumundi Markets, had friends up for a lunch on the Sunday, went for lots of walks on the beach with the dog and generally did very little other than relax and spend money.

When we got back I decided I wouldn’t teach on the Wednesday and instead we painted our front fence, mowed the weeds and just cleaned up a bit round the house. Saturday I was a powerhouse of energy, exhausting all in my path! It felt good to do boring house things and today I feel ready to take up the challenge of teaching again. I have about 8 weeks left in this year of 35 hour weeks, and after that one month of part-time teaching, and then I’m done for the year. December to February will be about trying to finish the PhD so there may be some time spent at the beach doing just that.

Friday is supposed to be about studying but it all went to the dogs over the last 2 weeks because of our holiday, so I’ll be ramping up the study over the next month, trying to develop my literature review which is all in pieces at present. I’m struggling with needing to have weekends and wanting to do house things (like painting and cleaning and planning), and feeling the pressure of the PhD looming, plus hubby’s new job becoming bigger than Ben Hur!

Changes indeed. I’ll let you know how we get on.

It has been a month since my last confession…

I’m not Catholic. Never was, despite my surname. So, apologies for stealing this confessional statement. But, wow! Hasn’t time flown!

No news is good news, right? Well….kinda. In my life this month, a bunch of stuff has been happening – mostly good, some not so good.

The new car is AWESOME. I love driving it. Tick!

My diet is TERRIBLE. But I’ve not gained any weight that I can tell. And I’m back on the straight and narrow today. Tick!

My exercise regime is LAUGHABLE. But I’m working on it. Little tick for motivational purposes.

My work life is FANTASTIC. I love my job. I have a minor yearning for some performance stuff but otherwise I have the perfect gig. Now to make it a permanent tenured position (never going to happen, but hey, a girl can dream). Tick!

My family life is WONDERFUL. I love my husband. We are easing into a lovely place – teasing yet caring, understanding of each others’ scruples but not averse to raising the eyebrow on occasion. Or the ire. I love my boys and miss them terribly but I saw them just recently and spent guilt money on them because I can. My extended family are all great and doing amazing things. Tick!

My social life is OK – could be better – I have little time to visit friends and have not called anyone lately, even though I’m a constant on FB. Bad Jessie. Must call friends and SEE them. No tick – a cross instead.

My PhD study is AWFUL. I have no time to work on it consistently, I have even less time to care about it at the moment, and I got the most horrible response back regarding the gaping flaws in my Methods Chapter. So I’m taking time off it again. Because I’m sick of it and I want a new supervisor who is pleasant and personable and who is a mentor and whose caring approach makes me want to do better. Right now I feel nothing but RAGE. No tick here. Cross.

The house renovations are SADLY in hiatus while our weekends are busy, but we are in the planning phase of the next job. If my youngest boy comes to live with us I will have to find another place to work because we can’t all fit into the house as is. And we will need to renovate the interior in order to get everyone to fit. This could be fun AND expensive. Half tick for planning, at least.

The dog is getting BETTER, calmer, and her training is going quite well. I’m a bit lazy about it and we rarely have time to do much, but she’s getting there. She’s a bit neurotic around the kids, who tend to psych her up a bit and make her jumpy. She growls at us when she is on her bed at night sleeping (with her eyes open), and we walk past. We are training her out of that, too. Half tick for perseverance and her ability to sit, drop, leave it, and sit on her mat.

Finally, our spending is a tad OUT OF CONTROL. This is what we bought yesterday. Because hubby was complaining about the poor result we were getting from our coffee machine (5 years old and is starting to fail a bit), and he wanted a new one. And I wanted a red one. We got a new, red, expensive, beautiful machine: a Breville 900CB. It’s awesome. Truly.Breville coffee machineOur coffee now tastes amazing and the machine was laughably easy to set up. But no tick for thrift. Big cross for being a spendthrift.

So, there you go. Ticks: 5 full, 2 half. Crosses: 3. Hail Marys required: none. I’m an atheist. Looking forward to when those crosses on my PhD become ticks, and when our spending is pulled back – this will NEVER happen because we want to renovate the house and that’s exxie. I can, at least, do something about my friends. See y’all soon. xxx

 

Writing retreats

I’m here, in beautiful, snow-bound Yorkshire, gearing myself up to work on my methods chapter. We’ve been here nearly 2 days now. The cottage is beautiful, the surrounding countryside is beautiful, and the weather is cold and there’s even snow. I’m in heaven.

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We arrived at the cottage on Thursday afternoon at 3pm after 30 hours in transit (I went to the gym at Singapore airport – now THAT’S dedication!) and the cleaners hadn’t been through since the last tenants, so I emailed the owner and we went into the local town for some supplies while waiting for the cottage to be cleaned. We ate at the local pub with VERY nice food – I had a spicy pumpkin-based soup and a ploughman’s lunch and DH had a delicious pie – and we were home by 7.00pm. I was in bed by 8.00pm and slept through until 9.00am the following day.

Yesterday we wandered through an old castle, as you do, went to the Aysgarth Falls and grabbed an hilarious lunch at the National Park Centre. Served by the most delightful Yorkshire lady, she gave better service than most restaurants but in an ever so slightly CWA way. The little cafe we went to was just that side of NQR. Poorly designed, it had fridges and the food prep area in entirely the wrong place, and nothing quite worked right. Nevertheless, the food was wonderful. My meal was the most enormous jacket potato with cheese, salad on the side, and DH had a minced corned beef and onion toastie – no cheese. Perfect for the weather and delicious. There goes the diet!

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Later, we wandered back into Hawes and I bought some tramping boots as planned (although they are mustard yellow – quite unexpected but kind of Doc Martenish in appearance so therefore cool), and we went to the Creamery, where we bought some lovely Wensleydale cheese and condiments. Home by 6pm, dinner was some spicy pre-made M&S minestrone soup, pate and cheese biccies, and a glass or two of Chianti. On the radio was the Bach St John Passion, and I fell asleep in front of the fire.

Awoke this morning just before dawn to a light snow fall, and now, at 10.00am, am contemplating either some work time or some tramping time, followed by the purchase of more food supplies. Either sound fabulous on this Easter Saturday.