Making Progress

This is the quickest post in the history of blog posts, but I thought I should let you all know that I am still here! 

I have made progress on my dissertation. This past weekend I wrote about ten pages, and I’m really getting into analyzing the data from my archhival research trip and putting it into words…I just hope my dissertation advisor likes it! 

I owe you and myself and this blog several long posts about the archival research process and my trip to Princeton, NJ. It was wonderful and exciting and enlightening!  So be on the lookout for a few great new posts. 

I must get ready for work now, so everyone, have a GREAT WEEK! 



What Can We Learn from the Winter Olympics?

As I watch the Ice Dancing portion of the Olympics, I can’t help but ask (as I do every time I watch) how do they DO it?

The French team just Ice danced the quickstep and it was just amazing. I can’t even do a cartwheel, and I had to go to six Arthur Murray dance lessons to learn how to do a simple waltz for my wedding…so, I am amazed at the talent and athleticism and musicality that these ice skaters have to have in order to get to the olympics.

So that’s what brings me to my question for readers: How much of the olympics is due to talent and athleticism, and how
much is because of hard work, discipline, and perseverance? As I watch these amazing athletes and listen to the commentary leading into their routines, I realize that there is so much more involved here than just this one competition. They’ve been skating forever — and have been competing forever. You have to win regional, state, and world championships in order to make it to the olympics; and then even if you win all that before, if you don’t perform well at the qualifying rounds you won’t get the golden ticket to the big O.

Making it to the Olympics is hard! So my question to you is this: If you were to advise your child about following his or her dream, what would you say? Would you say that hard work and perseverance will determine your success, or would you make a “talent judgement” early on and decide whether your child was good enough to “make it” or not?

As a parent, my first inclination is to tell my son that he can do whatever he wants to do. But then, I think that he can do it…if he works harder than everyone else. Really – - I don’t believe in talent alone. I don’t. I look at these Olympic athletes and I see the sacrifice and hardship and injuries and lost childhood beneath the smiles. They worked their rear ends off, and they deserve to be there.

So what’s my point here? I respect these athletes. As a classical violinist who practiced countless hours every day and as a teacher and writer, working hard and persevering is part of my life. Sometimes I am successful at it, sometimes not. But I think when we watch the Olympics we should take a moment appreciate all the hard work and sacrifice that these athletes have gone through to get to this point.


I am so excited about my Archive Research Adventure!

I have to tell you that I am about to embark on my first archive research expedition! I can’t believe that the time is finally here, and I will admit that I am a little nervous.

Okay, a lot nervous ;-).

I thought I’d share what I have gone through so far – in preparation for the trip – in case there are any researchers out there who are going to have to go through this at some point. And really, what’s the point of researching if you don’t find something original? From what I’ve heard from others, archival research is a wonderful, difficult, and priceless experience.

I will also share some invaluable advice in my next post from veteran scholars who have so graciously answered my emails asking for advice. Thank goodness for supportive communities.

So first my personal story:

Those who have been following my blog know that I kind of got off-track last year (although in retrospect it was for the better), but last January 2013, I started my search for resources about my topic and ran into a road-block. I was told that most of the materials I wanted had been burned in a 1995 fire! This stopped me in my tracks for a while because I had this strict timetable and when I realized that everything wasn’t going to go exactly as I had planned, I shut down. I like to control my situation. I learned from this to be flexible in the dissertation process. We can’t control everything. We just can’t. (As I write this I am calculating a timeframe for completing my dissertation, so you could say that I am talking out of my A#$.)

But before the “shut-down” I contacted the ETS archives and got some basic information, which I put in a file and promptly filed away.

Fast-forward to this past Fall. I committed to the dissertation again and started working, but was feeling frustrated with my secondary sources. I like to write with my own voice and I like to use primary sources, so quoting so many secondary sources was starting to feel – - stilted – - and I knew I had to plan a trip to the archives.

So then started my renewing of the conversation with ETS. They are housed in Princeton, NJ, and let me tell you, the archivists are so nice! But I did have one issue – the archivist I spoke with last year no longer works there, so I had to track him down, find out who his replacement was, and contact that person. And thank goodness I did, because my archivist has been so fabulous. So I will introduce the first rule in archival research:

RULE #1: Be good to your archivist. They are your best friend.

I can’t tell you how much my archivist has helped me. He’s the one in charge of all the files at this particular library, and he is preparing files for me now, before I go, so I won’t have to spend time searching when I get there. He has been helpful and kind throughout countless emails, and I really appreciate him. I plan on buying him a nice dinner for sure.

I was worried about flying to New Jersey. I mean, I’ve never been there and who knows how it will be? But my archivist told me about a hotel on the campus of ETS/Princeton (no cab costs!!!!! no rentacar!!!) and I made reservations. So I am flying out on Monday night and will be there until I fly home Saturday. The flight home is crazy: Trenton NJ – - Orlando – - Miami – - Atlanta. Wow! A two hour flight packed into 12 hours.

I had to BEG my principal to let me take a couple personal days (I asked him before Christmas when everyone was in a good mood) and then the rest of the week we have furlough days, so it really worked out. I also had a crazy thing happen a few weeks ago which could have ruined my trip. In January, I got a strange letter, one I’d never received before. It was for Jury Duty! And ironically, it was for the very week I was to go to Princeton. At first, like the fire stopping me and making me shut down, I almost shut down and said, “F$#!! it” But you know, I didn’t! I actually wrote a letter and begged and emailed and called and got the jury duty postponed. AMEN.

Rule #2: It doesn’t hurt to ask. Really.

So, we get to the present. I sent my archivist some more finding aids, which are box numbers and file locations for my specific topic. This weekend I need to plan and do laundry and pack and make sub plans and buy some winter clothes and get it TOGETHER.

I wonder what I should bring? How am I to transport my files? I can only carry so much on a plane…I also need to go buy some winter clothes because I’m a Georgia girl and there’s a whole lot of snow in NJ. Plus, I have so many printed-out files. Do I bring those?

These questions will be answered in a later post – - after I’ve returned, hopefully enlightened and successful.

My next post will also include some great advice from veteran scholars who were kind enough to send me emails about their archival research experiences.

If you have ever done archival research I would LOVE your feedback.

Bees mainly sting when they are scared….


Fantastic post about the relationship between anger and fear. A must-read for anyone who has ever been angry at someone.

Originally posted on Law of Attraction Coach Tracy Laverty:

My daughter was sharing her perspective about bees one night, and she said, “they only sting when they are scared”.  I was thinking about how that is so true in life.  People often “attack” or get prickly when they are scared.  I think of that and it helps me stay grounded (at times=-) I can sense that it is not “personal” and it often doesn’t have anything to do with me, but more to do with them….their own fears or projections.

When I am angry, I take time to feel and think–what am I afraid of?  Why am I getting triggered right now?  I will often write in my journal as a way to process and express myself before talking with the person. At times, I don’t need to have a conversation, because the journal process healed what needed healing.

When others are angry at me or around me, I…

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The Open Letter to Philip Seymour Hoffman I Wish I Sent


Must read…

Originally posted on Drinking to Distraction:

I first saw you in the movie Happiness. Your raw-ugly-beautiful performance cut through to my heart in a way I had never experienced before. “This guy isn’t afraid of anything,” I thought. “He’s fearless.” And you did it again and again: in Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Capote, Synecdoche, Jack Goes Boating, A Late Quartet. Balls out, I would call it now, with great admiration.

More recently I saw you at one of the Happy Talks at the Rubin Museum of Art. You sat with philosopher Simon Critchley and were as real and thoughtful and imperfect as I imagined you. The way you dropped your head into your hand to fully consider whatever probing question your co-host had posed. As if you needed to remove yourself from the presence of all our eager eyes in order to touch something deep inside, to find an uncompromising truth.

At one point he asked…

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Denver or Seattle? What made them successful?

As I sit by the fire watching the pre-game for the Super Bowl XLVIII, I have to ask the question: what is it that catapults some people to the highest levels of success while others remain left behind?

Everyone in the NFL is good – that’s why they’re there! That’s why they make so much money. So what made the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos go that one crucial step forward? What sets them apart?

Here is an analysis from Sports New with a Vegas Perspective

The Denver Broncos come in at 15-3 on the year and they got to the big game with wins over San Diego and New England. During the regular season the Broncos were the most prolific scoring offense in the history of the NFL as they put up 606 points on the year.

The Seahawks also come in with a 15-3 mark on the year and their path to te Super Bowl included wins over New Orleans and San Francisco. The Makeup of these teams is so different as the Broncos got here mostly on their offense, while the Seahawks are here mainly because of their top ranked defense.”

Whether it’s offense or defense that has gotten these two fantastic teams to the most exciting game of the year, I think there are a lot of other factors in the mix. I want to talk about these factors because I think they pertain to everyday life and everyday successes.

  1. Persistence: Whatever your goals are, if you give up you aren’t going to get there, period! There are always tough times and red tape and unforeseen problems – believe me, I’ve had my share of them in the last few years. This year I have scheduled a trip to do my archival research at ETS in Princeton (I fly out Feb 10th), and a few weeks ago I got the notice that I was to report to jury duty on the day that I had scheduled to fly out! Wow! What a shocker. So I begged and talked and called and asked and pleaded and got it changed. Thank goodness. But I had to go through a lot. And I am still not there yet. We had several snow days this past week (in Georgia, if it snows more than 2 inches the city shuts down) and so the furlough days that were going to make my trip possible may be eliminated. What to do them? Just another hurdle to jump over, I think. I have to respect all the players from both teams for their persistence through weather and injury and setbacks and politics.
  2. Drive and Focus: I have to wonder when each member of those two teams decided he wanted to be a part of the NFL. When did he commit to it? I’ll bet, if we were able to look back in time, we would see that those players knew what they wanted to do and mentally committed as children. But after that, with life, challenges, problems, etc. each member had to keep going. Had to keep the faith. You have to have drive and focus in whatever you want to do. Time goes by so quickly, and why not have the years passed and your goals accomplished? Even if it takes longer than you expected, you can still get it done!
  3. Coaches: Taking your coach seriously is so important, and it’s crucial in football. It’s all about motivation, dedication, and loyalty. These coaches believe in their players, and the players know it! Whatever you are doing in life, look to mentors, ask for help, and follow those who have been successful before – this is the path toward your own personal success.
  4. Confidence and Belief: In order to succeed, people have to believe they can succeed. I think each member of these two football teams have lived with the belief that they can eventually get there, and I think we can learn a huge lesson from that. Believe you can do it! Feel it, visualize the success, and you know you’ll get there. I think about that every day when I contemplate all the work I still have to do for my dissertation. I just need to believe. We also must be confident in our abilities. If you’ve done your work, gotten your degree, proven yourself, had the experience, etc. you deserve to be confident. I have to especially listen to this piece of advice because sometimes, I lack the confidence I feel I need to achieve my goals. But can you imagine these – - Normal boys – who find themselves at the Super Bowl! Wow! What must they be thinking?
  5. Passion: No matter what, we have to care about what we are doing. And I KNOW that it’s hard sometimes: you have the grind, the everyday routine, etc. But there’s got to be some element of it that gives you great joy. If there’s not, maybe it’s time to take a risk and rethink your path.

So I will sign off now. This is a more casual post because frankly, I’m getting ready for some FOOTBALL! Please reply with comments about your definition of success. I’d love to get some feedback and continue this conversation.

And go Denver! 

Celebrating when Writing Gets Tough

Today I’ve been reading a wonderful book titled,celebrating-writers Celebrating Writers: From Possibilities Through Publication by Ruth Ayres with Christi Overman.

While the book is written for teachers of elementary and middle school students, some of the ideas really resonated with me. Ayers defines celebration as a process with three steps: 1. Response, 2. Reflect, and 3, Rejoice.

While her ideas are not necessarily new, they served a special purpose for me(as I hope they will for other writers): I got out of my shell and sent some of my dissertation work to my advisor, even though I was afraid to because it’s nowhere near finished. In fact, a lot of it is clumps of crap with a few good things in the middle. So I’d like to talk about these three important aspects of writing for a minute
and how they pertain to older students and professional writers.

1.Response: Asking others to respond to your writing is probably the hardest part of this process, because
when you hand over your words, you make yourself vulnerable. And while teachers (myself included) encourage students to share their
work, to go through peer editing, to engage in authentic writing and communication, I have to ask myself and you (professional or
graduate writer) when was the last time you let someone else read your writing? It’s scary. It’s personal. It’s uncomfortable.

I’ve been a teacher of composition for almost ten years and I’m in the home stretch of my PhD, but it took reading this book that made me realize that I’d better start asking for feedback and celebrating little successes or I wasn’t going to be able to finish. It also took a pivotal email from my
colleague Lindsey and from my advisor Dr. Gaillet, both who told me to email my work in progress, to get me to just do it and send what
I have completed so far.

It’s so scary to make yourself vulnerable, especially for perfectionists like me. I hate to turn in work that isn’t “finished” or my “best”, but sometimes you have to keep
yourself accountable by turning in what you’ve got and just face the feedback.

2. Reflection: What’s missing from most people’s lives? I’ll tell you, I think it’s reflection. We (most of us) go through our lives, overcome
obstacles, experience difficult times and impossible challenges, but it is the rare person who sits down and reflects. And by
reflection, I mean sitting quietly, thinking about what you did, what could have been better, what you’ll do differently in the
future. It’s hard to reflect about the past, because to reflect honestly means that we have to look at our lives honestly. And that’s hard to do.

Ruth Ayres, in her book, talks about reflection as a crucial part of the writing process. I agree with her, although it’s easier to teach
reflection than to practice it in my opinion. I tell my students to peer edit, work with others, put their thoughts out there, make
themselves vulnerable. But I find it hard to practice what I preach. I’m 43. (43??? When did this happen?) I have doubts about my accomplishments and I often
feel like I should be further along than I am. But you know, I tend to look at the negative and not the positive. This book helped me to realize that I need to start looking at the positive, celebrating the positive, as well!

So today, I did the work I could and sat by the fire, emailed my professor, graded, and organized my thoughts for the book review I am writing. I feel really good about today. Even though I am really, REALLY nervous about what my adviser will say about the work in progress, I am glad I got her something.

If you are a writer, a speaker, a photographer, an artist, etc. show your work to others. Get feedback. :-) I know – it’s easier said than done, but it is worth it.

Need Feedback? Hone Your Blogging with a Workshop


This is great advice for any writer! And check out all the comments!

Originally posted on The Daily Post:

If you want to get better at anything — playing the violin, swimming, building scale models of historic buildings from sticks of gum — you need feedback on your work. Blogging is no different; feedback on writing, photography, or blogger skills like layouts and editorial calendars helps you improve those elements. There’s a reason people studying writing and photography “workshop” their stuff.

Is it hard to open your creative output to direct, potentially not-so-glowing feedback? Heck yes! But you learn, and you get better. Why not try an informal blogging workshop? You’ll get helpful insight into your work and make some great connections along the way.

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Do Things Ever Change in Education?


In my continuing research for my dissertation, I came across the first issue of The English Journal (1912) – publication information at the end of this post. Let me say that first, it’s fascinating to read articles and essays from over a hundred years ago; and second, it’s disturbing to learn that the issues teachers and professors were going through then are exactly the same (with a few minor details changed) today!

Haven’t we learned anything?

By 1895, the subject of educational values was ubiquitous in academia. You might ask why this was important. Well, before the mass influx of immigrants and the massive increase in America’s workforce, the idea of education was for those who didn’t have to work for a living. Yet by the turn of the 19th century, there was a growing need for literate workers, not only in professional fields but in ALL fields. The need to convey thoughts in a concise and clear way was crucial if businesses expected to thrive.

The Dial, a literary journal founded in 1890, recognized that the tide was turning, claiming that “the very fact that educational values [were] being everywhere earnestly discussed [was] itself of the highest significance” (229). And yet, as late as 1910, despite the ever-increasing demand for a literate workforce, scholars worried about the implications of an educated society. They wondered who would do the “rough work” (American Educational Review XXXI 4). At this point in time, college was a relatively new concept for the middle classes, and parents would often send their kids to college if they were perceived as being lazy.

By the early twentieth century, however, educators knew that they had to dispel this myth and sell “college” to the masses in order to prepare the next generation for the demands of science and technology: “By turning to the rhetorical texts of Scottish theologian George Campbell during the American Revolution, then to those of the Presbyterian author Hugh Blair and British theologian and political philosopher Richard Whately, educators at universities such as Harvard could instill a frame of reference in students that urged them to see language as a vehicle for action” (Elliot 2). This brings to mind writing for a purpose, not just for the sake of writing. Over a hundred years ago, the specific needs of a culture demanded a certain kind of writing – much of it technical and all of it concise and correct – and if we examine civilization throughout the 20th century and into the 2000’s, we will see that shifts in belief systems, work ethic, economics, and technology regularly called for a constantly evolving method of communication, writing, and of course writing assessment. And yet, our systems of standardized testing, especially on high-stakes tests, have changed very little in the past 65 years. Why is this?


As the teaching of composition became increasingly important in the early twentieth century, the problems that arose grew as well. Teaching writing was difficult in an age of uneducated students who came from a myriad of backgrounds and cultures. Adding to the problems were professors who were overworked, under qualified and underpaid. In 1912, the very first issue of English Journal discusses the problems inherent in teaching composition. In his essay titled “Can Good Composition Teaching Be Done under Present Conditions?” Edwin M. Hopkins, from the University of Kansas, answered his own question and claimed that it could not:

“A single statement will explain the fundamental trouble. Not very many years ago, when effort was made to apply the principle that pupils should learn to write by writing, English composition, previously known as rhetoric, became ostensibly a laboratory subject, but without any material addition to the personnel of its teaching force; there was merely a gratuitous increase in the labor of teachers who were already doing full duty” (xviii).

It’s amazing to note that over a hundred years ago, teachers of composition were lamenting their situation, which was the same then as it is now, and begging for improvements. One of the primary problems with teaching composition in the early 20th century was the uneven ratio between composition students and teachers. Because there were so many new students learning how to read and write and so few composition teachers, those teachers were overworked, tired, underpaid, and frustrated. Hopkins also noted that although the need for composition classes had in fact skyrocketed, the hiring of new teachers to fill that need had not occurred, leaving the already overbooked literature teachers struggling to take on a second job. To make matters worse, in most instances all other teachers in different departments were well funded and were able to actually go home when the day was done, whereas composition teachers were expected to grade papers 24/7. The inequities of teaching composition led of course to the failure of students to adequately write, and thus the need for change grew. It is no wonder that the United States began to search for standardized assessments that wouldn’t kill teachers and that would also – in at least a superficial way – measure students’ writing ability.

Today, students are pressured to achieve so much more than even 20 years ago. I mean, just getting accepted into UGA now is highly competitive, when in the 1990′s it was “state school” and pretty much a sure thing if you were able to follow directions and pass your high school classes. Now, students have to rank at the top of their class, take multiple AP courses, be leaders in clubs, and contribute to their community through extra service. Wow! No wonder we can see evidence of high blood pressure and anxiety in students now more than ever before. My son’s stressed out and he’s 11. That’s NOT acceptable.

What do you think? Do you have a child in school or are you going through it now? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Hopkins, Edwin M. “Can Good Composition Teaching Be Done under Present Conditions?” The English Journal 1.1 (1912): 1-8. JSTOR. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.

Something from Nothing


If you are into space time philosophy, this is a must read. I love this post!

Originally posted on World in Motion:


The world is mostly nothing.  And it came from nothing.  If you consider the amount of “empty” space between the stars and galaxies, well over 99.999999999% of the universe has nothing.   But if you also consider the stuff of every day — like this table my computer is resting upon — about 99.999999999% of it is empty space.   It feels solid to us, but the reality is that the distance between the subatomic particles is immense, and thus the reality we see as solid and real is actually mostly empty.

Of course, this could mean that our perceptions are illusions.   Consider: computer programs can create the illusion of vast worlds, all located on a tiny hard drive in the computer, used by an even smaller memory unit.   It still is only two (or perhaps three) dimensional on a screen, but the ‘feel’ of being in a…

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