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Gah.

 Too many days when I don't want to do much more than hermit in my room.  

But today I tried to get new licence plates and drivers license at the DMV (but I was missing some paperwork, so will try again tomorrow), finally got word that my health insurance has been transferred so I can seek treatment here in Illinois, left a message to try to get a therapist, arranged to spend my upcoming birthday with my sister in Minnesota, left a message for my folks.  So I suppose I can't quite claim I've done nothing today.  It just sort of feels like it.  

Vic's lawyer and my lawyer are having their initial meeting today in Colorado.  I'm quite aware of that.  I finally unsubscribed from Vic's blog today.  I should have done it earlier, I suppose, but I was hoping we could have a gentler disconnection.  He's not saying anything mean in his posts, but I hurt nonetheless.  It even hurts that I can't say "yay" at his happy moments, but that seems inappropriate.  So I'll just give myself a little bit more space.  

Company

I've long loved musicals, but I have huge gaps in my knowledge.  One of those gaps was filled tonight, as I went up to an Evanston movie theater to see a production of "Company," a classic musical by Stephen Sondhim from 1970.  It was an outstanding show, a filmed version of a Broadway production from earlier this year, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Patti Lupone, and Stephen Colbert, among others. 

It was a significant baby step for me, as this is the first night I've left home by myself, without meeting anyone else to do something.  This was just me, going to the movies.  It definitely would have been more fun with company, but ... an important step, going out to just have fun on my own. 

And it was a very odd show to see at this point in life.  Company centers on Bobby, a single New Yorker, as he juggles his three sort-of-girlfriends and observes all his married friends.  I can't quite bring myself to say it has a plot, per se, but it definitely has an arc, as Bobby comes to see that he really would like to get married himself, to be something more than the perfect third wheel. 

And it's definitely a dated show, where the wives all seem a bit daffy, the husbands generally seem level-headed and in charge.  There's one particular couple that raised my hackles.  In the scene, Bobby has introduced David and Susan to smoking pot.  Susan would be willing to try another joint, but David says no, and she just backs down.  Changes her mind, decides she's really had enough, even as Bobby protests that she had sure looked interested.  She leaves the room and David explains that she's really square and didn't enjoy it, was just trying it to humor him.  And ... I kind of boggled.  At least the production seemed to agree that this was at least questionable from Bobby's point of view, though it seemed to work just fine from David and Susan's.  It made me wonder if it's a dated show, or if relationships really haven't changed that much over the last 40 years. 

It's odd, watching a show all about relationships at this place where I am.  Especially because I'm quite clear that it's not that Vic's done anything so horrible that anyone would leave -- it's just that I couldn't hang on to being me and stay. 

Anyway.  It was an outstanding production, watched in an absolutely packed theater.  Funny, witty, thoughtful, and well-done.  The audience applauded after a number of the songs.  I highly recommend it, if it's coming to your neck of the woods.  

A bit of a moment, here....

I'm a blog-reader (more than I am a writer, admittedly), and I follow a number of personal style blogs.  They're not high-fashion -- they're generally real people with real jobs not in the fashion industry, who post a picture of what they wore that day, identify the various bits and pieces, and talk a little about their personal style.  One of my favorites in the genre is "Already Pretty," based in Minneapolis.  Sal is neither model-thin nor disinterested in comfort, and I generally quite like the way she thinks.

I really liked the look she posted this morning -- jeans, an olive shirt, with a dark gray blazer and a fairly groovy purple scarf around her neck, one with black skulls on it.  Then I read the descriptive text and had the aforementioned moment.  You see, that scarf was "a bit of a splurge" for her, in that it was an Alexander McQueen designer piece that retails for $295.  $295.  No, there's no decimal in that price.  Two hundred and ninety-five dollars.  American money.  *goggle*

In my world, $295 is perhaps more likely to be the price of a car than a scarf, though it wouldn't be much of a car.  I can't twist my brain around to being willing to spend even a third of that amount on a scarf.  I've come around to spending $100 on a really good pair of shoes, because cheap shoes hurt my back and can dramatically affect my life.  I could maybe spend $100 on a winter coat.  I've been looking at the wonderful dresses at Trashy Diva, which sometimes retail for a couple of hundred bucks -- looking, but I couldn't justify buying one.  But .... a scarf? 

Am I just being overly cheap here?  Is this a sign that I'll never be chic, never draw admiring glances?  Is this the reaction of a midwesterner, and it seems more reasonable on the coasts?  

My story-worthy week

I'm a fairly regular listener to The Moth podcast, which always encourages its listeners to "have a story-worthy week," but I don't know that that has ever been as true as it has been for the last few days.  So I've got to see if I can spin this tale to do it adequate justice. 

Step back with me to Saturday.  I'm at The Grove, down in the boondocks and woods of southeastern Missouri.  I've driven down there, and I'm taking advantage of my car to move some stuff around the property.  So I'm in the car with zylch  on Saturday afternoon, and notice that my cruise control light, the one that normally comes on when I turn on the cruise control but have not yet set it, is blinking at me.  And my check engine light is on -- also weird, but I'm just past 15,000 miles on the car, and that might well be just my car whining for its checkup.  "That's weird," I think I say to her.  "I wonder if I drove over a rock and bumped a wire loose or something."  But everything seems to run just fine, and so I figure I may have an electrical fault in the cruise control gauge. 

Sunday comes, and its time to leave the Grove, this time with three Golden Doodle puppies in tow (half Golden Retriever, half toy poodle) which are to be delivered to their adoptive homes in Kansas City or central Kansas.  But first, I'm heading to St. Louis, where I may do a much-delayed interview for my dissertation.  To my disappointment, the warning lights are still on, and the cruise control doesn't in fact work at all.  In fact, now the ABS warning light, the "anti-rollback" light, and the "stability control" light are on as well.  It's like a Christmas tree in there!  Dangit!  I get to St. Louis 3 hours later, more tired than usual because of the lack of cruise control (and just the exhaustion of being on Grove staff this year, I suspect).  I talk to my potential interviewee, find out she has family in town, and think "fuck it, I'm tired."  Cancel the interview with my profound thanks, take the puppies inside to Marilyn Sue's house, and settle down for a nice evening of gossip and relaxation.  

We went out to dinner, then came home and watched the end of the Oscars.  We had just enough time to discuss how much we approved of all the awards for The King's Speech before the tornado sirens started going off.  What the...?  We moved down into her bedroom (which was at least on the lower level, if still with plenty of windows, and sat there, tense for 45 minutes or so, until the weather moved past us.  We never really saw much more than lightning, but the sirens don't actually make for a relaxing evening.  But eventually it all calmed down, and so I go upstairs to bed, leaving my three canine charges in their kennel on the main level.  

It's somewhere around 3:30am when I'm woken by the sound of puppy whimpering, audible from a floor away.  Oh, good lord, and I'm glad Marilyn Sue takes out her hearing aids at night.  I sneak downstairs in the dark, not knowing where any of the light switches are, and fumble my way to the kennel.  There's just enough light to operate by, and I realize that one of the pups is seemingly whimpering on every exhale, almost like a snore, but more musical.  I open up the kennel, and ... oh, wow, it's drenched, in pee or sweat or something.  The other two just sit in the back of the kennel and stare at me.  I quickly change out the towel in the bottom of the kennel, and take the wet and whimpering one upstairs to a bathroom.  It doesn't wake up, just continuing its regular noisemaking as I bathe and dry it, and then walk around in circles begging it to hush and get better.  (I don't have a lot of maternal instincts, but I've seen parents do this for babies in movies, so it might work, right?)  At least it seems to be breathing well and to have a good pulse, but the whole not-waking-up thing is scary.  I imagine trying to tell C that I've put one of her dogs into a coma and my adrenaline spikes.  After about 45 minutes, the puppy quiets down a bit, so I return it to its kennel and go back to sleep.  After all, I have a 5 hour drive to Kansas City ahead of me tomorrow, and I need to be well rested. 

Monday dawns.  Marilyn Sue and I meet up in the living room to discuss the puppies, which ... just aren't quite acting puppy-like.  They're not eager to go outside, not eager to eat anything (for the second meal in a row), not eager to move around their kennel.  We exchange a few calls with the dog experts at the Grove (and thank heavens that Marilyn Sue is a nurse and can talk about things like "lethargy" and "ccs" with authority and calm), and eventually decide that, for whatever reason, the dogs aren't in a fit state to go to their new owners after all.  P offers to drive up to St. Louis to get them, but I offer to meet her halfway, in Rolla, for a canine handoff. 

I load the dogs and my luggage into the car, and start it up.  But now my "low fuel" light is blinking at me, and the fuel gauge is sitting stubbornly somewhere below empty.  I know I didn't run it dry last night, and it's willing to start just fine, so I drive to the gas station on the corner.  Sure enough, my 15-gallon tank is only willing to take 12 gallons of gas, so it must be a gauge problem.  Damnit.  Somewhere around here, I realize that sooner or later, I'm going to have to face a mechanic who'll ask if I looked under the hood and checked all my fluids and connections, which I haven't done.  So, despite my lack of actual mechanical knowledge, I decide to do due diligence and pop the hood.  

To my surprise, there is a rat sitting right on top of my engine.  A fine, healthy-looking brown rat, looking probably as surprised at me as I am by him.  I jump back, he dives down out of my sight, and a guy on the edge of the parking lot hollers, "Holy crap!  Did you just see that?  I think she had a squirrel in there!"  (Well, at least I didn't imagine it, right?)  The engine compartment is littered with seed pods and leaves, and I can see what sure looks like a nest of grass and moss tucked down in front.  (I'd try to describe where it was, but my engine knowledge extends only so far.)  But I don't see any more rat.  I grab my ice scraper, the one with a long handle, and bang on the engine a little bit, knock off some of the debris, and then, at a loss, ask the guy in the next car over what he thinks I should do.  He seems to think that the rat has scarpered, left the vicinity, and I should be ok.  So...I close up the hood, congratulate myself on a GREAT story, and drive to Rolla.  
Hand over the poor pups in Rolla to P, tell her the story of the rat, which makes her smile ruefully, and then drive from Rolla to Kansas City.  The detour through Rolla didn't really make the drive all that much longer (though I opened my hood every time I got gas, paranoid, and even eventually was brave enough to reach in, barehanded, to remove the whole nest bundle) , and so I get into KC around 4pm, with enough time to have a lovely shower in my hotel room to remove the mental debris of the day from my person.  Meet up with onecrane  for dinner, tell him the story, get the surprised reaction I wanted, watch some Kung Fu Hustle to celebrate, and then go back to my hotel room for the night, ready to drive to Colorado the next day. 

Tuesday morning.  I check out of my hotel around 8am, load up the car, but ... it won't start.  It'll churn, but not catch.  What the...?  I open the hood again, and am not totally surprised to see that Friend Rat is still with me, and has apparently been up to more mischief overnight.  Close the hood, go inside, and call USAA roadside assistance.  The call center guy is ... surprised, but agrees to send someone out.  I IM with artemis112  and hess42 , trying to maintain my cool and sense of absurdity.  David from Road Runner Roadside Assistance eventually arrives.  He apparently didn't believe my story, because he jumped back and hollered when I opened the hood (again) for Mr. Rat's inevitable grand appearance.  David grabs a crowbar from his truck, and uses its pointy end to stab down into the engine, attempting to dispatch the invader.  (I'll admit that I was actually more worried about my hoses than the rat, at this point.)  We see nothing, but after a few minutes, I notice that there's a limp furry body under my car.  The rat is dead, and I walk around the car, squeamish, as David makes absolutely sure of that with a few more careful blows, and then moves the carcass farther away.  (I did get a picture, for documentary purposes.  You don't need to see it.  Suffice it to say that net research says it was probably a pack rat, and that it was about the size of a good-sized and healthy rat you might see in a pet store.)

David, his heroics done with, tries jump starting the car, which is (after all) what he thought he was there for.  It does nothing, as both of us suspect.  He recommends a garage, tells me to call USAA again for a tow, and leaves.  I call USAA, request the tow, and go back to IMing with artemis112  and hess42 , maintaining my sanity.    Call Vic, leave a message to let him know what's up.  Call around, have recommended local mechanics tell me that my car is so new that most non-dealerships don't even have wiring diagrams for it yet, and end up finding a Subaru dealership in Lee's Summit that tells me to come on over.  The car is towed there, and I'm told that it looks like the engine wiring harness will have to be replaced, it'll run about $800, and the car won't be ready until Wednesday evening.  Big sigh, but what can I do?  So I get a ride back to the hotel with Luis the kindly tow truck driver, and start trying to figure out what to do with myself in KC for two extra nights.  

Not wanting to spend the extra on hotel, I beg onecrane  for shelter, as he's my best friend in town, and I already know his couch is comfortable.  He graciously says yes, but he won't be able to let me until until sometime after 5pm.  USAA arranges a rental car for me, but it won't be ready until 4pm, so I take the hotel shuttle to the nearby mall for lunch (at which point I realize I haven't even eaten breakfast yet) and hanging out.  By this point, I have enough distance that I'm able to chuckle at it all -- I mean, who would have thought, right?  Go back to the hotel, have Enterprise Rent-a-Car come to pick me up to go get my car, but ... when I go to fill out the paperwork, Enterprise won't accept my USAA card as the required "major credit card," despite its MasterCard logo.  I call USAA, but to no avail.  I call around, trying to find another car to rent, but nada.  The Subaru dealership offers me a loaner, but I'd have to get 20 miles away, back to them, and can't make it by the time they close (despite the lovely offer from the hotel desk clerk to take me there after he gets off work).  I droop, realizing that at least one thing that day wasn't going to sort itself out, and have Enterprise drive me over to onecrane 's house, where I wait outside until he gets home.  By now, I'm just plain tired, and weary of it all.

He has folks over for a meeting that night, and I doze off on the floor, no pillow or anything, apparently providing amusement to the crowd -- though the "a rat ate my car" story gets me considerable cred.  I wake the next morning with a drippy nose and a shallow cough, still weary.  Loiter around all day watching TV (a CSI and Mythbusters binge always makes illness more acceptable), and eventually get the car that my car is done ... but.  There's more damage than they thought at first, and while it's now running, it still doesn't have cruise control or a fuel gauge, and the price tag for this is about to go up.  Considerably.  Arg.  My host comes home, drives me out to pick up my car (though we did have to "play the boob card" as he put it, and make a frantic phone call where I pleaded that there was just more traffic than silly-ol'-me expected, and could they stick around for an extra five minutes past closing, please?), and I at least had my car back -- running and rat-free, if still with Las Vegas style lights on the dashboard.
 
I stayed over another night, watched Highlander and Ocean's Eleven for the zillionth time each, and when Thursday morning dawned, got in the car for the ten-hour drive across the "subtle beauty" that is Kansas.  (I use that term in deference to zylch , who protested when I called it boring.)  Without cruise control or a fuel gauge, so I'm just watching the odometer to fill up the tank every 250 miles -- plus carrying the weight of a quickly developing head cold -- and Kansas seemed longer than it ever has before. 

But at last I made it back to Colorado -- to the power cord for my laptop which I'd been missing, to clean clothes, to a box of 'guaranteed rat-free" Thin Mint cookies which Vic had bought for me, and to the end of this particular road trip.  Hoooolleeeeeee cow, folks.  I'm wiped.  Knackered, exhausted, spent, flattened, and ready to do absolutely nothing for a while.  So now I'm going to go collapse.  But I wanted to put this out there for y'all to read, gape at, laugh over, and learn from -- I don't know what I could have done differently, but maybe if I'd looked under the hood when I saw those first warning lights, maybe I could have found someone to dispatch Friend Rat far sooner, before catastrophic damage had been done.  Or maybe not.  No way to tell, really, and pointless to play the "what if" game here. 

So hope you enjoy the story, really.  Because .... uf-da, eh?

What if ...? Part 2

Yeah, it's just a few hours after my last post, and I'm arguing with myself about its premises.  I also believe in the striving to be something more than you are, in trying to be a better person ....or perhaps I should say a realer person.  More myself.  UberJo, as I jokingly call her.  And so, sure, while I can only deal with the reality that I live today, surely I should strive to actually react as just one step closer to that person I strive to be?  Me+1, as JF called it once.

But that's where I get into "should" statements.  I shouldn't be bothered by this.  I shouldn't mind that.  I should be better at forgiveness, able to set my hurts aside and just get on with things.  While those are maybe noble statements, I don't seem to be able to do anything with them other than just pack away what I'm really feeling until it's much harder to deal with.  That's where I am now -- on the surface, a relatively-content person; underneath, someone who's so sensitive about certain issues that ... it's like my skin has been burned.  I don't want to be touched, or at least not by those that I think don't know how to care for those open wounds and tender places.

How does one balance these competing desires, competing realities?  To acknowledge the concreteness of what is right now without stagnating in it?  To strive to be "all of this and more" without blaming myself for not being that already?  To stop ping-ponging between blaming myself and blaming others for my situation and just say "this is what is -- now what?"

What if ...?

Start from the proposition that I don't need to be "fixed." 

Thus, assume that my reactions are reasonable and valid ones, that these reactions should be recognized and acknowledged (even by me), and that they have as much right to be aired as anyone else's reactions. 

Thus, assume that I don't need to go to a therapist and figure out how to modify my reactions to be more acceptable.  To figure out why I react the way I do and figure out a new way to respond.  I may still decide to this, for reactions that I don't end up liking, but it's not because they're wrong -- just because they're in my way, inconvenient.  

Thus, assume that I don't need to blame myself for ... being myself.  Being honest about who that is.  Being human.  This is who I am in this moment, and it's who we all (including me) have to deal with.  Any more idealized version of me is unreal in this moment, so we've all got to deal with here-and-now-me.

This may all sound rather "duh," but ... I had a good friend smack me upside the virtual head last night for blaming myself for everything.  Appreciated it.  So I thought I'd try this on this morning, see if I can carry this attitude into the day.    

What to say?

One of my big projects these days is figuring out what I really want from life.  What are the things and ways of living that honestly make it easier for me to get up in the morning, step into the day with energy, and be the best Jo that's available?  What might that UberJo look like?  And what are the things which are devastating to my best intentions and that I want to find ways to guard against?  

Huge questions, not easy ones to answer.  (And if anyone out there can suggest any books or other resources that you might recommend as I work through this process -- well, what a great use for a comments field, eh?)  But I've started to work on it, and I thought I might periodically post bits and pieces of that list here.  Eventually, I'd hope to be able to get it down to a 1-2 page executive summary, but right now it's a big sprawling mass of all sorts of things that have come to mind. 

Today, I'll post the "Environment" section of my working doc.  This is what I'd hope for as the world that surrounds me.  Remember -- just a working document, so this is a very rough draft.  Still, requests for clarification and comments are welcome.  Heck, if anyone looks at these lists over time and knows of career fields I should look into, please let me know!
  • I want beauty in my life.  Color, art, performance, dance.  Good food, good music, good smells, good things to touch, good movement.  My senses flooded with good stimuli on a regular, daily basis, as the base of my "it makes life worth living" pyramid.  A life full of "I should" or eggshell-colored walls seems more like existence than living.
  • I want challenge, and hopefully a fair amount of success at those challenges.  I don't need to go hang-gliding or do scuba, but I love the activity of testing my ideas, of problem solving, of finding a way to explain the complicated -- particularly as a part of a group effort.
  • I want neither an easy path nor an impossibly difficult one.  I don't want to be cared for and worry-free, nor do I want constant struggle and angst.  See Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
  • I want to feel useful.  To feel like a part of the community, to do meaningful work that is appreciated and valued.
  • I want long talks about movies, about what they might mean, about how they connect in our heads with other films or books.  I practically want a film forum and/or book club as a regular feature of my life, though it doesn't have to be formal.  
  • I want collaborative problem solving to be something I do all the time, whether it's a crossword puzzle group, or meal planning and prep, or project management, or interior design.  I don't want to be left alone to make decisions -- that's not how my brain works.  I don't want other people to make decisions and I carry them out -- I'm no minion.  I want collaboration.  (I feel like I have a hard time explaining what I mean by collaboration here.  Still working on that definition.)

Costuming!

OK, folks.  I need some combined brain power here.

I've been invited to the wedding of some WoW-playing friends, in France this September!  Excellent!  Thing is, the bride and groom are encouraging the guests to costume themselves with a fantasy theme -- elves, trolls, dragons, whatever.  More specifically:

In the invitation's original French  Notre mariage etant place sous le signe de la fantasy et de l'imaginaire, tous les invites souhaitant nous ravir de leur parure de sirene ou de chimere sont invites a le faire.  Toutefois, aucune obligation ne sera faite en la matiere.

In my bad translation:  Our marriage being placed under the sign of fantasy and imagination, we invite all wishing we delight in their finery of sirens or chimeras were requested to do so. However, no obligation will be made in this matter.

I know the bride (at least) really would like to see folks in garb, and I'm happy to play along.  I love to play dress up!  However, I don't really have good garb to wear, and I don't want to really go over the top and make Americans look particularly odd, particularly if the local crowd of family doesn't do the costume thing.  It's an odd mix of 1) wanting to make the day as much like the wedding couple want it to be as possible, 2) not wanting to do something so flashy as to out-shine the wedding party, 3) not wanting to embarrass my country, 4) and just plain being myself, even in garb.

Any suggestions or creativity out there as to what I might wear?  The wedding is a civil ceremony to be held at 4:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday.  Reception to follow at the bride's parents' house, followed by more at a local restaurant.  (I think Vic's planning to just wear his suit, but he's at least feeling the urge of making the wedding couple happy garb-wise somehow.)  I'm willing to invest a bit in garb if I might get reuse of it at later Faires or Halloweens.  Advice as to styles, walking the tightrope between costume and normality, or even good garb providers would be greatly appreciated. 

Lucas.

Yesterday, we came downstairs in the morning and, after a while, realized that Lucas wasn't particularly interested in getting out of bed.  I thought maybe he'd want to sit up, that maybe he just couldn't get traction, so I tried to help him, but he couldn't sit up on his own.  When we helped him to stand, he toppled over once we removed our support.  Between us, Vic and I carried him out to the backyard, so he could sun bathe a bit.  Maybe it would help, we thought.  Maybe it was just a rough morning.

But by early afternoon, we realized he had basically stopped moving, apart from the occasional twitch.  He'd eaten a bit of treat early on, but wasn't particularly interested in another later.  He'd take a little water, but that was it.  And so we called in Stefan, our house-call-making vet.  Stefan came by on his way home from work, around 7pm.  He hadn't seen Lucas for a few months, and ... well, we all knew it was time.  Maybe he was being kind when he said that he thought we should give Lucas the night to see if he improved, then check back in. 

Vic and I stayed up until 3am, though most of the evening was spent distracting ourselves.  After midnight, we did a bit of a vigil, sitting with Lucas and crying and beginning to grieve.  Vic kept looking for reasons, reasons why he went from that old-age stability to this unresponsiveness over the course of 24 hours, but those reasons weren't to be found. 

This morning, Lucas was as we'd left him the night before.  Some twitching, some little reaction to touches or smells, but almost entirely inside his own head.  We've called Stefan, and he'll come by again tonight after work and help Lucas to make the transition he making so slowly on his own.  Vets have always told us that Lucas was the athlete in the family, and his champion heart and lungs seem willing to keep going even after the rest of him is gone. 

I find myself grieving for Lucas, as well as Roslyn and Ellis, who left us more mysteriously last year.  I don't actually know what happened to either of them -- they each ran away -- but they are gone, nonetheless.  Lucas' 14 years with us were remarkable, especially given that we've had vets suggesting it was time for over a year now.  He's hung on, and we've hung on, longer than might've been wise, but it was what we could all do. 

Last year, for Vic's birthday, I had a local friend here turn a photo from last summer into a pencil sketch.  Lucas and his boy.  We've got it framed and sitting on the mantle now.  And so rather than post a picture of Lucas as a puppy or of the bony, diapered guy he is now, I'll post this one.  She really did a lovely job.

I'm doing ok, even if I'm crying.  Really.  But it really does help to know I could collect some hugs from y'all if you were here.  Thanks.

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Coming up for air

I was talking to a Classics DPhil student the other day who said that he's tired of being around academics all the time, and he'd like to spend some time around people who "actually, you know, do WORK."  (This after he and I had probably spent a good hour whinging about our respective non-works, mind you.)

I can't really disagree with him.  An awful lot of my "working" hours are spent doing things which it's hard to identify as work.  I read, I surf the web, I check Facebook, I even play some computer games and do the crossword.  I maintain that I'm doing mission-critical thinking during those times (at least many of them), but I can't prove that.  It pretty much looks like I'm goofing off.

Today is one of those rare days where I actually seemed to make some concrete progress on the dissertation.  Today, I crossed the 30-pages-long milestone, which feels meaningful.  I'm not saying it's 30 good pages, or 30 pages of deep thought, but it's 30 written pages, and with that I am temporarily content.  It's easier to redraft and edit something that's been written than to come up with the original dreck.  

It's 17-18 pages of introduction (which lays out the context for what I'm trying to do, and defines some terms), 6 pages reviewing the academic publications that deal with my topic, and 4 pages outlining how exactly I plan to do the work.  That means the intro is mostly done, though there are some gaps to fill in.  I need more work on the "how" piece (but I'm that can be something I work out with my committee during my defense in May), and most of what remains to do in the next week is that review of the literature. 

I figure I have one more week to plug away at this before I need to send the draft off to my advisor in New Mexico, one more week to write about 30-50 pages.  Oif.  I'll keep you updated.  Wish me luck, inspiration, and persistence!