June Book Reviews

j0438678 After yesterday’s bizarre internet problems (DO NOT let you children play Mario Kart online using their Wii!), I’m back with my normal ADSL speed. Ahh… more about this in Wednesday Whiteboard.

But for now, here’s the June Book Reviews.


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Wednesday Whiteboard #10: Thesis Deadline Edition

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Dotpoint #1 Thesis Deadline Day is July 26

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, the answer is busy. Busy, out bush for most of last week (sacred site clearances for gravel pits in the most glorious, remote outback places) and busy finishing my PhD thesis. The thesis needs to be in a finished state by 26 July, when I go to Canberra for a month to work intensively with my supervisor to prepare it for submission. I have about two-thirds of a chapter left to write.

Thus, my life has been wading through data about the practices that comprise joint management (co-management), what people say ‘doing’ joint management is, and what the organisation I’m studying has written in business plans, funding documents and reported about ‘joint management activities’. Yes, chapter 7 is all about the stuff that gets done (and classified) as joint management. Incidentally, if you click on the link, you’ll see a picture of Aboriginal Elder, Leslie Foster (Blackhat), with whom I spent a day last week for my consultations. Jason (the ranger) used to be the Parks & Wildlife Joint Management Pin up boy. Unfortunately for PWS, Jason no longer works for them.  But hey, that’s what happens if you piss off your talented staff.

The important thing is this: I probably won’t be writing a lot of blog posts for the next few weeks. I’ll be glued to my thesis. So please be patient with me. Once it’s done, I’ll be able to go full steam ahead with the blog and the BIG IDEA once more.

Dotpoint #2 Writing a PhD Thesis is MUCH MUCH HARDER THAN CHILDBIRTH!

I am qualified to say this. I have given birth to two children. Doing a PhD is much harder than childbirth. Much, much harder.

For example: I took about 11 hours to give birth to Rhiannon. It took 2 hours to give birth to Ben – and I kept a moment-by-moment diary that even includes the cricket scores.  However, it has taken 10 YEARS to give birth to my PhD thesis. That’s right: 10 years.

There are some striking parallels:

  • In childbirth, nurses and doctors make you feel dumb and as remove your sense of control … So does a PhD!
  • During childbirth, a whole lot of strangers peer into, poke and prod at your most intimate parts … when you do a PhD, your writing is the window into your mind, also poked, prodded and peered into by a whole lot of strangers (examiners).
  • There are no instructions for childbirth (ignore the breath stuff – it’s bullshit. Your body just takes over) … There are no real instructions for a PhD – your data/supervisor/deepest fears take over.

Writing a PhD is only slightly less difficult than bringing home a new baby: sleepless nights, baby wanting your boob all the time, nappies to change, more boob, depression. Blech. That’s why there are 7 years between my children – I almost didn’t go back for more.

Dotpoint #3: I’ve Been Really Stuck and Depressed About the Thesis

Another reason I haven’t been writing is that I’ve been pretty down about the thesis (and a few other things). Stuck. Worried about the deadline. Feeling like it’s not good enough and won’t be the thesis I want it to be.

I’ve been having some great coaching from the guys over at Action Podcast for this. I have worked out a plan with the help of Sam & Paul, and I’ve had to change it slightly as last week, I had a HUGE bushwork week. But really, I’m just going to have to work through the plan and my depression and do the work when I have so little confidence in myself and the thesis I’m creating.

It’s not that I can’t write – I can write fine. It’s not that I don’t have enough data – I have so much data, I could write another thesis or three!

It’s that I’m worried that the thesis  is not going to be intellectually sophisiticated enough. And I’m worried that there will be huge holes in my arguments. I’m relying on my supervisor to help me with these things. My complete and utter trust in these things is with my supervisor, which is at least some weight off my mind.

I have no idea how this will all turn out. Whether I’ll have to rewrite the whole thing. Whether the examiners will reject it and laugh.

And there is no real reason for me to do a PhD: no payrise, no tenure. No promotion. I will simply have some letters before or after my name.

I really wonder why I’m doing this to myself.

To prove I’m good enough, smart enough, worthy enough … to myself? My mother (I was never as good as the little girly-girls across the road when I was a child). My peers?

I often wonder if I am doomed to be eternally insecure about my entire existence. Everything that I am, have, my relationships. My world.

There’s times when I feel absolutely alone. Like it’s just me inside my brainbox and no one else can relate to what I’m doing. Something else I just have to live with.

Anyway, perhaps I’ll get to write another post later on in the week. If I’m lucky.

No Place Like Home

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Thanks to Stella over at Shiny Yoga for inspiring this sweet post.

After reading Stella’s post, I stopped for a few minutes today and asked myself: what does home mean? What is home?

This is what came:

Home is about belonging, about security, about identity, safety, authenticity. Home is where you can be you, where the exterior can reflect the interior, and no questions of why anything is as it is will be asked.

Etymology: ME < OE hām, akin to Ger heim < Gmc *haim < IE base *kei-, to lie, homestead > hide, Gr keisthai, to lie down, rest, L civis, townsman, ON heimr, home, Goth haima, OHG heim: basic sense “place where one lies; dwelling” http://www.yourdictionary.com/home

Most of all, home is my refuge and sanctuary. Both moment of stillness and the watcher within. Me and where I truly belong. Home is yoga.

And coming home, these are the things that make home, home:

1. Laying in my bed at night
2. Putting my head on Gary’s shoulder before we go to sleep
3. Endless conversations with my daughter
4. That first cup of coffee in the morning
5. Hearing the butcherbirds singing first thing in the morning
6. My son’s sleepy, quiet hello in the morning
7. My dog spinning in circles when he sees me
8. Reading on the lounge or in bed
9. Baking on Sunday afternoons
10. Writing on the laptop at the dining room table

Wednesday Whiteboard#9: The Spiritual Bulimia Edition

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Dotpoint #1: The 30 Day Challenge.

It’s day … (hang on, I’m counting) … 27 of my challenge to do yoga everyday. I can report that I’ve missed only 2 days so far. My practice has been asana, japa, pranayama and meditation. It takes about half an hour each morning.

Sometimes, I feel if I don’t do these things, I’ll be a cranky, evil bitch for the rest of the day. Other times, I do them because I told you that I’d do them.

Mostly, I do them because they make me feel good.

Once the 30 day challenge is over, I’m going to start another 30 day challenge. I will write about that next Wednesday.

There was one 30 day challenge that I tried to do using Steve Pavlina’s ’30 Day Challenge’ Template in my journal. It was to do with writing my thesis everyday. It didn’t work… I actually wrote in my journal every day for 30 days instead of writing my thesis.

Which is why I’ve just sought help with my thesis writing…

Dotpoint #2: Spiritual Bulimia & PhD Writing

Over the past two months, I’ve experienced a slow, grinding halt to my thesis writing. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get myself motivated or interested. This is scary, because the whole thing has to be finished by July 26. Worse, there’s only one and a half chapters to go.

I had to take some radical action.

Exactly what I did, I will share with you in a moment.

I’ve noticed a new trend that I call Spiritual Bulimia.  People are eating, and then regurgitating all sorts of inspiration, quotes and advice, but have no real power or evidence of success or change in their own lives.  They ingest all the self help and inspirational materials, but they don’t digest it.  They are taking it all in, but not actually implementing the behaviors, changing the thoughts and eliminating the patterns to have  lives that should be a by product of such voracious consumption.

http://www.stacijshelton.com/2009/06/02/spiritual-bulimia/

In the quote above, Staci Shelton highlights the massive numbers of people Tweeting, blogging and burping (ok, I made that one up) self-help advice. Make that re-tweeting, re-blogging and re-burping self-help advice but apparently not doing THE WORK. Traci encourages people to do THE WORK. I suspect that many people have something else in mind (blog traffic and selling their e-products) other than THE WORK, but more on this later.

How does this relate to my thesis?

Well, I got stuck. Quicksand stuck and demotivated. I tried a few things to get myself unstuck, but decided I had flipped into ‘overwhelm’.

Not good. Not good at all.

Overwhelm is when you are paralysed. Overwhelm is when you can’t go up, down or sideways because the problem is sooooo big. Overwhelm, for me, has only one solution…

Life coach time.

The life coach who helped my kick depression last year (Lisa Branigan) is currently on maternity leave. So I spent a couple of days looking for suitable people. I emailed a couple of Australian life coaches via their websites. One didn’t even bother to reply. The other didn’t respond to my second email. I Tweeted my request for help. Svasti retweeted it for me. What I got was some life coaches following me, but no offers to coach.

I decided to contact the folks at Action Podcast … and bingo! Life coaches, Sam Forsberg and Paul Bailey were on my case. I am recommending Action Podcast here because these guys are real people. They are not in the RA RA RA pom-pom girl squad. They are not space cadets. But they do know their stuff when it comes to coaching.

Why does life coaching work?

Because someone external holds you accountable and you get a totally fresh perspective on your situation.

Operation Thesis Overwhelm: the Method.

Here’s the initial exercise Paul had me do (I’ve edited some of the questions out/my answers are in blue):

How many days per week do you want to spend working on your thesis? Be realistic here. Think about how much time per day you can comfortably work without getting too distracted.

I work full time, so it’s not huge:

Tues 2 hrs

Fri 2hrs

Sat 3hrs Sun 4 hrs

Now you should roughly know how much work you need to do and how often you need to do it. Now again be honest with yourself, does that sound achievable? Do you need to tweak anything to make it more realistic?

Total: 3300 words per week

Or: 5 weeks of Tue, Fri Sat, Sun

It’s only just achievable- I have one long weekend scheduled in the middle where we are definitely going away.

Once you have fine tuned your plan, write it down in a short statement and read it aloud a few times. Does it sit comfortably with you? Yes- Great on to the next stage, No- do a bit more tweaking!

I can effortlessly write 3300 words per week and finish Chapters 7 & 8 by the 26th July, 2009.

The Results:

Over the long weekend (we just had a long weekend here in Australia) I went into thesis isolation mode, spending four days down at our second home, Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park. There’s no internet. No mobile phone coverage. It is very, very remote outback!

I wrote:

Friday – 1400 words

Saturday – 1700 words

Sunday- 700 words

Monday- 300 words

Tuesday – 700 words

That’s 4800 words and I have finished the draft of Chapter 7.

The mere thought that someone else was checking up on me and I was paying them for it, has worked like nothing else has. I’ve got another session on Friday at 5.30pm with Sam. In the meantime, check out their podcast on Overwhelm here for some more tips and hints.

How do I feel now that I’ve done this?

Relieved.

I’ve shifted the overwhelm. There is no question that my thesis will be done by my July 26 deadline. It simply will be done. I’ll keep the coaching going throughout this time.

Dot point #3: The Real Me: An Ethical Commitment.

At the beginning of Dotpoint #2, I quoted Traci Shelton’s comments about passively regurgitating or absorbing self-help material. The point is, why bother reading, retweeting or whatever if you’re not walking the talk?  If you’re just after traffic for your blog? You’d be better to put up posts about big boobs or even better, pictures of big boobs if it’s blog traffic you’re after. Better still, publish a downloadable e-book of pictures of big boobs and call it: BIG BOOBS! Then you can earn money from it, too.

As much as I enjoy self-help blogs like Zen Habits, I tire of their sameness. I realise these guys are making a living from their blogs, so they’re not strictly blogs. However, I learn far more from reading someones who’s included the pot holes and detours of their life and is DOING THE WORK on themselves everyday, than I do from reading ‘five more tips for being eternally happy’ over and over again, written by people who I suspect, aren’t even half happy and possibly aren’t doing the work. Check out Svasti’s blog or Havi Brooks’s blog. Read Linda Sama’s blog from last year when she lost her teaching job at a centre run by a dysfunctional alcoholic. I learn from these chickybabes more than I do from: five random self help dot points.

Spiritual bulimia: never had it. I do the work and fall flat on my face sometimes.

Watch this space for more pot holes on my spiritual journey…

Journal Work: Three Tools for Instant Problem Solving

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If you’ve never imagined that your journal could help you solve problems, then you might change your mind because in this post, I share three simple tools for problem solving with your journal.

That’s right: three really simple tools that really work.

Are you ready? Great. Let’s go then.

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May Book Reviews

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A brief synopsis of the books I’ve read during the past month –whether I liked them or not!

Arrernte Present, Arrernte Past – Dianne Austin-Broos.

This ethnography examines the history and of Hermannsburg (Ntaria), a remote Central Australian Aboriginal settlement, that was originally a Lutheran mission. Di Austin-Broos is an anthropologist (yes, I know this lady!) with a long association with Western Arrernte people. The book is relatively easy to read for non-anthropologists, although in keeping with Dianne’s writing style, is jam-packed with ideas and ethnographic interpretation.

Di critiques both the Mission and Outstation Movement (the movement of Aboriginal families back onto ‘homelands’ during the 1980s and early 1990s), and also has a bit to say about the recent Federal Intervention. I really enjoyed this book, as I know many of the people within it (like the Malbunka and Inkamala families), but I also enjoyed the insights into life on family outstations and community politics that I haven’t quite got my head around at Hermannsburg (yet).  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in Central Australian history or Western Arrernte people.

Shadows on the Path – Abdi Assadi

What can I say? If you do yoga, if you are into spirituality, or if you’re a thinker READ THIS LITTLE BOOK.

It’s rare that I wax lyrical about spiritually-oriented books. Most often, I find them sappy and Holier-Than-Thou. Adbi Assadi, an Iranian-born immigrant to the US, who’s life story and experiences are amazing in themselves, writes prose that reads like poetry. He captures the reader with his pragmatic, non-sucky wisdom and doesn’t let you go until the book is over. I have found myself returning again and again to his words, saying: “…ahh. That’s just how I feel. That’s exactly what I’ve experienced.” He captures the essence of contemporary life and spirituality in one slim, readable book. If you like Donna Fahri or Stephen Cope, you’ll devour this book. The book is self published and available here. You can listen to an extended interview with Abdi here.

Killer Heat – Linda Fairstein

From time to time, I read a crime fiction (Kathy Reichs remains my fave). After a conversation at work, Jammiegirl lent me this book and another (Jammiegirl and I work together). I hadn’t read a Linda Fairstein novel before.

I’ll be honest. The writer makes two deadly assumptions which, for me, made the book hard to enjoy:

  • that you have read her other novels and are familiar with the characters
  • that you know New York’s geography and landmarks.

However, I did like the historical detail and by halfway through, when I’d finally become accustomed to the narrative’s assumptions, I couldn’t put the book down. The book focuses on the murders of three girls, all tortured but apparently not sexually violated, and then the race to find a fourth girl who goes missing. The plot is fast-paced, the atmosphere dark and misty, and comes replete with a red-herring perpetrator who gets his just-desserts in the end. I did find the heroine, Alexandra Cooper, irritating. She’s 5’9, leggy, blonde, dating a jet-setting French restaurateur, and way too girly and uptight for me to relate to. I was able to ignore her sissy foibles because the action got me in. I would, however, like to take Alexandra Cooper camping in Central Australia. Camping. Overnight. In. A. Swag. Sleeping. On. The Ground. With ANTS and no TOILETS! No high heels, either. (I’m so evil!).

Recommended as a good quick read that won’t steal too much of your life away.

Get Motivated – Tamara Lowe

I listened to Get Motivated as an audiobook. I had high hopes for this book, judging from the book’s blurb on Audible. I really thought it would be helpful.

I’m going to be blunt. DO NOT get the book as an audiobook. Tamara Lowe has a voice that could sour milk. Truly, I tried to persevere with this book, ignoring Tamara’s voice (and that’s Tamara pronounced camera or as in Gamera, the Japanese sci-fi monster) as she massacres the English language (she pronounces ‘forward’ as ‘faux-PAUSE-word’. I kid you not.). However, what really got up my nose was when I heard her praising Margaret Thatcher as “…one of the most outstanding figures of history”. I began to get suspicious. However, when I heard her recommending a ‘motivational’ book written by the evangelist nutter, Billy Graham, and lastly, giving instructions on how to locate all of the paedophiles in your neighbourhood (Tamara has located 200+ living nearby her home), I said ENOUGH!

The good stuff: she has her own psychological-typology that’s easier to use than Myers-Briggs. She calls this ‘Motivational DNA’ – a ‘try hard’ label that I don’t like at all. However, the system itself is interesting – and there’s even a test you can take to self-type yourself. Her pointers for motivating or avoiding conflict with the various types are good – however you can find them elsewhere, and you won’t have to put up with Billy Graham.

Overall, the ugly Christian, soccer-mom, I’m a recovered drug addict sermonistic tone of the book really made me want to VOMIT. I’m sorry, but I cannot recommend this book.

Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe

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Svasti and Anne-Marie have recently provided me with super yummy recipes that I’ve used (or will be using on the weekend), so here is my own trademark recipe, Chocolate Banana Bread. This recipe is adapted from Bill Grainger’s book, Bills Food.

It’s an extra-delicious way of using up those poor old bananas that went off before you got to them, or the bananas that are on special at the supermarket because they’re a bit manky (HINT: store bananas for choc banana bread in the freezer until you’re ready to use them).

Ingredients

2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking power
125g (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
4 ripe (over ripe works even better) bananas, mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g (1 cup) choc bits (I use those BIG choc buttons and put the WHOLE packet in!)

Method

Preheat oven to 180 C (350F).
Sift flour & baking powder in one bowl.
In another bowl, mix bananas, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla ex. and choc chips. Then add dry ingredients, but don’t overmix.

Pour the batter into a non-stick loaf tin & bake for about 1hr 15min (about 50min in fanforced oven), or until bread is cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool in tin 5 min before turning out on wire rack.