I had a second New Year's celebration with the Lloyds, who invited me over for fun and dinner on Tuesday. Amy had had a major piece of work dropped on her from the office, so she was scarce for the first hour or two, working away in the upstairs office, and Dan and I kept the kids busy downstairs in the living room while she crunched numbers. Dan shared the sad news that his maternal grandmother had died that morning, and we spoke some of that over the kids' heads. Dan eventually decided to fire up the grill out back for dinner, even though it was a crazy windy 4ºF outside. But he got his huge pork slabs seasoned and cooking while I took turns lifting Owen or Anna and keeping them distracted.
Dinner was another solid Lloyd feast, with the "traditional Pennsylvania Dutch New Year's Day meal of pork and saurkraut" dinner that Dan had advertised, as well as generous portions of mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. I had already sort of mentally "checked off" New Year's as something I'd done the night before with the Hurts and the Schwabs, so I was a bit surprised when Amy decided to add champaign to the meal, but I felt doubly honoured when I realized that I was part of their New Year's festivities. And so we went with the bubbly. Anna had a minor drama with her refusal to even try the saurkraut, which I could sympathize with as it's never appealed to me either, but I won big parental points for coming up with the idea to put the saurkraut with the pork, which she very much wanted, and then to bury the both with a smear of mashed potatoes. This she did eat, though she suspected the trick, and finally accepted the proposition that saurkraut was okay mixed with the other foods.
The kids went down easy after a little play and dancing with them (Anna didn't want the slower sounds of Over The Rhine's Snow Angel but insisted on the "faster" music of Bela Fleck), and we spent the rest of the night mostly talking schemes for student participation in our Theology Through the Centuries sections or politics/ethics (like the question of Church discipline becoming politicized in the U.S. or not) while Amy crunched numbers on the laptop next to us and only surfaced from time to time to make some clarifying point in the conversation.
I mentioned how I'd looked at some old journals on my laptop over my holiday travels. I haven't really done that in ages and the mood has stayed on me. I had noted to Dad that I had a gap in my typed journals from August 1995, when I started living and working at Holy Cross House and the rhythm of my day changed, dissuading me from keeping a journal on my computer, until sketchy and largely unsustained attempts at getting back in the habit in February 1997. I mentioned that I regretted that particular gap as it was in those years that my life was changed so strongly by being integrated into two musical groups: George and the Freeks and the Notre Dame Folk Choir. As a result, my circle of friends changed mightily from being almost exclusively grad students to now including a bunch of undergraduates five years my junior, all showering me in artistic, intellectual and spiritual riches I didn't get through grad work alone.
So I was kind of surprised to discover that I notebook I dug out remembering as containing a few notes from our Ireland tour of 1997 in fact contained some 70 pages of a intermittent journal from that period. It was kind of revelatory to read some of those things for the first time in ages, laughing out loud at certain moments, and being baffled by others. My personal history is often "periodized" in my head by whoever the woman is that I'm dating or interested in at a given time, and so I was rather amazed to find a few months with notes of hanging with one Notre Dame student of whom I have no clear recollection at all: no real recognition of the name, no picture in my head, no idea where I knew her from – my journal apparently taking all such for granted. So strange. I tried return a call to Erik with the added bonus of now being able to read him a few select passages, but no luck there.
The journal crashed and burned in May/June of 1997 when I started to write a grand journal of the Folk Choir's tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland only to discover that I could either keep a detailed journal of the trip or I could experience the trip and opted for the later. This experience resulted in my learning that accomplishing the important task of journaling abroad had to be otherwise accomplished, and so I started carrying a recorder in my pocket, and dictating a travel journal had proved to be a pretty solid success.
Otherwise, I'm working away at the dissertation, according to the plan. It's taken a few days of startup, though, to get my mind re-immersed into the material, going over my notes and starting to put together the whole plan for the chapter. I still have more dissociated sections than anything else, but they're slowly meeting up and beginning to dock with one another. I have come to the realization that I'm going to have to not teach in the Fall 2008 semester so that I can be sure to finish next year, even if that means just living entirely off of student loans. Better that and definitely getting done than this getting-really-tired feeling of treading water. I am so ready to turn the page and get to the next chapter of my life and career: I really feel I'm "on hold" at this point. The other day's "PHD"/Piled Higher and Deeper felt all too apropos: