As of 11:40 a.m., Friday, July 30, 2010, I'm Labradoris, Ph.D.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
 
Did you hear that?  That was the sound of me emitting a giant exhale.

-The motorcycle course wrapped successfully, with me emerging hand-in-hand with a passing score and a certificate that I can use to obtain the "M" classification on my license.  While I am FAR from being comfortable on a bike, I'm at least not afraid anymore.  Taking the class made me a better driver, too.  I had never operated a manual in my life, so getting used to a clutch was a big step.  But, I did okay and actually liked going "fast" - we never got up above 25 mph on the course, but it felt fast to me initially.  I'm a master corner-er too.  I can corner, swerve, lean, and do a perfect double U-turn (a serpentine in dressage horse language).  I'm not wanting to go out and buy a motorcycle right now, but it's definitely more possible now.

-My dissertation edits are done and it is in my committee's hands.  I will DEFEND MY DISSERTATION next Friday (July 30)!  It feels weird to even say that!  But, I am very excited and very happy to be approaching the finish line -- it's been a long three years.

-The big news is:  I've decided to move!  Joel and I will be moving to his new job, which is in a smaller town outside of The Big City.  I'm going to spend the first two months closing up my life here, unpacking there, and settling in to a life outside of graduate school.  I'm going to be job searching in The Big City, and I'm really hoping I will land something nice - not just something to get by on.

-We've found a very cute rental house with a great, laid-back landlord that (1) has a black Lab, but (2) LOVES that we will be bringing our two Labs!!  Can you believe it?  She wants us to have our dogs there!  It's almost too good to be true - we had to pinch ourselves.  The dogs will even have a doggy door in the back door to go out into the FENCED BACKYARD!!!!  I'm so excited!  The past three years, Cosette (and more recently, Trooper) have had to wear their leashes everytime we go outside.  Now, they can go out and play in the backyard without having me go out there too (I'm most excited about this during the winter).  It's a small backyard, but it's big enough for them.  Plus, we got $100 knocked off our rent by agreeing to take care of the lawn and garden maintenance!  Score!

-My time with the winery is coming to a close, although I'm not looking forward to leaving.  It's been a great job and something that I've really cherished doing.  I will probably stay in contact for the next few months, just helping out and letting them transition to a full-time person that can take care of wholesale distribution. 

-So, the next few weeks will be spent cleaning, packing, teaching, defending, graduating (Joel, not me - I have to graduate in December), moving, working, and job searching!  Should be a really fun time in its own little way. 

xoxo
 
 
i like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. this is the night, what it does to you. i had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” – jack kerouac

I saw this quote on another person's blog entry, and it very much spoke to me right now.

I'm not sure why, but I feel like my life is just completely out of control right now.  Nothing is wrong per se, but it feels wrong.  And it's unlike the feeling of good stress - that feeling where you are justatinybitaboveyourthreshold for work, but not overly so.  I enjoy that feeling.  I like having just a little, teensy, itty bitty too much work to do.  The kind that will keep you up just an extra 10 minutes, just 10 more minutes until you are done.  That kind.

This kind, though, feels overwhelming and completely dissatisfying.  I love all the pieces of what I'm doing, but each piece right now does not feel okay together.  I'm no longer living in the present moment, and it makes me sad.  While I'm waiting on a winery customer, my thoughts dash to the night's motorcycle course that I can't be late for.  When I'm on the motorcycle waiting my turn for an exercise, my thoughts are on the class I'm teaching for the next day.  While I'm in class and trying to gather my thoughts on a particular topic, I'm not thinking about anything else except the class, but I'm distracted if that makes sense.  My mind is not necessarily on anything else, but I'm not 100% focused. 

I'm not sure if it is the level of committment required of each piece, or the time, or the responsibility of each piece, but I'm starting to feel very overwhelmed and strung-out. 

Poor Joel and LG, too.  Little Guy has felt the snap of my voice, the strain in my face.  Joel is a saint and delivers nothing but patience and understanding.  But they, too, are pieces of my life and they aren't going very well with the rest of the pieces (hello, work/family balance). 

I cried as I was driving from one location to the other yesterday, in my rush to switch which piece I was paying attention to.  I'm not talking soft sniffles, I'm talking loud, racking sobs.  I wasn't really upset at anything - although I gave myself reason to be upset at certain things - almost as if I'm giving myself an excuse of what to get mad at, just so I can get mad.

It doesn't make sense to me, either.

But, the motorcycle course only lasts until Friday evening.  I will have time this weekend to work on prepping my class for the next few weeks.  My class, too, is only four weeks long.  My poor, neglected dissertation is almost ready to be pulled across the finish line.  And there's some decisions, too, that I'm desperately trying to sort out in my head.  And I know that it doesn't sound like a lot - and maybe that's the thing - there's not a LOT that I'm doing, but each piece requires a LOT of time from me.  And I think the absence of free time (just 30 minutes!  just 30 minutes!  somewhere!  where is it?) is making me high-strung and horrible to be around.  I so desperately need, crave, desire, HAVETOHAVE my downtime.  I'm a high-performance individual, but I have to have time to myself every day.  I don't think I really realized it before.  It's always been there, and I've always done it, but now that I'm craving it, I'm thinking it may be exactly what's bothering me.

I'm looking forward to just being able to breathe calmly and start being more collected.  I can really feel my stress taking a toll on my body, and that's completely unhealthy and unaccepatble.  Where is this calm, yogafied person I once was?  Where has she gone?

Hopefully I'll be back with a better blog entry next week.  This weekend I'm aiming with some quality time with the dogs.  And Joel and LG.  They deserve it from me.
 
 
Joel defends his dissertation today at 11 a.m.  I'm so very proud of him!  Today marks the end (well, until graduation at least) of five tumultuous years for him in graduate school. 

Once the dissertation is defended (successfully, but they rarely go awry), Joel will make final changes that his committee requests, and submit the document to the graduate school.  So, he will have a little more work ahead of him after today, but nothing he can't handle! 

As far as myself and my progress, I'm working on a few edits to my completed draft.  My expectations are that I will defend sometime this summer and graduate in December.

But, expectations are for people that only have themselves to rely on.  My expectations were crushed this year, time and time again.  Last August had you asked me what my intentions were, my intentions were to prospect my dissertation in November and defend in April so that I could graduate in May.  Obviously, that didn't happen and believe me when I say it wasn't due to procrastination on my end.  I prospected on Monday, May 10, 2010 and my hope was to graduate in August.  I wanted an August graduation for so many reasons.  Three days after I had prospected, my dissertation was already approved by the Human Subjects Committee (to determine if you are causing harm to participants) and four days after prospecting, my survey was online and ready to go.  That weekend I spent sending out e-mails to participants.  I spent an arduous fourteen days collecting data. It was not easy.  My expected response rate was slashed in half, and my expected response rate (10%) was meager to begin with.  So I had to work SO HARD to gain participants.  Within 14 days of starting data collection, I collected the necessary working participant responses (approximately 300).  Over Memorial Day weekend, I sat down and wrote the entirety of my results and discussion section and finished edits to my literature review that my committee requested.  Writing the entire back half of the draft in under 30 hours is an accomplishment. 

A week later, I received the bad news that my expectations about finishing in time for an August graduation did not match my committee chair's expectations.  And that's all I'll say about that. 

But the news was crushing, upsetting, threw me for a loop, and absolutely ruined my hope for walking in August.  I received this news on the first day of vacation in Hawaii, on the day of my friend's wedding.  I was mentally miserable to say the least.  I had turned down a trip to Europe to see my family, whom I only get to see once or twice a year (and we're a tight-knit family) because my expectations were that my hard work and diligent efforts would pay off in the end.  If I had known that working my ass off so hard for so long would not yield the results I was expecting, I would have (1) not rushed myself, (2) gone to Europe to see my family, (3) spent significantly less time stressing about data collection and writing, and (4) proceeded at a more leisurely pace. 

I'm still sickened about it.  The unfairness of it all, and there's several angles to the unfairness, really turns my stomach and leaves me with a feeling of distrust and disappointment.  I know I was asking a lot of someone else, but I ask a lot of myself and I expect other people to match my own expectations.  And therein lies my fatal flaw that I've been dealing with since I was much younger. 

But, I will be there to cheer on Joel as he graduates with his PhD (also was expected to be conferred in May, so his was pushed back as well) and walk hand in hand with my Dr. Boyfriend afterward. 
 
 

So, three awesome things that happened recently:

1)  I PASSED PRELIMS!  How awesomely fantastic is that?  I am now, officially, a doctoral candidate.  I wanted to have a moment where I went running from the building, skipping as I opened the door, and in slow motion, flinging my notes on statistics, research methods, computational modeling, organizational studies, all of it, up into the air while some rockin' music accompanied me.  Instead, I quietly spent an hour today tucking away all my notes back into their respective binders, shelving the binders, and returning borrowed books.  You never know when that one equation I wrote down that one day in multivariate statistics MIGHT come in handy.  It's the academic in me.  Otherwise, a person might say, "That's what Google is for."

2)  Trooper learned to retrieve!  Like, adequately!  When I was first teaching him, I relied on the treat method for the toy replacement, but he'd get so excited about the treat that he would just drop the toy on his way back.  This evening I absentmindedly grabbed one of the retrieving toys and brought it out to the front yard when I let him out after dinner.  I gave it a good throw, just to run some energy off of him, and BOOM! he took off like a shot.  There was a lot of bouncing involved, and Joel is convinced he's more Tigger than Lab, but, holy cow, he brought it right back to me!!  Fifteen times in a row!!  I was so impressed with my retriever that he had lived up to his name...finally.  He's not graceful or coordinated like Cosette is by any means, but he tries.  And, he Tigger bounces, so that's a bonus.  I think.

3)  Strike the third thing.  I originally had something here, published it, then changed my mind.  Basically, to sum up:  I do not like Person A, and Person A is generally liked by others, which is infuriating because it's all a show.  There are a few who dislike Person A, but not many.  The people who do dislike Person A can usually be found after Person A insults them in a deranged manner, becomes rip-roaringingly drunk, screams at them, asking themselves, "What did I do?  I was just trying to be nice!"  Person A recently had a social opportunity with many supporters, and revealed their true colors to everyone they were with.  Person A is no longer liked by the rest of my social circle.  This is awesome because they no longer want to hang out with Person A, and I'm just glad I don't have to worry about being in the same zip code as the person anymore. 

To reiterate, I PASSED PRELIMS!!!, my retriever retrieves, and karma is excellent. 

 
 
Picture

This is where I spend most hours in my days...on the second floor.

I'm teaching again for the summer session, starting tomorrow morning at 8:40 a.m.  Here's to a fast four weeks!

 
 

Well folks, I want to give a hearty thanks for staying with me as I took a blog break in order to focus on my exam.

The exam was just as long as an exam could be, a full eight hours of re-written sentences, sore fingers from typing, a headache, and a nagging sense of discomfort.

But, I made it through and I will resume my quest for blogging awesomeness without further delay.

Oh, and Troops had his neutering surgery today.  The vet's office called and said he did fine.  So, yay for de-balling. 

 
 

I am now at the point in my graduate school career where I have completed my last round of classes and am preparing to take my preliminary examination.  This is the exam that will admit me to doctoral candidacy, which means that I will be all but dissertation (ABD) in my graduate career. 

I've taken my comprehensive exams (same concept as prelims) at my masters institution already and passed them, so this is beginning to feel a little old.  I'm tired of cramming everything I've ever learned in my graduate career into my head so that I can sit for the exam and spew out all the knowledge and references upon request.  When I say "sit for the exam," what I really mean is a period of self-flagellation as I ponder every question about every class I've ever taken, write an appropriate response, and pray that I haven't left anything out...for eight hours in one day, in a room, by myself. 

Don't expect to see much of me over the next eleven days as I go into final crunch mode on studying.  I'm already studying 6-9 hours a day, and have been for the past two weeks, but I'm about to move it to about 12-14 hours a day as the date draws nearer.  I can't promise much surfacing activity during that time, and unfortunately, the Monday after I take prelims I have to be back in the classroom to teach at 8:40 a.m.

Graduate school.  There is a reason there is a 50% (or more) attrition rate.  It's hard and after a while it doesn't matter how smart you are; what matters is the determination, the ferociousness, the work ethic, and the bravery required to complete this degree.  It's astounding how much work goes into this degree, and sometimes it's not even about work -- it's about your personal life, your family, your friends, the isolation of it all can be overpowering.  Without a doubt, enrolling in a doctoral program is like being able to only run a mile, and then signing up to complete a triathlon, training for it, doing it, being completely exhausted and bone-tired, but still dragging yourself over the finish line, amazed that you had the audacity to complete the dang thing.

I'm at the 20 mile marker right now -- got a few more miles and milestones to go.  Wish me luck -- but I'll see you at the finish line.

 
 

I worked with Elmer's glue today.  I'm not proud of this fact, but I'm certainly not blaming the glue or the brand.  The reason I'm not proud is because I used it to create an academic poster - not a true academic poster, mind you, this isn't going to a conference - but it is part of a final poster presentation I am making in my last graduate class.

While normally I pay upwards of $80 for a slick, glossy poster for presentations, the instructor deemed this was unnecessary for the final class and encouraged us to be creatively cheap.

Elmer's, you are hereby deemed creatively cheap.

As I delicately applied you to the slides, flipped them over, and warmly rubbed each slide carefully and created heat to entice you to stick, I had a very strong sense memory from 4th grade.

4th grade was the first time I had a male teacher.  I don't remember his name, but he was tall, brown-haired, in his 40s or 50s, and had clearly done time as a product of the 1960s.  His favorite suit color was brown.  His most typical clothing assembly consisted of brown slacks, brown overcoat, a yellow shirt, and a brown and peach striped tie.  He was weary of teaching, and it showed.  He liked to call out a boy named Jimmy in class, who smelled of dirt and trash and regularly burped loudly.  Every time Jimmy would burp, the teacher would call him out and say how disgusting he was acting.  Poor Jimmy, who clearly came from a harsh home, grinned at the only attention he received during the day.  He would toss his tow-headed hair out of his eyes and wiggle in his seat.  I sat across the aisle from him and can remember how putrid his smell was to this day.

It was in the class that I learned what sex was, what humping was, and why girls don't shave their forearm hair.  Johnny Campbell, the red-headed kid with freckles, innocently asked what sex was one day, and the teacher overreacted by throwing his hands up in the air and started yelling, "YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT SEX IS, HUH?!  DO YOU?  Because we'll get the school nurse in here RIGHT NOW!!  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT??  She'll explain sex to you ALL DAY LONG!  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?  HUH??"  I didn't know what sex was, but it must have been important because our teacher was sure mad.  My friend Sarah, an early developer who wore a bra, told me that that sex meant you humped.  I listened to her with rapt attention as we played Connect 4 over the lunch period.  She also told me that she shaved her forearm hair and that I should too.

My mom and I had a lot to talk about that night after she found me in the bathroom with a razor on my arm, delicately trying to determine how to use the device.

My memory though, of you, Elmer glue, is one I'm sure many students expertly tried.  With our hands under our desks as our teacher was spelling out "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"  (just so you know, I totally spelled that correctly on the first try.  Our spastic teacher evidently taught me something.), we would slyly twist open your top, squeeze a few precious beads of white goo onto our hands, deftly twist your top closed, and then slide you back into our desks where we stored our precious pencil cases and rubber erasers.  Slowly we'd press our sticky hands together, bringing the drops together.  Some liked to keep their hands pressed tightly together and experience the satisfying 'crrrrchkssss' sound once you had dried and they pulled their hands apart, but not me.  I was unimpressed with this trick.  My favorite trick was to allow my hands to dry separate from one another, and once they had reached a satisfying level of dryness, deftly peeling off the edges until I could get an imprint of my skin.  Looking at all the cracks and crevices in my skin that you had copied was one of the more fascinating things to me.  I would lay my precious glue grafts on top of my desk for observation, intent on knowing these secrets of the universe that you and my skin imprints must contain.

 
 

I received a hearty laugh from all of my students this morning when I was lecturing about verbal versus nonverbal communication.  I said, “For example, a type of nonverbal communication I’m receiving right now is your body posture.  A different message is being sent from those of you who are sitting up straight, diligently taking notes and nodding at me…” I said as I mimed this, “versus when some of you slouch down in your chairs,” and I slouched, “and stare up at the ceiling, or glare at me, or I see your eyes glaze over,” and I paused, “or…I see your mouth hanging open, drool dripping down your face as you retreat to your dreams and let my lecturing become a distant buzz.”  They all laughed and giggled.  

It is interesting being a lecturer.  I can only really speak of my experiences up in front of the college classroom.  I’ve done some grade school classroom lessons, but the past two years I’ve spent just in front of college students.  Some are wide awake, nodding and smiling and me, some are asleep, some are half-asleep in frog pajamas, some whisper to their neighbors or text while I’m talking, others take no notes but listen intently, the list goes on.  It really is a different vibe depending on who is in the class and how interesting the lecture is at any one moment.  I’ve been there before: in the classroom where the instructor could give a shit what they are actually saying or how they are connecting with the students.  I’ve even had professors bring their book to class and READ FROM THE BOOK.  Like, LINE BY LINE.  I’ve had the instructors that insist on forging on through the material when it is clear the class is completely lost.  I’ve had really wonderful instructors that make you feel as if you are having a one-on-one conversation with them, when really you are stuck in a sweaty lecture hall with 200 other freshmen.  So, I try and combat all the problems that I saw happening when I was facing the instructor instead of being the instructor.

I actively approach the classroom as if it is a stage.  I am a performer, and they are my audience.  It may be through the use of humor, of actual body maneuvers through miming, it may be through the use of YouTube videos or DVD clips, or funny graphics, or amusing stories; whatever it takes to connect with students that are in the audience.  I ask for contributions many times in the classroom, which I find really helps students focus on what their peers are saying, and encourages them to be more involved in the classroom discussion.

It’s not all fun and games though.  Despite my best intentions, I inevitably get a few haters every semester: the people that actively look at me while leaning over to their neighbor to talk while I’m lecturing, those that text rampantly even though I’m trying to communicate with them, those who glare at me because I gave a bad example or didn’t explain something clearly.  There are those who mouth “Bitch” at me in the middle of class, like this semester for whatever reason, or those who ignore all attempts for me to help them, and give me poor performance evaluations at the end of the semester.  My personal favorite is a student who feels I have created a non-supportive environment for minorities (gender, race, ethnicity…) and tells me so on my performance evaluations, even though more than 100 other students don’t feel the same way.

Instructing can be a really strenuous, emotionally draining process sometimes.  I feel like I give so much of myself to the class, only to have bored stares and glazed eyes staring back at me.

But then there are the moments that make me treasure being an instructor: the one-on-one that happens in my office, when a student really connects with an idea, or, after class, when a student discovers that I’m actually a really nice person when they come and talk to me.  It is the moment that happens in class too:  the instance when I really nail a joke, or make them smile, or have them give me a really great example and I feel really connected with my audience.  It’s when I put myself as a stage performer at the mercy of my audience, and I slouch down and mime a sleeping student, and I feel we are all on the same wavelength, and they know what I’m thinking and I know what they are thinking, and time doesn’t merely stand still, it whizzes by and I’m amazed to find that I have just spent 50 minutes with total strangers and yet, we feel like we know each other.