The dissertation was only the beginning.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Little Black Books
In many (all?) Catholic churches, "Little Black Books" were distributed after Mass the past few weeks. These "Little Black Books" are just that: small, non-descript volumes without a title on the cover that can tuck easily into a purse or schoolbag. They are filled with six-minute meditations for Lent, which officially starts with the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, which is tomorrow. Each meditation begins with a historical or factual tidbit relating to the day -- today, for example, is a description of the origins of the phrase mardi gras -- and is followed by a short reading to inspire meditation. All of the meditations this year are based on the Gospel of Luke and his recounting of the Passion of Christ. The "Little Black Book" is designed as an aid for Catholics as they reflect on the Lenten season, which has always been a bit difficult for me to understand since it is sometimes referred to as a "joyous" season when really there's nothing outwardly joyful about it.

Lent and Easter have always been my favorite parts of the Church year because I really feel like I can be spiritually "active" during this time in a way that is meaningful and individual. Advent, the four weeks before Christmas and the other long preparation time in the Church year, is usually lost on me because it's difficult to separate the hype of a commercialized Christmas from the spiritual "waiting" for the birth of Christ. To me, Advent should be a calm, reflective time of longing and preparation, but it never is -- it's always about last-minute shopping, last-minute grading, last-minute everything else. And because there are usually holiday parties well in advance of Christmas Day, no one really "waits" during Advent at all -- "Christmas" is celebrated on whatever day your employer decides to throw the holiday party, or whenever all of your friends can manage a day together. I like Lent because it is slow and because it isn't as full of last-minute preparations. You can't spiritually prepare yourself for the fullness of Lent and the promise of Easter at the last minute: it takes time, and that's what we have, starting tomorrow.

I went to a Catholic elementary school, and I remember trying hard to think of what I would "give up" for Lent each year. We had to write it down on a slip of paper and put it in a shoebox in front of our classroom, and the teacher would read through our Lenten promises and talk with each of us about them. I usually gave up dessert or some food item I liked. I remember one year I gave up pudding -- I adore pudding and mushy desserts in general -- and it was one of the most difficult Lenten promises I ever made. I remember that my sister, who didn't even really like pudding, would often eat it in front of me to test my resolve. I also remember that, on Easter Sunday, Mom made me a huge bowl of pudding as a treat and it tasted better than ever. I didn't really make a connection back then between my pudding-deprivation and the resurrection of Christ, but I did feel like I'd actually done something for Lent.

As I grew older, I began to feel that "giving something up" for Lent wasn't that meaningful. Instead, I tried to "give something back" during Lent, like offering to help people more often, donating my time, or being a nicer person. These were good ideas, in theory, but they were too easy to do: what qualified as helping people "more often" or being "nicer?" It was too easy to say that I'd fulfilled my Lenten promises when, really, I was just being myself in a more conscious way. After all, I'm a pretty nice person already and I like to help people, so doing that for Lent was no big stretch. I didn't feel like I'd grown spiritually at all during those Lenten seasons, and Easter simply came for me as a matter of course those years.

On the first page of the "Little Black Book," you're supposed to "sketch some possible Lenten plans." I did that, trying to think of something "lofty" and "eye-opening" and "life changing." But nothing was coming to me, and a blank page stared back at me. Then I read yesterday's meditation: "Lent is not a pietistic pie-in-the-sky time. It's realistic down-to-earth time. It's about ashes and the cross. It's about money, food, and how we spend our time. It's about sin and sorrow. It's about life and death." So, this Lent I've decided to return to my Lenten roots and make this Lent a time of cutting back on indulgences: no eating between meals, no dessert. You all know that I love food -- I love to prepare it, I love to think and write about it, I love to shop for it, and I love to eat it. Because I cook a lot and bake with ST, there is no shortage of good things to eat in this house at any given time, and it's always easy to sneak downstairs and snatch something out of the cake safe or the cookie box. Many days when I'm working from home I skip lunch just so I can have a treat -- maybe a cupcake or a cookie with hot chocolate -- and that is something I really enjoy doing (I mean, really, why eat a tuna sandwich when a homemade black-bottomed cupcake is staring you in the face?). It will be hard for me to break out of this pleasant habit -- I know I will miss it, I know that my stomach will tell me that it's time for a snack in that awkward hours between breakfast and lunch. But I think denying myself some of these "usual" treats will help me make a good Lent.

According again to the "Little Black Book," Lent is all about making us a little sore and raw inside, about making us feel deprived. But this deprivation is for a purpose, and that is to make us more aware of our lives -- more awake to the blessings of God and the sacrifices of Christ. As simple and silly as it sounds, my "Christ in a cupcake" plan is one that I think will be useful to me spiritually: it will make me think about my life and think about what I have and be grateful for it. A real hunger pang or a real sweet tooth craving is a reminder of my physicality and my fleeting time on this earth -- these are wake-up calls, urging me to think beyond my own, flat life to the wonders that await me here and beyond.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/28/2006 09:06:00 AM   4 comments
Monday, February 27, 2006
On Lax Parenting and Biting My Tongue
I just dropped ST off at daycare this morning. It is a positively gorgeous morning here, full of sunshine, a slight breeze, and that perfect hint of chilliness that lets you know that it's not quite spring yet, but that spring could burst forth at any moment. "It's a beautiful day today!" ST exclaimed as we walked to his carer's house, stopping every now and again to examine the brown grass along the sidewalk. When we reached his daycare and went inside, he told his carer about how much he wanted to play outside today, and his carer was enthusiastic. "Sure! We'll go outside before lunch, OK?" she said, much to ST's delight. Then her mother, who operates the daycare with her, said quietly to us, "Well, we'll wait and see how Emma is dressed."

"Emma" is the oldest child at daycare, a sweet and cute girl who is soft spoken but who has a serious naughty streak. She is over four years old and should be in preschool -- she is clearly bored at a daycare meant for the 0-3 year-olds. Emma's mom usually brings her to daycare just a few minutes after I arrive with ST. I sometimes see them as they pull in the driveway, Emma seated -- without a seatbelt -- in the front seat of their littered minivan. ST's carer says that while Emma's mom is "a perfectly nice woman," she's also "one of the laziest parents I've ever met." And it's true, to a frightening degree.

A few mornings I've been there chatting to ST's carers when Emma and her mother walk in, and Emma runs up to give one of the carers a hug. Sometimes Emma's breath is so bad that I watch the carer recoil after the hug, nearly gagging from the smell. "Whoa, sweetie, did you brush your teeth today?" the carer will ask. Emma shakes her head. "Oh, I guess we forgot to do it this weekend!" Emma's mom will say nonchalantly. This weekend? An entire weekend without brushing? Other times Emma's mom will tell the carers that Emma had a big breakfast -- of Chips Ahoy cookies, Cheetoes, and Sprite -- and will not need a snack. And, on days like today when the weather is not committed to winter or spring, Emma's mom will send Emma to daycare in jeans and a short-sleeved t-shirt (no coat), which means that unless another child has brought an extra sweatshirt, Emma will not be able to go outside.

This makes me incredibly angry, not just for Emma's sake, but for the sake of all of the kids at the daycare who either 1.) have to smell Emma, who is sometimes so stinky that our carers have to give her a bath since Emma's mother tells them she bathes her only once a week (!); 2.) have to stay inside because Emma does not have the proper clothes to go outside, and the carers do not want to leave her out; or 3.) watch longingly as Emma eats her lunch of cookies, chips, and soda while the other kids eat the nutritious meal our carers provide (always a starch/protein, a vegetable, fruit, and a small dessert like a cookie or a pudding cup; Emma's mother does not make Emma eat anything she doesn't want to eat). It also makes me angry that Emma's mom is so nonchalant about everything, almost bragging about her lax attitude when it comes to her children (she has two older sons in addition to young Emma). She laughs when she reports to the carers that Emma hasn't had a BM in several days, blows it off when Emma complains that she's itchy "down there," and acts offended if the carers request that she bring an extra sweatshirt or light jacket for Emma. For her, being a parent to a young child is a burden, something to "get through."

I am not a perfect parent by any means -- none of us are. It's hard work. When kids are young they need your help for almost everything, and it's easy to let things fall through the cracks. But as a parent it is my responsibility to ensure that ST has fuel to get through the day, is clean, and has the supplies he'll need to participate in daycare activities. It does not take a lot of extra effort to ensure that ST has a bowl of oatmeal and some grapes for breakfast, that he has a bath and brushes his teeth every day, and that he has the right shoes and outerwear to play outside at daycare. When I see or hear about parents like Emma's mom, I just want to explode -- it's hard for me to bite my tongue, and I'm not even sure if I should. There's a huge part of me that wants to treat Emma like a stray puppy, to bring her into our home where, just for a few days even, she'll have good meals, warm bubble baths, and clean clothes. It tears me up inside to look at cute little Emma with her stained clothes and greasy hair -- she always looks sad, neglected. She comes to give me (and some of the other parents) a hug every day, and she absolutely clings to me, not letting go until ST gets jealous and pushes her away. It breaks my heart.

But what to do? The carers have given Emma's mom not-so-subtle hints that Emma is not clean, that Emma needs to brush her teeth, etc. The carers even bought a toothbrush for Emma to keep at the daycare and have on occasion called the pediatrician to ask what to do about a yeast infection in a four-year old girl after the infection went on, untreated, for over a week. The carers feel powerless, the other parents feel powerless. But I'll bet no one feels as powerless as Emma.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/27/2006 09:11:00 AM   9 comments
Friday, February 24, 2006
Going, Going... G O N E!
There is nothing so sweet as the feeling you get after checking a big item off the "to do" list. I just sent my first five chapters to my advisors, just over 100 pages' worth of dissertation*. I figure I have about 60-80 pages left to write on this thing, and then it's DONE. I'm sure my perfectionist advisors will have pages and pages of comments and mulitudes of questions for me, but for now the draft is beautiful as is because it's not on my desk anymore.

Here ends the blogging explosion for the day. Off to admire my new faucet.

* Honestly, this figure was a bit disappointing to me because I've been writing for ages. Only 100 pages? But then I realized that I'd probably deleted 40 pages here and there, I'd completely rewritten Chapter 2 twice and Chapter 3 once... these 100 or so pages are just the "keepers."
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/24/2006 02:18:00 PM   7 comments
The Way To My Heart
As part of our "Design to Sell" plan for this house, we bought a new kitchen faucet. I was tremendously excited about this; you may recall my obsession for my kitchen sink, the sparkling heart of our kitchen from whence most good things come. When T and I were gone on our weekend to New Town my Dad attempted to install the faucet, but his efforts were stymied when he realized that the faucet hookups were welded in a single piece that couldn't be unscrewed, and he didn't have welding equipment with him to sweat new joints. So, we knew we'd have to call a plumber, and we weren't looking forward to paying one. The shiny new faucet has been sitting on our kitchen island, taunting me with its graceful curves and brushed nickel finish, for almost a month.

Today I decided that enough was enough and I called a plumber. I let my fingers do the walking until I came to the name of a local plumber; I called him and he said that, although he had "planned to go to a cattle auction" this morning, he thought he could get the job done before the auction started. He arrived less than 15 minutes after I called, a 50ish-looking man in a red sweatshirt and dark navy jeans, hay stuck to the bottom of his shoes. "I'm really a farmer," he said, apologizing for the hay on my carpet, "but plumbing pays the bills."

He was in my kitchen for less than 40 minutes altogether. I chatted with him a bit about farming and plumbing, and I paid the bill: $63.00. I knew that was a really good deal, since most of the plumbers I had called in the past charged at least that just to walk through the door. I didn't realize how good of a deal it was, however, until he said, "I hope you don't mind, but I scrubbed out your cabinet for you and polished the sink. I just like to see a clean sink."

I could've hugged him right then and there.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/24/2006 12:06:00 PM   4 comments
Technology Meme
Distraction courtesy of Lillian, the Mama(e) in Translation – I thought this was pretty interesting, especially after reading ABDMom’s responses, which are very different from mine.

1. Do you remember when you saw your first computer? When did you actually use one? What about having your own? Do you own a laptop? (PC or Mac?) Have you gone wireless at home yet?

I remember using ancient Atari computers (the ones with the flat keyboards) and playing “Oregon Trail” in about second or third grade at my Catholic elementary school. We had a computer class once a week back then and I remember being AMAZED that we could program the computer to perform mathematical functions using code – back then, the computer was just a glorified calculator to me. I didn’t have my own computer until 1992, when my parents bought me an Apple Macintosh Classic II computer with a Stylus printer for an early high school graduation present. I was one of the few people in my class with a computer at home. Then I went through a few Macs in college (including a PowerBook from hell) and switched to PCs in about 1997. We have both a desktop (bought in 2000) and a laptop (bought in 2003, shortly after ST was born) at home now, and the laptop is wireless.

2. When did you first go online and/or use email? Who did you email back then? How did the internet change your life? When did you discover blogging? What about your home internet connection - is it dial-up, DSL, cable?

I started to use email (via “PINE”) as an undergraduate, probably in 1995, to email classmates and later to email friends from Europe. I didn’t really know about the wider internet attached to it back then and didn’t care, either. It wasn’t until about 1997 that I became a regular consumer of online information and services – I bought my first book online from Amazon in 1998. I discovered blogging only very recently – January 2005 – and didn’t start my own blog until July 2005. Current internet connection is wireless, via our kind neighbor!

3. Do you remember your first VCR? What about a video camera (there were some bulky ones back in the 80s and 90s) and home videos?

My dad won our first VCR, a Panasonic -- I can’t remember exactly when (1983?), but I know we were one of the first families in town to have a VCR. Oddly enough, a few months later my dad won ANOTHER, identical Panasonic VCR, so we were definitely the first family with two VCRs (despite the fact we only had one TV!). One of those clunky VCRs was actually the first VCR T and I ever had – it finally broke in 1999. When I told my Dad about the broken Panasonic, he cried, “What?! You can’t even expect things to last a measly 20 years anymore?!”

We had a video camera that my grandparents bought for our entire extended family to use at family gatherings, but my sister and brother and I used it for making our very serious fake commercials. My Mom kept those tapes and they are pretty funny when we make time to watch them.

4. When did you switch from VCR to DVD? How did it change your video viewing experience? Do you use TiVo or any such "contraption" to tape TV shows? Do you use Netflix or some other internet-based DVD "renting" service?

We got a DVD player in 2001. We didn’t use our VCR very much and we don’t use our DVD player very much because we simply don’t have the time to watch movies, unless they’re kid movies on the weekends with ST. We don’t watch much television, either, and so a TiVo would be worthless to us. (T and I HATE reality television with a passion, and so that doesn’t leave us many television options lately!) Netflix would similarly be wasted on us -- there just aren't that many good movies I'm dying to see. We don't own many VHS tapes or DVDs, either.

5. What about music? Did you enjoy listening favorite music in Long Plays or did you prefer cassette tapes? When did you buy your first CD player and switch to CDs? Did you abandon them (and turn to dowloaded music) for MP3 players or iPods or do you still buy CDs?

I used cassettes until 1996, when I couldn’t find very many anymore because everyone had CD players by then. I bought a CD player in 1996 and remember being seriously annoyed that I had to now buy CDs to replace the cassettes I owned. Now I listen to CDs on occasion, but I mostly listen to the selected tracks I have on my iPod nano. I only purchase CDs now if I know I'll like the whole album (e.g., Sting, Ella Fitzgerald); otherwise, I download from iTunes.

6. Do you own and use a cell phone? Do you think it's useful or just annoying?(Did you always have a telephone in your house growing up? Did you have a phone in your own room?)

NO – T and I have militantly resisted the cell phone craze and plan to continue doing so into the indefinite future. I cannot stand cell phones. I wrote about this in a very early post, and my opinion remains the same. Yes, we always had a telephone in our house, but I never had (or wanted) one in my own room. Honestly, I cannot stand talking on the phone at all (unless it’s to ST, T, my Mom, my MIL, or my best friend K).

7. When did you first buy a digital camera? What kind was it (3.2, 4.0, 5.0 mega-pixels or better)? Did you start taking more pictures or were you a photo afficionado before then? What about a digital video camera?

Sore subject! We bought our first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 4300, in February 2004. I loved that camera. Unfortunately, we lost it over our holiday vacation this past December and have not yet replaced it. Makes me sick just to think about it – I never took many pictures pre-digital camera, but I really loved experimenting with digital photography and miss doing it.

No, we don’t have a digital video camera, or any other type of video camera. I don’t like video cameras generally because 1.) the person doing the taping is left out of the video; 2.) no one acts naturally in a home video; 3.) no one ever watches the long, mostly-dull videos anyway; and 4.) I think a lot of things are sweeter in memory. (We don’t even have a video of our wedding, and on purpose.) That’s why I really like the short movies you can record on a regular digital camera – I have a few from when ST was just learning to crawl, and they are 45-second masterpieces that I actually can take the time to watch anytime I want.

8. What about televisions? Have you already embraced the new technologies, such as HDTV, plasma, and flat screen?

We have an HDTV because T thought we “needed” one and he was saving Best Buy gift certificates in order to fund the purchase. It’s pretty big but not obscenely big, but I’m not sure of the exact measurements. Although the picture is nice, I think the TV itself is an eyesore and I wish we didn’t have one at all. I could very easily live without television (although I would kind of miss the Food Network), and we have contemplated doing just that in the near future. As it is now, the television is in our family room, closed off from the rest of the house. To me, there is nothing more annoying than the constant blare of television noise – I like having the TV away from the rest of the house so I can simply close the door if someone is watching it and have peace in the rest of the house.

End of meme, but on a technology-related question: does anyone else have problems cutting and pasting in Firefox? For example, I typed the answers to this meme in Word last night, and then tried to copy them into Blogger and there was no "paste" option. Why?
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/24/2006 11:20:00 AM   3 comments
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Spinning My Wheels
I thought I was done with Chapter Four, but it keeps sucking me back in and I can't stop tinkering with it. It's a pretty dull chapter, full of statistics that are there just to prove that I am actually basing this whole dissertation thing on stuff that actually happens with some frequency, but the numbers themselves are fairly uninteresting. In attempting to spice it up, I'm driving myself crazy and ignoring the brief revisions to Chapter Three, which are pretty important and not easily accomplished. My plan is to send Chapters 1-5 to my advisors tomorrow afternoon, just so they can get a sense of how the dissertation looks as a whole instead of chapter-by-chapter, which is how they've received it to this point.

I'm having a low day overall, though, realizing just how sick to death I am of this entire project and wanting it to be finished for good. I received an email last night from a very dear overachieving-super-smart friend in his first year of assistant professordom, and he was telling me about his book prospectus. Book prospectus? I cannot even imagine writing a book, now that I'm in the death throes of dissertation writing. I barely have a long enough attention span for this dissertation, let alone a book. When I was younger (before I was married and certainly before ST) I always imagined how great it would be to write a book, to be published, to see my book on library shelves. But now? Now all I can think about is how much I dread another long-term project like this. I think motherhood, especially, has reduced the length of my attention span -- my body and mind are now trained to expect (and crave) frequent interruptions, frequent changes-of-pace, and new projects all the time. One long project that stretches for months is almost a death sentence these days.

Uh-oh. Hear that? It's Chapter Four. Apparently, I'm needed again.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/23/2006 12:03:00 PM   3 comments
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
How To Annoy Me
My list, in no particular order, of annoying comments I've collected over the past few weeks:

1.) "Oh, I was a ______ major in college, so I totally understand what you're going through!"

No, you don't. I hate to break it to you, but Intro to _____ at your university was nothing like what I'm working on or what is taught in graduate school. And I'm willing to bet that writing your 10-page research paper in which you were required to consult sources other than your textbook was nothing like a dissertation. How do I know this? Because I've taught Intro to ______ to undergraduates seventeen times in the past four years.

2.) "How many pages does it [the dissertation] have to be?"

Well, the teacher said it had to be 10-12 pages, but I'm shooting for 15 just to impress 'em!

3.) "Are you still working on that paper?"

Oh, you mean this little paper I've been writing for the past year? The one whose existence I had to justify in the form of a 35-page prospectus before I could begin? Are you referring to the silly paper that has necessitated my checking out every book on the topic from Doctoral Univeristy's library and five books from other libraries? The paper that keeps my child in daycare four days a week? If THAT'S the "paper" you're talking about, then yes, I am still working on it.

4.) "Why didn't you just get a job at Doctoral University?"

Great idea! That's how this business should work: Doctoral University trains me, gives me a Ph.D., and then hires me to work there. They do the same for all of their doctoral students, which leads to great intellectual diversity in the department!

5.) "What do you mean you'll be an 'Assistant' Professor? That's what you are now!"

I'm touched, really, that you think I'm an Assistant Professor. Or maybe I'm offended that you think Assistant Professors have the same life (and salary!) as Graduate Teaching Assistants. Or maybe I'm just annoyed because you have no idea what you're talking about.

6.) "You're so lucky to have a job at a university, because then you get summers off forever! Must be nice!"

Right! I'm all about the summers off to do nothing but sit on the chaise lounge in the backyard by the pool, thinking about all the working stiffs out there chasing dollars. The Ph.D. I'm earning is just one step on my path to Easy Street! They grant tenure to professors with nice tans, don't they?

7.) "You're moving? Why didn't you just get a job at Local College or City Community College?"

That's a great question. Maybe I'll head over to Local College, whose "department" consists of one person, and hope that they give me his job. Or maybe I'll just look on and see if any local businesses are having an emergency that requires the assistance of an academic. ("Hurry, Jane! The boiler's gonna burst! We need someone with a Ph.D. -- quick!")

8.) "It sure must be nice to stay at home all day. That's why your house is so clean!"

Actually, my house is clean because I'm a neat freak and I clean and pick up clutter as a matter of course. It is not because I spend the days when my son is in daycare cleaning the oven or scrubbing the bathtubs. But you're right: it is nice to stay at home all day, considering that is where all of my dissertation materials are and my home office is the only place I can work.

9.) "It's nice that you and your husband are both going to be professors, because it will be easier to get jobs at the same place." (Itinerant Thinker)

10.) "Oh, I know someone at Fancy R1's hospital; e-mail me your resume and I'm sure he'll be able to get you a job (in the humanities)." (Itinerant Thinker)

11.) "Do you think you could finish your dissertation if I watched your son for the weekend?"

Because, um, yeah, all I need is 48 hours of silence to churn this puppy out. (Badger)

12.) So, what are you going to do with a PhD in [subject]?" (ABD Me)

13.) "It must be nice to work at a university - much less stressful than business." (ABD Me)

14.) "What do you do all day if you're not working?" (ABD Me)

15.) "Yes, I remember how many comments my English teacher/prof made to my work; I understand what it's like to revise your writing for a journal editor."

Yes, I'm sure that is comparable, and you probably only waited a week or so for comments that you could choose to address or ignore while I must justify why I decided to cross my t's and dot my i's. Maybe I should start ignoring the action editor and just send my article directly to the top and demand publication. (Statgirl)

16.) "Can I read something you have written as I would love learn about what you are doing."

Sure, let me send you the reference and I'm sure that you will be able to easily follow my explantion of statistical modeling as well as the theoretical basis for the hypothesis I am testing. After all, I did learn all of this practically overnight and pretty much anyone can play the game of academe. (Statgirl)

17.) "Oh really, you're going to be a professor??"

Uh no, I just play one on TV. (Magnificent Mon)

18.) From the postman (upon mailing yet another job app via priority mail): "Are you applying to go to college at X?" (Sciencewoman)

19.) "If you're a student, but not taking classes, what do you do all day?" (Sciencewoman)

20.) Q: "When are you going to be done with school and get a job?"

A: How do you think I've been supporting your son/brother/friend for the past 4 years? (Sciencewoman)

21.) Them: "What are you studying?"
Me: "I'm studying XXXXX Education."
Them: "So you're going to be a teacher."

Me thinking - yeah, I'm going to be a glorified teacher with a PhD. Darn skippy! (Rageyone)

22.) "Oh, you're a professor. So you're going to start to correct my grammar now?"

Uh, no. I don't teach grammar. I refer my students with problems in this area to the writing center. I don't get paid to do grammar -- and I certainly don't get paid to correct your grammar. But you're really insecure, aren't you? (raised eyebrow) (Profgrrrrl)


Feel free to make your own additions to this list in the comments and I'll add them to the main post (with proper attribution, of course). Ah, we academics are so misunderstood!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/21/2006 12:19:00 PM   15 comments
Monday, February 20, 2006
Not an exciting day today -- just writing for most of the day, realizing how much I really wanted to do with this "short" statistics chapter that gets longer by the minute. I will finish it tomorrow for sure. I've found lately that I reach a point in the day where I just can't think about this dissertation stuff anymore without getting seriously crabby, so after about 4-5 hours of work (some of it quality work, some of it interrupted by frequent email and blog checkups or wish list creation) I have to stop and do something else.

Late in the day I decided to work on one of my syllabi for the fall, and had a lot of fun doing it. This is the upper-division course for which I'm designing a simulation, and although it's pretty complicated, I think the students will think it's cool and will learn a lot from doing it. I'm now trying to decide if I should have them write a final research paper in addition to the simulation or if the simulation itself will be plenty of work for them; I'm leaning toward the latter. The way it's going the simulation will be fairly intense and demand a fair amount of outside preparation and research, so I think I can skip the final paper altogether. Besides, there are going to be two or three short (2-3 page) writing assignments before the simulation, so that should be enough when added to the exams.

Now ST is in bed and T is on the computer in the family room, playing some inane computer game. He can be fairly obsessive sometimes, but it comes in waves -- for example, he has this NFL computer game that he recently rediscovered, and he's been playing it like crazy (e.g., all night, every night!) for the past week. All of a sudden, though, that will wear off and the game won't be touched again for another year. It's like he has to get it out of his system before he can let it go. (I'm ready for it to go, as I despise the NFL. Just hearing the noise of the football game when I go downstairs to check on the laundry makes me cranky.) I'm not obsessive about things like that, or maybe I am, but they're useful things. (You know, like scrubbing the kitchen sink!) I think that's a difference between T and me: I can't do something as a hobby that's unproductive -- I like to bake (creating baked goods!), like to read non-fiction (to learn!), blog (providing intensely interesting material for your reading pleasure!) or even clean (because I'm a sick freak!). T, on the other hand, loves to occasionally play a computer game (I can't stand them!), watch movies (even bad ones!), or read about sports (what's the point?!). Hmmm.

I'm going to do a little more writing before bed, I think, and then curl up with the cat and get some sleep. Another full day of writing awaits me tomorrow, with the reward of ST on Wednesday.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/20/2006 09:18:00 PM   2 comments
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Weekend Ends, Week Begins
We've had a very nice weekend here, despite the frigid weather that has severely limited our time outdoors. We've been able to spend a lot of time with ST, which is wonderful; during the week, he's always asking us if the next day will be one with "just Mom, Dad, and ST." It's nice to say yes to that on Saturdays and Sundays. When I finish a draft of the dissertation and feel good about it, I'm going to drop him down to three days a week at daycare, which is what I feel would be "ideal" for him. Currently, at four days a week, he's missing his days with Mom quite a lot, despite the fact that he has a ball at daycare with his friends and the daycare is only a block away from our house. I'm also missing him quite a lot, especially as he grows older by the minute and is more and more interested in learning and exploring new things with adult guidance. For example, he is obsessed with cooking now -- when I'm making dinner, he puts on his Paddington Bear apron and pulls a stool right up to the stove and helps me brown hamburger, make tomato sauce, measure ingredients, etc. I was a little leary of this at first because I don't like him so close to the stove, but he's quite careful and knows that he cannot be near the stove unless I'm right next to him. It's fun answering his questions about cooking, letting him smell ingredients, and asking him questions like "Would cinnamon taste good in our spaghetti sauce, or oregano?" He's learned not to touch raw meat, learned how to crack an egg on the side of a bowl (almost!), and even how to whisk a roux with assistance. Quite impressive, I think! (And funny to hear a toddler talk about a "roux!")

We've played a lot this weekend, and also took him to his favorite restaurant (at the moment, Panera Bread, where he knows a cinnamon crunch bagel awaits him if he eats his lunch) and then to a movie. ST has loved Curious George books for about a year now, and so we saw the movie on Saturday afternoon. It was adorable -- unlike a lot of movies for children these days, this movie did not overtly try to appeal to adults. I enjoyed Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and even Madagascar because there were a lot of little asides in those movies meant for the adult audience. There was nothing like that in Curious George -- this was a kid movie just for kids about a monkey who gets into trouble and forces the geeky Man in the Yellow Hat to go on all sorts of silly adventures. It was so innocent, and I think my favorite part of going was listening to the dozens of little kids behind me laughing hysterically at George's crazy antics, antics that would really only appeal to small children. After the movie, ST decided that he wanted a Curious George cake for his birthday in April, and his baking-obsessed mother happily agreed. (I thought that a chocolate cake of George's face would be excellent with some homemade banana ice cream. Clever, huh?)

Today has been pretty low-key as well -- we went to Mass in the morning and then to T's office, where one of the administrators there invited me for a peek into her latest obsession: jewelry making. T bought two of her bracelets for me for Valentine's Day and I loved them, and so she offered to show me more of her creations this afternoon. It was fascinating; not a hobby that I would have for myself, but it was a lot of fun listening to her talk about the wonderful beads she orders and to touch all of the lovely pieces she brought to show me. ST helped T organize his office upstairs while I browsed through bracelet after bracelet in leisure, liking one more than the next. It was fun.

Now T and ST are off to pick up sub sandwiches for our Sunday supper. T "officially" cooks on Sundays, but since he hates to cook he usually gets take-out, and usually subs or take-n-bake pizza. Today it's Quizno's because he has a coupon, which means I'll be biting into a delectable Cabo Chicken sub in a few minutes. But before I do, I thought I'd faithfully post my meal plan for the week:

  • Husband's Delight Casserole (T adores casseroles -- he is not into fancy food at all -- and so when I ran across this recipe on the web I thought I'd try it just for him, mostly because the name cracked me up -- so 1950s! It doesn't sound that great to me, but when T saw the ingredients he thought it sounded fantastic. So, casserole it is... my least favorite supper to make.)
  • Potato Black-Bean Quesadillas with Fruit Salad (Kiwi and Nectarines) -- black beans are on the menu every week, since they are my favorite ingredient of late
  • Linguine with Tomato Cream Sauce, Green Salad, and Garlic Bread (ST is in charge of making the garlic bread, which means it has A LOT of garlic on it!)
  • Wild Rice Soup (held over from last week) and kaiser rolls
  • Single Puff-Pastry Crust Chicken Pot Pie (ST's request) and Green Salad
And for dessert, On-the-Fence Brownies from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion (page 158). They're called "on-the-fence" because they're a compromise between gooey, fudgy brownies and cakey brownies. I like gooey, T likes cakey, so "on-the-fence" sounded perfect.

That's my cooking agenda. On the dissertation agenda, this week will be devoted to:
  • Finishing Chapter Four statistics write-up
  • Revising Chapter Three hypotheses section
  • Sending a polished draft of Chs. 1-5 to my advisors
  • Planning for Chapter Six
And if I have time, I'd still like to work on a syllabus or two. One of the major, more teaching-focused journals in my discipline had an awesome article this month about running a simulation in the classroom, and it looked like a lot of fun. I had planned a simulation for the upper-division course I'll teach this fall, and the type of simulation outlined in this article looked even better than what I had come up with. It should be fun trying to write this simulation into the syllabus in a way that will make it sound exciting to my future students. I can't wait to try it out!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/19/2006 06:10:00 PM   2 comments
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Hello, Weekend!
ST padded into our bedroom early this morning when I was only half-awake. He walked over to T's side of the bed, woke T up, and said, excitedly:

"Dad, I woke up and looked out of my blinds and I saw that today is SATURDAY!"

It's several hours later, and I'm still trying to work up to ST's level of enthusiasm.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/18/2006 09:43:00 AM   2 comments
Friday, February 17, 2006
"I've Read Your Chapter, And..."
I always dread the emails from my dissertation chairs. I know that they want me to turn in a professional product, I know that they push me, and I know that their advice is good. But I still hate the nervous, I'm-Going-To-Vomit feeling just before I read one of their emails that begins, "I've read your chapter, and..."

I got an email today like that, and this time the end of the sentence was, "... I think you've done a pretty good job here." Excellent! Of course, Prof. G. had hundreds of comments for me (he always does -- he's the founder and editor of one of the major journals in my field, and ALWAYS has his editor hat on, even when he's reading his email!), but overall he liked the chapter and thought it illustrated my main argument well. Thank God. The major suggestions he had were organizational. I can deal with that!

Sometimes I wish I had different advisors, advisors who would rubber stamp chapters as they came in. I have the opposite: the two most perfectionistic faculty members in the department. When I told my friends who my advisors were, they all gasped in horror. "Your life is going to be HELL!" they warned. But you know, it hasn't been too bad. Sure, they're brutally honest about everything I write, and although that's maddening at times it's also good to to know that their compliments are genuine. If I get a "good job," I really feel like I've done just that. And that's a nice feeling.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/17/2006 04:15:00 PM   6 comments
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Lies, Damn* Lies and Statistics
At least once a day (and sometimes more often than that) someone asks me, "So, have you heard about any jobs yet?" or "How did your interviews go?" I am, of course, dying to tell them about my job, about how we'll be moving to New Town, and about how excited we are. But I can't tell them anything -- we live in a small town, and since T hasn't told his employers that we are leaving yet, we don't want the word to get around. So we lie. All the time.

Last Saturday was particularly difficult. We were at a meeting of our supper club, and the majority of the members are in the same profession as T is in and know all of the same people he does. Since we're all good friends (not close friends, but we do socialize a fair bit), we know quite a lot about each other's lives. Everyone asked me about the dissertation and the job search; they knew I'd been on interviews, but we'd told them that the interviews were just "practice" and that I wasn't seriously interested in any of the jobs because of the locations. I literally just made lies up as they peppered me with questions about the academic job search, telling them that we wouldn't hear about any of the jobs until late April. Later that evening, T let it slip that we'd been gone a few weekends ago, and naturally our friends asked where we went. It was an incredibly awkward silence as T and I glanced at each other, wondering what to tell them. We could, of course, have told them we went to New Town -- I mean, just because you travel to New Town doesn't mean you're going to move there! -- but we were stupid and said we'd gone to Metropolitan Area for a few days, which for various reasons didn't make any sense at all (and one of our friends called us on it).

Yesterday my neighbor called to ask me if I'd heard anything about the job search. Today my other neighbor called to ask the same thing. Our daycare provider asked me this morning. I keep telling everyone I won't know anything until the spring. It's getting difficult to lie all the time, and it's stressing me out a little. I also know it's stressing T out -- I think it is contributing to his funk of late -- and it's doubly hard for him because he's involved in a lot of long-term planning at work these days, planning he knows he'll never see come to fruition. I'm not complaining about having this short-term inconvenience -- it's just that I'm an open, honest person and I don't like feeling so sneaky all the time, and I really don't like lying to people I care about.

So, there are the lies. And now back to the statistics I'm finishing compiling for Chapter Four, my shortest chapter. As per my updates on my last post, I decided to postpone Chapter Three revisions until Chapter Four was finished; my topic is such that the statistics aren't too complicated because there isn't much available, so the chapter should be completed by tomorrow. Chapter Four has existed in pieces for several months, but now I'm finally putting them all together and adding a few new twists. It will feel good to put Chapters 1-5 in one document to see what this whole dissertation looks like so far!

*I should note that the title of this post was hard to type, since I don't ever use the "D" word. In fact, I don't ever swear. I've tried inserting an apt curse word into my vocabulary at particuarly opportune moments, but it always sounds stupid coming out of my mouth so I just don't do it. My lack of swearing is also attributable to the fact that, in second grade, a boy in my class and I made a promise to my elementary school teacher that we would never, ever swear. I don't know why we made that promise, but we did. So, I don't swear. The other boy who made the promise with me? He's a priest! And I'm not kidding!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/16/2006 01:34:00 PM   3 comments
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
I'm working on revisions for Chapters One and Three this week, and so I apologize for my lack of well-constructed blog posts. This is another housekeeping-type post, and a mostly selfish one: a to-do list for the week and a meal plan that I neglected to post on Sunday.

To Do This Week
  • Chapter One Revisions (introductory section, especially) DONE
  • Chapter Three Revisions (hypotheses section) POSTPONED*
  • Grocery shopping (Wednesday with ST) DONE
  • Ironing for T (Wednesday during ST's nap) POSTPONED (I napped, too!)
  • Proof draft of T's cover letter DONE
  • Proof draft of my brother's personal statement for grad school applications DONE
  • Draft syllabus for intro course (Friday afternoon) STARTED
  • ST's laundry (get squash soup stain out of his dress shirt!) DONE
Meal Plan (in no particular order)
  • Enchilada Soup (great recipe using masa, adapted from my Mom's collection)
  • Hamburgers (T's request) with fruit salad and cottage cheese
  • Pan-fried Salmon Cakes (getting geared up for Lent) and Green Salad
  • Chef's Salads and Homemade Applesauce
  • Wild Rice Soup (to use the rest of the ham from the Chef's Salads)
  • Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Egg Salad Sandwiches
  • Dessert: Cinnamon-Streusel Coffee Cake
And speaking of food, it's time for lunch.

*I decided to touch up my statistical overview chapter, Chapter Four, instead. Touching up the hypotheses is easier when I can refer to the updated statistics.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/14/2006 11:38:00 AM   4 comments
Monday, February 13, 2006
It's Not Just Women, You Know
Someone please tell me that I'm right here, even if I can't prove it scientifically: men are hormonal, too. Honestly, there should be some way to describe male hormonal "phases" in the same way we can refer to a woman's PMS. I'm ony asking because T -- and you all know that the vast majority of the time he's a gem -- is driving me absolutely insane with his crankiness, sulking, and snippiness lately. I just want to scream (preferably at him, but that wouldn't be too productive now, would it).

Maybe I'll just give him a Midol or Pamprin with supper instead.

BRAINSTORM: I've come up with the term to describe this: "Manopause." Why didn't I think of it before? It's sheer genius!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/13/2006 02:56:00 PM   3 comments
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Perfect Boy
Some days I look at ST and I just can't help myself: I reach out and pull him to me, snuggling his sweet-smelling head under my chin, wrapping my long arms around his back and relishing in the feeling of his two little arms pressing onto my shoulders.

This weekend was a perfect ST weekend: not a single timeout, no tantrums, agreeable "OK, Mom!" or "That's a good idea, Mom!" to everything I said. T surprised ST and me on Friday night with tickets to the circus, and so on Saturday we bundled up and ventured north to the convention center to see it. There weren't too many people there on a Saturday morning, so ST got to see elephants and a huge boa constrictor up close, got to "buy" his own popcorn and choose our seats. It was a great time: the circus itself was a little hokey (I think after you pass about 5-6 years old, circuses lose some of their magic), but the look on ST's face when the tigers growled or the trapeze artists swung through the air with the greatest of ease was priceless. He watched a clown juggling seven tennis balls and exclaimed, "Mom, I can't do that! Can you do that? Can you SEE that, Mom?" He was genuinely impressed. The highlight, though, was when we forked over the cash to allow ST to ride the elephant -- despite the fact that T and I felt somehow "dirty" for making this elephant cart around our child for two minutes, we couldn't resist the fact that ST was jumping up and down, calling "I love you, elephant!" from his spot in line, and told the animal trainer to "be nice to my elephant."

We then took ST out to lunch where he was again a perfect gentleman. This morning at Mass he was equally as good, and even crossed his arms on his chest when he went up for Communion with me so that Father would give him the Children's Blessing and said his ritual "Hi, Jesus!" when we passed the statue of Jesus on our way back to our seats. He ate all of his lunch at home and took a nap without a fuss, and then he and I went to Target in search of some Valentines for him to bring to daycare (soccer-, basketball-, and baseball-themed cards, of course). After that, we went to visit my best friend (the mother of ST's best friend, M) and their new baby who is almost three weeks old. ST was again just a delightful boy, telling M that he loved her and would bring her "a Valen-time on Tuesday!"

It's times like this that I feel like I've done right by the world. My dissertation isn't perfect, my house isn't always clean, and I'm not always pleasant, but doggone it, I can raise a wonderful child. That's quite an accomplishment, I'd say.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/12/2006 07:46:00 PM   3 comments
Friday, February 10, 2006
Dissertation Thought-of-the-Day
Yesterday, when I sat down with Prof. C. (Advisor 2) for a chat while I was on campus, we started talking about how an ABD student's feelings toward the dissertation change as he/she progresses:

Stage 1: This is going to be an amazing contribution to the field! Can't wait to get started!
Stage 2: This work is pretty important!
Stage 3: This work validates what other scholars have said!
Stage 4: This is an OK project, but not earth-shattering!
Stage 5: Wait a second -- I'm not saying anything new here!
Stage 6: Man, this project really sucks!
Stage 7: Am I ever going to be done with this stupid thing?
Stage 8: Here it is -- let us never speak of it again.

What I really love about Prof. C. is that he's an amazing scholar who is also amazingly real -- he has shared how he struggled with the dissertation, taking two full years to write it. I know that his first publication took a long time to produce. I know that sometimes, he despises the projects he's working on and grows tired of them. Most of all, it was nice to know that when I talked to him yesterday about being very much at Stage 7, he understood perfectly. And then he quoted the wisdom of a famous person in our field, and the thought is my guiding one for the day:

"There are two types of dissertations: bad dissertations, and those that are never written."

For the first time in my life, I'm striving for "bad." The other alternative comes without those three letter behind my name and a $5,000 pay cut in the Fall. Bring on the badness!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/10/2006 11:01:00 AM   6 comments
Share the Love
Brought to you by her and her...

"If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog."

I'm sure we could all say this -- academia can be so isolating, a place where it's difficult to register your complaints openly, difficult to step out of your "I'm a scholar!" persona and reveal your personal life, difficult to show colleagues how much they mean to you in both an academic and non-academic sense. Blogging is a release, a place where you can be as silly or smart as you like and take comfort in the fact that some other blogging academic out there understands.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/10/2006 09:48:00 AM   2 comments
Thursday, February 09, 2006
A Post For the Sake of Posting
I am in a seriously bad mood right now, and I'm not sure why. I don't think I've been in a worse mood since the summer, and I really need to get out of it. I don't like feeling cranky because it infects everything I do, every interaction I have, every task that I must complete. But nevertheless, if I were you I wouldn't mess with me today.

Selected Sources of Crabbiness

1.) My day with ST yesterday wasn't too great. I mean, we had fun and he is, of course, absolutely adorable, but I just felt detached from him, too concerned with the dissertation to really think about what we could do together. He was good most of the day, but then when we did the grocery shopping he was a bit of a nightmare while checking out. And I got to display some ineffectual parenting through physical weakness: I told ST that he could stay out of the cart IF he didn't touch anything. He made it all the way through the store, but couldn't resist some pencils with fuzzy tops at the checkout, and started grabbing at them and playing with them. I told him that was not OK and that if he continued to do it, he would have to sit in the cart. He grabbed another pencil and so I picked him up and tried to get him into the cart to follow through on my warning, but for the life of me I could not get this huge kid into the front of the cart (the back was full of groceries). I felt so ridiculous. Why did I think I could get a 40lb. toddler into a tiny cart seat? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

2.) I emailed my draft chapter to my advisors on Tuesday night, and still haven't heard back from either of them. I don't expect a detailed report on the chapter, but they're both usually good at at least acknowledging receipt of the email and attachment. That's annoying to me. And it actually makes me worried that they're angry with me for some reason. (Because, you know, they couldn't possibly have anything else to do than respond to my emails!)

3.) T and I belong to a supper club, where we and four other couples get together on a monthly basis to make dinner together and socialize. Each month one couple is the host, and they decide on a theme and are responsible for making the entree and providing the beverages. Then the rest of us pick a part of the meal to make and bring, following the theme -- appetizer, bread and salad, side dish, or dessert. Three of the couples have children. In the past, the kids have always been included, as they are all around the same age and have fun playing together. If the theme is such that kids aren't included, we discuss it in advance so everyone can make arrangements. (For example, T and I did a murder mystery one time, and requested that kids not be there. We made that explicit a month in advance.)

Our next meeting is this Saturday, and we have been telling ST all about it. Yesterday all he could talk about was getting to play with his two friends at supper club. Last night I received an email from one couple saying that they decided not to bring their kids. Then this morning, the other couple (the hosts) said that they were sending their daughter to her grandparents for the evening. So, two days before the event, T and I have to find someone to watch ST because he's not going to have any fun if no kids are there, and he's probably not welcome anyway.

This really makes me angry. The other two couples have family in the area so it's easy for them to call up a grandparent or an aunt or cousin to babysit. Our families are at least eight hours away. We have to plan to have a night out -- we have to ask friends, usually friends with children around ST's age, and then we agree to babysit for them later. Our friends know this. I'm just angry at their inconsiderateness: it's fine that kids aren't invited, but for goodness' sake, tell us at least a week in advance so we can make arrangements! Now I have to scrounge up a babysitter (the friends who usually watch him are out, since they now have a newborn in the house) AND disappoint ST. Grr.

4.) I have to go to campus. I hate going to campus because I feel so disconnected from it. I haven't been there on a regular basis since October, when I was there a lot getting ready for my trip to Europe. And then November I was gone, December I was doing my campus visits and the holidays, and January I've been writing. But, I should pop in to at least see my advisors (if they're around), pick up any mail, and pick up some books from the law library. I just hate getting all set to go there -- it's a 25 minute drive from my house, I have to find a parking space, blah, blah, blah. It's just so much more effort than I want to put forth today.

5.) I've had a headache for two days -- not a severe headache, but one that is just lingering behind my eyes. Ibuprofen is not touching it. I'm sure it's because I've been doing too much reading and staring at the computer screen, and my eyes tire quickly because I have uncorrectable problems with my eyes. (Basically legally blind in my left eye, which means an overworked right eye.) I feel like I just need a nap.

Ah, that's enough whining from me today, I guess. Bad days really hit me hard because, in all honesty, I don't have many of them. I'm typically a very upbeat, happy and positive person, but today I just can't pull it off. I'm going to allow myself this crankiness for the day and look forward to a better tomorrow.

UPDATE: Thanks, ABD Me and Articulate Dad for your kind words in the comments! They made me smile, which is precisely what I needed. I just returned from campus, where I had a lovely chat with both of my advisors (who didn't email me because one is preparing for his wife's surgery and another is preparing to move to Best Research Institution in My Discipline), talked with some friends I hadn't seen since October, and picked up a bunch of copies of potential textbooks for next fall. I also went to both the main library and the law library to pick up some ILL books, so I'm feeling much better. AND I got gas (hate doing that) AND mailed a small package to a dear friend in Australia (yes, Nicole, I only managed to mail to TODAY!). Now I just need to eat some lunch, step up the headache medication to naproxen sodium, and sit down with Chapter One again for the overhaul.

But, on my drive home from campus, I did think of one additional source of crabbiness, and that is MON. Where are you? Don't you know that I would be much happier if you posted so I could complete my morning read of the blogs? Silly, silly woman. Just send the doggone chapter already, will you?! (Hah!)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/09/2006 09:36:00 AM   4 comments
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Choices, Choices
Things I would rather be doing than working on my dissertation:

1.) Poking myself in the eye with a sharp, hot, poison-tipped stick.
2.) Eating large insects while they are still alive and squirming.
3.) Cleaning the oven without chemical assistance.
4.) Pouring lemon juice and salt into my numerous paper cuts.
5.) Watching football (and trust me, I am the world's biggest NFL-Hater).

Truly, today has been so dull I could just die. All dissertation, all day. Mostly reading some documents I cannot get my head around written in fantastic German legalese. This chapter is soooooo close to being done. But I've said that before. This time, I mean it. It will be out tonight or else I will be seriously crabby tomorrow. (I'm not crabby very often, but when I am... watch out!)

UPDATE: I sent it! It's 9:10pm and I just sent the draft chapter to my advisors. It feels good to have it out of my hands -- sure, I could've written more tonight, but it really was at a stage where I needed someone else to read it and tell me what else it needs. For tomorrow: play with ST and get the grocery shopping done after our weekend away. For Thursday: revision of the introductory chapter (which is truly, truly awful in places) and then onto the next case study. Onward!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/07/2006 03:37:00 PM   9 comments
Monday, February 06, 2006
Refreshed? Yes. Panicked? Yes.
T and I returned from a lovely weekend in New Town last night, just in time for T to watch the SuperBowl with my Dad. We had a great trip -- it was only about a five hour drive from where we live now (we initially thought it would take us at least six hours to get to New Town from here, but were pleasantly surprised) and the area was more beautiful than we remembered it. The last time we were in New Town was over three years ago, when we drove through to visit a friend on our way somewhere else. On this trip, we focused on really trying to narrow down the areas we'd like to live in, and we did that. We have about half a dozen neighborhoods that are very attractive to us and have homes we could afford. We got addresses of homes for sale and are now emailing realtors for more information on them. We have a good feel for the place.

Aside from house-shopping, T and I also had a lot of time to talk and hang out together, which was heavenly. We ate at nice restaurants, had a glass of wine, shopped at Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma in peace, and even saw a movie. (We never go to movies -- we just don't think of it. But on Friday night we saw Munich, which we both thoroughly enjoyed.) It was nice to see my husband step out of his Dad-role for a few days, and for us to be a couple enjoying a few moments alone. It was nice to eat slowly and have uninterrupted conversations. We missed ST, but that was a nice feeling, too -- it was nice to think of him because we wanted to, not because we had to.

My parents, of course, had a blast with ST. They went shopping, visited the children's museum for FOUR HOURS on Friday afternoon, visited the fire station, went out to breakfast every morning... needless to say, ST was not impressed when I made him his toast and cereal this morning and scurried him off to daycare. And he was not pleased to see Grandma and Grandpa leave, knowing that we wouldn't see them again for awhile. I was sad to see them go, too -- the next time we see them will probably be this summer, when they help us move out of this house.

Now I am sitting here at my computer with a long list of things to do this week, first and foremost of which is to polish off this doggone chapter and get it to my advisors. Quite honestly, I'm really getting worried about this dissertation -- I'm worried that I'm not going to finish in time, worried that it's total crap, worried that my advisors are going to hate what I've been doing, etc. In my deepest self, I know that these fears are unfounded. I know that I will finish, I know that it's interesting work (just had someone request a copy of one of my draft chapters that I presented at our annual meeting last September!), and I know that my ultra-perfectionist advisors will rip it to shreds in order to make it better. But unlike my dear pal Mon the Southern Superstar who is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and unlike my other dear pal ABD Me the Dissertating Diva who amazingly finished a draft of the dissertation last week, I am feeling... well, unmotivated and slow. I am feeling panicked. I am feeling claustrophobic about this entire project, like I'm never going to see that light at the end of the tunnel. I know the light is there, but despite my nearness to it, I cannot see even a glimmer.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/06/2006 10:00:00 AM   8 comments
Thursday, February 02, 2006
See You Monday!
Today has been frantic, and I'm only posting because I don't think I'll have a chance to post again until Monday morning or early afternoon. My parents are coming today to spend the weekend with ST while T and I head for our mini-vacation to New Town. We're really excited to go, but all of the preparations for both our departure and my parents' arrival fall squarely on my shoulders, and there's so much to be done.

So far, I've taken the Honda to the dealership to get it checked out before the warranty expires on Friday, done three loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and the bathrooms, changed the sheets on our bed, and tidied the office/guest bedroom. I still have to finish with the office and dust it (T calls my home office "the pit of despair"), mop the floor in the laundry room (pre-schoolers who "help" with the laundry do not equal a clean laundry room) pack, and do some advance preparations for dinner tonight. It's 12:30pm and I'm exhausted already.

And I still feel cruddy. Backache, headache, neckache, sour stomach. Grr. Wish that would stop.

And I still haven't finished my stupid chapter, although I'm on the last bit. It's already 32 pages long and I feel like I have a lot more to say. I'm tempted to just send it off as is, just so my advisors have something to read from me.

But at any rate, I'm glad that this was a productive week for me and that it will end in New Town, where T and I can scope the place out and just have time to be a couple. I'm looking forward to seeing a few movies and enjoying a few dinners out, doing some shopping in peace and sleeping in. With that, a wonderful weekend to all of you, and I'll write again on Monday!
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/02/2006 12:22:00 PM   4 comments
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Another Five Things Meme
Courtesy of the lovely ScienceWoman

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot, like so.

1) BrightStar
2) Seeking Solace
3) Statgirl
4) ScienceWoman
5) Professor Me

Next select five people to tag (Sorry!):
1) Mon
2) ABD Me
3) ABD Mom
4) MusicalMom
5) Articulate Dad

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, I was a few months into my “non-relationship” with T. We met the November before, just after I returned from seven months in Europe, and had developed a fun friendship but had never kissed or admitted we were dating. When friends asked us if we were “an item,” both of us would say something lame like, “We’re just really good friends.” T told me repeatedly that I should have been dating his roommate (and I almost did). It wasn’t until around Valentine’s Day that we realized, “Oh, hey… this IS a relationship!” Needless to say, T didn’t try to set me up with his roommate again, and we've been together ever since.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
Had just defended my prospectus and had written a crummy version of Chapters One and Two of the dissertation, chapters that had to be fully re-written a month later. Chapter One still has some major revisions to be made – mostly stylistic, though, so relatively easy to fix. It still has that “I’m not quite sure what I’m doing” quality about it.

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Biscotti, Italian-style (hard and dunkable)
2. Hot chocolate (dark, with a peppermint candy on the bottom)
3. Town House crackers with a slices of Marble Jack cheese
4. Cookies (without nuts)
5. Ice cream, as long as there are no nuts in it or large pieces of cookies (hate that)

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
1. All This Time (Sting)
2. Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most
3. Theme song from that old cartoon Duck Tales
4. Every song from The Sound of Music (truly – it was my favorite movie for a long time)
5. It Might As Well Be Spring (from State Fair)

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Give money to my elementary school for funding teacher salaries (private Catholic school where the teachers make awful money)
2. Update my wardrobe with my sister’s help
3. Put aside a healthy amount for the time when T can start his own practice
4. Stash away a nice amount for ST’s future
5. Build our dream house on a lake in New Town

Five bad habits:
1. Procrastinating, definitely!
2. Spending too much time online (goes with #1)
3. Being judgmental when I shouldn’t be
4. Twirling the ends of my hair when I’m thinking
5. Pulling at my eyelashes (I’ve done this ever since I can remember – it’s gross)

Five things you like doing:
1. Reading blogs, adding to my own
2. Baking and cooking
3. Reading non-dissertation-related books
4. Chatting with T and ST
5. Teaching ST new things (e.g., today it was “Humpty-Dumpty”)

Five things you would never wear again:
1. Stirrup pants
2. Striped jeans
3. The shoes I borrowed from my sister for my wedding (ouch!)
4. A thong (I mean… get real!)
5. My wedding dress (didn't love it then, don't like it now... but T is too sentimental to let me sell it!)

Five favorite toys:
1. My laptop computer
2. My Kitchenaid mini food processor
3. My Cuisinart 1-qt. ice cream maker
4. My iPod nano
5. My Volkswagen (but I never get to drive it because I have the mini-van now!)
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 2/01/2006 06:56:00 PM   2 comments
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