Stressed the F out!

This has been an intense semester. I thought it would have gotten better by now. Nope. It’s worse.

The semester started out with the stress of not knowing if I would be continuing in the program and the stress of passing the comprehensive exam so I can graduate with my master’s degree. The exam was at the end of September, so that’s when the stress switched from preparing for it to whether I answered the questions to the graders’ satisfaction. Last month I found out that I had finally passed!

I was so stress free for a week or so. I finally passed! I’m finally graduating! I’m going to be a full-time PhD student in the Spring! But then the stress began to creep in again. I need to find a job for the Spring that will work with my class schedule and not cost me much more in gas every day. We need to find somewhere to live that’s closer to campus but not far from here so he can keep working. We need to agree on where we’re moving to and when. We need to get things packed.

Then, of course, class. That’s been the underlying stress of the semester. It’s not like it’s an overly hard class. It’s a theory class for all ACS graduate students, masters and PhD students alike. But I can barely find/make the time to study like I should. I started to wonder why, then I remember last school year.

Last year, I had a studio apartment to myself in BG that had only what I really needed. I used the dining table they provided as my desk. I brought my TV, Roku, and some DVDs and player. I had my former desk, now coffee table. I brought my Sumo beanbag chair so I’d have somewhere to sit other than my mattress and “desk chair”. I was teaching three days a week. Teaching a class I had already taught alone and had a good idea of what I was doing. I had office hours once a week. I was able to keep my schedule flexible enough that I could get my studying done for all my classes with no problem. Then I’d go home on the weekends. Both hubby and I would be off of our respective work and could spend time together.

Now, I’m home with all my stuff, all our stuff, all his stuff. I’m home with cable and all the channels that come with it. I’m home where my room is so full of my stuff, I don’t have a lot of space to have different places to sit, away from the computer, when I need it. I’m home sharing the space with my hubby 24/7. I’m home with a part-time job that lets me study while I’m there and there’s nothing else I need to be doing. But that’s the trick, there needs to be nothing else. There needs to be no residents who need my attention for whatever reason. And, of course, that drains me on a different level, so when I get home, I veg out in front of the TV and get nothing done. Then I have to time getting dinner ready so it’s done but not cold so we can eat together before he heads off to work.

I only have one real day off every week – Tuesday – because I have class on Thursdays – involving 4 total hours in the car – and I have Church on Sundays. Tuesdays are the only day in the week that I can sleep in and don’t have to worry about it affecting anything. And of course, if there’s a movie we both want to see, somehow Tuesday mornings are the only time that works for him.

Like yesterday. We went to see Thor: Ragnarok, finally, at 9:30am. I remembered at 2:30am that we were going to see the movie and checked with him when we were going. Of course 9:30am was the only time that worked for him. Which means I got up at 8:30, 6 hours after heading to bed, got dressed, and got another half-hour of sleep. I made stopping by Starbucks part of the plan so I could get a London Fog Latte so I would have a chance of making through the movie. I knew I would be that tired and I was. Thankfully it did its job. On the way out to the car I could feel it wearing off – which is why I bring tea with me to class on Thursdays. I crashed when we got home and spent a good chunk of the afternoon trying to wake up, eventually giving up and taking a nap, again.

It’s not that I don’t love my hubby – I do, so very much – or that I didn’t want to see Thor without him – I didn’t. I just wanted to get some sleep and be able to spend proper time getting my reading done for class. It’s just hard adjusting to this new dynamic. For both of us. Being married and in grad school is not easy. I’m just finding this out now. I hope that we can get things figured out over break and I can start this next part on solid footing. I’m tired of scrambling to get both feet steady.


It’s bigger on the inside!

Yesterday, I decided to start outlining for my final paper while at work. I had my 2-in-1 laptop, my sole laptop in the past year, to work on. It’s a great little machine. It’s 11″, small, lightweight, and also works as a nice tablet – especially now that it has a matte screen protector. But I’ve always had a bit of an issue when it comes to the keyboard.

I think it’s that I’m used to more traditional keyboards. The keyboard I have on my desktop is a mechanical keyboard. I had read that it’s better for your hands and wrists because you don’t have to push as hard on the keys for it to register. I guess I’ve been using it long enough that it’s affecting my typing. The keyboard on my 2-in-1 requires a little more pressure. But I don’t use the keyboard for much outside of logging in to websites, so it normally doesn’t pose a problem. Yesterday, it got annoying.

I was finding there were letters missing left and right, and in places where Word wasn’t catching them. I kept working because it was something to do while at work and I just couldn’t get into the book I need to have read for class this week. I decided to go ahead with a thought I’d been having for a bit. I still have my old laptop. It’s a 15″ and much heavier. But it has a full keyboard and keys that are more responsive to my typical typing.

The 11″ 2-in-1 sitting on top of the 15″ laptop. Big difference!

I replaced it with the 2-in-one partially because of the weight, partially because of the problems with the hinge on the right side being broken. But mostly because I had gotten my desktop and didn’t need as much computer on-the-go anymore. The laptop had been my sole computer for a couple of years. But because of that size and power, I had been thinking of pulling it out and making it my portable writing desk. It also has a program or two still installed that make writing projects easier.

Last night, after getting home from work, I pulled out the laptop, plugged it in, and got working. Definitely the right move. I don’t worry about missing letters because I can feel the keys depressing and registering on the screen. But it’s been an adjustment going from an 11″ to a 15″. Everything on the screen is so much bigger (yay!!!). The keyboard is more responsive – as well as having the number keypad to the right (yay!!!).

I still love my 2-in-1. It’s going to be my everyday laptop. But, for larger writing projects away from the desktop, my 15″ laptop is going to be my go-to. Now I just need to do some research so I can get the parts to fix the hinge and be able to keep it working overall. New skills!

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

More wisdom from The Dude.

Row, row, row your boat,
gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.
Life is but a dream.

Imagine that you’re rowing down a stream and you’re trying to figure out how to do it. Do I row with the right oar and then with the left, or is it the other way around? What does my shoulder do, what does my arm do? It’s like Joe, the centipede with a hundred legs, trying to figure out which leg to more first.
…He can’t get anywhere, just like the person in the rowboat. And while he’s hung up with all those questions, the stream is pulling him on and on. So you want to row, row, row your boat – gently. Don’t make a whole to-do it. Don’t get down on yourself because you’re not an expert rower; don’t start reading too many books in order to do it right. Just row, row, row your boat gently down the stream.
– Bernie Glassman, The Dude and the Zen Master, p. 21-22

I was worried that I was doing that and I had screwed things up again. Because when I get stressed or anxious, especially when I have to take an essay-based exam, my mind goes into overdrive and I go off in directions that don’t matter. I’m flailing trying to move my boat forward when all I’m doing is staying in place.

In the book, they continue talking about boats and streams and other bodies of water. We’re always rowing to reach a shore. But there is never going to be the shore.

But if you are going somewhere else, let me say this much: At least change the boat and the oars. Say I get to the other side, what do I do? Well, I got here thanks to this beautiful boat with the set of oars, so I’ll just hold on to them and carry them wherever I go. Isn’t that weird? Now I’ve got the burden of carrying around whatever got me here. Instead I get rid of it, and I’m free. Time passes and now I want to get to the next shore. I’ll probably need a new kind of boat and different oars, because maybe now the other shore is on the other side of the ocean and that requires a whole other mode of transportation.
– Bernie Glassman, The Dude and the Zen Master, p. 38

I was trying to get out of the one boat to the shore so I could get into the next boat. Instead I had one foot in two boats and was trying to keep both by the same shore.

Now I am fully in the next boat. It’s a different boat because I’ve got a different body of water to cross. It’s going to take longer. It’s going to require changes in life to get to that other shore. But, with my husband’s help and support, I know I can get there. And this time, I’m going to get to spend at least a little time on the shore before getting into the next boat. Even if it’s just a weekend, I’m going to enjoy that shore. But for now…


I’m looking forward…

When I got to campus today, I checked my mailbox, as usual. Nothing. Again. More than a month after taking the Comprehensive Exam and still no sign of whether I passed.

After class, I went to the office to check if there was any word. Our amazing secretary/therapist/caregiver was just getting done letting me know what she was told – that it would probably be a week at the earliest – when the phone rang. She turned to me, gave me a thumbs up, and mouthed “You passed!” I was partially in shock and partially not sure if I read it right, so I waited until she hung up. She said, “You passed!”

I have finally passed the Comprehensive Exam! I can finally graduate! I get to stay in the Ph. D. program! I get to stay at BGSU!

I bought that lanyard last spring when they were on clearance. I bought it with the determination that it would be true. I am so happy that I can actually say that now! And as much as I want to work on decorating my cap (I have had plans for months), I’m going to start working on my readings for class next week because I’m leading class and I’m really excited about it!

I don’t know if I can truly say I’ve been excited about class yet this semester. I know part of that has been this weight and fog surrounding me, freezing me in place that has now lifted. I’m looking forward to writing my paper for class. I’m looking forward to being in charge next week. I’m looking forward to my three classes in the spring.

I’m looking forward, and there’s something definite there!

"Listen to the Mustn'ts" by Shel Silverstein



It’s never a good sign when I’m so distractable. Last night I sat down to do reading, I ended up organizing binders of my readings and notes from the past two years. Today, I’ve organized the files of readings from the past two years, as well as killing time online. I just got off of Facebook because I realized I didn’t know why I was still on there. And I’m writing this.

Even with my wonderful tea (gets distracted again)…I cannot focus on these readings. It happened last week. It’s happening again this week. I keep trying to get my readings done before Tuesday so I can sit down and have time to write my response paper and make sure it is good and makes sense. Instead I end up rushing to get them read and throw together a paper to get in just before the deadline. I’ve found some summaries of a few of the readings. I’m hoping they’ll give me enough information that I can get everything else read and get a good paper written.

I’m starting to worry about this. I don’t know if my attention issues are getting worse or I’m noticing them more now that I have more work and really want to get good grades. I have gone this far without seeking medical intervention, but I may have to if I want to get through the rest of my life. Spending hours at a time watching television when there is so much that needs to be done is not a good way to go through life. I know that you need to take a break from things and take care of yourself, but I feel like I’m taking a break from that to actually do things instead of the other way around. Grrrr.



This past Saturday I took the comprehensive exams for my MA, again. There are three areas in which we need to answer a question. Now I – and my fellow exam-takers – await the results. At least two graders will read each response and give a pass or fail. If they don’t agree, a third person weighs in. If I don’t pass all three this time, I don’t graduate in December. I don’t graduate in December, I don’t continue in the American Culture Studies Ph. D. program. I don’t continue, I’m going to have a small breakdown and see what needs to be done to start again in the fall.

I am not going to let this stop me. Ten years elapsed between graduating with my BA and starting graduate school. In those ten years I worked jobs I really didn’t like because I needed a job. I am going to become a college professor. I am going to teach Disability Studies and Popular Culture. Together. Separate. Either. Both. I’m happy.

Last month I had a meeting with the director of the program. He does this with all the incoming students every year. He mentioned concern about me getting two interdisciplinary degrees in a row – Popular Culture and American Culture Studies – having a negative effect on getting a teaching job. I’ve asked other professors their opinions and they disagreed. I’m not letting this discourage me. I’m going to work hard, present papers at conferences, get papers published, and make a positive name for myself in the world.

I will become a college professor. I will continue to educate minds – young and old – so they have the ability to make fully informed opinions. I will continue to empower people and continue to be an activist. I will not stop.



This semester…

If I can get through this semester, I can get through my Ph.D. I knew that living 2 hours away from campus and going up for class would be hard, but I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Honestly the thing that is the hardest is having to leave immediately after class on Thursdays and drive straight to work. That is really starting to take a toll on me. Drive 2 hours, be in class for 3 hours, drive 2.5 hours, work 2.5 hours. Unfortunately there is no one who can work on Thursdays. I would be tempted to try and get them to find someone if this was going to be a thing past this semester. I have no plans to still be working there next semester. I am going to be taking 3 classes in the Spring, which is not going to allow for working 4 evenings a week and Saturdays 2.5 hours away from campus.

Work is keeping me not only from seeing my cohort outside of class and socializing and getting to know them better. It’s keeping me from all sorts of things on campus that would probably be useful and informative. There are talks about what you can do with your Ph. D. outside of academia. There are colloquium series. There is the easy access to the library, instead of having to wait and pick up 10 books at once and remembering to bring them back before they’re due when I’m on campus.

Thankfully, right now I’m listening to The West Wing Weekly while also doing another rewatch of the series. I’m watching season 3, but listening to season 1. Probably when I get to the end of season 4, I’ll go back and watch the episodes I’ve recently listened to. It’s helping me stay sane. Well, that and Hamilton.

But first, I have to graduate with my M.A. at the end of this semester. Thankfully, I am confident that I can pass the comprehensive exam this time and get it done so I can continue to move forward in my Ph. D.


Walking on Water

Today at Mass, Father’s homily struck a chord with me. The Gospel reading was Jesus walking on water and Peter doubting and starting to sink. He talked about how we have all walked on water at some time in our lives. A time when we feel called to do something but we have a sinking feeling, we aren’t sure if we can do it.

Tomorrow I start Graduate Student Orientation, again. But this time it’s for me starting my Ph. D. Starting my Ph. D. while I study up so I can complete my Master’s and graduate in December so I can continue with my Ph. D. This is one of my walking on water times. I know that this is the right thing for me. But I’m worried that I’ll get in my own way and won’t pass the comprehensive exams so I can graduate with my Master’s degree. I’ve passed two of the three parts before, I know I can do it again.

But a little part of me keeps popping up and messing with that faith. Thankfully, it’s getting less frequent. I’m still worried that it will pop up at the worst time – during the exam – and I will start to sink. I know that if I put the work in, study, and have faith in myself, I will walk through those exams and finally be able to move forward with my studies.

At least this week is simply about getting to know my cohort, the faculty I don’t already know, and get a good solid start to the semester and my Ph. D. And I am really looking forward to it!


Solid start

As you all know by now, I am trying to get my thesis off to a good start. It has been an exercise in trying to figure out how to write it. I have been reading books and graphic novels and taking notes and figuring out exactly what I’m looking at.

And I was making no on the page progress.

I wanted to have a rough draft of my first chapter done before Monday. Until today I didn’t think that would be possible. I felt like my break was wasted in that sense. But it really wasn’t. I needed to take a break from it and let my brain relax. I needed to remember that I am trying to get a rough draft done, not the final draft. Giving myself the permission to simply sit down and include everything I can think of has opened the floodgates.

Both yesterday and today I spent about 2 hours at Starbucks with coffee and Hamilton to add to the lack of distractions and help me focus. I have finally laid a solid foundation for me to build the rest of the draft off of. I think if I take the time to work on it tomorrow, and hopefully on Sunday, I will get close to if not have a flat out done draft by Monday. That is going to be a great way to start off the semester!


I have a brain again!

This past week has been a checklist that is slowly being checked off. Paper for class. Done. Presenting in class. Done. Other presentation. Done. Last day of teaching for the semester. Done. Last day of attending class. Done. All I have left to do is give my students their final exam.

That’s part of why I’ve been posting so much lately. I’ve had more time to allow my thoughts to be about something other than school. But there’s another reason for that.

I should also be working on my thesis. Which I have been doing. But I’ve also been posting here, getting materials ready to teach next semester, getting caught up on the dishes, getting prepared to do the laundry, generally tidying up, watching TV and movies, and avoiding working on my thesis. But strangely, saying that makes me want to get working on it! After I go get my laundry started. Seriously, I’m running out of clothing.

Ahh, the life of a grad student.