Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chapter 4

It is very true that Chapter 4 continues to kick my ass. There is no way around it. For those that are unfamiliar with the structure of a dissertation (and to save you from having to actually read one unless you have to) Chapter 4 is where you discuss your findings. This is where, after all that data collection, you begin to pull it all together and answer your research questions. This is scary.

I am doing a phenomenological case study. Yes, that is a long word - phenomenological. It’s also fun to say. What you really need to understand from this academese is that my data is rich and robust...ok, so throw out the buzz words...I have a crap load of data.

There are the interview transcripts (previously blogged about) from five different students, two interviews each. There are student journals from a whole term from each of these five students. There is a survey that had 150 respondents, but from which I can only use 100 (long story best told another day, ugh Internal Review Board). And there is the institutional data.

When I first got all of this stuff back it was exciting. Then, I started to really look at it...Suddenly I felt as if the ground caved in beneath me. There was nothing. I looked at all this data and saw nothing.

This feeling led to about two weeks of high anxiety marked with high blood pressure and bouts of hyperventilation. How could I have just gotten this far down the road, deployed all those methods of collecting data and end up with nothing? Actually, it was worse than seeing nothing, what I was actually seeing was EVERYTHING. All these little rabbit holes to jump down, none of it linking to each other, none of supporting each other.

Then I remembered something. I should be looking at this data in terms of my three research questions. Doh.

Now I felt better. Now things were coming together in these little themes and sub-clusters and things were linking together. That was all great and dandy until I sat down to write about it. See, I’m a visual learner and processor. This means that I spent countless hours mapping and clustering data on my white board at home, playing around with index cards, color coding, using Nvivo (an awesome software package), dumping Nvivo (found out I am old fashioned and want to feel and hold my data), and drawing lines from here to there making it all work. I found it hard to put that all on to rows of words that were then supposed to make sentences that somehow would brilliantly describe what I knew I could show you if I just had a dry erase maker and some white board.

This is part of the learning (or hazing) of the PhD process. Mostly likely you haven’t done something like this before. I certainly hadn’t. I thought it would be a piece of cake to just write it all down - here’s what I have! See?! Isn’t it so nice and pretty? When I was faced with writing it all down, showing and backing up what I had, the same fears washed over me. I have no data, there is nothing important here, nothing ground breaking or useful. Two weeks ago I reverted back to something I had not done in a really long time (which may explain a whole lot about my writing process) - I outlined Chapter 4. I tend to just sit down and write. I don’t spend time outlining chapters or papers. I just write. Maybe this is not fundamentally correct, maybe it is. I just know that I’ve always done it that way, and that it’s been working. Until Chapter 4 came into my life.

Outlining put me way out of my comfort zone, but I did it, and it’s been so much better. The ass kicking went down a notch. The ass kicking isn’t all gone, and let me tell you why: formatting tables, figures, charts and block quotes.

I hate that part. I hate APA style. I hate OSU’s APA style (and I am sure if I was at U of O I’d hate their style too, so don’t get all Beaver vs. Duck on me). I hate having to figure out on Word where all the damn formatting buttons are just so this one part can be double spaced and this other part (with columns or bullets) needs to be single or half spaced. I hate, hate, hate it.

It makes me want to style kick APA’s ass.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Re-Cap Part II

Concussions suck. Especially when you are a sun worshiper, like myself, and you have a concussion in the middle of the summer when the sun is out and all you want to do is stay in a dark room because the sunlight makes your head hurt.

They also suck when you are trying to run and can’t because your head feels like it is about to burst. And finally, they suck when you are trying very hard to use your brain to think and write and come up with academically sounding sentences for your PhD.

The only good thing about concussions is that you can nap without feeling guilty for not doing a damn thing, because literally you can’t help but fall asleep. And on second thought, perhaps this will prepare me better for my career as an NFL cornerback…or not.


It wasn’t until the tail end of August that I started to feel better. By this time my running had suffered much more than my PhD. Which, is probably an okay thing. I was starting to hit my stride in August with PhD work. I was finally feeling like my data was worth something and that perhaps finishing this was worth it after all. Because there was a time this summer when I looked at my data and thought – I have nothing. I have nothing important here and nothing to say.

I took a “vacation” in August. My family and I went to the beach for a week. For the most part, it was a working vacation. I was determined to have a first draft done before the term started in September. I even had a week off planned in September to just write and focus on school to get this done.

Running in August sucked big time. It was like starting all over again by the time I felt well enough to attempt long runs. My lungs were aching, my legs were sore, my left ankle was acting up, and I just couldn’t get it together. Work was also busy in August, which pushed running down the list some more.

August felt busy. It was hard in some ways, and all I wanted to do was catch a little break and feel some sense of control before I had my week off in September. It used to be that summer was a time during the academic year when a person could catch up on some work. With record enrollments and large initiatives, that hasn’t been the case lately and certainly not this past summer.


By the start of this month I felt really burnt out. I just didn’t feel motivated about starting a new academic year at work, I still had two chapters left to write, and the most I had run was 18 miles, and that had been back in July. The day before my week break from work, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, and it was all I could do to keep it together. It wasn’t the best time to be taking a week off, but it was the only time I could.

My week off started great. My parents were in town to help watch my kid, and that meant I had full days to focus on school and running. I started out the first part of the week running each day 13-14 miles at a time, and then locking myself away to write. I was plugging along on Chapter 4, and was starting to realize it was kicking my ass. But, I held strong - running and writing for hours each day.

By middle of that week a little something-something popped up. That little bit of a runny nose and sore throat that may or may not be something. By Thursday night that little something decided it was going to be a SOMETHING. By the end of the day Friday I lost my voice and had the shivers. A full blown cold complete with laryngitis came to visit. Oh, and did I mention that Chapter 4 is still kicking my ass at this point? Bye bye Chapter 5, don’t have time for you this week. Oh, and that 18 miler I was planning? Out the window – can’t breathe. I was feeling pretty damn sorry for myself.

But as it with life, you adjust. (Caution, here comes the touchy feely part) You remember why it is we do the things we do. I remembered why it is that I love working in higher education, why it is that I love my job. I adjusted my expectations of myself – so what if Chapter 4 is not done? So what? I’ll finish it and move on to Chapter 5. And so what if I didn’t get to my 18 miler? I’ll just run 20 next week. So what if I don’t’ finish the marathon with my original time goal? It’s not like this is the only one I’ll ever run – I’m hooked on the running thing, and this will be the first of many, of that I am sure.

So, here I am. End of September and feeling pretty damn good again. My training post-concussion has been a bit choppy, but the thing is, I ran 20 miles this past weekend and I’m still standing. My goal with the marathon in two weeks is to finish running and have fun. I’m not attempting to set any records after all.

And now that the term has begun at work I feel excited. The students are all back, I’ve got a great crew I get to work with, the campus is all shiny and bright. I can also build back in those evening and weekend hours to work on school. I am so close, SO CLOSE to having this draft done. Then, I’ll turn it in and take it from there. Edits I can handle.

I learned two really important things this summer. These may not be new or groundbreaking, but for a control freak like me, and for someone (like me) who loves to compete against themselves, this was pretty big: First, let your body guide you. I love running. When I don’t get to run, I miss it. I am at my best running. But, if I want to run for many years to come, I need to listen to my body and give it the breaks that it needs. It’ll be fine. The challenge of starting over again and seeing your body get back into the groove, that’s pretty amazing. Second- while I do see more marathons in my future, I can honestly say that once I finish this PhD, I never want to do it again. Even if I do have that sickness they call “lifetime learning”.

Oh, I guess I did learn one more thing – if you do get hit in the head with a paddle, get it checked out ASAP. Don’t get on a plane the next day and ride roller coasters.

Goal Updates -

Running: Will work out a few times this week, run 13 miles this weekend and then take it easy before the big race on 10/6.

School: Will finish Chapter 4 and 5 in about a week and a half. Then, turn that into my major for first round of slashing (err..I mean editing).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Long (maybe long awaited) Update – Part I

Note to self – blogging may require more than the occasional posting.

Well internet, I am two weeks away from the marathon and damn close to a first complete draft of my dissertation. Where did the time go?

Since my last post was June 2nd, let us turn back the clock and pick it up from there. Here it is, my summer (Part I), re-capped just for your reading pleasure….


Running was going well. Very well. Which was a good thing, because in June I was wrapping up a job application process, which eventually led to me being offered the job I was in as an interim for the past year permanently. It’s stressful applying for and interviewing for a job you are in. Add on top of that the fact that I’ve been working where I work for close to 10 years – people know you, you know them, and you can’t hide. Running in June was a nice way to relieve the stress and then celebrate the good news. June was also the month that I took the plunge and got contacts. I don’t wear them everyday, and I got them mainly for running. I spent a lot of time swearing and poking my eyes in June. But you know what? Running with contacts is a whole new experience. I mean, have really seen Portland? Have you really seen Forrest Park and all the beautiful trails? Apparently I haven’t really seen them all these years (running without my glasses all that time) because it was like a whole new world. Now there is no excuse for me getting lost or turned around because I can’t read a trail marker or street sign.


I was excited heading into July for two reasons. First, I was running upwards of 15 miles – more than I had ever run before – and I felt confident going into the half-marathon I had entered. Second, this marked the month were I would begin to take one day off a week from work to write and work on the PhD. Actually sit down and have a whole day to myself to just work on school.

Now, I know that working on school for a whole day may sound horrible. But, I have to say it felt luxurious. I haven’t had the luxury in a very, very long time to just say I was going to do nothing but school work. Hey, it’s the little things in life.

My half-marathon was at the beginning of the month, and I set a personal record. I ran it with a 9 minute 30 second mile pace. This is by far the best race I have on record at this length. And you know what? I felt great at the end – like I could have done it again.

So, here we are, heading into the middle of July and I am feeling good about school and feeling like a full marathon is totally doable. Enter my trip to Maupin.

Last year I had the opportunity to go to a conference where white water rafting and the river are used as a metaphor for learning outcomes and assessment. If you think I am making this up, visit (and yes that is me on the webpage with a big goofy grin). This year, I had the opportunity to return to this conference and continue the work I had started with a team of folks from my college. Now, if you clicked on that website above and looked at that picture, you will see that I was sitting in the first row of the raft. That was last year. This year I was feeling all full of myself and opted to sit in the same spot.

Maupin is a little down in Oregon that sits on the banks of the Deschutes River. The stretch of river that we raft during this conference is affectionately known as the “splash and giggle” section of the Deschutes. Don’t let that fool you – there are some tricky rapids on this stretch. We rafted three days – same stretch of river, and increasing difficulty each day. The first day we started off on a rapid called Wapinitia. You aren’t supposed to fall out on this one.

I fell out.

Not only did I fall out, I fell out on the left side of the raft and got pinned between the raft and the large rock that helps to make this rapid. Not only did I get pinned, but I couldn’t swing my legs in front of me (as you are supposed to do when you fall in the river) and my left leg from my hip bone to my ankle got smashed on the rock…multiple times.

Okay, so I fell out. No big deal. I love, LOVE, the water. I am a pretty strong swimmer, so I’m not too worried. I get back in the raft. We all have a good laugh. Ha! Ha! Did you see that crazy Katy girl?! She fell out! Our guide could not believe that happened, but we soon put it behind us. Never mind that I couldn’t feel what was to come on my hip bone and ankle - the water in the Deschutes is cold enough to numb you.

So, on to the next rapid. We get through that without me or anyone falling out. Whew. But then the guide decides that we need to run it again. But this time, instead of going to the right of the rock, we are going to “floss the cheeks”. As in, go between the two large rocks in the middle of this rapid. Hey, I’m game. No one else in the raft may be, but I am.

So we make a run for it. And I bounce out. Again. And what I remember yelling on the way down was, “Are you serious?!”. When I looked back, the raft was curled around one of the rocks, and my buddies were all scrambling to the top of the rock so they wouldn’t tip over. I was rescued by another raft and dragged on. Except that there was no place for me to sit. And since we are about to approach another rapid and my raft was still maneuvering off the rock I had to ride the bull. Ride the Bull means I sit on the front of the raft holding this rope between my legs. When I did this same move last year and we hit the rapid, I fell backwards. Can you guess what happened this time? Yeah…I rode that next rapid with my feet stuck straight up in the air while my head was wedged down by the first row and the front of the raft with water all over me.

Okay, so that was day one. We put out down the river and get back on the bus that will take us back to the lodge. That’s when I begin to feel a little sore…a lot sore. I look down and see that there is a golf ball sized lump on the top part of my left foot. I also find out that I can’t walk very well. Turns out I busted that foot pretty bad. No broken bones (which I didn’t get confirmed until 2 weeks later) but it was bad enough that I couldn’t walk without a limp and I couldn’t run for almost 2 weeks. I also had a horribly large bruise on my left hip that was about the size of a personal pizza.

Oh, but wait. The story is not over. On the third and final day of rafting a fate worse than a bruised hip or banged up foot befell me. There I was, on the river – my last day. I was determined to have one last good run of the Deschutes. I wanted to get out and ride some rapids on my own terms. And when the time came for me to do so, I dipped out of the raft to ride a suck hole. Yes, a suck hole. That’s when – right at the precise moment – you tip out of the raft and get sucked into a whirling spiral of water and get sucked in and pop out of the river a little bit downstream. Super fun. The first time I missed the suck hole – bad timing. So, the raft went around again, and out I went. I felt the water sucking me in, and then my back hit the top of the raft. Not a big deal. I have a vest on, I know I’ll come out on the other side. And I do, I pop right out on the other side of the raft. And I mean pop right out (funny how when you are super buoyant and are trapped under something you just fly right on out when that something moves). And right as my little head pops out of the water….SMACK. A beaver tail hits me. A BEAVER. And it’s all, “Go Beavers!” and I’m all, “Go Ducks!”…..

Okay, not really – but that version had a few people going for a while. The smack came from a paddle. The perfect timing of the universe had it so that just as I was popping out of the water, the guide was instructing my raft mates to paddle forward in order to give me some room. Not just any paddle forward, but one HARD paddle forward.

I saw stars. Little flashes of light here and there. And I all I could say was, “Are you kidding me?! SERIOUSLY?!” From my smack came a goose egg. A big honking goose egg. Ideally I would have gone to get that checked out. But seeing as I was in Maupin and seeing that I was going to be on a plane the next day to San Jose, I decided that I didn’t need to. I mean, it’s not like I passed out.

Never mind that the next four days I am in San Jose I am constantly sleepy and can’t get rid of this damn headache. It’s probably just because I am so tired from the conference. I mean…I did get my butt kicked by the river. Hey, is that a roller coaster? I love those, lets get on it!

Fast forward to two weeks later. Me in the doctor’s office. Diagnosis – concussion.

So, to re-cap Part I of my summer – started off great, ended with an ankle I couldn’t run on and a concussion. A concussion that prevented me from running (constant pounding motions are apparently not good when you are concussed) and made it very hard for about two months to get through a day without a massive headache. Not so good for PhDing either.

Stay tuned for Part II…..

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Danger! Danger!

Last weekend I was in San Diego visiting family. While there my brother-in-law, Dennis, took me on a run with his running buddy Dave. I have run with Dennis in the past…or attempted to run with Dennis in the past is probably more accurate. I usually find that I am gasping for air trying to keep up with what seems like an easy pace for him. Prior to this San Diego run, my last Dennis run was at Kailua Beach Park. We had made our way down to the end of the beach, and decided to cut through the neighborhoods. This was not a good idea, as there was not really public access. This did not stop Dennis from finding a way for us to get off the beach and on the road. I followed him as he made his way toward someone’s front gate, and watched as he did some crazy Navy Seal type shit and scaled this very tall lava rock wall. As you can imagine, I was slightly less powerful and graceful. I think my approach to scaling this wall resembled more of a beached whale trying to get back to sea.

At any rate, last weekend we went running on these beautiful trails in Carmel Valley. Don’t ask me which ones, I don’t know (and besides, I run without my glasses so things like road or park signs are fuzzy). This run was awesome. Up and down hills, into valleys, lots of pretty flowers and plants and all that stuff. The weather was just right and the sun was on my face as opposed to my usual trail runs where I am shaded by trees – good ‘ole Oregon.

Throughout the run Dennis and Dave had been filling me in on all the wild creatures a person can encounter on this particular trail: bunnies, quails, rattlesnakes…

Rattlesnakes?! Yes. We saw one. This is the part wherein I almost got bit by a HUGE rattlesnake.

Okay, not really, but this is a blog, and aren’t I supposed to make things sound cooler than they are? We did see a rattlesnake. That much is very true. It happened on one part of the trail where it was narrow enough that the three of us ran single-file. Dennis was first, followed by me, with Dave in the back. Dave spotted the snake and yelled out. Dennis and I came back to look, and sure enough there was a rattlesnake poking its pissed-off head out from the brush and onto the trail. All of us had run past it and missed it by a few inches. Dennis and Dave (well, really Dave) proceeded to use a branch to move the rattler back into the brush so as to be nice to the other fine folks using the trail.

Since encountering the rattlesnake on this run, I have been thinking of how I might share this via blog and somehow tie it into running and PhDing. Then, an incident this morning gave me some inspiration…Running and PhDing are dangerous activities. It’s true.

The dangers associated with running are kind of obvious:

· You can hurt yourself with bad form.

· A rattlesnake can bite you on a trail.

· A Trail Troll can reach out its grubby little hand and trip you up on a tree root causing you to fall down and skin your knees.

· You could trip over your dog if it’s running with you.

· Sweat could pour down into your eyes so much that you can’t see where you are going.

· Blisters…huge disgusting blisters on your toes.

The list goes on.

The dangers associated with PhDing? Well, based on personal experience:

· You could get a nasty paper cut. Seriously, you use and handle a lot of paper working on this thing.

· Your back could go out carrying all those damn books around.

· You could inhale too many dry erase maker fumes.

· Hot coffee could burn you due to the fact that your hands are so jittery from consuming high quantities of caffeine.

· A rattlesnake can bite you – you know, for those people studying rattlesnakes.

· And new to my list as of today – You can fall off the bouncy ball you are using as a chair and hit your head on a wall because you were trying to stretch upside down to bring more blood to your aching head.

Danger is apparently my middle name.

Running Updates: Am up to 12 miles, going for 13 this weekend. Continuing to run in my Vibram 5-Fingers and loving it.

PhD Updates: Am on a new timeline with my new major professor with aim to get first draft of dissertation done by September. Rewrote Chapter 1 (again). Am making huge headway with Chapter 4.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Themes vs. Katy - Round One

Hooray for finally getting all my data collected, interviews and journal entries transcribed, and survey data put into spreadsheets! Boo for having to actually do something with it now.

I had this horrible moment (one of many during this journey) where I looked at all the data and freaked out. I felt like there was nothing there at all. No answers. No brilliant insights. Just stuff. Words. Numbers.

Welcome to developing themes, codes, nodes, categories...however you want to describe it. This part is harder than I thought it would be. But I also thought that I'd be done with the PhD by now, and that I would never enjoy running.

I've been pouring over stuff and coming up with lists of themes. It's overwhelming. I then started to pair down and group. Then I do some things long-hand (see picture) with a white board brainstorm. I write, I pull together relationships, I sit there across the office and stare at it on the white board. Then I start all over again because somehow it is not coming together.

I keep telling myself this is all part of the process. Sure, I studied how to do this, but it's a whole other thing to actually be analyzing the data now...when it matters. I know I will win the next round, but for now it is kicking my ass. Kind of like that 12-mile run I did the other day.

But with both school and running, I know I just need to keep going. It will get easier with practice. I'll kick these themes in the ass soon, just like I am going to kick that 12-miler next week in the ass.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


No, I haven't forgotten about this blog. I just wanted to make sure that when I returned to it, there would be something really weird for you all to see. Check. Done.

These are what my family calls "Mom's Creepy Toe Shoes". A couple of weeks ago I had the flu. It was the kind of flu that took me out of the office for about a week. It was the kind of flu where I slept all the time and had a fever for three days. Where I lost four pounds, and not from working out.

During my days after the fever broke, I didn't have a lot of energy, so I got to sit on the couch and read. And my excuse for not reading anything school related is that...well...I had the flu. So, I read this book called "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" by Christopher McDougall. It's worth checking out, even if you are not a runner. The people in this book run Ultramarathons. We're talking more than 50 mile races. A large part of the book focuses on the barefoot running movement and the science and theory behind it. Not only that, but and you get to learn all about the Tarahumara people.

I'm not sure if I was just still loopy from the flu, but I read this book and thought, "Barefoot running...huh...that makes sense." The next weekend I went out to the track and ran barefoot. Bad idea. So, I took a lead from the book and went and picked up these Vibram FiveFinger shoes. The particular pair I have are made for road running.

The feeling of putting these puppies on is like stuffing extra-large pregnant feet into a scuba suit made for a mouse. You have to slowly inch your way in, because if your toes don't make it into their little sausage casings it just isn't going to work out well. Once on, I have to say - very, very comfortable. It does take a minute to get over the fact that you now have gorilla feet and your toes are splayed out like a tree frog.

As for running in them - I'm a huge fan. The first time I took them out for a 4-mile spin. It took a bit to get my gait adjusted and my feet to figure out that I didn't need to have such hard impact. I could tell my feet needed to get stronger, after all I haven't run barefoot since...well...never. This past weekend I felt strong enough to take them out for a 10-mile run. Still feeling tight in my feet, but on the upside I have not had any hip or lower back pain from the longer miles. I'm not sure if I'm going to run my marathon in them, but I like the idea of training in them and wearing them around. Besides, it's kind of funny to see the reactions people have when they realize I'm not barefoot in the grocery store.

School related news - by this time next week I will have finished all my interviews. I've also decided to get some of the interviews transcribed by a professional - couldn't take doing it myself anymore. This means that by the end of the month I will be coding data and starting to pull this all together. Then I'm going to have to start writing. I'm wondering if perhaps there is some new creepy thing out there to help my hands/fingers so I can type faster and be more natural - like my new shoes. Perhaps these?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Me and My Hair

To say I've been stressed out the past two weeks would be an understatement. Most of the stressors are work related, and therefore not blog-able. There haven't been enough hours in the day to get things done. I don't often feel like things are in balance with work and life and school, but usually I can fake my way through and go with the tide. I got to one point last week when my body just protested. I hadn't been eating well or enough throughout the day (very unusual for me), had too much coffee, ate a bunch of chocolate (unusual for me), and ended up waking up out of a dead sleep with a horrible pain in my tummy that felt like I was in labor. I drank what felt like half a bottle of Maalox (ewww) and then I think my body finally got through to me - chillax it said.

Well...there's one part of my body that is still acting a bit strange. Don't worry, it's PG....

My hair is falling out. I don't mean the normal falling out that happens to everyone each day. I mean falling out by the hand full. Lumps of it. And I don't have that much hair to start off with. I can't tell if this is some kind of stress thing or perhaps lack of something in my diet. I probably should get it checked out, but I think I'm secretly hoping that it is just a side-effect of having my hair so damn long (it's the longest it's been since high school) and the way to fix it will have to be to cut it. I'm growing it out for a friend's wedding ('cause I'm nice like that) that will occur in July. I hate having long hair.

July. That's a long time away measured in hair growth and not so far away measured in real time. And by then I will have to have hit several milestones: have all my data analyzed and have begun writing the next chapters in the dissertation, have met with my new major professor (still TBD), have gotten up to 18 miles on a single run, and hopefully I'll still have all my hair.

So, I'll be taking better care of myself now. Eat, rest, remember that I am doing the best I can with all that's on my plate. Because I'll be damned if my body quits on me before I run a marathon, or if I stress out to the point where I just walk away from finishing, and really I want that funny hat that comes with the will look smashing with my hair.

PhD Update: Still going through data, transcribing, and in a few weeks will start last round interviews.

Running Update: 8 miles last weekend, 7 this weekend, and check out part of this crazy workout from Core Fitness I did this week:

Start Option #1
10 rep ladder jump squats
8 bear crawl (crab walk w/ med ball)
20 push ups
:90 wall sit
20 lunge jumps (split squat jumps)
10 rep ladder squat thrust (squat/overhead press)
100 jumping jacks
20 modified v-sits
:90 forearm plank to full plank (up/down)
10 skips for height (vertical jumps w/ med ball)
6 laps
10 one leg squats
100 crunches
10 burpees
10 laps
10 clock lunges
20 lunge jumps (split squat jumps)
:90 forearm plank to full plank (up/down)
20 modified v-sits
:90 Hollow Hold (w/ med ball)
50 crunches
10 up/downs
5 Minutes Cardio @ :60 ez - :90 hard - :60 ez – :90 hard

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Motivational Procrastination

I've been wondering what on earth I should blog about since coming home from my recent 16 day trip to Florida and New York, and to be honest I can't come up with just one good story, there are too many. It was a great trip, tons of fun. I got to see some old friends and meet some new friends. I worked some. I ran some. I pulled invasive plants from a nature area in Fort Myers Beach. I got a sunburn from falling asleep on the beach when I was supposed to be PhDing. I saw a car fire in a parking lot. I went to the MoMA. I ate really good food. I stayed up until 4am, something I haven't done since college. I watched a lot of Modern Family. I played with cool Star Wars toys. I went to Chuck E. Cheese. I drank some really good beer. I saw a bar fight. I saw a rat, an alligator, pelicans, flamingos, and fish. I got magic wands from Harry Potter land. I was cold. I was hot. I got yelled at by TSA agents at JFK. I rode roller coasters. I fell asleep on the subway. I went to Tiffany's on 5th Ave.

The last week of my trip - when in NYC, I totally lost all motivation to exercise or do any type of school work. I've been home five days now and have worked out twice and still haven't done anything PhD related. I haven't actually ran in about two weeks. I'm having a hell of a time transitioning back into things.

In order to become motivated again, I am engaging in the following activities:
1. Watching 'Wall Street'
2. Reading about all the races coming up this spring and thinking about signing up for them
3. Spending a good five minutes each day looking at the pile of data I need to go through that motivation or procrastination? I'm thinking there is a fine line between the two...

Friday, January 28, 2011


The past two weeks have been full of what I'm perceiving as bumps in school life. And naturally when one part of my life is bumpy the other parts feel bumpy. I've finished all first round interviews with participants this week, but only had 3 of the total 7 scheduled show. The survey portion of my study is complete but I had more than my allotted number of participants fill it out - the Internal Review Board (IRB) approved my research protocol for 100 participants in the survey and I have about 40 more than that. I'm having to submit revision forms to IRB, which feels about as painful as submitting things to the IRS or DMV.

The largest bump that I'm still not quite dealing with (mostly I am in denial) is that my major professor is leaving the department. I don't know quite how to explain this to those not familiar to the PhD process other than it is like having your driver's education instructor leave you at the wheel. This being said, I am mainly feeling this way because I adore my major professor. She is amazing, a mentor, and has been a part of my graduate school journey since my masters program. I'm thrilled for her to get an opportunity to do something new, but feeling very selfish about not being able to get this done in time to finish my journey with her.

I've been trying to tell myself that these bumps would be like spraining my toe. It hurts, but is not devastating to my overall training.

And speaking of training, it's been hard. I've been to core fitness twice in the last two weeks. I've only been able to run twice. Because of the bumps with school I haven't had a lot of extra time outside of work. And at work, I've been a bit busy. But, I'm proud of myself because I actually asked for help at work. What a concept, right?! I'm horrible at asking for help. It hasn't been until the last year that I've been able to ask Andrew for help with home stuff without going into fits about it. It's all me, and I'm working hard to get over it. I am so thankful for my work colleagues and even more thankful that Andrew is there supporting me.

Given all that is going on the last thing you'd expect is for me to skip town. Well, I did. Yesterday I flew to Orlando with a team of PCC folks to attend a Legal Issues in Community Colleges conference. And after the conference I'm taking some vacation. Yes, vacation. Crazy, right?! I'm staying in Florida for awhile then flying to New York. Between the conference and vacation I will be gone 16 days.

It seems like a strange time to be gone from all these things in my life, but in a way they are coming with me. I've brought along my school things so that I can work on planes, when friends are busy, late at night if I can't sleep. It may seem like I won't get anything done, but I think I will get some things done given that there are other things off my plate for awhile (playing trains, tucking in my kiddo, attending to work on a daily basis, etc.). As for the running, I plan on doing that during my time in sunny Florida but refuse to run in 15 inches of snow in New York.

One thing about this trip though is that I am so missing my little family. I've travelled without them plenty of times, but for some reason it was really hard to leave this time. I wrote my kiddo a letter for each day I am gone and could not stop hugging him the day I left. I think I needed some extra love for all the bumps.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I've Been Thinking...

I'm happy to report that I got back on the wagon. Since last Friday I have worked out/run and PhDed every day. I've decided to take a break this evening by catching up on some work - I know, I lead such an exciting life. Don't worry, I plan on watching some bad tv as well.

One of the things that I have learned about working on a PhD is that "working" on it often means thinking. I know this sounds strange, but hear me out - when you picture working on a PhD what often comes to mind is someone doing all this research, reading, and writing. While that is all true, I am finding that you also need lots of time to think. It could be thinking about themes you are finding in the data, or how you want to use an article or theory. For me, this thinking requires that I clear my head and really think about stuff.

Now, I don't know about you but the notion of sitting around and thinking about something sounds like a luxury to me. I mean, who has time to sit around and think? Between work, home, and life in general our minds are busy processing and sorting all kinds of information: emails I need to respond to, bits of information for meetings, did I sign off on that timesheet?, what time am I free in APRIL for that meeting?, was I supposed to get more yogurt for Keawe's lunch?, was Andrew picking up the kid or me? goes on and on.

This is why I like running. It's my time to think. If I run by myself I am often mulling over something PhD related. It used to be that this thinking would trigger some wild anxiety attack because I was so worried about the damn thing. But now, I enjoy it. Something shifted this fall, and I am enjoying PhDing again. I'm sure it had to do with getting data back and feeling invigorated with my topic again. I had a spell of about 2 years after Keawe was born where I just about burnt myself out on school (but that's another blog entry). It's not like that anymore, and that's a good thing.

PhD Update: Finished transcribing first round of journals. Closed second round of survey (and got more participants than I was anticipating - back to IRB). Scheduled the rest of my interviews for the WHOLE study for this week and next.

Running Update: Abs sore from Core Fitness class - but so worth it. Have run 4 days in a row with the longest run at 6 miles. Got some new kicks for all the extra miles I'm putting on.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Back to the Grind

Well, I haven't run since Sunday. And technically when I ran on Sunday it was while I was in the David Copperfield magic show, so not a "real" run. Oh, did I not tell you about that? Yes, I was IN the magic show. I was lucky enough to catch a flying ball and ended up on stage with some other people. In fact, Andrew was also lucky enough to catch a ball and was on stage - although not next to me.

The link above takes you to a video of the exact act I was in. Picture me as the woman in the front row of the seats (in the video her name is Brooke). Andrew is on the side of the stage acting as a "witness".

One moment I am there, then...gone. Andrew's version is that he was on stage, saw me sit then saw the cage rise up in the air. He was asked to walk around and look under and all that stuff. Then the sheet was pulled back and I was gone, only to reappear at the back of the theatre.

How did he do it?! I have no idea. Truly I do not. I was in a seat one moment then literally was at the back of the theatre with the audience with a flashlight shoved in my hand. I was whisked away, running, then standing still.

What does this have to do with my PhD or training for a marathon? Nothing, except that if David Copperfield can do that trick, why can't he make it so that there are more hours in my day?

Since coming back from Vegas work has hit me like a ton of bricks. Along with that, I am trying to schedule interviews for participants in my study and spend time with the kiddo. Running has fallen to the wayside for now, only because I don't have the time.

Come on Copperfield - a little help?!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I think some folks think Vegas is a magical place. I think I agree...but maybe not for the same reasons. I think it's magical because I can't think of another place I have been where your internal clock gets so turned around. I think it's magical because you know the city is in the middle of nowhere, and yet the amount of fresh and exotic food (be it from land or sea) is abundant (this place won't win the Green City award any time soon). It's also magical because of all the strange things you see and hear when out and about.

Last night's escapade is enough proof for me that this magic is real. There was an amazing dinner with an old friend with some yummy sea bass that you know didn't come from anywhere near here. Good times and good food. Then someone in the pack of boys I am traveling with had the great idea to go to this club at the Palms, not realizing the hotel was right smack dab in the middle of hosting an award ceremony. And not just any award ceremony, but something that I later learned equates to the Oscar's type films. You can imagine that it made for some interesting people watching (needless to say we didn't make it into the club). We ended up at some other place that had too loud music, but did allow me to witness the musical talents of Maroon 5 in an up close and personal manner (all the while I was thinking it was too bad it wasn't Dave Matthews). And by the time I left the 3 boys to go and get some sleep, it was about 3:30am.

3:30am...that's just crazy for me. I gave myself a break today. No school work and no gym. Instead, I went shopping. Oh well.

I get to finish my magical Vegas weekend by going to see David Copperfield - the most awarded magician of all time (according to the sign on all the cabs). I love David Copperfield and am proud to say this will be the second time I have seen him. The first time I was about 7 years old and my parents took me to see him the night my sister went to her prom, so that I could get dressed up and go out too. I remember it being a good show....and I remember my sister's dress - hot pink with these HUGE sleeves that made her look like a glam chicken...although at the time I am sure I thought she looked magical.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Happens in Vegas Stays...on the Blog

There is something about Las Vegas that brings out the Rat Pack in me. All I want to do is drink a martini and stand by the tables and look like I'm having a swinging good time tossing money around like it's nothing. It's not what ends up happening, but a girl can pretend. We left Portland early this morning to get here, a pit stop to the real destination - the BCS Bowl game. It feels strange to not be traveling with my kiddo. I actually slept a little on the plane and had time to do some PhDing because there was no need to entertain anyone. Having done some school work today, I felt that it was only appropriate to go for a run. I tell you, I know how to live it up in Vegas.

No thank you kind casino people, I don't have time for your games and flashy lights on your machines with strange names (like Kitty Paradise) - I'm heading to the gym. What? You have to pay extra for the gym? No problem! I'm a high roller after all. Paying for the gym just means that I will work out know, to get the full benefit and all. And since I paid, I'll just use that free face wash and drink the fancy water too - I think it makes me run faster.

The pack of boys I am traveling with are probably disappointed by my time in Vegas thus far. For the 5 hours I've been here I haven't gambled once, haven't watched a single football game, and I ditched them at the bar to go to the gym. I have also spent tons of time in the bathroom in my room. Because it's fricking huge and I dig that.

So, PhD worked on, 5 mile run @ 9:31 pace done, dinner with friends tonight...I'm off to a good start. Now, if only I can find that baby Elvis...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hearing Voices is a Good Thing

There is nothing worse than listening to your own voice, unless you happen to be Celine Dion - The Greatest Singer in the World! (not really, but love the SNL skits). I've been listening and listening to my audio files of the four interviews I conducted last spring and sloooooowly dictating. It's horrible.

Yes, I could get one of those fancy programs that transfers audio files to text (should've asked for that over the holidays) or pay a transcriber. But, I'm a sucker for the old fashioned way. And really, by doing it myself I am hearing, and I mean really hearing what these subjects are saying. And I have to believe that this means I will have a deeper understanding of their experiences. I just wish I sounded more like....Bob Edwards. There's a voice from my childhood. I have distinct memories of listening to him on NPR's Morning Edition on my way to school. Sweet, sweet man.

Or maybe I would type faster if my voice sounded like my Core Fitness instructor. She's got the best motivational sports voice. Proof of this is that I actually did some sit ups in class today...real ones. And I like to think it was because she was yelling across the room about 8-pack abs.

PhD accomplishments today: administered 2nd wave of my survey, did more data analysis from last survey (talk about an Excel headache), transcribed some more, and began to group written responses.

Fitness accomplishments today: went to and survived first Core Fitness class and was able to still squat down to play legos with the kid without falling over in pain.

P.S. - Andrew (partner, father of child, driver of mini van - you get the picture) says that I'm cheating if I let the Internet think I am starting running from scratch. So, full disclosure here: Yes I can run. I ran 7 miles on Sunday. And I have done 3 half marathons. Does it mean I am fit to do a marathon? No. It means about the same as where I am with school - I've got a base to work off of, but the work will be hard and at times suck.

Ready, Set, Go!

Okay, here is what I figure: if I put it all out there on the Internet, then I’ll either feel more accountable to finish these goals because maybe someone out there is reading this or just feel guilted into finishing because it’s on the Internet and if it’s on the Internet then it must be true (because everything on the Internet is true, right?!).

Here’s what I am putting out there: by the end of 2011 I will have finished my PhD and run my first marathon.

Here’s the truth: I’ve been working on the PhD for a few years now (5, but who is counting?) and have regular mental breakdowns about finishing it. I try to run regularly but would not say I am athletic. I have never run a marathon.

Some people out there might be thinking - so what’s the big deal? Finish school, you bum! Get on a training program like Jared The Subway Dude! The big deal is a little something called LIFE. Motherhood, marriage, work, family, And while it may look like I have these things in balance from time to time, I don’t. No one does. It’s one thing at a time. And for this year, I’m committed to checking these two things off my list so that life can make room for some other things that have taken a back seat.

And why the marathon with the PhD? Why not? You have to work hard for both, endure pain, exhaust your mental capacity, the last part for each is the hardest (so they tell me), and when you get to the end I hear you collapse in a heap and get to lay around in bed for a week reading trashy magazines. Sounds great!