Wednesday, October 31, 2012


One way of remaining calm when one is stressed -- listening to music that makes me happy!  (alright, that is probably a lesson that a lot of folks already know!  I guess I have a thick head!)  So if you don't happen to know the music from The Laya Project, check out the short excerpt below (the entire album is absolutely beautiful and engaging -- check out the DVD if you have time!)

And here is one more from the same album!

Last Day of October

.... and here it is the last day of October!  How in the heck did that happen?

This means that I have roughly about 6-7 weeks to finish up the major writing in my dissertation.  A possible feat but one that keeps getting harder in the face of work problems and personal issues.  One thing I need to work (we will call this goal #1) on is keeping the work "problems" at work, not to let them to continue to linger in my head far into the night.  In particular, I am not doing a very good job this semester at connecting with students who have a bone to pick with me (maybe they don't like certain policies or don't follow directions but then complain, or .... well, you get the picture).  I used to think I was pretty good at being patient.  Yeah, not so much anymore.  As much as I would like to blame the accumulating number being added to my age, I think sometimes I am just grouchy because, well, I am just grouchy.  It probably doesn't help that I am stressed pretty much all the time about the dissertation.  And  my research is directly connected to what (and how) I teach.  So it's hard for me to go home and separate "grad school Dianna" and "teacher Dianna." I know so many super good teachers (and I am not putting myself in this group, mind you!) who dedicate themselves 110% (or more!) to the fabulous art of teaching but then are blindsided by students who express only apathy and boredom.  Perhaps as a part of our job in teaching writing, we rhetoric/ composition people need to work on way(s) of encouraging our students to better see writing and rhetoric as important "concerns," perhaps even more important than Facebook and Jersey Shore.

So goal number one:  Try to keep work stuff at work because it's going to drive you crazy if you don't do this!

What about goal number two?  Try to remember that revising (and playing with text) is fun.  I know that sometimes I am so overwhelmed by all the things I don't know that even something that I usually love to do -- revising and playing with language -- becomes a hard task indeed.  And truth be told, all of a sudden a marathon of Jersey Shore sounds like a good idea!  (I think this is called "evading responsibilities!  And no fears -- I haven't gone that route quite yet!)

If I could just manage these first two goals for the next six weeks or so, I imagine that will release enough energy for me to focus completely on what I need to do in order to get this darn dissertation done.  Of course, I also need to strangle that voice that keeps saying that I am stupid and can't complete this project.  In many ways, I think that voice has always been there (why o why is validation still so darn important to me?) but she needs to shut the fuck up.  Seriously.  Walk the plank babe!

So perhaps this is, indeed, the third goal -- pay attention to the small beauties in my life.  I have the best cheerleader a person could ask for in Jim (who loves me no matter how grouchy and mean I can sometimes be!). I have some fabulous students and co-workers.  Witty friends in real life and Facebook make me laugh and value human connections!  I still love going to the gym and doing yoga (the few times a week I can fit it in!).  I believe in the research I am trying to write up.  And tomorrow starts the post-Halloween chocolate sales.  Life is good.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Feeling Like a Pirate Today!

So far this week is not turning out to be productive!  Ugh!

First, I woke up yesterday with a twitching eye that has now turned into a swollen left eye this morning.  One of my fabulous co-workers thinks it is an allergy issue.  I have never had allergy issues before so it is just plain annoying if this turns out to be the reason.  Of course, my first thought was "Is it possible for your eye to explode if you are (1) reading too many essays or (2) working too hard on a dissertation?"  I did a little Googling and apparently the answer to that is no.  But, it is possible for someone (read this to be me) to be a little unreasonable in thinking that an eye can explode.

OK, it's clear that I am tired!  I meant to work on finishing up the summary chapter yesterday afternoon but after cleaning off my desk, evaluating research papers in my night class, and then doing a hard 4 miles at the gym, I just wasn't in the mood.  Which means I need to work my butt off today.  I have two classes with a gap in between so I will do my best to utilize every moment this afternoon so I can make it to hot yoga at 5 PM.

December 21 -- my deadline for finishing the writing of that darn dissertation -- is coming up in 7 weeks.  I have to be the MOST productive that I have ever been in my life. I know I can do it .... I just need to focus a wee bit more -- and get the use of my eye back!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stylish Surprise! (see end!)

And another Friday is upon us!  So what is happening in the land of Dissertation Girl?

Not a lot actually.  The weather has turned cold (yeah!) and the sun is out -- my absolute favorite time of the year.  I can only hope that it stays like this for awhile (keep fingers crossed!)

In no particular order, here is what needs to be accomplished by Monday morning:

  • I need to finish evaluating the research essays from my ENG 102 class (5 down and 15 to go; by the time I finish, I would have read and responded to 78 total in the last two weeks!).
  • I also need to read and grade the 10 mid-terms from my LIT 205 class.  
  • I need to keep plugging away at the dissertation, of course!  This week I worked on the Results Chapter -- now I need to make sure I have that chapter 100% done (I  think I need to write an intro and a conclusion to the chapter as a whole).  Next up -- the Analysis -- so, in other words, what is the story of what I tell in the Results section?
  • My office -- both at school and at home -- is one huge mess.  I need to do something about it/ them!
  • I still need to create the assignment handouts for the two upcoming short assignments in my ENG 102 classes -- and be prepared for the next novel my Lit 205 class is about to start, White Tiger (one of my favorite Indian novels!).
  • Of course, a little exercise wouldn't hurt either!

So, if I can get through this list 100% then I will be a happy camper (realistically, I'll take 75%!).  Tomorrow, my good pals Peggy and Carla are coming over early so we can catch breakfast here downtown and then head to the Kimmswick Apple Butter Festival (about 35-40 minutes south of downtown).  I am guessing that there will be a lot of Apple Butter going around (something yummy that I only discovered once I moved here to the Mid-West) and lots of shopping (which is pretty much the number one reason we are going -- my pals and I usually hit up one craft fair a season!).

Before I sign off, I need to mention one "crazy" little retail thing I did!  One of my absolute favorite web sites -- -- offered a "Stylish Surprise" grab bag earlier this week (see picture above).  For $15  you could get an article of clothing worth anywhere from $30-250 from their web site (read:  this is a way of getting rid of your clearance racks!).  There were also grab bags for $5 accessories and $5 home goods.  I bought a couple of the clothes options (in 2 different sizes) and 2 of the accessory bags.  So in other words, I have no idea what I purchased -- all I know is that the items came from Modcloth!  The items shipped yesterday and should be here next week!  I am sort of excited but am thinking that I shouldn't get my hopes up.  I did some online searching before I purchased the (now sold out) grab bags -- some people report getting great stuff and some folks -- not so great stuff.  We will see, I suppose!  (I am not usually a gambling kind of a person).

Thursday, October 25, 2012 = Guilt!

Yeah -- it worked again!  Guilting myself into writing 750 words a day is resulting in more dissertation writing for me!  So yesterday I wrote up the results for the first essay and today I did the fourth.  Done!  I also described each of the assignments and now I think I pretty much have everything I need for this chapter except for some tables that I need to make in Microsoft Word to "show" what I discovered with this raw data.

Since this little experiment worked pretty well this week, I need to think about "topics" and "sections" that I could focus on for the next few days so I can keep this writing streak up.  It would be great to have the bulk of this discussion finished by November so I can spend a few weeks just focusing on proofreading and editing before I ship everything off to Dr M (the greatest grad advisor ever!).

And so now ... back to evaluating research projects from my Wednesday night class!  (5 down and 15 to go!)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why I love!

Hey everyone:  Welcome to "I Can't Stop Thinking About My Dissertation All The Time" Land!  Since I have just under two months to get the bulk of the writing finished (with a December 21 deadline), my head is now just constantly berating my inner academic whenever I am "trying" to relax.  I know that any writing teacher can attest to this, but it's not like we can use a Scantron to "grade" our students' writing so we spend a great deal of time trying to write productive and useful feedback to our students in the hope of improving writing skills.  The end result of this?  In my case, at least, I am just plain tired most of the time!

So, given the nature of my job and professional calling, how do I ensure that I spend at least a little bit of my time making sure that I finish that darn dissertation?

Well, I am back to using as my motivating "coach" in making me write my dissertation a little at a time each day (I am on a three day streak at the moment!).  I am not sure how exactly but this is working.  This week I am trying to make sure that I get the "Results" chapter 100% done.  So today, I simply made myself sit down for an hour (between classes) and I typed on what the raw data was for essay one (for both of the two classes I studied).  I just simply wrote up what I found being careful to just report the facts and not analyze what I saw (which will be done, of course, in the "Analysis" chapter!).  Well, it worked!  I got this section done and tomorrow I will focus on doing the same thing but this time reporting the "facts" in terms of essay four (I coded data for both a first essay and a fourth essay).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Birthday Letter to Me!

Dear Dianna:  I know that you liked an idea that you saw a friend do recently where he made it a yearly tradition to write a letter to himself on his birthday.  What a neat way of "coming to terms" with that ever changing number in your age (you know, the number that keeps going up!)!  You even have an assignment where you ask students to write to their younger selves so perhaps -- at the risk of sounding schizophrenic -- writing to oneself once a year might be a great way of just recognizing where you are at this moment in time.  44 is, indeed, a scary number but, on the other hand, it's nice and even (and easily dividable!).

In just a few months you should be done writing the hardest thing that you have ever attempted before in your life -- your dissertation.  It probably won't be the best thing ever (which is what I know is what you want) but it will be "done" (and this apparently is the most important part of a dissertation!).  I know that it's still hard to resist the urge to call Les but as many friends have pointed out recently, you just have to have faith that he hears and is there (in whatever form).  Luckily, there are so many fantastic people around you who will take you with all your faults (OK, there might be a few who would like you to be less grouchy!).  All of us are going to lose someone important to us in our lives and we have to find ways of coping with that.  The timing was pretty crappy with this one but perhaps the universe is just trying to say that you are a strong person.

The last six months haven't been easy -- you are pretty much annoyed about so many things: your writing, your teaching, your body, etc.  You have also managed to piss a few people off but it's important to remember that you can control only how you feel -- not others. So focus on the here and now and take each day as it is (and perhaps lay off on the self help books -- your writing is starting to imitate that junk!).  Keep doing the yoga -- the practice of meditating for 90 minutes in 100 degrees is good for you!

But there are so many things to be thankful for -- most importantly, your health is great even if you physically aren't where you want to be be (who knew that this would create such turmoil?).  You have a fantastic husband who loves you "just the way you are" (sigh, that movie line still makes me swoon!) and you have friends and family who see something good in you (at least sometimes)!

So finish that dissertation.  Get your life back.  Be patient with students.  And continue learning from all your daily interactions!.

See you at 45!

Love, Dianna

Monday, October 8, 2012

Two More Chapters to Tackle!

For now, the methodology chapter is "done" -- but not done, done as I still need to play with the chapter as a whole (I sent it off to the fabulous Dr M with some questions yesterday afternoon).  I also need to walk carefully through it, make sure I have the works I cited in the "Works Cited," and then just generally attack the writing and make sure that I like what I have said.  And this doesn't even take into account anything that Dr M thinks I still need to focus on (I have never written anything like this so I am pretty sure I have left out some important aspects!).  But there is a part of me that is relieved that this chapter has been "birthed."  By far, this is the one section of the whole dissertation which has given me the most grief!

So what is next?  The "Results" chapter and the "Analysis" chapter.  I think I have the Results section figured out -- I just need to show my findings without any commenting or interpreting from me.  I simply present my findings and viola!  Done!  ... I wish it were that easy!  My biggest question has to do with my "raw data" -- the tables I made for each student (actually each student in the two classes has two tables -- 28 students total).  Do I just plop it all out there?  Or do I try to sum up the data somehow and then the raw data gets put in the appendix?  Not sure ...

But it's the Analysis Chapter I am a little nervous about now:

This interesting video makes it clear that the Analysis Chapter "makes or breaks the dissertation" -- the two speakers say that it separates the good students from the bad students.  Gulp!  No pressure!

I know that I want to address a bunch of questions (extract the data and create a story):  What data is the most interesting?  Why is it important or relevant?  Why should readers care about this "stuff" (whatever that stuff may be)?  I need to return to my original research questions and "play" with my findings.

I am not starting from scratch as I start jumping into this .... but I don't have much!  When I was going through the data and making the original "raw data" charts, I did make some notes on stickies about patterns that I happened to notice.  So I guess I need to take my stickies and just jump into writing!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Methodology Chapter!

The goal  for this weekend is simple -- I must, must, must, must finish my methodology chapter!  I am almost there but I think the confusing bit of the whole process is that there is so MUCH for me to talk about that I am doing the whole "deer in the headlights" thing!

Not only am I trying to get the context down in terms of introducing my research question and the study as a whole, but I am also trying to talk about SWIC as an institution, our campus in Granite City, and then how we actually approach First-Year Writing at SWIC anyway!

But -- I am almost there!  I keep looking at how far along I am (19 pages!) and realize that if I am looking at this chapter as a 20 page paper (my approach to each chapter!) then I am almost there.  I just have to push, push, push!

So I push!  And the next time you "hear" from me I will be down a chapter!  :D