Friday, December 27, 2013

I'm Back! December 2013 Stitch Fix Review

I have been swamped with work lately and so this poor blog is usually the first one to suffer!  The end of the semester was tough and then I had a quick trip to Chicago which was then followed by a quick trip to Phoenix!

But -- the day after Christmas, I came back to St Louis and was greeted by my next Stitch Fix box!  (This is number 3 -- click here for review #1 and click here for review #2).  This time, I ended up keeping two items from my box -- both of the previous times I kept only one item.  So I think this whole stylist experiment is going in the right direction!  (For those of you who don't know, Stitch Fix sends you five garments for a styling fee of $20 (and you spend a bunch of time filling out a fashion profile indicating your preferences and things you hate or like).  After receiving your "fix," you have three days to try these clothes on with your own stuff and then you send back what you don't want in the return envelope which already has return postage on it.  You then note on the web site why you are keeping -- or not keeping -- items and the stylist keeps this in mind when putting together your next "fix").  Easy-schmeazy!  (and it is fun to be surprised with someone else's fashion choices, right?)  As an added bonus, you also get some cool styling cards -- there is an example of one when I talk about the skirt in the review below!

So here was my first view of Fix #3!
And here is what it looked like once I opened up the box -- nothing too colorful jumping out but I notice right away that there is a scarf that I had specifically mentioned in a previous comment to Stitch Fix!  (and the enclosed note from the stylist made it clear that someone had read my comments which was a nice touch since in a previous review I had commented that I wasn't so convinced that your stylist choices weren't computer generated)
As usual, I have to apologize for all the selfies -- sorry!  But I wanted to be sure and get this review up right away because (knowing me) I will forget!  So let's start with the two items that I decided to keep.  Item #1 was a fabulous bird themed infinity scarf that I just had to have the moment I saw it! I am so distracted by bird print lately.  Watching Portlandia probably doesn't help!  (and if you have no idea what I am talking about, check out Bryce and Lisa in the clip below!)

Item #1:  Rikka Henry Birds on Branch Infinity Scarf ($28)

I think you can tell from my grin (is that a grin?) that I love this scarf!  This was a keeper (and truth be told, I had described seeing something like this in someone else's fix so I am delighted that the stylist was able to find it!).  There was no way this scarf was going back in the return envelope!  (and I think it is a decent price for a good, quality scarf -- and it will get a ton of wear since it is navy blue!)

Item #2:  Loveappella Brownson Striped Hooded Open Cardigan ($64)

The minute I put this on, I loved, loved, loved it!  It is a silky soft material and I think the hood adds a fun element to the mix.  I decided that I loved this enough to purchase it, even though the price is a little over what I am comfortable with.  Not only did Jim like it but I have a feeling that I will be wearing this all winter!  (Did I mention how soft it is?!)

So those are the two items that I kept -- after you take the $20 styling credit out of the way (which I had already paid), that meant that I spent about $72 total on these two items.  Since both items were such a high quality, I feel like this was a good buy (and at this moment, I am wearing the super soft cardigan!)

So here are the other three items that I sent back this morning (you have three days to send the unwanted items back.  If I had decided to keep all five, then I would get a 25% off the total).

Item #3:  41Hawthron Toullouse Collared Wrap Dress ($68)

 When I first tried the dress on, I liked it.  It has a nice length and the color was super bright blue.  But -- I am not that huge on top (I am a C cup) and the tiny button keeping the two sides together was way too tight (in the picture above, I unbuttoned it which is why you can see my sports bra).  And then the wrap portion wasn't that practical -- it looked like I would be fighting the dress the whole day to stay put.  I was so in love with the color, though, that I was wavering with this decision when Jim walked in the bathroom and gave it a thumbs down.  So back in the bag with this dress.

Item #4:  41Hawthorn Reyn Mini Scalloped Detail Skirt ($58)

OK, I know the blue sports bra (again!) and the socks don't help here, but I hated this skirt.  It fit perfectly but it puckered a bit on the sides and the stripes were just too much for me.  Back in the bag within a minute of trying it on!

I liked the card with the styling suggestions, though, and will keep that to use with some of my own stuff.  I love skirts but sometimes I just don't know what to pair them with!
Reyn Mini Scalloped Detail Skirt
Item #5:  Kut From the Kloth Marquis Slub Knit Dolman Sweater ($48)

I think my face says it all here.  Yech.  Not figure flattering at all.  I love the idea of the dolman-styled sleeves but just not with this cut or material (I forgot to check the label but the material was rough feeling, not smooth at all).

I think that this Fix was the best one yet -- though I still love the dress from Fix #1 and the shirt from Fix #2 (both of which I still wear regularly).  I was going to stop after the third Fix but now I am curious -- will the next one be even better?  I have read reviews online of folks who love their entire box and keep it -- could that ever happen to me?  The price point was better this time -- if I had kept the box, the total would have been $172, far less that the previous boxes (one was over $300).  The quality of the clothes is great -- I am willing to pay a little more for something well made that I can wear over and over versus something I get from Old Navy that might last just one season.

So what am I trying to say?  I think I will need my Fix at the end of January.  Other than the upfront $20 styling fee, it's a pretty safe adventure.  If you are interested in trying a Fix, click here for more information (and just so you know, if you decided to give it a try I get a small credit!).  

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Stitch Fix #2 Review

I feel like before I put this review out there that I need to apologize for once again saying nothing about my dissertation (for the record, I have a full draft to my fabulous adviser and I am waiting to hear back as to the long list of things that I will need to change/ edit!).

In the meantime ....

I just got another Stitch Fix.  You can read here about the first one I did about a month ago -- and here is the second one I just tried.  Basically, you fill out a style profile online and then someone (a stylist) sends you five items that you might like.  You get three days to try these five items and you can either keep them or send them back (and if you decide to keep all five pieces, you get 25% off your entire box).  It is good to try and keep at least one item because you pay an upfront $20 styling fee and that comes off your total (whatever items you end up keeping).  I might try one more month (right now it is scheduled for the end of Decemeber) but I am not sure if this is something I am going to continue.  I am getting a little annoyed about a few things so here goes.

When I opened my box, this is what I found -- a beautifully wrapped pile of clothes (5 items) along with a note from my stylist and some cards to show you suggestions on how you can style the clothes included in this "Fix":

OK -- it all looks pretty promising -- I see a hint of color in there!

Initially, I was a little disappointed that there were no pretty jewelry choices in my box -- I have seen some reviews online where folks have gotten some stunning, reasonably priced necklaces.  I had all clothing choices, so let the fashion show begin!

Item #1:  41 Hawthorn Filbert Floral Print Henley Blouse ($58)

I tried on the item that caught my attention first in terms of colors I adore -- purple and teal!  This turned out to be a shirt/ tunic.
On the plus side -- I don't own anything like this.  It's nicer than a regular shirt and could be useful in casual situations where I want to wear something with jeans that is a little "nicer."  This is made out of some sort of silky material that I liked and the shirt itself if a little longer than most.  It fit me well but was slightly narrower by the hips (perhaps because it was longer?)  But this was a nice shirt and fit all together.  Verdict?  Keeper!

Item #2:  Lily Demie Cross-Front Layered Knit Top ($78)

As you can probably tell from my expression above, I hated this.  I like the idea of a cross layered top but not this one.  If you remember from my last fix, the beautiful green one I received was too large -- and this one was too small.  In addition, the cross layered part hit me in a weird spot.  Yech.  Verdict?  Sent back!

Item #3:  41 Hawthorn Jace Dot Print Fit & Flare Dress ($68)
The minute I touched the fabric of this dress, I loved it!  Some sort of velvet-like texture that I couldn't stop touching!  I even liked the way that it looked and I even think the price was somewhat reasonable for a dress.  As you can see from the picture, the length is even a good one:

Here is an up close shot of the texture -- the cute little blue dots were slightly raised from the fabric:

This was a hard decision but I finally decided to send it back.  I have a lot of dresses -- so I don't really need another one.  The back of this dress didn't sit well anyway (there was a little pooch).  Since I knew that would drive me crazy, it just motivated me to not keep the dress. But I kept feeling it all the way back to the box -- so soft and fun!   Verdict?  Sent back!

Item #4:  Lily Kye Jersey Printed Swing Skirt ($78)

I am little disappointed to see this one in my box -- again!  It is the exact same swing skirt that was in my first shipment and I was quite clear in the feedback to the stylist that I couldn't spend this much for a skirt (made of polyester).  If it were in the $30-40 range, fine.  But it's not.  But I tried it on anyway (and it did fit perfectly!):
Cute but no cigar.  I actually liked the black and white patterned one from last time a little better.  This pattern is okay but I don't love it.  Verdict?  Sent back!

Item #5:  Colourworks Gaffney Mixed Stripe Knit Cardigan ($78)

My first reaction when I pulled this out and tried it on was "Yech!"  But .... there are some beautiful touches to this cardigan that are not clear in the picture -- lots of silver and gold threads that make this cardigan not so ordinary.  Of all the things I tried on, Jim liked this one best.  That says a lot.  The more I looked at it, the more I liked it but .... I just couldn't get past the "boxiness" of the style.  And $78 is a lot to pay for something like this, no matter how nice the fabric.  The hardest struggle I had with keeping this or not keeping this was the fact that Jim liked it.  I would love to have more clothes that Jim liked because I know for a fact he hates my adoration of crazy prints.  In the end, though, my practical side won out.  Verdict?  Sent back!

So here is what I wish -- what is up with sending Dianna all these high priced items?  I see reviews online where folks are getting classic pieces that hover around $50 (not all the items in their boxes, of course).  I made it clear in my style profile that I like jewelry so I don't understand why I am not getting any.  As much I love the idea of someone with better taste picking things out for me, I am still not convinced that there is a person who is actually doing this for me.  Why would this "person" send me the same skirt twice in a row? (even if it is a different pattern)

So there you go!  On the plus side, it is super easy to send back the items you don't want (in an included bag with pre-paid postage already on it!) and the online check out is also super easy (including lots of room to leave your comments about why you are sending something back).  If you are interested in trying, you can do it through this link:   I heard that they will be offering plus size options by the spring.  I don't know if because I am at the edge of their service options (as a 12/14) that the folks over at Stitch Fix might have limited options.  Stay tuned for review #3 at the end of December!

Friday, November 29, 2013

"A Season to Streak": Could I, Too, Run Every Single Day of the Holiday Season?

I recently read an article by Marc Parent titled "A Season to Streak" in the online version of one of my favorite magazines, Runner's World.  Click here to read the entire article by Parent.  In a nutshell, Parent meets someone who is doing the Runner's World Holiday Streak and he says to himself, "Challenge accepted!"  So he decided to run each and every day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.  And if you look at the official rules of the Holiday Streak (click here for more information about the official Runner's World Holiday Streak), you have to run at least one mile to make the streak stick (you can't count bike, swim, or cross training miles -- it must be a run).

Newbie Dec 2013

So I thought about it yesterday and this morning.  Could I do this?  I still have about two weeks of SWIC left (one last week + a week of finals).  I am helping with the coordination of the Tri Club's Icy Iron which gets started December 9 (coming up!).  Jim and I are leaving for Arizona to visit my parents from Dec 20-25.  So could I fit this into a tight schedule already?

Well, as Barney says above, let's do it.  Yesterday -- Thanksgiving -- was the first day.  I got in about 5.8 miles (one loop around Forrest Park) with a friend from the tri club.  This morning I did 4 miles on the treadmill downstairs in our building's gym.  If I blog about it, then it is fair game for folks to ask me how my streak is going!  (and public shaming if I fail!).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Modcloth Stylish Surprise Review (Warning: No Dissertation Talk Whatsoever!)

I need to blog more.  Seriously.  I may not have much of a reading public, but I know that I am (1) happier when I write and (2) better able to tackle the "hardness" of my dissertation after just venting about whatever I want to vent about!  So today's fabulously intellectual blog entry is all about ..... the Modcloth Stylish Surprise!

First, you might need some background (and I am warning you that there is nothing even slightly intellectual that is about to follow!).  As some folks know, I am addicted to Modcloth when I am searching out new clothes (or even when I am not and am just browsing).  This website is my absolute fav without a doubt (OK, maybe that sounded a little teenagerly!)  Why you ask?  I don't think I am an attention hog but I have to admit that I love it when folks say something about the quirkiness of something that I am wearing.  And that is what I adore about Modcloth -- I like the blend of classical and off-beat styles.  What?  You say you have never heard about Modlcoth?  Here is a sample of previous purchases:

These shoes are currently my favorite (I also have them in a different color):
Or these dresses (and skirts) that I have purchased at Modcloth that I adore and wear on a regular basis:
Glamour Power To You Dress in Flower Bed
Back to Your Routes Skirt in CityMovie Moment Dress
VIP Thicket Dress

Well, you get the idea.  I love Modcloth.  Guilty as charged.  A little quirky I know but I love that I am getting to be known as the teacher who wears the strange dresses!  :D

Back to the Stylish Surprise (or the SS)!  Every now and then (maybe 2-3 times a year), Modcloth advertises a sale which usually is sold out fairly quickly -- the SS.  Here is how it works -- you pick your size under a category like "Apparel" or "Shoes" and Modcloth sends you a mystery item for $15 (There is also an "Accessory" and "Apartment" category).  My guess is that Modcloth is clearing our their clearance bins.  But you gotta move fast.  Since you could score something in the hundreds of dollars, folks move on this mystery sale pretty fast.  I have done the SS before but I haven't been too successful.  Last time I got three dresses and swapped or sold them instead (which isn't terrible since I either got a swapped clothing item in return or at least got my $15 back).   This time the announcement was done via Modcloth's new mobile apps and .... I happened to be sitting in my doc's office waiting for an appointment.  I ended up ordering as many as you were able (limit 4) and a shoe item to boot!  Since I had issues with size last time (and these items are non-returnable), I went up a size. (and thankfully, I wasn't called back for my appointment as I was hastily using some coupons codes and credits that I already had making my "splurge" pretty cheap (about $50 total).  This time, Modcloth's shipping was phenomenal -- I got my items yesterday (Friday) after ordering on Tuesday.  

Wanna know what I got?!

I had a feeling it was going to be great when I eyed the box - the biggest Modcloth box I have ever received!

And then I opened it!  And look what I found!

Right away, I liked the patterns I saw!  Since the box was so big, I thought that perhaps I got a nice coat (and there are some gorgeous ones on the web site!)  But no coat -- however, I recognized one item right away.  The black print was a Bettie Page skirt -- and I adore Bettie Page (the martini dress above is one of her designs!).  And how sad is that I knew that pattern without even looking at the label?

First, I had a quick peek of the shoes.

Kinda Mad Men-ish -- not exactly my style but definitely a great quality shoe (heavy).  I found a Modcloth link and they were about $60 originally.

So, of course, I HAD to try on the skirt first and went ahead and added the shoes too since they matched the skirt:
Not the best of pictures but here is the skirt with the blue heels.  I ADORE the skirt (which retailed for $110 -- currently on the Bettie Page website on sale for half that since this is last season).  You can't see in the picture but it has built in crinoline and makes this skirt so much fun to wear (and the fabric is heavy as well with gold and silver threads throughout -- beautiful fabric).  It also turned out that the shoes are quite comfy!  I like them.  But ... they are a wee bit too large, fitting more like a 9 1/2 (I am usually a pretty solid 9).  I will either have to swap or sell them.

Next up -- this lovely, chiffon-y dress!  Gorgeous!  Fits fabulously!  I was never really into this whole color-block thing so I would have never tried this dress on (much less purchased it!).  I couldn't find a link for this dress but it looks to be in the $50-$60 range when I compare it to other dresses on the web site.  I am just a little sad that I will have to wait until the summer to wear it (it's super light):

Update:  A fabulous reader found the link to the dress:  (and I still love, love, love, love this dress!  It will be great in the humid weather of St Louis!)
 There was one dress that was a "dud."  It is a lovely dress (about $60 I think) but my boobs do not fill this top part at all (and this might be where going up a size bit me in the butt).  Here is a picture of me in it (the top is about to fall down!) with the pic on the web site on the right side:

I am not sure yet if I love it enough to spend the money to get it tailored.  I like the color (the bow is starting to grow on me) and it would be great for a summer wedding.

Last item -- an adorable tank top!  It is a little big but I think I can work with that:
The link I found online (the pic on the right) is not exactly the same shirt but it is super close (again, about $50).  My terrible picture does not show the intricate overlay lace pattern on the top portion of the tank (mine is an every so slightly different pattern than the one on the web site).  Absolutely gorgeous!  I wish it were a size smaller but I think it would be a good layering piece.

So that was my haul!  For about $50 I think I did pretty decently (.  I am not sure if I will do the next SS because I don't think my luck will hold out.  However, Modcloth is having some great sales right now (50% off 5 different items everyday through Thanksgiving and who knows what they might do for Black Friday).  If you are interested in trying these guys out (and I have personally returned many items with absolutely no problems -- they have fantastic customer service!), click on this link:  (You get a discount, I get a discount -- it is all great!)

So what do you guys think?  Over $300 for five items that I paid around $50 after coupons and a credit I already had -- not bad, I think!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So What is This Thing Called "Stitch Fix"?

A few months ago I got pretty annoyed when I wanted to try this new "subscription box"-like idea called "Stitch Fix."  The web site said that it was for women sized something like 2-14.  Since I am about a 12/14, I figured that I could try it since I was just at the edge of their service (and I am probably at about the edge of their targeted age group -- it looks like their ads are looking for women in their 20's and 30's).  The whole idea behind the web site is that you fill out a style profile and then you are sent five mystery items that you can then choose to buy -- or send back. Anyway, I was told a few months ago -- after filling out their detailed style profile -- that my size was not available and wouldn't be available until November.  I was so disappointed because I wanted to see what I would be sent.  I loved the idea of being exposed to fashion that I might not find on my own.

Well, hello November!  I just got my first box yesterday and I was delighted that it sort of worked!

So here is the whole Stitch Fix game plan:  First you go to the web site and fill out a fairly detailed style profile.  Then, your personal stylist (or a computer perhaps?  Am I being too cynical?) sends you five items that you can try on at home for 3 days.  You keep only the items you want to buy and you send the rest back in the included large envelope that conveniently already has postage.  Here are the other deets:  You pay $20 up front and that $20 comes off your total price if you decide that you want to keep any of the five items (and you don't have to).  If you decide to keep all five, then you can also take 25% off the grand total.  Another cool perk is that the stylist includes some style cards which show you different ways that you can wear each item (and I love getting ideas!).  You can also indicate your spending range and limits but I don't think the stylist did a great job from that perspective (though the clothes she sent were lovely and fabulous quality).

So how did my first Stitch Fix go?  First, my stylist's name is Angie.  I will give Angie credit -- she obviously looked at my style profile and my additional comments because for the most part, all five items were things I liked.  

Item #1:  Daniel Rainn Rosa Floral Lined Pleated Blouse ($68).  Because it is black, I wasn't able to get a great picture but it was cute overall.  I loved the gauzy overlay and the inner layer which was made of some silky material that felt incredibly soft.  However, I hated the elastic waist thingie that hit me mid-stomach and the super loose elastic in the sleeves.  But I liked the overall look but maybe not so much the price.  In the end:  I sent it back

Item #2:  Yumi Regina Belted Geo Print Cowl Neck Dress ($118).  The first of two Yumi dresses that were sent to me, I loved, loved, loved the feel of this dress!  Absolutely gorgeous.  Just not on me.  I don't do cowl necks for a reason -- I think they make my top look too heavy.  But the material on this dress was lovely (did I already mention that?!) and the pattern was something I liked.  In the end:  I sent it back.

Item #3:  Colorworks Annika Drape-Front Layered Knit Shirt ($58).  I was surprised at how well made this cotton top was -- I haven't tried one of these front layered shirts before and I actually like it.  The green of the shirt was brilliant but .... surprisingly enough, the XL that was sent was too big.  In the end:  I sent it back.

Item #4:  Lily Kye Abstract Print Jersey Swing Skirt ($78).  If this skirt had been cheaper, I would have kept it!  It was lovely -- again great quality and it went nicely with the green front draped shirt (see above!).  But I can't pay that much for a skirt (especially since I already own at least two black and white patterned skirts).  In the end:  I sent it back.

Item #5:  Yumi Baxter Foil Bird Print Belted Dress ($118):  Bingo!  I loved, loved, loved, loved the pattern!  It is black with a gold foiled bird pattern.  It was just perfect on the length (any shorter and it would have been too short).  Great material to boot! Yes, the dress is more than I usually spend but (1) the quality was beautiful and (2) I have a special event coming up soon that I needed a dress for anyway!  In the end:  I kept it!

So the idea is that each time you do a Stitch Fix, your stylist should be getting closer and closer to finding items that are in your style range (or maybe you even discover something that you would never have tried on if left to your own devices).  I showed all of these to Jim, by the way, and he thought everything was "OK" (though he wasn't lovin' the cowl neck dress either!) but I would love to find something that would knock his socks off!  For the record, these items were a little high priced for me though the quality was absolutely amazing.  Here is the bill that comes with the shipment:

There was no way I was spending that much on these five items!  But, thank goodness, you can send them all back!  (it is worth it to buy one item since you lose the $20 you put up pre-shipment if you end up passing on everything).  I would love to get some lower-priced jewelry like I have seen in other Stitch Fix reviews so I made a note about that when I went online to comment on my shipment (you let the folks at Stitch Fix know what items you are keeping and exactly why you are sending other items back).  So if you like the idea of being exposed to new brands and styles, then this is a great idea!  Here is the link again if you are interested in trying it out:

Monday, November 4, 2013

"I Am Bored With Your Writing Assignments"

Sometimes teaching is hard.  Super hard.  Hard as in "I want to beat my head against a wall" hard.  My morning ENG 101 was fun today and reacted positively to an activity I designed on being more precise and descriptive with their language; my afternoon class, however, was hostile and/ or quiet with the exact same activity.  One student even stayed after class to tell me that my writing assignment was boring (and I am pretty sure trying to indicate that the entire class was boring to her).

If you are a teacher, then you might know recognize what I am saying here -- I  think so many of us are truly trying to find that match to ignite some sort of fire in our students' heads/ minds/ souls.  And it is hard when you are working your ass to the bone to evaluate their writing/ essays (something that takes time if it is done well), reread that work when they revise, and then come up with interesting ways of teaching whatever needs to be taught (in the case of this week -- a focus on eliminating unnecessary language and practicing the art of being more precise).  Now for a lot of us, you have to multiply the above by how many classes and students you have in a semester (7 classes for me, approximately 105 students).  If anyone should be a witness to how hard someone like me is working, then it should be our students, right?  (But, of course, they don't "see" how much of my personal life I sacrifice so I can get them back their writing and questions ASAP).

Don't get me wrong.  I have tons of great students who are working their butts off (often while juggling the huge responsibilities of jobs -- many working full time -- along with other classes and families).  I admire those students and will do everything in my power to help them succeed and reach their goals (even if it means writing recommendation letters while I am trying to grab lunch in the few moments between classes).  But I guess it is the students who we know we aren't reaching that makes it hard for me to sleep sometimes.  Like that student who thinks I am boring.  She is super bright and feels, I suspect, that she is too good for the class (and me).  I know that I can't help every person I encounter but I guess I just haven't learned effective ways of dealing with the folks who are openly hostile to me or have to make it clear that they are smarter than me (and no one is saying that they aren't sometimes!).

But I guess I have always taken the approach as a student that I can learn things from teachers, even the ones who I might think are bad.  Heck, one of my worst experiences with a teacher when I was an undergraduate has taught me how to make sure that I provide a better student experience for those coming into my classes.  This professor simply put red marks all over our writing without indicating what those comments actually meant in the first place.  This person would equate grammatical mistakes and typing errors as equally bad as thinking mistakes.  There is no doubt that looking at those old essays I wrote in his class (and, yes, I still have them!) that I still had a lot to learn about writing a decent essay but there were never any encouraging remarks on those essays, just a lot of crossed out words and phrasing that I didn't understand as a student (what in the heck does "awkward phrasing" mean anyway?)  Instead, I want students in my writing classes to focus on the idea stuff first and then we start nit-picking with the language.  And instead of writing"awkward phrasing," I try to be clearer about what the problem might be in any situation.  Looking back (Yikes!  20 years!), I learned a lot from that class even if that professor doesn't get remembered as one of my favorite teachers.

I am sure that everyone -- no matter the situation -- has to deal with difficult people.  I think it's just when you already feel overworked from the pressures coming from students and then the pressures of the other responsibilities in your life, it's hard not to take this kind of stuff personally.  I know that there are tons of students who find me annoying -- and that there are tons of other folks who find me equally annoying.  If anything, I guess it is days like this that remind me that I need to do my best to help my students, no matter how unpopular that might make me.  Teaching is indeed an art -- and sometimes I am just not sure which brush to pick up and brandish.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's a Bird, it's a Plane ... No! It's Dissertation Girl!

The dissertation continues.  I am hoping to defend in January so there is a lot of work to be done before then (graduation in May I hope, hope, hope!)  I have to get the most updated version of all my chapters back to Dr M by November 5 which is doable.  I am pretty much finished with the whole thing but I need to play around with the introduction and conclusion a bit and make sure that my Works Cited page is completely reflecting all of the most current updates (which I am pretty sure that it isn't at the moment).  Right now this weekend has only a few things on the calendar -- one 5K on Saturday night and cheering on some friends who are half-marathoning and marathoning on Sunday morning.  I still have my volunteer job on Sunday morning but that still gives me Friday evening, Saturday during the day, and good chunk of Sunday.  Oh, and I have a pile of essays coming in on Friday.  But I can do it!  Dissertation Girl will power through!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Dilemma

Want a peek inside my head? -- well, one of the issues on my mind right now is the question of applying for a new teaching position.  I am almost sorry that I saw the posting in the first place because now all I can think about is whether I should try applying for the job (or not).  The job is at a nearby university and is a FT, tenured position, just like the type of job that I have right now.

It is not that I am "unhappy" with my present job (I love, love, love the students I work with -- and the fabulous people on my campus who are all so dedicated to helping students succeed) but ... I think I am up for a new challenge (and  maybe the fact that I feel so "not sure" about this opportunity reflects that I am not content where I am).  Like many folks who work on an "outer" campus, I don't get to see colleagues much and this results in not getting many opportunities to help shape and mold our department as a whole.  If you know me, then you surely know that I have tons of energy and I love using that enthusiasm and passion for helping -- sorry if this sounds cheesy -- to make the world a better place.

But then there are the cons, of course, to consider -- you never know if the new place is "worse" than the old place.  What happens if the department over there is filled with folks (faculty and staff) who are not dedicated like the great people here?  What about seniority? (I have been on my campus/ school for almost 14 years)  Could I succeed at another tenure process?  What if the job is harder and I can't handle it?  What happens if I screw up?  Maybe I am not cut out to work at a university and help create and coordinate a program?  Do I have enough knowledge to do this?  What would happen if this new place would "close" and then I am out of a FT job?  What if I regret leaving?

A wise co-worker just told me yesterday that I need to understand that I have two DIFFERENT questions here -- (1) Should I apply for a new position?  (2) Should I take the position if it is offered to me?  This is true -- I am already thinking ahead about something that may potentially not happen (FYI:  My present position was obtained after experiencing one FT interview so I guess I was wondering if that will remain my track record?)  And I am not 100% convinced that this should happen.  So bear with me for a moment while I think about weighing both sides ...


  • I would not have to move.  This school is just down the road from my present school.
  • I would be able to help shape a new Basic Writing Program (so lots of the kind of "stuff" that I don't get right now)
  • I would get the chance to possibly teach a graduate seminar in composition studies.
  • A new campus situation could equal = an actual office (not a cubicle) or even access to a gym (and it might be quieter as my present office is impacted by the karaoke and other student activities going on in the Commons right next door to me).
  • Change is good; it keeps us alive.


  • I love my present job.
  • This new job might include a paycheck with less money
  • I "know" my job here and have been doing it for 14 years.
  • I have seniority (tenure)
  • Jim and I have been thinking about moving far, far away.
  • I am a big chicken.

So there you go (and technically, if you are keeping count, that are more cons than pros!) -- I am beginning to think that applying might be a good thing to do regardless.  I haven't been out on the job market for a long time and it might be interesting to see if I get a nibble.  If I commit to applying for the position, I would need to use some time and energy to get my application packet together (and this, of course, is a resource in limited supply!).  These folks are asking for a teaching philosophy statement and this is something I haven't put together in awhile.

So any thoughts?  What would you do?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Some Advice from Alice Hoffman

So I have no idea what is going on recently.  I just can't seem to get myself to write.  I know that I am busy but I am busy every semester -- lots of students, lots of essays, and lots of things that just have to be done.  This semester I am teaching a night class on Monday nights that goes from 7:00 - 9:50 PM and I know that this one class is seriously kicking my butt.  It is not just the late time slot - it is also just a combination of me being tired from teaching and working all day to interacting with folks who have had similar (if not worse) days.  I just can't seem to get the class at the point where the class is both fun and serious.

So I need to remember to write, something that gets lost in the midst of teaching and just living life.  I am also not reading as much as I usually do and that definitely needs to change.  A few weeks ago, I walked across the street to Left Bank Books (the fabulous independent bookstore across the street) and discovered that Alice Hoffman (one of my favorite contemporary writers) had written a new book called Survival Lessons.  Apparently, she had breast cancer about 15 years ago and she just now compiled some of her thoughts on being a "survivor."  Not only was this an "easy read" (at about 83 pages), but each section of the book had one of those little "aha" moments for me.  So perhaps this would be a good "bridge" in getting back to writing!

First, Hoffman starts by establishing this super cool reminder about how bad events are "important" in your life: "There were many times when I forgot about roses and starry nights.  I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other.  This is what makes us human" (vii).  This is obviously a pretty simple thing to say but I think this helps me better grasp the whole "why me?" mentality when I am feeling down (whether I am bummed about my body and breast cancer or I am bummed about my job).  She ends this chapter with the saying, "There is always a before and an after.  My advice, travel light.  Choose only what you need most to see you through."  Hmmm ... Perhaps this resonated with me because I am probably carrying too much crap in my life (the abstract luggage like "Can I do this?" or "Am I a bad person?")

In a nut shell, there were some many tiny pieces of advice that Hoffman suggested throughout the book to folks who want to "survive" (whether it is post breast cancer or pretty much any other traumatic life event) - here are just a few more that I liked:

"Make time for old friends" (page 20)

I need to do this more!  I have been so blessed to have amazing people in my life.  I know that I love it when I get a surprise card in the mail from an old friend.  I need to work better at being this kind of friend to all the wonderful people in my life.  How in the world did I get so darn lucky?

"When you help others, your own troubles aren't as heavy" (page 45)

I volunteer every week at Hope but I want to do more.  Hoffman is right when she says that we feel better by helping other people.  Even when I am working with a student and that "aha" moment happens, it is a joyous moment for me just as much as it is for the student.  I need to concentrate on the feeling, especially when I am feeling like I am not making a difference.

"Don't worry about wasting [time].  It belongs to you" (page 59)

It does, doesn't it?  I have lived with this Protestant work ethic my entire life that makes me feel guilty for doing nothing.  You know what I mean -- just vegging on the couch and practicing the whole art of doing nothing.  But that is so hard to do!  But I need to get over that.  Sometimes doing nothing is the most productive thing that you can do.

"People say no man on his deathbed ever said he wished he had spent more time at the office.  I disagree ... When your work brings you joy, you cannot get enough of it. .... If you don't feel this way about your current work, take the time to make something beautiful" (page 63)

I am not 100% happy in my job anymore.  I am not sure what it is -- I know that I am yearning for new challenges though I am not sure what those new challenges are or need to be.  Maybe I need to apply for that opening at SIU -- it would mean a HUGE change but maybe change is something I need right now.  But, then again, what if it's a mistake?  What if you are just being tested to determine if where you are at right now is where you should be?

"If you can forgive someone, I highly recommend that you do.  It will be like losing twenty pounds.  Maybe even two hundred and twenty pounds" (page 70).

Forgiving is not easy.  But it is an action that I have control over (especially since I haven't figured out how that whole mind control over other people think works yet!).  So I need to do it often and not carry the burden of feeling hurt and/ or angry.

Hoffman has wise words here.  Simple, but they hit the mark of something that I have been feeling myself and haven't been able to articulate.  So I am going to take stumbling on her new book to be a good thing, even maybe something like a karma-like moment!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Quick Review of the 2013 Millstadt Biathlon

So back in 2011, I did the Millstadt Biathlon (in Millstadt, Illinois, about 30 minutes from downtown St Louis) in pouring down rain but ended up meeting Melissa, who has become a much appreciated triathlon buddy and friend.  Boy, could I have used her today as I returned to this course!

Race Details:  This event starts with a 5 mile run and then goes on to an approximate 22 mile "rolling hills" course (lesson learned -- pay attention to any race course that includes "rolling hills"!  These folks are saying something!)  The race starts at 8 AM and has a pretty informal transition area (in the sense that there don't seem to be any "rules" -- your loved ones can stand right next to you and your racked bike).  If you can't tell from the picture below, I was the first person there (I figured I need to get better at being earlier like my triathlon friend Bill -- and it was nice to set up, stretch, hit the restrooms, figure out the course, and finish my coffee -- before heading over to the start line!)

Weather:  This part was perfect (low 70's I think with a clear blue sky!) -- it couldn't have been any better (in the same way that the 2011 event couldn't have had even worse weather!).  I didn't feel the wind until the bike course started -- and then it would just smack you in the face as you were trying to speed through open fields.  Not fun.  But -- no complaints!  Again, at least it wasn't raining!

Run Course:  Today this was my favorite part -- I am not in the best of shape right now but I actually beat my 52:19 time from 2011 by 19 seconds!  I came in at 52:00 minutes exactly and I am pretty sure that the last two miles were fast for me.  I got my mojo and just pushed on the gas pedal (and many thanks need to go to Billy Joel's "Pressure" for getting me up that last major hill!).

Bike Course:  Or as another way of putting it would go, "the hour and half when I thought I was gonna die!"  I knew doing this before that this was a tough course but I think last time I was so focused on making sure I didn't fall (the roads were slick from the rain) that I don't remember the bike course being that long.  Or hilly.  It felt super long today.  To boot, I didn't prep well in terms of nutrition and somehow I managed to bring only one water bottle (which was dry about 1/2 through the course).  I bonked and it was a pretty major bonk.  I really wasn't sure if I would be able to finish (especially since I was having some problems with low pressure in my back wheel).  But about five miles out, I just pushed harder and probably made up for some of the lost time from before.  I must have been going fairly fast because I passed about 10 bikes on the way in and I think each one just made me go a little faster!

Race Organization:  Perfect!  There were volunteers everywhere and police officers on all the major intersections.  Absolutely no complaints for the folks behind this race -- they did a fabulous job!  (but maybe they could have cut out some of those hills on the course?!)  You get a bright neon long sleeved shirt for this race but I was more excited about the recyclable grocery bag!

Will I do this one again?  You betcha!  My 2011 overall time was 2:16:17 (52 minutes on run and 1 hour 23 minutes on the bike).  This year my official time was 2:27:41 (a 52 minute run and an hour and 25 minutes on the bike).  Next year?  a 50 minute run and one hour and fifteen minutes on the bike!)  But I will do more hills.  Lots of them!