Thursday, June 27, 2013

The night before Dissertation-alooza ends!

So this week I have been working my butt off to get Chapter 5 (the all important analysis!) done in terms of revising what I had already written.  I think I am pretty much done with the chapter though I will go through it one more time tomorrow before I ship it off to the fabulous Dr. M.  And that, then, will put to rest the three chapters I needed to focus on before we left on our trip to Scotland (we leave in exactly one week!).  I will meet my goal.  And that feels pretty good!

But I am not 100% done yet (and I am worried that what I have revised still isn't good enough).  I plan to look at the introduction (chapter 1) and the conclusion (chapter 6) a bit next week before we leave and then as soon as we come back, I will power through them and get these last two pieces in better shape (I need to probably make some changes based on the revising I did during the last four weeks of dissertation-alooza!)

The cool think -- and I say this almost timidly! -- is that I can "feel" being almost done.  I hope this is the right kind of intuition because I could be completely wrong.  It's possible that I may not be ready for my defense but ... I feel like I am getting close.  I just hope that it's close close.  Graduating in December is the most important goal in my life right now.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dissertation-alooza, last week!

Last week was not a productive week.  I started the week in the right frame of mind but a bunch of stuff got pushed into the mix in terms of distractions.  The biggest distraction was Stella, the wonder pooch, getting sick but she is almost 100% now so all is well (she had an ear infection and an allergic reaction to something).

But this week will be different!  This morning has already proved that -- I have been hard at work at the last chapter that I have to finish reworking before our trip to Scotland!  So far this whole dissertation-alooza has been successful (I think!).  I am a wee bit nervous that what I reworked in terms of chapter 3 (Methodology) and chapter 4 (Results) isn't great but ... I think it's good enough.  I think.  I can't think about this right now, though, if I am going to plow ahead and finish reworking this last important chapter (next week, I will try and play with the introduction and conclusion before leaving on our trip; however, I will finish the first and the last chapter for sure before school starts in mid-August).

Chapter 5 is analysis -- in other words, in this important chapter I need to tell my readers what I think about the results from my study.  What does this whole project mean?  

Right now I do have a complete chapter.  So it's not like I am writing this whole thing from scratch.  But what I have right now is scattered and all over the place.  As of this moment, based on the little work I did last week and the work I have done today, I know that I have four of the sections edited the way that I think works well:

General Comments
Emotional Responses
Instances of Defensive Writing

I know that starting with an introduction was super important but then I decided to go the route of taking about the general comments first (there are basically three main points that I am making here).  Then, I start talking about the emotional aspects of organizing a themed FYC which then naturally leads to talking about the coding category of defensive writing (since there is an emotional connection).

Which leaves a bunch of other sections that need to be ordered after these first four sections that I noted above.  I am pretty sure that I am going to rearrange what I have left but now I have to figure out what that rearrangement is going to look like.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dissertation-alooza, Week 3

Just a quick check in today -- I am feeling a bit off but I (1) had a tough triathlon on Sunday, (2) had to get up early because of some personal stuff that needed to be taken care of, and (3) I am dragging my butt today.  I worked yesterday afternoon on Chapter 5 (Analysis) and will be focusing on this important chapter the rest of the week.  I promise more tomorrow but I think I need to take a break the rest of today.  I have some morning plans tomorrow (a walk with a friend and yoga) but the afternoon will be devoted to dissertating!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why I am Not Crazy about the Komen 5K

I love Ann over at her blog, "Breast Cancer?  But Doctor ... I Hate Pink!"  Last October, she had this wise thing to say about October being National Breast Awareness Month:

"This is the national month of pink, where everybody runs and jogs and buys items in pink "for the cure.

Do you believe that?  Do you think that buying pink UGG boots, or a pink flashlight, or a can of soup with a pink label, or any of those things on display in stores this month will help anybody like me, who is suffering with cancer?

Do you feel satisfied that if you chose something pink this month that you helped?

Don't be. The only people you are helping when buying any product tagged "awareness" is the company that slapped that label on the product.  Being aware of something does not save lives, and catching breast cancer early does not stop it progressing to Stage IV, as I well know.  Nobody knows why cancer progresses and almost all of us who are now Stage IV were early stage to start with.  Awareness doesn't stop cancer, and the money donated to Koman and their ilk doesn't go towards a cure.

But, you can help.  YOU can save somebody's life, and it's so simple.  How?

Stop.  Think.

Don't buy pink."

I love every word that Ann wrote here.  She followed these words up by encouraging people to connect with the Bone Marrow Registry instead (click here for her entire blog entry on this subject).  I wish I could register (folks who have had cancer cannot) -- this is a great way of helping other people!  It is easy to register!  (I have volunteered at a marrow drive!)

I am posting this because what Ann wrote helps me to articulate my own frustration at the thousands of people coming to my "hood" today for the Komen race here in downtown Saint Louis.  Don't get me wrong -- I get that for a lot of breast cancer survivors that this is an important event to perhaps celebrate overcoming such an awful thing.  I get that.  Really.  But for me, Komen makes me feel a little sad -- and angry.

(Komen 2011)

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2010 after getting my first mammogram ever. I then spent the next 6 months undergoing two lumpectomies, radiation, chemotherapy, and then a hysterectomy (and it is still amazing to me that I did all of that in six months while teaching full time).  In June 2011, six months after completing my treatment, I did in fact raise money for Komen (about $2500) and was one of the top ten individual fund-raisers, my goal.  I wanted to give back to a community that had given me so much (including my life).  Because of the money I raised (thanks to all the wonderful friends and family who supported me), I was able to walk with the banner and lead the Survivor Procession (I didn't see it but I was even on the news I hear!).  

(Yep -- that is me at the end)

And there was, indeed, something empowering in standing with all these women who had been through the same thing that I had.  I liked that part.  But months later, I started reading and researching Komen and realized that this is not the organization for me.  I wish that I had instead raised money for the local organization that helped me so much when I was sick -- the Cancer Support Community (click here!).  This place is awesome!  I got so much emotional support and I know that every dollar there is used to help folks with all kinds of cancer (and supporting the care givers as well).

I know that I need to keep working on not being angry and perhaps my anger at Komen is just a way of redirecting the anger from getting cancer in the first place.  I get that for some women and their famlies something like Komen is a way of "taking back" cancer.  But for me, Komen is just a reminder that money and greed drives a lot of people in this world.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Shakespeare in the Park

One of the great joys of living in Saint Louis is the "Shakespeare in the Park" yearly event.  Hosted by the Shakespeare Festival Saint Louis, a play is chosen each year (usually switching back and forth between comedy and tragedy) and this year's show was Twelfth Night.  Click here for all the information about the play (only 4 more nights left!).  But here is all you need to know -- it's free and it's outside (just across the street from the St Louis Art Museum).   We have been going for the last 5-6 years with our good friends Jim and Chan (and the amazing Odessa!) and my yearly contribution is to get there early so we can get a good spot.  And when I say "get there early," I mean you have to get there early!    If yuou don't, you will not get a very good spot!  Yesterday, I had the blanket down by 1:30 (the show starts at 8:00).  Everyone else started coming at about 4 PM and that is when the real fun started!

(I stole this image from the web site for the show!  These guys were hilarious!)

If you are familiar with Shakespeare, then you know the whole theme of "identity" is a big one in almost every play -- and the same holds true for this play as well.  There are several moments of confusion and deception (and a whole lot of humor!).  I personally loved the character of Viola.  What I found most interesting was that just before her twin brother (who she thinks is dead) pops into the whole scene, Viola (who is disguised as a man, Cesario) is surrounded by pretty much every character in the play  and not one of these people "really" know who Viola is (although some of them think they do).  And isn't that true for a lot of us?  The whole question of others "knowing" us but maybe not?  Well, that's it as far as intellectualism goes!  I am now sure what to do with that observation about Viola but this just proves that I have a difficult time turning my mind off even when I am supposed to be relaxing!

Anyway -- here are some shots from our spot way up in the front!
(Jim chilling with Stella who also came along!)
(Here is a shot of the stage -- see how close we were!  It was at an angle -- maybe to help with the rain since the set is set up outside the whole three weeks of the play's run)
(By the time the show started, there were tons of people there!)
(Some of the pre-show entertainment)
(Chan, Jim, and the amazing Odessa!)

I took a print copy of Chapter 5: Analysis with me to the park as I was waiting for everyone else to show up.  I worked for about an hour (rereading and making notes to myself) and then switched to a novel.  And then I think I fell asleep!  Oh well!  I have the whole weekend to dissertate other than working at the clinic in the morning and then a triathlon on Sunday morning!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Spirit of the Marathon II

No major dissertating yesterday (Wed) -- I spent the day with an hour and half of hot yoga, a long walk with my friend Peggy (and a sunburn to prove it), a meeting on my campus, a quick dinner with Jim, and then showing up at the one night showing of Spirit of the Marathon II.  Here is the trailer for the film!

If you are a runner -- or have aspirations to be a runner -- you can't help but be emotionally affected by a documentary like this (the inspirational music helps, too, of course!).  As someone who has run 18 marathons (and who knows how many shorter races), I feel a surge of pride when I think about what my body has accomplished in the past.  Here is the conversation:  "You go girl!  You have done something super hard 18 times -- how cool is that?"  But my last two marathons were rough -- #17 was done while I was doing radiation and chemo in October 2010 (The Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco) and #18 was about a year later, the inaugural Rock-n-Roll Marathon here in Saint Louis (Oct 2011).  Neither was quick and both were painful.  I think after #18 I decided not to do marathons any longer -- my Plantar issues were making it hard as well.  But to be fair, those two races were hard for obvious reasons.  I only did #17 because I had won the lottery for the Nike Women's Marathon before I was diagnosed with cancer (and I HAD to do it because you get a necklace from Tiffany's and it is given to you by a near naked fireman!).  I managed to make it through that marathon with a time near 6 hours and then for some reason I didn't even train for #18, doing it only because this was the "new" marathon in town and I signed up for it at the last minute.  That was a slow one for me, too.

(Here I am finishing up at one of the old Lewis and Clark Half-Marathons or Marathons pre-2010)

So here it is almost two years after my last marathon.  I have thrown myself into triathlons -- which still scare me but I am loving the sport as a whole!  The one positive about triathlons is that I never did them before cancer so I can't compare the way that my body works now with the way that it used to be.  But ... I think I left something "undone" in terms of marathon goals.  Jim knows that my goal all along was to qualify for Boston.  I got close a few times (4:07 was my best) but I never made it.  According to the new standards (with the old time standards, I needed a 4:00), I would need to get a 3:55 time for women 45-49 (my age group obviously).  I think this is doable if I devote myself to training hard.  So I need to give this a lot of thought.  Is this something that I want to do?  A big part of me is screaming "Yes! Yes!" but I love triathloning now -- and I do have a dissertation that I will be finishing and defending in the next few months.  Maybe this is a post-dissertation goal, something to aim for next year.  If so, then I need to think about where to run in terms of attaining a qualifying goal.

Well, back to working on Chapter 5: Analysis.  Like what happens in a marathon when you get to about mile 22 (at least for me!), I need to push through the hard stuff and think about the finish line!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dissertation-alooza, Day 7

After spending all that time yesterday working on the blog about our vacation, I guess it was only fair that I spent several hours last night working ensuring that my data results were all 100% correct (and switching things around in the original chapter).  I think I am finally in that zone of writing where you work for a few hours and then you are shocked when you see how much time has actually gone by!  So counting my work last night, I am now 70% done with Chapter 4: Results.  I finished the introduction, demographic info from survey 1 and 3, essay 1 description and coding results, and essay 4 description and coding results.  That leaves just some information I gathered from survey 2 and 3 as well as a conclusion for the whole piece.  I have a doc's appointment mid-day today but that is it so I am hoping that I might even get this chapter done by tonight (including reading it through and proofreading).

I am beginning to feel that I might be able to pull this off!  :D

UPDATED at 9:00 PM:  Finished Chapter 4 and now moving on to Chapter 5!  (If I can finish this part in the next week or so, then I will be ahead of schedule and can give some revising "love" to Chapter 1 (Introduction) and Chapter 6 (Conclusion).  :D

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why I am Working Like a Demon to Finish Before July 4

Ugh.  Monday.  Today was not super productive but I ended up working for awhile (yesterday) so I guess I had some free time coming to me!  Chapter Four (the fabulous results chapter!) is coming along; I am hoping to have it done by Thursday so I can get started on the last big chapter that I need to complete before our trip to Scotland at the beginning of July.

And while we are on that subject, how 'bout I hijack this blog for a few minutes so I can tell all you readers on the well-planned (at least I hope!) trip we have devised!  Let's start with a map!  I didn't do a very good job trying here trying to show our overall movements in the country) it was my first time playing around with but this is it in a nut-shell:

July 4: We leave St Louis at 3:30 PM (Chicago and then Manchester, UK)

July 5: We arrive in Manchester, take a train to Glasgow, and then we crash in a hotel for the night (we have already booked a hotel that is -- get this! -- in the Central Train Station and is something like a five star hotel!  Super excited to get pampered after a long day of traveling!)

July 6: Next -- Pick up rental car after first slumber in Scotland.  This might be interesting since we are getting a manual and we have to figure out awfully quickly how to drive on the other side of the road while shitfing with the other hand!).  Later in the day we will be taking a ferry from Kennacraig to Port Ellen (Island of Islay).  We will then be checking in at Octofad B&B.
octofad farm
(Here is a pic of Octofad from their web site --

July 7- July 10:  Imagine all of these days spent visiting the island (where Scottish Gaelic is spoken by about a quarter of the population!) but in particular we will be touring the eight active whiskey distilleries on the island.  According to Jim, these distilleries specialize in whiskey that has a more "peaty" taste -- his favorite! -- so that explains the trip to this specific island!  Though I am not a whiskey drinker myself, I am excited for Jim and I suspect that I will learn a thing or two about whiskey!  Who knows!  I might leave liking the stuff!  And check out the beauty of this island in the picture below!  Amazing!
File:Port nan Gallan, on the Mull of Oa, Isle of Islay - - 92883.jpg

July 11: We depart the island via Port Ellen and Kennacraig and then drive to Fort Augustus (in the Highlands!) and check in at Glen Mor (renovated 19th century abbey).  Click here to for the web site.  
(Check out how fabulous Glen Mor is -- yep!  It's the castle-looking building in the middle!)
(Here is an indoor shot of a common area!)
Abbey Clock Tower with Raven Wing on right
(another outside image!)

July 12-17: Fort Augustus is located at the bottom of Loch Ness and so we will have almost a week to hang out and explore the area.  And Jim's 50th Birthday is on July 17.  I think we will have an amazing dinner at some local place!  I sort of hope it's a rainy day so we can stay in most of the day and snuggle!

July 18: We leave Fort Augustus and drive back to Glasgow, return the rental car, and then jump on a train to Edinburgh.  I am excited about our lodging here because we found a great place on  Sally's place is near Holyrood Park, just a few minutes from the central downtown area.  Here are a few pictures from Sally's house and the spare room that we will be staying in:

(Click here for additional pictures if you would like to see more of our Edinburgh digs!)

July 19-21: A couple of days to tour Edinburgh.  I am super excited because we have already purchased our tickets to see the Royal Yacht Britannia!  (Click here for the web site!)  I am a little bit of a royal family geek (Princess Diana played the piano on this boat!)  And how cool is it that Princess Kate will be having her baby while we are in the UK?

July 22: We need to leave Edinburgh in the morning and jump on train to the Lake District (in England).  We will be going to a town that we first heard about via Rick Steves on PBS -- Keswick.  While we are here, we will be staying at the Brundholme B&B.  Click here for a short segment from his show that tells why it is important to come to the northern section of the Lake District as opposed to the more tourist-y southern part.
(This is the front of the B&B)
July 23-25: Lake District touring -- Just as Jim is excited about whiskey, I am super excited to see all the spots in the area related to the poet Dorothy Wordsworth (oh, yeah, and her brother William).

July 26: Our holiday is almost over.  On this morning, we leave the Lake District and hop on train to Manchester and stay in a hotel room near the airport for one night.

July 27:   Flight back to Saint Louis (via Chicago) in the morning.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The end of Dissertation-alooza, Week One!

Well, I didn't do a ton this morning as I had to take Stella to the vet for her yearly check-up and then I had to reorganize all my notes and dissertation-related articles because I ended up rearranging my office last night (long story but the office area looks much better now, I think!).  And then I had to make a run to this fabulous consignment store Karma over in Glen Carbon, IL, that I sell clothes to every few months and I walked out with $125 and a very cool purple leather bag!  (I know, the point is to leave things there, not take things home! But it was so cute -- and purple is my favorite color -- I couldn't resist!)

So now that Chapter Three has been turned in (and I am hoping that it is decent "enough"!), I am now busily working on Chapter Four:  Results!  There is just one goal for this chapter -- spit out my findings! Tell the world what it is that I discovered!  This should be the easiest chapter to rework -- I am simply presenting my findings in some sort of logical and reasonable way.

I spent this afternoon rereading what I had already written for Chapter Four and actually I don't think that it's that bad.  I need to rework the introduction and conclusion (especially based on the revising that I did of Chapter Three) but a lot of this stuff is already pretty clear cut and to the point.  I did notice that I somehow neglected to talk about my findings of my second survey but I think it was because there wasn't much there in terms of anything interesting to note.  However, I do need to talk about that (ever so briefly!) so I will add that in when I talk about survey three.

So here is my game plan for this next chapter (which I am actually starting a few days early, mind you!)

Survey One and Survey Three:  Demographic Questions
Description of Essay One Assignment
Data Categorizing for Essay One
Description of Essay Four Assignment
Data Categorizing for Essay Four
Survey Two and Three

I should have some time this weekend to work on this chapter -- Jim will be away for awhile tomorrow afternoon so after I come home from my volunteer job at the Hope Clinic, I will be working away!  And then I will follow that up with a day off on Sunday!  :D

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dissertation-alooza, Day Three and Four!

It's odd how this whole writing thing works sometimes.  Yesterday was not so productive but today was super productive.  So productive, in fact, that I am done with revising and redoing Chapter 3, a whole day early!

Alright, I can't be going crazy with opening champagne yet but ... maybe this day earns me at least one cold cider, eh?

Yesterday, I went to my hot yoga class over in Edwardsville and suffered like you wouldn't believe!  I don't get it -- Monday was my first class back in like forever and I didn't struggle nearly as much as I struggled in yesterday's class.  The minute I walked in the door I was hot, hot, hot.  I had to take a resting pose for at least half of the class (I would try to do the first set of a movement but then usually couldn't follow through with the second set).  After the class ended, I went to my friend Peggy's house (she lives close to the yoga studio) and we did a fabulous five mile-ish walk in the trails enjoying the fabulously warm day we had yesterday (and it is easier to exercise, of course, when you are doing it with a friend and talking the whole time!).  But by the time I got home in the afternoon, I had a bunch of errands to take care of, a dinner to pull together, and I basically did very little on the dissertation front.

But today has been the opposite!  I did take a break in the mid-afternoon while I took Stella to the dog park but other than that -- work, work, work.  I think I was on a role.  I managed to thread all the sections together (there is still one rough-ish spot I think) and redo an introduction and conclusion to the chapter. Do I think it is the greatest thing that I have ever written?  No -- but it does feel "good" so maybe that is enough to make it work (I keep thinking that everyone keeps telling me that a done dissertation = good dissertation).  And I can't quite describe it, but there is this tingling of a feeling that maybe I will, indeed, finish this whole thing!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dissertation-alooza, Day 2

Not sure how productive I was today but I did manage to cut and paste from the original document the last two "parts" of my methodology chapter -- "data collection" and "data analysis."  So I think I have all the basic parts into place and now ... I need to rethink the intro and the conclusion to this chapter and then go back through and consider transitions (I am aware that I am making some jumps between things at this point).

My biggest struggle so far, I think, is that sometimes I am not sure how to be more "clinical" (the kind of language that I see in other dissertation examples, especially).  I keep thinking that this is like an academic essay and surely I am not supposed to be so direct and to the point!  Well, I guess that is the whole struggle in a nut shell -- I need to be more direct.  For example, in my data collection section I get that I need to talk about how I collected data (a pretty straight forward idea really) but then I find myself getting tangled up in explaining that process exactly.  And is it normal that I should feel like I am repeating myself about a million times?

Ugh.  I am off to dinner with some fabulous friends in just a bit so I think I am giving up for the day.  Back to work in the early AM (before yoga and a walk with a friend).

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dissertation-alooza, Day One!

And so it begins!

My dissertation writing re-visioning of Lollapalooza is now on stage and ready for the first act!  As you can see, the fans are demanding .... wait for it .... to know my methodology!  I can't leave the fans waiting so I better get crackin' at that revising and writing.

OK.  My attempt at being funny is not working!  But I do have good news!

Today was a good day.  I got up early with Jim, took the dog out for a walk, and then checked email and got my desk in order to start working once I got back from my yoga class.  Yep, I went to yoga before dissertating and that seemed to help a bit.  I had not been to hot yoga (I go to a studio over in Edwardsville) for four months so I knew this morning was going to be a tough class (for those who don't know, this is a pretty physical class in a 95 degree room for 90 minutes).  And it was.  Of course, I had the bad luck to get Jeremy for my first class back (one of the toughest teachers).  But it really wasn't as bad as I had been imagining on the drive there.  Yoga not only helps my back feel better, but it forces me to concentrate on one thing (instead of my head going a million miles a minute).

Once I got home, I grabbed some lunch and got down to business.  Today's goal?  Make more sense out of Chapter 3, the dreaded methodology.  So here was the big problem.  I have a lot of the actual text already written but the parts are not in an order appropriate for a dissertation.  Here is what I need to do: Start with an introduction that talks about my research question, my actual method, and why that method works for this particular research question.  I will then need to follow up with sections on my research setting, participants, data collection, data analysis, and then a conclusion of sorts (go back to my rationale).  Today, I worked on teasing out the research setting.  My take on this is complicated because it is important for me to talk about the community (Granite City), the institution (SWIC), my campus in particular, and FYC at SWIC in general.  If you are keeping count, that is a lot of stuff to manage!

But I think I made some progress (and I am not even done yet since I am still here working, hoping to get a little bit more work done before I give it up for the day).  I basically opened up my original document and then a new document, cutting and pasting the parts that will work for the research setting section.  So I don't repeat, I am highlighting anything I take out of the original text.  Hopefully, this method will keep me organized in terms of what I have used (honestly, at this point, things are starting to sound the same!).

See you all on the flip side!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Storming Like Mad!

So anyone who lives in the Saint Louis area knows that we were hit pretty hard with storms and other "tornadic" activity last night -- and I hate this type of weather.  For our fabulous out-of-town guest, Tanya, she got one last taste of spring weather in the Midwest!  :D  (we don't get crazy weather like this back home in Washington state!)  I don't know if this is true of not, but living in a downtown building, I always feel a wee bit safer.  How many pictures have you seen of utter tornado devastation of a downtown area?  Don't we have all these tall concrete buildings around us slowing down the wind?  It's always the housing suburbs that get hit hard, right?  (and if you do indeed have a picture of this sort of devastation, would you mind not showing it to me?!)

Damage in St. Charles
(a picture I borrowed from showing some of the typical local damage -- this is a road in St Charles County)

Thankfully, I haven't heard any reports of anything bad happening in our area other than trees and a roof or two missing (no major injuries or deaths -- yeah!).  When the storms started up last night (around 6:30 or so), we were on the patio of our building enjoying the fellowship (and food!) of the wonderful folks who live in our building.  It's amazing how quickly city-wide tornado sirens can clear a deck, though!  I have just one more day of "relaxing" before Monday (June 3), the day that I start working like a mad woman.  Tanya flies back to Seattle tonight (so I want to spend the day with her!) and then tomorrow, I need to do a good clean of our place so it won't bug me in the upcoming week (and distract me from dissertating!).

So Monday is D-Day!  I appreciate all the well wishes that folks have left on Facebook -- and this blog -- and I hope that at least a few of you will visit me here every couple of days so that I feel like I will have the camaraderie of some of the fabulous, smart, and encouraging people in my life.  I know you won't be here holding my hand in person (and ghee, wouldn't that make it hard to type?) but it is nice to think that there might be a few of you looking over my shoulder making sure that I stick to the course!  I can do this!