Friday, November 13, 2015

The Grad School Time Bubble

I loved reading the Harry Potter books when I was a kid. So, I don't know why it came as a surprise to me that I am loving the fantasy fiction world.

Two summers ago when I was driving to Canada and back, I decided that I needed a good long series of books to listen to on my lone journey across the vast western United States. I have crossed paths with a number of nerdy friends in my life, and it seemed as if each had told me to read this series called ... something with time in the title. The circle of time? Or something like that. Oh yeah, the Wheel of Time. I had never even had desire to read them because there are 14 books and they have cover art that looks like this:

and they range from 650 to 1000 pages each. You can see why it was a really hard sell for all my nerds. I was desperate with a summer of more than 60 hours of driving a head of me, I needed something to sustain the trek with me. So, I gave bought the first book and committed myself to probably the longest relationship of my life (if you don't count the characters on Grey's Anatomy).

Now, a year and a half later I have finished the whole series plus a few others. Abashedly, I will list them below:

Wheel of Time series 1-14 (462 hours)
Ruby Red series 1-3 by Kerstin Gier (31 hours)
The Lunar Chronicles 1-3 by Marissa Meyer (44 hours *Not including the latest release this week, I haven't listened to)
Dragonlance Chronicles 1-3 by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (52 Hours)
Mistborn Series 1-5 by Brandon Sanderson (105 hours)
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (27 hours)
Starlight Archive series 1-2 by Brandon Sanderson (94 hours)
The Belgariad series by David Eddings (10 hours **I've only listened to the first one)
______________________Grand total = 825 _________________

In my defense, I listen to them at 1.5x speed so I only literally listened to 550 hours. And over an 18 month period is only 30 hours a month. I feel like this admission is on the verge of impressive but leaning more toward embarrassing.

All of this is a long segway into a perfect analogy I discovered today.

So, in the Mistborn books, there are these people who are born with the ability to transform the metals inside their bodies in order to do super human things. They call it burning a metal. One of the metals that can be burned is called Cadmium, which would produce a time bubble around the person burning the metal. Inside the bubble, time would appear to be moving normally but time has slowed so those outside the bubble are moving so fast it's a blur.

I have decided that grad school is like a time bubble. While you're in it life is this weird slow motion but still normal life and everyone in your life is outside the bubble just moving at these warp speeds achieving all these amazing things.

Because being in college for 10 years really messes with a person's psyche. Living on ramen, ddp, doing homework, and never knowing what your schedule will be semester to semester does not lend to feeling like an adult.

My hope is that when I get done with school and get an adult job, the time bubble will go away and maybe I'll even end up at my dream job.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Papa Smurf..As He is Called in my Phone

Earlier this week, I woke up to the sound of lawn equipment outside my bedroom window. My thoughts instantly went to my dad. For my entire life my dad has done the lawn. He loves the bit of yard they have and takes pride in cultivating it.

While my dad is a public school teacher, he also does lawns on the side. In fact, for my childhood he had his own lawn business "Green Akers" before he went back to school to become a teacher. This has had an effect on me and my life in so many ways.

I know this is nerdy, but bear with me...I have been studying a theory called attachment theory quite a bit this semester. The gist of it assumes that the way a baby's  primary caregiver attends to them will ultimately lead the child to develop an understanding of self and others within interpersonal relationships. The child could end up secure, avoidant, or ambivalent and this attachment style could follow the child into future romantic relationships. While doing all this research I would try and remember pieces about my childhood and my "caregiver." As it turns out, my dad is in most of my early memories. My mom worked early and since my dad was an self employed, he would get us up and ready in the morning.

I have memories of him splashing (probably sprinkling) water on my face when I would refuse to get up in the morning. I can see like it was yesterday, him sitting at the table with us eating cereal, making a Donald Duck sneeze which projected his rolly chair across the kitchen. I remember going with him to the store when my sister was sick to get pedialyte and then watched as he rocked her to sleep. And how on Thursdays, he would pick me and my brothers up from elementary school so we wouldn't have to take the bus home but my first grade brain mixed up Thursday for Tuesday and I ended up waiting for hours for him but I knew he'd come. I loved it when he'd let me go with him when he was running an errand so we could just talk. I have so many memories of him taking care of me, and love him so much for it.

Soon, after first grade my dad got his teaching degree and started teaching full time. He is an amazing teacher and can understand 2nd graders (and most children for that matter) on a level I'll never know. He was teaching school full time, doing lawns on the side, helping to rise 4 children, and then he decided to get a masters degree while continuing to do all those things. I don't know how he did it. When I was getting my masters I didn't have a family or even a job outside of working for the school.

My dad also taught us how to work and he taught his daughters how to become strong women who could do any thing they put their minds to. I was really bad (and still am) at doing yard work, but whenever I need or wanted some extra money, he always lets me go do lawns with him. So, not only did we see him work hard but he let us learn how to work for the things we want and have.

Oh, and we love to travel together. As an adult there are tons of adventures we've gone on. He went to Idaho to help me find a place to live when I thought I was going to go to school there. We spent 10 days in Australia and New Zealand. We went to Chicago and saw a Cubs vs Diamondbacks game at Wrigley field. We went to Disney World, and he went on the Hollywood tower of terror with me (even though he'd had neck surgery earlier that year). He went to New York with a me and my brother and a group of teenagers. He drove cross country with me when I worked in Virginia. I went with just him and my mom to Disney land a few years ago. And most recently, I dragged him to Tucson to help me move into my new house.

All of this to say, that I love my dad. When I lived with my parents it would drive me crazy to wake up to the lawnmower, blower, or line trimmer at some wretchedly early hour of the morning. But now, anytime I hear lawn equipment it makes me smile and think of my loving dad and all he has done for me.    

Friday, October 16, 2015


I have never done creative writing. I am an all academic writing type girl. However, I wrote this last semester at a time when I was feeling particularly bogged down with life and expectations. Since this semester is progressively more stressful (I like to call it the perfect storm of a semester), I felt like reminding myself that I made it through last semester and can make it through this one too.
I have never been in a situation of possibly drowning, unless you count the times I was held under water while horse playing in the pool with my brothers as a little girl. But, as a consumer of mass media, I can imagine what it would be like to drown.

I would be engulfed by a mass of liquid that is simultaneously strong and consuming while being fluid and illusory. My body would be extended making the length from my fingertips to my tiptoes feel lengths taller than they actually are. I imagine that while my legs and arms are flailing back and forth as fast and often as I physically can make them go, the time will actually be ticking by slower than the laws of physics say are possible. My lungs begin to burn with hatred for this element that has sustained my life for so long but is now betraying me by trying to infiltrate areas it doesn’t belong. Just as my lungs begin to give up on ever being filled with air again, the flailing of my arms and legs pays off and I gasp. I’ve been projected above the surface of the water and my lungs are gasping for as much air as possible. This brief moment of lifesaving air renews my body’s energy to take up the fight with the betraying substance once again. This renewal, however, is promptly followed by a repeat of the struggle with the meek hope of another replenishment of the ever-distant substance of oxygen.

This process of being pulled underwater and struggling to get above water to catch a gasp of air is the same process that I go through as a PhD student. Every day is filled with projects to do, papers to write, articles to read, classes to prepare, research ideas to flush out, and statistical designs to grasp. One on top of the other begins to feels as if each deadline and expectation weighs down, ultimately engulfing me making it impossible for me to reach the surface or even remember that there still is a surface. I don’t know why, possibly just out of wrote or subconscious movements, I keep pushing my way up. Thrashing through the sludge of internal and external expectations and then finally, gasp. With all the odds leading to more stress and less understanding, a moment comes when you’ve hit the surface for a moment and intake the briefest of wonderful breaths. That defying moment comes with a sudden understanding of a difficult concept or even just a positive comment at the bottom of a paper you spent countless hours on. These small gulps of affirmation act as a sense of renewal which encourage a plunge back into the water that is doctoral candidacy.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Text Dead People

A couple days ago, I picked up the phone to text my friend. But he's dead so I couldn't. Instead, a copious amount of tears ensued.

In grad school we wrote a paper together about the change in broadcast news in 1963 when the networks went from 15 to 30 minutes. We had late night pow wow sessions where we talked all about Cronkite, Huntley, and Brinkley. We read books, news paper articles, and watched clips about them. It was such an interesting story to try and insert ourselves into, even just as flies on the wall. We wanted to understand just a little bit of an era that encompassed so much passion.

I started watching the show News Room on Amazon Prime, kind of as my last hurrah of binge watching tv series before classes start on Monday. The opening segment of the first season consist of clips of those same famous, ground breaking news reporters: Cronkite, Huntley, and Brinkley. 

Naturally, I wanted to tell Dave about it. Dammit Dave, why do you have to be dead right now? I just wanted to talk to you. 

A few weeks ago, I went to Utah to visit some friends. Camille was in Utah for a book signing and meeting half way is way better than driving 24 hours to Alberta. It also gave me an excuse to stay with Giulia and geek out on Doctor Who. And, like always, when I'm in Utah I try and catch up with my cohort from my masters program so about half of us meet up for dinner in SLC. 

The main reason I went though, was to visit Dave's grave. I missed his funeral and graveside service because I was in Denmark. I knew though, that Dave's adventurous self would have killed me through whatever unconventional ghostly means necessary if I had come home early from my trip. So I continued globetrotting and made it as soon as I could to pay my respects. 

Part of me knows that he is in a better place, he's not in pain now, he wouldn't want me to be sad... all the cliché phrases you hear and say. But, I am sad. 

Driving around Utah and seeing all the places I'd been to with him made me sad. Seeing the grad lab at school made me sad. Remembering the time he saw me cry made me sad. Watching stupid TV shows and instinctively trying to text him makes me sad. Missing him makes me sad.  
I love you and I miss you Dave

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Yes, I'm still single

I watched Bridget Jones' Diary tonight. I saw many similarities and many differences in our lives. One of each stuck out to me. Her first entry to her last spanned across a years time. In that time, she was still struggling with her weight (similarity) and she had two men fall for her (difference).

After being humiliated for being single and shamelessly getting pushed on people by her mother, Bridget told herself (as she sang along to All by my self) that she was going to change things in her life and not be single the following year. And what would you know, she kept none of her goals and proceeded to have two separate relationships in that given time. I will have you know, that I may or may not have been singing Celine Dion's chorus of depression while making the same vows to myself on more than one occasion. And so far, my real life story has a number of failed attempts at relationships, awkward first kisses, and a more consistent on-again/off-again relationship with Tinder than any man.

So, as I lay in bed waiting for the melatonin to set in and kicking myself for not taking two, I decided to hit up pinterest. I typed "motivation for single women" in the search bar, hoping for... I don't know, motivation? Instead, 90% of the items that came up were things like "6 Exercises for a tighter, sexier butt." And ironically enough, the other 10% were quotes like the following:  

So, the motivation I get is to make myself look better for a man and be independent enough that you don't need a man. A bit of an oxymoron if you ask me. 

First of all, PINTEREST, I go to the gym and worry about my weight for me. So that I am happy with myself and to make myself healthier. Not because I am single and need to look better to attract someone. 

Second of all, I really don't understand the world we live in. It is motivational for a father to tell his young daughter that she doesn't need a man in her life. Which leads her to become capable, educated, and independent. But then society tells capable, educated, and independent women that they are too intimidating to men. And every movie out there with romance in the plot has the girl getting the guy because she needs the guy for something, guy helps, guy feels needed, guy and girl hook up. EVEN THE MOVIES ABOUT SMART GIRLS HAVE THE SAME THING! I mean even aside from movies, you all know (or maybe are the one) guys who end up with a girl not because they were MFEO but because she was needy enough to make him feel special and needed. Less often do you see guys fall for the girl who can change her own light bulbs, walk herself to her car in the dark, and carry her own heavy boxes (even if it requires sliding them across the floor). 

This is not meant to be a bitter diatribe of a single person. I actually find myself thinking I am lucky to be single because the effort of a relationship would be way too much to handle while in school. I guess I wanted Pinterest to lead me to someone's blog who is single and not depressed, but instead happy with life, not bitter toward men, and still looking for love while not being desperate about it. That way I could read their journey and be able to relate to a real life single person. And if there were days this fictional person would get down about her single status she'd share how she got out of it. Or, to share ideas about meeting people and leaving your comfort zone (i.e. your pajamas) every once and awhile. 

Since that is not what I found, I thought you know, why don't I just write something?