Tag Archives: Dissertation

Blessed: Cleansing. Teaching. Dissertating.

For eleven days now I have been getting up at around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning to run, and for eleven days now I have been eating only meats, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and some fruits and drinking a hell of a lot of tea and water. I am almost halfway through my first real Whole 30 and my first real Run Streak. Yesterday and today I feel almost euphoric. My mood is excellent, my body feels fast and alert, and my intellect seems to be firing rapidly. Yes, it has taken some adjustment to run while also cleansing my body, and I am sure my little cells are probably thinking I’ve gone mad, but the trade offs are worth it. While doing a Whole 30, weighing yourself is frowned upon, but my clothes are fitting so much better, I just had to know. I’ve lost ten pounds in eleven days. Crazy really.

I finally got my new Altras in the mail. I’ve worn them twice for a total of four miles. After those first four miles, I will say I don’t think they’re exceptional. Maybe I just need to get used to them, but they seem heavy compared to my Vibram Five Fingers or my New Balance Minimus. They also seem to constrain my feet in a way that neither of those pairs of shoes do. Maybe it’s just because I am not used to them. I did order them for longer mileage, so maybe on Saturdays when I start doing my longer runs again, I will see the benefits of the cushioning. Right now the taller, though flat, sole is awkward. And, honestly, they are some of the ugliest running shoes I’ve ever seen. Unless, of course, you count Hokas.

I hope I can lose this last 40 pounds, so I can just run “barefoot” all the time!

*

Teaching is going well right now. I have one class that is difficult. They don’t listen, they talk constantly, and several of them are just straight up disrespectful. Working at a school like Burris has caused me to forget about how to deal with students like that. There are so few seriously disrespectful students there, that when I have one, it’s as if I lose my damn mind and forget how to deal with it. There are some students in there who want to learn. There are so few that I had almost written off the entire class, until I saw a quote on a friend’s Facebook wall. The quote said, “When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God” (Charles Allen). As soon as I read it, I realized that was my problem. I had given up hope, which is something I had always promised myself I wouldn’t do in education. No matter how difficult some students can be, losing hope really does nothing except make the situation worse. I spent yesterday asking myself, How can you motivate these students? How can you be someone who challenges them into making something of themselves, whatever that may be? Who are you to slam the door in the face of God? Yesterday was pretty humbling for me, and I hope I can continue to follow hope and, above all, to give grace.

I will confess that I am struggling to keep up with all of the paperwork that I have to keep for the State of Indiana. I have to keep several binders worth of papers from parent communication to extra-curricular activities to data to blah blah blah in order to prove that I am actually doing my job. What I think is totally absurd about the paperwork is that (1) there goes a hell of a lot of trees, (2) anyone who knows me knows I go above and beyond both in the classroom and out, and (3) I feel as if I spend some of the time I used to spend on planning and grading (you know, being effective) on pushing paper around on my desk and into binders. I’m literally making myself less effective to prove how effective I am. Grrr.

*

With all of the blessed craziness with paperwork for school, I am still finding time to work on my dissertation almost every morning. I have read a lot of new information about food, foodways, cutlural understandings of food, commodification, exchanges, and various other related topics. I’ve read Paradise, Bastard Out of Carolina, and The Antelope Wife to start with, and I think those my be my three different chapters. Paradise will be the basis for a chapter about the Eucharistic food exchange, Bastard Out of Carolina will the basis for commodified food exchange, and The Antelope Wife will be the basis for the third chapter about proper food exchange. The overarching idea is consumption of the Other and how people exchange food for identity, sex, and spirituality. Those are the foggy bits of how this dissertation is going to go down.

Tomorrow is my first writing instead of researching day, and I am pretty nervous about it. I’m not sure why, but I get paranoid when I am required to put my fingers to the keyboard, instead of putting my pen to the page to take notes. I know what I see happening in these novels, but I always get nervous that I won’t be able to prove it well enough or write about in a way that others can understand. I have to take a step back and remind myself that I write every day. People understand what I write every day. I can do this.

*

I do have to say that I am blessed with many friends. I am blessed with a good body and a good mind. I am blessed with a loving family and an amazing partner. I am blessed with a job and a home and food to eat. Simply put, I am blessed.

New Beginning(s): “This is the first day of the rest of your life . . . “

I feel like I am constantly starting over. Personally, starting over feels good to me, and I wake up nearly every day with the bridge of one of my favorite songs stuck in my head: “This is the first day of the rest of your life.” Sometimes, though, I think this might get draining for my friends. I think they sit around thinking, What is she going to try to do this time, and how long will it last? You know, I think the same thing. But instead of feeling like a flake or feeling defeated by my inability to “stick to it,” I feel invigorated by it. This may be wishful thinking, but I think starting new again and again and looking at every day as the first day of the rest of my life is actually a very healthy place for me to be in. I never get stuck in a rut, unless it is a rut of starting over. This constant change of focus, however, might mean that I never really finish what I start, which is a signal or indicator of failure in American culture that places so much emphasis on the completion of tasks, even at the face of incredible boredom or monotony. I, however, vow that each day is the first day of the rest of my life, and I retain the right to change my mind and to act out those changes in my little corner of the world.

How will this work out, you ask, in the facets of my life I hold most dear? Well, Friend, here’s today’s new and improved me (with a smattering of the old me for good measure, and a touch of the same old topics being knocked around again).

Anyone who’s read this blog before knows that one of my largest areas of struggle is spirituality. I reason with my analytical self and contemplate inside my mystic self, I wrestle with the (many understandings of) the Judeo-Christian God and, lately, I’ve been conversing with Buddhism. I’m also looking for ways intentionally fit in some meditation and prayer throughout my day. Providentially, I happened upon the Daily Examen, which is an Ignatian practice. I think this short simple prayer exercise will complement the other meditation I have started, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment,” which I read about in Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thay, as his students call him, seems to be onto something that resonates inside of me when he compares mindfulness and meditation to the presence of the Holy Spirit and prayer. Never does he claim that they are one and the same, but he carefully describes the ways in which they can exist side-by-side to bring a further understanding of ourselves in line with a further understanding of the world and its spiritual realm. His writing is so beautiful and his spirit so kind and peaceful, it makes me want to visit Plum Village. I’m thinking about going there next summer if I can find the funding. I need a bit of renewed-ness in my life. Summer seems pretty far away, but I know it will be here before I know it.

Looking toward summer probably isn’t what a teacher should be doing while she sits at her desk spending time on personal writing before beginning to plan two first, six-week units for classes, but it’s what I am doing, and it’s necessary and good work, and looking toward summer is natural for me. However, the school year is here and brings with it many, many changes to our school. Most important to me is the change that enabled me to move to the high school. I am very sad to leave my middle school students and some of my middle school colleagues, but I am excited to embark on a new journey, “This is the first day . . ..” This year I am teaching two sections of British literature, which is new for me. I never imagined I’d teach British literature. I never thought I’d want to, but it’s part of the bargain of moving up to high school. I’m finding that I really enjoy planning for the class and thinking about something new and different to me. I’m also enjoying three sections of American literature, which is, of course, why I made the decision to move to high school. I love American literature. I love everything about it, and now I can restructure the course into thematic units and teach it in a more holistic, well-rounded way, giving more voice to those groups which are currently under-represented. At Burris, we’ve always taught it chronologically by literary movements, which is entirely the easiest way to teach it when two teachers are sharing the classes. However, it’s my own gig now, and I plan to switch things up for next year. This year, because I only have two preps and because we’ve been released from many of our committee requirements, I feel like I can squeeze in a few things that I thought might get squeezed out of my life.

One of the things I’m putting back into my life is my dissertation. This, I think, might be the thing that makes me seem the most flakey. To most, it likely seems that I don’t know what I am doing and I’m flighty and not very serious about this piece of my education, but I am. Very. Serious. I want to finish my PhD, but I don’t want my ideas, my paper, my writing to suck. I don’t want to be subpar, and that’s where I was headed. I’ve taken an entire summer off, rested, and refocused, and I am ready now to a superstar! (That was a little too much, eh?) At any rate, I have a plan this time, and it might actually work. I plan to get up and get to school by 5:30 every morning, giving myself two hours to work on my dissertation every day before school starts. My mind is the freshest at this time of day, and theoretical concepts make the most sense before I’ve intermingled with my students. I’m not a morning person in the way of being with people that early, but I can surely write and read before the chaos of the day clutters my brain. I have two hours of prep time to get things ready for classes throughout the day, and our lesson plans are due on Monday by 4PM anyway. I am really excited about this prospect, and now I can’t, simply can’t, fall on my face, or I will look like a real tool.

I’m also going to start taking piano lessons every other Friday, and, as of now, I’m a little nervous about that bit of exploration and learning!

What does this do for my swimming and running, my athletic endeavors, you might wonder. I’m canceling the rest of the races I had planned for this year, in favor of being a bit more low-key and doing some 5Ks as they come up. I’ve decided to put a hold on my morning swims. It’s going to be two school years of sacrifice, and then I can swim again. I doubt I’ll forget in that time. As far as biking goes, the season is almost over for it, and I don’t plan to bike on my trainer until spring. Until it is over, though, I plan to go on long rides on Saturday with Bec, and I ride my bike to school every day anyway. In order to sort of rein in my extra energy and balance my moods, I plan to combine the prayer and mediation I mentioned above with an evening run to wind down from and reconsider my day. It’s my goal, Monday through Thursday, to walk over to the lookout by Minnetrista and do the smiling and mindful meditation, then run two miles. When I return to the overlook, I will then complete the daily examen and walk home. There is no reason that I can’t have an hour to myself to be contemplative before going home to cook.

I plan to continue to cook delicious—I’d even say gourmet (sometimes)—paleo meals. We feel better and look better in just the nine months we’ve been eating grain-free. I hope to keep it that way. Also, my brother and I want to eventually open a paleo gastro pub with our own home-brewed hard ciders. We’re going to start brewing the ciders this fall, I think, and we’re hoping to make some pear cider next fall. One thing we both love is trying new foods and drinks, so I think it’s a bonus that we found paleo eating when did!

Cheers! (Raising a hard cider): here’s to starting over. Here’s to rethinking. Here’s to new beginnings. Here’s to exploration, and growth. Here’s to future hopes, past failures and success, and present moments to savor. Here’s to “the first day of the rest of your life. Even in the darkness you can still see the light.”

Dissertation. Paleo & Exercise.

As much as I’d love to go around telling each person who has meant anything to me in the process of trying to earn my PhD the following information, I can’t. There are too many of you, so I am writing it here hoping some people actually read these things  and hoping you will not feel betrayed that I am not telling you to your face.

I have made the decision to quit and not finish my dissertation. I am not going to complete my PhD. I am totally and completely okay with my decision. I have not fallen off the academic wagon, and I still feel like I can be a valuable part of the academic community. I am simply choosing to focus on teaching my beloved middle school and high school students, instead of splitting myself between my two loves. I still plan to write and research, but my interest will likely switch from literature and literary theory to literature and teaching literature. Of course, theory will still be a part of that process, but so will pedagogy, methodology, pragmatics, and all of those educational tidbits I’ve been ignoring in my research.

*

I realize I’ve changed my life by eating paleo, and I feel like shit when I eat wheat and corn, so I wonder to myself, “Why is it that you still insist on eating things that make you feel like shit?” There are two pretty obvious reasons: they taste good, and that’s what’s available. I am sure there are other not so obvious reasons, too. On Thursday, at Thirsty Thursday, I decided I had a hankering for a corn dog. Savage’s has corn dogs, so I ate one, and when I woke up the next morning, my belly was bloated, my tongue was swollen and my mouth was on fire. Think there might be an allergy there? I felt horrible, so I decided then and there that non-paleo (or primal if I’m feeling more lax) foods will not be going into my body anymore, no matter how appealing they sound, nor how readily available they are.

In addition to just (sort of) eating whatever I want, I haven’t been exercising the way I want to (or need to). I’ve been sleeping in, instead of going swimming and running. I’ve been couching, instead of going for bike rides or walking the dogs. I’ve been doing pretty much everything to avoid the exercise schedule I’ve created for myself. Because of this neglect, I’ve had to drop out of the Flying Pig half-marathon that’s happening in two weeks. I still have my entry, so I suppose if I feel like it that day, I could head over and make the attempt. I’m pretty sure I could do 16-minute miles for 13.1 miles. Maybe not. Anyway, I haven’t been where I need to be, and as per usual, I decided to “exercise punish” myself. I made up a circuit last night. Four reps with a 3 minute vacuuming break (I was doing housework, too. What can I say?):

  1. 10 air squats with the kettlebell
  2. 25 kb swings
  3. 15 bent rows per side with kb
  4. 15 lat rows per side with kb
  5. 15 overhead arm extensions with kb
  6. 15 tricep extensions with medicine ball
  7. 15 per side side to side crunches with mb
  8. 15 heel-tapping oblique crunches
  9. 15 diamond-bent leg crunches with hands overhead
  10. throw the medicine ball up in the air 15 times
  11. slam the medicine ball to the ground from overhead 15

For dinner last night, I made lamb chops marinated in Bell’s Porter (which is technically not paleo, but I didn’t drink it), broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

Yummy.

I slept so well, like a little baby. When my alarm went off at six this morning, I got up and ran 2 miles to Ball Pool, swam 1.5 miles, and then ran the two miles home. I ate eggs, bacon, a banana, and some tea for breakfast, then walked down to the park to take tickets for the ball game. It was freezing, so I came home and took a really hot shower before I ate squash, uncured hot dogs, and tea for lunch. Basically, it’s been a beautiful couple of days. My body is sore, but my spirits are reeling. I am so excited for summer and for what my future holds. I’m Pollyanna-ing all the way.