Category Archives: Grad School

Coming Up For Air

In between running to church, getting my car washed, helping DD2 make a strawberry tart from a Renaissance-era recipe, fielding an impromptu visit from my mother-in-law, and advising DD1 on packing for China, I finished a take-home final from my latest doctoral class.  I wish I could say I handled it all with aplomb.  I’m afraid Adventure Guy might disagree considering I snapped at him for interrupting my writing after he’d asked me a couple of questions in a row this afternoon.  In my defense, he’d been gone most of the day running a marathon and leaving me to take care of all of the above activities.  In his defense, he just asked a couple of questions.

I enjoyed my recent stay in Houston–room service and all.  The conference I attended provided a lot of useful information, the opportunity to enjoy some time with my sister and her family, a trip to my favorite Mexican restaurant, and plenty of warmth and glimpses of newly planted spring flowers.  It gave me hope that winter would end soon in Suburbia as well.

Unfortunately, winter wind accompanied by rain greeted me when I landed at home on Thursday afternoon.  I rushed from the airport to that evening’s class, which didn’t end until almost ten that night.  We’re still making up time from our missed weekends during the snowstorm.  Time and plenty of assignments.  This semester’s compressed schedule seems even more difficult than usual–especially since I’m scheduled to start my next class this Thursday.  Typically we have a bit of a break in between courses, but that luxury is not to be had this time around thanks to Spring Break and an extended schedule for this second class–our first research class in the program.

 My schedule at work doesn’t let up between now and the second week of March.  No pun intended, but it’s like a forced march right up until the beginning of Spring Break.  I can’t tell you how much I”m looking forward both to a few slow days in the office that week as well as the last couple of days I plan to take as vacation.

I just need to figure out the best way to get through the time between now and then.

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Filed under Grad School, Life in General, Marriage

Dreaming Of A White Thursday

Winter Sledding Fun

Image by unifiedphoto via Flickr

Right on cue, the text came in at 3:00 p.m.  DD2, freshly home from school, asked the big question, “Do you think we’ll have school tomorrow?” My children continue to believe that I am either psychic or lying about the fact that I have little say in whether a much-coveted snow day comes to fruition.

Here’s the drill.  We all watch the news and listen to the predictions of the coming “snowpocalypse.”  Then, unless the road conditions deteriorate substantially in time for the ten o’clock news and an early closure decision, we all go to bed.  At our house, I pray for low snow accumulations while my kids in turn petition for a good layer of ice followed by lots of fluffy white stuff.  Ironically, this time I’m hoping for good weather so that I can go to school.  My next doctoral class starts tomorrow night, and a cancellation typically means some sort of makeup assignment as well as the hassle of trying to reschedule a class in our condensed schedule.

While we dream of our respective best case scenarios, the beleaguered transportation director takes a bus out around 4:00 a.m. to test out bridges and hills around the district.  He talks to transportation people in nearby districts to find out their plans. Then, in a step that makes me thankful transportation falls nowhere in my job description, he then calls my colleague, the other assistant superintendent, and reports his findings.  I learn of this decision in one of two ways.  If the children get their wish, I awake to a ringing phone sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m.  I stumble to the kitchen and call the principals who report to me.  We activate the notification system.  Alternatively, my alarm rings as usual, and I awake to three very disappointed children.

Either way, I go to work, granted with the added bonus of a jeans day if the district calls off school. A combination of my kids ages and Adventure Guy’s predominantly work-from-home status makes these days much less stress-inducing than in the earlier years of my career.

If the weather reports prove accurate, I expect the children will awake happy tomorrow.  I braved the grocery store crowds tonight, insuring my pantry is well-stocked with bread and my refrigerator with milk.  There is hot chocolate, soup, and fixings for grilled cheese sandwiches.  I even splurged on some of the dangerously addictive soft sugar cookies I love and purchased refills for our M & M candy dish.

In an ideal world, the kids will get to enjoy the fruit of my shopping labors thanks to the challenges of navigating school buses on ice but my university will deem car travel not an issue. I’ll let you know if that dream comes true.

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Since I’ve Been Gone

I looked up and realized I’ve just spent the last nine hours working on my lit review for a class I’m taking this semester.  It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re reading about something as exciting as strategic planning. 

Well, not really.  But I’ve procrastinated about as long as I possibly can without risking a missed due date for this assignment.  Ironically, part of what I’ve been doing instead of writing a lit review about strategic planning is actually organizing a major strategic planning event for All-American Public Schools.  The good news is that another part of this course involves writing a paper on applying the research, so I have a head start on that. 

My other methods of procrastination have been a bit more fun.  DD2 and I kicked off the weekend with a Friday expedition to the mall.  I continue to be so impressed with DD2’s sense of style and her eye for color and proportion.  If I were brave enough to post pictures of myself at thirteen the fact that she did not inherit those traits from me would become clear.  But, I have refined my own skills over time, which led to both DD2 and me leaving the mall with wardrobes a few items richer.  She found the elusive denim capris and shorts that are age appropriate for a teen who still wears children’s sizes, and I found a great skirt (on sale, no less) and cardigan that will work both for Easter and the office. 

We arrived home in time for Adventure Guy and me to head over to a nearby restaurant for dinner on our own.  We nabbed a place in the bar to avoid the wait and soon found ourselves watching March Madness games over fajitas and our favorite martinis.  We even managed to cement our place in the world of geeks by playing Words With Friends on our iPhones while waiting for dessert (cheesecake–yum!).  And, yes, we were playing against each other.

Saturday flew by, and without a post, though I’d planned to work that in. Thanks to the dogs waking me up,  I followed through with my plans to try out a new class at the gym.  It’s a mixed dance methods class which incorporates Latin, Hip Hop, and Middle Eastern styles.  I loved it, and the time flew by.  It beat 45 minutes on the treadmill hands down.  The class also immediately precedes Pilates, which makes for a nice combination of cardio and toning.

After the gym, I hit the grocery store to stock up for Saturday night’s party we hosted for our Sunday School class.  We had seven couples get together for game night, and, as usual, the Glorious Mess taco salad recipe was a hit with the group.  Try it out if you have a crowd to feed.

And that brings us to today, which can be summed up by church, laundry (I made 75 cents in the process!), caffeine, and research.  After all that, I think I’m actually ready for Monday.

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Building Community

I first received Peter Block’s Community:  The Structure of Belonging when I spoke a couple of summers ago at a conference sponsored by the GE Foundation.  Upon returning home, I had full intentions of diving into it, but somehow it migrated from my “to read” stack over to my office bookshelf where it sat until the professor in my current Politics in Educational Administration class assigned it as part of our preparatory readings. 

While I understand, I’m supposed to be thinking about building community within All-American Public Schools (and for that matter with the greater community at large), some of what I’m reading resonated with me when I think about virtual community building.

If the essence of community is to create structures for belonging, then we are constantly inviting people who are strangers to us, and to one another, into the circle.  ~Peter Block

When I read that line, I couldn’t help but think back to late 1995 when I spotted an article in The Houston Chronicle about a group of women expecting babies in August of 1996.  They’d signed on to something called a “listserve” and were exchanging emails about their pregnancy experiences.  I found the whole thing quite interesting, considering that I too was due the same month. 

I quickly sent a subscription email to the address listed in the paper and found myself welcomed into a circle of community by people I’d never laid eyes on before, people stretching from across my own city to across the Pacific ocean. Though my August baby is my second child, I learned things I never imagined I would from my interactions with people who thought a little differently than most of my “real life” friends.  And, in recent years–parenting topics aside–they’ve helped keep me sane realizing that I’m not totally alone, living as a “blue” person in a decidedly “red” state.

In the early days of widespread Internet access, I remember the fear that its use would lead to isolation.  I still hear that on occasion, but my own experiences prove otherwise.  Over the course of the last fourteen years, those strangers I reached out to have morphed into some of my closest friends.  The lines between online and real-life blurred further once we began meeting up for annual “reunions”–sharing dinners, shopping trips, museum visits, and hotel rooms.  Yes, with people I met online.  Even that doesn’t seem as strange these days as it did early on in our list’s history, back when I’d just say I was going to meet a “group of friends” rather than adding in the “online” part.

And, though blogging is at once both a more personal and a more public pursuit, isn’t building community what that’s all about too?  I’ve been getting tweets most of the week about the mom2.0 summit in Houston, and, of course, we hear all about Blogher every year.  Those ladies are doing, on a larger scale and sometimes for profit, what the August Moms did back in 1995.  They’re sharing their experiences as mothers, becoming a unit, though sometimes an amorphous one, known as mommy bloggers. 

Though, clearly, I’ve jumped on the blogging bandwagon (as have a number of other August Moms), I haven’t felt a need to label myself a mommy blogger or to seek out participation in those circles.  I find myself looking in on many of the blogs, enjoying the bird’s eye view of other moms’ lives.  But, I haven’t put myself out there to invite participation.  As Block also mentions in his book, reaching out invites not only acceptance but also rejection.

And rejection is hard.  So, I think I’ll continue to be content with my little blog, along with its low traffic, knowing that the invitation it’s sending will be unnoticed by most but accepted by some.  And that the “some” is the most valuable part.

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I’ve Got Class

In the continually evolving world that is my doctoral program, the school has developed yet another class schedule for our weekends.  Now– rather than going to class for two weekends on Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon–we go on Thursday night and all day Saturday for three weekends.  Overall, I much prefer this schedule.  I particularly prefer it when snowstorms cause us to miss a full weekend, and the professor kindly allows us to make up the time via online work.

But, even with the reprieve of a couple of weeks ago, eventually we have to show up and put in some class time.   Eventually came last Thursday night and today.  The topic?  Politics in Educational Administration, something I’m well-versed in on the practical front but enjoying learning a bit more about in the theoretical realm.  It’s also nice that one of the best professors in the program teaches this class and that it’s a good group of students.  If I have to spend nine hours on a Saturday sitting in class, it’s a plus to enjoy it.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t thrilled when 6:00 p.m. rolled around.  And even more thrilled when I walked through the door and found that the cupcake-baking urge had overcome DD2 while I was out.  Adventure Guy arrived shortly after that with dinner, and a couple of cupcakes, some pizza, and a Red Bull martini later, I’m a happy girl!

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I’ve Got A Theory

Ever since I ran off the bus from first grade each day eager to report my triumphs in the race to master both the System 80 program and my arch-nemesis, C.W., more than a bit of my identity has been wrapped up in being “the smart girl.”

And, it’s pretty much worked for me.  Once I did a little studying in educational theory, I realized my learning style suits the traditional format awfully well.  I typically remember what I hear, read, and write down–fabulous for most of the higher-education world and pretty handy for my line of work as well.

The problem?  I haven’t had to apply those skills in a formal way since I finished my master’s work in the spring of 1996.  And now that I need to again, I’m feeling like a bit of the edge I always depended on is gone.  I’m not sure how those thirteen years flew by so quickly, but I feel them weighing heavily as I try to commit all the ins and outs of organizational theory to memory.

Hopefully, I’ve managed it.  By 6:00 o’clock or so tomorrow night, I”ll know for sure.  Wish me luck!

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A New Road

After work today, I went school supply shopping.  I also picked up and dropped off kids at activities, ran by the grocery store, had some dinner, and threw in a load of laundry.  A pretty typical day, right?  And it would have been, if the school supplies were from one of the seemingly endless lists the kids bring home for this or that project.  Instead, the binder, pencil bag, Post-it tabs and brand new spiral, pens, pencils, and highlighters are mine, all mine.

After much delay, I’m going back to school.  Yes, I know, I go to school every day that I show up for work.  But this time, I’m going to be a student for the first time since 1996.  Around that time, having just delivered DD2, I promised Adventure Guy that I would take a break from school.  I’d just earned my masters degree, and he was spending the little free time he had, what with work and a growing family, getting his MBA.  We decided I’d put off pursuing my doctorate until the kids were in school–you know, when it would be easier.

Now suddenly 13 years have flown by and the kids have all been in school for 5 years.  Um, and did I mention that managing them hasn’t gotten any easier.  Or, I guess managing them has gotten easier, but managing their schedules certainly hasn’t. I have to giggle a bit at how naive Adventure Guy and I were when we thought that the most challenging years of parenting would be the infant and toddler years.

So why now?  It’s time.  It’s actually past time, but I’ve been a little busy over the last few years.  The coursework for the program I’m in will take me three years to complete.  Then, I’ll do my dissertation, hopefully finishing that in another year following the end of classes.  It’s hard to imagine that by that time, I’ll have one child  who is a freshman in college, another as a junior in high school, and the third finishing middle school. I want to be sure I manage to graduate before DD1 does!

One down side to this new phase of my life is that it’s likely to cut into my blogging time.  Already, reading an incredibly boring organizational theory text (coupled with my continued lack of a laptop thanks to IT issues) kept me away for most of the week. But I’ll do my best, and I’ll also read as much as possible.  Think good thoughts for me this weekend–it will be  a long one with classes all evening tomorrow, all day Saturday, and all Sunday afternoon!

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