Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How Do You Write a Dissertation?

How do you write a disseration? Seriously. How is it done, step-by-step? I realize that there a just as many possible answers as there are people, and that everybody "has their own style," but this is not helpful to me. I read an article or book and find myself chomping at the bit to start putting something down on paper, but my committee keeps referring to a period in the future when "you're ready to write." Why can't I write now?

Are notes to be taken in the margins of books and articles? On loose-leaf notebook paper? On the pc only? I thought I'd be more prepared for this project having gone through the M.A. thesis process, but this is so much bigger. I simply want to find the most efficient way to do the work.

I'm afraid that if I spend the first year doing nothing but research, I'll forget some of the really important things that I want to say in my writing. Or worse, just forget some really important things. But, it seems like writing while researching could get a bit schizophrenic, with papers and notes left in a variety of places. Sections of chapters left unfinished. Sources that get dropped and forgotten after they're used.

As an organized, label-maker-loving, left-brained, rule follower, I just want someone to write down the rules please! Is this too much to ask? I don't know what "my style" is for dissertation writing because I've never done this before. And this type of project can't simply be compared to a reseach paper or thesis. I feel like there must be a more organized way of approaching both the research and the writing of a dissertation than simply "diving in." Any ideas?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Still thinking about it

Breastfeeding. I'm still thinking about it. There are no special triggers or anything. It's not like I have to see someone breastfeeding or hear about a breastfeeding friend to get the idea back in my head. It's already there. I thought about it two days ago as my baby turned 3 months old. I remembered all the relactation articles claiming that as a particular point at which hormone levels drop dramatically, thus making relactation a bit harder. But then I remembered several case studies and stories from women who were successful in inducing lactation despite having an adopted baby or one older than three months. Those stories make me feel the worst because they act as little voices telling me: "if you really, really wanted to, you could do it...if you were absolutely dedicated, you would do won't stop thinking about it until you finally do it." I even researched the cost of the hospital-grade electric pumps that are recommended for inducing lactation, thinking I might buy one with the extra money my husband and I are getting on our tax refund.

I even find myself wishing I could have another baby now (or soon) just to get the chance to redeem myself by breastfeeding again. When my baby stares into my eyes while she's eating a bottle, I'm reminded of how my first daughter used to do that when she nursed, and I miss it all over again. I hate myself all over again. I feel the urge to try all over again.

I want to not think about it anymore. I wish there were a trigger for my thoughts, because then I could just avoid it. I wonder what miracle might happen if I just started putting my baby to the breast every hour. I believe in miracles, you know.

My husband doesn't understand this. He thinks I'll keep thinking about this until our baby starts eating solid food. What if I do? I wonder how many other women have gone through this? I wonder if they had any miracles? I feel silly, and sad, and crazy, all at the same time. I'm embarrassed to talk about it, but I'm not really sure why. Or maybe it's because there are just too many reasons why.

A Good Sign!

I hope last night was a sign of good things to come! My 3 month-old slept from 9:00 to 6:00 this morning!!! YAY!! She didn't wake up once, not even for her pacifier! The previous two nights, she'd slept from 9:00-5:00-ish, so I really hope this is a turning point, and my hubby and I can look forward to sleeping through the night as well!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Note to Santa

Please do not ever bring perfume to my 7 yr old again! She doesn't yet understand the concept of less is more, and thus our entire house reeks of some hideous Mary Kate and Ashley concoction that my adolescent wannabe can't get enough of. Yes, I realize this stocking stuffer sounded like a good idea at the time, and I also realize that I myself received a similar gift when I was her age. However, I (my family) was evidently so poor that I was terrified to use more than a tiny drop of my perfume, so as to make it last all the way to the next Christmas. So Santa, as much as I appreciate the idea, NO MORE PERFUME PLEASE!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Read....I Wrote

Finally. After days. No, weeks of not getting to do any "serious" reading for my dissertation, I have done it. I got through a simple introduction to one of my secondary sources, took notes on it, and even added on to my dissertation outline and bibliography. It's a small step, but it feels HUGE right now after the past few days of illness, school closings, etc. Even though with every source I read for my dissertation, I add a dozen more (at least!) sources to my bibliography, I feel like I'm clarifying in my head what I want to do and say in my project, how I want it to begin, what questions I want to pursue (or not), and how it stands apart from other work in the area. Indeed - and I know I'm lucky for this - the more I read, the more I realize how much of a unique and "undone" niche exists for my work. I think I can actually say that today was a good work day...and that hasn't happened in quite a while.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Shining....or something like it.

Yeah, so you know that part in Stephen King's *The Shining*, when Jack Nicholson finally loses his marbles??...I'm almost there!! Seriously, the oldest is out of school due to the ice, the youngest is out of daycare because schools are closed, and wouldn't ya know it, my husband has some awful stomach bug that kept him in the bathroom ALL day yesterday! I won't let him near the children. I've quarantined him to the bedroom or 1 couch in the living room, and I'm washing my hands more often than Monk. Trying to care for the infant while keeping the 7 yr old entertained is near impossible, so now we're all on the verge of cabin fever, and I'm exhausted. Since my hubby has our bed covered with his pukey-poopy sickness germs, I hopped into bed with my oldest daughter. And, since hubby is without child care privileges, I did the middle of the night feeding for the baby, and the latter-morning pacifier retrievals, etc. The baby was good, though; I was at least able to get about 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep before it got patchy.

But, I really, really need things to warm up enough for everything to be back open tomorrow. My mom called day before yesterday to let me know that she'll be coming down on Thursday and staying through Monday. This is great, as she hasn't seen baby since Thanksgiving, but there's no way house cleaning is doing any good at this point, food shopping isn't getting done, and God knows I'm not getting any dissertation work done.

Enough whining now... I'm debating a shower or a quick nap while the baby is taking her morning snooze, and the 7 yr. old is commandeering the computer to play games (I hope it entertains her for longer than 10 minutes).

Friday, January 12, 2007

To blog, or not to blog?

Piggybacking off of Mommy, PhD's post about anonymity, here goes:

I'm having some of the same questions about anonymity, as well as the purpose of blogging in general. I've found blogging surprisingly helpful! First, because I'm able to get support from the few friends I have even if I'm not "around" in person for a few days. Second, it just really helps to vent sometimes.

However, I've started leaning toward the idea of this blog as an online journal. I like the idea of writing about anything I want, regardless of whether or not anyone comments. The problem with this is that there are some things I'd want to blog about that I intentionally do not discuss with anyone IRL. Given that several of my friends read my blog, this would expose some very personal matters, which I would never want to talk about with them (or anyone I actually know). Isn't this weird?? I wouldn't have any problem publishing the issues in a public blog, or even talking about them with perfect strangers, but I would never want to discuss certain experiences with my friends..... I don't understand that, but that's the way it is. I'm toying with the idea of starting another blog that specifically for these *personal* posts, but I have yet to make a decision...I'm also thinking about the old saying: If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it. That is, I seem to be doing okay without having "worked through" lots of old, yucky stuff that's happened, so why bother drudging it up now?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thank GOD!...It's SOLD!

A weight has just been lifted off my shoulders...and my bank account! A house I bought in my home state right after my oldest was born (and after my divorce, but before I started my graduate career) is FINALLY selling!! I rented it out for the first five years I was gone, and it worked out pretty well, until 2 stupid boys trashed it! My mom (who will likely receive many posts devoted only to her) fronted the almost $3000 cost for the repairs that were required just to get it on the market, and I put it up for sale last July. Unfortunately, the real estate market hit the dumps at the same time and the town is almost completely stagnant in terms of people moving there (or having a reason to). Thus, it sat there for 6 months, with my mom - again - footing the mortgage bill on it each month. She was confident all along that it would eventually sell, and she knows she'll get her money back. But it just killed me to be owing her this whole time, knowing that every month another several hundred dollars was being tacked on to my tab!!! My realtor called me with a CASH offer from a buyer a couple of days ago, I countered, and she called me today to let me know that the buyer accepted my counteroffer and they want to close in 30 days!! AND there will still be a little bit of money left after closing to give my mom a nice down payment on the money I owe her....Aaahhhhh...just a drop of goodness in a week that's had a large share of tears. Now, I'm off to continue my happy dance!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What about when Daddy cries?

So, if you've read my previous post today, then you know I was doing okay this morning. Well, it all changed when Daddy cried (my husband, that is). First, you should understand that my husband is a big man, former Marine, extremely happy to be back to work on his dissertation, and generally not an emotional "softy." After visiting the baby at daycare today, however, he broke down in tears in my office. The baby wasn't hurt. She wasn't crying when he left her. There was no immediate emergency or danger. She was simply sitting in the swing, looking out into space. This was the problem.

My husband explained that seeing the baby sitting in the swing just staring off to the side reminded him of an old person in a nursing home, just rocking away in a rocking chair, unaware of their own situation (lonely, stuck, away from family). Yesterday hadn't been a problem for him because when he visited the baby someone was holding her when he walked in and someone was holding her when he walked out. Today, however, he realized one of the hardest things: our baby can't be held all the time at daycare. Moreover, I think he realized that she's not going to get the near constant stimulation that we offer her when she's awake at home. For him, the time she spent in that swing without someone talking to her, cooing at her, trying to get her to smile or coo back was precious, and that time will be lost each day she's at daycare.

Seeing my husband cry broke my heart and I broke down all over again. Not quite as bad as yesterday, because I felt like I had to be the strong one this time. I reminded him that it would get better as she gets older and that he'll be staying home with both girls this summer (since he's not funded by his dept. in the summer). But for the first time since I've known this man, he mentioned quitting his PhD and getting a "real" job! The only thing that stopped his train of thought was the fact that it wouldn't change the situation: baby would still need daycare.

My co-worker, who's also kind of my boss, came in shortly after and saw I was clearly in distress. We talked about what the problem was, and despite not being a "kid person" of any kind, she suggested that I talk with the director of the office about bringing baby to work or doing some/most of my work from home (or a combination of the two). I'm only funded to work 15 hours, so this is actually quite feasible. What's interesting is the fact that I never expected my trauma (and it absolutely is a trauma) to be a Daddy problem too. I'm glad it is, don't get me wrong. And it should be more often. But all the things that my great friends said to me yesterday - the things that made me feel better - didn't necessarily work with my husband. As a father, he didn't necessarily feel any better at all, which makes me wonder if there are any resources that put dads in touch with each other about this kind of issue. Needless to say, we're absolutely considering the work-from-home option for me, at least for this semester. It won't completely solve the problem, but it's the best we can do for now.
What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday was my (youngest) baby's first day at daycare. She turned 11 weeks old yesterday, and dropping her off into the hands of strangers was pretty much the equivalent of ripping my own heart out and chunking it into the Guadalupe River. I couldn't even make it out of the daycare infants' room without being in tears. It took me an hour and a half just to leave, and it's not like she was even crying or discontented. She was fine! I, however, was not. I cried all the way to the office. And, just when I thought I was done, I turned down the hallway in front of my office only to see a fellow grad student mom with her baby, which just opened the floodgates again. Luckily for me, my two good mommy/grad student friends are just down the hall, and they ushered me into the office for a nice little sit down cry-and-talk session. I didn't go through this with my oldest daughter because my mom quit her job to stay at home with her. Thus, my friends reassured me that: my pain was normal, (most) every mom goes through this, and my baby would not only be alive, but probably doing very well when I went to pick her up later in the afternoon. Indeed, she was. Her daddy had provided a lunchtime visit to feed her the noon bottle, and he left her snug as a bug in her crib.

Today is a much different day. I took baby in, put her things away, gave her lots of hugs and kisses, and handed her to the lead nursery worker.....And I didn't cry! And I haven't cried yet! I'm not happy about it, and I could still very easily cry at some point today, but I'm okay with the fact that she has to be where she is if my husband and I want to actually finish our PhD programs and have jobs. So, for now I'll take advantage of (almost) every minute that I must be away from her by working and being productive on my dissertation....yeah, wish me luck with that!

Friday, January 05, 2007

History Made

I have to admit that I found myself crying while Nancy Pelosi made her speech yesterday after accepting the gavel that symbolizes her authority as the new Speaker of the House! To watch a woman open another door of possibility for my own daughters was moving, and it gives me such a great hope for their future. This is just one more thing I can tell them about when they ask me (and my oldest already has), "What can I be when I grow up?"

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I Survived...and much more!

First, I survived the very first multiple-day and night visit from my in-laws, who stayed with us for three nights between x-mas and New Year's Day! This is a big feat, as I wasn't offended or insulted even once by my mother-in-law. The visit actually went very well. However, it's good to have our space back. My 7 yr old is especially glad because she had turned over her bedroom to give them a place to sleep. I must admit there was something comforting about my husband and both my daughters sleeping in the same room. The baby was in her bassinet and my oldest slept on a pallet on the floor next to my side of the bed. Even my husband commented that there was something natural and organic about it...I'd say communal maybe...It was nice.

Second, the baby was in great shape, yesterday anyway. She went to the Dr. for her 2-month immunizations. She weighed in at 13 lbs. 12 oz, which puts her in the 95th percentile for her age, and she's in the 92nd percentile for her length at 24 1/2 inches. Doc gave us a clean bill of health and said she looked fabulous! Just when I thought we'd escape any post-shots fussiness, fever, etc. I was proven wrong. She slept more than usual and ate less than usual through last evening and today. By 6:00 this evening, her temp was almost 101 degrees, and we had our first bout of projectile vomiting (of course I was holding her when this happened). To top it all off, my husband has had a nasty cold since last night, and he's running a low-grade fever, so I don't want him anywhere near the baby. I just lucky I've got an immune system made of cast iron..(knock on wood).

Also, I read my very first book for pleasure since finishing my prelim exams in September!! It' s an emotional, poignant, and powerful collection of feminist-activist-mothering essays called Breeder: Real Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers (Eds. Gore and Lavender). I cried, laughed, and empathized the whole way through, wondering why there aren't more essays like these. (Note: For pregnant friends who may be reading this, don't buy it because I'm buying you a copy for a shower gift!)...

For now, I'm off to tuck the big girl into bed, rock baby to sleep, kiss sick husband goodnight, and hit the sack.

P.S. For the record, I've even gotten back to the gym!! I mean really gotten back into my workouts, lifting weights, powering through the step machine, and crunches galore. I forgot how toned (and thin) I was pre-pregnancy until I tried to get into my old jeans. And thus, you've got my New Year's resolution - get into ALL old clothes.