20 minutes in my head – random, rapid-fire style…

for Scott…you asked for it…

It is a BEAUTIFUL day out, and I wish I could go for a run, but I have not been able to run for the last 21 weeks. The fact that it’s been so long surprises me. The time has flown, but yet it hasn’t been fun.

Runner’s World interviewed Julie Bowen, Claire from Modern Family, and she said she is a “recreational” runner because she suffered a major injury when training for a marathon. Her doctor sister told her she could be a runner who finished a marathon but never ran another step, or a casual runner for the rest of her life. She chose the latter. When – or, G-d forbid, IF – I can run again, I will need to make a similar choice, I am afraid.

I am a lot like Claire from Modern Family. Brendan is a lot like Phil. We both see the similarities in each other’s character counterparts, but we don’t want to admit that we also see it in ourselves. But they’re funny and it’s working out well for them, so we’re good, right? Life is a big sitcom, no?

Where is my laugh track, then? What would be my soundtrack? Hmm. Right now, I am listening to “Wild Ones” by Flo-Rida featuring Sia. I heard it at my barre class, which is where I get most of my information on current, popular music that the younger folk like. I like it, too, though, so that must mean I am young.

But I am 33. How did that happen? Shit.

Why is it that Australia is the only country to enact a national gender equity policy as it pertains to education (to my knowledge, which, I will toot my own horn here, on this subject is pretty vast), but yet the girls there still significantly outscore the boys in literacy? I can see, developmentally, that girls might outperform boys regardless of country or policy, but one might hypothesize that a country with a concerted effort to achieve gender equity in educational achievement would have a less eye-opening gap between the two groups. Hmm. I am not sure what this means.

And females in Australia, as in most other countries (maybe all? I don’t know – my knowledge here is NOT as vast) outlive the men by 5 years or so. I wonder if reading is related to longevity. That would be an English teacher’s dream! How’s that for a selling point – read: you’ll live longer.

What is this movie, Sanctum, about? I have now heard two students in two different classes in two different grades talk about it on two separate days. This intrigues me. The one kid stayed up so late watching it that he was quite bleary-eyed the next morning. This does not intrigue me. Why are we so sleep-deprived? Do you notice how frequently people talk about their sleeping patterns – the quality, the length, the resulting feelings from the quality and the length? This intrigues me. Why do we talk about it so much?

I have been making a concerted effort to get 7 hours of sleep. I wonder if it really would positively affect my productivity. I have yet to attain this during the work week, though I have come close. I am trying to be in my bed by 10 so that I can read a little and then fall asleep. I get up around 5:30, though, so this does not leave me much reading time or wiggle room to achieve 7 hours. I am working on it.

I am also working on NO coffee! One upshot of my stomach bug on Monday – that still lingers just a bit – is that I went a full 24 hours without coffee on that terrible day. So, on Tuesday, when I was feeling well-rested given Monday’s couch time and still queasy given the bug, I skipped the 2 cups (okay, sometimes 3) of coffee I have in the morning. It didn’t kill me, so I did it again on Wednesday. And again today. How many days do I have to do this before I think, “Coffee?! Ugh! How do you drink that stuff?” I wonder how long I have to go before I also notice a difference in my sleep patterns and energy levels. Will I get to a point when, if I have a cup of coffee, I actually notice the caffeine coursing through my veins? I will keep you posted.

Speaking of posted, a grade from one of my independent studies in 2009 never did, and it has now turned to an F. *Sigh* This does not faze me too much. This shows me I have made progress. Progress in what area, I am not sure, but I like to believe it shows I have evolved. I wrote to the professors, to whom I submitted a paper 2 years ago, and they vaguely remembered it, but of course, none of us can find the paper now, nevermind remember what grade did not get submitted. So I have to rewrite the paper. This is fair, albeit a bit silly, because I am not sure the first paper was that good anyway…or even finished, for that matter. It was 2 years ago – how do I know? It was on Australian educational policy and how its focus on gender equity has affected the educational research in that country. I have done the work. I know I have because, otherwise, how would I know that I want to be just like Dr. Amanda Keddie, a researcher who has conducted studies and commented on gender extensively in articles I’d love to call my own.

I know a surprisingly large number of people named Amanda. It used to be my middle name before I changed it to my maiden name. Why did I do that? Probably because it was obnoxious to have four names: Kirstin Amanda Pesola McEachern. That does not roll off the tongue. Amanda is not an unusual name, but I do think it is on the uncommon side.

I named my children uncommon names – at least, at the time of their births they were uncommon. Now, Avery is in the top 30 in the country. When my Avery was born in 2002, the name was in the 200s! I like to think of myself as a trendsetter. And, yes, I realize there is a certain delusion of grandeur in that statement – as if I named my daughter this fabulous name and the rest of the country took notice and followed my lead. But it’s a nice thought.

I don’t think I’d like to lead the country. Think of the stress. There must be a lot of fecal matter on the wall at the White House, that’s all I gotta say.

Ehhhh….

So this arrived today. I’ll admit, getting a next day FedEx from my advisor with her comments on my proposal made me feel somewhat important – like a “real” writer getting her manuscript back from her publisher.

Except I am not getting paid for this.

In fact, I’M paying to write this.

And, the only reason it was FedExed was because I was too sick to get off the couch yesterday and go to my research team meeting at BC and get it.

If these realizations were not enough to quell my excitement, reading the comments certainly put a damper on it.

She is a generous, careful reader. She caught mistakes that I catch on my students’ writing – ones that really annoy me, like when they write “people that” instead of “people who.” I mark this error with a marginal comment like “people are not objects.”

Apparently, I make this error, too.

But then there are other comments that are harder to address, like, “You need your voice in here” and “No! You need asceerasdft.”

Asceerasdft? Clearly this is not what she wrote, but that is certainly what it looks like. And trust me, I have tried to ascertain what this word is, especially since it follows such an emphatic no! and I clearly need to be doing this unknown word instead. And it is so important that I do this that the comments were FedExed overnight to me.

Ugh.

Oh, and this pissed me off today, too:

Read the label if you’re not sure what you’re looking at. For the context, read here.

An unexpected motivator

Today was productive in many ways. I:

  • Changed a future hair appointment time
  • Booked a teeth cleaning
  • Bought plane tickets to Vancouver to present at a conference
  • Made sweet potato apple puree, melt-in-your-mouth chicken, broccoli, and mushrooms and spinach for dinner
  • Took Mom to the doctor to make sure she isn’t dying (she didn’t think she was, nor did I, but always good to be sure)
  • Shoveled
  • Swam a half mile
  • Bought printer ink
  • Conducted another search on English literature curriculum

I had a few more items on my list that I didn’t accomplish, namely more dissertation-related tasks, but all in all, not bad for a snow day.

Most importantly, I learned who motivates me to finish this work: Avery.

Now, to be fair, several people are in my corner rooting for me to get through this program. You know who you are, but to give a couple shout-outs, my husband is unbelievably understanding and supportive and encouraging. Maybe if he were threatening to divorce me unless I finished, I’d be done by now.

But probably not.

My mother has also been asking me about my work quite regularly, especially since my dad kicked the bucket and I hit an academic wall as a result. In fact, she cried when I told her a few years ago that I was going to drop out of the program (clearly I did not).

There are others, too, but the person whose few comments have made the most impact on me is my daughter. Up until this point, she has been relatively silent about the whole Ph.D. thing. She knows I have to go to BC for meetings and I have a lot of “BC work” (mostly for a research team I am on, unrelated to dissertation work), but it has only been recently that she seems to “get” what it’s all for. Overhearing conversations between me and Brendan, she has put it together. She wants me to become a “Doctor.” She asked if all her friends will have to call me “Dr. McEachern.” Then today she egged me on by saying, “If I had to write a dissertation, I could do it in two weeks.” When I jokingly replied, “Oh no you didn’t!” she said, “You just got schooled by a 9 year old.”

Why do her words carry so much weight?

Maybe it is because I don’t feel I can give excuses to her, especially since the time I am devoting to this is time I am not devoting to her. When she asks if I worked on my dissertation, I don’t want to tell her I played Sudoku for 2 hours, and I will not lie to her.

Maybe it is because my daughter is an improved version of me, and I aspire to be like her. She is focused and brave and inquisitive.

Maybe it is because I see her mimicking me, and I want to give her something worth mimicking.

I hope she will grow up thinking she can do whatever she wants to do. I’ll tell her later that this is true only if she has a supportive network behind her.