Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning Musing

I'm up pretty early on Christmas morning. I'm the first one in the house who is awake, actually. A rare thing for me since coming back to school and pulling some nite-owl sorts of hours. I do miss the early morning thing, though, so perhaps I'll get back in the routine of being the first one awake.

Christmas has some mixed emotions for me this year. On the good side, I still cannot believe we're here in LSC and I'm working in this particular job. It doesn't seem real to me, probably because I have not yet finished the task (i.e. the doctorate) through which I had planned on obtaining said job. That's the bad side: Study #07- 11947 continues to loom overhead. In fact, just thinking about it is what woke me up early today, I will admit. I suppose that's a good thing...nothing wrong with some negative incentives to get the f-cker done.

The other thing that weighs heavy on the mind is, of course, Moose's autism. I go back and forth on this. On the one hand, his autism is part of him, and I love all of him unconditionally; I almost hate to want a core part of his being to disappear. On the other hand, I want for him a normal existence. For example, I wanted him to be up front during our church service last night with the other kids. That was almost painful to watch, knowing he was at home with his aunt.

Generally speaking, I wouldn't change a thing about my present day-to-day existence. I will continue to plug away on the dissertation, and I will hopefully finish in 2008. The autism...well, I'll just learn to deal with that as time flies by. No use in wishing for something that simply isn't going to happen in this lifetime. I've not much to complain about in general, but during these early-morning reflective times I bring out some of the more painful aspects of life to hopefully have them then settle back into the larger scope of life more smoothly. Perhaps these individual aspects of life won't be as painful if I sort of raise them up, look at them upside-down, and then let them rest again. Sorta like taking fish out of water for a few seconds, stressing them out, and then putting them back in the river. They still keep swimming, going with the flow...

Wow...my mind is making some pretty strange images right now. Better get some coffee in me and get ready for Christmas morning. Ah, I hear others stirring upstairs now. Bye bye early morning solitude.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tree 2007

Late last December and early in January of this year, I wrote a couple of posts on our Christmas Tree. The post in January discusses a bargain tree that Wife found at Chain Grocery Store Near Our House (CGSNOH). Said tree is now up and 'glowing' in New Chesterley, and we think it looks mighty fine. Figured I'd put a few pics here.

First, with the flash to display the ornaments:


Next, a shot without the flash to display the lights:


We've told the story of the $10 tree quite a bit this year, so I just had to add a this post here as a reminder.

Dissertation Week 2007 - Day 5 Report

I almost forgot to comment on how things went yesterday, the last day of this year's Dissertation Week:

It was just fine, thanks.

I still have continued frustration with obtaining the qualitative data management software I decided to purchase, and I suspect it's due to the advanced age of my laptop. It will be 5 in April. Ugh. I really just wanted to use ONE computer for my doctorate (I purchased this one at the end of my first year). The prospect of needing a second one to get through the dissertation is not pleasant. And it may be costly. I dunno...maybe I should just get a used laptop to get me through? Not sure.

Yesterday I did get more coding done, which is nice. No more transcribing, though. I am quickly going to need to find an additional person to help me with these, or just take off some more time and literally chain myself to the desk.

My wife's family arrived earlier today for Christmas, and I'm sure we'll have a fine time. My sister-in-law, who is a physician, was asking me about the details of my dissertation. When I showed her one of the documents I was coding, she suggested I only do the coding with some form of alcoholic beverage in my hand because let's face it, the task really SUCKS. Not a bad idea. I mean, I could finish the data analysis and become a snooty wine connoisseur at the same time. Or better yet it could be scotch. The analysis may become a little bit disjointed, though Hmm...there's gotta be a balance there somewhere, ya know?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dissertation Week 2007 - Day 4 Report

Day 4 sucked. I had numerous technical problems that took over too much of my life: a furnace repair in the morning, a new starter for The Fucking Jetta, and more software installation problems.

And then Wife and I experienced an enormous problem in our back yard. Some idiot meter maid left one of the back fence gates open. Chester escaped. Fortunately, Wife saw him on the wrong side of the fence before he got too far, and he's perfectly safe. I'm glad it wasn't Moose playing outside, or else it's pretty likely he would have run away and gotten lost and/or killed by a car. Your typical six-year-old would tell you the gate is open, or he would know that cars are inherently dangerous to pedestrians. Mine would not. Our house is practically a fortress, and we've spent a chunk of money making it as such (the new fence, deadbolt locks on every door with the keys out of reach, etc. etc.). But when an idiot enters the system, it quickly all goes to hell.

This action of course prompted me to make phone calls to all our utility companies to see if they could put a note on our record to close the gates when they check the meters in the back yard. For the most part they were compliant, and even apologetic, for any angst they may have caused. Most understood the importance of why I was calling without my having to explain it. It was encouraging.

However, customer service at My Phone Company was provided by idiotic humanoids. The conversations went something like this:

"Your Phone Company's customer service center, how may I help you?" she asked.

"Hi. I have a special-needs child at home, and we have a fenced in back yard to keep him, and our dog, safe. A gate was left open today; I'm not sure by whom, but my dog escaped. So, I'm calling all of my utility companies to ask if it is possible to have a general note placed on my account indicating that the gates must remain closed at all times if they enter our yard to do routine work. Can you help me with this sort of thing?" I asked, courteously.

"No, but I can transfer you to someone who can," she replied, happily. Why did this make her happy?

"Great, that would be helpful. Thank you," I said.

"OK, but before I transfer you, I see in your file that you are eligible for a random free upgrade to a cell phone package you neither want nor need. Shall I get one of these phones to you in the mail within 2 business days for you?" she asked, sounding too cheery for my taste.

"No thank you. I am not interested in upgrading any of my services. I am calling to get a note placed on my account in order to protect my son from escaping from our back yard," I said, slowly losing patience.

"OK, is there a reason why you do not want to upgrade your services?" she questioned.

"No (are you kidding me??). I am perfectly satisfied with my phone service. As I said, I am not calling to upgrade my services. I am calling to have a note placed on my account regarding my back fence so that my autistic child does not get abducted or killed by a car." My tone was no longer courteous.

"OK, but before I transfer you: Have I answered all of your questions today?" she asked, perkily.

"No, you have not (and you are dumb as a post)."

And then she cheerily transferred me to the repair department, for whom I waited about ten minutes. He then brilliantly transferred me back to Customer Service again after not being able to help me. I finally spoke with someone who had a brain cell and got the damn note placed on the account. And then I re-checked the status of the gates before I collapsed in exhaustion.

You can't deny that my priorities are in line. Securing those gates was far more important than progress on the dissertation. I'm pretty thankful I was home today, actually. Guess I need to have three signs made that indicate something to the effect of: "Close the Gate Behind You, Moron." If you have any suggestions for how the signs should read, I'm all ears.

Dissertation Week 2007 - Day 3 Report

How did it get to be Thursday already?

Yesterday, Wednesday, went alright. Not stellar in terms of tangible progress, but good in terms of emotional and self-efficacy-related crap. I didn't get the transcription finished, but I did finish coding that first interview. What I thought would be a pain in the ass actually turned out to be a very good exercise. Also, I installed the trial version of the qualitative data-management software that I intend to purchase to help me organize things. The thing is, the darn thing didn't install correctly on what is now my aging laptop. Frustrating.

Finally, I reconnected, via e-mail, with two former colleagues who finished their Ph.Ds a couple of years ago. I wrote them to seek very bare-bones advice on how they managed the small-level technical details of managing all their data. Not only did they provide good technical advice, but even more important (and totally unexpected) they provided empathetic moral support. I miss them. I am getting tired of being among the group that's the furthest along in the doctoral student process in my program. I miss having folks nearby who are just a few steps ahead of me to help lead the path. I realize this really isn't a chore in traveling with someone else; I sort of need to carve out this particular pathway myself. And yet, others have done it before me on different topical pathways, and it's helpful to hear advice from them.

It was comforting to have a professor friend of mine, who specializes in qualitative research methods, say, "The data management process was, and continues to be, the toughest part of qualitative research for me." My other friend simply said, "Glad you're keeping the faith," and "Take a look at your own resume, and remember how much you've already done." That last comment was pretty funny: she was quoting ME from a couple of years earlier when I was giving her a pep talk during her job-search process. Funny how the advice comes full circle. Both of these friends, and several other former colleagues, have offered to help read drafts and things as they come up in the next few months. I'm really thankful for their willingness to loan me their precious time even as they work toward their own tenure clocks or other work tasks. I think that energy from friends and colleagues is part of the whole process that will keep me pushing this little research study to completion.

OK. Agenda for today: 1) Finish installing the software (the tech support folks wrote me back last night with a very helpful workaround that I hope will work). 2) Test out said software with the interview I've already coded, only for 60 minutes or less (I am seriously going to set an alarm for myself on this one, as I tend to tinker too much with technology). 3) Finish transcribing "Andrea's" interview. 4) Complete at least half of another transcript.

I'm feeling pretty focused today, so hopefully this list will be attainable. It's also Moose's last full day at school for the week (his Fridays are half days), so it's my last full day with a quiet house).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dissertation Week 2007 - Day 2 Report

Day 2 was just fine. Probably not as energetic as Day 1, but not a bad day one bit.

I stayed home all day and got my head back into the process of coding. The reading I finished up in the morning (see yesterday's report) was very helpful. I guess it was sort of a review of the coding technique. Then, I spent much of the rest of the day finishing up the coding from the longest interview of the entire study. I figure that this will be the longest, slowest, most difficult, coding job I'll do for the study. As I said to Wife last night, "I'll never have to code my first interview for the dissertation again." I'm all about celebrating the small victories in this process.

Typically I become anxious about the idea of starting an academic task, but when I get into it I tend to move fairly quickly and, frankly, it tends to go well. I think now that I've gotten over the first bump (it felt like more of a mountain than a bump!), and I've figured out how to do it "well" from this refresher of the reading, from here on out things should go OK with the coding tasks.

On the agenda for today, Day 3: I will probably finish up a transcription from home this morning and then will start coding it. At least the coding part can be done at Free Parking Cafe, if I need to escape.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Shout-out

Thanks to Psycgirl for a nice shout-out in the 14th Carnival of GRADual Progress. I needed that reminder that I'm part of a community of similar struggling graduate students in this dissertation process, and many of us have bumpy roads along the way, for a variety of reasons. Just yesterday I was missing the strong blogging community I joined a few years back when I started Chesterley. This shout-out was a little inspirational kick in the assets to help get me back on track with reading, analyzing, writing, and probably blogging too. Yay.

Dissertation Week 2007 - Day 1 Report

Hi Blog. As I mentioned earlier, this is the week I'm taking "off" from work to work on the dissertation. No pressure, really. Whatever! I've just told everyone I know and work with that I'm doing this, so they'll all be asking for progress reports. Guess I better make some progress! LOL.

Actually, yesterday's Day 1 went really quite well. After a weekend-long snow storm (which has made everything wonderful and wintry here!), I needed to get out of the house yesterday. I went to Relatively-Nearby Trendy Neighborhood and hit the Starbucks there. Forgot I had to feed a parking meter, so I didn't stay very long. Perhaps it was the pressure of having the meter running, but I CRANKED on part of the data analysis process where I need to realize how my own life experiences may influence the manner in which I analyze my data. And I worked things out in only about 90 minutes. I was pretty excited about that.

I spent a long while a year or two ago pondering if I was going to be able to write on this particular topic because it's pretty close to my heart. That self doubt caused me to temporarily change my topic. I later changed it back because I really could have cared less about that other topic, so now I've been happily back at square one for a long while. HOWEVER, I hadn't really worked out how I could separate myself away from my participants enough to analyze the data and not project my own thoughts on their words. I think I finally worked it out. At some point I may share the details in this blog, but for now suffice it to say I made a good amount of progress during that short time yesterday morning.

I then spontaneously grabbed lunch with Wife, a benefit of working from home this week. Afterward I went to another cafe (free parking!) and did some reading from:

Charmaz, K. (2007). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

I've been skimming certain portions of this book when needed (I love her work). This week I'm trying to "really" read portions related to where I am in the data analysis process, and I'm finding it helpful. Since I've been out of coursework for a while, and am now working full-time, I must admit I've not been doing scholarly reading nearly as much as I used to. I miss it, so I'm grateful to have the time to do some reading. OK, I can't believe I just said that.

That's the report from Day 1. A good first day. Today I'm working in my home office/prison for a while, finishing up some reading this morning. I may head out to Free Parking Cafe this afternoon if I start to go bonkers here at home. More tomorrow.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Embarking on A Dissertation Week

Today was my last day of work-work for the year. No vacation here for another week, though. I've got to make decent dissertation progress in the next seven days.

The kicker is: I just got slammed with an annoying head cold. I was doing OK at worky today, but the aches and stuffy head hit home just before dinner. I fell asleep at the table...I am not kidding. Took a nap on the couch instead of putting Moose to bed. Am feeling a little bit better, and thankfully I'm not feverish, so hopefully this will pass quickly and I can get to work tomorrow morning. If I get achy wrists, this'll be a good thing because it will mean I'm typing interview transcripts. We're supposed to get slammed with snow during the next two days, so hopefully this will mean I'll get good work done with crappy weather outside.

You know, I'm looking forward to this blog becoming more intellectual again instead of just the mundane, "Geez I hope I make progress," bullshit that it's been lately.

Feel free to check in, send a batch of girl scout cookies as encouragement, or just think happy productive thoughts in my general direction. Thanks.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thanksgiving Photos

This is my first time embedding a Picasa slideshow...let's see how this works. Photos from Thanksgiving at Chesterley.

Ho Hum

I really shouldn't use this blog to express disappointment in myself for not making a ton of progress on the dissertation this week. I shouldn't share the feelings of dread I have, knowing I still have a ton of work ahead of me, the end of 2007 is looming, and that I'd really rather just curl up in front of the fireplace wrapped in a blanket with an 'interesting' book in hand instead of sit alone in my home office/prison coding data and finishing the transcriptions. I really shouldn't share that here: it's not good to express self degradation in one's own blog.

Yesterday I communicated with one of the "harder-to-reach-via-e-mail" committee members to tell her I finished up the interviews in October. She was all excited indicating that many other doc students she's working with are making progress as well, so there must be something good in the air. Good. Glad to hear. Guess I need to breathe in some good air some more, cuz I gotta tell ya, I ain't feeling it here this week.

This particular committee member is taking a sabbatical out of the country next semester. Nice timing. Why was my dissertation not in the forefront of her mind when she decided to take this trip? Just kidding. Well sorta. We discussed how long-distance communication would work, and she's confident that she'll be able to keep up via e-mail and/or a possible "Breeze" connection (whatever that is) when/if needed for a teleconference. She also said if I'm not comfortable with this arrangement, then she would completely understand if I wanted to find a new committee member to replace her. It's for that reason that I want to keep her on board: NO EGO. I'm glad that conversation happened and that it turned out OK. I was a little worried. DC seems just fine with the arrangement, too.

So, I guess saying I made no progress this week isn't really valid. Knowing that I feel a bit disorganized, unproductive, and not my normal "I've got it all together" self isn't really a good feeling. Am glad this week is over. Next week should hopefully be better.

Did I mention I'm taking the week of December 17 off from work to focus on the dissertation? I plan for that to be a focused, productive week.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Coming back

One can see quite easily from reading this blog that November has not been the greatest month in terms of the quantity of time spent on the dissertation. Work has really kicked my assets lately, frankly, and I've needed the evenings to relax. And you know something? I feel no guilt for relaxing!!!

Now I'm concerned about spending time on task. It's funny: since I'm fortunately a pretty quick writer, when writing the proposal I was not as concerned about the time it took to complete the task as I was concerned about finding my voice through the process and making sure I was touching on all of the various theories, studies, etc. Now, the tasks ahead of me are sort of tedious and require LOTS of time. Not certain from where the time will come. It looks like I'll take a larger-than-expected chunk of vacation time before winter break, so hopefully I'll be able to isolate myself and plow through the initial analysis then.

I hope this blog gets busier in the next few weeks...it'll mean I'm cranking out the analysis some more.

K, bye.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New arrival on WannabeRE

BIG congratulations to my friend R and her husband J on the arrival of their daughter, Charlotte. Wife and I are really happy for you guys!!!

It's been a long journey for all of you. You are, and continue to be, among some of the strongest people I know.

This will be a house blog someday

You know, I really can't wait till I can turn this blog away from the topic of my dissertation and more toward one that discusses the remodeling of my "mid-century" home (I hadn't heard that term "mid-century" till I moved to this neighborhood). I'd much rather spend my weekends hanging with the wife and kid while slowly redoing various aspects of our house. I'd like to learn how to install a new light fixture here or there. How about upgrading the round thermostat to one of those programmable ones? And perhaps I'll get around to painting away the stark white walls in the hallway and kitchen (apparently these were dark-green fuzzy wallpaper and aquamarine, respectively, prior to when we bought the place).

But no, the dissertation still looms overhead, blocking out the light like "dark, black giant butterflies, obliterating the rays of the sun" (from Shönberg's Pierot Lunaire). I'm tired. I just want to have one life instead of having it split in two. Work is great, but it takes up time...time away from the dissertation. The dissertation takes time away from the family. So what ends up happening? Work happens because it must. And then family happens because I want it to be as such. The diss will get done. I just don't know when. I'm still aiming for this spring as my final destination for this space ship, though the earth is quickly getting larger in my window, and I need a re-entry plan from Flight here pretty darn soon.

So do I spend the rest of Saturday night transcribing interviews, or do I watch a movie with Wife now that Moose is in bed? I dunno. But at age 36, I'm getting too old to have homework anymore.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Interviews Complete for Study # 07- 11947

I have finally finished my data-collection process for the dissertation. Wow. I guess that's a pretty big milestone. But when I think about it in the abstract, I don't get a feeling of accomplishment. Instead, I experience more of a feeling of "holy SHIT do I have a lot of work ahead of me." And now the work is all on my shoulders. No longer do I need to wait around for others to respond. This is a good spot to be in, but I am now putting a good amount of pressure on myself to carry though quickly. Pressure is good, at times. Though work gets more and more hectic the longer I'm in the new job...

Let's focus back on the dissertation. When I look at some of the 'hard data' (not that qualitative data are really considered 'hard', but that's another discussion), then I can visualize the accomplishment of finishing the data-collection process a bit better. It is good to celebrate milestones during this process, no matter how small. So, since this blog serves as my doctoral program diary, I share this descriptive information, hither. Did I just write "hither"?
First interview: April 27, 2007
Last interview: October 26, 2007
Hmm. That's exactly six months, isn't it? Weird. I didn't plan that. Granted, there was a three-month hiatus starting around May 29 and ending August 23. That's to be expected during the summer months. Oh yes, and then I moved and started a new job during that hiatus. Interesting. OK, moving on.
# of interviews completed: 16
# of interviews I can use: 14
Average interview time: about 1 hour (OK, that's just a SWAG: some wild-ass guess)
Some of the earlier interviews ended up being lllonnnngggg because this is an exploratory study. I didn't want to cut off anyone. I am not out to prove or disprove a theory; instead I am creating a new theory because I actually do hate myself that much. Later on in the interview process, I probably became more adept at conducting the interview, and I could guide the participant toward information in which I was interested. But looking at the above numbers, this means I pretty much conducted about 16 hours of interviews, or perhaps more. Jesus. Lots of transcriptions ahead of me. I can only use 14 of the 16 interviews, since I learned part-way into a couple of these that they didn't meet my two main criteria for participating in the study. Oh well. Both interviews could contribute to a future research ideas I have, so I decided to conduct those interviews anyhow and just leave their data out of my dissertation.
# of women: 6
# of men: 8
This was surprising to me. It was far more difficult to find female participants for this study. What's surprising is that there simply are more women in college than men. Since August, I have been seeking only women participants for this study because I had too many men. Too many men?? This never happens in higher education research. I wonder if there's a participant gender bias based on the fact that I'm a man. Could potential female participants see my first name as "Robert," and not want to participate? Definitely possible. Vice-versa, perhaps a potential male participant is more interested in participating in this study because I am a man? I've no idea. The funny thing is that this study does not look at gender or racial issues...but those things are of course always present nevertheless.
Descriptors of participants' majors:
major type#
fine arts4
liberal arts5
sciences7
TOTAL16
Note: 6 of the 14 participants were double majors, two of which crossed between different "types" of majors. Thus the total of 16 represented fields by only 14 participants.
Sort of cool to see the variety of majors and such. Not such a bad distribution for a large research university. I'm rather pleased.

OK, it does feel like I've come a long way with this study, now that I see all this laid out here. I am looking forward to when I can concisely respond to the question of, "So Rob, what are you finding as you conduct these interviews?" My thoughts aren't organized enough just yet to share those findings. And I probably won't share the findings on this blog (if you know me, and if you're actually interested in this stuff, then feel free to ask...or not!). That's the point of the data-analysis process. Gotta get through these transcriptions, first. Two and two-halves of the interviews have been transcribed thus far, so only 10 and two halves more to go.

Pardon me while I go type.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hands getting dirty

I am finally digging into my interview data a bit more. I like saying that..."interview data." It's a nice feeling to have the majority of the data-collection process behind me. Wow, that's different!

The act of transcribing interviews is tedious at times, but after a while of practicing it, the act becomes almost automatic. I can start thinking about what I'm typing as I'm typing it. It's kind of an energetic experience, actually. I find this surprising, as frankly I've been dreading doing these transcriptions. Now that I'm doing them, it's not so bad (you'd think that after all these years of being in school that I'd be able to take on a daunting task without procrastination, but NOOO I still hate just thinking about a big task like that in front of me. Oh well). I'm thankful for the bit of help I'm getting with a few of the transcriptions from a former colleague in SCT. If I can just type up half of the interviews and leave about the other half to Former Colleague, then there's a chance we could be finished with the typing in, say, about three weeks? We shall see.

I'd like to say "After the transcriptions are finished, then it's onto the Data Analysis," but that would be inaccurate. The data analysis has already started; I just need to work to be aware of it and document everything I'm doing. I suppose that's more natural. I mean, do we really ever just do one thing at a time? I think not. The act of being able to think about the participants' responses as I'm typing them up is the first part of the analysis. And for me, as a pretty major extravert, talking about my findings out loud is extremely helpful to my analysis process. My friends and colleagues have been supportive of listening to me and reacting to the things I'm finding, so that's been good. I miss working closer to them in SCT, although I certainly don't miss living there. LOL.

My posts here are getting less frequent. I suspect that will pick up again when I'm in the analysis and writing process some more. Lately I've been conducting interviews (which involves commuting to & from SCT) and doing this minor thing (note my sarcasm) of learning my new job. I'm going to write a separate post later on about the things going on at home with Moose's diet and such (or you can look at Wife's blog for more details). Exhausting, but our lives in general are good. I'm grateful to finally feel some fast motion in the dissertation department again. Yay.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Getting closer

Hi blog. So Interview #11 may not be usable for my study, for a variety of reasons, but it wasn't altogether a bad interview. At least this person showed up! So I still have about four more to go.

But the good news is that my contact at the Honors program panned out. She sent my study invitation out to 15 eligible students, and I've received a decent handful of responses. Suddenly I have five more interviews over the next two Fridays (not counting two days from now). If all of these folks actually show up when they say they will, then I should be all finished with my data collection process on Friday, October 19. Can't WAIT.

Also, I've just hired a former student worker/colleague to help me with transcriptions. This is GREAT news. I hope the data collecting and transcribing processes continue to move onward smoothly. It finally seems like the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. What a nice feeling. I realize I have a TON of work to do with data analysis (I need some advice from EA!) ahead of me, but this feels like a good spot nevertheless.

At work, I ran the second part of a strategic planning retreat this afternoon. Then, I had an appointment near my house over the lunch hour, so I decided to just come home and work from Chesterley the rest of the day. I'm pleased to be wearing a t-shirt and shorts in the mid afternoon on a weekday, and now I'm going to try and focus on work stuff. I'd rather take a nap, but that'll be my reward. :-) I'm very thankful to have the sort of job where it's acceptable to do what I'm doing this afternoon. Perhaps I'll get into some of my own transcribing later tonight.

Bye blog.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Just Four More...or so

I completed my tenth interview last Friday, and it went really well. I'm getting a good variety of information from these interviews, which is good. Variety is helpful. Sure, some of the comments go entirely against the direction I see this study going, but a grounded theory is grounded in the data themselves and not in my crazy mind.

I'm hoping for only about four more interviews before I start hearing similar answers again. These all need to be women due to the fact that I've had far too many men in the sample. That sort of made me laugh...normally I'd think I'd have the opposite problem of trying to find male participants, but that's not the case here.

Oh yeah, I may have found a more affordable way to get help with transcribing interviews. When I told a friend about the cost of the estimate I received last week, she suggested another mutual friend we both know who would be perfect. I think she'll be interested in the study as well...were she still in college, she could be one of the participants. We shall see. While in theory I want to do the transcriptions myself to get into the data some more, realistically if I want to finish anytime soon, I really should ask for some help.

This weekend I started writing out descriptions of each participant along with my own reactions to the interviews. These descriptions/reactions should be helpful in the long run for the data-collection process. I figure I can share them with the transcription person, too, so she'll have an idea of what to listen for when typing out the interviews.

I'm looking forward to putting on my swim trunks and getting completely saturated in the data, sorta like jumping into a big lake. Let's hope the lake itself has clear water and not too much seaweed obscuring my view.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm back

I've been away from Active Dissertationland for a while. I suppose my visit to Passive Dissertationland was still within the country of Scholar Wannabe, but it's probably on a slower moving creek instead of a faster-flowing river toward Destination Completion...Ah, enough with the BS and colorful descriptions.

After spending some time working, and (frankly) spinning my wheels on, some of the other articles I still need to incorporate into my literature review, I have finally started recruiting participants again for my study. And it's going OK. A few of them were referred to me by a senior colleague who was not certain of their eligibility for the study. About half of them are not eligible, but the other three are. Two of those three have responded as "yes, I'd like to participate," so I'll interview one tomorrow and the other a week from tomorrow. All interviews will take place in SCT, so I need to make sure I have enough fuel in the Jetta tonight. When I'm done writing this post, I'll gather together more tapes, batteries, study information sheets, questionnaires, and interview protocols to get my ass in gear again. After I complete these next two interviews, then I only have about two more left. I still have a few more leads here & there to more participants, so hopefully (fingers crossed while knocking on wood) I'll finish up the data collecting, and trips to SCT, very soon.

Yesterday I spoke with a company that specializes in doing transcriptions of qualitative research interviews. I just may pay them to do some of these transcriptions for me. It'll cost some money, but oh the time that will be saved. We'll see. They're located in SCT, but I hear mail is delivered down there :-) , so perhaps I won't need to travel back and forth too much if I indeed employ their services.

I'm really, REALLY, looking forward to the data analysis of this research. For me, that's the best part about the entire process. It's been frustrating not having much control over when I can conduct the interviews. But once they are completed, then it'll all be about me getting the analysis done on my own. The balance between this work and "work" work will be tough, but the crunch time is temporary. I honestly don't know if I'm more excited about doing the data analysis or the prospect of finishing the dissertation. Perhaps I'm equally excited for both. Seems pretty healthy to me.

Oh yeah, I want to share a funny tidbit. I almost forgot to send an amendment to The Office of The Protection of Human Subjects. Because of our move to Large State Capital, I have to update my address and phone number on the Study Information Sheet and the standardized e-mails I use to recruit participants. Seems silly that I need to complete paperwork, get DC's signature, and send stuff to Human Subjects just to update these sheets that people will hardly read, but I am a rule follower with these things. Study # 07- 11947 will be compliant. Note the mandatory space between the hyphen and the 1. I wouldn't want something as major as a new address and phone number, or a missing space character, to have a negative effect on "the risk:benefit ratio for subjects." I'm not making this up, you know: I truly had to say whether or not the change to my address & phone number would impact this ratio.

Enough. Bottom line, I'm glad to be back to my scholarly journey. Now it's time, once again, to clean the office/prison and to get materials ready for tomorrow's interview.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Senior??

Wife took Chester to the vet today for routine updating of vaccines and the like. We also needed to get refills on his heartworm and anti-flea meds. This is obviously a new vet clinic for us, since we're living in a new town. They did a nice job. Chester is in perfect health and weighs what he should weigh. This was all good news.

It's his age that I found surprising. According to the report we received from the vet, Chester is now a "senior" patient. Excuse me? Senior? Wha'? He's 8. He's not a day over being middle aged!

Senior, my ass.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Settling in

Oh yeah, my blog. I forgot about this thing. Hi. Getting settled in here in terms of a few different areas:

First, the house. We live here now. It's really our place. We actually spent much of the holiday weekend finishing up the unpacking process, at long last. We got the garage to a state where we can fit both cars inside, which is fantastic. We drove the cars inside, which was very exciting, but then the garage door opener decided to malfunction...again. Fuck. Fortunately it turned out to be that one of us (probably me) had knocked the sensor loose (but the sensor lights were ON and functioning, I tell you!), and it was fixed up pretty quickly this morning.

And then we looked closely at the walls: Prior Owners painted the walls BLUE. Blue?? Yes, blue like highlighter blue. And there's also wood paneling up about four feet from the floor. Wha'? Not my choice in a GARAGE, but to each his or her own.

After some discussion, we decided that we needed to spend the time now to get rid of the blue. I'm in the process of painting it white (not the paneling, just the drywall). I know, I know: in an earlier post I said I was hanging up my paint brush for a while. I had painted four bedrooms in a row and had enough. However, Wife and I both knew that if we didn't paint out the blue now, then we'd get our stuff settled into the garage and the painting would never get done. And neither of us really want to live with a blue garage. I mean, it GLOWS! Also, I will need to paint the ceiling, because it, too, is blue. Ugh. It's going OK...I'm just about done trimming in the primer coat. Hopefully it won't spatter too much as I paint the ceiling. I keep saying...it's JUST the garage. Doesn't need to be perfect...just done.

Speaking of just needing to be done...dissertation data collection is moving along OK. I conducted another interview last week. Not sure it's going to be usable data, but we shall see. Just four more to go. I need to recruit the last four people as soon as I can so I can ramp up my data analysis efforts. I think once the interviews are completed and transcribed, then the light in the tunnel will brighten up significantly and it'll kick my ass to get the study completed. Hard to believe I'm moving right along OK after all this time.

The new job is good, and I really like working with my colleagues a great deal. I'm slowly getting back into the full-time working routine. I do think it suits me well...I find the structure of The Work Day to be helpful on many levels.

Moose seems to be enjoying kindergarten. It's not like he's running home and telling me what he learned each day. Perhaps those conversations will happen someday, and I'll look forward to that. Till then, we're just thankful we're able to live where there are decent schools. One thing is for certain: the special education situation here is FAR better than what we had in SCT. So glad we're here now.

Wife's sorting out her career stuff. The likelihood of finding voice students here is much better than in SCT, so we'll hope for the best.

Bedtime. Bye.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

First Tooth - GONE!

Moose lost his first tooth! Click on the picture below to see three shots of him being all funny with the camera.
first tooth

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Long Live the Witch Doctor

I haven't taken the time to post a lot lately, till today with my third post of the day.

A long while ago I wrote that Moose and I both saw a Craniosacral therapist. I like referring to her as his Witch Doctor, in that it was tough to tell exactly what she did. From just figuring out where to lay her hands, she did some amazing things including helping me recover from a pulled muscle, draining my sinuses (I'm serious), and helping Moose become more focused and alert. Over time she, Norma, became a good friend of the family, regularly working on Moose, less frequently working on me, and even taking numerous voice lessons from Wife. It seemed she and Moose had a deeper connection than we did with her. He knew she was there to help him feel better. Hell, it was her job to make everyone else just feel better, but somehow the two of them were connected, mentally.

It's unfortunate that no one was able to help her feel better. On August 9 she died after a five-year long battle with breast cancer. Wife wrote about her at the beginning of this month. We only just learned of her death last weekend, since she went to a different state to die with her family nearby. Anyway, soon after we met in 2005, she already had Stage 4 cancer (i.e. it was advanced) and had prognosis of about five months to live. She held it at bay WITHOUT chemotherapy for a handful for years and led a good, healthy, active life. The disease became too much for her in a matter of just a few short weeks.

It's hard to believe she's gone. She died less than two months after our move away from SCT, so there are several friends we've not seen since the move. We don't actively "miss" her any more than we miss our other SCT friends since we no longer were going to see her regularly. Still, it's odd knowing she's gone. She's sorely missed. Moose is still saying "night night Norma" at least once per day, so I wonder if he's aware of her passing. I'm not sure, but I bet somehow he knows.

Sometimes I find death depressing, but this time I'm more at peace. It's not that I'm at all happy Norma is gone, but in her case I'm relieved that she's no longer battling cancer. I do think it's just wrong that a fifty-something woman who did nothing but help others her entire life had to be consumed by that disease. Just doesn't seem fair to me.

I know, I know: Life ain't fair. Perhaps death is, though? Hell, I dunno.

Regardless of your own view on life and death, please keep Norma and her family in your thoughts for the next day or two.

Toothy Moose

Be sure to take a look at Wife's post earlier this evening about Moose losing his first tooth!

Fall is here?

Even though I'm not certain where in the world the month of July went, I'm in a particularly good mood today because I'm excited for the autumn. It's odd to say this, I realize, especially since my last post was about spending summers on our screen porch. However, I'm ready for the summer to be over. Summer was a time of transition, upheaval, and HEAT. OK, heat is nice in certainly places and situations, haha, but I'm looking forward to the weather, AND MY LIFE, cooling off just a bit. I'm getting settled into the job best I can for now, and our house is feeling like home.

Also, I'm excited to finally get back into finishing up these interviews for my dissertation. The data I have thus far is very interesting, and I'm looking forward to filling out the sample and moving onward more heavily into the data analysis. I have another interview Thursday back in SCT, so that should be good. I hope it leads to just 3 or 4 more interviews, and then I just may be done. We shall see, though...all part of a larger iterative process of analyzing data and building a theory from the ground up. It'll be good to get my "scholar" hat back on my head. I've had enough of the life transition stuff for a while, (though I certainly don't begrudge the reasons for the move!).

K, bye.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Summer on the Porch


This isn't the greatest picture photographically, but this happens to be a shot of my point of view right now. This picture was taken in July, though (note the patriotic decorations). I'm presently sitting on our screened porch, reading an article on creativity, writing this blog post, while watching Moose playing in the pool (kiddie pool). One of the many things that sold us on this house was this porch. We've already sat out here for numerous meals at various times of day. It's just fantastic, I must say. Well OK, it's hotter then HELL right now, but I'm enjoying the outdoors nevertheless.

(it's good to have the wireless Internet access set up too...glad it extends out here to the porch!)

Wife is inside teaching a voice lesson right now, if you can believe it, which is the reason why us "boys" were banished outside. One of her students from SCT was nearby visiting her grandmother, so she called yesterday to see if she could take a lesson today. I do hope, for Wife's sake, that this is just the first of many, MANY lessons that will be taught in the living room of New Chesterley. We're hoping that the move to Large State Capital will bring about a new, and more prolific, group of students for Wife's at-home studio.

Ah, a breeze just came through. Sigh.

I've had a decent couple of days working on the diss. Status report: I have stopped trying to find participants at this point. The professors aren't even around, let alone any students working on senior projects. This isn't really a surprise to me, though I had hoped to have all interviews completed prior to the move. Oh well. I'll have to extend the interviewing out a month or two into the fall semester.

The good thing is that now I have time to do the edits my committee wanted me to do on the proposal/first half of the diss. I am SO glad that DC had me write the first three chapters as the proposal itself. It's a big relief to have half of the writing completed already. So, I don't mind the editing for now, though I do look forward to having the interviews completed so I don't have to depend on anyone else but myself to get the work done. I still plan to finish sometime this fall.

OK, that's about it. I'll try to publish some more pictures of the house when I can. Bye.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Garage Door

We've had a comedy of errors with our garage door, and it finally all came to a head last night. The blow by blow:

When we had the house inspected prior to closing, it was brought to my attention that the garage door opener was connected by two modified extension cords, and it was not very safe. I could picture Moose pulling the cords apart and frying his hands, or worse. So, I knew the thing was going to need a little work before we signed on the line. Looks like it had been installed by the Prior Owner, and he wasn't necessarily an electrician, bless his heart, may he rest in peace. Also, the security eye beams that usually sit near the bottom of the door tracks to keep it from closing on, say, your SON or your DOG, were installed at the ceiling, right next to the opener, pointing at each other about six inches apart, entirely useless!!! Clearly, Prior late Owner, wanted the door to work quickly, so he slapped the eye beams up at the ceiling and didn't bother worrying about the extra wiring it would have taken to make those beams function as they were designed. Ugh. Oy. More electrical work. Fine. I can accept that.

When we closed on the house, we were only given one garage door opener by owner (the widow of the garage motor installer). I should have asked about it at the time, but she and her late husband were the original owners, she's in her 80s, and I figured they only had one car at the time they moved out. OK, OK, one more thing to repair with the garage door. Deep breath, it's just not a major deal.

Very soon after we moved in, we had the door opener hard-wired by a licensed electrician. Not cheap, but they did a fine job, and they also did a lot of other work on the house that came up in the inspection as well. They did not have the ability to get me a new remote for my car, however.

So, I went to Sears to find a replacement remote. It's a Craftsman door opener, and those are sold by Sears, so I expected it would be pretty easy. Low & behold, I found a remote identical to the one we already have for just under $40. Cheaper than an new opener, I thought, so I bought it.

Got it home, and I couldn't get the remote to mate with the opener. One of the "high-tech" things that generates a new security code each time you press the button. OK, OK, guess I need to find another option, I thought. Then I got busy with the new job and unpacking and such. Finally went back to Sears last night and got a different remote. And it worked!

And then the gear on the #$%^ motor died!!! I couldn't believe it. So I can operate the motor from my car, but the motor neither raises or lowers the door. DAMN. I had to release the door by pulling the rope thing, and then I did a sort of ballet dance to get the door to lower before it popped back up to the open position and locked again. I finally got the thing to go down, and BAM it closed with a rather loud crash. Nothing was damaged, fortunately. But geez, that's a heavy, solid wood, 43-year-old garage door! Today the garage door doctor, or whatever the hell they're called, is coming to fix the motor. I just hope we don't need a new one, because the remote I got at Sears will have been all for naught. If I weren't bald already, I'd be pulling out my hair.

It's getting Money Pit out. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, though!

UPDATE: wow, within 30 minutes the thing was fixed! Chain came off the track. Guess we're not getting into Money Pitt-edness after all Whew!

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Cafe in A New town

Finally, it feels like we're settling into Large State Capital (Capitol? No, I think it's Capital, right Jason?) to the point where I'm taking a day to work on the dissertation. Believe it or not, my new employer is giving me time away to get this thing done. Lots of pressure to produce, therefore, since I'm literally being paid to finish up this project. This will be good pressure!

I've found a couple of cafes near New Chesterley that have wireless Internet access, so here I sit replicating my productivity from when I lived in Small College Town. Today I'm going to try contacting a couple of folks I know back in SCT to see if I can recruit the few more participants I need for the study. Then, I'm going to continue what I started earlier today...some edits to the proposal. If I can get just a lot done on my dissertation days (D-Days, as a colleague called it yesterday), and a bit more over the weekends, then I will hopefully finish things up this fall. Imagine that! The minute my new boss told me to take the time I needed this fall, I finally became able actually to imagine finishing. Remarkable.

Mid-afternoon today just about my entire extended family will come to town to celebrate Moose's sixth birthday this weekend. Should be much fun. It required getting a few more boxes unpacked so my two nephews can crash on sleeping bags/Aerobeds in my office/prison. I hope they find it comfy. Perhaps I'll post a few pictures at the end of the weekend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

No More Painting, Please!

Hi Blog,

Last night I finally finished with the initial round of painting I had hoped to do early on in the tenure of our residence at New Chesterley. I painted two bedrooms prior to when we moved in: ours and Moose's. As of last night I finished the other two bedrooms, which wife and I will use as office space and will eventually have places for guests to stay as well. If Moose were fortunate enough to ever have a sibling, then we'd easily turn one of those office/guest rooms into a nursery. I'll probably post some pictures sometime soon.

I have enjoyed the process of painting, and, darn it, I think I'm pretty good at it, too. I didn't need any of that painter's tape or anything. I've done this enough that I was able to keep the brush under control, usually. haha. There was the occasional drip that I needed to clean up (especially last night on the last room...ugh!), but that wasn't so bad. The house has good baseboards varnished an "oak" color, wood floors, and solid wood doors on the rooms and closets which are also varnished to match the baseboards. I'm thankful I only needed to paint one color in each room and not have to also paint the trim separately!

I'm going to hang up my paint brush for a while, even though there's a white entry hall and second floor hall that call out to me each day: "Rob, please paint me something other than white!" A neighbor told us those hallways used to have green fuzzy wallpaper as recent as last winter!!! I guess white is a good alternative, but sometime in the next couple of years we'll probably change that. Sort of fun.

But sort of exhausting to think about now, so I'm not gonna. K, bye.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Approaching Normalcy

Well, I really do laugh in the general direction of normalcy. After all, "My kid's autistic...what's you're excuse?" (that quote from a really funny series of t-shirts my sister-in-law found).

But what I mean is this: I'm now officially one week into working full-time, and I actually didn't fall asleep at my desk even once! haha (after not having an 8-5 job for five years, I was a bit worried about making it through the day in one building. Well wait a sec. I suppose I did that most Saturdays for the past year as I wrung the first half of the dissertation out of me like trying to obtain water from a dry sponge, but for some reason a full-time post feels different). Things are coming together quite well. I spent these past few years as one of about 25 researchers, all with slightly different views of conducting research and sharing the results. All part of the academic process, I suppose, and the argumentation was "fun" in an odd sort of way. Now I've entered a division of practitioners whom I respect a great deal, but researchers they are not. Suddenly, that's "my" job to assess things and help them improve. I went from being one of many to being one of, like, TWO. Fortunately the other researcher type appears like he'll be a good colleague. He gave me a good reality check the other day. I suppose it will be a good change to be one of just a few instead of one of many. Suffice it to say the transition is going just fine. Almost feels like "normal."

The other part of finding normalcy is that I've finally started back in on the dissertation after about a month away for the move and finishing up the GAship. I communicated via e-mail with My Committee about where things stood prior to the move. DC provided some more advice on how to recruit more participants. Oh yeah: funny thing happened. I was hoping to interview between 8 and 12 participants. I was able to find 9 pretty easily. All but one showed up for the interviews, which was pleasantly surprising. After the initial rush of interviews I looked more closely at the demographic breakdown of my participants. Hello...SEVEN of the eight are men?? And I didn't notice this before because...? Ugh. If this were a study of men, I'd be set. But if I don't find more women participants, then I'll be chucked in the student development gender oppression trash can with the rest of the higher education theorists from the 60s and 70s. Not a good way to start off as a researcher, eh? So, my goal is to recruit about four or five more women who qualify for the study and are willing to talk to me about college for about an hour. Not an impossible task, right? How the hell did this happen when there are far more women in higher education than men? Oh well, I could have worse problems than this. And I feel better now that My Committee is aware of the situation and hasn't fallen over in complete disbelief.

Related note: Pink successfully defended her dissertation last week! Congrats to her! Very inspirational to the rest of us.

Normal has not been achieved on all counts just yet. Moving to a new town is challenging for Wife and Moose...they have no built-in way of meeting people the way I do at work. Not easy. Today Wife is attending a nearby church to check it out for us. We can't all go, since Moose needs to be either in the nursery or with the other kids his age accompanied by an aid. We are the natural aids for him in this situation, but then one or the other of us cannot attend the service. Normally church nurseries are for kids up to age 4, and he's almost 6, so we can't just walk into any church cold without having made prior plans. Again, "my kid's autistic, what's you're excuse?" Normal is different for us. I am not complaining or asking for sympathy. Rather, I'm just stating the facts. Wife will go to church today solo and will let me know how things go. Seems like a pretty interesting and progressive place, according to their Web site, so we shall see. If she likes it, then we'll phone the minister next week and see if we can make arrangements for Moose to hang in the nursery with the toddlers. We're hoping to find some family normalcy pretty soon, but we know it takes a while.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Settling in slowly but surely

Hi Blog,

I'm now in day two of the new job, and it's going just fine. I won't discuss the details here, but suffice it to say I'll be working with friendly talented people, and my work will be cut out for me. The first day was a bit slow, with meeting a few people and mostly having my head buried in my predecessor's files. Today should pick up with my first meeting with my new boss and hopefully getting a better feel for what projects I'll be working on. Nice preposition at the end of that sentence. You can tell I've been away from my writing for a few weeks.

The new house is fantastic, and we're getting used to things pretty quickly. We've been living on our screened-in porch overlooking the back yard. The weather has been nice, but even when it's not we're still out there. Ah. Something I've always wanted...a porch! We also just got a trampoline for Moose, and yesterday he spent much of the afternoon bouncing and laughing. He just loves it. It's good to see him so happy. Of the three of us, I think he's adjusted the most quickly to the new house. He has slept through the night from the first day in the new house. Wife and I are still getting used to Chester's toenails clicking on the wood floors ... it can be difficult to sleep!

Oh yeah, the move was just fine. No real complaints...just one minor bump in the road where the local moving company had to go back to the old place the following day to get the stuff that didn't fit in the truck initially. Oh well. We lived.

Dissertation. Yeah, I should get on that. Just lemme finish unpacking boxes. I was lucky to have found my box of shoes yesterday morning when scrambling around my house getting ready to leave at 7:15 AM for the first time in about five years.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Paint in the Fingernails

I have been painting lately, so much, in fact, that I'm seriously considering borrowing some of Wife's nail polish remover to remove the stuff from my hands. We closed on New Chesterley last Monday, and I've been trying to get a couple of rooms ready prior to when we move in. It's been slow and rather tedious work, but it's worth it now since it's DONE. And movers will be here in about 8 hours. Obviously I've not packed my computer or wireless router, etc. However, other than the electronics and the crap that always manages to appear without a logical home box during a move, we're pretty much ready to go. Also, we still have Chesterley for a few more days, so having the backup time is comforting. Man I'm tired. Today was indeed the longest day of the year. Time for bed. I think this is one of the first moves where I didn't feel a need to stay up all night packing things up. We are VERY thankful for the five gazillion friends who were here last Saturday and earlier this evening to help us pack. I honestly don't know what we would have done without these good friends. We will miss you all!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dragons in the Garage

Wife and I spent the greater part of yesterday afternoon slaying dragons in our garage. Let me 'splain. Our current house has no unfinished basement or attic areas. This gives us very workable interior spaces, but absolutely no proper storage. The silly thing is, the garage has a pitched roof, but it was never "finished." I mean, it's "complete," but the interior has no walls, insulation, or ceiling. Only exposed beams and rafters. There SO could have been a sweet attic up there, but that never happened for a reason completely unknown to us. Fortunately there are plywood boards on the "ceiling," so we have had boxes and packing material stored up there these five years. It's hotter than hell in there, though.

Our respite-care worker came over yesterday and took Moose on an excursion to the local children's museum, which he LOVES. This gave us three solid hours to battle the garage. I think we won yesterday's initial battle, and I don't know what we would have done without the help. All of the boxes, etc. are now down and off the rafters. We saved many more boxes than we remembered, and this will be helpful. Wife did a great job of organizing where the packed boxes should go, where the "box with a specific purpose" should be kept (e.g. the computer boxes), and finally where the random empty boxes are. I need a lot of direction in this kind of thing...my mind wanders too much when packing. Must focus and kill dragons!

I am coming across things I haven't seen in about five years. This is bad. These indeed are my dragons. That's the stuff I hate dealing with: stuff from my past that I think I want to keep, but it seems strange to do so when I literally haven't opened the box during the time we lived here (many of these boxes came to me just after we moved in... "Rob, now that you have a house, get this stuff out of my basement!"). Although, I think I'm painting a worse picture than it is. When push comes to shove, there are only about 6-8 boxes out there that I need to deal with. They are sorta big, but I guess that's not so bad. It'll be far easier than writing a dissertation proposal, that's for sure.

The other thing we desperately need to do is organize things like tools, etc. These home-improvement materials are stored in two rather cluttered sections of the garage. This is another dragon I must slay (sleigh? slae? sleh?). I'm thankful for the built-in workbench and storage that we'll have in the new garage. I am also looking forward to having time to actually DO home-improvement projects more frequently. Perhaps just the act of doing those regularly will keep the place organized? Nah.

Anyhow, yesterday ended up being very successful, and I think we're winning the battles against the dragons in the garage.

Oh yeah, I have dissertation data to collect. Gosh...almost forgot about that. Oh, so THAT's the heavy weight on my back right now...oh YEEAAAH.

Friday, June 08, 2007

And the days go by...

I think it's just now starting to hit me that I'm about to go through a pretty major shift in my professional identity. The move is on my mind, as is our accute need to PACK. Last night my body said "night night" at about 10:38 PM, which is extremely early for me. I literally fell asleep at my desk, hands on the keyboard. Kinda funny. This morning I woke up bright and early at just before 5:00 AM. I let Chester out, fed him and myself, read the paper, and here I am starting a blog post at just before 6:00 AM. Guess I'm getting the body and brain ready for full-time work.

One week from today is my last day as a graduate assistant, or GA. The GA term is really quite broad, and fortunately I've had a variety of experiences in this role, true to its definition. I started out in the fall of 2002 as one of two researchers on a large qualitative program evaluation. It was my first time working on a formal qualitative project, though I had been involved in running focus groups and the like while working full-time as an administrator in higher education. I learned a great deal and still use many of the skills I developed there each day in my current job.

The following year I joined the large research center where I'm fortunate to work now. I've had a variety of roles there, starting off with participating in a research project alongside a group of scholars I thought I would NEVER meet anytime soon. Later I learned all about the world of survey administration, and last year I became a supervisor for some of the other GAs on the project while still maintaining my own GA status, thus giving me some time (though not a ton) to work on the dissertation. Was that a runon sentence? Oh well, it's 6AM. Anyhow, I feel like I've had good experiences on both the qualitative and quantitative side of the research house, and it's likely they contributed toward landing the job I'll start July 2.

I really have very few, if any, complaints about the course of my graduate school career, except for the fact that I'm not yet done with the dissertation at the end of year five. The thing is, I wouldn't trade these experiences for the world [Well okay, I WOULD trade the >60% pay cut I took when I started here in 2002, but I realize no one forced me into this full-time student life five years ago]. And it's very likely I'll finish up the dissertation around year five-and-a-half, assuming I can hold it all together, with "it" defined as the balance between family, full-time work, the dissertation, and anything else I cannot predict.

When I first came here, I'd dream about what it would be like on the back end of the Ph.D. What will I have learned? Will I feel like I've established an area of expertise? How will it manifest itself in a new job? Will I find a new job, and where will that be? Now, here I am on that tail end, and I'm ending my GA career in one week. I have a job in hand. Hell, I've even bought and sold a house. Quoting Talking Heads like I did in this post's title: "How did I get here?"

I went through a pretty major identity shift during my first year, and many of us did. I had worked as an administrator for six years and served as an advisor to numerous students, was a director of a small department, and was comfortable meeting with students, their parents, professors, other administrators, the board of trustees, etc., as a pretty regular part of my job. I came back to school, and suddenly I had professors wondering if I understood university administrative structures and student development because I had not taken their courses in those areas. Hello, I've worked with ACTUAL students, ACTUAL budgets, ACTUAL administrators...I think I know what I'm doing. And I did, though the coursework and research have more than certainly enhanced my professional experiences. I've come to respect the graduate student process because I see how important research is to developing new knowledge in the field. I also respect it for how it informs practical work, as well.

So now I need to make yet another identity shift back into full-time administrative work. In some ways, I can't wait. In others, I'm scared as hell. Grad student life is pretty comfortable. Academic discourse involves many things including the discussion of ideas, having them critiqued, and then moving onward with the feedback to make improvement. I suppose administrative work is similar in many ways, but I'm feeling pressure to be An Expert in My Field now that I'm just about finished with the Ph.D. and have obtained full-time Work in My Area. That's a little intimidating. However, I already know my future work place is one that values critical thinking toward improvement (hell, I'll be working in institutional assessment!), so I'm probably very lucky in that regard.

I think my transitional angst is pretty normal. With the hectic nature of finding a new home and making arrangements to move, I think I've forgotten to consider my own personal/professional identity shift that's coming up. So, it's time to take that into consideration when working on packing boxes, setting up utilities, cancelling utilities, scheduling a mover, arranging for repairs in the new house, finding Moose's new school, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Glad we took a vacation last month. Woosh!!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Movement

Hi Blog.

I'm finally feeling that I can focus on finishing things up here in SCT rather than a constant worry about things like inspections, mortgages, assessments, utility set-up and cut-offs, etc. etc. etc. I get mired in the details...perhaps earlier than others would, but I like for all these things to be done well in advance. Moving is stressful enough without all the other details that go into making things happen. Now I'm working on things that are more "fun" than stressful, like, "DSL or Cable for Internet access?" and "What color shall we paint Moose's room?" If those are now the major stressors in my life, then life is pretty darn good.

As I think I said before, I've completed 8 interviews for the dissertation. I feel pretty good about that, though I really should have at least two more, and at this point I'm not sure where else I'll find these people. I figure I'll ask the 8 participants, again, if they have friends who would meet the criteria to be interviewed, but I'm not sure if that's going to produce any more viable participants. We shall see. For some reason, I'm not all that stressed about it. Perhaps I should be? I dunno. Somehow, finding two interview participants doesn't seem like a daunting task. I do need to get on this, though, because moving without those completed is not a good idea.

I've made very good progress with cleaning out the office/prison over the weekend. Well OK, "cleaning" is not exactly the right word at the moment, but I think the "throw-away, recycle, shred" piles are actually larger than the piles of papers I need to keep. This is good!

Moose started summer camp today. He had a BALL there last year, and it provides Wife some respite and guilt-free time to do other things, like complete the paperwork for his ongoing verbal behavior analysis program, continue with getting estimates from movers, etc. etc. Not like she's going to sit around eating bon bons or anything, but I'm happy that she'll have some time in the middle of the day to do some work without feeling like she always had to be entertaining, or educating, Moose. I can relate to these guilty feelings pretty easily. I adore spending time with him, though on the weekends when I need to take a few minutes to work or write an e-mail, etc., I feel horribly guilty if I'm just letting him chill out somewhere in the house. I sorta feel like he could just waste away if he's ignored, because he so easily can go off into his own mental Nirvana by himself. It's really a horrible feeling...like a notion of entire complete responsibility for keeping him from just disappearing. Kinda feels like pushing a button every hour to keep the island from exploding (I've only seen a few episodes of Lost). Not trying to be dramatic here, but that's the feeling I get. I mean, I LOVE hanging with Moose...I'm not afraid of him or anything. But caring for him can be stressful...feels like making a mistake now can be really damaging later on. I guess that's no different for any child, but for some reason it seems pretty acute with Moose. Anyhow, Last week was a bit rough for Wife and Moose since he had finished up school. I'm glad for both of them that camp has started up this week.

K, back to work. Bye Blog.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Peanut Butter Jelly Time

I LOVE PB & J sandwiches. It was pretty much all I'd eat for lunch and dinner between ages 3 and oh, probably 10! I don't eat quite as much now, but it's a pretty regular thing for me a few times a week. For this little test, I chose smooth PB and strawberry jam on wheat bread, cut into rectangles. Here are the results, below.

(Oh yeah, Chad is about the only other person I know who eats more PB & J than I do. I hope he shares his results too.)

What Your Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich Means

Your eating style is reserved. You are a bit of a fussy eater, and you have very specific ways you like your food prepared.

You have an average sweet tooth. While you enjoy desserts, they aren't exactly your downfall.

Your taste in food tends to be pretty flexible. You may crave sushi one night, and your favorite childhood recipe the next.

You are probably a fairly normal, upper middle class person. You don't rock the boat too often.

You are a tough person who isn't afraid to live life fully. There isn't a lot that scares you.

You are a pretty easy person to please, but you do have your own little personal quirks. You're far from neurotic, but you can be a little picky at times.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Motivation

Hey, a guy's gotta have some motivation to finish the dissertation. This may be it. Waaaaay cool. Fuel efficient too. I'll need a new car here pretty soon. Hmmmm.....

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Packing Day 1

I finish up my current job in about three weeks, which means that our move to Large State Capital (LSC), is happening in about a month. I officially started the packing process today, which for me involves cleaning of...yes, you got it: the office/prison. It needs another round of de-cluttering, AGAIN. Makes sense, I suppose. I've done A LOT on my dissertation since the last major purge, and the other stuff, like the paperwork from bills I've paid, are in neat, organized, squared-off piles on the floor. Well, they WERE. I have done a good job of cleaning those much of this afternoon. And frankly, I threw out a good amount of paperwork I thought I'd need, but I really don't.

Question for anyone out there who feels like responding: should I throw away my master's degree? I finished it in 1996. It's in the same field as my Ph.D., so I've been hanging onto it. However, here I am finished with coursework, halfway done with the dissertation itself, and I've probably used just a few files from the two file boxes that I've moved three times. I think I'm gonna just chuck most of it, but if anyone else has any ideas on how long to keep this stuff, please feel free to leave a comment here.

It's dinner out, and a friend's coming over. Bye.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lots on the mind

Lots on the mind these days.

First, we had a great vacation to Undisclosed Location. It’s pretty nice there this time of year, though rather warm. Was a really nice way to celebrate our tenth anniversary. TENTH? How’d a decade go by so fast?? In some ways, though, it seems like a long while ago.

Next, the house. Oy, the house. It’s all going OK. I’m still confused about how the closing of our present place is going to go, but hopefully Realtor Woman 1 will work that out for us. We inspected the new place, and Realtor Woman 2 helped us negotiate our way through that. We’re gathering some more information to respond by early next week. Hopefully both transactions will be finalized after this long holiday weekend. I am getting sick of having various provisions up in the air.

Oh yeah: while there were no deal breakers on the inspection, there was a funny thing that happened. First, keep in mind we’re about to buy a fairly substantial 1965 two-story + basement house from the original owner in her 80s. The place has been vacant since the wintertime. Low and behold, Inspector Man and I were crawling in and out of the attic, the crawlspace, the darkest corners of the place. Then we checked out the fireplace in the basement rec room area to find a LIVE RACCOON or ‘POSSUM or something in there! I ran halfway out of the room, and so did Inspector Man. It was still alive. The flue was part-way open. Sort of a comedy going on with the two of us saying, “Holy SHIT there’s something in there, it’s furry, and it’s MOVING!” We were laughing. The fireplace upstairs had a dead bird in it. Nice. Yeah, we need some chimney caps pretty darn quick! Ah, spring in the Midwest.

New subject. Yesterday, Wife and I attended the funeral of an eighteen-year-old young man we never met. We know his mother pretty well, as she works with the local schools as the preschool coordinator. Her son died in an auto accident last weekend. I’ve never been to a funeral of a young person before. The hardest thing to watch was the number of other young people there who had to learn about death way too soon. Another tough part was hearing about the potential this young man had: someone who wasn’t afraid to argue, had good sense of humor, worked with disabled children, and cared about issues of human rights and equality. He was supposed to be off to college to study political science in the fall. We need more intelligent people who give a shit about these good issues working amongst people in the real world, and unfortunately this guy will never get that chance. Sad stuff. The experience really sucked, and I don’t envy the mourning and recovery process that our friend has ahead of her.

Before I forget, on the dissertation data-collection front (oh yeah, this is a blog about my doctoral program, right?), I’ve been blown off twice this week, but fortunately they rescheduled for next week. So, if all interviews come through, then by this time next week I will have completed eight of the ten or so interviews I need to do. Yahoo! As long as I can get a few more done prior to June 15, I should be good to go for analyzing the data late summer/early fall and then writing up the results before or around Thanksgiving.

OK, it’s getting weekend out. Gotta go.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Interviews

During all the haze with our house-selling and searching processes, I have been conducting interviews for my dissertation. I have been looking forward to this time for about two years now, so it feels good to be on a hiatus from writing and now actually conducting interviews. Feels good to be doing something more tangible for a change.

The interviews have gone well so far, with the exception of a broken tape cassette here. Please don't tell me to use a digital recorder instead, as those are worthless to me for doing my own transcriptions (I have an aged transcription machine, foot pedals and all).

I've conducted five interviews, and I think I have a sixth scheduled for after Wife and I return from Undisclosed Location. Only about four or five more, and I should be good to go. Ten or eleven hours of interview data is plenty for this study, thankyouverymuch.

I just wanted a little reminder to myself in the blog about this process, so this post is short. K, bye.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Into Place, Things Are Falling

Like Yoda in this post's title, I spoke. Probably because philosophical and reflective, I am feeling. A good thing, this is.

Today (or what's left of it) is our tenth wedding anniversary. Wife's parents are here to be with Moose while Wife and I go away to an undisclosed location for a week to celebrate. We've been planning this trip for months, and we're very fortunate to have parents that will come in and help out with Moose when needed (I'm including you on this sentiment as well, Mom). TEN years since the wedding day?? I mean, I guess I can believe that. So much has happened since then, and it does feel like it was a while back. But then we start discussing that it's been "a decade," and then one thinks about the swift passage of time. And philosophical, one gets.

The last day of the first decade of our marriage (e.g. yesterday) was a banner day in the house of Chesterley. We bought and sold a house on the same day! Monday we placed an offer on a house we adore in our new city. The owner countered and actually came down quite a bit further than we expected. Tuesday night after a great deal of discussion, roller-coaster emotions ("can we really afford this?"), wailing and gnashing of teeth, we signed on the dotted line and sent in the paperwork yesterday morning. Then, yesterday evening we learned that the response we wrote to the buyers of our current home regarding a few points on the inspection report were accepted, meaning our house sale was a done deal last night. Needless to say we each had a stiff drink and danced around the house like happy people.

And then we slept well for the first time since the beginning of April. We are very thankful that the house stuff, in particular the sale of this place, went so quickly and relatively smoothly. I know of a few others who have struggled with selling a house, and I can only imagine what a long process would do your stress levels. I don't know when before I've been this stressed out continuously for several days in a row. Not a healthy way to be.

We'll get an inspection done on the new house after we return from our vacation. We do adore this house, though I'm determined to not call it "our house" till after the inspection is complete. Still, it's hard not to be placing furniture mentally or planning improvement projects already. Must stop! OK I won't, but I sorta feel like I should say that here. :-)

So Decade 1 ended on a high note for this family, and may all the remaining ones end equally as high. It's amazing how the various aspects of life can fall into place sometimes. And experiencing all of these changes with the same person right by my side over time is simply priceless. I am one lucky man.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Houses and Stuff

I thought our house-purchasing process when acquiring the residence presently known as Chesterley was rather stressful. We came into town for three days, and thankfully we had a realtor who spent the majority of her time with us. Moose was just under 10 months old, so of course he needed 'round-the-clock care, feedings, etc. We put an offer on one place, and of course we were worried it was going to stretch our budget. We low-balled the offer and hoped they'd take it. And then we LEFT TOWN with nothing definite on where we would live, and no plans to return to this town before actually moving here. Stressful! Fortunately it all worked out, they took our low offer, and Chesterley has been a wonderful place to live.

However, selling this house is also pretty stressful in itself. I think we're finding the prospect of leaving this place more difficult as the weeks go by. During the time we've lived here, our family has been through a lot. Between me and wife we've lost two grandparents and a parent, Moose was diagnosed with autism disorder, and we had the typical growing pains of a growing family, money concerns, low academic and career self-esteem, and other difficulties. We've had some high points as well: good progress through a Ph.D. for me, progress through speech and physical difficulties for Moose, increase in the diversity of types of voices taught to sing by Wife, numerous fun parties and other gatherings, great discussions with a gaggle of good friends, and now landing this job and preparing to move on is indeed another high point that we've experienced while living here. It's hard to leave a place where you've grown so much personally and watched your child transform from "plasma" into a real, live, very active, boy.

The house itself has changed quite a bit these last five years, and the changes are all part of the mark we're leaving on this place. New roof, great gardens (thanks to us, I must say!), new interior and exterior paint jobs, some new kitchen cabinets and such, new dishwasher, different curtains, etc. Wife and I enjoy 'keeping house' together, and I think we've come to be pretty good at it. And we always make sure we can afford it first, which is key. Being house-poor is useless. Big tax refunds are awfully helpful.

When we moved here, we didn't think we'd stay here forever. We figured we'd be here four years, and now we've been here five. There are things we've put up with here that we're hoping to not have to deal with in our new place. We have no separate dining room, and yet we enjoy having friends and family over for sit-down dinners. There are a couple of "warts" in the yard in the way it slopes toward in the house in back. Some other choices in the construction materials (cheap-ass vinyl siding, for example) would not have been our choice were we to actually build a house.

Our new location is a much larger city, and fortunately it's not very far from SCT so we've visited the past several weekends to go house hunting. Lots of options up there. Lots of crap, too. Some expensive, and some not-so. Every time we come home to SCT, it hits us both how much we love this house. It's "home." This is the longest we've ever lived in one place together...heck, it's the longest either of us have ever lived anywhere except for the places we grew up. The thought of moving and starting over with our gardens, painting, etc. gets rather exhausting. And then the emotional side kicks in for me. Will the new owners of this place continue to take care of the yard, or will it all weed over? Will they repaint the "roasted red pepper" accent wall I painted in the kitchen as a surprise for Wife? Do they realize that the best son in the entire world learned how to walk, talk, eat and do most things he knows how to do under this roof? I need to get over these emotions toward this building, I realize. And I will. After all, the "home" is just going to move to a different house. Home is in the people, not the walls.

Tomorrow (OK, technically later today) is hopefully our last day for house-hunting, as our time is getting more limited. The hunting process is getting tiresome now...nothing seems to compare to our current house just yet. A couple of great places have had major, unchangeable things that will not work, like it's in the wrong school district or located on a busy road. The scary thing is, we're supposed to be out of our current house on June 26...ACK! Really hope the hunt goes well tomorrow.

It's tough to leave a place where you've done a lot of living...good and bad times mixed together. At least the family itself will stay together, and together we'll find a new container in which to house Chesterley. It's just sort of scary that in a very short time, life is going to change so much. No complaints though...just a little healthy fear here & there.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two Important Meetings

IMPORTANT MEETING 1: Dissertation Proposal Defense.
I passed.

You know, it was actually an enjoyable experience. I felt like I had a highly-informed cheering squad instead of a group of adversaries. They treated me like a colleague. DC started off the meeting by saying, "We all want this study to work for you, and we're here now to help you improve it before you start." Can't ask for more support than that.

The end result was a pretty major change to the semi-structured interview protocol. This didn't surprise me at all: Honestly, I really didn't like the first one I had written. The feedback during the defense discussion was invaluable, and DC agreed. After we were finished and I watched them sign all the paperwork, DC invited me back to her office and we spent the next 45 minutes crashing through the edits of the protocol. SHE actually did the typing while I did the talking. Gosh she's cool. After that we decided to add a brief demographic survey that I'll have the participants complete prior to coming to my office for their interviews. I pulled together an Amendment for the Committee on the Protection of Human Subjects and submitted these new things to that office later in the afternoon. All wrapped up in a nice bow. Not really, it was wrapped up in an inter-campus envelope, but I'm just being figurative.

As I was driving home, I had a sudden urge to start packing up my house, in preparation for our move. Wait a minute, I need to do these minor things like SCHEDULE THE INTERVIEWS NOW!!! Oh yeah. :-)

IMPORTANT MEETING 2: Moose's Individual Education Plan for 2007-2008.
This is the meeting where the SCT teachers, therapists, preschool coordinator all come together with us to set goals and objectives for his schooling next year. He will start kindergarten. We're technically a year late, but that's really not a big deal. It was good of these folks to spend the time with us, especially since we're writing this for the new school district in the new city. We didn't finish today, so we'll finish things up next week.

OK, I'm off to officially invite participants to join my dissertation study (at long last) and then it's bedtime. G'night.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Newsworthy Tidbits

Two newsworthy tidbits to share here:

  1. My dissertation proposal defense is set for Wednesday, April 25 at 10:00 AM. Please think happy thoughts.
  2. I will start a full-time job July 1.

I don't write about the details of work here, as this blog focuses mostly on my dissertation process and a little bit on Moose. However, the new job is worth mentioning because we're going to move away from Small College Town this summer as a result.

We’re excited for the move, though it’s bittersweet. We have many, many wonderful friends here, and many of the resources for raising a child with special needs are wonderful. We enjoy the small-town charm, too. Those features will be hard to leave. However, we’re moving to a much larger city, and that will open up different opportunities for Moose’s schooling and for Wife’s career as a classical vocalist.

Basically, it’s a job in institutional assessment situated in a division of student life. This is just the sort of thing I was hoping to find upon graduation. I’m feeling lucky to have found it several months before finishing the dissertation!

The new shop will support my dissertation completion efforts by allowing me some time away in the summer and fall. My goal is still to finish up in December, that is, assuming the dissertation proposal defense process goes OK next week.

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks. Our house went on the market just over a week ago, and by the end of last week we already received an offer! Now we need to haul ass and find a house in our new location. We went school hunting this morning, and that went very well, so now house-hunting can follow. Fun and pretty darn scary all at once. But we’re really, really happy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Basic Question

Last July I officially started my current job, which was essentially a promotion from a 50% FTE graduate assistantship to a 75% FTE graduate assistantship with supervisory responsibilities. The money was "good," and as a result I had no need to take out another student loan. The money was not "great," but for 30 hours per week, I had no complaints.

However, I am still on the student health insurance plan. The alternative, had I been hired as a true 75% staff member, was no insurance coverage at all. So, I was thankful to have been hired on as a grad-student at the salary I'm receiving, and I thought the student insurance plan was OK. Not great, but OK.

Moose wasn't on this plan last year. He was on a state-funded plan for which we qualified because our income was so low. This was a wonderful insurance plan, especially for a child with special needs, as it covered just about everything with no premiums or copay. Don't get me wrong: I'd rather not qualify for the plan due to high income, but I do miss this plan. We took him off the plan January 1.

Today we learned that the speech and occupational therapy (OT) he receives every week has not been covered since the start of the new year. Earlier in the year when we were deciding to switch him to this "student" plan, however, Wife called the insurance company to verify coverage, and they said "autism is covered." However, what was not clear was that they only cover "medical" expenses for autism, and not speech and OT. Speech and OT are only covered expenses if they are restorative. So, if I had been in an accident and needed to relearn how to use a fork, that OT would be covered.

Moose has never been able to speak. OT has taught him how to do things that other kids just learn, like using a fork, for example. My basic question: how is it that therapies provided by a hospital, and prescribed by a doctor, are not medical expenses realted to autism?

We are appealing, and we hope this turns out OK. But, what if it does not? Do we cancel therapies till we hear? The appeals process takes 30 days.

These insurance plans are designed for students, who typically are healthy and normally-functioning individuals. I mean, they got into college, after all. The plan covers prescriptions, doctor's visits, etc. That's all well and good, but when you realize your child has a mental disorder during a five-year stint as a graduate student, it'd be nice to at least be told what questions to ask in this regard. We would have found another plan or found another way to get the therapies had we known...

I may not have taken this job had I realized these essential things for Moose's care were not covered. On the other hand, this job has probably helped lead toward some bigger and better things (more later on those). I'm torn. Am not sure the money was worth it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Proposing and Recruiting

Hi. I didn't post a follow-up over the weekend.

I did indeed finish up the proposal, and I turned it into the committee. It ain't perfect, but it's done...for now. As I delivered a hard copy to the home of one committee member, I reminded him that I'm a musician by trade. I said, "Just keep in mind: the first time an orchestra plays together, it usually doesn't sound all that good. This proposal may be similar." He graciously said, "Oh c'mon, it'll be fine, Rob," so perhaps that's a good sign that they're not seeking perfection, just completion. We shall see.

Meanwhile, I started my "snowball sampling procedure." This means I've asked about 14 faculty and staff members that I know here at LMU about helping me recruit people eligible to participate in my interviews. I've asked them things like, "Do you know of students who fit these criteria?" and "Feel free to pass this along to others." The hope is that the snowball, or the sample of participants, gets larger and larger the farther it rolls, or in this case the more it's shared. I'm seeking about 8-15 people total, and already I have contact information for 10! Amazing how fast this occurs after getting over the proposal-writing hurdle.

K bye.