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.