Friday, December 30, 2011

Apologies all around

OK, I apologize for my recent postings.  I’ve been very condescending to my chairman.  Truly, I am grateful for every gem and tidbit of wisdom I can glean from anyone, especially him.  No more imagining my good chairman as a small burro-like mammal or arthropod. 

I got my laptop back from HP.  Hooray!!!!!   It feels like Christmas all over again.  All I wanted for Christmas was my laptop back….but no, that’s not really true.
She wished for a horse
     Getting late!  Back to work.    

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grinch's heart grew

In my previous post, it seemed as though the world had forsaken me. My academic advisor checked in to see if I had submitted and where I stood with things. I told her about my lack of progress and she insists I must get submitted ASAP. She asked me why I wasn’t using the dissertation helpline and I told her I was not aware there was one. She said my chairman was supposed to tell me about it, to which I repeated for at least the 50th time, my chairman doesn’t tell me anything I don’t specifically ask about. Within an hour of hanging up with her, I got a nice reply from my last email to my chairman. I will now refer to him as Dr. Cockroach. He gave me the information I requested so he’s no longer a Grinch. It could be my advisor ripped him a new one, or it could just be coincidental (but I doubt it).
Chairman Cockroach

Also, after I slammed HP in the last post, I got good news about my poor laptop. It’s on its way to me with a new motherboard, a new battery, and a new power cable. I’m pretty hopeful this means my hard drive is unharmed. It was on the truck in Nashville this morning and should be delivered to my house TOMORROW!!

I tracked my dreary textbook about psychometric theory from South Carolina to Hebron, Kentucky (a little less than three hours from here), and it was transferred into the hands of the US Postal Service. Dear God, I may never see it! The post office delivers the wrong mail to us all the time. They must deliver our mail to the wrong addresses sometimes too. Hopefully it was handed off as a priority package, but the web site doesn’t say. Perhaps it was taped to the backs of a battalion of snails. In the meantime, I’m still waiting for Dr. Kaplan to get off break, Chapter 3 is underway, I’m making corrections and edits to Chapter 2, I have to take recertification training on the appropriate ways to deal with human subjects in research, and I’ll research Dr. Cockroach’s instrument assessments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

dungbeetle droppings

Sometimes I drag my lazy ass into this office, plop down, and say to myself, “I can’t do this another day.” It’s one of those days. It started out with one of those nights. I sent Dr. Kaplan an email requesting permission to use and modify the questions from his study. He is a college professor sort, so of course he is out on break until next week….perhaps longer. I’m floundering with getting my proposal done. Nobody is going to help me and I’m going fail (says the pessimist in me). The 500+ page textbook that I am supposed to read and figure out how to adapt a survey was shipped Dec. 20, I still don’t have it and the seller didn’t send me a tracking number. At some point (soon), I’ll have to call and demand a tracking number. I have a feeling the book will be Greek to me. It’s hard not to be pessimistic when grim reality is so blatantly in my face all the time.

HP is F’ing me. My service agreement says 2-day shipping to get my laptop to them, 2-day shipping return. They have 3 days to make a repair or replace the thing. They tell you that you’ll be without your laptop for a week if anything happens. Are you kidding? What it REALLY means is they have 2 days to send me an empty box. I pack and return the box and it should arrive to them in 2 days. I returned the laptop the same day it arrived at my door. They just got it yesterday; thanks to Fed-Ex and the holiday, it took 8 days. The estimated return date on my order is now January 5th. So in reality – I am without my laptop 18 days!

I got all bummed out last night, gave up early, and went to bed. Someone was watching the football game and munching chips and dip in bed, and slurping down Big Red. Someone can eat like that because he’s an exercise addict. I set the alarm and tossed and turned for 30 minutes or so – normally I’m asleep when my head touches a pillow. Sometime in the night, I woke up with blood in my mouth and all over the pillow. Geeze Louise!! I have no idea what happened. The bandage was still intact so I must have bumped my wound somehow. It looks no different this morning but now it’s sore as heck. I’m going to be 70 years old and still have this giant bandage on my mouth. Hmmm…maybe I should just put a giant bandage over my whole mouth then nobody would expect me to eat or talk ever again. There’s always a silver lining when we look for one. Perhaps I could defend my dissertation in sign language, assuming I finish it before I’m so old that my brain changes to pudding.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy holiday

The holiday is over and it’s back to work for me tomorrow.  You could say I knocked off early tonight.  Quite obviously I’ve sunk into a very deep pit of psychometric mud.  I have no clear concept of what the hell I’m supposed to be looking for.  Asking an extra three little questions has me totally confounded.  Surely to God I’m making this much harder than it needs to be!  Dr. Cockroach is not handing out any tidbits of wisdom lately.  Perhaps I will call him Cockroach Grinch until his behavior improves.

We had a delightful holiday.  Visits from my sweet daughter and her man, and my sweet step-daughter too.  Time with Gracie.  She really is like a terrible-two year old human.  If I stay on her case and keep no-nonsense control of her, she behaves pretty well.  I think she has improved today, but it’s the kids and work crew here tomorrow, no doubt she will regress.   
Our Gracie
I took my nervous, newly 16-year olds driving for the first time today.  Over to the high school we went to drive around the parking lot…around, around, around for like an hour.  I sipped a mug of warm tea through a straw and tried to remain calm (my wound is maybe somewhat better today).  There was once I thought Emily was going to run us into a tower of wood pallets, and once when it seemed like we might take down a sign...but the car remained unscathed.       
Our work crew was back today and gutted the main bathroom upstairs.  It was an awesome feat for two men - all day!  We got good news - the water damage to the floor was limited to the plywood that overlaid the subfloor.  The underlying structure is still solid.  Here is our gutted upstairs bathroom:
Sink side

Tub side
celing is insulated - no floor in the attic above
This is our new lovely half bath on the first floor.  I have to go buy cabinet knobs and a towel bar.  Also some shelf liner for the drawers.  With messy people in the house, I like to protect our wood inside the drawers and on shelves.  

First floor half bath - needs some decorating.
   Here's a photo of our new deck (as promised).  It's a bit larger than the old deck.  We like it. 

Our screened porch rescreened, very nice!  Can you say, "office outside"? 
our lovely new floor
Erin put up and decorated our little tree.  It's really not a little tree.  Erin asked me what was wrong with it after she put it together, and I failed to notice it's short stature.  After she had it all decorated like this, I realized she left off the whole bottom layer.  I told her it was perfect.  Really, it was wonderful to have her do this for us.  It's a lot of work to carry all that stuff upstairs.   

So well, that's it folks.  It's time for me to go redo this bandage on my face.  Then, I'm going to play piano a bit before calling it a night.  I hope anyone who reads this blog has had a nice holiday.  I had a nice one despite my face, the inconvenience of construction, and Dr. C. Grinch.     

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


It’s almost Christmas and I’m in a wretched mood.  My laptop crapped out in the wee hours Sunday morning.  I knew it was bad (power issue came back), so I thought just maybe I’d go to bed and when I woke up, the problem would be gone.   Yeah, but no.  A few hours on the phone with HP and at least the damn thing is still under warranty.  So, they are shipping me a box to return it in.  Nevermind that I kept the original box it came in and could have overnighted it to them Monday.  They insisted if I violate their standard process, it could actually take longer to get it back.  I’m supposed to receive the magic box tomorrow with “special” paperwork.  Thank you God for Carbonite.  I didn’t lose any work (that I’m aware of). 

My face.  Totally bummed.  Did I say I didn’t care about disfigurement?  I lied.  Needles and blood, plenty of that.  We started at 9 AM and finished at 4:30 PM.  We went three rounds of numbing, cutting, and checking until all the cancer was out (it's called Moh's surgery).  I went back into the little room of horrors for the 4th time and was told good news – they got it all.  Bad news, we can’t really do a repair job now because we don’t know how this mess is going to heal.  We can:  A) skin graft but it’ll need plastic surgery later; B) cut a big notch up to my nose and sew the skin together but then I’ll likely have something weird on my lip that needs plastic surgery; or C) leave a big gaping hole and let it heal naturally…then see if plastic surgery is needed.  I told him C sounded like the best option and he agreed.  So, I have a hole about the size of a nickel on and above my lip.  I have to change the bandage 3 times a day and when I got a good look at that mess last night, I wasn’t sure if I was going to black out or puke.  Obviously I was not cut out to be in the medical profession.        
What else?  Should I bitch about my chairman?  I finished all the courses in my doctoral program and I must have been short-changed.  I didn’t get the course on being an asshole.  The man (when he bothers to answer at all) answers my questions with questions.  Why can’t he just give me a straight answer – like ever?????   The only reason he replied to my email was because I told him if he didn’t reply within 48 hours, I was going to call him!  God forbid he should have to actually speak to me.  I’ve talked to a couple of others in my cohort who have assholes for chairmen/women.  Maybe it’s a requirement to qualify as a dissertation chair-person that you must be a disinterested jerk. 

Well, that’s pretty much all the negativity I can spread for now.  Back to work...   I don't even think I could drink with this damn hole - maybe with a straw...but I can't imagine getting alcohol in it.  It makes me cringe to think about it.  :( back to work.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

discovery discourse

July, 2008 is when my doctoral journey began. In my first residency, the professors kept referring to “the program” as a journey. The doctoral journey and dissertation mountain had little meaning to me then, but they do now.  The first leg of my journey is over (i.e. classes are finished) and I’m now very slowly trudging up the mountain. Looking back, I recognize I’m a different person now.

One of the most dramatic changes in me resulted from the requirement to submit a reflection statement at the end of every week of every class throughout the entire program. The statement was personal and not graded. The assignment required the student to state something of significance that he learned from the discussions that week, discuss why it was important, and describe how he could apply the information to his personal or professional life. The minimum required length was 100 words. You can’t imagine how difficult these reflection assignments were for me at the beginning of the program! It took me hours to write a short paragraph that I thought was not an embarrassment to post.

Why was that? I’ve always lived life like I was in a car, speeding down the highway with no rear-view mirror or windows except for the front windshield. My approach to education was the same. I focused on collecting information that may or may not be useful with the assumption that all assigned content was relevant. Writing reflection statements forced me to be discriminating, to really consider importance and implications of the information. Metaphorically, I learned that my car has mirrors and more than one window.  As a result, I’ve started paying more attention to everything going on in the world, and to my own experiences too.  I've become much more reflective in my personal life.

The implication of all that I’ve said here is that I’m realizing why my life has always seemed so meaningless.  I’ve lived life without assigning meaning to any of it - reality is what it is and nothing more. WYSIWYG!  Once things passed from view of the front windshield, they were gone and forgotten.

I used to think that people who had meaningful lives had something I was born without and couldn’t have.  I’ve learned that I can’t live passively and wait for meaning to present itself.  People find meaning through the way they interpret their experiences and by embracing their circumstances and the things they value.  If I don’t look for meaning, I’ll never find it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

counterfactual thinking

I’ve been giving lots of thought to unusual things today. A person told me about a tragedy that unraveled his life – his 23- year-old daughter died from a drug overdose. He didn’t know she was using drugs at all so it was quite a shock. I didn’t ask a lot of questions because I don’t know him all that well, but I got the impression he was with her when she died. It happened more than a year ago and he is still grieving for her.

For some reason, since he told me this story, I’ve been thinking about a lady who attended doctoral residencies with me. This last time we were together, she told me about her son. When he was 8 years old, he was hit by a car while crossing the street with his older brother. He was in a coma for a month, and survived to be severely disabled. They have other children and went bankrupt trying to care for him at home. They ended up putting him in a facility where he has been for more than 15 years. His quality of life is extremely poor, and she says he shows no awareness when they visit. With tears in her eyes, she told me that when he was in a coma, they prayed for the wrong outcome (that he would live).

Do you suppose it’s selfish to pray for an outcome? Is it arrogance that makes us think God is in control and we can persuade Him to make things go the way we want them to? Maybe the truth is that everything is random and nobody, not even God, has any control over anything.

The weekend is nearly here. More work ahead for me to FINALLY finish a draft of Chapter 2 and start Chapter 3. I have industrial program directors from three technical colleges lined up who said they will send my survey links to their employed students and alumni, with no guarantee that alumni emails are still current. Sounds good enough to me…I hope (pray?) it’s good enough for my chairman and committee. My girls promised to do some decorating for Christmas this weekend. We look like the Scrooge residence in our neighborhood right now. I also better get out there on the Internet and get Christmas shopping done too. The Season will be come and gone in a flash! 

Home, Sweet Home

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Yesterday was a glorious day.  I met with the director of the local technical college and he offered to distribute a link to my survey to his alumni and current students who have jobs in industry now.  HALLELUJAH!!  Not only that, he gave me contact info for a couple of his counterpart pals at other technical colleges, AND he told me about a professional organization that promotes excellence in technical training.  Perhaps I can join and get them to distribute a link to my survey. 

So, I should be on at least cloud 7 if not 9, but I’m not.  The dermatologist’s office called with bad news.  It’s cancer on my face so more needles and knives are in my future.  Lots more…in two weeks.  I don’t even want to think about it.  Merry F’ing Christmas to me.   

Also, I bought new furniture and it was delivered today…only the item I cared most about – my new very own desk – was broken when they pulled it off the truck.  They had to take it back and then they pissed me off.  It’s up to me to call and reorder and no doubt it’ll be on backorder again.  I’m seriously thinking about getting something different from some other place.  I bought a chest of drawers (the other item).  They pulled it off the truck, unboxed it, and then assembled in my driveway in the rain.  I wasn’t too happy to have my new chest of drawers getting washed off in that way.  They brought it in, carried it upstairs, and off they went.  I wiped it down with a towel.  I know they had no control of the weather, but it seems they should plan for it somehow.  They could have assembled it in the truck – there was room.  They also could have assembled it in our foyer.  I’m pretty sure they have lost my business forever….and I need to buy a bed for Emily.  Too bad for them. 

So more delays in getting our house put back together.  I don’t want to move my workspace twice.  I’ll just keep working on the wiggly card table and we’ll set up the Christmas tree in the newly finished office /computer room.  It bums me out.

Anyway, I’m trying to work tonight and my brain is like a pinball machine - bouncing around all over the place.  My chairman apologized for blowing me off the past two weeks and suggested I submit outstanding questions via email.  I did!  Two whole pages of them  - mostly about how to validate survey questions I have to invent myself. There are 3 or maybe 4 questions that I can’t adapt a validated instrument for.          

Friday, December 2, 2011


I took today off work to finish writing Chapter 2.  It’s coming along, but I’ve been a measly mouse lately,  putting off a critical aspect of getting this whole mission (doing a dissertation) accomplished.  There are few things I hate as much as using a telephone.  Anyway, I grew a pair, mustered my testosterone, and called a person I’ve been meaning to call for weeks  - of course my brain went on freeze when he actually answered the phone.  I fully expected to leave a message and had even written notes of what I wanted to say.  I don’t even know what I said.  He answered and in my head, I heard “oh shit!”  I stammered, mumbled, stuttered, back-tracked… get the idea.  He now knows I’m as articulate as a pinecone. 

Anyway, he agreed to meet with me next Tuesday to discuss whatever it was I told him I wanted to talk about.  I can’t even remember what was said, but I wrote down Tuesday, 12:30, his room number.  It’s hard to imagine I’ve been able to survive as long as I have.  It was a wasted effort when God gave me a mouth and a brain.    

Nevertheless….it’s done and I’m pleased as punch!!  Now back to work!!!   
life is good