Friday, March 20, 2015

Breaking through...

Today is a day for breaking through.

I had a weightless goal for the end of February, but didn't make that goal at the time. Almost three weeks into March I finally crossed the threshold I've been working towards crossing since the beginning of the year. It felt great, I have to say! It was a long time coming and I was frustrated at several points of the journey, but I kept going, determined to get there, and finally I did! I still have a ways to go for my ultimate goal but to have crossed this threshold is very affirming and inspires me to keep going!

I have also started writing Chapter One of my thesis (again, since my previous chapter one which became a paper which is now published here, is now the introduction to my thesis). I was feeling very daunted by the new direction of my thesis, the words didn't feel like they were mine - as I wrote in my last blog post -, but I kept reading and researching and it is all starting to come together now. I have to have the first thousand words written by next Wednesday, and that seems quite doable now.

So, some of the turmoil I was feeling over the past couple of weeks has subsided and I've come out the other side feeling more positive.


It's hard work, life, don't you think?

Oh, another breakthrough! The Grumpy Old Man and I had a meeting with Lukas' music teacher on Wednesday, and it was a very positive meeting. Nothing like the meetings we had with his teachers last year. He is working with a different band in music this year and the other kids in his band are all in year 9,10, and 11 equivalent (Lukas is year 8 equivalent), and they have all also had a lot more instrument and music experience than him, and so they're all pretty motivated. Lukas, for his part, has risen to the challenge of keeping up and showing a lot of progression both in his skill level and his attitude and maturity in class. His teacher was basically very impressed with him. This is a big breakthrough for Lukas as, over the past couple of years of school, he seems to have been skating a bit.

So, a more positive blog post this time, thank goodness!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

If I wasn't so stubborn, I'd give up.


I'm feeling really fed up with my life at the moment.

I feel that my thesis is not my own. I know a thesis is really always a compromise because a candidate rarely has a 'vision' which is actionable. We're apprentices under the guidance of those who have gone before us and who are, hopefully, helping us avoid the worst pitfalls of ignorance. That said, I feel like the words describing my thesis at this point are not my words. They don't come from my mouth or my cognition and are foreign to me. They aren't the wrong words because when I hear them come out of my supervisors mouths, they make complete sense in a much more concise way than my own clumsy words ever would. but I don't own those words yet.

I had a meeting with my associate supervisor yesterday, which was great! She is lovely and in a lot of ways I think we think along similar lines. On reflection, though, I can see we took this next chapter of my thesis in a different direction than my principal supervisor might have - we opted for a less theory heavy approach, and an approach - which I feel correctly - emphasises the post modern thinking of my hypothesis. I know my principal is leaning toward a more structuralist approach.

I still feel stupid.

Everyone keeps saying doing research is hard, but seriously, I didn't think my self-esteem would take such a bashing.

I'm those guys from Wayne's World throwing myself around lamenting, 'I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy.'

I'm also really despairing that there will never be a job for me.

All this work and to what end if there is no work.

I had a lovely get together with friends this weekend and at one point, I realised I was the only woman in the room who didn't have a job. Will I always be 'that person'?

This year the Grumpy Old Man and I will have been together for 18 years. Eighteen years ago, I thought I'd have so much more security than I have, now. I thought I'd have a career, and my own house. I have neither.

So I just want to give it all up. What am I struggling for? What is the point of all of this struggle. Some letters behind my name, what for? It won't get me a job. Why not spend my days doing crafts and social networking?

The thing is, ever since I was a little girl, I've always been stubborn. Stubbornness might be my key personality trait. I like to follow through on something I start. I take it very personally if I have to give up something I set my sights on.

I just hope my stubbornness doesn't end up being my undoing.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Only a student...

Office politics shit me!

I know I'm not alone in this sentiment, but honestly, I find it difficult to comprehend the temperament of people who participate in office politics.

Yesterday, I had an interaction in my office which was both hurtful and revealing.

I made a call in relation to completing some forms for a fieldwork application. I knew the person I was talking to intimately, so I concede that part of our conversation was regarding her health and the health of her partner. Nevertheless, the purpose and majority of our conversation was about this meeting. I am well within my rights to make this call in the office.

At one point in my conversation, I heard someone behind me say in a loud voice, 'Excuse me, could you speak a bit slower?' I turned to see who it was, because the question was quite loud, the person was looking at me, but I couldn't understand the request, why should I talk slower? It dawned on me, that what the woman probably meant was for me to speak more quietly. I will admit I was speaking above a whisper because the person I was speaking to sometimes finds it difficult to hear what I'm saying.

I lowered my voice to be on the safe side, and then I caught snippets of a conversation between the woman who had made the request and another person in the office. It went along the lines of this...

...she shouldn't be making personal calls...
*something in an undertone*
...she's only a student...

They then laughed, and one left the office, then came back, then more laughter, then they both left the office.

During this, I continued my conversation with my back to them. I was cast back to high school and that place where mean girls would talk about me just within earshot because they didn't have the integrity to tell me up front what they thought of me.

So, now I know my presence in the office is neither understood - why should a lowly student be set up in a sessional office? - nor appreciated.

Now, I'm absolutely willing to concede I needed to speak more quietly, and in future I will do that.

However, the person who accused me of making an inappropriate personal call spent all of last week calling real estate agents to enquire whether the places they had advertised included a separate study. She did so loudly and frequently, and I said nothing, I simply put my ear plugs in as I always do and got on with my work.

The other one has had student conferences in the room, and done Skype meetings in the room - I specifically do my Skype meetings at home so as not to bother anyone.

So, the double standard grates on me, but more to the point the sense of superiority and the consequent sense of entitlement to a double standard shits me even more.

But even more so, the naïveté!

Yes, I am 'only a student', so in the hierarchy of academics, these casual employees at the university are above me, in that they are sessional tutors. However, academics is a strange beast, unpredictable and fickle. These women have no idea who I know, what connections I have. They cannot project what position of seniority I may have over them in the next couple of years. To be so blatantly rude, so dismissive of my status is a very dangerous hand to play in the current climate.

Besides which, teachers should not, ever, have an attitude of 'only a student' towards the people without whom they would not have employment. Students make or break universities. Students vote with their feet. If you treat students with contempt, they will take their attendance and money elsewhere. Surely, they can see that?

But mostly, why be mean?


Why don't people understand that being mean always, always reveals more about the person being mean than the person they are being mean to. To be mean is to undermine yourself.

Why would you do that to yourself?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When you feel stupid...

Miserable is pretty much the only way to describe how I feel right now.

If I could beam out of here right now, I would.

You see, I just got an email from my supervisor, which to me, clearly shows her frustration with trying to get me to understand something that comes second nature to her now. There was a time when someone had to explain this stuff to her, but I sense that was a long, long time ago (despite her being about my age), and I sense she got it a lot faster than I'm getting it.

So, as off about ten minutes ago, she's handed me over to the associate supervisor, to see if she can communicate with me in a way that will help me understand what really shouldn't be so hard to grasp. The frustration was palpable.

So, here I sit with my disappointment in myself and my treacherous tears of frustration. Doubts I have never had about my ability to complete this degree are suddenly crowding in like an overloaded lifted and I can't breathe. I can't write, I can't read, and worst of all I cannot seem to make myself comprehend.

I spent most of last week reading all the theory I should have read decades ago, and trying desperately to squeeze out of ten days, what takes most tertiary students three or four years to get their head around. I did this with physical pain, and emotional exhaustion, and the kids still wanted their share of my attention.

I thought I was doing quite well, but now I'm not so sure.

I am stubborn, though. So, I guess my only recourse is to just keep going. Keep reading, keep asking dumb questions, keep wiping away that feeling of not being enough for this task. Eventually, I'll get through. One day I'll get my confidence back.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Oh the pain, the self-inflicted pain!

Well, this week has been much more painful than I thought it would be.

I have four new holes in my body.

Three of them are for bling in my ears - I finally got my second lobe piercings and then went for another helix (cartilage) piercing in my right ear. I've been meaning to get these for a while - the second lobe piercings for about two decades, and I finally found a place where I had a rapport with the staff and went for it. Yes, it hurt, and the helix really hurt, but the pain was just a few seconds long and I'm so happy with the result.

The fourth hole was something entirely different. You see the car has been underivable this week due to someone who will remain nameless attempting to drive off with the handbrake on, and therein gauging the brake pads so badly the entire brakes had to be replaced... Mum has been helping us out with school drop offs and pick ups. On Tuesday she had a dental appointment directly after the school drop off and I had an appointment later in the morning to get my ears done, so I tagged along with her to the dentist. She then talked me into signing the kids and myself in. When the clinic receptionist found out I had a broken tooth which had had an abscess on it for a couple of years, she triaged me as an emergency. So this morning I went and had the tooth checked out.

The tooth could not be saved, and so I ended up with an extraction - hence, hole number four in my body.

It's funny, you know. Going to get my ears pierced only caused me mild apprehension, but I willing took myself off and got it done anyway, for vanity sake.

Even vanity cannot get me to take myself off to the dentist! It was really only the knowledge that last Thursday I broke a fourth tooth quite badly and basically all my molars are in terrible shape. I knew that sooner or later I would have to do something about it.

The entire extraction process was completely pain free. The dentist was a great young guy who told me he'd love a tattoo one day but he's afraid of the pain! Of course, now that it has been 1.5 hours since the extraction and the injections are wearing off, my mouth is aching a bit - even with tablet painkiller on board, but the pain itself is not anxiety provoking for me, just the needle and the invasion of my mouth cavity. 

Pain and fear of pain is not a simple, one size fits all thing. An individual may be phobic about certain kinds of pain, but not about other kinds - the same person who might loathe dental work and injections in their mouth, might not even hesitate at a full sleeve tattoo, or cartilage piercings - or child birth. Three quarters of my pain this week was welcomed, the other quarter really was not. All of it was voluntary though.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Let me tell you about doing a PhD with older kids...

When I did my first Masters I was, at first, pregnant and then within six months I had a new born, and then I was pregnant and then I had another baby. It was bloody hard work and I had no one to talk to about it, really. I was on an email list thingy (yes, this was back in the dark ages when email lists ruled), but most of the talk was about how to negotiate breastfeeding in public, co-sleeping under the disapproving gaze of one's mother and mother-in-law, and which baby sling was the best... No other mothers on the list were doing a masters.

When I did my second masters, I had three children aged 9, 7, and 3, and was pregnant for the first two months and then had a newborn as well.

I did that degree between the hour of 1am and 4am. It was hard yakka. I had plenty of people to whinge to, and lots of people gave me kudos for the 'incredible feat' I had undertaken. It was great to have that support and so it felt a lot easier than my first masters even though I was busier, older, and more tired than the previous time.

So, now I'm doing a PhD and my kids are 15.5, 13..5, 9.5 and 6.3... They're all at school. I never get woken overnight. I'm not on breastfeeding duty any more, and the only dirty nappies that get changed at my house these days is on the rare occasion some one else visits with a baby - and then I don't have to change them.

Life's pretty good, like that.

But actually, I have to say, as I sit here feeling quite strung out, that studying with kids - whatever their age - is NEVER easy. I'm sorry to all my childless friends, but it's true that even school aged kids complicate their parents studies.

You see, right now I have two in high school and in this connected world we live in, I have a constant stream of information about their progress at school in my inbox. Every 4 weeks I receive their grade point average score. This doesn't reflect their subject knowledge per se, but rather their level of engagement with the class. Their preparedness, their participation in class, their ability to work independently, and their efforts in extending their knowledge base.

As an engaged parent, I see a score that is not up to par, and I talk to my kid and ask what is going on. I then usually get a mumbled 'I don't know' accompanied by a slack shrug of the shoulders. So, I get more specific, 'Are you preparing your work for class? Are you joining in discussions about the topic? Are you getting on with the work you're assigned in class? Are you revising the topic after the lesson and reading more about it?'

The answers to these questions vary from, 'We don't have to do that.' to 'Yes..?'

So, then I have to escalate my investigation by emailing the teacher and asking for specifics about how my child might improve their GPA.

Then starts the process of coaching my child in study practices.

Which ends up feeling a lot like I'm having to manage my study and their's as well...

Luckily my two younger kids are in primary school so whatever homework they have is relatively light on and well outlined for parents.

But my eldest is doing three VCE subjects this year, so that's pretty full on.

And both the high school boys had a somewhat academically crap year last year. So, I'm kidding myself that if I can just get them onto good study management early on, then I won't have to deal with end of semester stresses that they haven't done enough work to pass... That's the dream.

But believe me, older kids aren't easier. In many ways, they're more complex and much more of a delicate balance between helping and 'doing for' them has to be struck.

Also, I'm older and a PhD is a hell of a lot more work than either of my masters were. So. Much. More. Work.

Today I'm tired and wish my kids somehow magically just did what was expected of them at school... It's only high school work for crying out loud!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

March Weightless Update...

Just a really short post to update on how the Grumpy Old Man and I are fairing with the diet changes.

First of all, another month of grain free, sugar free living down. I think it was quite easy this last month as well.

We haven't lost as much weight in kilos this month as we did in January, but both of us have noticed significant changes to how our clothes fit us and how we look.

In total the GOM has now lost 11.1 kilos in total, which amounts to 3kg in February. I have lost 9.2 in total, which amounts to a 1.8kg loss in February. While not massive losses, I am happy with our progress. I had a personal goal for February and I missed it by 2.8kg, but I'm looking forward to reaching that goal in March.

Good Job!