Dr. Crazy Mama

My dissertation defense was on Tuesday … and … I passed!

(It’s taken me a few days to sit down and blog about it, because my parents are visiting and Family Time is fun but exhausting.)

It was not surprising to pass—it’s extremely unusual in any PhD program for someone to fail after being allowed to defend—but I am so very happy and relieved to feel like I deserved it.  That was my greatest fear over the last year: that I would be passed out of kindness or pity or just to get me out of there.  I am comfortable that that’s not what happened.

Defenses in my department are a short (30-minute) public talk, followed by an hour or two of private questioning by the committee.  My extreme social anxiety doesn’t transfer into prepared public speaking situations; as long as I’ve practiced (which I definitely did here), it only takes a few sentences for me to get comfortable.  So that part went quite well.

The questions from my committee were generally relevant and reasonable.  It was all big-picture knowledge stuff, plus some questions about possible follow-up work.  No one asked me to justify any of my methodology or even any of my conclusions.  I had to write on the board a few times, but didn’t need to pull up any plots or refer to anything specific in my written dissertation.

My answers were awkward and clunky at times.  Someone once told me that the point of a PhD defense is to find out the limits of your knowledge (and decide if it’s enough)—and so to expect people to keep asking questions until they ran into those limits.  I think not all of the clunky answers were my fault, though.  Some of my committee members were just not very good at articulating what they were looking for, and it took a few rounds of clarification to get there.

There was only one point when I felt really nervous, and that was when they sent me out of the room after an hour of questions, to decide if they were done or if they needed to ask me more.  I began the wait feeling confident, but after about five minutes started to worry that it was taking too long, even though rationally I knew that it wasn’t.  (And it wasn’t: they called me in after about ten minutes to congratulate me and sign the passing paperwork.)

I passed with no revisions, meaning that I don’t have to rewrite anything or add components to my dissertation.  Each committee member pointed out a few typos and suggested a clarifying sentence here or there in my introduction, but that’s all.  This is fairly common in my department, nothing extraordinary, but it still feels good.

Officially, I will receive my PhD in mid-August, when my university confers degrees that were completed during the summer semester.  I do still have to fix those typos and formally submit my dissertation to the university.  (Submissions are electronic these days, with much less stringent margin and formatting requirements than they used to require for paper copies.)  I’m also waiting to hear back from the referee on my latest paper, and I won’t feel mentally totally done until I’ve taken care of revisions on that.

To be honest, it still feels pretty unreal.  Did this actually happen?  Am I actually (almost) done?  My brain doesn’t quite know what to do with it, I think.  But it does feel good.

I love that Moana ties her hair up

The animated Disney film Moana came out on DVD/Blu-Ray last week; we hadn’t had the chance to see it in theaters, so we bought a copy and watched it at home.  It is a gorgeous, wonderful movie, with a strong heroine, great music, and the most amazing animation of water that you’ve ever seen.  Disney put a lot of thought into its portrayal of Polynesian culture and people, and while I have read thoughtful criticisms of some of their choices, the overall response seems to have been quite positive.

Blu-Ray case for the Disney movie Moana.

The quality of the animation is much higher than the quality of this photo.

On top of all that, there is a smaller aspect of Moana that was a joy to watch: Moana’s hair.  She has long, dark, wavy hair—and it behaves like real hair.  When she gets washed up on a beach, her hair is sandy and salt-poofed.  When she jumps or turns, her hair sometimes gets in her face.  And so when she’s getting ready to do some tricky sailing, she ties her hair up in a bun.

It was absolutely delightful to see a female character whose hair did not magically stay in place in all contexts.

I have straight, blonde-ish hair, so I’ve never suffered from a lack of “people who look like me” in movies, nor have I ever had to face the conscious and unconscious racism that can creep into people’s assessments of what constitutes “professional-looking” hair.  It’s still frustrating, though, that the cultural expectation for long-haired women of my age is that we wear it down, without clips or headbands or obvious hairspray to keep it in place.  And this is definitely a thing in popular entertainment—seriously, don’t even get me started on Supergirl’s hair.

My hair simply does not stay in place.  It gets in my eyes when I walk outside, when I play with my kid, even when I’m just sitting at my desk typing.  If I were superhero-ing or navigating a ship across the Pacific, you can bet my hair would be tied up.

It was so nice to see this in a movie!

Happy second birthday, blog!

It’s now been two years since I wrote my first post—happy birthday, little blog!  *Blows noisemakers and distributes virtual birthday cake.*  My posting frequency has been more erratic this year, but I’ve noticed something: my views-per-day never drop to zero anymore, even when it’s been weeks between new posts.  It feels like crazy grad mama has found its little niche on the internet, and that’s nice.  (Or maybe it’s just that the spambots know where to find me.  I prefer to look on the bright side.)

My biggest post this year was the one about why I hate attachment parenting.  It got shared by someone—I don’t know for sure, but I think it was the Skeptical OB—when it was posted in April, and continues to get new views nearly every day.   I like to imagine that new moms are finding it through search terms about their own frustrations with the expectations and pseudoscience of parenthood.

And speaking of traffic, a big shout-out to nicoleandmaggie, whose Saturday Link Loves have been my biggest driver of views after social media and search engines.  I was reading their blog long before I started my own, and it continues to be consistently excellent.

It’s been a big year outside of blogging, too.  I got another research paper published, and we put out a little press release that got picked up and repeated by the standard science content-reporters (IFLS, Gizmodo, etc.).  So now more people have read about my research than have read my blog, although I’m still quite sure that more people have read my blog than have read my actual research papers.

This coming year is going to be… well, it’s going to be full, and that’s about all I can predict with any accuracy.  Expect posts about pregnancy and new babies, about gender and identities and finding one’s place, and about the stress of finally finishing a PhD.  Oh gosh, what am I going to do about the blog’s name when I graduate?  Maybe it’s time to invest in a fancy header.

Thanks for being here for the ride.

Two pink lines

A positive pregnancy test.We have news.

We’re very happy, of course—we wanted this—but also kind of terrified.  It is a totally ridiculous time for us to have another child, but it is also the best of all possible times.  It may be the only possible time.

Early pregnancy is a time of waiting.  It’s too early for an ultrasound to tell us that everything’s going as it should.  Too early to see the flicker of a heartbeat on the screen.  The embryo is a tiny grain of rice, busily doing things that are entirely out of our control.

My body knows it’s there, though.  In the days before the test read positive, my face broke out like a repeat performance of puberty, and I lost the ability to fall asleep in a reasonable period of time.  The above paragraph originally noted that it was too early for morning sickness, but today my stomach started to notice the rising hormone levels and complain.  More symptoms will come, and my body will stretch and change as it did before.  And it will be scary and uncomfortable and wonderful and awful and amazing.

Hopefully.

Grow well, little one.

A pile of new books, 2017 edition

A stack of nine books received for Christmas 2016.

My personal library did well this holiday season, thanks in large part to my husband buying up half my Amazon wish list.  I also just received my much-anticipated, limited-edition, signed copy of Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi, but that didn’t make it into the Christmas-gift pile because I pre-ordered it for myself back in July.

(Side note: In unintentional preparation for reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I’m currently re-watching the A&E miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice, and it is delightful.)

What are you looking forward to reading next?

A honest attempt at giving thanks

It’s hard to feel thankful right now, when my worldview is so cynical and depressed and afraid, but it’s Thanksgiving and I thought it might help to try.

I’m thankful for a healthy child, who’s learning to string words into sentences.  Who dances with me, and who takes the job of putting dirty clothes in the hamper very seriously.

I’m thankful for my husband, who is there to hold me when I cry and who makes the best green bean casserole in America.  Who insists that he isn’t brave, but is.

I’m thankful for my parents—thankful that they are alive and well, thankful that we figure each other out a little more each year, and thankful that they took the news of their son-in-law’s gender identity with grace and love.

I’m thankful for the quiet peace of the sunrise on my run this morning.

I’m thankful for my legs and my lungs that let me run, even if they sometimes falter.

I’m thankful for the way the winter sun shines bright on my face when I’m at the kitchen sink.

I’m thankful for iTunes, for portable music players, and for the aux cable in my car.

I’m thankful for this house, for its space and its light, for the park across the street, and for our generally wonderful landlords.

I’m thankful that I’ve got another paper under review at a journal, bringing me one step closer to finishing my PhD.

I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made over the years, who pop up to check on me when I least expect it.

I’m thankful for the folks I only know online, for smart conversations and shared righteous anger and links to all kinds of new and interesting things.

I’m thankful for cups of tea and glasses of wine.

I’m thankful for all the superhero shows on the CW, because they bring me laughter and hope.

I’m thankful that I get to spend this year’s Thanksgiving in a T-shirt and sweatpants, with no stress and no small talk.

I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about the money for little things, at least for now.

I guess maybe I feel thankful after all.

10 things about a 2-year-old’s birthday

1.  How is my kid two years old already?

2.  No, seriously, how did that happen?  It feels like it hasn’t been that long since I was pregnant.

3.  We didn’t host a birthday party for Little Boy this year.  (Technically we didn’t last year, either—that party was for us, to celebrate surviving a year of parenthood.)  We just did cake and candles and presents and Skyping with family.

4.  Little Boy is starting to grasp the concept of ripping open the wrapping paper on gifts.  I foresee him being very excited this Christmas.

5.  I finally understand the concept of buying character-themed toys/shirts/books/blankets/etc.  The delight that Little Boy gets out of Cookie Monster and Elmo made me want to buy him every Sesame Street toy in the store.

6.  Except for this Cookie Monster in a toy car—turns out Little Boy gets very displeased that he can’t separate the Cookie Monster from the vehicle.  We had to hide that one.

7.  Turning two means Little Boy moves up to a new classroom in daycare.  He has been transitioning over the last few weeks and it is going very well.  So well, in fact, that he has twice thrown a fit about having to leave at the end of the day.

8.  His daycare provides snacks in the two-and-older classrooms, which means I no longer have to pack snacks, just lunch.  This reduces my nightly workload by a small fraction and I am thrilled.

9.  It’s only a matter of time now before Little Boy learns to climb out of his crib, at which point we’ll move him to a toddler bed.  He already knows how to open doors, and I have visions of him wandering the house in the middle of the night.

10.  This is a good age.  Yes, he throws tantrums and has strong opinions about which shirt he wants to wear, but he also reaches up to hold my hand when we walk and asks to carry his own lunch box and helps put away the groceries and braves the slide all by himself.  Our Little Boy is growing up.

 

(P.S.  Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post to let me know that publishing from the WordPress mobile app worked OK.)

Knitting through the Games

We’ve entered that two-week period when the TV is always on in my house, a time more commonly known as the Olympic Games.  We like watching the Olympics.  My husband is a particular fan of track and field, and I enjoy learning more about sports and countries that get little attention otherwise.

This year, now that I’m back into knitting, there’s extra fun to be had.  Ravelry, the yarn and pattern database / project organizer / fiber-craft-oriented social network, hosts an event called the “Ravellenics.”  The goal is to knit or crochet or spin something over the 16 days of the Olympics (presumably while watching the Games on TV, although that’s not strictly required).

I am not a fast knitter, so making something start-to-finish over that time is already a challenge.  But apparently I felt that wasn’t enough and decided to make a sweater.  It’s called the “So Easy Sweater” and is 97% garter stitch, so I have hope.

I cast on Friday night while watching the Opening Ceremony and trying not to cringe at NBC’s awkward and vaguely offensive commentary.  My cat helped me take some pictures of my progress on Saturday.

Knitting needles poking out of a bag of yarn.

Knitting needles! Yarn! And about an inch of sweater.

Some knitting on the floor with a brown tabby cat laying nearby.

“No no, I’m just resting here. Definitely not plotting my next attack on your yarn.”

It’s quite soothing and pleasant to just curl up on the couch and watch sports and knit.  And since my anxiety has been having odd spikes lately, soothing and pleasant is exactly what I need.

Are you watching the Rio Olympics, readers?  What’s your favorite Olympic sport?

It’s the little moments

When I arrived to pick up Little Boy from daycare today, his class was in the hallway looking at the school fish.  Before I even had time to register his position, my child was galloping down the hall toward me, his face filled with joyful excitement.  That was my reward for a day’s work: the extra-long run of a glee-filled toddler, so happy to see me that he couldn’t contain it.

I’m not going to end this with a trite platitude about what makes parenting worth it, but I have to tell you: toddler hugs are the best.

Free books are the best kind of mail

Just had to share a little bit of excitement: I won a book!  And it arrived today!  That’s right, my mailbox today contained a free, signed copy of author and blogger Kellie Doherty‘s debut novel, Finding Hekate.

My copy of Kellie Doherty's book, Finding Hekate.

AND it came with a matching bookmark.

At this point, all I can tell you is that the cover is awesome, the description is intriguing, and I got a free book in the mailbox and mail really doesn’t get any better than that.  Except for maybe the fancy sock yarn that arrived earlier this week as a late Mother’s Day present.  It’s been a good week for mail.