Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I think...

I think we do not spend enough time thinking.
I think we should all set aside some time, every day and try to calm our minds and think a little bit.
I think it really doesn't matter what we think about, just that we take the time to do it.
I think our minds are cluttered by a disarray of expectations, judgements, desires, internal and external competitions, and emotions...none of which are inherently bad for us. They all just seem to cloud our ability to think clearly and purposefully.
I think if we took the time to stand apart from the disarray and think objectively about ourselves, about others, about the world we construct and the world that has been constructed for us, we can understand it a little better.
What is Indy thinking about?
I think we can change if we want to.
I think changing begins with the desire to be different than we are.
I think the desire to be different than we are begins with thinking about who we are in relation to who we want to be.
I think that we don't have to change at all if we don't want to, but that we can't really know if we want to or not if we don't take the time to think about it.

What do you think?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Status Post Comps, Part 1

Five days, 47.5 hours and 50 pages later, I emerged from the office after sending off the answers to my comprehensive exams. What did I learn from that experience and what would I suggest? 

These are in no particular order...

1) I actually was prepared to answer most of the questions. I guess those past two years and a half of coursework and practica helped after all....

2) Sitting in one place with the only movement being your fingers typing and your eyeballs darting back and forth for 4-5 straight hours at a time causes horrible pain in your back, legs, hips, wrists, arms....well, pretty much your entire body, I guess. It's best to either transfer to a standing position for a few hours at a time, or take frequent breaks to walk around, do some stretching, and basically look away from the computer screen.

3) Google is your friend. It really, really is a repository for anything and everything for which you could possibly need to search. 'Nuff said.

4) Reference management software is also your friend, but only if you treat it nicely and give it some guidance. When I was compiling all of my references, I categorized them into different sections (e.g., measurement, theory, effects, study design). This came in super handy when I was looking for references on a specific topic. You don't necessarily have to put them in separate folders in the program (I use Zotero or EndNote). You can also tag them by putting a keyword in one of the reference fields (I like "Tags" in Zotero or "Notes" in EndNote). Then you can search specifically in that field for that term.

5) I actually feel more prepared to work on my dissertation after answering the questions my committee provided. They weren't questions that were designed to completely stump you and make you feel like and idiot. They were questions that were thoughtful, with no clear answer, for which you could provide evidence and make a solid argument. They were questions that challenged me to read beyond what I'm familiar with and synthesize the material into a cogent answer. They were questions that made me think about potential flaws and threats to validity for my study design and research plan. They were questions that were designed to make me think about what I was proposing to do and how I was proposing to do it. In a nutshell, they were questions that were essential to expanding my knowledge and making me a better researcher. 

6) Organization is key. I had 8 questions to answer in 5 days. I don't think I would have been able to do this without a little organization. Prior to the start of the exams, I had taken all of the articles that I thought would be pertinent and separated them out according to categories (similar to what I did with the citations). I had read through each and made a word document of notes in table and narrative format. I highlighted the key points of each article. I took those notes and placed them with each category of articles in little piles all over the room. Okay, so I had a stack of papers covering the floor. But I knew exactly what was in each stack and had summaries of the stacks. So, it was all organized my way. This made searching the papers for information so much easier and didn't take tons of time. I think organization should also extend to the writing portion of the paper. For each question, I wrote a very short outline of the topics that were absolutely essential to cover. This helped me organize my thoughts so I could fill in each outline section with the appropriate material. Again: organization is key....and save soooo much time.

7) You can still go out and do things you like/need to do while doing your comps. Don't be a shut in. As a matter of fact, I think getting outside every now and then can be refreshing and give you a better perspective when you return to sit/stand at your computer. A little hour here and there won't decrease your productivity. Beside, you have to eat sometime, right?? I took some time to go to yoga, do the usual grocery shopping, and clean a little bit around the house. Each time I returned to my computer to write, I felt rejuvenated and more relaxed. 

8) It seems simple, but stay hydrated. This will help you take breaks anyways ;)

9) Let other people know what you are doing - It's good to have a support team to cheer you on, and to celebrate with you when you finish 

10) Despite my relief at being done with the written portion, I'm not done yet....so this feeling is sort of anticlimactic. I have the oral defense in about 4 weeks. So now I get to sit and stew a little before I go before my committee. Had I thought this out a little better, I think I would have tried to schedule this as close to the two weeks post submission as possible. Oh well....I guess I'll keep busy with other projects, for now....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It's a new year and as is customary, I am pondering a few different resolutions. In thinking about resolving, or maybe about being more resolute, I began to wonder why we equate a new year to new hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Is the new year really a reset button? A chance to start over? If making resolutions is linked to the start of a new, fresh timeline, why not decrease the time it takes to make us feel excited about change to 24 hours? Why not make resolutions every day? The answer is that it would really get tiresome. Imagine getting all ramped up to plan for a new day, every day, every week, every month, 365 days of the year. Where's the excitement in that? Better to reserve that energy for a big milestone, not each 365 days of the year, but each year of 365 days...

With all of that rationalizing out of my system, on to my resolutions. When setting goals, or making resolutions, one should adhere to the SMART criteria: set goals that are SPECIFIC, MEASUREABLE, ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT, TIME-BOUND. My resolutions are two-fold: a little something the body and the mind!

For my body, I resolve to train for two half marathons this year. I've been working on building my mileage and doing some weight training despite the hectic holiday season. I've already signed up for one that is (seemingly rapidly) approaching in early March - the Seaside Half Marathon. It's a slightly hilly run along scenic 30A in the Gulf Coast of Florida. It's also sponsored by Vera Bradley, and I suppose that is a partial motivator for signing up for this one! The second half marathon will be in the fall - the Pensacola Half Marathon. Unfortunately, this will involve training during the warm summer months. Thank god for the occasional air-conditioned treadmill run...

I had a low motivation semester this past Fall. So, for my mind, I resolve to remain focused on this doctoral program with planned graduation 2014.  Specifically, I'm preparing for my comps for late January. Here's the kicker though, I won't be done with my comps until mid February! I have a written part (January) and then an oral defense (mid February). I get to wait in anxiety for almost 4 weeks in between. Yay. Oh, wait, I'm already sounding downtrodden. Hold on, let me put on my excited, resolute tone....When I'm done with my comps, I get to (drum roll) work on my dissertation! Yipee! No, actually, that is real excitement. Partially because I already have a specific timeline prepared (with milestones!) for this phase of my program. Also, for the past few years, I've been working on courses that have been preparing me for this period....and soon (fingers crossed), I'll get to be in that phase. Just...a ....few....more...hoops.

So that's it. Two resolutions. Of course, there are a number of little resolutions that lead to the accomplishment of the two big ones. So maybe we don't get out of making shorter-term goals along the way. They may not be every 24 hours, but perhaps we'd consider every few days? These little resolutions and any related, small successes or failures can be documented along the way....and I'll be able to look back at the end of this new year and say that I've made the progress I had once resolved to make.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

That First Presentation....

I gave my first research presentation in DC early September....in front of a bunch of nurse researchers! Needless to say, I was super nervous. But, I made it through the 15 minutes and didn't die. I guess that's good news. I did have a few tips that I'll need to remember before the next one - slated for March 2013...

1) Practice until you start hearing your speech in your dreams...or maybe nightmares. There is something comforting about being able to recite what you plan on saying on a treadmill, in your head, in the car, to your dog. 

2) Watch what you eat the morning of...and be sure you actually do eat! I didn't want my stomach attacking me during the presentation, so I tried to eat lightly. But I also didn't want to feel lightheaded from hypoglycemia! I made sure to eat some fruit and some carbs...something, at least to tie me over. Oh, and plenty of water!!

3) Scope out the room. I actually ran into the room the morning of the presentation and practiced there. I tried to imagine what it would look like using the presentation software and seeing people in front of me. At least I knew what to expect in terms of the environment (e.g., Was there a podium? Was there room to walk around? Where there wires I needed to avoid so I don't trip and fall flat on my face? Was it bitter cold or swelteringly hot in there?)

4) Before you start, it's okay to tell your audience that this is your first time. I thought, hey, what the heck, might as well let them know so they won't expect toooo much. Well, after I told them, they gave me a supportive round of applause. They were really, really nice. I think the older nurse researchers really do want to help build and grow future nurse researchers. I was a little scared because I didn't really think there were a lot of students at this conference, but I was so happy that everyone was very supportive...My advisor said that I can say that it's my second, third, and fourth too....Not sure when the cut off is, but I think at least those few should help!

Well, that is all I can think of...to think, all this anxiety over a 15 minute presentation. To be honest, I was most worried about the questions. Luckily, I only had one question, and it wasn't too terrible. I had given my speech to my husband and asked him what he thought and what questions he had. It's always best to be prepared! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer Motivation

The semester is over and I've successfully survived two years of grad school. It's been a crazy last few weeks though, filled with on-campus days, a busy research practicum, a Vegas-style Bachelorette Party, a quick trip to D.C., and a weekend zoom through our future state of residence: Sunny Florida. Actually, the last thing on my mind these days is school. I'm busy thinking about packing, moving, how my research assistant, Indy, will manage to survive the trip (he's gets horribly car sick), and general other rest-of-my-life-stuff. But I just received two sources of funding, so I really do have to stay the course and continue being productive through the summer. After all, I've only got about two more courses to go before my comps and then the dissertation phase follows. Now is not the time to lose momentum...or my motivation. I figure having these sources of funding will help keep me on track. I have to provide periodic reports on my accomplishments and activities to continue the funding. That's good motivation right? Perhaps I should create a mantra to remind me that funding = motivation...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break

Spring break is just around the corner - next week in fact. Of course, when you are in grad school, spring break doesn't really mean what it used to in undergrad. I've got a long list of projects to work on. As with anything, though, it's important to have a little balance with your work, so I've also created a list of "distractions!"

1) Score a PR for two upcoming 5Ks on 24th and 31st
2) Clean both bathrooms in our house
3) Get the dog a bath
4) Vacuum
5) Go through old clothes and shoes for potential donations
6) .....Oh, I ran out of distractions.....

Well, that's okay. Other than item #1, the distractions were actually starting to make me more interested in getting back to school work anyways.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Just Doing my Job, Ma'am....

I think I've had a sort of "a-ha" moment this past week. Well, actually, I've had a few of them. I love making lists, so here they are:

1) Being in graduate school is really a job. Unfortunately, you are not getting paid for it, so it's really really hard to think about it as a job. But you are spending a large part of your day working. Let's look at the characteristics of a "job" outside the potential-for-pay aspect. It involves work. It involves stress. It involves deadlines. It involves minimizing distractions. It involves time management skills. It involves an occasional sinking feeling that you may not be able to finish your work by a certain deadline. On the flipside, it also involves a profound feeling of satisfaction when you do actually make that deadline and are rewarded for your efforts. Grad school is all of this. Except instead of getting paid for all of this work, you are actually paying the institution. Hmmm....that just doesn't seem right.

2) You are supposed to feel somewhat overwhelmed. Mentors and professors prefer to call it "being challenged" because it makes it sound like you are struggling for a logical reason. I had a nice conversation with my husband about this because over the past few weeks, I honestly feel like I can't possibly do everything that I am supposed to be doing with school work. And I am a full time student. I don't work. I just sit at home all day and do school stuff (oh, and think about what to write on this blog periodically). Seriously, how is it, I ask myself, that I actually feel swamped when I have nothing else but school work to do? My husband says that this is grad school....this is what it is like to work on your doctorate. It is all-consuming. It is overpowering. And it is sometimes a drag. I constantly have school on my mind. I get up in the morning and one of the first things I do is turn on my computer and log onto Blackboard. Talk about obsessed.

3) In a few months, I will be my own boss. I do wonder what it will be like when I finish my course work and move on to dissertation work. Right now, I have external deadlines from classes. I march to the beat of someone else's drum. What will happen when I have to create self-imposed deadlines?? I'm dreading it already. It's going to be like I'm self-employed and I'm not sure I have the discipline for that, yet! In a sense I can see why there are so many "ABDs" out there (ABD = All But Dissertation). It seems like it would be easy to "take a little break before one starts dissertation work" and then get lost back in the "real world."

So there are my "a-ha's." Or maybe they are "ho-hum's." Better yet, after re-reading it all, perhaps they just amount to bunch of "oh-no's."