Self Realization, 2011

Thursday, 29 December 2011
I'm reading a book (for class) by Erving Goffman. "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life" is about social mobility, how people fit into society and the roles we play in North American culture.

He explains that a person is a "performer," on a stage, playing a part for observers. Goffman writes that we all present a front which may or may not meet cultural expectations leading up to an ideal. These fronts can be dramatized (student wants to look attentive in class so badly that he is concentrating on looking interested and isn't able to pay attention at all), expressed rather than acted (people struggling economically bring out good food and wine for visitors but live frugally in private), and even negatively idealized (American college girls who play down intelligence around datable men).

What does this mean? Goffman proposes that our personas are degrees of performances, often changing for different groups of observers and our true selves are not what we present to the world. Also, the fronts we perform are not created but instead selected because of various stimili or even audience expectation and reaction.

So who are we really?

I actually do not mind getting older. I find that as I celebrate the beginning of another year, I'm a little bit closer to knowing who I am. Our secret selves are a mixture of black, white and gray. Perfection is fleeting and to seek or expect it of ourselves or others, can often cause heartache.

This is what I know to be true about my inner self (good and bad) as I prepare to say goodbye to 2011:

I feel emotional pain deeply but choose not to show it.
I love fiercly.
I react quickly and passionately.
I laugh loudly and often.
I foster insecurities.
I crave knowledge.
I am committed to seeking happiness.
I am a good listener.
I radically protect my inner self.
I seek shelter in close relationships.
I have a hard time asking for help.
I am a perfectionist.
I work hard and play harder.
I rarely cry.
I hate hurting people.
I forgive easily.

I'm thankful to those who love me for me. It isn't easy to understand a person, to dwell with them in happiness and pain and deal with flaws but life would be cold and dull without shared experiences. My hope is that those who share life with me (that's you too, reader) feel joy and peace. 

What did you learn about your true self in 2011? Who do you hope to be in 2012?

The 25th of December

Wednesday, 28 December 2011
In the D'Arcy house, we like to eat, drink and be merry.

Mom puts up a tree in the front room and the den and even stuffs stockings for Dannen and I. What are we going to do in a couple of years when we have children and no longer get babied? Throw a fit perhaps...

We have a tradition of Monkey Bread and mimosas on Christmas morning. The breakfast cake is a mixture of biscuits with a gorgeous cinnamon, brown sugar, butter and sugar topping. It comes out of the oven golden brown, piping hot and melts on the tongue. Add eggs, bacon, a glass of good champagne with orange juice and you have a party.

Once we prepped all of our dishes: corn pudding, sausage homemade stuffing, spiral Rosemary-infused ham with a citrus/port wine sauce, fresh green beans and new potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, relish, fluffy rolls and dessert, mom and I put together our traditional flower arrangement for the center of the table. We used two dozen red roses, white hydrangeas, cedar clippings, rose hips, small pears and crystalized branches.  

We found a lovely new flower shop, Ober's in Easton Town Centre. The owner helped us pick out a few blooms and we enjoyed planning and preparing for the arrangement. 

After cooking, opening gifts and watching the cats go crazy over wrapping paper and ribbons, we sat down to dinner. Our dishes turned out well and the sweets were a hit too! Mom dug out our family recipes to bake date walnut cookies, pumpkin pie, pecan tassies and fudge.

I hope you have had a lovely holiday season thus far. 

5 Star Fun

Monday, 26 December 2011

We love going to the Refectory in Columbus. It is a five star restaurant and a few nights a week, they serve a bistro menu that is to die for. Mom, dad, Dannen and I were finishing up some last minute Christmas shopping on Thursday and stopped by. Matt served us at the bar and we ordered some amazing food.

First, we tried a couple of the Smoked Salmon and Lobster Paupiettes with herring caviar, spring herbs and creme aigrelette. This was certainly my favorite dish of the evening.

My other favorite is the gorgeous roasted goat cheese with shallots and olive oil. This dish was served with small, sliced yellow beets. It had a creamy, woodsy flavor. Yum!

Up next was the Grilled Artichoke Salad with rabbit cervellas and criolla vinaigrette. 

Mom and I paired our meal of appetizers with a Patricia Green Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley). Fun evening! 

Time in the Windy City

Sunday, 18 December 2011
I adore Chicago. I love the high energy, bright lights, interesting high rises, amazing restaurants and sophisticated people. I'm in town for a few days to see a friend and we have made the most of it!

Friday we spent the day walking around Old Town. We stopped by a very cool shop called Old Town Oil. Patrons have the opportunity to taste olive oils, balsamic vinaigrette and wine vinegar. The blood orange olive oil was amazing and the blueberry balsamic vinaigrette, to die for. I picked up a bottle of the champagne wine vinegar to drizzle over the salmon mousse appetizers my mom and I are planning for the holidays.

From the Old Town Oil website

Next stop in Old Town was the Spice House. I couldn't help thinking the whole time we were in there that my grandmother would love it! We sampled crystallized ginger, truffle oil salt, different BBQ rubs and amazing spice mixes for roasting beef, chicken and fish. The employees are super friendly and helpful. This shop is worth the five minute cab ride from Michigan Avenue!

From the Spice House website

That evening, we put our name in at Purple Pig, a newer restaurant on the Mag Mile and went across the street to Eno, a most fabulous wine/cheese/chocolate bar. The atmosphere is incredible and intimate with hip decor, great lighting and an interesting way to serve wine flights and cheese. I had the "Pinot Envy" wine flight and it included a great pinot grigio and two pinot noirs. 

The spot also serves inventive truffles and the menu had a great quote: "Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I say it, I wash my mouth out with chocolate."

From Eno's website

The Purple Pig (voted Top Ten best new restaurants by Bon Appetit 2010) was so amazing with their reservation service that they call your cell phone within 10 minutes of your table being ready. Unheard of! The seating is family style so you'll likely be sitting next to some hip Chicago folks and enjoying the round, Northern accent. We tried, of course, different pork dishes including the best prosciutto I've tasted (yes, I've eaten it in Italy and Spain), butternut squash and pork fried balls and scallops with lemon sauce, chickpea aioli  and a touch of bacon. This is certainly a restaurant to try! Don't miss the dessert. I sipped on a dessert wine and my friend ordered the ricotta and chocolate chip filled fried brioche to share. It. Was. Amazing. 

Academic Pet Peeves

Saturday, 10 December 2011
I've decided to blog about whatever the heck I want to blog about from today until January 10th. I know I should probably pontificate on the research I'm preparing for my contributions to the academic review and supplication of journalism but I just don't have the will today.

Instead, I'd like to write about a few academic pet peeves. I feel that now, since I'm at least into my second semester, it isn't too soon to break out the complaining. Here's a previous Pet Peeves post.

Top 5 PhD first-year pet peeves:

5. The saying, "Grades don't matter in a PhD program." Lies.
4. Institutional Review Board forms (must be filed and approved before beginning any research methods)
3. No sunlight or cellular service in our pod offices (in the basement of Comm building)
2. Uninformed debates over qualitative versus quantitative research
1. My cohort still hasn't found a decent Wednesday night happy hour location. We have Monday and Tuesday covered.

Moving On

Friday, 9 December 2011

It. Is. Over. My work in our 660 statistics class is complete!

I still really don't know how to use SPSS (statistic software that most academic researchers use) but I understand the underlying concepts of statistics pretty well. I believe that was the goal of the class and I feel confident that my cohort gets it... well, at least the basics.

I'll need to sign up for software tutoring before I can really know what my survey data means, however. We know how to input data but then really - how to properly use software to output needed information is beyond me. Yes, that's a little disappointing after four months and hours and hours of homework and studying but I survived!

Time to move forward. I'm just thankful that I'll have more time to conduct and write up research next semester. Some of us literally spent 12-18 hours on each homework assignment for statistics and every assignment was worth... wait for it... 10 points.

Now we're drifting into a month of "vacation." Doc students don't really get vacation. The down time is to be used to get work done. I have two major research projects due by next Weds (nothing to do with grades) and I need to get a pilot survey out for the paper I'm finishing for a conference in February.

On top of that, I need to finish final grading for the class I teach and get my reading list ready for December. My 615 research class for the Spring semester already has six book assignments that need to be read by February. Sweet!


Wednesday, 7 December 2011
As a way to knock out a blog post AND do some studying before the final exam, I thought I'd type out - from memory in most cases - some of the concepts and formulas needed for today's test.

Let's start with t-tests, shall we? There are three types of t-tests: simple, independent and dependent. A t-test determines whether the means of two groups are statistically different. For instance, if I find the average number of drinks students have weekly at the beginning of the semester and the average amount of drinks they have weekly at the end of the semester, I could run a t-test to measure whether there is a statistically significant difference.

Simple t-test. 
t = ybar 2 - ybar 1 / (s/square root of n)
Degrees of freedom for a simple t-test. df = n-1

Independent t-test. 
t = M1 - M2 / Sm
Where Sm = square root of [n1(s1)sq + n2(s2)sq / (n1 +n2) -2 x (1/n1 + 1/n2)]
Degrees of freedom for an independent t-test. df = N-k

Dependent t-test. 
t = ED/square root of [n(EDsq) - (ED)sq / n - 1]
Where D = x1 - x2
Degrees of freedom for a dependent t-test. d = N - 1

Once you have a t, you'll look up the "critical value" on a t-table using the degrees of freedom and determine from those numbers (both a positive and negative value) whether your number is significant. Does it fall within the critical value or outside the value? If your number falls outside the tcrit, you'll reject the null hypothesis, basically saying that there IS evidence to show a difference between the means that you were testing.

If you find a statistic that is significant, you'll want to test the effect size. There are two ways of doing that: Cohen's d (1988) and rsq.

d = t[square root of (n1 + n2) / (n1 x n2)]

rsq = tsq / tsq + df

E = sum
sq = squared

ANOVA - this is a process similar to regression. Through ANOVA, you can analyze the variance between and within results. We need to be able to HAND COMPUTE One-way, Two-way and Three-way ANOVA for the exam.

Let's start with a One-way ANOVA. We are going to begin with building an ANOVA table from imaginary data

First, compute the Grand Mean.
GM = n1(m1) + n2(m2) / n1+n2

Next, find the Sum of Squares between, within and total.
SSb = n1(m1-GM)sq + n2(m2 - GM)sq

SSw = (n1 - 1)(s1sq) + (n2 - 1)(s2sq)

SSt = SSb + SSw

Then, find Degrees of Freedom

dfb = k-1
dfw = N-k

Next, compute the standard means

MSb = SSb/dfb
MSw = SSw/dfw

And now you are ready to find your omnibus F statistic!
F = MSb/MSw

The F stat is what you can now use to measure whether there is a difference. Figure out the Fcrit using the degrees of freedom.

Fcrit = df = k-1/n-k

Then, go to the F table, find the value and if your number is greater than the Fcrit, you have evidence to show there IS a statistically significant difference.

Don't forget to calculate Eta squared (N2). That measures the effect size just as Cohen's d and rsq measures it for a t-test (see above).

N2 = SSb / SSt

Unfortunately the F stat can't tell you WHERE the difference is so you can utilize a post-hoc test to show where the difference lies.

Those include: Tukey's HSD, Scheffe's test, Dunnett's test and Bonferroni's test.  
HSD = q[square root (MSw / n)]

Two-way ANOVA has some crazy degrees of freedom that I need to get back to studying now...


Sunday, 4 December 2011
A good friend texted me yesterday to ask if I was okay. She said that I'd fallen off the Twitter and Facebook grid and she was hoping all is well. (I haven't had time to post anything.)

All is well and it will be even better on Weds at 5pm. My statistics final will be complete and my research proposal will be locked and loaded onto our online submission site.

I'll be moving into the library today at 3pm and you can find me there until at least 3pm tomorrow. Yes, the blue sleeping bag is mine. 

Last Day of Class, Semester 1

Tuesday, 29 November 2011
The impossible has been proven possible. We survived statistics! Our last class met yesterday. We still have finals next week but amazingly, I made it through the highs and lows, the feelings of sheer stupidity and the elation of understanding complicated concepts.

Today we presented in our 610 class and thankfully, that went well. I was happy to learn more about the members of my cohort. Surprisingly, one of the most (seemingly) talented and confident students admitted he was highly intimidated at the beginning of the semester. He even said he developed a back-up plan if he wasn't able to swing the PhD program. This was shocking to me. I learned that most of us were not only intimidated to start the program, we were terrified.

Looking back at my feelings and fears during the first week of classes, I realize that I was afraid of the unknown. Stepping out of a successful career was highly uncomfortable for me. It was in fact, painful. Getting a handle on the workload as a doctoral student was almost impossible. Now, I'm not afraid. Yes, I'll suffer anxiety over growing as a researcher and a teacher. I'll shed tears of frustration when I take comps, develop my dissertation and defend it, but I'll survive.

Since I love to garden, I'll offer an analogy pertaining to the doctoral experience. I was a seed in August. During this semester, I began the growing process. With a healthy dose of knowledge and challenges, roots formed. The wind and storms were rough and at times, my pride and emotions were damaged. Now, I realize I'm anchored to this experience and will continue to grow. The environment, trials and seasons will impact me but my foundation has been set.  

Now, time to study for finals!

Food, Flowers and Family

Saturday, 26 November 2011
We had a lovely Thanksgiving day. Mom and I enjoy cooking so the meal was homemade and we even put together a centerpiece for the table. No instant potatoes or gravy cubes for us. It certainly takes longer to prepare the food but it is oh-so-worth it.

Here's a look at the early stages of cooking:

We served turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, green beans, sweet potato casserole, layered lettuce salad, relish, stuffing, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and Snickerdoodle cookies, freshly brewed iced tea and Italian wine. The turkey was actually falling off of the bone.

We also love arranging flowers in mom's silver, three-part urn. You start by putting small bowls in each compartment, fill them with wet floral foam, cover with moss and begin cutting and placing the flowers.

The roses opened up beautifully.

Dad and Dannen enjoyed the meal and even cleaned up. Woot! We then spent the afternoon lounging (with Dewey the cat), watching football and later of course, we enjoyed leftovers.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011
People on Twitter and Facebook have been sharing what they're thankful for all week so I wanted to share as well. Give me some love through comments and share what you're grateful for if you feel so inclined.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to earn my PhD without having to take out loans at the University of Tennessee. It is an honor to learn from so many smart and skilled researchers and work along side some of the top notch professors in the media business. Because of the generosity of some and hard work of others, I'm able to pursue my dream.

My friends in Knoxville and nearby are my family when I cannot be near my parents and brother. They ask me questions about the changes I'm experiencing in life, encourage me when the day seems too long and lean on me when they need a shoulder as well. There is nothing like a genuine friend that is trustworthy and compassionate. Thank you to my friends, new and old, who are there for me. You know who you are and I love you.

What would I do without my mom, dad and brother and close family? I had a talk with them the last time we were together and asked them to please take care of themselves because I can't live without them. I cherish the time we spend together and most of all I appreciate the support they give to me emotionally, physically and at times monetarily. Thank you to them always and from the bottom of my heart for believing the best in me and loving me despite my faults. 

I'm thankful for experiences this year that included good food, intimate connections, emotional warmth, knowledge through travel and a chance to exercise skills and intelligence. 

It's cheesy but I'm super lucky to have two healthy cats. Lily and Violet make me happy. They are loving, funny and come with their own personalities. This year has been difficult and they were always there purring and helping me remember that tomorrow will be better. 

The other aspects of life that I'm grateful for include personal perseverance, endurance and a desire to achieve more. Not everyone has a background that instills ambition and I know that I am lucky to grow up with resources that others do not have access to. I plan to make the best of it as often as possible.  


Monday, 21 November 2011
If this guy can jump off of a cliff and survive while making it look fun, I can get a B in statistics. Enjoy!


Sunday, 20 November 2011
Some people are extremely upbeat and positive. When I run into a person like that, I love it. Wonder where it comes from, really... Is positivity/negativity a learned mind set? Such as... do people who are negative and miserable learn to be that way from their parents? From their co-workers? Does negativity pass from one to another like a winter cold?

Those who believe people are going to fail them constantly have a hard time letting others in. I struggle with that because life can be easier when you rely on no one but yourself. However, it is much less rewarding and lonely. I think I have a healthy balance of misery and happiness but in my mind, negative thoughts sometimes circle. It is a horrible waste of brain power.

That's why, again, I'm so happy to run into folks who put out a vibe of chill and happiness and kindness. I want to be more like them.

Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.
--Brian Tracy

Toss it Back

Thursday, 17 November 2011
Things are looking up. Thanksgiving (I'll actually get to be with family on the day) is next week and I cannot wait to be in my parents' home, eating fabulous food and lazying around, watching HGTV and working on research. We have a great time together and of course I'll get to hang with my little bro bro (he's not little, just younger).

Dannen is fun to be around and has quite a bit of energy. Hopefully sis can keep up. I'm looking forward to talking with him as he is always great in a heart-to-heart conversation. I can imagine he humors me because I don't rely on him too heavily for emotional support. Although if I needed to, he'd be there.

I've completed my rough draft for the methodology section of my research proposal. It was due today and I'm confident that at least all of the pieces are there. Our professor, Dr. Wang is patient and enthusiastic. She gives excellent feedback and I look forward to revising for our final draft due at exam time (we only have three weeks left in the semester)!

This week has not been easy. In fact, I've had some pretty low moments for various reasons. I received some interesting advice from a cohort regarding a research project that I decided to apply to my professional and personal life.

Let's say there is a well-cited theory that supports your hypothesis but isn't easy to fit into a measurement or framework. Rather than striving three times as hard to study literature and force the theory conceptually, it is okay to start over and adopt a new theory or even a new topic which coincides with the initial theory. The fear is there that the next theory won't fit or a new topic will be just as difficult to frame but surprise! The more you trust yourself as a researcher, the easier the process becomes. I started over four weeks ago on my research proposal for 610. It was difficult to get back to ground zero and took quite a bit more work but now I'm confident and passionate about my research proposal. My new topic also supports future research and is not as frustrating to pursue.

What's the point of the rambling? I'm not exactly sure but it approaches the idea of:  the shoe that doesn't fit. Even if it is the style you prefer, don't be afraid to let the blisters go and shop for a new pair. Life is too short to paste on a smile and limp through the pain.

I've been wanting to blog about the Penn State alleged abuse case but wow I only have time recently to spew something quick about the PhD gig. What's new with you?


Saturday, 12 November 2011
For hours today, I crunched through the leaves the trees in the back have dropped. I even winterized by bringing in all of the cushions on the chairs, the umbrella and the hibiscus and palm tree. Actually, I couldn't manage the palm by myself so I'll wait until I have time to purchase the round little rolly thingy that goes underneath a potted plant to bring it inside.

My small triumph, however, had to do with a fallen tree. Last summer I spent hours and hours and days clearing the back lot. I was always wary of one of the trees that appeared to be dead. It was overcome with vines. At the time I even consulted a tree specialist. The worry was that it would fall toward the house but I didn't have the big bucks to have it taken down.

Lucky for me, during last night's fierce winds, it fell nicely toward the left. I just need a chainsaw now. My electric, heavy Black and Decker model has crapped out. I'm great at bartering...

White Blank Page

Friday, 11 November 2011
I have been writing for an hour four days a week as I'd hoped. Today when I sat down to blog, however, I found I have nothing to say. I'm emotionally drained but physically strong. That means, I can try again tomorrow I suppose. Meantime, Mumford and Sons' White Blank Page has been stuck in my head.

Listen to the song here. Here's a look at the lyrics:

Can you lie next to her and give her your heart. Your heart?
As well as your body and can you lie next to her and confess your love. Your love?
As well as your folly and can you kneel before the king and say I'm clean. I'm clean.
But tell me now where was my fault, in loving you with my whole heart.
Her white blank page and a swelling rage. Rage.
You did not think when you sent me to the brink, the brink.
You desired my attention but denied my affection. Affection.
But tell me now where was my fault, in loving you with my whole heart?
But tell me now where was my fault, in loving you with my whole heart?
Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life.
Lead me to the truth and I will follow you with my whole life. 

Pursuing Growth

Wednesday, 9 November 2011
I cannot believe my cohort is almost through the first semester of our first year of PhD candidacy. This is certainly the time to pull up the boot straps and concentrate on finishing strong. The endurance of getting up and facing new challenges and intellectual heartache should pay off if I can earn at least 3.33 GPA this semester.

The UT library, while once a hulking structure housing towers of books and caverns of darkness on certain floors is now my friend. I breathe deeply in concentration when I enter the building and feel comfort in knowing where JK543.A678 can be found (4th floor, right at the elevators, two rows over and half way down on the right). I have my research assignment of 10 hours a week to thank for this confidence. While tedious, the time spent on my knees searching call letters on the bottom shelf has helped me evolve into someone who can now access scholarly knowledge in a new way.

Challenge and change, while terrifying reaps reward.

One day last week around 8am I was literally buried in academic journal articles, books, papers and hand written notes. I looked around my bedroom and thought, "This is my life now. I'll always be conducting research and writing. I'll always be surrounded by things that need to be read and explored." That felt good. Here's to hard work before the holidays and a commitment to pursuing growth outside our comfort zone!

[Things] change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass. - John Steinbec

Write it Down

Monday, 7 November 2011
In my spare time (hahahahahahahaaaahahahahaha) I'm trying to get through the book, "Mentor: A Memoir" by Tom Grimes. My friend Hillary passed this along to me because she knows about my dream to be a non-fiction book writer (travel, memoirs, media topics).

If you have any interest in writing or you just enjoy a good human interest story, pick up this read. It was named best non-fiction book of 2010 by The Washington Post.

Tom meets his mentor Frank and they embark on a colleague/friend relationship that eventually leads to Tom finding his literary voice and getting published. Frank encourages Tom on the peripherals of his writing routine and Tom has such respect for Frank and his writing ability that he remains committed to finishing his novel. The most encouraging part of Tom's story is his background. He worked as a waiter for years and had book after book rejected by agents and editors. His perseverance paid off and after working with Frank, publishing houses wanted to buy his books.

The take-away from the read so far for me is commitment to the mundane task of sitting down to write on a schedule. Tom writes every day from 8 to 11:30am and then heads to the university to teach. While I can't set a writing goal that high right now (what with the PhD studies and all...), I am setting a goal of writing for an hour four days a week. That'll add up to approximately 16 hours of writing a month. I should be putting in double or triple the amount of writing but while I'm going to school full-time, teaching and researching for two professors, writing papers for conferences and conducting research studies this is going to have to do. Plus, it's better for me to start out with a manageable goal and ramp it up from there.

Other developments: I'm getting back into piano because it is included in my tuition waiver at UT. Yay! Also included in our activity fees is access to the on-campus gym and group classes. It is time to get back into athlete-shape. Maybe I'll try out for the UT cheer squad. (Hahahhahahahah - I'm cracking myself up today.)


Sunday, 6 November 2011
There are times as a graduate student when you just really need to get out, eat good food, lose yourself in good company and sip sophisticated wine. Wednesday of this week was one of those times.

I haven't written about a restaurant in ages but I felt inspired to give up on the PhD diatribes for a day and do so. (Lately some favorite eateries have been Chez Liberty for brunch, Bravo for the amazing appetizer deal after 9pm and Sunspot for inventive veggie dishes).

The other night I ate at RouXbarb for the first time. It is close to Bearden Hill, located off Northshore next to the dive pub Union Jacks. The place is intimate with amazing ambiance and white table clothes. The waiters are very knowledgeable and the dishes combine amazing food concepts with fresh ingredients.

"At RouXbarb, we use only premium ingredients from family sustained farms, local or regional sources when available, and with all meats, seafood and poultry being hormone, antibiotic, and steroid free whenever possible."

Tony, my dining companion, ordered the smoked duck and I chose the quail dish. We also started with a fried seafood appetizer plate which was prepared similar to fried calamari. We felt the breading was a bit bland but our meals were lovely. The quail was presented on perfectly flavored greens and whipped turnips. Yummy! Certainly a down-home feel to the menu, served flashy-bistro style.

One of the best aspects of RouXbarb, in my opinion, is the BYOB policy. Yes, they charge a corkage fee but the option offers a nice opportunity to enjoy the wine you have collecting dust around your house and avoid the 10x mark up on bottles at restaurants. We brought a lovely bottle of Williamette Valley Pinot Noir which Tony won at a recent charity auction event benefiting ChildHelp, a Knoxville non-profit. It was a 2006 Beaux Freres. Wine Centric lists these tasting notes:

"Dark ruby color with red berries, oak and vanilla on the nose. Wonderful ripping acidity on the back-end. The acidity is so intense at first that it almost creates a carbonated effect in the mouth. Spice, red raspberry, cherry and strawberries. As the wine opens up more oak emerges but early on it is very subtle and underscores the wine. There's a sweetness to the wine that really balances it."

Even though we were one of the last couples to leave Rouxbarb (the atmosphere is such that you'll want to linger and chat), the waiter didn't lose energy while making sure we had everything we needed and even Chef Bruce stepped out of the kitchen to say hello. Rouxbarb serves dinner Tuesday through Sunday and reservations are recommended.

Another Week

Friday, 4 November 2011
Highs and lows again this week. I didn't get the grade I was hoping for on my stats midterm but I can certainly kick in more, more, more study time. It's all about perserverance and endurance. Time to carb load and put my head down, going uphill.

Moving on to good news... One of the professors that I research for asked me to co-author a scholarly paper! Excellent news and certainly an honor. The project is going to take up quite a bit of time but at least the month of December will be mostly free.

I did submit an abstract (research proposal of sorts) to the Young Scholars Conference, held at the Missouri School of Journalism in February. You've heard the "Publish or Perish" mantra so even first-year doc students are encouraged to be involved and get work out there. I should find out if I'm invited to present or submit a full paper by December 1.

The other element on the burner is a Fellowship at the Walter Cronkite media school. 12 teachers will be invited to learn from business news journos the best methods on coaching students to cover important buisness stories. This is very competitive but hey, if you don't try, there's zero chance of getting in.  

Nashville with the Tudors

Monday, 31 October 2011
My best friend since Carson-Newman College, Casey, was in Nashville this weekend visiting her family and asked me to drive over for a couple of days. It is always a treat to visit the Tudors because they are amazing hosts and constantly make sure everyone has the best food, wine and desserts within reach. Not only that, they have a lovely home complete with every sports and movie channel imaginable and a fabulous outdoor entertaining space which includes a stone fire pit. The locale is just bliss for a struggling PhD student who needs a day out of town every now and then. (Yes, I brought scholarly publications and collected data for research while I was there.)

Casey and I have been in love (platonically of course) for 11 years and every time we get together, we have the best time catching up on our latest life adventures and encouraging each other for the next challenge. She is doing very well for herself and is now living in Raleigh/Durham and working as a clinic director for Duke (she cures cancer). Casey seemed happy and energized and I cannot wait to travel to see her and her new house!

Casey's little sis, Jordon (middle of the picture) is also progressing in her career as a professionally trained actress, singer and dancer. We all went to see her perform in the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Boiler Room Theater. Her parents then took a group of us to Sperry's for dinner to celebrate. Such a fun weekend! 

A Few Things

Friday, 28 October 2011
1. I was at Sapphire last night with some girl friends and a guy attempts to chat me up. As we talk he says he's 27 years old and wants to know how old I am (not a viable flirting technique in my book). I respond with my age because I'm not interested anyway and just a few seconds later this exchange goes down:

Guy: Are you wearing real pearls?
Me: .... ?? .... Um, yes. (Earrings)
Guy: Cool! My grandmother wears pearls!!
Me: .... ..... (omg) .... .....
Me: Oh look at the time! Nice meeting you.

Nothing like a good convo with a 20-something to make you feel mature.

2. I was in the library today searching for books and articles for a research project in the Commons. On the computer next to me are two undergraduates dressed in sweatpants. This is what I overhear:

Girl #1: I was reeeeeeeeeally drunk the other day.

(Time lapse 20 seconds)

Girl #2: You WERE reeeeeeally drunk the other day.

(Time lapse 30 seconds)

Girl #1: I was REEEEEALLY drunk the other day.

I looked over to see if they were reading lines to a bad play or something but no, that was their conversation. Shortly after that, girl #1 says that they've done enough work for one day and they pack up and leave. Perhaps their exchanges are more in-depth via text message...

3. I ran into two news crews from Channel 6 today. Steve and a new reporter were in Party City in Fountain City doing a story about how Halloween is a deadly night on the roads (according to AAA). I talked with them for a moment and they left. I actually felt sorry for them because I was having a great Friday with a flexible schedule and didn't have to stand outside in the rain interviewing about Halloween and its deadliness. Crew #2 was on UT's campus. I spotted Ronnie and Hana as they were loading gear and getting into a news car. Ron came over to say hello and had about two seconds to say hi before they had to rush off to the next assignment. Again, this was in the rain and under the circumstances I didn't miss that job for a second. Just sayin.

Diagnosis - - language warning

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Some Days There's Sobbing

I haven't cried for more than a month. Yesterday I sobbed my eyes out like a little girl. The circumstances that caused the break down are strange and now seem somewhat humorous. My day yesterday went something like this:

400am - wake up and start worrying about everything in my life that isn't going well or has the potential to fail.
630am - fall back asleep
800am - wake up to cat purring loudly in my face
930am - campus, work on pecha-kucha presentation for research class
1100am - hour of group tutoring for stats midterm with Dr. K
1215pm - lunch for fellowship students with the graduate program (awesome experience and prestigious!)
130pm - meeting with Dr. B to discuss changing research proposal, change granted
145pm - create and type up major writing assignment for JEM 200 Media Writing course
210pm - research class 610, ready to give presentation
330pm - give presentation (Japanese style, 20 slides, 20 seconds spent on each slide), good feedback from cohorts and Dr. W
455pm - hand out writing assignment to students, give news quiz, collect latest assignment and send students off to conduct news interviews
530pm - rush to Knoxville City Court, study for stats midterm while waiting to show insurance card and ask for judicial relief on my "following too closely" citation
710pm - called to stand
713pm - judge politely listens and says "but this insurance card only proves you have been insured since 10/17."
714pm - case reset for one week
715pm - walk to car cursing State Farm the entire time for sending me a card that is new again when I specifically said I needed the one that showed I had insurance when the wreck happened
716pm - curse myself for not looking at the card before sitting in court for almost two hours
717pm - get into my car and burst into tears
719pm - drive sobbing to study spot and get back to statistics
720pm - realize I'm just tired and bravely face the horrid headache that comes after a crying fit
900pm - stop studying and meet friend M for a beer
1000pm - talk to mom and feel a little better about life
1020pm - start studying again

Today will be better and I have a good feeling about the exam (notice the positive vibe)!


Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Wide awake again at 4am is not a good place to be when you have a busy week and way too much on your mind.

I am set to give a pecha-kucha presentation in my research class later today after a stats review session for our midterm on Wednesday and I have a luncheon at the Black Cultural Center for my Shipley-Swann Fellowship program. Tonight I'm also supposed to go to traffic court for a citation. (If you attend court you can sometimes be put on probation rather than get points if you haven't had other tickets.)

I'll somehow get through this week (as will you) and then I have a fun weekend to look forward to (it's what's keeping me sane). There are two Halloween parties to attend Friday night (which I still need a costume for) and then I'm headed to Nashville to spend time with my best friend Casey, her boyfriend and her family. I'm looking forward to time out of town and exciting nights in the big(ger) city.

Meantime, I'm honestly doing positive-vibe mental concentration regarding my upcoming statistics test. I'm meditating on wisdom, knowledge and a lack of anxiety. I've pictured knowing the answers to the questions and having a general feeling of confidence. My lofty goal is a B. I'll be over the moon with anything above an 80 (and that's considered a poor grade in the PhD program).

ETN Writers' Hall of Fame

Monday, 24 October 2011
Friends of Literacy (charity I'm involved in) hosts the East Tennessee Writers' Hall of Fame each year as a major fundraiser. The evening went off without a hitch this past Thursday and we had many successes!

Melissa (Executive Director of Friends of Literacy), Tracy (FOL Volunteer) and I paused before the event to take a picture. At this point we were all pretty excited about the evening and hoping for an excellent award presentation and guest speaker!

We had an extra interest in a successful event this year. Melissa and I produced, wrote and participated in the editing of a 10 minute "call for support" video. We conducted the interviews and sourced video and photographs. My idea was to weave the stories of three adult literacy students throughout the information and call for donations that we needed. All-in-all the work took up about 22 hours so we had quite a bit invested in it. I was very pleased with the video and we took in an amazing amount of impromptu donations after the video. Hooray!

The awards ceremony went well and we honored five East Tennessee writers in different categories for our Hall of Fame. They were gracious and had lovely speeches prepared.

Inky Johnson (former UT football player) was our main speaker of the evening. He was incredible and highly inspirational. His story began in a poor neighborhood (Kirkwood) and he promised his grandmother that he would be the first in the family to graduate from college. He played for UT and was severely injured in game. He lost use of his arm but is using his position and story to inspire others. (Yes - he did get his degree!!) 

His message centers around faith and perseverance and even though it sounds cheesy, listening to his talk gave me a bit of a boost of energy for my doctoral program. He is very positive and determined. 

His book, Inky, An Amazing Story of Faith and Perseverance is available online and at Pilot stores in Knoxville. I can't wait to pick up a copy.


Thursday, 20 October 2011
You know when you know, you just know?

Even with countless theories surrounding human behavior, objective observations through experiment and the knowledge gleaned from social science, there is just something about trusting your gut that makes sense in certain situations. Yes, this can be difficult at times, especially when it involves making uncomfortable changes. However as we know, tough decisions can spark peace and true happiness when played correctly.

Instead of embracing misery and second-best options, why not continue to push ourselves personally as we do professionally? If the signs are there, we don't necessarily need a map to find the right direction.

How's your journey this week?

New Wheels

Wednesday, 19 October 2011
For just a second today, I felt like I finally had it all together. This didn't happen until about 5pm but alas, it was a good feeling. I have a new (used) car! I'm happy with this one and purchased it with cash which keeps me in line with my anti-debt stance (especially when I have the budget of a grad student). Since my good friend Napier made fun of me over the weekend for being too open about my life (car, house, where I live, that I have cats not dogs... etc.), I've decided not to share the make and model of the car on Blogger. I'm sure you understand. (Happy, Nape?)

Our statistics class was cancelled tonight so I'm in the UT Comm GTA office in the dungeon getting ready to do readings for tomorrow's research class, input my undergrad students' grades and work on my own research.

The temperature in Knoxville dropped 20 degrees today and was 47F by the time I was walking to class. I hated to even leave campus today but it was for a great reason. I was invited to catch up with a former WATE sports colleague over lunch. It was truly a treat to discuss what we miss and do not miss about the media business. He has also taken a job outside of the realm of journalism and loves having weekends off.

Which leads me to an interesting quote I found about journos today. Katherine Lanpher describes a reporter as "...a hard-drinking bohemian who was socially dexterous, traversing the lines of social class with ease, moving in the circles of both the raw and the refined but eking out an existence amid a clash of image and reality." Lanpher was discussing reporters in the early/mid 1900s but I find the definition still sort of works today. What do you think?

No Pride

Monday, 17 October 2011
I don't know why I do it to myself. I try to operate on an elevated intellectual level so that I don't have to literally pull my hair out at every turn. Today, I failed.

Problem set 5 homework was due today in our statistics 660 class. No problem. Betsy and I (we sometimes are allowed to work in pairs) nailed this one and we were pretty excited to turn it in. I was working on cases A and C as well as problem #2. I thought she was working on case B and problem #3. We were going to combine our work and turn it in together.

Here's what went down:

Betsy (entering my office): Hi. Want to staple our work together?
Me: Hi! Yes. Perfect (getting out paperwork).
Me: Here's cases A and C.
Betsy: Cool. Here's case B and #2.
Me: Number 2? Oh. I did number 2 as well. Who did number 3?
Betsy: ....??...
Me:... ????.... ?!?!?!?!?!?!...
Betsy: .....!!!!!!!!?????!!!!!!.....
Me: Um. Okay. We won't panic.
Betsy: We have the answers...
Me: Yes, but he won't let us turn it in without the work...
Me: I threw away the scratch work today at Panera! I'll go get it. All is not lost!
Betsy: Okay. I'll begin frantically figuring #3 in the meantime.

I dash out of the Communication Science building and run all the way to the commuter lot stupidly lugging my backpack with a ton 'o books with me. Without somehow collapsing from expended breathing effort, I jump into my ride and calmly but aggressively back out of the parking space carefully avoiding students (who I'm sure do their work without having panic attacks and anxiety fits) and book it to Cumberland Avenue where my homework is crushed in the depths of a semi-fast food restaurant trash bin and hopefully has not been transported to the dumpster already.

Looking like a banshee running from a Halloween-suited, spooky clown, I bust into Panera and run to the trash can near the front door. I'm sure at this point people were feeling sorry for me. Perhaps they thought I was some sort of crack head needing the remnants of a bagel and cream cheese to get through the latest shakes but no... it was even worse than that. Our stats homework was going to be late!!! A couple of people did look my way when I opened the cabinet and pulled out the bin. I explained, "Ooops! I accidentally threw away my statistics homework!," as I began to dig through the trash. One guy kind of started to chuckle with me until I couldn't hold in my manic, shriek-like laughter. At that point, he could no longer make eye contact with me. Can you blame him? Thankfully, I retrieved the papers, made it back to campus and into class without any other major problems.

We turned in our homework by the end of class (success!) but I fear a 9/10 will allude us this time. The double duty on problem #2 was pretty awesome though...
Sunday, 16 October 2011
I'm a lucky gal. This weekend I took a little break from school work and accepted an invitation to the B.B. KING CONCERT! He is 86 years old and wow. The King still puts on an excellent show. (We had second row seats!)

He was funny, entertaining and the band rocked. The brass solos were impressive and the entire evening was fun. The jazzy vibe is still with me two days later. It would be nice if it continues playing through the week..

AND get this... my piano teacher, Ben Maney opened for B.B. King with an amazing group!

Another Cuppa?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011
I have a dilemma. Be sure to weigh in on this little scenario if you have nothing better to do.

On Monday of this week, I stopped by Panera on campus to get a cup of coffee. I love going to Panera because they have fat free milk as a choice for cream and the hazelnut blend is delicious. Here's the deal:  I purchased a large coffee for $2.17 and left the building to go to the Friends of Literacy office to pick up my assignment for the Hall of Fame Auction event coming up.

Here's where the situation becomes a bit shady. 15 minutes later, I decided to go back to Panera to use the free Wifi and I got another cup of coffee - in the cup I already had! Problem is: I had already left the building once! Did I buy another cup of coffee? No. Later, I did get a large iced tea to go but I took full advantage of coffee refills.

Now, is that wrong? This could be argued either way but I do have a loyalty card and I plan to go back often as a customer but I just didn't feel like spending another two bucks for coffee when I'd already been to Panera once that morning less than an hour before. Thoughts?

Just for Fun

Tuesday, 11 October 2011
There's a pretty good selection of PhD humor on That is where this illustration came from:


Monday, 10 October 2011
I know I've blogged about my love for car shopping previously (read: sarcasm). It is time for round two in less than a year. A nice guy that works on cars bought my Jeep over the weekend and I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful friend that has lent me one of his cars for the week. However, the thought looms:  Must. Get. Car. Soon.

Why do I hate car shopping? There are many aspects that contribute to my disdain of the process. Even if I had an unlimited budget, I would still feel apprehensive about the purchase. I've almost completely signed off dealerships due to the taxes, additional fees, dogged bargaining and false energy from salesmen.

Online car shopping is tops in my book. You can find certainly find good deals on Craigslist by buying from an owner but it takes forever and there's no guarantee on the "lemon" aspect of vehicles. I'm into paying cash for my rides because I'm on a student budget and I really don't like to carry debt (my pricey international education which will take forever to pay off is holding that place right now...). Cash buying makes it a bit easier to negotiate a sales price since most people see a few thousand in green and get weak in the knees.

The search is on and I'm setting a goal for myself to have a car by this time next week. Fingers crossed for the best deal and a decent set of wheels. 

The Smallest of Victories

Thursday, 6 October 2011
You may remember this post:  The Impossible is Possible, where I discussed statistics and said my goal was to hopefully, one day, get a 9 on my statistics homework (out of 10). Well, get this. Our latest homework assignment was to be completed with a partner and D and I received a 9.5!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is that a MIRACLE or what?

I am still tearing up as I write this six hours later. We worked for 17 hours on the problems in less than two weeks for only 10 points but wow. Clearly, hard work pays off. Dr. Kotowski even said that he was proud of us (collectively as students) in class yesterday and that he could see an improvement.

Did I dance around my tiny house when I got home tonight? To coin Ms. Palin, "You betcha!"

Need something to grove to? Perhaps you could try this:


Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Sorry to geek out on you but I had to share this:

I've had more time lately to clean the house, organize my life, do laundry and stay on top of school work. This is a good thing. The cats are even happier because I've been around and they have new, special flea/bug medication (costs $40 for both for a month for gosh sake). However, amidst all of this good energy, I freaked myself out.

This morning, I was organizing my desk (which I've now moved into my kitchen) when I couldn't find my brand new box of 24 highlighters or my new, spiffy, blue, gel pens. Seriously, after searching for a few minutes my heart rate started to climb. I worried that I'd misplaced those valuable tools. After putting a few random items away, I located the highlighters and pens in the cabinet in the living room. The strange part? Before I caught myself I actually JUMPED UP AND DOWN and CLAPPED. Who does that? No one in their right mind.

My life has gone from raging anxiety about a looming, seven minute broadcast deadline or keeping an exclusive interview under wraps to being excited about finding missing markers. Awesome.

I Won

Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Have you ever had something in your life that you tried to keep in the shadows?  A bad habit? Maybe an alter-ego that only came out when your guard was down? When I went through major recent life changes, I started to occasionaly pick up a pack of cigarettes and escape with a bit of nicotine. (Gasp! Yes, I know but I'm going with full disclosure as a form of accountability.)

I started smoking in mid-August and quit on Saturday. Three days without cigarettes and I already feel better. I guess I'm very lucky that I'm not truly addicted to nicotine. Some people fight the habit for years and fail again and again. Now... I've just moved on to caffeine. McDonald's has $1 large unsweet iced tea. Yes, please.

A Reward

Sunday, 2 October 2011
I left my backpack at Preservation Pub this week. The next morning I waited on pins and needles until the place opened up so I could call and see if my things were there. My statistics homework was in my backpack along with my laptop computer. You know what I was most concerned with? My homework! I had already spent eight hours working on problems and hand calculating confidence intervals and correlations. Luckily, everything was there. if not, my plan was to post reward posters for the stats homework.


Monday, 26 September 2011
This weekend I spent time with my parents in North Carolina. My family vacations on Bald Head Island and has for years. We usually walk on the beach, sit by the pool, cook, read books, go on "nature drives" in the golf cart and visit the unique shops near the Maritime Market. Something seemed to be missing this year.

Usually during the occasional conversation, I can vie for and win the spot of "Center of Attention." My experiences as a TV reporter are so bizarre that they make interesting and entertaining stories especially if embellished just a bit... This time, my parents must have been slightly disappointed in my lackluster conversation skills. I felt like I had nothing to talk about! No shootings, drug deals gone wrong, tense interviews with politicians, fights in the newsroom or mad, heroic dashes to make deadline in the field with a failing live truck. The best I could muster was a story about how the Central Limit Theorem allows researchers the chance to estimate an outcome for a sample of the entire population without having to draw dozens of different samples. Pretty cool, eh? Um, no, not to the general public.

I also got very lucky with the class that I teach. Students are on time and participate in the lab so there's not much to talk about there, either.

It wasn't just the conversation that was different on this mini-vacay. There was no reading for pleasure. I typically get through at least two books on vacation. This time, I read the first 12 chapters of Statistics for Dummies, dozens of pages of research for a project with Dr. Martinez and a few journal articles for Dr. Bates' class regarding Communication Theory. I also worked on my statistics class problem set and expanded on an abstract/lit review. The thing is - I finished everything I brought to work on but I should have spent more time catching up. I never seem to quite get ahead. And THAT seems to be my basis for all conversation now: the hollow, sinking feeling of an overwhelming information and work load. Forgive me for boring you too.

Seasons Change

Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Can you believe it is officially Autumn by the end of this week? While having a cuppa this morning, I looked out the window into my back yard and noticed a few stray leaves drifting down from the big oak. Oh... the dreaded leaves...

I don't mind fall. The cooler temperatures in the morning and evening are pleasant and the sun seems to stay in the sky longer in the afternoons although it drops quickly.

Last year, I built a few fires in the fire pit and I look forward to having friends over to chat in the glow of the flames as the stars come out. Perhaps even my new PhD cohorts? We could use a moment of contemplation and relaxation. The group seems to be gelling nicely and bonds are forming.

Fall break (two days off) is right around the corner and rather than planning an adventure, I hope to catch up on assignments, reading and research. I see now that breaks from teaching and attending class may just be built in so researchers and PhD students can get some work done without distractions.

The Impossible Is Possible

Thursday, 15 September 2011
Yesterday I had another day of utter despair regarding my candidacy. I was ready to give up. Nothing specific happened, I was just revising my abstract (summary proposal for a research project) when I began to realize there is so much I don't know about research or even how to approach or define research.

Advice:  If you think you want to earn your PhD and have not yet started a Master's program, attend a university with a heavy emphasis on research. I earned my Master's degree at the University of Westminster (London, UK) and we didn't write a thesis. Students produced final projects (10 minute television documentary) and a coinciding report.

My research background = utter failure as a PhD UT student. UT is a research-focused university.

So what to do about it? Yesterday I logged on to to see what's out there. I miss reporting because I was good at it. There's something very comforting about day-to-day success in the field. I even sat with a cohort outside and stared off into space for a few minutes (poor use of time, I know). She asked me what was wrong and we discussed the challenges ahead. I guess I feel like I'm on my knees at the base of Mount Everest, preparing to ascend without the proper gear or a Sherpa.

However, I'm learning that there will be highs and lows in my new venture. I went to my statistics class with Dr. Kotowski and it was highly interesting. I don't pretend to get everything we're discussing (Pearson's r, Point Biserial r, Rank Correlatin) but I'm not lost. The best part? Our first problem set was returned to us and I scored a 8.5 out of 10. That is a MIRACLE for someone like me who has never taken a statistics class in her life and is starting out in a 600 level course. My goal is a 9 on the next set but after seeing progress, I feel ready to stay in the game.

Thanks for reading. 

Creativity with the Cat

Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Since doing the whole PhD thing, my budget has shriveled up. How about becoming a cat trainer on the side for a little extra cash? Or perhaps take my show on the road with Lily and Violet as entertainers? We're working on it...

Good, Bad and Ugly

Friday, 9 September 2011
Let's start with Good, shall we? I absolutely ROCKED most of my second statistics assignment and I'm feeling like a genius (that will last until next class when we talk about regression). I worked so hard studying eight chapters of basic statistics and the work is paying off. I met with a tutor today for an hour and he explained why we have to find the critical region for a standard distribution and how to compute the standard error of the mean by using the unbiased stimate of variance. I later plugged my data into the formulas and the answers started making sense. Hooray! There is a glimmer of a glow of a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Another Good aspect of week: I was elected by my peers as the PhD representative for the Communication and Information Science Graduate Committee. I'll tell you more about it as soon as I find out...

Now for the Bad: I wrecked my Jeep Grand Cherokee this week. I haven't been in an accident in 11 years and haven't recieved a traffic ticket since 2005. My lucky streak broke. Sad thing is - I'm a very slow, careful driver. Unfortunately over the last three weeks, my anxiety level over trying to make it as a PhD candidate has jumped and I always feel like I'm running behind. Gradually I sped up (literally) and paid the price. My ride somehow ran into the back of another car on Kingston Pike at an intersection where the other driver stopped suddenly (it had been raining as well). The police officer was kind enough to give me a ticket for following too close. The car will likely be totaled and I just don't have the time or patience to search for another one. I am fine, by the way. Just a bit stiff in the neck and back.

And the Ugly? I am a horrible cat mommy. My cats are home all day and part of the night alone. I seem to spend every waking second on campus or near campus. Poor little babies. They love going outside, though, and I let them out when I get a chance. Today, Lily ran after a squirrel and I swear the little thing could move! The other Ugly: I haven't been to piano lessons since early August. I feel like I don't have the time or the money to continue on with my dream. However, a friend was encouraging (sarcasm alert) and said it's just fine for me to be a failure at somethings... Just the motivation I need to get back on the ivories.

Have a great weekend and I might as well say it since I'm now a student... Go Vols!

No Time

Wednesday, 7 September 2011
A conversation between a first year Phd candidate and a second year Phd candidate. Walking to class... (E is an international student and has become a wonderful friend.)

Denae: I don't even have time to drive to West Town Mall and buy my MAC foundation. I don't use anything else but picked up L'Oreal at Walgreens on campus to get by.

E: How can you even afford MAC makeup now?

Denae: Oh, yeah. Good point. There's that.

Denae: It's not just the makeup. I haven't straight-ironed my hair in weeks. It's all hot rollers and that's IF I'm lucky to have the time to fix my hair at all. I look craptastic.

E: Now you know why doctoral students look the way they do. If you want to bathe, you almost have to take a bath instead of shower so you can hold your book and read with one hand while you shave your legs with the other hand. And that's if you actually still care about shaving your legs.

Denae: (nodding)

E: I'd also recommend going darker with your hair because how are you going to have time to get your head colored every five weeks?

Denae: I guess I could do my readings while I'm processing.

E: Well there's the no money thing again...

Denae: Going back to school was a great decision.

E: I was thinking the same thing.

Week 3

Tuesday, 30 August 2011
I'm in my third week of school, second full week. Yesterday I arrived on campus around 9:30am and drove the commuter lot for 20 minutes looking for a parking spot. Nada. Waste of time so I went home, made about three cups of instant Folgers coffee and studied and studied statistics.

Our basic stats review tutoring sessions are going well. Surprise! I actually understand the concepts and answered a few questions correctly. (I was more shocked than anyone else.) Only problem I see at this point is: I need more time. I honestly need at least two more hours in the day. Last night I was up until midnight reading chapters for classes and started to fall asleep sitting up on the couch.

I was up at 7:50am this morning but I should have been up earlier. There are a half dozen chapters to read before each class from different books and journals on subjects that are not easy to grasp (statistical theory, research methodology and the reasoning behind it).

I still need to register for professional organizations, find out when conferences are, sign up and begin developing papers. Wow. In over my head? I'm strong enough to tread for a while but the more I can organize my time, the better this venture is going to go. Throw me a life raft soon if needed, please.

Tonight I teach and I'm excited about seeing my students again and discussing media writing. Here's hoping they bring their A-game. I miss being in the newsroom.

Help is on the way STAT

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Our 660 Statistics class has been blessed. I honestly do not know how we became so lucky but our esteemed professor, Dr. Kotowski has employed mercy and will be offering introductory statistic meetings Monday through Thursday next week for those of us who aren't grasping advanced concepts. Come to find out, I'm not the only one... (I have never taken a stats class and a lot of other communication folks are in the same boat.)

I sent an email after our first class requesting advice on a tutor. Since I didn't hear back from Dr. K, I immediately filled out a tutoring request through UT's Black Cultural Center. There wasn't even an option for graduate students on the form...promising. So, I fished around the Comm PhD program and found a second year student who is minoring in Statistics (yes, I supposed people like him really do exist...). He has agreed to tutor me and we'll start meeting after Dr. K's intro tutoring next week.

Seriously, after hearing about the additional help, I was able to sleep soundly last night for the first time in a week. Meantime, I'm learning about Science and the theories, concepts, methods, variables, hypothesis and measurements that go into observation and presentation regarding professional research.

Here's hoping the end of your week gave you a boost of positivity as well. 


Wednesday, 24 August 2011
I survived my first day as a Graduate Teaching Associate. Seriously, the intense nerves and crazed worrying was unneccessary. My class is small and the students seem cool. What a relief and get this... they did what I said!

We worked on two different writing assignments, conducted interviews and identified the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why) and one H (how) in several news stories. The class meets once a week from 5pm to 7:45pm so there's quite a bit of time to fill. We also went over the basics of news writing.  

So far, teaching is enjoyable. Let's keep it that way, kids.

My challenge now, on top of statistics being a dark, aggressive, fiery hell on earth, is making time to get through massive amounts of reading for 610 and 660 and now... we're supposed to be writing daily and conducting research. Wowser.

YWCA's Tribute to Women

Monday, 22 August 2011
A few of us were invited to a special event last week by my good friend Melissa. She is the executive director of Friends of Literacy. I serve on the board and head the public relations committee. She was nominated by our friend Sharon for the prestigious award and the ceremony was held on Thursday evening. 

Guess what? Melissa won the award in the Transformation category for her tireless work helping adults in Knoxville learn to read and earn their GED! I'm very proud of her and feel inspired by her dedication to assist others in grasping the dream of literacy.

Here's a group shot of some of the women nominated for the tribute... Go ladies!

The Janitor's Closet

Friday, 19 August 2011
I knew something was wrong when I pulled out my schedule, noticed my stats class was in room 420 and I ended up standing in front of the "Custodian" closet (room 420a) in the Communications building. Wow. I almost gave up then and there.

Wednesday wasn't the best day ever. I sat outside, alone on a bench and stared at the grass for a half hour. My thoughts were negative. They went something like this: "I'm not smart enough to do this. I'm definitely the dumbest person in my cohort. Why did I quit my fabulous job at Channel 6? Can I get my fabulous job at Channel 6 back? Do my professors already hate me because they know I'm just faking being smart..?" I called my mom and expressed my fears. She laughed and said to take a few deep breaths before going to drop my candidacy all together.

I hung up and looked around. Other students seemed much younger and much more confident. I did the deep breathing thing and shortly after that, the University of Tennessee marching band started practicing in the distance. That's when high energy seemed to return. I'm a student at a large university which is working to be a top 25 research school. These people are smart. They wouldn't have let me into the Ph.D program if they didn't believe I had a decent shot at it.

Thursday was better. I observed a class at 8am, taught by a second year Ph.D student. We have the same 200 level class to teach so I was able to get an idea of how the labs are supposed to go. Statistics wasn't as bad as I thought because the professor, while tough, is excellent at explaining the reasoning. Today I picked up my office key! I'm officially in.

Hope you have a great weekend!

It Begins

Wednesday, 17 August 2011
"We must use what we have to invent what we desire."

Classes begin today at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I am a full-time PhD candidate in the College of Communication and Information Sciences and also will be working as a grad associate, teaching a 200 level Journalism/Electronic Media course. This is such an exciting time! 

I woke up at seven this morning and thought for a moment back to the morning when I woke up ready to board a plane to London for my Master's studies. Some of the same feelings are there:  fear, happiness, exhilaration, nervousness... When my parents dropped me off at the airport, I hugged them both, fought back tears and tried not to look back. 

Moving forward on a new adventure, all energy/experiences/acquaintances should propel us in an onward direction. The vibe should be light but determined and my mindset has to be one of success. Forgoing looking back, I believe I can do this thing! I'll certainly need your support and love along the way. Thank you, again, for being part of the journey. Here we go...

The Great Gatsby

Saturday, 13 August 2011
"There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."

-Chapter 3, p. 39

I'm reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for the first time. I can only aspire to be half the descriptive writer he was.

School starts next week and I've already been busy doing statistics homework. Nervous? Yes. Overwhelmed? Definitely. Excited? More than you know.

Have a great weekend.

Tiger Tiger

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The most disturbing, yet fascinating new book of the summer is Tiger Tiger by Margaux Fragoso. I finished the memoir last month but it has stayed with me since then. That's the perfect reason to blog about it. 

Margaux meets Peter, an older man, as a young child at a swimming pool. Her parents constantly fight and she seeks solace in his friendly home. Even though her mother is always with her, the reader finds out she is mentally unstable and doesn't even notice when Peter becomes increasingly attentive to Margaux.

The mind manipulation begins early. Margaux writes about Peter putting her in charge of caring for the rabbits and helping with the chores. She feels needed and wanted and gets anything she asks for. Peter is fun, plays a loving father figure and listens to the stories her seven-year-old mind creates for hours. He provides the attention she doesn't get at home. They begin kissing on the cheek. He eventually convinces her to french-kiss him during one of their daily trips to the basement to play "dress-up." The abuse just gets more twisted from there.

The story line goes on for 15 years with Margaux "falling for" Peter and suffering from a version of Stockholm syndrome. At the age of 14 (I think), Margaux convinces Peter to sleep with her (this, after he has been abusing her for years in the most manipulative ways imaginable). She actually writes of her desire at that age to get pregnant, be Peter's wife and have a happy family of her own. The irony is: Peter is no longer sexually attracted to her because she has begun her menstruation cycle and has breasts and pubic hair.

Even though Peter remains in control of her life, Margaux begins to date in high school and college. She loses the chance to find true love more than once because her abuser threatens to take his own life. One day Peter stops by her home while she is out with a boyfriend. He leaves 100+ suicide letters that have been written over the years and jumps off one of the cliffs where he sexually abused Margaux numerous times.

Uplifting read, eh? Perhaps not but it is eye-opening and informative. Sexual predators clearly lurk in the open and sometimes operate under the eyes of a parent who may be overwhelmed with their personal issues already. The account also shows predators do not tire easily. Peter's death was Margaux's only rescue. She was hunted relentlessly for more than a decade and some of the best years of her life were taken from her.

Don't pick up this book unless you have some time. I couldn't put it down.

Fragoso completed her PhD in English at Binghampton University. She is married with a child.