That’s a Wrap!

Yesterday, in the early hazy morning hours, I typed the final sentences to my 38,000 word, 135 page doctoral dissertation.

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The two glaring typos have since been fixed.

That is right. Yesterday morning, I finished writing my doctoral dissertation. I dedicated to my son because he was very much my dissertation baby. I got pregnant with him three months before I entered my doctoral comprehensive exam. I also dedicated it to my husband because he was the one that was there when I yelled and screamed and during that brief period when Logan was just born and hormones were raging when I declared I DIDN’T NEED A DOCTORATE. Guys, it’s really hard to write a doctoral dissertation and it’s almost impossible to do it when your body is in postpartum and your hormones are all over the place. If my husband hadn’t been there to force me into the basement and put up with my I TYPED 400 WORDS THIS AFTERNOON AND IF YOU SO MUCH AS TOUCH MY BOOKS….kind of rants than I don’t think I would have gotten to this point.

I chose to acknowledge all of the faculty that had helped me to get to this point and also my godparents. My uncle died when I was young, I was 12 years old, but he was the only other PhD in my family and it is because of him I set out on this crazy journey. I wanted to be the PhD of my family for my generation. I also included my aunt because she was such a foundation of my upbringing and she thought that I was never going to be able to complete this, but here I am. She died last June and it makes me sad that she never got to meet Logan or see that despite the intensity of a doctoral program, I have (almost) completed it.

What I am hoping to be my final quarter of dissertation begins on Monday. I am hopeful that I will attain mentor and committee approval within the first half and have my manuscript sent off to my dean and school quickly. I am hoping to defend my dissertation before the summer and if all goes smoothly, I will be graduating in Minneapolis in August.

My son has been sick with an upper respiratory infection and a double ear infection so sleep has not been something that I have been enjoying recently. I have been up with him or I have been writing this dissertation while being up with him. I was almost delirious yesterday with how bad my overall exhaustion was. Thankfully, my son slept last night and so did I because I had nothing to do and also my celebratory dinner with my husband and brother was enough to ease my stress and make me drowsy:

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Clearly, champagne and nachos are the only way you celebrate the end of a long 4-year journey. I don’t know what I am going to do with all of the time I am now going to have. I imagine that I will get to have more uninterrupted cuddle time with my son and spring and summertime adventures with him that will be so much fun and amazing because I will no longer have this monster of a study hanging over my head. I will just be able to focus on myself and my family.

But then there is also that side of me that has gotten myself to this point which makes me think how much farther can I go? I looked up this morning how many classes I would need to take in order to get my superintendent certificate.

It is one class.

I might be seeing that in my near future as well. Until then though, I am going to enjoy being a mom to the best little boy and reading all the for fun books that I can get my hands on this summer.

Now, I just can’t wait for those final approvals and an accepted defense.

As my mentor has told me throughout this process….ONWARD!

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The Chop That Was Part II

When I started trying to get pregnant, I stopped dying my hair. At that point in my life I was becoming a mom and as such, I would worry about anything and everything from that point out. I used to love dying my hair. I had been doing it since I was 16. I have had every color from orange to purple to deep reds to black. Today, it is my natural dirty blonde and no longer hanging down my back but stopping at my shoulders:

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In college, when I was living in Paris, I had a girl I was living with embarrass me by pointing out the beginning of the gray hair that I already had. It was just a few strands at the time, but when she was loudly going off about in as we stood on a street corner surrounded by a bunch of people, it was just humiliating for me at 20 years old. It was also the first time I had noticed it.

By the time I was done with my masters program and was set up as a tenured teacher, the few strands had become a full on strip. Now, once that I had the baby, my slim strip was a full blown patch. When I went back to work my students even asked me if I had done it on purpose or if it was a birth mark. Instead of being embarrassed though, I have embraced my natural hair color and my big, white strip. I feel as though it is just part of this new season in my life.

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I never knew hair could be so liberating. Looking back at all the times I changed it though, they often coincided with hard parts of growing up: changes in jobs, ups and downs (and breakups) of relationships, moves, etc. This season in my life also marks one of the most settled ones of my life.

The Chop That Was

I am an old soul and as such, I have always been drawn to different times and old things.

I also have difficulties letting go.

Lately, it has been my hair. I had grown it out for our wedding and it was all the way down my back for the first time since I was little. Only, up until I had gotten engaged I was bleaching my hair to hide an every widening white streak that I have in the front. Half of my hair was so fried, but I was so attached to it.

It was the hair I had at my wedding nearly two years ago. It was the hair that I had throughout my pregnancy and through my nearly first year of motherhood. My aunt was still alive when I had that hair too…I had attached a lot of meaning to my hair.

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And so it took a great deal for me to finally cut off about 5, very damaged and burnt ends that are now in a bag in my car because I still couldn’t part with it, but I couldn’t wear it anymore.

It would mat up just by existing and brushing it often hurt because it would get and stay so knotted because it was so damaged. I feel like a new person today. My hair is light and curly and no longer two-toned. The chop, however stressful, was definitely needed and worth it.

Like most women, I feel like when I make a drastic change with my hair, I am making a step towards making a drastic change in my life. In many ways, this is already true. Another season of my life is ending and that is the part where I am a newly wed and a new mom. I am entering a phase of my life where my education will at last be complete and my focus will be on my family and my career.

God willing we will also be finally selling our townhouse and moving into our family house. As always, I am hoping this all will afford me more time to write and maybe even start that podcast that I have been day dreaming about doing lately. Now, I have a curly new hair cut to do it with.

My middle schoolers, the most honest (and sometimes mean) group of people in my life even said to me today that I now looked beautiful and my hair was no longer “just there.” I love them and their lack of filter for just about everything.

My New Favorite Phrase

I don’t know why some people take it upon themselves when they learn that a woman is pregnant or is a new mom to vomit all over them unsolicited parenting advice.

I have always found it to be one of the most annoying things about people who choose to do that.

They are a close second to the kinds of people who see you parenting one way and feel the need to comment about how they would do it or how you should do it. They are the absolute worst.

The great big reality of it all is that there are a million ways to parent and be successful at raising kids. And everyone is going to do it differently. When my mom took my son and I home from the hospital since my husband had to go back to work and I was abruptly discharged after almost dying, my mom tucked me into my house and waited for my husband to get home. Then she said to me, “you’ll figure it out. Call me when you want to talk and if not, I’ll call you in a couple days.”

And that was it. And she left me and my husband to figure out our son.

It was the best thing my mom could have done for us. She gave us room to figure out our son and the kinds of parents we were going to be. The truth is, I have taken some things from my mom that I remember growing up and I have added a lot of my own. I also became the kind of mom I never thought I would be: the co-sleeping, breast feeding, holistic kind of mom who believes her son is best at home with either myself or his dad or on the best days, both of us.

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And for our son, I think that is just what he needs. He is almost 6 1/2 months now. He loves food. He loves to cuddle. He loves to crawl and explore, everything. He sits and pulls himself up. He’s figured out how to transfer to other objects when he’s standing to move through the living room. He’s taken a few practice steps with his play stroller. He smiles all the time and loves to interact with the dogs and people. He screams and chatters up a storm. He belly laughs when he watches Behr do Behr things. He’s happy and healthy and secure. Which is exactly what I want him to be at 6 1/2 months old.

As a mother though, I will always get the commentary on what I should do  or how they would do it. However, I have also learned my new favorite response to people who think they have some sort of right to tell me how I raise my kid. And that is the following, very simple phrase:

“That is not how I am choosing to raise my son.”

Unfortunately, there will always be people who feel that they have some right to interject their thoughts or wants onto your child and your approach to parenting. They don’t, but they will continue to do it. So, I just learned to shut it down and keep on being the best mom I am being to my wonderful little boy who amazes me every single day.

Somewhere Between Sanity and Motherhood

I didn’t mean to take such a long break from writing, in fact, there is SO much I have wanted to write about, but I never seem to have the time anymore.

Our son was born a week before my birthday in August. I want to eventually write my birth story, but the entire ordeal was so traumatic that I still have problems even thinking about it. However, our little prince was absolutely worth it all:

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I had thought our boy would be my husband’s carbon copy, but he surprised me again in being mine with my husband’s dark brown eyes. He came into the world at almost 10 pounds and was 12 by his first doctors appointment. He is 5 months old this week and he loves to laugh at our dogs and snuggle. He talks up a storm and loves to be around people. I love watching him with his toys and how he figures out how to use them or how different sequences or choices make different noises. He is so incredibly smart.

I went back to work just before Thanksgiving and that has been the hardest part. I hate being away from him and I find that I just get through my days to get back to him and his smile.

I wrote my dissertation the entire time I was pregnant with him and then continued after I delivered and was half out of my mind recovering and learning how to breast feed him. It has been a wild ride for sure, but a of today I am half way through my dissertation journey and am eager to graduate next year. My PhD will take me to one last stop and that will be to Minneapolis for my graduation. Phil and I plan to take Logan and have our first family trip.

I am off for the holidays and I am enjoying every minute of being home. So, I guess I am now back to somewhere between my sanity and motherhood as we gear up for our next big adventure of selling out tiny house by the sea. I am excited and nervous for that move. I am ready to be in a big house and not have an hour commute, but I am also nervous about change and how much more work a big house is going to be.

Bring in on, though.

The Week That Was: Oh Baby & Doctoral Comps

My week started off with a trip to the ultrasound place. We both were looking forward to it for a week because we would have gotten the envelope that had the sex of our baby in it.

Only, baby had other plans. The moment that she put the wand on to my stomach, we looked up and saw that our baby is very much, in fact, a boy. Phil’s heart had been set on a gender reveal party next weekend, but after that, we pretty much called and told everyone our news.

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I knew he was a boy from the moment I found out that I was pregnant. Sometime in my late teens/early 20’s I had a dream that I was in a room with all of these babies. They all looked too small to even walk, so I was shocked to see them running around. I followed them up a flight of stairs until one fell backward and into my arms. I was amazed by how beautiful he was with his soft blond hair and huge blue eyes. A voice from behind me told me that his name was Dylan and that he “wasn’t ready for me yet.” Then I woke up.

I knew I had met my future son, and I knew eventually he would be ready for me. I just knew that this was him when my 5 pregnancy tests all turned positive. Only, Dylan never really fit him and for the longest time, I wanted to name my son John Dylan, John for my grandfather and Dylan for the dream. Phil is on this Phil the third thing, but I really feel that it’s too much to put on a kid and kids need their own names and their own identities.

We’ve been kicking around John Philip which I really love because it honors both grandfathers who are no longer with us and it gives our son his own identity. We have time to decide, but I’m really rooting for the latter choice. I was very close to my grandfather when he was alive and I know that I was his favorite. I took his death really hard in high school and in a lot of ways, I think losing him really put me on the path I took as an adult. He would be nearly 100 years old today. I wonder what he would think of all of this and how he must be up there smiling thinking about becoming a great-grandfather.

I thought this was going to be my big news for the week, but it seems that life also had other plans. Yesterday as I checked my phone for the time, I saw a gmail notification from my university. I didn’t breath the entire time the e-mail loaded. Coming in a whole FIVE DAYS before I was supposed to receive my results, it was the email containing my pass/fail notice on my doctoral comprehensive exam.

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And…I PASSED!!! I am officially a doctoral candidate and am now only waiting for my university to assign my doctoral mentor and committee before I plunge into dissertation. If I follow my plan, I will be done in a year and a half. I really can’t wait. I even hope I get there sooner because I am ready to be done and moving on with my life and career.

Pretty crazy week, eh?

Martian Child

It’s icky and cold here in New Jersey today. It was very hard to get up with that 6AM alarm. By me, it was just beginning to rain, but by the time I got into the capital city to teach today, the roads were slick and the rain had become the ever so lovely mix of snow and freezing rain.

It is definitely one of those days where you wish you could just stay home with your animals and watch Netflix.

BUT! I was just sick and I have a team to coach and a college class to teach tonight, so that wasn’t going to be in the cards today.

I did lay in bed thinking about it for a good 5 minutes. I am just so tired….all the time. It’s got me to think about what I’m going to do once our baby is here. It’s scary to even be thinking about deciding to stay home and cut down on work. I worked so hard to get here. Within 10 years, I completed a double bachelor’s degree, a double post-bac certificate, a master’s degree and almost a PhD. I always thought I would just work forever, but lately, my body doesn’t go like it used to. I can’t work 7 days a week anymore and my nights physically end for me around 9pm, and that’s after my after-dinner nap around 5PM.

I know this is pregnancy tired, but I worry about baby tired too. Will I really be able to come back to work in September/October like I plan? If I can, will I feel guilty leaving my baby even though he or she will have days with her dad since we work opposite schedules right now?

 

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Douglas College graduation at Rutgers University, May 2008

 

I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. This pregnancy has gotten very real recently, with the belly that has sprung up. It feels like it happened overnight. I went from this little bump to a stomach that you can’t deny has a baby growing in it. And while I have not felt a real kick yet, I do feel, especially when I am standing or walking, these fluttering movements that feel like I have an alien living in my stomach.

in some ways, it is an alien if you think about it. A baby starts to grow in your belly with its own little heart and soul, coming from seemingly nowhere and then you have the baby and you need to teach him or her everything because they have no knowledge of where they just came out into after you push them out of your hoo-ha.

Having kids is weird and stressful, but so worth it. I do love feeling my little baby fluttering around. I also love when I’m working at my desk and I get to rub my growing belly. I’m enjoying every moment of it, but, I’m just wondering how long I will be able to work and how emotionally prepared I’ll be to come back to work. Or if this is one of life’s forks in the road: do I continue on like I have been since I graduated from Rutgers or, is this the time where I choose something more than work and see where a new adventure takes me?

The End of Doctoral Comps?

I am 15 weeks pregnant.

And I just submitted my doctoral comprehensive exam.

All 50 pages of its 13,000-word glory which I wrote when I spent much of the writing period in bed battling the worst flu I think I have ever had.

Getting sick when you’re pregnant is kind of one of those sick jokes. You can’t really take anything, other then Sudafed (does nothing) and Tylenol (never does anything, but when you can only take ONE pill, it REALLY does nothing).

Suffice it to say, I am pretty tired and straight up brain fried.

I won’t know for another 10 days if I passed. My university will forward my exam to 3 faculty readers and they will each score it. I will need to have at least 2 of the readers mark each criterion as proficient or distinguished in order for me to be passed and fully moved into dissertation with a mentor.

I thought I would be biting my nails raw, but I think I’m just going to enjoy those 10 days where I won’t have to be writing or researching…or worrying. I have some for fun books that I want to get through, even though I definitely did not make my 100 book challenge. And, I’d like to shop for my baby.

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What if we’re all just a little bit Peggy?

Anyone else love the show Mad Men? I have watched it in its entirety at least twice. I loved the clothes, the attitudes, the smoking even in doctor’s offices and of course, just how broken Don Draper is and how he affected everyone around him. And then, of course, there was my lady love, Peggy. I always felt like I was Peggy.

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One of my favorite Don moments was when he visits Peggy in the hospital after she gives birth to her surprise baby. She’s beaten and broken, but then Don gives her the best kind of advice when he says:

“Get out of here and move forward,” Don says. “This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.”

The first time I saw that scene, it hit me right to my core because it made me remember that time in my life where I employed the same kind of logic. I was in my early 20’s and fresh out of college. I had my first “real-world” boyfriend and was hopelessly infatuated with him. I was also ridiculously responsible the majority of the time, but with him, I found it easy to let go a little bit and explore life…and love.

So, on a weekend away together things got a little crazy and it also didn’t go the way of responsibility, even though we both very much were. I didn’t know it then, but in making those choices, I came to a fork in the road. One of those decisions that you don’t know at the time, but will, either way, lead you down a different path.

I could have made the choice to take a huge risk and find myself in an unplanned pregnancy and kiss my graduate school acceptance and life in New York City goodbye, or I could take a pill and pretend like nothing ever happened.

I took the pill.

It surprised me how easy it was to do it. I thought to myself, I will never know so why think about this anymore? After that, I didn’t.

For years. It was the easiest thing to just forget. I never thought about it. It just slipped into the vast nothingness of my subconscious and there it stayed, for years.

Until one rainy April day after I broke up with my next “real-world” boyfriend who I pretty much only dated because he reminded me of the first real-world boyfriend. I never said that I made very healthy choices in my 20’s, now did I? It brought up a lot of unresolved issues I needed to work through and in that moment of seeing this, this became one of them. The guilt didn’t hit yet though, and it wouldn’t for some time.

Not until, the months leading up to my wedding which was the biggest transition and commitment of my life, I began to think about so many things that had led me to the man of my dreams and the new life that lay before me. We had discussed starting a family and since we are both over 30, that it was time to do it sooner rather than later. Just like that my overwhelming desire to be a mom kicked into hyperdrive. It was overwhelming, very close to the time a couple years ago where I became obsessed with the idea of being a foster mom until I realized how hopelessly screwed up our child protective system actually is. However, this was different. This was a desire to be a mom that almost burned.

And so did that long buried decision I made at 22 years old and all the guilt that came with it. How could I now want something that before I was so quick to dismiss because the timing wasn’t right? And how easy that choice was and how easy it was to ignore for so many years?

I was reminded of Peggy again when she tells Pete the truth about where she went in the earlier season and says:

“I could have had you in my life forever if I wanted to,” she says almost dreamily. “I could have had you. I could have shamed you into being with me. But I didn’t want to… I wanted other things.”

Yes, I knew it was my choice because I wanted other things. I wanted to make something of myself and see the world and write books and study art. I didn’t want to be burdened with a man that I, though very into, wasn’t really committed to and who lived 6 hours from me.

I wanted other things.

Until I met my husband and then, I really did want those things with him. And so, I prayed. A lot. I prayed for forgiveness for possibly destroying another life, for the callousness of being 22 and thinking it was just something that never happened and was so easy to be shocked by how it never happened. To God for breaking all kinds of rules and not being considerate of myself or anyone else.

I had a long list.

Within a month, I was…at last…very much pregnant.

Ruh Roh: Doctoral Comps Meets a Big Surprise

I want to get back into my writing.

I have really missed it.

I also have such great ideas for things too.

However, life seems to have given me other plans for a bit.

After a really long summer of interning, teaching college and working full-time in a hotel to save for the wedding, I thought once November was over I would coast into doctoral comps and dissertation. I did, to some degree.

I began my doctoral comprehensive exam last week. It will take me a month to complete and it is tough. However, I am so close to the end of this journey that I will do whatever I have to to make sure that I get to the finish line. I am ready to be a doctor and move on from life in the classroom. I would really love to move onto teaching college full-time or working as a supervisor somewhere.

This doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the year for that, though. I got a big surprise several months ago and it didn’t take long for our baby to make his/her presence known with the extreme fatigue and nausea that killed me my first trimester. That’s right, folks, I am pregnant and due this summer.

I was pretty shocked and took every pregnancy test I had. Followed by going out and buying two more just to be sure I was in fact, 100% knocked up. Turns out I am and two more doctor’s appointments following has made this so very real.

I never thought I was going to be a mom. I also never thought I was going to meet someone and get married, but I did and now, I get to have this little baby in the summer. I wrote up a much more eloquent piece about all of this and I will post it soon.

For now, though, I just wanted to share my news. That I am not only on the cusp of becoming a doctor in education, but am also planning on bringing home our baby this summer and the little prince or princess will sleep soundly in the crib we bought them the moment I crossed over into the second trimester:

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