The Hart Home│It’s Crazy to Think

Two years ago at this time, I was engaged and towards the end of my planning for our November wedding. We were beginning to seriously discuss starting our family. I was also packing and getting ready to head off to my final doctoral residency in Dallas, Texas.  I blew the residency out of the water when I had my research plan completely approved and granted scientific merit approval the first day of residency, something that usually takes the entire residency to complete.

I am now waiting to hear back about the formatting of my dissertation for publication. I am at the end point. My dissertation is done and written. Now it’s just the last few steps towards graduation. It’s so crazy to be here. Looking forward, the last few major upgrades are going into our townhouse this week and next which means, she’ll be ready for the market soon after and we will be moving towards a single family home that we are hoping is going to be our family’s forever house.

This also means we are leaving the Jersey Shore behind us. After two years of looking all over New Jersey, we have decided that the best spot for us is more north and closer to my job. I will be less of a lunatic when I don’t have to spend 2 hours every day in a car commuting. We’ll also be saving a fortune on gas and car maintenance too. Logan (and the dogs) will have a lot more room to play and run around. Where we’re looking, houses are almost in the country and come with big pieces of property so even if the house we fall in love with is smaller than what we ultimately would have wanted, we will eventually be able to put on an addition if we want to. I am just eager to get out of drug-ridden ocean county and have Logan poised to start school in a blue ribbon school district.

That’ll be my focus this summer. I am also focusing on myself. I finally succumbed to the mom haircut that I have been fighting since I had Logan and I am so much happier. While I have lost all of my baby weight, I am now ready to lose the last of my chubby weight too and I have been following my old eating plan for a couple of weeks now. I already feel better. I would like to lose 100 pounds and get myself back to where I am happiest with my weight, but I would like to lose at least 50 before I have another baby. It’s crazy to think how much this summer is such an end to a happy chapter of my life where I began a life with the man I love, became a mom and finally, after 15 years have finished school with my Ph.D.

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It’s crazy to think that I am also ending this phase with my new mom hair cut that consists completely of my natural hair complete with my hard earned rogue stripe and all.

The Hart Home│Revisiting My Crazy Doctoral Journey

A couple days ago, my mentor had informed me that my doctoral dissertation had received school approval and following a few brief formatting edits would be ready to be sent in for publication review. This is a giant step towards completing my doctorate and for some, I have entered the part of this journey where I just have paperwork and a conference call left before my dissertation is completed and I graduate with my PhD.

doctoral regalia
My doctoral regalia. It’s a long cry from the one I wore at Rutgers University commencement and also the slightly cooler than Rutgers one I had for my master’s from SNHU.

I thought the timing was rather funny because a couple of months ago, I was contacted by an editor at editage.com, a blogging website that shares personal stories of academics and doctoral candidates about their work, life and the craziness of going through this process about having some of my blogs from here republished on their site. They were mostly ones about being pregnant and writing and then being Logan’s mom and still having to write.

https://www.editage.com/insights/the-best-week-of-my-life

This one was one of my favorites because it reminded me of when we thought we were going to do this whole gender reveal party, but Logan just wanted us to know right then and there that he was a boy.

https://www.editage.com/insights/how-does-she-do-it-all

Then there was this one where I shared what it’s really like to be working full-time, adjuncting AND writing a doctoral dissertation while being a mom to a new baby. I teared up re-reading this one because it reminded me of how hard this journey has been and how much of me it took, but I still think it was worth it because I kept my dream going even into motherhood and I am setting a good example for my son and future children.

https://www.editage.com/insights/life-gave-me-a-big-surprise-on-the-cusp-of-me-becoming-a-doctor

And then, the time where I found out that I was pregnant and a newlywed AND set to begin doctoral comps just as I was hitting the “pretty pregnant” stage.

I wouldn’t change any of it. I am so proud of where I have come and where I will go from here and my heart just bursts at the idea that I have this beautiful family that I get to be with as I do it all. I am so thankful where my life has taken me and I am so grateful for my husband and our little prince who’s already walking and screaming MOM whenever he wants me. It’s just the best.

 

The Hart Home│Ruin is a Gift, Ruin is the Road to Transformation

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love one of my favorite lines is this: ” Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

In 2013, my life kind of fell apart much like it did when I had graduated from college. I was in an awful relationship that finally ended. I was acting as a French teacher though I wasn’t properly certified to be a French teacher and that too, abruptly ended when they found someone with the certificate to finish the year. The next 6 months brought with it so much change.

I finally landed a tenure track position that I was certified for. I met my husband. I enrolled in my master’s program. Within a year, my life was so completely different. What had started out as a really hard time quickly blossomed into what would become my real adult life. Within 2 years, I had bought my first house, moved out of my first single gal apartment and made a real commitment to my husband who was just my boyfriend then and I enrolled in my doctoral program.

Yesterday, my handsome baby boy stole my heart, even more, when he called me “mom.” And he called me mom all day because I made such a big deal every time he did. All he wanted yesterday was his mom and when I would put him down or not be by him, he was next to me in seconds with his big brown eyes fixed on me and his hands gripping my pants going “momomomomom.” I just can’t. He is the absolute best and I am so incredibly lucky that I get to be his mom.

Later yesterday evening, I took Logan outside to go get the mail from the mailbox and our entire front lawn was alive with what had to be 50-something dragonflies. We just stood and watched them zip all around us. When I was 19, I got a tattoo of a dragonfly on my hip. I got it because dragonflies are symbolic of transformation and at the time, I was transforming into a student of art history who was about to go live on her own in New Brunswick. I have always loved dragonflies and I have them throughout our home.

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Dragonflies by Gabriela Valencia

This afternoon, news came back from my mentor that my committee approved of my dissertation which means I am now, officially, only two steps away from being able to call myself Dr. My life is transforming again and by this time next year, I know that I am going to be in a very different place in my life altogether. Everything I have been working for since that point of ruin is transforming me into who I was meant to become and it is amazing and almost indescribable to finally be at this point.

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To anyone who ever said I couldn’t do it or I wouldn’t finish, take a look at this. I did all of this while pregnant and newly post-partum. I did it with no sleep and a newborn nursing from me every 2 hours. I did it because I dreamed it and I wanted it bad enough. I wanted to change my life and I did. As my mentor will always say, ONWARD!

 

The Hart Home│Onward!

I began dissertation when I was at the end of my pregnancy and was eagerly awaiting Logan’s arrival. It was an insane time to be that pregnant and trying to write a doctoral dissertation and I struggled during my first couple of terms. Whenever I hit a forward point in my dissertation, my mentor would conclude his comments, advice and/or congratulations with an ONWARD! I found it highly motivating, at first, but now that I am burning out from this 150-page paper…I am looking forward to never having to see ONWARD again.

onward_upward

I lost my mind a little bit yesterday. It was a hard day of testing middle schoolers who are just done and dealing with my university that suddenly decided to stick me with a huge bill because they screwed up and overcalculated my financial aid…from LAST YEAR and are now trying to get me to pay back a loan that they awarded me and has been gathering interest all year. And they want to act like oh well, it happens. That sort of thing happens when someone doesn’t do their job correctly. This is why I hate for-profit universities. The way they mismanage students and their money is disgusting and I am, unfortunately, not the only person they have done this to. They’re actually in the midst of a class action lawsuit because of their business practices and the hefty costs that they push on to doctoral students.

I have valued my time there with their core staff. I learned a lot from really great educational leaders from all over this country and each of them has lent themselves in some way to my research and I am where I am because of their knowledge and support. What I have not loved is the vast level of incompetence that pervades much of their support departments because they hire people for those jobs that have no clue what they are doing and there is often a quick turn over amongst them so it’s often just a continuous cycle of stupidity and insanity that gets pushed onto already highly stressed doctoral students who really just want their degree.

I have reached that point. I just want my degree. I want to move on with my life.

Just as I was at my end yesterday and texting my advisor my options for withdrawing and being “all but dissertation” for the rest of my life because I didn’t have it in me for another fight with this school’s support services (this is the third time they have done something out of left field nuts which impacted my finances or ability to register) my mentor had emailed me that he had approved of my completed dissertation and had forwarded it on to my committee for their review and commentary.

And as always he concluded with his bold, ONWARD!

It calmed me down a bit. I requested for the third time documentation about this financial conundrum that they have put me in. And then I took a deep breath.

I have two weeks before I will hear back and then, I am hopeful that there won’t be any edits and that if there are, they are small. I can do the tweaking quickly and then, it goes to my school for one last back and forth review before it goes for formatting and the dean’s approval. I probably will not get to my dissertation defense during this quarter because everything from here on out is depending on other people to be available to read and edit and approve of my work. I am okay with that though and I will most likely finish over the summer which means I will not get to attend the graduation in Minneapolis, but we will have to go to Orlando which I can already hear my husband screaming with excitement in the background. He would move us to Florida if he could.

ONWARD!

Mental Health and Your PhD

I had not realized the toll my PhD had taken on my well-being until very recently.

As a PhD candidate you are always teaching or writing. Then, when you’re not you don’t know what to do with yourself and often, there is a sense of pervading guilt that you’re being “lazy” by not being involved with something.

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Because of this, completing a PhD is extremely isolating because you are spending your free time outside of teaching writing and/or reading which are solitary experiences. I also reached this point in my academic career where I realized I was in my early 30’s and if I wanted to be a mother, it was time to start my family. Being pregnant and then post-partum while I was entering my first quarter of dissertation was extremely taxing. I was dealing with all of the changes in my body and sleep deprivation as well as taking care of my son, it was a very trying time and one that I do not want to go back to.

Now that I at the end of it all, I am realizing how completely burnt out I am. I did a masters, a PhD, got married, bought and renovated a house and had a baby all within the last 6 years. I am exhausted. I am burnt out. And I have reached the point where I have realized that I need to unload something from my plate, I am going to have a full-fledged breakdown.

We are back from spring break today and for the first time in years, I actually took a spring break. I didn’t work on anything…not even a book review or dissertation editing. I hung out with my family and soaked in all the Logan time I could get and then balled my eyes out on the way into work this morning because all I wanted to do was stay home with my baby.

Years ago, an old boss told me that I should go into writing programming for organizations. She told me that I would be very good at that and would love working for myself. I keep thinking about that: getting serious about my own consulting practice. It really would be such an adventure and it would allow me to have more flexibility to be home more. I just don’t even know where I would start.

What It’s Really Like

A lot of the time I get from people the “I don’t know how you do it all” comment.

And the truth is, I really don’t either, but I’ll give you a glimpse into what it’s really like.

It’s 3:30 AM.

The dogs are snoring on the floor. My husband is snoring on the couch. Our son is in my lap nursing as I am writing.

I am exhausted. I wanted to go to bed early tonight, but I also wanted to finish this last chapter. It’s the first time today that my son is quiet enough and preoccupied enough with food to let me do this without having to be walking him or rocking him or snuggling him.

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Google Images

He comes first. Always. But in this moment, my work finally gets to come first. My son will eventually nurse himself back to sleep and I will get a good chunk of work done.

It’s now 4:30 AM.

I quietly get us back into bed if I am lucky, but more times than not we make it to the recliner and I hold our son as I get 2 hours of sleep before my late alarm for work will go off. I will shower and throw on whatever dress I can find and am out the door to complete my 2 hour long commute.

It is now 6:45 AM.

I autopilot the hour into my job, praying the entire way that there isn’t an accident that will make the entire highway a parking lot. I review over and over again the lesson I plan on teaching and where everything is in my room that I need to get together for the lesson.

It is now 7:45 AM.

I am at work, signed in and am setting up for the day. I have 10 minutes before the kids come in. I make sure I have everything I need and my board set up for the day. My day consists of teaching 3 block classes and attending PLC meetings or using prep time to prep for my classes.

It is now 2:40 PM.

I am probably in my car. I get a few seconds to breathe before I am either commuting home to take my son from my husband before he goes off to night school or I am heading deeper into the capital city to hold my office hours for my night class. I will be there until about 10:00 PM.

It’s a four hour class on reading. I go through office hours, probably eat something, grade my papers, talk to students who come in and then I teach the class for four hours.

Then I walk to my car and finally get to drive the hour home.

I take my son from my husband because chances are he has been up and fussy all night because I am not home to lay with him at bedtime like I do or let him nurse himself to sleep. With any luck he will go down for the final time and I will either get to have some sleep myself or I will be up again writing and nursing a baby at 3:00 in the morning.

It’s hard being working mom and going to school full time. It takes a lot out of you and often times, you are giving up something else in turn. For me, I largely lack a social life because my free time at the moment goes to my son and on the rare occasions that he is tired with me, we both get to have that wonderful nap that never will fully catch me up on sleep.

I remember when I thought it was hard to be 20 something weeks pregnant, writing my doctoral comprehensive exam and being in bed with the flu. I laugh at that time now. That was easy when I think about it now.