Tag Archive: rad to be a grad

when i’m not sleeping.

i have been having trouble falling asleep these last few nights. this is something i have become completely unused to, & i don’t really like it. i had my share of insomnia as a teenager, but especially since m was born, i can usually fall asleep at the drop of a hat. anywhere. anytime. d, who does have quite a bit of trouble getting enough restful sleep is often jealous of my remarkable sleeping abilities. but lately… i’ve done a lot of tossing and turning, & of course, my brain goes into overdrive in during those lying awakeawakeawake hours.

here are some things i’ve been thinking about:

1. missing home. now that we’ve left the coldest canadian capital & returned to ontarioland again, i miss my parents. i miss my friends. i miss my cinnamon buns & having my eyelashes freeze. m wakes up in the night calling out for omi and opa, & every time that happens, my heart breaks a little.

2. reading so many books before next december & actually understanding them. this is actually something i spend a lot of my time thinking about. literature kind of terrifies me. i love to read, don’t get me wrong, but Literature is another matter entirely. especially German Literature. (you will note that i have capitalized these nouns to emphasize how in awe of them i am. usually i capitalize only the word God.) i have a pile growing in my apartment. i have a pile growing in my office. i brought a bag of books from my parents’ place. taking the volumes of goethe and schiller off the shelves made me swallow. the books i have are old, & the smell kind of weird. when i stare at those piles of unread pages, i cringe with something, but i’m not exactly sure what the feeling is. fear, certainly, but also excitement? and anticipation? and a whiff of disbelief that i will actually be able to digest the contents of that forest of stories. i haven’t read a single one yet. starting tomorrow, that adventure begins.

3. my parenting. people have different opinions of my continuing to breastfeed m. even i have different opinions. over the holidays, he nursed a. lot. i was exhausted. he wasn’t eating properly. i’m not sure if that was due to a stomach bug he had before we left, or to the fact that he was nursing so much. but he hasn’t nursed with that ferocity since he was quite little, in the days when i imagined two years of nursing stretching out into the vastness of eternity. i wonder how i am going to wean him in a way that works for both of us. i’m not sure how. but i know that i need to wean him, & i don’t want to do it cold turkey, because that seems mean to me somehow. another issue entirely is our use of two different languages with him, not to mention english, which he hears on sesame street & from people we know. he heard quite a bit of it in the coldest canadian city, actually, more than he does here, since most of the people we know here speak german to him. in this case, though, it is not a case of doubting our decision to raise m trilingually, rather pride at how far little m has come, & how quickly and eagerly he is using both german & french, & how he busily negotiates the language systems & their place in his world. i love listening to him enact conversations with ernie and cookie monster, or cow and sheep, (who are all very polite it seems, saying “ja, bitte” and “merci” faithfully). i am so fiercely proud of that little boy. which brings me to point #4.

4. why is it that academia & motherhood have to be mutually exclusive?? this drives me crazy! i have recently had a series of experiences that underlined what i already knew, but this is another post entirely.

tomorrow is my first official day as a phd candidate. i am excited for the adventure ahead.

here we go!



so, now what?

so i defended my thesis, tuesday last week. i got what i came for.

last week i also found out i was accepted (fully funded) to the phd program here. exciting! and! crazy! is this one of those situations where i look back and can’t see the hard parts, the tears parts, the prickly parts anymore? is this one of those situations where i will later say, wisely, full of holes, it seemed like a good idea at the time…

i feel like i can say, with some degree of confidence, no, in fact, this is the right thing for me. for my family. it’s true that this isn’t a decision based purely on my intellectual betterment. as if it were that easy. no, actually, i need to earn money, & let’s face it, here is what i am qualified to do: nothing. i’ve heard a lot about transferable skills. okay, fine. i’m a pretty good teacher, but in order for me to teach anywhere (other than in the university system, strangely) i need a teaching certificate. or at the very least, a tesol certification, neither of which i currently have. do you know how much it costs to certify with tesol? in a program that includes in-class time, observation & practicum? the answer is way more than we can afford right now. if i continue with phd studies, the university guarantees a certain amount of funding for the duration of my studies, regardless of whether or not i have scholarship funding from elsewhere.

here is what i am qualified to do: be a student. in fact, i’ve gotten pretty darn good at that. i’ve gotten so good that i can juggle parenthood & studenthood, which works more and less well, depending on the day, depending on deadlines, and how many hours of sleep i have managed to get in relation to how many cups of coffee i can drink.

on the other hand, i am starting the phd because i want to start the phd. this desire to continue studying does not come from a place inside me that says, what the heck else can i do. no, it comes from a place that says, the more i learn, the more i realize i have yet to learn (that place paraphrases some famous philosopher who said something pretty much like that a long time ago). the main reason i am continuing my studies is because i want to learn more. that is what i love most about being a student- throwing myself into a new topic, looking at ideas from different angles, trying to sort out what i think and believe and what i don’t believe and think. i have never studied literature before, not really, and that is a major part of the first two years of this program. part of me is scared shitless about that, since the study of literature is (almost) uncharted territory for me, limited really to grade twelve english class and pickpickpicking apart books that had perfectly good stories, or else beatbeatbeating books that were dead on the ground. another part of me is really excited, to stretch my thinking, to grow in my understanding of the world, at least in some small way. maybe i will even come to like philosophy…

hm. let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

i’m not ready to leave the university yet, because i’m not convinced i have learned everything here that i came to learn, even though i wrote a pretty long paper already & learned lots of stuff while doing that. i marvel at how far i’ve come, in my time here, & realize that i have so so far left to go. but i’m ready. i’m ready for that now.

done… sort of.

i submitted my thesis today.

i went to new media services & had them print our four copies for me- a total of 508 pages. holy cow.

my goal was to finish on friday, but then baby m was sick, so i stayed home in the morning, until d got back, & then i went to university after lunch, & of course, the way i work, by the time i got there, my motivation had all flown the coop. or whatever.

i was going to be all finished on friday. i really really was. i even had tickets to go to a little concert on friday. & i sat there with my red pen, marking up the copy of my thesis & i knew it just wasn’t going to happen.

so d brought burgers & french fries, & we had a picnic in the conference room outside my office. i couldn’t remember the last time we had a meal together by ourselves.  we don’t get out much.

& then we went to an acapella concert, which of course was right in the same building as my office, because i never really leave. glee seems to have spawned a whole new world of people singing pop songs… more and less well. there were quite a few examples of less, but a few wonderful examples of more, so it all kind of balanced out in the end. we were going to go out for a beer to celebrate my (not quite) finished thesis, but then the concert was long, & it was all a little bit anti-climactic.

& then today, i submitted. (& then i worked on my power point presentation for the defense, & discussed philosophy with mario, which is something i usually never do, because philosophy makes me crazy, most of the time.)

i have decided i will do lovely things this christmas season, to get us in the christmas spirit. so yesterday, i baked some päpanät. i’m not really sure how to spell it. they’re christmas cookies i remember always having around… tiny tiny cookies that are hard and crunchy & a little bit spicy. my oma gave me a book called “mennonite foods & folkways from south russia” by norma jost voth, which i absolutely love. i love it because it has lots of great recipes in it, but also because it has stories and songs and tips about waffles in it. also, it has about 35 different recipes for peppernuts. some of them have weird ingredients i’ve never even heard of before. like kabo syrup? or ammonia (isn’t that something bad in cat pee?)? so i decided on the recipe i found over here (thanks erin!) i used some lebkuchengewürz from germany instead of measuring everything out. i don’t really care for measuring. i like to eyeball. & i read the päpanät stories to m while he lovingly watched the “baby cookies” bake.  1st advent lovely achieved.



it is monday morning. actually it’s already halfway through the morning. i am on campus, trying to incorporate changes to the second chapter of my thesis. my supervisor & i had a really great discussion about how to do it, but now, it is as though all the wind is out of my sails. i just want this to be over already. i want to hand it in as is and be done with it.

on the other hand, a second after hitting send, i would feel frustrated, i know, because it’s not my best work. handing in my thesis the way it is now would be half-assed, & i’m not used to doing things half-assed.

i moved across the country to take my spot in this master’s program. my husband & i uprooted ourselves, moved away from our friends and family to start a new life here so i could study what i am passionate about. we found out a few days before we left that i was pregnant. as we drove away from our first apartment, waving frantically at my waving parents on the sidewalk, i remember thinking: what are we doing?

about thirty hours of driving later, a few nights in a college dorm room, we moved into our townhouse, without furniture. we slept on the floor. the carpet was dirty. i remember thinking: what are we doing?

my pregnancy was rough. i threw up a lot. more than once, hanging over the toilet bowl, i remember thinking: what are we doing?

when my son was born, my semester wasn’t quite over, so i brought him to class, all teeny tiny and new; it’s difficult to take notes and participate in class when your breasts are being noisily sucked on. we didn’t get a lot of sleep. on more than one occasion, i stood rocking my baby and i remember thinking: what are we doing?

we have been here for two and a half years now. my son will be turning 2 in march. my thesis submission date is this friday, november 26th. this is what we are doing. we have a life here now, with good friends who support us and love us, my son has grandparents who live inside our computer with whom he skypes almost daily. my husband finished his teaching degree, & is working now, doing a job he loves. and me, well, i’m writing my thesis, doing something that i, too, {mostly} love.

my brain is fuller than it was when i got here, & so is my heart. that’s what we’re doing.