Monday, August 31, 2009


Week 2 down...week 3 starting...mind is mush. I know I had some things I wanted to blog about these past couple of weeks, but those thoughts must have escaped my mind somewhere between Marx, theoretical explanations of social justice, and racial disparities in crime. Oh well, I'm still going to take a few minutes to do something that doesn't involve any of those things.

It has to be completely impossible to READ this much. My eyes always feel like they need to close for a long nap, but they can't because that would take away from the infinite and impossible amount of reading that is before them. While I am soaking up this knowledge--sociological knowledge--the normal stuff in my mind must be seeping out of my ears. I feel dumber. Such is the life of a PhD student, so I've heard...

So, bear with me, I am sure I will ramble and jump from subject to subject without warning and with typos (even more than normal). I hope that I can pull my thoughts together for all of the papers that are coming my way. Oh my!

As I mentioned, I am not quite sure that I totally fit in here. I have a family--the excludes me from, oh, pretty much the entire group of graduate students. Add on to that that I am female and I am just about done having anything in common with my cohort. I am still not sure at all where I am going to fit in--in Knoxville, in the program, in life... Hopefully that will come in time. I'm working on successfully assimilating. Luckily, I don't have time to worry about that (or have a social life) right now so I guess those are minor details, right?

Classes are good--I like the students and professors. It is interesting to be back in a group of people who are more like me in my "former" life (i.e. younger and not a mother). They (the students) discuss the ins and outs of hot dogs, beer, bars, the swine flu, and how to get cheap/free food. The professors are great but seem way too smart for me--I really don't feel like I will ever reach their level. It's a little discouraging but I try to tell myself I am just getting started.

I have also started teaching again for the semester. I love teaching but online teaching is not really my "thing." I am a little hesitant to write what I really think about that experience just in case (by some insanely unlikely coincidence) someone at my place of employment might come across this. Let's just say reading emails is becoming an increasingly painful experience...

Hmmm...what else can I remember about what is going on in my life right now? K is adjusting well to her babysitter and will be starting preschool one day a week soon. My neurotic self is really excited about the socialization experience but terrified of the germs that are going to be all around her and, thus, in our home. Eeewwww!!! Buzz is also doing well in the beginning of his graduate school journey. He says it makes his head hurt, too--we might be a sad bunch by the end of this semester!

I should go walk my dogs...I need some air and so do they. I really will try to remember some of the funny things that happen on a daily basis (now that I am out in the sort-of "real" world more often) to share. I laugh A LOT. Until next time...stay social! :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Role Conflict

Week 1 down, 4 years to go...

My first week as a PhD student was good, I think. I am busy, busy, busy! K seems to be doing a good job adjusting to our new schedule (she's so awesome) and Buzz is really stepping up to help me out SO much around the house. But I am having some trouble letting go of some of those things. I have always been THE ONE who takes care of K, the dogs, and the house--and all that goes with those responsibilities. I have done this partially because Buzz has been gone so much and partially because I didn't work as much as he did when he was here and partially because it was just something I wanted to do. The hardest part is seeing others do for K what I have always done on my own (or seeing her be so independent that she just does it herself). Don't get me wrong, I am SO proud of her and I know this is part of growing up. She's just turning into such a big girl and, for the first time in her life, I am not the one who is with her 24/7. I'm also worried that Buzz is going to get burnt out quickly--I hope not. (He's pretty amazing, too.)

But back to my week at school...I am the only girl and the only criminology student in my cohort. Of course, I don't fit in AGAIN...story of my life. :) It's not so bad, though. Everyone seems nice and I really think I am going to like the department. I have a ton of reading and am feeling slightly overwhelmed about reading, writing, and living the rest of my life. I am really feeling some role conflict right now. (Role conflict is difficulties that occur when incompatible expectations arise from two or more social positions held by the same person-- I feel like I am pulled in about a million different directions--well, maybe not a million, but at least a few. I'm a student, teacher, mom, and wife among other things. Luckily, I have a supportive "core" around me.

In all honesty, I am not totally sure what to expect through this journey. I hope I make it! I hope I can do this as gracefully as possible without losing my sanity and while still being good to my family members who are OH so good to me! Until next time...

What's in a name?

As sociologists, we know that there are some things that influence us even if they are not clear to the "naked eye" (so to speak). Names are often one of the first things others known about you--and a name can really shape people's perspectives even if that is all they know about someone.

On the suggestion of a friend (who has completed her PhD) I have decided to journal my journey though PhD school. I am not so ambitious to think I will actually write anything handwritten other than notes for class or that I will do this as much as I would like, but I am using my blog as a medium to chronicle this journey. So I have changed the title of the blog (for now--still subject to change in the future) to "Verstehen."

Verstehen--The German word for "understanding" or "insight"; used by Max Weber to stress the need for sociologists to take into account people's emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes ( (Max Weber is one of the "big 3" classical sociologists, by the way.)

Here's to hoping I can find verstehen into/of myself, others, and my discipline while keeping my sanity along this journey. Let's enjoy the ride...

Monday, August 10, 2009

The view from the other side of the desk

Holy crap--in 9 days I will be a full time student again! I am excited, nervous, anxious, you name it right now. I have no idea how I am going to pull this off, but I hope I can do it! All I can think about right now is what it's going to be like to be on the other side of the desk. When I first started teaching after getting my Master's I remember how insanely strange it was to be on the other side of that big desk/table at the front of the room. In many ways, it was the same feeling that I got when I quit being a teller and had to go into the bank as a customer--I mean, you never get that view! But the difference in the teller and teacher situations is that the view I am speaking of is literal for teller and more figurative for teacher.

For, wow, like 18 years of my life (I was 25 when I finished my master's and I had a couple years away from school after college) I was always the student, sitting in the small seats on the other side of the desk--I was the one taking the notes, doing the reading/homework, writing the papers, and taking advice from those "know-alls" behind that big desk. Then, all of the sudden, I was the one that those students looked to for all the answers--I gave the assignments and the grades. I really surprised myself at how much I had retained through all of those years of school and have been proud of myself so far for how far I have come as an instructor--but now those tables are turning yet again...

I remember the feeling of relief when my master's thesis was approved and I was done--I was a Master of Science in Applied Sociology! Those 2 years seemed like a lot of work--and now I am starting at the beginning of a 4-year (at a minimum) journey. I have been out of the student desk in the classroom for nearly 4 years. I hope I surprise myself with knowledge retention on a much larger scale this time. I am already stressing over comp. exams (the first of which I will take in a little less than a year) and the whole dissertation process. I guess I just need to take it one step at a time. This time, too, I am going to try to remember that I DO know a little something and those "know-alls" on the other side of the desk don't actually know EVERYTHING...and they learn from me, too. (My students have taught me lots--not all positive, but that's another blog for another day...probably when I am banging my head against the wall grading papers and answering emails of why you have to actually do work to get a passing grade.)

Anyway, I hope this journey is as amazing (or even more so) as those I have traveled so far. I hope that this time, thanks to a few more years (decades) of life experience I can also enjoy the journey itself. Of course, I am working toward that "Dr. Beth" goal, but I also have an amazing family, friends, and the pursuit of knowledge itself to enjoy and appreciate along the way. (And for those friends and family--get ready for a few breakdowns and "I don't think I can do it"s along the way.) :) I hope I'm not the oldest in my classes and I hope that I comprehend my professors' lectures...either way, I am not giving up. So I'm dusting off the old backpack (well, actually I had to buy a new one--first since college--since Daisy destroyed my old one) and have completed my back to school shopping (Wal-mart still has 15 cent 1-subject notebooks). I am heading to campus to take a seat in the student chair. PhD school, here I come!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lucky and Lazy

I'm back to my computer addiction after a week-long vacation. That "vacation" was in Jacksonville, NC sandwiched between two weekend trips to Roanoke, VA--two places I never thought could be vacation spots. For the record, this was the first vacation (other than trips to Roanoke) that we have taken since K was born--and it was a great vacation! I am always saying I am in need of friends. This week showed me that I still have them out there--just dispersed places other than Knoxville!

Anyway, part of my agreement with myself was that I wouldn't do anything too productive this past week. I had to grade, but I even slacked on that a little, thanks to Blackboard flaking out some of the time. Now I am back to my power reading before school (for me) starts, I need to finish a paper to submit for publication, and I need to figure out a budget--which is difficult to do with the financial burden of school and trying to find good (no, great) childcare--which I will NOT skimp on!

In my "off" time, I have been doing a lot of thinking about why I want to do this--I mean, seriously, why would anyone (who has already been in school for 2 years PAST college) want to go back to school for an additional 4 years (at least) filled with stress and an insane amount of reading, writing, etc. on top of it? (And I am the person who finished my BA early because I wanted to get out of school so bad.) All of this on top of having to spend time away from the one person who means more to you than anything you could ever imagine? I think I have come up with an answer--I'm lazy. I know, not the conventional answer you would expect to those questions, right? I don't mean lazy in the I really never do ANYTHING sense, I mean lazy in the paid work sense.

I am lazy--and I am going to work my ass off for the next 4 years while incurring an insane amount of student loans so I can eventually make some money being lazy. Few things in this world bring me pure joy--my daughter, my husband, my dogs (my family in general). But also, I love sociology. I love learning. I enjoy teaching (most of the time). Although it can get stressful, "doing sociology" has never felt like "real" work to me. I like it. Among many other benefits, it gives me an outlet for my to use my overthinking brain for something other than self destruction. :) And I like teaching because it gives me a chance to bring some of this positive learning into other people's lives...and it gives me lots of autonomy. I don't like being told what to do--teaching gives me flexibility in my "work" activities. Again, teaching doesn't really feel like work to me.

So I am going back to school in order to be an authority in my field, which will allow me to teach at higher levels. Assuming I make it to my goal of becoming a PhD, teaching will allow me a lot of things that will help in my pursuit of laziness. I can have summers off and winter breaks will be here to stay--which will allow me more mommy time. Don't get me wrong, I know there is a lot of "work" to be done during semesters and there will be researching to do even during my "breaks." But, again, it doesn't feel like work to me--and it's done on MY time. I will be a happier person which will help me be a better mom and wife--and individual.

I am truly a lucky, LUCKY lady to have this opportunity to pursue my dreams of laziness. I am so fortunate to have an amazing daughter who adapts relatively easily to new people and situations. I am so thankful for a husband whose career (paycheck) allows me the opportunity to do this without the necessity of getting over my head in paid work responsibilities. (Don't get me wrong, the budget issue is still an issue, but we have food on the table, a roof over our heads, cars to drive, and lots of extras in our lives. And, also don't get me wrong, I often think his work SUCKS and I hate that it takes him away from our family for extended periods of time--but it's what he wants to do and it makes him happy--not to mention he makes me proud.) And I am so blessed to have that husband who is supportive of me and my goals. He does tell me that he is doing this for selfish reasons--that I will one day be his "sugar momma" and he can play golf and drink beer all day. (I guess laziness goals run in our household.) I am fine with that. :)

So these next couple of weeks, I am going to enjoy my opportunity to truly be lazy. Then, I am going to work as hard as I can in all areas of my life (and probably hate that life and question my decision to go back to school on a regular basis) so that I can be "Dr. Beth" one day--which will allow me to open the world of education and sociology to others while keeping up my lazy habits. I am such a lucky girl! :)