You, too, can survive prelims

Last night, I finished the written part of my prelim exam. Basically, the prelim or comp or qualifying exam is the ultimate pass/fail test. You work your tail off for two weeks writing non-stop. Then a couple weeks later, you sit before your committee as they fire questions at you–partly about what you wrote, partly about anything else they deem important. If you pass, you get to continue to jump hurdles. If you fail, you either have to re-do part of it, or they thank you for your time and wish you a nice life.

But fear not, dear reader. It can be done. Well, the written work can be done. Of course, I have no idea how I’ve done on my responses–and it’s hard to judge when you’ve proofed your work with very little brain matter left. But, hey. It’s over. And for your entertainment (and for some of you, encouragement), I thought I’d give you a little recap to my two weeks of writing.


Question 1:
Arrived at noon on Sunday; couldn’t open until the clock started at 9 AM on Monday
Time allotted to answer: 16 hours
Actual time used: 12-ish hours
Butt status: holding steady
# of pages written: 17?
Brain matter: still fully in tact
Time to compose email and attach document: 3 minutes
Time between composing email and pushing Send: 5 minutes

This question came from my scariest committee member, so I had no idea what to expect. It actually wasn’t that bad and served as a good warm-up for getting into the process. I even managed to squeeze in yoga that evening. My butt thanked me for that.

Question 2:
Arrived at noon on Monday; made the mistake of reading it then. Committee member had lapsed into Chinese. Closed the email and kept hammering away at question 1. Talked with committee member 2 on Tuesday morning.
Time allotted to answer: Him: I really don’t care how long you take. Me: Good. Because I think I need about five days to wrap my brain around this question and to formulate a response. Him: I don’t care if you take two weeks.
Actual time used: 15-ish hours spread over four days
Butt status: fair but starting to protest. a lot.
# of pages written: somewhere around 12. He wanted it short and sweet. I was happy to oblige.
Brain matter: foggy but usable
Time to compose email and attach document: 3 minutes
Time between composing email and pushing Send: 3 minutes

Meta-analysis. I knew we’d have to make friends eventually. I actually really appreciated this question since it was work I was going to have to do at some point regardless. I at least have a sense of how to analyze my data (once I have it all) for my dissertation. And, of course, I was haunted for part of the week by that damn Q statistic.

I should stop here and let you know that I realized I would need to reward myself handsomely for finishing this…experience. So I ordered a new yoga mat (one of those THICK sturdy ones for that hard floor in the studio) and a yoga towel. I even sprung for shipment so it was guaranteed to arrive by the end of the week.

Question 3:
Arrived at noon on Monday.
Time allotted to answer: between arrival and 9PM Wednesday night.
Actual time used: hard to say…it got a little hairy those few days
Butt status: me thinks thou doth protest too much…but I’ll let it slide under the circumstances
# of pages written: 21?
Brain matter: I felt it dripping on my shoulder by Wednesday night.
Time to compose email and attach document: 1.5 minutes
Time between composing email and pushing Send: 1 minute

I appreciated this question, too, since it pertained to my dissertation and I can extract the purpose and rationale sections from it. I think. But I was feeling the crunch of time more so than on any other question. Monday, I was in the counseling center with time blocked to work on it a little. Then the front desk asked if I would take a client for another counselor who was in the midst of an involuntary commitment. Then I had two more scheduled clients. Then Tuesday, I had a doctor’s appointment and then class and then actual work in the advising office which was a little nutty. So it was really 3:00 by the time I felt like I got to start something. I worked until 10:30 that night, missing the SOTU so I could do my references section (my apologies, Mr. President). Wednesday, I opted out of work and stayed home that morning. I needed the mental break and had to go to seminar for the counseling center anyway, so I trekked over to class for that. On the way home, I received a phone call to help with the process for dealing with someone who was suicidal. I connected the appropriate people but remained tangentially connected for the next couple of hours. Thankfully, I was nearly done by that point. Actually, I finished writing, proofed (HA!) what I had, and sent it on in time to get some dinner with my family. It was about 7:00.

Those boxes with my mat and towel arrived Tuesday. They sat in my office and stared at me until…
Question 4:
Arrived at 7:30 AM Thursday. Opened the question at 9AM.
Time allotted to answer: 16 hours
Actual time used: 11.5 hours
Butt status: I. can’t. take it. ANYMORE.
# of pages written: 14
Brain matter: What brain matter?
Time to compose email and attach document: 30 seconds
Time between composing email and pushing Send: .001 second

This question was also not bad and was similar in nature to the first one. I sent it off at 8:22 last night and got an email this morning that said, “You realize you sent this a day early, right?” I’m sorry. When you tell me I have 16 hours, I assume that means I have 16 hours. So I’m done. I don’t WANT to look at it anymore. And I’m not going to. Because I have no brain left. And I have clients to see today. That oughtta be interesting.

At some point, maybe this evening while I’m home alone, I’ll clear the rubble in my office. Because I have a dissertation to work on. Specifically, a prospectus that should be in my committee members’ respective in-boxes by Tuesday. Otherwise, I can’t reward myself with my Clinique order.

Moral of the story…You, too, can survive prelims.

PS HELLO, yoga mat and towel. I can’t. wait. to use you this weekend.

Twenty Years Gone: Iraq

I was 11 years old when US forces bombed Baghdad on a Wednesday night in January, 1991. I was actually watching A Different World (preceded by The Cosby Show) in a different part of the house when my dad called me to the living room.

“You have to watch this. This is history in the making.”

Well, sorta.

It did officially kick off the first Iraq war–officially known as Operation Desert Storm.

Incidentally, the second Iraq war was called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Given the outcomes, perhaps each should have had the other’s name.

But I digress.

I’m not sure how many people remember Desert Storm–and some days I wonder if it’s my generation’s Korea. But I remember it clearly. Of course, I was born and raised in Fayetteville. You couldn’t help but take notice. The 82nd had deployed, among other units, and Fayetteville, Ft. Bragg and Pope were virtual ghost towns. (The upside was that on payday weekend, you could actually get a table at a restaurant after a reasonable wait.) I remember our church stepping up to provide help to families who had soldiers deployed. My parents and I baby-sat for one family with three young children. We gave the mom–who was functioning as a single mom with a deployed husband–a night off. It was also the first time I can remember holding an infant.

Her name was Caitlin.

I remember the threat con on post being stuck on Charlie for what seemed like ages (Charlie on a scale of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, F—ed). The schools were prepared to function as hospitals in the event there were mass casualties. My dad even mentioned that if this thing got out of hand, he might be called back into service.

I remember talking about it with my peers at lunch (keep in mind I was in the 5th grade) and declaring a month ahead of time that we were going to war. And crying a little because of it.

It was a time of uncertainty for my little corner of the world. We had no idea what was going to happen or how big this thing would get.

Turns out, we didn’t have that much to worry about. Iraqi soldiers were surrendering to CNN reporters. Needless to say, we accomplished our military goals quickly. It didn’t seem to help the families in my area, though, as they continued to celebrate Christmases separated from family because the deployments kept coming.

Fast forward 10 years. Another President Bush. Another discussion about whether to invade Iraq. Only this time, it was rather unfounded, don’t you think? But Li’l Bush felt the need to finish what his father started–even though his father completed his goal. And this is the danger in not knowing, learning or remembering one’s history…or not doing so well enough to know we didn’t need to get in the middle of that.

Because 20 years after the first invasion of Iraq, we’re still kickin’ it in the same sand box.

Eating Your Young

Every so often I get email updates from my son’s teachers. About half of them make me happy. The other half force me to draw on every principle I’ve learned from yoga, Love and Logic, and Jesus (in no particular order) so I don’t eat my child. Today’s emails, yes plural, were the latter.

Apparently my child has neglected his math homework on nights that coincide with wrestling matches. For two weeks running. And cited wrestling as the reason. In spite of his plan to use class time allocated in his ESL class to get his work done.

Apparently my child was in a rotten mood this morning…for the entire time he was at AHS. And let other people know about it.

Mama Bear was the one to pick him up from wrestling practice.

“How was school?”

“It was good!”


“It was OK. (no pause) I have math homework and my English project. I want to do my project tonight and my math homework tomorrow during English” (please refer to the above in which this plan is great…until it doesn’t actually happen).

“No. You can do your math homework tonight and work on your project tomorrow, since you’ll be in English for both periods because of exams. And because you’ve made plans to do your math homework during that time and have yet to do it.”

Proceed with conversation about not getting homework done because of sports and how sports are secondary and how, the evening of the next weeknight match, the homework better be done by time to leave or you’re not going.

Follow that up with “what put you in a bad mood today?”

Eventually, it came down to being mad at oneself over a test and taking it out on others. And then a conversation about how sometimes he’s just not happy in the morning.

“You don’t have to be happy about it, you just can’t be a jackass.”

That kinda got his attention. He doesn’t hear me say things such as that very often.

And it’s probably the parenting line of the night.

As of right now, said child is retrieving his goods from a neighbor’s house (not even sure why they’re there) and doing tonight’s math homework…as well as last night’s homework.

***Also, he was wrongly accused of blowing through his dad’s soda stash…but you know, when you can’t be trusted to be truthful all the time, and your mom doesn’t drink that mess, you can’t help but be the first named culprit. Turns out, it’s probably the neighbor.

Ah, the joys of raising boys.

Reading and Writing

I realized recently that one of my dream jobs might be to be a book editor for a major publishing house. That, in all likelihood, will not happen.

But I read books. Lots of them. And though I will not be asked–or paid–for my editorial remarks, I can read books and blog about them…with the hopes that one day, maybe, I’ll even get paid a little something for said reviews. At the very least, I’m happy to share what I’m reading with the world–and make recommendations about what should go on your reading list (in my humble opinion). If you’re interested, I’ve just kicked it off over on another blog over here:


Fair, Equal…or Corporate

Usually, I count up the total number of bowl games that are played this time of year. Because I think it’s ridiculous that there are usually at least 30 and that all a team has to do is win 6 games in a season to be bowl eligible. It kinda diminishes the whole bowl game playing process. And then I realized just how steeped in corporate world college football really is. Hence the names of these crazy games: Bowl, uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (I guess they have more money than the Gaylord Hotels do), and the list goes on. And then there are the big BCS games with a corporate sponsor leading the way: Discover Orange Bowl, Tostitoes Fiesta Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl…with the Rose Bowl holding out and keeping their name ahead of Vizio.

Somewhere between 35 and 40 bowl games. Seriously.

And then there’s this issue: Ohio State players who were suspended for the first 5 or so games of the next season still got to play their bowl game (Sorry, Hogs). And Cam Newton was kicked out of Florida for cheating (allegedly among other things) but QB’s for Auburn and will play for a national championship. Meanwhile, some of those kids over at UNC (and you know how I feel about UNC) will NEVER again be eligible for playing in the NCAA over something so minor the university felt it was a non-issue in terms of their honor code, but didn’t fly according to the NCAA.

It can be fair, it can be equal…or it can be the money maker that covers a multitude of sins.

I can’t tell you how many times towards the end of this college football season that I threatened to quit football. Because it’s no longer about the game. It’s about the money that’s made from the game. And there’s something truly criminal about that.

I’d Rather Be Reading

I have literally a few hundred books on my Amazon wishlist…and probably another 50 or so in my library already just waiting for my attention. And I’d like nothing more right now than to spend time with them. And I need to spend more time with my face in a book, both for professional and personal reasons.


One of my bookmarks is currently in Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. You might know it because of the movie adaptation or because it’s on that dang list of 100 books we all should have read by now. If you’ve never read it, it’s a delightful surprise and a captivating wonder…and the way I’d rather spend my time this morning. Alas, reality calls.


Other books in the queue:
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

From Beirut to Jerusalem

A Wall in Palestine

Gideon’s Spies

Guests of the Ayatollah

The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday

In the Land of Invisible Women

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

Queen Bees and Wannabes (I’m about 30 pages in)

Water for Elephants

The Corrections

I Drink for a Reason

Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats?

Exlusion and Embrace

Community: The Structure of Belonging (Thanks, Justin)

Raising Cain

The Purity Myth

Fast Food Nation (finally)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

And hopefully a bunch of other fiction that’s on the wish list. We’ll see how far I get this year, and how my meandering through books changes. Stay tuned, too, because I’m setting up a separate blog for book reviews from what I read. You know, in case you’re interested.

Open to Grace

There’s something powerful about turning the page to a new year. It makes us want to start over or start something new or clean our or simplify or all of the above. We feel this pull in a way that’s more powerful than the pull of Monday morning calling us back to the good food/diet wagon…more powerful than the pull of a new month or new season…more powerful than even celebrating one’s birth. I’m convinced there’s something built into our rhythm of being–if we’ll allow ourselves to pay attention to it–that prompts us to want to make a change of some sort…really make a change. We’re more open to the process of change at this time of the year. That’s why USA Today and other newspapers are printing a series on health and weight loss, why gyms are crowded, why people are writing more on their blog or reading more of their book stack, why people seek more organization or clean our their pantries or that pesky closet where we all just throw stuff in and close the door really fast.

In my first yoga class of the new year, Lydia encouraged us to set our intention for the new year. If you’re like me, this whole 2011 thing just sort of showed up unexpectedly–well, earlier than expected–and you haven’t had time to even consider what your change will be or what intention to set (or maybe you’re still in the process of doing so). And so I went with the first principle of Anusara, which is to open to grace. Open to the possibility of becoming more, open to the possibility of becoming new, of trying new things or things that require more courage than perhaps we think we might have. And opening to the grace that allows us to step into the newness or the unknown, but take a step back again when we need to…to the grace that gives us permission to try, but to be gentle with ourselves when we find that we’re not quite where we want to be. Yet.

And that grace will allow us to keep trying again, to keep making things new, to keep turning the page on a new day that is open to possibility–regardless of whether we are starting at 1/1/11 or some point later.