Friday, July 31, 2015

PhDs and Perfectionism

Encouragement from Dr. Brown is gonna get me through this!
Something big happened this past semester. I made a commitment to taking the next step with my degree, and completed my oral exams. I am officially a PhD candidate and have been approved to move forward with my research. If you know me, this is pretty momentous.

I've been sitting on this egg for awhile. So long, in fact, that I learned through the process of setting up my exams that I actually ran out of time to work on my degree two summers ago. I am currently waiting to hear back on my appeal for an extension. As I wrote the letter explaining my need for more time and outlining my steps to complete my degree in a timely fashion from here, it was an opportunity to reflect on this journey to PhD. Where I have been. Where I am at. Where I need to go.

I feel like a totally different person now than the person I was when I started back in January 2008. That woman was a brand new student affairs professional who somewhat reluctantly agreed to take a class with some colleagues who just wanted to "try it out." All three of us then found ourselves enrolling in a program. I didn't know what it felt like to not be in the classroom. My entire identity had revolved around being a student for 24 years.

When I look at who I am now, it is just so different. Since starting PhD program, I have moved back to my hometown, changed jobs, changed my research topic, changed my advisor, got married, and am now looking to what is ahead for me and my newly-formed family. As I wrote about life changes in my appeal letter, part of me really wanted to write: "What I most look forward to is being done and not being a student any more. That's my assurance to you that I will work to achieve my new deadline. I've got other sh*t to do and dreams to achieve. I am finally ready to check this one off the list. P.S. No one is more annoyed than me that I've taken so long."

I also couldn't bring myself to write that one of my delays is because I have had more than one moment of feeling like "who the heck am I to be doing this?" I have written about that before. It took me two years to get to a place of confidence to have someone else look at the proposal I had written and give feedback, and another 9 months before I was ready to send it to my advisor for the first time. I was so nervous about her feedback, that I wouldn't open her e-mail and notes for months after that. I was afraid her edits would question the worthiness of my proposed study,

It's not that I've ever forgotten that I'm a student. It is that it is easier to push that identity aside rather than spend time dealing with why this has been so hard. To fill my life with other distractions like reading books for fun and kitty snuggles. I am not lazy - in many of those moments of kitten snuggles, I was up in my own head, thinking about my work. I was not procrastinating for the heck of it. It is the perfectionist in me that pushed aside my work and thought that it wasn't good enough to share. That if I passed it on to my advisor, she would tear it apart or deem that the topic for which I am incredibly passionate and that I was ready to invest my time into researching further wasn't a worthwhile study. After I finally opened them, I kicked myself because there wasn't even that much I needed to change. I could have completed my oral exams months earlier and already have been well into my research.

This is my constant struggle. I wish that I could guarantee that the self doubt is gone. I am sure it isn't. But I just have to push past it and chug along. Passing my exams gave me that first big push. And now IRB has given me approval to proceed, participant recruitment is underway, and I've set my finish date as May 2016. I couldn't be more excited to actually be able to start collecting data and learning from the participants' experiences.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I am back for round two with a CSA, and surrounded by all things green! I love it.

Back in summer 2012, my mom, sister, and I shared a weekly CSA. I think the best word to describe that experience would definitely be overwhelming. I don't think we were prepared for some of the logistical challenges or the sheer abundance that we encountered with each weekly delivery.

Fast forward to 2015, and my sister and I decided to give it another go. She had done a winter CSA, and with my Whole30 experience, I think we both went into this feeling much more prepared.

We signed up with LOTFOTL Community Farm (Living Off the Fat of the Land), and are very excited about a few things they do:
  • They offer a smaller share option, which they encourage for CSA beginners. It's a reasonable amount to split between two people, and has some adventurous items, but not quite as many as their larger box. 
  • They have a swap box! We love to open and see what's in the swap box. We have taken good advantage of the swap box if we find there is something we would more likely eat. 
  • They have an awesome newsletter with great recipes and tips. Very helpful when familiarizing yourself with garlic scapes or celtuce for the first time. Plus, knowing what is coming helps for better meal planning. 
 My main goal for this CSA experience is to keep up with it. So far, so good.

My other Top Five Strategies:

1. Clean all of the greens right away and store them in the salad spinner. Seriously, this contraption is magic.

2. Cook and eat some of the veggies right away. This might seem obvious, but because we pick up our new veggies on Thursday, it's easy to skip on cooking through the weekend, and then I'm not even touching our produce until Sunday/Monday. At which point, I'm freaking out because there's another delivery on it's way in just a few days. When I commit using some of the veggies right away during our Thursday dinner, I feel a lot more committed to eating them through the weekend, even if we do eat out.

3. When in doubt, roast or grill it. Roasted radishes? Who knew! My sister taught me that life is easier if you just toss stuff in olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and then just keep it in the fridge for salad toppings.

4. Save scraps for stock. I have been making overnight chicken stock in my crock pot for awhile, but have recently started making vegetable stock too. It's a great way to use up the odds and ends. You can't use everything, but most things find their way into a plastic bag in the freezer for future use.

5. Keep  track of what you have. I put a list on the fridge of all of the veggies in the crisper drawer, so that it's not "out of sight, out of mind."

Have you done a CSA? What are some of your best recipes for your surprise veggies?
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