Friday, December 31, 2010


The reason I am writing today is because I made a commitment (to myself) to publish a minimum of two entries each month, and today just so happens to be the last day of the month, not to mention the last day of the year. I've been contemplating this entry for a few weeks, but still I have nothing particularly significant to share. Instead, I will revert to my typical ramblings about what's been up over the last few weeks. (Sorry, no witty witty banter to follow.)

The week before I left for home, it snowed in Raleigh!! Granted, there wasn't much to show for it in my neck of the woods, but it sure made my day!! In fact, that week, it didn't get up to 40 degrees until four days later, and even then it was still pretty frigid. Balmy 75 degree temperatures welcomed me home on December 11th, yet it snowed again in Raleigh only a few days later. While temps here in Louisiana have followed the extremes (record breaking lows followed days later by almost 80 degree temperatures), Raleigh lucked out with a near blizzard the day after Christmas which resulted in 7 inches of fluffy white stuff on my sweet little Cajun-yota. B-)

Here goes an update on "the feces," or "thesis baby," whatever the mood mood of choice may happen to be. Thanks to all of you who put in a few requests to the god of survey research, because it sure paid off. I sent out one "last-ditch" effort and received several responses soon thereafter. By the skin of my teeth, I think I managed to grab a 40% response rate.

Since school let out, I spent much of my time working on the thesis. Several comments were made about how I should be enjoying my time or doing something fun, but the reality of it is that being home in Cajun Country, working (like crazy) at my leisure, while sitting on the couch in pajamas all day, yet still having time to watch (cable!) tv and read and visit with family...that IS enjoying my time. No complaints, really.

Thus far, I put together a 29 page draft of my Chapter 4, which I gleefully submitted to my professor on Christmas Eve (Merry Christmas, JB!)! Just as I made it about half-way through the first draft of Chapter 5, I received revisions for #4. (The ball sure is rolling...) I hope to finish Chapter 5 sometime today or at least by Monday, so that I can get moving on revisions to Chapter 4 and put together a draft of my submission for a conference in Idaho this spring. The deadline for that is January 14th, but my chair would like a draft of it by the 7th. So, we all know what Lauren will be doing to celebrate her last week at home, ha.

Never fear, I have done a few things other than work on "the feces." As typical of this season, I've spent a lot of time with family--both my immediate family (parentals and brother), and a bit of the extended bunch, as well. Some of my favorite times this holiday have been spent with the three lovely bundles--better known as the Danenberg triplets!

On two back to back weeks, I was asked to stay a night at the Danenberg home. Of course(!), I happily obliged. Even while doing other chores around the home, there is just something magical about being in the presence of three well-behaved, happy, beautiful, and fun babies! I was also able to observe an evaluation by representatives from the LA Early Steps program, and go along with the babies to their physical therapy session one afternoon. The following week, I went with them on an outing to Baton Rouge to see a pediatric opthamologist. It was the first time I was really able to experience the looks and questions that seem to follow the babies wherever they go. Either way, these babies are still the most well-behaved group of children I have encountered in a long time, and there is something special to be said for each of their unique, developing smiles and personalities. I could just eat 'em up!

Peer socialization has been pretty much non-existant since I've been home. Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of online and text interaction with friends from across the country (per usual), but I haven't done anything with friends here. There's always that small glimmer of possibility that things will work out for me to visit with some of my local friends or even the college roommates, but it never quite seems to work. I'm hoping this will change whenever I get really settled into a new life sometime next fall. Plus, by then, I should have access to my car again. (It stayed in NC for this trip.)

As I close out this entry (and the year), I must say I have several things to look forward to in the coming months. We are exactly 3 months away from our due date for the "thesis babies," and I have finally started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The bulk of the dirty work has been done, so I can't wait to see it all start coming together very soon!! Discussions have begun with one of my travel buddies; we're hoping for a few fabulous adventures dispersed throughout the semester. I plan to be back in Louisiana in just 9 weeks, ready and fully prepared to celebrate the defense of my "feces" along with the birthdays of myself and my grandmother, and even cooler, the lovely Louisiana holiday of Mardi Gras (which also happens to be my favorite holiday, in general).

With that, I wish you all the best. Cheers to another new year...


Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Little Bit of Winter Cheer

As the end of the semester draws near, it seems like a good time to give an update on all things thesis-y. Usually, my stories about graduate school involve some type of rant or negativity. However, tonight I'm here to write about some (perhaps rare) positive moments I've experienced recently.

About a week and a half ago, I may or may not have enjoyed a bottle of wine over the successful submission of Chapters 1-3 just a few days before our joyful American holiday of Thanksgiving. While it was a quiet week in the office (as most students scattered home for the holiday), I committed to working as if it were any other week. Although I did not make much progress on my actuall assistantship work, I did make good headway with organizing thesis data and putting together a major project which consisted of an educational program plan (20 pages). When that was done, I started on an essay exam. In other words, I had a productive week despite the holiday.

[It should be noted that I am grateful for a lovely friend of mine who adopted me into her family and welcomed me home for Turkey Day. In the three years I have been away for Thanksgiving, I must admit that I have been very blessed to have warm, hospitable friends who have graciously welcomed me into their family homes on this special day. Next year, however, I am committed to being at home with my own family on this holiday--no matter what.]

Back to positive moments a la graduate school...On Monday after Thanksgiving, my three chapters were returned with MINIMAL revisions! No major overhauls, reorganizations, cuts, or additions. It was a miracle! How I put together a decent lit review (despite aches and pains generally associated with such portions), I will never know. Either way, I'm not complaining. Au contraire, I am rejoicing!

On Tuesday, I sent out a third round of reminders to participants in my study. One participant returned the e-mail with an interesting request. A 4-H program leader in [unnamed] state asked permission to use my instrument (survey) as an internal self-assessment tool for their camping programs. He asked how the instrument was designed and whether it was based on "best practices." For those of you who are unfamiliar with the "research world," a request for someone else to use your instrument is kind of a big deal.

According to my professor, it's rare for doctoral students to design their own instruments, much less master's students. (Many of the Master's students in our dept. design their own instruments, so I never thought much of it.) Someone asking to use your instrument is one of the biggest honors a researcher can receive. Needless to say, I was super giddy and excited about it all. So, if any of you come across a journal article (or research presentation/printed materials) with my name as a reference for the survey instrument, be sure to let me know!

Also this week, several of us in the office reviewed posters for an upcoming professional conference. One of our profesors is in charge of the poster submissions, so she enlisted our help during the reviewal process. While I contributed to a poster proposal for last year's conference, I'd never had the experience of reviewing others' professional work in this capacity. At first, I felt unqualified to do the job, but as I worked through it, it actually turned out okay. Basically, it ended up being a review on all the research methodology and reporting techniques that I've learned over the past year and a half. In a way, it was kind of like reviewing for the final in my advanced research methods course (which is good, considering I'll probably wait 'til the last minute to actually do that, lol). In any case, reviewing posters was a fun experience. :)

As with all things studious, it can't all be roses and chocolate. To date, my response rate rests around 35%, which is not near the 70% my advisor would like, or even the 60% she insists is necessary for publication. I've made about 60 phone calls, probably speaking with a real person in about 1/3 of those calls, hoping...begging...for people to respond to the survey. We're going to reevaluate the situation on Tuesday when my advisor and I meet with our department head to give it a practice go at analayzing the data. For me, it's not a question of whether I'm going to graduate ('cuz you can bet that I will graduate, regardless), but it is a matter of putting together a quality piece that is worth all of this work. Plus, people need this research. It's important, and therefore, I need to do a good job of it. So, if you all could pray to the god of survey research, that would be great. (If you choose to stick with just one god for now, that's okay too. *wink*)

Rather than go on about other academic obligations regarding the remainder of the semester, I'm going to leave you with this:

(I am officially addicted to phdcomics, so expect more "funnies" in the near future!)

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow*!

*It's snowed here in Raleigh yesterday!