Friday, August 23, 2013

All day workin' . . . .

Hey y'all!

Just wanted to check in and say hello from my desk!

This week has been CRAZY!!!

From numerous orientations, to finding my way around campus, it's been a super busy week, but I'm slowly figuring it all out.  I have to pinch myself just to make sure this is all really happening.

More on the new gig later; I just wanted to check in! I survived the first week and lived to tell the story!

Until next time . . . Dr. TJ will be over here getting ready for her new students!

Happy Friday!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Make Your Eyes Happy!

Happy Friday! We survived another week, y'all, and we've lived to tell the story.

Ava DuVernay is at it again.  I've told y'all how much I love her work here and here.

Well, she's back with another visually stunning short film.  This time she's directed a piece for Fashion Fair.  Yes, y'all remember before the days of MAC, our mamas would whip out those plastic pink-peachish colored compacts and dab their noses.  When I was old enough to wear makeup, my mom took me to Foley's and bought me my first tube of Rum Raisin. The memories . . .

Ok. I digress.  This short film is promoting their new lip color "Say Yes." I saw this short film the other night, and y'all know how I feel about love and marriage.  I've even shared my engagement story here on the blog.  Anyway, make your eyes happy and enjoy!

Until next time, I'll be enjoying my last day in Houston with my folks. Have an amazing weekend.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Little Wife Life Humor

My husband has been making Bitstrips for the last week or so, and they have been hilarious.

For those who don't know what Bitstrips are, they are comic strips that you make using an app on Facebook. You can make animated versions of yourself and your friends.  Well he's had some funny ones, but today takes the cake!

It was captioned "My new favorite drink." 

So you like Dr. T? Well, dear Hubby, you have an unlimited supply.

Happy Thursday, y'all!

Until next time . . . I'll be over here trying to make a deadline.  It's almost time for classes to begin!

Monday, August 12, 2013

On Feeling Pretty: Finding Beauty in Aging

First a little musical accompaniment for this post. Today I've selected 13th Floor (Growing Old) by Outkast.

Fat t*tties turn to teardrops as fat a&& turns to flab. 
Sores that was open wounds eventually turn to scabs.
Trees bright and green turn yellow brown. 
Autumn caught 'em; see all them leaves must fall down.
Growing old.  

I've been greying for a few years.

Weirdly enough, I really only get grey hairs in my eyebrows.  My mama told me that's how she began to grey as well. I had a few rogue greys in my scalp, but I haven't noticed any since I cut my locs. 

Cool image, right? Go here to learn more and see more about this photograph and others. 
I've been staring at two grey eyebrow hairs for a couple of days, and I'm torn about plucking them for two reasons. One, I have a mean eyebrow threading lady who will probably notice and fuss at me. Two, I kind of like them. They remind me that I'm grown, as if these bills don't.  I earned these greys.  Yup, worked hard for them.

I'm greying.  I'm not at my optimum weight.  I need to have my eyebrows tamed.  I had an acne breakout last week.  In the midst of all of this, can you believe I have the nerve to feel pretty? Yup. Greying, pimply, chubby, bushy-browed and all. See, the older I'm getting, the more I know for sure that pretty comes from the inside.  I knew this in theory all along, but I'm really coming to know this is true as of late. Accomplishing one of my biggest life goals has left me feeling beautiful in a way that I can't even describe.

The other day I blogged about learning to coach myself as a spiritual lesson I learned in the dissertation process, and I think that knowing I am beautiful without consulting a mirror is a part of my self-validation process.

I think about how I used to let my outer appearance be overly influential in my relationships.  When I was in the dating world, and a fleeting romance would go awry, I'd often look for my wrongdoing in the situation and badger myself with questions like "Wasn't I pretty enough?" I spent way too much time thinking I deserved way more or less in my relationships based on my appearance, thinking things like, "How could he do me like that? Does he see me? He's lucky I gave him a chance." or "I don't look like what he usually dates. Maybe that's why he's treating me this way."


If I could talk to 16, 19, 22, or even 28 or 30-year old me, I would offer her this little bit of wisdom that I read the other day:
"You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.”-Diana Vreeland
Preach and teach, Diana. My pretty belongs to me and no one else.

Now, I don't say all of this to say that I'm not trying to preserve.  Nope.  I like for my husband to compliment me.  Health is wealth, and I'm still trying to exercise and eat good things.  I love fashion and makeup as much as the next girly girl, but I'm over doing it for other people.  I've learned that when I take control of my pretty and shine from the inside, people notice.  My prettiest days aren't always the days when my hair is coiffed just right or my makeup is perfect.  They are the days when I'm allowing the best of what's inside of me to be shared with those around me.  They are the days when I'm smiling from the heart.  They are the days I honor God the most.  They are the days when I use my gifts.

Knowing that I control my pretty allows me to be more forgiving of the little extra chub at my waist, these grey eyebrow hairs, and all of the other small signs from Mother Nature that I'm growing older. Here's the thing, though, I'm not just growing older, but also wiser and more in control of myself and my pretty.

Until next time . . . I'll be over here owning my pretty and determining the fate of these greys.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Spiritual Lessons in Dissertation Writing

Happy Tuesday, good people! 

So yesterday I shared my dissertation defense with you all, and today I want to share some of the big takeaways of the dissertation process.  Writing my dissertation was as just as much of a spiritual endeavor as an intellectual one.  I'd like to share five of my lessons that I learned along the journey. 

Having a moment at my post-defense dinner celebration
1. Always lead with your heart.
That sounds like a weird piece of advice for academia, right?  However, I believe there's a place for matters of the heart, even in this cutthroat career path.  I had two very distinct routes I could have taken to write my dissertation.  One path would have been would have been more "mathy" in a sense.  I could have written about how kids understand covariation and rates of change, a genuine research interest of mine. But instead, I decided to go with the messier topic - the one that kept me up at night.  The one that was hard to wrangle.  The one that drove me back to graduate school.  While the other dissertation topic would have been "cleaner," and I probably would have finished sooner, there's nothing like the reward of untangling something messy and finding clarity in it.  I believe that writing from the heart helped me to be successful.

2. Own your work
As soon as I sent my dissertation draft to my committee, I started backtracking.  I immediately started telling myself it wasn't good enough. I focused on the typos.  However, in an anxious moment, I re-read some of what I had submitted, and I loved it.  The dissertation was my baby.  And like a protective mother, I decided that no matter what my committee had to say, I was in love with it.  Because I decided to own my work, it became easier to present.  I was ready to defend it.  I was ready to stand up for it.  And guess what?  I never got to put my defense strategies to work.  My committee was pleased, and I'd argue that some of their satisfaction stemmed from my belief in what I had done.

3. Make your work accessible.
I love to take esoteric theoretical ideas and make them accessible.  That's my thing.  As a matter of fact, I'm coming to learn that it is my academic gift.  It doesn't make my research any less rigorous.  It doesn't mean that I water down the material.  I've been called "plainspoken" before, and it annoyed the hell out of me, but as far as I'm concerned, more academicians need to reach larger audiences. I am committed to being accessible while maintaining the rigors of academia.  When I think about my favorite scholars, they all have a way of doing this, and I want to pattern my careers after them.

4. All fears aren't meant to be shared.
Sometimes I need to keep my craziness to myself. I had several on-the-edge moments during the writing process.  I also had a bit of the post-defense crazies.  I had a very successful defense, and I had a hard time dealing with that (self masochists unite!).  I went over the defense in my head all day the following day, and I kept saying to myself, "These kinds of things don't happen to you."

But they do, and one happened on the day of the defense.

I've learned that when these wildly insecure moments happen, sometimes I just have to tell God and not even let the negative thoughts be uttered, especially when I'm not ready to hear people's responses to my craziness.  I'm learning to coach myself.  I am getting really good at talking myself off of the ledge.  I'm my own best counselor sometimes.

5. Perfect is the enemy of good.
My advisor shared this with me a few years ago, and it has become my writing mantra.  If any of you are writing a dissertation or working on some big goal, just remember that the quest for perfection is futile.  Put your best foot forward and be great.  One of my favorite quotes: "Excellence I can reach for. Perfection is God's work."

Let the church say amen.

Until next time . . . I'll be over here writing syllabi for my fall classes.

Monday, August 5, 2013

That's Dr. TJ to You!

Happy Monday, good people!  I'm back and ready to blog!

First, a little music to capture the moments I'm about to share.  Today I present Momentinlife by Musiq:

"You never want that moment to end." 

After a brief hiatus, I'm happy to report that I am now blogging as Dr. TJ!

My dissertation chair sharing the good news! 

I submitted the document to my committee on July 15th.  They had 2 weeks to read 352 pages of blood, sweat, passion and tears.  Folks say that your dissertation isn't your best work, and I agree; there's so much more I want to do, and I know my scholarship will improve over time.  But you know what?  The dissertation was the beginning of my life's work. I poured my heart into it (in addition to my intellect), and it paid off.  I meant every word of everything that I typed.  I passed with no revisions, meaning that the only thing I had to do was fix typos. Um, that's a rarity, and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around it, but more on that another day.  Today's a day for celebration!

I woke up the morning of the defense (last Monday, July 29) feeling hopeful and full of peace.  I had some jitters, but I knew that soon enough it would all be done. And thanks to my sister's fashion advice, I had a great defense day ensemble.  I wore what would soon become my power-purple-presentation slacks. Y'all know how a good outfit can boost your confidence!

Anyway, I drove to campus early, leaving my husband, sister, and one of my besties (all the way from St. Croix!!!) to meet me on campus soon after with some refreshments for the defense.  On the way to school I prayed, got crunk, got scared, and prayed some more.  when I arrived on campus, I stopped in my program's office and took a seat at the conference table to review my slides.  This was the same conference table where the professors that were going to usher me into academia had spelled out the details of the program I was thinking about joining back in 2008. This is the same table where I had shared ideas about papers for classes, given and received encouragement, and had some laughs and shed a few tears over the years.  I'm just realizing what a full circle moment I was having as I sat at this table, reviewed my presentation slides, and prepared to leave the world of graduate school behind.

While reviewing my slides, I decided to call my mom.  And, as expected, she prayed with me and gave me some awesome encouragement.  As I hung up the phone, one of my committee members came in the room and we chit-chatted for a bit. After seeing his smiling face, I started to feel ok.

My family arrived with the refreshments, and we went to the room where I'd be presenting and set up the room.  Slowly folks started to trickle into the room - classmates, friends, my in-laws, and my committee members.  While I was still nervous, having a couple of committee members tell me that my dissertation was "fun" and "a joy" to read let me know that I was gonna be alright.

Getting ready for my talk
The time was finally here.  All of my friends, family, and colleagues were seated.  I had about 20-25 people present, and that was, by far, the largest dissertation defense I've ever attended.  My dissertation chair welcomed everyone and introduced the other committee members.

He then asked us to leave the room so that the committee could convene to make sure I was ready to defend.

Leaving the room gave me a moment to clear my head, organize my thoughts, and get ready to give the talk.  I can't wait to be on the other side of the door to know more about the conversations that take place when the committee convenes. 

My mother-in-law came over to comfort me and to give me a few words of encouragement. 
And then it was time to begin.  I shared with friends that giving my talk felt like an out-of-body experience.  As I think back on the defense, I can recall the exact moment when I took back my power and began to feel comfortable.  When I began my talk, I heard noise from outside of the door.  There was a camp for middle school boys taking place in the room across the hall, and the buzz from their room was disrupting my flow.  Mid-speech, I walked across the room, moved the doorstop, and closed the door, all while talking about my study.  In that moment, I said to myself, "Hey girl, this is YOUR STUFF! You used to stand before people and talk all day for a living as a teacher. Go on and teach this dissertation!!!"  I closed that door, faced the folks in the room, and it was ON!

I found my groove and got through the talk. I ran over time a little, but it was my first time giving the talk in its entirety.  I don't like to do full run-throughs.  I think better on my feet.  After the talk, my committee members had the opportunity to ask questions, so I took my seat and prepped myself.

They asked. 
I answered. 
All in all, the committee and I had more of a discussion than an intense Q&A.  I was prepared for the worst, and, thank goodness, it was much better than what I had anticipated. One of my girlfriends described it as a "Love Fest" and I'd have to concur.  The highlight of the defense - having one of my committee members tell me that he thought I was underselling my work. I wanted to cry - happy tears of course! After all, this was the same professor who had assigned articles that I didn't even understand during my first year of school.  Yeah, y'all. Full. Circle. Moment.

After the Q&A, we were all asked to leave the room again so that the committee could convene - again.  This time as I left the room, I lost it.  I barely made it out of the room before the tears began to fall.  I'd done it.  I'd done research about something that was so incredibly close to my heart, and in turn, it was rewarded.  More on the spiritual perspective of writing this dissertation in a later post.

And my husband got some great candids of us as we waited for the news.

Getting a hug from Dr. K

My sister and close girlfriends chatting it up
Chatting with a student that I used to tutor.  Her mom was a committee member. 
Posing with my "big" little sister
Grabbing a pic with my hubby and my sister, my #1 cheerleaders

And out came Dr. C with the good news!

There are no words to explain how special Dr. C is to me.  I wouldn't have wanted anyone else in the whole wide world to walk with me on the dissertation journey.

And so there it is! The defense in a nutshell.  The moment that I dreamed about from Day 1.  There are so many things I want to say, and I'm working on organizing all of my thoughts into something cohesive.  There are some life and spiritual lessons I've learned that I feel the need to share, and I will.  But for now, I'll just leave you with some pictures of folks in my circle.  I was surrounded by love that day, and I'll never, ever forget it.

My dissertation committee
Post-defense conversations and congratulations
The department administrative assistants got word of my defense, and came down to show me love.
Don't know where we'd be without them! 
My bridesmaids and besties (minus a few!)
My hubby, in-laws and me! 
Talking about next steps 
Posing w/longtime girlfriend Dr. RAP; she put me on a writing schedule that got me over the hump! 
Making sure the paperwork was right! 

Until next time . . . I'll be over here still trying to take it all in.