My thesis is done!  I made the required changes (after much wailing and gnashing of teeth and completely freaking out on Tues. but I blame that on too much caffeine) and my committee approved them and signed my little piece of paper last Thurs.  I then electronically submitted my thesis to the dissertation office.  Husband and I went out to eat to celebrate and I had a champagne cocktail and spent a lot of time saying, “You know what I’m going to do tomorrow?  Not work on my thesis!  Yay!”  Now all that’s left is graduation, at which Husband is going to hood me because Advisor is unavailable that day.  So, we’ll have pictures of both of us wearing academic robes and hoods and being all ivory tower.

So, now what?  I don’t know.

The plan is to quickly get pregnant and then stay home with the baby.  So, I’m not currently looking for a job.  But, if it takes awhile to get pregnant, I might have to look for a job because I’m going to get bored, I can feel it.  What that job would be, I don’t know.  Maybe working at a science museum?

At dinner last week, Husband asked me what I’m going to do with the blog.  I’m no longer a disgruntled grad student.  But, I want to keep the blog.  I’ll just blather along about my life.

Living Dangerously

Cup of tea next to laptop:  necessary evil or potentially computer- and thesis-destroying* accident waiting to happen?  You be the judge.

I’m still working on revisions to my thesis.  One of my committee members wanted me to rewrite my entire methods section to sound more like protocols so that they would be more useful to the lab.  Um, no.

The thing that’s really hanging me up is the intro chapter for which I need to read some papers so I can add a section to it that my advisor thinks would be good but which I think is completely tangential.  But, what I think doesn’t seem to matter much at this point (I thought I had a perfectly fine thesis, for example, but my committee disagreed).

*I do have everything backed up to an external hard drive.  And, I’ve been emailing myself revised versions of everything.  So, I would still have the back-ups should the computer be destroyed by an unfortunate tea incident.

Practice talk

My lab said my practice talk was very good.  And they wouldn’t just say that so I know that it was.  Plus they only suggested minor changes.  My lab spends a lot of time helping people with their talks.  After the practice talk, we go through every slide in the talk and people give their comments on what can be improved.  So, it took about 2 hours for me to give a talk and get feedback.

I’m so glad I came here ahead of time!  I feel more confident in my ability to talk science now that I’m immersed in that environment again.  In a lot of ways, it feels like coming home.  I spent 16 years in grad. school city with most of that time at the university either teching or in grad. school.  I have felt like a fish out of water in the suburbs of San Francisco.  So, this time has been good for me.

On my way

Well, I’m on my way back to grad school city for my defense.  I want to crawl in a hole and hide.  Seriously.  I can’t shake the feeling I’m not going to pass and that’s really going to be embarassing since everyone keeps telling me that everyone passes.  Nothing anyone says helps.  I know it’s illogical, but I can’t stop thinking it.

I sent my thesis to my committee and already they have comments.  The intro is not broad enough, they say.  And they want more in the future directions.  Oy.  I feel as though this is not a good sign.  I think the problem is that they are thinking about this thiesis in terms of me having about a year to write it.  But, what they are not considering is that I spent a lot of that time curled up in a ball on my bed.  Depression will do that to you.

So, here I am, nervous, thinking about what to add to my thesis, hoping my defense talk doesn’t suck too much (though I’m going to have a practice talk tomorrow which will hopefully help the talk).  All this last week, I’ve been on the verge of calling up my committee and saying, “Never mind, I can’t do this, sorry.”  I don’t really feel a sense of anxiety, just dread.

Oh, and I just realized I forgot to pack the DNA scarf for my advisor.  Fortunately, Husband is arriving later in the week so I can ask him to bring it!

Equipment failure

I have been writing my thesis on my old imac desktop (the kind with the dome base, a stem, and a flat screen). I never turn it off, but the power went out in the apt. very briefly yesterday and so the computer was abruptly turned off.  In protest, it now will not turn back on.  This happened once before a few months ago when I accidentally turned off the switch that went to the outlet that the power strip was plugged into.  What worked in that instance was plugging the computer into a different spot on the power strip.  No such luck this time.  I even tried plugging it directly into the wall, sans power strip, but it stubbornly remains off.

In case you were wondering, I did back up my thesis onto a usb drive.  But, I hadn’t backed up my most recent, very detailed outline of the lit review chapter.  I’ve got an old version of it on a portable hard drive, but I will have to reconstruct some of it.  For awhile, I thought I was going to have to do more than that because I couldn’t get my laptop to recognize my usb drive or the portable hard drive causing me to panic and dig through my sent email folder to get an email to my advisor that had an old draft attached to it (also, I have an old hard copy in a file drawer and was contemplating retyping Chapter 2 which is the only thing that I have written out at this point).  But, then I reset the PRAM on my computer (a trick I learned at the Apple Genius bar when I had this problem in the past) and, considering how this day was going, it miraculously worked.  Now I have a recent draft of Chapter 2 and an old version of my outline and I’m happy I didn’t have to break out the ativan to deal with this little crisis.

I’m worried, though.  The fact that my laptop frequently forgets it has usb ports does not fill me with confidence.  I’m taking the imac to the Genius bar tonight to see if the problem is the power cable.  If that’s the problem then, fine, we get a new cable and I go on using the imac.  If it isn’t, then we have to decide if it’s worth it to send the computer in to get fixed, whatever that would entail.  It’s an old computer, I’m not sure it would be worth it.


The bottom line is I might be looking at getting a new laptop.  That’s not an expense that we are really looking forward to, especially since it turns out that I will have to pay my tuition for the quarter I graduate in (right now, I’m on leave, so no tuition is being paid).  Tuition is $3800/qtr so it’s a significant expense.  And, I had wanted to go to the blogging conference but given all of these other expenses, it might not be feasible financially speaking.

So, it’s kind of been a bummer of a day so far.  Cross your fingers for me that the imac just needs a new power cord.

Also, thank God for backups!

No news is never good news

You might think that I haven’t been posting because I have been too busy writing my thesis or that maybe I went on vacation or some other, positive reason.  You would be wrong.

Inevitably, when I fall off the face of the earth it is because my mood has taken a dive and I’m either in the midst of a serious depression or I am trying to recover from said depression.  This recent disappearance from the blog is no exception.  Fortunately,  I am now on the mend.

I can trace this most recent relapse into depression to a very specific cause:  decreasing my medication.  As you know, I have been wanting to get pregnant.  So, with my doctor’s approval, I started tapering down on my medications in preparation for that.  I peeled back one medication after the other until, suddenly, I went a little too far and I collapsed.  This collapse was somewhat different from my previous breakdowns because instead of being confined to bed and sleeping all day and all night because I couldn’t face getting up , I was consumed by anxiety and paranoia and couldn’t sleep at all (mostly due to a horrible, horrible attack of restless legs syndrome which limited my ability to sleep to about two hours at a time which probably contributed to the crazy).  Which then made me depressed because I was scared to leave the house and I know this is not a normal state of being.

In fact, I was in the middle of writing a post to the blog describing the anxiety I was feeling and what went through my mind everytime I tried to leave the house and how I was feeling like I had accomplished something pretty major since I had managed to go to the pharmacy to pick up the one medication I was still taking when I realized how absolutely off my rocker I sounded and I contacted my doctor and said, “We’ve got to fix this.  NOW.”

So, back on the medications I went.  And, here I am–mostly stable, frustrated with my brain chemistry, and with very little progress on my thesis since last I wrote because the funny thing is, when you are feeling like you lack the wherewithal to make it five minutes in the world outside your apt., you don’t spend much time writing your thesis because it is simply a given in your head that you will never pass your defense.  So, why bother?

Now that I’m stable, I’ve been working on my thesis about three hours a day on the weekdays.  Which is pretty damn impressive considering I was only managing about a half an hour a day prior to this most recent breakdown.  Which also indicates that I wasn’t doing so hot before the breakdown anyway.

So, what does this mean in terms of getting pregnant?  It means the baby-making is on hold.  If you’ve never tried to get pregnant, you might not realize this but trying to get pregnant is stressful.  You’d think it would be fun, at least in the beginning, if it doesn’t take you too long to get pregnant.  And, maybe it is for some people.  I’m just not one of them.  I’ve wanted a baby for too long, and, at 35, I’m worried that my window of opportunity is narrowing (please don’t tell me that 35 is still young, the fact is that the older you are, the harder it is to get pregnant and the greater chance there is of something going wrong).  So, right off the bat we were planning sex according to when I might be ovulating and getting my period seemed like the end of the world.*  Finishing my degree is stressful enough without the pregnancy stress on top of it.  And, while I won’t be going off my meds in preparation for pregancy the next time, I might try going off of them for the first trimester and that really will not be conducive to writing, as I have already discovered.  So, we are waiting for a few more months.

As for thesis writing, I’ve set a deadline for myself.  The thesis has to be done by mid-Feb. at the latest.  By done I mean ready to hand to my committee.  To do this, I think I need to have a first draft to my advisor by mid- to late Jan.  I think I need to make this deadline in order to push myself to have a hope of ever being finished.  Without a deadline in my head, I haven’t felt the need to push myself to work more and harder.  Consequently, I have just been floating along.  The reward structure I set up helped me a little, but it wasn’t getting me in front of the computer enough.  I find I’m much more productive now that I have a deadline for myself.

So, that’s where I’m at.  Now that I’m feeling better, I suspect I will be posting to the blog more frequently (probably bemoaning how I hate writing my thesis).

*I may have said this before, but, I really, really wish we had started trying to get pregnant earlier in our lives because then we could simply stop using birth control and not try to plan so much and maybe be a little more relaxed about getting pregnant.

Alone time and distractions

I have yet to reach 10 hours of thesis writing time and that has been for two reasons.  First, today is the first time I’ve been alone in the apt.  I can’t write with my husband around.  He gets offended when I say things like, “Do not talk to me unless the apartment is burning down.”  In our old apartment the desk and all of my stuff for writing were in the living room.  So, if he was home, he would either have to stay in the bedroom and not come out, or sit in the living room and not talk and not walk around and basically not do anything in order for me to be able to concentrate.  Need I say that was essentially an impossibility?

Now, we are in our new, two bedroom apt. and the second bedroom is set up as an office.  You’d think I’d be home free, right?  You’d be wrong.  The office is the least complete of all of the rooms in the apt.  First of all, it has the boxes of books that go in the living room.  Those boxes can’t be unpacked until Husband takes his work stuff into his new job (Thurs. is his first official day) because the work stuff is blocking the living room bookcases.  In the living room boxes of books is a lot of my thesis stuff so I really need to unpack at least one of those boxes.

Second of all, in addition to the boxes, everything else that doesn’t currently have a home in the apt. is in the office.  And, there is no space on the desk due to a large collection of computer wires that Husband says he’s going to organize.  There’s no space to put your legs under the desk because a little file cabinet is there because there is currently  no other place to put it because there are unpacked boxes in there, boxes which contain my thesis stuff.  Argh!

So, not a lot of thesis writing going on.

So, my goal for the week is to get a work area set up in the office and find my thesis stuff.  If I can sneak in an hour of writing, that would be great, too, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Blog Block

I’ve been suffering a little writer’s block lately when it comes to the blog.  As you might imagine, not being in lab eliminates most of the previous blog fodder.  So, I need to find other things to talk about, I suppose.  The thing is, this blog mostly has an identity as a “disgruntled grad student” blog.  Now that I’m not so much disgruntled (does that make me gruntled?) I’m not sure where this blog fits in my life and the blogging community at large.

This is almost certainly related to the fact that I don’t know where I fit in society anymore.  I don’t have a job.  I’m still technically a grad student but I’m not in classes or in lab or even on campus.  I’m writing my thesis, but slowly so as not to overwhelm myself and what does that really mean anyway?  I mean, I have a really bad feeling that if I got all gung ho and tried to work on my thesis more for than an hour on any one day, I might collapse into a depression.  Am I just paranoid or is this really a valid concern?  I don’t know.

So, posting may be light while I try to get a handle on things.  Maybe I should try something simple like twitter.  Surely, I could manage 140 characters or less on a semi-regular basis?

Back to the writing

Having found an apartment we could live with (or, rather, in) Husband and I headed back to the LA-area yesterday.  So, today I got back to the business of writing.  Right now I’m writing twice a day for half an hour.  So far, I’ve written a total of 6 hours since I started keeping track and have earned myself a sundae from Cold Stone Creamery.  Next reward comes at 10 hours when I get a new hardcover or two trade paperbacks or four mass-market paperbacks.

Having a couple of problems with registration and insurance at Grad School has reinforced my desire to get this damn thing done.  I don’t want to have to deal with the stupid university any more!  Who knows how many ways they can find to make my life complicated?  Best to graduate and be done with Grad School forever (except of course, from the annoying phone calls I’m sure to get from the alumni association).  It’s not the best reason in the world for getting my degree but I’ll take whatever gets me to sit down in front of the computer.