Saturday, September 13, 2008

Not a Renegade This Year

I'm so bummed!
is this weekend, and I am not there! I am here, and I am seriously, seriously bummed. Nevermind the fact that we were just out of town last weekend, and that I have my own biggie craft fair--

--in TWO weeks, for which I am furiously crafting, and that it has apparently been hurricaning down rain in Chicago all day. I don't care! I'm mourning my Renegade!

We all went to Renegade last year the weekend after I failed my qualifying exams (it was political from the start, since I had to DEMAND maternity accomodations from an astonishingly unwilling administration, and although Matt thinks I was out-and-out railroaded, I'm more inclined to believe that my committee's refusal to mentor me in the way that students prepping for the exam are typically mentored just left me woefully unprepared), and so Renegade's obvious awesomeness is paired in my mind, I think, with relief that at least the months-long constant cramming was over, and the whole fun and relaxing weekend served as a balm for my very wounded ego. I bought Syd this hat and ordered a matching one for Willow-- --and Sydney, who really hadn't been able to walk for more than a couple of months (hence the bare feet even in the slight chill--bare feet=better balance, don'cha know?), followed her big sister along like a true devotee----and not just for the snow cone that a big sister will graciously share: I also have lots and lots of photos of this lady----which tells me that my kiddo's obsession with dinosaurs goes back further than I'd thought.

I would have loved to have gone back this weekend. And, um, this might come as news to you, but I tend to repress unpleasant emotions, so the fact that I was shot through with misery this morning and burst into tears and could not tell you why may have had something to do with the anniversary. Or it may not--who knows?

I did notice, however, that some of the same vendors I visited last year are there again. I'm quite the handmade soap nut, so I bought some Biggs and Featherbelle soap , and I admired the industrial-strength record album coasters that artreco made.

But there were so many other things that I wanted to buy this year! How will I get this spoon ring now? And the British flashcard toddler apparel? And the faux fur cat-eared hat? Okay, that one I'm just going to have to buy anyway, shipping be damned! And yeah, I'm not even going to kid myself that I could ever afford this, but this bookshelf would look so great in the playroom.

Speaking of the playroom...finally tired of hearing me bitch and moan about the rickety shelves he installed (seriously, this morning they were canted at a 30-degree angle, and they just had fingerpaint and board games on them!), Matt took me to the Habitat for Humanity Restore and did not tell me I was nuts when I called him over to where I was and said, "Wouldn't these doors make PERFECT shelves for the playroom?" Okay, he did swear a lot in the ensuing hours, but tomorrow I'll show you the coolest thing ever to be constructed in our house. Not the coolest thing ever conceived, if you get me, but the coolest thing, by far, ever constructed.

Matt did not, however, permit me to buy the church pew. God, it would have ruled!


Kimberly said...

I guess IU doesn't give their grad students any benefits, huh? Yeesh...They practically use grad students as slave labor (I'm trying not to bite the hand that feeds me, you know), so you think that they would be slightly more accomodating. :-(

Kimberly said...

Reading this makes me incredibly sad. I hate to say it, but I think Matt was right; it does sound like you've been railroaded or at the very least shat upon for your decision to take year long maternity leaves. Did you choose your own committee or were they assigned to you? Have you thought about going to the College to lodge any kind of complaint against them or using the GPSO (I think that's the right acronym for the graduate student organization)?

I just hate to think that you've been shat upon because of some uncaring trolls in the English Department. If only we lived in Europe. I have a feeling this kind of thing wouldn't happen over there.

One more question...Ranu and Karma? Do they have any kids? Because based on your comments it leads me to believe that they don't.

julie said...

It's weird, because I think that Ranu does have kids, but I've found that often it's the women who are successful and do have families who make it difficult for the rest of us--they had to sacrifice their families for their success and they don't think it's fair that we don't want to?

I do sometimes feel like I should make a stink about what happened with me, like it would be for the greater good or something, but it was so freaking traumatizing that I just do not want to relive it again! I'm a big coward like that. I also think that earning my PhD is no longer important enough to me to go through that again--like that bad experience with those bad people soured me on the whole thing, and the experience studying wasn't great, either, just because my family missed me and I missed out on doing a lot of stuff with them. I did choose two of the three members of my committee, but there'd been a lot of turnover in the department during the last couple of years (a bad sign, right?), and so I basically just chose the two people I still knew. God, it makes me wonder if I still had mommy brain that whole time!

One of my friends, though, after being regaled with my woes, said to me, "Well, now you'll just take your thesis topic and instead turn it into a mass-market best seller." That does sound better, doesn't it?

julie said...

I just realized that, in the fervor of composition, I wrote my committee chair's LAST NAME in my previous comment! I'm down with first names, but I'm not down so much with libel lawsuits (although everything I said was god's own truth), so I'm going to delete my previous comment and then repost it exactly the same but without that last name. It'll be out of order, but oh-so-much more ethical.

julie said...

I do get medical and dental for myself, and it's good health insurance, too, that (after a LONG battle, because after all, it's health insurance, you know?) completely covered Sydney's out-of-network practically million-dollar (seriously) NICU bill, but the English department itself is another matter.

There's still, frankly, a lot of bias against female grad students who identify primarily as "mother." I took two year-long academic/teaching maternity leaves with my kiddos--with the director of composition, who handles the teaching fellowships, this was no problem. With the director of graduate studies in the English department...when I met with Ranu to plan my oral exams, she insisted that I could only take the "old" style of exams (which was switched to the "new" style of exams during my maternity leave with Syd because it was so burdensome and unmanageable that many students just never got through them), because I was not in my third year of the program (yes, the guidelines state that the new exams are to be taken by students in their third year, but does that seriously mean ONLY in their third year, thus denying older students struggling through the unwieldy "old" exams a more streamlined process, which was the point of creating the "new" exams?).

I explained that I was, too, in my third year, because two of the five years I'd been at IU I'd been on maternity leave. And also, last year, when the "new" exams had be unveiled, they had been explicitly open to students of all years, and since I was on maternity leave that year, I should get that benefit now.

Ranu replied, "What do you mean by "maternity leave?" The department doesn't have a maternity leave policy." So she blows me off to go check with some other people to see if I'm allowed to take the new exams (as if the DGS needs to "check" with somebody about hwo to manage her own grad students), and acts like it's this huge favor to me when she finally tells me I am allowed.

So I study ALL the time for the eight months we have to prep. I have a reader program read me my notes during my days with the girls, as soon as Matt gets home every single day he takes the girls so I can study all evening, and every weekend he takes the girls to Indianapolis for an entire day so I can study all day. It's really hard on the whole family, but this is important.

And as I'm studying, I'm kind of ignoring the fact that my committee, particularly my female chair, Karma, are basically ignoring me. Sure, all my grad student friends had their committees breathing down their necks the entire time they studied, but they took the old exams. And maybe I don't need all the meetings and practice exams and whatever, because whenever I email my committee to ask for a meeting, they basically make me feel like an asshole for asking for one, like I'm wasting their time and acting too needy. And nobody wants their committee to think that of them, right?

So it totally blows my mind when, during the exams, Karma keeps asking me all these crazy questions, like "In Holy Feast and Holy Fast, although Bynum is focused on the female response to Jesus, in her introduction she makes a point about the male response to Jesus. What is that point?". All my grad friends later agree that she's asking me really picky and detailed questions for what is supposed to be an overview and thesis-oriented exam. And it's crazy that I try every single way to answer this question, like my grad friends have told me to, by talking about what I know from other primary sources, from other secondary sources, from Bynum's other writings, and Karma keeps coming back to this one specific question she asked me until finally she just says, "Okay, that's enough," and moves on to another crazy question.

But I stil lthought I'd did well, in that I was able to answer, in some way, all the crazy questions, but no, I totally failed, and the retake that I HAD to take to continue in the PhD process was three months later. Now, if it had taken me eight months of crazy studying to not pass the first time, I didn't see how three more months of total hell would let me do any better, so I emailed Karma that I didn't think I'd do the retake.

I didn't expect her to beg me to come back or anything, but I did expect her to invite me to come in and discuss my options, or at least to wish me well in all my further endeavors, and so when I didn't hear from her ever again I also figured that was a clue.

So you know, it's not like I expected an easier exam or anything, but I did expect my committee to, you know, do their jobs in prepping me, and I do expect that if stay-at-home parents can reasonably go through the PhD program while parenting their kids well, then there needs to be a path that accomodates a part-time student approach. Ugh, I should have blown through the whole thing before I got pregnant the first time--but don't people say that, and then they turn into those 40-year-olds who never did find the right time to get pregnant and now they need in vitro? I'd rather have my kiddos, anyway, than be Karma's bitch.

Kimberly said...

Understandable (on both fronts: the removal of the last names of evil people who should always be known solely by their first names anyway) and the need to let the past be the past.

Write that book...and then I can say, "I read her blog way back before she was a famous author."

julie said...

There is probably something to be said for the closure that confrontation brings, however, but I'm going to have to save up for therapy before I'm ever able to willingly confront someone on my own behalf (confronting people on my kids' behalf, however--I'm all over that!).

Eh, the label "PhD dropout" isn't that bad. It's kinda cool, maybe.