Friday, January 30, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You About Grad School, Part 3: You Need A Different Type Of Security Blanket

One of my counseling classmates was - is - experiencing food insecurity.  That's a politically correct way of saying she doesn't have enough money to buy food for herself and those in her household.  She made an off-hand comment very early in the semester, which I thought was hyperbole, but after paying closer attention over several classes, I realized it wasn't.

She has now received the support she needed to get through a very rough patch, but I learned a lot - about the available resources, humility, and the realities of students at IU.  For example, there are homeless students at IU.  They don't start out that way, but after paying tuition, they end up not being able to pay much else.  The undergraduate advisors in the School of Public Health have started a food pantry in the basement of the building because 3-4 students per week come in with concerns relating to food access.

Compare this to the fact that there are international students driving around campus in Lamborghinis.

Anyway, I told the story in general terms to my SPH grad classmates and they were basically stunned.  Being in grad school may make you like an adult, but that doesn't mean you won't need a security blanket.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You About Grad School, Part 2: Listeners vs. Personalities

The degrees toward which I am working are housed in different departments of different schools: the counseling and educational psychology (CEP) department in the School of Education and the department of kinesiology in the School of Public Health (SPH).  As you can imagine, the faculties that populate these departments are significantly different.  No difference is more noticeable than the fact that CEP faculty are literally professional listeners - they have a doctorate in essentially interpersonal relations - and SPH faculty are professional....personalities, I guess would be the kindest way to put it.

Dealing with the CEP faculty is calming, equanimous, enjoyable even.  Dealing with the SPH faculty is sticking your hand into a bag of feral cats.  Their interpersonal skills are whatever they were born with, unlike doctoral training in counseling psychology, which rounds down the sharp edges and replaces them with sensitivity and empathy.

Since August I have engaged in a cultural/anthropological case study in the wilds of the SPH hallways.  I'll preface this story with the fact that if I were a weaker person, I would probably be seeking counsel from one set of my professors in order to deal with the other set.  Instead, I laugh a great deal at bumbles and learn what not to do.  I offer the story because it's the reality of my grad school experience.

The SPH faculty member who was recently put in charge of my graduate program is an older gentleman visiting for two years from Turkey.  He's not my professor, but ostensibly my advisor.  Early on in the semester our roles were reversed: he came to me a lot to learn how the department worked and which classes had what reputation etc etc.  We also talked about European vs. American research and rebuilding my program (that he heads) and sailing and traveling and racing and a broad range of other professional topics.  I always gave him my opinion straight up and considered him to have a good start on being a solid mentor among the faculty.  And then.

One day he found me teary eyed at my desk because my swim coach was being an ass and shuffled me off to his office to talk.  I told him the story and he preceded to claim that I was lying about the real reason for my tears - he thought I was hiding "boy problems" - and being more emotional than the situation warranted.  In the moment I was stunned because it was just so not how it's done!  How had this guy been advising students for a 35-year academic career and be so incredibly bad at counseling them?

He pretty much lost my trust and initially I was wary about what and how I said anything to him.  It balanced out such that I didn't seek him out, but acted normal when he left me no choice but to talk.  I found I wanted to see the train wreck up close some more!  Boy did I because "and then...."

About two weeks ago, at the end of a conversation during which I expressed my clear preference that professors put their syllabus on-line before the first day of class and he called me "fussy," he told me that I needed to grow my hair out because I "need a better look".

That's when I realized, I totally confound his notions of "female".  I don't look traditionally female to his Turkish sensibilities, but am not butch enough to be misidentified as male, and I have a stronger personality than he is used to from both females in general and his previous female students.  

So his hair comment probably meant "I see you as a b!tch and longer hair would help soften that image FOR ME".  
Utterly fascinating.  My hair and emotions are my hair and emotions, and he clearly isn't very used to or comfortable dealing with them.  Of course our language difficulties confuse the exchanges on top of the obvious cultural and personality differences.  He has become great discussion fodder for my multicultural counseling class.

But my main point is the sheer lack of interpersonal tuning, sensitivity, and empathy in one department which is so noticeable compared to the other half of people with whom I deal in a day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Social Stratification

The hierarchy in this apartment has been firmly established.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You About Grad School, Part 1: Freedom Isn't Free

My Dad has a rule about money: "my one rule about money is that when we're spending my money, I make the rules."  One place I didn't expect to put this rule to such good use is thus far in grad school.

So much of grad school is about being under someone's thumb: chairperson, class professors, advisor, lab head, and so on.  Much of that control comes with money - usually tuition and stipend - attached.  How and by whom a grad student is funded determines a great deal about what they can do and what they say, about what they feel comfortable doing and saying.  They won't do or say anything to rock the boat - because they might (indirectly) lose their funding.

Unfortunately, a lot of what school- or lab-funded grad students can't or won't say is what needs to be said to make their lives and their departments a lot better.

I am self-funded.

Institutions of higher learning often forget that they are in a service industry, their students are their employers, and when you remind them of that, whoo boy, does it get interesting.

It's a teachable moment - but not in the direction they have come to expect.

Just before the Christmas break the physical activity class program that employs many graduate students, including me, had a holiday party.  I stood in line to get seconds just in front of my department chair.  He saw people with dirty plates waiting in line and joked "careful how much you guys take, I have a direct line to your bursar accounts."  I turned around and said - with a straight face because it was absolutely true - "This morning I wrote a $14,700 check to this school."  His face went slack and white.  He handed me a clean plate and replied "have as many as you want."

The chair of a department should never need to be reminded of the fact that some people are paying the price of a small car per semester for the privilege to teach basketball and take his motor learning class.

The head of "my lab" (I use a desk in their office and am generally active in their research) is on the cusp of retiring.  He really wants it to have already happened, but it hasn't - and can't - because he six (!) PhD students and one Masters student who are outstanding.  Several are stagnant and probably won't finish.  [In my opinion, mostly for lack of buy-in and motivation on both parts.  If it's not coming from one side, does the other spend the energy to meet in the middle?]  Still he doesn't show up for pre-arranged meetings or respond to emails and swims every noon at masters and has gone on sabbatical this semester.  No one will call out his behavior - and I haven't quite worked up the guts to do so - even the ones who are at risk of not completing their doctorate.

The downside of not being in a lab: no funding.  The upside of not being in lab: I'm done when I say I'm done.

First semester counseling masters students take a counseling lab.  Counselor training works toward a national licensure, so this lab class is pretty standardized across all nationally accredited programs.  My co-hort's lab was taught by a professor unprepared and not suitable to teach this lab.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  The department didn't know this, but neither they did check his preparation or suitability nor provide guidance and oversight to ensure my class's adequate instruction.  "Blah, blah, academic freedom, blah, blah."

So I went into my graduate coordinator's office as a disgruntled consumer: "When you accepted me, you essentially promised to appropriately prepare me for professional licensure and practice in this field.  I placed trust in you to do this to the tune of $4,000 (just for this class) and you aren't holding up your end of the bargain.  It's our job to pay you, show up for class, and do the work.  It's your job to teach us what we need to know.  Do your job, the one I'm paying you to do."

His name was removed from where he had been slated to teach the class next fall.  (NOTE: All of my other instructors have been very good to great.)

Fifteen-thousand dollars a semester buys my freedom to do and say not just anything, but what needs to be done and said to get the most out of my time here.  It's a price I pay gladly.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sign Of The Times

Last night I went out for dinner and lounging with a group of my counseling classmates.  During a discussion about TV shows, one girl mentioned watching One Tree Hill when she was in the 5th grade.

I have a vivid - and real - memory of gathering around the TV to watch the series premier of One Tree Hill (and belting along to the theme song, probably still could) with my three roommates my senior year of college.

I texted one of said roommates and she confirmed that "yes, for the record, we are indeed old."


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Darwin Would Be Proud

This morning I discovered a new species of rabbit.  Compared to previously recorded specimens of Oryctolagus cuniculus, she is 40% rabbit, 10% parsley, and 50% carpet strings.

So....Oryctolagus Carpetculus?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Something Is Afoot In Ex Phys

Hopefully it isn't my foot.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Study Bunnies...Buddies...

There's a lot less licking when I do my school work at school.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Adventures In Losing Control

Honey Bunny is now solidly into the 2 pound range, so there is not only that much more cuteness but that much more weight to throw around.  A whole 10 ounces more, in fact.  With that *38%* increase in body weight, the clouds parted, angels descended, and the Earth spins only for her.

Dogs bow down to her.

Only the freshest greens the grocery store has to offer will do.

Chairs are not good enough for her to sit on.

We are little more than step ladders to her.  (She's on my face, using it to climb onto a ledge.)

"Step ladder, why are you photobombing my selfie?"

Christmas is nothing but a delicious Happy Meal, complete with a super-sized drink at no charge.

"There is no need to fear you pesky head scratchers."

She's become a philosopher: the best way to a bunny's brain is through her stomach.

She openly flouts evolution and experiments with being carnivorous.

The Queen at her leisure upon her throne after dedicatedly, but nonchalantly digging to China through my futon.  All in a Regent's morning work.

Her Majesty bestowing knighthood upon a lowly subject.

Living rooms are given over to different kinds - bunny kinds - of entertainment centers.

The county high way authority was subsequently press-ganged into service to expand avenues of entertainment via high-tech road construction.

Last, but not not least: she has started eating food right out of our mouths.  (Backstory: My dad started feeding her crackers at night, which she isn't supposed to eat but adores nonetheless.  Apparently the buttered toast my Dad ate during his recent convalescence was similar enough.  He couldn't get her off his face.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stupid Human Tricks

'bet you didn't know I play the hand bells, did ya?  Since the 6th grade, to answer your question.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Color Commentary From A Non-Colored Commentator

Random things that have made me double-take.

  • The ceiling of my gym....

  • If this isn't an apropos statue for a university campus, I don't know what is...

  • I now wear the same size I did in high school.  I'm not sure whether that says more about me in high school or me now.

  • The periodic nature of athletes' dress code is odd.  What is it they say: you either die the hero or live longer enough to see yourself become the villain?  Well, in athletic uniforms, you either remain in utility/fashion or you show up in another sport entirely.

          There are a good number of serious undergraduate weightlifters who use the IU gyms.  What they wear looks like the classic professional basketball uniform - that basketball players don't wear anymore: Chuck's, tall socks that almost reach the knee, short shorts (that look a bit weird on such massive quads), and a tank top cut as down as far as SRSC will tolerate and still admit them. 

           Compare this to the "bro lifter" (guy who goes to the gym with his friends because it's a guy group activity; they would all rather be playing video games) dress code - which is basically the modern professional basketball uniform.  They wander in packs, wearing whatever gym shoes they have available, socks of only necessary height, baggy long shorts (extra points for past the knee) and baggy long t-shirts with sleeves.  Maybe it's because they don't actually lift consistently or heavy enough to warrant exposing parts of their body for inspection as to, you know, actual muscle growth. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The First Step Is Admitting You Have A Problem

Hi, my name is Kelzie and I bought 187 watermelon Laffy Taffys at the campus bookstore to feed my addiction.

Monday, January 12, 2015

We All Look Like Michael Phelps....

Until we watch under-water video of ourselves swimming.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Fan, Divided

The swimmers on my team are divided between two local high schools - the only two local high schools.  Originally I asked each team for a school-specific piece of clothing to wear to their meets.   I had no idea what I would do for the Counsilman Classic, when South and North go head-to-head in historic Royer Pool for their conference dual meet.

Then I was told that as a representative of the Counsilman Center, an impartial swim research center at IU, I couldn't show favoritism and had to wear CCiST (the Counsilman Center's swim team) gear to all of each team's meets.

So the parents of my teammates had a special shirt made for me to wear.

Each side of my body cheers for a different high school: my right side for the Bloomington High School North Cougars and my left side for the Bloomington High School South Panthers.

And while the Counsilman Center and I are both pro-swimmer, I am particularly pro-#bloomingtonswimmers.  Swimmers from Columbus North can stick to their side of Brown County.

I'm not going to lie - I teared up a bit when they gave it to me.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Shower Cries

[From early November...]

I may have finally pin-pointed the difference from which stems all other comparisons between age-group and masters swimming.  Not surprisingly, it's pain.

I've touched previously on how much/different the pain is compared to masters swimming.  However it was driven home just how central that difference is during several recent experiences.

1) A few Saturdays ago we did a mile workout, meaning the whole workout was based around finding and holding mile race pace.   The kids generally hate swimming anything longer than a 300, at race pace or slower.  They dislike distance, full stop.  I, by comparison, was in my wheel house.  I was banging out these intervals with precision and could have hit them all day long.

Early on the workout was challenging because you had to stick to (slow) pace and repeat and repeat and repeat.  Over time, as the workout went on, it eventually got challenging in a more traditional sense: it become physically harder to hold that same pace.

As we started the last round of this massive set, the girl one lane over said "is this when it's supposed to hurt?"  And suddenly everything became clear.

They don't dislike distance because it hurts; they dislike distance because it doesn't hurt (like they are used to).  Distance confuses them.  Most age-group swim practices are just abject pain from start to finish (or maybe that's true just for me) and they know how to handle that (with admirable aplomb if you ask me).  Distance doesn't hurt enough (or at all, really, in the beginning) so they don't know what to do.

2) This past weekend I had my third meet ever and the theme started in the first two continues: a completely different meet set-up and line-up brings new and different pain.  We all swam nearly every event each day.  I only went Sunday and swam five events (200 free, 200 breast, 100 back, 200 fly, and 50 free) between 9 am and 10:36 am.  I had maybe 10 minutes between my 200 fly and 50 free and managed to drop a combined 7 seconds between the two events.

Anyway, I didn't go the first day - which for most was 6 events back-to-back.  One senior described it only as "today was a little rough."

Uh, yeah, I would imagine so.  I know masters who schedule their meet line up to have one event per day, not six in two hours and say it was only a "little rough."

3) At this same meet one freshman guy was preparing to swim the mile.  He was nervous because he had no idea how to pace it, not the numbers but the feel.

I told him about the vomit index I use.  For race pace distances around a mile, I push until I start to get the acid gut burn that precedes the urge to vomit and then I hold that.  (For 400-500 yard distances, the right pace is whatever makes you feel like you are actually going to vomit by 150 yards.  That matches muscle failure to finishing the event pretty closely I've found.)

He looked at me like I was nuts (and yeah, it kind of is) but I think more because I wasn't describing a "fast pain".  All of their other events get close to or hit all-out pace, but the mile doesn't touch it with a 10-foot-pole.  For age-group swimmers there is pain and lack of pain.  It doesn't have (m)any gradations.

Of course these anecdotes explain why these kids will walk the first part of an easy 50, until the bottom falls away and they can't touch anymore.  It is true relief, some of the only they get in the pool.

And why I spent the first month totally out of my comfort zone.  I was having the experience as the kid swimming the mile, but opposite: everything was so much faster than normal instead of slower.  Entirely different kind of pain.

PS - The term "shower cry" is used after a particularly nasty workout.  Basically, you are crying in the shower due to the workout.  Used in a sentence: "Now I'm going to have a good shower cry."

Friday, January 9, 2015

Belated Merry Christmases and Happy Holidays

In the win column: I have written blog entries since November 17.  Some even pre-date that.

In the lose column: I didn't finish any of them.  

So over the next week I am going to engage in some binge blogging, posted in order of origination.  Brave Rudolph has offered to lead the way now that he is out of a job for the next 11 months.

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