Wednesday 14 December 2016

Cultural Rhetorics & Concluding the Semester

This semester has seemed to go by more quickly than any of my previous semesters in graduate school. I'm sure that that is due to a variety of factors, including my teaching schedule, not taking any classes (hallelujah!), dissertation deadlines, but perhaps mostly to the fact that I didn't actually want it to go by as quickly. I will discuss these components of the semester a bit more, but I want to begin by posting a delayed update about the 2016 Cultural Rhetorics Conference that I attended and presented at on October 1st and 2nd, 2016.

The conference was held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. I had not spent time in Michigan for several years, so it was nice to go back. The campus was lovely, and the leaves were changing all around the city. A good friend from my MA program, Lisa, lives close to MSU, so my friend Jessica and I stayed with her. I also got to visit with friends and colleagues from both my MA and Ph.D. programs at the conference. The conference in general was welcoming, engaging, and invigorating to my studies. I was only able to attend one panel on food studies, but it was probably the highlight of my conference experience. I listened to three presenters tell food stories that involved family, history, and culture. The discussion following the presentations was just as engaging with audience members also sharing food stories, swapping experiences, and asking to hear more about food traditions. In the session I posed a question to the group that I have been wrestling with since. The question is: what is a food pedagogy? I taught a food memoir in the course that I am writing my dissertation on, but I taught the class using a feminist pedagogy. I am very interested to specifically explore food pedagogy in the future.

My panel was on the last day of the conference in the second to last time slot, but the presenters were very engaging and the audience members were interested and asked insightful questions. The panel topic was online communication. I discussed the internship that I completed with Ellie Long, and I talked about how I researched, composed, and then defended the genre of a listicle on Buzzfeed. My co-presenters talked about online advice columns, audio books, and Amazon commenters. As this is panel topic was not focused on my specific area of study, I learned a lot about how and why people study online communication and the various stakeholders that are represented in this research. I very much enjoyed my time at Cultural Rhetorics, and I look forward to attending again next time that it is held. 

My semester otherwise has gone well, but as I mentioned, it has gone by very, very quickly. In November, my husband and I took a short trip to Arizona, and I met with my chair, Maureen Goggin, and my committee member, Trish Boyd. They both gave me constructive, helpful feedback on my dissertation thus far. The most encouraging but also most terrifying development was that Maureen said that I should have my dissertation ready to defend by May. This was encouraging, as I was glad to know that I was on the right track with my writing and revisions, but it was also very scary because May is not very many months away. It is amazing to me how quickly the days can go by and how little can get done in that time. I currently have three chapters of my dissertation drafted, two chapters revised, and one chapter in the beginning stages of a draft. My most pressing concern right now is fully analyzing the data that I collected from my student work and composing a chapter based on those findings. That will be my primary task in the upcoming month. It was lovely, though, to go back to the desert. I had missed, and still do miss, the sun, the mountains, the friends, the food, and the supportive academic community there. I'm glad to know that I can go back when I need to. 

And, as usual, the other main component of my semester was teaching my classes. I taught two sections of ENG 301: Writing for the Professions for ASU, and I taught one section of Written Communications for Madison College. I have finished teaching all three classes, and I can say that I enjoyed and learned from each experience. I had never taught online before this semester, and I found the key to successful online teaching is organization. I needed to stay at least one, if not two, weeks ahead of my students at all times in order for us all to feel comfortable. This set me up well, then, to teach the course at Madison College because I was teaching a simplified version of my 301 curriculum, and the Madison College schedule was set about two weeks behind ASU. I found the range of student experiences, opinions, and goals that I encountered this semester to push me to develop more concrete pedagogical deliverables, and I enjoyed this challenge and believe it was beneficial for all involved. I will teach ENG 301 for ASU online again in the spring, and I am glad to have this first semester of online teaching under my belt. 

Though it is very, very cold here right now, I have been enjoying the transition back to the midwest. I have been practicing yoga daily, settling into our new home, working in an online writing group with my wonderful ASU friend Casie, and spending time with family and old and new friends. I am looking forward to a trip to South America over the new year, and then (with a significant amount of trepidation) to the spring 2017 semester. I wish you all a blessed and happy holiday season! 

Tuesday 13 September 2016

A Facebook Funny

Nothing too interesting or profound here... just a funny (slightly embarrassing) moment in the third week of teaching my Written Communication course that I posted on Facebook.  

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Midwestern Musings

The summer of change has come to an end and the fall semester of 2016 is here! It definitely feels different this year, though, as I work, teach, and write from Madison, WI instead of Chandler and Tempe, AZ. In my previous post, I listed the top five aspects that I loved most about living in Arizona, and I can say that those are the top five things that I most deeply miss and have thought about probably every day in the three months that we have been away from Arizona.

Turns out, though, that the responsibilities and expectations of a teaching assistantship and earning a Ph.D. do not decrease with a cross-country move. Instead, they must be configured and met without the accountability of a community. I do miss my ASU academic community as I work to meet my deadlines, and I can certainly say that it is different to have started teaching two online sections of ENG 301: Writing for the Professions through ASU having never seen or heard a single one of my students! I am encouraging video conferencing, and I do hope that some of them take me up on that offer. I will be teaching a face to face section of Written Communication at Madison College starting next week. I'm excited to be in the classroom and to actually see and talk to my students. Teaching is what energizes me and keeps me motivated to do the research and work that I do, and I'm sure that seeing my students in person will be a boost.

Today, I received some disappointing news regarding a manuscript about writing assessment and feminism that I was hoping to have included in an edited collection. It stings because I have been working on the manuscript drafts for well over a year, but I know this isn't the end for this work. While I was honored to have been asked to draft a chapter for this book, and I would have been excited to have had that chapter included in the final version of the collection, I also respect the editors' decision and trust their judgement that my manuscript probably was not ready for publication. In the introduction of the 1982 edited collection All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, recommended to me by my writing partner and friend Casie Moreland, the authors write: "it is important to consider also that although much research about these issues needs to be done, much insight about them can be arrived at through studying the literary and historical documents that already exist" (Hull and Smith xxii). I think that this quote identifies my error in writing and revising my manuscript. I was just not familiar enough with what is already out there for my contribution to the conversation to be clear or distinct. It is not fun to share less than great news, but I do think it is important to share the "downs" as well as the "ups." An ASU colleague studying Creative Writing posted a Facebook status today, saying:

"I wasn't sure if I should share this, but maybe sometimes it is okay to share 
not-so-great-still-cool news. I'm very proud, even as I'm disappointed, and that's a big part, I think, of being a writer."

This academic life is a journey! I'm learning that now more than ever in my: third year of my Ph.D., fifth year of grad school, ninth year of higher education, and 21st year of school. Yikes! 

The rest of this fall will consist of the following:  
  • Continuing to prepare, code, write, and revise dissertation work
  • Presenting at the 2016 Cultural Rhetorics Conference 
  • Flying to AZ to meet with my chair, committee members, and, perhaps, some students
  • Teaching and assessing my three course sections 
  • Revising a manuscript for another publication opportunity 

While I miss the Southwest, Midwestern summers and falls do have their advantages. Namely, being able to go outside and enjoy the weather! I will conclude this post with two images of some of the loveliness here.

I wish you peace, rest, and joy. 

Lake Mendota // Downtown Madison, WI

Wild Field // Cottage Grove, WI

Tuesday 10 May 2016

And... ABD!

Tomorrow morning my husband and I will pack up our Honda Element, pick up our dogs from a sitter, and hit the open road to live and dissertate in the midwestern United States. The move is a good opportunity for my husband professionally, will offer us more travel mobility, and gives me the chance to teach online and focus on my dissertation writing. All of that, however, does not make leaving a beautiful state, wonderful friends, and an established life in AZ any easier. I've really loved living in Arizona, and I have made some really good friends and great memories during our time here. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Monica Gellar has summed up my bittersweet feelings in the GIF below: 

All of this is possible, though, because... 


ABD is an acronym for All But Dissertation, signaling that I have finished all of the requirements towards my Ph.D. beside writing my dissertation. As I discussed in my last blog post, I passed my written comprehensive exams with a High Pass. I then met with my committee members Elenore Long and Patricia Boyd on April 20th, 2016 for my dissertation prospectus colloquy. We met for two hours, and after I introduced the impetus and my train of thought for my study, they helped me to further clarify my purpose, frame my study, and plan for completion. My chair then offered feedback to the plan we drafted in the colloquy from Austria. The colloquy and feedback was so helpful and invigorating as I plan to start writing my dissertation in June. 

After completing my comps and colloquy (some of the sources referenced in both pictured on the right), all I had left to do was finish courses! The BEST advice that I was given in graduate school by colleagues and professors was to make everything-- class work, completion work, conferences, publications, etc.-- work together towards my dissertation goal. I was able to follow that advice in the final projects for my two courses this semester. The comments from my professors in those courses then contributes to my dissertation planning and writing work. After struggling a bit with the myriad of responsibilities I placed on myself this semester, I am happy to have received an A and an A- in my final two classes. That brings my graduate school GPA to a final 3.97. The course work this semester was so beneficial to my individual scholarly work, but I am SO glad to be done with courses. 

Other final elements of the semester also wrapped up well. My students in both classes presented well researched and clearly articulated proposal presentations on a variety of topics. I submitted a revised book chapter to Asao Inoue and Mya Poe for their forthcoming edited collection. I am excited about the work that this book will do. I was also honored to receive an award from the ASU English department and attend a graduate reception and award ceremony to receive the award, gifted to the department from a generous donor. In the picture on the left, I am receiving the award from the English department chair, Dr. Mark Lussier. Both my mother and my mother-in-law were able to attend the ceremony with me, as they were both in Arizona to help us pack up our townhouse for the upcoming move. 

In honor of being ABD at ASU and the impending move, I want to include five of my very favorite aspects of our Arizona life. Other than the opportunities afforded by my program and teaching assistantship, the list and photos of my faves can be found below in no particular order: 






To conclude this blog post at the end of this momentous semester with the full knowledge of the changes and work still to come, I rest in the memory of what has been and hope for what is to come. I can say that this chapter of my life has ended much like the final sentence in Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, quoted below. Thanks, readers. Peace to you. 

"All was well." 
J.K. Rowling; 

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Lots of Cs!

Here we are, finally, in the last few weeks of the semester! In some ways, it feels like the semester just started and in other ways it feels like it's been endless. While I am glad that the semester is wrapping up, I also struggle to see how I will be able to complete everything that I need to by the end. It does, somehow, always get done. I just hope that I haven't actually taken on more than I can handle this semester. But, without further ado, here are the "C" occurrences of this semester!

Comps and Colloquy 

I took and passed my comprehensive exams, and I have my prospectus colloquy scheduled!

In preparation for my exams, I studied the bibliography that had been approved by my committee, and then I annotated that bibliography. After that, I identified the main points and quotes that I thought were most pertinent or descriptive from each text, and I drafted a study guide. The study guide is composed of one slide for each source. This was very helpful to me in summarizing the sources and beginning to put them into conversation with each other. I also wrote a synthesis essay for each area of scholarship. I studied three areas of scholarship for my comps: Feminist Theory, Feminist Pedagogy, and Qualitative and Feminist Research Methods. Writing the synthesis essay for each of the three areas was very helpful to me in seeing how the sources were or were not related to each other.

I took my exam on Monday, March 14th. I met the English Department administrative assistant at 10:00am in the morning armed with my computer, snacks, water, and the comprehensive exam bibliography (not the study guide). Sheila showed me up to the sixth floor and gave me the list of questions for my exam. I was asked to write three answers (three essays) in response to three sets of questions. I was able to pick one question from the first set of three questions, one question for the second set of two questions, and one question from the third set of two questions. I had a deadline for submission at 2:00pm. Except for a couple quick trips to the bathroom, I stayed in that room and wrote for four hours. At about 1:58pm, I emailed the completed exam to Sheila!

I waited eighteen days for the results, but it was totally worth it because I received a high pass! I was floored. I was hoping to pass, but I honestly hadn't even considered a high pass. I posted the results on Facebook, and I was move by all of the support and encouragement. So many friends and family encouraged me and asked about the results, and Abby helped me study prior to the exam. She was SO helpful, and I don't think I would have gotten the high pass without her help and questions about the connections between the texts. I was totally surprised and relieved by the results, and then I immediately started planning the next step.

The next step was drafting the prospectus and scheduling the colloquy (prospectus defense). I have scheduled the colloquy with my committee for Wednesday, April 20th. I'm actually pretty excited about it! My dissertation chair, Maureen, is currently in Austria on a Fulbright, so, unfortunately, she will not be able to participate in the colloquy. She has given me feedback on my prospectus, and then I will meet with my other committee members, Ellie and Trish, at the colloquy. Other than finishing my courses, this will be the last step before I can jump into my dissertation writing!

Conference on College Composition and Communication

Another highlight from this second half of the semester was attending CCCC. I arrived in Houston on Wednesday, April 6th in the evening, and I met up with my friend from ISU, Laurenn York, at our Airbnb rental. Laurenn and I presented together at CCCC 2014 in Indianapolis, IN, so we say that we are Cs buddies for life! We picked up our poster for our poster presentation on Thursday morning, and then we attended conference events during the day. We presented our poster on Friday afternoon, and then I presented at a Special Interest Group (SIG) with Ellie Long on Friday evening. The SIG was called "Undergraduate Consortium in Rhetoric and Writing." I talked about the work that I did in my internship with Ellie, as the focus of the SIG was the creation of writing and rhetoric undergraduate majors. The women who attended the group were very kind and engaging. It was a productive hour. 

The poster presentation was also productive, although we didn't get as much traffic as we would have liked. We did talk to other poster presenters about our work, and the chair of the convention, Joyce Locke Carter, asked about our work and was very encouraging about the progress. Our poster was titled "Identifying and Demonstrating Genre Knowledge: A Preliminary Assessment Heuristic in FYC Classrooms." The poster summarized the assessment work that Laurenn and I started at ISU in the spring 2013 semester. The conference also inspired us to redraft an article and look for a publication venue based on this work. One other positive aspect that came out of the poster presentation was that it forced us to compile our assessment drafts and current research into one place. I created a new page on this blog called Initial Genre Assessment (IGA) where the assessments and more information can be found. 

I enjoyed my time in Houston. I felt energized and encouraged in my work as I left, and that is always the best outcome from conferences. I hope to channel that energy into work I am now doing. 


I can't forget about the "regular" work that I am doing this semester as well! Taking two classes and teaching two classes hasn't always been easy with the other things that have been going on, but I am happy with the way that they have been progressing. Really, the focus for the rest of the semester is on presentations. After the presentations that I give and watch are over, I will need to focus on writing and grading to finish off the semester.

In the ENG 301 course that I teach, my students will be presenting in teams of three to propose a social media plan for a small restaurant based on primary and secondary research. This assignment is productive in that it asks students to take ownership of the work they have been doing throughout the semester and learn how to engage with that work rhetorically. My ENG 102 students are also doing proposal presentations in groups of two or three. Their assignment asks them to identify a problem and solution and then propose a call to action that their peers can act upon. I have enjoyed teaching both of these assignments in past semesters, and I look forward to the work that my students will produce this spring.

In the classes I am taking, I also have two presentations. In my qualitative methods class (COE 503), I just have a short presentation to round out the semester. My feminist methodologies (WST 603) class, however, will be more labor and time intensive. I need to facilitate a discussion on theoretical reading, as well as write a seminar paper. This is due at the same time as the revision for a book chapter for an edited collection, so I need to get a move on! The semester is coming to a close. It's been rough at points, and I don't feel that there will be some triumphant end. As long as I can get over that finish line, though, I will consider it a victory. To paraphrase T.S. Elliot:

"This is the way the [semester] ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper." 

Monday 22 February 2016

The 21st Annual Southwest English Symposium

One of my primary focuses this semester thus far has been the 21st Annual Southwest English Symposium (SWES) that I co-chaired with Abigail Oakley. The symposium was on Friday and Saturday of this weekend, February 19th & 20th, and I'm happy to say that it went very well! Here is a reflection on symposium by the numbers, and then I will sum up my reflections and reactions to hosting the symposium following: 
  • At the opening Friday night social at Zipp's on Mill Ave, we hosted over ten visiting students for appetizers and fun conversations. 
  • At the symposium, we had just over 30 individual presentations in four sessions with two or three presentation panels presenting in each session. The presenters were from about 15 different universities from all over the country. 
  • The opening panel consisted of two visiting lecturers from Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, Pakistan, Saifyia Fawad and Zahra Hanif, and a Ph.D. student in literature from ASU, Matt Henry. Their panel was labeled "Postcolonial Perspectives on South Asia and the Americas," and it was a unique and enlightening way to open the conference.
  • Dr. Ian Bogost, an author, professor, and award-winning game designer, gave the keynote
    address that was attended by conference participants, committee, and other ASU affiliates. His talk focused on "ironia" and the way that it is understood in relationship to objects and nostalgia, historically and today. His unique style of delivery and innovation in theoretical and public knowledge was exciting and revelatory. 
  • The final event, a poetry reading at Rula Bula Irish Pub, was attended by SWES participants and families who had the opportunity to listen to seven ASU MFA students read original works of poetry and fiction. At the poetry reading, we were excited to award a travel grant to Ben Larsen from the University of Wyoming, as well as registration refunds from a random drawing to Tyler Ringstad from Washington State University and Nanette Schuster from Arizona State University. The poetry reading was a lovely way to conclude the symposium, and we were glad to be able to host and offer the awards to presenters. 
As I conclude this post, and this weekend, and reflect back over the preparation and hosting of the conference, I am struck by two reflections:

The first thought that I have is that hosting a conference can be somewhat lonely. The nitty gritty tasks that go into planning even a small, regional symposium are, at time, overwhelming and difficult to keep track of. I was so lucky to have shared the chairing responsibilities with Abby, and we truly had a wonderful committee that worked with us. As the symposium was running, though, I was conscious of the many times that I was alone-- hanging up signs, organizing lunch boxes, or sending last minute emails. There was a lot of "behind the scenes" work that contributed to a, hopefully, well-run conference.

The second thought that I have about the symposium may seem contradictory to the first, but I don't think it is. I was struck by the importance of the work of symposiums and conferences because of the way they bring individuals and groups together. Last year, when Abby and I were initially asked to take on the co-chairing responsibilities, I would have never imagined that our conference, with the theme "Objects and Commodities", would open with visiting Pakistani scholars, have a delightful and and revealing keynote including images of Walmart items for sale (to be found in Dr. Bogost's next book), contain a conversation with a Creative Writing Ph.D. student from University of Illinois-Chicago about David Foster Wallace, include a connection with a Literature Ph.D. candidate from the University of Colorado-Boulder about comprehensive exams and mutual friends, and then conclude with a lovely poem about a dead dog by ASU MFA candidate, Dustin Pearson. That is what happened, though, and there is no other place, specifically in academia, where ideas, stories, and experiences are shared and appreciated so readily, excitedly, and with such impact. I think it is especially important for graduate students and early-career scholars to feel welcomed and supported in these ways, and we were happy to welcome several scholars who were presenting their work for the very first time. If we could provide that kind of support for even a few people, then all of the work and planning and emails and runs across campus in preparation for the symposium over this past year have been all worth it.

If you are interested in learning more about the symposium, visit our website, take a look at the SWES 2016 Program, or scroll through photos taken by myself and Wade E. Bruce.

Opening Panel Speakers

Individual Session Presentation

Lunch Time

Ian Bogost's Keynote. Photo by ASU English Department Photographer, Bruce Matsunaga.
Gary Garrison at the Poetry Reading. Photo by Wade E. Bruce.

Sunday 21 February 2016

//Six of Sixteen//

Week six of the sixteen week semester is now complete!

I have several big deadlines and responsibilities in the second part of this semester, however, the first six weeks of the semester have been quite busy and exciting. I have enjoyed teaching both my CGCC ENG 102 class and my ASU ENG 301 class. Both classes are hybrid, so it has been an adjustment figuring out how to best communicate and help my students when I only see them one day a week. I have been enjoying the classes and my students this semester.

Two new items of note occurred as a result of my internship that I completed last fall semester with Dr. Ellie Long. One outcome was an invitation to participate in an interview with Ellie on rhetoric in this political season. The ASU News Article came out on January 29th, and I have seen and heard positive feedback in terms of the ideas we shared and focus on rhetorical action that we discussed. A second outcome that was more closely related to the internship was the publication of the press release that I wrote discussing the ASU new undergraduate English concentration in Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies. The article was published in the ASU English alumni letter, Accents on English, on February 16th. The ASU alumni letter goes out to over 8,000 alumni and donors, and I was glad to have been able to participate in the marketing of the new major. My friend and colleague, Rebecca Robinson, summed up the excitement well when she shared the article on Facebook:

"I'm excited for this new undergraduate major in the ASU Department of English! Studying writing and rhetoric at the graduate level has certainly been a huge benefit to me; 
I hope we'll see more and more undergraduate degrees in this area as well." 

I have enjoyed the two classes that I am taking this semester as well. I am taking a qualitative methods class through the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and a feminist methodology class through the Women and Gender Studies department. Both have been eye opening in terms of the framing and understanding needed to complete my prospectus and dissertation. I have completed one project for my methodology class that asked us to create a metaphor for feminist methodology. I decided on the metaphor of "feminist methodology as embodied movement." I presented this metaphor through a discussion of my personal yoga practice. My presentation and a yoga flow that I posted on YouTube can be found here: Feminist Methodology & Yoga Flow Project. I enjoyed the project and the creativity involved in linking and presenting of feminist ideology, theory, and methodologies.

The work I have been doing in my classes has been helpful in understanding the texts I am reading on my list for my comprehensive exams. Just tonight, I read the final source on my comps list! It feels like a milestone, even though I have quite a bit of studying left to do. I take my exams in three weeks, so I know that that needs to be my primary focus in the time in between. The source that I read was Dr. Eileen Schell's article "Materializing the Material as a Progressive Method and Methodology." This article just happened to be the final one on my list, but the reading was appropriate in summing up not only some ideas and questions I had been considering about qualitative methods, but it explicitly discussed the relationships between rhetorical theory, material culture, and feminist theory and methodology. Dr. Schell's writing was helpful and revelatory in regards to these specific intersections that I have been working to articulate in my own research. She writes:

"Studying material practices is useful for feminist rhetoricians as it will allow us to examine how women's texts and voices have been 'culturally silenced' or muted" (129). 

Following my comps, this semester I was accepted to present at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) that will be in Houston from April 6-9th. I'm excited to present there, and I recently received this flyer advertising my poster session with Laurenn York. I also just received an email with a notification that I have received a generous individual travel grant from the ASU Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) covering all of my expenses for the trip to Texas! Following the conference, I will then need to shift my focus to completing and defending my prospectus and then composing my final projects and an invited book chapter revision. Now on to week seven!

Saturday 9 January 2016

New Year, New Post!

Happy New Years! Here's to 2016 as a year of progress, peace & purpose.

The spring 2016 semester starts in two days, but even thought it hasn't started yet, I wanted to post an update with photos about my break, my progress, and my goals:

My parents landed in the desert on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015. That was also the start of my two week, self-designated break from work. It was a really, really nice two weeks off. Refreshing and relaxing. We celebrated Christmas with my parents, took them to some of our favorite spots, visited the mountains in Payson, and watched the Green Bay Packers get creamed by the Arizona Cardinals. It was a nice visit. The photo on the right was taken just before Christmas dinner in our dining room.

The day after my parents left, we hit the road for New Years in Durango, CO. We spent about five days up there with some good friends. We read, played games, and celebrated New Years Eve by watching skiers ski down a mountain holding torchlights under fireworks. Pretty cool! And literally, very cool. We were freezing. Time in the mountains is always so refreshing, and we thoroughly enjoyed our mini-vacation. The photo on the left was taken a few miles from my Grandpa's condo in Durango. We are standing on top of a natural hot spring that has mineralized into the mound you see there. The spring is just off of the main highway, and it is a favorite for visitors and bikers to stop and take photos or baths at, respectively. The water is pretty warm and coppery tasting, though. Not great for a drink. 
During the break, Wade and I binged watched the BBC reality show, The Great British Bake Off. It is truly a lovely show, and we became so invested with the contestants and the show itself. Even when I am breaking from my scholarly work, I am still enthralled by discussions and representations of food. Food brings people together. It speaks to culture, community, and identity in ways that no other medium does. The first challenge of every episode is the "Signature Challenge," where the bakers are instructed to represent a part of themselves in the bakes. I mean, so, so fascinating.

Over the break, I also read my first book of 2016. I read Mindy Kaling's newest memoir, Why Not Me? Again, even when taking a break, I still love to read memoirs. I guess that means my work in women's food memoirs really is what I should be studying. I love these glimpses into people's lives, specifically, strong, smart, accomplished women. Mindy's book is honest, funny, and inspiring. In her final chapter she writes, "work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled" (223). If that's not the mantra that I need to adopt to get me through this semester of conferences, my written exam, my dissertation prospectus, and finishing my class work, then I don't know what is. 
The day in between my parents leaving and us leaving for Colorado, I received an email saying that my two portfolio papers and my compiled bibliography to be used for my comprehensive exam had been approved by my committee! This is a the first of the five steps towards completion of the degree, and I was really happy to receive that email even before the spring semester started. It is but one step towards completion, but it feels good to have it checked off after a year of drafts, revision, and feedback. It also means that I am now able to move forward on the other steps that I need towards degree completion. I am very thankful for my chair and committee that offer this feedback and are willing to help me advance towards my degree. 

Finally, I want to address a personal goal that I have adopted for this new year, but one that will be intricately related to my work. I have been trying to think of a word to focus on in this new year in my prayer and mediation time, but also in my work and everyday life. Yesterday I attended my weekly yoga class with my friends and colleagues Casie and Jess, and the theme of the class was "presence." The instructor said several times that in presence there is choice. There is the choice of focus, attitude, and attention. So, this semester and this year, I intend to focus on the word presence. I want to explore what that means in all areas of my life. 

Thanks for reading! I'll be back with a new post soon as this busy, but hopefully very productive, semester gets underway.