The week my house flooded

On a brief writing break from my comps at the moment.  Did I mention that comps started 5 days ago?  I’m needing a little free-writing to get back into the swing of things.  This turning 25 pages into 3 pages and adding 25 more pages is a little cumbersome.

Timer, books, writing. Comps.

Timer, books, writing. Comps.

Comps/pre-lims/whatever other institutions call them is the next step to my moving forward in my dissertation process.  I’m not officially allowed to discuss anything related to them for this month, suffice it to say that I have 30 days to write a journal article and submit it to the grad department at my institution.  And, having not been in writing-intensive courses for a little while, my writing game has been thrown off.  I have a stack of books in front of me, my dual monitor, a case of diet mountain dew, and I am doing what I can to keep writing on this.

The week leading up to the start of comps was a bit challenging for a few reasons.  Last Sunday night, Mount Vernon had the storm to end all storms.  For a variety of reasons, we had rain starting as the sun was setting and that rain continued throughout the entire night.  My split level house is located in just the wrong part of town so that when this section of town flooded in ways that haven’t been seen for years.  My neighbors were apparently all up in the middle of the night and a friend sent a text message at midnight asking about water in the basement.  I slept through it all.

Monday morning, I woke up and stepped into water.  My master bedroom is in the basement and so when I stepped out of bed I noticed the water which continued as I walked throughout the basement.  So, at 5:00 in the morning, I found myself figuring out how to get water out of the basement.  I found myself thankful for the shop vac that helped suck the water up.  I was happy the previous home owners had tile or cement throughout the basement.  I emailed my parents and asked them to call me when they woke up.  It was a mess, but one I was able to clean up overall.  By the time I left for work at 7:30 I had a lot of the water cleaned up.

That afternoon I came home from work, started washing all the towels that I was using to dry up the corners I couldn’t quite wet vac when the tornado sirens in town sounded and power began flickering.  We were getting more rain.  That night, the power went out as the rain continued, with warnings of it being out for 24-48 hours.  I found myself sleeping in my jeans in my guest room.  Luckily, I was woken up in the middle of the night last night because the power came back on.  The sump pump started working and I needed to do a little more clean up with the wet vac and the towels Tuesday morning and evening.  I didn’t need to have a grill out with my frozen meat nor did I get to eat ice cream for breakfast.

In addition to what happened inside, the water swept throughout the neighborhood.  I was pretty lucky overall in terms of the water in my house.  Some neighbors had over a foot of rain and a faculty member from campus had four feet of water in his basement.

Needless to say, I now have a dehumidifier.  I’m considering getting a bigger wet vac.  I have more confidence in my homemaking abilities and know I can do a lot on my own and that my instincts are often pretty darn good.  My container garden has been reduced by half because all but two pots of Brussels sprouts have disappeared in the flood waters.  Someone in Mount Vernon has my Brussels sprouts and will hopefully enjoy them.

But we make it through.  I’ve started writing my comps.  I’ve just proven to myself that I can write about a page of non-academic writing in ten minutes.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apple

Last week I posted on Facebook about how grateful I am to my parents.  Last weekend, they came down to spend some time with me and I was going to make dinner for them and have a relaxing weekend.  Instead, it was raining, so I didn’t get to try out the smoker I was planning to test.  Instead, I grilled on the gas grill (uh-oh, that’s two grills.  I guess I am my father’s daughter) Saturday night and on Sunday I made them work hard for their meal.

My dad and I went to the hardware store and rented the extension ladder to end all extension ladders and he climbed up on my room to clean out my gutters.  They were a MESS.  It cannot be exaggerated enough what a mess they were.  It was horrible.  I have no excuse for having neglected them, except that I don’t love the idea of spending money.  But, while he was doing that, I was testing out the smoker by making Alton Brown’s Party Meatloaf – I’ll post about that in a couple days.  I started weeding, my mom spent the time he was on the roof praying he remained safe, and then we moved onto trimming back bushes, trimming up trees, and basically getting things in order.

There was so much to do that even though they had planned to leave around 2:00, they didn’t leave until 4:00 and the place was much improved.  My mom shared her secret recipe to kill weeds (found on pinterest), we ate the meatloaf, and I honored our Scandinavian heritage with a Brussels Sprout salad recently found in a new (used) cookbook called The Scandinavian Kitchen.  Best of all, it gave me a reason to try out a new blade on the Cuisinart Food Processor.


Brussels Sprout Salad with Applekale apple salad

12-18 large Brussels sprouts

1 large apple

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp coarse sea salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbap canola or walnut oil

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp walnut kernels, toasted

Cut teh sprouts and apple into very thin slices, leaving the apple peel on, but discarding the core.  Mix with the rest of the ingredients and leave to steep for a couple of hours.

Leftovers are fine the next day.

Serves 4

My Dad and Mustard BBQ Sauce

Happy Father’s Day!
With today being Father’s Day, I thought I’d write a bit about my dad and share a recipe he was tweaking a few weeks ago.  Last month my cousin celebrated her wedding and several members of the family gathered together to celebrate her wedding.  It was great to see some cousins, aunts, uncles, and other relatives and spend time together.

Later in the weekend, we spent some time doing what has become our latest family pastime.  We spent some time with the grills.  Over the course of the last fifteen years, my dad has become a true grilling aficionado.  With a variety of grills to choose from – my dad has begun to foray into BBQ sauce as well, to complement the work he is doing on the grill.  As of late, this has evolved into an interest in mustard barbecue sauces.

It shouldn’t have surprised me, then, that when I was home for the wedding, all of the sudden Dad was in the kitchen working on a little concoction.  A little while later, he brought me a taste of his mustard barbecue sauce.  Those of you from the South will probably think I ruined the sauce, but I suggested adding some honey to it to cut down on the vinegar in the sauce.

Using a recipe from a cookbook I’d given his years ago, my dad made “Similar to Maurice’s Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce” from Peace, Love, and Barbecue.  I’m not sure who Maurice is or why we love his barbecue sauce, but it seems that his recipe is worth replicating, and I thought it was pretty good.  Who knows, I might even make a batch at home myself J

Similar to Maurice’s Carolina Mustard Barbecue SauceHoney Mustard

1 ½ c prepared yellow mustard (you should use French’s)

7 Tbsp brown sugar

8 Tbsp tomato paste

5 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp cayenne

½ tsp ground black pepper

½ tsp granulated garlic

Whisk all the ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until the sugar is dissolved.  Don’t overcook.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Pour into a sterilized glass jar.  Refrigerate between uses.

Makes about 2 cups.


If you were wondering, my modification suggests adding 5 Tbsp honey.


Proud Midwesterner

Last night, the Heart of It All subcohort was dissolved.  Okay, not actually dissolved, but for our final course, we have changed groups and are working with folks across our cohorts.  I’m excited for this next step, but cannot help but think of the ways in which group dynamics might play out.  We’ve spent the last three and a half years working with the same group of folks.  As I’ve shared in the past, these three folks have made my experience thus far phenomenal.  We’ve met once a week since July 2011 and struggled through moves, changes in job responsibilities, issues with family, issues with each other.  And more.  We’ll keep meeting as we move through the next steps of our doctoral program, but for the time being, we are no longer a group of people who are together.

Our group was joined together due to similar (though not shared) timezones and group dynamics as our program director watched us interact throughout that first class together.  And we became known as the Heart of It All group.  From the “heartland of America,” we wanted a group name that was a play on that.  Earlier this year as I was perusing the RayGun web site, I came across this and could not help but think of our group:heartland

Later, as we continued to interact with folks from different parts of the country, it became increasingly clear that this was the perception of the Midwest from our classmates and others:midwest

So, a couple of weeks ago, we sent this postcard to our colleagues sharing our excitement for seeing them this week.  Last night we showed up at dinner wearing matching shirts with that picture on it and celebrating our home region of the country.  On my drive to Colorado, I was listening to Michael Rank’s History in 5 Minutes podcast which had five consecutive episodes about the greatness of Iowa.  This, combined with conversations last week at the ICQI conference about the Midwest, has increasingly made me feel proud to be a Midwesterner.

While I identify as a Minnesotan through and through, Iowa has grown on me.  Ohio has grown on me.  I don’t question saying hello to someone walking down the street or holding the door open if someone has full hands.  I’m not suggesting the folks in other parts of the country fail to have manners and be polite, I often am hyper-cognizant of the ways in which my interactions might not be reflective of what is experienced across the country.

For those who have not visited or spent much time in the Midwest, we are much more than a “flyover” area of the country.  I love that when I drove through small towns throughout Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado on Monday, people were at the cemeteries, visiting their loved ones and honoring those who deserve our respect.  I love that we know how our neighbors are doing and that it is strange to me that I have not yet gotten to know more of my neighbors.  I love watching for the differentiation in planting driving across these states and caring whether the farmers are planting corn or soybeans, spraying the fields, or how many head of cattle they have.  There is a community that exists throughout this.

As I continue ruminating of sense of place, the Midwest is one location I could not deny considering.

Sense of Place

Horsetooth ResevoirThis morning I find myself sitting in the Wild Boar Coffee Shop in Fort Collins, Colorado, reflecting on the concept of space and place.  It’s not unusual that I am thinking about these topics, as lately, it seems that all of the articles and definitions I am reading exist around these concepts.  Only three days ago I was sitting on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Illinois, ruminating on the same ideas.

As I think about these spaces, and my dissertation, and comps, and the many things which are always on my mind these days, I cannot help but think about the point at which a space feels like home to me.  This sense of place, as written about by Clemons, Banning & McKelfresh in 2004, 2005, and 2006, is key in a concept of feelings of belonging to an environment and security within it.  This concept resonates with me for many reasons, key among them being my reflection of self when in an entirely new environment.  Which leads me to state that I am, unequivocally, not good in new environments.

This probably has to do with my sense of security.  Interestingly, however, on only my second time at the Urbana campus, my sense of place and sense of security was greatly enhanced from last year.  This may have been a result of knowing and recognizing places, spaces, people, or the fact that I was not the sole representative from my campus (aka, I had an entourage)… Yet, when I pulled into Fort Collins last night, despite still feeling at times like nothing is where I left it upon my last visit, I had an immediate sense of being at home.  My sense of place here may be heightened by the fact that I’ve lived here for a couple of years.

More and more, however, as friends have come and gone from my life and I have recognized that my sense of place is greatly enhanced by the people who are with me in each place.  It’s why I was watching for people I recognized at the conference last week, why I called one of my best friends while driving to campus this morning, and why I want to help others feel oriented to spaces when introducing them to the space.

We now kick off our final week together in Fort Collins, Colorado.  While I am certain class will be challenging at times (it is our capstone/practical comprehensive/other course), mostly I am looking forward to having these individuals together with me.  These are the folks who have been part of this first part of our doctoral degree program and who I know will be there for me in the next few years as we take our comprehensive exams, write our proposals, and ultimately, do our dissertations.  Not to get too sentimental, but these folks have become my sense of place.  They give me a sense of belonging.  And security.

This may be our last week in the same physical space, but the creation of our relationships and place via a virtual space provides an entirely new sense of space and place.  I’m looking forward to our interactions, consumption of beverages, and overall development of strategy for comps in the next week.  As I take a sip of my coffee and eat my chips and salsa for breakfast (deliciousness), I’m reflective of the greatness of these individuals today, this week, and in the coming years.

Countdown: 8 weeks, 3 days

We are 8 weeks and 3 days away from preliminary exams.  And there are moments when I feel like I have no idea what is happening next.  With 2-3 weeks left of courses, we are getting close to the end of the semester at both my work institution and my doctoral institution and there are major papers, lots of events, and situations to get through before the end of the year is officially over.

I had been planning to use some data for my preliminary exams from a study on which a colleague from Institutional Research and I have been working.  However, after last weekend’s meetings with my advisor, program chair, and faculty member for the semester, I’m changing course and two days ago sent out a request to 45 friends across the country to help me gather new data for my prelims.

My advisor suggested that we spend some time connecting with members of the cohort above us to ask what they turned in for comps, what their presentation looked like, and other tips they might have.  I chatted with one member yesterday and am going to be chatting with a couple more next week.
It sounds as though with comps, one of the major components is going to be methodology, so I’m going to be focusing on researching that more and really trying to get my end of semester project for my Data Collections methods and analysis course in a good place to use a groundwork for my comprehensive exams and then hopefully my dissertation.

This is going to allow me to test a new app, which I’ll write more about in the future.  I can’t wait to gain further insights from my colleagues about what works well with the app and what does not.  I know I won’t be able to complete my study as I would have liked to complete it, but nevertheless, this will better mirror my practices thus far.

All this being said, I’m planning to read an article each day for the next 8 weeks.  Not every day is a great day in doctoral student world, but I have some new energy and enthusiasm around my program and my study, and I can’t wait to see how this keeps moving me forward towards the next major hurdle of the degree.