The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 15

Week 15 is dedicated to my favourite topic: Things that make me laugh. I think everyone who knows me well knows that it is fairly easy to make me laugh. Well timed jokes, locking the car door as someone tries to open it, cat videos….all of these things make me laugh.

And if ever someone needed a laugh right now, it is me.

This week the one thing that has really been making me laugh is inappropriate workplace conversations. The department that I am based out of just recently hired a new research assistant, and while trying to get to know him, we were all talking about ourselves and a little bit of our background. In the course of that conversation, it came up that when I got hired on, the rest of the team who is close to my age Googled me to see what they could learn about me.

Fun fact: if you Google me, the first thing that comes up is a porn illustrator.

Yep. You read that correctly: A PORN ILLUSTRATOR!  The office wondered if my supervisor had lost his marbles, and at one point I got an email from the admin assistant asking me if I liked to draw. I of course had no idea why she would ask me such a thing, and it wasn’t until I had been in the post for several months that they filled me about what happens when you Google my name. I decided to share that story with the new guy….he wasn’t impressed. Everyone in the office had a good chuckle though. I like to think that it lightened the mood.

Professionally, things have been picking up with my data collection. I was really afraid that sending out an online survey would not net me any responses, but I have been pleasantly surprised  about the response rate in the last three days. I may have just figured out this whole PhD student thing.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 8 and 9

I’m currently sitting in my sister and brother-in-law’s living room in California. It is warm. I’m in shorts and a tank top. I have a belly full of Mexican food.

I am now an aunt.

Since I am a bit behind on the writing challenge, I thought now would be the perfect time to catch up. Week 8 is dedicated to a person that I love.

Let me tell you about the new love of my life Brandon Davis Rodriguez. He made his debut on the 26th of February at 2:22pm. He was 7 lbs 7 oz, and absolutely perfect. He held my hand, and I am pretty sure I melted into a puddle of goo.

He is perfect. He looks like his daddy. Because he decided to cook an extra five days, he was born with some fluid in his lungs, so he is being monitored by the NICU just to make sure he didn’t contract an infection. I haven’t gotten to hold him yet, but him holding my hand for a bit is enough to get me through the 17 hours I waited for labour to work it’s magic, and for all the work that I have put off doing for the last week while I have been in California. I wish that I had more time to spend in California to be with him, but for now, I am going to wrap that baby up in a moby and carry him everywhere with me.

Ughhh. I’m hopelessly in love with this little Branmuffin.

Week 9 is dedicated to something that I would like to learn.

There are a lot of things that I would like to learn. I want to learn how to get past my PTSD. I want to learn how to be a master of SPSS and knock my data analysis out of the park. I want to learn how to be a good partner in romantic relationships, and a less selfish person in friendships. I want to learn how to speak Spanish fluently, and be able to use it in conversation comfortably.

Most importantly, I want to be able to really get a handle on my depression and stop feeling like I live day to day not knowing when or if I am going to fall into a funk. People keep telling me that happiness is a choice, that I can just wake up every morning and choose not to be miserable. I wish it was that simple. I mean, duh, if I had the choice, I would much rather wake up happy and carefree. I like getting out of bed, being productive and enjoying life. I hate that not everyone understands the seriousness of my depression. The one thing I do know is that while I cannot necessarily erase my depression, I can learn how to keep the dark and twisty at bay, and learn to find more joy in the everyday. Therapy will be a big part in that, and daily photo updates of the new love of my life will also help. Once I get a handle on this nonsense, you can best believe I am going to tackle the rest of my list.

On the plus side, since I have been in California I have not felt the least bit out of place, the least bit lost, or the least bit upset. I’ve slept better than I have in months, am getting plenty of family time, and am avoiding people and things that might make me feel bad. I’ve also taken the last week off from anything academic related, so I am feeling pretty relaxed. I like the feeling of being here on vacation, but still feeling like I am part of the day to day happenings with my family. This trip definitely came at the perfect time, and will make me feel really really good when I get back to Scotland and can start kicking ass on my research and data collection.

The Scamp and Thanksgiving

Last night was the first time I celebrated Thanksgiving in three years. Usually I spend this time escaping the US and visiting new places. Last year I was in Estonia, and one of my best friends made me a feast of yummy food as well as provided me with a week of fun and adventure. The year before that I was graduating from the University of Edinburgh and enjoying my time in Scotland with my mom and sister. I spent the holiday meant to be all about giving thanks in places and with people that make me feel really thankful.

This year I was lucky enough to have my mom and brother visiting me in Scotland for Thanksgiving. My brother has never been here, so I had an amazing time showing him around all of my favorite places, and going to see things that I had never seen before. I decided that this year I would celebrate Thanksgiving with all of the new friends that I made. Most of them had never celebrated Thanksgiving before, and I had never made a complete dinner by myself, so I decided that it was a good chance for my mom to meet my friends, and to actually use my little kitchen to create a meal.

For my first attempt at a Thanksgiving dinner, it could not have gone any better. I was about two hours later than I thought I would be in terms of serving dinner, but the turkeys looked good, the potatoes, green beans, and stuffing were incredible, and the gravy was able to be saved (thanks Errol), and even though I really did not have a chance to sit and hang out with everyone, given all the laughter I heard, I think that everyone had a good time. I was so glad that my friends got to meet my mom and my brother (I wish the wombmate could have been here) since they are some of my favorite people, and I am glad that my mom got to see that I am surrounded by an amazing group of people.

I know that Thanksgiving is a time for people to think about what they are thankful for, and this is going to sound really strange given that for the last two years I have been writing about how miserable CSUF made me, but I am really thankful for that horrible horrible program. If it was not for that program, I would not have applied for the program here, and would not be back in the one place in the world that I feel at home. If all of that stuff hadn’t have happened, I would be graduating in a few months, but I would be miserable. Being Scotland would not even be on my radar. I’d be depressed, alone, and unhappy for sure. While there are things I miss, okay, really just my family and a few of my friends that I consider family, I wouldn’t trade any of that for where I am now. I’m grateful that the shitshow of a program led me to a program that I love, a job that I enjoy, and people that I love to be around.

The Scamp in Estonia

It is no secret that I am a wanderer. I get antsy if I stay in one place for too long. With all of the shit I have had to deal with these last few months with the racists in my grad program, my trip to Estonia could not come soon enough.

I have not spent a Thanksgiving in the United States in a few years, and saw no reason to break the tradition. So, on the 1 year anniversary of getting on a plane to head back to Scotland for my graduation, I got on a plane and headed to Estonia to visit one of my favorite people. Before I left, I planned a hot air balloon ride, a day trip to Finland, and an overnight in Latvia.

Estonia did not disappoint. The balloon ride over the city was freezing, but provided a great view of the city.

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Chicken is having fun too.

Susanne and I also went to Catherine the Great’s summer palace to see how the rich people live. It was great walking around in the snow, getting to talk to Sus, and putting some much needed space between me and the United States.

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I have a few more days at the end of the week to spend in Tallinn, and I cannot wait to explore the city a little bit more.

The Scamp Completely Completes Her Dissertation

Exactly 4 months after I sat at my desk in Scotland and wrote a rough outline for a potential research project, my final draft is complete. No more editing, no more counting words or triple checking references, and no more children’s literature for a long long time. As of 11:30 pm Pacific Standard Time, my labor of love is now in the hands of my readers…..or at least in the in-box of my supervisor and the secretary in the front office who is going to print my hard copies.

It is too late in the evening for me to be super excited, but I am very very very happy with the final product. I think it is some of the strongest work I have ever written, and it is much better than my last dissertation (or thesis as it is called here). Tomorrow, I will do the happy dance and try to get everyone I know to read it and tell me how awesome I am.

On the bright side, I now have 8-10 hours in my day that are free….well at least for the next 7 days. I have a stack of novels waiting for me to read them, and the weatherman tells me we are all set for a heat wave. If you listen closely, you can hear the pool calling my name.

In case anyone is dying of curiosity about what my paper is about, here is the abstract:

  ‘¿Como frijole?’ or ‘How you bean?’ Is Not a Greeting:

How the Use of Critical Literacy Can Raise Elementary School Teachers’ Awareness of the Picture Books they are Presenting in the Classroom 

This study was aimed at adding to the field of critical literacy analysis by highlighting the importance of analyzing cultural representations of Mexico in children’s picture books.  Gary Soto’s (1995) Chato’s Kitchen and Judy Schachner’s (2005) Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse were used as two examples of how Mexican culture is represented in children’s picture books. The aim of this research is to highlight the importance of analyzing critically the picture books before they are presented to students in the classroom. Teachers can encourage cultural sensitivity among their students by choosing culturally sensitive picture books to read in the classroom. Two pages from each of the stories were analyzed with special attention given to how the authors and illustrators used color, texture, layout and characters to represent Mexican culture. In addition to the visual text, I analyzed how the use of Spanish words affected the representation of Mexican culture.

This study starts with a review of critical pedagogy, critical literacy analysis, and critical media analysis. Important research and scholars are highlighted, as well as the definition of critical literacy analysis that was utilized for the purpose of this study. Because picture books are analyzed, literature on children’s literature and picture books was also analyzed. The study concludes with a reflexive discussion on the importance of content and analysis and action research, as well as how the example of analysis used in this study can be used to analyze cultural representation in any picture book. I conclude with a reflection on the importance of using critical literacy analysis to encourage cultural sensitivity.

If that isn’t enough, I’ll even show you the pages that I analyzed.

Skippyjon Jones Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse 

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8S1BDVrKQSKHrfPSKRDY3Cy4

Chato’s Kitchen

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If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then use it as a cure for insomnia. I promise that Chapter Two will put you to sleep before you can finish reading about critical literacy analysis.

I would like to thank my family and friends for letting me sit in my office with my headphones on and ignore them, for feeding me and entertaining me on breaks, pretending to understand what I was writing about ,and to my mommy for reading the whole thing to make sure all the commas were in place and all the words were in a proper order.

A Scamp and the Library

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I love libraries. I always have. The only job I have ever had has involved working in a library. In the last 12 years I have worked in 3 different libraries and become very familiar with the ins and outs of them. I’ve been in good libraries, bad libraries, public libraries and university libraries, but none of those libraries compare to the ones at the University of Edinburgh. The library here makes me feel like an idiot. Books show up in the catalog that are not actually part of the collection, or books appear on the shelves that do not appear in the catalog. Today’s hunt had me on three separate floors after two trips to a computer to verify the call number in the catalog. Ever since the great library firing of 2005 when the branch manager told me she thought I needed classes because I couldn’t see the numbers, I double, and sometimes triple check what I write down, and today was no different. After checking to make sure that I was right, I went back to the shelves and looked for the elusive critical literacy book. No luck. I went downstairs to ask one of the librarians for help, and after a 20 minute search, it was concluded that the book was either at a desk or study cube with someone, or had been improperly shelved. Either way, I was out of luck, and I was free to come back and check to see if it had been returned.

I’m going to take this to mean the universe is telling me to take a break today and read one of the crime novels I checked out from the public library. Critical democratic power sharing pedagogy can wait until tomorrow.

A Scamp At Home

I have been majorly neglectful. I have a mound of papers to write and books to read, and little motivation to anything but sleep. I was able to get some of the work done before I came home, but I put everything else on the back burner so I could focus on coming home. I don’t know if it was just because I really wanted to come home, or if because I was being karmacally rewarded for having to put up with the freshers in my dorm, but it was one of the easiest travel days I have ever had. Flights were on time, seats were not so bad (I did have to sit next to obnoxious Americans, and the guy behind me didn’t believe in deodorant on for the bulk of the trip, but I was able to block all that out) and I made it home in record time. Seeing my mom and David at the airport was the happiest I have been in a long time. I severely underestimated how much I would miss being in texting range with them.

I’ve been home less than a week, but I feel like I never really left. I was worried that I would feel out of place, or be in everyone’s way, but although everyone’s schedules are the same, and still as busy as ever, I don’t feel out of place or in the way in the slightest. I’ve enjoyed my bed and properly cooked meals with lots of variety. I even had the chance to meet my nephew. I made not entirely agree with the way he had to start his adventure in this world, but he is perfect. He is calm, but alert, and doesn’t mind being passed around to all of the willing hands. I am not quite ready for my own tiny human, but he sure makes it easy to want one. He is going to set a hard bar for all other babies to live up to.

I have a lot to do while I am home, juggling visits between the families, trying to see all of the friends that I have missed, and getting my papers written. As of now, I am just about done with one, but I can already feel myself getting lazy and finding reasons to put it off. One of the only things that will save me is that David will more than likely have work to do and I will be forced to do mine to keep me busy while I wait. Of course he has been at work all day and I have done everything but work on my papers. If anyone feels the need to write a paper on language acquisition, critical discourse analysis, or the language used in picture books, I would be more than happy to turn over the papers.

A Scamp and Balance

I can’t believe that I have only been here for a week. I feel like I have been here for a lot longer than that. Some of it is because of the horrid schedule of the week, and some of it is due to the fact that I just love the city. I can walk everywhere, my sense of direction has never been so good, and I have made a lot of friends here (I know, everyone is shocked by that last statement, but I decided that when I got here I would do the opposite of what I normally do, and it has been working). I love the fact that I am not spending every night alone in my dorm room, but I am having a hard time staying connected to everyone at home. I’ve seen my mother’s face once, talked to Kelly briefly, and have yet to see my partners in crime. I get regular chats with David, but even then, I feel like I am keeping him from his work. The time difference is still a tricky thing. I’ve made a few appointments to chat with Kelly, but then failed to do it because I went out with my friends here. I wanted to talk to Kelly, but I had a lot of fun going out and about. I know that once my course work starts I will not be out and about as much and will be able to make a better schedule, but for the next few days, I will feel a bit torn between here and home.

Another balance I am trying to make is the balance between friendly and too friendly. For some reason in this country I am a novelty. I’m assuming it is the tattoos and snark presented in a the librarian esque package. I’ve learned that the Irish love me because I like boxing, the Canadians love me because of the cultural similarities, and the Scottish love me because I say dude. I have to admit that I love the attention. San Diego was rough on me, and it is nice to feel like I am being appreciated for my better qualities. My problem is, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I love David, shoot, I am going to marry that boy whether he wants to or not. While I enjoy the boys that I have met here, there is nothing short of Kelly Slater offering to be my love slave that will even tempt me away from David. I find a way to mention him in every conversation I have (which I am sure people are getting tired of) but I have a feeling that most of these boys wouldn’t mind being invited to my room (yeah, like that is going to happen). I usually do better being friends with guys, but I do not want to do anything that will make these boys think they have a snowball’s chance, and I certainly do not want to make David uncomfortable.

My last struggle with balance is balancing the adventure that I want to have for me, and the adventure that I should have as part of a dynamic duo. This is my mother’s biggest fear. When David and I got back together, she was worried about what that would do to the way I lived here. She was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy myself, or that I would somehow short change myself because I just wanted to be with David. She loves David, but she was worried before she spent a lot of time with him what he would do to my adventure. For his part, David feels the same way as my mother. I had to work very hard (and shed a lot of tears) to convince him that I was in no way going to change my plans just because I was madly in love with him (I’m pretty sure I called him an idiot at one point). I mean that. There was no way that I was going to give up this chance, short of some serious complications with the Lupus….even then I would have hobbled my tired ass over here. I am at the point though where I have to decide if I am going to stay for another couple of years, or come home at the end of this program. If I can get funded, I am staying. No question about it. I’d love to stay even if I can’t get funded, but I do not want to go into anymore debt. I also miss being with David everyday, texting Kelly whenever I want and generally not being depressed when I look at Facebook. Although my original plan was to move here and never come home, I am thinking that maybe living here for three (maybe four) years total will give me the adventure that I need before I go home and settle into a life of big girl jobs and financial responsibility.