Call Me Dr Scamp

That’s right. I am now a doctor. 4 years of blood, sweat and tears. 4 years of edits, research, interviews and data analysis. 4 years of projects, jobs, networking and conferences. 4 years of hard work. I’m not sure how I did it, but I survived the process and might just be a better person for it.

The viva was a gruelling process. I had gotten sick the week before and went through the viva with a fever and no voice. My examiners hated my thesis….and I am not exaggerating. They told me it reads like a jumbled, confused mess and it was hard to figure out what my original contribution to knowledge was. They did not understand the way I positioned my work in relation to the literature. They told me I have six months to rewrite it or they have the right to change their mind.

I am not ashamed to say that I cried in the middle of the viva. I was horribly ill and felt like crap, but I was also so upset that all of the things that the examiners hated about my thesis are the things I battled against with my supervisor….the same supervisor who was not in the room to hear that he had screwed up my work. The same supervisor who decided that I was not worth his time when I sent an email saying that I was upset that his lack of planning for the scheduling the viva could cost me my job. I was also very embarrassed. The examiners don’t know how badly I struggled. They don’t know how much of the thesis was dictated to me by said horrible supervisor. They only read the product of a less than stellar time….and the only name on the work is mine. I am the one who looks like I turned in horrible work. I am the one who now has to rewrite it in 6 months.

That’s not to say that the examiners were wrong though. That work is a jumbled mess that is a product of my experience. The feedback they gave me will make my thesis a better piece of work. It will also allow me the chance to discuss my work in the way that I want to. I have a better message and have really good things to say, and now I get to say them. My due date for resubmission is on my grammy’s birthday. I am taking that as a sign of good luck.

The only downside of this is that I still have a lot of work to do, more so now because I have a full-time job. I am having a hard time separating my bitterness about the last four years and the rewrite that I need to do. It has been more than a month and I have barely made any progress. That, in turn, is stressing me out….which is not helping the writing.

On the bright side, finishing the PhD means that I was able to book a ticket back to California for Christmas. I get to see my favourite people for a whole month. I am thinking that the change of environment and the time with my family will help me tackle the PhD as well. I have not seen my family in almost three years or been in California, so to say that I am excited about this is an understatement. I cannot wait to see how my parents have changed the cabin they now live in, I can’t wait to finally meet my nephew in person, and I cannot wait to sit around a table with my siblings while we play games, drink beer and tell each other to fuck off while we laugh so hard our sides hurt. I can’t wait to drive a car again.

I can’t wait for all the yummy Mexican food.

And mojo. Hopefully, I can find my mojo. I’m still looking for it.

The Scamp has Some Feelings

I have long neglected this blog. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I started this blog to be the exact opposite. It was my safe little corner of the world where I could work through being so far away from my family for the first time, and be able to share what it was like for this little Scamp to live abroad.

It then morphed into a way for me to process my grief and my reverse culture shock. From there it become my coping mechanism for the horrors that I went through with CSUF. It was a place to share my gratitude and voice my fears.

I am not sure what it will be now. I haven’t sat in this space for a long time. I was too emotionally drained to even try and write for fun. I was too much of a zombie to try and be witty and pithy and admit to the world that my life was reduced to writing, stressing about writing, and trying to get all the work done for all 47 jobs that I took on….or that I failed the UK driving exam for the second time.

Today I handed in my PhD. A month ago I started a full-time job. I commute almost two hours one way, work from 9-4ish and still sort of worry about money. Soon I will have viva prep and hopefully by October I will be a full fledged doctor. My travelling and adventures will now be limited to preset times during the year with prior approval from my boss (who I love and will give me the time off).

Today I ate two cupcakes.

Today I saw a photo of a woman I went to high school with at her sister’s graduation. Standing next to them was the woman that told me I was a cheat and a plagiarist and that if I didn’t apologise for being white I’d never be a good academic.

Today I text an ex who used me to cheat on his gf and (I’m pretty sure) is a complete sociopath. I knew that if I messaged him I could justify feeling crappy about myself and pretend that I was not upset by seeing a photo of the woman that all but broke me.

Today I should be happy about finally submitting my thesis….and I was. Then I spent a little too much time overthinking and creating a plot of misery. So, in order to not waste my first time back in this space by sharing the acknowledgement page from my thesis. It is but a small gesture to the people who refused to let me fail. There were a lot of people who did not make it to the list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. Here it is, exactly as it looks…complete with a thanks to my supervisors that I am still on the fence about. This means I can end this day with feelings of gratitude rather than feelings of self-loathing.

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work. Thanks to:

• Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

• David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback. • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

• My supervisors, Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune, and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian. I know that I have tried your patience a few times, but we got there in the end.

• The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

• Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

• Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

• Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

• Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

• Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

• Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

• Declan- you know why.

• Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

• Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

• My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.

The Scamp Remembers

Today is a hard day for my mom. Today is the day that she lost her mom to a horrific car accident. Today is a day that we usually eat a club sandwich from iHop, drink a diet coke and watch Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I wrote this last year for her birthday, and I don’t think I can write anything better to capture how I feel. So here goes:

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The woman in these photos is Frances Ann. Today is her 80th birthday.

Or, it would be if she believed in wearing her seatbelt. When I was in the third grade she died when she overcorrected her car on the highway. The car flipped and she went through the windshield. Her best friend was in the car with her and survived. Before the funeral, her friend insisted on telling the story of what happened. I remember the crazy curved couch that everyone was sitting on. She was sitting with her husband, my mom, aunt and grandpa sat and listened.

Sometimes I think it would be better for my mom if she hadn’t heard the story.

I can’t remember what her voice sounds like. I can’t remember the way she felt when I hugged her.

I can remember the way she smelled. Sometimes I go to the cosmetic counter at the shopping centre near my house and spray the sample of Red Door into the air just to trigger a memory.

I can remember where we stood when we spread her ashes in Indian Canyon. I’ve only been there one other time since then, and it was to spread my grandpa there after he died.

I can remember the horrible photo she drew of me when I had to go to the emergency room for an ear infection. The picture was me in a hospital gown with my butt exposed and a doctor with a very very large needle ready to give me a shot. In the butt. I have a few scarves that belonged to her with me now.

They smell like my mom.

When my mom smiles, she looks like my grandma….or at least how I remember my grandma in my head.

It is a smile that involves teeth. I know this because it is the same smile that I have (most people tell me they know I am American because of my smile…all those teeth).

This is a hard day for my mom. She can’t call her mom and wish her a happy birthday. She can’t call her when one of her children (cough the oldest one cough) drives her crazy. It is a hard time for me because I have to think about the day when I won’t have my mom.

and that terrifies me.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my great uncle who was in town on holiday. We haven’t seen each other in 10 years or so, but he knew exactly who I was when I met him for brunch. He gave me the best compliment that anyone could ever give me: he told me I look and act exactly like my mother.

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 Since my mom sometimes looks and acts like my grammy, and I look and act a lot like my mommy, it must mean that I am a little like my grammy too.

I’d like to think that she would enjoy what I am doing with her smile.

The Scamp at a Loss

Today I woke up in a world without my Odie. He has been one of the only constants in my life for the last 15 years.

I hate the idea of being in a world where he no longer exists.

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I remember when my brother brought him home. Matt was a pain in the ass 18 year old who is the reason that my mom has grey hair. He left a note on the kitchen counter that just said “Mom don’t be mad”. When she raced up the stairs to his room and threw open the door, she was greeted with a tiny hiss from a little puff of fir in the middle of the bed. Matt had rescued a tiny kitten. He had a lot of names. My brother named him Odin. My sister and I called him Pepe because he was found in a dumpster outside a Mexican restaurant. I called him smooshy because he liked to be smooshed up against you when slept next to you.

He had a head like granite. He had no concept of personal space. He would steal your seat on the couch if you got up for any reason. He had awful kitty breath. He liked to drink from the toilet. He was obsessed with boobs and would often sit with his paws resting on them. He drooled. If you wanted him to come in for the night so you could go to bed, he would escape and evade you like a pro. He would leave out the front door and then magically appear at the top of the stairs. He liked to sleep on his back with his feet in the air.

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He was a pain in the ass. He was a great source of comfort. He was the only man in my life to never disappoint me. He slept on a special blanket on my bed when I moved back to California for a little while. He slept with me every day I was back for a visit.

He used each of his nine lives in the last 15 years. He survived being poisoned. He survived a bee sting.  He survived trying to hump a coyote. He survived me bathing him. The last few years were tough. He slowed down. He had to have his eye removed. Eventually, he developed cancer. Yesterday the vet said that it was better to gently end his life rather than put him through any more treatment.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t get to tell him I loved him one more time. I didn’t get that one final cuddle.  I did not have a chance to prepare myself for this moment that I knew was coming. I’m going to miss the cuddles, the headbutts, the curling up on my work so I had to pay attention to him.

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This little face offered me unconditional love, occasional love bites and constant reminders of how to enjoy the little things in life. I will miss him a little more now, but I know he is headbutting angels and that he is happy.

 

The Scamp Tries a New Writing Challenge

It is 2018. 2018 is the year that I finish my PhD (hopefully). 2018 is the year that I get a career instead of just a job. 2018 is the year that I finally get to Israel. 2018 is the year that I win $5,000,000 and pay off all of my student loans and buy my sister, brother-in-law and nephews a house, and pay my parents back for all the money they have spent on me the last few years (Ok, that one may be wishful thinking, but I’m putting it out into the world and I hope that it comes true).

Last year I was awful at writing for fun. I spent a lot of time dedicated to my PhD and had some trouble with the dark and twisty. I’ve been doing yoga every day though, and painfully cut all cheese and dairy out of my diet, so I am hoping that the dark and twisty will be a little less noticeable this year.

So, new year, a new challenge. I started a few years ago with a gratitude challenge as part of my therapy. I’d been kicked out of school, accused of racism and bullied. I was miserable living in the US and needed the reminder that there was a lot of good in my life, and a lot of good in me. That was a challenge I did faithfully every week, but last year, well, that didn’t go so well. I am going to try and be really good about it, just like writing my thesis and being finished by July.

So…..the challenge for this week is to write about something funny I heard today.

This one is great…it also makes me sad for the future. I went to campus to print a bunch of articles for teaching this week. I decided that while I was there I should look at the data for my thesis because I really need to get my ass in gear on the analysis. While I was in the library, I sat across from a guy and a girl who looked fairly young. I had my headphones in and originally thought that they were speaking German.  I could not for the life of me understand what they were saying. At one point I got up to get my printing, and when I came back, I didn’t put my headphones back in. Turns out they were speaking English. Most of it still sounded like mumbled gibberish, but out of the blue, the guy says, “I wonder how the throat works? Like, does it go up here (I couldn’t see, but I’m assuming he went up his neck and to his forehead)? The girl answered, “Not that high.” Then they went back to the mumbling language that I am still not convinced is English, and I decided that it was time for me to leave before I gave into the urge to tell them that maybe if they spent more time studying they would know simple things like the way the throat works.

On a less cringy note, the best thing I heard today was a video my sister sent of her oldest running around at the park while her youngest babbled in her lap, almost as if he was narrating the scene. She sends me a lot of baby videos and they never fail to make me feel better about everything.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 46

Be prepared for a long post. I’ll apologise in advance for it. The challenge for this week is to tell the stories behind the tattoos that I have.

I have more than 20, so I will try to be brief.

2 stars on the top of my right foot. Worst 3 1/2 minutes of my life. I was 19 in Las Vegas with my mom and my cousins, and we decided that it would be a good idea to get tattoos. I had seen a photo of a model who had two stars on her foot and I loved the way it looked and knew that it would be easy to cover with shoes when I needed to look ‘professional’.

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3 cherry blossoms down my spine. I got this one in Merced at the same place that I got the hula girl. My mom and brother came to visit me for the weekend, and we all got tattooed together. The artist who did the flowers was this big scary looking guy, and I remember him telling a story about having to wear a pink tux for a wedding. He said that people made fun of him, and I asked if he took people outside and kicked their ass in the parking lot. He laughed and was so sweet to me while he did the flowers.

Hebrew lettering on my back. This was a birthday gift from the wombmate for my 21st birthday. I got this done at a shop that she likes, and I hated the experience. The people were rude, and the artist put the stencil on upside down the first time, and then made me feel like shit when I almost didn’t catch it. What’s even better, is that now that I have had the chance to travel the world, people who actually speak Hebrew have informed me that my name is spelt in a strange way, and now they love to correct me. I love it though, and it has sparked some great conversations.

Scottish pinup girl. This was a birthday present to myself when I turned 26, and it was the first tattoo I got in Scotland. Studio XIII is an amazing place. I saw the tattoo the first time I visited Scotland with my mom, and went back and got the tattoo before I left Scotland after the MSc. The owner of the shop drew the tattoo, and the shop was so happy that someone wanted to get that as a permanent work of art.1010455_594964092085_588174323_n

Vegas Showgirl. I got this tattoo to celebrate my grandmother. She died when I was a kid, and on the 15th anniversary of her death, I got the tattoo on my back to always have a bit of her with me.  I got a Vegas showgirl because my favourite photo of my grandma is one she had taken in Las Vegas. It is one of those funny photos where they take your head and put it on someone else’s body. She looks like a showgirl and she used to tell people that is what she did before she had my mom. I still have the picture. I used to carry it in my wallet, but I am worried that I will destroy it, so now it is in my bedroom where I can see it all the time. This was my second tattoo done by Joe.

Mermaid on the inside of my right ankle. This was a birthday gift for myself when I turned 23. This was the first time I went to Classic Tattoo in Fullerton, the first time I met Joe, and the first time I got a Sailor Jerry Tattoo. The best choice I ever made. This has started a long-standing tradition of visiting Joe and getting tattooed by him. I love mermaids, love rum, and love the idea of having American traditional tattoos. This is one of my favourite tattoos and gets me a lot of attention.

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Sailor Jerry hula girl. Yet another masterpiece done by Joe. This was a birthday present to myself when I turned 24 (I think). I went with 4 of my friends and had a great time. They came to dinner at my house after, and my mom showed them baby pictures and we laughed all night. I love Sailor Jerry and the style of tattoos that Norman Collins did, so this was an extra special treat. The tattoo is on my right shin, and I have a dream of decorating my whole right leg in Sailor Jerry tattoos.

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Martini girl on the back of my right leg. Another Sailor Jerry and another tattoo with Joe. This finishes off the tattoos on my right leg for the moment.

Hula girl on the inside of my left ankle. When I was a kid, Crazy Shirts was a huge deal. They are known for their funny shirt designs, and they had shops everywhere. My parents took us to Hawaii and while we were there, my mom bought me a Crazy Shirt with a hula girl on it. The shirts come with a sticker, and I held on to that sticker for years. When I turned 20, I decided that I wanted it to be with me forever. I got the tattoo in Merced, and I loved showing it off at uni because no one I knew there had tattoos. My mommy and wombmate both have the tattoo as well.

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Bonus, a photo with Joe.

Celtic knot on my right wrist. A very nice Brazilian man tattooed me in Ireland. My mommy and the wombmate also got the tattoo.

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Hamsa. This was the most painful tattoo that I have. It is on the underside of my left arm, and it was sore for almost a month. It really is beautiful though. The Hamsa is a symbol of protection in many cultures.  It translates to the hand of God and wards off evil. I have the tattoo on the inside of my arm because it rests against my heart when my arm is down.

My kitty’s paw prints. I got them right before I moved to Scotland. My baby had to stay in California, so now I can always have a bit of him with me.

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Hot air balloon from Estonia. This was my first watercolour tattoo. The girl that did it was 23 and so nice. I had a great time. It took 4 hours and was a bit painful, but I love it.

Suitcases. My best friends got this tattoo for me as a birthday present. I love it, not only because I love to travel, but because it reminds me of them.

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Heart and anchor. The wombmate and I got these as charity tattoos. Joe did them and the money from the tattoos went to the Children’s Hosptial. Tim Hendricks, a very famous tattoo artist bought Classic Tattoo and saved the shop from having to close down, so it was no hardship to get tattooed and support a good cause. It is on the back of my left arm.

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Mother/Daughter infinity tattoo. I made my mom get this tattoo with me on her last trip to Edinburgh. I had it done at Studio XIII, and love it.

Geometric map of the world. This is one of my favourite tattoos. This is my wanderlust tattoo. It is the one that everyone always asks about, and the one that really shows my love of travel. These two tattoos take up the inside of my left arm.

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My grandmother’s signature. The same artist who did the mother/daughter tattoo put my grammy’s signature on my arm. It is in a place that I can see it every day since I can’t see the showgirl. He was really great about making sure it looks exactly like the paper that I brought him.

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Pineapple. The heterolifemate and I got matching pineapple tattoos while she was living in Scotland. Pineapples are the international symbol of hospitality. Travellers used to put pineapples outside their front door when they returned from their travels to let people know that they could come and hear about the adventures and share an exotic snack.

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Okay, that is not the best photo of the pineapple, but this is an amazing bar in Bosnia and an all-around fantastic shot.

Sister tattoo. I made the wombmate get stick figure sister tattoos with me when I snuck home for a bit last year. I love them. It makes me miss her a little less since I know that she has one too. Joe did mine because he loves me and made time for me.

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Russian nesting doll. I got this for my 30th birthday. I survived my 20s, and went to see Joe when I was in California….because no trip to California would be complete without a visit to Joe. This reminds me of my trip to Budapest for Christmas. That was the first time I ever spent Christmas by myself. It was both tough and exhilarating at the same time.

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Paper aeroplane. I got this tiny tattoo in Athens. We had spent the day seeing all of the history and culture of the city, and then I stumbled upon this amazing shop. The men who worked there were hilarious. They were friendly and told me that they really liked all of my tattoos because they showed that I had a unique soul. It is one of the nicest compliments that I have ever gotten.

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Last, but not least, the newest addition to my art collection is an origami flamingo. I now have a complete sleeve on my left arm, and this flamingo is by far my favourite tattoo. The same artist who did my grandma’s signature, the mother/daughter tattoo and the pineapple did this one. I call him Frank. I like to think that if I was an animal I would be a flamingo, so having one tattooed on me makes me feel less awkward and weird.

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So there you have it, my art collection and the story behind each piece. They are great conversation starters, and I think they make me just a little bit cooler.

The Scamp in Macedonia

It is with a heavy heart that I write about the passing of my granddad Verle. He wasn’t really my granddad, but just the same, he is someone who deserves to be acknowledged.

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Verle was a spunky one. All of his WWII stories had a happy ending. He met a general….then slept with the general’s daughter. He was in Egypt meeting a prince….the princess slept with him. My mom always wanted him to come to her classroom to talk to her students, but knew she couldn’t because none of his stories were safe for work. He refused to go to the events at the senior centre because he said all the people there were too old. When my dad was having a hard time with the death of my step-brother, Verle told him to bring the ashes to his house so Eric would have a good view of the lake and could be at peace. He had a taste for Scottish vodka, and he was always humming and whistling. He was a great father, brother, granddad, and great granddad, veteran and friend. The world is going to be a little duller without him in it.

For the last five years or so, my dad has been the only person looking after him. My dad went to all the doc appointments, made sure that the cabin was always clean and in good working order, and all but killed himself as a caretaker. He was with my granddad when he died, and told him that it is was okay to go, and to stay out of trouble. I’m really sad that I was not there to see him one more time, but I am really hoping now that this means my dad can work on healing and taking care of himself for a bit.

It makes me wish I could go back to California.

It also makes me think about Lake Ohrid in Macedonia. Verle would have liked it there. It was one of the places we were shortchanged on seeing, but I have a feeling I will be going back there to try and get some writing done before I hand in my thesis.

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Macedonia is a beautiful place. I realized how dumb I was when the trip started and I thought Macedonia was a part of Greece. It is a city in Greece, but it there is also a country (and a very contentious legal battle for the use of the name). I could have stayed by the lake for a week. Unfortunately we got half an evening there.

We then went to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. This is one of the most unique places I have ever been. It’s like Disneyland for adults (or at least, that is what Busabout says). There are more statures in the city than people.  Every time you turn around you see another statue.

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I feel really bad, but to be honest, I cannot really say a whole lot about Macedonia because I do not think I really got to spend enough time there. I would like to go back and really spend some time there, and I would tell people to go there, but this one was a bit of a blur in the trip for me.