Saturday, August 31, 2013

Retreating in TN

I have always been better at writing when I have concentrated times to focus.  Now, I've read all (e.g., a few) the books that talk about writing your dissertation a little each day...but that just isn't as effective for me.

About a month ago, I was talking with my dad about the possibility of utilizing his timeshare in Florida for a writing retreat.  After going through options and possibilities, we realized it wasn't going to work.  However, a couple days later my dad got an email about some spots in Tennessee that were trying to get rid of their rentals over Labor Day weekend.


After working out some details, my dad was able to secure a one bedroom condo for my getaway.  Knowing a few others who also needed to do some writing, I invited Kristin and Mallory along.  Kristin (who is working on her PhD at University of Denver) found a flight from Denver to Atlanta and the plan began to come together.

Kristin flew into town on Friday morning, I picked her up and we were headed to Tennessee.  Although no good plan isn't complete without some hiccups, right?  On Friday as I was leaving Athens, I realized I had left the confirmation of the condo at home.  No biggie, just go back.  As I was yet again leaving Athens I realized I forgot something else...

Box of books (check)
Snacks (check)
Directions (check)
Blanket in case it is cold in the condo (check)
Clean apartment to come home to (check)
Backpack with computer & iPad... (ummm, no)

Yep, I really left without my backpack that had my computer and iPad.  How is one to write on a writing retreat without a computer?  No, paper & pencil will not do.

So I turned my car back around and picked up my backpack and hit the road (again).  Needless to say, I was a bit late in picking Kristin up from the airport.

We arrived safely in Fairfield Glad last evening.  We checked in, got keys, and were directed to the concierge.  The woman began asking me questions...

Concierge: Are you over 25?
Me: yes
Concierge: Is there a Mr. Dean?
Me: ummm, no.
Concierge: So you're single. (this wasn't really a question)
Me: (blank stare) uh, yeah.
Concierge: (proceeds to find my name on a list and mark a giant S beside my name)

Kristin and I looked at each other and laughed; not sure why that was necessarily.  After we got settled in the condo, we went to pick up some groceries before Mallory arrived.  On the way to the store Kristin and I both noted that the clock in my car wasn't right.  Strange, we thought.  Kristin mentioned she might have bumped the hour ahead when she was moving stuff into the condo.  We went about our business thinking nothing of it.

Later that evening when we were back and before Mallory arrived Kristin commented....

K: I thought we were two hours ahead of Denver time
Me: We are
K: So why does my computer say 9:11 (still set to Denver time) and your phone says 10:11 (supposedly set to the current time)
Me: Oh my...we're on CENTRAL time.

Clearly, it was the first time either of us realized we had crossed the time zone.  Now, in our defense, Tennessee is divided between Eastern and Central time it's perfectly logical we didn't know what time it was in Fairfield Glade, TN.

I digress.  Today has been a productive day already, and we're here until Tuesday!  You may be wondering what I'm working on since I recently defended my first three chapters...well, I'm revising based on my committees suggestions, working on my IRB form (which requests the university allow me to actually do research on humans), recruitment emails for participation in my study, and other things related to actually doing my research study.

Now I should probably get back to working on the other tasks at hand, but I needed a mental break.  I'm grateful for my dad's generosity in letting me (us) use this timeshare for our writing retreat!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Interim Associate Director Position

Two weeks ago today, I was approached with what seemed like an unusual proposition.  After searching for an Associate Director of Student Life for International Student Life (yep, true title) at UGA, I was told they were going fail the search, reconvene in the fall, and they wanted to know if I'd be interested in serving as the interim for the fall semester.

What an honor to be asked, right?!  But now what?!  Well, I asked for a day or two to consider the offer... and I prayed.  I also talked to wise counsel including a couple friends, my family, and my supervisor, Jan.  Jan, the supervisor who I just love working with, and by taking this position I'd move under different supervision.

I weighed all the pros and cons and as I became more and more excited about the opportunity, my prayer became, "God, if you don't want me to take this, close the door."  I prayed this because I knew there were things that would still need to be worked out (i.e., working and school, and I live on campus...and making sure I could still live on campus).  On Thursday, I spoke with TW (who would be my supervisor) and told him I was indeed interested.  We then got to working on details.  Friday we exchanged the information we found out and came up with many possibilities that just weren't seeming to work out.

The problem is that when you work full time, you have to be on a tuition assistance program (TAP) in order to get your credits paid for.  Apparently, it was going to take the Board of Regents signing off on it to make it happen for the fall semester.  This was clearly not an option.  We then discussed me not registering for courses.  This also was not an option.  We talked about me registered for 6 units and them paying me more to accomodate this.  This ended up being more of a headache too.  Meaningwhile, in talking with others one of my biggest concerns was having time to continue working on my dissertation.  Mallory suggested I try to negotiate for 30 hours a week.  I thought this was a wonderful idea, but frankly, I wasn't sure TW would go for it.

Friday at 3pm, TW and I meet to discuss options and he had an offer.  What he proposed was that they bump my assistantship up from 13 hours a week to 20 hours, I work 30 hours a week, and they pay me the extra hours I work in the fall throughout the spring semester.

I almost sat in awe...but jumped at the offer!  I almost teared up sitting in his office thinking about how God provided this opportunitiy, and the flexibility of 30 hours a week, even without me asking.  Furthermore, as much as it is a wonderful opportunity, and a resume filler, it also is a financial blessing as my car transmission is on the fritz, not to mention all the extra costs associated with my final year of this PhD program.  Again, God provides.

After accpeting, I then went to speak with Jan about it!  The next part is where I really did cry.  After talking with Jan, there was some confusion about how the money would work out.  She trusted TW to be fair, but wanted to make sure I was being compensated.  Long story short, her and another colleague began crunching numbers to make sure what I was offered was comparable to working full time.  For me, the tears came as I realized just how much these people cared about me.  I have loved working with them, and frankly not working with Jan this semester was on the list of cons.  But to see their care and concern for me was moving.  Luckily, in the spring, I will go back to my assistantship and work with them again!

So last Monday, August 12th, I started my role as Interim Associate Director of Student Life for International Student Life.

Little did I know that three days later the division of student affairs would go through a reorganization, I'd get a title bump, and become part of the Vice Presidents leadership team.

But that's another story for another day.

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Most Popular Post

I've been blogging for over 5 years.  I mainly use my blog as a journal of sorts and to keep my family and friends updated on my life.  However, every now and then a random stranger will appear on my blog.

Why, you ask?!

Well, many of these lucky individuals most likely put "plopping before and after" into a google search where my blog post appears to be the fifth link.

Yes friends, my plopping post has been viewed 724 times.

But that's not my most popular blog post.  What?!  Any guesses?

My most popular blog post was the Jugular of the Jabberwocky coming in at 1,993 views.  Ridiculous.   Although my total blog count is at 13,861 that single post still accounts for the most hits to my blog, and about 15% of my views.  Just thought you should know.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


My grandpa had a green thumb.  He grew all sorts of things when they lived up on the hill: veggies, fruits, trees, flowers, and everything in between.  I wish I had that same gifting. I love flowers, and I'd love to grow my own veggies & herbs.

In the spring I bought some Lantana and Black Eyed Susans.  The Black Eyed Susan has grown like crazy and the Lantana has been a pain... well, more of an itch.  Yep, I'm one of the few individuals who breaks out in a rash if I touch the plant.  That makes pruning real fun.

However, the bigger accomplishment is a little flower that has sprouted from a seed.  That's right friends, I planted SEEDs and amazingly enough...I didn't kill them (yet).  The little plant has a fair amount of greenery and five or six little flowers.

For me, it's the simple things in life that bring me great joy.  Like walking out of my apartment and seeing my little potted garden and the most amazing little flowers that have grown from seeds planted in the dirt.  Amazing.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Incarnation: Presence, Sacrifice, and Love

When I was a hall director, July was full of training.  We'd learn protocols and processes for everything from move in, to changing light bulbs, to emergency situations, to conflict resolution... and eventually to move out.  I loved working in housing.  There were rarely dull days, and being able to live-in was a wonderful opportunity to see students at their best and worst, and visa-versa.  As I would prepare for the upcoming year, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, God would often give me a verse or song that would somehow be exactly what I needed for that season.

As another, and hopefully final, school year (at least for me as-student) approaches, I've been asking God to reveal truth through scriptures or songs.

One of my songs from last year was by Steven Curtis Chapman, Definition of Me. The song is included below.  These words spoke deep meaning to me and reminded me to find my worth and value in Christ...despite the many, many, things that were telling me to find my worth elsewhere (i.e., what others think of me; if I pass prelims; if I defend before/after so-and-so).  So as this year was approaching, I began looking for, and asking God to reveal something to me for this upcoming year.

And then it hit me.  Staring me straight in the face, literally.  On my bathroom mirror I had three words, presence, sacrifice, and love.

Last Christmas I was up in Portland and we were headed to my sister's church for service (when I'm up there, we usually rotate between mom's church & CJ's).  Anyway, I remember the music being loud (I think my mom may have even pulled out her phone for a decibel count) and the young pastor who looked like he belonged in Portland (e.g., skinny jeans, sweater).  Although I cannot remember everything from that service, I remember him talking about incarnation and what it meant for Jesus to become flesh and dwell among us.  He spoke that for Jesus, incarnation was really about three things: presence, sacrifice, and love.

For me, those words resinated for weeks to come.  So much that when I was finally home, I wrote them on my mirror & dry eraser board (yes, it's been cleaned since January... I just keep rewriting those words).  I want them to be a reminder for me to live like Jesus did.  He knew he came to make the ultimate sacrifice, and yet, he lived in the present making the most of his days.  Furthermore, his sacrifice was out of the most amazing love, a love that surpasses my understanding.

Thus, as I broach another academic year that is guaranteed to be challenging and celebratory, my hope is to practice presence when I'm with people, look for ways to sacrifice my time and resources, and love others, even when it's difficult.

Now I need to go practice some presence with my dissertation.

Definition of Me
Here come those words again
I run for cover, I’m dodging them.
But still they seem to find their way
around my best defense
Here come those little thoughts
of all I ought to be but I’m not
I try talking to myself
but I’m still not convinced
I’m good, I’m bad, I’m everything in between oh
I’m this, I’m that, but really God we both know


It is Your love that defines me
and Your love that reminds me
it’s not what I do
This life I live, You have given
and in You I am hidden
This is what I know is true
that the definition of me is You

This ladder never ends
I climb up then we slide down again
Still they say you’ve not arrived
until you reach the top
But Your kingdom’s upside down
it is the servant who wears the crown
First is last and last is first
and You’re all that I’m not
‘Cause I’m weak, You’re strong, I’m empty ‘til You fill me
I sing this song to keep myself remembering

I have been made by You
I have been saved by You
All that I am is all because of You
I’m weak, You’re strong, I’m empty but You fill me
I’m singing this song to keep myself remembering


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Facing Forward to Fall Fun (LOVE an alliteration)

I realize it isn't fall yet, however, on Monday, we will welcome back the graduate assistants and on August 12th another school year will begin.


I'm looking forward to this final fall (Lord willing) at The University of Georgia for many reasons.  First, I love the season of fall.  It bring crisp air, vibrant colors, and lots of things to look forward to, such as:

On Sunday, my friend Tiffanie (from Baylor) will be moving down to Athens to begin her doctoral studies within higher education (another program, but still).  AND, we will be neighbors...literally, she is going to live right next door.  Super excited face (for those who know Tiffanie, you understand the reference).

Moreover, all the GAs will return on Monday for the Dean of Students orientation, for which I'm responsible.  We move students in on Tuesday (physically move them in), and next Monday classes begin. Yikes.

I'm also excited about a writing retreat with my friend Kristin over labor day weekend in Tennessee, a visit from my sister in late October, the ASHE conference in November, and...

Cabo for Thanksgiving!

Yep, I'm headed back to Cabo with Megan's family!  I'm so excited (and thankful I had frequent flyer miles to pay for the flight) AND for their generosity in the invite!

From there Christmas is right around the corner and that means a trip (hopefully) back to California and Oregon.

Like I said, lots to look forward to...and yet, I don't want to wish the weeks away.  In these moments, I try to practice presence, albeit my excitement!