Saturday, April 29, 2006

Good news, bad weather, and procrastination

The weather's been beautiful all week. Sunny, warm, the type of spring weather that just makes you want to spend all your time outside. Today is Saturday. Today is the day I could spend all day outside. Guess what the weather looks like today? Crappy. Cold, cloudy and drizzly. Stupid weather.

So, the good news. My professor e-mailed me about my syllabus (he wants me to make a few changes: I guess I'll think about it). And he also mentioned that my pre-lim answer was really good with an exclamation point. I was very excited about this, because I haven't gotten feedback from anyone yet. Then, I was talking to the professor I TA for and told him one of my professor's had let me know I had done a good job. And he said, was it _____ because he told me you did a great job. Yes, I did so good, he's telling other people. He's seeking them out in the hallways to say, "did you hear about how great Stacia's pre-lim answer was?" Ok, he's not doing that, but it's still cool to know that he is talking about it. Makes me feel good.

Thank you for all the wonderful comments about my red couch. Sometimes I feel funny putting up stuff like that, but when I get so many encouraging comments it makes me feel better. Maybe my blog has become my new red couch. Wes promised me that when we get room, I can get another red couch and I can pick it out myself. He really is a great guy.

Let me tell you what a great guy he is. He's a little cash strapped right now. He's moving, I'm moving, he has some credit card debt and we're planning a wedding. Now, he is receiving a huge bonus in September for being in the navy for 15 years, but until then, it's tight. I have received some money from my grandparents for school and I've managed to save most of it but the plan was to use it for dissertation research trips, if I couldn't get other funding. I told Wes I would send him a check. It wouldn't wipe me out and I know that the money situation is just temporary until September. Yesterday, my husband sold one of his stamps instead. He collects stamps, so it's not like he got a couple hundred dollars. It was a little more than that. For one stamp. He told me he just felt funny about taking my school money, even though we're married. See, the first time I got married, my husband had a bit of debt and I used ALL my school money to pay off his bills. And then when it was gone, he told me we didn't have any money for me to go to school. I know that now, Wes will make sure I finish no matter what, but I thought it was sweet that he would sacrifice his beloved stamps to make sure I had my safety account for school. Because he doesn't want me to ever feel like I'm in a position of dependence on him either. He's a great guy. I love him.

Paper grading update: Did you know that reading is an excellent way to gain historical knowledge? Now that I know that, I'm going to quit banging my head on the wall and start reading instead. I think some of these papers were written by obviousman. And one student quoted the back cover of the book: THE BACK COVER OF THE BOOK. And stated he was quoting the back of the book, instead of finding the quote in the actual book. Lazy MF.

I guess I should finish procrastinating and start working on that pesky dissertation proposal. It's not going to write itself. I wonder if I read something that would help?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Red couch=New woman

This is what part of my livingroom looks like. Because I'm moving, my furniture is for sale, and I sold my couch and lavished yesterday. The thought of losing my beautiful red couch makes me sick. Why? Well, let me tell you a story.

In the summer of 2000 I found myself professionally successful. I had an MA and I had been accepted into a Ph.D program. I was also a supervisor at the company I worked for and I was making pretty good money. However, I felt like a failure as a woman.

I married a man nine years older than me when I was 21 years old. This man was emotionally, verbally, sexually and physically abusive. I left him 2 days after Christmas in 1997. I was 23 years old. When the divorce was finalized, I had been 24 for 3 months. When I left, I took the bedroom suite I had had as a child and teenager. I also took two bookshelves and two armchairs. I left him with everything else. I dated for a while and then ended up in a relationship with a depressed drug addict. I sold the armchairs and stored my other furniture and moved in with him. It was over by July 2000. I was 26 years old, with no furniture and a string of very bad relationships behind me. I felt like a failure. I felt like worse than a failure. Obviously there was something so wrong with me that everyone I had a relationship with rejected me or had to do mind altering subsistences to "deal" with me. Love was apparently not enough, and perhaps, didn't really exist.

I needed furniture. I bought a double bed and then went hunting for a red couch. It had to be red. Everyone thought I was weird. Why red? One of my guy friends told me that men would walk into my apartment, see the red couch and think I was into power, that I was aggressive, angry and was a bitch. Well, I was powerful, if I was a guy, I would have been called ambitious, I was angry at myself for allowing men to treat me the way I had been treated and again, if I were a man, they would say I had large balls rather than being a bitch. I wanted my red couch, and I searched for months before I found it. The perfect red couch with a matching loveseat. I've had them since August 2000. Since then, no matter how bad my day has been, when I come home, I smile. When I sit on them, I feel like they are embracing me and reminding me that as a woman I am powerful, ambitious, in control of my own fate and I HAVE BIGGER BALLS THAN ANY MAN OUT THERE!!!! I love my couch and loveseat.

And now I have sold them. And my friend who bought them will sit on them and like that they're comfortable and in good condition, but he will not love them like I did. He will not understand why I will cry when he comes to pick them up. To him, they will be pieces of furniture. To me, they represent my decision to be me. They helped me figure out who I was and how I wanted to define myself in the future. I told Wes that at soon as we have room, I will buy another red couch. For my office. My own red couch that I don't have to share with anyone else. I will always have a red couch. Because no matter how good life is, it never hurts to remember how far you've come. And when life gets bad, it's always nice to know that something familiar is there for you, to remind you that you can keep going. I think everyone should have their own red couch.

And since no blog is complete without complaining about how stupid the students are: I'm grading 10 page papers. They are way worse than the first batch of papers. The worst, a student compared the Nazi camps to the Nationalist Socialist camps. If you don't know what's wrong with that, that's ok. You're not in my class. So I'll tell you. Nazi is the abbreviated version of National Socialist. They are the same thing. THE SAME THING!!! They were supposed to be comparing the STALINIST camps to the NAZI camps. Not the NAZI camps to the NAZI camps. That's just one of the many issues with these papers. They are lovely. I hate my students.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

School update

Hi everyone,

it's taking me forever to figure out what my schedule is now that I'm not doing pre-lims. Except that I'm supposed to orally defend them, and anything else my committee wants to ask, but even though it should be next week, isn't for three more weeks. Just enough time to forget everything. Right now, I'm working on a syllabus. I'll post it for feedback when I'm through with it. It's hard to come up with something different to teach.

Anyway, the department let Sean turn in his pre-lims a day late. He seems to think that it'll all be fine in the end. I'm not sure about that, but, who knows. I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter because I'll still hit the job market before him and I will interview better than he will. My business was done, done right and that's all I should worry about. Can't bother with his crap. Although, it does bother me. But, I just need to get over it.

Today, I went to lunch with some women I used to work with and we periodically get together. They got me gifts for getting married. Now isn't that just the sweetest thing ever. I really don't expect anyone to get us anything. They know I love to cook, so they got me a recipe box and they each contributed a couple of recipes and they got me a gift card. It was just so nice to see them all again. And, they got me something that was personal and useful. Why do I say it that way? Well, Andrea sent us a vase. It's beautiful, but that's really a gift you would expect from someone who doesn't know you that well. Like your husband's boss, who also bought us a larger beautiful vase. I guess he'll just have to get me flowers a lot!

I guess that's about it. I need to clean and do laundry. I'm going to start selling my stuff, and that makes me a little sad. Especially the thought of selling my couch and loveseat. But, I'll write about that later. Now, I want to read. For fun!!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Big News!!!

My baby sister got engaged last weekend.
I am very happy for her,
this is what she still looks like to me.

Wasn't she just the most beautiful little girl ever?

But, I forget, she's not a little girl anymore.

She is a young woman now.

Congratulations to her and J.

He is a wonderful man and he loves my sister very much.

It'll be almost two years before they get married.

I wish them all the best and the most happiness ever.

I love you my little beast.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Shout Out!!!

Do I look old?

I e-mailed in my pre-lims at 1:53p today. Thank God that part is over. Before I start to fill you in on all the pre-lim drama (I'll fill you in on everything else later), I need to give a shout out to everyone who helped me the past two weeks:

Nadia and Sarah for TAing my classes this last week.
Nadia for making me food!!! And it was good.
Holly for sending me an encouraging e-card.
Venus for bringing me back gummy bears from Germany.
Sarah W. for the German chocolate.
Mom, Camille and Dad for reading some of my essays.
And everyone who sent me encouraging comments and e-mails.

So, here's the pre-lim drama. I was pre-limming at the same time as my friend Sean. Sean is a fifth year graduate student who just finished his thesis. This is very rare, and on the verge of getting kicked out of the program (handbook says thesis should be finished in the second year, but about half the department does it in their third year). Well, I ran into Sean last night at the library. I was there to finish up one of my essays and I still had another one to finish. I felt like I was a little bit behind, but it was still doable. Sean looked really stressed out. He kept talking about how he felt like a real asshole for not starting sooner. He too had 7 questions to answer in 14 days. But, one of his professors gave him his questions a week early (we have 2 of the same professors and 2 different). I asked him how far he had gotten, and he answered . . . . he was almost finished with the first 1. one. ONE. This was at seven at night. The pre-lims were due today at four. That is less than 24 hours. And he had only typed up ONE question. I asked him if he had at least started typing any of the other answers yet. He answer NO. And, he acted like he didn't even know what questions he was going to answer. I don't know if he turned anything in. If he didn't, he will probably get kicked out. Even if he did, they're probably crap, so he will probably fail and then get kicked out. I don't understand. And I don't look forward to talking to him again because I don't know what to say. He is my friend, but I worked hard to get my answers in on time and I would be a little bit pissed off he got an extension. But, I doubt they'll do that.

Anyway, that's not my business. My business is done and turned in. Now, I wanted to start reading a book, but I have a huge headache and a ton of stuff to do. I have to write a syllabi, grade papers and start my dissertation proposal. I also have to start exercising again, because I feel crappy, and I need to figure out how to get rid of this headache which has been a constant pretty much the entire semester. I also need to cut back on caffeine, because I've been having a lot of stomach issues. But, I got my hair cut last week. I feel cute!!! Well, I think I'm just going to veg out for the rest of the night. I'll fill you in on everything else later.

good to be back in the land of the living,

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why does she hate me so?

I woke up yesterday and realized why I didn't like my answer to paper #5. So I fixed most of it yesterday, which means I'm a day behind my scheduled answers. However, since I was scheduled to finish on Friday, but the answers aren't due until Monday, it's ok if I'm running a little behind. But here's my problem (besides the fact that I'm finding this process incredibly futile), this is the second question I have to answer for my advisor.

Most classic works of Soviet history focus on events in Moscow and Leningrad. During the past two decades, however, historians have done more and more local studies, shifting their attention to other cities, provinces, and republics. Write an essay discussing how such studies have or have not changed our vision of the Soviet past. What are the strengths of such studies? What are the weaknesses? Be sure to discuss at least two works, which focus on different spheres of Soviet history (social, culture, intellectual currents, politics, and so on). Be sure to compare them with works that (explicitly or implicitly) focus on Moscow and Leningrad. (Be sure to discuss works that you do not discuss in Part A).

It's that last part that's killing me. Why? Because, people are doing local studies because the archives are open. I think she did that to see how creative I can be. It's making it a bit difficult. And, it's 4:30p and I really want to finish this question today. I haven't started typing it yet. Once I do, it shouldn't take that long. It's just finding the motivation to do it.

Finally, I have new readers. Hi new readers!!! Glad to have you. Ironically, I'd like to think this blog is usually more interesting than it has been lately (it's probably not though).

Ok, back to the localities.

Monday, April 10, 2006


My brain in turning into mush. Mush, mush, mush. Hehehehehehehehe!!!!! Let me out!!!

So, I am almost finished with paper number five. I will write paper number six tomorrow. Paper number seven will be Wed. thru Friday. I gets more time because it is 15 pages. Then, Sat. and Sun. I read them all again, realize they're crap and that I'm going to fail and cry for the rest of the weekend. After that, I slip into an angry despondency and wonder if I can sue the university for mental cruelty. After I send the papers in, I get really, really drunk. And then I don't care anymore. There you have it, my to do list for the rest of the week.

I was going to wait until the end of the semester before I read anything for fun, but I think that after this experience, I'm going to read a novel immediately. For fun. I'm going to read a fictional book for fun. You know which book I'm going to start with. . . . (wait for it) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Oh the irony. (And I'm serious. I bought the book over Christmas break and haven't had a chance to read it yet).

Back to the mush makers. Today, this is the question that is destroying my life:
Some historians of the Soviet Union regard the past 15 years (1991-present) as an era of an "archival revolution." Other historians of the Soviet Union caution against "archival fetishism," and maintain that the "opening of the archives" has not fundamentally altered our understanding of the Soviet past. In your opinion has there been an archival revolution? Have new archival materials changed our understanding of the Soviet Party/State and society or reaffirmed our understanding of the Soviet Party/State and society? Have other factors affected the development of the post-1991 historiography of the USSR? In answering this essay question, be sure to discuss at least two post-1991 works that deal with different aspects of Soviet history. Be sure to compare these works with earlier works on the same or similar topics.

Hope you all have a more normal life than I do, or at least less "intellectual".

Saturday, April 08, 2006


The building I work in also houses the music and art department. Last week when I came to work, the stairwell was decorated with various chalk drawings. I took some pictures. Not only are the pictures beautiful and cool, but I played clarinet in highschool, so, kind of a neat tie-in. Anyway, the pictures made me happy, so I thought I'd share them. Especially since my blog has been such a bummer for the last week.

Speaking of prelims. I finished question #3 yesterday. It was: Neil MacMaster charts the rise of newly virulent forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and anti-black racism, in the last three decades of the nineteenth century. In this way, he links the reinvigoration of European racism with the rise of a new militant nationalism. How can you explain this link between race and nationalism? How is it connected to the rigid gender hierarchies that predominated in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century?
I finished the question on page eight (they're officially only supposed to be 5 pages) and I only answered the half about anti-Semitism, but not anti-black. I guess that's what the oral exam is for. Sigh.

Today, I'm going to answer this question: In the period 1880-1914 the nature of Jewish politics in Europe underwent a fundamental transformation. By choosing the examples of at least two political movements, identify the nature of the transformation, explain how and why new political movements arose and analyze their significance.

I already know what I want to write, now I just have to find my notes and write it. I'm hoping to be done early this evening so I can start on the next question.

Hope everyone has a much more relaxing weekend than I will.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


I've just finished question #2 (Please see previous post for the question). I wanted to finish it last night, but ended up with some sort of stomach bug (I'll spare you the details) and thus, didn't work on it last night. It's also a difficult question. Why? Well, because many historians view the Holocaust as a result of Jewish emancipation. I don't want to go there. I avoided answering the Holocaust question for a reason (Was the holocaust the consummation of European antisemitism and post-liberal politics? Or was it an aberration? Was the mass murder of European Jewry predictable from the perspective of 1870, 1914, 1933?) Why don't I want to answer that question? Because, how do you answer it? I don't believe that: yes, all Germans are rapid anti-semites and thus the Holocaust was inevitable. Nor do I believe that: no, the Holocaust was unpredictable and thus an aberration. History is never that simple. It's never black/white, yes/no. It's always in between. And it can be depressing. Besides, does it matter if emancipation was bad for the Jews and Judaism? I mean, we can't go back and change history. It happened. So I guess that yes, it was bad, and I'll tell you why. Without going into the Holocaust. Was it avoidable. No, it wasn't. Obviously, I'm attracted to depressing topics. I study Jews, women and Russia/USSR. Not the happiest topics in the world. I wonder if I should see a shrink about that? Anyway, I want to start my other women's question tonight, which also has to do with anti-semitism (male Jews were feminized and thus unable to belong to the nation). Then another Jewish question (about politics). Ok, time for the Simpsons. I need something to make me laugh.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You want to know WHAT???

I picked up the questions. And I have not thrown up yet. I am very proud of myself, as this is my normal nervous/scared reaction. Thankfully, I am a worrier, so usually, by the time something scary comes up, I've already thought of every possible scenario, usually including, but not limited to, space aliens and/or vampires. Therefore, I don't really throw up much. (Actually, the last time I remember throwing up from stress and not alcohol or illness, was when I got divorced (eight years ago) and the church elder came over to tell me that even though my husband was abusive (actually, he said I was lying about that), I should stay married to him. I threw up on him. I don't feel bad about it either. Even my parents seemed pleased.) Anyway. There were no huge surprises on the questions. But, I wish I had read more (how can I say that? You all have seen what I've read). Anyway, I started writing at 8:30 this morning, answering this question:
Historians frequently refer to the "decline" of the domestic system in the early twentieth century. What does this notion of "decline" mean exactly, and what factors are seen as contributing to it? How did women resist the domestic imperative in this period, and how were they encouraged to do so by their social, economic and political milieu?

By 1:00p I had ten pages, some crappy, some not so crappy. I'm going to "fix" it tomorrow and get it down to 7 pages, because it's too long. These answers are only supposed to be 5 pages, but look at that question, how do you do that? I completely neglected the working class in my paper and still felt like I only brushed the surface for the middle class. Oh well, I only have 14 days.

I have started my second question. It is: "The emancipation of European Jewry (circa 1648-1919) was an unmitigated failure. At its best, it was good for the Jews but was bad for Judaism. At its worst, it undermined the basis of Jewish communal life without offering either material or spiritual advantage. Through its abolition of the autonomous community emancipation brought the end of coherent Jewish life in Europe." You may answer this question for all of Europe, or by focusing on a particular country or group of countries.

I'm focusing on a group of countries: mostly Germany, but also Poland/Lithuania, England and France. In five pages. (yeah, right) My other Jewish question focuses on Russia and we're not supposed to do overlapping answers, and besides, Russian Jews were not emancipated until 1917. I'm sure you all find this fascinating and are glued to your computer screens. But this is what I've studied for, for, well, it seems like forever. This is my eleventh year at some sort of university, my seventh as a graduate student. These questions and answer will determine my future. Whether all those student loans were in vain. Whether I will be able to achieve my life-long dream of being a professor. It all boils down to these seven little questions in fourteen days. Ok, now I have to throw up.

Ok, if that weren't stressful enough, Wes is at sea. And he doesn't have internet access. And he can't call me. So, I talked to him on Sunday, and I'll talk to him again, probably on Saturday, but maybe on Friday. I hope I'll be able to tell him I'm already working on question five. I sure do miss him. And, this is his schedule from now until June. The navy sucks.

Back to the emancipation of the Jews. Oh, that previously mentioned student. He has not picked up his paper yet, which means he skipped lecture. Again. I don't feel bad giving him that F.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


I get my pre-lim questions tomorrow. Last night, I dreamt that I forgot to pick them up. See, I have EXACTLY 14 days to write them. We (the students) get to decide when we want to pick them, therefore, we have to plan very carefully. You don't want to pick them up too early in the morning, because then you either pull an all-nighter to get them finished, or you wake up and panic. You don't want to pick them up too late, because then you've wasted the entire "first" day. There is a science to this thing. So in my dream, I'm discussing American Idol with some overly obese former TV star, and I realize that the time has changed, and therefore, Jim will no longer be on campus (it was almost 5:oop), which meant, I couldn't get my questions until Tuesday. That would shave a day off of my time. And then some bug kept attacking me as I was trying to run to Jim's office to see if he was still there. I woke up kind of freaked out. Then I came and checked my e-mail and my friend Sarah, whom I miss very much (she's in Germany doing research for her dissertation), had e-mailed me a pep talk. She did her pre-lims last year. She's also a genius. She doesn't think so though. But she is. She's kind of like a history department legend. (Have you heard about Sarah? Smart Sarah? I've heard about her but I've never met her. Is she really a student here, or something the professors made up? Oh, she's real. I used to go swimming with her and I still e-mail with her. Really! You really know Sarah!?! OMG!!! Is she really as smart as everyone says? Yes, even smarter.) AND, one of our department's other students was over there for a conference and she's sending him back with German chocolate for Sean and I. GERMAN CHOCOLATE. That alone makes pre-lims worth it.

Today, instead of spending the whole day trying not to throw up, I've got a plan. I will clean my apartment and organize all my notes, notebooks, and articles. I will finish the book I need for teaching this week (I'm teaching this week because it's Solzhenitsyn) I'm not teaching next week though. I will probably play a game of AOE with my husband. We are going to go over everything we have to do before Oct. It is a lot, and he is freaking out. (He needs to move all his stuff, but he's out to sea 3 weeks out of every month. Makes it difficult to pack and move.). I think I might even give myself a pedicure. And I need to do laundry. I'll probably read over some notes too. I've decided I'm going to pick up my questions between 2 and 3 on Monday. That'll give me enough time on Monday night to decide which questions I'm answering and maybe start to outline the first one. But, I don't want to talk about that right now, or I'll freak out, and this day is about not freaking out.

I talked to Andrea this week. It's been almost a month and a half since we talked, and we have e-mailed a bit, but nothing serious. When she called this week, I answer. At first, she seemed a bit nervous because we haven't talked for a while. She let me know they've mailed our wedding gift. Ok, thanks. Then, she let me know that with their tax return, they were able to pay off her husband's car payment, and therefore, they had no more debt and could really start saving for that house. Then, she tells me that she's traveling a lot for work, up to Boston, so she figures that plane tickets might be cheaper from Boston to VA than from TX (huh?), so she wanted to make sure they were still getting an invite. And also, since work is paying for her plane ticket and a rental car (in Boston), her husband will be going with her at least once a month, so they can do little weekend trips (because 6 plane tickets to Boston is WAY cheaper than two to VA). They were looking to go to Scotland, but it's a little too much. Finally, she let me know she was leaving this week for that destination wedding of her CO-WORKER'S in Hawaii. As both Camille and Wes said: what the hell is wrong with this woman? But, as my friend and officemate Venus says "I'm over it!" I really just feel like, whatever. That's her stuff not mine and those are her choices. I have too many friends and family that love me to really worry about one little girl.

Finally, once my pre-lims and dissertation proposal are over, I'm going to start reading again. For fun. Books that I don't have to highlight and underline and write papers about. Books I can suggest to other people without saying, "You know this book is going to show up on McDonald's pre-lim questions," or "This would be a great book for your dissertation." Fun books. So, give me your book suggestions. (Even though I already have hundreds of books I haven't read yet, I'm always willing to spend more money at a bookstore.) Movies too (although I like books more). And DON'T FORGET TO CHANGE YOUR CLOCKS!!!