Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Final Post

Just for fun wish list for going back to school:

To Have
  • A bike for me and dw, and kids bike seats on the back of each of them
  • A helmet
  • Good bike locks for each of us
  • A laptop (I am crazy for the new lightweight Toughbook covertible, but hey, I'll even settle for a netbook...just something hopefully reliable I can use for notetaking and school work)
  • A Kindle (did you see the new Kindle is out and it is finally supposed to be readable in sun?)
  • A printer (turns out there is a charge per sheet for printing things out at school these days...phooey!)
  • Some clothes I feel comfortable in (time for the every-15-year wardrobe update that I can never afford LOL)
  • A fix to those little plumbing and electrical issues, etc., in the house that we can tolerate, but that we can't leave for a renter
  • And if I am getting really dreamy...maybe an iPad

To Shed
  • Our second car
  • My broken laptop
  • My house for 9 months out of the year
  • 50 pounds

Closing Out This Blog

So I will no longer be blogging on this blog, at least for the time being.  I do not know if I will return to make this blog into something else when I finally enter grad school for real.

In case anyone is wondering, I decided to defer enrollment at YDS by one year.  In the meantime, I have kindly been offered a one-class arrangement at one of the other schools to which I was accepted, and I will be dipping my toes in grad school life by attending that one class (which is held one evening per week) for the fall term.  I have registered for that class, and borrowed a few of the books required from the minister with whom I am working.  Fall term begins in early(ish) September.

In terms of my work and living arrangements, here is what has been established and what is still up in the air.  A committee met to look at my offers to continue working full-time, as well as their other staffing options.  They evaluated the situation, and decided to recommend that a search committee be formed and work on finding my replacement this year.  So I will be able to move to my school location and make a clean break.  I will need to find at least a part-time job in the new city in order to help keep a roof over my kid's heads and food on the table. 

The one painful thing that has occurred is that after the committee made its recommendations, the finance committee decided to recommend my replacement be hired at part-time to deal with finance shortfalls.  Since the whole conversation about me leaving was initiated because I couldn't work part-time, I am sure you can understand why this hurt me greatly.  That said, there were a number of factors considered in the original committee's recommendation to go into search, and that recommendation didn't stem from a desire to change directions, so I think what happened with the finance committee was largely that they backed into this position after it was determined I would be replaced.  I am working on letting that go.

We are hoping to be able to find renters for our home, but it is not looking particularly hopeful.  For this reason, we are also planning to save anything we get back in taxes in the coming year to cushion either a loss of rental income some months or a need to rent at a much lower amount than our mortgage.  I am not sure what we will do after the first year.  It may be that we attempt to sell the house as well, and just see what kind of offers we get, though we are reluctant right now to invest in preparing the house to sell it with the way the market is right now.  We will see.  I'm trying to just stay calm and take it one day at a time.

I want to thank the few of you who read this blog, who posted supportive messages, and kindly cheered me on when I thought I would drown in all this.  I also want to thank a few of you who took from your own money to make a donation toward the application fees and testing.  I simply would not have been able to apply without your help.  The money just wasn't there...that's a fact.  So thank you for your generosity because it made my dream of going to grad school come true.

I am still actively blogging, as I hope you are already aware.  I am blogging on religious leadership here:

I am also starting up a small business as a parenting coach, and you can find out all about that here:  If you are asked to login to see the site, it is because I have not yet opened for business.  I hope to be open within one month.  Please do come again.

My final post will be made momentarily.  It is really for my own purposes as an outlet.  Just for fun, I am making a wish list as I head off to school.  I know I am dreamin', but hey, that's what this blog has been all about.  After that, it is all serious business!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Future Blogging

So I am going to keep this blog up until I get through decisions about deferment and my negotiations at work.  Meanwhile, I've started what I think will be my next blog:  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My School

I will be attending Yale Divinity School.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Negotiation Dance

So I am in this awkward phase of the process.  I've picked my school, communicated my decisions, and now am waiting to hear back (hopefully I'll hear back) when the schools receive the letters.  But the most uncomfortable stuff is at work.  You'll recall I work in a non-ordained ministry in a congregation.

First, I've requested a deferment with the school, and now I have to figure out if I am going to be starting school this fall or next fall.  Still, I had to open up a conversation at work about the future of my employment.  I work in a field in which it can take a year to hire, so advance notice is really helpful.  In some ways it would be better to just be submitting my resignation.  Instead, I am conversing with them about whether me working on a limited/part-time basis would be mutually beneficial, and if so, under what type of arrangement.  All the while, I am holding up the possibility that it might be best for one or the other of us if we part ways. 

At times, the conversation feels highly generative, mutually supportive, frank yet compassionate, and productive.  Other times it feels, well, laced with distrust.  I've only been there a few years, and have come to be there after my predecessor served the congregation for 25 years...soooo, we are just settling into our relationship with one another, and now I've thrown this in the mix.  They took a bet on me, and they won't get their full returns no matter what way we dice matter what, I am going to be there for at least a handful of years shorter than we all anticipated at the starting gate, and probably much shorter than that.

Here is what I am struggling with tonight.  The congregation is in the midst of a big ministerial transition as is, for another reason, and they've been handling it really well.  I worry that I will become the "safer" outlet for that anxiety, and yes, my ego is slightly involved because whenever I am going to leave, I'd really like it to be under conditions in which people can still see the good things I've done over the last several years.  I am not sure I am going to have that experience, however, because in this negotiation dance, I can already feel the tidal wave of congregational anxiety is right behind us.

(P.S.  Just to make things a little harder, tonight I also learned funding was cut for a position we were adding to my expected revenues have not surfaced.  This is TOUGH stuff!)

Friday, April 16, 2010

...And a funny little note...

Tonight I am watching a video of interviews with "visionary ministers" who have led congregations through significant growth.  Among the faces I recognize on the video (both the ministers and the congregational and denominational leaders listening and reflecting back the conversations), I personally know a fair number.  It makes me think how many mentors I already have as I enter into this period of concentrated formation.


So letters are out to all three schools...albeit missing the official paperwork and deposit money for the school I have chosen.  I'll name the school on this blog officially next week.

This was such a tough decision, but now that it is made and letters (as hard as they were to write) are on their way, I am feeling eager to prepare for the future.  It is a lighter feeling, and one that dances joyfully with gratitude, even as I struggle with the next set of decisions on the table. 

Thank you, God, for bringing me to where I need to be now.  I am listening, following, and submitting, as I wait to know what you will have me do next. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Decision Made

I have made my decision.  I am ready to move forward.  Now I have to communicate to all schools including the one whose offer I am accepting.  I think this will be a more difficult step than it seems it should be, as the act of closing doors is always a sad and slightly scary thing to do (What am I missing out on?  What could have been my experience if only...?).  Once I share my decisions with the schools -- which I hope to do this week -- I will post more.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Very Nervous

I am really fumbling during this time of decision-making, which only exaserbates my anxiety about tomorrow's meeting at work, during which I will discuss with several key people my decision to go to school and the resulting decisions about my work.  I have done a lot of preparation (have just a bit more to finish tonight before bed), so I should feel ready, but the butterflies in my tummy are going strong!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Feeling Grateful

I head to bed tonight feeling such gratitude. For all of you in my "real life" crowd who participated in my email discussions and my "solicited advice" telephone conference tonight, I am so thankful.

I took everything each and every one of you said to heart, whether you said a lot or a little, and whether you spoke about logistics, about the different educational opportunities themselves, or about the spirituality of this decision.

After the phone call tonight, G. and I had a long heart-to-heart. I still have not arrived at a decision, but I feel much more clear. We also began to visualize a plan for housing/etc. that will hopefully prove useful wherever I attend. Please keep your fingers crossed that we find as we proceed that these plans are do-able.

As I mentioned on the phone tonight, I will not be making a final decision until the 15th, but I will keep you posted. Thank you again so much for your time and thoughtful questions and responses to the decisions before me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why Does My Wife Not Want to Be a DJ?

I had the most brilliant idea tonight.  See one thing we are worrying about right now with me going back to school is money.  I really want (and quite possibly will need) to reduce my hours at work in order to go to school.  But there is NO money to spare as is, so G. is really going to have to start earning more.  Currently she is doing childcare in our home, which is working out okay, but it won't be enough to cover our behinds when I go down in hours. 

So tonight I was talking to a member of the church I serve, and he was explaining to me how he got into DJing as a side business.  He stumbled upon it when he needed to recoup some money that he lost when he bought sound equipment for a band he was in that broke up shortly after.  He picked up one extra piece of equipment, DJ'd a few gigs for free, and batta boom, batta bing, he had himself an easy way to make a few extra hundred dollar a month.  He doesn't do weddings, as he is a teacher by day and keeps to the more low key gigs (things like kids parties and school dances LOL).  He gets all of his jobs via word-of-mouth and his initial investment was a couple thousand dollars, but he said that his charge is generally around $400.  Apparently he knows some folks who DJ at weddings for up to $1300 per job.  You have to be GOOD to charge that and still get jobs, of course (personally I think that is a total rip off to charge that much), but I was amazed when he said that his friends use the same equipment he does.

So I thought, "Aha!  That is a crazy great idea for G!"  We could invest now from our tax refund (assuming we are getting one, but that is another efile has now officially been rejected twice and the reasons given make NO sense), and G would have a great job.  She LOVES music, she LOVES chatting with people, she enjoys the party atmosphere.  She doesn't like being "in front" of crowds, but having interviewed a bunch for our wedding a number of years ago, I know that some DJs are billed more as entertainers and some more as masters of music...she definitely qualifies for the latter.  I have a fair amount of confidence she could get jobs here with the number of folks we know, but I am even more confident she could get a ton of jobs out where her parents and her sister lives.  She has a lot of good networks down there, and I know she'd LOVE the excuse to head out that way on a regular basis.  (And heck, when I am in school, maybe the student network would be another good source of jobs.)

At $400 per job she could make $1200 a month with only three jobs.  Meanwhile, it wouldn't likely interfere with classes or work for me, and would really reduce concerns around the cost of childcare that we have as we look at her returning to a more traditional job.  At this point, she can't earn enough to pay for both kids in care, let alone extra on top of that.  Which means we wouldn't put the kids in care and instead both of us will end up with twice the work (I with school and she with a new job).  And as a DJ, she could even keep doing childcare in our home if she wanted.  The business side of being a DJ, as it was described to me, sounds easy enough, and I could take care of a lot of the business stuff.

So why doesn't G want to be a DJ?  Right now she is out on a job for her sister.  She worked a 15 hour day priming an apartment that she is going to paint tomorrow in another 15 hour day.  She is making $500.  Not bad for a weekend of work, but two 15 hour days like that is really hard on all of us.  I spent all day today working (including attending a church function) with two kids under foot.  She is going to get home late Saturday night, which means she is working right through my normal crunch time as I get the church set for Sunday morning.  How are we going to manage when I have the stress of homework for school on top of it all?  Knowing how sore she was tonight from painting, I am surprised she didn't feel the least bit tempted by my idea.  Instead she balked at the idea of being responsible for people having a good time. 

I wish I had half G's knowledge about music.  If I did, I would jump at my own idea in a heartbeat ;-P.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great Visit

This won't be long.  I just arrived home from work a little while ago, and I am exhausted.  Totally exhausted.  Today I spent most of the day over at one of the schools.  It was a great visit.  (And by the way, G. came with the kids and joined me for part of the afternoon, and she loved the school.)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Pendulum

My poor wife!  Every day I go to her and say, "You know, I think I've figured out where I should go [for school]," and I name a school and give her 100 reasons it is the best fit for me, and then all day I'll be researching and figuring stuff out about the school.  And she'll try to be supportive and research and figure it out with me, and we'll start to form some kind of idea of how it might turn out.  We'll talk it over, and I'll feel a little more at peace, and...

...then the next day I start all over, but it won't be the same school.  And round and round I go.

It's becoming predictable, and my darling wife is clearly growing weary.  She's at the point now where I will say something to her in the middle of the day such as, "This is what I think we'll do about [our family's schedule, etc.] for this school," and she will just nod and smile so as not to engage me too much.  I think she's hoping the school visits will be the end of it.  The last visit is just before the first decision is due.  Eeeks!

Honey, I know you occassionally read my blog, so let me just tell you how much I love you, and how dear I think you are to be so patient, supportuve, and engaged.  I am so lucky!

(P.S. to everyone else, can I just say how awesome "G" is?!  You know how I know that she reads my blog?  Because the day after I posted that I wanted to go to sleep for a month, she let me sleep in and gently told me I had been heard and that she knew how overwhelmed I was.)

An Explanation of Blog Changes

I added some pay-for-clicks ads to my blog because, well, I am going to need money anywhere I can get it now that it looks like I am going to pay books and fees a couple times next year (aside from the bigger stuff).  The plus side is that I get to share some book recommendations with you through an Amazon widget!  But I still half-feel that I need to apologize for the extraneous content.  So take this as my apology.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Advisement Conference Call

Since I began receiving school acceptances, a sense of dread has accompanied all celebrations.  Saying yes to one offer means saying no to the others when there are so many reasons to say yes to each.  I am, in a word, overwhelmed. 

After considering hiring out my life decisions for a while ;-), I finally realized that I could take advantage of the fact that I am surrounded by a network of really smart people who have my best interests in mind.  While I ultimately have to make this decision on my own, from my own gut, I can first seek guidance and wisdom from these people I trust.

For this reason, I am planning a conference call of advisement!  I am very excited, and if you are in my circle of "in-real-life peeps," I hope you will plan to join me.  I so very much appreciate collective wisdom of family and friends.  I am taking votes for dates and times (perhaps a Saturday, evening EST), and I'll be sending out an evite soon. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Presidential Scholarship!

Forgot to mention that one of my acceptances included a Presidential Scholarship!

Funny Pyschology

Since last night's notices, I have been compulsively re-writing my essays in my head...from a school to which I was admitted.  The essays were good enough, but they could have been great if I only had written them now and not then LOL. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

More News

Came home tonight to more news.  One acceptance (waahhhooooo!) and one rejection (the rejection didn't feel surprising...this was the school with which I had difficulty in the application process, and they hadn't been sympathetic).  I feel very happy about my acceptances, and completely 100% overwhelmed by the decision ahead.  I have no idea how to make this decision.  It feels impossibly difficult.  I want to go to sleep for a month.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I got my fist acceptance letter today.  Wow!  Just wow.

The grad school applicant's secret fear: If I get accepted to multiple schools, how will I make a decision?  I chose each of these schools because I wanted to go.  It's a secret fear because it feels like saying it outloud would ginx any possible acceptances LOL, and it also sounds like an outrageous hope.  Still...


I received an email regarding my FASFA tonight.  It said my corrected FASFA was available online and to my schools.  I haven't yet finished my taxes, and thus haven't yet sent in a corrected FASFA.  Huh?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pondering Motherhood and Grad School

Here is a post I started yesterday but finished tonight...

I am sitting on the deck at the home of my mother and father "in law."  My kids are playing in the sun, and we are all soaking up some much-needed vitamin D.  Even as I write this, my daughter has climbed on my lap and is taking in the moment with me.  It's a beautiful day!

My daughter K's birthday was on Thursday, and now I have two four-year-olds in the house.  I think back to last February, and remember that we had just found out for certain that she would be with us forever.  When K's birthday arrived, we were still insecure in our reality, emerging from nearly three years of regularly having our life turned on its head while we road the roller coaster of K's case.  And yet here we are, a year later, with a solid place to stand.  K is here for good, and is now a happy, healthy, active, bright, and precocious little girl.  She makes up complex imaginary games.  She reads at a young first grade level...heck, she read her own birthday cards this year.  She says things like, "that is not an option" and "I think that would be appropriate."  She ice skates, and I am pretty sure she is about an inch away from learning to swim.  

As M and K approach kindergarten, and I work on these grad school applications, school is a big topic around our house.  Today we were taking a walk, and as we went by the school where M used to attend his therapies (he now attends elsewhere due to problems there with the school therapists), he said "Mama, that's my old school!  I am going to go kiss it," and he ran up to the building and kissed the front doors.  The kids still love school, and M is proud to attend several (church school, Montessori school, and his therapy schools).  K calls the ice skating rink her "skating school."  But it goes beyond an enthusiasm for school, as those positive associations with school are in fact positive associations with learning.  They have a voracious appetite for information and for skills. I hope they never lose it.

I remember my father going to school when I was a kid.  I have a vague memory of going to a class (?) with him when I was about K's age.  I remember the look of the lecture hall, though I don't remember going in.  I remember sitting outside the room with at least one of my siblings.  I don't have a context for the memory, so it is probably inaccurate in numerous ways, but accurate or inaccurate, it is nonetheless something I have carried with me now for many years.  It has undoubtedly become a part of the stories that shape me.

I have been thinking about this lately, about how formative it was that my father went to school during my early childhood.  I don't know the details, nor how he did it with a family: four kids, a wife, a dog (at least at one point), and a job.  Maybe because he finished school while I was still quite young, I remember him as having been fully present in my childhood.  I remember a lot of family time with both my parents around...probably even more than my own kids get now.  So my memories of my dad going to school are very positive, and I have no doubt that these memories have influenced my drive. 

I also have memories of my mom returning to school for a period of time.  When I saw my mom do it, the work looked fun.  She was motivated.  I remember in particular a class she took, and a study-buddy friend she made in the class who she would invite over to the house.  I think I might actually have my mom's textbook from that class. 

When I start to worry about how I will juggle it all, I think of my parents and the gift that I can give my own children just as they gave me.  By watching my dad complete his schooling, I saw that possibility in myself, and I saw a reason to do so.  By attending school now, I have the potential to do the same for my kids.  I have thus involved my children in my decision to go back to school from the very start.  They were involved in the conversations between me and my wife about which schools were a "good fit."  They have celebrated each of my visits to schools and looked at the schools online with me.  They have been there through readings of my application essays, as I tried to help myself edit by reading outloud.   They quizzed me with my flashcards when I was studying for the GRE, and they cheered me on through testing.  They have been forbidden from entering my bedroom for a couple hours at a time while I have sequestered myself for "application duty." 

I know this is going to be a busy few years to come.  It is going to involve a lot of work and surely some heartache.  I also know that as I do this, my children are watching.  They are discerning in their own minds what work is worthy, and how much effort it deserves.  They are gathering information about our family's values, our approach to life, our optimism.  They are gathering information about differences between my wife and myself, and how we support and question one another in pursuing wildly different paths in life.  My children each have unique, individual challenges, but I can control the example I set.  It is a privilege and a potent power I have to be able to influence my children through my own action as they grow.  May I be worthy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Andover Newton Update

I received a personal phone call from ANTS yesterday.  Bless them!  They wanted to let me know not only that my application packet had been sent to the admissions committee but that they were going to try to rush things so that I get my answer by March 15th when I hear back from the other schools.  This is another school for which the admissions process has been a pleasure, and it reminds me of one of the reasons I chose the school.  That is, this is a school in which ministry is embodied throughout.  I remember calling my father, very excited, after attending the school's open house late last winter/early last spring.  What had impressed me was the level of genuine hospitality exhibited throughout the day.  I thrive and learn best in an environment in which study and practice are well integrated.  As "radical religious hospitality" is a special interest of mine, the hospitality exhibited at the open house -- if it reflects the school as a whole -- is a particularly exciting thing to have observed (even if my father had a more moderate assessment: "it sounds like they ran a really effective open house"). 

I did re-read my application essays yesterday, having had the perspective provided by relief from the pressure to work on them.  I worry about those essays because they are the least cohesive of all my essays, partially because one of the elements I used to tie together my other statements I left out of this essay.  I also see other ways I could have/should have explained why I chose the school.  On the other hand, I really like some aspects of the essays that were unique to this school, and I was glad for the opportunity to write about those things. 

Overall, I am feeling good, even if a bit worried about my delay on my last school application (MLTS).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Real Life" Education

So I am having one of those moments when I feel slightly out of step with my congregation.   I've noticed that as I walk in service together with them, that there is a rhythm to our shared work.  Even when we come across a landscape through which we have to muddle our way, there is a rhythm to the negotiation of unchartered waters.

But somehow recently I got just a half-beat off from the rhythm.  I think it started a couple of weeks ago at a board meeting, and its just flowed right into everything else.  Time to focus on my own spiritual practices so I can come into rhythm at least with myself.  If I am not in a rhythm with myself, there is no way I can be with my congregation.

This is life.  It is messy.

Puff Puff Choo Choo...the Little Engine Chugs Along

I am pleased to say that I completed my ANTS application tonight.  I do have to email them my essays tomorrow.  Hard to let go because I know the writing isn't 100% yet, but I've gotten to the point where I need to finish something.  I could spend a lifetime on these essays, really.  I think I've also decided against submitting supplementary material to the school, which was not the decision I expected to make.  I feel that by submitting only what I have already submitted (along with the essays in the morning), I will have a "tighter" application packet overall.  I don't want to dilute what I have submitted.

My YDS financial aid applicaton is also complete and submitted, but I have to submit a copy of my taxes and W-2s via fax ASAP (note to self: tomorrow I also need to submit M's birth certificate to the charter school for which we entered him in the lottery).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Financial Aid

I was reminded today that deadlines are fast approaching for many financial aid applications! Yikes. I haven't been doing anything about that. In the next couple of days I will get my taxes done so that I can update my FASFA application, which I've fortunately already completed using last year's taxes as estimates, and complete a YDS internal financial aid application. If I work fast enough, I may be able to get some other applications done for scholarships. Unfortunately, however, because I have been so behind on my final two school applications, I have forced myself to juggle a lot of other balls now as I silmultaneously apply for schools and aid.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yale's February Update

I just love that YDS does stuff like sending out regular email updates on where they are in the admissions process.  Even though I know when the decisions will be sent out, and thus approximately where they should be in the process, it is simply a small comfort to periodically hear from them.  Whatever their decision about my enrollment, I am glad to have had such a pleasant application experience with them.

Here is some of what was in the February update, which came from their Associate Director of Admissions and Recruiting:

"Winter in the admissions office typically passes in a flurry of applications and this year is no different. Reading applications and processing decisions has kept me, and my colleagues on the admissions committee, very busy. We have about two more weeks of committee work and then I finish up processing all the decisions (that means checking and double checking, editing letters, etc) and then we start printing decision letters."

So there you have it.

I still don't have my other two applications complete and submitted!  Ack!

Friday, February 12, 2010

2 Down, 2 To Go

My updated report:

First the completed applications...
  • Harvard application packet has been sent to the admissions committee and is currently under review.  I should hear around March 15th.  It has three letters of recommendation now (using my alternative letter writer)...none of them academic.  Things don't look particularly hopeful, and they are offering no encouragement, though I am hoping, wishing, and keeping my fingers crossed anyway, as silly as it may be.
  • Yale application packet is being processed and may or may not yet be with the admissions committee.  My letter writer who was ill very kindly contacted them and asked that her letter be included in my packet after she returned from her most recent medical procedures.  I am very thankful, and they let her letter in yesterday.  I otherwise had the same three letters of recommendation at this school as I did at Harvard.  I hope the professor's letter is not too late to make a difference.
As for my incomplete applications...
  • All items except for my personal statement have been sent to Meadville-Lombard.  By all items, I mean everything including my application fee.  My personal statement is coming along painfully slowly.  I hope to get it done this weekend and unburden myself of this application.  As for letters, I have no idea if the professor will still be sending her letter.  However, I did get three extra letters for them (on top of the two I had), as they except four letters as their minimum.  I am just waiting on one of those letters to be mailed.
  • My Andover Newton application is the least complete.  I am stuck on the personal statement and essay.  The questions this school uses as prompters for the writing are *so* different from the other schools that I basically have to start from scratch, and I admit I am overwhelmed.  Still, I plan to get this done within one week.  I have three letters at this school, plus the professor's letter if she sends it.  They take supplemental materials so would consider the fourth letter.
That's it.  That's where I am.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sad Day

Today was the final deadline for Harvard.  It also was the day I heard from my professor who hadn't sent the letter.  Turns out she has become quite ill and can't write the letter for me.  She apologized profusely, and I accept that, but I am so disappointed.

I have someone else who is happily jumping in, but I won't have any academic references at all.  Harvard has been pretty clear my shot is now dismal.  I am sure it is not much better at Yale, especially since the number of weeks that have passed since their deadline, but I have an email out to them just to check in about my next best step.

What a sad, sad day.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thanks to Someone at Grad Cafe for Posting This

What do deadlines mean to students and professors?  A cartoon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Half Done

Harvard application submitted this morning!!

That leaves me just about half done, though I still need to figure out that third letter of reference thing and also get my financial aid application into Yale.

Other than that, just two more applications to go.  Wow!  I've come a looooong way!

And updated mid-day to say YIPEE!  My transcripts are finally showing as a "complete" at Yale.  Looks like my old name has successfully been attached to my new name.  One last thing for me to worry about.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Ah, progress. Feels good. I think my Harvard application is as good as it is going to get. I was hoping to submit today but am a little delayed. However, I am confident I can submit before business hours tomorrow.
I just looked over my next couple of applications, and the one I have to do by hand looks simple enough that I can complete and mail in everything tomorrow except the personal statement portion. This will be the longest statement (MINIMUM 6 pages, double-spaced!!), and I never thought I'd say it, but I have no idea what I am going to do with all that space. Still, I think I can use my Harvard and Yale essays as a starting point, so that is good news.

The hardest application to finish (ANTS) is not at all the one I expected to be difficult. What makes it difficult is that I have to write a totally separate couple of papers because they ask very different questions for the statement of purpose and essay. I took my Yale statement of purpose and alter a portion of it to use as part of my essay, but I realized after doing that I had misunderstood the original question and will need to completely re-do it. Still, this school claims to process most applications in 3-4 weeks, so if I get it in by mid-February, I am actually going to be okay. My goal is to have it done by Monday or Tuesday (early Feb), as I want to be top of their list for financial aid, which is also on a rolling basis. But I am not going to beat myself up over it.
All this being said, however, I am really freaked out about this recommender who is MIA. I sent her an email a day or two ago that clearly but politely expressed that I was anxious and wanted to make sure she will be able to make the Harvard deadline. I haven't heard a thing, and I am starting to really, really, really panic. The good news is that my fourth letter writer for the school that required four letters I am sure would be willing to send it also to the other schools as a third letter. The other good news is that I know exactly what she wrote (she's the only one who shared her letter with me) and feel it is a good and very positive letter. The bad news is that it is not an academic reference, and the whole point is that I needed at least one academic reference. I was already short the requirement of two. The other bad news is that I will need a new fourth letter for the other school, which will have only three unless the prof pulls through...but the good news about that is that I have someone in mind. Please join me in praying for a strong, positive letter still to come through from the prof.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Letter of Reference: Still Missing

I am back in the saddle, preparing to submit my HDS application as early as tomorrow.  At this time I think I can say that the most painful part of the application experience, no matter how bad the GRE was, is waiting on the letter of reference that I fear may not be submitted.

This is the sole professor I could locate.  I was a good student, and I feel I had a good relationship with her.  She seemed very positive about my application and said she could write me a strong letter.   I was appreciative, and let her know that.

But the YDS deadline has come and gone and I am still waiting on the submission of her letter.  And the HDS extended deadline is Monday.  I've contacted the prof a number of times by email before and after the deadline.  The most recent time she wrote to say she thought she submitted her letter to YDS.  I followed up to tell her they didn't have it, and I haven't heard from her since. 

I have a backup, but it wouldn't be an academic reference...which I badly need.

I am feeling so sad.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The "Incompletes"

I am really slacking on the rest of my applications now that one is done.  But rest assurred I am not slacking in life.  I've been slammed at work with a bazillion things.  Still, I've got to get serious, especially since I am afraid everyday that ticks by I am losing more and more of a chance at HDS.

Anyway, checking on my YDS application, it looks like none of my transcripts have been "received."  My best guess is that my old name just hasn't been matched to my new name.  And I know it takes a while for the online system to get updated, but grrr, it freaks me out that it shows up as incomplete.

And then there is still that third letter of reference.  I emailed my recommender to check on the situation.  I told her to please let me know if she couldn't do the letters for me.  She emailed me back Tuesday and said she thought she had done it/them(?).  I responded soon after to explain that the school(s) definitely didn't have it because that part of the electronic system is updated automatically.  I still haven't heard back.  How long should I wait before pestering her with another email?  I feel like I am being a 100% nuisance, but then I am really depending on her and the deadlines have started to come and go.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


It's worse than "buyer's regret."

I have this anxious, sinking feeling I can't shake.

1.  Late last night I got an email from a YDS student my cousin knows, saying he would be happy to read my essay and make suggestions.  Unfortunately, I'd already hit "submit." 

2.  I woke up in the middle of the night because I remembered something I was supposed to edit on my YDS essay that I forgot to edit.  It's pretty glaring.  Eeeks!

3.  I also had all kinds of regrets about my approach.  "Should I have ______ instead?"  Etc. etc.

4.  I've been worrying about not having spent more time at the school, visiting classes and meeting professors.

5.  Worst of all, my recommender who promised to get my letter in yesterday never did.  I really need her recommendation, as the only professor on my list.  It looks like YDS can still take her letter, but I am very nervous she won't pull through or that she won't pull through in time for her letter to be considered in my application evaluation.

I need to say the serenity prayer and try to just trust that I will end up where I need to be.  As I finished up the YDS application, I felt myself fall more and more "in love" with the school, and now I am a little overly attached to the idea of going there. 

I have to accept that I don't get to control where I end up.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cute Kid Moments

1..  A few days ago when I escaped the house to work in peace on my HDS application and then came home, my son came running to me and said, "Does Harvard like you?!" 
2.  At one point tonight when I doubted my ability to get my application in on time to YDS, my daughter said with some hope in her voice, "So you won't go to Yale?"  "I definitely won't if I don't get this in," I said.  "Then we won't have to move, right?" she asked, brimming.  "K, even if I get in we might not have to move," I reassured her.  "Good," she said, "Then we can get a dog!"

YDS Application Submitted

With some hemming and hawing over whether everything was really, truly ready for submission...and a big dose of last minute lack of confidence in my decision not to talk specifically about my (same-sex) marriage in my personal statement but instead hint about it and hope that they'll know to count me among those who would contribute to the school's diversity, I finally just hit "submit." 


One down.  Three to go.

Trouble With Comments?

I am turning off moderation temporarily to see if that helps.  It seems people's comments are not showing up.  Hmph!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's Really Been a Pleasure to Apply to Yale

I am afraid to say it, scared that I'll ginx myself and realize later I've messed up some big component, but truly, it has been a pleasure to apply to Yale. 

Though my essay may not be perfect, my reviewers have said it is good, and I got to have some fun with the topic.  Part of the reason for that is that I was working with a page limit rather than a word count, and believe it or not, even though the actual amount of writing is about the same, the latter is very liberating.

I didn't question as much with Yale every word I wrote about my calling, either.  Yale's language around calling is more like the language through which I tend to understand my calling.  And since I already had a heavily edited statement of purpose, I used that as my launch pad and mostly inserted more "me" back into it. 
Other nice things:
  • Yale didn't have a place on their application forms for volunteer work to be listed in chronological order, but only to a maximum of three, which allowed me to leave that on my CV and not worry about which of many I would post in just three lines without it looking like there were big time gaps when there weren't.
  • The YDS application website did not cut off words in every text box requiring some information to be entered.  With HDS you have to answer everything in 20 keystrokes or less it seemed.
  • YDS admissions didn't give me a hard time about the schools I attended in the past when I met with them a while back (they in fact told me that schools are mostly "well known" or "not well known" regionally and not to worry about how "well known" my schools were), so I relaxed about it.
  • YDS specifically recommended at their open house that prospective students don't submit their GRE scores.
  • The YDS application website was easy to get to online and didn't have a random "user name."  The HDS user name is a random series of numbers that I have to copy and paste in every time I go to log in, and to get to the HDS application I also had to click a link in the email in which the user name was assigned.
  • The YDS deadline is the "priority deadline," so while I want to submit everything tomorrow in order to pay less and also to be make sure I am in line for early consideration (they do say chances of getting in are higher for applicants who meet the priority deadline), I don't feel quite as freaked out about the "what if" question in case my recommender doesn't get my letter in on time.
  • Speaking of recommenders, YDS does not require two academic references and instead specifies "academic or professional."  What a relief! 
  • YDS is seeking diversity and explicitly asks for folks to highlight their diversity through their personal statements (I didn't in an explicit way, but it is implied I hope).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


A couple updates:

First, the recommender who didn't get the recommendation done by the first HDS deadline has emailed me (in response to an email from me) and said she found out about the extension and was relieved for a little extra time.  She says she'll be able to make this Friday's YDS deadline.  I appreciate her keeping in touch about it all.

Second, I emailed HDS to ask some clarifying questions about the deadline extension.  My first and most important question was whether it makes a difference if I submit now or wait.  Their answer, true to the HDS way, was ambiguous.  It said, "The admissions committee begins the review process from the time we verify that all of your application materials have been received in our office. You will receive e-mail notifications from us when you application goes through our various processes. You will also be able to track the progress of your application via the online tool after you submit it. We will send out admissions decisions in Mid-March."

So I wrote back and said, "Just to be clear, does it make a difference in actual admissions decisions if I send in my application materials now, or if I wait until February 1st?"  And they didn't even bother to reply. 

So my plan is now to focus on my YDS application through Friday and then on Saturday pick my HDS application back up to further refine my essays, with the goal of being ready for submission in a week or less. 

In the meantime, an HDS M. Div. student visited the church I serve yesterday to enter into a discussion about a possible internship next year.  It was great to meet him, and he offerred to be among those who review my HDS writing sample/academic essay.  I was thankful for his offer.  It always helps to have more eyes, and he will be familiar with HDS specific information.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Don't Know How to Feel Right Now

I just got this email from HDS:

Thank you very much for your interest in Harvard Divinity School (HDS). Our records indicate that you have begun an application to HDS this year. I'm writing to inform you that the Admissions Committee has decided to extend our masters programs application deadline to February 1, 2010.

Over the course of the last few weeks the Office of Admissions has received feedback from a number of our prospective applicants. This feedback has focused primarily on this year's new admissions requirement that all masters programs candidates submit GRE scores. While we made the 2010 admissions requirements available on our website in late summer 2009, we understand that some applicants who have been considering HDS masters programs for a few years were surprised to learn of this requirement as they finalized their applications in the last few weeks. The Admissions Committee has reviewed this feedback in the context of the first year of implementing the GRE requirement, and has decided to offer applicants an extension on the deadline.

If you are scheduled to take the GRE by February 1, 2010, and are able to submit your online application and all other supporting documents by February 1, 2010, the admissions committee will review your application for fall 2010. Remember, HDS does not have a minimum GRE score requirement. Your GRE scores will be considered in the context of the entire application.

Please note that, because the financial aid application is intended to be submitted with the admissions application, the financial aid application deadline has also been extended to February 1, 2010. I hope that the admissions and financial aid deadline extensions will be helpful as you consider your options for graduate study. Thank you very much for your interest in HDS. We look forward to reviewing your application!

Best regards,
Director of Admissions

I really don't know how to feel right now.  When I received this, I was scrambling to finish my essay in order to have it done by the deadline at midnight tonight, and truly, I could use some more time.  From that angle, I am breathing a sigh of relief. 

On the other hand:
1.  This puts me in a bad position in regard to the GRE.  I didn't retake the GRE in part because I didn't feel there was enough time to take it again with any meaningful difference in the scores.  Now I feel like it will look very bad for me not to take it again, given my lower than desired scores.  On the other hand, I have three other applications that have continued to receive the least of my attention, and I really was counting on being able to turn my attention to them starting this week.  I can't really foresee going back and putting a bunch of time into the GRE again so I can retake by February 1st.

2.  I am also in a bad position, left wondering if I should take advantage of this time or submit and move on.  While I could use the time to finish my essay and further refine my statement of purpose, I don't know whether submitting earlier will put me in a greater position of advantage or whether it is more important to get this writing in better shape.  Of course, the decision is mixed in with the need to focus on my application to the other schools.

3.  Will they also now be notifying accepted students later than the usual mid-March date?  If so, and if I get accepted at YDS, I will be in an unfortunate position in comparing financial aid offers.

4.  Finally, while I appreciate that HDS is responsive to feedback, I really wish this had been announced far earlier.  As someone who was prepared to have everything in on time, and who has been very conscientous throughout this process, I admit that I feel resentful that others are being given an extension.  With all my hand-wringing over my GRE score, I comforted myself in part by saying, "Hey, some people decided not to apply altogether because they were going to have to quickly figure out how to fit the GRE in.  At least I took it." 

Ugh.  I wish I could just feel relief, but the truth is I am irritated.

Recommender Started Letter

...according to the electronic application system, my recommender has started the HDS letter, so that is good.  Of course, I've made little to no progress on this essay, and the whole thing needs to be submitted within hours.  Aaaaaaack!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

157 Words

I am over my statement of purpose 1,000-word-limit by 157 words.  My second to last cut felt good.  It felt like I was trimming excess and my writing was becoming more clear.  But the last cut just about killed me.  I felt like my voice was being lost.  I felt like important things were being left out.  I felt like my statement was weakening.

I don't think I can cut anymore, and I don't even know if my statement really addresses what it is supposed to address. 

I have lost energy for this, and I have to move on to the edits on my essay anyway so I can get something in tomorrow (the application deadline). 

I don't even know where to begin with my essay.  Nothing feels right.

I want to puke.

Will She Make It?

My last recommendation letter has not been submitted to HDS.  She definitely said she could do it this weekend, so here's to hoping she gets it done tonight.  If she waits until tomorrow I'll be totally freaked.  If she doesn't do it tomorrow, I'll be devestated.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gasp, Gasp...Pant, Pant

My work is keeping me insanely busy right now, and trying to pull through to the finish line on the school applications, is well, quite the race against the clock.

HDS Statement of Purpose: Am doing another set of edits, thanks to the good editing advice of 3+ reviewers (thanks folks!). I am down to just being 378 306 words over the limit instead of 550+ words over the limit, and the writing is much stronger now. Those last 378 306 is like pulling teeth, however. I don't feel like I can cut much more. I might just submit it as is over the word limit (yikes!). How bad do you think that would be?

HDS Essay: Written, and reviewed by a few reviewers, but I haven't even begun my edits!

HDS General Application: Most of it is done, but there are some significant pieces on which I need to get to work.

HDS Financial Aid Application: I need to make some tough strategical decision about the FASFA, finish that up, and then locate and plug in a few more numbers on the application (oh no...and also mail a copy of my W-2 I think...eeeks!)

I was hoping to submit the HDS stuff early, but it looks like it will be on time at best. The absolute latest deadline for the HDS application, including the financial aid application is Monday. I should submit it on Sunday in case there are any problems with the website (servers do crash when lots of folks rush to use them at once afterall) or other technical issues.


YDS Statement of Purpose: Not even begun! I am hoping some of my HDS statement of purpose will smoothly transfer, and this one won't be nearly as painful and time consuming to write (oh pretty, pretty please!).

YDS Essay: I've begun writing, and as usual have written a lot, but have yet to find a focus or really get anything accomplished.

YDS General Application: It's about half done. Maybe.

YDS Financial Aid Application: The good news is that once the FASFA is done, it is done for all schools. Since the HDS deadline is days away, including for the FASFA, I will have that done very soon. (done)

The YDS-specific financial aid application I have not yet started, but the deadline is in late February or early March if memory serves (does it ever?), so I could even wait until after I get the application materials submitted to ANTS and MLTS before coming back to this item.

The YDS deadline is exactly one week Friday the 15th. Which means I should submit at the very, very latest on Thursday. Thank goodness I can put off that financial aid stuff and buckle down on these writing tasks. OMG!

That leaves ANTS and MLTS, of which I have done very little, but I am not even going to think about them until after the 15th. They have rolling admissions, and at this point I will be happy if I get them done by the 25th or 30th.

Friday, January 8, 2010


....I've been trying for waaaaay too much time tonight (after arriving back from work at nearly midnight) to fix a computer that is having trouble opening documents. I really need to get my HDS essay edited, so this is quite a frustration. Figured I'd kill some time complaining about it here to you while I wait for my latest attempt at a fix to work its magic. Hum-De-Dum.

Thanks for listening!


I heard back from my last recommender (the professor...a key person in all this), and she said no problem about getting my letter submitted to HDS this weekend. Of course, I am sure I'll be nervous anyway up until the minute I see it uploaded, but that's inevitable. I am glad to have heard from her.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Never Made a Slower Charge to the Finish Line

HDS Statement of Purpose: Am doing another set of edits, thanks to the good editing advice of 3+ reviewers (thanks folks!). I am down to just being 378 words over the limit instead of 550+ words over the limit, and the writing is much stronger now. Those last 378 is like pulling teeth, however. I don't feel like I can cut much more. I might just submit it as is (yikes!). How bad do you think that would be?

HDS Essay: Written, and reviewed by a few reviewers, but I haven't even begun my edits!

HDS General Application: Most of it is done, but there are some significant pieces on which I need to get to work.

HDS Financial Aid Application: I need to make some tough strategical decision about the FASFA, finish that up, and then locate and plug in a few more numbers on the application (oh no...and also mail a copy of my W-2 I think...eeeks!)

I was hoping to submit the HDS stuff early, but it looks like it will be on time at best. The absolute latest deadline for the HDS application, including the financial aid application is Monday. I should submit it on Sunday in case there are any problems with the website (servers do crash when lots of folks rush to use them at once afterall) or other technical issues.


YDS Statement of Purpose: Not even begun! I am hoping some of my HDS statement of purpose will smoothly transfer, and this one won't be nearly as painful and time consuming to write (oh pretty, pretty please!).

YDS Essay: I've begun writing, and as usual have written a lot, but have yet to find a focus or really get anything accomplished.

YDS General Application: It's about half done. Maybe.

YDS Financial Aid Application: The good news is that once the FASFA is done, it is done for all schools. Since the HDS deadline is days away, including for the FASFA, I will have that done very soon. The YDS specific application I have not yet started, but the deadline is in late February or early March if memory serves (does it ever?), so I could even wait until after I get the application materials submitted to ANTS and MLTS before coming back to this item.

The YDS deadline is exactly one week Friday the 15th. Which means I should submit at the very, very latest on Thursday. Thank goodness I can put off that financial aid stuff and buckle down on these writing tasks. OMG!

That leaves ANTS and MLTS, of which I have done very little, but I am not even going to think about them until after the 15th. They have rolling admissions, and at this point I will be happy if I get them done by the 25th or 30th.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Relief on Letter of Recommendation Front

Alright, breathing just a bit easier right now. One of my recommenders submitted his letter to Harvard. He still has to do the other schools, but yeah!

Another recommender from whom I asked for only one letter to go to the school that required an extra letter (since I needed two academic references for most schools and didn't have them, I chose to focus on folks who have worked with me day-to-day because I thought they'd have the most insight into my academic potential...this recommendor knows me well but not day-t0-day, and she has never supervised me) has mailed it off, and she also sent me a copy and OMG am I honored by the things she said.

I only have one recommender (my academic reference...ack!) currently missing in action. Hopefully I'll hear from her soon that she's got the letter done.

Monday, January 4, 2010

muhney, muhney, muhnay, MUH-NAY!

Because one of the schools to which I am applying requires all financial aid application materials (including the FASFA, using 2008 numbers for 2009 estimates) to be submitted at the same time as the application by January 11th, I am starting to think about money.

I am looking for private scholarship dollars and grant sources. I'll keep a bit of a running tally here of fund sources that may be applicable to me when I run across them, with any deadline info I can find (surprisingly difficult to come by in many cases). Here's just a start:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Procrastinator's Friends

Procrastination on my part has 100% of its origin in FEAR. I'm not lazy, but I am still working on my self-esteem. When I am procrastinating, it is a sure sign I am being pushed to grow in a way that is scary to me. It comes out through these vices.

1. Doing research for the necessary papers...beyond the point of it being helpful. Or doing unfocused research while my brain scatters in 101 directions.

2. Worrying and obsessing about things I am not doing for work while I chip away at my applications...or vice versa. (As a working mom I've sometimes said that I feel like I am either failing at my work or failing as a mom and that I can't seem to do both really well. This is one more area in which I feel like I get unbalanced easily.)

3. Watching tv shows online.

4. Gabbing online about areas of life in which I feel more competent.

5. Blogging here (though this also is a helpful way to vent and let off steam in this stressful process).

6. Since my dog died just before Christmas: (A) Feeling a valid and legitimate sadness about my dog and then slipping into a funk or more recently...(B) Taking my sad feelings and giving them a release by going on or researching dog stuff online so I can dream of a future day with a future dog, or (C) Related to #3 above, watching "The Dog Whisperer" and planning ahead for future dogs. Oh, also (D) trying to find out housing stuff for when I am in school so I can have clues before March whether I can get another dog this year or whether I'll have to wait until I am done with school and then moved/settled somewhere.

7. Combing through the status of my applications to check and double-check and then check again what I still have to do.

8. Taking a break every sentence when I am writing. Eating during every few breaks (not good at all for my weight and health). Refilling drinks. Going out to the car to get stuff I need. Running to work to get materials I could use that are there. Etc.

9. Sleeping.

10. Reading and being critical of things I've written in the past.

11. Reading papers I've finished but am not yet ready to edit, with no intention of actually editing them...more to feel badly about how rough they still sound.

12. Futile efforts to gain control over aspects of the application process that I can't control. Wringing my hands over missed opportunities (interviews that didn't go well, etc.).

Letters of Recommendation Are Distracting Right Now

I just want to say that letters of recommendation are, as the deadlines grow closer, a terrible distraction.

I have three schools that require three letters and one school that requires four. Two of the schools do everything electronically. Two of the schools are still paper-based systems.

One of my recommenders (is it recommenders or recommendors?) was amazing and got his letters done and in for me at all schools very early on in the process. Two of my recommenders haven't started the letters at all yet, according to one school's electronic system.

Right now I should be 100% focused on my writing, but I am finding my mind repeatedly wondering and worrying about these letters. Will they get in on time? The deadlines are mere days away. I am getting really, really nervous.

Then there is the question of how frequently to pester the recommenders. I've tried to space out my "friendly reminders," to one or more months apart. My last reminder was at least a month and a half ago. I've done a good job at avoiding being an annoyance, but as we get down to the wire here, should I remind them a couple more times? Say, once when I get all my application materials submitted (hopefully several days before the deadline) and once the day before the final deadline? Do I start using the phone now, or stick to email since I am confident they are reading their emails?

I just emailed reminders tonight. Which brought up the usual question of whether just to email the reminders with a personal note, from my own email, or whether to use the reminders of the electronic system. Or both...which is what I have done to date.

What a distraction!

If I ever have the honor of being asked to write a letter of recommendation for a prospective student, I hope I will remember to:

1. Say an enthusiastic yes or say a tactful no based on the strength with which I think I can recommend the prospective student.

2. Once I've agreed to write the letter because I think I can write a strong one, reassure the candidate who is surely nervous and uncertain, that it will be strong.

3. Talk with the candidate a bit. Research the school or program a little and reflect on indicators of the candidate's match with the particular program and school to which s/he is applying. Ask for more information to write the strongest possible letter.

4. Communicate with the candidate when I expect to be able to get the letter done. Let the candidate know if this date changes.

5. Have someone proof the letter for me just to be sure that I don't reflect poorly on the candidate through typos and other unintentional errors. Representing someone else is something of an honor, and should be done well.

6. Follow-up once the letters have been sent so the candidate can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on the aspects of the application s/he can control.

7. Probably share the letter with the candidate. If it wasn't going to be a strong one, I wouldn't have written it will have to be something I am willing to share. Since most candidates will check off that they waive the right at the school level to see the letter, it is a nice gesture for them to get a chance to see it.