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Finish Line

The time has finally arrived. That line that once seemed so far from here is now here. I was scrolling through my thesis folder in my google drive and just amazed at the amount of work the filled it. I remember when I first made that folder and only a few documents sat in there, and now there is a host of work.

I’m finally done with my project! And it is a project that I so extremely proud and passionate of! I cannot wait to continue the next steps and do the work to get my project into the hands of young women of color who need it. This has been a wonderful experience and I’ve learned so much along the way.

Words cannot describe how I feel in this moment. This moment where I’m celebrating my accomplishments, reflecting on my journey, thinking about the future, is one I will never forget. And I know I will never forget the people I have met along this journey. From my wonderfully brilliant peers, my amazing professors and the knowledge they shared with me, to the most amazing, wise, patient, kind, intelligent woman I know, my director Dr. Zamora. I thank you all for being apart of my journey and I wish you all nothing but luck and love on yours!!

Ready to Hit Submit

(Google Images, 4 May 2021)

During Period 11 English, one of my in-person students walked in late.

“Ms. Pham, I am not feeling well. I have a low fever and body aches.”

I looked up my student and tried to hide my fear.

“If you do feel well, you may go to the nurse’s office.”

The next day the student did not return to class.

When the student was out the following day, the other students asked, “Does ______________ have COVID? Is he vaccinated? Do we have to quarantine? I knew this was going to happen.”

I tried to reassure them, but I was nervous as well. However, I was grateful that I got my shots two months ago.

He was out for the rest of the week and believe that he was getting tested for COVID.

Due to this situation, I was unable to attend the Pre-Graduation Party at the Hot Pot. I was disappointed.

As for my MA Thesis, I am looking over it, and ready to hit, Submit.

Closing Time

It’s hard to believe that this journey is coming to an end. It wasn’t that long ago that I came into the open house event and met Dr. Zamora, Kelly and her sweet mother. I knew that the program was going to be a good fit for me, but I did not know that I would make so many wonderful acquaintances over the journey.

From my first class with Professor Sisler, I knew that my colleagues were going to become a special part of the entire experience. We all had something unique to offer one another. It’s easy to say that I’ve learned so much from each of you. I’m sure our journey together is not at an end. It has only began.

We all faced our own challenges when the impact of COVID-19 hit us. For me, the transition to an online learning environment was difficult. Especially while trying to get through Dr. Nelsons Methodologies course. I think you all can agree with me on that one. Academically, it was the hardest course for me throughout the program. The thesis work took the most out of me emotionally and physically. However, I can now look at this work as one of my greatest accomplishments.

Looking into my future, I don’t know what will come of it. But I can say that I have applied for a EdD program at Monmouth University. Not only do I want to make a change in how people view writing as a tool, I also want to help make a change in our academic communities. Hopefully I will be accepted into the program. For now, I wish all of you the best in your futures, and I hope that we can all stay in touch.

Graduation Fever

(Google Images, 27 April 2021)

It is finally sinking in: I am graduating on May 14, 2021! Winter 2020 has been a dark struggle for me as well as for everyone else. But I managed to survive. The pandemi years have been a test of our resolve, and there had been time, I have been mentally exhausted, lying on my bed, defeated and bone tired. Now I see the light: submitting my MA Thesis, graduation, and summer. I am getting excited to be walking with my fellow graduate students, while our proud graduate advisor, Dr. Zamora, cheer us on. Thank you, Dr. Zamora, for your empathy, compassion, and support!

Final Reflections…

Oh boy, say it ain’t so! I can’t believe this will be the final blog post of my academic career. I can vividly remember the dread I felt when I first learned we had to create our own blogs. I was certain I couldn’t do it. Convinced I was too old and that this old broad could never learn new tricks. But I was mistaken. Not only did I create multiple blog sites of my own, I also learned how to use Twitter and other important social media platforms, that helped showcase my various writings and musings. It’s been a wonderful and enriching experience. I plan to continue on in creating my very own website and my own blog after our thesis journey comes to an end. I’ve been inspired by all of you and everything we have learned together over the course of these last two years in the Writing Studies program.

I wanted to thank you all for laughing with me, crying with me, listening to me and most of all, for believing in me and my story. I couldn’t imagine going through this wild ride with anyone else. We all came into this program from different walks of life. and at crucial parts of our life’s journey. Now that I look back at our time together and all that we have shared, I realize we are all a lot more alike then we are different. Through our story telling, earnest reflections, open class discussions, and feedback. Even just the casual talk among friends and classmates about life, it became clear to me, that we’re all flawed human beings, carrying a burden of our untold stories within us all. And I swear I mean that in the most beautiful way possible. We’re all broken beings, myself included, and yet we came together at exactly the same time, the right time, the precise time, to meet and have all our compelling stories and lives collide.

As far as The Seashell I’ve made great progress. I was stalled out at times. I felt like a car that just wouldn’t start. It was like my old yet reliable 1999 Honda Civic. My very first car, that stalled out only twice, in over twenty years that I had it. It was old but reliable and it got me to where I needed to go. So having said that I know that regardless of how many times I may lose some steam and stall out, I will continue to push through to the very end. I will indeed get to where I need to be. I’m not finished yet, my story is still unfolding. It’s yearning to be told, and I’m eager to tell it. I know that when I finally submit the final product I will be pleased. It will also be a relief, a emotional cleanse and catharsis. It’s been unsettling at times, having to relive past hurt, pain and shame. It’s even harder when you choose to include your own flawed and fractured family in the telling of a already difficult and harrowing story.

This has been a highly sensitive journey, for a overly sensitive girl like me. But I know that the little, sweet, quiet Nives, or Nivey as my parents affectionately would call me. I know that the little girl who was confused by what was haunting her as a child, the young adult who was riddled with panic and unrelenting fears, and now today, the grown woman who is still cautiously walking her way through the fire, all of them, all facets and parts of me would be proud. Humbled and in awe of how far I have come and all the work I’ve done to get to this very moment in time. I remember days when I felt like I had fallen into a deep, dark well. I was at the very bottom, looking up, no rope to climb, no rocky ridges to help hoist myself to safety. Nobody was there to help me, I was all alone. I was just stuck, at the murky, lifeless bottom. But if I close my eyes tight enough and exhale long enough, as hopeless as my days and nights had been, I can always remember seeing even the slightest bit of light, shining down on me, from the very top of this dark, and dreary well. I’m thankful and blessed that I could always see at least some of the light.

Big virtual hugs and kisses to you all! I’m so very excited to walk with you all at graduation, even if its six feet apart. I’ll take it! We deserve it damn it! I’m counting down the days I get to cheer you on, as you each take that proud walk across the stage! WE DID IT! THANK YOU for trusting me with your tears, your fears, your laughs and most of all with your heartfelt stories. I will take what I learned from each of you with me, forever, throughout my next journey. I love and respect you all. BRAVO for all your hard work and dedication. Xo.

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End in Sight

I have finally finished all my chapters!! I can’t believe it! This project was as much for my readers as it was for me. Rethinking and reliving many of experiences proved to be very therapeutic and cathartic for me. To watch my project evolve from an idea from last summer, to an entire thesis project has been amazing. Honestly, I doubted myself many times. I wasn’t sure I was cut out for this and I wasn’t sure that I was the one that should take on this work. But I’m so glad and proud of myself for sticking through it all, staying committed and doing the work. I’m proud of all of us.

I still have some minor work to complete. This week I am working on my farewell letter to end my book and starting my final revisions and edits. But the end is definitely in sight!

“Just write it for you…”

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Sage advice from a dear friend. These last few weeks I’ve been very open and honest about the wall I’ve hit in my writing journey. I’m not exactly sure why? Maybe I’m trying to prolong the inevitable? That this journey will soon be coming to an end (oh, vey!). Maybe to try and stop my story from being told? I don’t have the answers, but I know that, this sound advice from my friend: “Just write it for you…” came at the most perfect time. Before the panic and the dread of having to complete my story within the next two weeks set in. Or before I had a total meltdown or existential crisis (whichever came first) that would hinder my writing. This simple sentiment was impactful and spurred me into the direction I needed to go in to reach the completion of my thesis. Sometimes a simple word from a friend, that may seem benign, is all the inspiration you need to just keep going. I would be nothing without my support system. I thank God for them everyday. Having said that, below I attached images of The Seashell. My idea was to make it look as much as an actual book as I possibly can. Below I included the cover, a dedication, a important quote that I believe speaks to my overall story and finally the Table of Contents, the parenthesis will be removed soon. I will also include an Acknowledgements page at the end, which I’m currently working on. Thanks again for all the encouragement along the way guys! I’m so very proud of each and every one of us! Xo.

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The Chronicles of an Educator and a Graduate Student During Pandemic Learning

Google Images, 19 April 2021

Wearing a Mask for 6 Hours a Day and Revisiting my Literature Review

Monday, April 19, was the first day of a regular in-person school day. It was nice to see my students, but I also saw the repercussions of remote learning, which is the addictive urge to be on one’s phone, checking notifications. I had to remind my students, even the best of them, to put their phones away. Trust me, I have also developed this nasty habit of checking my phone when I am bored. By being mindful of my habit will help me, along with my students, to break this habit. Also, I am getting used to wearing a mask for the entire work day: from 7AM to 2:30 PM. At the end of the day, I rush to my car at the end of the day, I rip off my mask. It is difficult to teach with a mask on. Throughout the day, I find myself struggling to communicate with the students.

“Can you repeat that?”

“What did you say?”

In response to this problem, I find myself using my visuals, more slides, more JamBoards, more written words.

As for my research proposal, I went to check to see if there were any updates in my research areas of online grammar checkers that was not already noted on my Literature Review. And I could not find any other research. So, I spent more time revising and editing my Master’s Thesis in preparation for peer review tonight.

Thank You

After presenting last week, I felt the weight come off my shoulders. I appreciate everyone being supportive as I struggled at times to get the words out of my mouth. It has been a struggle to get through this work. Both emotionally and physically. It is now time to begin putting my final touches on it.

It sounds funny, but I feel like I devoted so much of my time into this work, and I slacked from my other classes this semester. I think that I put my research ahead of all other things and made it my priority. All I know is that in just a few weeks, this journey will be behind me and I’m looking forward to what ever the future may hold for me.

For those getting ready to start their thesis in the coming year, please heed the advice from this video.

Finding Inspiration In Unlikely Places…

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If I’m being completely honest and transparent, which I believe is a very important element of our thesis work, I must say I’ve hit a writing wall, or an emotional wall this week. I had to take a step back from my work. Why you ask? Hmm? Good question! I’m not sure I have the answer. I just know every time I put my fingers to the keyboard keys, it was crickets. I just couldn’t type. It was as if some imaginary being was pulling my hands back, preventing me from typing, from speaking, it almost felt like it was keeping me from even, breathing. Silence, deafening silence is all I heard. I tried to change my settings and scenery by heading off to my local Starbucks and B&N. It helped in that I was able to create a cover for my memoir, I inserted the table of contents, I also put a dedication in my memoir as well as a special quote that one can read before starting my story. I must say seeing The Seashell start to look like a actual book, rather than just some stark, white, google doc pages, gave me the chills. The good kind! It started to, for the very first time in over a year, started to look like a actual book, a publishable book. I don’t talk about it often, maybe because my negative inner dialogue stops me: “Nives, this is great work, but not good enough to ever get published.” This negative, self defeating sentiment seems to be stuck on repeat in my mind. But the truth is, what I don’t speak into existence, but speaks to my heart almost daily, is the fact that I dream and ache of the day my memoir gets published. I just pray as our journey together comes to an end soon, that I start to believe in my own work, and start to explore the possibility that my memoir, my story, is in fact good enough, that I’m good enough as is. If I’ve learned anything throughout my graduate school voyage, it’s that I need to learn how to have, even if it’s just a little bit, I need to learn to have a little more FAITH!

So you’re probably wondering what the above image is and why it’s in my blog post. Let me explain. This past weekend after finding myself in a writing rut, I needed an escape. Something to shake up all my senses. So I ventured off to NYC with a friend and went to of all places: The Museum of Sex! Ha! (My poor Catholic school nuns are cringing I know!) You’re probably wondering what’s wrong with me!? But it was exactly what I needed, without even realizing how much I needed it. I had heard about this museum over the years, and I was always curious. Sure it had it’s raunchy and over the top elements just as I had suspected. But it also had some really thought provoking and provocative exhibits, that made me appreciate the evolution and the deeper meaning of what sex, and sexuality is really all about. I left the museum feeling more empowered as a woman. I also felt grateful that I lived in a country that allows us all to openly explore and learn about our sexuality in such an open and over the top forum. Again, you’re probably wondering what the heck this has to do with my memoir or thesis, so here goes. One of the featured exhibits was a ode to Betty Dodson who recently passed at the age of 91 in 2020. She was an American sex educator, artist, and a pioneer in the pro sex feminist movement of the late 60’s. I was surrounded by all her colorful and explicit artwork, some of which I must admit made me blush. And as I explored further with one eye closed, I came upon her own very own memoirs!

I was excited to see that this dynamic woman had in fact written not one, but two memoirs. Betty Dodson’s memoir: From Monogamous Wife to Sexual Explorer to Feminist Revolutionary and My Romantic Love Wars: A Sexual Memoir is the story of one woman’s struggle to liberate female sexuality while enjoying her own. In the 70s, as the feminist movement evolved, focusing on various platform issues including equal pay and voter registration, Betty latched on to sexual liberation as a symbol for self empowerment. She quickly became the leader of the sex-positive feminist movement. And the rest is history. This was inspiring work! Although my thesis isn’t sex related, there is a chapter about how I lost my virginity, fell deeply in love and lost my way in life due to the intoxicating and toxic first love I experienced as a teenager and young adult. So I guess in many ways, sex does play a crucial role in my story, and the direction my life ultimately went in. I thank feminists leaders and icons like Betty for their bravery and the courage to speak out about women’s issues. Especially delicate ones such as sexuality, pleasure and sex. If it wasn’t for women like Betty, my own story may have never been told. Xo.

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