Granny or Grad Student

A few months ago I was enjoying the finest cuisine Bloomington has to offer in the form of Kilroy’s $2 Tuesday quesadillas with a few other penny-pinching grad students. I had eaten my full of the cheesy goodness, so I pulled out the Tupperware I had brought with me, the one I purposefully carried to $2 Tuesdays knowing there would be left overs. I then proceeded to pack away my leftovers and the leftovers of my comrades who hadn’t so brilliantly thought ahead.

It was then that fellow grad student Josh Sites looked at me weird. Getting slightly self-conscience, I said defensively, “What?! I’m a grad student!” as if that would explain what I now realize must have looked like irrational hoarding behavior. “Grad student or granny?” Josh quipped back.

I laughed with him then realizing how much my life has changed in the past two years, how fully I had embraced the grad school life and how that acceptance in many ways aligns my behaviors more with that of senior citizens than of a 20-or-30-something. With that in mind, here are five more behaviors that are proudly shared by grad students and grannies (and grandpas) alike.

1) Clipping coupons for EVERYTHING.

It wasn’t until coming to grad school that I really started to appreciate that infinitely long strip of CVS coupons that come with your receipt. Now I appreciate the money-saving tips my grandma gave me and I clip coupons with glee. I am never satisfied unless I’m saving at least 15% per purchase; although I one day hope to reach the 20% savings mark my grandma manages to hit.

2) Going to bed at 9 pm because you are legitimately tired.

Before grad school, trying to go to bed early usually meant drinking some Valerian tea and listening to soothing wave sounds to convince my body to give in early. Now, sheer mental exhaustion makes it easy to fall asleep at an embarrassingly early 9 pm, just after Jeopardy. Some nights my grandma and I are definitely on the same schedule.

3) Carrying around giant bags with way too much stuff in them.

Whether it is a purse, a backpack or one of those “hip” shoulder bags, grad students all have to carry around bags that are way too big. Just like grannies, you never know when an emergency might strike so you need to carry around all the necessities including: aspirin, Band-Aids, protein bars, Starbucks Double Shot, your Chromebook, red pens, pencils, and an extra notebook. Our bags are more stuffed than Mary Poppins!

4) Wearing “comfortable clothes” all the times.

Grad school is no longer a time of vanity. Much like grannies, we give into the comfort of sweatpants, crocs and buns, which are not only comfortable but practical given the hours upon hours of sitting that are mandatory in grad school.

5) Not understanding today’s youth.

Even though many of us were “the youth” just a few years ago or are still currently clumped into that group by elders, there is something about living in a college town and teaching 18 year-olds, that just makes you shake your head and yell “get off my lawn,” something I actually yelled at a herd of youth who had congregated on my porch over Little 5 weekend. I definitely channel my inner granny on the weekends downtown.

Although sometimes it seems slightly depressing to have gone from “youth” to “granny” in two short years, what grad school has actually taught most of us are the lessons that grannies know well: life is too short to care what other people think of you. So grab your big bag, your crocs and your Tupperware and let’s have a night out on the town … as long as I’m home watching “Murder She Wrote” by 8 pm.

A Gift of Adventure

By Mona Malacane

Everyone loves and appreciates a thoughtful gift. When you put effort into choosing what the gift-receiver would truly enjoy, you’re giving someone something that they can cherish (hopefully) for many years to come. Perhaps this is why gift-giving is sometimes referred to as an art.

Being the ever-thoughtful couple that they are, Teresa and Nic recently decided to really embrace the challenge of giving a good gift. For Christmas last year they sought to gift memories rather than material items to their loved ones. “We had decided that this year for family and people that we were buying gifts for, we would do a bit more of buying experiences,” Teresa explained. “So for [Nic’s] parents, we bought them a paddle-boarding trip and we bought my god children passes to a nature preserve, things like that.” Little did she know that Nic had something very unique and special under the tree for her.

He had found a Groupon for a flying lesson at a local small airport. When she opened her present, she was a little confused and completely surprised. “I opened the card and had to read it twice and I was like … I’m going to fly a plane? …”

The answer was yes and on March 8th, the two drove up to Indy Sky Sports for the lesson. Because it was a flight lesson and not just a passenger ride, the flight instructor had to go through some specifics before they got up in the air – the ergonomics of the plane, the physics of flying, and some safety info. All pretty necessary stuff if you’re going to be gliding around above the ground in a plane that weighs a little more than 600 pounds soaking wet. And from takeoff to landing, Teresa was pretty much doing all of the flying with the instructor there for support. No really, Teresa literally taxied and lifted the plane into the air for takeoff, and centered the plane to the runway and brought it down to the ground for landing.


After takeoff when they had climbed to about a mile above ground, the instructor threw her a curveball. “When we got up to cruising

A side view of the small plane (Photo credit to Indy Sky Sports Website)

A side view of the small plane (Photo credit to Indy Sky Sports Website)

altitude, which was about 4700 feet, [the instructor] said, ‘one of the first things I like to do to instill a sense of confidence in my flight students is I tell them to cut the engines off …’ And I’m thinking to myself, well you’re in the plane too so you’re not going to tell me to just fall out of the sky.” With the engines off, the cabin was silent and for a few seconds they were just gliding through the air. And then the nose started to dip a little and things got a little dicey for a minute … But just as easily as the nose started to dip, it corrected and tilted up. “Essentially we were dolphin-ing through the air but there was no forward momentum other than what we picked up from flying up.”

The rest of the experience was equally as adrenaline-rushing and yet smoothly effortless. With a huge grin on her face, Teresa told me some of the amazing (and probably terrifying for the average person) tricks the instructor did with her like banking, 360s, and flying towards the sunset.




The instructor took over for some of more advanced tricks they tried, like the corkscrew rise. It is exactly like the name suggests, the plane was climbing at about 60 degrees in a spiral movement. Another advanced maneuver they tried was called astronaut training. “Basically what we did was we went straight up in the air with high acceleration and we were probably at about a 70 degree incline, so I felt like I was laying almost completely flat on my back … and when we got to the top of this ascension we dove straight down. It was like coming over a roller coaster.” Before the ascension, the instructor had handed Teresa a key chain and told her to throw it up in the air when she felt weightless to visually see the loss of gravity but she said that she didn’t need the key chain to feel it because she was already floating out of her seat.

Flying a small plane wasn’t something Teresa had really imagined herself doing before her birthday trip, and understandably so. Flying is kind of a rare and exceptional thing to do, usually reserved for professionals. “I had never thought that I would fly before, not because I didn’t think that I wouldn’t want to, but I just didn’t think it was an achievable thing.” Now that she has a taste for it? “I definitely want to fly again … I would say it’s probably not the last time I’m going to fly, it was really really cool.”

TgmaWhile she hadn’t given much thought to flying before March, T’s grandmother was actually a pilot in World War II. She flew both large and small cargo planes behind enemy lines and would drop supplies for soldiers on the ground. She said about her grandmother, “Growing up she used to always tell my grandfather, who was a paratroop ranger [during the war], that any monkey can jump out of a plane but it takes someone with real brains to fly one.” She sounds liked a real aerial Rosie the Riveter.


Cozy Gezellig, the Cure to Winter Blues

By: Niki Fritz

Even though I’m from the Wisconsin, where winter is the default season and babies are basically born with snow boots on, there still comes a point every winter when I’m done. After months of shoveling, de-icing, slipping on poorly salted sidewalks, there is always a point in March when I just want to give up and let winter win.

Last week was that breaking point for me this Indiana winter. After de-icying my car the night before, I woke up to find a plow had buried my car up to the wheels. That car wasn’t moving anytime soon. I felt stuck and defeated by winter.

Then a friend in Communication and Culture sent me a link explaining the Danish word “hygge”, which basically means hunkering down into coziness with good friends and wine during winter. My take on hygge was embracing the winter by settling down into it.

Irene in a "brown cafe" with a local bar cat

Irene in a “brown cafe” with a local bar cat

I asked one of my favorite almost Scandanavians, Irene, if they used the concept of hygge in The Netherlands. She explained the Dutch have the word “gezellig,” which kind of means “complete relaxation.” Gezellig sounded lovely to me.

“Defining ‘gezellig’ is pretty tough,” Irene tells me. “The concept captures an atmosphere. If something is gezellig depends on your surroundings, the people you are with, food, drinks, lighting, the whole shebang. Gezellig, I think, is mainly a feeling of intimacy, belonging, warmth, happiness that is created when you mix the right factors together.”

In Amsterdam, Irene explains that there are certain cafes that are gezellig, called “brown cafes.” They usually have wooden furniture, a cuddly bar cat and a warm atmosphere. But she explains the concept can be extended much farther. Streets, shops and houses can all carry the adjective of gezellig. Or it can be a feeling while you snuggle into a tent when it is raining outside. Gezellig is a multipurpose word.

“My ideal gezellig involves candles, fireplace, good friends or family, my own piece of mind – a dangling deadline doesn’t add to the level of gezellig – a table full of hapjes on the table,” Irene says. “And wine would be great too.”

DSCN0709With my new found understanding of gezellig, I was all set on Wednesday night to have a dinner and wine with some friends and just embrace the Indiana weather. And then it snowed AGAIN, the roadways became death traps and my friends had to cancel. But since I’d been told gezellig doesn’t necessarily have to be with friends – just total relaxation – I put on my slippers, turned on my fake fireplace, poured myself a generous glass of wine and settled into the night, watching it snow and being totally thrilled I was inside and cozy.

I felt like I was rocking this gezellig and maybe starting to embrace the dredges of winter.

I asked some other Telecom students how they embraced the coziness of winter. While Nic and Teresa brave the cold to grill, Jess likes to stay in and bake. Ashley’s dog baby Jack likes to frolic in the snow, while Mona’s Harry likse to cuddle in for the winter. Many seem to have created their own rituals, their own ways of gezellig, a time to embrace the cold and relax into it.

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In a world that so often asks us to be constantly pushing forward no matter how cold is the wind slapping our faces, gezellig can be a nice reminder that sometimes you need the warmth and renewal of a fire and some friends; sometimes you need to hunker down and embrace that winter may have defeated your car but never your spirit.

Now that it appears the days may be getting warmer, it may seem that days of gezellig are numbered. But Irene assures me that gezellig can take place during any season; the key is just to let it find you.

“You can’t force gezellig. It’s there or it isn’t,” Irene says. “But luckily it’s not a limited source.”

The key ingredient to winter biking: Layers, confidence and a touch of crazy

By: Niki Fritz

The reason Julien Mailland decided to bike through were fairly rational.

“I walked last winter and I was very very cold. I figured if I was going to be very very cold I would rather be very cold for 5 minutes (biking) instead of 25 minutes (walking),” Julien explained.

A rational thought but during an Indiana winter, rationality has a way of slipping away and splattering into a million nonsensical pieces on the icy Bloomington roads.

When I probed Julien a bit more about his possible motivations for taking on something as possibly treacherous as biking on black-iced glazed roads filled with clueless students on their phones haphazardly crossing the street, his tone got a bit more serious.

Julien ready to take on the winter roads with his new mountain bike

Julien, ready to take on the winter roads, with his new mountain bike.

“You have to be a little crazy,” Julien admits. “[Biking in the winter] is a little bit of a challenge. You are competing against the elements. You see a hill and you think okay am I going to take that hill or a spill. There is only one way to find out.”

Julien is speaking from experience on that. He took several spills on his road bike this fall before he decided to invest in a quite massive and impressive mountain bike, which so far, as allowed him to make it to work unscathed.

Of course Julien, a native of France, isn’t new to this whole biking thing. He vividly remembers watching the Tour de France every year on T.V., an event he calls the “world’s greatest free sporting event.” After his childhood days of watching biking, he became a daily bike commuter to his job in Paris, an activity that was considered normal by Parisian standards. After moving to Bloomington it seemed natural to bike, especially considering the walk from the parking lot would take him longer than simply biking from home.

While Julien finds Bloomington a fairly friendly bike town, he hasn’t gotten totally swept away in the biking culture … except for Little 500 which he went to last year and loved.

“You’re a participant observer [at Little 500.] It is really intense. 200 laps on fixed bikes. Dirt in the eyes.  It was very fun. It’s a good race,” Julien said, half trying to convince me that Little 500 was more than just an excuse for the undergrads to binge drink.” [Little 500] is a great IU tradition where the community comes together to celebrate the alma mater. I’m a French dude who felt like part of the community that day.”

Although competitive biking like the Tour de France or Little 500 isn’t really in Julien’s future, he is determined to continue to bike all winter. He insists that more of his collegues should try it. According to Julien all you need is a good bike, layers and of course confidence.

“If you are afraid, you spill. If you lack confidence that is where you fail,” Julien said matter-of-factly. “That is true of everything.”


Julien’s Top 6 Winter Biking Tips

  • Get a bike with wide tires for better grip. Keep them a little deflated to maximize surface area of the tire on the road.
  • Skate helmets make you look cool.
  • Wear many many layers. “Obviously you need gloves otherwise your hands will freeze. You need a scarf to cover your face, otherwise you will die.”
  • Try to avoid Atwater or 10th and try to avoid hitting students.
  • Always have a front and back light otherwise you will die.
  • Don’t be an idiot and be safe always!


Dissertation dogs: How the love of a good dog can get you through anything including grad school

By: Niki Fritz

Jack is Ashley's new Border Collie puppy and can best be described as both regal and silly

Jack is Ashley’s new Border Collie puppy and can best be described as both regal and silly.

The past year has been a big one for IU Telecom grad student Ashely Kraus. She defended her thesis, finished the first year of her doctoral studies, and made possibly one of the biggest decisions of her life: she decided to get a dog. As Ashley explains, after she defended her thesis and knew Bloomington was going to be home for a while, “I knew I was ready for a dog. I was ready for Jack.”

But Jack wasn’t the dog Ashley had planned for. “I had planned on getting a dog that was two to four years old. But when I saw Jack and he looked up at me with those eyes, I just knew he was the right puppy.”

Jack is a Border Collie puppy who is filled with energy and an evident sweetness. It is virtually impossible not to fall in love with him at first lick, despite his occasional over-eagerness and tendency to jump on you before you can make it fully through the front door. (Although this is something Mama Ashley is working hard to train Jack out of, through a complex system of treats and water bottle sprays.)

Upon first greet with Jack it is also clear that he is just a little bit eccentric. Jack plays by himself by throwing his bone over his head and then furiously jumping up to catch it, as if he wasn’t the one who threw it in the first place. And every time he does this little trick, Ashley laughs hysterically. It seems as if they have their own little idiosyncratic human-dog communication.

What is clear about Ashley and Jack is that sometimes there is just a right fit, a perfect dog for a lucky grad student to make winter nights, grad school and life in general a little more enjoyable.

Ashley and Jack: a match made in heaven or in reality at the shelter

Ashley and Jack: a match made in heaven or in reality at the White River Humane Society.

But beyond being a riot, Jack helps Ashley be more productive in concrete ways.

“Jack helps give me structure. I have to be home to let him out,” Ashley says. “Plus he makes it easier to work from home. Before I went a little stir crazy. Even though the conversations I have so far with Jack are on- sided, it is still nice to have him here. I don’t feel like I’m studying by myself all day.”

Of course as with any family member, things aren’t always easy with Jack.

“He was such a sweet kid; now he is kind of entering his teens and he doesn’t listen as well,” Ashley explains. There have been a few recent accidents and the case of the eaten dollar bill.

In addition to an eaten pen, Ashley came home one day to find this almost-cartoon-like eaten up dollar bill

In addition to an eaten pen, Ashley came home one day to find this almost-cartoon-like eaten up dollar bill.

But Ashley knows this is just a learning phase for Jack and that soon, hopefully before she starts dissertating, Jack will mature a bit, grow out of his teenage years and the two will hit a groove together. For Ashley, Jack is her dog but also her study buddy, the pup who makes her feel less lonely.

“A lot of work as an academic is alone. Even though we collaborate, we are working day in and day out alone,” Ashley says. “It was really lonely working alone all day. I imagine when you are dissertating it is even more lonely. I think having Jack will help me feel less alone. And it will be nice to have someone to talk to about T Swift.”

As for any final words about the role of dogs in an academic’s life, Ashley was clear the benefits of a new forever friend outweigh any eaten shoes, pens or dollar bills.

“Jack is very therapeutic to have around,” Ashley says. “He just gives you unconditional love. And everyone needs more love.”

At this point in the interview, Jack, who may have been a little sick of being ignored, pushed his sweet head under my arms and typed this message: “Fvgs  z A,” which I’m pretty sure is Jack speech for “I love you too Ashley. Now let’s play!”

Ashley isn’t the only Telecom grad student with a forever friend. Check out Mona and Alexis’ awesome dogs!

What’s Not to Love About Winter?

By Mona Malacane

Ok, ok, I know that there are quite a few things that make winter a rather … difficult time of year. We all remember the horrendous potholes, the -40 degree three days long nightmare, and that time it snowed in March. And yes, it is less than enjoyable when any bit of exposed skin goes numb within 2 minutes while walking to class and that shaded sidewalks become slippery (and embarrassing) death traps. I will even concede that having to put on ten pounds of clothing just to let my dog out multiple times a day gets pretty tiring quickly.

Sidewalk of death

Sidewalk of death.

But how about starting this season on a more positive (and jingly) note and thinking about all of the wonderful things that make winter special! For example, I greatly enjoy sweaters and any/all occasions to don knitwear. Other things I like about winter include: tacky sweater parties, drinking hot apple cider (oftentimes with a dash of whiskey) without breaking out into a sweat, knitting/crocheting scarves, condensation that makes us look like fire breathing dragons, seeing my dog hop around in the snow, and heated blankets (they change your life, I swear).

Homemade tacky sweaters

Homemade tacky sweaters

Now you’re thinking, “Ok those things are nice and all Mona, but I’m still not sold on this whole ‘winter can be a great time of year thing.’” Well here is a list that may induce some warmer winter feelings, courtesy of some of my fellow forward-thing graduate students.

Christmas movies and fattening foods.”– Ashley Kraus

 “The spontaneous snowball fights.”– Keith Orgain

I hate winter. Ice skating, skiing, sledding, and the holiday season make it tolerable. Having to practice discus throwing indoors makes it worse.” – Kelsey Prena, See exhibit A:

 “Justified hibernation. Often in virtual worlds.”– Ryland Sherman

It never gets cold here or snows.” – Mark Bell (Denial is not just a river in Egypt Mark … I should know.)

 “My favorite thing is yelling SNOW-POCALYPSE while playing four days worth of DC heroes and cards with snowed-in friends.”– Dustin Ritchea

I love spontaneous snow angles in Dunn Meadow. Also hot cocoa. Also hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps because I’m an old man.”– Niki Fritz

Photo courtesy of Niki Fritz

Photo courtesy of Niki Fritz.

Getting snowed-in in Manhattan.” – Daphna Yeshua-Katz

I’ll second Dustin Ritchea and Ryland Sherman ‘s comments about thoroughly enjoying being trapped in virtual worlds (Skyrim!) and other gaming with snowed-in friends!” – Stevie Stewart

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– This gem of a video from Stephen Myers

Hot pots and holiday spirit!”– Yijie Wu

Hot chocolate, sledding, Christmas, and being snowed in with friends.” – Whitney Eklof

Hunting. Sitting in an ice fishing shack while enjoying Snow Shoe Grog. Listening to southerners complain about the weather.” – Gabe Persons

I know I don’t get to vote anymore … but snowmen!!!” – Rachel Bailey

My favorite thing is Seasonal Affective Disorder.” – Josh Sites

Hiking in the snow!” – Glenna Read

The eerie quiet a heavy snow storm causes.” – Nic Matthews

Fire crackers! It’s a Chinese tradition to set off firecrackers to celebrate new year and to scare off the evils. So … it’s always associated with the image of winter for me. Plus, I love the sound firecrackers make!” – Xiaodan Hu

One of my favorite things about winter is walking around on campus when it’s snowed!” – Teresa Lynch


Photo courtesy of Teresa Lynch.

Dancing for A Cause

By Mona Malacane

Warning, I’m about to state the obvious: It is so easy to get swept up by all the short term deadlines in academia. For example, I am currently looking at my list of things to complete this week and it is full of class readings, running experiments, writing papers, homework, errands, and 15 minute blocks of exercise. If you let it, grad school can hijack your life. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking around with blinders on. My blog story this week snapped me out of the deadline-haze and made me reflect on the things outside of my grad school bubble, which have become way too easy to lose sight of.

This week, I sat down with Andrew Weaver and he shared with me his son Owen’s story. Owen was born three months premature at Bloomington Hospital, weighing only 1 pound, 15 ounces. He was airlifted immediately to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis where he stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit for 4 months. When he was finally able to go home with Andrew and Nicole, he was still on oxygen even though he was healthy and his prognosis was very positive.

Owen the builder

Owen and his banner at the 2013 IUDM.

Owen is now five years old, in kindergarten, a big brother to Nicole and Andrew’s younger son Elliott, and can correctly name all of his toy construction equipment. (If I were psychic I would predict that he is a future engineer in the making.) But he would not be thriving today without the amazing doctors and nurses at Riley. “It’s a research hospital affiliated with IU, and the research that they’ve done there on how to deal with premature infants and how to get their lungs healthier and how much oxygen to give them and when to give to them, it’s all research that they’ve done there at the hospital … and that saved his life,” Andrew explained. So when Andrew and Nicole were contacted by someone at the IU Dance Marathon, which raises money and awareness for Riley Hospital, they of course said yes.

IUDM is a year-long fundraiser that culminates in a marathon where alternating groups of participants (mostly students) stay on their feet for 36 hours, a lot of the time, dancing. But IUDM isn’t just about raising money; it’s also a celebration for Riley families and Riley kids like Owen. “At the marathon itself, they have a bounce house and all kinds of stuff for the kids to do and of course thousands of college students who want to play with them. They [Owen and Elliott] have a great time and always look forward to it.” It is a massive production. There are concerts, bands, games, and speakers; Colts players and IU athletes stop by and shake hands; and many Riley families tell their stories. “There’s a lot going on at different times but they do a great job of planning it so there is always something interesting happening.” To give you an idea of how large of a production the IUDM here are some quants –  it is the second largest student-run philanthropy in the country and it raised $2.6 million last year.

Aside from the millions of dollars they raise, Andrew explained that the students behind this fundraiser are what truly make the organization and marathon special. “What really has an impact on us emotionally is just the lengths that these students are going to and the dedication that they have. Because it’s not just this weekend … they start meeting weekly, twice weekly for some of them, early in the Spring to start planning this year’s event. And they have lots of other events throughout the year,” he said. “The time that they are spending is more than a full-time job for a lot of these students who are in charge of IUDM for months and months … and they are doing it on top of being a student and on top of their own lives. So to see the effort and sacrifices that they make in such a selfless way, it’s amazing.”

Owen at a committee meeting

Andrew and Nicole are now faculty advisers for the whole organization. This is a picture of Owen at one of the committee meetings!

If you want to learn more about the organization you can visit their website , their blog, or watch this amazing video  that explains what the organization is about and even has. The Marathon begins this Friday, November 14 at the Tennis Center! So if you want to see some of the activities you can check it out at the visitors center or there will be a live feed of the entire marathon on their website. Start fundraising now if you’d like to participate next year!