What’s On My Bookshelf | Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita

~Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita~

This is a devastatingly beautiful satire of former Soviet Union life. Two stories, written in parallel, take you through a quaking account of life. And may inspire you to ask yourself some questions.

What would you be willing to do for love?

I have it on good authority The Master and Margarita is Russia’s most beloved book. This book was gifted to me by a very dear friend who told me “every intellectual must read this book.” Yes, I agree with him. To a point.

Every creative must read this book.

Every romantic, acknowledged or closeted, must read this book.

My Own True North Mikhail Bulgakov Quote

What would your good do?

Every person who yearns to feel (something, anything) must read this book.

Every person who loves literature must read this book!

I have gifted this book to a small number of people. When I’ve given a copy of The Master and Margarita to a person, I haven’t done so lightly. I have no desire to indiscriminately share Mikhail Bulgakov because not everyone will get him.

If Bulgakov doesn’t speaks speak to you, it will be absolutely repellant! But, if it clicks with you, he will stir your soul. And I’m not throwing platitudes and waxing poetic.

And, one time, a friend to whom I gave a copy of this book admitted to me he did not even open up the cover to attempt to read. I was surprised, and honestly, yes, I judged him. A bit. Not for not liking the book. I accept there are different preferences. 

Admittedly, I really thought this friend would find so many themes and philosophies resonate with him. But through his explanation, he gave some of his cover away. I saw my friend in a different light. The whole rejection of the world inside this story actually served as a painfully poignant metaphor to frame the tenuous framework of an impassioned friendship (PG13 folks, nothing crazy here). Everyone has their preferences, but how does one who postures themselves to be a creative intellectual not yearn to read? At all? This may be a harsher criticism on me to beg the question than onto my friend… I understand that, at least.

Every person who sees startling beauty in yellow flowers… must read this book.

“But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and living beings. Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You’re stupid.”

What book quakes your soul?

XO, Jennifer

Yellow Flowers My Own True North Mikhail Bulgakov


My Own True North Mikhail Bulgakov Quotes

The Master and Margarita - great quotes in literature

An Amelie Memory and What Does it Mean to Take the Hit As a Gift

Missing Paris, I decided to pop in Amelie for a little reminder of a beautiful, brief respite of solitude and beauty in an otherwise emotionally tumultuous time in my life. This was also one of the last points in time I ever felt wholly optimistic. Soon after, a fated meeting with someone resulted in a sequence of events, after which, I have been holding onto a heavy amount of cynicism and general distrust toward people (lamentably, men, in particular).

I’m not happy about it, and not resigned to an indefinite state, but right now, it is what it is. There is a limited, stunted, amount of vulnerability and how much of myself I will open up to others. I miss the me who wasn’t so suspicious and guarded. I miss the me who was optimistic and hopeful when meeting someone new.

Paris Eiffel Tower Take the hit as a gift

A quote from the movie said by Monsieur Dufayel (Glass Man) “So, my little Amélie, you don’t have bones of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So, go get him, for Pete’s sake!

To me, this sweet little gem of a film illustrates vulnerability, taking risks, and putting one’s self out in the world, even if that means uncertainty and the unknown. Last week, somewhere I heard “take the hit as a gift.”

I really cannot remember where, and it’s entirely possible I hallucinated it in my sleep deprived state during the 48 hours I subsisted on about five hours of sleep and the kind of jet lag that makes a person see triple.


The Sweet Solitude of House Sitting


I love house sitting. It feels much less mooch-like. I can wake up, resume former underwear wearing uniform, and stream music as loud as I want. This morning’s pick is the rather dreamy, streamy, and somewhat steamy, beats of Lost Frequencies ~ Are You With Me. Love it! When house sitting, I have a purpose, here, instead of merely occupying breakfast nook space with stacks of papers, books, computers, a screeching printer, and Edie barking. At. Every. Thing. Incessant barking.

I’m, essentially, living with a second set of parents. Might as well be, for I’ve known them since I was 13. While that was sufficient for me for the anticipated month it would take me to finish my data collection, I’m feeling the stress of how much longer I’m living here than was originally expected. I cannot accurately – sufficiently – express the deep, deep, gratitude and love I feel for being allowed to spend my final weeks in Phoenix in such a positive and supportive space…. But — I am ready to goooooo………..

Doctoral Writing research draft house sitting

I managed to condense six banker’s boxes’ worth of documents, software, and random papers into two. Which is progress I’m rather satisfied with for the morning. This afternoon, after drafting entries for my data collection journal to submit to my dissertation chair for review, I am hosting a shredding party. Party of two. Edie and me.
Why did I make the symbolic sacrifice of no wine until my data collection is complete? Well, with more luck than I seem to be due, I hope to have the focus group completed August 6. While I do not want to make the hard – and $$$ expensive $$$ choice it will be to get the focus group done. If I manage to facilitate a successful focus group, I can at least pack up and head to Alabama. The last focus group attempt did not go so well.

Diary of a Frustrated PhD Student | Morning Coffee Dates with Jackalope
Today is another day in PhD frustrations, wearing the cloak of self doubt, and swimming in the deep end of the pool of imposter syndrome. Let’s call it what it is: another entry in the “Dear” diary of a frustrated PhD student. This morning is another one of those mornings. Up at 4. Not by choice. Laid in bed until about a quarter to 5, then decided to make an effort to capitalize on the early day.
A few cups of coffee on the patio and several mosquito bites later, Edie and I are taking refuge in the air conditioning, listening to the din of the washing machine and dryer with laundry loads # 2 and 3 complementing Matt Simons streaming on the iPad.
Grading is already complete for the week, I checked in with my class and all is seemingly well with my students. I will check on them again tonight, but for the day, my work is mostly done.

Well, of course there is more dissertation editing. The task list of a working PhD student feels never ending.

ALWAYS dissertation editing. It’s a grind, my friends! If I cannot interview, I can edit. I can transcribe. I can work more on building the database to prepare for analysis.
 manchester terrier mix, Oh edie
I have the house to myself for a couple of weeks and am celebrating my reunion with my solitude in rather appropriate fashion: underwear and a too-small tank top, the back of which is completely damp from my hair.
Even though I aim to have no interpersonal interactions today and intend to not dress for anything other than the walk to the mailbox to send off a consent form for another participant for a skype interview, I  was overdue for a hair wash, so in the spirit of the early day, I even already managed to shower. If I were willing to face people, I almost might be adultable, today.
But I’m not.

I’m tired. Restless and agitated. Emotional. Tired. Too long spent, too much trying to do too many things at the same time. It’s possible multi-tasking will be the death of me.

Truth be told, I feel like I am walking through deep mud. I’m trudging, but with an exhaustive effort. Unable to make the progress and distance I aim for, and the exertion… well, without muck boots, it’s even more… muckier. I understand, now, why so many people leave their PhDs when they are so near the end.
Before, I couldn’t understand how on Earth someone could make all the way through the pain of the course work, the heinous torture of comprehensive exams (that is time and energy in my life I will never get back and I am certain the stress I experienced during that two week period of time took years off the end of my expiration date), and walk away.
Now, though, I can get it. Obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. Roadblock, puzzle, solve, solve, endure, patience, patience, perseverance, obstacle, regroup, redirect, over and over and over. It’s exhausting. I cried again, last night. From the emotional and mental fatigue. Perpetual disappointments. I’ll have a breakthrough and success, then another complication.
A PhD is not for the weak or wearisome, I tell you, that much. I have been broken so many times throughout – and by – this damn degree… there’s a cargo ship’s volume of irony I see, right now, in reference to a PhD being a “terminal” degree.
my own true north frustrated PhD student

Dissertation Data Collection Purgatory | Monday Morning Dance Party
I was not supposed to still be in Phoenix, by now, but few things in my PhD process have gone easily, including the latest quandary. In other words, I have been a not-good, not-bad PhD student, apparently, because I am stuck in a blackhole/wormhole hybrid nightmare AKA dissertation data collection purgatory.
Some mornings require dance parties to get the day started. Monday mornings, especially. For me, “Monday” is only a concept, as I now have been unemployed for coming up on three months. This morning… is one of those mornings.

When you’re unemployed but still “working” – attempting order, focus, and optimism – but failing at most of those attempts because the data collection process is even more mind f-erry-ing than the darned proposal, forcing oneself to not give up on life and lay in bed crying a better part of the day has to be a conscious action. Today’s conscious action is this little number, here, thanks to the ultra cute JT.

…if nothing else, if I ever get my final three participant interviews completed — THREE! That’s all I need THREE! If I ever get those completed, my dissertation will be the best personally edited publication, ever. Purgatory. And not the amazing ski destination. This Venn diagram sums it up pretty accurately.

venn diagram phd proposal dissertation

dissertation data collection purgatory my own true north