Friday, April 9, 2010

Nana and Najla's Dissertation Defense

Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Najla's public presentation of her dissertation is scheduled to begin at 3:30 pm, followed by a private meeting with my committee.

3:05 p.m: My husband and son Zachary arrive with a Diet Coke and string cheese. I have not eaten all day because of nerves.

3:07 p.m: My nervous system begins to fail and I walk into the bathroom to hide and gather my thoughts... I soon realize I have no more thoughts. I have lost most of my facilities.

3:10 p.m: I peek out from the bathroom and see the first of many guests have arrived and are finding their seats.

3:15 p.m: Women begin to enter the bathroom, so I leave to find a new hiding spot - a dark hallway. 

3:17 p.m.: My husband finds me in the dark hallway and asks what I am doing. I tell him I am about to barf and it would be best if he just told everyone to leave. He says "You'll be great." He then tells me my parents have not arrived.

Of course they haven't.

3:20 p.m. The associate dean of the college of arts, humanities and social sciences happens to find me in the dark hall. I explain that I am practicing my presentation. I decide not to tell her about wanting to barf.

3:23 p.m. My husband finds me again and says my parents are still not there. I walk outside the Alumni Center and stand by the one-way traffic hoping they will see me.

3:25 p.m. I give up on flagging down my parents and go back to my dark hallway. 

3:27 p.m: I peek out from the dark hallway to see one of my committee members coming down the stairs. She sees me before I can dart back behind the wall. I direct her to the room where the defense will take place. As she opens to door, it is apparent that there are far too many people who have taken me up on my invitation to attend.


what the hell was I thinking?

3:28 p.m. My husband comes back to find me and says I should probably come in the room. I tell him I'd like to wait a few more minutes. I stare at the floor breathing deeply until he tells me it is now 3:30 p.m.

3:30 p.m. I go into the room. Still no Nana and Papa.

3:32 p.m. My advisor asks if we should wait for my parents. After 15 seconds, I say "no" - let's just get this over with...

3:35 p.m.: My advisor introduces me... and I come up and begin my presentation.

3:40 p.m.: My butterflies are just beginning to dissipate when I look up and low and behold... my mother walks into the room with my father trailing behind her.

Everyone turns around.

I am cornered into addressing their entrance.

Me: Well... I should probably take a moment here to introduce my parents to you.

Nana: (In a loud voice) We got lost! Of course! Your dad got lost!

The crowd bursts out laughing.

Nana: I knew he would get lost. (She basks in the attention)...

Me: Well why don't the two of you sit....

My parents then proceed to sit with my committee in the back of the room. My mother has cozied up to one of my committee members.

Hummm... I'm not entirely sure that is the greatest idea ever....

Me: ... Ooookayyyy... And I guess my parents will be joining my committee and keeping them company in the back of the room. Wonderful.

More chuckles.

Throughout my 30-minute presentation, whenever I looked to the back of the room, all I see is my mother's black hair covering her profile. Rather than listening to me, she has opted for chatting it up with one of my committee members - Dr. Zoltan Madjik. Dr. Madjik looks as if he is politely listening... while politely trying to pay attention to my presentation... 

Who am I kidding? In an attention match between my mother and I - my mother will win. I resign myself to the fact that Dr. Madjik will not be hearing anything I have to say... maybe it is for the best.

However, the back row of the audience is also having a hard time hearing what I have to say, because my mother's inside voice teeters on an outside voice.

 I can hear my mother...

What is God's name is she talking to him about?


After I finish, I get some excellent questions. My advisor allows this to go on for about 10 minutes and then announced that the "executive inquisition" will be begin, and everyone has to leave.

I later find out, via my husband who heard this via my dad... that as my mother got up to leave, she pointedly looked at Dr. Majdik and said (I would think in her threatening Arab voice):

Nana: You'd better pass my daughter.

Good God.

Someone besides my father should have been assigned to chaperone her. 

After my private session with my committee (who by the way had lots of constructive criticism -- but left me feeling as if I had failed)... I was asked to leave the room.

I went out into the hallway (the one by the dark hallway) and found my husband, mom and dad waiting for me. I sat down - I felt sick.

Papa: You look white.

Me: I feel white.

Papa: You look like you are going to cry.

Me: I might.

Nana: What happened? Did you fail?

Me: I don't know. I hope not. But it felt like it. 

Papa: Why do you think you failed.

Me: Because my dissertation sucked! They found so much wrong with it! Oh my God. I don't want to talk about it.

Nana: Oh my Gaad! What if you failed?

Me: You are not making me feel better right now mom.

Papa: She didn't fail... I'm sure she didn't fail.

My advisor comes out and says:

Advisor: Great job! Congratulations!

Were we even at the same dissertation defense?

Anyways... the rest of it was kinda a blur... I don't remember much except that I asked the committee for verification that I had actually passed. They said I did.

Afterwards, the kids, Paul, my parents and I went out to eat to celebrate. 

Nana: Where is Zoloft from?


Me: Zoloft?

Nana: Yah - Where is he from.


Me: Mom. Zoltan. Not Zoloft.

She looks at me blankly.

Me: Zoloft is an anti-depressant mom.

Nana: Oh Gaad! Where did I get that from!

It's actually a compliment that she called him Zoloft rather than his given name. My mother and father do not call people they like by their given names.... only nicknames. 

My son Zachary is Zek Zek
Ethan is Etho
Evan is Evo
Zayd is Zaydo
I am Chino
My sister Yasmine is Yaso
My nephew Isaac is Alfonzo (seriously)
My brother in law Lon is Lonny.
Our next door neighbor when I was growing up was Oklahoma (I still don't know her real name)

Paul is Paul...

Huh. Wonder what that's about?

And now Dr. Majdik is Zoloft.


Welcome to the club.


  1. I should have gone. I could have brought "the little brown case" along and taken your mother to a nice area in the Alumni center. There would have been no problem at all!

    So proud of you! I will try to call you this weekend! Sorry I missed your call today (grading then meetings and now grading again!)

  2. Congratulations on your thesis defense! Do we call you Doctor Chino now?

  3. One of my better nicknames, actually.

  4. Congratulations, Dr Najmania.

    I am so so so very proud of you.

    : )