Sunday, December 21, 2008

End of semester wrap-up; end of degree anxiety

I had two big goals for myself at the start of this semester, neither of which I met. For the most part, I'm okay with that.

The first was to always be reading a book on my own, outside of class, not required for any class. I imagined a relaxed hour in bed before sleep with a Toni Morrison novel, or short stories by Dorothy Parker. It ended up being a chapter or two out of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time before Rick developed an interest and rather stole the book from under my nose. That, and What to Expect When You're Expecting, basically just so I could be sure I wasn't going crazy, and that my symptoms are normal.

The other goal was successfully applying to phD programs this semester. I didn't go through with it--I postponed the process. My thought is this: this coming May I will complete my Masters degree, within a month after the graduation ceremony I'm having a baby. If I were to be accepted somewhere, it would require moving either during that month before the baby comes, or moving when the little guy is like, not off the cord yet--if you take my meaning. On top of that, I would be starting full bore into a phD program (which is a frightening, though exciting prospect) with a 3 month old newborn and a husband who may or may not have a job yet.

It could be done; it has been done, and very likely I could do it and be quite successful. But do we always have to do things the hard way? I'd like the baby to be just a little bit older before I introduce it to my school-induced neuroses.

Making the decision to defer the application process took a lot of pressure off this semester, but in the meantime posts like these are popping up more and more:

Is the writing on the wall and I'm just reluctant to see it? I am thrilled by the thought of getting a phD just to receive that much education, and to work that hard to receive a degree. But there is a that involves being able to get a job afterwards. And yeah, I'd like to think I'd be an exception, but don't we all?

Friday, December 19, 2008

One sick puppy

Poor doggie.

I have to go shovel the yellow snow that is the stool sample I'm taking with me to the vet's in an hour.

After not moving from his spot in the living room all evening yesterday, and now just barely gimping around with a sore hind end, he appears to be in better spirits than I am--weakly thumping his tail and looking expectantly at his ball. I rolled it about two feet, which made him very happy. And the fact that that is able to make him happy is so pathetic that I am now quite sad (this is dog who, if you don't throw the ball to his standards, refuses to fetch it until you do a better job. Total ball/fetch snob). Hope he is OK:(

This is what he looked like last summer, faithfully guarding the shed:

This is what he looks like now, only its snowing, and his stomach is gurgling:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blogging Before Bed makes for weird dreams. Same for eating bananas, or so I've heard.

I have no concept of direction. It seems that I've mentioned this--but I have gotten lost in my own backyard. I thought I was going to end up at my back porch, but came out into the clearing of the church parking lot next door, instead.

I have lived in the same city for nigh 16 years, and still get lost when I go to the east side. Carefully parking my car where the gas station attendant can't see my plates, I go inside to play the "I'm from out of town and need directions" game.

In proportion to my lack of directional sense is my husband's absent concept of time. Every year, he asks, with a frown on his face "When is Christmas?" It's always on the same day, by the way.

Often I catch him relating an event from two weeks prior as "six months ago." Fortunately, I have a steel grip on temporality, and can usually tell you (oddly enough) the day I last wore my green Old Navy Sweater, how many days its been since I last ate a gummi bear, how long that empty bowl has been sitting on the back porch.

Lately, I've been reading up on defining time (horizontal? vertical? Imaginary?) and examining the temporality of medieval texts. This will make for some "tuning fork" moments, believe you me--just imagine throwing Stephen Hawking, Byrhtnoth and Augustine of Hippo into a ring, and you'll see what I mean. It gets ugly.

Imagine, then, the traumatic conversation that took place earlier this evening when I had to persuade Floyd that it is, in fact, Wednesday. The man was utterly convinced that it was Tuesday. He had an arsenal of evidence, which consisted of everything that he did on Monday. His persistence got the better of me where his logic failed, and set me on a paranoid downward spiral, augmented by my recent preoccupation with how time functions.

...maybe it isn't Wednesday. Did I miss a day? Did I make a day up? Is this moment in time overlapping with one that came before it? Did I not finish that paper? Holy shit!

I close this post with what is quite possibly my favorite movie quote ever:

"What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today!"
--Phil from Groundhog Day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Deadlines are a blessing

...and don't let anyone tell you different. Yes, there might be scramblng involved--in fact, for me at least, there always is. It makes no difference how long I've researched a paper, or how many different version are saved to my my various emails, flashdrives and university drives. A deadline offers a sense of completion, and of accomplishment. Maybe the paper sucks--always a possibility--but at least you know that it's over.

Wiggly, watery deadlines, on the other hand, can only offer a sense of nagging doubt and regret. Like the one that's eating the lining of my stomach as we speak. Grr. Paper-that-must-not-be-named had great potential, and it also had the potential to be turned in on Monday...but ah me, what's done is done.

I think this speaks to a deep down distrust for professor's motives (I hope this isn't taken the wrong way). When the "meh, get it to me when you get it to me" line is tossed out there, I am immediately suspicious. Am I being tested? Is it really just a ruse to weed out the undisciplined students? Do I get kudos of any sort for turning it in on time, when the watery deadline has been proposed?

Y'see--the questions, they keep on comin. It's 8:30 on a Saturday, and I've been up for two hours (normal for some, but not so much for the Beeyotch).

Deadlines are merciful.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Maternity Clothing ahoy!

1.) It has begun--the shrinking of the pants.

2.) I'm still working on perfecting the t-shirt inspired by Got Medieval's recent post Hemp and Hops, Together at Last. It's difficult to make the t-shirt color match the print of the picture, and I'd like to preserve the "manuscript beige" (was that a crayola color?). In the meantime, however, I've got a few in the works, for the pregnant ladies out there. I won't keep them in white, of course, because I spill a lot.

I like to think of this one as slightly less trashy than the wonderful "I'm with stupid" t-shirts available (the arrow point to the pregnorriferous bump).

In English, it'd just be bitchy. In the Latin, it's bitchy and pretentious. My work here is done.

And this one* might be overboard. But people need to know that its not just the hormones making pregos around the world crazy, its all of the banned substances.

*Also available in valium

Monday, December 8, 2008

The perfect course schedule?

Hard to come by.

I've only really regretted one course in my graduate career, and that has less to do with the content or layout of the class than the fact that I missed a class on Milton because of it. So, as I prepare to buy books for next semester (last one for the MA) I'm still having second thoughts about my choices. The course I'm currently signed up for is a seminar on the theory and practice of intertextuality with a focus on 20th century works. Bonus points:

  1. really awesome professor, the kind that says things about your writing and scholarly endeavors that make you shuffle yer feet and say "aw, shucks". Said prof is doubly awesome for cackling ever so inappropriately at Sylvia Plath's poetry, and for being an administrative Chuck Norris. This would be my third course with this prof.
  2. A phD program is more likely to count this towards the next degree because of how the course is numbered. That's a pretty big bonus, needless to say.
  3. Let's just say it: the idea of intertextuality is fascinating and exciting.

And yet, there remains the course I'm looking at over my shoulder, one dealing with 17th century literature.

  1. Although its a survey, this course would solidify my grounding in literature. On the GRE subject test, questions from this time period were one of two types of questions I skipped (the others dealt with contemporary theory).
  2. I hate to say it, let alone write it down in an academic blog, but let's be honest--would I really tackle Herbert and Jonson on my own? Sure, I'd read a poem or such, but sometimes a swift kick in the ass--er, introduction to the material helps me get going.
  3. I think that I have a lot to learn from this professor, who(m?) I've only had for one other class. Sometimes, when this professor talks about a poem or passage of lit, I feel like a tuning fork has gone off in my head--you know, that "Byyoooo" sound when your brain is reaching capacity? (holy crap, if I think any deeper my head will explode, that sort of thing).

Back to work.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The dog ate my homework

Kinda. Its a long story--let me sum up. The kitten peed behind the TV last night and we knew something bad had happened because of a weird humming noise that came from the mess of wires, not to mention the smell of burning cat urine (bless you, hormonally heightened sense of smell). Nothing happened just then, but sometime this morning--between the alarm going off and my shower--the power went out.

I was up and at em, ready to knock out some final research on paper-that-must-not-be-named. I noticed it was cold. Nothing new. Floyd is worse than my dad when it comes to the heat--or lack thereof. One day he'll freeze the pipes by keeping the house so cold, and we'll see who's laughing then (me, from my hotel room. In my skivvies with the heat turned up to 80).

I noticed the VCR clock is not working. Again, nothing too surprising. We had a silent fight about whose job it was to change the VCR time last April or whenever the clocks "spring forward." The clock remained one hour off until it was time to "fall back." Imbeciles, the both of us.

No heat. No clock. Floyd comes home and points out the obvious (that I had completely missed): "There's no power." I thought my toes were bluer than normal.

After exchanging unpleasantries with Floyd, because of course its his fault, and not because I'm a crazy preg, I went to local coffeehouse to continue work until the problem took care of itself.

Christmas music.


So, I gave up. Can't go home cos its a walk-in freezer, can't get work done at this point cos there's nowhere to go to escape "O Holy Night." When its not Michael McDonald, its Celine Dion. And its always bad.
So I'm all worked up and cranky...what better time to get some Christmas shopping done? I mean, I'd hate to spend a good mood shopping for vibrating doggie slippers. And so I knocked down what remained of my list that I couldn't find easily online. As it stands, my christmas endeavours are OVER. This means that when the semester is over I don't have to keep pushing once my papers are in and student grades are calculated. I can sit on the couch and stare at the wall in a comatose way that disconcerts Floyd. Ah, now that sounds nice.

...see you on the flip side...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Who gets the short end of the stick?

Before I became a teaching assistant, I completed a year of graduate school. Many of my peers, however, hit the ground running with a section of Comp One in addition to their first semester's load of classes. I don't really know how they did it. In my experience, I certainly needed at least a semester to readjust to being back in school, not to mention working at the graduate caliber. Then again, I don't know how any of us do it, any semester. It's grad school: if it's not tough and make-you-wanna-cry challenging, you ought to check the manual under "operator error". Each semester yields new challenges and you've either got to meet them head-on every time, or run home with your tail tucked between yer legs.

But if the challenge is teaching a class in addition to the graduate course load, is there a short end of the stick? In other words, do students suffer at the hands of too-green gradstudent teaching assistants? In a recent hallway conversation with me, a member of the composition faculty insinuated this. My immediate response was to become defensive, but the question struck me, and has been bothering me ever since. Allow me to ruminate, though I must warn you in advance that I'm not coming to any concrete conclusions here.

Admittedly, I have felt unqualified in front of my students. I feel self-conscious about the fairly small age gap between myself and some of my students, particularly when I sensed their awareness of it. There's been times I've been flustered at the front of the classroom; times I've had to admit to not knowing the answer; times I've had to correct a mistake I made on a handout, or in something I said. Guess what? I've seen my professors do these same things--and I didn't hold it against them, or feel cheated. In fact, I emulate these same professors in my own teaching.

While I am obviously more prone to beginner's mistakes, I make up for this because I always follow up with students. I might not know the answer off the top of my head, but I'll find out and letcha know, thats for damned sure. If I've given misinformation, I admit it to the entire class. I take advantage of the apparently small age gap between myself and students, and as a result I've connected with them; brought them into eye-opening discussion; shown them the vast world that is writing, and the one that writing can bring. My students are able to write in several different genres, from rhetorical analyses to music reviews to business letters. There are plenty of challenges in my classroom, and there's an assload of writing. And a lot of laughing.

Let's not forget the potential detriment, in this situation, to the graduate student. Because I am a graduate student, I hold myself to a higher standard of discipline and polish for any of my projects; my classroom is no exception. I am often suspicious that I work harder on my classes than most of my students do. My peers are no exception. Throwing ourselves in front of the proverbial train to please our students, we often spend more time on lesson plans and assignments than our own studies. We fill up the computer lab compiling assignments, grading papers and answering emails--of course, there's the occasional contest as to whose student has the best excuse for not being in class. We work damned hard for a small stipend (a third of which goes to our general fees each semester). Several of us take holiday jobs to help pay for our books and the mandatory health insurance. So, really, who's being cheated? The composition student who wants to get by with the least amount of work possible, or the TA blamed for that student's laziness?