Friday, August 7, 2009
I have postponed blogging for two reasons: I had a paper to avoid, and whenever I'm avoiding a paper I can't in good conscience blog. I'd rather beat myself up for being unproductive. In my defense--I have had something attached to me (see above). The more significant reason I put off blogging was that I wanted to write about being a mom but not come off sounding trite. I hate obnoxious blanket statements about having children and it seems like that's all I could come up with. In general, I hate blanket statements but I'm even more averse now that I've spent nearly a year receiving horrid advice and commentary about being pregnant, being in labor, and having children. More dreadful is the realization that this little attachment comes with a sign that says "please give me your uninvited and unhelpful comments " and so they will continue to follow me with unsolicited advice for many, many years to come. I'm beginning to sound angry. Damn. For a long time I could at least blame it on the hormones. Now I might just have to face the fact that I'm just a little mean. And bitter.
But I digress.
Today I turned in the paper and with that completed my graduate degree. I always imagined there would be more fanfare when I finally finished up-- like there would at least be whiskey involved. But it was just an empty office in an empty building, me with my little constipated attachment. And then the little guy smiled at me and I was happy to have someone to share the moment with. I mean, I can't rightly share whiskey with him.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Since then I've knocked down one 20 pager (though of course, I will keep it for a week and dust it off when it's due) and progressed to the really big important Masters paper...the one I've looked through, commented on, read for and shied away from for about eight weeks. Now that I've really gotten nitty gritty with it, I still feel as though I'm just smearing my words around on the page. Perhaps I'm just tired, perhaps I'm intimidated by my audience, and perhaps it really is just a series of digressions trickling around on the page and contributing little in regard to my main point. As I type that, however, I wonder what any paper is but a series of digressions and ruminations; some are just better mapped out with signposts.
What bothers me is that this paper is arguing some pretty huge fundamental things about the nature of poetry, and I'm finding myself, after three years of intensely dedicated study, unable to convince myself that it' that damned important. It's like, some sort of academic life crisis.
I'm using a Classical base to approach a very well known Old English poem. Of course, this is not a new approach, but I'm pretty well convinced I'm doing it a bit differently than has been done before. In an isolated academic sphere then, I think there might just be merit to what I'm doing. But when I talk about it at the dinner table wtih my in-laws, politely curious about my work, I am met with blank, uninterested stares before the question comes out "so, are you teaching in the fall..." (i.e. making money, at least influencing young minds, not just talking about thousand year-old poetry). Mind you, I'm not blabbering on about my thesis--I've got it fairly whittled down to a 25 word schpeal--and yet even that is too much time wasted not making money or contributing to the larger, more important aspects of life.
I thought I'd be a lot different at this point--smarter, wiser...something. Three years ago when I considered the sensation of pending graduation, I had a very different one in mind. I figured I'd be, at this point, someone who had developed extraordinary abilities of argument and organization and insight. But I'm just me. A lot more well read. I'm not trying to say grad school didn't/hasn't changed me, I'm just observing how different my expectations are from my eventual realizations. This is nothing surprising, either.
What is keeping me up tonight is not worrying about my future--neither the MA paper or the baby coming soon after, its worrying about how I've been spending my time, and my present mindstate. I know that poetry and literature and thoughts and ideas are important; I am little miss in-your-face in defense of the humanities at my institution...but when I get out there and talk to people, I have difficulty convincing anyone that what I'm doing is important. I can't even convince myself that its worth arguing about.
I just thought I'd finish my degree on a higher note.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
His idea of turning the Jeep Wrangler into a "family sedan" is installing a backseat--with seatbelts, and replacing the five-point harnesses in the front seats with "civilian" seatbelts.
When he hears tornado sirens, he goes outside to storm chase on foot.
He has not one, but TWO motorcycles. I'm not sure exactly how the math works out on this one, but I believe it effectively doubles his chances of falling off. I wouldn't put it past him to try to ride them both at the same time.
One of these motorcycles was a "surprise" purchase.
Last Saturday he caught himself on fire.
He referred to me as "Pregnasaurus Rex"
He butters his meatloaf.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
It was too easy. They put the toys on top of the cereal now? What about the warped and mangled bags that won't fit back into the box? What about the Cap'n Crunch binges, the war scars of a scratched hard palate, all in the name of five minutes of amusement from a cheaply designed, Chinese factory assembled toy (probably some kid younger than me made it)?
It was never about the toy. It was about the look of disappointment on my brother's faces when they realized they'd been duped again. It was always worth the whoopin' for making a mess of the cereal, and for the ensuing fight between said brothers and self.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
- If I have a particularly memorable dream, I will certainly record it--especially lately, cos I've had some craaazy fucked up dreams.
- When I was younger I'd include random bits of poetry, but it seems as though I've long abandoned any affinity for creative writing. I just write.
- I don't know if I necessarily "argue" with anyone in my journal. Complain, yes.
- I have a separate journal for exercise. I haven't really been good about recording anything in it, despite the fact that I exercise regularly (7 months pregnant and still doing Pilates pushups, yo!).
- For a long time, I was fairly religious about cataloguing my favorite bands, songs, and best friends (surprisingly, I never rated my favorite books or movies). I grew out of it.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
In three years of graduate school, I've taken twenty classes and had ten different professors. Presentations have been part of the final grade In nearly two thirds of those classes (indeed, sometimes they take up the bulk of the semester's classtime). Very often I've learned from my preparation and, despite fretting and moaning before its my turn, in the end that I enjoyed my few minutes in the limelight.
I'm not always so sure my classmatesthe audience learns as much as the presenters, however. I think we spend our time in the audience either politely trying not to cringe or trying not to look overbored. I will admit that I certainly don't look at my peers as experts on their topic, and essentially perk up towards the end when the professor adds the necessary pertinent comments to make sense of the conglomerate of information that was just tossed at us haphazardly.
I have a few pointers-not that I am super amazing and give the best presentations ever (in fact I just gave a doozy of a flop recently!), but that I would appreciate someone giving their advice to me in this matter, because so few professors ever give feedback (out of the twenty classes and ten professors, two presentations have ever gotten feedback, and that feedback was invaluable to me. Otherwise, the presentation took up about 10-30% of my final grade without any explanation or commentary).
--stick to your topic.
While sometimes it is helpful to give some historic background or set the scene a bit, do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. An example of what is not necessary: if you are presenting on a particular work, do not spend time talking about where the author went to college, or what awards they won as a writer. Unless biographical information is germane to the information you're presenting about the work, leave it out--at least don't spend more than a sentence or two on it.
--(related to the first) be as specific as possible.
If you are expected to present on how a particular theorist contributed to a new theory, do so. It is not necessary to refer to the individual's other work (again, unless it is germane to the information you're presenting). Talk more about their theoretical contributions and less about their expulsion from X university.
--if you've been asked to present on an article or set of ideas, be sure to state the main argument first and foremost in your presentation and on your handout, if you've provided one.
--if you're going to use a handout, use it wisely.
Make it easy to follow. Posting a few various pictures or quotes on there does not impart information. Your audience should be able to use the handout to follow along; don't make them question where you are in terms of the handout (i.e. your presentation should work with the handout). I personally prefer a brief outline which, on your (the presenter's) version, has the more fleshed out script included. In my opinion, you should not provide a handout that is essentially a copy of your paper, and read straight from it. Cite your sources on your handout and in your presentation, so your audience is clear what parts are your thoughts and what parts are paraphrases or quotes.
--stay within your alloted timeframe.
This is important, particularly if you think of classroom presentations as preparation for conference panels. Anyone can blather on about a topic. Be succinct, get your point across, and get out of there. In the end, it is more impressive to make your argument clear in a short amount of time, rather than filling up the entire class period with miscellaneous tidbits about some topic. *This also means practice your presentation before you begin.
--make sure you can pronounce all the words you are using. Please. Practice beforehand and if you've got any 4-5 syllable doozies in there, make sure you can say them correctly. If you do find yourself stuttering or slipping over a word in the heat of the moment, don't respond by getting frustrating and saying "bleah, I can't talk today" (this is always a pet peeve of mine). Pause, get yourself together, and move on.
--don't apologize through the duration of your presentation for being unclear, or taking too much time.
The more flustered you get, the more awkward it is for your audience. Put your game face on and pummel through. Of course, if you'd practiced beforehand you'd know how long your presentation was, and if you were more prepared you'd be less unclear. But things happen. If you feel unclear about your topic, visit your professor beforehand and attempt to gain clarification. The more specific your questions are, the more helpful this session will be. Do not repeatedly refer to said conversation with professor in the hopes that they will explain the topic for you.
--oh, and--it doesn't hurt to look nice.
I'm not saying go buy yourself a new suit. But get rid of the baseball cap, the sweatshirt, and--regardless of what you're wearing--the slouch.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Last semester my academic performance took a dip for various reasons, but I can recover from this. I can make it up to myself (and in fact am doing so by rewriting the papers I turned in). However, I worried about traumatizing my students, or wasting their time--this is not as easily made up.
To my surprise and relief, the vast majority of my evaluations were positive, and enthusiastically so. I got some great feedback on what assignments worked, what readings were helpful, and was even told that my occasional profanity "made lectures more interesting."
There was of course, one smarty pantsed kid who sneered how often I cancelled class. My attendance policy is pretty much "someone is paying for this, so make it worth your money's while and show up to class." This is exactly what the kid targeted, despite the fact that s/he gave me perfect marks everywhere else. S/he felt that they didn't get their money's worth. I am indignant, and frustrated because I'll never get the chance to defend myself! So please, allow me to explain:
- When I held student conferences (once at midterms, again at finals) I cancelled class.
- When I had car trouble on ONE occasion, I was forced to cancel class, as my classroom was located on red-headed-stepchild campus.
- There was one time that was a bit extraneous, I admit--but they'd finished their peer reviews earlier than I'd expected and I didn't have anything planned (except for a giant stack of grading and my own papers to write). So I told them to take the day to work on polishing their papers.
Since we're in the arena of "getting our money's worth" I'm tempted to resort to the fact that I taught the course for free. OK, maybe not quite. It's a pretty sweet deal to get my tuition paid for, I won't lie. I will note, however, that the stipend, whether I am teaching one course or two, doesn't budge. At least someone's getting their money's worth in this scenario--grad students work cheap!
I shouldn't let one silly remark like this get to me, but it does. What I ought to focus on is that, for as useless as I feel in directing discussion or teaching in general, my students approve of me. Funny that a part of me thinks: but on what authority do they judge my teaching? How do THEY know what makes a good teacher? I'm not sure who I'm looking for a pat on the back from, if its not from my students.
The purpose of these evaluations is not clear to me. One of the big-gun composition program people told me point blank that they are useless. I don't know who sees them, and what impact they have on my future. It sounds silly to admit, but I'll do so here, in pseudonymity.
When do the evaluations come back to haunt me, or help me?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I can't touch cat litter. Well, used cat litter--specifically the pooed in type. Some would think this a nice vacation from a yucky job. But no. The kitten, hellspawn that she is, seems to know this about me.
She times her poop.
That's right. Little 3 lb meowmix converter will land a tanker of a turd in that box the minute she hears the Wrangler leave the driveway (note: not when the door closes, as she has become aware that often the poop-shoveler returns shortly, having forgotten his lunch or some other pertinent item). And so there I am, attempting to eat my breakfast, when there is no where I can run, in the whole house, to escape the fumes. (Her other favorite time to do the poo is when the poo-removal-committee has gone to bed for the evening, and the non-poo-removing-party is still up reading or grading papers.) They say smell is the sense most strongly attached to memory. Well, I will remember my readings of Derrida, de Man, and Saussure as eternally effused with eau de [cat]toillette.
What kills me is that there's a lot of scratching around during the process, and I hear the litter being dispersed in every direction but one--that of the actual pile of poo. Somehow, it remains completely nude, that is, not covered by one single kernel of the uber-expensive smell-reducing litter I purchase solely for this recent poo-timing conundrum. I am desperate for any method of reducing the putrid stank of fresh catdoody and so I buy cat litter beyond my means. And yet the poo sits triumphantly, curled on its throne of crystal step 'n fresh.
Oh, and the other thing? Pregnant women have an exceptionally heightened sense of smell.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
For starters, it is always exciting to watch one's professors banter over a given subject which is not necessarily the specialty of any one of them--and I'm not talking awkward Christmas party banter. This was like a coffeehouse on steroids, except that in place of feigned intellectualism it was pure--uncut--academic zeal and rigor. Maybe a little busting of chops, but no more or less than was necessary.
I felt akin to someone learning a new language who is suddenly immersed in a crowd of fluent speakers, and there was a thrill of self-congratulation* and increased enthusiasm each time I felt myself putting noun phrases and verbs together into coherent entities, and even more so when I found myself following the general direction of conversation!
This is where it got silly. When the words "synchronic" and "diachronic" were uttered, and I fully understood them in their usage and application to the discussion at hand (which, incidentally, I likely could not reproduce a sentence of here--it was fleeting perspicacity)--I jumped up and did a little victory dance.
Well, no, not exactly. But I did begin to daydream just a bit right around then. Not the kind of daydream that leads me completely out of the room and out of my head--this was akin to one of those waking dreams, in which I'm just conscious enough to have some semblance of control in whatever avenue the dream might take...I was entranced, so to speak, by the whole situation--as a newcomer, an observer of a very unfamiliar (and yet standard) ritual, and a neophyte by comparison with just about anyone else in the room. And so I watched the candidate tread water, change lanes and splash back with every question and comment that came her way. I thought, with excitement, of being able to volley questions ideas while maintaining an exterior of such absolute calm. She seemed more comfortable in that room than I was!
I realize that more than likely there are several things--either damaging or to her credit--that I was completely unaware of. My perception remained in the superficial, even aesthetic arena, and I had no qualms about letting it remain there (let the big dogs do their job. You know, like Olympic judges versus the uninformed onlookers). And this is where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers came in...the ease with which they present their task to their audience is a precise indication of their skill level. The enjoyment of the presentation is made richer depending on the audience member's own skill and familiarity with the dance. I am excited by the prospect of being so well-studied and academically mature that I could tap-dance with the material!
This clip of "Swing Time" about sums it up, if you're interested (it even has gratuitous fencejumping at around 2:15):
*I know it sounds petty, and yet this is the only description I can give the thrill. I don't intend it as a grandiose pat on the back; rather it serves as affirmation of all the reading/studying I've been doing for some time now, and incentive to continue this forward trek despite setbacks in circumstance and persuasion.
What really bothers me is that I used to be one of them. My hand would shoot up before the question was even fully formed and my answer, even if half-baked, would be enough for the professor to lead me into its fully fledged form. (Recalling my undergrad days, and my pompous self-assuredness, I shudder to think what my fellow students thought of me. )
I've had this in my own classroom, of course. Sometimes it's a relief (at least someone is entering discussion) but oftentimes I want to finish my questions with "anyone other than...?" It can be a frustration as well as an excuse for other students:
frustration: I really want to say something, but I'm not sure how to articulate it. By the time I think of a decent sentence, the question has been answered and we're moving on.
Excuse: Why do I need to bother talking or adding my two cents, when dude will do it for me?
Depending on the day, I can include myself in either category.
* * *
My final undergrad semester, I took an upper level English lit course with my sister. On the first day, she leaned over and whispered: Look at all the grad students--they always sit in a pack and no matter what they say, they're just repeating what the teacher has said, or some critic.
And four years later, here I am. Front row: Grad students only. I am frantically searching in the extra notes I took for the sole purpose of outdoing this kid (though I'm trying to look thoughtful and deliberate as I do so). In the meantime he raises his hand, sounds out his answer on the spot without eventhinking about it*, and its a go. On to the next stanza...
*well, I'm sure he thought about it. But he wasn't racking his brain for the best way to articulate it, and coming up with back up defenses just in case...
Where is my own head? What happened to my own thoughts? Didn't I come into this with genuine questions and lots of curiosity? What am I so afraid of? It's possible that I have been contorted by my own competitive zeal, and now, rather than being self-confident, I am overthinking everything.
But why? This is embarassing...[allow me to digress for just a moment]
I have the teacher evaluation sheet nearly memorized. When I talk in front of my classroom, I keep it in mind almost constantly. I have this paranoid (okay, delusional) fear that my students do, too. Yes, I know--half of them don't even realize that teacher evaluations exist (despite the specific entry on the course schedule). Some of this has translated into my life as student. I imagine my professors tallying up my comments in discussion (okay, delusional), making notes here and there "Beeyotch unable to recognize simple pronoun antecedent..." or "completely out of touch with the text..."
I don't know where it came from, but I do believe I've got a genuine case of discussion anxiety. I don't mind expressing my thoughts and interpretations on paper (er, screen); the process is often exciting and rewarding. But when I've got to just spout out answers and defend the holes that are poked in them, I crack up into little stuttering pieces of nonsense.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
On being found in the bathroom (I avoid trips to the bathroom with other women, generally, and even more so now that my bowel and bladder habits are up for discussion): "Peein' again, huh? Let me tell you, girl--you ain't pregnant till you've pissed yourself."
On traveling (in my car, I might add) five minutes to work for my paycheck in a Midwestern February: "It's cold! You shouldn't be outside."
On the "glow" that pregos are reported to have: "What people really mean when they say that is you're so fat there's not enough skin to go around. Your skin's pulled taut so it 'glows'"
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Dude, its February. That's exactly why its also the shortest month. One day longer and people would go ballistic by the end of it (I get very nervous during leap years).
February is a teaser month. Take a look outside today, for instance. The sun is shining, snow is melting (and falling off of the house in loud chunks, I might add). It will stay this way until you begin to trust it, and allow yourself to relax and enjoy the mild climate, then WHAM! hit you with a mean Alberta clipper.
Just don't trust it...there's always more than six weeks left of winter, no matter what Phil says.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Kitten is happiest when she is biting; she purrs loudly in rhythm with her chomps on your hand, arm, calf--whatever's closest. She has a weird bathroom fetish, but don't all cats? When she hears the shower start up, she races onto the ledge, where she balances between the shower curtains and gazes, curiously. It is quite disconcerting. She can be sweet, as when she jumps onto your chest or shoulder and proceeds to sand your face with her tongue. She aims for eyelids. It hurts.
Vicious as she may be, what with the stalking of kneecaps and chomping on forearms, she is remarkably tender and careful with young children. She didn't leave my niece's side the entire time the one year-old was here and, even when the little girl grabbed hold of Kitten's favorite toys and swished them dangerously, the Kitten only reacted by kindly batting at the object in motion (as opposed to her usual death rattle, etc).
To chalk up a few more points (it almost gets her out of the red, some days) she is quite attentive to me these days. I hate to get overly-sentimental about livestock, but she seems to know things are changing. She also seems to know when I'm upset, or overly worn-out, and she comes to sit with me--something she has never done before.
Today I took her to be spayed, and she's sitting on the couch behind me now, doped out of her mind and trying to remember how to purr. It sounds like she's got a coupla pebbles rattling, but she's happy. I was slightly bothered, taking her in to get her goodies taken out, particularly considering my own scenario. Is it right for the prego pet owner to prohibit the animal from procreating? Well, the answer is yes--particularly when the animal's gene sequence likely contains some mutation from Hell. I can't help but see an accusing look come from her direction every so often...and it's vaguely disconcerting. Then again, what's more disconcerting is the Big Cat we didn't get spayed right away--we couldn't keep any pencils lying around, the way she looked at them...Then she came in the house one day, with her "sex fur" and we knew, but it was seven kittens too late.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I have a week, roughly, before the Spring semester begins; it is my final semester. I have reason to believe that it may be a slightly stressful one, added to the fact that I'm beginning to feel slightly burnt out and will be in my third trimester for the majority of it *doing third trimester dance*. Forgive me now for the things I may say and do--and those things which I do not say or do that I should have.
That said, Floyd and I got a head start on some baby stuff (note: there's about 2 1/2 weeks between the due date for final grades and the due date for the baby, so anything we can get done now is uhm, beneficial). The room is bluish, light bluish. That doesn't mean we're having a boy. It just means the room is blue. It also has a sun and some clouds, which is pretty darn cute, but not above-board cute--for the record, I find many baby nurseries nauseating. It's like, dude, the baby's cute; no need to overload everyone with smarmy attempts to make everything surrounding the baby cute, too. Although an alphabet was suggested, and fairly so, as one appears on the lil quilt we bought (on clearance!), I think that it puts a lot of undue pressure on an infant. However, it got me to thinking. If I'm going to pressure my little one into being an uber-nerd like me, why stop at the alphabet? This is where all y'all come in.
I would like to hang up a giant-sized poem in the room. Originally I considered jest paintin it up on the wall, but have decided to put it on a large canvas instead (the canvas is also painted sky/clouds, so maybe I can always keep a little bit of the nursery...yep, there you have it. An already nostalgic mom moment. Move along, folks).
Any poem suggestions? Presently, I am considering Langston Hughes' "Dreams" (see below) but it seems almost too negative, in spite of its positive message (the poem talks more about injured birds and barren winter fields than dreams). I am open to ideas, and much in need of them.
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
In another forum, I was given two other suggestions, which I thought I'd throw out there as well, for your thoughts.
I carry your heart with me (e.e. cummings)*
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant and
whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Note: not entirely sure on the original/correct format, although this was lifted from a fairly reliable .edu website
And someone else suggested a poem from Khalil Gibran from "the Prophet" (he adds that I could probably find a better translation).
And a woman who held a newborn babe against her bosom said,
- Speak to us of children!
And he said:
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Friday, January 2, 2009
I had a lot of expectations, and not all of them were met. While my final papers left much to be desired, I knew where my weak points were before they were pointed out to me, and had some strengths brought to my attention that I had been unaware of. Looking back, it seems that I stepped into a different type of paper writing experience--it was lower quality but a different caliber...it felt rather like the training wheels came off and so, while the ride was rocky I came out of it feeling more empowered, with a vision, albeit a blurry one, of where I needed to go.
Teaching was a double challenge--as in, I taught two courses in addition to my own. Sometimes I feared that this caused my students to get the short end of the stick; on the other hand, teaching while I was a bit unhinged from stress might have been an improvement. Four of my first semester students to enroll in my class this coming semester (out of 20 students, that's a decent percentage!), and two of my comp 2 students have asked me to continue working with them on their final papers next semester. I was hoping that my students would emerge, unscathed, and it appears that some of them were even slightly inspired!
My understanding of graduate school has changed with the completion of each semester. The trend is that as I gain more knowledge, the more of a neophyte I become. Nearing completion of my Master's degree, I don't feel any smarter, despite having read thousands of pages of literature and its accompanying criticism; despite having passed a test that says I'm an officially proficient grad student. I have learned a great deal about literature (not to mention about the capacity of myself, and my marriage)and yet I certainly don't feel that I'm a "Master" of any sort. I feel that there's a lot more of this ahead of me. Despite misgivings, and a disarming fear that I will not be able to find a job in my chosen profession, I am unable to find peace in any other option.