Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ketchup-ing Up!

Okay, I'll admit this posting has nothing to do with ketchup -- the condiment -- but I'm tired and I get a little loopy when tired. Here's a quick update on me, my deadlines, my life, and anything else that mangages to escape my brain and land on the keyboard.

I did the Teach For America telephone interview on Monday afternoon. How did I do? Honestly, I don't know. There was some miscommunication on a question as what she was saying and what I heard were two different things, but I think we got that straightened out. She was obviously reading from a script and had to write down my answers to her questions, so there were a lot of awkward pauses and such. Needless to say her verbal feedback was non-existent, so I don't know how I did, but I should find out next Friday if they want me to do a face-to-face all day battery of interview, mock teaching, etc. Cross your fingers -- but I'm not sure for what. Do I want the job, sure. Would I be crushed if I didn't get it, no. One of the major pluses of going through this process is that by November, at the latest, I'll know for sure if I'm in or not and I can start making plans either way.

I also finished my Thesis proposal this week. Yipes! It's getting real and getting real close! While I was deciding what I wanted to write my chapters on I actually started to feel a lot better about how much writing/research I've already done for this capstone project. I'm taking a class right now that I intend to have as one of my chapters of my thesis, I wrote a previous paper that acted as the impetus for my thesis topic which, although in it's entirety it won't work, I can break it up into smaller components and weave it into other chapters; and then I only have one more chapter to write. My ambitious goal is to have my thesis drafted out by the beginning of January so I can spend my final semester overhauling and revising it like crazy! I'm hoping that by working myself to the bone this semester that I'll have less stress in my last semester as I have to talk about and defend my thesis against other graduate students, English faculty, and any other hapless soul who accidently wanders into the room during my thesis defense.

The rest of my week? I've just been dragging myself out of bed and trying to make it through the day.

Wow, what an exciting life I lead. But hey, it's my life and I'll take it...I'm used to it!

'Night and I'll try to do better at keeping y'all in the loop (sorry Mom and Dad!).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yeah for me!

Just five more days and I'm through September. Yeah for me!

Boo for me...I still haven't started my thesis proposal that is due at the end of the five days.

I have a telephone interview for the Teach For America program on Monday. Yeah for me!

Boo for me...I had to pick up dog poop (thanks Sage) this morning...

...but it was in the yard and not the house. Yeah for me!

Boo for me...I was sick this week and still had to grade student's essays.

I got the title of my car = my car is paid off! Yeah for me!

Boo for me ... um, I really have nothing else to complain about. Yeah for me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Learning to Settle

Okay, so I'm working on my English M.A. (Rhetoric & Composition emphasis) and I'm unhappy. Not because of the class/teaching load. Um...that's kinda a lie. I'll admit I'm not altogether pleased at how much time I spend at my desk versus time I could be spending outside enjoying the weather. I'm unhappy because I can't read as much as I'd like to.

Don't worry your pretty little head, I do read a lot. In fact, I have 70 pages of reading (and trust me, it's not light/mind candy reading) I need to do before classes tomorrow, but it's not really what I WANT to read. If anyone has ever seen my bookshelf you'll know it's full to bursting and it's just getting more packed. I love to go shopping at my local Costco/Hastings/Barnes & Noble, etc. and I can't seem to make it out of the store without one or more books in hand. The problem? I don't have time to read them. Needless to say I have a huge pile of books just waiting for me to finish my schooling and start reading. The authors include Azar Nafisi, Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Stieg Larsson, Elie Wiesel, C.S. Lewis, Kathryn Stockett, Barbara Kingsolver, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and others. Right now my pile of never-read-books is 14 books high, and likely to get taller before the school year is out.

Now, you may think all I read are boring books, but that's not true. I've loved reading Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," works by Poe, Hawthorne, Shakespeare, Faulkner, Cather, Canin, Defoe, Steinbeck, Bradbury, McCarthy, Dahl, Edson, Twain, Lee, and a ton of other, but they've all been tied to "required" readings for class. I will admit most of the books were good because, well, there's a reason they've lasted so long and are classics (although I will admit that I'm not a huge fan of "The Great Gatsby." Yell and curse me all you want, but all I really want to do is smack the main characters upside the head and tell them to get a life! Sorry, a little emotional there).

Anyway, the moral of this posting? I'm just going to have to learn to settle for the classics and dense rhetorical theory books for the next few months and then I'll treat myself to the pile of never-reads that will join my list of I-have-reads. You've got to experience the pain before you truly appreciate the pleasure.

As always, I'm open to any of YOUR favorite books. I always love to find a new author or story. Send 'em my way!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sick to...

"No! It's not tasty to me!"

Those were the words a three-year-old little boy told his older sister today when they were picking out a "treat" in the grocery store. I had to smile at their antics and enthusiasm as I lacked both. Me? I'm sick right now. No, it's not anything serious. The flu/cold/strep is making the rounds at school and I just have a cold. The doctor (I went because I wanted to catch it early if it was strep) apologized to me when we found out it was just a cold and not the strep we worried about. Um, he's sorry I'm not more sick? Nope. He was just sorry he didn't have a prescription he could give me to make me better sooner. So I get to drink lots of fluids, sleep A LOT, lather on the Vick's, eat the throat losenges like they're candy, and anything else that makes me feel better.

You want to know what would make me feel better? Having my mom fuss over me. Yep, I'm a HUGE baby when I'm sick. I know that's a comment that is often said about guys when they get sick, but I do it too. I think it's our attempt to return to our childhood when a mom's kiss healed a boo-boo, her warm hug was the best comforter, her voice scared the boogey-man and nightmares from our darkened bedrooms, and we could do no wrong. Yep, those were good times!

Instead, I get into my rattiest blue jeans, dilapitated hoodie that I've had for years (falling apart, literally, at the seams and the zipper is broken), warmest and most comfortable shoes, forgo the make-up and just pull my hair back. Screw it! I'm not trying to impress anyone. I'm just trying to be as comfortable as I can be while trolling the grocery aisle looking for over-the-counter drugs and homey remedies from my childhood.

Vick's Vapor Rub? Check. Alka-Seltzer Cold & Flu Gel caps? Check. Halls Fruit Breezers? Check. Lemon-lime soda pop (which, by the way, breaks my three month stretch of not drinking anything carbonated. The things we do when we're sick.)? Check. Orange juice? Check. Fudge-cicles (we always got them, as kids, when we were ill)? Um, not really that appetizing -- uncheck. Bubble bath? Check.

All set and standing in line at the check-out. Looks like the girl talked her little brother into agreeing on a treat. Yep, they picked the frosted animal cookies. Good choice!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ode to the Super Sundae

I recevied an email from my Dad with his ponderings today. His comment of our family's infamous Super Sundae reminded me of this short piece of writing I had done in my undergraduate degree. Hope you enjoy!
Although I come from a family of ten children, my clan is no different from many others; we just do everything on a larger scale. Some families gather around a 15 pound turkey at Thanksgiving, but ours tips the scale closer to 40…and we usually don’t have leftovers! Ordering two large pizzas is never enough for us, we always order closer to eight or ten. Likewise, our dessert is no different.

While some households make due with a single scoop of ice cream, multiply that by 100 and you have something closer to our dessert: the Super Sundae! At first glance this delicious delight appears to be a bowl of melting peaks covered with a conglomeration of candy. Gummy Bears attempt to climb the slippery mountains as a crowd of M&M’s, Skittles, sprinkles, and Neccos cheer them on from the gooey valleys below. Whipped cream covers the pinnacles and you can actually see a low pressure weather front move in as these fluffy clouds slide lower.

Our sundae may appear complicated and difficult to make, but creating this assault on the taste buds is actually quite easy. Take the largest bowl you have (as you can imagine, ours is bigger than most) and set it aside. Then hop in the car, with all your kids, and head to the grocery store. Because we have ten children in my family, we each get to pick a component of the sundae. There are three, half-gallon ice creams whose flavors need to be chosen; in addition to at least two traditional toppings (my family prefers butterscotch and chocolate). After the framework for the sundae has been determined, let the remaining decision-makers go crazy in the candy aisle. I’ve eaten everything from black licorice (I only remember trying it once) to Skittles (they freeze in ice cream and can break a tooth) to peanut butter cups (a family favorite) to frozen strawberries (an attempt at “healthy”) in a decadant Super Sundae.

You would think with all the competing sweet treats and textures our mishmash of a confection would be unappetizing, but you’d be incorrect. As flavors battle each other and burst in the mouth, it almost becomes a game to see if you can pick out the different tastes, all without losing a tooth.

This traditional dessert is comparable to my family. With so many different personalities, ideas, temperaments, intellects, likes, and dislikes, you would imagine my family doesn’t go together, but again, you would be wrong. Sure there’s a 20 year difference between the oldest and youngest child, there are seven girls and three boys, and one child doesn’t even look like any of the rest of us because he’s adopted, but we’re one unit. Yes, at times, there are strains and disagreements between us, but if you hurt one, you hurt us all. That’s my random, crazy family, but they’re my favorite family and I wouldn’t ever trade them for a plain scoop of ice cream. Just like all the components of the Super Sundae, we may have different exteriors, interiors, and any other kind of “-terior,” but when put together, we become something delicious, beautiful, and a delight to the taste buds.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Take in the Panorama, not the Microcosm

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perspectives. I try to teach my students to look at things from varying viewpoints and rhetorical stances, because, well, I teach Rhetoric & Composition. I’m constantly reminding them to consider someone else’s point of view as they make or argue points. My main hope is that they learn to question their opinions, beliefs, and assumptions. One of those ways, I believe, is to make them vary their perspectives -- sometimes they see the tree, but fail to see the forest.

Oftentimes, though, I think we consider perspectives in the sense of distance. Think about it. When you look back at your childhood (from an adult’s perspective) and imagine how differently you would act or do things now, as compared to 5, 10, 15, or more years ago, you’re doing so from a distance. Maybe you’re someone who sees a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store and think of how you would handle the situation differently – again, from a removed distance.

One of’s definitions of perspective is:

the state of one's ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship:
You have to live here a few years to see local conditions in perspective.

Again, this definition highlights the distance aspect, but I think that instead of gaining perspectives from a distance spatially, time, or any other forms, more often than not we gain perspectives from contrasts. Think about it. Many times our outlooks, “ideas, the facts known to one, etc.,” aren’t realized or solidified until they are compared to something else. This has especially become evident as I compare my life to that of someone else.

My life has especially come into perspective as I’ve looked at my slight struggles and compared them to those of my family members. I don’t have cancer, I haven’t been told my unborn baby will be a special needs child, I haven’t been rushed to the hospital with a medical emergency, had to parry the legal system in the hopes of adopting my foster children – while in the midst of moving to another state, started a new business, and any one of a number of other significant life altering changes. No. I struggle with a deadline, writing/grading papers, and … um, yeah. My struggles may be “major” to me, but are minor in the grand scheme of things. THIS is the perspective I need to remember.

Now, I’m not saying that our various and personal struggles aren’t important – because they are – I’m just saying that they need to be kept in perspective. My struggles aren’t life and death, but they may be the life and death of my academic career. However, that’s something I can ultimately live with.

I know we’re told it’s not healthy to compare ourselves to others because we’ll never measure up; however, I’m talking about taking a different kind of measure. This isn’t a competition to see who is the greatest martyr or has/is dealing with the greatest trials, I’m just saying that taking stock and altering one’s perspective and attitude, in relation to the grand scheme of things, is sometimes necessary and always helpful.

Oh Happy Day!

Today is a wonderful day, for many reasons:
  1. It's Friday. 'Nuff said.
  2. I found out I passed my German Translation Exam, so I don't have to worry about taking any more foreign language classes!
  3. I finished and submitted my Teach For America application. Accepted or not, it's out of my hands and I don't have to worry about it...well, until the 23rd when I find out if I've been invited for an interview or not.
  4. Did I mention it's Friday?
  5. I went to dinner at Pizza Hut with my roommate Gabby and I laughed so hard I snorted. Yep. I'm just thankful I wasn't drinking anything when I laughed that hard. Cheeks hurt from smiling, but it's a good kind of pain.
  6. And my bed is waiting for me to reintroduce myself to it. "Hello Mr. Bed. I know we've been strangers, but I'd like to introduce myself to you. I'm Patty and I'm tired. May I join you? ................... He said yes!!!"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Patty's Deep Thoughts...

...nope. I got nothing.

I was sitting here thinking that you don't get enough of my witticisms, sarcastic takes on life, pity-me pleas for sympathy, and anecdotes about my dog -- man, do I sound pathetic -- but as I'm sitting her staring at a blank screen I realize I don't have anything to share. So I'll let you go about your day and accomplish something without being annoyed by me.

You're welcome.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't Forget to Turn in your Crayons...

Honestly, I don't think you hear that phrase often enough in a college setting, but my students heard it today. Ohmygosh the excitement (and occasional squeal of excitement) that came out of 50+ students when I started unloading my bag for class.

Today was peer review day and I had them "color" another student's paper as they looked for particular things (counter arguments, concessions, thesis, etc.). I kept a few of the students from walking out with the crayons in hand (little kleptos), but overall it was a fun class period.

Now what fun activity can I think up next time so my students stay engaged? I'm open to any suggestions!

P.S. I took my German-English translation test today and I should know in the next few days how I did. Cross your fingers I get a "C" so I don't have to take it again or any language classes!

And they keep getting closer...

(da-dum. da-dum. da-dum) Okay, that was my pathetic attempt at eerie music, but that's all I've got. Take it or leave it.

My deadlines are getting closer and this week two of them are looming. In approximately one hour I will be attempting my German-English translation exam to see if I can stop fretting and fussing over filling the Foreign Language Requirement for my Masters. The second is the deadline application for Teach For America. I just need to finish my resume' and get it, and my letter of intent, proofread and submitted. Then I only have to worry about whether or not I get an interview as well as get Letters of Recommendations from past teachers/co-workers/department heads/etc.

Just five more days and I'm, wait! Friday and my students turn in their first final draft for me. Oooohhh. That should be interesting!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remember When...

"...Remember when thirty seemed so old
Now lookin' back it's just a steppin' stone..." - song "Remember When" by Alan Jackson

So you may be scoffing and smirking as you think, "Um, Patty's not much past 30 years old. So what is she talking about?" Hey, I'm not ashamed of how old I am ... or am not ... and to just be clear, I'm 33, but lately I've been feeling my age plus some.

I love teaching and I really enjoy my students, but sometimes I feel like we don't speak the same language. Sometimes cultural references I make in class are received with blank faces and glazed over eyes. According to the Beloit College Mindset List for the college Class of 2014 (you can read the whole thing at ) only a few of my students know how to write in cursive; Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes; Nirvana is on the classic oldies station; and Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

Is there a generation gap? Um, yes. Most of my students were born in 1992 -- the year I was a sophmore in high school. These same students weren't even hitting the double digits when September 11th occured. To them, there's always been a war on terror, but Operation Desert Storm and the Cold War are only things that occured in history books. And the Soviet Union? Well, it's never existed for them.

So do I feel old? Yes, and I think this is karma payback as I used to take perverse joy by telling my boss (one of the Police Chiefs I worked for) that the year he graduated from college was the year I was born.

Yep, karma is a ... evil and vindictive woman.

Lucky for me is the fact that I'm only in my 30's and I still have a lot of "Remember When's" to live through. Hey, remember when blogs were new and you used to talk to people on the phone or -gasp- face to face to see what was going on with them? I know!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rinse, Lather, Repeat...

Start your morning by 5:30am (6am at the latest). Be out of the house by6:30 am (7am at the latest). Be in your office by 7:15am. Complete any unfinished homework from last night/plan lesson to teach in an hour. 8:30 am GO to class or TEACH class. Continue until lunchtime (usually between 11am and 1pm - depending on the day). GO back to class or TEACH again. Continue until 5 pm. Grade papers/do homework until 10 pm... 11pm...12:30am (at the latest).

Rinse, Lather, Repeat....

Yep, that's been my week. Only one more day to go. Yipee!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Signs You're an Adult

I remember being a kid and getting so excited when my birthday rolled around. That meant I'd be getting mail. Addressed to me! For some reason, the idea of someone sending me something in the mail was awesome and magical. Now? -sigh- I've become an adult. Sure, I still get a little giddy when something I ordered comes in, like a book from or a movie from Netflix, but essentially I just feel weary because odds are it's either junk mail or bills.

Lately I've noticed that the same feelings have trickled over into email. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy emails from family and friends, but what's with all the junk mail? Luckily there are spam filters and such that automatically send most of the undesirable mail to my junk box, but I still periodically go through this "mailbox" in an effort to make sure I'm not missing anything. Seriously? How can I get 100 junk messages in over a day!

Ridiculous! Or am I just really that popular? Hmmm....I never thought of it that way...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

...I wish I may, I wish I might...

It's amazing to me how sometimes the little things carry the most impact. As I've been taking my dog to the park to play fetch, or even just taking her for a walk, I've seen a lot of "fairy wishes" floating around. Let me explain what these are...

Nearly everyone is familiar with the childhood belief that if you make a wish and blow all of a dandelion's seed pods (white fuzzy stuff) off in one breath, than your wish will come true. An additional belief I had as a child is that if you catch a "fairy wish" (which looks a lot like a dandelion seed, but is minus the pod and is fluffy all the way around like a ball -- I don't know where they come from or what they're called) you can make a wish on it and send it back into the air where it travels to a fairy who will grant your wish. Phew! That was a long explanation for a short phrase.

So, as I was saying, I've seen a lot of these "fairy wishes" floating around lately. As they've floated by me or danced just out of my reach I've thought a lot about what my wish would be if I caught one. The ever present "wish for 3 more wishes" or "_____ million/billion dollars" flits through my mind, but then I remind myself that those are shallow and won't bring me any lasting or true happiness.

Walking Sage today I saw another fairy wish, but it was caught in the blades of grass below my foot. I cradled it in my hands so I could make a wish, but couldn't think of anything to wish for. I mean, I could make idle wishes on the wind, but what would be the point. I believe a prayer has purpose and is more effective. So I released my unused fairy wish and hoped the other wishes attached to it were answered.

My prayer? Health for my family, the recognition that whatever happens is for the best, and the ability to accept and understand this.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How Many Dogs Does it Take to Make a Pack?

The definitive answer to your question is: three. Yep, that’s the magical number of normally well-behaved and trained dogs it takes to become an unmanageable pack. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but when it’s three dogs and one human, there is no hope of playing man-to-man or zone defense. It’s a freaking blitz!

So this weekend I watched my sister’s two dogs for her. Those two plus Sage made one harried human. The first night I didn’t sleep well because the dogs would bark at every sound (completely understandable since they’re not use to my house, but I have two roommates!) and wake me up. Needless to say I woke up about four times that night and each time I took them outside in case they needed to go to the bathroom. Hey, I was tired and not thinking clearly. Don’t judge.

You may think this is a rant, but the weekend actually had some good moments. I was never without some animal to snuggle with. Dogs are the most forgiving and affectionate animals – in my experience: if you yell at them they’re quick to forgive and forget and let you pet them; they’re always excited when you get home; they’re the best keepers of secrets; and they give you kisses for no apparent reason. Okay, maybe that last one is a turn-off for some of you, but it’s always nice to know you’re loved.

So I was in a (sometimes suffocating) cocoon of love this weekend, but I have to say it sure is nice to have my one dog back again. The dogs are like family: It’s nice when they visit, but even nicer when they leave!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Let the Freak-Out Begin

September is here, and with it, Patty’s freak-out. Yep, I just referred to myself in the third person. Normally you’d think that because school's already been going for a couple of weeks that I’d be settling into things, but that is not the case. Right now I’m hanging on by the skin of my chinny-chin-chin. If I can just make it through the next few weeks I should be golden…or at least bronze. Yeah, I’ll settle for a bronze medal.
On September 13th I’ll be taking my language translation test for school. It’ll be a 90 minute test where I have to give a sentence-by-sentence translation of a German text into English. Honestly, I haven’t spoken or read any German since May, so pray for me. If I don’t pass it, I still have other opportunities to retake it…but time is running out.

September 17th is the deadline for my Teach For America paperwork. This is an organization that is part of AmeriCorps that trains and sends teachers to work in low income areas (both rural and urban). If I’m accepted into this highly competitive program, for two years I will be teaching somewhere (probably in the south) and they will help me get my teaching certificate as well as pay off some of my student loans. All of that on top of getting a teaching salary. This is my ideal situation, but, like I said, it’s highly competitive. Now if I can just finish my letter of intent and resume’…

And by September 30th? I need to submit my nine page thesis proposal. It’s not the length that is bothering me, because I can write nine pages in my sleep, it’s the research that needs to be done in preparation. I’m still not sure what my three – 20 page chapters are going to be about. My topic is still a rhetorical analysis of the relationship and convergence of religion and cellular telephones, but what aspects I want to analyze is still under debate. I think I need to just write it up and submit it. It’s not like what I propose is carved in stone and I can’t change it. It’s the impetus to start my thesis that I need, and thank heavens for deadlines! Without them I wouldn’t get anything done.

Oh, and by the way, in addition to teaching two sections of English 102, I’ve picked up another job. Sure, why not! Apparently I hate myself … or I can’t say no. Ideally it sounds like it won’t be a huge time suck, but we’ll see. I’m working for the distance learning coordinator for the entire University (one of my past professors who just got the position) and I’ll be reading student homework submissions to grade and give feedback. It’s just a couple of sections, and I’ll be making more money, so here’s hoping I can keep everything in the air and not let a ball drop. At least by the end of September one or two balls will no longer be in the mix. Sigh!

And I think I have it bad? When put into perspective of the medical issues my sister(s) and mom are going through, it’s but a moment and nothing that is life threatening. It’s those moments of clarity and perspective that ultimately keep me from stressing and freaking out. It’s only my education – which I can do-over or get an extension on – it’s not my physical life.

So to those who have it worse off than me? I’ll stop complaining and work on accentuating the positive!