Monday, December 18, 2006

i hate it when they do that!

I have one student in my class who turned in nothing all semester. The day the first paper was due, he came to me and said he didn't have it done. Some bullshit about thinking it was due the following week. OK, I said, get it to me asap, as you lose points for late papers.

I assumed he'd have it done by the next week, since that's the day he'd 'thought' it was due. But the next week, paper #2 was due, and he turned in neither. Three weeks before the semester was over, I emailed him to let him know that at the very latest, all work must be done and turned in by the last day, or he'd fail, as I didn't allow incompletes except under the most extenuating of circumstances.

No reply to my email. The second to last day of class, he meets me in the hall to acknowledge that he received my email and knows it's due and he'll get it in.

That day was his group's mock senate testimony. I didn't know how he could manage it, given he clearly hadn't done the work leading up to it. And I was right -- his performance was below standards.

Then this Saturday, the last day of classes (finals day, really, except that our final is the mock testimony, which takes two days to complete), one of his group members comes to me, very concerned. Seems this guy was supposed to present a good deal more than he had, the rest of the group had counted on him taking the lead in the presentation. The rest of the group were concerned about their grades, given his performance (they get individual and group grades).

I reassured her, and she left happy.

But the kicker is this: before class, he was waiting for me outside the building so that he could speak to me privately. He didn't have his work done, any of it. Work was too difficult, major problems, necessitated his undivided attention, his caseload is much higher than anyone else, yadda yadda yadda.

I was so fucking pissed it wasn't even funny. I hate it when they give me that bullshit, as though their life was somehow so much more important than the rest of the class, so they should be given special priviledges like more time.

But what really pisses me off the most is that I caved. I let him have the incomplete. I really hate being put on the spot like that.

He has to have all work to me by Jan. 1, and I swear I'm not waiting one minute past midnight that day. I will fail his sorry ass. And I've since looked at his record here, and he's done the incomplete thing with several profs already. And two of his incompletes became an 'f' and a 'c.' But the school's policy is, only one grade below a 'b' is allowed before the student is asked to leave the program. So I'm wondering why he is still here at all.

I swear though that I'm taking full points off for the late papers, and I told him I expect better than typical work from students who are given more time to complete their assignments. So if it ain't 'A' work, he's getting a 'C.' And I want to see the program graduate this student, cause I'll definitely lodge a complaint.

Friday, December 08, 2006

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas???

I don't know, but I have this built in principle that says I absolutely refuse to put up decorations or buy presents until after December 1.

Luckily, I have little family to shop for. And I've never been the type to exchange gifts with friends, as most of my friends tend to be as budget challenged as I am. And who needs that kind of pressure from friends, right?

So, I've ordered this portable dvd player for rugrat 1, or number one son, who is back in Washington State. I liked it because it sits upright more like a tv does:

And I ordered the mp3 player for rugrat 2, or number one daughter:

And I ordered this for the egg donor (aka "mother"). It's from National Geographic -- if you're ever looking for an interesting gift, look through their website. Yes, some items are muy cara, but some are very reasonable. These hand blown glass egyptian ornaments were only $32, but they are gorgeous:

And finally, on Sunday, rugrat 2 and I will go shopping -- but not for us. I've picked two names off of the giving tree at work, set up by campus ministry for area underpriviledged kids. One girl, age 8, and one boy, age 7. We'll be shopping for gifts for the kids.

The rugrats and I have been recipients of various giving programs such as this, especially in our early years when I had no money at all. So I try to give back in the same way, and I'm looking forward to shopping.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I'ts not just for city dwellers anymore.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

mountains plus winter equals danger, in any language

Why, oh why, do people insist upon driving mountain roads in winter? Why is it so hard to figure out that if it's winter and you're in the mountains, you'd bloody well better stay on the main highways?

I realize I come from an area that taught me this early. I would never, for example, have made the drive from Spokane to Seattle on any road but the main interstate, and even then, I'd have provisions, blankets, and chains just in case. 'Cause even in Snoqualmie pass, on I-90, winter is a crap shoot.

I once drove from Westchester to Buffalo in the winter for a board meeting, and you can bet I stayed on main highways all the way, even if it did take longer. And I had blankets and food and extra warm clothes packed, just in case (but not chains this time, as I wasn't going into serious mountains).

If I were in a new area, I would definitely stick to major highways, especially in winter. And it doesn't take a genius to figure that out, just common sense. And yet, families like the Kim family, bless their little hearts, completely threw caution to the wind -- and apparently, against the advice of travel experts. ("Our visitor information specialist cautioned them against taking forest roads and to stay on the main highways this time of the year," he said. )

I don't care what any map says, side roads in unfamiliar mountains in the winter are a big fucking no-no. Respect nature, for gosh sakes. Respect what it's capable of. Where has common sense, critical thinking gone?

So ok, now everyone who's taken a wrong turn in the winter is going to rip my ear off figuratively, huh?

let's talk about shoes, baby -- let's talk about shoes

So, rugrat is on the cheerleading squad at school for the second season. Not a high profile team, as in this school, the dance team has the status. But still, it's something to do after school.

The cheerleading team picks sneakers to wear for games. The sneakers have to be all white, which I hear is pretty standard among cheer teams. But while they could just require all-white sneakers, any brand, these rich bitches girls go way fucking overboard.

Every season, the rich bitches girls choose an obscure, yet overpriced name brand sneaker that runs a minimum of $60 a pair. And, they're hard to find.

Now yes, I know I'm the shoe fetish lady, I love shoes. And I did recently spend $60 big ones on shoes. BUT. For that $60, rugrat got two pairs of sneakers and I got a pair of boots and a pair of shoes.

Me, spend $60+ on one pair of sneakers that will only last for one cheer season (cause they'll pick a new obscure, expensive sneaker next season, and we'll do this all again)? Not hardly.

Last year, we looked all over hell and back, and finally found a pair on sale for $40. I paid it, grudgingly.

This year, rugrat came out and told the rich bitches that the shoes were too pricy, and some parents couldn't afford them. The rich bitches girls argued that $60+ was cheap, and there was no way anyone couldn't afford them. That's cause the other rich bitches girls all have two-parent, two-income families, and $60 for one pair of sneakers probably isn't a lot to them. Even a few weeks before christmas.

So rugrat did her part, and looked online everywhere for a cheap pair, and found one for about $25, believe it or not. But then when I didn't get a confirmation that the shoes were being shipped, I called to confirm. Seems this was the kind of place with odd sizes, and often only one pair in a size. And somehow, they couldn't find the pair rugrat ordered on the shelves. They admitted it might have been employee pilfering, but what good does that do us?

So now, with $25 already spent and not being reimbursed quickly (online reimbursements always take time), we now had one weekend to find a pair before the first game.

We looked all over, and finally wound up at lady footlocker, where the shoe was $65. So rugrat says, why not check the main footlocker, cause she can wear a school boy's size 6.5/7, and often the boy's shoes are cheaper.

So we discover that, in fact, the boy's shoe is $50. But they only carried that particular shoe up to a size 6 (instead of the typical size 7), and the 6 is just a bit too tight. So we make a point of letting the sales clerk know-- very nicely, I might add -- that it really isn't nice of footlocker to stop at size 6, 'cause that forces us to buy the more expensive women's shoe. Said clerk let's me know that they are having a one day 'friends and family' discount promo of 30%, which could be applied to the women's shoe. Would I like that? Hell yes, I'd like that.

He sends another clerk to find the size we need, but doesn't tell her about the discount. We inform her. She gives the shoes to another employee, who rings up the purchase. Second clerk doesn't tell cashier about the discount, so we have to repeat ourselves again.

But, I got rugrat her shoes, for $47.25. Whew! Done...till next year anyway.

The shoe: New Balance style W574:

Blogger's being a bitch and won't let me upload a photo, so they are here (minus the pink ribbon).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

on the teaching front

Second set of papers were graded as of midnight last night. They did a bit better overall, but that's to be expected as the second assignment is both much shorter and a summary of their first paper.

The student who emailed me the day the papers were due has proven herself slowly but surely. I responded to her email with a) a mini-lecture about student responsibilities, and b) assurance that if she truly wanted to work hard for this course, I'd be there to help her with anything she didn't understand. So far, she's come through and worked her little butt off. I'm impressed.I

have another student who hasn't turned in either of the two assignments so far, and he's said nothing to me via email or in person. I just emailed him that he needs to have them in asap if he wants to pass the class. I do NOT give 'incomplete' final grades and allow students to work on their assignments once the semester is over -- not without seriously extenuating circumstances. I will give a student a failing grade if they fail to even turn in their work.

on the dissertation front

I did not work on the diss at all over the thanksgiving break -- it was one long week of doc appointments and house cleaning and laundry...and exhaustion.

At least, I didn't work on it physically. I often do work in my head, until it becomes so involved that I just have to put it down on paper. That's where I've been the last week -- working on the new outline and deciding on how to spin the slightly new direction. And it's become so big that I need to put it on paper.

So that's my goal this week:

1. to get the outline in print
2. to re-write the parts of the lit review that the committee member said needs to be 'my voice.'
3. to jot down notes for each section of the new outline stating what I think 'belongs' in that section for the paper to flow, and to follow the cm's feedback.

I'll turn that over to the cm for her approval before doing any additional work. From there, I'll expand the lit review as needed within the new outline and her feedback. And over Christmas break, I'll make the changes the chair wanted me to make in the methodology section, and then I should have a final, defensible product.

I seriously need to defend the proposal by the end of January, and have the final defense the end of May, because:I

just got a call from the university I applied to recently, and based on my cv and cover letter, they moved me on to the second round. Once they've interviewed my references, I will hopefully move to the interview round. They want to start the new positions next summer, and the person I spoke with let me know that they absolutely will not hire someone without diploma in-hand, no matter how close to defense I am. Therein the incentive to speed this up as much as possible.

Still crossing my fingers. Very afraid of bombing the interview. My teaching experience is limited to two specific courses, so if they ask about theory etc. out of that realm, I may be dead in the water. I've pretty much forgotten everything from coursework and comps.

Monday, November 27, 2006

things are not good all over, and a repost of a blog challenge from last year

I'm signed on to an email list with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, DC, and I received this in the mail yesterday:

by Arloc Sherman

A new Center analysis of data on hardships faced by American families — based on an annual survey the Administration plans to eliminate this fiscal year — shows that between one-fourth and one-third of all African American and Latino citizen families experience difficulty affording food, lack needed medical care, and/or live in overcrowded conditions.

Twenty-eight percent of African American families with children, and 31 percent of families headed by a Latino citizen, experience at least one of the above three hardships at some point during the year, according to the survey. This is double the rate for non-Latino white families with children (14 percent). This disparity largely reflects the fact that poverty rates are several times higher for African American and Latino families than for white families.

Press Release: 1pp.

Full Analysis: 6pp.


I remember a year ago, when things were going so horribly for me, that I had to pull myself out of myself and focus on the world around me.

One of the things I did (I was still blogging on the other site then) was to challenge everyone who read my post to do something for someone else. Something, anything, however big or small the action.

Well, I figure this is a bigger blogland than where I was a year ago, and I get more visitors overall than I did there. So, this should catch on quite nicely, right?

Let's call it the "Do Something for Someone" challenge.

Will you do something for someone?

And pass the word along to your readers?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

no more sleeping on the floor

Wooo hooo! My bed arrived yesterday morning, bright and early. It's definitely bottom of the line, nothing thick and plush, but it's good enough for me. I'll probably add on a topper at some point in the future. It's too big to get a shot of the whole bed in the confines of my room, but here's one view:

The 'headboard' is an inexpensive asian screen that is designed to show candle light through the plastic panels. I mounted it to the wall with clear plastic mounts (the kind used for mirrors). I just need to find a way to permanently attached glass candle holders so that I don't have to worry about bumping the screen and a candle falling onto the bed.

Here's a view straight on:

It'll take some getting used to, after 16 years with the old bed. And I need to get a set of satin sheets as soon as possible. I prefer the smoothness of satin to even the 400 thread count egyptian cotton sheets I have. But both sets of sheets are for a queen, not a king.

The two small pillows on the bed: the green one came from Ybor City in Tampa during a trip there a few years ago; the maroon one came from Tijuana, Mexico, during a trip to Los Angeles a year and a half ago (we drove down to MX).

As long as I was taking photos, I took this one, too:

Yep, the shoes I'm always talking about, along with handbags and boots. And, I did go back and get the red ones:

And a pair of boots, too:

Yes, they were BOGO!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

looking forward

And now I have the edits from my chair as well. Hers are much more focused on the methodology, as she's a research/stats prof. My second member is more theory oriented and so her feedback is focused there.

I decided to set up a meeting with the second chair to go over her stuff. I meet with her next Tuesday.

I can't really find the time for work on this right now. I have student papers due soon, and I'll be reading and correcting for a bit. My five day Thanksgiving break just became a proposal writing marathon date.

more thoughts about advanced standing

And about those 6 advanced standing students who withdrew from my class. Because now it all makes perfect sense.

Our program (not offered by all MSW programs) offers advanced standing to any incoming student who has a BSW degree. This means that the student does not need to take the first (foundation) year of master's courses. The students start in the second (advanced) year of courses instead.


1. This assumes that the courses taught at the bachelor's level are the same as those taught at the first year master's level in terms of content and academic rigor.

2. This assumes that all BSW degrees are equally academically rigorous.

3. This assumes that the BSW degree adequately prepares the student for the rigors of the second year of graduate school.

The problem is, how can we really make those assumptions, especially knowing what we know about undergraduate programs? We all know about the disparity in education and learning among undergraduate programs. And I don't believe that the coursework in most BSW programs is equivalent to the MSW foundation courses in content and rigor. The only way to ensure that the students have that knowledge is to test incoming students, and provide them with advanced standing if they can pass the exams.

Certainly, the BSW courses do not prepare the students for the rigor of a second year master's program. And when those students do not have the benefit of the foundation year courses, then they are not prepared for advanced coursework expectations. They come into class all cocky because they are 'advanced standing,' and therefore know it all. And when they discover the extent of the program's and professor's expectations, the students literally fall apart emotionally. And then they blame the professor and want us to fix the situation, because after all, they've always been 'A' students. 'A' students in an undergraduate program perhaps, but not in a graduate program. Graduate school is a whole different ballgame -- one they've never played and don't understand.

The foundation year is the student's preparation for the advanced year. When they are not required to take the foundation year courses (some of which are prerequisites to advanced year courses), we do our students a grave disservice.

I have students who don't even understand what APA style is. They write entire papers without citing any sources, assuming that listing the sources on the reference page is sufficient. They overuse direct quotes, rather than trusting themselves to adequately summarize what they read. And they make basic writing and grammatical errors that are taught in junior high. I even provide them with a grammar guide from my rugrat's junior high days, and a summary of APA style citations/references, and they clearly haven't made use of either guide.

I believe that those six students who left the class found themselves in over their heads. They weren't prepared for the work and the level of expectations. They wanted out, but it was too late to drop a course. They didn't want to lose the tuition paid for the course, so they went to the AD and made it my fault. I wasn't allowed to respond to their verbal attack -- they were simply allowed to withdraw and take another course another semester.

It seems as though I'm grumping a lot about teaching this semester. I've always had normal teaching grumps, but this semester has been nearly completely disheartening. The saving grace has been the select few students who have worked hard and done well -- those who have taken responsibility for their learning. And those who have done the best aren't in fact the advanced standing students; they are the students who completed the foundation year courses -- which says it all, in my humble opinion.

imagine, if you will

A fully dilated pupil, a flash digital camera, and blinding white light.

Searing pain, as that light hits your unprotected retina.

Over and over and over again.

Then being told to sit back and rest your eyes.

Opening your eyes, and seeing the world through a purple tinge.

The poke of the needle on the back of your hand.

Then more flashes, blue light this time, as the camera records the dye entering the vessels at the back of your eyes.

Forcing your eyes to open wide into the light, knowing the intense pain to come.

Flash after flash, you begin to anticipate the pain and blink too soon.

Thankfully, it is eventually over.

For a moment, you can see nothing but a white aura.

Then it clears, and you see the world blurred and through a yellow haze, courtesy of the dye.

Don't forget the brown and purple bruise on the back of your hand from the needle.

The tenderness of the bruise, as your hand brushes against objects.

That's a fluorescein angiogram.

For anyone who didn't know.

Monday, November 13, 2006

did I ever tell ya 'bout the time...

I went to court for a writing a bad check? Yeah, horrible ol' me, passing bad checks,right?

It was a long time ago, and I don't know what brought it to my mind just now, but here it is.

I was 19, a new mom, rugrat one being all of about 8 months old. I was struggling with minimum wage, trying to take a course or two at the community college. It was before I found out I was eligible for food stamps. I was hungry, and damned if I didn't write a check at the grocery store. And I did it knowing full well that I didn't have the money in the bank to cover it.

I wasn't worried when I wrote it. It wasn't the first time, after all. The stores would just turn you over to a collection agency, and you could make small payments each month 'til the debt was paid. This was before the whole quick check credit thing, so grocery stores never knew if you'd written a bad one somewhere else.

But for some reason, this particular store had a different policy than others. They gave you a week to pay up (yeah, like I'd have written the check in the first place if I knew I'd have money in a week), and then they turned you over to the courts. Yep, sent your bad check right on over to the court, who would send you a summons to appear. If you didn't appear, the notice said, they'd issue a warrant for your arrest.

So, I didn't know what to do, so I showed up. I had rugrat with me, since I did't have, and couldn't have afforded, a babysitter. Luckily, the court was right after lunch, and he fell asleep laying across my chest, and slept through it all.

The whole time I was there, I was completely terrified. I'd read about people going to jail for passing bad checks, and I had rugrat. What would happen to us? We'd been there about an hour when my case was called. The representative from the store was all official and professional, detailing what was purchased. The fucker.

And then the judge made me stand up and answer a question: Do you deny you owe this debt, he asked. Oh no, judge, I know I owe the money, I responded, my 95 pound body slightly rocking the rugrat to keep him sleeping while I stood and spoke. I just don't have it right now.

And he felt sorry for me. Gave me ample time to pay off the debt in small installments. And got downright snippy with the grocery store person when they tried to give him more paperwork than he needed. I don't need all that, he snipped. It isn't that big a deal, after all. It's just groceries. And by the look of her, she needed them.

welcome back my friends to the show that never ends

And on Saturday morning, the day the paper is due, I have an email in my inbox from a student, with a partial paper attached. The email is long, broken, somewhat incoherent. This student is ill and won't be in class, and she wants to apologize for the incomplete paper she's handing in. She's been confused all semester, and her pride prevented her from asking me for help even though yes, I always made myself availble if anyone needed help. But she was an A student and she had policy as an undergrad but they didn't do papers they did mock trials and yes, she knows it's all her fault, and is it possible for her to pass with the paper she's written, and she just went on forever.

I'm thoroughly disgusted with her and every student that doesn't take the initiative and ask questions if they are confused. Assuming, of course, that they really were confused and not just procrastinating and whining. It is my responsibility to teach, but it's their responsibility to learn. They seem to want to sit back and learn passively, with me shoveling it down their throats. They want to do nothing more than just swallow, and move on.

And what is really bothering me is that these students with the worst problems are defined as 'advanced standing' students. That means that their bachelor's degree was in social work. That's all it takes to get advanced standing, which means the student isn't required to take the foundation (first year) courses, they can move right into the second year advanced courses (my course is a second year course).

This concept is based upon the notion that students take the foundation courses in their last year of a bachelor SW program, so they shouldn't have to take them over again. The problem is, there is a vast difference between taking a course as an undergrad, and taking it as a grad student. Not to mention the concern that not all bachelor's programs are preparing students as adequately as others.

So, these students come in to second year master's courses completely and totally unprepared for graduate work in any way whatsoever. And they flounder and panic and produce work completely unacceptable for second year graduate students. Most students truly need those first year foundation graduate courses to prepare them for the second year advanced courses.

I will no doubt stir up a hornet's nest in my field with my position on this, but I think the 'advanced standing' concept does the students a serious disservice. Unfortunately, the students won't complain, as it gets them through a two year master's program in one year -- less work, less cost. So instead, they will continue to flounder in advanced courses for which they are ill prepared. And as much as I understand and feel for them, I refuse to lower my standards in terms of my expectations of a second year graduate student.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

baby did a bad bad thing...again

They are just going to have to close that Payless shoe store down the street from campus. It's too damned tempting, especially after the freakin' week I've had.

I bought these:

And decided I liked them in this color, too:

They apparently also have it in red, which I love and may have to go back for:

And then found these, which look awesome on:

I really wanted these, too, but didn't think I had enough in the bank. I may have to go back for them, too:

I missed BOGO unfortunately. BOGO, for you non-Payless aficionados, is 'buy one get one half off.'

Sigh. What is it about shoes that makes me feel so good, anyway?


OK, it's not an angiogram like the kind that checks circulation in your whole body.

It's a fluorescein angiogram, in which the dye is injected into your arm (rather than your leg) and goes directly up to the blood vessels in your eyes. Then they use a digital camera to take photos of the eye.

I recall now that the doc mentioned that there seemed to be an abnormality in the vessels in my right eye (not the one with the spot on the retina), which is why she ordered the exam.

Retinal photograph of a patient complaining of decreased vision.

Fluorescein angiogram indicating fluid leakage within the retina

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

i have to laugh, or i'll cry

I just called the hospital to make an appointment for the sleep study. Guess when the next available appointment is. Take one guess.

My appointment is for May 10, 2007, at 1:30. Yep, May of '07. And it's the only center around here that is covered by my insurance.

Here I was thinking that now that I knew this problem was covered by my insurance I could get the help I need. Sure, I'll get the help. In seven freakin' months.

I sure hope I don't have another blackout before then.


Monday, November 06, 2006

it's a lovely day to gouge out your eyes, my dear

Well, that's what it felt like anyway.

The tests to be done to check for a detached retina required that my eyes be fully dilated. So, I showed up on time at the opthalmologist's only to sit and wait. Three sets of eye drops and nearly two hours later, I was finally examined.

The doc started with the same tests I get every year when I see the doc at costco. First with my chin in that contraption, looking just over her ear, while she peers into my eyes with a microscope. Then with the hand-held bright light right in front of my eye, as she looks inside my pupils. She was downright thorough, and didn't find a tear.

Next, she warned me, she had to press on my eyeballs. It wouldn't be painful exactly, but it would be very uncomfortable. She maneuvered the chair to make the back go down so she could lean over me. She put drops in my eyes to numb my eyeballs. And then I entered hell.

Why do docs always say it won't hurt, it will just be uncomfortable? Maybe they should have any procedure they're going to perform on a patient performed on themselves first.

What she had to do was force open my eyes, shine that bright light into them, and then slide her fingers into the sides of my sockets and press down hard on my eyeball, manipulating it so that she could find any possible tear. And while she was at it, I had to turn my eyeballs to look in whatever direction she said: up and right, down and left, straight up, straight right. After about 20 minutes of this torture, she finally decided there was no tear.

Then she put my chair up and put me back on the microscope machine that I put my chin in -- the one we started with. And she found a white spot on my retina on the left eye -- the one that was causing problems.

Now, this spot could be serious, or it could be caused by high blood sugar, high blood pressure, or something else. So now I get the works in testing as we need to rule out other possibilities. She wrote a note to my gp, who I see on Thursday, and she wants the gp to check my blood pressure and request a blood workup. Great, a blood workup when I've been eating out of control and haven't been to the gym. It'll be a complete turnaround of the one in September.

And I go in next week for an angiogram. And then there's one more test, one that I think takes photos of my retinas.

I had to drive home with my eyes still pretty dilated. Hell, even now, 4 hours later, they are still partially dilated. And blood red, and tender and sore like you wouldn't believe. My vision is blurred, and I'm tired of laying down with my eyes closed to try to recuperate. I may be wearing glasses tomorrow. I'd take a photo if rugrat hadn't absconded with the digital again.

By the way, did you know that wearing contact lenses can cause scar tissue on your corneas? Apparently I have normal scarring on my right cornea, but excessive scarring on my left one, as though the lens I was wearing at some point was too tight. Interesting.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

it's all about the eyes

I've complained about my vision before. Or whined really. It could be worse. It could always be worse.

But here's the story. My eyes were probably 'bad' from birth. It was the advice of my 2nd grade teacher that pushed the egg donor and her second husband to take me to the eye doc. It wasn't covered by insurance, and it was expensive. Turns out even in the 2nd grade, it was pretty bad. I had never known, for example, that when the teacher was writing things on the board, I was supposed to be able to see it.

I could say that my first pair of glasses became my window to the world, that all was as it should be. But it took me some time to get used to being able to see, and figuring out the damned bifocals was a challenge. And the lenses were so thick (no high powered plastic lenses back then) that my nickname at school soon became 'coke bottle.' You remember the old coke bottles, how thick the glass bottom of the bottle was? Yeah.

So, fast forward to today. Minus 10 in the left eye, minus 11.5 in the right. Severe astigmatism. Severe myopia. Reading glasses with my contacts. I hate that I can't see as well with my eyeglasses as I can with my contacts. And I hate that for the last few weeks, my eyes seem to be rejecting my contacts. I'm wearing them less and less, and they irritate my eyes more and more. And over the last couple of years, I've begun to have problems seeing at night, which has made driving a challenge.

And there are the admonitions at every yearly exam. 'You're at extreme risk of a detached retina. If you ever see flashes of light when you shouldn't, or black 'floaters' moving across your eyes, get to an emergency room immediately.'

I'd always scoffed at that. But about two Fridays ago, I began to see those black floaters at the end of the work day, after working in front of the computer screen all day. I panicked, of course, and tried the whole blinking and closing/resting my eyes, getting up to do something else so I could focus on things further away than my computer. But they didn't go away. So I left work a slight bit early, thinking I'd go by the emergency room at the hospital on the way home. But during the drive, it seemed to get a little better, and all I could think about was how stupid I'd feel if I went to the hospital and it was nothing.

So I let it go, and went home, took out my contacts, and took a nap. I figured maybe it was just eye strain from all the computer work. But at some point in the last week, I've also noticed that the vision in my left eye has become worse. Significantly worse. When I close my eyes one at a time, I can still see quite clearly with my right eye, but everything is blurred with my left.

So I went online to learn more about eye things like detached retinas. I also read a bit about astigmatism, and found that people with severe eye curvature like mine can have problems with headaches and sensitivity to light, both of which I deal with regularly. Who knew!?

But I digress. Back to the detached retina. Seems that if the black floaters continue, or get worse, or tend to be followed by a loss of vision, it could be serious. But what exactly is a 'loss of vision'? A complete loss, or a loss like mine? I have no idea.

So, I could call the doc and ask, right? Make an appointment? Problem is, the doc I usually see at Costco has left, and there is someone new there who doesn't know my history. Plus, it would cost. And they are usually optometrists, not opthalmologists (which I need). I have insurance that covers one eye exam and one pair of glasses every 24 months, and I was just there last spring. I don't know if it covers emergency issues like this. I'll have to call the insurance company tomorrow. But I really hate having to see someone new who has no sense of the history of my eyes.

Geez, I hope it's nothing.

Monday, October 30, 2006

student panic

Always, two weeks before the paper is due, I get the crazed students in severe panic mode, mostly because they've waited to start their papers. But they express their panic in terms of 'I don't get policy, so I'm lost.' So this is when I start getting requests to review papers before the due date. I'm happy to, but I find that that the ones who submit a paper early for review actually do 'get it,' and it's the ones who think they 'get it' and don't submit a paper for a review that actually don't 'get it.'

And this time around, I have a student with 'severe concerns' about her group, and she wants to address it confidentially with me. She can't change groups this late in the semester, so this could be interesting. One purpose of the group work is to learn to work with people who have very different work methods and attitudes, so group hopping defeats the purpose of learning to work together. We'll see what she says.

What really killed me was getting an email from the assistant dean about how students are getting stressed at midterm, and she recommends a midterm evaluation along the lines of 'what do you like, not like, want to change about the course.' I should mention that this semester, I'm teaching on a satellite campus with completely different staff and faculty, and a completely different attitude/mentality. They molly-coddle the students too much on the branch campus.

I mean, it's freakin' grad school, it's supposed to be hard. It's finishing despite the challenges that lets you know you did it. If it were a cake walk, everybody would be getting the degree. How can students even apply for, and enroll in, grad school and not think it's going to be grueling.If I can get a course on the main campus for spring semester, I'm going to go back there.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

and she couldn't tell me sooner?!

Met with my second committee member Tuesday afternoon. I don't disagree with her about anything, but a lot of it I didn't know was expected, never having done this before. I took lots of notes, but am so overwhelmed I haven't looked at them since the meeting.

I can make the changes she suggested, I know I can. But it will take time, and lots of it.

She went so far as to suggest I 'put aside' my current intro and lit review, and create a new outline given her suggestions. I am thinking that very little of what I already have will be usable if I create a new outline.

This is definitely doable (with time), but here's what chaps my hide: I copied this committee member every single time I sent a new draft to my chair for review. Over a six month period, she received three or four drafts. If she had bothered to read a single one of those drafts, she could have headed me off at the pass so to speak, steered me in the right direction, before I submitted a final draft. Just one draft was all she had to read to save me days, if not weeks, of re-rewrites.

That's what fucking pisses me off royally.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

what are they thinking!

I put my students into an email group list to email them materials all at once. For some strange reason, I have started getting goofy junk emails from one of the students. For some strange reason, she added me to her address book, and she apparently forwards her favorite junk emails to everyone in her address book. What kind of students sends her prof junk email anyway!!!???

Today, a student accused me of being the one to give her the flu virus that she's been dealing with for three weeks. Granted I had that bad flu, but so did several other students in the class, by their own admission. And how does she know exactly where her virus came from? She could have been exposed anywhere. It's not like she's a hermit that never leaves her house. So now, everytime she starts hacking up a lung in class, I inwardly cringe because I know she's blaming me for her illness.

in her words

Rugrat wrote a paper that counted as credit for both her fashion design course and her english course. I just found a copy of it sitting by the 'puter. Here's what she wrote, word for word -- I've edited nothing.

Beauty cannot be described with one simple description. There is no one particular type of beauty. Being beautiful doesn't have to do with only physical characteristics and your appearance, but also what's inside and how you treat others. Beauty is not the "model look", where everyone is 6 feet tall and weighs less than 130 pounds. Beauty is not being one ethnicity and having a certain color skin or hair color. Beauty can only be described how you personally think it is. Like the saying says, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder".

I personally believe beauty is how you carry yourself and how you treat others around you. I think that you can be 100 pounds and be beautiful or be 200 pounds and be beautiful either way. A person can be black, white, brown, or anything and still be beautiful. In my opinion, you need to have self esteem to be beautiful, you have to tell yourself you are beautiful and believe it and you have to believe others when they say you're beautiful. In order to be beautiful, you have to believe it yourself, otherwise others will not think so.

I don't think the media should be portraying the perfect image as being super skinny, because there is no perfect image. Everyone is beautiful in their own ways, and everyone has imperfections even the models. I think that people's imperfections are what makes them beautiful and unique. If we were all the same, then everyone would be boring.

There are many reasons as to what is beautiful about myself and for the most part, they do not have to do with my appearance. I think that my Mexican heritage is something very beautiful about me. I think that when you can embrace your heritage and be so proud and prideful about it makes you very beautiful, especially when your country is one that isn't always put very high, like Mexico. It also makes me special because living in New York there isn't a huge population of Mexicans like there is Puerto Ricans or Dominicans, so it just makes me more unique than a lot of Latinos who live in New York. Another thing is that I'm proud of the way I look. Even though I'm not a size 2, like people think everyone should look, I still take pride in myself. I would rather be the way I am now than look like a model.

Update: rugrat told me last night that she got a 92% on this assignment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

and another one bites the dust

After two good weeks in class, I get another email from the assistant dean saying another student has dropped. Another one of those advanced standing students who didn't even need to be there clogging up my class cause they'd already taken its equivalent in the BSW program.

So the dean's email to me went like this:

Hi, *****.

***** has dropped the policy course. She is another advanced standing student who is not required to take the course.

Hope things are going okay with your class. Let me know if I can be helpful.


Well, my last respond to the mass exodus was oh poor me, what did I do wrong. But not this time. This time I put it back on them, where it belonged. This is my response:

Thanks again for letting me know. Despite the expressed intentions of the other 4, only one bothered to email me and let me know they had dropped the course. And none of them expressed a concern to me before withdrawing, despite the fact that the rest of the class has no problem communicating concerns to me before and after class and via email.

I think it's telling that 5 of the 6 students who dropped were advanced standing students. If these students were upset at feeling forced into the only course available in that time period, then they might have been unhappy regardless of the professor or course content, especially if it's a course they've already taken. I do know that many of the remaining students were upset with the students who withdrew, because it forced a re-grouping (the students work in groups for the semester) four weeks into the semester, when most of the groups were already fully engaged. Apparently, none of the students who withdrew even bothered to let their group members know they planned to leave. I have heard a bit of gossip from some of the remaining students as I've walked by in the hall, but I'll chalk it up to hurt feelings from those in the abandoned groups, as it puts those who withdrew in a decidedly bad light.

All I can say is that the last two weeks in class without the students who withdrew have gone very smoothly. The remaining students are attentive, ask questions, give anecdotal examples of issues from their own jobs in the field, and a small handful are actually excited about the course despite the fact that it's 'required, not elective' in their words -- which is wonderful, considering the trepidation with which most students face policy courses.

So, I'm not taking it lying down anymore. So there.

Monday, October 16, 2006

getting better

Things have been much better in class the last two weeks, which has me questioning whether it has something to do with those students withdrawing. Maybe they were causing problems in class, and everyone's happier now that they're gone.

I'm not doing the mid-term eval. The students can do a final eval if they like, just like all students do.

I am trying to decide if I want to continue teaching on the new campus, or go back to teaching on the one I know so well.

just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

Something freaky and scary happened on the way to work this morning.

I lost 8 minutes of my conscious life.

Not in an 'oh, where did the time go' kind of way. Not even remotely.

Not in an 'I was on autopilot' kind of way.

Not in an 'I fell asleep at the wheel' kind of way.

It was an 'I was awake and functioning normally but was apparently not conscious of what I was doing' kind of way.

The last thing I remembered was being stopped at a traffic light. The next thing I knew, I was 'coming to' a couple of miles, and 8 minutes, later. And I wasn't where I was supposed to me.

The thing is, between point A and point B, I have no memory whatsoever. I was not overly tired, and I didn't fall asleep at the wheel. There'd be no way to drive the busy, pedestrian filled, full of traffic lights route asleep without causing some major damage.

And it wasn't like I was just daydreaming and not paying attention, because I can always remember bits and pieces of the drive when I'm daydreaming.

This was like not being there, and then poof! Being there. And not having any knowledge or recollection of anything that happened in between. Nothing. Nada. It's like the time never happened. Except it did, because I was at Point B. And I 'woke up' wondering where I was and how I'd gotten there -- completely disoriented, confused, and scared as hell.

And yes, I know it sounds like dissociation. Remember, my master's degree is clinical. I understand dissociation. But that typically happens when a traumatic event occurs, or when a memory of a truamatic event is triggered. Nothing like that was present this morning. So I'm not willing to accept that as a possibility.

But if it wasn't that, then what was it. I was conscious, then I wasn't, then I was again. But my body functioned during the time I wasn't conscious. Somehow.

I'm very scared.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

do you all have any idea

Just what your comments mean to me? I mean, some of you are strangers, in the sense that I've never met you face-to-face, and may never do so. And yet, when I'm so very down, the comments you leave mean something. Some less caring readers will say that I am pathetic for depending upon anonymous readers to feel better about myself. All I can say to those individuals is fuck you -- you're not in any position to judge me.

I've been in such a very, very dark place lately. And am still today. I hide it, and apparently pretty successfully. Even friends and colleagues at work can't tell when I'm hiding the fact that the savage beast has awakened again. It's getting bad enough that I can't work out, or sleep, or concentrate for very long.

Why does he awake? He always seems to make his presence known when I'm dealing with serious criticisms, or highly stressful events. And the last few weeks have been particularly unbearable, with no end in sight. It's the criticism of the dissertation by one, the supercilious attitudes of those few students, the ongoing crisis of rugrat's physical health, the ongoing monetary issues, the worry about looking for a new job when I finish my dissertation (I've already made it known I'm looking, with my supervisor's support, but what if I find nothing). It's just all too much sometimes.

That's when the the beast stretches, yawns, and slyly begins to tell me just what a loser I really am. He demands to know how I dare to think that I'm capable of doing the things I do, how I dare to believe I could succeed at anything. I am not worthy, he berates me. I must admit, he says, that my place in life isn't what or where I dream it will be. And if I continue to pretend I belong, he warns, I will be found out and sent on my way. On and on he viciously undermines my self-esteem and sense of worth.

He's been awake for awhile now, and I've tried everything I can think of to lull him to sleep. In the past, depending upon just how awake he is, I could always get him back to sleep in a few days, at most a week. And he wouldn't show his face again for months. Sometimes simply being quiet in my room, listening to music will do it. Sometimes a night of chocolate. Or spending a $20 on something for myself. Sometimes, I have to eat more, and spend more, to shut him up. And therein is the cycle of beast and food and money. It doesn't even matter if he's only awake for a few days, because I can do enough damage to my bank account in those few days that the next six months I'll be dealing with the aftermath. You see, a limited income isn't my only problem -- spending what little I do have to keep the beast quiet keeps me in debt.

This week was no exception. Dinner via take out or fast food. Tonight I made burgers and fries, but when rugrat wasn't hungry, who do you suppose wound up eating her food, too. And a handbag last night. I always pride myself on sales, and the Liz Claiborne bag at Burlington Coat Factory for $20 was a bargain, I told myself. Except that I really didn't have 20 to spare. Tonight, two pair of trousers and a top at Macy's. Then a pair of pants for rugrat, too. All when I have a mere 50 in the bank, 20 open on my visa, and 7 open on my mastercard. I think they must have raised my limit at Macy's, or I couldn't have bought what I did.

But still, the fucking beast won't go back to sleep. My spending is beginning to cut into bills, and it'll take the next two paychecks to be completely caught up on everything. Which means that in the meantime, I'll be stressed about money, and rugrat, and dealing with criticisms, and that means the beast won't likely go to sleep. It's like the vicious cycles you learn about in abnormal psych.

And so, the comments I read tonight, when I was near tears, meant something. Lulled the beast for moment. And for that, I thank you.

she's not through yet

More criticism from the second committee member, by email. I'm becoming more and more afraid of meeting with her on the 24th. Afraid she'll discover that I really don't have what it takes. That I'm a fraud. And afraid she'll call me on it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

why do i let this stuff get to me

This issue over students withdrawing (five now) four weeks into the semester, along with the one who complained, has me nuts. I told the dean that I haven't experienced this before, and didn't know why, and all she would say is that the four students who met with her didn't talk about me personally, just a lack of fit between teaching/learning styles. Apparently, they can't glean out of my lectures what is most important. Considering they have my lecture notes, arranged by outline, right in front of them when I lecture, that just doesn't make sense.

Anyway, the dean suggested I do a mid-semester anonymous evaluation, something that apparently a lot of the faculty on this particular campus do. A sort of a what do you like, what don't you like, what would you change kind of thing. But in light of the mass exodus, wouldn't the rest of the students see that as me admitting defeat and letting them call the shots?

The thing is, this is the only time this has happened. What if it's just a fluke, and not something that will happen again? I mean, if I've been teaching for four years, and nothing like this has ever happened, should I be letting it bother me so much?
And yet, it's driving me nuts. I know you can't please all the students, but most students I've had just suck it up and take it, they don't go whining to the associate dean.

Sigh. I don't know whether to do that mid-semester eval or not, or whether to take this as a fluke, or something more serious.

Monday, October 09, 2006

can I change my mind, please?

I'm not liking teaching so much right now. That one student who complained about my grading process to the dean outed herself in class when she made some lame-brained comment about how it wasn't right that everyone in class didn't have a chance for an 'A.' She's an obnoxious little woman who is driving her group nuts. And when she speaks in class, the other students all roll their eyes at her. But she's making my life hell. And so is the student who had the nerve to tell me that group work is an "undergrad" activity, and she's a grad student and a wife and a mother and doesn't have time for this "nonsense." I listened to her, shook my head and mmm-hmmm'ed, and then walked away. If she doesn't have the time for the work, she shouldn't have fucking signed up for the class.

On top of that, the dean emailed me to let me know that she withdrew four students from my class yesterday. She says they were advanced standing students who had had this course as an undergrad and they didn't have to take it, so they'll take another elective in the summer. But my question is, why did they sign up for the class in the first place then, and why did they stick around for four weeks before asking the dean to withdraw them.

And on top of those four, it seems that a few others may have dropped as well. It's like a mass exodus out of my class, and I've never seen anything like it. Granted I've only been teaching for four years, but in those four years, no one has ever complained about me to administration, and the only withdrawals I've ever had were the one or two that would withdraw after the first day of classes. I just don't get what's going on, but being the perfectionist who takes everything personally, it's really getting me down.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

not so bad

OK, I've calmed down and spoken to both of the committee members, and it's not so bad after all.

First, I emailed the one who wrote the email and said of course I'd love to meet with her, as I hadn't realized I was so far off-base. She wrote back and her second email was less harsh and more understandable.

Then the chair emailed me to say she'd spoken with the other member, and I wasn't so far off base, but there were things that needed to be included, and she was confident I could do so, and she just wanted me to have another perspective. Basically, she saw how the feedback was presented to me (she'd been copied on the email) and wanted to reassure me that it wasn't a bad thing.

It doesn't help, of course, that I still sometimes have this bit of insecurity that comes up from my past. It's the 'former welfare recipient who has the nerve to think she could actually be a Ph.D.' insecurity, and I can't seem to completely wipe it out of my psyche, although I continue to work on it.

Now, the thing is -- and this is where it gets embarrassing -- I am, in fact, missing something very important in my proposal. Here I am teaching policy analysis, having done it for a living (and as a volunteer), and I became so myopic about this dissertation that I couldn't seem to recognize that this was indeed a policy analysis. There are certain elements that need to be present in an analysis, and they aren't there in my proposal. So the prof was right on, just a bit harsh. I'll meet with her later this month, and hopefully I'll have some work done by then and can run it by her.

Anyway, I mentioned my embarrassment to my chair, and her response was:

Don't worry about it - this is why you work with other people on a research project. It is sooooo easy to miss something. Experts do it all the time.

Gotta love a chair like that, dontcha!

why ask

I always email my lecture notes to the students after the lecture, just in case someone missed a comment or a point in class on a particular day. Two weeks ago, a student asked if I would email them prior to the date I would be using them, so that they can follow along.

I told her that I had tried that before, and half the class stopped showing up because they figured if they had my notes, then they didn't need to be around for my lecture.

She, and all the students around her assured me that they would not do the same, so I agreed to try it once and see what happened.

So, last Friday, I emailed the lecture notes out for Saturday's class.

I'll give you one guess who didn't have those notes in class that day and kept holding up the class to ask me to repeat something.

bucking for a challenge

I received a call today from the associate dean at the campus where I'm teaching this semester. Seems a student visited her to share things with her that she 'didn't feel comfortable sharing with me.'OK, no problem.First concern from student: she's concerned about the paucity of 'A's' that I give in the grading process. Seems this student told the a.d. that I told the class that I've only given out 2 or 3 A's in my teaching career.

Well, I assured the dean that what I had, in fact, said was that I have only given two 'F's' in my career, both to students who failed to complete an assignment that was worth 25 percent of the total grade. The grades in my classes tend to run, in general, about a third 'A's,' a third 'B+'s,' and a third 'B's.' This is a graduate program, and the students need to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA to remain in the program, and if their work is 'B' or better, no problem. If someone turns in written work that would not garner at least a 'B,' I tend to return the work to them with feedback and an opportunity to rewrite the work for a 'B.' My goal is not to fail students willy-nilly, but to allow them to learn from mistakes.

So, no problem, the dean would have backed me up even if it had been true that I don't give 'A's.' It's the instructor's prerogative, they have freedom in this program to set their classroom grading standards.

On to the second concern: personal disclosures. Hers, or mine? I asked. Apparently, mine. The student told the dean that she was uncomfortable with personal disclosures that I have supposedly made, and yet, when pressed by the dean to provide an example, the student could not. If she is so uncomfortable by these alleged disclosures, wouldn't they register firmly enough in her mind to at least have had one example on the tip of her tongue?

I think I see a student setting up what just might become a challenge at the end of the semester if she doesn't get her 'A' (yes, her -- we have only two male students in the class of 30). As in, if she doesn't get her 'A,' she can claim it's retaliation for going to the dean.

Problem for her is, I grade all assignments blind. Students use the last four digits of their SSN on their paper, and I keep the grade book without names. It isn't until I'm inputting final grades into the system at the end of the semester that I see the name of the student next to the grade.

Basically, she won't have a leg to stand on.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

feedback sucks

This is what I just found in my email from the second committee member:

I have read your proposal draft.

I think it is a very interesting study.

I think you have a good deal of work to do to develop the narrative about the policy issues and the literature review.It would help if you could select a few readings to share with me that have been most helpful to you in conceptualizing how you think about welfare policy and the accompanying value debates that have ensued over time.

You are going to need to demonstrate your understanding of these issues in a more developed manner than what you have presented to date in this draft. The focus on subsidized education as part of welfare policy needs to be better conceptualized. It would be helpful for you to think about how you can conceptualize educational assistance as an anti-poverty strategy. How would this benefit be classified as (using someone like Gilbert and Specht or some other authors)

I suggest you email me or call me to set up times to meet in person.

Fuck. Now I'm completely overwhelmed all over again. If I have to address all this, I'll never defend the proposal before Christmas. This committee member didn't read a single draft until now, and now she throws this at me. My chair never said anything like this -- in fact, I have no idea if my chair agrees or not. This is coming from a professor who is not known for being tough. In fact, I aced her theory course on children and families. I don't know where this hard core stuff is coming from, but I seriously want to just bail on this completely.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

listen up, motherfucker

It's a VIRUS that causes cervical CANCER, you motherfucking, fat-assed, photo-lying, story-telling, narrow-minded, anxiety-ridden, pill-popping, sorry-assed excuse for a human being.

Eighty percent of all women have the virus, and just how do you suppose they got it? That's right, from you fuckers -- men. Men who suffer no ill effects from the virus, and therefore don't give a fucking damn who they pass it on to.

My daughter could fucking die, you skin-sucking, belly-crawling insect! How dare you fucking attack me by using her! Grow some balls and act like a fucking man for once in your life!

Who do you think you are to suggest that my daughter, or any woman, should be ashamed to have an honest, open, frank, public discussion about the HPV virus? And why do you choose to refer to it as 'STD's' rather than name it specifically? Do you think to embarrass me by leading people to believe that she has multiple, undisclosed sexually transmitted diseases? Or that she is promiscuous, and it is a reflection on me? Well, it won't work, because this isn't a moral issue, it's a medical issue. I have taught my daughter not to be ashamed of this, and she discusses it openly herself. This is not some dirty little secret that shames us so badly that we will sweep it under the carpet and never speak of it. It is a major medical issue affecting millions of women.

It is these public discussions that helped encourage the creation of the vaccine that is now available for our young girls. It is these public discussions that have educated young women and teens so that they seek medical attention early enough to successfully fight this cancer. Because we speak publically, our youngest generation of girls will grow up without fearing this particular virus or the resulting cancer. Perhaps you need to learn a little something about the issue before projecting your own fucking narrow-minded opinions upon the actions of others who seek to educate the public. Be careful -- your ignorance is showing (again).

If you ever, ever, ever again verbally attack my daughter, or even act like you're going to -- ever -- you'll see just how vicious it will get. My daughter is off-limits, fuckwad!

The apology should be coming from you, for sinking lower than anyone who calls himself human should. For even deigning to mention my daughter in any context whatsoever.

I was happy to live and let live, each in our own little blogland, with a little chuckle here and there for fun, but you couldn't leave well enough alone, could you?

And by the way, this is between you and me, and only us. So leave the bystanders out of it for once and fight your own battles like a man. Copying my words into your blog incites others to get involved in something that should be between us. I didn't copy yours into mine, but perhaps I should have, because deleting your own words doesn't change the fact that you wrote them and they were wrong. It was a nasty, vicious thing to do, and it goes way beyond anything I've ever said publicly. I have never, ever brought any of your family or friends into any problem between us, and I never would -- because I know how wrong that is. So until you admit the inappropriateness of your original words, this post stays as is. Publicly admit that you misspoke, and it will come down.

Now go crawl back into your hole, and this time stay there.

And try fucking spell check the next time you post -- your illiteracy is showing, too.

Of course, this post could be about anyone, anyone at all. I haven't named a single, solitary person. If you think it's about you, then perhaps you're just paranoid.

And if your comment is one that I don't care for, be prepared to have it deleted. My blog, my choice.

Monday, October 02, 2006

shoes, glorious shoes

I was commenting in a blog recently about my dilemma in shoe shopping. I can only afford Payless, as I've blogged before (I tried to find those posts, but the blogger search engine doesn't seem to be working), and generally when they are buy-one-get-one-half-off (or BOGO, as they call it).

My favorite type of shoe is the pointy-toed pump, mule, or slingback. But of course, those sizes are much more narrow in the ball of the foot. And I already have a wide foot as it is. So I have to go a half-size up as well as wide, and it is very slim pickings in a 9W for pretty shoes. Maybe that's partly why I grab shoes whenever I find them.

Rugrat counted my shoes a few weeks ago, and she counted 33 pair. That's counting, though, sneakers for workouts, sensible low-heeled ones, summer sandals, and winter shoes. That's not so bad, is it?

My biggest challenge now is that I need a pair of boots, and I want something that goes to my knee. But not only is it hard to find the boots in a 'W,' the damned things are slightly too tight on my calves, and I can't get them zipped up. Now, I'm only about 30 pounds overweight at this point, so it burns me that I still can't get into a knee boot. And I can't afford to go somewhere more expensive. So, I guess it's ankle boots for me again this winter. Sigh.

I did, though, find a gorgeous pair of slingbacks at Payless a week or so ago that I've received massive compliments on. And at 14.99, how could I not buy them? I guess that means I have 34 pairs now. Yeah, you can all say it. Shoe whore!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


So, I emailed my final draft to my committee yesterday. Now I wait. Wait for them to read. Wait for them to comment.

Then I get to write again, to change/add/delete content to please the committee.


A full-time faculty position opening came through my email inbox Monday. It's a college in the state university system, one that's known for its focus on nontraditional adult populations and distance learning. It's well respected, without being so high in prestige that I don't stand a chance of getting an interview. It's the perfect position for me, everything from their MA in social policy (that's my study and teaching area), to their focus on adult nontrad students (I was an adult nontrad student), to their diverse, lower income, working student body (who was in and out of welfare and poverty for years? yep, me).

Oh yeah, and did I mention, if I work in the state system, rugrat can go to any state school tuition free.

I'll put together my cv and a cover letter this weekend and email it out next Monday. They start their review of apps on October 13. Wish me luck, I'd really love to have this one.

Monday, September 25, 2006

blowing the mind

Prepping for lecture while on meds for a major flu virus is not something I plan to do again anytime soon. Was horribly sick, but didn't feel like I could cancel class. We only meet for two hours on Saturday, and they needed this content for their papers. I didn't want to have to delay the due date on their midterm assignment, cause everything for the rest of the semester is based on that assignment.

So I muddled through, sounding semi-intelligent but a bit out of it as well. And by the end of the lecture, my voice was pretty much gone. I'd lectured myself right into laryngitis, although it was better the next day.

You know, I really hate those moments when you're speaking from your lecture notes, and you have to pause and wonder just what the fuck you were thinking when you wrote that particular bit.

Oh, btw, just got word of an asst prof position nearby. It would be a bit of a commute, but doable, with a decent salary, and it's not one of the top programs in the area, so competition won't be as fierce. They start reviewing apps October 13, so I need to have my cv and cover letter done asap.

Monday, September 18, 2006

guilt and the light

So I spent Thursday with the new 'puter.

And Friday went to various errands.

Friday night to prep for Saturday class.

So by Saturday eve, I was feeling really guilty about getting nothing done. I spent Saturday night reviewing the three stats classes -- class handouts, my notes, homework assignments -- so that Sunday I could write the data analysis plan section. I think I have it done, but I'm not sure. It's one section that I haven't seen a sample of in terms of dissertation expectations, so I'm going on instinct. I also put a little more work into the variables section, and it looks pretty darned good.

Still to do:
~section on relevance to the profession

And some touch ups on:
~theoretical framework
~lit review (a couple more paragraphs)
~making sure the references sync with the citations in the proposal, since I couldn't afford EndNotes

Taking off this Thursday/Friday as well. Should have final draft to committee on Monday, September 25.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

a conversation

Me: Honey, did you get a letter from Dr. V--- recently about your test?
RR: No, but I got a phone call from her a while ago.
Me: What did she say?
RR: I don't know, I didn't really listen to it, why?
Me: Because I already got my test results, and I wondered why you hadn't gotten yours. I worry about things like that.
RR: Oh, sorry, I didn't think about it.
Me: Well, when your phone is charged, would you please listen to the message and tell me what it says?


Me: Sweetie, did you listen to your phone message from the doctor?
RR: Yes, she said I need to get another one of those tests.
Me: You mean the biopsy?
RR: Yeah. And I hate how they say 'you have tested positive for the HPV virus.'
Me: Well, they have to give everyone their results.
RR: No, not that. It's how they say it, really loud, like it's a life or death situation and somehow I don't know it's serious. I know already, I don't want to hear it again.
Me: I know honey, I understand.


Why the hell does the doc always call the kid with results anyway? I understand the whole confidentiality thing, but for fuck's sake, it's my insurance paying for her tests, and my money making the copay for the office visit. Kids don't take this stuff seriously. Rugrat let it go for a week, damn it. I could have had a week less of the unknown, and we'd be a week closer to an appointment.

Anyway, if you didn't figure it out from the conversation, rugrat still has the virus (a year later, and it hasn't run its course yet), and we have to go back to the colposcopist for another biopsy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

lovin' it

Damn I really do love teaching. I was on a bit of a high after class friday. I especially loved the feeling of being back after over a year away. I didn't get the cd's done for the students for the first day -- a combination of some bad disks that rugrat had scratched beyond use, and my laptop's cd drive going belly up (but a new one's coming soon).

So I picked up a new batch of blank cd's, and I'm burning them at work (shhh!). They will have them this Saturday.First day, as is typical, there were a couple of students who panicked, telling me that policy is not their strong subject and they fear failure. So reassurances were forthcoming that I have no doubt they'll do well. And really, that's true: in my experience, the ones who are conscientious enough to verbalize their fear of failure tend to do pretty well in class. The ones who think they know everything are the ones who tend to do a bit poorly in my classes.

And then there are the liberal-leaning students who managed to pick the word 'conservative' out of the hat/bowl, and now are required to do all their assignments from the point of view of a conservative-leaning nonprofit. One student was very pessimistic about her ability to do the assignments from a conservative point of view. I just kept smiling and encouraging her, telling her I had total confidence in her. She emailed me later to apologize for not being more open-minded.

I'm already excited for the next class. :)

Monday, September 11, 2006

the piper

I was walking from the parking garage to the building in which I work this morning. As I came closer to the middle of the campus, I began to hear faint sounds of music of some sort. A few more steps, and the music was distinguishable as bagpipes. One bagpipe, to be more specific.

As I rounded the corner and came in sight of the Parade, as we call the large grassy area in the midst of the campus, I could see him. The lone piper, standing roughly in the middle of the Parade, slowly walking back and forth, and piping a quiet, beautiful tune that I did not recognize.

As odd as it may sound, I like bagpipes, when they are well played. The deep, rather plaintive sounds will often bring out that savage beast.

It was clear why the piper was on the Parade. This is the fifth anniversary of 9/11. I'm quite sure the president of the university himself arranged for the piper, who is probably a student at the university.

For the most part, I've avoided all references to this particular anniversary, mainly because I think it is too politicized. I'm tired of elected officials using what should be a nonpolitic moment of remembrance for those lost to further their own private agendas -- not to mention the media stations and channels using it to gain more listeners/watchers.

But walking to the office this morning, the lone piper set a tone for the day, and the campus, although busy at 8:15 in the morning -- students, faculty, and staff chatting as they walked -- became a bit more hushed, more reverent, as they came close enough to hear the piper.

There was no commercialism or media in this moment, just the wail of the pipes in the chill morning air. And isn't that the best way to remember?


Friday, September 08, 2006


Class starts tomorrow afternoon. I'm excited to get back into the classroom after a year away.I didn't get all the cd's burned, partly because the cd's were bad (rugrat had left them lying around and they were all scratched -- I hadn't noticed) and partly 'cause my laptop cd drive isn't working very well anymore. Seems it wasn't really about the program I was using after all.

I bought new cd's on the way home tonight, and I'll burn them during the week on my work 'puter. It's just as well, since I found a few more articles I'd like to add to the information on the student disks. And they really don't need them the first day, the second week of class will be just fine.Here's to tomorrow. I've got a room full of students -- at least 30, and this is grad, not undergrad. Writing intensive. Which means I've got a freakin' lot of reading to do this semester.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

treasure and trash, part 2

part 1

As she watched the children playing, she began to relax a bit. She was never hugely comfortable anywhere; always, in the back of her mind, was the knowledge that things could go badly very quickly. And go badly they did.

As she relaxed, her grip on her treasure loosened a bit, and the smoothness of the glass caused it to slip from her grasp. A dance of lunacy ensued, as she grasped it, it slipped, she grasped it again, and it slipped again. She juggled it for a moment, and then, it dropped to the ground. To the cement surface of the carport. And the accompanying sound of shattered glass filled the immediate area. Everyone turned to look, and one of her most hellish nightmares occurred -- everyone staring at her. And she just knew, she knew, they were all laughing at her, every single one of them.

Her freckled cheeks grew beet red, she began to perspire, and she froze in place, wishing the ground would reach up and swallow her, protecting her from the gazes of the other kids. And as they just as quickly lost interest and went back to playing, the mommie came out of the house nearby. It was a mommie that didn't seem to like her very much. A mommie that came out a lot to send her on her way. Mother cub, protecting her own kids from the white trash that had come to play. Actually, most of the mommies were like that. They were always angry, and sending her away.

She didn't think it odd that all the other mommies were at home, because her mommie was at home too. But why didn't the other mommies sleep? Her mommie slept all day, and the babysitter came at night. Didn't all mommies sleep in the daytime? Why weren't these mommies in bed? Maybe that's why this mommie was mad. Maybe the noise woke her up. Her mommie was always really mad if she got woke up.

She didn't know why the mommies always told her to go home, but it made her ache inside every time -- and now was no exception. As the mommie came barreling out with a broom and dustpan, she pointed at the girl with the pale eyes and strawberry blonde hair, and said 'I told you to go home.'

The girl didn't move, but her gaze left the mommie's cold, angry face and moved down to her now shattered treasure. She noticed one large piece of glass with cold cream still intact, and she surreptitiously bent down and picked up the one piece left of her treasure as the mommie attacked the mess with her broom.

After the mess had been swept, the mommie looked back over at the girl, forlorn and carefully holding her piece of treasure. She came close to the girl and told her, as coldly and firmly as possible, to go away now and not to come back. And to throw away the trash before someone got hurt. Then the mommie marched back up to her home, calling her own kids as she went.

And with a crack, the screen door slammed shut, mommie and kids inside and safe from the trash. As the little girl stared at the door, the mommie turned around, and deliberately latched the screen door. She stood there behind the screen, yelling at the little girl to go away this minute and leave them alone.

The little girl stood there, aching deeply inside, tears welling in her eyes, blinking them back. Even at her tender age, she knew not to cry. She refused to let the tears come. But she couldn't hide the emotion in her eyes -- she had never been able to, and probably never would. Even without the tears, anyone could see what she felt if they just looked in her eyes. Like her mommie always said, 'you don't have to open your mouth, I can see the sass in your eyes.' When she got a little older, she learned how to hide her eyes, so that mommie and everyone else wouldn't see the sass there.

She stood there, still and quiet, for seconds more, looking at the back of the mommie as she disappeared behind the screen door. And then the little girl turned around, and slowly trudged away.


Friday, September 01, 2006

jobs, jobs, jobs

It's no secret really that I would love to teach full-time if I had the chance. And the director of our doctoral program is very good about sending out via email any teaching opportunities that he hears of.

And I probably stand a pretty good chance of getting a ft position -- in North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, or Rhode Island, which are some of the areas hiring in my field for next fall. But I can't afford to relocate, and even if I could, I like where I am -- I don't want to move. And neither does the rugrat.

But I live in a competitive, urban area, and all the programs around here can choose from the best of the best of the faculty out there. Everyone wants to live and work here. And although I've been teaching successfully as an adjunct for three years (starting my fourth), I have not published. And I've been out of my field (social policy) for a few years, mainly because I needed a job that wouldn't interfere so much with my doctoral studies. So I don't have the most current experience in the field; I'm not as 'competitive' as others in terms of recent experience. Saying I spoke before a Senate Committee that included Hilary herself, for example, doesn't mean much when they find out it was five years ago.

I would consider starting at a community college (really, it's about the teaching for me), but at the CC level, social work is oriented to human services, and policy courses aren't a part of the curriculum.

So I'm really up the proverbial creek without a paddle. I'm not particularly confident that I'll find something local. Even if I play the former poverty-level welfare recipient turned Ph.D. card, I don't know how much it's worth out there.


All this work, for what? I'm not sure.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

treasure and trash, part 1


Her eyes lit up, and a little gasp escaped her lips, as her tiny four-year-old fingers reached for the shiny object lying there on the top of the pile. It was pearly white, cool, and smooth to her touch. She rubbed it lightly on her cheek, feeling the glossiness of the round jar.

With her other hand, she unscrewed the lid, and peeked inside. It was white too, and creamy. She sniffed. It smelled beautiful. She put the lid back on the jar, held it tightly, and went back to searching for treasures.

She stepped somewhat gingerly through the piles, as she was barefoot yet again. She was invariably barefoot, but not because she didn't have shoes, or didn't want to wear them. It was because she kept losing her shoes - well, one of them, anyway. She didn't know why the mate kept disappearing, and mommie could never find it. And it seemed pretty silly to wear just one shoe, so she went barefoot whenever the weather was even remotely warm enough. Otherwise, she was stuck at home. Mommie smacked her more over the shoe thing than she did over any of the other stupid things she said and did. And boy, did she say and do a lot of stupid things. She must, 'cause mommie wouldn't smack her that much if she weren't stupid.

She and her brothers came to this spot almost daily, to this empty lot in a quiet residential area. In the mid ‘60’s there was no garbage pickup in this town, so people who couldn’t get their trash to the dump – or just couldn’t be bothered with it – would drop their trash in the local empty lot. And if she looked hard enough, treasures could be found among the piles of refuse. Treasures like her beautiful jar of half-used cold cream. She felt rich with that jar in her hands…she felt like someone important.

Today, the only treasure revealed was her pearly jar – but the jar was a serious find, so she was happy. She smiled to herself, a smile that could be seen in her eyes, and wandered off, away from the dump area and back into the neighborhood to find someone to play with.

Eventually, she walked into a small group of kids, some her age, some older, playing in a yard, close to a carport. She watched, from the outskirts, like she usually did. Her pale eyes – eyes that one day, forty plus years in the future, someone she had a crush on would describe as aqua – missed nothing. Her hands clutched her treasure...holding it close to her...keeping it safe.

~to be continued~

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

a clean bill of health

After bloodwork last week and a visit with the endocrinologist yesterday, I got lots of pats on the back for getting my triglycerides and bad cholesterol and blood sugar down dramatically. I can still do a bit better, but for a summer of exercising to do that much, it really shows the benefit of working out regularly. She couldn't even pretend to be serious about the work I still need to do, because the changes were so positive. Yay me!

Just as an example, my triglycerides, which have been over 300 in the past, need to be at 100 (because I am prone to high blood sugar, and triglycerides affect that -- normally, one would aim to stay below 150). They were 160 in February, now they are 129.

On another note, I am apparently old enough to need a bone density test. After a visit with my gynecologist as well yesterday, I now have to schedule another mammogram (now yearly), a bone density test, and a pelvic ultrasound for an ovarian cyst.

moving along

Got the syllabus to the office to be copied for the first day of class.

I had a few moments of panic about a week or so ago. I had done the syllabus at the library, and put it on a floppy disk (they don't have cd burners), and when I went to print it out at work, my work computer read the disk as not formatted. Wouldn't access the data. So I tried at home, and the same result. So I went back to the library, and tried with their computers. I mean, if I did the original on those computers, they should read it now, right? But no, I got the same response.

Now, this syllabus and handout represents several hours of work, and I was completely panicked about potentially having to redo all that work. So I sat there for a moment, and then did what I do best -- repeat behavior that hasn't worked the first time. I clicked back onto the disk again in windows explore, but this time, it read the files on the disk. Whoo hooo!

So then, to avoid the problem, I tried to email the documents to myself, but the damned computer wouldn't let me email. I tried both our university email and yahoo, and couldn't get either one to work. So, I copied the files to my dissertation disk, since I had read that one the same day and knew it worked. And voila! Now I have my files.

All I need to do now to prep for class is dust off my lecture notes and burn the student cd's this weekend.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

books, glorious books!

I loooove the hell out of barnes and noble. As I've blogged before, I could spend days and thousands of dollars in that store. Popped by last night with rugrat before the movie. Picked up a book that I read the first time my senior year of high school: Green Darkness, by Anya Seton (yes, the paperback version -- hard covers are so damned expensive). Somehow the copy I had disappeared over the years of moves as a young adult. I'm going to attempt to read it, even if it is heavy reading and I'm in the middle of a dissertation. I love Seton's works, she pays particular attention to historical accuracy, which I appreciate. Just because it's fiction doesn't mean the author can't be accurate in the telling. If books weren't so expensive, I might have picked up my other favorite by her, Katherine.

I also love Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have several of his, even a few first edition/first printings that I got on ebay.

I'm also partial to Isabel Allende, and I have a few of hers.

And Sherman Alexie, he's particularly good. I only have one of his right now, I used to have a few, but lost them over the years. I'd love to re-possess a few.

And of course, my favorite US History books, goes without saying.

And I'm still picking up the occasional classic from the past that I've lost over the years.

If I had a house, I'd devote one whole room just to books. I'd have bookcases lining the walls, full of books, and huge comfy chairs to sit in while reading. Good light to read in. But no tv in the book room. Maybe music for background, but I'm not even sure about that.

Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

conversation snippet

rugrat: where you going?
boyfriend: to your room
rr: why?
bf: I'm going to lay down on your bed for awhile.
rr: why?
bf: my back is hurting.
rr: need a massage, baby?

As I dropped rugrat off at her bf's on Friday afternoon, and watched them walk toward his mom's apartment, her arm tucked into the crook of his elbow as they walked, I was struck by just how lucky she is to have this guy. She really found a nice one this time, and she deserved it after that last one. Did I mention his favorite store was Barnes and Noble? A guy after my own heart, lol.

I don't think I mentioned that he was hit by a car when he was a kid. Hit and run, I think. Damaged his hip and leg, and he had a few surgeries after to repair damage. Apparently he needs more surgery, but he doesn't have medical insurance and can't get it done. He's not really supposed to be in a job where he has to stand all day, nor one that requires a lot of up and down lifting that would put pressure on the hip. But without a college education, his options are limited. (That's what was behind the conversation above -- he does find himself in pain often.)

I haven't posted a full photo of the two, but it occurred to me that they've plastered photos of themselves all over both their myspace accounts, and on friends' accounts too, so what harm could come of posting one here. This is rugrat and bf:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

next steps

I have to get my syllabus to the right support staff soon, so it'll be ready on the first day of class.

Also, I need to start getting additional readings scanned into e-res so that I can add them to the student disk. This weekend I'll make sure I have all the new readings copied, and take them in on Monday.

Then I need to buy cd's and write all the disks. Basically, I take all additional readings and documents that I think they can use for class -- I've put together some really good resources, not just for this class, but that they can use afterward -- and I put them on a cd for each student. You just can't count on blackboard or e-res, cause systems go down, and they are difficult to access. So it's something I do for the students -- well, mostly for the students, but also for my own peace of mind.

Monday, August 07, 2006

all quiet on the front

I didn't hear from rugrat, so about midnight I called to see if she was gone or coming home. She was still in an 'attitude' frame of mind, so after hearing that she planned to take a taxi home, I hung up. Bf paid for the taxi. I locked the front door so she'd have to wake me up, so I'd know when she got home (2:15 am).

I had removed the electric cord and battery from the laptop, and the little credit-card sized cards that go in the digital cable boxes (no tv without the cards in place), so she wouldn't have internet or tv when she got home.

Still, she was up all night, in and out of her room, not quite slamming the door, but opening and closing it loud enough to keep me awake.

I wound up calling in sick at work, cause I'd literally been up all night with her, the little snot. She did it on purpose.

I am using the cord to the laptop to check email, etc., then it goes right back in my handbag. She will have no internet or tv until she decides to get her act together. And I'm not asking for much, really, in the grand scheme of things: to pick up after herself, help around the house, go to bed at a reasonable hour. That's not so damned much.

I kind of wish that I could make a lot of noise and keep her up all day, but the damned ankle biter sleeps like a freakin' log.

My eyes still burn, I may have to go take a bit of a nap.