Friday, April 25, 2008

the soundtrack of my life, part I

She woke in one of those cold, clammy sweats. The kind when your body breaks into hard shivers when you throw back the covers and the cool air hits the sheen of sweat. She didn't usually get those kinds of violent chills unless she was getting sick.

This didn't bode well for the day. She was putting in a third full day during spring break, grading papers, making study guides, and writing final exams in an attempt to stay ever-so-slightly ahead of the game.

As she woke, the vaguest trace memories of her dreams were still wispies in her brain. She was remembering a girl from her time at a juvenile facility when she was about 15. This girl wasn't a friend, or anyone who even figured remotely in her life at what was a cross between a detention center and a very large group home. The Good Shepherd Home.

But what she was remembering was that this girl, a few years younger than herself, would skip around singing commercial jingles all the time.

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and chevrolet.

My dog's better 'cause he eats kennel ration, my dog's better than yours.

I am stuck on bandaid brand 'cause bandaid's stuck on me.

(Meg Ryan sung that last one in City of Angels, I think when she was doing surgery on Mr. Messenger, the Dennis Franz character.)

What an odd memory to come into her head and take up residence. But there it was. The girl who skipped and sang jingles.

She began thinking back to all the places she stayed over about a three year period, from age 12 to 15. Places she was forced to stay, because she'd broken the law.

Oh, she wasn't a bad kid. An angry kid, sure. I mean, you can only live in chaos and instability for so long, be told how worthless you are for so long, be smacked around for so long, before you get really angry. And it showed, in her face, her body language. She didn't even know how to smile, and refused to cry, so she always looked like she wanted to hurt someone.

The only person she ever hurt, though, was herself. Self-destructive behavior, it's called. Played out inwardly, instead of being perpetrated upon others. That explained the drinking, and the casual sex. But those things didn't get her put in those juvenile facilities.

Running away from the home life that sucked monkey balls...that was what put her in that place. Back in the early 70's, it was against the law to run away, at least in her state. And if you got picked up by the cops for being a runaway, you had to go to court.

And if your parents told the judge that you were incorrigible, that they couldn't deal with you anymore, that they were throwing up their hands in defeat -- well, then the judge would declare you a ward of the court and put you into a facility somewhere. Didn't matter if the parents were what you were running away from.

Ironic, isn’t it.

But she was getting ahead of herself.

The first time she ran away was in 1972. She was 12 years old. She hadn’t planned anything, but it had been a particularly bad day and she snuck out her bedroom window that night and walked away from the house. She figured she would just hang out until it got late, then head for a laundromat in the area and sleep on a bench there till morning.

Much to her surprise, just as she was dozing off on the bench, someone came in and woke her up and told her to leave, they were closing. But I thought this was open all night, she said. It used to be, he replied. Now we close from 2 am to 6. Because too many people were sleeping here.

Oh. Duh.

She shuffled outside into the frigid air of a January in Washington State, walked around, hung out alone for an hour or so. It wasn’t like she had friends she could stay with. The few friends she did have...well, their moms all knew her mom would make life hell if they let her stay.

It was all of 10 degrees outside that night, with snow on the ground. She hadn’t really dressed boots, no gloves, no hat. Her toes were completely numb and she actually thought she felt them cracking. Despite the numbness, it hurt like fucking hell. When she could take it no longer, she walked back home and snuck back into her bedroom. No one even knew she'd been gone.

For the rest of her life, when she was in the cold too long and her toes got numb, they would crack painfully, just like they did that night.

Summer would be a better time to get the hell out of here, she thought. And next time, she’d plan better, pack some things, take some food...

(Stairway to Heaven, number 1 in 1972; it's a long version, 10 minutes)

Monday, April 21, 2008


So the rugrat, her BF and I just watched the movie Joshua on PPV. The one about the psycho kid. The song at the end, written by Dave Matthews, was called the fly. It's a haunting tune, with some horrifying lyrics. It's running through my head over and over.

When I pull the wings off of the fly
The fly never wonders why I did it
When I pull the wings off of the fly
The fly never wonders why I did
You know they didn't ever
Have to love me
No, no, no

And no one ever will ever
Love them now
Oh, oh, but they
They always wanted somehow
To save me
Why, oh, why
For pit's sake, they should've saved themselves
Oh, oh, but you

You always said I never missed a note
I only ever wanted to be with you

I only wanted someone to play
Play, play, play
When I pull the wings off the fly
The fly never wonders why
You know they never really ever had to love me
No, no, no

But no one will ever love them now
Oh, oh, but they
They always thought that somehow they could save me
But why oh why
For pity's sake me, they should've saved themselves
but you
you always said I never missed a note
and nobody ever knew me like you do, you do

You always said it's gonna be ok, ok
I only ever really wanted to be with you
I only wanted someone to play, play, play, play
When I pull the wings off of the fly
The fly never wonders why I did it

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I saved the world today

This weekend has been very low-key and non-stressful. This is spring break, and although I have some papers to grade and some prep to do, I can probably do it in two long days.

Friday evening I had dinner with a friend and her...well, since this is my vanilla blog, I'll call him her S.O. It was great to see her and meet him. He seems like a cool guy, and I'm totally happy for her.

Saturday was a late lunch with another friend, and a walk along the aqueduct trail near my home. Then I started one of the books I just bought last week --started about midnight, read till 3 am, woke about 10, and finished the book today. I am of course kicking myself for not thinking ahead and buying the next two books in the series. I can't remember the last time I read a book for fun, but I'm going to find the other two books tomorrow and read them this week too.

I did nothing else this weekend except a couple of loads of laundry, a load or two of dirty dishes, a little clothing mending, ordered a pizza, watched a movie on pay-per-view.

I've really needed that de-stressing; things have been a bit challenging lately.

I've stopped blogging over there again. Big surprise. What was it this time? Well, I've always blogged everything, even the negative, even the whiny. And I've never tried to sugar coat the whiny. My blog has been the only place to put my feelings, and I do it so that I don't go fucking insane trying to keep it to myself as I've done my whole life. I've literally stuffed stuff down for 40+ years, till I thought I'd go bonkers, and I see my blog as an outlet that keeps me from overwhelming friends and family with all that stuff. I want the people I see in person to get the positive parts of me, so I get the bad stuff out here.

So when people read my whiny posts and come back with shit about how I need to buck up, and look at how bad it really is in the world and how much worse it is for others, and how dare I whine about anything...or compare my concerns to 9/11 as though somehow I suggested my issues were on a par with that event, well, I don't much feel comfortable blogging there.

I mean, I deal with national and world issues every freakin' day at work. I teach social work, for fuck's sake. What's going on in the world, positive and negative, is a part of every class in some way. So it isn't as though I'm ignorant about what's out there, or that I have any illusions about where my personal stuff fits in the grander scheme of things.

What really bothered me was that one of the people who said something and then stopped reading me was someone I liked and respected, who I thought respected me. But one lousy downer post, and there was that damned 'your problems are nothing, less than nothing, so get over yourself already' shit.

My personal stuff is just my personal stuff, nothing more, but certainly nothing less either. But it is me, it is real, and it does impact my life. I think I have a right to put it in my blog without people negating my life experiences as nothing. To negate the negative aspects of my life experiences as nothing is to tell me that a good part of my life is nothing...that I'm nothing. And I happen to think I'm something.

I saved the world today -- Eurythmics

I haven't listed to annie lennox for so long that I forgot what a great voice she has.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

in which I have 'made it'

I have made Rate My Professors dot com. And no, I can't link you, as this blog is pseudonymous (ummm, that means I'm not really, really).

But all two students said really cool things about me. And I am not complaining (even on the heels of giving a fifth zero in my intro class for plagiarism). 'Cause this rocks.

Yes, it's Barry (Manilow, not White). So I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy and smarmy. What's it to ya?

Monday, April 14, 2008

hit me with your best shot

I found a notebook left in class today. My intro class. Just a simple spiral bound notebook, but the notes inside clearly identified it as a student from my class. No name, though, as I found by thumbing through it.

I can handle the fact that about halfway through the notes little artwork doodles began to appear in the margins.

And I can handle the 'blah blah blah' messages written over a few pages toward the end of the notes.

I can even handle the drawing of what I assume was me on the last page, surrounded by 'blah blah blah.'

Really, I can handle it. Sure it hurt my feelings, but I'll get over it. I pretty much figure it was drawn by one of the lower performing students who would do it to any professor.

But what I can't handle was the tiny little corner of one page torn off and stuck in the notebook.

The one that was all wrinkled from being crumpled in someone's hand.

The one with definitions of some of the terms they needed to know for the quiz today.

The cheat sheet. Now that fucking pisses me off.

Especially coming on the heels of doling out four zero grades for blatant plagiarism.

I just have to remind myself that it represents four, or possibly five, out of 37 students.

And double my efforts to be there for the other 32.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

relax, don't do it

So, you've had a long day at work on a saturday, observing adjunct teaching, grading quizzes, and grading between moments of eye-closing, near-dozing, that is, 'cause your day started at 5:30 am.

You finally decide at 5 pm that you've had enough, you can't see straight any longer. You'll take the rest of the papers home (ten left to grade), and the text book to write the quiz for one of your monday classes.

You'll get to marble hill about 6-ish and stop at target for trouser socks, a serious necessity as most of yours have runs in them.

And then you'll also pick up this:

And this, as if you need to be starting a 4-book series, but you do love a good vampire novel:

And your guilty pleasure:

It's not like you'll have time to read either of the books till the semester is over, but you should find time for the guilty pleasure this weekend.

Don't worry, you'll remember when you get home that you forgot the second item you went for -- the mucinex-d, which is the only thing helping you sleep at night since the congestion from that damned flu of a couple of weeks ago took up permanent residence in your sinuses and chest.

You might, at that point, be tempted to sit down to dinner at the local applebee's, rather than doing fast food. Just because it would be nice to sit, read your guilty pleasure, and be waited on.

Don't do it. I highly recommend you just walk on to the train station. 'Cause applebees will not be happy giving a table to a single at the beginning of dinner rush on a saturday night. They will suggest you sit at the bar, and you will say sure, no problem. Then you'll walk to the bar, realize it really is a bar with no room for dishes so you can't eat there, you'll stand there for a moment wondering how your life got so fuckingly, pathetically, lonely, and you'll walk back out again.

Then you'll realize you're in the midst of a fairly major pity party, you've only invited yourself to the party, and the party doesn't look like it'll end anytime soon.

You'll manage to catch the train though, and not have to wait for the next one. Of course, you'll manage to pick the car with the wild little kids and the equally loud parents, and you'll begin to feel something akin to rage begin to trickle from the depths of you out toward the surface. You'll even put this on your Zen to keep you calm and quiet:

Then you'll notice the guy across the aisle, taking a bouquet of incredibly gorgeous flowers and a bottle of wine home to someone, and you'll wonder when you'll get your turn to have someone special bring something sweet home to you. Oh, yeah. The party's not over fact, it seems to be escalating.

It's your stop, and you step off the train and head for the walk home -- up a two-block, very steep hill. As you walk, you notice all the commuters who have someone to pick them up. Doh,'s still on inside your head.

You get home, throw a frozen burger patty on the grill, shred a potato into hashbrowns, chow down...and it doesn't come close to hitting the spot the way high-fat fast food does. And then you'll remember that you didn't get chocolate at target 'cause you were anticipating dinner at applebees. So, your saturday evening will be spent grading papers, chocolate-less.

The pity party's on now. In a major way. But...relax, don't do it (and's the banned version).

Friday, April 11, 2008

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round

Sitting at home on a Friday night. Put in a full day today, didn't get home till almost 9 pm. Rugrat is out with friends for the evening. I, on the other had, don't have a life, so I am watching Numbers on the telly, eating frozen pizza and a costco blueberry muffin.

I have to be back at work at 9 am tomorrow (that's right, on a Saturday) to do a teaching observation of an adjunct faculty person who only teaches Saturday mornings. I'll take advantage of being at the office and spend the rest of the afternoon grading papers, preparing a quiz for Monday, and typing up two teaching observations in preparation for meeting with the adjuncts next week.

Thanks to everyone, commenters and emailers, for the kind words about the MFD fiasco. I'm slowly recovering. Still a bit shell-shocked, but mostly trying not to think about it at all -- at least not until the semester is over.

Because I won't be finished with the MFD this summer as planned, I have to take another avenue to obtain a terminal degree in my field. I need to have that terminal degree before fall semester due to a technicality.

As luck would have it, the college system I work in has two options for terminal degree consideration for the social work degree: the doctoral degree, or the MSW with a state license (LMSW). Since I won't have the doctoral degree in time, I am now preparing to study for the state licensing exam.

I'll study hopefully over spring break, and take the exam after the semester is over. With luck, I'll pass the first time I take the exam, 'cause that freakin' exam is $270 big ones, not counting study materials. On the positive side, the pass rate for first time test-takers is 80%, so the odds are in my favor. And I've always been good at tests, so keep your fingers crossed.

John Lennon: Watching the Wheels

Monday, April 07, 2008

and the verdict is

Major revisions.

I won't be graduating this summer. It'll take me the summer just to do the re-writes to the proposal.

It was brutal.

I mean, not in a we're deliberately fucking with you kind of way, but certainly in a you weren't anywhere near ready to defend so what were you thinking kind of way. Which was pretty publicly humiliating. And I don't do public humiliation well.

The concerns were legit enough; what I had simply wasn't publishable, which is pretty much a requirement of a diss these days. It was just the way it was done that sucked monkey balls.

The chair apologized after it was all over and we were alone. Said she never would have scheduled the defense if she'd known someone on the committee had concerns. Said she would have pushed the other member to get back to me sooner if she'd known there were concerns.

I mean, the woman had my proposal in late January. She had plenty of time to have shared her concerns and I'd have had plenty of time to address those concerns over the last two months. She sat on the damned thing for more than two months. And she didn't even tell the chair till last Friday afternoon, let alone not telling me until Friday evening. I think the chair felt as blind-sided as I did.


Too late now.

Somehow I have to get past this blow to my self-esteem. I've always tended to think I wasn't one of them (meaning an academician). I've never been quite the intellectual that most phd's I've encountered are. Felt as though I were on the outside looking in.

And I always had self-doubts about whether I could finish this dissertation process. So this has really been a blow that I have to climb back up from. I sort of feel like crying, but I'm still kind of numb inside. I imagine the tears will come in the next day or two, as it all sinks in.

Is it the end of the world? Of course not. But it's a pretty fucking big ripple in my little end of the pond.

I'm fucked

Just checked email, had a message from the committee chair. Seems the second committee person shared her concerns on Friday.

The chair thinks it's serious enough that if the second had bothered mentioning her concerns earlier, we'd have postponed the defense to iron out those concerns.

It's highly likely that I'll get an accept with major revisions.

Which is just one step above reject.

And which will require a second defense.

Just for the proposal.

It's 2 am, I have to be up at 5:30.

I have to teach two classes.

Rush uptown.

Present my powerpoint.

Answer her concerns.

And fucking fail.

In front of whoever shows up to watch.

Cause it's open to the public...remember?

If there weren't so many people coming to this thing, I'd call it off.

I really wish I did drugs. Or something.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

she's come undone

I managed to get the student's paper read last night and guidance emailed.

Then I made the changes to the proposal that the chair wanted, and let her know that the second committee member seemed to be throwing us a curve ball. I did it in an 'I may just be so stressed I'm not reading this right but...' kind of way. I just want her as prepared to defend me as I need to be to defend myself.

I was so braindead that I slept till almost noon and was still groggy.

I have been working on the powerpoint presentation, but it is not going smoothly. I have to have a presentation that does not go over 20 minutes or I'll get dinged seriously. But it also has to convey the essence of the proposal.

I am literally so scared that I am paralyzed mentally. The tears are off and on, and have been since yesterday. I not only have to finish this presentation today, but I still have to teach two classes in the morning, before my defense. I'll have no last minute prep time tomorrow.

It's going very slowly, and I can't think anymore. I keep taking breaks and eating, which is giving me a seriously upset stomach. I have no chocolate in the house, which would probably keep me from eating.

I believe that I have finally discovered my mental and emotional stress limit. I honestly don't think I'm going to be able to do this.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


It's 8:57 pm. I need to read a student's paper, as I promised her I'd proof it and give her feedback. It's due Thursday, so I really need to do it today so she has time to make any changes.

I need to make a few minor changes to my proposal and send it back to the chair. Should take about an hour.

I need to finish the powerpoint presentation and practice.

Yet I've done nothing all day. Well, not nothing. I've washed the sheets, blankets, and sofa cover. Vaccuumed the house. Done a few loads of dishes. Brewed two pots of my decaf iced tea with splenda. Done my nails. Made my fav potato/onion/meatball casserole and had two servings. Even emptied the ice cube trays into the cube bin and refilled them.

What else can I do to avoid doing what I know I need to do? Watch Yul Brynner in the Magnificent Seven, that's what.

You all just might get an hour-by-hour blogging series between now and Monday that demonstrates once and for all my inability to face this particular challenge in my life.

in which I have failed before I have begun

So my proposal defense is on Monday. I'm making a couple of minor changes to the measures section for the committee chair, then focusing this weekend on preparing the powerpoint presentation and practicing it to be sure it doesn't go longer than 20 minutes.

Passing a defense can happen in a couple of different ways:

Accept as is
Accept with minor revisions
Accept with major revisions

Almost no one ever gets accepted as is, and no one should be rejected outright if they have a good chair. So it's the two in the middle that are a possibility.

Accept with minor revisions means I just make the revisions and they all sign off on it.

Accept with major revisions means I have to re-defend the proposal all over again.

The second committee member just sent me -- just today, two days before the defense -- a list of her concerns about my proposal.

I can't fix them before the defense.

And there are too many to be called 'minor.'

Which means she just bought me 'major revisions.'

'Scuse me while I go cry.