Friday, May 30, 2008

pomp and circumstance

Today marked the official end of the academic year. The finale, of course, was graduation.

I served as a faculty marshal in my discipline. Although they are long and often boring, I love graduation ceremonies. Perhaps that is because of my own experiences with graduation.

Each successive ceremony that I've attended as a graduate has been filled with emotions – pride, joy, sadness, that fleeting feeling of a life that is changing in ways I cannot begin to comprehend at the moment. My eyes fill with tears as I feel those same feelings for those students of mine who have achieved this major milestone in their lives.

That moment after all the students have come up one by one and walked across the stage and gone back to their seats...the moment when the senior VP, holding the mace, asks all graduates to rise...the moment when she announces that by the power vested in her, she confers upon them the degree...the moment when the students break out in cheers, many tossing their hats into the air...

You don't get many moments like that in life. So take them when you find them.

Some would say hey, it's 'just' a junior college degree at an institution serving very low to moderate income working class people. But to me, it's the first step, the first half of a bachelor's degree, and they are on their way to the next hurdle.

We serve students who have indeed persevered against some serious personal challenges on their way to their ultimate goals. I am so very proud of them all.

We have the distinction of holding our graduation ceremonies at the theatre at Madison Square Garden. And we had an unscheduled surprise speaker this year: Senator Chuck Schumer.

All told, I'm so glad I attended the ceremonies. And I didn't even do it to get 'credit' for service to the college. That's just a perk for spending the day doing something I loved.

A few of my colleagues and I ended the day (the ceremony runs from about 11 to about 3, and we are supposed to arrive about 9 am) getting a bite to eat at a restaurant around the corner from MSG (I had the Tir na nOg Cheeseburger, of course). While I dislike larger groups, there were only five of us, so I was comfortable and had a great time.

So the day was inspirational, the weather was gorgeous, the sky was blue, and all was right with the world.

Pomp and circumstance -- it's more than just what we hear at graduation, and I had no idea there were actual lyrics until I found this:

Land of hope and glory
Mother of the free,
How shall we extol thee,
Who are born of thee.
Wider still and wider
Shall thy bounds be set,
God who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet
God who made thee mighty
Make thee mightier yet

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

meet guy smiley

You scored 62% Organization, 61% abstract, and 30% extroverted!

This test measured 3 variables.

First, this test measured how organized you are. Some muppets like Cookie Monster make big messes, while others like Bert are quite anal about things being clean.

Second, this test measured if you prefer a concrete or an abstract viewpoint. For the purposes of this test, concrete people are considered to gravitate more to mathematical and logical approaches, whereas abstract people are more the dreamers and artistic type.

Third, this test measured if you are more of an introvert or an extrovert. By definition, an introvert concentrates more on herself and an extrovert focuses more on others. In this test an introvert was somebody that either tends to spend more time alone or thinks more about herself.

You are mostly organized, both concrete and abstract, and more introverted.

Here is why are you Guy Smiley.

You are both mostly organized. You have a good idea where you put things and you probably keep your place reasonably clean. You aren't totally obsessed with neatness though. Guy Smiley is your average Joe. He'll dress up and look nice for his game show, but he's not a neat freak.

You are both a concrete and abstract thinker. Guy Smiley uses his imagination to come up with ridiculous game shows. However he's concrete enough to stick by his rules and perform his role as host. You know when to be logical at times, but you also aren't afraid to explore your dreams and desires... within limits of course.

You are both introverted. At first glance Guy Smiley may appear to be an extrovert given he hosts a popular show. But in reality he struggles to relate with other people. His prizes tend to just be Guy Smiley merchandise. For whatever reason you are a bit uncomfortable in social settings. You may have one or two people that you are close with. You'd rather do things by yourself and you dislike working in groups where things are always so inefficient.

Test can be found here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I see a new soundtrack in my future

Dudes, I just finished watching Across the Universe on pay-per-view.

Can I say it was awesome?!

When I first heard about it, it didn't speak to me. Wasn't the least bit interested. Then I heard the director, Julie Taymor, being interviewed on some talk show, and saw a few clips, and thought hmmm, might have to give it a try.

I also don't typically like covers, I like the original music. Every time. Well, almost. But I actually like the arrangements of the songs in this.

Well, I literally stayed put on the sofa through the entire movie. And when I watch a movie at home, my attention span is pretty short. Or more accurately, I'm easily distracted by things that need to be done. But not with this one.

I'll be looking for the soundtrack tomorrow.

One of the most moving scenes, visually and aurally, was Let it Be:

Speaking of soundtracks, I just realized I'd abandoned the soundtrack of my life after only two parts. I'll get back to that this weekend.

primal scream

IT'S OVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I submitted the final grades and class rosters to the registrar this afternoon.

I officially survived my first year of full-time teaching.

And I survived it despite:

--a blood clot
--uncontrolled bleeding due to the above
--a 2.5-3 hour round trip daily commute by public transport in all kinds of weather
--a botched MFD proposal defense
--financial setbacks
--multiple car repairs
--teaching rugrat to drive
--rugrat turning 18
--gaining more weight

In fact, I not only survived it, I THRIVED. I fucking LOVED IT!

Ok, so I'm not completely through yet:

--there's an honors program/banquet on tuesday evening and some of my students will be recognized
--there's an academic senate meeting wednesday and we've been encouraged to attend and try to get voted onto various committees to meet the 'service to the college' aspect of the tenure process
--graduation ceremonies are the 30th at madison square garden, and I offered to help...another chance for service to the college
--I'll be teaching a section of field experience in the fall so I get to spend the summer finding placements in human services agencies

And there's the studying for, and taking, the licensing exam.

And re-writing the MFD proposal.


What should I do first?

--Sleep, of course.
--Then start working goal is to drop 25 over the summer.
--Read...for fucking PLEASURE.
--See the new indiana jones movie.
--Go for walks.
--Maybe, just maybe, go dig my bike out of the storage room the landlord has the nerve to call a 'garage' and give it a try.

Right now, I'm celebrating with my favorite stuffed pie pizza and some soda -- and not diet soda. And some shrimp parmigiana. My last hurrah in the big bad food world.

And I'm also celebrating with some Alice. Who I saw in concert, back in '75 or so.

'Cause SCHOOL'S OUT!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

halfway home

I'm in the midst of giving and grading finals and saying goodbye to totally awesome students...and struggling with the less awesome students who waited till the last minute and are now trying to turn in assignments from earlier in the semester (which I don't allow).

One student in particular is from Vietnam and has been in the US for a relatively short time. English is her second language, and she works very hard in her classes to understand nuances of the language. Her written work is terrific, and she always aces the quizzes.

Her biggest struggle was when I showed the film Nell in class and a reflection paper was required afterward. She had to rent the movie and watch it a few more times to get all the little, easily misunderstood language issues.

She is very quiet, and utterly respectful of her professors in a very formal way that I don't see from my students who have been in the US for some time.

Yesterday after the final quiz, she came to me to thank me for being her professor this semester. She learned a lot, she said, and she appreciated the opportunity.

She also mentioned that she appreciated the positive comments I put on the students' papers when I grade them. It gave her encouragement, she said. Most of her professors grade her written work but don't give her any positive feedback to offset the constructive criticism (not that I could find much to constructively criticize...her work, as I said, was top notch).

I don't understand why teachers wouldn't take the time to come up with at least one positive comment to go along with the negative that is a part of the grading process. Why focus only on what they do wrong, and not also highlight what they do right?

I wouldn't feel right turning papers back to the students without both.

Friday, May 16, 2008

it ain't cheap to be a professional

Professional license: $270 (renewals every three years: $155)

Official transcript fee: $6.15

ASWB study guide: $33.00
Additional study guide: $131.95 (because I failed a sample test...miserably)

Cost of time spent studying: about two weeks at full-time pay

Test fee: $175.00 (not yet paid -- and which I can't take until the licensing board approves me, which means I won't likely have two opportunities to take the exam prior to fall semester, which means I absolutely have to pass the first time)

But pressure.

David Bowie, Under Pressure:

Kick my brains around the floor
These are the days
It never rains it pours

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

more going out than coming in

So the car was making clicking noises when turning, and it had been getting steadily worse over the last several weeks. It was bad enough that I had to take it in today to be looked at.

Both CV axles, and two bald front tires: roughly $700 (final total: 770.29).

I barely have enough cash and open credit on two cards to cover the bill.

I just applied for a loan against my retirement from TIAA-CREF.

Because you see, I still have the LMSW licensing exam and study materials, my annual professional membership fee for the NASW, the eye doc and dentist for the rugrat and I, the car hasn't had an actual tune-up servicing in the last two years, potential college costs for rugrat, her birthday (good thing I hadn't actually bought her gift yet or I'd have been short the $ for the car), and her graduation.

All between now and the end of June.

Oh yeah. I'm loving the move up from welfare and poverty to lower-middle-class professional. I surely am. Upward mobility.

Here are a few money songs from the past that are rolling around my mind at the moment.

Money - Pink Floyd

Money - Cabaret

For the love of money - O'jays

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I'm 18 and I like it!

So the rugrat turned 18 today.

She wanted to do something really big like a party in a rented hotel party room thing complete with food and dj, but of course there's that whole money thing.

So she settled for a barbecue for a dozen or so friends of hers and her boyfriend. And of course, it rained all day long here, so the barbecue got moved indoors. We can do that because my grill is electric, and the top comes off the stand and can be used on the countertop.

I brought my papers home to grade so I could leave work early and make a stop for food and cake at costco -- $100 later I was on my way home.

I played the good, non-embarrassing mom, staying out of the way unless I was called to help with something. Her boyfriend was cool and introduced every friend to me, and even made them come in and say thanks and goodbye when they left.

I was not invited in for the cake and birthday song, but her boyfriend made sure that I got a piece of cake. He's a good guy, that bf.

They are all out at the local pool hall hanging out now, and I just finished cleaning up the kitchen.

It is totally freaking me out that my baby rugrat is an adult now. And after a houseful of youngsters for a few hours, it is strangely, eerily quiet around these parts.

Sometimes I just wish life would slow the fuck down a bit. You know what I mean?

Alice Cooper, I'm 18 (I went with a 70's version, since that's when I saw him in concert):

Thursday, May 08, 2008

almost cut my hair

It happened just the other day.

Or more specifically, not last night, but the night before.
24 robbers came knocking at my door.

No, really. All puns aside, I chopped my hair. How much? Well, I used to be able to pull it back into a nice french twist. Now I can barely manage a very short, untidy ponytail.

It's what I do when I gain weight. My face and neck get very chubby. Chipmunk cheeks. And after checking out the passport photo I had to get last week for that professional license application, I saw those cheeks and sort of fell apart.

And as per my usual m.o., rather than lose the weight so that I don't look like Alvin, Simon and Theodore's long-lost sister, I start messing with makeup and hair instead in an attempt to camouflage those cheeks. That typically entails chopping at my hair in a major way.

Usually, it comes out looking halfway decent. But today, after a somewhat humid day, I caught a glimpse of myself in a window on the way home and thought damn, who took the weed whacker to my head. It's bad...really bad.

It's going to take a long time to grow this mess back out. And a lot of will power to not hack at it even more in an attempt to 'fix' it.

Completely apropos of nothing, I saw someone on the subway with a shopping bag with this on the side:

I'd never heard of it before, but I like the logo.

I listened to this on the way home:

Believe it or not, I actually like Tom Jones.

And from the title of the post, CSNY (ok, without the Y):

When I finally get myself together
I'm going to get down in that sunny southern weather
And I find a place inside to laugh

Saturday, May 03, 2008

the soundtrack of my life, part II

the soundtrack of my life part I

My evening has been one alfred hitchock movie after another -- literally. It seems to be alfie day on turner classic movies. Perhaps it is fitting, as my past life seems to be a classic movie of sorts.

The second time she ran away was in direct response to a beating. What kind of mother catches her 13 year old coming out of the shower and beats her with a ping pong paddle bare-assed. Well, it was typical for her mother...when she wasn't verbally abusing, that is.

This time she planned it better, packed some clothes and some food in a bag, and headed for a freeway entrance. She wasn't sticking around this town. She would go to New York. Everyone who ran away went to New York -- that's what they did on television, in books.

Didn't much matter that she knew so little about US geography that she had only a vague idea that New York was on the 'other side.' Didn't matter that she didn't realize that she'd have to go through some long stretches of freeway in the middle of nowhere to get there. Or that it could take weeks to get there by hitching.

So when the bug went came her way, she stuck out her thumb, and he stopped and picked her up. It was some dude in his 20's, long hair, long beard. He saw her for the runaway she was and started talking to her. Told her he had a friend, and asked if she wanted to stop somewhere and talk about his friend.

She thought he meant he had a friend she could stay with, so she said yeah, sure. He pulled off the highway and drove to a park he mentioned that was close to the on-ramp. They stopped on the side of the road under the shade of the big trees, and he started talking.

He talked for a long time, asking her questions about her life at first, then sharing with her about how great his friend was, how cool he was. He talked for a good half hour or more, at least it seemed so. His voice was low and non-threatening, and she could hear the sounds of kids playing in the park in the background. The sun would peek through the trees when the wind rustled the branches.

And then, he said it...the name of his friend. Jesus. He was talking about jesus. What the fuck?! She had thought she was going to have someplace to stay, and he's talking about accepting Jesus as her saviour. He was a fucking hippy jesus freak. And she couldn't believe she'd just wasted an afternoon with this dude, time that could have been spent getting out of town. So when he asked her if she wanted to hear more, or be taken back to the freeway, she chose the freeway. And he seemed disgusted, angry with her, but he took her back.

But it wasn't as easy to get a ride this time. It was getting later in the afternoon, and the shine began to fade on this little foray into the world. She decided to back-track to the park and hang out there instead and left the freeway entrance.

The park was still full of kids of all ages when she walked into it, found a picnic table, and sat on the bench. What she didn't know, and what had never occurred to her, was that she probably shouldn't have been in this particular park in this particular part of town. Not because she wasn't safe, but because she didn't quite fit in with the kids there.

In her town in the early 70's, there was one area in particular where the black kids lived. They didn't go much out of their neighborhood, and white kids didn't go into the black neighborhood. It just didn't happen. But she'd never thought much about color living in a white neighborhood, and it didn't occur to her that she shouldn't be in this neighborhood.

She didn't feel out of place, or unwelcome exactly, while she was hanging there. Well, she felt out of place, like she didn't belong, no matter where she went or who she was with. She always felt as though she were on the outside of something looking in. She always wanted to feel invited to come in, but never was. So it would be more accurate to say that she didn't feel anymore out of place in that neighborhood than she did at any other time or place.

And so the sun faded and slowly fell out of the sky, and with it, much cooler air than she'd anticipated. The kids began to go home, and quiet settled over the park, except for a small group of teen boys who seemed quite fascinated by the fact that she intended to stick around for the night.

But eventually, even they left, and she was alone in the dark. Not completely dark, as there were streetlights and a few park lights. But she was always afraid of the dark, of someone coming up from behind, so she looked into the fringes of the park, the rocks and trees, to find a spot to try to sleep. She found a concave of rocks that she could put her back up against, curled up into a ball, and tried to sleep.

But it was just a bit too chilly for a barefoot girl, and she dug into her bag for a light jacket, and a towel that she wrapped around her feet to keep them warm, and tried to sleep. She lay awake though, listening to the sounds of the night, for hours, finally dozing off just before dawn.

She awoke to some of yesterday's kids standing over her talking, the sun high and getting warmer. They were surprised to see her still there, but included her in whatever they were doing. She'd brought a few cans of food with her, had eaten cold pork and beans the night before, and a can of fruit this morning. She still didn't have a penny to her name -- her mother didn't give her money, and she didn't exactly have a job at 12.

She hung out most of the day, the freeway hitching to new york a distant memory at this point. Why not just hang out here, she thought. Toward the end of the day, an older guy starting talking her up. Older was probably mid to late 20's, but she was 13 -- in her mind, he was old. She thought at first he was picking her up, 'cause guys did that all the time. He was telling her she could come back to his place and stay instead of sleeping in the park.

She thought he was old though, so she said no thanks. Then he mentioned his wife and girls, and that they'd be happy to have her stay, she could sleep on the couch. She still said no, so he gave her directions to his house just in case she changed her mind. Just ask for Shook, he said.

And later that night, as the temperature dipped a bit lower than the night before, she did change her mind and decided it wouldn't hurt to walk down the street and see where he lived. She found the house, saw the two little girls he'd mentioned, but there was some other girl there, a teenager it looked like. The dude wasn't there. She didn't want to knock on the door and ask for Shook, what if it was the wrong house.

And so it happened that she was standing on the porch when he and his wife drove up to the house. They had been out, had a few too many, and he didn't recognize her at first. It was about as awkward as it could be, and she was just saying never mind, it wasn't anything, I'll go back to the park, when he realized who she was and invited her in.

She stood in silence of their home, sitting on the sofa when she was invited to. The embarrassing awkwardness continued as he took the babysitter home, leaving her alone with the wife. The woman was kind, but she seemed not to have been as keen on having a runaway white girl in their home.

It was only years later, as an adult, that she could see why the woman might not have wanted her would have meant serious trouble if the cops had found her in their home. You see, it was not only against the law to run away, it was against the law to harbour a runaway. And the whole race issue could have made things much worse for them. They really risked a lot, letting her stay overnight.

She spent the night on their sofa, and had jimmy deans sausage patties in the morning with the girls. The dad talked to her, obviously trying to get the story on why she'd run away. Do your parents beat you, he asked. She couldn't really tell him what was going on, so she just said no and shrugged her shoulders. She figured he probably thought she was some whiny white girl who didn't know what it meant to have a rough life. But she couldn't tell him, couldn't put it into words.

Not surprisingly, he talked her into calling her mother and telling her where she was. Her mother always had 'problems' with black people (think growing up white in a rural, racist south), so it must have been something for her to drive into 'that neighborhood' as she called it later, to pick her up. Why did you pick 'that neighborhood' of all places, her mother would say. Which only made her hate her mother even more, 'cause 'those people' in 'that neighborhood' had been really nice to her.

But pick her up she did, and home they went. She never saw Shook or his family again. Things with her mother continued to go downhill, but after that day, her mother never again physically assaulted her. Well, except for the backhand across the face...but that was another story, for another day.

A few songs from 1973:

Killing me softly with his song -- Roberta Flack

D'yer ma'ker -- Led Zeppelin

Break up to make up - the Stylistics

Hello it's me - Todd Rundgren (on the midnight special no less)

Love's theme -- Love Unlimited Orchestra (and Barry White)

I'd better stop there, or this post will go on forever.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

fubar -- to the nth degree

So, the rugrat has applied to, and been accepted by, the local community college. She starts in the fall.

No problem, one would think. As a single parent family, rugrat should be eligible for federal grants to cover tuition. Right?

Oh, so wrong. So very, very wrong. Because I make -- get this -- too much fucking money.

So despite the fact that my adjusted gross income is still a couple of grand below 50K...

And despite the fact that we live in downstate new york (not exactly easy on the pocketbook)...

And despite the fact that my own student loan debt is roughly 138K...

I have to come up with about 5K per academic year for tuition, fees and books.

And that's just for the first two years at a community college. It'll be worse if she goes to a four-year college afterward.

Scholarships? Based on academic merit (she's average, but not stellar in the grade department) or financial need (which the financial aid office already determined was nil).

Where the fuck am I supposed to come up with that kind of money on top of my own maintenance of matriculation fee every semester to keep me in half-time student status while working on the MFD, the licensing fee for my professional license (ok, that's covered by a kind benefactor), the fee to take the exam for the professional license ($175), the study guides to pass the test the first time so that I don't have to pay to take it again, rugrat's 18th birthday gift, rugrat's high school graduation gift, the cv joints/axles on the car...

So, does the rugrat, at the tender age of 18, incur student loan debt for a freakin' community college?

Apparently so.

Like I said...