Saturday, July 26, 2008

welcome to my world

I had an opportunity today to do something that I've never done. It's something I've always wanted to do though. And since I have Fridays off for a couple of weeks, I just couldn't sit at home again watching the telly, sleeping in, and taking naps. That's the road to depression, and I've been fighting it with every breath I've got since this whole menopause thing.

Lately it's been even worse because my thyroid has taken yet another nosedive, and the soonest I can get in to the endocrinologist is the last week of August. Unfortunately, that's when classes start, and once classes start, I won't get a day free till the holidays. So I'm on my own with this for now. Hey, wait a minute...thyroid nosediving, extra that's why it won't come off. I've exercised every day for three weeks, and had absolutely no fast food in that time, but lost not a single pound for my hard work. Now it makes sense.

Getting through the days are rough with all the hormone stuff going on. And it doesn't help when the knowledge that I'm fat, middle aged, alone, and getting wrinkled is right there at the edge of consciousness 24/7. Except... unless... until I visit a magical place where none of that matters.

So I spent the whole day today in wonderland...aka, the Met. Metropolitan Museum of Art for you non-New Yorkers. I've always wanted to go alone when I had a whole day available, and on a day when they were open late. But it's always been a trip with visiting friends, or rugrat, when we can only stay a short while. So today, I said...I'm doing it! And I did it.

And as I walked through my favorite spots, taking photos with my new camera (hell, Dell owns my soul already from the computers, I didn't think the camera would make much difference), I found it to be an emotional experience. Earphones sending me classic yoyo ma and anonymous 4, I walked through some of the most incredible art, and history, that the world has to offer, all up close and personal.

It almost makes me feel more connected to the world somehow, rather than detached, as I usually feel. As if somehow, I'm a part of all that past, there is continuity, and life won't really end. There were moments, especially in my favorite spots, when I had to fight to hold the tears back. What would people have thought about the nut job walking around the museum with watery eyes.

So I walked and gazed and daydreamed until my feet, legs, back, and camera battery all died. And it isn't lost on me that the battery lasted longer than my body. I started in the Greek and Roman Art section, and I must confess that they know how to sculpt the body in the ideal form.

I followed the hallways and rooms through the Arts of Africa, and for the first time visited the Modern Art wing where I found, among other treasures, some fabulous Picassos. I particularly liked this one; to me it looked like a woman at a desk writing, and I know I feel fragmented when I'm stuck at my desk working.

One of my most favorite places is the European Sculpture Court. It's a long room lined with sculptures, topped by a glass ceiling. This afternoon was a lovely sunny day, and the sun streamed down into the room and on the statues, lending a warm glow to everyone. It was the place to sit and just take it all in for a moment.

This is an example of the statues from the Court: Lucretia.

From there I moved into the Medieval Art section. This is one of my favorites, too. I love, love, love tapestries and took lots of photos of huge tapestries that covered entire walls and told intriguing stories. Look at this:

And then some of the detail up close -- it's just incredible:

And how could I not pop in to the Armor room; I mean, I was there in Medieval World, how could I not?

And so, I wandered at will, stopping when something fascinating caught my eye, moving on if it wasn't as interesting. Then I looked at my watch and realized a couple of hours had passed. Then I began to feel my feet and back -- not to mention a bit of tummy grumblies -- so popped down to the cafeteria (the least expensive place to eat in the museum) to stop the grumblies and rest the tootsies before I moved on to the second floor and my other favorite place.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

the multiple personality blog

I read a new blog today, and I like it. It’s in my side bar now. I found it through a blog I read fairly regularly and also like…except for the $65 a day juice cleanse. From the new blog I clicked into another new blog, only to discover someone is having some new version of liposuction done in anticipation of a blogging event out west. Problem is, she’s probably half my size and has no fat to suck. And half the commenters were all ‘fuck eating right and exercise, just suck out the fat and tuck my tummy.’ What does that say about me...40 pounds overweight and trying to lose it the hard way?

Hell, if I had $65 a day for juice – or bucks for fat sucking – I wouldn’t be selling off the elliptical and the LMSW study guides on craig’s list to make money to get new rear brakes shoes on the 10 year old car that rugrat now drives. And I say again: aaahh, middle class. Where you get help with nothing and can’t afford anything. And I worked so hard to get here from poverty. I’m considered a ‘success’ story in most circles. Really, I am. Go figure.

Anyway, it’s made me think about where this blog is going, or where I meant it to go when I first started it (I have no clue). It can’t really be a mommy blog, since the youngest is an adult now. I suppose I could regale everyone with stories about how rugrat 1 called mowing the lawn ‘lawn the mow,’ or ‘deeker-seeker’ was day care center.

Or that rugrat 2 calls me a Mexican trapped in a white woman’s body, or how she came home last night all excited about the website she’d found that could figure out how many calories we need to retain our current weight and how many we need to limit ourselves to if we want to lose weight. ‘Cause I never could have figured that out on my own. Now she’s in food-intake-diary land, recording every bite she eats and when she works out and how much. She’s working hard to lose excess pounds the hard way…the cheap way…the we-have-no-$-for-fat-sucking-or- tummy-tucking-or-juice-cleansing way.

It seems that to have a ‘popular’ blog with lots of readers you need four things: some writing skill, a good sense of humour, a theme (mommy blog, political blog, etc), and the ability to write daily lest your readers move on to other, more prolific blogs. Fickle readers! I should publicly thank the whole two readers who still come back here, despite the intense, darker posts about my childhood…the whiny health posts…the occasional funny posts…the few and far between posts.

Anyway, I don’t suppose I have any of those things in abundance, so this blog will always be hodgepodge of whatever : abdphdstudent-professor-mami-child- advocate-formerwelfarerecipient. And it will never be ‘popular’ in the sense of many readers/commenters. Which I suppose is the definition of popular, huh?

Saturday, July 19, 2008


You're walking home from the train station one evening, and you notice a little girl standing across the street with her mom. About five years old or so, with a smile on her face. She seems to be searching. She's adorable, so you watch her out of the corner of your eye as you walk.

Suddenly, she sees what she's been looking for and her face lights up in an incredible smile. Daddy! she says, and she moves into a little run toward a man in his 30's. He crosses the street as she approaches, and he drops his briefcase to the sidewalk as the little girl hurls herself into his arms. He lifts her, the woman picks up his briefcase, and they walk away, smiles and quiet chatting from them all.

You assume it's a special occasion of some sort, perhaps he's been away for a bit. But it makes you feel kind of warm inside anyway.

A couple of weeks later, it becomes apparent that this wasn't a special occasion, or an isolated instance. Every time you catch the 7:14 train and debark in your village, the little girl and her mom are waiting. Sometimes they are running a little late, and they are still halfway down the hill as the father is coming up.

But each evening, her eyes search for him. And once she sees him, the joy lighting up her face is wondrous to behold. Every evening, she runs toward him full tilt. Every evening she throws herself at him, confident in her trust that he will catch her in mid-air.

And every evening, when he sees his little girl and hears that exclamation -- Daddy! -- his face lights up as brightly as hers, and the sheer joy is evident for all watching. And every evening he catches his little girl mid-air, holding her close, as they engage in the private communication that only a father and his little girl can understand.

He never pushes her away, never cautions her about getting his suit dirty, never says daddy had a bad day. Just joy, and catching her in his arms. And regardless of what may happen when they get home, they have these moments together every evening.

You can't help but feel some of that good feeling every time you see them together. But at the same time, there's a little nagging thought in the back of your head that comes forward. Just a little question.

What kind of person would you be today if you'd had that kind of unconditional love from your father (or your mother, you suppose)? If you'd known that kind of joy with and from your father? Would you be more outgoing, more self-assured, have better self-esteem? Would you continually, futilely, seek that kind of love from all the wrong people? In all the wrong places? In all the wrong ways?

Who, or what, might you be if you'd had...that. From someone. Anyone. When you were that little girl.

Of course, you chuckle to yourself, you realize you'll never know the answer. But you will ask yourself the question anyway. Every once in a while. And you'll wonder.

photo's the hill in the story, and one of two I climb to get home each night

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm melting, I'm melting

Mami, you filled up my gas tank! said rugrat to mami.

What a world, what a world...

when the coolest gift you can give your 18 year old is an unexpected full tank of gas.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

chuck e's in love

Whoa. Didn't see that one coming.

You'd studied for 48 hours solid, with little sleep. But your attempts at practice exams at most netted you a 73% -- and you needed a 75 minimum to pass.

You show up at the testing center 15 minutes early for a 12:30 test time. You wait for several other people taking the same licensing exam to check in, chatting briefly. Chatting enough to discover that most of them have taken the test more than once. For at least one person, this was his fifth attempt. Not an auspicious beginning.

You hear the testing center rep (TSR) lay down the law. No hands in your pockets at any time while testing, nothing in the testing room, your belongings will be locked in a locker outside the office, and you still have to turn off your cell phones. You can't take in your own water, but H20 is provided in the test room. You cannot take in your own pencil or paper, but a pencil and two sheets of paper will be provided. The pencils and paper must be turned in when you sign out.

If you leave to go to the bathroom, you must sign out and sign back in, and the clock does not stop on your testing time. One tester asks about the tissue she has in her pocket to dabble her perspiring forehead -- she can keep it, but must put it on the desk. She can't put it in/out of her pocket. The testers are under camera surveillance throughout the exam.

It's your turn to check in and you hand the TCR your legal ID and the authorization letter from the licensing board. Oh, I can't take this, it's a copy, she says. You just stare at her, dumbfounded, lower jaw slightly slack. You've got to be kidding, you respond in shock. Not kidding at all, no she wasn't. And if you can't officially check in, you've forfeited the exam and fee.

The original is back in my office, you say. It's two blocks away, in the other campus building. Can I go get it?

Yes, but testing policy says you absolutely must be back no later than 1:00. You look at your watch. 12:35, there's time. There must be some good karma out there for you, your office and the testing center being so close.

So you race back to your office, head for the elevator to go up to your office on the sixth floor. A vision of you trapped in a stalled elevator, while losing your exam time, flits through your mind. Nah, you'll take the escalator. You're not tempting fate. You arrive back at the testing center at 12:50.

The TCR signs you in, gets your computer going, and you get settled in your cubicle. You take the short introduction to the exam, which doesn't count in your time. Then you click the start exam button and start reading. It is 1:00 straight up. You have four hours to complete the 170 exam questions. You had breakfast at 10:00, so your stomach is settled, at least. You wish you could slow down your heart, and steady your hands, though.

You start strong, whipping through question after question, with little hesitation answering, but a frisson (I love that word) of panic as you click the next question button. A little moment of rapid-er (ha!) heartbeat, wondering if you got this question wrong. One question at a time, one screen at a time, but 170 seems awfully far away.

There is a time clock clicking down the seconds in the upper righthand corner of the screen, but you actually don't obsess about it. You are able to ignore it, partly because it counts down from 4:00:00 to 00:00:00 backwards. You hate backwards counters, you'd rather it click time used than time left. You use your wristwatch to keep track of time, but you seem to be doing well.

Time is endless, concentration is fierce, and if that dude who failed the exam four times already gets up for water one more time you might just kick his everlovin' arse to kingdom come. You take the exam just as the prep course instructor suggested -- one question at a time, don't leave it blank, and don't flag it to come back and check it later. Go sequentially, and go with your gut response after using all the reasoning tools she'd taught us.

Suddenly, you look at the upper left corner and notice you are on question 85 -- halfway there! But wait, it's only been about an hour. Now you wonder what you're doing wrong. And you question yourself. And the questions seem to be more difficult now, and you take longer to read them. Then you are at 100, 120, and it's 3:00. Your tummy is growling, so you begin to think about snacks. And you have a hard time focusing on the questions and must re-read them, then read them a third time before they sink in and make sense.

And finally, there you are. You just answered question number 170. You look at your watch -- 3:30. Whoa, you think. Two and a half hours? There's no way you passed, this is a four hour exam. No one else is done yet, and they all came in before you. You've fucked it up majorly.

The computer screen tells you you've finished, and asks if you want to go back and review questions, or quit the exam. The test prep instructor said not to go back and second-guess yourself, so you spend the next five minutes agonizing, practicing deep breathing exercises to control your panic. This is the moment of truth after all.

Taking a deep breath, you click the quit exam button, and wait for the results. Only to have the new screen ask you if you are sure you want to quit. Damn. Another deep breath, click the hell yes I want to quit button, and inwardly cringe as the screen changes.

What the fuck? you think to yourself. You expect the results screen to come up, you were braced and ready as you'd ever be to take the news on the chin.

A fucking survey question??? Who the fuck puts a survey question at the end of an exam like that? You read it and discover it's a likert scale feedback questionnaire asking you about the licensing board's procedure. You answer, and brace again for the results screen. Only another question comes up. And another. And another. Ten motherfucking questions you have to answer about the board, the testing center, the process.

You click through each question, barely reading, responding with the same agree each time, bracing each time you click next thinking this will be the last. And then a final screen allowing you to give open remarks. Fuck it, you click through that one too.

Later you'll ask yourself just how a board could do something so sadistic to exam takers. And just how valid would the responses be anyway? If the other testers clicked through without thinking like you did, because they won't get their exam results without responding, then the questionnaire results are fairly useless. Perhaps if you'd thought about it at the time, you might have mentioned it in that last open-ended response screen. Nah, you might have irrationally thought it would somehow count against you, and you were too focused on getting that response.

So you click that final next button, brace yourself for what you hope will be the last time, and in a few seconds, the final page comes up. It's in a letter form, one page, with tester information and the next steps in the process.

And then your eye catches it.

Is drawn to it.

Those two words in all caps toward the top of the page under your personal information.


You want to scream, but you're still in the testing room, so your eyes fill with tears as you get up from the chair and walk out of the room to the TSR to get the computer printout. Those dudes still testing probably thought you failed, what with you dabbing at the tears with your fingers to prevent your mascara from running. Your hand is shaking so badly you can barely sign your name to sign out of the testing center.

It's over.

Instructor Spring? I think not.

It's Assistant Professor Spring, MSW, LMSW to you dudes.

Party's at Spring's house tonight.

Join us tomorrow as we apply Skinner's operant conditioning treatment model to Spring's recent dysfunction. Great fun will be had by all!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

behind blue eyes

Or aquamarine eyes, as DominaDelight (she was on another site) used to say.

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool

I confess.

I deal with a high stress moment -- such as a major life-changing exam -- in the most dysfunctional way.

I deal with it by eating. To the tune of about five pounds in the last two weeks.

And I deal with it by pretending the moment isn't imminent, that it won't happen, and therefore I don't have to prepare for it at all...until the very last minute.

And then somehow I pull a trick, a last-minute miracle like those you see on the telly. And I make it successfully through the moment, pass the exam, survive another day, making it all look rather easy.

Unfortunately, this time I won't be pulling a miracle out of my ass at the final hour. I haven't studied for the licensing exam sufficiently. I took a practice exam weeks ago before studying at all and got 50%. I took a second practice exam yesterday afternoon, and still only got 50%. Did I mention I need 75% to pass?

I have been studying nonstop since Monday morning, and will continue until late tonight, when I'll take the third practice test. Then I'll take the actual test tomorrow.

I can't reschedule if I'm not ready -- it doesn't work that way. Not taking the test once it's scheduled is considered a forfeiture, and I would need to get permission from the board that governs the test, and pay another $175 big ones, to reschedule.

And since it is highly unlikely that I will pass tomorrow (and I can't take it again for 90 days), I won't move from instructor to assistant professor status in time for fall semester, which means I won't be eligible for that release time that was approved based on my promise that I would be eligible by fall. And it'll look really good for a non-tenured faculty person to fuck up that badly. NOT.

I am hoping it won't affect my income in the fall, being short a course. I can always pick up an extra course in the spring, since salary is based on an annual credit load rather than a semester load (although I'll go loony with the additional teaching load). But there's no escaping the bad karma this will bring to my bid for eventual tenure.

Don't bother wishing me luck.

'Cause I have no one to blame but me.