Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fail; or, so close

It is the 29th of May and I have blogged every day this month. It hasn't always been stellar... but it has been an act of discipline. I am heading out the door for a weekend vacation and I am relatively sure that I will not post over the next two days. So, well. I guess I tried.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

food; or, look what I made

I have a friend who posts pictures of the food she makes. I love it! I love seeing what real food made by real cooks looks like. I have always been meaning to take pictures of food I make in order to participate in this Real Food for Real People movement. I just figured out how to upload picture from my phone.So, here is some of my recent creations. (okay, the limoncello has been in the freezer for almost 2 months... so not SO recent.)

   Limoncello
(the last bottle from the first batch)



Whole Wheat Raisin and Walnut Biscotti
(this jar WAS full)


Strawberry Shortcake
Fresh Strawberries, Whole Wheat Shortcake, Whipped Cream
And yes, we use "christmas dishes" all year round. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

wishing for Scotland; or, rainy days will always make me think of you

On rainy days when my hair is wet and my sweater is damp I crave Scotland. I want to have tea and scones(okay and sticky toffee pudding!). I want to walk for miles and miles and tour castles. I want to go to bed at night exhausted from having climbed hillsides, followed paths around the many lochs, and having run through rain soaked fields. I want to search for sea monsters and drink whiskey. I want to duck my head as I am led through the low doorway into my new favorite pub listening to lilting voices that sound nothing like mine. I want to lie in a hotel room in Edinburgh and listen to the rain on my window.

I have been to Scotland twice for a total of 11 days. The first trip was nearly 8 years ago and was lovely. A friend and I took a Haggis tour to the Highlands--which I highly recommend. The second was last summer and I was on my own.  I cannot be sure, but I think it rained every day at least once. In my memory it is always raining in Scotland. This last trip, I stayed in Edinburgh mostly, but for a short daytrip through the countryside and a night's stopover at a new friend's. I love both trips equally, but for entirely different reasons. The first trip I love because one never forgets their first, and because the wildness of the Highlands will never leave me. But the second, well, the second I will always love because of a boy.

His name was Ben. I can't remember the last, and frankly I had forgotten his first until a friend had reminded me. He was a security guard at the castle and I met him while asking directions. I don't even know what I was looking for. But, what liked what I found. He was tall, blonde, wild curly hair, blue eyes, and the strongest Scottish lilt I'd heard. For the first two days I had to lean in close to catch words. I had to ask him to repeat things. That can be awkward while wooing. We hit it off immediately. He said he was a writer. He said he had been accepted into an MFA program in New York city, but for various reasons could not go. So, he was working and waiting. I often meet men while travelling, it is easy, clean, no strings. I am fantastic at walking away, so the touring love affair is natural to me. Being such a veteran of the vacation romance I was skeptical of his story. Sure, sure, what better courtship tactic than to tell the American English Professor that you are an aspiring writer. With those hands on her body and that voice in her ear she will believe anything you say. True or not, it was enough for me, I thought it was the best of stories, and a story was really all I needed.

 It wasn't until I had returned to London that belived him. I found a note slipped into the pages of the novel I was reading.  I was sitting at an outdoor cafe with my friend when I found the note. I didn't remember seeing him writing and thought that he must have written it to me while I was in the shower, and put it into my book without me seeing. I can't remember what he said, not exactly, but I remember reading it aloud and my friend and I both sighing. Whatever it was it was enough to convince us that he is a writer. Or maybe a poet. A wordsmith at the least. She was upset with me that I was so sure it would lead nowhere. I remember sahying how I would miss this one. This boy. Now, here I am nearly a year later in America, in a house that is not a home. My hair is wet from the rain. My sweater is damp and smells faintly of wet sheep. As I knew that it would, the affair has faded. The note is lost. Most of that trip is forgotten. I had even forgotten his name, but what I hope to never forget was the sound of the rain on the window and a Scottish lilt whispering "Oh my kitty kat, rainy days will always make me think of you."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Accounting; or, my life in numbers (travel edition)

I love to travel. If pressed I would say it has something to do with the fact that I grew up in a tiny isolated town where I read books about other places and thought "someday, I'm gonna go there."  Usually, I do it big. If it doesn't involve a passport and 9 hour flight or a cross country drive I wasn't all that into it. As a result I have been a lot of places, but never really explored my own back yard too much. Well, like most folks the economy has shrunken my wallet a bit and now I am really not able to afford the "Big" trips. So, in honor of my new back yard approach here is my Accounting Travel Edition.


Ten countries I told my high school English teacher I wanted to visit (in alphabetical order): Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Scotland, Spain.

Number of countries I have visited from that list: 5 (England, Scotland, Ireland, Czech Republic, France).

Number that have been added to the list since then: 62

Number of times I have visited London: 4

Number of countries I could cross off my list if I had gone there instead of London (Again): 3

When I realized that: Just now.

Prices for my plane tickets to London in chronological order:
2003: $521.00.
2007: $362.00.
2008: $534.00
2009: $967.00

Cheapest Flight Deal: Round trip London to Belfast for $4.00

Most expensive "cheap" flight: Round trip London to Czeck Republic $35.00 Plus nearly $350.00 in fees because I missed my flight both ways and had to re-book!

Total number of countries I have visited: 9

Number of US States I have visited: 41

Number of US States I have lived in: 5

US Travel Goal: To see a game in every MLB ballpark.

Number of parks I can cross off my list: Four

Number I visited only to have the team tear it down and build another one: Two

Number I was supposed to visit this summer but facist ticketing practices have ruled that out: 1 (yes, I am talking to you Los Angeles Dodgers).

Number of trips I still have planned for this summer: 3 (Reno, Ashland, TBD)

Trips I was supposed to take this weekend, but may be snowed out: 1 (In theory I am supposed to travel to Reno this weekend. In reality it is snowing... Um, I don't "do" weather, so we'll see how it goes.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Stroll; or, what a walk looks like




The River Trail: a walk up Hard Parts Hill  in pictures.

This is one of the "arms" of the trail. This is one of the least crowded part and I have never seen a biker on this one (too steep I think). It doesn't have the separate lanes like the rest and it is in full sunlight. It branches off to the north and is only about a mile long, but it is just one steep hill. It doesnt' have an official name, but I call it "The Hard Parts Hill." When I want to do a really hard workout I park at the top of this hill, walk down the hill and then do the right side of  the River Trail and back. Because of the hills, It is essentially uphill both ways! I called it the Hard Parts Version. I am not ready to the whole Hard Parts Version (YET!). But, I did do Hard Parts Hill all this week. 


The Warning





The Shady Bend (This is my rest stop on the way back up)
















The View (This is the canyon. It's hard to tell, but the river is down there)

Going UP


And --Hey there's the car!!



Friday, May 21, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Puente Stories: "Karly"; or, how one student has changed the "immigration debate" in our house forever

One of the biggest differences between Puente and the other cadre of support services and programs for college students in California is that Puente services and advocates for undocumented students. I think it has to do with where the money for the programs come from, but I am not sure. I do know that Puente is my first taste of working with people who are living in the US without citizenship.  This issue is a rabid one right now and it will only become more heated as we get closer to the next election cycle. I have always held the position that being born in the United States is like wining a type of global lottery. The resources we have available to us as Americans is equalled by few other countries. With this does come responsibility, something the US does seem to grasp, but I often disagree with the way we "share" our wealth. I have always held a vewpoint that  we have to live in a way that shows compassion for our global neighbors. All this to say, I have been known to say that we should just open the borders. I understand now, after talking with students who are going through the citizenship process, that widespread corruption on the Mexican side of the border would make this impossible. But, I still believe that something needs to be done. I don't know what. But something.

I start with this discussion, not to argue or challenge anyone's belief systems or to begin a debate about immigration, but to just establish a context of where I am coming from. In my family, I am the only liberal democrat in a sea of conservative republicans. Sometimes I feel like the only liberal democrat in Shasta County! In my family, most everyone, but me, believes (or at least used to) in building a wall between the American and Mexican border (I think some may think we need one between Canada and America as well). There are some family members who believe more strongly than others, and even some who traffic in racist emails and jokes. Discussions about immigration have ended in angry shouted words, slammed doors, and tears. But, since my experience with Puente some of this has changed. Mostly because I bring home my student's stories. I share their victories and frustrations. Political discussions are different when they are about real people instead of abstract policies. This has changed the way we talk, but by fat the biggest difference for us has been Karly.

Karly's family moved to the United States from Mexico when she was 11 years old. She spoke fewer than 20 words of English, and she that was more than anyone else in her family. She started school in northern California where she was lucky enough to be enrolled in a school with a bilingual education program. At school and on her own she learned English. Within a year she was helping other recently arrived students and immigrants with their English. During the day she went to school, in the evening she helped her family pick fruit, vegetables, and almonds, and at night she studied.

Karly's family has been trying to gain American Citizenship for nearly eight years. There is so much corruption in the system that this process can take between nine and 13 years for Mexicans to gain American citizenship. Usually, what will happen is the Mexican government will approve one family member's paperwork and then demand bribes from the other family members. They put the paperwork on hold and dangle the hope of citizenship in front of them. This puts them in a situation where in order to live together in one country much of the family must live here illegally.  And then there is a special problem for children. When Karly first applied she was a minor. Last year when she turned 18, and when she became an adult she had to file new paperwork. That means that the eight years that her paperwork has been in the system is now erased. It is incredibly frustrating.

Karly lives in a small farming community in another county. She rides a bus for over an hour to and from school everyday. The bus picks her up at  a bus stop in town at 5am and returns her at 5pm every day. It is another 20 minute drive from the bus stop to her home. She has the best attendance of any student in my class. She is the best student in my class. She writes and speaks English with an accent, but her essays are clear and smart. I always know I can count on her to have done the assignment and to have done it well. If class discussion stalls I look at Karly and she says something smart and insightful and moves the discussion along. She revises her essays 3 or 4 times each until they are A's. She reads everything and more. She is inquisitive, earnest, hungry. She is a good student.

Now, the problem is that she is undocumented. This means she pays non-resident fees. Classes that would cost most people about $25 a unit will cost her nearly $200 a unit. The Puente program is 9 total units. She paid nearly $2000 to be in a program that most of the other students paid for litle or nothing. She cannot get financial aid or support from EOPS or TRIOS like the other students. Last semester I bought her books, something I couldn't really afford either, but I wanted to help. There are other challenges as well.  We nominated her for the Puente leadership conference in UC Riverside this summer and she was accepted. She gets to go to UC Riverside for a week long leadership conference paid for by Puente. When she was chosen, we were ecstatic until we realized that she would have to fly there. She isn't a citizen, she doesn't have ID.The tuition at a four year university is going to cost her thousands of dollars. She runs the risk of some overly zealous person turning her into immigration at all times. She cannot get a driving liscence in this state. Of all my students she is the most capable of achieving her goals. She wants to get a Phd in Nutrition. But of all my students she is the least likely to achieve her goals. Because, the system does not want her here.

I often talk about my classes at home. How my day went. How certain students learn or how an assignment would work, or not work. Soon, my family began to "know" certain students. They know that Jason is a jerk. Jesus is a ladies man. Bill is shy. And that Karly is the hardest working student I have. I didn't tell them she was undocumented for a long time. It isn't something you want to talk about in Shasta County--where just being brown is enough to get you pulled over (or worse). But, as her situation became more and more frustrating to me I shared more and more. Slowly, the attitude of some of those around me has changed. The discussion of illegal immigration has become more compassionate. The wall isn't really seen as a viable solution. We all kind of see that there is this much bigger global problem and that deportation and walls aren't going to help Karly.

This story is a tough one. It is good because her situation has changed the attitudes of many people on campus and in my own life, but the tragedy of how difficult it is for her to make a life for herself is heart-breaking. In reality if she returns (or is returned) to Mexico she has nothing. Here she has a shot. It's just a long one.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Puente Stories: "Bill"; or, Disney ain't the only one in the business of tellin' success stories

The program that I currently teach in and co-coordinate is called Puente. I have written about it before. I love the program, I (mostly) love the students, I hate the pay. The program is designed to service historically educationally disadvanted student populations (mostly hispanic and latino). I took the job because as an adjunct if someone asks you to do something you just say yes.


Anyway, we are about two weeks away from finishing the first year of the first cohort. Puente has three phases. Phase I is the Pre-Composition class, Phase II is the Composition class, and Phase III is the year or so that it takes the students to finish the rest of their Community College work in order to transfer. After that (the unofficial Phase IV) is when they finish their four-year degrees and become tax paying citizens who return to their community and act as mentors to other Puentistas. My job is to teach the English classes, organize events, and other administrative tasks. Each group of students who go through these phases together are called a Cohort. So, we just finished the first two phases of of our first cohort.
 
Over the next week or so I will be telling stories about this year. Some are stories of success. Some are stories of failures, some frustrations, and some may be funny (at least to me). All the names are changed for privacy (and to avoid lawsuits). I reserve the right to embellish for the sake of storytelling, to leave things out if it makes me look bad, and to talk about other things if I get bored.
 
__________________________________________________________________________________
 
At the beginning of every Puente year we have a mandatory Information Night/Orientation. This event is held on campus in the evening and the students are supposed to bring their familias. In Puente we want students to include their families in their education. Because the program has its roots in the hispanic community the idea of "familia" came about for two main reasons. The first is because family is so important to many hispanics and we want to include as many elements of our student's culture as we can. The second because so many Puente students are first generation college students, and we want to show our students familis what goes on on college campuses. We, at Shasta College, try to stretch the word "familia" as much as we can. To some this means a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband wife, kids, other is it parents, grandparents... and to others a best friend. To my most shy student, Bill, familia meant his mom.  He brought his mom to everything. I quickly learned it was so she would speak for him. A habit that most likely started when Bill was a child and had continued into adulthood.
 
At the Information Night I made my way around the room and introduced myself to every person. Bill's mom was very shy and I had to talk with her for several minutes longer than any other person just to feel like we were comfortable. Her son, Bill, did not look at me. He mumbled his name while staring at his feet the entire time. His mom was trying to speak for him because even though she was very shy as well, she did not want me to think her son was being rude. I told her not to worry and joking said, "By the end of this thing we'll all be best friends."  We all laughed, and I went on with the rest of the night.
 
As the Phase I class started, I noted that Bill sat in very last seat of the row that was in the furthest corner of the room. He spoke only when forced to, made no eye contact with me, and worked with the same student every day. As the semester went on I was careful not to push him too much. Puente is a big proponent of goup work and we put each student into a group, callled a Familia, who they work with the entire semester. I put Bill into a group with all guys that he seemed comfortable with. It worked, he made his way, talking to his Familia, to me when he needed to, and nothing more. In his group presentation he ran the projector. He never raised his hand or volunteered a comment. He was so shy that if he needed to talk to me or ask a question he would text a classmate and have them ask. I would make a point to talk to Bill at least once a day, even if it was just small talk and pleasantries, and I made sure to say hello and goodbye every class. Still, at the end of the first semester he was comfortable with only a very small group of classmates and could talk to me if he needed to.
 
As the Phase II class started, I took special care to push Bill a bit more than I had in Phase I. I put him in a Familia with students new and different students. I would call on him in class. When I would read his notebooks and essays I would highlight points I wished that he would have said in class. I emphasized over and over again that his viewpoints and ideas were welcome and desired in the class discussion, sometimes in a discussion I would say, "Bill, you said something about that in your notebook, do you want  to share your insights with the class?" The first couple of times I tried this, I got a mumbled "Not really." But, usually, he would  say something. And then one day, he raised his hand. I actually cut off another student in my desire to call on him. After that, he would share now and again, and while still shy, it didn't seem quite so debilitating.
 
I knew that Bill was becoming less shy, but I didn't realize how much until two things happened, the first was his mom stopped me one day while shopping to tell me so. I was shopping when I heard a shy voice behind me "Professor Frye."  I turned and there was Bill's mom. She wanted to tell me how much  her son enjoyed the Puente program. She said that she had seen a change in him over the past year and that he said that it was due to Puente. Now, this would be progress enough to please me. Just getting Bill to talk in class was enough for me. This student who was so shy that he would not even text or email professors was talking in class! The second was that Bill was sitting in the front of the class. He had slowly moved seats until he was in the front row (on the side of the room, but still). Victory right!. Well, then, he volunteered to speak at the Puente End of the Year Celebration.
 
I was asking for volunteers and jokingly asked Bill. I fully expected him to blush, laugh, and make a joke as he said "no way." Instead, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "All right." At the Puente End of the Year Celebration he spoke in front of 75+ people. That night he talked about how empowering it was to attend the Puente Motivational Conference at Sacramento State with 800 other latinos who were all striving to better themselves through education. He talked about making friends in the program. He talked about how Puente has changed him for the better. He talked about how he thinks he has a better shot at the future he has always wanted because he is more confident and a better speaker and writer. So often, students say these things because they think it is what teachers wanted to hear, but in this case, it was clear that every word was true. The fact that he was standing in front of 75 people as he said it was proof that it was true.
 
 And while I was touched about what he talked about, for me, the most impressive part was that he talked.
 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

tribute; or, cheating a little

So, this is isn't really a post. This is a tribute to the today's post. Here Here Post! You are awesome!

I'm tired. I want to tell you about how Puente is a changing people. The students. My family. Me. But I don't want it to be this tired tired thing. But, I do have stories to tell. So, this post. This post is a tribute to that other one. The post that I owe you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

OMG; or, because shirts are overrated (that's my favorite part)



I don't have a lot of time today, but I still wanted to post (stupid committment!). I was looking for a youtube video from Derek Jeter's 2001 Saturday Night Live appearance... but instead I found a pop-up  for this which promised "Derek Jeter Shirtless"! I thought it was the funniest thing I have seen in a really long time! On a side note, it took me a long time to find a picture of Derek Jeter that was an actual baseball photo and even longer to find an action shot. Hmmm, I wonder if it is a copyright issue, or if the poor man is just being objectified.

Enjoy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Accounting; or, my life in numbers (dresses edition)

Number of...

dresses hanging in my closet right now = 11 (not counting skirts)

dresses in storage = 9 (too small 6, too fancy for everyday wear 2, not weather appropriate 1)

dresses coming in the mail because I ordered them this weekend = 3 (and one skirt)

dresses at Nordstroms.com that I am currently lusting after = 11

times a week I wear a dress to work = 1

times I have had my skirt fly up in the wind Marilyn Monroe style = 9 (most of these were in Reno)

times I have worn a dress with cowboy boots = 1

dresses I have worn until they literally fell apart and were rendered unwearable = 2 (a lime green satin dress with orange and green organza sleeves that was a flower girl dress at age 6 and a thrift store find J Crew black shirtdress at age 19).

times I insisted that I could wear the above dresses "one more time"= too many

bridesmaid dresses I have donated to Good Will = 3

bridesmaid dresses I have been able to "shorten and wear again" = 0

bridesmaid dresses I was able to wear as a halloween costume = 3 (princess, princess, and beauty queen)

times I have shut my skirt into the door of my car = 2 (that I know of)

Prom dresses I have worn after the age of 30 = 2 (prom party, halloween costume)

times I almost hit someone for making fun of me for wearing a prom dress after the age of 30 = 1

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Sunday in dresses; or, if my life had a costuming budget


I have been obsessed with dresses lately. It got me thinking about my Sunday pictoral. In a perfect world I would be able to wear the perfect pretty dress to each perfect Sunday event.

Here is a Sunday in dresses.

Coffee

Remember this nightgown so you can compare my morning version to my "night" version--apparently in a perfect world I change in the middle of the night. 

 I love comfy mornings with my coffee. Most days, I get up an hour earlier than I need to so that I have time to linger over my coffee.



Champagne Brunch

This is currently my favorite dress. I love the way that the bright floral fabric contrasts against the softer muted version of the same fabric. This dress is from Nordstoms.com (most of them are) and it sells for about $200.00. There is one review of this dress. A woman gives it one star because "it just doesn't look good on me." Hmmm, how is the fault of the dress? Blasphemy. 






Shopping, Matinee, Or, I don't know, a Baseball game. After all I did say this was a pefect world!

 I love old reels of baseball games from the 1940's and 1950's. All the men wore suits and hats, and the women wore dresses, hats, and usually carried a handbag. Super glamorous. It always seems such a shame to me that we don't seem to dress up for anything any more. A few years ago a college volleyball team was criticized for wearing flip flops to a trip to the White House. Many people took offense to the criticism and defended the athletes saying that we don't live in a formal world anymore, and that at least the flip flops were "fancy."  




 
Afternoon Tea

 While in London last summer, my BFF and I went to high tea in a relatively hoity toity teahouse. We tried our best to dress up, but between living out of a suitcase and needing to wear footwear that could handle the 5+ miles I tend to walk while in London we were WAY underdressed. Combine that with the dress of our companions (one a teenage boy who was in jeans, nikes, and a windbreaker, the others not much better), our American accents and lack of reservations, and well, the waiter was trying to be nice to us...but. It was what I call a Pretty Woman moment. You know the one where Pretty Woman tries to shop in the expensive boutique on Rodeo Drive...

I have a feeling that if we walked in off the street in this dress, I imagine that waiter would have been a little less snooty. Well, prolly not if we were BOTH wearing this, that would be weird!

Afternoon Walk (Jane Austen Style)

Yes, I know that if I really wore this--and the shoes that seem to go with it--I wouldn't REALLY want to walk very far. And certainly I would not want to walk over rolling hills covered with green grass that most likely has just recently been soaked by the rain... But, wouldn't it be lovely?
 Dinner

When I was 19, I dated a boy with a lot of money. How much money? A lot. He took me home to Nantucket for Easter weekend. His was an "old money" family and when he awkwardly revealed that he had bought me some clothes for the weekend, I was a little offended: until I saw them. I have never worn such wonderful clothes before, or since. The relationship never really went anywhere--we were of a different class and religion. But, that experience allowed me to see a world that I had only read about. The day I walked downstairs into a formal dining room in a dress very much like this one changed me.
I lost the clothes when I moved home. I was flying back to California and I could not afford to take all of things on the plane with me. I asked a friend to hold some boxes for me until I could afford to have them mailed; even though I sent the money not too surprisingly the box with these beautiful clothes were never sent.

Cocktails
 For my 35th birthday I had a birthday party with a cocktail party theme. My friend Tiffany wore a dress like this. I thought it (and she) was so beautiful.

And finally...
                             Bed
Going to bed is much sexier than waking up. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to how I get from this sexy white satin gown into the comfy pjs from the "coffee" photo above.  Ahem, I did say this was a Perfect World ;)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Joe Buck can kiss my; or, if you don't like baseball don't take an announcing job

Joe Buck is Fox network's number one sports announcer. He covers football and baseball. But, he has been overheard saying that he doesn't like baseball and implied that if he had his way he'd just do football. This has always bothered me. He is paid millions of dollars to watch baseball games from the best seats and talk about it on the air. This is a dream job, at least for me it is.

Today he threw this big hissy fit because the game he was covering took too long. On the air he sighed and rolled his eyes at having to watch this marathon game. I wanted to throw a shoe at him. I mean if you would rather be somewhere else...let me do your job.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

little boys; or, the trouble with cute

My nephew is four years old. He is incredibly smart, charming, handsome, and smart. As all nephews should be.

He is also obsessed with all things male and, well, a little digusted by girl things. This nascent anti girl sentiment is fostered by having an older sister and by his father's very mild case of mysogny (inherited from his father, yes that would also be MY father).  Anyway, this four year old angel is going through a good old fashioned I hate girls phase.

The other day, I asked him what he would do if a second head grew out of his neck. He looked at me and said, "That would be cool." Then I followed that up by saying, "But, what if it was a girl's head?" Without a single pause he said, "I would cut that right off."

Aww boys.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

baggage; or, what do you expect from Jerry Springer?

I returned home from a day of student conferences and Cinco de Mayo festivities exhausted and plopped onto the couch for some good old fashioned mindless television.  Lately, I have been watching the Game Show Network (GSN). It is extraordinarily mindless. Deal or No Deal is on every other minute wedged between The Newlywed Game and a really annoying show that is hosted by the other guy on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (the guy who is not Will Smith). I like it because I don't really have to pay attention, I don't really need to watch the whole thing, and I definitely don't need to have seen last week's episode. But tonight. Oh tonight I caught the last few minutes of a show I have never seen before: Baggage.

Baggage is hosted by Jerry Springer, so you know that it must be all kinds of awesome. I missed most of it, but I think that the concept is that you reveal your emotional or dating baggage and then suitors decide whether or not they would still date that person. Sadly, I only caught the last five minutes.  But, believe me, i will be back for more. In the part I saw a very attractive woman opens a suitcase and reveals a card that says "I choose my cat over any man." She smiles while Jerry Springer goes "Oh my god" as if it said "I am a black widow who has killed my previous four husbands."  She smiles, and the guy, a plain looking man in his 40's, scratches his head and looks at this far more attractive woman with trepidation. She goes on to explain that her cat is very special. She says that the cat "talks to me and calls me mama, can do several tricks, she fetches..."

As this woman talks she starts to glow and gets really excited. The two men get more and more uncomfortable. Then it is time. Springer asks the man if he can live with her "baggage." He says, and this is my favorite part, "Well, you said you could put up with my chronic halitosis, the fact that I had my car re-possessed so that I have to ride the bus everywhere, and my three kids..." Dramatic pause. Then he reaches out and closes the suitcase and says, "I was happy you said you could deal with my baggage, but I can't deal with yours. I think your crazy." Boom. Suitclose slammed. Woman denied. Show is Over.  I was left with Jerry Springer asking me to be sure to tune in next time. Oh yes, Jerry, I will. I will.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

bitter; or, a cry for help

I am beginning to hate my job.

Before I begin to complain, because I am going to. I need to starte with the following disclaimer. I know this is my fault. There are other folks who played their parts, but really, I accept that it is MY choices that led me here. I chose teaching because I wanted to do this. I chose English becasue I loved it. I chose this profession. I chose to quit my Phd program. I chose to work as an adjunct. I made these choices. I know this.

But...

I am becoming so angry and bitter that it is affecting my job performance. I resent the amount of prep, grading, reading, planning, meetings, events, just the sheer amount of time that my job demands. I am an adjunct instructor and a co-coordinator for the Shasta College Puente Program. I usually teach two classes a semester. This year I accepted the Puente Program Coordinator's position  When I began doing Puente my workload trebled. In the fall, I was unhappy with the amount of extra work, but I thought I would be leaving at the end of the year (I am not) and I was being paid twice as much. This semester I only got one class. But, the work for the coordinator position has ballooned. Without having to get into details (see yesterday's blog for some of the numbers) I figure that I am paid $5.45 per hour. I don't really have enough money to pay my bills.

The real bitterness comes in when I think about my co-workers.  My co-coordinator is a full time employee. He makes four times what I make, simply because he is salaried. Any event we do he is paid to do twice. He gets paid as part of his salary and he gets the same stipend I get. Whereas I work for nothing he gets double. I try to not say anything, but it gets really hard sometimes. I don't want to ruin my working relationship with him because I am so resentful and bitter. Some of the Puente kids have commented that I am not doing some of the activites. I have tried to explain without going into details to them that I get tired and overworked, but they just don't get it.

Now, no matter what, there isn't anything I can do about this right now. I can't ask for more money. I can't get a second job. I can't quit without destroying three years worth of work history. This is the situation. It is what it is. I have committed to the program for one more year. In this year, I am preparing to re-apply to graduate schoool, and look for full time teaching positions. So, I know that I have to finish this semester, teach a summer class, and then do the adjunct teacher/Puente program coordinator thing next year. I know this. The problem is: I have a terrible attitude. Awful. I am negative and resentful. I don't do anything extra. I refuse to do things that normally I would want to do. I come home at the end of the day and say things like, "Guess how much money I made today? Oh that's right $0."  I shirk. I procrastinate. I complain.

I don't want to be l ike this. I don't. I hate when people tell me I should count myself as lucky because at least I HAVE a job. But seriously, how do I find a way to put the money issues aside? How do I separate teaching from the "job"? If I don't do this, I will be even more miserable. I will make people around me miserable. I could even jeopardize any possible work reccommendations from this school. Sigh. How do I learn to love my job again?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Accounting; or,my life in numbers (teaching edition)

Number of..

years I have taught college English Classes: 9.

students I have taught (aproximately): 1080.

students I have failed (actual F's, not Oh they just stopped coming F's): 7

students I have made cry: 4

students who have thanked me more than a semester after my class was over: 2

teaching hours my adjunct contract pays per week: 8

office hours my adjunct contract pays per semester: 8.5

meetings per week  I attend for my current job (on average): 4.

meetings I am paid to attend: 0.

dollars and cents in my checking account right now: $85.17.

degrees I have earned: 2.

degrees I still need: 1.

 level of bitterness I feel about my current career on a scale of 1-10: 8 with a bullet.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Short; or, what a Sunny Sunday should look like (actual experiences may vary)

Baseball (Shown here Oakland Coliseum)


Boats (actual boat may be smaller, yellow, and on a lake)





Books (and Coffee Shops)



And Buddies


There is also usually a little Booze involved... but no one wants to see a picture of that ;)
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day; or, sex sex sex

Happy May Day!

Corinna's Going A-Maying

Get up, get up for shame, the blooming Morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air;
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept, and bow'd toward the east,
Above an hour since; yet you not drest,
Nay! not so much as out of bed?
When all the birds have matins said,
And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin,
Nay, profanation, to keep in,
Whenas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.

When I was a girl, our Sunday school class made and delivered May Day baskets. May Day is holiday I would love to bring back. With it's toes firmly dipped into sensuous waters, May Day is one of the sexiest of holidays. Damn those puritans and their fear of sensuality. Anyway, I digress... In contemporary America, if May Day is celebrated at all, it is usually associated with children. This ignores the fact that the young girls who were the original May Day Queens were in fact nubile and ready for a sexual awakening. It was their "Spring" if you will; but, now, we don't really remember that most girls are actually women by the time they are 12 or 13.

I am sure that my Sunday School teacher was oblivious of May Day's pagan beginnings when she planned our May Day adventure. The event took two weekends. On the first weekend we made May Day flower bouquets. They were little paper mache flower baskets. The next weekend was the first of May. Our class was divided into small gaggles of giggling girls and each of us was assigned to a jaded teenage girl who were either forced by their mothers, or had just gotten their driver's licences, and thus were eager to drive anywhere. We would park up the street a little ways and then this little gaggle of 8 year old girls would tiptoe, giggling loudly, as we tried to sneak up to the porch and place their flower basket on the doorknob. One brave girl, usually me, or my friend Michelle, would ring the doorbell, or knock. There was this fantastic moment of tension as I would linger on the porch my finger just hovering above the doorbell, and then, I would push the bell, or knock, and all of us would burst free and run back to the car squealing, running, panting, and laughing in a burst of released delight.


Rise; and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green;
And sweet as Flora. Take no care
For jewels for your gown, or hair;
Fear not, the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you;
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept;
Come and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night;
And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dress, be brief in praying;
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.

While in college, my boyfriend and I decided to deliver May Day bouquets of our own. I was living in a small town just outside of Boston Massachusetts where spring's coming is celebrated enthusiastically after the long cold winter. We made tiny paper baskets and filled them with flowers stolen from the campus gardens. We walked to a neighborhood just west of town that was populated mostly by the townies. These were folks who had nothing to do with the college and were unlikely to know who we were. The first couple of doors we did together. Giggling and running just as I had as a girl. After a minor squabble, something our relationship was marked by, we split up and decided to each go our own ways. 

I approached a house, on my own, carrying my tiny bouquet. As I could get nearer to the porch I heard the unmistakable sounds of a couple having sex. I froze in my steps.  I was not sure what to do. A part of me was struck by how apropos it was to be leaving May Day flowers on the porch as a couple made love. The flowers historically were tokens of wooing and symbolic of the blooming of a young girl's readiness to lose her virginity. As I placed my flowers on the door knob,  I heard a noise around the corner of the porch. I should have left then, but my curiosity led me around the corner of the house. As I peered around the corner I saw my friend peering into the bedroom window watching the couple have sex. Quickly, and quietly I turned and walked away. I grabbed my basket off the door and left without being seen.


Come, my Corinna, come; and, coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park
Made green and trimm'd with trees; see how
Devotion gives each house a bough
Or branch; each porch, each door ere this
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn, neatly interwove;
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
Can such delights be in the street
And open fields and we not see't?
Come, we'll abroad; and let's obey
The proclamation made for May,
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

The first boy I ever kissed was killed in a motorcycle accident before he was old enough to be considered a man. It wasn't May Day when I learned that he died, but it was Spring. I was 11 when we kissed and 15 when he died. He a mere year and a half older. Eleven seems too young for kissing, and 15 far too young for mourning. That kiss was the most sexually charged kiss of my life, even now, I look back on that event with wonder. His experience with his tongue makes me think he probably wasn't a virgin when he died. Even though a little past 16 is far too young for a death of any kind; it gives me comfort to think that he lived a little older than other boys his age because somehow he knew he less time than the rest of us.


There's not a budding boy, or girl, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.
A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden, home.
Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream,
Before that we have left to dream;
And some have wept, and woo'd, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth;
Many a green-gown has been given;
Many a kiss, both odd and even;
Many a glance too has been sent
From out the eye, love's firmament;
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick'd, yet we're not a-Maying.

It was in a Surevy of Early British Literature class where I first read this poem. My friends and I were quite romantic and loved the Carpe Diem poems. Herrick, Marvell, Jonson, et al. We were young and we thought of ourselves and Julia or Corinna. We wrote lovely little papers on these poems and their fresh sensuality and flirting of innocence. One day I was put in a group with an older woman. She was very smart, sassy, and I looked up to her. At the time she seemed much older than I, but now, I realize that she was prolly about the age that I am now. We were choosing poems to write about for a group project and I suggested Corrina's Going A-Maying and To the Virgins to Make Much of Time. As we were working, the light and fun mood surrounding these poems darkened. She read them  with the eye of a woman nearing 40 who was losing her bloom. She pointed to line after line and read them as an indictment of the uselessness of an older woman. I remember her saying "These poems are about a bunch of old men who are telling young girls to just do it with them because soon they will be old dried up hags and no one will want them." She was angry. I learned later that her husband had recently left her, for a younger woman, of course.

Come, let us go, while we are in our prime;
And take the harmless folly of the time.
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun;
And as a vapour, or a drop of rain,
Once lost, can ne'er be found again,
So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drown'd with us in endless night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

by Robert Herrick

(1591-1674)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

taking lessons from Better Off Dead; or, learning "Franch"

I have  decided to spend this pre PhD year in preparing for the foreign language requirement.  In the past I always tried Spanish and it did not work out for me. I will write more about that another time.  So, I am going to switch to French. I have a ton of spanish baggage, and really, French is a pretty happy language for me. So without further adieu: I present: Le Plan.

1. Immerse myself in all things "Franch" al la Better of Dead's Kim Darcy.

 I will always love John Cusack. If, for no other reason than because of the classic comedy Better Off Dead. I think this may be the best movie in the history of extremely silly comedies. Some of my most quoted lines are from this movie.


Monique: He keeps putting his testicles all over me.
Lane Meyer: Excuse me?
Monique: You know, like octopus? Testicles?
Lane Myer: Ohhhh. Tentacles. N-T. Big Difference.

That scene is classic! And it makes me laugh every time I think about it. But the all time funniest thing is the scene where Kim Darcy puts together a meal for the Monique the neighbor's foreign exchange student.  She makes french bread, french fries, and french dressing. She pronounces it "Franch" and then later the annoying neighbor lady blows herself up.

Lane: Sorry your mom blew up Ricky.

Have you seen Better Off Dead? Did you love it?  I recently found out that John Cusack hated it. That made me a little sad. But, oh well.

2. Watch French films. J'aime des films de francais.


There are so many times when I am watching a decent american movie, you know, one that is okay, but not brilliant, that I think, "This would be so much better in French."

I have seen many french films, but if you have recommendations: lay them on me.








3. Get me that Rosetta Stone French program.
It's expensive. How expensive? Very expensive. But, hey, I hate language classes, so it should be worth it.


4. Develop a french alter ego. (Why yes, I AM taking suggestions for names!)  When I travel I lie to people. Nothing to serious, I just know I a never going to see them again, so I give them an interesting person to talk to, I put on a show. It's fun, no one gets hurt. Naturellement, je suis la France.
5.  Go to France and pretend to BE that person! Oui. I am serious.
And yes, you can come too!

6. Oh, and I'll pass the foreign language requirement in the process.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

serenity now; or, god (that I don't really believe in) grant me the patience...

to get through this day.

to grade as many notebooks, occasions, and essays as I can.

to understand that I may not be able to get them all done and that that is okay.

to compose an apology to my students for the shitty assignment I gave them.

to get all my emailing done.

to get my living space reorganized after the great spring cleaning episode this weekend.

to not kill my mother.

to stop snapping at people (my mother).

to not kill the dog.

to remember that it will take time to recover from this cold/flu.

to drink water.

to get back on track with my healthy living plan.

to view food as fuel and not as therapy.

to pay as many of my bills that I can afford to pay.

to not worry about those that are left unpaid, for now.

to forgive myself for my mistakes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

dotting i's and crossing t's turns out to be pretty damn important; or, taking responsibility

I have never really been a "details" person.  I don't really do paperwork all that well, or at all. At work if there is an email sent out to folks who are late turning in census reports, first-day-handouts, or grades... I am on it. I just don't pay attention to stuff like that. I am an idea person. Creative. A free spirit.

Well. Turns out that stuff matters.

A lot.

I wanted to blame people. And there are some who would do, I suppose. But, really, the biggest lesson to be learnt here is that I can't control other people. I can only take care of me and make sure that my world is together. And well, so far, in my life I haven't done that.

It is my own fault that I am not returning to Graduate School in the fall. It is never easy to fail. It is even more difficult to learn that you are not special. Not really. Oh no. I am not exceptional. I am not one of those students who has someone fighting for me. I am just a student who didn't fill out her application correctly. It's not personal. It is political, but that is something else altogether. It is a tough lesson to learn: No one is gonna fight for you, that you are on your own, that you don't have a corner man.

So, I will have to fight for me.

But, at least now I know that I must.

I am not giving up. Not yet. I'll apply again next year. I'll pay more attention to errant t's and i's and all of that. I will learn a lesson from this, because I need to.

Another year.

Another chance.

In this year, I have a lot of work to do: Both academic and personal. I have some addictions to work on.  I have some fears to conquer. I have some wounds that need healing. I have some reading and learning that needs to be done. I have some growing to do.

Academically speaking I am not where I should be. I have not taken care of my language requirement (yes, it has been years, and no I still haven't done anything about it). I have a lot of reading in my field that I can do in a year. Some conferences, etc. Work that I have not done because of my own insecurities about myself as a scholar.

Personally, I have a food addiction and a lifetime of eating disorders that I have pretended don't exist. I have a major set of fear and anxiety disorders that I have self medicated with alcohol, food addication, and isolation.  I need to learn to cope with life in a responsible way. It is too easy to set things aside and ignore them rather than take care of them. Putting my hand over my eyes will not make problems go away. (no, not even if you also sing the la la la I am not listening song).

So here it goes.
Another year.
The question is what am I gonna do with it?

Stay tuned... I know I will.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

framing ben jonson; or, putting the shabby in shabby chic

A couple of years ago a literature professor gave me one page from a 17th century Ben Jonson folio as a christmas gift. I have no idea of its value, but I know it is something I needed to treat with care. My roomate at the time also recieved one, as did everyone in the seminar (which is prolly almost all of my readership, so you all know exactly what I am talking about here), and she framed hers immediately.  I balked at the cost of framing and my page remained wedged between two pieces of cardboard in the flimsy plastic sleeve it came in, along with a photocopy of the folio cover to index its origins. I was beginning to notice some wear and tear on my page and that prompted me to get it framed before I did any permanent damage.

Yesterday, I finally had the thing framed. I chose a fancy schmancy champagne gilded frame and had it contrasted with a chololate brown velvet textured  matte. It looks gorgeous. It is luxurious and rich looking. When the framer unwrapped the brown paper and revealed the work I could not help but exclaim, okay, squeal, about how gorgeous it was. It was easy to see how proud she was of her work, and she even took a picture of it to add to her portfolio. So, in the glow of such admiration, I brought it home and hung it over my World Mart-Cost Plus country white roll desk, next to my second hand olive green dresser, above my JCPenney "fall pattern" floor rug, next to a thrift store find framed print by one of my favorite romantic artists. And in the blink of an eye my room that had looked shabby chic just a moment before, now just looked shabby. 

I do not come from money. My mother's family were vagabond okies who lived in trailers and drove cars that they bought totalled and then fixed up to sell. My father's were loggers and laborers. Not one of my grandparents graduated from elementary school. My mother was the first in her family to graduate high school, my father the first to go to college. I know that education does not always result in money, but usually those with money get college degrees. So there is a correlation, it just wasn't what I thought it was.

When I was a child I dreamed of being upper middle class. I wanted to "dress" for dinner. Have season tickets to the opera, get my hair done, and travel to exotic foreign lands.  Now, I know my imagination could only reach upper middle class, because I could not fathom what it was like to be truly wealthy. I took on the trappings of the rich through food, clothing, and books, and the arts. I learned who the great masters were so that I could talk about paintings and sculpture, I read Shakespeare, and watched foreign films. I was eight the first time I watched a black and white movie in french.  I couldn't even read the subtitles quickly enough to follow the plot. It didn't matter I was hooked. I wore pearls and scarves to the dinner table. I learned to ride horses and was always secretly angry that I had to ride "western."  In my head I connected this lifestyle to education and I vowed to go to college. Then in college, I decided to become a college professor.

It wasn't until I was in a PhD program that I realized that education and books were not going to make me rich. Books are just books. They do not mark a social cultural class. Teaching college is about teaching college, not wearing cashmere sweaters and driving volvos. A page from a Ben Jonson folio is a page, no matter the room in which it hangs. When I quit school and entered the job market I learned the hard way that I will never be rich. But, at least now, I understand my longing in ways that I never could before. Now, I am returning to school to get a degree to get a job, and not gain an identity.