Thursday, December 31, 2009

N for New Year's

I used to love celebrating New Year’s Eve. It was my holiday; I was the one who always threw the party. The New Year’s after my husband and I started dating, so the one in which we would welcome 2007, I had prepared to throw my annual shindig. The Minnesota weather had other plans though, and the large amounts of snow that dumped down upon us prevented my prospective guests from traveling to my humble abode. Music Man and I celebrated alone, trying to make a dent in the vast amounts of food I had prepared and watching horribly bad movies on cable. We just barely made it to midnight, staying up just long enough to watch the ball drop on TV and to do the midnight kiss to welcome the new year right. A little over a week later, I finally threw away the remaining party food, because neither Music Man nor I could possibly eat another barbecued weenie. This year would foreshadow the years to come; I didn't know it yet, but my party days had come to an end.

The following year found Music Man and I engaged and freshly grieving the loss of my sister. I was facing a return to work, and thus a return to “normal” life that was anything but, so we were really in no mood to celebrate. The theme of the past few weeks had been family togetherness, and we missed a couple of our good friends, so we decided to have a low-key get together at our home. Our best couple friends, a gay couple whom we affectionately call “the boys,” and my middle (now only) sister and her boyfriend joined us. We munched on snacks I’d prepared, had a few drinks, and tried to control our tears as we reminisced about my sister and how much she loved celebrating anything. Our guests left shortly after the ball dropped, and 2008 began without much fanfare (for us, anyway).

As 2009 approached, we faced a looming move, because our landlord decided that he no longer wanted to rent to pet owners. Now husband and wife, Music Man and I had takeout for dinner, and once again, barely made it to midnight. We trudged up to bed looking forward more to sleep than to the year ahead.

We thought about having a party this year, but none of our potential guests seemed very interested, which ended up working out for the best because Music Man and I are both quite sick with bad colds. Our night will probably go something along the lines of this: we’ll have some kind of takeout for dinner, we’ll play with the dogs a little bit to tire them out, and all four of us will cuddle up on the couch to watch a movie on our Netflix instant queue. We will most likely be in bed before midnight, because we are both totally wiped out from this nasty cold. Hopefully we’ll wake up to 2010 feeling healthier and well rested.

There’s always next year for partying. Maybe next year will be the year we resurrect the New Year’s party, and I reclaim my holiday. We shall see. It’s a long ways away (12 months, 52 weeks, or 365 days), and I cannot speculate on all the things that can and/or will happen between now and then.

I hope that, whatever you decide to do to ring in the year, you have fun and stay safe. Wishing you all the best in 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

C for Christmas and Catching-Up

I’m sorry it’s been so long since you’ve heard from me, dear reader. My goal for the new year is to try to blog more regularly. In the event that I am successful with this goal, you’ll likely start seeing the blog deviate from being only about school to being a little bit more about my personal life, which I think will be nice for both of us. For now, I have some catching up to do!

I’ll start with that overwhelming weekend I mentioned in my last blog. I ended up skipping out on Christmas with my dad’s family; I decided I’d much rather get caught up on baking and Christmas shopping. Normally I would feel bad about missing out, but I didn’t this time; I knew my decision would greatly benefit me, and sometimes, you just need to think of yourself first. I figured the extended family would understand, and that if they didn’t, that was their problem. My dad is truly the only one we’d miss, and Music Man and I can get together with him and his wife for dinner sometime after the holiday craziness dies down. I’m really glad we ended up not going, because we got a ton done; almost all of our Christmas shopping was completed, and I got a good jump on my Christmas baking. Since I am not your “typical” woman in that I loathe (not love) shopping, Saturday afternoon was exhausting.

As the evening approached, I started to feel more and more tired. I did not want to go to the bonfire. I wanted to cry myself to sleep and then sleep through the whole evening instead. Because the day had been so busy, I’d managed to keep my thoughts and emotions on the anniversary of my sister’s death at bay. I hadn’t thought too much about how very long the past two years seem to have been, and how each anniversary puts me further and further away from the last time I heard her laugh, saw her smile, or felt her wonderful hug.

As I said in my last blog, there was no way I was going to miss the bonfire, so I bucked up and got myself ready to go. As we drove, I started to get excited about the people we would see; I was especially looking forward to seeing my nephews and niece, and it had been awhile since I’d seen my twin brother. When we got there, we headed inside the house to drop off the cups and utensils we’d brought. My deceased sister’s son (also my youngest nephew) saw me and literally flew into my arms. (Well, it was really more like a running leap, but it seemed like he flew.) He was so excited to see me, and he gave me the most wonderful hug. In that moment, he reminded me so much of his mother—the excitement on his face, the hug that conveyed so much love—that I felt as though they both were hugging me. It was truly incredible. He didn’t want to let me go, so I held him for a while and talked to him about his new puppy; feeling as though I was exactly where I needed to be right at that moment.

The bonfire was fantastic. As usual, so many of my sister’s friends, various family friends, and family members showed up that it was overwhelming. There was also one very special guest; one of the jurors from the criminal trial showed up. My mom’s husband and I have communicated back and forth with this young woman via Facebook since right after the trial. It was so incredible to finally meet her in person!!! She was overwhelmed at the hero’s welcome she received, and she told me later that she just about lost it when she saw my nephew. He made it all very real for her, and seeing him made her realize just how important the decision she and her fellow jurors made really truly was. It was an incredible experience to meet and talk to her, and she was eager to hear the stories we had to tell about my sister. It’s incredible how this horrific experience has brought strangers together and made us friends.

Energy renewed after hours of celebration of my sister’s life and memory, we headed home where I proceeded to finish up a little baking. By the end of the weekend, I had completed the following: 5 dozen flourless peanut butter cookies, 9 dozen oatmeal butterscotch cookies, 7 dozen snicker doodles, 5 dozen Oreo truffles, 5 dozen mint Oreo truffles, and 5 dozen cherry cake balls. I still had to do the candy coating on the mint truffles and the cake balls, but holiday baking was nearly complete!

The Christmas celebration with my husband’s grandmother on Sunday went well, and afterwards we finished up the rest of our Christmas shopping. The Christmas holiday as a whole was great. We spent Christmas Eve with my in-laws where we had beef and shrimp fondue for dinner and had cookies, which I’d brought, for dessert. They gifted us a nice check that we’re hoping to use on a steam cleaner; with two dogs and white carpet, it would be a very useful thing to have. (Mark my words: when we buy a house, it will not have white—or even light—carpet.) Christmas day was spent at my mother’s house where we ate lots of good food, lots of good cookies (my mom always makes tons), and enjoyed watching the nephews and niece open the gifts we’d gotten them. Overall, it was a wonderful holiday. The one exception being the Christmas gift my husband and I received from my family: one heck of a nasty cold. We both feel just lousy and are hoping the cold passes quickly.

Music Man and I had decided not to exchange gifts, because the Pug we recently rescued was our gift to each other; however, he decided to play Santa on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning I woke up to a stocking filled with some nice things: an iTunes gift card, gum, candy, gloves, disinfectant hand wipes to carry in my purse (he knows me so well), and a laptop sleeve (which was actually propped up against the stocking, not inside of it). I felt horrible that he’d thought to do such a nice thing for me and that I had done nothing for him. Then I realized that he’d filled his own stocking with a few things he’d wanted/needed like a new CD, and I didn’t feel as bad, because he’d at least gotten himself some things too. Next year I will remember to pick up some things to fill his stocking with. He is always the more thoughtful one when it comes to gift giving where I usually struggle with what to get him; clearly he really pays attention when I say I need/want something, and I need to get better about doing that.

In school news, final grades are in. I am proud to say I continue to hang on to my 4.0 GPA!! My final grade in English was an A, and I got some very nice comments from my instructor. She told me that I am a very talented writer, that she knows I’m going to go far in my career, and that she hopes I continue to write. That’s a great compliment coming from a woman with a PhD in English! My argument paper was on domestic violence, and she told me I’d managed to strike a good balance between factual information and my own personal/emotional story (my sister’s death). She wrote a comment that she hoped I’d keep writing about my sister, because her story should be told and I have the skills and insight to tell it. I was touched. I also passed the Interpersonal Communications Competency!!! I still eagerly await the evaluation form, stalking the mailbox every day in the hopes that the letter grade equivalent will soon be revealed to me.

With that, we’re all caught up! I hope you had a fantastic holiday, dear reader, and with New Years approaching, I wish you a happy and safe New Year!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

O for Overwhelmed

This upcoming weekend, the first weekend of my break from school, is going to be ridiculously busy, and I’m not at all happy about it. I get overwhelmed when too much is going on at once, which is why I just hate this time of year, because it seems like I just can’t keep up no matter what I do. My parents have been divorced since I was five years old, so I’m used to having to split holidays; but other events, including marrying my husband a year and a few months ago, have exacerbated the holiday busyness. This Saturday is my dad’s family’s Christmas party, which is about a 45 minute drive from my house. The party starts at noon or one. Since it’s one of the few times a year that I get to see my dad and his extended family, and it’s important to my dad that I go, I have to go. So, Music Man and I will leave the house at about noon, get there at around one, stay an hour or two, and head home to let the dogs out and to relax for a bit before the evening event.

Saturday evening is a memorial bonfire for my youngest sister. On December 19, 2007, my nineteen year old sister was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. He strangled her to death with a ligature he made out of a shoelace, which we found out during his criminal trial meant that he had to spend at least two minutes squeezing the life out of her, because that’s how long it takes to kill someone by strangulation. Then, he dumped her body in the back seat of her car as though she were a bag of trash, left their nearly two year old son alone in his apartment, and abandoned the car in another city; oh, and for good measure, he set the car on fire. This is probably the biggest reason that I now hate this time of year.

I miss my sister terribly, and every time December 19 rolls around, it’s as though the event is happening all over again. I vividly remember the early morning phone call from my mother on December 20, 2007, and my inability to grasp what she was telling me because it was just too horrible. I remember numbly getting ready to go to my mom’s house, sobbing in the shower and thinking horrible thoughts that I just couldn’t stop: Did she know who killed her? Did she suffer? Did she beg for her life? Are they sure it’s her body? Maybe by the time I get to mom’s house, she’ll be there. Why? Why? WHY?!? I remember stopping at my brother’s house, because it was on the way to my mom’s house and no one had been able to reach him yet. I remember Music Man asking me on the way if I wanted him to talk to my twin brother, and I remember insisting that I had to be the one to tell him. I remember how I could barely speak as I tried to break the news to my brother; the words coming out in nothing more than a hoarse whisper. I remember my brother, Music Man, and I clinging together as we cried; perhaps trying to prevent our bodies from doing what our hearts already were: splitting into a million pieces. Every year, the wound that seems to have barely begun to heal is torn open again, and the only difference is that I don’t have the media in my face this time around (I was the family spokesperson to the media.), and we don’t have to plan a funeral again.

The fact that my sister’s murderer was eventually convicted of first degree murder (and found guilty of domestic violence murder, second degree murder, and tampering with a body) and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, doesn’t help me to feel any better. I don’t know that anything ever will, because no one or nothing can tell me why this happened; even if something or someone could, the answer wouldn’t be good enough. I look at my young nephew and just want to cry. He’s almost four now, which means he has been without his mommy for two years; the only way he’ll know her is through pictures and our stories, many of which he’ll hear at the annual bonfire we have in her honor. Needless to say, I cannot—I will not—miss this event. After a couple of hours outside in the snow and cold (this is Minnesota after all) reminiscing about my sister with family and her friends and talking about how much I miss her, I will go home physically and emotionally exhausted. However, the dogs will still need to be cared for and played with, especially after being kenneled almost all day, and I’ll need to try to get some holiday baking done, because I don’t know when else I’ll have the time to do it.

Sunday we are joining my husband’s family at his 93 year old grandma’s nursing home to celebrate Christmas with her. Since this is grandma’s first Christmas in the nursing home, and it will probably be her last Christmas, according to my mother-in-law anyway, we have to go. After a couple hours, we’ll leave to finish our Christmas shopping. Hopefully the shopping crowds won’t be too horrible on a Sunday evening, and we’ll be able to get it done quickly. Once we finally get home, I’ll probably try to finish up more baking, depending on the time of course. When I finally get to bed, I’ll be completely and utterly exhausted and not at all ready to start another week at work, even if it is a short one. I will probably bake every night next week in order to have cookies to bring to my in-laws for Christmas Eve and to my mom's for Christmas day.

As I now read back over what I’ve written, I feel like a total bitch. Christmas was one of my sister’s favorite holidays, and she always loved gatherings. She’d give anything to be here, involved in all the celebrating and busyness. And yet, all I can do is bitch about it. I will try to remember this as the weekend approaches and the crazy schedule begins, and I will try to appreciate that I am alive to experience the absolute exhaustion that will inevitably result from it all.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I for I did it!!

I am proud and relieved to tell you, dear reader, that I finished the Interpersonal Communications Competency! I missed out on Thanksgiving with both my family and my in-laws (which, just between you and me, wasn’t really much of a sacrifice; sure I missed some of the good food and desserts, but I didn’t miss the noise or drama or fake niceties.), and stayed up ‘til 3 a.m. this past Friday, but I finished the damn paper. I think I did a pretty good job on it too. I had been worried that this assignment was going to ruin “When Harry Met Sally” for me, but it didn’t. I’m always happy to have an opportunity to watch one of my all time favorite movies, and because I know the movie so well (and love it so much), watching it made the assignment seem like less work. Saturday was the actual competency, so I had to go to a group discussion and turn in the paper.

I had gotten an email a little over a week ago reminding me that I was scheduled to complete the competency at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 5. I just about had a heart attack Saturday morning when I double checked the competency schedule that was mailed to me at the beginning of the semester and saw that Interpersonal Communications was scheduled from 9-10 a.m. It was 9:30 a.m. when I looked at the schedule, so if it was correct, I had missed the competency. I nearly cried. Had I dreamt about that email? Was the email wrong? Panic Attack: OhmygodwhatamIgonnadonow?!?!?!??! I double checked me email, which did indeed say 1:30, and decided I’d show up at that time and hope for the best. Thankfully, the evaluator and a small group of students were there when I arrived at about 1:15. Apparently over thirty people had signed up for the competency, and the evaluator didn’t think a good group discussion could happen in only an hour with over thirty people, so they broke the students into three separate groups; I was lucky enough to get the afternoon timeslot.

The competency evaluator was great, and I thought the discussion was actually kind of fun. It was interesting to hear how other people approached the movie and what concepts of interpersonal communications they found. The one hour discussion flew by! The evaluator had told us at the beginning that we’d know after the discussion whether or not we passed the first part of the competency, and we found out that everyone passed. I’m glad to know that I’m good for 40% of the competency, but I was never worried about the discussion; I knew I’d pass that part.

I’m worried about the paper, which is 60% of the grade; it will take 4-6 weeks for me to find out how I did on that, which kinda sucks. The grade won’t affect my GPA at all, because competencies are graded on a Pass/Fail basis. However, a letter grade equivalent is given on the final evaluation form, and that’s the grade that Big College that I plan on transferring to for my bachelor’s degree will look at. I need a C or better, and just in case you haven’t quite figured me out yet, I’m shooting for an A. Grades are due by December 22, so I’ll know by then whether or not I passed. Then, I’ll just be left to agonize over how well I did on the paper until I get it back.

I’m soooooooooooooooo glad this competency is finished!!! It was my first one, so it was quite nerve wracking, because there's really not a lot of guidance as to what’s expected of you. I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted, and I’m thankful that I only have three competencies left in my degree plan. I should take the public speaking one next semester, but I’m not going to finalize that decision until I get the results of this competency.

In other news: English class is almost over. Next week is the last class, and then I’ll have a three week break, which I’m wicked excited about. It’s not that I have any grand plans or anything; it’s just that it will be nice not to have to worry about homework for a while. If I want to be completely and totally lazy on a weekend, I’ll be able to. I can't wait!!!!

In class this past Tuesday, we did peer-review of the drafts of our last papers. Once again, I was assigned to a group that gave me little to no feedback while I gave them pages worth. I’m a little pissed that, just because I write a good paper, I don’t seem to deserve feedback. The instructor openly admitted to me that the reason I was paired with the individuals that I was paired with is that I have lots of great knowledge to share and help to provide. Well whoop-dee-frickin’-do!!!

Though I do have to say that the way the instructor’s admission came about was entertaining. We had been discussing logical fallacies in class, because this last paper is an argument paper. Logical fallacies should be avoided if you want your argument to be taken seriously, and include things like: Hasty Generalizations (i.e. all men can’t cook), Ad hominem (attack on a person rather than their opinion; i.e. Green Peace isn’t effective because they are all dirty, lazy hippies), False Authority (i.e. I’m not a doctor; I just play one on TV. This headache drug is the best!), Exaggerated Appeal to Emotions (i.e. This poor starving child will die if you don’t support this tax increase.), and others. [Side Note: You are most welcome for this incredibly useful and valuable lesson on logical fallacies. Go forth and use it wisely! Or, you know, don't, because you have no use for it; just like the other, oh, about 90% of the population.]

I was sitting at a table with two of my friends, Cam and Mel, and we wanted to be a peer-review group. I was interested in reading Cam’s paper about stem cell research and Mel’s paper about early childhood education. Mel had also been in my first peer-review group and had given me good feedback on my first paper, so I was looking forward to getting feedback from her again. After a class exercise on identifying logical fallacies, the instructor announced groups; she could see that we were visibly upset that the three of us were not paired together. She said something like, “Oh, I’m sorry! Were you really looking forward to working together?” I said, “I was just really interested in their papers and was excited to read them.”

She started trying to explain her reasoning for groups, and I jokingly said, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. I’ll just cry about it later.” The class busted out with, “LOGICAL FALLACY! Exaggerated Appeal to Emotions!” and everyone started laughing. The instructor hung her head and said, “I know!!! See how well it works?!?! I’m sorry, Frazzled, it’s just that you have so much knowledge and wisdom to share with others who need a little help.” I told her that I understood as I begrudgingly got up to join my assigned group. (Perhaps you didn’t find this little story as entertaining as I did; I guess you just had to be there. I’m sorry if I just wasted a couple minutes of your life.)

In a way, it made me feel good that she was announcing to the whole class that I was that good. On the other hand, I was upset because I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to get any decent feedback, because I hadn’t gotten any decent feedback in the last peer-review, which was also assigned groups. I will honestly admit that the draft I brought to class yesterday was a piece of crap—really, total garbage—partially because I was busy finishing up the competency rather than working on the first draft of my argument paper, and partially because I hate writing arguments. I was really looking forward to some kind of feedback on this paper, because I didn’t feel as though my argument was strong, and I felt like my paper went in too many directions. I thought it turned out like more of an educational piece than an argument paper.

This is the feedback I got: The girl reviewer wrote that my argument was “domestic violence.” HOW exactly is that an argument?!?! Domestic violence was the subject, yes, but my argument was: society needs to quit blaming victims of domestic violence by asking rhetorical questions such as, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” because leaving a domestic violence situation isn’t that simplistic; instead of perpetuating the stigma and shame of domestic violence by blaming victims, we need to educate the public on resources available to help victims of violence. She thought that my argument was good and that my conclusion was strong, but she said that I needed to focus more on addressing the con (or counter argument) of the issue. I didn't disagree with that last bit of feedback, but when I asked what she thought the con was, she didn’t know. Well, that’s really helpful, isn't it?!? The guy reviewer handed my paper back to me after he’d gotten halfway through and said, “I think I need to start reading more to develop my vocabulary. I don’t understand a lot of what you’re saying.” I was speechless. I mean, really, just how am I supposed to respond to that?!?

I’m so thankful that this is my last paper and that next week is my last class. I’ll have another one or two English classes in semesters to come, but I’m going to space them out, because they are brutal. In fact, I think I might try to find a class to replace creative writing, which is currently in my degree plan. The only thing is, I don’t think there’s another class that will meet the state transfer curriculum goals that I can replace it with. It’s hard to explain, but suffice it to say I may be stuck taking creative writing, which means I have that writing intensive class and another writing intensive English class left in my degree plan. Wonderful!!!

Hopefully, by the time I have to take the next English class, I’ll have forgotten the pain of this one. I’ve never had children, but I’ve heard the phenomenon of childbirth; wherein a woman soon forgets the pain she went through to deliver a baby, and thus is able to repeat the process (if she so desires) more than once. It must be true, because I doubt that so many women would have more than one child if they were still perfectly capable of remembering the pain of labor from the first one. If you truly remember that kind of pain and still want to repeat it, there has to be something wrong with you, and you definitely shouldn’t be having more babies. Instead, you should probably be locked up in a mental ward or science lab somewhere, because it’s just not normal to openly welcome and accept excruciating pain.

I will return soon, dear reader, to regale you with stories from my last English class. Until then, is there anything you want to know about the adult student experience? Is there anything in particular that you want to know about me? Don’t be shy! Leave any questions in the comments, and I will address them in an upcoming blog.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

B for Bitter

NOTE:  I started writing this blog on Monday, November 16. I was then struck down with a wicked bad sinus infection, which delayed the completion of the blog. I mention this, dear reader, as a frame of reference; you were actually meant to read this at around the beginning of this past week.

Remember how I told you all about how I worked my ass off on discussion leading a couple of weeks ago and how blissfully happy I was that my efforts were rewarded with an A? Well, that A is now tainted. Why? Because all discussion leaders from last week got A’s as well. Yes, even the one who “ummmed” and “ahhhhhed” her way through and gave incorrect information. I am livid. If I would’ve known that it was that easy to get an A for the assignment, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time and energy working on it, and I most certainly wouldn’t have paid $22 to get color copies of handouts made for the class. It’s seriously ridiculous. Especially when the instruction sheet says, “Better Than the Average Bear: If you want an exceptional grade (B+ or better), you need to go the extra mile and help your classmates understand the multiple perspectives of your topic. Be creative with the visual aids you provide. Handouts and overheads can also be useful in discussion leading.” At least two of the groups from last week did not meet these criteria, and yet, they still got an exceptional grade. Go figure.

I’ve lost quite a bit of respect for this instructor and do not feel as though I can take her seriously anymore. I am still going to do what I need to in the hopes that I’ll earn an A in the class, but I’m jaded, and I’m frustrated, and I’m pissed. It just really sucks that, once again, the overachiever gets the shaft while the people who never give more than 100% (if that) glide by. 

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse…I found out in class on Tuesday (November 17) that one can get a C or D on all three big essays and still get an A for the class. W.T.F?!?!?!  I just don’t get this instructor. I don’t understand the point of making us bother with big essays if they end up not meaning much in the end, and I most certainly don’t understand why you would reveal to the class that essays can be subpar and the student can still pull a good grade in the class. I almost want to slack off for the last big essay, because I think it’s ridiculous that we’re required to use six sources for a 3-4 page paper and only one of those sources can be the internet; two of the sources have to be from some type of scholarly journal. If I’m citing six sources in one 3-4 page paper, the majority of the paper isn’t going to be in my own words anyway—it’s gonna be quotes and paraphrases from the six sources I have to use. I fear, however, that the instructor is using our first essays as a benchmark for the next two and that she’s going to use that benchmark to grade us on our own individual abilities. So, because I am good, I will be expected to be great or better going forward. Since I got an A on the first essay, if I were to suddenly do C or D level work on the third essay, she’d know it wasn’t my usual quality of work and might grade my paper more harshly.

I just hate this class now and can’t wait for it to be over. I mean, I reeeeeeeeeally HATE it.  In class on Tuesday, we had to do peer feedback for our second essay. Peer feedback involves giving a draft of your essay to two of your classmates for them to review and give input. We’re then supposed to take that feedback into consideration as we complete the final essay, which is due a week later (in this case, essay two is due on the 24th). For our first essay, we got to pick our feedback partners; for this peer review session, we did not. The instructor created groups for us to work with, and within a few minutes of meeting with my two group members, I understood why. They were C and D level writers. The instructor must have decided that I, as the A level writer, could give them a lot of good feedback, which I think I did—I mean, I practically rewrote their papers for them! However, the feedback I received was minimal. Both group members told me that my paper was awesome and that they loved some of my word choices. (I used big words like extol and propensity.) The only piece of actual advice I got was to consider moving a paragraph or two to make the paper flow better. 

Not to sound elitist, but based on my performance versus my classmates in my last class and in this current class, I am clearly far too advanced for community college. I really wish instructors and school teachers and everyone else in the world of education would realize that coddling students and giving everyone who puts forth even the slightest bit of effort a good grade does no one any good at all. All it does is reinforce the entitlement mentality that is so prevalent in our society today. People continue to expect something for nothing, believing they should have to put forth as little effort as possible to get what they want out of life. Students are being taught that putting in the tiniest bit of effort is enough. It’s perfectly acceptable to shoot for the trash can if the stars seem too far away. It’s ridiculous and it’s sad.

The lesson I’ve learned from all of this is that I should perhaps lower my expectations of myself. I shouldn’t push myself so hard. I mean, why should I bother stressing over classes and pushing myself to give 110% or more when really I could probably give about 80% and still exceed my “peers”? It’s really disheartening, and I think it’s bullshit. Only four classes and one big essay left. This sinus infection has set me back a bit though, so I had to work my ass off on homework last night. I still haven’t even started my Interpersonal Communications competency, which needs to be completed by December 5. I’m really not too worried about it anymore though. If the one girl in my peer feedback managed to pass it, meaning she wrote a decent enough 4-8 page paper, then I most certainly am capable of writing a passable paper within a couple weekends.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I finally got my grade for discussion leading last week. I have been stressing out all week over it, and I’ve been checking the grading website obsessively. I think it’s so great that instructors have the ability to post grades online. I like to be able to check my progress as class progresses, so I think it’s a fabulous tool! However, it’s only as good as the information instructors post. If they post grades in a timely manner, it’s awesome; if they don’t, then not so much. Grades for last week’s assignments weren’t posted until about four o’clock yesterday, which is an hour and a half before class starts! I realized a couple days ago that, because you can check yourself against the progress of the class for each assignment listed, the instructor probably purposely waited to post our discussion leading grade because we were the first (and only) group to go last week, so she didn’t want everyone else knowing our grade.

I am so thrilled to say that we (I) got an A! The grading sheet had nine different items that were graded. There was a strength column and a weakness column next to these items with a line in each column corresponding to each of the nine items. The instructor had put an x at the top of the strength column and drew a line all the way down through the rest of the spaces in the column, so there was nothing in the weakness column. Her comments were as follows: “This was an exceptional presentation in every way—you provided a thoughtful and complex analysis of the essay and photograph and you raised engaging and provocative questions. Well done!” Then, at the grade area at the bottom of the sheet, there was an A. That’s definitely an A for effort, because I did put a lot of work into it, but it’s mostly an A for AWESOME!!!! I was, and still am, giddy! 10% of my grade is complete, and it’s an A! I could’ve suspected as much from the instructor’s comments in class last week, but as I said then, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. The closer we got to class this week without last week’s grades having been posted online, the more doubt crept in that perhaps we hadn’t gotten an A after all. I was beginning to get used to the idea that a B wouldn’t be so bad. Thankfully, I didn’t have to settle for a B. I earned that A, and I’m proud of it!!!

The instructor had asked me to share the grading sheet with my partner when she got to class, which I did. Partner looked at it for all of a few seconds and then handed it back to me. When we were about to go on break, partner asked if she could have the sheet back for a minute because she wanted to make a photocopy of it. As I was looking for it among all the things I’d just put away, she said, “Was that the grade you were hoping for?” I looked at her as though she’d grown five heads. I didn’t know how to respond. Doesn’t everyone hope for an A? Isn’t the goal usually to do the best job you possibly can, or at the very least, to get appropriate credit for working hard? I almost said, “Actually, no. I’m average, so my grades should be too. I would’ve been much more comfortable with a C.” I mean really. Come on now. What I actually said was, “I’m pretty pleased with it! Aren’t you?!?!” She didn’t really say much. I wondered if the reason she was going to make a photocopy of the grading sheet was because it was her first A ever in her whole entire life, and she wanted to go home and hang it on the refrigerator.

Then it became very clear to me that our partnership never in a million years would’ve been a successful one. Though partner appears to be a female approximately 35 years of age, she is in all reality an alien. The reason our partnership didn’t work so well was because of the inevitable miscommunication that occurs whenever different species try to interact. I didn’t understand the indifferent slacker work ethic of the alien while she didn’t understand my take charge, work hard attitude. I wish she would’ve at least given me some kind of sign of this difference between us. At least then I would’ve known what I was working with, and I wouldn’t have taken our failed partnership so personally.

At any point, I’m glad my (not that I'm keeping track) hard work paid off. I’m glad that, despite the fact that we had no example to go by, we (I) ended up pulling off a great presentation. I’m not glad that my classmates do not seem to have understood what the instructor meant last week when she said that we had set the bar high. Two out of the three discussions yesterday were excruciating, to say the least…

Pair one talked about the anti-drug campaign. Within fifteen minutes of them starting their presentation, I desperately began to think up possible scenarios to put myself out of my misery. Literally every other “word” the woman said was “ummm” or “ahhh” or “errr.” It was hell. We all do it sometimes; I know that. We all let those um’s and ah’s sneak in instead of letting silence hang as we formulate our next words. I’ve found that, if you know your topic well enough, there is less of a chance of this happening; once you get on a roll, you can talk continuously about the topic. Apparently Miss UmmAhh wasn’t aware of this. It seemed as though she had just figured out when she arrived at class yesterday that she and her partner had a presentation to give and discussion to lead. It became very clear that she wasn’t exactly well prepared when she informed us that, because meth production has gotten so bad, acetaminophen was removed from over the counter sales and can only be purchased from a pharmacist now. That’s quite obviously wrong, since you can walk into any pharmacy, retail, or grocery store to buy Tylenol. What you cannot buy over the counter anymore is pseudoephedrine, or “real” Sudafed.

Pair two talked about gender roles and how children determine and decide on how to act according to their gender. Discussion revolved around how adults influence children, how toys and toy commercials (think Barbie) influence children, etc. They actually did a pretty good job, and we had an interesting class discussion. The only problem I had was that they distributed a handout that was clearly just printed off of a website, so it wasn’t their own work, and they didn’t refer to it once throughout their whole presentation. It was like they saw the part on the direction sheet that said “handouts are encouraged” and decided they had to have one to get a higher grade. Their handouts were two pages on two separate sheets of paper. If they were going to waste paper, they could’ve at least just wasted one sheet per person by doing the handout as a double sided sheet. I judge them for killing more trees than were necessary in the hopes that it would get them a better grade.

Pair three was on a tight schedule. The instructor had told them class was running out of time and that they had 25 minutes to get everything said, discussed, and wrapped up. Most people would be grateful for this, I would think. I would also think it would compel you to get through your portion of the presentation quickly so that you could open up the class discussion and be done. Unfortunately, one of the women in this pair was the “my life is so interesting everyone wants to hear every stupid minute detail about it” type. (Says the girl who writes a blog; don’t worry, the hypocrisy isn’t lost on me. At least you, dear reader, get a choice in the matter. You have the ability to ignore the stupid minute details of my life, because you are not being forced to read this blog.) The topic of the discussion was how to write a catchy beer ad. Ms “my life is interesting” decided to regale us with stories of working in the marketing industry. She had apparently done a stint at a market research firm and decided we all need the intricate details of demographics, target markets, focus groups, etc. It became clear later on that she was just regurgitating the big words she’d heard while working at this firm; not only because the stuff she was saying was stuff that was pretty much common knowledge, but also because when someone asked her later on what the target market for the three beer commercials they’d shown were, she stumbled around for an answer that clearly wasn’t right.

Lest you think I’m being smug about my A and unreasonably bitchy and judgey* regarding the performance of my classmates, I need to tell you that many of my classmates seemed to share my opinion. I had people leaning over and whispering to me during the first presentation saying things like, “You guys did really good last week.” (And because they were complimenting me, I resisted the urge to correct them, because even politely saying "really well" could've been misconstrued as rude.)  During the class break, others were talking about how excruciating the first presentation had been and were reminding me that my partner and I kicked butt last week. So while I might have been bitchy and judgey in this blog, it was not without cause. Oh, and it’s kinda who I am, and I accept that about me. Hopefully you can too.

* Yes, I know judgey isn't a "real" word; however, I think it should be, because it is appropriate in so many situations.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Importance of a Support System

I’m only at the beginning of my journey as an adult learner. I’m sure that, as I adjust to the craziness of changing classes and homework demands, my feelings towards school will change; it will eventually become just another thing that I do, so it won’t be as difficult as it is now. Right now though, I'll admit that I struggle with some of it.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I don’t think there’s any way I ever could’ve prepared myself for how much work returning to school really would be. I’m currently only taking one class one night a week so, because I’ve selected accelerated class, I’m taking two classes a semester. In addition to that, I’m trying to do at least one competency each semester in order to get them out of the way (only four fit into my degree plan). Competencies are a way to quickly complete credits to avoid taking a whole class. They’re designed to give the student credit for prior learning, or credit for life experience, and they’re even quicker and cheaper than accelerated classes. The subject matter of the competency determines what the student is required to do. See this blog: Another One Down for an example of the work I have to do to complete the Interpersonal Communications Competency (it’s about the 6th paragraph in).

It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it is. I’ve been consistently surprised by the amount of homework given in each class. That’s the part I struggle with the most right now. It’s hard finding the time to get it all done. I work forty hours per week, and by the time I get home each night all I want to do is unwind, which I can’t do when I have homework to tend to. All I do at work most days is try hard to look like I’m working. I don’t have a lot of work to do on any given day; my boss knows this, but he doesn’t really care and he doesn’t try to fix it. Apparently, that’s my responsibility though every time I try to find or create work for myself it ends up being something he doesn’t think I should be focusing on for one reason or another; it’s frustrating to say the least.

On the one hand, it can be nice because I can work on homework if it’s an assignment where I don’t have to refer to a book or anything—like a writing assignment, for example—so that it’s not obvious to the other residents of cubicleland that I’m not working on work related things. On the other hand, it’s exhausting to be bored to tears for up to eight hours a day. Needless to say, the last thing I feel like doing when I get home from work is homework. The assigned readings practically put me to sleep, which isn’t good when one of the things I need to get done is summaries of certain essays I’ve read. I’ve done a really really really bad job of keeping up with homework this week, because I haven’t been feeling well so I’ve been extra exhausted. This weekend is going to suck again in terms of homework, because that is all I’ll be doing.

All of that being said, if you’re an adult who’s considering returning to school, I have some advice for you. First, understand that returning to school is life changing in a big way. Second, it is essential, I think, to have a really good support system in place. I’m lucky that I have Music Man in my corner. He is completely and totally amazing. When I’m upset and crabby about homework or overwhelmed with trying to get everything done, the first words out of his mouth are always, “What can I do to help?” He helped me out so much this week alone. Monday, he traded cars with me so that he could take mine in for an oil change, which was long overdue. Getting a haircut was also long overdue, and I wanted to get it done before standing up in front of my whole class for discussion leading on Tuesday. Then, when I finished the handout for discussion leading on Monday night, he ran to kinkos for me and got the 25 color copies I needed so that I could finish up the rest of my homework. It’s the little things like that that can make a huge difference when you’re at the pressure cooker stage of feeling overloaded.

My BFF is also greatly supportive. As is my cousinfriend. In addition to the supportive people, there are apathetic people (my boss and coworkers) and completely unsupportive people. This latter category is tricky. They can make you doubt yourself and can be upsetting and exhausting to deal with. Sadly, my own mother falls into this category.

Below are some examples of how helpful supportive people can be and how destructive unsupportive people can be:

Me: I HATE this class! It SUCKS! It’s sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much work.

Music Man: “Don’t let it get you down, hon. You’ve only got 'x' weeks left. You CAN do it! When you’re done, you’re going to be one step closer to completing your degree. It’s going to be worth it in the end. I’m sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo proud of you. What can I do to help?”

BFF: “I don’t blame you! It sounds really stupid. I could never do what you’re doing; I could never ever go back to school. I just couldn’t handle it. I really don’t know how you do it.”

Cousinfriend: “I’m so proud of you. You can do it!!”

Mom: “Oh that’s too bad. Yeah, my life is majorly busy lately too. I get home from work and cook dinner and do a few other things, and before I know it, it’s time for bed! My life is going to be changing in a big way next month because I have a couple seminars I have to take for a board of director’s position I took with a local charity. It’s going to be so super busy and hectic.” Lays on guilt trip that I never see her or nephew and never talk to her anymore.

Me: I’m so sorry. I can’t make it to event “A, B, C,” because I have homework (class, study group, etc.).

Music Man: “It sucks that you don’t get to go have fun because you have to work. I can’t wait until this class is over for you so that you can take a much deserved break. I’ll run the dog out of energy before I go to this gig. I love you. Anything else I can do to help?”

BFF: Doesn’t ask me to go to any event that conflicts with my class or homework schedule, because she already knows my schedule because we talk every single day.

Cousinfriend: “I totally understand. It’s cool. We’ll get together soon.”

Mom: *Blank stare or incredulous silence on other end of phone* “Oh. I figured as much.” OR “Oh. I forgot you have school.” *GIGANTIC SIGH* “Fine.” Files my horrible rejection of her away for future guilt trips.

Me: Someone asks what I’m up to and I tell them I’ve been busy with school. They say something like, “Oh! I didn’t know you were in school. That’s great! What for?” I reply, “Social Work.” They reply, “That’s exciting! Good for you!”

Music Man: Big, proud smile.

Mom: “Yep! That’s my super smart daughter!” (She loves taking credit for the good stuff.) “I wish I had the time to go back to school,” *SIGH* “but, I’m so busy raising a three year-old and working. I’m going to be working in a social work capacity in my position on the board of directors of local charity.” And on, and on, and on, ad nauseam because the world does, in fact, revolve around her.

As you can see, dear readers, those supportive people are awesome. They empathize, sympathize, offer to help, lift your spirits, act as a sounding board, and would do anything they could to help you. Never once do they say what’s probably really on their mind: “Ummmm…you signed up for this, dummy. This is all your doing. Why don’t you just quit?”

You would think my mother would be one of those awesome people, wouldn’t you? Well, maybe not so much after reading the above, but logically one would think that a parent would be one of their child’s biggest supporters. As you can see from what you’ve read above, my mother is not like that. She’s been this way my whole life, so I’m used to it. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still hurt sometimes. It would be nice, just once, for her to say that she’s proud or to empathize or even just to not make everything all about her for a change. I think when I was younger, my mom probably taught me, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” but as you can see, she doesn’t live by that. (So maybe she didn’t teach me that after all???? Well, someone did, because I know, remember, and use it.)

If she were a wild animal, my mother would be one that would eat her young, and I’d be the first to go. Since I’ve been a teenager, my mother has competed with me in a contest that exists only in her mind. She acts almost jealous of me at times, which I don’t understand and is quite unsettling when you consider that she’s the adult and I’m the child. (Well, not anymore—I am over thirty after all—but I am and always will be her child.) Then again, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been more of an adult than my mother ever has. I mean, it’s not very adult to tell your seventeen year old daughter that she’s a “prima donna bitch” who needs to get out of your house because she’s obviously outgrown it and thinks she’s too good for it.

You might wonder why I haven’t or don’t write my mother off completely, and the main reason that I don’t is my nephew. She has custody of my nephew (the explanation of that is a blog for another day), and if I didn’t play nice with her, I fear that I wouldn’t get to see or spend time with him. And that would just about kill me. I feel as though I see him too little the way it is, so to have my time with him be even more restricted (or even taken away all together) would just absolutely crush me.

I don’t know, nor do I think I’ll ever know, why my mother feels the way she does towards me, and at this point, I’m getting really sick of even pretending to care. We both do it though. We both put on our masks to give the world the appearance that we are a wonderful mother/daughter duo and everything is status quo. We wear our pretend faces for each other too—her to appear to be the loving and proud mother, and me to pretend that I’m the respectful and loving daughter. It is what it is, and it will not change. So, I have to continue to roll with the punches, and I have to remember not to try to have any sort of meaningful conversation or relationship with her. From now on, when she asks how I am or what’s new or anything like that, I’m going to stick with, “I’m fine. Things are good.” Because I am and they are. I have my support system; people who love me unconditionally and would do most anything for me, and for that, I am most grateful.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I know you're just dying to know...

Last night was the moment of truth: Discussion Leading.

My partner finally responded to my emails on Monday. She sent some of the stuff I had sent to her back to me and wrote, “I added my research and added a couple questions to the handout.” Great. Good. So, I open the most important document first, which is our analysis of the essay we read. She did her analysis on the photographer and the photo that the essay was about while I did mine on the author and the essay itself. She took more than half of the wording I’d used in my analysis and made it her own. Soooooooooooo NOT COOL! So, I did a mash up (bonus points if you know where that’s from) of her “analysis” and my analysis to come up with something that would work for both of us. I decided she could present the view of the photographer and I would present the view of the author. I rewrote the analysis to break each point down to author versus photographer and highlighted her parts of the analysis, basically our talking points, in blue and mine in green and sent it back to her explaining my idea. As I hit send, I cursed once again about how much I loathe partner work. *SIGH* At least the two questions she added to the handout were good.

She finally used the cell phone number I’d given her in a previous email to call me (a novel idea). She apologized for being MIA for awhile and said she’d been having computer issues. Whatever. She liked my idea of splitting the presentation and thanked me for all the work I did. We agreed that we’d show a short video clip after presenting our analysis and then we’d discuss the handout I made to get the discussion going.

I’m beyond proud of the handout I made. We (I) decided to focus on graphic images in the media, specifically photos of human tragedy. I did a one sheet summary of our topic, advantages and disadvantages to showing graphic images, and an accompanying two sided handout with pictures. One side focused on a recent suicide bombing in Baghdad and the other focused on Hurricane Katrina. The top half of the sheet showed photos that did a good job of telling a story on their own—for Baghdad, a bombed out building, and for Katrina, photos showing the magnitude of the flooding and a man being rescued. The bottom half of the sheet showed more graphic photos—for Baghdad, dead bodies that had been pulled from the rubble, and for Katrina, a corpse floating in the water. The one sheet summary also included about half a dozen open-ended questions for discussion. I knew we wouldn’t have time to cover all of the questions, but I thought it could be food for thought. We based the discussion around whether or not the bottom photos on the sheets were necessary. Why does the general public needs to see these images? Whey do they want to? Etc.

Since we were going to be the very first discussion leaders for the class, we really had nothing to go by, so I hoped that what I’d come up with was at least somewhat right. We were the only ones signed up to do discussion leading yesterday, because no one else was stupid enough to sign up for the very first week of discussion leading. My partner and I had agreed to try to make it to class early to go over some last minute details regarding the order of our presentation and who would say what. Class starts at 5:30. I was there at 5. I skipped dinner because I’d spent the whole day battling an increasingly painful migraine and was now at the point where nearly every time I took a breath in I felt like I would vomit. My partner finally managed to show up at 5:35. This was not starting off well, and I really didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to be done with the project. I had gotten to the point where I was hoping she just wouldn’t show up. I’d done most (all) of the work anyway, and I’d had it with her at this point. I was not interested in anymore excuses, and I was willing and able to tackle this on my own.

I’d met with the instructor for a few minutes before class to clarify time limit; our instruction sheet said half an hour max and I needed to know if that was for our part of the presentation or for the whole class discussion. I was hoping it was the former, because we had a lot of material to cover and I thought the discussion would probably go on for a while. Unfortunately it was the latter, which I was worried about.

We got a class break before having to give our presentation, so we took a couple minutes then to make sure we were on the same page with things. I filled my partner in on the time limit, and she didn’t seem worried. She was incredibly confused when I told her I thought we would go over time. She didn’t seem to realize that discussion leading meant leading a discussion, which meant getting through our presentation quickly in order to get to the discussion quickly. We wanted to be able to ask at least a couple questions for the discussion, and we’d want to give our classmates time to respond to our questions and, you know, discuss the topic.

When we finally got through our presentation (partner had apparently decided at the last minute, after I’d told her about my concerns with time and the need for us to get through our portion of the presentation quickly, that she needed to add a bunch of detail to her info on the photographer; probably because she was feeling guilty about doing practically no work for this whole project. I swear, she might as well have told us what the guy frickin’ ate for breakfast each day and what color boxers he preferred.) we started the discussion. I was surprised at how many of our classmates eagerly joined right in. It’s a touchy subject, so I knew everyone would have an opinion, but I didn’t have a good feeling about class discussions based on my previous class where a couple other students and I did all of the talking while the rest just stared at us as they tried not to drool all over themselves. After our first couple questions, I saw the instructor give me the signal that we should wrap up in five minutes. My partner, of course, didn’t see this, so she kept talking. (She really wasn’t getting the point that this was time for the class to discuss the topic, which meant she didn’t have to give an eleventy billion worded reply to every response a classmate gave. I’m glad I had a migraine, because if I hadn’t had to concentrate so hard on not vomiting, my patience would’ve worn out and I would’ve snapped and smacked a bitch.)

The discussion ended up going twenty minutes beyond the five minute warning, which I was super worried about until I remembered that the instructor had said she would cut us off when she wanted the discussion to end. She told the class that, unfortunately, the discussion had to end. She realized that it was an issue that could be discussed for days and encouraged everyone to use our wonderful (exact word she used) handout to spark discussion with friends and family. She thanked us and told the class to thank us for having the courage to be the first ones to go. Everyone clapped for a second time.  She then said, “I love it when discussion leading starts out this good.” I tried not to smile, because I didn’t want to look vain and was still standing in front of the whole class.

She told the class that she wanted to tell them, and us, what we did right. Since she maintained her position sitting with the class, my partner and I remained stainding in front of the whole class as she said that we did an awesome job of showing multiple points of view on the topic and in making it relevant to today. She said that we did a great job of coming up with questions to get the discussion started and to keep it moving. She said our topic was one of the harder ones to lead, because there is so much that can be said about the topic. She told our classmates to thank us for “showing them how it’s done” and giving them such a good example. A couple of the guys in class jokingly said, “Why should we thank them?!? They set the bar way too high!” to which the instructor replied, “Yes. They did set the bar quite high. That’s exactly why you should thank them; there should be no question for the rest of you now as to what you need to do for discussion leading.” As we returned to our seats, many of our classmates told us it was a great discussion and that they really enjoyed it.

I. Was. THRILLED! If I’m being modest, I would say that I was shocked when the instructor said we set the bar high, because my only hope was that we did a good enough job and were at least somewhere near the right track; I was really just relieved that it was over. However, if I’m being honest, I was really hoping she’d say that. I worked really frickin’ hard on this project! I am a perfectionist, and as such, I set the bar incredibly high for myself. To know that someone saw that and appreciated it made all of that hard work seem worth it. So, that’s it. It’s finally over. I eagerly await my grade for the project, which as a reminder is 10% of my final grade. If the instructor’s comments are any indication, I should get a pretty good grade. Hopefully an A, but I don’t want to get my hopes up.

So what have we learned from all of this, class?  Frazzled doesn't do partner work.  It just doesn't mesh well with her controlling, perfectionist tendancies.

P.S.  Parnter thanked me profusely for all the hard work I did and apologized for being "kind of hard to reach."  Her brother-in-law was hospitalized last week, and because she doesn't work right now, she was nominated to sit with him in the hospital while her sister cared for their kids.  She didn't have access to her computer at the hospital, so she had a hard time keeping up with everything.  I believe her, because she didn't have the draft of her big essay, which was due yesterday, finished either.  I felt bad for her and wish she just would've been honest with me.  She could've backed out and lead discussion on a different week, on a different topic, with a different partner or on her own.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


My discussion partner seems to be MIA.  I wonder if she's decided our topic is too hard, so she doesn't want to deal with it.  Perhaps she's been struck down by H1N1.  Maybe she's contacted the instructor and pleaded temporary insanity, "I didn't realize what I was doing singing up for Discussion Leading so soon."  I don't know.  What I do know is that I worked my ass off today to gather materials for the discussion and to complete my rhetorical analysis of the essay we're focusing on.  I haven't heard from my partner since Thursday, and we have to lead this discussion in class on Tuesday; a little less than 48 hours from now.  We still need to figure out who is going to say what and whether we're on the same page in terms of the analysis of the essay.  This is why I hate working with partners.  For now, I'm preparing to fly solo on this one, because that way I will be prepared no matter what.

Music Man brought up a good point after witnessing my meltdown this morning over all the work I still had to do.  Even though I'll still have about the same amount of homework from week to week, this big project will be out of the way.  After this week, I'll no longer have to worry about this big, stressful part of my grade.  This is both good and bad.  Good because it will be done and I will not have to stress over it anymore.  Bad because it's 10-15% of my grade, and if I don't do well on it, that's just going to damper my spirits; maybe even push me to decide that I might as well not try as hard on all the other stuff.  I reeeeeeeeally hope I do well on it.  I'll know after Tuesday.

I have one piece of the mountain of homework left to complete:  the essay.  I've picked my art.  Now all I have to do it bullshit my way through the first draft of an essay.  I should be able to get that done tomorrow.  Then, I'll be all ready to go for class.  What a fantastic fuckin' weekend I've had.  I bet you wish you were me...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maybe Halfway There

So I've finished reading the four essays I had to read, and I've written the one paragraph summaries.  I also finished watching all three videos and wrote those summaries as well.  Each video was about a half an hour long, which was longer than I expected and is way too long when you're talking about things like free writing and peer feedback.  My absolute delight over watching these wonderful masterpieces was exponentially increased by the dumb fuckin' trick-or-treaters from the ghetto apartments the next block over who kept ringing my doorbell and knocking on my door even though the fuckin' outside lights were OFF!  Which, of course, threw Wiggly into absolute fits of barking and running from window to door to try to figure out who the fuck was trying to invade our fortress of estrogen.  She gets especially crazy when Music Man is gone, which he is tonight because he has a gig (he's not called Music Man for nothin').  I've also managed to finish all of the required reading, including the two handouts.  I can't even began to tell you how riveting that was.

So, all that's left now is that essay about art and the discussion leading.  I'm quitting for the night.  I'm tired--No...Exhausted, which I really shouldn't be since I took a nap today.  I feel as though I might be coming down with something, which I sincerely hope I'm not, because I cannot afford to get sick right now.  I don't give a shit about missing work, but I cannot miss school.  Because this class is so intense and crammed full of stuff, the instructor told us last week that if one were to miss more than a day of class, they would lose all hope of ever catching up, resulting in an automatic fail.  I don't need that; it would be a waste of money and it would delay my progress towards completing my degree.  In short, I'd be fuckin' pissed if I got sick right now.

Besides, we gain an hour this weekend when clocks fall back at 2 a.m. tomorrow.  (You will learn, dear reader, that I am very good at rationalizing my behavior.)  Once I decide what I'm going to use as art, I should have no problem bullshitting my way through a 3-4 page essay.  Besides, it's just the draft that has to be complete, so it can be shit.  In fact, the shittier it is, the more I'll be offering the lucky student who gets to give me peer feedback.  Just think of all the things he or she will be able to advise me to improve upon!  I'm a giver; I know.  I'm beyond frustrated over the Discussion Leading and don't even want to deal with it.  The last I heard from my partner was on Thursday when she told me she'd found a couple books at the college library that she thought we could use as outside sources on our topic, which we've decided is ethics in photojournalism.  Not sure if we're working in the right direction with that or not, but hopefully we'll at least get an A for effort.  (See what I did there?)  I haven't heard from her since, which is making me nervous.  So, I'm planning on just doing the work myself and then anything she adds, if she adds anything at all, will be a bonus.

I'm off to have a few mini candy bars from the Halloween candy Music Man bought for us. I know, I know...I'm awful for not giving free candy to the lovely neighborhood children.  I don't care.  I've fuckin' earned them.  What the fuck have they done?  Before you say, "But, Frazzled, they've painstakingly picked out and/or created a fabulous costume," you need to know that the few I've seen walk past my window do not appear to have made any attempt to dress up in any way.  They were all pre-teen boys wearing football jerseys.  That is not a costume all by itself; I don't care what anyone says.  (I will admit that I could be a teeny tiny bit biased as a result of having dated a guy who perpetually wore football or hockey jerseys, but still.)   HAPPY HALLOWEEN, dear readers!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another One Down

I survived another class!!! I already know that I got an A; I could’ve failed the final and still gotten an A, and I most certainly didn’t fail the final. So, after three classes, I’m still holding on to my 4.0 GPA. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I’m allowing myself to be super excited about it, and will hold on to that as long I can, because right now I'm on shaky ground…

On Tuesday, I started a class called English 1108, or Writing and Research Skills. The course description indicates that it’s a “writing intensive” course, and that was no joke. It doesn’t help that I’m taking it in the accelerated format, which means we only have eight weeks to cram it all in. Eight weeks seems like a lot until you realize that it really only means eight days, because class only meets one evening a week. To give you an idea of the workload, my homework for the week: read 60 pages of the text book, read two 2-4 page handouts, read four 3-6 page essays and write a one paragraph summary on each, watch three 10-20 minute video segments and write a one paragraph summary on each, and write a draft of Essay 1. Essay 1: The Role of Art = 3-4 typed double spaced pages on something (book, movie, photograph, painting, or music) I think is art and why I think it’s art; must have at least three quotes or citations from at least one textual source. I’m really okay with everything except the Essay. I don’t really give a crap about art, and there’s nothing in my life that screams “I AM ART!” to me. It’s not as though I don’t like or enjoy art, or that I’m incapable of seeing art around me; it’s just that I feel rushed to get this done and have no clue what I will use as art.

I like writing, and some people (excluding myself, because I am my own worst critic, and including all of my instructors to date) think I’m a good writer. The problem lies in the fact that I can write for pages and pages when I’m writing about something I want to write about; take blogging, for instance. It’s easy to tell a story, and it’s more of a “stream of consciousness” thing for me. A lot of times I don’t have to think it out; I just write and let the words flow and then go back and reread and fix things. When I’m forced into a corner and need to write about a subject I don’t understand or don’t care about, that’s a whole ‘nother story. I don’t like things that I don’t understand, because I don’t like being confused or questioning myself or my abilities, which is what things I don’t understand make me do. Don’t even get me started on having to cite sources for papers. I understand that research skills are important; but, I work forty hours a week at a job, the nature of which is research, that sucks away my soul and I would like to have a tiny little bit of a life besides work and homework. (Even if that tiny bit just involves napping.  I looooooooove napping.)  In other words, I don’t have time for that shit! If I can’t research it on the internets, then it’s not important enough for me to know at this point. I nearly have an aneurysm just thinking about finding and citing sources. Seriously. I’m not kidding. I nearly cried when I read that I would have to find and cite sources. In fact, I’m almost crying right now.

As if all of that’s not enough, each student has to lead one discussion in class (10-15% of grade depending on where you look, which is frustrating in and of itself, because consistency in stating the grading scale would be nice). Not realizing that November 3 is next week, I went ahead and signed up to lead a discussion on one of the first essays we are to read. Here’s what’s involved in “Discussion Leading”: (1) provide rhetorical analysis (huh???) of the essay/visual argument, (2) come prepared with 4 detailed, thoughtful, and open-ended questions on the text to provoke classmates into a useful discussion on the essay and/or its topic/theme, (3) offer background information on the topic of the reading (i.e. what examples from today does it apply to), (4) provide a list of at least 3 outside sources, (5) use at least one visual aid, and (6) a handout for the class is highly encouraged. I do have a partner, so it’s not all just me, but I wanna throw up just looking at 1-6 again. Especially since I’m not finding a lot of outside sources available on the essay I read. This is totally my fault. I should’ve paid attention to the date I would have to lead discussion, and I should’ve spent a couple of minutes looking at the essays instead of relying on the instructor’s ridiculously shitty description of the topics. The essay was super depressing, and I am just at a loss on leading a discussion at this point.

Since I had my final International Cinema class on Thursday, I lost a whole evening of homework time this week, which doesn’t help matters and serves as yet another reason it was not so smart for me to sign up for Discussion Leading next week. Needless to say, I do not have a fun weekend ahead of me…

Oh, and (just when you thought I was done whining), I need to start working on the Interpersonal Communications Competency that I have to have done by December 5. Competencies are projects one works on alone in order to “test out” of taking an actual class. This particular competency involves reading the textbook that is used for the Interpersonal Communications class, watching the movie “When Harry Met Sally” (not complaining about that part, since it’s one of my faves), and writing an 8-10 page paper on 2-3 interpersonal communication principals and how they can be applied to the movie, citing scenes and dialogue to reinforce my points. On Saturday, December 5, at 8:30 a.m., I get to go to a classroom at Community College to turn in my work and to participate in an hour long discussion with other students completing the competency.

Music Man knows and understands how frustrated and panicked I am, and he’s been great about it. He even reminded me that International Cinema had seemed like it was going to be overwhelming at first too, and while it truly was a lot of work, I was completely fine once I got into a schedule. He is absolutely certain English 1108 will turn out the same way. I’m glad he has so much confidence in my abilities, because I surely do not; I foresee major meltdowns in my future.

I’m so very fortunate to have someone so supportive and understanding in my corner. He’s my cheerleader and my sounding board, and I don’t know what I’d do without him. When I got home from class last night, he congratulated me on finishing yet another class and he’d gotten me a card telling me how proud he was of me. (All together now: “AWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!” Yeah, I know. He’s great. I told you.)

I didn’t expect that school was going to be easy. Not one bit. I just didn’t do a good job of preparing myself for what I was getting into. Though I really don't know what I possibly could've done to prepare myself.  For those of us who are pretty averse to change, it’s hard adjusting to what seems to be near constant change. Just when I think I’m getting into a groove on homework and scheduling, class ends and a new one begins. I’ll get used to it, and I’ll get better at adapting, but right now I just need to whine about it a little bit. Once I get the whining out of my system, I’ll be good to go!!!  I just need to keep in mind that I only have 7 weeks of English Hell left...

I don’t regret my decision at all, because I know it’s all going to be worth it in the end. But, it’s going to be a tough four years. I can handle it. I know I can. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” and I am one strong bitch!

An Introduction

I began classes at a local community college (which I will refer to as Community College in this blog for obvious reasons and because the TV show is funny and rings a little too true) in August, 2009. I am working to complete a liberal arts associate degree in order to transfer to another school to complete a bachelor's degree in social work.  I have an Associate in Applied Science degree in office administration that I received way back after I graduated high school.  That degree is now useless as it's (1) too technical and (2) from a school that chose not to become accredited by Minnesota College and University standards.  I’ve taken three classes to date: Competency Based Education 1 and 2 (required for returning adult students; used to educate adults on how the accelerated program works) and International Cinema.  I realized the other day that this is already quite a journey, and someday I just might like to look back on it.

You can call me Elle.  I am married to a wonderful man I'll call Music Man in this blog.  Our "children" are a Boston Terrier I'll call Wiggly and a Pug I'll call the Monster.  Of course none of these names are real.  I don't know who might stumble upon this little corner of the internet, and I'd prefer to remain as anonymous as possible for now.

Despite being incredibly busy working full time, going to classes part time, and maintaining my marriage and friendships, I am going to try hard to continue to document my journey regularly. I’m excited to have you join me, dear readers, as I laugh, cry, scream, and try to maintain my sanity and control any homicidal urges that may pop up along the way…
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