Friday, January 25, 2008


I've managed to get through two of my classes of the semester so far: English 520 (Non-Fiction Writing) and English 700 (the Teaching Practicum). The writing class will, in fact, be a heck of a lot of writing with which I am thoroughly unfamiliar: history, place, and most notably testimony (the last of which seems to be the encompassing factor). The professor isn't asking for unreasonable amounts of writing; rather, she's having us write a little based on each assigned reading, which is easier to accomplish than large amounts of writing only a few times during the semester. I was also provided with a binder of readings that seem to focus on the theoretical approaches of non-fiction writing, and creative non-fiction writing especially: What it is and how it's defined, technique, etc. The course is front-loaded with the theoretical and methodological readings more at the beginning of the semester, which I prefer at this point if for no other reason than for at least one class the readings will cause (hopefully) a bit less stress as the semester progresses - just as I'm up to my ears with books for my other classes.

The teaching practicum should be interesting also, although it's a teaching class that's designed to teach students how to teach the freshman writing classes at LIU, as opposed to a course meant to train future teachers on a more general level. The goal is such that by the end of the semester each of us enrolled in the class will have a working syllabus that we could implement should we teach a freshman composition class, although I'm not sure everyone enrolled in the class will be doing that. There are seven students in this class, of which I believe I'm the only student in the teaching of writing track; each of the other students are in the M.F.A. track (although another student might be enrolled in both). Everyone enrolled in the class has some teaching experience; the experience ranges from being a second semester writing tutor to a writing tutor with more experience; one student, a slightly older woman, taught in China; two students (one of whom has previous experience as a writing tutor) are teaching freshman writing classes this semester; and I, of course, have the secondary teacher certification. I'm not entirely sure I want to teach a freshman writing class next year, but at this point of course I'd leave myself open to it; either I'll need to be teaching in a secondary school, subbing, or teaching a writing class, but it needs to be one of those three.

I was offered - and accepted - a research fellowship position, which is an added bonus for this semester. I'm working with a professor who'd spent the 2006-2007 academic year traveling (as part of her Fulbright) around South Africa, where she became interested in the testimonies of the translators who were silenced during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Hearings during apartheid in the 1990s. There's obviously more it than that, but my tasks will include: helping to locate and select possible source materials (TRC public hearings in the form of transcripts, films, recordings, etc.) and narratives recorded but not selected to be part of the public hearings; to help locate relevant theoretical materials for analytical framework; to compile an annotated bibliography of above materials; as well as selecting transcripts for analysis. Time to really learn how to do some deep-level research and analysis.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Touchy Post

A few days ago, I was told that January 22nd is Blogging for Choice day. The question that a friend posed on her own blog was, "Why do you vote pro-choice?" Here's the thing: I don't vote pro-choice. And I have yet to find any political candidate whom I could support because of this. Either they're pro-life and something else is askew or they're pro-choice and another issue I concede to be important lines up.

I was raised Catholic, and it took, to the point where I'm not one of those who say they're Catholic, but they never go to church, or only when they're awake and not busy and "feel like it," or don't partake in the sacraments, or most of the other things "Catholics" try to glom to. I'm one of those Catholics who go to church every Sunday, even when I'm tired, or don't feel like it, or have a million other things to do, or am out of town. I volunteer in the capacity of being a Eucharistic Minister (my schedule changes each semester, and I tend to be busy different days, but since I go to church anyway, this is something I can do). The past few years have been kinda difficult because I've been unsure of myself, religiously speaking, but I've talked to a few priests and have worked through it, for the most part.

And because of my being Catholic, I'm pro-life; I really believe that a life is a life from the moment of conception - not the moment it comes out of the womb. My religious beliefs absolutely affect my feelings about abortion. (And what I worry – as much as I ever worry about these things – is that it will be thought that I haven’t thought my position through simply because I’m Catholic.)

But here's the other thing – I understand that women might feel that abortion is their only option, and as strongly as I feel about abortion, I understand that other women feel differently, with all this would entail. There is exactly one reason I can think of that would - for me - justify an abortion (if the baby were to die, and the mother would as well). The (in)convenience of pregnancy does not always come at the best time, but to my mind that does not justify an abortion. I cannot envision any circumstance in which I would personally get an abortion. The conflicting aspect to my rumination is that I'm wary of the illegality of abortion. As deeply as I'm pro-life, I would worry about women going to and through extreme, very dangerous measures, to get this abortion, thereby injuring themselves - and the child - to the point where quality of life would be negligible. I understand that there are a lot of people out there who have counter-arguments, who feel as strongly as I do, who are lucky and can have children (I cannot), who will and can have more children.

As with any issue as it pertains to freedom, I absolutely support the individual decision that goes with the action that I am absolutely against. I don't know if that makes me pro-choice or pro-life, though. The easy way out would be that all women felt comparably, at which point this wouldn't be an issue. Personally, I'd rather everyone were pro-life, but I know the likelihood of that happening is small.

Bottom line, though: What it comes down to is that I'm absolutely pro-life, and what I have no trouble proclaiming is that I'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned. I don't think it should be legal, period. As much as I support individual freedom, I still think that in the case of abortion, not everyone's freedom is entirely being considered. And someone's freedom will always be taken away, won't it - it'll either be the woman's, or the unborn child's.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What's Been New?

I've been getting ensconced (slowly) in my tutoring gig, which is to say that I've begun to be offered several assignments, and I've been making arrangements with my new students and their schools. I've had two students so far, and I have another three who look like they'll be a bit more long-term (at least comparatively so, as "long-term" as some of these things get). The two students I've had have been genuinely nice kids, and I've enjoyed working with them. I'm still a bit nervous about the process - the calling the schools to get the work, the calling the students to arrange meeting times, the driving all about in unfamiliar neighborhoods - and it does seem that with each new kid I get I'm doing a lot of prep work, which admittedly is not that much time on the phone. But I have to make myself sound more confident that I really feel. I'll be meeting three new students this week and saying goodbye to another. But so far I like the kids, and I think I'll really love the job. And I'll be networking at the schools and getting ideas for what the kids are taught at different levels, and even if I never actually teach, these are both good things.

And speaking of school, the spring semester is beginning next week with an Orientation Meeting for the Writing Center. I don't have classes on Tuesdays this semester, so I'm going to (at least try to) arrange to not go into Brooklyn Tuesdays or Fridays - meaning I'll only be trekking in three days a week, which means I could do the homebound tutoring (or, in theory, do substitute teaching, if I ever hear back from the New York City Department of Education). I was offered a Graduate Assistantship through the WC; in exchange for five hours a week manning the front desk, LIU will pay for a third class this semester. I don't think there's a stipend - at least, none was mentioned - but in exchange for LIU paying for that third class, I'm not sure I mind. I do need to find out if I can continue working at ARC; I suspect I won't be permitted to, since there's a weird policy in which one can be working for only two different payroll departments (or something along those lines), and I'm not sure if my TAship and GAship are considered two separate accounts. Even if they aren't, the most I'll be able to work at ARC is an additional five hours - LIU prohibits students from working more than 20 hours per week on campus. Just as well, since I'm sure I'll be up to my eyeballs in work.

On Friday, Chris and I spent the day in New York City. Brandice and Joe, the STeaP co-hosts, were in town for an awards ceremony, and even though they had flown in Thursday morning and were leaving Friday evening, they decided to shoot an episode of STeaP at Alice's Tea Cup; the owners had graciously allowed the four of us (Chris and I were special guests) to shoot an episode in their East 64th Street location. It was a really nice day that we had; Alice's Tea Cup has a lot of tea - over 100 varieties, apparently - and we wound up getting many pots (at least five, which we shared), breakfast, and lunch. Chris and I, both having partaken in their tea contest, were awarded tea prizes; of all the teas that were submitted, we were awarded our teas of choice, so I wound up with some Earl Grey, which I love, as well as Jade Cloud Green Tea, and Chris got some Assam.

I think we finally left Alice's Tea Cup about having hung out there for about five hours. We ate until we burst, at which point we attempted to go to a Judaic electronics store, but we kept being stymied: First there were subway issues which resulted in our taking three different lines (which in and of itself is exhausting); then the place was closed (because the store is run by the Jewish Orthodoxy and they have limited hours on Fridays). We were all a bit draggy from exhaustion by the time we left Joe and Brandice hailing a cab to the airport, but Chris and I wandered down to Brooklyn Heights anyway - the pouring rain we encountered early in the day had disappeared, and it was downright warm and it had cleared up - and hung out to enjoy the nighttime Manhattan skyline before hitting up Teresa's on Montague Street for dinner. (Who'd have thought I'd begin to enjoy Polish food?)

At least I got some pictures.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


This is going to be a very financially difficult few months, or at least financially difficult until the end of February. I don't know how I'm going to manage it. I suspect meals will be extremely limited, but it shall be temporary. With my last paycheck from last semester, I bought enough train tickets to take me to school through February; I paid some bills; I still need to pay February's car insurance. This, too, shall pass, but as far as I'm concerned it won't pass quickly enough.

Yesterday afternoon I saw an online job posting, redirected myself to the company's Web site (the company describes itself as a service that provides home tutoring by certified teachers in all major subject areas and electives for students who are out of school due to illness or injury, long or short term suspension, or awaiting placement), and applied for a job as a homebound tutor (teacher?). Yesterday afternoon the director of the company contacted me, asking that I call her to schedule an interview; I went in this afternoon, and by late afternoon I had lined up a gig for tomorrow afternoon. I'll be tutoring only for two hours - an hour of English, and an hour of Global History. I'm a bit nervous, but looking forward to it. The pay is decent; as long as the company lobbies jobs at me I'll take as many as I can manage; I'd like 10-12 hours a week, which will bring my work total up to 30-32 hours a week. Between that and my four classes I plan on exhausting myself, but it's only until the end of May, at which point I shall be completely jobless; I have visions of working at the local grocery mart for the summer.

Now all I have to do is worry about gas money.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Chris and I made it home from our week-long foray on Sunday, just before dinner. We had driven up to see his family last Saturday, and stayed until Wednesday. We made the usual rounds of visiting one cousin's house Christmas Eve for the Masto family party, and took part in the annual grab bag gift exchange. Lots of extended family was visited with, lots of food eaten, but it was certainly quite busy. Chris' mother and I tried (and failed) to find a midnight Mass, so I had myself a little adventure and found a Mass on Christmas morning a few towns over. When I came back, we had breakfast and opened presents, after which we went to another cousin's house for dinner.

Because Mom was having "a procedure" (apparently not to be confused with "a surgery") a few days after Christmas, Chris and I drove down to Emmaus on Wednesday, making it in time to visit with Mom in the hospital for a few minutes before visiting hours ended. We were the last to arrive; Anne, Bill, and Ciara had driven down and were planning on staying for a few days, as were Patrick, Bronwyn, and Aidan, and even Justin had arrived last weekend. Since Mom was released a few hours after her surgery (procedure?) on Thursday, we were able to open more presents. (I didn't take any pictures of Christmas with Chris' family, but I did take pictures in Pennsylvania.) I had a really excellent time. Bill drove back upstate Friday morning; Justin flew back to San Francisco on Friday night; and everyone else left Saturday. Chris and I stayed until Sunday, in part to help clean up, take Mom out for a drive to see the Christmas lights in Bethlehem, etc.

And I did pretty well with presents, too: I got a copy of Bill Bryson's African Diary; The New Bloomsday Book; Joyce's Critics; some extremely nifty headphones; a glass teapot, hairbrushes (and nice ones - not the cheap ones that I wind up buying); some very nice minty bath soap that I had my eye on; a cookie baking mat; Aidan wrote a story that I got a copy of; Bronwyn had a recording of her fiddling; and a very soft plush sheep from Ciara. Not a bad haul - and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few items in there, too.

Today Chris and I decided to make pork and sauerkraut for dinner (this being an Italian tradition that brings good luck, and both of us being of Italian extraction). I'm not so much a fan of cabbage-related food products, but I have to admit that tonight's dinner was pretty good. (We made the sauerkraut according to Chris' mother's recipe.) Naturally, the experience was documented: