Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Purchases / Reading List

For years now I've had an Amazon Wish List. I mostly use it to remember books to check out at the library (if the library has them), or, a bit more rarely, to bookmark things I'd like but can't really afford or justify buying right away. Sometimes I get something sent to me from my wish list - Justin and Cheng sent Ed and me some really beautiful knives, which I did have on my wish list - but I can't remember the last time someone has sent me a book from my wish list, which bums me out (probably too strong a phrase) because I don't really want or need things: I want to read, and between teaching and taking classes, I rarely get to read for fun as much as I'd like. I guess people think that they should send something more expensive, but it's the books that take me happy.

For Christmas this year, though, among other things I got an Amazon gift card from my parents, so I went ahead and ordered several books which I probably won't get a chance to read until summer. Many of them were used, because I'm cheap that way; I don't generally care if they're not "new," although I do prefer the most recent editions.
Not bought using my gift card because I'm an idiot and had temporarily forgotten about it led me to outright buy these books:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

This Christmas involved decorating a Christmas tree:

We went to a Christmas concert at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, in which the choristers from the  Madeleine Choir School performed Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols":

We saw the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Leonardo, and the Christmas lights in Temple Square.

And lo, there was much baking! First, chocolate-dipped pecan wedges, orange spice drops, and chocolate chip cookies:

Then pies were baked: lavender caramel apple pie (flowery lavender caramel is amazing) and pumpkin pie (I was able to make a few jam tarts with the leftover pie dough, too):


I prepared apple cinnamon steel-cut oatmeal in the crockpot for breakfast this morning; the Christmas goose is cooking away, and soon so will the sausage stuffing, oven-roasted cauliflower, and buttermilk biscuits be in the oven as well.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Student Feedback

I (finally) had access to my course evaluations this morning; one has to wait to read one's course evals (one has to have submitted all grades; a minimum number of students have to have had completed the course evals; and the period for course evals to be completed has to be course evaluation period has to be concluded), and I dislike waiting for feedback because I like to know what my students think of my class.

One class just did not like me. Well, two students in the same class didn't like me. Thankfully no curse words were used, but clearly they didn't think I had much to offer. It didn't surprise me; this came from the afternoon class at the main campus, a class I had trouble with, and this was reflected in the grades of at least half of them. I had many students who simply stopped showing up, and at least one student regularly groused at me for not giving her information she hadn't shown up in class to get (or, for that matter, could have gotten on the course website). She didn't do well because she didn't bother to familiarize herself with the assignments, and then questioned why she didn't do well. The mental connection just wasn't there.

Perhaps one does treat different section differently; it's certainly not done intentionally, and I really can't grok how I treated these particular students any differently than the students in my other classes. One or two accusations of a bad attitude from one section since January 2012 isn't something I'm worried about; I'm just curious as to what I may have said that would have been interpreted the way it was.

The problem with course evals comes down to things like, "the professor offered no feedback," which conflicts with more students who said I did provide feedback (sometimes "good feedback"). It's like a love language in that I'm trying to figure out a way of giving students feedback, or the correct amount of feedback, or presented in such a way that the student understands that it's feedback, and provided in such a way that each student can "hear" this feedback. 

I still remember one student, a few semesters ago, complaining during the last week of the semester that I didn't answer any of her questions. This student did not once raise her hand, send an e-mail, or speak to me before, during, or after class; I asked her if she had asked me a question using any of those methods that I hadn't responded to, and she just shrugged. But some students still don't see the connection between speaking up and getting their questions answered, or they don't quite know how to complain in such a way that isn't a personal attack.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Adoption Presumptions & Progress

Our home study is finally done; it's taken nearly four months (possibly longer) to complete this task, mostly because of the lag between acquiring and submitting paperwork. We were told that "most" couples were able to submit their application within about two weeks, and that "most" couples had their home study completed in about another two weeks.

There's an unspoken presumption there, though, that most people have grown up and continue to live in the same area in which they currently live; therefore, acquiring the necessary paperwork takes a relatively short amount of time. Since this applies to neither Ed nor myself, though, this took months of assembling paperwork from different states that don't share a border with Utah; it took Ed close to two months to be seen by his primary care physician for a checkup (because if one works a traditional 9-5 job, it's somewhat difficult to get an appointment for a non-emergency). Some of the paperwork also wasn't acceptable: We had been told to submit letters from our employers, verifying employment, but the automated option that SkyWest provides turned out to not be acceptable, so Ed had to get his supervisor to write a letter, which took a couple days.

Then we had to get another of our doctor's to write a letter stating he had no concerns about our ability to parent, which led to some issues: The letter had to be notarized; the doctor refused to notarize it; he didn't have the capability to type it, so he hand wrote a letter; he was given another option to notarize the letter, which would have required him to fax the letter and a copy of his ID, which he refused to do (and, actually, one is legally required to get something notarized in person). I had multiple conversations with this doctor, who cursed me out for making this request before hanging up on me. (Twice.)

Scheduling the home study itself took a couple weeks; it could only be done during the week and during the day, which meant we had to figure out when Ed could take a day off work for what we were told might be a three-hour home study. (The social worker mistook the time and showed up an hour early; fortunately, the home study only took two hours, so we were pretty much done by lunchtime.)

Finally - or almost finally - it took about six weeks for all of our references to be received; the last one was sent multiple times by local friends, but even the friends having mailed a copy of the reference twice and faxing it once didn't get it there, so she had to physically drive it there. I'm not sure they would have even acknowledged its receipt had I not been on top of it.

We also had to take three online parenting classes and submit certificates of completion. This wasn't as helpful as I had hoped - all the material covered was information I had (ironically) learned in an adolescent psychology class I had taken as an undergraduate as part of my teacher training, and the information not covered by that psych class were things I picked up as a teacher. We were taught, for example, not to punish our child, that we should discipline our child. (One example of "punishing" included a parent taking off his belt, theoretically to beat the child.) We were also forwarded information on additional materials to read, including websites that discussed the reasons for not spanking one's child.

And finally about two weeks ago - the Monday before Thanksgiving - we had an interview with the adoption coordinator and an assistant, who questioned us first separately, and then together, after which we were told that the director would have to sign off on our home study, which she would be able to do the following Monday (since she was out of the office that week), but that they didn't see any reason why our home study wouldn't be approved. At this point, we're waiting for the official approval before we can be marketed to potential birth parents.

We've been working on our adoption profile as well; a booklet has been assembled by the adoption agency with whom we're working (we're working with a different agency than the folks who did our home study), but our home study has to be approved before we can be marketed online. We sent pretty much every single picture we had of the two of us together and individually (even pictures of ourselves growing up), but we were really scraping the bottom of the barrel; we kept being asked for more pictures that we simply didn't have.

One of the most frustrating presumptions of this process - aside from the sheer invasiveness of it - is the presumption that the reason that we're adopting is because of infertility. This does seem to be a primary reason for adoption, and it's something people understand (that or being unmarried and wanting a child). However, no one knows quite what to do with you if you don't know your fertility status  because you haven't exhausted that avenue first. We don't know our fertility status; it's not something we want to pursue: Had we met and married 10 years before we did, perhaps that's something we would have explored. (It's not like we dated for 10 years before getting married; you meet "the person" when you meet him or her, after all.) IVF is an expensive process, and emotionally exhausting, from what I gather.

Adoption itself is expensive enough itself, and we figured we could either go the IVF route and spend the time and money for something that may not even be an issue, or we could choose adoption, which seemed a more sensible choice. We wouldn't have been able to financially do both. The "How do you feel about your infertility?" question that we've gotten, and which I've answered effectively as, "What infertility problem?" has been met with looks of surprise. "We don't know that there's a problem. Things haven't worked out so far in the pregnancy department, so we've decided to pursue adoption" is the answer I give, "Why not try IVF first?" "Because we're in our late 30s, there's a very low chance it would work anyway because of my age, and we didn't want to spend a lot of money and emotional energy on something that isn't likely to work. Plus, we're Catholic, and Catholic teaching is pretty clear on that." (The religious answer is one that's more easily understood, too, even though I'm not sure how much I agree with Catholic teaching on that one.)

Our home study has been officially approved, and I'm waiting for a copy that the agency had agreed to mail me (and which I should have in a few days) - we're just glad this part of the process is done.

Friday, October 18, 2013


There certainly seems to be quite a bit of critical overlap in my classes; two or three of them at any given time will be focusing on similar literary interpretations. For example, this week, in two my classes, we're focusing on feminism - especially in my literary criticism class, in which I've read five or six academic articles and responded to them. I really don't like studying feminism. I think I'm doing it wrong.

I've been thinking about a scene from an episode of The Good Wife recentlyI wish I could remember which episode this was from, but there was a scene in which a very talented young women walked away from the law firm to get married and have children; that's what she wanted to do. A very brief conversation ensued in which the older, female lawyer - unmarried and childless and portrayed by Christine Baranski - whose name was reflected in the firm's noted to the slightly younger female lawyer - married with two teenagers and portrayed by Julianna Margulies - said something along the lines of, "I'm not sure that's why we fought so hard in the '60s." The slightly younger lawyer said, "Actually, I'm pretty sure it is." That women have the choice to do these things is still considered an invalid choice, even within feminist circles.

The tenet of feminism I like involves women having the same choices as men, but reversing that thinking, too, in that I like seeing men having the same choices of women, yet that's not called feminism. This is not feminism in my mind, either, so much as it is the ability to make equal choices. Looking for ways in which women have been oppressed by the patriarchy is just mentally tiring, I think mostly because I've never actually felt oppressed by the patriarchy. Perhaps I'm just oblivious (and I'll concede that I can be quite oblivious); it's just as likely that I was taught to do whatever I damn well please when it came to my career, gender be damned.

Granted, my family is a bit of an anomaly: My mother has a Ph.D. Her sister (my aunt) has a Ph.D. in materials engineering. My grandmother was a math teacher (having gone to college for the first time in her 40s or 50s; she eventually got a graduate degree and taught for 10 years before retiring). My father, uncles, and another aunt all have graduate degrees. My brother and cousin are college graduates, as am I (and I'm pursuing a graduate degree); another cousin is still in college. We're an educated bunch and we're all being taught or have been taught how to be assertive and independent so that we don't need to financially rely on anyone. My mother told me the joke she once heard from my godmother, who has two sons but no daughters: "I don't care what my sons do, but my daughter's going to be a brain surgeon." Indeed.

Although certainly there are problems with equality in the work force, one can look to find oppression even if it's not there.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Language Bullies & School

Some thoughts on some of the articles I've read recently:

Language bullies certainly are extremely annoying, and I aspire never to be one, despite my profession. (My boss at one previous job was ridiculous this way, hyper-correcting me unnecessarily. In a former life she been a newspaper editor and English teacher, but she hadn't kept up with the changing language trends - what was correct at that moment in time, to her mind, was "the right way" - and she often insisted on something that wasn't actually correct; the standards had changed. Which, to my mind, if you work with language, you should realize.)

On the other hand, what does frustrate me is when people overuse "honestly" and "literally" to emphasize their point. Overuse does not add to your sense of credibility. If you keep having to tell me that something something "honestly" [happened to you/you're thinking of doing/fill-in-the-blank], or that something "literally" happened, or that you "literally" had that reaction, I'll actually believe you less. I can tell if you're utilizing hyperbole or metaphor; you don't need to make sure I understand by consistently reminding me that something "literally" happened.

Then there are the folks who believe that all parents should send their kids to private school, otherwise they're bad parents. There are, erm, some flaws in this argument.

(This is like saying that we should all go to community colleges, or private universities, or state universities, or one of the Ivies, or a large university, or a small college, otherwise your kids won't have a comparably cheap education where they're meeting lots of different types of students [at community colleges or state schools] or quality education and rubbing shoulders with elite students with certain backgrounds [who can only be found at an expensive private school or one of the Ivies].)

How about parents who homeschool - are they bad people too? (That's a rhetorical question.) Insisting that all kids go to the exact same type of school of just silly; one needs to find the best school for one's kid based on any number of factors. Sending your kid to a private school doesn't make you a bad parent, nor does it make you dismissive of other methods of education, nor is it indicative of your kid being any degree smarter, nor does it mean you think public school teachers worse than those who teach in private schools. Send your kid to the school that best meets their needs, and do the best you can to support your kid no matter where she goes to school.

A few months ago I came to the conclusion that I might like to send our kids, if we ever have any, to a Catholic school. Ed and I had talked about it previously (Ed having gone to a Catholic elementary school himself), but we didn't really make up our minds, figuring we'd make that decision once we actually had a kid. (Why make decisions for a hypothetical kid? Besides which, if we can't afford it in the future, that negates the decision.) Back in May, though, I had a brief discussion with our parish youth group leaders, a recently married couple who's about our age; the husband was a recent convert to Catholicism from a Protestant denomination. He said that he'd had so many great memories of his own very active church youth group growing up that he wanted to recreate it for the kids in our parish, and how helpful it is for kids to have friends whose (religious) beliefs are similar.

It's true that Catholicism doesn't have the same history with active youth groups as I think so many Protestant denominations have; many Catholic parishes have youth groups, but they may be small or not especially active. There are so relatively few Catholics in Utah that, at least in our parish, the kids  just didn't have any, or very many, Catholic friends. They knew a lot of LDS kids, but the LDS kids all stuck together and socialized together, quite possibly because they were in the same wards and were likely also to attend the Seminaries that are attached to all the schools. (Seminary is not a requirement; it can't be made a requirement, thankfully, since of course not all kids are LDS, nor can the seminaries be on school property, so they tend to be across the street or on adjacent private property.) This wasn't necessarily done with malice or forethought, but they wanted to hang out with the kids they knew. In any case, at least the kids in our particular parish often felt excluded and isolated because of their religion; they were being overlooked or ignored.

I realize the irony of sending my kid to a Catholic school so that she'll be surrounded by kids who are quite likely to be in the Catholic majority (although Catholic schools also accept students who are of different faith traditions, or of no faith tradition). Yet although we're in the extreme minority when it comes to our faith, I suspect our kid will also meet and interact with many LDS kids - as they should; I want my kid to meet as many different types of kids as possible, with as many different backgrounds as possible (somewhat hard to do, considering where we live), but also have friends whose religious backgrounds are similar to ours. It's hard to raise a kid with specific beliefs if they don't see anyone else their age with those beliefs.

This article is more of a response to careers in Silicon Valley and its alleged meritocracy based on attendance at specific universities - in this case, Stanford, Harvard, or M.I.T. I can't speak to that argument, but I'm frustrated by the notion that a prestigious college education will automatically get you a lucrative, and therefore "successful," career. I wish the definition of success were broadened to mean a career that allows you to support yourself, that allows you to maybe give a bit back to society, and - most importantly - makes you happy. One isn't going to get all these three things in a job all the time, but I refuse to minimize the contributions of others because they hadn't attended to a top ten school or earn six figures.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I've spent much of the day feeling grouchy and fighting the urge to binge eat and do lots of emotional eating. Fortunately I was able to combat much of that (although I did eat some jelly beans and a tablespoon of some exceptionally delicious peanut butter), but my appetite has been wonky the past week or so: I've eaten even when I haven't been hungry, even when feeling uncomfortably full before eating, which has been most of the time. I have a lot on my mind and I'm worried about being able to handle everything.

My teaching began this past week, thank goodness; I was in dire need of getting back to work, both financially and for my own mental health. I have a really great teaching schedule this semester: three classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first of two classes at the most convenient campus (three-and-a-half miles away) begin at 10 a.m., and the last class ends shortly before 4 p.m. at the next most-convenient campus (just under seven miles away). Effectively I teach for about three hours, then I have an hour and 40 minutes between classes, which is just enough time to go home and have some lunch and a short break before heading off to that last class of the day. Fortunately, home is on the way from one campus to the next, so it's quite convenient.

(Last semester's classes were really all over the place. I am decidedly not complaining or unhappy about having had three classes, but an 8:30 a.m. class, a 2:30 p.m. class, and a 7 p.m. class, from campus A to campus B back to campus A was really something else.) I had nice long breaks in between, during which I could manage to get a lot of grading done, but it felt like I was teaching from morning to night without any real mental breaks in between, since I was always thinking about the next section to teach.)

Grad student classes begin this week. I'm nervous about juggling teaching three classes and taking three classes, tutoring four hours (one day a week at the nearest campus), and potentially subbing. If anything goes it'll be the subbing, but I'm hoping I can manage at least the very occasional one-day-per-month to keep me active in the subbing pool (otherwise I would have to reapply for the position, and I'd really like to keep the subbing ongoing).

The adoption paperwork has by-and-large come together; it's taken us the better part of a month to take care of everything we needed to: complete the paperwork; send away for various legal notarized forms (all of which come from other states and therefore take up to two weeks); write autobiographical statements; make decisions about the child we'd like to welcome into our home; get fingerprinted for FBI and state-run background checks (the former of which we both need, since although Utah doesn't require FBI background checks for domestic adoptions, we don't know which state our baby will be born in, and other states might have that requirement; and since I haven't lived in Utah for the past five years, the home study agency will need to run background checks on me in those states, although why Ed wouldn't need to get a Utah background check done also in spite of having lived in Utah is beyond me).

This week we both have doctor appointments; it's the last big step to be completed before sending in the paperwork to the home study agency before we wait a few weeks in order to even have a caseworker come to our house. It's like a prescreening interview questionnaire you have to fill out before you can submit your cover letter.

I'm feeling a bit lonely and I wish folks took a proactive interest in all of this, but of course I haven't heard a peep from anyone. I sent emails to various people telling them a little bit about what's up but I could really use people to be interested and check up on us once in awhile. Ed's friends A. and K. are being wonderful and supportive and asking questions and sharing stories, which has been really great. My parents have asked questions, too, and so has one of my closest friends, M., from college, and friends have been supportive when we've asked them to be points of contact for the home study, but I haven't really heard much of anything from folks beyond, "Hey that's great, sure, glad to help!" And nothing to follow it up with. Perhaps I need to be more proactive in involving a support system myself.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fall Semester Reading List

When you're a a grad student in an English program, there's a lot of reading. Like, a lot. And a lot of writing, but...the all the books!

Because of my assigned enrollment date, classes filled up quickly and it was the literature classes (in my world, electives) that were ultimately available. (New student = no credits = can take anything and still have it count for the degree.) There were actually quite a few classes still available, but the classes available were electives, as opposed to the required classes for my concentration. I registered for three classes that looked promising.

English 560 - Literary Criticism:
English 641 - Eighteenth-century Literature:
For English 655 - The Novel and Its Tradition (we're focusing on the gothic):

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mental Cleansing

Yesterday Ed and I went to the bank that holds his safety deposit box, and (after two years of marriage) had me added to the account; we emptied the box, taking everything in it home with us in two bags. Yesterday and today we went through the piles of things that had been saved, in some cases for decades. Most of what was in the box was Ed's: high school and college transcripts; expired passports and old ID cards from our teenage years (and in my case, with my maiden name); tax returns dating back to 1992; moving expenses and old apartment leases from three states ago; etc. Some things are to be kept, of course (more recent tax returns; birth and marriage certificates; religious documentation like baptism and confirmation certificates; etc.

So far we've shredded, I think, five bags' worth of old stuff. It's amazing how much better I feel, ridding ourselves of decades' worth of useless stuff that seemed so important to keep at the time (although admittedly, the majority of it wasn't mine). I feel better having been added to the safety deposit box; I can now take care of things more easily if something happens. (I'm sure I could gain access to the box if Ed were to die or become incapacitated, as a spouse, but this way it's simply easier.)

Ed is his mother's son in this particular way: He saves everything, all receipts, years beyond the time when it's useful to have saved. I do this sometimes, too, though; it's good to periodically go through one's stuff, ascertain if one still needs something, and remind oneself where some of those important documents are. We figured we might need copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate for an upcoming home study or adoption paperwork.

We still have a few things to organize, to figure out what goes where, but that's the easy part, now that everything else has been cleared out and shredded. It's mentally cleansing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Supporting the Faith Quest

One of the blogs I regularly read is called Feminist Mormon Housewives. I'm not likely to convert to any religion anytime soon - especially not to LDS, which has many things with which I very strongly disagree - but I enjoy reading this blog because it's a public space in which many of the issues that cause friction, disagreement, and struggle are openly discussed. I find the discussion of LDS culture interesting, mostly because I'm an outsider; the blog reinforces that LDS is not the religion for me. Yet since Catholicism is a historically patriarchal religion. many of the issues that are analyzed in FMH as pertaining to LDS leadership are those that are, to varying degrees, relevant to Catholicism.

Reading "Supporting the Faith Quest" made me consider that Catholicism is not the only religion in which members of a faith tradition have trouble with those who don't easily follow their religion's tenets.
Mormons are not supposed to have faith transitions or a full blown faith crisis. Or, if we do, we should keep it to ourselves, suffer in silence, pretty much isolate ourselves so we don't contaminate the other members who are doing this the right way. 
The only thing more valued in our culture than being stalwart in our faith is being cheerfully stalwart in the faith. Slap on the smile, push those doubts aside, do some more of what isn't working for you, and any reservations that cropped up about the Fanny Alger business you just came across will disappear. 
Except that it doesn't work, does it? 
I've seen similar lines of thinking with conservative Catholics and converts to Catholicism when it comes to expressing doubts or voicing disagreements. I still remember the woman who, very publicly, took me to task for publicly questioning aspects of Catholic teachings by blogging; in her mind, one simply follows what the Church teaches, and Does Not Question or Disagree because one follows what the church teaches, period, with no question.

I continue to think that an oversimplification of faith. I see no harm in thinking and rethinking about one's faith and religion, and I don't see how this can be thought as definitively harmful. I understand that (dis)obedience is a slippery slope, and I admit that obedience is one of those things with which I personally struggle. But I make the distinction between following the Church's teachings on the Immaculate Conception and - these things I agree with and believe in - as opposed to the Church's teachings on what should constitute "marriage" (gay marriage vs. Bible-based; I've heard seriously flawed arguments about that many times) and birth control. (Know who gets to make decisions about my body and what it needs? My doctor and I.)

I also disagree with the argument that women cannot serve in the capacity of the priesthood. "Because all Jesus' original apostles were men" doesn't strike me as a good argument, insofar as I don't know if I want to follow the equality standards of a culture that even today aren't exactly known for equal rights; what kind of reaction would women have had 2,000 years ago in the Middle East? The "tradition as established by Christ himself" also doesn't work well; we don't know whether Jesus selection of only men was purposeful design, and presuming to know is not something I, or anyone else, can know. And the "indelible spiritual character" argument that permits only men to obtain the priesthood implies that women's characters are unequal and must be dependent on men.

I tend to be wary of the thinking, taught by any religious denomination, that one must agree with every single aspect of religious teaching. It makes me wonder if that particular religion is just not multi-faceted, or if the followers simply haven't really thought about their religion. Or if they were taught to follow blindly. None of these can be good.

Disagreeing with certain teachings does not necessarily make you a bad (fill-in-the-blank). Questioning has allowed me to ascertain what I can accept, what I cannot, and justify how I can continue following Catholicism as I believe it to be, for me and my family, and religion of our home.

In the meantime, one piece of good advice I did hear from a more conservative Catholic was to pray on it, keep an open mind, and consider that I can't know everything that God and Jesus have in store for me, my family, or the Church.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why Did You Marry Your Spouse?

This was a question recently posed on a forum I sometimes visit, and I got to thinking about why it was I actually married Ed. This was my response:

This may sound silly and simplistic at first, and it is, but hear me out.

I married my husband because I like him and wanted to create a life with him. I make a conscious effort to continue finding things about my husband that I like. He does things that frustrate me too - as I'm sure there are things I do that bug him - but I try very hard to ignore or conveniently forget those things and focus on the things I like about him.

I loved him very soon after we met and the feeling was mutual, and inexplicably, even before we met (we're an Internet romance), we knew that this was The Person (tm). We discussed our thoughts about our futures with each other before we were even dating, just getting a feel about each other. We were open with each other; I have found him easier to be open with than anyone I've ever met; I can share with him my vulnerabilities and fears, and he knows the best ways to comfort and support me.

We have similar senses of humor; we enjoy talking to each other about our days at work. We like travel to weird places and thinking about where we'd like to travel (this is big; my husband is former commercial pilot and at one point he'd been involved with a woman who was afraid to fly and panicked whenever he went to work, whereas I've held a passport since I was 7 - 30 years ago, now - and lived abroad, and dig airplanes and airports).

We travel together well. More than anything else, this for us predicated success. I've heard Slate's Prudence emphasize the importance of sleeping together before marriage ("because otherwise how else will you know you're compatible?") but that we took a two-week multi-European-country trip before we got married (although after we'd gotten engaged; we had planned the trip before we got engaged) spoke volumes of how well we could navigate new landscapes and handle potentially difficult experiences on the fly. I'd actually say that traveling in such a capacity beforehand is a good predicator for success, but that's just my experience; your mileage may vary.

My husband supports my career goals, and doesn't think being a teacher is ridiculous or that my income is inconsequential. He thinks I should teach because I love it and it makes me happy. Period.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Weight Loss Advice & Losing Motivation

There's a lot of really impractical weight-loss advice on the Internet (this is not a surprise). Most of that which I have come across has advised things like simply not going out to eat or traveling until you've lost the majority of weight that you'd like, which is one thing if you want to lose 20 pounds, but not especially helpful if, like me, you've been working on losing 200 pounds.

Not eating outside my own house isn't really something manageable in the long-term. Yes, I suppose it's possible, but that means I could never do wild and crazy things like visit my family (all of whom live out of state), have dinner at a friend's house, or go out to dinner to celebrate an anniversary or birthday, let alone take a vacation. 

I'm down about 90 pounds so far, but I've hit a wall and have begun to lose my motivation because I'm tired of tracking every morsel I eat. It's disheartening because many of things I encounter just don't have a nutrition label. (And "just don't eat anything that doesn't have a nutrition label" isn't helpful when you have vast amounts of weight to lose, because, again, what if you go out to eat at a local restaurant? Or go to a friend's or family's house for dinner? Let's be practical, shall we?) I'm having trouble keeping on track of calculating all my food intake simply because sometimes there is no nutritional information available.

I'm exercising nearly daily - perhaps once a week, I neither get to the gym nor get out for a 3-mile walk. Between going to the gym 3-4 times a week, and going for 3-4 three-mile walks a week, sometimes I come back and I'm just really hungry. I try to eat something sensible, but if I'm hungry to distraction, I find it hard to stop. For many people this is as simple as "just don't eat" but I can't seem to control myself. I was never taught those skills. One wouldn't tell an alcoholic just not to drink; there's the recognition that for that person, it's not a simple thing to do. It's like that for me and food.

Growing up, food was a power struggle. The refrigerator was padlocked; a downright humiliating intervention was staged. I was constantly put on diets that the whole family didn't participate in, which is to say there were still constantly desserts available, instead of changing the whole family's eating patterns. We were not an active family; no one exercised. I was told just not to eat without getting to the emotional roots behind my eating. I felt like whatever I could put in my mouth was the only thing I could control.

Now, as an adult, as much as I love my family, and as odd as it may sound, it's nice being a bit far away. When it's just me and Ed, I can control what comes into our house and what we eat without being undermined.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Honeymoon Planning & Respite

Ed and I are finally leaving to go to Iceland for our honeymoon weekend after next; we're both really looking forward to it. Aside from one long weekend in Las Vegas earlier this year, we haven't had a single vacation since before we got married. It may be ridiculous, but not having that time away has been detrimental to my own mental health.

Not that I'm about to have any kind of breakdown. I certainly don't feel that a vacation has to be international, but we didn't get the chance that so many newlyweds do in getting some time away from family and friends and starting out the marriage with a relaxing time for just the two of us. Again, not that that's absolutely necessary, but I was looking more forward to our honeymoon than I was to our wedding. (Ed had wanted all the pomp and circumstance. I was happy to give it to him, but I did not want that.)

I've been finding myself getting upset at stupid things that shouldn't be upsetting; the mental distress then lingers and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Someone will make a comment that I just find ridiculous, and I'll get shot down for disagreeing or thinking the comment or viewpoint downright asinine - even if it's a question phrased as, "Why do you think that; have you considered [fill-in-the-blank]." I feel compelled to tell the person (hopefully a bit more kindly, but not always) that there are holes in their argument, and that, of course, makes the other person more upset, and so things escalate. Most of the time I'm attempting to have a discussion and am just honestly curious about the "why" of this point of view, but the other person gets defensive or doesn't explain things well, which in turn makes me defensive.

(There are one or two folks I know in particular who really don't do critical thinking well. My asking them to clarify their beliefs, or giving a side of the issue that they might not have thought of - especially if it has to do with education - tends to be ignored. I find this frustrating because not only are they ignoring pertinent information, but when asked what they would do to fix the situation, there is absolutely no response. Pet peeve: Continuous complaints that are repeated multiple times that do not address potential solutions or even acknowledge a lack of a solution. Ditto with responses to public catastrophes: Public prolonged verbal flailing instead of donating time or money doesn't help the situation; it only adds fuel.)

These things stick with me longer than they seem to stick with other people I know, and I'm trying to figure out how to let them go without bothering me; I can't find a way. I'm hoping that just by getting away from people for the duration of our honeymoon - three weeks - I can recalibrate my thinking, and just learn not to respond to idiocy.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Civil Liberties

I'm finding it more and more difficult to maintain a friendship with people I've known a long time; our outlooks are becoming so diametrically opposed that I'm having a hard time getting beyond things I just can't accept as rational thinking. This might be a product of feeling more strongly about things like civil liberties the older I get, but when long time friends act in such a way that makes me question their ability to think critically.

For example, I'm finding it difficult to accept the notion that gay marriage should be continued to be made illegal based on the religious beliefs of a minority. Nowhere does it say that the United States is a Christian nation; even if this were explicitly stated, I would question which Christian sect has the authority to determine the acceptable morality of the majority.

Gun control is another thing. Guns ownership is really big in Utah, and I really don't understand why people here feel such a strong urge to own a gun. I understand owning and using guns for hunting, but for no other reason. Why does someone need a gun? To protect themselves? There are some very compelling arguments that say differently, that guns do not actually or necessarily make us safer.

The biggest argument I consistently hear for the continuing legality of gun ownership falls in the "Because it's in the constitution!" line of thinking. This smacks of blind obedience, the feeling that we must accept something as legitimate or "our right" simply because it's legal. Abortion was legalized in 1973; women's gained the ability to vote in 1921. There are 27 amendments, so our thinking and acceptance of acceptable behavior changes at least somewhat regularly.

Someone explain to me why gun ownership is necessary. Simply because it "says so" in the Constitution doesn't mean you have to actually own a gun. Tell me why it's necessary to own and use one.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Year Two

Two years ago today, at 2:00 p.m., I promised to be true to Ed in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I promised to love him and honor him all the days of my life.

It's still the best decision I ever made.

I think this is my favorite
of our wedding photos.

We hit some a severe bump during this second year. Last summer, Ed's mother Judy began to feel ill and was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma. Ten days after her initial chemo treatment, less than two months after diagnosis, she went into septic shock and died. Ed was devastated at losing his mother so young; she was only 68. She'll never meet her grandchildren.

This was a low point.

But things continue on. Financially speaking, things have improved, although they're still not as smooth as we'd like (are they ever?): We were able to completely pay the car, my student loans, and other living expenses that had accrued, and, with some help, the house.

We have a lot coming up this next year, things we're really excited about: We've been able to make plans (finally!) for a honeymoon: We're going to Iceland for three weeks beginning in mid-June. We'll be starting the adoption process once we get home, and I'll begin grad school at Northern Arizona University in August. And my health has improved; I've lost about 90 pounds since we got married. Some weight-related health issues I have have either cleared up altogether or are much less of a threat than they were.

Ed's still the keeper of my heart.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Accepting Students' Late Work

I do not accept late work from students. I don't grant extensions and will only accept late work if a student has a provable excuse, otherwise everyone suddenly has car/work/printer/dead-grandparent-for-the-10th-time/sick-goldfish-ran-away-to-Mexico problems. And only on days that assignments are due.

I've also learned that if I don't require students to bring their assignments within the first 5 minutes of class, a good portion (half or more) of the class will trickle in throughout the class because they decide to spend class time working on the assignment they've had weeks to work on.

After the first time they oversleep or have other problems and try to e-mail me their papers (which I also don't accept, by the way) do they realize how serious I am about not accepting late work. I don't have the mental capacity to keep track of whose paper will be handed in when, otherwise. Yet it's still amazing that students will say, "I know you said this, but my kid was in the hospital, as I told you before, and I had come right from the hospital." To which my (probably unkind) response is, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear he's still not feeling well. Could you get a nurse or someone at the hospital to write me a note with verifiable information, or bring in an admittance slip that shows he's still in the hospital? I can provide a fax number if that would help." And I will almost never hear anything in response. Which makes me wonder if the folks are actually trying to use a sick kid as an excuse to hand in late work.

Those who have actual problems will be in touch with me ahead of time, or - as in the case of one student I had - actually be able to provide the necessary information. I have no problems working with students if something comes up - and I try to stress that I absolutely know that sometimes things actually do come up. That if they'd like my cell phone number just in case, I'll be happy to provide that to them, especially if they don't have a smart phone and can't or don't want to e-mail me.

I don't accept late work because I need to be able to move on to the next assignment. I don't have the mental capabilities to keep track of who handed in which assignment when. And not for nothing, but If I don't have a strict deadline, students will hand in all their work on the last day of class, which is a nightmare for both me (because I suddenly have a lot more grading to do at a time when I have grade submittal deadlines) and the students (who have a lot of end-of-semester projects due and can't find time to do it all). I don't want to get chewed out for not submitting my grades on time because a student didn't submit her work on time.

(I will admit that last semester, I thought I had submitted all my grades on time. There was one student whose grade for some reason didn't go through, probably because I skipped it and didn't realize it.)

Many of my students will have jobs and careers that are much more relaxed about deadlines, but many of them won't. My younger students may not have encountered a variety of boss and job types that might include strict deadlines, although my older students probably would have - and I never get a complaint from the older students. Occasionally I'll get an e-mail from a student, after an assignment was due, telling me of a situation, but if that e-mail is from an older student, there almost always an acknowledgement that they know I don't accept late work and would accept the consequences. It's the younger, more inexperienced students who haven't encountered this before.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Questioning Religion and Faith

In reading an article in which gendered participation in the LDS church organization structure was being questioned, a few reservations really resonated with me: 
"Are we really going to let wondering become a red flag of lack of faith? Are we going to deny any give and take, any room for struggle, for doubt, for weakness, for pain, which often are the tools that bring us to more solid testimonial foundations that we started on?"
I was reminded of a German woman I wound up defriending from my social networks. Raised an atheist, she become an agnostic before converting first to Protestant Christianity and ultimately to Catholicism. She publicly derided me for blogging about the issues in the Catholic church, issues with which I continue to struggle and have disagreed with for years, because, in her mind, one follows the doctrine and teaching of the Catholic church without question. The Church had declared something to be so; therefore, my job was to accept it. My reasons for blogging, which included the mental clarity that blogging provided, were tantamount to blasphemy.

I tried explaining that my blogging helps clarify the issues, that blogging helps me ascertain what I really think and feel, and that it helps be gain some perspective, but she was having none of it. I finally removed her from my FaceBook feed because while I can appreciate being disagreed with, the manner in which I conduct myself within my faith is no one's business - with the exception of my priest - and I no longer wanted to put myself in a position in which I was publicly taken to task for voicing my own struggles.

I've been a Catholic my entire life, and I don't think that's likely to change anytime soon. She seemed incapable of having a calm discussion about differences of opinion and interpretation, and the manner in which one accepts one's version of the truth. I don't have much room for such attitudes in my life.

Adoption Stress

Apparently there is such as a thing as post-adoption depression, which can be as crippling as postpartum:
A March 2012 Purdue University study suggests that between 18 and 26 percent of adoptive mothers struggle with post-adoption depression, brought on by extreme fatigue, unrealistic expectations of parenthood or a lack of community support. 
In the course of interviewing some 300 women who’d adopted one or more children in the prior two years, Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor of nursing at Purdue, says that she and her team—including Susan South and Eunjung Lim—began examining societal assumptions about adoptive parents. Among them: the belief that the mother who doesn’t carry a child for nine months or doesn’t go through labor does not require as much help after the child comes home, does not need respite care, or someone to unload the dishwasher, or a few casseroles in the freezer.
Among the issues any new mother faces, whether she's adopted the child or physically given birth, is that expectations and exhaustion can lead to post-adoption stress, although there is uncertainty as to whether:
fatigue is a symptom of the depression or if it the parenting experience that is the source of the fatigue. It may also be reflective of a lacking social support that adoptive parents receive. However, a common thread of [the research] has been an assumption that if the mom didn't carry the child for nine months or go through a physical labor, the parents don't need help in the same manner as birth mothers do.
Now I can worry about not only this, but worry about receiving a complete lack of support because I probably won't physically give birth to a child.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Celebrations

I really love Easter: Spring is around the corner (theoretically it's already begun, but the first few days of spring it snowed and has been generally cold and uncooperative), flowers and trees are starting to bloom, and I develop the false hope that I can wear my sandals again (if it ever stops being so cold).

Last weekend was Palm Sunday, which marked the beginning of kicks off Holy Week; Ed and I went to the Vigil on Saturday, and to the Communal Penance Service on Sunday afternoon. Because of a teaching conflict I wasn't able to go to Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, but I was able to stop by for Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and was able to go to the Solemn Ceremonies for Good Friday as well.

The Exposition of the
Blessed Sacrament
was held in the Day Chapel.
We went to the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil at our church last night, so there was no Mass for us this morning, so we can relax and enjoy a lazy, quiet Easter Sunday. (The Easter Vigil really is beautiful, especially because of the candlelight.)

Forsooth, the Easter Bunny
made an appearance!
At the moment, I'm relaxing; I'll be cooking roast duck for dinner, with the following in varying stages of ready-to-go:
I was going to make Panettone bread and butter pudding but I'd found a really cute Easter fondant cake, so that and cookies will be dessert.

    Saturday, March 30, 2013

    In The News

    Some interesting reads encountered online recently:

    I wonder if it will always be "precedent shattering" every time a new Pope choose a name that hadn't been chosen before. At some point, there had been an Urban I, John Paul I, John I, Benedict I, etc.; why were those choices not considered precedent shattering? (Is there a rule that says no one can choose to be Peter II?)

    From "Is There Anything Wrong With Being Over 50 and Pregnant?", Nancy London, co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves and author of Hot Flashes, Warm Bottles, believes:
    that biology is destiny and that a woman who delays childbearing for decades because she has other priorities isn't living in reality...To toss that out the window and say, 'Hey, that's not for me,' and then at 50 to say, 'Oops, forgot to have a baby' - something is not processed in our thinking...And if you meet the love of your life at 50 and the desire to start a family sets in? You can try to adopt. Or 'maybe what you do grieve for your loss and find another way to serve the planet.'"
    And later in the same article:
    No matter how a child is procured, whether through technology or adoption, her 50-year-old parents have likely gone through some kind of hell - paperwork, blood tests, questionnaires, waiting, visa applications, mood swings, marital discord, and recalibration of expectations - to have her. These are the most wanted of children. And their parents, some would argue, can give them something that the youngest and the prettiest don't have: the wisdom of age and an abiding sense that life is a precious gift not to be wasted.
    There's a biological reason to have children when one is younger, but I also consider London's statements when it comes to women - and men - who badly want children and haven't had the opportunity. (Adoption isn't mentioned often enough as a viable alternative.) I believe author correct in that many of the arguments made against older parents are the result of ageism. Perhaps not having biological children is one thing, but that doesn't eliminate adoption as a good way to satisfy the urge of raising a child.

    Apparently the Catholic traditionalists are in an uproar over the elevation of Pope Francis, who has proceeded to break with tradition in several unforgivable ways, most recently by washing the feet of two girls, an Italian Catholic and a Serbian Muslim. (I had not known that the "church's liturgical law holds that only men can participate in the rite" because the original 12 apostles were all men, nor had I known that "priests and bishops have routinely petitioned for exemptions to include women, but the law is clear." Yet Francis, being the church's chief lawmaker, in theory can do what he'd like in these regards.)

    From the apparent start, things looked bad for the traditionalists, when Francis emerged without the mozzetta, received the cardinals' pledges of obedience not from a chair on a pedestal, but, rather, standing; and calling for an intensified dialogue with Islam, "a gesture that rubs traditionalists the wrong way because they view such a heavy focus on interfaith dialogue as a sign of religious relativism."

    I continue to find it disheartening that brute force continues to be viewed as a legitimate means of persuasion and conversion, instead of taking into account the culturally-based development of religion.

    Friday, March 29, 2013

    Scattered Families

    I'm always a little sad that whatever kids Ed and I have will never be surrounded by a large family, since everyone is so scattered. Justin and I were lucky when we were growing up; both sets of grandparents lived within a 30 minute drive. We had them for a long time: Two of my grandparents died almost exactly a year apart, when I was in high school; the other two died six weeks apart when I was in my early 30s.

    But my father is an only child, and my mother is older than her sister and brother (by nine and 13 years, respectively); my mother married relatively young, and my aunt and uncle were around 30 - the result being that I'm 16 years older than my oldest first cousin, who's now 21. I have two more 19-year-old first cousins now, who were born a month apart: One just graduated from college, and her brother is currently enrolled in college as well.

    Because we're all in such different stages of life, my family is scattered: Justin and Cheng are in California (having moved there more than 15 years ago in Justin's case, and an indeterminate number of years for Cheng, who came to San Francisco for grad school); my retired parents are in eastern Pennsylvania, where they've lived for decades; my aunts and uncles live in upstate New York and Virginia due to doctoral studies and careers; my cousins live in Boston or Los Angeles (because of college), and upstate New York. Extended family live in Pennsylvania and Ireland. We're all at different stages in our lives, with folks not being able to travel for holidays because of jobs and the financial cost of traveling - and the time it takes to travel longer distances.

    Ed's family is just as scattered: His father lives in Massachusetts; he has cousins and aunts (and an uncle) who live in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, and Greece.

    We're hardly centrally located, because there is no centrality.

    I was thinking of this earlier this morning while at my tutoring gig, when a (young) tutor asked if I was going to be seeing my family this weekend. There's the assumption that of course I would be celebrating Easter (which I am), but there's a persistent assumption, especially by younger folks who are LDS, who have never lived anywhere else, and who are surrounded by their large family, and the assumption that if I don't have a large family, that I must of course be surrounded by my family.

    But, of  course, when I was still in high school and in my early 20s, I assumed the same thing, because I had been surrounded by a large family well; I grew up with large Easter and Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with seemingly dozens of my father's aunts and uncles and cousins around. Those older relatives have died by now; my dad wasn't especially good, or interested, at keeping in touch with cousins who tended to be a bit on the boozy side anyway. And those cousins, who are around my father's age, have their own families with which to spend their holidays. But I still miss being part of a large family that gathers for the holidays - that is able to gather for the holidays.

    Folks here tend to travel less, traveling internationally less, and tend not to move out of Utah as much. Utah is nothing if not insular, both geographically and culturally. It leads to seeing your family, but also at the expense of having different experiences, although living elsewhere, for whatever the reason, can come at the expense of spending every single holiday with one's family. One is not necessarily better, and one doesn't always have the choice.

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Frustratingly Bad Arguments

    Clearly one is not going to agree with everyone else about everything; regardless of how much you might love another person, ideologies rarely match up completely. But many of the anti-gay-marriage arguments really strike me as ridiculous and shallow.
    • "Marriage should be defined as that which is between one man and one woman because that's what the Bible says it should be." This definition works for one fragment of the population, but most of the world does not follow the Bible, and maintaining that everyone should follow the beliefs of a minority is idiotic. (Besides which, there is more than one translation of the Bible; whose is correct, yours or mine?) And how much do we want the cultural norms and mores of an ancient Middle Eastern culture dictating modern day lifestyles if people are going to be oppressed and not granted equal rights?
    • "It'll lead to plural marriage and bestiality!" Ahh, but these can be construed as separate issues, "marriage" being between two and only two consenting adults at a time.
    • "Well, I know a lot of gay people, and most of them are really immature because they came out late, and haven't matured within their sexuality." Alas, one can't use one's personal definition of maturity to prohibit two people from marrying, otherwise we'd all know many, many straight people who shouldn't have gotten married for that same reason. One also can't - or shouldn't, at any rate - use personal experience to prohibit one segment of the population from doing something because a singular person has had negative experiences with an even smaller segment of the population.
    • "They can't have biological children!" Most of them can, just not with each other "the old-fashioned way"; a gay or lesbian couple would need outside help (if you will). Many straight people who marry cannot have children due to infertility, yet we don't prohibit them from marrying. And not everyone who marries should have children, anyway.

    Friday, March 22, 2013


    I hate the term "feminism." To me, it's come to mean that you need to keep your name after you're married, that you should automatically want to work full time after you have children, that you should want to put your career first - that no matter what choice you make, it's not nearly equal enough to what men do or otherwise what you should be doing.

    Before FaceBook deleted a discussion thread I was having with a former classmate, I had linked to an blog post in which the author ranted about man-bashing. I thought it was pretty spot on, but my former classmate thought it incredibly anti-feminist. She and I had some back-and-forth, my argument being that I can't stand the term "feminism" anymore because no matter how one defines it, it's considered wrong or dated. My classmate opined, for reasons that I can no longer remember that such blog posts were anti-feminist, yet she then went on to argue that at least one definition of feminism is that women be given a safe place to argue what they'd like. There was a bit of incongruity there: If you rant about something on your blog about a certain behavior of a subset of women, that's anti-feminist, but it's feminist if we give women a safe place. On a personal blog, the blogger can write what he or she likes.

    Feminism is about personal choice. I'd like to see a term that applies to men as well, though. "Feminism" smacks of exclusion.

    I'm more interested in seeing wider acceptance of more behaviors: If women change their last names, they're not being feminist; if they don't change their last names, they're not committing to the marriage. Men get the reverse of this thinking: If they change their names, there's a backlash as well.

    And then I came across this comment, which I think sums up the situation perfectly:

    "Let me preface this next link by saying that I am, like, SO fucking over “feminists” who can’t stop bitching and moaning about how sad it makes them when other women take their husband’s names. As feminists they applaud a woman’s right to make personal choices, but then belittle or, worse, condemn whatever choices they think aren’t feminist enough (like changing their name, converting to their husband’s religion, quitting their jobs to be stay-at-home mothers, formula-feeding their babies, enjoying rom-coms)? Whatever. I’m a feminist and I not only support a woman’s right to personal choice, I applaud choices that differ my own." At the end of the quotation, which had led to this mini-rant, was a link to "Why should married women change their names? Let men change theirs," which went on to argue that one's name is one's identity, that the reasons women give for changing their names after marrying don't make much sense.

    Let's not argue, then, that the reasons for not changing one's name after marriage are as equally invalid: whether or not a woman changes her name, her name is still a man's last name, either her father's, or her grandfather's, or even her great-grandfather's. The identity is still tied to a man's.

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Las Vegas Photographic Evidence

    For my birthday this past February, Ed bought me a 4GB MinoFlip HD, which holds about an hour of video. It's a cute little thing - I had a previous iteration, slightly larger, that wasn't HD - and I'd had my eye on an updated version for our impending trip to Iceland. (I did have two digital cameras that I donated a few months ago; I hadn't used them in years; my iPhone 4S takes really good pictures.) While I didn't take a lot of video footage last weekend, I did take some, and put it together in a short little video.


    I took some pictures with said iPhone last weekend when Mom and I were in Las Vegas. (I wish I could embed the photo album but Google is being wonky and keeps redirecting me from Picasa to GooglePlus, which doesn't yet allow me to embed photo albums.)

    Tuesday, March 19, 2013

    Judging "Bad" Student Writers

    Periodically I hear my colleagues bemoan the state of incoming freshmen student writers, how "bad" (or worse) the incoming students' skill sets are. This attitude frustrates me. This dismissive attitude towards incoming students shows a certain amount of arrogance and selective memory loss. Most of us were not brilliant writers when we got to college for the first time. I certainly wasn't. We got better with a lot of practice.

    I can't believe it goes without saying that of course new students' writing isn't going to be as good as ours, as English or writing (or, generally speaking, language) teachers. We have at least one degree in English (or a closely related degree, such as rhetoric, or the language that the professional teachers), possibly even multiple advanced degrees in that field.

    Perhaps many of us were stronger writers to begin with; at the very least, we may have had a stronger interest in writing and developing our talents. But even more importantly, at this stage in our lives, having completed at least one degree in English or writing, we have had the opportunity to write a lot more than the incoming freshmen have at this point in their lives - just beginning college. Our students are starting out; why this keeps getting forgotten or ignored is beyond me. We've been doing it longer. We have had more practice. Expecting our incoming students to have the same skill set as we do is unreasonable.

    I'm also pretty sure that for those of us whose strengths and interests were in English, literature, and writing were quite weak in other areas. I had to take algebra a number of times at various colleges, and I'm sure that there are teachers at the college level who would complain that my skill set was not "basic."

    I find the definition of "basic" to be extraordinarily subjective. I have no background in physics (I've never taken a class); I took chemistry twice, and I don't recall if I ever took a biology class, although I have taken both a cultural anthropology and a physical anthropology class. I never made it past geometry, and as mentioned earlier in this post, I've taken algebra multiple times, although I'm quite good at mental math and arithmetic. Does this mean I don't have basic math and science skills? How much should I know before I'm truly well-rounded and have a basic understanding of math and science? And who gets to decide what's considered basic, especially if now as an adult I have no reason to use them? One could argue that writing is a more "basic" skill because one is more likely to need writing in one's day to day activities, in one's job, than advanced trigonometry. Yet we have to start somewhere, and expecting students whose previous experience was lacking - or years in the past - to have "basic" knowledge defeats the purpose of continuing education.

    Saturday, March 16, 2013

    4Cs 2013: Saturday

    I tried to go to three sessions today, but I was partly stymied.

    I did go to "The Multi-Media Classroom," in which Mary Fakler and Joan Perisse of SUNY New Paltz  spoke about the ways they collaborated and incorporated new and emerging technologies into their composition classrooms while using multimedia approaches to writing at both New Paltz and Marist College.

    I attempted to attend "Narratives at Work and in School Settings to Teach Writing and Critical Thinking," but the the chair got upset several times at the prospect of anyone closing the door; because I couldn't hear over the noise in the hallway, I left after a few minutes.

    I made another session afterwards, though: "The Impact of Social Class on Basic Writing Pedagogy," where I heard William Thelin, from the University of Akron, discuss basic writing and the forgotten middle class. Because of time constraints, though (Mom and I were planning on exploring the environs and didn't want to leave things too late), I was unable to hear Dawn Lombardi, also from the University of Akron, or Shelley DeBlasis from New Mexico State University at Carlsbad speak, which I would have liked to have done.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    4Cs 2013: Friday

    I got into town late Thursday, too late to take part in any sessions (or hit up registration, for that matter, to pick up my conference programs), so Friday was my first day of the conference. I had some grand plans that involved hitting up five sessions, but like many grand plans, that didn't quite work out the way I'd hoped.

    Registration opened at 8 a.m., just as the first sessions of the day were starting. I got the hanging neck thing for my badge, but apparently there were no more conference programs because of a run of late registrations, so I had to do without, which was rather annoying. And because registration opened right when the first sessions were starting, I missed the first 10 minutes or so of the first session I'd planned to attend ("Only Connect: Strategies for Engaging Reluctant, Under-prepared, and Inattentive Writers"). I hate missing opening remarks, because I don't know who's talking about what, so I left after about 20 minutes.

    I did make it to "Toward a Sustainable Curriculum: Teaching FYC [First Year Composition] at the Community College Level with a Focus on Food Politics Consumption, and the Environment to Promote Critical Literacy," which was led by faculty of College of the Redwoods. Lesley Manousas spoke of using semiotic analysis of fast food culture to promote critical literacy; Robyn Roberson questioned what environment had to do with food; and Shannon Monder discussed how to nurture critical literacy by exploring the rhetoric of food politics and food security.

    The next session didn't happen - no one showed up - so I hung out and relaxed in my hotel room for a couple hours to recover from a late night / early morning. I made it to "Sustainability, Food Justice, and Biocentric Rhetoric," although Anne Rosenthal of Oglethorpe University hadn't been able to make it, which was unfortunate - she was scheduled to speak about cultural rhetorics and the politics of food justice movements, which was my primary motivation of going to that session. However, Lonni Pearce of the University of Colorado at Boulder spoke about the rhetorics of sustainability and the politics of time, and Brian Cope of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania elaborated on his ideas of biocentric rhetoric.

    And finally, I went to a very interesting session on Digital Literacy, in which Leslie Mackey of Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne discussed her experiences in defining design literacy and establishing textual meaning through spatial manipulation; Pearce Durst from the University of Montevallo explained his work with digital composition; and Leslie Bradshaw from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst had analyzed the digital subjectivities of successful food bloggers (which I found really interesting).

    Tuesday, March 12, 2013

    Student Excuses

    I have some pretty tough course policies. I don't accept late papers. I don't accept papers more than five minutes late. I don't even accept e-mailed papers. There are reasons for this, developed over the course of a few semesters' worth of teaching.

    I've learned that if I don't require students to hand in their papers within the first five minutes, I'll get a good portion of the class wandering in up until the very end of class, all of whom had problems with traffic or printing or their grandmothers dying (for the 12th time) or a medical emergency or their goldfish running away to Mexico.

    Or they have car or work or other scheduling issues that make them miss class; and/or they have printing issues and can they e-mail-me-their-paper-as-soon-as-they-get-home-which-is-by-noon (and which is almost invariably hours later than that because of unforeseen circumstances)?

    Or I have students who email me their papers either after class has begun, and often enough several hours after the class has ended, because [insert excuse here].

    I eliminate all these excuses and tell the students that their papers are due within the first five minutes of class; that I don't accept emailed papers or papers due after the first few minutes of class.

    We talk about these policies several times before the first paper is due, and my policies always catches some students unaware. I also reiterate, though, that if there is an actual problem, when is the time to tell me about it? (And a few students will say, "Beforehand.")

    So far I've had one student email me her paper at 8:33 a.m. She'd worked late and didn't get up in time, lives an hour away, and hoped I would accept her paper. I said that unfortunately I could not accept her paper via email; it was against course policy. And despite a follow-up request, I couldn't accept her paper should she arrive by the end of class, nor do I offer extra credit. Two students meandered in 10 minutes late, and one student didn't show up at all, although to be fair he did email me late last night to ask a question about citations. (He consistently arrives 30-45 minutes late.)

    At our last class, I assigned the next big writing project; today we're meeting in computer labs with a librarian, who would talk about databases and research methods. By having my students' first paper due today, I guaranteed that most of them would show up with their papers - on time. It was always a problem getting even most of the regularly attending students to show up.

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    Interesting Reads

    We have a lot of books sitting here at home; I was always a heavy reader, and since Ed and I got together, he's become more of a reader himself. Yet a few months ago I realized I had acquired stacks of books, some of which I bought or were given to me years ago, that I haven't read; so I've been slowly working my way through them. "Slowly" is the operative word; some of them I get through more quickly than others, depending on time or interest or the depth of the subject matter (some books are just have lighter subject matter than others).

    A number of years ago, for either Christmas or a birthday, ex-boyfriend Chris gave me a copy of one of The Best American Nonrequired Reading books, a collection of short fiction and nonfiction published annually since 2002. I wasn't entirely sure of it, but it turned out to be one of the best books I've ever gotten. I wish I remembered in which particular book he gave me - I believe it was the most recent year published at the time, but I simply don't remember how long ago this was. In the meantime I've bought each year's version, and I find them to be consistently excellent. Some of pieces are more interesting than others, as it always the case, but I don't feel compelled to read a work if it just doesn't appeal, although most of them do. In the intervening years, the collections have included items such as "Best American Fax," "Best American Lawsuits" (always good for a laugh; some of them are ridiculous), "Best American WiFi Names," and "Best American Poems Written in Response to Arizona State Bill 1070," as well as longer (comparatively speaking) works of fiction and nonfiction. Each year a new person of interest introduces the work; in past years, introductions have been written by Stephen King, David Sedaris, and Judy Blume. I started with the 2002 edition, and I recently started the 2011 edition; the 2012 edition is the most recent. They're light, fun reads, and since most of the works are short (although some run 30-50 pages long), they're good reading during a busy day if I need a short break.

    (The particular Best American series happens to be edited by Dave Eggers, who wrote A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; founded McSweeney's (which publishes some really amazing books and magazines, including one of my absolute favorites, Lucky Peach, which is, of course, all about food writing); and co-founded 826National, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center that started in San Francisco as 826Valencia, and now has centers in Boston; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Michigan; New York City; and Seattle. Each has a unique storefront - the center in New York, which is actually in Brooklyn, is the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.)

    Come to think of it, Chris might have given me an a book from The Best American Short Stories series. I do love short stories; they're my favorite genre, simply because the stories need to grab you right away, and leave you with the punchline. I haven't started on this series yet, which also begin in 2002; the 2012 edition is the most recent.

    There are other variants of the series, each with a different editor, that I might check out when I've got my library a bit more under control: The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best American Essays, and The Best American Travel Writing are particularly appealing.

    Perhaps an upcoming blog post will list all the books that are on my "to read after the Best American series." In the meantime, I've been reading magazines as well; we have subscriptions to Smithsonian, National Geographic, Scientific American MindScientific American, Lucky Peach (I don't let Ed get his mitts on this one), and, on my Kindle, I've been reading The New Yorker (the only weekly I'm reading) and the BBC History Magazine.