March 2009


Oh, Sunday, what shall I do with you.

A better question might be ‘what am I supposed to be doing,’ but alas, this question is no fun.

I SHOULD be …. reading the composition theory article I have to write a response paper on and present to the class, working on my application to teach English 99 in the fall, reading Horace Walpole and his theories on gardening (yawn), doing the massive collection of dishes in the sink (oh dear), reading a biography of Ralph Ellison, and being productive in general. Sigh.

Instead, I am … on the couch, in my pajamas, drinking coffee, watching the Cosby show, and typing this.

I blame the wind, the crazy creepy making-noise-blowing-over-the-hills wind. Did you ever hear of the Irish Banshee? She’s this creepy old hag of a ghost who makes the same noise as creepy wind. Oh, and she takes the souls of young women. Anyway, this morning I was up at about 10am, when I learned that the power was out. And seeing that I live in the country, and my water comes from a well with an electric pump, when the power goes out there is no water. Also no tv, no internet, no coffee, no fun. Thus I made the executive decision to go back to sleep. Being without clocks, I woke up three hours later.

And now, it is almost 3pm, and it feels like morning.

Thankfully, since the time change and the coming of spring, there is now more daylight, and thus more time to procrastinate without feeling like a slump.

Tonight, feeling a little off.

While taking a shower, I just leaned back against the wall and stood there, staring at the water. I finally had to cut myself off and shut off the hot water.

I have the feeling like I want something to be different, maybe a little out of the ordinary, but in a good way. But I don’t even quite know what that means.

Maybe it’s the fact that being in a long distanc relationship means you can’t go out on St. Patrick’s Day and drink cheap green beer to your heart’s content. Or that you can, but you don’t have anyone you really want to do it with.

I guess the only thing to do now is go to sleep, have a decent dream that doesn’t involve what I see around me every day, and to wake up to a hot cup of coffee.

Now to go program my coffee-maker…

I must say, sometimes living in ‘the age of information’ scares the shit out of me.

As per my previous blog, I periodically check what pops up under a Google search of my name, partly to be safe, partly because I’m bored. Now imagine my surprise when tonight I come across a ‘public resource’ site with a 17-page IRS document in pdf form from the foundation that I received a scholarship from in 2004. Not only is my name listed under the amount I was given, along with all the other names of the winners from that year, but ALL OUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS!

This is not something one sees every day. Imagine me a bit freaked.

I quickly shot off an email to the contact person for the website, asking them to please remove this sensitive data right away because it could be harmful not only to me but to everyone else on this list. He got back to me very quickly and blocked out the info on the form, which made me partly happy. But he also suggested that, instead of ‘yelling at strangers’ I should contact the foundation, who sold the information. But did they really?? And why should I be made to feel bad about something so threatening? My SSN is my identity after all, and one has to guard it closely, like one holds their child back from the lion cage. And let me say that I did not speak in capitals, but just had a few exclamation points, which does not mean yelling, but conveys excitement, concern, etc.

Have I experienced not only a breach of security but a breach of email etiquette??

But the night was not over. I decided to get my free yearly credit report (and don’t listen to those dumb commercials, there is only one sight that lets you get your free report and doesn’t charge you, like all the others do) and I found a weird $42 charge from Certegy, a check certification company. Now I can’t tell whether I owe them this money or not, because I was never told about bouncing a check last year in November, because I didn’t. And from what I can tell, people HATE Certegy because they reject checks from people who have lots of money – basically they use algorithms to verify checks, not your actual information.

I don’t know what this thing is, but I want it off my credit report. Call them, you say? Well, if you like being on hold because ‘all lines are busy’ at 12am at night, and never talking to anyone, then that is for you.

Sometimes the world of money and debt and federal information slaps you right in the face, and it stinks. And lets be honest, there is really nothing you can do about it. Except yell at strangers in emails, apparently.

It all makes me miss the days when all I worried about was what to bring to show and tell the next day. But wait – haven’t you heard? Children are now frequent victims of identity theft.

I need a cookie.

While perusing the isles of Borders last Saturday night – I know, party animal, right? – I came across a new printing of The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, one of my favorite books from my childhood. It follows the little country bunny, who is a lady, and grows up dreaming to join the all male, aristocratic Easter bunny force. These snobby bunnies attempt to crush her dream, telling her she will never make it, but she never loses hope.

She then grows up, has 21 or so children (no husband is specifically mentioned, but then she is rabbit…) and a household to run. By and By, she catches the eye of Grandfather bunny, who decides to pick her to be an Easter bunny. She is given the hardest task of all, to deliver a beautiful egg to a sick child on top of a hill. She nearly fails, but is brave and courageous, and is thus made the most important Easter bunny of all (above the boys) and Grandfather gives her a little pair of golden shoes, which allow her to fly above the mountains up to the child. When she returns home she finds that her children are in bed, all the chores are done, and everything is lovely.

Moral of the story? If your heart and mind are strong and compassionate and you are willing to work hard, all your dreams will come true, no matter who you are or where you came from. It seems this touching little book, with beautiful illustrations, is more than just a bedtime story, in fact one Amazon reader calls it “the most powerful book I have ever read.” It’s very simple, but apparently very effective.

But back to my story; as I looked at the book in the store, I was immediately struck by the only blurb on the back of the book;

“It is difficult to believe that this very modern feminist tale was originally written in 1939.”

What exactly are the publishers trying to push here? Apparently, parents aren’t just looking to read any old book to the kids, it has to have a good ‘message.’ But wait, this isn’t new! Remember the fable, the parable, the cautionary tales that kept people in line? However there is an important change here, because the book doesn’t just emphasize the moral message its selling, but the idea of female power and agency. And let me add that this book was written not only in 1939, but by a man. Fantastic.

Publishers are constantly printing new editions of old books, sometimes bringing out aspects of the book which are currently ‘in vogue.’ In this case though, this one little blurb really shows how our culture is finally becoming comfortable with accurately labeling these kinds of narratives, which I love.

And I have to wonder; the first line of the book points out that although we only hear about ONE Easter bunny, there are really many more. And while we always think the bunny is a boy, here that is also not true! Maybe this will lead younger readers to think about other traditionally male characters and wonder if our depiction is correct, if society is always giving us the complete picture – because they almost never are.

I think everyone should make it a practice to google themselves once in awhile, just to see what kinds of things turn up. Of course, this would be much more difficult if your name is John Smith. Fortunately, I seem to be the only person with my exact name in cyberspace.

This brings up the bigger issue of how much people can find out about us just by clicking a mouse. Which becomes even more important when these people are employers, or other judgmental folks.  And one should know if their blog about how much they hate corporate America or how wasted they were Saturday night pops up with a simple search.

But what really scares me is if people are checking credit reports, because, honestly, my credit is not so great. I’m putting myself through college and grad school, so what do they expect? Debt is just a detail. But how much weight are employers really putting into these things? In today’s not-so-lovely, ever slimming job market, can someone’s bad credit or student loans really cause them to lose  possible job? It’s a whole new resume-frontier that you can’t fake, and it frankly a bit unjust. A person is not their credit, and if a late payment on a credit card overrides a college degree with highest honors then there is something wrong with this world.

Sometimes I envy those folks who put all their profiles, etc to private and basically stop all speculating; they achieve some kind of internet mystery. Frankly, I don’t really put anything out there that I would never want anyone to see; doesn’t that go against the web’s grain? If you don’t want your friends to see that you’re bashing them on someone’s wall, maybe you shouldn’t do it. Of course, no one wants their boss to know everything – there’s a professional line there.

Now what was my point here? Ok, I’ll be honest, it’s fun to snoop around on other’s people’s profiles sometimes – you all know you do it. So when someone puts a wall up, it’s annoying – maybe even pretentious?

I suppose I’m going to have to join these people soon though; if I’m a college teacher I can’t let my students see my status update that declares how annoying their paper are. Because facebook is no place for honesty, right?

So I may have finally made some kind of decision in regards to the next few years of my life. 

I was reading some paper comments from one of my grad professors and he observed that it seemed like I was pursuing my passions by being in school. And I though, Wow, I guess I never quite thought about it that way. Over the years I’ve been through my share of different career aspirations, architect, politician, editor, and I finally chose English because it was really what I cared about – and was good at.

So I asked myself,  if I could do anything that would just be for me with my life, what would it be? And the quickest answer I could reach was to keep going to grad school after my Masters to get my Ph.D. Now I know how incredibly hard it will all be, and all the extra work I’m going to have to do, but it’s work that I believe I can do. Pursuing a career in publishing, however, is work that I am mostly unfamiliar with, and with this economy I could end up with a MA working some menial little job. If I find a job at all. 

But then, another voice says maybe I won’t like teaching –fortunately I have next year to figure this out.

The funny thing is, with thinking about all the things I will have to do to be accepted into another school, it is somehow comforting because I can make a list – it’s less unknown. And the list is looong. Retaking the GREs (because, lets be honest, they were not good), rewriting all my statements, getting new letters of recommendation, picking a really good writing sample. Finding many more schools to apply to – last year I only applied to places in California, which was limiting, and I really don’t want to have to leave the state, but I need to think about my options. And of course, it all rides on the money. I’m not goint to take on three more years of debt, ending up with almost -$100,000 when you’re trying to be a professor is not so good. At all. So in this perpetually icky economy, I’m going to have to find someone to finance me. Or give me a TA position that will pay the bills.

And if, in the end, I don’t get in anywhere, at least I will know that I tried my best and that I’m supposed to do something else.

Oddly enough, while I was coming to all these revelations, Michael already knew that I was going to make this decision; he felt that if I didn’t go all the way I would regret it and end up doing it anyway. So maybe I’m more transparent than I thought. Or maybe it’s just very evident that I love what I do. Because at the end of the day, I do.

milkshaketh Though reading over 40 pages of Oliver Goldsmith and John Clare last night was not so fun actually. Clare’s poem is written in an odd form of English where it seems like he’s really misspelling half of the words, but he isn’t. Think wanna-be Middle English.

It’s funny, yesterday in my teaching comp seminar we were talking about the difference between ‘free’ writing and academic writing, and as other students were talking about how academic work can be stuffy and annoying to write, I was thinking that I actually like it. Even though I may not understand half of the theory I read, I still like it. Literary masochism, maybe?

And can I just say, reading theory about teaching is a weird experience. While you can’t read literary theory and tell someone to stop speculating and go out and put it in practice, with teaching you can. Just stop talking about voice and go teach a class. Because as far as teaching writing goes, we really don’t much.

But I guess being able to say that you are anti-Elbonian in your teaching style make one sound smart, no?

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