Friday, January 21, 2005

Why do we blog?

Last semester, I wrote a paper about the paradox of community and estrangement...as it related to a particular book. But it occurs to me that this whole online world of journals and daily diary rantings is also a representation of this paradox - the sense of estrangement we feel from each other and yet our longing for community and acceptance.

Why do we blog? To vent, to expound, to explore ideas and question relationships and situations in life, to have a presence in the world where everyone feels so alone, to prove that we exist and are unique indviduals with unique voices, to prove to ourselves that we are important even though we are not famous? So many possible reasons. I think I'm getting an idea...I may well start an informal survey of my fellow bloggers to get some answers to this nettlesome question.

We are no longer a society of groups. We are a society of loners. And instead of turning to physical, tangible clubs, groups and social events to find love, acceptance, harmony and honesty, we turn to the internet...and a community of sympathetic strangers. What do we get out of this that is missing from those personal, one-on-one group contacts? Why do we feel more secure "being ourselves" here, in a virtual environment, than we do in the presence of other human beings?

I will poll...and when I have a sufficient number of answers...I will report my findings. Come to think of it, this would make a good article.

More to come...

- Mrs. Blonde

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Life as a grad student

Life is actually pretty good right now. The negatives at present involve the bankruptcy and issues with a company I'm supposed to be doing workshops for - but they only have one person registered for each one and expect me to do them anyway....!!!??? I'll make like $20 for six hours of effort - two hour drive each way plus a two hour workshop...for one person and a bunch of "fillers" - people from the company. I'm writing to them today to say they either have to postpone these workshops until they have at least five paying people so the money makes it worth six hours of my time or they'll have to pay me for six hours because with all this grad work I just can't compute that unless I get financially reimbursed. And frankly, I'd rather skip the workshops and the money right now and keep the time - do you KNOW how much I can get done in six hours on a Friday?

Here's an example - yesterday I spent six hours staring at a microfilm version of an abolitionist newspaper from the early 1800s - the print was this small.

My eyes hurt when I was done, but now all the research for my presentation next week is complete and I can now concentrate on putting together handouts and my notes. This is a wise expenditure of six hours on a Friday. Granted, no money was made, which would curl my parents' toes if they could see me exclaiming the virtue of work over money...but that's just life right now. I don't intend to live the life of a pauper and I'm no saint - I love to travel and buy DVDs, so eventually I will have to shift over to the money is God mentality, but right now I'm abstaining. Graduate work is hard. Period.

There are moments of levity and enjoyment - as when my classmates and I stand in the hall before class or during the break and gossip like old women and laugh like crazy and make plans for doing dinner one week before class. Or when I learn something new...which is every week. Or when the prof shuts down a student who acts like he knows more than the prof...SNAP! Love that. Finishing the readings, understanding the theorists, completing projects and such are also high water marks of achievement that cause good feelings...but overall, graduate school boils down to hard work.

And I also realize how lucky I am to be in the situation I am in...I don't have to work because my financial aid does cover my expenses at present. So I can dedicate a majority of my time to reading, researching and...working hard at being a good student. I don't have kids, my husband is also in school so has the same issues, I don't have a mortgage and I don't even have a pet...which is sad for me and a problem I hope to correct once I get into a PhD program and can live somewhere that accepts pets...but I'm getting off track...

My life is good right now. Even with the pain. I recognize how blessed I am. A typical day for me goes something like this: Get up around 10 a.m., have coffee and check email and blogs, go to the dining hall for breakfast/lunch (usually with E and/or some friends), home by 12:30 p.m., read/research until 4:30 p.m., go to dinner (repeat of lunch), class 6 - 9 p.m., home by 9:30, read til 11 or so, and/or bathe/shower then watch a movie, in bed by 1:30 - 2 a.m.

This is not a bad life.

But I do want to become busier and teach once at the PhD level - I NEED to get experience teaching in a college classroom or I will end up with a PhD and none of the necessary experience to get a job teaching at a college! What a conundrum. And my friends in the program just scared the crap out of me with their PhD application horror stories - apparently they all applied to multiple schools, including the one we're currently attending - and only got into the one we're currently attending, despite awesome grades, good GRE scores and one girl even had multiple academic publications as a Masters student. Eeep!

So that's a problem. I'm planning to contact my top 5 - 6 schools that I'm considering for the PhD level soon - I want to get a professor or department person on the phone to discuss my PhD subject interests, my need for a TA or TF and how many applicants they accept into their program versus how many apply per year. Don't know if I'll get honest answers, but I have to try...plus, I figure if I have a contact name to include on my application ("I talked to Joan Smith about the program at X University in February and she encouraged me to...blah blah blah") that might help. Or it might not. I really have no idea.

I am new to the perilous waters of post-graduate academia and am hoping that my intelligence, excellent grades, passion and outgoing nature will help propel me into a good program that fits all of my requirements. And that most likely does not include the school I'm currently attending - they DO offer a PhD in my program, but they only have TWO teaching assistantships...two...that's NOTHING! And I've heard how competitive it is, so as much as I like it here, I think I'm going to have to pray for acceptance elsewhere - at a school that gives ALL of its PhD students teaching fellowships, for example...and they do exist.

I've rambled on enough. I will update again soon - take care and stay warm bloggers!

- Mrs. Blonde

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Screwless in two weeks!

Good news! The three-inch screw that was holding my ankle together for the healing process is being removed on Jan. 21 - yahoo! Saw the doc yesterday and he thinks the screw is causing all my pain. I'm thrilled there is an actual reason and it is resolvable! How often does that happen in life?! So the screw comes out and hopefully that will solve the pain problem...one down...two to go.

We're still compiling info for the DoJ for the bankruptcy case. Reams and reams of paperwork..ie. major waste of money, time and trees. But that's the government for you, eh? I wrote my narratives - they're pretty aggressive, but completely honest...I even make the statement that I'm offended that the govt spends billions it doesn't have and has the gall to persecute one of its own citizens in her direst hour of need. I'm sure our attorney will edit that out, but I will say it to their faces if the subject comes up when we have to sit in front of these assholes and make a taped statement.

Just watched Happy Gilmore - what a goofy little movie. It did make me laugh a bit, which was nice. I'm looking forward to Monday and throwing myself back into academia. I even submitted two papers for a graduate conference my university is sponsoring, so my fingers are crossed that at least one of them gets accepted - that would be a nice academic credential on the ole CV. Perhaps I could catapult from that into another conference outside my university...but first things first.

Still rainy, gray and cold here - but it's not snowing or icing...glad I'm not in CO or CA or OR - good grief, those people are really getting more than their fair share of snow right now! Just sold a book to a woman via Ebay who has been iced in for a few days...eeeewwwww. So I'm thankful for the rain!

Ciao for now mes amis...

- Mrs. Blonde

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Don't ever be a mentor

Haven't posted for a few days due to a lack of anything going on...but now I do have something to say. Don't ever be a mentor.

I've recently changed my mind about mentoring. I've been a Big in the Big Brother Big Sister program. I've been a coach and mentor in the shows I've directed. And I got personally involved in a teenager's life in order to help her survive and make it to college...I've mentioned her before.

I used to think that mentoring was a great way to influence young people...help them understand certain things about life...help them make good decisions...and provide a living example of the right way to live. But thanks to A, I now realize that mentoring is a waste of time, energy, money and effort. And let me tell you why.

A has dismissed me as a friend and mentor. She didn't even have the courage or courtesy to call me, email me or even sit in front of me and tell me to my face. She is a coward who thought she could just stop talking to me and that I wouldn't notice. I feel used. She still has no explanation or reason for this travesty of behavior. It is clear to me now that she used us during a very rough time...about three years...took advantage of our kindness...told us she loved us as we truly did come to love her...and now, phhht. Gone. Just like that. That fast. For no reason or rationale...just the confused, crazed and immature mind of an 18-year-old who has a lot of growing up to do.

If I was a more patient and tolerant person, perhaps I'd be handling this better. And I'm not going to get into everything I personally did for this girl, just trust me, it was a hell of a lot. I taught her to be strong and independent...I toughened her up...but I failed in one very important lesson - never to shit on the people who care about you. We were nicer to her and more supportive of her than her own family and this is the thanks we get. This hurts and angers me, but at least I've learned my lesson.

I will always have encouraging words for friends and associates young and old...I do want to be a teacher, after all...but the next time I meet or see or hear about a kid who's in trouble, I'm walking the other way. When getting summarily shit on is the result of three years of major effort, you will be hard-pressed to find me putting myself in this situation again.

So be forewarned. You feel like helping the world? Give money to a worthy charity. Skip getting personally involved....it does no good after all.

- A VERY angry Mrs. Blonde

Saturday, January 01, 2005

$90 book for $3.84 and other thoughts...

I just finished ordering the remaining books for the spring semester. One of my books is $90 - ouch! So I went over to amazon.com and voila - found a used copy with light highlighting for $3.84...I'll live with the page markings to save $88. It's worth it.

What a scam, eh? Academic texts. I really have to get into this racket. (How hard could it be to write or edit one?) Professors expect you to buy these enormously overpriced books and editions of texts, then only use half of them (usually). The author makes money, the publisher makes money, the distributor makes money...in fact, everyone in the chain is happy and in the black...except the end-user. Me. The student. The POOR student in the red...who has to pay out the ass for a text she's only going to use once...and probably won't even use the whole thing! Sigh. That's what Ebay is for.

I am in the process of listing many of my books from last semester - one already sold for $10. I'm happy. I'm not looking to screw anyone, I just want more shelf space for all these new books. And if I can recoup even half the cost, it's worth it. I used to enjoy collecting books...until we moved and realized about a thousand pounds of our moving weight was books...many of which we hadn't even looked at in years. What a waste. I'd much rather sell the books I don't want or need to someone who will use and enjoy them. So I'm selective now in deciding what to keep and what to sell. I think I'm keeping about 50 percent of the books from fall, but these are works of literature that I may well use again once I become a teacher. And they are all paperbacks...ie less weight.

Other thoughts for the first day of 2005...it's just a date. E and I discussed this last night just before the big ball dropping...12/31 and 1/1 are really just arbitrary calendar dates - they don't really signify the beginning or end of anything. The end of fall harvest signifies the end of something significant and the beginning of the winter resting period. Chinese New Year doesn't happen on 12/31. I'm tempted to say this is just another example of the commercialized nature of our society...but millions of people worldwide do celebrate the beginning of a "new year" on 12/31 as it rolls over to 1/1.

Perhaps I'm just jaded. Or maybe New Year's Eve is a manufactured holiday for young people. I certainly did plenty of celebrating on New Year's Eve in my youth and early 20s. In fact, 12/31 is the anniversary of our first date. But our wedding anniversary has surpassed 12/31 in meaning. So I am actually quite content to spend 12/31 at home doing nothing outrageous.

The lack of any feeling of momentous change today, Jan. 1, reminds me of the feeling I had on my 21st birthday. That's supposed to be the big one, where you REALLY become an adult (not just that technical legal adulthood at 18). I recall having a lot of fun, visiting a lot of bars and drinking a bright blue beverage out of a miniature toilet bowl, but the next day I felt exactly the same. I still had the same job, the same apartment, the same life.

Why do we feel the need to attach such overwhelming expectation to such banal events and dates? My life is exciting enough without the exagerrated celebrations that society deems appropriate on certain days of the year. Take Valentine's Day - what a scam. If I want to give a present or candy to my sweetheart, I'll do it on a random day of the year when it's unexpected - it'll mean more.

Well, VD is another issue and is still a month and a half away. I'll leave that alone for now. But my question is still valid and I still don't have all the answers...but don't let that get out - I don't want to ruin my reputation. ::smirking devilishly:: Heh, heh, heh.

Have a warm, dry and pleasant Jan. 1. And heed what Nietzsche said for the rest of the year: "Live dangerously."

- Mrs. Blonde

Friday, December 31, 2004

The Best and the Worst of 2004

The past few New Year's Eves have been either difficult or just odd. Two were spent in hotel rooms en route to vacations (which presents unique issues and challenges) and last year's was spent on the couch loaded down with pain killers. I came home from the hospital to recover from the surgery that fixed my broken bones on Dec. 31, 2003. I was thinking today of all that's happened in my life this year. And the only constant, as always, is change.

The Worst: Spent the 1st half of 2004 laid up or in excruciating physical therapy, lost the will to write and had the worst fight of my life with my parents over money. The second half of 2004 brought daily pain (with my ankle), which caused a lack of motivation to work out, slight weight gain as a result...constant fights with E over money and our tsunami of debt, absolutely NO movement in my injury case causing us to drop even deeper into debt, an ill-fated decision to declare bankruptcy and my first rejection of an academic essay from a literary journal. Plus, the apparent (although not yet confirmed) loss for no good reason of a deeply-valued relationship with the teenager we spent time, money and energy to help improve her lot in life.

After a list like that, it's hard to imagine anything good happened this year. But it did. As with everything in life, all negativity has a positive side....

The Best: My husband took unbelievable care of me while I was laid up. I never doubted that he could be counted on in a crisis...but you never really KNOW until the crisis occurs. He did everything - from cooking, cleaning and washing to shopping, handling my email and generally providing much needed emotional support and comfort. Thanks to this, I know he really meant it when he said "in sickness and in health." E is a true blessing to me. Life would be much harder, lonelier and less filled with laughter without him by my side. I thank God, Goddess and the powers of the universe that we are together...through good times and bad.

My parents started being nicer to me and to E. They do still harp on certain things and I can't be completely honest with them about everything, but our relationship overall has improved. My mother-in-law gave well-intentioned advice that resulted in disaster, but she is willing to step up and help us pay the legal fees, which is good. I know she wants the best for us, she just has a penchant for being judgmental and hypercritical...but I can forgive her that...today. :>)

I started graduate school in the summer, enjoyed the company and camaraderie of funny and intelligent colleagues all year, made several good undergraduate friendships and worked my ass off to get all As. Not an accomplishment to sneeze at. I'm proud of myself.

Moved into a very nice apartment - a HUGE step up from the dump we lived in for ten years. (It increasingly became a dump over that 10 years...but that's another story...a landlord horror story which I may share with you someday.) The new landlords are flaky, but well-meaning...and although it may take days, they do get professionals to fix the things that break, like the A/C and the furnace...they don't send brother Joe-Bob over with a roll of duct tape and some wood putty to patch it together. Our neighbors are great - most of them much older (senior citizens), but all very nice people. The building is quiet and surrounded by trees - another nice amenity since we came from a city apartment building surrounded by other buildings and concrete...blech. The rent is less than we were paying in the city and the apartment is bigger and in much better condition. Living in the sticks has its benefits you see.

(Aside: When we lived in the city, the super-grocery store we went to had over 20 checkout lines, but never had more than 10 lines open, even on busy holidays like today, and never had enough baggers, which caused enormous, headache-inducing lines, flaring tempers and general malaise...now that we live in a rural area, the store we frequent (this just happened today) had all seven of its checkout lines open (with two baggers each!) and the parking lot was jammed...but everyone got to check out in a timely and efficient manner. Go figure that one out!)

When it snows here, it's pretty. The snow stays white and doesn't immediately turn dishwater gray. The air smells good here and not like we're living in the exhaust of a 1969 Chevelle minus its catalytic converter. Our living conditions have improved exponentially this year and for this, I am truly grateful.

I just found out that because we are in the process of declaring bankruptcy and will not be paying any more old credit debt, our budget just loosened its belt. We don't have money to live like kings, but now our financial aid will pay for everything from rent and electricity to cable and gasoline. Which means neither of us have to work until June 2005, if we so choose. And I have several speaking jobs and a tutoring job lined up for 1st quarter 05, which means...dum dum dum...I may actually have money to spend and save for the first time in eight years. Now that's a miracle.

As you can see, 2004 did have some major roadblocks for me. But many more good things happened than bad...or it was at least a draw. When I look at what's going on the world, at tragedies that have touched my friends' and associates' lives, I put my woes up for comparison. If nothing good happened to balance out the bad, I would truly despair and be tempted to give up. But somehow, good does always balance the bad and I still find myself with people and situations to be thankful for.

As 2004 draws to a close, I will dip into the fondue (that I'll be making shortly) with the man I love and admire, my husband, in an apartment that has extremely good chi, perhaps play a board game and some GTA: San Andreas...and at midnight we will enjoy a few glasses of non-alcoholic Cold Duck and toast to a new beginning in 2005.

May the worst be behind you as well, dear readers, and the best always be ahead of you. Just be smart enough to know when those "best" moments happen so you can stop for a second and be thankful. That's what helps me live without regret.

Love and peace and big hugs to you. Until 2005.

- Mrs. Blonde

Thursday, December 30, 2004

What kind of soul are you?

Just saw this on another blogsite and thought it was neat - I am a Warrior Soul...what are you?





You Are a Warrior Soul





You're a strong person and sometimes seen as intimidating.
You don't give up. You're committed and brave.
Truly adventuresome, you are not afraid of going to battle.
Extremely protective of loved ones, you root for the underdog.

You are picky about details and rigorous in your methods.
You also value honesty and fairness a great deal.
You can be outspoken, intimidating, headstrong, and demanding.
You're a hardliner who demands the best from themselves and others.

Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul




The Spirit of Support

For all the much-deserved griping I do about my family, sometimes they really do come through and it warms my cockles...er...heart.

Visit with my parents was actually quite pleasant and downright amusing at spots. Dad's trying desperately to figure out all the intracies of his digital camera without reading the manual...and he's being charming about it, I must say.

Mom is forever having a problem with her computer or the internet - and we are happy to be the resident tech geniuses. After all their griping about how it wouldn't really be a Christmas dinner if we saw them on Christmas Eve, they acted quite the contrary and it was festive. It was a nice reprieve from my roiling brain that kept bouncing back to less pleasant issues such as our derailing bankruptcy, my stalled insurance (injury) case and our missing teen.

Then we went to my mother-in-law's house. But on the way, E called to let her know we were en route...big mistake. The inevitable question came...how was our bankruptcy case going? He told her the ugly, messy truth...and she is smart enough to realize she is partly responsible, so immediately felt like shit. I can't say I was sorry. You see, bankruptcy was on the table as an option for us months ago...an option we shunned and hoped we would never have to use. At mother-in-law's encouragement - and that of her husband - we decided to take the plunge...and she offered to lend us the attorney fee. That sealed the deal.

So E tells her all about it, then says we do NOT want to discuss this - it's Christmas - this is too upsetting - E and I had been fighting off and on all day about it and frankly, we desperately wanted to TRY and forget about it for a few measly hours. No dice.

The moment..and I do mean THE moment we walked in the door..."let's discuss." Fortunately, the husband, D, knew we meant what we said and promptly got mother to cease...though he did pay a heavy price later in a tongue-lashing for taking "our" side. Sigh. Double sigh.

The rest of the evening proceeded rather well - heartfelt gifts were exchanged, but the greatest blessing was just being able to sit around and talk and laugh. J and L were there with new baby C and it's always fun to yap with them. I hope we can visit just them on one of our home treks next semester - they enjoy Playstation too and I'm sure a night off from being new parents wouldn't be such a horrible thing. :>)

And let me just say thank God and Goddess we got a room at a hotel with what meager cash we had. Whew! It was fabulous coming back to a nice clean room...quiet...where we could spread ourselves out and chill. No extended cable though and I had no idea HBO showed porn late at night...shame on them!

Christmas Day was more fun than it should have been. Ended up leaving around 11 - really enjoyed the visit, especially with aunt, uncle and cousin. R and I spent most of the day talking - heard all about her first semester, got some good dirt (such as she tried "smoking" - so I told her not to make it a lifelong habit, but experimenting is what college is for) and D and I discussed the A situation. She can't believe that someone who meant so much to us and who we meant so much to just up and walked away without so much as a comment. She agrees with E's strategy to call A after the 3rd - E will get to the bottom of this messy pot before the semester starts - one way or another. And although I hope this ends well, as I would like to be part of A's life, if she decides to walk away for whatever childish reasons she may have, this will be her loss ultimately.

Had breakfast with H at Cracker Barrel on the 26th before heading home. Nice to see him again and hear what's going on in business and love. He took our advice about the latest girl and his efforts have resulted in an overnight trip for them to DC and he ditched all his other girls. Could this be the start of something serious?! Hmmmm.

Side note: We LOVE CB - best damn breakfast place in America...for a chain. Their biscuits are 'da bomb!

Our 'net service is finally up and running full speed again...obviously. Repair guys came today and whoops! The problem was two streets over on the pole - but they said we were the only ones who called. E and I had a sarcastic snicker over that - we're surrounded by old people - we're probably the only ones in a six-block radius who have cable internet. But anyway, it's fixed.

Cleaned off half my desk yesterday and put last semester's papers and notes in an accordian file - never know when some of that might come in handy later for teaching or conference purposes.

News on the legal front: Atty 1 is waiting for a doctor's narrative for me before he submits my case to dickhead's insurance company. Seeing the dr on Jan. 7 for two reasons - 1) I'm taking about four Aleve a day for pain and based on the latest medical report, this could cause a stroke, so I need something that will kill the pain and not kill me and 2) I'm still in pain...enough to be bothersome...and as it has been one year, I'm wondering when and if the pain will ever go away. Hopefully, the narrative prognosis will shortly follow and this insurance case can be settled within months instead of years and NOT go to court.

Atty 2 has postponed our evidenciary hearing...or whatever it is...with the US court trustee - that's where we have to prove we're not breaking any laws and actually did intend to pay back our debt, but this is why we can't. Starting on the massive pile of paperwork tomorrow. Oh joy.

Mom called tonight to thank us for the CDs - she and Dad have listened to them all and are amazed at the songs we found and the sound quality - some of them were very old songs. That was nice.

So, dear readers, despite the trials and tribulations of being me right now, our immediate families are being quite supportive of us for the moment and that is a bright blessing in the midst of dark despair. Actually gives me hope that everything really will work out alright...kind of like the ending of a Hollywood movie.

But movies are fantasies. Do happy endings really occur? We'll see.

Until tomorrow - hugs to you!

- Mrs. Blonde