Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Super Long Post of Self-indulgent Whining, Babbling, and Recollecting

This is what I feel like these days:
(image from

I feel panicked and on the edge of something painful and frightening. Like I'm just hanging on the edge, and in two weeks, I'll be careening out of control into unknown terrors. Who knows if I will survive?

Going back to grad school was supposed to be fun. I love the idea of classes and teaching and being a part of the academic community, but when it comes down to it, it's way too hard to do a good job at being a mother and a student and a teacher at the same time. Not to mention I'm basically alone during all of it. Andy's new job was supposed to have him home more often, but he's gone much more than he used to be. He really is a huge help when he's home, but he travels to at least one place every week, and usually two or three. Trying to do it all -- him have the life he wants, and me have the life I want -- is hard on him, it's hard on me, and it's hard on the kids. Sometimes I feel like we are really crappy parents for doing this to them.

Last semester was awful. I'll list the reasons below, but I was barely keeping my head above water. Andy hated me for being dysfunctional, exhausted, and cranky. We discussed several times whether we were going to make it as a couple, or if we should just call it good while we were still young enough to do something different. We were kidding, of course. Kind of.

The kids hated me for lots of reasons. Calvin was in his first year of preschool and having a hard time with the new schedule. He cried when I dropped him off every day, and he was picked up by whoever was available after school. Someone, I won't mention any names, but that someone may be the child's father, forgot to pick him up on several occasions, until finally the teachers would call Grandma. He was having a rough few months with all of the changes. I will never forget the night I came home late and went to give him a hug. He slapped me across the face and said, "I hate you, Mom!" Yeah, it sucked. I didn't expect it to happen until he was a teenager. So everyone was emotionally traumatized, including me. I was always on the verge of a meltdown because I couldn't keep anyone happy, and I felt like I was doing everything I possibly could. Of course my family was my top priority, but I was spending a lot of time and money and sweat and tears for this school thing, so I might as well do a good job at it.

So here's a look at Winter semester:

I took two classes:
- 1950's lit and culture. The reading was interesting, but there was a TON of it. With every 1950's novel we read, we had to read 2-4 articles every class period dealing with the corresponding themes. For example, when we read Invasion of the Body Snatchers we read a ton of scholarly articles on communism, containment, American identity, etc. When we read Howl we read about government and social reactions to homosexuality in the '50's. Invisible Man = Black scholarship; Man in Gray Flannel Suit = Male identity crisis; Peyton Place = Women and the prequel to '60's feminism, etc. Fascinating, but tons of work. Also, this professor was the hardest grader. EVER. She would ink up a paper like nobody's business. I spent 12 solid hours on JUST the annotated bibliography for my final paper, and I didn't even get an "A" on it. Also, each of us had to read an entire book in addition to our regular reading, write a book review, and present it to the class. I loved the class and the teacher, but this course alone could have taken up all of my time.

- Folklore. This was mostly an easy class, but the final project killed me. We had to pick some kind of folklore and come up with a few dozen "items" (interviews, stories, handmade items, etc.) and a thorough analysis. I chose beekeepers because I think bees are fascinating. I started taking beekeeping classes and talking to all sorts of people that I had no idea were into bees. It was a fun class, but it took FOREVER. Also, the tests were super hard. I studied harder than I ever have for any test (except the GRE and PMP). We had to know dozens of folklore terms, as well as write random essays on urban legends, applications of field studies, etc.
P.S. Did you know that the following stories have variations all over the world: blind white alligators living in the sewers because someone brought them home from Florida on their vacation and flushed them when they were no longer a good pet; the man with the hook about to kill the couple making out, but his hook got caught on their door handle and he was dragged to death as they drove away; the spider nest in the ratty hair made into a beehive/dreadlocks; and the babysitter getting the "have you checked the children?" call from upstairs where the killer was in the house with the kids. I know, you thought they were true too, didn't you?

I taught two classes:
Freshman writing - At least I had taught this class before, but this semester was older kids who hadn't taken it as freshmen, so it was an entirely different atmosphere. In general, I loved the class, but there were a few people who drove me insane. One particular student challenged me on everything in front of the class, he was always late and disruptive, and he was an obnoxious know-it-all. Unfortunately he was also an excellent writer. He had a 93.2% at the end of the semester (94% is an A). I generally bump the grade if they're that close, so I gave him an A. But I literally lost sleep over it for several nights. He was an "A" writer, but not an "A" student. He was always late and disruptive and wasted everyone's time. I went back into the system and bumped him down. I slept like a baby afterwards. I also had several students that were ESL or had learning disabilities. This class was much more challenging to teach than my first class was.

Writing for Elementary Ed Majors - This was an internship. I co-taught with a faculty member. The good news was that she and I got along incredibly well. I loved her and I loved helping teach the class. The bad news was that 1) What in the world do I know about Elementary Education? Slightly less than I know about writing. I'm totally a sneaky impostor. 2) There was SO much grading in this class. I was always grading papers. And the teacher leaves feedback for the students' papers on a cassette tape. They love the personal touch, but it took tons of time. Also I had to prepare lessons on subjects I had never taught before, read a 1000 page text book, and meet with the professor several times a week for feedback on how I was doing and planning for the next lessons. The worst part of this class was that I had stacked all of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I could be home with the kids the rest of the week, and then after I applied for and was given the internship, I found out that it was every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Going to campus every day meant the kids had to be bundled up and taken to Grandma's every single morning. They love her and she loves them, but some days it would be nice just to stay at home in your p.j.s

Misc. Stuff:
-Spent a lot of time on the application process for the teaching internship (which I got)
-Worked a ton of hours alone and with a professor on a paper that I submitted for publication (which got a big fat rejection)
-Applied for a Research Assistantship for Spring/Summer term (which I got)
-Presented two different papers at two different conferences (Provo and San Antonio)
-Volunteered to be a staff member at a conference my 1950's teacher put together
-Organized Calvin's big carnival party, traveled to PA, designed Christmas cards and squeezed in all of the other holiday requirements, church stuff, family stuff, etc.
-Spent every waking minute writing papers, grading papers, creating lesson plans, reading books, meeting with students, writing reviews, talking to people about bees, fulfilling church assignments, trying to keep my house clean enough that rats didn't invade, and playing with my kids so they'd at some point remember that they loved me. There was no time for Andy.

All of this extra stuff was because at the beginning of the semester I was full of optimism that I'd soon be entering a PhD program and needed to bulk up my resume to be competitive.

I did learn two important things from all of this. 1) A PhD is probably not in my future. At the very least it will have to wait until my kids are much older and much more independent. And 2) I really do want to be a stay-at-home mom. Transitioning to being a mom has been hard for me. I had kids when I was "older" and had a successful career and lots of options. Kids seem to destroy all options. At least that's what I used to think. Lately there have been many moments that are simply fulfilling. We laugh, we learn together, we play and read and talk. They are happy to have me home, and I am happy to be here. I find myself longing to:

decorate my house
take field trips
get skinny
bake bread
have more babies
play the piano
bottle the food I grow in my garden
have lunch with my sisters
go swimming
raise chickens
start a bee hive
cut fresh flowers
catch up on family newsletters

... just do other things besides prove to myself (because no one else gives a rat's derriere, I've found) that I'm smart enough. How lucky am I that I don't have to work? I should just be grateful. I've learned that I really am ready to enjoy being a mom with all of the adventure that it entails, and then we'll see what happens after I've done the very best I can at that.

What was the point of this post? I don't even remember.

I think it was 1) to document for myself some of what I've been up to, and 2) to explain why/apologize for being a bad friend/sister who never calls or stays in touch with anyone. The main problem with this post, I believe, is that I'm currently reading Tina Fey's Bossypants so I'm in the mode of self-indulgent narration. She spends almost three hundred pages on her big pores, co-workers who pee in jars, her German/Greek heritage, and why women are just as funny as men. I think I'm subconsciously trying to be Tina Fey and make my life seem relevant by writing a huge epistle about everything I can think of to say. Just kidding, Tina, you know I'm your biggest fan.

So since I took so long dwelling on the river leading up to the waterfall drop-off, the actual fears looming ahead of me will have to follow in another post. I'm sure you'll be on pins and needles.

The End.


rk said...

Love you and love your writing! I am amazed at what you have accomplished.

MaryRuth said...

you're amazing. sorry its been so hard. quit school. you'll be way happier! And did you forget that you thought you could work full time in there too... HA!

good luck this year! but once you're done be done for awhile. enjoy being a mom. we'll go on field trips together and do crafts and lunch. it will be perfect. :)

love you (i'm saying that so you'll cringe). :)

Smith Clan said...

If I ever do 1/100th of what you did in one semester, my head will explode. You are amazing!!! I could feel some of your pain oozing out between the lines. I'm glad you survived. I don't know how you did it:) said...

I just read this post. I needed it tonight. I love you and miss you, ducky. LOVED my birthday present from you and Andy. It was perfect. I'm excited for your stay at home plan. I need that plan!