Friday, April 29, 2011

A Day Not Soon Forgotten

Now that its nearly over, I'm almost certain that April 29th will be a day lodged in my memory for all time. It has been such a roller coaster of emotions, I don't even know which way is up right now. All I know is that it's late and I'm exhausted. I should be sleeping, but I couldn't go to sleep, so here I am, doing this instead. You know, come to think of it, this whole week's been really hard for me. I'm just so tired, mentally, which makes me thankful that it's nearly summer break and I'll be able to just forget this last, horrible half-year.

I woke up this morning to a message from my mom, on Facebook, that really sank my spirits. Not that I really have spirits at 8:00 a.m., but this was particularly upsetting. My ex-husband's grandmother died today. There was a time when she and I were quite close, I loved her quite a lot, and to hear that she had died has really made me sad. The years pass, and I've not seen her in a long, long time, but that doesn't mean I care any less or that it hurts any less. I can, of course, acknowledge that I would probably be even more upset had I been around her these last years, but it's still hard.  I worried all day about whether or not I should say anything to him, and how I should do so, until I finally just decided that for my own peace of mind, I would send him a message via Facebook and express my condolences. We're not on speaking terms, really, so that was the best I could do. I hope he understands why I chose to do so, I really needed to.

All of that going on, I had pretty much forgotten about the Royal Wedding. When I got to work, the other girls in the office were all abuzz about it. They had all gotten up early to watch it (I hadn't) and were so thrilled, my spirits were lifted a bit at their enthusiasm. To be honest, I don't really care much about the wedding, I don't much care for weddings at all, and I don't like Kate. I think she's too skinny and looks old, even though she's only 29. I think my feelings about her are a bit of my being territorial about Princess Di.  I know William is her son, but I feel like Kate is trying to replace her--she's even wearing her ring--and that pisses me off. Yes, it's irrational, but whatever.  I did take some time to look at the pictures of the wedding, which was absolutely beautiful. I love to see all the pomp surrounding those things, even if I could care less about the actual wedding. I mean, what were Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice wearing on their heads, anyway, seriously. The British and their hats!

Then, while I was feeling pretty low all day, this afternoon was my Sigma Tau Delta induction ceremony. I was still feeling pretty bad about Mike's grandmother, and didn't initially want to go, but decided that I needed to because I had RSVP'd and it was only right that I should hold up my end of the bargain.  Besides, several of my friends had said they were going and I didn't want to disappoint them, had they been counting on my showing up. As it turns out, my friends Paula, Stacy, and Chelsea were all there, and were inducted along with me, which made it really nice. The ceremony was at Trogdon House, the University President's house, on campus at Tarleton. The ceremony was lovely,  there was a bit of ritual to it; they called my name, gave me red and black honor cords (which I won't be able to wear when I graduate because its prohibited for Graduate students to wear such things), a pin, a framed certificate (which is quite pretty), and some random goodies, like a sticker for the car window, a bookmark, and some pamphlets. Afterwards there was refreshments (which I never managed to get any of) and I spent most of the post-ceremony mixer talking with my committee chair, Dr. Y, who had attended the ceremony.

We discussed my thesis and some other random things, which was nice--it's always nice to talk to her--and then afterwards I went back to the office with her and she gave me a little something for having done her a favor last week. She really didn't have to, I was happy to help her out, but it made me feel good that she had thought of me anyway. She's an amazing person and I adore her. She asked about my thesis proposal and whether or not Dr. C & Dr. S had seen it, I told them she had. It was lovely.  To make things nicer, a friend I've not seen in a while, Chelsea, invited us to go to her graduation party next Friday night. She lives out of town, so I don't know if we'll be able to go because I have to proctor a final that night, but she said to come out even if it'll be late. So, we may go. It was nice to be invited, anyway.

So, between losing someone I was once really close to, the hullabaloo about the Royal Wedding, and the Sigma Tau Delta induction, my day has been a roller coaster of emotions. This is the first time in a long time I've felt sad, indifferent, and proud all in one day. I hope not to have another day like this for a long time, I can't handle these bi-polar days very frequently. As this year goes, the good is still outweighint the bad, but I hope that will change in the near future when Matt graduates (in May!!) and the summer commences.

For now, I have but to say good night. Adieu.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

One Bad Apple...

Okay, time to do a little bit of venting. Or maybe more than a little bit of venting. I have this classmate, we'll call him "AV"--which actually happens to be the oaf's initials, so it works. AV is possibly the rudest person I have ever met, bar none. Seriously, the absolute rudest. He's also disgusting and disrespectful. You know those people who believe in the idea of personal hell? I think my personal hell would be being stuck with this guy. He's that horrible. He's a misogynist, not to mention racist and sexist. On top of that, he's dirty and uncouth. Seriously, disgusting doesn't begin to cover it.

So anyway, AV has been in my classes for two semesters now (Fall 2010 & Spring 2011). Initially, we all just thought he was old and ridiculous, rude and stupid at very worst--and no, I'm not being judgmental when I say he's old, the guy's like 65. He just sat across the room from everyone else, spoke up with the silliest and most off topic suggestions about the texts, and for every word he said that contributed to the meaning of his sentences he'd toss in three or four "ya knows." We all just rolled our eyes and waited for him to shut his yap so we could get on with class--one of our classmates actually made little ticks on his paper every time AV said "ya know," which was actually hilarious.

One night, last semester, I ventured to say good night to him as he passed us after class. All I got in return was a disgruntled grunt, the sound an animal would make.  He never looked at me, nor Melanie and Nikka, as he lumbered past, and when we was gone we all laughed it off. No harm, no foul. Yes, he was annoying, and yes, we all thought he was a joke, but really, not much more than that at first. As the semester marched forward, AV got more and more insistent with his yammering, made less and less sense, and began treating everyone with complete and utter disrespect.  He even sat on his laptop the whole class, watching videos, surfing the web, and doing homework for other classes. Everything but paying attention.

Things started to get really nasty when he actually called our professor a rather ugly name, in the hall to another student, when she wouldn't give him leave to skip half of a class (which only meets once a week for three hours) to attend a festival event. He withdrew from the class, and when he realized he had made a mistake came crawling back. She allowed him back in the class, but only on the terms that he would begin treating his classmates with more respect and that he was disallowed his laptop once class had begun.

The rest of the semester was a nightmare of Tuesday nights wherein we all tried to engage in a class discussion while AV sat across the room and made misogynistic remarks and blatantly tore down any idea we had. He informed the professor, on several occasions, that the work defied discussion and that it was better before we started discussing it. He rudely interjected his objections during our class presentations, and treated the professor like crap. He would say things like "This reminds me of the pina colada song" and then say that other people's ideas were irrelevant or stupid. Oh, have I mentioned that he would actually go to sleep in class, with his shoes off and his dirty socked feet on the desk?  Yeah, nasty! I think we were all quite pleased when the semester ended (even the professor, I think), which was a shame because we all really loved that class (fantastic matieral!).

Fast forward past the (mostly) glorious, AV-free Christmas break to this semester.  Yet again, AV is in my Wednesday night class and once again is he utterly and completely rude. This semester, though, it's actually worse. Two weeks ago he informed one of the women in our class that we're all "dimwits" and he said he couldn't imagine how any of us had gotten into grad school.  I wasn't there that night, but I was infuriated anyway because I was included in that group. Tonight, however, his rudeness reached an all time high (maybe not all time, but you see what I'm saying).  He argued with the professor for 10 minutes about the due date for the paper and when the professor put his foot down, he acted like an ass by shuffling through his backpack for another five minutes and then getting up with two books, in the middle of the class discussion, and leaving the room to take them back to the library. He actually returned his library books in the middle of class!

Then, when we thought that was the height of his rudeness, he did something even ruder. We take a break at 7:30pm, which is about the middle of class or so.  AV gets up, with his backpack and starts shuffling toward the door. When Dr. S asked him where he was going, he said, "I'm leaving, I'm tired of this class."  Then, he left. Just like that.  At half class.  I suppose we shouldn't have been insulted or surprised, but I think we all were.  This isn't the first time he's done something like this. The week he said we're all "dimwits" he asked if he could be the first to discuss his paper because he wanted to leave at half-class because he didn't want to listen to the other papers.  Two weeks before that he asked if he could be first and then leave because he "wasn't going to hear anything enlightening from the rest of us, anyway." It's infuriating!

I think it's even more infuriating because he gets away with it--yeah, today he was overheard telling the English department administrative assistant that he thinks we're all dumb, but that it doesn't matter because he's going somewhere to adjunct, which is absurd since he doesn't even have his MA yet. Anyway, Our professor just lets it roll of his back, while the rest of us are completely appalled at the level of disrespect for both the class and the professor. AV continues to be rude and our professor continues to allow it which is, honestly, a bit disappointing. I know my professor is simply operating under the idea that not everyone is going to get along, nor like the people they work with or teach. I really respect this professor so I'm trying to be the bigger person, but it's remarkably hard not to smack the crap out of this guy (AV, that is). Who is he to call us dimwits when we're all making A's on our papers while he's making D's and F's? I only know what his grades are, by the way, because he asked Dr. S, in front of everyone, why he's making the grades he is. Again, disrespectful.

You cannot imagine who happy I will be when this semester is over (two weeks to go!!) and I never have to see him again. Attitudes and energy like that only tear everyone down and ruin an otherwise great graduate school experience. I actually heard a classmate say he was thinking about going to another school to get away from AV because he's been such a terrible influence on the program as a whole. You know there's a problem when good people are leaving a good program because the idiots are driving them away.  Honestly, to be completely truthful, I would be happy if AV would suffer some consequences for his completely unprofessional behavior. If someone would just say, "hey, this is not appropriate, you're being disrespectful, stop or you're out."  Is that too much to ask?


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Weekend

I've been snooping around at my friend's blogs & Facebook and everyone seems to be posting recaps of their Easter weekend.  It doesn't sound like anyone really had a stellar time this last weekend, but that the day was still generally nice and, disaster free, overall. If you did have an amazing, awesome Easter weekend, and I've somehow managed to miss the thrill of your awesome day, my apologies.  I'm not in the best head-space right now, so everyone's entries seem to colored in a layer of gloom... but in all fairness, maybe it's just me.

My Easter weekend started out alright. We had a three day weekend, which is always nice, and I felt generally upbeat on Friday.  It was Earth Day and Good Friday, and Matt and I celebrated the eco-holiday by not going anywhere or doing anything. It was really nice. I wasted the day away, despite having so much to get done, and it was nice to just hang out. I don't really have time to do nothing, but I threw caution to the wind and did so anyway.  If I don't take time to myself, when things get hectic, I snap.

Sadly, Saturday wasn't as good as Friday. I had too much work to do and didn't have the drive or desire to do any of it. I literally sat in front of my computer all day doing homework. I wrote the prompts for my American Lit final (we get to chose what we'll write our final over) and then toiled over my Teaching of Composition paper.  I got the prompts done but only got four pages written on the paper, all day, which was just disappointing. There was a time in my life, not so long ago, that I didn't trip over writing a paper. I generally write pretty fast, too, so spending 12+ hours writing 4 pages is just shameful. By the time Saturday got here, I was fried... and so was my modem.

A thunderstorm rolled in on Saturday afternoon. The sky was gloomy and black, lit occasionally in sparks of brilliant light. My sad little shih-tzu, Anakin, cowered all day long and refused to go outside in the elements. For my part, I enjoyed the weather, even though I was trapped inside, and took every opportunity I could to go outside and sit with Matt while he smoked--he smokes outside regularly now and doesn't even complain about it!  About mid-evening, while procrastinating and making dinner, I was surfing the net when my connection went down. Matt and I spent a minute or two discussing whether or not our connection was out before deciding it was. We waited and waited, but nothing all night, no internet.

When I woke-up, bright and early on Sunday morning, ready to dive into the last four or five pages of my Teaching of Comp paper, I happened to notice that the internet was still down. The power light on the modem was red, so I called CenturyLink around 8 a.m. (on Easter morning) to report my problem in hopes that they could fix it. They were really nice and said that if the power light was red, the modem was fried. I talked to them about the storm; they agreed that a phone line somewhere had probably been struck in the storm and sent a surge through the phone wires and into the modem, and that I would need a new modem.  They said they would be happy to send it, but that we'd have to pay $25 for the shipping.  Matt works from home, so it wasn't an option, we needed it overnighted to us so he didn't lose anymore work days than he already had between Sunday (yes, he would have worked on Sunday) and Monday, so I agreed.

Not. Awesome.

With that taken care of by 8:30 a.m. or so, I made a pot of coffee and opened my word document to work on my paper. I read over what I had by way of notes for the rest of the paper, which I had made at the end of the document the night before, put my fingers to the keys and hammered out 6 more pages before 10:30 a.m.  Coffee and a good night's sleep can do wonders.  I spent the rest of the day, internet-less, making edits to my paper and writing my works cited page.  The paper was due yesterday (Monday), so it really needed to get done. When I finished that, I dove into my teaching philosophy assignment which was also due sometime soon (no real due date, just before the end of April).

In all, we didn't do anything special for Easter. We were invited to my in-laws, in Waco, but there was no way we could have gone. We declined the invitation because we had too much classwork to do. The end of the semester is a terrible time for us. With all we had going on, there was simply no way we could pick up and take a day off to go to Waco and eat food.  No way. Besides, we couldn't really afford the tank of gas the trip would have cost and our car is still acting up from the transmission part that needs replacing (which we haven't done because it'll be $1,000 and we don't have it, nor would be spend it on this car anyway).

I did spend a good part of the day feeling quite homesick. My family all got together for the holiday, but we couldn't go, for obvious reasons (the 1,500 miles between here and there, namely). I miss spending holidays with my family and will be quite happy when we move home next year and I can begin doing so again.  Anyway, pity party aside, I had some other things to talk about but this is starting to run long as is, so I'll save it for another entry.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

It's Earth Day... as the title insinuates. Ha!  It's also Good Friday, so the university is closed and Matt and I are home. Who knew that Good Friday (a religious holiday) was a national holiday? I must have, but it's slipped my attention all these years. Ah well, I'm happy to have the day off for a multitude of reasons. The first is that I have an absolute ton of school work to do and very little time left to do it.  Having a three day weekend is just what I need right now to get caught up!
The second is that it's Earth Day and not having to go anywhere affords me the opportunity to devote my Earth Day to staying home and not driving anywhere. While I'm not one of those people who believe that humans are killing the planet, I do believe that we're making quite a mess of it. Earth Day is about making our planet healthy, clean, and beautiful again. So, this Earth Day I'm taking two measures.
  1. I'm not driving anywhere.  Even if I need something, the car will remain parked in the drive way. I'm also making sure Matt doesn't drive anywhere. Only minimal increase to our carbon footprint today!

  2. I'm not taking a shower. I know that sounds strange, but since I'm not going anywhere, and I just had a shower last night, there's no reason to waste the water. Showering is a huge waste of water insofar as much of the water just runs down the drain without contributing to our cleanliness... particularly when we're letting it run so the water will heat up!
I would plant a tree, except that I don't have anywhere to do so. We rent the land our houses is on, that's it. Since we don't own a lawn mower, or whatever, blocking off space for a planter close to the house is out of the question. The guys who mow would be ticked! So, rather than planting a tree, staying home and not showering will be our contributions.

Truly, I try to do things all year to be at least somewhat green. Things like:

  • Only having one car and never flying.

  • Reading from a Kindle, which I really believe saves trees (or has the potential to save trees). E-publishing is green!

  • Using Compact Fluorescent Light-bulbs (CFL) throughout the house.

  • Using 100% wind energy from Green Mountain Energy. My biggest regret about GME is that I'm pretty sure they're not in California. So, when we move, no clean wind energy for us. While there are green energy programs in CA, but none of them are as widespread or specific as what we have now. What a shame; Green Mountain Energy really needs to spread their wings and bring their amazing wind energy programs to California.

  • Using only Energy Star rated & approved appliances.

  • Skipping on the styrofoam (mostly) -- don't even get me started about that!

  • Eating relatively small amounts of meat and almost no red meat.

I calculated our Carbon Footprint and it's pretty darn low, however, in the spirit of Earth Day, there are a lot of things we could be doing to be more green. As a believer in being environmentally cautious, it's a bit hypocritical for me to take the easy route on things that I could otherwise be doing a little bit better.  Matt and I drink a ton of bottled water, for example, and we just throw the bottles away. I think, rather than throwing them away, I'm going to start putting them in a separate container and recycling them --assuming I can find a recycling place in town. I suppose I could also recycle gallon cartons from both milk and water. We don't drink soda much, and never buy it, so that's not an issue anymore.

There are a lot of people who say that it's a good idea to run the extra water from the shower, that water that just runs down the drain when we're waiting for the water to heat up, into a bucket and use it for other household purposes, like flushing the toilets, watering plants, doing laundry, etc. I'm considering whether that's just excessive, and more trouble than it would be worth, but it might just save us on our water bill, so I may consider trying it out.  Of course, trying to get Matt on board is a much bigger problem than doing it myself. He's skeptical of all things environmental. He just doesn't care as much as I do, I'm afraid.  He subscribes to the George Carlin environmental understanding that the planet was here before we were and will be here when we're gone.

For myself, I ascribe to the idea that when we die, whatever our religious beliefs, we become a part of the earth. We're recycled, over time, and I'd like to some day become a part of a beautiful green earth, rather than a filthy mess. I know that's somewhat dark, especially for a day like Earth Day, but I think it's appropriate because it's also Good Friday, which, for all it's ushering in of the happy spring holiday, Easter, is a celebration in remembrance of death.

I hope you're having a lovely three day weekend and are taking a moment to stop and think about Earth Day.  For me, this holiday symbolizes a reflection on all the things I'm doing right for the Earth, and a day to consider all the things I could be doing better. If you haven't ever done so, or haven't do so recently, calculate your Carbon Footprint (Global Footprint Network - Footprint Calculator) and find out what you could be doing to help save the earth.

Happy Earth Day & Good Friday!

{Image courtesy of Shutterstock}

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Women Are Supposed To Be Thin"

Somehow, following links around the web tonight, I found myself on a forum about weight issues. The original poster on the thread, a woman in her 20s, was having a problem because she had gained 20lbs and her husband, who was apparently also over weight, told her that he wasn't attracted to her anymore.  He told her it was fine that he was overweight, but it wasn't okay for her because "women are supposed to be thin." Apparently, when they met she was overweight, she lost 100 lbs at his behest, and has since gained some of it back. Now, he's refusing her physical affection because he's disgusted with the way she looks.

Normally, I would have just let this go. Honestly, that woman isn't the first woman to have problems in her relationship because she's overweight. This is a problem a lot of people have and while I sympathize with her, seeing things like that only make me cherish my husband more because he would never, ever say anything that horrible to me. My problem with the whole thing doesn't come down to the original poster and her problems, it comes down to the answers she was getting, things like:
"Attraction is linked to sight for men and if we don't like what we see we can't be blamed for not being attracted anymore."

"You should lose the weight and make your husband happy."

"You shouldn't be mad at him for telling you the truth, you should be ashamed of yourself for even considering being mad."

"A wife should stay in shape for her man.  As a man, I expect my wife to work out no less 4 hours a day and stay fit.  Lately, she hasn't been and it's really annoying. I don't think I can have a wife that's not in shape. You should get in shape for your man if you care about him."

"If he 'got you' one way and now that he 'has you' you've changed (physically), then he has a right to say something, right?"

Really?  Is this how people really feel?  I tend to believe that cruelty over the net is much more honest than cruelty in person because they don't know you and don't have to face the pain they're causing you.  Which, of course, leads me to believe that these people are on the level.  They shouldn't be, but they are.

As someone who has been over weight for much of my life, I really take offense to this. Marital happiness is about mutual love and respect.  It's about building and sharing a life together.  It's not about shaming your significant other every time they put food in their mouth, is it?  I understand the physical attraction is important, but I'm really struggling to understand how this woman's husband, who is supposed to love her, could say something as cruel to his wife as "you're ugly to me" and how that position can be defended so hurtfully by strangers. If he wanted her to be thinner for her own health, that's one thing, but he seems to want her thinner for his aesthetic pleasure which, I'm sorry, is just wrong.

It's possible, now that I think back on it, that some of my own issues are peeking through here. Currently, I have the most amazing husband.  When he met me, I was quit a bit smaller than I am now, but he's never once given me grief about my weight or insinuated that he wasn't attracted to me because I've put on pounds.  When I was 18 years old, however, and quit a bit thinner than I am now, I had a significant other who told me all the time that I was fat and lazy.  He told me I needed to lose weight and that I was making him look bad.  The fact is, while I was curvy, I certainly wasn't fat.  Today, I am heavy, but back then I had a nice shape.  I would give anything to be that "fat" again.

I just don't get it. I try pretty hard to think about other people's feelings. It's not the easiest thing for me, I'm not terribly sensitive or caring, but I try. I try to be sympathetic to the sensitivities of those around me, whether they be a friend or stranger. I cannot believe the "advice" these horrible people are giving this woman.  What is with all of the fat hate going around? I've seen people lately say that over weight people are grotesque and deserve to be locked away, that they're a burden on society, and that the way the overweight look makes them sick.  What happened to minding one's own business?  I mean, I realize it's a forum, and that the original poster should have thought about all the hurtful things that could come of it before she took her despiration and pain online, but the responses she got were just uncalled for. In my class, we're talking about how technology breeds rudeness and I honestly believe this is one good example of just that. Would they say that to this woman's face?  I doubt it.

I think people should remember that health issues aside (and it's possible to be overweight and healthy), skinny as the ideas is a product of a commercialized culture that tells us we should starve ourselves to death to be perfect.  If you're just naturally skinny, that's fine, I think there are people who struggle to put weight on, too, but there was a time not all that long ago when society didn't tell us that we were worthless if we were overweight. There was a time when weight was beautiful. There was a time when being curvy meant that you were healthy and lovely.  After all, where do they think the term "Rubenesque" comes from?

Someone help me out here, so you think that it's her responsibility to lose the weight so her husband will find her attractive again? Do you think it's true that it's not her husband's fault, he's just responding to visual queues? Does he have the right to say anything when he's overweight, too? I'm afraid I would have to seriously rethink my position were I in a relationship that the jerk... or any of the people who gave her the above advice, for that matter!

{Image: Leda and the Swan by Peter Paul Rubens}

Monday, April 18, 2011

Recipes: New York-Style Crumb Cake

For the first time since my oven's been fixed, I took some time out to bake. I love to bake, the weather has been cool on and off lately, so I figured it was fine.  I probably wouldn't bake today, but then it's 97 degrees here this afternoon and that's just too hot to have the oven on. Anyhow, I've been dying to make the New York-Style Crumb Cake I saw on Noble Pig's website a few weeks ago.  Cake, jam, crumb topping... heaven on a plate. That's all I have to say about that.  So, I got the ingredients and whipped it up this weekend.  It was a bigger ordeal to make it than I thought it would be, but the final product was well worth the effort.

New York-Style Crumb Cake
From Martha Stewart--Adjusted by Noble Pig

Crumb Topping:
3 cups cake flour (not self rising)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2-1/2 cups cake flour (not self rising)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
9 ounces jam, marionberry, blueberry, blackberry...your choice
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Make the crumb topping: Mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour warm melted butter over mixture, and mix using your hands until medium to large clumps form.

Preheat oven to 325o. Make the cake: Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.

Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour additions, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until well combined.

Spoon batter into pan and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Top batter with jam before scattering crumb layer over the top.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

You must make this, it's definitely worth the time and cost. It tasted like heaven!  I used Smucker's Blueberry Preserves, which is so amazing, but any berry jam will do.  I'm going to make it with Strawberry Jam next time. The only thing I would say is that it took me more like 27 oz of jam (about 1 1/2 jars), rather than the 9 oz. the recipe says it takes. So, be aware that you'll need more jam than the recipe calls for.

Also, I think it warrants mentioning, but I had no idea that there was a difference between jam and preserves before today.  I went to find a link for that delicious Blueberry preserves and it turn out that preserves is not the same as jam. Preserves is more like fruit in a heavy syrup.  Huh, who knew?


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Striving for Summer...

The spring semester is thankfully winding down and I'm starting to feel the pressure and pain to get things done. As I complete tasks, and trust me when I say that I still have a lot of tasks to go before we can call this one a day, I've been trying to stay positive and remember that summer break is nearly here.  Of course, staying positive isn't my best thing and I've had more than one day when I've felt like I was going to just fold, when I felt as though no option existed but to give up. Fact is, I can be a drama queen; there were always other options and I always managed to pull through.  As a matter of fact, today has been one of those days, at least part of it, when I've felt like I could just crawl into my bed and hide for the next three weeks. Not a reality, I know that, but a girl can fantasize. On second thought, what's it say about me that I fantasize about hiding out?  Heh.

Anyway, summer break comes about the middle of the second week of May, around the 12th, and I've already begun to make plans for how I'll spend the three months off.  This is somewhat new. I always look forward to breaks--summer break, Christmas, thanksgiving, spring break--but I don't think I've ever looked so forward to a break as I am right now. It's been an absolutely grueling semester, the hardest I've ever had, in fact, so the break will be a welcome reprieve. Taking three grad classes, teaching a class and lab, grading, doing my own classwork, and working in the writing center has tested the limits of my sanity. Come on, summer break, mama needs a day off!

So, to keep myself motivated, I've planned out what I'll do over my summer break. So far, the list looks like this:

  • Sort: Organize all of the pictures on my computer.  This will actually be a huge project, I have at least a thousand pictures.  Some of them are duplicate and need to be thrown away, others need to be re-categorized and organized.

  • Research: Read The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe) and Clermont (Regina Maria Roche), also the Twilight Saga, brush-up on Sookie, and watch True Blood. Believe it or not, all of the above counts as thesis research.  ~.^

  • Game: Spend time with Matt.  We haven't gotten to spend much time together for my hectic schedule this semester, so we're due.

  • Ring: I've paid a down payment, will give them another payment toward the ring in May, and pay my class ring off in June.  Pictures of the final product forthcoming (around the first week of June, I think).

  • Read: Not because I have to, but because I want to--I have so many books lined up, it's not funny.  My Kindle is brimming with books!!

  • Thesis: My introduction is due in mid-July.

  • Sew: I really want to make more of those Origami drawstring bags.

  • Bake: Chocolate is calling my name and while summer's not ideal for baking, I'm not worried about the heat, we have a good air conditioner!

  • Write: Love's Daughter is calling my name and I intend to get it written this summer.

That's all I have so far, but all of that should keep me busy during the summer. I am dying for it to get here, but before then, I have a lot to do. I just keep telling myself that every single project is one less project I have to get done. One more word, one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more essay, three more weeks.

I can do it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Writing Center Conference

Today, rather than going about my usual Friday activities (teaching a class and working in the writing center), I went out of town with Melanie to attend a conference.  It's the second conference I've had the pleasure of attending this semester, in fact--the other being CCTE in March. Anyhow, we closed the writing center today so we could all attend the Spring North Texas Writing Center Association conference, of which my bosses are the president and vice president. You may recall that I wrote previously about the fall conference, which was held at the Tarrant County College--Trinity River Campus, in Fort Worth.  Today's conference is the same association as the fall conference, but was hosted by Tarleton, at the Langdon House, which is actually a very small complex of historical buildings in Granbury--about 30 miles outside of Stephenville.

The conference was held in the Concert Hall, which is actually a historical church that was moved to the grounds of the Langdon House after Tarleton purchased it from the church that was building a bigger place in 1998. I just love the building, all of them really, but the only one I got a picture of was the concert hall because the wind was blowing quite hard and both Melanie and I were wearing skirts.  We nearly blew away, in fact she and Mike (another tutor) were blown several steps forward by a heavy gust, the wind was blowing so hard.  The pictures below are the concert hall and the historical plaque explaining about its origins.  Had it not been for the wind, it would have been a perfectly lovely day.

Melanie and I, along with Marsha and her husband Randy, all arrived at the conference location early because we had agreed to help set-up for the conference before registration. It took us all a minute to get oriented, we all parked across the complex from where we needed to be, but after a short walk we found ourselves standing at the front doors of the above structure, which actually turned out to be the back doors, and Melanie rather bravely turned the knobs and went inside. The doors were unlocked, but the space was dark and empty, save for the furniture.  Our bosses hadn't arrived yet, so we hung out and I took some pictures of the inside while we waited.

The whole place just oozes historical charm! The floors are hardwood, the windows are long and tall, and the rafters are high and open. I loved the ceiling, which explains the picture on the right. It's a shot of the very high ceilings with teal painted rafters. Very pretty with great acoustics. I could close my eyes and almost hear a choir singing. It wasn't long before our bosses showed up with all of the stuff and we got around to setting up. The tables were all covered with yellow table clothes, excepting one at the front that we covered in a purple table cloth with our school and writing center name. We put springish paper cutouts on each table by way of decoration, and set out lunch on a table along the back.

We served sandwiches, chips, cookies, and drinks, a lunch well worth the $6.50 each participant paid for it. Melanie and I worked the registration table, where we took the payment for lunch and made colorful name tags for the conference attendees. We started with lunch and greeting, where everyone got their plates and mingled. The conference is very friendly and everyone's very nice, and approachable. Some professional conferences are quite stuffy or unfriendly, but this one's nothing like that.

After lunch there was the business meeting, awards, and paper presentations. All of the speakers had something interesting to say.  One of them was from our Writing Center, a tutor who's been working there since 2007, and talked about the rhetoric of writing centers. Poor guy was so nervous, but he pulled through it like a champ.  The three others were two undergrads from TCU and a grad student from UTA. It only went through about 3:45 this afternoon and we stayed after to help clean up, which only took about ten minutes with everyone from TSU working together to get the mess resolved. It's amazing what a group can do when everyone works together to get things done!

The drives both there and back were very rocky.  Melanie drove, and I was glad that she did because I don't think I could have handled the wind. It was absolutely gusting out! When we came out of the conference and headed for home, the sky was filled with dirt and smoke and the air smelled vaguely of something burning.  It looked like smog, but was actually dirt and smoke,, you get what I'm trying to say. It was fair gross, to be honest, and I cannot breathe today for it.

Once we got back into town I had Melanie bring me to Tarleton so I could get some things and email my boss some work I had for her. I called Matt and asked him to come for me, he was happy to do so but told me to stay inside the building until he got there, that it wasn't safe for me to be outside in the weather. His concern was adorable!  He was right though, they were blocking a street across campus, one block over, because the wind had blown a huge branch off of a tree. He got me, we got Chicken Express (god I love their food!!) and then came home and watched "Knight and Day" which Netflix had sent us for a second time because the first disk was scratched and unwatchable.

The sun was so surreal when I got in tonight, a sort of orange glow in the brown sky. I was outside with Matt while he smoked and took Anakin out.  It was really pretty and really ugly all at once.

I took the first pic, and then went a little camera crazy while Matt was gawking at the Mormons who were out and about and trying to save souls in the mean weather, and took the picture of us. I never can get him to actually look at the camera, so this is the best I could do. He's about as bad as Anakin when it comes time to have his picture taken. Turns out the picture turned out awesome with him not looking at the camera. I like this picture so much I set it as my profile picture on Facebook! The picture of us has been edited with Picnik, a free online photo editor.

As always, you can click any of the pictures to see them bigger.  That's all I have for now, and more than enough, I'd say, for the time being. I have so much to do this weekend, but for now I'm off to watch Marilyn Monroe movies and veg. I hope you're having a great Friday and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dear April, I hate you!

I really, really, really hate the month of April! I keep thinking that after college, I won't feel so much animosity for April. Of course, there's always the chance that I'll go to work teaching comp at a college somewhere, in which case April will be back on my list. It's a vicious cycle. The bottom line is this: April is hell. It's nearly the end of the semester, which is always hectic.  This semester, in addition to school, I'm also teaching and tutoring, which involves grading papers. There's only about three weeks of school left and I still have two long paper's to write, two finals, two discussion posts, and a response paper.  I am literally going to pull out my hair!  I just keep on hoping that the summer hurries up and gets here, I need a break!

On a good note, our oven is fixed!  The repairman came on Monday and installed the new panel so it works again. Thank goodness, because I have been so annoyed not having an oven to bake in. That said, I haven't exactly had much time to use it this week, but I'm hoping that this weekend I'll have time to bake a New York-Style Crumb Cake from a recipe that I found on Noble Pig's blog.  I got all of the ingredients when we went to Wal-Mart earlier this week; for now I'm just waiting for a moment to present itself, or at least a moment that's not totally and completely wrong.  There is no way I can bake a coffee cake at midnight, for example. I can't want to try it, anyway, it's going to be blueberry!

I just realized, upon reading that last sentence, that I'm probably rambling, so I may have to call this quits for the time being. I have to work tomorrow, so I really need to go to bed anyway. It's late, I'm tired, and more than anything I'm worn out. Friday, I go to the Spring Writing Center conference, and then, the weekend is here!  Of course, I have a ton of homework, but I enjoy the weekends nonetheless because I get the chance to stay home and spend some time with Matt, who I miss when I spend all of my time at the school.

Okay, I really am going now.  Good night.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another Week, Fantastic...

Ugh, it's only Monday and this week has been horrible so far!  I may or may not have mentioned, a few weeks back, that I woke up to find my oven dead... again. This is the second time in less than a year, so you can imagine my unhappiness. I called Sears because the stupid thing's still under warranty, they scheduled a repair visit for a week from the day I called them, which was last Monday (a week ago). The guy came out, looked at it, said it needed a part, and that it would be another week. The part came Friday, but it's just been sitting in the box, and guess what, it's still sitting in the freaking box!

Yeah, the guy was supposed to come today, but didn't make it. We've now been without our oven for about 3 weeks. Apparently, the guy got hurt on the job right before ours, and had to go home.  If he was hurt, he should have gone to the damn hospital, not home. To top things off, Matt has stayed home for two Monday's in a row to wait for this guy, who has been booked to come out between 8am and noon on both Mondays, but today it was after 2pm before they called to say that he was hurt. So, Matt stayed home from class for nothing. Fan-fucking-tastic!

More annoying, the guy left Matt with a receipt last Monday that said if our warranty wouldn't cover the cost, there would be a $365 charge. Um, excuse me?! There's no reason the warranty shouldn't cover it, but now I'm totally paranoid. First of all, there is absolutely zero way we could afford that, and second, the stupid thing only cost me a little more than $400.  I'm not paying nearly what it cost to replace a part, that's insanity!  I have never been more agitated about something breaking.

It's moments like this that I cannot wait to be a renter again. Right now, my father-in-law owns the house we live in and Matt is always reticent to tell his father when something breaks. The AC needs repair, the pipes break, the bathtub develops a crack which renders it unusable, the oven dies... all problems we've had and he just wants to take care of it, even though it puts us in a bad position financially and never-mind the fact that we don't own the damn house. If we did, I wouldn't mind paying to fix these problems, but the fact is, we don't!  Besides, I love to rent, someone else becomes responsible for your broken stuff. When you rent and the stove breaks, they fix it or bring you another one.  If the pipes burst and flood your apartment, they hire a professional company to come clean it up, they spray for pests... it's heaven!

So, they rescheduled our stove repair for next Monday; we get to wait yet another week. The level of inconvenience we've dealt with so far has been unbelievable, but at least they're not coming until the afternoon next week, so Matt can go to his class. I'm starting to believe dealing with Sears is more trouble than it's worth. I swear, I will never buy another appliance from them again, they're incompetent and, frankly, I'm seriously disappointed because they have such an enduringly good reputation. Too bad I don't feel like they live up to it. I am so pissed at them, seriously, they need to step it up. I'm really, really tired of being without an oven.

Is this week almost over, yet?  I really need a break!