It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!

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photo by Walter Stoneburner

Hello Dear Readers!

I have not forgotten or abandoned you although it may appear that way. It’s my favorite time of year! Christmas time, you ask? Why…no…

It’s the ever popular end of the semester! And you thought “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” were for shopping! Silly Readers!

Black Friday is named as such because it’s the day every college student realizes that every major paper, exam, and project is now due in a matter of days, not weeks or months.

Cyber Monday is when we frantically do our last-minute research to try to gather enough information to flesh out those last papers to the required number of pages. I am also using Cyber Monday to beg my poor professors for letters of recommendation to the grad schools I’m applying to, and speaking of that, what sadistic mastermind decided to make all the deadlines for applying to these illustrious bastions of higher education DURING FINALS?! I have five universities to apply to between December 2nd and December 15th, each requiring a hefty application fee and personalization of my statement of purpose.

What is my new statement of purpose going to be about, you ask? Surviving all this work with a minimum of permanent damage to my psyche while still trying to pull off the coveted 4.0 GPA as well as receiving multiple offers from the grad schools of my choice.

photo by Joe Schlabotknik

That’s right, Santa…

All I want for Christmas is a fellowship to the University of Chicago…

And I’ve been a VERY good girl this year!

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How Does One Get to an Island?

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I hear this question a lot. When I tell people that I’m spending the weekend on “the island,” the first thing they want to know is if there’s a bridge, or are there cars on the island, or how will I get there?

Washington Island, off the tip of the Door County peninsula, is much too far away to support a bridge. It is part of a series of islands connecting the Door peninsula in Wisconsin and the Garden peninsula  in Michigan. The islands are divided equally between both states with Plumb, Pilot, Detroit, Washington, and Rock Island belonging to Wisconsin. Washington Island is the largest, about six miles by seven miles, and has a permanent population of about 650 people; although, the original settlement was founded on Rock Island which is now a state park that one can camp on or hike.

The Native Americans called the watery passage between the mainland and the island “Death’s Door” because so many of their small craft were lost in the strong currents where Lake Michigan and Green Bay meet. In fact, in many of the gift shops on the island you can by a t-shirt which states, “I would cross Death’s Door to Get to Washington Island!” and I do! All the time! So how, you ask?

By the ferry of course!

The Richter family of Washington Island owns the ferry company consisting of several car ferries that have been shuttling tourists and residents back and forth, year round, for three generations. They even have an ice-breaker ferry that can get through the winter ice floes that wash up on to the shore. The island is completely dependent of the ferry system for gasoline, food, goods, mail, and even emergency medical transportation to the mainland. In the winter there are only two trips, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, that can take hours to make the normally twenty-minute trip. It is very rare that a ferry can’t run on any given day, and trips in the three winter months must be booked in advance. Depending on the season and the day of the week, the ferries run up to every 15 minutes starting around 6 am and going until 9 or 10 at night.

There is a stone breakwater on the mainland side to help the ferries load in rough weather.

The ferries are kept on the island side over night and when not in use.

 As previously stated, barring any bad weather, the trip takes about 22 minutes one way. On the trip you can sit in an enclosed cabin or out on the upper deck.

 This is my daughter Sophia and her friend Zoe enjoying the cold, breezy ride on the top deck of The Washington; cars are kept below on the main deck.

 Sometimes, you get a free car wash depending on how rough the waters are when you cross! This particular trip was peaceful though.

One of the islands the ferries pass along the way is called Plumb Island. It used to be where the Coast Guard Station was, but they have since moved to Washington Island. The “Friends of Plumb Island” group is trying to decide whether to open Plumb up to private land purchase or turn it into a nature conservancy because there are many bird species that breed on Plumb. There is also talk of turning it into a state park as they have with Rock Island. The lighthouse on Plumb is one of the most painted and photographed places in the Door.

Another island one passes on the journey is Pilot Island which used to function as a guide for the big ships entering Green Bay from Lake Michigan. It is a lonely and tiny outcropping that used to house a light keeper who was visited only twice a year with supplies. The light is now controlled remotely. I wonder if it is haunted from light keepers past!

The ferries, for all their storied past, are quite sophisticated and safe, equipped with a pilot house with all the bells and whistles of modern technology. A ferry boasts a crew of usually only three or four who direct the loading and unloading of cars and people and pilot it safely across Death’s Door.

 I have taken more ferry rides than I can count, and I have always felt safe and secure, no matter the season or weather.

Taking one of the Washington Island ferries to the island and back, like my favorite curvy road in my previous post, adds to the ambiance and specialness that is Washington Island to me. If you would like to discover more about the island’s ferry company, you can do so here! …and if you’re ever in the area, maybe I’ll meet you on the ferry!

Washington Island State of Mind

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Well I promised you pictures and narrative from my trip to Door County at the end of last month, but I realized I have so much info that I’m going to need to break it up into “mini posts” or segments for it not to be an overwhelming read!

I’ll begin by saying that I fell in love with Washington Island off the tip of Door County Wisconsin about 15 years ago. My first husband and I were on a vacation from the kids one autumn weekend on the peninsula and had driven down this lonely road, HWY Q, looking for Cana Island Lighthouse. This suicidal pheasant shot in front of the car, and my ex slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting it.  Low and behold, tacked to a tree next to the car was a sign advertising land for sale. On a whim, we got one of those free real estate flyers and quickly realized we couldn’t afford anything on the mainland, but Washington Island was another story. We contacted an agent, jumped on the ferry, and fell in love with the place.

We managed to buy five acres of land there on a land contract with the hope that someday we would be able to build a house on it for our retirement. We would go up with our kids several times a year and camp on the land, even in winter! My kids grew up spending vacations on the island, and it was wonderful.

This is me! I’m buying five acres of land during deer hunting season! I look awesome in blaze orange! -NOT

Unfortunately, life has a way of happening, and we divorced and were forced to sell the land. It was very sad and hard for all of us.

Fortunately, life goes on and I’m happy to report that my ex and I are better friends now then when we were married. I am also happy because I have a wonderful new husband, Jim, who I married last May, who loves the island as much as my kids and I do. We also hope to buy a piece of land there someday, so I just may get my retirement house yet! Although… Jim is talking a Yurt. Hmmmmm…we’ll have to see about that!

My husband Jim in Jackson Harbor on Washington Island

So to start you off, here are some pictures of Washington Island – Past.

My littlest camper, Sophia. Now a freshman in high school!

My boys, Michael and Colin, and their cousins, Josh, Jason, and Andy, LOVED to play at School House Beach in Washington Harbor. Now all five are grown men. Time sure flies!

Sometimes pirates would leave maps in our shed as to where they buried their treasure on our land. Smart little map readers like Sophia and her cousin Spencer always found what they were looking for with the help of big sister, Cassandra.

Colin, now 22, still is my great fire builder.

Sophia still loves frogs.

The boys spent hours building elaborate forts out of saplings.

Hanging out in the hammock.

Winter camping with the family. Brrrr!

Stay tuned!

 

Aunty

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This is my beautiful Aunt Marie on her 70th birthday about eleven years ago.

She is dying.

Late last spring, she had a stroke which caused a major blood clot in her brain. They rushed her from Kenosha to St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee for surgery and removed as much of the clot as they could. They put her on Coumadin, a blood thinner, to try to prevent another one, but she didn’t like to take it and inevitably had another stroke. This one landed her in the nursing home she used to work in as an LPN in her younger years. Life is nothing if not ironic. While she had gone through a lot of rehab and saw some improvement, she still remained paralyzed on one side and was only able to regain some of her speech, a great frustration for her. She wasn’t going to be able to return home.

Night before last, she had another major stroke which completely paralyzed her and robbed her of her speech. Her wishes are to be a DNR, so she is now in hospice care, no food, no water, no meds, only comfort measures with a little oxygen tube in her nose. As hard as it is, we as her family must respect her wishes and let her go. I am glad that my cousins, her sons, Darryl, Robert, and Todd are brave enough not to want her to suffer, because that’s not who she is. Or was during her life.

One of my earliest memories of my Aunty was what a love bug she was. I come from a big, demonstrative Italian family, and my aunt was always pulling me on to her lap and cuddling me, and I remember being aware of how prickly her legs were from shaving! I used to squirm to try to get off her lap, and after many kisses and “zirbits” on the tummy and neck, she would laugh and let me go.

My Aunt Marie and Uncle Al lived only a few blocks from the house I lived in as a little girl, and her house was actually closer to my school than my own house was. Sometimes I would brave the mean crossing guard and go down her street first so I could get milk and home made cookies. Yum! If my uncle was home, I was always a little nervous because he was a big, blustery German cop and I found his uniform intimidating. If he was around, I would run outside and play with the boys, my three cousins, if they were home, and their dog, Kipper. We played in the driveway next to the big picture window in my Aunt’s kitchen, while she looked on making sure the boys weren’t too rough with me. (They loved to dump me into their snow mazes, built much taller than I was, and make me find my way out.)  After about a half hour of play, she would get one of them to walk me home. Even our German Shepherd Venus, when she ran away, ran to my Aunt’s house.

My Aunt used to tell me that I was the daughter she never had, and I was very special to her, as she will always be to me. My middle name is Marie after her, and she is my Godmother. When I learned to knit in the second grade, she came over and knit a couple rows on my “project.” I think it may have been a soft, sunny, yellow potholder, or some such thing, and of course she brought me presents. No matter what silly little thing I accomplished as a little girl, there were always presents! Pretty cool. I still have some of her knitting needles, a treasure I didn’t realize would mean so much to me until now.

When I was almost four, my sister Jaime was born, and I was very jealous and afraid of what it would mean to not be an only child anymore. My Aunty came over the night Jaime came home, walked in the door, and yelled, “Where’s the new baby?” I felt panicked, but I needn’t have worried. She had lots of hugs and kisses and presents for me too. My aunt was great that way; her love was limitless. It always will be, even after she’s gone. As you can see in the picture above, she loved all the babies in our family and always had one in her arms to cuddle at any family event.

For a few years in the 70s my family lived in Florida. One year, my aunt and uncle came down to visit us, and they decided to take my sister and I to Disney World for a few days. Back then, it was only the Magic Kingdom, and Orlando was a little po-dunk town with nothing else going on in it. My sister and I (ok more me than her) cried the whole way there because we missed our parents. Exasperated, my aunt told us to knock it off or we were turning right back around and heading home. Somehow, we sucked it up; we weren’t going to miss out on Disney World! We had an absolute ball, of course, and I can remember having major pillow fights with Uncle Al in the hotel room while Aunty pretended to be mad at us.

When I was a lonely, scared 18 year old, back in Wisconsin during my first year of college, my Aunty wrote to me every week. She would do funny things like cut the letter up into puzzle pieces that I would have to put back together to read, or write the entire thing into a spiral. I would pay her back by answering her questions from the previous letter like her son Robert invented when he was in college, much like this:

Dear Aunty, Yes. I might. Only on Wednesdays. No. No. Yes. I always thought so. Me too! Love, Christy

I’m sure that cracked her up. A funny thing happened with some of our letters. Back then, you had to lick stamps before placing them on the envelope, and sometimes they would lose their stickiness. In an effort not to waste one that this had happened to, I stuck it on her envelope with a piece of tape. When she received it she accidentally smeared the post mark off, and realizing it looked like a new stamp, stuck it on to her return post to me with more tape. We thought it was a scream that we re-used the same 13 cent stamp over and over again until we both received a letter saying we were committing mail fraud and risked a jail sentence. When the panic settled, we both laughed hysterically and tried to figure out how we would decorate our shared cell in the federal pen.

When I became an adult with a family of my own, I didn’t see my Aunty as much. By then, she and Uncle Al had retired and spent winters in Phoenix golfing, and summers in Kenosha with the grand kids, so I did get to spend some summer days in her condo swimming pool with my kids and her grand kids. It was a joy watching them grow up and blossom under her love. She adored her grand children, and each one in turn got to spend a weekend all alone with her in the summer being spoiled and doted on. She even potty trained most of them when my cousins grew desperate. They took their offending toddler to Nani’s for the weekend, and by the time they were ready to be picked up Sunday night, they were trained. A little shell shocked, but trained. No one knew how she did it, and nobody dared to ask, she wouldn’t have told her secret anyway, but her kids referred to her as “the potty nazi,” half in awe and half in fear. Of course they didn’t dare call her that to her face!

As time has a way of doing, we got busy with our lives and drifted apart, but we always saw each other on holidays, never missed a birthday, and celebrated each other’s milestones in life. We had a wonderful way of picking up just where we had left off as if no time had passed at all.

I still have all the cards and Christmas ornaments  she made me; she loved stamping and crafts. She always signed her cards, “With much love from Aunty M,” and it will be bittersweet to hang those ornaments on my tree this year. I imagine when I pull them carefully out of their boxes I will be a little choked up while doing so. It also breaks my heart that she will not be here when I graduate from college next spring, it’s only taken me thirty years, but I know how proud she is of me.

Last night, I had to say goodbye to my Aunty, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. When she saw me, tears trickled down her face. I talked to her softly and told her that it was okay that she couldn’t answer me. I stroked her beautiful salt and pepper hair as she drifted in and out of awareness. When it was time to leave, I kissed her on the forehead and told her I loved her. She opened her eyes and looked at me with such determination and said, “Wuv you!” twice. I haven’t stopped crying yet. A part of me never will.

God bless you, Aunty.

Give Uncle Al and Nan and Grandpa kisses for me when you get to heaven. You will always be one of the most special people to me, and I will never forget you or the love you gave me so unconditionally during my life. All of my memories of you will live on forever until I am blessed enough to be with you again.

…and tell Jesus I’m sorry about the whole mail-fraud-stamp thing. I’m sure He won’t hold it against us.

No Senioritis for This Gal!

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So many Lit classes, so little time left!

Today was my very last advising meeting as an undergrad. I just got clearance for the final semester of my senior year, and the feelings are bittersweet. I have a great sense of accomplishment in what I have already done along with a feeling of wonder at how fast this time has gone by. There’s a tingling anticipation laced with a healthy dose of fear of what my grad school years will bring, and a sense of sadness at all that I am leaving behind here at Mount Mary. I have made so many friends and met so many wonderful and nurturing professors who have literally carried me along my educational path on their broad and knowledgeable shoulders. I don’t feel like I’m just graduating college next May; I feel like I’m leaving my home and family.

So what does one think about when day dreaming about the last semester of senior year? Coasting by taking fun classes because you got all your core and pre-reqs done? Parties, spring fever, and senior skip day? Picking out that perfect pair of heels for under your graduation gown? Class rings and yearbooks to sign?

How about let’s add a minor at the last minute? How about course-overloading to 19 – 21 credits? “Sure! There’s time to get that internship done! No problem!”

Oh. My. God. What have I done? My lovely theology professor pointed out that I’m only four credits away from a minor. Only four credits? Well then I just HAVE to pick those up somehow; it’s a minor to add to my English Lit major after all! And what carrot did she dangle in front of my nose to get me to go for this insanity? Offering to induct me into the Theology Honors Society, of course! What is it about those three little Greek words that mean so much to me? I’ll admit it…it’s the honor cords I get to wear on my graduation gown.  My sarcastic husband likes to tell me that I will need hand maidens to walk along side me to bear the weight of all my accolades when I graduate. (Hey! Don’t be a hater! I work hard for those awards!)What he doesn’t know is that I kind of LIKE the idea of hand maidens; does anyone know of any I could hire?

{Gulp!} 21 credits…along with my 3 day-a-week job at the hospital…and family…and a life…and SLEEP! {Sob!} Well, never fear, this smart cookie did some finessing, and I’m going to combine my 2 credit internship between the English and Theology departments by working with the Theology professor as a teacher’s aide of sorts. Those 2 credits will be doing double duty, just like me! I really wanted my internship to concern teaching, as that is what my ultimate career goal is, and, fortunately, my professors seem to love the idea. Whew! I’ll be taking those 21 credits down to 19 after all. And what many of you may not realize is that when you go over the normal 18 credits, you have to pay for the extra credits, and readers, this isn’t cheap! As it is, I’m looking at another maybe $1000 in tuition just for the one extra credit; three would have been very cost prohibitive.

So I’m going for it! Call me crazy; you won’t be the first. The bottom line is that I love to learn, so why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to work with a beloved professor and friend? Now the choice becomes which independent study topic should I do with her? Medievil Christian Women or Christian Mystics? Both sound fascinating to me. Oh, and did I mention that my professor and I are calling this “The Theology Minor and Food Tour?” That’s right…we’re meeting once a week at local restaurants for lunch and reflective discussion. Feed me, and I will come.

The moral of this post is that while I won’t have time to coast and enjoy as much as I wanted to for my last semester, I will be doing the learning that I love with people I respect and enjoy and eating great lunches too! Bonus! I won’t go hungry, and I’ll get to fill up my mind as well as my tummy, and isn’t that what learning is all about? I’ll still try to do some “senior things” next spring, but I’m nothing if not a multi-tasker. Talk to any non-traditional student, and he or she will tell you that multi-tasking is the name of the game. Embrace your educational opportunities, beloved readers, you won’t regret it!

Door County Teaser

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Hello, All!

I have spent the last four days on Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin. I have been going to the island for the last 14 years, and it is without a doubt my favorite place in all the world. I go there with my family to rest, relax and recharge, my personal “three R’s!” This special place speaks to me, and I truly feel like I am “home” when I am on my island.  My husband and I hope to buy land here and build a log cabin sometime in the future.

I plan to write an extensive post over the next few days with lots of pictures from our weekend, but for now, I’ll leave you with this “teaser.” We recently learned in our Advanced Creative Writing class about photography techniques, and one is called leading lines, which are lines in a photograph that lead your eye into the picture. This is the road to the ferry dock at Northport, the end of Hwy 42 in the Door, and, yes, the road was really intended to look like this. Jens Jensen, the man who designed the road and a notable figure from the island’s past, wanted the road to look like it followed through the woods naturally. This is probably one of the most photographed places in Door County. For me, it is the “line” that “leads” me home!

Leading me Home

The Golden Rule

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photo by DonkeyHotey

I woke up this morning, turned on my radio, and heard a story that happened in my state about a Senator’s son who saw two men in his yard trying to remove his parents’ Romney/Ryan sign. He went out and confronted the men and was severely beaten and choked. Isn’t this trespassing, destruction of property, and assault and battery?

I read numerous reports of threats that if Romney is elected there will be rioting and assassination attempts on his life. People, these candidates are human beings, fathers husbands, sons, and brothers, just like you and me. What gives anyone the right to threaten their lives because they are from a political party other than the one endorsed by the angry, disenfranchised, and out of control?

This past weekend, a man who was issued a four-year restraining order for domestic violence against his wife shot up an area day spa where she worked killing her and two other women and injuring four more before turning the gun on himself.

Seven weeks ago a white supremacist shot up a Sikh temple in a nearby suburb on a beautiful Sunday morning because he didn’t like Muslims, which the Sikhs are not, by the way. They responded by being there for the spa victims this weekend offering hugs, help, and solace.

Our governor was forced to go through a recall election while extremists trashed the capitol building for weeks prior exercising their “freedom of speech” rights. He won a second time. When Milwaukee mayor, Tom Barrett, conceded that election, a woman slapped him in the face because she thought he was conceding before all of the votes were counted in Milwaukee.

I received no less than five pieces of mail today in which political candidates bashed each other and each other’s policies, and nowhere did it say what these candidates were willing to do for me, this state, or our country to solve the problems we face and make the world a better place.

I can’t bring myself to watch the presidential debates because I am beyond sick of the eye-rolling, snorting, interrupting, and out-shouting on both sides of the political divide. Even the moderators are ignored and disrespected.

People. What’s going on? When did it become okay to attack each other ruthlessly for having differing political or religious beliefs? When did it become okay to threaten someone’s life if they get elected to public office? Why aren’t people protected from hatred, sometimes losing their lives for their religion in a country that’s supposed to protect religious freedom? Why are some women still preyed upon by their violent husbands when they’ve filed numerous complaints and received restraining orders, and what effect does a restraining order have exactly?  Apparently none.

Does anyone remember the Golden Rule? I was taught to treat others as I would want to be treated. It is so sad to me that we hide our political persuasion because we are afraid of being bullied or derided for our beliefs. I don’t want to be shouted at or threatened for my political convictions, thank you very much, and I don’t want to have my property destroyed or my children hurt trying to defend it. Nor do I want to be afraid of going to church or a day spa or a movie theater on the chance that I may be shot to death.

I would like to be informed of the POSITIVE plans that the candidates have come up with this election year to fix what’s wrong in this country; I am very well aware of everyone’s shortcomings. I can’t turn on the TV or look in my mailbox without having everyone’s faults and foibles thrown in my face.

While it may sound simplistic and silly, I think we could all use a reminder of what it means to play well with others, to exhibit good manners, and to exercise some self-control. Supposedly everything we need to know about life we learned in kindergarden. I wonder if there’s a refresher course offered somewhere that we could all take.

Update: So I did some searching and here it is. A poem by Robert Fulghum published in 1990 from the book All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I think we all can learn a lot from this, and maybe if this kind of thinking catches on the world will be a better and safer place. I just may send a copy to the 2012 candidates.

photo by cleverclaire1983

All I Really Need To Know
I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum

– an excerpt from the book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned – the biggest
word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about
three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put things back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are – when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

Labor and Delivery

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photo by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

I have to write a paper today for my American Novels class. It’s due tomorrow night at 6:00pm. I know what you’re thinking; you don’t have to say a word. I’m cutting it close, right?

For many people, writing is a process, and they find the one that works for them. I’m no exception. For me, writing a paper is a lot like giving birth. This piece isn’t going to get written until it’s damn good and ready, and I unfortunately have very little say in the matter. Much like babies, my papers come when they want to, and it’s usually right on the due date. Rarely have I delivered a paper early, nor have I ever had one be late. I fear the day that one doesn’t come on time, I can’t even imagine having a paper induced. What might that be like? Do they numb you from the waist down so you can’t get up from your computer until the paper comes? The mind reels at the possibilities!

I’m not saying that I don’t prepare. I know what the paper is going to be about. I search for a name that will do it justice. I do my research and get my citations in order, much like reading What to Expect When You’re Expounding, or Dr. Spock’s Drafting and Paper Care. I’ve had the prenatal class where one learns to breathe through editing and revising. “Hee, hee, hee, who, who who! Another contraction!” (Sorry! I couldn’t resist!) But eventually the paper just needs to cook in my uterus, um, I mean my head.

Sometimes I even dream about my paper. Will it be healthy? Will everybody like it, or will it be bullied? Will all of its parts be there? I count its introduction, thesis, body and conclusion as if to make sure all ten little fingers and toes are there. I make sure my paper is legitimate with a pedigree of proper citations and a Works Cited page akin to a birth certificate.

And then finally, it comes. I must say my labors and deliveries, while not always easy or short-lived, flow. The words pour out of me in beautiful synchronization; all the thoughts I’ve been thinking about for weeks coalesce into a cohesive piece that after a short once-over and edit can be delivered to whatever professor required my surrogacy services. I wait with baited breath for the apgar scores to tell me that this particular baby is happy and healthy, but in my case I look for “A”s instead of “10”s.

Was that a contraction? I need to start timing them. When they get to be five minutes apart, I need to boot up Word and start the delivery process. Hopefully, this one will be born in under ten hours. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

"Maternity Ward" at Mount Mary College

“Maternity Ward” at Mount Mary College

12:00am update:

Last night at 11:42pm, I gave birth to a 1597 word 6 page long bouncing baby paper named “We Should All Aspire to Be an ‘Uncle Tom’,” an analysis comparing the character of Uncle Tom to Christ in his sacrificial life for the greater good of others and the redemptive results born of that sacrifice, i.e. the downfall of slavery. Mother and paper are doing fine.

Highbrow Flash Mob

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This is a little off topic (ok, a lot), but I found this cool video of an orchestral flash mob in Germany playing the theme from Star Wars. So how to relate it to my blog? Well, non traditional students are usually older like myself and remember when Star Wars came out. Next, older educated people usually enjoy classical orchestral music.  Wait…that won’t work.  My children love orchestral music, and they all play an instrument. I have a pianist, a classical guitarist, a cellist, and a flautist (and, no, she doesn’t work in a Mexican restaurant making flautas; she plays the flute!) Hmmmmm. Ok, how about this:

It’s MY blog, and I thought this was awesome! ‘Nuff said. Enjoy!

Who’s Afraid of the GRE?…part 2

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photo by Sean MacEntee

The shock has finally worn off, the tingling sensation has left my fingers, and my ears have stopped ringing.  I “survived” the GRE!

I have to be very careful as to what I tell you. I’m not kidding. I had to leave a handwriting sample, about a paragraph long, in cursive, saying I will tell NO ONE about the GRE test/experience/rigorous initiation right. I’m not sure what will happen if I risk it. Will blaring alarms go off and guards in black tactical combat uniforms come to haul me away? Will Harry Potter’s Dementors find me and suck out my soul? Is it worth the risk?

photo by OregonDOT

photo by OregonDOT

Ahhh! What the heck! Here goes…

I received a phone call from a lovely sounding girl, we’ll call her “B” because I don’t think I can give out her real name, saying that they had computers available and that I could come in early.

“Welcome to my web,” said the spider to the fly.

I arrived at the testing station and was directed to the “lower level.” Really? The test really is given in a “dungeon?” Good grief! Talk about self-prophetic!

I walked into an unassuming looking office where I was greeted by the friendly Ms. “B” and handed a clipboard with a form attached where I was to sign my life away…in cursive. Next I was told to place EVERYTHING I brought with me into a locker. No water bottle, no mints to chomp on, no snacks {SOB!}, just the plastic key from my locker. I’ll bet plastic and metal taste really good after four hours.

photo by derekskey

photo by derekskey

Next, I was ushered into a room (holding tank) where I met “A,” a serious African-American young man with absolutely NO sense of humor. He’d make the perfect gatekeeper into Dante’s Inferno.

“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

photo by lightgraphs

photo by lightgraphs

I was photographed and “wanded” to make sure I hadn’t snuck in my iPhone or any other cheating device. I waited for the fingerprinting, blood sample, and cavity search, but “A” must have been off his game that day, and I escaped further violation. He handed me two pencils and OFFICIAL scratch paper, and we entered the room of doom.

I was told to wait by the door as “A” walked briskly over to a computer station and searched it for contraband. DAMN! And I had it set up where the person before me was to leave me a secret stash of vocabulary words, math equations, and granola bars! Curses, foiled again! He beckoned me over, turned on the computer, and told me that if I needed to get up during the test, I had to raise my hand, and that I would lose that test time (each section was 30-35 minutes long) and that the timer would not be stopped. My bladder would have to wait for the promised land, i.e. the 10 minute break in the middle of sections 3 and 4. Good thing I DIDN’T have that water bottle!

There I was…in the middle of a convoluted collection of rabbit warrens surrounded by three fabric covered walls, intrusive cameras aimed at me like double-barreled shotguns. Who would actually dare to cheat this thing? Certainly, not me!

photo by ST3VVO

photo by ST3VVO

The computer came up, and a picture of me appeared on the screen. One more chance to admit that I had sent in a ringer.

And that’s when the fun started.

I am not allowed to tell you any particular questions; I wouldn’t remember anyway.

The first two sections are analytical writing, and people there is no grammar or spell check! In the first they give you a scenario and you are to defend or refute it. Easy. In the second you are to read an argument and write on if the author defended it well or not and why. Harder, but still doable. You get 30 minutes for each, and it takes me almost all of that time. Fortunately, I self edit as I write, because there isn’t much time left to go back over it.

I’m now in the zone. Next comes a vocabulary section. Fill in the blanks and multiple choice questions on writing samples flash before me, and I lose all sense of time.

The math sucked. There’s no nicer way to say that.  I am not a math major; there’s a really good reason I study English Lit, and I’m pretty sure it’s because in my world, 2 + 2 = 5. Or 6. I have to work it out long hand. In fact there’s a cute joke in the English Department:

Guy gets into a line at the grocery store with a loaded cart. He’s in the 15 items or less lane. He’s either an English major who can’t count or a math major who can’t read. Guess which one I am?

photo by Polycart

photo by Polycart

Anyway, I tried my best in the two math sections, but many times I was forced to guess. I can tell you how much to tip waitstaff based on the restaurant bill, but I don’t really care what “X” equals on the bottom line of an isosceles triangle. I’m NEVER going to need to know that again in my life. By reading Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen, I’ve made sure of it!

The damned computer must be intuitive, because the second half of the test got increasingly harder. I could feel my mind turn to goo and start to leak out of my ears. I blew off the ten minute break; this was an endurance contest now, and I was determined to win. With cameras everywhere silently watching me, I took on the GRE as if it was every parents’ mortal enemy, Barney the Dinosaur.

photo by ElectronicFrontierFoundation

photo by ElectronicFrontierFoundation

Finally, finally I was done and my scores flashed onto the screen. 157 in verbal and 148 in math. I had no idea what this meant, I just knew I was finished and had earned my way out of the dungeon of doom. But wait! I could send these scores to four schools for free! Dragging the very last thread of energy out of utter exhaustion, I plugged in the four grad schools I hope will accept me into their fold.

I grabbed my meager possessions and left the Inferno. I know in my heart of hearts that the seventh circle of hell contains math problems. I’m turning over a new leaf, and I’m going to be a good girl from here on out. Call me Beatrice. I’m bound for Paradiso.

photo by Angelo Gonzalez

photo by Angelo Gonzalez

“B” was waiting in the holding tank when I left. Still chipper (sure, SHE didn’t have to take the damn thing, just lead others in!) she had me sign out. I asked her what time it was, and she told me 8:40.  I had been in hell for four hours, but it hadn’t seemed like it. I asked her what a good score was, and she told me most people score between 140 and 150. Hmmmm. I got a 157 in what counts to me, the verbal. I would have to wait for the analytical writing scores; they let a “human” grade those. Imagine!

Two of my professors have since told me that my score is pretty good. I’m clinging to that, guys, because I NEVER want to take that test again! Thank God Halloween only comes once a year and the GRE hopefully only once in a lifetime.