Tag Archives: professor

C is for Christmas and Cookies and Cocaine and Crazy

Greetings scant blog readers!  I hope you didn’t think I was dead, because that would be disturbing – just imagining some dead person out there, lying in her apartment, having her face gnawed off by her cat. . .

Here’s the thing – Christmas makes me a little crazy.  By that, I mean I love it.  I’m a cynical bitch about most things in life, but when the holidays come around I turn into this thing:

I know. It’s disturbing.

A manic, sugar-guzzling, ho-ho-ho-ing Martha Stewart reject.  Christmas music plays constantly in my mind – the anthem of my mania.  I scrawl out massive ‘to-do’ lists with the fervency of a cartoon super villain creating a blueprint for world domination.

I think to some extent I believe that if I bake enough, craft enough, stare at twinkly lights enough, wrap enough and listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” enough, I will usher in an era of world peace that will bring even Kim Jong Un to his knees and all will behold my saintly glory.

You see – I make a lot of homemade gifts because I’m an adjunct; thus, I am poor.  (P.S. This is cute when you’re a kid making fruit loop sombreros, but it’s just kind of pathetic when you’re a full-grown, real-life adult with a master’s degree – it’s like when your senile Aunt Bethany regifts her cat or when your husband catches you eating a spoonful of peanut butter and chocolate icing for dinner).

I can’t just make things easy for myself either and say, “Hey, I know – I’ll just make some chocolate chip cookies for everyone.  All I have to do is triple this recipe, bake em up, box em and be done!  Easy!”  Au contraire.  For some reason, I go absolutely batshit and feel the need to

Truffles and peanut butter cups and cookies shaped like snowmen! Biscotti! Banana Bread! Palmiers!  I must bake them all!

And while I bake them, I must taste them!  Taste them all!

This all sounds perfectly feasible when I make out that to-do list at the beginning of the season, but as Christmas draws nearer, I crumble into a ball of sugary panic and desperation as I sacrifice sleep to dip pretzels in melted chocolate and seriously consider developing a mild cocaine addiction:

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t leave myself any time for blogging or writing or anything except rocking back and forth in a hyperglycemic frenzy, really.  I barely managed to make it through my last few weeks of classes without serving arsenic-laced petit-fours to my students whose last batch of essays were utterly abysmal.  I’m talking ‘clearly didn’t even read the essay when finished because paragraph three ends in the middle of an unfinished sentence’ abysmal. I’m talking ‘inventing new words like lessable – yes, lessable’ abysmal.  Perhaps this was my fault, consumed as I was by my sugar-peddling bacchanal.

(Pssst. Sometimes I really don’t think I’m cut out to be a teacher.)

Anyway – I’m back, and as I noted last week my New Year’s Resolution is ‘leave the dishes.’  I will try to cultivate an attitude of relaxation and tranquility.  I will try not to sweat the small stuff.

Unfortunately, I also registered to take the GRE in March, so this should be a fun few months!  Yes, I finally decided to apply to doctoral programs, because clearly I need more education debt in my life.  I’d love to say that I’m taking this step because I value knowledge and personal growth, but really, I just want a job that pays me enough to move out of the hood (where ‘fireworks or gunshots?’ is a regular topic of discussion over dinners of Ramen noodles and depression), and it seems a PhD might be required for this.

I didn’t have to take the GRE for my master’s degree (my writing samples were enough because I’m so clearly awesome), but now it must be done.

As I cracked open the math section of my study book for the first time, I was greeted with a veritable melee of terms that I have, for years,  carefully sequestered in the corner of my mind reserved for cockroaches and speculums and all things unpleasant:  FOIL, permutations, functions, quadratic equations, exponents.  Integer?  That means number, right? Right?  Oh dear God, what does it mean?!?

Here’s how I imagine all English majors encountering algebra and geometry for the first time years after graduating:

In other words,

Any advice?

I Did Nothing

After a grading bender on Saturday and Sunday, I managed to finish all my work before Thanksgiving Break even began.  So, when Monday morning rolled around and my husband prepared for work while I sat in my pajamas under my heated blanket like an elderly invalid, I quavered out this feeble question: “What should I do today?”

He replied, “Do nothing.  Do absolutely nothing.  Don’t clean. Don’t cook. Watch TV and read books all day.  Seriously, if that empty bowl of yogurt residue is not sitting on the table when I get home, I’m going to find it and throw it against the wall to watch it shatter into a billion yogurty pieces, a symbol of your broken serenity.”  (I might have made that last part up).

So I girded my loins and prepared for the daunting battle against my own sense of guilt.  You see, I don’t quite know how to do lazy.  I’m sure I’m not alone here.  When I try to relax, guilty, wormy thoughts squeeze through the cracks in my brain and whisper obligations to me (guilt worms can whisper, btw, and they look like this):


“Lazy cow,” they whisper, “there are so many things you should be doing right now.  Cleeeean something.  Wriiiite something.  Plaaaaan something, dummy!  Harvest someone’s organs!  Do something!  If you don’t, your humanity will be revoked, and you will become one of usssss! Blaaaaargaaaagarrr!”

It’s usually just easier to acquiesce to their demands, but on Monday, I decided to make a concerted effort to not put forth any effort.

I succeeded.

I watched movies.  I read books.  I stayed in my pajamas, curled up in my heated blanket burrito, drinking tea (dream big, people, dream big) and breathing.  Most of the time I feel like I’m holding my breath, swimming upstream against a steady deluge of work.  Monday I was finally able to take some slow, deep breaths into the brown paper bag of my first real day off in a long time.

Every now and then, another guilt worm would whisper in my ear, but I managed to stuff a sock in its terrifying maw long enough to enjoy my day.

In short,

Highlights of last week?  Listening to a teenage girl on the bus tell her friend, “White people and light-skin people look nasty, like they sick.  Look like somethin’ wrong with they skin.  Ugh.  I could never date outside my race.”

I get it.  I’m pale.  My skin is roughly the color of copier paper. Beetle-cleaned bones. Basmati.  But, come on, it’s not like I look like Lord Voldemort:

Hot.

My lily-white skin does react poorly to sunlight, though.  On my honeymoon, despite emptying the entire contents of a family-sized bottle of sunscreen onto my body, I still managed to get sun poisoning.  My whole face swelled up.  I looked approximately like this:

Hey you guys!

Also, when I was working at a daycare, a little boy asked me, “Why you draw all over yourself with markers?”  It took me a minute to realize he was pointing to the bright blue veins shining through my translucent skin.

I’m pale.  Still, I like my skin.  It keeps out pathogens and cat hair like most skin.  I guess it’s a good thing I’m not trying to chat that girl up and get her number, though; she might just vomit all over me, and then who knows what color I would be?

Highlight #2:  While having a discussion with my students about the purpose of higher education (whether it is simply to prepare them for careers, or whether it is also about shaping their character), one student raised his hand and said, “I think high school is when we shape our character and figure out who we’re going to be.  I think when we get to college, we should pretty much know that stuff already, so college should just be streamlined and focused on our careers.  We pretty much did all our growing up in high school.”

My response:

Did you think like that when you were a freshman?  I don’t remember thinking that, and a cursory/embarrassing visit to my old journal confirms that I pretty much felt like a fetus when I was 18 (and wrote like a fetus, too – a depressed, angsty, hormonal fetus).  Is this a common thought amongst college freshmen now?

If so,

I asked him, “Think about who you were when you were 13.  Were you pretty much the same as you are now, or different?” (Obviously he replied ‘Pretty different’) “OK then, imagine yourself when you are 23.  Does turning 18, legally becoming an adult, really put a stop to your ability or need to grow any more than becoming a teenager caused you to completely put away your childhood and suddenly become mature?”

Cue crickets and blank stares.

Anyway, I’m on break now, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I hope you enjoy it with people you love (or at least tolerate).  Go find some leaves and roll in them for me.  All mine are covered in snow spat out by the encroaching winter demon who longs only to torment me with his jagged, icicle fingers.  Oh warm fingers and toes!  Would that I knew you still!  Pray you return swiftly and reattach yourselves to my icy stumps.

 

I’m Not Dead Yet

For anyone who follows my blog (a.k.a that one guy who lives in his second cousin’s basement and dreams of owning a cat Glamour Shots company), don’t worry, I’m not dead yet.

I disappeared for a while.  Things got a little hairy.

I should have known this week was going to be total shit when I returned from a trip to visit my family only to be greeted by my cat with a dead snake hanging out of her mouth.  Apparently she managed to catch and murder it in my basement.  My cat is basically a serial killer – spiders, centipedes, mice, human babies – you name it, she’ll eviscerate it.

Courtesy of The Oatmeal (link below)

 

The Oatmeal

Usually I just ignore her, but a dead snake on my rug requires a minimum amount of attention and squealing.  Anyway, this dead snake was clearly a harbinger of the week to come.

This week was the gnashing teeth of my cat and I was the limp, dead, gnawed-on garter snake covered in its saliva and malice.

Why? Grading.  It’s always grading.

On Wednesday I graded a mere, manageable 15 essays.  Chump change.  Candyland.    Thursday I graded 40 essays.  Yesterday I graded 46.

Every day I felt like I was being drowned in a toilet filled with student waste.  All my mental energy was dedicated to NOT collapsing into a puddle of tears, self-pity, drool and incoherent babbling as I slogged through one essay after another.

First, let me explain that it takes me on average 15 minutes to grade an essay.  So, yesterday I spent 11.5 hours on grading alone.  Do you know how much bad television I could have watched with that time?  That’s like 8 episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras 

Go with the octopus kid. Photographer = line cook with an overpriced camera and a portfolio that nobody cares about. At least if you’re an octopus you can spray ink all over anyone who pisses you off. Also, tentacles.

and 7 episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo

(Sweet baby, I could have totally used some special juice while I was grading, and by special juice I mean whiskey – lots of whiskey.)

Anyway, in short, this week was nightmarish.  Hellish.  All I wanted to do was watch bad television while I channeled my inner Liz Lemon and worked on some night cheese:

Instead, I graded and I graded and I wept and I graded and I slept a little and I graded and I almost died.  For real.  About halfway through, as I stared at the endless stack of essays, gazed around at my dirty apartment, as I smelled the death juices of a week-old bag of apples (from my sweet grandmother’s backyard) liquescing on my kitchen table with no hope of ever being baked into a pie, I felt like Artax in the Swamps of Despair:

(Ugh. Right in the childhood.  Damnit Artax, move your giant, depressed, horse ass!)

Eventually, though, I became delirious  and I could have graded all night.  Lord help the students whose essays I graded during that period of sleep-drunken insanity.  Here’s the comments I imagine I made on their papers:

“You get an F because there are WAY too many tiny dragons crawling all over your paper.  Next time, I require that you submit your work sans dragons!”

“You get an A because I like you and your paper tastes like vanilla bean and cuddles.  Oh God!  Why did your paper turn into lava?!?  It burns!”

“Aardvark.  Butthole.  Poststructuralism. Goethe.  Here C+”

Me, post-grading marathon.

To let off some steam mid-grading, I decided to go for a walk, but here’s the thing – I live in the hood.  Prostitutes perch so regularly outside my friendly neighborhood Kroghetto that a neighboring business owner made a sign out of poster-board and a half-dried-out sharpie that said, “If you don’t pay, they won’t stay! Say no to prostitution!”  He also drew a very subtle, RIP tombstone on the side.  I guess it was the headstone for a dead prostitute?  I don’t know.  Dude means business, apparently.

What I mean is that I live in the kind of neighborhood where walking is sometimes relaxing and sometimes it is sexual harassment.  Here are some of the phrases that have been shouted at me while out running/walking in my neighborhood:

1) (From a gentleman wearing an A-shirt and Hello Kitty pajama pants) “Mmmm!  Hey girl!  I’d loooove to catch up witchu sometime!”

2)  (From a pack of degenerate, loitering youths who are probably now in prison for lighting kittens on fire) “Sup shawty?  I’d hit it!”

3)  (From a man in one of those windowless vans I Iike to call rape’n wagons) “I’mma smack dat ass!  You look good in dem pants!”

4)  (From a man driving his car slowly beside me as I walked down the street) “Mm.  Mmm.  Mmmmm.  Mmmmmm” – he just kept saying that.  I think he was hoping I would acknowledge him.  Maybe he’d accidentally glued his lips shut while huffing a bottle of wood-grade Elmer’s and was just trying to solicit help from me.  Too bad.

Here’s my response to each scenario:

So my walk didn’t quite relax me, although I did get to walk past an entire busload of schoolchildren singing “I Believe I Can Fly” at the top of their lungs.  My first reaction to this:

Second reaction:  Space Jam was a modern masterpiece.  I must acquire and watch it right this minute.

Third reaction:  If I were that bus driver, I would swerve that bus over a cliff.

When I got home, no magical, naked elves had graded my remaining essays for me (Maybe I should take out a Craig’s List ad – “Seeking magical elves.  You grade my papers, I’ll sew some really shitty elf clothes for you.  Nothing sexual.  Some light nibbling from my cat might occur.)

I started to get viscerally angry at the stack of essays that never seemed to shrink.  Rather than stacking them neatly as I finished, I would fling them into a haphazard pile on the floor that my cat soon claimed in the name of snake-murderers everywhere.  Sidenote:  Next to murdering and eating olive oil, my cat loves lying on paper the most.  Even if there is a tiny post-it stuck to my desk, she will curl up on it and purr orgasmically for hours.  I think she might actually be this guy from Waterworld:

I let her do her thing and secretly hoped that some of my students had cat allergies.

Then, when a stink bug landed next to me, I dug out the essay of my least favorite student and used it to scoop the little bastard up while laughing maniacally.

I thought about squishing him on the paper just a little, just a little, but I managed to contain my crazy.

The moral of the story is that there is not one, but just know that I had 0 free minutes or brain cells for blogging.  So I’m back now, and I’m not dead yet.

“Rudy Wins the Sportsball Game” by Chad McFrat

I graded 40 rough drafts in one day.  Do you know how much grading that is?  It takes me roughly 15 – 20 minutes to grade a rough draft, so my day clocked in at around 12 hours of grading.  Just grading.  That doesn’t count the planning and class prep I threw in for good measure.  Fellow English teachers/professors out there, I’m sure you feel my pain.  Remember the ‘This is your brain on drugs’ commercials from the 80’s?

(So are they saying that if I do drugs, my brain will become delicious?  That’s my question.)

By the end of the day, my brain felt, not like the fried egg in the commercial, but like an egg that had been whipped into oblivion by a carving fork and then cooked for a few hours into a shriveled, rubbery, burnt oblivion.

Any questions?

If I have to read one more narrative about sports, I’m going to decapitate myself and dribble my own head down a basketball court.  Confession: I hate sports.  It’s not that I don’t understand the merit of sports.  It’s not that I don’t understand how people could like sports.  I just can’t like sports.  I’ve tried.  I was born into a family of sports junkies.  I married into a family of sports addicts.  Trust me, for the sake of my own sanity, I have tried.  I. Just. Can’t.  It’s like trying to force myself to enjoy mayonnaise or ranch dressing.  I understand that people like these condiments (“It’s cool!” “It’s creamy!” “It makes my sandwich moist and delicious!” they cry), but in my opinion, mayonnaise is the repulsive, hellfire mucus of Satan himself

No. No. Nooooonono. Never.  Blargh.  Blech. Ew. Ugh.

and ranch dressing is the pus secreting from his festering wounds .

I watched this SNL skit about a ranch-dressing focus group once.  Once.  As amusing as I find Melissa McCarthy, I would rather change 300 blown-out baby diapers than ever watch it again.   It just confirmed my suspicions.  Ranch dressing is vile.

Here it is. Watch if you dare. It’s your funeral.

It’s as if someone dug through medical waste to find garbage bags filled with the fat sucked out during a liposuction procedure and stuck it in a jar.  Spread THAT on your sandwich.

For me, sports are the entertainment version of this – creamy, liposuction, fatty condiment on a screen that makes my stomach want to crawl out of my throat and run away. There’s nothing that makes me cringe more than accidentally eating a bite of mayonnaise or ranch dressing except for sports sounds in the background of my life.

Ugh.  What kind of monster made this video?  I could only get through 20 seconds of it.

So, when 75% of the narrative drafts I had to grade were about sports trials and tribulations, I thought I actually might start having a House level seizure (that turns out NOT to be lupus).  It was like reading really poorly-written Rudy fan-fiction.  Do you remember Rudy?

No, not the adorable, precocious Cosby kid who always knew just how to put Kenny in his place.

THIS Rudy.

Remember baby Sean Astin overcoming the odds to become a football hero?  At the end of the movie, everyone chants, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” and he’s hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates, victorious.

I remember Rudy quite vividly because, for some reason, every health class I took from jr. high to high school was taught by some sportsball coach who hung up posters bearing “inspirational” slogans like, “Pain is weakness leaving your body!” and forced us to watch Rudy  and Hoosiers on a constant loop.

Anyway, most of my students’ essays were along the same lines – “How I overcame the odds to move from JV to Varsity” “How I won the big game” “How I made the team” “How I ate a bucket of mayonnaise.”

You might be thinking, “If you don’t want to read papers about sports, why not just tell them they can’t write about sports or create assignments that choose a topic for them, like a literacy narrative”?  I have done this in the past, but what I find is that most of my students are much more willing to write (and are much better at writing) the first essay if I allow them to choose a topic they like.   My hope is that they will somewhat enjoy writing the first paper so that I can begin, ever so slowly,  to chip away at their prejudices toward writing (which are sundry).     “See?  That wasn’t so bad!  Now let’s do a rhetorical analysis of this speech by Alexander the Great!”  It’s sort of like the college-writing version of this:

Yessss. Yesss. Eat the delicious candy. Haha! It’s strained peas!

So for one paper only, I force myself to metaphorically eat an entire bottle of ranch dressing, cringing and heaving all the way.

Here’s a quote from one student’s essay:       “To quote the great Andy Dick, I was in beast mode.”

First of all,

THIS is Andy Dick.

You know, C-List “comedian” whose ability to annoy is second only to a first-place tie between Carrot Top and Gilbert Gottfried.  He’s best known for mastering the art of sexual harrassment and public urination.  So either my student has a completely mangled definition of “great” or he was thinking of somebody else.  I really hope he was thinking of somebody else.  Also, I’m pretty sure Andy Dick never talked about going into ‘beast mode.’  Please correct me if I’m wrong so that I can adequately judge my student for his choice in role models.

Marshawn Lynch definitely goes into that beast mode.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don’t like sports.  Every multi-million dollar sportsball hero I’ve ever seen interviewed sounds like Mr. Lynch and, when asked, “How’d you manage to pull out a win tonight?” says things like “Well, you know, the other team gave it 100%, so I just went out there and gave it my 110%”  a phrase that tops my list of pet peeves as a complete impossibility.

Another student wrote, “I dreamed of becoming a professional athlete ass well” which created some very interesting images in my head as I tried to figure out what a ‘professional athlete ass well’ could be.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT do a Google search for ‘ass well.’

One wrote about how the big game was very “nerve raking” which I actually like better than “nerve-racking” I think.  Just imagine a rake scraping across exposed nerve-endings.  That seems much more unpleasant

I think I’ll start using that phrase.  For example – “Reading essays about sports is nerve-raking.”

The end.

74 Steps to Tibet

The first week of the Fall semester has been, in a word, somuthereffingexhaustingiwanttobeinasleepcomaforever.  I’m teaching four classes right in a row (small break for lunch between class 2 and 3).  Also, since they are doing renovations on campus and demolishing the building where I usually teach (you know, the one conveniently located twenty feet away from my office building), I have to hike to Tibet to teach my classes.

Down 63 steps.  Across a busy, four-lane road.  Past a baseball field.  Past a soccer field.  Up 74 steps.  Around the corner.  That is where my building is located.  It is old, weird and one million miles away.  By the time I get there after lugging a twenty pound bag of books in the ninety-degree heat, my dress is soaked and my ballet flats feel like sandpaper shackles.  My students all look super happy to have endured a similar journey.  Let me tell you how thrilling it is to teach an entire class of students who all appear to be suffering from bitchy resting face:

It’s not.  Heat makes people crazy.  Like Squints Palledorous jumping into the deep end scary.

I can’t take it anymore!

Since I’m so exhausted, I give you today’s installment of what I will call ‘Poetic Bus Conversations.’  The woman in question had a voice that reminded me of Wheezy, the penguin from Toy Story

Broken squeaker

Bette Midler as Winnie in Hocus Pocus

 

+Shrill

and Norma White, wife of Jesco White (you know, the Dancing Outlaw).

+Uber-redneck.

She was also sitting right across the aisle from me while all of this was being said.  One foot away from me.

Disclaimer:  I’m going to specify race in the following conversation only because it is relevant to almost everything Crazy White Homeless Lady says.

Crazy White Homeless Lady:  I don’t fuck wit white people no more.  Any fuckin’ cracker try to talk to me, they gonna get a fuckin’ terlet (toilet) in their mouth.

(Polite Elderly Black Gentleman Approaches.  Crazy White Homeless Lady moves to offer her seat)

Lady:  I was gonna give you my seat.

Gentleman:  That’s alright.  I found one.  Thank you.

Lady:  Well I was gonna give it to you cause you sexy.

Gent:  (nervous laughter) Well thank you.

Lady:  Yea, you sexy.  Wanna fuck?

Me:

Gent:  No ma’am.  I’m married.

Lady:  Oh that don’t mean nothin’!

Gent:  To me it does!

Lady:  Oh alright, ok, I feel ya.  I don’t mean no disrespect.  For real though.

Gent:  That’s alright.

Lady:  (To another elderly black gentleman)  You sexy too.

Other Gent:  (No response)

Lady:  Oh now you gonna act like you don’t know me?  You knew me this morning when I had my little cootie cat all up on your face!

(Coarse/awkward/nervous laughter from all around)

Me:

Lady:  Hey, you got any change?  I gotta get me somethin’ to eat.

Gentleman:  No ma’am, I’m sorry.  I don’t have any money.

Lady:  I feel ya, I feel ya.

White Man Exiting Bus:  I’d give you some change, but I’m a cracker and you don’t fuck with crackers.

Lady: (Really, really loud) That’s right bitch! I don’t want your change!  Keep walking.  I’ll fuckin’ kick your ass into your teeth!  Fuckin’ cracker.

The whole time, I tried to remain as invisible as possible.  It was just one of the many moments in my life that I have wished invisibility cloaks were real.  Also, it was as if my brain was Nancy Kerrigan’s knee and this conversation was Tonya Harding’s hired henchman’s police baton.

Why?  Why?  Why?

Happy September everybody!