Friday, October 02, 2009

It never occurred to me when I returned to school how busy I would be. I am much busier than I was when I was only working 40+ hours a week. I can't remember the last day off I had where I didn't have something to read, write, or study. Though I continue to be overwhelmed by school, I feel somewhat better since I've been able to take some exams and turn some papers in and have seen my grades hover around the A-B level. It's nice to know all the studying has paid off.

When I originally returned to school, my intent had been to obtain a Master's in English so I could teach at the college level. Since that time, I have discovered a few things. One is that teaching positions are apparently incredibly hard to come by these days. The other is that, apparently, people who continue on in English academia spend the better portion of the rest of their life writing literary criticism. I won't say I hate literary criticism, but it isn't something I'm very passionate about. In general, whenever I have some sort of criticism to do, I just go through the motions until I'm done and can get it off my plate.

The thing I've always wanted to do is write, though I haven't had much time to do it over the past 15 years because working 12 hour days sort of prevents it (unless that's what you're being paid to do). Ideally, I'd love to be able to teach a few classes at a Community College and write the Great American Novel. I have a certain talent for writing and really would like the opportunity to hone it and learn more about the art of story telling. To that end, I think I'd like to go for an MFA in Creative Writing (Master of Fine Arts).

One problem is that there aren't any great MFA programs anywhere near me. The university I attend (UTA) only offers an MA in English, and the next closest (UNT) offers the same with an alternative MA in Writing. After doing some research, I've discovered what is called a "low residency" MFA program. These are regular MFA programs offered by accredited (and real) universities (my degree won't be from University of Phoenix) wherein you work remotely via internet and mail with a professor during the semester, then show up for a couple of two-week long intensive workshops during the year. I've found a couple of programs I'm really interested in and look forward to getting applications in and seeing who will take me.

Here's the thing. MA programs and MFA programs have different admission requirements. MA degrees are more academic and involve taking the standardized GRE test. Additionally, I'd need to submit a substantial piece of critical work. One of the reasons I've stayed with the Honors College, despite all the stress and extra work, is that I have to do a Senior Thesis for them which I could then use to submit with my application for an MA. Now that I'm about 95% sure I want to go for the MFA, I'm debating the merit of sticking with the program. MFA admissions are more concerned with your ability to write (in my case fiction). Instead of a weighty piece of critical analysis, they want to see 30 pages of my best fiction work. Also, most MFA programs could care less if you have taken the GRE exam. Dropping out of the Honors College would be a huge weight off my back, and would give me more time to work on actual writing. Sigh. What to do? I think I may try to stick it out this semester to take advantage of priority registration, then see if I can find out if anyone out there will even care if I graduated with the Honors certification or not.

Other than school, I can't say there's too much going on. The weather here in Dallas has finally cooled down to NOT MISERABLE and I've actually been able to ride my motorcycle to school without arriving drenched in sweat. It's nice to be able to turn the A/C off and have the windows open. In short, Kraut is squeaky, Grace is sweet, and Wally is cuddly. Sometime soon, maybe I'll have time to take some photos of them and post.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I've been busy...really busy. Most of it has been with school. I have to admit, school is MUCH harder this time around. I doubt that it actually IS harder as much as that I have been out of the collegiate world for so long. I've been totally overwhelmed by reading (my lit class alone goes through an average of two novels a week), trying to keep up with the syllabus and things like papers that are due. We have only completed two complete weeks, but I've already had one exam and one quiz and have two papers due in the next two weeks. Here's how my classes are breaking down so far:

Intro to Texts
This is a 200 level English class, which sounds easy, but keep in mind - it's required for all English majors and intended to be difficult enough to weed out people who can't hack the amount of reading and writing required of that discipline. It covers literary criticism, which I have never enjoyed nor fully understood. I often find myself reading a heady chapter from the textbook, only to feel like bursting into tears because I didn't understand one bit of it. My professor assures me this is totally normal, but the jury is out until I start to see the results of some grading in this class. We had an exam this past week where 50% of my grade consisted of writing, on the fly, a criticism of a poem that I didn't even understand. I pulled a lot of things out of my ass for that exam. I other did exceedingly well, or exceedingly bad. I'll find out sometime this week.

Young Adult Literature
This is a 400 level English class. We read a LOT. Thankfully, it is Young Adult fiction and not Shakespeare or Irish novels of the 18th century. (This week I'm re-reading Harry Potter #1). I love the subject matter of this class but see I have a 6-page paper due in two weeks. I'm a writing minor, so the paper shouldn't be the problem. BUT - a) I haven't written a paper in 20 years, and b) I am already overwhelmed with the reading alone, let alone taking the time to do a close reading of a text to formulate a thesis and such. The paper is supposed to be in MLA style. Remember that, with the footnotes and such? I don't. So in addition to just writing the damn thing, I'm having to research how to properly format it. I also have to find at least two literary articles to support my thesis which means research, but guess what - the computer is filled with libraries now. When I last did a research paper, it involved a lot of looking things up in 30 year old tomes then literally locating the old magazine in the library to eventually photocopy. Now, I have no idea how to find anything. Tutorial for the library desperately needed.

Elementary Mathematical Modeling for Liberal Arts Majors
In other words, Math. Algebraic word problems that theoretically occur in every day life. Ironically, I find math to be fairly easy, if only because most of the work is done in class and is thus a huge departure from all the reading. I've discovered I can actually challenge the second semester of math I'm supposed to take (College Algebra). Since I managed to crap so well for the placement test, I'm seriously considering this $95 option. I'll have most of December off - I can study for it then.

Texas History and Politics
Enormous class full of 18-year-old Freshmen. We have only met once so far on the first day of class, where we were informed that our instructor would be absent for the first two weeks. He left a syllabus for us which led me to read 5 boring chapters in the textbook and follow along with 4 online lectures. I think I may actually do ok in this class. It's a requirement for every student in Texas, so it's only a 100 level Political Science class. It will take the usual amount of memorization as far as politicians, dates, wars, etc. But the people who wrote the textbook seem to be quite aware of the failings of the Texas Government and do everything short of openly mocking it. The quote to open the first chapter is "If I owned Hell and Texas, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell." It was said by a general in 1855, and I can only imagine Texas without air conditioning, but this statement is still pretty much true.

Just as I'm feeling totally inundated with college work and wondering how on earth I ever managed to work full time AND go to college AND maintain a 4.0 GPA - I found out I got accepted to the Honors College. This is, of course, based on grades I last earned in 1993. I thought of not doing it because it means extra work, but my friend James assured me it would be a good idea. Besides, they have scholarship money to give. I attended my first "mixer" for the Honors College (wow - that was a lot of geeks in one place at once) where they handed out free t-shirts which a Gandhi quote on the back - except they mis-spelled Gandhi's name (Ghandi). I'm not sure which is worse - that the Honors College had ironically mis-spelled his name - or that I didn't even realize it WAS mis-spelled.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Exactly one year ago today, I brought a shy, quiet little dog I named Gracie home from the Pasadena Humane Society. They told me she was 10 months to a year old when I got here. While I think she was closer to 10 months and probably won't be two for a little while yet, we decided to officially call August 28th her birthday so she won't feel "different" from the other dogs by only having a "happy adoption day." Wally told me that, even though it's Wednesday, he doesn't mind if I use the blog today for a retrospective for Grace.

First, though, I thought I'd try to list all the things she has destroyed over the past year:

  • Not one but TWO firewire drives
  • The drapes in my old condo
  • The blinds in my old condo
  • The carpet, all the way down to the subfloor, in the condo
  • Two dog crates
  • At least 4-5 pairs of shoes, not all of them mine
  • One "indestructable" rubber dog toy (she ate it)
  • Baseball hats
  • All my spare towels
  • The pedals on my old exercize bike
  • Three power cords (while they were plugged in)
  • An area rug
  • A jump rope
  • Countless sprinkler heads
When I brought her home, Wally didn't know what to think, but she fell in love with him right away....

And promptly started following him around everywhere...

She stole his favorite chair...

And Wally soon began trying to plot how to make her go away...

Grace had really bad separation anxiety, and Wally seemed very happy every time she got in trouble for destroying something:

Grace especially didn't like being in her crate...

Soon enough Wally, like everyone else, was won over by her cuteness...

And the two became fast friends...

Even Kraut, who hated puppies, came to enjoy playing with Grace...

She loved the beach in L.A.... (so many smells!)

But now she loves the lake in Texas...

Most of all, more than anything, she loves her mommy...

Happy Birthday Gracie!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

First off, Happy Wally Wednesday! Here is a photo of Wally helping me practice with the light meter on my camera by balancing off his white color.

It's been so long since I've blogged, I hardly know where to start. I see the last thing I wrote about was taking the math placement exam. You'll all be happy to hear I passed. In fact, I did so well, I placed into Pre-Calculus. I about had a heart attack until I discovered I don't actually have to TAKE pre-calc. It's actually a long story about the exam because I had to take it at the University, when I was actually slated to attend community college this fall. To make a very long, complicated story short, I aced the exam at the university, but the community college wouldn't accept my score. They made me take their very, very different exam...which I flunked. What the hell? So I couldn't even take math at the CC. I'd like to just point out that I've had nothing but awful experiences thus far with Tarrant County Community College and vowed that, even though I would have to pay out of state tuition in the Spring, I wouldn't return to the community college no matter what - because they suck so bad. I applied for Financial Aid for the spring at University of Texas, Arlington (UTA) - and was awarded a loan for both Fall and Spring. Confusing, I know. Ultimately, I decided the community college could go screw itself, and I am now enrolled for the fall at UTA.

Another important thing that's happened - I got laid off from my job. The production company I've been working for has had a ton of shows get cancelled over the past year and have been laying both editors and writers off left and right for months now. I found out a couple of weeks ago, and next Friday is my last official date. It's probably a blessing in disguise. I was beginning to not be very happy there. Other than the fact that I'm ineligible for unemployment, and out income just dropped by about 55%, I think things will work out ok. Charles and I are both fairly frugal people and will adjust to the much MUCH lower income. I'm also taking advantage of the lack of work by going back to school full time. I'd originally planned on only taking one or two classes, but with the Stafford Loan I got, I have to be enrolled full time, so 12 semester hours, here I come.

School starts next week and I'm incredibly overwhelmed by it. I was once a straight A student in a world long ago and far, far away. Now, I'm enrolled in two upper divisional English classes and just realized yesterday that I can't even remember how to write a term paper. I have this horrible fear that I'll fail - but then I think of all the dumb ass people I know who actually have degrees and figure if they can get one, so can I.

On a final note, my 20 year high school reunion was last weekend. I was running around for days visiting classmates galore, and even had time to meet up with my old 2nd grade teacher to say hello. Here's a photo of me and two of my best friends, Tammy and Diane. I've known Diane since I was about 7, and Tammy since 12. It was great to see everyone.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

As many of you know, I've been cramming for a math placement exam. I've always had a problem with word problems. Not the basic ones, but the complex ones. In the study guide I'm using, the chapters on word problems always says, "Remember, the reason we use math word problems is these are questions that arise in day to day life." That sentence is then followed by a question that goes something like, "If a star is 5.85 x 10 to the 8th power away, and light moves at 9.75 x 10 to the 6th power meters a second, how long..." Screw you, word problems and study guide. Outside of NASA, who would ever need to know the answer to that question? And assuming you ARE a rocket scientist of some sort, I highly doubt you're scribbling figures in a notebook, trying in vain to convert kilometers to meters with a pencil and eraser. You've got computers!

Other than work and studying, I've been taking my continuing education digital photography class at one of the local colleges. Somewhat fun, and I'm finally learning how to use the camera. I've also been watching Season 1 of The Wire (just finished) and re-watching Season 1 of Californication (on Netflix streaming to my TV) so I can be ready when the Season 2 DVDs are released at the end of this month. What's everyone else doing?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The past week has gone by in a blur. I've been putting a lot into studying for this math placement test, so when I'm not working, I'm studying quadratic equations. Some day, the moment is going to arise when I'm actually going to need to know how to graph one, and I am going to kick that moment's ass. If my life were a movie, this would be the part with the montage - a montage of me studying, and then that one dolly shot where it goes around me, and 3D numbers and equations float in the air around my head while a really cool song plays.

For Wally Wednesday, enjoy this photo of Wally and the kids enjoying Charles' night away from home last week. Notice Wally is sleepy and relaxed while Kraut is alert and pointed at the hallway. I kept waiting for a clown with a knife to appear.

For a bonus picture, take a guess at what color my bank teller was the other day.

My last piece of interesting information is that my attempt to get Charles to switch from tightie-whiteys to boxer briefs failed. He tried them today and determined they lacked sufficient support. (As you might imagine, Charles does not read my blog).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Wally Wednesday! As many of you know, Wally recently had to have some minor surgery. We found a weird looking mole on his neck and his vet wanted to remove it to make sure there wasn't anything wrong with. To be honest, the thing that worried me the most was that they had to put Wally under general anesthesia and he's 9 years old. I was extremely happy when he woke up and I was able to go pick him up and bring him home. He was quite groggy for the rest of the day, and his little sister was worried about him. We had to wait nearly a week before we finally heard back from the biopsy they had done of the mole - it was benign! Yay! I was extremely concerned from having not one, but two friends with yellow labs the same age as Wally who died of cancer in the same year awhile ago. Thankfully, Wally is well and will be with us for a long time to come (knock wood). Here's a photo of him from almost two weeks ago after I brought him home from the vet after his surgery:

In another day or so, his wound should be completely healed and he'll be cleared for a much needed trip to the lake.

So, I'm returning to college after a nearly 20 year break to finish my Bachelor's Degree in English. It's a long story of how I came to have an Associate's Degree that somehow doesn't fill the math requirement in the state of Texas. Because of this, I need to take a placement exam, very similar to the SAT, so they can place me in the proper math class. My goal is to waste as little time and money as I can toward fulfilling my college math requirement. If I were to score low on the test, which is what would happen if I didn't study for it, I could end up being stuck in as many as three refresher math courses that wouldn't even count toward my degree before being let into a college level math class that will. That would take about a year and a half - a year and a half of my time and about $6k in wasted tuition. No thank you. This is why I've been studying math for the past weeks. I'm going through the study guide for the exam - the THEA (Texas Higher Education Assessment) - and am amazed both by what I've forgotten and what I've retained. I have numbers and equations floating around in my head, and I can't wait until the time comes when I think I can score high enough on the exam to take it. Just yesterday, I went completely through a chapter on graphing algebraic equations that would have taken maybe three weeks to go through in high school. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking of x and y axes. Not fun. My only hope is that math majors everywhere have to suffer equally through the writing and literature classes I can skate through.