Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to be a College Professor 101

Lesson 1: Always bring your own dry erase marker.

I started my internship at the local community college last Friday. I walked in with the professor and students and took a seat at the back of the room as I only planned on observing. No, Ms. H., the professor took one look at me in the back row and indicated I needed to sit up front. So much for easing my way in.

As Ms. H. began the three hour class, I was able to contribute with comments here and there and help pass out papers. About half-way through the class, though, she needed a dry erase pen. In a brand new classroom filled with all the technology a teacher could want, there were no pens for the whiteboard. Ms. H. gave me a key to her office and asked me to grab some from her bag. As I walked out the door, I thought to myself, "This is your first lesson of the day. Always bring your own dry erase pen." I laughed and thought it might make the beginnings of a blog post. (Bloggers will understand how quickly I thought to take advantage of this lesson for my blog.)

Later that day, there was a mandatory intern meeting for training on developmental education. (I am working in the reading department which offers classes for students who do not have college level reading comprehension. These developmental courses are also offered in the math and English departments.) The first speaker for the meeting was a child development expert. He was using Piaget's stages of child development as a foundation to understanding the needs of college students. They are sensory in nature, they are pre-operational at times, they are concrete thinkers, and hopefully, they have abstract thinking skills.

As he talked, he wanted to illustrate how concrete thinking works. He looked at the whiteboard and there were no dry erase markers. One intern spoke up. "I have one." We all laughed and the speaker said something to the effect that in teaching you must always be prepared.

I think I laughed a little harder at that I think than the other interns. After all, the universe had seen fit to teach me that lesson twice in one day!

I think a trip to Office Depot is in order.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ballet Shoes

Because I decided that my entire family should suffer through the most intense grad school semester I could pull together, I decided to do something special for Marley--a mother-daughter experience--before I get buried in school-related stuff. We hosted a mother-daughter book club party today. We chose to read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield. We evited a few friends and read the book. For ages 9-12, the book was more than Marley could handle on her own, so I read it out loud to her. We didn't begin as early as we should, so we ended up reading 1-3 chapters a day for 10 days or so.

Marley enjoyed the book very much and I took advantage of her willingness to sit and listen to work on her comprehension skills. Every night that we read, we did a mini-review of the main points of each chapter. Granted, by the 15th chapter, we only covered the most recent chapters and didn't go back all the way to chapter one.  We read the last 18 pages just two hours before our guests were due to arrive.

I really wanted this to be something different for Marley. I wanted her to experience reading and discussing a good book, but I also thought my social butterfly needed some friends around her to enhance the experience... and a craft. Marley dearly loves a craft. I tweeted and facebook status'd for help and Veronica over at Toddled Dredge came through with No Sew Tutus. My in-laws scoured thrift stores for china cups and saucers. Ballet Shoes takes place in 1930s London, so of course, tea was the refreshment of the day. Used teacups are cheap and who cares if they break? The local bakery was the source for yummy tarts and petit fours. Sticky Fingers Scone mix was used for plain and chocolate chip scones. There was lemonade for the girls and tea and coffee for the moms. The final touch was 20s and 30s music courtesy of internet radio. 

Before our guests arrived, I gave Marley a crash course on hostessing. The hosts pick last. Hosts offer to take the moms' purses. The hosts offer refreshments. She did a wonderful job although her discussion faciliation was rather interesting. She tended to interrupt to move on to the next question or to share her own point of view.  As it became time for our guests to leave, Marley was a little too enthusiastic in her goodbyes. She was to go home with one of her friends for an overnighter and had her bagged pack and slung over her shoulder, ready to move on to the next experience!

Yesterday, Marley and I took some time to have discussion questions ready. We asked about favorite characters and events in the book. We considered what type of conversations we might want to have with the characters. Marley was very interested in asking what Great Uncle Matthew collected (Fossils!!!!) and wondering if everyone knew what GUM meant (Great Uncle Matthew!!!!).  My favorite question that Marley came up with, is "If you had influenza, what would you do... take medicine or not?" The girls very enthusiastically shared their thoughts and opinions. Marley had passed out questions to each of them so they could take turns. Seriously, it was just too cute. Of course, my cynical teenager had to tell me tonight that he didn't want to hurt my feelings but the party today was the DUMBEST THING EVER. I laughed at him because what else would a teenage boy think about a 1930s themed, mother-daughter book club party?

Here's a slideshow of our party. Because I don't have permission, I am only posting pictures of Marley, the tutus, the teacups. If you have a daughter, I highly recommend hosting a book club. After the discussion, the girls talked and decided that for their NEXT book club, they would read Theater Shoes, also by Noel Streatfield. When a party gets kids excited about reading, that's a very good thing! (Of course, I don't know if the moms are ready for another 200+ page book read. The girls might have to wait for a couple of months!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lessons in Career Advancement

In a move sure to impress my (hopefully) future employers, I forgot about a mandatory meeting for my new internship.

Don't gasp too loudly, I didn't miss the meeting. I just replied to an email from the head of the program that hires the interns with a "What meeting?"  Five minutes later, an all intern email memo went out reminding everyone of the meeting and the importance of attending all mandatory meetings.

I am equal parts relieved to have not actually missed the meeting and red-faced(Schrute beet red) about forgetting it in the first place. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sleeping with Bread: Search for the Perfect Recipe

I have to make this quick today. I have too much to do and not nearly enough motivation. If I don't start soon, the day will be over before I know it. (As happened yesterday. Sigh. I am NOT a responsible person.)

So, after last week's woe is me tale of unleavenedness, there is progress to report. First, I think just writing about the State of Mary-LUE was helpful. While I am not willing to say that everything is hunky dory now, I did experience some positives. (I was tempted to type that "I" accomplished some things, but I think that there was a lot of God in the middle of it all and I don't want to steal his thunder.)


The Spiritual. I pulled out an old study and went to work on it. As part of the study, I wrote a blog post (for one of my 10 million blogs I have) and sent it out to a few friends. It helps me to share what is going on in my time with the Lord AND provides some accountability. Such an unstructured soul as I does better when someone is WAITING for something.

The Physical. I actually got in a couple of walks last week. I am hardly ready for the SAHM Olympics, but it was good to get out there.  I made an effort to use my CPAP machine for my sleep apnea. I actually kept in on for over four hours one night.

School. I got off my keester and headed out the the university (sans computer) for some serious reading time. It was a very productive time. After finishing this post, I'm off for more reading and hopefully writing. My self-imposed deadline for the first draft of this proposal was last night. Oops!

Family: I was very conscientious about paying attention to my barnacle, um, er, leech, um, er, Huggy Bear, aka Marley. She has been clingy to the nth degree and I am trying to balance what needs to get done and what needs to be--if that makes sense. Lots of time was spent reading Ballet Shoes for our mother-daughter book club party this Sunday. We still have several chapters to go, but it is definitely mother-daughter dedicated time that she appreciates.

Miscellaneous: Dinner was prepared and eaten at home several days. This is progress for me.


The Spiritual. Well, there's a whole passage in the book of Romans which says it all and goes something like... the things I don't want to do, I end up doing; the things I want to do, I don't. 

The Physical. I missed out on one walk because of the insomnia thing. One walk is not a big deal, but it is knowing that it will continue and that I need to find a way to work around it that was discouraging. I skipped a couple days on the CPAP because I was too tired to wash out the humidifier jar. I also only got a couple of hours per night most nights. I need at least 4, preferably more on a very regular basis to have a big impact on my energy level.

School. After such wonderful progress on Saturday, I completely messed up yesterday. I went to church, came home, ate, then took a nap. A long nap. After said nap, I was just not motivated. I ended up on the couch for most of the rest of the afternoon and evening. Not a good idea.

Family. Ugh. Reference Huggy Bear above. Clingy is one thing but this is beyond the pale. I had to give her time out from touching me at church because she was doing something that drives me crazy and SHE KNOWS it drives me crazy but she was doing it anyway! She was temper-trantrumy last night and spent 20 minutes in her room before she would come out and ask for dinner properly. We still had our cuddle time and our reading time but she is challenging the heck out of me right now.

Miscellaneous. Um, no menu so far this week. No trip to the grocery store. No laundry done over the weekend. 

The Big Picture:

Overall, the list above is just that--a list. It doesn't really speak to my lament from last week about my soul needing lifting up. At least, in and of itself, it doesn't. But sharing my 'Woe is me' and then slowly moving my way through the week, taking it sometimes one hour at a time, I did feel better. My spirit is not risen, but it is rising.

I wanted to thank everyone who commented--and even those who just read but didn't comment. I know you are out there! Your encouragement is helpful to me and helps to provide that leaven for my soul.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sleeping with Bread: Leavened and Unleavened Bread


From Wikipedia: A leavening agent (sometimes called just leavening or leaven) is a substance used in doughs and batters that causes a foaming action intended to lighten and soften the finished product.

leav⋅en   [lev-uhn]  
1. a substance, as yeast or baking powder, that causes fermentation and expansion of dough or batter.
2. fermented dough reserved for producing fermentation in a new batch of dough.
3. an element that produces an altering or transforming influence.
–verb (used with object)
4. to add leaven to (dough or batter) and cause to rise.
5. to permeate with an altering or transforming element.

I've struggled with my last Sleeping with Bread posts. (I've actually struggled with blogging at all.) Part of problem is a general sense of feeling overwhelmed.  At various times over the last year, I've written a little about how some things need to change in my life... diet, exercise, spiritual exercises. Well, it is related to that, but also to a lot of other circumstances. Paul and I had a little discussion about it over lunch today. I'm grateful that he is completely sympathetic to me right now. He sees that life has something of a stranglehold on me right now.

So, as I considered the question for today's SWB post, I thought about the word leaven. It really explains where I am at right now. Life feels unleavened. All the ingredients are there... flour, salt, water... These are my family, my friends, my community, my faith. I cannot really complain about these things. I am blessed in so many ways.

But the leaven is missing.  The bit of life that lighten and softens me... that alters or transforms my life... that brings consolation... that allows me to appreciate and make something more of my ingredients.

I think there are two important things to consider. The first is that I am truly in a time where the external circumstances of my life are stressful. School (torture I chose) and issues which have come up since my father's death last April (torture I did not choose). Anyone, under similar circumstances, might experience what we Christians sometimes call "a valley experience." ("Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...") The other important aspect of all this is the physical component. As in the preceding paragraphs, some of these things I have "chosen" in the sense that I have some control over them (diet, exercise) and some just happened to me (sleep apnea, hormonal issues).

Either way, here I sit, typing away, feeling flat and heavy when I would rather feel light and airy. My challenge is discerning how much I can "do" something about and how much I can't. I have this list in my head of all the things I could do... exercise five days a week, go on a diet, lose weight, spend an hour a day in spiritual contemplation, conquer the sleep apnea machine--all while making sure my family isn't neglected. (See... it really is overwhelming.) What do I really tackle? What do I leave alone for now? How do I push through when the hormone-induced migraines or insomnia make me want to curl up and ignore the world that beating at my door?

It is somewhat paralyzing, knowing where to start. I have some hopes and ideas of where to go and what to focus on. I have one friend on call as my cheerleader/personal trainer/coach and all around nag encourager for the coming semester. (I got your card today, Michelle. Thanks!) Paul and I talked today about prioritizing what I need to do between now and the spring semester. I can make a better effort work on my bits that need more discipline.

As for the rest... well, as I referenced Psalm 23 earlier, another part of that verse comes in handy now, "...He restores my soul." Because that is what I think I am talking about when I say my leaven is missing--that restoration of my soul at a time when it has been depleted. I'll depend on it.

Psalm 23

 1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.