Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Nine pages fill that binder: my two-page letter of introduction, my resume, their three-page application, a page of professional references, a recommendation letter from a former employer, my two-page college transcript and the abstract for my thesis.
I've been agonizing over the cover letter. What made it so hard was how important it was.
I had imagined things would go like this: I finish college, there is a graduation to mark this important transition, I begin job hunting, I get hired and go to work.
But life is messier than that. Right in the middle of everything, economic necessity pushes me to job hunt, my dream job appears before me like a genie from a bottle and I have to show them, here and now, that I am the right one for the job.
But I realized it was silly to struggle like that when I have no fewer than 20 writing teachers in my acquaintance, plus an editor I see every week. I ran my cover letter by a couple of respected colleagues, and now I am done!
Now I wait to find out if I get an interview.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
For the longest time, I worried about this. Seriously, I graduated without ever having read any Shakespeare at all in school.
By the time it was over, however, I did realize I had gotten the skills to read anything at all and tease out several layers of deeper meaning. But I still think a few classics would not have gone amiss.
I found a list, compiled by Time Magazine, of the top 100 novels of all time, and just out of curiosity, I have reduced it down to the ones I've read.
1. Animal Farm, George Orwell
2. Atonement, Ian McEwan (and saw the film)
3. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (I'm a huge Atwood fan)
4. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder (high school; remember nothing about it.)
5. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
6. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
7. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (and seen the film, of course)
8. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (ditto the film)
10. Naked Lunch, William Buroughs (not that I liked it)
11. 1984, George Orwell
12. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
14. Possession, A.S. Byatt
15. Rabbit, Run, John Updike (not that I liked it...)
16. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut (high school)
17. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
18. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
19. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (I recommend this: It's the Jane Eyre story but told from the point of view of the crazy wife in the attic, Bertha)
Saw the film: does this count?
1. Brideshead Revisited
2. A Clockwork Orange
3. Lord of the Rings (I only actually read The Hobbit)
4. A Passage to India
Having it on the shelf and intending to read it doesn't really count, but I have The Confessions of Nat Turner, Tropic of Cancer and Gravity's Rainbow.
The most interesting detail here is that, with the exception of Things Fall Apart, I read none of them while studying literature at HSU.
I did, however, read Herman Melville, whom I adore and admire, and I have to wonder why nothing of his made the top 100 list?
A magna cum laude Literary Studies student from HSU has only read 19 of the top 100 novels. So what is to be made of this? A critique of HSU's reading materials, of Time Magazine's list, or of my lackadaisical reading?
And by the way, when grad school is finally over and I can read for pleasure again, I do intend to get to a few more on the list. And if I were to produce such a list of great novels, it would look different.
What's your view on this?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
What do you wear to a job interview anyway? A dress? A blazer? Heels? Comfortable shoes?
I have been all over town, engaging in my least favorite activity: trying on clothes in dressing rooms. I've walked out empty-handed again and again. Seriously, I have done this on four separate shopping trips, even though I had money in my hand, earmarked for just this occasion.
Ugh, this is as hard as the resume cover letter, possibly harder.
I dream of a closet like a successful businessman has, appropriate shirts lined up on the hangers, neatly pressed, an array of similar pants, ties, jackets. They all fit, look good and are prete a porter. All he has to worry about is not mixing his patterns or clashing his colors.
Is there a feminine equivalent of his closet?
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I mean, the one I picked is beautiful and lush but if you look closer at my logo, you'll see it's not even an apple she's eating. It's a pomegranate (which is even cooler, really, but doesn't match my title).
I love how the apple can symbolize life, knowledge and temptation.
But I was actually thinking, when I started this blog and named it, of chronicling my journey to becoming a teacher. So I liked the double meaning of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and a sweet gift for a teacher the first day of class.
Why do we give apples to teachers (or imagine ourselves giving apples to teachers)? How did apples come to be associated with teachers?
Monday, March 23, 2009
Caviar that comes in a toothpaste tube. You eat it on toast. For breakfast.
In Sweden, open-faced sandwiches, with boiled eggs and kaviar is the way to serve it. This is not a delicacy; it is a time-honored, everyday food in Sweden and Finland. You can read more about it here.
I fully intend to try kaviar when I go to Sweden one of these days-- even though I am alarmed at the idea. I like fishy things, so that isn't what bothers me.
Is it the texture that I imagine will be objectionable? But I eat tobiko, the flying fish eggs that often surround my sushi rolls. So why not?
Maybe it's the idea of fish for breakfast, something they do in many other countries but don't do here. This cartoon expresses my feelings, albeit in German.
I just have to share with you this Swedish commercial for kaviar. At the end it says, "Kalla all gone?" "There is more at the store." And YouTube has some other funny ones too. Gotta love YouTube!
1. Your son grows up before your eyes into someone you deeply admire.
2. Your heart fills unexpectedly with love for someone who isn't even born yet.
3. You have a birthday and get lavished with attention by friends, family and even acquaintances.
4. You serendipitously discover your dream job.
5. You update your resume and recall all the cool things you know how to do.
6. People you deeply respect praise you lavishly in recommendation letters.
7. You experience the capriciousness of a spring day, with hard hail in the morning and sparkly sunshine in the afternoon.
8. You finally get rid of the boxes of unwanted possessions that have been crowding your house.
9. You find out that a high-blood pressure reading was the result of someone checking you with the wrong size cuff.
10. You get rid of some of your worries so the remaining ones begin to look manageable.
11. You feel the first faint stirrings of attraction like sap moving in trees after a long winter.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I'm not going to be one of those kinds of grandmothers, the ones that post photos of their grandbabies all over the place.
Or maybe I will. So what?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I hadn't had any sleep the night before, so it was difficult to wake up early and do manual labor. But Angela arrived with coffee and a can-do attitude.
Out with the Old
There is now a storage unit that contains nothing but my soon-to-be ex-husband's stuff, and soon, all that will be left here in this house are our own valued possessions.
On the bright side, my clothes and shoes can stretch out a bit because now the whole closet is mine.
Even better, there is no longer a copy of Ronald Reagan's autobiography taking up valuable bookshelf space next to Albert Einstein's. It was a strange pairing there on the shelf and ... do I even need to articulate the rest of that thought?
How do people dissolve marriages? I understand the legal process of divorce, I know how to break up with a lover, but what is done with the leftover memories that before had been so carefully preserved? The wedding album and the wedding dress, the dried flowers, the ring?
In with the New
Spring cleaning is not about the old but about welcoming in the new, right?
So let me add that there are memories here I am glad I've preserved, because our family has a new member on the way.
I have the tiny cotton outfit my son wore home from the hospital when he first came into the world.
I have his baby pictures, so we can scour the images for family resemblances.
I came across his G.I. Joes today and had a strange and wondrous thought: what if he has a son?
Little boys are the dearest things on earth.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
We ate in the Arcata restaurant, 3 Foods, eating a delicious dinner in a style described as "Asian fusion," serenaded by exquisite live piano music.
I had a glass of pinot grigio and #63 Dungeness crab flautas with cactus salsa and creme fraiche. For dessert we had dates with chevre. When you order coffee, it you get your own personal French press.
It was fancy but quite modestly priced. I recommend it.
Mary's special gift is the ability to frame everything into a positive, proactive light (to mix a few metaphors). She joyfully embraces new people, new places and new experiences. She loves her life, her husband, her family, friends and work. She's been my friend for 14 years and has been an inspiration to me all this time.
She looked at all this trimming back and downsizing I've been doing lately and gave it a name: pruning.
According to Wikipedia, bless its heart, pruning is "a technique employed by gardeners to control growth, remove dead or diseased wood or stimulate the formation of flowers and fruit."
A haircut. Truckloads of extraneous crap to the dump or donation barrels. It's all just pruning. Flowers and fruit to follow.
In case I sounded depressed enough to worry anyone last night, I want to say I do feel somewhat better today. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comments. They really helped!
I had a beauty shop appointment first thing this morning, for a haircut and to cover the irritating grey strands. I walked out of there looking better and feeling better. Shallow, I know, but every little bit helps.
I have a birthday this weekend, during which I will still be trying to process this new development:
I am going to be a grandmother!!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I feel like that's happened to me.
I am surrounded by evidence that a colorful person once lived here, someone who liked to decorate, treasure hunt at yard sales and shop. Someone who liked shoes a little too much for her budget.
Someone who liked to do crafts, to play music, to sing and dance, bake cookies and take long, hot bubble baths.
Some brainy overachiever who thought it was a good idea to go to graduate school and earn a master's degree in English. Someone who held academia in high regard, who thought teaching writing a worthy aspiration.
Someone who once held dreams of a happy family and a happy home.
I look at my collections, antique compacts, perfume bottles and costume jewelry, and wonder why on earth I have them. Why all these shoes, when there are only a few pairs I wear anyway?
Shopping is a cheerless chore done only out of necessity. Why do the stores offer so damn much crap to overwhelm our lives? It all turns into trash anyway and things even the thrift stores won't even take as donations.
Singing takes too much energy and so does playing guitar.
Writing teachers are the dogs of the university.
Cookies make you fat.
None of these clothes looks good on me, and most of these shoes make my feet hurt.
My family is centrifugal, dispersing outward with tremendous force, and there is no center. My home is echoing with pointlessness. No one sees it but me, and I don't care.
The person I am now is exhausted and can't remember anything.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Pandora Internet Radio. You enter the name of a favorite song or artist, someone/thing that definitively represents your musical tastes. Then based on the qualities of your favorite song, Pandora generates a playlist of music you may never have heard of but will probably love.
I had so much fun last night that I had to tear myself away from it in order to go to bed.
I have a Cowboy Junkies station, a Cracker station, and a station built around the qualities of Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man."
I discovered several great artists that were unfamiliar to me. Ben Harper, for example. And songs I'd not yet heard from artists I already knew, like Tom Petty.
I'm in love with Pandora.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I have been struggling for ages with the necessity of getting disability services for my MS, reluctant to admit I'm not as strong and capable as any 18-year-old on that campus. Climbing the campus to Founders Hall every day finally got the best of me.
I haven't actually signed up yet, but when/if I do, I can get a ride to Founders in a little bus.
New School Schedule
I should mention, as an aside, that I dropped two of my classes in order to have time to search for work in a serious and focused way. Now I only have one class, Teaching ESL Composition, two days a week.
I miss my teaching internship in Language Analysis a lot, but I am frankly relieved not to have to attend the American Lit class anymore because of a tiresome couple of preachy, politically-correct undergrads. But that's another story...
I will still finish at the end of the Fall semester, as planned, but I will have to take an American Lit class while I am writing my thesis.
New Health Concerns
At the health center, they measured my blood pressure as usual and found, for the very first time in my life, hypertension. 116/90. That's worrisome.
In spite of my sedentary habits, indulgent eating and voluptuous figure, I am used to receiving unearned praise when I go in for check-ups: compliments on my nice, low blood pressure.
Now, life has to change. Most importantly, I need some exercise, something more than trooping miserably around the campus.
Can worry and heartache can cause hypertension? I do have a lot on my mind. Soon, I will tell you about it.
A New Goal
On a more hopeful note, I found a job announcement for a great job I intend to apply for. There is a huge application process, beginning with a curriculum vitae, recommendation letters, transcripts, and a letter of intent.
My hopes are up; I can't help it. So wish me luck.
Once I dropped classes and grad school dropped in priority, I had a realization. I know it sounds ridiculously obvious, but a good job is the answer to all my problems. Of course, it means I won't be able to teach next semester at HSU. *sigh*
New Appreciation for You
I should mention that as of March 1, we joined the ranks of America's uninsured. My son's eye problems are still ongoing.
I just came from reading the most inane discussion over at the Eureka Standard where one of his readers is saying that people who object to the American insurance industry and the state of health care in the US are "slackers."
Blood pressure and all, middle-aged mom and all, peace-loving intellectual and all, I would gladly punch this guy in the face.
How I would love to be a slacker just for a day!
And thank you, to all my readers, for being sensitive, intelligent, kind-hearted people.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
My son and I worked again with the gardener at the church, and this time my son planted 576 seeds in flats, all winter vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli, chard, cabbage and kale.
For our efforts, we brought home Swiss chard, to try for the first time. It was delicious! I am a big fan of greens, lately--a big fan of anything fresh from the garden, actually.
Speaking of which, we ate a carrot that had only been out of the ground a few moments. It was better than chocolate, and I never thought I would say that about a carrot.
Anyway, this Swiss chard was "Fiesta" variety and here's why:
A Blanket the Color of his Eyes
And while I am sharing, here is a pic of the lambswool afghan I crocheted for my other son, who will graduate from high school this year. This project took about 2 weeks, while the last one took months. Not sure why...
Pretty Flowers Anyway
My internet access has been spotty and unpredictable all month, so I also never got a chance to show you the roses I received for Valentine's Day. They aren't as meaningful as you might think, but that's not their fault. They were lovely.
Stories Between the Lines
And finally, my Swedish friend has found out a bunch of interesting genealogical information about my family by reading old church records from the mid 1800s. The records look like this, but my friend can decipher them:
So here is a little story about this woman, Augusta. She was my great grandmother:
Augusta was born in a tiny hamlet in southern Sweden to a farming couple. She had an older brother Bengt and a younger brother Algot.
Bengt was adventurous and went away to America in 1882 when he was 24, because the American government was promising land to immigrants.
When he got there perhaps he wrote letters home saying it was good, because five years later in 1887, Augusta, 25, and her little brother Algot, 23, packed their bags and sailed for America.
They all three settled in Kane, Pennsylvania. Augusta never learned to speak English; I don't how she made her living.
Soon she married Johan, a young man who was also a Swedish immigrant from the same area her family lived in. Perhaps they already knew each other.
Johan was the son of a farmhand and he had come to America seeking land of his own. He came first to Illinois, but wound up in Pennsylvania where he married Augusta. They had a bunch of sons, including my grandfather, and lived happily ever after.
Augusta's brother Bengt, however, had a more eventful story. He married, and he and his wife had two sons. But soon Bengt's wife became mentally ill and had to be committed to an asylum.
Perhaps Bengt was overwhelmed caring for his two young boys alone, grieving about his wife. Perhaps his mother offered to help. In 1900, Bengt decided to return to Sweden with his ailing wife and his two sons who were 12 and 7. The family moved back to the farm with Bengt's aging parents.
Bengst's wife never went back into an asylum, but after her sons were grown she ran away from Sweden and returned to America in 1915. This secret act was recorded by priests in The Book of Nonexistence.
Bengt eventually remarried, took over the farm after his parents' deaths, and then died in 1926.
This story is written between these spidery lines on yellowed paper. There are giant stacks of these papers. Imagine the stories.
My story would be so incomplete if you tried to piece it together from official records.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
It's hard to be brought low by grey skies and drizzly days, when there are these boots in the closet.
I wear them to work in the yard. I stomp out to the compost pile, nevermind the puddles. I wear them in the garden. I wear them to church. I wear them to school, just because.
Best $20 I've spent in quite some time.
I copied it out for my Swedish friend and his sons who are fluent students of English. But then I thought, maybe you guys will find it interesting as well.
First is my letter to my friend with my commentary on the poem, then a tiny introduction about where the poem came from, then the poem. Definitely read the poem aloud.
My Letter and Commentary:
We had the American students read it to make them more aware of their own language and its idiosyncrasies. To be fair, even American students could not correctly pronounce all the words (like simile and anemone) and some of them are not common. (like ague and Terpsichore, for example).When in doubt about how to pronounce something, look at the word it's meant to rhyme with.
After reading this, I had to look up how to pronounce correctly: skein, groats and succor. I am surprised the word scissors doesn’t appear in this poem. As for the word loth, I have never heard of it and wonder if it is loathe?
Words like topsails and gunwale are nautical terms and were/are pronounced a certain way by seafaring people [top’sǝlz, gǝn’nǝl].
Also the poem uses British spellings (like mould, clamour, and enamour) instead of American (mold, clamor, enamor). In the
By the way, the reason for all this wide variation is the same as the reason for variation in pronunciation rules in Swedish: because the words are borrowed from other languages. In English, the other languages we borrow from are MANY and different from one another: Latin, French, Greek, German, and yes, even Swedish (example, kiosk, though we pronounce it key’osk. And smorgasbord, although see how we spell it?).
“Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters near
English is Tough Stuff
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind
Scene, Mepomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should or would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward to forward to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sleeve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb.
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge.
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth and loth.
Job, knob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr and heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull and George are late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed but allowed,
People, leopard, towed but vowed.
Mark the differences moreover
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Warm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour but our, and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien and Italian,
Dandelion and battalion,
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation - think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spiky?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel;
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough –
Though, through, plough, dough or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!
Monday, March 2, 2009
I've missed blogging! For awhile there I was doing it so frequently that it was like second nature. Even while events were occurring in my life, I was already transforming them mentally into a post for the Bitten Apple.
But over the last 10 days my time with the internet has been stolen time, between classes or between stories to be edited or in brief moments after dashing into an eerie, deserted office to check my email very quickly.
This is not conducive to the relaxed, expansive state I apparently have to enter in order to blog. And my knack of transforming experience into a friendly little post is getting rusty.
March is my birthday month, the month when daffodils spring up through the grass and wave merrily at you under the grey sky. I love March, usually.
But this year, March is just going to be another hurdle to traverse, another thing to survive. When it's past, and it will pass, a lot of important deadlines will be behind us and important decisions will be made.
I would tell you the details but they are not pretty. They're drudge, heartache, faint shame and broken dreams. They're tender flesh caught in the merciless steel wheels of bureaucracy.
There is, thank God, a spring break in the midst of March where school won't be competing with everything else for my energy and time.
When I get a chance, I'll check in.