goals

Back from the Dead

It has been entirely too long since we’ve spoken and for this I apologize.

I am pleased to announce that the paper was a success, despite my amateur knowledge of  journalism and inexperience, as well as a lack of support from the administration. I now have a small amount of knowledge about journalism, media law, and AP style. Oh, and I can sort of use Photoshop now. I hope all you’re seeing is what I like to call “resume building” or “lines on the CV.”

I also managed to survive teaching a night class at the college, but have decided that I will not be doing it again this spring because my waistline paid dearly for the late night dinners and my ability to stay awake past 10 was beginning to wane.

Husband and I also survived our first year of marriage without any major issues. We still love each other and can say we are more successful in our marriage than over 70 percent of celebrity couples. In case you’re not sure, I made that statistic up. Pulled it right out of my a&$.

Husband and I also spent our first Christmas together. We were with my family and spent quality time with Frankenmommy and Black Sheep sister. I think he was a little overwhelmed at how much food there was and how much talking at the table over coffee went down, but he survived, and I’m so grateful he was with me. I needed him by my side when my family got a little crazy and mildly negative and somewhat depressing (post to follow). I think he enjoyed it. It’s tough to tell. I’m not sure how well I will fare when I’m not with the crazy Italians for the first time next Christmas.

Looking up, it seems as if this semester hasn’t been so bad, and yet I still dread waking up to go to work and do not enjoy cooking, reading, or writing nearly as much as I have in the past. I feel as if my identity is slowly slipping away from me. So in an effort to regain who I am, I have made the following resolutions. They aren’t necessarily new year’s resolutions because I’ve been working on them since October, so please cease with the eye rolling, I get enough of that at work.

This is how I reclaim my identity…

  • Keep the house clean by not going to bed with a messy house. (It saddens me that I even have to make this part of my identity recapture project, but alas I do. I was once the biggest neat freak ever, then all of a sudden over this past year and half, things have gotten messy. It’s been awful. It’s time to reclaim the Lysol and Clorox and make things shiny.)
  • Complete at least one organization project a weekend. (This is partly because I fear becoming a hoarder. My father is a hoarder, and I think having an organized house leads to other aspects of your life being organized, including one’s finances and ability to manage time. These “projects” may entail cleaning out a drawer, or a closet. They will be big some weekends and small other weekends. It will depend on what I have time to do. I’m hoping to have the house in order by May. I’m not delusional in thinking it will happen overnight.)
  • Devote at least 30 minutes a day to writing. (I’m happiest when I’m writing, and 2012 was a year that I did not feel so good about myself, the direction my life was taking and it’s time to get that back. Writing is a calling, and it’s been yelling at me for months. “Come back!”  I’m coming back thirty minutes at a time.)
  • Submit at least 1 story or essay a month. (I have quite a few essays and short stories sitting on my hard drive and flash drives that are dying to be available in print or online. Enough is enough, I need to suit up and send them out. I’m not going to get a professor job with my fiction and essays sitting on my computer. They need to be on your Kindle or your bookshelf.)
  • Read at least 30 minutes a day. (This one, so far, as proven to be the biggest challenge. I have been unable to find anything to read that holds my attention. I blame Facebook, Twitter, and my insatiable addiction to television. While I know I read meaningless crap everyday, it is time to refocus my love of reading. There was a time in my life when you couldn’t find me without a book in my hand. I used to devour books. I miss the attachment I had with characters and the near euphoria of experiencing a damn good story. Not to mention, this 30 minutes a day will only make me a better writer.)
  • Take better care of myself. (This includes grooming–ladies we all get lazy with the shaving of the legs and washing the makeup off of our faces before bed–well no more!–I refuse to not take good care of myself. Taking care of my grooming and putting more care into my outfits and how I look when I leave the house will help me regain some of the confidence I’ve lost. Husband is always telling me how sexy it is when a woman is confident and how unattractive low self-esteem is. Well, I need to be sexy in my eyes in order to be sexy in his, so a-grooming I will go!)
  • Be a better Catholic. (These past few years I’ve neglected my spiritual health. It’s so easy to just not go to mass. I know many people do not agree with the teachings of the Catholic faith, but I do and since I do, I should be practicing what I believe and get my a** in church. It’s one hour, once a week. I do my best during the week to be a good Catholic, and going to church regularly helps keep me in check.)
  • Follow through. (In general, this is difficult for me. It’s one thing to set all these goals, it’s another to follow through on them. The thing is I struggle to follow through on small things like laundry. I will start a load of laundry, get it into the dryer and leave it there for two days. I think if I can start by following through on things like laundry, good eating habits, exercise, and so on, I can make these goals a reality.)
  • Spend less time at work. (Let’s be honest, that place is sucking my soul right out of my body. I know it’s a clichéd image, but damn it, it is the truth. It’s not just soul sucking, it’s soul crushing. As an example, the newspaper was a huge success this December. It was the first issue the school saw in over a year. It was well designed, the kids did everything, sold the ads, did all the writing, fact checking, editing, and so on. When I was hired to be the adviser, the principal wanted me because I had helped the students produce the first literary magazine issue in over 5 years. The principal was adamant that I do it and demanded that we have a hard copy of the paper. I was then not given the resources to do this. The class ended this semester, so I don’t have a newspaper class in the spring. We had to meet after school. The computers did not have the necessary software to layout the paper. I fought and fought. The kids were so determined to lay out the paper, they did it on their own computers, which they brought to school with open source software. We even met on a Saturday to finish laying it out. When the paper was finally delivered to students, the faculty and students flipped. They loved it. I was then, however, snubbed repeatedly by the principal AND have yet to even get a thumbs up, head nod, let alone a “good job.” Now, I didn’t spend my month of December at school until 7 p.m. to get accolades from my principal, but acknowledgement that it was even glanced at might have been nice. This, of course, is just one incident of many that have pushed me over the edge. I’m no longer volunteering at school this spring. I leave fifteen minutes after the bell rings, unless there is a meeting. Frankly, that place can suck it. Life is too short to be spending it where my dedication is under-appreciated. If people want devoted teachers, then they ought to give them some damn adulation. I’m a newlywed and staying at work until 7 p.m. is madness.)

And so these are my goals. They are lofty and ambitious, but I’m feeling feisty this year.

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In Full Swing

Well, the Fall semester is in full swing. We’ve had our first rained out home football game, I’ve had to rearrange the seating charts in all three classes, and I’ve already written five referrals.  Welcome to secondary education.

When school started I told my students my year’s goal was to not write one referral. Well that was shot straight to hell when the principal announced that every time a student is late they get a referral. Very nice. Thank you first block.

Overall, things are good at the new school. The faculty is made up of predominately young teachers. This means there are very few teachers with that negative attitude where they are constantly bitching about the current state of education. While there always teachers that bitch about students and how awful teenagers are, there aren’t as many at my school. Most of the teachers don’t complain, they are, instead, proactive. It’s a very nice, positive change from the adjunct office.

I am struggling to adjust to things like hall passes, bells, and the PA system. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Teachers, please excuse this interruption,” I’d be rich. It’s weird being interrupted while teaching by the administration, the phone in my classroom ringing, and the bell. I don’t really like that aspect of it, especially since educators repeatedly hear “The time in the classroom is sacred.” I don’t see priests, pastors, and ministers being interrupted. Church is sacred. Right? I’m also not accustomed to students trying to talk over me and all the meetings and rules. Sometimes I forget they are teenagers and get really irratated during discussion when they  are talking over me and each other.

In this economy, however, I’m grateful to have something steady. I started working towards to my teaching license so that I can have high school teaching to fall back on. Still, high school is definitely not the end goal. It’s just not stimulating enough for me. I need higher level thinkers to talk to daily. High schoolers just aren’t there yet.

As you know, I feel very strongly that things happen for a reason. I’m pretty sure I’m teaching high school because I finally have some time to write. My life is slowly stabilizing, and it’s time to publish the crap out of  my writing.

I am busy as hell. I’m currently working as band staff, am a co-sponser of the creative writing club, and am training for a half marathon–not to mention, anything and all things wedding related. I like being busy. When I’m not busy, I don’t do anything. I’m totally unproductive. It’s awful. One of my best and favorite girlfriends from grad school and I have decided to begin exchanging writing to each other starting this month. I’m so grateful for this because 1) She is brilliant 2)I have someone to be accountable to 3) I have been itching for some feedback. Good feedback.

So far the energy for this school year feels right. I feel good.

It’s going to be a great year.

Hydration is Key

So last week was my first week with the dietician and the new eating plan. It isn’t really different from how I was eating. It only encourages way more vegetables and a lot less fat. Very logical.

The one thing that has been an adjustment is the amount of water I’ve been asked to consume. My dietician has asked me to drink 9 cups of water. This is equivalent to about three medium-sized water bottles. It may not seem a lot for all you hydrated people out there, but it is a lot for me. I hate drinking water. I never think to do it, and because I have a peanut-sized bladder I oftentimes chose not to drink it.

So last week I started drinking nine cups of water. It was a challenge the first day, and I’m one day from being done with week two on this plan, and I’m still struggling. I will say that I did notice a difference in my body and its general performance within three days of drinking all this water.

I felt reborn. I was all, O. M.G., FH I’m a walking metaphor. I’m all reborn.

I’m just kidding readers, I don’t actually talk like that. Hahaha.

My week starts on Saturday (which is great because the weekend and being home is always bad for my eating habits). On Monday of week one, I was a productive machine. I had graded an absurd amount of papers, created an awesome activity (more on this later), did some hardcore wedding planning, and busted ass in the gym. 

I felt–feel amazing.

When asked if I need to coffee to function (literally to breathe and be alive), I almost always respond with a big caffeinated yes!, but last week my one cup of joe in the morning was more than enough to get me going. In fact, it was more for pleasure that it was anything else.

So aside for being super productive at work and with the wedding plans, I read two books in two weeks, and am almost done with my third.

Who

Am

I

?

As far as the eating has been going, I think I did okay this week. Not as good as week one, but definitely hitting my calorie marks and I added an extra day of working out. Seriously, go me.

You’re probably thinking, oh my goodness One Mean MFA, you’ve been kicking ass and taking names.

Well readers, you’re right. I have been. But that’s not all (for 4 easy payments of $19.99–sorry I couldn’t help myself), I started work on the memoir.

I know.

Ridiculous. 

 A lot of the world’s problems could be solved if people would just be hydrated.

I hope week three is even more awesome.

CV Building Via Conference

This year February has become the month of conferences. I’ll be presenting at a conference this weekend. I’ve presented at conferences before, but they were sponsored by the English department of my grad school and I knew pretty much knew everyone who attended. Does your English Department hold conferences for TA’s and other graduate students?  A lot of the GTA’s in my program, including myself,  used the conferences as a way to add lines on our CV’s. I think it’s a really effective way to make you look like you care about your field. It’s also great practice for conferences that make you nervous. What do you do to build your CV?

Since this is my first official conference, I’m a bit nervous. Generally, I don’t get nervous when it comes to public speaking, but I’m kind of freaking out about it.

My paper is almost finished–I know, nothing like the last-minute. I think it’s pretty decent. I’ll probably edit it when I get back, and make it sound less conferency, and more edgy and essay appropriate. I’ll then send it out to a gazillion magazines in hopes that someone will pick it up and publish the thing. Do you guys do that with your conference papers?

Well, I recently got an email from the director or coordinator of the conference asking me if he could share my email with my panel. The panel originally had three people on it, but one of them had to drop out, so it’s going to be me and another person. I’m kind of glad about this, because I’ll probably lengthen my essay a bit and go into more depth. At first, I was glad I’d let the director give out my email. The other panelist emailed me and it turned out he knew one of my professors from graduate school. “What a great way to network,” I thought to myself.

WHAT AT MISTAKE.

This panelist is email happy, and frankly is a little too excited about presenting this weekend. He must be tenured and have job security. What’s that like? He keeps emailing me nerdy jokes about our panel topic, but at least he doesn’t want a super structured discussion. I also think he and my connection to my former professor may come in handy. Afterall, it’s not what you, but who you know. 

Let me clarify, it’s not that I’m not excited, I am. Presenting at this conference has forced me to work on an essay that I’ve been drafting mentally for about a year. It’s also a networking opportunity and with the job market the way it is, I think I’ll be able to become more than just a CV to some of the schools I applied for full-time work at, (some) who will be at the conference. When the panelist mentioned he knew my professor, I thought “I should exploit this connection to get some job interviews.”

Maybe this line of thinking makes me a bad person, but I don’t think so. I mean aren’t we supposed to take advantage of opportunities that lead to our success? Wouldn’t you network? Frankly, I’m seriously considering bringing my CV to this conference and passing it out. I know it isn’t a job fair, but what if a department chair from my area is looking for a full-time instructor of Creative Writing? This whole conferencing thing makes me wish I had a business card. It may be a good investment.

In the end, all this conferencing has made me realize that I need to be way more aggressive with the job hunt and building my CV. Also, having to work on my own writing instead of focusing on my students has been really refreshing. Don’t you remember when I had my mental breakdown in October? I’m truly on a mission, and I think TC’s comments, AWP, and my being reminded why I write is helping.

Why Adjuncts Struggle to Break Free

I’ve been part-time teaching at two schools this semester and have been trying to figure out why my grad school professors warned us not be adjuncts. Well, today as I started grading a stack of papers that has recently dwindled from 110 to 90 papers, I now understand my professors’ advice.

In order to live comfortably as an adjunct you must teach at least four to five sections. These sections usually include at least 20 students which means come paper time you’ve got at least 100 papers to grade and comment on. While you’re grading papers and teaching 5 sections, full-time professors are teaching 3 sections, not worrying about money, and working on publications. That’s right, they are writing and focused on their careers, while the only writing you’re doing is the writing on student papers.

Recently a girlfriend of mine, who also has her MFA and was an adjunct for a while and is now a full-time instructor, called me. We spoke at length about focusing on our writing versus our students. She and I are tired of being super teacher. Being super teachers is not going to get us a tenure track jobs. This has always been my goal, and has recently become hers as well.

So, what have we decided to do to brighten our futures? The fifth of every month we will be emailing each other our writing. I’m working on perfecting my novel by adding some sections and lengthening the sections I have, and she wants to pump out some short stories. We attempted to establish some kind of consequence for not doing the writing, but decided that we weren’t afraid of each other so we established a reward instead. When we send each other our work, we will also send each other a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

Our first exchange will occur on the 5th of November, and I’m eager to have a deadline and someone I trust to give me feedback. I’m hoping that this exchange will enable us both to see our work published and lead us towards being tenured professors.

In the end, what it all boils down to is worrying about yourself. In this competitive society, it is necessary to focus on you. It sounds narcissistic and selfish but I don’t really care, I’m in it to win it and if you’re an adjunct who is a super teacher, you should consider focusing on yourself even if it is brief. We must stop feeling guilty if we don’t our students their papers back immediately. Those things can wait–your career can’t.

Are there any super-teachers out there that agree with me? What about those of you who don’t? Why not focus on my own writing versus the writing of my students? Am I horrible person for thinking this way?

The Four Day Rut

I have literally been in a foul mood for four days straight. I can’t explain why, it’s just been one of those weeks where I wake up on the wrong side of the bed. While I am prone to ruts, I have been since senior year of high school, this rut is one of the worst. It is reminiscent of my pre-depression days during undergrad.

Yes I do stress over things that I shouldn’t, but I don’t think this rut is being fueled by stress. My best friend and I have decided it’s a planetary issue. My rising sign is Virgo, and well I don’t think the planetary alignment and full moon are helping out. Although, if the planets aren’t to blame, I really don’t know what is.

The following are things that are bothering me:

1. I might have to move because the apartment complex I live in is raising its rates. That’s right in this economy where jobs are low, and prices are high the place that I live is raising its rate. How F#$@ed up is that? There is an upside to this, however. There is a neighborhood in the city that I live that I absolutely adore and it has affordable housing which is old and charming. Still moving is a pain in the ass and I’m not stoked about it.

2. No matter how hard I try I can’t get myself caught up in my grading. Currently, I have my phone on silent and I still managed to kill three hours in my car driving around to blow off some steam and consequentially wasted gas. Because I feel like I can’t get caught up I may give up a relaxing Saturday evening and grade. May being the key word in the previous sentence.

3. Because of my foul mood, the boyfriend and I got into a bit of a tif this morning and I feel terribly about it because it was my completely my fault. I’m an ass. No–and asshole.

4. The MLA job list has me worried about the future, which I cannot control and has me paranoid that I’m not good enough to be a professor and may need to invest more time and money into my education.

5. I miss my family so terribly. I want to visit them during my fall break but am not sure if I’ll be able to. Every Sunday when I’m alone in my apartment, I think about how I used to join them for mass and we’d have a traditional Italian meal. I miss it a lot. While I will acknowledge that being around them too much does bring on panic attacks–I have legitimate medical data to prove this–I still miss them.

As I write this list, I see how foolish it is that I’m upset and maybe a nice long jog or iPod dance party might help lift my spirits. More importantly, I need to stop procrastinating because that is what is causing all of this suffering. I love list making it always helps.

First Week of Classes Down–15 More to Go!

So this week began my journey as an adjunct instructor. So far, I’m liking it. I’m not digging the psuedo-office with two desks that I’m sure will aways be occupied–although the shared office at the other school I work for is a bit bigger I am sure it’s going to be a lot of the same. I’ll probably hold my office hours in a gazebos outdoors when the weather turns.

My second teaching job starts on Tuesday. I’m pretty stoked to be getting into the grove of it all.  On the first day, when I began my introductions and introduced myself as Ms. OneMean MFA, I realized how much I really love teaching. Even writing the syllabus, though tedious, felt good. Much better than answering the phone at the salon.

I’m so over that job and am quitting this week. I will NOT work three jobs, also my time is precious and I refuse to sit in a mall every evening when I could be getting my teacher work done and cooking delicious semi-gourmet meals for the boyfriend. I also really need to polish my thesis into a best seller novel and I can’t do that at the salon either.

As of now, I’m working 6 days a week, with only Sunday to get my teaching stuff done. That is just insane. I did not bust my ass in school, write a freakin’ novel, and get a master’s degree so I could work a minimum wage job. Although, I will miss the free hair services. Oh well.

This week I’ll be introducing a blogging project to my class which I have been brewing up for about a month. I so desperately want it to be a success. I also want my students to leave my class really digging the idea of having their own blog. I’m nervous about the logistics. I have about 90 students and I’ll need to monitor all of their blogs every week–hence why I need to quit the salon. Well, I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Now instead of procrastinating, I need to be getting my teacher stuff done so that I get the semester started on the right foot. Right now, I’m already behind and dreading this last week at the salon. I so hope I don’t burn any bridges by quitting. I just don’t want to over stretch myself, plus I can’t network in the academic world if I’m at the mall. Plus, yesterday while I was on break I made a ridiculous impulse purchase–which I’m not really one to do but have on occasion brought home shoes, dresses, and jewelery that I don’t need–I am not returning it, though I debated. I’ve decided it will be a fantastic addition to my new professional wardrobe. I do after all have to look great.

Well, I’m going to focus.

Oh man I love this time of year!