Monday, November 16, 2015

A Visit To High School

On my way out of the house at around 6 AM, I panicked and grabbed several rolls of stickers. High school the first time around was awkward. This time, terrified again, I figured I'd buy my way into everyone's good graces by giving out smiley faces, frogs, and other animals. Because that's what high school is all about--being popular.

Or, in this case, it's about learning how to go to college. My brother teaches at a high school in the Bronx, and I do not. I majored in education for maybe a semester in college before switching to English, realizing that I didn't want to deal with junior high school and high school students or their parents. My brother has been teaching in middle and high school for over a decade, so he's used to it.  I am not.

Also, I'm not used to driving over a toll bridge to go to work. As we made our way from his place in Queens to his job in the Bronx behind large trucks and around double-parked cars, I admitted, Yeah, if I had driven, I'd have pulled over and started crying by now. And this was the easy part.

Meeting his colleagues was fine. Meeting his VP was fine. Meeting the head principal was fine. Even meeting the gym teacher was fine though I do have a lingering humiliation and loathing of the presidential physical fitness test--I mean, who needs to hang from a pull up bar for 20 seconds? Seriously.  And a 20 minute mile really ain't too shabby. Anyway, the phys ed teacher was great along with everyone else I met who work there.

Then there were the students. Terrifying.

No, they were not terrifying.  Aside from honestly not knowing that talking while someone else is talking is actually rude, they were nice. They asked me questions. They played my game of "Pick an index card and read it as if you're a student in my college class, guess what my reaction would be, and then resolve the problem before you'd have to say what's on the card in the first place." My brother said, That's a good idea. We passed around my syllabus. My brother called me mean because I don't accept things without a staple. I said that I do accept them the first time, but by week 11, you should have a stapler or know where one is.

And his students knew that, too. I don't know if they can write full essays, but from their work I saw hanging on the walls courtesy of my brother's decorating the room with their work so they could be proud, they are pretty good writers. They also knew that you shouldn't send an email to a professor that says simply Heyyyyyy. Seriously, they were appalled that I'd once received that email from a student. And during the beginning of that lesson--the do's and don't's of emailing your professor--there was complete silence for a few minutes.

By 10 AM, I was already exhausted. I don't know how these people teach with such a hectic schedule and limited supplies and resources. By 2:30 PM, I don't know how I was functioning, but there was my brother, answering questions and making sure the students stayed until the bell rang.

He went out that night. Like, he went home, changed, and went out. To a concert. With a friend.

I came home. I fell asleep at 7:30 PM. I slept all night through. I am not cut out for high school.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Most Professional Way To React To Free Stuff

So, like, I'm a professional and stuff, which is totally believable because, like, I teach and stuff.  Which is exactly how I must have seemed to the good people at LIU who visited campus to talk to SD and me about our upcoming AA degree in Creative Writing. Because in addition to asking, "And what exactly do you do--do you teach?," I found myself realizing aloud, "Hey, I actually attended your college!" Granted, I'd attended the campus at Southampton, which is now under a different university system, but at the time, it was indeed LIU.

To top it all off, at the end of the meeting, SD is wrapping stuff up all professionally, taking down emails, setting up a plan of action of whose doing what next. And then, pulling off this profession act by scribbling things down next to her, I offer free copies of the literature journal to them, and SD offers copies of the student lit mag.

In turn, they offer us bags.Tote bags emblazoned with their logo. And the bags had things in them. Keychains. A small glass container. Candy inside of the small glass container. But without even knowing they were actually full of stuff, out came the bags and SD and I acted real professional-like.

We squeaked with delight and semi-clapped and gushed about how we love bags.

This is the same reaction we had when we found out we were getting not only free bags but also free ice cream at the FOX summer preview event.Which is exactly what I brought up as SD did damage control, explaining how we simply get excited easily.

Which is what professionals do.  Clearly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sleepy Hollow's Creepy Stuff

Autumn means Let's go to Sleepy Hollow to learn about Washington Irving! Okay, that's not what autumn means, but that's what I've wanted to do every autumn for as long as I can remember, so this time, I made it come true.  I said to Eddie, Let's go to Sleepy Hollow to learn about Washington Irving! And he was like, I have no idea what you're talking about.  And I was like, There's a haunted house!  And he was like, Yes, let's do this. Because he loves Early American literature as much as I love Early American literature!

So off we went on a Saturday with SMM and AF, driving north, taking in the fall foliage that's so so pretty. I learned the night before that we should leave with plenty of time to spare because Sleepy Hollow was having its annual Halloween parade that day. Why they couldn't have stated that when I was picking a date to buy the tickets, I don't know. We had plenty of time to spare, and that time was used up by rolling along the main street as soon as we exited the parkway for the sleepy little town. Cars and vans and SUVs and minivans and more cars all crawled along street with creepy pillow people stuffed with straw lined the sidewalks tied to trees and poles. Who needs a haunted house when you have child-made creepy-people to creep you out for free?

We made it to the cemetery about 45 minutes before it was set to close. My main goal was to find Washington Irving's grave, but as we drove past, we all came up with a new and more important goal: find the Headless Horseman that Eddie found while we were driving by towards the entrance. We wound up parking on the side of the cemetery that's not used for entertaining folks.  I know, that's kind of creepy and messed up that a cemetery is used for entertainment, but really, it's historical, so it's okay. Plus, they give tours at night by lantern to creep you out even more. We didn't stay for that.

We walked up hills.  We walked down hills.  We walked around and around path after path.  This cemetery is rather large. We then found a crowd and in the middle of the crowd, right by the tent selling beer (in a cemetery) was, indeed, the Headless Horseman.
A traffic sign where we weren't allowed to drive

I was more scared of the horse. Seriously.  I was like, It's moving! And Eddie laughed at me.
We reached the end of the cemetery without finding Irving's grave, but we did find the Old Dutch Church. Then we found the place where Ichabod Crane found the bridge to safety when he was running from the Headless Horseman. THEN we found the sculpture that pays homage to the story. It's amazing what you find when you're looking for something else.

This is apparently my new pose.

Then back into the cemetery we went. Up hills. Down hills.  Paths upon paths.  We wanted to get back to the car and find the exit to get something to eat and hopefully avoid the parade that was causing street closures. Instead, we found Irving's grave!
Finding parking is an acquired skill. I was in the car with three Brooklyn experts. We careened around blocks and blocks of downtown Sleepy Hollow, all the while their eagle eyes darting every which way. Streets were packed. Driving was slow.

Beyonce was here.
Eddie finally snagged a spot after about twenty minutes of nothing being open. We didn't find a place to eat right away, but we did find this.
Then we found a street fair.  I have no idea where the parade went, but the street fair seemed to be part of the celebration.  Along its edge was a long line forming for a hayride. This town was all about Fall.  I had some delicious hot cider. Mmmm, cider.  SMM and AF ate some fried stuff. We took in the Sleepy Hollow brand.
Eventually, we'd walked around enough and figured we may as well head over to Horseman's Hollow in Philipsburg Manor. The rest of the year, this place seems to be a historical, educational venue. During Halloween season, it's terrifying mayhem. We waited for the sun to set, marking the time we'd have to get on line to go into the hollow and possibly not escape.
It doesn't look so bad.
Just a beautiful landscape
Until this happens
We got on line outside in front of the DJ booth covered in skulls.  The DJ was a horned creature.  We were given rules. No eating. No drinking. No smoking. The most important rule, though, was no touching. I suppose that also meant no punching and running in the other direction.
Then it was time. We entered the grounds. Off to the side was some sort of monster just standing there.  Eddie pointed it out.  I said something like, He should stay right over there. And that's what you're not supposed to say because in no time, he was behind us, like right behind us.

I don't like adults in character costumes. I get freaked out at Disney World. I was not a happy camper that time in Hershey Park when the large Hershey Bar came over to say hi. It's just freaky--adults in cartoon heads not talking but hugging and high fiving.  It just ain't right.

So here I was among not only adults in costume but also among adults whose job it was to jump out and scare the shit out of me. I decided the best choice for me was to stare at the ground a lot, loudly say how stupid everything was, and make Eddie go ahead of me every time we went into something new.

The scariest parts were the parts when nothing happened. We were expecting things to happen at every turn, so the anticipation killed me most.

There was a room with all the hanging white sheets. Inside people lurked dressed in all white, blending in.  So they could jump out and hiss and scream. Yeah, that happened. The hissing was sometimes worse than the screaming.

Also happening--a woman following me, whispering right in my ear that she'd smelled me coming. Not fun.

In another room, there were strobe lights and a back up of people in front of us so we got stuck in the strobes with the creepy black and white creepy crawly people getting all up in our faces. This was the main point when I was shouting, This is just so stupid!!! The creepy crawly people stayed in my face, not realizing that my shouting meant, Go away.

AF had it worse than I did because she was a bit more obvious in her not liking anything that was happening, so every single creepy person followed her every single time.  And SMM kept laughing. So did Eddie. Laughing laughing laughing. Because being terrified is fun. Apparently.

And then there was the tent that we had to enter single file. The floor moved. The sides of the tent were huge inflatable thingies.  We were smushed in from both sides. It was pitch black. Then we came out the other side. I don't know who would even think of that.  Stupid stupid stupid.  And very terrifying.

We made it through a bunch more twists like a mini corn maze and Ichabod's School House complete with a soundtrack of children crying--very horrifying. Then we found the Headless Horseman! Again!
We're lucky we found him because the idiot people in front of us were taking pictures with the flash on after being told repeatedly, Do not use your flash. The horse kept getting all freaked out and it walked away into a corner after being really annoyed at the flashes. Seriously, the general public makes me fear for the future.

I survived! Unscathed! It was all quite literary, really, so I'm going to count this trip as professional development.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Many Maniac Faces

Poetry out loud in your face is my favorite thing to do, and even though it's not Eddie's favorite thing to do, he accompanied me to two readings in one week.  TWO!  That's like, double the pleasure, double the fun, in that "this is not pleasurable or fun for me" kind of way.  He actually doesn't mind going to places and listening to poetry all that much. He simply minds awkward encounters, which we always have.

Reading 1: Astoria
I know my way around Astoria in the same way one knows the way around a dream.  It's like, I totally know where I'm going, but I also, at the same time, have no clue. Thankfully, Eddie drove as I navigated, and I got us to the right parkways and correct exits, and then we were under the El. I can't drive under any elevated trains ever because I get confused as to where is the lane and where is the place you park and how do we turn the car without hitting pedestrians or cyclists or hoverboarders or other people or animals that might be getting across the street in some new-fangled way.

Astoria Coffee was the easy find. We drove right past its big bright window and saw it was about the size of a walk-in closet, which was adorable! And a bit frightening simply because that meant the reader would be really in someone's face, and while I love poetry out loud in your face, I didn't mean it incredibly literally.  I like my face to be several feet from the faces of strangers because, you know, germs.  And smells. Anyway, we found it easy-peasy, and then we drove around for about a half hour looking for parking.

This was like parking in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge.  Many a time we've driven in widening circles around Brooklyn, looking for parking.  Once we drove into Brooklyn for a drop-in appointment at the chiropractor, and after driving around for 45 minutes looking for a spot, I was like, We need to go home now, and we did.

We found a spot because I noticed a few blocks ahead of us reverse lights go on.  This never happens.  I never see anything blocks away.  This was a proud moment.

Astoria Coffee offers hot chocolate.

Eddie was one happy camper.  That and a croissant meant heaven.  I had green tea and it was uber delicious green tea.  The only drawback was that the place was about 105 degrees so I ended the tea drinking for a while to cool off.  I'm never hot.  Ever.  I peeled off layers of layers and then held up my hair for a while.  It was that warm.  No one else was that warm.  Maybe I'm getting hot flashes already.

So about the poetry.  The Risk of Discovery series puts on a fantastic show.  We were four features, two of whom were more performancy than me and the other poet, which meant for a lot of variety.  But before that, there was an open mic, and that was really interesting.  One poet read a pantoume (I THINK it was a pantoume, but it might have been a villanelle--I can't remember which at this point, but anyway, both forms involve repeating lines and usually are done horribly) and this piece was excellent.  It was so very well done, and at the end, I asked the poet to email it to me so I could read it again.  Other open-mic-ers were fun to listen to, and the other most memorable was a poet who learned that a publisher wants to publish his book but he has yet to put his book together.  That's not why he was memorable though.  What made him memorable is that he talked a bit about how summer was ending, and then he whisper-sang two lines from that song Summertime Sadness before  his poem, and it was all kinds of amazing.

That aforementioned awkward moment was later on when this poet came over to talk to me and I couldn't answer anything he said at first until I hopped myself back up on a stool because he was about six feet tall and that's simply too far away from my ears for me to have any kind of normal conversation.

I read for a bit under 10 minutes.  I did not use the mic because the room was small and I have a big mouth.  Also, the mic was over my head and I didn't feel like playing with the stand to make it lower.  And I made these faces.
Stank face

Contemplating my collection face

Waving around a post-it note face

Hey! I'm smiling!
I walked away from that reading with a book and a CD from one of the singer-poets who agreed to exchange books with me, and I also sold two other books.  Oh, and somehow it cooled down and I finished my tea, which was, again, delicious! It was a good night.

Reading 2: Hicksville
Finding the room for the reading in Hicksville Public Library poses a challenge.  We asked the librarian who gave us two options, one for stairs and one for the elevator, and both sounded confusing, especially for two people who get lost in parking lots.  We took the stairs and found that we couldn't follow the directions well.  However, we did find a door and surprisingly, that door led us to the right room, and we had to walk down the stairs of a stage to get to the seats.

After meeting and greeting and picking out seats, I opened my bag o' books to put out some candy I'd gotten previously in the day (more on how I made an ass out of myself when I got the candy at some other time!), I found a spider in the bag.

Earlier that morning when I pulled my car out of the driveway, I found a spider web connected from the dash to the passenger seat.  Along that web I found a teeny-tiny spider. I grabbed him up in a napkin and swept away the web.  I think that maybe he had a large spider friend lurking who made its way into my bag.

OR I'd picked up the spider in my travels throughout the week.  Or it came in with the money exchanged for the books.  Or it crawled into my home office, where I've found large cave crickets before, and into my bag.

Really, it didn't matter where it came from. All that mattered was it needed to get the fuck out of my bag.  (Sorry for the language--spiders and I don't get along ever since one bit me and I had to go on keflex for a week when my hand blew up and I had scarlet striations from the back of my hand all the way up my forearm). Eddie, who also does not like creepy crawly things, decided I should remove all the stuff from the Ziplock that it had crawled into, and he would throw out the plastic bag with the spider in it.  Okay, fine.  That actually worked, but not without my freaking out in silence as I pulled each item out of the plastic bag and put it into the larger bag that contained the plastic bag, each time the spider moving more towards me rather than away from me.

Crises averted, I put out the candy, and people went nutso over it--especially the host who was quite fond of BubbleYum. What made this even better was the mom of the usual host who was out for the night attended and brought cookies.  She's a fantastic cookie baker, and at the end of the reading, upon insistence of the host who held out the tray of cookies and said, You have no excuse, I ate an oatmeal cookie that was delicious.  Actually, I ate half of it and gave the other half to Eddie to hold when someone came up to ask me to see my book and he stood there holding the cookie until I told him, You can throw it out, and he was like, Why don't you just eat it?  And I was like, Oh, yeah, I can do that, and I did. See? I sometimes create my own awkward moments for him.

The reading went well.  There was another event happening on the other side of the folding accordion wall, so I again relied on my big mouth teachery voice to get the audience to listen to me.  I read from both collections. I made the following faces.

Mid-poem face

I'm so drunk right now face

Sleepy reading face

Hey! I'm smiling again!
Then the host ran the open mic. That was again interesting because there were poets there whom I had never met before (ooh, that reminds me! the host said she was impressed with my correct use of whom versus who!).  Then, as aforementioned, a bunch of people came up to me afterwards to chat, and I sold some books.  I also chatted a little about how to get published, and I made this face.
I'm clearly a maniac, and my husband thinks this is funny even though he's trying not to laugh face.
There you have it. Poetry things are happening, and I cannot bluff my way through poker. And now to get a feel of what all this sounds like:

See? Poetry out loud in your face.  It's all the rage.

Friday, October 9, 2015

So How's Your Semester Going?

Glad you asked.  It's not too bad.  Dare I say: It's actually pretty good.

The start of the semester slowly progressed as each of the first three weeks of class were only three days each with Labor Day and several Jewish holidays.  A nice way to ease into a new session of teaching.

Promotion awaits in the near future, so in addition to teaching, I'm putting together my application binder.  The application form is about 27 pages. I then have an additional 150 pages of what I like to call "Proof I Did Stuff."  I consider the whole activity an arts and crafts project that involves highlighters, plastic binder sleeves, and stickers. The due date is in February, but since I'll be on sabbatical in the Spring, my due date is December.

I've also been focusing on pushing through a new class about Writing for Digital Media and an online version of Poetry Workshop. Lots of curriculum stuff that I began over the summer is now in high gear.

Speaking of Curriculum, I joined the department Curriculum Committee, so I took on the task of revamping the department's catalog page.  Also, during the most recent meeting, I was stung by a yellow jacket.  Mid-meeting, I put my hand on my head, felt something funny, went to pull out whatever was in my hair, and BUZZZZZ it was a yellow jacket stinging the heck out of my finger.  So I reacted like a normal adult and shouted OW OW OW OW as I jumped up from my seat.  With my colleagues stopping midsentence and staring, I explained, I was just stung by a bee; I'll be right back.  I hung out at the water fountain down the hall for a while and kept my finger under the cold water until the water started turning brown.  Well, that's gross.  So I went back to the meeting, and the guy in front of me was like, That was so weird!  And I was like, I know!

I spent the rest of the meeting shaking my hand vigorously.  My finger turned bright red with bright white lines coursing through the middle, tracing the venom.  Then the skin felt really tight as it started to balloon up.  When I got back to the office, I rinsed it off more in the bathroom until that water turned brown.  So gross.  When I came out, SD was at her desk so I explained: 1. The water is brown and has nothing to do with me, and 2. I got stung by a bee.

My finger ached well through the next day.  So that was a noontime stinging followed by an afternoon and evening of a lot of pain and then some more pain the next day.  Plus, the night of the stinging, I went to Oceanside Library to present How To Write A Basic Essay as part of their programming.  The whole carride, I was shaking my hand and sort of laughing in disbelief--how could it hurt so bad?

Anyway, that's probably been the worst part of my semester.  I've gotten a little snarky with some of my classes at some times because of their rudeness, but overall, they have been listening and learning and participating and being nice people.  Like, the other day in Comp, I taught a grammar lesson, and they participated, and the next time I saw them, I reviewed the lesson, and they, like, knew the answers.  I can't remember the last time that happened.  They weren't all sleeping or staring off into space.  They were being studious, and it's been refreshing.

Also refreshing is the amount of work I'm getting done on campus.  I'm still bringing home the huge paper stacks, of course, for marathon grading sessions.  However, the small assignments that I usually bring home too have not found their way into my bag.  Nope, I'm doing all my grading at work. I have mandatory built-in grading time now.

That's not really true.  What I have now are Seminar Hours during which I mold young minds.  Those young minds have yet to show up, so I spend the time grading.  I'm getting so much done!

You see, the English Department has had an agreement that full-time professors teach four courses as opposed to the five that other full-timers in other departments teach.  This four-course load is due to our teaching composition and having an abundance of grading every week.  In exchange, we were told hold normal office hours every week like all full-timers, but we also hold floating conference hours to meet with students throughout the week, not at a set time.  This schedule worked well for me.  I was able to make appointments throughout the week with my own students who could not make it to office hours.  Every week, I met with at least two students off-hours during these floating times.

With a new contract this year clarifying what these hours should really entail, the powers that be came up with this plan:

1. We were to hold seminar hours during set blocks of time.  No more floating.
2. We could not meet with our own students.
3. We could mentor developmental students, mentor non-developmental students, mentor a specific cohort of students (like online or creative writing--though the creative writing cohort was nixed because apparently they don't need mentors), tutor in the writing center, work with LINCC (the program for English language learners), or advise in the advisement center.  Only any mentee or advisee could not be our own student.

So this semester, I've held my Seminar Hours twice a week and I look at my Seminar Hour schedule daily and usually, the schedule is gray, which indicates I have no one to mentor at all.  Once it was a light blue, indicating that I had someone scheduled.  I turned that into a dark red when that student did not show up.

Instead of being able to offer a slew of possible appointment times as I have in the past, I can offer like one half-hour of free time as a possible appointment time for my own students.  So they either have to make it to office hours when they might not be able to because they have class or are not on campus, or they have to find my one half-hour of free time available in their own schedule.  They can't come during Seminar Hours when I sit by myself with no mentees because that's just not allowed.

Ideally, I'd like to not mentor anyone.  I'd like to have simply extra office hours.  If we can't be trusted to hold floating conference hours, then I want to have double office hours, and I want to be able to help my own students.  Since our classes have increased in size, having time to meet more students one-on-one would help immensely since more of them can get lost in these bigger classes.

But for now, I spend my time in the office grading, working on curriculum, working on my promotion app, reading submissions for The Nassau Review (I'm still the editor), finishing up committee work for four other committees I'm on, NOT holding my former floating conference hours and NOT helping my own students. I go to teach my four classes.  I hold my regular office hours during which my own students who are available at those times stream in and out regularly.

I'm looking forward to sabbatical.  Even though this semester has been pleasant, I need a break from the illogical ways of thinking.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Another Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

WakeBreatheMove by Christina M. Rau


by Christina M. Rau

Giveaway ends November 02, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway