Meta-Post: What Has Liz Been Up To?

My goodness! I didn’t realize it had been so long since I’d posted. Bad Liz! No cookie for you!

The realization that I hadn’t checked in over here in awhile naturally begs the question of “Why?” and I have a not-great-but-understandable reason: I’ve been busy! My last post was last May, and around the first of June, my Day Job announced that our project was wrapping up, and layoffs would be on the way. This, of course, sent me into Super Panic Mode, and many, many balls were dropped while I scrambled to find another Day Job. Fortunately, I succeeded: In late July, I was hired by a local community college as an Adjunct Professor of English, and in mid-August, the same school brought me on full-time to direct their tutoring program! Tutoring is the standard 40 hours per week, and teaching is a nominal 10 hours (“nominal” because I’m teaching English Composition; no way will I get everything done in ten hours per week). So let’s see: 40+10=50, then add in the 45-minute commute each way…lemme see here…that’s about 60 hours or so per week. Whew!! No wonder I haven’t had much time or energy for blogging!

However, I just renewed my domain for another year, and (as always), that should inspire a lot more writing from me. There’s a lot going on currently that is worthy of discussion and analysis (as always), and I’ve been making some more time to read lately (which could mean book reviews might be a new feature). This all aside from the fact that I’m going to be thirty-six this year (which means I’ll have been a legal adult for exactly half my life; yes, there are plenty of mixed feelings surrounding this event).

I’m going to keep this short and sweet, so I can save my typing fingers for more interesting topics.

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Writing for Money

In direct defiance of my stated rules (which can be found here), this post isn’t particularly timely. Everything I’m going to talk about happened awhile ago – some of it quite a few years ago. It’s still on my mind, though; I thought of it just a few moments ago while working on some housecleaning chores, and I had some new insights that I thought merited an essay. After all, these are my rules, and I know them like a pro, so I can break them like an artist.

I’ve been thinking lately – I’m not entirely sure why – about the phenomenon of crowdfunding, especially as it relates to writing. I’ve contributed to several crowdfunded writing projects that have “made it,” and I’ve pledged to several others that have not. I have no doubt I’ll do it again; these crowdfunding projects are often the only way I get to read cool stuff that I want to read.

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A New Celtic Earworm

One of the best parts of my job is that we are allowed (and even encouraged) to listen to music while we work. Of course, I’ve listened to all sorts of albums in a variety of genres, as my tastes are somewhat eclectic, but I’ve also spent time listening to Pandora and catching up on podcasts. I’ve had trouble working and listening to spoken-word podcasts and staying focused on my work, but I’ve had fun listening to music-based shows. One of my favorites is The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast; I don’t love every song, but in the time I’ve been listening, there have been six songs that I’ve liked well enough to purchase (that doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m really picky about what I’ll buy, since I have other recordings of many traditional tunes – how many versions of “Calliope House/The Cowboy Jig” or “She Moves Through the Fair” does one person need, after all?). Continue reading

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Variations on a Theme: Clearing the Decks

On my last birthday, I chose a word to serve as a personal theme for the next six months (here’s a link to that post). I chose that time frame because I had some very specific things I wanted to accomplish, and I knew several of those things had deadlines near the end of the year. In addition, I knew that I tend to get reflective at both my birthday and New Year’s, and it seemed a natural time to close the “DreamCatcher” chapter of my life and begin something new, even if that new thing was less structured than the previous thing. I’m really proud to report that I caught my two biggest dreams: I finished my thesis and graduated for real, and I found a job that pays better and that I really enjoy.

I’ve decided to choose another theme for the next six months, and I’ve decided to specifically limit myself to six months again, because there are some other specific things I want to accomplish in this specific time frame. My deadlines are more self-imposed this time, but there are some external factors at play as well.

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The End of an Era, Part 2

Last night I talked a little bit about the sense of loss I feel now that I’ve finished my degree, and how that has me feeling like I don’t know quite who I am anymore (here’s the link to that). The post was awfully short (by my standards), and I didn’t feel like I’d explored what I wanted to say to my own satisfaction. I also have a few informal guidelines for the little essays I share on this site, and that post missed the mark on a couple of counts (more details about that are here).

The biggest piece that I missed is that I like for whatever the current issue is to lead into a discussion of a more general nature – I want to move from the specific into the general and look at the big picture. Last night’s post didn’t do that, mainly because I’d been awake for over 24 hours, and my brain was mush.

So last night I talked about my realization that my professional identity was completely made up of my status as a student, and now that I’m graduating, I’m not sure quite who I am anymore. Today I want to look at the bigger picture, about identity in general. This post is a direct continuation of yesterday’s; they are intended to be read one after the other, starting with yesterday’s, as one coherent essay.

I wonder if the sense of loss I’m feeling is similar to the way retirees feel? Retirement is similar to graduation in many ways – in both cases, the person in question is experiencing a major life change, and the types of things he or she typically does are changing drastically (usually resulting in that person enjoying more free time). Being a student is a full-time job in and of itself, after all, and it’s been easy to explain why I’m working in an industry that is totally unrelated to my education by saying, “Well, I’m also a full-time student,” in the same way that a retiree might explain his or her part-time job as a barista by saying that he or she is also retired. Now that I’ve graduated, it feels like I need to come up with justification as to why I am underemployed (and somehow it’s worse to be underemployed with a Master’s than it was to be underemployed with just a Bachelor’s). Continue reading

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The End of an Era

This morning (well, technically it was yesterday morning, but I just got off work not too long ago, and I haven’t slept yet, so to me it’s still today) I successfully defended my Master’s thesis. I’ve still got a couple more little things to do, but this was the last big hurdle; I’m definitely graduating this semester (basically, next week).

After I found out I passed, someone asked me how it felt to be done. I said, “Amazing!” or something of that sort, and in that moment, it was the absolute truth. After all, my current theme is “DreamCatcher,” and I’ve certainly been dreaming of this day for a long time; making it my reality is an amazing feeling.

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Filed under Dreams, Education and Teaching, Personal

Positively Speaking

This may not be much of a revelation, but I am a person of strong opinions. There are some things I like (pizza, books, the Chicago Cubs), and there are some things I don’t like (onions, getting up early, country music). If I’m asked for my opinion, I am not one to mince words or shy away. At the same time, I try to word most of my opinions as positively as I can. I try to say, “I don’t really care for that,” rather than, “I don’t like that,” or “That really sucks.”

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Baked Chicken and Scrambled Eggs: Assessment Testing Run Amuck

This is your brain on testing.

This is your brain on testing.

I’ve written before about how assessment testing in the workplace has altered my point of view on standardized testing in schools. To summarize, although I still think basing a student’s (or more to the point, that student’s teacher’s) entire future on one test taken on one day is, to put it mildly, insane, I am no longer able to base this belief on the idea that testing creates a completely artificial situation in school that is unrepresentative of what a high-school graduate will face in the workplace.

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The Tale of the Three Regrets

I consider myself to be a very lucky person most of the time, because I don’t have very many regrets in my life. There are times I could have been kinder, and I do regret those sometimes, but I try to use those feelings as reminders to be kinder next time. For the most part, though, I’m pretty good about seizing the day, telling the people in my life that I love them, and doing the best I can under the circumstances.

Despite all of this, there are one or two regrets that I have in my life.

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Thinking and Knowing

Or, “You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but that doesn’t mean she’ll stop teaching!”

I tutor a lovely international student and her son on Sunday afternoons (naturally, this makes Sunday the highlight of my week). Today she and I had a really neat discussion about Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. I suggested she read it because many of the books she has read and enjoyed in English are more British, and I wanted to suggest something that is very American. We have also had discussions (began many months ago during a discussion of “The Grasshopper and the Ant”) about the Puritan Ethic, and I knew Arthur Miller’s commentary on life in Salem would provide insights into the Puritan Ethic that I was having trouble explaining. I’ve said for a long time that the Puritan Ethic is problematic for me, but it’s difficult to explain how it is problematic to someone who does not have the American version of that in his or her cultural consciousness.

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