Archive for April, 2008

notes from the front of the class.

Posted in blogging, books are bliss, dissertation, etcetera, facebook is the new crack, faith is action, gators, i love my life, me, teaching on April 29, 2008 by drbolte

i don’t really think there’s a weirder feeling on earth than sitting in a final exam knowing you’re the one in charge.  takes me forward in time and not backward, and i keep trying to forget that i’m an adult.  on days like these, it’s difficult to do.

(and as i write this, i am sitting in a classroom that doesn’t get internet—curses you wireless!—and watching my students take the final i wrote this morning.  i am, however, trying to abandon adulthood by wearing seashells on my flipflops and on my wrist as a bracelet.  it’s helping, it really is.)

today i’d like to talk about closing doors and opening windows.

yesterday was one of the most fantastic days i can remember in a long time.

good stuff happened, but it wasn’t so great that it warranted the extraordinary reaction that i had to it.  it just felt like a day full of promise.  the day after you close some doors and stop looking at them, bemoaning the fact that they are closed, and instead turn around and realize that there’s a whole lot of bright and beautiful light awaiting you from that other series of open doors/windows/skylights, just begging you to notice it.

i think we talk a lot about chapters ending and doors closing—i really do realize that it’s a bit of an overwrought metaphor.  if it’s bothering you, choose another. i just don’t know how else to describe it.

it’s the end of the semester.  i’m both alternately thrilled and saddened by that.  you see, the best teaching experience of my career thus far happened this semester.  i am genuinely saddened to see it end.

(when i told them today that it had been an honor, i really meant it.  or did i say that?  i don’t even remember what i said.  i had just stapled my finger and i didn’t want to get all schmaltzy because hello LAME.

so maybe i’ll do it here, and let’s just pretend i get a do-over.

“it’s been an honor and a privilege. thanks for reminding me why i love teaching and how much literature rocks.”

thanks.)

moving on.

thinking on that yesterday, as i pressed to finish grading their papers and realized how much i really liked this class just by the degree to which i agonized over their final paper grades, i got a call.

from the graduate coordinator. who asked me if, instead of teaching the freshman writing class i’d been assigned this summer, i’d like to teach another upper division course.

on british romanticism.

(that’s my specialization.  this semester i taught Victorian lit, which is the time period just outside of it.  it was fine.  i’m qualified…but it was still outside my area.)

uhm…YES!?!  PLEASE?!?

i literally jumped up and down.  and then paced…for like twenty minutes.  just because i was so excited.

door closing, yes.  but looky there. hello, other ridiculously unexpected open door that’s amazing and awesome and will look so spectacularly good on my cv.

i was also thinking yesterday, and adding said thought to my control freak to-do list, that i needed to finish my fellowship letter and turn it in. the deadline is Thursday, and the last dang thing i need after jumping through many a hoop to try to get this deal coordinated is to somehow miss the deadline.

(tracking down professors when they are off doing other things and asking them to write you letters, regardless of how much they really do like and respect you, is like herding cats.  start early is my advice to you who bow at my feet for such pearls of wisdom.)

not long after, when i was making plans in my head about when that little item was going to get accomplished, i got a facebook message from a girl in my program who was responding to my status update about the class i got.

(my life is chronicled here and on facebook.  who needs privacy?)

she said, basically, that she was confused about me teaching because she had it on good authority that i had the fellowship “in the bag” and so she wasn’t even going to apply.

(her dissertation director? the head of the department.  possible source of said authority? who knows? she wouldn’t tell.)

goodbye four years of guaranteed funding.  why, hello open window beaming in rays of light and hope that maybe, just maybe, i’m not dreaming this peaceful feeling i have about the whole fellowship thing and that i’m not deluding myself into thinking that i have SUCH a good shot.

the whole day felt like that.  it felt like this academic year was ending—which has been full of amazing experiences that i wouldn’t trade for anything but that have become growth experiences (read: some heartbreak and angst and too much self-doubt) as well—with a big fat slamming door.

and instead of being scared about it, or worried, i have for the past few days been just looking forward.  putting one foot out there in front of the other and leaving a lot of stuff behind.  i have not been asking for a whole lot of light to direct me—i don’t have to see the whole path, just part of it—and i have been confident that if i was trying to do what’s right, i would be blessed and directed and led.

and here i am.

upper division course.  check.
fellowship applied for.  check.
tangible goals made for mighty progress on dissertation.  check.
flirty, sassy attitude onboard.  check.
perspective about other stuff that i have no control over achieved.  check.
letting the rest go.  check.

it’s the beginning of the best summer of my life.  i can feel it.

i am SO excited.

i am commencement speaker (and so can you!)*

Posted in celebrities, etcetera, School, the internets on April 29, 2008 by drbolte

found this in the way that the best stuff is found on the web…

…by clicking random links and hoping that it takes you somewhere appropriate.

i thought this was appropriate, since it’s my last day of school before the BEST.SUMMER.EVER (so says she is who is determined to make it so) and because some good friends are graduating (hi david!) and moving on and this time of year always makes me a little bit sad. but no sad!

because when stephen colbert gives your commencement speech, you get wit and really great, inspiring wisdom for the bargain price of one honorary doctorate:

So, say “yes.” In fact, say “yes” as often as you can. When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, “yes-and.” In this case, “yes-and” is a verb. To “yes-and.” I yes-and, you yes-and, he, she or it yes-ands. And yes-anding means that when you go onstage to improvise a scene with no script, you have no idea what’s going to happen, maybe with someone you’ve never met before. To build a scene, you have to accept. To build anything onstage, you have to accept what the other improviser initiates on stage. They say you’re doctors—you’re doctors. And then, you add to that: We’re doctors and we’re trapped in an ice cave. That’s the “-and.” And then hopefully they “yes-and” you back. You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. And through these agreements, you can improvise a scene or a one-act play. And because, by following each other’s lead, neither of you are really in control. It’s more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in a scene is often as much a surprise to you as it is to the audience.

Well, you are about to start the greatest improvisation of all. With no script. No idea what’s going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So say “yes.” And if you’re lucky, you’ll find people who will say “yes” back.

Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

And that’s The Word.

i love me some people who make me feel glad to be adventurous.  go forth, young wonderful people, and create your own adventures! and invite me on them! i’m cute! and fun! and AMAZING!

and have a wonderful tuesday.

*this is an allusion to stephen colbert’s latest book.  i’m not really a commencement speaker.

scenes from a long weekend (or what i learned while my roommates were out of town)

Posted in disney princesses got nothin' on me, domestic goddess, drama drama drama, etcetera, ghetto life, mirror mirror on the wall, teaching, the internets, the joys of living in Florida on April 27, 2008 by drbolte

i was on my own this weekend.

lest you think this is unusual, i lived by myself in this town for three years before i moved in with roommates (for many reasons, not the least of which was financial) this past august.

i guess i just didn’t realize how accustomed one gets to negotiating your activities based on the presence of other people. it was eerily quiet this weekend. i mean, i had the tv on for most of the weekend for ambient noise, as i am wont to do, but it was odd to not have to worry, in any sort of subconscious way, that somebody would be walking in/talking/commenting on what i was doing.

i was queen of the castle, man, and it was nice.

(hi roommates! i love you! this has nothing whatsoever to do with that!)

i needed to take control of my life this weekend and boy howdy did i.

here are the lessons i learned.

there is magical power in a properly constructed to-do list.

this is a little something i like to call my control-freak list. i make them every semester when things begin to get a little hairy and i feel like if i don’t make a list and start crossing things off, i will lose the will to remain a contributing member of society. you don’t get to see friday/saturday’s list, because it’s already balled up in the garbage, having rolled over into this week’s list. but it looks a little something like this:

i hung it up with masking tape and a prayer in my heart that i would be able to just rock this place out. would you call yourself successful if in one approximately 40 hour period, you cleaned the kitchen, baked muffins while watching last week’s episodes of lost (what the…?) and grey’s anatomy (oh, patrick dempsey…why can’t i quit you?), graded 12 or 13 papers and typed comments for them, dusted and vacuumed the living room, took back a dvd that you rented that was being all lame and “hey i don’t want to play sucka even though you really in fact DO want to watch the jane austen book club” and got a new one, went to publix, wrote a letter to the best friend, did laundry, swept the floor (why does that sound like a karate kid move?), and managed to come to a zen-like understanding of why you’ve been freaking out this week and last week and what you’re going to do about it?

yeah, me too.

it’s the to-do list. i’m telling you.

i like to cook–i just don’t really like doing it with other people looking over my shoulder.

chipotle marinated pork chops. fruit salad. loaded mashed potatoes (granted, from a mix). more banana chocolate chip muffins. possibly something else (maybe amish white bread?) later on?

i like to cook. but i like to cook when nobody else is going to interrupt or ask me what i’m doing or need to use the stuff i’m using. i don’t like dancing in the kitchen.

i don’t know if that makes any sense. but i’d like to get over it, because…i like to cook. and i don’t suck at it. plus, i don’t see how this model is going to work successfully in the family i’ll create, full of little rugrats who are sure to both interrupt me and ask me interminable questions about what i’m doing.

sigh.

you know it’s summer when, on nice nights, everybody goes to get the mail/walk the dog/wax their car after dark. in my apartment complex, they all look like thugs.

i would certainly get yelled at by my mom/worried roommate if they knew that i walked to the mailbox at 10 pm both nights when nobody knew where i was going or what i was doing (i took my cell phone! it’s okay!), but apparently i wasn’t the only one with this idea. i think i saw more people outside during those times than i think i have collectively the entire time i’ve lived here.

oh well.

they still all look like thugs in the dark, though, even if they are just three 20-something girls walking their black lab.

in a domestic showdown between the girl who wants her chihuahua back and the guy who’s trying to use the chihuahua as emotional blackmail collateral, always bet on the girl.

picture it: i’m minding my business on friday night, grading papers on the couch, certain to inspire all with the amazingness that is my social life. i start to hear yelling. in my neighborhood, this is not especially surprising or unusual. but then i hear what is being yelled.

“GIVE ME MY DOG!”

“No.”

“GIVE ME MY DOG!”

(repeat…about 15 times.)

as far as i could gather (by hanging out by the windows–i wanted to know what was going on and also if i needed to call somebody like the police or somebody with a baseball bat or something), girlfriend was breaking up with homeboy and he didn’t like it much.

so he took the dog.

which just confuses me on so many levels, but really begins to explain why girlfriend was breaking up with homeboy, who definitely looked as though he should know better being, you know, something like in his late 20s.

part of the reason i went to get the mail was to check on girlfriend, who got suspiciously quiet. i grew up in the age of cops and law and order. i know what could happen. but on the way back to my apartment, i saw her coming down the sidewalk with a tiny brown dog under her arm and from the deep recesses of my building, i heard someone pounding at least three or four times into a wall. (seriously. it might have been a door slamming, but it was loud and out of obnoxious, immature rage.)

never come between a girl and her dog.

when all else fails, go outside.

the sky was a blue that shouldn’t be real this weekend. the sun was brighter than i can remember it (i NEED new sunglasses. where? where do i go? i have NO money. forever 21? i look sort of stupid in those big sunglasses, but i also don’t want to look like an old woman…i’m young! i’m cute! help!) and just being out in it for like a half an hour as i was running errands on saturday.

so i am planning on being in the sun a lot in the next week. beach on thursday. possibly some pool time inbetween. because if i can grade and soak up some vitamin sunshine, i am doing it.

don’t underestimate the power of a fierce outfit.

if you read darling brookem, you know the power of a great outfit. remember that dress that i described? the one that makes me feel fiercely cute? i wore it today to church. it was my power outfit.

i got complimented–bonus!–and i felt more myself than i have in weeks.

this outfit, plus some sassy black heels, eyeliner, mascara, and philosophy lip gloss makes me look awesome.

there is POWER in a dress like that…and in a to-do list…and in a weekend full of me time.

i needed it.

you ask…i answer…because i, folks, am a giver.

Posted in blogging, me, Uncategorized on April 25, 2008 by drbolte

the time has come.

you may drumroll with your fists on a desk, if you’d like, or just imagine the fanfare if you’re in a place where such behavior would get you arrested (or at least looked at askance).

it’s question time.

i’m excited. thanks for playing. i also asked my students to do this on the same day that i asked you, so i will include a few of their gems because…well…i can. plus, i think they are funny/illuminating/distracting me from the things that i don’t want to do.

so there.

here we go…

from chickbug: if you could have readers read one post you have written, what would it be?

this is a really hard question.

(good job, chickbug. make me think on a friday. goodness.)

we all would like to think that everything we write completely encapsulates our true nature and is brilliant. i think neither of these things. some of what i write is total crap. i try not to publish total crap anymore, but it happens sometimes.

i think, though, i would have to divide this into two. (i know…i’m a cheating rule-bender.)

to get a sense of my writing voice, you need to read this. it really is very much how i am–and it talks about what i worry about most related to my writing, so it’s a self-reflexive doozy.

to get a sense of my heart, you should probably read this.

there’s a lot that isn’t said there, but i think a lot of it you can read through the lines.

from ohmygoshi: What’s your favorite kitchen utensil, and why?

this is perhaps the most unique question ever. i am going to say a pizza cutter for two reasons: not everybody has them (thus it makes me feel like even more of a domestic goddess) and it means i make my own pizza sometimes. that’s just cool.

from brookem: what’s your favorite outfit to wear? what’s your greatest accomplishment? what do you do to cheer yourself up after a bad day? secret celeb crush (male and female, please!)?

so NOT one question. but very good ones nonetheless.

my favorite outfit to wear is this white collared shirt with a black bow, some jeans, and my black ballet flats. it makes me feel cute. i look best, though, in this dress black and white pattered dress i found at target and bought because when i put it on i was like WOW. and i never say that about myself, really. so when a dress does that, hello! i wear it with this black jacket that i have and i am gorgeous.

my greatest accomplishment? i haven’t done it yet. it will be this phd. but up until now? probably successfully passing my exams for the phd. i had been working so hard and had been so stressed out that to be able to go in there and do it not only successfully but to actually ENJOY the process was amazing.

cheer myself up? i have been utterly terrible at this lately, but unfortunately it’s usually shop. i try now to just shop for things i actually need, but toss in something small. actually, also, if i try to do something productive, that helps. but sometimes all i do is call my mom and cry and then go to bed and try again the next day. i’m pretty not good at this, actually.

celebrity crush? male: i don’t even know…there are so many. i will say that the one that is most like someone who i would fall for in real life is john krasinski. he’s so cute and awkward and sassy. but david boreanaz is still beautiful and gorgeous. female: well, i don’t really think i have a female crush, but i think that mandy moore is gorgeous and would completely understand why a guy would find her attractive. angelina jolie (who every other girl seems to have a girl crush on)? not so much. she just scares me.

from LindzML: (basically) why’d you move to FL to get your phd?

easiest. question. ever.

they let me into the program.

enough said.

i’ll post the questions from students later.  a few of them are funny…and illuminating.  but i want to post this and get back to distracting myself with dvds grading.

happy weekend!

green-eyed monster.

Posted in drama drama drama, etcetera, faith is action, going quietly mad, Life, perfect brightness of hope, Uncategorized, wish i may wish i might on April 24, 2008 by drbolte

your questions WILL be answered…very soon, i promise. if you still have one, and want to submit it, go for it! i also have some awesome ones from my students…but in the meantime, please let me vent.

i don’t know if you know this about me, but i have a tiny jealous streak.

and by tiny, i mean the crazy teenage girl in me, that i genuinely try to pretend doesn’t exist beneath this polished, mature exterior (excuse me while i silently chortle at the ridiculousness of that idea), tends to come out in all her alternating hair-pulling/super passive-aggressive glory when certain things push my buttons.

really, i only get jealous in a few situations.

1. when i think that i am being replaced or am about to be replaced by someone seemingly cooler/cuter/smarter/more amazing than me.

and…

…well, yeah, i guess that’s just about it.

today i realized–and this may not seem like a grand revelation to you, but, hey, don’t hate on my epiphanies, all right?–that the reason for this is because, in those moments, i must not really know myself. because if i really knew myself, i would know that i am irreplaceable. not in the beyonce song and distinctly negative way, but in the sense that nobody else can do what i do, nobody else can be who i am, and nobody else will have the effect that i will.

(and, yes, i got jealous today. briefly. hence the blog.)

i am disturbed by the attitude i have had all this week, quite honestly. the jealousy’s just a part of it. the week’s been full of petty, mundane annoyances, my reactions to which can only be the result of a perspective that is completely skewed.

it’s like the crazy has come out to play and instead of saying a brief hello like i usually try to do and then shoving her back into the pink and purple sparkle box she’s stored in (come on…every teenage girl likes pink and purple sparkles, right?!), i’ve been feeding her cookies and telling her jokes and fetching her fluffy pink princess pillows and making her life ever-so-comfortable here that why on earth would she go back without a fight?

i’ve been walking around in a funk, angry at the world and its assorted injustices, which were apparently handpicked only for me, and saying that i want to punch people in the face. it’s annoying. i’m sick to death of me. i can’t imagine how anyone around me feels.

(my guess, if i had to venture one? sick to DEATH of me.)

i was talking to a friend of mine yesterday–no accident, if you ask me–who can read on my face everything that’s going on in my head and basically forces me to tell him what’s going on in my world. i hate it. and i don’t. but it always comes at a time when i need it.

i was talking to him about something that i was worried about, something that i have absolutely no control over whatsoever, and he told me to go running when i’m trying to figure out stuff that i just can’t figure out.

hmm.

it seems a simplistic, very male answer (no offense to you men–i like your thinking most of the time precisely because it’s not teenage-girl pink sparkle crazy…). it just seems like it wouldn’t solve anything.

but, see, that’s the reason why i love it. that is exactly the point.

i have a lot of stuff in my life right now that i just can’t solve. i’m just not powerful enough to answer all of the questions that i have. i’m not smart enough to make sense of the nonsensical. i’m not creative enough to take the big pile of clay that i have here that seems to make nothing at all and mold it into what i want it to ultimately be. i’m having trouble seeing the bigger picture right now.

not on my own. I can’t do that any of this at all.

all i can do is what i can do. that seems really simplistic but let me say that again. all i can do is what i can do. that’s why i like my friend’s answer so much. it’s all about embracing the things that you actually can do, losing yourself in that, and leaving the rest up to Someone much more powerful, infinitely wise, and so much more loving than me.

so today i’ll grade some papers and be glad that i have the opportunity to do the thing that i love to do even as i’m doing the thing that i like least about it because i will actually be doing something. and instead of chastising myself for not doing more, i’ll look joyfully at what i have accomplished.

today i’ll work in the tutoring center and look at it as an opportunity to help some people who want help rather than just another way to earn money for twizzlers.

today i’ll go to the gym and work hard. and i might think about things that are bothering me while i do. but maybe i won’t. maybe instead i’ll think about how amazing it is that i am moving instead of sitting around being cheesed off at the world.

and maybe i’ll ask that Someone to just take the rest away.

because He’s the only one who can.

MY question.

Posted in etcetera, grrrrr., Life, me on April 23, 2008 by drbolte

When did making plans, or promises, or anything where it is implied that you are making an agreement to someone to do something or to be somewhere or something become so empty? so easy to break and so easy to frivolously make?

I can’t tell you how sick to death I am of people not showing up, metaphorically or literally.

save me.

Posted in blogging, me on April 22, 2008 by drbolte

i get 33 papers today. i have five days to grade them.  in that five days, i also have to write a final exam.

so…do you have questions you’d like to ask me? lots of bloggers are doing it. i know i’m a big copycat. whatever.  but see, i have lots of new readers now (HELLO! I’M SO GLAD YOU’RE HERE!) and you might not know me so very well and might have questions.

or not.

but if you do, see, i could periodically answer a few of them during the next week so that i don’t lose the will to live my concentration.

or maybe i’m just an open book.

hmm.  that’s boring.