You May Now Address Me as “Master”

Well, December has sure as fuck been one hell of a ride.

The first week of December saw me in a new role at a new company. I quit my old job before Thanksgiving, and started  at the new place a few weeks later.

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I took those two weeks between jobs to finish up my paper for the final class of my master’s degree. If I told you most of the paper was written in those two weeks (Sorry Dr. P!), would you believe me?

The second week of December, Brian FINALLY asked me to marry him, and much to his detriment, I said yes. And now he’s stuck with me forever. The proposal itself was magical and ridiculous and amazing, and I’m in the process of writing about it to give it justice. There’s also a video or two coming. You’re welcome in advance.

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The third week of December was the week I graduated from Benedictine University with a master of arts in education. I can’t say I’ll never use it, but  I don’t plan to be a teacher or anything…

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When your boyfriend tells you you're a tiger, you become a tiger.

I’ll tell you what, though. No one has as much fun in her cap and gown as me. As Brian would tell you, he felt tricked into attending mass, because my Catholic university invited a nun to speak as the keynote. Mom loved it. Well, what she could here from the back on the auditorium, anyways.

I was told I couldn’t write anything on my cap, which was unfortunate,  because when I graduated from undergrad, I had “need a job” taped to my cap for all to see. It was brilliant,  and it jinxed me for several months cough a year cough. Whatever. Back in 2005, I also had a twinkie and my cell phone tucked safely into my bra. This year, I thought ahead and wore a dress with pockets so I could fill them with entertainment.

I, of course, brought reinforcements. I had a bottle of Chila Orchata and a wheel of Mini Babybel to provide sustenance before I got day drunk with my family at the wine bar.

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I actually ended up hiding these refreshments in the goofy tubing attached to the sleeves of my gown because it was tricky to access pockets under the gown. These sleeve tubes also proved useful for keeping my hands warm while crossing campus in the bitter cold for free cookies and lemonade.

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I checked in with you guys on Facebook and kept myself amused until the one other MA.E. and I were guided to the stage. They never announced our degree, so as far as the audience was concerned, we were just two rando names in the long pause between the undergrads and MBA degree candidates. 

I neither tripped nor fell, but I did walk the wrong way, even when the guidey person was like, “that way…no, that way…no, THAT way.” Alas, I channeled my inner Fleetwood Mac and I went my own way. But I didn’t want to walk in front of the photographer who was already taking awful pictures of me. And so I shimmied around him awkwardly while one of the professors yelled at me.  No big deal.

But now, I am a Master of the Universe, and after getting champagne drunk for the 27th time this month, the celebration was over. Except that I wanted to tell you about my exciting month, even if my degree is only slightly wasted right now, you know…not being a teacher and all…

Let’s celebrate, my friends! What exciting things happened for you this month? What about this year? Did you get a new job or married or pregnant or write a book or just survive? What are you proud of or excited about?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Bookish Memories

This week’s Monday Memories is all about books! My story is a short, but sweet one…and by sweet, I mean I had a teacher who didn’t know who she was dealing with…and by that, clearly I mean my mom.

Monday Memories

(Note to Mom: If I get this wrong according to the story in your head…just you know…keep it to yourself 😉 )

In 3rd grade, back when I didn’t have a large collection of chapter books for kids, I would read children’s books. Rapidly. I mean, I also chewed through Ramona Quimby, Fudge, Roald Dahl, The Babysitters Club, and other kid-themed books faster than a lot of kids…But sometimes, I would read several books in one night. Especially if they were my Little Golden Books.

There was all that Book-It stuff in which you got free Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas for reading books. And we got extra credit for the more books we read. I’ve always been a fan of extra credit. Always. Of course, upon reporting these to my 3rd grade teacher, she thought I was making shit up.

When my parents went in for parent teacher conferences? She told them I was a liar and had a problem. So my mom asked, what does she lie about. She says she reads all of these books and it’s impossible to read that much. (Bad teachers don’t do research on the names of the books that kids are reading. Bad teachers assume that the kids are telling the truth that the book titles they list exist, unless of course, there are too many books on the list. THEN, those kids are liars. Bad teachers tell parents that they’re doing a piss poor job of raising a kid who stays up late at night to read books instead of sleep.)

I’m pretty sure my mom went off on her. She was already holding a grudge that I wasn’t in the “gifted” program at school. I just made my own gifted program. By reading more than anyone else. Whatevs. I was reading flipping picture books and writing that shit down. Documentation, my friends. Documentation.

Speaking of which, I wish I still had that shit.

The Best Reading Chair

I’ve been reading in this chair since I was old enough to read. It lived in my Gram’s house for years…she gave it to me when I grew up, because she knew I loved it so much.

Want more bookish memories? Go visit Lily over at It’s a Dome Life. I swear she and I are kindred spirits. If you like me, you’ll love her!

Tell me your favorite bookish memory? What was your favorite book when you were a kid?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

A Bookworm’s Guide to Slackerdom

Mom, you may not want to read this…

Confession Friday: I have a degree in English from an excellent university…but I never once read an entire book for class.

True story.

In the third grade parent-teacher conference, my teacher, Mrs. Jacoby, told my mom that I was lying to her about all of the books that I was reading. Mom knew that I had no life but the one in books, so she got really mad and bitchy. I’m pretty sure that was mom’s last parent-teacher conference. I also think this scarred me for life in regards to school, teachers, and reading books.

I was talking to the Word Worm about blogging–She writes a fantastic bookworm blog–and she mentioned something about Shakespeare (you can read her blog to find out what she said). I, the lover of Shakespeare that I am, told her that I was a fan of reading Shakespeare. I read Romeo and Juliet (which everyone says wasn’t very good, but I loved it) when I was 12. for fun. At home. I’ve read Much Ado About Nothing SEVERAL times. I did attempt to read Twelfth Night several times to no avail, but other than that, I’m kind of a fan. Hamlet, MacBeth, even Julius Caesar…all enjoyable reads for me.

She then questioned my tactics in college…and asked if I ever read a full book for school. In all honesty… not counting a graphic novel called Maus… no. No, I did not.  I had read bits and pieces. Excerpts. Listening to class discussion (when I showed up for class). Talking to my classmates. Sparknotes. Cliffsnotes. Gradesaver.com. Classic Notes. Classic Reader. And when in doubt, I Googled it. And it worked. I never got lower than a B in my English classes. (OK, and to be fair, there were some books and stories that I had already read.) My mad-writing skills got me exactly what I needed: A decent grade and plenty of time to do other things.

As an English major, required literature was something Chrissy considered...optional. She managed to pull off a splendid GPA considering she didn't read one entire book for class.

College and Computers 🙂

I was a very organized slacker…I had a notebook for every class. Each notebook was filled with excellent doodles (as doodling would help my brain calm down so that I could actively listen). Each notebook had a very important front cover. The cover listed the number of excused absences that I was allowed in that particular class, a dated list of missed classes, and the excuses that I used to not go to class. I made sure that I didn’t overuse cramps or migraines (though those pesky headaches happened regularly). There was even a time that I thought I was having a panic attack…that turned out to be the results of a little too much booze the night before…

That being said, you all know that I’m a voracious reader. And if you don’t, you should see my gratuitous post discussing my ridiculous unwavering love for Pride & Prejudice. The obsession is almost disgusting. But whatever. I read. I do. I just don’t read when someone tells me that I must. I saved every book from all of my classes, college and high school (sans Childhood’s End, which, until Fifty Shades of Grey, was my least favorite book in the history of ever.) Then, I spent summers, and even free time during school, reading. Yes, that’s right. I’ve read a good portion of the novels that I should have read for class…long after class ended.

Here’s a list of the best books I never read in college:

Candide (even though I walked into class after reading the Sparknotes version and told the prof that I had, in fact read it and loved it. After actually reading it–it’s pretty awesome)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which ironically became my favorite American novel)
Tess of the D’urbervilles (which is really super depressing, but well written and uber Victorian… Stupid 50 Shades of Grey for ruining the association.)
The Canterbury Tales (In my defense, the teacher tried to make us read it in middle English. Do you have any concept of how hard that is?!)

OK, and here’s a list of some of the best books I read in college for no reason but to read:

The Stand
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Les Miserable
Great Expectations (Actually a reprise from my youth…thanks to those marvelous Great Illustrated Classics)
The Tenth Kingdom (A book based off a cheesy TV mini series on NBC. If you watched it and like it—I think I love you.)

Have a great weekend!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

An Inspirational Teacher

While I was in the early stages of my M.A. in Education, I was assigned an interview project. Meet with a teacher in your future specialty, and find out about their take on teaching. Ms. Tanner was one of the two teachers that inspired me to teach high school English. Here is what I wrote:

I had the privilege to learn from one of my personal heroes her views and beliefs on teaching. Having been one of her students eight years ago, I am able to understand how she has become such an amazing teacher.
Prior to becoming a teacher at the age of 37, Ms. Tanner had many career changes; from factories, restaurants, and retail, to running her own advertising agency, she truly tried them all. At that time, she was provided with the opportunity to travel with a fifth grade class to France. She and the fifth grade teacher toured France with the children, while keeping them up to date with their schooling.  Ms. Tanner learned that she greatly enjoyed being with the students, as well as being in the classroom environment, so she decided that she would become a teacher.
After considering teaching fifth grade, and remembering that she wasn’t a fan of math or science, Ms. Tanner decided that she would prefer more specified subject matter. A journalism degree and her strength in English classes led her to teaching high school English, where she would be able to help run a student newspaper.
As a teacher, Ms. Tanner has many roles. First and foremost, Ms. Tanner is a role model and a listener. I can attest that she has inspired many students, including myself, who still think extremely fondly of her. She makes a point to know something about each and every one of her students. She takes their writing to heart and keeps the information confidential. She provides a shoulder to cry on for students who need someone to talk out their problems with. She shares in the excitement of students who have succeeded and want to tell her first. She still visits with students who have graduated, and takes joy in learning about everything in their lives. As I was sitting in her classroom after school, an old student of Ms. Tanner’s came to visit. As he spoke, she listened with her entire being, happy for his accomplishments, and sorry for his losses.
Ms. Tanner believes that “the classroom is a mirror.” The way you treat the students reflects back on you. If you treat them with kindness, respect, and trust, you will get that back to you. She also believes that it’s important to divulge a piece of herself to her class. One of the first things you learn about Ms. Tanner, is that she’s married to Keanue Reeves. Or at least that’s what she tells you.  A little humor and embarrassment can go a long way. Her classroom is full of possibilities.
Another role that Ms. Tanner takes on a daily basis is that of a disciplinarian. She describes herself as a “foot soldier in the trenches to convey the administration’s rules,” and a “prison matron for the warden.”  She also considers herself a facilitator and a guider of learning. Her job is to “expose students to opportunities for learning.” Over the years she learned that her job is to bring the horses to the water, but she can’t always force them to drink.  She is not in charge of the learning. She provides the tools and the knowledge to learn. Only the students can make themselves learn.
Ms. Tanner is a professional colleague. She is a resource for young teachers. She feels a sense of camaraderie with her fellow teachers. Ms. Tanner also considers herself a bookkeeper. She tracks everything from assignments and grades to tardies and truancies. She is one of the few remaining of her colleagues to still use a paper grade book. She feels it’s important to have everything in one place, accessible immediately.
The challenges of teaching are always present. Some days Ms. Tanner wants to be too mean. She wants to yell and scream about the small things. She recounted a recent experience about a student who didn’t do his work all semester, but when grades came out, he asked what he could do. She told me that she was probably too harsh in her response, and days later she softened, giving him an opportunity to improve his grade. She sometimes wishes she didn’t react quite so immediately.
With challenges, come rewards. Ms. Tanner divulges all the perks of being a teacher. She loves working with students. All of the rewards are student based. “Students are fun. Adults not so fun,” she tells me. She appreciates seeing all of the students who come to visit her and the people she’s helped. She had inspirational teachers in high school and hopes that she is doing the same. I know from experience that she is.
In the 17 years that she has been teaching, Ms. Tanner has learned one very important thing. She never stops learning. “There’s never a dull, boring moment in teaching,” she reveals. She learns about human nature, her contribution to her job, and there’s always something new to learn about the subject. She regularly learns new things about the pedagogy. She recalls visiting several schools that run on a block schedule, which her school was considering. She is always learning new ways to deliver instruction. She smiles when she tells me, “You never know what the day will bring.”
Since becoming a teacher, Ms. Tanner has never looked back. Her only regret is that she didn’t start sooner. She wishes that she had known at 22 that she would love being a teacher. Of all the careers and jobs that she has had, teaching is, by far, the most rewarding and best job she has ever had.  She fondly discusses how enriching the job has been for her. She shares with me that she has been to many graduation parties, weddings, baby showers, and even funerals. Because she never had any children of her own, she always feels as though her students are her children. Ms. Tanner puts her whole world into teaching, and from what it appears, she gets a world back.
 

Of course, inspiration from a truly great teacher does not a great teacher make, and teaching just wasn’t for me. As much as I loved working with the students, teaching was not what I hoped it would be. Ms. Tanner is still an encouragement, and I know that she’ll be proud, no matter which direction I take.  She has one of the rosiest, shiniest, happiest personalities in the whole world, and I’m proud to say that I know her.

To this day, when I chat with her, she’ll still call me Sunny or Sunshine, and I’m glad that she considers me a bright spot in her world of amazing students.

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Bradley University and Me

I almost didn’t make it to Bradley. As the one school that had almost everything I wanted from the time we started looking at colleges sophomore year in high school, Bradley was definitely on my list of future schools. My junior year, I discovered that my high school boyfriend, Sam, also aspired to go to Bradley University…so when we broke up right before senior year, Bradley was the last place I wanted to apply.

With the help of a guidance counselor that I adored and spent a lot of time with senior year — thanks to the undecided nature of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I narrowed down my search. The lazy procrastinator in me didn’t want to spend all of my weekends touring colleges, researching schools, and applying to a wide range. My counselor recommended 3 schools — my goal, my reach, and my fall back. My goal was a small school, but I still wasn’t sure which. My reach was Notre Dame, and if I had gotten in, my dad would have sold his soul to pay for it. I’m pretty glad he got to keep his soul. 🙂 My fall back was ISU, though I feared the lack of success that would come with such a large school.

After many conversations with my pal Joe, who was a freshman at Bradley and loving it, I decided that Bradley was definitely the place for me. Joe, a comm major, assured me that my future in journalism would rest in the capable hands of the Global Communications Center at Bradley.

While the comm major in me never made it past freshman orientation, I survived four of the most amazing years at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Home of the Bradley…Squirrels? Crazy Bicycling Asian Men? Rivermen? My school spirit was minimal, but my personal spirit thrived at BU.

As an English major, required literature was something Chrissy considered...optional. She managed to pull off a splendid GPA considering she didn't read one entire book for class.

Spring of my senior year, Dad and I drove down to Peoria for a school visit. Driving through the quaint but large downtown area, over the river, and onto the beautiful campus, I fell in love. On the tour, we found that Bradley had everything I wanted except for a football team. We ate lunch at Geisert Cafeteria, which we thought provided a pretty decent meal (little did we know that “visitation days” were Bradley’s best-kept meal secrets.) I was done. Sold. This is the school for me.

So I had a plan. And I got accepted.

That summer, I was to attend the freshman orientation: Two and a half days of the college experience. When Mom and I started the trip down, I was terrified. I cried. I didn’t know what to expect or what I was going to do. I wouldn’t know anyone. I kept thinking, What if it’s horrible?

They separated the parents and the students pretty quickly, so I was forced to fend for myself in the collegiate jungle…amidst 80-some-odd other scared freshmen. I met another kid from Glen Ellyn, who we referred to as Glen Ellyn Steve until he later gained the name, Speech Class Steve. I also ran into another Glenbard East alum, who I had never spoken to. Throughout the rest of college, Danny and I maintained an excellent passerby-acquaintanceship based solely on our mutual high schooling. Funnier still, he ended up living with my best bud Cletus senior year. Additionally, I made a gaggle of girlfriends during the orientation activities.

On the first night, we stayed up until 3:00 AM, playing Truth or Dare Jenga, eating grilled cheese sandwiches made on one of the best inventions, ever–the grilled cheese sandwich press, and talking up a storm in a Geisert common room.

On the second night, I met my best friend in the whole world. After a rockin’ dance party, in which I became the ringleader of a small group of suburbanites–promising that we would all get together over the summer for nights of dancing and hanging out and awesomeness, we made our way over to the East Peoria Steak & Shake.

Katie and I started chatting. She seemed like a pretty cool chick with her sassy punk rock princess tee-shirt, brightly colored Chuck Taylor’s, and wide leg jeans. I remember making her giggle when I ordered cheese fries and a kid-sized strawberry milkshake. This girl was going to be my pal. I just knew it.

While I left for orientation crying because I didn’t want to go, I left orientation crying because I wanted college to start right away. No one to tell you what to do? No one worrying what time you’re going to bed? All the time in the world, and living in a mini hotel with all of your friends? That was the place for me. Bring it on college. Bring. It. On.

Mom and I left for my uncle’s house–we had our family reunion the day after orientation. On the way home, she began telling me her orientation stories. She hated it. After meeting Glen Ellyn Steve’s parents on Day 1, she ditched out on half of the activities and hung out at the casino most of the time. Here’s why:

The conversation between the Glen Ellyn-ites parents went as follows:

Mr. Glen Ellyn said, “Oh! Hey, you’re from Glen Ellyn, too!”

Mom replied with a smile, “Yep.”

Mrs. Glen Ellyn asked, “So, where in Glen Ellyn are you?”

“Right off Roosevelt, east of the tollway.”

Mrs. Glen Ellyn looked at her confused, “Oh, where in Glen Ellyn is that?”

Mr. Glen Ellyn looked at his wife, patted her on the shoulder and said, “You know, honey…the projects.”

My mom-disgusted-walked away. She was done. I don’t blame her.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to return. The first few days of college were a blur, and I spent them with a new friend, Jessa, who I had met in my building. Every morning, Mom would call and ask me if I had gotten drunk yet. I hadn’t. During my wandering and exploring with Jessa, I kept passing this girl I knew from orientation. I couldn’t remember her name until day 3 when we were passing each other in U-Hall. I looked at her and said, “Katie?” She smiled back at me in recognition. We started chatting and got into a conversation about drinking. She told me that her roommate, who she had met at orientation, wasn’t a drinker and that she needed a drinking buddy. I told her that I was in. We’ve been best friends ever since.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!