/Whine

There are so many things I want. And my good old Catholic guilt makes me feel like an ass for admitting it. Some of the things I want are easier to obtain than others. With just the right person perusing online adjunct applications, I could be chosen to teach one extra section and have just enough money to alleviate some of my stress. Finding a full time job that would make up for all my monetary failings is a little harder to come by.

I want to be able to say, “I feel like buying a couple shirts, I’m going to the mall.” And have this be alright and justifiable. But you know what? If the money is not there, it’s just not there. I can’t just run up to Macy’s. And the weird thing to me is that I used… before kids. I don’t, for one second, regret that decision. No, my life is a lot more than a cute top from the Juniors’ section with these two little boys owning everything. I mean, they take up so much of my time and well, all my extra money. Life is fuller, happier, and worth living because they’re my kids and we’re a family. This is fact. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I bemoan the fact that there’s just so little left for me.

I found a couple more online positions lately and I even put in an app to TCC. If this place won’t give me that extra section, then I’ll drive over there two days a week, if they’ll let me. It’ll suck, sure. I’ll have to leave my office and drive a few miles west to that campus. On those nights, Ash will need to handle dinner time for the boys. In fact, it will be good for him. He’s not good at taking on new things unless he has absolutely no choice. I’ll be overwhelmed but I know that it won’t always be this way. I am so ready to take on the extra work if it means that I won’t wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about how I’m going to afford something.

Since I have applied to SO many online positions, I keep thinking each time I get a new email that it could be my chance. I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking or if I really have a hunch. My instincts tell me something is going to happen soon. Every email I got this morning that got my hopes up was trash. Pier 1 coupons, something from Seminole Boosters, asking for my money. I know it’ll come when I’m not expecting it, when I’m not keeping an ear out for my email service’s tell-tale ring of incoming mail, anticipating. I just want it so badly!  And I am willing to work hard to support my family, no matter what it takes.

If only the employers were reading this post!

Ok, sorry if my job related rambling bothered you. I had to flesh that out for myself. Now I am off to class. Sigh. My heart isn’t in it today but I’ll push through.

Second verse, same as the first

Tuesday of week one is like Monday all over again – for the students who have Tuesday/Thursday classes. I love it. I mean that honestly; I love the craziness of the beginning of school. It’s chaotic and frenetic but it am busy all day and I don’t have time to stop and be bored or think about my back pain or worry. And that’s exactly what I want. Actually, I have been feeling pretty decent since my semi-breakdown on Sunday.

I began the Great Closet Clean-Out on Sunday morning. In our office closet, someone before us built shelves and cubbies that, although useful, take up space that could be better used to stack bins. Plus, I knew there was a decade worth of trash in there. Indeed, I threw out at least six bags of varying sizes with stuff I cannot believe I hadn’t chucked long ago. I should have taken pictures. My method of cleaning involves pulling everything out and then rummaging through it. This apparently pissed off Ash, who thought I should have put all books in bins first and then gone box by box. So I was already overwhelmed when he mentioned this and I broke. I was angry and hateful and disappointed in myself, most of all. Going through all the boxes of crafts and good intentions for projects just made me feel sad. It reminded me of all the things I don’t finish. It was one of the single most depressing moments.

But I got it done and moved on. Except, I found myself to be exceedingly weepy ALL DAY. It was pretty pathetic actually. Every time I thought about the mounds of laundry to be done? Cry. Elliot bit a dog? Cry, woe. I was not myself. And I was hungry but not feeling like any of the food we had in there. At three, I got a sub from Subway. At eight, we had Hungry Howies. Though it all tasted so good, I let me healthiness slip a little. But sometimes you need to feed your soul, silly as that sounds. And dammit, I craved pizza.

But the fact is, I turned a corner and am feeling pretty good. For a couple weeks there, I was sleeping like total crap. And with my severe cut back on caffeine, I was one unhappy camper. Last night, however, I slept all the way through: from about 11 until 6. It was relatively amazing and I cannot believe what a night without waking up two, three times can do to your overall psyche.

In other news, I am about to finish Dead Until Dark, the first of the Sookie Stackhouse books, that True Blood is based on. It’s ok. Her writing style is kind of like mine in that it’s not that great but it’s a quick read and still entertaining. I still think I like Twilight better, even though these books have far more rousing vampire sex in them. I don’t have to have it in my book, you know? I’ve put the next two on hold at the library. I will read them but I won’t own them.

It’s getting crazy now at work so I’m off to relocate freshmen and do some hand-holding; it’s in my job description.

Glimpses of magnificence

When I introduced my students to their third paper,

In this essay, we’ll do some more personal writing but use the medium of music. You will choose a song that you could call your anthem: a song that so perfectly coincides with your life, describes it – exemplifies it – that it could be “your” song. There will be limitations and rules however.

For one, I really want you to think about this and consider options. Please don’t choose the song you are most familiar with right now. Secondly, please be able to bring this song to class. (ipod or on a flash drive will work fine, as well as a CD.) There will be an aspect of sharing/presenting. Thirdly, I will ask you to deconstruct the song. We will read some things about reading texts – any kind of text – and making meaning out of reading, so this won’t be so difficult. You will point out what about this song draws you to it, be it the singer’s voice or the instrumentation or composition. Feel free to analyze the sound, the feeling, the music itself as well as the lyrics. You will analyze why you have even chosen this song. Your final task is to point out what the song is missing. Where does it stop being a perfect compliment to who you are? What would you add?

one of my students asked if he could play his song, holding his arms up in guitar form. I was nervous, to be honest, because I didn’t want the other kids to roll their eyes and make fun of him. All semester, he has excelled and been that one kid no one wanted to speak after, because everything he said was so profound.

A couple weeks passed and it came time for presentations. Fourteen students brought their anthems up on YouTube and spoke briefly about them. We were running short on time and Brian was last. And I remembered that he was going to perform; he brought his guitar. He got up there, obviously a little nervous, and threw down on this song:

Buckley

You may recognize it from Shrek. The class sat in wonder as this semi-geeky boy belted out a melodious tune. And I have to say, not one person laughed or so much as snickered; we were all enraptured by his beautiful voice and skilled playing.  I know my eyes teared up a little.  The entire class clapped loudly for him and he spoke of why he chose this, etc. On their way out, I heard a couple people thank him, tell him “well done” and one kid even said, “You touched me, bro.” I think it was a humbling experience for all of us, because Brian took this assignment one step further and he wasn’t afraid to show his talent or this side of himself to the class. This small event made my entire semester.

Sometimes I have that one student who reminds me of why I teach. Why I spend my lunch break trying to get 17 year olds to care about English and personal writing. Sometimes it’s  good to step back and realize how important some things really are.

Being subversive: writing different types of “literature”

This morning on Tell Me More, Michelle Martin spoke of an author who died yesterday, E. Lynn Harris, probably best known for his novel, Basketball Jones. He was openly gay and wrote frequently of African American men who, while having heterosexual marriages and children, also harbored homosexual relationships on the downlow. I found it quite interesting as you don’t often hear of this.

Later in the day, while I perused some images on Deviant Art, I kept thinking about Harris’s subject matter as it relates to “literature”. He was quoted in an older interview saying something to the effect of “not everyone will write ‘literary’ things and that’s ok because if everyone had to write that, then it would stifle the other kinds of writing and their creative outlets.” And he has a point. I admit to being against romance novels – those Harlequin ones with a beefy Fabio type on the cover, blond hair blowing in the breeze while some dainty damsel caresses the billowing sheet wrapped delicately around his well-formed hips – but I have to at least give those authors credit: they’re writing something. And by god, they’re getting paid to do it.

I have been writing for a long time. Most of it has been garbage and some of it has turned out ok. And I was thinking the other night about a fiction technique class I took as an undergrad. My first story was about a boy whose friend had been avoiding him. It was plaintive yet banal; the boy was all emotional about his friend, blah blah blah, and it all resolved in the end when said boy’s friend ended up being all secretive because he was gay and didn’t want to tell anyone. This was my official first slash fic. Though I don’t think I knew it was actually a defined thing then.

From Wikipedia (::shudder::) – Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction that focuses on the depiction of romantic or sexual relationships between characters of the same sex. While the term was originally restricted to stories in which one or more male media characters were involved in an explicit adult relationship as a primary plot element, it is now more generally used to refer to any fan story containing a pairing between same-sex characters

I feel that slash can be applied to any type of literature that explores this element of humanity, not just fanfiction. However, that’s where I am going with this. Referencing my title, I think by writing this kind of fiction – wherein the author is pairing people together that are not “the norm” – they are subverting the world of Literature as it stands. And to me, this is a good thing.

I found this article by Googling, “Why I write slash.” I knew there were A LOT of women out there writing this type of literature – for there is proof on numerous sites! – but it was really intriguing to see this writer put into words why women (usually exclusively) tend to explore these relationships over heterosexual ones, especially when the majority of these women are hetero themselves. If I look back at all the fiction I have written – fan and otherwise – I have managed to somehow infuse M/M couples into a lot of it. I never questioned why this recurring theme popped up time and again; I think I just sort of accepted it as inspiration hit. It sounds like a cop-out but I baffled even myself with this interest.

I agree with this author that it’s not just about having double the penises (though I am sure that’s a factor) but it’s more about breaking down the stereotypes of the men that we have so long looked up to, revered, and feared. We do want to see the big strong guy break down and for his softer side to peek through. Maye this is a way for women to gain control, some equal ground. We are able to take matters into our own hands; it fulfills some hidden desires. In romance novels – at least, as far as I know – the woman is already submissive to the burly man’s desires, and he’s going to have his way no matter what. In an M/M relationship, though there may be a top/bottom, uke/seme, etc…I believe the characters are on an equal playing field for the same reason this author posits: the men have had a chance to be friends first, to know each other in a way that a pursued female as potential lover has not had with her suitor. And this makes the relationship all the more powerful and compelling. Almost… safe.

In this article, the author explains how fandoms begin and how they translate into writing fanfic and then the sudden realization that you now want to write your favorite same sex characters in, well, compromising positions. It goes on to explain that by writing these characters out of canon we are breaking societal barriers. And I guess that’s part of the intrigue. For me, at least, it’s a bit of a thrill to find a pairing that you would never suspect.

I have read my fair share of fanfiction. Probably first was Star Wars Episode 1 stuff: Darth Maul/Obi-Wan pairings, as odd as that may sound. There was a fair share of hurt/comfort involving Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan as well, which I totally fell for. Next was probably Lord of the Rings (Come on, you know Aragorn and Legolas were totally hot for each other; did you see the way they looked into each others’ eyes??) But nothing will beat the underlying slashiness of Batman and Robin.

In 1945, Fredric Wertham wrote a book titled, Seduction of the Innocent in which he claimed that comics were destroying our youth with their sex, violence, and homosexual undertones, as was apparent in the relationship between Batman and Robin. As a cultural icon, this duo was and is more well-known than any other Superhero team in, well, the history of comics. And I don’t think that’s just my opinion. For Wertham to posit that they were closet lovers, well, I can’t deny that the undertones are there. Admittedly, within the world of slash fic, there are characters getting it on that have no business being with each other. However, I believe that the minority of Batman comic reader and fanfiction writers will tell you that they aren’t working with nothing; it’s there and it’s pretty obvious if you know where to look. There are people who will rail against this until they’re blue in the face but that’s what creative license is all about.

Now, where was I going with this? Oh yes, why do people write slash, is it “literature”, and ultimately why am I wasting my time writing it as well?

Fantasy: it’s why we go to the movies, read any kind of book or listen to music. It’s an escape. For some, reading slashy fanfics is our escape from the trials of our daily lives. Is it fair to say that by writing these little snippets of fantasy, I am engaging in something… more lighthearted – easier – than say, actual fiction for the purpose of novelization and publication? Maybe. For someone who has a degree in writing, I feel like at least I AM writing and the pressure to be a published author doesn’t weigh upon me as I type the words.  Simply put: it’s fun.

Is it literature? I don’t see why not. All writing is a valid form of expression (though, only if it’s spelled correctly; I won’t read something where the author constantly makes the mistake of to/too/two and there/they’re/their. Heh heh, OK, of course I will, but I’ll hate it. :) ) I think it’s great that NPR did a short piece on Harris, celebrating the boundaries he broke, the strides he took in uncovering a seldom spoken of aspect of America, of black culture. The females on the fanfiction sites who pair Bruce Wayne with Tim Drake or Clark Kent, Hal Jordan with Ollie Queen, or Dick Grayson with Roy Harper are just reworking that which already exists, or what we wish we could see play out, knowing that a submissive Timmy would never show up on the pages of Detective… ever. And at least they’re writing….shaking things up…

It’s a community where we share our common interests, if nothing else. And I’m glad to be a part of it. For a long time, I ignored that part of myself, that writing I was doing. And it’s unhealthy.

So now I feel better.

Crotty VonCrotterton

In Freshmen Comp, we have a paper: the Crot essay.  I will show you the gist of this assignment:

The purpose: what will this paper actually do for you? It’s my aim to show you that creativity and writing in college can go together. It’s my aim to show you that a worthwhile and interesting piece of writing does not need to have a concrete beginning, middle, and end. My aim is to show you that using vivid detail enhances your writing immeasurably. My aim is to show you that you can tell a story by indirectly telling it. My aim is for you to realize something important about yourself and your writing. My aim is for you to actually enjoy this.

The students are to choose snapshots of their life – crots – and make them a cohesive example of who they are. How did these moments make them into the person they are? How do they define them? And it’s more difficult than you can imagine because it IS so open and can go in so many different directions.

What is astounding me beyond belief is the sheer number of them who want to use injuries. And I ask them, “How does this broken arm make you who you are?” And they stare at me and sigh, knowing that they have to write another draft. But they do not think about the question.

This paper makes me want to write my own, because it prompts me to question myself. How does one decide what moments in life have defined them? I mean, I could analyze other people and figure this out. I am wont to do this with comic characters all the time. But me?  I don’t know. I expect my 17 year old freshmen to have not the slightest clue as to “who they are”. But me? At 30? I should possibly have an inkling, at least. So I decided to jot some things down. It’s a start, just a shitty first draft.

************************************

My sister is wobbly on the pink bicycle in spite of the training wheels. The elbow and knee pads dwarf her tiny appendages but they are necessary: my father is persistent in teaching her to ride but the process is painful. He shouts, he gets angrier with each fall, with each slip up this poor four year old happy-go-lucky child makes. I am her cheerleader, there for encouragement in the absence of our mother who is at work, works part-time to supplement our tiny family’s income. She falls again and instead of  a gentle nudge to get up, keep going, he turns into the monster we know him to be. His other side shows through and he is furious, bringing my sister to tears. This is the father of my childhood: a man lacking compassion or a kind word. I am fueled by his rage and I scream at him, tell him to lay off and let her go. In that instant he comes at me, fist in air, and I recoil, finding the easiest way to create: child=ball.  The pain does not come; he falls back and calls me a jerk and goes back into the house. The word hurts me more then the punch would have.
****************
It is mid-afternoon and the South Florida sun warms the children scrambling about the Orange Brook Elementary playground. I’m running races with Kendrick, the fastest boy. As far as I can tell, I am the fastest girl. We count down to launch and propel our wiry bodies towards a predetermined finish line, probably a stick in the weeds out beyond the kickball field. He finished slightly ahead, wins by an arm, and I am sad, hunched over slightly to catch my breath. But I recover quickly because I am only nine and my body regenerates and refuels with speed and skill. As I walk back towards the tennis courts, a boy in my class, James, approaches. He has a devious smile on his face, looking for trouble, I assume. In a fraction of a moment, he has gotten very close to me and snatched my fourteen-carat-gold cross necklace, bolting away. When the teacher caught him, he was forced to help me scour the dry scratchy shrubs of the field but we never did find it, the gift from my grandparents on the occasion of my First Communion.
****************
It was December, 1994 and I had finished my one and only semester at South Broward High School in Dania, Florida. Because we were moving, my parents let me attend school with all my friends, instead of going to Chaminade-Madonna, the Catholic High school I had been accepted to. Over the Christmas break, we – my mother and father, sister and beagle – moved the four hours to Altamonte Springs, where we lived in my father’s one bedroom apartment for roughly one month while the house buying procedures were churned through, settled, unsettled, then finalized.

The very first day that they took us to see our new home, I was wearing my favorite clothes at the time: a pair of jeans with flannel patches on the knees, my Guns and Roses t-shirt, and my black Nikes with the purple swoosh. On my Walkman, I listened to Pearl Jam, Black. We pulled up to the house, at the end of a cul-de-sac (”People get killed in cul-de-sacs,” someone at school told me) and I was feeling so out of place. The neighbourhoods down south were all straight grid streets, named after presidents and intersected by numbers. In central Florida, everything is winding and covered in trees and named after trees; our street name was Lonesome Pine.

We wandered through this big empty house, full of light and windows, Mexican tile and archways. It was the polar opposite of our little house – the only one I had ever known. I remember feeling, as the vast emptiness of what would be my new home filled me, that the song embodied my emotions. I was an angsty almost 15 year old, full of rage, hormones and fear. As we drove away, I looked on the streets for kids my age; possible friendships. I was scared and alone. I don’t think my friendships were ever the same after I moved away from my childhood home of 14 years.
****************

What are some memories that stick with you, made you who you are?

Summer school

You know that Alice Cooper song – School’s Out? That’s how I am getting to feel here, since the semester is *almost* done. With that said, I am excited about the second half of the summer session because, as always, I get to teach ENC 1101, which is the basic freshman comp class where they get to write relatively creative papers. I am pumped because this time, they are going to write about superheroes.

Now, I am trying to flesh out this idea but mainly, I want to talk about the nature of superheroes and villains and then their moral codes, or at least their modus operandi. I will be making a powerpoint in which we discuss different heores and villains and what they’re after. For example, the main reason Lex Luthor does anything is to acquire land. When you boil it all down, that’s his ultimate goal. Similarly, we all know what Batman’s main purpose is but one of his key features is that he never uses guns. These will all play into part of their assignment in which they must explore their alter-ego hero or villain and justify their purpose. I want to do character sheets in which they really flesh out their personas.

Furthermore, I really want to show movie clips to try and integrate some of the aspects of heroes/villains and also, the iconography we put onto such figures in popular culture. If you have any ideas about this, I would be utterly grateful! I am pumped about this paper because I think they’re going to love it a whole lot. The guys will love it because um, comics, bad guys, and maybe some hot girls in tight outfits. Some of the girls might be turned off but eh, I’ll show ‘em some Nightwing prancing about in his awesome outfit and they might jump on board as well.

nightwing

This must be what I am missing

So, lately, I have actually been writing. Some fiction and non, I have written about 4-5 pages worth of decent stuff; stuff I’m not looking back over and hating, deleting. For me, this is a vast improvement. Once I graduated with my masters, I put writing away for a while. Even though I still claimed it as a hobby, I could not call it my job. Not being in school anymore sort of nullifies something like that. I suppose it would be like someone with a law degree doing hard-hat work. I don’t DO what it is I am trained in. Granted, still working in the department gets me closer to the writing hub but it cannot and did not persuade me to write.

I am excited about the work I have produced, though it’s nowhere near being SOMEthing; nothing complete. The thing I am liking the most about it is that I am feeling more. This is going to sound silly and cheesy but I feel like I am taking more notice of the tiny things around me. I remember this from school, now: the details, the characteristics of people I see on the street or in a restaurant, the smells, the weather. I am just seeing it more clearly. Everything is lot more sensual.

And on that note, somehow my sinuses have cleared. My entire life I have lived with the reality of having a stuffy nose at all times. It seems, just within the past couple months, I have been clearer; at least one side is. And I can smell things better. I’m noticing the smell of barbecue as I drive through a neighbourhood, or the flowers that bloom in the parking lot at work, or the cologne on the man in front of me in the city, mixed with car fumes, hot dogs, and horses. I am amazed by all this stuff I have been missing out on in part due to the lack of writing and the sinus issue. It’s like someone removed the pantyhose from the camera lens and my world isn’t all hazy anymore.

If it’s like that for the rest of you writers out there, I am jealous. I suppose I shall not lament the past but enjoy this while it lasts. My allergies could very well flare up again and I may get busy and find no time to write. But in the meantime, life is good.writing

Catch up

I apologize for the lack of post yesterday; my job work and my personal work all seemed to coalesce into one big mess of a very quick day so I didn’t even have a moment to get on here. For one, Elliot had his 18 month doctor appointment at 10 so instead of taking him to day care for a mere two hours, I decided to bring him into my office. He’s a people person so he loves the attention and the other employees and grad students love him too. So I took Elliot and it appears that he’s grown 3 entire inches since his 15 month appointment; that’s amazing! My child has always been a shorty so this was fantastic news. He moved up from the 5th percentile to 15th! Ok, done going on and on about it – but he made his mama proud.

In other news, there was a march on the capitol yesterday wherein a bunch of people from my University protested the budget cuts on higher education. I did not attend. Though I understand where they come from and why they want to make a statement, I know someone who works in the capitol building, with legislators, and I know that the statement they made will not change one single thing. The thing is, those people cannot just turn it around with a snap and it’s done. You know? They are subject to rules and doctrine and all kinds of other aspects of government I don’t quite understand. But it isn’t just education that’s getting the shaft. And when those legislators go into session, cutting the budget isn’t like in that movie, Dave, where over a couple beers and some bratwurst they can find a way to make it work. Hell, if it worked that way, I’d get chills watching the evening news the way I do a dramatic movie. No, real life doesn’t work that way and I am sad to say I just didn’t care about their little march. I hope that our government can come to some better conclusions on how to spend the state’s money by the time session concludes. We all want that. But all I can do is hope.

On Friday, Ash and I are taking the afternoon off to see Watchmen. I am hoping it doesn’t suck but we’ll see! Tell me, what movies have you loved lately and what are you looking forward to?

Up and at them

::Raises hand:: I’m here! Present! Oooh, ooh, over here! I’m heeere. That used to be me on the first day of classes. I was the kid who sat up straight, hands folded, and when called for roll, I shot my arm up as high as I could and let it be known that I had, indeed, arrived on time for the first day. Surely, you could say I was an overachiever. Or maybe a goody-goody. I got that a lot. But in the end, I think it pays off: I was here at 7:45 this morning, which is the first day of the Spring semester.

There’s not the same air of excited nervousness in Spring as there is in Fall. The freshmen are now all jaded and cocky and the rest of the students realize that they’re mired in the middle of the school year and it’s back to the same old grind. But I still feel renewed; new semester, new beginnings, new chances to improve on my job and be better than I have before.

And now, because my brain is rather scattered, some bullets.

  • We got a letter from our friend who is in jail. That kind of warmed my heart a bit.
  • I have had cramps for 3 days now. (??)
  • I added a pic to The Showroom (guh; nom nom nom)
  • Elliot’s newest word is “uh oh” and he says it ALL the time. But it’s so cute!
  • We’re going to the circus tomorrow night!
  • Freshmen feel so entitled and I don’t understand why.
  • I’m making my online students keep a blog this semester. I’m giving them the option of WordPress or Blogger; I hope they choose WP!
  • I’m super busy!

Ill communication

My day has begun with a ginormous miscommunication between another department, a teaching assistant, myself, and a tenured faculty member. Apparently, a few of the parties involved were in the loop but not the ones that actually really matter and make a difference in terms of schedules and pay, like myself. This is utterly irritating to me and I certainly don’t appreciate it. But that’s behind me now.

But in the same vein, I was listening to the radio this morning – well, XM radio – and Aerosmith’s “Janie got a gun” came on. When I was younger, I never really listened to the lyrics. I sort of always though it was just about some chick who bought a gun. This morning, I think I realized that it’s about her dad who either molested and/or beat her. Damn, guess he did deserve what he got. And she’ll probably get off all charges because hell, there has to be some evidence, right? Maybe I’m reading into it too much.

But tell me, are there any songs you used to mindlessly sing then suddenly understood?