RSS

Category Archives: Life

Last time I Checked…

I was a first year grad student. Then I blinked. All of a sudden, I’ve got a Master’s in English. I’m also divorced, have a third and first grader, and my daughter started Kindergarten. Oh, yes, and I’ve just finished my first semester of my PhD while teaching 50 undergrads Children’s Lit. My, my, when did all of this happen?

It’s funny how we learn to adapt. Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine my life the way it is now. Twenty years ago? I’d have told you I didn’t expect to live this long, let alone be enrolled in a prestigious University teaching kids who look up to me like I’ve got all the answers. And you know what? I don’t have one answer. I’ve got several:

Fight for it. Want it. Don’t quit it. Dream it. Live it. Reach for it. Love with all you are, feel with all of your heart, and don’t ever lose sight of who you are.

For those of you who are reading me for the first time, read my past posts to understand my old fear of changing who I was. For those of you who know me, I’ve come to terms with who I am, where I’m from, and where I’m meant to be. Don’t fight it. Roll with the changes.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Life

 

Tags: , ,

Stranger in a Foreign Land

Have you ever felt like you’re speaking an entirely different language than those around you?  Have you ever read a book and didn’t quite get it, heard something explained and still didn’t quite understand it?   Have you ever felt like a stranger in a foreign country, desperately clinging to your traveler’s dictionary? 

A month ago, I started graduate classes in the English department at Binghamton University.  It was a big fucking deal to my friends, family, and me.  I’m the first one in my family with an undergrad degree, let alone to attend graduate school.  I’ve had my name in print a few times, another BFD.  I was just named a semi-finalist in the Mailer College Poetry competition.  How’s that for a BFD?

So with all of these accomplishments behind me, I was excited to mingle with students who actually wanted to study English and Writing, instead of being forced to take them as core requirements.  I was excited to share ideas, and dive right into my studies.  Until I hit the concrete floor my first day.  Yeah, someone drained all the damn water right out of the pool.  Could have been when I was changing diapers, potty training, doing laundry or maybe it was dishes.  Hell, I’m lucky if I know what day of the week it is, let alone what Derrida said on page one million of his long-winded essay on removing the center of the subject.  Even with no water in the pool, I’m still drowning in Modern Theory.

I don’t have time to learn to swim; I’ve been thrown into the deep end and I’m dog-paddling for my life in a pool with no water and a concrete bottom. How’s that for a paradox? (Maybe I could be a theorist! Sarcastic humor there.)  So I’m sitting there in my first class thinking, Shit, what the hell just happened?  Suddenly, I realized that I don’t speak the language. I need a book to understand the book.  The Penguin Anthology of Literary Terms and Criticism has become a permanent attachment to my right hand. It’s got just enough dumb-it-down strategies to qualify for a life raft. In classes, my hands are shoved under the desk, and I furtively look up words my professor and fellow students use in the dictionary I downloaded on my phone. I’m a literary tourist, the one the natives point at and laugh, cruelly telling me to go back to my own country. The temporality of my situation is tenuous… (Again, sarcasm here.)

Graduate school has forced me to yet again reevaluate myself and my capabilities.  One thing I’ve always known about myself is that I’m a concrete person who does not grasp the abstract.  I never did. Show me the practicality of a subject, or a real life application and I’m all about it.  I’m also an extremely busy person who doesn’t have time to dwell in thought for hours at a time.  I couldn’t attend famous universities with killer English programs, and spent so much time trying to read all of the authors on the reading list a kind professor gave me in undergrad to prepare me, that I’ve never read Melville, Murakami, Fante, or Freud.  I’ve never studied Surrealism, Semiotics, Absurdism, or Realism. The only way I recognize a great book is by the way it makes me feel when I’m done reading it.  I’m also a genre fiction junkie, and somehow I’m ashamed to admit that.

Again, I’m the odd man out.  I expected that in undergrad classes, maybe even liked it, despite the constant desire to tell the kids I attended school with to suck it up when they whined about homework and no sleep.  Before one graduate class, I heard my fellow students complaining about getting carded at the bar: “I’m 23 for God’s sake!”  I wanted to slink into a corner and die.  I’m certainly not the oldest person in any of my classes by any means.  There are a few that rival me for that title.  However, I am the only one with little kids.  I’m not the only blue-collar person straight off the farm; I’ve admired several pairs of boots from my fellow farm countrymen (women too!), but somehow my expectations of graduate school get skewed when these same people looked at me like I’ve got three heads when I admitted that I don’t have an English degree.  My Comm degree somehow offends them, as does my plain and simple language and my penchant for needing concrete examples.

There’s no question that I love literature and writing, and there is no way that I am giving up on something that I want so badly, no matter how out-of-place I feel. But what to do?  Do I learn the foreign language, embrace it whole-heartedly?  Do I adapt my entire way of thinking until I am no longer Trish, holey jeans, genre fiction, heavy metal loving, curse when you’re angry Trish, but Patricia, khaki pants wearing, five hundred-dollar word using, classic book loving, Patricia?  Do I lose the core of me to gain the key to some other element of me?  Do I stick it out, gut my way through without changing who I am?

Maybe I should marry the two worlds together in my life until I become bi-lingual.  Yes, maybe that’s the way to do this.  It could possibly be the only way to do this.  I have to relax my prejudice against the natives, adopt a few of their customs without giving up my own core values. I can be true to myself while learning something else, something different but not exactly distasteful. Still, I don’t think I’ll be giving up my dictionary or my tourist visa anytime soon!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Life

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Magic of a Mentor

For some reason, this morning I woke up thinking about my eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Eastman.  Maybe it was triggered during the gab sessions with my best friend who came in from Nashville two weeks ago.  We talked a lot about high school, reminiscing the good and bad times. Both she and I have similar backgrounds, parental problems, and trust issues. It doesn’t surprise people that we’re still close friends. Anyway, I remember being rather candid with her, saying, “I wouldn’t have survived high school without Mr. Eastman.”

The first time I saw him, I was sitting in the front row of my eighth grade homeroom.  He came bumbling in the door, with a shuffling walk and huge feet that reminded me of a clown.  His shaggy brown hair hung down into his eyes, and he constantly shook his head like a dog to see better.  He introduced himself to the class as our homeroom teacher, and also our Earth Science instructor.  In the rinky-dink Elk Lake Jr/Sr High School, he stuck out like a horse in a herd of goats.  We all immediately recognized the fact that he was a new teacher; in fact, he admitted to us that it was his first year teaching.  Some of the nastier kids smelled blood, and tortured him thoroughly for the entire year, even going as far as spraying foul smelling liquid onto him as he walked by.  I don’t know how he put up with the blatant disrespect.

Before morning announcements, I would sit at my desk with headphones, rocking out to 80’s hair bands and death metal, while reading a book to calm the rage that was a constant companion in those days.  Music and literature were my escape from life: parents who flip-flopped back and forth between overbearing and absenteeism, sexual abuse at the hands of someone I trusted, and the depression that kept me on the edge of the cliff, about to step off at any moment.  Not to mention the normal teenage anxiety about appearance, weight, and where the next insult was coming from.

So there I was, thirteen years old, with my own year of torture behind me from the seventh grade.  I’d developed a bad attitude, and believe me, I wasn’t afraid to use it.  I barely spoke, but if I did, it came out as a snarl, like a dog that had been starved for years and suddenly offered food.   I sat silently in his class for a few weeks, responding only when spoken to in my typical hostile way.  One day, I had been particularly rude, and was asked to stay after class.

Instead of giving me the lecture or referral to the principal that I probably deserved, Mr. Eastman simply talked with me as though I were a real human being.  I wasn’t used to that sort of thing, and it made me uneasy.  I remember looking everywhere but at him. Then, I happened to catch a glimpse of the cover art from Def Leppard’s Hysteria.  That album was, and still is, one of my absolute favorite albums.  Back then, it was one of the most important collections of songs that helped me survive.  Now, it is simply a great album with both good and bad connections to my past.  I made a passing mention of it being a great album.  My jaw dropped when he told me he saw them live when they toured for the album.  Suddenly, a connection was made.  We spent the rest of that year blabbing through homeroom about great albums and songs, and talking about Greek mythology while he taught us the science of constellations.

After my eighth grade year, I made it a point to stop by his classroom every once it a while to shoot the breeze about a new album that had come out, or a novel I had just read. Eventually, we started talking about things that were more personal, like when I met my dad for the first time the summer after eighth grade. Life was still really bad at home, but by the time I hit eleventh grade, things had spiraled out of control.

I remember going on an after-school trip to a college fair my junior year.  Mr. Eastman was one of the chaperones, and I spent the entire ride home talking about colleges with him while my friends made out with their boyfriends, or talked about where the next party was going to be.  I confessed to him that I was scared of never being anything, of always being insignificant.  He told me, “Trish, you’ll make it. Get out of here.  Go away to school and never look back.”  Later, I remember how he went to bat for me, making it possible for me to stay in the district during my senior year when I got into a serious bind for skipping school, and how he fought to get me into the National Honor Society, even though I was into some trouble.  He also steered me through the mysteries of college application essays, and financial aid paperwork.

At the time, I appreciated him as a friend, but that appreciation is nothing compared to how I feel now that I’ve accomplished a lot of things that I set out to a long time ago, even with a few bumps in the road.  I realize that what I had was magical for an unlucky kid in the sticks.  I had a mentor.  These are the people that foster and encourage growth, hold our hands when we’re down, and point us in the right direction on the road up.  They reach out to someone in need, forge a connection, and expect nothing in return.  They are truly heroes.  As I  move on, accomplishing new goals that I’ve set for myself, and keep reaching up for those constellations in the sky, I’ll keep that in mind.  Maybe the best way that I can repay Mr. Eastman is to follow his example, and reach out to others in need.  Maybe if we all did, this world would be a little more kind.  Who couldn’t use a little kindness?

Did you have a mentor?  How do you feel about them now?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Life

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Summer Reading List

I’m feeling guilty for neglecting this blog for so long.  Really, with everything I’ve had going on, it was necessary, but I’ve got this quirk about keeping up with things I’ve started.  Last night, I finished another book.  I’ve probably read a dozen or so since graduating. I mentioned yesterday that I haven’t been able to write. I once had a creative writing teacher tell me that if I couldn’t write, at least read. So, I’ve been reading a lot.  The other day in the bookstore, I was browsing aimlessly without a plan in mind. I picked up a book, Light in August by William Faulkner, and read the back.  The story interested me, but I was more struck by the quote on the back.

“Read, read, read.  Read everything-trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.  Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.  Read!  You’ll absorb it.  Then write.  If it is good, you’ll find out.  If it’s not, throw it out the window.”  -Faulkner

I love to read, and I love books.  The smell, the texture, the words, the stories, characters, and settings.  I am a book junkie.  Modern, classics, pop-fiction, literary fiction, teen fiction, fantasy, I’ll read them all.  So I decided to share my summer reading list-the stories I’ve read, and the novels on my to-read list.  Pick up a book and enjoy!

Some Novels I’ve Read in the Last Month

Firefly Lane-Kristin Hannah –  Reminds me of Summer Sisters by Judy Blume.  An excellent characterization of the friendship between two women.  Be warned, it’s a tear-jerker!

Shadow of a Quarter Moon-Eileen Clymer Schwab – Historical fiction.  The story of a runaway quadroon and her experiences in both the white and African-American community.  Her interactions with characters in the Underground Railroad are very entertaining and pretty accurate.

The House of Spirits-Isabel Allende – I was seriously impressed with this book.  At first, I had a hard time getting into the characters, but I stuck with it and absolutely fell in love with some of them.  The political overtones were wonderfully done, and really captured the essence of an oppressed people.

American Poet-Jeff Vande Zande – A great coming of age story about a college graduate with a degree in poetry who comes home to find that his degree is pretty much worthless in a town that cares nothing for the arts.  Denver Hoptner is a character that seriously reminds me of Holden Caufield with his sarcastic outlook.  Very awesome read.

The Penelopiad-Margaret Atwood – I have to say I was a little disappointed in this novel.  It’s basically the story of The Odyssey, told from the point of view of Penelope.  I found her character very shallow and whiney in this story, and I don’t think this is one of Atwood’s best novels.  I highly recommend Oryx and Crake though!

Water for Elephants-Sara Gruen – I loved, loved, loved this story!  From the first page, I was invested in the characters.  The settings were very well written, and nothing felt contrived about this tale.  The ending made me sad only because I wanted the story to continue.

My To-Read List

You Can’t Go Home Again-Thomas Wolfe – I’m 100 pages in.  So far, I am enjoying this story.  Wolfe has a poetic structure to his sentences that makes them seem easy to read.

In the Lake of the Woods – Tim O’Brien

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway – I’ve attempted to read this several times, but I seriously hate Hemingway. (I WILL FINISH THIS BOOK IF IT KILLS ME!)

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy-E.L. James

Through Wolf’s Eyes-Jane Lindskold

And finally, any other book that I pick up that looks interesting 🙂

Happy reading!!

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Life

 

Tags: , , ,

It’s the Chase

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve realized the importance of education.  From the time I entered the halls of Elk Lake School as a kindergartener to my senior year at the same school, I thought about, and dreamed of, getting a college degree.  Coming from where I do, and seeing the things that I’ve seen, only made the dream stronger until it wasn’t a dream anymore, but a burning need.

So I took a little detour.  So it took me seven years instead of four.  So I wrote research papers in the hospital after giving birth to my daughter.  So I was a lot older than the other students.  So what?  I did it!  Tomorrow’s the day!  I finally get my college degree.

Along the way, while working on my undergrad degree, I dreamed a lot of other dreams.  Some I’ve accomplished, such as publication of my poetry and fiction, getting accepted into a graduate program; while others I have yet to start work on.  I learned a lot of things during my time at Keystone College, like creative writing and literature, science, history, and public speaking, but the most valuable thing that I’ve learned is that it is worth it to dream, and dream big.  It’s worth it to try.  I’ve also learned that accomplishment is not necessarily about catching the dream, but more about what you gain from the chase.  Dream on friends!

Check out The Plume, Keystone’s literary magazine.  My poem, “Breaking Stone,” was the winner of the Cameron Poetry contest, and I’ve been invited to read it for the trustees today!  You can access it here: http://www.keystone.edu/news/publications/pdfs/theplume/ThePlume2012.pdf

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Life, Writing

 

Tags: , , , ,

Wrapping it Up!

Capstone is essentially finished.  The project is done, the essays and journal have been turned in for better or worse.  Only the hour where I present my project to my Committee is left.  When I look back over the course of this project, I can’t even begin to describe the hours: writing, revision, ordering, re-revising, re-ordering; I can’t describe the doubt, the anxiety, the fear, but I can describe the euphoria.  It’s done!  I completed a poetry manuscript!

This is really huge for me.  I’ve always been afraid to commit to a project, for fear that I’d fail. I have to admit that I’m afraid of a lot.  I’m afraid of change; I’m afraid of letting go, and I’m definitely afraid to try sometimes.  Fear does a lot of strange things to us.  It can keep us paralyzed, standing still while opportunities continue to pass us by.  Fear can keep us grounded while others are flying among the stars.

The last five years have been life-changing for me.  Certain events, like having my kids, have brought earth-shattering change in both positive and negative ways.  I’m certainly more apt to do battle over my kids; standing up for them has changed me from a passive person to an aggressive fighter. I’m more prone to emotion because of them. I’m also vulnerable to three tiny people who hold an enormous amount of power over me.  Becoming a parent was rather eye-opening.

Other events, like deciding to finally go back to school, have brought nothing but joy.  Yes, I’ve been slightly nuts, juggling the work with the kids, housework, and life, but I’ve also been working on a goal that I’ve had forever, which was to get my undergraduate degree.  I’ve also been working on a much larger issue without even realizing it: fear.  Every day, I’ve had to fight for what I wanted.  I had to sit in classrooms with peers and professors I didn’t know.  Being an adult student with younger peers was difficult at some points.  I had to adapt to the environment without sacrificing who I was, and why I was there.  I had to give speeches to earn my degree, something I’ve avoided more than spiders for the last ten years. I had to figure out what I really wanted out of my education, and commit to it with all of my drive and determination.

The whole time, I was conquering fears and I didn’t even know it.  During the whole process, I came to realize that I was so afraid of being good at something that I spent my whole life not trying anything.  I was so afraid that I really was a worth-while person that I let myself be that unlikable person my  family always made me feel like. I was so busy protecting myself that I never really let anyone in.  I will never forget the person that told me I could be anyone I wanted, that the past did not dictate my future.  Thanks, Trace, I’ll always be grateful.

When I was writing my presentation for Capstone, I couldn’t help but marvel at the changes in me, not only over the past semester, but over the course of the last few years. I’m smarter, certainly, but I’m stronger.  I’m stronger because I faced a lot of fear and shot it down.  My determination and grit got me through.  I am worth more than I ever let myself feel.

The other day, I got my cap and gown for graduation.  It felt surreal, but so damn good!  I made it.  I’m graduating. I’m headed to graduate school, even won a scholarship.  I didn’t do it alone though.  I have three kids who have sacrificed just as much as I have; the time away was just as hard on them as it was on me.  My in-laws have also given up their time, and re-arranged their schedules to coordinate with mine.  There are no words to express the gratitude I have toward them.  When I walk at graduation, I’m going to look out into that audience and meet the eyes of my family, and know that the moment is just as important to them as it is to me.  My kids will remember that day.  Hopefully, it’s something they strive for, free of fear.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Life

 

Tags: , , , , ,

The Scoop

I guess I should preface this by saying how sorry I am about abandoning my readers during the last couple of months.  I really enjoy getting my thoughts out there, spewing about the things that are going on in my life, jawing about the things I love like writing and music.  The past two months have been crazy and hectic, what with writing and revising every spare second for my Capstone project (it’s almost finished!), registering Whalen for Kindergarten, CC for preschool (sob), and fighting for extra help and attention for Lucas at school, normal duties like dishes and laundry, family obligations, class three days a week, and homework. Not to mention graduate school applications.  Just re-reading that exhausted me!

Seriously, I like to stay busy.  I think all of the extra things I have going on make me slightly crazy, but very well-rounded.  The juggling keeps me sharp.  And sharp I’ve been.  I’ve probably written about fifty new poems since January, and now I’m in the process of fine-tuning those, writing more, and choosing which ones fit in the poetry manuscript I’m putting together for my Capstone.  The due date is coming up!  Approximately four weeks will see it cranked out and turned in.  Let me say that I’d much rather write than put it together.  I’d never make it in the layout department.  I put together a rough copy of it though; I just couldn’t resist!  To see it, even unfinished, put together was the most incredible high.  I’ve never seen an entire project like this through right to the end.  It amazes me, and also proves to me that I can do it.  I had my doubts if you all recall.

Speaking of highs, I just got the most amazing news yesterday!  I was officially accepted by SUNY Binghamton for the fall 2012 semester.  After the crushing rejection from Penn State (due to program finances, nothing I did), this really lifted my spirits.  See, I recall a certain person who told me to look at smaller schools.  That maybe I wouldn’t hack an intensive graduate program, I might not have a good chance at getting in… I guess you don’t know it all, do you?  Anyway, I’m thrilled that I’ve been accepted to this program, and really looking forward to graduate study.  Provided I survive Biology this semester, of course.

Anyway, I’m glad I’ve pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion and madness in my quest to be the best that I can possibly be at any given moment.  People tell me I worry too much, that I’m too uptight.  Maybe I do, but look what I’ve accomplished… I’ll leave it at that!

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Life

 

Tags: , , ,