Wednesday, May 10, 2006

ENG 101 - College Composition - Final Exam

I was a paperboy the summer before I turned 10. Nelsonville, Ohio is a small town and it was even smaller then. I was perfectly safe on my bike at 5 am rushing through the streets trying to get my papers out on time. Mostly, I loved that job. I loved tossing the papers and working to get them to land in the same spot every morning. I loved having the money to buy a membership at the pool and a nice frozen Zero bar when I got there and I loved the feel of the cool morning air on my face as I rode. There were a few things that I absolutely did not love about that job, however.

I didn’t like the way that the bag rubbed on my shoulder. I had blisters that were raw by the time I got home. Every morning I’d try and concoct a method for reducing the rub but, before I was more than an hour into my route, it would have failed and the bag would be rubbing in the same spot until I thought I would scream. I switched the bag from shoulder to shoulder but it didn’t help. They were both so raw that it didn’t matter which side it was on. Both sides were bleeding.

Another thing that I didn’t like about the job was the long hours. It didn’t matter so much in the early mornings but after 3 hours I was ready to be hanging out with my friends at the pool. The pool was about halfway through my route. I’d go by every morning just as it was opening and see my friends all in line with their towels and their lunches. I knew that I wouldn’t get there until well after lunch and I always felt like I was missing the best part of the day with them. I’d race through the second half of my route (the part that included 2 dogs and the people that NEVER paid) so by the time I got home and got my suit on and got back to the pool, a lot of my friends would be leaving. It didn’t matter. I’d stay and swim until the pool closed at 5 every single day.

More than anything else, I didn’t like the dogs. Every day there were at least two of them that chased me for blocks. The dogs would hear my bike coming and the race would begin. I had to try and toss the papers at houses as the dogs ran beside me nipping at my feet. I dreaded the days that I had to collect at the houses with dogs. I swear that the owners knew I was coming and would release the hounds just as I got close to try and keep me from knocking on their doors. I had to pay for the papers that they didn’t though so I was always pretty determined to get through. I discovered that if I left my bike a few doors down and took the bag off of my shoulders, most dogs would let me through. Some wouldn’t though and I have the bite scars to prove it.

There were a lot of things not to love about that job, especially at 9 years of age. I find that the things that stay with me are not the things that I hated about it. I realize that what I learned then holds true in most of the jobs that I’ve had since: If you can learn to dodge the dogs, collect the money and make a game of it at the same time then at the end of it all is a frozen Zero bar and a dip in some cool water. And really, especially when you’re 9, what could be better than that?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Freestyle Week !5

This is a letter that I wrote to a friend of mine in Germany this morning who is also embarking on a career in physics. I decided that I wanted it to be one of my last entries on this blog because it sums up so well how I feel about school...about this first step.

Albert Einstein said, “People miss opportunities because they come dressed in overalls and look like work.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that quote over and over to myself these last few weeks of school. It was so hard and I was so nervous that I chose a study that was above my potential. I thought that I would never get it and would be copying answers that I didn’t understand for my entire school career.

Here’s what I’ve learned since:

An important thing that a degree (or whatever you get from the schooling when you complete) says about and to us is that we can look that difficulty straight in the eye and do it anyway. It says that we can finish what we start and that the goal is more important than any of its difficult components.

It’s tough for everyone, even those that make it look so easy. When you are done with this chapter and move on to the next semester or whatever, (the further that you go the better your understanding) these pieces will make more sense and be tools in your belt.

I have heard a number of times that it doesn’t get more difficult. It’s the first part that weeds out all of the people that can’t face that test of mental and intellectual fortitude. The more tunneled your education gets, when we start studying astrophysics, it will all be interesting and less difficult. All this that we’re learning now will start to mesh in our understanding. We’ll likely have to keep looking stuff up for a long while to come. And that’s perfectly okay.

What we love requires work. You love it though it bites at you. It bites at me too but it isn’t going to scare me into not pursuing it. Just get through this hard part I tell myself. Just remember what it is you’re doing and look toward why. Imagine yourself working on a problem that might one day allow us to see something that we never imagined. That’s what we’re doing in school. We’re finishing to work at something that we love. And truly, it won’t get more difficult every semester. Once we prove ourselves through this, we’ll be rewarded with the opportunity to learn about what we really love and then to practice it AND get paid for it. Keep your sites on that.

It’s easy for me to say that safely on the other end of that first really difficult step but I told myself these things over and over again to get through that. And I will tell myself that until I reach the stage that allows me study what I love integrating all of these steps. Your understanding is solid. It’s just warped by the work. Do what you have to do to get through it. Study, take a lot of meditating breaks and push yourself until you complete what has to be completed, whatever you have to do to get there.

Then on your break have nothing to do with it except what gives you pleasure.

There certainly is a lot of talk about the way that we are educated and the way that it scares more than it encourages A lot of studies have been made into new ways to approach it that will invite more people and ideas and seem less daunting. I agree that it’s time for a change and maybe that is part of our purpose here. Maybe it won’t be different for us but maybe we can help in facilitating a change for tomorrow. It all ties together in my mind. It’s part of the strength that’s needed to get through it, strength of purpose that serves not only myself but others as well.

You have to feed and clothe and make comfortable your hearth. You have to earn a living. And if you have to sell your time, you should at least sell it to do something that you love. What you love, what you could do forever is what you’re working towards now. Stay the course. Let it work for you.

Just because you feel that you’re just copying the answers now and you’re burnt out and not learning anything, that is the way it happens. Weeks from now you’ll see that you understood a lot more than you thought.

Even if the passion for physics doesn’t seem enough… finish because of what it says about you and to you. Later, in deciding your next step you can review the possibilities.

Finish mostly because you started.

Prompt Week 14: The Buck Stops Here...

I put my I-search back up after snowflakes comment and an email that I received from another student asking for a link from the original post. I’ve decided that I’ll include this disclaimer and give the school an opportunity to open a discussion. I think snowflake is right: the students have a right to know that they are not alone with their concerns and that things can be done.

As for me, I got an acceptance letter from the University of Maine into the physics department for the fall. I have already been contacted about the importance of meeting with my advisor to talk about the courses that I need to obtain my ultimate goal of getting my doctorate in physics. We’ve already discussed the time span and particular programs that might be available. They’ve made certain that I’ve applied for all of the financial assistance (including scholarships) that I may be eligible to receive. I have to say, I’m quite impressed.

Seems to me that is how one is meant to begin their college career. It’s an exciting time filled with a lot of nervousness, trepidation and uncertainty. We’re putting our futures into the hands of people that we assume are looking out for our interests and are knowledgeable in their fields. Unfortunately, that isn’t what I feel EMCC has offered during my time here and I’m one of those verbal beasts. I can’t imagine how the more timid must feel.

What I have to say to the school is that the buck stops with you. Each person that meets with a student, prospective or enrolled, has a responsibility to that student to make sure that they’re where they need to be, taking the courses that they need and on a path that is right for their choices. It isn’t enough to take the buck, you have to take the responsibility.

It isn’t our responsibility to make sure that you’re doing your jobs. We don’t come into these doors knowing what pitfalls may be in store for us. We pay you to help us avoid them. We pay a tuition that includes not only instruction in our courses but also your ability to point us in the right direction.

In my research on the MCCS website I saw that there is to be a tuition increase. ( I hope that the additional monies will be used in ways that will enhance the student experience and not in that grey, non-committal sort of way that I’ve seen so prevalent . Will it be used for additional transferable courses taught by faculty that isn’t all adjunct? Will you invest in additional administrative training relative to the courses of study that you offer to make certain that students are where they need to be?

The buck stops here – with you. Eventually you’ll be held accountable for the choices that you make with regard to the spending of that buck.

I-Search Final Draft
The Community’s College?
Amy E. Cross


English 101, College Composition
May 5, 2006
John A. Goldfine



Summary iii

Introduction 1
Why I’m Writing 2
What I Know 3
The Search 4
Answers 4
Conclusion 8
Annotated Bibliography 9



I chose the topic of the community college tour of duty because I feel that there are some important issues facing this community college that affect not only my experience with the school and with higher education but future students as well. I thought that if a dialogue was opened and issues brought forth, it might usher in discussion about these important problems facing our community’s college.


Making the decision to return to college was and continues to be a big deal for me. I am of the mind that a degree will say something about me if nothing more than to indicate effectively my ability to see a goal to fruition. Aside from the monetary differences that studies have clearly shown in the salaries of a college graduate and a high school graduate, my reasons were personal. My decision to begin at a community college, however, was forced. Too many years between my present and my past credits to accommodate any real view of the student that I might be to the University of Maine brought me to the doors of Eastern Maine Community College.

This was not my first sojourn into the halls of community college academia. Just out of high school, I decided on a community college for its size and proximity to my home in North Carolina. Pitt Technical Institute had just become Pitt Community College. Included with my starter package was a letter indicating that this change had just transpired and assured me that they were trying to make this transition as seamlessly as possible especially for liberal studies students. They were careful when we signed up to make certain that they understood what our plans were and that our courses would work towards our ultimate goals. At 18, I probably did little more than skim over the letter and tuck it back into the packet. After three semesters, as far as I could tell the transition was smooth. I never felt any resentment from the technical side of the college nor did I take any courses that wouldn't follow me into my future.

The second community college that I was involved with was in Columbus, Ohio a few years later. They were right smack in the middle of their transition. I was one of the first liberal studies students to enroll. Again, the courses were transferable and advise relevant to my intended course of study. Granted, I attended only one semester but as far as I was concerned, we were all students of the community college whether our courses of study were in the liberal or technical end of the halls.

I expected when I started Eastern Maine Community College that it would be the same. I knew that the school had been a technical college for a long time. I also knew that they had been a community college for a few years. The transition, based on my experience should have been long since acclimated and the wrinkles, if any being ironed out. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. It only took a few weeks of the semester to see that their transition was still anything but smooth and they were 3 years into it.

I knew that there were required courses that I would need and decided that it would be best for me to concentrate on these general requirements at EMCC. My admissions advisor, well intended though she might have been, understood little about the courses that I would need in order to reach my ultimate goal of obtaining my doctorate in physics. Very little emphasis was given either to the transferability of courses or to my capabilities. As far as I can discern, the placement test at the beginning and the application were the only tools available to us (my advisor and myself) to wade through the necessities of my desired program. What I didn’t know was that some of the courses that I was taking were not going to transfer to the University of Maine. Others would not transfer at their full credit. All of my previous experience with the community college system was that the courses were designed to match the University level courses so that the transition would be an easy one. I wasn't aware of this until I was well into the semester, passed the add/drop period.

At the same time another issue was starting to boil over: the disbursement of financial aid. Returning to school at the age of 42 meant some financial discomfort for my family and myself. It meant that my income would stop altogether and there would be some additional expenses. I decided to take advantage of the low interest rates and applied for student loans. I paid close attention to my statement from the school on StudentOne and to the website of the bank issuing the funds. The grant and scholarship monies were credited to my account on October 5, 2005. The loan funds were credited on October 14. I wondered why I was not receiving any of this money. After contacting several administrative departments, student accounts, financial aid and finally the president’s office I was given such a wide array of excuses that my patience was worn to a tattered string and I demanded a check. They offered me a loan against my financial aid, which 8 weeks into the semester I accepted.

It was at this point that my research really began though I didn’t know I was researching. I had to find out what was happening with the transfer issues. I needed to know that each semester was not going to be filled with the horrible wait for financial aid. I wanted someone to accept responsibility for these issues and to take steps to make certain that we students were being well served by our community’s college. Having 25 years of business experience, I headed straight for President Hedlund’s office. I’ll get to that meeting later.


What I've uncovered after a couple of semesters here is that there is a general dis-ease between what EMTC was and what EMCC aspires to be. Liberal studies students comprise 32% of Maine’s community college’s population. Our monies are coming in. Apparently, only minimum work has been done to facilitate the additional requirements brought on by this "golden goose" population.

I’m writing on this topic because I believe that we, as students, as the consumers have a right to know what’s being done to assure that we are getting our money’s worth and that this community college is serving the community of liberal studies/non-technical/transfer students as it purports.

§ What distinguishes a technical institute from a community college?
- Are there standards set by the industry?
- Who is responsible for implementing the changes required for the change to a community college?

§ Have the courses been modified to adequately describe the college as a transfer college to a liberal studies student walking through the door?
- What % of students are transfer students (transferring to a 4 year degree program?

§ Has the change to a community college served the community as was intended?
- Is this an issue that other community colleges around the country deal with as well?


I was invited by President Hedlund to be a student member of the College Senate. The College Senate for EMCC is a committee comprised of administrative, faculty and student representatives. We are charged with setting policy and procedure for the school, which is made part of the official language of the official policy and procedure handbook. When I was offered this position I felt I had an opportunity to open some REAL dialogue between the school and the people that it meant to serve. Although that hope has faded, I did learn quite a bit about what happens beyond the classroom environment.

Eastern Maine Community College's Goals with Strategies Report adopted by the College Senate for fiscal years 2007 - 2009 states that [the college] "has a mandate to provide an educated work force for the state of Maine. The mission of the college is to provide the highest quality technical, career and postsecondary transfer education and to serve as a dynamic community resource." The report goes on to list several ways that this mission is to be carried out.

The College Senate spent a lot of time going over the grammar and punctuation and the placement of words when adopting this report. Still it is vague and offers no real means to accomplish the goals as set forth. After each point, I wanted to ask "how?" So much of the reports and philosophies of the college are mired in tired rhetoric that I'm not sure anyone understands much less has the know how required to implement these ethereal notions. I felt more as though they were offering a pacifier rather than a solution or even a goal. Too lofty a notion is worse sometimes than no notion at all.

There is an undercurrent of mistrust on each side of the halls. The technical doorways wonder why their part of the additional funds from the golden geese aren't trickling down to their classrooms. Where are the new computers, where is the new equipment necessary to bring the technical facilities in line with the businesses that will be asked to employ the graduates of the technical programs. I see them eyeball us liberal students as though we were feasting on lobsters while they have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The faculty wonders at our presence as well. We are grouped into various categories based on our ages and at which transition we happen to be in.

Administration meanwhile seems to cower between the two, though never really revealing their presence unless there is some new honor or program to unveil. I suspect that their reasons are valid. I have a feeling that they've let both sides down and, at this point have little idea which direction to go in order to facilitate change in the right direction. I would imagine that the right direction is as murky an idea as there ever was.


The biggest part of my research was done on the Internet. I was surprised to find that mine was a topic being discussed in several forums, through several independent studies and by our own government. I've also been paying special attention to the debates regarding higher education presented in the Bangor Daily News. It seems I'm not the only one more than curiously interested in the debate over technical college versus community college.

I decided that I should take my questions to the college itself as well. I asked faculty, students and administration about their experiences and ideas. What surprised me most in this area of my research was the fact that most interviewed agreed to be interviewed only after I assured them of their anonymity. The battle in this particular institute was in the shadows. Most came in whispered tones for fear of retribution. Frankly, I had to keep checking my address to remind myself that I was still in the United States. Aren't we meant to have a free exchange of ideas?

I decided against using a good portion of the interviews that I conducted. I didn't feel it right, according to the original purpose of my research to include transcripts that couldn't be "backed up". I included the overall "air" of the interviews but have kept the details to a minimum, offering only the express views of those that allowed me to include their names.


What is it that distinguishes a technical institute from a community college?

My research indicates that’s the most distinguishing feature of the community college is its transfer program for liberal studies students. A community college offers an associates degree in areas that the technical institute does not. A technical institute offers programs specifically limited to particular areas (automotive, welding, heating and air, etc.) The new community college would expand the course offerings and at the same time would bring in additional funds for the technical side of the college. (Chronicle)

Are there standards set by the industry?

The New England Association of Schools & Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education sets the standards for accreditation for the Maine Community College System. There are 11 very specific standards set forth for every one of the community colleges accredited with mandates for self governance, responsibility to faculty and students, and academic oversight. (neacs)

Who is responsible for implementing the changes required for the change to an accredited community college?

“Adherence to the Standards is periodically reviewed through peer evaluations that are preceded by self-studies directed toward demonstrating that the institution meets the Standards and that it has effective means to ensure institutional improvement”. (neacs)

The Standards clearly state that “Self Governance” is an integral part of the accreditation process. From my interviews with administration, though not given a clear answer, my best determination is that the responsibility falls on the College Senate. (Hedlund)

Have the courses been modified to adequately describe the college as a transfer college to a liberal studies student walking through the door?

In my meeting with Joyce Hedlund, president of the college I asked what the goals were when making the change to a community college. She said that there was a need in the community to offer a transfer-based program into the universities. The liberal studies program was meant to fill this gap. Unfortunately, by her own admission, there was not a lot of involvement with the universities that these transfer students would be going once their time with Eastern Maine was complete. The AdvantageU program meant to fill this need was sorely under researched. Many of the courses that were offered through the liberal studies program would not in fact transfer though the university would recognize the two-year degree. This was more rhetoric hidden in obscure language.

The issue of transferring credits has affected most of the students that I spoke with. (JC)(DS) Some were extremely concerned as they were completing their Associates degree and found out at the last minute that a good many of their courses would NOT transfer. These courses would have to be retaken at additional expense to the student. This is something that every student entering these doors should be made aware.

Admissions counseling should be an integral part of every interview with a prospective student. There are resources available to the student that the college still does not offer up to us. I found the transfer equivalency tool (umaine) provided by the University of Maine on my own. I reported the tool to the administrative personnel responsible for student transfers and, to date, see no publication of this information to the student body.

In that same meeting with President Hedlund I asked what courses were modified to accommodate the transfer students. In my own case I pointed out that the physics classes had not gone to the calculus based physics as required by most four year universities (University of Maine included) though a curriculum had been written and faculty in place to teach. Why were there not more classes to fulfill more needs of the liberal studies students that the community college was now catering to according to the technical programs? If the additional monies were not being put into the liberal studies and not into the technical programs, where was this additional money being filtered? The answer did not come. She seemed surprised that I asked at all. (Hedlund)

My next meeting was with John Fitzsimmons of the Maine State Community College. As was true with President Hedlund, he seemed surprised that I asked any of the questions that I did and was not prepared to answer them. I came away from that meeting feeling as I do when I read the murky reports. I had more questions rather than any definitive answer. What I read into this is that there is no answers at least not as far as their offices can collaborate between them. (Fitzsimmons)

What % of students are transfer students (transferring to a 4 year degree program)?

The only information that I could find on this point was from the Maine Community College Systems website which stated only that “the number of Community College students transferring to Maine's seven Universities increased 25 percent in the past three years”. (mccs) As I am uncertain of the up FROM figure, this meant little to my overall question.

Has the change to a community college served the community as was intended?

There is a lot of talk about the community college's role in the communities that it serves. The mission statement is filled with all of the right words though there seems to be little being done to follow through with the promises made to the students, at least to the liberal studies students. (emcc)

One of the biggest issues facing community colleges (as well as universities) around the country is the issue of funding. According to the allocation of most funding for schools comes from the governor of our state. He ultimately has the decision of appropriation and, though the image of the community college has broadened, George Bush referred to the importance of community colleges in his state of the union address the funding has not come.

I propose larger Pell grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school. (Applause.) I propose increasing our support for America's fine community colleges, so they can -- (applause.) I do so, so they can train workers for industries that are creating the most new jobs. By all these actions, we'll help more and more Americans to join in the growing prosperity of our country. Job training is important, and so is job creation.

Community colleges must rely more heavily on adjunct faculty and cannot provide the services for the students that they hope to serve. This leads to the sort of faulty admissions procedures, lack of student guidance and the lack of transferable credits so evident at EMCC.

Undoubtedly, the public spoke in the bond issue set before them November of 2005. In that bond additional monies were requested from the public for building repairs. The bond did not pass. It seems that this should send a message to the administrators of Maine's higher education facilities, namely the community college systems that the public is not so convinced that they are serving the purpose that they are meant to serve in this community. Perhaps more consideration needs to be given to what is happening inside the doors as opposed to the doors themselves. Maybe if they were asking for additional monies to be put into the education, the equipment, the faculty and student services the public would have responded. As it was, the public responded in a manner befitting the condition, I believe. (usm)

The Maine Community College System website boasts an overall 42% increase in students over the last three years. Is it a coincidence that it was three years ago that EMTC became EMCC? With the name change came a responsibility to the students that were to be served by the liberal studies program of the college. We are led there believing that our credits will transfer seamlessly into our programs of study at the university level. We depend on that from the time we arrive until the time we graduate or, as in my case, move on to the university before receiving our associates' degrees. (mccs)

Is this an issue that other community colleges around the country deal with as well?

The Chronicle of Higher Education offered an interesting look into the issue of community colleges as a whole and their roles in the communities to which they belong. The guest speaker, Jamilah Evelyn is a staff reporter at The Chronicle and, in the articles that I read had only a little to say on the change from a technical institute to a community college. When asked about the ability of a community college to serve such diverse purposes (the technical aspect and the liberal studies) she acknowledged the gap between but offered not even the theoretical solution. (chronicle)

I expected when I pulled up the American Welding Society web page that I would find a definitive vote for the technical institute. I've heard so many of the welders complain that they were required to take so many "liberal studies courses" I just assumed that their collective voice would resound loudly in favor of the technical institute. This wasn't the case. (aws)

An instructor of the courses and one that had been involved in the industry stated that it wasn't enough anymore for the welder to know nothing more than "laying a good bead”. Proper education included the intricacies of the math involved, the speaking skills in order to understand and relay instructions and the ability to sit for a test. Even some students of welding fell on the side of the community colleges more liberal courses of study. 80% hands on training to 20% lecture was the hoped for ratio though according to their studies, was not actually practiced. (aws)

What I learned in my research barely scratches the surface of a debate that's been going on for years and leads, ultimately back to the entire system of higher education. Finding a stopping point was the most difficult part. The deeper I went into it, the more I realized its depth.


Perhaps changing to a community college was not the direction that EMTC should have taken. It seems to me that as a technical college it did fulfill its promises to students, faculty and to the businesses that supported its efforts. Until such time that the college addresses the issues regarding its liberal studies students and makes real changes, obvious and clear in regards to the promises associated with that student population this college will not serve this community responsibly.

The image of the community college having a less than stellar student population will not change until the community colleges take responsibility for their actions denoting such an image. If they continue to pit the technical end against the liberal studies end, dabbling in both though committing to neither, that image will fester for both them and the students that walk their hallways. The future doesn't look good for EMCC as far as I can tell. There is nothing in my contact with the school that indicates that they're looking for a feasible resolution. There are a lot of meetings, a lot of committees but little effort towards promoting change.

What comes next depends on the administration and, I suppose the efforts of future students. For my part, it's over. I'm days away from completing my stay with Eastern Maine Community College and, frankly, not a minute too soon. The atmosphere here, the tensions that seem to breath in the hallways, the discontent and hostility from those that I have offended in my struggles here have taken their toll on me.

What I've remembered about my college experiences up till now has been particular courses, the faculty and the other students in the colleges that I've attended. Predominately, what will stand out in my mind with EMCC is the disillusionment that I feel as I'm leaving. Though the teachers were some of the best that I've known, though the academic support unequalled, the administrative aspect has spoiled what would otherwise have been a brilliant step into my future. For now my future lies in the laurels of the university that I will attend and EMCC will be a blip on my resume. As for me, my future lies at the university. I won't look back on my experience here as being a boost to my ultimate goals other than through the efforts of dedicated faculty. I spent much more time here fighting for my rights as a student than enjoying them.


American Welding Society, Forum, Topic: Technical school vs Community College: By Lawrence On 22-Jul-05 15:37

I probably spent more time on this site than I did on any other. The forum had several instances of community college study. I was pleasantly surprised to find that so many that commented were concerned that welders be well educated in more than just welding specific courses.

The Chronicle of Higher Education "The Identity of Community Colleges" Section: Community Colleges; Volume 51, Issue 10, Page B1, October 28, 2004

This online magazine bills itself as a “…source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators.” It was a very interesting site to explore with several articles on community colleges as well as universities. There was an area for students as well that included scholarship competitions and student news. I found it to be a good resource.
Cramer, Jessica. Personal Interview. Bangor, Maine, March 15, 2006.

Jessica and I have talked many times over the two semesters about the courses that she is taking that will not transfer fully to Husson. She has also had issues with admissions counseling.

DS Student. Personal Interview. Bangor, Maine, Feb 2006.

D.S. is a fellow student at EMCC. We talked at length about his problems with transfer credits. He graduated in December 2005 and was transferring to UMO. At his admission interview he learned that though he would be going in as a junior through the AdvantageU program, he would have to repeat courses for credits.

Eastern Maine Community College, About EMCC, Mission Of The Maine Community College System And Eastern Maine Community College

I specifically went to the site looking for the wording of the mission statement. I did find it interesting that so much of the language is directed at the Liberal Studies student but not much shows up in the areas of course offerings for transfer.

EMCC Goals With Strategies Fiscal Years 2007 – 2009 Adopted by College Senate, 3/2005

This is a document that was adopted by Eastern Maine Community College, College Senate in March of 2006. There are 2 major goals with several sub-strategies and activities. The basic premise is to focus on the student experience at Eastern Maine Community College.

Fitzsimmons, John. Personal Interview. Bangor, Maine, Nov 12, 2005.

I met with President Fitzsimmons after my meeting with Joyce Hedlund. We spent only a few minutes together and I did not leave with the feeling that he understood or shared my concerns about the issue of the transferability of credits or the overall administration of the college.

Hedlund, Joyce. Personal Interview. Bangor, Maine, Nov 1, 2005.

I met with President Hedlund for approximately 1.5 hours. We spoke of financial aid issues, transfer credits and administration issues. I found her to be very open in her mindset during the meeting and was pleased with the changes we discussed regarding financial aid. I do however feel that more should and could be done about the transferability of credits.

Maine Community College Systems, About MCCS, Key Facts, History

I found the site easy to use though it seemed incomplete in its scope. The press releases included only the “good news” from the Bangor Daily and none of the articles that I’ve read over these months that were in any way negative.

Mainstream Online Magazine, University News, Maine Voters Say Yes and No, Fall/Winter 2005

I found this site while looking for information on the bond issue November 2005. It is a small publication with a few areas of interest though I was mostly looking for the article.

New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc., Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, Standards for Accreditation

I went to this site specifically to find the accreditation standards for community colleges. Which has been referenced. I did find the site easy to use and well laid out.

University of Maine; Office of Student records, Transfer Equivalency Search

This is an excellent resource for anyone planning to transfer to the University of Maine. It is an easy to use search engine that will evaluate your credits based on the courses that they offer. This is a free service with no student standing required.

The White House, News and Policies, State of the Union Address, Jan 2004, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., President George Bush

I went to this site specifically for President Bush’s State of The Union Address in regards to his comments on community colleges. George Bush is the first president to allude to community colleges as higher education in a state of the union address. Of course the funding that he spoke of hasn’t come to fruition.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Freestyle Week 14

I took my I-Search down. I’d just as soon it not appear anywhere. It isn’t that I’m not proud of the paper. I think it met all of the requirements and specifics. My problem with it is a personal one.

I don’t think anyone that knows me doesn’t know how I feel about EMCC. I’ve made that pretty clear…half of it anyway. There’s the whole other side that doesn’t get any sort of treatment from me and I don’t like that about the paper.

I’m not the kind of girl to blame others even, maybe especially when blame belongs there. I’m of the belief that it’s my responsibility to work towards change and growth without calling names. I’m not an angry kind of warrior. I don’t think that’s reflected in my paper.

I pick my battles so carefully. I really do. When I pick one, I play it like a chess game whether it’s a 3 year old, a teenager, a friend or a system.

Ultimately, when I set my sights on a goal or an injustice I don’t look for someone else to fix it and if I can’t see it all the way through, I have to draw a line for myself and decide if it’s a battle that I’m going to continue. This battle with EMCC for student rights and administrative responsibility is one that I’m going to concede for now. I’ll let my resistance build a bit. I need some peace.

I’m not saying that it is a battle that I’ll never declare but it isn’t being declared today. I’m tired. I want some sunshine, I want to swim, grill tuna steaks outside and sleep with the sound of the loons. I want to be done with school and just exist. No plans further than that.

I don’t feel right about firing that shot. Gonna unload and go home.

Prompt 15: I'm At A loss...

Me: Hello?

Her: Amy? This is *&%#. (My son’s best friend’s mother) I need to ask you an important question.

Me: Uh, okay.

Her: Do you know what &^% (her son) drinks when he’s at your house?

Me: uh oh. Am I about to get the “my son’s been drinking while at your house” accusation? God – do I really have a teenager now?
Well, I do get them a 2 liter of Brisk every Friday night. Occasionally they’ll come in with a Mountain Dew when they go to the store. He drinks chocolate milk and I have juice. Why do you ask?

Her: Because I just found an energy drink bottle in his room. Why would he bring that into my house? That stuff can kill him. I’m so pissed off right now I don’t think I’ll ever let him go out again.

Me: Uhh…

Her: Just listen to what’s in this stuff…ginger root, black tea, extract of guava. What the hell is guava? I think that’s a drug. Why would he do this? I keep Coca Cola in the house. We used to make sure it was always here but since I’m not working we have it at least a few times a week. This stuff can make your heart explode.

Me: Well, uhhhh…..

Her: Do you let your child drink this stuff?

Me: Ummm, well….

Her: Even my doctor said that like 10 of these can make you die. I can’t believe that Coca Cola – a totally family oriental company is now making this stuff. Do you believe in Coca Cola, Amy?

Me: Uhh, ummm…

Her: I’m just so pissed. Aren’t you pissed?

Me: Wow! ya know, I just realized that I’m in the shower, the baby’s in the car, the dog’s chasing the cat, supper’s on the stove, I was just on my way out, I have a doctor’s appointment, there’s been a family emergency and the fish just died. I gotta go. You take care though and I’ll make sure &^% doesn’t break any of the rules. See you later hun.

Her: Uhhh….

Me: *click*

*This was an actual telephone conversation that I had with her about 20 minutes ago. I just had to tell someone.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Practice Final - The Truth About Truth

Truth is something that was held up to me from a very early age as being one of those almost ethereal ideals. I was taught from the minute that I learned how to manipulate the truth that truth should be what guides my actions. The churches and the schools that I attended taught me that I had a responsibility to truth and that the truth would set me free. Even my comic book heroes stood for “truth, justice and the American way”. offers this as one of its definitions of truths: “Truth - That which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.” That’s a lot of punch to put into 5 letters. What I’ve learned about truth is that it comes in varying degrees of value and meaning in my life. There are the “just the facts, ma’am” truths, the soft truths and the unforgettable, mind blowing hard truths.

The “just the facts ma’am” truths are easy ones, relatively speaking. Facing them, though not always pleasant, isn’t really a life altering experience. Learning at the age of 3 that poking my sister in the eye was NOT going to get me off the hook for making my own bed is an example of this category of truth. Truth is, it left me sitting alone in my room with a sore bottom all day AND I had to make my bed. Later, at 13 realizing that no matter what I did, no matter how I screamed and pulled and teased and ironed, my hair was NEVER going to do that flippy thing that was so popular in the 70’s. These are the “just the facts” truths as I see them. They are realizations that came but didn’t upset the order of my life.

The soft truths are a little tougher. Soft truths have affected pieces of my life without touching the fabric of it. Realizing at 6 or 7 that mom and dad were Santa Claus, understanding at 14 that my teachers were fallible and that adults were mostly just tall, old teenagers, and at 16 accepting that I actually had to WORK to get money and that a specific dollar amount was assigned to what I produced – these are some soft truths that I’ve had to face in my life. Theses soft truths have certainly changed my understanding but they haven’t really affected my being.

The hard truths, now those are brutal. Those truths have brought me to my knees, sometimes in despair, a couple of times in prayer and occasionally by virtue of the punch in the gut. The hardest truth was when I realized that we’re alone in this life. We may fill it with people and things but when the lid closes on us, we’re alone. Even in life, we deal with our sadness and our disappointments alone. We may share them but only on the surface. At night when the world sleeps we are alone with them. They offer up some hard to swallow truths in the middle of the night. And then there’s the truth about love. I don’t know anyone that’s successfully dodged that hard bullet of truth. Love does NOT solve all, cure all, or redeem all. Love does NOT always stay, always give and always receive. Love is a fickle creature that takes work and patience and sometimes a letting go. That was and still is a hard truth for this girl. That particular truth is one that I’m still wrestling with.

Truth has been held up in an almost god-like manner as though it could save us or free us or make us somehow more. There isn’t anything magical about truth. It isn’t faithful or kind or righteous. It is truth, not beholding to anyone’s idea or definition of it. Maybe defines it as a supreme reality – and maybe that’s just what it is…right up to the point that it isn’t.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Graf #15: Evaluation of the Evaluator.

*what you learned: The englishy stuff: Not so much the comma splices and what nots -more the meat, the guts, the mechanisms of an essay. Okay – so not so much the pretty stuff – more its aftertaste. More importantly I learned that I CAN trust myself in the mechanical and find my voice there as well.

* whether the course surprised you in any way: It did. I don’t know that I can articulate in what ways. More about me than you I think.

* whether what you learned was worth your time and money: Oh, no doubt. I’ve taken a few English 101 classes over these years. 3 others to be exact. (No, Ain’t no idjit, just been awhile. Credits DO have a shelf life.) Anyway, from my own practical experience the 5 graf essay is one we’ll see in a lot of other classes. Good to have that tool in my belt. Wasn’t there before. I don’t mind paying for a tool that I know I’ll use.

* what was good in the course : I loved reading everyone’s blog. That was way cool and thanks, everyone for sharing. I liked your feedback, too. Some I took personally but those were the ones that I most needed. I like that I feel a little more “polished”.

*what was not good in the course: I hate these kinds of questions. It isn’t that I “liked everything about it”, I didn’t. I hated the long nights in front of the keyboard praying for the words to come and cursing you when they didn’t. I hated having to do the frappin Isearch because it was a lot like work making sure that it was, well, an Isearch. I hated the nights that NONE of the prompts worked. There weren’t a lot of those but there were some and they sucked. What I realize is that these are all things about me…not the course. And I since I don’t know you well enough to attack you personally, I’m afraid what I disliked about the course has little to do with you.

*things I should change: in general? I recommend changing your underwear, changing your toothbrush at least every three months, changing your furniture arrangement once a year just to see what treasures you find (it also changes your perspective.) At every opportunity change your pace. On your birthday every year change your mind for an entire day about something that you feel emphatically one way about. Change your mind for 24 hours and see how you feel about it the next day.
But I digress.

* things that should stay the same: Blech…nothing stays the same. But keep what you like.

*any miscellaneous advice or suggestions for me: Well, this is some good advice that was recently given to me. It took weeks before I caught the importance of it or of the huge impact that it would have on the rest of my life. I was touched by it to the point that I’ve no choice but to share it. How could I selfishly cling to my moment of enlightenment especially when asked in such a straightforward manner? No. I just couldn’t keep it for myself. Okay. Here it is:

ALWAYS, ALWAYS pillage BEFORE you burn.

(No good at those questions either. Sorry. This is why I’m the student and you’re the teacher.)

This is my second semester with John A. (don’t worry I will NEVER ask) Goldfine. I liked what you taught and what I learned and you were approachable when I didn’t. I think you know your stuff and you share it well. Your sense of humor is weird but suits you and I like that you use it to help us learn. You’re human and you don’t forget that we are too.
And if I have to write one more word on the topic I think I’ll puke.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Freestyle Week 13

I am a woman – touch me under the lace.

These days I feel less like a woman than an “it”. My passion, once so dominate, lies dormant and mostly in the background if I notice it at all. It isn’t about the sexual creature in me. It’s about the passionate one. The side of me once so full of ideas and fanciful notions is so distanced that I can hardly reach it anymore.

I don’t worry that it’s lost to me. I know myself better than that but I get lonely for that part more and more these days. I like to think of that as a sign that I’m getting closer.

Tonight, for example, the words just haven’t stopped. They flow from me undeterred and unbroken. I came in tonight to polish some ideas that I had put to Word and found that I didn’t need my own prompts. Everything that I wrote wanted to be said. I didn’t have to force a single nuance of a single passage. They don’t resound with brilliance but they are true and they are mine and they came easily.

For tonight, that’s enough for me. I can put this away, shut down the puter and go to bed feeling a little more confident that I am still in here even if a little muddied. Maybe that part of me that lives in the lace will find her back into my skin.

Certainly, the words offer hope.

Prompt Week 13

Nothing says spring like daffodils in my book. Every year it happens the same way: it’ll be a day like any other. I’ll be getting in my car, or taking out the dog or just opening the door and suddenly, where the day before there was nothing, there is a beautiful, little patch of daffodils across the street all golden and soaking up the sun. In the days immediately following, the buds start to appear on the trees and the lilac bushes start looking more alive than dead.

Daffodils signal spring cleaning both indoors and out. They signal that that time is nigh for my camp list and for the unpacking of spring attire. They bring confirmation that winter REALLY isn’t coming back and it’s safe to contemplate the fanciful days of summer.

It takes all of my reserve not to cross the street and pull them from their home to bring them into mine. Every year I say that I’m going to plant some in my square foot of yard so that I can have them on my table the minute that they blush with their blooms. Instead I settle on waiting for the rogue lilac bush that has insinuated some of its branches into my yard. One year, though, I am going to go get those daffodils. Maybe this year…it’s not over yet. Besides, they have a crowd, a host of golden daffodils. Surely there’s enough to share.

Freestyle Week 12

My house is trashed. Oh sure, the dishes are done a couple of times a day and the clutter gets shuffled around enough to give the appearance of cleanliness but it’s just plain trashed. Don’t open any of the closet doors or peer too closely into the corners. It’s spring so Sagan is shedding 3 pounds of hair a day. Even with regular brushings he leaves a cloud of hair every time he moves. Those stray hairs gather in the corners like naughty children and mock me when I catch a glimpse of them. I don’t wear my glasses in the house anymore unless I’m watching TV. It’s too much to see all the cobwebs and layers of dust.

The windows are covered with a film of winter. The porch has puked up its winter clutter which lies strewn end to end leaving hardly any room to go out and sit and enjoy these first breaths of spring. There are stacks of papers all over my desk in varying degrees of importance. I have no idea what’s in there anymore but I’m certain that it’s mostly garbage. Duplicates of bills I just haven’t gotten to, catalogues that I’ll never open and last chance invitations for magazines that I’ve never even read.

May is coming though. This time next week we’ll be staring straight down the throat of it. I’ll spend the end of May catching up on all of the chores neglected here before I go and tackle the “chore” of opening camp.

For now my house is trashed and is likely to stay that way until May 15th. I will say that I’m finding it easier and easier to live with. I couldn’t tell you if that’s a good thing or not and frankly, I’m no more in the mood to analyze it any further than I am to clean it. What do I look like - the maid?

Effect Essay - #6

I’m coming back around to me a little. It’s slow and I’m certainly not saying that I’m at 100% peak efficiency physically, but I am feeling much better and am getting a handle on my ailment - not a minute too soon and, hopefully, not a minute too late either. A lot has suffered in these last weeks. I’ve learned first-hand the devastation that a debilitating illness can wreck on a life. The emotional, physical and psychological effects can leave a path of destruction before one even realizes that it’s happening.

The emotional effects are none too subtle. My feelings lately have been raw and achy. I feel like a loser for not being able to control the symptoms enough to manage any semblance of a normal life. I feel guilty about all of the things that I’ve not been able to do and I feel weak when I compare my own illness to those of a more serious nature. All of these feelings bring on stress which exasperates the emotions which leads to more guilt and anguish. I spent hours crying on the couch in the middle of the night alternating between feeling sorry for myself and feeling disgusted with my self pity.

Physically, I’m exhausted. Between the lack of sleep and the terrible cramping and bloating my body feels beaten and a waste. I’ve tried catching up on my sleep but there’s so much to be done. There’s so much that I had to put off that I can’t afford to sleep when I know that I should. My skin is different. It seems older and depleted of its vitamins. It’s the same with my hair. My body hardly seems recognizable to my own eyes which have dark circles shadowing them. I’ve neglected doing anything that I used to do for me. No walks, no long showers, no exercising except the movement between the couch and the bathroom. Physically, I feel like one of Hagen’s train wrecks.

Psychologically, I am changed by the whole experience. It’s brought home to me the inevitably of the body’s breakdown. Intellectually, I know that I’ve a lot of years left to me but those years are going to be different years than the ones that came before. Things that I didn’t worry over now have to be considered carefully. My diet has to change, my habits, my vices all have to be reconsidered and redesigned. I also have to think about my family in a different way. I actually went online and looked at a life insurance policy. I suppose that as a mother I should have taken care of that before now but I just didn’t think about it really. At least I didn’t think about it as being immediate. It’s taken on a new sort of urgency, which depresses me a little, I’ll admit.

I am a different woman because of the last few weeks. I haven’t assimilated all of the new emotions. My body hasn’t recuperated completely from its battle and the psychology that I “run” on is in the process of being reformed leaving me at a loss for the moment. I feel certain that I’ll grow just fine through this stage in my life and understanding and I feel truly lucky that I’ve not had to deal with the implications of a more serious disease. Still, I am a different woman – my definition as yet, undiscovered.

Prompt Week 12

My son, Hagen loves trains. It isn’t an ordinary fascination with this child as I found out a couple of weeks ago when the train derailed in Bangor and three trains were trapped in the Penobscot. My sister, Hagen, Aska and I were coming home from Old Town and happened by the traffic jam of workers and onlookers at the intersection where it happened. It was raining but Hagen really needed to get up close and personal. It was, after all, a break-down train with crane and flatbed. Oh, we just had to see that in action.

I parked the car illegally on the slope of a hill and we trudged down in the rain and stood across the street from the workers. Hagen was very upset about the way that they were going about it. He kept screaming at them to get down there and get those cars out of the river. Had they never seen Thomas?

We didn’t have a great view of the real action but I spotted a house across the river that I knew was empty and for sale. I told him that I’d take him to see after I took Auntie and Aska back to the house. He reluctantly agreed to go back to the car but not before he yelled a couple more orders to the guys. One man turned around in his yellow rain gear and I swear he made a face at my little three year old. I was smiling as we plodded back to the car, Hagen babbling the whole time.

I didn’t even take him out of his car seat when we got back to the house. I grabbed a refill of my coffee, cut the front page photo of the trains out of the Bangor Daily and got right back in the car. Away we went up route 9 to the empty house. It was directly across the river from the derailment. We had a full view of everything. Though nothing was happening, Hagen stood with his nose practically pushed against the windshield holding his picture from the Bangor Daily like it was a blue print. He kept telling me that they really needed a boat and a caboose and for that breakdown train to go into the water to get those cars out. We sat there for a good half hour and then I had to insist that we go home. He didn’t like that at all and fretted all evening about those train cars in the river.

The next morning I told him that we’d go back and watch while they took the blue car out. Daddy got off to work and we jumped in the car and headed back to our post. Still nothing had happened as far as I could tell. There seemed to be a lot of milling about but all three cars were still in the water. Hagen was disgusted. He wouldn’t even leave his post long enough to eat his sausage sandwich. The newspaper picture was still in front of him and another, from that morning’s paper had joined it.

We sat there for a total of 6 hours that day watching them pull first the blue car then the red car out of the water. We watched them weld on the blue car (which subsequently caught afire) and we saw them hook the red car to the breakdown train. It was honestly the most boring and fulfilling day I’ve spent in a lot of years. I didn’t tell him about the other red car immersed so deeply as not to be visible. I couldn’t stand another day while they figured out how to get that one out.

The whole adventure lasted about 3 days with occasional stops at the empty house even on the fourth day. When the whole thing was finished, I’ll admit that I breathed a sigh of relief. I couldn’t imagine spending another minute watching an inch by inch rescue.

Just when I thought it was over, my time done, Wednesday’s paper front page color photo - a train hit a truck in Hampden. My son’s eyes lit up and looked straight at me. “You’ll have to ask Bampi to take you.” I said. “Momma’s got too much to do to go see railroad cars scattered all over the landscape like toys.”

Bampi did take him that day but he fell asleep in his car seat before they got there. I have to think that it’s really a good thing. I understand that it was closed off and no way to really see anything. Bampi likely would have acquiesced to Hagen’s pleading and found a way through. I don’t know that the workers would have appreciated Hagen’s input and that would have broken his heart.

I’ve put the newspaper clippings away for now. They’ll go in his scrapbook when the time comes. For now, we’ll just continue to walk around the toys scattered all over the landscape like…well, not railroad cars.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Prompt Week 10

Tonight I’m sitting in the dark trying to type by the light of the computer screen. I don’t want the neighbors to see that I’m still awake. I’m afraid that one or the other of them might tap on my door hoping for some respite from their eternal fighting. It starts the minute that she pulls in the driveway after work and doesn’t stop until one of them tears away in the little red car. I hate that I have to sit and listen to the horrible names that they call each other and the brutal threats that they make against one another.

Every day is another battle in their war. The same shots are fired with the same precision as the battle before. The voices get raised to the same crescendo in the same manner. Even their physical positions are unchanged. She stands in their doorway with the yellow light behind her and he paces betweens his broken down truck and the stairs. Occasionally, one of them throws something in the other’s direction and whatever it is will lie there through the night like a soldier’s boot on a deserted battlefield. In the morning their three year old daughter plays with it while her mother loads the car.

The bluebird of happiness flies over the battlefield and lands on a boot left behind.

Division Essay or was it Example? I'll get back to you.

Alright! Alright! Alright, already! I get it! I’m old. Enough of the fates or the gods or the fairies proving it. I’ve been saying for years that this wouldn’t happen to me. Oh, I’d see the look in the eyes of anyone over 40 when I’d declare it, but I was determined, dammit! I didn’t give in to the vanity of it all without quite losing the shadow of the 30’s. Until recently, I still half expected to need my id when I bought booze or went to a bar. Yeah…until recently. Age is an interesting thing now, like a compound under a microscope. I don’t quite know what I think of it, other than that I do now think of it. What it does to the mind amazes me down to my purple painted toes and demands my thoughts. My mind skips beats and stumbles and makes unannounced u-turns quite frequently these days.

I was talking to my son last week while I was cooking. We were talking about the Halo tournament at Geekzilla. I was going to have to take them and pick them up and oh - would I mind getting Aska before Matt was done with the tournament and – well you get the idea. In the meantime, I was browning sausage and chopping black olives and draining spinach and shaping the pizza dough and making sure that Hagen wasn’t doing chemistry experiments with the dog’s water and it happened – I looked at my son of nearly 15 years and forgot his name. Absolutely forgot for more than a minute. I can’t trust myself to remember much of anything though there’s so much that I need to remember. If it isn’t written down and carried with me, and sometimes even when it is, I can’t be expected to know. I didn’t realize that I needed to keep my son’s names in that same little binder. I know now.

I’ve known for three weeks that we’re out of tea bags. Several times I’ve gone to Doug’s specifically for tea bags. I come home with bread and cereal or milk and fish but still haven’t gotten the teabags. Twice I’ve gone to the cupboard in the last two days and, realizing that I STILL haven’t gotten tea bags, I immediately go to the desk and write them on what’s meant to become my shopping list. Both times, when I actually sit down to write the list' I pull out a different sheet of paper. Neither time have tea bags appeared on the list. I go in Doug's knowing that I’m forgetting something and stand in the aisles like an idiot hoping that it will come to me. It doesn’t do any good. I don’t ever remember tea bags and wouldn’t a cup of tea be lovely right about now?

Keith and I were having a discussion about meditation the other night. I was thinking about getting a set of cd’s to help me learn to relax and breathe better. I ardently defended my need to have someone outside of me (I simply can’t trust myself right now) to say over and over the words that would bring me to that quiet place…or something. About 10 minutes into my spiel I did a u-turn and adamantly, vehemently berated his thinking that I needed them. I don’t think he even had much of a chance to say anything at all either way. I don’t know even now which side of the fence I landed on. I can spend weeks bouncing back and forth and not in a quiet, questioning sort of way. Either side I’m on, I’m right and damned be those that think otherwise! Bet I’m a real joy to live with, no?

Okay. I’ll admit it. Age, no matter how I walk up to it, whether it’s full faced and open armed or cowardly pulled kicking and screaming into its greedy arms, is going to win. It’ll take pieces of my mind only subtly at first. Then - BAM! - one day, maybe I’m cooking supper or standing dumbstruck in Doug’s or in the middle of a conversation - I’m older and I can feel it in my eyes when I hear some 30 something woman say she intends to age gracefully. Yeah. The minute she figures that out, I’m buying the book.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Prompt Week 11 (out of order)

What God has put asunder let no man repair. Certainly the fates, the gods, the whatevers have placed us asunder. There is no recreation for that sort of oblivion. To attempt, to tease at it, to pretend is an injustice. There is no repair for this boat as it lie sunken in the middle of this ocean of discontent. Why bother? Why send words that pry at my life and test my fortitude? Cruelty. More of it. That place is gone to us and good riddance. I have not the time or inclination to set again those pieces in that particular order. You swiped that board. I’ve long since collected my men and retreated. What now would you have me do? No. What God has put asunder let no man repair. Enough of the attempts. Be gone. I am done.

Freestyle Week 11

There is a change that’s brewing in me. I can nearly mark its daily passing, ebbing but closer and closer: two feet in, one foot out. Each foot that comes in offers resolution of sorts but leaves questions in its wake. I’m left to wonder about the significance of age and understanding. I want to keep my ears pricked constantly so as not to miss a single decisive moment. It’s not like a crystalline experience filled with new age purples and wishing stones. I don’t have the stone jingle of the runes in a leather pouch tied to my hips. Most of the “crystalline” comes in the breakdown of the body and in the impatience for a sense of that reality. This change is growth. I know that and, as a snake sort of woman, the sloughing off of this tired skin is one of those rare and magnificent moments that I treasure - as this sort of woman. However, the affect of this on my daily life has been dramatic, upsetting and tumultuous. To have this happen at this precise moment has turned my life on it’s ear at a time that my ear needed to be steadily and solidly pinned to the ground.

My schoolwork has been an unfortunate casualty. Oh, it’s not dead but it lies piled and nearly abandoned on the outskirts. The body has allowed for no more pushing. I am no longer able to make it do my bidding lest I console it first with wanton sleep. It acts like a spoiled child with its whining and tantrums. I dream its questions and, though written on the blackboard with scientific symbols and renderings, it asks me to define my goals and refuses to continue until I am certain of them completely. Physics becomes like the idea that it was months ago. It is far removed and something that other people do. I know that I have to fight to retrieve its place in me. It is the same with my writing.

My thoughts are jumbled, incoherent though fully visible on the inside. I can feel them. I know them and they comfort me but they are outside of the reach of display. They come in shadows or twisted in their meanings and my mouth contorts itself around their pronunciation. I sound uncertain when the certainty exists. When I try to explain what is happening to me I feel a bit insane. My family worries after my health and the onset of depression. I have my moments with those thoughts but they aren’t more than moments. I understand the importance of this step into the insanity of thought even as I’m stepping over the clutter.

The house begins to reflect the upheaval. I have changed and rearranged the furniture. I am giving things away right out from under my family. It is too much clutter for so busy a mind. I plan and I scheme my world around the sparse tidiness of my mind’s goal. I need less, and fast. I’ve moved my study space away from the window. The swaying of the trees in spring’s first breath cannot distract me. I am not yet in the birth canal, only recognizing that I am to be born. To rush now would be to come into this unprepared and disorganized. The timing is everything.

I know that this time is passing. This uncertainty of my self in this body with that goal using those words in a place that reflects the cleanliness of purpose is short-lived. And if I am to grow and be committed to that growth, I must suck the life and lessons out of this time quickly. The meaning will come back. The words have never forsaken me for long and the house always manages to stand. This time, this now belongs to something greater. To ignore that would be to bully the body, mind and spirit and to forsake my future in the process. This time belongs now to the spirit. The rest of us have naught but to wait.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Freestyle Week 10

I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to even think about IBS. That’s some girlie disease like PMS. I don’t begrudge anyone (male or female) their right to any of those sorts of things but it just wasn’t going to be me. Well, it’s me. I won’t beg for forgiveness or excuse myself for my political incorrectness. Believe me, whatever vengeance has already been dished upon me.

So, I walk through the halls of my doctor’s office with those three letters plastered across the top of my chart (IBS) and I face the fact that I am a girl. I had to face it, admit and now I want to cure it. Make it go away. I don’t want to spend another half second thinking about my belly, planning my strategy holding it in. I just want to exist on the planet.

As I sat in the waiting room I read an article about menopause. Those symptoms were recognizable as well. Doesn’t matter that I just started school or that I have a 3 year old. Fact of the matter is that all of these issues are to be mine. The body is wearing down.

Oh, it was easy to sit comfortably at 35 and declare that I could go into the age thing gracefully. 35 was a breeze. It was also nearly 8 years, a pregnancy, two surgeries and a lifetime ago.

I put the magazine down and decided to watch Hagen. He makes me feel young and strong – vital even, sometimes. I consoled my feelings of wretched age and sagging everything with wisdom and lessons that I never need learn again. All those years of angst given up for happier pursuits. I am a student. I’m going for my doctorate in physics. I have a lot of living to do that really is only just beginning.

I checked my battle gear…I’m well armed. I have a great sense of myself and my place. I have learned enough about me to choose wisely my battles in my moral, familial and political lives. I’m working on getting my health squared away and a lot of bad things have been ruled out. Yep. I’m real. I don’t dye my hair to cover the grays. I think of each gray strand as a gray badge of courage. I’m proud of my age and my wrinkles. I can do the graceful aging thing.

The nurse called me in just as a smile was forming on my sullen face. As I walked past her holding Hagen’s hand and smiling she said “Oh, he’s so cute. Is that your grandson?”

One fell swoop and my armament was defeated. I was a fallen soldier on the battlefield of hope and graceful aging. I picked up my bruised and battered pride, got through the appointment and stopped at the drugstore on my way home. I’m thinking that I’ll go for the light brown hair coloring and how’s that whole Regenerist thing work? Who’s got info on Botox? To hell with grace. This is war.