Monday, August 30, 2004


I do have to say that having to report to school this morning at 8:30 AM for a faculty meeting, a grad forum meeting at 11:30, two students meetings between 1-2 and a meeting with my new supervisor at 3:15 is a bit much for my first day back in the real swing of things.

I can't wait for classes to start...I'm much more into that than the whole meeting thing.

Just thought I'd post that little update for now...more later.

Friday, August 27, 2004


In some ways it feels so weird to be on campus and in others it feels so natural.

I started my new job this week in the learning center on campus. JBS is here officially, so I've been spending lots of time with him. And basically, I feel like I have just been wandering through this week, slowly adjusting to all the new changes.

People are so amazing that way. You throw something at them, and somehow they just adjust and make it through. When I started here last year (I can't believe a whole year has gone by!) before I knew it, I was totally immersed in this new life wondering how I had gotten there. Where had all my old friends gone? Who were all these people I was hanging out with? How did I suddenly become a teacher? Who accepted me into this program and thought I could succeed?

I remember all this as I see the new people coming into the program. It's so overwhelming. I want to tell them that they don't have to try to do it all. Especially not at first. There are always those overachievers that freak everyone else out. They do everything and tell everyone else about it. But you just have to discover things at your own pace. It all works out fine, even if you don't have it all down the first day you walk into the classroom of thirty students staring at you. I wish they would believe me if I told them that.

Anyway, lots of thoughts are going through my head as I remember this past year and look forward to all the surprises this year holds. I wonder if I will ever think of a year as being January to December instead of September to June...

Monday, August 23, 2004

Ten days of fun

No matter how bad the last few weeks of teaching were, the past ten days totally make up for it.

Between the high school reunion, going out with old friends, going to Kings Dominion with JS, watching the olympics with other old friends, hanging out with my family, going running, sleeping in late, going to the beach to see college roommates, and basically avoiding school work, I have had an amazingly refreshing time.

I have had some great conversations with people, read some inspiring books and blogs, and been incredibly happy.

So today is definitely a let down, since I am starting work officially today. But I can't help but feel so lucky that I had such a great time the past ten days. I have lots to think about and a lot of fun memories to get me through the difficult times at school.

First, I was struck with how many friends I have that I realize I should keep in touch with more. My mom has always called me a "collector of people" (which I think comes from the description of the ENFP) and I think the description fits perfectly. I love keeping in touch with friends and bringing people together. And sitting in my living room with ten friends that have known me since I was 14 was so comforting and surprisingly comfortable. I kept thinking that even though I don't talk to them all the time, that somehow they still seem to know me so well and get me. That's something I still don't feel like I have here. I guess it takes time. I keep thinking that after one year of high school or one year of college, I didn't feel that close to people. So I have to give things time. But I still get homesick for that ease of being with old friends.

Then it makes me think of JS and how happy I am that he is here now. For good. All of his stuff is moved here, even his bearded dragon named Finn. He totally gets me and he makes me so much happier. I keep wondering what this year will be like. He'll be a 30 second walk away. I won't be teaching. We'll both be taking classes. All these new students are coming in. Things are always changing...and I'm excited and anxious to see what this fall will hold.

This past weekend was interesting. I went to meet my college roommates down the shore in NJ. Little did I know that the house we were staying in is actually the summer residence of fourteen other people. It wasn't as much fun as I was expecting, but it was still good to see everyone.

VBK and I got to have a long car ride together up there though and had some good talks. We wanted to spend the whole day on the beach, but a huge accident on 95 made the 3 hour ride twice as long.

I miss seeing that girl everyday. We became friends the first week of school, freshmen year. She lived down the hall and we were both from Maryland. When all the Philadelphia residents went home for labor day weekend, we stayed in and read each other our History textbook in an effort to get our college career off to a good start. We were great friends from then on and lived together junior and senior year. She is one of the ones who always knows what to say when I'm upset, knows how to ask the questions that cut you to the core and get to the heart of things. We'd be eating crappy dining hall food, and she'd look at me and ask me some incredibly difficult, but insightful question. I always wondered where she came up with them. They always made for interesting conversation. This very serious side of her is a perfect contrast to the silly, outrageously fun side to her. She isn't scared of anything and somehow always manages to get us into clubs free or get guys to buy her drinks or finds a way to convince people of things I would never even attempt. This makes me laugh and also makes me admire her.

And even though that silly, loud laugh was still present this weekend, there is a sadness in her eyes that I recognize all too well. We talked about it a little bit, but I didn't want to press the issue. It's just hard to see someone struggling with something and knowing how hard it is. Knowing that no matter what road they choose, it won't be easy. So, I am hoping that I can figure out that perfect balance of being a good friend without being too pushy. Offering just the right amount of listening and talking.

I also got to see CS - an awesome, spunky, fearless girl who makes me laugh like no other. My favorite memory of her from this weekend, which I think perfectly illustrates her personality, is when we were walking home from this bar on Friday night. She's walking a little ahead of us, with her classic athletic strut, and every person we passed on the street, she just put up her hands and said "high five." It wasn't really a question or a command, but every single person complied. And smiled about it. If there were two people walking, she walked in between them, putting up her hands on either side so they could both get her at the same time. I think she high fived 30 people walking home. It was hilarious. Just making little connections with strangers. Not a handshake or asking them to stop and chat. Just a high five in passing. A little "whatsup" without words. Classic.

And then there's HR, who brought her partner. This stirred up mixed feelings with me. I kind of just wanted it to be the four of us roommates. But it ended up being fun and just fine. We got to know her partner, JC, a little better and got to see how happy HR really is. But hanging out with them all weekend made me see how difficult it must be to live out a lesbian lifestyle everyday and endure the staring and the comments and the whispers. It made me upset and it made me feel torn. Do I want to be associated with these people that everyone else is shunning? A big part of me did. But part of me, I was surprised to find, just wanted to fit in with the crowd and not be pointed out as being with them. Although I have gay friends, it was a unique situation to be at bar that was so obviously filled with heterosexual college students and see their reactions to my friends.

Despite all that, HR does seem incredibly happy and I'm glad that she's found someone she loves.

So now that week of connecting with past people is over. It felt kind of like revisiting myself at all those stages in life. A little reminder of where I've been that I think is helping me realize where I'm going.

Monday, August 16, 2004


Saturday afternoon: five year high school reunion.

I was so nervous before I went. I called Courtney: "Do I want to look hot or sophisticated?" She just laughed. Hmm. I guess a little of both would have to do. So then, what to wear? No one was home for advice except my dad, so I presented him with the options. A knee-length skirt with big floral print. Or dressy khaki tommy hilfiger pants. His response: "Well, I've never worn a skirt, so I'd say the pants." Then I called Jesse. His response: "The skirt could be hit or miss - some people might not like the print." Oh. This had not occured to me. "Well, is it flattering?" "Well, yeah." Not convinced - pants it is. Add in a black tank top, and the pointy black high heeled shoes that I love. (Nevermind the fact that Kito chewed the heel of them - I decide that the pants are long enough the chewed part of the shoe will not be exposed. I love the shoes too much not to wear them).

But first, I must iron perfect creases into the pants. Jodi walks up to me. "I'm nervous!" I confide in her. "I can't believe it's been five years since you were in high school!" No kidding. I'm getting old. "Rach," she says, patting me on the back, "You've come a long way in five years." I have? Hmm. Yes, as a matter of fact, I have, I think. I ask her to explain what she means, but she just says "Oh, I don't know," and walks away.

I flash back to a distinct memory of my high school graduation rehearsal. They passed out three by five cards. "Where do you think you'll be in five years? We need you to write down any contact information so we can find you for the reunion." This idea frightened me. My parents were moving that summer, but I had no idea where they were going. No address. I pictured myself in five years at 23...where would I be living? Would I be married? What would I be like?

Okay, back to the present task at hand - getting dressed. Eventually I make it out of the house, go pick up Courtney, and venture in the rain to the bar where the reunion was being held, toting my polka dotted umbrella (which would later be left behind while eating late night burritos at Chipotle).

Then the long evening began. I had a fabulous time seeing old friends. It's funny how quickly reunion etiquette is established. "Heyyyyy {insert name here if you can remember it or look at it on the name tag}, how are you?! It's grrrrreat to see you! What have you been up to?" Then, the same question is asked of you, at which point you give a succinct one sentence answers that somehow sums up and quantifies your life. "I'm in grad school at Penn State studying interpersonal communication." "Oh, great," they say.

I wish there was time for more interesting questions. So, how have you changed in five years? Or, what was the biggest lesson you learned since high school? Or, what was the most amazing book you read or class you took? But of course, these questions require thought and time, and are not suitable for a conversation that requires yelling because the music is too loud.

But then, I would ask questions like "How's your family?" and find that someone's dad or mom had passed away. Or I would find out that a friend would never run again because he had been in a bad car accident. Hearing sad news, I would quickly rearrange my face into one of sympathy, trying to grasp the amount of heartache and hardtimes that could be crammed into five years.

I feel lucky. I still have my parents. I can still run. I haven't endured any serious tragedies. And although there have been some hard times, the past five years have been full of blessings.

All in all, we had a great time, drinking too much, and reminding each other of funny high school stories. I tried to start a game of name that person. Our graduating class was around 800 people, so inevitably there were people there that I didn't recognize. Is that David White? I asked. But no one knew that name, so I decided I must have made it up.

I felt supremely special to be surrounded by people that saw me grow up. Even though we don't know much about each other's lives now, it didn't seem to matter. We have shared experiences, a shared past. I was suprised how comfortable I felt around them.

We exchanged cell phone numbers and email addresses and promised to meet for lunch sometime soon. And maybe we will. But even if we don't, I feel like it was a gift to cross paths with them again - to connect with them again, even if it was brief. There was no talk about the specifics of grad school of annoying students that make my life hell. No talk about what to write my thesis on, or what classes I was taking this semester. Those are the things that normally dominate my conversations with people at school. But this was all about the moment. With not enough time to figure out details about what was going on with someone, we were forced to just soak up the presence of each other.

So, this amazingly fun filled weekend is a great start to my week off. Right now, I am curled up on my parent's couch with my laptop, a blanket, and kito sleeping happily next to me. Someone is mowing their lawn outside, and kids are riding their bikes, determined to enjoy the last days of summer freedom. I have already had one cup of coffee my dad brought back from Africa and I might even have another.

Days like today, I can't help but be happy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Officially, as of 12:25 today, August 11th, I am officially finished with my teaching duties for the summer. Whew.

My terror student came in today to pick up his grade and asked in a meek voice (his whole attitude towards me changed after the meeting with the course instructor), "So I am going to get credit for the course?" Fortunately (for him and me, I suppose), he passed with a solid D. In some majors, that counts as passing.

So, now I have a whole ten days stretching out ahead of me like welcoming arms. I have exciting things to look forward to.

1) Going home this weekend and going to my 5 year high school reunion. Although this seems a bit cheesy (do we really want to see each other after only five years?), there are some people I am looking forward to seeing.

2) Eating at home. Being a poor graduate student means that I look forward to things such as not having to stock my own fridge, even if it's only for a week.

3) Seeing college roommates. Next weekend, I'm headed to the beach (another plus!) to see my dear three college roommates, Vickie, Heather, and Carolyn. I haven't seen Heather since graduation day and have only seen the other two a few times. I really hope this is a weekend full of relaxation, laughter, and connection.

4) Working on my thesis. Okay, I'm actually not looking forward to this at all, but if I put it on the list of things I should be doing in the next week or so, then maybe it will come true. We Perceivers (Myers Briggs lingo) are always hoping that somehow the act of making a list will miraculously turn us into organized, productive people, regardless of whether we actually do anything with the list or remember we have it.

5) Going on roller coasters. I am hoping to convince some people to go to an amusement park (if you're interested, let me know!) to scream my heart out and stand in way too long lines, eat crappy park food, and enjoy every second of it.

For now, I am about to leave my office, ready to turn in my final grades and be free of all the hassles of the past six weeks. I know they'll be some gems to recover from this mess eventually, but for now, I am just happy to be in the clear. Maybe I'll even go to the pool today and soak in some sunshine.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Thank you

I just got a call from a good friend and a thoughtful email from another friend in response to my pathetic post last night. Thanks to both of you and the rest of you who might be thinking of me. I appreciate the support in difficult times!

Things are on the upswing. By this time tomorrow, final grades will be in and I will be a free woman for a couple of weeks before classes start again. Thank goodness!

Monday, August 09, 2004


I'm not even sure if I can explain why I am crying right now, but I am. It's been a long day anyway, but suddenly I feel like an avalanche has come crashing down on me.

One little thing is all it takes sometimes to create an imbalance - one that you don't quite have enough resources to cover.

I just feel so inadequate. Like I'm trying as hard as I can and I still might be treating some people unfairly or not making the best decisions. Normally, I'm pretty confident about my abilities...But right now I just feel like giving up. Like I just can't handle one more complaint or email or comment from my students. I want to hear them, I want to make things right, but I just don't have space to process it and handle it.

I keep struggling to put this whole teaching thing this summer into perspective. No matter how bad it is, it will be over in TWO days. Anyone can make it through two days, right? And plus, my life could be so much worse. If complaining students are the worst problem I have these days, then I'm blessed.

Nonetheless, the stress and emotional response to all this is taking a toll on me. I keep doubting myself and then I get mad for not being more sure of myself. It's so hard not to let every little thing change you, knock you over, make you reconsider who you are and the way you're living your life.

How do you find that balance? A place where you are sure of yourself and confident, but at the same time open to suggestions and to the possibility that at anytime you could realize you were way off. How can you operate off the assumption that you are doing your best, while taking into account the probability that you are screwing up, too? It's so frustrating and inexact...

So, for now, I am going to bed. Maybe in the morning at least my confidence in my ability to handle my faults will be back in place.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Happy Anniversary!

I haven't had any time this week to write, but I had to post this saying HAPPY 25th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY to my wonderful parents.

I'm so proud to have them as my parents and to have the privilege of having them raise me. I have so many wonderful memories from growing up and I realize now how many sacrifices they had to make for that to happen.

Raising four kids can't be easy. I know we made their lives difficult sometimes: we made it hard for them to spend time together, made them go without sleep, caused them to worry about us, used up tons of their money, messed up the house, wrecked cars, said stupid things, fought with each other, begged for pets we weren't allowed to have, and maybe we even made them question why they wanted to be parents in the first place.

But somehow, through all the difficulties of life and raising a family, they managed to create a warm, loving household where everyone is always welcome. In high school even our friends knew that they never had to ask - the door was always open at our house. Because of this, there were always tons of people at our house. In addition to all the friends we had over, my parents also rented out our basement to college students early on in their marriage and dad was always taking in homeless people or travellers passing through. It amazes me the generousity and trust they found in their hearts. I feel lucky to have witnessed that and been influenced by those important values: always show love to others.

I remember the first time I really saw my parents as fuller people, instead of only the roles they played in my life as parents. I remember asking my mom about when she and my dad met and what she thought was going to happen with them. I remember thinking that she was full of hopes and doubts and dreams, just like I was. Even though she is further along in the journey, we are so alike, I thought. I wanted to know more about each of them and what they were like before I came along. I felt like I was discovering two whole new people in my life. Here I had known my parents only as they existed and interacted with me...but there was so much more to them! I remember tucking away this revelation like a treasure, promising myself I would uncover it again, in an effort to never limit my view of my parents again.

So, in all this rambling at 1 AM technically a day after their anniversary, I guess I just want to say thanks mom and dad. I know it couldn't have been easy all these years, but I hope you can say as surely as I can that it was worth it. I'm excited for this next phase in your relationship, where you can get to know each other again and sit back and watch your kids go do great things in the world. You put a lot of work into us, and it paid off. You put a lot of work into your relationship and that paid off, too! Happy Anniversary! Here's to another 25 rich, happy years, full of surprises, laughter, love, and joy.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Oh the ups and downs...

I'm so happy today and so exhausted. It's been an interesting couple weeks.

First, J.Stone moved here this weekend...I'm so excited about all that, but I think I'll save that for a separate post.

For the ending to my saga last week with my student, read here:

Today, I brought my course instructor in with me to watch this student's speech and evaluate it with me. I trust his opinion and since this student refused to meet with us, I figured I'd bring the meeting to him. The meeting lasted over an hour after class, but I think it was productive. Luckily, my supervisor was very straightforward and stern at first and the student responded much more respectfully than he usually does with me. My supervisor has been teaching for 35 years and is a male, so perhaps this is part of the reason. Anyway, there were even a few tears from this student as my supervisor explained that he had little chance of passing this class and that if he wanted to continue his behavior must change. At the end, he even looked me in the eye (which is rare) and apologized for the way he treated me. I was satisified. I have six (only 6!) class periods left with these students. He has one speech left. And I will be left with the decision of whether to pass him or not. Tough decisions.

Anyway, besides that, I didn't do much this weekend. But that was okay with me. Friday night, I honestly stayed home and cleaned and cleaned (okay after a bit of shopping - it was pay day.) Then Saturday, I did some more shopping after helping friends move. I really want to get my haircut. I'm thinking like Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Terminal. If anyone reading this has any opinions regarding this, let me know! Getting a haircut can be traumatic experience, especially for those of us with long hair. So we'll see.

Okay, well I can't anything else right now because we must go running. Then off to see the village. Scary...