Good Decisions, Bad Reasons, And Consequence

So, a lot of people know I went back to grad school this past fall.  I’d tried bad at math birdto go in 2013, and ended up leaving due to what I thought at the time was just bad headspace brought on by a lot changes – job ending, cat dying, trying to start a new job, etc.

So I was trying again.

This was a horrible decision.

Not because I’m not smart, capable, etc.  I know I am (even when I don’t feel it.)

Not because it was a bad program.  Wayne’s MLIS is a great program with many fine and fantastic grads.  Through both times I tried it, out of 5 teachers, I only had one bad experience.  Granted, she was spiteful, punitive, and singlehandedly brought me to the edge of a nervous breakdown, but she’s also adjunct, and thus hardly representative of the faculty.

But it was absolutely, without a doubt, the absolute wrong place for me.  For a lot of reasons.

  1. Wrong format: This was the primary pitfall, for me – the program is almost entirely online.  I have never been good with interacting with people online.  There are a lot of introverts who are better with online interactions than in person, and I am absolutely not one of them.  Chat I can manage, but asynchronous interactions like discussion boards – I am total crap at this. I forget to check, I forget to post, I glaze over too often when reading things by people whose faces I cannot see.

    As much as dealing with people is not my favorite thing in the world, I  need to be able to see people – see the way they talk, they way their eyes light up, the way they move their hands – and hear them – the modulations in their voice that indicate confusion or excitement – to really connect with a discussion.  Lack of people-contact also makes lectures extraordinarily difficult for me.  Watching a powerpoint slide show go by and listening to someone just doesn’t cut it – I end up focusing a *lot* on all the wrong things, and getting very little out of the lecture.

    For me, discussion is where it’s at.  That’s when I learn best, when I can talk out ideas and concepts.  ADD can make reading textbooks difficult – discussion helps me understand what ADD causes me to miss in the readings.

  2. Bad preparation: I struggle with depression and anxiety.  I don’t use that verb lightly.- it is a literal fight, with myself, every damn day.  It’s all documented, but I have never asked for accommodation – I never thought I needed it, in college.  In hindsight, I know that’s not so, and I’ve known for a good long time that high school would have turned out very differently had I had accommodations, had i known what I even needed.

    That, right there, is the issue.  I know I need accommodations, I know I’m eligible for them, and I know how to go about asking – I’m just not even sure what I should be asking for.  I’ll be talking to someone about that, eventually, to help identify strategies that would actually help.  I think one of them would be time to talk to either the teacher or a tutor, to talk out the readings and make sure I understand them.  Beyond that?  THat’s something I need to figure out, most likely with the help of someone who can ‘see’ my deficiencies with more objectivity and scope than I can.

  3. Wrong time: Library and Info Science is a great discipline, and I can see an alternate version of myself – maybe younger, maybe older, I don’t know – being very happy and fulfilled in this.  But the reality is that it’s not what I’m interested in right now – it’s what I’m good at.  Being good at it already is not enough for me, and the challenges that it presents are primarily trivial (as imposed to interesting – that is, they’re not unimportant, they’re just not particularly vital, to my mind,)  And the reality is that, with my ADD, if it’s not interesting to me in an immediate and vibrant way, I’m going to struggle.

    (I can’t discount that maybe it’s the way the program handles it, either, There’s always the chance that somewhere down the road I may go back to the discipline in another program. But at present, I doubt it.)

  4. Wrong discipline: a.k.a., I’m a great big fat hypocrite.  I realized, at one point, that all of my language about doing this was ‘it’s a useful degree,’ ‘it capitalizes on knowledge and capabilities I already have,’ ‘I’ll be able to take it anywhere,’ and worst of all: “it’s practical.’

    Here’s the thing: I already have practical skills.  I have 20 years of admin and database experience.  I will always be able to find a job – as an admin.  With an MLIS, I would move up a few rungs, maybe change environments, but it would still be similar work.

    That I don’t really want.

    What use getting better and more sophisticated at something that doesn’t, in itself,  make me happy?



So, what’s next?  I have some ideas.  I have some plans, but for right now, I need to take a step back and grieve my failures.  I think it’s important to do that, so that when I do move forward with my next project, I can do so without the spectres of this experience haunting me, dogging my steps and biting my heels until I fall again.  I don’t want to have learned nothing from all of this.

So for the next little while, I will couch it up with my cats, read a library’s worth of fiction, knit until my fingers fall off, binge watch Person of Interest, and actually see real people who I adore and have conversations with them that aren’t about my own misery and guilt.  That should be a nice change of pace.

The Laziest Rebel

It’s not really supposed to work like this.

I mean, when you fail to post on a blog for two years, I’m pretty sure what you’re required to do by some unspoken agreement is pretend the abandoned blog has never actually existed, go create a new one, and proceed to announce the existence of the new one with ever-so-slightly abashed fanfare.  I, however, am far too lazy to create a whole new blog that will probably not really be all that different.  There’s not even any real guarantee that I’ll not abandon this one within a few days; months if I’m lucky.

And, if one is going to return to a blog one hasn’t been posting to in some time, there’s supposed to be an apologetic ‘Wha’ had happen was,’ type paragraph.  I rarely find those very interesting, so I won’t subject you to it.  Also, I am lazy, and not in the mood for self-flagellation of that, or any, variety.

So.  Recapping Thanksgiving.  Let’s talk about food.  Sort of.

Thanksgiving is kind of a weird holiday for me.  It’s too late for a last-harvest feast, and too early for a midwinter feast, both of which, on their own, would evoke a sort of sympathetic magic “much food=much plenty for the year” sort of thing.  It’s gained a sort of “Intensive Family Holiday” sheen, but for me it’s capped on both sides by family death remembrances.  Add to this the fact that I tend not to much care for the “traditional” dishes, and I end up being mostly pretty ambivalent about the whole thing.

But, ambivalence or no, I get two days off for it.  That, and a heaping helping of tacit cultural expectation.

We all know the expectations surrounding Thanksgiving: one is expected to spend it with one’s family, the more dysfunctional the better, or with chosen family if your family is too dysfunctional for that sort of thing.  Usually some number among the group (usually men) will watch football, while some number among the group (usually women) will cook, and some other number among the group (children/pets) will be underfoot.  And there will be absolute MOUNTAINS of food.

Most of these expectations are relatively mutable, except for that last.  If there are not MOUNTAINS of food, you have failed at Thanksgiving.

To which I say: Fuck. That. Noise.

For Thanksgiving day, which was just Mr. The Jeff, myself, and Dragon Age, I made a duck, a package of wild rice, enough salad for two people, and a pie plate of apple crisp.  That’s IT.  Extravagant – we wouldn’t normally have duck – but modest.  He is not really “leftover people,” and I am only marginally so.  I have a little bit of leftovers for lunch this week, a good amount of duck fat, and a carcass to make stock from.

Friday, which has become “Momsgiving,” wherein we eat Thanksgiving dinner with my mom and pretend we’re going to put Christmas decorations up for her but never really get around to it, was also an extravagantly modest affair.  I destroyed her kitchen in pursuit of cooking acorn squash, roasted mushrooms, a bitter spiced salad, and the worlds most expensive roast beef.  We joked that for what the roast cost, we should be able to prep it and then just show it the flame, and it should perfectly cook itself.  The process was a little more involved than that, but it did turn out well.  Mom made a pumpkin cheesecake.  A little bit of leftovers, easily divvied up, and that was it.

And that’s enough.  Which is really, to me, what Thanksgiving should be about.  Having enough.  Not being weighted down with blessings that we need to be thankful for – there is a point at which plenty begins to require a gratitude which ceases to bring us joy because it becomes an unceasing obligation.  “Yet another thing to be thankful for, can we please be done now? No?  Damn.”

Don’t get me wrong – gratitude is good.  About three, four times a year we get another study or demonstration of the fact that expressing gratitude makes people happier in themselves.  But sometimes, it’s too much.  There are times when it becomes an obligation to be grateful for things over which we feel we didn’t really need, didn’t ask for, and sometimes didn’t even want.  There are times, for certain people, when it feels like an obligation to be happy, to be happier than we are, or are perceived to be.  I get a little tired of that, personally.

We all had enough, and that’s what we hope for, through the darkness of the winter, enough.  We don’t need mountains of food, mountains of blessings.  We don’t need to outdo each other with how involved our cooking duties will be, with how much food we’ll need to prepare for how many people.  We don’t need to compete to prove that we are most blessed, and therefore more loved, by family or god or the universe or whoever.  Just enough.  There are millions of people for whom “enough” is an aspiration, not a reality.  Maybe we shouldn’t get quite so carried away with how much more we have than they do.

Wednesday What’s: Errant Edition

Since interesting things aren’t really happening at the moment, I’m forgoing the list and rambling.  Which will actually probably make for a shorter, more easily read post.  Go figure.

No one who knows me will be surprised that I am, on balance, pleased with how the election turned out.  I have a feeling that Obama will be a very different second term president than he was a first term one, about which I am cautiously hopeful.  The balance is more or less maintained in Congress, and the rightwing rape apologists got their wrists slapped.   State-wide, the proposals were a mixed bag.  I would have been happy if two, three, and four had gone differently, but the fact that one, five, and six lost pleases me immensely.

I am all registered for classes, financial aid accepted, and go to an orientation day on December 7.  So far, I see no books assigned, which means most reaings will likly go through blacboard, I think.  Or they’ll get the book lists to the bookstore eventually.  So, it’s really real.  Which is a little terrifying, but there you have it.  I am a grad student.  Or I will be, anyway.

Theoretically, we are going to Iowa for Thanksgiving.  I still need to make some arrangements around that, but it is largely settled.  It will be the first time I’ve traveled for Thanksgiving in…  a while?  I want to say several years, but I think we went down to Indiana for a holiday recently, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.  I know last year we had it in our apartment, which was rather nice.  But, Iowa promises to be yummy, and it will be good to see the folks there.  And also the folks in Illinois on the way back.  I should probably warn them about that.

I’ve been playing Skyrim, again, recently.  Someday I may actually finish the main questline of the game.  Someday.  Right now I’m wandering around trying to get  Falkreath to sell me land so I can build a house.  I rather like RPG problems.  There’s always a solution, and in the meantime you can go do other things, like be attacked by bears.  This happens to me a lot.  Not as much as it did in Oblivion (this game’s predecessor, for those who have other things to to do with their days off,) but still rather more than you’d expect.  This world has some very aggressive bears.


She worried at the small patch of smooth, hard skin at the tip of her thumb, sharp nails over burnt skin, the sensation oddly distant. Every few seconds she’d switch to smoothing the first two fingers over the same patch, feeling for differences, for sensation reciprocated. Then scraping and prodding once more. She leaned back with a sigh, wrapping her thumb in the fingers of her other hand to stop the nervous scratching. The skin itself lacked sensation, but the nerves beneath were beginning to buzz from overstimulation. “What do you think, Boss?”

The cat blinked sleepily at her from his perch atop the bookshelf, his opinions his own for the time being. He was doing his best knick-knack impression, a lone tchotchke among dust bunnies of minimalism and neglect, orange fur riotously out of place in the subdued blacks and watery greys of the room. She turned her head to the window, lifting her hand to bite at her thumb, stopping only because she didn’t want to get chapstick on her fingers. The view was uninspiring, weak sunlight sliding over faded brick kept fastidiously free of ivy, the comfort of its familiarity losing out to the need for some prompt, some spark of an idea that might tip the scales in favor of one side or the other.. “I just… I don’t know. It’s not like it’s a big decision. Not really. When you get down and think about it.”

She stood and tried to pace, one foot in front of the other, ten steps to, ten steps fro, but the motion felt out of place in her legs, so she sat back down. Waited. Stood up again and moved to the couch and sat, again. Unattended, her nails returned to the burn on her thumb, scratching, scraping, pulling, ineffectually. The cat leapt down, stalking imperially to the chair she’d vacated and jumping into it, leeching a little warmth from her absence. The cat tucked himself into a loaf, facing her with patient, expectant eyes. She glowered back. “Don’t look at me like that. It’s not. Lots of people make far more important decisions every day. Sometimes several times a day. Before breakfast, even.”

The cat took a deep sighing breath, closing his eyes to nap, and she deflated into herself, drawing her feet up onto the couch and wrapping her arms around her knees. She leaned into the back of the couch, its clean clinical lines offering little in the way of embrace. The doorbell chimed, the muted belling descending carefully into the silence, unnoticed save for a twitched ear on the cat’s behalf. The silence swallowed the noise, stowing it away for safekeeping before the bell chimed again, almost apologetic. With a sigh, she pulled herself up from the couch, each step a layer of self building, one atop the other, from sullen and slouching to self-possessed austerity. Her hands dropped elegantly to her sides, fingers loose and unconcerned.

The cat curled in on himself with a sigh.

Friday Five: A Rose By Any Other Name


  1. Fun fact: when moving back to the Michigan from California, I applied to Wayne State as an undergrad.  They accepted me (though I ultimately chose to go to UofM-Dearborn,) and apparently assigned me an email – so my Wayne email is under my maiden name.  Heh. 
  2. I’ve researched the process of legally changing our name to my maiden name rather than Cariad’s family name, (which he is totally on board with,) and though it looks like a rather annoying process, we’ll likely go through with it in the near future.  It amuses me a little to think that one of the primary benefits of this will be that all of my institutionally assigned email addresses will go back to making sense again.
  3. What a difference a word makes:  Average salary for an Administrative Assistant: $34K.  Average salary for a Development Assistant?  $46K.  Now to find someone who will pay me either.  I remember talking with Bishop Gibb, I believe, who said something to the effect of ‘being a religious organization doesn’t exempt us from paying market price for skills.’  Sad to say, that is not the prevailing attitude.  I realize that economic circumstances create pressure, but it is still frustrating.
  4. I’ve never been much of a cut flower person, but due to a spate of shall we say ‘resident departures’ we have had a lot of flowers lately.  I find myself in a state of flower fatigue – I still like them, but big bunches of them just do NOT do it for me.  I currently have a very ikebana arrangement with a leafy thing and two orchid stalks.  It is making me quite happy.
  5. I am being moved to an office with a sign that says Development and Community Relations.  Maybe now the residents where I work will have some idea what I’m there for…

This Is Not My Beautiful Life

This past Sunday was an almost perfect day.  Gray and damp, with that special push of wind that seems to scour your bones gloriously, enlighteningly clean as it passes by, passes through.  It was a little warmer than it should have been, the unseasonable mildness the only hint of the dis-ease that has riddled the weather this past year even more than those before.

The earth is shouldering its way into the death-sleep of winter, grumbling uncharitably to the too warm air.  Not that the air can help it, not really, the only sign it’s even aware of the unrest its disordered behavior causes a certain apologetic sadness in the rain it scatters heedlessly into earth too swollen or too parched to swallow it in.

And this is the way a year ends, stepping into the dark and laying down, sullen-unwilling and grateful-tired.  People, carried along with it, some fearful of the dark, looking forward to the clamoring holiday clangor of light’s last gasp; some few eager for the dim rest that winter affords.  Working on a personal photography project, I find myself wanting to stop the car, wherever it is I’m going, to take pictures of trees, aflame or enflamed with autumn’s descent into winter.  To capture the most beautiful colors, the ones nature offers only parsimoniously on such a grand scale, an eyeblink of the year before snatching them all away again, hoarding them for the flowerbeds of industrious gardners.

I never stop though, something about which I felt a vague sense of existential discomfort, that needling in the hindbrain signaling something that needs to be examined, teased apart and considered fully.  The trees, the colors, the cacophany that is fall in the northern midwest, it is one of those things that makes the world beautiful.  Beauty that helps to ease * some of the the economic and social discomfort that are the day to day realities of our state.

But it’s not what makes the world around me mine.  Beauty, to me, is sort of an aesthetic anasthetic.  My mind processes something as visually pleasing to a general ‘audience’ and then stops thinking about it, unless otherwise prompted.  As if beauty were not only objective, but an end in itself.   I won’t go into the whys and wherefores, but I will say that it is that acceptance of soialized beauty as a cognitive stopping point that is the source of a great deal of my own alienation.  I find the beauty that ‘everyone sees’ in things, and thus exclude myself from the world they inhabit.**

So this project has a two-pronged approach.  The first is that I (try to) take a self-portrait every day, unedited and largely unprepared for, and then make myself look at them until I can accept the photographic evidence of myself-as-object-in-the-world – because oh, yes, there is a decidedly philosophical bent to this.  The second is to take pictures of the world: not the world as ‘objectively’ beautiful, but as subjectively mine.

I will write more about this oddyssey as the whim arises, but my early stage evaluation is thus: it is an interesting journey that I’ve set myself on.  Interesting in the engaging sense, but also with a sense of nervousness, an awareness that I am uneasy about what I will find.  I know the whole of the journey will not be simply acheiving a sense of engagement-with-the-world, but then going forward with it.  That is what stirs a susurrus of dormant dread in the belly.  Rather appropriate for the witching season, eh?

*Not my state, but a very good piece.  You should go read it.

** If ony body dysmorphia were a rational thing, I might have conquered it already.

Wednesday What’s-es: October Squee

Listening to: Depends which way I’m driving, these days.  Mostly Pandora, really, until I get around to putting more music on my phone.  Usually it’s dance radio in the moring, to wake me up, and then John Denver/Paul Simon/Mumford and Sons type stuff on the way home, because it’s soothing.  

At home, the sound of traffic.  There is this odd quality to the sound of the cars out on Washtenaw when one sits in Cariad’s office – it makes all the cars sound like snowplows – rumbly-scrapy and ponderous – or lawnmowers on crack.  I think it’s nifty.

Eating: I made Chickpea of the Sea spreadlast night, substituting capers for the umeboshi vinegar.  The little spoonful I had was tasty- the substitution seems to be successful – the rest is for sammiches this week.  I am also working my way through the world’s most precious supply of honeycrisp apples – $6 for 3 pounds.  They didn’t have the $4 ones (Jonathan apples, which are not bad for the price but not my preference,) so at that point I was going to pay $5 for 3 lbs if I wated apples at all.  I figured it was worth the extra dollar for apples I actually like.

Drinking:  Not enough water.  I tried a bottle of Lime-Cucumber Gatorade (on the premise that I really like the lime flavor of their “Rain” flavors: it’s lime without the overwhelming acidity, and very tasty.)  This was not a successful experiment, judging by the heartburn.  Fake cucumber flavor is… not a positive use of culinary science.

Reading:  Plato’s Gorgias.  Rhetoric, its relation to politics, then on to a discussion about the goals of life.  That’s what the abstract says, anyway.  I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done, maybe.

Watching: Alphas.  Boy, oh, boy did I start watching this too soon.  Cariad and I are working our way through the first season, and quickly.  Soon I will be reduced to actually waiting for episodes.  Quelle horreur.  Really, though, this show is an actually quite awesome exploration of super-human abilities possessed by human beings.  The characters are multi-dimensional, and the powers they possess are explored in  excellent detail.  Which is not to say there isn’t a certain amount of handwavium, but it’s good.  Which means that it will no doubt be cancelled in the very near future.

Playing:  Dragon’s Dogma.  Jeff calls it the single-player MMO.  I can see why – certainly several of the ‘make-work’ quests are reminiscent of MMORPGs, but I rather like it.  This also marks the first time I have had the leeway to create a character who actually physically looks like me.  Which is interesting, and quite likely part of my attachment to what is otherwise, thus far, a pretty straightforward video game.

Wearing:  Skirts and dresses.  Hah, I say that as if I have multiples.  Which I do, so long as we are talking anything more than one – I have three skirts, one of which is about to be retired for winter (it’s lightweight, and pastel,) and two (work appropriate) dresses, one of which is quickly approaching ‘retirement to the pajama drawer’ status.  But, in an effort to reduce decision fatigue and save energy for things that actually matter, I’m trying to routinize the wardrobe.  If I only  own three pairs of pants that are suitable for work – and right now, I do – then I need to cover the lower half of me somehow.  So, skirty things it is.

Writing:  This stuff.  Trying to do it every weekday, with some experiments.  I make no promises.

Thinking: About how to do Thanksgiving.  Our presence has been requested in/invited to Dubuque, so there will be car renting.  I’ll likely try to leave work early on that Wednesday, drive out, and probably drive back on Sunday.  If schedules and budgets allow it, maybe that Monday, but we shall see.

Feeling:  Nervous to go back to school as a grad student in January.  It’s a little surreal, but it will be a welcome step forward.  I mean, holy crap, I’m going to grad school.  Online.  Doing school things.  Ack!  But on the other hand, whee!  When am I going to have time to do anything?  Oh, right, I don’t do all that much right now.  Well, that’ll take care of itself, now won’t it?

Wanting: UM med development to call back, which is looking rather unlikely att his point.  Which is sad, because I would really have liked to work there, but also because it means I have to back to actively job hunting, which is tedious and humbling.

Needing:  More time or more focus.  The latter would be better, the former would allow more sleep.  Adding concerta into my medication mix has helped, the rest is mostly a lot of scattered-ness that I have allowed to creep in.  Always problematic, because it’s so much harder to root it out than to guard against it.

Enjoying: Hazelnut coffee.  The receptionist ordered a box of it, mostly at my suggestion.  Coffee at work is now suddenly so much better…

And, the weather:  Yesterday was *gorgeous.*  Clear, blue and mild.  A break from the weather Ireally, really like, which is to say grey, colder, adn windy.  Love those fall days.  I could do with lower humidity on those days, to keep my knee from getting cranky, but I tae what I can get.