Monday, March 18, 2013

The Agony of....Defeat??

Most of you know that I was "rejected" from UVA last week. "Rejected" is in quotation marks because  I still haven't been officially notified. I sent an email to the admissions director of the English Department, asking if PhD candidates are automatically considered for unfunded MA's if they are not suitable doctoral candidates. This is sometimes the case. In most instances, people refuse this offer, as why in the world would someone want to repeat a degree they already have, and pay for it to boot?

After some soul searching Bryon and I thought, in our situation, it might not be a terrible idea, to at least start an unfunded MA at UVA, since it would keep my foot in at UVA, and it would be our best bet at keeping our family together. Then, I could reapply there the following year, and transfer the same credits to a doctoral program (assuming I got in). See, my PhD dreams are complicated by Bryon's career, which is at a crossroads with IDE (his military education). He has to put in where he wants to go (like as in this week). He can select someplace like here, or Alabama, and then a follow-on here (which would align perfectly with a school like UVA--one that I have almost no chance of getting into, but keeps our family together); or, he can select a random location like TX or some other locations, and I can hope that I get into a school there (but, that's like winning the lottery twice--he has to get that assignment AND I have to get into that school). So, we are putting all our eggs in the UVA basket and hoping.

Alas, the director replied to me almost immediately with the devastating news that no, they do not automatically consider PhD applicants for MA programs, and that no I'm not into either program. He did say that they aren't done considering, and that it's not official, however. So, I've spent a couple of days either moping or diligently planning what I should be doing to fix this situation (mostly moping). I pretty much cried it all out when Catholic's rejection came. Still, there have been some tears (mostly whenever Bryon tries to comfort me).

Anyway, I've got some concrete plans about what I will do and what I should be doing to improve next year's application and what I hope to accomplish by then, but it's all still a crap shoot, I've learned. We'll see what happens. I'm not giving up hope. The goal is to move to Fredericksburg, apply for the fall, get in, and forget this whole mess.

However, this morning, I emailed the director again, and asked him who I should speak with in the Medieval department about improving my application specific to that department and he told me to hold off until I'm officially rejected because there's an open house for accepted applicants. Seriously? Why are they torturing me? If I've been rejected, why aren't the notifications out? Why does my application show that it's still processing? Why make me wait? Why the delay? Why the grey area from this guy? What is the deal? This is horrid. I know that it's over, but this is just awful. The official word from the admissions office is that notifications must be out by 1 April, so at least permanent torture will be over by then.

I'm very excited to do this again next year.

Rambling post: out.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Beginning (of the end??)

As most of you know by now, I got my first rejection today. George Washington sent out a bunch of notifications today, and from the looks of the stats it's been all rejections (so, at least I'm not alone). Well, I did hear of one girl, who was bitching about being on the waiting list. To that I say, "Yeah, it must suck to be not outright rejected. Tell me more about how your life sucks."

Bryon was sleeping when the email came in to check my application, so Collin sat on the chair with me, and literally held my hand while I checked. When I immediately started crying, he didn't know what to do, so started hugging me, and started crying too because he was as sad as I was. He told me, "Mommy, when you are sad, I'm sad." Then, he said, "Mommy, I wanted them to say yes for you too!"

Without my boy, I'm not sure what I'd have done today. Once I stood up, to go wake Bryon (he agreed that any school news was grounds for waking him, even on midnight shifts), Collin ran to the garage to get me a Coke, because in his panicked, must-make-Mommy-smile-state, he figured that would make me happy (since I love Coke!). Then, when that didn't work for more than a second, he ran to his room and started furiously coloring and writing. He wrote me a poem/song (I think he might know it from somewhere that I'm unfamiliar with?):

Things will change
Things will change
So even thoe [it] is sto[r]my
ther[e']s 1 thing
vary kleer
things chang[e]

He also drew me a lovely hot air balloon, with my whole family inside, lifting my spirits. Seriously. I can't make this stuff up. 

All day, he sat with me, held my hand, and generally made me smile whenever he thought I started to get a cloudy look in my eye. We watched a movie together, ran errands, and I'm glad I had my best little buddy around on this "snow" day with no snow. This afternoon, when he determined, out of the blue, "Mommy, I think that there's nothing to worry about, because you still have two schools to hear from...and, they will both say yes." I realized that while this was a terrible blow, I'm glad I got it now, at 34 with my (almost) 6 year old son as a buffer. 

So, the blow: GW was the most competitive program that I applied to. They are a private school, with a reputation on par with Harvard and the like for English alone. The Med/Ren department is leaps and bounds out of the park compared to anywhere in the country. It'd be like me, as a runner, deciding that if I really try, I could qualify for the Boston Marathon next year. Sure, it's possible, but incredibly unlikely. 

As such, the rejection was not unexpected, but devastating nonetheless. It means I do only have two left to hear from, and two more shots. Most people apply all over the country; I'm limited. I had three shots. For example, I have a friend who applied to ten schools. Ten. She's been accepted to three, and rejected from a few, and wait listed on a few, to give you an idea on odds. So, applying to three is a very big gamble, especially when the three you apply to include two of the top schools in the country (GW and UVA). 

Alas, I'm still waiting, but it's the beginning of the end. I feel ten times worse than this morning (before I knew), because now I know what a rejection actually feels like, and because the waiting feeling is still there, only even more amplified now. So, not only am I still waiting, I'm also sad. It's a surreal feeling to know that you are out of the game, and still in the game at the same time. And, it's terribly terrifying to imagine the very real possibility that what you really want to do with your life may not happen, at least not this year. 

In case anyone is wondering, this is what a $75 application fee and countless hours of application time and worrying gets you. A form letter, that you have to login to see: 

Another Day: More Waiting

Since I'm in pain, you get to be too.

Yep, yesterday was another day of NO news. I was sure, certain, positive that I'd hear from CUA yesterday. The change in my application status on Cardinal Station has been sustaining my hope for a few days now. The mailman has been stalked even more heavily in the past few days now, as I'm positive he's going to bring me a HUGE envelope (or, a teensy, weensy, depressing one).

Collin and I heard him pull up on the opposite side of the court, and it takes him about 35-40 minutes to complete the other side of the street (about ten houses), and get to ours. Seriously, I'm not sure what he does on that side of the court, but it must be ah-may-zing, to take that long.

After the appropriate amount of time (about 30 minutes), I had Collin put his boots and coat on, and get "ready" to grab the mail, because he would be back any minute. Well, he was back about 15 long minutes later. Fifteen long minute of us staring at the window, anticipating his arrival any second. Fifteen minutes of hanging out with the boy, just chatting isn't so bad, but it was tense waiting.

Why did I make my boy go out in the freezing cold, snowy weather, you ask? Because I'd literally just finished running, and was in the middle of lifting weights. I was drenched in sweat. I figured it was hypothermia, or send the boy out in wonderland (he was loving the snow).

No matter, the mailman came to the door! There was a package from Gramps and Nana for Collin's birthday, so he didn't want to leave it in the snow. We greeted him at the door, which surprised him to no end (and terrified him, as the dog was exuberantly pleased to see a "guest"). People (especially mailmen, I suppose), tend to find her a little intimidating. Perhaps it's because she's, umm, large?

He ONLY brought the package to the door. When I asked if there was mail as well, he looked at me dumfoundedly, as if to ponder why anyone would want their mail? When he said that it was in the box, I asked if he'd bring it. I know, I ask a lot. So, he went to the box and got it, after dropping it in a puddle.

Alas, nothing but junk. All junk. It was perhaps, the most disappointing day, so far. I was so sure it would be yesterday; then, waiting so intently, and having the mailman bring the mail to the door. It just seemed like one big, long drum roll.

The funny thing is that CUA is my last choice (patooey--bad luck to admit it! I want in somewhere, anywhere!). If it's CUA, I'll happy dance and scream at the top of my lungs, crack the champagne that I've been saving since before I got my MA (it was supposed to be for graduation, but we forgot, and now I'm superstitious about it).

Anyway, another day of waiting. This is one of the longest notification seasons on record for any of these schools. I think they are torturing us. Oh, and the snow day yesterday didn't help anyone. Decisions, final decisions have to be made, by those offered admission, by April 15th (if they've been offered funding, especially), because the school's finances have to be worked out by certain fiscal deadlines, and they need to offer refused offers to the next in line with adequate time (sometimes, in cases like this, mere hours). I'm going to be kind of ticked if I get an offer ON April 15th. Oy.

Collin's school registration for next year is due March 22. A lot is riding on this. Please be today. Any school, please be today.

Most of you have seen this, but Collin decided that I was qualified for all the schools yesterday, and he made me this. I taped it to the wall, in efforts to remind myself that my boy thinks I'm wonderful, even if no one else, more qualified in the discipline of Medieval Literature does!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Okay, I'm Going to Say it

I rarely, if ever make a "deal" out of being a vegetarian. Mainly because people who do are preachy and annoying. No one likes being told that they are eating "wrong," or that the reason that someone else has made a life choice that is different from yours is based on a set of moral principles that are different that yours, that at the end of the day, you can get behind (a little), but can't reconcile with your dinner. Because, despite all the science, no one can deny that it feels icky to slice up a cow, with big ol' cow eyes. Right? It's easy to eat steak; it's difficult to eat cow.

I never argue with ANY of the facts, figures and data behind a meat-eating lifestyle. Top of the food pyramid, blah, blah blah. Got it. Protein, etc. Check. I've been doing this for over three years now and I'm good to go. Protein in check, balanced meals; I'm good. I don't subsist on mac and cheese (as some would believe) and I am happy and healthy. And, I'm not wasting away (as other meat eaters would assume vegetarians do).

The sole reason for my choice is because I cannot, ever eat another animal. We have recently made a conscious choice to buy free-range eggs as well. Because I'm not a vegan, I eat eggs. I can't stand the thought of not knowing what type of farm my eggs come from, and I've seen research on farms where chickens are kept in anything from drawers to coops where they can't even turn from side to side. Nope, can't bring myself to eat an egg that was laid under those conditions. Over the years now, we've made lots of conscious decisions like this. For example, we don't buy Tyson products; we buy Purdue because their factory/slaughterhouse practices have a better track record for cruelty. Not to mention, their products are "better."

You may ask, how can I eat cheese and buy leather. I struggle with it. Cheese is one of my sources of protein, and I know what cows go through to be milked (hormones to keep them producing milk, and sometimes ridiculous conditions). I try to limit cheese, truly, because of this, and work protein in from other major sources. Leather. I have no good excuse. Literally, none. I can claim that real leather lasts longer than Vegan Leather (yes, that's a thing); I can claim that I won't buy anymore (I would by lying); I can pretend that my one Cardinal sin here won't matter (it does). But, in the end, we aren't all perfect and have to accept ourselves for who we are. I am a boot-loving vegetarian. End of story. Maybe one day, I'll change. Maybe I won't. If my lifetime consumption levels saves a pig or two, I'm happy.

Peta (I know, groan now) despite it's reputation, has taken a much more moderate stance these days, and is much more, of a do-what-you can, organization. They are certainly "NO CRUELTY" ever, but they don't believe you are horrible if you have some boots. Their suggestion is to give them away, obviously, but they don't advocate throwing them at someone, or destroying them, for the sake of making a statement. They sort of think that, they have been made, the damage has been done, wasting them is wasting the life of the animal.

Recently, I was assigned to teach an argument class. We have tons of interesting discussions in there, and I'm teaching my students proper argument techniques. In other words, they can't shoot from the hip and fly off the handle. We are learning the logical fallacies, and how to construct a coherent, logical argument. For the most part, I allow the students to lead these discussions (come up with topics that are relevant to them, and I moderate, and interject when I see fallacies that they should be noting, etc). You should've heard the debate we had about whether welfare recipients should have to drug test. It was amazing. Just coming up with the terms of our debate (whether we should agree on random or scheduled drug testing was a lively discussion).

Vegetarianism came up last week, and the conversation has been sticking with me. A few of the points that stuck with them for many minutes are ones that I get asked all the time, whenever we have dinner with someone new, and I'm sort of forced into my "not a soap box," but stock speech arena.

1. What about bacon? Aren't you tempted by bacon? (Seriously, people are OBSESSED with bacon these days).
2. Why do you worry about animals, when there are so many people to worry about? Abused children? Homeless? (fill in the blank with your oppressed population)

So, based on argumentative writing, both of these points are a problem. Let's start with point 1:

Yes, bacon smells good. I'll never eat it again. Here's an example of why.

To me, bacon is not "bacon," it's a pig. It's a mother sow separated from her piglets. It's fatty and delicious to you because she was raised in a pen where she couldn't turn around, for her entire life. It gets fatty because she wasn't allowed to move. Yummo. Nope, it's not bacon to me, to me it's a sad life and it's horrible. I can't put that in my mouth without feeling devastated. When you taste salty goodness, I taste salty tears. (that was an argumentative appeal to pathos, by the way).

Pigs are highly intelligent creatures, and the term "hog wild" comes from keeping them penned in conditions like this. From lack of stimulation and movement, they will literally go "wild." I can't make it through a video like this without sobbing. When bacon smells good, I can literally, in my head, hear the squeals of piglets, taken from their mother; or, I can imagine that woman, sitting on the broken leg of the sow.

There are countless videos like this of modern day, current (in THIS country) slaughterhouses, from reputable research teams, including Peta. No one trusts Peta because they propagandize. So, the Humane Society was my choice here. By the way, slaughterhouses in other countries (oy), I think I'd have become a vegetarian a LOT sooner.

The direct answer to the question of does bacon smell good, though? Yes. Am I tempted by it? No. Is that an argumentative point? No. That's like asking Obama, regarding the budget crisis: Don't you want poor people to have money? Don't you care about them? Well obviously, but that's not the extent of the situation, now is it? I'm sure he wants senior citizens to keep social security too. And, I bet he wants the military to keep benefits. Oh, and I'm pretty sure he wants to work on education and a million other programs.

Now, let's approach point 2:
This is what we call a Red Herring (that's a real thing in argumentative writing). It's a common argumentative strategy that is applied, usually, in the news media or by politicians, when they don't want you to focus on the issue at hand. Usually, the two issues are tangentially related, but they aren't directly so. It's a common tactic, and I call it the "squirrel" tactic. An unskilled debater, or argumentative writer will see the "squirrel" and become distracted, begin arguing that, and forget his/her main point.

For example, the suggestion is that because I don't eat meat, I don't care about children/poor/etc. I could easily become heatedly defensive about the second part of that statement and begin defending myself, insisting on all the ways that I do care about these people. Or, I could dismiss that second half of the statement, and focus on my point. Which I usually do: "I don't eat poor children [or whatever else was suggested] either...moving on to why I don't eat meat."

Another example of a Red Herring is a headline like this:

Rapist innocent of bank robbery.

Um, okay? What does his being a rapist have to do with robbing a bank? It's a piece of information inserted into the headline, in order to sway your opinion of the suspect before you even read the article. A rapist may rob a bank, he may not. These two personality traits are unrelated; one does not beget the other, but because the two ideas were connected, your brain forged a connection between two types of "bad" people and made an assumed (hopefully for the paper/news outlet) presumption of guilt. The implications of things like this are far-reaching.

This is the "what does that have to with the price of tea in China?" approach. It works, a lot, on people early in their writing. This is what I have been using to teach fallacies.

Purdue Owl: Logical Fallacies

It's amazing to see just how many of them you'll find in, say, Facebook memes.

(By the way, the Purdue Owl, is widely known from University to University as a consistent source for reliable, writing information. I've used it since my undergrad, and now I use it as a teacher. This is a reliable source. I love making my students aware of it, so I use it all the time, instead of a book that has the same information, because I know they aren't reading it)

I know this is a total tangent: not related to school, our lives, or to Collin or the family; but, it's been on my mind because I really enjoy teaching, and I'm enjoying this argument class a lot more than I thought I would.

So, that's what has been on my mind this morning....oh and UVA released an English PhD result this morning. One. It was a rejection (with a pity offering to an unfunded MA). It's rolling, sloooowly.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life: Currently

This is what GW is doing this week: some people are in hell right now.

All those little red boxes, which are hard to see on a screen shot, they're rejections. Gah! There are little areas where you can see what their packages looked like (GPA/GRE, etc), and these people were no slouches (4.0, etc). What is even harder to see, is that all these people were applying to a Political Science PhD program. Phew, glad I'm not one of them. But, it just means that PolySci went through a massive sweep of notifications this week, and it didn't look good for those folks, did it?

Oh, and the kicker? No one was even emailed, or called, or sent a letter. They all just randomly logged into their applications and discovered that they were rejected. Isn't that nice? Spend $75 on an application, agonize for months, and no one even bothers to tell you that you didn't get in.

To be fair, the application system lags behind email notification by a few hours, sometimes up to a day, so their "formal" notification may be to follow, but still. Since anyone in this process checks all their available avenues of information constantly, it's no wonder that they knew via system before they were notified. It's still a bum way to find out, right?

In other news, I hate Liberty Mutual for the rest of my life. They sent this envelope today, which I discovered, face down, in the mailbox. This is what I call a heart attack in an envelope.

See, Catholic is the only place that notifies via mail. They are also the most money-giving of institutions, so it wouldn't be shocking, if I were notified with a big envelope (please) that it looked like this and contained a bunch of stuff about a funding package (please). So, damn you Liberty Mutual for sending an advertisement that looks like this.

Oh, and why such venom? Because my application status changed on Catholic's student system yesterday. So, I can't view it anymore, meaning they are done with it. Done. Finto. I should be seeing something from them. Any. Second. Not just "soon," but any day. Like tomorrow (since today's mail contained this gem, and some circulars).

I may actually burst before then.

Homer is equally stressed out. I know it's a little blurry, but he was sleeping in such a ridiculous position, I couldn't resist the photo opportunity.

My men (and my lady) are taking it all in stride). Daphne is pushing everyone to one small corner of the couch. Bryon wasn't feeling well here. Poor guy gets sick so rarely, guess it was his turn.

P.S. Bryon's sleeping, so I scrawled the following across the front of the envelope and slid it under his door: "Dear Liberty Mutual: F.U. Love and Kisses, Rachel" (I wonder if the envelope will catch his heart in his throat for a second when he wakes up, as it did mine).