Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Question

Without being longwinded, let me just say the exam was challenging but nothing that I didn't expect. I had to do the news analysis and news writing drill in the first 70 minutes. I was timed. My word count for the news writing drill was about 10 words over. I was stopped as I was trying to edit. I got through the experience. I was prepared as well as I could have been.

What I was surprised by was the interview. I felt like I couldn’t and didn’t represent who I was or why I really wanted to do this.

I am disappointed with some of the questions that I was asked. I really didn't expect to be asked questions like, (and I am paraphrasing), “How would I manage a 50 to 60 hour week of graduate school with a family?” I responded that I work in a teaching environment in which a supervisor can come into my room and decide I am not going to be teaching this class anymore, hand letters of transfers to my students, and by the end of the day give me a stack of folders with new ones.

I wish I had included the following:
My work doesn’t stop when I leave the job I get paid for.
I go home and do laundry. I sort, pre-wash, and carry 5 bags down two flights of steps and pack everything in the car. I fold everything and bring it home. I'm finished by 11 PM. There are many times when my husband does it, but I don’t wish to take advantage of him because he often likes to do laundry and grocery shopping. He likes to do it all on the same day. I think that’s too much. He is then exhausted, but cares more about us having clean clothes and food than his leisure. We share. Sometimes I get leisure, sometimes he does.

I go home to cooking dinner. My husband and I take turns.
Sometimes I cook extra meals on weekends to save time.

When I go home, waiting for me is a 5-year-old who needs to do his homework, to be read to, and listened to as he reads. He needs a bath. Well sometimes we don’t make it to bath time. He’s at the stage when he can charm me out of the bath and have a shower in the morning. This is draining. Sometimes it is difficult to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, get showered and then wake him at 5:30. Somehow he doesn’t have a problem doing this on Saturday mornings.

I pack lunches and snacks. Being a short order cook is trying if I wake up late. Sometimes that happens.

I have a teenager who will be starting high school in the fall. She is on the career path already. With her high school selected, registration completed, and summer academic program chosen, she is also applying for an internship in a lawyer’s office. Somebody had to fill out the paperwork, take her to the appointments and open houses. I was often that person. Thanks to her dad who took care of a few of those appointments and her wonderful teacher who continuously challenges her and presents opportunities to her.

This is the short list. It doesn’t include the cleaning of the urine around the toilet from the little boy. It doesn’t include parenting, which sometimes takes the form of long discussions with the teenager about some crap she did or didn’t do that week and coming up with a consequence for her actions. It doesn’t include the inner workings of the marriage.

As of today, if I get in, I will be extremely grateful. If I don’t, I will be okay. This life I live is nothing compared to some of the women who lived and are living.

Was anyone asking Harriet Tubman, “How are you going to go back and forth to the South to free slaves including your parents, siblings and free the slaves at Combahee Ferry?

“When are you going to have the time to spy for the North, fight for women’s rights, have two marriages in one life time, purchase land, found a home for African American
aged and infirmed?”

“Where in the world Harriet are you going to find time to lead military operations?”

I wished I had told the interviewer this: There are lots of women who do jobs that they have to do, don't want to do and must do everyday. I am one of them. I have decided that I want a job that I love to do. I can attend The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, because I believe I am capable of the task. “Why journalism? Why now? I was asked. I have already given myself permission whatever your decision. This school is just one point of entry among many.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I wake up ready to meet the challenge of my day.
My to do list:

1. Entrance exam at 10:30 AM.
2. Buy a new suit.
3. Prepare dinner.
4. Poetry Reading at LaMaMa’s.

I sew another hole closed in my son’s jeans, pack lunches and wave good-bye to the family.

Everything was going smoothly:
I leisurely eat a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt and peppermint tea. I take a hot bath to relax. I start thinking about the test. I am poor at relaxing on this morning. I am thinking about the four sections of the test. They include grammar, news analysis, 20 items to identify (people or events) and a news writing drill. I start second guessing myself. I’ve spent time scanning news sites online and newspapers stacked in my office, creating index cards with current events of people and places. Getting out of the bath, I decide to look up the Eliot Spitzer’s Health-care plan.

As the clock moves towards 9 AM, I begin to gather my bag, wallet, and keys. I can’t find my keys. I realize I haven’t put them on the hook where I usually keep them. I also realize I haven’t left the house
since, Friday night. They are found in the pocket of the coat I had on.
I stop in the living room for tissues. I shove them in my bag, close the door and head down the steps. At the front door, I am reaching in my pocket for my keys. I don’t have my keys. Maybe I put them down when I got those tissues. I didn’t want to have to use my gloves (again) to wipe my nose. I don’t have allergies but somehow it always begins to leak, as I stand on the windy platform waiting for the J train. I run back up two flights of steps. The door is locked. I search for the keys again. I empty the bag. I try the door again. I am locked out. I am screwed.

I go downstairs hoping one of the neighbors/tenants is home. If someone could just lock the front door behind me, I’d feel okay with leaving. No one is home.

And Then Not So Smoothly:
Going back upstairs, I sit on the steps. I call my husband. I leave a message. He calls back twenty-minutes later. He is very understanding and full of solutions. I am upset and full of defeat.
Leave the house from the basement, he says.
Go across the street to the ATM and take a cab to the school, he says.
Call the admissions director and explain what happened, he says. “People make mistakes.”

I am crazed.

I don’t have her phone number. It’s on my laptop.
It is late. It is now 9:45 am. I was supposed to be there at 10 o’clock. The test starts at 10:30 am.

He tells me he is coming home. I am glad I had breakfast because I broke my routine and didn’t pack any lunch or snacks for myself. Traveling light. Had I packed my bag first, (like I usually do) this wouldn’t have happened. Perhaps I can take the test tomorrow night when my interview is scheduled.

I write while I wait. I listen to my iPod. I journal in my black and white notebook about how angry I am with myself. I begin to question my abilities. Perhaps my organization skills are not up to the challenges of graduate school. I remember my email with the admissions director. Didn’t she say that because the Saturday appointment was changed, that she could arrange a time that worked for me? I am feeling a bit of hope. But not for long.

I have to use the bathroom. I pace up and down trying to distract my-
self with my “Song Sister’s” play lists, which includes Mary J. Blige, Cree Summer, Joan Jett and CeCe Peniston. By the time Cece is midway into “Keep on Walk’in,” I’m walking up and down a lot faster than she is singing.

My husband calls. I tell him my dilemma. He is sorry. He is full, of suggestions. I could go down to the basement and get some kind of container. I already tried that. The portion of the basement that has anything of use is locked. He is sorry. He tells me he is in on Houston St. and is heading for the Williamsburg Bridge. I can’t talk anymore.

I head up to the roof. It is my last resort. There’s lots of snow up there. I look around. I wonder if the public school a block away can see me on my roof. I am wearing a bright orange sweater. I squat leaning over the ledge that connects my roof to the building next to me.
At that moment I am no better than the dogs that leave yellow stains in the snow. What an irritation. I am annoyed with myself, but relieved.

By the time my husband arrives, in his apron full of clay from the art class he is teaching, I have done a full inspection of the third floor hallway. We need to fill a crack with some of that foam that keeps out the mice and bugs. He gives me a juicy kiss. I have been rescued.

The Development of Events in The Opposite Way:
There is another ironic twist to the end of this story.
As I pour over our original emails, I notice that the Saturday exam was originally for 10:30, but that the Monday session was for 11 AM and not at 10 AM as I had thought.

I email the admissions director pour over my dilemma. She is sympathetic.

I can take the test on Wednesday evening right after my interview.

I have a cup of tea and head out to buy my suit.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Walking In Ida B. Wells Barnett's Footsteps

Ida B Wells Barnett- anti-lynching crusader,women's rights advocate,
editor of the Freespeech and Headlight newpaper and journalist.

Disappearing Acts:
Whenever I have had these long breaks between postings I always feel some sort of explanation is due.
I have perhaps 2 maybe 3 friends who look at this blog. They are the one’s that send emails like:
“Where are you Warrior Pen?"
'Why haven’t you been posting?”
“Hey, what’s going with your blog?”
“What’s going on with you?”

At the moment, my life is a delicious slice of chocolate cake. I want to savor it until the last bite! I have been working on two essays for two different anthologies. I have been journaling in my black and white notebook. I am preparing for my first poetry reading in a long time. And the big thing is, I am a candidate for CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. I have been invited into the second round. I was invited to take the entrance exam and sit for an interview.

Back Tracking:
Just after starting my job with the city, I applied for graduate school (See October 17, 2006 posting). It was after one of those encounters with my supervisors that forced me to really examine my situation. I have loved teaching for a long time but working in an atmosphere in which education takes a back seat to job placement, is not the same. I have also been spoiled; teaching in places where I know I can push students to their fullest. As an Adult Education Instructor in a job placement environment, it is stifling and depressing. I have very little time with the only other two instructors to plan a real solid curriculum and share lesson plans. While I love working with many of my students, I often feel like I am applying band-aids to wounds that need stitches.

I have wanted to talk about applying to graduate school here, but felt it was too weird since my blog was part of my school application. Writing a blog about applying, while knowing the admissions director would view it, seemed a little too narcissistic.

It’s not that seeking a master’s degree has never occurred to me. I had a lot to consider. We have only been in our house for a year. How am I going to help pay the mortgage? My daughter is entering her first year of high school. Thank my lucky stars that she is studious and was awarded scholarships to her two top choices. I still want to be available to her. I worry about balancing the demands of the course work, having a community of support for what I am doing and the needs of my family.

On a typical day I complete much of what I need to do on the way to and from work. I have been writing on the train. That’s how I do everything these days. I fill out permission slips and read the school newsletters while holding onto a pole. I have read 7 books since January all while commuting. If only there were a washer, dryer and folding tables on the subway. Think of the possibilities.

So after that horrible day at work, I went to one of those perspective meetings. I felt nervous. I listened to other students in the room talk about their existing careers in media. A few people were already working for magazines. There was even a couple from Florida had been writing for newspapers in Latin America. It was the kind of scene in which I felt everybody in the room already knew more than I did.

Like Filing Your Own Taxes:
I took the information packet home and began to work on the online application right away. It was a good thing. It seemed like a never-ending process that would surely beat me. There were many evenings of plugging information into a window only to discover that much of it had to be resubmitted because time had run out for the session. Is there a language for this sort of computer-internet aggravation!

I bought a book to study for the GRE. Thirty bucks of nothing but stress. I found that I am horrible at memorizing lots of vocabulary words for the sake of a test. I also did much of this on the train. On other nights I sat at my desk taking those practice test and scoring miserably. Oh and by the way, the CD-Rom
doesn’t work on an Apple PowerBook G4.

I took the GRE Exam a few days after Christmas. It was a circus. Not the exam, but the flurry of activity in my house. It was everything from fixing heating and plumbing, to handling a flurry of mice (a building across the street was being renovated), to family members visiting because they were on vacation. I cursed myself for scheduling the exam during a holiday time but when is a good time to take a test you are afraid of? I needed to have the test taken by the application deadline.

The night before, I sat for three hours practicing writing responses to analytical questions in 30 and 45-minute intervals. I hoped that my ability to prepare others for the General Equivalency Diplomacy test would be to my advantage.

As the January 2 deadline approached, I watched the snail-mail and email waiting for recommendations that I had requested from a number of trusted friends and colleagues. They came from smart, wonderful women that I had worked with in a variety of ways. One of these friends accompanied me to the post office on the day that I submitted the signature page of the online application.

Snow Day:
There are two sections on the exam. They include, news writing drill, news analysis, grammar and currents events. I wished the world would stop spinning and hoped no other last minute scandal would pop up.

At a baby shower for a coworker I hardly know, I tried not to think about the index cards in my bag. I had created my own list of every thing I could think of in recent news. Here’s a sample of my list: D. Klye Sampson, Ban Ki-Moon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Sudan, Wangari Maathai and General Kevin C. Kiley.

After the baby shower, I went to a family dinner at my son’s school. It was a nice diversion. The school cafeteria was packed. You can’t keep a New Yorker away even in a snow storm. The food was great. A chorus of 1st through 6th graders sang Bill Wither's “A Lovely Day.”

When I got home last night, I received an email stating the Saturday exam would be cancelled and held on Monday instead. It was just like being in the 6th grade. A snow day! It was just what I needed. One more day to figure out how to write news analysis.