The Importance of Making Lists

There’s a point in the beginning of every semester where I feel like sitting on the floor, throwing all my papers and books into the air, and pulling out my hair.
It’s like everything is whizzing past me and I’m just trying to catch up. But then, after a few weeks, there’s a certain rhythm that’s achieved and I can find some balance between the projects, papers, articles, readings, quizzes, homework, and exams.
Notice I said, “semester.”

Now that I’ve been in graduate school for three (or is it four?) weeks, it’s almost time for me to register for the next quarter’s classes. The quarter is almost half over.

Plug your ears while I shriek for a moment.

Okay. I’m done.

So it sort of feels like that rhythm, the balance you find when organizing the courseload, is just out of reach. By the time I get there, things will be wrapping up.

One thing I find very odd about this schedule is that there is nothing happening for over a month. Between November 22nd and sometime in early January, there aren’t any courses to speak of. I think some people can register for accelerated classes during that time, but not my program. During that period of time, I’ll have no financial aid, my CTA pass will be deactivated, and there’s nothing really to do.

Charlie has a week off in late October, which he is required to take in order to avoid taking time off during the holidays. Which means our trips back to Indy for Thanksgiving and Christmas might be extremely short — if they happen at all. Christmas is on a Sunday this year, which mean if the bank is open on Monday, we won’t have much time at all. And my family always does stuff on Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, and, given his status as newest hire, Charlie will most likely not be able to take the previous or following day off in order to celebrate.

I will have time to work, though, which is good. I just learned the hard way that I can’t rush. Last week I was scrambling to turn in as many files as I could, to make as much money as I could before the pay period was over (we only get paid once per month). I took on a bunch of jobs that were two or three times longer than I have edited in the past. As a result, I got one decent review, immediately followed by a really bad one. The QA person was obviously irritated with me because I made the same stupid mistakes on both files, including some really glaring errors that could have been avoided if I’d just waited to turn the stuff in and reviewed everything one more time.

I just cannot balance work, life, and school very effectively right now. As usual, I struggle with the reality of bills and financial responsibilities, set against the knowledge that school is important and I need to do the best I can, paired with the fact that my kid and partner need me to stay present and focused.

I remember this period of time in my life when I was first working in social services, making something like $4.75 an hour. I had three major bills: a car payment, car insurance, and rent. I also began to take on a small mountain of debt in the form of high-interest, low-limit credit cards. Whatever someone would give me, I took. Each paycheck, I was able to take care of maybe two of those things.
I began to prioritize in order of importance. I had to have a car to work, but car insurance wasn’t something I could necessarily afford. So I let it lapse.  The credit card that didn’t have to be used at a store, I kept payments on so I could buy groceries and put gas in my car. The others fell behind and I honestly didn’t really care.

I ended up getting myself into a nasty credit situation and eventually went to a credit counseling agency where I managed to pay everything off in about 2 years. That was a good thing, but if I learned anything from the experience, it’s that I when I feel overwhelmed, especially with finances, I sometimes would rather pull the covers over my head and pretend I don’t hear any of it.

This is also an aspect of my personality that I have seen in both of my parents. And, if the past few years dealing with both of them has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want to just stick my head in the sand. The reason they’re both in the situations they find themselves is because they refused to face the ugliness and reality that life sometimes presents us. Most of which is our own doing.

So, while I know that part of life is prioritizing, I also know that I have to continue to focus on the reasons why I’m choosing to make each decision in order of importance. Otherwise, I end up making choices in the heat of the moment that don’t pan out well.

As much as I’d like to bring in bigger and bigger paychecks, I’ll end up finding my contract terminated if I continue turning in sloppy jobs. So, while I have time off from school during this ridiculously long December break, I can focus on working more and doing a less shitty job at the same time.

Toddlers Are Terrible People

Today is my daughter’s godmother’s birthday (who also happens to be my aunt by marriage). I thought, since we haven’t seen her in quite some time — I think it was at Bea’s 2nd birthday party in July — it would be nice if Bea said “happy birthday” to her over the phone. As soon as Vicki answered and I started to hand the phone to her, Bea ran screaming from the room, and yelled, “Don’t want to!” My conclusion: toddlers are terrible people.

One of the most difficult things I find as a parent is attempting to instill some sense of decency and manners in a person who has absolutely no concept of the world outside of herself.

This is not to say that I genuinely believe she’s a jerk, or that she is self-centered on purpose. I totally get that she doesn’t understand that it’s not her birthday, and she doesn’t want to talk on the phone because maybe I’ve put too much pressure on her. Or maybe that refusing to do something I ask is the only way she can assert herself as an individual at that moment. But it still drives me crazy.

When we go to the grocery and she gets her little-person shopping cart then starts caroming off the shelves and wandering in to other people, I just want to yank the cart out of her hands and plant her in the stroller. I keep trying to redirect her and ask her to stand by me, because pushing that little cart makes her so happy and, I think, feel in control.

When we sit down at a restaurant and she starts yelling for the server to bring her food, I want to slide down in the booth and hide my face. I ask her to use her inside voice. I don’t hesitate to take her outside if she gets too loud. I might tap her hand to get her attention and ask her to stop. But explaining the concept of “rude” to a toddler is sort of a no-win situation.

One of life’s biggest annoyances for me is people’s lack of consideration for others. So I’m sure you can imagine how hard it is for me to wrap my head around the fact that this kid isn’t really going to get that for years and years to come. For the time being, I’m trying to approach it like training a dog. Since she doesn’t have any reason to really care what other people think about her, I have to use Pavlov to get her to respond or act appropriately.

Art on the Walls

We’re officially relocated. Pictures are being hung up, rooms are coming together. It feels a lot more like “home” than the basement dump we were in when we moved here.

Of course, I’m less incensed about that situation now that we’re in place and feeling more comfortable. I still get angry if I mull over the situation with Anne because, no matter which way I look at it, she was wrong. I asked for help and she told us to leave. That’s what it all boils down to and no amount of me putting myself in her shoes will change that.

We haven’t spoken to a lawyer — all of my law school friends continue to reiterate that we don’t need to. But I’d at least like to get things in order and have some professional advice before I file any sort of paperwork. For example, when she returned only 40% of our security deposit, she wrote on the check that it was the full deposit being returned. Rather than argue with her about that, we deposited it. We already owed too much money to too many people, and she knew that.

But before we go shelling out money we don’t have to speak with an attorney, we have to pay back those friends who were so generous as to help us with our move. It sucks being back in the situation where we can’t check out a cool restaurant or do some fun shopping for the new place, but I would much rather be broke here than rolling in money in Anne’s basement.

Did I mention I haven’t seen one single bug since moving in? Or a rat? Or mold growing on the walls? It’s weird being on the second floor, and the guys downstairs seem to smoke a lot of pot, but whatever.

Most all of the money we’re able to pay back is coming from my financial aid this quarter. Which is weird. Quarters? It’s going to be difficult getting used to those terms rather than semesters. I’ve got two courses which each meet once per week for 3 hours and 15 minutes, for ten total weeks. Then we have a ridiculous amount of time off for the holidays (which Charlie won’t get to enjoy because he can’t take off too much time around Thanksgiving or Christmas), and the following quarter will start sometime in early January.

If I do well enough, I can apply for a partial tuition remission scholarship. I don’t know exactly how much you can get back, but you have to keep a 3.7 or higher GPA. I’m not sure what the likelihood is of that.

I already have homework in both my courses, and one of them doesn’t meet until Monday. I have 6 books to read for one class (plus the supplemental materials he wants us to read before Monday), an assignment due by Monday at midnight for the other class — an assignment I can’t figure out how to submit because the dropbox for the class does not appear to exist.

As is the case at the start of any new semester, quarter, term, whatever, things seem overwhelming and difficult and challenging. But, before you know it, you’re halfway through and in the swing of things. I’d like to get to that point if only to avoid feeling like I’m in over my head. That would be a nice change.