Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 341 - "Bury Me in Satin, Lay Me Down on a Bed of Roses..."

I really should be in bed right now.  I (tentatively) have to be at work in six hours and 46 minutes from the time I typed this sentence.

But Mommy is next door at Grandma's.  So is an ambulance, which is never good.  Especially when Grandma is 81 years old and a brittle diabetic who is developing an insulance tolerance.

So, I'm sitting in my dining room, watching the lights bounce around on the ambulance, and waiting for the phone to ring.  I can't sleep because I'm afraid that, the moment I go to bed, something is going to go dreadfully wrong.

Let's rewind.  My mind is racing, so I may be a little scatterbrained with my thoughts.

Grandma's fasting blood sugars, which are the ones taken when she wakes up in the morning, have been getting lower and lower the past couple of days.  This morning's was 49, despite my aunt trying to bring up her sugar with fruit and sweets and stuff. 

Grandma was supposed to go see the doctor today, but because her sugar was so low and she (obviously) felt out of sorts, my aunt cancelled the appointment and rescheduled - I think.  No one filled me in on that part.  I went out to dinner with one of my sorority sisters this evening, and my mom had made bacon for BLT sandwiches for dinner.  My aunt and grandma both said that bacon sounded good and Mommy had the intention of taking some down after dinner because there was plenty to go around. 

When I got home from my dinner date around 8:10 p.m, my mom's car was at my grandma's house, which is unusual for this time of night.  I asked my dad what was going on, and he said, "Aunt Judy called up here a while ago all upset.  It sounds like your grandma's having some trouble."

Way to be specific, Daddy.  Trouble could mean anything from not being able to find her crossword puzzle book to scenarios on into oblivion.  I went upstairs, talked to my sisters, changed into pajamas, and went back downstairs. 

Between 8:45 and 8:50, the phone rang.  I started to panic because it was obvious that Mommy had been down there for a while, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.  Grandma's Lifeline service was calling, looking for my mom because she's an emergency contact.  Lifeline, for those who are looking confused, is one of those services for senior citizens in case they have an emergency and need help.  Someone tripped the button to call for an ambulance, and ten minutes later, we hear sirens.

I live in an area with several elderly couples, with one older man around the corner who has terminal cancer.  Ambulances come and go, but when they shut off the sirens as they passed my driveway, I started to shake and I haven't stopped since.  They're still there with the lights on.

Apparently Grandma's blood sugar dropped really low and she started to have trouble breathing.  When she started having trouble breating, they called the ambulance.  The EMTs are still down there giving her glucose and oxygen.  My mom says that she's struggling, but she's hanging in there.  Grandma is as stubborn as the rest of us.

I'm scared to go to bed.  I'm scared to get startled awake by my mom telling me that Grandma's gone.  Grandma has always been next door; I've gone 23 1/2 years of knowing nothing but Grandma being next door, opening the curtains to the sliding glass door in the kitchen so that she can look up the road at our house.  Or making iced tea with lemon, two packs of pink sweetner and one pack of blue.  Or the way she always had stories about growing up in Johnstown.  Or the way she would tell me about Shirley Temple back in her prime when she was a little kid.  Grandma's the only grandparent I have left and, well, the thought of letting go gathers those tears in the back of my throat that are all phlemy and make it hard to breathe.

Just pray.  If nothing else, just pray

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 338 - (Cue the Sound of Cash Registers)

I got the estimate done on my car to see how much the damage from my little run-in with the deer was going to cost.

The grand total?  About $1,600.  Give or take some if they're able to find gently used parts instead of ordering new ones.

The bad part is that my car insurance has a $500 deductible.  The even worse part is that I don't have $500 to pay the deductible.

I guess my little road warrior is going to have to wait to get fixed.  Let's just hope that I don't get pulled over by a cop for my front right turn signal being out.  I don't have the money for a traffic ticket either.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 327 - "Ding Dong the Bells Are Gonna Chime!"

Good news - I'm now the Colleges Feature Writer at!  Woohoo!

I'm excited for this - it is going to rock and roll like the 1950s.  Just give me a couple of days, and then check me out!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 326 - "Dear Deer"

Dear Miss Deer (at least, I think you were a Miss,)

I want to apologize for hitting you at 3:45 this morning.  I do not have a vendetta against animals of any shape or size, but I must stress the importance of looking both ways before trying to cross the road.  Sometimes, the things that hurt you the most are right beside you.


I just wanted to let you know that I really didn't mean to hit you; however, when you appear out of nowhere and we collide, it's going to hurt.  I know that I'm not physically hurt and that you, unfortunately, didn't make it home today, but maybe you should've paid better attention to Mama Bambi.

In closing, I am glad that some combination of physics and free will helped you find your final spot in the grass on the side of the road and not in the middle of it.  I hope you are running in greener pastures somewhere in the sky where little black Dodge Neons can't hurt you anymore.  I am sorry, teenager-sized Miss Deer.


P.S.  If you see that cat I hit a couple of weeks ago, please spread the message.  Look both ways before crossing the road!

                                           *   *   *

If you hadn't figured it out, I hit my first animal bigger than a house cat on my way to work this morning.  Of course, what did I hit?

A deer. 

A teenager-sized, running out of a cornfield along side of my car and then deciding to cross the road as she's in my blind spot deer.

Here's what happened.  I'm driving down the road at the perfectly legal speed of 45 miles per hour, when I see something at the very edge of my windshield.  In the literal split second that it took me to hit the brakes, the deer hit my car at the headlight region on the front passenger's side, slowly folded on my car, and slid back off.  At this point, I was straddling the center line and sitting at a bad point on a tiny hill, so I kick it into reverse and got back into my lane.  Threw on the hazard lights and started to cry.

Did I mention that this was the first time I was the driver in any kind of major car accident?

Don't worry, I didn't suffer any injuries.  After everything stopped, I dug out my phone and called work to tell them that I was (obviously) going to be a little late because I yet again clashed with a child of Mother Nature.  My boss, after asking if I was alright (yes) and if the deer was alright (no, it's dead,) was very understanding.

When I finally got to work, I was so upset that I almost threw up.  It didn't help that the State Highway Patrol was setting up a speed trap on my way to work and it was kind of obvious that I had hit something with my car.  But I was closer to work than I was home, so off my little wounded road warrior and I trucked.

For those of you who have hit deers, you know what they can do to cars, especially lunchbox-on-wheels cars like mine.  Broken windshields, crushed front ends, almost folded in half doors, the works.  I don't know who was looking out for me this morning, but thank you.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

The damage report: a crack in my passenger-side headlight cover, a two-inch square missing piece of my headlight cover, a dent in the corner of the hood by the headlight, and a whole lot of muddy debris.

Pardon my French, but I was one lucky little shit.

My dad hasn't seen the car yet and we're waiting to call the insurance company until he has a look at it to see whether or not it's worth filing a claim with our deductible.  Either way, my somewhat unbreakable little road warrior is going to have to see the medic, because that dent needs to come out and I need a new headlight cover.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 325 - "Decisions, Decisions, Decisions"

I've been researching schools for my MA/MFA in creative writing.  I've found that I'm going to have to branch out and travel, but that's okay.  Maybe I'll buck up and learn to cook and actually keep a clean living structure.

I'm working on the tidiness thing, though.

So far, my top choices are Ohio University and the University of Cinncinati.  There is an NEOMFA program closer to my house, but it's offered as a consortium program from five or six different colleges and universities throughout Northeast Ohio.  I'm not sure that I would like that; it doesn't lend to the "graduate school" experience when you could consider yourself to be attending six different schools all at once.

Next I'm going to start looking at schools around the Ohio area.  I'm not sure if I'm quite ready for the out-of-state jump yet, mostly because of the cost.

We shall see.  We shall see.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 324 - "I'm the World's Greatest"

Take a deep breath.  Hold it in for a moment to savor the oxygen high.


I'm making a big decision.  I have yet to figure out if people in my life are going to accept it and support me in my decision, but I feel that, after some soul searching, that I've been false to myself this past year.

I'm done with applying for higher education administration.  Not with applying to grad school in general, but for that specific career track.  As much as I would love to delve into that profession head on, I don't feel that my heart and soul would be in it for the rest of my working life.

Why the change, you ask?  I sat back and thought about it.  While it would be nice to possibly have my future children's college educations paid for because I would be a school employee, I would want to be able to be there for my family.  Granted, conferences and research and 12-14 hour days mentoring, working, and advising aren't a requirement, but it leads to those who truly care about the field and the students in it. 

It's not that I don't care about other people; it's just the opposite.  I do care about other people.  I could never go into a profession where the people come last and business and making money come first.  But keep in mind that I was raised in a house where my mom called off every time one of my sisters or I was sick.  Both parents were at every hotstove softball game where I sat the bench seven out of nine innings, every band competition, every track meet where I came in last place or somewhere close to it.  My parents were there because they arranged - or in my mom's case, gave up - their plans for their careers so that they could be there for us.

And, if in the future I do have children, I want to be the same way.  I want to be able to be there for my kids, if they exist in the future.

So I've simply changed my mind.  I'm going for my MA or MFA in creative writing and then on to become Dr. Ashley Whatever-My-Last-Name-Is-At-That-Time, PhD. 

I think it goes back to something like this that I saw during a band movie night when I was in high school:

Yup, it's Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.  Best. Movie. Ever.

After I saw that, I wanted to be an English teacher.  I wanted to show students the hidden treasure in literature, the tiring but worthwhile self-discovery in writing, the beauty that comes from the human voice uninhibited colliding with paper and space and tangibility.  Somewhere, though, I lost that.  I lost the desire to uncover the great treasures hidden in dusty tomes, to hide my treasures on shelves of some distant library, to "sound my barbaric YAWP from the rooftops of the world."

I had a high school English teacher that made us YAWP.  She always spelled it in all capital letters because she said that YAWP was not a word to be spoken softly or meekly.  It was meant to be shouted, to be screamed - to unleash the primal being in all of us!  She made us stand on desks and YAWP at the tops of our lungs, and she would follow suit, clearing her desk of organization and papers and YAWPing right along with us.  I wanted to be her, and even though I don't feel I could do it with high school students, there's still a chance.

And, some day, after I'm Dr. So-and-So, I'm going to have my writing students stand on tables and YAWP the first day of class.  With capital letters and without shoes, if they so choose.

Because that's who I am.  At my core, I am a writer, and there's nothing I can do to change that.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 320 - "Can We Pretend That Airplanes / In the Night Sky / Are Like Shooting Stars"

After two days of playing phone tag with Kent State, I finally got (a) someone who had a pulse to pick up the phone and (b) an answer to the mysterious please contact the admissions office line.

Here's how it all went down:

Me: "Hi, my name is Ashley Anderson and I am applying for the higher education administration program.  My online application status told me that I needed to contact the admissions office for further information."

Admissions Counselor asks for Social Security number.

I give her Social Security number.

Type type type.  Doesn't work.  Provide with full name, date of birth, and my SSN again.

Admissions Counselor:  "It says here that the decision made was to deny your application due to the program and the waitlist being full.  Those letters won't be sent out until the end of this month.  Does that answer your question?"

Me:  "Yes, thank you.  Have a good day."

Admissions Counselor:  "Mmmhmmm.  Good bye."

Commence flood of tears. 

Not only did I have the ultimate shitty day at work (pardon my French) but it's pushing 100 degrees outside, I have a sunburn, and I don't do heat.  My tolerance for anything decreases exponentially after the thermometer hits 75 degrees.  By this point, my tolerance for rejection, bull shit (again, pardon the French, but there may be a lot of that word today,) and general grumpiness and stupidity was reaching Absolute Zero.

Of course, as I'm crying, everyone keeps telling me that it's a sign that maybe Kent wasn't the right place for me either, that I just need to keep trying and I'll find the place where I'm supposed to be.  At this point, I'm borderline hyperventilating because it is so friggin' hot and I'm so upset because nobody seems to get it.

Any other program requires taking the GRE.

The GRE costs $150 to take the general test.

I don't have $150 because I'm cranking out $1000 a month in student loan bills.  My income from both jobs is literally $1100 a month (I almost published $11000.  That would be nice.)  After gas, I may have $75 of disposable income available.  If I have a credit card bill, that number is less. 

My savings account is 25% the size it was when the year 2010 started. 

For now, the buck stops the search because I don't have the money and no one seems to understand that.  No, I can't go to the movies.  No, I can't go out with my sister and spare $10 to get a manicure.  No, I can't take the GRE or even afford a book to help me study for it.  No, I can't go out for dinner with friends because my disposable income is virtually zero.

It's like my worst nightmare playing out in front of me while I'm stuck in an oven.  I can't stand to stay at the Job From Hell because I am literally dying on the inside there.  I can't afford to get a new job and take a pay cut because then I'll end up not being able to pay my student loan bills, which disqualifies me for financial aid until I pay the balance back AND it screws up my credit score.  No financial aid eligibility = no grad school = Ashley feeling like a complete and total Loser.  Yes, with a capital L.

Maybe I'm not applying to the right program.  Maybe the right school isn't in Ohio.  Maybe I'm doomed to be working barely-above-minimum-wage-jobs and be miserable for the rest of my life.  Right now, my stomach is tossing and turning and I feel like puking and I really don't know what to do next.  Do I go for my MA or MFA in creative writing and then try to find a PhD in creative writing program and be the world's youngest and least life-experienced creative writing prof?  Or do I keep trying for higher ed?  Or do I just waste away at a drive thru window while I continue to slowly decompose on the inside?


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 318 - "Toes Gripping the Edge, Staring Out At What Comes Next"

I checked my grad school application for Kent State a couple of minutes ago:


Please contact admissions office for further information.

Sweet mother of all things good and holy, please let this just be a blip in the system.  If this is another we're-cutting-budgets-so-instead-of-using-paper-to-mail-a-letter-to-you-or-electricity-to-email-you-we-will-make-you-call-us rejection notice, it's the end of the road as far as grad school is concerned.  I can't afford the $150 to take the GRE.

I am literally scared like tomorrow will not exist for me.  I mean, this is it - we're over halfway through summer, I still don't have plans for the fall, and I am not the kind of person to fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to something big like this.

When it comes to deciding what I am going to wear on any given day, yes I will dive in head first without any plans, but this is something that requires the analytical, structured, organization-on-crack side of me.  I plotted, I planned, and having to wait until tomorrow in order to know any kind of information is making the grilled red skin garlic potatoes that I had for dinner do all kinds of flips and kicks and stuff.

I am really hoping that it is something somewhat simple, even as complicated as "we'll accept you, but all of our courses for the fall term are full so you'll have to wait to take classes until the spring term."  I can deal with that.  I can make plans with that, take some summer classes, and get caught up to graduate in the spring of 2012 - or not take summer classes and graduate with my sister in December 2012 (aaawwww, how cute!) and find something to do during the spring term while I wait for the 2013-2014 academic year to start. 

Side note - holy moley, look at those dates!

I'm really hoping that it's just the fact that classes are closed.  I can deal with that.  Dealing with another rejection notice and the realization that this is all over, on the other hand, I don't think I could handle.  Especially with the possibility of another year stint at Food Service Hell staring me in the face.  I need to get out.  I need this to happen. 

Please?  Pretty please?


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 313 - "Down That Red Dirt Road"

It seems like I keep having car stories this year.

I was on my way to hell - wait, I mean the job I really don't like and want to quit but I have bills to pay - on Monday morning.  As usual, it was 3:45 in the morning, dark, and all I wanted to do was go back to bed.  I was about a third of the way to work when it all started.

The biggest cat I have ever seen in my entire life ran out of the ditch and I hit the poor soul with my car. 

I don't like hitting animals.  There were one or two crazy kids that I went to high school with that took pleasure in hitting animals as soon as they were able to legally climb behind the wheel without an adult.  I hope they all end up in prison someday.

Anyway, the cat keeps running into the road and I'm gripping the steering wheel, praying that the cat would come to its senses and stop before what was becoming increasingly inevitable happened. 

I tried to stop.  It wasn't soon enough.


I slam on the brakes and hope that, as my car is coming to a stop, I'm not dragging this massive household feline under my car, because I'm already groggy and tired and upset because I am probably going to the evil place for killing someone's beloved pet.  After I sat smack in the middle of the road for a minute or two to calm myself down, I start driving off.

That's when I heard it.  The sound.

It sounded like part of my car was scraping across the pavement, making an awful dragging sound that made me wonder if my car came out of this just as bad as the cat.  I forced my car to limp along until we got to work, the scraping sound haunting me the rest of the way there.  Not a good idea to stop and take a look - it was dark outside and, out here in farm country, we don't believe in street lights!

It wasn't until I had gotten off of work that I saw the damage.  The thick plastic sheet that hangs back under the bumper had been torn off, and a foot long and three or four inch wide portion of the sheet was hanging at an angle and dangerously close to the ground.  I panicked - my car was broken!

I won't lie; my car does have some battle scars.  There's a crack in the front bumper from where, while trying to leave my assigned parking lot when I was in college, bumper met road because the grade of the drive wasn't maintained and resulted in the automotive version of biting it hard.  There's a slight dent in the roof where the back windshield meets the roof.  To be honest, you can't even tell it's there a good 99.9999999 into infinity percent of the time.  I have no clue how it got there.

My little Neon and I limped home, still wounded from kitty cat battle and I waited until my dad got home.  I was hoping that this was not going to require a trip to the repair shop because, well, it would have to wait until I got paid this coming Monday.  Dad tells me to pull my car up, gets a wrench, and tosses me the piece of plastic after a couple of quick turns and a tug.

Then comes the lecture.  "You need to learn to take better care of this car.  You haven't taken care of it at all," he says in his gruff, I-was-in-the-military-and-yes-I-am-quite-upset-with-you.

Let's recap:
  • pulverized plastic - Not my fault.  The cat ran under my car of its own free will / predestination.
  • road burnt bumper - Not my fault.  My school failed to take care of its facilities and not so politely reminded me that it was a risk I took while parking on campus.  (??????????)
  • lightly riddled roof - Once again, not my fault.  Not sure how it got there, but it was another of those "inherit risks of parking on campus."
I'm not sure what I was supposed to learn from all of this.  Don't hit cats?  Don't hit really big cats?  Or don't have your dad fix your car?